Tag Archives: Victory

Great International Beer Festival 2009

I went to the GIBF this year for both sessions. While there seemed to be fewer booths at this one compared to the one last year (note: I did not go to the one in the spring), the quality of the breweries seemed to be a bit better. We had more smaller breweries present than in past years, though we also had some that weren’t present, most notably Smuttynose. I can’t help but wonder if their presence at Beervana had anything to do with them not coming to the GIBF. It’s probably a combination of that and the economy, considering the GIBF not only makes the breweries pay for a table but also donate the beer and their time. This is something that should not be done if you ever want to start a beer festival. Beervana, on the other hand, bought all the beer and simply requested that a brewer or brewery rep staff the tables. The breweries prefer this approach because they only have to donate their time. It also allows the festival organizers to hand pick the beers they are pouring at the festival.

Last year, I had only attended the afternoon session, which tends to be the quieter of the two sessions with more people who are really into the beer as opposed to people looking to pay $36 for an all you can drink party. I had heard some horror stories of the second session in the past. This time it seemed to be a bit more mellow. While there were a lot more people than the first session, and it was definitely crazier than the first session, there wasn’t a whole lot of screaming and chanting that I had expected. From an attendee’s standpoint, it seemed to go pretty smoothly, though they had a harder time forcing people out than we did at Beervana.

Some of my favorite brewery stops were Mayflower, Offshore, Gardner’s Ale House, Watch City Brewing, Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies, and Ithaca. They all had a great selection of beer. Even the other breweries brought some unexpected beers. Victory, for example, had Wild Devil, Golden Monkey, Baltic Thunder, and Hop Wallop (in addition to Prima Pils). I was surprised they brought so many of their bigger beers. I would have expected Prima Pils and Hop Devil. I was surprised to see that Mayflower signed up for this as well. They hadn’t been there in the past. They even brought some of their Thanksgiving Ale with them, which was quite excellent. Even Providence’s own Trinity Brewhouse had four different whiskey barrel aged beers. So even though Heineken, Corona, and Presidente were all present, the quality of beer from the other breweries was much better than last year. Dogfish Head, whom I had heard would not be coming, ended up having a table (though without their RI rep). It was expected that they would only have 60 Minute IPA and a seasonal. They actually had 90 Minute IPA, Chicory Stout, Raison d’Etre, and Indian Brown Ale. While these aren’t their top offerings, they aren’t the usual suspects either.

All in all, it was a good fest. The layout was better, spacing the rows out a bit more, allowing for easier movement around the floor. They put the stage in the far corner this time rather than at the end of one of the rows of booths. This kept it a bit quieter, though they probably should have lowered the volume of the band and raised the volume for the award ceremony. Aside from that, it was great. I still don’t think it’s worth my money for admission, but if you want a decent introduction to some craft beer available in southern New England, it’s a pretty good place to familiarize yourself with it.

The Seasonal Beer Creep

You may have noticed that there are some pumpkin beers and oktoberfests already out on the shelves of your favorite liquor store or place to buy beer. Southern Tier released their Pumking in July. I don’t know about you, but even though I’m not one to care about what kind of beer I drink in certain seasons, pumpkin beers aren’t something I want in the summer. The spices and flavors just don’t go well with 90 degree weather. I imagine I’m not the only one that feels this way. Victory just announced via Twitter that they’re Festbier will be released in a week or so. Naturally, I asked them why they’re releasing it so early. Their response was that it’s refreshing and easy drinking and this will allow it to reach more markets in time for the season. That’s a valid response. In fact, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. Victory and Southern Tier aren’t the only culprits with the seasonal creep. Boston Beer Co., brewers of the Samuel Adams line of beers, is one of the worst (though they’re hardly as bad as Southern Tier this year, maybe they’ve learned their lesson). I’ve seen their Summer Ale released in March/April. I don’t know who they’re going after, but March in New England still brings quite a bit of snow. April isn’t necessarily a whole lot warmer

