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Something To Crow About

January 12th, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Blitzkreig was right on target


The aptly named Hopfest is Darren The Mad Zymurgist's latest creation

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a brand new brewery in Sarasota. And I can definitely say that it’s worth crowing about!

The Mad Crow Brewery & Grill opened its doors last Thursday, and I stopped by the other day to give it a try. In addition to crafting their own ales, the brewery has an eclectic artisan’s menu ranging from mussels and duck hot dogs to Arctic char and a beef shank that serves 6-8 people. There’s even a appetizer on the menu that features bone marrow! For the less adventurous, there’s also standard pub fare such as bangers on a bun and fried mac & cheese.

I ordered a grilled cheddar cheese & bacon sandwich, with a side salad, then talked beer with Darren Fehring, the brewery’s resident Zymurgist, and Jeff behind the bar. The first beer that I had was Mad Crow Blitzkrieg (Mad Crow Brewery & Grill; Sarasota, FL; Marzen; ABV: 7.2), which is their German style offering. Caramel in color, it’s a smooth well balanced beer with big notes of sweet malt and spices. The alcohol content is more than 7% is well concealed, and Blitzkrieg has the feel of a session beer, albeit a robust one. Per Jeff, this has been their most popular beer to date.

Darren, who hails from New Hampshire and has been brewing for more than 20 years, decided to escape the New England winters and set up shop here. He brought out a sample of his latest creation, Mad Crow Hopfest (Mad Crow Brewery & Grill; Sarasota, FL; India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.2) for us to try. Amber in color, it’s a hop head’s dream with several varieties of hops, such as Cascade and Amarillo, complimented by fine notes of Brettanomyces yeast, with a crisp clean finish. Like Blitzkrieg, the alcohol content of this ale isn’t very noticeable.

I finished up by trying a sampler of several other brews currently on tap. Among them:

Mad Crow Winter Wheat; Mad Crow Brewery & Grill; Sarasota, FL; American Pale Wheat Ale; ABV: 5.5. Brewed for the Winter, this golden wheat ale has a smoother, more full-bodied taste than traditional wheat beers.

Mad Crow Oatmeal X; Mad Crow Brewery & Grill; Sarasota, FL; American Amber / Red Ale; ABV: 5.2. The first beer of Mad Crow’s experimental series, this amber ale has hearty notes of flaked oats balanced by a malty backbone. Delicious!

Mad Crow Hoppin’ Mad; Mad Crow Brewery & Grill; Sarasota, FL; American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.5. This APA has rich hoppy notes and makes an excellent session beer.

Mad Crow Perseverance Porter; Mad Crow Brewery & Grill; Sarasota, FL; Porter; ABV: 5.5. A blend between a porter and a pale ale, Perseverance has hardy notes of chocolate and coffee and is velvety smooth from start to finish. The first batch brewed by Mad Crow, hence the name. Darren said that he’d take the “Pepsi Challenge” with his porter against all comers, and I think that Perseverance would more than hold its own.

Ales, artisan dishes, and ambiance…what more can you ask for? The Mad Crow Grill & Brewery will appeal to beer lovers and foodies alike.

A Devilishly Good Beer

January 7th, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Even good boys & girls will welcome this Krampus

The Krampus is a mythical creature whose origin dates back to folktales from the Alpine countries. Resembling a devil, he was said to accompany Santa Claus on Xmas eve, giving lumps of coal and the like to the naughty, while good ole St. Nick doled out presents to those who were nice. Fortunately for us, there’s a pilsener out there that even good boys and girls would love in their stockings!

Southern Tier Krampus (Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial Pilsener; ABV: 9.0) is one wickedly delicious Imperial Helles Lager. Clear copper in color, it has monstrous notes of citrusy and piny hops, complimented by caramel malt and dark fruit. Krampus is finished with lager yeast and aged cold for 30 days. The hoppy presence and sweet malty backbone are perfectly balanced throughout this pilsener, leading to a crisp clean finish.

I highly recommend Krampus whether you’re naughty or nice.

Speaking of Christmas Bells

December 31st, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Bell's Christmas Ale is a nice way to ring in the holidays

I met my friends Brad and Rachael last night at World of Beer to catch up on things. It also gave me the chance to try a holiday ale that I was curious about.

Bell’s Christmas Ale (Bell’s Brewery; Kalamazoo, MI; Scottish Ale; ABV: 5.8) is an interesting, somewhat unconventional Scottish ale. Dark brown in color, it has subtle notes of sweet caramel malt and toffee complimented by cinnamon spices and floral hops with a slightly bitter finish. There’s a nice balance between the malty sweetness and floral hops, with the latter not too pungent as is the case with Anchor Christmas Ale (Anchor Brewing Co.; San Francisco, CA; Winter Warmer; ABV: 5.5).

