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.