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Monday, December 9, 2013


On The Road (Again, Again)
-Ron gets Revolutionary in Chicago
-We Find a Mexican Beer With Hops - In South Carolina, No Less
-WOB is coming to Destiny - OMG!

Here at BOTB we have an agenda. That agenda is to promote craft beer. We are located in Central New York near Syracuse (Go Orange!!) so we like to shine a spotlight on local breweries as much as we can. Having said that, we love to check out craft brews from across the country. Distribution of craft beers is a fickle thing. Unlike the mega-breweries (Bud, Miller, Coors) which are universally distributed throughout the US and beyond, most craft breweries do not have the clout (i.e. money) to get their beers distributed beyond a particular region. You can walk into any bar in the country and be pretty much assured that they will have a plethora of InBev products, as well as Miller/Coors. But try to find Ithaca Brewing's Flower Power in Florida, or Cigar City's Jai Alai in Idaho. I don't think so. A relative few (Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams) are able to distribute nationwide and make their way into the big chain restaurants, but that leaves a vast array of great beers out there that never make it to our part of the country. Worse still, never make it to our taste buds. Ergo, when we travel, we enjoy seeking out these regional treasures and giving them a little shout-out here.

Recently, Ron and Vicky took a trip that wended its way through Chicago and ended up in Myrtle Beach, SC, where they met up with Les and me. While there, Ron picked up Sweetwater IPA and I grabbed some Aviator HogWild IPA, both of which will be reviewed later.

While in Chicago, Ron filed the following review of Revolution Brewpub.

You Say You Want a Revolution

While in Chicago, Vicky and I had the good fortune of stopping at Revolution Brewpub in Logan Square. They have a production brewery a couple blocks away that provides them with their flagship beers and a smaller brewery within the brewpub that concocts the seasonal and specialty beers. A tour of the brewpub facility left me with a feeling that the brewers really enjoy their jobs and have a good sense of their ingredients. Each style of beer well represents that style without being "over the top." I started out with a pint of Red Skull, an Imperial Red Ale with whole Cascade hops, then dry hopped with Citra and Cascade hops. It had a nice big hops aroma, but the taste was balanced with caramel sweetness. Vicky got a Workingwoman Brown, a hopped brown ale. I gave it a thumbs up as well. Since we we were going to the Art Institute after our visit to the brewpub, I knew I couldn't have a pint of each beer they have on tap. I did have samples of: Anti-Hero IPA, Coup D'Etat (a Belgian farmhouse style saison), Double Fist (a double pale ale), Georgia Gene (a German-style Rauchbier), Loganberry, Oktoberfest Revolution, Chicago Smoke and Penguin Hops.

The Penguin Hops was interesting in that it was brewed with an unknown hops variety grown at the nearby Shedd's Aquarium. The proceeds of the sale of this beer are turned back to the aquarium.
I would have loved to spend the day with pints of all but the Loganberry and Oktoberfest - not that they weren't good, but not my styles. In addition to their fine lineup of taps, there are 65 bottled beers and 9 ciders and fruit beers in the coolers.
Bacon Fat Popcorn
As for the food... We started with an appetizer, a large bowl of "Bacon Fat Popcorn." Popcorn was popped in bacon fat, topped with crumbled bacon and shredded cheese. It was so delicious, but then the meal. I got the market fish and Vicky had the smoked trout salad - both outstanding. If all that wasn't enough, the desserts were yet to come. I had a pecan blonde brownie with bourbon ice cream and butterscotch drizzled over the top. Vicky had the orange cheesecake on a bacon/gingersnap crust topped with orange marmalade. Both desserts were decadent.

Let me tell you, it is a must stop when you go to Chicago. The beers, the food, and the staff will leave you with fond memories for a very long time.

