Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Budweiser Project Twelve Batch No. 23185

You guy have probably all heard how Budweiser launched a brewing competition to allow for some creativity at their breweries. I thought it was pretty funny since the only thing Bud does awesomely is make the same shitty beers identically in every corner of Earth. Greg over at Pour Curator actually asked Brewmaster Jane Killebrew (not "Kill a Brew, though they do that too; ba-ching) about that exact conundrum, and if she doesn't get elected to some political office some day for that answer, I'd be shocked! Go read it!

This competition called Project Twelve yielded three winners, each named for the zip code where the winners originally made it. I started with Batch No. 23185 created by Brewmaster Daniel Westmoreland of Bud's Williamsburg, Virginia brewery. The label notes this to be a light amber lager aged on bourbon staves and vanilla beans.

Sweet grain aroma with a touch of vanilla and oak. Grainy corn continues into the flavors with some watery bourbon in the background. You know, like what's left after you finish your bourbon on the rocks and let the remaining cubes melt. Vanilla is noticeable as is some drying oak flavor. Those two flavors start to build throughout, almost reaching annoying status.

Basically, this tastes exactly like Bud. Watery and bland but not as refreshing. I think the carbonation could have been better too. A bit too sweet as well. The 5.5% alcohol isn't really noticeable at all. Not horrible, but neither is Bud. I'd say plain 'ol Bud has the edge but at least these guys are trying.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Samuel Adams White Christmas

Black Friday? White Christmas! You see what I did there? Yep, I'm drinking Samuel Adams White Christmas brewed by the Boston Beer Company in Boston, Cincinnati or Breinigsville, Pennsylvania. I'm pretty sure this is a new beer this year but am not sure if it comes in a mixed 12 pack or not. Seems like that's where new beer entries make their first appearance, though I bought a single myself.

Anyway, since this is supposed to be "as crisp as the first snowfall of the year", I'm going to get myself started. I hope that you enjoy how I spiced up this spiced beer by photographing it with Frosty. I should be working for some famous studio by now, I know. Enjoy before March (2013).

Orange and lemon aroma with a ton of wheat. Some spices come through as a mish-mash of holiday baking spices, too. Mmm. The flavors are really pleasant, far outshining the aroma and easily destroying neutral expectations!

Fresh baked pie crust meets cinnamon and allspice. Really nice and juicy orange flavors come next, both sweet and with a citrus rind kick. That citrus helped tone away the initial sweet entry. Wheat flavors and textures are prominent throughout as well. Very creamy.

Good body and carbonation. Great flavors. The 5.8% alcohol really isn't noticeable--perhaps a little dryness on the finish. If this isn't part of a mixed 12 pack, I nominate it to headline the next one and will happily offer my opinion on which others to be its cousins. Nice beer, Sam!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shiner Holiday Cheer

This will be my third year checking out Shiner Holiday Cheer, a Bavarian-Style Dark Wheat brewed by Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Here's the one from last year. Personally, it doesn't bother me to repeat some beers, despite this being brewed with the same recipe year after year. A lot of people like it and palates change. Maybe my opinion will change. Maybe a new regular reader never saw the old one. Who knows?

Same label: red, white and green. Same story on the back. Same mystery word: Krausening. "Give One To Someone You Love!" Now, before we get started, remember that this beer is brewed with peaches and pecans, so prepare yourself mentally.

Caramel sweet aroma to start. When you take a second and third whiff, you really start to smell the peach and orange jam-like aroma through the malty sweetness. Pretty nice.

Sweet peach flavors meet pecans exactly as advertised. The fruity sweetness is slightly syrupy, but some nutty flavors and hoppy bitterness balance that out well. Caramel and a little spice round out the flavor profile. Excellent carbonation, flavorful, extremely interesting and different. For sure check this out this winter.

Now, let me tell you a little holiday story to give you some cheer. When I was 18 years old, I was a pretty good athlete, almost undefeated in scholastic wrestling (I put "scholastic" so Ed Roberts wouldn't get all excited about "Macho Man" or something). Toward the end of the season, I was to wrestle this guy, last name Peachy. I ended up losing after a terrible performance. Well, my football coach decided not to lose the opportunity to get under my skin. As I boarded the bus for the Regional tournament, he handed me a can of peaches and asked if I was going to lose that weekend.

