My 2018 Beers In Review

Untappd breaks down my year in beer.

Poured a little hardIs late January too late for a 2018 year in review post? No?

Good.  I was perusing Untappd’s “Your Year in Beer 2018” Which is an interesting new feature. I’d estimate I reliably check-in about 98% of my beers so this should be a pretty accurate picture of my year.

397 beers from 96 different breweries across 70 styles. 70 styles is pretty cool, even if you factor in that a couple dozen of them are probably IPA variations. That’s quite the distribution, and as you’d expect, I didn’t drink a single beer more than seven times. That honor was a tie between Wrench, a NEIPA from Industrial Arts, and Gourdless, a brown ale from The Alementary.

The Alementary Brewing Company is also the brewery I drank from the most, and also the one I visited the most. They’re basically my local brewery, as they’re between work and home and make great beer. 64 beers from there last year, and to date I’ve had 198!

222 of those beers were checked in at home, so I drink more at home than out. Guess who has two young children! My overall drinking map for 2018 isn’t super interesting, though there are some non-home spots.

Both Marzen and Brown Ale were among my very hoppy top-5 styles. True to form I think, as those are both excellent styles that I really enjoy.

If I have a ‘goal’ for drinking in 2019 I think it’d be to drink a little more of the same thing. To really appreciate some of those favorite beers more than once in a while. I think I’m off to a great start, as I bought a 12-pack of Troegs Nugget Nectar recently. With that in mind, #FlagshipFebruary is coming up, which perhaps will get it’s own post here shortly. Stephen Beaumont has launched this concept as a way to honor and enjoy the great beers that helped get craft beer to where it is today. https://flagshipfebruary.com/

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Beer Food: Craft Beer Candy I Love Brew Barrels

Tasting these Craft Beer Candy I Love Brew Barrels

photo by CeetarMalt. I’ve had candies and flavors before that bill themselves as ‘malt’ and this is basically that flavor, though a lot more toned down than a lot of those more old-timey candies. It’s got that grainy sweetness to it. Earthy, a bit like root beer but with a little less bite to it. A mild caramel/sugar type flavor. It’s pleasant, but it’s mostly uninteresting.

I let this post marinate a few days, and now as I’m sucking on my third barrel I’m still underwhelmed. If you let a bit of it dissolve in your mouth a bit before swallowing to get a bigger taste, you get a little more of a warm caramel sauce flavor that you might find decorating a plate of ice cream sundae in an Applebees, but then it’s gone.

They’re not bad. They’re also from Target’s Valentine’s Day section which could mean you, reader who almost definitely is classified by your friends as a ‘beer lover’, could very well get them as a gift in the near future.

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The Darkest Beer For The Darkest Day

Why shouldn’t the Winter Solstice be a beer holiday for drinking DARK beers?

The winter solstice. Not typically a beer holiday, if any day can truly be said to NOT be a beer holiday. The darkest day of the year. If we’re going to make it a holiday, we shall make it a holiday where you drink the darkest beer you can find. The most common, at least in America, way to measure beer color is SRM. Standard Reference Method is officially calculated by shining light through beer, though most breweries are using approximations based on ingredients. It’s maybe not the best way to measure color or really describe a beer, but it’s a fine measure to talk about the DARKEST BEER.

Kilgore Stout is drinking a Skewed Stones and Stupidity

Official style guides, even for the darkest stouts and porters, don’t go beyond about 39-40, but if you add more color-adding malts, you’ll raise the SRM. Officially there’s a top bounds–once light stops penetrating, you can’t measure it anymore. That doesn’t stop breweries from listing it though.

Uinta used to make a big black ale called Labyrinth, that was listed at 184 SRM. The Dutch brewery De Molen make a few really dark imperial stouts, Hel & Verdoemenis, and Hemel & Aarde that come in at ~150 and ~174 respectively.  These beers translate to Hell and Damnation, and Heaven and Earth–great names. The bottles say ‘Enjoy within 25 years’ which is longer than most US breweries have even existed. I’d love to try them one day. I did spent two and a half days in Amsterdam back in 2012, but De Molen wasn’t one of the places I hit.

