Monday, August 31, 2015

Soul Style IPA

I recently attended a Green Flash Beer Dinner with their Director of Beer Education Dave Adams. Soul Style IPA was not part of the menu though we did talk about it. "Soul Style" is apparently a surfing term used on the West Coast. So I grabbed a bottle at the local liquor store today to check out! In addition to the beer's name, the other parts of the bottle label follow with that ocean/surfer theme.

"Waves of Hops, Simcoe Citra Cascade." The story on the back talks about getting Stoked and ripping huge beers. "Get stoked on a laid back single [IPA] and ride a wave to soothe your soul." 6.5% alcohol. 75 IBU. Best By 30 DEC 15.

Citrus orange aroma with a hint of pine and spiciness. Great tropical fruity flavors meet some pine and peppery spicy balance. Plenty hoppy though very seductive! Soft yet still strong and full of body and flavor. Sweet and bitter. Nice finish. Its Got Soul! Check it out!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Buffalo Sweat Oatmeal Cream Stout

I cracked open a pounder can of Tallgrass Brewing's Buffalo Sweat Oatmeal Cream Stout this afternoon. Cool Can with the name of the beer incorporated into a giant snorting buffalo head.5.0% alcohol. 20 IBU. Drink By 12/24/15.

Luscious chocolate, light coffee aroma. Coffee flavors dominate in the beginning with the cocoa taking a back seat. Crazy creamy milky and smooth. Sweet flavors exist but there is a strong roasty bitter balance that drives the sweetness away. Good. Not exactly my cup of tea though.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Miss Bliss

Today I'm checking out Magic Hat's Miss Bliss, a beer spiced with coriander and orange zest. This beer was first brewed in 1998, and despite great reviews, they haven't brewed it since. Just like Magic Hat Ale, this beer's re-release is part of their 21st Anniversary celebration. You can find both in their Night of the Living Dead mixed 12/24 packs.

The label shows a single flower speaking the beer's tagline: "POUR A LITTLE SPICE IN YOUR LIFE." 4.5% alcohol

Not a very powerful aroma, but perfumey with a big whiff. Flavors are simple and subtle. Fruity orange and herbal caramel. Coriander spiciness is just a nuance. Perfumey and flowery all the way. The flavors work well together. Not bad. Check out the mixed pack!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Green Head IPA

Today I'm checking out Massachusetts' Newburyport Brewing's Green Head IPA, "an assertive and hoppy west coast-style IPA." "The Beer That Bites You Back" comes in a green can matching the beer name. 7.2% alcohol.

Hoppy, citrus aroma, but not overly powerful or distinct as the can story suggests. Very piney bitter start with a solid additional grapefruit citrus bang. Floral, fresh, light dank hop flavor. My wife compared it to Sierra Nevada Torpedo, a compliment in my opinion.

A little alcy, astringent and super dry at the finish. Also a highly floral flavor builds throughout. West Coast, no doubt, aggressive as advertised. Not my favorite in a highly competitive field but a really nice beer. Check it out!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Screamin' Reels IPA

I met Saltwater Brewery founders Dustin and Pete a little over a year ago. Since then, I've been able to visit their Delray Beach brewery and even bumped into them at a few beer festivals. One of the beers I tasted that first meeting from a growler, Screamin' Reels IPA, was on the shelf today at my local liquor store. So of course I grabbed a can.

The can art is awesome, one of Pete's fine art fishing designs - I'm pretty sure I saw a few similar paintings at the brewery. The brewery tagline "EXPLORE THE DEPTHS OF BEER" along with a profile of "Tropical, Bitter, Hoppy" adorn this Reef Series beer. 7% alcohol. 75 IBU. Canned 7/30/15

Fresh,  tropical fruity aroma with a touch of pine. Pine flavors start but sweet hints of pineapple and tropical fruit and caramel add some nuances. Despite those sweeter malty attempts, Screamin' Reels leans pretty bitter. Very fresh and hoppy and a great local IPA. Check it out and the brewery as well!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Total Wine recently brought a special shipment of Ninkasi Brewing's beers to its Florida stores! I grabbed one of each, minus the boxed bomber of Ground Control Imperial Stout (you know, the #BomberBoycott of beers that cost me $20). I decided to start with Lux, a German-style Helles Lager. A little story on the back label will set your expectations. 5.0% alcohol.

