Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sky Blue Golden Ale

Perfect beer for the White/Gold or Blue/Black Dress debate? Sky Blue Golden Ale, a combination of the two, duh! I'm surprised Carolina Brewery didn't exploit that immediately as a part of their 20th Anniversary celebration! (BTW, that dress was linen/egg shell and brown mustard color). Sky Blue (sounds like a David Copperfield/Beyonce baby name) is a German-Style Kolsch that actually won GABF Bronze in 2012! Nice!

The PR agency for the brewery arranged a tasting since this is a NC and TN distributed beer. Carolina Brewery is actually the 5th oldest brewery in North Carolina, a state that dominates in awesome breweries, so they must be doing something right. Like brewing award-winning beers at both their Chapel Hill and Pittsboro Brewpubs. And sourcing most of their food from locally sourced products (like the cows that are used in their burgers were fed spent grain from the beer-Circle Of Life). The owner is from UNC too, but let's not hold that against him since I don't think he played basketball there!

OK. This beer didn't have much of an aroma at all, maybe a little grain. Flavors were a combination of grainy sweetness balanced by a refreshing lemongrass bitterness. Very simple though also very refreshing. My wife said a beer to drink "on a boat" though we don't own one or have that many friends with one either (so I better check her emails to see what other friends she might have!)

Check it out if you're in the area. Let me know how the food (and beer) tastes!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Brew Hub Craft Collection: Keybilly Island Ale, Pool Hop All Season IPA and Diver Down Imperial Red Ale

Besides brewing those beers for GolfBeer Brewing Co, Lakeland, Florida's Brew Hub has a few of their own beers. I had the chance to check out three cans from their Craft Collection: Keybilly Island Ale, Pool Hop All Season IPA, and Diver Down Imperial Red Ale.

Keybilly Island Ale is an ale brewed with Key Lime juice, "perfect for the beach, the boat, and the bar." The story to the side lets you know this is an amber ale brewed with key lime juice, a beer that we should prepare to be transported to Key West upon drinking. "Florida Keys Style Beer!" 5.4% alcohol.

Faint Key Lime aroma. Grain, good bitterness, light citrus. Key Lime, I suppose, though I was expecting WAY more. Nice tangy flavor persists throughout and lingers after each sip. Not bad.

Pool Hop All Season IPA for those days you want a hoppy beer "you can enjoy all day poolside..." Looks like this is their version of a session ale, coming in at 4.5% alcohol.

Orange and grapefruity citrus aroma, nice but not very big. The flavors are full of citrus bitterness and immediately noticeable spiciness. Quite fruity, lots of orange and generic citrus. Big and flavorful for a session beer. Finishes with a lingering fruity flavor on your palate. Very clean. A winner!

Diver Down Imperial Red Ale. The can has a Divers' Flag and a Diver on the front, while telling a little story on the side. This beer is supposed to be "The Perfect Reward after a full day of work or play." 8.0% alcohol.

Caramel aroma. Caramel and toffee flavor, rich and malty. And as they suggest on the can, there is definitely some hoppy relief and a kick at the end to balance that initial sweetness. Light alcohol at the finish helps cleanse the palate. Simple but flavorful.

Pool Hop was the best of the three with Diver Down a close second. And all three of these kick GolfBeer's ass!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

SOBEWFF Amstel Light Burger Bash 2015

Guy walks up to a bar and asks what beers are available. Bartender says, "Amstel!" Yep, you're at the SOBEWFF Amstel Light Burger Bash! Ed Roberts and I pre-gamed at J Wakefield Brewing in Wynwood beforehand, so we were good with just a few palate cleansing Amstels (and Strongbow Ciders) to wash down our burgers.

I published a more comprehensive recap at SoulOfMiami, but I thought you might like to see some new friends I made and pretty much THE WAY to get people to walk into your liquor store!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Visit To J Wakefield Brewing

Last night Ed Roberts and I attended the Amstel Light Burger Bash in Miami Beach. Considering we already knew that the beer selection would be fairly, well, Amstel-ish, we planned a pre-game stop at the newly opened J Wakefield Brewing in Wynwood. I don't even think these guys have had their official grand opening yet!

