Saturday, August 31, 2013

Centennial IPA

Founders Brewing was the newest brewery to enter Florida when they released many of their beers on August 19, 2013. This has been a fabulous beer year for South Florida, and having Founders is adding some awesome icing to the cake. I've managed to try some of their beers from time to time over the past few years and always enjoyed them.

I decided to welcome them to the neighborhood by checking out their Centennial IPA, more than 3.5 years after first trying it! The label appears to be the same as before, two angels holding up the beer name. Bottled 8/7/13.

Bready aroma with an orange sweetness. A little more bitter to start, flavor-wise. Lots of citrus, Mandarin oranges, light lemon. There are also some floral and pine flavors that follow. Plenty bitter, lots of hoppy goodness, yet enough bready malt for that touch of balance.

The 7.2% alcohol steps up toward the end, in a spirits-type way, really pushing the hoppy aspects of the beer. Good carbonation, very fresh, refreshing bitter hoppy aftertaste. Most enjoyable, Garth!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gentlemen's Club Old Fashioned Style Ale: Rye Whiskey Aged

You remember when Widmer Brothers had a release party last month for their Gentlemen's Club beer series right? Well, the brewery was nice enough to send me the trio of expressions to check out for the website. I decided to start with the Rye Whiskey aged version as I think it was my favorite from that evening. This series was a collaboration with our beloved Florida brewery Cigar City in Tampa.

Big 22 has a very nice wrap-around label depicting an old-time club bar scene. Suits, ties, vests, tuxes, elegant evening wear, canes, and of course booze. I'll see how my pictures turned out in a bit, LOL. To one side, you are told this is "90% ale brewed with cherries, lemons and oranges and aged in rye whiskey barrels; and 10% ale". Under the cap, "To Nightcap Number 3". Bottled May 30, 2013.

Nice aroma: sweet caramel, very rich and inviting with a cherry on top. Sweet, rich caramel and toffee flavors follow suit with a nice dose of cherries as well. Very malty and sugary. You will not miss the barrel's effects on the beer. You can taste the wood, the booze, and the spicy rye characteristics from start to finish.

Yes, at 10.5% alcohol, there is a little heat, but not the destruction or shiver I've had in beers past. OK, so I have a big bottle, I'm drinking alone, I'm home alone, and therefore have time to ponder some nuances. Sweet, alcohol, wood, cherry, finally orange, malty, low carbonation, smooth.

Best part: cherry flavors and other fruity nuances that the alcohol is enhancing. Worst part: the sweetness catches up fast, though it does grow on you the more you drink. I'd for sure recommend sharing the bottle 3 or 4 ways. Check it out when you get the chance.

Turn your computer sideways. If I had more time, I'd try to crop them together. Go ahead if you'd like!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp For Beer Geeks

A book review! AND a book giveaway! Yep, you read that correctly! You guys do know that I can read, right? Well, I'm reading this book named above, and sub-sub titled From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes. I happen to have just finished the first class of twelve, The Beer Essentials, and have started into the meat of the book. However, since I don't ingest a book a week, I decided to tell you about the book now, so that you can get it in a timely fashion! Heck, maybe I'll see you in class!

So read on... There is a giveaway at the end of this review, for a copy of The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp For Beer Geeks (affiliate link) to take to beaches and bars or wherever you people go to read. The copy I'm reading and the copy the winner will receive are compliments of the publisher.

Beer writer Joshua Bernstein created this book in a straightforward way, approaching beer beginners and aficionados at the same time. The beginners will eat up the easy and interesting descriptions of how a beer is made, while the geeks will love things like the comprehensive hop variety descriptions. From just Class One, I personally enjoyed the hops variety lesson, the glassware lesson and the "negative/positive qualities descriptor terms" lesson.

As I mentioned, I'm just barely enrolled in this course, but I've managed to read enough more of the book by browsing, though I will definitely keep reading and studying. I really like the "Two To Taste" suggestions for each style with several backup options listed in case the stupid beer laws in this country make them unavailable to you. And this dude Joshua isn't giving you some BS beer choices either. He regularly disses the big boys and picks really delicious options for each style.

Just one of three full pages of different hop varieties
Brewery profiles, foreign beer intrigue and food pairing classes are in my future. But for a reference point, let me leave you with how Joshua feels about beer styles. It was short of an FU to the elitist style assholes, but his statesmanship on the issue is understandable.
"Why do beers have to fit within neatly defined parameters? Short answer: they don't. To me, styles prove their worth as a general framework, a reference point for discussion, and a launch pad for future innovation. Consider style to be like an elastic waistband, stretching to accommodate a range of beers."
And this dude also listed the top five beers he drank while writing this book in an un-air-conditioned Brooklyn home: Victory Prima Pils, Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin', Troegs Perpetual IPA, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, Allagash White. Pretty much, we can hang out, preferably where there is AC.

