Monday, March 31, 2014


Looks like the gargoyle may have turned over a new leaf! I'm drinking a "Hop-Bursted Session IPA" called Go To IPA. Stone Brewing tells a little story on the back of the bottle, explaining how they are "embracing [their] hop obsession in a new way" with this beer. They created a session IPA with flavor by using the new hop bursting technique where a ton of hops are added in the final stage of the brewing process. 4.5% alcohol. 65 IBU.

The aroma is magnificent. Tropical bouquet of tangerines, mangoes, pineapples, grapefruits, sweet and spicy and I haven't even taken a sip yet! Fabulous flavors! Citrus forward with lots of lemon and orange zest. Pleasantly bitter though not over the top at all. A sweet orange adds a little balance. Floral, tangy. Crisp on the palate with light prickly wake-up nips. Best part is the aroma, but I sure as hell loved drinking it too. Terrific all around. Check it out!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Game of Thrones Fire and Blood Red Ale

When I left the Game of Thrones Fire and Blood launch party last week, the South Florida Market Manager handed me a bottle of the beer to check out without any pressure. Well, with the wife and kids on their way to Target, that moment just presented itself! Damn it's quiet here! Three different labels were created for this beer, one for each of Daenerys Targaryen's dragons. If the brewery named them in the order they showed the bottles, I have a Drogon Dragon Bottle! Say that three times fast!

The bottle is a corked and caged and tells a little story on the side to set your expectations. "Born of fire, like Daenerys' dragons, this ale's deep, dark-red hue evokes their every blazing breath." (This beer was brewed with ancho chilies). This beer goes on sale tomorrow, Monday March 31, just in time for the start of season 4 of Game of Thrones on HBO on April 6. Serve at 40°F in your Brewery Ommegang Game of Thrones glass. 6.8% alcohol.

Nutty and sweet caramel aroma with spicy peppers. And I love the licorice nuances that peek in and out as you keep smelling the beer. Loads of yeast, first sip, along with some spicy rye. Then the fruity components start showing up one by one. Raisins then cherries with a nice underlying caramel sweetness. That's not to say this wasn't hoppy enough--it surely was balanced by that.

The spiciness was there all along but seems to build after drinking a handful of sips. Spicy cloves, then the spicy peppers really stand tall, earthy even vegetal all the way to the finish. Carbonation is good. Spicy finish, though I am not quite up to fire breathing just yet! Fire and Blood Red Ale is as interesting as my introduction to this TV Series. I mean Daenerys, Drogon, Rhaegal, Viserion, Tyrion, Davos, Jorah, etc? Courts take kids with those names away from their parents these days! Check out the next season and be sure you have a few bottles of the beer along for the party!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brewery Ommegang Launches Game of Thrones Fire and Blood Red Ale at R House in Wynwood

Wynwood twice in two weeks? Yep! Last night I was invited by Ommegang's Market Manager Jessica Suarez to a dinner at R House. The dinner and evening had a theme based on the popular HBO show Game of Thrones, which will begin its fourth season on April 6th. And the brewery created a beer for the occasion, a red ale called Fire and Blood, inspired by the rebirth of character Daenerys Targaryen's three dragons. The beer is packaged in corked and caged wine bottles with labels representing each dragon, too, and will be available for sale on March 31st, just in time to grab a few for the premiere.

Before dinner, a pretty good-sized crowd of maybe a few hundred socialized on the back patio area while getting a first taste of the new beer. The night was a beautiful 70 degrees. Brown Distributing was well represented in the group, and I recognized Adam Fine and Ian Salzberg right away talking to the guests. After that warm up, we sat down for a four-course dinner paired with Ommegang's lineup of beers.

The restaurant was beautiful inside. Great layout, spacious, comfortable, decorated with very cool artwork by Dietmar Brixy that was actually for sale. The bar was long and inviting, and of course there were many taps that were taken over by Ommegang for the event. The menu was laid out in front of each guest, and though I already knew what we were having, seeing it presented there again upped my anticipation.

I sat at a table with host Jessica, though I was directly next to South Florida Sales Representative John Oteri and across from superstar writer for Broward/Palm Beach New Times Doug Fairall! We had a really nice group of people at our table, especially the part about being Eagles and Phillies fans pretty much all around!

John provided some insight about the Fire and Blood beer as well as the Ommegang beers in general. Not being an avid follower of the show (yet), my natural first question was about how the brewery got involved with this project in the first place. John said the initial conversations were a bit serendipitous, but when HBO and Ommegang started to discuss doing something interesting to promote both brands, it started making more and more sense. Two New York companies, two premium brands that meshed very well together, and a willingness to be creative from two different and fun perspectives.

