Friday, May 29, 2015

Früli Strawberry Beer

I was recently sent two bottles (11.2 oz and wine-sized) of Früli Strawberry Beer, a Belgian White Beer brewed with coriander, orange peel and fruit juice. Van Diest licensed Brewery Huyghe in Ghent, Belgium to brew this beer. Imported by Paulaner USA. 4.1% alcohol. Best before 07/16.

Reddish brown in color. Big strawberry aroma, tempting. Really juicy flavor, full of fresh strawberries. Nicely sweet with an unmistakable Jolly Rancher quality. Fruli is Fruity. Say that fast 10 times! The End! Borderline too sweet and wholly one-dimensional, but it tastes good (even if not very beer-like). Wife asked if it was a "Smirnoff wine cooler"! LOL.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I saw a Lagunitas beer I hadn't tried before so decided to check it out. Although the label doesn't say so, NightTime seems to be a Black IPA based on its flavor profile--I wasn't really sure going in. Tag line for the beer: "Fear the Dark." OG 1.075. 74 IBU. 7.9% alcohol.

Aroma is fairly muted, some roasted malt, chocolate. Malty chocolate flavors up front. After a few sips, coffee flavors show themselves much more along with a nice roast. The malty backbone is assaulted by a large dose of pine and a minty type hoppiness. The texture is very smooth, a nice attribute while the sweeter and bitter components are in a war with each other. But the end of each sip ends in a nice balanced truce.

My wife hates bitter beers but thought this was really great. More of a see-saw of flavors than balance, this came together really nicely. Dry finish. Nice roast and piney bitterness lingers long after each sip. Choco-coffee-bitterness! Nice beer!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Second Self Red Hop Rye and Thai Wheat

Second Self Beer Company opened in Atlanta in Fall, 2014, and recently canned two of their flagship beers: Red Hop Rye and Thai Wheat. The agency representing the brewery arranged to have a sample of each sent for review. Each can has two panels. The first panel is a face divided, presumably the "Second Self" and a second panel has what they call a "flavor stack" describing the beer. The pictures here should help you slow people out!

Two homebrewers (Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle) finally took the pro plunge. Besides their homebrewing experience, Chris worked for Freddy at Sweetwater and Jason has a food and business background. It was time! Their beers are designed to be consumed with food, so "my bad" on that part of these reviews!

Red Hop Rye (7.3% alcohol, 69 IBU (clearly Freddy proteges))

Rich color. Nice caramel sweet aroma. Sweet caramel flavors follow with a touch of honey and herbal flavor profile. Rye appears mid sip, not too sharp. Some hoppy, piney balance does come, especially at the finish. Overall, good flavors, but I think a little boring. Could use a little spicy kick or bit of citrus, but again, I'm just an out-loud thinker.

Thai Wheat

Lemony and spicy aroma. Tangy, grainy flavors to start. Spicy ginger takes over with a hint of lemon. Light bitterness. And a lingering spice. I can absolutely understand this as a beer to be paired with food.


I do like the can art with faces made of half beer name/half second face. Descriptions are nice too on expectations. Since the agency told me these are meant to be paired with food, it would be nice to include that info on the cans as well, some suggestions. Best of luck to this new brewery. My sister lives in Atlanta, so I'll be stopping by some time!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Upslope Belgian Style Pale Ale

Upslope Brewing recently sent me a few of their beers. Their Belgian Style Pale Ale was one of the cans I received. Simple silver and white design. This beer is brewed with Trappist yeast, Turbinado sugar and coriander according the the side panel. 7.5% alcohol.

Yeast, coriander and apple aroma, pretty nice. Huge fruit flavors--easy to pick out several orchards. Apples, peaches, bananas. Nice spiciness as well, full of coriander with background pepper and citrus zest nuances. Belgian yeast is noticeable though not overly dominant. Good carbonation and nice flavors with a little alcohol dryness at the finish.

Now... I liked this beer, but it tasted like a saison. There was not really much pale ale in this beer at all. Like were there any hops? Anyway, I also don't really care. Call it what you want. I'll drink it if it tastes good! Nice beer. Check it out!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Digest Miami Presents Blue Moon Beer Dinner at Shooters Waterfront

A few nights ago, Digest Miami presented a beer dinner at Shooters Waterfront in Ft. Lauderdale. The dinner was used to highlight the "Artfully Garnished" marketing campaign and partnership between Blue Moon Brewing and the Florida Department of Citrus. The two even put together a Blue Moon logo that incorporates the shape of Florida and a slice of a Florida orange into the design. If I could've figured out a way to take that neon sign with me...

