Sunday, December 30, 2012

Timber Beast Rye IPA

Timber Beast Rye IPA is the first beer in Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company's Back Porch Series. The label has the brewery's standard shield with a burly woodsman dressed in plaid and showing off his axe. There is a little story introducing the Back Porch theme and describing the beer on the site.

Spicy rye aroma with a blanket of caramel, very inviting. Bitter and hoppy flavors come first and then are joined by some spicy rye shortly afterward. Citrus rind, orange, quite resinous. There is a decent caramel malt backbone that keeps the otherwise aggressive beer in line.

Chewy yet creamy. Carbonation is good. The spicy rye kick really stands out thanks to the 9.0% alcohol. That alcohol is also drying, especially toward the end. And you won't miss a little heat at the finish as well. Nice beer here!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Off The Top Of My Head 2012

No BS lists. Just some memorable highlights for me and this blog from 2012.

I started a new blog. There are 30 articles already, but I've neglected it recently. Here's what starting that meant for Back on the horse soon. Before I started that spirits site, I checked out the Miami Rum Renaissance, an event NOT to be missed, and coming again soon! And, um, a sample of $900-a-bottle Grand Marnier Quintessence? Hell, yeah!

I started a new beer day (sarcastically): Quad Day!

I got to attend the SOBE Swine and Wine event thanks to my friend Gabriele Corcos from the TV Show Extra Virgin. Even the Mayor of Miami was cooking for me! I also continued to write for his website all year. Check it out!

Had some amazing beer and beer dinner invitations. This one with Due South and another with Holy Mackerel at Anthony's stand out. And the Holy Mackerel and Florida Beer dinners at 5 Napkin Burger were awesome!

Beer Release parties? You Betcha'! How about Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Kona's Big Wave Golden Ale (Be sure to click on this one as I got a stand-up paddle board lesson from a professional in the Fort Lauderdale marina. And there are topless photos.)

Heck. How about a brewery grand opening. Welcome to the Neighborhood, Due South!

My sister got married so I grabbed a few local Atlanta brews. Oh, and saw my best friend from high school for the first time in almost a decade. The only sad part was there was no time for Brick Store Pub despite its extremely close location to our hotel.

I interviewed a Rock Star from the Bourbon World!

I hosted my own beer tasting with some friends. Lots of rookie beer drinkers enjoying great beer! I was also invited to a surprise tequila tasting BBQ by a friend of mine-spectacular!

I got invited back a handful of times to ByTheGlassShow for some excellent beer and spirits and conversation. How about this extravagance with Camus? And this with Cigar City and Phil P? And chatting about breweries that also run micro-distilleries?

I got all the new Dogfish Seasonal prints by Tara McPherson. And even held a contest after she was so generous to sign unused labels the brewery gave me. I think I'm in love!

I was given the opportunity to sample all of the Collesi beers from Italy, and the "funnest" part about the whole thing was having pictures of the brewery sent to me by owner Giuseppe Collesi himself!

I had a few trades, too, not much of a trader. But one local guy just contacted me and said, "I got Dreadnaught for you on a recent business trip." Nice stranger! Cool guy!

Yep, I also reviewed a few despicable pieces of shit. Rascal's Wild Red comes to mind.

I was invited to check out Schnebly Redland's Winery and Brewery. Fantastic! If I ever get married again, it might be there. And I don't care if my relatives and friends have to figure out how to get there.

I made money with Adsense. Around $400. So yeah, I'm totally rich!

I had a bunch of more awesome guest posts! Very cool.

Finally, have a Happy New Year! Don't drink and drive! And let's toast to a great 2013!

I Love You Guys!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oaked Big Hoppy Monster

Today I decided to try the 2012 Vintage of Oaked Big Hoppy Monster, an imperial red ale brewed by Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Georgia. It seems like it was more recent than November, 2009 that I was trying the non-oak aged version. Anyway, I remembered liking that one so thought this was worth a whirl.

"Watch Out! This Monster Bites!" warns the label. I'm not sure how that or the name ties in with the turtle flying the race car in the clouds, but I do lack imagination. Don't miss the stogie that he has in his lips either as the smoke blends with those clouds.

Nice aroma. Sugary, malty sweet scent with oak and faint hops. Wow, I was expecting something hoppy, at least flavor-wise. Very sweet flavors. Candied wood chips and sugar-spiked hops. And the 9.1% alcohol makes those stand out even more. Too much wood and vanilla. Sorry, this is not good at all. Syrupy sweet caramel, chewy, with no redeeming balance whatsoever. The finish is dry.

