Oliver’s Brew Crew in Albany has had some solid kegs on lately. This was SingleCut Beersmith’s Billy Full Stack Double IPA. The malt base is light and fruity, allowing the hops to shine. Basically a citrus and tropical fruit bomb, right up my alley! I ended up getting three half-growler fills before it kicked.
Bonus pic of bonus beers! After I queued this post but before it went up, Oliver’s put on another great keg - Rushing Duck’s War Elephant (pictured poured). I had a 10 oz of this before, so it was an easy choice to get a full growler. Pine upfront, sweet bready malt, then finishes strong on orange. The growler alone was well worth the visit, so to stumble upon a tripel from my wants list as well as a Cigar City IPA I haven’t had was pretty awesome!
Unibroue was the first craft brewery I got into, starting a decade ago while going to college in Washington, DC. I could only get it at a handful of locations at that time, but now it is common at many upstate New York grocery stores, including one nearby where I can buy La Fin Du Monde - cold - until 4 AM. Yet, for some reason, I rarely drink Unibroue anymore, something I always question on the rare occasion that I do. Sure, it’s great to try new, limited edition, rare, and/or otherwise hard to get beers, but it’s great to get back to your craft beer roots, too.
Feeling positive beer karma vibes - a friend went to San Diego and brought me back this bottle! Funny enough, it was bottled on my last birthday.
After a fun night in Hoboken and Jersey City (see my last post), my Jersey adventures continued Saturday with a trip to Kane Brewing Company. Similar to the night before, I completely failed at taking pictures while there, with the only one of the weekend being this one o the Devils game later Saturday night.
Kane is interesting in that it is in an industrial park, something not unheard of with breweries, but my first personal experience with one. There is a small front room with 6 taps that is primarily for growler fills and then a large back room with barrels, fermenters, picnic tables, and a long bar with 12 taps.
At the time of my visit, there were 12 beers available to sample, with only 5 eligible for growler fills. Several of the 7 not eligible for growlers were variations of those that were - for example, one could get a growler of Head High, their IPA, but could only get a sample of Head High with pineapple and mango. Unsurprisingly, that beer was delicious! The other highlight of the visit was a cask of Port Omna with cacao nibs and honey.
When it came time to select my growler fills, I was kinda bummed that I couldn’t get the ones I liked most, but this policy helped create an atmosphere where people do more than fill their growlers and GTFO. The majority of visitors spent time shooting the breeze and enjoying beers at the communal picnic tables, complete with the head brewer making his rounds. I would definitely make the trip down again, hopefully with more time and someone else driving…
I went on a trip to Jersey for a friend’s birthday last weekend and managed to squeeze in a few beer stops but completely failed at taking pictures while there, hence this make-up pic.
I began Friday night in Hoboken at Little Town, a craft beer bar with only Jersey beer on its 20 tap lines. This was my second time there for beer - with both times being well worth the stop - and the first time for food. I had their “garbage wings” - a combination of buffalo, BBQ, and garlic parm sauces topped with bleu cheese crumbles - which were pretty tasty and ridiculously messy. For beer, I started with Kane Overhead (x2) and finished with Flying Fish Exit 4.
Our next stop was Iron Monkey, a short PATH ride away in Jersey City. They had the Cigar City / DeProef Tropical Tripel on tap, a beer I had been wanting to try for some time. After having two, I changed things up with Lost Abbey Merry Taj, Brooklyn Cuvee La Boite, and 21st Amendment He Said.
Every beer I had that night was great!
More ramblings on my trip later this week…
It is not easy for me to make Vermont beer runs given my school schedule, as taking time off is heavily frowned upon with how many days off are naturally within the calendar. I was able to go up on a Monday in October (Columbus Day) and, being the Monday after Lawson’s dropped some Double Sunshine, Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier VT still had it on tap. It was immediately one of my favorite IPAs. Immediately. Tropical fruits like crazy, mango, passion fruit, pineapple, clean and amazing. 49/50
Oh, and as per usual, I parked on Street Paul Saint. I wish I had a picture of Double Sunshine rather than the street sign, but alas.
The next month, The Alchemist announced they were to close their retail facility within the following two weeks. One last trip was made. My first stop was The Warren Store where I obtained 3x Triple Play IPA and 1x Steve’s Backyard Red. I hit the Alchemist next, grabbing my case and anti-DB stickers while taking one last look at the fermenters and Ms. Pac-Man.
My next and final stop was Hill Farmstead. Although I already had 28 of their beers at that point - largely thanks to TheFuj, as well as some other friends - this was my first actual visit. After having Lawson’s Double Sunshine, my interest in HF Double Citra soared, and I was lucky enough to see it on the next (AKA this) trip.
