Friday, November 29, 2013

Ten Hills Pale Ale

Goose Island will be releasing three new beers between now and the end of 2014 to "celebrate the aroma and taste of hops." The first, Ten Hills Pale Ale, will be available nationally starting in December. The brewery bottled and numbered 100 bottles, giving 50 lucky people a pair to check out before the official roll out. I happened to get bottles #75 and #76. In addition, the label on those 100 bottles is also customized with the Goose Island brewer's signatures: Brett Porter, Keith Gabbett, and Jared Jankoski.

The Ten Hills name refers to the original planting of hops for Goose Island at the Elk Mountain Farms in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Today, Elk Mountain Farms grows over 200,000 hills of hops for them.6.2% alcohol. 48 IBU.

Elk Mountain Farms hop farm
I poured the beer into my new Goose Island pint glass. Nice aroma--orange, herbal with some additional soft fruity scents. Love the malty sweetness up front. Honeysuckle, caramel, apricots and oranges. Ten Hills also has an herbal character throughout.

That initial sweetness is met by an ample amount of hops to bitter things up perfectly. Nice balance leaning bitter, especially in the finish. Carbonation is prickly and refreshing. This is a flavorful and tasty beer. I'd check it out!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bourbon County Brand Stout 2013

I was recently approached by the PR Agency representing Goose Island and their new Ten Hills Pale Ale. A few exchanges, a few questions, and one thing led to another. Next thing I knew, I had a few bottles of the pale ale AND some other gems, including the soon-to-be-released 2013 vintage of Bourbon County Brand Stout. I have never tried any version of this beer, and they've been brewing it since 1992, so it's about damn time.

Anyway, if you don't know, this is on the super-short list of most beer geeks. The label is simple and elegant, black and white with gold accents. As with most of their premium beers, it is suggested that this beer can develop in the bottle over 5 years. 14.2% alcohol.

Chocolate and brown sugar and vanilla and bourbon and oak aroma, rich and delicious! Oh, wow! Cream-a-liscious. Caramel flavors are so beautiful and luscious. Decadent deliciously sweet chocolate. And the coffee flavors are absolutely perfect.

The alcohol is definitely not missing, though it feels nowhere near 14.2%. It really makes the vanilla pop and intensifies all the other flavors. It makes the lips a little tingly and puts some heat in the chest too. Nice body, low carbonation but not flat, just right. Great balance and not too sweet.

Lightly hot and I bet a year would take some of that edge off. This was an excellent beer worthy of all the hype and praise. I will be grabbing a four pack when it enters my Florida market soon and giving that aging theory a try.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fire Brewed Hard Root Beer

On a semi-dare by Ed Roberts, I picked up Sprecher's Fire Brewed Hard Root Beer earlier this week. I love root beer. My wife says it smells and tastes like toothpaste or Pepto-Bismol but she is of course wrong. This hard root beer has a great aroma of brown sugar and honey with touches of anise, maple and vanilla. YUM!

Flavors very much imitate that of the aroma, but the 5% alcohol provides a noticeable kick and even light burn. The alcohol worked well with the sweetness of the soda base, highlighting the anise and vanilla while giving a bite at the palate. Great flavors, nice that it now takes the edge off too!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Our Special Ale 2013

For the past 39 years, Anchor Brewing has brewed a winter warmer called Our Special Ale. Each year, the recipe is different as is the tree on the label. The trees symbolize rebirth of the earth and its seasons. This year's tree is a kick-ass evergreen named Abies concolor var. Lowiana, aka Sierra Nevada white fir. The label wishes the beer's drinkers Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Apparently I missed the 2012 version, but you can see 2011 here, which also links back to several prior years. 5.5% alcohol.

Rich, malty caramel and prune aroma, lightly spicy with nutmeg, a little roast, and I can't help but think of new leather shoes. Pruney dark fruit flavors dominate the beginning, and the beer is a little sweeter than I was expecting. Nutmeg and cinnamon spices are present but not overdone. A good dose of hops controls the rich caramel and fruit backbone--good balance.

