Posts Tagged ‘american craft beer’

2013 American Craft Beer Resolutions

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013


Time seems to be at full warp speed anymore. Days, week, months seem to last no longer than a blink of an eye with my memory being about the same. Last year I made a few resolutions that I would like to revisit while making a few more predictions for the year ahead, 2013.

My focus for 2012 was to increase and improve my home brewing while trying to stick to an American craft beer budget. I also wanted to hit up five new breweries. For once I hit all of my goals:

  • I brewed 20 times. During the year I tried new tips and tricks to get better mash efficiency, get acquainted with Brett, better fermentation temperatures, etc. Myself and my friends get a win from better brewing.
  • Outside of some nuttiness late in 2012, I spent $30 or less in eight of the months on American craft beer. The cellar is still large but there was a small dent placed in its’ side.
  • Most of the breweries I visited in 2012 were on the Ohio trip. I got my five in, barely.

My 2013 resolutions aren’t going to be that much different but maybe a bit more precise.

  • 20 brews is a nice round number. I don’t have to hit that many or I could go over throughout the course of the year. That isn’t the goal. I want to finish getting the last few pieces to my home brewery that will allow me to be a better and more self reliant home brewer.
    • Grain mill
    • 15 gallon brewing pot
    • Freezer to control fermentation temperature and possibly my first lager
  • Keep American craft beer expenditures to near or lower than 2012 levels. Use the saved money to help achieve number one.
  • Visit five new breweries in my home state of Illinois. I have been to very few locally, time to expand the breadth of Illinois craft beer appreciation.

I hope everyone has a healthy 2013 aided along the path by a dose of American craft and/or home brew. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: In a very early draft of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones carried brass knuckles instead of a bullwhip.

Thanksgiving Eve

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

On the drive up to the Detroit suburbs, I was only thinking of the American craft beer that could be had in the area. There are easily 30 breweries in a one hour radius of my sister-in-laws house. Deciding which one(s) was originally thought to be difficult but a simple selection criteria popped into my head:

  1. At least one establishment that I visited had to be one that I never visitied before.
  2. One had to be Kuhnhenn’s

The Michigan brewery guides does one of the best jobs I have seen of putting all state breweries on a map: making is simple for anyone to plan a course.

Limited time, approximately four hours, meant that lunch at Woodward Avenue Brewers followed by a few at Kuhnhenn’s seemed most reasonable.

Woodward was a pleasant surprise. I had the pesto chicken with and custom porter. The food was well above average with the cole slaw stealing the show. Kuhnhenn’s was usual: lot’s of big beers with lots of big flavors. I had a few DRIPAs.

Not a bad start to the long weekend that should include another new brewery on Friday and brewing on Sunday. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: A ‘jiffy’ is a unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

Thouhgts on FoBAB 2012

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The third pilgrimage to FoBAB. Each year I have been fortunate enough to be accompanied by my wife. Sitting on our tickets for two plus months gave me the burning desire to see what the new FoBAB venue would have to offer as well as the tasty treats the American craft brewers would bring forward.

That’s about where the excitement ended. A third straight year in which FoBAB under staffed the line. For the 500 – 750 that would be attenting, that wasn’t enough. Some 40 minutes in line got us into the venue. Coat check, glass, beer listing; ready to go.

Unfortunately the event was on the fifth floor, there was only one freight elevator, and it was slow. Not good for a fat guy. Once we made it up stairs, the best beers had already ran dry: only 40 minutes into the night. Yuck.

Once up there, it was hot. 90 degrees hot. Even after a first session in which they knew it was hot, they didn’t open the windows. I sweat easily and, when I do, I am not a happy camper.

The shape of this new space was rectangular and narrow. Not a great way to move around. In the past, the square shape allowed those with beer to move to the middle, not so as there was no middle. The low ceiling combined to make the space seem much more confined.

Yes, I a bitching. It wasn’t a good event. At $45 per ticked, I don’t feel I was able to get my value out of the event. We had a few good beers but nothing more. We left less than two hours after we arrived, giving away five of our tickets each. This was my last FoBAB. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: In 1912 a law passed in Nebraska where drivers in the country at night were required to stop every 150 yards, send up a skyrocket, wait eight minutes for the road to clear before proceeding cautiously, all the while blowing their horn and shooting off flares.

2012 Great Taste of the Midwest

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

It has been two years since I had a chance to attend the Great Taste of the Midwest. This was a “date” for the wife and I. Perfect.

American craft beer festivals in Wisconsin are different in one major way than their Illinois equivalent: no drink tickets. Yep, the beer fests in Cheese head land have no drink limit (or at least the ones I have been to). By comparison, I have never had my fingers wrapped around more than 15 tickets at one time in Illinois.

