Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Visit to Biscayne Bay Brewing Company

Yesterday evening I got to visit Biscayne Bay Brewing Company. Along with Gold Coast Distributors, the brewery invited some people to check out their brewery, taste a few beers and chat a little about the brewery and their plans. Biscayne Bay Brewing is located over near Miami Airport in an area that my wife calls "her territory," full of her freight-forwarder customers. But I wasn't with her--Ed Roberts and I were there for the launch.

We got to taste three different beers: Miami Pale Ale, Biscayne Bay Saison, and 1513-MDXIII Golden Ale. The saison was my favorite and really good, rich and full of fruit flavors with an alcoholic streak through it--I had thirds if I recall correctly. Ed and I learned that this isn't a regular beer for the brewery, but rather the first "wild card" they brewed. The next wild card is already being brewed, Double Nine Imperial IPA. Saison, however, was received so well at a Key West beer festival recently that we were told it would surely make a return.

The other two we tried will always be available, along with La Colada Coffee Porter and maybe one or two more for now. Biscayne Bay Brewing has a lot of space and it's a nice touch that it's completely air conditioned, even in the brewing areas. We were told about the plans for a tasting room and moving some of the offices around to maximize the area.

You should start seeing beers around Miami shortly, with Broward and Palm Beach to follow. You can check out the same three beers I tasted last night tomorrow on Biscayne Bay's Tap Tour. They will be making three stops to kick-start what is sure to be a successful brewing venture.

Tap Tour: Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lunch @ 12:00PM

5800 S.W. 73rd St, Miami
FL 33143 

Happy Hour @ 5:00pm

The Butcher Shop
165 NW 23rd St, Miami, FL 33127

Late Night @ 9:00 PM

Taurus Bar
3540 Main Highway Coconut Grove, FL 33133

I made a friend on the way out too (you can see her below). Best of luck, Biscayne Bay Brewing!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ballantine India Pale Ale

I was recently asked if I'd like to give my opinion on "America's Original IPA," Ballantine IPA, first brewed in 1878. I hesitated for a... well, no I didn't. I said sure, and a week later, I received this really nice Ballantine wooden box with a wine-sized bottle of Ballantine IPA and a new branded bottle opener as well. The label is nice, and I was going to call those Olympic-style interlocking rings (yes I know they are 2 short), but the back label calls them Borromean Rings, signifying purity, body and flavor.

This beer was apparently a kick-ass craft beer many decades ago. Read this really interesting story about the history of the beer. Though the label still stays it was brewed by P. Ballantine & Sons, that is now owned by Pabst. But whatever, I'm not a snob. 7.2% alcohol. 70 IBU. Bottled 08/05/2014 in Cold Spring, Minnesota.

Very hoppy aroma, fresh, a little spicy and with a good dose of citrus rind. That big citrus continues in the flavors, nicely bitter. There is also plenty of pine and a ton of fresh, green, dank hops. Just a touch of caramel sweet balance as well. Exactly what an IPA should be, and it kind of reminds me of Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Extra IPA. The difference though is that this beer has a distinct woody character, flavor and dryness. From reading the story I linked above, that's because the brewers used American Oak in the brewing process. It's noticeable!

Also noticeable is the alcohol, which really brings out a lemony bitterness in the finish. Carbonation and body are perfect. It's too bad this was forgotten for a while, but I must say the brewery definitely recreated something excellent. Very enjoyable all around!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Boulevard Brewing Coming to Florida

Since you guys don't read the headline titles, here's a hint about a new brewery that will hit the shelves here in Florida in early October!

Looks like they will start with Unfiltered Wheat Beer, Pop-Up IPA, 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer, Single-Wide IPA, Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, and Double-Wine IPA. Brown Distributing will be Boulevard Brewing's partner for the entire state.

I'm pretty excited as these are all excellent beers! Check out the brewery on Twitter and Facebook for specific launch dates and locations. Heck, let's hope for a party somewhere!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Squatters Off Duty IPA

Today I'm checking out Squatters Off Duty IPA brewed by the Utah Brewers Cooperative. On the front label is a tranquil photo of a person chilling out in a hammock while drinking a bottle of beer. On the back of the bottle, it's explained that's because this beer is perfectly relaxed like that hammock.

Well, I bought a really awesome hammock from some artisan on the streets of Villa de Leyva about 10 years ago. But my impatient wife couldn't wait until the trees in our yard matured enough to support it. So she sold it and that still pisses me off to this day! Anyway, this is a multiple GABF and multiple gold award-winning beer. 6.5% alcohol.

