Beer and Pavement

Best Beers of 2012

Posted in Beer by Zac on December 30, 2012

Like making a year-end list of best records, creating a list of one’s favorite is a silly yet necessary exercise. Silly because who really cares? Necessary because everybody’s doing it. In no particular order, here are beers that were either released this year, discovered by me this year, or finally made sense to me this year. I apologize upfront for the IPA-heavy list. I’m a hop head and have trouble remembering what I thought about most sours, stouts, Saisons, etc.

Trappist Westvleteren 12
I’ve had Westy before, but it was a small sample at the end of an evening of craft beer debauchery. My bother “won” one of those lottos just to get a chance to buy and $85 six pack. He shared as family is wont to do over the holiday. Half a bottle was more than enough for me to fully appreciate what many consider to be the best beer in the world. I don’t know about all of that or even if it’s the best Belgian quad, but it’s very very good.

Goose Island King Henry
This may have been released in 2011, but we never saw it locally. One evening in Lincoln, Nebraska at an excellent pizza joint offered me the opportunity to try this magnificent beast.

Bells Black Note Stout
I should not have had a glass of this beer, but I did. A sample was sneaked to me as I had to leave a Bells dinner. Imagine the molasses-fueled deliciousness of Expedition, mixed with the sweetness of a milk stout, and brewed in bourbon barrels. Even then, you can’t imagine how glorious this beer tasted.

Three Floyds Zombie Dust
I love me some APA’s but this one is on another level. So much Citra. So good.

Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
Specially released IPA’s from Stone are all over my list. This one featured an amped-up version of what was my epiphany beer, if that was even possible… Of course it was! This was as good a tribute as any brewery has ever brewed.

Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA
I actually preferred this one to the September version. It’s possible this one was fresher, but both were consumed well before their best by dates. The idea of a ridiculously fresh IPA is nothing new, but this release made it a priority. There’s no way one of these will ever sit on shelves too long. I hope they continue to brew Best By IPA’s.

Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek (2008)
Obviously, this beer was not from this year, but I finally opened it and was glad I did. No one does lambics and sours like Cantillon. Probably no other more obvious sentence has ever been uttered regarding beer. Lou Pepe was no exception. I suspect the aging altered the beer, but I doubt I wouldn’t have loved it a couple of years ago.

Boulevard Rye-On-Rye
This one is on the brain as I just picked up the latest release of this great Smokestack Series brew. I always liked this beer but never really got it until this year. I don’t know whether that’s trying so many inferior rye beers or just the ongoing development of my palate, but it’s so rich and so good. Aside from Boulevard’s Saison Brett (another all-time favorite that could make this list every year), this is one of the true Missouri craft beer treasures.

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings
I stumbled upon one of these at a Whole Paycheck the day before Xmas Eve and figured it would make the perfect Xmas dinner drink. And it did. No one outside of these guys and Stillwater consistently make beers that go better with food. I was lucky I paced myself of this one would have put me under the table.

Broadway Brewery Columbus Single Hop IPA
Never in my wildest dreams would I have figured a beer brewed here in Columbia, MO would make a list like this, but this one stacks up. I’m sure the freshness factor comes into play here, but I dragged a growler nine hours to Ohio, another three to Cleveland – all of it in a cooler that was probably not properly chilled and a growler that was not properly filled to the top – and the beer survived. Hell, it did better than survive. It was downright delicious.

Odell The Meddler Oud Bruin
I had nearly given up on Odell’s special releases, but this one was decently priced and I like to try anything new in this style. The beer was beautiful from appearance to aroma to the all-important flavors within. It paired well with whatever I was eating that night. This beer renewed my faith in Odell.

Schlafly Tasmanian IPA (TIPA)
Schlafly has been experimenting with different varieties of hops, mostly through special keg-only releases and cask ale. Still, this one was a nice little surprise. It’s one of those beers that nails the hoppiness hop heads are always after, causing us to want to drink one after the other.

Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout
This is how pumpkin ale should be done. Screw the pumpkin pie and sour varieties. Put your pumpkin in an imperial stout or Baltic porter! As an imperial stout, it’s not my favorite. However, it made me rethink pumpkin beers just as I was writing them off.

Treble Kicker Beer New Slang Saison
My own Saison is easily one of my favorites. I upped the ante with this year’s version for my partner’s tenure celebration. More lemon zest and rosemary = a punch in the face Saison that is not playing around. Add in some dry-hopped Sorachi Ace hops and you have a lemon bomb/balm that needs to brewed again and soon.

Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
This one was met with many mixed reviews, but I loved the twist this one offered some lemon verbena and rye-induced spice that made for one of the more interesting/surprising beers this year.

Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA
Why isn’t the white/wheat IPA more popular? Because no one wants to take on Deschutes’ hold on hoppy beers. No one hops a beer like Deschutes. No one.

Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale
This was my beer of the summer. Refreshingly hoppy goodness in a can carried me through record-setting heat, including a 30-mile bike ride.

Green Flash Rayon Vert
I’m not sure how long this beer has been around, but it made its first appearances in middle-Missouri earlier this year and I’m sure glad it did. Another twist on the IPA (this time with Belgian love), Rayon Vert became the “heavy” beer of summer.

Stillwater Debutante
What can I say that hasn’t already been said before about Stillwater’s excellence. I could put any of their beers on this list every year. Still, this one made its debut in 2012 and I for one welcome it to the best lineup of Saisons this side of Belgium.

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
The Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale continues to dig out a niche in craft beer and Firestone’s entry is no different than the best of the style.

Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies
Did I mention Deschutes’ mastery of the hop. This fresh-hopped IPA and its fresh-hopped APA cousin (Hop Trip) do what fresh/wet-hopped beers are supposed to: capture the essence of Dionysus’ underwear… or something like that.

Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine
Most of the Mikkeller releases I enjoyed this year were not all that new to me. However, the experience surrounding the Royal Rye Wine made this possibly the most memorable beer of the year. Read more about it here.

What did I forget? What would you add? Disagree or agree with any of these?

Add More Hops

Posted in Beer by Zac on August 13, 2012

I understand that over-hopped (or hyped), unbalanced beer is not everyone’s cup of tea – or glass of beer, but it seems to me that hops is the cure-all for any style of beer. Never was this more apparent to me than a little over a year ago when I tried a hoppy wheat at the Boulevard facility in Kansas City. Since that time, collaborations have been released and now there’s Boulevard’s 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat, a newly-released version of this one-time-brewery-only-release. It’s now available everywhere Boulevard is served and for this, I am thankful.

It seems adding more hops is the way to go. The IPA is maybe most responsible for craft beer’s emergence in the US and it’s also the hoppiest of the hoppy. It has its own rather popular holiday. Brewers push the limits of bitter hoppiness to extremes, even upping the ante for traditional heavyweights of the style. Then we freak out when there’s suddenly a hop shortage, making fresh-hopped and double-hopped beers more valuable. All of these appears to make it imperative that every brewery carry their own hop-bombed IPA and/or DIPA.

The fact that nearly every brewery makes an IPA/DIPA means that hop-heads – myself included – could get their fill. However, this doesn’t seems to be enough. It’s now en vogue to hop the hell out of everything. There are brown ales hopped like IPAs. Saisons with a hoppy bite. No style is safe, but the style that maybe needed additional hops is finally getting the attention it deserves. Wheat ales are now entering super-hopped sector of beer styles and I couldn’t be happier.

Typically, American wheat ales (not Hefeweizens or whatever some brewers try to pass as Hefeweizens these days) feature a slight citrus crispness that makes them ideal for some hop additions. Boulevard and Deschutes seem to be at the forefront of this trend. From the ashes of their Collaboration/Conflux #2 venture, the breweries have released the aforementioned 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat and Chainbreaker White IPA, respectively. I welcome this kind of ingenuity in craft beer. Such innovation just makes sense.

I take a similar view with my own brewing. Sometimes, we just need more hops. Obviously, this applies to the IPAs I primarily brew, but other beers deserve more hops as well. For one, I have my second attempt at my New Slang Saison. When I brewed it before, I didn’t dry-hop it with Sorachi Ace hops. However, this year’s batch deserved a little something extra. So, along with some rosemary, an ounce of leaf hops were added and I should be able to report the results soon. Of course, I suspect they’ll be great.

What other styles could use an infusion of hops? (“All” is probably the only acceptable answer.)

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The Black Keys Eat Things

Posted in Intersections, Rock vs. Beer by Zac on April 17, 2012

The Black Keys have always held a special place in my heart. Although I haven’t kept up with their more recent albums, they come from Ohio and fit the definition of an indie band, no matter what label they’re on[1].

Last night, they drank bourbon and ate BBQ at a Kansas City institution[2], Woodyard, with food nerd hero Anthony Bourdain. I didn’t watch the episode last night, but I saw the clip today. And all I could think about was that Sam Caligione should have done something like this with his failed TV show, Brew Masters.

