Monday, November 28, 2011

Does Aging Really Do Anything To Beer?

I recently wrote about aging beer and threw in some guidelines for you to follow in the event you wanted to try it out, have a look here This is my second year of aging, and although none of the beer in my basement has aged very long, some have shown signs that sitting in the cold dark basement has been worth the wait. Some were purchased with the intention to age for years, others have just been set aside for that special time.

This summer, River Horse Brewery in Lambertville, NJ put out it's second edition of their pumpkin ale. Hipp-O-Lantern, as they call it, is a beer I wanted to make sure to have on hand for when Thanksgiving rolled around. I managed to hold onto 6 bottles. Quite impressive for me since my biggest challenge aging beer is rule #7 in my post, DON'T DRINK THE BEER FOR AT LEAST A YEAR! Although the Hipp-O-Lantern got pushed aside for a different beer on turkey day, tonight felt like a good night to open one up.

Here is an example of what just a short time can do to a beer. Reviewing my original review from August 11, I noticed some major flavor characteristics being more defined, and others that were at the fore front, have now taken the back seat. Here is the original review,

appearance-pours a reddish copper with no head that has a slightly cloudy body.

smell-many different spices you would expect with a pumpkin ale. cinnamon, all spice, vanilla, pumpkin, malt, and a very faint touch of sweet honey

taste-starts with a sweetness like clover honey combined with molasses and malt. then there is notes of earthy pumpkin with cloves and ends with a faint touch of hops and all spice. very nice. 

mouthfeel-smooth with low carbonation. leave a pleasant fizziness on the palate after consumption. 

overall-good imp pumpkin ale. doesnt sit heavy on the stomach and can be enjoyed through out the night. like that it features more earthiness of pumpkin rather than the sweet pumpkin pie flavor.

    Now, here is a comparative tasting the same beer today, 

Appearance-little different here except with the head. large creamy pale head that quickly fades and leaves a generous amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell-although there are subtle spice aromas, now the hops are booming. It is the dominate smell along with the sweetness, spices, and pumpkin. 

Taste-the hops are coming forward as is the malt now. even though the hops are dominate, it's a calm hop flavor. the pumpkin and spice flavors in the middle help to mellow everything out. 

Mouthfeel-it seems slightly more carbonated now which may have contributed to the large puffy head. 

Overall-big changes going on here. the aromas and flavors from the original review are still evident, but in a different order and with some stronger now than in the past. the beer tastes more complex now as well. you really need to focus in order to pick up every flavor and smell. 

    As you can see, BIG changes. Just leaving the beer to sit there and allowing all those bacteria and other goodies in the bottle to do what they want has shown huge changes. And it's only been four months! So now when someone asks you why you have around a hundred bottles of beer in your basement, you can be sure it's for good cause and try to explain it to them. Trouble is, they will still find you a little mad! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Beer Blogging For a Dummie?

With the start, and seemingly slow growth of interest, of my blog I reached a point of confusion of how to gain more information than I have currently access to. Already there are at least 100 other people like me in this state alone who blog about local breweries and the beer scene in general. So where is one to turn for information that hasn't already been tapped?

Last night, I went to Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen, NJ. Offering my email and blog address didn't seem to conjure up much interest in the owner/beer guy of Hailey's and right now, the day doesn't offer me enough time to access the scene even in my local area. So, here I am! Left wondering and conjuring up ways to gain more access with the same amount of time, and the same amount of ability to drink beer. I have low tolerance, and high blood pressure! So even though the desire to drink more and more is there, the ability is not! Session drinking is what one like me should turn to.

So where does one turn for ideas? His readers! Drink some beer and leave a comment. Let me know what your most looking for in blogs like mine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As the Turkey Sits In Brine....

A heritage Red Bourbon Turkey. This is the breed of our bird.

A meal is not complete without the proper beverage. In my case, the beverage is beer. Right now our turkey, a naturally raised bird from Griggstown Farm in Princeton, NJ that lived only 40 minutes away from our house, is sitting in brine. So which are the best beverages to compliment all food which I am fortunate enough to receive? Even though my beginning beverage of choice, Weyerbacher's Rapture, there will be other beers enjoyed. So what beers would I recommend to you if you can get your hands on them? Here are 3 beers that will highlight your meal, then 3 more that will help highlight all those deserts.

