Friday, February 28, 2014

Domain DuPage French Style Country Ale

Two Brothers Brewing's Domain DuPage French Style Country Ale is on tap today. Well, so to speak, from a bottle. The label depicts an estate home in the country, with a path through the fields leading to its front door. A short paragraph also sets your expectations. 24 IBU. 5.9% alcohol, Best by 05/17/14.

Lemon, yeast and caramel aroma. The more you sniff, the more the caramel comes through. And WOW, you are hit with some big sweet caramel flavors in the beginning. Sweet apples and pears are also prominent at the start. Buttery, toasty. The overall sweetness was really on my mind, but as you near the finish, you are rewarded with just enough bitterness to "clean off the palate." That "expectation story" was perfect in its description. Tasty! Check it out!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Grapefruit Harvest IPA

It's been a while since I grabbed anything new from Abita. I wasn't even sure whether or not I had tried this Grapefruit Harvest IPA before or not. Nope! On the back label, this is described as "a brilliant golden IPA with a subtle zest of grapefruit flavor... made with real Louisiana Ruby-Red grapefruits." 6.0% alcohol.

Pleasant aroma, a little tropical fruit, some grapefruit, hints of pine. Juicy grapefruit flavors come first, not overly bitter. Light pine hoppiness. And there is also a sweet malty backbone, a little floral, a little herbal. NOT really anywhere near an IPA in my opinion, but the flavors are pretty good. Barely leans bitter. Finish is astringent and dry. Carbonation just right.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Big Rod Coconut Ale

Miami Brewing Company started canning their Big Rod Coconut Ale recently so I thought I'd check it out. I tried it during a visit to Schnebly's Winery a while back when they were still working on the recipe. I like Javier Gutierrez's can design: half of the background is dark swirls while the other half incorporates MIAMI into the design very subtly. The back has a little story to set your expectations and leaves you with "For a reel good time, all you need is Big Rod! Vacation in a Beer!" 5.3% alcohol.

Grainy sweet aroma with a good dose of coconut. Sweet, fruity apples and peaches provide a nice start. Also, sweet grain is in the mix. Big Rod immediately dries out the palate. Coconut arrives next, also prominently. There unfortunately is an "off" metallic finish and more dryness at the end of each sip. Smooth, creamy texture. A little thin. So-so overall.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shiner White Wing Belgian White

If your brewery makes it for 104 years, I'll check out your new beers! That's what I am doing today with Shiner White Wing Belgian White. This is a Belgian-Style Wheat Ale brewed with coriander and orange peel. The label depicts a bird perched on a person's index finger. On the rear, the story explains that this beer is "a delightfully odd bird from Shiner." I guess they just mean it's not their typical style. 4.7% alcohol.

Wheat, orange, and faint coriander aroma--very subdued! Sweet orange flavors, nice fruitiness with some honey as well. The texture is excellent, very creamy. Enjoyably spiced with coriander, not overdone at all. There are also some peppery nips that show through and hit the palate. Nice, tangy finish. Good body. Enjoyable and flavorful! Definitely check it out.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Locally Brewed: Portraits of Craft Breweries from America's Heartland

Last year I published an interview with Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim on the Total Wine Blog. In preparation for my interview, I was provided a copy of Tony's book Vodka Distilled from Agate Publishing. Agate contacted me again a few months ago (I'm a slow reader, LOL) when they published the new book Locally Brewed: Portraits of Craft Breweries from America's Heartland by Anna Blessing. Despite being from Florida, I am very interested in the beer scene from the Midwest. Lots of great beers and breweries!

In Locally Brewed, Blessing profiles 20 Midwestern breweries with extensive interviews, pictures (she is also the photographer for the book), brewery label artwork, and inside stories/fun facts one could only obtain by visiting and speaking with the people that run the brewery. In fact, Blessing states that this is a book about the people behind the beer more than a book about beer. Before you are even to the first brewery profile, she suggests a Midwest pilgrimage to explore what the region has to offer firsthand. (P.S. See you in September).

The book is organized chronologically by age of the breweries, starting with August Schell Brewing and finishing with Moody Tongue Brewing. Some of the brewers distribute everywhere, some only locally. Some brands have national recognition, some I never heard of before opening this book. But it's clear that the Midwest has a vibrant brewing culture that supports the "local" mantra that is making such a comeback.

