Your BBQ’s Beer Selection: A Challenge

I’ve been told that when you’re hosting a party, that’s not a bottle share among beer-nerds, you shouldn’t only have double IPAs available. Also leaving the 18% Dogfish Head Raison d’Extra with the normal strength beer is also not wise. That’s a really good beer though.

The composition of your crowd matters a bunch. If you know everyone pretty well, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what people like. Even if you just have a few people that you know are into beer as much as you, you can get away with some craftier beers in there, but if you don’t, people aren’t really going to know what to do with your bomber can of New England IPA with a name like 100K Juicebox.

In a recent situation, I was hosting a five year old’s birthday party, which would include some of her daycare friends and their parents. I had no idea of their drinking preferences. (The adults. The kids were fine with apple juice and water) I wanted to have beers on hand that were drinkable, somewhat light in ABV, but also still rich and flavorful and enticing. None of this “I’ll just have a seltzer or something” nonsense. Don’t even get me started on hard seltzer. 

I probably went overboard. Every time I saw an interesting beer that seemed broadly appealing I told myself to get a six pack for the party. This led to the following list:

  • Jack’s Abby Smoke & Dagger Black Lager
  • Alementary #IslandLife Lime Gose
  • Alementary Literary Trope Raspberry Witbier
  • Dogfish Head SuperEIGHT Super Fruit Gose
  • 21st Amendment Sparkale Sparkling Rosé Ale
  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest

I also made about five liters of sangria.

The last two were last minute additions, though you might say I was already going overboard. I wanted the 60 minute on hand to have an IPA, and I also want to do an experiment with it to try to recreate 61 minute IPA, a beer brewed with Syrah must that they’re not making anymore but was delicious. More on that in the future. I know Oktoberfests are pretty crowd pleasing, so despite it being early August I picked up a case. 

When you have that much beer, and that much variety, you have to expect leftovers. You have to fine with leftovers. Or you have to be planning another get together soon. I’ve already talked about being an accidental beer hoarder, and the last thing I need is more beer collecting dust in my basement, especially beers like this that don’t seem like they’d age that well. 

So let’s talk about taste, because I’ve rambling on too long about buying beer, and not enough about DRINKING beer. Though, to be fair, this IS a beer blog and rambling about beer is sorta what we do right? The Jack’s Abby is really good. Jack’s Abby is a top-flight brewery, making amazing lagers. Buy their stuff. Drink their stuff. I don’t have as much experience with their ale project, Springdale Beer, but I’m sure it’s excellent as well. America, even craft America, still seems to equate dark beer with winter and cold, but a deliciously roasty black ale like this is a joy. 

I trust Alementary, my local brewery of which I’m a member of their exclusive Order of the Atom, to make good beer, and they’re particularly good with some of these lighter styles. The #IslandLife features Kalamansi lime, which gives the tartness a bolder more complex taste and is fun. The Literary Trope is standard raspberry wheat, something that always goes well together. 

Dogfish Head. You know these guys right? Their SuperEIGHT is a gose, but loaded with super fruits. It’s red. It’s delicious. Drink it. 60 minute is a classic.

21st Amendment was one of breweries I really was into when I first started getting into craft beer. I really enjoyed their black IPA, and Hell or High Watermelon has been a great summer beer for decades. The Sparkale is very much like a white sangria. It’s fizzy and fruity. My wife likes it, and it’s very gentle and pleasing.

Oktoberfests rock. Sierra Nevada collaborates with a German brewery every year, and this year it’s Bitburger. I had this one later in the evening, and as such remember very little about it. But I’m sure it was delicious and on-style. I have more. I will be drinking them.

It POURED the night of the party.
When they float, they’re ready to drink.

I’ve been drinking the sangria leftovers this week, as it’s going to go bad soon. This included spilling sangria all over my kitchen, and then spilling sangria IN the fridge when I opened the tap and set the cup down to refill while I was cleaning the floor. I’ll transition back to the beer shortly and I’ve got some work to do. Who wants to come over and help?

 

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Drinking Away A Lousy Situation

Lousy situations call for stronger beers. You can’t combat dealing with lice with a sessionable lager–break out the good stuff.