River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout. A yearly offering from the Lambertville, NJ brewery has been a fan favorite since it made it's debut about 3 years ago. This stout is easy drinking, and full of flavors that won't overwhelm your palate so you can still taste all those sides! The ABV is a little high for a beer you will certainly want more of. But at 6.7% it won't kill you to have two or three.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. Another great seasonal beer. I just tried this for the first time this year and don't know what took me so long. It's easy drinking, has a nice maltiness to it, and the flavors just make you feel the fall season. Tumbler is also lighter on the ABV than the River Horse, coming in at only 5.5%. So this is one you can have a couple of without risking being asleep for dessert!

Lastly, Anchor Steam Christmas Ale 2011. Since Chritmas decorations pop up before Halloween now, I found it ok to list a Christmas Ale for a beer to drink during Thanksgiving. This beer is a tricky pick though. If you read the description, you find that Anchor has a different recipe every year for this seasonal brew. So last years may not be as fitting, and next year may be more fitting. But this years is on the spot. Check out my review of this beer 

Now on to dessert. So long as you didn't over do it on the food, and the beer, then you will be ready to go for the next round. These next three beers will heighten the flavors in all those classic deserts you're used to. Making the brown sugar stand out in a pie, or the earthiness of pumpkin be more defined.

Allagash Curieux. Curieux is aged for 8 weeks in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels. The result is a smooth ale that has sweet hints of vanilla and would compliment any dessert well. If you want to be daring, there are recipes on Allagash's site that you can tackle for a new Thanksgiving dessert! But even without a dessert, Curieux is so complex it can be enjoyed alone. It is a remarkable beer. Be careful though, Curieux is 11% ABV!

Souther Tier Pumking. "The most bizarre tasting liquid you will ever consume in your life." Is how I described this beer once to someone. It smells like a pumpkin pie, then tastes like one too! But it's a beer, and a high ABV beer as well at 8.6%. Pumking, like all other fall beers now comes out somewhere in July or August. But it apparently doesn't age well. So if  you're lucky to have one around, now is the time to drink it. This is a great beer to feature with a pumpkin pie.

Otter Creek 20th Anniversary Ale. Get it for this years dessert, or don't get it at all. This is a one time only beer that's in limited quantity. It has a bourbon like flavor and the caramel malts with dark fruit flavor will compliment all your dessert from pies, to cookies, to cakes. The ABV is booming at 12% so either choose to share a bottle or get crazy with your own. But either way, you will enjoy this one as this is the only year it's here.

Well enjoy! Let me know what you chose, what you thought, and how the turkey turned out. I will be sure to post my review of Rapture.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Idiot's Drool, Rare Beers, and Limited Releases. What To Do With Them?

Over the past week I have lucked out a few times. Obtaining Ottercreek's 20th Anniverasary Ale, Weyerbacher's Rapture, and most notably, Weyerbachers Idiot's Drool. Even though the 20th Anniv. and the Rapture are limited release, the Idiot's Drool is by far the cream of the crop and has me posing question about how to handle them. Should I sell some and make back my money while keeping a few for myself? Should I drink it during holiday meals and other gatherings through out the year? Or should i just sit on it? keeping it around until I feel the urge to move on a bottle?

The answer same to me last night, at least for the Idiot's Drool. But it is a rule that can be applied to special release beers in general. Although it is meant to be consumed, it should be treated with high regards. Factor in that I only have 6 bottles for the rest of my life and then the discussion take a very interesting turn. This is a bottle that should come out during things so dynamic in one's life that it requires a celebratory drink that is special. First born child, one of your children's weddings, grandchild being born. But then factor in the beer's life itself. How long can it really sit before turning? This is why 6 bottles for life and no opportunity to obtain more is such a peculiar problem.

The other beers, although being held in high regard, for some reason don't strike the same type of panic that the Drool does. I have 4 bottles each of the other beer. Rapture is 750ml bottles, and Ottercreek's are only 12oz bottles. So the liquid in both bottles, and all for that matter need to be managed well, looked after, and chosen wisely.

Sell some? No way.
Yearly family gatherings? Maaaaaaybe.
Cherished like the memory of a child being born? Definitely.

The sickness in all of this...
I haven't even tried any of these yet!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Maloney's Pub 3rd Annual American Ales Dinner Review

Fun past two nights. After the Weyerbacher Idiot's Drool madness, my wife and I headed to Maloney's Pub in Matawan, NJ for their 3rd Annual American Ales Dinner. We just discovered Maloney's this summer after attending another dinner there. The place is great. Over 60 beers on tap, constant tap rotations, friendly knowledgeable staff, and a cool place to just hang out. Some craft beer places can be packed with people with their noses in the air, not here. It's a welcoming establishment I wish was closer to home.