You guys should check out this book. The book jacket is beautiful, nice texture, color, interest. And the insides, the most important part, duh, is fun, entertaining, super informative and a very easy read. You will learn a lot and then be able to use this as a reference book for years to come. There is no way any of you know what character a Palisade or Delta hop will add to your homebrews!


So first, take a chance at winning a copy here. I know you all love my contests, but this one will be simpler than usual. In the comments section, write a paragraph about one area of the beer world that you'd like to know more about. Paragraphs are at least three sentences for this contest's purpose. Grammar matters too! What do you want to learn, why is it interesting to you, feel free to crack jokes and be funny, whatever. Keep in mind this is a giveaway from a real author and publisher so keep it PG-13. You can curse in another post.

I will pick a winner (my favorite) on Saturday 8/31 so don't delay. Don't worry, I won't play favorites. Deadline is 10 am Eastern on Saturday 8/31/13. Don't forget to leave me some clue as to who you are and how to reach you. (I'm talking to you, Anonymous!) If there is a dispute because I forgot something, I'll make something up to solve it later.

Update: If you are having problems with the comments or can't even see where the comments are, email me your entry and I'll publish it here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 Imperial Red Ale: Beer Camp #95

I grabbed this year's Sierra Nevada Beer Camp mixed 12-pack a few days ago as I believe it's one of the best year after year, especially value-wise. BTW, voting is happening right now on who to send for the next Beer Camp (I voted for Leonard (Allen) Huerta, if that matters to you). This year, there are only three beers in the box, down from four the past two years.

I thought that I remembered them having an Imperial Red last year as well, and sure enough, it was Beer Camp #65. Considering this is one of my favorite styles, I am not complaining. If they had repeated a pumpkin beer, well then I'd have probably made a scene! The label has the same fun design as in past years. The back label tells a story, making sure you know this beer is not for the "lupulin leery".

Dark red color, big head that took a while to disappear, leaving a full lacing on the top of the glass. Spicy and hoppy aroma, pine with citrus and a sweet caramel too. Rich caramel flavors coat the palate and offer plenty of sweetness. Quite creamy, nice texture. Some resinous pine comes next and offers plenty of bitter balance to that.

Fresh citrus rind hoppiness and spicy sharpness keep poking at and waking up the palate. Definitely a well-balanced beer between malt and hops. The 8.5% alcohol is disguised, yet brings out the spicy and citrus complexities. You are left with a lingering sweet stickiness in your mouth. And that is OK by me. Very enjoyable beer!

Friday, August 23, 2013


OK. So Magic Hat sent me two of their new beers yesterday, which I immediately put in the fridge. I decided to try DeVEILed first, because I figured that as an amber ale, it would be the lighter and simpler of the two, with the second being a Saison. Read onward and see if that was a good hypothesis.

The label kind of has a Grateful Dead type theme going on. A skull with flower eyes and a crown of roses is wearing a veil. The neck states this is "shrouded in otherworldly goodness". Under the cap, you are advised to "live by the sun, love by the moon". 5.2% alcohol.

So this was MUCH darker than I was expecting, a dark reddish color. Rich, malty caramel aroma with a touch of herbal sweetness and slight hops too. Malty with roasted grain and some burnt flavors, perhaps a touch of smoke. An herbal twang sits on the back of your tongue too.

There is some hoppy bitterness here, no doubt. And you will finish with some weird earthy tartness (huh? yeah!) in a lingering aftertaste. Medium body and carbonation. Not exactly your typical amber ale profile right? But would you expect anything else from these guys? Not a favorite but unique for sure. Check it out. It's part of a new mixed 12 pack.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The One They Call Zoe

Just cracked open a can of The One They Call Zoe, a pale lager brewed by Hops and Grain in Austin, Texas. You probably remember how much I enjoyed their Pale Dog a few weeks back. Well, this beer was in the same package sent to me by the brewery. The can describes this beer as "lively, crisp, right, AFFABLE". To one side, the same story as on their other cans, that the brewery loves the planet, yada yada, uses aluminum (see the picture). And on the back, a story, a poem of sorts (figure it out, tell me the meaning). You can read that below too!

