Friday, July 31, 2015

Ruination Double IPA 2.0

I recently saw that Stone Brewing released a new version of their Ruination Double IPA. I've always loved this beer so had to check out what was new. The story on the bottle says that since releasing the original Ruination in 2002, techniques and products have evolved, so they brought the beer up to date to "squeeze every last drop of piney, citrusy, tropical essence" to create Ruination Double IPA 2.0, "A Liquid Poem to the Glory of the Hop!" DRINK FRESH! 8.5% alcohol.

Beautiful fruity sweet aroma with tons of pine. Flavors mostly drop the fruity sweetness in the beginning. Rather, loads of pine and sharp spiciness, aggressive on the palate. Dank, fresh hoppy bitterness dominates. Yeah, there is a subtle fruity sweetness that adds some relief, but even that is doubled up with more citrus zest and bitter peel challenges.

You won't miss the kick of alcohol. Hop lovers will love this! Updated but still a classic. Love it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Free Dive IPA

Coppertail Brewing out of Tampa recently packaged and started sending four of their beers over to the Southeast coast of Florida. I already tried Wheat Stroke and Unholy Trippel. Today I'm checking out Free Dive IPA. As usual, the label art is really cool, so many little details. In this label, a guy is free diving to see an old sunken shipwreck. He must not breath oxygen because he found the time to chill out in an old grandma chair, turn on an underwater lamp and hang with his squid and lobster pals. Pretty realistic considering I've seen every Spongebob episode half a dozen times!

The third panel of the label offers style, flavor insight and food pairings. They suggest spicy grilled shrimp with Free Dive IPA. Best if enjoyed by 09/09/15.

Sweet tropical fruity aroma, full of pineapple and tangerines and a mild pine in the background. Loved the smell! Sweet fruity start as well, tropical and citrus. Just like the aroma, there is also a pine aspect in the flavor profile. However, fresh dank hops play a much bigger role in your mouth than on your nose.

Spicy, great bitterness that lingers into the finish. Very nice beer. Great sweet rich fruity backbone with a killer fresh hoppy bitter answer. So far, I'm loving this brewery's lineup. Probably going to need to take a road trip!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blueberry Cobbler Ale

Funky Buddha recently bottled a batch of their Blueberry Cobbler Ale. I grabbed a 4-pack from the local store with extremely high hopes from our "Golden Child" brewery here in South Florida. I love the label! A young woman just finished baking her blueberry cobbler but has this evil grin and eyebrows that spell trouble. She's holding a pie server covered with blueberry juice while even the ice cream on top seems to be crying for help.

The story to the side explains the situation a little. "This ain't your grandma's fizzy blueberry lager." Instead, the brewery took a dig and made a "Deviously Crafty" wheat ale made with blueberries, cinnamon and vanilla. Consume Fresh. Pour into fluted glass and serve at 38°F. 5.4% alcohol. "Find the goodness within." Bottled On 06/30/15.

Reddish purple in color. Sweet baked pie crust aroma with berry and cinnamon also contributing. Lots of blueberry flavors, lightly sweet and tart. Some wheaty texture and zing also appear at the beginning. Then the cinnamon and vanilla flavors come on strong, perhaps even too strong. The finish is a little more bitter and cleansing. Berry flavors linger.

Interesting. Promised flavors are all there though the cinnamon and vanilla are a little overdone. Something about this beer was just a little weird, both flavor and texture-wise. Not bad but I'm certainly not in love. For now, I'll stick to baked Blueberry Cobbler.

Saturday, I took the other three bottles from my 4-Pack to a friend's gathering. Five women wine drinkers, a Heineken drinker and a Fat Tire/Sierra Nevada PA drinker ALL LOVED this beer. So there you go. Don't bother listening to me. I'm used to it!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kühl Kölsch

Today I'm trying Kühl Kölsch, one of two new beers in Victory Brewing's second annual Variety of Victorys Summer Selections. The other new beer in the mixed package will be Whirlwind Witbier, both joining Summer Love and Prima Pils. THAT sounds like a kick-ass box! Might need to pick up a few when I visit the brewery next week on my way down the shore.