Hoppy Gilmore is drinking a Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout

Carton Brewing in New Jersey seems to aim for 42 as the SRM on their dark beers. A nice Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy nod is always appreciated. Perhaps the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything is ‘How many beers are you going to have tonight?”

De Molen went all hellfire and damnation with their naming schema, and certainly extremely dark beers lend themselves to some fun and creative names. I appreciate a good hop pun as much as the next guy, but you can’t beat the imagery some of these dark beer names describe.

Brooklyn Brewery absolutely doesn’t make a beer called Black Ops, which is definitely not a bourbon barrel aged stout. There is no intel on this, especially not SRM, as it doesn’t officially exist. Shh. This is actually one I’ve had before, and definitely enjoyed immensely.  It’s in a bomber, and is somewhat expensive, but I can’t help but notice that a bomber seems to be the perfect size for a christmas stocking. Someone forward this to my wife Santa Claus.

Gun Hill Brewery in the Bronx makes a beer with the name, Void of Light, which is practically an SRM measurement right there in the name.

Kane Brewery in New Jersey has a seasonal release, with many variants, called A Night To End All Dawns. This might be my favorite beer name ever and my only regret is this is extremely hard to get. I’ve had a few of them on tap at events around this time of year, and was really digging a cocoa variant I had a few years ago.  To double down on the awesome name, they make a small beer from the second runnings of ANTEAD called Civil Twilight. You can think of second runnings much like running a second cup of coffee through the coffee grinds, if you used an extreme amount of coffee grinds for the first cup. Civil Twilight comes in at a respectable 37 SRM, which certainly suggests the original is much, much darker.

There’s Great Lakes Blackout Stout.

“Turn off the lights and turn on the flavor, because Blackout Stout is back and as dark as ever”

Ceetar is drinking a Great Lakes Blackout Stout

Inspired by the big 2003 blackout in the Northeast, this is a really solid stout year after year. Nothing fancy, just rich dark and roasty malts. I just purchased one of these myself, though I didn’t experience much of that blackout myself. Oddly enough, I was in Amish Country in Pennsylvania, a place not particularly known for electricity. It wasn’t until we started driving home that night that we crossed into cell range and got all the messages from family telling us to extend our vacation, which we did. We stayed in a hotel in Allentown, PA just outside the edge of the blackout, played mini golf, and went to bed with the air conditioning blasting.

Those Dutch beers are probably the darkest beers in the world, but to the human eye there’s probably not a perceivable difference between any of these black as night beers we so enjoy this time of year. It’s the darkest day of the year, crack open a beer to match.

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Happy Repeal Day

December 5th is the drinking holiday known as Repeal Day, to celebrate the end of Prohibition in America.

As good a reason to drink as any I’d say. Beer in particular has come a long way in the last 85 years.  We recently surpassed the record for number of breweries open in America, and obviously there are a lot more people now than in the 19th century, so we’ve got a ways to go to match those numbers.

So open up something yummy, maybe like this carrot cake inspired beer collaboration from Bolero Snort and Carton Brewing, and toast to the legality of booze.

That carrot cake beer, btw, is pretty nifty. It’s called Primoodonna, and the description includes this line: For starters, let’s invent a fermentable carrot sugar by dehydrating carrots and stirring them through liquid nitrogen. I love it. The beer itself is pretty tasty, none of the crazy things they added to the beer dominate the flavor, it’s still very much a milk porter, but they all add some interesting complexity and depth. I think I’ll open up another one tonight and delve into it again.

Follow BarleyProse on Twitter and Instagram and me on Untappd. You can email me at beer@ceetar.com. I’m trying to get through some of the extra big heavy stouts I keep acquiring faster than I can drink. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.

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Thanksgiving Is A Beer Holiday

People might talk to you about wine at Thanksgiving, and that’s fine if you like wine, but it’s really the perfect holiday for beer. There is no gift exchange. You’re probably filling your stomach with plenty of alcohol-soaking food. It’s an all day holiday but besides dinner you really have no obligations but to sit around and chat…..and drink.

