Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sump (Perennial Artisan Ales)

So the day to day all the time beers that most breweries make money to pay the bills with occasionally need a little brand reminder. They produce a beer that is curl your toes, knock your socks off, call out of work, and spend your rent money on good? Depending on when you ask me, I may agree. The thing about the business that makes me giggle occasionally is the beers that go "behind the counter" due to limited availability. Sometimes a smaller distributor will get a beer that they are convinced is the tits that no one knows about. I have been guilty about having plead the 5th put behind the counter at a total wine and it takes 3 weeks for it to sell out, or even ends up on the shelf. Market hype is just not there for some of these beers, although ofter hype is deserved, I feel.
Sump however is not a common, put it in the seasonal section beer. What the hell are you thinking? You have to leverage this shit however you can! I had been so good at not being an impulse buyer and only buying things I cannot live with out. I had even more recently passed on a chance to buy an abyss. I didn't pass on it a second time when my eyes caught that sump on a shelf. Total wine, what are you doing? I had to tease the local snobs on social media that didn't even know this beer was going to be so widely released in the market. I gotta admit I expected to have to fight for it.

So a moment of weakness I splurged on both of the dark dank beers that perked my interest last week. As I ticker I had to secure these for my OCD desire to drink all the beers, or at least all of the dark beers.

So like a real ambassador, self proclaimed, I broke this huge coffee stout out this past Sunday with my wife and family. The .45 caliber bottle opener was a gift from the family from young veterans brewing company in Virginia beach. This beer has the perfect coffee flavor. There was good bitterness, balanced with sweetness that wasn't overwhelming. I probably can not pull it off but I bet this barrel aged would give coffee bourbon county a run for it's money. This is a real beer nerds beer, well worth the hunt and price tag. The label is awesome and this brewery is top notch based on my experience with this beer, 17 mint stout, and the abraxas. They also do sours which is bold. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Mayan (The Ilkley Brewery)

I find myself tired of looking at the same beer from store to store when I am out shopping. I go to Food Lion locally and often breeze down the beer aisle hoping that something new has invaded the shelves. I am frequently disappointed. Even when I go to total wine or other chain stores it is normally a bunch of the same large craft beer names. Bells, Founders, Sierra Nevada, and the list goes on and on. When working I often talk to bottles shop folks and occasionally a silent sleeper is revealed to me. This beer was pointed out to me and was even reviewed as being better than prairie bomb, which I was doubtful of. I was interested in giving this a try though. I know nothing about it other than the style, chocolate chipotle stout (Mexican stout), which I am a huge fan of. Rate beer gives this beer high marks, and beer advocate, average. The odd 600ml size was a bit odd, and the near seven dollar price tag is not too taxing on the wallet. I was excited to try this recommendation and was hopeful it could stand up to the high praise it was given.
The store I was told about this beer carried this and one other beer from Ilkley brewing. The labels both looked very similar and I have been looking at this beer for quite some time before I purchased it. I had convinced myself this was a Mexican or south American offering but when I was met with the union jack on the bottle cap I was surprised. A English brewed Mexican inspired beer? This will be interesting. I split the bottle with my wife who doesn't like spicy, and she really enjoyed this beer. It is no prairie bomb but it is good, and available without postage year round. The spice note was not a lot of heat. It was more earthy pepper flavors. The body of the beer I wish was a bit thicker, and the syrupish chocolate was a let down. When I went to the Ilkley website it appears that they make a fair bit of cask ales, which makes sense after having this. It had a very similar mouth feel to a beer from cask. So yes it was fun, I would get this beer again. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Japanese Green Tea IPA (Stone Brewing)

Dear Stone Brewing Company, As we hurdle towards the day that you fully invade my small city, big town with your beer garden, I am undecided. Do I like you or not? Does it really matter? I seemingly keep spending my hard, I mean hard earned cash on your goods. I often tire of the hoppy assault that you reign down on the beer market. You even came at me with an unapologetic IPA, which I could not support. Feel some sense of remorse for becoming too big for ones britches? Even your brewing brethren, ole Jim Koch, occasionally boasts of how many styles and beers he can produce. I really enjoy when he makes press for sharing his passion for how great he is in a public drinking establishment. The flood of your products in the northern Virginia market have began to dam up the aisles, giving me no choice but compare you to the big beer you so much despise. The more SKU's you make, despite the quality, have traction based solely on that five letter word. Damn it, you make good IPA's, and your stouts are very good as well. How will I feel about this Japanese twisted on hoppy perfection? Well keep reading my dribble below the attached image.

