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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

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.

The Next Big Thing

November 7th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

I enjoyed the exceptionally complex Coton...


while Seven Years Past rocked the house

Voted “Best Original Local Band” in Sarasota Creative Loafing, in addition to being a finalist for opening 97X’s The Next Big Thing concert in Tampa next month, Seven Years Past is one of the Tampa Bay area’s premier bands. Fronted by Lisa Larkin, with Mark Medeiros on guitar, my friend Bret Calltharp on bass, and Brett Jones on drums, the band performed an acoustic set at Mr. Beery’s Thursday night. Featuring songs from their 24 Days in May CD, from the riveting Chemical Woman to the introspective “You Said”, 7YP’s combination of soulful lyrics and raw musical power brought the house down.

As an added bonus to the evening, I welcomed the chance to savor a remarkable old ale that Mark had on tap. The Bruery Coton (The Bruery; Placentia, CA; Old Ale; ABV: 14.5) is as smooth as it is complex, and takes its place alongside Hair of the Dog Adam and Harviestoun Ola Dubh as my favorite old ales. This chocolate colored ale has notes of dark fruit such as cherries and raisins complimented by caramel, vanilla spices, and a bourbon feel in the backbone. Coton reminds me of the now retired DuClaw Repent, one of my favorite all-time Belgiums, in that the alcohol content isn’t too noticeable for a beer in the 14-15% range. It’s easy to order a second pint of this deliciously eclectic ale.

For additional information on Seven Years Past, please go to the band’s website at http://sevenyearspast.moonfruit.com/#, and don’t forget to vote! And be sure to check out 7YP the next time they play in your area. They’re truly The Next Big Thing.

99 Bottles of Beer: Part Deux

October 10th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Unplugged Cherry Stout was one of the evening's highlights

As was the Troegenator

Anne and I attended 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall Part 2 at Mr. Beery’s on Friday night. We were on vacation when the first one took place, and were fortunate enough to catch this one. For $20 apiece, we each received some nice glassware and participated in sampling beers 51-99.

In addition to trying some old favorites, I had the opportunity to sample many new beers for the first time. Some that truly stood out are listed below.

Bullfrog Double Coffee Stout; Bullfrog Brewery; Williamsport, PA; American Stout; ABV: 7.3. This stout was actually brought in as a growler by Dave, and was the first beer sampled. A rich mocha color, with sublime notes of Expresso coffee complimented by dark chocolate and roasted malt. Very creamy and delicious, DCS has the feel of an imperial stout to it.

New Belgium Lips of Faith – Eric’s Ale; New Belgium Brewing Co.; Fort Collins, CO; American Wild Ale; ABV: 7.0. A superb sour ale. Amber in color, with big notes of tart fruit such as cherries and green apples with a crisp clean finish.

New Glarus Unplugged Cherry Stout; New Glarus Brewing Co.; New Glarus, WI; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 6.5. A delicious, full-bodied cherry stout. Chocolate in color with big notes of Wisconsin Montmorency cherries complimented by chocolate and sweet malt. This stout would make an excellent dessert beer.

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red; New Glarus Brewing Co.; New Glarus, WI; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 5.1. One of the brewery’s signature beers. This deep red ale has outrageous notes of Wisconsin Montmorency cherries complimented by an oaky backbone and a tart finish similar to a sour ale. Like drinking a black cherry soda with a kick!

Port Brewing Older Viscosity; Port Brewing Co.; San Marcos, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 12.0. This jet black strong ale is aged in bourbon barrels, and the substantial notes of bourbon are very apparent throughout the beer, with a very nice oakiness in the background from the aging process. There’s hints of chocolate and vanilla spices as well, and the potency of this ale is very apparent. Older Viscosity reminds me of Ola Dubh on steroids!

Real Ale Sisyphus; Real Ale Brewing Co.; Blanco, TX; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.5. A smooth, full-bodied barley wine. There were three vintage bottles on hand (2007, 2008, 2009), with the 2008 offering being the best. Sisyphus is copper in color and the notes of honey, caramel malt, and piny hops are perfectly balanced.