The Five Course Menu was designed to highlight Florida oranges and pair them each with a different Blue Moon offering. Each dish was presented by Chef Brian who let us know some specifics about the food and how the oranges and beer were incorporated into each. All except for the dessert, delivered by Pastry Chef Vanessa.

Tammy Wiard, Me, Brian Reames
After saying hello to Jason and Anita from Digest Miami, I was introduced to my first tall glass of Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat. That's when Brian Reames, Florida Field Marketing Manager for Blue Moon, and Tammy Wiard, Director of Retail Marketing for the Florida Department of Citrus said hello. Tammy explained the importance of the orange crop to our state, noting that a majority of the variety grown in Florida are Valencia Oranges. That's when Brian reminded me that Blue Moon's original Belgian White Ale was brewed incorporating peels from those same Valencia oranges. Both seemed to agree the pair and their partnership were a perfect match.

My wife and I mingled with some of the guests as well as some of the local industry leaders representing the Blue Moon brand. Gold Coast Distributors had some of their team there including their Craft and Specialty Import Manager Darren Dougherty. We also met Juan Diaz and Meredith Zeder from Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the specialty beer division of MillerCoors whose brands include Blue Moon. Meredith was also our host for the evening!

Juan Diaz, Me (What you looking at?), Meredith Zeder
We were seated with the coolest couple at the whole event: Nick Bernal and his wife. Nick is the CEO of a specialty fruit wholesaler that delivered the Florida oranges for the event. He's originally from Colombia and not completely PC, which was a great match for my wife and me, respectively. And just listening to the conversation between him and Tammy from the Department of Citrus was totally interesting and informational (could be the former scientist in me coming out). Biggest lesson: Florida oranges don't look the prettiest but are the tastiest and juiciest! Very fun conversation the whole night with all four of us. And there are some pictures below to show you "it's what's on the inside that counts!"

As we started having our dinners delivered, we were of course chatting beer. Part of Nick's business is to deliver specialty fruits to local restaurants, but it was funny because he was telling me about the text he got for pineapples just hours before from a well-known local brewer. So we started talking about other breweries and festivals and before you knew it, the first course arrived: Corvina Mandarin Orange Ahi Amarillo Ceviche with Blue Moon Belgian White.

That's when Meredith gave a short introduction, then went table to table talking about the beers. For the first course, she told us the reason a slice of orange was used to garnish this beer (verus a lemon wedge in many other wheat beers) is that it brings out the orange peel spice in the actual beer and offers a light citrus and sweet complement. That was put in place by PhD Blue Moon Brewer Keith Villa decades ago.

After a few beers, though, Meredith stopped getting softball questions! LOL. But she wasn't ever flustered and denied to comment on the stupid dude that sued Blue Moon because he was tricked into thinking he was drinking craft beer. Now I don't know who gets to make the official or legal definition of craft beer, but you guys should buy me a Yuengling some night and let me give you my version. I'd love to hear yours too!

Chef Brian tells us about his food
The full menu is above. We had a grilled curry chicken lollipop, honey mustard glazed lamb chop, mole negro dry-rubbed pork loin and bread pudding flan served with the most awesome bananas Foster sorbet for dessert. My favorites were the ceviche, lamb chop and definitely the dessert. Blue Moon's Belgian White, White IPA and Summer Honey Wheat are all good beers, very approachable and flavorful. The dessert was served with a Cinnamon Horchata Ale, in this case brewed with cinnamon and rice. It was my first try of this beer--Miami is actually a test market for it. Not bad but the other three were better options for me.

Before I forget, the service at The New Shooters Waterfront was spectacular. The servers and all employees were so nice and friendly and fast and helpful and engaging. Terrific! I left with a bag of oranges. And yeah, as I mentioned above, some were brown and greenish and discolored, not attractive. But those have been some of the juiciest oranges I've cut into! (Adios, Cuties?!?)