For 5 pm on a weekday, the place was pretty crowded. We arrived to a beer menu board of 5 core beers and 6 specialty brews. Flights of the core beers were available but not the specialties, so we decided we'd have to start by checking out ALL the specialty beers, even as full snifter pours.

I probably made a bad first choice, only because Its a Trappe! was one of the biggest of the six, a Belgian-Style Quad brewed with cherries. But it certainly was delicious! Ed was smarter, first choosing the Raspberry Lemon Stush, a Berlinerweisse. But of course we were sharing so no big deal. Both were great, but the Stush was super flavorful and refreshing, low in alcohol and the perfect starter.

Next up, Zmeis Baltic Porter and Hazelnut Coffee Imperial Stout. Baltic Porters aren't really my thing, but the beer was rich and flavorful--pretty good. On the other hand, that Stout kicked ass! The aroma was so full of hazelnut and chocolate and coffee, and the flavors followed. A little sweet, milk stouty, creamy and wonderful flavors.

The final beers included S'mores UJP, a porter that tasted like, you guessed it, S'mores. Chocolate, brown sugar and spiciness for the Graham Crackers, and some creaminess for the marshmallows. And Hot Lil Tart, a fruited Berlinerweisse with chili peppers added. The murky orange yellow colors were interesting. And the beer wasn't nearly as spicy as we were prepared for, though a lingering low-grade burn in the back of the throat persisted. Very fruity too. Interesting.

Still with time before our event and a want to try them all, we ordered a flight of the remaining beers. Hop For Teacher IPA and STUSH Berlinerweisse were my favorites of those. But overall on the night, Ed and I both agreed that the Raspberry Lemon Stush and Hazelnut Coffee Imperial Stout were absolute standouts!

Great service. Nice people. Fun ambiance. Just what the doctor ordered before checking out "95 Calories That Never Tasted So Good!" Definitely check this place out!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Brewery Ommegang's Five Cubed Presented By Haute Dining

Wednesday night, Haute Dining and Brewery Ommegang teamed up to present Five Cubed, a culinary event organized to get Miami Food Week 2015 started--5 Chefs, 5 Beers, 5 Courses! Where? A Parking Garage on Alton Road in Miami Beach! Sounds sexy, right? DO NOT BE FOOLED! This was the place to be!

There was a VIP Dinner at 6 pm though my wife and I were invited to attend the after party at 8pm, where 15 chefs (including samples from the 5 Chefs that served the VIP dinner) would be serving awesome samples from their restaurants. And of course, the Ommegang beers and some spirits as well! We arrived characteristically early only to be invited by the awesome Haute Dining team to join the VIP main dinner at their fourth course. One of the team members shifted people around to get two seats together!

Holy Shit! Hop Chef Miami 2014 Winner Sean Brasel from Meat Market was serving me a Prime Rib dinner. Thank God! A replacement for that not so great Valentine's Day steak a few days ago (ask if you wanna know where). And it was being served with bottles of Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis, a Belgian-style Dubbel. That steak was so tender and juicy. Delicious!

In case you were unaware, Miami weather isn't really that perfect. This night was a low 60's with steady 20 mph winds, not that perfect for chefs trying to impress a crowd. Seriously, I grew up in Pennsylvania and was still chilly after the night, even with a warm coat. So when my Dry Aged Certified Angus Beef Prime Rib served two ways with a gingerbread doughnut arrived hot, I was impressed. And seriously, this was a mega-awesome steak!

Once 8 pm arrived, my wife and I started exploring the other chefs' booths while the fifth course dessert was prepared. I double-fisted Three Philosophers glasses, and we chatted with some friends and took a look around. As a side note, I met the Three Philosophers from Haute Dining: the awesome Buzzy Sklar, Rick Lozano and Israel Brod!

