Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweetwater Brewery - 420 Extra Pale Ale

Another beer that I received in my monthly shipment, but also one that I know I can get locally. Sweetwater brews are readily available in many places throughout the Southeast. This West Coast-style pale ale is the Georgia-based brewery's most popular beer. 

5.4% ABV

420 has a clear appearance and a bright, golden color. Ample carbonation is visible, with steady streams of large bubbles rising up to meet a pillowy, bright white head.

It has a light aroma, mostly resin-floral hops with some bready malt notes. As it warmed, the aroma sweetened and filled with a strong honey scent.

Taste & Feel 
Light body. Very clean, smooth feel. The taste is quite mild, and mostly hops throughout. Some bready malts are evident. A slight carbonated tingle hits just before the crisp, hoppy finish.

A decent beer that should be unoffensive to the casual drinker or craft beer novice. Quite enjoyable while cold, making it an easy summer brew. In fact, be sure drink it cold. While the aroma sweetened as it warmed, it also became bitter. Fortunately, the fairly low alcohol content means you can finish one while it's still chilled.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. - Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale.

Another surprise from the latest craft beer o' the month delivery. This one comes to us from Kiln, Mississippi's Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company. Lazy Magnolia beers are only available in the Gulf states, Florida and Tennessee.

Quite literally a nut brown ale, Southern Pecan is labeled as a smooth and sweet English style brown ale brewed with whole roasted pecans.

4.5% ABV

Southern Pecan has a deep copper color with a warm, amber glow.
Very light carbonation is visible through the clear appearance. Small bubbles slowly rise to reach the foamy cream head.

Sweet, caramel malt and pecan nuttiness conjure up thoughts of a sticky pecan pie.

Taste & Feel
Sweet and malty right from the start. Strong caramel character dominates. It has a medium body with smooth, well-blended flavor throughout. The finish is slightly dry and nutty.

A very enjoyable and versatile beer. The low alcohol content and well-blended flavors makes it easily sessionable. At the same time, the sweet, rich flavor and smooth body makes me want to let it warm up and savor it slowly... which I am doing with the second bottle.

As an aside, I'd like to add that I absolutely love their branding. Simple and clean, with a look that's reminiscent of an old highway marker on a dusty, rural road. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

King's Restaurant - Kinston, NC

You're already familiar with last weekend's adventure that led me to the doorstep of Kinston's Mother Earth Brewery. Before leaving town, I felt obligated to make the most of the trip by visiting one of the local barbecue joints. After weighing a few options, we settled on King's, mostly because it was nearby and I had driven past it twice, so I knew where to find it.

Pulling up to the place, the first impression is that it's been around awhile. I got the feeling that this may have been the local Saturday night gathering spot for the past several decades

Upon exiting the car, the first thing I noticed was the aroma. It smelled fantastic... like smoke and fried chicken. I should have taken a photo, but the pylon sign from the neighboring Piggly Wiggly provides a subtle branding boost.

Inside, it was like taking a step back in time. The decor appears to be straight out of the 1960's South. I'm not sure how long that particular location has been around, but at the very least, it hasn't been remodeled in my lifetime.  The two large dining rooms were each a wealth of checkerboard tablecovers, and old wooden chairs, surrounded by a perimeter of wooden booths and worn tongue-and-groove paneling.

I ordered the BBQ plate. Alison had the rib & chicken combo, which gave me a chance to try the ribs.

The pork was finely chopped, lightly peppered and moist. On the other hand, it wasn't very smoky. The eastern NC sauce on the table offered up an additional pepper kick, but also added a lot more vinegar to the taste.

The ribs were disappointing. They were saucy and the meat was moist and tender, but lacked the spicy, smoky flavor I like. The portion we got was more fat than meat.

On the other hand, Alison's fried chicken was much better than the other entrees. Crispy skin, nice crunchy breading, moist meat.We both agreed, the hush puppies were good, and I liked the potato salad. It was a bit creamier than I prefer, but it had a great dill flavor that I really enjoyed.

Overall, I'd say, if you find yourself in Kinston, stop at King's, but order the chicken.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mother Earth Brewing - barrel aged Imperial Stout

While I was visiting Mother Earth last weekend, I tried the barrel aged imperial stout that they had on tap. Travis indicated that it isn't a production beer and is only available in the tap room.

I later contacted head brewer Josh Brewer (yes, that's his name) for a description, and he said:
"It was two seperate batches of imperial stout brewed on the one barrel system. I roast my own coffee, so one was infused with coffee and the other batch was not. Also, molasses was added on both. The batches were blended together and then aged in whiskey barrels."
Pretty much a work of art. This stout is black... a completely opaque body with a thick and dense khaki head.

No, not just dense... DENSE! It's milkshake-thick and leaves a heavy coating around the inside of your glass that looks like might serve as pretty decent foam insulation if given a chance to dry out. 