Sweet grain and cracker aroma. Flavors are both sweet and bitter to start. Grain and toasted bready sweetness meet a grassy, lightly spicy and hoppy match. Sharp, prickly carbonation also adds a lot to the experience. Very clean, simple and flavorful. A tasty and refreshing beer!

I'm definitely looking forward to trying the others!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tampa Bay Beer: A Heady History by Mark DeNote

I've lived in Florida for 13 years, love beer yet have never been to Tampa! Well, except that awkward trip with my family when I was 22 years old, half my life ago and way before anyone cared about the Tampa area beer scene.

Last month, my wife and I visited a bunch of breweries on a return trip from Orlando to Miami. We followed that up with a dozen in Philadelphia a few weeks later. We plan to check out the Tampa area before the end of the year, so Tampa Bay Beer: A Heady History by Mark DeNote arrived at the perfect time! I have already used the information to plan a brewery tour and love the really interesting facts, history and even tasting notes for each brewery's beers!

The book is dedicated to Goose. If I ever write a book, I plan on also dedicating it to Goose, but the one from Top Gun. Bullshit he dies every time! After a Foreword by Richard Gonzmart and a few dozen acknowledgements, Mark got to work, starting with an Era-By-Era history of Tampa's Craft Beer History.

I'm gonna be honest. I checked out that history part last because I was totally selfish and moved toward the second section which was a very up-to-date guide of Tampa's current craft breweries! Great pictures (all from the "Author's collection"), behind-the-scenes insight, and lots of fun little stories make this a very entertaining and informative book.

Totally check this book out for great info on all things Tampa Bay area craft beer! If you want to bother the author, start tweeting him here with all your fantastic reviews!

St. Pete Beach Blonde Ale

A week or so ago, I received a trio of core beers from St. Petersburg's (Florida) 3 Daughters Brewing. It was pretty coincidental, but I had just started reading a book about the history and current beer culture in the Tampa area. The few pages and pictures dedicated to this brewery helped me picture it in my head. I hope to do a brewery tour in that part of Florida before the end of the year!

According to the book, St. Pete Beach Blonde Ale is the mainstay, best seller, etc from 3 Daughters. So that's where I decided to start. The can is mostly yellow and orange, and when you take a closer look, all of that color is the Beach Blonde's flowing hair. The only giveaway to that is the pair of sunglasses at the bottom of the design. Pretty fun.

The story on the back titled "IT'S EASY ON THE TONGUE" lets you know to expect a refreshing and bright beer, a bombshell of a brew. 5.0% alcohol. 24 IBU. The number 26 is stamped into the bottom of the can which I guess could identify the batch but not sure.

Light citrus and honey aroma. Malty sweet flavors to start, again with that honey aspect. There is a nice tangy orange flavor as well right from the start. A touch of citrus, a hoppy bitter balance and nice carbonation make for a flavorful and refreshing brew. Nice beer for the brewery to hang its hat on! Check it out (it's available locally in S. Florida now too).

Monday, August 24, 2015

Big RICC Russian Imperial Stout

Tallgrass Brewing recently sent me a few beers including the first in their new Explorer Series. Their recent expansion has allowed them go beyond just brewing their core beers. Today I'm checking out their first Explorer Series beer, Big RICC, a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Coffee and Chocolate. I know that three other beers in the series are still being barrel aged, so stay tuned for those as well.

This beer is so new that I was sent a pounder can with just an identifying sticker on it, so I'll be stealing a screenshot from their website to show you. Considering it's 10.5% alcohol, I think the brewery made a good decision moving to 12 oz cans for this beer! The can art is cool as usual - Big RICC himself looks like he may have some bicycling super stunt in the local circus performance.