So far it looks like we only had the initial signs of an issue, and we’ve all been doused with medication and we washed clothes and towels and all that. Still, after that sort of panic and frantic washing, you can’t get away with sipping a gose, you need something with some heft.

Bring on Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake.  Specifically Raspberry Truffle W-n-B, an imperial stout with coffee, oatmeal, cacao, and raspberry. Smooooooth. Delicious. There was almost no alcohol or stout burn to this, though it was sweet and thick and lovely.  You could tell it was strong, but it was so full flavored that it was all balanced nicely. What a great stout, what a great way to unwind.

Day 2, everything seems fine but we still have to comb and check and are wary about everything.  It’s still fresh on our mind. My hair still itches out of anxiety. Tequila. Tequila is definitely the way to go.  

I opened up my bottle of Founders Mas Agave, an imperial gose brewed with agave, lime and sea salt. Margarita, clearly. It certainly smelled like it. I’d had a bottle of a similar beer from The Alementary a few months ago called Escape From Oaxaca which was less sweet, and more tequila-flavored than this, but this one was still fun to drink. In fact, it may have been easier to drink, even if I preferred the taste of the other one.

It’s sweet, from the agave, so if sweet isn’t your thing probably avoid both these beers. Apparently my ‘comfort beer’ tastes veer into the trope of single lady downing ice cream after a breakup. Something I think tequila would also be appropriate for, though I have been known to say tequila gose (haha) with everything.

Anyhow, this beer tasted like a margarita, but a sweeter one. One heavy on the lime juice and sweetener. I personally would’ve enjoyed more barrel aging on it, more tequila taste. This was 10% and went down easy. The salt balances the sweetness nicely, keeps it from being cloying, much like it might do in a similar margarita, but really the tequila should be the showpiece in a cocktail, or a cocktail-themed beer.

Drinking beer does not kill lice, but it sure does make a lousy situation more manageable. Until next time, because #kids, cheers!

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Kolsch and Saison: Dreaming of Summer Beer

Pondering some less popular styles and how good they are to drink in the summer heat.

When I think marketed Summer beers, I think wheat and lemon and basically Sam Adams Summer Ale, which is described thus:

This hazy golden unfiltered brew combines crisp wheat with the bright citrus of lemon peel and the subtle spice of Grains of Paradise.

That’s fine. Flowing fields of wheat, bright yellow citrus, grains. That certainly is a summer image, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. That’s Summer Beer 101. I’ve never been a huge wheat beer fan, I prefer wheat on my plate and barley in my glass.

Saison. Often partially misrepresented as ‘farmhouse ale’, Saison is a great beer to represent the season. It’s a broad style, it’s typically low alcohol, it’s well carbonated, it’s got flavor but they’re not particularly out there flavors so it should appeal to a broad range of drinkers. Typically there is fruit flavors from the hops, which gives the impression of sweetness in an otherwise dryer style that’s easy to drink in the heat.

I’d bring saison to every barbecue and gathering this summer if I could find enough interesting quality and quantity in cans and bottles, but not enough brewers are making it in Northern New Jersey. I’m picking up a six pack of one from The Alementary today though, I’m excited about that.

Kölsch is another style that’s well suited to summer. This one is even more friendly to a wide variety of drinkers. It’s a fairly light lagered ale, with a lot of bready notes. Light fruit maybe, light hop spice. It’s delicate, but it’s also a good canvas for creative American brewing.  Smoked Peach, Coffee, or any of your favorite fruits or fruity hops that you want to really accent go really well here.

Keep an eye out for some of these more delicate styles. Bring a Kölsch to try at your next family gathering. Next time you have friends over for some burgers, toss a few cans of saison into the cooler. You won’t regret stocking a few Helles lagers this summer. There is an insane amount of gose out there these days, but that salty, slightly sour, style is another solid option to quaff in between hot dogs.

Two Ton Brewing just tweeted this:

Ginger-Lime Kolsch – 7% ABV ‘The Style-Ale’ bursting with ginger and key lime flavors that make this the perfect summer beverage.

I’d drink that.

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Two Beers, One Lunch: RIP Sears

Two beers, one lunch. It’s fast becoming a theme around these parts. Kilgore Stout has enjoyed many, and it’s my term to regale you with the tale of my meal.

