Archive for the ‘Craft Beer’ Category

Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet – The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale

IMG_6394[1]In as much as porters and stouts easily lend themselves to the fall and winter seasons, ales also play a role this time of year.  Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet – The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale is a solid selection for this time of year.  The attractive redish-gold color helps to put you in the mood to watch the colors of the leaves change. The flavor is a little sweet, but not overly so, and the pumpkin flavor is mellow without slapping you in the face.  If you pay attention, you can even taste a bit of bourbon (cha-ching!) and vanilla, as well as the standard pumpkin spices. Not that “standard” is a letdown, you understand. In fact, it’s the tasty initial flavor upon which many of the other flavors are based. If you don’t mind sitting outside in multiple sweaters on a chilly afternoon with your friends, this ale is the perfect choice while sitting around the campfire and forgetting the day’s toil. Cheers!

Southern Tier Warlock

Blog shotFall is just about my favorite time of year, mostly due to the big selection of richly flavored pumpkin beers. This is the first time I’ve tried Warlock and I have to say I’m very impressed. Southern Tier has a list of rotating seasonal beers known as their Black Water Series, and I think these are their flagship effort. There’s no doubt that the ingredients are premium and the brewing methods meticulous. Their efforts pay off in a major way with Warlock. From what I’ve read, this Imperial Stout is meant as a counterpoint to their other fall beer, “Pumking”. (We’ll have to save that one for another blog post.) In brief, Warlock is a little less pumpkin-flavored than others and has a little more spice. Now, that’s not a bad thing. There is indeed subtle pumpkin flavor lurking about, but the taste of roasted malt is more up front here. Actually, I should say malts — 4 types of malts, in fact, which all shine through and provide a nutty finish that really leaves you feeling warm and cozy. This beer is best served when the cold winds are howling outside and the fire is blazing inside. If you haven’t invited your sweetie to cozy up with you and your Warlock yet, now would be a good time. Cheers!

Southampton Publick House Pumpkin Ale

IMG_6172 FIMG_6167all weather has been making its appearance of late and along with it has come several fall-fashion beers. The great majority of these are, of course, pumpkin beers. There are a ton of them out there and I’d like to make it my mission to try as many as possible and use this knowledge to help you make a more informed decision (I didn’t say the RIGHT decision). The choice I made today comes from the good folks at Southampton Publick House.  Now, it’s possible that I’m spoiled but after trying so many different offerings,  I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer my beers with a ton of flavor right up front. For me,  “session” beers don’t have the same luster as they once did.  However, I’m not averse to them by any stretch. Let’s not lose our heads here! In case you forgot, a session beer can loosely be described as a beer that has a low alcohol content, around 4.5%, so that you can enjoy several in a session. The times between 11:00-3:00 and 7:00-11:00 have, in some circles, been blocked off for prime drinking sessions. Also, the low alcohol content means that you can have several rounds with your chums without getting overtly drunk. Since I don’t care much about keeping my drunkenness a secret, I define a good session beer more in terms of drinkability and flavor, regardless of alcohol content. Now, there are several beers that are so full-flavored that more than one or two would just be overwhelming. Think about how delicious your favorite dessert would taste after a light dinner. Now imagine eating eight of those desserts. Things would start to get really gross, really fast.  Southampton Public House Pumpkin Ale is definitely good as a session beer. It has nice, yet mild, pumpkin flavors and scents, with notes of pie spices such as nutmeg and vanilla. The color is attractive and lends itself to the whole autumn drinking experience. You could serve this beer with Thanksgiving dessert and it would enhance the experience without overpowering it. I recommend this seasonal ale as a first step if you’ve never had a pumpkin beer before and wanted to take the plunge.

Southern Tier Mokah. (Imagine combining Godzilla and Bruce Lee!)

