Beer and Pavement

Reviewing 2014: Beer

Posted in Beer, Eats, Mikkeller, Review by SM on December 27, 2014

spontan

Crap. Where did the year go?

All I have done is taken several hiatuses in between some fairly mediocre blog posts. I would like to tell you 2015 will be different, but why lie? It won’t. I’ll be a sporadic blogger as it seems to be my ultimate destiny. So, you’ll forgive my momentary lapse in judgement when I thought a PhD was a good idea. You won’t mind when I prioritize my job and career over my hobbies. And you’ll give me a pass for being a parent of two who rarely gets a full night’s sleep.

That said, I still found a way to consume and as you well know, consuming indie rock records and craft beer are what I do best when I’m not parenting or working. I didn’t listen to nearly as much music as year’s past, but I did drink a shit-ton of beer as my waist will attest. So, I have something to say about both topics.

The format will be a bit different than years past. Usually, I write a list of records and/or beers. Last year I opted not to rank my choices for the year. This year I will simply name some arbitrary categories to fill with some sort of commentary. Do with this list what you will. However, I hope you can find the time to comment and even throw some money at the good people I’m about to praise.

The 2014 Beer and Pavement Recognitions and Such – Craft Beer Division

“My New Favorite Series of Special Release Beers”

spontanbuckthorn

A year and a quarter ago, I made my the voyage to Mikkeller’s home base(s) in Copenhagen. While there, I discovered that my favorite brewer can do lambics. And they don’t just do your ordinary lambic. Nope. The “Spontaneous Series” from Mikkeller features tart beers flavored with not your average additives like the evasive species such as buckthorn or the elderflower which comes from the potentially toxic elder plant. There are more typical fruits such as peach and raspberries, but you shouldn’t forget your root vegetables like beets(!). Mikkeller is known for pushing boundaries and styles, but with this series the boundaries are both stretched and strengthened like few brewers can do. I am not a completist, so I have yet to try all of these beers as they are pretty expensive and hard to find in this part of the country, but I buy one when I can and have enjoyed each immensely.

Close second: Stone’s Enjoy By Series is the freshest DIPA’s you’ll find as long as you enjoy them by the date on the bottle. 4/20 was particularly good this year. Rumor has it there’s an Enjoy After Series on the way which should be fun.

“Beer Style I Was Almost Over. Almost.”

Bourbon barrel imperial stouts are a bit played out. I mean, bourbon is great. Imperial stouts are great. So, you can’t possibly mix the two too often, can you? Guess again.

I grew so tired of anything bourbon-barrel aged and I like bourbon. A lot. However, aging every imperial stout in bourbon barrels gets old. The flavor is rich and often too sweet. It’s an easy way to make a beer everybody wants, but I’m moving on.

Well, sort of. Tonight with roast beef, I cracked open Avery’s Tweak. This is the bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts of bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts at 17% ABV and actual chunks of bourbon barrels in every bottle. Still, I don’t know how much more bourbon barrel imperial stouts I can take.

“The Beer I Like With Food”

I once discovered the wonders of a Dogfish Head India Brown Ale and a Booches burger. Oh, the wonders of hops and malts with a greasy burger… Well, I found my new favorite beer with comfort food: Broadway Brewery‘s Backyard BBQPA. Yes, a smoked pale ale is not everyone’s favorite, but Broadway brewed a beer that works with most of their menu, particularly anything smoked or meaty. I’ve had it with their burgers, pulled pork, and meatloaf sandwich. The mixture of malty sweetness and the bitterness of hops and smoke make for a nice beer to pair with fatty meats. I honestly don’t know that I’d like this beer on its own, but it is fantastic with Broadway’s excellent menu of locally-grown comfort foods.

“That Said, This Is My New Favorite Food-Beer Pairing”

abyss

Imperial stouts should be the only beer you ever serve with pie, especially a pie filled with berries. And don’t even bother with the a la mode bullshit. An imp stout has your creamy sweetness covered. I recently rediscovered the wonders of this pairing when a friend baked us some pie with blackberries and I showed up with a 2013 Deschutes Abyss nine months past its best after date. Whoa. What a brilliant pairing if I do say so myself. The glorious things going on in my mouth that night were enhanced by some killer Spiegelau Stout glasses.

