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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!

Founders Keepers

September 2nd, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

FBS is a mocha on steroids

I finally got a chance to try the much acclaimed Founders Breakfast Stout (Founders Brewing Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; Imperial Stout; ABV: 8.3) when Anne and I had dinner at the 42nd Street Oyster Bar in Raleigh last week. I’m pleased to report that FBS not only lived up to its reputation, but exceeded it.

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. Its rich, full-bodied flavor paired well with the chocolate ice cream that I had for dessert. The alcohol presence is definitely noticeable, so FBS won’t sneak up on you. It’s certainly a beer to be savored.

I’m glad to have finally tried this incredible stout, and highly recommend it.

42nd Street Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Checkered Flag

June 6th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Speedway earns the pole position

The San Diego area is becoming a hotbed for exceptional breweries. The region can count AleSmith, Green Flash, and Stone among them. And I recently tried a beer from the former that truly deserves the label imperial stout.

AleSmith Speedway Stout (AleSmith Brewing Co.; San Diego, CA; Imperial Stout; ABV: 12.0) 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 too noticeable. This stout will definitely send your taste buds racing!

All in all, Speedway lives up to its big reputation and I highly recommend it.

Spaced Out

June 1st, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Merry Monks was a fitting ale for a fun filled weekend

Anne & I enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend by heading over to Melbourne to see our friends Brian and Janine. The Space Coast of Florida is one of the fastest growing areas of the country. Even with the looming cuts to NASA, there appears to be enough civilian and military technology firms to keep the boom going. And like most areas with strong growth, there’s a boom in leisure activity as well.

We spent the weekend making the rounds to some excellent brew pubs, among them Charlie & Jake’s, The World of Beer, and Coasters. The former is a brewery, while the latter two have an extensive list of imported and domestic craft beer. Those familiar with other World of Beer locations would definitely appreciate the Melbourne establishment.

Among the beers that we enjoyed, there were several that really stood out:

Charlie and Jakes Brown Bottom Ale; Charlie & Jake’s Brewery & Grille; Melbourne, FL; English Brown Ale; ABV: 5.0. A nutty, easy drinking brown ale. Dark brown in color with notes of sweet chocolate and roasted malt in the nose and taste, with the latter backed by a really nutty finish.

Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema; Anderson Valley Brewing Co.; Boonville, CA; Cream Ale; ABV: 5.6. Like drinking a cream soda! Copper in color with notes of caramel and floral hops in the nose. Both are present in the taste as well, complimented in the taste by toasted malt and an array of spices such as orange and vanilla.

Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout; Kiuchi Brewery; Ibaraki, Japan; Imperial Stout; ABV: 7.5. An outstanding full-bodied imperial stout. Pours a deep black in color with a potent expresso presence in both the nose and taste. The latter is balanced by milk chocolate and roasted nuts, with a sweet malty finish.

Weyerbacher Merry Monks Ale; Weyerbacher Brewing Co.; Easton, PA; Tripel; ABV: 9.3. Another superb offering from the Easton brewery. This abbey pours a murky golden color, with notes of grassy hops and citrusy fruit in both the nose and taste. The taste is somewhat complex, with the grassy hops and citrusy fruit, particularly bananas, backed by sweet malt and spices. Merry Monks is very easy to drink considering its alcohol content, so it could sneak up on you.

I highly recommend each of these ales, and thank Brian and Janine for a wonderful holiday weekend.

Charlie & Jake's Brewery Grille on Urbanspoon

Coasters Pub on Urbanspoon

A Nice Vice

April 11th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Despite the suggestive name, Happy Ending is truly an excellent stout

Last Wednesday was not only National Beer Day, it was my friend Bret’s birthday. Mark presented Bret with a bottle of Sweetwater Happy Ending Imperial Stout (Sweetwater Brewing Co.; Atlanta, GA; Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.0), and he shared it with the gang at Mr. Beery’s.

We all had fun with the name for obvious reasons. The original label actually had a winking Geisha, but was probably changed due to being risqué. Happy Ending, in fact, is an excellent imperial stout. It pours a deep black color, and there’s a big presence of coffee and citrusy hops in the nose. The taste is an array of coffee, sweet chocolate, and dark fruit with the citrusy hops noticeable at the finish. The ABV of 9% is well hidden, so this beer goes down rather smoothly.

I highly recommend Happy Ending as one of the better imperial stouts out there.

