Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Rest of 2014

We are winding down for the year 2014.  To end summer I will be traveling around the NY Finger Lakes for 3 days visiting about 15 breweries and can't wait!
I also am currently planning my next tasting night..this time it will be a Fall Tasting with a mixture of Oktoberfest, Pumpkins, and Harvest beers. 
In November I will be driving across country to San Diego and plan to hit up some of these countries best breweries I haven't made it to yet. 
And of course continuing to drink new and great beers from all over the country. Until next time, cheers!

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tasting

My last up to date tasting was my Sierra Nevada Beer Camp night. I got my hands on some Beer Camp, so I thought lets try them all in one night..but I cant drink them all alone so I invited people over. Then I saw Sierra Nevada has a mixed IPA 12 pack which included Torpedo, Black IPA, White IPA and a Session IPA. So I bought that! Then I said screw it I'll grab every Sierra Nevada beer I can find and we will make it a Sierra Nevada night!
The hands down winner of the night was one I wouldn't of picked and it was the Beer Camp beer with New Glarus called There and Back...it was an ESB.  It had a good flavor, slight hop and was real smooth.  A few other contenders included the Beer Camp collab with Ninaski which was a coffee milk stout called Double Latte, Nooner which is their Session IPA, Beer Camp collab with Bell's called Maillard's Odyessey which is explained as an imperial dark ale and the Beer Camp West Coast DIPA.  The Porter and Hoptimum also were well liked. 
Easy to say the least liked of the bunch was the Beer Camp collab with Cigar City called Yonger Bock which is a tropical maibock and the Russian River collab beer called Yvan the Great which was a belgian blonde.
It was fun to actually try all these Sierra Nevada beers. I have been turned off by them as of late, and while I probably won't go run out and buy them again soon I do appreciate the efforts they have made it's just unfortunately a lot of their beers have the same type of taste to them. But it did inspire me to do more brewery-themed tastings...just need to find breweries that have such a wide variety..perhaps Stone will be next!

Road Trip Tasting

After my 2014 summer road trip in which I drove through Boston, Portland, Vermont and New Hampshire I brought up a great crop of beers.  We had an impromptu tasting the following day given the fact I had so many great growlers of Hill Farmstead among many other amazing beers.  So we didn't really rate the beers or anything, but I will say it was definitely in my top 3 day/nights of drinking in my life.  Take a look below at what was being tasted:

We kicked all off with a few Hill Farmstead growlers.  They included Society & Solitude #4, The Susan and The Abner. All were incredible but it seems the overall thought was Society and The Susan stood out just a little more than Abner..but all 3 were top IPAs I've ever had. 
Who we are kidding with Heady Topper? Speaks for itself..but no worries that Heady lasted us a few weeks!
As for the others..they all had great things about them hence why I brought them home.  The Maine Beer Co beers were cheap and bottled the day I was at the brewery. Unfortunately Lunch just didn't do it for us sadly in the bottle..on tap it was incredible dunno what happened. Mo, Zoe, and Another One though were incredible out of the bottle.  
Trillium Brewing offered some FANTASTIC brews especially Fort Point Pale Ale which drinks like a hoppy IPA, Wake Robin Red was awesome and their Farmhouse was the best farmhouse I've ever had.
Allagash had a good effort for a Belgain IPA with fellow Maine brewers Maine Beer Co and Rising Tide. Speaking Rising Tide their Session IPA called Maine Beer Trail was in my top 3 Sessions. 
SoMe from southern Maine was a session I picked up..it wasn't bad.
Harpoon had a Citra IPA I grabbed, great for Harpoon!
Jacks Abby made a great line of Bourbon beers with their Framingham base.  The Coffee outshined the regular Bourbon Aged. 
Lastly Anna from Hill Farmstead...well it speaks for itself..incredible.
Great line up and so glad I could bring home such wonderful beers from the East coast.  These beers are hands down some of the best beers in the country, more specifically best IPAs.

Under 6% Tasting

This tasting came about because I really started to get into Session IPAs and it was right before the start of summer which is the best time for Session-like beers. They were starting to pop up all over and I figured hey lets do a night where we try them all. Well after purchasing all the sessions I could get my hands on, I realized there wouldn't be enough beer for the tasting crowd.  Therefore I made a decision..hey lets throw in a bunch of other low percent beers and I made 6% the cut off point. We ended up with 48 beers ranging from Session IPAs, to Wheats, to Pale Ales, to Pilsners and a couple single randoms like an Amber, Pale Lager and Wit. All of them are pictured below:
I would like to discuss each category as I review the results.  To begin, the Session IPAs. There were some great ones here. Fat Heads Sunshine Daydream, Pizza Port S.I.P.A., Firestone Easy Jack, Stone Go To, Carton Brewing Boat Session were the top 5 for Sessions in no particular order. The other 7, Drakes Alpha, Southern Tier Farmers Tan, Troegs Scratch #143, Great Divide Lasso, Flying Dog Easy IPA, Founders All Day, and Goose Island Endless IPA were all very drinkable but we agreed just didn't match up when it came to hoppiness and full body flavor you want from a Session IPA.
As for the Pale Ales only a few here stood out.  Local growler of Community Beerworks The Frank was real nice, Maine Mo was great, Half Acre Daisy Cutter and Southern Tier Live were the best of the crop.  The others were ranging from pretty good to just not very good at all.
The Wheats had a hands down winner and that was Three Floyds Gumballhead. Half Acre Akari Shogun and Bells Oberon were a close second.  The rest were all just typical wheats that didn't blow anyone away.
The Pilsners were a small crop and sadly none stood out to us but I would say the best out of the small crop was Firestone Pivo Pils.
As for the complete other random ones, Otter Creek Citra Mantra which is consider a Pale Lager was real good. The rest didn't impress me at all.
It was hard doing this tasting after the extremely successful IPA tasting, but it was still a blast with lots of good people and a lot of people left seeking out more of the Session-like beers to drink during the summer.