Unsurprisingly, Double Citra reminded me of Double Sunshine - I wish I could have both of these side-by-side, equally fresh, as it is hard to compare them when enjoyed in limited quantities a month apart. If I had to make a comparison, Double Citra was slightly heavier on the citrus notes, with a fuller unfiltered body, but both were tropical fruit bombs, so without trying more of each I can’t really comment further. My favorite HF so far, which says a decent amount. 49/50
Sometimes several things unexpectedly line up, and yesterday went that way for me. I made five VT beer stops total and came across an unexpected bonus beer or beers at each stop. I’m going to post pictures of the grabs throughout next week, but I’ll go into the most unexpected of them all first…
…well, least unexpected, then most, then least. It was initially slated for 1/30, so I asked for the day off two weeks ahead of time. The release was changed to 1/23 on 1/19, not enough time for me to change my time off request. Yesterday morning, I woke up to a text from my teacher (I’m a TA) saying that school was closed due to a power outage - and all of a sudden this beer was obtainable once again!
And now… the beer! Subdued citrus and floral notes on the nose, not strong enough to scream IPA. But there is plenty of hop flavor to be enjoyed once one starts imbibing, with orange and earthy spice throughout and pineapple and mango lingering on the finish. Incredibly smooth with the Vanguard hops providing a pleasant spicy twist to what one usually expects from a VT IPA. Every Lawson’s IPA is met with high expectations, and this measured up fairly high. 46/50
I brewed my first batch on 1/8/13 and bottled my ninth batch just over a year later on 1/16/14. I’d like to get more on a once per month basis, but I’m trying not to rush things while ironing out my mistakes. I took three months off from brewing before doing this batch, an all-American DIPA I’m calling American Graffiti.
I am limited to three-gallon boils - and even that is stretching it - given that my apartment has an electric stovetop and is in a building without an outdoor common area for brewing, just a sidewalk on one side and a parking lot (shared with other buildings) on the other. So I decided to give this method of countertop partial mashing a try. Basically you use four pounds of grain in a two gallon cooler, the only extra item needed for the process, then add extract during the boil. Depending on the gravity you are aiming for, this means that 40-70% or so of the fermentable sugars come from mashing, sort of a “half-grain” method if you will. I actually found the method to be easier than steeping grains right in the brew kettle as it is much easier to maintain a steady temperature in a cooler.
Speaking of easier methods, this was also the first batch I bottled using a bottling bucket. Why did it take me so long? Well, several homebrew books emphasize the basics in terms of process and equipment in order to reduce the perceived difficulty and initial cost. I now know a bottling bucket with spigot on the counter + tubing + bottling wand + gravity = very easy bottling, especially compared to managing an auto-siphon while bottling on your own. It also does not add any significant cost, about $25 for two new pieces of equipment that can be re-used.
Final Stats: 1.071 OG - 1.013 FG - 7.7% ABV - 90 IBU
Before getting into this beer, I wanted to express that I realize I do not update this very often, but I do drink some great brews and happen to take pictures of most notable ones - with a cell phone camera, yes, but still. I found 14 potentially-upload-worthy pictures on my phone and will queue them over the next few weeks, then hope I post more regularly from there… who knows?
In any case, I saw this at my go-to just-over-the-MA-border store, Spirited in Lenox MA. It caught my eye as it uses cacao nibs and vanilla beans, which I am also using in my tenth batch of homebrew (pictured in The Alchemist glass infusing Grey Goose to rack onto in secondary).
The beer itself? A solid stout that was roastier than I thought it would be given said ingredients (I expected sweet), but this, coupled with not being very bitter, provided a decent balance with the chocolate and vanilla notes. It didn’t blow my mind, but was something I would definitely have again. 43/50
Southern Tier and Dogfish Head are two breweries that helped me get into craft beer, so it was nice to grab two new releases on the same day. This day was a week and a half ago, but still.
Warlock (pictured poured) is often compared to Pumking, given that 1. they are made by the same brewery and 2. they both remind one of pumpkin pie. Outside of that, they are fairly different. Quite a sweet stout with little roasted flavors, the pumpkin, vanilla, and spices dominate the brew from the nose to the finish. A delicious brew, but one has to be in the mood for it.
American Beauty is a highly anticipated brew for me given my affinity for the Dead. Think large boxes worth of FLAC bootlegs and you might start to scratch the surface with how much I love the band. The album “American Beauty” is particularly meaningful - if you ever go through a tough loss, listen to it. Seriously.
In any case, the beer itself is an imperial pale ale brewed with all-American hops and granola, and that’s exactly what I taste. Very bready malt base (granola) + American hops (citrus, mostly orange) + caramel sweetness (cranberry-like). Almost like trail mix in beer form. This isn’t for everybody, and I’ll probably only buy another bottle at most, but I appreciate the effort and intent behind it.
…I realize that I have not posted much, only 14 times in the past year, and part of this is not exploring my other (aka non-beer) interests, primarily: hockey, video games, music, and education.
Let it be known that my interest in video games is extremely dorky, especially in that I am a Blizzard fanboy. No, not in the “raids WoW 30 hours a week” sense, just knowing that their multiplayer - especially in regards to matchmaking - is ridiculously good, balanced, and constantly re-examined. There are no statistical advantages in SC2, for example, so playing matches only helps you in developing your actual skill, not inflating your power with levels or gear.