What about freshness? If they’re brewing these seasonal beers early to get them to market early, what happens with the freshness of these beers? People don’t want to drink pumpkin beers and oktoberfests in the summer. At the same time, people don’t want to drink beer that’s been sitting around for 2 months either. I know the real reason these breweries are releasing their seasonals early is to make as much money off them as possible. After all, what doesn’t sell hurts their bottom line. I can’t argue with that either. I mean, breweries need to make money to stay in business. I have no problem with that. My problem is using old beer (now 2 months is hardly old, but there’s nothing like fresh beer) to do this. It creates an artificial demand for the limited seasonals. People see them on the shelves and need to buy them. The problem is, it’s August. It’s 90 degrees outside. Humidity is high. People want to go to the beach. They’re not going to be drinking a 9% ABV pumpkin beer. Most people want something lighter, something more refreshing. Granted, Victory’s Festbier fits that bill. Oktoberfests traditionally aren’t strong and don’t have big bold flavors. It’s the little nuances that give a good oktoberfest its flavor. They can be consider refreshing, and it’s a little understandable why Victory is doing this (though it’s mainly for their bottom line).

I get disappointed when some of the better summer beers are sold out long before summer’s end. I also get disappointed when October hits and all the good oktoberfests are gone (granted, Oktoberfest in Germany starts in late September). I like these types of beers to last through Thanksgiving. They make for great beers to pair with a New England Thanksgiving dinner. Summer doesn’t end until late September and Winter doesn’t start until late December. I can understand using the “Polish seasons” (as a teacher in high school used to call them) with fall starting September 1, winter starting December 1, spring starting March 1, and summer starting June 1. That’s fine with me. But hold onto those seasonals until the seasons (Polish or actual) truly start.

So what can we do to put an end to the seasonal creep? For starters, don’t fall for the hype of the seasonals hitting the shelves. Wait until you really want to be drinking that type of beer to buy them. This will cause your local liquor stores (or places that sell beer) to keep them off the shelves, or better yet, not order them from the distributor, until the season actually hits. When the distributors start seeing a buildup of the seasonals because no one wants them out of season, they’ll stop buying them from the breweries until the time is right. And you know what happens next… the breweries will stop brewing the seasonals so early.

Another thing you can do is to write to your favorite breweries. Explain to them that you want their summer beers to last through the end of summer. Tell them you want to see them on the shelves in late August so you can stock up on them for your Labor Day BBQ. Brewers tend to listen to their customers. It’s a tough business and if they lose sales, they’ll have to change their ways to keep going. I’m not telling you to threaten them with a boycott. That’s going too far. We still want them to exist. After all, we love their beer. We just want them to release their seasonal beer in a sane manner and keep it in season.

I understand that oktoberfests are a tough one. They have the shortest season. People tend not to want to buy oktoberfests after Halloween. Pumpkin beers have a little longer season, assuming breweries don’t name them after holidays (I know Gritty’s Halloween Ale is an ESB, not a pumpkin beer, but it’s tied to a single holiday) or use holiday-specific artwork (I’m looking at you Shipyard Pumpkinhead). If they changed the way they market these beers or even the branding of them, the beers will sell through November. Pumpkin pie is a staple dessert for Thanksgiving. It’s funny because pumpkin beers tend to taste like pumpkin pie.

So to all your brewers out there… Please stop releasing your seasonals earlier and earlier. I don’t want to start seeing summer beer released in February or pumpkin beers released in May.

Victory Storm King Stout at 1 Year

Last night I pulled up a can of Oskar Blues Ten Fidy that I had been holding since last year and a bottle of Victory Storm King Stout that I had been holding for a year.  I decided to try the Storm King.  This beer is normally a very hoppy, “in your face” Russian Imperial Stout.  I figured I’d age it and watch the hops mellow out a bit and bring some of the malt flavors forward.  That’s exactly what happened.  The beer is now much smoother, though not silky smooth.  It has more of a roasted malt flavor with some chocolate notes and a slight hint of coffee.  It’s also a lot easier to drink without the huge bitterness from the hops in addition to the huge flavors from the malts.

I’ve got three more bottles of this in my cellar.  I think I might save them for the next three years and see what happens.  There are plenty of RIS’s out there that don’t need aging that I can get by without this one.  I do think I’ll buy more soon, though, and let it sit in my cellar for a while.  The Ten Fidy will be another night this weekend.