Not hoppy in the slightest, just sweet. And alcoholic. And wood/vanilla bomb. That wood is more than just a distraction but that's not the only problem. Where are the spicy hops, the great citrus, the balance, the hoppiness, the bitter bite that made the original a delight? Is this really the same beer with the only exception being barrel aging? Hard to believe, but regardless, tone that part down (a lot)! Save your retail $3 or whatever crazy price they might try to charge you at a bar.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Perfect Crime Black Smoked Saison

Stone Brewing has been doing a collaboration series this year. I've had many of them. I saw another recently and decided to give The Perfect Crime Black Smoked Saison a shot. The label lets you know this collaboration is between Stone, Evil Twin Brewing and Stillwater Artisanal Ales and offers the tag line, "Takin' The Fall So You Ain't Gotta".

The brewmaster from Evil Twin, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, wrote a story on the back about breaking into bars, stealing  beers and ideas, and international intrigue. (I think. I actually have no freakin' clue what he's talking about. I extrapolated and guessed a lot. Let me know if you have some info. Read the story below.)

Cocoa and smoke aroma, though I really had to work for it. Very faint. Tart cherry and cocoa flavors are attacked by a smokestack at the beginning. Prunes and plums are noticeable too. The beer is a bit bitter and fairly astringent at the beginning.

Yeasty funk is there but minimal. Beyond the normal saison flavors are some chemical and factory cleanser flavors that seriously detract from any positives the beer might have. A dirty ash tray full of cigarette butts, some still smoking their way out, comes at the end. Yes, in the way of a finishing flavor. Terrible close to an experience that was never good. Not that great in any respect. Didn't finish it. Definite pass!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best Beer Review Blog of 2012

Christmas came early this year. named the Best Beer Review Blog of 2012! Of course you already knew that though, right? Shhh, you! Anyway, what I suggest you do is sign up for new content delivered to your desk/phone a few times a week to enjoy with your cafe mochachino latte grande. The end. How's that for a short entry?

And here's my badge!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Positive Contact

I decided that today I needed to check out Positive Contact brewed by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware. It's been sitting in my fridge for months, and I figure that I really should finish their last music beer collaboration before winning a contest for the next one. Yeah, Dogfish is collaborating with the Grateful Dead to make an Imperial Pale Ale named American Beauty. I've entered a bunch of times and know they already have over 1000 entries, so good luck. Enter your "A" material and skip the BS entries! You can read all of mine (so far) below to see what you're up against.

This wine-bottle sized beer was originally packaged with 4 or 6 of the beers and a record or something like that. I don't quite remember. Since then, the packs have been broken up and sold individually since the hefty price tag was weighing on sales (that's my analysis). I actually just went in with some guys initially and we broke it apart ourselves. I never did get to listen to the music by Dan The Automator and Deltron 3030, but I'm good with that. If you can even understand this Wiki entry for them, you are way cooler than I.

I'm sure the label art means something, but I don't know what. Front and center is the name of the beer. They do let you know you are about to drink an "ale brewed with apple cider and spices. A positive combination of Fuji cider, slow roasted farro, a bit of cayenne and fresh cilantro." Rock and Roll!

Frothy head. Smells like apple cider with wheat and spicy coriander. Very different flavors, let me start with that! The refreshment is there though, and I deserve it after burying this year's Dogfish Olde School in my back yard!

Fruity apple, tangy with some very prevalent coriander and some other interesting spice. A little cinnamon type flavor which I attribute to the cayenne. Carbonation is effervescent and soda-like. The Belgian yeast and wheaty texture/flavor are also noticeable standouts. There is a minty accent dodging in and out. You can say that's the cilantro if you want, but it's hardly identifiable. We rock cilantro in this house, so I am well aware of its flavor.

Lots going on in this beer, for sure, but the flavors really do work in harmony. The spice flavors really build toward the end which is when you also start feeling some heat and effects from the 9% alcohol. Very different, nice flavors. The yeast that you get in your glass when you pour too fast or too many times was a distraction in my later pours, so find yourself a handful of pals and pour it all out one time, carefully. Recommended for sure. I think you can probably still find this on the shelves in many places, even though the release was a while ago.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for... my entries. Let me know what you think. (I've got this contest in the bag, right?)