Enter Hearthstone: essentially an online version of a trading card game. It is Blizzard’s first entry into F2P games and I would be VERY surprised if it does not become available to tablet OS’s shortly after its launch (it is currently in beta). On the PC/Mac, every action is completed by clicking on the mouse or drag-and-dropping, so it should translate to tablets incredibly easily… plus the graphics are good-but-not-crazy, so everything screams “coming to tablets soon” to me…
The gist of the game is this: every card costs mana, but mana is easily controlled in that you start with one crystal and gain another every turn, up to ten crystals per turn. You select one of nine Warcraft heroes, basically the iconic figure behind each of vanilla WoW’s nine classes, and each hero has unique cards and powers. The majority of your deck will be neutral cards, so match-ups tend to be even-ish inherently.
Oh yeah… the screenshot! Just a fun match I had tonight, had the Frostwolf Warlord card early, kept playing the Paladin hero power to draw more minions, ended up summoning it as 10/10, buffed it twice to 14 attack, then basically two-shot the guy.
This may not be shocking given I am a single guy living on my own, but my apartment desperately needs more decoration. I already have a wall of NJ Devils memorabilia, including a large flag, two jerseys, a signed Stanley Cup poster, and a banner.
Enter the beer wall. The first addition was the Heady Topper poster, an inexpensive yet amazing acquisition. The second was the hoppy beer collage, which looks terrible in this photo given all the glare from the sun - not sure if there is much/anything I can do about that though. The third addition was more of a relocation, my so-called “Wall ‘o (North American) Tripels,” freeing one of my kitchen counters of a looott of space.
I will add BA links in time, but for now - 29 Tripels so far:
- Allagash Tripel
- Anchorage Tide and its Takers
- Anderson Valley Brother David’s Triple
- Avery Anniversary Ale - 19
- Boulevard Long Strange Tripel
- Bruery Trade Winds
- Cambridge Tripel Threat
- Captain Lawrence Golden Delicious
- Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Tripel
- Cisco Island Reserve Tripel
- Defiant Belgian Style Tripel
- Elysian NIBIRU Yerba Mate Tripel
- Green Flash Trippel
- Heavy Seas Yule Tide
- Left Hand St. Vrain
- Midnight Sun Panty Peeler
- Moat Mountain Belgian Style Tripel
- New Holland Beerhive
- Ommegang Tripel Perfection
- Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits
- Schlafly Tripel
- Slumbrew Trekker Tripel
- Southampton Triple
- Stoudt’s Triple
- Unibroue Eau Benite
- Unibroue La Fin Du Monde
- Brouwerij West Tripel
- Weyerbacher Merry Monk’s
- White Birch Tripel
Quite solid American take on a classic style, with an awesome label to boot. Very slightly funky, predominantly apple/pear/spice, sweet at first with a dry finish, simple-yet-complex (as Tripels should be). I will have this again, hopefully on draft!
For me: go to MA. In fairness to myself, the majority of my return went to getting ahead on bills, but the hefty (for my income) return combined with taking on a second job meant I could splurge more than I already usually do on MA beer runs.
My first stop was Table & Vine in West Springfield, MA. This was my first time there, a heavily anticipated trip given its 98 BeerAdvocate rating. I was definitely impressed with beers from The Lost Abbey, Avery, and Hoppin’ Frog that I had not seen before, but could get 90%+ of their inventory between local beer stores and Spirited, so I don’t expect to go the extra distance too often.
Table & Vine grabs:
- Avery Collaboration Not Litigation
- Avery The Reverend
- Bear Republic Black Racer
- Blatant IPA
- Cambridge Spring Training IPA
- Cisco Double IPA
- Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet 1.5
- Cucapá Runaway IPA (craft beer from Mexico, gotta try it)
- Hoppin’ Frog Hop Master’s Abbey Belgian-Style Double IPA (given how I enjoy Mean Manalishi, I have high hopes for this)
- Hoppin’ Frog Sweet Evil Barleywine
- Lost Abbey Avant Garde (this and the following come from my “buy any Lost Abbey I haven’t had yet” rule)
- Lost Abbey Carnevale
- Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi
- Lost Abbey Serpent Stout
- Mystic Day of Doom (saw this and next three on Tumblr beer blogs)
- Mystic Saison Renaud
- Prairie Ale
- Prairie Hop
- Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits (re-try)
I pretty much knew I would be making the detour to Spirited in Lenox, MA on the way home, especially when I did not see Bloom at Table & Vine. Even after a first stop at a significantly larger store, there was plenty of goodies to be had, a sign of a great beer store.
- Baird Carpenters Mikan Ale
- Freitgeist Geisterzug Gose (Sean recommendation)
- Freitgeist Pimock (Sean recommendation)
- Graal Quest
- Heavy Seas YuleTide (x2 - had this at BCTC 2012 and loved it, been wanting to re-try since… wonder if it has been sitting on Spirited’s shelves this whole time?)
- Jack’s Abby Cascadian Schwarzbier (Sean recommendation)
- Mikkeller Invasion Farmhouse IPA (saw on Spirited e-mail and wanted)
- Mikkeller Tiger Baby: Open Windows Open Hills (Sean recommendation)
- Pretty Things Once Upon a Time 1939 No.1 Ale
- Smuttynose Bloom (saw on Spirited e-mail and wanted)
- Struise Pannepot (Sean recommendation)