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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 an 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.

Tapapalooza

January 31st, 2011 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Brewer extraordinaire Wayne Wambles held a Q&A session...

while the rest of us enjoyed CCB's finest such as Vanilla Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale

It was a festive day on Saturday when Mr. Beery’s hosted the Cigar City Total Tap Takeover. Indeed, word of this stupendous event traveled fast, and the crowd on hand included many a beer aficionado from around the country, in addition to local residents already familiar with the world renowned brewery.

In general, the brewery, which celebrates its second anniversary in March, took over all 25 taps at Mr. Beery’s, serving their line of beers from old favorites such as Hunahpu and Jai Lai to new offerings not yet available either commercially or at the Tasting Room in Tampa. There was even a private tasting held for those of us willing to pay the $60 admission, which included a lecture and Q&A session from CCB brewer Wayne Wambles. Wayne gave an overview of the history of the brewery, its craft beers, and what’s in store now and in the future. It was a fascinating session, and we were given a great insight into the workings of one of the world’s top five breweries.

After the private tasting, the doors were open to the general public, who mobbed the bar eager to try the 25 beers on tap. As noted, many of us got to try something new.

Cigar City Vanilla Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Brown Ale; ABV: 5.5. A smooth and rich tasting brown ale with hearty notes of oatmeal, vanilla spices, sweet caramel, and milk chocolate. My lead-off beer.

Cigar City Vuja De; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 9.9. This delicious sour ale is a collaboration between CCB & rising Tarpon Springs brewer St. Somewhere. Chestnut in color, with big notes of tart fruit such as elderberries and black currants complimented by hints of caramel, roasted malt, and spices. Essentially, Vuja De is a higher alcohol version of Sea Bass with a nice dry finish.

Cigar City White Oak Jai Lai with Papaya and Peppercorn; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.5. Say that 10 times! A funky variation of CCB’s exceptional Jai Lai IPA. Dark amber in color, with notes of piny hops and malt balanced by papaya and a hint of peppercorn on the back end.

Cigar City Asian Saison; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 7.0. An wonderfully eclectic farmhouse ale. Golden in color with notes of citrusy fruit, toasted seawood, and an array of 5 Chinese spices.

Cigar City Spicy Plum Sour Ale; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Wild Ale; ABV: 8.0. A truly sublime sour ale. Substantial notes of plums and spices, backed by citrusy fruit such as apples, with a hint of tart cherries at the finish. Quite potent.

Cigar City Palm Ridge Reserve Barrel Aged Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Brown Ale; ABV: 5.5. My favorite of the night on tap. Dark brown in color, with rich notes of sweet caramel and oatmeal raisin balanced by roasted malt and spices with a bourbon kick at the finish.

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer Firkin; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Barley Wine; ABV: 10.0. A smooth, full-bodied barley wine. Copper in color, with notes of sweet caramel and vanilla spices balanced by piny hops at the end. The double digit alcohol content is well hidden.

Cigar City Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Warmer Winter Winter Warmer; Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Old Ale; ABV: 7.5. An old ale crafted in the classic English tradition. Considerable notes of sweet caramel and toffee complimented by apples and vanilla spices with a nice brandy backbone from the barrel aging.

It should also be noted that the event marked the one year anniversary of Mr. Beery’s opening in Sarasota. I congratulate Mark and the gang, and thank Cigar City Brewing for working with Mr. Beery’s to make this tasting possible. Both of you have made the Tampa Bay area a more rewarding place for craft beer.

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!

Tastefully Done

November 29th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

The aptly named CCB Tasting Room is a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon

Anne and I spent Saturday afternoon at the Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room. In addition to being a cool place to hang out and have a pint or two, there’s the added bonus of getting a tour of the brewery. The Tasting Room draws a nice crowd of people from all ages, and the novice craft brew drinker is as welcome here as the beer aficionado.

I started with a pint of Cigar City Table Saison (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 4.0), an easy drinking farmhouse ale. Honey in color, it has subtle notes of citrusy fruit such as bananas balanced by spicy hops and toasted malt with a crisp clean finish. Table Saison makes an excellent session beer.