A close second: The curried chicken pot pie we had before this pie was paired with Against the Grain’s Citra Ass Down DIPA and/or Stone’s Best By 12/26/14 DIPA. It’s hard to beat a perfectly balanced DIPA and spicy food. This isn’t a case of I got really drunk recently and wanted to include the experience in my blog. No. It’s an instance when perfect foods get matched with perfect beers and you all should know about it.

“2014’s Mikkeller – I.E. My New Favorite Brewery”

prairie

I nearly chose Texas’ Jester King Brewery, but I’ve followed them for a while and have always felt they were kindred spirits with the likes of Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Stillwater, The Bruery, etc. I was lucky enough to try quite a few of their beers at the SECraft Beer festival here in town where I sampled Snörkel, Detritivore, and Atrial Rubicite to name just a few of their excellent brews. They are now one of my top 3-4 breweries to gather while traveling to other beer markets.

That said, my new favorite brewery for this year goes to Prairie Artisan Ales, Sure, they are know for their various versions of Bomb!, yet another barrel-aged imperial stout, but I love their take on the saison as if it’s the new “ale.” Yes, I realize a saison is an ale by definition, but they like Stillwater treat the saison like it’s a centerpiece yeast strain and not just a side-project. There’s the Cherry Funk which is, well, funky. And there’s the Birra Farmhouse Ale, Prairie Standard, Prairie Hop, Prairie Ale, Puncheon, and a silly number of other saisons. All of these beers are grassy and pair well with any white meat or salad.

“Best Session Beer”

We got ourselves a brand-new spanking brewery this year by the name of Logboat. They do some nice beers and throw some good parties. However, they do provide the parenting/driving beer enthusiast some nice options such as their (GABF silver-medal winner) Mamoot Mild Ale and Bear Hair Belgian Blonde. These beers come in just under 5% ABV, but the beer that I love is just over that mark. It’s a wheat beer which are not always my favorite (except when they are hopped to hell). This beer features loads of ginger to help settle the stomach and awaken the tongue. Shiphead Ginger Wheat is the best session beer I’ve had this year. Sure, I enjoyed the IPA’s put out by Stone and others, but this beer’s gingery bite sets it apart from the rest.

“My Favorite Beer of 2014”

I could name so many new favorites from this past year like the ones above as well as Four Hands Alter Ego Black IPA, 3 Floyds War Mullet DIPA, Logboat/Four Hands Loghands Saison, Four Hands Cash Money, Founders Dissenter, Prairie’s Bomb!, Crooked Stave Vieille Artisanal Saison, Three Taverns’ White Hops, my own Aaawrange IPA and Smoke without Fire, Stone Go To IPA, Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout (2013), Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery Oil of Aphrodite, etc. I could also consider some old favorites that showed well again this year like Boulevard Saison Brett, Boulevard Love Child #4, Boulevard Rye on Rye, Bells Dark Note, Deschutes Hop Henge DIPA, Bells Hopslam, Mikkeller Citra, etc.

However, this year’s favorite beer has to be the one I predicted almost three years ago. I wrote the following:

Dogfish Head Guided By Voices Heavy Lager – I once heard Bob Pollard proclaim on stage that he drinks “Bud Heavy” and not Bud Light. So, I think Dogfish Head needs to produce a “heavy” lager, maybe an imperial pilsner or high ABV bock of some sort and dedicate it to the reunited classic GBV lineup. I chose Dogfish Head because they’ve done this sort of thing before and there’s a picture of Sam Calagione wearing a GBV t-shirt out there somewhere.

I was pretty close in my prediction and although I didn’t correctly predict the name of the beer, I did name a two-episode web series the same as my beer of the year. This beer wasn’t necessarily the best or even my favorite for taste, aroma, etc. This beer captured the connection between craft beer and indie rock I have been preaching about here when I actually find time to post.