A Mexican Beer With Hops
 (And We Don't Mean With Jumping Beans)

So, when The Most Interesting Man In The World tells us he doesn't normally drink beer, but when he does, he drinks Dos Equis, why should that make a real beer aficionado want to run out and buy Dos Equis? He just told us he doesn't really drink beer. I mean, really, if someone said, "I never drink wine, but I think you should buy that reddish colored one over there," would any self-respecting oenophile take that person's advice? So why should I listen to a guy who admits he rarely drinks beer? Sheesh! That commercial has bugged me from the first time it aired. There is more than a hint of snobbery as the guy looks down his aristocratic nose at the riffraff known as "beer drinkers." And I, as a proud, card-carrying member of said riffraff, resent that. Truth be told, with the explosion of craft beers, there is now such a wide and rich variety of styles and tastes in beer, why would you settle for anything as pedestrian as Dos Equis? It may be better than, say, Corona, but is that saying much? We cerevisaphiles turn our collective noses up to such nonsense. Especially now that I have discovered that there is indeed good beer to be found South of the border!

While in South Carolina of all places, Ron and I discovered a terrific beer out of Mexico. We were in a seafood restaurant called Carlos' And Charlie's and checking their beer list. There wasn't a lot to choose from but then we saw something called Day of the Dead IPA. We gave it a shot and we were pleasantly surprised. Most beers out of Mexico follow the typical light lager profile found in the mega-brews in the US. As I later found out, Day of the Dead Brewery is:

-The first fully developed, fully accessible craft beer to come out of Mexico
-Mexican owned, Mexican brewed
-Located 100 yards from the US border in Tacate, Mexico
-Capacity of 75,000 barrels with plenty of room to expand.

Their IPA is 6.8% ABV and an impressive 83 IBUs. It's brewed with 2 Row, Munich, Carapils, and Caramel malts plus Centennial, Cascade, Fuggle, Saaz, Goldings, and Willamette hops.
It's a terrific beer. Nicely balanced despite the high IBUs. They also produce an Amber Ale, a Pale Ale, a Hefeweizen, a Blonde Ale and a Porter.

WOB at Destiny!

Strolled past World of Beers site at Destiny USA in Syracuse the other day. It's pretty much ready to roll. There was a group of future employees, apparently, inside getting schooled in the finer points of beer. Opening day is set for December 16th. Just took a look at their line-up of beers and it's pretty impressive. Check it out here:
The bottled beer selection is unparalleled - broken down by country, and then in the US, by state. 37 beers (and cider) on tap. 
May have to do a little extra Christmas shopping at the mall starting the 16th.

(Bring Your Favorite Beer) 

Most everyone has a favorite beer. Whether it's Bud or Miller Lite or a beer that actually has hops and malt in it, most beer drinkers have that default beer they grab when they just want a good beer. So we decided this month to have  a "favorite beer" competition at the BOTB November meeting. This created a bit of a dilemma: there are now so many good beers out there it is tough to choose the favorite. Add to this the fact that we really didn't want to bring a bunch of beers we've already rated. As a result, we ended up bringing beer we really liked but hadn't rated. Otherwise we might have ended up having, say, four or five Flower
Powers, one of my personal favorites. Some of us had been traveling and brought back a tasty brew we discovered, while others of us actually followed the original premise. As a result, we had seven darn good beers without a loser in the bunch.

Now, we all had a pony in the race, so to speak, since we brought something we had personally endorsed as a top notch brew, so we figured we'd better go back to our old blind tasting model and see where the chips fell in the end.
The order of finish will be disclosed at the end, and the tasting order was random.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed this blog that all are IPAs!

Just Beer Project - Alchemy and Science,  Burlington, VT
An independently operating subsidiary of Boston Beer Company

The Beer Facts: STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 4.8%; IBUs: 45; MALTS: 2-Row Malted Barley, Bohemian Floor Malted Barley, Honey Malt; HOPS: Chinook, Ahtanum, Citra, Cascade. OF INTEREST: Just Beer's goal is to brew good craft beer that is under 5% ABV.