Sixpoint Grand Crue; Sixpoint Craft Ales; Brooklyn, NY; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 12.4. A rich, oak aged strong ale. Big notes of caramel, brown sugar, and dark fruit with a bourbon feel in the backbone. Quite smooth for a beer of its potency.

SKA Modus Hoperandi IPA; SKA Brewing; Durango, CO; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.8. Continuing a trend in the craft beer industry, this IPA comes in a can. Amber in color with generous notes of Cascade and floral hops complimented by caramel malt. Very crisp and refreshing.

Surly Brutal Bitter; Surly Brewing Co.; Brooklyn Center, MN; Premium Bitter/ESB; ABV: 4.2. Another excellent canned beer, this is a very creamy and malty ESB. Light amber in color with the rich malty presence balanced by sweet caramel and floral hops.

Surly Furious; Surly Brewing Co.; Brooklyn Center, MN; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.2. Continuing the trend of superb canned beers, this is an absolute hop bomb. The huge notes of citrusy and piny hops are apparent throughout this ale, with a slight bitterness at the end. Furious has the feel of an Imperial IPA to it.

Tröegs Trogenator; Tröegs Brewing Co.; Harrisburg, PA; Dopplebock; ABV: 8.2. A truly outstanding dopplebock. Deep mahogany in color and tasty as hell, with big notes of sweet caramel complimented by dark fruit and cinnamon spices.

Wachusett Green Monsta; Wachusett Brewing Co.; Westminster, MA; American Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. Named after the famed wall at Fenway Park, this complex APA is like a strong ale mixed with an IPA. Light copper in color with notes of sweet malt balanced by caramel and citrusy hops.

Kudos to Mark for his generosity and for putting together such a wonderful evening.

Making My Case

February 20th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Green Flash Imperial IPA makes a strong case

Another year, another Best Beers list. I decided to do a new slant on this year’s All-Time Favorites post, and create my dream case. The criteria is as follows:

a. Retired beers have been omitted. Ales such as DuClaw Repent, Blue Point No Apologies Imperial IPA, and Thomas Hardy’s Ale were among my favorites, but I want to list beers that are currently available to everyone.

b. Extreme beers, e.g. ABV of 20% or more, have been omitted as well. Samuel Adams Utopias and BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin have more in common with a liquor than a conventional beer.

c. I’ve limited the list to one beer per brewery. This not only prevents the list from getting too top heavy with certain breweries, e.g. St. Bernardus, DFH, Stone, etc., but also allows me to feature some excellent regional brews as well. Although one beer on this list, Life & Limb, is a collaboration between DFH & Sierra Nevada, it’s technically considered to be brewed from the latter and will be listed under that brewery.

And now, without further adieu, is my Ultimate Case, 2010 Edition:

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen; Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkerla; Bamberg, Germany; Rauchbier; ABV: 5.4. Brewed in the classic rauchbier tradition, this marzen has an incredible smoky nose and taste to match. The big hickory smoke bite reminds me of smoked bacon, sausage, etc., and there’s a hint of malt and light hops as well.

Anchor Old Foghorn; Anchor Brewing Co.; San Francisco, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 8.8. An exceptional barley wine from Anchor Brewing. The toffee and sweet caramel malt is balanced by dark fruit, citrusy hops, & spices. This ale has the taste and feel of a classic English barley wine.

Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock; Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying; Aying, Germany; Doppelbock; ABV: 6.7. This is an absolutely superb doppelbock. The rich malty taste is complimented by hints of sweet chocolate & spicy hops. Wunderbar!

Bell’s HopSlam Ale; Bell’s Brewery, Inc.; Kalamazoo, MI; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0. An absolute hop bomb! The uber hoppy presence is well balanced by sweet malt and a taste of honey. Truly one of the best IPAs out there.

Brewer’s Art Ozzy Ale; Brewer’s Art; Baltimore, MD; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. A smooth & crisp tasting Belgian style ale. There’s a nice array of floral hops and Belgian spices, with a slight peppery finish at the end.