Stoutzilla

April 9th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Tokyo is big & complex like its namesake

Recent surveys by Demographia and the United Nations both confirm that Tokyo remains the world’s largest urban area. Travelers to the city have described it as sophisticated and cutting edge in addition to being large. So I expected that a beer named after this metropolis would exhibit the same qualities.

BrewDog Tokyo (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial Stout; ABV: 18.2), like its namesake, has a lot going on. It pours a dark black and the nose is an array of dark fruit and chocolate. The dark fruit, especially cherries, and chocolate also come out in the taste, which is complimented by roasted malt, cranberries, jasmine, and vanilla with a woody finish. Despite an ABV of more than 18%, Tokyo is incredibly smooth and a very drinkable beer. I’m inclined to favor it over another extreme stout, the highly touted Dogfish World Wide Stout (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial Stout; ABV: 21.0).

Kudos to BrewDog for crafting another excellent extreme beer.

Southern Migration

March 6th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

There was an Unearthly presence at WOB

Anne and I went to World of Beer last week, and were pleasantly surprised when Tony noted that they had Southern Tier beers on tap. I started with a pint of their superb Southern Tier Unearthly (Southern Tier Brewing Company; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 11.0), which I’ve praised continuously on this blog. Even Anne enjoyed this IPA, after trying a 5 oz. paddle of it. Drinking Unearthly on tap allows you to appreciate the full bodied taste, which is big citrusy hops balanced by sweet malt and light peppery spices.

For round two, I tried Southern Tier 422 Pale Wheat Ale (Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; American Pale Wheat Ale; ABV: 5.0) for the first time. As expected, it was a much lighter ale than Unearthly. 422 has a crisp clean taste, with the wheat flavor complimented by citrusy hops and toasted malt.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Beery’s put Unearthly on tap this week, along with Southern Tier Choklat (Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.1) and Southern Tier Gemini (Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 10.5). Choklat is a big flavorful stout, with the rich milk chocolate taste followed by hints of roasted malt and coffee. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried Gemini, so I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with it. I’m curious to see how it compares to Unearthly.

I’m pleased to see that this brewery is now featured in Southwest Florida, and hope that its presence continues to expand.

A Festive Weekend

February 8th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 2 comments

Beer babes Miranda & Cathy...

and the Shock Top bug were among the highlights

Saturday’s 3rd Annual Bradenton Beer Festival - officially called The Bradenton Brewgrass Beer Festival 2010 – kicked off an exciting weekend that included of course the most watched program in television history, Super Bowl 44 between the Indianapolis Colts & New Orleans Saints. I met up with all of my friends early in the afternoon, and a great time was had by all. Still, there were some issues as well.

- The festival started late. They initially gave us plastic cups instead of the glass shot glasses from previous years, which can distract from the beer’s flavor.

– The breweries were condensed down to a handful of tents. In previous years, each brewery had their own tent with staff on hand. Things were able to run a lot smoother in that situation.

- Many of the beers were warm when the festival started. This cheated people out of trying some truly outstanding beers at their best. I had the Goose Island Burbon County Stout (Goose Island Beer Co.; Chicago, IL; Imperial Stout; ABV: 13.0) lukewarm. It had a nice bite of dark chocolate and roasted malt with a nice bourbon finish. Bourbon reminded me of a more subtle version of BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin, but I was still left wanting more. I look forward to trying this beer again once it’s on tap at World of Beer, The Long Kangaroo Pub, etc., so that I can truly appreciate its complexity.

Likewise for Southern Tier Unearthly. Many of my hophead friends who’d never tried it were cheated because the beer was served basically warm instead of chilled. Fortunately, they had Southern Tier Mokah (Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.0) on hand, and Southern Tier Choklat (Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.1) on hand. Mokah has a rich chocolate presence complimented by sweet caramel, roasted malt, and coffee. Choklat is equally big in flavor with its milk chocolate taste backed up by roasted malt and coffee. Both tasted quite good even without being chilled.

I’ve kvetched enough..now for the good things!

- The most interesting beer of the festival was the Berliner Weisse brewed by the Homebrewers Association of Manatee & Sarasota (H.A.M.S.). It was available straightup, with raspberry added, or with woodruff herbs. All three versions were great, but the latter, which is green and very floral, added a nice kick to Berliner.

- All of the local Tampa Bay brewers turned out excellent beers – among them were:

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.0). A potent and truly outstanding imperial stout. An array of rich chocolate, dark fruit, and peppery spices. My friend Bret nearly cleaned this out singlehandedly at Brewfest!

Old Elephant Foot IPA (Tampa Bay Brewing Co.; Tampa Bay, FL; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.7). An excellent IPA. Big bite of citrusy hops up front, with hints of sweet malt & a slightly bitter aftertaste. One of my favorites at TBBC.