A little roast and light smoke. Dry finish with spices remaining on the palate. Pretty good!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All Day IPA Session Ale

I decided to give Founders Brewing's All Day IPA Session Ale a session this afternoon. These guys make great beer, and I expect nothing different from this one. The label is very nice, depicting a station wagon carrying a canoe on a dirt road. My family had that exact car and canoe too when I was a kid. This session ale clocks in at 4.7% alcohol and 42 IBU.

Pine aroma with tropical tangerine and pineapple backup and a light citrus zip. Fruity and very juicy flavors come in the way of big citrus, not really any of that tropical fruit like from the aroma. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits--fairly bitter but still with plenty of malt balance. Doughy biscuits and pale malt work their way in there. 

A little thin and okay carbonation. The continuous sharp little nip at the palate just adds to great beer. Overall a refreshing, delicious, flavorful beer! Next time I'm gonna grab the 12 pack box of cans and drink them all by myself at the pool!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cigar City Brewing + New Belgium Ale Brewed With Anaheim And Marash Chilies

Cigar City Brewing + New Belgium Ale Brewed With Anaheim And Marash Chilies. WTF? Is that the best these two brewers could come up with for a name? Anyway, this is a collaboration between the two breweries and a member of New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series. This bomber will be available locally shortly if not already; the brewery was nice enough to let me give it a whirl to introduce its arrival.

There is a story on the side: "We're about to light up Florida with this Cigar City Collaborative brew. Our Belgian yeast tangos with Anaheim and Marash peppers along with loads of citrusy hops to create an ale full of spice. Aged on Spanish Cedar to salute our mutual love for wood!" The label is pretty boring with just the facts I relayed to you, the story, and a decorative border at the bottom. 8.5% alcohol. Best Enjoyed By November 2014.

Fruity, juicy orange and tangerine aroma with just a hint of spice. Sweet with woody dryness to start--the cedar is very noticeable and dominant. Juicy apples and oranges are nice and match up well with the chili spices that come next. Crackers, earthiness, a bit yeasty too.

After a while, the beer starts to feel a bit acidic and alcoholic, especially at the finish. Between the cedar aging, a bad idea that crushed the other flavors, and the alcoholic prowess, I'm not a fan. I will say the alcohol mellowed with a little warmth but not completely. Spicy heat lingers on the palate and in the chest long after each sip. I'd pass but if you can't control yourself and buy a bottle anyway, let it warm up for at least 15 minutes before opening it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

By The Glass Show: Saint Arnold Brewing

Last night, the By The Glass Show crew celebrated the arrival of Saint Arnold Brewing's beers to Florida. As of this month, people on the Gulf Coast are kicking back in their hammocks sipping sixers of Fancy Lawnmower Kolsch while they watch someone else cut the grass (that's why the lawnmower is fancy, get it?) But I hear it won't be too long until the expansion moves into my home Miami territory. So yes, by celebrate, I do mean we tasted six of their beers.

Brett gave us a little history about the Houston brewery and let us know that Florida is only the 4th state where Saint Arnold is distributed, despite being a relatively large craft brewer, 45th largest in the US. I was paying attention but made sure we started drinking too. First up, Fancy Lawnmower. I tried this beer many years ago when a friend brought it home from a business trip. I don't even remember what I thought then though. Great aroma, toasty and lemony, earthy, herbal. Very flavorful as well. Nice bitterness balanced with a grainy sweetness. A little citrus, more crackers. Creamy, balanced, crisp and refreshing.

We then moved on to Weedwacker just as Saint Arnold's founder and owner Brock Wagner called in to the show. As we started the conversation, Brock told us this is an identical beer to Fancy Lawnmower with the exception of the yeast used to brew it. Apparently this one is brewed with a Bavarian Hefeweizen yeast. For me, the flavors were pretty subdued though there was a light spiciness and fruity flavor hanging around. But heck, what do I know? It won a medal in the German Wheat Ale category at GABF this year!

