Friday, October 30, 2015

Vapricot Apricot Ginger Imperial IPA

Wow! Everyone loves Cigar City and wants a collaboration beer with them. Wasn't but 15 minutes ago that I checked out the fabulous one they did with Boulevard Brewing. Now I've got a glass full of Terrapin Beer's Vapricot Apricot Ginger Imperial IPA, brewed with apricot puree and ginger. It was $5 for a single, which basically puts it in bomber category price range, just with slightly less commitment. So basically, this better kick mega ass for that price.

Terrific label art! The turtle on the label is clearly from Cuba now living in Miami or Tampa. White clothes and cap, smoking a fat cigar, red bandanna, and strumming a guitar with the ocean in the background (definitely not Athens, GA). I didn't really understand the story, but am certainly hoping "this multidimensional beer will help [me] see things more clearly." At 9.05% alcohol, I doubt it though.

Spicy ginger and fruity aroma, very pleasant. Fruity flavors to start, hard to say apricot but I get it since I was told. Nice hoppy bitterness follows. Then the ginger comes in aggressively! Super spicy. A touch of caramel sweetness complements the fruitiness.

But then... the ginger gets super sharp and builds to the point of burning the throat and dominating every other flavor and sense from the initial sips of the beer. Ginger was a fun idea but WAY overdone! And an alcohol kick brings out those flavors even more! Definite pass, even if it cost half as much!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Der Chancellor

Today I'm checking out Der Chancellor, a German-Style Kolsch brewed by Tequesta Brewing in Tequesta, Florida (and contracted to Florida Beer Company, too, so they are able to brew enough to have it bottled and shipped to my county!) I've had this beer a few times before, at the brewery and a few events, but when I saw bottles on the local shelf, I decided to go for it! 5.3% alcohol.

Bready, grainy, lightly sweet aroma. Very nice. Sweet grainy flavors come through first as well, Toast and honey meet a light grassy spiciness. Good body,  perfectly balanced, nice flavors. I could easily drink this all day, and thanks to it being bottled, I can do just that!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Moët Hennessy Luxury Champagne and Wine Tasting

Total Wine in Kendall (Miami, FL) recently hosted an event showcasing some of the top luxury Champagnes and Wines in Moët Hennessy's enormous porfolio. And they did it on #ChampagneDay! After an introduction by National Account Manager Matt Jobe, he passed the baton to Champagne Expert Tara O'Leary to lead us in an educational presentation (including sampling) of some of the most iconic brands in the category!

Tara started her presentation with some Champagne basics followed by a lot of information to justify the price of Champagne. With each point, she showed several examples to demonstrate exactly the amount of effort needed to make your favorite bubbly. Besides the authority of James Bond, she pointed to the Patient Craftsmanship needed to create fine Champagne along with the Quality and Rarity of the product.

Tara O'Leary starting her presentation
Whether it's the hand harvesting, hand riddling or hand disgourging of the lees, the unique terroir, noble grapes and tradition, or the fact that Champagne only produces 1% of the world's wines on land that costs $3.5 million per acre (14 times more than Napa), it's clear that Tara was able to make a case for the price of their Champagne. We were about to do the ultimate proof, though. Taste four of Moët Hennessy's top brands and two wines after that.

With each Champagne and wine sample, we were given some history and interesting facts about the brands. We talked about grape varieties (Champagne is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, and all are made with blends of the varieties), vintages, grand crus, weather, terroir, and Champagne's dislike of "flute" glasses.

We started with Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. This is a Grand Cru (meaning the grapes come from the top 17 grape villages, in this case eight of them). "Veuve" officially rhymes with LOVE, though I still might consider saying VewV depending on the crowd. I don't want to be beat up, but that's up to you! The French word means widow and names the matriarch and landowner that gave this wine-making business a name before her death in the mid 1800's. Made with 61% Pinot Noir and 39% Chardonnay grapes. Fairly dry, awesome sharp aroma, creamy and soft, fruity.

Next up... Two Dom Perignons, but not the Blanc you regularly see. Rather, we got to check out two much more rare Champagnes. First, props to Benedictine Monk Dom, who before his death in 1715, made tons of contributions to winemaking, including my favorite--discovering you can make white wine from black grapes. He is known now as the Father of Modern Champagne. Along the way, Louis XIV discovered the wines of Dom Perignon which gave status and access to royalty.

Dom Perignon Rose is not a Grand Cru Champagne! There, I said it! That's because they prefer to pay an homage and use a small percentage of grapes from the second-tier Premiere Cru vineyard where Dom worked in this product. Only vintages are made, so if the weather sucks, you are out of luck. In almost 100 years, there have only been 22 vintages of this Rose, so talk about rarity. Great cherry and toasty flavors, dry with cool little prickly bubbles!