That was three beers ago! Game of Thrones already has a blonde ale and black stout brewed after specific themes in the series. Fire and Blood is a bit more complex than the first two. Between the rye, ancho chilies, licorice root and star anise, there's a lot going on in this beer. From my first taste, I liked how the sweet malty base played with the spicy chili, rye and hoppy character. Jessica made sure I had a bottle to ponder in more depth as I left for the evening, too.

Now let me tell you about this dinner! Forest Mushroom Soup with Ommegang Witte. Brazilian Seafood Moqueca with Hennepin. Braised Lamb Shank with Israeli couscous, arugula pesto, roasted baby carrots, port reduction with Rare Vos. Chocolate cake with Three Philosophers Quadrupel. I cleaned up every dish and every beer and tussled with the servers for a little more beer! Though the entire meal was fabulous, highlights for me included the Lamb Shank and of course all-time favorite Three Philosophers! Unbelievably, dinner was spaced over more than two hours, but we were all enjoying ourselves so much, the night flew by.

By the next Game of Thrones inspired beer launch, I am now resolving to do my best to be caught up with the series. Until then, grab yourself a bottle of Fire and Blood and kick back to enjoy season 4 on April 6th. Thank you for a very nice evening of great food and beer and conversation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Crimson Crossing -- Sam Sly Guest Post

I was gifted a bottle of Blue Moon Crimson Crossing. Ale brewed with the juice of merlot grapes. This beer clearly is a homage to red wine, and since wine is best taken with food, I decided to make myself a nice dinner to go with the beverage. I'm pairing impaired, and I did absolutely no research on what to pair red wine with. Instead, I assumed I heard it goes with salmon because that was all I had in my house along with asparagus. On top of preparing a world class meal, I wanted to use a proper glass that spoke of its apparent elegance of the wine, but also the underlying blue collar ruggedness of the beer. I settled on one of my all-time favorites, a mug I call "The Punisher"

I decided to see if it was a twist off. Determined it wasn’t after shredding my finger. It poured ruby red, with medium to low head retention and barely any lacing. Abv was 9.5% and the label description read “Wheat ale brewed with the juice of merlot grapes.” My interpretation of the taste was, how do I put this? Familiar, yet different with a slight hint of feet. I didn’t want to call it a wine, and I sure as hell didn’t want to call it a beer. All I could think about while drinking this "beverage" was Paul Giamati in "Sideways" - I ain't drinkin no fucken Merlot. Terrible grammar aside, this beer is a lot like that movie: appealing to a very specific demographic and I kind of regretted getting involved with it about halfway into the endeavor.

It was fizzy as all fancy and the body was thin so my first pour was about 1/3 beer to 2/3 foam. Foam tasted fruity and dully tart. I don't know anything about wine, but I've had some reds with real big ass balls. Much was left to be desired in the balls department. The familiar flavor reminded me of the early days of beer drinking when you'd take whatever beer you could get (usually a fizzy yellow lager). This beer had more balls than mass produced beer, but still couldn't escape that shadow to me. I refused to do any additional pairing research, but I could tell the Chinese, farm raised salmon neither enhanced nor degraded the beverage. Maybe brought out the booze a little bit, but I didn't really savor anything since the beer tasted like a tart stale lawnmower beer to begin with.

Halfway into the Punisher, dinner is long gone and my head is swimming harder than Michael Phelps towards a bong and Subway sandwich. I’m not NOT enjoying myself, and I still hadn't had an adverse reaction to a single swig, but then I burped and the weird grape tartness billowed up into the back of my throat. I don't even have the words or capacity to describe it at this point, but it was bad, albeit less noticeable as the glass gets more empty and my head gets swimmier.

The label claimed the flavors of black cherries and raspberries resided inside the bottle like a fruity little genie, all with a smooth finish. I agree with smooth finish but the flavor profile I'm picking up with 1/4 of the punisher left to go is tart toe jam. It's funky. Maybe I got a bad bottle, but I don't really think so. The next morning, I had mild headache not too dissimilar from a night of mixing my alcohol foods groups (e.g. mixing it up with wine and beer). However, that funky feeling passed on quickly and I was back on the wagon in no time, ironically enough, while taking a tour of the Coors facility in Golden, CO.

I'm going to say something that may catch a lot of shit from the craft beer evangelist crowd, but I've always respected Blue Moon products. It’s a division of a macro that kept craft intentions in a way, and managed to succeed in a time when their corporate overlords wanted to shut their department down. That said, this beverage is an experiment I think best left in the lab. The flavors in this beverage just don’t mesh in a positive way. Maybe someone else can do it right and create an amazing experience (I think Dogfish Head made something similar) but for now, it’s a thought that doesn't excite me.

Sam Sly - @beernloathing –

Monday, March 24, 2014

WARSTEINER Premium Verum

It's hard to see the WARSTEINER name up the side of the glass but it is cool!

