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Hunahpulooza

March 14th, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Mission accomplished

It was a spectacular day this past Saturday when the Mr. Beery’s Magic Bus Tour departed to Cigar City Brewing in Tampa for Hunahpu’s Day. Our mission: to drink great beer, enjoy the festivities, and of course to claim our trophy – the 2011 release of Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Russian Imperial Stout; ABV: 11.5).

Upon arriving, we all took advantage of the festive atmosphere, which included live music and a tasty variety of cuisine, from local area restaurants, to compliment the beer. Creativity was the word of the day for beer, from Cigar City’s own Pilot Series Barleywine to some outstanding home brews like the Pinellas Urban Brewers Guild’s amazing Russian Imperial Stout and Special Hoperations’ superb Smoked Jalapeno Ale. There was an extensive lineup of guest brews on tap as well, including the highly regarded Funky Buddah Maple Bacon Coffee Porter (The Funky Buddah Lounge & Brewery; Boca Raton, FL; Porter; ABV: 6.3), which unfortunately kicked right before we arrived. But in the end, there was only one beer that mattered – Hunahpu.

Created from their Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, and aged on pasilla and ancho peppers as well as vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa nibs, Hunahpu is definitely something special. This imperial stout pours a jet black color, with big notes of expresso and sweet dark chocolate balanced by roasted malt, vanilla beans, and peppery spices. The flavors tend to be even more accentuated in the 2011 brewing than in 2010, with the vanilla beans and peppery spices really coming through to balance the sweet chocolate notes. I had a chance to speak with head brewer Wayne Wambles, and he had wanted to improve upon last year’s offering. Needless to say he’s succeeded, which is saying something considering that the 2010 Hunahpu is considered to be one of the world’s best beers.

CCB made bottles of Hunahpu available to the first 750 guests, with a four bottle limit per person. I was glad to be a part of this afternoon, and to take home my own supply of this incomparable stout.

Lastly, I’d like to give thanks to Cigar City Brewing for hosting this great event, Mark for arranging the Mr. Beery’s Magic Bus Tour, Sam for being a hip chaperone to our merry band of beer geeks, Gemma for staying behind to secure our purchases of Hunahpu, and my pal Brad, for riding shotgun with me and filming the day’s events for our video blog. Once the mad genius has finished editing, I’ll attach the video feed to this blog. Cheers!

Something To Crow About

January 12th, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Blitzkrieg was right on target


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of Christmas Bells

December 31st, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

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

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

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

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

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

Bright Lights Brew City: Prohibitive Favorite

December 15th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blind Tiger Ale House on Urbanspoon

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