For round two, I ordered a pint of Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter (Ballast Point Brewing Co.; San Diego, CA; Porter; ABV: 6.0), a rich full-bodied porter. Dark chocolate in color, Black Marlin is silky smooth from start to finish, with big notes of chocolate and coffee balanced by roasted malt and Cascade hops. It reminds me of a traditional British porter brewed with American hops. Definitely a beer worth reeling in!

I highly recommend both of these beers, and wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Christmas Bels

December 27th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

Six Degrees was no apparition this Christmas Eve

Anne and I spent Christmas weekend in Savannah, which is becoming a tradition for us this time of year. As a local stated, “In Augusta, they ask you which church you belong to. In Charleston, they ask what your family name is. In Savannah, they ask what you drink.”

We arrived around dinner time on Christmas Eve, and were pleased to find that quite a few places remained open. We headed over to Moon River Brewing across from our hotel. This wonderfully eclectic brewery has been featured on Ghost Hunters, and is so laid back that you can show up one night, accidentally crash a wedding reception, and then be allowed to stay and drink from the open bar as long as you tip the bartender!

I started out with a pint of Moon River Six Degrees (Moon River Brewing Co.; Savannah, GA; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 5.1), a refreshing golden ale. Golden honey in color, Six Degrees has notes of citrusy fruit such as bananas balanced by honey and light grainy malt. The crisp clean taste of this Belgium complimented the spicy Bajou shrimp and ravioli appetizer that I ordered.

For round two, we joined everyone in a Christmas Eve toast. I had a pint of their winter seasonal, Moon River Nick’s Balls of Gold (Moon River Brewing Co.; Savannah, GA; Belgian India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.0), which is their Belgian Abbey/American IPA hybrid. Amber in color, it has notes of floral hops and cinnamon spices with a nice warming feel at the close. This Belgian IPA paired nicely with the blackened sea scallops that I had for the main course.

After dinner, we headed over to Rocks on the River for dessert. Anne and I shared the Mascarpone cheesecake with blueberry sauce, and struck up a conversation with Dave and Karen behind the bar. I finished up with a pint of Allagash White (Allagash Brewing Co.; Portland, ME; Witbier; ABV: 5.1). Golden in color, this superb witbier has notes of Belgian wheat and citrusy fruit such as oranges up front, followed by coriander spices and a hint of vanilla with a crisp clean finish. Allagash White was a fitting ale to wrap up the evening.

All in all, it was a great evening and start to the weekend.

Moon River Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Rocks on the River on Urbanspoon

Bright Lights Brew City: Take Flight

December 16th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

Magic Hat has brewed a beer to Howl for

After a fun filled weekend in the City, it was time to head back to Florida. After going through security, I stopped by one of my favorite airport bars to grab lunch and have a pint or two. The NY Sports Grill, located in Terminal 5 at JFK, is a little gem of a pub. Along with a decent bar menu, it has 48 beers on tap, with something for everyone. I decided to try the Winter lager from Magic Hat.

Magic Hat Howl (Magic Hat Brewing Co.; South Burlington, VT; Schwarzbier; ABV: 4.6), also known as Magic Hat Howl Black As Night Winter Lager, is the best schwarzbier I’ve had since Sprecher Black Bavarian. Brownish black in color, Howl has subtle notes of sweet chocolate and caramel complimented by roasted malt and light floral hops with a crisp clean aftertaste. The velvety Howl is well balanced, and at 4.6%, it’s a perfect session beer for Winter. It paired well with the Kobe beef sliders that I ordered for lunch.

Kudos to Magic Hat for crafting a schwarzbier to howl about. It was a fitting end to my New York adventure.

In addition to the NY Sports Grill, there are quite a few excellent brewpubs at airports throughout the country where frequent fliers and weary travelers can enjoy libations before taking flight. CheapFlights.com has put together a nice city-by-city guide at the website listed below.

http://marketing.cheapflights.com/guides/beerguide.pdf

Bright Lights Brew City: Prohibitive Favorite

December 15th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

The Blind Tiger is a cozy place to enjoy a pint or two

I’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire on HBO, which focuses on Atlantic City during the days of Prohibition. During this time, speakeasies were popular; in fact, Chumley’s in Greenwich Village started out as a speakeasy in 1926 and remained a neighborhood icon until its closing in 2007. And in between seeing family and enjoying the sights, I stopped by a contemporary Village landmark on Saturday.

The Blind Tiger Ale House, named for the nickname given to speakeasies back in the days of Prohibition, is a hip little brewpub with an exceptional beer list, artisan food, and live music to boot. I was especially pleased to see that they had one of my all-time favorite DIPAs on tap.

