Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mother Earth Brewing - Silent Night (2011)

It's Christmas night. The family has left. The meals are done. The presents have all been unwrapped. My wife and cats have settled in for an after-dinner nap, and while the three of them purr in unison, I'm getting ready to unwrap one last treat that I picked out for myself. Did I say unwrap? Well, uncork, anyway.

I'm popping open my first bottle of Silent Night, Mother Earth's bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. Now, I say that this is my first, but I'm certain I've actually had one previous encounter with this fine beer. If you recall, last summer I was able to sample a small batch of a yet-to-be-named stout while visiting the brewery. I'm not sure if that particular recipe eventually became the 2010 vintage, but it doesn't appear that it has changed much since then.

So now, I'm ready to indulge in the 2011 installment of this limited-edition seasonal, which comes corked & caged in a 750 ml bottle.
9.0% ABV

Everything an imperial stout should be, Silent Night is thick and creamy, completely opaque, black and capped with a creamy suede head.

Silent Night offers up a wonderfully complex bouquet of brown, malty goodness. Whiffs of coffee, molasses and bourbon make this a rather pleasant beer to simply sit with and inhale.  

Taste & Feel 
Bold, but smooth and creamy up front. It's full-bodied, yet incredibly silky. A rich, robust coffee flavor leads off, accompanied by some chocolate notes, before gently yielding to the softer, sweeter and earthier vanilla and oak flavors, precious souvenirs kept from the summer it spent in bourbon barrels. The finish is a dry and woody and leaves a dusty coffee and vanilla aftertaste.

Merry... Effin'... Christmas. If you can get your mittens on it, grab as many bottles as you can, because Silent Night is, without a doubt, one of the best beers you'll ever taste.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Magic Hat Brewing Co. - Howl

A few weeks ago, my neighbor brought over a six pack of Howl, and I've been slowly savoring this black lager ever since.

Howl has a very dark brown color and is nearly opaque, with a jewel-like appearance around the edges. It is capped with a pillowy, tan head.

The aroma is sweet and malty, with dusty cocoa notes. 

Taste & Feel
This is a flavorful beer. It is rich and sweet, with roasted coffee and cocoa flavors. A light smoky taste with a touch of earthy hops. round out the flavors. It's medium bodied with a rather aggressive carbonation that tingles across the lips and tongue. Howl has a coffee finish.

A great fall brew. Definitely a campfire beer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Red Brick Brewing Co. - Smoked Vanilla Gorilla

Trying to get the house ready for sale, but taking a much-needed break to drink a beer and watch a little football. Today's choice is Vanilla Gorilla,which is part of Red Brick's (formerly Atlanta Brewing Co.) Brick Mason Series. It is a smoked porter that is whiskey barrel-aged with smoked vanilla beans.

7.8% ABV

A deep, dark porter. Pours a jet black color with a totally opaque appearance. A bit of a swirl reveals quite a bit of carbonation beneath a thin, tan head.
Much like a great BBQ sauce, the smell is sweet, rich and smoky. It also has pleasing vanilla, caramel and whiskey notes.

Taste & Feel 
Tasty and complex. Smooth vanilla and light smoke flavors lead things off. It has a full bodied, creamy mouthfeel. Halfway through, sweet, caramel malt comes through. It also has a slightly boozy character, brought out by the whiskey notes. A strong, smoky wood character defines the finish.

A glorious balance of flavor. An "A" in my book. If you like bold, complex flavor, this is one you'll want to try. Pair it with a good, smoky barbecue and you'll have a winning meal.If you don't like smoky beers, skip this one. You won't appreciate it.

As an aside, while drinking this beer, CBS switched to the final minutes of the Bills-Patriots game. The Bills answered a late tying score by New England by racing down the field and kicking a game-winning field goal as time ran out. Needless to say, Vanilla Gorilla wasn't the only thing I'm savoring today. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. - Hop Ottin' IPA

As the seasons change, I'm determined to get in one more IPA before completely giving in to the siren song of dark fall beers. Clinging to the final vestiges of summer, I had to go with a canned IPA. This one is from Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville, CA.   AVB has been in  business since 1987 and has grown steadily since. Hop Ottin' is part of their regular offering.