I also took home five Blue Moon 20 ounce glasses with the same new Artfully Garnished label. Two of the glasses had hops in them. I made my kids toss the hops in front of my feet the next morning like the rose petals for King Jaffe Joffer in Coming to America! Was pretty funny but the video sucked. Anyway, check out the restaurant, the beers and Florida oranges!

Corvina Mandarin Orange Ahi Amarillo Ceviche
Grilled Curry Chicken Lollipop over Coconut Rice
Honey Mustard Glazed Lamb Chop
Mole Negro Dry-Rubbed Pork Loin
Jason and Anita from Digest Miami
Bread Pudding Flan with Bananas Foster Sorbet

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gumption Hard Cider Launch Party

Last night, Woodchuck Hard Cider threw a party at The Annex in Wynwood (Miami) to launch their newest cider named Gumption. Gumption basically means having the guts to do your own thing, following your vision to success, what Woodchuck did when cider making wasn't very popular almost 25 years ago. Gumption is also a word used by the famous showman P.T. Barnum. So Woodchuck created a circus theme to go with their newest brand.

The Gumption party included a ringmaster, showgirls, a contortionist, and a fire eater. They also had a DJ that wasn't part of the circus, but he did play good music. Oh, and of course there was plenty of Gumption to drink, both by itself or as two suggested cider cocktails. The cider was very juicy, sweet at the beginning with a bittersweet dry finish. Good alternative to drinking beer (at least once in a while). The two cocktails were named The Ridiculously Strong Dude (add a shot of tequila) and one I liked better, The Incredible Frog Boy (add a shot of Midori Melon Liqueur).

Basically the event was designed to get a first taste of the new cider in a fun environment while mingling with the industry people surrounding the new product. I got to meet the brand managers and sales people and representatives from the distributor. And I made some other new friends too which you can see below. When you get a chance, check out Gumption (if you have the gumption)!

Contact High

Just opened my third can of Contact High, a wheat ale brewed with orange zest by 4 Hands Brewing. After three cans, you definitely have an opinion. Obviously it must be pretty good considering repeats right? The can art has a pinball machine theme, very fun. The brewery suggests pairing with spicy food and poultry. 5% alcohol.

Spicy orange, doughy aroma. Flavors open with plenty of that orange zest. Hoppy, grassy, spicy. There's even a bit of sourdough type of flavor. Toward the finish and especially as the beer warms up a bit, there is tangy twang that lingers into the finish. I liked that part so let it warm a few degrees and see if you agree. Bitter throughout and the bitterness builds. Pretty good easy drinker. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Good Medicine Strong Red Ale

The biggest of the four Great Northern beers I got to try recently was Good Medicine Strong Red Ale, clocking in at 7.5% alcohol, 55 IBU. Good Medicine is named after the perspective you get from living the good life in the land of fresh air and enormous views! Sounds good to me. The label shows a hawk soaring high in the mountains around it.

Rich caramel aroma. Flavors follow with loads of sweet caramel. A little spiciness was there. Same with a hint of citrus. I really wanted more of both of those to counter the sweetness. An alcohol streak through the finish was a welcome change, though. And I thought Good Medicine seemed on the flat side. Anyway, not bad though I definitely preferred their IPA and wheat beers from the year round lineup.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunshine State of Mind

A few weeks ago, I attend the Cochon555 event here in Miami. While that event was more about Heritage Breed pigs (and eating them) and wine and whiskey, there was ONE beer sponsor! That, my friends, was Gravity Brewlab, a brewery that's been in the works here in Miami for a while.

I knew in advance that they'd be the beer sponsor, but when I found out I was a bit surprised they'd be able to pull it off. While Gravity Brewlab is still working to secure space for a taproom in the Wynwood area, they have begun packaging their Sunshine State of Mind "Hacienda Style Wheat Ale," which is what they were serving that afternoon. And they certainly pulled it off!

I had seen Diego and his team around at the brewfests for years, sampling their homebrews and basically watching them turn into a totally pro brewery. I knew they did a collaboration with Cigar City a while back, but I had no idea they were finally ready for a big stage. Anyway, despite watching them for a while, this was the first time I had ever met Diego. Super nice guy. He let me know they were trying to finish some things in Tallahassee and hopefully could open soon. Oh, and he let me walk out with an unopened bottle of Sunshine.

