Friday, June 29, 2012

Miles Davis' Bitches Brew

Today I'm drinking Miles Davis' Bitches Brew brewed by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware. The stamp on the wine-sized bottle says Bottled in 2010 F, when I bought this beer after it was first released. I checked back for some date information and was reminded that this was first introduced at SAVOR back in June, 2010. Dogfish has brewed it at least one additional time since then, but it's not on the shelves very often. I'm not sure how I managed not to drink it for two years, but yeah!!!

OK. So I know all you guys already know everything, but bear with me as I recap the story on the side of the bottle. Basically, this beer was created to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Miles Davis' album Bitches Brew. Three threads imperial stout were combined with one thread honey beer with gesho root. I'll let you read the rest to understand where the musical and brewing genius overlaps. The label also encourages aging. Whew!

Luckily for you, I won't try to interpret the art work on the label. I think it's totally cool and probably hundreds of others have already done that. The name and art on the label were used by Dogfish with the permission of Sony Music. I guess it's just about time I get my hands on this album, no? LOL. Here we go with the beer!

Wonderful chocolate aroma with caramel and brown sugar underneath. Hints of vanilla, sweet honey, milky, luscious. The flavors start out similarly. Chocolate and brown sugar come first and mingle with some very sweet honey. Roasted coffee and a bit of smoke come next.

Big body, thick and viscous, with a creamy smooth texture, not unlike a really nice milk stout. After a handful of sips, there are some nutty and earthy components. I'm not sure what gesho root is, but maybe that provides the coffee or earthy or smoky aspects. I don't know. Whatever, so far, pretty yummy.

Hints of vanilla and molasses. The coffee flavors and some roasted bitterness do provide a bit of relief from the sweetness, though this remains totally sweet throughout. Alcohol? What 9% alcohol? I can't speak for this beer right after bottling, but I taste no alcohol in this seemingly NA beer. Carbonation is there but low. You will get used to the richness, especially if you drink the entire wine bottle alone. I do wish there were a little bit more balance for the sweetness, but I'll be damned if this wasn't just terrific! Bitchin'!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 News

Many of you know that I have spent several years writing daily about Craft Beer (mostly) on this website. You probably also remember me straying off course several times into the world of Spirits as well if you are a regular subscriber. So it should be no shock for you to see me starting up a website dedicated to Fine Spirits. In fact, some of my friends have been predicting that would happen without even knowing the idea has been swirling in my mind for quite a while. I just needed one last push to get there. And that happened during the Camus Cognac ByTheGlassShow last week.

Does that mean I've given up on Craft Beer? Hell No! The Beer Wench has often said "[Dogfish Head] Midas Touch was the beer that officially converted me from a wine professional and beer hobbyist to a full-blown craft beer evangelist with a wine habit." And that's exactly how I feel about Fine Spirits. After dabbling for quite a while, across the board on categories, I've fallen in love with them at the partial expense of my craft beer passion.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about some of the changes to come for this website. is not dead. It's just going to be scaled back to "less-than-daily publication" so I can write on my new site Check it out. I published my first post a few minutes ago. I will continue to post regularly here, at least a few times a week, but I hope you will also subscribe to my new endeavor. And I will likely be drinking and chatting beer much more frequently than that on that time-waster Twitter if you need more of me. In the end, basically nothing has changed except the frequency of posting here. A relief to some that I'm sure all will get used to! And of course I will continue to be a hardcore promoter of the Craft Beer movement!

Comment if you'd like, as usual.

Squatters Big Cottonwood

Today I'm drinking Squatters Big Cottonwood, an Amber Ale brewed by Utah Brewers Cooperative in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm taking another look at this one after first reviewing it last October.  Again, it's a gift from the brewery. Only difference this time is I got myself a wine-sized bottle of it! The front of the label shows a photograph of the famous Utah Canyon Big Cottonwood. A portion of the beer's sales goes to Save Our Canyons. Born on 05/07/12.

Big toffee and caramel aroma with some herbal and orange citrus underneath. Toffee and caramel are also big flavor players right from the start. Those malty components basically duke it out with some citric orange in a steel cage bout for the undisputed Big Cottonwood Championship Belt. Quite the ongoing contrast, really livening up the taste buds.