Peachy stuck as a nickname for several months, through the end of the school year. When we played the summer football all-star classic a few months later, the real Peachy actually stayed at the home of one of my best friends during our practice week. Was pretty funny. That was 22 years ago. The end.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro

I just cracked open a Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro brewed by Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, Colorado. That's when I immediately followed the instructions on the label to Pour Hard, Admire, and Enjoy! In fact, I just turned the bottle completely upside down. And it was very cool, the way the beer bubbled up into a frothy head.

The label lists its designer and artist, but I'm thinking for this particular bottle, the brewery may have been taken advantage of. The label is nothing more than the name of the beer in white letters on top of a black background. I suppose that someone had to pick the different fonts and come up with the catchy trademarked phrase "America's Stout," but come on...

Chocolate and coffee contrast with a roasted background aroma. So smooth. Coffee flavors to start with a creamy chocolate weaving in and out. Definitely a bit flat--wish had some carbonation. Some sweetness is there behind a light bitter roast. Some cherry nuances also play their way into the flavor profile.

Simple, awesome flavors all bundled in a beer with amazing texture. A long coffee finish lingers far after the beer is gone. Quite the delicious morsel here. Check it out!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Due South Craft Beer Dinner at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Last night, my wife and I headed up to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Pompano Beach for their craft beer dinner with Due South Brewing. I guess I did a decent job covering the Holy Mackerel dinner back in February as I was invited back by Anthony's for this encore. In fact, if you keep reading, there will even be a little contest to win a $25 gift card Anthony's gave me.

Let's see. Yes, I was on time. Upon entering, I spotted the guy in charge and worked my way over to where we were to be seated. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but... Paul Castronovo posing for pictures with owner Anthony Bruno and other guests!

Most of the other gang was on time too, including a few I had never met in person. I met and sat next to Dori Zinn, who I am sure already beat me to posting her article for New Times of Broward. I met long-time Twitter pal and prior guest poster Jarret, who turned out to be a very fun guy. I finally met Brewkkake's wife as well. And there were probably half a dozen others that I already knew, too: Joel, Leah, Ed, Tony, MikeLovesBeer, etc. Was nice!

Mike Halker Welcomes Everyone
Shortly after 7 pm, one of the restaurant managers got everyone's attention, gave a short welcome, and introduced Due South's Founder Mike Halker. Mike talked about the quick growth of the brewery, to the point now where they now brew around 7,000 gallons of beer per month. Quick growth yet this was still the first beer dinner for Due South. Pretty cool!

I was right near where Mike made his opening speech, so when he finished, he stopped by the table to say hello and for a quick chat before the food started coming out. I asked him about the beers on the menu, since three of them were not available when I went to the brewery's opening 6 months ago. Mike picked out the Cafe Ole Espresso Porter from those three to talk about and seemed relieved that they were able to complete brewing it on time for the dinner. In fact, they finished it the day before. Caramel Cream Ale was the only beer I had tried prior, and I recalled out loud Mike previously mentioning his wife likes it. Here he just chuckled and said, "We'll always have Caramel Cream Ale!"

And with that, he was gone... and a glass of Caramel Cream Ale was in front of me. Funny how life works! So dinner was finally on. Anthony's started with their Classic Italian Salad alongside their Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad. It seemed there wasn't enough dressing, but deep down, it was there and really delicious. Lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, olives, very nice. And thick-sliced tomatoes with mozzarella? Oh, yeah!

The next dish was controversial. Controversial mostly because of beer order, which I'll comment on later. Anthony's Meatballs with Ricotta and Oven-Roasted Chicken wings were served with the potent Cat 5 IPA. Since the beer has almost 9% alcohol in it and almost 100 IBU, we were given a smaller pour than the other beers. I watched and listened to the others at our table as they tried this beer. Each sheepishly said they didn't really like it and went back to drinking their remaining Caramel Cream Ale.

I wasn't really surprised by that reaction to the Cat 5 IPA. It is a bold and bitter beer, and you can certainly taste and feel the alcohol. It's totally for Hop Heads and not exactly approachable for people that don't love the style. Someone said had a medicine feel. Personally, the reason they didn't like it is the reason I did. And I thought it was a great beer to go with the very rich dinner course. Cleaned the palate perfectly!