Review: Cafe 412

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.

An Alt, a DIPA, a Smoked Porter

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.

Playing Catch Up

I’ve had a lot of beers that I haven’t written about.  You can always check my beer list if you’re curious as to what I’ve been drinking.  I keep that more up-to-date than my posts about beers I’ve had.  Anyway, here’s some of the beers I’ve had since I stopped writing about them.

As I posted previously, I picked up a bunch of beer from Rock Art in Vermont.  I have since tried their Midnight Madness Smoked Porter and their IPA.  The Midnight Madness was awesome.  It was nicely smoked and a great all around porter.  The IPA, however, was pretty bland.  It was light in color, flavor, and body.  It didn’t have the hops flavors I’ve come to love in my IPA’s, but it wasn’t really an English-style IPA either.  I probably wouldn’t bother with this one again.

One beer I picked up in Vermont that I thought was really solid was Peak Organic’s Maple Oat Ale.  This one has a nice hint of maple and the smoothness of the oats.  It’s a really great amber ale that I will likely buy again and again (perhaps they’ll find their way down to RI soon).

I rarely give a beer a drain pour.  However, I tried the bomber of McNeill’s Summer IPA.  It was easily the worst IPA I have ever tried (and being an IPA fan, I’ve had a lot).  I drank a full glass, but poured the rest.  It was just an unbalanced mess of hops and malt that didn’t make for a drinkable beer.

Another recommendation from BeerRiot was Clipper City’s Loose Cannon from the Heavy Seas lineup.  It was good, but nothing special.  I’d consider it just an average IPA.

Another disappointment was Founders Devil Dancer.  I use the term “disappointment” lightly as the beer was good.  It just wasn’t what I expected.  They call it a “Triple IPA”.  That’s not a true style (not yet at least), but the beer tasted like a slightly hoppy barleywine.  It was good and definitely worth trying (and maybe I’ll buy it again), but I wanted a DIPA at the time.

I tried a different Victory beer (and I think I’m just about through with their whole lineup aside from the bigger bottles, like V-12 and V-Saison).  I had the Moonglow Weizenbock.  It had a nice banana and spice flavor to it, but it wasn’t overly complex.  I’ve had better weizenbocks, but this one is still a great weizenbock from a great American brewery.

Finally, the beers I brought back from Canada… I had Picaroons Blonde Ale and Picaroons Yippee IPA.  The Blonde Ale was simply fantastic.  It was a nice light ale.  It was very refreshing, but still had a lot of flavor.  The IPA wasn’t quite as good, but it was still a good English IPA.  It had this other flavor to it that I couldn’t figure out.  The only thing I can liken it to is a slight whisky flavor (perhaps it was aged in barrels).  Other than that other flavor, which did make it good, it was a very solid beer.  The label made it sound like they were playing around with the recipe with each new batch.  I’ll have to look over their Brewer’s Log to see if I can find it.  Picaroons is turning out to be a totally awesome brewery.  I can’t wait to try the others I bought.  I had to add the Blonde and the IPA to BeerAdvocate because they weren’t listed (new styles, perhaps?).

That ends my catching up.  I’ll post about the Dogfish Head dinner in a little bit.  Right now, I think I need some Mr. Lemon.

Honeymoon Day 5: Hiking, Rock Art, Culinary Classic

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.

Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

I decided to crack open my 22 oz. bomber of Great Divide’s Hercules Double IPA tonight. At 9.1% ABV, this is a big beer. And with this big beer comes big flavor. Of the double IPA’s I’ve had, this one is definitely my favorite (at least of the standard flavor double IPA’s… Victory’s Hop Wallop is in a different class because of its super hoppiness). Anyways, this beer pours a nice amber color with a decent head (I probably would’ve had more head if it was a bit warmer when I poured it). It is also not cloudy like their Titan IPA. The smells are of mainly malty goodness, but there’s a bit of a piney citrusy hops scent as well.