What the Brewer Says: "It's not 2,000 IBUs. The hops weren't harvested from the grounds of a temple in the heart of a jungle that you've never heard of. This beer won't change your attitude.We're not trying to scare you or numb your tongue. You just drink it. It tastes great. Just IPA."

Color: Golden honey

Pour: Decent off-white head

Aroma: hoppy

Body: Medium

Taste: There are notes of licorice, a little barley, and a hint of grapefruit. 

Overall Impression: Midway between "I could drink this: and "Can't get enough."

Comments: "I'd drink this during a football game; I detect a bit of a licorice/horehound taste: There is a nice aftertaste; It's balanced; There's not a big malt taste; It has a clean finish; It seems like a session beer; The taste on the end makes you want to have another - sort of a "re-taste" session beer; It would be a good lunch beer, when you would still be good for the afternoon; A lot can be said about this beer..."

Hog Wild IPA
Aviator Brewing Company, Faquay-Varina, NC

The Beer Facts: STYLE: IPA; ABV: 6.7%; IBUs: 50; SRM: 5; MALTS: Pale Ale and Vienna; HOPS: Chinook, Columbus, Cascade - Dry hopped with Magnum, Williamette, and Amarillo.

What the Brewer Says: "...A very hoppy and refreshing ale."

Color: Golden Honey

Pour: A very nice head, with decent retention.

Aroma: Pretty malty with a little spice

Body: Better than medium

Taste: Well toward bitter. It has notes of malt, bread, citrusy hops and a little nut taste.

Overall Impression: Nearly all the way to "Can't get enough."

Comments: "It seems to have a higher alcohol content than the previous sample; It has a good malt backbone; It hits all the notes; This is really good - I like it; I'd like to be able to drink, and drink, and drink this; It has a nice bitter finish."

60 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware

The Beer Facts: STYLE: IPA; ABV: 6.0%; IBUs: 60; MALTS: NA; HOPS: Blend of Northwest hops

What the Brewer Says: "60 Minute is brewed with a slew of great Northwest hops. A powerful but balanced East Coast IPA with a lot of citrusy hop character. It's the session beer for hardcore enthusiasts!"

Color: Golden honey.

Pour: Much better than "Decent" head, but not quite Guinness class

Aroma: Light hops aroma.

Body: A bit less than medium.

Taste: On the bitter side of balanced. There are notes of bread and nuts.

Overall Impression: "I could drink this"

Comments: "It's a little carbonated; I get a little bit of a pilsner vibe; You get a little flavor at the front - then sail right through to the end; It reminds me of Saranac Pale Ale; There are no strong notes of anything; It's not a big beer; It doesn't knock my socks off, but it is a decent beer."

Centennial IPA
Founder Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, MI

The Beer Facts: STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.2%; IBUs: 65; MALTS: NA; HOPS: Centennial (I assume); OF NOTE: This beer will soon be available in 12-pack cans.

What the Brewer Says: "Get ready to bask in the glory of the frothy head's floral bouquet. Relish the citrus accents from the abundance of dry hopping. This one's sweet, yet balanced. Malty undertones shake hands with the hop character for a finish that never turns too bitter."

Color: Amber/red

Pour: A high, off-white colored head that quickly dissipates.

Aroma: Spicy/hoppy

Body: A bit beyond medium.

Taste: Leans to the bitter, with strong notes of malt to balance it out. Tastes of bread and toffee were also detected.

Overall Impression: "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "That is a nice, full-flavored beer; It stays with you; There is a nice, strong malt backbone; It explodes in your mouth; And it stays right with you; Man, I like this; It is certainly not a lawn mower beer; I'd call it balanced - with strong alcohol taste." 

Sweetwater IPA
Sweetwater Brewing Company, Atlanta, Georgia

The Beer Facts: STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.3%; IBUs: 65; MALT: 2-Row, Munich, Wheat, 70/80; HOPS: Chinook, Cascade, Columbus - finishes with Simcoe, US Golding; AWARDS: Best IPA in the Country - Judges Choice AJC, March '09.