Excellent rich chocolate aroma with hints of coffee and sweet bourbon. I'm not sure if this particular beer was barrel aged or not. The aroma, though I did mention bourbon, in addition to the flavor profile, only offers very subtle alcohol notes. Basically, Big RICC does not suffer that boozy alcoholic messiness like many barrel aged stouts do. So if it was aged, I bet the aging was short and obviously expertly done.

Rich chocolate flavors coat the palate in the beginning. Sweet in the beginning is cut up by some roasted coffee and a touch of warming alcohol. Most of the other flavors are subtle yet distinct and noticeable, working in perfect harmony with each other. Caramel, vanilla, plums and even some orange citrus make for a very complex beer.

Body is rich, texture is creamy. The beer is slightly sweet but just perfect. A lot going on in harmony and a terrific introduction to this new series. Grab yourself a 4-pack of this beer!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Magic Hat Ale

Magic Hat Brewing is celebrating its 21st anniversary by releasing the first beer it ever brewed: Magic Hat Ale, an Irish-style Red Ale. Interesting moons and stars pattern on the label. "An Ode to Our First Born" 4.6% alcohol.

Malty caramel aroma. Caramel flavors dominate with some herbal character. Lightly spicy, faint bitterness at the finish. On the sweet side but not bad. My wife liked it a lot. For me, not bad, not a standout.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Velvet Rooster

Tallgrass Brewing's Velvet Rooster was on the agenda for today, if you know what I mean. Yeah, drinking a pounder of this Belgian-Style Tripel with really cool can art. The Rooster is multi-colored and stands out on the red can background. Tallgrass also makes note of their sponsorship and support of the Tallgrass Film Festival on the can. 8.5% alcohol. Drink By 04/28/16.

Big Head! Bubble Gum and yeast aroma. Very fruity to start, oranges and bananas. Tons of bubblegum follows, with a slight alcohol delivery. Soft with a creamy (velvety?) texture. The yeast is really prominent which I'm pretty sure is why my wife brought up soap. Sweet with fruit and candi sugar, perhaps a little too sweet. Nice flavors that work really well together, nothing too powerful. I could have used a bitter or spicier hit to cut the sweetness but enjoyable nonetheless. I finished at room temperature, still terrific.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

EARTH Bread + Brewery

My wife and I left Forest & Main Brewery & Pub and headed to the Final Stop on #EpicPhillyBreweryTour: EARTH Bread + Brewery. The brewery has a great mural called Walking the Wissahickon, painted by Brian Ames on one exterior wall of the building and designed as part of the City of Philadelphia's MuralArtsProgram.

When we walked in, there wasn't a spot at the bar, so we took a seat at a table in the bar area and asked for a food and draft menu. We were handed two former children's books - the books' front and back covers now housed the menus. Pretty cool reuse of the books and definitely a fun conversation starter! There was a pretty big space for dining in addition to a fairly large bar area. Overall impression: Freakin' Crunchy, which didn't really surprise me one bit.

After we decided what we wanted, we waited. Then we asked a hostess for someone to come over. Then we waited. Then we gave up and went upstairs to check out that area. Similar in size, with another good-sized and fully seated bar in addition to more dining area.

There were actually no seats in the bar, so we were seated at a table in the dining area. When our waiter heard that we just wanted to drink a few beers and that there was no room over there, he took us back to the bar area and kicked the hostess out of the table where she was sitting, muttering "hostess gotta move her ass." He also asked the bartender to stop by our table.

Then we waited. Finally, I flagged her down. She said they didn't do flights but would do free tastes. So she brought us one of each of their four draft beer samples, enough for both of us to try. Looked like a flight to me, perhaps just slightly short on the pour. I'm thinking they should probably make money if they are doing that anyway. We assured her we'd pick our favorites for a pint and asked that she keep an eye out for us to order.

Free Sample (Flight) One: Summer Day (Pale Ale); Lazy Comet (ESB); Til The Wheels Come Off (American Sour); Vienna Fix (Vienna-style Lager)

Summer Day was very flavorful, juicy with good bitterness. Lazy Comet had a caramel and herbal flavor, good balance. Til The Wheels Come Off was not sour at all, just a little tart cherry and pear fruitiness. And Vienna Fix had a nice grainy sweetness, honey, flavorful.

