Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

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Another Totally Craft Beer night… at Total Wine

I love how Chris Fairchild does the beer education nights at Total Wine in St. Petersburg, FL!

Chris Fairchild, Total Wine St Pete

As a new Certified Cicerone, Chris brings both knowledge and first hand tasting experience to the classes, and it is obvious that you don’t have to do too much arm-twisting to get him to enjoy a good pint.  (While Chris admits to being a wine lover first, with time and maturity he might gravitate over from the “dark side”.  LOL!)

It does make a difference to take a class from someone who actually enjoys the beverage and is committed to craft beer (as opposed to someone who either doesn’t drink or simply slings beer at a local bar no matter what’s on tap.)  That’s why I came back for class #2 last Thursday night:  “Beyond Pilsners and Pales.”  (See prior post from Belgian beer education night.)

Once again it was well worth the meagre $15. (cover) charge for the class.

A group of about 15 local craft beer newbies was treated to a full expanse of 13 (yes a baker’s dozen!) craft brew samples that ranged from the rare “Ola Dubh” by Harviestoun in Scotland (an 8% ABV whiskey cask conditioned ale that retails at $11.99 for a 12 oz bottle!) to the Weybacher “Blithering Idiot” Barley Wine (11.1% ABV) to the Lagunitas “Hop Stoodpid” Double IPA (8% ABV).  A geographic and palate pleasing 2 hour tour, complete with gourmet cheeses and Guiness-marinated pork ribs (yum!)

Here’s the highlights, my tasting notes, and a slide show of what we imbibed:

  • Duvel Belgian Golden Ale, Bottle Conditioned Belgian Stong Pale Ale, by Duvel
    (8.5% ABV)
    Belgium
    750 ml bottle
    Pale Straw color, fizzy (more carbonated than any of the others we tried)
    Perfumy, sparkling, I tasted Chamomile (like the tea)
    Reminded me of a Perfume-like Hoegarden beer
    Chris remarked that this one would be well paired with the Lobster Cream Spread (I agree that worked well!)
  • “Bam Biere” Bottle Conditioned Farmhouse Saison Ale, by Jolly Pumpkin(4.5% ABV)
    Dexter, Michigan
    750 ml bottle
    Copper color, cloudy – SMELLS sour – reminded me of a “wet puppy”!
    Tasted flat and I had a hard time getting over the smell (it was the talk of our side of the class!)
    Chris suggested that this would be good to pair with goat cheese and apples… but I just did not like this beer (second from last in my books!)
  • “Muffin Top” Belgian Style Tripel IPA by Clown Shoes
    (10% ABV)
    Ipswich, MA
    750 ml bottle
    Gold and cloudy, nice hoppy IPA smell
    Tasted perfumy and floral with caramel notes, but not my favorite IPA of the night (it came in 4th favorite and after all it was an IPA)

