Devil’s Door Brewery
Amazingly enough, Friday the 13th and the title of this article are purely coincidental.
I had high hopes for Devil’s Door as it’s in a trendy area, near the express bus terminal in Gangnam, and is relatively new. A short time after being there we realized that the vibe was a forced version of trendy-hipster, the food was seriously overpriced, and the beers were alright, but nothing to write home about.
The Devils Door Pale Ale might as well have been a by the numbers light ale. No real character or distinct qualities that I could even pick out of this beer. I could down tons of these on a sunny afternoon, but I wouldn’t really enjoy myself.
Helles Lager was by far the best of the bunch. Fitting to the style- it was a malty version of a typical crisp, Czech pilsner. Koreans seem to be big fans of the pils and this was a nice change of pace to what’s been on tap lately. I definitely recommend this one as the summer months begin to get muggy and hot.
The Devil’s Door IPA had all the makings of your typical “we made an IPA because everybody has to make an IPA” IPA. A blending of hop characters with no distinction of its own.
Devil’s Door stout could have been alright if it wasn’t a watery mess. It had some nice chocolate undertones, and a savory coffee finish, but didn’t impress me.
I wonder if it has more to do with the fact that, as much as they try to pass it off as such, it’s not really a local micro-brewery; it’s operated and managed by Shinsegae Foods. It would be like if a chain mall like Tanger Outlets had a brewery pop up- it might be fun if there’s nothing else around, but with some healthy competition nearby, it’s very underwhelming.
I’m always willing to give a brewery another try, but, for now, I give Devil’s Door Brewery a 5.49 out of 10
The Booth Brewing Company
I’ve had Booth’s Kukmin IPA and their Great God of Fun Red Ale at local pubs, but a day in and around the Sinsadong and Socheogu neighborhoods of Gangnam wouldn’t be complete without a trip to The Booth brewery and drinking some of their drafts in person. I’m going to judge this place Seoul-ly by what we put in our mouths this time rather than including any other aspects, simply because we loved every bite and every drop. They didn’t offer flights, so we had a few pints, we treated ourselves to fried veggies that actually consisted of assorted fried veggies, not just different forms of potato, and we had THE best NY style slice we’ve had since landing in Korea (almost a year ago).
We started with Boilermaker
Kolsch. Boilermaker is a collaboration with Distill Brewing and features an impressive, light and fruity flavor, not to mention only 5.5% abv, for being blended with whiskey and aged for 6 weeks. I really can’t tell you how much I loved this brew.
We followed it up with Brett IPA. Another solid IPA performance by The Booth. Brett pushed into my tastebuds with a tangy start and followed with a fruity character that I couldn’t put my finger on. This is the standard of the new brettanomyces IPAs on the forefront of the scene. What wasn’t standard was the light, bubbly, almost champagne quality of this brew.
We finished with The Beer Pilgrim’s Porter and I couldn’t have been more impressed. This porter gave me hope for Korean dark beers. Pilgrim had a great character balance of coffee, chocolate, and malts all while maintaining a robust body and thicker mouthfeel than all of the stouts I have had in the country thus far.
All in all, I give The Booth a 9.05 out of 10.
Baesangmyun (BSM) Brewery/Sansawon Liquor Museum
Pocheon is consistently rated one of the top small town escapes in all of Korea with hiking trails, an abandoned rock quarry/art valley, and an herb-themed island. Add the fact that they have designated an entire compound to the cultural appreciation and making of the nectar of the gods and I’m there! Just outside of town, down a dusty road, next door to an abandoned barn fully equipped with its own mangy cat, lies Baesangmyun (BSM) Brewery- though they do make one beer: the worlds only 100% rice lager (not to mention the only gluten-free beer I’ve ever had that doesn’t taste like complete poooooo), ‘distillery’ would be a more appropriate title for the location. Whatever you want to call them- this place is worth the trip.
After a stroll through the museum with everything from early harvesting tools and distilling machines to hundreds of pages of recipes and a replica of the founder’s office we made our way to the tasting room and were given plastic shot glasses. We were then told rather than starting light and making our way to the strong stuff we should start strong “so we aren’t already too drunk when we get to the end”. Never one to ignore sound logic- we jumped right in.
First up, was what I would say was akin to moonshine or strong Korean vodka. At first glance, I would have guessed soju, but at 60% alcohol (compared to soju’s 20%ish) I could not have been more wrong. There were three total: 1 sweet potato, 1 persimmon, and one apple. I’m glad I tried it, but I couldn’t taste much past the initial burn- these guys were not for the faint of heart or for someone who enjoys having nose hair. On the other hand, if there are any 500-year-old Korean men reading this article you should be just fine, as the man who housed 5 or-so shots of each right next to me can attest.
Next up was a round of sojus and Korean wines. One standard soju similar to many others to be had in Korea followed by a green plum wine and bokbunja-um which is a black raspberry wine. I loved the bokbunja as it burst with ripe berries and brandy-like burn. Side note; it’s also known as “the old man’s virility”.
Next was sool. Sool, a once popular Korean beverage, nearly died out after the Korean war with the influx of more popular American drinks and is slowly, but surely, being revived back to life almost exclusively by BSM. Though, techically, sool just means alcohol the style has come to be known differently from soju and other spirits. That being said- I hated each one of them. I love the backstory and I support the movement, but I wasn’t a fan of sweet tarts followed by a skunks ass.
Last, but certainly not leased were four varieties of my favorite Korean drink: makgeolli (see my first makgeolli article: here). The first was a bit too far down on the chalky and bitter end, but the next three were delightful. I finished with Slow City makgeolli: Another BSM revival in the heart of Seoul.
We left with some R4 Rice Lager, a buzz, and some inspiration. Though I didn’t love as many of the drinks as I’d hoped, BSM is about so much more than just your palate. I am going to give this place my first and probably only ever split rating. I give the Baesangmyun Brewery an 8 out of 10, but I give the Sansawon cultural experience a 10.1 out of 10.
Galmegi Brewing Company
Galmegi, or the seagull in Korean, fits right in with a beach town like Busan. We spent the afternoon day drinking in the sun, made a few pit stops along the way, and strolled into Galmegi for phase 3 (or 4?). I ordered a flight, The Editor ordered a pint and we split a delicious, Korean twist on an American classic: kimchi fries.
Galmegi is all over Busan and rumor is that they have a location in the works for Seoul as well and for good reason. Though I think South Korea still has a long way to go when it comes to producing the quality IPAs and stouts that the US is pumping out, Galmegi is far and away the best brewery we have been to in Korea.
We started off with Yuja Gose. I’m not overly fond of goses in general, but this one was a nice break from the mundane. The salty and tart first sip was delicately balanced by the sweet yuja. A yuja is like a Korean pomelo. More often than not, I feel that berries, apples, and many other fruits don’t hold up to the brewing process. Yuja Gose perfectly captures the essence of this fruit.
Next up was Campfire Amber. It’s been a long time since I’ve smiled after a sip of an amber ale. They can get ruined quite easily and all too often brewers are just pouring in malt and hoping it turns out alright. A slight dryness was immediately followed by a delightful sweetness while toffee and caramel dance around this Campfire and I, for one, was very impressed.
Following up the first two stellar beers was Galmegi IPA. This one tasted an aweful lot like an IPA-by-numbers that was made to fill a spot in the lineup. Bitter with no sweetness and American hops with no substance.
I’m also beginning to think my next quest should be a stout in Korea that I actually enjoy. Espresso Vanilla Stout was all espresso and no vanilla. Lacked balance and any mouthfeel on the way down.
Saving the best for last was the Red Devil RyPa. An amazing balance of bitter hops (75 IBUs), dry rye, and a sweet (7.0 ABV) malt backbone. They say it’s a summer seasonal just for the world cup, but I hope this becomes a mainstay and becomes widely accessible in my North Seoul neck of the woods. Well done.
There weren’t really any ‘tweeners’ on this flight. I loved or I hated, but it’s definitely worth the trip to one of their locations if you’re in Busan. All in all, I give Galmegi Brewing Company an 8.45 out of 10.
The Drink of Peasants
Since coming to Korea I have grown rather fond of the fermented, unfiltered, rice wine known as makkolli (or makgeolli). Many foreigners, expats, and even 20- 30- something native Koreans don’t even know about this drink or scoff at it because of its blue-collar roots. Known as, The drink of peasants; makgeolli boasts a 7-10% abv, can be found for as low as 1,500 won (1 dollar and 50 cents) for a 24oz bottle, and, in my opinion, tastes better than its brother soju.
Over the weekend my chingus and I were traipsing around a trendy area of Seoul and sought out a craft makgeolli bar (Mr. Ahn’s Makgeolli). Although this article is the equivalent of writing about World of Beer in the US because they serve craft makgeolli, but don’t actually make their own, I still wanted to help educate and spread the word about this kept secret.
All makgeolli shares a milky white color and a chalky consistency, while they vastly differ in flavor. We split two bottles: one on either end of the spectrum. One bottle was dry and “harsh” while the other was sweet and smooth. The first tasted like a skunk’s ass smells, while the other, albeit a little too far on the sweet side for me was still a real delight; with hints of peach and berries. Much like grape wines- the good stuff can age for quite a long time while the cheap stuff is better fresh. Come to find out I was drinking the bud light of makgeolli before my visit to Mr. Ahn’s.
‘Til next time- go find some “Drunken Rice” and get sauced; 1800’s Korean farmer style.
Castle Praha and Queen’s Head Brewpub
I’m quickly coming to the realization that Korea doesn’t really believe in flights/samplers/tastings. It’s quite common to see a “sampler” on the menu for $25- $50, which consists of 4 -10 full sized pints. I don’t really have a logical reply for this: If you want me to just order a full glass of each one of your beers I will, but I’d much rather sample a few and then drink a dozen pints of my favorite. This also makes it hard to write one of these articles. Nonetheless, this past weekend I had a great time on a self-guided, mini bar crawl in Mapogu, Seoul. There are quite a few German-style and Czech-style pubs serving up food, Cass (Korean bud light) and half a dozen house brews: Two very popular examples are to follow.
Castle Praha is Czech brewpub with a Bohemian church feel smacked dab in the middle of Korean style- stores, on stores, on stores. We ordered some sausages and schnitzel (duh) and a few pints. I had the weizen, the Merlin Cerny, and the stout.
The weizen was your typical, unfiltered, Bavarian wheat: sweet, hint of banana and cloves- nothing special, but it was drinkable and paired well with the food.
I tried to find out if Merlin Cerny or just Cerny was a style I have just never heard of before. Turns out it’s the beer name and Cerny is actually a common Czech name. This brew had similar characteristics of malty, American brows. No real aroma here, but a nice balance of toffee, malt, and hops. Merlin Cerny earns some additional style points for being thicker and creamier than the stout that followed.
I will argue with anyone in the greater Eurasian multi-continent: America makes the best stouts. Flavor is one thing and I’ve had a few that can keep up, but the mouthfeel is another, and they don’t hold a candle. I want my stout to be more like lunch. Rant over.
The food and beers were alright, but being transported away from seeing ‘the same, but different’ of everyday Korea gave Castle Praha the opportunity to squeak out a higher rating. I give an 8.0 out of 10.
Queen’s Head Brewpub has a similar feel, but rather than the in-your-face effect of the Castle they have a bit more of a nestled, secret hideaway vibe going on. Queen’s Head mustered the German equivalent of the Czech castle with a pilsner, weizen, and dunkle. I refrained from the first.
The weizen was filtered, making it crisper and cleaner, but where it lacked in body it also lacked in flavor.
The dunkle was one of the best beers I have had in Korea. It was truly rich and creamy, with a chocolate, nuttiness that caused me to order the biggest one they had.
The nachos tasted like Lunchables chips and cheese dip and the weizen was subpar in comparison to its predecessor, but the dunkle was real quality- earning Queen’s Head an 8.1 out of 10.
3 BeaRs Craft Brewery
Despite Bangkok being more of a cheap beer and street food kind of town than a craft beer kind of town I couldn’t very well leave Thailand without tracking down a brewery to add to the list. We now added a third country to our stats and have no desire to stop anytime soon. I should have Bobby V write me a song: “Craft beerin’ all over the world”. Before I begin- it should also be noted the capital ‘R’ is not a typo. Anyway, we ordered our first non-Thai meal in over a week (still not sure if I was excited or disappointed by that), a flight, and got down to business.
The first brew was Goldilocks blonde. This blonde has slightly more body than normal and light sweetness that accompanied a subtle hop character. Easy to drink during the day for sure- Goldilocks wasn’t too sweet or too bitter, too warm or too cold, too big or too small… this one was juuuust right.
Jackal Pale ale was another surprisingly well-balanced brew. I’ve said this before, but sometimes the pale ale can be left by the wayside in a brewery’s line up. Jackal was a bit on the sweet side and not overly hopped, but the superior drinkability really pushed this one into the plus side for me. I think Bruce Willis would approve.
Hunter’s IPA missed its mark. Actually, it sat in the tree stand for 12 hours and did even fire a shot. Five years ago I may have been ok with this IPA, but it really was lacking any hop profile at all; even though it’s still not my favorite style I can still recognize quality or not.
The last brew, sadly, was more of the same in terms of stouts I’ve had in Asia thus far. Gorilla Stout wasn’t completely incompetent in the flavor department, but when you drink a dark beer and it’s thinner than a pilser…or water, that’s a problem.
I’m still glad we went and Off the Wagon Tasting got to add a new feather to the hat, but it’s a bit off the beaten path, a bit overpriced, particularly for Bangkok, and I wasn’t in love with the beer. I can honestly say it’s the best (only) burger I have ever had in Thailand, but still- all in all, I give 3 BeaRs Brewing a 7.2 out of 10.
‘Til next time- Chịyo!
After the lantern festival and our stroll through a maze of alleyways, we stumbled on to Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro for a couple of more pints. They were out of two of their beers and we didn’t really love the vibe, but sometimes that just comes with a trendy area. We were also hoping to snack, and the food looked good, but the prices were a bit much for the announced “45-60 minute wait”.
We started with Hallasan Golden Ale. It was surprisingly flavorful for a blonde: Hallasan was light and crisp, but it also had some subtle unfiltered qualities like a medium bodied Hefe or a lighter Saison. Not the best I’ve ever had, but I recommend giving it a try.
Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale faltered in every beer drinker’s category. Thin, flavorless, bitter in the wrong spots, no head, no lacing… Not a fan.
We decided to head out after two. We’re not sure if they’re trying to be known as bearworks rather than beerworks- we had a good time trying to figure that out, but all in all, I was rather unimpressed. I give Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro a 5.5 out of 10.
The Table Brewing Company
A few weeks back we went to a ceremonial SK lantern festival and checked out the local brew scene after. The Table Brewing company is smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood full of alleys that dip in and out of the main drag, food trucks perched next to restaurants and a general festival feel to the everyday. Flights weren’t available, so we split a few pints and some grub and enjoyed the downstairs vibe.
We started off with The Table IPA: Light and crisp, fruity and citrusy. It’s been my experience that Korean craft beer is about superior drinkability and less about overpowering flavors. This is no different.
The second brew was a real bell-ringer (Insert sly, Grinch-like smile.) Bosingak Dunkel lost some points for being paper thin with a watery mouthfeel, but came through big time in the roasted malt and barley department. Not a traditional dunkel, but another solid addition to The Table.
Next up was Nugget Ale. Wasn’t really nutty, which is what I was expecting, but this dark amber/light brown was everything I’ve been looking for in the malt and caramel department; Not overly sweet and not ruined by a hop profile that doesn’t match. Well done.
Let’s Stout- NO. Sorry.
The food’s not good compared to what you can get in the area, but they’re pumping out some decent brew. All in all, I give The Table Brewing Company a 7.49 out of 10.
Craft Hans Brewery
Just a block from Hop Mori is Craft Han’s Brewery. We popped in for a preset flight, a plate of German-style sausages and a crazy, honey, gorgonzola pizza. We are coming to learn that even the really ‘Americanized’ places can have some crazy flavors.
Starting off with Han’s Pale Ale was a very watery experience. I could tell that hops were used, but other than that, it was a bit on the bland side.
Following the pale ale was a German Weizen prototype. Han’s Weizen was unfiltered and creamy with an obvious touch of Bavarian hops and an edgy wheat/yeast finish. I really enjoyed this one.
Third, on the list, with an interesting spot on the sampler; Han’s Pilsner was a surprising sleeper pick. Normally I’m not a fan, but this pilsner was more of a crisp summery brew than the typical, frothy, dullness I’m used to. It seems the pilsner is a brewer’s light, throwaway for his faint of heart consumers rather than the lighter, hoppy, summer lager it’s supposed to be. Well done.
The tastelessness of Han’s Dark Ale is aided only by the ambiguity of its name. Not a lot going on in this one- sad end to the sampler.
I wasn’t blown away, but with a 50/50 in the beer department, but some pretty decent grub and a sweet location, I give Han’s a 7.5 out of 10.
Hop Mori Brewing Company
We went to a beer fest a little while back, met some awesome people and had some great local Korean brews- one of them being Seoul stout by Hop Mori, so they were on the list of ‘must see stops’. It took us forever to find the entrance to the brewery to the downstairs location, but the warehouse-chic decor is a snapshot right out of hipster Brooklyn.
There are many great things about being in Korea: One of them is how cheap most things tend to be, so when I ordered a flight and the bartender said $18 I was a little taken aback… taken aback until I realized they weren’t tasting glasses and he brought me four full 10 ounce pours.
Seoul stout (not part of the flight)- Seoul stout is a prototype for the style. A little bit of coffee, malt, and chocolate come together for a sweet and bitter blend. Seoul stout is a bit on the thin side, but all in all, it was one of the better pints I had that day.
The first sip on our in-person journey was the Jeju IPA. Much like what I’ve heard of the island itself- this IPA is fruity and tropical. Not necessarily a juice bomb in the sense it has come to be known in the US, but big in the grapefruit and lemon department. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Next up was Dark Chocolate. It was a little ambiguous in name, so I’m hoping that this was a brown ale rather than a stout. The reason for my wish is that the sweet cocoa and velvety chocolate of this brew was on point, but the paper thin consistency left much to be desired.
Second to last on the list was Smash Cream Ale. Interestingly enough, this cream ale tasted a bit like a mead: Burnt honey, maybe wildflowers, and an uninfluential creaminess make for a unique drink. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’d call it a cream ale.
Ending on a high note- the last brew was killer. Busan Brown has just as heavy a mouthfeel as the two darker ales, with a sweet roasted malt beginning and ever-so-bitter, burnt finish. We haven’t been able to venture south to Busan or Jeju yet, but if the cities are as awesome as these aptly named beers then I, for one, cannot wait.
All in all- I’m beginning to understand that Korean craft beer still has some growing to do, they’ve handled IPAs and some of the old standards, but dark ales (particularly stouts) leave much to be desired. That being said; Hop Mori has been one of the best we’ve seen so far and their friendliness and hospitality certainly didn’t hurt their case. Hop Mori Brewing Company earns an 8.3 out of 10.
Pong Dang Craft Beer Company
Just because you move out of the US doesn’t mean you have to forget about craft beer. It took us a few weeks get settled and our first few days of exploring and adventure were more cultural and historical, but I couldn’t stay away from the local craft beer scene: Enter Pong Dang Craft Beer Company. Flights weren’t available at the time, but I don’t need a flight to try what’s available on tap. They made it simple with only three available brews… so I had a pint of each.
I started with Half Moon Pilsner. This Czech-style pilsner is prototypical. The Czech style is a little more earthy and spicy than a typical German Pils. I don’t love pilsners in general, but Half Moon starts with a crisp hop and finishes a little peppery. Not bad.
I was really excited for the second beer; BA Apple Waffle. Apple waffle smelled like a fresh box of honey crisp cereal, but it was all downhill from there. This bourbon barrel aged blonde was too tangy for my taste. I was lulled into a false sense of security by a sweet maple beginning- a sweet start that rapidly turned sour. I suspect oak and bourbon weren’t the best of options for this blonde.
I finished with APT coffee porter. APT was paper thin, but held its own in the flavor department. I could taste the quality roasts that started with sweet latte and was followed by a semi-bitter espresso finish. Not the worst porter I’ve had, but I need me some body in my brewskis.
I’m actually hesitant to grade this brewery; only because this is my first international review. I don’t have anywhere in Korea to compare them to and I don’t want to rate unfairly. I guess I just have to consider the entire globe one big craft beer family. I was disappointed by Apple Waffle and not overly impressed with the others, but I loved small and simple upstairs tap room- all in all I give Pong Dang a 7.75 out of 10.
Black Bear Winery
Our very last visit before leaving for South Korea and presumably the last brewery/winery we’ll be reviewing in the US for quite a while was actually one of my very first wineries- pre blog days! I loved them then and even though my palate has matured I still think this tiny, award winning winery doesn’t get enough credit. Black Bear produces award winning wines using locally sourced fruit and NO grapes. Pairing their wines with some delicious cheese plates, a wonderful, friendly staff and a great atmosphere with the occasional live band makes them a must see side trip in your travels.
My first “must taste” was Blueberry Melomel. I LOVE blueberries and they had very recently been in season when we were there. Not sure why I didn’t love this one, but it was a bit off. Melomel was surprisingly dry, and perhaps even more surprisingly, not very fruity.
As a child, elderberries among other assorted fruits and berries grew naturally on my family’s small farm. There are few things that fill me with nostalgia like scraping my knees, scratching my arms, and tearing my clothes to earn nature’s sweet, ripe, rewards. Elderberries can’t be successfully cultivated, so impressively enough; this wine is au naturale and though Mama’s Elderberry wasn’t quite as good as I remember it being on my last visit, it’s difficult to mess up that sweet, dry, and ever-so-slightly tart taste of the elder.
Of all of the berries I love in their own form blackberries are probably my least favorite. Interestingly enough, I think they lend themselves perfectly to wine. Black Bear’s BlackBerry wine has captured an interesting, dry red grape quality.
Similar to the elderberries above- I would be “asked” to take a bowl outside to fill with raspberries for pie and or jam. After about about a hour I would come back with a red face, aching stomach, and half a bowl of raspberries. This raspberry wine is pure delight: A jam-like sugariness with noticeable yet subtle boozy qualities make for an amazing fruit wine.
Traditionally you’re supposed to aerate a wine to bring it fully to all of your senses. Don’t aerate Black and Blue. Seriously! It stinks, I don’t know why it’s so smelly, but it’s quite smelly- stinky, but delicious. Take this fine blend of black currant and blueberries, hold your nose, and let it wash over your taste buds.
Black mead was ok and after a few previous trials I’m beginning to think I just don’t like mead. Admittedly, though this may be the best I’ve had, I still didn’t like it.
Though I think they don’t get enough credit and are unjustly scoffed at by wine snobs I also think that when comparing them to some of the world class wines I’ve had in my travels I would be remiss to allow my nostalgia and my sweet tooth to cloud my judgement. When compared to some of the best riesling or chardonnay in the US (or world) they may not be in league, but when compared to other fruit wines they are quite literally second to none. All in all I give Black Bear Winery an 8.3 out of 10.
Water Street Brewing Company
Near the famed Lost Dog Cafe sits Water Street Brewing Company. I want to start this article off by being completely honest: I went to Water Street a few years ago, just weeks after they opened, and hated it. I love the location and atmosphere, but I hated their beer, so I was interested in changing my opinion. I mean no ill will- it’s definitely a struggle to be a brand new brewery, but I was totally unimpressed. Fast forward to 2017 as I ordered some killer chicken bites and a flight.
I started with Hellcat Brown Ale. This was a great start to a flight and a great first sip to change my first impression of this brewery. Perfect malt balance and a warm nuttiness made this a fine pint.
Second, Lil’ Philthy was palatable, but thin- no mouth feel and no body at all. Lil’ Philthy was a nice distinction between an English Mild and an English Bitter, as a lot of other brewers don’t seem to get that detail correct, but still…meh.
Ginger Queen was interesting and a nice change of pace. I’m constantly in search of the right amber ale. Though the Ginger Queen was perfect she was close. I surprised even myself by how much I enjoyed the unique character the ginger added. Ginger mixed very well with the malts in this one.
Next up was Bonnie Knees Wee Heavy… very good. I loved the dark robust malts used in this one and the toffee/molasses finish was just right.
Hadrigan’s Dry Stout- nope. I’m a big fan of a fine dry Irish stout, but there’s a dry Irish and then there’s dry, thin, and bitter.
The last brew; Thousand Year Porter, similarly to Hadrigan’s, was paper thin and watery. I’ve taken a similar stance on a popular brew in AZ as I feel about three out of the six beers here and I suspect it may be because of the English styling and/or ingredients. We can thank them for being the godfathers of porters and stouts, but when it comes to making the flavor and body of a great dark beer I think the bloody ‘Yanks’ have perfected it.
I’m happy for the progress Water Street Brewing has made and I give them a 7.9 out of 10.
Galaxy Brewing Company
It’s nice to see to see more breweries popping up in and around my old stomping grounds to give the city some life. Galaxy is in a prime spot nearly across the street from the Colonial on Court St. We brought a large group with us this time around and were seated in the Hitchhiker’s Nook. I ordered a flight and an absolutely, incredible Bo Peep burger.
The first brew on this galactic journey made its way onto the list for its silver medal (WBF) advertising. Saint Stusan Blonde isn’t overbearing like the catholic church and it’s not quite angelic either. Stusan’s hop profile was subtle with a blend of Belgian spices. Not a huge fan of this one.
The second strain came in the form of a stolen sip of The Editor’s Andromeda IPA. This brew started off with some nice citrus notes, but not much else. Andromeda is definitely a stereotypical citra/simco blend, but she was pretty run of the mill.
The next visit was from the Ghost of Christmas. GoC is a Belgian dark with chocolate, orange, and ghost peppers. I normally love sweet and complex backbone that peppers add to a thicker bodied ale (See: Abraxas), however I think the Ghost pepper packed a little too much of a punch in this one.
Another intriguing experimentation: Clax is a lime stout. This one had a hint of cola, but a bit too heavy on the lime.
The last beer was a beautiful shooting star on a starry night. Valence is a Belgian tripel aged in rye whiskey barrels and I loved it. I tend to be wary of tripels, but Galaxy knocked this one out of the park. Valence was thick and creamy throughout, opening with sweet vanilla and finishing with a woody, rye-booziness. Seriously, seriously well done!
It’s a funny thing when I’m not a huge fan of many of the beers in a line up, but one beer holds so much weight that it acts as a counter balance. Valence was just that beer- that combined with an amazing burger earns Galaxy Brewing Company an 8.2 out of 10.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and Bedell Cellars (at Corey Creek)
We had a great day with friends starting at Greenpoint Harbor, dipping in an out of beer and wine bars, and finishing with Bedell Cellars. I would like to start with an apology for not having a brewery picture, but the file has been corrupted and I can’t seem to fix it no matter what angle I come at it from. I would also like to add that, though we didn’t do a traditional tasting at Bedell, we did enjoy two killer bottles of wine and the best wood-fired pizza I’ve ever had from a food truck.
Despite the failed visual- hopefully I can paint a picture with my words because Greenpoint did not disappoint.
Summer Blonde Honey Ale. Good thing I don’t completely believe in first impressions. Summer Blonde was more like a leathery old lady. You know- the one who smells like suntan lotion and rum and whose skin looks like
the hide of a komodo dragon. Wasn’t all that summery and the honey tasted burnt.
Second was Black Duck Porter. The texture on this one was a bit watery, but it had some nice character. Light on the chocolate, but just deep enough with an espresso finish.
Other Side IPA was quite dry- like an oak barrel chardonnay, but stood fast in its complexity. I’m guessing at least 3-4 hop varieties are coming together to give this one a really nice profile. Other side possesses a complexity that is rare these days with breweries pumping out IPAs just because they have to have one on tap.
Little park ipa wasn’t horrible and had some nice citrus notes, but I was not too impressed drinking it right after Other side.
OG Mosaic and Chill IPA was dank and awesome. I’m noticing more and more of a dank trend (particularly in the northeast), and I’m not always sure how I feel about it, but Mosiac and Chill is fantastic. Not sure if this is a single varietal, but its got a heavy dose of mosaic- coming through grassy and herbal while still a little sweet and fruity.
Berry GOB was like a wild berry jam blend- seriously delicious and a perfect beer to end on. It is a little on the dessert end of the spectrum and I if were to complain it would be that the scales tip quite a bit to the sweet side, but this barrel aged stout fan enjoyed it a great deal.
I give Greenport Harbor Brewing an 8.6 out of 10.
With a quick hop, skip and a jump over to Bedell Cellars we sat down to a pair of fine bottles.
We started with the 2014 Gewurtztraminer: I was wholly impressed. Bedell’s Gewurtz was a fantastic balance of dry, ripe fruit and sweet spice. I never claim to know as much about wine as I know about beer, but the transparency of the delicious flavors in this wine could make me sound like an expert.
We followed that one up with another elegant balance between the sweet and dry in the form of the 2016 Taste Rose. Taste danced on my taste buds elusively with a sweet fruit I could not decipher.
The setting sun was perfect, the food was great, the wines were perfect, and we’ve been wanting to try a north fork winery for a very long time. All in all, Bedell did not disappoint and I give them a 9.5 out of 10.
Blue Stone Brewing Company
On the way home from Elmira my buddy said “Well, when we dip into PA there’s another brewery on the way home…” we replied, simply, “duh.”
We started with Peach fuzz. This brew was ok, not completely lacking of flavor, but I always have a hard time with a beer whose flavor falls short of the flavor its aroma leads me to believe it has.
Next up was the Strawberry wheat. Very similarly to my complaint from above, only worse, I was not a fan of the lack of strawberry in this brew.
Thankfully, on the quite opposite end of the spectrum, BlackBerry 1537 was crazy good. I think the past three brews can chalk themselves up to time of year and what was in season. Blackberry wheat was the perfect balance of sweet and savory with mouth feel to match. I would liken it to a fine blackberry pie that wasn’t too loaded with sugar.
Thunder ckn maple porter was lack luster for me. Nice maple notes, but too thin (even for a porter). Worth noting is the bartender was busy trying to pre-close and I didn’t want to be that guy who pipes up to say “Dude, what’s ckn stand for?”, so it shall remain a mystery. Or it stand for chicken. Let’s go with chicken.
Edit* I began writing the above on Monday and finished on Thursday when I thought a bit of research was in order. Turns out it does stand for chicken. You can nickname me the beer-oracle if you want- no? Ok.
Dunkin Doughnuts Coffee Coolatta Stout was perfectly sweet with a nice coffee balance, but was seriously thin with a weak 5% abv. Not quite doughnut-y; more like a subtle milk stout.
