Archive for the ‘Commercial Breweries’ Category


Well, back  from our vacation to the Pacific Northwest for a family reunion and beer tour.  It all started at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee with a New Glarus Spotted Cow…In Seattle we visited Pike Brewing, as well as Elysian’s Capital Hill Brewpub.  Pike was pretty good with a decent IPA but the main attraction for me was the Red Barn Firebarrel Bourbon Barrel Aged Cider.  I liked it quite a bit…a nice dry, tart cider with hints of vanilla and oak from the bourbon barrel.  Might be something to experiment with in the future.  Elysian was great.  Their dry-hopped IPA was delicious, the ESB was nice,  and the food was quite good as well.  I wish we had more time to spend there and try a few other beers.  I also need to mention that it was GREAT to attend a baseball game and have quality craft beer available…I wish the White Sox would follow suit with at least some Goose Island beers.   Hard to beat an Alaskan Amber while watching a White Sox win though.

We also got to sample some homebrew at our family reunion as Betsy brought a few for everyone to try.  I really liked the IPA (all centennial hops) and the Rye (pale ale?).  A lot of rye beers I have had are done with too much rye, but this was a nice blend with enough rye to give it a spicy flavor but not so much that it is all you could taste.

**Note to self – send Betsy a package closer to Oktoberfest with some of what will be served.

In Portland, we were able to go to the Rogue brewpub, as well as the Deschutes brewpub.  Rogue was nice, a bit pricey, and not very busy when we were there.   That might have been due to it being opening day of OBF.  I tried the 200 Meter IPA, a 90 IBU IPA with Horizon, Amarillo, Centennial, and Simcoe hops.  It was delicious, very aromatic and flavorful, while not being too harsh/bitter.  We also sampled the Northwestern Ale, Shakespeare Stout, and took home a growler of Mom Hefeweizen.  Additionally, I tried the Dead Guy Whiskey and the Hazelnut Spice Rum.  Normally, I am not a “spirits” guy, but the Hazelnut Rum was really quite good.

Deschutes was great, I liked it better than Rogue, even though it seemed like a more “sanitized” version of a brewpub.  Very clean/modern/new looking as opposed to Rogue looking more like a watering hole that has been there a while.  Here I had their Green IPA, Hop in the Dark Cascadian Dark Ale, and Quadsimoto (barrel aged quad with Brettanomyces) and they were all really good.  I was surprised I liked the Hop in the Dark so much as I have had some “Black IPAs” that I really didn’t like – the clashing of roast and hops was unappealing….this one is great though – far more hoppy than roasty.  The food at both brewpubs was good as we stuck with our pattern of all seafood on this trip.

OBF was everything I expected and more.   Great crowd, great beer, and a lot of fun…the only disappointment was that we didn’t realize what the “Buzz Tent” was until some real treats were already gone.  Regardless, we certainly had our fill and enjoyed every minute of it.  Here’s what we notched our belt with:

Cascade Summer Gose
Maui Coconut Porter
Bayern Brewing Dumptruck Bock
Upright Reggae Junkie Gruit
Rock Bottom Oud Heverlee
Kona Big Island Brown
Moylans Pomegranate Wheat
Alaskan Pale Ale
Rogue 21
Surly Bitter Brewer
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
Lompoc Son of C Note
Bridgeport Stumptown Tart
Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer
Fearless Scotch Ale
Boulevard Tank 7
Deschutes Quadsimoto
Flying Fish Exit 4
Maui Brewing Heaven and Hell
Bruery 7 Grain Saison

Highlights were Cascade, Maui, and Boulevard.   Disappointments were Fearless, Moylans, and Rock Bottom.

All in all, Portland is a great town.   OBF is a great fest.   We definitely need to go back when we have more time to sight-see (we arrived Wednesday night and left Friday morning and spent most of Thursday at OBF).   On our way out of town, we stopped at Belmont Station to grab some things to bring home.  I was more than happy to pick up Russian River Consecration and Supplication, Cascade Apricot, Cascade The Vine, Boulevard Saison Brett, and a 4 pack of Coconut Porter.

Goose Island Beer Dinner

Goose Island Beer Dinner @ Allgauers

A couple weeks ago, we again had the chance to attend the Goose Island beer dinner at Allgauers, and again it was incredible.    When we got the flyer with the menu on it in the mail, I was excited because they had changed the beer lineup a bit for this year by including Sofie and Bourbon County Stout, which are my two favorite Goose Island beers.    In addition to those, they also served their IPA, 312, Summertime, and Honkers Ale.   The complete menu is posted above.  One change from the posted menu was that they substituted grouper for seabass as they were unable to source enough for the dinner.  The dish was still delicious (probably more so because grouper is so freaking tasty) so it wasn’t really a big deal.   If you ever have the chance to attend this dinner, I strongly recommend it.   If not, people familiar with the restaurant said that the food is always this good, so it might be worth just stopping in for dinner some night.