I was recently sent a bottle of WARSTEINER Premium Verum by the agency representing the brewery in the US. It also came with a very cool glass. WARSTEINER Brewery was founded in 1753 and is still run by the founding Cramer family nine generations later. The materials I was sent show how the brewery focuses on using only the best quality ingredients when making this beer. 4.8% alcohol.

Grain, straw and a touch of honey sweetness in the aroma. Lightly bitter flavors in the beginning, very soft. Excellent texture, quite creamy. Some spicy, grassy flavors come next along with a sweet honey-flavored balance. Good body and depth while crisp and clean at the same time. Very enjoyable.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hop Nosh IPA

Uinta Brewing is a fairly new brewery to South Florida, a few months tops. I heard good things about their Hop Nosh IPA but decided that I would see for myself. The label depicts a few farmers unloading a harvest of oversized hop buds from their farm trailer. Best Before 05/14/14. 7.3% alcohol.

Nice grapefruit and tangerine citrus with a whiff of tropical goodness. Not that powerful though. Soft and creamy on the palate, which was my first impression even over the flavors. Lots of tropical fruit, mainly mango and melon, survive a sea of bitter hops. Bold citrus and pine come through with an alcohol bite toward the finish. Very dry at the end. A lingering hoppy fruitiness lasts a long time on the palate (well, at least until you wash it away with your next sip). Nice beer. Soft and Strong at the same time, in all the right places. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Goose Island Migration Week Miami 2014

Yesterday, at the crack of dawn, a flock of Goose Island Beer Brand Ambassadors hopped a plane and migrated south from chilly Chicago to balmy Miami. They were headed here to kick off Goose Island Migration Week at The Butcher Shop in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood (Oops, forgot to check-in! Not!) Migration Week is a way for the brewery to introduce itself to new markets and celebrate what's to come for the year. This year the brewery will be doing 22 migrations.

I was invited by the brewery AND by Ed Roberts, who was invited by Distributor Eagle Brands, so how could I possibly say no? Right, I couldn't. Ed and I uncharacteristically arrived fashionably late, around 7:05. We met several Goose Island people and Ed introduced me to George and Yamila from the distributor. George was even nice enough to grab me a few quick beers while the waitress got the rest of the 50 beer initial order! We snacked on some terrific cold cuts and cheeses. Oh, and some killer spicy pork rinds!

We initially chatted with Brand Ambassador Russell who told us about what's going on in Chicago. Apparently, 30K square feet isn't enough for a barrel-aging program. Goose Island is working on building out a 135K sq ft space for theirs! The new facility will also include a tasting room with 36 taps and an education center when completed in the next year or two. I then spotted Brand Ambassador Ryan, who I initially met when he was representing the brewery when they sponsored Cochon 555 last month.

The first beer I tried was The Illinois, an Imperial IPA that will eventually be distributed to this market. Ryan explained that this beer would be part of their new Imperial Series which will replace seasonal beers that will no longer be brewed. And I must say this is a fantastic entry! Awesome aroma, delicious citrus and pine, rich, nice bitterness, extremely enjoyable. Ed started with their new 312 Urban Pale Ale since he hadn't tried that either, but quickly gravitated to The Illinois as well.

Next up, Rasselbock, a German-style dark, wheat, rye beer. This beer is part of the brewery's Fulton and Wood series which consists of beers that are brewed by small teams of Goose Island employees for Chicago only (I guess there are a few exceptions). I will say that it was creative and interesting. Big banana and prune and caramel flavors. A little too sweet for me. That's when the waitress passed by and I was apparently the only person so far to order "the other" Bourbon County beer. Yeah, the barleywine! Fabuloso is all I have to say!

Then back to The Illinois. Yeah even at the expense of those two hot chicks Matilda and Sofie! That's when Communications Manager Ana Serafin introduced herself. We talked more about the brewery and what's to come for 2014. We asked more about the Migration Week and other things that the brewery was involved with, things they couldn't do when they were smaller and not part of Anheuser-Busch. Ed then daringly asked if how A-B was treating Goose Island in general. Nothing but thumbs up from a beer-making standpoint.

At that, we said out goodbyes. Apparently, these guys had two more events afterward, starting with The Lokal in Coconut Grove. I decided to share with them the time that Ed and I went there and had beers from the "Super Secret Beer Menu". I'd like to hear what they ordered since we could tell they were intrigued! Ed and I had our own second event too--we walked over to Wynwood Brewing and had a beer. I also took a lot of graffiti pictures along the way (I'll link to the gallery when it's live).

Thanks for a great event!