In the end, I made sure no Cat 5 IPA went to waste at my table, if you know what I mean. I even (unintentionally) interrupted Dori's interview with Mike Halker to be sure she didn't want any more.

The next course included Anthony's Pork Ribs with Vinegar Peppers paired with Due South's Cafe Ole Espresso Porter. This beer was a straight-up coffee bomb, aroma and flavor. My table really enjoyed this one. Besides the coffee, there was a nice roast and a little smoke and no annoying bitterness. It was very smooth and a little flat but really worked with the spicy dish. Those vinegar peppers were in large part jalapenos.

The final course of the night was Anthony's pizzas paired with Florida Blonde Ale. We got to try the Roasted Cauliflower, Mozzarrella and Tomato, and Traditional "Well Done" pizzas. The cauliflower was awesome and had a nice spiciness to it. The beer was light and fruity and refreshing.

Some of the people there suggested they might have liked to see this beer pairing come second, before the Cat 5 IPA, because their palates were somehow wrecked by the big IPA. And I hear that. But usually that happens when there are more than four beers you are trying and you're not eating that much food. For me, the food easily balanced out the beers and each beer was easy to taste the flavors despite the order (and remember I had four of those IPAs).

I had a great night, a nice meal and terrific beers. When one of these beer dinners comes to your local Anthony's, you should definitely go! For $30 you get a lot of delicious food and four beers. And your tip and tax is included in that already. This is the no-brainer of the century. Be sure to look for Due South beers locally as well, and if you can, stop by the brewery in Boynton Beach!

Now, remember I said there was a contest? To enter, you must go to this two-paragraph article I wrote yesterday and comment there your thoughts on my "shirt theory". Yes, it's related to the Anthony's dinner. If you comment here, it doesn't count. Your comment can be funny, sarcastic, agree or disagree, I don't care. Do keep it PG 13 since that is not my website. I will pick the comment I like best as the winner of the $25 gift card to Anthony's next Wednesday afternoon. Your comment must be made by noon that day, Eastern time. Oh, and be sure to leave some way of contacting you in case you win.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pub Trivia

I was recently approached by University Games to see if I'd be interested in reviewing their newest party game called Pub Trivia. As a guy that grew up playing all versions of Trivial Pursuit and a card-carrying member of that Alex Trebek show, I didn't hesitate to give two thumbs up.

When I say recently, I mean about a month ago, but come on, that's recent when you're trying to get a bunch of people together for a game. But today I suggested we play over a few freshly procured Sierra Nevada Celebrations with the Penn State/Nebraska game on in the background. Sold! A few drank wine and a few had Jack and Coke but whatever. (Gotta get rid of that JD somehow).

The game is simple yet very fun. I was the host and a player, not an easy task since some of the "grading" of the score sheets is subjective. But I'm a pretty fair guy. Let me tell you that some of the wrong answers were the best answers all afternoon--we were cracking the hell up many times.

There are five categories: History/Geography, Entertainment, Sports/Recreation, Science/Nature/Tech, and Anything Goes. As host, I chose that last category first. Each team gets an answer card which is organized by different sections to match the questions. Basic knowledge, top 4, quotes, educated guess, and even a drawing are part of each round.

Since there are five categories, there are five rounds. Did you really ask me if we kept score? Of course! This is a competitive household! After each round, there is a tally for the teams. Most points at the end wins the game. I thought the scores would be higher and the game would move faster, but I swear one game lasted nearly an hour (beer and bathroom breaks included).

I staged a few pictures in between games and even took some out on the porch so I could skip the camera flash. I think my neighborhood buddies will definitely be over again, and I'm thinking about taking the game with me to a few places.

I do think that had any of my friends that are not long-time US residents or citizens shown up, they might not have enjoyed the trivia part. There were a lot of pop culture questions I feel they may not easily answer. My Colombian wife has lived here for 15 years and she was having a hard time. But whatever, I understand. University Games made the game difficult enough to keep trivia people happy! And for that, I thank them. So check it out!

Here is the product from Amazon...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale Release Party

Last night I met a bunch of really nice and fun beer people! Ed Roberts let me tag along with his invite to the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale Release Party at The Pub in Pembroke Pines. Yeah, I know, my turf, finally! I had never been there before which is insane considering how many hours my wife logs in at that mall. Very nice place, I must say! Awesome service and decor, too!