Very fresh, very clean. The 5.75% alcohol keeps offering a bit of a spirits-like phenolic kick, too. Herbal tea and more orange finish things off and lead to a long-lasting, pleasant orange aftertaste. If lacing is your thing, this glass showed a thing of beauty. Not a bad beer. Not my favorite, yet still enjoyable. I'd probably instead go for their Provo Girl Pilsner, Radio From Hell Red, or Barrel of Russians (if it can be found).

Monday, June 25, 2012

Shadow's Wild Black

Today I'm drinking Shadow's Wild Black brewed by Blue Dawg Brewing in Baldwinsville, New York.  I guess Shadow is the pissed off looking purple dog on the front of the label. Last month, I was horrified by Rascal's Wild Red, the sister beer to this one. I've also tried the original Wild Blue, which wasn't quite so bad. Let's hope for the best here!

Sickeningly sweet berry aroma, juicy manufactured intensity, grape soda-like. Absolutely horrible flavors, one of the most disgusting things I've ever put in my mouth. I almost spit this shit out immediately. God Awful sweetness AND you still have every bit of the 8% alcohol right in your face. It's Grape Mad Dog all over again.

Medicinal, but seriously this gives medicines a bad name as there are way better tasting grape cough medicines on the market (higher alcohol too). Multi-gag! Alcohol hotness in he throat. This is a serious WTF beverage, worst of the worst. What the hell is wrong with these people? For science, I drank a total of 2 additional sips to gather all of my thoughts before dumping this out. Bud Light Platinum is a fantasy dream beer compared to this, the Holy Freakin' Grail.

Absolutely the worst $2 I EVER spent at Total Wine, even worse than the day I spent $2 additional because I forgot a coupon and got no additional product for my money. If you disagree with me, you are wrong on this one! Usually I'm open to being wrong, but not here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Today I'm drinking Nera brewed by Birra Tenute Collesi in Apecchio, Italy. This is the last of the bottles given to me by the importer to review. And it's been a lot of fun. The expectation label on the back has my interest piqued. They call it a stout with a complex aroma, including notes of rhubarb. This bottle has the same elegant style as its brothers and sisters, just standing apart by its black neck and label color scheme. Again, now that I know that plastic insert on the cap is to recap after an initial pour, I think it's great. I pushed the cap back on and it held snugly, enough to give a second carb pop when I reopened it 15 min later. Cool.

Fun aroma: cocoa powder, licorice and hints of vanilla. I didn't really smell any rhubarb but did get wafts of roast and light smoke. Cocoa flavors are prominent in the beginning, a bit sweet. There are also some sweet fruity flavors including prunes and a lot of juicy cherries. The Belgian yeast makes sure you know it's there and some spiciness comes through as well.

The 8% alcohol warms up the throat and chest while assisting some light roasted coffee flavors in taking some of the sweet edge off. With that sweetness, especially after drinking half the 500 mL bottle, comes a strange savory hammy kind of flavor. I didn't love that part and though noticeable, gladly it was in the background. Good carbonation, good body. Not a bad beer, though there are at least a few other Collesi beers I like a lot better.

As for the rhubarb, I'm not sure. My mom used to make strawberry rhubarb pie when I was younger, which has nothing to do with this article. Perhaps that's what I'm suggesting is the cherry flavors, especially since those are so noticeable. Anyway, nice beer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Easy Rider Hopped Up Session Ale

Today I'm drinking Easy Rider Hopped Up Session Ale brewed by Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Georgia. As usual, there is a turtle on the label doing some un-turtle-like thing. This time, cowboy turtle is riding his custom motorcycle through a cactus-covered desert. The story to the side tells you what to expect, to the point of suggesting the aroma will remind me of my first hippie experience. (FLASHBACK!!! When that super hairy chick stripped down at the lake freshman year in college. Loads of hippies at Cornell!) You are told in many ways that this is a beer you can drink all day, though nowhere do I see any alcohol content listed. Pretty big error for a beer they want you to consider as a session beer. Seasonal 2012.

Mmm. The aroma is really nice. Fresh and hoppy, even fresh herbs. Nice orange and citrus with touch of spice. Very fresh tasting as well. Orange and citrus flavors dominate. Lightly bitter. There is also a persistent spicy rye-like nibble that continues to hit the palate. That works great with an upper-level carbonation. Some maltier bread dough adds a little balance to the initial bitterness.

Easy Rider could have been a little crisper. Toward the end of each sip, the beer felt a little soapy, taking away a little from otherwise great refreshment. Flavors are great. Very enjoyable beer. Grab some for sure. Bring on the hippies!