Brooklyn Black OPS; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.0. A truly outstanding Russian Imperial stout from Brooklyn. A wonderfully complex mix of chocolate, roasted malt, and spices. Like a chocolate milkshake with a kick!

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Old Ale; ABV: 10.0. An excellent old ale from the outstanding brewery Cigar City. There’s a hint of tobacco up front, followed by an array of chocolate, caramel malt, sweet fruit, and cinnamon spices with a slightly bitter finish.

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA; Deschutes Brewery; Bend, OR; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.8. A big, bold hop bomb. The citrusy hops hit you up front, and are balanced by sweet caramel & a piney finish.

Dogfish Squall IPA; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.0. An unfiltered, bottle conditioned, and dry-hopped version of their 90 Minute IPA. The taste is bold and complex. There’s a gust of citrusy, piney, and spicy hops up front, complimented by sweet caramel and a malty presence at the end.

Green Flash Imperial IPA; Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.0. Smooth, nutty, & spicy. A crisp citrusy burst up front, complimented by sweet malt and a piney hops finish. Another of the classic West Coast IPAs.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 16 Reserve; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.0. A superior ale aged in a 16 year old whiskey cask. The hint of whiskey is complimented by chocolate, dark malt, and vanilla spices. Similar to an Imperial Porter, it’s very smooth and robust with an exceptional finish.

La Caracole Saxo; Brasserie Caracole; Farmignoul, Belgium; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0. An incredibly smooth Belgian strong pale ale. The 8% ABV isn’t noticeable, and the sweet malt taste is complimented by citrusy hops, light fruit, and spices. Saxo finishes crisp and clean, and I could drink this ale all day.

New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale; New Belgium Brewing Inc.; Fort Collins, CO; Belgian Dark Ale; ABV: 5.5. While their excellent Fat Tire is better known, this is actually the best beer crafted by New Belgium. This would easily be my session beer if I could get it here in Florida. The nutty taste is well balanced by subtle hints of sweet caramel, roasted coffee, & cocoa chocolate.

Ommegang Ommegeddon; Brewery Ommegang; Cooperstown, NY; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 8.0. Another outstanding Belgian style ale from Ommegang. This saison is very crisp and refreshing. There’s a nice bite of tart and citrusy fruit up front, balanced by Brettanomyces yeast, sweet malt, and grassy hops with a clean dry finish.

Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; American Strong Ale; ABV: 9.5. While the alcohol is a bit more noticeable than their original Dead Guy Ale, it still compliments the sweet malt, caramel, & cascade hops to deliver a rich & smooth tasting beer. In short, as enjoyable as the original maibock, but more complex & certainly with more of a kick.

Russian River Pliny The Elder; Russian River Brewing Co.; Santa Rosa, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0. Another big & bold IPA with a surprisingly smooth taste. The grapefruit flavor up front highlights the array of citrusy hops, and is complimented by roasted malt & caramel. The finish is crisp & clean.

Samuel Smith’s The Famous Taddy Porter; Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery; Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; English Porter; ABV: 5.0. The quintessential English porter. A creamy, coffee tasting beer balanced by hints of chocolate & malt.

Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Life & Limb; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 10.2. A collaboration between Dogfish and Sierra Nevada, it took a lot of effort to find this beer, but the hunt was definitely worth it! This is a very complex beer to say the least. I noticed a smoky, almost tobacco like taste up front, followed by chocolate, sweet molasses, dark fruit, and possibly a little vanilla as well. There’s even a woody feel to Life & Limb that reminds me of Dogfish’s own Palo Santo Marron, albeit a slightly lighter version.

Southern Tier Pumking; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 9.0. This pick surprised me, as I’m always singing the praises of their Southern Tier Unearthly (Southern Tier Brewing Company; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.0). Pumking, however, is quite simply the best of the pumpkin ales and deserves to be on this list. It’s bold & spicy with a wonderful pumpkin taste from start to finish. There’s even a hint of pie crust in the flavor! For my hop-head moments, I would substitute this choice for Unearthly, which is quite possibly the best IPA around. A wonderful full bodied ale, the citrusy hops taste is well balanced by sweet malt. It’s very smooth for a hop bomb!