Wild berry sour made me wish I had ended with doughnut. In a time when sours are all the rage and every brewer and their mother is trying to pump out everything from fruity and semi sour to the liquid version of a warhead I tend to be a little more critical. Wild berry sour was too metallic and lacked a backbone of anything close to wild berry. No thank you.
All in all I give Bluestone Brewing Company 6 out of 10… I wasn’t overly impressed
Upstate Brewing Company
We neared the end of our Southern Tier trail as we were nearing the end of the summer at this point. Though I have grown to accept the term after a year in Queens I’m still not a fan of the phrase “Upstate New York”- where exactly is the cutoff? The Bronx?! Anyway- whether you agree with the phrase or not, naming your brewery ‘Upstate’ is brilliant. They’ve cornered the market on any upstate NY brewery internet searches and since we’re talking about beer not marketing, they’ve pretty much, in my opinion, crushed the competition in their small area as well.
We sat outside on a beautiful sunny afternoon and started a flight off with Common Sense Kentucky common. The story goes that Kentucky Common Ale was the most popular style of beer in America pre-prohibition. Hopefully I’m not too oversimplifying, but since I’m not very familiar with the style I’m going to call this a blend between a cream ale and a red ale. It’s muddy complexion got my hopes up a bit too much I think. Subtle malt, subtle hops, I understand it is supposed to be brewed quickly, but I don’t think this does it justice. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I tried it.
Beer number two was a not-so-common Ipso lacto Berliner weisse. I never know how to describe some sours. What do I taste….other than just sour. Sometimes sours come in the form of a sweet, fruit, sour blend and sometimes it’s metallic. Either way- I didn’t love the flavor of this one, but I did enjoy the subtle softness that wasn’t a complete punch in the throat.
Summer Haze American t was one of the very best I’ve had. Chalk it up to the atmosphere at the time, the company, my slight buzz, or whatever you want, unfiltered, hazy wheat combined with citrus undertones and a perfect balance had me ready to sip all day.
Though it was a bit past brunch I couldn’t pass up an interesting take on a brown ale. Brunch (coffee brown ale) has some potential, but she’s a bit heavy on the coffee for being as thin as she was. Kinda like Kate Moss. I don’t know.
Last, but not least, was an Imperial stout. I hate when brewers scoff and say things like “Who brews stouts in the summertime?” Or “who drinks stouts in the summe time?” Well, I do, a lot, and sometimes you just want a cold chocolate milkshake with beer in it. This one wasn’t as thick as a chocolate milkshake but, it was pretty solid and I’m glad Upstate gets me.
All in all it was a pretty awesome experience, I give Upstate Brewing Company an 8.25 out of 10.
Horseheads Brewing Company
Slow sipping through the Southern Tier brought us next to Horseheads Brewing Company. There we enjoyed a fine flight and a surprise first taste.
The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee were a powerhouse in the northeast. A great and proud people who were once as vast and as different as the land itself. A beer’s name may not be a grand gesture, but it is nice to see the area’s roots get a nod. Iroquois Wheat is a filtered version of the American wheat ale-nice change of pace, but I think it lost a little character in the process.
Pale Expedition Ale was prototypical. This is the 4th or 5th time I’ve noticed something like this, so I think it’s worth mentioning: It seems as though there is a shift towards eliminating true pale ales. Or maybe as IPAs get bigger and badder there little brothers must as well? Either way- too much hop and not enough smooth balance.
Tropic Daze blood orange IPA was, simply put, amazing. I enjoyed every drop of this citrus, sweet malt, and easy drinkin’ IPA. Whenever this is on tap I would recommend a visit.
The Blueberry Ale was pleasant as well . I’ve been shifting away from fruit beers lately; not because they are too sweet, not sweet enough, or anything to do with the direction the flavor is moving, but more because of the lack of flavor. They’ve been all about the aroma with little-to no fruit on the tongue. Horseheads did a nice job on this one.
Peanut butter porter was a bit thin, but still tasty. There was more peanut butter in the nose than on the tongue, but it came through with a delicate nutty and sweet toffee or caramel playing opposite to some notes of cocoa nib.
I wasn’t really sure where they were going with maple amber. This was a run of the mill, lack-luster amber, with no maple.
Their double IPA was sweet and well balanced for a DIPA. Not something that many of my hop hunting friends would enjoy, but I’ll give ’em tip of the hat- it went down nice and easy.
We were really fortunate to have randomly wandered in on the first day of this year’s Pumpkin Ale release. I’m not usually a fan of the style, but I really enjoyed this Pumpkin Ale (probably even one of the best I’ve ever had). It’s fall in upstate NY and I drank the #basic koolaid, or beer in this case.
Hot jala heim… yikkes. Sometimes peppers add a sweetness and a complexity and sometimes they pack a punch. The latter is definitely true in this case. I’m actually not even sure what the base of this brew is without looking it up- moral of the story: respect the heat!
All in all this was a pleasant stop along the trail and an upgrade from the previous stop. We give Horseheads Brewing Company a 7.9 out of 10.
Birdland Brewing Company
After getting in touch with our inner historians and taking a trip the the Newton Battlefield and Mark Twain’s study in Elmira we met up with a buddy of mine from the Hartwick days for a tour of the local breweries. It was an awesome day already, but throwing some killer beer and food into the mix made things pretty perfect. Before I talk about the brews I want to give a big shout out to fellow craft connoisseur and beer blogger John Moss (johnthebeerman.wordpress.com). We began this trek through a portion of the Southern Tier’s beverage trail by swooping into Birdland Brewing Company.
I started this flight with Kookaburra Kuke (Cucumber ale) and was subsequently singing about an ‘old gum tree’ the rest of the day. I can appreciate the experimentation, but I didn’t love this one. Kookaburra was nice and crisp, and surprisingly, very cucumber forward, but I simply didn’t enjoy the flavor.
Phoenix copper ale was pretty run of the mill. Nice malt balance, but not the big flavor I was hoping for. This one was more like Faux on the day he molted rather than the day he saved Harry in the Chamber of Secrets… just saying..
Red Footed Booby raspberry wheat was awesome! Fruit ale’s tend to go one direction or the other: seriously fruity or just a touch of aroma and no flavor. Red Footed Booby was right in the middle with a really well balanced fruit character and just enough sweet to not overpower. Hopefully this one doesn’t go extinct like its blue footed cousin.
While I was enjoying all manor of bird themed names from Osprey to Hoot- it was nice to see a nod to ol’ Samuel Clemens with Puddn’head Wils… I mean Red. I feel like he would have enjoyed this American red ale. Crisp and slightly bitter- Puddin’head is a nice transition from light to heavy.
Falcon stout…no! I’m not the biggest fan of coffee stouts in general. I’ve been criticized for the fact that bourbon county coffee isn’t my favorite, but at least I can appreciated the subtlety. Falcon was pure espresso.
Much like the state of New York I have a very love-hate feeling about the state bird’s namesake brew. Blue Bird chocolate blueberry porter had a big blueberry aroma with no blueberry notes and while I loved the straight forward smooth chocolate, this porter was seriously thin.
For my final descent I sampled a little of the Blue Jay IPA. Having spent the last 10 years or so allowing IPAs to grow on me has led me to this conclusion. I still like dark beers better, but I can get down with a great IPA. Blue Jay was a bit grassy and not it.
Sometimes a brewery’s lineup just doesn’t do it for you- it’s nothing against the brewery and there’s no ‘bad yelp review’ on the horizon. I loved Red Footed Booby and a couple others were ok, but overall I wasn’t a big fan. I give Birdland Brewing Company a 6.6 out of 10.
CH Evans Brewing Co. (at the Albany Pump Station)
Shortly after our cross country trip the rest of our summer was similarly sporadic. We spent a month in Queens, a month in upstate NY (split between Albany and Binghamton) and then we moved to South Korea on August 12th. Like I said, it’s been a crazy ride, but we’ve visited some awesome places along the way. We starting off the summer with CH Evans Brewing.
I loved the location of their building and the building itself, and for an interesting change of pace- this was the first brewery without The Editor and the first brewery with my old man.
Though I can get down with some Crockett and Tubbs I wasn’t a big fan of Miami Weiss. I found it a little too tart for the style while lacking complexity.
Another ode to Germany by CH Evans; a namesake of the quaint square the brewery resides in; Quackenbush Blonde is light and easy drinking. This blonde has a slight hop and malt balance, but not overly flavorful. I can’t hate though- this is a perfect summer brew.
When you’re one of any thousands of breweries in New York State, and probably one hundred or so in the capitol region, your summer drinking beers have to be on point. Hazy days of summer is just that. We’re on beer #3, and so far, each one has that smooth texture and nicely balanced quality for front porch sittin’.
Boysenberries grow naturally on the family farm where I grew up. I love boysenberries in pie, in stew, boysenberry jam, and even raw. In my mind Boysenberry hef was going to be a light and deliciously sweet ale that even a young Jesse would have done back flips for. Boysenberry hef was NOT bad, but falls into the category of not quite living up to what I had hoped for.
I love saisons and I hated Speltman Saison. Not sure why. I’ve looked up other reviews since- maybe this was a bad batch, had some soap in the glass, or something- either way, next.
I felt Pump station pale ale was out of order on this flight, but rather than changing things around how I see fit, which is what I used to do, I just went with what they brought me. This time, it turns out that the flight transitioned very nicely. Pump Station pale was less balanced than the rest and came through with a nice hop forward dryness.
After seeing multiple gold medals on the wall (multiple golds at gabf, bronx, and wbf) I was really excited for Kick ass brown. Kick ass brown is thicker than some stouts and porters I’ve had with a serious mouth feel. This beer has a kick ass malt character and rounds off with a caramel and chocolate finish. Seriously- believe the hype on this one.
The last brew was their Oatmeal stout (nitro). It’s probably KAB’s fault, but this one was too light. This stout had an OK oat profile, but like a said- not thick or creamy enough.
The brewery is beautiful, the area is awesome, my dad and I split some awesome calamari and despite some of the brews falling a little flat, it was an awesome experience. I give CH Evans Brewing Company an 8.7 out of 10.
The second to last leg of our journey, before arriving back in NY, brought us to family in Pittsburgh, PA. While in the ‘burgh we couldn’t pass up the chance to pop into the, originally, Saint John the Baptist’s built in 1902. The vast majority of the original work is still in place: Pews have been refurbished into the dinning benches and tables, the stained glass is still there and the pulpit has even been reserved for housing the brew kettles. I’m not Catholic, but it still feels a little weird boozing it up in a
Rather than a holy enlightenment we started of with a sin: Celestial Gold Pilsner.
Moving on to Thunder Juice IPA- We did some penance to forget the last brew. I really enjoyed the hop character and the uniquely, citrus burst from the blood orange in this IPA. A much bolder flavor than the color would lead you to believe.
I wasn’t rewarded for my good deeds with this next beer. I don’t want to unfairly judge, because I don’t think it was bad, but I think Thunder Juice was a better version of Thunderhop IPA and I should have drank them in the reverse order.
Pious Munk Dunkel was delicious. Seriously- Crazy good. I don’t normally hold much stock in ‘ASTMO’ or ‘AAPFO’ or whatever acronym you want to use on your beer rating app because I’m of the opinion that lacing and head have nothing to do with how a beer tastes. While aroma does have a strong tie to flavor, I think proper glassware has more to do with your drink than anything, but I digress. That being said, despite my acronym aversion, Pious Munk really mastered each category. Very well done!
The Coconut Stout was a little disappointing. There was a nice milk stout backbone, but this stout was thinner than both of the beers on either side of it and didn’t do it for me in the coconut department.
The Mad Brewer outdid himself on this Maibock as well. Big time malt with just enough balance and seriously smooth for 7.6%. Much like this beer I think short, sweet and too the point is its best description.
Much like some churches, what you see isn’t always what you get. Bitter Passion wasn’t really bitter, as the name would suggest, or sour which is what I expected. I have, after my third or fourth passion fruit beer, decided that essence of passion fruit is very difficult to capture. Regardless, this one was a clean and crisp palate cleanser.
I’ve mentioned before that, on paper, there isn’t a big difference between a Saison/farmhouse and a grisette other than their country of origin and their ABV. Despite their similarities, my taste buds can’t find enough in common to enjoy a grisette. The Pittsburgh Post Grisette was a disappointing way to end an, otherwise delicious, tasting.
I feel like this tasting jumped around a bit with stark transitions between its highs and lows. Possibly for the first time ever though, the beer isn’t the #1 variable for this brewery’s rating. We split a salad and an incredible bahn mi steak sandwich and we enjoyed the beers overall, but we could not escape the pure beauty of this brewery. We’ve been to a few renovated churches-turned-bars, but Saint John’s is a true work of art. Overall, I give The Church Brew Works an 8.9 out of 10
First, sorry for the delay in this article- after being all over the country we were all over New York state and connectivity and computer sit down time has been sparse. Second, this is another non-traditional article for me, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to shout out a beautiful brewery with some awesome beers that has been making a regional splash; we even saw their beers at gas stations in Ohio and PA.
Shortly after our stop at Boatyard, we popped into Arcadia before our next day’s early morning departure. We each started with a pint and then finished with a pour from a delicious, deep, dark pitcher.
Normally, I’m not the biggest IPA fan, which means that even further down my list is a session IPA. Before I even read the description, the name Right Bower had to be tasted; its title got my attention as a nod to a great game. I’m a huge fan of the card game Euchre, and it’s not all that commonplace in places we’ve lived. Well, when in Michigan right? Right Bower wasn’t overly flavorful, but was nice and smooth and wouldn’t be a bad option if you want to drink 20 instead of 10 and not mess with your Euchre skills.
After a nice easy pint, we ordered a pitcher of Loch Down Scotch Ale. After my favorite scotch ale from a few states south west changed their recipe and ruined the taste, I’ve been a wee skeptical of the style. Much like a confirmed Nessy sighting, Loch Down didn’t disappoint. This caramel and nutty ale was big on flavor with just enough balance between bitter hop and sweet malt.
Everything from the beer to the atmosphere was crisp, clean, and laid back. We had a delicious burger, and I loved the view. Service was spotty, but Loch Down made up for that. All in all, I give Arcadia Ales an 8.3 out of 10. Some of our dearest friends are just outside of K-zoo, so maybe in a couple of years you’ll get a little Arcadia update.
The 3rd leg of our booze-across-America was Kalamazoo, MI to see some great friends. If you’ve been reading for a while we were in Kalamazoo a few years back and visited Bell’s and a, then, brand new, Paw Paw Brewing. This time around we gave a couple we hadn’t heard of before a shot this time around and weren’t disappointed.
Up first: Boatyard Brewing Company. We had a flight (or a cruise?) and a pint, split a killer panini, and got a great personal tour of the brewing operation. First up was Wheelhouse Light- a refreshing amount of citrus with a clean and crisp finish. It may sound like it, but there’s nothing light about Wheelhouse’s flavor.
Next up on our nautical voyage was Kalamazoo Cream Ale. This was a bit lighter and a little less flavorful than Wheelhouse, but with a subtle sweetness that neither myself nor The Editor could pinpoint, I wouldn’t turn one down if I was slow-sippin on the dock of a bay somewhere.
Guiding us along to our next destination was Midnight Star. Midnight Star is a black cream ale that, after being left with a little to be desired from the last cream ale, left me wishing I had a few more sips at the bottom.
Following Midnight Star came Midnight Maple. Midnight Maple was a similar ale with the addition of maple. I honestly think that the addition of maple messed this one up. Smelled strongly, but lost it in the flavor department and I’d rather drink the Midnight Star.
If I may take a shot over the bow without being too disrespectful; West Michigan IPA, much like Western Michigan U sports, was a bit light and lack luster.
Ironically, End of Watch was our second to last, not our final beer. End of Watch is Boatyard’s barrel aged version of EZ Ale. I didn’t have the EZ Ale, but if I had to guess I’d say EZ Ale is a bready, unfiltered, wheat ale that’s light on the citrus. Couple that with a short stint in some barrels gave this brew an earthy and woody- almost straw flavor. Not my favorite style, but unique and well done.
Lastly, our jaunt came to an end with Siren’s Song. Much like the haunting beauty of a Siren’s song, too many pours of this bourbon barrel aged Russian imperial stout could lead a sailor to a shipwreck. The touch of coffee tasted burnt rather than roasted and it was a bit on the boozy side, other than that this stout finished with just enough sweetness and stay seriously thick and creamy through every sip. This bad boy would cellar very well. Love.
All in all, we really enjoyed our trip to the Boatyard. I know it can be expensive and barrels are hard to track down, but I’d really love to see them extend their already impressive barrel program. Maybe they could partner up with nearby Green Door Distilling? An 8.6 out of 10 for Boatyard Brewing Company!
Iron Monk Brewing
Much like our previous stop along the dusty trail, hitting a brewery in Stillwater, while staying with friends, proved to be a little more difficult than I’d hoped. We had the dog with us, we showed up after the brewery closed on Saturday night, and they’re closed on Sundays. Though this isn’t the typical write up, our amazing friends popped in before we got there and put together a little bit of everything from Iron Monk and The Editor and I were not disappointed.
After 13 hours on the road from CO to OK, Stilly Wheat was the perfect summertime sipper. At a light and drinkable 4% abv this brew was a reminiscent throwback to a first sip of a citrusy/wheat ale while sitting in a lawn chair almost a decade ago that helped to start my obsession. I could drink WAY too many of these.
We saved the rest of the brews for the next day while we played games and lounged about. We poured the Exit 174 Rye Pale Ale and frankly- you might want to skip it and take the next exit. 174 has a nice hazy, golden color, slightly malty back bone, with a slightly bitter finish, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with flavor and was disappointed by the lack of rye.
The next Iron Monk brew was Payne Country Imperial IPA. I feel like the review of this beer should have an asterisk next to it. The reason I say that is because there’s a big push towards the bigger and more bitter the better, or towards the super hazy, dank, juice bombs and a lot of the IPA hunters I know in the beer community wouldn’t like this beer at all. This guy (insert picture of me pointing two thumbs straight at myself) loved it. Payne Country was seriously sweet and malty with a slight touch of pine and little to no bitterness on the tail end; very surprising for 100 ibus.
Last, but not least, was a full growler of Iron Monk Milk Stout. This one was a prototype for the style, but gave itself another little boost up the rankings by not being overly sweet and kicking in a creaminess that is not standard of stouts that aren’t barrel aged. My buddy was stoked for me to try out this stout and I can really see why.
Unlike the last article, we were able to try more than one beer, but I still feel it unfair to give a rating of the brewery since I wasn’t able to visit the actual location. The being said- we’ll be back in Stillwater at some point in our travels and I’ll be making it a point to pop in to Iron Monk because 3/4 of those beers were crazy good.
Steamworks Brewing Company
We loaded up the vehicle with all the belongings we couldn’t manage to sell, give away, or burn and we started off the first leg of our suds soaked cross country trip leaving Glendale, AZ, briefly stopping for brunch and Prescott, AZ and hitting Durango, CO at about 10pm. I have to preface this article with; it was late, we had the dog with us, and the person who we were staying with (a life long friend of my mom’s) was waiting up for us, so we picked up our food and a 6 pack to go. That being said, though this isn’t a typical article for me, the food and the beer were too good to not write it up.
We ordered a Colorado specialty- a killer cheeseburger, cooked to perfection and topped with diced green chili, we also ordered an amazing chopped salad with big chunks of smoked salmon, couscous, and dried cranberries, among other things, and we paired them with their award winning Steam Engine Lager.
Steam engine is a traditional west coast style lager with light, but still noticeable spice. She starts a little sweet and finishes dry all while staying smooth and seriously drinkable throughout.
Apologies for the poor picture quality (again- rushed) as well as skipping the X out of 10 rating I usually do: Hopefully you still enjoy the random Gitmo koozie. The food was great, the lager was good, and I would definitely recommend Steamworks to anyone close enough to get there, but 10 more of their beers could have been the best ever or the worst ever and I don’t feel passing judgement, whether it be positive or negative, wouldn’t be fair.
I find myself feeling bad sometimes for wanting to speak the truth. I wish I could give every brewery and every beerfest I go to a 10 out of 10, but the fact remains that that’s impossible and I need to maintain my credibility. I would like to give the HDE agency a big shout out for hooking us up with free tickets, but other than that I feel very let down in comparison to last year’s festival.
There were quite a few things that put a bad taste in my mouth. To name a few: the lack of a promised rare beer tent (not myself nor anyone I asked could locate it), last call at 5:20 not the advertised 6:00, and worst of all- a nearby woman (not sure in what capacity she worked) who replied to me asking one of the breweries for a beer at 5:32 with “If they pour you a single drop right now I’ll fine them $7,000 and I’ll like it.” Needless to say I was not altogether impressed and if this was my first Ameri-CAN experience I would not have been back.
There were some shining moments: Hopdoddy Burger Bar was slinging some DELICIOUS and complimentary sliders and my overall favorite brewery from the event this year, Novo Brazil, showed up in full force with two of their brewers, super friendly disposition, and a variety of beers including a killer barrel aged saison.
The Breweries and Beers:
College Street- Big blue van and V. Beauregarde Blueberry Sour; Perfect day for the creamy and light pale wheat (almost 100 degrees) and V. Beauregarde was a killer sour- bluerazberry sour patch? Yup!
Crazy Mountain- Lawyer, Guns and Money Barley Wine and Lava Lake Witt; Not a fan of this barley wine at all, but a nice filtered, canned witt.
Dogfish Head- Sea Quench Sour and Flesh + Blood IPA; Sea Quench was more of a gose than a sour and Flesh and Blood was citrusy, but not all together flavorful.
Goose Island- Green Line IPA; nothing to write home about.
Hop Valley- Citrus IPA; GRAPEFRUIT!
Left Hand- Milk Stout; Not nitro and not as good as it is in the bottle.
Modern Times- Fruit lands; meh.
Northwest- Road Trip Pale Ale; superior drinkability without giving up on flavor.
Novo Brazil- BA Saison, Copa-Mango IPA, and Belo Blonde; Amazing, sweet and crisp; as I said my favorite brewery of the day. A crazy good barrel aged saison from a blank can, a deliciously sweet mango IPA and a crisp and clean blonde.
Oskar Blues- Hotbox coffee IPA and Pinner IPA; um, weird mix of not enough coffee or hop and too much coffee and hop and Pinner was a really nice session…SO drinkable.
Pizza Port- Swami IPA and Ironic Amber; Swami was super piney and one of the day’s unique IPAs and Ironic was roasty and malty- better amber than I’ve had in a while.
Rekorderlig Cider- Wild Berry; There were a ton of cideries and thought I missed the rest, wild berry was like alcoholic juicy fruit.
Renegade- E3 IPA; Really smooth for a 11% ABV and 100 IBU triple IPA.
Saint Archer- Blonde (Kolsch) and White Ale; While the Kolsh wasn’t sweet enough for my taste the Gold winning (at the GABF) blonde was the perfect porch sipper.
Sleepy Dog- PB Stout; Um Duh. I usually try my best to pick beers that I haven’t tried before, but there’s not passing this one up.
Snake River- Zonker and IPA; 4yr winner and crisp (resp)
Squatters- Raz Wheat; bigger on the nose than the tongue, but not a bad little fruit ale
Wasatch- Double Bock; creamy and roasty- this one was a real nice surprise.
*Check the ‘rankings’ section to see where all these cans stack up against our growing list.*
Helton Brewing Company
I read about Helton opening over a year ago, have been passing the brewery every Tuesday and Thursday for over a year on the way to our rugby practice pitch, and have been reading a lot of buzz around the certified cicerone and head brewer/owner. Though interactions with staff have been a bit shy of hospitable I was still excited.
The flight included all available beers on tap- starting with the Pilsner. I don’t normally like them, but this Pilsner takes the cake in the style. Seriously: it’s rare for me to say “this is the best I’ve ever had”, but this is reminiscent of its lager siblings with much more flavor and body with a little something extra in the finish.
Their Kolsch went down clean and bubbly, but didn’t quite cut the mustard in the flavor department.
The next brew was dry and a little spicy. Helton’s Rye Pale Ale is a flavorful and unique take on pale pub ale. I could get behind putting back more than a few of these.
Probably my second favorite beer of the day; Single hop- Comet. The typical brewer and drinker are not as familiar with single hop varietals as they don’t have as much complexity. What they do have is a pure glimpse of how that hop is supposed to taste. This one in particular has a citrusy, lemon grass profile.
Though the terms East Coast IPA and West Coast IPA are, thankfully, falling to the wayside there are some “traditional” flavors of the two regions and other than a bit more body than the norm this one doesn’t fit the ‘Northeast’ IPA bill of sale I grew up on in NY.
The next IPA was floral and wasn’t bad, but nothing worth sticking its head out above the rest of the pack.
The Scotch style ale had the typical subtle bitterness without the sweet caramel malts that my taste buds were hoping for.
The Milk Stout on nitro was almost sour. Lactose in the milk stout is supposed to add a nice sweetness. Not sure what happened to this one.
Saved the best for last! Helton’s Imperial Stout was well worth the wait and the hype. In my beer journey over the past 10 years it has been increasingly difficult to find non-barrel aged stouts and porters that I truly enjoy. Many of them, though flavorful, fail the mouthfeel test. This stout not only came through with some big flavors, but a dense creamy body as well.
Helton doesn’t really have any tweeners in my opinion- loved some and hated some. Worth noting is that this is the first time I have ever been charged actual money for a sticker (weird) and I absolutely love how they brought the check. Ours was in book by Emerson with an inscription from the Rochester Public Library; what a small world. All in all I give Helton Brewing Company a 7.4 out of 10.
Mesquite River Brewing
I understand that, many times, space is limited, but I’m really starting to hate the common trend of breweries hidden in strip malls in the Phoenix area.
A little early in the season for most places, but appropriate for AZ as summer quickly approaches- we started off with the Summer Ale. The summer ale was light and refreshing, with a little lemon zest bitterness, but forgot the sweet citrus that’s supposed to come with it.
Second taste- Pale Rider, was creamy and drinkable, but not really hoppy for the style and a bit bland.
Bad Bob was light and floral, but not very “bad” in the flavor department.
To The Wall IPA was odd. It almost had a dry gin-like quality with fresh pine and berries. A unique take on IPA, but not my favorite.
Way Off Camber Imperial Amber (or ‘Way of Camber Imperial Ambver’ if you’re taking stock in printed menus) was really interesting for lack of a better word. It’s not barrel aged, but had unique notes of a sweet liquor (maybe brandy) with a delicate and not overly malty finish.
Bubblin’ Crude had a nice subtle sweetness, not to much coffee, what tasted like chocolate bitters, and was incredibly smooth and creamy. Nitro? No?! Damn!
The last two were Ole Number Six and it’s next generation sibling. Ole Number Six was reminiscent of a sweet, peach, tart. Not really all that sour and more like a slightly sour fruit ale, but not bad.
Ole Number 6.1 was a bit more sour than its predecessor, but not very good.
Killer stout, decent amber, but I didn’t really love the rest of their beers. Loved the finished, wooden flights, but they didn’t really fit in with the rest of the brewery. All in all I give Mesquite River Brewing a 6.3 out of 10.
Minutes after a vicious defeat at the hands of the Flagstaff men’s rugby club The Editor and I decided to hit up the only brewery in Flag we hadn’t tried yet, instead of watching a B-side match while we waited for the drink-up.
We loved the inviting garage door, outdoor seating, small bar, and raw wire-spool tables. We ordered a flight and a $2 pint ($2 fill with the purchase of an $8 snifter glass) and soaked up some much needed sunshine.
The beginning of my wandering started with Chateau Americana. Americana is a really light and drinkable pale ale. A few of the lighter pub style ales I’ve had recently left the flavor behind in their attempt to stay lighter- this one still maintains a nice flavorful hop balance.
The next discovery was one of the best saisons and beers I’ve had in general in recent months was 928 local. This beer was intense: flowery with a sweet honey finish. Seriously delicious and so good we went back for more after the flight.
The third brew we stumbled on was the Dunkelweizen. This dunkel was CRAZY unique. I picked up on some caramel on the front end and finished with light clove and some earthy and tart wood undertones. I didn’t love it or hate it, but it reminded me of my dad’s backyard, mushroom hooch.
Pan American Stout tasted metallic like copper or sour oats maybe. Not good.
Pan-Am Nitro was the same just smoother.
I was definitely looking forward to something fresh after those stouts. Alpine Start was slightly tart and a little bitter with some citrus zest. Not a bad beer, but really mild compared to the current sour trends.
The last brew on our journey was Vermillion red IPA. Obviously brewed with sorachi hops as it stayed true to a light herbal flavor: basil or dill. It finished with a powerfully sweet malt.
We loved the setting, loved the name, and pretty happy with everything except the stout. All in all I give Wanderlust Brewing Company a 8.65 out of 10.
This past week some brews from different states have been popping up and with our move coming up sooner than you think I wanted to do some more west coast pairing. I did some pretty extensive research and Hawaii isn’t the easiest place in the world to decide what their famous dish is: Pretty much 1,000 variations of fish or pig, poi, and (believe it or not) spam. After these discoveries we decided to go with something that was small on prep time and big on flavor- poke! (pr: po-kay)
This sweet and spicy recipe was super simple. Start by cubing a raw Ahi filet, toss in soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, chili past, green onions and sesame seeds, and devour. It was only my second time having it and it was incredible! It’s typically a side or appetizer, but I used it as the main course with some fresh pineapple on the side.
POG IPA by Maui Brewing Company on the other had was a really poor pairing choice. It caught my eye and I expected it to be a fruity and complex IPA to compliment the poke, however though the first sip was absolutely delicious- packed with passion fruit, orange and guava and brought me to summer and sitting on the beach, it was a little too light and was completely overpowered by the intense poke flavors.
If you like sushi and/ or can handle the raw texture I definitely recommend this high protein, ultra clean, and delish meal (with or without the beer).
Mahalo to all who continue to read avidly and aloha- ’til next time!
This is a very auspicious article. First, if you see her, wish The Editor a wonderful birthday and second, this is the first official tasting and review I’ve done of a distillery.
Right off the bat Fire Station No. 1, which was literally an old Peoria fire station, grabs you with its brick facade and reclaimed/ rustic indoor decor.
Starting of with the Forcible Entry Vodka was an easier beginning than I thought it’d be. I’m not typically a big fan of straight vodka, but this one was smooooove. One of the smoothest I’ve ever tried.
I hate gin. I tried theirs. I still hate gin.
“Whiskey drinkers turn into gin drinkers in the summertime”… I’d rather sweat.
I enjoy whiskey, I really enjoy the smooth textures of Canadian whiskey, and I really, really enjoyed Fire Station No. 1 whiskey. This one had every element of grain and malts and remained balanced with just the right amount of slow burn. I’d love a stout aged in these barrels. So good!