For round two, it was Cigar City Improvisación (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; American Brown Ale; ABV: 9.0), a flavorful oatmeal rye ale. It pours a deep mahogany color, with the oatmeal and rye notes complimented by roasted malt and grassy hops. Improvisación is a rich, well balanced beer and the alcohol content isn’t that noticeable.

I finished by sampling Cigar City El Lector (Cigar City Brewing; Tampa, FL; English Dark Mild Ale; ABV: 4.0), an eclectic English style ale. Chocolate in color, it has a smooth easy feel to it, with notes of coffee and sweet malt followed by a cream soda like taste at the end. El Lector is perfect as either a session or dessert beer.

I thank Tasting Room Manager Travis for the brewery tour, and Jason behind the bar for his hospitality.

On a more serious note, there will be a City Council meeting this Thursday, December 2nd, where the wet-zoning for the Tasting Room will be voted on. Since this vote will determine whether or not the Tasting Room remains open, Cigar City needs your support. All who are interested in supporting the Tasting Room should go to Cigar City’s website below for further information. Thank you.

http://www.cigarcitybrewing.com/Cigar_City_Beer/Welcome_to_Cigar_City_Beer_in_Tampa_Florida.html

Getting Tanked

November 14th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 1 comment

Tank 7 is a lucky number

I opened the first bottle from my Mr. Beery’s gift basket last night in Naples, and Anne and I enjoyed a remarkable saison before heading out to dinner.

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (Boulevard Brewing Co.; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 8.0), brewed in the brewery’s infamous fermenter number 7, is a straw colored ale with considerable notes of citrusy hops, especially grapefruit, complimented by Belgian yeast, caramel malt, and peppery spices. Tank 7 is silky smooth with a crisp, clean finish. Like some other exceptional saisons, such as Ommegang Ommegeddon, the alcohol content is so well hidden, that this ale has the feel of a session beer. All in all, Tank 7 is an extremely well balanced beer.

You’ll want to stroll down this Boulevard for a Tank 7.

Hex Ain’t Worth The Hype

October 1st, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Hex didn't put a spell on me

I should of listened to you Sean, when you reviewed and panned a certain amber ale in Creative Loafing last week. But whether it was for the experience, or the fact that it was crafted by one of my favorite breweries, you knew I just had to give it a try.

I ordered a Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest Ale (Magic Hat Brewing Co.; South Burlington. VT; American Amber / Red Ale; ABV: 5.4) at Shakespeare’s the other day, anticipating a decent Vienna style amber. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It pours a burnt orange color, and the various malty notes, including Cherry Wood Smoked Malt, couldn’t make up for the sour taste throughout and the bitter finish at the end. Coming from Magic Hat, I expected more, but ended up disappointed.

This is the second disappointment that I’ve had in the last month from a brewery that I’m a fan of. A couple of weeks ago, I opened a bottle of Green Flash Summer Saison (Green Flash Brewing Co.; Vista, CA; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 4.5), anticipating an excellent saison that has gotten some hype on various beer blogs. This hazy golden colored ale starts out with some nice citrusy notes, particularly lemons, and peppery spices, but falls flat at the finish. It reminded me of a watered down version of Ommegang Hennepin or Southampton Saison Deluxe. This is the first beer from Green Flash that I haven’t been crazy about, so I’m sure it was an anomaly.

I found both of these ales to be average at best, and not worth the hype. I guess you can’t win them all.

Carolina In My Mind

August 31st, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

The natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains...

Was a nice backdrop to Asheville's great brewpubs like The Thirsty Monk

Anne and I had a great vacation in North Carolina last week, and savored the best that this wonderfully diverse state had to offer. The Tar Heel State also has a diverse list of breweries and brewpubs, from Raleigh-Durham to Asheville. I’ve already highlighted several excellent beers from Highland Brewing in my previous post. I will take the time in this post to review the best of the remaining beers that we sampled on our tour.

Triangle Belgian Golden Ale; Triangle Brewing Co.; Durham, NC; Belgian Strong Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0. On tap at James Joyce Irish Pub in Durham. An outstanding golden amber ale, with notes of citrusy fruit and light malt complimented by honey and peppery spices. Silky smooth from start to finish with the 8% alcohol content very well hidden.

