Thursday, December 31, 2015

Defender IPA

Today I'm checking out Defender IPA brewed by Brooklyn Brewery. This is the official beer of New York Comic Con, so the brewery created a superhero to "guard against the creeping blandness" lurking in the shadows of the beer world: The Defender!

The label shows your superhero wearing expensive unlaced high tops and a cape racing toward imminent danger! I guess he saw some dude crack open a bottle of Heineken or something offensive like that! He's totally pissed though. 6.7 % alcohol. Best Before date printed on bottle (I searched high and low, pretty much like a superhero, but there were no printed dates on my bottle.)

Very juicy aroma, tropical and full of pineapples. Delicious. Juicy and tropical flavors as well, but pineapple shares with oranges and mangoes in the flavor profile. Caramel, bread and quite a bit of herbal flavors are also prevalent.

A bitter balance of citrus, pine and some grassy, peppery spiciness does show. A little different, interesting, not a "cookie-cutter" IPA. Not bad. I feel defended!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Death By Coconut Irish Porter

After selling out its first delivery, my local liquor store got another shipment of Oskar Blues' Death By Coconut Irish Porter. Despite its $15 4-pack and $5 single price tag, the same as the fabulous Ten Fidy and Gubna, I grabbed a can expecting to be wowed, even "killed" by this beer!

Around the brim of the can. PASS.DASH. HIT... COCONUT CHOCOLATE CHOCONUT. 6.5% alcohol.

Beautiful sweet chocolaty aroma, though I don't find much coconut there. But... coconut flavors are delivered in a huge way, first sip, first impression. An excellent sweet milk chocolate complement comes next, and those two run the show for the entire experience.

Light roast, perhaps a hint of coffee and a good hoppy balance at the finish round things out. Pretty delicious though I was expecting a more complex beer, something more. As good as it was, I don't put it on the same tier as the other two I mentioned above. If this were priced as a value beer like other OB beers, for example Dale's and Mama's Little Yella Pils, I'd drink it all day. That being said, grab a can and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I recently tried Alpine Beer's Hoppy Birthday and after thoroughly enjoying that, grabbed a bottle of their Nelson. Nelson is Hoppy Birthday's less creatively named brother, named after the New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hop used while brewing it. The label shows a rocky ocean and coastal scene which I'm guessing is New Zealand. This is a Golden Rye IPA, so in addition to the cool hops, Alpine added in some rye to give the beer that "something special." 7% alcohol. Best By 12 MAR 16.

Beautiful fruity aroma, full of both tropical and grapefruit. Tropical fruity mango and pineapple flavors come first, but a hella spicy peppery, piney answer comes quickly. Lots of grapefruit and citrus, great bitterness. At first I would say this beer is a bitter monster, not balanced in the best of ways. I mean, who doesn't want their IPAs to be dripping in dank hoppy bitterness?

But honestly, after letting Nelson hang around on the counter for a while, that bitterness mellowed and the beer glowed with many more fruity nuances in the most awesome way. A nice lingering fruity sweet flavor started hanging around after every sip. So... hop lovers... drink a little right out of the fridge to get your hop bitter fix, but let the rest of the bottle sit on the counter for 15 minutes before finishing some spectacular flavors!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Yard Sale Winter Lager

Unita Brewing's Yard Sale Winter Lager caught my attention from the liquor store shelf yesterday. My family when I was growing up used to do some annual ski trips in upstate New York and Vermont, and having a "Yard Sale" was the ultimate faux pas to avoid, some leading to years of storytelling.

The art matching the beer's name was the clincher for me to make a purchase! This particular yard sale included a ski, goggles, ski cap, poles and even a glove. How embarrassing it must have been to collect himself and make that walk back up the slope for all that gear! While I loved the art concept, the execution left a lot to be desired. So crude, so much potential. 4% alcohol. 22 IBU

Malty aroma, pretty weak, perhaps a light spiciness as well. Caramel sweetness with some toast flavors comes first. Nothing really wow or memorable, muted like the aroma. Again, a little spicy. Decent bitter balance and finish. Very simple and pretty decent though I am certainly not in love! Clean and refreshing enough for this 85°F Miami Winter Day!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Green Man ESB

After thoroughly enjoying Green Man Brewing's Porter a few weeks back, I decided to check out their ESB this afternoon. I do like the "Green Man" sketch on each bottle. A little story on the back sets your expectations for this "exceptional interpretation of a traditional English style." 5.5% alcohol. 32 IBU.

Caramel aroma with some herbal and hoppy pops. Flavors the same, leading with caramel and herbal maltiness. Coffee grounds, tea. Sweet and bitter, interesting. Decent body. And a smoky finish? Pretty fun all around with many unexpected nuances!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Stupid Stout 2015

Today I'm checking out a bomber of Coronado Brewing's Stupid Stout 2015, a member of their Crown Series. Speaking of "Crowns," anyone catch the Miss Universe fuck up by Steve Harvey? I was watching it with my Colombian wife (who had already picked Miss Philippines from the top 10). That was a shitty situation, but Miss Colombia was graceful in the end. Both are invited over for beers anytime!!!