Long time, no Post – CBC, Brewery Updates

OK I’ve been a little lackluster in keeping this updated so here’s where I am at.

Back to the beginning of April, the CBC was held in Chicago this year.  I didn’t have the time or financial resources to dedicate to attending the actual conference and associated seminars, but I was happy to find a wheat/wit bier seminar being held at Goose Island was open to the public and FREE.  Very detailed and terrific presentations from both sides of the wheat coin so to speak.  It was also awesome to talk to some great brewers from around the country and get some ideas on how to improve my Wit.   I look forward to trying some new things shared by Grand Teton in the Wit specifically, and it was also great to chat for a bit with Rob Tod from Allagash about sour & spontaneous brewing.  Of course after the seminar I had to sample a few Goose Island beers including the Bacon Stout, Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged Doppelbock and a Sweet & Sour Brown.   The first three were great.  The brown was quite bland, flat, and really not my thing.  It was also great to catch up with Chris and of course discuss the merits of the Bourbon County Stout, as they are many.

I went back downtown on Friday as Reggies Music Joint was hosting Founders and Stone.   Of course I could not miss that, so Jeremy and Brian joined me to sample some delicious Founders brew…Specifically, the Hand of Doom was terrific.   This was one I had not tried previously, and REALLY enjoyed it.  The usual Backwoods and Dirty Bastards were terrific as well.   It was good to see Mitch Steele from Stone having as good a time as we were, so I briefly spoke with him and we headed out.   Clark St Alehouse had a terrific tap lineup that night as well…it was Two Brothers night and they still had a lot of great stuff from previous nights.  We got to try the Brett Moaten which was great – the first Moaten Two Brothers bottled was a bit of a disappointment, but this one was a big improvement.   I think I also sampled a Merlot barrel aged porter from Ska which was really good,  as well as the Lagunitas Fusion that they brewed for the conference.

In between the two stops, we had a bit of a disappointment at another bar which was featuring some special brews for the conference.  I will just say this, if a brewery has it’s own draft system in a bar that they are serving from, they should: (a) know what the bar is charging for their beer, and (b) know where people need to go to get a glass to get the beer.   Telling patrons, “I don’t know, I just brew it” is not the right answer.  It was a shame, because the beer was good, but between the confusion, HIGH prices, and big crowd, we enjoyed our one beer and moved on to better things.

All in all, a lot of great things and I am glad the conference seemed to be a huge hit with all the breweries in attendance (so it can be held here again soon!).  I am looking forward to Chicago Craft Beer week next month if this was any indication of how that will go.

Last weekend I was able to go brew with Jeremy and we churned out what is best described as an Imperial Berliner Weisse.  I realized I did not have enough yeast for the batch we planned so we cut the volume by a third and ended up with a 15 plato berliner.   Oh well….We also brewed up a Hefeweizen.  I think I only have brewed maybe 2 of these ever, so it was a good chance to put into practice some things learned in the wheat seminar.  I think this one will turn out well, and serve as a nice warm weather beer for the coming month or so.  On Friday night last week we attended the reserve tasting at Sprecher.  This was really pretty cool, $15 gets you into a tasting where they pair 10 of their beers with 10 different cheeses.   The beers are mostly their reserve/premium line which was great…we got to sample things like their Barley Wine, Barrel Aged Doppelbock, IIPA, Belgian Tripel, and a Raspberry Porter.  I wasn’t a fan of the Nut Brown, and their Hefeweizen is just ok, but the rest were good.  The cheese also was really good, though they could have been a little more generous on the portions (think nickel sized pieces)

We also held a “Battle of Wits” in which we had 6 commercial wit biers up against ours in a blind tasting.   The consensus seemed to be the Blanche de Chambly, Hoegaarden, Allagash, and ours were all pretty close….Blue Moon, Ommegang Witte, Chameleon Witty were all at the bottom.  I think ours was most similar to Allagash, as Hoegaarden was really quite light and the Unibroue version had a sweet/tart, champagne thing going on.  We’ll have to try it again this summer with the newly tweaked recipe and see how we do.

In the spirit of competition we also picked up some American Light Lagers to hold a blind tasting…Coors Light v Miller Lite v Bud Light v Busch Light.   Nobody was able to correctly name all four, and I only correctly picked Busch Light (I learned something in college).  I am not sure if it was all the wit, or the Fantome bottles we had earlier but they all really tasted the same to me.  It would be interesting to give the challenge to someone who swears by one brand and see if they can tell them apart, as I RARELY drink any of these and clearly could not tell.