    Loved the label image!
  • “Maibock” Bottle conditioned Maibock, Smuttynose
    (somewhere around 7% ABV… site doesn’t even show this!)
    Portsmouth, NH
    750 ml bottle
    Gold and clear with bubbles (carbonated)
    Not really memorable (I didn’t even take notes on this one!)
  • “Arrogant Bastard” American Strong Ale, Stone Brewing
    (7.2% ABV)
    San Diego, CA
    750 ml bottle
    Amber colored with a pine-like aroma
    More head than the previous beers, molasses flavoring
    My 3rd favorite of the night (behind Hop Stoopid and Bells Hopslam!) – every Stone beer has a distinctive smell (at least to me) that you “know” is from Stone brewing
    I agreed with Chris that this paired well with the aged white cheddar they provided.
  • “Ola Dubh” Whisky Cask Conditioned Old Ale by Harviestoun
    (8% ABV)
    Scotland
    11.2 oz bottle
    Color of root beer (darker brown) and creamy consistency (legs!)
    Distinctive scotch aroma with a nutty, woodsy, toasted taste
    I’m not a scotch drinker so I wasn’t smitten with this one – but the scotch drinkers in the group LOVED IT!
    Chris suggested it would be a luxury dessert to pour this one over vanilla ice cream (at $11.99 for this small bottle, I would prefer other indulgences!)
  • “Trois Pistoles” Belgian Strong Dark Ale by Unibroue
    (9% ABV)
    Chambly, PQ (Province de Quebec) Canada
    750 ml bottle
    Dark caramel to brown color with “legs”
    Definitely a Belgian influence to this one – and it smells distinctively like a Unibroue (which is a good thing!  Has a similar essence to other Unibroue’s like Blanche de Chambly!)
    Perfumy and floral – I liked this but I was in an IPA mood so it ranked #5 of the night (only because it wasn’t an IPA…) Has a rich taste that lingers – Yum!
    Pair with dark chocolate (high cocoa content – I’d splurge for the 75% or above dark!) or brownies…
  • “Guiness Foreign Extra” Export Stout – not the draft one – Guiness Brewing
    (7.5% ABV)
    Dublin, Ireland
    11.2 oz bottle
    Dark brown to black coloring with a different aroma (more sweet) than regular Guiness – reminded me of a British pub smell
    I am not a great Guiness fan – but I could definitely enjoy a pint of this one!  It reminded me of an expresso-lite (maybe an “Americano”) coffee with an aftertaste that reminded me of London Pride beer.  Definitely “meaty” and would go well with boiled pot roast or boiled steak!
  • Blithering Idiot” Barley Wine, Weyerbacher
    (11.1% ABV)
    Easton, PA
    12 oz bottle
    Honey/Caramel/ hint of pink-orange color
    Fruity with a sour tart aroma
    Aftertaste that reminded me of a ripe banana, and definitely had wine essence
    Hibiscus color with a distinctive, sweet taste (I cannot recall it, but I’ve tasted it before) but not like the lambics or fruit beers
    I would order a 6 oz pour rather than a pint of this because it was “just too sweet” for me!
  • “Hop Stoopid” Imperial Double IPA , Lagunitas
    (8% ABV)
    Petaluma, CA
    750 ml bottle
    Pale straw coloration, clear
    Cleaner smelling than other IPA’s but with a IPA nose and good head to it
    Nice IPA aftertaste!  My favorite of the night!
    Paired nicely with the sharp English cheddar cheese!
  • “Dogzilla” Black IPA, Laughing Dog
    (6.9% ABV)
    Sandpoint, ID
    750 ml bottle
    Black in color with a large “head”
    Thank goodness it tasted better than it smelled – which didn’t take much!  OMG – I could barely get this past my nose and it was definitely a conversation starter – we argued whether it smelled more like baby oil or band aids being ripped off skin or wet dog or a combination. We finally labelled it “girl repellant”!
    I had purchased a bottle last week but it is now a gift for my son.  I wouldn’t buy it again even with the IPA label.
  • Bells “Hopslam”, Bells Brewing
    (10% ABV)
    Kalamazoo, MI
    12 oz bottle
    Golden color, with Fresh citrus notes and definitely hopped!
    My second favorite of the night – I’d definitely buy a 6 pack of this one.  Nice to end on a “high note”

For upcoming education nights – visit Total Wine (www.totalwine.com) and click on their calendar.  Enjoy the slide show below and hope your next pint is a good one!

Respectfully,

An unOfficial Beer Goddess.

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The Reverend – Belgian Style Quadrupel Ale

“Created by God, feared by Satan, loved by all”

As quoted on The Reverend by Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, CO label (ABV 10%)

Avery Reverend Belgian Style Quad Ale

“This could become one of my favorite beers – if only it was available in Florida” said my anonymous guest-taster who was over for a Sunday afternoon tasting.  I’d agree!  I had the good karma to taste three different Avery blends at the Beer Bloggers Conference in Boulder a couple of weeks ago, but this brew is by far the best I’ve sampled.  The Reverend comes in a 22 oz bottle and not yet available this far east (to my knowledge)… but I’ll be on the lookout for Avery in Florida (apparently J.J. Taylor distributors in Tampa carries it – just haven’t found it yet!)

Here’s my unOfficial observations:

  • Nose: Amazingly, the aroma with this brew is unobtrusive and faint, almost like a faint sweet floral perfume – and does not give credence to the amazing burst of flavor that comes with the first taste.
  • Weight and color: A translucent coppery-red that reflects rather than allows light through.  When you first taste The Reverend – respect is immediately given – there is a sweetness that hides the alcohol content – who would have believed that in the mug was a 10% brew!  Who knew Belgians could be so tasty!
  • Enjoyment factor: Clearly an award-winning brew in the making!  I guess I should have sensed royalty in the Red Metallic foil around the cap!  The Reverend inspires confidence and is malty and amber-like with a caramel flavoring but not hoppy.  Reminiscent of my Canadian upbringing as it reminded me of MacIntosh toffee chunks but much more lingering flavor.
  • Recommendation: If you like beer at all – especially if you like craft beers with a body and soul – you’ll love The Reverend.  A thumbs-up 8 out of 10 from a generalist point of view, but my guest would give it a full 10 out of 10 (with the hopes that either Avery will ship some brews out to this outpost in Florida or that a local source is discovered!)