Simply the idea of green tea and beer was not something I was looking for someone to brew. Both beer and tea are brewed tho, so that's kind of a fun idea. As you can see by the picture, I got maps, and this beer was very cold when I poured it. The first few sips I really enjoyed, the tea note was playing well with the hops in the finish. I have to say as this beer warmed, or as my tongue got more coated with sweetness this beer became more like Arizona southern style. The hops began over running the tea flavor which I was thankful for. Over all, I am glad I tried this beer but wouldn't buy it again. 

I really believe that Stone coming to Richmond will be a good thing for the overall beer culture. The problem currently with the culture is that everyone is on top of each other racing to get to the next big beer release. I am hoping that this brewery and beer garden will draw attention of those new to craft beer to a experienced place for a proper education. Leave all this dope ass local shit to meee!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Enlightenmint (Twisted Manzanita Brewing)

Enlightenmint is a mint chocolate stout from twisted manzanita brewery out of San Diego, California. The brewery has been open since 2010 and is aggressively expanding into distilling liquor.

I've have been very curious about this beer since we started selling it in Northern Virginia last week. Stouts are currently my favorite style almost to a fault. I have only had one mint stout, 17 from perennial artisanal, which was very good. I was cautious about purchasing this beer because there is little information about it and this style could go horribly wrong. I had concerns that it would be too candy like for my palette. The 17 that I had was borderline candy, and very sweet. One upside to taking a chance on Enlightenmint is the price is very affordable at $9.99 vs. the $18plus for the other.

I buy quite a number of warm large format bottles from the local bottle shop. I often bring them home and speed chill them in this watering bucket with a combination of ice, water, and salt. I spin the bottle in the bucket frequently and it chills a stout in about 20 minutes. I have seen a device that clamps to the bottle and spins it for you, but I have not been gifted nor tried that device.

Well, the beer was a nice change of pace. At first glance the head was a nice color, indicative of chocolate. The aroma was mint chocolate. The flavor and alcohol were well balanced, and the finish was like fresh mint. I could even feel the herb on my breath between sips. It even passed the wife test, who enjoyed a tiny glass. She would have loved to have more but had plans for an early bedtime. This is definitely a beer that if embraced and sampled would do very well as a seasonal release. I have no clue the plans for future releases of this product. I noticed on untapped there are less than 500 total check ins for this beer. I suppose this beer could have not gone over well with the west coast home town crowd, but I sure am on board. We sold through the few cases we go pretty quickly. If it comes back look for it again next winter. I may try to get this label off. It's so steam punk with the Edison bulb.

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Years (2014 Round Up)

Well 2014 has been a year of dramatic change for me. Professionally, it was the second full year in the distribution expansion to Northern Va. We more than doubled out portfolio and have been getting Hardywood in the hands of a brand new audience. We are at our limit as far as what we can do and I look for more big change next year. Personally, I became a father in May, which has presented a new set of challenges. I have had to evaluate the extra money and have decided that my passion for working on scooters and motorcycles is a healthier option. I will still be blogging but as mentioned previous, I am not sure how often. This year in beer I pursued Gose against the grain of the session IPA trend. I was glad to see Boulevard, Strangeways, Widmer, Anderson Valley and Off Color brewing answer the call. I stand by my belief that this style can be very refreshing ice cold on a hot day. My last two beers of the year are flash back to the stout obsession that has been well watered this year. Three big stout bottle shares, and I think I have had too many world class stouts. 
Coronado Brewing is out of California near San Diego. I have been pushing Coronado Stupid Stout for weeks based on the perceived merit of how hard it seemed for us to get the brewery to send us some. Also it was well received on the advocate and ratebeer. The price was very forgiving and this beer was exactly what I was looking for. It was a silky beer, with good mouth feel. I got really nice roasted, coffee, and chocolate notes. I even took a picture of the lacing on the head (top right) to illustrate what a good stout does to the edge of your class. It was a fine stout to kick off new years eve festivities. 

