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Making My Case Again

March 1st, 2011 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

My idea of 2020 hindsight

This Saturday marks the second anniversary of Billy’s Beer Blog. To mark the occasion, I’ve decided to do an updated version of my Ultimate Case.

While I’m keeping two of my three rules from a year ago – no retired beers and a limit of one beer per brewery – I’m dropping the ban on extreme beers of 20% or more. I’m also expanding my Ultimate Case from 24 beers to 30, thus eliminating the need for an Honorable Mention 6-Pack.

And so, without further adieu, is my Ultimate Case The Sequel. It’s been a fun filled and exhaustive journey to put together a list of 30 beers from the countless number of brews that I have enjoyed. I hope that you enjoy reading this post as much as I have enjoyed preparing it.

AleSmith Speedway Stout; AleSmith Brewing Co.; San Diego, CA; Imperial Stout; ABV: 12.0; This DIPA is nothing less than superlative. It’s a full-bodied beer that pours a jet black color, with big notes of coffee in the nose and taste. The latter is balanced by milk chocolate, dark fruit, and roasted malt with a hint of caramel at the finish. Speedway is quite smooth from start to finish, and amazingly the alcohol content of 12% isn’t that noticeable. This stout will definitely send your taste buds racing!

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.

Blue Point Old Howling Bastard; Blue Point Brewing Co.; Patchogue, NY; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. This superb barley wine is amber in color and well balanced. Big notes of sweet caramel are complimented by bready malt, citrusy fruit, and piny hops. Old Howling Bastard goes down smoothly, and the 10% alcohol content is well hidden. In many ways, it reminds me of a classic West Coast barley wine.

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 7.6. A superb saison from the acclaimed brewery. Golden in color, with the Japanese Sorachi hops balanced by notes of citrusy fruit, sweet malt, and peppery spices. Refreshing from start to finish.

Captain Lawrence Cuvee De Castleton; Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.; Pleasantville, NY; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0. 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.

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout – Brandy Barrel Aged; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.5. 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.

Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge; Brouwerij Bockor N.V.; Bellegem-Kortrijk, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 9.0. A truly outstanding Belgium sour ale, and one of my new favorites. If ever there was a 9% ABV beer that could be considered a session beer, then this is the closest thing to it! A beautiful crimson color with an array of tart cherries in both the nose and taste. The latter is complimented by a nice oaky finish.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror Barleywine Vintage 2009; Deschutes Brewery; Bend, OR; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.0. Quite simply an outstanding barley wine and part of Deschutes Reserve Series. Aged in oak barrels, Mirror Mirror is actually a doubled up version of their Mirror Pond Pale Ale. It pours a dark amber color and there’s notes of sweet caramel and vanilla in the nose. There’s a lot going on in the taste, as the sweet caramel and vanilla are complimented by dark fruit and Cascade hops, with a bourbon like backbone from the oak barrels. Mirror Mirror has a warming, almost candy like feel to it as well, and goes down quite smoothly for a beer with an 11% alcohol content.

Dogfish Bitches Brew; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.0. Named to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ jazz fusion album Bitches Brew. It’s as smooth as the late jazz legend, and pours a jet black color. There’s notes of honey and dark chocolate complimented by dark fruit, roasted malt, and gesho root with a hint of smokiness at the finish. While I liked it on tap, I found that drinking Bitches Brew from the bottle, slightly chilled, captured the true essence of this stout.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch; Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD; Belgian India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.3. Another excellent ale from the former Colorado, and now Maryland based, brewery. As mentioned in previous posts, Belgian IPAs have become a trend in the last year or two, and Raging Bitch takes its place among the better ones. It pours a light amber color, with notes of citrusy fruit such as bananas and grapefruit in the nose and taste. The latter is complimented by honey, sweet malt, and piny hops with a slight bitterness at the finish. Raging Bitch is as smooth as it is complex, so the 8.3% alcohol content isn’t very noticeable.

Founders Breakfast Stout; Founders Brewing Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; Imperial Stout; ABV: 8.3. FBS pours a deep chocolate color, with humongous notes of chocolate and expresso coffee balanced by oatmeal and sweet malt. If you’re a fan of all things chocolate and/or java, this is the stout for you. The alcohol presence is definitely noticeable, so FBS won’t sneak up on you. It’s certainly a beer to be savored.

Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2009; Fuller Smith & Turner PLC; London, England (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.5. A classic English old ale, brewed annually in limited batches. Amber in color, Vintage Ale 2009 has well balanced notes of caramel, dark fruit, brown sugar, and spicy hops with a brandy like feel in the backbone. This ale is full-bodied, yet silky smooth from start to finish.

Goose Island Juliet; Goose Island Beer Co.; Chicago, IL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 6.7. Truly deserves its world class ranking. Aged in cabernet barrels with blackberries, Juliet is ruby in color and hits you right off the bat with a big vinegar nose. The rosé wine like quality is prevalent throughout this ale, with the blackberry notes complimented by sour cherries and sweet caramel malt with a dry woody finish. The silky smooth Juliet pays homage to the classic Belgian sour ales, and “parting is such sweet sorrow” once the last sip has been taken.

Green Flash Le Freak; Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Belgian India Pale Ale; ABV: 9.2. A blend of the brewery’s excellent Trippel and Imperial IPA into a silky smooth full-bodied ale. The color is burnt orange, and the nose is very floral with hints of citrusy fruit and yeast. The taste has a definite presence of banana, as well as other citrusy fruit, complimented by honey, spices, and big piny hops with a slightly bitter finish.

Hair of the Dog Adam; Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.; Portland, OR; Old Ale; ABV: 10.0. Brewed in the historic Adambier style of Germany, Adam is a superb full-bodied old ale. The first beer brewed by Hair of the Dog, it’s jet black in color and has rich notes of chocolate and tart fruit in the nose and taste, with the latter complimented by caramel malt, spices, and light hops, with a woody feeling in the backbone. Adam is velvety smooth, but also quite robust, so the 10% ABV isn’t going to sneak up on you.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 40; Harviestoun Brewery Ltd.; Alva Clackmannanshire, Scotland (UK); Old Ale; ABV: 8.0. Yet another outstanding offering from the brewery’s Special Reserve series. Ola Dubh means “Black Oil” and this old ale, aged in Highland Park 40 Year whiskey casks, is based on Harviestoun Old Engine Oil. Jet black in color, 40 has big Scotch whiskey notes in the nose and initial taste, complimented by hints of dark chocolate and sweet malt with a vanilla oakiness at the finish. An extremely well balanced beer, 40 is as rich and smooth as it is complex, and I believe that it’s the best offering in the series.

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA; Ninkasi Brewing Co.; Eugene, OR; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.8. Like its namesake, this ale really packs a punch! Tricerahops pours a rich amber color, and there’s big notes of hops in the nose. The full-bodied taste is an array of piny and citrusy hops, complimented by sweet caramel malt and honey with a nice dry finish. Tricerahops is smooth from start to finish, and the alcohol content of nearly 9% is well hidden.

Russian River Consecration; Russian River Brewing Co.; Santa Rosa, CA; American Wild Ale; ABV: 10.0. One sip of this superb ale was enough to make me believe brother! Consecration is aged in American Oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The wine presence comes across quite clearly in the initial taste, complimented by an array of notes such as Brettanomyces yeast, currants, sweet malt, and tart fruit with a crisp clean finish. It more than holds its own with the classic Belgian farmhouse ales, and the alcohol content of 10% isn’t that noticeable. Needless to say, Consecration is a wonderfully complex and eclectic ale.

Samuel Adams Utopias (2009); Boston Beer Company; Boston, MA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 27.0. 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.

Schneider Aventinus; Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn; Kelheim, Germany; Weizenbock; ABV: 8.2. A robust yet smooth, full-bodied bock that truly deserves its reputation as one of the world’s best beers. Named after Johannes Aventinus, a noted Bavarian historian and writer from the late Middle Ages, it pours a dark ruby brown color and there are notes of sweet malt and spices in the nose. The sweet malt and spices jump out in the taste as well, complimented by hints of banana, dark chocolate, vanilla, and wheat with light floral hops at the finish. There’s a lot going on in Aventinus, and the sweet candy backbone makes it a truly enjoyable bock.

