Sunday, November 2, 2008

Samuel Smith's Organic Apple Cider...

I am generally not a fan of hard cider. I had a friend that worked for Woodchuck a while back and it was pretty good, but I couldn't drink it too often. It always tasted too sweet to me. Obviously beer is my thing and just about always my drink of choice.

Well I made a recent visit to one of my favorite places, King Eider's Pub in Damariscotta, ME. Jed does a great job with the beer selection--there is always something interesting on tap and the small bottle selection is very good too. I had the amazing crab cakes for dinner and paired them up with a couple of super smooth Ayinger Oktoberfest drafts.

So back to my point, cider. Jed insisted that I try the Samuel Smith's Organic Apple Cider. Since everything Samuel Smith's produces is fantastic I was sure the cider was good, but cider really isn't my thing. Jed comped me on a pint just to get me to try it...any I am so glad he did. It has an amazing fresh apple aroma, but it isn't overwhelmingly sweet. This is the best cider I have ever tried--it has a crisp dryness that would pair amazingly well with Thanksgiving dinner (I just might try to find some for this year). I also like the carbonation that is effervescent without being overwhelming and it finishes with a slightly spicy, tartness. Thanks Jed, this is really good stuff.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ding, dong, the Zima's dead, the Zima's dead, the Zima's dead, ding dong, the wicked Zima's dead...

I rarely rejoice in anything dying, but MillerCoors has announced that Zima will no longer be produced. I am pretty sure that Zima was the first malternative to hit the big time market. I so remember making fun of anyone in college drinking this stuff. It was schilled as a clear, light, and refreshing alternative to beer. In reality it was an alcoholic soda pop. I remember trying it once, admittedly after my tastebuds were well shot from some kind of awful keg dispensed American lager and thinking this tastes like Sprite. Unfortunately it has been replaced by the likes of the Smirnoff Ice and Raw Tea, which are pretty much identical to Zima (they contain no vodka - they are just branded with the Smirnoff name).

I completely understand if you don't like beer, but there has to be an alternative to the malternative. Oh well, at least Zima is gone. Maybe Coors Light will go really is a malternative for those that don't like the taste of beer.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin beer, not just for dessert anymore...

I have never really been a huge fan of pumpkin beers. I spend most of my fall absorbing as many Oktoberfests beers and autumn ales as possible. I love the rich malty smoothness of Oktoberfest beers...Hacker Pschorr, Sam Adams, Brooklyn, Geary's Autumn Ale and of course der Konig of them all, Ayinger Oktoberfest.

However, over the last couple of years I have dabbled in pumpkin ales and I have to say I am a convert. I don't really go for those super-sweet, over-spiced, run of the mill pumpkins, but I have found a couple of outrageously good ones. Southern Tier Imperial Pumking is truly amazing. I bought one early last fall and it converted me like Saul being struck from his horse with a flying pumpkin. It is a whopping 9% of early fall warming greatness and smells like a fresh pumpkin muffin. I couldn't drink more than one of these 22oz bad boys, but it is extremely enjoyable as a dessert beer. It is much more complex and certainly more drinkable than I had imagined.

On the other hand, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale might just be the only sessionable pumpkin beer I have ever tried. It is not over spiced and has a remarkable earthy kind of raw pumpkin flavor with a super smooth maltiness and a nice touch of hops to boot. This beer looks like autumn too--it pours a beautiful orangish color with a thin white head. Simply put, this beer smells amazing too. I just paired one up with a fresh batch of Trader Joe's pumpkin bread (and I threw in some semi-sweet chocolate chips for good measure--into the bread that is). I am so tempted to go double up on both right now.

Drop a comment and let me know some of your favorite pumpkin beers, I am interested in finding some additional good options. Enjoy the fall weather and cheers.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Raise a glass to Darryl Goss

I am posting this important press release for a great cause. Please attend or just send a check.


Contact: Doug Fleming





Fact: ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, has no boundaries‑anyone can get it.

Fact: Life expectancy is typically two to five years from time of diagnosis.

Fact: There is currently no cure.