I decided on a 20 oz. of Summer Day while my wife opted for 13 oz. of Vienna Fix. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. I dropped a $5 tip on the table and we left Dodge! Worst service of any of the 10 breweries we visited those two days. Beers were good enough, prices similar to everywhere else, cool fun space and decor. Even the atmosphere seemed pretty good, except that we were apparently ghosts in the room.

The End of #EpicPhillyBreweryTour! (Go Back to the Beginning.) Let me know what you think and if you decide to try this or a similar adventure, be sure to carefully plan on what you'll be eating and drinking and do it responsibly. Then tell me all about it!

Moro Moro Blood Orange IPA

Funky Buddha in Oakland Park, Florida recently started bottling a few more beers and shipping them out to the local liquor stores. Moro Moro Blood Orange IPA is the most recent to hit the shelves. My particular bottle was packaged 052815.

The label art is pretty fun. An assembly line of Blood Oranges is being "ceremoniously slaughtered" by what appear to be the natives of this pre-historic village. I guess that is what gives the beer its "SAVAGE CITRUS FLAVOR"! It would be nice if Funky Buddha (and lots of other breweries) named the label artist with their work. 7.0% Alcohol. Serve in wide mouth glass at 38°F.

Orange in color. Sweet orange aroma, though not very prominent. Very fruity and juicy to start. Reminds me of orange-ade. Sweet then barely tart, perhaps with a dose of hoppy bitterness near the end. A touch of alcohol reminds you this is not juice, but the lingering fruity orange aftertaste makes you forget again.

Not bad, but definitely a boring fruit-ade beer with an alcohol kick. Not really an IPA but I don't care what you call your beer styles if they taste great. Could use a little hoppy crispness to shut down the oranges and sweetness a bit.

Looks like the Distributor should've been more careful with the bottle, too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Forest & Main Brewery & Pub

After leaving Conshohocken Brewing, my wife and I headed to Ambler, Pennsylvania's Forest & Main Brewery & Pub, Stop #9 on #EpicPhillyBreweryTour! The brewery is housed in a Victorian home at the corner of, you guessed it, Forest & Main! You may remember that the day before we visited, one of the bartenders at Tired Hands Brewing said this was one of his favorite spots to drink beer and relax.

Before even walking up to the front door, you could tell this place was going to have a lot of character. Benches and picnic tables in the front yard, a great porch for dining and a BEER header over the front door greeted us. When you walk in, there is restaurant seating to the right and bar seating in a room to the left. We turned LEFT!

The cozy bar had 5 stools with a few others around the room at tables and a shelf along the wall. We took two at the bar and grabbed a tap list, which was divided into British inspired and Belgian (fermented with foraged Ambler yeast) inspired beers. When we started asking questions and taking an interest in the brewery, our bartender and the patron in the stool next to us were awesome and passionate ambassadors for the brewery, community and town!

After ordering a flight of four beers, we asked a little about the decor of the brewery bar. We were told that the physical bar was made of reused local beams split in three. The art work around the entire brewery, first and second floor, was done by owner Dan Endicott. I asked about the wine-sized bottles on the shelves above me too. They were all special releases with no bottles currently available. The one called Palomino (all the way to the right) actually won Best Beer in Philadelphia in 2014!

On the opposite end of the tasting room was a keg/guitar trophy. Apparently, there is a local band competition called Band of Brewers that Forest & Main won earlier in the year. The guy at the bar showed us a video of the performance on his phone. They were dressed like birds and a cat, LOL. That is when our friend suggested that before we leave, we take a look at the upstairs, in particular the bathroom decor!

Flight One (skipping all accents): Rocks with Faces (Pale Ale); Petite Etoile (Saison); Garden Bier (Biere de Garde); Banjo (Farmhouse Ale)

OK. Beer time! Rocks with Faces was great, nice bitterness balanced with honey and juicy, fruity sweetness. Petite Etoile was very yeasty with lots of fruity and spicy nuances. Garden Bier was full of sweet fruit and caramel, lightly funky, lighty spicy. And the brett in Banjo made for a yeasty and funky beer, nicely tart and very well played against the cucumbers and watermelon it was conditioned on. Favorites: Rocks with Faces (I got a 20 ouncer after) and Banjo!