The second Dom Perignon we tried was Oenotheque. Actually that's the old name because libraries are way out of fashion in Northern France! This Dom is now known as P2, which in my opinion is a total step back in naming, especially for the top brand! P2 is where you sunk my Battleship! Easier isn't better, but what do I know? There is an explanation. P stands for Plenitude, which are basically the stages that this Champagne goes through as it ages. P1 (though they don't use that term) is the Blanc we didn't try and was aged 7 or 8 years (well beyond the 3 year vintage minimum required by French law).

Dom Perignon P2 is the expression aged between 12-18 years (our 1998 vintage we tried was aged 16 years). This Champagne is roughly 50:50 Pinot Noir:Chardonnay. Wine Spectator gave this a 98 for its incredible nose and flavors. So much toast and biscuit in the aroma. Awesome berry flavors, candy and salty all make one terrific treat! Rich, complex, yummy! BTW, P3 will exist as a Champagne aged for 20+ years, so keep that in mind for your Santa wish list.

Our final Champagne was Krug Grand Cuvee. I overheard that Krug is the Champagne that God gives to his "good" angels, LOL. Krug makes two offerings, Cuvee #1 which is a blend of vintages, and Cuvee #2 which is a vintage that shows off a terrific grape year. We had Cuvee #1, and according to the Krug App, which is the only free thing from Krug, our 114018 labeled Champagne was a product of 142 blended wines from 11 vintages between the years 1990 and 2006. Seriously! Damn! Aroma is acidic and sharp, really tantalizing the senses. Very big body, fruity apples, toasty.

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir was next, our first wine. From what I heard, Cloudy Bay is the winery that put Sauvignon Blanc on the map, yet is underrated for their Pinot Noirs. Cloudy Bay has selected the best locations in their Marlborough, New Zealand location--best terroir, most sunshine, etc. Excellent cherry and fruity flavor, softly tannic, a little spicy, lightly acidic. Nice!

Finally, we concluded with a collaboration wine, Cheval Des Andes, a blend of Old School Bordeaux Cheval Blanc's Cabernet Sauvignon with Argentina's pioneer Terrazas de los Andes' Malbec. Great matching and contrast between grapes, old vines from both contributors, terrific fruitiness, excellent body, cherry jam, tannic but not overdone, dry, really excellent!

Anyway, that's it. What a fabulous event! Nice people, gracious hosts, excellent servers, terrific speakers and the best Champagnes anyone could hope to taste! I hope you learned something and will check out these awesome Champagnes and Wines. I'm sure that Matt and Tara would LOVE to chat with you if there are any questions. Just leave a comment to be put in touch (or use LinkedIn because you're really smart and they are both waiting to connect).

Collaboration No. 5 Tropical Pale Ale

When Boulevard Brewing was rolling into Florida in the recent past, they made a connection with the team from Cigar City and decided to do a collaboration beer. As the story on the label states, they combined Boulevard's love of pale ales and Cigar City's expertise with fruits and the rest was history, their newest Smokestack Series Beer. Passionfruit, grapefruit and some kick ass hops? Yep! 7.2% alcohol. Best By 02/12/16.

Poured into my Smokestack Glass. Beautiful fruity aroma! Grapefruit and tropical, sweet candied hops, smells spectacular! Tropical fruit flavors open with mango, passionfruit and tons of juicy citrus. Terrific balanced bitterness follows, and an alcohol kick adds more balance to the initial sweetness.

Sweet, tangy, balanced, refreshing and super tasty! Lightly dry at the finish. I set the glass down to do some parenting crap before being able to finish the glass. That 15 minutes of warmth really let the fruity flavors shine through, so I highly recommend letting it warm a little out of the fridge! What's not to love? Great beer!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wavemaker Amber Ale

Odessa, Florida's Big Storm Brewing recently sent a few canned beers over to us in Miami. Today I'm checking out Wavemaker Amber Ale. The can depicts the type of wave that even professional surfers avoid, the type that form when asshole hurricanes get too close to Florida's shores! Of course, that's where the Big Storm name comes from. Florida's Craft Beer Forecast: 5.8% alcohol. 38 IBU.

Big caramel with a spicy, hoppy note. Caramel and toffee flavors start, light spiciness. Enough hoppy bitterness counters that initial sweetness. But what really gets me is some weird yeasty strange type of flavor at the finish. Kind of boring for a hurricane themed beer. Also, just so-so. Needs work.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Prairie Standard

Decided to check out Prairie Artisan Ales' Standard, a hoppy farmhouse ale today. The label art offers an 8 panel cartoon titled "How to Noodle." I don't understand it in the slightest. The side panel makes sure you know that this is "Made By People That Truly Care. From Oklahoma, With Love..." 5.6% alcohol. Brewed and bottled by Krebs Brewing in Krebs, Oklahoma.