I also LOVE that August Schell is the first craft brewer profiled, perhaps the reason chronological order was the chosen organization? When I saw that, I wasn't sure if Blessing would address the 2012 Brewers Association's "Craft v. Crafty" debacle, or at least to what extent. According to the Brewers Association, Schell isn't a craft brewery (BS in my opinion). Blessing did an excellent job explaining the situation, what transpired, and offering both sides of the debate in an incredibly statesmanlike way (and way better than I edited down this paragraph). "Craft v Crafty" rightfully took a lot of crap, and you can read the full response from Schell's Jace Marti and see the original article there.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria Label Art, page 151, Locally Brewed
Back to the book. Blessing included some unique aspects while profiling these 20 different breweries. Where else are you going to find the musical playlists for the brewers? She concluded that there is an intricate passion between music and brewing beer. (P.S. Stay away from Schell's playlist, LOL). The book also includes the "Get A Pint" section for each brewery, showing what watering holes you can check out when you're in town and want to try a new beer or two from a particular brewery. And for many breweries, label art is a must (I love those breweries.) Blessing shows what 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, Three Floyds and Jolly Pumpkin can do to grab your attention. Finally, I like that the distribution of each brewery is touched upon--sometimes finding out that information is really not that easy.

In the end, several of my favorite brewers were profiled with really fun and interesting stories: Bell's Brewery, Founders Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Some I've tried a beer or two but would like to become better acquainted: Three Floyds, Surly and New Glarus. And maybe I'll make my Minnesota trip last a little longer later this year to see what others I can get to.

I really enjoyed the book, the photographs, the stories and the extras that were unexpected. Grab a copy when you can.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sprung! Beer Festival Ticket Giveaway

Who's going to the Sprung! Beer Festival in Coconut Grove on Saturday, March 8? I'll be the guy having a hard time deciding which beer to try first! I'll probably start with one of the local brewers but will certainly hit every table. In addition to all the beer, there will be bar games, live music and a beer pairing event done by Gold Coast Distributors. And plenty of food too! Oh, and don't forget to stop by the homebrew section to see what the locals can do.

Sprung!'s organizers said I could have a contest here to win a pair of general admission tickets. This contest will end in just a few days so if you lose you'll have time to purchase them anyway. This will be a random drawing contest--I don't want to judge. To enter, leave a comment naming your favorite Florida brewery with a few sentences why you chose it. Deadline is 7 am Eastern on Monday, 2/24/14, at which time I'll pick a winner randomly. One entry per person. Ask if you have questions.

See you in a few weeks! Don't forget to wear your beer shirts as I'll probably be taking photos again.

Sprung! Beer Festival
Peacock Park
Coconut Grove, FL
Saturday, March 8, 2014
3 pm - 7 pm
Tickets Can Be Purchased Here

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Red Brick Beard Envy


The beer label from Red Brick Beard Envy caught my attention a few days ago. If you keep looking at the person on the label, you will see that it's designed to play tricks with your eyes. The person can be right-side-up or upside-down depending on what facial features you are focused on. And each way, this dude has a mega beard! Beard Envy is a barleywine aged in bourbon barrels and is part of Atlanta Brewing Company's Brick Mason Series. 9.3% alcohol.

Sweet maple syrup and brown sugar and toffee and yeah, bourbon, and that's just the aroma. Sweet toffee flavors come first, accompanied by an alcoholic kick. Chewy texture. Sweet brown sugar piles on the sweetness bandwagon. There are some hoppy nips that attempt to balance that but it never happens. Prunes and raisins soaked in bourbon, some oak. Boozy but not hot, just annoying and again, ridiculously sweet. Sorry, I didn't finish this.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Escape Route

Today I'm drinking Samuel Adams' Escape Route, a Kolsch brewed "to help escape those lingering cold days [of winter]." To which I say... LOLOLzzzz, hold on while I make my AC colder, it's freakin' 84°F here today. Enjoy Before May, 2014. 5.0% alcohol.