Friday, June 22, 2012

By The Glass Show: Camus Cognac

Wow! I can't believe I'm starting this review and recap right now. It's 10 pm and I just got home a little while ago from the most awesome Cognac tasting ever. Yep, I was a guest on (you can watch and/or listen there), and tonight Florida State Sales Manager Alexandra Albu brought the show to a standing ovation for Camus Cognacs.

Alex was perfectly on time, and I only say that to remind you people in Miami what an attribute that actually is. Plus Jorge starts the show at 6, guest or not. And let me tell you about the ferocious rain that Alex and Jorge and Brett fought to get a bunch of samples and gear into the studio. The moat was no match for heels and spirit!

Onward to the show. After toweling off, Alex made us each a cocktail called Best in ByTheGlass Show which was a really nice start. Fresh Rosemary sprig with some Cognac and I'm not sure what else. For some reason, I didn't ask how she had made it. Next up, sound checks, squeeze together to be sure we are all in the video, etc. 5 4 3 2 1. Welcome to ByTheGlassShow...

Alex let us know that we were lucky to find her, since her top 5 Cognac-producing, family-owned company chooses to remain completely traditional, passing on Twitter and Facebook (solid move considering all the assholes on both). Fortunately for you, Good Samaritans like myself exist to let you know more about these products. Actually, the Camus reputation for making awesome Cognacs precedes my existence. If you don't believe me, we had a Vintage Camus Cognac from 1971, the year of my (and Brett's) birth.

Anyway, we only did one commercial break. The interview Brett and Alex did was terrific, very fluid, complete on dozens of topics, and didn't necessarily interrupt the drinking of Camus Cognacs. Well, it did, a little, but "Ivan Bad" spoke up when he needed his glass filled. And I seconded his emotion.

Cognac is highly regulated in France to ensure its quality, with dozens of rules that must be followed. The Cellar Master from Camus, however, thinks beyond those regulations and focuses on delivering products that exceed any minimums. The cellar master knows what is in every barrel and is so awesome he anticipates what will become of every barrel ten years in advance.

So we took the Cellarmaster Challenge, starting with XO offerings and progressing up the most awesome ladder ever. Camus became well-known through strategic arrangements with DutyFree, but it's now available everywhere, so time to check it out. We also learned that China is a top consumer of Camus, but I'm betting that the American Spirit can reverse that established trend. Come on, you guys!

Brett interviewed Alex. We chimed in with some funnies, and eventually we got our first Camus Cognac about 15 minutes into the show. Whew! Riveting knowledge but an empty glass... We started with XO Elegance, a blend from the top four regions of Cognac. XO as a designation requires a minimum years the Cognac must be aged, six I think Alex said, but Camus ages their Elegance for an average of 25 years. What an aroma! Beautiful fruit and toffee. The flavors are outstanding, too. More toffee with some almonds and a basket of fruit. Apples, apricots and oranges. Little hints of vanilla and wood rounded out one terrific beginning.

We moved on to Camus XO Borderies, a Cognac made from only from the eau de vie of the Borderies region. Borderies is the best region for making Cognac as the soil is best for growing the Ugni Blanc grapes. Camus uses 100% Ugni Blanc grapes in their Cognacs though only 90% is required. Borderies is the region that the Camus family calls home, owning approximately 80% of the property there. That is one of the reasons they create this unique single-region Cognac, something not done by any other Cognac maker. XO Borderies is aged for an average of 35 years, longer than their other XO. The aroma was perfumey, full of beautiful lilacs and fruit, soft yet beautiful. And the flavors were fabulous. Nice fruit, floral, and a bit of spicy cinnamon. Add some vanilla nuances and I felt like we were baking.

The next product we tried, Camus Extra Elegance, was first presented to us in an enormous 1.75 L bottle that was attached to a crane of sorts. That cradle is used to help pour while adding a nice touch to the overall display and presentation.The bottle was spectacular, created by a famous glass artisan, and its design has won numerous awards, even inspiring other famous brands to imitate it, like Bvlgari perfumes. We didn't open the big bottle, which Alex said probably retails around $1200; instead we poured from its smaller 750 mL brother. To be called "Extra", this Cognac has been aged an average of 50 years. Wow. Lots of oak and vanilla and baking scents. Buttery and super smooth flavors. Floral, fruity apricot, a little nutty, spicy. So awesome! My favorite so far.