1. Frankincense

You already used myrrh in your Birra Etrusca Bronze. Gold is too expensive, and frankincense was the last gift given to baby Jesus. Cornell '77 legendary concert. I went to Cornell and though I was only 5 when this concert took place, the "hippie effect" left behind by the Dead is still in effect. A few friends and I went to the reservoir to swim. Hippie chick dropped her clothes and showed her hairy body as she walked past. When she was done, they lit up incense... "frankincense". Yes, it's edible and often used in traditional Asian healthy skin medicines.

2. Ascorbic Acid

No one knows more about "acid" that the Grateful Dead. Follow me on this story. Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack while he was actually in rehab in 1995. Do you know that the American Heart Association recommends that people with high risk of heart attack take a regular regimen of aspirin (under doctor's orders, of course). Well, aspirin is really known as acetylsalicylic acid. How ironic that acid would help the heart attack of someone that was known to acid. Anyway, aspirin isn't recommended for regular drinkers, so my ingredient is Vitamin C, Ascorbic Acid.

3. Magnolias

The Grateful Dead are responsible for a lot of flower children. I have a few second cousins that were the product of Dead inspiration. You should meet their parents. What flower symbolizes this impression the Grateful Dead made on the world? Well, considering this beer is to be named American Beauty, and Sugar Magnolia is a song from that album, I think you have a winner. The flavor is intense and versatile, perfect for a Dogfish beer.

4. Gladiolas

Some of my favorite Grateful Dead memories are from concerts I wasn't even able to attend. The Dead was notorious for encouraging sharing of their music and events. Remember, "Googling" didn't exist and the internet was barely alive when Jerry Garcia died. Between college friends and some of my older relatives, I've been able to see some cool old footage and great music. Yes on cassettes and grainy tapes. That is part of the experience. Gladiolas stand for sharing and generosity, qualities the band promoted. And I think this will make a terrific flavor addition to a strong pale ale.

5. Fantasy Bouquet

I've been listening to Dead songs on YouTube for two weeks straight to get more inspiration. Now I know that Dear Mr. Fantasy is a cover but I'm jamming now as I write this. What ingredient or ingredients go with this song? Hmmm. Has to be an entire Fantasy Bouquet: I was thinking Puppy Dog Kisses, Rainbow Glow and Unicorn Eyelashes. As for those being readily available, well, you guys have an imagination right? Oh. There are other ingredients for this Fantasy basket if you want to hear more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sága India Pale Ale

"Our Condolences to the Smelling Impaired." That's how Summit Brewing in St. Paul, Minnesota introduces their newest beer: Sága India Pale Ale. I probably would have just passed it over as well if it had not been recommended as "the best single IPA" we carry by one of the local distributor reps. I was sold!

I was not sure exactly what the old-time sketch in the background is depicting considering the enormous Summit logo covering it, but there is clearly some tension between the old bearded man and the woman holding the beer. That's when I noticed that the 6-pack packaging actually has a clear vision of the sketch and some text to go with it. This is the goddess Saga and the god Odin "merrily" drinking. OK, merrily, whatever. She's telling him to cut the macho bullshit if you ask me! LOL. Check the beer stats there too.

Tangerine tropical with some spicy citrus aroma. Excellent. Oh, wow. Great juicy fruit flavors to start. Citrus, spicy hoppy, black peppery. Some bitter orange rind meets sweeter tropical tangerines and peaches. Absolutely fabulous! Carbonation is great, and this is quite a refreshing beer. Nice fruity bitterness lasts in the finish and aftertaste. I highly recommend this beer and will get myself more when I go back to the liquor store!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wooly ESB

Started this afternoon with a bottle of Wooly ESB, "A Coniferous Concoction" brewed by Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington, Vermont. Why coniferous? Because these guys brewed this beer with Spruce. As usual, the label is pretty fun. An abstract Santa sits on his sleigh crafted out of the beer name script. Some tree cutouts hang in the background completing the theme. 4.5% alcohol. This bottle was provided to me by the brewery.

