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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Nothin' But Growlers

What exactly is a growler? I'm sure most of you reading this blog are familiar with the term and no doubt, like me, have several empty ones hanging around the house ready to be filled. However, for the sake of clarification, a growler is a jug, usually made of glass though occasionally ceramic, used to transport beer. The typical growler, as seen to the right, is 64 ounces, however they do come in 32 ounce size as well as 128 ounces. Generally growlers of beer are not sold in retail stores the way six packs or 22 oz. bombers are. Growlers are filled on-site either at a brewery or brew pub or a bar, restaurant or other establishment that has beer on tap. Growlers are usually either brown or clear glass. When properly sealed and stored, a growler can keep beer fresh for quite a long period of time. I have had growlers I've stored in my cellar fridge for a month and the beer was excellent when opened. The key is to make sure the growler is completely clean before filling. Most places will run your growler through a quick and thorough wash before filling. If it's a clear growler, keep it out of the light.
Early growlers
Why are they called growlers? The name dates back to the 19th century. The typical method of
transporting beer from a local tavern to one's home was to fill a lidded pail. In transport the beer would be splashed around inside the pail and the CO2 escaping from the lid apparently sounded like a growl. Thus the term "growler." When Charlie and Ernie Otto of Otto Brothers Brewing Company (now Grand Teton Brewing Company) of Idaho developed the large glass jug for transporting beer in the 1980's, the name stuck. (Thanks Wikipedia). For the most part you'll only find growlers in the U.S., Canada and Australia - in other words the non-English-speaking English-speaking countries.

With the growth of craft beers, growlers have become much more prevalent. This despite the fact that you pay about the same for 64 ounces as you would for the same beer in a six pack totaling 72 ounces. So why the rise in popularity? It's probably equal parts caché, perceived freshness and lack of 6-pack availability of some beers. Just as there is a certain je ne sais quoi to extracting a cork from a wine bottle as opposed to
An alternate style of growler with a porcelain
hinged top. There's a rubber gasket to keep
it airtight. 
 twisting off a cap or getting it from a box, there is that same "I don't know what" to opening up a growler that has been filled directly from a keg. Is the beer any better than it would be from a six-pack of bottles or cans? Might make for an interesting BOTB experiment down the road. But often, as was the case with several of the beers we tried this month, the brewery just doesn't bottle, so the only way to take it with you is with a growler.

Late last year we had a BOTB meeting where we brought our favorite beers to taste, review and rate. On July 31st (making the July deadline by the skin of our teeth) we had a similar meeting where we were to bring a favorite, or one we thought The Guys would enjoy, in a growler. The difference this time was that we didn't rate them against each other, but merely reviewed them. As has become our custom, we started with the lowest alcohol content and proceeded to the highest. That way we feel we can taste and appreciate each on its own merits and not be overpowered by a bigger beer.

(Previously Double Barrel Brewing Company)

BOTB Note: Owner-brewer Pete Kirkgasser recently announced a name change. Firestone Walker Brewing Company brews a beer called Double Barrel Ale. The name is trademarked and Kirkgasseer was sent a cease-and-desist letter from Firestone Walker's lawyer. Thus the change of name to Eastwood Brewing Company.

Brewery Note: Eastwood Brewing is a nano-brewery, making most batches in a 1 barrel (31.5 gallon) brew kettle. They offer their beers as draft only - filling growlers. Eastwood has been open since early November 2013. Here's what we found:

The Beer Facts: STYLE: American Pale Ale; ABV: 6.0%

Color: Wheat to clover honey color

Pour: Decent head with good retention and some nice lacing

Aroma: hoppy / piney

Body: Medium

Taste: Balanced with  notes of pine

Overall Impression: Well on its way to "Can't Get Enough."

Comments: "This smells like a walk in the forest; It's a really nice blend, not too over-the-top with either hops or malt; It's a really good pale ale; This rivals a lot of IPAs; It could turn into a comfort beer; For the "New Kid on the Block" he's (Pete Kirkgasser - owner) doing all right; It just feels right - you can sip it or gulp it."


The Beer Facts: STYLE: West Coast IPA; ABV: 6.5%; IBU: 45; MALT: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60; HOPS: American Caacade, Simcoe, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo; SRM: 11

What the Brewer Says: "Rebel IPA, the first West Coast style IPA from the same brewers that started a craft beer revolution in 1984."

Color: Copper

Pour: A very nice head, with decent retention and good lacing

Aroma: Toward the hoppy with a little more malt. There is a clean, piney nose.

Body: Medium

Taste: Initially a bit of a sweet taste, but bitter on the back end. There are notes of pine and a little hint of grapefruit.

Overall Impression: Midway between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough."

Comments: "There are usually some of these in my fridge; I'm glad Sam Adams is brewing a West Coast IPA, a good effort; One good thing is that you can always find it in the grocery store; It goes really well with pizza; It's a decent session type IPA; Nice finish; It's very drinkable."


The Beer Facts: STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 6.8%; IBUs: 79.9; SRM: 14.9

What the Brewer Says: "Typical of India Pale Ale, this ale is bold, assertive, and full of hop flavor. It has a medium to dry finish and a fantastic citrus overtone."

Color: Unfiltered buckwheat honey

Pour: Better than decent head, with good lacing

Aroma: Grassy hops

Body: A touch more than Medium

Taste: bitter, especially on the aftertaste, it fills the mouth and is heavy. There are notes of toffee.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough.

Comments: "this has a complex taste; There is a little more alcohol presence - it announces itself, but not overly; The aftertaste is almost like 'give me another taste'; This is a good local beer that rivals the national beers; It compares with the West Coast IPAs."