Sierra Nevada Grand Cru; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 9.2. Brewed as part of Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary Series, Grand Cru is a blend of their Oak Aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale, and Pale Ale. Amber in color with notes of citrus and piny hops complimented by caramel malt with a nice bourbon kick from the barrel aging.

Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.0). As great as the original Unearthly is, this DIPA takes it to the next level. It pours a deep amber color and the nose has big notes of piny hops and oakiness. Both are reflected in the taste as well, balanced by sweet caramel and a woody bourbon backbone. Oak Aged Unearthly is silky smooth for an beer of its potency, and you’ll want to savor it slowly to truly appreciate this ale.

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 definitive gold standard of Belgium quads, and one of the world’s best beers period.

St. Feuillien Cuvée de Noël; Brasserie St. Feuillien; Le Roeulx, Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 9.0. Mahogany in color, Cuvée de Noël has rich notes of caramel and roasted malt balanced by an array of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. This velvety winter ale has a nutty feel to it, and is quite spicy as well.

Terrapin Side Project #9 The Dark Side ; Terrapin Beer Co.; Athens, GA; Belgium Style Imperial Stout; ABV: 8.5. An exceptional imperial stout. It pours a jet black color and has notes of chocolate and roasted malt balanced by dark fruit, molasses, and a spicy smokiness at the finish. The Dark Side is fermented with Trappist ale yeast, which actually gives it the feeling of a Belgian strong ale. The taste is as rich as it is smooth, and the 8.5% alcohol content is well concealed.

The Bruery Coton; The Bruery; Placentia, CA; Old Ale; ABV: 14.5. As smooth as it is complex, Coton takes its place alongside among the world’s best 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.

Town Hall Masala Mama IPA; Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery; Minneapolis, MN; India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.9. This world class IPA pours a deep mahogany color, with big notes of Cascade hops in the nose and taste. The latter is complimented by citrusy fruit and toffee, with the sweet malt backbone apparent at the end. This IPA is silky smooth from start to finish, and with an alcohol content of just under 6%, is quite easy to drink. Masala Mama would make an excellent session beer for hop-heads, and non hop-heads, alike.

Traquair 2020; Traquair House Brewery Lld; Peeblesshire, Scotland (UK); Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. This sublime barley wine was brewed in a limited release of 9600 bottles to honor the first decade of the 21st century, and to be consumed before the end of the second decade. This ale is nothing short of outstanding, and takes its place among my favorite all-time barley wines. Deep chestnut in color, 2020 has pronounced notes of sweet caramel and dark fruit in the nose and initial taste, followed by hints of brown sugar, honey, and vanilla spices with a smooth creamy finish. 2020 is a very well balanced beer, and the alcohol content of 10% is extremely well hidden.

Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne (Brouwerij Verhaeghe; Vichte, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 6.2). This may very well be the best sour ale I have ever had. Named for medieval duchess Mary of Burgundy, it pours a deep chestnut brown color with notes of tart fruit, notably cherries, and dark malt. Since this ale is aged in oak conditioned casks, Duchesse has a red wine like feeling to it. The array of sweet and sour flavors are perfectly balanced throughout this ale, and it’s velvety smooth from start to finish.

Westvleteren 12; Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus; Westvleteren, Belgium; Quadrupel; ABV: 10.2. This is the ale that Beer Advocate, BeerPal, Rate Beer, and many others consider The World’s Best Beer. In addition to ranking at or near the top of most beer lists, Westvleteren 12 is also one of the rarest beers in the world and not that easy to find. This Belgian quad is quite possibly the most complex beer that I have ever had. Westvleteren 12 pours a rich chestnut color, and there are light notes of caramel and dark fruit in the nose. The flavors are a delicious array of caramel malt, dark fruit, and spices with a hint of sweet fruit in the very smooth finish. Everything about this beer is in perfect balance, and there’s a nice warming sensation with each sip. Westvleteren 12, in fact, actually gets better as it’s allowed to sit and be savored.

A Little Slice Of Heaven

February 21st, 2011 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

The highly festive Mr. Dunderbak's...