Herbal, spicy hops and a hint of evergreen in the aroma. Orange citrus flavors start and are quickly met by a hefty dose of spruce, providing quite a nice little bite. Tangy, resinous, herbal. There is a bit of sweetness in the background as well, so while hoppy, this beer isn't out of control bitter. Medium body, crisp with good carbonation. The finish is dry and full of more spruce. Interesting and pretty decent all around.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Narwhal Imperial Stout 2012

Sierra Nevada Brewing's Narwhal Imperial Stout is a beer that many of the geeks regularly talk about. Well, I guess that's especially true for the local South Florida beer geeks as it hasn't to my knowledge been distributed here before this year. So a few days ago I noticed it on my local Total Wine shelf and had to grab a bottle.

The label depicts an enormous sea creature wreaking havoc on a ship. There is a lot going on in the tiny thumbnail sketch, so you'll need to look for yourself or use your imagination. A story on the back says this beer was inspired by this arctic beast and proceeds to give a handful of adjectives on what you should expect. (BTW, I'm going to do the same thing here in a second.)

Excellent aroma full of rich, roasted coffee and mocha. Absolutely delicious before even one sip! My high expectations were immediately fulfilled. Much like the aroma predicted, rich, sweet mocha and bold, roasted coffee flavors collide on your palate. So creamy. After a few sips, you start to taste hints of vanilla and licorice and even a light smoky char.

Those nuances and complexities are further enhanced by the 10.2% alcohol. Boozy heat in the chest just makes you go hmmm. I wish I had another to think about, but I guess there's always tomorrow to buy an encore. Before I could even finish the bottle, I tipped my hat over on inane time-waster Twitter... "Freakin' Fantastic!" Highly recommended!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Budweiser Project Twelve Batch No. 91406

The final beer to try in the Budweiser Project Twelve trilogy is Batch No. 91406. I first tried their bourbon-aged light amber lager 23185 followed by their pilsner 63118. This "deep amber lager" is the creation of Brewmaster Bryan Sullivan of Bud's Los Angeles factory. 6.0% alcohol.

Heavy caramel aroma with a hint of toast and a definite sweet edge. Caramel and a light nutty flavor dominate pretty much the entire experience. This beer definitely has THAT flavor, distinctly Budweiser. I'm not saying that in a condescending way, but the sanctimony may come later. We'll see.

A little buttery and some wood (the label does say this was finished on beechwood chips). Definitely too sweet from start to finish with not a hop to be found. Carbonation is good, body medium. Decent despite its sweet tooth. It's a close call, but I'd say this is the best of the three in this Project Twelve experiment.

Budweiser Project Twelve Batch No. 63118

Here we go with the second beer from Budweiser's Project Twelve experiment: Batch No. 63118, a pilsner created by Brewmaster Jim Bicklein of the company's St. Louis, Missouri facility. I checked out their aged Amber Lager a week or so ago. The label notes that what makes this beer special is that it was brewed with hop varieties used during the 19th century. 6.0% alcohol.

Grain, cracker and grassy pungent pils hops aroma. Not strong but noticeable. Grain and wheat flavors start things off. Light lemon with some grassy hoppy balance. Things were going along fairly smoothly until more sweetness right at the finish came along. A bit of a turnoff. The aftertaste lingered with some off cardboard-like flavors, too.

You'd think expert clean-beer-maker Bud would nail a pilsner, but although the beer was crisp and had decent flavors and was well carbonated, I did not like how it finished. Not clean enough and that extra buttery sweetness killed the refreshment aspect. However, it is better than regular Bud. Average!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Birra Etrusca Bronze

Today I published an article over on titled Ancient Italians Were Beer Aficionados. The subject of the article is Dogfish Head's Birra Etrusca Bronze. I thought the site's Tuscan theme matched perfectly with the Etruscan roots behind the beer. And my editor was giving me a hard time about getting something done, too. Go check it out and let me know what you think.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hop Cream

Yet another new brewery is now being distributed in South Florida, and I grabbed one of their beers. Today I am checking out Hop Cream brewed by Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin. The label depicts the dome of a Capitol Building. There are a few short words to set your expectations; 5.3% alcohol; IBU 34.

Grain and crackers, with a pleasant fruity citrus aroma. Similar flavors. A grainy sweet start gives way to an herbal and floral bitterness. A little grassy and a little medicinal, leaning toward being unpleasant at the finish. Carbonation is good; body is good. Sharp little nibbles at the palate are refreshing, but not creamy in the slightest as the name implies. Not a bad beer but that tinge of weirdness finishing each sip was a turn off.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA

When your representative from the best craft beer distributor in the area recommends a beer that isn't theirs, you grab it and take a chance. That's what I did with Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA brewed by Flying Fish Brewing Company in Somerdale, New Jersey. As usual, the label for this "Exit Series" just shows a road sign for the NJ Turnpike. A short story on the side explains that the rice is used to dry out the beer so all the hop varieties are highlighted. Bonus Question... If you exit on Exit 16, where are you?