So why Florida? Brock said that the styles of beers they make are perfect for the climate "enjoyed" in Florida, just as they are in southern Texas. And they are expanding slowly, as the Houston market still accounts for around 70% of their sales.

The back and forth of the interview was great between Brett and Brock. They should do a radio show together or something. And the beers we were opening got intertwined in the story. We then opened the Amber Ale. Brock said as a homebrewer, he never brewed the same beer twice. Then all of a sudden he had to choose a beer he was going to brew forever. And the Amber was what he went with when starting the brewery. Interesting too. Toasty, hoppy, a little astringent and bitter. Brock wrapped it up nicely, describing it as "an American Pale Ale from 20 years ago."

Brett ended the chat with a question about their Divine Reserve series, the one the beer geeks all drool over. Brock said it's a one-off series of bigger beers like barleywines, scotch ales and imperial stouts. The idea was to make limited edition beers that would last in stores for a few weeks. He said he's shocked that it has come to the point of people lining up in front of stores before they open and the series selling out "in 17 seconds." One day I'll get to try one of them!

Adios, Brock. Hola, Saint Arnold Brown Ale. Toasty biscuit aroma. Fruity, no real roast, didn't really taste like a brown ale. Was good though. Elissa IPA was next. Orange citrus aroma though not that powerful. However, there was lots of flavor. Great bitterness, fruity, floral, citrus, herbal. Yet still balanced. Brock mentioned that his philosophy is all about creating balance in his beers.

Finally, a Christmas Ale with a story. Yeah, I read it out loud to the group! Spicy aroma. Spices came through in the flavors too but were not the often obnoxious ones you find in this type of beer. Rich caramel, very malty.

I'll wrap it up with a quote from Brock. "Beer is about facilitating enjoyment with your friends!"

Belly Dancer on Hollywood Blvd. in Front of the Studio

Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop Ale 2013

It's that time of year again. Time to kick the pumpkins and "fest" beers to the curb for some tastier beers, like this "bold wintertime classic."  Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale was first brewed in 1981 and it has become an annual staple for beer lovers since. The label depicts a snow-covered log cabin, just a quaint little illustration. They are sure to remind you multiple times that this is a "fresh hop ale." 6.8% alcohol.

Grapefruit and orange citrus aroma with a light malty caramel sweetness.  Orange citrus and pungent fresh hop flavors start things off. There is a definite pine bitterness and a little spicy hop nip at the palate. But some caramel sweetness in the background keeps that in check. Lightly dry with a hint of alcohol at the end. And a long-lasting bitter finish. Terrific and a great value beer at $14 per 12 pack. Will buy several this winter!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale

Today I'm checking out Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale, "an intriguing interpretation of a Farmhouse Ale blended with a Flanders Red, with hints of white pepper and a tart finish." Pretty ballsy description from Blue Moon Brewing! This beer is a member of their Expressionist Collection--not sure I've seen others but I'm sure it's for a lack of looking. I hope the beer is more intriguing than the effort they put into the label. Giant name of the beer over an extremely trite thumbnail illustration of a red farmhouse next to some fields of grain. 5.8% alcohol.

Orange, light hay and grain on the nose, though I really had to work for it. Sweet, fruity apple and orange flavors come first. Some grain and a little funky hay work their way into the mix after a few sips. But that's it. Pretty thin and bland overall. The finish has a metallic twinge to it as well. I think it's a stretch to call this a farmhouse ale and there is zero Flanders Red tartness promised, so the marketing team obviously never drank one sip. Either that or the brewers didn't bother to read the marketing description before crafting it.

Anyway, this beer is probably exactly what BM was going for, something different for their BM drinking base. But if they think this beer will win over anyone that has tried a real craft beer or two, they are seriously mistaken.

This picture is embarrassing. But they all looked like this. Couldn't figure out what was up with the camera, especially considering I took dozens of pictures before and after this crappy one that are so crisp and clear...  like the one above. Oh well, so you can sorta see the beer...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fresh Hop India Pale Ale

Since New Belgium's Hop Kitchen series of beers is not in their South Florida rotation at this time, the brewery was nice enough to make sure I got a chance to try their Fresh Hop India Pale Ale. This beer was brewed with fresh certified Salmon Safe Hops, so thank God for that. They even have a little thumbnail of one of those (safe from hop harvesting though not my dinner table) salmons on the bomber label. Best by 23FEB14. 7% alcohol.

