Friday, May 30, 2014

By The Glass Show: Big Storm Brewing

By The Glass Show continued their Drink Local Series by welcoming Big Storm Brewing to last night's show. We were joined in studio by South Florida Sales Representative Chris, and Owner Bishop was skyped in for most of the show as well. Big Storm is based in Odessa, FL, north of Tampa, and currently distributes its beers to nearly all of the state.

Bishop got his feet wet in a commercial brewery working for Dunedin Brewery before opening Big Storm in June, 2012. The brewery name and all of their beers are inspired by a fact of life living here in Florida... Hurricanes! We got to try three beers in studio while we chatted, starting with Wavemaker Amber Ale. Wavemaker has a delicious aroma of caramel and raisins. Flavors are similar, rich, a little herbal, not too sweet.

Sales Rep Chris (if you couldn't read his shirt)
That's when someone said "great balance" and we got the scoop from Bishop that the Top Commandment at the brewery is "Balance" in all of their beers. As Chris poured the next beer, Palm Bender Pale Ale, Bishop told us a little about the brewery and what is happening with them now. He said that despite a recent expansion, they are already looking for new space and new equipment to grow even more. New property, new canning line, everything. Their beers have been received very well. And I can see why. Palm Bender is a really nice pale ale, a little sweeter than typical but "balanced" and quite flavorful.

Besides a core line of beers, Big Storm has a "one-off" series called their Forecast Series. We heard that the next in the series will likely be a German-style Kolsch this summer followed by a Honey Wheat and Imperial IPA with smoked malt down the road. Bishop said that while they like to be creative, the brewery has limits based on personal preferences. You will never see a sour beer from them, and they all blasted my love of rye beers. Oh well.

That reminds me. I forgot to take my glass.
We finished up the night with Arcus IPA which is brewed with local honey. This was my favorite of the night. You really could taste the honey though none of its sweetness. And though this was a bitter beer, it was tame compared to some in the style. And despite considering myself a hop-head, this was a great beer and didn't need anything else. The judges at a Florida beer competition agreed as well, awarding it a Silver Medal.

Look for Big Storm at festivals like Brew at the Zoo, Sprung! and others. They are putting themselves out there so say hello. And if you ever find yourself in Odessa, you better stop by the brewery and their tap room. We heard it's pretty cool--located in the middle of the brewery, surrounded by brewing equipment, no TVs, live music, intimate and fun!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

UFO Big Squeeze Shandy

Grabbed my Funky Buddha Shandy Glass and poured some of Harpoon Brewery's UFO Big Squeeze Shandy into it this afternoon. (BTW, you know Funky Buddha's One Year Anniversary Party is this Saturday, right?) According to the recipe on the back label, "BEER + GRAPEFRUIT JUICE = UFO BIG SQUEEZE SHANDY"! The description that follows is, "Sweet with a hint of tartness, UFO Big Squeeze is perfect for all your summer adventures." Enjoy by 08/15/14, I think (was rubbing off). 4.5% alcohol.

Holy unfiltered! Looks a little dense and murky. Sharp citrus and grapefruit aroma with a hint of malt in the background. Fruity grapefruit and orange flavors start, definitely tart in the beginning, though not overdone. You will also easily get used to that tartness after a few sips, especially as they are joined by some sugary sweet balance.

Big body and chewy texture, especially for this shandy style of mixed beer. Knocks the refreshment down considerably. Malty sweet finish with some thicker feel left behind on the palate. Big Squeeze is a see-saw between tart and sweet and flavors that were oddly working together. Interesting. Liked but didn't love. Try for yourself!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Madame Rose 2014

I received a package last week from Goose Island Beer's Head Brewmaster, Brett Porter. Actually, the media kit may have just been sent on his behalf, but he did say he welcomes the opportunity to chat about their barrel-aging program or the beer they sent me in particular, Madame Rose Belgian Style Wild Ale. Along with the wine-sized bottle was a really nice glass and some tasting and food pairing notes.