My favorite spot to grab a pint when I need one for lunch during the week is The Dog and Cask in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. It’s located on route 17, directly across from what used to be a Sears warehouse, and is now a pile of rubble.  It is what you might describe as a gastropub, though I’m not sure we still use that term. It’s got pretty good food, generally in the standard American Grill form–burgers and fries and the like. Good appetizers. Not too many menu items, but ones that were well thought out.

This was a Sears warehouse

And of course, beer. The Dog & Cask pushes local New Jersey beer pretty heavily, something I appreciate as I’m located in the north part of the state, in a county that seemingly frowns on breweries opening.  Most of them are farther away than I typically get to, and it’s nice to be able to try some of these beers fresh and on tap.

My typical approach to the two beers, one lunch format is to order the first beer to drink and enjoy on its own, and then order a second to drink with the meal. I started with the Carton Brewing Mexican Coffee. This is a pro move and I can’t recommend you try it at home. Well, I CAN recommend you try it at _HOME_, but for a lunch hour where you want to be productive afterwards, starting with a 12% imperial cream stout is not recommended.

The beer is recommended though. Highly. The original form of this beer is Carton Regular Coffee, which is meant to mimic coffee with ‘milk and 2 sugars’. This is apparently a Jersey-ism, though one I’m not familiar with having moved here when I was 25. I drink my coffee black anyway. Mexican Coffee is that same style of beer, only with coffee syrup and aged in tequila barrels. This one’s more meant to mimic an after-dinner drink. Or, in my case, a pre-lunch drink. Oops.

It nails it though. It’s strong obviously, and two sips in my shoulders and neck are aching, which is something that happens to me occasionally. I take it as a gentle reminder that I’m tense and need to relax, and I take another sip. It’s got that creamy lactose taste, and mouthfeel, to it at first. Quiet notes of tequila and Kahlua, and they linger and build as I drink. It’s that first taste of tequila, the one you get before the burn. There’s no burn beyond the richness of the alcohol, it’s a sweet coffee taste. The coffee sticks around, like when you drink a good latte and it feels like the foam is sticking to all corners of your mouth and hitting every taste bud. It’s that sweet coffee taste that comes through on the nose, hint of tequila and Kahlua but mostly just delicious coffee and sweetness. By the time my burger arrives and I finish the beer as my fries cool, the tequila has really built up to a very noticeable level and I’m digging it. It has me thinking of sticky tables after a good dinner at a Mexican restaurant, with salt and margarita splashed all over the table.

The burger arrives. Did I mention I ordered a burger? I usually order a burger at this joint, as they’re pretty delicious. This one is the Burning Love Burger, fried onions, jalapenos, guacamole, etc. It probably would’ve gone well with the Mexican Coffee, but to pair with it I go with a pretty standard NE IPA from Bolero Snort called Seeing Doubull. All their beers are cow puns, which is awesome.  The burger is, as I alluded to, excellent. It’s juicy and got all that crunch from the onions, and the jalapenos give a little flavor to cut through all the fat. The fries are well salted, which would’ve gone well with the tequila from the first beer, but that’s gone, deliciously warming my stomach with alcohol.

Burning Love Burger w/ Bolero Snort Doubull

The Seeing Doubull goes well, as the hop burn and crisp flavor cuts into the burger flavors in a pleasant way. It’s using a newer hop variety called Strata. I get all sorts of tropical notes, particularly pink grapefruit. It’s very drinkable, soft mouthfeel and all, and I continue to enjoy it after I finish the burger and still have a few ounces left.

I finish my beer, tip my server/bartender, and drive back to work to sit at a desk until five before I can enjoy a nightcap and some pizza at home. At least it’s Friday.

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Game Of Thrones Beer Review: Mother Of Dragons

I need to get this post up before we run out of dragons!

As far as I can tell, Daenerys Stormborn is not the mother of Stuffy, the flightless stuffed dragon from Doc McStuffins

 Inspired by Daenerys Targaryen, this blend of a smoked porter and a Belgian kriek represents the smoke and fire that Daenerys has unleashed on her opponents during her ascent to conquer and rule the seven kingdoms.  The beer will be available nationwide on September 28.