Oh, well. C’est la vie.

What do you think the Keys would drink? I suspect industrial swill, but you never know. Coming from Akron, they could easily get their hands on some Great Lakes, Hopping Frog, or Buckeye.

Notes:
1 Honestly, I have no idea what label they’re on. I know they used to be on Fat Possum and possibly something before that. All I know is that they get too much press to still be on an indie not called Merge.
2 Speaking of KC institutions, why didn’t they drink some beer from Boulevard, particularly their Smokestack series?

My Last Twelve Beers

Posted in Beer, MoL by Zac on December 15, 2011

No, this is not a list of the twelve worst beers I’ve had this year. I won’t do that. What I will do is put together a cheap post, a list of my last twelve beers as a way to fill some space. Think of it as the twelve beers of this Christmas or something. Some of these I’ve had and might have reviewed somewhere, but I thought I’d look back and see what I’ve enjoyed recently*. Of course, most of these happened on Sunday at a beer geek holiday party, but they still count…

Parabola Russian imperial stout by Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Sycamore, a favorite place to get a beer and a fine meal was hosting a Firestone Walker beer dinner. I didn’t get tickets, but I was able to score a seat for my daughter and I. We ate pork belly sliders, their special salad (soft boiled egg, bacon, etc.), smoked trout belly, and their famous Parmesan fries. I washed all that down with this beer. At 13%, it was the only beer I could safely drink in order to get my kid home in time for bed. It’s a huge and intense flavor experience, but it’s plenty drinkable now and should be out of this world in a year or two.

Fuego del Otono by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales – We had guests over for dinner. My wife makes this pumpkin soup where she bakes it inside a Long Island cheese pumpkin and we scoop out pulp with the broth and melted Gruyere. Somehow the brown ale I chose to pair was not going to make the cut. So, I quickly chilled this Jolly Pumpkin. The nuttiness, spices, and slight tartness played well with the soup.

Double Bastard by Stone Brewing Company – This one was served before dinner for a couple of bastards (myself included). I’ve always had an interest in drinks named “bastard” ever since I had my first Miserable Bastard at the bar around the corner from my college apartment. I like to pretend when I drink this beer that it’s what the regular Arrogant Bastard used to taste like before we all became acclimated to such big beers.

Firestone 15 (XV) Anniversary Ale byFirestone Walker Brewing Company – I was lucky enough to get a nice sample of this beer which should age nicely. I still have several bottles in my possession at the moment, but one is promised to a friend. This means that I either have one to sell or trade or I’ll drink it over the holiday with friends and age another for the future. Either way, I feel pretty lucky to have any and to have tasted it already. Did I mention that it’s pretty incredible already?

N’Ice Chouffe by Brasserie d’Achouffe (Duvel Moortgat) – After a while, I feel all these great Belgian beers – seasonal or not – begin to all taste the same. Of course they don’t really and of course this is not a bad thing. My underdeveloped tongue for Belgian beers just struggles to differentiate. This one was nice. I don’t remember anything that set it apart particularly. Plus, it was in the midst of a decent haul for a Sunday afternoon.

4 Calling Birds by The Bruery – I love The Bruery. This one was interesting. Unlike the one above, it stuck out as a Belgian style beer. However, I sensed a lot more clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, you know, Christmas spices. Still, it didn’t quite stand up to the actual Belgian beer. Had I consumed it alone, I might think differently. Of course, I’d drink this over 97% of the holiday beers out there. So, there’s that. (On a side note, this holiday get-together included a Yankee Swap. I walked off with a Cuir from The Bruery. I can’t wait for the perfect occasion to crack this baby open.)

Wytchmaker Rye IPA by Jester King Craft Brewery – I was very excited to try this beer as I have been reading for months about all the cool beers they’re brewing. It didn’t disappoint. Some couldn’t get past the rye, but I thought the rye was almost an afterthought as the tartness and hoppy bitterness shared center stage. I have to find a way to try more of these beers.

Doodle Dubbel by Doodle Brewing – So, the great thing about craft beer – like punk rock 25-30 years ago –  is that anyone can brew beer. The  bad thing about craft beer – also like punk rock – is that anyone can brew beer. I’ll just leave it at that.

Harvest wheat wine (2009 vintage) by Boulevard Brewing Co. – This beer came out two year ago. I hated it two years ago, but I still had an unopened bottle. So, I cellared it. Time passed by and I couldn’t find the appropriate time to pull it out of the cellar until the holiday party happened. I was considering contributions and noticed that the best by date was 10/10. I figured we might as well open it now. There’s no shame in pouring a beer down the drain…but we didn’t have to. In fact, this beer mellowed a ton and was well worth the wait. Sweet and smooth, nothing like I remembered it. It makes me rethink my dislike of the wheat wine altogether.