Finishing off with a Virgin Island’s style white rum, Crooked Ladder Rum burned a little more than I’d like- particularly after a whiskey. Not bad, but not at all what I’m used to or what I expected.
We really loved this place, the friendly staff, and the delicious spirits, but the prices left me with a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth. A $9 mixed drink and a $20 tasting is a bit much given the area. All in all I give Lucidi Distilling Company an 8.6 out of 10.
Ashley Lynn Winery
This wasn’t your typical tasting as we just popped in to a tiny outlet in the local mall when I was home. They weren’t full size pours either, but we were able to try one ounce of how ever many we wanted for free and we bought a bottle to bring home- so, I thought Ashley Lynn deserved a write up.
I started off with a fruit wine that I knew would be on the sweet end. Pomegranate Passion wasn’t bad, but I like the fruit wines that bring out more mellow tastes like a blackberry or blueberry. There were some more on the list, but we were in a hurry so I moved on to the more traditional wines.
Jed’s White definitely tastes like a blend and not a single varietal, but I really liked this one. This Niagara white is better than the riesling and the chard which is rare for me. Nice job Jed!
Jed’s Red was another really delicious and nicely balanced wine. Semi-sweet can mean a lot of different things depending on who is telling you that it’s “semi” sweet or dry, but this one nails it. Balanced between tangy and sweet to dry, warm, and mellow.
Autumn Blush was way to sweet of a rose. Candy notes that my taste buds associate with an arbor mist white zin.
I’ve come to expect a lot from upstate NY rieslings. This one wasn’t really up to snuff. It was a bit too citrusy with not enough mellow fruits or floral aromas.
The last one on the tasting was the chardonnay. Not a bad chard, but very heavily oaked and a little too buttery. No matter sweet or dry I’ve come to enjoy the cleaner chardonnays out there. If you like the oaky side of the spectrum- definitely give her a try.
The cabernet sauvignon wasn’t my favorite (“Jed” is doing some good work out there), but I enjoyed this bottle much more than the tasting overall. This cab was warm and dry with a slight tartness in the middle without being overly oaked and/or spiced.
It wasn’t the best wine tasting, but we were a bit rushed and it’s tough to get a full grasp on their wines and operation in a setting like that. I’d really love to get up to the main winery and give them a try. I give Ashley Lynn Winery a 6.6 out of 10.
Mother Bunch Brewing
Wanting just to try a new place for our bi-weekly food cheat day and that new place ending up being a brewery always makes me happy. The confusingly named brewery is smack dab in the up and coming, trendy, downtown Phoenix scene. We were seated immediately and helped for the entirety of our stay by an amazing server, we loved the atmosphere, I had THE largest and one of the best tasting burgers I’ve ever had and there beers are top notch.
I have argued with myself dozens of times about whether or not I should ‘drink the rainbow’ and give a true review of the different styles of beers, but this time I gave into my desires and got an all dark flight. We got our burgers, my flight, The Editor’s IPA, and went to town.
Starting with a few sips of the Old Skool IPA I found a nice balance between malt and cascade hops, but nothing to write home about. Or maybe now that I’m sitting down to write this article I’m just thinking about how amazing the next four beers were?
Cherry Popper Porter was big on cherry aroma and a little less on the taste buds. It was also mildly chocolaty and had a nice thick mouth feel for a porter.
Next up was the oatmeal chocolate milk stout. True to the style and the name- this one was earthy and sweet. Not a ton of chocolate coming through, but not as bitter as other oatmeal stouts I’ve had and truly tasty.
Immediately following the OCMS I had the nitro. Very similar, yet somehow a little better. Aside from the typical velvety and creamy mouth feel the nitro allowed a bit more chocolate to make it’s way through. Well done.
Saving the best for last Mounds Stout is just that: dark chocolate, coconut, just enough sweet, but not too much, and a perfect thickness for not being a BA stout. Believe the hype- I am so glad we go to give this one a try.
Again, I can’t say enough about this brewery, from start to finish they did everything right. My readers know I prefer barrel aged beers the most, but short of that fact I’d stack these guys up against many of the more renowned places we’ve been. All in all I give Mother Bunch Brewing a 9.4 out of 10.
Threes Brewing is huge! I know that’s a weird way to start an article, but dang. There was a line around the block for a concert in the upstairs section, there were booths by the kitchen, there was table and bar seating by the bar, and there was an additional heated tent outside the back door. Despite the size it was still packed and took us a little while to find a seat. No option for a flight and a small menu by The Meathook restaurant were a little disappointing, but we ordered a pretty killer burger and some pints.
My first of Threes was Here Ya Go pale ale. This one was exceptionally citrusy with a nice sweet to bitter ratio. Here Ya Go is incredibly fresh, well balanced and crisp right out of the can.
Next up was There You Are (pacifica and loral) IPA. There were Threes varietals on the menu and I considered a vertical of all Threes, but went with my taste buds instead. There You Are offered up a nice limey citrus with a subtle sweetness and finish slightly dry. Not the very best of IPAs, but a nice porch sipper.
My last pint was Find and Replace oatmeal stout. Again, not my favorite of the style, but I was really intrigued by the flavors going on here. Find and Replace was a tad on the bitter side, but was followed by a pleasant earthiness and an almost root or nut-like quality. My taste buds are saying unsweetened sassafras.
I don’t have anything bad to say, but I was a bit underwhelmed. I enjoyed my burger and Here Ya Go, but felt a little too cramped and wasn’t really wow’d by the other brews. All in all I give Threes Brewing a 7.5 out of 10.
Other Half Brewing
Being back for Christmas after this past year and a half in AZ awesome: Filled with family, friends, good food, and yes, delicious beer. I’ve had one of Other Half’s brews (All green everything IPA) in the past, so when it was suggested to give them a try in person I was all for it. This place is the definition of a whole in the wall- not in the sense that it’s a dump, in the sense that it is literally not much bigger than a whole. This place would feel uncomfortable if there were more than 10 people in it. It totally fit in in Brooklyn and we loved the ambiance as soon as we walked in. Tasting glasses and full size pints and snifters we available so I ordered a few and we squeezed into a crowded corner.
First up was Mylar Bags Imp IPA. This IPA is a total dank juice bomb as the kids are saying these days. Mylar bags starts off with a big robust hop and finished with citrus and mango. I really enjoyed this
Next up was the Centennial IPA. This one was really piney which is typical of a single hop centennial- not very balanced, but not overly bitter either. Not Other Half’s best IPA, but still outranks quite a few others.
We’ve been out there in orbit stout was definitely drinkable with some light and mellow roasted malts. There wasn’t much else going on with this by the numbers stout- I expected more out of a 12% abv.
Finishing up with Short, dark, and wired was bad choice. Thought I picked up a hint of cocoa and vanilla in the beginning, but was blasted with smoke and cigarettes towards the end. Not a fan.
The darker beers weren’t exactly show stopping, but these guys are pumping our some crazy IPAs nestled in a tiny little spot in BK and are getting no complaints from me. All in all I give Other Half Brewing Company an 8.1 out of 10.
We saved the best for last on our self guided tour of the Anaheim brew scene. I have had a few barrel aged bottles from Family Rue prior to this visit (Black Tuesday, Grey Monday, Sucre, Anniversary Ale) and I can honestly say I think they are one of the best breweries in the US and the world. With literally dozens of Brues to choose from we picked out some that really caught our eyes and jumped in.
I tend to start off tastings a little bit lighter and then building up. I did that this time too, but based on the location- starting “light” wasn’t really light. I loved Saixon. This unapologetic saison was spicy and fruity with a great body for the style.
The Grade literally tasted like waffle crisp. I don’t know what else to say. This Baltic porter was a little bit thin, but absolutely delicious.
I wish I had flip flopped Saison Rue and The Grade. I didn’t hate this second saison, but it wasn’t quite as good as the first or the porter. Saison Rue joins the list of imperial saisons that have failed to impress me- maybe there’s something lost in the process?
The next beer has definitely been on my ‘want to try’ list. Tart of Darkness is top three most unique beers I’ve ever had. Not my favorite stout, but one of my favorite sours. I couldn’t drink tons of these, but I’m really glad I tried it.
There were three varietals of Autumn Maple available. We decided on the eldest: The 2015 Autumn Maple, bottle conditioned for over a year. I wish we could have done a vertical of them to see how it changed over time. As it stands- this one was filled with molasses, cloves, and a light banana sweetness from start to finish.
Though the next beer has a similar name I don’t consider it a varietal. Midnight Autumn Maple had some similar qualities, but in stout form they take on very different characteristics. This imperial stout wasn’t barrel aged, but was still so thick and creamy that I had to double check. Perfectly sweet with maple and molasses- really well done!
I love Manhattans and I love Dodie. I’m not entirely sure how to classify this ale, but there was some subtle cherry to start and a citrusy orange finish.
The next beer, Mash & Vanilla, is the only barely wine I’ve ever had on tap. This one starts right out true to its name: intense sweetness and a mountain of vanilla. The velvety mouth feel of this barrel aged barley wine will stick in my memory for a while.
I’m not sure if the two are supposed to be compared, but So happens it’s Tuesday draws some really close comparisons to another Bruery barrel aged stout: Black Tuesday. So happens it’s Tuesday is still roasty and delicious, but if that is an appropriate comparison then it doesn’t quite measure up.
I don’t typically love blends, Melange #14’s mix of a barrel aged strong ale and an imperial stout was almost perfect. The two styles differ while still complimenting each other. Fourteen comes in with some big booziness that is followed by a mellow roasted toffee.
I may have been getting a little tipsy by the last beer. Brewery number four on the day and beer near or above 10% abv number eleven at the brewery (this one’s 15.1%). I wrote “Boom” as my description of White Chocolate. I enjoyed this barrel aged wheat wine and picked up a decent amount of vanilla, but that’s all I can say. A great way to finish the day!
My expectations were really high as I am already aware of what these guys are brue-ing and they truly did not disappoint. There are a couple tastings I’ve been on that have come close, but this was the best tasting I’ve ever done. Huge shout out to The Bruery for a 9.9 out of 10. Keep doing what you guys are doing.
After a short break from our tour for some amazing Pho and BBQ at the Anaheim Packing House we strolled across the park to the Anaheim Brewery.
Starting off with a Hefe that lead with nice banana, but didn’t finsh with any cloves. Smooth and creamy, but not my favorite
Following suit with the hefe- the Red was smooth and drinkable, but a little lack luster in the flavor department.
Anaheim’s flagship 1888 is a really nice amber lager. As the story goes- the first brick was laid in 1888 and this amber lager pays homage to the first brew out of the gate. For me it’s reminiscent of some of the east coast amber lagers that I fell in love with and grew up on in my craft beer journey. Well done!
In a world where everyone makes an IPA, whether they’re my favorite or not, your IPA game needs to be on point to stand out from the crowd. Anaheim’s was citrusy and not great.
At least I saved the best for last. La Morena is a sultry brunette that I could dance with all night. Not typically a fan of the style, but this is one of, if not, THE best Mexican lagers I’ve had. La Morena adds a little substance to her lighter and more summery cousins: Like a woman with more meat on her bones.
Overall, they have two excellent lagers, but the rest fell a little flat when you stack them up to some of today’s competition. No complaints about the friendliness either, but I give Anaheim Brewery a 6.7 out of 10.
Noble Ale Works
Fresh off our Backstreet experience- Noble Ale Works was just a hop skip and a jump away. Noble is churning out high quality IPAs to beat the band and though I could have made an entire flight of just those we ordered a pint and a flight with some other interesting choices sprinkled in.
The first up was My Favorite Colour. Not a ton of flavor here, but really smooth and drinkable. I included on the flight to mix things up, but I’d rather have this in the pool when it’s 100+ degrees.
The second beer up was Life is Pitless- a cherry grisette. From all I can figure, a grisette is essentially a saison. Saisons were thought of more as a farmer’s beer (hence farmhouse-style) while a grisette was more for factory workers and miners though the difference between the two beers in negligible.
Next up was the best IPA I’ve had in a while and definitely deserving of is silver medal at the GABF. Nobility Imperial IPA is a little bit on the sweeter side, but well balanced with some citrus and a mild bitterness. This one’s definitely a king in my book.
If Nobility’s the kind Big Wig IPA is the court jester. Not sure if it was ruined because it’s not good or because I drank it after Nobility, but I wasn’t a big wi… I mean fan.
In my experience, apricot tends to come out in beer either super sweet or all aroma and no taste. Apricot’s Dream: Rise of the Apricots was a really delicious was of balancing apricot sweetness (not too sweet) with hops. This imperial IPA juice bomb was a perfect 9.3% abv.
I think I’m going to need a pint of Man’s Milk next time I can find one as the verdict is still out on it. Really loved the subtle sweetness that they’ve mastered without making it overly sweet. This one came through a little thin- particularly for a nitro.
All in all we had a great time, drank some great beers and this was an awesome addition to our tour. Even though I do prefer other styles, these guys our pumping out IPAs and are a hop heads dream. I definitely recommend checking them out and I give Noble Ale Works an 8.7 out of 10.
There’s a particular brewery with worldwide fame in Anaheim that was on our radar (you’ll read about in a couple weeks) and we already LOVED what we saw from Anaheim the night before (shout out to the Packing District), so after an early brewfest exit we decided to take ourselves on a little self guided tour of the Anaheim brewery scene.
First stop was Backstreet Brewery. It was the perfect sunny SoCal day to sit in the warehouse style brewery right next to large bay doors with outdoor seating and yard games. We order a flight and a pint and soaked up the atmosphere.
This first Backstreet boy left me feeling Incomplete- it was a bit thin and not altogether flavorful. The past few nut browns I’ve had were bad for being a little burnt (or whatever reason). This one was just a little lacking in general.
Holy Shizz For 10.2% this Imperial Red was delightfully well balanced. I really enjoyed the caramel malts that added flavor and substance without being excessively sweet.
Tomahawk Double IPA was almost too much for me. I’m not a huge fan of the west coast American style IPAs and at 9.2% ABV and 105 IBUs Tomahawk was a total west coast bitter hop bomb. Despite me not loving it The Editor was in love.
Quit playing games with my heart Seductive Sadie (Nitro). She was smooth and creamy, typical of a nitro stout, but finished with a delicious roasted chocolate and was as good as it smelled.
The final song on this playlist was the Raspberry Sour. Sweet enough to balance the sourness and not completely sour and bitter almost like a sour patch kid. Really refreshing and well done!
Other than the first brew on the tasting we are officially big fans of Backstreet Brewery. It was the perfect weather for it and a great brewery to start our ‘trail’- giving Backstreet an 8.9 out of 10.
I want to Brandon at Dare Devil Events and everyone at Strength In Support for putting on this event for a great cause! Every beerfest we go to has something different to offer, whether it be free food or a crazier vendor list than everyone else: Salute’s niche is the reason for the fundraiser, which made me very proud to help promote, and UNLIMITED pours- meaning nobody cutting you off at 15/20.
I really did love helping with this event, and I loved being in Anaheim, but I wouldn’t count them as one of the best: There were definitely some noticeable growing pains and it was a bit on the small side as I think a few of the breweries that committed back out at the last minute to attend other events in the state.
I didn’t try every single beer, but I did drink at least one from every brewery there, with the exception of Ballast Point, Sierra Nevada and Karl Strauss, as they definitely didn’t bring their ‘A’ game. Below are the breweries and tasting notes.
Auchentoshan Distillery: Amazing single malt scotch! So smooth. Was a great way to start aaaannnd a nice halfway point too.
All American Aleworks: Pumpin porter, peanut butter porter, and winter ale- peanut porter was way too thin, winter all was just right, and I had 3 pumpkin samples.
Angel City Brewing: Terrible IPA
Big Sky Brewing: Moose drool…well, just because 🙂
Bootleggers Brewery: IPA was pretty nice and kiwi Belgian that I didn’t hate or love, but very interesting.
Evans Brewing: Honey Blonde was the day’s most refreshing and crisp beer.
Gold Coast Mead: Savage Bois- different take on mead, very different from others I’ve had.
Hangar 24: Have had their orange wheat 3 times, it’s better in a can
Knee Deep Brewing: Citra extra pale ale- ok
Lagunitas Brewing: Night time ale- Despite being more macro than micro I’ve been really impressed by the last few lagunitas’ I’ve had
Legacy Brewing: The guava ale tasted like a bad IPA or not sour enough sour, cherry vanilla nitro on the other hand was perfect and I went back for a few of these as well.
Mike Hess Brewing: Grapefruit IPA better than Ballast Point, Kolsch is a delicious standard
‘Til next time!
State 48 Brewery
The first time we checked out the newly opened State 48 they were so new that none of their beers were on tap yet, so we gave them a couple months and another try. Outside of their own brews they have a nice tap list of local and west coast beers. Rather than getting a pint for the first round, as you know, I like to get a flight so I can write an appropriate review. When picking my flight our waitress replied with “Oh, don’t know what you like? That’s ok I remember my first brewery…” Well played snarky bar maid, well played. Luckily I brought my thick New York skin with me, however as revenge I would like to turn your attention to the information at the main “reviews” tab (52 locations in 6 different states).
Throughout my travels I’ve determined that when it comes to my favorite styles I’ll tolerate one that’s not quite up to snuff, but for the styles I don’t love as much (ie. blonde and goldens) I’m less forgiving. State 48 golden ale was great! This golden ale really embodied a light beer not light on flavor. I could sip a case of these in the pool during the warm summer months no problem!
There hefeweizen was pretty tasty as well. It had a really nice body and came through subtly with cloves; managing to not be too strong or too week. Well done.
Speaking of being a little too critical- I don’t know, I just didn’t love the brown ale. Light chocolate in the beginning, but all I could pick up on after that was burnt.
I didn’t hate their IPA, but it was a little lacking in power. This IPA fell somewhere between a lighter pale ale and a session IPA.
State 48 Brewery started out strong with their lighter beers, but much like Arizona, State 48 might need a little big of time to mature when being compared to older more established breweries. I’ve heard their food is amazing (we ate before we went), so I can’t speak towards that, but I am really excited to give their beers another try something after the holidays. All in all I give State 48 a 7.4 out of 10.
I feel a little ‘who’s on first’ bit coming on.
“Which brewery did you go to?”
Sorry- I had to.
Anyway, we drank wine all day and it was about 745 and we still hadn’t eaten dinner because we wanted to get here before they closed, this place was pretty difficult to find and, as you can imagine, we looked… bedraggled. We engulfed a small bag of doritos and then ordered a flight and a pint.
THAT Strawberry Blonde? She’s fresh, she delicious, she’s..ok I’ll stop. I was a little biased on this one because we had it at AmeriCAN and I already knew it was amazing. Well done.
THAT Amber smells better than she tastes. Insert your own joke in poor taste here: ____________________. Too much roast here and not enough sweet to balance this one out.
Following up that amber was Knotty Nut Brown ale. This nut brown had a really nice balance between sweet and dry. Definitely some red wine qualities that would pair well with chocolate or steak.
The next one left me with a Road rash. Definitely nice and piney, but not too much else going on in this IPA. Not a fan.
Blacked Out IPA was fantastic. Perfect blending of flavors and probably one of my top 2 favorite cascadian style beers.
It is a very rare occurrence that I try a non- barrel aged stout that is thick enough and flavorful enough for me. Monsoon Mud Stout had some nice chocolate and coffee notes, but was more like a rich porter than a stout.
For those unaware- an altbier is a type of top fermented German style lager. The Dopplesticke Altbier was a really nice representation. Although it wasn’t altogether different from a few of the oktoberfest beers I’ve had in recent months I still enjoyed it.
For the most part a brewery tends to do everything right, everything wrong, or everything seems to fall in the middle of the road. For a lack of a better way of putting it- I either LOVED their beers of hated them. I loved more than I hated and the bartender was friendly and helpful. All in all I give THAT brewery an 8.3 out of 10.
AZ Stronghold and Burning Tree
If I graded on knowing your audience the girls at AZ Stronghold would get 100%. I was the only guy in the tasting room with The Editor, 2 female bartenders, and (I’m assuming) a frequent female patron. They quickly dove right into conversation, making my fiance feel very much a home, while I sat at the edge of the bar, interjected every once in a while, and mostly just drank wine. We split a white flight and a combo flight and proceeded to
Starting off with the 2015 Tazi was great. A crisp and clean white with a nice sweet finish.
I cleansed with water and still really couldn’t tell the difference between the 2014 Archive Club blend and Tazi- except for the fact that it was a littl dryer and not quite as good.
The 2014 Fort Bowie Chenin Blanc was a nice sipper: Smooth and mellow while just enough and not overly sweet.
The one great thing about this trail was opening my eyes to some new varietals that I’ve never had. The 2015 Dragoon Verdelho was one of these varietals. 100% verdelho was….interesting? I didn’t love the creamy/buttery quality, but I’m glad I got to try it.
2014 Bonita Springs was one of my only small winery Pinot Gris and I really enjoyed it. If the water from Bonita springs tastes this sweet, tart and lemony then I need to give it a try.
I don’t normally love chardonnay blends. The 2014 Diya was no different- something about diluting the chard doesn’t set well with my palate.
Right after Diya came the 2014 Dala and I’m really glad. This solidified my opinion, reason for not liking Diya, and set the stage to really enjoy the tartness of this 2 year old chard. Delicious!
The 2015 Dayden was really interesting and complex. A lot going on in this wine: Well balanced for the complicated wine drinker.
2014 Magnus- nope, nope, nope. Reminded me of old lady stetson.
2015 Deep Sky Syrah 471 was a nice follow up. Not as full bodied as some of the other bold Syrahs we today, but velvety and smooth nonetheless.
We didn’t enjoy the wine quite as much as some of the other places we visited along this trail, but the company made it very hard to leave. All in all I give Arizona Stronghold Vineyards an 8.1 out of 10.
The final stop along our self guided tour brought us to Burning Tree Cellars. After our last few stops this tasting room felt a bit less inviting. They did, however offer a reserve flight that caught my eye, so we went for it. If I have one complaint about the Verde Valley wine trail and AZ wines in general it would be the excessive blending. Experimentation is great, but more often then not I want to taste a pure grape.
The 2014 Spanish Springs Chard was a little too much on the acidic/sour side of the spectrum. Not one of my favorites.
This is the second time I haven’t loved a roussanne that I was told was “amazing”. Maybe it’s just not my style? I won’t criticize the 2014 Colibri Roussanne.
The 2014 Colibri Genache started off a bit harsh, but finished really smooth. Everybody knows red wine goes with steak, but I think this one would wash down a nice greasy burger and fries really well.
The 2013 Jespersen Ranch Syrah was a bit too oaky for me. I’m ok with dryness and some oak qualities, but I’m not a fan of drinking wood. I think I wouldn’t have minded trying this one a couple of years ago.
The aptly named 2014 Patriarch was really strong. This big, bold Cab Franc was heavier than some Cab Sauvignons I’ve had and was the perfect taste to end our day of wining.
As I stated, we had less of a friendly, good time, but the wine was a really nice way to end the night before a much needed, late, dinner. All in all I give Burning Tree Cellars an 8.0 out of 10
Fire Mountain Wines and Pillsbury Wine Co
As we continued on our self guided tour of Verde Valley wine country we made our way into Cottonwood, which is a more enjoyable, centralized location conducive to a park ‘n walk with tons of tasting rooms, bars, restaurants and shops.
Once in Cottonwood we started off with Fire Mountain Wines which proved to be our favorite of the day. Fire Mountain has great wines, a great story, great decor, a cozy bar and seating area, and Wayne was a great host/barman.
2015 Sky was definitely on the shortlist of one of my favorite wines of the day. Great chenin blanc blend with a sweet vs tart complexity. I picked up on tart apple and mellow pear and could sit on the porch and sip this for hours.
My readers know that I’m certainly no wine expert if you compare my wine knowledge to my beer knowledge and it’s tough sometimes to describe exactly what I’m tasting. That being said I don’t think I liked the 2015 Earth for the same reason I like Lowland scotch a little better than Highland scotch. Well- good job naming your wines fire mountain.
This 2012 Deer Woman Red was so fruity and mellow. Not normally a big pinot noir, fan but I’d dance with the Deer Woman any time.
Wasn’t a fan of the 2015 Fire. I enjoyed the complexity, but this Malbec blend wasn’t as velvety as I’d hoped and bit a little at the end.
Luckily the 2015 Cicada tasted better than it sounded. The name cicada brings me back to the sleepless summer nights of 1996 thanks to the thunderous chorus of the sex starved winged insects. Well, this wine was nothing like that; although I could stay up all night drinking it.
After our tasting, a bottle of Resemblance was opened to be tasted by some other near by patrons and a free taste was offered to us. I don’t remember what year this was, but we were told there was a pretty heavy price tag… each drop was worth every penny. Resemblance is a big, bold Zinfandel that opened up my nose and my mouth with dark fruits.
Other than not being able to make an awesome Earth, Wind, and Fire joke because there wasn’t a bottle of ‘wind’ we had an awesome experience at Fire Mountain and give them an 8.7 out of 10.
Maybe 50 yards down the street we made our way to the Pillsbury Wine Company. This was probably our second favorite tasting of the day helped in part by some more incredible wines and the most knowledgeable barkeep of the day.
Every tasting room had multiple offerings from whites to roses to reds and I felt like we did a nice job of mixing it up, but we hit the point where just whites would really hit the spot.
2014 WildChild White was interesting. I think I could have really loved it as a dinner wine, but it tasted just a bit off by itself.
This malvasia was a beautiful as the Arizona wine advocate we were told it was named for. I loved the subtle peach that came through at the end of the 2014 Bonnie Lee.
I was impressed by the fact that the 2015 Rose was different than any other rose I’ve had, but my taste buds were not happy with messing with status quo. Meh.
The 2013 Symphony is a 80%/20% viognier blend that I really liked. Tasting it brought me back to my first few sips of wine in my teen years with italian food before I knew anything about wine. My mom must have liked a brand that matched Sympony’s characters. Well done.
Being that the 2013 Symphony ‘Goddess’ was 100% symphony and no viognier tells me that maybe I wouldn’t like a viognier. Goddess was just slightly sweeter, a little cleaner and a really nice sipping wine. Dionysus and Bacchus would be proud.
It was another amazing winery with great wine and a great staff earning Pillsbury an 8.5 out of 10.
Page Springs Cellars and Oak Creek Winery
I hope my readers don’t mind a few double reviews in the coming weeks- I recently realized that I have EIGHT more wineries from this trail to write about and some brew fests in between, so in lieu of taking the next three months to write about this awesome trail and my memory not being completely fresh, I thought this would be a nice solution.
Fresh off of our last tasting just a half of a mile away we pulled into Page Springs. We loved the convenient wood barrel decor and the classy feel to the place as we walked in. They also have a beautiful outdoor walkway and seating area near an Oak Creek where you are encouraged to bring a bottle out to relax. The Editor and I opted not to go out back because we had a couple of other places that were on our list, and that seemed to change the way the staff interacted with us. My gripe started at the point when I felt as though The Editor and I were being pushed out of the door because we did not take them up on the offer to stay. We liked the atmosphere and the wine, and are planning on a lengthier stay on our next visit, but I didn’t like the feeling of being rushed through my tasting.
We split a couple of flights to experiment with a few different styles-
The 2015 Vino del Barrio Blanca was a great white! A blended white (mostly Colombard) that captured the essence of complexity wrapped in drinkability.
The 2015 Vino de la Familia Blanca was sweet, but not too sweet. We couldn’t completely decide what flavor stuck out. Tasting notes stated that we should taste musk melon, but none of the bar tenders could tell us what a musk melon was.
The 2015 Dos Padres Malvasia is 100% malvasia grape and tasted like it. Sometimes blending is a nice way to create a complex wine, but sometimes, a single varietal just comes out as a more pure flavor.
The 2015 La Flor Rosa was one of my favorite wines of the day and probably one of the best Rose’s I’ve ever had. La Flor Rosa was not too sweet not too dry, light and crisp, and absolutely perfect.
The 2014 Dragoon Marsanne had too much spice for my liking. It wasn’t bad, but I could have done with it being a little more mellow. I’m willing to admit that La Flor could have ruined this taste for me.
Fresh off of my first taste of a grenache I was not impressed by the 2014 Pillsbury Grenache.
I’m not really sure what to think of the 2015 Arizona Viognier. I’ve never had a white like this; it was ok.
The story behind Mule’s Mistake may garnish a chuckle and the word is that the first batch in the early 2000’s was amazing. I think the 2015 version un-evolved.
I was interested to see another big white come after some of the reds, but the 2015 La Serrana fit in very nicely. Remember lighter doesn’t always mean liter. La Serrana was great.
The 2014 Super Arizona Tuscan-Bordeaux wasn’t bad, but left me wanting something a little more- like when my sauce just needs a tiny bit more salt.
All in all I didn’t like the feeling of being rushed and didn’t love that almost everything was blended, but there were a few really delicious wines. I will say that their tasting options have something for everyone, offering White Flights, Red Flights, or a mix of the two. I give Page Springs Cellars a 7.5 out of 10.
As we backtracked a little bit to head back towards Cottonwood, we stopped in at Oak Creek Winery. I loved the massive wrap around bar and open seating.
I don’t normally love sauvignon blanc, but Fume Blanc was fantastic!
I had to cheat after trying The Artist. It was a mix between a dry riesling and a sweet chard- maybe that’s what gewurztraminer is? Im currently refusing to look up how to pronounce that so I can continue saying ‘GwortzMinor’.
Oak Creek Chardonnay= too buttery.
If Arizona Lady Moscato was a real lady she’d be a sweet ol’ grandma, front porch swinging with a jar of marmalade. I don’t know… I can’t just say “it was sweet”.
Fire was just that: fire. It started with a dry oaky burn and finished with a leathery smoke.
The Arizona Cream Sherry (a blend of chard and sweet brandy) definitely shouldn’t be considered a real thing. SOOO sweet! I don’t think many people would like the intensity of this wine and even I wouldn’t enjoy too much of it, but just one tasting? Perfect.
All in all I enjoyed the atmosphere and the wine, but I wasn’t truly ‘wowed’ and give Oak Creek Winery a 7.7 out of 10.
Let me start by saying I LOVE chicken and dumplings; any way, shape, or form I’ve ever had them. This particular twist on the dumpling is no Small Wonder as its unique form and texture complimented the chicken (Delaware’s #1 export), creamy gravy, and Delaware style succotash very well.