Until the next pint,

an unOfficial Beer Goddess.

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Pumpkin is not just for Pie Anymore!

2010 hails as the year for the most pumpkin flavored beers ever!  No less than 20 of the squash infused brews exist in the US and Canada alone this year… and I, for one, can’t wait to sample them all!

I’ve read a number of recent blogs featuring pumpkin beer samplings and reviews – and last weekend sparked a flurry of activity.

oktoberfestPersonally, I spent the weekend volunteering for the American Heart Association and then I poured beer for several hours at the 1st annual St. Petersburg Oktoberfest craft beer night. On of the favorites: Brooklyn Brewery’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale was an early sellout!

My personal favorite pumpkin beers are always on tap and I always find it amazing how different is texture and flavor of  the same brew when it is on draught instead of in the bottle.  Last evening I had the privilege of finding my favorite pumpkin beer, Shipyard Brewery’s Pumpkinhead, on tap in Hyde Park in Tampa, FL.  What a smooth concoction – with hints of nutmeg aftertaste.  The bottled version just doesn’t measure up to the smoothness of the just poured out of the keg version!

I prefer the Pumpkin flavored beers to the Oktoberfest labeled beers – simply because I like the infused pumpkin flavors and I love pumpkin pie.  (Now to get the whipped cream into the mix may take a brewing miracle!)

In respect for the seasoned brew bloggers who had a head start in sampling this season’s bounty of pumpkin beers, I present a sampling of their posts here: (click on the image to go to the blog)

Beer Info – Pumpkin beer ratings

 

Drink Craft Beer – Pumpkin beer Taste-off

Saveur.com article:
Brewing Autumnal Magic in Pumpkin Beers

Beer Blitz– Pumpkin Beer Page

 

 

Beer Advocate – Pumpkin Beer Page

 

Lautering Pumpkin beer post – Pumpkin Beer Posting

 

 

Catholic Drinkie
– A female perspective on Pumpkin Beers

What is YOUR Favorite Pumpkin Beer?


Happy autumn and happy imbibing!

– The Unofficial Beer Goddess
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3 Brasseurs Brewpub – Montreal, Canada…

3 Brasseurs brewpubI visited the 3 Brasseurs brewpub last week in downtown Montreal (there are five locations in the Montreal area) and asked my waitress if she could tell me when the brew master would be in, and whether I could interview him about his brewing choices (in hopes of publishing his responses on the Know Your Brewer – KYB blog).  Her response totally caught me off guard and illustrated a little known fact about businesses in French Canada.  She told me that the brewer would be in the next morning – early – but that he wouldn’t be able to give me any insights because the choice of what to brew is made by restaurant owners – IN FRANCE!  She added that he might be willing to talk to me about what he brews as a home brewer (they have choices at home) – just not for the brewpub.  (I realized then that the “early morning hours” were likely to accommodate his bosses’ hours in France.)

WOW!  I couldn’t believe that brewing choices came down from – France – for a Canadian set of restaurants – in the 21st Century?  I ignorantly thought that these practices went out with Canadian confederation in 1867, but I realize that many multinational companies headquartered in France (with divisions in the U.S.) function in the same way.

I enjoyed a nice pint of their local IPA with my meal, but I never returned to interview the brewer.  It just didn’t make sense when he simply followed the rules as set by his superiors in France.  Perhaps in a future visit to France I can arrange a visit to 3 Brasseurs headquarters if such one exists.

Meanwhile, it’s a brewpub worth visiting if you are in Montreal – they feature a good choice of local microbrews brewed on site as well as French wines and a good menu featuring a specialty dish like pizza.  Bon appetit!

Have a good (tasting) weekend!

The (un)official beer goddess.

Heartland Brewery Seasonals… Wildflower Wheat Ale is a Gem

One of my favorite haunts in NYC is Heartland Brewery (multiple locations) in the summertime for their Apricot Ale!  I went there with my son and daughter during a Manhattan visit yesterday and discovered a wider variety of summer seasonals than in several years.