Is indeed a little slice of heaven

Word resonates fast in the craft beer world. Several beer enthusiasts traveled down from Tampa, to check out Mr. Berry’s Beer Nerd Night, after hearing great things about the brewpub. One of them, in turn, recommended that I try out Mr. Dunderbak’s back up their way. “A little slice of heaven” is how Greg described it.

When Anne and I checked out Mr. Dunderbak’s on Saturday, we found that it more than lived up to expectations. Owned by J.B. and Chris Ellis, Mr. Dunderbak’s is styled after a classic German Biergarten. There’s something for everyone here, from the German inspired cuisine to a huge selection of beer and wine. In fact, there’s 54 beers on tap and another 400 or so in bottles! Off the main Biergarten, there’s two bar areas and a beer mall, where patrons can enjoy dining and sample a wide variety of beers that are also available for purchase. The staff, including beer guru Cory, are very helpful and knowledgeable about beer. There’s a nice mix to the crowd as well, with the brewpub not far from the campus of USF.

As J.B., a home brewer and member of Tampa Bay B.E.E.R.S., was at a beer judging, Chris took us on a tour of the place and kept us entertained for the afternoon. We started with a delicious meat and cheese plate, and I ordered a pint of De Koninck Winterkoninck (Brouwerij De Koninck NV; Antwerpen, Belgium; Belgian Dark Ale; ABV: 6.5). Deep amber in color, Winterkoninck has notes of sweet caramel malt and toffee complimented by Belgian yeast and a hint of spices such as nutmeg on the back end. Its sweet malty influence paired well with the appetizer.

For lunch, Anne ordered a chef salad while I went with the scrumptious veal schnitzel sandwich. On a recommendation from one of the bar staff, I went with a pint of St. Feuillien Cuvée de Noël (Brasserie St. Feuillien; Le Roeulx, Belgium; Belgian Strong Dark Ale; ABV: 9.0). Mahogany in color, Cuvée de Noël has rich notes of caramel and roasted malt balanced by an array of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. This velvety winter ale has a nutty feel to it, and is considerably more spicy than Winterkoninck.

For dessert, we shared an incredible Black Forest torte (the desserts and other food items are available in their deli), and Anne ordered a bottle of her favorite beer, the incomparable Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne. I spotted a bottle that intrigued me, and was glad to give it a try. Traquair 2020 (Traquair House Brewery Lld; Peeblesshire, Scotland (UK); Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0), was brewed in a limited release of 9600 bottles to honor the first decade of the 21st century, and to be consumed before the end of the second decade. This ale is nothing short of outstanding, and takes its place among my favorite all-time barley wines. Deep chestnut in color, 2020 has pronounced notes of sweet caramel and dark fruit in the nose and initial taste, followed by hints of brown sugar, honey, and vanilla spices with a smooth creamy finish. 2020 is a very well balanced beer, and the alcohol content of 10% is extremely well hidden.

My thanks to Chris for being such a great hostess, and to the staff at Mr. Dunderbak’s for giving us a wonderful experience.

Mr. Dunderbak'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.; Pleasantville, NY; 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!

Go Fish

November 14th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

You'll want to catch a Sea Bass

Anne and I stopped by the Icehouse Pub on the way down to Naples this weekend, and were pleased to see that Cigar City had a new offering on tap. Long known for its outstanding stouts, porters, and IPAs, the brewery had now crafted a superb sour ale as well.

Cigar City Sea Bass (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0) is a chestnut colored ale with big notes of tart fruit complimented by hints of caramel, roasted malt, and spices with a slightly bitter finish. The sour aspect of Sea Bass, coupled with its wine like feel, reminds me of the classic Flemish ales. The alcohol content of 8% balances nicely into Sea Bass, so this ale goes down smoothly. It paired well with the Fish & Chips that I had for lunch.

Speaking of Flemish ales, I ordered a Verhaeghe Vichtenaar Flemish Ale (Brouwerij Verhaeghe; Vichte, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 5.1) for round two. A lighter version of the brewery’s exceptional Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne, possibly the best sour ale I have ever had, Vichtenaar is deep mahogany in color with subtle notes of chocolate and tart fruit such as cherries. It’s incredibly smooth, and the sweet and sour attributes of this ale are perfectly balanced.

