Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hoppin’ Frog Silk Porter

The weather here in New York has taken a turn for the worse and it feels like we are back in March again.  It’s cold and drizzly with no sign of the sun for the last couple of days.  It’s the perfect time to break into a porter!  The Hoppin’ Frog Silk Porter is brewed in Akron, Ohio and I bought it back in January to warm the cold nights. It’s a 22oz bomber with a 6.2% ABV that set me back $8.29.  So I’m expecting big things. 
Here’s the report: 

Pour: Completely opaque, dark as motor oil

Head: Foamy and tan head that leaves a healthy lace after a few minutes

Nose:  Slight chocolate that is followed by a taco smell

Taste : Toasty, trying to be chocolate by not quite achieving it. Not bad, just not enough chocolate to make me happy.  A little toasty bitterness lingers in my mouth which is not unpleasant (“Like”)

Mouth feel:  Definitely lives up to its name: silky as can be.
Overall: Nice drinking experience.  Misses the mark by just a bit.  I’m thinking that the age might have something to do with it.  The bottle says “Keep Refrigerated” which I did not heed.  Though it has been stored in my garage which hasn't been above 50 degrees.  Still, I’d love to have another fresh one to compare it to right now while its fresh in my mind.  I will have to find one and give it a taste before the weather warms up and I’m on to lighter beers for a while.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Breukelen Bier Merchants – Craft Beer Store or Bar or Both?

Brooklyn is a hot bed of craft beer activity.  Everyone has heard of the popular Brooklyn Brewery and the up and coming Six Point Brewery.  What many people are not aware of is that this borough has spawned several of the best beer stores and bars in the Tristate area.

Some of these establishments are actually both beer store AND bar.  They routinely get the highest ratings on beer web sites by beer geeks and novices alike.  Breukelen Bier Merchants in the Williamsburg section has created a craft beer lovers heaven.  I was there recently with a friend and we were able to experience, first hand, what all the buzz is about. 
When I walked into this beer “store” my first impression was: “this would be a cool place to hang out”.   The comfortable tables and furniture, along with the board games and picnic tables in the back, made me feel like staying for a while.   They boast a bottle inventory 500 beers strong; any of which can be opened right there and consumed in the store.  Heaven you say, wait there’s more.
I could also choose from 16 draught beers from all over the country.  I chose a hefe weisse from Uinta Brewing Company (pronounced "winta") in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It was light and lemony; perfect for a spring day.  If I was hungry, I could have indulged in a pressed sandwich or cheese plate, but I was there for the beer.

We spent some time talking to one of the owners who said that they will be celebrating their one year anniversary next week with three days of activities and events.  She said, “We have been really well received by the neighborhood and our second year should be even better as the craft beer movement grows”.
Before we left, I had to fill up a growler to go.  Boulder Buffalo Gold is brewed in Colorado and at 4.5% ABV is a fantastic session beer. No, I didn’t sit down and kill the whole 64 oz right there in the store; though I imagine I would have been allowed to.  I took it home and split it with my wife over dinner.  This beer has one of the sweetest finishes I’ve experienced.  It tastes like it’s made with honey though I haven’t confirmed that yet.

So if you find yourself in Brooklyn, or anywhere in the city for that matter, get your butt down to the Bier Merchants and experience a little slice of heaven in New York.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Hop in Beacon, NY

Happy Easter everyone!  I had a fun pre-holiday experience last night at the grand opening of a new craft beer store in the Hudson Valley.  The Hop in Beacon, NY opened its doors about a month ago, but yesterday officially announced its intentions of bringing craft beer to Dutchess County and beyond.

This cute little store at the end of Main Street has a fine selection of about 100 different beers for sale "to go" and another six on tap for growler or glass fills. They also have a section of local artisinal "beer" foods like cheeses, pickels and all kinds of sauces.  Their menu currently consists of a few sandwiches, soups, salads and some creative uses of beer and ice cream for dessert.

My wife Doreen and I arrived about a half hour early and the place already had a decent sized crowd.  People were ordering goblets and pints of draft beer and wandering around the store browsing the wine racks filled with 750ml bottles of craft beer.  We made our way to the bar and ordered a Dogfish Head Red and White and a hefe weissen from Sixpoint.  The latter was a little light for my taste but the Dogfish was exceptional.  This is a combination of a Belgian White Ale with red wine and it really works.  The fruitiness of the grapes and the slight hopping blended well on the palate. 

We each ordered a grilled cheese that was made with caramelized onions and was delicious.  WE met the rest of our group at the long, communal table in the center of the store that doubles as display case for some of their 12 ounce offerings.   We all received wrist bands from John Kelly who, along with 3 other locals, owns this establishment.  John and one of his partners are Culinary Institute grads and it shows in the design of the store (he built the communal table) and the presentation of the food and drink.   The wrist bands were to be used along with a ticket for one free beer at the “beer garden” behind the store. 
We walked out and around back to a fenced in area containing about a dozen tables, propane heaters and most importantly, more kegs.  They were pouring selections from Colorado’s Left Hand Brewery,  Lagunitas from California and  Westchester’s own Captain Lawrence.  I had the Captain’s Kolsch and found it crisp and refreshing. I was able to sample Left Hand’s Smoke Jumper which is an Imperial Porter.  This beer, which pays tribute to the brave souls who fight forest fires, had a wonderful smoked cheese flavor finished with a chocolate kiss.  The 9% ABV had a warming effect on this chilly night.

Back inside, we discovered that we could order any 750 ml bottle in house and drink it there for a $7 corking fee.  So we split a Founder's Crumudgeon's Better Half which is brewed in bourbon barrels with maple syrup and molasses. The sweetness led off every sip and complemented the whiskey finish nicely.

The overall feel of the The Hop was one of cool NYC beer bar in upstate New York.  There is not much else I could ask for in a craft beer store other than more selection on the bottle side.  But they just opened and I’m sure they will be adding to their list as time goes on.  This, along with the rotating tap list, will require another visit in the near future  . . .    What? Someone’s got to it.  Cheers!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Heady Topper at the Blind Tiger

by Rich

My friend, Doc and I had a nice day yesterday. We went into NYC for a Film Forum to catch a documentary about the recently deposed president of The Maldives. What you might find more interesting is that we stopped at the Blind Tiger for lunch before the movie and The Pony Bar on the way home.
The bartender at The Blind Tiger mentioned that they had a special event pairing Vermont beers and cheeses. He recommended an Imperial IPA called Heady Topper from The Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont.  He mentioned that the ale is available in cans but is rarely seen on tap outside the brewery. It was, as you'd expect, a real blast of hops with enough malt smoothness to balance it somewhat but with 120 IBU's and 8% ABV this is not for the faint of heart.
The Pony Bar was offering a Flying Dog WildemanIPA as one of it's cask ales. The ingredients sounded interesting, among other things it contains elderberry and lavender. So, I thought I'd give it a try. It turned out to be one of the stranger brews I've had in a while. The lavender came through and we both thought the ale had an  interesting, almost medicinal quality. I asked the bartender if she had tried it and she poured herself a sample. She said it was weird but she liked it, definitely worth a try if you come across it.