Fellow beer blogger, Josh from Lost in the Beer Aisle, recently reviewed Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Before he got to the actual review, he gave a little rant on rare beers. I commented on his post, but figured I should probably write it a bit better and go deeper into my thoughts. So here I am wondering if rare beers are actually good for the craft beer industry or could they cause problems for the industry. I may not actually answer the question. I’m more thinking out loud and looking to start a discussion. Continue reading Are Rare/Hyped Beers Good for Craft Beer?
I finally made it to my first real beer festival (though I suppose it’d be the second after Julio’s Springfest, which was free and had limited sampling). I finally had a GIBF I could attend without something else coming up and getting in the way. I only attended the first session. We started our day later than we had planned, but had a good sized breakfast and then headed downtown. We got in line right around 11:45 and met up with a couple friends in line. Because we were there over an hour before the start, we spent a lot of time sitting there, but it was worth it. There were a ton of people buying tickets at the ticket booth before getting in line. I had my tickets waiting at the will call booth, which had no line. Within the next half hour after arriving, the line filled up pretty quickly. Being near the front, we were able to avoid lines at several tables after they let us in, but that didn’t last long.
The beer fest is setup kind of odd with breweries and other vendors mixed in with each other. I would have preferred to have seen all the breweries together and the random other vendors in their own section. I’ll go into the other vendors after I get through the beer.
To make the beer a bit easier, here’s the breweries we hit and what we drank (in no particular order, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some).
- Trinity Brewhouse – Imperial Brown Ale, Scotch Ale
- Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies (a homebrew shop serving homebrews) – Barrel Aged Scottish Ale (cask), Porter (cask), ESB (cask), Irish Stout, English IPA, Altbier
- St. John’s Brewers – Virgin Islands Mango Pale Ale
- Gardner Ale House – Oktoberfest, Chocolate Porter
- Milly’s Tavern – Porter, Pumpkin Ale
- Woodchuck – Oak Aged Cider, Dark and Dry Cider
- Harpoon – 100 Barrel Series Rauchfetzen
- Saranac – Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, Root Beer (non-alcoholic)
- Paper City – Batch 108 Coffee Stout, Cabot Street Wheat
- Watch City – Beejesus BPA, Bombed Blondeshelle Tripel, Kingpin Imperial Stout
- Brooklyn Brewery – Local 1, Black Chocolate Stout
- Newport Storm – Rum Barrel Oktoberfest
- Offshore Ales – Nutbrown Ale, Hop Goddess
- Pennichuck – The Big O Oktoberfest, Wassail Lager (cask)
- Woodstock Inn & Brewery – Autumn Brew, Pemi Pale Ale
- Shipyard – Barleywine
- Olde Burnside – Ten Penny Ale, Dirty Penny Ale
- Otter Creek – Wolavers IPA, Winter Ale
- Haverhill Brewery – HaverAle, Eve’s Apple Ale
- Rapscallion – Blessing, Honey
- Sierra Nevada – Anniversary Ale
- Spaten – Optimator
- Berkshire Brewing – Cabin Fever
- B&C Liquors (a store I believe) – Belhaven Scottish Ale
Most of those beers represent beers I have never tried. My goal was to drink lots of beer that I’ve never had before (or can’t get). I accomplished that, though I did have some beers I’ve had in the past. The standout breweries were Watch City, Paper City, Gardner Ale House, and, even though it’s technically not a brewery, Blackstone Valley. My favorite beers of the night were Cabin Fever, Gardner’s Chocolate Porter, everything I tried from Watch City, Shipyard’s Barleywine, and pretty much everything from Blackstone Valley. Of course, I passed on some favorites while going booth to booth, but I was trying to avoid getting too drunk (and in that case, I was successful as I was not drunk). The only brewery I had wanted to hit, but missed because we never walked by them in our 3.5 hours there, was Buzzard’s Bay. I’ll have to plan a brewery trip some weekend.