Boston, MA -- Live music, cold beer, delicious food, and a good game of 9-ball…. Sound like the perfect Thursday night? Well, on August 14, 2008, it may also be your way to help someone in need! Flat Top Johnny’s, 1 Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will host Raise a Glass to Darryl Goss, a benefit in appreciation of Boston's legendary brewer, Darryl Goss.

Darryl was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in February 2006. ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the body’s motor neurons and results in the inability to initiate and control muscle movement. Symptoms include loss of speech, inability to swallow or breathe on one’s own, and ultimately, in the later stages of the disease, total paralysis. There's no known cure. Darryl is in the fight of his life and needs your help.

The event Raise a Glass to Darryl Goss was created to celebrate Darryl's passions while we raise awareness of ALS and funds for Darryl’s considerable medical needs and care. The native New Englander was head brewer at Cambridge Brewing Company for seven years and master brewer at SkyView Café and Brewery in New Hampshire for two years. He brought art to craft brewing and made a huge impact by bringing a taste for traditional European beers to New England. His beer impressed local beer aficionados and won him medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado. He's a legend in the community and could often be seen on his '65 Harley or enjoying live music just about anywhere in Boston.

On August 14, Flat Top Johnny's is hosting the live acts The Men, Autumn Circle, and Bunzey Park. A 9–ball tournament and silent auction will provide additional entertainment and the chance to win fabulous prizes. To be a part of this special night, we suggest a donation of $15 at the door. All of the proceeds will be donated to Darryl Goss, a man whose courage and passion for life inspires us all.

If you are unable to make this special event and you would like to help Darryl live with ALS, send check or money order to FBO Darryl Goss, c/o Robbins, 14 Connecticut Avenue, 2nd Fl., Somerville, MA 02145.

If you want to contribute to finding a cure for ALS, please donate to Team Darryl (, whose members will ride the Tri State Trek in July‑270 miles from Boston to New York‑to raise awareness for ALS and to benefit ALS Therapy Development Institute ( With your help, Team Darryl can raise enough money to help ALS TDI continue its research into therapies that slow the process down and ultimately to find a cure!

So Raise a Glass to Darryl! Together we can help him to live well with ALS.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

American Craft Beer Fest...

Did you get to the American Craft Beer Fest at the World Trade Center in Boston last weekend? I was pretty impressed with the size of the crowd and the well-planned logistics of getting everyone in the building. I was less impressed with the huge set-up given to "Michelob Brewing Company" and Here's to Beer as you entered the festival. Why not throw up a huge neon sign that said Anheuser Busch sponsored this event. But then again I have a hang up with AB, to each their own...I guess you have to pay the bills and if people really want to drink that stuff with all the other amazing options available to them, let them, it only makes the other lines shorter. Speaking of that, the lines were significantly longer than those at the Cyclorama, especially for the great breweries, but I didn't mind too really was kind of awesome to see so many people drinking great beer.

The list was pretty impressive--0ver 300 beers and 75 brewers. There were so many great options and the hall was so large I barely made my way through the whole place in three the past, I would loop around the cyclorama several times. Just curious, did anyone figure out the IBUs on Garrett Oliver's shirt...that thing was badass, I loved it.

Bottomline I had a great time, but I have two major complaints. The food was awful. I needed my Belgian waffle fix and I was so upset to discover I would not be getting one. Moreover, the Sunset Grill catering at previous festivals provided much better options and quality, the food available this time was less than desirable. It was also a bit concerning that you had to stand in line for water, at least I didn't notice water stations elsewhere. I gather the World Trade Center would not allow outside catering, but I would rather have the Sunset Grill at the Cyclorama than crappy concession food at a nicer venue. Did I mention I wanted my Belgian waffle, I was Jonesing for that waffle by the end of the night.

The second complaint is the portopotties...are you kidding! The event was at the World Trade Center. I could not believe I was forced to piss in a johnny on the spot while indoors. After two previous sessions, the whole area reeked of urine and I pretty much had to avoid the right side of the hall after 8pm. The lines had diminished a bit and I was talking to Tod Mott at the Portsmouth booth, but I just could not stand the smell.