The first part of of this journey was the first interesting twist on the meal. Rather than pulled or grilled chicken breast many recipes call for a whole Blue Hen in an oven top dutch oven… actually, just a chicken fryer but still. Carrots, celery, an onion, and spices are added and set aside when finished. The chicken is pulled and mixed with the veggies while the broth is used to cook the thin, yet filling, Delaware slippery dumplings. The final step is to use the remaining broth to make gravy and pour over both. The side dish that I have never been a fan of was also a bit different than I’ve ever had it before and turned out delicious. Basically, take some succotash, fry it, and then add cherry tomatoes.
The beers we chose were two natives of Milton, DE- Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale and Palo Santo Marron. The India Brown is pretty good by itself, but paired with the chicken and dumplings and even with the succotash it was amazing. Well balanced between sweet/malty and bitter/hoppy this was the perfect beer with this meal. Palo Santo Marron on the other hand did not pair well at all. This brown ale aged in Paraguayan Palo Santo wood barrels is incredible by itself: thicker and creamier than some stouts with the perfect hint of boozy and sweet- but, too sweet to pair with this meal.
This downhome-style meal really hit the spot and I’m proud to say this time around we were kitchen mishap free!
Javelina Leap Winery
For those of you who don’t know; a Javelina, aka Skunk Pig, is a stinky, varmant-like, distant cousin to the wild boar that is native to Arizona. Right off the bat Javelina Leap is a much more inviting place than it’s name might suggest. Within moments of walking in the door we got to meet and have a chat with Rod- the founder, owner, and head of wine making. As any good head wine hancho would do; Rod was doing a little quality control on some of their bottles and gave us the inside scoop on the name.
As the story goes- There was an international wine competition in Paris in the 1970’s between the French and award winning and historic winery; Stags’ Leap (Napa Valley). Legend has it that even after much boasting and trash talk even the Parisians picked Stags’ Leap wine over their own in a blind taste test. Combining his interest in this story and a desire to develop a name more Arizona specific- Javelina Leap was born.
The Editor and I each picked a few different wines each and began our Cornville/Cottonwood wine country self-guided tour.
The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc was fantastic. This wine was citrusy and light, a perfect way to start our expedition, and a perfect front porch sippin’ buddy.
The 2015 Sangiovese wasn’t bad per se, but I didn’t really love it by itself. It had interesting qualities that make it a perfect candidate for the dinner table.
The 2014 Tempranillo was light with a hint of pepper and a bit heavier with what I think was cherry. The was a really nice middle of the road wine that I would have preferred to drink before the Sangiovese.
The 2014 Zinfandel was probably our least favorite. Way too much oak, leather, and pepper.
Everything at breweries and wineries comes with tasting notes now for the casual consumer, so I try not to even look at them until the very end (if at all). For the 2015 Syrah I HAD to: A full Syrah with full flavor that was probably the thickest wine I’ve ever had and I truly couldn’t tell what I was tasting, but I loved it. Sure enough, once I looked at the description…”chewy”. Seriously- it was chewy. This combined with some mellow dark fruit make this wine perfection!
The two year old 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t as big and bold as I’d hoped, but this could be because it followed the Syrah. Either way- not too bad other than maybe a bit too tobacco forward.
All in all, Javelina Leap was a great start to the Verde Valley wine trail and worth a 7.9 out of 10.
Oak Creek Brewing
Our first trip to picturesque Sedona started out with a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross and then moved on to a Sugar Loaf/ Thunder Mountain hike. After Sedona we moved on to the Cottonwood wine country, but before we did The Editor, Petey the pooch and I had to show up 45 minutes early to the Oak Creek Brewery. They graciously allowed us to sit on the dog friendly front patio and wait until they finished opening despite Petey being an over-tired, pain in the ass.
We ordered a beer brat, pulled pork and a side of coleslaw from the Sedona BBQ Company which is a separate entity, but shares a building with the brewery. The beer brat and the slaw were awesome, while the pulled pork was a little lack luster.
They were out of quite a few listed beers including a chocolate porter I was looking forward to and we were a little bit rushed once we finally got everything, but this flight was a great finish to our hike and start to the rest of our day.
First up was a really nice Bavarian style Hefeweizen. A strong, yet pleasant clove presence rather than just a run of the mill wheat beer. Definitely worth they hype and it’s Gold in the GABF.
I usually welcome a crisp and refreshing lager, but Gold Lager was more of a pilsner than a lager and I really was not impressed.
Much like the Hef- it’s not my favorite style, but the Oak Creek Pale Ale just had a little bit extra character. Pale ale’s tend to take a bake seat to IPA’s and other more flavorful beers. This Pale Ale came through with a really nice hop balance between Citra and Cascade hops.
No thank you Amber Ale. Are my standards too high? I haven’t had a good amber ale in a very long time. This was too mellow and thin and was more like a slightly malty pale ale.
The English style Nut Brown was a nice was to end the flight. There was just the right amount of coffee and sweet malt to balance this one out and a really nice, thick body for a brown ale.
There was some back and forth between good and bad: a couple of great beers vs a couple really bad ones, some good food vs some poor, and even good service and allowing us to wait while they opened vs being out of 4 listed beers (including their IPA). All in all I give Oak Creak Brewing Company a 7.1 out of 10.
Nimbus Brewing Company
I would like to start this article by saying that this article will be different than any other article I’ve ever written and, hopefully, any article I will ever write again. Prior to visiting Nimbus we spent 5 hours at the Great Tucson Beer Festival. That alone should set the stage for what you’re about to read. Needless to say; the intoxicated party of The Editor, my friends, and I had no need to continue our night at a brewery, but we met the manager/brewer and the owner (I think that was what people were saying anyway) so…we went to Nimbus!
Even though this brewery deserves a sober taste bud redo the reason I’m writing this is because I don’t know that we’ll ever be in Tucson again and I have to write about this night’s events. The reason for the above disclaimer is as follows: my mouth was blackout drunk. If my taste buds were a person they would be Shane MacGowan on a normal Saturday morning or Oksana Baiul driving in LA. Seriously- I was perfectly coherent and I’ve had both Old Monkey Shine (at the fest) and Dirty Guera which are both really smooth, delicious and extremely drinkable, but after so many good beers at the fest I couldn’t tell you what a single one of their beers tasted like. Although I’m slightly embarrassed at my last statement I’m not at all embarrassed by the fact that we had an absolute blast.
We cabbed it to the brewery, walked in, and paid dirt cheap prices for a round of beers and a flight. Then the manager proceeded to give us 6 penny beer coupons which we certainly did not need. This was followed by being brought free nachos and a round of whiskey. The nachos managed to break through my deadened taste buds as they were delicious and everyone was having a GREAT time so I’m not going to attribute this generosity completely to this comment, but The Editor telling the owner that she looked like a “hotter, younger Celine Dione” couldn’t have hurt our case. I did manage to take a couple of sub par pictures that don’t do them justice before someone fell asleep at the table, had to get carried out of the bar, and they insisted on gaving us a ride back to our hotel instead of letting us call a cab.
I hope you don’t think less of my professionalism and instead see this article for what it is: A big shout out to all the amazing people at Nimbus. I give Nimbus Brewing Company a 9.9 out of 10 with an asterisk. A 9.9 for fun and hospitality and ff I’m ever in Tucson again not stopping in is not an option and I’m going to taste every single beer they have on tap.
Great Tucson Beer Festival
The 30th annual Great Tucson beerfest was a smash hit! Huge shout out to Mitzi Tharin and Sun Sounds of AZ for putting on not only a great event, but for a great cause as well. The participating breweries and their offerings were impressive, but I was truly impressed by the attention to every other detail: There were buckets of free, ice cold water, it was centrally located and easy to get to, rooms were available at the near by Radisson hotel as well as a free shuttle for VIP ticket holders to and from the event. The kicker though, the thing that knocked this event out of the park and stand out from the rest, was FREE food. VIP and general admission ticket holders had access throughout the event to free food ranging from pulled pork and mac ‘n cheese to pizza and even clam chowder- I was really wowed.
I was really excited to see a distillery made their way into the event, so I started off with the incredibly smooth and perfectly balanced Copper City Bourbon by the Arizona Distilling Company. After that I moved on to the following:
Pakito’s session IPA, Snake River- Night the best IPA but a great way to ease into the day.
Gold Road Kolsch, Mother Road- I wasn’t sure if I’d had it or not soooo…why not? Great kolsch!
Sour of Discord (pomegranate an chile) Gose + Mescalero Stout, 1912- The sour was great; perfect balance between sweet and sour with an interesting kick at the end. Didn’t love the stout.
Luponic Distortion, Firestone Walker- I think they’re trying to get this one out there.
Hustler, Huss- Another repeat
Oktoberfest, Left Hand- One of the better that I’ve had.
Sunset Amber, Grand Canyon-
Lil Sumpin, Lagunitas- didn’t show up with an impressive offering
Monsoon DIPA, Fieldwork- Deliciously malty
Balder Brown + Muninn Choc stout, Longship- Brown was a bit light but the stout was amazing
Ten fidy, Oskar blues- never disappointing, rich a creamy
Mayan Stout, Old Bisbee Brewing- Not usually a big coffee stout fan but this one brewed with beans from South America was right on the money
Narwal, Sierra Nevada-
Tank 7, Boulevard- Another repeat but tooo good to pass up
Breakfast stout, Founders- Great mainstay
Tropic King Imperial Saison, Funkwerks- I think something is lost when breweries try to boost a saison. I love saisons and this is the second imperial saison that I have really not liked.
Old Money Shine, Nimbus- I love this flavorful take on a light English pub ale. I’ve passed on it a few times before because it’s easy to find, but I’m really glad I finally gave it a try.
Mocha IPA + (12 anniv.) bitter chocolate oatmeal stout, Stone- We’ll glaze over the mocha IPA and talk about how amazing the choc-oatmeal was!
PanQster, North Coast- I don’t like belgian beers,this may have been the turning point in my decision making
Amory DIPA, Deschuttes-
Mandarin Wheat, Uncle Bears- Nice wheat, not too sweet
Wolf Pup Session IPA, Golden Road- meh
I finished with the last available beer before everyone ran out; a vanilla porter. What brewery was that vanilla porter from do you ask? Well … your guess is as good as mine.
*Some available beers were skipped to save space for others and some beers weren’t available because they ran out by the time we made it all the way around the event. The only beer I didn’t get to try that I was really looking forward to was the Barrel Aged South Rim by Crazy Mountain Brewing.
Participating breweries and distributors:
Arizona Distilling Co
Boulder Beer Co
Boston Beer Co
Crazy Mountain Brewing
Firestone Walker Brewing
Full Sail Brewing
Fort Collins Brewing
Golden Road Brewing
Grand Canyon Brewing
Hangar 24 Craft Brewery
Kill Devil Spirit Co
Left Hand Brewing Company
Left Coast Brewing
Lost Coast Brewing
Mike Hess Brewing
Mother Road Brewing
North Coast Brewing
Old Bisbee Brewing
Oskar Blues Brewing
Santa Fe Brewing
Sentinel Peak Brewing
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Uncle Bears Brewing
Utah Brewers Cooperative/Wasatch
Vermont Cider Co
Saddle Mountain Brewing Company
Right off the bat- I love how patriotic and local this place is! As soon as you walk in you get a full view of a huge American flag, patriotic signs, and a drink local sign. Once we sat down The Editor and I ordered a flight, a pint, and some grub.
The service was friendly, but too slow for my liking. The wings were good- not great and the sliders were really over cooked. Being that there are so many breweries out there these days we’ve come to expect a bit more from the kitchen of these places, but the most important thing a brewery should have is solid beer. In this regard Saddle Mountain did not disappoint.
The first of the aviatic named Taildragger flight was Warhawk Cream Ale. “Oh-ee-yeah (Tale Spin), Oh-ee-yoh (Tale Spin), All the trouble we get in, With another tale to spin”. Um, #sorrynotsorry- that’s been stuck in my head all week. This cream ale was smooth and really drinkable and at 5.8% shoots other “light” beers right out of the sky.
Taking a little bit of a nose dive was Show Your Stripes Honey Ale. I’ve searched through all of our past articles and determined that I have not liked a single honey ale that I’ve tried. I love honey, I love mead, but when it comes in beer for it tends to taste burnt. This one was no different. Pull up, pull up!
Ray’s Gold IPA was another super sippable beer. I liked this one a great deal as it was a bit more balanced and tasted more like a hop juice than most. I will say though- if you’re a big IPA fan in search of greatness this one may fall under a simple pale ale category.
Hop Snob IPA on the other hand (or wing?) really popped! A big and robust West Coast style IPA; I didn’t like it as much as Ray’s Gold, but if you’re an IPA fan this one is definitely worth the trip.
Mad Props Dunkel wasn’t my absolute favorite beer, but its uniqueness is worth talking about. Map Props tastes of a weird mix between hefe and a sweet brown ale. I enjoyed a nice blend of toffee, banana, and cloves with a very slight leather smokiness.
The 2016 medalist in the Arizona Strong Beerfest, 300 Foot Steve, was amazing. This Imperial Red came in at 7.5% and 90 IBUs, but its subtle sweetness and superior balance made it taste every bit of 50 IBUs and 5% alcohol. 300 Foot Steve definitely earned his award.
IFR Nitro Oatmeal Stout- SOO SMOOTH! This is our second brewery trip in recent weeks that impressed me with a base stout. The nitro certainly doesn’t hurt its case, but IFR is extremely rich and creamy for a non barrel aged stout.
We really enjoyed ourselves at Saddle Mountain. We loved the decor, we loved a decent amount of their beers and we even left our mark on the chalkboard in the bathroom corridor. Though the food and 1 or 2 beers didn’t wow all in all I still give Saddle Mountain Brewing Company a 8.7 out of 10.
We only eat like this one meal out of the whole week and this meal was absolutely delicious but, after this being the fourth out of six famous/regional dishes that are fried I’m beginning to see a glimpse into why American might have an obesity problem.
That being said I’m glad the Idahoans have found an alternative to chicken fingers. Finger steaks are more hearty and delicious than their poultry cousins. We followed an official recipe this time but after we were done figured that you could use just about any batter/egg wash and breading that you want.
Our side dish was one that we came up with ourselves. I know that potatoes are the dish- Idaho potatoes for pete’s sake! But, we wanted to save on the carbs and do something that was a little bit different- enter cauliflower. A while back we found a recipe to make cauliflower “mashed potatoes” and we loved it. So, this time around we made the mashed cauliflower and loaded them with green onions, bacon, and cheddar cheese. I promise you will love it; I don’t even notice the difference.
The beers we chose this round were actually out of necessity as they were the only two from Idaho I could get my hands on locally. The first; Rocket Dog Rye IPA by Laughing Dog Brewing Company went perfect with both the steak fingers and the loaded cauliflower. Anubis Imperial Coffee Porter by the same brewery was terrible with this meal. Luckily, we saved it until after the meal and after a few gulps of water to cleanse it was a really tasty porter.
If you’re planning on pairing and have lots of options I’d recommend a nice effervescent, fresh IPA or a sweet, malt forward brown ale.
We were really intrigued by what we saw for New Mexican cuisine. There are some aspects of it that are similar to many cultures- stuffing meat and veggies into a carb- but the dishes famous in New Mexico are truly unique and in a class by themselves. These courses are not quite Mexican, they aren’t Texmex, and they’re not Native American, they may have some influence from other things but they are truly New Mexican dishes.
First we saw that a main course is carne adovada, then we saw that a side that goes with that course is calabacitas, and then we saw another main dish, sopapillas, consists of stuffing the previous two into it- so, we made all three.
The carne adovada was absolutely incredible despite enough peppers to melt my tongue off and make my lips swollen and purple. There was so much flavor from peppers, onions, and garlic, and the meat (after slow cooking for 7 hours) was soft enough that I didn’t even have to chew if I didn’t want to.
The calabacitas were the perfect mix of bland, sweet, and savory. I really could have eaten just that, but this time around I was lucky enough to have it with the carne adovada and have some of it stuffed in sopapillas.
In keeping up with our current trend of kitchen catastrophes, the sopapilla started out as a fiasco. The directions said that the frying oil needed to be hot enough but not too hot. Well, we made two awesome batches and then proceeded to burn the next four because it was too hot. We burned 1 more that filled the entire house with smoke before we threw away the oil and started over. The initial process of making thin, hand-sized dough and frying it is pretty simple, but unless you want to set off the fire alarm, disturb the neighbors and give your dog a sneezing attack I’d recommend paying close attention to your temperatures.
I decided to go with Oktoberfest by Santa Fe Brewing Company since it’s coming into season and one of the dishes had a lot of fall veggies (squash, zucchini, corn) and Marble IPA by Marble Brewing in Albuquerque because of the intense spice and flavor of the adovada. The beer pairing was really unique this time around. At first sip the Oktoberfest was terrible, and the IPA tasted like an unfiltered wheat-IPA. After a few bites and sips, it was really interesting to taste the calabacitas bring out a ton of flavor in the Oktoberfest and the adovada mask it completely while the IPA tasted much more bitter after the calabacitas but complimented the adovada perfectly.
This is on the short list of our absolute favorite meals of all time and I definitely recommend giving it a try.
Desert Eagle Brewing Company
I loved the location of this brewery: Right on Mesa’s main drag, right next to the light rail, and just a short walk to the Arts Center. I loved how inviting it felt despite live music and a totally packed house. I even loved the handmade margarita pizza. I did not, however love their beers. The two beers that I liked I really, really loved and the others just mustered a ‘meh’. I hate to come across like I’m ever bashing someone’s establishment and my aim is to always further the craft beer movement, but if we’re being honest- not every beer and every brewery can be an 8+ out of 10.
We were in a great mood, about to hit the Arts Center for a concert, and so excited by such a big beer list that The Editor and I actually ordered two flights. Normally, I would list beers in the order I drank them in but this time I will glow about their two amazing beers first and then mention the others.
Red Mountain Amber/Red Ale was amazing: fruity, nutty and delicious. Red Mt. is well balanced between bitter and sweet with the perfect amount of hops and malt. Seriously well done beer!
The next beer I would recommend to anyone from a rookie to a beer snob. It’s not the best stout I’ve EVER had, but it’s probably the best micro-brew stout that I’ve ever had on tap. Black Talon RIS (Russian Imperial Stout) opens with coffee, but doesn’t over power. It continues and finishes with a rich and creamy chocolate and toasted malt flavor. I can’t say enough about the smoothness, texture, and body of this beer: It’s thicker than some barrel aged stouts I’ve had. Great job!
As for the rest- some were still better than others so I broke them down into two sections:
Sour Beak Adler was a nice balance between sour and a hop bomb IPA. She’s a Tart sour ale was mild and drinkable instead of drinking a sour patch kid, but not a lot of flavor. The grapefruit session IPA was ok for a session- superior drinkablility with a lack of flavor.
Buzz Bomb IPA and Gentleman’s porter (way too thin) fell a bit short while Main Street Blonde and Black Cherry Blonde tasted like run of the mill light beers.
Again, I loved everything about this place right down to the service, I would go back again for a pint any time, and I wish them all the luck in the world, but in comparison to a lot of the breweries we’ve done they’re lacking. All in all I give Desert Eagle Brewing Company a 6.7 out of 10.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing
We’ve heard such incredible things lately about Wilderness Brewing that we decided to go check it out. Rumors have circulated about aging beers in Pappy Van Winkle Barrels, Imperial IPAs with crazy ABVs and some really cool experimenting with sours made with organic and wild picked grains. We ordered a flight and a pint and needless to say, things got wild.
I started with the only beer I couldn’t really tell what I was going to taste ahead of time. Oaked -n- Ordinary was very complex and interesting: Some fruit but mostly oaky and bready with a nice thin dry finish. I’m still not entirely sure what type of beer this was supposed to be, but I liked it.
I moved on to the Desert Lavender Saison. This is another unique beer that I don’t think my words can do justice- not in the sense that I LOVED this beer, but I have no idea what lavender is supposed to taste like. I know what lavender smells like and this beer didn’t smell like my moms candles, so I’ll have to say it tasted like a citrusy saison and I would like to have another one.
Third on the list was the Pine Mountain Sour Pale Ale. Maybe it’s because their aim was more towards a balance pale ale than a sour? I did not enjoy this one.
I followed that one up with my favorite beer of the day- DC Mountain IPA. DC Mountain was big and bold in the west coast style, yet it found a way to balance itself. This IPA was definitely Centennial hops in bitterness but something I can’t put a finger on that added a nice fruity sweetness. DC Mt is truly a great IPA.
Right behind that was the O-line Triple IPA. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as DC Mt, but I have to give them some props. 11.2%?! This tasted like a nice 8% IPA with one exception- HOPS! My taste buds were on hop overload. Not as balanced as others but still impressive.
In keeping with the day’s trend I looked for more ways to experiment- enter Barrel Aged Sweet Potato Saison. Also in keeping with trends this beer was really hard to figure out. This wasn’t my favorite saison, Maybe because O-line punched me right in the taste buds, but there was a heavy oaken flavor to it like a super dry chardonnay that I really enjoyed.
I finished up, of course, with the Superstition Coffee Stout. Their Barrel Aged Presidential Stout wasn’t on tap this time so we’ll have to go back and try some more of their beers. I say that because this one had some great vanilla notes both on the tongue and in the nose but was too thin for me.
I love the experimentation and uniqueness to Wilderness’ beers. I loved the flight itself- probably the coolest paddle I’ve ever seen. Overall, based on rankings I’ve given other breweries (some better some worse), I give Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company a 8.66/10 meaning that, for me, they’re sitting between the two but closer to an 8.7.
We were in the neighborhood two weeks ago because of the beerfest, so we decided to pop into the Beer Research Institute. Let me start by saying, even though I’m a biology teacher, I never “geek out”. I don’t have very many nerdy tendencies, but when we walked into BRI and saw their shtick, I went from 0 to 60 in .2 seconds. The light bulb covers were erlenmeyer flasks, the tap handles were test tubes, and the beer came served in beakers. I ordered a flight while my fiance, The Editor, ordered a pint. Ps- I’ve decided the from this point on Frankie shall be known as “The Editor”- not only is she in fact my editor but it sounds like a badass MMA name.
I’ve really been in the mood for fruity and spicy farmhouse style ales lately so for my first experiment I started off with the Intergalactic saison. This saison was a little bit on the lighter side but still manage some big time flavor; less fruity and more spicy, but a really well done beer none the less.
For my second trial I moved on to War Paint IPA. My research suggests that there is a high amount of malt in this beer. I love the caramel notes blending with the subtle hops. It’s listed at 60 IBUs which is right on the money as this tastes more like a hopped up Amber ale than a malty IPA. I really enjoyed this beer and would have to say it was my favorite beer of the bunch.
The third study was of Mjango Unchained- after careful deliberation my analysis is that this IPA is unimpressive. I’m warming up to some of the fruit style IPA’s (most done with orange or other citrus) and will admit this was better than some but nothing altogether special.
I hypothesized that the next beer on this list was going to be my favorite, but was a little disappointed. Morning Sex Sweet Coffee stout was a bit too thin for me, heavy on the coffee and light on the sweet. It tasted a bit like a rich Colombian roast coffee that I forgot to put the milk and sugar in.
My last taste was a few gulps of The Editor’s Professor Plum in the Brewery with the Mash Paddle. The name lends a CLUE as to what I should have tasted in this saison, but I didn’t pick up on any plum. If I may defend these findings: I just had a stout but still enjoyed this saison, so it’s possible the Morning Sex neutralized the flavor of the dark fruit.
All in all, it was another great trip with some amazing poutine, some good beers and my favorite decor/theme of any brewery we’ve been to so far earning the Beer Research Institute an 8 out of 10.
Two Brothers Brewery
Two Brother’s is pretty nationally famous as their pale ale is not all that hard find and is incredibly delicious. So, we were interested to see what the beer list would look like at the Scottsdale sister to the Illinois brewery. They have a beautiful and inviting building with a ton of seating right in Old Town Scottsdale and to our surprise they have a list of their national mainstays and a list of local and exclusive brews. We did our best to try a couple from both lists and as much as it pains me to say- we skipped Side Kick extra pale ale because we’ve had it already.
First on the list was Domaine DuPage; a French style country Ale. I’ve always liked this style as my 3rd or 4th favorite- but, who’s counting. Domaine DuPage starts of with a sweet caramel malt and finishes dry with a nice hoppiness. I really liked this beer.
Next was Ciudad Perdido (Lost City) which is a Mexican style lager. Not to bash this beer, as it was drinkable and I’ve had worse, but I’m beginning to think I just don’t like Mexican lagers. Technically, a Mexican lager is the same as a Vienna lager or, a beer in exile, as it’s being called. But, to my taste buds the style have diverged and not to my liking.
I was told that the Dragon Eyes amber ale was amazing and a beer that “keeps ’em coming back” but, other than it’s uniqueness I wasn’t impressed. Brewed with black tea, which still fascinates me, this amber had some subtle oatmeal, cinnamon and vanilla. It wasn’t overly sweet or bitter which stands out for this style but it wasn’t overly flavorful either.
I wanted to go with a nice imperial but since they were out of Northwind I went with the Lyin’ Eyes white stout. I’m always impressed by experimentation and was surprised by its complexion as the description didn’t say pale or white stout and I was impressed by it’s maintenance of deep cocoa and vanilla both in the nose and on the tongue but this was even thinner than some porters. I’ve had some coffee pale ales and kolschs recently that were on par with this and I was hoping for a big, frothy stout that poured like a milk shake so it fell a little flat.
I didn’t think about it until I wrote this article but I love the two Illinois brews I’ve had (Side Kick and Domain DuPage) but wasn’t a fan of any of the Scottsdale beers. As always- these reviews are just personal preference but, I must admit that, I was a little disappointed and feel like my review of the Illinois brewery would look a little different. I give Two Brothers Brewery a 6.99* out of 10 (with an asterisk) in hopes to remedy my opinion next time I’m in the Prairie State.
Ellis Island Casino and Brewery
When ever we take a vacation and wherever that vacation might be we try to make it to a brewery or winery or two; Las Vegas, Nevada is no different. Before we headed to one of my absolute favorite places, Binions on Fremont St to win $150 on roulette we popped in to Ellis Island Casino and Brewery. Amidst the bright lights, everyone from foreign tourists to frat boys strolling down the street with open containers, and old blue hairs with their VIP lanyards and packs of parliaments it sits, just a quick dip off of The Strip. I must say I’d like it a little better if a flight was available at one of the casino bars (it wasn’t) but what was really nice is their beers are available anywhere and everywhere on casino grounds.
I started off getting a delicious 50% off sirloin steak (originally $14.99) and winning a free 16 oz beer from the players club to go with it. Their IPA complimented their steak and fries well as its robustness was brought right to the forefront of my taste buds. A nice west coast style, bitter IPA to refresh and cleanse your palate.
The second beer we tried was their Weiss. Drinkable enough but not a ton of flavor going on here. Subtly sweet and a little more tart than I’m used to for a Hefe.
Following that bust was their stout. The stout was way too thin but if you think about it being more like a porter it was pretty tasty. Well balanced and complex with no one flavor standing out among the others.
Last but not least was their hard Root beer (not pictured). Their hard root beer is a jackpot: Still sweet enough but not overly sweet and a nice creaminess to it. This is better than any other hard root beer/hard soda I’ve had.
As our readers know by know there are a few different factors that go into our ratings but it’s weighted with beer quality being the most important. That being said, all in all- a great casino, friendly service and great food earning Ellis Island Casino and Brewery a 7.7 out of 10. There are only three breweries in all of Las Vegas (that we’re aware of) so, if you’re looking for craft beer this is definitely worth a stop.
Boulders on Southern Summer Beerfest
We’ll start by giving a shout out to Justin and the the rest of the awesome crew at Boulders on Southern in Mesa. Justin hooked us up with some half off tickets and the rest of the staff was on point slinging beer after beer and (as with every Saturday) a $4 happy hour food menu. There were no breweries on hand like a traditional beerfest but what there was, between taps and bottles, was an amazing list of rare, hard to find, and newly released beers.
We tried to get as many pictures as we could but this place was packed and there was a TON of beer on hand: 44 to be exact- on top of their normal tap list. The pictures we did get were of some of the rarer bottles and beers that we were particularly impressed with.
Below is the full list of beers we tried with some descriptions. Some we had had before and others we hadn’t and as you can see; our note taking took an fun, unexpected, and artistic turn:
Alesmith, Hammerhead Speedway Stout (t)- Really smooth and not overwhelmingly coffee compare to regular Speedway.
Avery, Barrel Aged Raspberry Sour (b)- One of the best sours I’ve had.
Avery, Perzik Peach Saison (t)- Really good saison.
Bear Republic, Tartare Rouge (t)- Sooo sour!
Bell’s, Double Two Hearted (t)- our initial reaction was “Well this is disappointing- I like it but it tastes just like regular Two Hearted”. Then we found out it’s over 11% abv…NICE.
Bell’s, Hopsolution (b)- Fruity, hoppy, delicious.
Bell’s, Quinannan Falls (b)- Meh.
Black Market, Ashcroft Imperial Brown (t)
Bourbon County, Stout (t)- Perfect, as usual.
Brooklyn, Lord Sorachi (t)- Nice attempt- I’ve never had an Imperial Saison before. But, I must say that I like Sorachi Ace better.
Deschutes, Abyss (b)- Better on tap.
Deschutes, Black Butte 27th Anniversary (b)
Dogfish Head, 120 Minute (b)- First time I’ve had it fresh- delicious! Last time was aged two years and not really an IPA anymore but still amazing.
Dogfish Head, Squall (b)
Epic, Big Bad Baptist (t)- Apparently it’s different every time and I can’t tell you which variation we had. But this stout was awesome. Thick and creamy, subtle cocoa nibs, and my favorite of the day.
Founders, Nitro Oatmeal Stout (t)- Nice chocolate finish.
Freak’n, Sweet Thang Creme Brulee (t)
Great Divide, Old Ruffian (t)
Highwater, Cucumber Kolsch (b)- Least favorite of the day.
Knee Deep, Big Sipper (b)- Nothing to write home about.
Odell, Friek (t)
Stone, Xochoveza Extra Anejo (b)- Not as good as regular Xocoveza but better than Charred.
Smuttynose, Hayseed Saison (b)- Not great.
Traquair House Ale (b)- Not your typical Scottish style but a nice smokey wee heavy.
We had an absolute blast at this event! There were some amazing beers, some killer fried zucchini and, again, everyone at Boulders on Southern could not have done a better job. Will definitely get on board again next year.
Blasted Barley Beer Company
Shortly after our stop at Huss we went down to Mill Ave territory to Blasted Barley for another flight- or, according to the dainty of our troupe, unlimited mimosas. An inviting hardwood and brick entrance led to live music, great service and most importantly, beer.
From a killer burger and chicken sandwich to apple fritter (you’re beginning to see how eclectic my mother is), our food was absolutely amazing. They added another tally in the good service column by tracking down some pain meds for Frankie’s headache, we dug in to the aforementioned food, and I started the flight.
