3 BearS Brewery

**2019 Edit- No longer in business

(Bangkok, Thailand)

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!

Craftwork Namsan and The Table Brewing Company

(Jongno, Seoul, SK)

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.

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 Han’s and Hop Mori Brewing

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.

Geonbae!

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.

Black Bear Winery

(Chenango Forks, NY)

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.

Pong Dang Craft Beer Co.

(Itawewon, Seoul, SK)

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.

Water Street Brewing and Galaxy Brewing

(Binghamton, NY)

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.

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 and Bedell Cellars (at Corey Creek)

(Greenport (Long Island), NY)

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.