Hello! SIT BACK DOWN! Adrianne Calvo fromn Adrianne's Vineyard was serving Dark Chocolate Nutella Croissant Bread Pudding with Vanilla Creme Anglaise. This dish was serendipitously paired with Ommegang's Three Philosophers, so I was already set! What a tasty morsel that was! Y U M! ! !

So back out to the booths, not the least of which to find samples from the first three courses! We found Alex Chang and his Golden Tilefish Crudo pretty easily, first stop. My wife even decided she wanted a photo with Alex considering his future fame and celebrity! Next stop, the R House Wynwood booth where we met the chef from another awesome evening with Ommegang.

We made our way around to every table. Spirits, food, DJ awesomeness. I chatted with the Ommegang executives--probably even be hired soon. Despite the wind and cold, everyone had a good time. The views of Miami Beach were spectacular.

Thanks for a nice evening. And don't forget to check out the Haute Dining culinary experience! If you enjoy great meals at top restaurants, membership is a must! They even have a 30 day free trial.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Golf Beer's Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson brews

Pro Golfer Freddie Jacobson opened Golf Beer Brewing Company with fellow pros Keegan Bradley and Graeme McDowell. Their beers are brewed and canned at The Brew Hub in Lakeland, Florida. Ed Roberts thought these would be perfect for a review, so he brought them home from one of the Central Florida Total Wine stores.

I got to try Freddie's and Keegan's versions. Both have a little biography of the golfers and a description of how they translated their beer passion into the product. The cans also depict a caricature of the golfers in action, along with their signatures. "Crafting the Perfect Round" is a nice theme that I hope the beer is able to live up to! Fun concept. Both 4.5% alcohol.

Keegan Bradley's New England Style Lager

No aroma. Grainy flavors with some bitterness, though the beer is almost tasteless until the finish. At the finish, sweet and tangy, herbal tea flavors show up and linger on the palate. And I'd certainly agree with my wife, "the end tastes weird!" Though mostly bland, the only flavors that eventually do show through are not very nice.

Freddie's Scandanavian Style Blonde Ale

Lightly grainy, faint lemon aroma. Grainy flavors to start are met by some lemony bitterness. That's about it. Carbonation is fine. Easy drinking, decently refreshing golf course beer, one that will not get you so fucked up that you're hitting slices into the homes surrounding the course (I've done that). Wife says "tastes liquidy" which means it was very thin. Many better choices unless you're at a tournament and have a chance that Freddie might actually sign the can for you!

Graeme's beer will need to happen another time. Hope it's better!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Last Snow Coconut & Coffee Porter

After yesterday's blizzard here in Miami... just joking, though it was 44°F last night. And as a salute to all the northerners that are far from the end of a mega-snow-storm-opolis, I decided to crack open Funky Buddha's Last Snow Coconut & Coffee Porter. The local liquor store manager told me that he had 12 cases come and go, before I even knew it was available. But Ed Roberts came through with a bottle, but one I need to pay him back for!

Fun label art on Big 22. A snowman with shades, a fur coat and beach bucket hat appears to be weathering the coming Spring. A quick story on the side sets your expectations. Consume Fresh. 6.4% alcohol. The cap says, "Open the bottle... Open your mind.." around the circle, so either could come first. Under the cap, "Look Within!"

Big coffee and coconut aroma with a nice roast--very welcoming. Milk chocolate, caramel sweetness start things off. And the coconut flavors are also huge, excellent. There is also plenty of roasted malt flavor, though still pretty tame behind the main stars. Layered nuances and just a luscious, awesome, creamy texture. A tangy flavor lingers after each sip as well. 

