Earlier this week (or maybe it was last week, I don’t remember), the beer world was abuzz with the news the Anheuser-Busch/InBev had an agreement to buy Goose Island (the brewpubs were not part of the deal). Commentaries are split between this being a good thing, this being a bad thing, and not having an opinion until we see what happens. Here’s my take on this particular deal and on brewery mergers and buy-outs in general. Continue reading Thoughts on Brewery Buy-outs and Mergers
I shouldn’t have to even write any of this, but I think it needs to be said. I’ve been drinking beer for quite some time now. I wasn’t one of those people who started off with the flavorless yellow beer known to most people as American Macro (though Beer Advocate politically correctly changed it to “adjunct”) Lager. I actually started off drinking Sam Adams and Pete’s Wicked back when Pete’s was independent and an excellent brewery (I do miss them, they made a killer brown ale). I would occasionally drink the cheap stuff when I was at parties and that’s all there was. Then I switched to a phase of my life where I would refuse beer if it wasn’t craft. I’m now at the point where I just want beer and will drink it. Continue reading Don’t Compromise on the Beer
I haven’t written a beer review in quite some time. That’s not because I haven’t been drinking great beers, but rather because I tend not to think of it or the beers just weren’t worth writing about (or they’re stuff I drink all the time). I’m also drinking less as part of my weight loss program. Well, Thursday night was a Long Trail tasting at Nikki’s Liquors. In fact, it’s Long Trail Month at Nikki’s with all Long Trail beers on sale all month long. Six packs are only $6.99 and the bombers of the Brewmaster’s Series are $1 off. It’s totally worth it.
Long Trail is one of my favorite breweries. It’s a very underrated brewery in my not-so-humble opinion. They make two Altbiers, which is two more than most breweries make. I love German ales, which tend to be lesser known styles. That gives Long Trail extra points in my book. Anyway, talking about Long Trail isn’t the point of this. They recently released a new year ’round beer – Pale Ale. I’ve had everything they’ve released and they’re all solid beers, though the Belgian White and the Blackberry Wheat leave a bit to be desired. They dropped their spring seasonal, the Hefeweizen, from their repertoire and added the Pale Ale. I love their IPA, which is made in a traditional English style. It’s well balanced and more malty than most American IPA’s. It’s a great IPA, though most hopheads turn their heads because it’s not in-you-face hops. It’s not meant to be. Well, hopheads can rejoice. Long Trail’s Pale Ale is, oddly enough, hoppier than their IPA, at least in flavor.
The beer pours a crystal clear light amber color with a nice one finger head. It has an immediate and lasting aroma of Cascade hops – a nice citrus scent. As you drink the beer, it leaves a nice lacing down the side of the glass. Upon first sip, I get the immediate flavor of those hops – a grapefruit flavor. It has a nice crisp, clean flavor that lingers just enough to savor while not leaving a long-lasting aftertaste. It’s quite refreshing. It was hard to let this one warm up too much, but as it did, I got a bit more of the malt balance. This is more definitely an American Pale Ale. While it’s not punch-you-in-the-face hops, it’s all about the hops. As I finish it, I am left wanting another.
The easiest way for me to describe this beer is through its similarity to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It is a very similar beer, but quite different in many ways. The flavor profile is almost the same, but where they differ is in the body. This one is a little lighter, but in a good way. Where SNPA is heavier in all aspects of the beer, this one is crisp, clean, and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love SNPA, but Long Trail Pale Ale definitely edges it out simply because I want more and more. The crispness and the lack of the lasting aftertaste make it that much better. While many call SNPA a “near-IPA”, this one falls perfectly in the APA category and sits tall there. Many beer lovers, especially hopheads, tend to dismiss the APA category. I mean why get an APA when you can get an IPA? Isn’t an APA just a light version of an IPA? It’s not, and Long Trail Pale Ale is a perfect example of why you would want an APA over an IPA.
The distributor said the beer falls at about 5.2% ABV. It’s a very easy drinking, but very satisfying beer. I bought a six pack. I already drank two of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of it don’t make it through the weekend. Do yourself a favor. Find this beer. Buy this beer. Drink this beer… especially if you’re in RI. The discount at Nikki’s is a great deal.
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.