Below is the list that I tried (some I had more than once) and in the order tasted:

  • Hopthesis IPA
  • Ommegang Hennepin
  • Bell’s Two Hearted
  • Tighthead Irie IPA
  • Vintage Hibiscus Saison
  • Big Bay Boatilla
  • O’so Hop Whoopin
  • Tallgrass Velvet Rooster
  • Stillwater Exsistant
  • Founders Breakfast Stout
  • Founders Curmudgeon
  • Alaskan Summer
  • Three Floyds Robert the Bruce

I would say the most surprising beer of the day was O’so Hop Whoopin. Nice resinous and tropical fruit hop mix that was easy to drink. I had three heaping helpings. A half glass pour of Breakfast Stout reassured me that it was my favorite beer of the day. Vintage Hibiscus Saison was probably Sue’s favorite, which means I might be trying to brew something similar.

Some breweries were already out of beer by 5:15PM, barely more than two hours after the fest began. This was a hang up for Sue. We were in line for Bourbon County Stout when the keg ran dry and the crowd dispersed. Overall I was happy with the beers I tried but don’t think we will be back for a while. The wife mentioned she prefers the American craft beer at FOWBAB much more: rare, short release, and big. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: The Sun burns 600 million tons of Hydrogen every second.

Baby Shower = Dark Lord!?!?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

2007 and 2008 three floyds dark lord

How does Three Floyds Brewing Company Dark Lord and a baby shower come about? Easily when Chuck is the soon to be first time father. He has been planning the shower from the standpoint of beer for a long time (uncanny how differently men and women look at a baby shower).

Prodding from his wife made him brew four beers for the event. I am horrible with names of people let alone beers, so I will briefly describe each:

  • Fuggli – A Belgian style beer made with all Fuggles hops. Light.
  • Pink (I think as he is having a daughter) – A light beer that was infused with hibiscus, to give it a pink color, and aged on oak. My favorite out of the group.
  • A porter
  • A DIPA that had been infused with an apricot liquor

I knew Chuck had a plan to bring some older Dark Lord bottles to share with the worthy. Glad I am worthy. He opened up a bottle of 2007 and 2008 Dark Lord. His friend Michael and I were responsible for splitting a bomber equally between ten pours of each: the worthy were to get 2 ounces of joy from each bottle. Luckily the plastic cups had a line that I determined to be the 2 ounce marker; amazingly it was.

2007 had a charred flavor that over whelmed, distracting from the experience. I would say it is past its’ prime. 2008 was much smoother, not having really much character compared to the first. It was hard to go back and forth without cleansing the palate. I might also just be that bad of a taster. Both beers still had hints of alcohol while leaving the lip sticky. Not quite cloying but awfully close. I would like to try them both again in a more controlled environment. I imagine that 2009 has to be drinking well at this time.

I did bring chuck a bottle of Bourbon County Bramble Rye as my baby shower gift (Yes, my wife did get real baby shower gifts). Once the baby comes, I have a special treat to open on a Thursday night when Chuck can make it out. Enjoy!

Useless Fact:Starch is used as a binder in the production of paper. It is the use of a starch coating that controls ink penetration when printing. Cheaper papers do not use as much starch, and this is why your elbows get black when you are leaning over your morning paper.

Duck Hook IPA Tasting (Citra and Nelson Sauvin)

Saturday, July 28th, 2012
duck hook - citra and nelson sauvin

Duck Hook with Nelson Sauvin

I brewed Duck Hook with Chuck back in late May (time goes by too fast). We did two batches of beer: one with Citra as the main hop and the other with Nelson Sauvin as the sparkling guest star. Everything has gone well with these two version. It has been a great experience to understand how these two hops can affect a beer.

I adore the hop, which easily leads to me stating that American IPAs are a great group of beers. I would say that IPAs are my go to style of beer. I have been brewing IPAs since the early days of my foray into home brewing. I am driven to make an IPA that is well balanced; too much unbalanced bitterness kills the beer. I think the Duck Hook series of beers is proving quickly that I have kept to my mantra.

The review will be for both beers: Citra and Nelson Sauvin

Look: Quite possibly the clearest beer I have ever presented. Golden in color and topped on the pour by a fluffy, white foam that has typical staying power for the style as well as beautiful lacing.

Aroma: This depends on the hop. The base beer is a touch of grain, caramel, and toast. Getting me “closer” to the perfect IPA base that I am seeking. Citra is tropical, mango, citrus, and just glorious. Nelson Sauvin bring blackberry to a new level. Strawberry (maybe raspberry) add a nice complexity.

Taste: More of the same form the nose. The base beer has enough back bone to hold up the flavor and bitterness of the hops; definitely not the corner stone of the beer. Citra version brings on the typical aspects of the hop, especially since I have some experience here. Blackberry and to a minor roll, strawberry create a unique flavor I have not experienced from a hop before.

Drinkability: Medium to light-medium body with medium carbonation that allows for a slight bitter bite.