Sunshine State of Mind is a Hacienda Style Wheat Ale. What does that mean? The little story on the side lets you know this is a farmhouse style saison, though the farmhouses in this case are the haciendas of Latin America, the sources of inspiration. Basically, Belgian style saison with hops from here.

Wheaty, lemony aroma. Terrific tangy flavors from the beginning, sharp lemon. Belgian yeast is unmistakable with a little funkiness too. Hoppy, yeasty, lots of little fruity nuances. Extremely refreshing and flavorful. And my wife loved it--drank at least three (I was sipping Manhattans). If you see it, check it out. And I'll let you know when the brewery is open to the public.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thai Style White IPA

Upslope Brewing sent a can of  their Thai Style White IPA a week or so ago. When my kid's basketball practice got rained out, I took advantage of the free time to check it out. This is a Limited Release packaged in a gold and navy blue 12 ounce can. By "Thai Style" they mean it was brewed with Asian spices including ginger, coriander, Thai basil and lemongrass. 6.5% alcohol. Best By JUL 29 15.

Strong Belgian yeast aroma with some lemon and generic spiciness. Sharp ginger flavors dominate the beginning. Tangy yeast comes next before yielding to a hoppy citrus and lemongrass flavor. After a few sips, a very powerful flowery flavor starts to build right alongside that initial ginger flavor. Coriander pops and lingers at the finish.

I think Upslope got the product they were aiming for, but that ginger and accompanying spice basket gets a little much by the end. Just keeps building. I suppose that this beer would do better against some food that can cut the spices up (better than no food, my case). Or even cooking with it might be interesting! Anyway, check it out.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Screamin' Sicilian Pizza Co. - Supremus Maximus and Mambo Italiano

By now you've probably read Part One of this series introducing you to Screamin' Sicilian Pizza Co. Hopefully I've made the case for craft pizza and you've had the chance to pair one of their eight varieties with a beer or two.

Bessie's Revenge was a great pizza to start with, extremely cheesy. Today I wanted to check out the other two options that are available locally for me: Supremus Maximus and Mambo Italiano. You may have guessed by those names that there will not be any lack of toppings! And you'd be right. Mounds of rich toppings are going to need an equally bold beer. I picked a few I thought could work pretty well.

For Bessie's Revenge, I picked craft beers with wide distribution. I did the same today though I also decided to promote the idea of drinking locally brewed craft beers as well. Using local ingredients supports your community and helps create the freshest products possible. You can tell Screamin' Sicilian is all about that strategy with their ingredients: "Wisconsin [this], Wisconsin [that]" is all over their packaging!

I picked four beers to match up with Supremus Maximus and Mambo Italiano, and we drank them interchangeably with the two pizzas. Founders All-Day IPA has a bright, sharp hoppy flavor able to stand up to the big meaty toppings. Similarly, Victory Brewing's Prima Pils was an excellent choice for its hoppy prowess. I also found that two bigger bodied, more balanced IPAs paired nicely. Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA is a long time favorite while Funky Buddha's Hop Gun is a newer local favorite recently bottled for the first time.

Each pizza box in the Screamin' Sicilian line has a "window" shaped like a mouth where you can see all the ingredients. Each mouth is also screaming something at you. Supremus Maximus is daring you to try with "This will rule your mouth!" while Mambo Italiano just went with "badda bing badda boom." Put your cursor over the other names here for some other fun rants!

The back of each box has equally creative stories about the pizza names. Supremus Maximus rules over the others from high atop Mount Pizza while Mambo Italiano is the pizza you take when you're going to the mattresses! Seriously, can't make this stuff up!

Both pizzas were excellent. The crunchy crusts should not be overlooked despite the obvious attention to the toppings on these two. I loved the sausage and the crunchy roasted peppers and onions on Supremus Maximus. And pepperoni and meatball lovers will have a field day with Mambo Italiano. Quality and quantity!

So who's ready to check out the Screamin' Sicilian pizzas? I have a few $3 Off Coupons that I can send out (first come, first serve--leave a comment and a way to reach you). If you're shy, you can still get a $1 coupon at Screamin' Sicilian's website. And be sure to tell Screamin' Sicilian what you think of their products!

Scream At Them!

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