Piney and peppery aroma, fresh with tropical orange and pineapples. There is a piney, hoppy bite to start followed by some juicy, fruity lemony citrus. The spiciness from the aroma translates to the palate too, though it's less peppery and more onion-like, just a bit off-putting. Sweeter orange and doughy flavors round out the profile. Fresh and juicy and pretty good despite that onion flavor persevering in the background.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

By The Glass Show: Hollywood Organic Brewing Company

Brett and Jorge
Last night the guys from Hollywood Organic Brewing Company stopped into the By The Glass Show Studio for a chat and a drink or two. General Manager Johnny Quinones brought along new Brew Master Sergei, Sales Rep Christian and a few liters of their Organic Pilsner and Organic Dubbel. The Brewpub is located right on the Hollywood Broadwalk next to the beach (at the end of Polk Street). You can enjoy their current four beers there and now around town as well since they recently signed with Gold Coast to distribute their beers in South Florida.

Why organic? The Russian owners of the brewpub live healthy lifestyles and believe that is the way to deliver the best product. Johnny Q and Sergei also said it's the reason you will never get a hangover from their beers. That theory was hard to test last night since we also polished off a bottle of whiskey, but we'll try it out another time for sure. Besides their beers, a variety of foods is served including schnitzel, pizza, sausages, borscht and others I didn't know how to spell.

Sergei and Johnny Q
The Brewpub has been open for a few years now, and Johnny Q said that the one year goal is to have a production brewery in addition to the brewpub, an expansion that will allow them to brew more volume and more varieties of beer. And they are definitely looking to have that facility in Broward County. After a quick metric to American measurement conversion, Sergei, who is from the Ukraine, told us that they currently brew 2000 gallons per month. (Yes, I wanted to try that "Ukraine is Weak!" line from Seinfeld all night, but the timing just didn't work out.)

I don't know how, but I somehow let 15 minutes go by before insisting we try the first of the two beers they brought. The cleverly named Organic Pilsner was first. And it was awesome! Great toasted flavor and perfect sweetness. Rich, great body and just enough hoppy balance. Everyone loved it. We then tried their Organic Dubbel which Johnny Q said is their #1 seller. Very fruity, lots of orange. Caramel and sugar with just a touch of coriander and spice, not too sweet. Another great beer. Loved them!

Next time you're in town, go check these guys out. I heard that there's enough people watching available that you could just sit on their patio all day. And should you drink a little too much, take care not to start talking to the mural on their wall. It looks real but is just a painting!

Organic Pilsner

Organic Dubbel

It's a requirement for at least one person in a brewery to have a mega beard!

Namaste! Because I'm so hip!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Innis & Gunn Scottish Porter

I've enjoyed a few other Innis & Gunn beers over the past year, so I decided to give their Scottish Porter a whirl when I saw it on the shelf the other day. This is a 39-day oak-aged porter with molasses added. The brewery positions adding molasses (treacle) as historically inspired, since that's what brewers did in Scotland 100 years ago to add flavor to their beers. Clear glass 330 mL bottle, as usual.

Decided my new Wynwood Brewing snifter was perfect, first beer review with it! All day sweet molasses aroma with hints of oak and light cocoa. Chocolate in the beginning is met with some smokey, even ashy flavors immediately. The molasses infusion shows next, very prominent see-saw between sweet and bitter. You will notice the oak with vanilla nuances as well. Overall, NOT sweet in the slightest. A little thin, too.

The beer really dries out your palate, especially at the finish. The finish also shows some of the 7.4% alcohol. Molasses is definitely a major player in this beer to the point of getting in the way of the experience by the end of the bottle--a little annoying. I'm definitely treacled out!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale

You all know how I feel about Bombers and Pumpkin beers right? Two of my favorite pet topics! I already had my one pumpkin beer of the year back in August, so I thought I was done for the year. But nope, that dude Josh from LostInTheBeerAisle crowned Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale his new favorite, which made me cave in to investigate one more.