There, I said it and I’d say it again too. If you were smart enough to try the Southern Tier Choklat and the Jah-va singularly, (what do you mean you haven’t?! You march your hinder into that kitchen and crack one open this instant. MARCH!), then just imagine the marriage of these two unstoppable flavor juggernauts! If your taste buds had heads, they would surely explode at the mere anticipation of the impending beer-gasm and so should yours. Now that it’s plain to you that this beer is über full-flavored, you should likely avoid introducing your light-beer swilling brother-in-law to the world of craft beers with this selection or any of the “Black Water” series. They’re not for the faint of palate. You’ve been warned, so let’s move on.

In case you’re interested, here is the official Wikipedia entry for a brief definition of what an imperial stout is:

Imperial stout

Imperial stout, also known as “Russian imperial stout” or “imperial Russian stout,” is a strong dark beer or stout in the style that was brewed in the 18th century by Thrale’s brewery in London, England for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia.[8] In 1781 the brewery changed hands and the beer became known as Barclay Perkins Imperial Brown Stout. When the brewery was taken over by Courage the beer was renamed Courage Imperial Russian Stout.[9] It has a high alcohol content, usually over 9% abv.”

There, now you can speak beer with your chums of lesser sophistication and come out the hero. But don’t get too cocky or they won’t include you in the next round and we can’t have that. So, now that we’ve gotten today’s lesson out of the way, I invite you to try this little gem after a light dinner this weekend. Think of it as your coffee and dessert all together in one handy bottle.  Isn’t it nice to know that Southern Tier has taken the work out of the after-dinner experience? You can thank them by trying all of their fine offerings.

Southern Tier Imperial Choklat Stout (The delightful marriage of candy and booze)

After recently falling for porters and stouts, I’ve moved even further into the genre by trying out some selections that exhibit either a coffee, vanilla or chocolate flavor, right up front. This particular offering is, as the name suggests, all about the chocolate. Let me just emphasize again that this beer is ALL ABOUT THE CHOCOLATE!!

This is one of Southern Tiers’ “Blackwater Series” imperial stouts. (You can read up about the company here.) Per their website, the chocolate goodness comes in part from chocolate malt and bittersweet Belgian chocolate.

I’m here to tell you that this beer delivers the goods in high order! The smell alone will have you reaching for your insulin booster shot.

Your first sip will set the bar for which all other chocolate stouts will be measured.  And at 10% ABV (Alcohol By Volume), the whole ride is going to be a smooth decent into lusciousness. However, given its robust flavor, this is by no means a session beer. You should nurse this baby around the fireplace with your sweetie to set the tone. (She/he can get their own!)  Add some of Barry White’s greatest hits on vinyl and……you’ll get a great nights sleep. Isn’t that nice?

Unfortunately, it’s only a winter release and I neglected to stock up. Be sure to check their website to see what seasonal flavor they currently have available. Truth be told, I had never heard of Southern Tier or their offerings prior to last winter. I have a habit of walking into a liquor store and grabbing whatever catches my eye. I guess marketing departments count on guys like me. Oddly enough, the line, “less filling, tastes great” never sent me running to the corner store to stock up.

3 Floyds Brewpub (Oh, by the way, which one’s pink)

Your ticket to beeradice.

The next time you’re in northwest Indiana for whatever reason, you need to do yourself a HUGE favor and head over to the 3 Floyds Brewpub, 9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster, IN 46321, 219.922.3565 . I wish I had learned about this place 15 years ago when they opened but, although I’ve been drinking their beer for years, my first experience with the actual pub wasn’t until November of 2011. Yeah, a few months ago. While putting our names on the 45-60 minute waiting list (which is typical, no matter when you get there) I peeked in and saw that they were showing a 1970’s Kung Fu movie on the back wall !! Well, that hooked me and whenever I get up to the area, I make it a point to stop in.