The Beer Facts: STYLE: American Strong Ale; ABV: 7.2%; IBUs: NA; HOPS AND MALT: Classified

What the Brewer Says: If you haven't done so already, just read the back of a bottle. It is the very essence of what craft beer is all about.

Color: Dark amber / brown

Pour: A high, creamy head that lasts

Aroma: Tends toward the malty with hints of citrus

Body: Between medium and full, more toward full

Taste: Leans to the malty, with notes of malt, toffee and caramel. Nice bitter hop bite with a nutty, malty fullness. Bit of a nice alcohol burn to it.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough

Comments: "An absolutely delicious beer; It really is tough to beat this beer, it's big and bold, but you can have a few as well; If you like craft beer, you're an Arrogant Bastard fan; See the bottle...; the balance of maltiness and hop resins is rewarding."


The Beer Facts: STYLE: Imperial IPA; ABV: 9.0%; IBUs: 95

Color: Amber / orange

Pour: Very large white foamy head with not a lot of lacing

Aroma: piney / grassy hops

Body: Full

Taste: Initially sweet with notes of butterscotch

Overall Impression: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough."

Comments: "This has a GOOD flavor; It really snaps your neck back; It is nice and bitter at the end; It has a big burst of flavor; There is a good alcohol flavor at the back; It's a really nice beer; I could drink this; It is a 'kick-your-ass beer': It is soooooo good."


The Beer Facts: STYLE: Imperial IPA; ABV: 8.5%

What the Brewer Says: "Take a wiff!"

Color: Amber / copper

Pour: Generous fluffy, creamy head

Aroma: Grassy / malty

Body: Full

Taste: Sweet with notes of caramel

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "It's a sweety; Tastes like a Breckenridge; It's a complex beer; Quite an interesting beer; It's real tasty - a good beer; I'm gonna sign up for a safety meeting; This is the most peculiar name for a beer that I've seen; A fine beer; It has a lingering piney taste."


The Beer Facts: STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 10.0%; IBUs: 90

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, had medium to full body, intense hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Ten additions of American hops are made throughout the brewing process."

Color: Unfiltered golden to light amber

Pour: Decent off white head

Aroma: Banana and clove

Body: Full

Taste: Hop bitterness right on the front with notes of banana, clove and butterscotch.

Overall Impression: 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; I like this because that banana/clove taste is in the background and doesn't dominate - it compliments."

Miscellaneous Musings

Friend of the blog, Dave Grant, sent along one of his home brews for us to try and once again I was struck by how far home-brewing has come. I remember the first home brew I ever had years ago. In a word: awful. But Dave's beer, and those brewed by our own Mike Watkins as well as some others I have tasted are really terrific beers. Dave called his Hoppy Toady. It was a red IPA with a nice toffee malt flavor backed by a solid hop kick. Good beer. Thanks Dave.

 Speaking of Mike, he recently visited a few Central New York breweries along the Finger Lakes: 2 Goats Brewing in Burdett, NY, on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, Rooster Fish Brewing in Watkins Glen, NY, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, and Ithaca Beer Company in Ithaca, NY, just south of Cayuga Lake. The Finger Lakes have for several years been know for their wineries, with wine tours a staple around the lakes. But more and more craft breweries have been springing up around the lakes as well, and craft beer tours are gaining popularity. After sampling several beers from each brewery, Mike's recommendations are as follows:
2 Goats (the name is a play on Double Bock - bock being German for goat) - Goat Master Ultra Pale and XIPA were his favs. Also on tap they had Dirty Shepard Brown, Dirty Butt, Hefeweizen, Cream Ale, Goat Gasm (Ultra + IPA), Danger Goat Blonde, Dopplebock, and  Whiskey Richard (a big one at 12% ABV!)
Rooster Fish Brewing - On tap were: Summer Sky Hefeweizen, firehouse Blonde, Tripel Witch Belgian Tripel, Farmer Saison, Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Mysterious Amber, Dog Tooth Pale Ale, Hop Warrior IPA, Original Dark Nut Brown Ale, Cocoa Porter, Raven Black IPA. His picks were Hop Warrior IPA, and Raven Black IPA.
Ithaca Beer Company - On tap were: Ground Break Saison Ale, Cayuga Cruiser (a Berliner-Weisse style ale), Flower Power IPA, Cascazilla Red IPA, Green Trail Session IPA, Apricot Wheat, #05256 (an amber ale made with a single new variety of hop yet to be named), Oatmeal Stout, White Gold. Mike's picks: Flower Power, Cascazilla, Green Trail, Oatmeal Stout.

 A while back I referenced an article in which Sam Adam's Jim Koch claimed that a teaspoon of yeast prior to each beer he drinks significantly reduces the effects of alcohol. Since that time there have been numerous articles written by bloggers and reporters anxious to test this theory (or find an excuse to drink during work hours). Just Google "Sam Adams Jim Koch and yeast" and you'll get a page of links to writers who have attempted this. The most scientific of these - performed by NPR - seems to show only a minor lessening of alcohol in the bloodstream, while other, more anecdotal accounts - primarily this one by the Daily News - seem to validate Koch's claims. I've tried this experiment myself in a completely unscientific manner at the last couple of BOTB meetings. Basically I gulped down a packet of dry yeast mixed with water a bit before the festivities (ugh - tastes like Death in a glass). My conclusion is that I seemed to feel the effects less than normal and we did have some pretty high ABV beers at both meetings. For me the jury's still out.

Next month we sample some Vermont beers Hud's providing after a grueling working vacation throughout that state. 
The BOTB Guys