Hoppy lemony aroma with light yeast and funk present. Candied lemon, citrus to start with some hops adding plenty of pleasant grassy bitterness. Carbonation is prickly. Some tangy interesting flavors ride those bubbles.

Yeasty, chewy, sort of funky. Maybe a hint of wet dog, and the yeasty flavors seem to linger on into the aftertaste. Was OK - ironic right?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Guinness Launches Nitro IPA at American Social in Miami

There's a cool Craft Beer Bar and Craft Food Restaurant down in Brickell (Miami) right on the Miami River. If you haven't had the chance to check out American Social, what are you waiting for? Last night I had the opportunity to visit not only the restaurant, but also to do it with a small group of people celebrating the launch of Guinness' newest Brewers Project Series Beer, Nitro IPA.

Leading the presentation was Guinness Beer Ambassador and Beer Expert Ian Colgan. He's been with Guinness for almost a decade and was in the St. James Gate pilot brewery to help develop this new beer personally. He described the challenges that Guinness has to overcome every time they launch a new beer. Guinness Stout is so famous that apparently no one can see past that. Until now...

My wife and I both arrived characteristically early, which always allows for a lot of time to chat with the stars of the show one-on-one. We did that with Ian and some other members of the Guinness posse. We heard a lot of fun stories both from the past as well as from this recent promotional tour for Nitro IPA.

One of the other guests asked Ian if he could "draw" a shamrock on top of the head in a pint of Guinness. He bragged that he used to give out his phone number like that back in the day before all these dating sites were around, but then he proved it by demonstrating an awesome shamrock which lasted almost five minutes after creation (and good thing because all of my earlier pictures didn't capture the art). And he did his pour in perfect recommended 119.5 seconds!

So yeah, by now we were already tasting giant pints of Guinness Nitro IPA from a keg. Ian showed us the plastic widget used to create the Nitro cascade when the beer is canned. He then geeked out on how nitrogen needs to be activated and doesn't react with liquid and just wants to escape the beer it's been sentenced to jail in for the past several months. Definitely a scientist too!

The beer is 5,8% alcohol, not really noticeable at all. The 44 IBU were, however, noticeable and pleasant on top of a rich sweet caramel base. (BTW, your old Buddy Guinness the Stout has only 196 calories per 586 mL pint, pretty much a diet beer so stop suggesting that's why you're not out with me right now drinking it!)

Very much an English IPA style beer. Ian told us that despite brewing for hundreds of years in Ireland the craft beer scene there is pretty new. Along with that, the palates for hoppy IPAs are just emerging, so this beer for now is just an American Export, though he did suggest he thought this would "go home" eventually.

OMG. Then the food! Salmon spread with some killer veggies and pita chips. Fried chicken with waffles and another fried appetizer called Cubans. Then we were told to pick one entree from a menu. I ordered the AmSo Burger with French Fries. My wife chose the Shrimp Arugula Salad with goat cheese and candied pecans. What spectacular dishes! So delicious! I am not kidding when I say I left uncomfortably full, yet totally satisfied. You can make that a goal of yours too :))

We chatted and told more stories over dinner, was very casual and fun like everyone had known each other for years. Check out the new Guinness Nitro IPA! I've seen it in Publix and I'm sure it's all over the place. And for sure check out American Social in Brickell. The food is terrific and the staff was just fantastic. Oh, yeah. They are a craft beer bar too, so triple points for that! And I also loved the American Flag pillows on all the comfy couches!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Coconut Grove Seafood Festival 2015

To recover from Saturday's Grovetoberfest Beer Festival, my wife and I visited the Coconut Grove Seafood Festival yesterday afternoon. And when I Sea Food, I eat it! Get it? Especially when that seafood is a mountain of Paella with shrimp and oysters and huge pieces of lobster just to start!

This festival was a celebration of the start of Stone Crab Season, and everyone certainly did their share of eating and celebrating! CGSF is an annual family event, so there were plenty of children taking in the festivities. Lots of bounce houses and slides and activities. There were also dozens of dogs, including a horse-sized black Scooby-Doo!

Besides the paella, I checked out some crabs, conch sliders, ceviche, and a handful of other tasters. Oh, and a few mojitos! The Bud Light only option did not do this festival justice! There was a live band, cooking demonstrations and dozens of vendors with fun merchandise. A Cuban guy rolled me a cigar. My translator wife asked if the cigars were made with Cuban tobacco, but I'm pretty sure we didn't really get any straight answers from that guy, even in Spanish. He said, "I'm Cuban!" LOL.

I loved the Casablanca Seafood area, where they were serving prepared foods and freshly caught fish and lobsters and crabs. Very nice presentation! That's about it! Nice day, nice people, great food, almost the worst beer (except for Heineken), tasty mojitos, fun environment!