So why not beer? Even leaving aside the ways certain beers can pair better with all that rich and heavy food, most of your drinking probably isn’t happening at dinner. So open up a big bottle you’ve been saving, maybe even something someone gave you during the holiday season last year. Have an unofficial bottle share. Introduce family members that aren’t usually beer drinkers to some of the different flavors some of these beers bring.

Thanksgiving may be dressed up as a fancy dinner in some respects, but it’s not, nor has it ever been. It’s a working man’s celebration that there is enough food to last the winter. To celebrate the harvest being in, the land being plentiful, to be thankful of those that help us survive and thrive. The classic dishes aren’t fancy dishes out of a fancy restaurant, even in the age of farm to table. They’re simple, classic dishes.  Meat, potatoes, veggies. This isn’t a 10 course dining experience; most of the time you’re chatting, and munching, and watching sports. So beer. Beer fits perfectly. Or cider. A crisp apple cider goes really well with a lot of these dishes, but let’s talk about the beer.

You’re going to start early, you’re going to have a big meal in the middle, long before you even entertain driving. You can have a few, or a big, beer. Open up that 10-14% bomber of stout that you’d never find a time to drink on your own. Share it. Bring out those pumpkin beers you bought but didn’t love, I bet you’ll find a lot of people interested in trying some of that. Did you score a bottle of some fancy limited release bourbon barrel aged concoction? Did you pick up a six-pack of less rare, but still delicious, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout? Did someone bring something you’ve never heard of but thought you’d like because you’re into beer? Open them! Drink them! Share them! Most of the guests are there with nothing to do but drink, chat, and eat. It’s basically a bottle share with a big meal at the end.

My Thanksgiving is going to be low-key this year, I’m eating out at a German restaurant, which probably means Oktoberfest with dinner. On Saturday I’m having some friends over, and that’s when I’ll break out the Thanksgiving beer. The Alementary makes a delicious English Ale aged in rum barrels called Figgy Pudding that I have a bottle of from each of their now three years of making it. I’m excited to do a vertical tasting of this. After that I plan to open a bomber of Brooklyn Brewery’s Tripel Burner, a Licorice-spiced tripel aged in white wine barrels, that comes in at 10.6% ABV.

What beers are you planning to share for Thanksgiving? Comment below, or tweet us at @BarleyProse on Twitter or @BarleyProseBlog on Instagram with the hashtag #Beersgiving.

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Lake George’s Brewery

One brewery dominates the beer scene in Lake George.

I spent Labor Day weekend in Lake George, which is a lake upstate New York that’s a popular getaway in the region. It’s a small summer town in the Adirondack Mountains, much like many lake or beach type communities across the country, and as such is prone to much of the same cliches and ‘Disneyified’ downtown featured elsewhere. Fudge, funny t-shirts, arcades, mini-golf, etc. At least it avoids the costumed characters begging for tips that litter places like Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip.

It’s not a beer destination, but there is beer. The town isn’t big and while it’s not super far from Albany, it’s still pretty rural. There’s access to plenty of beer, and let’s not forget that Vermont is very very close, but one brewery dominates the landscape in Lake George and that’s Adirondack Brewery, brewed right there in town.

Seemingly every restaurant has a few Adirondack taps, and it’s one of the beers you can reliably find at Stewart’s, one of the gas station convenience store chains prevalent in upstate New York. It’s a nice experience to have a brewery well integrated into a town life. Like a cozy companion wherever you go.