I arrived on time, as always, and met Ed outside for some photo ops with the gigantic blow-up bottle of the beer. Ed filled me in on some details about the night since he gave me less than a day's notice on my invite. I had already done my Wiki prep and Ed's info helped me ask some good questions.

The party was being thrown by Cavalier Distributing Company, the new guys in town. I was told they will also be bringing Sixpoint Brewery and Two Brother's beers here shortly, which is very cool. But the star of this night was Lexington Brewing Company's Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. Cavalier's Sales Manager Ben and Lexington Brewing's Sales Manager Matt were awesome enough, but they took the party to a new level by having former University of Miami All-American Quarterback and later Coach Fran Curci pour the first glass!

Why the Pub? I guess the restaurant is based in Ohio, near the hub of the brewery, and they are established partners when it comes to this beer. Why a 1970's UM football coach? Fran told me they asked because of his ties to both South Florida and his ties to Kentucky, where he coached at the University of Kentucky for 8 years after leaving Miami. And he lives in Florida too. Oh, and what an interesting, super-nice guy! (Trivia: You probably didn't know his son founded Bonefish Grill, right?). And who else were they gonna ask? Donna Shalala?

OK. So I got my ten year old's football signed with an awesome inscription. Not sure how to tell him he can't play football anymore with it. That's when I was introduced to Cavalier's super-cool local rep. She was already plotting how to win accounts with their new portfolio. I think today was Laser Wolf in Ft. Lauderdale, a bar I've never been to despite its reputation. I guess I'm just waiting for the right moment, like when Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Sixpoint beers are on tap there! Let me know.

Matt gave us a sample of his other beers too, just to highlight the differences. Kentucky Ale is a pretty nice beer, and the base for the Bourbon-aged beer of the night. Lexington Brewing also does Kentucky Light, a Kolsch style beer that was excellent. Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is aged for six weeks in used Bourbon Barrels. For now, these guys have been using mostly barrels from Woodford Reserve, and I'm positive you all remember my interview on the subject with Woodford's Chris Morris. If not, go read it. We'll wait. But I think the brewery is concerned that they might not be able to deliver using one distillery exclusively, so they haven't used Woodford as a selling point.

So yeah, by this point in the night, I had a few Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ales and was very impressed. Usually bourbon barrel-aged beers are Stouts, which often help mask the bourbon flavors. Not this guy.

Served in a branded snifter. Even the coaster had a story called "Why the Snifter?" I grabbed a few of those to use at my own parties when people ask. So here goes with a quick beer review...

Great bourbon flavor without the burn or alcohol heat. You for sure know you're drinking beer, but the bourbon is forward in all the flavors it imparts on the beer. Oak, caramel, vanilla. Really nice toffee flavors. Not sweet at all and actually fairly dry. Crisp and surprisingly refreshing. The 8+% alcohol is dangerously hidden, too. Carbonation is awesome. If you like bourbon, you'll love this. If you like bourbon stouts, you will dig this too. No you won't get wasted on that 13% annoying bourbon barrel imperial stout, but that's the entire reason to check this out!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Femme Fatale Brett IPA -- Miami Malt Bomb Guest Post

I asked for guest posters a few days ago and came out with a rock star! Patrick from Miami Malt Bomb is one of my favorite beer bloggers. He always offers lots of background information and interesting tidbits with every single review. Apparently he can take nice beer photos too!

Evil Twin Femme Fatale Brett IPA

I know Rob has a "bomber ban" in effect that he selectively enforces, but for this post, I'm going to flout that and pull out a bomber of Femme Fatale Brett IPA, from the gypsy brewer Evil Twin. I won't get into the whole back story about how the guy behind Evil Twin is actually the brother of Mikkel, of Mikkeller fame. It's just not that interesting. Suffice it to say that Mikkeller's "Evil Twin" flies around the world, brewing at others' breweries - in this case, at Westbrook Brewing Co, out of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Much more interesting about this beer is the fact that it's fermented with 100% Brettanomyces, and roughly in the style of an IPA to boot. Due to the unpredictability and general difficulty in brewing with Brett, much less at 100%, one tends to not find too many commercial examples. The only other such beer I can remember drinking is Russian River's outstanding "Sanctification," but that one is more of a generalized "wild ale," not an IPA. 