In the course of the afternoon, we stopped by some other booths. The Cabot Creamery booth was a nice break from beer and I love their cheese. A company called Gerb’s Pumpkin Seeds had some good pumpkin seeds (I liked the roasted red pepper ones). We got some food from Jersey Mike’s and Pizza Pie-er with a donation to the RI Food Bank (or something like that). And we spent a lot of time (and money) at the Yankee Brew News table, mainly because we knew the people there (and bought 2 shirts a piece).
What I didn’t like… intermingled with the beer tables were Skoal, Gina’s Cigars, Port-o-pong (beer pong stuff), some random beer-related tshirt booths, the food I mentioned before, Capitol Billiards, HJY radio, and a basement finishing company (that was the only real oddball). While I can understand having some of these places there (especially the food), I feel like they should have been place elsewhere in their own area. Keep all the breweries together, put all the beer-related stuff nearby (Ale Street News and Yankee Brew News, for example), but put everything else somewhere else. It was a distraction from the beer, which is what this show should have been about.
I also didn’t like the fact that there was a lot of empty space. This could be a real first class beer event in our little state. There was a row of port-o-johns on one wall, but no beer tables facing them even though there was a ton of space. There were also some rows of booths that could have been extended. This could have been done if more breweries were present. I was disappointed that Mayflower Brewing wasn’t present, even though they were listed on the website. The other disappointment is that breweries can enter their beers in the competition without actually being present at the show. It would have been nice to try the beers that were announced as winners, but some of them weren’t there. There were also a lot of “macros” present… Coors, Miller, Corona, Presidente, Diageo (Guinness)… and they all had some crazy games, causing the frat-ish boys to all yell, causing everyone else to yell. That was a bit obnoxious. Finally, the lines were all 20-30 people deep at the height of the show. More breweries means shorter lines. Shorter lines means easier access to the beer.
Overall, I enjoyed myself. I got to try a lot of beer that I wouldn’t normally be able to try. I was able to try a bunch of beer that I will likely now look for in my local liquor stores. Finally, I got to hang out with a bunch of friends and chat beer with the reps and brewers. It was a fun day, though we were exhausted and felt like it was much later when we got home. Next year, I’m going to see if I can be a judge. It’ll require me taking a day off from work, but I’d get into the fest for free and take a more active part in the beer world.
Alright, this is going to be quite the post. I haven’t been writing about every beer I’ve been drinking lately. In part, it’s because I was sick last week, preventing me from drinking some of the more “special” beers I have here. It’s also been because I’ve been lazy. Work has been busier than it had been because of the beginning of the semester and hiring new staff and all that goes along with Septembers for me. So I’m going to write a few lines about most of the beers I’ve had recently. This is in no particular order. I’m just writing.
I’ll start off with tonight because it’s fresh in my mind. I’m currently drinking an Anchor Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale. This one was bottled in January. That means it’s about 10 months old. This is the reason I clicked the “cellaring” category. I opened this one because I needed a nice little nightcap. At 9.4%, it fits that bill just right. The beer is sweet and malty. It’s got a seriously strong fruitiness to it, which is really nice. It’s not like drinking a fruity beer, it’s just a fruity maltiness. It’s perfect. It’s got just enough hops in it to give it some balance. Unfortunately, I have never had this beer fresh. For whatever reason, I can’t get it in RI. I picked this up at Julio’s over the summer. Get it if you see it. It’s awesome.
I also had Stone Coast (RIP) Jamaica Style Stout tonight. Susan and I tried to split it, but she wasn’t crazy about it. I thought it was fantastic. This one has probably also been aged, though in the store, not my cellar. Stone Coast Brewing closed on August 1. I bought this, along with some others, while I could still find it. It has a very roasty flavor to it. It’s got a nice medium-full body. It’s a very drinkable stout. If you can still find it, get some. It’s good.
How about some Double IPA’s next? I’ll continue with Stone Coast. If you can find some 840 IIPA, get it while it lasts. This is a great double IPA (their regular IPA is 420 IPA, also excellent). It’s quite different for a double IPA in that it’s got a strong caramel malt presence. This doesn’t ruin the beer, however. It actually enhances it a bit. It’s not overly hoppy like a west coast IPA, but it’s definitely got a good bit to it. It is actually not a double of the 420, which tastes almost like a west coast IPA. They also made a 1260, which I was lucky to be given a bottle. I’m kind of saving that one.