Although I was hungry when I got there, I decided to lean back with a choice adult beverage while watching a Gamera movie on the rear wall. My choice? An IPA of course, with the name Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker.  At 100 IBUs and 9% ABV (alcohol by volume), this is a high intensity little cutie. The flavor is difficult to describe and the menu description didn’t help. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t really warm up to it, as much as I wanted. It was plenty hoppy but the overall flavor put me off. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t finish it, because I did. It just ain’t kosher to waste booze. Dig?

The fish is mild but the slight grill char added a nice “earthy” element and the citrus salad really gives this dish a superb brightness that was unexpected. (Mostly because I was watching Gamera and wasn’t paying attention to the food.) The sliced jalapenos were just “sauce for the goose, Mr. Savik”. It isn’t a gut-buster portion, not by any stretch, but as I’ve mentioned before, when excellent ingredients are used in tandem with good recipes and a staff that give a sh** about the results,  it’s worth the money. This ain’t the Taco Bell  value menu. Thang Gawd. To compliment this dish, I tried a much less robust beer, Pride and Joy. From their website: This beer is 3 Floyd’s American “Mild” Ale. With a more assertive hop profile than British Milds and a relatively low alcohol content this is a great session beer that still has Pale Ale characteristics. Pride and Joy is a golden color with a fruity nose and a light caramel sweetness to balance the crisp finish. A truly refreshing ale that drinks easily. In case you aren’t familiar with the term “session beer” I have included a brief definition from the Beeradvocate website: Session beer
n.
Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers within a reasonable time period or session without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication. (Yes, you can drink and enjoy beer without getting drunk.) Here is a link to a website with a much more in-depth definition: http://beeradvocate.com/articles/653 So, in short, 3 Floyds is the basement man-cave I’ll never have but will ALWAYS want. The beer list is extensive, eclectic and another word that starts with an “e” that would work super well here but at the moment, escapes me. And just as cool is the menu. You’re bound to find just the right food to go with your beer. Please, the next time you’re there, drop me a line and tell me what movie is on! Thanks in advance.

Three Floyds Brew Pub – 9750 Indiana Parkway-Munster, IN -46321 – 219-922-3565

KUNG FOOD MASTER RANK: BLUE BELT WITH 2 STRIPES

Hopslam – Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

At last, my beer has come along…….. my sober days are over……..and life is like a song. Please tell me you know what that refers to. Anyway, it’s getting close to that time of year when Bells Brewing releases their LOOOOOONG awaited Hopslam Ale. This bad mother-swinger is a DOUBLE IPA that delivers the  goods in high order, however start saving now, because it’s only available from January to March (give or take a couple weeks). Yeah, you guessed it, this offering is on my top 10 list of favorite beers and since I’ve only ever had 10 different beers, they were kind of a shoe-in (kidding).  Hop-heads everywhere salivate at the mere mention of its arrival. Why? Well, let’s take a look at the write-up from the good folks at Bells:

Bell’s Hopslam Ale!! I’m so happy…..sniff…….

Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell’s Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell’s repertoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style

Now that you’ve read the description, be advised that this beer is NOT for the uninitiated. This guy is up in your face and WAY up into your business! The flavors are big and bold and should not be a “gateway” beer if you’re trying to break into the world of IPA beers. Go ahead, ask one of your beer-geek pals. There are much more subtle ways to get a feel for the taste of hops.

Before you head down to the highbrow liquor store, be prepared for the price tag. A six-pack will set you back $16-$18 American dollars. Now, we routinely pay at least $3.00 for lesser beers at the pub / club and never think twice about it, but since we’re made to pay the $3.00 per beer x6 all at one time, the total just seems more expensive than we’d like. Perception is everything but once you get a taste of this liquid lust, you’ll come to realize that it’s a bargain at twice the price.

In short, this beer is a real gem for those who are somewhat used to the robust flavor of hoppy beers. The grapefruit / malt flavor is up front where the action is and once combined with the high hoppitudes and supporting flavors, this one simply moves to the head of the class. If you’re leery about the strong flavors, ask one of your hophead buddies for a swig or two. But be prepared to get hooked!