Last night, after spending a couple hours at Nikki’s for the Thursday night beer tasting, I headed over to Cafe 412 at the suggestion of Mike (the beer guy and owner of Nikki’s). I had known of the existence of this bar/restaurant, working for Providence College and all. One of my former student employees, Jenny, had talked about this bar quite a bit as I believe she is friends with the owner. So we headed over to this little bar on Douglas Ave and walked inside. It was about 9:00 pm and the bar was completely empty. It’s a small room with a U shaped bar and a couple of bar-height tables around the edge. There’s a little nook with an ATM machine (that is “free”, in that they’ll take a dollar off your purchase for using it and paying the dollar fee) and a bathroom in the back corner. In the middle of the bar are the taps and a row of bottles beneath displaying the beer. There are 2 chalkboards hanging on the walls on either side of the bar displaying the beer list. Behind the bar is a big reebar (sp?) rack to hold wine bottles with a neat arch made of tab handles for various beers.
The beer selection last night was pretty impressive, especially considering this is a college bar. They had the following on draft:
- Allagash White
- Stone Ruination
- St. Bernardus Abt 12
- Victory Prima Pils
- Ipswich Ale
- Rogue Dead Guy Ale
- Left Hand Milk Stout
- Flying Dog In Heat Wheat
- North Coast Red Seal Ale
- Thirsty Dog Hoppus Maximus
In addition to that, they also had one tap that wasn’t being used. Their bottle list was a little less impressive, though the standouts were Haverhill Leatherlips IPA and Whittier White, Long Trail Double Bag, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Thirsty Dog Siberian Night, and Left Hand Sawtooth Ale. There were probably about 25-30 bottled beers in total. The beer was served colder than what would be ideal, but with a little time, it warmed up. The Abt 12 was served in a St. Bernardus chalice, which was a nice touch.
Our waitress, Audrey, was fantastic. She didn’t know a whole lot about the beers, but she seemed very willing to learn, and had informed us she was planning a trip to Nikki’s to mix her own 6 pack this weekend. We also ordered some food. I had heard their pizzas are really good. Those who told me weren’t lying. It’s a grilled flatbread pizza. I got a margarita (fresh tomato and basil) on their whole wheat crust. It was awesome, rivaling Bob and Timmy’s (though this was a little different from Bob and Timmy’s grilled pizza). Everyone else also seemed to enjoy their meals (I don’t remember what people got, other than Susan who got nachos that looked fantastic). We left around 11:30 and there were still only a few other people in the place. I’m going to assume that because they actually card, it’s not a big hot spot for the students.
If you’re looking for a great low key bar in Providence that serves great food, Cafe 412 is worth a visit. The beer selection, while not over-the-top, is great, the food is awesome, and the service is fantastic. Check it out, have a beer or two, and enjoy their awesome prices (my pint of Ruination was $4 and the Abt 12 was $5). Chatting with the waitress, it sounded like the owner wasn’t too sure how much longer he’d be able to carry some of the beers because they’re not big sellers and because of their high price. We actually suggested to her that the owner should raise his prices on some of these beers (Ruination usually goes for $5-6 for a 10-12 oz. pour and Abt 12 is usually around $7-8 for a smaller pour as they filled it above the fill line on the glass). I’ll definitely be going back, especially if I end up moving back to the neighborhood.
I’m still trying to drink through my ever expanding beer collection so that I can actually use part of the shelf in my fridge, but I keep buying more. I’ve decided that as long as I’m drinking more beer per week than I buy per week, I’m good. Tonight, I had 3 beers.
I started with Victory’s 10 Years Alt. It’s, obviously, an altbier. Very few American breweries make these (in fact, the only ones that come to mind are Long Trail and Tuckerman). This one was originally brewed for their 10th anniversary (hence the name, which is a play on words as “alt” means “old” in German). It pours a nice dark amber color with a small head. It immediately smelled of nice piney hops and sweet malts. The taste is hops up front and malt down in back. The malt profile becomes more pronounced as the beer warms. It’s a tasty one. I think I actually found an American altbier that I like better than Double Bag. Unfortunately, I can’t get this one anymore.
I then moved on to Speakeasy Double Daddy. It’s a double IPA. I think I wrote about Speakeasy once before and mentioned that they had only 2 beers worth buying, this one and the amber ale. This one was really nice. I had a mix of different hops. There was some grapefruit flavor mixed in with some piny hops with just enough malt to give it balance without detracting from the hops. It was a nice solid DIPA.