Overall: The Citra beer really turns heads no matter where I bring. Nelson Sauvin lags a bit behind. The base beer has some good malt characteristics while I think the body might be a bit too thin for my liking.

How do the two differ? I think the Citra is much more noticeable and is possibly my favorite hop at the moment. Citra is great to drink as soon as bottle priming gave me enough carbonation to drink. Nelson Sauvin seemed to bring it strong after about 4 weeks or more on the bottle, with aromas and flavors intensify after that point. Citra stands on it own: citrus, mango, tropical, and, at times, a kattiness. I like Nelson but think that it would be a better compliment hop for me in the future.

Now I have to wrangle Chuck to get another dual batch day in August. HBC 342 and Rakau are next. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Barbie’s measurements if she were life size: 39-23-33.

American Craft Beer In Ohio

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

the four horsemen brewing company

The annual family summer trip. The best time each year. A time in which we find a new state or three to visit, meandering around different breweries, beer stores, and brewpubs along the way. This year: destination Ohio. Originally our sights were set on Colorado but the long, complex story of how that morphed into Ohio is duly explained behind a few shared home brews on the back patio. Besides, I have never been to Ohio, at least that I can remember, so why not.

The first stop was on the way to Cleveland: The Four Horsemen Brewing Company in South Bend, Indiana. The wife took the kids to the Notre Dame campus for a bookstore stop as the Four Horsemen isn’t kid friendly. This gave me enough time to try two beers: Bourbon Barrel Stout and Irish Red. The stout didn’t have much of a base stout feel while the red was a nice offering. If you are in or around South Bend it can’t hurt to stop.

great lakes brewing company

Great Lakes Brewing Company was the first stop while in Ohio. The brewery and brewpub are located in an area that is “coming back”. The pub was crowded (we passed it another time and it was crowded then as well) but we were fortunate that we mentioned we were going on the tour, so they squeezed us in. The food was quite possibly the best on the trip in terms of brewpub food. The food was priced as such as well. I had a couple Rye of the Tiger (a DIPA) with dinner and ended up taking a growler back to the hotel with me. There is a gift shop that is stacked full of goodies.

The tour was informative and typical for the brewery size. The gentlemen that was our host did a great job with a stop in the middle for a taster. The brewing takes place on the second floor of the brew house; I made sure to have my sweat towel with me. A brewery hop should be forthcoming.

The next stop landed us at Fat Heads. I originally put the wrong address into the GPS, creating a nice long drive through a bunch of neighborhoods. Once finding the brewpub I was excited as I have heard good things about Fat Heads. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to those expectations. The service was average while the kitchen was worse. Three of the five meals we had were delivered to our table and not correct. I know this isn’t a problem of the waitress but it is a bad showing for the business in general. I will not be back.

rozi's wine house

Rozi’s Wine House was the first beer store and only that I stopped at in Cleveland. It didn’t take long for a staff member to come over and give me a showing of the local beers, the fresh beers, and what he thought I couldn’t get at home. He was helpful, saving me from over purchasing beers just to try that he didn’t give good recommendations to. Rozi’s also had make your own six pack which is a big plus in my book: cheaper way to try many beers without being “stuck” with a full sixer. A great place to stop in Cleveland to fill up on American craft beer.

Buckeye Brewing Company was the site of my first chance to meet with a head brewer on a one-to-one basis. I met with Garin Wright and Ray McDonald. They shared Cleveland porter, Hippie IPA, 76, Redhead, and an Imperial Stout aged on a used French oak wine barrel. I had a time limit as the wife and kid were sitting in the van. The limit was based on the movie ending that they were watching. Of course a text from my wife ended the conversation. A brewery hop is forthcoming.

jackie o's brewery

Another day and three more stops: Jackie O’s, Marietta Brewing Company, and North End Tavern (closed on the 4th of July).

Jackie O’s was the one of a handful of breweries that I really wanted to hit on this trip. I was stoked. Being the 4th of July, I didn’t know if I would be able to talk to anyone in the actual brewery, luckily David was there and he gave me the fifty cent tour. The basement is tiny but the new brewery space should be welcomed. We had lunch with my wife having Kentucky Monk, a Tripel aged in oak bourbon barrels, while I chose a DIPA, the Matriarch. Both beers were outstanding. We took home a growler of Kentucky Monk.

We headed towards Marietta, Ohio and the Marietta Brewing Company. Why? I wanted to hit up West Virginia (never been there) and Marietta had a brewery while being right on the Ohio River. Two birds with one stone. The beer at Marietta wasn’t average or a touch higher. I didn’t feel like they did anything special. We did stop for a quick bite that was anything but quick. The waitress we had was brutal. How brutal? Bad enough that I didn’t take any notes about the experience. It had been a long, hot day that had already taken it’s toll, having disappointing service compounded the situation.

