Friday, March 27, 2015

Jolly Pumpkin Labels Signed By Artist Adam Forman: Contest

As you know, I am part of the "bizarro world where people give a shit about good beer and ask all kinds of questions about [label] art." That's a quote from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales label artist Adam Forman in a recent magazine Q&A (pages 18-21) describing his recent stardom for his label work. After checking with Jolly Pumpkin, I asked Adam if he'd sign some labels for me for a contest and giveaway. Both graciously accepted!

After putting things in motion, it occurred to me that I had several Twitter exchanges over the years with Iron Chef Michael Symon about Jolly Pumpkin beers. I confirmed his favorite was La Roja and asked even another favor of Adam--to personalize one of the La Roja labels for Michael. Seems Adam is a huge Michael Symon fan and his dedication is great in that it includes his "giving a shit" mantra! Chef Symon loved it too!

Adam has done all the labels for Jolly Pumpkin, since its 2004 inception. Adam had been tattooing Jolly Pumpkin Founder Ron Jeffries for a while. When Ron opened Jolly Pumpkin, he asked Adam to do some labels, and the rest is history. I highly suggest you read the magazine article above as well as the interview he did with for other interesting information.

As you know, Google knows everything, so here are tons of images of Adam's Jolly Pumpkin label art. Adam's blog is also great as it offers insight into his entire body of work, not just his label art. Follow him on Twitter. Looks like his Facebook is mostly dead--my kind of guy--but you can see a great photo from last year of Adam and Ron Jeffries there.

So the contest... Adam signed 8 different labels for me which you can see below. I plan on giving away several sets of all of them. We'll see how many entries there are and go from there, but please do enter! Answer 3 of the 5 questions below before midnight next Friday, April 3, 2015. Enter by leaving a comment or if you must, email me (I know some of your fancy phones don't like blogs: and I'll publish them for you. Don't copy answers--it'll be easy to notice--and these questions are completely opinion anyway. Be creative and be sure to leave me some way to contact you should you be the winner.

1. What is your favorite Jolly Pumpkin label and why? It doesn't necessarily need to be one of the eight above. Any Jolly Pumpkin label.

2. Name at least one Jolly Pumpkin beer that has a few different label versions (hint: two are part of this contest). Which version do you like better and why?

3. Which Jolly Pumpkin beer do you like the best (forget the art for this one). Why? If you haven't tasted any, which would be the first you'd like to try and why?

4. If you were asked to create the next Jolly Pumpkin beer, what would be the name, beer style, etc.?

5. I asked this question before, but what other brewery/artist pairs are doing the best label work? Why? (P.S. Don't say Flying Dog and Ralph Steadman--I already know! LOL)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager

Today I'm checking out Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager brewed by Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish, Montana. This is one of their year-round flagship beers, and the label shows two bears foraging for berries in the Montana wilderness. 4.6% alcohol. 11 IBU.

Tart berry aroma over wheat, very pleasant. Flavors are very berry forward yet are not over the top. The flavors are very natural, excellently presented. Not sweet at all, rather lightly tart. There is some bread dough flavor in the background but that's about it. Simple, nice mouth feel, refreshing, flavorful! Check it out!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wheatfish Wheat Lager

Great Northern Brewing Company recently asked if I'd like to check out their four Flagship beers. Of course I said sure. I tried their Black Star Golden Lager several years ago but was informed that beer is no longer brewed. One of the beers they sent was Wheatfish Wheat Lager, named after the town of Whitefish, Montana where the brewery operates. The brewery is depicted on the label with a backdrop of huge mountains.  4.7% alcohol. 13 IBU. 2013 GABF Silver Medal, American Style Wheat Beer.

Sweet grain, a touch of fruit and yeasty aroma. Nice wheat flavors dominate the start with a taste bud awakening zing. Light fruity apple sweetness is balanced by some grassy hoppy flavors. Nice carbonation and texture. Clean, crisp, refreshing with very pleasant flavors lingering on the palate. An enjoyable winner.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Moving Parts: The Ever-Evolving IPA Batch No. 03

Back in October, 2014, I had a chance to check out Batch No. 02 in Victory Brewing's Moving Parts series. (I missed Batch No. 01). Today, I'm checking out the next version in this IPA series where Bill and Ron "celebrate by tweaking an ingredient or two". Moving Parts: The Ever-Evolving IPA Batch No. 03 (MP03) is a Belgian-style IPA, so it's the yeast in this bomber that is switching things up! Enjoy By 19 JUN 2015. 6.6% alcohol.

Decent citrus aroma though not very strong. Fruity flavors at the start remain dominant throughout. Citrus orange and lemon meet some sweeter passionfruit flavors. The Belgian yeast was fairly subtle, providing a tangy and spicy flavor profile in the background.

Grassy, a little sharpness and bite at the palate, and the beer definitely leans bitter. However, there is some sweet balance, maybe a little sugar and honey. Definitely a combination Belgian and American IPA, the styles converging, not really "all out" one or the other. Finish is dry. Pretty good. Enjoyable!

