Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Invocation Belgian-Style Golden Ale

Today I'm drinking Invocation, a Belgian-Style Golden Ale brewed by Thomas Creek Brewery for Wild Heaven Craft Beers in Decatur, Georgia. I grabbed a pair of these when I was up in Atlanta last weekend. Thanks again to my sister for finally getting married and making this happen! LOL.

The front of the label depicts a monk offering the Invocation at service, head bowed with a candle in his hands. There is a little story on the side to set your expectations: "Inspired by the great golden ales of Belgium". Best served at 46°F.

I decided to use my Affligem glass for this beer. Nope, the enormous head did not allow me to pour the whole bottle into the glass. What's more, that head would just NOT recede. Took forever until I finally got impatient and just drank the beer through it. That did not exactly make for a great smelling opportunity, but you can deal with it.

So through big fluffy, you could smell fruits and yeast, apples and pears. The flavors also started with a dominant yeast flavor, a bit sour in the beginning too. Plenty of apples and peaches are really brought to the front by an immediate kick from the 8.5% alcohol.

Spicy cloves, bananas and oranges come next. Lightly tart, lightly bitter, lightly sour. Very interesting. The yeast was extremely noticeable throughout. It made this beer texturally thick and even added in some funk, especially toward the end. The finish was also very dry. Nice flavors. I wish Invocation was a little less sour and funky and had a crisper, less-dense texture. However, I would for sure check it out again.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

By The Glass Show: Cigar City Brewing

Hurricane Sandy descended on South Florida tonight. No, she isn't going to make a direct hit; in fact she decided to go after Fidel and hit Cuba instead. (Yes, this angle is directly relevant for this article.) What we got in South Florida was a shitload of rain and wind. Little League? Canceled! Car accidents? Numerous on my travel routes. Lakes on the road. Absolutely. In fact, when I arrived to the ByTheGlassShow.com studio tonight, I had to navigate "Lake SoFlo" on the way to the door.

But the show must go on. And we almost started without the star of the show, Phil from Cigar City Brewing. Phil literally showed up 4 seconds before we went on air. But he's ultra cool and acted like he'd been there prepping all day.

I showed "discretion" by posting this photo of Ed and Jorge instead of another
ByTheGlassShow.com host Brett Hubbard is on vacation this week, so King of Research Ed Roberts took the reigns tonight. Ed opened up with a bad joke about spitting or swallowing, based on his professional life at some liquor retailer. We moved on quickly to taste 5 different Cigar City beers.

The world famous Jai Alai IPA was the first beer we tried. Phil let us know that their current slogan is "Drink Fresh" and sure enough, he proved we were drinking fresh. Phil was at the brewery yesterday and snagged a few CANS from the line for us to try. Yep, the date on the bottom of the can was from yesterday.

Apparently, Cigar City has started canning their beers, which is totally cool with me. They bought a canning line from New Belgium in Colorado recently and had one of the NB workers come down to help install it in Tampa. "Uncle Larry" never left. He installed the line and decided Florida was home. Pretty cool, right? Like a political defection.

The Jai Alai IPA from the can was super fresh, big citrus with plenty of tropical flavors. Yes, there was some bitterness, but even the anti-hops hosts loved it. Was great! And the cans were really nice too! Also, don't look for these cans for a month or more down here. Yeah, distance and bullshit distribution laws.

"But how can they install a new canning line? That place is cramped and tiny." Excellent question. Cigar City just completed a major expansion that will let them finally meet the demand of Florida Craft Beer Drinkers! Write that down!

Next up... Maduro Brown Ale. Yeah, we started chatting about cigars and sure enough, Jorge came through with some killer options. I grabbed an Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva. Sorry I can't be more specific than that. Phil got something else, and he, Jorge and I lit up. Sure, Hurricane Sandy was blowing rain and 40 mph gusts through the windows but whatever. I'm pretty sure co-host Jason caught a buzz too without even lighting up.

The Maduro Brown was a favorite of the night of pretty much everyone. Anti-hops Jorge especially loved it! We tried it canned and bottled. It tasted the same to me but the other experts thought the canned version was smoother, or something. Made with oatmeal, it was creamy and smooth, terrific flavors, easy drinking, and duh, the awesome reason I included it in my own recent beer tasting at my home.