Generally, when discussing beers fermented with Brettanomyces in any proportion, one tends to mention flavor notes of such appetizing-sounding things like "sweaty saddle," "horse blanket," "funk," and the like. However, that kind of "Brett character" can take a while to develop in the bottle. This yeast, while a voracious chomper of sugar, tends to take its time. As such, young Brett beers (1-6 months) often aren't all that funky. The funk starts coming into its own at around the 6-month mark, and develops from there. With an animal like a Brett IPA, this presents a conundrum. Do I drink as soon as possible, like I would with every other IPA, for maximum hops? Or do I wait for the yeast to do more work?

Well, the correct answer is to buy two bottles, one to drink now and one to sock away. Unfortunately, I did not do that - this is my only bottle. I want to get a handle on it semi-fresh at the very least, so I'm drinking now. 

Poured into a tulip glass, it's a clear gold, lazy foam with some lacing. The aroma is very nice - while there's a slight sweatiness that hints at Brett, if I didn't know, I might be hard-pressed to pick it out. It's all IPA, and a good IPA at that. Mango, pineapple, Juicy Fruit gum,'s far more tropical fruit-like than piney, which I always love. On the palate, it's not as fruity-sweet as it smells. I get a lot of guava and passion fruit, stripped of their sweetness...and there's some of the typical pine tar bitterness. Largely absent is our friend Brettanomyces. While it does make itself more known in the aroma as the beer warms, I'm not getting too much flavor other than a minor tart pineapple that I frequently find in other Brett beers. I even poured in the yeast dregs at the bottom of the bottle, just to see what would happen to the beer's flavor, and all that did was 1) amplify the bitterness and 2) contribute more of that tart pineapple. The yeast dregs also further enhanced what was already a lush, creamy mouthfeel. 

All in all, I think this is an excellent beer. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get more obvious wild yeast, but I suspected I wouldn't - just didn't wait long enough. Right now, it's a very good IPA with the potential to become something more, as odd as that sounds when considering an IPA's viability beyond a couple months. What that "more" is, I have no idea - only time will tell.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Estaminet Premium Pils

After our appearance on last week's ByTheGlassShow, Ed Roberts and I traded a few beers. One of the ones he gave me was Estaminet Premium Pils brewed by Palm Breweries in Steenhuffel, Belgium. I know we have other Palm beers here in South Florida, but not positive about this one. The label on my 11.2 oz bottle is simple, decorated only with the name of the beer and the phrase "A Belgian Original Since 1747". The back sets your expectations, focusing on how the Saaz hops lead to a distinct fruitiness. Sounds good to me. Serve at 4°C. 5.2% alcohol. Best Before 08/07/2013.

Nice zesty, lemony aroma, grassy and fairly sharp. Big bang on the palate to start. Yeah, I'm awake now. That lemon zest carries through and really hits with a nice bitter sharpness. But that aggressiveness is soothed by some soft fruity apple flavors. Some grainy sweetness also helps to balance out the initial bitterness. However, make no mistake, the bitterness prevails in a landslide.

Carbonation is great, nipping at the tongue from the first sip. Quite a refreshing beer! Not thin. Pleasant flavors with absolutely zero trace of skunk. The finish is again fruity and very enjoyable. Also, if lacing is your thing, this beer has that going for it too.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hop Head Red

I thought I had tried Hop Head Red from Green Flash Brewing before, but if I did, I never wrote down any tasting notes. Unlikely. Anyway, now that their beers are distributed here, I grabbed a bottle to check out. The label is simple with a red background color. They call this a Red India Pale Ale and note that it's Amarillo Dry Hopped.

Nice spicy aroma with plenty of pine and citrus and orange and fresh hops. Excellent caramel flavors open things up, maltier than I had anticipated. That initial sweetness was very nice and works terrifically with the pine and spicy hops that follow. Sweet orange meets bitter and floral citrus, just a nice combo. Not really sweet or bitter, a bit of both taking turns really makes for a nice experience.

Good carbonation, creamy. There is a touch of the 7.0% alcohol toward the finish, providing a little bite before you take your next sip. Very enjoyable. Check it out no doubt.