Ok I am done bitching, overall the event was fantastic, choices, choices, and more choices. The most exciting part was discovering a few breweries I had never heard of.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jack Daniel Plainview's Vanilla Porter Milkshake...

Ok, so you would have to have seen There Will Be Blood to understand why we called our last homebrew such a mouthful of a name. Well, it really isn't a homebrew, we created it at Barleycorn's Craftbrew On Premises facility. For all you Massachusetts locals, Barleycorn's is in Natick and you really have to make a visit--Dan Eng has a great facility and really knows his stuff. I go with my buddies from work...for those who don't homebrew, it is a great night out and perfect for a birthday or special occasion. You brew the beer there, leave it to ferment, and then come back to bottle it...without having to worry about cleaning up the mess. This is the seventh beer we created at Barleycorn's and they just seem to be getting better and better each time.

Let me explain the name. Daniel Plainview, a cut throat oil man, is the main character in the film and he tells another character that he "drinks his milkshake," that is he steals the oil on his property with a well adjacent to his land. I think the rest of the name is pretty self explanatory.

We wanted to make an imperial porter with oak and vanilla notes. We were inspired by Daryl, one of Dan's assistants, who let us taste his version of a juiced-up porter during our last bottling. I admit we made several shortcuts in creating it, but the end result was really very good. Rather than purchasing an oak barrel, we bought a bag of Jack Daniels Oak BBQ chips (actual JD barrels chopped up into pieces). We took several handfuls of the chips and popped them into a tupperware container and marinated them in about 8 shots of Jack Daniels for about 2 weeks. I shook up the container every night to really get the chips saturated all over. I then purchased a bottle of Trader Joes Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract and put that in with the JD and the chips for an additional week. We added lots of malt extract and a couple of pounds of pure cane sugar to give the yeast a little extra something to munch on. We added the saturated oak chips during the last couple of weeks of a five week fermentation to let the flavors infuse into the beer.

In the end, we ended up with a yield of twelve 22oz bombers (the name of my fantasy baseball team by the way) at a cost of about $2.90 per bottle. Not bad considering the cost of beer these days and that this one weighed in at a robust 8.0% abv. This beer pours the color of oil with a massive head and has pleasant whiskey, oak, and vanilla notes and a silky smooth mouthfeel. It is excessively drinkable for the alcohol level and works out well as a slow sipper throughout the night.

"I want the beer...I will not backslide."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A whole lot of nonsense...

Ok, I have held back as long as I could. These Coors Light ads are killing me so I want some good answers for what all or one of these inane phrases mean. I know you can come up with some funny responses.

"Tastes as cold as the Rockies"
"The World's Most Refreshing Beer"
"Cold. Down. Easy."

And what is the deal with those absolutely ridiculous labels that turn blue when they are the right temperature. Are you kidding me...what are we 4 years old...are these colorforms, where are the crayons? Does this gimmick actually sell beer?

Ok, I am done now--I feel a little bit better getting that off my chest.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What is your favorite local beer...

What is your favorite local beer? I am talking about something that is made pretty close to where you live that you drink on a regular basis. No need to wax poetic on it (but feel free to do so if you'd like).

I absolutely love Smuttynose IPA and Ipswich IPA. Post a quick comment and share your favorites.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nothing better than real ale...

There is just about nothing better than a great pint of real ale. Pair that up with some good friends, Redbones pulled pork, and an Anna's burrito as a nightcap and you have the recipe for a fantastic Wednesday night. Yes a Wednesday night--when you love good beer you make these kinds of sacrifices!

I am describing my first visit to the New England Real Ale Exhibition (NERAX), sponsored by the Cask-Conditioned Ale Support Campaign (CASC)--that is a pintful of acronyms. It really is kind of ridiculous that it is my first visit to this annual beer festival.

The night certainly started off on the wrong foot. We queued up in the will call line at 6:00pm as advised on the NERAX website. We were the lucky ones, the line outside for those without tickets went around the block. Unfortunately we were not let into the event until around 6:40pm or so. As one of my friends said, "we are getting too old to stand around in lines like this," especially on a Wednesday night.