Madame Rose is named after Belgium's first female Brewmaster, Rose Blancquaert-Merckx, hence the choice of her first name on the label (I made that part up). Rose's passion for promoting the Oude-Bruin style of beer with the world while working at Liefmans is the inspiration for this beer. Goose Island suggests pairing Madame Rose with "complex, decadent dishes" such as chicken with chocolate mole sauce or sherry-braised lamb shank or with Bleu-veined cheddar cheeses.

The label is the same as the first time I tried this beer, though that was a 22 oz bottle and 2012 vintage. Looks like it was just about a year ago that I checked that out. Classic eggshell white background with a simple cherry illustration. This is an "ale brewed with [Michigan] cherries and aged [for 18 months] in [Cabernet] wine barrels [before being blended with other barrels]." Bottled on 06MAR14. 6.7% alcohol. 1-800-GOOSE-ME.

Not much head. Perhaps I was too careful with my pour considering the head shown in the media kit photo. Guess I need to pour harder! I decided to go for an elegant picture setting--did I succeed? Leather and cherries with a lightly tart aroma--nice though not particularly strong.

Ooh, mama! Wow, that is tart! Like feel it in the sides of your neck tart! Cherry flavors are spectacular, deep and complex, stand-outs. Their sweetness works perfectly with the vinegary sour base of the beer. Brett funk is present all along the way though not overly pronounced. Madame Rose shows some of the cabernet wine barrel wood and grape character, especially toward the finish.

As some of the vinegary sour and cherry fruit disappears at the end of each sip, some leathery flavors are left behind in a dry aftertaste. Nice body. Prickly carbonation helps bring out the sharp and assertive tart/sour aspects of the beer. Complex and a tasty bud to wake up those taste buds. By the end of "Big 765" you should be mostly used to the tartness, but every sip is still a reminder that Madame Rose is tart to the last drop! Check it out!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sunshine State Pils

Florida Beer Company has a new beer on the market. I first tasted Sunshine State Pils while visiting the Cape Canaveral brewery six weeks ago, but I finally noticed it on my local South Florida shelves this week. You'll probably recall that I already said it was one of my favorites during that visit. However, I wanted to do a full review here.

The label uses the Florida license plate motif to deliver the "Sunshine State" portion of the name while "PILS" comes from the vanity section of the plate. The orange background for the label and the matching stunning orange boxes this beer are delivered in are definitely eye-catching!

Malty cracker aroma, very clean, quite nice. Great flavors. Grassy with some sourdough bread and perfect amount of bitterness. Light fruitiness, orange rind come next. And I love the hoppy spicy flavors that persist. Nice carbonation. Dry finish. Well crafted and very flavorful beer, way beyond just terrific refreshment. Grab a case!

I lifted this from my other post linked above
Also lifted

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Gnomegang Blonde Ale

Gnomegang is a beer brewed by Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY in collaboration with Chouffe in Belgium. The two breweries are celebrating their farming traditions with this beer, both contributing their famous yeasts to the brewing process, Chouffe in the primary fermentation and Ommegang during bottle conditioning. Chouffe products are known for their "Gnome" caricatures on them, and this bottle art is no different. You probably guessed where the beer name came from as well, right? Serve at 40°F / 50°C (brewery confirmed that 50 should be a 5--don't serve at 50°C!). 9.5% alcohol.

Poured into my Ommegang glass, duh. Holy head! Go do five minutes worth of housework, and it'll finally be gone. Spicy and fruity aroma, lots of apples and oranges and tons of yeast too. Fruity rich flavors at the beginning, with a strong dose of alcohol really intensifying them. Apples, apricots, lighter fruits but big flavor.

Spicy cloves follow and meld in with all the fruit and linger nicely at the finish. Belgian yeast qualities and a light funkiness persist throughout. Good body. Great fruity flavor. And seriously dangerous drinkability at 9.5%, even though you can taste and feel it. Recommended for sure!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Canned! Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can

The photos in this book are awesome. This picture does no justice!
I've done a dozen or more book reviews here on, but I was most excited about recently being asked to check out Canned! Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can by Russ Phillips. The author of this book started a website called and it took him all the way from "beer itself is art" to "beer also inspires art." And I am totally a beer art fanatic! My favorites are Ralph Steadman, Tara McPherson, and Marq Spusta, though I have many others I admire. And this is about Craft Beer Can Art and Design, so let's explore this book.

