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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Some More Favoirtes

Most craft beer enthusiasts have a favorite place to find a good selection of craft beers. As I believe I've mentioned before, C's Farms in Oswego, NY is one of our go-to places for good beer. It is typical of many such stores - a somewhat unassuming edifice tucked away so that if you didn't know where it was, you'd have a tough time finding it. Many of these places were craft beer early adopters - seeing the potential where others saw mere fad. For a while these were the only places to really find a variety of craft beers, not just those produced by the larger craft breweries (think Sam Adams, 
C's Farm Market in Oswego, NY
 Sierra Nevada, etc.) which had the clout to get their products into some of the major chain grocery stores.
                                                                                      Wegman's, a Northeast icon, was one of the few early chain grocery stores to jump on the craft beer train. By instituting the "pick 6" concept whereby consumers could create their own mixed six packs, Wegman's gave the curious and those new to the growing variety of styles available in the craft beer world an opportunity to try assorted brands and styles without investing in a six-pack of something they may not care for. While other chains have begun to institute their own "pick 6"  and have expanded their craft beer choices, few have invested as heavily in craft beer as Wegman's. We were in Springfield, VA recently and there is a nearby Wegman's with an enormous craft beer section. It actually dwarfs the mega-brew section.

One of the joys of craft beer is fun some of these brewers have with naming their beers. In a previous post I made a list of some of my favorite names. Wandering around Wegman's I shot a few that stood out and looped them together in the GIF below.

Just a quick look at a few of the fun craft beer
names I found at a Virginia Wegman's.

In a World Bereft of Gluten...

I had a scare recently. I was experiencing some unpleasant stomach issues that looked suspiciously like some sort of food allergy. I decided to eliminate gluten since I have a sister who suffers from Celiac's Disease - an intolerance to gluten. The symptoms cleared up so I feared the worst - no more gluten, meaning no more beer! I could live with gluten free bread and pizza dough and many of the gluten-free snack are really quite good. But my beloved craft beer? Nooooooo! 

Luckily the results of a blood test showed no food allergies. Meanwhile, we had run out and Glutenberg IPA, and Omission IPA. Much to my surprise both of these beers turned out to be terrific beers in their own right. Had I not known they were gluten-free I never would have guessed it. I did try Glutenberg Red Ale as well and wasn't really a fan. After all, a red ale depends heavily on malt for its flavor and Glutenberg brews entirely without any gluten-containing ingredients (as opposed to Omission which brews its beers with barley then removes the gluten, and comes with a warning that they can't guarantee there is zero gluten). The Red Ale just had some off, vegetable-ish flavors. Having said that, it was at least drinkable.
purchased a bunch of gluten-free items. Among these were a couple of gluten-free beers:

Both IPAs were as good or better than many full-gluten IPAs. Both are strongly hop-forward - as a good IPA should be - with a solid West Coast vibe, yet each have enough of a malt presence to give them a nice medium-bodied mouthfeel. Truth is, when I feared I was doomed to a life without gluten I was thrilled to find these two beers. Sort of made life worth living again. They are both beers I would enjoy regardless of my gluten tolerance level.


This month we went with another grab bag bunch of beers where we all just brought something that sounded interesting and we had yet to review. 


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Amber Ale; BREWER: New Belgium, Colorado, Ashville, SC; ABV: 5.2%; IBUs: 22; MALTS: Pale, C80, Munich, Victory; HOPS: Willamete, Goldings, Nugget

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Named in honor of our co-founder's bike trip through Europe, Fat Tire Amber Ale marks a turning point in the young electrical engineer's home brewing. Belgian beers use a far broader palette of ingredients (fruits, spices, esoteric yeast strains) than German or English styles."

COLOR: Copper/Amber

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Clove/bread Belgium vibe

BODY: Thin

TASTE: Tends toward sweet with hints of clove, bread, perhaps melon

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Leave it on the shelf

COMMENTS: "Tastes like 22 IBUs - not much of a hop presence; Good starter beer perhaps; Good if you don't want much in the way of hops; New Belgium makes some great beers - love Ranger, Rampant and Citradelic - but I just have never cared for this one; Yeah, and for a long time this was the only New Belgium beer that you could get almost anywhere; I know it's their flagship beer, but I much prefer some of their others; Sort of reminds me of Magic Hat #9 - you find it everywhere, but it's only a so-so beer."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: American Pale Ale; BREWER: Lagunitas, Petaluma, CA; ABV: 5.5%; IBUs: 45

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Tropically hoppy. Light, yet full-bodied. Bright and citrusy. Word."