First up was Blasted OGP, aka Original German Pilsner. I don’t like pilsners and I didn’t like this one. I really did give it a fair chance but OGP, as with most pilsners, (in my opinion) have less flavor than any of their beer brethren.
As Rob Schneider would say- You Cran Do it- You Cran Do It all night long! No? Ok- You Cran Do It was next. This one’s a cranberry dunkleweiss and was my favorite of the bunch! It was sweet, tart, well balanced yet complex- very well done.
The third blast was the Pondering Porter. This porter was chocolaty, caramely, and slightly sweet and we were really impressed by how it came in at 6.8% but maintained it’s smoothness.
The last of my flight was Xtreme Bean, an espresso vanilla milk stout. It was thicker than the last few milk stouts I’ve had on tap which is nice but wasn’t sweet enough for me and a wee bit heavy on the coffee for a milk stout.
I saved shamu for last. What I thought would be the biggest splash, O.R.C.A. or Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Awesome Pale Ale, turned out to be a blackfish. I guess I expected a little too much based on the name but this pale ale tasted too much like a flat pale ale and not enough like a delicious and warm oatmeal raisin cookie from my grandmothers oven.
We had a great visit and will make this a frequent stop when were in Tempe. Similarly to one or two of the breweries we’ve been to in the past I must admit that comparatively their beers have a little ways to go but they weren’t bad, however, the speedy and friendly service combined with the great food really makes me love this place. Overall, we give Blasted Barley Beer Company an 8.0 out of 10.
Huss Brewing Company
Some family was recently in town, and we love the Tempe area so we decided to hit up the last remaining breweries in that area that we hadn’t tried yet. We pulled up and thought “what kind of place is this?” as there was a piece of cardboard propped on a chair that read “BEER” in black Sharpie. Despite some feet dragging on the part of the more respectable members of our clan (my mom), we decided to go in. Come to find out that that very morning a local rapscallion had made off with their decorative chalkboard. With some great brews on tap, we were glad to have given Huss a chance.
We started the tasting off with a beer I’ve seen a few times in stores but wanted to save for the in person experience: Scottsdale Blonde. We previously assumed this was just a Pilsner or blonde ale and delightfully discovered a crisp and refreshing German style Kolsch. Scottsdale blonde is light in color and mouth feel but not flavor.
We passed on the next beer, Magic in the Ivy, for a seasonal you’ll see in a second, so the next up was Koffee Kolsch. I must admit that even though coffee stouts are growing on me, they are still not my favorite when compared to other stouts. That being said- if you love coffee maybe this one is for you, but I found it out of place in this light beer. On the other hand, for someone who was hesitant to heed the welcome of the cardboard beer sign, my mom was pleasantly surprised by this Kolsch, being the coffee fanatic that she is.
That’ll Do IPA was great in every aspect of the word. Our readers know that I like more of the piney and floral hop juices out there and Frankie likes them citrusy, bitter, and the bigger the better. That’ll Do is a well balanced and great mix between the two styles. Well done.
Regardless of it being a winter seasonal, I skipped a mainstay for the Rice Pudding Porter. Despite being a little bit on the thin side, Rice Pudding Porter came in strong with what I call the Thanksgiving spices. Other than some cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves I wasn’t overly impressed.
The Hussler Milk Stout was another one that was a little on the thin side, but we’re suckers for a good milk stout. This one isn’t as complex as others, but it’s sweeter and something I think Fast Eddie Felsen and Minnesota Fats would be proud of.
We finished off this tasting with a tiny half pour of Barrel Aged Rise of Rio. Rise of Rio is a Ro Sham Beaux which, from what I can tell, is a German style Double IPA. B.A. Rise of Rio was big on hops and abv, so I imagine the aging mellowed her out quite a bit.
Huss was a great experience and start to our outing that day. Good beers, good service and a funny sign story earns Huss Brewing Company an 8.1 out of 10
This just in- in this week’s edition of “Things I learned in 5th grade and have never forgotten”, the state Pennsylvania means Penn’s woods. While the part about Penn’s woods is true, you should go to grandma for history lessons and continue coming to Off the Wagon for beer. We began this particular week awaiting my mom and little brother’s visit. My mom hails from the great City of the Bridges, 3 Rivers, Steeltown…Pittsburgh, PA. No offense to any involved, Pittsburgh doesn’t really tickle my fancy when it comes to traditional cuisine. Short of Primanti Brothers and perogies (or pierogis) we’re not big fans of the Steel City’s cuisine or Pennsylvania Dutch food in general (see Haluski). We decided on perogies for a great side, but traveled west to the City of Brotherly Love for its namesake cheese steak.
We made a nice gluten free dough, let it chill, and then rolled it out flat and thin. The only way we cheated was to find a recipe for the stuffing which was potato (duh), cheddar, and onions. We stuffed them, boiled them, and served them with a little sour cream, which was delicious and oh-so-filling.
The Philly Cheese Steak was grilled and thinly sliced flank steaks with pepper and onions on a soft hoagie roll. A substitute was made by swapping cheese wiz for provolone. It wasn’t BAD, per say, but we wouldn’t rank it at the top of our cheese steak list. Maybe in this case the cheese wiz really brings it home?
Although our local supply of Iron City beer had dried up (not really), we were able to get a hold of a great Pennsylvania beer that we really enjoy but also went pretty well with both the cheese steak and the perogies: Helios Farmhouse style ale from Victory brewing in Downington, PA. Helios comes through with an array of spices and a hint lemon peel and though it is great by itself, it was made even better by picking up the slack of this hearty, albeit rather flavorless, meal.
AmeriCAN Beerfest (2016)
Let us start by saying the 6th annual Ameri-CAN Canned Craft Beer Festival and competition was amazing! A quick and well deserved shout out goes to Jen Pruet, the HDE Agency, San Tan Brewing, and the Scottsdale Civic Center for the media passes and a great event. It was a great venue, there were great beers, so many great breweries and, even, some good food and agreeable weather.
This epic 5 hour sun soaked beer filled tasting started at 1 pm with drinking full pours, taking great notes and great pictures, progressed to half pours, sloppy notes and sub par pictures, and finished by forgetting the last beer we tried. In our defense: With just shy of 100 breweries (listed below) and over 250 beers on hand- making it until 5:45 after being in the sun all day and trying at least one beer at almost every brewery should be considered an insane accomplishment.
Based on the pure volume of suds available, there were a few we skipped based on the fact that 1.) we didn’t particularly want to try any of the offerings at this event (i.e. Henry’s), 2.) we’ve tried all of the beers they had on hand already (i.e. Fort Collins), or 3.) they were already out of product by the time we got around to them (i.e. Abita). It surprised us that many (not all) of the big named breweries with national distribution ran out of beer or didn’t come with anything unique/special. It just goes to show the time, effort, energy and true dedication a small, local brewery goes through to succeed.
While making our way around the grounds- though it was heavily IPA laden- we did our best to taste across different styles, taste the most unique, the craziest combos, and any/all hard to find beers that were already on our radar.
Our list of all breweries and beers tasted:
*Indicates a beer that really stood out for its taste and or uniqueness.
Cherry Sour, Black Market Brewing
Consolation Prize, Lord Hobo Brewing- Not overwhelming flavor but with over 9% abv could be dangerous.
*Razzleblaster Busey, Sun King Brewing- Very tasty, not too sweet not too sour.
Zonker, Snake River Brewing- Still too thin, but much better canned stout than most.
Vital, Victory Brewing- Sooo drinkable
*Orange Wheat, Hangar 24- Light and clean. Great fruit beer.
Unfiltered Wheat, Boulevard Brewing
Here We Gose and *Counter Clockwise, Destihl- CC tasted like a lemon head. “Support flavor. Boycott bland.”
*Full Boar, Devil’s Canyon Brewing
Luponic Distortion, Firestone Walker
Apricot Hef, Wasatch Brewing- All apricot.
Colette, Great Divide
Oroboros, Anthem Brewing
Briney Melon, Anderson Valley- Great sour.
Yellow Wolf, Alameda Brewing
Honey Wheat and *Vienna Cream Ale, Mike Hess
Penn Quarter Porter, DC Brau
Dragoon IPA, Dragoon Brewing- PINE!
Neato Bandito, Ellum Brewing
*BA (in tequila barrels) Gubna, Oskar Blues- Interesting and very unique. We didn’t love it but a tequila lover would.
Happy Camper, Sante Fe Brewing
Tejas, Big Bend Brewing
Zoe, Hops and Grain- Shout out to the Brewmaster and his wife for comming to the event themselves.
Hop Knosh and Detour, Uinta- Good beers, even better conversation.
Melvin IPA, Melvin Brewing- Staff full of characters. They purposefully poured half the first beer all of our hands not our taster.
That Strawberry Blonde, THAT Brewing Co
Caldera Pale Ale, Caldera Brewing
*Noche Dulce, Borderlands Brewing- Thick, creamy, delicious.
Bomber Mountain- Blacktooth Brewing
Brown Ale- Upslope
*All of the above have been added to the rankings list(s).
This was only my second large scale brew fest like this (1st was Rio de Cerveza in Yuma): I can’t wait to attend this next year and many more in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for any and all of these brews across the country.
Alaskan Brewing Company
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Anthem Brewing Company
Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits
Barrio Brewing Company
Big Bend Brewing Company
Big Sky Brewing Co.
BJ’S Restaurant and Brewery
Black Market Brewing Co.
Black Tooth Brewing Co.
Borderlands Brewing Company
Boulevard Brewing Company
Caldera Brewing Company
College Street Brewhouse
Coronado Brewing Company
Crazy Mountain Brewing
DC Brau Brewing Company
Deep Ellum Brewing Co.
Dragoon Brewing Co.
Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Fort Collins Brewing
Founders Brewing Co.
Four Peaks Brewing Company
Grand Canyon Brewing Company
Great Divide Brewing Co.
Green Flash Brewing Company
Hangar 24 Craft Brewery
Henry’s Hard Soda
Hops & Grain Brewing
Ironfire Brewing Company
Lord Hobo Brewing Company
Lumberyard Brewing Co.
Maui Brewing Company
Mike Hess Brewing Co.
Mother Road Brewing Company
Nebraska Brewing Company
New Belgium Brewing
Odell Brewing Company
Orlison Brewing Co.
Papago Brewing Co.
Phoenix Ale Brewery
Prescott Brewing Company
Rambling Route Cider
Renegade Brewing Company
Santa Fe Brewing
SanTan Brewing Company
Schilling Hard Cider
Sleepy Dog Brewery
Snake River Brewing
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Squatters Craft Beers
Sun King Brewery
Sun Up Brewing Co
THAT Brewing Company
Tieton Cider Works/Rambling Route Cider
Two Brothers Brewing Company
Upslope Brewing Company
Vermont Cider Company
Victory Brewing Company
There is a bit of debate surrounding this week’s regional dish. Some say it belongs to North Carolina, others suggest Georgia, but prevailing research points to South Carolina as the origins of this low country boil. This is a dish that neither has frogs in it nor is an actual stew. I hope this inspires you to give it a try as we will certainly be making it again- Frogmore Stew.
We started with a broth that by the end we could have drank straight; as it stands, we sopped up every drop we had left over with bread and found ourselves wishing we had set aside more of it. Said stock is water, beer, a vidalia onion, two lemons, four celery stalks, a bag of little potatoes, old bay seasoning, and some additional bay leaves.
After the stock was brought to a boil and allowed to simmer, we threw away the lemons and celery and set aside the onions and potatoes. We then added sausage, corn, and shrimp, allowed that to cook and then recombined all the ingredients.
Everyone and their mother said it wouldn’t be Frogmore stew if we didn’t save some broth, make some mayo and cocktail sauce, have some fresh bread, and put a newspaper down on the table before you eat. We were fresh out of news papers so we grabbed one of our three copies of Harry Potter- I’m engaged to an English teacher- ripped out some pages, taped them together and used them instead. It did create a nice place mat that allowed for no fuss and no muss although I’m not sure Dumbledore would approve. The cocktail sauce was ‘meh’, the mayo was good, but the Frogmore Stew and its broth were absolutely fantastic! Paired with some great beers made for an awesome night.
We ran into another ‘beers of that particular state’ problem being all the way out in Arizona but, we made do and did our best. Abita Turbo Dog Brown Ale from Covington, LA, and both G’Knight Imperial Red and Beerito Mexican Lager from Oskar Blues Brewing in St. Lyons, CO and now Brevard, NC made for a nice line up. Beerito fell behind both by itself and with the meal. We love G’Knight by itself but it didn’t mesh quite as well with the flavors. The clear winner was Abitas’ Turbo Dog as its complexity and rich flavor was enough to stand up to the variety of flavors coming from the Frogmore.
Give it all a try- you won’t regret it!
*A Harry Potter book was harmed in the attempt for authenticity,but it was an old copy that was already torn when we picked it up at Goodwill :)*
Pedal Haus Brewery
Pedal Haus has the perfect location: located on a very slightly tucked away cul de sac just off of Mill Ave with a beautiful palm tree laden walk up. We just finished some mamosas, perused through a quaint little book store and with the sun shining, the temperature not too hot, and a gentle breeze rustling through the palms I was in the perfect mood before I even had a sip of their killer beers. We were on our way to a food festival when we stumbled in so we kept it limited to a 4 beer taster and a pint.
The first of my lager heavy flight was the American Heritage Lager. Call me a sucker for this style but I loved this beer! Nice balance, not a ton of flavor but SOOO drinkable. Seriously- I could down gallons of this.
I pedaled on to the award winning Dortmunder (Gold in the LA-IBC). Though I truly enjoyed every beer on this flight this would be my least favorite if I really had to pick. I know, I know, crazy that I ranked the Gold winner as my least favorite but, there was something in the finish I didn’t enjoy.
Next was the Doc Marzan- their Bevarian style lager. This was my favorite lager of the bunch as it was a little darker than American Heritage, had the perfect amount of malt and a really fine and crisp finish.
I stole a few tastes of my fiances Rye XPA and I’m glad a did. I know that might technically be “cheating” because it wasn’t on the flight but I channeled my inner Lance Armstrong and took a gulp. A perfect balance of sweet and tangy yet dry and bitter. The rye came through on the tongue perfectly and this full bodied IPA finished nice and clean.
Finally, the last leg of my tour de beers was Nitro Maple Milk Stout. I obviously was going to add this one to the list but after a description by Julian, the self proclaimed inspiration or muse- if you will, of this brew I was even more excited. I’ve had other maple beers that tasted burnt: this was perfect. I’ve also had flavorful stouts that were way too thin (especial non-barrel aged stouts): this one was perfect. Nitro Maple was smooth, think, creamy, sweet, and one of the best beers I’ve had on location in a very long time.
Great vibe, perfect location, and awesome beers get Pedal Haus Brewery a well deserved 9.1 out of 10.
We’ve started off with the Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast so we wanted to do either the Northwest or the Southeast next to cover all of our bases: Enter Florida. The Sunshine State offers a wide range of Hispanic culture foods and to be completely honest- after doing some research, this was one of the easiest states to decide on what to make. Obviously they don’t only eat one food in Florida but if there was one main dish they’re unequivocally known for its a Cuban. Throw in some Puerto Rican style plantains and an Off the Wagon twist on Key Lime Pie and you’ve got yourself a stand out meal any Floridian would be proud of.
At first glance a Cuban is not very hard to make however, the plethora of flavors combine to make a taste explosion in your mouth. Starting with a soft yet crunchy piece of toasted ciabatta bread lightly spread with mayo and dijon mustard, it’s then topped with a piece of ham steak, cheese (either Swiss or provolone), a slice of bake pork tenderloin and dill sandwich pickles and finally, lightly brushed with butter, wrapped in tin foil, and slightly compressed with two hot skillets.
We also pan fried a couple of plantains as a side and whipped up a delicious key lime pie/cheese cake fusion. It started with a baked graham cracker and honey crust we later topped it with a mixture of cream cheese, vanilla extract, vanilla pudding mix, gelatin and of course, key lime juice! Left to cool for 4-6 hours and boom! *Interesting and helpful tip: put key limes in the microwave for about 20 seconds before you juice them as they are stubborn little S.O.B.s.
There are some crazy good beers coming out of Florida from the likes of breweries like Cigar City and Funky Buddha but the selection was a little more difficult this time around as our local craft beer spot didn’t have anything brewed in Florida. To maintain the integrity of the pairing we picked up a Landshark from Margaritaville Brewing in FL and a nice tropical, floral IPA that we believed would go well with the meal from another state. We decided on Green Flash’s Soul Style from San Diego, CA. Soul style uses citra and simcoe hops to come through with a bright floral bite that went OK with the Cuban and really well with the key lime. Though the flavor and aroma complimented the key lime well but to be honest we should have picked a bigger and bolder beer for the Cuban because the sandwiches’ intense flavors covered up a lot of the beer. The Landshark, though its flavors didn’t lend anything to the experience, did offer a nice crisp and refreshing cleanser to the meal.
Central New York/”Upstate”
I got a little nostalgic and as a result this article was the cause of a lot of turmoil within myself. What is the purest representation of cuisine from the place I called home for so many years? From Binghamton to Albany and Syracuse to Buffalo with a little Utica and Ithaca sprinkled in- there are some amazing foods that I’ve had along the way that scream CNY regionality like buffalo wings, spiedies, chicken riggies, rat wing pizza and garbage plates and even some local delicacies that I didn’t try in my first 22 years like beef on wreck and Utica greens. I decided that my criteria should be; A, something I really love and B, something truly unique to the area (not known everywhere like wings). So- I decided on a food more true to Binghamton, NY than even its own name- chicken Spiedies.
We started by cubing and marinating the chicken with sauce (vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper) over night in bowl in the fridge. The next morning we gave the meat a stir and began soaking some small potatoes in salt water for another regional dish: Salt Potatoes from Binghamton’s northern sister city- Syracuse.
We decided on another multi-beer pairing rather than just one to experiment a little with tastes and flavors. The initial pairing was the Witte from the highly touted Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY. Witte is a Belgian style wheat ale brewed with coriander and orange peel that went incredibly well with the salt potatoes but not so well with the spiedies.
The next two we thought would go great with spiedies, based on the slightly citrus and vinegar flavor, were IPAs. Blue Point Brewing’s Hoptical Illusion went best with the spiedie and was the perfect pairing as its rare hop flavor and malty backbone complemented every bite. Southern Tier’s 2XIPA was fantastic by itself with a great citrussy and hoppy flavor (which is why I thought it would go great) but a little bit of a lingering bitterness caused it to not mingle with the spiedie as well.
The beer was great and the spiedies and salt potatoes were good but nothing like the best I’ve ever had. So- next time you’re in or around Central New York be sure to check out the spiedie scene, the epic battle between who’s is better (Lupo’s or Spiedie and Rib Pit), and some really tasty emerging craft beers.
We’re following up a cuisine that was near and dear to my heart with a state I’ve never even driven through and a local favorite I’ve never had. My fiance had a dream about Nebraska, so… Nebraska! We dove into researching and discovered some interesting food and quirks about the state- one that we’re sure to remember is Der Viener Schlinger…their renowned hot dog cannon. Aside from finding out about the famous flying wiener cannon, we came up with a big four regional foods that the internet says Cornhuskers can’t live without: Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, Omaha steaks, runzas, and cheese frenchees (Having corn on the cob should go without saying). Everyone’s heard of Omaha steaks, and I didn’t feel like salad on cheat day (don’t judge me), so after much deliberation we decided on the cheese frenchee. Who wouldn’t love deep fried grilled cheese?!
Starting with a typical grilled cheese sandwich, we quartered them, coated them in batter, tossed them in corn flakes, and deep fried them. The texture went from crispy and crunchy to soft and chewy to cheesy and let’s just say that it almost made me move to Nebraska. We continued the carb overload with a piece of corn on the cob each and topped it all off with the perfect pairing.
Not only do brown ales go perfectly with American cheese and most fried foods, but the husker state’s own Brunette Nut Brown by Nebraska Brewing Company is pretty perfect all by herself. This sultry brunette is heavy with the malt and caramel but balanced out nicely with a bit of coffee and toffee.
That’s all for this week, so until next time- watch out for Der Viener Schlinger!
I wanted to make the very first installment of 50 States in 50 Plates memorable not just with great food and great beer but with something close to my heart (or taste buds). One of my absolute favorite types of Mexican food- any food for that matter- is the fresh seafood and street taco style of Baja California. This style is very, very prevalent in Southern California and has even crept its way into South Western Arizona and I fell in love with the variety of flavors and textures during a few trips to San Diego and our time in Yuma.
We started off by pan cooking gluten free tortillas and setting them aside so they could moisten and soften. Next- we lightly coated and deep fried small shrimp, made a mayo-chipotle fish sauce and shredded lettuce, tomato and avocado for toppings. We seasoned and prepared Spanish rice and heated up a can of re-fried beans (I know, I know…not EVERYTHING can be made from scratch!). I decided to go with three different styles of beer that pair well with shrimp/seafood and or fried food: a Saison/Farmhouse Ale, a Wheat, and a Lager.
It didn’t pair quite as well with the shrimp taco as a later beer but, Firestone Walker’s Opal Saison (CA) was the best stand alone beer of the bunch. It came through with subtle hops, delicate spices and a dry finish to make this unfiltered, old school, saison with an interesting white wine feel to it really enjoyable.
The next pairing was Full Moon Belgian White from Mudshark Brewing (AZ). Though I do enjoy this one quite a bit, particularly on tap in Havasu, it took 3rd place when it came to drinking it with this meal.
The best pairing with these tacos was Longfin Lager by Ballast Point. Not only is this palate cleansing, crisp, and refreshing lager great by itself but, it went perfect with this meal and I could envision myself drinking more than a few of these on the beach or the dock.
We made way too much food for two people, had a blast cooking, were completely stuffed, drank some great beer and I truly cannot wait to do this again.
Shout out to my future sister-in-law for the idea behind today’s article (follow her on insta at chickpeez for some killer healthy food ideas). The idea comes from her vodka and sprite zero cocktail – or the holidays’ version: cranberry sprite zero- which I find is healthier than other cocktails, relatively cheap, and tastes way better than vodka tonic or vodka club soda.
With this inspiration in my mind as I was strolling through the grocery store, I thought “Hmmm… buy a decent bottle of wine for $12 to $25? OR, shall we say, not the best wine, for $2.99 and a $.75 bottle of club soda?!! BOOM.” Not only is this cheap, but it makes the crappy wine taste better, adds bubbles for some effervescence, and it stretches that bottle of **fine wine** into 1.5 or even two bottles… or in my case- stretches the two bottles I “accidentally” picked up, into 2.5 or 3.
This morning as I sat down to write this article I got to thinking again, a pastime that can be rather dangerous, and thought “could I add fruit to this?! Yup! Ok, should I calm down? Nope.” I could even make the jump back to vodka and use flavored seltzers, lemons and limes, or even herbs and spices. Put grandma to bed, ‘cus now it’s a party!
While I am well aware that this concept is nothing new and many people, including myself, have been turning to drinks like this for quite some time, I’m in hopes that this encourages some people to get imaginative and save some money. And hey, pool season is almost upon us as well, so it’s time to put away those heavy winter reds- add some club soda and soak up some sun
Sleepy Dog Brewery
We spent the beautiful afternoon on Tuesday catching a baseball game at Camelback Ranch Park and made plans for dinner and beers in Tempe after. To my surprise there were sneaky plans made to visit a brewery for my birthday in between baseball and dinner- enter the Sleepy Dog Brewery.
I ordered a flight served up on a sweet metal bone and we split some chips and I must start by admitting I’ve had a pint of one of the following beers before but it is absolutely INCREDIBLE so adding it to my tasting is totally allowed.
I started to quench my four-legged thirst with Parched Pooch Hefe. Definitely nothing wrong with this brew at all- flavorful and drinkable- but, nothing that really blew me away.
I’m going to let sleeping dogs lie and not critique this next one too much as hopefully it was the fault of the glass or the dishwasher but Tailchaser IPA tasted like soap…no bueno!
The next beer to roll over was Red Rover Irish Amber. Red Rover had great balance: the perfect malt sweetness and just the right amount of hops. At 6.2% abv I could really drink a lot of these.
The 4th brew was Scootcher Scottish Amber. Not overly strong despite its 8.4% abv. This beer is really, really tasty and roasty and may give another local brewery’s flagship *cough* a run for it’s money. I definitely finished this beer not feeling like it had scootched its butt on my carpet.
The next beer to stick its wet nose in my face was Wet Snout Milk Stout. This stout comes out a little on the thin side but isn’t overly sweet like other milk stouts. In all fairness, I’d like to give this beer another try out of a snifter glass and not drink it in between Scootcher and this next beer.
Usually, the last pup to come out is the runt. That is far from the case with this litter as the last one (the one I’ve had before) was Peanut Butter Stout. This beer is sweet, chocolaty, little toasty and literally tastes like liquid peanut butter cup candy. I’ve had a few that have attempted this style but Sleepy Dog masters it. Well done!
Cool spot, great town, awesome beers and an 8.7 out of 10 for Sleeping Dog Brewery.
HARD: When Good Sodas Go Bad
Hard Cider has been around seemingly since the dawn of time much like beer, wine, and spirits and when I was a kid I can pinpoint a time during the 90’s when hard lemonades and hard ice teas became popular and were marketed. More recently though, there has been a wave of hard sodas sweeping the nation and virtually flying off the shelves with one Chicago writer calling our obsession “a mixture of nostalgia and booze”. A few of the big brands are either Ales brewed a certain way to make them taste like their non-alcoholic cousins or they’re malt beverages made to taste like the original- we’re going to skip the malt beverages for now.
Averaging around 6% alcohol, these hard sodas are not your parents’ standard soft drink ;). However, when it comes to common ingredients these hard sodas follow right in line with their inspiring cousins, and it stands to reason that brewing with the likes of vanilla, cherry tree bark, molasses, anise, licorice root, cinnamon, sassafras, ginger, and other spices and allowing it to ferment would yield a similar result just with alcohol.
Upon consulting my research and development team – which consists entirely of my and my fiance’s taste buds – we decided a few things: first- the more soda-y drinks tend to taste more like spiked soda (ie cherry cola and orange soda) than beer. Second, the more traditional root beers and ginger ales are amazingly comparable to the originals and are great stand alone ales. We also decided that the Not your Father’s line by Small Town Brewing Company wins out in almost every category.
These are some pretty eccentric ales to impress both the craft beer lover in your life and the sweet tooth that shies away from those ‘crazy craft beers’. I recommend drinking them straight or even using them to increase the alcohol content of your soda infused cocktails… or…or adult root beer floats!
Peoria Artisan Brewery
Our Valentines Day Eve plans got all messed up, dinner got canceled so we had to find a new location and I was in such a particularly feisty mood that I was absolutely, 100% determined- dead set on not having a good time. This beer could have been brewed by angels using the spring water from a magical billion year old spring, aged in pappy van winkle barrels and served in a 24k gold cup and I STILL wasn’t going to like it. But… you know, I did. I loved the smallness of their original tap room and the girl tending bar could not have been friendlier and more helpful about their beers and even where we could go eat next. She did say she would still make us some food but it was about 845 (kitchen closed at 8) and we didn’t want to put her through the trouble.
We started with a couple drafts- Secret Brew Copper and Savannah Marie IPA- and then once my fiance softened me up a little we ordered a flight. The copper was a nice, standard malty copper ale with the perfect sweetness and well balance while the stand out of this evening was Savannah Marie. Savannah Marie was definitely dry hopped! She had great initial hoppiness with a complex backbone and bitter-sweet finish: really, really well done.
I also really enjoyed the Honeysuckle Street Ale- named for the tap room’s cross street. It was probably my mind playing tricks on me but I feel like honey was used!? Regardless, this brew came through sweet and crisp, there wasn’t a lot of stuff going on in the glass but what was, was just right.
L’Automne Saison was a bit of a let down. I typically love this style but with not a lot of character and a little on the bland side this beer fell flat.
Their Brown Ale was another enjoyable brew albeit pretty typical. I do enjoy the thicker and richer approaches to this beer there is something to be said about drinkability.
You can’t win them all right? Other than an above average level of hops for a red ale there wasn’t much flavor in the Heritage Red Ale.
I was a little disappointed that Peanut Butter Porter was listed but not available- but, an overall great beer selection and a lot of quality. I’m excited to go back or to try their second (main) location in Peoria. An 8.4 out of 10 for PAB!
O.H.S.O. Eatery and nanoBrewery
Fresh off of a brief rugby drink-up with some family in town we decided to stop at OHSO Brewery or the Outrageous Homebrewers Social Outpost on Indian School Road on the way home. I loved the feel and decor as soon as we walked in from the lacquered particle board table to the chalk boards on the walls and the dog friendly patio. I had just eaten and didn’t order any food but their food looked amazing. Unfortunately they were out of three of their own brews and though I understand being really busy on a Saturday night this and the valet parking in the parking lot left me a little put off.
The three OHSO beers I was able to try managed to win me over; Starting with the Handlebar Hefe. This Hefe was really well balanced and creamy with very subtle hint of clove and nothing in the form of the standard banana to the nose or tongue.
Beer #2: Beerdration did not follow up Handlebar very well. Very metallic in taste (almost like copper). Have had better quads.
Last but certainly not least was an incredible black IPA- Midnight Owl. I hooted after this hoppy, toasted, and malty dark IPA that finished with just a touch of what tasted like a dry gin.
On a cocktail related side note OHSO’s variation of a Moscow Mule was fantastic. I really can’t wait to give them another try and sample three or four more of their beers. OHSO Eatery and nanoBrewery gets a 7.8 out of 10.
*2018 Edit- They have since added distillery to their toolbelt…. If we’re ever back in AZ 😉
A Beer for Every taste Bud.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I just don’t like dark beers”. What about ‘dark’ beer is it that you don’t like? Their color? That statement just tells me you don’t know much about beer. I’ve had porters that are thin and intensely bitter like dark Colombian coffee, and I’ve had stouts that are as sweet and rich as any fine pastry or dessert. It is because of these stylistic variations that I am of the opinion that there is truly a beer out there for everyone- so, I want to highlight a few styles of beer out there that I think someone with a picky palate who only drinks dry red wine or only drinks sweet cocktails would enjoy.
According to boundless.com, there are five main types of taste sensations: bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and the more recently discovered umami (or savory). A few of these may be a little easier to pair up, and some may even overlap, but here are some brews for every bud!