Russ's book starts with a Foreward by Craft Can pioneer Dale Katechis from Oskar Blues Brewery. This is the guy with the balls to get a canning system to use at his own brewery for his own beers, and 300 million cans later... Others had used some of the big (non-craft-big-boy-evil-not-micro-either-corporate-monster) brewers to help them can their beers offsite, but Dale was Dale, and I think the book quotes him as drinking that day in 2002 when the decision was made to do it in-house.

Original Dale's Pale Can Design
This book is so awesome! Let me say it again. This book is so awesome! I look at beer labels and cans practically every day, yet the illustrator and photographer and designer for most of the pieces I've seen are almost completely anonymous. And that, for me, is horseshit! You can't even go online and find this info easily. Yeah, you can find some assholes bashing a beer's color or flavors and giving their opinions but Beer Art Opinions and Facts like The Pour Curator used to give before he opened a meadery are hard to find. That's why this book is so valuable.

After the introduction, Canned! Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can is organized by geographical region and then alphabetically by brewery. I think it's broken down perfectly, with a few dozen beer cans looked at per region. And let me state now that the photography in this book is absolutely spectacular and thorough. You will see 225 pages of large photographs that will shame every iPhone picture you EVER took of beer bottles or cans! Seriously.

"Beer Porn" as they say
And this definitely isn't just a picture book. Russ did some mega-research compiling this Epic. Each can lists the brewer, can artist, style of beer and date the can was released. Beyond figuring out who the artist was, he found stories on why certain colors/patterns/artwork were used when creating particular can designs. He researched, spoke with hundreds of breweries, probably even bothered them a second or third time to get the story right! And this guy still has enough time to respond to tweets!

For me, the fun parts of the book are the stories behind the beer names and corresponding can artwork. Weirdos, professionals, those willing to draw for a few cases of beer? Yep. Russ also did a great job following the progression of several cans. Dale's Pale Ale is a notorious study over its 12 year history. I personally liked seeing a few pages on the Old Chub can progression too, something I had noticed a few years back myself. Name changes, canning location changes, color changes, canning line upgrades. Yeah! I also liked to look back at my own comments to compare notes about particular can artwork that usually involved first impressions only.

It's a great book that shows off the entire country. Looking through the entire book multiple times, in no particular order... I love the art work from Alchemist, Half Acre, Mother Earth, Butternuts, Sixpoint, Sun King, Avery, Revolution and, damn right, Oskar Blues! Oh, and Ralph Steadman, who does the Flying Dog artwork, is in a class of his own!!!

This is a terrific book for beer art enthusiasts and anyone that enjoys some interesting stories that revolve around can art. Must read! Grab yourself a copy today! I look forward to Volume 2.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Old Chub NITRO Scotch Ale

Ed Roberts gave me a pounder can of Oskar Blues' Old Chub NITRO Scotch Ale last night. Was like a drug deal at 9:30 in a store parking lot! Coincidentally, this morning I received a copy of Canned! Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can by Russ Phillips. The foreword to the book was written by Oskar Blues' founder Dale Katechis, and many pages are dedicated to his brewery considering they are a canning pioneer. This tall boy fits in perfectly, so I decided to jump right on it! And look for that book review in the next few days.

The can has a similar color scheme to the non-NITRO version, with black and green background colors prominent. The giant NITRO in gold and bordered in red is the main difference. And again I love how the silver from the natural aluminum is allowed to shine through in several places, including the brewery name and other accent areas. Around the top rim: RARE GIRTH and A VIRTUAL PLANETOID. 8.0% alcohol. Canned on 04/05/2014. The bottom of the can also has "HOW 'BOUT NOW?" stamped on it.

Cool cascading with the pour--my short video sucks so you don't get to see it. The head would not dissipate! Eventually I got to take a whiff. Sweet caramel and light roast, not very strong an aroma. What a luscious texture. Milky, creamy, with lots of caramel, cocoa and rich raisiny flavors. Yet not overly sweet. The alcohol is noticeable and cuts the richness a little. Hints of licorice and vanilla come and go. A light roast lingers in the background. Good body. Low carbonation.