COLOR: Pale yellow

POUR: Bit better than Decent Head

AROMA: Big citrusy hop aroma right off the bat

BODY: Light

TASTE: Citrus, grapefruit, tropical fruit, bright zesty fruit bitterness with pine


COMMENTS: "Taste follows the nose with big citrus-hop punch; Wow the aroma is powerful and awesome - big citrus and pine punch when you open it; Light tasting, not a big malt presence - so there's not a real balanced flavor here, the hops dominate; Aromatic; Good lawnmower beer; Real refreshing beer."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: West Coast India Pale Ale; BREWER: Almanac Beer Co., San Francisco, CA; ABV: 6.5%; MALT: Pale Malt, Maris Otter and Flaked Oats; HOPS: Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, Hallertau Blanc and El  Dorado.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This West Coast IPA features an explosive aroma of citrus, toropical fruit and dankness from a blend of ...hops. Intensely hoppy without overt bitterness, a light malt backbone balances this IPA, giving it a clean finish and making it a beer to be enjoyed again and again. Inspired by San Francisco but brewed to be enjoyed everywhere."

COLOR: Unfiltered wheat/straw

POUR: Near Decent head


BODY: Medium

TASTE: Up toward the bitter end of the spectrum with notes of citrus, lemon, grapefruit, pine, tropical fruit.


COMMENTS: "A little more depth and fuller bodied than 12th of Never; The taste is so much better than the aroma, which is a bit pungent; I don't really taste the malt that you might expect from a 6.5% ABV; A nice blend; I like it when there is a blend of hop varieties as opposed to the single hop approach that's become popular lately; It's another bright citrusy IPA for a hot summer day, I just do like a little more malt backbone to balance the hops."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: India Pale Ale; BREWER: Revolution Brewing, Chicago, IL; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 70; HOPS: Blend of 4 hop varieties

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "An American hop assault for all the ambivalent warriors who get the girl in the end. 'Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, Princess.' this iconic ale features a blend of four hop varieties which creates a crisp bitterness and imparts massive floral and citrus aromas."

COLOR: New-penny copper

POUR: Somewhat better than Decent Head

AROMA: Big hoppy pine aroma - oh, so good!

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Nicely sharply bitter, spicy, pine, grapefruit, citrus leads the way with a strong malt counter-melody giving it a pleasing complexity.


COMMENTS: "A little bit of a spicy taste up front; Complex flavor; Delicious; I always look forward to drinking this, and sharing it with friends; Thank you Carissa; Hop-forward bitterness right in the wheelhouse of what an IPA should be; Love this beer; Little bit of sweetness in there to kind of fill things out."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Wet hopped India Pale Ale; BREWER: Stone City Ales, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; ABV: 6.4%; IBUs: 65

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Made exclusively using Ontario grown / processed ingredients."

COLOR: Unfiltered Amber

POUR: Better than Decent Head

AROMA: Grass, fresh pine and malt

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Nice bitter hoppiness with solid nutty, malty underpinning and hints of caramel and toffee


COMMENTS: "Really nice beer; Creamy and smooth; We've become a little gun shy with Canadian beers (think Alexander Keith IPA) - this renews my faith; Could drink this until you can't move; Delicious; Definite malt presence with a real nice nutty taste; Even better on tap; Wonderful blend of hops and malt."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: American IPA; BREWER: Foley Brothers Brewing, Brendan, VT; ABV: 6.9%; HOPS: Citra, Centennial

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "India Pale Ale brewed with Citra and Centennial Hops."

COLOR: Semi-filtered wheat

POUR: Near Guinness-class head

AROMA: Did not detect a strong aroma, but hints of citrus

BODY: Near full bodied

TASTE: Nicely bitter with citrus, grapefruit, pine, tropical fruits and biscuit


COMMENTS: "Nicely bitter; Foley brothers - the next best thing to a religious experience; If I were to chew on a piece of cedar, that's the back taste I get; Nice full-bodied beer; You get a bit of an alcohol burn with this."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Double IPA; BREWER: Burlington Beer Co., Williston, VT; ABV: 8%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS:"Our Double IPA has a radiant straw orange glow with which we immerse massive quantities of hops per gallon for a bold, yet complex hop flavor."