We took that opportunity to check out the upstairs. Several fun rooms with more tables and places to socialize. Lots more original art, almost all portraits of people, adorned the walls. And yeah, that bathroom. Kegs in the bath tub and a full tool board on the wall (in addition to the toilet) - what more could a guy want or need?

Forest & Main made great beer and provided a relaxing and fun environment. We didn't try the food but the menu did look pretty tasty. We were told (and then I read) that there will be a brewery expansion pretty soon, utilizing the building next door so they can brew more beer and have more flexibility with events. Basically, they need more room because they are doing things right and people are noticing!

Nice job, Forest & Main. If not THE favorite of our tour, right near the top! Final stop was next... Earth Bread + Brewery.

New Brewery Space Next Door, currently being used for storage and renovated
Kinda bad timing for this photo but it needed to be posted

Plum Island Belgian White

I really enjoyed Newburyport Brewing's Melt Away Session IPA so I moved on to a can of their Plum Island Belgian White, a Belgian-style ale brewed with coriander and citrus. Blue can. 5.4% alcohol.

Nice aroma, wheaty, spicy coriander and citrus. Full of flavor from the start! Tons of wheat with a nice tangy zing. That was complemented by coriander and orange perfectly, not overdone in any way. Chewy texture--the citrus rind really cuts into that for an interesting balance. If I had one wish, it would be to cut the sweetness just a little. But overall, a nice beer with lots of flavor that lingers after every sip!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Conshohocken Brewing

My wife and I left Victory Brewing with a plan to arrive at Conshohocken Brewing right at opening. #EpicPhillyBreweryTour continued! My brothers lived in Conshohocken for a pretty long period in the mid-late 90's, but the brewery only opened last April (2014), so they never had the chance to visit. But I will share a funny coincidence later.

We arrived at opening though there were already people drinking. We asked for a flight of four beers to start. I made a point to ask if it was OK to write on the tap list, considering my earlier experience. This was two pages on a decent stock paper too! "Jess" said that of course it was OK, she didn't give a shit and would print more if needed!

Flight One: Conshy Blonde Ale; Conshohocken IPA; 10,000 Marbles (Belgian-style Pale Ale); Harbinger of Change (American IPA)

I'm pretty sure we drank them in that order. Conshy Blonde was a nice crisp beer full of pilsner cracker flavor, nicely bitter, very clean. Conshohocken IPA is their best seller and was probably my favorite, so I can see why. Nice citrus, perfectly bitter. 10,000 Marbles is a collaboration with a local homebrewer and is brewed with local honey and peaches. The fruity peach sweetness is really nice and balances out a great hoppiness. Belgian yeast adds a lot to the character. Harbinger of Change, NOT their DIPA at 7.2% alcohol, sharp and spicy, good body, pine and caramel flavors, alcohol kick.

We finished with a pint of one of their specialty beers: Day Without A Dawn Black IPA. I like that they also called it a Cascadian Dark Ale though I think that term is dying. Nice chocolate flavor hit with a good roast and super-hoppy piney flavors. If this is your style, DWADBIPA is The Man!

While we were there, at least two groups of bikers stopped by for a beer or two. That's because Conshy Brewing is perfectly located right on the Schuylkill River Trail, so close you can park and lock your bike there within 20 feet. We checked out the outside deck and trail before leaving.

Nice place. After only being opened a year, I see lots of potential. I guess they are also canning beer for local distribution now as well.

OK. The funny story... The day after visiting the brewery, I was chilling down the shore in Ocean City, NJ. My brothers were asking if I had visited Conshohocken Brewing while I was touring the Philly breweries. They wanted to know because two of their buddies are the founders of the brewery! Small World! And then the stories ensued, with one particular Penn State football game the highlight!

Nice job, Conshy Brewing! And if you're on the SRT, be sure to stop by! Next stop... Forest & Main Brewery in Ambler, PA.