Rogue Imperial IPA is also a good one if you can get past the cost of the ceramic bottle. At $15 for the bottle, it’s a bit pricey, and honestly, not worth the price. However, it’s a great double IPA. The beer is nice and hoppy, but has a great malt backbone to it. You might be best trying to find this on tap somewhere (Doherty’s East Ave in the Bucket had it on tap for a while).
The last, but certainly not least, of the recent double IPAs is Smuttynose Big A. Holy crap! This is probably the single best double IPA I have had. I enjoyed this far better than Ruination, Hercules, and even YuleSmith (though I haven’t had the summer YuleSmith, meaning I haven’t had a fresh YuleSmith). This one has all the hops the west coast DIPAs wish they had, and it came from 2 states north of here. This one is a must have, though it sells out fast when they do release it.
Being October, I have had a bunch of Oktoberfests, Harvest Ales, and Pumpkin Ales lately. I’ll mention some of those. Nikki’s just did 3 weeks of Oktoberfests and Pumpkin Ales. Here’s the best of those, some of which I bought. I’ll start with Pumpkin Ales because I tend not to like them. The only one at the Nikki’s tasting I really liked was Wolaver’s Will Stevens’ Pumpkin Ale, which seems to be sold out now. It wasn’t overly spiced and had a nice hops flavor to it. It was just right. The best Pumpkin Ale I have ever had was Schlafly from St. Louis. Susan was nice enough to bring back a bunch of beer for me from her trip out there. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale is the single best Pumpkin Ale I have ever had. It was all around perfect.
Now, the Oktoberfests… The best is still Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen. This beer is a perfect German Oktoberfest. Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr also have great Oktoberfests that are actually German. I don’t even know how to describe the flavor. It’s crisp, clean, and flavorful. Of the Americans, the best I’ve had are Brooklyn Oktoberfest, Clipper City Marz-Hon, and Wachusett Octoberfest. They’re all similar in style, though the order I listed is the order of my preference.
Of the autumn/harvest ales, my favorite is Gritty’s Halloween Ale. It’s an ESB and absolutely fantastic (go figure, their Best Bitter is also awesome). It’s got that perfect flavor for the fall weather. It just goes with the fall foliage for some reason. Long Trail Harvest Ale is another good one. This is a nice brown ale. It’s easy drinking and has a good flavor to it. It’s supposedly made from all Vermont ingredients, though I don’t know if they actually got the hops from up there. Finally, there’s the Woodstock Inn Autumn Brew. This one is brewed with cinnamon and nutmeg. I don’t normally like beers with a lot of cinnamon in them (like Harpoon’s Winter Warmer). However, this one is actually quite tasty for a beer with those spices. It’s also worth a try.
And now some one off’s. Continuing with the Schlafly thing, Susan was nice enough to get me 2 bottles of their Dry Hopped American Pale Ale. This one is fantastic. The dry hopping gave it a nice floral aroma. It has a nice floral hop flavor to it as well and then goes into the pine and grapefruit flavors as it warms up a bit. It’s a fantastic APA.
I decided to open my bottle of Russian River Damnation while watching and helping some friends brew an ESB. I’m not normally a big Belgian Golden Ale fan. However, this beer is probably my favorite of the bunch. It’s absolutely perfect in my opinion. It has a good amount of carbonation, but not too much. It has a nice malt flavor with just the right amount of hops. It’s sweet, dry, and crisp all at once. I wish I could get their beers on this side of the country.
And finally, last but not least, probably the single most talked about new pale/amber ale on the market. I got to try the Budweiser American Ale, and I have to say that I’m very impressed. It’s nothing special, but it’s solid. It’s a good pale/amber ale. It has a nice body, which isn’t thin. It has a good flavor of hops and malt. And the best part it, it’s very accessible by people new to craft beer, while having a brand that’s familiar to them. I think this will be the next gateway beer for many people. I can see myself buying it for friends and family who prefer lighter beers. I see myself giving it to people new to the craft beer scene. I see myself drinking it when I want something cheap or if it’s the only thing a bar has (I drink other stuff if they don’t have any craft beer).