The last beer I had was Rock Art’s Midnight Madness Smoked Porter. I don’t remember if I wrote about this one yet. It’s a very smoky porter with just enough roasted malts to give it a nice flavor. This would be great paired with Vermont cheddar or some smoky meats.
Day 5 was Friday. We spent the day doing everything else that we had wanted to do. We started the day with a light hike to see the falls. It ended up turning into a serious descent down a bunch of tiny stone steps, but it was worth it. The water was unbelievably clean and clear (I wanted to drink it). The falls were beautiful and the way the water cut into the rocks was just awesome. Unfortunately, and I didn’t realize this until we started walking, it was all downhill… meaning the return was all uphill. Who would’ve thought that a hike in the mountains would start downhill.
After the hike, we went back and changed because we were now hotter than we had planned. Then we headed to Morrisville to visit Rock Art Brewery. Luckily, Fridays are tour days at Rock Art, not that there’s a big planned out tour. We were the only ones there aside from the 3 employees cleaning the tanks (Friday is also clean up day). One of them gave us a nice tour, which didn’t involve a lot of walking because the brewery is small. However, it was the best brewery visit I’ve had out of the 4 breweries I’ve visited (Long Trail and Magic Hat on this trip and Victory when Susan was living in Philly). The woman who gave us the tour knew her stuff, and she was really fun to chat with at the end in their “store”. Unfortunately, their tasting room hadn’t been completed and we didn’t get to try anything. We did buy a ton of beer from them and so far it’s awesome.
Following Rock Art, we decided to try to find their one beer that’s 10% ABV, The Vermonster. Now, just recently, VT passed a law that allows the sale of beer up to 16% ABV. Previously, the cap was at 8% and anything above that had to be sold as liquor in a liquor store. The new law, however, does not take effect until July 1. We ended up grabbing a sandwich and heading back to Stowe after not having any luck in the nearby liquor store.
Before our trip up, Susan had read about the Vermont Culinary Classic. They had a kick off event on Friday night at the Stowe Country Club. It was advertised as a local food and craft beer tasting. We decided to check it out since we’re suckers for craft beer tastings. Unfortunately, the only craft beer was on tap at the bar and you had to pay extra for it. The food was excellent, especially the strawberry crepes, but the poor advertising had me expecting more.
It was a great trip. I fell in love with Burlington and maybe someday we’ll move, though being that far from our family and friends might be a bit difficult. I want to go back there again. I love Vermont and all it has to offer. It’s really one of that best states in the country.
The first day of my honeymoon was spent driving up to Vermont. Along the way, we stopped by the Long Trail brewery to have lunch, some beer, and take a little tour. The brewery is pretty far off I-89 in Bridgewater Corners. It’s a nice drive (normally, they had the road all torn up to pave it when we drive through). It takes you through the beautiful little town of Woodstock and over Quechee Gorge. Upon arrival at Long Trail, we went straight for the food. We were hungry. We ordered a sampler of the 6 beers they had on tap and I had the bratwurst and Susan got a chicken sandwich. Both were really good. The beer was hit or miss depending on the style. I love their Long Trail Ale and Double Bag, and their IPA is really good. I got to try some of their styles I hadn’t had before. I was not impressed by the Blackberry Wheat. It was too sweet for me. The Hefeweizen was actually really good. The Belgian White was nice on the hot day as well. They had water and iced tea for free, as well as popcorn. We each had a glass of water, which was ranked the best drinking water in the state or something like that. I was impressed. It was really good water. The outdoor deck was nice overlooking a little river/brook, though it was very hot outside. Inside, they had all sorts of cans from around the world and a little history of beers they used to brew (who knew they brewed a stout back in the day, I wish they still did). Finally, we went upstairs to the self-guided tour area to view the brewing operations. It was really hot in there, but it was neat to see how they did it. The brewing equipment was really packed in tight. I could see why they don’t do guided tours on the brewing floor. We bought a couple shirts and a glass before we left.
On our way back to the highway, we stopped at Quechee Gorge to take a look. Holy crap was the bridge high. The view was amazing and the gorge was pretty cool. It could’ve been a day trip all by itself hiking down and enjoying it. However, it was 90+ degrees and we had to get to the hotel in Stowe. We continued on our way…
Tomorrow, I’ll write up the second day’s activities.