Check it out! Great flavors! "Sweet" Texture!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cigar City Brewmaster Wayne Wambles Hosts Virtual Tasting and Brewery Tour at Total Wine

Wayne Wambles in Cigar City Tasting Room Via Skype
This week is American Craft Beer Week, and Total Wine decided to try something new as their signature event this year! Yep, they arranged to have Cigar City's Brewmaster Wayne Wambles give a virtual tour and host a tasting via Skype. And not just for one store. Every store in Florida with a classroom (15 of 22 stores) had a feed of the presentation. Though I call the Pembroke Pines store my home base, I decided to join Ed Roberts in his Plantation store as he was playing host and running the live Q&A session with Wayne following the brewery tour!

#CigarCityLive as it was called started with an hour-long taped tour of each part of the brewery. In the presentation, Wayne led us to different areas of the brewery, from the tasting room to the brewhouses to the laboratory. In each place, we stopped to sample a different Cigar City beer. Also during the video, each (mostly sold out) Total Wine classroom was encouraged during this hour to submit questions for Wayne to answer afterward.

We started with Jai Alai IPA and worked our way through Maduro Brown Ale, Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale, Hotter Than Helles Lager and Invasion Pale Ale. Along the trip, Wayne told some history of the brewery, described some of his beers, and even got into some super technical lab details. It was an interesting way to see every part of the brewery.

Ed Roberts gives the Tour Agenda
Wayne talked about hand filling, bottling and capping every bottle in the earliest days of packaging their first beers. He recalled Big Sound Scotch Ale in 2009 as the first and a "body covered in bruises" following those days. We heard about each new piece of purchased equipment that helped the brewery grow and become more efficient. And we saw a new bottling line they just installed.

The Question and Answer period took place over a sample of Invasion Pale Ale. We learned that Wayne became a homebrewer in the early 1990s simply because there were no good beers on the shelf in his small town in Alabama. After only a few years, he was already brewmaster of a small brewpub, with pale ales and IPAs his go-to style. Asked for particular inspirations, he mentioned Sierra Nevada, Harpoon IPA and Sun Valley IPA specifically.

That led to a question about producing more beer in their Humidor Series. Wayne explained that obtaining the Cedar wood they use is getting harder and harder, though they are trying. Other questions ranged from why they chose to can over bottle to how we craft beer drinkers can get involved with the recent legislative issues that took place in Florida. Wayne said, "Vote, and don't vote for people that vote against craft beer!" I'll have to find a list of those people online.

After the Q&A ended with Wayne, Ed introduced two more beers brewed by Cigar City. We tried Rollin Dirty Irish Red Ale and Are Wheat There Yet, two beers contracted for Brew Bus, a company that takes groups from brewery to brewery and serves beers along the way too! Our final bonus beer varied from store to store, but the Plantation store got to try Jurata (Yoo-rah-tuh), a Baltic Porter brewed in collaboration with Coronado Brewing in San Diego (the beer was brewed at Coronado). It was a great choice to finish off the night, as Wayne told us that they try to do collaborations frequently and it's "one of [his] favorite things to do."

The event was a hit! Well organized, informative, and of course it didn't hurt that we were drinking beer from one of the most popular breweries in the country. One day I'll make it to Tampa, but as local Cigar City representative Phil Palmisano teased from his chair in the Boynton Beach store, "This is your dream tour, you don't have to leave your county!" Well played! I look forward to the next virtual event. Whoever thought of this idea deserves a raise!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Wake Up Dead Nitro Russian Imperial Stout

Couldn't pass up trying Left Hand Brewing's Wake Up Dead Nitro Russian Imperial Stout. Step 1: Pour Hard. Step 2: Admire & Enjoy. OK I think I can handle that. It's funny that they suggested and pictured a "pub glass" for serving as I just grabbed almost the identical glass due to its volume possibilities. Serve 40-45°F. Best By 09/17/14. 10.2% alcohol.