Tonight's line up featured 4 beers paired with 4 dishes. Each beer was meant to compliment the course it came with and the course did the same for each beer. The line up was attractive on paper and more so in person,

***Harvest Mushrooms- cornbread and sausage stuffed mushrooms paired with Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale (6.5%, American Brown Ale).

***Roasted Autumn Vegetable Bisque paired with Ommegang 2011 Independence Day Ale (6.5%, Farmhouse Ale).
***Turkey Pot Pie- tender turkey, pearl onions, baby carrots and peas in a savory gravy, topped with puff pastry and baked to perfection with Allagash Fluxus 2011 (8% Biere de Garde)
***Pumpkin-Spice Cake topped with crème fraiche and drizzled with a cranberry-orange coulis …..paired with  Dogfish Punkin’ Ale (7%, Pumpkin Ale)
Starting off with the Smuttynose Old Dog Brown Ale was a great call. This may of been my favorite pairing of the night. This beer has been awarded different medals in it's history and you could taste why. A very nice mouthfeel, not overwhelming on the malts or hops, and a great beer to hang out with in any situation. The dish it came with did wonderful things to the flavor characteristics of the beer. Take a bite and sip, you pick up more hops. Sip beer and take a bite, you taste a different herb in the dish or the earthiness of the mushroom explodes on your palate. The chef at Maloney's is amazing at doing this judging by the two dinners we've attended. 
Second course featured Ommegang Independence Day Ale with a wonderful earthy bisque that spoke to almost everyone at the table. This was my least favorite beer of the evening. I found it more suited for the summer with a much lighter body and floral and honey characteristics. Although it did compliment the bisque nicely i found myself just concentrating on the bowl of food and ignoring the glass of Ommegang. I let this one sit to the side and eventually it was replaced with an extraordinary brew by Allagash
Third and main course was a tasty turkey pot pie paired with Allagash Fluxus. What a wonderful complex beer! Allagash is starting to become one of my top breweries. Everything I try from there ends up being incredible. From their White Ale, to their Curioux, Allagash knows how to hit the nail on the head with the brewing hammer every time. The gentleman from Maloney's touted this beer as being delivered to us from the only keg existing in the state. Maloney's has pull, you can see by their tap run, and this was another beer I was amazed they were serving. 
Although the turkey pot pie was a good course, the beer stole the show on this one. Eating the pie mainly to fill me up a bit to avoid complete intoxication, I was focused on absorbing all the flavors of this beer. The Fluxus had so many different flavor characteristics that naming them all would be hard to do by memory. Balanced, with maltiness, slight hops, and features of grapes with some almost wine like qualities to it. Amazing beer!
Last course, and hit with everyone on the table, was pumpkin spice cake. This was another achievement by the chef and their staff for being able to deliver the flavors of fall on a plate to you. A perfect pairing with this was any pumpkin ale you could think of. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale was the chosen beverage. Palate burn out could have been the culprit, or possibly the sugar and cinnamon coated rim on the glass, something I wasn't a fan of, but this beer didn't do anything for me. It lacked the body of most pumpkin ales enjoyed throughout the season, and generally lacked any distinct flavor. I had tried a large run of Dogfish Head beers a few years back and none of them really hit it off with me. This gave me another hint that Dogfish head just isn't for me. The Fluxus was still fresh on my mind, so the Punkin was just something to drink next to the delicious pumpkin cake. 
At the end of the meal, my wife and I were given a complimentary pint of the Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale while we hung out with the couple sitting next to us who were regulars enjoying the same. This was the perfect end to a wonderful night of great food and great beer. The description of the Winter Solstice on their website describes this beer as well and better than I can. It was enjoyed to the last sip nice and slowly. 
Thanks Maloney's for putting on another great dinner. We will be seeing you again soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Weyerbacher Idiot's Drool Release Night. Timing is everything!

Tonight could easily be described by the t-shirt logo above. After missing out on the release party for
Rapture, I left work at 3:30 and drove an hour for the Idiot's Drool release party. Idiot's drool is Weyerbacher's insanely delicious barley wine style ale Blithering Idiot that was then aged in oak barrels for 4 and 1/2 years!!!! I found parking then hesitated for a few seconds in the car, deciding "should get changed out of my dirty work clothes or not", I voted against it due to the large number of cars still pulling up and circling the area. Slipping in line about 30 seconds before the next two guys arrived behind me.

