Saturday, November 21, 2015

Marzen (Schlenkerla Brewery)

If you know me, you know that my favorite time of year is fall. The smell, the chill, the leaves changing, and the German drinking holidays. The St. Benedictine Octoberfest is an annual fund raiser at the school that happens every year. I have not been the past couple of year but will mark it on the calendar. 

When I worked at Brown, I could name every import that we carried. Now that I am at Specialty it isn't that easy. We distribute for B. United that has an import portfolio bigger than our core portfolio. It has been a real challenge to learn all of these brands, and some have a bit of seasonality to them. Schlenkerla is a B. United brand that we carry four or five SKU's from year round.

Rauch beers, or smoked beers are the German way of adding flavor to beers and keep with in the purity laws. Water is added to grain to encourage it to sprout, and once it has sprouted they dry or smoke the grain to stop at this point of growth. One practice was to layer the grain between moss, thus imparting some flavor. Schlenkerla does a bit of blending to express many degrees of smokiness. These beers are often described as a meal in a glass. It's like drinking a slab of bacon or rack of ribs. I have yet to try to Oak Smoke yet, this could be a long learning process.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

There Gose the Neighborhood (Against the Grain Brewing)

My friend Josh and I went out to a neighborhood that has a great little place for beer last week. Saison Market in Jackson Ward has been getting so pretty big whale beers for sometime now. I have purchased the coffee jesus from evil twin, and I've even seen them receive a case of Bo & Luke from against the grain.

Saison Market is right behind Saison restaurant in historic Jackson Ward. Jackson Ward is a National Historic Landmark, known for being a predominant african american neighborhood. The machine that is VCU has brought so many new people to the area, the neighborhood is getting invaded by business and residential to support the influx. Saison Market resides in one of these repurposed buildings and retains the rustic charm of the ward. It was damn hot that night and this was not the right beer for the time.
There Gose the Neighborhood, by Against the Grain, is a salty wheat beer with roasted red peppers, cilantro, calmansi limes, and is fermented with brett. It was created by some culinary types that were shooting for a fancy cocktail type beer. The roasted peppers took over this beer. I didn't not taste any brett and didn't get any salty gose flavors. I wouldn't suggest this beer unless you are following on instagram #gimmeallthegose. 

I love that label art doe.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gravity Check (Kern River Brewing)

Please consider this post a retraction to my previous stance about session IPA's. Over the past three years starting immediately after stout season, a new session IPA was released. I felt assaulted, cheated and even went as far as to boycott them. This is about the time I began my hunt to drink every gose I could get my hands on. I'm really assuming that my taste in IPA's has changed, and I have had quite a few IPA's from breweries this year that are better than the regular IPA. Exhibit A, 21st Amendment Down to Earth, much preferred over Brew Free or Die. Less malty, good hop aroma and flavor, more drinkable. I know this might be sacrilege but I also prefer Easy Jack over Union Jack, and on that note I'll move on.
So I had a request for some beers from some old and new trading partners. Despite my desire to spend that money one something like shipping, I figured what the hell it's been a long time since I have sent beer mail. I went for the gusto and sent my west coast compadres a 15 pack of All Day IPA. At the time of purchase, the beer was only 4 days old, and still brilliant. Stuart was quick to fire back a care package and I have to be honest my old habit of thinking of session as the lesser of the IPA's took over. I was pleasantly surprised by this beer. Gravity Check is a bright and lively IPA, and taste like any other fantastic IPA. I kept having to check the label in disbelief that it was a session IPA. Stuart I apologize for doubting your taste. This beer was fantastic.

Friday, August 21, 2015

BCTC (Ommegang Brewery)

The beards were packed tight in the sprinter. Three coolers, cooling and the mighty unicorn was taking us the Brewery Ommegang for a festival like I have never seen before. Three former brown distributing employees gone separate ways reunited for weekend of dig swinging drunkenness. 
This was the second weekend this month I have been on the road headed to New York. I have to admit the weather was a fantastic break from the humid VA. The brewery experience around Kueka Lake was a bit underwhelming but this festival promised to hurt. My only expectation was there would be a fantastic formal dinner with the perfect beer pairings. I anticipated a lot of bottle sharing going around the camp site, but I was under selling the magnitude of the event completely.

The 90's theme smacked you currently in the face at the front gate. The Jurassic park gate, the goosebumps themed programs, and the nickelodeon themed volunteer shirts are still hilarious. We got in just in time to jump into the cocktail hour and dinner. We dropped our shit and headed to food. 

Duvel big bottles everywhere, the first circus tent for dinner must have had a thousand people ready to get down. The lines for all of the appetizers were so long we chose to quickly flock to the pig table. The first course came rather quickly, and was fish. I chose not to risk my allergy, but it looked really tasty.

The meat stick, aka Scottish egg was a welcome sight and provides a fantastic greasy base for a weekend of drinking. We also had a meat pie that was a touch dry, pictured below. Everything for the dinner flowed so well, the service was perfect and the vibe was very positive. The moment a bottle was empty it was replaced, danger danger!