I ordered a pint of Green Flash Imperial IPA (Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.0), the first time that I’ve had it on tap in almost three years. While excellent in a bottle, it’s on tap where this ale’s effervescent character is brought out. Golden amber in color, with a burst of citrusy notes up front balanced by sweet malt and piny hops. GF Imperial, which I’ve raved about several times on this blog, is smooth, nutty, and spicy with a crisp clean finish. Definitely one of the classic West Coast IPAs.

I tried the Grilled Cheese w/ Tomato & Olive Tapenade, along with the pub’s homemade tomato soup, then ordered a mug of cask conditioned Sixpoint Chocolate Rye Porter (Sixpoint Craft Ales; Brooklyn, NY; Porter; ABV: 6.3), which was on. Dark brown in color with subtle notes of chocolate complimented by roasted malt and a rye backbone. This porter is silky smooth through and through with a nice dry finish.

I finished up by sampling Sixpoint Righteous Rye Ale (Sixpoint Craft Ales; Brooklyn, NY; Rye Beer; ABV: 6.5), which was also cask conditioned. This amber colored ale has notes of sweet caramel and rye malt complimented by spicy hops. Righteous Rye Ale is an easy drinking beer throughout, with the rye backbone in perfect balance with the sweet and spicy notes.

I highly recommend each of these ales, and strongly endorse a trip to the Blind Tiger Ale House next time you’re in town.

Blind Tiger Ale House on Urbanspoon

Bright Lights Brew City: Elf-N-Magic

December 14th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Happy Hour began in earnest at Stout NYC

Just got back from a long weekend in the Big Apple visiting family. The City’s especially festive this time of year, and it was great catching up on things. I also had the chance to explore some brewpubs while in town, as this series of posts will detail.

My first stop upon settling in on Friday was Stout NYC. The energetic Midtown Manhattan pub has an outstanding selection of beers both on tap and in bottles, as well as a diverse food menu ranging from build-your-own burgers and standard British pub grub to oysters and NY strip steak.

I started with a pint of the sublime Tröegs The Mad Elf (Tröegs Brewing Co.; Harrisburg, PA; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 11.0). This holiday ale is dark ruby in color, with big cherry notes complimented by chocolate malt and honey with a hint of spices at the finish. The Mad Elf is a smooth, well balanced beer throughout, and the 11% alcohol content is well concealed. Truly one of the better Belgian strong ales around, and a special treat for this time of year.

Speaking of Belgian strong ales, I got a chance to try Defiant Christmas Ale (Defiant Brewing Co.; Pearl River, NY; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 7.5) for the first time. Deep chestnut in color, this holiday ale has subtle notes of dark fruit such as raisins balanced by sweet caramel malt and cinnamon spices. DCA is velvety smooth from start to finish, with a nice warming feel at the end.

Later in the evening, I met up with my sister Patty and brother-in-law Bob and we headed over to David Copperfield’s. The Upper East Side pub, like Stout NYC, has an extensive beer and food list with a more laid back atmosphere. I recommended a pint of North Coast Brother Thelonious for Patty, while Bob and I each had a pint of Southern Tier Ne’tra Gal.

North Coast Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale (North Coast Brewing Co.; Fort Bragg, CA; Dubbel; ABV: 9.4), reviewed last year on this blog, is a wonderfully complex, full-bodied dubbel. Named for the late jazz icon Thelonious Monk, this mahogany colored ale has considerable notes of sour cherries up front, balanced by by sweet malt & raisins, with only a slight bitterness at the end. Quite gratifying and silky smooth like the jazz legend’s music.

Southern Tier Ne’tra Gal (Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Black India Pale Ale; ABV: 4.6) is an interesting offering from the Buffalo area brewery. Crafted in the increasingly popular Cascadian dark ale style, Ne’tra Gal is dark mocha in color with rich notes of chocolate and piny hops complimented by toasted malt and raisins. Although categorized as a Black IPA, it has the feel of an English ale or dry stout, and its ABV of under 5% is a lot lighter than typical beers of this style. Still, I enjoyed this eclectic ale and it paired well with the Buffalo burger that I had for dinner.

I recommend each of these ales, particularly The Mad Elf and Brothers Thelonious, and strongly suggest stopping by each of these brewpubs next time you’re in NYC.

Stout Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

David Copperfield's on Urbanspoon

Epic Beer Night

December 9th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

The creme del a creme were on hand for Beer Nerd Night

Something was in the air this past Tuesday night. Maybe it carried over from the Infinium Release Party, but Beer Nerd Show & Tell was something special. Epic was the theme for this evening’s lineup.

Samuel Adams Utopias (2009); Boston Beer Company; Boston, MA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 27.0. The first beer presented by Mark. The 2009 edition is definitely something special. Caramel in color with big notes of sweet caramel, vanilla spices, and an oaky cognac like backbone. Utopias has a nice candy like feel to it and is very warming.