Duck-Rabbit Amber Ale; The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery; Farmville, NC; American Amber / Red Ale; ABV: 5.0. In bottles at The Carolina Ale House. Easy drinking amber ale with big notes of caramel malt and cinnamon spices balanced by sweet fruit, nuts, and a slight bitterness at the end.

Lonerider Chef’s Wit; Lonerider Brewing; Raleigh, NC; Witbier; ABV: 5.1. On tap at the Busy Bee Cafe in Raleigh. This straw colored Belgian style wit is a collaboration between the brewery and the chef from the Busy Bee Cafe. The big peppercorn notes are complimented by hints of orange and coriander with a wheat backbone. It complimented the fried green tomatoes and Bee’s Nuts that we enjoyed from the cafe’s wonderfully eclectic menu.

Mother Earth Dark Cloud; Mother Earth Brewing; Kinston, NC; Munich Dunkel Lager; ABV: 5.1. On tap at The Raleigh Times in Raleigh. An exceptional full-bodied dunkel. Chocolate in color with notes of caramel and roasted malt.

Aviator Caveman Alt; Aviator Brewing Co.; Fuquay Varina, NC; Altbier; ABV: 7.2. On tap at the 42nd Street Oyster Bar in Raleigh. A very smooth amber colored altbier. Notes of sweet caramel and roasted malt with a slightly bitter finish. The alcohol content of more than 7% isn’t too noticeable.

Appalachian Craft IPA; Appalachian Craft Brewery; Fletcher, NC; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.7. On tap at the Bier Garden in Asheville. Copper red IPA with a huge hoppy presence complimented by sweet malt with a nice dry finish.

Craggie Battery Hill Bitter; Craggie Brewing Co.; Asheville, NC; English Bitter; ABV: 4.2. On tap at the Bier Garden in Asheville. Brewed from a century old family recipe. A perfectly balanced ESB, brown in color with notes of sweet malt, brown sugar, light floral hops, and cinnamon spices.

Pisgah Reserve (AVL); Pisgah Brewing Co.; Black Mountain, NC; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 5.0. On tap at The Thirsty Monk in Asheville. Previously retired, this superb Belgian blonde is back in a limited offering. Notes of breaded yeast, coriander, and roasted malt. Exceptionally smooth from start to finish.

Oyster House IPA; Oyster House Brewing Co.; Asheville, NC: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.0. On tap at Oyster House Brewing, which is located in the outstanding Lobster Trap restaurant in Asheville, NC. Amber colored IPA, with intense notes of floral hops backed by a rich malty backbone. This IPA was a perfect compliment to the Maine Lobster Roll that I had for the main course, in addition to the oysters that we enjoyed for an appetizer.

Asheville Red Light IPA; Asheville Brewing Co.; Asheville, NC; India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.2. On tap at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co. in Asheville. Brought out of retirement, this IPA is an absolute hop bomb, copper red in color with the big notes of citrusy hops balanced by sweet malt. Red Light is a hop head’s dream, and has the feel of a more potent IPA. Asheville Brewing also crafts another excellent IPA, Asheville Shiva, that’s a smooth hoppy IPA, with a malty backbone, at 6% ABV. Each paired well with the excellent Mad Mushroom pizza that we had for dinner.

All in all, we had a great trip and it was great to sample a wide variety of craft beers from the Tar Heel State.

Asheville Pizza & Brewing CO on Urbanspoon

Busy Bee Cafe on Urbanspoon

Lobster Trap on Urbanspoon

Brewfari

August 9th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas 4 comments

I was in my natural habitat at Wazoo 2010

Anne and I had a blast at Wazoo 2010 this past Saturday night at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. In addition to having more than 250 beers and beverages from around the world, the event featured cuisine from restaurants as well as live music from area based artists Velvet Jones, Impulse, and The Paper Stanleys. We also had a chance to get out of the heat for a bit at the zoo’s Beastly Beverage Club, which featured dinner and live music as well. Wazoo 2010 was a well organized brewfest, and I had the chance to sample some old favorites, as well as some new ones. I listed a sampling of the latter below.

Samuel Adams Sample A – Belgian IPA; Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Belgian India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0. Part of this year’s 2010 Longshot Series, this ale is my pick for the brewery’s 6th annual Beer Lover’s Choice. Golden in color, with big notes of citrusy and piny hops balanced by sweet malt and a spicy undertone from the Belgian yeast. As full-bodied as it is complex.