Front label features the brewery mermaid logo; a little story on the back sets your expectations; and to the side, CA PROP 65 WARNING, so you know cadmium was used while decorating the bottle. Not sure why an alternate method isn't used - would be better than a warning about birth defects on your beer. 9.0% alcohol.

Rich milk chocolate aroma with hints of coffee. Very inviting. The flavors are not sweet in the slightest, however. A noticeable hoppy streak hits right from the start.

Cocoa power and coffee flavors come first followed by some pruney sweetness in the background. After drinking a few sips, some roasted flavors start to build, finishing in a smokey charred lingering aftertaste. At first the roast was fine, but by the end of my glass I found it to be a bit sharp and harsh. Maybe those are the "big flavors" you might expect to mellow if you choose to age the bottle.

Lots of interesting flavors and nuances. I'd have definitely preferred a little more of the milk chocolaty flavor and sweetness found in the aroma. Not bad.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hoppy Birthday

A few months ago I had the opportunity to chat with Green Flash's Dave Adams and Luis Carrizo over an awesome beer dinner at The Tipsy Boar. Part of our conversation hit on San Diego's Alpine Beer Company. Green Flash had already been contract brewing their beers but at that time recently acquired the brewery. Luis told me to expect some Alpine beers to show up end of 2015, and I saw three of them for the first time yesterday.

I decided to start with Hoppy Birthday, their 5.25% alcohol Session India Pale Ale. You can see the Green Flash influence right from the start, with the Green Flash imprint on the bomber bottle. The artwork on the label could probably use a round of updates, but I LOVE the concept! Big round birthday cake completely covered with hop cones. Oh, and one lit candle.

The story and phrases on the label are pretty awesome as well. First, the brewery calls this "The Most Celebrated Beer in the World," maybe a little ballsy, but I like it! The story goes on to explain that everyone has a birthday, sets your expectations for this beer, then suggests you either "Drink Alpine Ale or GO TO BED!" I decided to drink my bottle on and in celebration of Jesus Christ's birthday! Remember? He has a birthday too? Best By 18MAR16

Fruity, lightly tropical aroma with some nice sweetness. Likewise, fruity flavors start with orange, tangerine, light mango. Also light on the sweetness once you start drinking. Rather, a pretty substantial pine and citrus bitterness with some definite hoppy dankness! A palate tingler and cleanser for sure.

I definitely though this was going to be sweeter and more balanced, especially with the "session" label. And while there was enough fruity, malty sweetness in the background (and more as the beer warmed up a bit), Hoppy Birthday was pretty damn bitter! And I loved that! My kind of session IPA too. Check it out!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Walls South American Red Ale

Concrete Beach Brewery recently held a party to launch their newest canned beer: Walls South American Red Ale. I tasted the beer at the brewery not that long ago (my wife reminded me it was on Nitro that night), but since I didn't make that canning release party, I grabbed a pounder today from the liquor store shelf. The "South American" part of the name is due to the fact that the brewery uses malts obtained from Chile. 4.9% alcohol. 10 IBU.

Caramel aroma, light spice. Sweet caramel and toffee flavors start, but a citrusy orange hoppy balance complements that. A bit spicy, good body, toffee lingers at the finish. On the "a little too sweet" side, but tasty and full of flavor. Check it out.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Russian Stout

Saw a bomber of Funky Buddha's Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Russian Stout yesterday, first large format bottle from them that I've seen. This beer is part of the brewery's Little Buddha Small Batch Series, but as the bottle explains, the flavors are just so big that they require a bigger bottle!

The label shows a bear with a Russian military style hat on, standing on hind legs and roaring angrily. Comparing the artwork to all the other bottles and labels from the brewery that I've seen and have on a shelf in my office, this is easily the weakest. For a specialty series and having a bigger label to work with, I don't think they took any time whatsoever putting this together. Check out the photo below and I dare you to disagree!

There is a story called "An Unbreakable Union of Flavor" which sets your expectations... "...big, bold and strong, like a bear-hugging Russian wrestler." "You'll roar with pleasure." 9.5% alcohol. 45 IBU.

Rich chocolate and milky sweet aroma. Big chocolate and cocoa powder flavors come first followed by a huge coffee infusion. Roasty, but not harsh. Sweet, but balanced.