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 8.6. An absolutely outstanding Belgian strong ale. Brewed on a limited basis annually, Epic is both smooth and complex. The rich chocolate taste is complimented by roasted malt, vanilla, orange peel, and spices.

St. Bernardus Abt 12; Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV; Watou, Belgium; Quadrupel; ABV: 10.5. A wonderfully complex balance of spices, ripe fruit, & sweet malt. The gold standard of Belgium quads, and one of the world’s best beers period.

Terminal Gravity IPA; Terminal Gravity Brewing Co.; Enterprise, OR; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.9. This IPA has a big reputation in the Northwest, and it’s well deserved. The big citrusy hops up front are complimented by hints of caramel & a sweet malt finish.

Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine; Three Floyds Brewing Co.; Munster, ID; Barley Wine; ABV: 12.5. An superb offering from the acclaimed Three Floyds Brewery. Behemoth has a sweet caramel taste up front, which is complimented by hints of tart fruit, raisins, roasted malt, and piny hops with a slightly bitter finish.

Tripel Karmeliet; Brouwerij Bosteels; Buggenhout, Belgium; Tripel; ABV: 8.4. An absolutely outstanding abbey ale. The taste is quite smooth, with a nice array of citrus fruit up front complimented by sweet malt. flowery hops, and spices.

Honorable Mention 6-Pack:

Boundary Bay Imperial IPA; Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro; Bellingham, WA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.5. This IPA is an absolute hop bomb, with the big Cascade hops taste well balanced by roasted malt & a piney finish.

BrewDog Dogma; BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Herbed / Spiced Beer; ABV: 7.8. A very crisp and drinkable beer. The taste is well balanced between the sweet malt, honey, kola nut, poppy seed, guarana, and spices with a nice clean finish. Its alcohol content of nearly 8% isn’t noticeable, so Dogma has the feel of a session beer.

DuClaw Devil’s Milk; DuClaw Brewing Co.; Bel Air, MD; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.0. A very potent barley wine. The sweet caramel malt is well balanced by dark fruit and citrusy hops.

Ellicott Mills Bock of the Bat; Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.; Ellicott Mills, MD; Maibock; ABV: 7.0. Brewed in the classic Alpenhof style of beer. An excellent bock with a roasted, malty taste balanced with dark fruit.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA; Ninkasi Brewing Co.; Eugene, OR; India Pale Ale; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.7. This is a crisp, smooth tasting IPA. The citrusy hops, particularly grapefruit, is noticable up front, and is well balanced by biscuity malt & a dry finish.

Oskar Blues Ten FIDY; Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery; Lyons, CO; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 10.0. This is an excellent Russian imperial stout, with the rich milk chocolate taste complimented by coffee, dark fruit, and roasted malt. Ten FIDY packs a punch at 10% ABV, so it’s definitely a beer to be savored!

Georgia On My Mind

December 25th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

River Street was hopping during the holidays

River Street was hopping during the holidays

Anne and I went over to Savannah for a few days during the holidays, and everything was very festive. The weather was great and we took in the sights. There was also several beers worth noting as well.

The Captain’s Porter (Moon River Brewing Co.; Savannah, GA; Porter; ABV: 6.0) is a sweet and very rich porter. The milk chocolate taste is complimented by molasses and roasted malt. Captain’s Porter finishes smooth & dry, and is very drinkable.

Savannah Fest Beer (Moon River Brewing Co.; Savannah, GA; Marzen; ABV: 4.9) is light and crisp for a marzen. There’s a sweet malty taste up front, followed by sweet fruit, spices, light hops, and a slightly bitter finish.

Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale (Sweetwater Brewing Co.; Atlanta, GA; American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.4) has gotten a lot of press and I was curious to try it. There’s a nice balance of cascade hops, tart fruit, and toasted malt, and 420 goes down quite smoothly. I have to admit, however, that I was expecting more given all the hype.