This will be on the shelves until the end of April at which time MP04 will start rolling out. Can't wait to see what tweaks Victory does for that one!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Big Hundo IPA

Magic Hat Brewing recently sent me a few new beers. Big Hundo IPA, though not new to the State of Vermont, is now being bottled in bombers and distributed across the country. Ed Roberts told me today that each local (South Florida) Total Wine store each got one case, and it's available now. So if you're interested, today is the day!

Big 22 is decorated around the full bottle with a hop bine with a big hop cone front and center. Apparently there is an "I" in BIG and this one is made with a castle of some kind. Not sure what that represents. 100 IBU. 9.0% alcohol.

Hoppy, fruity orange citrus aroma, plus a bouquet of flowers. Beautiful orange and lemon citrus flavors star and are accompanied by some more tropical flavors and a little sweetness. The bitterness in this "hophead's dream" is well disguised--at least initially. A little spicy too.

Pine flavors start to show up mid sip after drinking half a glass. There is a little caramel malty sweetness, a little herbal flavor, some balance for the overall bitterness. But that 100 IBU bitterness definitely shows itself by the end--make no mistake.

Very enjoyable beer. A little onion flavor does start to creep in after a while, but overall, this was great! Some alcohol is apparent at the finish, accentuating the pine and spice. Grab one if you can!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hop Hunter IPA

Sierra Nevada created a new IPA in the past few months. I know, you can probably say that pretty frequently about this particular brewery. However, Hop Hunter seems to be a little different. This IPA is the first to feature hop oil that is steam distilled directly in the fields to create a beer with "unmatched hop aromatics." PKGD 02/17/15. 60 IBU. 6.2% alcohol.

Very nice aroma: citrus, dank, fresh, floral with a hint of sweetness. Lemony citrus hit first and is noticeable throughout. However, it's the fresh, hoppy, VERY floral flavors that stand out the most. You may as well be chewing on the hop cones directly.

Hop Hunter isn't really very bitter at all, rather coming through in a much more tangy way. Slick, oily mouthfeel. And the aftertaste lingers for a long time and is very pleasant. The finish is actually the only time I taste any hint of pine, a nice nuance. Great beer. I already drank more than a six pack (not today, yet).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Matthew LaFleur Signs Beer Labels From 3 Breweries: Contest

Back a few months ago after giving away a bunch of beer labels signed by Jermaine Rogers for Dogfish Head's 2014 seasonals, I started asking around who you guys thought was creating awesome beer label art. I heard more than one time the name Matthew LaFleur and in particular the label you see above for Arcade Brewery's William Wallace Wrestle Fest!

Matthew is an illustrator and designer living in the Chicago suburbs. While doing some research before asking if Matthew would sign some labels for a contest, I stumbled on an interview he did with, which gave me a ton of info and now happens to be one of my favorite sites! There I learned that after doing the label above, Matthew also created two others for two different breweries. Oh, and that he's a Syracuse University graduate and big Orangemen fan (I'm more of a Cornell Big Red guy myself, but you can find me on Twitter for that debate).

The William Wallace Wrestle Fest label above was the winning entry in a contest Arcade Brewery had for that particular beer. After that, Matthew worked with Middle Brow Beer Co. and Transient Artisan Ales as well. I'm betting there will be more in the future too.

In addition to creating the labels for those companies, Matthew is also a homebrewer and designs labels for his own beers too! Click that BeerLabels link above to see some of those awesome gems! You can also find some of his other work here or check out what he's up to on Facebook or Twitter. Very approachable guy, so ask whatever, wherever (and this is going to be part of the contest anyway, too). He's on every social media ever invented!

OK. The Contest! This is going to be pretty simple as usual though you will need to give some effort. The winning prize is a set of all 3 signed labels above and I expect multiple winners! Complete 3 of the 5 questions/tasks below by next Saturday, March 21, 2015 by midnight (whatever time zone you're in is fine). I'll pick the winners within a few days and send the prizes shortly afterward.

Enter by leaving your answers to the questions below as a reply, or if you must, email your replies to me (the email (minus your address) will be published as a comment in its entirety, so don't think that's a way to send a private entry). Don't plagiarize--that will be very obvious, especially with such easy open-ended questions. If there's a problem or disagreement, I'll solve it as judge and jury, even if I have to make or change rules. And seriously, don't make me track you down--I need an email or @ or some way to find you, or else your awesome entry is trash! The End.

1. (required) You must follow Matthew on Twitter (easily recognizable avatar to the left) and/or "follow" (is that what you do there?) on Facebook. Then you must tweet or comment/question to him on one or the other--don't worry, only Nessy bites! Even if you aren't entering, definitely complete this part!

2. Name two other Arcade Brewery beers. Have you tried them? If so, give a one sentence review. If not, what do you think of those labels?

3. Which of Matthew's Homebrew labels caught your eye? Why?

4. Suggest a new beer name/label idea/beer style for one of Matthew's homebrews (hint: if you're shy, this could be an easy way to complete #1 too).