Muted aroma, but if you stick your nose in deep enough you can smell some grain, spices and a light fruitiness. Soft fruity start, delicate but flavorful. Apples, peaches, pears in concert. Lightly spicy, light cracker, with just a touch of grass. Oh, and that Sammy A signature herbal flavor persists at the finish. Nice creamy texture too. Simple but not unflavorful. Very enjoyable!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Cane and Ebel

Two Brother's Brewing recently started having some of their beers distributed to South Florida. Cane and Ebel is one of them, and though I've tried it and reviewed it before, that was a long time ago. Coincidentally, exactly three years ago was the date I published the first one. If you click the link, you can see a picture of what an old label looks like, and perhaps even a really old one since the bottle that day was 2.5 years past its drink by date. LOL.

This beer is brewed with Rye and Thai Palm Sugar. Considering that and that the brewery owners are named Ebel, that makes this a fantastic beer name (Cain and Abel if you've never opened a Bible). The label hints at what you should expect, including "loads of the wackiest new Hops". 68 IBU. 7.0% alcohol. Best By: 05/20/14-->this time I got a fresh one.

Spicy rye aroma with lots of caramel sweetness. I like it. Spicy rye also opens up the flavors, with some light pine and a nice dose of bitterness. Caramel and herbal flavors do add some balance, along with an interesting sweetness from the palm sugar. Carbonation is good. A little alcohol dryness comes at the finish, and the bitterness cleanses the palate and lasts for a long finish.Very enjoyable!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Goose Island Beer Company Presents Cochon 555 2014 in Miami

Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to attend Cochon 555, a culinary tour which celebrates heritage breed pigs... and eating them. This event was held at The Four Seasons in Miami and was presented by Goose Island Beer Company! Goose Island wanted to show off some of their beers and demonstrate how they stand up well to the rich pork dishes we were about to eat. I was invited by the firm representing the brewery.

I was told to look for "The Goose Nest," which was set up by Goose Island to pair their vintage ales with Hudson Valley Foie Gras. So first thing I did was stop by the brewery's booth and ask them where to look for it. Duh, if I had bothered reading my program, I would have noticed that the event was rolling out the special sessions one by one and that The Goose Nest hadn't started yet. But I was in the right spot.

So my wife and I put back a few glasses of Sofie and Matilda and chatted with the representatives. They said that they'd be recommending Matilda with the rich foie gras, though Sofie was a good match too. It was the first time my wife tried either of those beers, and I'm pleased to report she really enjoyed both. I had warned her unnecessarily in advance about a few of the vintage ales and their sheer tartness. Goose didn't bring any of their wild vintage ales though, which was probably a good idea for this event.

When the food came out, we were given a little presentation and told what each of the items were. The foie gras was delicious with the bread and my personal favorite was the duck salami. So yeah, a duck course at a pig affair!

I left the Goose Island station with a big glass of Sofie and proceeded to check out some of the pork creations. There was also plenty of Bourbon to be had and some great cocktails, too. About halfway around the room, I bumped into a cocktail competition featuring Breckenridge Bourbon. One of the cocktails named Articles of War included the bourbon, Cointreau and Goose Island Matilda. Heck, these guys had a bottle of Matilda in the punch bowl itself!

Miami Ink was there tattooing one of the heritage pigs. There was also a prosciutto station by Prosciutto di Parma that was terrific. In the end, my wife and I ended up voting for the eventual winner, Chef Jose Mendin from Pub Belly. The mini pork sandwich and bacon cookie on a stick were just awesome. I walked out of the hotel stuffed and double-fisting a Manhattan and a glass of Matilda, too. That's the way I like to wrap things up! Great event!

Monday, February 10, 2014


Saw a full aisle of Miller Fortune at the liquor store today and couldn't resist. I know how much you guys appreciate me taking a bullet for the team. Looking at the bottle, I had no idea what this beer was. The label simply says its name is Fortune, with the alcohol content prominently displayed at 6.9%. And of course a lucky spade with the Miller "m" in it. The bottle has an interesting contoured shape as well.

Before I opened it up, I got word that this is supposedly bourbon-barrel aged, which was unexpected. Grainy, toasty and sweet aroma. OMG NO! Sickly sweet grain and diluted bourbon. Along with a light toasted flavor, that's about it. Gag! Terrible! The rough carbonation brings out the worst of it too! Yes, of course I dumped it.