That beer, of course, is Beer Thousand, the imperial lager Dogfish Head brewed in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand. Never has a beer more perfectly deserved recognition on this blog than now. And somehow with the help of my brother (who happens to live in Dayton), I was able to score a 4-pack. The beer is excellent. It hides the booze well and defies the style. While it may not rank high in tartness or hoppiness, it certainly tastes like Bee Thousand sounds: gloriously lo-fi and bound to get you drunk.

beer1000

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11 Responses

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  1. Bill said, on December 29, 2014 at 10:40 am

    You know, in Chicago (believe it or not) we’re not inundated with bourbon barrel stouts. We get the Goose Island batches at Thanksgiving, Central Waters in Wisconsin has some nice ones over the winter, Revolution puts one out once a year (and barrel ages other things as well), and… other than the brand-new breweries that release dozens of different things a year and therefore might have a bourbon imperial stout in there, that’s pretty much it. We don’t really see Founders KBS or Great Lakes’ barrel version of Blackout Stout or Bell’s version, and the stuff sent from breweries like Firestone Walker vanishes immediately. Tap lines get some bourbon barrel stuff. Stuff appears for a few days at bars after the Festival of Barrel Aged Beer. But stores? Goose, Rev, Central Waters. So I don’t really have an opportunity to get sick of them.

    So what I do is add a little bourbon to regular impy stout. The less-sweet stouts work better — Old Rasputin, Expedition, Muddy. Founders is too sweet for this, as is Left Hand and Sierra Nevada. Dunno about Stone.

    Will be brewing this week for the first time in two years– a Belgian strong golden ale.

    Happy new year to you and yours!

    • Zac said, on December 29, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Adding bourbon to a great imp stout? GENIUS!

      We get our fair share of them. That’s for sure, but I’m tired of the bourbon barrel age thing taking over craft beer much in the same way some have claimed hoppy beers have ruined craft beer. (They are wrong, BTW.)

      Happy brewing! I have plans to get back into it soon with beers intended to age and be consumed over the holidays next year.

      • Bill said, on December 30, 2014 at 1:06 pm

        “Adding bourbon to a great imp stout? GENIUS!” – There was a time, and maybe that time is still here, when folks on the ratings sites would rip you apart if you doctored the planned expression of the brewer’s art by adding something to a beer. I figure I give the brewers enough respect.

        The house currently smells like sweet sweet mashing malt.

      • Zac said, on January 15, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        Man, people use Randals (sp?) and blend beers all the time these days. What’s wrong with a little bourbon?

  2. a.m.d. said, on December 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Can you post the recipe for the curry pot pie or do you fear turning your blog into a cooking blog? I bet I could whip it up with beans instead of chicken and it sounds really good. Does Columbia have any kid-friendly brew pubs? I’ve noticed this brilliance in other cities, especially one in San Antonio that had a huge patio and playground. For towns like mine (and maybe Como?) that are walkable/bikeable, this is such a great idea. It seems like a no-brainer to me, yet we have none and they seem rare in the midwest.

    • Zac said, on December 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      I believe it’s an Alton Brown recipe, actually. Our host just happens to be great at making pie crust.

      I would say both Flat Branch and Broadway are kid friendly. Logboat doesn’t have a restaurant, but it’s plenty kid friendly, especially when the weather allows kids to run around on their huge yard. In the summer months, the yard is filled with kids playing, food trucks, and plenty of beer drinking, of course.

    • Zac said, on January 15, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Sorry, I missed all these comments. The pot pie expert is RockstarPhD over at http://difficultsubjects.com/. Ask her.

  3. Steve said, on December 30, 2014 at 2:54 am

    As a lover of a good saison (I think after a recommendation from you!) I’ll have to keep an eye out for Prairie Ales – good to see a brewery actually exploring the style rather than just producing one as a tick-box exercise.

    Over here the Wild Beer Company are doing some really interesting work with ‘funky’ beers, experimenting with different wild yeasts and trying to harness their own. The results can be variable, but are always worth drinking…

    • Zac said, on January 15, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      Super interesting. Prairie might be hard to get over there unless you jump over to Copenhagen. I’ll have to search out Wild Beer Company, though.

  4. Mike said, on December 30, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I went on a tour of Odell Brewery up in Fort Collins this weekend. I learned why bourbon and whiskey barrel beers are so popular these days. Apparently, distillers can only make whiskey or bourbon in a barrel two or three times before it’s legally not considered whiskey or bourbon anymore. Or something like that. The room was echoey and I don’t drink so I wasn’t paying too close attention. Anyway, beer doesn’t have the same guidelines, so they end up buying the barrels from bourbon and whiskey distillers at a discount. It sounds like the fad isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    Odell does both bourbon barrels and virgin oak ones. They said the best oak barrels in the country come from Missouri, for what it’s worth.

    • Zac said, on January 15, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      Odell’s barrel-aged stuff is pretty hit or miss. They do amazing beers and they do beers that just seem off.


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