More coffee, hints of vanilla and brown sugar. Creamy and silky smooth, just luscious texture. Starts sweet but the hoppy balance is just right. Alcohol is dangerously hidden. Flavors are excellent and this is very much a treat! I finished the bottle almost warm like 90 minutes after opening it and "Roared with Pleasure!" My wife was like WTF but whatever! Check it out!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Anchor Barrel Ale

Anchor Brewing recently released its third beer in their Anchor Argonaut Collection: Anchor Barrel Ale. The series was developed to push the creativity of Anchor's brewers while creating limited-edition beers that were a little different than their standard offerings. Anchor Barrel Ale is a blend of Anchor's ales which is then aged in Anchor’s own Old Potrero Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey barrels and on their charred staves. The result is a tribute to pioneer brewer Fritz Maytag!

The label depicts a whiskey barrel being filled with beer. A little story around the neck of the bottle talks about Fritz's pioneering ways and his ability to foresee a future full of craft breweries. 7.5% alcohol.

Caramel and cola aroma with whiskey hints too. Caramel flavors come first and spicy rye is all over it. Damn there is a lot going on in this beer! Citrus, cinnamon, licorice hints. Black bread, toast, char, hints of smoke. Super interesting and the tons of nuances will keep you thinking for the entire beer.

Dry at the finish with the spiciness and whiskey flavors really showing through, lightly boozy even. But it is very smooth and certainly grows on you! Check it out!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Visit to MIA Brewing

After taking part in a focus group about craft beer in Doral a few days ago, I decided to check out MIA Brewing, just a few short blocks away. It took me roughly 30 minutes to navigate the shit-show traffic that is Miami, but arrived before a mental breakdown.

The wall behind the bar showed off an extensive chalk board of draft options, with MIA Brewing's beers on the left and guest beers to the right. We stuck with MIA's beers since I hadn't tried any of them before. I must say that the beer names were all very creative and perfect for Miami! My wife and I ordered a flight and some spicy nachos to snack on.

Flight One: Tourist Trappe Tripel, Caramel Chameleon Old Ale, Warhead Triple IPA, Rye Tortugas Red Ale

Flight Two: Freestyle #5 Pale Ale, Vitamin Si Hefeweizen, Tartis Sour, White Sangria

I probably should have known that there were at least two flights in our future when we got there and reversed the way we tried them. But whatever! From Flight One, my favorite was the Rye Tortugas Red IPA with Warhead Triple IPA Runner-Up. That Rye Tortugas was a hoppy, spicy, fruity IPA with tons of flavor!

From Flight Two, Freestyle #5 Pale Ale was awesome, very hop forward, fruity, just delicious. I ordered two pints after our samplers. I also liked the Vitamin Si with tons of orange flavor and a wheaty zing. One thing I didn't like was that I thought "White Sangria" was just another cool name for a MIA beer. Nope, it was Sangria! I didn't enjoy or drink that.

Tuesday was trivia night - I didn't play along but seriously, no one could answer those Star Wars questions! As I was tweeting some pictures and comments, an online acquaintance of mine mentioned that one of his friends left Chicago to brew beer at MIA. So I asked if "Mike D" was available. I heard "Crazy Ukranian" and "Great to work with" from the staff and a home brewer seated next to me. But Mike D was not in the house! So that was another twist to the evening.

Nice space. Nice people. Good beers with lots of their own and rotating guest selections. Jesus, get out of that traffic at 5:30 after work and stop by MIA for a brew! Responsibly, of course!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dogfish Head Seasonal Artist Rich Kelly Signed Label Contest

In 2015, Dogfish Head Seasonal Artist Rich Kelly was the second artist to have his work portrayed on the actual bottle labels. Of course you remember the awesome work from last year's artist Jermaine Rogers! Prior artists like Marq Spusta and Tara McPherson also created awesome seasonal prints - their work, however, was not displayed on those corresponding labels, though they did do other labels for Dogfish Head. FORT is actually out in 4-packs right now (with Tara McPherson's label.)

So. Who's ready for another contest? For simply answering a choice of a few open-ended questions, you have a shot at a set of all four of Rich Kelly's signed 2015 labels. I'm pretty sure there is no other way to grab such a cool and unique item! Heck, give it as a gift if beer art isn't your thing.

In addition to his work for Dogfish Head, Rich has done numerous posters for bands and movies such as Phish, Dave Matthews Band, The Black Keys and Django Unchained. Be sure to check out his site, and at least for now all of the prints for this year are still available for purchase.


Answer (at least) 3 of the 5 questions below before midnight next Sunday 12/20/15 (whatever time zone you're in is fine). The following day I will pick some winners - the prize is a set of each signed label. There will be at least a handful of winners assuming there are that many that took the time to leave thoughtful answers. Be creative and fun!

Don't copy other answers that come before you, especially since these are mostly opinions. Do leave a way to get in touch with you should you win (I'm not The Amazing Kreskin). If you can't answer in the comments for some reason, email your answers to But keep in mind that I will cut and paste them into the comments, so your email will not be anonymous. If there are any issues, I'll make up some new rules along the way. That's how I roll.