I was very tired, so I retreated to the camping area, set up my tent, and I went to bed. There were two different camping areas, one for industry folk, and one for the public. The tents were piled on top of one another. The next day I walked around to get the full magnitude of the festival. Jockey boxes as far as the eye could see. The picture below was right across from our general tent area. Dogfish just out of the frame to the left, left hand straight ahead, six point and harpoon to the right. The VIP tasting sessions started at 1:00 and ran until 9? The main tent dinner in was transformed into a giant pouring tent, and there was another one parallel right next to it. There must have been nearly 70 breweries trying to woo everyone. It didn't take long before my tongue was so dead from tasting. That final night the Meat Puppets played some of my favorite cuts from the 90's. 
This event is the standard for beer get together and well worth the cost of admission, although I paid nothing. I really enjoyed the camaraderie of hanging with beer business peers. We have swirled around in employment for a while, as you do, and can still get together and truly appreciate this drank's ability to unite.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Desert beers (Terrapin Brewing Company)

Sometimes, in craft beer exploring, I just feel like trying something that is out of left field. Swirling and sipping different malt creations and combinations of hops can get taxing. I don't want really care if the proportion of hops are more mosaic or more cascade. These beers both hit our market at relatively the same time, and both are completely unique. When I posted pictures of each on Instagram, I had instant interest from trading people across the nation.

Please excuse the Michelob glass in the picture. I shared this with a friend at his lake house that is stocked with old glassware from our former employment at an AB wholesaler. Maggie's Blackberry Cobbler, is an imperial farmhouse ale with graham cracker and blackberry. The idea of a cobbler beer from the people that make wake and bake seems awesome but the choice of imperial farmhouse? That was completely lost on me. People asked me what I thought or how was it? I think it came out exactly as intended. Is there are larger production need for this beer? Probably not but I am grateful to occasionally enjoy the experimental labors of brewers like Terrapin. 
So you have made a peanut butter beer, and so have a few other people? Is it time to step up the little kid sandwich beer game? Absolutely. My opinion and answers to peoples questions about this beer is similar to that of the previous beer. The peanut butter flavor is familiar, tasting just like liquid bliss. The choice to use raspberry as the jelly was a brilliant brewing choice. It gives the finish a tartness that creates a fun complexity. I hope this beer pops up again when it is colder outside. I think the tart raspberry flavor actually helped make this dark beer more palatable for the summer season. Did I mention that both of these beers barely broke the $10 mark in the retail market? Keep it up Terrapin, and if all goes well I will be visiting for the hop harvest this fall. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Spank (Smuttynose Brewing)

Happy 21st birthday to Smuttynose Brewery, from New Hampshire. This beer was a complete label buy. After read a little about the brewery, it's good they have a sense of humor. If you remember the setting of the good son with Macaulay Culkin, the shard cliffs of shear dreary rocks. That sounds exactly like where this brewery is in New England. In the 1870's Smuttynose island was even the setting for a gruesome double axe murder. I have to admit that my Smuttynose experience is limited to old brown dog, and finest kind IPA. I have been making efforts to try more of their beers, and this seemed like something there were proud of.
I have become more tolerate of Saisons as of recent. I try to stay away from the ones that seem very peppery. I have several that become almost undrinkable once the spice warms up. I grabbed this spank fresh and I am glad I did. The hops seemed very alive in this beer and showed up in the very beginning of the final act on my palette but faded cleanly. The malt in this beer was hearty yet light enough to allow the hops to shine. It has been over a month since I have drank this beer, but I believe the price point was fair at about $9 for the 22oz bottle. 

Lots of other interesting offerings have been popping up from Smuttlabs, including a brett beer. I will be tasting plenty more from these folks. You should check them out as well

Friday, June 19, 2015

Hard Root Beer (Mission Brewing)

I was quite excited when this little jewel landed in my in box last Friday. The category of hard root beer has been flooding my social media but remained out of the Richmond market thus far. I thought it had been out of our market, but it seems Sprecher has been in market for some time. This company has been making non alcoholic soda and released a hard root beer some time in 2014 I am guessing by the BA notes. This beer has been in market and is riding the coat tales of the Not Your Fathers Root beer for the past few weeks in Richmond. If you look at the history, packaging and price point you have something to be suspicious about. This offering maybe 5% ABV, but what sort of balance has been stuck between flavor and sweetness. The thing I have heard about the not your fathers is how uncanny it is to just regular old barq's or A&W beer of root. If this thing snow balls it is going to make for a very interesting next year in the business. I have already heard that the big boys like Sam Adams are working on their own recipe. 
So Mission Brewery exists in the heart of San Diego. In my opinion this is the biggest dick swinging town in the US. The brewery success in this part of California doesn't come cheap. Mission claims to have started in 1913, and has gone though some changes. Being close to the Padre baseball park, Mission answered the call to provide something different to patrons. This hard root beer smells dead on, it pours flat, and the flavor is really good. I could not taste the 7.5% ABV at all. The spice assaults the tongue and hides the alcohol great. It really is not beer. It is more like a wine cooler, and will possibly be the more manly answer for the sissies that don't like beer. I can see big mixology coming out of these dranks.