I haven't seen other Anderson Valley beers for sale in stores locally, but I have seen one or two on tap at Draft in Raleigh if you'd like to check it out.

7% ABV

A nice-looking IPA. It has a deep amber color and hazy appearance that gives it a warm, welcoming glow. Ample carbonation is present, at least in the pour. That feeds into a cream-colored, root beer float-like head that leaves a bit of sticky lacing.

A light, pleasant aroma. Yeasty, bready malt notes underlie a pungent, floral hops. Balanced, but clearly favoring the hops.  
Taste & Feel 
Hoppy, hoppy, hoppy. Pine and citrus hit strong and fast up front. A light, caramel sweetness peeks through the middle just before a bold, dry, grapefruit finish that leaves a citrusy, resin aftertaste.

Impressive. If you enjoy big, bold and hoppy, this is one you'll want to try. For as powerful as the hops are, it remains surprisingly well-balanced. Good enough to earn an A- from me.

My realtor was here today and I offered her one. Her first reaction was, "Hoooooooo, that's flavorful!" After a few sips, she said it was a bit strong, but the taste really grew on her. I think you'll agree.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Highland Brewing Co. - Clawhammer Oktoberfest

Named after nearby Clawhammer Mountain, this Marzen-style lager is a fall seasonal from Asheville, NC's Highland Brewing.

5% ABV


Bright amber color. Good clarity. Slow, light stream of bubbles.
Thin, egg white head. 

 Light, bready aroma. Spicy hops. Subtle malty sweetness.

Taste & Feel 
Sweet and smooth up front. Malt filled with fresh bread an honey notes. Middle emerges with a spicy hops kick and a more aggressive feel. Finish is crisp and clean, with a light, lingering spiciness.

Extremely easy-drinking, great flavor. I'd give it an A.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Green Flash Brewing Co. - Double Stout

It's a cold and rainy day in Raleigh, which immediately put me in the mood for something dark. Funny, considering how just last week the warm weather had me struggling to make the transition from summery IPAs to heartier autumn seasonals.

I stopped in to East Wake Wines where Ken, the owner, always seems to know which beer I'll want to try next. I asked him what was new, and he instinctively skipped over his newest Oktoberfests (fear not, I grabbed two on the way out) and steered me directly to Green Flash Double Stout.

Green Flash is a San Diego craft brewery in operation since 2003. Double Stout is a 2010 World Beer Cup silver medalist.

 8.8% ABV

No surprises here. When the label says Double Stout black ale, you know what to expect, and this beer delivers. It's completely opaque and black and is capped with a dense, suede-like,  mocha colored head.

It has a rich, sweet aroma. Coffee and dusty, dark chocolate notes are most prominent. 

Taste & Feel 
Well, damn, this beer has a big, bold taste. It starts off with a dark, robust espresso flavor and an underlying chocolatey sweetness. An aggressive mouthfeel and coating, full body add to the strong character. The finish is dry and heavily roasty.

Quite pleasing. Ken rarely ever steers me wrong. However, I'm torn between wanting to take big, flavorful gulps and slowly sipping and savoring  it. I guess that's why I always buy two.

I'd give this a solid A-.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. - Imperial Pumpkin Ale

My second pumpkin ale of the fall (not quite, yet) season. Weyerbacher's fall seasonal hits a bit harder than most, weighing in at 8.0% ABV.

This beer has a deep copper color with good clarity. It is capped by a thin, cream head that quickly dissipates.

It has a rich and balanced aroma. Sweet pumpkin pie filling and brown sugar are complemented by light whiffs of nutmeg and clove.

Taste & Feel 
Mmmm... this one is rich, smooth and full-bodied. It's sweet and malty from the start with a good balance of pumpkin pie flavors: pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar... and hints of clove and cardamom. Finishes sweet and smooth, with a subtle boozy warmth and a light, nutmeg aftertaste. 

Very good. Smooth and rich, with a nice balance of flavors. I could easily see this being part of my fall rotation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Holland Brewing Co. - Ichabod Pumpkin Ale (2011)

Labor Day means one thing to me... the NFL season starts next week! Since I plan to spend many of my Sundays this fall watching football and reviewing beer, it's perfect that the fall seasonals are starting to show up in my favorite stores.