It was late when we first arrived, as we’d all worked that day. Our first meal was at a BBQ joint a short five minute walk away that could seat us right away. The first beer of the vacation is a lot of pressure; can it deliver?  I opted for Adirondack Brewing’s Lake George IPA (Wave #5) to pair with a sampler of various forms of meat. It hit the spot.

photo by CeetarAs is proper for any vacation, we stopped at a convenience store on the way back for snacks and drinks, and beer, to have in the hotel room. We stopped at the aforementioned Stewart’s; Ice cream for the kids, beer for us. I picked up a six-pack of Adirondack Bear Naked Amber. A good, shareable, easy-drinking beer. I opened the first one sitting outside an electric fire the hotel has while sitting in, fittingly, an Adirondack chair.

photo by Ceetar

Later on that weekend we found ourselves at a themed restaurant that featured hats for the kids with Moose Antlers. We were downtown waiting to see the fireworks, it was the unofficial end to summer, looking forward to fall. What better beer to celebrate that with than the NYS Oktoberfest?

My favorite of the bunch was the Bear Naked Amber Ale. I’m glad that’s the one I had a six-pack of that made its way back home with me. My only regret was that we never actually made it to the Adirondack brewpub itself.

photo by Ceetar

It pours a beautiful copper color.

It’s got some nice caramel notes, but plenty of estery/fruity notes, specifically cherry.

It’s a scrumptious tasting beer, with some light biscuity notes. It’s on the sweeter side but it’s balanced nicely by hops with some nice spicy bite to them. Like you’d get if you made that biscuit was made with some rye or other non-wheat grain.

The mouth feel is slick; it coats the tongue and leaves that dry stickiness that has you begging for another sip.

Overall this is a well-done and delicious amber ale, on the malty end of the fairly wide spectrum, and a good companion to a wide variety of drinking circumstances.

Follow BarleyProse on Twitter and me on Untappd. You can email me at beer@ceetar.com. I’ve been drinking Oktoberfest almost non-stop since that first one. 

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My Illicit Other Half Space Diamonds

When you see a can of Other Half in the wild, you buy it, and drink it.

photo by Ceetar

Other Half Brewing, if you don’t know, is a very highly regarded brewery in Brooklyn, New York. They make a lot of beers, though they’re primarily known for their IPAs, and many of them are of the hazy New England style. These leads to lines, and hype, and all that jazz. I’ve been twice myself, both times just to drink in the tap room. The second time I did manage to purchase available cans, but they were ‘just’ a Kolsch, because those just don’t go as fast, despite it being an amazing beer.

So barring that odd adventure out to Brooklyn, I don’t get to drink these IPAs that often. They don’t distribute cans as far as I know, so it’s always odd when you stumble across a fresh can of Double Dry Hopped Space Diamonds in a store, as I did this past weekend. The ethics of this are questionable. The beer I purchased obviously isn’t funneled through the normal ways alcohol is distributed in New York, despite being only a dozen or so miles from Brooklyn. Other Half probably doesn’t know the beer is there, they have no idea who it is that’s selling it, what condition they’re keeping it in, and if it’s properly representing the brewery the way they wanted it to. This beer wasn’t in cold storage somewhere, it was out on the counter by the cash register by itself, not even as part of the typical 4-pack. Someone probably went down to Other Half, waiting in line, bought as much beer as they could, and brought it back to sell.

The beer was priced at roughly twice what it actually would’ve cost at the brewery. I purchased it. This isn’t the first time I’ve bought a single like this that I suspected wasn’t on the up and up, but for me, the drinker, this is my only chance to actually taste that beer, barring trading for it on the secondary market which in many ways is the same thing. Having purchased it merely 16 miles from the brewery versus someone possibly packing and mailing it across the country, in the summer, in a warm truck, for a beer trade is almost definitely fairer to the beer.

It’s an interesting catch-22. I understand breweries like Other Half having a desire to control their distribution as much as they can, trying to insure that the beer is as close to the way the brewer intended when it reaches the drinker, something that’s a huge concern across the industry. While this obviously subverts that process, it’s also not putting their beer into someone’s unsuspecting hands. Very few people are going to pay that second-hand mark-up without an understanding that there is no guarantee it didn’t sit in a hot trunk all day before being transported to Long Island.

So did the Double Dry Hopped Space Diamonds by Other Half hold up? Is it as the brewer intended? I like to think so. I haven’t had this one at the brewery, but it tasted the way I would expect it to taste, matching similar beers I’ve had there, matching the tasting notes others have made. In short, yes, it was delicious.