Cucumber Saison? Yep. The pour was a challenge for Dio. We got a glass full of head, but there were second and third pours to get it right. When I tried this beer at home, I thought the cucumber was overwhelming, but on the show, I didn't feel the same way. The cukes were an awesome addition and proved to be a unique and really interesting ingredient.

Super refreshing, carbonation was big and awesome. There were definitely some yeasty flavors and a touch of funk. And who doesn't like Sorachi Ace hops (besides Gold Coast Distributors). This may have been my personal favorite of the night, though I really enjoyed every one of the beers being poured.

We moved on to Tocobaga Red Ale (yes I know that's a pretty crappy photo; click here for a better one). This is similar to Cigar City's Jai Alai IPA except that is has this awesome sweetness to add more balance to the overt hoppiness found in Jai Alai. I personally think this is one of the best regular beers the brewery offers, and yes, it does come in economical, non-bomber bottles.

The guys gave me a dated news flash that Brown Distributing Company, my local craft beer distributor, won the Craft Beer Distributor of the Year Award at the recent Great American Beer Festival. I'm not surprised at all. Those guys are freakin' fantastic and it's totally deserved! Not sure how that slipped my knowledge but I am personally proud of them. Congrats, Brown!

As we opened up the last beer of the night, Jai Alai aged on White Oak, Phil started to get all scientific on us. Apparently with the brewery expansion, Cigar City opened up a QA lab to do some real scientific experiments. That news perked my science-geek ears as I have a degree in chemistry from Cornell (ever heard of it?). Phil was more psyched that they have lab coats with their names on them and that they are propagating yeast. I understand.

Jai Alai White Oak is aged 10-14 days on oak spirals and is a favorite amongst the beer geek community. I honestly prefer the non-aged version, but if wood is your thing, you can really taste the oak here. Dry, peppery with a hit of vanilla. Jason noted that the oak knocks down the hoppiness a bit.

The panel said two times that I was quieter than usual, which is impossibly untrue. I got more words in today than I ever have in my 6th show appearance. Asked questions, cracked jokes, smoked a cigar, drank five beers, and still had time to write down a lot of what you're reading, all in an hour.

Cigar City is now starting to make meads and braggots. They also now brew beer onsite at Tampa International Airport--I think I heard that is a first! And a brewpub will be opening soon in North Tampa. Phil is so gung-ho with "living the dream" that he got the brewery's bottle cap design tattooed on his bicep. Good luck when you stop working out, dude!

Before going on the show, I was asked what the Cuban connection was to Tampa, considering several Cigar City beer names have a Cuban theme. So I asked. Jorge jumped in to say it's all about how so many Cubans went to Tampa when Castro did "his thing" decades ago. They cultivated the land to grow tobacco and assimilated themselves into the local community: Cigar City.

Was great seeing Phil. Considering the weather, I didn't go to the after party at Original Fat Cats in Fort Lauderdale for the cask tasting of their Cinnamon Apple IPA. Was great seeing Ed too (don't want those two to be jealous). And as always, I was very pleased to be a guest on the show. Thanks to Jorge and Jason and Brett for continuously inviting me back. I guess I'm doing something right as the guest with the most repeats!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

People's Porter

Ed Roberts asked me a week or so ago if I'd like an extra bottle he had of People's Porter, brewed by Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. What do you think I said? Come on, you know me better than that! Anyway, the story goes that Ed got two bottles in a trade. I have a few I'm going to give him too next time I see him.

People's Porter is a gold medal winning porter that has been aged in 20 year old bourbon barrels. Uh oh. I've been known to do a lot of hating on that type of beer. Let's see though. The label on Big 22 depicts a guy raising a pint of beer in victory to the delight of the cheering mob behind him. Truly a man of the people. The label also says BBL Aged Porter to denote the bourbon treatment. Alcohol 6%; SRM 30.7; IBU 42.

Roasty aroma with some sweetness from the bourbon and an very nice chocolate base. Chocolate and caramel are the most prominent flavors in the start and offer a nice initial sweetness. You will not miss the bourbon character either, guaranteed. However, the bourbon seems to be a positive and is not overdone. I think the fact that this is a 6% beer and not some alcoholic monster really allows the bourbon flavors to stand out in a positive way.