COLOR: Beautiful straw orange

POUR: Near Guinness class head

AROMA: Subtle malty aroma, but not a big nose

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Pretty big alcohol presence with a nice balance of malt and hop - bit of pineapple and pine with caramel malt

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Just shy of  Can't Get Enough!

COMMENTS: "Nicely blended hop and malt; Malt presence on the tail end; No spiciness here; Big malt kick on the end; Bitter; Doesn't taste as strong as it is; No, but you can definitely taste the alcohol; Good beer."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Imperial India Pale Ale; BREWER: Good Nature Farm Brewery; ABV: 8.5%; IBUs: 70

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our Imperial IPA was originally brewed to celebrate our 2nd Anniversary in 2014. We were so taken with her, we decided to keep her on as one of our first bottled beers. A complex IPA that delivers on many levels. The simplicity of the grain bill allows the hops to really shine. Tropical fruits and lemon on the nose with a spicy finish that tickles your taste buds."

COLOR: Honey / wheat

POUR: Near Guinness class head

AROMA: Piney

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Big citrus hop taste with pine resin, touch of lemon and tropical fruits backed up with a kind of butterscotch malt underlying it all.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Pretty close to Can't Get Enough

COMMENTS: "Delicious; More on the nose than on the tongue; Sneaky alcohol - will probably knock you on your ass; Annie is not an orphan - she's a sweetheart - the best Good Nature beer in my opinion; Malty backbone with a nice hop blend; At the brewery it seemed more piney - better after being in the growler for a week."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Double IPA; BREWER: War Horse Brewing Company, Geneva, NY (Seneca Lake - part of Three Brother Wineries & Estates); ABV: 9%; IBUs; 100; HOPS; Cascade, Chinook, Centennial.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Resiny and Smooth. Maybe a little too smooth."

COLOR: Between golden and amber

POUR: Near Guinness Class

AROMA: Hay, grass

BODY: Full

TASTE: Pine, grapefruit, citrus, solid alcohol burn with a cold-brewed coffee taste underneath

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS; Pretty close to Can't Get Enough

COMMENTS: "Great early mouth-feel; Big; Tasty; Helmet beer; Could sit there and drink this 'til you pass out; Really nice flavor; Impressed - from a winery?; A really big thank-you to Judy and Tom (my sister and brother-in-law who returned from a Seneca Lake winery tour with this growler for me)."


Another terrific bunch of beers overall. In the end we had three clustered at the solid "Can't Get Enough!" rating followed by three more that came in just below that top rank. Then we had two at the "I Could Drink This!" mark, making them decent if not knock-your-socks-off beers. Here's what we thought in a nutshell:

1. Anti-Hero IPA - Revolution Brewing - A terrific IPA that was a unanimous "Can't Get Enough!" Exactly what you look for in an IPA.

2. 100 Pounder Wet Hop IPA - Stone City Ales - It's great to see our Northern neighbors get into the craft beer act. More and more we've been seeing some really good Canadian IPAs and this one may be the best we've had yet. 

3. Citrennial - Foley Brothers Brewing - Great blend of Citra and Centennial hops make this an excellent American IPA. 

4. 5. and 6. - Pretty much a dead heat between The Big Broadcast  from War Horse, Annie from Good Nature, and It's Complicated Being a Wizard from Burlington Beer Company. All three are double (Imperial) IPAs and range from 8% to 9% ABV. All were delicious.

7. San Francisco IPA - Almanac Brewing - A nice, brightly citrus IPA lacking a bit in complexity but a good boat beer.

8. 12th of Never Ale - Lagunitas - Ditto with this one. The aroma is terrific, redolent of grapefruit and pine, and the taste is light and tropical without much of a malt presence. Bright, easy-drinker, at 5.5% it comes in a bit high to qualify as a session IPA - but it's close.

9. Fat Tire Amber Ale - New Belgium - This didn't fare well with us, but we seem to be in the minority judging by it's popularity and ready availability. We're big fans of many of New Belgium's beers, but this isn't one of them.

Next up we check out some authentic Texas beers.


The BOTB Guys

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