The aroma trended orange. Oranges and mangos were what hit me first, particularly the riper, or danker, part of that spectrum. Like if you turned that orange or mango over and found it soft on the other side.

The taste matched, for the most part. Very boozy with some of that hop burn that’s typical of strong NE IPAs. I know you’re supposed to taste pineapple with these galaxy beers, but I think it’s a stronger flavor than that. Like a tart mango or something tropical. There’s a lot of spicy/phenol flavors going on too. Plenty of layered flavor making this a delicious concoction that I downed faster than I should’ve.

It’s very New England obviously. The mouthfeel is soft and the ‘juice’ is everywhere, on the nose, on the palate, on the trip down your throat. You won’t mistake this one for a V8 with vodka though, it was a beer full of hops strongly expressing fruit flavor and aroma.

Follow BarleyProse on Twitter and me on Untappd. You can email me at beer@ceetar.com. No arrests were made in the research for this post. 

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Bottle Shares: Finally Tasting Those Cellared Beers

Tasting and sharing JW Lees Harvest 2001, weed beer, German sessions and more

Many people save beer. Some people intentionally age things, with various degrees of care, to see how they’ll taste. Age is a factor on many beers, and while it’s generally a negative, some beers exhibit some interesting and tasty characteristics as they get old. It’s especially interesting to see how beers taste fresh versus aged, especially yearly releases that you can compare glass to glass at the same time. Doing a vertical tasting of vintages is a great experience.

 

I sometimes will save a bottle or two intentionally, but most of the time it’s because I bought something that can keep, and always seem to have beer on hand that needs to be tasted fresh. I’ve got bottles in my basement that I’ve told myself “I’ll drink that this weekend” for years. The higher ABV of beers like this play in as well, as you’re not often to going to open a 22oz bomber of 12% beer to drink alone after dinner.

 

So you take advantage of the opportunity to open these bottles when you’re away for the weekend with a few friends. We all have young kids, so we kept it reasonable, choosing to try things rather than burn through imperial stout after imperial stout.

 

Plan Bee Kevbo

Farmhouse Ale with NY hops. This was really good. It was too hoppy for everyone else but I happily finished it off. Plan Bee makes amazing and beautiful beers and I need to get up to the Hudson Valley and visit them. Soon.

 

Smuttynose Rocky Road

Pastry stout. It was fine, enjoyable. Nothing particularly stood out. Faint whisps of marshmallow on the nose are fun though.

Dr. Fritz Briem Piwo Grodziski Grätzer Ale

Another one that didn’t quite hit the mark with everyone else, that I adored. It’s a sour smoked wheat ale. At 4% it’s a session ale and I really wish I had a dozen more.

 

Victory White Monkey

A Chardonnay barrel version of their Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel. I think I liked this one better, the flavors were calmer and more grapey.

 

New Belgium The Hemperor HPA

This was not good. I guess if you’re really into weed, and really enjoy that dank herbal aroma and taste, you might enjoy this, but not us. No. This is what I imagine bong water would taste like. It was an interesting try, and I’m definitely still interested in beers like this given the familiar relationship between hops and weed, in that they both belong to the Cannabinaceae family, but this beer was not drinkable.

Innis & Gunn Blood Red Sky

I don’t love regular Innis & Gunn, but this version with rum barrels and a Scottish red? Delicious. Lots of ripe red fruit and caramel sweetness. Candy apple almost, but less saccharine. Fun, though everyone else disagreed, so I took the last bottle home for myself.

 

JW Lees and Co Harvest Ale (2001)

Have you ever had a 17 year old beer? Try it. This was neat. Raisin syrup was my first thought, but that’s an understatement for the depth of flavors present in this beer. I don’t really drink sherry, but this was probably closer to a sherry than what you’d typically think of as beer. What a fun experience. I just randomly bought this bottle recently too, from a random beverage place. I also picked up a 2009, so stay tuned.

 

All in all, a fun weekend. I’ve got more though! When are we doing this again?