Light roast, a touch of vanilla and wood, and just a tiny bit of ash round out the flavor profile. Some hoppy bitterness takes the edge off the initial sweetness as well. Creamy, nice texture. Body is medium. The finish is dry and full of milk chocolate. REPEAT sips for this entire experience over and over again. No flavors ever get to the point of domination; rather, each works to create an enjoyable experience in a beer category that is not near the top of my list! Check it out if you can!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

West Coast IPA

Now that Green Flash Brewing from San Diego is being distributed to South Florida, I decided to pick up the famous West Coast IPA and give it a taste for myself. As usual, the label is very simple: a thumbnail of a sunset over the water and the name of the beer. This label did add "Extravagantly Hopped" so you know you're in for something special.

Good head. The aroma is very nice--piney with a bit of spicy black pepper and plenty of pungent hops. Lots of pine flavors open things up, nice and bitter. But there is an in-and-out tropical pineapple fruity sweetness that adds just the perfect balance.

Some spiciness comes next and really works well together with the bitter grapefruit rind in waking up your palate. But then a soft sweet citrus balance shows through. Carbonation is big and aggressive. And after a bit you really taste the resinous pine flavors building up.

Tropical flavors start to appear as the beer warms, too. But you end with a long bitter and quite dry finish. The 7.3% alcohol was noticeable but well incorporated. Very nice IPA all around--great flavors and great nuances that really create a harmonious IPA.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ode to Mercy Imperial Brown Ale

Today I'm drinking Ode to Mercy Imperial Brown Ale brewed by Thomas Creek Brewery in Greensville, South Carolina for Wild Heaven Craft Beers in Decatur, Georgia. I had never heard of this brewery until I was up in Atlanta this past weekend for my sister's wedding. I was yapping away about something when Twitter friend Christine asked if I had ever tried Wild Heaven beers. Later that evening, I found myself in a Kroger and this beer caught my eye. I'd probably not have even noticed it without the recommendation. So thanks, I hope.

The label shows a man playing a guitar, a bit impressionistic with its style. Simple but nice. There is a story to the side titled "Serve Your Neighbor". I'm not quite sure how that title ties into the story below it, as the story is a simple explanation of what you can expect from the beer. Best served at 46°F. 40 IBU. 20 SRM. 8.2% alcohol.

Very nutty aroma with an underlying malty sweetness. Coffee, pecans and wood follow in the nose. The flavors are a lot richer than I was expecting, quite creamy as well. Caramel sweetness is intertwined with plenty of nutty flavors in the beginning. Wood, smoke and a light roast follow.

Those initial flavors are met with an ample amount of coffee. And a really nice coffee it is, too. Great flavor and offering a balance for the initial sweetness. The alcohol can be felt in the chest, especially toward the end, but is not a distraction at all. The finish is also pretty dry. Smooth, nice texture and flavors. Very enjoyable.

You know, I think that based on the contract beers I've tasted from them (Holy Mackerel, Hatuey, Wild Heaven), Thomas Creek has proven itself a solid brewer; they could, however, probably use some recipe lessons for their own stuff.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rayon Vert

Green Flash Brewing beers finally hit the shelves down here in South Florida. I've had the pleasure of trying  Double Stout and love their Le Freak, but my favorite review about Green Flash came at the hands of the Cooking Asshole!

Anyway, today I picked up a bottle of Rayon Vert, a Belgian-style Pale Ale. The label is very boring and could use a serious modern upgrade. Perhaps that's what they mean by "Continuously Evolving" at the bottom of it. The thumbnail tropical scene just isn't doing it! I do like that they have Green Flash and their sunset logo stamped into the bottle.

Enormous head. I swear I thought that the beer was infected based on the bottle pop and pour, but nope. Yeast, citrus and soap aroma, with plenty of pungent funk. Took a long time for the head to recede enough to even get near the beer.

Orange and citrus flavors, sweet and tangy simultaneously. Next up, some hay and plenty of funk. The 7.0% alcohol shows a little as it makes the lemon rind flavors really pop. Thick and chewy texture. The Belgian yeast inspiration is clearly noted as well, quite a yeasty beer.