The cascading pour was awesome as expected. I really should have turned on the video abilities of this stupid phone! Sweet milk chocolate aroma with a little roast and vanilla, delicious and lovely. Exceptionally creamy texture. Milk chocolate and coffee flavors dominate the entire beer, though hints of licorice and vanilla pop in and out.

The alcohol does have some teeth, though not hot and entirely welcome with such a rich beer. Coats the mouth and palate entirely. Slightly too sweet but some hops and the alcohol do mostly tame that aspect. "Dreamy" and thoroughly enjoyable!

Friday, May 9, 2014


Yesterday, a Coleman cooler was hand-delivered to my house! Inside was a sixer of Desperados chilling on ice with a bottle opener just begging to be used! Alas, It was 11:25 am and my boss frowns upon day drinking, mostly. So yeah, Heineken went out of their way to hire a great communications firm to help them launch this "Latin-Inspired European Import Beer" in the US.

Desperados is a beer with tequila barrel-aged lager and natural flavors added into it, "brewed at the crossroads of beer and spirits techniques." For the record, every notable craft brewer has a barrel aged beer, though tequila isn't usually the spirit, so maybe this is the Holy Grail. It's brewed by Brassée Gebrouwen in Holland and packaged in 330 mL clear glass bottles. The label is just a flashy sticker, all name and no art, but the actual bottle has DESPERADOS stamped into the glass, which I do find very cool. Alcohol 6%66 Countries this beer is already in.

"How about the product, Beer Drinker? I want some of those 'Memorable Nights Out' when I try this new 'Spirited Beer.'" My guess is that Heineken thinks that the Becks Sapphire and Bud Light Platinum and Miller Fortune beers of the world are stealing what their press release says could be "55% of [Desperados] consumption from outside beer."

I drank a bottle last night and another today, so consider this a comprehensive double-look. The aroma isn't very strong, though there is some apple and lemon, grain, with some light skunkiness. Brown bottles or cans next time?

Fruity flavors to start, apples and plenty of citrus. My wife said it smelled and tasted like an apple soda. For me, the lemon was fairly harsh and seemed to be what the brewery decided to add to make you think perhaps this tasted like a Margarita with the tequila flavor they were hoping came from those barrels. That flavor had an ugly cleansing property to it and produced a "stick-out-the-tongue-I-don't-like-this-look". Not sure that I tasted any tequila either.

Desperados is mostly strange, a little off in many ways. Not refreshing, some unpleasant and even skunky flavors, weird combinations. The beer is not horrible but probably needs a mascot, a helluva commercial campaign, and some super hot, almost naked chicks to sell it. I know Heineken has all of those and can pull this off, though I'd recommend they put them behind a better brew. Sorry, but I guess I am not a "young consumer who is spontaneous, adventurous or whose drink choices reflect who I am." I actually DO NOT prefer Heineken to this though! Give me their Bohemia from Mexico instead!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lasso India Pale Ale

Another beer with "sessionable simplicity" for today... Yep, Lasso India Pale Ale brewed by Great Divide Brewing Company. There's a little story that is all "Wild West" on the side of the label, and you can also see what food they suggest you pair with the beer. "Lively. Daring." Bottled 03 2014. 5.0% alcohol.

Fruity, faint citrus aroma, pretty hard to smell much of anything. Lots of cracker flavor followed by a sour bitterness. Kind of strange herbal and paper taste throughout. Lemony citrus and some faint orange sweetness round out the profile. Dry, astringent finish that I didn't love at all. So-so all around. Pick another beer.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Brooklyn Blast! Ale

I first tasted Brooklyn Blast! Ale at the Sprung! Festival a few months back. Of course beer festivals are not a time of deep thought, and I'm pretty sure there were a few dozen other beers that I tried before Blast! So I grabbed a bottle to check out today. The label states, "So in the rambunctious IPA we call BLAST! we use earthy English hops to build the foundation and bright citrusy American hops to bring the noise." 8.4% alcohol.

Orange citrus and marmalade, honey and light pine aroma--pretty interesting. Sweet, very malty and extremely herbal flavors at the beginning. Huge tea flavors pair up with lots of juicy fruits and citrus. The sweetness is met by a good dose of spicy, piney hoppiness, though not really ever that bitter. Carbonation is prickly, body is medium or better. And the alcohol is noticeable, especially at the finish, an attribute I didn't love. Good flavors, though I felt they competed with more than they complemented one another to make one harmonious beer.