The post card with information I got with the beer states that "this beer is meant to be paired with, well, life! It's also meant to be paired with a few more." Now we're talking! Drink at 47° F from a pilsner glass. 18 IBU. 5.2% alcohol.

Smells very grainy and grassy, exactly like a lager, with a little orange fruitiness. Sweet fruity orange flavors come through in the beginning along with some sourdough bread. From there, the beer is balanced by grassy and hoppy flavors, also offering a nice sharpness and crispness. Definitely a lot of pilsner character here. Clean, refreshing, very nice! I'd pair it with a few more if they were available here in Florida.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Brother Benjamin Imperial IPA -- Sam Sly Guest Post

I think beer is as much about the journey as the beverage itself. That journey could be while getting the beer, drinking the beer or after the beer is gone. Everyone’s experience is subjective and that’s part of the fun; no one’s journey is the same.

The journey of this Brother Benjamin from Greenbrush Brewing Co. started in South East Michigan and ended in my stomach in Colorado. I popped the top and poured a deep amber ale. The kitchen immediately smelled of hops, and I sat down ready to document the final moments of this “Mystifying” IIPA. The following is a lightly edited stream of consciousness during my enjoyment of this monster.

Quesadillas beforehand was a poor choice. The first few sips are rocket fuel and no palate cleansers. Now my taste buds are settled down and it has an awesome malt kick with a touch sweetness. Hop flavor is resiny? That’s a thing, right?

The malt sweetness expertly balances what would be a ridiculous bitterness. 114 IBUS and 10.1% abv. Slight boozy burn in finish. For the record, I'm into it. This will probably age out into a damn fine barleywine. Booze is starting to agitate me. Maybe take a gulp instead of sips? Nope that didn't help. Now my quesadillas are agitated. I wish I could drink like a man.

What the hell is up with the story on the label? Who is brother Benjamin and why did he mystify people? Benjamin Button was shit so I don’t trust any Benjamin’s anymore, period. If Brad Pitt ages backward, does that make Kate Blanchet a pedo in the end? Can you say “Worlds best ‘To Catch a Predator’" episode?

The beer is warming up and the booze is starting to fade. Actually got some fruit-esque notes on that last pull. Getting slightly smoother as it warms.

Barely halfway through and my head's floating. Noticed there's two faces on ‘ol Benjamin. I really should use Google more. I bet it has all of this guy’s secrets and explains why Greenbrush gave the beer its name. Shit, I could've just cleansed my palate with water after the quesadillas instead of tasting pure gasoline at the start.

The booze is back. Maybe it’s from blowing my nose five times? Is there a BJCP note for beer clearing sinuses? I motion to add. HOLY SHIT! IF YOU DRINK THIS LIKE WHISKEY AND EXHALE BEFORE SWALLOWING YOU ONLY GET oh nope the booze is still there. Oh well, I accept it and appreciate it.

Broke down and Googled "Brother Benjamin" and am immediately regretting this decision. The only links provide useless crap without a good explanation of a mystifying character in the woods. This stuff is a fucking 97 on Ratebeer?? Had no idea. +1 bragging rights, right?

Here goes the last of it. Trying to find a bottled date. I feel like this one's slightly aged based on the faded hop aroma and flavor. That doesn't explain how it smelled so potent when I poured. Stroke? Won't rule it out.

Final thoughts: I loved it but I'd like to try a fresh one. I think Benjamin should have contained more hop aroma and flavor, but then again I didn’t read whether it actually had that profile to begin with and their label is kind of useless. Solid work, Greenbrush. I’m looking forward to my next!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Firemans Brew: Blonde, RedHead and Brunette

Firemans Brew is a brewery in Ukiah, California started by firefighter and paramedic Rob Nowacyzk. Part of the proceeds from their beers goes to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Their beers are not available here in Florida, but I figured one or two of you loyalists are Californians. Anyway, a PR agency working on behalf of the brewery asked if I'd like to give these three a try. I said sure. As Firemans Brew says, "Extinguish Your Thirst - Ignite The Party!"

I started with their Blonde, a pilsner, 5% alcohol. Grainy with a sharp grassy aroma. Sweet grain flavors meet light lemon and faint spice. Very watery and bland. Under-carbonated, not quite flat. Too sweet. Pass.

Next up, RedHead Ale, their amber ale, 5.5% alcohol. Rich sweet caramel aroma with just a hint of spice. Sweet caramel flavors come first. This beer is WAY THINNER than I was expecting. A little toast, a little butter, a little bubblegum. But despite a little weird metallic hoppy bitterness toward the end, the beer remained too sweet. Stale and flat, blah.