Hoppy aroma full of nice orange (cuties) citrus with a fruity, tropical edge. Terrific flavors! Citrus, orange, light zestiness. Sweet tropical fruits show through more on the taste buds too with cantaloupe and mango standing out. Hints of spicy and piney hops shift the beer back to bitter. Off Duty IPA is sweet and bitter, not a boring middle. Nicely balanced and very tasty, two reasons I can easily understand it winning multiple medals.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Stone Coffee Milk Stout

I grabbed a bottle of Stone Coffee Milk Stout the other day. I hadn't seen it before and thought I'd give it a try. The back of the bottle describes it as a "bittersweet, creamy, coffee-laced stout" and gives a little insight to its origin. Apparently, one of Stone's brewers created this as a limited edition beer for Stone World Bistro & Gardens, and its popularity led to becoming a full production beer that I was able to easily buy in South Florida. 2014 release. 4.2% alcohol.

Big head, though it's mostly my fault. Holy roasted coffee aroma, Batman! And some smoke, but that's it. The flavors are a reversal of that aroma--the coffee flavors seem like an afterthought buried beneath a giant smoky, malty campfire. Fairly creamy. Hints of chocolate and sugar, though overall the beer leans bitter. And again, that's pretty much it, very simple.

Low to medium body. I guess the big smoky, even ashy, flavors probably met what you might look for in a bold Gargoyle beer, but this isn't what I was expecting at all. Very one dimensional, lacking the intricacies I've come to expect from practically every Stone beer. Besides that, too smoky for me. Doesn't make me really think "milk stout" in the slightest. Try it for yourself if you want.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Beerology: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Beer... Even More

I recently received a copy of Beerology: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Beer... Even More by Mirella Amato. Mirella is a Certified Master Cicerone, BJCP beer judge and all-around beer expert. And based on this book, I'm betting she's also pretty amazing to hang around and drink a few beers with!

The book has an attractive cover decorated with beer coasters, each naming one of the chapters inside. On the back, some words of praise from Garrett Oliver and Sam Calagione. I picked the book up at 10 pm last night and read through it in one sitting--it was a little hard to get up this morning for work and to get the kids to school!

I must say I love the fun tone of the book! Quotes from the first line of the book, on page IX for God's sake, include "What drew me into the beer industry? The answer's simple: beer. It's delicious!" Mirella is dropping science! The same page states that "every beer is worth trying at least once" which is correct except for those sorghum anti-beers (and the extremely dump-able Moritz and that despicable Rascal's Wild Red nonsense). One final quote I saved for my wife when she gets back from Finland this weekend... "Beer is an everyday beverage and can certainly be enjoyed as such!"

Beerology is divided into four parts with four to six subdivsions each. It's really laid out well. A lot of beer books start off with a "What is Beer?" type section, and this one did too. I usually skip that part but thought this book had exactly the right amount of details, facts, interesting history and little tidbits not covered everywhere else. And Beerology took that a step further to storing beer, how to present beer (temperature and glassware), and how to taste beers (there's a tasting sheet in the back of the book too).

For me, the meat of the book started in Part Two: Beer Styles. Mirella is not hung up on the geeky beer styles despite her enormously geeky BJCP bunch of beer styles. Basically, for this book, Mirella turned off the judge and focused on the readers, dividing the book into categories that everyone could understand: Refreshing Brews, Mellow Brews, Striking Brews, Captivating Brews, and Brews Beyond (which includes sours, smoked beers and those gluten-free ones we know about but don't talk about).

Refreshing Brews is dotted with low-alcohol, highly carbonated beers like lagers, pilsners and wheat beers. Each named style gives a description, an overview with a little history, food pairings, and both Canadian and US examples (there are other countries too for some styles). Mirella is from Canada, and you will get used to the Flavour! I found the US examples pretty interesting as well, not exactly any beer geek list at all. And this is not a craft beer snob list either: Coors Light and Miller Lite are prominent on one particular category. Remember, "every beer is worth trying at least once."

Mellow Brews (Bock, Porter, Stout), Striking Brews (IPA, Sour, Fruit), and Captivating Brews (Saison, Tripel, Russian Imperial Stout, Barleywine) follow. Same thing: more interesting information and more interesting examples suggested.

Part Three gives you some info on how to set up a beer tasting, pairing beer with food and entertaining with beer. I probably should have read all this before hosting my own beer dinners, but whatever. There's also a beer cocktail section. There's a section for beer games that was more technical than I was expecting. All the games revolved around the beer and styles. I'm not sure exactly why I thought the games would be less beer geeky. But there were no "pouring ritual" games or "what would you have named this porter" games, without even going near beer pong or other games of everyone's past.

I still haven't hit the glossary, but this was a fun, entertaining book. I personally would have dissed Bud and Coors with more than terms like "the vast majority," but then again, I'm more of a dick and less of a people person than I guess the author is.

Nice book, Mirella. Give me a call when you're in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area!