The last stop of the day and on the way back to Columbus, was North End Tavern in Parkersburg, West Virginia. It wasn’t open but it did give me the chance to step foot in West Virginia. My wife also noticed a beer store close by, so we stopped. I don’t recall the name as there was nothing but a few of the “larger” American craft beers to be had, all of which find their way to Illinois.

columbus brewing

With a night of sleep under my belt, we headed Columbus Brewing for lunch. I also had the hopes of taking a few pictures along with a conversation. I lucked out, both were had. I talked to Eric, the brewmaster and owner about the brewery, with a focus on cost, which was a pleasant twist for me. More to come on a brewery hop. Back to the lunch. The food was great as was the service. I think I enjoyed it more than Great Lakes. Of course I had a pint of Columbus IPA and Bodhi; both solid offerings. I will be back again.

Palmer’s Beverage Center was the last stop on the trip that had to deal with my American craft beer addiction. Palmer’s isn’t a big store but they pack it in. The staff is friendly, going out of there way to make sure you are pleased, answering all of my questions. I picked up a bunch of locals to round out a great haul.

The trip was awesome. I can’t thank the wife and kids enough for pretending and allowing Dad to play beer. Without them the experience wouldn’t be as fulfilling. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Over 10,000 birds a year die from smashing into windows.

Surly Furious is Delightful

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

surly brewing company furious

It has been a while since I had the pleasure of a Furious by Surly Brewing Company. It is easily one of my favorite American IPAs. In fact it is in the team photo as one of my favorite American craft beers.

Since stopping at the brewery on the family vacation in 2010, I have only had Furious on a few select occasions. Therefore I was delighted to here that Rich had to head up to Minneapolis for business. Better yet, he was driving. Load up the car!

After sharing a Furious at Rich’s house shortly after the trip, I realized that the three 4-packs were ridiculously short sighted on my end. I think I forgot how much this beer makes my senses happy. I went through four of them in a “controlled” weekend as well as a Coffee Bender. Why didn’t I buy more? Was thinking the wife might be angry if I spent too much. Of course, after the fact, she said I should have pulled down a case. Crap, missed opportunity.

This beer is delicious no matter which new hop hits the market. I plan on having the last eight cans over the next couple of weeks; that’s as long as I can make them last. The best part about it: the beer is only 14 days fresh. Yummy. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Grapes explode when you put them in the microwave.

Crooked Stave Wild Wild Brett Yellow

Friday, June 1st, 2012
crooked stave artisan beer project wild wild brett yellow

Crooked Stave Wild Wild Brett Yellow

Since I enjoy home brewing, I really like finding an American craft beer that is outside the box thinking behind it. Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project is in the infancy of its’ existence but they are pushing the envelope with Brett, and multiple strains at that, in each and every beer. There is a “Wild Wild Brett” series is 100% fermented with Brett along with some spices and, to this point, tries to include one “color” of ingredients.

Wild Wild Brett Yellow is part of the aforementioned series of 100% Brett beers. Yellow has turemic, corriander, mango, and spices. The spices come through in the nose as the central point of the beer. A slight tartness comes in behind, cutting through those spices. Mango, which I fine to have a subtle flavor fresh, doesn’t really hit the senses for me. The taste is a bit more balance and definitely interesting. Turemic lends a ginger, earthiness to the beer that is cut by the tartness in the finish to not allow it to build to strongly. The finish tries to dry but there is enough “juiciness” to push it aside.

With the bottle shared with Rich only six months old, I tend to believe this will age nicely, becoming more complex. The difficulty is landing more bottles (only 1408) and being able to control myself in the cellar. Definitely worth your effort in attaining. Enjoy!

Aroma: 9 (25%), Taste: 8 (25%), Look: 9 (15%), Drinkability: 8 (35%), Overall: 8.4

Useless Fact: A jumbo jet uses 4,000 gallons of fuel to take off.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Torpedo

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
sierra nevada brewing company torpedo

Sierra Nevada Torpedo

Torpedo by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has spent a long time being neglected by me. I purchased a bottle several weeks ago as part of a “you make your own six pack” crap. Sierra Nevada always makes good beers but, for some reason, I just find myself purchasing them all that often. Don’t know why. Could be they have been around for a while and I prefer trying to give the new kids on the block a try.

The pour brings a deep gold pour with a white foam that has above average staying power, leaving dry, sticky lacing behind. The aroma is hop forward, earth and spice are the front runners with a dash of citrus splashed in. The taste follows adding grassy hops to the mix along with a light sweetness that seems to be more of an after thought as the malts are subdued. Crisp and refreshing with only a mild build up of bitterness.

Torpedo is a crisp, refreshing, easy to drink IPA that will be especially good all summer long. I waited way to long but glad I didn’t wait any longer. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Pinocchio is Italian for “pine head.”