Fans of bitter tastes are in luck as this is one of the easier flavors to pin point and the beer industry helps you out by giving beers IBU ratings out of 100 (International Bitterness Units). For your information, a recent study states that if you love lots of really bitter things you could be a psychopath so- first off, if this is news to you, sorry. Second, I love anyone and everyone who reads this blog, so- lets just keep any and all psychopathic tendencies to a minimum? A short list of commonly enjoyed bitter food and drink includes dark and unsweetened chocolate, coffee, olives, tonic water, harsh whiskeys, some cheeses like sharp cheddar and some wines like amarone. If you love any of these things, some beers you might want to keep an eye out for are coffee stouts, west coast style IPAs, and English or extra special bitters.
Although you can pretty much make anything salty, there are some foods that are naturally salty in either taste or untasted sodium content. Regardless of whether they’re naturally salty or you saltified them, some foods and drinks include chips and pretzels, sausage, some seafood, eggs, and bloody Marys (and most other tomato products). There aren’t a ton of these flooding the market, but it you want a beer to get your salt fix then it would be a good idea to track down a Gose style ale or an oyster stout.
Sweet is another easy one to track down as there’s a plethora of fruits, vegetables, milk chocolates, cocktails and wines that people love because of their sweet factor. If you’re the type of person who can’t get enough of the sweet stuff, then wheat, kolsch, fruit beers, and even some milk stouts are right up your alley.
Sour tends to be a little harder to put a finger on because the first 100 sour things you can think of are artificially flavored. Other than those delicious warheads and sour patches, the sour list comes strong with citrus fruits like lemons and limes, vinegar, and some roots like ginger. If sour’s your thing, then there is a pretty big up and coming movement of sour beers. Sours are using everything from citra hops to hibiscus and though I’m not a fan- if you love sour, you’ll love these.
Umami is an interesting taste as science is still trying to completely figure it out. One nutritional blogger is of the opinion that the biggest link is some foods to satisfying umami is MSG. Presuming we don’t want to pump our bodies full of Monsodium Glutamate- though I do have a craving for Chinese food like once a week- some naturally savory things are sauces like gravy, cheese, cream based soups, milk, mushrooms and complex red wines. Though I’m of the opinion that most beers hit my umami taste buds (particularly when paired with something like a burger or a steak) but there are a few that come thick and rich like the cream and gravy listed above. Barrel aging tends to add an unmatched creaminess and thickness to stouts and porters that is so savory you may never want to drink anything else again.
That being said: I hope that you take this and use it to muster up the courage to try a new style or flavor of beer- who knows, maybe you’ll find out you love it!
Prison Hill Brewing Company
Happy New Year! As our Winter Break is almost at a close we got the opportunity to head back to our west coast home away from home: Yuma, AZ, and check out a new brewery with some friends that had opened during the year we were back in NY. Prison Hill is nestled on both sides of the street, between a handful of shops, restaurants and bars, all with a lot of character. On the outside and inside Prison Hill adds a welcome bit of rustic and raw feeling to the already eclectic Main Street- which, as a whole, is already one of my absolute favorite locations.
We started off just before 6 and had some $3 happy hour cocktails, some food and then I ordered a flight. Before talking beer I have to bring up their menu- not only cleverly named entres like ‘The Shank’ or ‘The Snitch’ but amazingly delicious as well! Everyone’s burgers and chicken sandwiches looked incredible and, though this may cause a mutiny among some of my extended family and friends, I had the best Turkey club (or ‘Jail Bird’) I’ve ever had- yes, that includes some pretty famous NY Jewish and Italian delis.
My first parolee was Allegation Amber. Though there was a nice bit of hops to start (more than a typical amber) I might have to allege that there isn’t much else going on here. There isn’t much complexity or flavor over the hops and very subtle malts.
For my second offense I had the Chocolate Punkin’ Brown. Though this brown was a tad on the flat side the chocolate came through well balanced and smooth while a sweetness I couldn’t decipher on my own (later discovering it is Ancho chilies) added complexity and, as my readers could assume, not being able to taste any pumpkin is always a big plus.
The Misdemeanor Oatmeal Pale Ale was well balanced and smooth- but I couldn’t taste anything else it had to offer, even after reading the description, as this one came out a bit flat as well. I’m not judging too harshly (maybe there was something wrong with the taps or delivery system that night?) but I’m going to have to convict in this case.
Lastly was the DIPA Penetration IPA. Not only was it the best beer on the list but I found it to be the funniest and most creative name…. wait for it. This double IPA wasn’t biggest or craziest but at 9.4% abv and 74 ibus Penetration was very smooth and balanced and surprisingly very drinkable. Well done.
Overall, I give Prison Hill Brewing Company a 7.6 out of 10. They have amazing food, a great atmosphere and a decent IPA. I’m looking forward to tasting the progress they’ve made the next time I’m in town.
Dubina Brewing Company
Last Friday night at about 10 pm, about 5 hours late for dinner, after a football game we strolled into Dubina like wind-blown tumbleweeds (my hair probably looked a little bit like one too). I’d heard some good things so I ignored my initial disappointment of hearing that the kitchen was closed and they were out of their barrel aged Maple Ale. I loved the decor: from the unfinished floor, to the stainless steel fermenters in plain view, to the Edison light bulbs- you know how I feel about Edison bulbs. With an open mind and a growing thirst that only good beer can quench I sat down with my flight.
To start off our tasting we jumped into the Red Sea….ale. Not a ton of flavor going on here but it did start off with a nice hop burst in the beginning.
Next up was their namesake Dubina Brown ale. Not entirely complex but sticks to what you expect out of a brown ale with a nice smoothness and rich flavor.
Our next beer was the best of the bunch and one of the best hefeweizens I’ve had. Havasu Hefe is murky “like Lake Havasu” as the menu suggests. Great body for a German style and absolutely full of flavor. Nice job on this hefe.
Following Havasu Hefe was Arrowhead IPA- Dubina’s Imperial IPA. As you’ve probably noticed I’ve grown more and more fond of them over time with time as I’ve had more quality IPAs. Didn’t dislike this one but at 8.4% ABV and 84 IBUs Arrowhead didn’t really stand out from the crowd.
I have to say I had higher hopes for the last brew- Roasted Oat Stout with Cinnamon. Did a great job coming through heavy on the coffee beans but was rather thin and ended bitterly rather than warm and smooth like I expected from the cinnamon.
All in all a really cool feel and an amazing Hefe. I’m looking forward to heading back, trying some food, their maple ale, and getting a pint glass but this visit earns Dubina Brewing Company a 7.1 out of 10.
After leaving Freak’N Brewery, on our way out of the same ‘strip mall’ parking lot, we passed the very inviting Winery 101. I know, I know, wine first then beer BUT we went in anyway and I’m really glad we did.
Winery 101 is a tasting room home for great wines from both the Gallifant and South Paw Cellars. We sat down for a five-glass tasting (comes with a free souvenir glass) and even an hour and a half after we had stopped drinking we found ourselves chatting away with the smart, friendly and very gracious owners- Irlyn and Gavin Gallifant.
First up was the 2012 Chardonnay. Pretty aromatic for a Chard and though it wasn’t on the extreme end of the ‘oaky’ spectrum it did fall on it. This isn’t my favorite style Chard as I do prefer the steel barrel aged chards these days but it wasn’t buttery at all and finished dry and smooth.
The 2013 Chenin Blanc was my first of it’s kind. Chenin’s a great sipping wine. All by itself or with food- starting sweet and finishing ever so slightly dry- this complex white is nothing short of delicious.
Another first for me- the 2014 Malvasia. It wasn’t my favorite wine but it did surprise me. Malvasia is definitely the most aromatic wine I’ve ever had with a strong scent of daisies and other summery flowers. She finished clean and dry with a nice balance between bitter and sweet.
Chilaxin Red, which is a merlot, grenache, and cab blend, truly lives up to it’s name. This is probably the best red blend I’ve ever had- I could just chillax on the front porch watching people go by and drink a dozen bottles of this. The best description I can give is smooth and perfect.
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was a Whole Foods consumers choice top pick and for good reason. Cabernet is not a very fickle grape but it can result in temperamental wines ranging from dry and oaky to tart and robust. Winery 101 masters the cab with a great balance! Powerful enough to let me know what I’m drinking but not so overpowering that it ruins the experience. Very well done.
I can’t say enough about the owners and their wine. We got lost in hours of conversation talking about wine, beer, local restaurants and even their recent trip to New York. They distracted me so much that I even forgot to take a picture of our tasting! All in all I give Winery 101 a 9 out of 10 and the highest rating of any of the wineries I have been to.
Freak’N Brewing Company
Things finally have settled down a little bit since moving back out west (a stones throw from Cardinal’s Stadium in Glendale)- so, we were finally able to venture out and do a little bit of exploring. Enter Freak’N Brewery in Peoria.
Freak’N is in an end suite in a strip mall-type plaza and you wouldn’t even stumble across it unless you were looking but it is definitely worth the search. A small but cozy tasting room and bar is only complimented by the decor and absolutely amazing, invested, and involved staff. Assistant brewer Bill was willing to divulge some info about brewing their stout as well as the larger brewery scene popping up in the west side of the valley. We ordered a flight of all 8 beers on tap, got some complimentary pretzels and got to it.
The first Freak’N beer of the flight was the OHSO Hefe. OHSO was an unfiltered with the scent of cloves and a little bit on the dry side. It wasn’t bed but I didn’t love this Hefeweizen. However, I am going to have to do some more research about this one though- as their is another brewery in Phoenix (OHSO Brewery/Gastropub).
Switchback American Red Ale started smooth and was nice and malty. She was, however, a little hoppier and not as sweet as I like my Amber Ales. Nice flavor but at 69 IBU’s it’s not quite as balanced as I’d like either.
Following up the first two was a real nice Scottish style Ale: Shaw’s Scottish Ale. I don’t think it quiiiite measures up to it’s cross-town rival (Kilt Lifter) but this is a really good Scottish Ale- well balanced with Caramel and malty notes- finishes sweat and slightly dry.
I didn’t enjoy Huddy’s Mild English Brown. Very, very thin body with some chocolate and much too bitter for only 22 IBU’s. I’ll play devil’s advocate here a little bit. This is keeping with a trend I’ve noticed about English style Ales (English Browns, English Milds, English Bitters, etc.) so, maybe this one is great and I just don’t like any of them? I’ll keep you all updated.
Definitely one of the best Raspberry (and better fruit) beers all together that I’ve had. Freak’N Raspberry Wheat was sweet and tart and would be amazing with a chocolate brownie. I double checked my facts to make sure I was right but it’s easy to tell that this one gets it’s flavor and color from straight Raspberry pure rather than floating or adding whole raspberries somewhere in the brewing process.
American Hero Pale Ale was really good! So good that I got another pint of it after the tasting. American Hero was fresh, crisp and refreshing with a heavy grapefruit/citrus taste and nose.
Hop On Under IPA wasn’t a standout but I did find some character in the glass. More amber than pale in color Hop On Under was moderately hoppy with some citrus and and a very mild hint of tropical fruit.
The final and most satisfying brew on the list, was Sweet Thang: The Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout. I can’t say enough about this stout and I couldn’t even tell you why this one tastes the way it does so I had to ‘cheat’ a little. After further investigation the sweetness is due to not only the addiction of lactose but also Belgian Candi and Brown Sugar while vanilla and roaster barley make it a smooth, rich, and creamy well balanced brew.
I can’t say enough about the staff at Freak’N and though a couple beers could stand to improve a little bit, Sweet Thang was absolutely awesome. All in all Freak’N Brewing Company earns a strong 8.2 out of 10.
Brown’s Brewing Company
Even for my fiance who enjoys wedding planning it began to strain a little after searching for what seemed like a year for the right venue. She finally found one that appeared absolutely perfect, enter, Brown’s Brewing Company. It just so happens that Troy, NY (near Albany) is a short 20 minute drive from where my Dad lives. We thought why not kill two birds with one stone before making a third cross country move, back to AZ (Phoenix area this time around), and check out a brewery that is also our potential wedding venue. After a tour and some information sharing we got some killer burgers and ordered a flight. As it turns out we loved it! The venue is even more amazing than we thought it was and we’ll be making a reservation in the coming weeks for June (2016).
The tasting a Belgian Witbier. I didn’t taste any of the pepper I was supposed to, which is nice, but the coriander didn’t come through either. I did pick up on some subtle citrus notes of orange peel and though it wasn’t my favorite this could be a really awesome all day-session beer.
Following the Wit was there Inda Pale Lager (IPL?). This one started with a really mild and piney hop and finished with really mellow citrus note. This lager didn’t wow my taste buds but a pretty drinkable lager overall.
Third down the line was the Cherry Raspberry Ale. Perhaps it was all together too much raspberry or perhaps I have a taste aversion to raspberry flavored things after getting sick off of way too much Bacardi Razz when I was way too young to be drinking that much Bacardi Razz… I think everyone is either too young or too old to be drinking that stuff. Either was- No bueno.
Next up was their Maibock. This German-style springtime lager was smooth and malty with maybe a hint of mocha. A nice transition to the darker beers- I could drink a lot of these.
Much to the delight of my palate- the Brown Ale was next. A writer for the Chicago Tribune once said “There’s nothing extreme about a brown ale. The style is conventional, perhaps even prosaic. But sometimes when you arrive home at the end of a long day, all you’re looking for is a beer that tastes good.” That defines this beer perfectly- malty and delicious with some pretty crazy lacing for a brown ale. I decided that it deserved a really large picture (to the right) but I couldn’t get my phone out of my pocket with my left hand faster than my right hand wanted to drink it.
Last but not least was a nice stout. This Oatmeal Stout was less harsh than most; very rich and rather sweet. A great addition as a lot of smaller breweries don’t add a stout to their tasting but the body was a bit thinner than I’d like.
Overall, I give Brown’s Brewing Company an 8.6 out of 10 and am in hopes to try the Barrel Aged Maple Brown Ale at the wedding as they were fresh-out this time around.
Oyster Bay Brewing Company
Recently, thanks to an awesome groupon that included two tastings, two glasses and an empty growler, we tried out the Oyster Bay brewing company in Oyster Bay, NY (Long Island). Before you even hit the brewery’s quaint walk up you’re met with a pleasant drive through Oyster Bay and an area speckled with restaurants and shops.
Unfortunately, once we walked in the staff had a bit of an I don’t want to be here’ attitude, followed by being out of one of their five beers, and a brewer who couldn’t tell me what type of hops they used in the IPA that was on tap because they “change the recipe frequently” left Oyster Bay with an uphill clime before I even tasted their beer.
Initially excited by the tagline “Official beer of the NY Islanders” the first beer I tried was the Barn Rocker pilsner. After drinking it I’ll say it has superior drinkibility but isn’t backed up by any flavor at all- I’m more impressed with the Islanders ‘rocking’ a local craft beer rather than bud or coors than I am with this beer.
Next up was the Honey Ale. I really liked this honey ale compared to others I’ve had. This one was smooth and sweet without the normal burnt and buttery finish.
The next one was an IPA. Not a ton going on with this beer either as it lacked complexity and the typical robust flavor of an IPA- I could tell their were citra hops involved but past that I wasn’t able to get much more information.
Last up was their Stout. Though it was a little too thin of a mouth feel for me it started with a nice and mild coffee and ended with a perfect chocolate finish.
Though I did enjoy 2/4 of thier beers they weren’t quite able to make it out of the hole they dug themselves on the first impression. I wouldn’t ever turn down a pint of the stout but Oyster Bay earned a 6.2 out of 10.
World Wide Stout Vertical
To some in the beer world, a “vertical” is tasting every year (or many years) of a particular beer in a row. So when I got to do a a vertical of world wide stout I was ecstatic. World Wide Stout by Dogfish Head Brewing Company is a very delicious beer all by itself and is a great anytime stout to snag a few of if your distributor has them in stock. The world wide stout however, as great as it is the day you buy it, is a great beer to age on your own after its release. A good friend of mine and his brother we able to procure a world wide stout for every year from 2001 to 2014 and believe me when I tell you- most of them weren’t even the same beer. Going in order starting with the earliest release I wanted to tell you a little about each and thought even their bottles are different year to year I’m going to focus on the differences in flavor.
’01- Back when I was still in 8th grade and the Baltimore Ravens beat my dad’s beloved NY Giants in the Super Bowl some guy had the bright idea to stick a world wide stout in a dark damp basement and not let it see society for 14 years. The ’01 was sooooooo smooth and mellow, and was a lot like a sweet syrup. This was my personal favorite.
’02- One of two years released at 22% alcohol. This was similar to ’01 but not a thick, a littler boozier and more carbonation. Almost like a brandy
’03- Much, much more fruit and dry almost like a nice red wine.
*’01-’03 redder in color*
’04- Boozy, thin, and a bit of a bite. We thought this one may have become oxidized or was stored at the wrong temperature; it didn’t hold up like the others.
’05- Very moderate compared to all the others. Not too dry not too sweet but a little on the thin side.
’06- I graduated high school and though I tried to drink my body weight in crappy beer each weekend I had no idea beers like this existed. I’m not knocking it ‘cus I love me some Guinness on a football Sunday but, at this point in my life the best beer to ever pass my lips was Guinness. The ’06 was medium body, not as much booze with a hint of prunes and maybe currants.
’07- Night and day from ’05 and ’06. More boozy and more bite and a little less sweetness but very similar to ’01. More of a chocolate aroma than any of the others.
’08- The second of the two released at 22% abv. A bit of carbonation and a lot of sediment in the bottom. This was the most complex and hardest to figure out- maybe a hint of licorice but definitely a bitter cocoa finish.
*’04-’08 were medium brown in color. Each year after was a bit darker brown.*
’09- Finally at legal drinking age! Though I was boradening my horizons the quality of beers like a world wide stout still weren’t on the table. The ’09 was my second favorite from the bunch- Came out very thick and alcohol heavy but very smooth and a complex flavor.
’10- Though it didn’t last long this was the first one with a head and some lacing. No nose to this one at all. It’s redeeming quality was some really nice notes of raisins and dark fruits.
’11- More cocoa and a bit more of a boozy taste. Not bad but not a stand out.
’12- Surprisingly smooth and mellow for only being 2 years old but similar to ’12 and though I’d probably love it on it’s own it didn’t hit the mark compared to the previous 11.
’13 – Very similar to a fresh WWS (needs more than a year to age). But, nice and smooth and a little sweeter than a fresh one.
’14- True world wide stout: Fresh with no aging. One of the best non-barrel aged stouts. Malty backbone with maybe a touch of molasses and soo sooo drinkable.
Not too bad for only missing 1999 and 2000. If anyone’s done a similar vertical I’d love to hear about it on our facebook page!
The Heartland Brewery
We decided to spend a fun filled day in the city consisting of everything from the brewery to bar hoping to Sri Lankan cuisine. Heartland Brewery has three locations so we decided to go to the one just a short walk from Penn by the Port Authority and the big statue of Ralph Cramden (Bang-ZOOM!)
I didn’t do the typical routine of the whole tasting and just went pint by pint of a few I thought I’d love. I loved the rustic feel to this place but in kind of typical New York fashion service was a little bit on the rude side and the pints and the flights were a bit too pricey.
I dove right in with a pint of Farmer John’s Oatmeal Stout. Farmer John’s Stout was great from the first sip to the last. It was thick and creamy with an overall great mouth feel. The oatmeal bitterness was perfect and went perfectly with a subtle sweetness of coffee bean. This award winning stout is very worth a glass…or two….uh, or three.
Next up was a glass of the Indiana Pale Ale. This one has a decent amount of bittering hops and a nice thickness for an IPA. Unfortunately I didn’t taste a lot of complexity other than the hops.
After the InaPA (see what I did there?) I decided on the Red Rooster Ale. Not entirely sure if it should be classified as an Amber Ale or a Saison but this beer was a little bit flat for me as well. There was some more complexity in the levels of flavor but its strongest taste was stale caramel.
I ended on their seasonal Not So Fast Honey Porter. I didn’t like it as much as the stout but this one really hit its mark. It was very thick for a porter and its subtle almost mead-like sweetness made me love this seasonal porter.
I really enjoyed their stout and porter but there’s a lot more than beer that goes into how you feel about a brewery. Overall I give the Heartland Brewery a 6.4 out of 10.
The Gilded Otter
I have to admit that even without a trip to a brewery this past Columbus Day weekend would have been perfect. My fiancé’s family and I went up to the beautiful college town of New Paltz for some apple picking and dinner and could not have asked for better weather (in the upper 60’s) as we strolled through streets, shops and biking trails under the trees. To top the trip off though, we DID visit a brewery and quaint does not begin to describe this brewery and how well it fits in with the rest of the town.
Though the food looked incredible we were heading to dinner after so I couldn’t partake- what I did partake in, as everyone else got a pint of what they thought would be best, was a great flight of multiple tastes and flavors.
To start they hurt my feelings by telling me they were out of the Katzenjammer Kolsch I was looking forward too- but it’s ok, I’m a trooper, and they started me off with the Ottertoberfest instead. If you are a fan of the Octoberfest style then this is an absolute must try. Ottertoberfest didn’t have much aroma behind it but I really loved the spice, the smoothness and the way they stuck to the balance and true nature of the style- definitely one of the best Octoberfests I’ve had.
Next up was a big time flop. I know everybody and their mother has to put pumpkin in everything from beer to doughnuts as soon as September roles around- but, I REALLY don’t like it and Clove Valley Pumpkin Ale is no different. There was too much pumpkin, too much spice, and I don’t know maybe I’m not #basic enough? But no Clove Valley Pumpkin and no PSL’s for me thanks.
After chugging my way through the last one I was completely delighted by Three Pines IPA. As the name would indicate this extremely hoppy Ale smelled very floral and packed a seriously large pine punch. I can’t complain about the quality as they totally caught what they were aiming for but it could be a bit smoother to suit my taste.
Up next was a nice change of pace- Catskill Mountain Black IPA. This one’s not overly hoppy and does a really nice job capturing the roasted barley of a stout without a heavy or thick mouth feel. So far along the way this dark IPA stands out above quite a few of its competitors.
I couldn’t get much information on the next beer, but to be honest I hope for the Gilded Otter’s sake (or should I say their patrons?) that this German take on a dark wheat is a mainstay and not a seasonal. The beer in question is the Denkelweizen. Dunkelweizen is the perfect blend of rich roasts with just a hint of fruity sweetness. I always try to take these tastings slow since they are so small and so I can break down each flavor but this one was done before I knew it (I may have even gotten a full pint when my tasting was done). Very well done.
Imagine my surprise when the next beer wasn’t a beer at all- it was Docs Draft Hard Cider. I know I’ve said before cider isn’t my absolute favorite but it did seem to fit on a day like this one and the almost ‘sparkling apple juice’ quality cider went down nice and easy. Not to mention, I really enjoy the name of this cider, it makes my think of grampa’s old cough medicine. But I digress.
Adding insult to a previous injury- number seven on the list was more pumpkin. I will admit that this Pumpkin Stout was much better than it’s predecessor but I still wasn’t feeling it.
Last but most certainly not least was a house made black and tan. Though I couldn’t put my finger on specifics (a black and tan typically being a pilsner and a stout) the bartender said it was a mix of their Katz Kolsch and regular stout. It wasn’t a stand out but I really did enjoy this black and tan.
We were a bit rushed while we were here and we didn’t get the full experience but I really enjoyed myself and so did my taste buds. I give The Gilded Otter Brewpub a 7.6 out of 10.
Council Rock Brewery
We went to visit some friends and family where I grew up in Greene and while we were there we decided once again to make the rounds on the Cooperstown Beverage Trail and take along some newbies while we were at it. As with anything- there will be highs and lows and this time around is no different. I must say I was disappointed in a few things: The Pride of Milford wasn’t available at Cooperstown, Fly Creek was so busy we couldn’t even get in the door and staff was very rude when we asked if we could just get our books stamped for the trail, and by the time we made it through the day Butternuts was closed (our fault). On the other hand there were more than enough high points to make up for it (it is a beverage trail after all): First, Rustic Ridge has rapidly risen to our favorite stop on the trail with not only some great wine but an awesome environment and an absolutely amazing staff and second, we were able to make it to a relatively new face on the scene and not an official member of the trail yet- The Council Rock Brewery.
Council Rock is a great little brewpub with a cozy bar and seating area in the front and a larger space in the back to facilitate more guests. We all ordered food and beers, I got a flight and we continued with shenanigans that I can only describe as six grown adults drinking for the better part of seven hours…seven hours turned into twelve or so later but we hadn’t hit rare form at this point. Before I begin detailing the beers I have to take the time to say that this was THE best burger I have had in recent memory- it was thick, it was juicy, it was cooked just right and the beer pairings I chose to go with it were perfect if I don’t say so myself.
My first selection for this flight was a Honey Wheat. Decent unfiltered wheat but not as much of a honey flavor or mead quality as I’d hoped. This was a middle of the road beer, nice drinkability but not a lot of flavor.
The second one on the list was California Common Lager and there wasn’t anything common about it. Cali Common was crisp and hearty with delicious and unique hints of mint and pine. This beer was a really awesome flavor surprise.
The next beer was Muddy Rock Rye Nugget Ale. I must say that my first few Rye Ales really impressed me with the flavor they capture but as I drink more of them I notice that that quality must be an easier one to do as they have now tended to taste similarly and none really stand above the crowd. That being said- I really liked this one. Brewed with local ingredients from Muddy Rock Farms in near by Unadilla you might as well throw some caraway seeds on top and pop in in the toaster.
I don’t usually do this because I didn’t even try it but I have to include Full Nelson Pale Ale in this article. Named for the variety of hops used and sharing a family name with yours truly this one had a strong tropical fruit aroma, a full, long lasting, foamy head, some impressive lacing and my friend couldn’t stop raving about it.
Next up for me was Sleeping Lion Red Ale. Sleeping Lion had an obvious Cascade hop taste to it from beginning to end but I found it lacking in other flavor departments. I recommend giving this almost red IPA a try but I didn’t love this one.
I really enjoyed my next tasting. Named for the region James Fenimore Cooper made famous- Leatherstocking Brown was really delicious. This one was much darker than I expected especially for a brown Ale not a Stout or a Porter. With a full body and hints of chocolate at the tail end this brown is a true beauty.
I couldn’t resist tacking one more sample on the end and a perfect ending it was. Sunken Island Scotch Ale was extremely rich. She wasn’t as powerful as a typical wee heavy but she was still intense and finished with just the right amount of caramel sweetness.
On a side note I feel like beers should be ‘shes’ but in rereading some of my past articles I’ve called them both guys and girls. I found the discrepancy and little humorous and reserve the right to use the two completely interchangeably.
All in all I LOVED the food at this quaint little place, the service was good, and I really enjoyed the Leatherstocking Brown but some of there beers still have a ways to go. I give Council Rock Brewery a 7.3 out of 10.
With all the really awesome things New York City has to offer Queens still manages to do things a little bit different and new. One of those things is Astoria- with everything from Tex-Mex to Sri Lankan cuisine, the top rated burger in all of NYC and even a beer garden, Astoria is a really fun and happening part of the borough. It shouldn’t be surprising then to find out that a scene like Astoria also has a really cool brewery: Singlecut Beersmiths.
With brewery tours on Saturday and Sunday and live music every Friday night Singlecut is a great place to hit up on the weekend and once you’re there they instantly pull you in with a really extraordinary open concept layout. I ordered the 5 drink flight rather than all 12 beers they had on tap thanks to some time constraints beyond my control.
I started off with the 19-33 Queens Lagrrr. 1933 starts with a nice subtle bitterness but overall fizzled a little bit on flavor. It was a disappointing start to the tasting but that disappointment didn’t last long.
Up next was “Jan” the Olympic White Lagrrr. I loved this beer! Jan was light, smooth, refreshing, and incredibly well balanced. From first sip to last it didn’t lack any flavor though, non of those flavors stood out above any of the others. Jan is a great lager and is extremely well crafted like a classy grandma.
The third on my list was “Kim” a Hibiscus Sour Lager. All I can say about Kim is wow, just…wow. Seriously packed a sour, tangy and tart punch like no beer I have every tasted before. The closest taste I could liken this beer to would be vinegar but with that being said it may also be appropriate for me to tell you that I don’t have even the foggiest clue of what Hibiscus tastes like so, vinegar it is! Kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend I don’t think I could even handle a full pint of this but I am so glad I gave it a shot.
After Kim came Dean- “Dean” the Pacific Northwest Mahogany Ale. I really enjoyed this full bodied brown ale. It’s smoothness really shown through but the smokey, roasted malt topped off the liquid elegance that made this brew a bit like the old man on the corner smoking a pipe in his rocking chair.
Beersmiths 5th child “Billy” is an 8.6% Full Stack IPA. Billy was a total east coast IPA with a decent bite but a nice piney and floral hop (maybe Willamette?). Hanging out with Billy for an evening could really get you into some trouble.
As I went up to buy a sweet Singlecut Tulip glass the bar tender let me try their Half Stack IPA that was kegged that day. As you probably guessed Half Stack isn’t as powerful or strong as the Full Stack but it was just as hoppy and flavorful and even more smooth. I could drink ALOT of these.
I loved the feel to this place, I really liked the beer, and I don’t know the story behind it- if they’re named for their brewmasters or what, but I really liked the humanization of names of the beers. All in all a great place to check out earning Singlecut Beersmiths an 8.5 out of 10.
Barrier Brewing Company
We went to Long Beach for some fun in the sun and to do some swimming or what I usually end up doing- swallowing way too much salt water and then falling asleep on my towel. After catching some rays we searched out a local place, traveled down a few back roads for about 10 minutes and popped into the #1 rated brewery in NYC(ish) according the Village Voice- Barrier Brewing Company. Barrier catches your eye right off the bat with an old school stone warehouse feel on the outside, rustic wood tables and benches on the inside, and Edison light bulbs adding to the rustic theme. I ordered a flight, sat down with some complimentary popcorn and for the first time in about four hours drank something that wasn’t the Atlantic Ocean.
The first wave was Frau Blucher- a German Rauchbier. It smelled like a wood stove, it tasted like smoked bacon for breakfast and it finished with a nice sweetness. After figuring out what Rauch means (smoke in German) everything started to make a little more sense. Even though I love a fresh new face on a tasting the smokiness was a little too overpowering for me.
The second taste I had was Evil Giant Rye IPA. This IPA clings to the east coast style of IPA’s which I enjoy a lot more. Flowery taste and aroma with a nice piney hop punch. All of that mixed with a base of what tasted like a melted piece of rye bread made for a really nice IPA.
Next up was Antagonist Extra Special Bitter. Not entirely sure what to think about this brew- decent balance, ok hop flavor, and really drinkable but not a ton of flavor going on here. Not your typical ESB but kudos for making this a good one to drink in mass quantities.
