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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Volksfest: Drinking German Beer In The Sun

Out on Long Island, at a place called Plattduetsche Park, there are frequently German heritage festivals. One of these happened this past weekend, the 135th Plattduetsche Volksfest. There’s a parade, there’s plenty of German food, vendors, balloon animals, bounce houses, music, and of course, beer. I did mention this was a German peoples’ festival right?

 

It was hot, as per summer. Erdinger had flyers out with a special, five beers for $18 in an ice-filled bucket. I opted for that, trusting it to be fresh and clean, over something like 2017’s Oktoberfest from Hacker-Pschorr.

The Erdinger Summer Weisse is a new beer from Erdinger, I can’t say I’ve ever had strong feelings about any of their other offerings, but I did find this one a perfect fit for the environment. It comes in at a light 4.6% ABV and is still flavorful.  It’s got some mild bitterness to it, the wheat isn’t too heavy, and there are some good fruity citrus notes to it that keep it crisp and refreshing.

 

When the long tables feature a constantly refilling set of bottles and pitchers as everyone takes a beer, pours a beer, or goes to get another pitcher, it’s nice to have something that goes down so easy, and in this case was ice cold thanks to the bucket.

 

The next person to buy a pitcher got the Krombacher Pils, which is a perfectly serviceable beer, particularly for the hot summer months, but I just find pilsners a little too plain for my preference and I don’t enjoy the sulfur notes that typically accompany German ones. Another problem with beers like that is that they skunk in the hot sun way too easily. Perhaps I’m drinking too slowly, or simply become more aware of the flavor, but I could practically see the light skunking the pilsner as I was drinking it, unlike the summer weisse that I kept in the dark bottle.

photo by Ceetar
Hop oils being converted into skunk aroma.

After an enjoyable afternoon drinking beer and eating potato pancakes and bratwurst, we went home where I drank roughly three gallons of water to recover from the heat and alcohol. I got the kids to bed, and then I cracked open an IPA and enjoyed it in my comfortable climate controlled home.

 

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July 4th Beer Selections

Just a quick friendly reminder that all craft beer is the perfect patriotic choice of beverage, and those red white and blue bottles you see everywhere are actually part of a huge international conglomerate.

 

Fruit beers and lightly soured beers are particularly popular lately. Goses as well, which is a style of beer with some salt in it.

 

I haven’t quite decided what I’m bringing to the party, the hosts have a keg of Yuengling which will do in a pinch, but I’m leaning towards something like Bell’s Oberon and Bell’s Two-Hearted, which are new to New Jersey.

 

What are you drinking? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @BarleyProse.

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Repost: A Tribute To A Coconut Brown Ale

This is a repost of a blog entry I wrote on BeerGraphs in 2013. 

 

Technically coconut fruit is a drupe, not a nut.  So brown ales with coconut are really fruit beers and not nut browns, but that’s just semantics and botany really.

Coconut is a flavor that many people will tell you they don’t like, although if pressed a lot of them will cite the texture. This is understandable, as a lot of times their initial exposure to the flavor is similar to mine; When I picked the unlucky chocolate out of a box of Russell Stover Candies. This wicked game of chocolate Russian roulette is not working with the highest quality ingredients to start with, and if you go in thinking you’re going to get a smooth milky chocolate it’s only going to make the surprise more jarring. Trying a Mounds or Almond Joy at Halloween is less surprising, but it’s still only the grainy and chewy form of the stuff. My mother would have one or two, but there were always a handful of the blue-wrapped candies destined for the trash in the remains of my Halloween bag when we found it months later.

I rarely gave it another thought. I’d made up my mind that I didn’t like coconut, and that was that. I passed over things with coconut in or on them, immediately assured it was something I didn’t like.

All that would change on October 16th, 2010. I’m a big believer of the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When I’m in new places, I open my mind to the differences and try the local cuisine. It was an innocent enough night in Kona on the isle of Hawaii and me and my new wife were sitting at the bar at the Kona Brewing Company waiting for a table. I flipped open the menu to the one-off section where they had a couple of experimental beers, which is usually my favorite section of any beer menu. I read about one, a brown ale with toasted coconut called Coco Loco Toasted Coconut Brown Ale, and was intrigued before I finished reading the name. My mind was open to new flavors and Hawaiians do not shy away from coconut, unless it’s via a warning not to sit under a palm tree.

So I ordered it, and it was wonderful. It wasn’t a hint of coconut. It wasn’t a rich malty beverage with a lingering aftertaste. It was a full-on, in-your-face explosion of coconut. And it was delicious. The nutty sweetness of the coconut was the predominant taste and the beer enveloped it from there creating a rather tasty beverage.

When I returned to New Jersey I knew there was Kona beers around, but I also knew there was no chance they would have this specialty beer since it wasn’t even in bottles in Hawaii. As most people do when they return from the Hawaiian Islands I wallowed in nostalgia for a couple of weeks and missed my coconut beer and my Mauna Loa macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies. After that I got down to work researching homebrew recipes for a clone. I found some other homebrew threads talking about toasted coconut, and after a while I formulated a recipe and brewed my nostalgic brew.

To date it’s probably the best beer I’ve created. I’m clearly biased, but I’ve had independent confirmation of this by friends who have had most of my other creations including an odd, but not bad, root beer beer. I even rebranded it as a Mets-themed beer called Oliver Perez is Coco-Nutz. I just bottled another batch of it this past weekend.

Then the miraculous happened: Everyone else loved Kona’s beer as much as I did and they decided to both bottle it and add it to their Aloha Series, the one that gets distributed to the mainland along with Pipeland Porter, Wailua Wheat, Fire Rock Pale Ale and Longboard Lager.

Kona Brewing Company’s Koko Brown is deliciousness in a glass. It tastes like lounging on an island beach during a Luau entwined with stand-up paddleboarding on the blue waters. The aroma evokes a relaxing vacation bottled with the rich aroma of tropical paradise. Drinking this coconut delight brings images of gently flowing palm trees in a warm breeze and beautiful pink sunsets over giant ocean waves.

Koko Brown has a 3.68 rating with 2.26 BAR and 0.2 wOBAR. It’s a well-crafted malty beverage with a smooth coconut taste and a caramelly sweetness and just enough hop bitterness to keep it balanced. If you can’t find it, brew it.

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