Old Prague Pilsener (Sarasota Brewing Co.; Sarasota, FL; Czech Pilsener; ABV: 5.0). A clean refreshing pilsener. Crisp and smooth, with the buttery flavor well balanced by grassy hops and spices.

Dunedin Brewmasters Reserve Trippel (Dunedin Brewery; Dunedin, FL; Tripel; ABV: 10.7). A superb Abbey tripel. Very smooth and drinkable for an ale that’s nearly 11% ABV. A nice array of citrusy fruit, hops, and spices. Their best offering along with the Dunedin Spatz BarkeyWine Barley Wine Style Ale (Dunedin Brewery; Dunedin, FL; Barley Wine; ABV: 9.0).

- More breweries are attending the festival. In addition to Goose Island and Southern Tier, other excellent regionals such as Blue Point and Victory Brewing were on hand as well.

- The Lost Kangaroo Pub was a great place to hang before, during, and after the festival. Their tap lines were excellent as usual, and they had the amazing Bell’s HopSlam on tap for $6, and Brooklyn Monster Ale (Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.8) on tap as well for $3.

- Tony, Hack, Jenna, and the gang from World of Beer were there as well. I was wearing my ‘WOB 50′ t-shirt, which became a great conversation piece with some of the attendees. I’d like to think that I recruited a few more Loyalty Card members.

- And last, but not least, the bands were kicking and the crowd was great.

Oh yeah, there was that game on Sunday. Although I rooted for the Saints, I like many thought that the Colts would be too much for them. I’m glad to have been proven wrong. Who Dat indeed!

Lost Kangaroo Pub on Urbanspoon

Nuclear Fallout

January 21st, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 5 comments

Penguin may cause you to duck and cover

At a certain point, you begin to wonder what constitutes a beer. The strongest beer that I’ve had, that still tasted like a beer, was Dogfish 120 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Milton, DE; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 21.0). Albeit it was like their 90 Minute IPA on steroids. Prior to ordering Tactical Nuclear Penguin (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial Stout; ABV: 32.0), the strongest beer that I’d sampled was Samuel Adams Utopias (Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; American Strong Ale; ABV: 27.0). This ale, which is still the strongest beer brewed in the U.S., tasted more like a brandy or cognac.

So I was really curious about Penguin. I tried it initially in a 2 oz. sniffer at home, then shared a bottle with my friends and bartenders at World of Beer last Sunday during the Cowboys-Vikings game. Their opinions ran the gauntlet, from “wonderfully complex” to “it tasted like paint thinner”!

Penguin is definitely an acquired taste, with a megaton of alcohol right from the start. It reminds me a lot of a Scotch whiskey, with underlying notes of caramel, licorice, and roasted malt with a smoky tobacco chaser. This is definitely the beer for scotch drinkers! I was somewhat overpowered by the initial tasting, but have tried it in 1 or 2 oz. samplings since opening the original bottle. Its complexity has started to grow on me.

No sooner had Penguin laid claim to being the World’s Strongest Beer, that a new contender to the throne has appeared. Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu, the brewer that dethroned Utopias last year with their Schorschbräu Schorschbock 31% (Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu; Gunsenhausen, Germany; Eisbock; ABV: 31.0), has reportedly put out another heavyweight called appropriately enough Schorschbräu Schorschbock 40% (Kleinbrauerei Schorschbräu; Gunsenhausen, Germany; Eisbock; ABV: 40.0). And there was a rumor floating around on the web that an unnamed Belgian brewer was toying with the idea of brewing the world’s first 50% ABV beer. The art of brewing has turned into an arms race!

The Nuclear Option

December 27th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

This penguin packs quite a punch

This penguin packs quite a punch

You’ve got to hand it to the Scots. The land that brought us bagpipes, golf, Scotch whiskey, and 007 can now lay claim to brewing the world’s strongest beer. Tactical Nuclear Penguin (BrewDog Ltd.; Fraserburgh, Scotland (UK); Imperial Stout; ABV: 32.0) is the latest creation from BrewDog, and at 32% ABV, it has surpassed Germany’s Schorschbräu Schorschbock (31% ABV) and that perennial pacesetter, Samuel Adams Utopias (27% ABV).

BrewDog has put out a limited release of Penguin for {35 ($56.70 at the latest $1.62 currency exchange rate), and I ordered a couple of 330ml bottles. Once I receive my order, I’ll be doing a review of Penguin in a future post.