The next beer, Vermillion Saison Rouge, was one the most interesting beers I’ve had to date. Regrettably, though I was really looking forward to it, I couldn’t smell Vermillion due to a fresh batch of popped popcorn. The taste on the other hand could not be masked by anything. I tasted a sourness similar to that of cabbage turning into sour kraut which the bar tender said may be attributed to the use wild brewers yeast in the fermentation process. I don’t think I could handle a six pack of Vermillion but I was really impressed by it’s unique taste.
The second to last beer was yet another fun surprise – Uncle Boons Brew, a Thai Style Ale. It smelled and tasted exactly like a fresh green bell pepper- literally nothing else. Again, I’m impressed and intrigued by how interesting and unique this beer is but I really did not like this one. When asked about this brew the bar tender said they brew with lime juice, coriander and Thai chilies and it is brewed exclusively for Uncle Boons Thai Restaurant in Oceanside.
Last on the tasting was Moochelle Nitro Milk Stout. Not much aroma and not much head which is surprising for a milk stout but it was so smooth and so creamy that I was really blown away. There isn’t much coffee (if any at all), but the lactate sweetness really came through and a mild bitterness all the way to the end. Don’t form an angry mob of craft beer connoisseurs to string me up but… Moochelle is even better than Left Hands Nitro (I know, I know, Sorry). Moochelle is a very, very well done beer.
After my tasting the lovely site editor and I had a couple more pints, starting with Green Room Pale Ale. Green Room was pretty mild but I did love it’s smoothness and drinkability paired with some real flavor- rather than skimping on the flavor to make it easier to drink.
My last pint was Lights Out Stout- a more traditional stout than Moochelle. Lights Out wasn’t as smooth or blended as other stouts I’ve had. Rather than a little bit of a few different things like toffee, chocolate etc.. I tasted black coffee. Not burnt coffee but BLACK coffee: Like the stuff my dad would have on the stove for hours when he was still in the Navy.
Though I didn’t love the flavors of some of these beers I absolutely LOVE the daringness and willingness to take risks on some of these robust brews. Barrier exhibits the true nature of our modern craft beer scene and in my opinion is leading the way in experimentation in the New York City market. Not to mention, I could probably drink a few gallons of Moochelle a day and I love the Barrier tasting glass. All in all I give Barrier Brewing Company an 8.3 out of 10.
Paw Paw Brewing Company
On the way back to our friends farm from Bell’s we stopped at the Paw Paw Brewing Company just outside of Kalamazoo. Paw Paw is a true brewpub, meaning they don’t distribute outside of the brewery, rather than a microbrew- so, it was a smaller operation, but it was a lot more homey. I ordered a tasting from the bar and posted up on a bench while the rest of the place played trivia.
My tasting began began with the Gus Meister Amber. I really didn’t enjoy this Amber very much at all. It was nice and smooth, but one of the ingredients I couldn’t put a finger on just tasted sour.
I quickly moved on to Red Arrow Rye and the first thing that I thought was “wowzers!” (inspector gadget anyone?). Red Arrow had some light citrus notes with a nice hop blend and a true taste and smell of a nice slice of marble rye. It wasn’t my favorite beer but they truly captured rye in a glass.
Third up was South Branch Summer. South Branch was light and smooth but I think it missed the mark a little bit: It was light enough to be enjoyed in large quantities by the lake or the beach, but not a lot of substance in the citrus and spice department.
Second to last was the Maple Isle Ale. I found out Maple Isle is named for Maple Lake and it’s islands in Paws-squared but its taste brought me right to Sunday mornings and pancakes lathered in syrup. Maple Isle was sweet but not too sweet, with a nice delicate maple flavor and finished with a pleasant burnt, almost smokiness.
I finished my tasting with Jake’s Vanilla Bean Porter. I didn’t taste as much vanilla bean as the name would imply but looking past that, this beer is amazing. It was fresh, silky smooth, chocolaty, and finished with just a hint of vanilla. Though it was named for a beloved four legged companion this Porter truly is mans best friend.
Then, towards the end of my tasting, Trevor walks in. Trevor is a good friend of the friends we were with and one of the maestros behind Paw Paw’s delectable crafts. As we got to talking Trevor obviously was interested in what I included on my flight and what I thought about them. The next thing I know there are a few more of his creations I just “had to try”. Starting with 2 Paws IPA. 2 Paws not only smelled fantastic it did a good job of knocking my socks off. At 90 IBU’s it was very hoppy and full bodied but really surprised me with its malty notes.
Next was the Citrmellony IPA brewed with German Citra and Mellon hops. This IPA tasted exactly like honeydew and cantaloupe. Though I didn’t love this one (just because I don’t like honeydew) I can’t argue with its uniqueness. According to Trevor “The Germans don’t just come out with something and see if it works, they perfect it and introduce it when it’s ready.”
Next up was St. James English Mild. Though not my favorite style, Paw Paw did an awesome job capturing the essence of beer on tap in a South London pub. This beer was roasted and buscuity and tasted like liquid baguette.
The beer I got to finish on was worth its weight in gold- Black Talon IPA. This beer is perfectly balanced between a hoppy IPA and a roasted dark beer. Black Talon was smooth yet crisp with a malted mouth feel and good ’til the last drop. This is one of the best Black IPA’s I’ve had.
Though, I think some of their beers have a little ways to go the other half are absolutely amazing. I loved the ambiance of this place and the friendliness of everyone there. I wish Trevor and everyone else at Paw Paw continued success and give the Paw Paw Brewing Company a 7.6 out of 10.
Bell’s Brewery (Inc.)
While driving back from Yuma, Arizona to Queens, New York, we stopped just outside of Kalamazoo to see some friends and take a much needed break from 3,000+ miles of driving. I always hope that my readers think very highly of me, but right after sleep the top two things on my list of things to do in K-zoo involved beer (I know right? It’s downright shameful).
So, after some much needed rest we headed into town, got some awesome brunch at the Crow’s Nest and went straight to Bell’s! Bell’s has been making amazing craft beers for over 30 years, and is probably the most renowned brewery I have ever been to (Bell’s or Ommegang?). If you haven’t heard of them yet, hopefully this article gets you off your butt and onto the bandwagon. I ordered a flight. Since Bell’s has so many beers to choose from, I did my best to run the gamut from light to heavy and selected some of their mainstays to write about for my readers even though I’ve had a few of them before.
I started off this epic voyage with a grin on my face and their famous flagship- Oberon (previously known as Solsun). Oberon was light, crisp and very citrusy. This beer is the perfect beer to help you break into craft brews if you haven’t already: It’s a craft beer man’s Shock Top/Blue Moon with more flavor. Oberon tends to be a little on the sweet side for me, but it blows most others of it’s style out of the water and is definitely worth a try.
Next up from Bell’s was their Amber Ale. This wasn’t my favorite Amber, but it held it’s own and I loved its uniqueness. She started smoky with a bitter middle and didn’t hit with any caramel until the finish. This one was very smooth with a decent mouth feel and though I didn’t- it made me want to get another (kind of the point right?).
Third on this list and most definitely worth all the buzz that surrounds it was Two Hearted Ale. Two Hearted is an American style IPA and, without sounding tooooooooo crazy, is probably the 1st or 2nd best IPA I have ever had (Dogfish head 120 minute is a competitor). They don’t go crazy or get fancy- they keep it simple and delicious. Two Hearted is well balanced, mildly bitter to start, and finishes with piney, floral hop notes. A seriously fantastic brew here.
Next up was Deb’s Red Ale. Though typically the beer you have after a beer like Two Hearted tends to fall flat on it’s face, Deb’s really pulled through to stand on her own two feet. Not too malty and sweet (though just enough), well hopped, and a really nice roasty finish. Nice Red Ale Deb!
Next up was Smitten Golden Rye Ale. Smitten wasn’t bad, but it was the only beer on this tasting that I didn’t truly love. It had a nice citrus to it and was really smooth but I didn’t taste the rye at all, and there wasn’t much other flavor going on.
Last on the tasting and perhaps one of my absolute favorite “anytime (dark) beers” was the Kalamazoo Stout. Kalamazoo Stout is an Oatmeal Stout that is classes above other Oatmeal Stouts. If you haven’t had this one before- 1. you need to and 2. there isn’t any chocolate here at all (which you may or may not expect). It is incredibly smooth with just enough of a bite to keep it interesting and finishes with a very refreshing roasted coffee.
Just a tasting isn’t quite enough Bells, so I had a few more pints starting with “Experimental Hop”. Experimental Hop seamed like a Pale Ale mixed with an Amber. Experimental was nicely hopped and was also a nice balance between roasted malts and a sweet hop finish. My hat’s off to the mad scientist behind this experiment.
My next beer was a snifter of Breakfast Blend. Breakfast Blend is a Double Cream Stout. Breakfast Blend wasn’t as creamy as I’d hoped but also didn’t have an over powering coffee flavor. It was not my favorite but definitely something I wouldn’t mind drinking with breakfast. It should be mentioned that I don’t actually like coffee unless there is some baileys in it…and by some baileys I mean just baileys.
My last beer was a snifter of Mr. Casties Vilnius Porter. I don’t know what Vilnius actually means or stands for, but once I drank it my head said ‘villainous’. It wasn’t bad in the taste department but rather than kept in rum barrels or soaked with staves it tasted more like they just dumped some barrels of rum right into the beer.
With my Bells pint glass in hand (I’m beginning to start a serious collection) I headed out the door, giving Bell’s Brewery a 9.5 out of 10. This is the first tasting I have done where I truly could not find much fault with any of the beers. Bell’s hand crafted beers are uncompromising; if you haven’t already, you should consider checking them out ASAP.
San Diego Brewing Company
My last trip to San Diego started in the midst of some terrible forest fire traffic- unbeknownst to me- on the way to a certification exam. Thank God the fires have since subsided and most of the families have been able to return to their homes, but after I passed my test the first thing I Googled was a nearby brewery (duh)-enter the SD Brewery!
The Brewery is in an interesting little strip mall on Friars road and is complete with a huge wrap around bar, full dining area (though much to my chagrin I didn’t get any food) and big windows showing the brewing operation to the left when you walk in. I picked six of the ten available SD beers on tap- they also have outside breweries available- and prepared for take off.
The first on my flight was the SD Amber. I didn’t love this Amber: there’s a decent hint of caramel in this one but much too hoppy of an Amber for my taste. There was a decent mouth feel texture and aroma but not much else here. The tasting didn’t start off with a bang but followed up real strong.
Following this up was the second beer on the flight: Glasgow Kiss. Glasgow Kiss is a strong scotch ale (aka wee heavy): strong on flavor and at 9.6% abv just plain strong. There’s a hint of something delicious that I can’t put my finger on (nor would they divulge) but it was very flavorful. More impressively than that is the fact that Glasgow Kiss is one of the top strong ales (scotch ale, bourbon barrel aged etc.) I’ve ever had. It gave flavor to the beer rather than just the beer tasting purely like someone poured some liquor into the vat. This is a very fantastic beer.
The next beer was called Infinitude IPA. Infinitude is one of the most powerful west coast style IPA’s I had during my entire two years in the southwest. If you are a hop head who prefers the west coast bitterness over the east coast flowery and piney-ness, then look no further. I can only describe this one way- POW! (POW, POW! Are you saying pow?…) I can honestly say I didn’t love it, not for lack of quality, but if you love IPA’s then this is an absolute must try.
Next on the list was Lakshmi Imperial Red. I didn’t taste a lot going on in this beer to be honest. I gave it a few tries but still didn’t taste very much other than a very mild hoppyness. It’s entirely possible that my taste buds were just temporarily dead after Infinitude, but I’m going to cop out and blame it on the 9.4% abv (I have two little brothers: shifting blame might as well be second nature).
Second to last on the flight was Saxon Old Ale. Saxon is unique, interesting, and complex. The delicate blend of hops and barley made me want an entire pitcher, and the smoked malt followed through to remind me that a pint or two is probably enough. It took me more than a few sips to figure this one out, and I was impressed by the head staying all the way to the last drop (very rare for a paler ale).
As I finished my dissention, I landed on Welter Wit. I really didn’t like this one at first sip, but Welter weaseled his way into my heart. It began with a very gingery aroma but hit my taste buds with a sort of curry flavor. It was a very interesting take on a Witbier and a nice way to end this journey.
The brewmaster was on site to answer a couple of my questions and the bar tender was very friendly, knew what beers to recommend and what beers she enjoyed. I really liked this brewpub; they have some awesome beers, and it was a great way to say goodbye to San Diego. With that, I give the San Diego Brewing Company a 7.4 out of 10
Triple 7 Brewery
Of the numerous alluring attractions that Sin City has to offer, a brewery is also one of them (why wouldn’t it be?!). Between The Strip, Fremont Street, slots and roulette (at multiple locations) we made our way to the Main Street Station Casino and Brewery in old Vegas. We got some awesome wings and burgers in one of the most beautiful modern style breweries I have been to, and I ordered a flight.
Starting the action was Royal Red Lager. Royal Red was one of the best lagers I’ve had in a while. It was silky smooth and much more than just caramel (though the amount of caramel was perfect). I’m not sure if it’s coriander- I couldn’t put my finger on the ingredient – but the flavor was very reminiscent of Three Philosophers (Ommegangs Quadruple). Royal Red should be the first item on your list when you stroll down Fremont.
Second on the tasting was Marker Pale Ale. Marker is very pale for all intents and purposes of the word: pale in color and pale in taste. There was a decent bite to this one if you’re looking for bitter but not a lot of flavor going on with this one.
Rounding the turn was High Roller Gold. High Roller is described as an American Pale Wheat but tasted more like a lack luster Pilsner (one of the big three “light” beers). I will always write here and hold the personal opinion that you should never knock it until you’ve tried it- so, you have to give High Roller a try, but I won’t be drinking this one next time I’m in Vegas.
The river was Black Chip Porter. The Porter didn’t have a very thick mouth feel to it but instead had a very soft, strong coffee flavor. I don’t always feel the need to mention this because I feel like it’s useless and doesn’t add to or take away from a beer (sorry beer snobs) but, in this case, the head on this Porter wasn’t only thick but lasted for a really long time. Black chip is well worth a taste.
Finishing this bet was the Brewmaster’s Special- a delicious and confusing Oatmeal Stout. This Stout tasted NOTHING like I expected. It was very sweet and tasted like a sweet, pure coffee bean. I wish I could differentiate better; however, I didn’t taste any oatmeal, and it didn’t taste much like coffee grounds or have the typical coffee bitterness. This isn’t the absolute best Stout I have ever had but it’s up there, and it would be a true shame if you did not allow your taste buds to go on this delightful and intriguing Las Vegas thrill ride.
This brewpub is picturesque and inviting with awesome food, great beer, and a knowledgeable staff. It is walking distance from a ton of fun once you’ve started your buzz here. All in all, I give the Triple 7 Brewery a 7.77 (honestly probably closer to 8 but I couldn’t resist) out of 10. Next time you’re down on Fremont playing some Hold ‘Em or watching the light show, make sure you pop into the Main Street Station for some grub a great crafts.
Lumberyard Brewing Company
Our final installment of the fun-filled, self-guided tour of Flagstaff’s breweries brought us to the Lumberyard Brewing Company. When we got there Lumberyard was chill and low-key but their large dance floor slowly transitioned into a country music dance hall (so make sure you know what time it is and what you’re getting in to). They have a full service restaurant, though we didn’t get any food, and “The Yard’s” tasting comes with your choice of six of their nine beer- you can upgrade to all nine for an extra dollar (guess which one I did…).
This nine beer flight started of with the Canyon Pilsner. I don’t typically love traditional Pilsners but this one really wasn’t too bad. I didn’t taste much hops but it finished with a nice sweetness that I wasn’t expecting.
Second on the list was White Water Wit. This was a really interesting Witbier. I’m still not sure if I liked it or not (probably should have gotten a full pint to judge). It stayed true to it roots with some coriander and orange peel but finished with what tasted like basil or mint. I definitely recommend checking this one out and would love to have one of you write in and give me your take on White Water.
Next up was their Raspberry Ale. This ale was very, very aromatic but didn’t live up to its name on taste. It finished smooth and I didn’t hate it but there wasn’t much raspberry happening on my taste buds.
Moving right along to the Lumberyard Hefeweizen. I really didn’t like this one. This Hefe is touted as a ‘Southern German style’ which may be why I didn’t like it. Though since I don’t know much about specific differences between regional German Hefeweizens I will say I just tasted far too much cloves to enjoy this beer.
Up next was the highly anticipate Knotty Pine. Knotty Pine won Gold in the Great American Beer Fest and I have been hearing about this beer from enthusiasts all weekend leading up to this tasting. I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing it but compared to some other Pale Ales I’ve had in the past couple months this one is does not live up to the hype. It wasn’t the worst I’ve had but it was unbalanced and not very flavorful.
Quickly moving to another award winning brew- Lumberyard Red Ale. Classified as a Special Bitter (ESP) it had the perfect combination of malts and hops to give it sweetness, smoothness, crispness and body. It started well, it finished well and I absolutely loved this beer. This is one of the best Ambers I have had in a while- very well done!
Lucky number seven on this flight was Lumberyard Porter. This Porter had a decent hop bite to it in the beginning but not much else going on. It was smooth and drinkable to too light on taste to brag about.
Second to last on this particular journey was Lumberyard IPA. This American style IPA had a really nice balance between bitterness and hops and went down very clean. It didn’t maintain well in the middle but followed through and finished with a pleasant sweetness and another well balance shot of hops.
Lastly, we come to the Lumberyard Black IPA. This Black IPA wasn’t too shabby- smooth taste and texture, roasted malts and very high on the drinkability scale. Much like Mother Road’s Black IPA (see last weeks article) this one was much more of a Black Ale or a light Stout with not a lot of IPAness going on (yes I made that word up).
All in all it was an enjoyable experience and I absolutely loved their Red Ale but I wasn’t entirely impressed with some of their other beers. Still a must see stop if you’re anywhere near by and with that I give Lumberyard Brewing Company a 6.5 out of 10.
Post Script… I was able to visit four of the stops along the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail over the course of the weekend but I missed the other half. I would love if someone wanted to write to me or comment on facebook letting some of the other readers know what you think about Beaver Street Brewing Company (Flagstaff), Wanderlust Brewing (Flagstaff), Grand Canyon Brewing Company (Williams), and Oak Creek Brewing (Sedona).
Mother Road Brewing Company
As we continued to travel through picturesque Flagstaff we ventured off the “mother road” (route 66) and into the Mother Road Brewing Company. This relatively small brewpub was very inviting with its short bar, brewing tanks, and live band all in the same room. The bartender was helpful, and the six beer flight was served up in an old rustic cupcake tin- so we got started.
The first beer on the list started us off with a bang: Gold Road Kolsch. Gold Road is another delicious Kolsch style for this area (see last weeks Flagbrew article). It started with what I think was a biscuit malt and finished with a delicious fruitiness. I really like this one- nice job.
Next up was Drive Shaft Copper (or Amber) Ale. I don’t want to ever sound like a broken record but I am very critical of my Ambers, Stouts and Porters. Drive Shaft wasn’t the best Amber I have ever had but she did live up to standards. It was smooth and easy to drink, I could pinpoint the caramel and malt, and it wasn’t too sweet. I definitely recommend giving Drive Shaft a try.
Following Drive Shaft was Roadside Extra Pale American Pale Ale. Roadside won Gold in 2012 at the US Beer Championships but for me fell rather flat. I’m not sure if they changed their recipe since then or if I got a bad batch (I’m certainly willing to re-try) but there wasn’t much flavor, bitterness, or even hoppyness to Roadside at all.
Fourth of the six was White Walls IPA. This white IPA was smooth, crisp and had just enough bitterness. I liked it a lot until the end when, what I’m sure were flowery hops, really took over as it finished far too flowery. It almost taste like roses smell (I don’t know, I’ve never eaten a rose…).
Second to last was Grapefruit Groveland. The bartender said Groveland was an experimental variation on White Walls. I must say it was not nearly as bitter as I expected. To start, the flavor was mildly citrus, almost undistinguishable, but it quickly followed with a very strong grapefruit flavor. I love the idea behind this one, I love the experimentation (it’s what craft beer’s all about) but I’ve never acquired a taste for grapefruit. If you do like grapefruit, I recommend giving it a huge whiff before you taste.
The last brew on this tasting was Lost Highway Imperial Black IPA. Lost Highway was really tasty and very smooth- I liked it a lot. With that being said let me say two things: first, there is a lot of debate on what to call this style (Black IPA, India Black Ale, or Cascadian Black Ale). Though some use the names interchangeably, I differentiate them. Secondly, though I enjoyed it a great deal, it was much more just a Black Ale (or maybe Cascadian) rather than a Black IPA. Again, I enjoyed it- but for 100 IBU’s there wasn’t much bitterness or hoppyness to it for me.
I had a great time at Mother Road and am hoping to get back before we leave Arizona. Considering the awesome atmosphere, knowledgeable staff, and respectable craft beer, I give the Mother Road Brewing Company a 8.1 out of 10.
Flagstaff Brewing Company
Our second stop along this unofficial tour of Flagstaff brought us to the Flagstaff Brewing Company. Flagbrew is located more in the middle of town than the last stop and right along side historic Route 66. We popped in and we ordered some seasoned fries and a flight. The $3 flight of only four beers made this stop, as well as this article, short and sweet.
They started us off this tasting with Flagbrew Kolsch. This Kolsch is a really good brew. It didn’t have much aroma too it but it was much sweeter than I’m used to in a Kolsch style. The sweetness worked very well combining with the perfect crispness and finishing with just a hint of ginger. This is the perfect beer for those looking to try something that tastes great yet still can be considered a little adventurous.
Next up was the Pin Stripe Pale Ale. I was very happy with the last beer and sort of ‘blah’ with Pin Stripe. It wasn’t an all together bad beer with a decent hoppyness too it but little to no punch and not a lot of other flavors going on either.
Third on this tasting was Agassiz Amber Ale. I think this one will have to have an asterisk next to it because the verdict is still out for me. I gave Agassiz a lot of thought – on one hand it had very little aroma, almost no malt and not a lot of body (which was disappointing) but on the other hand it was very smooth and followed through with a very nice flavor (maybe some toffee and grain but I’m not sure). I’m going to make something up here and call this beer an almost but not quite. It’s not the type of scenario where “I liked it-just not as much as another one”; it’s literally me sitting on the fence between love and hate- I’ll need to try another pint of this one to truly decide.
The grand finally was Blackbird Porter. Blackbird lacked the flavor and complexity that I love about porters (touch of coffee and nothing else) but redeemed itself with a complete smoothness from start to finish. This wasn’t my favorite but it would be a really good beer for you to break into porters and stouts with if you are not currently a big fan.
All in all the staff wasn’t overly knowledgeable but they were very friendly, the food was good, and the beer was good. I give Flagstaff Brewing Company a 7.3 out of 10.
**2017 Edit. We went back to Flagbrew a couple of years later and I realized (once I wasn’t too poor) that they have one of the most extensive bourbon and scotch selections on the entire west coast. Def worth bumping them up to a solid 8 out of 10!
Historic Brewing Company
This past weekend we spent a few days in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona. The mountains, the pine trees and the snow (Yes, snow…in AZ…in April?) really reminded me of my upstate NY hometown. While we were there we saw some sights, ate some awesome down home cooking, crossed the Grand Canyon off of our west coast bucket list, and toured four out of the six microbreweries/brewpubs in Flagstaff. For all of you craft beer lovers out there, let me repeat, there are six breweries in Flagstaff (6!)- in a city with just over 65,000 people (not to mention the other two members of the ‘Ale Trail’).
We began our adventures with the Historic Brewing Company. Historic is located on the outskirts of Flag in the industrial district and when you pull up to the building it looks like just that: An industrial warehouse. When you get inside, the warehouse feel works really well for them with an unfinished concrete floor, raw wood tables, foosball, a small bar with one person working, and all their casks and brewing operation in full view. As some friends dove right in with a full pint I ordered a flight, which was served in Ball canning jars (small Mason jars), and got started.
Starting off the tasting (with a healthy pour I might add) was their “first born”- Hopped up Pilsner. Not being a huge fan of Pilsners the very floral aroma made me nervous. Hopped up, however, proved to be well hopped yet still maintain a nice balance between smooth, butteriness and zesty hops. This beer makes a great addition to your list of anytime/anywhere beers.
Next up was Historic’s Wheat IPA. This beer is also very well done. The brew master did a great job of maintaining a relatively strong hoppiness while finishing with the integrity of a really good wheat brew. A fine job on this beer- great IPA.
Third on the list was Joy Rye’d. The cleverly named Rye Pale Ale is yet another great beer on this Historic flight. Rye usually tends to manifest the same way with my taste buds whether it be whiskey, bread or beer but this time it added a really nice spiciness all the way through from beginning to end. I definitely recommend taking this robust, flavorful, not very pale, pale ale for a joy ride.
Second to last was Piehole Porter. Piehole Porter is a cherry vanilla porter that I can not say enough about. It was rich and sweet with the perfect amount of cherry and just a hint of chocolate. This is an awesome beer and one of the best Porters I have ever had.
Finishing up this tasting was a Bacon Coffee Stout. I must say I was really looking forward to this beer and, particularly after Piehole, was really disappointed. I really could not pick out any distinct flavors; rather than a touch of bacon and some coffee bitterness all I could taste and smell was just, for lack of a better description- burnt.
From start to finish (with one exception) this was a fantastic tasting. I am truly impressed with this brew master and the quality of the beer produced from such a new establishment. I loved the atmosphere as well as the free pint glass (with your first pint or tasting), so I give Historic Brewing Company a well deserved 8.8 out of 10.
Mudshark Brewing Company
Last summer season we got to visit the Mudshark Brewery in the heart of Lake Havasu City. Havasu is a really cool town with Lake Havasu as the epicenter, tons of bars, clubs, restaurants, shops, breweries and even the London Bridge. What? Yes, if you haven’t heard of this before, the bridge from the 1800’s was disassembled in London and reassembled in Lake Havasu in the 1960’s. After some sun and sight seeing we popped into Mudshark’s restaurant and brewery where the staff was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable, so we ordered some flights, some awesome burgers, and got started.
At the top of the order was Upriver Light. Upriver Light is a light American style Lager. Upriver smelled and tasted of corn and yeast. It was very thin yet crisp- not a lot going on here but very drinkable and perfect for a mowing the lawn with you shirt off kind of day.
Second on the list is the Dry Heat Hefeweizen (Oh, the southwest is a “dry heat”). Dry Heat wasn’t my favorite Hef. It had typical aroma, wheat taste and medium-bodied hue, but, there was something I truly couldn’t put my finger on (a tanginess?) that I really did not enjoy.
Next up was Full Moon Wheat Ale. I really like this beer. I found it very aromatic with a nice head and body that proved to be satisfyingly drinkable. It’s definitely brewed with orange peel and coriander. I’ve even picked up a few six packs of this one since and it totally stacks up against the competition. Well done Mudshark.
Fourth up was Scorpion Amber Ale. In my never-ceasing quest for the best beers I’ve found it the most difficult to capture my friend Amber (as I’ve told you before) but Mudshark does a really nice job on this one. Scorpion was smooth, sweet with caramel, malty and had just enough bitter grain finish. I can see beer drinkers of all different tastes really loving this beer.
Having the unfortunate task of following up the Scorpion was Desert Magic IPA. Though, as I’ve previously admitted, IPA’s aren’t my favorite I think I can accurately sum this one up. Not all together that bitter but too much lemon (maybe grapefruit) and not enough hops in Desert Magic for any of the IPA drinkers I know.
Finishing off the order was Havablue- a blueberry infused wheat ale. This one was very blueberry forward in both the aroma and taste but did a nice job holding true to its wheat roots. Havablue is a great fruit beer to finish out a tasting with.
Good food, good beer and a friendly knowledgeable staff make this a great place to go for dinner, a tasting, or even a pint and earn the Mudshark Brewing Company an 8 out of 10.
Prescott Brewing Company
A few weeks back we took the long haul up a crazy mountain to visit some friends in Prescott. While in historic downtown Prescott, an interesting blend of southwest and old west, we HAD to stop at a brewery (it’s almost like second nature at this point).
Just off the main street, in a huge atrium mall building, Prescott Brewing is surrounded by more than a dozen little restaurants and shops- creating a really cool location. There was a bit of a wait as we arrived to a packed house during the dinner rush, but once inside, I noticed a large dining area with a long corner bar. They have an extensive restaurant menu with everything from pub grub to steak, not to mention some awesome BLT sliders (if I do say so myself). We ordered our food and drinks and dug in.
Only half of my flight was labeled so I asked our waitress (twice) if there was a list or if she could tell me the remaining beers. She didn’t know most of them and didn’t make an attempt to find out so I did my best to track down the information. I totally understand how chaotic a dinner rush can be, but the staff is a reflection of any establishment (not to mention the first impression that is made). Though I’m totally willing to admit this could have negatively biased me, I think I did a good job of not allowing it to influence my palate.
I started off with Longpole Light. Longpole didn’t have a ton of flavor for me but does a good job capturing a light beer taste for a casual drinker. Following that up were their Willow Wheat and Prescott Pale Ale which I must say were both very lack luster (watery and little flavor) not only for myself but a few others.
Fourth on the tasting was the Ponderosa IPA. This style of IPA is quickly becoming not only my favorite styles of IPA but one of my favorite beers to try. It doesn’t have a very high bitterness yet it is very strongly hopped. Its sweetness and hop flavoring makes me liken it to a hop juice (like a fruit juice) rather than a beer. Very nicely done on this brew.
After Ponderosa came Liquid Amber Lager, an amber ale (though I can’t be 100%), a Walnut Brown, and Petrified Porter. Amber ales and lagers are two of my favorite beers so I tend to be a little more critical of them and, unfortunately, these two fell pretty flat. The Walnut Brown wasn’t the best I’ve had: only ok flavor but a typical medium bodied brown. The Petrified Porter was a simplistic, well balance, but not very flavorful porter.
The flight did finish with three very strong showings, starting with Achocolypse. Achocolypse is a full bodied Chocolate Stout with just a hint of coffee, maybe toffee, and a lot of chocolate flavor. As I’ve mentioned before Chocolate Stouts aren’t always my favorite type of stout but this super smooth and creamy style is really starting to grow on me and this one is very, very well done.
Second to last was a specialty beer called Defiance. I’m not really sure what type of beer it was, or what they are going for with this one but it almost tasted like Southern Comfort, and I truly enjoyed it. Defiance is medium bodied and amber colored with a strong alcohol taste and sweet caramel notes.
Last but not least was their Strawberry Wheat. This one is very well balanced between strawberry and wheat. Though it smelled very strongly of strawberries, the flavor wasn’t overly sweet- it offered just a hint of subtle strawberry flavor while still giving me a nice and full wheat finish. This is a very good fruit beer.