Back on the homefront, I actually kegged the Vindicator tonight.  The sample I took, though uncarbonated and still young, was delicious.   The color looks to have turned out a bit lighter than previous years but the flavor is all there.

The fun kicks up again tomorrow with a trip to Three Floyds and then Founders and New Holland to follow!!

Top 9 Beers of 2009

Well, I waited until this week to write this post as there were a couple of beers I had high hopes for that I needed to try. Expectations were met and they both made the top 9 list. In creating this list I tried to limit it to new or seasonal beers released this year as opposed to something that has been out for a while that I just happened to try in 2009.

9 – Surly Wet
A delicious “wet hopped” IPA. We were lucky enough to be at the brewery for a brewery tour the day they were brewing this. The smell of the 1400 lbs of fresh hops was unreal. As soon as we got home we began pestering our local watering hole to do whatever they had to in order to secure a keg of this. Luckily, they were able to. It was terrific – especially for their first attempt at such a big, fresh-hopped beer. I can’t wait to see what they do next year.

8 – New Glarus Cranbic
This was one of New Glarus Brewing Company’s “Unplugged” series for this year. As you could probably guess the name is a play on words – Cranberry Lambic. This one seemed to be in my wheelhouse as I love cranberries and I love Lambic. The pairing of the two from New Glarus was really quite good. I also love sweet~tarts which is what this reminds me of….there is some sweetness as well as some tartness and the two are blended perfectly. I find that most fruit lambics end up being too sweet for me, but this one is just about right.

7 – Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Like Surly Wet, Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo is also a very hop-forward IPA. Unlike the fresh, wet hops Surly used however, Torpedo uses a device they invented (called a Torpedo) to effectively provide a new take on dry-hopping. Additionally, they used a “new” hop called Citra as part of the dry hop blend which lends to a unique and very citrusy aroma. This is the lone, true, year-round beer on the list.

6 – Founders Backwoods Bastard
This is the bourbon barrel aged cousin of Founders flagship beer, Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale. I must say that this has been one of my favorite beers for a while but I was disappointed with last years batch. It was too much oak, some bourbon and a hint of scotch ale. It also seemed quite thin, but that might be attributed to the tannins from the apparent high levels of oak. I was very happy to find that this year it is more balanced and has a thicker mouthfeel than last year and it’s back to being one of the best beers around.

5 – Surly Smoke
This is a smoked baltic porter and it is delicious. I love Schlenkerla Ur-Bock, and I also really like Alaskan Smoked Porter, but I find almost all other smoked beers to pale in comparison….almost. This one is a beauty. The alcohol is there, but not overwhelming. The smoke is there, but it’s a balanced amount leaning more towards bacon than ashtray. The base baltic porter comes through as a thick, roasty, big porter. This thing is great and hopefully I can get my hands on some bottles when they come out.

4 – Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Unless something goes terribly wrong, this will be a perennial top 5 on my list. Again this year it’s a beauty. Big, thick, boozy, roasty…pure deliciousness. Despite the price hike and new packaging (this is available only in 22′s for 2009) I will be sure to grab a couple more next time they get marked down.

3 – New Glarus Olde English Porter
I didn’t know what to think when I read that New Glarus was going to make this beer. On one hand, a sour porter? On the other hand….I love porters, and I love sours. As it turns out, this was a terrific beer. You get the slight roast of the porter blended beautifully with the acetic and lactic flavors from the portion New Glarus let sour. I scored several bottles of this and am hoping to score some more before they completely disappear from store shelves so I can enjoy what I have left and keep a couple to cellar.

2 – Surly Darkness
Oh baby….I didn’t get to go to Darkness Day, and really wish I had a bottle of this, but luckily our local spot got a keg of it in November. Man, this thing is delicious. A big, bold imperial stout. Lots of cocoa and coffee flavor and the alcohol is hidden well. Pretty chewy as well, but not overly thick. Too bad it’s gone and I’ll have to wait a year to try it again.

1 – Jolly Pumpkin Lambicus Dexterius
I was able to try this one at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers this fall. It’s a delicious lambic style beer. Orange in color, smells of wood and sour apple, plus general brettanomyces driven aromas. The taste is similar to the aroma and it finishes extremely dry. Really a tremendous representation of a Belgian Lambic, but brewed here in America. From what I have seen this will be a limited bottle release starting in a few weeks, and I am really, really hoping that my local shop can score a bottle or two.

Another 5 for 5

5 For 5   

Founders Harvest Ale
Fragrant, Floral, sweet, hoppy, fantastic

Port Brewing Panzer
Noble, yellow, spicy, alcohol, sweet

Rochefort 6
brown, caramel, plum, carbonation, yeast

Fox River Brewing Company Caber Tossing Scottish Ale
amber, malt, thin, caramel, drinker

Surly Cynic
orangish, spicy, crisp, fruity, dry