Cheers!
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Four Silly Beer Pictures

Beer names get sillier and sillier, so why not take silly pictures to accompany them?

photo by Ceetar
For the Birds by Brix City Brewing

For The Birds was a hazy American Pale Ale. It was pretty typically fruity, with that hop burn from intense hopping. If hazy is your thing, you’ll like Brix City.

photo by Ceetar
Brain Dance by Nap Time Liquid Creation

Nap Time is a new label, basically a brewer’s label, put out by KUKA/Andean Brewing Company in Blauvelt. This was a tasty one, despite my bad pour. Sticky resiny/dank hops and plenty of flavor. It’s an aptly named brain dance.

photo by Ceetar
Money Mad Fat! Collaboration by Interboro and Barrier

Barrier and Interboro are both Long Island based (okay, Brooklyn and Long Island) breweries that have been making great IPAs. Mad Fat! is Interboro’s series, and Money is Barrier’s. Money is a little more traditional, and Mad Fat! is a little more New England, but they’re both great beers on their own as well.

photo by Ceetar
The Last Bovine by Bolero Snort

Bolero Snort is one of only three breweries in my giant county. (I’m available to help! Let’s get another one going here in Bergen County NJ! GoFundMe!) They’ve been skirting that Cease and Desist line for a while with topical pop culture themed, and cow pun, beers for a few years and will be opening a tap room in 2019. The beers are typically good, though I admit I don’t remember how this one tasted when I had it last Christmas.

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Going To Homebrew Club Meetings

Are you a fledgling homebrewer? A lapsed homebrewer? An interested in homebrewing homebrewer? Much like how everyone now has a podcast (stay tuned for a possible Barley Prose podcast), everyone is a homebrewer.

Maybe you should attend a homebrew meeting. Homebrew meetings are a lot of fun, and a great way to socialize with like-minded individuals. Typically you can find all sorts of brewers, from the not so serious folk who just occasionally mix up a store bought kit, to the ones that will go into detail about their custom built brewing setups and have more pictures of it than they do of their kids.

You’ll find all sorts of beer too. You’ll find mostly forgettable pale ales from kits. You’ll find good beer, and bad beer, though it’s less common than you think. Mostly you’ll find flawed beer that kinda tastes good but has off-tastes, or wild yeast creating unwanted flavors or other common brewing mistakes. You’ll taste some weird and unique stuff at homebrew clubs, and I’m not just saying that because I brewed a rather suspect peanut butter honey hefeweizen.

There is also good beer. Lots of good beer. You’ll taste beers as good as anything at an average beer bar, and depending on the membership, perhaps some that are even better. I’ve met people doing all sorts of zany things, making delicious beers across and between styles. It’s fun to try new things, learn how different people approach and think about beer, and just generally drink and have a good time.

Some people fool around with yeast, some people will talk your head off about water chemistry. In most cases everyone is supportive and just happy to talk about, and drink, beer. If you don’t want to go in the weeds talking about chlorine content in your town’s water supply, you don’t have to. The same goes for process. Members will happily discuss techniques and equipment with you, provide tips or suggestions, or just inquire about what you’re doing and thinking. What recipes are you building in your head? What would you like to brew next? If you’re not into that, that’s fine too. You can keep it as simple as “I added some oats for mouthfeel” or “You could try adding some honey to boost ABV if that’s what you’re going for.”

You’ll encounter brewers that generally only drink their own stuff, but gone are the days when most people get into homebrewing as a way to make better beer than 95% of what’s on the shelves. Even homebrewers these days are also craft beer fans. They’ll be drinking the local beer in your neighborhood, in fact the meetings might very well take place in a bar serving some of those beers. You’ll find brewers talking about clones of favorite, or hard to get, beers and also brewers citing professional beers that use a non-traditional ingredient you might be interested in brewing with.

Simply put homebrew meetings are typically a casual and non-judgemental way to talk about beer and brewing. If you’re already doing that online, why not try it out in person with real drinkable beer?


I’m a member of the Lower Hudson Valley Homebrew Club which could definitely use a few new members/brewers if you’re in that area.

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