Kuhl Kolsch definitely has an awesome name. A little story on the side of the label sets your expectations. Enjoy by 09 Sep 2015. 4.9% alcohol.

Light fruity apple and grain, a little spicy, very pleasant aroma. Fruity sweet flavors follow and are met with a spicy, grassy, sharp, hoppy balance. Clean and fresh, great flavor, very refreshing. This beer packs a lot in a simple offering. Check it out!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Eric's Ale

First brewed by New Belgium Brewer Eric Salazar in 2008, the brewery recently decided to re-release their Lips of Faith Series favorite Eric's Ale. And I couldn't resist checking it out since my only memories are a few long-ago sips at a bottle share or two. If you don't look closely at the bottle art, you may not realize that's a peach surrounded by a maze of hop bines.

Eric's Ale is a French Oak-aged sour peach ale. Eric about his beer: "This is a sour beer for those who don't like sour beers. And a fruit beer for those that don't like fruit beers." 7% alcohol. Best Enjoyed By April 2, 2017.

Aroma is big and full of peaches with a little acidity and tartness. Sweet and sour start, excellent back and forth action. Lots of peach flavors dominate to start. Orange and light tropical nuances also follow. Very juicy! Then the switch to some acidic tartness which cleanses the palate. Repeat! Not even sour in the slightest.

Some light yeasty funkiness and woody character are noticeable but background complexities. Slightly dry at the finish. Very flavorful and super refreshing. Definite winner!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Saint Arnold Brewing Arrives in South Florida

I just checked out my first "Meet The Brewer" event at Craft Beer Cartel in Ft. Lauderdale. Craft Beer Cartel has been open since December, 2014, and is owned by Adam Fine (you know him from his days leading a craft beer revolution at Brown/Fresh Beer) and Julian (I don't know his last name but stop by The Riverside Market across the street and you'll meet him!) Meet The Brewer last night introduced Brock Wagner from Houston's Saint Arnold Brewing Company.

Stephens Distributing Company recently launched the Saint Arnold beer brand in South Florida and this was their celebration. Saint Arnold has been on the West Coast of Florida for a while now, but they are now officially available locally. Not sure what took so long but since the brewery is a Top 50 Craft Brewer (brewing 66K barrels in 2014) and only sells their beer in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, I guess I'll just shut up with second-guesses.

I arrived early, duh. I hadn't been to Craft Beer Cartel yet, but the store was really awesome. First, nothing but craft beer wall to wall, lots of cool displays, and I must mention the most awesome floor made from bottle caps ever! The store is not just a craft beer retailer; it's also a place for home brewers to grab supplies for their own brewing. Besides bottles and cans, you can also get growlers filled to go (even 64's, yeah!) Pretty cool place!

That's about when the Saint Arnold and Stephens teams stopped drinking at Riverside Market and got ready for their presentation. And this was no normal one - Documentarist Sharyn Bey was there doing a series on Craft Beer! Everyone got miked and ready to tell the story of the brewery and to actually Meet The Brewer!

I knew some of the story from a prior conversation with Brock almost two years ago, but last night's exchange was super cool. Adam introduced Brock in a really cool way. Apparently, Adam was living in Houston when Saint Arnold opened in his neighborhood in 1994. He was first interested but eventually passionate about craft beer and over the years befriended Brock. Before he left Texas to return to Florida, he had one last inspirational conversation with Brock about opening his own craft brewery in Florida. Pretty cool!

Brock awesomely opened his presentation with "Bueller, Bueller" then talked a little about his background. He learned to homebrew from his Resident Advisor at Rice University (total party school, LOL). After college, he took an investment banking job that required him to be money motivated (which he wasn't). So he quit and opened a brewery because it was going to be simple as the only craft brewery in the area - everyone would just line up to drink the new spectacular beers he was brewing!

Didn't quite happen that way though! Brock said they spent the better part of seven years just educating their customers, several times questioning the viability of the business. But things started to turn then. Saint Arnold customers started to include women and men under 35, people celebrating 21st birthdays on a tour of the brewery.

