Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dogfish Head Saison du Buff

This beer comes with quite a pedigree.  It is a collaboration between Dogfish Head, Victory and Stone Brewing Company.  I wasn’t aware of the history of BUFF until I did some research.  It turns out that this beer is named for a meeting held by the heads of the three breweries back in 2003.  9 years ago Sam Calagione of Dogfish, Bill Covaleski of Victory, and Greg Koch from Stone formed Brewers United For Freedom of Flavor and  called a press conference to bring attention to the lack of choice in the mainstream beer world.  At the time only one journalist felt the need to attend.  

Fast forward to 2012: the craft beer wave has made these brands household names and turned Sam into a rock star.  Funny how things can change. 

Unfortunately, mainstream beer hasn’t changed: it’s still watered down and, for the most part, tasteless.  To show the world just how interesting and flavorful a beer can be, these three brewers have concocted a brew containing parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (yeah, just like the song).  And I’m here to tell you: It works!

Similar to how these 3 idiosyncratic brewers were able to meld their own personalities together for the collaboration, the four spices blend nicely into a refreshing saisson. Here’s my tasting notes:
Pour:  Uniform fluffy white head

Nose:  Citrus with a slight hop fragrance

Taste:  Strong spice up front though one spice does not dominate, nice hoppy finish, not overpowering.

Aftertaste:  Now I’m getting some of that rosemary on the back of my tongue.

Overall: Very refreshing and drinkable.  At 6.8% ABV, it truly can be a go to session beer for the summer.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wheat beers are Back!

Spring is starting to show itself here in the North East.  The days are warmer, the robins have returned from their winter vacations and wheat beers have returned to the shelves of my local beverage store.  Last summer, I proudly declared my l love for fruit flavored brews on a friend’s beer blog.  I also reviewed several excellent examples on this blog.  Now, I’m going to introduce you to offerings from two of the most popular craft beer breweries in this area: Ithaca Beer Co. and Troegs Brewing Co.

Dream Weaver Wheat Beer from Troegs in Harrisburg, PA is a nice drinkable beer.  It is not a true “fruit” beer because no fruit is added during the brewing process.  But, like many wheat beers, it has sweet fruit-like overtones.  This one has a banana and citrus taste that is very appealing.  With a 4.8% ABV it is the kind of beer you can bring to a cook out and have more than one.

Ithaca Apricot Wheat is brewed in our own upstate New York.  It has a wonderful floral nose and pours a pale gold. It carries a foamy white head that lasts throughout its short time in my glass.  The taste is not overly fruity; just an apricot finish that lingers and drives me to another sip.  This is one of the most popular beers in this class and it is easy to see why.  With its nice light taste and 4.9 % ABV, it’s sure make its way into my outdoor beer drinking arsenal this season. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Eddie’s Roadhouse – Warwick, NY

Let me tell you about a craft beer gem I came across recently.  Last weekend I dropped my son off at Mountain Creek Ski resort in Vernon, NJ and on the way home I called my friend Mark who lives in Warwick.  He had been raving about this great little bar on Main Street that served nothing but microbrews.  We met for lunch and I was impressed by everything I saw. 
The first thing I noticed when I sat down at the bar was that there were no TVs in the place.  Eddie, the owner’s son, told us that it was intentional in order to get people talking to each other. And sure enough, by the time I had left about an hour later, Mark and I had met virtually everyone at the bar. 
Another thing I liked about Eddie’s is that they only serve craft beer. They have about 8 taps pouring micros and foreign brews, but no big national brands.  Ed said that if someone orders a Coors Light he directs them to an IPA he always has flowing.  If they want Guinness he lets them taste a brown or black ale and watches their face light up. 

I told him I had been drinking Belgians lately and he introduced me to St. Bernardus Abt 12.  This abbey style quadruple ale is brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernard in Wantau, Belgium.  A “quadruple” is a strong, dark ale with a higher alcohol content then a double or tripel.  This one has a 10% ABV that is hidden pretty well by the fruity over tones. It was served in a matching glass which really delighted me – I love when stuff matches.
Eddie Senior walked in shortly after and I was introduced to this energetic man.  He told me that he always wanted to own a restaurant and The Roadhouse was his “dream come true”.  He and his son strive to create an authentic experience for their patrons.  They go so far as to bring in bands that play exclusively original music and on Wednesdays novices get to perform at an open mic.