this is only 50% of the total line

The wait begins...
I took to chatting with fellow craft beer enthusiast to try and pass the time as the sun eventually set, the wind picked up and it dropped into the 30's. Thankfully it didn't rain or it could have been a harsh evening for some. The doors eventually opened and the line began to slowly creep forward. The people you were standing with eventually got talked out and we all began to feel concerned. Seeing person after person with an Idiot's Drool case walking out the door and leaving made everyone realize that if you didn't get it, it was gone for good. When we got close enough to see inside, but not see the cases of Idiot's drool, Bill Bragg(scroll to the bottom of the Weyerbacher page for Bill's bio) began walking up and down the line counting heads. Someone asked how much was left. Bill's response, "not much". I nervously ask, "are we going to get some where we stand in line?" Response, "it's gonna be real close, there are only about 40 bottle left." Nervousness begins buidling. A girl starts walking up and down the line, offering people $30 a bottle if you are able to get one for her. People then realized they weren't going to get any.

the chaos inside the brewery. this is the order line, and pay/pick up line mashed together.

Eventually the order table was in site and I could see the actual cases. At first there was 10 cases upon walking in. Look away for a second, now there was 8. Take a step forward and let someone by, now 7. Needless to say, it was nerve wrecking. Sooner or later, there are 3 people in front of me.  Now 1 person in front of me, and only 1 last case. Panic! If he takes all 12 like he said he may, then I'm the first person to come in last! He takes 6! I get the very last 6 bottles available!!!!!! I still feel nervous. Stepping up, handing them my order slip, the guy turns around, then looks at me. In a low voice he says, "You get the last case". Remember how i thought about getting changed in the car? And how the guys who were behind me walked up about 30 seconds after I did? Timing is everything!

view from my spot in the pay/pick up line.
the case on the floor all the way to the right is my case.
dangerously close to anyone wanting to make a desperate attempt for beer.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled. The crazy part, Idiot's Drool was priced at $23 a bottle for a 750ml cage and corked bottle. I bought 6, and haven't even tried it yet!

This was a fun night. Got to talk to some other beer enthusiasts, chatted with people from the brewery, and picked up some damn good beer. In addition to the Idiot's Drool, Rapture was available so ended up throwing 4 of those in there too with 1 Merry Monks, and 1 Double Simcoe IPA

What a night!

No caption needed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Change for the Better.

Having given up on the selection of most of the bars in the area i switched to just buying six packs and drinking at home and visiting my local breweries. The bars never had anything good on tap, most of the crowd was just people looking to get hammered, and the prices were way to high for the kind of beer they were pouring. Two experiences this week are giving me hope that it's time to come out of my cave and head out for a pint. First, being stuck at a wholesale club for two hours waiting for new tires to be put on my truck. And second, heading out just tonight to take a chance and see if anything interesting was on tap.

Well what i found on both occasions was promising. At a Buffalo Wild Wings (a place i never imagined even stepping near) the tap run included, Blue Point, Long Trail, Stone, and some other beers that you don't usually see. After talking with the manager for a while it was apparent that the clients there were controlling the taps. He had bought in other local brews, but all the people wanted was the special that night, which was mostly Coors, Bud, or Miller. So they had to tone it down and reduce the craft beer selection to just a few. But it intrigued me. If Buffalo Wild Wings had Stone, what did other places that weren't as commercial have?

Tonight was a sign of what may be coming true. Craft beer is mainstream. Being so amazed that B.W.W. had Stone on tap, I picked a random place and popped in. Amazing! Ramstein, Long Trail(2), Sam Adams(2), Flying Dog, Harpoon, Brooklyn, Dogfish Head, Stone, Smuttynose, Ottercreek, and South Hampton Publick House!! They didn't even have the Big 3 on the tap run. They stored it out of site, nearly under the bar. Could it be they didn't want the Coors and Bud taps disrupting the craft beer image they wanted to display?

Maybe people got fed up being given an option of only 4 beers on tap where ever they went and either demanded more options, or just simply pulled out of the scene and hit the local breweries themselves (my preferred tactic). Either way, there seems to be a wave of change hitting even commercial restaurants. People want good beer!

Head out to a place you haven't visited in a few years. See what's pouring there. You may be very excited to see the pint glass is no longer full of yellow stuff they refer to as beer, but a complex dark ale with a nice thick head.


Tastings, Dinners, and other Local Events. Where to go for the beer.

Over the past year I've attended some great beer events. From dinners to tastings, or a festival where beer was one of the main attractions there have been a number of them this year. After researching breweries, going to my local liquor store too often, or just going into a bar for a random pint it's becoming evident that there are hundreds of events every year. Just New York City and Philadelphia can keep you occupied all year. One of the major problems though was knowing where to find the information in advance so you aren't left in the cold.