Sailing Santa IPA by Saint Arnold Brewing Company – Meh.

Winter Ale by Petrus – OK.

Rumpkin by Avery Brewing Company – I don’t know about a pumpkin ale, but this tasted more like a huge barley wine. I didn’t really sense much pumpkin at all. It’s so malty and sweet. I wish I was able to get my hands on some for aging purposes. Oh well. Can’t win them all. Still, I got to try some and it’s a nice barley wine – forget the pumpkin angle.

*Honestly, since I started this post, I’ve had a couple of other beers. One was the Shmaltz/Terrapin collab Reunion ’11. It was better than I remembered. There are moments when it’s spicy and others when the chocolate hits. It’s a very nice beer that I wouldn’t turn down. The other was one of my 90 Minute IPA‘s I have lying around, but I want to say more about it in another post. So, it will have to wait.

Top 5: Xmas Beers

Posted in Beer, Top 5 by Zac on December 12, 2011

OK. So, I don’t actually like seasonal beers. The only exception are those beers that happen to always come out at certain times of the year, but aren’t necessarily tied to the season. There are other exceptions, but I find fall and winter seasonals to be particularly dreadful as it becomes the time of year to overload mediocre brews with spices. This is something homebrewers do, not quality craft brewers.

Still, there are a few holiday ales which I like to try every year. I typically only drink holiday ales that are available here in Missouri. So, the list is a bit limited that way as well. Here are five of the better holiday ales I enjoy…

5. Avery Old Jubilation – Sweet, malty old ales should be on every brewery’s holiday lineup. This one is a favorite and almost criminally available everywhere, sitting beside their spiced brethren. The Christmas-y and seemingly pedestrian presentation make me think 1995 micro-brewed concoction of frankincense and myrrh.

4. Boulevard Nutcracker Ale / Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – I couldn’t decide between these two as they are the same beers in my mind (not really even close). Sure, Celebration is…well… more celebrated, but they are very similar beers. Instead of coming with spice, they hit you with hops, lots of them… Actually, the point is that that both beers contain a surprising amount of hoppiness in two rather different beers. Are you confused yet? I am. The hoppiness contained in the winter warmer and IPA are of the crisp variety, how I’ve been liking my hops as of late.

3. Mikkeller Red White / Santa’s Little Helper / To From / Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas – Some of these are better than others, but it’s the fact that Mikkeller puts out a full lineup of holiday ales that strikes me. All are uniquely Mikkeller and all are worth the holiday bonus you may fork over for some. I’m particularly interested in the Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas, an IPA brewed with ginger and pine needles, as it’s new to me this year.

2. Samichlaus – This beer has an enormous reputation in these parts, almost as large as its 14% ABV. The rep is much deserved and the beer is a Christmastime necessity. I don’t know that it actually has anything to do with Christmas other than the fact that it sounds like “Santa Claus,” but it’s a giant lager with which you should not trifle.

1. Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza – JP is one of those breweries at the top of my favorites list that just does it for me every time. Sure, they’re all variations of the same beer, but they’re all delicious.Tartness galore as always but this time in the form or a Belgian strong dark ale. I would have even accepted spice, but JP didn’t stoop to those levels and kept it on the real. In other words, it’s your typical Jolly Pumpkin but in super-awesome Christmas form.

Special Mention: Stone/Nøgne Ø/Jolly Pumpkin Special Holiday Ale – From what I understand, this beer has long been retired. All three breweries can be found in this beer. It’s a bit of a mangled mess, but it was my mangled mess at one time. I’ve had versions bottled by the first two breweries and each brought with them something different. I feel like the JP version has been around, possibly passing my lips at a tasting, but I have no proof and could be totally mistaken.

Session #58 – A Christmas Carol

Posted in Beer, The Session by Zac on December 2, 2011

This month’s session idea comes to us from Ed Hardy at Beersay and here’s what he had to…er…say:

The idea for me was based loosely around the visits of three ghosts to Ebenezer Scrooge, but relayed in a post about the beers of Christmas past, present and future.

What did you drink during Christmas holidays of old, have you plans for anything exciting this year and is there something you’d really like to do one day, perhaps when the kids have flown the nest?