I ordered fries with gravy to accompany my second beer which was a black IPA from Stone Brewing Co.  The fries were the perfect comfort food to complement the toasted flavor of the beer. It may have been cold outside, but I was feeling warm and toasty at Eddie’s Roadhouse.  So, if you’re ever on your way home from the slopes, come in out of the cold and find some comfort in Eddie's Roadhouse. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Abita 25th Anniversary Vanilla Double Dog

It is wonder that this Louisiana brewery could be making great beer for a quarter of a century and I’ve only been aware of it for the last few years.  True, craft beer is having a huge growth in popularity all over the U.S.  But this is a beer I should have been exposed to in some form way before I actually sought it out.  Here’s my impressions:

Bottle: 22oz.

Cost: $7.99

Style: American Strong Ale

ABV: 7%

Color: Dark brown like root beer

Head: Thick and creamy

Smell: Nice vanilla nose with caramel overtones

Taste:  The vanilla is there but not as strong as in the smell.  A nice smooth mouth feel.    There is a roasted taste that is pronounced and finishes off with just a slight bitterness.

Overall:  A fine beer and worth a second try

Friday, March 2, 2012

Burlington Brew Tour - Continued

We made it through our first brewery stop at the Vermont Brew Pub and now we walked down the street to American Flatbread which makes craft beer under the name Zero Gravity.  Matt ushered us in a side door and we were directed to a large table in this packed establishment that he had reserved for us.  The selection of beers was diverse and our group was becoming much more animated.  We all became experts at judging the beers color and after tastes. 
A personal favorite was the Ole Ale which had a dark, complex flavor. I decided to get a growler of this English ale to take back to New York with me.  It was tough to watch all the brick oven pizza float by without having a slice, or two.  Doreen and I doubled back after the tour and had dinner here just to confirm how good their Margarita-style pizza actually was.
Next stop on this, the German Brew tour, was the German beer garden 2 blocks away.  We again entered through a side entrance and walked downstairs to a small bar room.  We were served a Franziskaner Weissbier and a selection of appetizers including wiener schnitzel and various types of bratwurst.

The food was delicious but not very filling; just enough to make you want to come back for a whole meal.  I followed up with a Kostritzer on tap that finished our European experience nicely.
The final brewery of the tour was Magic Hat about 5 minutes by van outside of town.  I would guess that the owner’s favorite holiday is Halloween because the whole place is done up like a costume party in New Orleans.  Interestingly, the founder of Magic Hat, Alan Newman, lives a few houses down from where we were staying in Burlington.   Before he got into brewing, he started Seventh Generation which sells environmentally conscious products. He left Magic hat a few years ago to start another brewery called Alchemy and Science which I’ve heard makes a killer IPA.

Back to the tour: There is a rusty metal castle tower next to the brewery’s front door that Doreen and I had to climb get the perspective from 20 feet above the group.  We entered the brewery and walked into a large, dark circular room that contained T-shirts along with other merchandise and a packed bar pouring Magic Hat’s most popular selections.  The walls and ceiling were covered with all sorts of posters and whimsical masks and creatures.  Matt started us off with a #9 and followed it with about 5 or 6 others that, to be completely honest with you, I don’t remember too much about.  All the visual stimulus, along with the previous tastings, made it tough for me to focus on what I was drinking. 
Matt took us for a short tour of the facility that included a history of the brewery complete with a cemetery for “dead” styles no longer produced there.  A large glass observation area over looked the brew floor and bottling machinery.  Shortly after that, we were whisked back into the van and were on our way to drop folks off at their respective hotels.  We decided to double back to town, grab dinner and cab it back to our cottage.  Overall, I would highly recommend the tour for novice or experienced craft beer drinkers.  Matt’s knowledge and love for the subject made it a special occasion that we won’t soon forget.