Noticeable rice aroma, but hold on. One second later, you are met with an awesome tropical tangerine and ripe peach burst. Floral and hoppy, too. Not a super powerful bouquet, but worthy of sticking your nose in the glass for a few extra sniffs!

As predicted, dry flavors, right from the beginning. Interesting to start, grainy with sharp lemony bitterness. I was a little shocked actually just how bitter and unbalanced it was. Some sweeter orange and fruit flavors do eventually come to the rescue, though. Pale malts, crackers, lemon rind, resinous bitterness... all working with a noticeable 8.2% alcohol. Yes, you know you are drinking.

Hoppy-hop-hop! Crisp, clean, palate-cleansing, dry, a little too astringent. Big carbonation and light, medium body are great. Let the beer warm up a little and some of that dry bitterness will disappear, but yeah, this is a double IPA and hits its mark. Slightly out of bounds, but good flavors, different with the rice and not like so many other DIPAs. Check it out!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Inaugural Quad Day: December 2, 2012

After being such a huge proponent of #IPADay and #StoutDay, I thought I'd create my own Beer Day. Because we all know that beer drinking needs some love and someone to crack a whip to make it all happen.

I picked the Belgian Quad as the focus of the newest and greatest holiday this side of Christmas, and it was no mistake that December 2 will be the annual celebration of this glorious day (it's my birthday too). Now I realize that there are some body builders that may mistake Quad Day for something it's not. Same thing with fans of Syracuse's Qadry Ismail (yeah, if you say it fast, sounds similar). And Cornell U and other universities have Quads too. But make no mistake this is a fake beer holiday and nothing else.

Anyway, this day is about you. I know you'll all run out and grab a Belgian (or Belgian-style) Quad, rush home and Tweet and Instagram about it all. It'll be like every other Sunday home alone with the kids outside and your spouse shopping. Except this has a purpose. Long Live The Quad!

It actually takes ginormous balls to brew a Quad. Anyone can do an OK Stout and an OK IPA, but if you brew a Quad and stick with it through production year after year, you are making a good product. A shitty Quad wont sell and is super-expensive to just be an ego act.

So... I hope you grabbed a Quad. Total Wine and other retailers are open on Sunday so you have all day, if not. Please comment your #QuadDay story activities here. Add links to photos, hell, even send me your photo to and I'll include them here. Feel free to buy me a birthday present too.

Quad Day starts in a few hours! (Disclaimer: feel free to drink Quads any other day and if you don't comment or even drink a Quad on Quad Day, you're not a bad person and don't dislike Quads, unless you just don't like the style).

Quad Day Photos:

Humboldt Brown aka Hemp Ale

I bumped into the local craft distributor rep at Total Wine recently. He was putting a few beers from the newest brewery to hit South Florida on the shelves. One called Hemp Ale caught my eye, and predictions were made that it would be a top seller. So I picked up a bottle of this Hemp Ale only to notice that the label calls it Humboldt Brown. Hmmm. It was surmised that packaging rules are different than label rules. So stupid. Anyway, seems like a gimmick from the start by brewer Nectar Ales in Paso Robles, California.

You guys remember Ofelia, right? Well, she's really interested in the highlights of this review. Go figure for someone that doesn't drink beer! I only bought one bottle but took a picture of the packaging to show you how it's marketed. As for the label, it does say this is an ale brewed with hemp. The artwork depicts a mountain and is very plain and boring.

Cocoa and nice roasted aroma with a touch of nuttiness. Cocoa and caramel malty sweetness come first. That is followed by some herbal bitterness to balance. Brown sugar, lightly burnt. By now I feel this is a little overly sweet yet still OK. Not exactly sure what hemp is supposed to taste like but I didn't find any flavors you wouldn't find in other brown ales.

Medium body, smooth but still with a little prickly carbonation. The 5.7% alcohol wasn't noticeable. Not a bad beer but fairly plain and forgettable, except for its name (assuming you bought yours with packaging and not a single). If you're hosting a frat party, grab a case. Otherwise it's good for a taste.