Keegan Ales Super Kitty; Keegan Ales; Kingston, NY; American Strong Ale; ABV: 12.0. The second beer presented by Mark. Pours a deep amber color with notes of sweet caramel and honey balanced by a smokiness from the oak chips used in the brewing process. Super Kitty is comparable to a barley wine in taste and feel.

Captain Lawrence Cuvee De Castleton; Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0. Presented by Dan. Pours a golden orange color, with considerable notes of Brettanomyces yeast and Muscat grapes complimented by malted barley. Cuvee De Castleton has a buttery Chardonnay like character from being aged in French oak barrels.

Dogfish Three Floyds Poppaskull (Dogfish Head Brewery; Milton, DE; Belgian Strong Ale; ABV: 9.5. Presented by Bret. The collaboration ale between DFH and the Munster, Indiana brewery. Poppaskull is golden in color, with notes of cardomom spices and sweet malt balanced by floral hops and a warm brandy like presence from the barrel aging process.

Northern Brewery Twisted Ankle; Northern Brewery; Sarasota, FL; American Blonde Ale; ABV: 5-6%?. Home brewers Stu and Jemma presented their ale. Nice citrusy notes and very easy to drink with a crisp clean aftertaste. Twisted Ankle reminded me of a saison such as Ommegang Hennepin.

Old Flannagan Brewery 9-9-9; Old Flannagan Brewery; Sarasota, FL; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 6-7%?. Homebrewed and presented by Chris. Aged in Hungarian oak barrels, this sour ale has subtle notes of tart fruit and vanilla spices with an earthy wood backbone. 9-9-9 reminded me of Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne.

Cigar City Or; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Black India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.2. Presented by yours truly. Brewed in the trendy Cascadian dark ale style, these ale is part of the Either/Or collaboration with Danish brewery Grassroots and Vermont brewery Hill Farmstead. Or is chocolate in color, with substantial notes of piny hops complimented by roasted malt and chocolate with a woody feel from the cedar barrel aging.

Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout – Brandy Barrel Aged; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.5. The first limited edition CCB beer presented by Meat. It pours a deep black color, with considerable notes of caramel and dark chocolate complimented by dark fruit, roasted malt, and vanilla spices. The brandy presence is brought out by the barrel aging. Takes its place among my favorite imperial stouts.

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Brandy Barrel Aged; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.5. The second limited edition CCB beer presented by Meat. Created from their Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, it’s jet black in color, with big notes of expresso and dark chocolate balanced by roasted malt, vanilla beans, and peppery spices. There’s a nice brandy backbone from the barrel aging. One of the best imperial stouts on the planet.

My thanks to everyone who participated in the Beer Nerd Show & Tell, and for their generosity in sharing some truly exceptional beers. It made for an Epic Beer Night!

Infinite Possibilities

December 8th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Infinium is crafted from a timeless German tradition

The word infinium is derived from the Latin word infinitum, meaning “infinite.” And when the world’s largest craft brewery gets together with the world’s oldest brewery, the possibilities are indeed endless.

Samuel Adams Infinium (Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Bière de Champagne / Bière Brut; ABV: 10.3), a collaboration between the Boston brewery and Germany’s 1000 year old Weihenstephan Brewery, is the first new beer brewed under the German purity law, Reinheitsgebot, in more than a century. Under this law, only four ingredients – malt, hops, yeast, and water — can be used to make beer. Infinium made its Florida debut at Mr. Beery’s last night, as Boston Beer representative Remy gave an overview of the historic cooperative effort between the two breweries, and then proceeded to pop the cork of this Bière de Champagne.

Infinium was pleasantly surprising. I was expecting a basic champagne like ale with high carbonation, but instead was treated to a complex and velvety smooth beer. Infinium pours a golden honey color, with substantial notes of citrusy fruit such as bananas and apricots complimented by Vienna malt, peppery spices, and floral hops with a hint of honey in the backbone. The alcohol content of more than 10% is well camouflaged, and Infinium has the feel of a pilsener mixed with a Flanders red ale.

Infinium will be released in a limited edition this month. I picked up a bottle, and highly recommend that you do too. It is one ale worth popping the cork for this holiday season.

The First Noël

December 4th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Noël is something to sing about

First Thanksgiving, now Hanukkah, with Christmas and Kwanzaa right around the corner. The holiday season is in full swing, and with it a growing list of seasonal ales. And a Belgium ale that I had at Tap & Cork definitely brought tidings of comfort and joy!

Bush de Noël (Brasserie Dubuisson; Pipaix, Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 12.0), known in the USA as Scaldis Noël, is a superb full-bodied beer. It pours a caramel color, with substantial notes of caramel malt, dark fruit, and molasses complimented by honey and floral hops. The latter is drawn out by placing hops flowers in the vats where the beer rests for four to six weeks. Noël is a sweet smooth tasting beer, and the considerable alcohol content, while prominent, doesn’t upset the balance of this exceptional Belgian.

The deliciously complex Noël is an ale worth reveling about.