I highly recommend reeling in either one of these terrific sour ales.

The Icehouse on Urbanspoon

Grand Duchesse

September 6th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Duchesse rules

When Anne and I were in Asheville recently, one of our stops was The Thirsty Monk. This brewpub has been noted for its extensive selection of craft beers, particularly from Belgium. We ordered some pub fare, along with a couple of outstanding Flemish ales.

Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne (Brouwerij Verhaeghe; Vichte, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 6.2) may very well be the best sour ale I have ever had. Named for medieval duchess Mary of Burgundy, it pours a deep chestnut brown color with notes of tart fruit, notably cherries, and dark malt. Since this ale is aged in oak conditioned casks, Duchesse has a red wine like feeling to it. The array of sweet and sour flavors are perfectly balanced throughout this ale, and it’s velvety smooth from start to finish.

Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Red Ale (Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.; Ertvelde, Belgium; Flanders Oud Bruin; ABV: 5.5) is brewed annually, in a limited quantity, for the acclaimed Philadelphia brewpub. Exceptional in its own right, this sour ale is chestnut in color with notes of tart fruit and sweet malt complimented by a woody backbone. Like Duchesse, Monk’s Café is smooth and well balanced, although it’s a tad lighter.

While Monk’s Cafe is brewed in limited quantities, Duchesse is appearing in more and more brewpubs nationwide. I strongly suggest giving each a try.

The Thirsty Monk on Urbanspoon

Love That Dirty Water

May 5th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

While good drinking water was hard to find in Boston...

fortunately there was great beer

Anne and I took a mini vacation to Boston to spend time with her family. We all had a fantastic time, and the city was hopping with both the Celtics and Bruins in the post season, in addition to the usual Sox following. In keeping with the weird chain of events plaguing our nation this week, a water main break in the suburb of Watertown left Boston and 30 neighboring communities with contaminated water until yesterday. Fortunately, there was a great selection of beer in The Hub for consumption. From the outstanding Publick House to Boston Beer Works, there were plenty of places to sample them.

A few of the local brews caught my attention. They included the following:

Samuel Adams Noble Pils; Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Bohemian Pilsener; ABV: 5.2. A crisp and clean tasting pilsener similar to traditional Czech offerings. A clear golden color with a piny hops nose. The piny hops notes are also noticeable in the flavor, complimented by sweet malt and honey with a dry finish.

Harpoon IPA; Harpoon Brewery; Boston, MA; India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.9. A lighter alternative to their sensational hop bomb Leviathan. Copper in color with a blend of Cascade hops and caramel malt in both the nose and taste. The latter is backed by citrusy fruit and spices with a slightly bitter finish.

Ipswich Stone Cat Blueberry Ale; Mercury Brewing; Ipswich, MA; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 4.6. Blueberries, blueberries, blueberries! A straw golden color and (did I say it) blueberry notes in both the nose and flavor. I had this refreshing fruit beer at Big City, and they included real blueberries in the beer as well.

Boston Beer Works Back Bay IPA; Boston Beer Works; Boston, MA; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.5. An excellent IPA, amber in color with a piny hops nose. The piny hops are also noticeable in the taste, backed by caramel malt and grapefruit with a slight bitterness at the finish.

Boston Beer Works Triple A Amber; Boston Beer Works; Boston, MA; American Amber / Red Ale; ABV: 5.0. A smooth tasting amber colored ale. It reminds me of a West Coast amber, with the big Cascade hops balanced by caramel and roasted malt.

Boston Beer Works Beantown Nut Brown Ale; Boston Beer Works; Boston, MA; English Brown Ale; ABV: 5.0. Brewed in the traditional English Brown Ale style. Chestnut in color with a big expresso kick in both the nose and taste. Hints of dark chocolate and roasted malt back up the expresso notes in the flavor.

BBC Sour Ale/Imperial Stout; Berkshire Brewing Co.; South Deerfield, MA; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 8.5. Eclectic full bodied stout with a dark brown color and dark chocolate notes in both the nose and taste. Like drinking a fudge brownie mixed with tart fruit!