So, we’re going all holiday up in this joint. I do love a good holiday ale loaded with frankincense and myrrh. Or something like that.

Xmas Past
For a beery memory to share, I’m going to go all the way back to last year. It’s not as much about what beer I drank, but rather about the silliness that resulted in my consumption. After a beer or two and a glass of homemade egg nog, we sat down for Xmas Eve dinner with friends and family. My wife makes the greatest Polish feast imaginable every Xmas Eve. It is easily my favorite meal of the year. I prefer to celebrate said meal with a nice beer. For last year’s feast, I chose Mikkeller’s Santa’s Little Helper.

Then, things got a bit weird…

For whatever reason, our guests that evening were not into drinking beer with this particular dinner. So, I had the entire 750 mL bottle to myself. You can probably imagine what happened after that. And if you imagined that I would go outside intent on knocking the snow off our satellite dish with snow balls only to eventually turn to climbing onto the roof in order to clear the snow by hand, then you would be correct.

Xmas Present
I’m not exactly sure how to handle this one as it is only December 2nd, meaning that this Xmas actually qualifies as Xmas Future, but whatever. I’ll at least tell you my plan. The start of our season usually happens on St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6). Friends throw a big party with a giant, flaming bowl of mulled wine. It’s good stuff, but I always show up with some seasonal beers. Other than the Mikkeller (again), I currently have a Jolly Pumpkin Noel Calabaza, but I think I’ll take a sixer of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, assuming there’s more in the stores.

After that, my beer club has a Holiday Party/Yankee Swap/Ugly Sweater Contest planned. I’ll bring something nice to drink (possibly the Allagash Odyssey I scored at last year’s party), possibly a Boulevard gift set for the swap, and I don’t know about the sweater.

As far as our own Xmas festivities, I’ll take it easy this year on Xmas Eve. There will be no drunken roof climbing this year. I always enjoy a bomber all to myself on Xmas Day. Other than that, it will be typical beer consumption for me.

Xmas Future
I have lots of ideas for future Xmas. Let’s list them, since that’s kinda my thing this month:

  • Xmas Homebrew – I want to brew a special Xmas brew on Xmas Day one of these years. Of course, it will probably have to be something that isn’t necessarily Xmas-y as it will take time for fermentation and such to occur. Ideally, I’d like to brew something big that can be enjoyed during the following Xmas as a way to start a tradition.
  • Travel – One of the best Xmas celebrations I ever had was the year we visited family in California. I’d love to do a beer-themed Xmas trip one of these years. Maybe Colorado, San Diego, Asheville, Portland, Chicago, or even Belgium would all be great trips. Someday, someday…
  • Neighborhood Tasting – I’ve always wanted to do a tasting with my neighbors. They all like to imbibe and have a good time. I’m the resident beer nerd. They’re always asking me about craft and homebrewed beer. I always thought it would be cool to have them all chip in and I’ll buy a load of beer for a tasting. There’s a neighborhood party and progressive dinner, a beer at each stop would be ideal.
  • Beer Gifts – My wife always gets me cool and unique gifts for Xmas, but one of these years I’m going to get her to give the gift of beer. I’m thinking glassware, all-grain equipment, a beer trip, or some membership to a special mail-order club or something. Even a stockpile of beer books would be cool.
  • Sharing Craft Beer with My Daughter -My three-year-old is obviously not ready for beer, but I’ve given her tiny tastes here and there. I look forward to the day I can sit down and share a beer with her on special occasions. The day we crack open a special beer I’ve been cellaring could be a lot of fun. Here in Missouri, it’s legal to serve your kid alcohol within your home. I’m not talking about getting plastered. I’m talking about sipping on a great beer and enjoying the aromas and flavors within. It will be a valuable experience where  I can teach her about good craft beer. By the time her peers are all doing keg stands, she won’t want to take part unless it’s good beer.

Well, those are my Xmas beer thoughts for the past, present, and future. Be sure to check out the other posts in the Session over at Beersay. Also, have yourself a happy holidays and all that. Cheers!

Top 5 Go-To Breweries

Posted in Beer, Top 5 by Zac on November 21, 2011

The Beer and Whiskey Bros. provide me with a lot of ideas for beer posts here. This week’s top-5 was inspired by a post on go-to and no-go breweries. I will abstain from calling out the no-go breweries and just give you my top-5 go-to breweries, breweries that I’ll buy whenever I see their product on the shelf, in the cooler, or on tap.