So it was only 7 months or so old when I had it, which shouldn’t have adversely affected it much. I didn’t get the heat from it I was expecting, and I was worried age had played a factor.

I still enjoyed the beer.  I do like smoked beers, I like porters, I like Kriek, so there was really no doubt I would enjoy this one. It’s just more Kriek than smoke. The cherry is present on the nose, with sweet dark malt underneath, and just a hint of that smoke.

There’s some red tinges to this

It tastes great. It was mouth watering cherry flavor, and not in that overly medicinal way. Needs more char. I need to feel like I’m drinking this in the ashes of something the dragons just burned down, but there’s merely a whisper. Dracarys, gimme more heat. This probably could’ve done with a bit of cinnamon or chili to complement the dragon theme.

ITBMCBB* this beer should be as follows.

Mother of Dragons pours a deep ruby-tinted mahogany with a creamy tan head. Aromas of chocolate covered cherries intertwine with subtle smoke and roasted malt. The flavor is rich with tart cherry up front leading to a center palate of semi-sweet chocolate then resolving to subtle smoke and mild sweetness. The mouthfeel is luxuriously creamy and full, and the finish is semi-dry with lingering notes of smoke and cherry sweetness. Mother of Dragons is 6.5% ABV and pairs well with smoked gouda and charcuterie, braised meats, and rich desserts like flourless chocolate cake and cherry cheese cake.

So I guess the subtle nature of the smoke is intentional, but they missed the mark imo. Those pairing make sense though. Does mozzarella and pepperoni in pizza form count among them? I’d say so, even if I wasn’t particularly taking note of how they complemented each other as I consumed them.

Overall this beer was pretty good, and I enjoyed it, but I wanted more from it. You might say the same about these last few episodes of the show as well.

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A Game Of Thrones Beer Review: Take The Black Stout

A quick review of Take The Black Stout.

photo by Ceetar

I unintentionally paired Ommegang’s Take The Black Stout with some Game of Thrones Oreo cookies, which was a pretty nice pairing. Stout, chocolate, cookie, all good things.  I paired both with episode one of season eight.

This beer came out originally in June of 2013, it was the second beer in the series. I was still under some illusions to the idea of having them all.  I had a taste of this at a beer festival that same year, and ended up not drinking the bottle I had, until now.

I enjoyed it a lot more than I enjoyed most of the Game of Thrones beers from the earlier runs. The age definitely smoothed out the flavors, with the roasty malts really being intertwined with the star anise and the licorice. Those were a lot more muted than I suspect they were originally, they were an added twist of depth to the beer rather than hitting you in the face with what’s typically a rather strong flavor. Lots of chocolate flavors in there, that’s what really shone through to me. I drank this pretty warm, especially by the time I got through the bottle.

It’ll come to no surprise that Game of Thrones beers did pretty well on Untappd last night. Pictured below, a tweet from Untappd founder Greg Avola.

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This Mets Fan Group Has It’s Own Beer At The Ballpark

Tasting the new United We Cheers beer from The 7 Line Army and MIkkeller NYC.

The 7 Line Army is an offshoot of the T-shirt company created by Darren Meenan that sells creative fan merchandise for Mets games. It’s a dedicated group of fans that have outings and tailgates at the park, and often travel to other parks as well, bringing a dedicated cheering section on the road is something that’s pretty neat, and something the ballplayers definitely notice and appreciate.

They recently teamed up with Mikkeller NYC, a brewery that’s actually attached to Citi Field, to create a special beer called United We Cheers, utilizing Mikkeller’s unique artwork style. It’s a 4.3% German Pilsner, which really makes it an excellent tailgating beer that’s pretty drinkable by most beer drinkers, perhaps even especially non-craft ones.

I stopped at Mikkeler before Opening Day and had a can of it. I also had a delicious Hill Farmstead IPA, but that’s not why we’re here.

The beer had that light sulfury smell many Pilsners do, and a bit of lightly warmed bread. The taste matched that well, crisp, a bit of light phenols from the hops and some of that sulfur taste from the water chemistry. The hop bitterness is present and accounted for, that spicy/peppery noble hop varieties that are typical of the style. It’s full flavored and not at all watery. If the hop varieties were different, you might even call it a session IPA, but noble hops are more crowd pleasing.