The taste and drinkability are where it’s at. This beer is a perfectly balanced double IPA. The flavors up front are of the sweet malts, perhaps some caramel malt. Down in back, you get the tingle of the hops, piney and citrusy, like the scent. Though the alcohol content is high, you don’t know it in the flavor. It feels a bit thicker and heavier, but that’s to be expected. I have easily drunk most of this glass (and I still have about half the bottle left). This beer is pure pleasure. If you like IPA’s and you want to move onto bigger beers, this is a great start and finish (though I would still recommend trying more and more). I have definitely found my favorite double IPA.

More Autumn Beers

Let’s see… last night at the Geek Dinner, I drank the Redhook ESB, which wasn’t anything special. Not too bitter, lacked any sort of hops flavor to it and wasn’t even the same color as most ESB’s. It wasn’t bad, but not what I had hoped for. Upon my return, I drank one of my Oktoberfests, this time it was Otter Creek’s Oktoberfest. Again, I was a bit disappointed. It wasn’t very flavorful, and it was another (like the Harpoon Oktoberfest) that isn’t actually a Marzen, but an American Amber/Red Ale. I wasn’t a big fan of it. It was kind of thin and watery and just plain not that good. Again, it wasn’t awful, but it just wasn’t what I was hoping for (and I’ve had some good Otter Creek beers). It didn’t taste ale-like like the Harpoon one did, it actually tasted somewhat like a lager, but more like a regular old lager, just not full of flavor (though not like a macro lager).

So tonight’s beer is making up for last night. Victory’s Festbier is a great Oktoberfest/Marzen and is exactly what I was hoping for. It’s a bit lighter, but it has a very clean taste. It’s crystal clear amber in color has good carbonation and a nice amount of flavor. There’s a slight hops bite to it, but it’s almost all malt flavor. There’s a slight nut flavor to it and a slight caramel flavor as well. This is another highly recommended Oktoberfest (along with the Harpoon).

I also decided to have a second beer tonight… Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale. This is a great beer, though the spices and flavors could be a bit more subtle. Anyways, the beer pours like a regular ale with a dark amber color and moderate carbonation. The smell of it is fantastic with scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The flavor is very up front with the spices, again cinnamon and nutmeg and the pumpkin flavor. In my opinion the flavors could be a bit more subtle as it’s almost too much. However, I still recommend this beer and it makes a great fall brew (and yes, I know this isn’t an Oktoberfest, but the first of the Pumpkin Ales, though the only one left is the Smuttynose).

2 Beers You Should Try…

I like beer, as can be seen by some of my previous posts and by the tagline of this blog. I am lucky to have Nikki’s Liquors nearby to fill my craft beer needs. I recently picked up 2 mix-a-6’s from Nikki’s with a bunch of beers I haven’t tried (and a couple favorites). I’m going to write about 2 of them. If you can find these beers at a package store nearby, you should try them. One is widely available, the other, I’m not so sure.

Anchor Porter, pretty widely available, is perhaps the best porter I have tried. It’s nicely carbonated, thick black, and all roasted malt with a slight bitterness to it. It’s about as perfectly porter as you can get before it becomes a stout. The only other porter I’ve had that was this good was Smuttynose’s Robust Porter. It’s very similar in flavor and thickness, with less carbonation. Both are amazing porters, both are a must try.

Oskar Blues Old Chub is an awesome Scottish style ale. It has a very carmel-y malty roasted chocolate flavor to it. It almost tastes like it was aged in oak barrels as it has that nice oak/whiskey flavor to it. I’ve had only a couple Scottish ales previously (from Sam Adams and Trinity Brewhouse). I’ve liked all that I’ve tried and this one was definitely the best of the 3. If you can find it, buy some. Don’t be put off by the can that it comes in. Cans do not equate to macro piss beer. In this case, it equates to a nice tastey powerful brew. At 8% abv, this isn’t for the lightweights (though one wouldn’t hurt…).

As I go through the rest of the beers in the mix, I’ll write more about them. Just for reference, the first 2 before these 2 were New England Brewing’s Sea Hag IPA, which also came in a can and, while good, was just your average IPA, and Victory’s HopDevil Ale, which is one of my favorite IPA’s (second only to Great Divide’s Titan IPA with Haverhill Brewery’s Leatherlips IPA coming in at a very very close third). Needless to say, my favorite style is the almighty IPA. Yes, I am a hophead.