5. Schlafly/Boulevard – These are the two big breweries in Missouri, Aside from that one brewery. Bothe breweries provide us with entry good beers from which to choose. Of special note are Schlafly’s bourbon barrel beers and Boulevard’s Smokestack series. Both breweries also offer nice (A)IPA’s as well as some seasonal favorites.

4. Founders – I’m not sure any brewery gets the intense flavor of every style of beer better than Founders. Their IPA’s are straight bitter with a citrus nose. The stouts and porters are blacker than night and easily some of the best in the business. The only thing I’ve found that Founders doesn’t do well is subtlety. And is that so bad?

3. Jolly Pumpkin – I pretty much always have a JP in the cellar. Whenever they put out a new brew, I am sure to grab one, despite their somewhat steep prices. A Jolly Pumpkin beer tastes like no other as they employ a wild fermentation with all their beers. Even their ESB’s and stouts are funky. We don’t get a ton of JP here, but whenever I can, I grab one.

2. Stone – This was the brewery (specifically Ruination IPA) that turned me on to craft beer. I consider them the Founders of the west (or vice versa), but they can do subtlety. At least when I pick up a Stone beer, I know every time that it will be enjoyable. This was a major get for our market this last year. Now, we have some of the best IPA’s, stouts, and barley wines available for very little money.

1. Mikkeller – Like Jolly Pumpkin, I pay an extra premium for these beers. The trouble is that we only get a few of their brews at a time. Then, one has to decide if $12 for 12 oz. is worth it. Often, the answer is yes. And they do every style imaginable, plus a few they made up. Even if I don’t like a Mikkeller beer, I will at least find it interesting.

A Few Beers I’ve Enjoyed Over the Last Week+

Posted in Beer by Zac on November 13, 2011

For whatever reason, I’ve backed off of straight beer review posts. Still, I do drink a fair amount of beer and thought I’d share a few from the past week.

Founders Backwoods Bastard – I might as well have skipped the beer and gone with something stronger. The beer is super boozy, malty sweet, oaked to hell, and flat. At 10%, I could get more bang for my buck with something stronger like whiskey, bourbon, or scotch. Either way, it just made me sleepy. I’ll have to save the other three bottles to see how this beer mellows.

Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam – I swear that Jolly Pumpkin just brews variations of its popular Bam Bier and there’s nothing wrong with that. I opened this beer and stepped away to retrieve a glass only to find that the bottle had exploded all over the counter. I often don’t get a chance to enjoy the full 750 mL of a Jolly Pumpkin as this happens a lot. Still, the activity doesn’t take away from the beer, if anything, it only adds to it. Present is that Jolly Pumpkin funk and what turns out to be a rather cloudy beer. Surprisingly, the beer is rather flat after the initial onslaught of beer on my countertop. The sourness in this version of the Bam series is not as sharp as the original, but plenty enjoyable.

Boulevard Saison-Brett (2011) – Apparently, there’s more of this beer lying around as a fellow beer enthusiast showed up at a gathering with a bottle. The sharpness missing in the beer above comes tenfold in this beer – as expected. This is a bucket list beer and I’m thankful it graces our shelves once a year.

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project Hedgerow Bitter – I’ve had a couple of Pretty Things beers in the past. This brewery gets a lot of attention, mostly due to their lack available, queer brewery name, and unique artwork. However, my experience with the brewery has been somewhat disappointing. This beer came through, however. As an English Pale Ale, my expectations were already lowered, but this is a pretty solid beer. The bitterness is most dominant and welcomed. I don’t know whether the lowered expectations or just the fact that this is a really good beer. Either way, Hedgerow Bitter was thoroughly enjoyed Friday night.

Barley Legal Collaboration #1 – I hang out with these guys who brew every Sunday. Often, the recipes and ingredients are their own, but they like to help folks brew their beers (my Simcoe-Dependency was brewed there) as well as collaborate with whoever is interested. Recently, we gathered to brew this beer. I wanted it to have a molasses feel without getting too heavy. So, I contributed brown sugar and molasses. The results are a pretty amazing old ale-like beer. It’s super boozy and sweet with a surprising hop bitterness. It’s one of the more complex homebrews I’ve had and really worth the efforts of the entire group.

Schlafly No. 20 Volume 3 – Citrus Witbier – I had this beer a couple of times this weekend. The first was in the midst of a tasting that involved many of the other beers on this list. So, this little witbier didn’t stand up. The nose was citrusy and included the proper amount of funk. However, the results on the tongue were lost among all the other beers sampled. I gave the beer a second chance as I watched my Buckeyes stick a fork in this miserable season with a loss at Purdue. Alone, the beer is a solid witbier. The missing flavors from the night before were there when the beer was enjoyed alone. This beer would be perfect for a fish recipe I tried a while back.