I saw "Liquid Mounds" as a description somewhere online, which is a very good description. Terrific. Wonderful flavors. A perfect beer! Wife loved it and posted her own pictures to that Face Thing! And I finished her glass when she wasn't looking. If you have the opportunity, don't pass it up!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Darwin Brewing Launches at The Royal Pig Pub in Ft. Lauderdale

There's a new sheriff in town. And his name is Darwin Santa Maria! Or something like that! Last night, Stephens Distributing threw a nice little launch party for Darwin Brewing over on Las Olas. The owners and brewers spent the day in the area visiting some key accounts as they start distributing their beers here in Southeast Florida, with the final stop being at The Royal Pig in Ft. Lauderdale.

I wasn't even inside the restaurant when I already bumped into the owner of the brewery, Darwin Santa Maria (I recognized him from their website profiles). He was a really nice guy and took me inside and introduced me to his team. Owner/Brewmaster Jorge Rosabal and Owner/General Manager Matt Cornelius both spent a lot of time with me "talking Darwin beer." The brewery's history began in 2012 at Darwin's on 4th Brewpub in Sarasota, Florida. In 2013, they opened a bigger facility in Bradenton and started distributing their beers outside the area.

Of course the fantastic distributor team of Jamie and Tim and Kim and more were also there, and before I could even sit down, I had a flight of four of the six beers they brought for the launch! Jorge led me through the flight of beers. Darwin Brewing brews using the flavors, spices and inspiration of South America's Andes region (mostly). Pirata Pilsner was a nice crisp refreshing start, tasty. I then moved on to the Summadayze IPA, nice fruity flavors, very balanced, not too bitter. Those two were what I'd consider more Florida-inspired than the others.

Next up, Ayawasca Belgian Dubble, named after an Incan hallucinogen normally taken on December 31 to be enlightened by the gods as to what they should plant in the coming year. Great caramel flavors, light alcohol punch, no hallucinogen included. Final flight beer was the most interesting: Charapa Spiced Porter. Um, spiced means with Amazonian aji charapita peppers, holy shit! Jorge told me the whole brew batch only uses a few peppers, and this is a pepper to be scared of! But for real, the Florida orange blossom honey and Amazonian cacao really do soothe that spicy finish. Well, maybe!

Kim is drinking a flight, starting with the Charapa Spiced Porter
That's about when The Royal Pig started bringing out some kick-ass appetizers: pork tacos with an awesome salsa, killer chicken wings, shrimp with a spicy sauce. And I swear the service was unbelievable! There were many, but one guy was really hustling to keep beer in hand! Thanks. That's when I was told there was a beer only available at the brew pub, except for the one keg they brought for this launch.

So I asked for the big boy glass of Kumquat & Pink Peppercorn Wheat Ale! I thought I'd get the 16 oz glass, but I was misinformed--instead, two enormous and heavy chalices of the beer came out! Yep, two 18 oz servings. I ordered one for Ed Roberts but he was working his way through his own flight, so I ended up drinking both! One of my favorites of the night. And the great fruitiness and lightly sweet flavors were still helping out with the "spicy boo-boo" I still had from my first taste of the Amazonian hotties!

Brewmaster Jorge, Me (duh), Darwin (Chef/Owner)

Finally, I checked out the Circa 1926, a second wheat ale brewed with orange and coriander. Nicely spicy. Perfectly refreshing Florida beer. To show my favorites, I had a little more Summadayze IPA, Kumquat Wheat, and yes, Charapa Spiced Porter (that's the way I roll). But Kim was drinking the Ayawasca Dubbel all night, so obviously personal preference was a factor.

I spoke a little more with Jorge and Darwin at the end of the night. They explained that though Darwin is his name, they integrated the Darwin evolution theme into their beers and brand as well. You can see that the Darwin Finch logo really showing off what the brewery wants you to know on their T-Shirts and Tap handles.

Great beers. Great company. To the after-workers at the bar drinking Coors Lite bottles, well, you should've asked on the way by. I saw you looking to see what was up in the front!

Thank you, Darwin Brewing and Stephens Distributing! Good luck with this entry to our market and keep up the good work!