Publick House is a superb beer pub and eatery, and we enjoyed a couple of non local beers there as well, which included:

Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge; Brouwerij Bockor N.V.; Bellegem-Kortrijk, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 9.0. A truly outstanding Belgium sour ale, and one of my new favorites. If there ever was a 9% ABV beer that could be considered a session beer, then this is the closest thing to it! A beautiful crimson color with an array of tart cherries in both the nose and taste. The latter is complimented by a nice oaky finish.

Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale; Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; American Amber / Red Ale; ABV: 6.4. Another excellent ale from the San Diego area brewery. A rich amber color with piny and citrusy hops in the nose. These notes have a noticeable presence in the taste as well, complimented by caramel malt with a clean crisp finish.

All in all we had a wonderful time in Beantown. And if you ever make it to the Publick House, be sure to try the Lobster Mac & Cheese!

Boston Beer Works on Urbanspoon

The Publick House on Urbanspoon

Cherry Picking

April 3rd, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

You won't sour on Kriekenbier

I’ve been looking for an excellent sour ale ever since Rodenbach pulled their Rodenbach Classic Red (Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V.; Roeselare, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 5.0) from the U.S. market last year. I found it when Anne & I stopped by World of Beer the other day.

Verhaeghe Echte Kriekenbier (Brouwerij Verhaeghe; Vichte, Belgium; Flanders Red Ale; ABV: 6.8) exceeded my expectations. It’s a deep mahogany color with a tart cherry nose. The taste is primarily sour and tart cherry, complimented by hints of caramel malt and vanilla. There was a woody tone to the finish that reminded Anne of wine. At nearly 7% ABV, Kriekenbier is also a bit more potent than Rodenbach Classic Red.

I highly recommend Kriekenbier to anyone that’s a fan of sour ales.

Draught Picks

July 21st, 2009 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

While Guinness is great out of the bottle...

While I enjoy Guinness straight out of the bottle...

It's a first round selection on draught

it's a first round draught selection

While some beers taste great out of the bottle, e.g. Ola Dubh Special 16 Reserve from Harviestoun and St. Bernardus Abt 12 come to mind, the majority of beers taste fresher on tap. A good tap line can really determine the taste as well. A good beer like Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout can truly stand out when a tap line is functioning well, while an excellent ale like Rodenbach Classic (Red) can taste like Manischewitz when the tap lines are bad.

Anne & I decided to try one of Sarasota’s best kept secrets, The Shamrock Irish Pub this past Saturday. We heard from reliable sources that they poured the best pint of Guinness in town, so it was a no brainer to check it out.

Suffice to say The Shamrock did disappoint. The lovely Jackie was bartending that day, and she poured a textbook pint of Guinness Draught (Guinness Ltd.; Dublin, Ireland; Irish Dry Stout; ABV: 5.0). It’s truly the best on draught in town, and went well with the pizza that we ordered from a nearby spot. The pub has a nice neighborhood feel, and in addition to a great beer selection (11 on tap plus 80+ in bottles), it has live music on weekends.

In addition to the Guinness, I tried several other beers on tap that day:

Shipyard Export Ale; Shipyard Brewing Co.; Portland, ME; American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.0. A smooth drinking APA. A very buttery taste balanced by maple malt (maple) & a hoppy bite at the end.

Shipyard Summer Ale; Shipyard Brewing Co.; Portland, ME; American Pale Ale; ABV: 5.1. Another APA offering from Shipyard. The crisp, wheat taste is complimented by sweet malt & citrusy hops. A nice session beer for the summer.

Hell Or High Watermelon Wheat Beer; 21st Amendment Brewery; San Francisco, CA; Fruit / Vegetable Beer; ABV: 5.2. An eclectic & very refreshing beer. A nice array of watermelon & wheat. Another recommendation for a summer session beer.

The Shamrock offers a rotating draught list that includes such outstanding ales as Dogfish 120 Minute IPA & Gordon Imperial IPA, so I definitely recommend stopping in for a visit when you’re in town.

Shamrock Pub on Urbanspoon

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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