Ska Euphoria Pale Ale – I had a moment to kill at a favorite water hole. This seasonal was on tap. I had purchased a full sixer last year and sort of struggled to get through it. It wasn’t that the beer was bad, I just grow tired of the same beer over and over. Anyway, I thought I’d have a glass on tap now for my annual indulgence. This beer is the dry, bitter APA I’ve been craving as of late. So, I may have to reconsider my aversion to the six-pack.

Founders Breakfast Stout – I don’t actually like coffee stouts. However, this one is different. The trouble with most coffee stouts is that the base stout is thin and relatively unremarkable so as to showcase the coffee flavors. Founders takes another route and brews a solid imperial stout with loads of coffee. The flavorful beer balances flavors of coffee, roasted malt, molasses, and a touch of bourbon. I will, however, need to be sure to drink these beers quickly as coffee fades much in the same way hops do in IPA’s.

He’Brew Genesis 15:15 – Lord have mercy! What a conglomeration of flavors and booze. This is a whole lotta beer at 15% ABV and including multiple fruits aged in barrels…You can only imagine all that comes with this beer. I had a snifter of the stuff at a bar and will hang on to a bomber to see how well it ages.

Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel – Someone had one of these when I was done drinking for the evening. The discussion surrounding it had me intrigued. I looked to buy the beer in a store a few days later, but couldn’t justify $18 for a four-pack I wasn’t even sure what I would be getting. Luckily, I found a bottle at a bar and took the plunge. This is the quad of all quads. Deep, dark, rich, complex, reeking of raisins and fig. And it’s huge at 11% ABV, but you don’t notice the booze which can be dangerous.

There have been other beers, but this is what I’ve had lately. You can follow me on Untappd. I don’t leave much insight there, mostly just keeping a list. What have you been drinking? Have you had any of the above beers? Tell me what you’d like in the comments.

The Weekend that Was

Posted in Life by Zac on May 23, 2011

Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to limit the number of posts that just tell you what I did. Well, I’ve been a single parent for most of the last week and will continue for all of this week. So, I have time for nothing more than share a few images from my weekend.

The weekend started with this…

Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA started off the weekend (and would be enjoyed on Sunday as well). The Hopry’s review got me to thinking that I needed to give this beer another try. The first and last time I tried it was the big Stone night here in town and I was not that impressed. Of course, I was following up several beers that are all a load on their own. So, making this my first of the weekend allowed me to enjoy this beer unscathed. Upon further review, the Cali-Belgique is what its name suggests: a California-style hopbomb with the delicate presence of a Belgian yeast strain. What a great summer beer this is going to be with it’s tartness only balanced by the fruity bitterness of west coast hop bills.

Later on Friday, I obtained the services of a sitter and caught what I hoped to be the lineup of the summer. Believers put on their typical jive-inducing set. Richard the Lionhearted (sorry, no pics turned out),played a tight set of new and old songs. Jerusalem and the Starbaskets brought home their dirty, drunken version of rock music before I had to sneak out to relieve and pay said sitter. It was a nice night to catch up with some friends and release a bit from my week as a single parent.

My kid’s first rock show happened. It was Sunday evening at an ice cream parlor. We sat down with our ice cream and watched Dubb Nubb and Cory Taylor Cox play folk music as it stormed outside. As you can see from the picture, my kid and her friend from her Montessori school rocked out, mostly pogoing the night away.

My busy weekend finally ended the way most weekends should end: with a beer. Boulevard’s Tank 7 is easily one of my five favorite/go-to beers.

Hopefully, there will be more full-fledged posts this week as next week will be a bit thin with a long-awaited vacation on the horizon. Bare with me. I have ideas for some good posts in the coming months.

Saturdays with Beer Geeks

Posted in Beer, Travelog by Zac on May 3, 2011

I work and have a family. So, a lot of beer geeking happens on the weekend[1]. This past weekend, some headed to Munster, IN while the rest of us slummed it in Kansas City. This is what we do. We fill an entire day (or weekend, vacation, lifetime, etc.) with beer.

My beer enthusiasts club hit Kansas City for a day trip which included a brewery tour, lunch at a place called “Beer Kitchen,” and a large chunk of the day spent at a beer festival. Yes, we really spent the entire day immersed in beer and no one got completely wasted…well, not in our group anyway[2].

