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.
*cough* Let Phil sing! “It’s just a box of rain / I don’t know who put it there / Believe it if you need it / Or leave it if you dare / But it’s just a box of rain / Or a ribbon for your hair / Such a long, lone time to be gone / And a short time to be there”
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)
I’m in Florida with family, and while beer is far from the main purpose of the trip (three nephews under six + Walt Disney World = you do the math), I was able to snag a bunch of new-to-me-brews. I could not hunt any whales - as I had to take an expensive cab ride to the beer store in the first place (no rental car) - but hey, I’m no whale hunter… hell, I’m not even a whale watcher!
I wanted to get as much Cigar City and Terrapin as possible, and fell short of my expectations on both. With that said, I got 27 beers for $100 (21x12oz, 4x22oz, 2x25.4oz), and 26 of 27 are new-to-me-brews. The only one I have had is the Jai Alai IPA on the left, which I had at a bottle share, so I definitely don’t mind having a full can of it to myself.
I struck out a bit more with Terrapin than I did with Cigar City, but got three that I haven’t had, plus another one yesterday at the resort. I’m on my third of the three Terrapins as I type, and all have been good to great. Great Divide isn’t new-to-me, but those two are, and Twisted Pine is new-to-me. For better and for worse, I have heard many things of Ghost Face Killah, while the other was mostly a random grab.
Bell’s may be coming to NY soon, but if I fall short on Cigar City and Terrapin, I may as well turn straight to a go-to back-up. I’ve only had three Bell’s so far, so nothing wrong with another eight new-to-me-Bell’s-brews!
This last group of beers is a bit weird, at least to me. First of all, I did not expect to buy any Clown Shoes down here (nor Flying Fish for that matter), but the braumeister of Spirited (Sean) is not a Clown Shoes fan, so while I buy beer regularly in MA, these two MA beers are still new-to-me-brews. The Pike’s and OBP are mostly random grabs.
We shall see! So far the first four brews of this trip have been the new-to-me-Terrapin-brews, so it has started on a strong note. Cheers!
It has been a while since I took a trip to Manchester Discount Beverage, but they gave me a solid reason to come up: Maine Beer Company’s Lil One:
I grabbed the last two bottles they had, one reserved plus the last on the shelf, and am drinking one (currently) and planning to share the other. Here are my other grabs:
- Ass Kisser Double IPA (I hated it the first time I had it, and a friend was surprised by that, so I’ll try it again)
- Bar Harbor Cadillac Mountain Stout
- Gigantic City Never Sleeps (brewery from OR that is only distributed to VT as far as the east coast = sure, why not)
- Gigantic IPA
- Gigantic Royale
- Knee Deep Hop Shortage
- Lompoc C-Note
- Northshire Chocolate Stout (local brewery I haven’t had yet = try)
- Northshire Hefeweizen
- Northshire Slopeside Spiced Ale
- Rising Tide Zephyr
- Schneider + Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse (re-rate)
- Slumbrew Attic & Eaves (any Slumbrew I haven’t had = buy)
- White Birch Indulgence
As far as Lil One goes, while I’m not as bowled over as I am by their other beers, it is a quite solid hopfest that is well worth the hour and change trip each way (as it is a one-off, at least for now).
A small update from my last post on my first homebrew batch - just over two weeks into fermentation, my gravity is reading 1.029 (adjusted for temperature), compared to a starting gravity of 1.083. My target is 1.022 or lower, so I am not far, and I decided to rouse the yeast gently, hoping that this in addition to another week in primary should finish it off.
The nose is still amazing, full of fresh orange / tangerine, and the hops are starting to become apparent. Unsurprisingly, given the current gravity, it is very sweet and hard to judge flat, but certainly doesn’t taste bad. I’m still ready for my first batch to suck, but it doesn’t seem like it will…
I think I am starting to understand why Charlie Papazian repeatedly says “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” I made what seemed like a ton of mistakes, but it at least looks like things are progressing well so far.
The beer itself is meant to be a cross between a Wit and an IPA, emphasizing citrus flavors found in both styles. It is single-hopped with Citra and finished with a healthy amount of fresh orange and tangerine zest.
Four ounces of Citra hops, ready for the boil!
Most homebrew books and websites recommended avoiding the white “pith” by not zesting too deeply, as it lends an unpleasantly bitter flavor - easy enough.
…and here’s where things started to go wrong. I was attempting to do a full six-gallon boil by using two burners, but was not able to reach a full rolling boil. I was able to come close (203 F), so it will be easy enough to reach by doing either partial boils or smaller batches (I am leaning towards doing 2/3 batches). Supposedly not reaching a full boil is not a huge deal while using extract, but it does diminish hop utilization, which is fairly sucky given the goal of this beer.
After my first hop addition, I started to sanitize the equipment I would be using while transferring the wort to the fermenter. In what was a serious FML moment for a first-time homebrewer, the floating thermometer I was planning on using broke while being sanitized. The only other thermometer I had was a digital thermometer typically used for meat, which was harder to sanitize and seemed very off. I used the ice bath method to chill the wort, but kept getting ~100 F readings over an hour in. I ended up having to cover it up and leave it overnight. The next morning, the thermometer was still reading ~100 F, even though the room was below room temperature as it does not have a heating duct and its door was closed. I poured some out, stuck a finger in, assumed it was under 75 F, and decided to pitch the yeast. I got a starting gravity of 1.083, much higher than the ~1.060 I was aiming for.
I brewed on Tuesday evening, pitched the yeast Wednesday morning, and had largely given up hope by Friday. Everything seemed to be going wrong - the risk of contamination was (and still is) very high, there may not be enough yeast for the gravity, and there was no visible signs of fermentation after 48 hours. My co-workers asked about it and I told them I was going to dump it over the weekend and start over.
Then, on Saturday morning, I opened up my closet and saw gunk filling the airlock. This is not good in that it shows I did not have enough headspace, but is good in that it is a very clear sign of fermentation. I took the airlock out, sanitized it, and dumped a bit down the drain, trying to keep as much yeast in by pouring slowly. I had to do this a few times, but took care to sanitize the airlock each time, and have not had to do it in over 12 hours.
Here’s what is going to change for next time:
- Partial boil or smaller batch size (for hop utilization)
- Better thermometer with a decent back-up (for accuracy)
- Wort chiller (to help avoid contamination by reaching pitching temperature more quickly)
- Label carboy by gallon (to ensure proper headspace - I probably had more than 5 gallons given I did not achieve a rolling boil)
I’m also planning on getting a few more items, including two more carboys so I can have multiple beers fermenting at a time (hey, my closet does have plenty of room). I am still ready to accept this first batch sucking, with everything that has gone wrong, but find a bit of optimism in how amazing it smells plus the lack of anything green. Who knows? I’m relaxed, not worried, and ready to start my next homebrew already.