IPA Tasting

Quite possibly one of, if not the, best night of drinking of my entire life.  The timing was perfect.  We had just came back from a trip to San Diego with some Pizza Port and Alpine brews.  My friend was in Chicago just days before the tasting so he was able to snab some Three Floyds, Pipeworks, Surly, and Half Acre beers.  And on a whim I quickly visited Cleveland to get growlers Fat Heads IBUsive and Columbus Bohdi.  We had quite the turnout for this one, especially since everyone saw the line up leading into it.  It was an incredible 6 hours of drinking, one I never will forget (although I did kind of slowly black out towards the end..so that part may always be forgotten). Take a look below at all the wonderful beers in the lineup:
Now unlike my other tastings, there were only a very small handful of beers that were unsatisfying. Let me discuss the big stand outs thought.  Alpine Pure Hoppiness was a shock because we had it on tap in San Diego and preferred Nelson and Duet much more..but something happened to this bottle and it was out of this world good! The aroma hit you from feet away and the whole room were pure enjoyment as they sipped on it making it the clear winner.
Another big standout was shockingly enough Surly Abrasive.  Now it is rated 100 on Beer Advocate, but it was a few months old so I expected it to lose a lot of its luster. It didn't...it was incredible. It's brothers...Furious and Overrated! were good..but didn't come close to Abrasive.
Another shocker, well not for me since I have had it, was Pipeworks Derketo.  It is a Belgian IPA which most would think isn't too great.  They are wrong..it drinks like a great regular IPA, very hoppy and has a lightness to it even though it is around 10%. The other Pipeworks however were all pretty underwhelming which was sad since used to be so much better.  I personally think they are pumping out too many different styles and not focusing on making just a few quality beers like they were at the beginning.
Three Floyds unfortunately while pumped up by me just couldn't make a big splash due to the two beers offered, Artic Panzer Wolf and Dreadnaught since they both tasted VERY alcoholic.  Half Acre's Vallejo was real tasty and liked by most however.  Good representation of Chicago beers.
Along with the Alpine beers, Pizza Port made a good splash for San Diego beers.  The S.I.P.A. session was a big hit, especially since sessions were just starting to pop up all over.  And Swami's IPA was also really tasty.
Our typical Ohio beers did great also. Fat Heads IBUSive growler was top 5 and a huge hit.  Headhunter IPA and Sunshine Daydream Session were also popular.  Brew Kettle White Rajah did well.  And Columbus Bohdi growler was a big hit, while the Columbus IPA was just average.
As for the rest, they were mostly our typical local beers. Ghandi Bot was probably top 5 as usual...it is so good and rarely found around here.  Ithaca Flower Power, Ballast Point Sculpin, Lagunitas Sucks, Stone Enjoy By, Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger, Bear Republic Apex and others were all staples around here and while very enjoyable just couldn't compete!
Such a great night of drinking that I could write about for hours since IPAs are my passion and I thought our lineup couldn't of gotten much better with the resources I am given.  The only way to even possibly make it better was maybe to throw in a can of Heady and some Hill Farmstead growlers...but hey wasn't need and it was a GREAT night!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Christmas Tasting

Shortly after Stout Tasting Night, I threw in a Christmas Tasting right before the holidays.  There are so many holiday beers but they have an interesting range to them.  There are the Christmas spiced beers, the Winter ales, Winter stouts, Winter IPAs and others.  So of course I wanted to share the Christmas love and have people over to sample all these great brews.  This night saw more of random stop ins by family and friends then a solid gathering which was just as fun. 
My favorite style for the season is the Christmas spiced beers. In that family, the big standouts were Southern Tier 2XMas and Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  Both have that really nice spiced flavor and when I drink them it just feels like Christmas. Another standout for spiced but not pictured because it was a late addition is Hoppin Frog Frosted Frog..I can honestly say this may be my favorite Christmas beer ever..and 5 people at the tasting agreed with me.  Some good Winter beers we enjoyed were Victory Winter Cheers, Bells Winter Warmer Ale and Sierra Nevada Celebration. From what I recall none of the other beers really blew us away whatsoever, but it was a great time and a great way to kick off the holiday week!

Stout Tasting

My second big tasting at my place was Stout night.  I had seen so many stouts from all over and wanted an opportunity to not only try each one but share them with others since it is hard to drink a lot of stouts completely on your own.  You will see below there is a massive number of stouts compared to my other tastings and I can say we did not make it through more than 60-70% of them.  This tasting had a very good turnout with about 10 people tasting. Stouts have such a good variety.  In our tastings we had Milk Stouts, Bourbon Aged Stouts, Chocolate Stouts, Russian Imperial Stouts, Imperial Stouts, Coffee Stouts and a few other random kinds.
Since it has been over 8 months and I didn't use a rating system for this night, I am strictly going off a shady memory.  I do recall that the Yeti's were popular from Great Divide...that included the Oatmeal, the Chocolate and the Espresso.  I also recall my shock when Butternut's Beer & Ale's Moo Thunder Milk Stout was adored by many of the girls at the tasting.  A few other stand outs were Alesmith Speedway Stout, Founders Breakfast Stout, Full Pint's Night of the Living Stout, and Southern Tier Choklat.  Lastly, Sam Adams Gingerbread Stout from what I can remember may have been the nights winner with a strong but not overpowering taste of gingerbread and smooth backbone. This beer night was very filling to say the least, but introduced people to a lot of new stouts and weeks following a lot of the tasters would tell me they went out and bought so and so beer since they loved it at the tasting...so I did the job right and created new fans of the delicious stouts!