The brewery we toured was Boulevard in Kansas City. It’s a huge facility that produces all the beer for the tenth largest craft brewery in the US. We saw barrels used for the brewery’s high-end Smokestack series, enough brewing equipment to almost fill a city block, and a bottling line that now stands on the brewery’s old basketball court[3].

For a group of seasoned home brewers and beer nerds, the process of making beer was not all that impressive[4], but it was pretty cool to see Boulevard’s setup which has to be one of the most unique in the industry. The room below the fermentation tanks was right out of a sci-fi flick with the stainless steal pipes and nothing but the bottoms of fermenters protruding from the ceiling. The building utilized the original architecture of the old warehouse as well as incorporating some newer wrinkles. All of it was super modern with exposed skeletal structures and polished concrete. It’s really a nice facility. Even nicer were the samples waiting for us at the end of the tour. Of particular interest was the dry-hopped wheat, suggesting that hoppy wheat beers might be the next big thing in craft brewing[5].

After a few samples, we all needed food in our bellies. Luckily, the Beer Kitchen was not too far away. Since I was driving, there wasn’t much for me to enjoy, except for the corned beef hash (off the brunch menu). Still, they offered six-ounce samplers of which I accepted and sipped on one of the nicer surprises of the year, New Belgium’s Le Terroir[6]. Someone bought a $15 Scandinavian IPA and we were off to the festival.

When I say “festival,” what I mean to say is a row of tents with lines of people extending about thirty feet of expectant beer drinkers. The breweries held down posts inside the tents and spent their day pouring. Breweries from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri were present as well as regional favorite New Belgium and newly MO-accepted Stone. I wasn’t fooling myself. This was not a festival of breweries from the Pacific Northwest or Belgium[7]. A lot of the beer was just okay. Conversely, I didn’t have a beer I’d pour down the drain either. Our crew basically waited in line for beer, received said beer in our commemorative glasses, and proceeded to the next line where we would drink the beer until reaching the next brewer.

I honestly can’t remember which beers I liked best. It was good to try Nebraska Brewing Company, a brewery about which I had heard many good things. However, when I asked for the IPA, I got the Hop God, a blend of IPA and Belgian Tripel. Let’s just say that it was not what I wanted it to be[8], but someone let me sample their IPA and I was glad I did. I seem to remember that the Upstream IPA was good as was the refreshing Hopluia from Spilker. All of these breweries hailed from Nebraska, leading me to think that there’s something going on there besides corn.

We finished the day at a pizza place in a shopping center…which happened to possess forty or so taps. I kept it simple and sipped slowly on an Oaked Arrogant Bastard while washing down some pizza. It would take a venti iced latte to get me home, but I made it safe and sound.

This is what beer geeks do. Instead of traveling or attending festivals where there might be beer, we travel for the beer. Unfortunately for me, I’m the only one in my family who enjoys beer enough to do this[9]. So, I have to take my opportunities for beer travel when I can get it, even when it’s just a day. It might not sound like fun to talk, drink, and “eat” beer for an entire day or longer, but that’s what we do.

Notes:
1It’s not just on weekends, but weekends seem to be the easiest times to fit in some beer geeking.
2I saw many a bro suck down too many 3-4 oz. pours in the sun without eating or drinking water. Not cool, beer festival bro. Not cool.
3Interestingly, the old bottling line used to take up about the same amount of space the barrel room now occupies. The new bottling line takes up space in a pretty large room with high ceilings and yes, they used to play basketball in that room. The new line is so efficient, it doesn’t have to run on the weekends. Typically, it’s done by Friday of every week. The old line ran straight through the weekend.
4Most of the “action” occurred on video screens. There were mini-docs on the brewing process at each stop. It certainly gave the tour a Disney feel and relieved the volunteer tour guides form having to know everything.
5It seems these little trends in craft beer pop up now and again without warning. I finally feel like I’m aware of one as it happens. Of course, dry-hopped wheats, while refreshing and floral, are not as exciting as Black IPA’s and anything bourbon barrel aged.
6While dry-hopped sour ales are not really a trend as of yet, I do like the rash of well-balanced sours hitting the market here and there. Sure, I like a beer that only brings the sour, but a beer like Le Terrior is a welcome respite from beers that make you pucker.
7I think I just peed a little. The idea of attending a beer festival in the Pacific Northwest or Belgium excites me.
8I wanted hops. I got some muted hops behind Belgian sweet. Never does this work.
9Although, the 2.5-year-old often likes to tell me that she’ll gladly drink (and brew) beer with me when she’s bigger.

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