Brock said as a homebrewer he never repeated a recipe, but as a professional brewer he opted for Amber Ale to be their "forever beer". Amber Ale is still the #2 beer in Houston though a lot of that has to do with tradition. The brewery now has a long list of core beers but also do some really fun series. They have an ICON Series, Divine Reserve Series and Bishop's Barrel Series. Many of those are really limited and some fanatics in Houston skip work to buy the really hot stuff, but I got to try a few new cool ones last night. Also, a few of those specialties become regular beers if they earn it!

Before last night, my experience with Saint Arnold beers was definitely limited. As we headed back to Riverside Market to try a few after the presentation, we bumped into the two cars that the local Saint Arnold sales people drive here. Both are hand painted cars made to celebrate the hometown Houston Art Car phenomenon that's evolved over the past 30 years from a "pirate event" to a recognized parade with 100,000 people. Super cool!

Beer time. I tried only the ones I hadn't tried before, and besides Stephens' Jamie, I had both Saint Arnold Director of Sales Kendra Harrell and South Florida Sales Rep Dan Von Husen to guide me!
Also, Brock was there to talk beer and take photos - so cool!

ICON Amarillo Hefeweizen to start? OK. Sure! Very nice, spicy, hoppy with citrus, wheat and very crisp. Endeavor DIPA: Rich and malty, fruity sweetness gives way to bitter resinous hoppy goodness. Very flavorful, nice balance. Then two Imperial Stouts, one a Divine Reserve Series beer and the other aged in Bourbon Barrels for over a year in their Bishop's Barrel Series. The generic numbering of each series got a little confusing for each series, but what do you expect from a guy that still does financial models in his dreams? I loved both versions! Chocolate, licorice, sweetness, roast, lots of nuances.

As a usual bourbon barrel hater (on my beers), I found the aged version to be subtle, not hot, not alcy, and really nice. Kendra suggested that to be because of the longer aging, rounding out the profile completely! I'm pretty sure she said "Jesus in my belly" too to describe the bourbon barrel aged version!

OK. Definitely check out Saint Arnold Santo (Black Kolsch), Fancy Lawnmower, Weedwacker, Summer Pils and others! Those are "sit at your pool" beers!

I tried to work as many Brock quotes in above as I could, but there were so many more. Such a nice man, passionate, creative, giving. They have several beers that drive charitable donations besides a very community-centric theme all around. Ale Wagger Brown donates $1 per case to animal rescue causes and Elissa IPA helps the tall ship in Galveston keep sailing. Saint Arnold has also had festivals to raise money and awareness for other health issues. Community is definitely a theme.

Finally, some tips (along with some of those extra quotes)...

Saint Arnold has almost zero turnover. If you want to know why, I'm sure Brock will speak with you. But before you call, be sure to have your brewery/company's Mission Statement in hand, what defines you even in dark times. Other words to sell by...

"Don't ever take away from the customer."
"Fire is cool!"
"We do what we want to do then rationalize a business purpose."
"Our beers have soul."
"Beer is about community."
"After 12 years, we were an overnight success!"

Thanks for a great evening!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Poolside Kolsch

I checked out Jdubs Brewing Company's Poolside Kolsch while visiting Lakeland Brewing Company at the start of #EpicBreweryWeekend. It was the only guest beer they had on tap. When I saw it at my local liquor store yesterday, I figured I'd grab a can and do a real review here. I like the can - all blue representing an endless ocean, a few simple palm trees and waves, good design. The brewery is in Sarasota, Florida, though they explain in their "Pairs well with your homies" story that this beer's recipe is from Germany. 5% alcohol.

Pretty limited aroma, maybe some light lemon and grain. Lots of lemony bitterness comes first and is quickly followed by some grain and saltine cracker flavors. Carbonation is really good and enhances the sharp prickly bitter nips at the palate. Finish is a little spicy and lingers afterward. Very simple yet good flavors. Clean and refreshing. "Crush this one in the sun!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Electric Peel Grapefruit IPA

Magic Hat recently sent me a kit highlighting their newest year round beer - Electric Peel Grapefruit IPA. The kit included a glass, bottle opener and of course a sample of the beer. The artwork on both the label and the glass are very fun, a "living" plug with hop cones for ears that is eating a grapefruit. 6.0% alcohol, 65 IBU. "Power of the peel!"