Last week, I picked up two pumpkin ales at East Wake Wines.  The first up is Ichabod from New Holland. Ichabod is brewed with real pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Look for the headless horseman label.

5.2% ABV

An attractive beer. It has a bright, copper color and a slightly hazy appearance. Ample carbonation is visible, with fairly large bubbles forming a dense, pillowy cream-colored head.

Ichabod has a light aroma. It's bready, with dusty, spicy, nutmeg notes.As it warmed, a sweet pumpkin scent becomes evident.

Taste & Feel 
This is a medium-bodied beer with a light, carbonated tingle. Brown sugar sweetness and nutmeg start things off up front. Faint hints of pumpkin pie come through in the middle. Light, spicy hops give it a bit of a bite toward the finish. Strong nutmeg aftertaste.

Decent. The nutmeg flavor really overwhelms any indication of pumpkin or cinnamon and overpowers the beer . I'd give it a B-.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Co. - 2XIPA double india pale ale

I stopped in to my favorite beer store on Friday only to be greeted with an awesome surprise. It turns out, Southern Tier beers have made their way into the NC market. I'm not yet sure how complete the local selection will be, but the fact that I was able to pick up a Creme Brulee Milk Stout is very encouraging.

While I was there, I grabbed a couple pumpkin ales, with plans to do a fall season preview later this week.

But, it's still summer and I spent the weekend sweating myself silly. That calls for an IPA. Make mine a double.

8.2% ABV
 2XIPA has a bright, brassy color and a lightly hazy appearance. A small amount of carbonation is visible, forming a thin, frothy, egg-white head.

The scent is light and bready. Piney hops are quite noticeable.

Taste & Feel 
Big, bold taste here. It starts off strong with a carbonated burst and a hoppy kick loaded with pine and orange flavors. The hops take on a sweeter, more citrus character after awhile. No shortage of malts in this brew, either. Plenty of bread and honey flavors. It finishes mellow and sweet, with just a hint of a warm, boozy tingle. This medium-bodied ale is very clean and highly drinkable.

Even as it warmed, the flavors held up nicely. The malts got sweeter without the hops turning bitter.

Delicious. Fairly easy drinking for a double IPA with so much flavor. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Echoview Farm to host Hops Festival this weekend

Unfortunately, I'll be heading to the beach, but if you have the time this Saturday, you may want to check out the 2nd Annual Hops Festival at Echoview Farm in Weaverville, NC.  The event feature local craft beer, bluegrass music and a tour of the farm's hops yard.
The 75-acre Echoview Farm,which is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, is also the largest producer of hops in NC. Hops are traditionally grown the the western parts of the U.S., but Echoview has set out to demonstrate that eastern states can be suitable to the crop, too. The farm currently grows 9 varieties, which find their way into Asheville-area craft brews after harvest.

The event takes place from 11 AM to 3 PM. Admission costs $10 per person and includes lunch, samples of beers brewed with Echoview hops and a tasting glass. Registration is online at www.echoviewfarm.com.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Ovila Abbey Dubbel

The Ovila project is a limited-edition, three-ale collaboration between Sierra Nevada and the Abbey of New Clairvaux. Each is brewed according to monastic traditions and part of the proceeds will go toward helping the monks of New Clarivaux to rebuild the Santa Maria de Ovila chapter house on the grounds of their monastery. The stones of the medieval structure date back to 1190.

The Dubbel was released this spring and is the first of three varieties that will be released this year. It comes in a corked & caged 750ml bottle. As a side note, the package is incredibly attractive.

7.5% ABV

It's definitely an attractive beer... a  rich coppery color with crystal clarity. There's a modest amount of carbonation. Close inspection reveals steady pillars of ultra-fine bubbles floating into a thin, tan head.

Surprisingly, it has a very light aroma.  sweet and malty with hints of cherry and clove. I expected something stronger.

Taste & Feel 

Very sweet up front. It's rich, malty and fruity. Raisins and spice stand out in an otherwise caramel-sweet flavor. The initial sweetness is followed by a dry, carbonated burst that complements a light, but spicy, hops. Finish is dry and a bit peppery.

