I know I’m overdue for a post, and will have one soon, I promise… in the meantime, here’s a Pint Pic to tide you over.
I’ve already discussed the fact that I was (pleasantly) surprised to find several Belgian beers I enjoyed, so what is your favorite of the many Belgian styles? I find the trappist tradition intriguing, may have to do a monk post at some point. What do you think?
Have another round and stay tuned!
(Just a side note, right after I came up with this ’90s-tribute headline I heard that Nickelodeon is bringing back a handful of nostalgia with The ’90s Are All That, which doesn’t have Are You Afraid of the Dark? in its lineup just yet, but is on the right track)
Anyway, in present-day news, the beer club has been going strong… encountering hefty beers (and opinions to match) along the way.
For me, much like the Belgian tasting we had in January, this month’s tasting of stouts made it tough to pick a favorite. But unlike the Belgian category this was cause I knew I loved stouts and so I had to go into decimal points in my numerical ratings… and I am not a numbers girl. (For the record, I had to go into decimals at the Belgian tasting, too, which introduced me to quite a few Belgian styles that I loved, despite my previous distaste for the overall category).
My good friend, and fellow blogger Sandy and her husband hosted us for the Stout tasting. There was plenty of chocolate and cheese to go with the dark beers (and some fabulous homemade pizza and chili to boot!)
I ditched my salty tooth that day and whipped up some chocolatey treats to go with the whole Valentines Day + Stouts… thing. Also I had been holding on to this recipe from Ladies Of Craft Beer for quite some time waiting for some sort of sweet tooth to emerge in me. And it did!
I made the LadiesOCB’s Double Double Chocolate Stout Brownies substituting High & Mighty’s Two-Headed Beast for the Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Despite not being very popular as a sample at the tasting, the Two Headed Beast did go well with the rich brownies, which somehow mellowed the beastly beer’s… “umph. ” (The brownies were great warm, topped with ice cream later, too).
We tasted several varieties of stouts including milk/cream stouts, coffee stouts, imperial stouts, and, of course, chocolate stouts… here’s how things tallied up:
Overall favorite was organic Vermont brewer Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout, which had a nice earthy, slightly dry flavor. Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast and Dogfish Head’s Chickory Stout tied as second favorite.
Least favorite was a little more dispersed, but it turns out our crew is not a fan of Paper City’s Riley’s Mother’s Milk (though I think the milk/cream stouts were in general less popular with the crew, cause Paper City’s other contestant, the Fogbuster Coffee Stout ranked well).
Here’s the full roster (in tasting order)… what’d we miss and what’s your take?
Samuel Adams Cream Stout
Paper City Riley’s Mother’s Milk Stout
Wachusett Milk Stout
Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout
People’s Pint Oatmeal Stout
Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout (my first favorite—I had a tie)
Paper City Fogbuster Coffeehouse Ale
Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (my other favorite)
Dogfish Head Chickory Stout
High & Mighty Two-Headed Beast
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
Southern Tier Choklat
Avery Czar Imperial Stout
Hoppin’ Frog Double Imperial Stout
McNeill’s Dark Angel
Victory Storm King
North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Tonight we take a milder taste with Brown Ales (both English and American styles) so stay tuned for more recaps… plus a selection of my favorite quotes and reviews!
Red, amber, green, or black… Saint Patrick’s Day offers up the perfect (and possibly most united) excuse to have a beer… or three.
Here’s to hoping you all had a fantastic celebration, Irish or not, and that you got the chance to imbibe some interesting brews. I, myself, had some hearty corned beef and cabbage at local subterranean pub, Lion’s Den in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where the sweet sounds of a local guitarist and a glass of well-poured Guinness rounded out my St. Patty’s Day. I topped it off with a little Irish whiskey for good luck, opting for Powers over Jameson (since I’d never had the former, and survey says… delicious!).
I had the pleasure of catching a bit of Irish prep in Washington, D.C., as loads of Guinness appeared throughout the city. Not that I needed help getting in the spirit, but it sure did add to the anticipation… how did you celebrate?