This is a beer I’d be happy to drink all day watching or playing sports. It’s a great drinking beer.

 

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Old, Bad, Beer And Drinking It Anyway

I was in a unique situation recently; I’d saved a special bottle of beer and was looking forward to opening it–and I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

 

I was somewhat less aware of every ‘big’ beer or brand in 2010. There were a lot less of them of course, but there were still a ton, and unless you’re making an extraordinary effort, well, some slip your awareness.

 

Stone Brewery, like many people, noticed that the new millenium lent itself to dates like 1/1/1 , 2/2/2, etc. They started a series called Vertical Epic 2.2.2 that released on that date in 2002, nominally designed to age until 12.12.12. The craft beer movement, and Stone itself, was pretty tiny at the time, so the batch was pretty small, but each year everything got bigger.

 

I didn’t become aware of the series on the east coast until roughly two weeks after 10.10.10, which just so happens to be my wedding date. I don’t need to tell you that I bought a few bottles of a beer with a unique name and date released on the day of my wedding. This one was meant to age until 12.12.12, the culmination of the series. Taking advantage of the coincidental timing with the wine grape harvest, this beer is a Belgian Strong Ale with fresh Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Alewife Queens Stone Vertical Tasting Event, now a brewpub!
I believe this is 8-12 going right to left. 10.10.10 right in the middle.

The next question would typically be, “How did it taste?”, but that’s a tricky question. How did it taste in 2010? I honestly don’t recall. On 12.12.12 when me and my wife went to a Stone event in NYC? It was pretty good then, though mostly overpowered by some of the stronger, and older, beers in that lineup. I remember thinking it was very wine-y but still with malt, hops and yeast characters that defined it as a beer. That was a great event, Alewife had all but the very limited 02.02.02 on tap and we got a sample of all of them.

 

How did it taste on 2.10.19, exactly 100 months from 10.10.10? Less good. Perhaps even bad. It was basically flat, and tasted a lot like old white grape juice. The wine notes were prominent, with maybe even more sweetness from the malt with no bitterness. I drank a few ounces of it, but that was enough. Even nostalgia didn’t get me to finish it. Neither did my wife, nor either of my parents who tried it.

Even my Grandmother was willing to try the 10.10.10 for Christmas 2012.

I’ve written about accidentally aging beers before, and while I’d like to tell you I intentionally saved this one for the mathematically appropriate 100 months, it’s not true. I purchased three bottles–We had the first at Christmas time in 2012, tried the other one 2 years later when I noted ‘Not as good as two years ago’, and the third got packed away during a move and forgotten about until recently.

 

Your beers are probably at their best _right now_ so go drink them!

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Nugget Nectar Is The Perfect Beer

I don’t there’s a better beer that I look forward to more than Troegs Nugget Nectar. Troegs lists it as an Imperial Amber, though styles have evolved since Nugget first came out. This is a hoppy beer, but one with plenty of malt character, specifically sweeter caramel notes. That balances the dry hops.

 

This beer is amazing. It’s as perfect a beer as I’ll ever taste, at least as far as my tastes go right now. It’s 7.5% which means it’s got some punch but it’s not gonna wreck your day to have a couple if that’s what the day calls for. It’s hoppy, and it’s that sticky resiny hop flavor that was in the first IPAs I really enjoyed. That stickiness really contributes to mouth feel and presents the other, piney and mango fruit flavors really well. There’s enough malt to balance the bitter and keep it from being too drying, and it all fits together in this perfect little burst of flavor with each sip.

 

It’s a brilliant bright orange color. It’s got a fluffy head. The logo art is terrific, that of a hand crushing giant hop cone, and to complement that the release events around the seasonal beer are called ‘First Squeeze’.

 

It comes out a few weeks after the holidays have ended, providing a perfect introduction to the new year. I worked through most of a 12-pack right away, with only one beer remaining that I both really want to drink and don’t want to be gone. This beer works in any situation, whether it’s with food or by itself. As the first beer or the 4th. With friends or when drinking alone.

 

It’s a little Nugget of perfection, and If someone really did make me choose a ‘desert island beer’ this would be on the short list.

 

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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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