Finally, the Brunette, a Doublebock, 8% alcohol. I swear, it smells like a Denny's at breakfast time! Pancake syrup on my chocolate chip pancakes with my steaming cup of coffee. Cocoa powder flavors start first. Roasted coffee to finish. Repeat. That's about it. You can taste the alcohol a little toward the end. Leans bitter, medium body, carbonation OK. Decent overall, and definitely the best of their three beers by far.

Oh, and also noteworthy, these are the "Off Duty" offerings of the brewery. They also make "On Duty" sodas, and they sent me those as well. They are in my fridge for another day!

Friday, August 16, 2013


If any of you ever pay attention to anything I say, you've probably heard me bitch about hating Fall beers and even taking that to an all-out Pumpkin Beer boycott recommendation. I probably haven't had a pumpkin beer in 2 or 3 years. So I'm not sure what grabbed my attention with Terrapin's Pumpkinfest. Probably the name, which if you read the little story on the side, tells you this is a pumpkin and Oktoberfest hybrid of sorts. Yes, Terrapin says they are "CARVING OUT A FALL TRADITION" with this new combo lager.

As usual, the artwork is fun and goes along with that story. Grandpa Terrapin is out in the pumpkin patch seemingly tapping a pumpkin and simultaneously brewing Oktoberfest. This is their 2013 Fall Seasonal. In August, yeah. Very annoying, but whatever, there isn't any fall here in Miami anyway!

Very nutmeggy aroma with some cinnamon. Keep smelling, you'll get to the pumpkin, but just a little. The pumpkin flavors are a bit deeper and richer than the aroma lets on. Make no mistake that this is more than adequately spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, but this is solid.

Brown sugar sweetness and a little herbal sweetness too, yet this still has a little hoppy bitter answer for that. Carbonation good. Body medium. I liked the marriage of styles because I think that totally took the edge off a mostly annoying pumpkin-and-spice style mess and amped up a mostly boring-as-hell Oktoberfest style. Nice job, Terrapin.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

Brett and the gang did a ByTheGlassShow episode on Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer a few weeks back. I had never heard of it before, but I'm always up for an interesting experiment. This is a beer brewed with oregano, basil, tomato and garlic by creators Tom and Athena Seefurth. Their caricatures are on the front of the label. The label's background is Red, White and Green, the colors of the Italian flag. The neck label says "Beer so good it deserves a wine glass!" 4.7% alcohol. Pounder bottle.

Herbal aroma, mainly oregano, along with a spicy tomato sauce. Oregano and basil flavors are strong at the beginning, kind of vegetal. Tomato sauce is also prevalent and has a little spicy kick to it. And the garlic comes through at the end. Overall, this beer is lightly bitter. Not much body, pretty thin and watery.

Well, I can taste all of the ingredients, no doubt, but don't be tricked into thinking this tastes anything like a pizza. It tastes like a bunch of weird beer ingredients all standing on their own individually. There is not the harmony you'd find with them on your real pizza at all. Weird, didn't like it, not even for novelty.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

By The Glass Show: Kombucha Spotlight

I was invited to the new studio of ByTheGlassShow in Downtown Hollywood, Florida for this week's show about Kombucha. Seriously, I'm not sure I've ever heard that word before in my life until earlier this week. Also, this part of Hollywood was perfect!
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage made with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) and sugar and sometimes fruits or ginger, etc. The alcohol content ranges from 0%-2%, though there are now some Kombucha beers (which we didn't try) that have 7-8% alcohol. The plan for the show was to try a few of those kombucha beers from Unity Vibration Kombucha in Michigan, but unfortunately, there was no way to get them, at least in time. So we tried three alternates from GT Kombucha.

On the show was local craft beer expert and Kombucha brewer Chris Montelius. Chris has been selling craft beers in the area for over six years and found Kombucha attractive because of his love of sour beers. Not loving the local price of Kombucha, he turned to brewing at home, a self-Kombuchery!

We all poured a little JD to get the tea sampling started. Chris really educated us with a lot of knowledge on this beverage. Tea is fermented by adding sugar along with the SCOBY. The SCOBY's yeast turns the sugar into alcohol, and the bacteria eats the alcohol and makes acids. Some Kombucha from each batch is saved to make the next batch. Also, according to Chris, the bells and blessings and vibrations used by some are optional in Kombucha making.