Although the delay was frustrating it was well worth the wait--plus you have to cut the folks at CASC some slack, it is an all volunteer organization that does a fantastic job advocating and promoting real ale. Once inside I was impressed with the operation--virtually no lines and no waiting and I was glad to see that the smallish space (Dilboy Post in Davis Square, Somerville) held the presumably capacity crowd very well--no pretensions here, this is your typical VFW/Elks/Knights of Columbus type of room.

The beer was fantastic. For starters, when you know you can get Fullers London Porter, London Pride, and 1845 on cask, you are in for a great night. They spread 80 different firkins over the four day festival (they publish a list of most of the breweries on their website, but you don't know what you are going to get each night until you show up). While I was happy with the selection, I am guessing that Wednesday night might have been the weakest of the four--I know I would have reserved the best stuff for Friday night. It was a 50/50 split of American and UK brews (including beers from England, Scotland, and Wales). The Allagash Dubbel and Allagash Black were two of the American highlights.

Bottom line, I will certainly be attending the festival next year, perhaps I will try the marathon Saturday session from 12:00-7:00pm. I hope to see you at next year's NERAX.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Leave it to the Onion...

You have to love the Onion. Check out this link and insert a picture of yourself in place of the second guy. Ok, so maybe you don't make your own beer that often, but are you the neighbor that doesn't stop talking about. I am guilty as charged.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Imperial Southern Tier...

Have you tried any of the beers in the Southern Tier Brewing Company's Imperial series? Why not? For me it all started with the Unearthly Imperial IPA. Extreme does not always mean good, however Southern Tier does a great job with these beers.

Unearthly is an insane 11% with 153 IBUs. I give this beer a whopping 4.7 out of 5. It is loaded with floral, citrus and spicy hop flavors and is remarkably drinkable for such an intense offering. This is not a one dimensional hop head beer. Somehow a caramel malt sweetness helps balance it a bit and the mild burn from the alcohol really makes this beer more complex than I expected.

On the opposite end of the spectrum the Imperial Choklat, which also weighs in at 11% abv may just be the ultimate dessert beer. It is brewed with tons of cocoa and delivers and incredible chocoholic experience. It smells absolutely amazing and gets better and better with each sip. Choklat just may be a failsafe cure for the doldrums of winter.

Other beers in the series include: Imperial Punkin, one of the best pumpkin beers I have tried; Imperial Oat, an excellent oatmeal stout; and Imperial Hoppe--weighing in at 10% abv and 83 IBUs. I also have Imperial Big Red and Imperial Jah-va cellaring right now. The Jah-va is an Imperial Coffee Stout brewed with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee--12% abv and 125 IBUs. I don't drink coffee, but I am so looking forward to cracking this bad boy. I think I will let it sit for at least a couple of months to let it mellow out.

Bottom line, if you see any of these Imperial beers, pick them up, they may not be around forever. Extreme can be a good thing, a very good thing.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A beer oasis in a desert of beerdom...

Last week I traveled to Miami Beach for a few days to attend a museum conference. My expectations for finding new beers were not high, but it ended up being worse than I thought. Whenever I travel in the US, I generally look for a local brew or something that is not distributed in the Northeast. Unfortunately the best beer I could find during two meals was Sam Adams Lager (a good beer, but I kind of get my fill of it in Boston). Of course I did the "when in Rome" thing and had some Presidentes, mojitos, and sangria when eating Cuban food (which was amazing by the way - Versailles on Calle Ocho was excellent).

I did find one oasis in the desert of beerdom. There is a tiny little bar called The Abbey Brewing Company. It is a bit off the beaten path, but not too far from all the commotion on Lincoln Road (a pedestrian area lined with restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops). There are about 10 seats at the bar and maybe 5 or 6 booths--that is it! However, the guest beer draft menu is excellent, they have a nice selection of bottles, and their signature Abbey Brewing Company beers are very good. I tried the Immaculate IPA, Brother Aaron's Quad, and the fantastic Father Theodore's Imperial Stout, which weighed in at 9.5% abv and had a pleasant bittersweet chocolate and espresso malt profile with a good measure of balancing hops. I found it very similar to Brooklyn Black Chocolate Imperial Stout, but with a touch more carbonation. The bartender, whose name eludes me, was very friendly--we spent some time talking about beer (always nice when you are traveling alone and sitting in a bar by yourself).