I hope that with this article (as with all others) you keep in mind that everyone has their own opinions and tastes. That being said and taking everything into consideration I give Prescott Brewing Company a 4 out of 10 and a whole hearted willingness to give them another chance. ‘Til next week I hope you get to try some micro beverages and let me know what you think.
Irish Red Ales and my first home brew experience!
As this is the beer section and not the brewery/winery review section I felt an article about home brewing would be better suited here rather than there. Before diving into the awesome experience of my first home brew I’ll give a brief description of typical Irish Reds as I did for Amber Lagers (2/13).
To start off, there is a bit of a debate as to what we should actually consider an “Irish Red”. Some say the Irish style we drink and brew more often (ex. Sam Adams, Great Lakes etc.) is an American adaptation and the true style comes paler and more hoppy (ex. Smithwicks). For our purposes, I am going to consider the former a more traditional Irish Red as it bares many similarities to its regional sister brew- Scottish style Ale (specifically Scottish Export).
Irish Red Ales are typically red (uh…duh) or copper in color with a clear to light brown head. They should have a very mild to no aroma at all. They should taste moderately to strongly of caramel malts with a nice sweetness (sometimes toffee) and little to no hop flavor, with a medium to light body, and a slightly dry, grain-flavored finish.
This beer is very, very drinkable and is often my go to pint when I don’t feel like getting full off a stout or porter. So, if you haven’t yet (or even if you have), go grab an Irish Red!
Now that that’s covered we can move on to my first home brew experience. For Christmas my fiancé (and editor in chief) got me a home brew kit from Northern Brewing Company- needless to say I was ecstatic. It was an Irish Red (ah, now the paragraphs above will come in handy). They included all the ingredients for the batch and all the materials needed for brewing (minus a huge pot) that I now have to keep.
Brewing day was a ton of fun! To start off I steeped 1 pound of grains (Caramel Pils, Briess Roast, Belgian Biscuit, and English Malt) for 20 minutes in 2.5 gallons of water (kind of like a giant tea). Then after I brought the water to a boil I added 6 pounds of Golden Malt syrup. After bringing back to a boil what is now called “wort” I added 1 ounce of Willamette Hops, boiled for 60 minutes and then added an ounce of US Golding Hops and boiled for another 30 minutes. I rapidly chilled the wort in an ice bath in the sink, transferred it to the primary fermenter (leaving behind any thick sludge), added 2.5 more gallons of water, mixed completely, and sprinkled my packet of yeast on the top. I closed the lid, stuck the bubbler on, and WAAAAAAIIIIITTTED…
Two weeks later I siphoned the wort from the primary fermenter to a secondary fermenter (again, leaving thick yeast sludge behind). I then waited some more.
Two weeks after that I was able to begin bottling. I made a simple syrup with a cup a water and 5 ounces of corn sugar to be combined with the wort. I then filled my “refurbished” glass bottles with some really easy to use bottling equipment….and then waiiiitttteddd. If you couldn’t tell already this is the only bad part about brewing- “just wish this would be done already!”.
After it conditioned in the bottles for 2 more weeks I put it in the fridge and it was ready to go! About every 5th beer came out a beer flat (which I still can’t figure out) but other than that some friends and I thought it turned out great!
It should go without saying to sanitize everything before and after. Special thanks to Northern Brewing Company for starting me off on the right foot- Now that I’ve done the trial run with direction I can get my own ingredients and start doing some experimentation. I hope you enjoy the pictures of the whole process and until next week.
As I was (unfortunately) unable to visit a brewery or winery this weekend I thought it a good time to take a break from reviews and write the first informative beer or wine article. Obviously my first one is going to be about beer, but I struggled a bit with which style to do first. Should I tell of a less common beer like a barleywine or maybe just my favorite beer? After some deliberation I decided on “America’s favorite beer” and what I found was welcoming and rather surprising.
I was under misplaced assumption that America is riddled with bud light, coors light, and miller lite lovers- however, upon doing some research I discovered that is not so! As you can see from the map (thanks blowfish) the US has a new ‘king of beers’ as well as some really awesome regional favorites. Though Blue Moon’s a wheat beer not an Amber growing up in New York I can honestly say that I really do love those regional favorites even if they are mass produced. So, inspired by Yuengling and Son’s Traditional Lager (America’s oldest brewery) and Boston Beer Company’s Boston Lager (a major contributor to the craft beer revolution) today is going to be about Amber Lagers!
Traditionally there are only two different types of beer that are all encompassing; Lagers and Ales. The term “Lager” refers to beer that is kept and fermented in cold temperatures. This style includes Pilsners, Helles, Bocks, Dunkels, Pale Lagers, Amber/Red Lagers and Dark Lagers. As we all know with beer experimentation comes styles of beer that break away from tradition and create classes all by themselves and that is exactly what Amber Lager is.
Amber Lagers are amber or copper in color, they are crisp and clean in your mouth, much more caramel malt than their sister beers, a mild bitterness, and are slightly sweet. Best paired with hearty foods like grilled and fried chicken, barbeque, pizza, and even some smoky cheeses. Best to drink out of a Pilsner glass though I like mine out of an English pint glass. One of my absolute favorite “go-to” or anytime beers- so next time you don’t know what you’re in the mood for, keep your eyes peeled for a new Amber Lager and enjoy!
By request- Cabernet Sauvignon! For one of my readers (the requester) as well as most of the world Cabernet Sauvignon is currently the most sought after and popular red wine grape varieties on the planet.
The grape originally comes from Bordeaux, France (according to totalwine.com) but now is cultivated and made into wine in hundreds of countries, states and cities all over the world including California where Cab Sav is the most common face popping up with award after award in this storied wine region.
Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in oak barrels for, traditionally, quite a bit longer than other wines. This oak aging process allows the Cab grape to mellow but it also increases the tannins which are a biomolecule that precipitates proteins and makes the wine taste more dry.
This wine should be on the driest end of the spectrum, medium to full-bodied, and extremely robust with flavors and aromas ranging from dark fruits like plum and cherry all the way to vanilla, oak, smoke and in some cases even the hint of leather and tobacco.
This strong wine can be easily paired with dark meat, dark (red/purple) fruits, pasta, heavy cheeses and chocolate. Though some like to chill this red it should be enjoyed in a red wine glass at room temperature to get its true flavor and effect.
As I have mentioned before I do prefer my white wines over reds but there is no denying the boldness of Cabernet Sauvignon and its rightful nickname of King Cab! I’ve added one of my favorites to the rankings list so, until next week, pour yourself your favorite bottle of the king and enjoy.
We were only in Julian for about six hours but those six hours, as you may have gathered from my previous two articles, were filled with tons of fun (minus the drive, yikes)- apple picking, great food, and lots of good wine, which concluded with Julian’s Orfila tasting room.
The main winery is at their vineyard in Escondido, CA but as I’ve stated in previous posts, I think we got the same great wine and unique experience in Julian as we would have gotten at the main location. For $10, you get to taste six of the wines available and take home the wine glass (not just a small tasting glass).
After a day of drinking an array of bright and bold flavors I needed a few cleansing crackers before jumping in. Once my palate was ready to go again, I started with the Ambassadors Chardonnay. This award wining Chard is very, very buttery with not a lot of aroma and a creamy/oily finish . I’ve never truly loved this style (achieved through malolactic fermentation), though I’ve tried- I prefer more fruit forward chards however, this is definitely one of the best chards of this style I have had.
Moving, quickly, away from whites (What?!..I know, right?) this time I turned to the Estate Rose. This 50% Merlot blend smelled very much like grapefruit. It started smooth with berries and finished crisp and lemony. This Rose was one of my absolute favorites and if they weren’t limiting it due to how fast it goes I would have taken a bottle home.
Next up was another award wining wine- Orfila’s Element 119 Pinot Noir. As you can probably tell from some of my babblings, I often find myself conflicted between what my tongue actually thinks and what, as a connoisseur, it’s supposed to think. With Element 119 there was no conflict between brain and taste buds. I smelled cherry right away, it began with a sweet wood and very delicate spice, and finished with a cherry tartness. I absolutely love Element 119.
Fourth on the list was an Old vine Zinfandel. I’ve never had this variety before but I liken it a little bit to the King Cab I had been searching for all day. A full body and very robust wine, this old vine has a range of aromas and a blackberry/blueberry finish. Though I didn’t love the pepper I tasted, this is definitely my new go to wine to pair with steak.
I followed up the Zinfandel with their Estate Sangiovese which was another first for me. I hate to say it, and my Grandmother Antoinette would roll over in her grave if she heard me say this about Italy’s most popular grape, but I really didn’t like this wine. This wine is exactly what people think of when they think overly dry and stuffy white wine. It started with some vanilla bean but finished with a leathery pine or cedar (not sure which). I recommend exposing your palate to it but I don’t think I’ll be doing any Sangioveses any time soon.
Finally, we come to the Late Harvest Syrah. A woody aroma and oaky start lead to a medium body and a very pleasant and smooth cherry finish. I like this Syrah a lot; it was a great port-style wine to end on, and I was interested to find out that they designed it to cellar for over 10 years.
Informative staff, great wine, and the conclusion of an awesome day gives Orfila an 8.6 out of 10. Stayed tuned next week for surprise article I’ve been working on for a couple weeks now
J. Jenkins Winery
Our second winery in beautiful Julian, CA was the J. Jenkins Winery. Nestled at the top of the mountain maybe 1000 yards from Menghini; J. Jenkins is a small winery with a 10 or so acre vineyard just a stone’s throw from the tasting room door. Their staff was extremely friendly and inviting, not to mention knowledgeable, and willing to help you out with a tasting, a full glass, or even a bottle.
Your six dollar tasting fee includes all six wines and a tasting glass when you’re done. They start you off with their Sauvignon Blanc. This Blanc was actually pretty mellow for the most part with a citrusy aroma but finished with an interesting flavor I can only describe as hitting me right in the back of my jaw – right in the glands, you know what I mean?
I have heard tales of J. Jenkins’ amazing Pinot Grigio, which I was very much looking forward to, but this time around I was unable to have a taste. I don’t remember the reasoning, but it was a pretty busy day for them. If you find yourself at J. Jenkins, drop me a line and let me know what you think.
Up next is, in a surprising order on the tasting (at least for me), Dolcezza. Dolcezza is an apple wine made with 100% Julian apples (of the award wining apple pie variety) and is quite frankly one of the best fruit wines I have ever had. Dolcezza is not your typical very sweet or very tart dessert-style fruit wine. It was mildly sweet, fruity, well balanced, and finished you off with a very refreshing crispness. I loved this wine.
Batting clean-up was their estate Pinot Noir. Though wine critics may criticize California Noirs for being too “fruity”, “too drinkable”, “less structured” – or even “slutty” as I read on one particular blog- that is exactly why I like them. Burgundies are on the very dry side for me but as their price will tend to indicate they are full of flavor and body and a real treat for the palate. J. Jenkins follows suit with the Cali Pinot style with superior drinkability but doesn’t slack on the flavor. This Pinot Noir was very, very good and an absolute delight to drink.
Next on the list was their Cabernet Sauvignon. With a strong foothold in wine races around the world and particularly California this is the second King Cab in the same day that was just a tad bit of a let down. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this wine but it was far too soft. If I was going to drink a whole bottle I may actually choose J. Jenkins over some others but I was hoping for a truly robust California Cabernet that I would have to describe similarly to the way I describe very strong IPA’s (too strong for my palate but absolutely appreciate the kick).
Last up was Pommier. Pommier is a Port style dessert apple wine. Now, I know what some of you who know me are thinking- “This coming from the guy with the wine sweet tooth”- but this one is TOO sweet. Ports are sweet anyway, as with most fruit wines, but this one knocked my socks off…and not in a great way. The bartender claimed that it was “great by itself or over ice cream”. I actually recommend the latter this time around.
After another great tasting I give the folks over at J. Jenkins winery a 6.7 out of 10. Keep up the good work!
Julian California is nestled in the gorgeous mountains of San Diego county just a few short hours northeast of San Diego and southwest of Temecula. Some have described this historic old mining town as the “poor man’s Napa Valley” with a dozen much less well known wineries that have similar coastal California qualities at a fraction of the price. We spent the morning driving up and down beautiful country back roads, apple picking in local orchards and eating award winning apple pie before making our way to, Menghini Winery, our first of three Julian wineries.
Menghini was quaint and welcoming with a small tasting room, wine vats in full view and rustic antique decorations throughout. The staff was knowledgeable and inviting and with six wines made in-house we started at the beginning- Julian Gold.
Julian Gold is a Muscat Canelli. It was light, and sweet with a strong peach aroma and taste. I had never had this variety before and was very impressed. It tasted a cross between a dessert wine and a sweeter Riesling. Julian Gold was definitely on the sweetest end of the scale but very refreshing and unique. If you’ve never had it before it is very similar to its sister grapes Italian Moscato and Spanish Muscatel (which makes a ton of sense).
A tasting in SoCal would not be complete without or next wine- Chardonnay. The Meghini Chard was light, citrusy, effervescent and clean. Though it was not traditional and un-oaked this was one of the best Chardonnays I have had and much like a Finger Lakes Riesling this Chard makes me long for my trip a little further north to Napa.
Next up was the Sauvignon Blanc. This one was just shy of dry- right in the middle and well balanced. Another rather refreshing white wine I tasted just a hint of green apples. Even though this was my first local tasting of a Sauvignon Blanc compared to others it was middle of the road.
Another first for me comes on this tasting- La Nostra Uve. Described as a “great summer wine” La Nostra Uve is a 50/50 blend of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc and I loved it! It was slightly sweet (but not too much) and a totally different blend of flavors I have never had before. This wine is not traditional, not going to win any stuffy California wine awards but truly embodies the reason I started this blog and what I love about the back roads to beverage tasting.
Number five on the list was a full Syrah. This one had typical berry aroma and body with a spicy Syrah finish. Though it wasn’t the best Syrah I’ve had it wasn’t bad and a welcomed addition to any tasting.
Last but most certainly not least a King Cab. This Sauvignon was a bit earthy which was nice but a bit lighter and more mild than most (especially for the region). Though it wasn’t my favorite it’d be a nice one to start on if you’re having trouble with the dryness of robust reds.
I was very impressed with the friendly and knowledgeable staff, the beautiful building and La Nostra Uve but found a couple of the others lacking. All in al though a great experience and a 7 out of 10 for the Menghini Winery.
Stay tuned next week for the next Julian winery and have some killer Vino in the mean time!
Sunup Brewing Company
When we pulled up and walked into Sunup it looked like the perfect spot right off the bat- smaller building, small parking lot, relatively small seating area, and six Sunup brews on tap. We ordered a flight, some killer home-made humus and chips and dug in.
Starting things off was Stinger Pale ale. Golden color, floral and citrusy both to the nose and to the tongue, and though it was very drinkable the taste fell a little flat unfortunately.
As per the usual following the pale ale comes an IPA. Sunups Trooper IPA may be one of the best true IPAs I’ve had in a while. I don’t typically love them but Trooper was definitely well hopped, strong taste and aroma, but not too bitter and with a mild 6.2% abv it’s no surprise that Trooper’s their best seller.
Next up is the Hefeweizen. Though they do make one (Horizon Hefe) they were out of it at the time and were serving up Widmer Brothers Hefe. No complaints here, I love Widmer Bros, but next time through I’m going to have to give Horizon a try.
Following nicely was Awesome Amber Ale. Didn’t have the ‘Wow factor’ but certainly holds its own. Nothing stands out to my taste buds but I did enjoy the caramel and fruity undertones. One of my favorite styles and you can’t go wrong.
The next beer I tried was fantastic! Not only can the Lightrail Cream Ales taste stand by itself it’s made better by the fact that not a lot of brew masters do a cream ale and I love the deviation from the norm. At a light 4.9% abv it still was full of flavor, started crispy and finished smooth and creamy. I loved this beer and I love the addition of a cream ale to a tasting. Great job Sunup!
The last beer on the list was a Vanilla Porter. A great beer to follow the last, Sunups Vanilla Porter holds true to mild bitterness and roasted malts with the addition of just the right amount of vanilla bean undertones. Not at the top of the list but this one definitely doesn’t disappoint.
As with any tasting there’s some beer you like and some you don’t however, I was a bit disappointed they were out of their Hefeweizen. All in all great atmosphere, great food, good beer and a 7.8 out of 10 for Sunup Brewpub.
‘Til next time… Go check it one of the many places I’ve reviewed and let me know what you think.
Four Peaks (Round 2)
I thought since it had been a little while since we visited Four Peaks and I didn’t have any of the same beers this time (except one) it would be worth a second article. So, side note, if you didn’t read the first one, it’s archived on my facebook page since it’s been so long. We went to the original location on 8th street in Tempe this time around and I loved the feel of the bar and the atmosphere even more.
As I said it had been a while so I went with my old favorite Kilt Lifter first. I have to say I was supremely disappointed. Not sure if they changed the recipe or if I just got a bad batch that day but it wasn’t the Kilt Lifter I remember. I don’t want to jump to conclusions but maybe this has something to do with their recent sale to- rhymes with-mangeyser smusch? I’m not hating on them for selling out- if I had the opportunity to make that much money I might… IDK, shove someone that I already didn’t like into traffic?
Anyways! I dove right in to a full pint of Odelay. Odelay is their Mexican chocolate brown ale that was richer and thicker even than some stouts I’ve had. The chocolate was very subtle and the chili backbone was brilliantly sweet. I can’t say enough about this ale- seriously good!
I followed that with a pint of the Oatmeal English-Style Stout. This stout was a little on the thin side but I did enjoy the flavor. More toffee than I’m used to in a stout and nice toasted oat balance.
I finished with a glass of Heavy Lifter. The waitress called this a “Strong version of Kilt Lifter” but based on my memory, and in spite of it being 9.3% it kind of tasted like kilt lifter did three years ago.
I wouldn’t change the previous rating up or down (guess you’ll have to go read the other one) because I still love Four Peaks. Keep doing what you’re doing guys.
Four Peaks Brewing Company
A little while back I got the opportunity to head to Four Peaks Brewing Company. Let me start by saying I wasn’t able to visit their original location though I can’t imagine it being that much different than the great food, great beer, and great service my friends and I received at the Scottsdale location. Not only is Four Peaks an awesome micro brew but it is a full restaurant and bar. So, we order some apps, some killer pub grub and our own personal flights.
The first of eight beers on the list was their Kolsh style Sunbru. The creatively named Sunbru looks clear and light enough to enjoy on a sunny Phoenix afternoon (every afternoon?), aroma almost made me think of white wine and it taste was much like a smoother, less hoppy Pilsner. Though Sunbru’s not my personal favorite a GOLD at the 2012 World Beer Cup makes it well worth your time.
Next up was their Peach Ale. Not to take the easy road here, as I always hope to never do that, but I can not describe this beer any way other than the description that was in front of me “…a strong peach aroma but not an overpowering peach taste…”. I could taste peaches but not too much, very light, very sweet, and still delightful.
Third on the mainstay flight was the Hop Knot IPA. Also an award winner Hop Knot was relatively light in color and extremely hoppy both in aroma and taste. I was very impressed with this beer. The brew master adds five different hops at five different stages to allow for this strong taste and smell though manages to still have a not overly bitter and drinkable IPA- well done.
8th Street Ale didn’t follow Hop Knot well for me. An English style pale or bitter ale that was still floral and fruity to the nose though not well very balanced and far to bitter “for the sake of bitter”.
RAJ was next in line to be tasted. According to the waitress RAJ was crafted in the truest form of English style IPA’s from the 1800’s- and it tasted like it. RAJ is very aggressively hopped and just might be the most bitter beer I’ve tasted along the way. I can truly appreciate the quality of this powerful IPA though my taste buds cannot. So, if you’re into that style RAJ is one you simply can’t skip.
Down the home stretch comes a Hefeweizen. I’m still not quite sure if this is my favorite or not but I was instantly impressed and even taken off guard by the aroma and taste of banana. I almost didn’t believe it myself because my don’t live up to the expectation but after another taste – it was banana. Unfiltered, medium bodied, and a balanced semi-dry finish make this a very distinguishable place holder on this flight.
The second to last beer on this flight is one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted and THE best Scottish style I have ever tasted. Four Peaks flagship Kilt Lifter has been racking up awards for the past decade and I for one agree! Kilt Lifter grabs your eye with its deep red color, grabs your nose with sweet caramel and toffee, and grabs your taste buds with a light hoppyness, a strong maltyness, well balanced sweetness, a hint of smoke and a crisp, clean, dry finish. Unless there’s a Scotsman in a kilt in a basement in Edinburgh whipping up liquid gold you’d be hard pressed to best this beauty.
Finally, last but certainly not least, the Oatmeal Stout. This was a very good Oatmeal Stout- I tend not to like them as they are a bit more bitter than their Irish cousins. However, this one held true to bitterness yet finished creamy and left me wanting another.
I must first apologize as my cell phone was out of commission this particular weekend so I was unable to take pictures as I have at the other spots I’ve visited. Another collectable pint glass and a well earned 9 out of 10 for the Four Peaks Brewing Company.
‘Til next time… Slainte!
While home visiting family over Christmas I got the opportunity to visit the Brooklyn Brewery. The Brooklyn Brewery is not your typical mom and pop brewery (if there is such a thing?). You’ll find it nestled in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and a rapidly growing artistic culture.
As soon as we arrived, all I needed was a quick observation to point out that this was the largest brewing operation I have seen along my travels so far. They hold free guided tours every half hour from 11 to 5 for a great look into the brewing process and their establishment. I was with a larger group of friends and family for this one, so we didn’t end up taking the tour (next time for sure!).
I was rather surprised to find that flights or tastings are not available at all. This wasn’t better or worse, in my opinion, but still very different. However, drink tokens are available individually for $5 or 5 for $20, so in this case, rather than four ounce tastings bringing you through each beer from start to finish, you get to choose any (or all) of the ten beers on tap and jump right in!
I started off with the Brooklyn Brewery’s flagship beer: Brooklyn Lager. This one is pretty famous, has been around for a while, and it’s straight forward flavor is an obvious reason for national fame. For those of you who haven’t had this Lager it is malty and tasty in the middle with a bitter finish. I’ve always found this one very effervescent with a dry hopped flavor immediate to the tongue- I find it a little more bitter than most lagers (and even some pale ales) but not nearly to the degree of hoppy-ness of IPAs.
My next beer was their Scottish style Winter Ale. I was not overly impressed with this one… a sweet malt well balanced by hops but I found the overall flavor lacking in comparison to others. I moved on to what I found to be the most delicious and most impressive beer of the day- Sorachi Ace.
Traditionally beers and ales are brewed with a variety of different hops to bring unique styles, flavors and textures. Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace on the other hand uses a unique Sorachi Ace hop (developed in Japan) and makes it stand alone. The single hopped Sorachi Ace was flavorful, smooth, light and with just a hint of unfiltered bitterness I tasted malt, smelled lemon and instantly thought of summer.
I moved to their Cuvee La Boite which if not for loving Sorachi Ace so much would have been a definite favorite. Cuvee La Boite is full bodied and full flavored. It is smooth yet robust and in your face which only makes sense as it is aptly named as an ode to the spices used. Upon doing some research I discovered that the brew master used Mishmish # 33 (a blend of lemon, saffron and crystalized honey) from world renowned chef and “spice wizard” Lior Lev Sercarz as well as some other ingredients to create this truly masterful brew.
Finishing off this round was the Fire & Ice Porter, which proved to have subtle coffee and caramel notes with a decent smoky finish. I found this pleasantly smoky as smokiness tends to be left out of modern beers but it lacked flavor in other departments. I must admit that it was not my favorite Porter. It was a particularly tough sell after the previous two beers.
But wait, there’s more! As a special treat they offered a tasting of a special Bourbon Cask Ale brewed on site. This one was impressive in its brewing qualities and aromas but I didn’t love the taste. It was an obvious cask ale steeped in bourbon staves, yet tasted far too overpowering. I tend to love this style but this one was far too strong and I can honestly say I tasted nothing but bourbon.
I avoided some of the big IPA’s and a 3% “half” Pilsner on this occasion. I did however, as it was still early in the afternoon, “fall off the wagon” just a tad and drank my body weight in Sorachi Ace and Cuvee La Boite. I was met with some really awesome and some disappointing surprises but all in all give the Brooklyn Brewery an 8.6 out of 10
Cooperstown Beverage Trail (Part 2)
And we’re off! Previously the final stop along the trail, and now stop number four, is the Fly Creek Cider Mill. I was disappointed to find them closed for the season this time around. However, since I have been there before and don’t want to leave them out… Fly Creek has great hard cider of all different flavors ranging from different types of apples to strawberry and many more. Much like Cooperstown, Fly Creek is a bit more laid back and rather than taking you through a regimented tasting, the extremely friendly staff just lets you taste a little bit of whatever you want and…or, um, everything. However, for those of you who are not big fans of sweet or hard ciders in general, what truly allows this hidden gem to hold its own weight is the extensive country style gift shop, the hundreds of geese behind the shop (yes, geese) and incredibly delicious fudge. They seem to carry every flavor of fudge you could think of; available for sample and purchase at reasonable prices. I’ve never been a huge fan of hard ciders but if you are I can honestly say they have some of the best I have ever tasted. I give Fly Creek Cider Mill a 5.5 out of 10.
The fifth stop along the trail is the Rustic Ridge Winery. Now, as I stated before, I had never been to either of the final two stops. Having no memories of how things tasted or notions of what things might be like when I go there made this an exciting visit. As we pulled up, we saw two horses parked out from and were told this was rather commonplace. We walked up to the winery, and the small country cottage feel was immediate and even more evident once we walked through the door. A small, quaint bar, rustic wood décor and wine barrel tables were very welcoming.
They have eighteen listed wines all of which are their own products produced in Penn Yan, NY. I started with the Chardonnay which was relatively light for a chard. Very fruity and clean though this traditional oak born chard made me want to compare it to steel barrel chard experimentations I’ve tasted. My next taste was their semi-dry Riesling (am I beginning to sound like a creature of habit?). This semi-dry is a classic Finger Lakes Riesling; flowery aroma, clear and pure fruit taste. I won’t go as far as to say the best Riesling I have ever had but it was very, very good and reminded me of why many Finger Lakes Rieslings have given the Rhine a run for its money and been ranked amongst the best in the entire world. There was another Riesling on the list and, as you could have guess, I tried that one too. This semi-sweet Riesling was, as its name suggests, noticeably sweeter. Similar aroma and flavor yet a bit sweeter, which makes me think it was a little later of a harvest. At the time, I didn’t think to ask. This one wasn’t too, too sweet or much of a deviation from tradition but still couldn’t compare to its dryer counterpart. For my next taste I tried the Sunlight White. This one for lack of a better word was just tasty; I could taste the Niagara grapes and other fruits with a very nice bouquet. I moved on from my whites to their Wildcat Rose. This Rose wasn’t all together sweeter or dryer than most, it was smooth and very balanced yet, one of the most powerful grape tastes and smells I have ever had. Rather than tasting like fermented alcohol or a hint of spices or even other fruits this one smelled and tasted of pure grape. One word? Refreshing. Finally the Black Dog. Black Dog is a semi-dry red blend, of what I’m not sure, probably closely related to a cab franc. This one was smooth, flavorful and very pleasant- great for pairing with heartier foods (like you would a beer) such as a burger or maybe even wings. This was a very cozy and inviting new little place with great atmosphere and wine. A couple of weeks later I was reminded of the warm inviting winery as I stopped a bottle of wine with Rustic Ridge’s complimentary stopper. Overall, I give Rustic Ridge Winery a 7.5-8 out of 10.
The final stop along the trail is Butternuts Beer & Ale. I was amused by the fact that when we entered, it was clear that this was not an attempt to create a rustic atmosphere in a renovated barn… no- both the bar and brewery are literally in an old barn. The girl behind the bar was very knowledgeable about the process, their beer, and even other previous stops along they way, her expertise and the unfinished concrete floor made it a great tasting.
She started off with their Heinnieweisse. A Hefeweizen with the same cloudiness, aroma and tart finish as normal yet a sweeter middle than I’m used to. Nice try but not my favorite thus far. Though the next beer, an accidental Cherry Weis, was (this probably doesn’t make any sense) fantastic! A mixture of the previous hef and cherry pure. It was a great divergence from traditional cherry wheat; not too sweet but just enough flavor and aroma- delicious. Moved on to their most popular beer the Porkslap Pale Ale brewed with English crystal malt. It was buttery with a distinct but not overly brash hoppy-ness and a touch of ginger that I smelled but was unable to taste. This one, definitely not “run of the mill”. Next was the Snapper head India Pale Ale. This was another milder IPA; not at all in the west coast style- much smoother and very drinkable. So, I suppose I couldn’t put off letting this secret out any longer but, even though I will never turn one down and truly do appreciate their beer quality, IPA’s are far from my favorite beer style (much to the chagrin of hopheads everywhere I’m sure, sorry). That being said, I really liked Snapper head, what it lacked in boldness it made up for in drinkability without flavor loss. Next up was their Scottish import. Not your typical style as it was far from a Red Ale but more like a sweet Brown Ale. This was full of flavor and though not the most impressive of Scottish style beers I’ve had I still enjoyed this one a great deal. Next on the list was their Pumpkin Porter. I was very impressed with this one. I tend to like the idea of pumpkin beers yet, much like pumpkin pie; about half way through I’m sick of it. This one on the other hand, had a very mild pumpkin taste, just enough to add a touch of flavor and sweetness- a fine Porter. Last but not least was their Moo thunder Milk Stout. Moo Thunder is much like a traditional milk stout; sweeter because of the lactose and sMOOther (anything…no? nothing) than other Stouts. Not much of a roasted aroma but a nice finish. So, I’m out the door with some more sweet coasters and fresh off tasting some micro-brew from a can (surprising I know) giving Butternuts Beer & Ale an 8 out of 10.
PHEW! It’s a tall order to tackle in one day (so start early), but it’s a ton of fun and well worth your time. Even though your liver may not thank you after dozens of delicious micro brews and wines, your palate definitely will. Throughout you journey don’t forget to get your pamphlet stamped at each location because at the end of your tour you get a free complimentary beer or wine glass (your choice) with each of the establishments etched on it. Overall, I grade the trail as a whole 9.9 out of 10. Nobody’s perfect but as a group these guys come really close. There is literally something for everyone along the way.
Just remember, everyone has their own different opinions, preferences and palates; this is just one man’s honest and experienced one. So, I hope you liked this article in review and I hope to hear about your different experiences on the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. Until next time, try not to COMPLETELY fall off the wagon, and enjoy all of your tasting whether a hidden gem or a major brew on both the back roads and the bustling main streets.