Lucky Kat (Magic Hat Brewing Co.; Burlington, VT; India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.8) was a pleasant surprise. I have always been a fan of Magic Hat, and Lucky Kat was very enjoyable. There’s a nice presence of piney hops up front, followed by sweet malt, caramel, and dark fruit with a slight bitterness at the end. This IPA paired well with the delicious seafood that we had at Fiddlers Crab House. Lucky Kat would be an excellent session beer for hop heads.

It’s worth noting to fans of New Belgium that several of their beers, including the excellent Fat Tire and outstanding 1554, are now available at most pubs in Savannah. I tried both for the first time in Seattle, and enjoyed the latter with the always superb lobster ravioli at Churchill’s Pub.

Prior to our trip, Anne & I got together with our friends Brad, Rachael, Bret, and Kelly at WOB for a few beers. There were a couple of Belgiums that truly stood out.

Saxo (Brasserie Caracole; Farmignoul, Belgium; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0) is incredibly smooth and is now my favorite Belgian strong pale ale. The 8% ABV isn’t noticeable, and the sweet malt taste is complimented by citrusy hops, light fruit, and spices. Saxo finishes crisp and clean, and I could drink this ale all day.

Delirium Noël (Brouwerij Huyghe; Melle, Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 10.0) is at the other end of the spectrum, and is a truly outstanding dark ale. An excellent Xmas brew, the array of wintry spices up front are complimented by sweet fruit, toasted malt, and caramel. Noel is also quite easy to drink considering the 10% alcohol content.

Happy Holidays everyone, and Merry Xmas!

Churchill's Pub on Urbanspoon

Fiddler Crab House & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

The RightEOUS Stuff

November 24th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Sublimely is a righteous ale indeed

Sublimely is a righteous ale indeed

Since I’d been so high on the Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale in my last post, I decided to try another one of their highly rated ales. Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 8.7) is a smooth and rich tasting beer that was all I expected it to be. There’s a nice bite of citrusy hops up front, balanced by roasted malt and a hint of caramel with a clean piney aftertaste. The drinkability is fairly easy for an ale with an alcohol content of nearly 9%. Sublimely compares favorably with other American strong ales such as their own Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale and Double Dead Guy Ale (2009) from Rogue.

In addition to Sublimely, I tried a couple of other beers this week that turned out to be righteous as well.

Dogma (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Herbed / Spiced Beer; ABV: 7.8) is a very crisp and drinkable beer. The taste is well balanced between the sweet malt, honey, kola nut, poppy seed, guarana, and spices with a nice clean finish. Its alcohol content of nearly 8% isn’t noticeable, so Dogma has the feel of a session beer. It compares favorably to other herbed / spiced beers such as Dogfish Midas Touch Golden Elixir.

Terrapin Side Project Pumpkinfest (Terrapin Beer Co.; Athens, GA; Special Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 6.1) has been brewed as a combination of a pumpkin ale and an Oktoberfest beer. The taste is wonderfully complex, with the light pumpkin taste balanced by an array of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as roasted malt and caramel. Kudos to Terrapin for brewing this interesting and eclectic ale.

Spin The Wheel

November 15th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Stone has brewed one truly Epic ale

Stone has brewed one truly Epic ale

There’s an old saying that to win at roulette, you should always bet on black. And there were several dark beers that I tried over the past week that are winners in their own right.

Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale (Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 8.6) is an absolutely outstanding Belgian strong ale. Brewed on a limited basis annually, Epic is both smooth and complex. The rich chocolate taste is complimented by roasted malt, vanilla, orange peel, and spices. The ABV of nearly 9% isn’t very noticeable either, so this ale can definitely sneak up on you. Quite frankly, I like it even better than Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue), and compare it favorably to another outstanding Belgium, Gulden Draak Dark Triple (Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.; Ertvelde, Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 10.5). Kudos to Stone for brewing this excellent ale.