Sticking with just my very local area, here are three helpful links to help you narrow your searches, or just find something to do during the week or weekend. Unfortunately I was unable to find a New York State, or Pennsylvania State guide. But these links will give you a plethora of events to pick from.

New Jersey



Pick out an event and head out for the day. Talk with your local brewery represetative and learn something about beer you never knew. Or maybe find a brand new beer you never tried before from your favorite brewery. Events are a great way to gain knowledge of the beer you are drinking. And if nothing else, you can thank your local brewers for making the beer you look forward to drinking at the end of a hard day.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Honest Pint Update.

Last post gave a quick description of the project and their goals failing to mention that the site creator was bailing out of the effort. Guess I didn't do enough homework before writing the post!

Good news though, recently read on Beervana, a very well put together beer blog, that the site will be taken over by a group of people who will be dedicating the resources to it to make it successful!

Keep hitting the site to check for updates and look for your favorite places to get certified.

Honest Pint Project

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Honest pint project. How to know you get what you pay for.

When you order a beer in a local pub, how can you be sure that what you're paying for is what you get? Sure if you order a craft beer and a mass produced crap beer comes you know the difference. But what if the glass is only 14 ounces? Sure you can do the math, but your loosing one pint after you really pay for eight. Doesn't seem very right.

Honest Pint Project is dedicated to listing your favorite pubs and restaurants that are giving you the full 16 ounces you deserve.

The site seems to be very seldom used (as there are only 8 states listed where certified pints are being poured and the site is ). But they list instructions on how to get your local place certified, and hopefully they meet the requirements. If not, demand a full pint!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Winter beer season is here!

Sorry for the lapse in post. Storm took focus from posting to consuming.

With the onslaught of pumpkin ale and Oktoberfest season now at a close and a slow disappearing of those beer from all the stores its now time for an even more overwhelming beer season. With the winter brings a whole new mix of different brews to pick from. Christmas Ales, Holiday Porters, Belgium Doubles and Triples, and Stouts galore will fill the shelves.
Each brewery does it differently, you can count on some putting forth a hefty darker style beer packed with a dominate malty flavor. But there are plenty of other breweries that offer something totally different. This has been somewhat of the trend from what I've experienced(try Smuttynose Winter Ale for a great example of maltiness and Harpoon Winter Warmer for a spice filled ale).

In addition to my regular favorites, this is a time to look forward to your favorite brewery putting out an experimental batch that could be a delight. Two or three years ago Riverhorse in Lambertville, NJ released their Oatmeal Milk Stout that was wildly popular. This year the same brewery will put out a Chocolate Porter. Meanwhile still keeping their Oatmeal Milk Stout as their yearly winter release in addition to their equally popular Belgian Freeze.

Also Weyerbacher in Easton, PA is planning a release party for their one of a kind Idiot's Drool. With the craze of oak barrel aged beer at a fever pitch, Weyerbacher is setting a great example of how to do it right. Idiot's Drool is simply their Blithering Idiot, a hefty Barleywine style brew aged in Bourbon barrels for 4 years!!!! The anticipated release is November 17th and is happening at the brewery. This beer is not being released in stores so if you're close by, make the trip. This is also in addition to their Winter Ale(keep an eye out for the Klepto-snowmen on the packaging), and their Quad.

Then there's the Vermont trio. Longtrail in Bridgewater Corners, VT has their popular Hibernator. Otter Creek in Middlebury, VT took their awesome Black IPA out of the seasonal category and replaced it with an all new Winter Red Ale. Thankfully they kept the Black IPA as a year round selection. And Wolaver's, also in Middlebury, VT has a their tasty Alta Garcia Coffee Porter.

Although not my favorite, Troeg's in Hershey PA has their insanely popular Mad Elf. Plan on picking this up if you see it. My taste buds are defective, so I'm told, since people are in love with this beer and it just grossed me out last year. But I will try again this year.

Finally, Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, CA has their equally popular Christmas Ale. This beer is one you can't judge by trying once. Unlike other breweries, Anchor does something very different for their seasonal offering. Instead of keeping the same recipe each year, they basically completely rehaul the entire recipe every year. Try it this year and if you love it, buy it is mass quantities since you will never get that same offering again. It's somewhat saddening(observe my wife and I passionately talking about how good the 2010 offering was) but that makes this brew so special each year.

Keep your eye out for these and others this winter season. You can get a malty hearty ale or a beer hinted with pine cones. Unlike the pumpkin ale season where it's all pumpkin in every bottle, The winter season is full of variety, and wonder. Stay warm, and keep the beer flowing to guide you through the cold months!