I tried the one other "beer bar" in the area called Zeke's on Lincoln Road, which had a boatload of bottles to try. I did find a few new beers to add to the list, but they serve the beers without a glass and the only thing you can pour it in is a 16oz plastic keg cup--this just didn't do it for me.

Bottom line is that The Abbey Brewing Company is the only place worth visiting if looking for a true beer bar in Miami Beach.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The many flavors of Anheuser Busch...

I am not sure if this is a bad dream or a sign of the coming apocalypse. A-B has unveiled two new beers recently. Chelada is a lovely melding of those two timeless classics, Budweiser and Clamato Juice (yes clam and tomato juice - repulsive enough without the Bud). The latest offering is Bud Light Lime -- look out Corona, you don't even have to buy real citrus fruit with these bad boys. Keep your eyes out for some of their upcoming releases, Michelob Ultra Slimfast Creamsicle and Devil Dog Stout (two very different markets for these products).

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Alström Bros. strike again...

You really have to give them credit, Jason and Todd Alström are the Kings of Beer in Boston. I was very excited to see the press release for the upcoming American Craft Beer Fest at the Seaport World Trade Center. These guys have done a shitload for craft beer in Boston, but this is over the top. The numbers 75 - 300 - 15,000 bring a tear to my beer. The thought of 75 brewers, 300 beers and 15,ooo people experiencing great beer is amazing. I was excited enough about the Night of the Barrels this Friday (sorry, it is already sold out), but this is an event to look forward to. It is perfectly scheduled for the first day of spring! Buy your tickets early and buy them often. See you at the Seaport.

Here is the link to the press release, which I quote below:

BeerAdvocate to Host the East Coast's Largest American Craft Beer Fest

At the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA

(Boston, MA - January 2008) In keeping with their self-elected duty to bring better beer to the masses, BeerAdvocate founders and brothers Jason and Todd Alström are crafting something big.

Held on June 20 & 21 at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, the first annual "American Craft Beer Fest" (ACBF) will feature 3-sessions, invite upwards of 75 breweries, and serve at least 300 craft beers with an expected attendance of 15,000 appreciators of beer.

"It's time," stated Todd Alström, "It's time the East Coast had a large-scale, world-class event that not only celebrates the creativity and growth that's occurring amongst America's craft brewers, but puts the respect back into beer." The latter being a reference to their personal motto "Respect Beer," in which the brothers urge consumers to appreciate the brewer's art respectfully through support, beer education, and responsible enjoyment.

In addition to tasting a wide-variety of beer, ACBF will offer attendees plenty of beer education, including guest speakers, beer & food pairings, one-on-one opportunities to interact with actual brewers, and networking opportunities for beer industry professionals to help them support and bring more awareness to craft beer.

"We're excited to be working with our partner Harpoon Brewery, the Seaport team, and craft brewers in bringing the East Coast a destination event that we hope to grow into one of the largest beer fests in America," added Jason Alström. "Craft beer, its growing number of loyal followers, and the region are ready for an event like this."

Tickets go on-sale in February.

American Craft Beer Fest is a BeerAdvocate & Harpoon Brewery partnership. For general information, please contact the Alström Bros ( For sponsorship and marketing opportunities, contact Jeff Lawrence ( at Boston's Weekly Dig.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Superbowl libations...

What will you be drinking this Superbowl Sunday? If you could afford a ticket to the game, perhaps you can afford the ridiculously priced new beer from Carlsberg. For a meager $398 you can pick-up a just under 12oz bottle of their Jacobsen Vintage 1. Hell, with Superbowl tickets selling as high as $77,000 why not pick up a six-pack or two for the tailgate.