Oskar Blues Ten FIDY (Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery; Lyons, CO; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 10.0) has been getting a lot of hype recently, and since I’m a fan of the brewery, it made sense to give this beer a try. I’m pleased to report that this is an excellent stout, with a big bold presence. The taste is an array of milk chocolate, coffee, dark fruit, and roasted malt. Comparable to other outstanding imperial stouts such as Brooklyn Black Ops, Ten Fidy is definitely a beer to be savored.

Keweenaw Widow Maker Black Ale (Keweenaw Brewing Co.; Houghton, MI; Schwarzbier; ABV: 5.2) turned out to be a pleasant surprise. This schwarzbier is quite smooth and very drinkable, with the light chocolate taste balanced by hints of roasted malt, toffee, dark fruit, & nuts. This ale can definitely be a session beer, as it’s a lighter alternative to such outstanding schwarzbiers as Sprecher Black Bavarian.

Last but not least, I asked Tim, the bartender at WOB, to make me a Black Death. A fusion of Guinness Extra Stout & Rogue Dead Guy Ale, this combination was first made famous at The Flying Saucer. Needless to say, it was as good as advertised, and highly recommended.

Support Your Local 2

June 30th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Local 2 is a nice follow up to Local 1

Local 2 is an even better follow up to Local 1

I picked up a bottle of Brooklyn Local 2 (Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 9.0) the other night. I found it to be one of the better Belgian strong dark ales, comparable to Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue). It goes down so smoothly that you question whether the ABV is really 9%. The sweet chocolate taste is fully complimented by roasted malt, dark fruit, & citrusy hops. I think it’s even better than Brooklyn Local 1, their highly acclaimed Belgian Strong Pale Ale, which has a similar 9% ABV.

Another beer that’s deceptively smooth for a high ABV is Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA (Harpoon Brewery; Boston, MA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0). This Imperial IPA is among the best out there, and I highly recommend it. The big citrusy hop bite up front is well balanced by spices, light malt, & a crisp, slightly bitter aftertaste.

Give Brooklyn Local 2 & Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA a try, but be careful. They’re both very drinkable ales and can easily be mistaken for a session beer.

Favorite Beers

April 13th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

Here is a list of my Favorite Beers. I have listed them in alphabetical order, along with the brewery, location, style, ABV content, and some comments for your reference.

A – J

Anchor Steam Beer; Anchor Brewing Co.; San Francisco, CA; Steam Beer; ABV: 4.9. An absolute classic. Crisp & dry with a light hoppy balance.

Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock; Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying; Aying, Germany; Doppelbock; ABV: 6.7. A superb doppelbock. Rich malty taste with hints of sweet chocolate & spicy hops. Wunderbar!

Bell’s HopSlam Ale; Bell’s Brewery, Inc.; Kalamazoo, MI; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0. Uber hoppy with a taste of honey.

Blithering Idiot; Weyerbacher Brewing Co.; Easton, PA; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.1. A beer to be savored; sweet & slightly fruity with a hint of caramel. If you drink more than one or two of these, the name of this beer will be very appropriate!

Bock of the Bat; Ellicott Mills Brewing Co.; Ellicott Mills, MD; Maibock; ABV: 7.0. An excellent bock with a roasted, malty taste balanced with dark fruit.

Brewer’s Art Ozzy Ale; Brewer’s Art; Baltimore, MD; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. Smooth & crisp, with a slight peppery finish at the end.

Brewer’s Art Resurrection; Brewer’s Art; Baltimore, MD; Dubbel; ABV: 7.2. Strong & flavorful, but not too sweet.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 10.6. Very flavorful with hints of roasted malt & chocolate.

Brooklyn Black OPS (2008); Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.0. Another great Russian Imperial stout from Brooklyn. Like a chocolate milkshake with a kick!

Brooklyn Lager; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; American Amber; ABV: 5.2. A classic red lager with a crisp, clean taste.

Brother Adam’s Bragget Ale; Atlantic Brewing Co.; Bar Harbor, ME; Bragott; ABV: 11.8. Similar to a Barley Wine. Very flavorful with a hint of honey.

Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue); Bières de Chimay (Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont); Baileux (Chimay), Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 9.0. The gold standard of Belgium strong ales. A nice balance of caramel, roasted malt, & dark fruit.

Chocolate Stout; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; American Stout; ABV: 6.0. Uber chocolate taste with hints of roasted malt & hops.

Corsendonk Pater Abbey Brown Ale; Brouwerij Corsendonk; Oud-Turnhout, Belgium; Dubbel; ABV: 7.5. A bold, spicy taste with hints of dried fruit.

Dead Guy Ale; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; Maibock; ABV: 6.5. Classic maibock. Smooth taste is well balanced between the hops & sweet malt.

Dogfish Burton Baton; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.0. A bold & refreshing double IPA.

Dogfish Immort Ale; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.0. Taste is smooth, creamy, & slightly hoppy at the end, with a hint of oak.

Dogfish Olde School Barley Wine; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Barley Wine; ABV: 15.0. A complex beer that’s extreme in its taste. Worth every sip.

Dogfish Palo Santo Marron; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; American Brown Ale; ABV: 12.0. Crafted in tanks made of Paraguayan Palo Santo wood, this is a unique beer. Roasted malt up front is balanced by sweet caramel & vanilla, with a slightly woody bitterness.

Flying Dog Double Dog Double IPA; Flying Dog Brewery; Frederick, MD; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.5. Big hoppy bite balanced by toasted malt.

Gordon Imperial IPA; Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery; Lyons, CO; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.7. Very drinkable; spicy with a citrus appeal. Great either on tap or in the can (best beer I’ve ever had out of a can).

Green Flash Barleywine Style Ale (Vintage); Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. Surprisingly hoppy for a barley wine. Well balanced by hints of malt & caramel.

Green Flash Imperial IPA; Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.0. Smooth, nutty, & spicy. Along with Stone’s Ruination IPA, also out of the San Diego area, the best IPA I have ever drank.

Guinness Extra Stout (Original); Guinness Ltd.; Dublin, Ireland; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 6.0. Classic Irish stout. My goto beer in many bars.

Heavy Seas Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale); Clipper City Brewery; Baltimore, MD; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. A wonderful, English style barley wine.

Heavy Seas Holy Sheet (Uber Abby Ale); Clipper City Brewery; Baltimore, MD; Belgian Strong Ale; ABV: 9.0. Holy s—! An Abbey ale with a dark, fruity taste complimented by a bit of spiciness.

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon (Hop3 Ale); Clipper City Brewery; Baltimore, MD; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.3. Very smooth; well balanced between the malt base & citrus hoppiness.

Jai Alai IPA; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.5. One of the smoothest tasting IPAs around. A nice balance of piney hops & malt.

John Barleycorn Barley Wine Ale; Mad River Brewing Co.; Blue Lake, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 9.5. Very balanced and highly drinkable.

John Courage Amber; Scott & Newcastle UK Ltd.; Edinburgh, Scotland (UK); English Pale Ale; ABV: 4.7. Very crisp & clean tasting amber ale. I hope that Newcastle redistributes it back in the USA.

K – Z

Maharaja; Avery Brewing Company; Boulder, CO; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.5. An absolute hop monster, with a bold grapefruit taste and a nice dry finish.

Nethergate Old Growler; Nethergate Brewery Co., Ltd.; Claire, Suffolk, United Kingdom; English Porter; ABV: 5.5. Very bold & flavorful with a chocolate malt feel.

Ola Dubh Special 16 Reserve; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.0. A superior ale aged in a 16 year old whiskey cask. Similar to an Imperial Porter; robust with an exceptional finish.

Old Crustacean; Rogue Ales Brewery; Newport, OR; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.3. Now there’s a barley wine! Very hoppy, sweet, with a strong yet smooth alcoholic taste. Savor this one.

Old Engine Oil; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 6.0. A smooth, caramel taste with a hint of roasted malt & chocolate.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout; North Coast Brewing Co.; Fort Bragg, CA; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.0. Expresso & sweet chocolate flavors are balanced by a slightly hoppy presence.