Thus concludes my recent beer thoughts. I’ll try to keep up from now on, though you never know what might happen. I apologize for the long post, but this had to get written. I have even more that I didn’t write about. If I added those, it would be about 3 times as long.
I know I had previously said I would do a side by side, but that never happened. What did happen, however, is that I moved a bunch of beer from my pantry to the cellar for the summer (the pantry is much warmer than the rest of the apartment now, while the opposite was true in the winter). Because of that, I forgot I even had a bottle of Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen Weiss. I pulled it out of the cellar and decided to pop it open. I had previously tried this at a couple tastings at Nikki’s. When the beer was fresh, it had a nice hops bite to it that fit perfectly. The beer has aged a few months and here are my thoughts.
The beer pours a cloudy grassy yellow/maize color with a huge head. Carbonation is more present now than it was fresh. The beer smells of yeasty breadiness and a nice hoppy grassiness. The flavor up front is some of that sweeter malt flavor along with some bready flavors. The hops are there, but more subdued than they were when the beer was fresh. They were a bit grassier now and not quite as in your face as they had been. This tastes much more like a German beer than an American beer. It’s got a nice mouthfeel, just ever so slightly chewy and bready. It’s still quite drinkable, though if I gave it an A before, I’d give this a B+ now.
I much prefered this beer fresh. In my opinion it has passed its prime, though it is still a very excellent beer (and this is coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of wheat beers, especially those with lots of yeast). The whole idea behind the beer was the hops and with those more subdued, you aren’t getting the purpose of the beer. If you haven’t had it and can still find it, it is worth trying. It does taste more like the German version did fresh.
This time it’s Brooklyn’s Brown Ale. I’ve been buying a lot of brown ales lately in my quest to find beers that Susan will enjoy (I’m determined to get her to drink more so I don’t feel like an alcoholic… that and so that she knows what she likes when we’re out). Unfortunately, she wasn’t crazy about this one. However, I liked it. It’s a very no frills beer. It’s just a plain old brown session ale, similar in flavor to Harpoon’s (get this) Brown Session Ale. It’s a reddish brown color with a decent head. The taste is slightly nutty and roasted malts are definitely present. There’s a slight hops bitterness to add a little balance to it. That’s about all you get. It’s not trying to be anything crazy or different, but it’s a good solid session beer. I can see myself putting back a few of these in a… well… session. If you like brown ales, you’ll probably like this one.
Tomorrow will bring us some other beers… I have 2 brown ales left (though one is Susan’s as she does like Sam Smith’s Nut Brown, and the other is Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog Ale, which has a bit more flavor and is a bit “maltier” than the Brooklyn, and as such, Susan does like it). Of the beers I have left, only one is new to me. I’ll probably have that one tomorrow.
Today’s beer was Post Road Pumpkin Ale from Brooklyn Brewery. It was very pale/amber ale-ish. There wasn’t anything really spectacular about it. It had a very slight pumpkin spice taste to it, but it was barely noticeable. There was a slight hops presence to add a little bitterness and flavor, but it had a pretty malty character to it. It was good, but about average. That was my first, of what I assume will be several, pumpkin beers this fall. I had only one last year and I want to say it was from Gritty McDuff, though it could’ve been Smuttynose. Whichever it was (I’ll be getting one of each of those this fall), it had a lot more pumpkin presence to it and was extremely good. Of the Brooklyn beers I’ve had, this was the lease impressive and most average. Next time I get beer, I’ll be sure to get a few pumpkin ales and maybe an oktoberfest or 2 (though I’m not as big a fan of the oktoberfests/marzens as I am of a good pumpkin ale). Tomorrow’s beer will likely be a brown ale (continuing with the Brooklyn beers I picked up).