The aroma is bursting with grapefruit and citrus, a little grassy as well. Sharp grapefruit flavors show up first, very zesty, very juicy. That refreshing citrus bite really cleanses the palate. Bitterness is good but there is definitely enough malty sweet balance in the background. Spicy, a little grassy. Dry at the finish, lightly astringent, with just a hint of alcohol. Refreshing, pretty solid beer. Check it out!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Devour Brewing Company

Final stop on #EpicBreweryWeekend was Devour Brewing in Boynton Beach, Florida. This is just a few minutes down the road from Copperpoint Brewing.

There was a group playing a game at a table near the entrance. We walked up to the bar where we were greeted by owner Chip and his wife. We asked about our options, and I'm not sure if we did a flight. I think we did four or five half pours instead, but semantics.

Flight: Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, Azacca Single Hop IPA, Hefe on Vacation, Juniper Berry, Coffee and Cream Brown Ale

My favorite was definitely the Coffee and Cream Brown Ale, nicely sweet, creamy, good coffee flavors. Some of the others seemed a little bit in the development stage, with good flavors but some tweeking still needed.

If you want to know the origin of the brewery name, it's named after a Shine Down song titled Devour!

Thanks for the conversation. Good Luck, Devour Brewing!

Copperpoint Brewing Company

I told you that as we were leaving Twisted Trunk Brewing, the people next to us suggested Copperpoint Brewing Company in Boynton Beach, FL as an awesome new brewery to check out. Well, we already had that planned for stop #8 of #EpicBreweryWeekend! We arrived not that long afterward.

Copperpoint is the new place of owner Matt Cox who brewed for Big Bear Brewing in Coral Springs for 13 years. The tasting room is huge, fully air conditioned, and just beautiful. Copperpoint opened "the day after Mother's Day (2015)" according to one of the bartenders. I just checked that to be May 11, 2015, so I guess they are just open around two months-ish.

Copperpoint isn't permitted to serve food, but they do have food trucks scheduled to serve food every day (the one we ordered from delivered inside!) They have a picture window behind the bar so you can see into the brewery. Copperpoint also has a game area above the brewery for cornhole, video games, ping pong etc. No one wanted a shot at the champ while I was there! LOL

My wife and I focused on our beer options from a chalk board behind the bar while our food was being made. While we were deciding, I recognized one of the bartenders from several occasions, and the guy sitting next to us looked really familiar and was certainly interesting (and also bar-hopping that day). Lots of fun conversation. Two flights sound about right?

Flight One: One Love IPA, solid fruity balanced IPA; WITNESS Belgian Wit, wheaty, tangy, spicy, enjoyable; G Saison, awesome grapefruit taste, Belgian yeast, like an alcoholic juice! Big Hoppa DIPA, rich fruity orange, malty yet plenty of bitterness.

Flight Two: A10 Hop Hog (Red IPA), awesome spiciness, hoppy, caramel, tropical fruit, excellent beer! Summer Session IPA, fruity, refreshing, crisp; Das Pilsner, grainy, good; Trula Saison, zesty, lots of citrus and spiciness.

Favorites? Well, I loved A10 Hop Hog, G Saison and Big Hoppa. Start with those and you'll be a happy camper. And the rest were very good - not a bad apple in the bunch. It was time to leave, so I asked the server if I could have our check and one of the Copperpoint stickers I saw around the brewery. I agreed to the $1 charge but she couldn't find stickers as an item in the payment system, so I told her to keep the $1 and figure it out after I left! Now proudly on my craft beer cooler!

Nice beers, nice service, nice urinals (see below, painted in copper color, duh)! Definite visit for EVERY LOCAL!

Next Stop... Devour Brewing down the road a few miles.