I picked out a first Kombucha to try. Right about then, guest callers Tarek and Rachel Kanaan from Unity Vibrations called in and told us about their history. They told us how they themselves were hooked on the Kombuchas from GT and that's what got them started. They currently distribute their Kombuchas in 12 states with two others coming soon.

We tried GT's Trilogy, Maqui Mojito and Gingerade. We also alcoholized them afterward with more JD. They were all similar, though I think the one with ginger was the best. Sweet and tangy sour with a semi-dry finish. The bigger (non-yeast SCOBY) floaties were a little bit of a turn-off, even just watching it in Jorge's glass. I don't know... I'm not really sold on this beverage. Was interesting to try though and learn about, and as they say, "you always remember your first".

Oh, and thank God for the enzymes and probiotics in it!

This lovely lady had her dress hiked up pretty high out front!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pale Dog

Today I decided to try Pale Dog, a pale ale brewed by Hops and Grain in Austin, Texas. A few weeks back, a PR agency representing the brewery asked me if I'd like to try a few. And as they say, the rest is history. This is the first of three they sent me to try.

The marketing piece they sent, their website, and the can all use the phrase "Sustainable Quality". On the side of the can, they give their "we love the planet" speech and point to using aluminum cans as one of the ways. They use sustainable brewing practices and give 1% of proceeds to local environmental groups. Cool!

The back of the can tells a story about Chairman Suzy, their dog who this beer pays homage to. Crap, I forgot to take a picture for you. Perhaps I can do it and update later. Let me try to find some motivation. Serve at 47°F in a pint glass. 6% alcohol. 50 IBU.

Malty and fruity aroma, a little apple, a little spice. Very pleasant.  Mmmm. Tasty beer. Fruity orange, rich and malty, at the beginning. More tropical fruits come next, really nice and juicy. Hoppy, piney, grapefruit citrus bitter balance. A little spicy too. Toward the end of each sip, there is a really interesting tanginess and a little bit of the alcohol left behind.

This beer has a big body, much more like a full IPA. But whatever, I don't really care about those classifications, just a comment. Very enjoyable and flavorful for sure! Not available in Florida, but if you're ever in Austin or their distribution area, check it out for sure!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ellen's Coffee Stout

The marketing department from Atlantic Brewing in Maine contacted me a few weeks ago. Apparently they noticed I had reviewed a few of their other beers in the past and wondered if I'd like to review their newest limited release beer, Ellen's Coffee Stout, which was brewed with coffee and vanilla. Um, sure.

I was very close with my grandmother Ellen, so the beer name drew some sentimental memories. Then I saw the label art that depicts Ellen, a diva with dark shades and her name tattooed on her forearm. She's also drinking coffee, at least based on the cup she's holding. On the back, they tell a story, though they leave Ellen a mystery. This story only sets your expectations on the beer.

Nice roasty coffee aroma with plenty of chocolate and a sweet, sugary backdrop underneath. Big chocolate flavors to start, with an exceptionally creamy and silky texture. NOT sweet in the slightest; rather a smoky flavor, even a light char, fills your taste buds.

Roasted malt and bitterness with just a touch of that coffee. I don't really taste that much vanilla. So the two extras the beer was brewed with add only the most subtle of flavors, if any. OK. That's fine.

After drinking half or more of Big 22, I kept thinking that the roasted bitterness was going to build to an unpleasant crescendo. But it never got to that point. Instead, little hints of sweet caramel kept coming in to save the day. Nice beer, great texture. Could have used a little bigger body, but I liked it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hoptopia on IPA Day

This is a review about Hoptopia, the Imperial IPA brewed by Scuttlebutt Brewing in Everett, Washington, not the former beer blogger Hoptopia. The label depicts a pirate seemingly sneering and smiling at the same time, kind of boring. Since Today is IPA Day, so I've heard, I decided that there was no beer and no one like the original Hoptopia that could be better paired to represent this holiday. I just hope I get the I Believe In IPA badge! 8% alcohol.

Juicy citrus flavors come first with sweeter (not unlike Hoptopia himself) bread and caramel malts there right away to balance them. There is a grapefruit citrus bitterness and peppery rye-like spiciness as well which made the beer lean bitter. Good balance though overall.

After drinking a few sips, you will start to taste a cooling herbal alcohol type thing going on. That is not a good attribute here. The finish is dry and there is a little alcohol heat left over in the finish. The jury is out on this one. Not bad though the alcohol cooling (even minty) and bitter grapefruit flavors really accented the worst parts of each other. Bad synergy, weird collision. I'll pass.