What the Brewer Says: "This mammoth India Pale Ale is loaded with intense hop character and subjected to an extensive dry-hopping process. Our IPA is unfiltered, leavimg all the natural flavors intact. The Beer You've Been Training For."

Color: Unfiltered amber

Pour: Very large off-white head that dissipates quickly.

Aroma: A little yeast aroma, but you really have to breathe in deep to get it

Body: Medium to full

Taste: Citrusy hops with notes of bread and grapefruit.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough

Comments: "This is good; WWGD (What Would Gerry Do?) Answer - Open another one; You could have several of these; It's a little floral - almost as much as Flower Power; This is a good year 'round beer; If it is one that is sold around here, I will definitely buy it; It has the taste of a West Coast IPA."

Southern Tier IPA
Southern Tier Brewing Co., Lakewood, NY

The Beer Facts: STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 7.3%; IBUs: "Medium-high"; MALTS: 4 varieties; HOPS: 4 varieties; YEAST: Ale yeast

What the Brewer Says: "The India Pale Ale we brew is our version of a brewing legacy ... (an) intrepid ale, triple-hopped on its journey to your gleass for a truly aromatic experience."

Color: Golden light honey/copper

Pour: Generous off-white head

Aroma: Nice hoppy aroma

Taste: Well towardthe bitter/hoppy end of the sectrum with notes of citrus/grapefruit, toffee and pine.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "OMG; Oh that's good; It has a spiciness to it; It hangs int the mouth; It has a complex taste - it runs the gamut of flavors as you let it sit on your tongue; There is a taste that stays with you; This is one delicious beer - you could easily drink this one, and another just like it; This is a really good, good beer."

Middle Ages X Double Indian Pale Ale
Middle Ages Brewery, Syracuse, NY

The Beer Facts: STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 10.00%; IBUs: Not listed but described as "an intense hop bitterness."; HOPS: Ten addition of American hops.

What the Brewer Says: "Brewed in the style of an American Double IPA in celebration of our 10th anniversary. This beer is golden in color, has medium to full body, intense hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Ten additions of American hops are made throughout the brewing process."

Color: Golden to amber

Pour: Little to Decent off-white head

Aroma: Banana and clove

Body: Well toward full

Taste: Banana initially with a nice hop bitterness

Overall Impression: Between "I could drink this" and "Can't get enough."

Comments: "This is a big one; You shouldn't operate machinery while drinking this beer; It has lots of alcohol, for sure, but it is balanced so it hides the alcohol; It just sits on my tongue; It tastes like a Middle Ages beer; It is English Ale-ish; I really like it; The bittering lasts through the swallowing; I like it a lot, but I couldn't drink a lot of it; It is very strong; It tastes like a "hunting club" beer."

And the Winner Is...

As mentioned previously, there were no losers in this bunch. Any one of them would be a welcome sight on any tap. But we set out with the idea that we would see which was our collective favorite. Once we had tried all seven but before we knew what they were, each of us ranked the beers 1 - 7 with #1 as our favorite etc. In this manner, as with golf,  low score wins. Some of us tried to keep notes throughout, others preferred to wing it. The results are as follows:

1. A 3-way tie for first - Middle Ages x, Sweetwater IPA, and Founders Centennial IPA all ended up with the same low score - decidedly under par.

2. (or 4th) - Southern Tier IPA - Interesting when you re-read the comments on this one, which were raves. I believe the others all garnered some "1's" while nearly everyone picked this one as their second favorite. Still well below par.

3. (or 5th) - Aviator Hogwild IPA - A nice, balanced brew. Slightly under par

4. (or 6th) - Just IPA from the Just Beer Project - Very good session IPA. Low ABV, nice hoppy flavor. Par.

5. (or 7th) - Dogfish Head  60 Minute IPA - This surprised me as I thought this beer would score higher. Once again, as unmitigated hopheads, we tend to lean toward those brews that are hop forward and 60 Minute is bit more balanced. A bit over par.

Until next time...
The BOTB Guys