That clock is so high up, no one will fix it!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

P.P. Cobb General Store

I mentioned that the Sailfish Brewing bartender and one of the Fort Pierce City Commissioners recommended visiting P.P. Cobb General Store during my recent visit to the brewery. They are well known for having over 500 beers to choose from, but this original general store in downtown Ft. Pierce, FL has much more to offer than just beer.

They have some old-timey candy options (not Little House era, but close, and they don't cost a penny either). They have some old school sodas, too. But P.P. Cobb's is also mostly known as a great place to go for soups, baked goods, and sandwiches to eat in or take with you. When we were there, one server was hustling his ass off in a tight space (because craft beer was taking up so much other room). My wife took a small soup to go and was delighted with it!

Anyway, fun, authentic, and I'm betting P.P. Cobb, the original Postmaster of Ft. Pierce, would have been delighted to have Sweetwater Neon Signs and Dogfish Head Plaques in his place!

Let me know if you get a chance to visit (and don't forget the brewery)!

Twisted Trunk Brewing

After leaving Sailfish Brewing, #EpicBreweryWeekend continued south toward Palm Beach Gardens and Twisted Trunk Brewing. Around this same time last year, Owner Matt Webster told us during a similar visit to his Tequesta Brewing that he and his business partner Fran Andrewlevich would be opening this second much bigger brewery in 2015. So of course my wife and I were eager to check it out!

By this time in the afternoon, the brewery had a decent-sized crowd. Very spacious! We took a look around at the decorations and peeked into the actual brewing area to get a look. One wall had a tree with a twisted trunk illuminated with green lights. The brewing tanks had a blue glow around them, similar to how their Tequesta Brewing is set up. The wooden bar was really nice but the only seats open were directly in front of the taps. There were comfy couches and lounge areas too, but we opted for a high top table in the middle of the space.

Our server (I think she said her name was Jessie) was very nice, explained what the beers were and set our expectations. She even organized our flights in a sensible way that didn't put the boldest beer first (even though that's probably how I ordered it).

Flight One: Lucky Langer Lager, crisp refreshing pilsner, nice bitterness; Watermelon Saison, melon, orange, crisp and zesty, flavorful; IPGA American IPA, beautiful orange and tropical sweetness with an excellent bitter balance; Double Equinox DIPA, definitely bitter but has delicious citrus and sweet malty backbone.

Flight Two: Sommer Lager (German Maibock), simple, grainy, flavorful; El Diablo Rojo Imperial Red Ale, malty, spicy, hoppy; Rasta Stout (English Stout), coffee, sweet and creamy, pronounced licorice at finish; Midnight Rambler Porter, nice honey sweetness, light nuttiness, chocolate, completely hidden 12% alcohol!

I was a fan of almost all of them! Favorites were the IPGA IPA, Double Equinox DIPA, and Watermelon Saison. We tried almost all of the beers on the tap list. Twisted Trunk also had a cider, a kombucha and one spectacular craft beer on the guest beer list (I love Founders Red's Rye P.A., but we skipped it!)

While we were tasting our beers, we struck up a conversation with the people next to us. They were involved with insurance focused on breweries so they were very knowledgeable about both the local scene as well as that around Asheville, NC where they spent a few years. Was a nice conversation. They suggested we take a shuttle plane to Asheville for a long weekend - I guess there are $100 flights that make that happen more easily! They also suggested visiting Copperpoint Brewing which was pretty funny because it's exactly where we were headed!

Almost forgot... The urinals made from repurposed kegs were super cool. I had seen it the day before at another brewery but still fun nonetheless. And they also had similar industrial style sinks and faucets and handles in the bathroom.

Twisted Trunk is a great place! Atmosphere, comfort, great service and excellent beer. The terrific front end made me want to be able to see behind the bar and get a look at the actual operation and hear the story about the brewery. I did ask beforehand about a tour since there was no information on the website. I didn't get a reply, though I hope the request was at least read so they know others would also be interested.

Thanks for a tasty visit! Next Stop... Copperpoint Brewing in Boynton Beach.