Pretty good. I drank the whole bottle, and the flavor held up quite well as it warmed.Very much looking forward to the Quad, which should be out around Thanksgiving.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Breckenridge Brewery - 471 IPA

Going to a tweetup at a brewery on Thursday, so I'm thinking, "Shit, I'd better update the blog!"

Fortunately, I just picked up a six pack. Part of Breckenridge's 471 Series, this double IPA  is a small batch, limited edition brew. It's availbale year-round, but only in limited quantities.

9.2% ABV

Brassy, amber color. Very slight haze. Modest carbonation visible. Delicate, egg white head. Sticky lacing.

It has a light, airy aroma. Mildly spicy hops and  sweet, bready malt. 

Taste & Feel 
A nice blend of sweet and hoppy. Spicy hops hit first, accompanied by a carbonated burst. It has a medium body and clean mouthfeel. The middle has a sweet caramel flavor with a hint of yeasty bread, followed by a crisp, citrusy hop finish.

Pretty tasty. I'm happy I picked up six.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Terrapin Beer Co. - Tomfoolery Black Saison Ale

Tomfoolery is the 14th installment in Terrapin's Side Projects series, limited-edition single batch runs of experimental brews. It is a "black saison," loaded with rye, wheat and dark malts that give an otherwise traditional ale an unusually dark color.

7.3% ABV

Black, is accurate. Tomfoolery is completely opaque. It appears to have a significant amount of carbonation, which forms a dense, khaki head that leaves sticky lacing. 
This one is quite aromatic. The scent is heavy with roasted malt, rye bread, sweet figs and herbal hops. It's somewhat sour.

Taste & Feel 
Very flavorful. Heavy on the wheat... bready. The caramel sweetness almost has a  flat cola taste. There's also quite a bit of dark rye in  the dry, roasty malt. The malt is balanced by a spicy hops.

Tomfoolery is medium bodied, with a creamy mouthfeel a bit of a carbonated tingle.

This one is all over the place... it's a rye, it's a wheat, it's dark, it's sweet, it's creamy, it's dry... whooo. Seriously, though, this is a good, flavorful beer. Extremely complex, but easy to drink.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dogfish Head - Aprihop

I stumbled upon Aprihop a couple weeks ago while perusing the selection at East Wake Wines & Craft Brew. The owner, Ken, suggested that I try it, noting that "they managed to add fruit the right way." Based on his recommendation, I picked up a few bottles.

Aprihop is a dry-hopped IPA brewed with apricots. Clever name, huh? It's a recurring Dogfish seasonal, available from March to May.

7.0% ABV

A bit darker than I expected, Aprihop has a deep copper color. The jewel clarity reveals slow, steady pilars of carbonation. It's capped by a dense, creamy head. 

Awesome aroma....fruity, woody, sweet and hoppy. The apricots come through nicely in the nose and compliment the floral hops.

Taste & Feel
Wow, this is well-crafted. It's full of flavor and very nicely blended. A smooth, rich caramel malt leads off before the fruity apricot flavor comes through. The fruit is balanced by a woody taste. It finishes dry, with a very floral hops taste that lasts well past the swallow.

Aprihop is medium-bodied, with a decent carbonated bite.

A most excellent treat. Too often, fruit beers are doused with extracts that give beers a fruity aroma but a bitter flavor. This, on the other hand, incorporates apricots nicely. Try it, but hurry. It's only around for a couple more weeks!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rohrbach Brewing Co.- Vanilla Porter

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I've been sitting on this one for quite a while. My trip to Rochester was well over two months ago and even though I banged out the review on my phone right away, this post has been sitting in draft since then.

Rorhbach Brewing Co. is a Rochester restaurant and microbrewery that also distributes to other area establishments. Their Vanilla Porter, which I enjoyed on tap at Dinosaur BBQ, is an English-style porter brewed with a robust blend of malts and vanilla extract.

6.5% ABV

A pretty standard-looking porter. Brow-black in color and opaque in appearance, with a slight glow at top & bottom of the pint. It was topped by a thin, mocha head.

Very pleasant. It has a a rich, sweet caramel malt aroma blended with strong, warm vanilla notes.