Aroma is full of spice with nutmeg dominating. Orange flavors meet sweet bourbon first sip. Vanilla also really pops here. Holy heavy-hand with the baking spices though--obnoxious. The 10.0% alcohol was noticeable with some heat in the chest but very well incorporated in a dangerous way. Bourbon characteristics dominate and the beer is just a bit too sweet.

Now, it's hard to add this beer as an example of why I hate pumpkin beers since there was absolutely zero pumpkin flavor in this beer whatsoever, but since Alltech Lexington Brewing is calling this a pumpkin beer, the massive spice overload is just a reason to hate all day. Since they told me it was brewed with local pumpkins, I'll go out on a limb and say I got one tiny hint of pumpkin as I drank a last sip almost at room temperature, but that doesn't make it a pumpkin beer.

As for LIBA's review, I agree with absolutely everything, except that part about tasting pumpkin. And for those same reasons of LIBA love, I hate this beer entirely. I'm hoping we can still be friends despite our differences. #BanPumpkinBeers

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tenebris: Bourbon Barrel Aged

So the guys at Adroit-Theory (soon-not-to-be-home) Brewery recently sent me three bottles of Tenebris, their English Barleywine from Trifecta 4 in their series. One bottle was the base beer while the other two were aged in Bourbon and Gin barrels. Pretty cool, right? Well, not cool that the regular version popped its cork in the UPS truck, but who hasn't done that? But let me tell you that the box smelled like Heavenly cardboard when opened. Made me excited to check out the two other variations.

I decided on Tenebris Bourbon which is Ghost 015. I happened to receive bottle 21 of 50. Talk about limited edition. They make more limited edition Ferraris than this bottle! Corked and caged. Holy Shit I never had to use so much effort to get a cork out in my life. Cork was like Kryptonite against my pliers! Food pairings on the label, too. Serve 52° - 56°F; ABV 11%; IBU 85; SRM 13.

The story on the side, the one about the medieval crow being the symbol of darkness and chaos and despair, yeah that! These guys say they actually disagree completely and feed off the crow because they refuse death! Tenebris literally means "darkness," and I'm not sure they just mean no sunlight but also include some underworld kind of stuff. Which brings me to the label art. It took a lot of drinking to figure it out, and I'm still not sure I'm right. I think it's a pissed off upside-down crow, very abstract. I finally turned the bottle that way because the Latin phrase Mors Semper Vincit, meaning Death Conquers Everyone, was also upside down. These guys are hard core!

Fabulous aroma! Toffee with bourbon and candied orange rinds and sugar. Flavors follow deliciously. Toffee and butterscotch flavors lead and meet big sweet bourbon. And the bourbon addition was "just right," said the guy that often trashes the obnoxious booziness of bourbon barrel aged beers. Excellent citrusy bitter balance really proves those 85 IBUs do exist, too.

I read 11% alcohol. No way, Jose! The alcohol is noticeable as it accentuates the other flavors and makes the lips a little tingly, but if it's really that high this is one dangerous beer. Creamy, silky texture, rich flavors, great body. I also enjoyed it even more as it got a little warmer. Definitely a favorite from Adroit-Theory.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Backwoods Belgian

It's Halloween! Checking out Lazy Magnolia's Backwoods Belgian, a seasonal golden ale brewed with honeysuckle. The label depicts a quaint illustration of a little boy and his dog, dirt path, wooden fence--very Huck Finn-ish.

Honey and flowers and peaches with just a touch of spice on the nose. Interesting. Honey, sweet peaches and banana flavors all come out right away. Tasty though a bit syrupy, actually more than a bit. Secondary flavors show off some spicy cloves and coriander and bubblegum. You could tell the alcohol was not at a minimum, but when I found 8.51% on the label, I was surprised it was that high. Well disguised.

Good flavors but too thick, sweet and syrupy. Pass.