I am a hop head. A hop heart if you will… I love hops in all their herbal, citrusy, piney, floral, bitter beauty. I’m also frequently on a quest for solid Extra Special Bitters (or ESBs… capital “B”). Red Hook makes my standard ESB—Otter Creek used to make a fantastic ESB, but unfortunately retired it. Brown’s Brewing Company‘s ESB is a solid rendition, and I’ve recently discovered that Pretty Things Hedgerow Bitter hits the (hop) spot for me too (with a touch of grapefruit!). What’s your favorite ESB?
Needless to say, I was thrilled to see the buzz hops were getting yesterday cause of this lovely little Huffington Post article:
America’s Bitterest Brews
By Joshua M. Bernstein
The Daily Meal/Huffington Post, March 1, 2011
But in this era of craft beer, drinkers are shunning simple brews like Keystone and Coors for coffee-seasoned stouts, burly Belgian ales and, most of all, bitter beers like the India Pale Ale, a.k.a., the IPA… [read the article]
Read more articles I’ve collected (not by me) in the Press Pints tab!
But microbrewing and the people involved have some of the most fascinating details and stories. That’s the thing about craft beer, if anything, it is accessible. Craft beer makers want you to like craft beer. They’re not focused on sales, figures, numbers, or fame. They’re focused on craft beer lovers. (That’s why if you catch a craft brewer standing still for a moment, they wont hesitate to answer—at length, and with passion—any questions you might have.)
So… what if you don’t have a brewer handy (and the lifeline-that-is-the-internet is down)? Hit the books! With our monthly beer tasting club, nothing has been more popular than Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer. In this handy how-to (pulled together by the how-to experts at Storey Publishing) novices and intermediates alike can brush up on the intricacies of craft beer and the nuances of tasting it.
Peppering his eloquent dialogue with informative tidbits, historic points, and unique details Mosher writes in a way that draws in both the hop head and the dabbling drinker. Systematically breaking down the beer world Mosher touches on many crucial elements of enjoying beer, including the oft-overlooked finer points like the history (which dates back to the Middle East circa 10,000 BCE) to beer’s progression through popular culture both around the world and, more specifically, in the U.S. He stresses the importance of presentation—from the temperature, to the glass, to the pour, and even to the viewpoint and knowledge of the drinker.
Alongside his aesthetic and historic details Mosher also breaks down the nitty-gritty, paying tribute to the book’s title: an examination of beer tasting, which includes all senses used in evaluating an experience—visual, smell, taste (of course), mouthfeel, and even ingrained psychological differences that affect each person’s perception. Breaking down the basic flavors of beer, the process of its creation, factors of comparison, as well as the vocabulary surrounding it, Mosher arms readers with the resources to explain and understand more fully their appreciation of beer.
Near and dear to my heart (er—stomach?) Mosher also gets in-depth about food pairings and recipes that incorporate beer into cuisine. Tasting Beer manages to encompass all the reasons and ways to enjoy beer in an informative and entertaining format. If you weren’t thirsty before you started reading, you will be by the time you’re half-way through.
Topped off with resources like a glossary, information about craft beer advocacy organizations like homebrewing clubs, the Brewers Association, Beer Judge and Cicerone Certification Programs (for when you’re ready to take your testing to the next level), and popular online forums like BeerAdvocate and PubCrawler, Mosher does not leave his readers wanting. In his own words:
“If we remain uninformed, we can be trapped in our own limited beer world, not knowing what delights we’re missing . . . It takes a little information to open up the extraordinary universe of beer.”
Now… go pick up a copy, a mix pack, and get tasting!
Nothing beats a night out… except maybe one with special beers, the inside scoop, and giveaways. Yeah, just when you think your favorite bar can’t get any better. Does your local beer bar do specialty beer nights? Sure, they’ve got great microbrews on tap all the time, but when a bar goes the extra step to reach out to a brewer (or their local rep) magical things can happen.
Josh Cohen at Moe’s Tavern in Lee, Massachusetts, is especially good at this, but I’m biased—that’s my bar. Check with your local craft beer bar to see if they are planning to link up with a specific brewer for a night. It’s a win-win: the bar get’s a surge of traffic and you get to try high quality or rare offerings from the brewer (like the above pictured 75 Minute IPA on cask from Dogfish Head), free swag including pint glasses, shirts, stickers, openers, and more… and often you get the opportunity to have one-on-ones with either the brewers themselves or a rep (who usually has relatively good insight into the goings on of the brewery).