Taste & Feel
RVP has a somewhat aggressive carb feel, which is balanced nicely against they underlying smoothness of a medium body

The taste is rich and malty, but not quite as sweet as excpected. The vanilla flavor shows up late and lasts right through, and well past, the finish.

Very good. More carbonation and less sweetness than I expected, and overall quite enjoyable, especially while feasting on barbecue in a warm restaurant while overlooking a very icy Genesee River on a blustery winter afternoon.

Beer News: Honey Basil is Back for 2011

Earlier this week, Bison Brewing announced that the 2011 edition Organic Honey Basil Ale has been released. The spring seasonal will be available until mid-summer.

For those who haven't tasted it, Honey Basil is certainly worth a try. It is infused with organic clover honey and fresh whole leaf organic basil, giving it a light, sweet taste and a floral and herbal aroma. It was one of my favorite brews at last's year's World Beer Fest Raleigh. 

Sadly, I've been unable to confirm whether or not it will be available locally here in NC. Several stores carry Bison products, but according to their website, it isn't available here. Check here to see if it can be purchased in your part of the world.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Takeaways from Beer Fest

This past weekend, Moore Square was once again host to World Beer Fest Raleigh. Naturally, I ventured downtown to see what tasty treats were waiting for me.

I have to say, overall, the event was a bit disappointing. Not because of the beer choices or the event planning, but because of the weather. Soon after the evening session began, it started to rain. By 7:30 a steady downpour had forced the entire crowd under the tents. Now, I don't mind some people if they're pressed in close to me. I can handle a few noisy drunks and can even tolerate the occasional wet body. The combination of the three, however, multiplied by hundreds simply became too much and by 8:00 my tolerance of people reached a new low.

That aside, I did manage to find a few gems in the selection...

For a spring event, I was surprised to see so many porters and stouts. I was expecting more spring and summer seasonals. Being a fan of dark beers, I wasn't going to complain. I started off with a Deschutes Black Butte Porter. I've had it before, but it's always a must-sample. I made it a point to enjoy that first, before anything else could spoil the taste. If you've never had it, try it. You'll understand.

Two other porters also impressed. Moon River's Captain's Porter has a light smokiness that I really enjoyed. In the other tent, Skull Coast's Gallows Point Dead Man's Porter was simply awesome. Imagine a chocolate macadamia nut cookie in a glass.

While still in the mood for malty,  I stumbled upon (OK, not literally stumbled... it was still early) North Coast Brewing's Brother Thelonious, a strong, sweet Belgian abbey ale. Highly recommended.

On the lighter side, Fullsteam was pouring a rather tasty Sparkling Pear farmhouse ale. It was light, crisp and refreshing and should be part of everyone's rotation this summer. Speaking of refreshing... my favorite moment of the night was when Sean, Fullsteam's chief mad scientist, handed one patron's glass back to him empty, pointed to a hand-written note on the beer board and explained that they, "didn't have a beer called 'Whatever.'"

Don't be indecisive, people. It's all great beer; you won't make the wrong choice.

My favorite of the night, by far, was Craggie Brewing Co.'s Antebellum Ale. It's a rich, sweet malty beer brewed with ginger and molasses. I enjoyed the spicy, holiday taste. Or, as Kevin Myers put it, "Tastes like Christmas tree." Good stuff. Merry Christmas to me.

So, even despite the miserable weather, I found happiness. Two ounces at a time, so everyone could enjoy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Brewery Ommegang - Zuur

Zuur (which means "sour" and in my mind is pronounced as a deep, drawn-out "zoooooooooooor") is a limited edition cherry-infused Flemish sour brown ale, released last summer.  This one is actually brewed in Belgium, and is a collaboration between Cooperstown, NY's Ommegang and Belgium's Liefmans. I have it in a corked & caged 750ml bottle.

I imagine it's nearly impossible to find right now, considering Ommegang doesn't even acknowledge it on their website.

6.0% ABV

Zuur (i love the name, btw) has a somewhat hazy appearance and a deep coppery-brown color. The pour is quite effervescent, with an audible fizz and a visible, bubbly burst that feeds into a fairly thick and dense cream-colored head. The head thins out after a few minutes, but leaves a thin, but dense, cap.