Goose Island The Illinois Imperial IPA

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hopped on the High Seas

I noticed on my can of Cigar City's Hopped on the High Seas it said "Canned by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa," but said nothing about brewing. Figured I needed to see what was up. The story is that this was actually brewed at Cervezas del Sur Brewery in Ponce, Puerto Rico by Cigar City Brewmaster Wayne Wambles. The beer was then put in a refrigerated shipping container with one hop variety and sent to Tampa for canning. Thus it was dry hopped while on the high seas. I'm drinking batch #4 which was dry hopped with Experimental Hop #529. It is also identified as a Caribbean-Style IPA. 7% alcohol.

Beautiful fruity aroma with tropical mango sweetness and orange citrus. Wow, this is tasty! Bitter grapefruit citrus really packs a wallop of flavor bursting on the taste buds. An underlying tropical fruity sweetness adds some balance and complexity. The finish is long and bitter. Quite refreshing. Terrific beer. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

312 Urban Pale Ale Released on "3-1-2 Day"

Goose Island will be releasing its first pale ale not brewed exclusively for the Chicago market today, "3-1-2 Day." That would be 312 Urban Pale Ale. This was sent to me to try by the brewery. Taking the 312 theme further, Brewmaster Brett Porter will be doing an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit at 3:12 pm Central time. Grab a six pack and check that out. Oh, and here is a preview...

The label has a green color scheme and a skyscraper motif, as this beer was "constructed... on a balanced malt backbone, so the citrus hop aroma and crisp flavor can stand tall." This bottle was bottled in Baldwinsville, NY or Fort Collins, CO on 20FEB14. 5.4% alcohol. 30 IBU.

Lemony citrus aroma, nice but not that strong. Bright lemon citrus flavors start first with a tangy and fairly bitter bite. A faint malty backbone is present but this beer easily leans bitter and is in fact on the bitter end for beers in the style. The finish has a light hoppy cleansing type of character. Crisp and refreshing. I liked it though it's certainly in a competitive powerhouse category. Check it out.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sprung! Beer Festival

#IGotSprung this weekend! Yes, of course I "Sprung Forward" an hour for Daylight Savings time, but that is not what I'm talking about! I'm referring to the annual spring beer festival in Coconut Grove. This event is organized by the same people that put on Grovetoberfest each year.

It was a beautiful South Florida afternoon, perfect temperature, blue skies. And of course there was plenty of beer to sample. Sierra Nevada, Funky Buddha, New Belgium, Lagunitas, Ommegang and many other favorite breweries were there showing off what's new for the season. There were games of beer pong, cornhole and giant Jenga. The cover band played a great mix of songs. And Gold Coast Distributors hosted a special beer pairing event with four local chefs.

I took a lot of pictures, so in addition to the ones here, check out my album on Soul of Miami! I'll see everyone here again next spring, but be sure to check out Grovetoberfest first later this year.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dream Machine IPL

Last week, Magic Hat Brewing sent me two bottles of Dream Machine IPL, an India-Style Pale Lager and their first new year round beer in a decade. The package also included a cool 8 oz "FLOW" glass and one of those cards that plays music when you open it. The card played some psychedelic music which a dude talked about the beer. Trippy. "Turn on the switch in [your] brains that controls the dream center, for the Dream Machine lives within us all... reminding us that nothing in the mind must be what it seems." 5.7% alcohol. 50 IBU.

Dream Machine has a nice bright hoppy citrus aroma. There is an underlying grainy sweetness throughout the flavor profile, but bitter lemon citrus and a tangy finish are more prominent. Makes you think "pilsner" a bit, and a nice crisp one at that. Nice carbonation, good body. Pretty good.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Baba Black Lager

This afternoon I am trying Baba Black Lager "Herded" by Uinta Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, Utah. Certified Organic by the Utah Dept of Agriculture. The label has a sketch of a sheep, which is presumably Baba. Enjoy Before 07/21/14.

Smoky aroma with some burnt malt, chocolate and prunes behind the smoke. Sweet and savory, first sip. Sweet prunes and smoky ham come first, along with some cocoa. Plenty of roasted malt throughout and a bitter, hoppy balance toward the finish. Low-medium body, carbonation just right. Not a complete campfire in your mouth which was fine with me. Rather, this was a tasty and more tame Schwarzbier. Check it out!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Wyld Extra Pale Ale

Uinta Brewing from Salt Lake City started having their beers distributed to South Florida recently. I grabbed a few to check out, starting with their Wyld Extra Pale Ale. This beer is certified organic by the Utah Department of Agriculture as 98.6% of its ingredients are organic. The label has a tiny sketch of a tent on the front and repeats the brewery tagline "Earth, Wind and Beer." Best before 05/31/14.

Sweet grain and orange citrus aroma. Fruity sweet orange flavors in the beginning are met with a mild hoppy, piney bitter balance. A little bland and thin, but certainly an easy refreshing drinker on this 90° February afternoon. Nice lingering fruity aftertaste. Not a whole lot going on, definitely not "Wyld," but I enjoyed the beer and would certainly drink it again.