Best way to find out about events is by “Liking” your local bar or brewery on Facebook or following on Twitter so you get it in your newsfeeds… or check in with sites like BeerAdvocate and Brewing News, who keep running calendars of beer-centric events all over the place.
Buried in the hip epicenter of Western Massachusetts that is Northampton—home to progressive colleges, boho-chic shopping, wide-ranging grub, and eclectic galleries—is New England’s oldest operating brewpub, duly named the Northampton Brewery.
If you haven’t perused the rest of this blog, I should mention how big a fan I am of brewpubs—these places, usually brimming with individuality, offer the steadfast trifecta of (über) locally-made beer, hearty cuisine, and friendly atmosphere. More than a sports bar, more than a restaurant, and more than a brewery, the brewpub brings it all together. In other words, I like food with my beer and vice versa.
The Northampton Brewery is a multifaceted establishment housed in a revamped 1890s carriage house. It features a low-lit bar area, a bright sunroom dining space, and a popular rooftop beer garden. Touted as the oldest brewpub in New England, it was opened in 1987 by current owner Janet Egelston with her brother Peter (with whom she also helped open Portsmouth and Smuttynose breweries in New Hampshire, which Peter now owns).
Served atop sullied copper-topped tables, the food at Northampton is hearty, bursting with flavor and creativity, and frequently embellished with beer-featuring sauces and recipes (telltale sign of a good brewpub). My menu item-of-choice, the pulled pork sandwich, comes doused in a perfected combination of zesty spices, their Pale Ale or Old Brown Dog, and homemade barbecue sauce. Topped with tangy slaw made with peppers and red onion it accentuates the underlying flavors of my beer samples (think a warm nuttiness in the red ale, herbal character of the harvest ale, and the ever-so-slightly tangy bitterness of the IPA).
Ah, the samples. Northampton does it right. I frequently grapple with the “dilemma” of whether to go with a flight of samples (which often risk being nearly shot-size) or miss out on trying the full array by getting pints of one or two selections instead. Here the samples (choice of four) come in 8-oz tasting glasses, presented on the always-appealing paddle, which are a fair enough size to get a feel for the beer while still trying out a few different styles.
I started with the Harvest Ale, a rich amber-colored ale emitting a light caramel aroma and bursting with fall sentiments plus a hint of hop bitterness thanks to the wet-hop process. Next was the Redheaded Stepchild, deep red in hue with a tangy sweetness with a smooth, hearty aftertaste characteristic of traditional red ales. The Blue Boots IPA had a sweet floral aroma with a nuttiness and hefty hop bite and the Black Cat Stout offered a creamy, rich coffee finish—extremely smooth and robust in flavor.
With fifteen year-round varieties, nearly as many specialty brews, and comparable seasonal selections, there is plenty to choose from at the brewpub. Styles range from familiar standards like stouts, porters, IPAs, and ales, but expands to lesser-seen experimentations like a German-inspired Sticke Altbier, bitters like the Daniel Shays Best Bitter and (Snow)(Sand)(No) Shovel ESB, and ryes including Magic Carpet Rye and Jess’ Goodbye Rye P.A. Apparently with a penchant for pale ales and IPAs (and fine by me) the brewery boasts quite a few variations on this style, experimenting with different balances of the Pacific Northwest hops they use. The brewery even goes so far as to have an annual IPA Week in December, during which six different India Pale Ales are available on tap. Otherwise, there is usually a mixed selection of about ten beers on tap, plus a few guest brews to round it out. Occasionally the brewery teams up with fellow microbreweries including siblings Portsmouth and Smuttynose for special beercentric events.
Whether going for a concert at one of the many music halls in Northampton, pairing your beer with locally made ice cream at nearby Herrell’s Ice Cream, or shopping at the various boutiques, Northampton Brewery offers a welcoming pit stop or a night filled with all the entertainment you need—hit up their weekly Celtic night on Sundays for live Irish music and a St. Patty’s feel all year long. Take a growler to go and you’re all set.