It has a sweet, tart and fruity aroma. Dried cherries and sour candy are prominent, with whiffs of leather and wood. (Damn, I just pulled a Lee Williams and smelled leather in my beer.)

Taste & Feel 
Zuur is tart and fruity from start to finish, with an acidic, wine-like feel. It's sour, but not overwhelming... just enough to create a dry, tingly sensation, but not quite sour enough to make you pucker. Flavors include sour cherry candy, oak and a peaty malt. As it warmed, the fruit/sour/acidity combined to create a tangerine flavor. It's medium bodied and rather carbonated. Malty finish.

I want to give it an A, but instead I'm giving it a "Z!"... because I really like to say "Zuur!". Seriously, though,  I enjoyed drinking this as much as I liked saying it. A very well-crafted brew.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mother Earth Brewing - Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter

Old Neighborhood is one of Mother Earth's newest releases, a fall seasonal first making an appearance this past October. It's the only one of their current lineup that I hadn't tried before tonight.

5.5% ABV

It has a deep brown color. Not quite black, but almost completely opaque. Some light sneaks through the narrowest part of my glass, creating a slight ruby bottom-lit effect. The dense, creamy khaki head is fairly long-lasting and leaves a thick coat of lacing.

Old Neighborhood has a sweet, malty chocolate scent... a cross between Whoppers candy and a milkshake. There's also a significant presence of roasted coffee in the aroma.

Taste & Feel
Dark roasted malts start things off up front, balanced with soft, cocoa sweetness. It's full bodied, with a smooth, creamy feel. The roast gets more intense toward the finish, which is dry and filled with a bold, dark chocolate flavor.

Excellent. This is both a very flavorful and highly drinkable beer. My first thought is that it pairs well with rich, beefy meals, but Mother Earth's website also recommends chocolate peanut butter cookies.

I can assure you, it also goes nicely with the Caramel Delights that I was coerced into buying on my way out of Lowes Foods this evening. (No, seriously, be sure to support your local Cookie Pusher troop.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Help a Student [Survey]

Earlier today, I was contacted by Johnathan Stephens, a graphic design student from NC State. He's working on his final design project, a hypothetical mobile app for the Raleigh Flying Saucer's UFO Club, and is conducting a survey to help guide him. He asked that I help reach out to local beer drinkers in order to get enough respondents.  So...


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flying Bison Brewing Co. - Aviator Red

Today was the kind of day that's part of the reason I moved to North Carolina. It was sunny and close to 70 degrees and I got to spend the afternoon doing a bit of much-needed  yardwork. Not bad for January. It would be easy to use that to harass everyone back home in Buffalo, but I'm going to cap off my day by enjoying a taste of home instead.

Aviator Red, a malty red ale, is the flagship beer of Buffalo's Flying Bison Brewing Company. It's available in bottle year-round and can be found on tap at venues around the city. What I don't know is how widespread their distribution is. I've never seen FB beers outside of Buffalo.

5.25% ABV

This beer has a rich maple syrup color. A high level of clarity reveals quite a bit of large-bubble carbonation.  The pillowy, tan-colored head quickly dissipated, leaving a minimal amount of lacing.

The aroma is light and biscuity, with a bit of brown sugar and dry leaves. Even in a wheat glass, which I sometimes like to use to get a good sense of weaker aromas, this one is definitely on the light side.

Taste & Feel
It starts off with a light, but malty, taste. There's some apple and pear flavors present, along with brown sugar and date undertones. It's lightly-hopped, with a bit of spice that shows up toward the finish. The finish itself is fairly light and clean, with a flavor that can best be described as baked apples. The body is thin and smooth, with just a hint of carbonated tingle. Very clean and, overall, not very complex.

Highly drinkable. I'd give it a B+.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Oskar Blues Brewery - Ten Fidy Imperial Stout

Cans. That's right, cans. Oskar Blues was the first American craft brewer to package their beer in aluminum cans, a trend that many others are now following. Prior to that, cans were only for cheap corporate hopwater. But, the folks at Oskar Blues set out to prove that it's the content that counts.

Which brings us to Ten Fidy, OB's award-winning imperial stout. It won gold at the 2010 World Beer Championships, has a 100 rating from Ratebeer.com and was named one of the top 25 beers in the nation by Maxim Magazine.  It has wide distribution in the fall and winter, but doesn't stay on shelves for long.
10.50% ABV (Ten Fidy, get it?)