If Josh would brew more than two barrels of it, we could test my theory that I'd float on it. 

The aroma is very woody, with hints of bourbon as it warms. I also picked up whiffs of Kalamata olives.

Wait, wait, wait...I need to explain that, so you don't think I'm saying their beer stinks like olives. You know, those really tasty black olives... they have a thick, rich, sweet, oily aroma. Yeah, those. It's a good thing. Besides, you don't taste it.

Taste & Feel
Every bit as decadent as it looks. The body is thick and full, with a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. 

The flavor was very chocolaty up front, with some light coffee notes. An earthy, oak middle sets in before leaving you with a dry, woody finish.

This is a beautifully crafted beer. You must try it, if they haven't already run out. If they have, petition Josh to make more.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mother Earth Brewing - Tripel Overhead (barrel aged)

Hanging out in the Mother Earth Tap Room prior to Saturday's tour, I enjoyed the bourbon barrel-aged version of Tripel Overhead. It's on tap now, and according to the tap room manager, a limited release of bottles should be available in a few months. A non-barrel aged version is available in bottles now.

9.5% ABV


Straight from the tap, it had a clouded, translucent appearance, and being unfiltered, it should. The amber-orange color looks very much like apple cider. Even though it had a thin head, quite a bit of carbonation was evident.

This is a strongly aromatic brew. Vanilla, bourbon and oak stand out, while a slightly citrus hops essence hides behind the maltiness.

Taste & Feel
Tastes great. The bourbon flavor of the oak barrels shines through right away. Earthy
malts dominate, followed by a slight hoppy bite. Medium body, good carb tingle. Warm, boozy

Excellent. Beers like this are the reason I drink. Take the time to sip and savor this one.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brew Tour: Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston, NC

We left Atlantic Beach early this afternoon, which meant we'd be passing through Kinston just in time to stop off at Mother Earth Brewing. Having previously enjoyed their four main brews, I was eager to visit their production facility, which opened last October.

We arrived a bit after 2:00, which meant we had almost an hour to kill before the next tour began. Fortunately, the tap room was open, so I was able to pass the time with a couple beers (Alison had water). I started off with a barrel-aged Tripel Overhead, which I had sampled at the World Beer Fest and wanted to try on tap. I followed that up with another barrel-aged beer, the imperial stout, which taproom manager Travis Quinn highly recommended. Good stuff all around (and reviews forthcoming!).

Assistant brewer Greg Papp led the tour. Very informative if you've never been to a brewery. He covered everything from milling to bottling. Mother Earth currently has a 20-barrel system, with four 40-barrel fermenters. Greg said that they expect more equipment this summer, which should allow them to keep up with demand and expand distribution beyond North Carolina. If you're in NC, Mother Earth beers should be relatively easy to find.
The brewery itself is in an old brick building on the corner of N. Heritage and W. North Streets. The brewery rehabbed it in 2009, incorporating a number of green features like recycled denim insulation and a rooftop solar array. The renovation earned the Visual Improvement Award from the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce.

If you're ever near Kinston (it's only an hour and a half drive from Raleigh), I'd highly recommend checking it out. Even if you've done tours before, simply hanging out in the tap room and enjoying a few beers - several of which can't be obtained anywhere else - is definitely worth the time.  

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moerlein Brewing Co. - Friend of an Irishman Stout

Another craft brew of the month find from Cincinnati-based Moerlein.

4.7% ABV

Muddy, dark coffee brown color. Frothy head didn't hold up very long. Some light gets through, giving it a soft brown glow. Appears to be thin for a stout.

A sweet, smoky malt dominates. Coffee, toasted marshmallow, toffee and a light hickory smoke all come through.

Taste & Feel 
Starts off sweet, with coffee and a bit of chocolate as the prominent flavors. A bit of fruity tartness hits in the middle before a dry, roasted finish sets in.

A bit thin in the body. That and the carbonated tingle make this feel more like a porter.

Interesting. Powerful aroma and a blend of flavors give this quite a bit of character. I'd give it a "B".

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Heavy Seas - Pale Ale

The Heavy Seas line of beers is brewed by Clipper City Brewing Company out of Baltimore. It's available throughout the east coast and Great Lakes. I received it in my craft brew of the month shipment, but I'm fairly certain I've seen it at Total Wine & More.

4.75% ABV

Pours an attractive warm amber color with a clear, bubbly appearance. Large bubbles form a modest, but dense, cream colored head that quickly dissipated.

Very straightforward... biscuity malt and light, floral hops

Taste & Feel
A nice, medium body with a slight carbonated tingle, but otherwise smooth mouthfeel. Taste is sweet up front, followed by a mild flavor balanced nicely between a light, yeasty malt and crisp, floral hop.
Finishes clean and slightly hoppy.

A decent, safe beer. This would make a good transitional beer for your yellow beer drinking friends.