Camus Ile de Ré, named for the island in the Cognac region where it's made, was the next offering. The soil in this region is quite different, so the product too had some uniqueness. Alex let us know that this Cognac might appeal to Scotch drinkers because of some similarities in the flavors. The aroma was full of vanilla and honey. Orange and other fruity flavors were very nice, but for sure you could taste some salty, smokey, and spicy flavors not present in the other Cognacs we tried. Different and I can see why Camus might be stealing some Scotch drinkers.

Finally, we got our hands on Camus 1971 Vintage Cognac. I guess Alex was looking at my LinkedIn profile too (considering we already knew her entire resume) to see that was the year I was born. So clever! Smells wonderful, again with the beautiful lilacs. Fruity flavors, more flowers, and really terrific baking flavors. Vanilla, cinnamon, spicy. Alex said that this one might retail at around $700 for the 750 mL bottle, at which point I carefully pushed it back away from the edge of the table. This Cognac was tied as my favorite with Camus Extra Elegance.

Alex was extremely sharp and entertaining. We couldn't believe the hour went by as quickly as it did. After the cameras were off, I asked if I could have another pour from the Extra Elegance bottle. Alex said of course, so we all had another. What a happy ending. As I told Ed Roberts after the show (Ed needs to be thanked for arranging to have Alex on the show and of course inviting me), "If I ever get married, I'm gonna date a beautiful woman that works for a top Cognac producer!" He liked the plan.

In addition to bringing the awesome products for us to try, Alex also left us with some nice little gifts including a sample of XO Borderies. I think I'm going to need to find an additional job to afford this new potential habit. Is this the product that will make me forget about beer? Brett is calling me to do DailySpiritsReview already. It could happen!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Squatters Barrel of Russians

Today I'm drinking Squatters Barrel of Russians, a Russian Imperial Stout brewed by Squatters Brewery Pub in Salt Lake City, Utah. This wine-sized bottle was a gift from a friend of mine at the brewery. Thank you! The label features a dancing monkey holding two barrels and I think, based on his face and arms and features, that he is a play on the Barrel of Monkeys game. But of course this is no game. This is beer!

There is a story on the side that first lets you know this beer was aged in High West Distillery rye whiskey barrels. Best opened after aging for one year, at 55°F - 60°F. Well, that means I screwed this up! There was no waiting or aging in this house tonight. But I do have a solution... I have another bottle to cover that year thing!

Very black with a nice mocha-colored head. Rich cocoa and mocha aroma, caramel, wood, very welcoming. Rich cocoa flavors welcome you as well with a creamy smooth texture. Some dark cherries invade the Russian camp, and you will be certain to recognize their whiskey camouflage. OK. So, yeah, you taste the whiskey and the boozy 10.5% alcohol up front, throughout and forever, but it just seems to make you feel all funny and tingly, from the taste buds to the lips to the chest.

Other nuances really add interest and fun flavors. Coffee, a light roast, vanilla, licorice: you know it was like an awesome flavored coffee addition to the beer. The woody flavors start to build as you keep drinking, making them more noticeable with each sip, though they are never overpowering. More booziness comes at the end, but again, never hot or harsh. Now I probably will not drink whiskey later, if you catch my drift, but...

I do think the suggested one year aging may take some of the edge off of the whiskey booziness, but I will admit I like this barrel's effects just fine, right now. Good body. Low to medium carbonation. Never sweet and never bitter. Great balance. Oh, and I did enjoy the the rich flavors more as the beer warmed from fridge temperature. Very enjoyable. Check it out if you get the opportunity.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TBA Extra Hoppy Brown Ale

Today I'm drinking TBA Extra Hoppy Brown Ale brewed by Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California. This beer is part of Stone's 2012 Collaborations series, being brewed with Bear Republic and Fat Head's Brewery. The story on the back of the bottle, written by Fat Head's Head Brewer Matt Cole, tells the story of how he made his first TBA, or Texas Brown Ale. This TBA attempts to recreate that beer, but with some twists. In fact, the front label lets you know that it's brewed with brown sugar and molasses. "Drink Fresh. Do Not Age."

Nice aroma--brown sugar and a little nutty, while also showing off some orange citrus and hoppy floral characteristics. Flavors are malty to start, plenty of brown sugar with a light roast. There is even some smoke and a savory aspect front and center. Light caramel accents come as well.

Simultaneously, you will taste a citric orange and earthy, grassy, hoppy kind of answer. A little spicy as well. Carbonation is prickly and fairly strong. The 7.1% alcohol is well incorporated but makes the flavors really pop out. Interesting and complex, one of those "drink it for the crafty idea and memories" kind of beers. Nice flavors and not bad. The finish is a bit dry with a pleasant aftertaste.