Ominous. Ten Fidy is thick, black, oily and completely opaque. The pour looks like used motor oil and as it settles it forms a dense mocha head that leaves heavy lacing. I've heard people refer to it 10-W Fidy, a fitting name.

The aroma is heavy with deep, roasted cocoa malt, and an underlying toffee sweetness balanced against an earthy hops.

Taste & Feel 
Starts off with a robust, deeply roasted flavor filled with dark chocolate, black cherries and some licorice notes. It has a thick, full body and a creamy mouthfeel with a sharp hoppy, bite. It stays roasty through the middle, but the fruity sweetness and earthy hops both build significantly toward the finish. The finish is dry, sweet and fruity, with a rich, roasted malt aftertaste. Surprisingly, there's not much of an alcohol burn for something in the ten-plus range.

Yes, please.

Happy Meat Week!

Let me start off by saying, we've let you down, albeit unintentionally, even if you don't know it yet. You see, right around this time last year, fellow carnivore and craft beer enthusiast Kevin Myers sent me a link about Meat Week, an eight-day celebration of  BBQ that began in Tallahassee in 2005 and has since spread to various cities around the country. That is, various cities with one glaring omission... there was no Triangle chapter. Determined to rectify this travesty (heck, even Iowa City* has a chapter and I'm not 100% certain anyone actually lives there), we said we'd make an effort to coordinate Triangle Meat Week 2011.

It's Meat Week!
Unfortunately, time got away from us and by the time the official reminder emails came around, it was already too late. After all, we'd rather do it right than simply throw something together at the last minute. Alas, this year's edition of the great gastrointestinal love fest is upon us, and we don't have any local gatherings planned. 

That's the bad news. The good news is, Meat Week goes on, with or without us, and the national organizers say you don't necessarily need a scheduled event (see Flyin' Solo) to celebrate these High Holy Days of Hog. Our poor planning should in no way inhibit your ability to partake in the meaty goodness of which you are so deserving. So, be sure to round up a few friends and family and pay a visit your favorite BBQ shacks and smokehouses any night, or every night, between January 30 and February 6. Order a pile of the smoked animal of your choice and wash it down with a pint or two of a good local beer (let me be clear... I said local, not lo-cal).

Think about which of these places you'd like see on the Triangle Meat Week 2012 schedule and let us know. In the meantime, consider this a commitment to do whatever is necessary to make Triangle Meat Week 2012 a reality.

*My sincere apologies to the residents of Iowa City for casting your hometown in a negative light in order to make a point. I hope you'll both forgive me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How Beer Saved the World

Might be worth checking out. Airs Sunday night at 8 on Discovery.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ithaca Beer Co. - CascaZilla Red Ale

Ithaca Beer Co. is, not surprisingly, based out of Ithaca, NY and has been in operation since late 1998. CascaZilla, a hoppy red ale, is part of their year-round offering and is distributed in the Northeast and Ohio. According to their website, the name is a play on both the name of a local gorge called Cascadilla and the "monster amounts" of Cascade hops used in the recipe.

7% ABV

This one has a translucent appearance and a deep copper color. The thick, tan head leaves moderate lacing.

CascaZilla has a light, but unmistakably pine aroma, with some plum undertones.

Taste & Feel 
Big, big flavor. There's a harmonious balance of bold, piney hops and sweet, caramel malt. Fairly smooth and medium-bodied, with a dry, fruity finish.

Another fitting name could have been "Big Red", after the local Cornell football team and the beer's bold flavor and ruddy color. This isn't a very complex brew, but it's quite flavorful and nicely balanced. I like it, and would definitely buy it again. A solid B+. 

Southern Tier Brewing Co. - Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2010)

Shameless curling club plug.
Pumking is an imperial pumpkin ale from Lakewood, NY's Southern Tier Brewing. It is an autumn seasonal, released in August, so it's been sitting in my 'private reserve' for a few months.

Pumking is brewed with pureed pumpkin and - according to their website - pagan spirit, which I believe is in the nutmeg family.