Confucius say your Fortune is... don't drink this crap! Prediction: off the market by the end of May. These guys should really stick to making crappy mass produced lagers and pursue the industry trend of acquiring real craft brewers.

Update 2/23/14: Although I clearly stated that "I got word" and used such strong words as "supposedly" when mentioning bourbon barrels, in addition to basically admitting zero research in the comments, alas I don't want to mislead you guys. This wasn't bourbon-barrel aged, not aged on bourbon-soaked wooden staves, no bourbon flavors added. Here's a story for the curious, though this paragraph from the article basically sums things up:

There has been a minor hitch in the introduction: After an article in Bloomberg Businessweek described Miller Fortune as having “a malty, complex flavor hinting at bourbon,” some follow-up articles portrayed it as bourbon-flavored. In an email to reporters, MillerCoors public relations executives wrote, “Miller Fortune is not bourbon-like or a bourbon-flavored beer.”
Mr. England joked: “If you’re going to plagiarize, do so accurately. Copy, paste.”
To which I respond... Those MillerCoors PR peeps obviously didn't try the beer. It has a classic corny sweet flavor (can you say Bourbon?), though in an ultra-sweet diluted kind of disgusting way. If they prefer another way I described it on Twitter better, then more power to them: "sweet corn with undisguised alcy backbone through it." The end. Don't force yourself to try it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Snapshot Wheat Beer

New Belgium recently released Snapshot Wheat Beer, an American Wheat beer that has lactobacillus added during the brewing process. That was done to add "a smile-inducing flash of tart at the finish," which I thought was interesting enough an idea to check it out. These guys even made a Twitter Hashtag #SnapShotWheat for the beer. I love the label, with the old school camera and disposable flash on it. Enjoy by May '14. 5% alcohol.

Lemony citrus aroma along with coriander and wheat.Wheat flavor and thick texture, very grainy. There is also a nice bright lemon citrus and faint spices underneath the grains. The finish had a bit of that tartness they suggested, and though I'd have liked a little more sourness, it worked well. The tartness brings refreshment and also cuts the initial thicker texture. Good carbonation. Very dry finish. I liked it!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rebel IPA

I grabbed a bottle of Samuel Adams' Rebel IPA a few days ago. This is their newest IPA, their attempt to brew a "West Coast Style" IPA using Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook and Amarillo Hops. I'm not exactly sure who the rebel is or what revolution they are speaking about, but apparently this beer was "Brewed For The Revolution". Enjoy Before June, 2014. 6.5% alcohol.

Bright citrus aroma with some pine and little floral accents. Orange citrus flavors come first, hoppy and fresh. Some pine bitterness is also present. Little spicy nips at the palate work well with the ample carbonation. Biscuity and malty balance along with those signature Sam Adams herbal flavors underneath round out the flavor profile. Refreshing, nice flavors, enjoyable, affordable.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Bitter End Pale Ale

There's a new brewery whose beers are now being distributed here in the past month or so. I decided to grab one of each I saw from Two Brother's Brewing out of Warrenville, Illinois. Though I have tried a few of their beers before when a coworker brought back from business trips, it's been quite a while. I decided The Bitter End Pale Ale was a good place to begin my reacquaintance.

There is a little story on the front label that sets your expectations for this beer. On the back, a little about Two Brother's Brewing's philosophy and what they do--specializing in rare and seldom-brewed beer styles. I'm sure they do that, though none of those rare beers have made it here yet. And Pale Ales are not exactly hard to find. 30 IBU. 5.2% alcohol.

Orange citrus aroma with a bit of doughy scent there as well, not overly strong. Excellent fruity sweetness to start, very tasty. Oranges and tangerines forever. Crackers, dough, pale malt. There is also enough hoppy balance though this beer is not bitter at all. Just enough carbonation. Really smooth and creamy, too.

"At the end of [my] glass, [I was unable to] discover how this pale ale got its name." I was actually left wondering, and without further explanation, I think it's actually a bad name. But it is a good beer, a pale ale on the sweeter side of the style. Check it out!