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.