Spicy and peppery toward the end before a very dry finish. Rayon Vert started out a little strange but that's just the way it is sometimes with the style. A definite "grow on you kind of beer". Check it out!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Today I'm drinking DayTime, "A Fractional IPA" brewed by Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California. Underneath "A Fractional IPA" there is the micro comment, "Is that ridiculous or what..?!" Around the label, as usual, a little ditty. "Have ya been jonesing for something more primal and less evolved? If so, Fire is the element for you. Air, Water, and Earth are of no use. There is a freedom in burning down the house of fixed realities and it confers an undeniable lightness to being." Not sure what the hell they are talking about... perhaps you guys can explain it all to me.

Anyway, the aroma is malty bread and fruity citrus, with even a little tropical action. The flavors are even nicer. Fruity and extremely juicy and fresh. Like they just picked this off the beer tree. Those fruity flavors are met by an excellent and quite refreshing hoppy bitterness. Lemon, orange, a little grass. Balanced, leaning bitter.

Low to medium body but not watery. The 4.65% alcohol is not noticeable, which I think is the point. I think that might be what the "Fractional" may refer to. You know, like a fraction of the alcohol? Finish is dry. Pleasant aftertaste. Check it out for sure. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Deep South Pale Ale

There's a new brewery distributing in Southeast Florida. And today I'm having Deep South Pale Ale from it, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company from Kiln, Mississippi. I've had a few of their beers several years ago and this name rung a bell. Looking online, this apparently was formerly known as Reb Ale, which I've tried, and they used that "deep south pale ale" to describe it in the story on the back.

Sourdough aroma, sweet and malty with a touch of grass. Sweet doughy, bready flavors come on strong in the beginning as well, with some light fruit, citrus and herbal characteristics.

That's when an ugly metallic bitterness takes over. Astringent, medicinal and even worse sour. Carbonation is OK, but the flavors are just drowned out by that bitter mess. Very dry finish, light 5.3% alcohol,  and an unpleasant aftertaste. Sorry, especially if you read my report from three years ago. I don't know what I was drinking then. Pass on this one!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 Best of Beer Camp #45: Oatmeal Stout

Today I'm finishing off the final beer from Sierra Nevada's 2012 Beer Camp Series: Oatmeal Stout #45. The label remains the same as the others in the series, but this one has a brown border.

Nice roasted nutty aroma, with some caramel and mocha and coffee rounding out the bouquet. Great richness and quite smooth. Sweet caramel meets a roasted coffee, even a little bit of ashy char. The 9.0% alcohol is a little boozy, but that booze really makes the flavors pop.

Dark cherries and raisins are wonderful. The oat contribution is terrific, creamy and luscious and smooth in the mouth. The alcohol also cuts through the initial sweetness and richness, while leaving some warmth in the chest. More roasted coffee comes through at the end, a little bitter and sharp, to the point of harshness.

Overall, a terrific beer. Along with Imperial Red, it's at the top of this year's mixed box. And I'm looking forward to next year's already.

Monday, October 1, 2012

2012 Best of Beer Camp #43: Imperial Pilsner

The third in this year's Beer Camp Series... Imperial Pilsner #43 brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. Not sure why they call it imperial or even what that actually means. I thought it referred to added ingredients that ended up boosting the alcohol percentage. What we have here is a 5.6% alcohol beer, pretty much on the low end and almost a session beer. As I mentioned previously, the art is cool. This Beer Camp beer has a "Robin's egg" blue border.

Bright lemon and grainy aroma. Citrus, floral, grassy, herbal nose.

Tastes like a rich pilsner. Lemon, orange, grass followed by a malty sweetness. Crisp with a fuller body than your typical pilsner. Nice biscuit and fruit flavors add some interest. Herbal through the middle with some nice bitter nips. Clean and fresh with great carbonation.

This beer wasn't my favorite the first few times I had it (remember you get 3 of each with the mixed 12 pack). But the lemony, tangy zip really grows on you. Very nice beer, enjoyable.

Imperial Red > Imperial Pilsner >> Floral IPA.