Oliver’s Best Bitter; The Wharf Rat/Oliver Breweries Ltd.; Baltimore, MD; English Bitter; ABV: 4.8. Clean, crisp taste with a dry bitter finish. Compares favorably to classic English bitters.

Oliver’s Hot Monkey Love; The Wharf Rat/Oliver Breweries Ltd.; Baltimore, MD; Old Ale; ABV: 11.0. A great winter warmer ale. Comparable to Thomas Hardy’s Ale.

Rodenbach Classic (Red); Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V.; Roeselare, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 5.0. Tart & sweet with a sour cherry bite. An extremely drinkable Belgium red ale.

Salvator Doppel Bock; Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu AG; Munchen, Germany; Dopplebock; ABV: 7.9. A sweet malty taste complimented by hints of caramel & chocolate.

Samuel Adams Double Bock (Imperial Series); Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Doppelbock; ABV: 9.5. Smooth drinking & well balanced doppebock. Sweet malt with a hint of dark fruit. Hard to believe the ABV is 9.5!

Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock; Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Bock; ABV: 5.6. A rich, cocoa chocolate taste with hints of caramel & vanilla.

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout; Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery; Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 5.0. Very smooth with hints of oats & coffee.

Samuel Smith’s The Famous Taddy Porter; Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery; Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom; English Porter; ABV: 5.0. A creamy, coffee tasting porter balanced by hints of chocolate & malt.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2009); Sierra Nevada Brewing Co; Chico, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 9.6. A very complex ale. Hoppiness is surprising for a barley wine.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.2. Bold & hoppy, with a zesty, citrus appeal. The best of Sierra’s excellent line of IPAs.

Skullsplitter; Orkney Brewery; Orkney, Scotland (UK); Barley Wine; ABV: 8.5. Hard to categorize..is it a barley wine, wee heavy, or both? Big malt presence with hints of caramel & raisins.

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale; Smuttynose Brewing Co.; Portsmouth, NH; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 6.0. A very enjoyable pumpkin ale. Like drinking a pumpkin pie!

Smuttynose Wheat Wine; Smuttynose Brewing Co.; Portsmouth, NH; Wheat Wine; ABV: 10.7. A big, bold wheat wine with a well balanced array of barley, wheat, & fruit.

Southern Tier Harvest Ale; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB); ABV: 5.2. A very drinkable ESB. The citrusy taste is well balanced by a hint of sweet malt.

Southern Tier Pumking; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 9.0. The best of the pumpkin ales. Bold & spicy.

Southern Tier Unearthly; Southern Tier Brewing Company; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.0. A wonderful full bodied Imperial IPA. Citrusy hops with a hint of sweet malt.

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 7.2. A burst of citrus hoppiness with an smooth, oak aftertaste.

Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 2009 Double Dry Hopped; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.3. A very drinkable barley wine. Big hoppy presence is balanced by sweet malt & spices.

Stone Ruination IPA; Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.7. Like an IPA on steroids! Very hoppy with a grapefruit-like taste. The San Diego area does hops right (see Green Flash Imperial IPA above).

St. Bernardus Abt 12; Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV; Watou, Belgium; Quadrupel; ABV: 10.5. A wonderfully complex balance of spices, ripe fruit, & sweet malt. A truly outstanding Belgium quad.

Thomas Hardy’s Ale; O’Hanlon’s Brewing Co; Clyst St. Lawrence, United Kingdom; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.7. Full bodied & smooth with a hint of fruit. Definitely a beer to be savored…slowly.

Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend (Quadrupel); Brewery Ommegang; Cooperstown, NY; Quadrupel; ABV: 9.8. An excellent quad with a sweet, malty taste balanced by hints of sour cherries.

Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout; Otter Creek Brewery; Middlebury, VT; Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 5.9. An array of roasted mailt, chocolate, oats, & barley with a slightly hoppy finish. A very tasty organic beer.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout; Wells & Young’s Ltd.; Bedford, United Kingdom; Sweet Stout; ABV: 5.2. Sweet, milk chocolate flavor with a slight malty aftertaste.

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