Finally a good editorial from the LA Times

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Today I'm drinking Bionda brewed by Birra Tenute Collesi SRL in Apecchio, Italy. I've been very impressed by this brewery's offerings so far. This will be the fifth of six provided to me by the US Importer. Bionda has a yellowish color scheme of neck and label decorations, though the main label almost reaches a peach color. Not exactly a match. The story on the back talks about "creamy foam and good perlage" (That's what she said!)

Good head. Sweet light fruitiness and yeast for a bouquet. Sweet candied fruit flavors open things up, apples and pears, very nice. Some bread and toast come next, buttery smooth. Lemon and orange citrus add a light bitter balance. So yeah, Bionda is balanced, but you can really taste both sweet and citrus bitter, not just a blended "even-Steven". Like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry always breaks even, including with his friends. When George is down, Elaine is up... and vice versa.

Carbonation is prickly and adds refreshment. For my second glass from this 500 mL bottle, I just poured the rest, including lots of yeasty sediment. Those little globby floaties tasted very nice, unique little flavor particles. The 6% alcohol was not very noticeable in any way. Anyway, check this one out!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Festina Pêche

Well, my contest to win Dogfish Head Fort and Chateau Jiahu beer labels, autographed by artist Tara McPherson, is over. But I decided to show you Tara's first two Dogfish seasonal prints, how I had them framed (you can see Audrey Aprihop below). Of course, I'll be pairing this gallery presentation with a review of Dogfish's summer beer.

This afternoon, I'm drinking Festina Pêche, a "neo-Berliner style Weisse fermented with peach juice", brewed by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware. Here is last year's review; I've pretty much checked out this beer each year since starting the website, so I'm not going to quit now. Anyway, in case you weren't sure, this is the one bottled in 2012. Same label as year's past.

Peachy and tart aroma, very pleasant. I might go as far as saying I LOVE it! The tart start, while not unexpected, certainly shocks your taste buds. But you will get used to it. Lots of lovely peach flavors, better than I remember any other year, so I must say I'm pleasantly surprised and that it surpassed my expectations

There is a hint of wheat, but peaches are boss today. And their fruity sweetness is a welcome contrast and balance for the beer. Very juicy. Carbonation is great. Super refreshing. Your 4.5% alcohol is not really noticeable. The finish is dry. I must say that this is an excellent beer! Go get some before they bring in the Punkin!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tequila Tasting Barbecue

Last Sunday I was invited to a barbecue by one of the families from the Little League team I coach. Upon arrival, I said sure to a beer. Duh! What I found was a cooler full of Mexican beers, mostly macros, but I decided Modelo Especial was my best option. After a few beers and zero goals in the soccer match, typical, we were told a little surprise for the day.

Our host is from Mexico, and he is seemingly an expert (or at least a very knowledgeable aficionado) when it comes to Tequila. As he used a young, white tequila to make everyone a margarita, he explained all the ingredients and how to mix them and in what proportions. And while we were drinking them, he let us know that there would be four other tequilas that we would try that afternoon. Sort of an impromptu tasting.

I'm not even sure what the names of some of the tequilas were that we tasted, for example the one from the blue and white porcelain bottle. Anyone? We then moved on to 1800 Anejo. Speaking of 1800 Tequila, did you see their new Essential Artists Visionaries series for this year? This is a favorite of mine from Artist Tara McPherson (yes, the same Tara that did the Dogfish Head Fort and Chateau Jiahu labels and this year's seasonal prints). The picture above is her photo from the unveiling. BTW, if you are wondering about gift ideas for me for Father's Day, well, I hope you can take a hint.

Anyway, after polishing off the most tender beef from the grill with a kick-ass salad and amazing sides, we went back for the 4th course in our tequila tasting--Don Julio 1942. We sipped and BS'd for a while until the final offering was introduced. We were presented with a very cool painted wooden box. This was the highlight of the afternoon, an Extra Anejo, Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia 2011.

While I didn't take any notes, I will say that these tequilas were all super smooth. There was a lot of character from the wood, some buttery textures and flavors, vanilla, just awesome. Here is a pictorial of my afternoon. I hope I'm invited back for another tasting, and next time I'll take some notes (and better pictures).

The Life!
I added this photo on 7/30/12 I took it at Total Wine, though they were not serving it.