Here’s the list of new brews for the summertime:

  • Buffalo Bock: Delicately kilned specialty malts lend a mellow sweetness and a touch of toasted caramel to this smooth, mahogany colored lager. 5.9% alc/vol.
  • NY State Wildflower Wheat: This light, crisp golden ale is made with New York clover honey, lavender, and a selection of NY malts and hops. Served with a lemon wedge for a bright floral nose and a light, crisp finish. 4.9% alc/vol.
  • Summertime Apricot Ale: A succulent summer wheat ale with a light, fruity sweetness and a pleasant bouquet of fresh apricots. 5.5% alc/vol.
  • Empire Premium: Pale golden with a crisp, dry finish, this traditional Czech lager will quench your thirst and invigorate your senses.

A couple of other pale ales were also on tap but not listed on the website (my photos of the list didn’t do the names justice!)

The grand surprise of the afternoon surpassed my traditional Apricot Ale favorite:  The smooth and almost hefeweisen unpasteurized taste of the NY State Wildflower Ale.  If you like hefeweisen’s and blondish wheat beers (not quite Belgian!) be sure to try this new seasonal.  But hurry in because when the supply runs out in a couple of months, it’s gone for the season.

To better pints and more tastings!

Until next time… I remain the unofficial beer goddess.


Let me know what you think – have you been to Heartland Breweries lately?

Cheers!

Is it too late to catch up on beer tasting?

There’s a saying that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know – and boy, oh boy – do I ever feel that way today!  I did research on all the various craft and micro brew blogs and websites and am simply amazed at number of blogs, pages, postings, opinions, yada yada  on craft beers.  It is overwhelming!

And despite this – I still know more about beer than 99% of the people I know or meet in my US and international travels (of either gender).  In the U.S. the major lager brewers (Miller, Michelob, Anheuser-Busch, Coors) still dominate the market amongst my peers (who are typically highly educated middle-aged professionals!)  Whenever I go to a local pub with friends, it’s common for the beer of choice to be Budweiser or Miller Lite!  But slowly, my “beer snobbery” as they call it is starting to rub off on colleagues who now imbibe such radical choices as Hoegarden.

It’s also fairly uncommon for a female to like beer period.  Whenever I visit a brewpub in a city where I happen to be working for the week (I do training and consulting in my day job), it is seldom that I see women enjoying craft beers.  In fact, usually I find that women who come in typically drink wine even when there are hundreds of choices of craft beers to choose from. A common lament from women is that they simply don’t like the taste of beer (as if it is a single flavor!)

My goal for this blog is simply to share and record the new beers I find in my travels and provide links so that others (like me) in Florida and around the world can try new tastes and maybe visit some of the great places I find!

I know I’ve got a lot of catching up to do in the beer blogging world, but I take solace in the fact that I enjoy beer tastings, brew fests, and simply talking beer.  So, while I’m no longer a 20-something beer sampler, I do have an enjoyable and exciting life of travel, work, friends, and tasting nights.

Let me know what you think – is it too late to catch up on beer tasting?  Is there hope to become a beer blogger of any status?

Cheers!

Summer Brewfests…

One of the reasons to love summer is the number of Brewfests that emerge nation-wide.  Last week it was Philadelphia Brewery Week and I discovered just how many craft brewers are in the vicinity!

Then Saturday night, I was part of The Florida Aquarium’s SudsFest 2010 to raise money for programs and events put on by the not-for-profit Florida Aquarium in Tampa, FL.  Can you believe in the once Anheuser Busch stronghold of Tampa Bay, we now have Pepin Distributors bringing in over 35 craft brews from across the nation?

Here’s a sampling of the “new” beers on the Florida menu (from the SudsFest Beer Menu) which I know are available at both Publix (the larger ones) and also at Total Wine: (note: ABV means Alcohol By Volume and is expressed as a %)

Obviously absent was any appearance by Sam Adam’s Brewing Company or Rogue Breweries (also available in Florida grocery stores!)

It’s so great now that the former lobbyists who were so intent on keeping Florida an Anheuser state are now less powerful and we can finally join the nation in raising a craft brewery toast to the microbrewery industry!

This weekend, I venture to NYC for their annual Brewery Festival on Governor’s Island.

Until next week,

Beer Goddess…

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