We will undoubtedly be bombarded with ads from the likes of Molson, Coors, Miller, Dewey, Cheetham and Howe and the ubiquitous Anheuser Busch who now reminds us that Bud isn't heavy like imported beers and microbrews, it is the Great American Lager...hahaha.

Anyway, back to the main question, what will you be drinking during the Superbowl. I plan on having a couple of Victory Prima Pils and then celebrating the Patriots 19-0 season with a 4 year old Samichlaus lager and a 15 year old Bowmore Sherry Cask single malt whiskey. I figured combining the 15 and 4 year old beverages was a bit smarter than drinking 19 beers.

Enjoy the game.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Beer 101...

I love teaching The Beer Necessities, my wintersession beer appreciation course at Wellesley College. However, it is just that, a non-credit wintersession beer appreciation course where we have a lot of fun talking about beer and tasting some excellent brews. But check out this for credit course at University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia called Brewing Science: The History, Culture and Science of Beer or as students call it, Beer 101. The McKenzie brothers would be I wish this course was offered when I was in college.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Swing (cap) Don't Mean a Thing...

Sadly, Grolsch, which is exclusively distributed in the US by Anheuser Busch, is in the process of being purchased by SAB Miller. You really have to read more than beer labels these days to figure out who you are paying for your beer.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Session 11 - Dopplebocks...

For those of you new to this blog, this post is part of the monthly session series -- beer geeks from all over post on the same topic on the first Friday of each month. This week we are focusing on dopplebocks. My thanks to Brewvana for hosting this month.

I had my first dopplebock at age 17. It was really all downhill from there, my first was an Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock -- they just don't get much better.

While in high school, I worked at a local packie. I was the guy that stocked the six pack shelves in the cooler. Sounds great, but I was also the guy that handled the filthy bottle and can returns -- I could tell you all kinds of cockroach stories. Anyway, one day while stocking the beer cooler, a bottle got caught on the case while removing the six packs and smashed on the floor. As a result, I had to put the other five survivors of this tragic event on the singles shelf. I was devastated, I didn't know much about beer at the time, but I knew the stuff was selling for $48 a case, back in 1988. This seems crazy to me now, but I distinctly remember it being the most expensive beer I had heard of at the time -- maybe it was those little plastic rams on the strings around each bottle!

Well, long story short, a...uhm..colleague at the store suggested that I try one of them. This beer was unlike anything I had tried in the past...hell, Michelob and Heineken were high end beers for a high school kid that didn't know any better. This beer will always have a sentimental place on my beer list as one of the first truly great beers I have ever tasted.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Off to the races with Speedway Stout...

Each year I try to reserve a special brew for New Year's Eve. This year I put aside a bottle of AleSmith Speedway Stout. I have been very impressed by every beer I have tried by this San Diego brewery and I was really looking forward to tasting it. This beer did not let me down.

Speedway Stout is brewed with pounds of Ryan Bros. coffee beans and weighs in at 12% abv. I should tell you all that I have never had a cup of coffee in my life, but this is the closest I will ever come. The blend of beer and coffee flavors in this beer is amazing. It has a strong coffee aroma and the first sip is like shoving a fist full of chocolate covered espresso beans in your mouth and then maybe some tiramisu.

The beer is full-bodied, creamy, exceptionally smooth on the palate, and an utter joy to drink -- I mean a truly amazing mouthfeel. I was so overwhelmed while rating this beer that I began second guessing how good it was -- as soon as I finished, I went online immediately to look at other reviews to make sure I was not overdoing it. Nope, this beer gets a resounding thumbs up from just about everyone who tries it. As I expect from all AleSmith products, this beer is complex. I noticed espresso, chocolate, caramel, citrus and licorice flavors -- and maybe even a touch of rye (or maybe that is a touch of coffee acidity). It finishes a touch dry with a pleasant warming in the back of the throat -- but you would never guess 12% abv. This is one of the biggest and certainly best beers I have ever tasted. I am in the process of hunting more down for cellaring -- if you see it, ignore the price tag and buy it -- trust me, you will not regret it.