Wednesday, February 29, 2012

South Beach Wine and Food Festival: Swine & Wine

Last Sunday, my wife and I went to the Swine & Wine event at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. This was an "Off-the-Beach" part of the annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar from Cooking Channel's Extra Virgin were the hosts. The event was fantastic: food, drink, music, people, atmosphere, weather, etc.

Many of you probably know that I also write a regular column for Gabriele's website. If not, you do now, and I did a nice write-up about the evening there.

I also just started contributing to where I did a broader recap of the event. And I posted a pretty decent sized photo album as well. Thanks for taking a look at each. Leave a comment if you like what you see, or even if you hate it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hoptologist DIPA

Today I'm drinking Hoptologist DIPA brewed by Knee Deep Brewing Company in Lincoln, California. The label depicts a cartoonish mad scientist in front of all of his bottles of potions and mixers. I guess he's the Hoptologist that put this 102 IBU creation together.

Very nice and interesting hoppy aroma. Fresh pine and citric lemony scents along with just a touch of malty sweetness. Flavors start out with a touch of that sweetness, caramel and bread are noted. But a great dose of bittering hops comes in and just pummels those initial flavors, cutting through with citrus and lemon rind and grassy waves.

There is almost a spearmint quality that goes along with the evergreen needle bitterness, to the point of tasting medicinal. Those flavors are a bit rough and sharp on the palate. Just a hint of tropical mango and peach try to swing the pendulum back toward sweet, and they do a decent job as the beer warms. But the effort never reaches its goal. The 9% alcohol accentuates the medicinal minty flavors, a negative, too noticeable. Carbonation is good. While there are some nice flavors in the beer, I didn't finish all of Big 22. Not because I couldn't; I just didn't want to. Just an OK beer.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Funky Buddha Night Out and Beer Reviews

Last Thursday, I met up with some local beer geeks to check out The Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery in Boca Raton, Florida. I also took the opportunity to make the evening the subject of my first article on This was my first trip to "The Buddha" despite its awesome reputation and massively hyped beers. I arrived around 7 pm when there was only a handful of people there. I immediately recognized a guy I had met a few weeks back at Coffee District Monday Night Bottle Share. Just attests to the fact that the locals know the great beer spots!

Anyway, I checked out the beer options for the night on the chalk boards above the bar. I was most interested in the Funky Buddha's beers, since I had never had any and they don't bottle yet. I was a little disappointed to only find six of the Buddha's beers as options, and none of their specialty beers that you hear so much about. We were told that "those beers" were sent to Boston a few weeks ago for Extreme Beer Fest and more just recently for Brewvival in Charleston, SC. That fact seemed to bother some of the regulars. For me, I just decided to make the best with the five I'd never had anyway. Good idea right? There's always a next time, and I know these guys are stretched thin and to capacity.

I decided a flight of 5 samples was the best way to approach a bunch of new beers. I picked the first 5 on the board and only passed on the Mixed Berry Wheat. Here is a brief review of each. I drank them the way they were served, in order (starting top left in the picture). The server told me he just did them in the order of the board to make it easy to refer to. Good idea.

1. Floridian Hefeweizen (5.6% alcohol). Lemon and wheat flavors dominate the beginning, with a nice wheaty texture also noticeable right from the start. Some banana flavors are also a main player right away. After a few sips, you start to notice a nice citrus component, both sweet and bitter, like candied lemon rind. Good carbonation. Nice the way the flavors all came together, none being overbearing. Very refreshing.

2. Hop Gun IPA (7.7% IPA). Nice peppery bitterness up front. Very fresh. Spicy. Sweet caramel and tropical fruit flavors, big body and a little syrupy. It did remind me a bit of Dogfish 90 Minute IPA, but a little thicker. Spicy, booze, heat, low carbonation, decent balance. I liked the flavors and ordered a full glass later on in the evening.

3. Piiti Porter (6.3% alcohol). Nice roast with some coffee and cocoa flavors. Burnt sugar. Sweet yet balanced with good bitterness at the same time.

4. Cream Ale (4.6% alcohol). Smooth but very light. Faint fruitiness but a bit soapy. Bitter aftertaste. Easy drinker but my least favorite of all of them.

5. Red Dawn Red Ale (6.8% alcohol). Nice aroma of toffee and caramel. Nice flavors too. Caramel, spicy with some light peppery flavors to start. Rich body. Toffee and honey flavors take over in the middle. Very nice beer. I liked this one.

I actually almost finished my flight before any of the people I was meeting arrived. Plenty of time to reflect and ponder the beers. My favorites in order: Hop Gun IPA > Floridian Hefeweizen >Piiti Porter > Red Dawn Red Ale >> Cream Ale . I actually thought they were all great--flavorful, enjoyable and fresh. Only the Cream Ale was not one I'd repeat.

Besides trying all of the Funky Buddha beers, I also had a few glasses of Terrapin Wake-n-Bake, a new guest tap starting that night. What a delicious little morsel that beer is! And finally, a surprise for the evening... Our host and owner Ryan (who was on that South Carolina trip) left a few rare bottles of beer from his collection for the gang to try.

This time we were treated to Chimay Red from 2001, Rochefort 8 from 2005 and Westvleteren 12 from 2003. The Chimay was definitely way past its prime. Flat, fruity, yeasty and I heard diaper and laundry thrown into the mix of descriptors, LOL. The Rochefort was well carbonated, spicy raisins, prunes, nicely sweet. And it smelled great.