Friday, May 2, 2014

By The Glass Show: Samuel Adams LongShot Winner Russ Brunner

Last night I got the call. Yep, the call to join the gang on By The Glass Show! In this episode, we were joined in studio by 2013 Samuel Adams Longshot winner Russ Brunner. This is the competition where finalists are flown to the Great American Beer Festival to find their fate, and the winners are then given the opportunity to brew the beer with Boston Beer. Oh, and they get their portrait on the label!

Russ is only in his fourth year of brewing, but explained that when he gets involved with a project, it's jumping in wholeheartedly and seeing how far he can take it. Formerly a Miller Lite guy, a glass of St. Bernardus Abt 12 at Brother Tuckers was the motivating force behind his new home brewing passion. Those Belgians!

Before tasting his American Stout winning beer, we were able to sample five other beers Russ brewed in his Tamarac "brewery". Brett just passed the written portion of the Cicerone exam so he was on fire with the knowledge and stories behind all the styles of beer we tried. 80 Schilling Scotch Ale, Chocolate Bourbon Mild, Porter, IPA and Belgian Strong Dark. Russ admitted he could probably use some help in the beer-naming department. Sounds like an internship opportunity to me!

Russ's beers were all terrific--clean, clear, great flavors and textures, totally professional. He explained that the key to his success is tracking ingredients, knowing the process, and keeping the yeast as happy as possible throughout the brewing of each beer. Jennifer Glanville, Director of Brewery Programs with Boston Beer Company, called in from a Bruins game to chat with us. She noted that when Russ turned in his recipe to the brewery, they had no questions. Everything was perfectly documented.

In addition to Russ's homebrews, we also tried fellow LongShot winner Teresa Bury's Pineapple IPA and the production version of his winning American Stout. My favorite beer of the evening though was his 7.5% IPA brewed with Citra and Amarillo hops. Very fruity, lots of tropical mango in the nose and flavors, grapefruit, hoppy but not bitter, absolutely delicious. I made sure that there was none left in the growler before he left!

So what's next for Russ? Besides brewing a variety of beers including a few fruit beers that turned out "pretty spectacular," he's trying to figure out how to turn this into a full time profession right now. The feedback from tastings has been very positive. He's just trying to find the right fit, though he did mention something about a seven barrel tasting pub. Hmmm. You can see where Russ will be having tastings and basically keep in touch with what he's doing over on his Brunner Brewing Facebook page. We'll be watching!

Snoop Lion stopped by for the after party!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Ogden

Goose Island's newest beer in their Imperial Series arrived today with a history lesson. The Ogden, a Belgian-Style Tripel, was named after Chicago's first mayor, William B. Ogden. Besides being the first mayor, Mayor Ogden opened Chicago's first brewery and was involved with the channel cut that created Goose Island, from where the brewery takes its name. This is the second of three beers in this series after The Illinois Imperial IPA and is available nationally May 5, 2014.

The label is simply designed around a radiating geometric pattern. There are a few cues on what you should expect as well: "We dry hopped our Belgian Style Tripel to balance spicy, tropical American hop flavors with a unique Belgian yeast, giving it a bold, more complex palate." Brewed with Citra, Brewers Gold and Saaz hops and Dry Hopped with Brewers Gold and Citra hops. Bottled on: 1APR2014. 9% alcohol. 35 IBU.

Nice fruity aroma, peaches, a little tropical with some underlying Belgian yeast. This is great! Very juicy and fruity flavors in the beginning, peaches and pineapples. Honey and candi sugar flavors follow. Hoppy, spicy, peppery relief comes in to tame those sweeter flavors.

The Belgian yeast is noticeable and welcome. Good body, complex flavor profile, great balance. A little alcohol warmth comes at the finish, and you are left with a pleasant lingering fruity aftertaste. Loved it! I'd drink another now (if I had another and if I weren't coaching little league in a few hours)! Check this out!