READ THE QUESTIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS! Don't answer what you think should have been asked. Remember, thoughtful, creative answers.

1. Of the four Rich Kelly seasonal labels, which is your favorite and why?

2. If you've had the opportunity to try Dogfish Head's beers, which is your favorite and why? If you haven't tried any because they are not available in your area, go to and use your imagination.

3. What other beer labels have caught your attention? Why?  Brewery, beer, artist (bonus if you can figure the artist out)?!? Your answers will inspire future contests and I WILL contact that brewery and artist for similar fun.

4. This Artist is R. F. Kelly. Use your imagination, look at his art and write a sentence stating what you think that "F" could stand for based on his work. If you write two sentences fine. Three is too many though.

5. If I were to visit your city for a day, what 5 craft breweries would you suggest I tour and taste. Why?

Thanks to my buddy Big Momma at Dogfish for helping me out with the labels for this contest! Thanks to Rich for agreeing to AND coming through with the signed labels. And thanks to you guys for participating!

Next Sunday is the deadline. Remember, there's no reason to wait to enter. There can be multiple winners and your answers should not look like anyone else's anyway!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Nib Smuggler Chocolate Milk Porter

The latest Funky Buddha beer to hit shelves is Nib Smuggler Chocolate Milk Porter. I've had this at the brewery before but decided to grab a bottle at the liquor store earlier today. The label depicts a cow with a handful of cash and a boatload of cocoa nibs fleeing police helicopters and boats in a high speed water chase. The story explains that this chase resulted after the brewery smuggled the finest cocoa from the mountains of Brazil. "Get cocoa'd up." 6.3% alcohol.

Beautiful aroma of cocoa with hints of coffee. Sweet cocoa, very rich, creamy and milky. There is a decent bitter balance. No real complexities beyond perhaps a touch of vanilla, but this is certainly an enjoyable treat. Grab it if you can!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Yard House Celebrates 19th Anniversary with Rogue Spruce Tip IPA

Monday night my wife and I were given the opportunity to celebrate with Yard House for their 19th Anniversary at their Hallandale Beach, Village at Gulfstream Park location. In preparation for their birthday, Yard House sent a team to Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon to create and brew a beer with Brewmaster John Maier.

Why Rogue? Well, since opening the first Yard House in 1996, there has been at least one Rogue tap at every restaurant continuously for all 19 years! Sounds like a pretty good partnership to me! The result of the brewing collaboration was Rogue Spruce Tip IPA, a beer only available at Yard House for a limited time, and just tapped a few days ago (December 7th).

We were greeted at the restaurant by General Manager Adam Ostertag and server Brandi. After Brandi carded my 40-something wife (which she thought was awesome), she went for a few pints of the new beer. We chatted with Adam about Yard House and their partnership with Rogue.

I saw that Yard House had developed a special Holiday Menu (available now through January 3, 2016), so we asked for recommendations for an entree. Adam said the Apple Cider Brined Pork Chop was his favorite. Brandi also recommended the Lobster Mac N Cheese and told us we couldn't leave without also having the Banana Berry Rum Macadamia Nut Crumble for dessert!

After walking around the bar, which you physically need to do to see all the taps, and taking a few pictures, my glass of Spruce Tip IPA was waiting for me. What an excellent and flavorful beer! While there is a terrific caramel and malty backbone flavor, the spruce really stands out! Citrus, a little fruity and lots of evergreen. Very refreshing, not overly bitter, definitely unique.

We decided to order the two recommended dishes and share each. I also ordered another beer, of course sticking with the Spruce Tip IPA. All of those other taps looked pretty inviting, but they will need to wait for a return visit!

Our food arrived shortly after and looked amazing! The pork chop was served with brussels sprouts, butternut squash and an apple honey sauce. That pork chop was so juicy and the crunchy brussels sprouts and tender sweet squash made the dish a home run!

The Lobster Mac N Cheese was equally delicious. Sooo cheesy! Huge pieces of lobster! And then there were some unexpected wild cards that just stood out and contrasted against that rich goodness perfectly. Tender asparagus, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes just put this dish over the top.

We were very full, but Brandi brought me another beer and put in an order for the Banana Berry Rum Macadamia Nut Crumble. To our surprise and delight, the crumble is topped with the most awesome toasted coconut ice cream ever! Imagine bananas and berries soaked in rum and baked with the most awesome topping. Then mix the bites with that cold ice cream contrast! Outstanding is an understatement.

One of the best meals I've had in a while. And that beer was definitely worthy of a special occasion like a birthday/anniversary.Yard House in Hallandale Beach has an excellent atmosphere and of course a long ample bar with as many beer taps as you probably have ever seen in one place. What a great craft beer selection too!

Thank you for the wonderful evening and hospitality-everything was perfect! I'll be back for sure!

Rogue Keg through the condensation on the window