Off Color Brewing out of Chicago Illinois was a new to me this year. Nathan and I had their gose and farmhouse saison at Mekong earlier in the year, both are outstanding. I happened to catch the news of this beer, Dino Smores, hitting the market through social media. I consulted a friend who gave it the green light, and I caught the last bottle on the shelf at Norm's Wine and Beer in Vienna Va. It was expensive, but I needed to try it. I was not the biggest fan. It tasted a little oxidized and more powdered cocoa than I was feeling at the time. I am thinking this beer just didn't follow the stupid stout well. I am still a believer that Chicago is a sleeper of a beer town and I look forward to more excellent surprises from them in 2015. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hydra Cuvée (F.W. and Flying Dog collab)

There are several things that I enjoy about maintaining a beer blog. I enjoy the documentation process of my beer experience and the challenge of trying to write entries about beer that are more than judgmental ramblings. I imagine an audience of friends who are willing to click a link on Facebook and get a little insight into my beer experience. I feel like the majority of my audience is beer friends who read and think I am full of shit. I don't have much confidence in my voice or writing ability, so I am clearly too sensitive about this. 
James Rohr actually came through with this Hyrda Cuvee. This beer was a collaboration between Firestone Walker and Flying Dog for savor 2014 and was only available at the event. I am guessing this is an extra bottle which was given to the local distributor and the sales team. What is savor? It is a big food and beverage event held each year in DC. It is hosted by breweries and restaurants for customers and is a by invite only event. Food is served and paired with beers in a more formal setting than a typical festival. I have never been, and get a little annoyed each year at all the people asking me if I am going. 

My first reaction was that after all of the world class stouts I have drank recently this is a nice change of pace. I stopped myself mid sentence. Can one actually get palette fatigue from good beer? Having achieved this type of fatigue am I at the end, NO! This beer was awesome Belgian strong dark, not heavy and had loads of flavor. I kept thinking quad, but it was not. I agree with the reviews of this beer smelling boozy, but it was actually very smooth drinking. I think for me this beer was the case of right beer right time. That time was a week before Christmas in the garage on a cool afternoon with friends after an extended run of stouts. In another setting or set of circumstances this beer would have been a totally different experience. That's why I am not full of shit. The best beer experience has to do with the timing, so don't take others peoples word for it. Create your own moments.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reserve Series (Firestone Walker)

Well I sat down to type an entry about a limited beer of a different style I was fortunate to fall into and saw that I had this draft chilling in the Que. Firestone walker celebrated their 18th anniversary this year as well as fellow California breweries stone and Coronado. It must have been a booming era in California beer, and these folks have proven that they have the staying power to get it done.

I got trapped into collecting these beers for a special occasion and settled on breaking them out for my 1000 check in on untapped. Two dear beer friends of mine treat me to the spoils of their aggressive trading hobby, so south I went to share these. 

We had six participants at this particular bottle share and started with velvet merkin, a barrel aged oatmeal stout. This beer has a light flavor profile and is only 8%, most of the others we drank this night are well over 10%. I had to trade to get this beer, a 2013, and had been kind of let down when I got to try the 2014 on draft months ago. It was better out of the bottle.

We had sets of 2013 and 2014, sucaba, parabola, and double DBA. I wanted to end with Parabola, my favorite. I believe the order was Merkin, Double DBA, 17th Anniversary, Sucaba, Stickee Monkey, and last the huge BA stout. Luckily these were pretty cold so we tried to take our time and sip through all the beers to experience each as they warmed up. Anniversary and Sucaba really benefited from this tactic. The sticky monkey was a huge let down for me. It was too cloyingly sweet, and was damn near honey like. 

We blind taste tested all of the verticals, and Parabola was the only one that actually aged the way we expected. Most beers just lost the sharpness in flavor with age, parabola mellowed and gained a deeper complexity with only one year of cellar aging. I hate to do it but this year I have to thin out my hardywood collection. I am afraid that some of their early barrel series beers may have gone to far. I think my attitude about cellaring beers has changed in 2014. I will no longer age any coffee or flavored beers. Most signs say that aging coffee stouts deadens the coffee flavor. I love the coffee flavor!