5. What are your favorite Chicagoland breweries that take the extra step to employ great illustrators and artists to give their beers an artistic advantage on the shelves? Explain.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Warsteiner Electric Thursday

Warsteiner threw an Electric Thursday party last night at MAPS Backlot in Wynwood, Miami. The event was held to generate some buzz for their partner, the Audi Sport ABT Formula E team, which will be racing tomorrow in Miami in this new Electric Car series. Grab some tickets!

I went with a racing fan friend of mine who is a big fan of the E series leader, Lucas di Grassi. Lucas and co-driver Daniel Abt were there to mingle with the fans and chat about racing. In addition to being able to meet the drivers, the party featured a great DJ and a Graffiti artist who painted a whole wall with the Warsteiner theme in the background.

Of course, bottles and glasses of Warsteiner Premium Verum and Dunkel made the atmosphere even more electrifying! I had my share of beer, but it was hard to stop going back as I made a handful of new friends who were serving the beer! While we waited for Lucas and Daniel to arrive (yes, I was on time, duh), I bumped into Greg Garcia who is now representing the Warsteiner brand! He let us know he had just arrived from the pits and that the cars for tomorrow's race are fabulous!

The atmosphere of MAPS Backlot was terrific. Nice breeze, plenty of space. The decor for this particular event was also great. They had some Warsteiner bottle pyramids, plenty of lights, and of course the graffiti artist was fun to watch as his work of art transformed in front of us.

When Lucas and Daniel arrived, they mingled for a bit before being introduced by the Warsteiner sponsors. They were very gracious and appreciative with their words and took the time to shake hands and pose for pictures with whoever wanted them. 

Then they went over to examine exactly what the graffiti artist had done. Both Lucas and Daniel got a lesson on how to use a can of spray paint, but I wondered out loud if Daniel really needed one after seeing him autograph the wall with it! Warsteiner, however, told me that if I was impressed with that, I should really be excited to see what he can do with a race car!

Best of luck to both drivers and thanks for a nice evening to sponsor Warsteiner!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cretaceous India Pale Ale

Today I am checking out Aviator Brewing's Cretaceous India Pale Ale, which is actually a Black IPA short-aged on oak chips. The pounder can depicts a fairly scary looking Velociraptor, and the story on the side explains the beer's name while suggesting dinosaurs might make great pets! "Beer is Totally MY Friend!" 5.3% alcohol.

Chocolate, some roast, lightly hoppy aroma. Chocolate is the first flavor, though roasted coffee is pronounced and comes on strong right away. Roast builds. Bitterness builds throughout. The initial sweetness eventually goes down in flames every sip to a piney, lemony, lightly astringent bitterness. That Pine-Sol, menthol-ish taste is a little off-putting by the end.

A little woody dryness at the end is about it. Decent balance, though not really my style. If this is your type of beer, you'll probably think it's decent.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Full Sail Pilsner

Hood River, Oregon's Full Sail Brewing Company has a "Ridiculously Tasty Cascade Pilsner" for you to try! That's what the label says! The label also goes out of its way to let you know the brewery is independent and owned by its 47 employee owners (the same as when I first checked out their IPA in 2009). Actually, the number is 78 employee owners now, but there's news swirling that that arrangement may go away with a merger of sorts. Drink by 05/04/2015. 6.0% alcohol.

Lemony, lightly hoppy aroma. Lemony flavors with a nice bitterness. Creamy carbonation. Light alcohol dryness at the finish. Refreshing though very one note boring. That's it. Just fine.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Flagship IPA

After checking out Carolina Brewery's Sky Blue Golden Ale yesterday, I headed for their Flagship IPA for a taste today. The can lets you know this is "A Classic, Hoppy IPA," one which won the Gold Medal at the 2006 GABF in the English-Style IPA category. There is a small picture of a ship, one that would have been used to take this type of beer from England to India in the 18th Century, according to the story on the back of the can.

Lemony-hoppy aroma with some caramel too. More bitter than I was expecting, leading with a sharp lemony Pledge cleanser type flavor. Leafy, piney, astringent. There is a little sweet caramel balance, but this leans way bitter. And that bitterness lingers long after each sip. Not my favorite but was OK.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Icey Pale Ale

Last week, Ed Roberts opened the trunk of his car because he wanted to show me something. No dead body, either! But he did hand me a pounder can of Oskar Blues Icey Pale Ale that I had never heard of. The can says this is an Icelantic Limited Edition for Winter 2014/15. 7% alcohol. The artwork showing an enormous buffalo-like creature in the woods is very lifelike! This can was canned on 11/19/14 and the stamp also says "Icey Icey Baby."

Nice sweet fruity aroma, lightly floral as well. Beautiful fruity orange, mango and other tropical flavors to start. Some yeasty character as well but not too much. A little spicy and peppery. Carbonation and texture were also very nice. The finish was clean with more fruitiness left behind. Very good beer! Thoroughly enjoyable.

Sunday, March 1, 2015