9.0% ABV

Pumking has a bright, brassy, amber-orange color. Good clarity reveals an ample amount of carbonation, although the second pour from the 650ml bottle was a bit hazy. It has a frothy cream-colored head that leaves a small amount of sticky lacing.

Smells like pumpkin bread; exactly like pumpkin bread.

Taste & Feel 
Starts off quite spicy before sweet caramel malts and pumpkin flavors emerge. The body is light-to-medium, while the carbonation and spicy hops give it a rather aggressive feel. It has a hoppy finish and a pie spice aftertaste.

Good, if you like pumpkin; better, if you like spice. The aroma gave me hope for a pumpkiny amber ale, but the flavor is more like a nutmeg IPA. I'd give it a B-.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Natty Greene's Brewing Co. - Benjamin Franklin Chocolate Brown

Considering the sheer volume of food and beer I've consumed at Natty Greene's since they opened the Raleigh location, I surprised myself to learn that this is only the second beer I've taken the time to review.

Ben Franklin is a brown ale with a local twist. It is infused with cocoa nibs from Raleigh's own Escazú Artisan Chocolates.

6.5% ABV

I'll admit, at first glance it's not the most attractive beer. The translucent appearance and deep brown color give it a muddy look. It's capped by a thin tan head.

The wonderful aroma more than makes up for the look. It has a sweet cocoa scent with an underlying light caramel malt. Hard to explain, but there's also a certain milkiness to it.

Taste & Feel 
This is a medium-bodied ale with a substantial carbonation presence throughout. It has a rich malt flavor filled with soft, chocolaty notes. That is complemented by the mild and earthy hops. The feel gets a bit tingly toward the finish, which offers up a dusty, cocoa taste.

Very enjoyable. The chocolate notes and rich, malty flavor are a natural companion to any of their burgers. I was washing down the Major General, which itself is a delicious menu item.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Southern Tier Brewing Co. - Harvest Ale (2010)

Harvest is a dry-hopped Extra Special Bitter. It is Southern Tier Brewing's autumn seasonal (yeah, yeah, I'm a bit behind in working my way through my backlog).

6.7% ABV

Harvest has a deep amber color and a high level of clarity. The initial pour is capped by a thick, foamy cream-colored head that leaves heavy lacing. It is sustained by pillars of small bubbles rising up from a heavily carbonated body.

This beer has a light, but distinct aroma defined by sweet caramel malt and spicy, pine hops. As it warms, the aroma gets a bit stronger and sweeter.

Taste & Feel
It's been awhile since I've have a beer that I can say this about, but Harvest falls on the hoppy end of the scale. A very piney hops character fills the medium body, start to finish. Layered beneath that is a rich, caramel malt flavor. Not overly sweet, but just enough to balance out the hops. It finishes a bit dry and leaves a slightly numb, tingly feeling on your tongue.  As it warms, the flavor, like the aroma, gets a bit sweeter.

I really liked this one. The refreshing, hoppy flavor is a nice change from a lot of the heavily spiced, malty fall brews. This is definitely one that you can enjoy while sitting around a fire on a cool, crisp evening. Try it with grilled chicken.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Custom BrewCrafters - Double Dark Cream Porter

Until I stumbled upon this beer at a store in Buffalo, I'd never heard of Custom BrewCrafters. They are a small operation out of Honeoye Falls, NY, near Rochester. From the best I can tell, they focus on distributing to restaurants and their beers are only available in Western and Central NY.

Double Dark Cream Porter is part of CB's regular selection.

5.0% ABV

Double Dark pours a completely opaque, brown-black color. It has a very frothy tan head, which leaves heavy lacing. 
It has a sweet, syrupy and robust aroma. Roasted malts, caramelized sugar and soft cocoa scents prevail. 

Taste & Feel 
Starts off sweet and robust. Medium bodied, with a tingly mouthfeel right from the start . It has a deep, roasted flavor reminiscent of espresso and dark chocolate.  A crisp, tart, apple flavor and earthy hops appear just before a dry finish.

This is a good brew, although somewhat misleading. With a name like Cream Porter, I was expecting something with a softer body, but I really can't complain. Still,  it's a solid beer with a pleasing taste and the kind of heartiness that welcomes a good steak.