The Westy was the topic of much discussion. It was flat and most of the gang didn't really like it. The label brought much suspicion to the bottle, as this brewery doesn't label their bottles and definitely didn't in 2003. The importer in Palm Beach Gardens was also suspicious. So with three strikes, we decided that Ryan was playing a trick on us and it may have been one of his home brews from 2003. Good one, Ryan! And thanks for the nice evening.

Update, a few hours later: Osama bin Lager, aka Brewkkake, one of the guys in our group, managed to track down an alternate theory about the Westy 12. I personally like the original theory better but thought I'd share this crack reporting with you.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Macallan 12 Year Single Malt Scotch on Sherry

Not too long ago, I polished off my first really interesting bottle of Scotch. Of course I'm referring to Macallan 12 Year Single Malt Scotch, matured on Sherry. I figured what the heck and took some photos and wrote a short review.

Aroma is buttery and oaky, earthy with noticeable alcohol. Hot up front, killer burn. Toffee and tobacco at the same time. Very smooth. Vanilla, oak, and cherry nuances add more interest. Sweet and spicy from the Sherry casks, which lingers long after each sip. Even a little salty, if that's possible. Very enjoyable! Oh, yeah!

I'm certainly not a whisky expert, but that doesn't mean I'm not working on it. Perhaps you like how I framed the photos to appear like I'm a little more luxurious than you originally thought? I'm not! Let me know what you think. DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT LEAVING A COMMENT!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fireside Ale

Tonight I'm drinking Fireside Ale brewed by Weyerbacher Brewing Company in Easton, Pennsylvania. The label shows a roaring fire and calls this beer "an intriguing dark ale with a touch of smokiness".

Very malty caramel aroma with just a hint of smoke. The smoke is MUCH more apparent in the flavors. Plenty of roasted malt, char and ash along with it too. Quite the malt bomb--caramel, dark fruits and cocoa power stand up to the smoky flavors and work pretty nicely together. Thank God there is none of that meaty savory smokiness in this beer--such a turn off.

There is enough hoppy balance to offset the initial sweetness, and the carbonation is fairly high, also breaking up much of a hefty body. The 7.5% alcohol was not really noticeable at all. I was surprised to read it was that high after I had already finished the bottle. Not a bad beer. Check it out.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Noble Rot

Today I'm drinking Noble Rot, a "sorta-saison" brewed by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware. This beer was brewed with Viognier grape must provided by Alexandria Nicole Cellars. The name "noble rot" comes from the botrytis infection that the grapes have, an important element in the art of making sweet wines. Don't worry about the name. It sounds bad but actually it's really an awesome compliment. Also, if you don't know about Viognier grapes, Matt Horbund did a great job describing them, just recently.

Most of you know that I love the Dogfish artwork. I have all of the Spusta prints from 2010 and plan on acquiring all of the "yummy" 2012 Tara McPherson seasonals this year as well, starting with Audrey Aprihop! But I'm not too sure about the chubby, regal, elementary-art guy on this label--I'm sure it's just my full lack of appreciation, but then again, it is my opinion. He's holding up the Noble Rot name, even as it bleeds onto his cool jacket.

So yeah, good head. Musty grape aroma, yeast with some faint fruity apple. Very wine-like flavors start things. Acidic and dry, a little sour, with some light fruity peach and apple. Sweeter flavors come in a few seconds later. A little sweet grain, like from a lager or pilsner, balances the initial acidity. Some faint honey also jumps in just enough to prevent a pucker. After re-reading the Viognier profile from Matt's link above, I realized that these grapes are actually participating in the sweeter aspects too (peach and honey characteristics), not just the acidic part.

Sorta-Saison? LOL. Well, there is definitely a funky and musty aspect to this beer. Cellar dampness, wet blanket, musty, for sure! The tartness comes again and again, so you know who's boss, and lasts throughout. Carbonation is high and really makes the taste buds dance. Like SALSA dance, not a slow dance. VERY dry, especially in the end. The 9% alcohol is very much masked, though I'm a bit buzzed at 3 in the afternoon after consuming the entire wine bottle. The alcohol works very well with the high levels of tartness and acidity. Crisp, DRY (in case you didn't hear me earlier), DRY.

Seriously, this took me an entire bottle to figure out. Glad no one is home to share with. I enjoyed this quite a bit. If asked, I'd say this beer leaned a bit too much toward wine, but that's the cool thing about Dogfish. They do whatever the hell they want and don't listen to detractors, even those that are total fans. Pretty crazy the range these guys have. Anyway, I suggest you try this if you can, ESPECIALLY if you enjoy a nice white wine that isn't too sweet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

January 2012 Top Five

Damn. February is almost over. I better get my butt in gear and post January's Top Five. Before I do, here's a quick recap of the month. In the early days of the new year, I headed up to Delray Beach, deep into Palm Beach County, for the famous Coffee District Monday Night Bottle Share. I had been to Coffee District before, but not for this weekly event. Was a fun time.

A few weeks later, I was invited back to the By The Glass Show for their Breweries With Micro Distilleries show. And at the end of the month, I found an hour of peace and quiet to have a sample of the fabulous Grand Marnier Quintessence. Finally, I put together one article called An Italian Love Story and Beer Celebration. Go check it out. Be sure to leave a comment and do that Facebook likey thing before I get fired from my non-paying assignment. LOL.

January 2012 Top Five

1. Rodenbach Grand Cru

2. Chimay Grande Reserve

3. Ruthless Rye IPA

4. Aventinus

5. Trappistes Rochefort 8

Honorable Mention:

Gouden Carolus

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock

Here is the Master List of Top Five Lists if you'd like to peruse a few years of Top 5's. And now a challenge to you, assuming you got to the bottom of this post and enjoyed it. Tell a few friends about the site and  invite them to sign up. Thanks a lot. See you soon!