Samuel Adams Sample B – American Rye Ale; Boston Beer Co.; Boston, MA; Rye Beer; ABV: 5.3. This Longshot Series candidate pours a deep mahogany color and has notes of rye and roasted malt complimented by citrusy and floral hops. Very easy to drink with a nice dry finish.

Saint Somewhere Pays du Soleil; Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.; Tarpon Springs, FL; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 8.0. A delicious saison from area based brewery Saint Somewhere. Amber in color, the big notes of tart and citrusy fruit are complimented by sweet caramel and toffee with a sour finish typical of a wild ale.

Saint Somewhere Saison Athene; Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.; Tarpon Springs, FL; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 7.5. An excellent farmhouse ale. A golden saison brewed with chamomile, fresh rosemary and black pepper. The array of spices are backed by notes of sweet malt and citrusy fruit with a crisp clean finish.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Chico, CA; American Brown Ale; ABV: 5.5. A smooth brown ale, Tumbler has notes of sweet caramel and roasted malt, balanced by piny hops and a brown sugary backbone.

Dunedin The Rock Double IPA; Dunedin Brewery; Dunedin, FL; Imperial India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.0. From the local brewery’s Brewmaster Series, this DIPA pours a burnt orange color and has big notes of citrusy fruit balanced by caramel malt and piny hops with a slightly bitter finish.

Southampton Pumpkin Ale; Southampton Publick House; Southampton, NY; Pumpkin Ale; ABV: 5.5. An exceptional pumpkin ale from the Long Island based brewery. Copper in color, with the pumpkin pie presence complimented by sweet caramel and cinnamon spices.

Tampa Bay McBrews Scotch Ale; Tampa Bay Brewing Co.; Tampa, FL; Scottish Ale; ABV: 7.0. A smooth, easy drinking Scottish ale. Amber in color, with notes of sweet malt and chocolate balanced by light hops with a resiny finish.

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.

Southern Tier Farmer’s Tan; Southern Tier Brewing Co.; Lakewood, NY; Imperial Pale Lager; ABV: 9.0. An eclectic, straw colored imperial lager. Big nose of citrusy and piny hops complimented by notes of sweet malt, wheat, and peppery spices.

Leffe Blonde; Anheuser-Busch InBev; Leuven, Belgium; Belgian Pale Ale; ABV: 6.6. A golden, easy drinking Belgian ale. The notes of citrusy fruit, particularly bananas, are balanced by sweet malt and light spices such as cloves.

We concluded the evening by sampling an excellent dopplebock from The Beer and Wine Makers Pantry. Called Strawberry Dopplebock, it poured a dark amber color with big notes of strawberries, roasted malt, and a hint of chocolate. I’m guessing the ABV is around 6-6.5%.

All in all, our brewfari was a total success!

Good Men Drink Good Beer

July 24th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Brooklyner Weisse was among the 30 beers on tap at Growlers

The late Hunter S. Thompson coined the phase above, which is on the blackboard of a new pub that just opened in Sarasota called Growlers. Owned by Kevin and Sherry Kolyno, has 30 beers on tap and at least as many in bottles. From the easy drinking pale lager Jalehouse Light to the superb tripel Chimay Cinq Cents, there’s something for everyone here. Growlers is located on North Tamiami, not far from Ringling College of Art & Design and the University of South Florida. Like Mr. Beery’s and several of the newer pubs around town, the environment is non-smoking. I hung out and sampled several beers.

Brooklyner Weisse; Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY; Hefeweizen; ABV: 5.0. This is a smooth, easy drinking Bavarian style wheat beer. It pours a golden straw color, and has notes of wheat and citrusy fruit such as bananas balanced by clove and vanilla spices with a sweet malty finish. An excellent Summer session beer from Brooklyn Brewery.

Ommegang Hennepin; Brewery Ommegang; Cooperstown, NY; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 7.7. An exceptional saison from Ommegang and one of my all-time favorites. Hennepin is golden in color and has big notes of citrusy hops complimented by coriander and peppery spices, with a dry malt aftertaste. As this beer is crisp and refreshing, and the alcohol content of nearly 8% isn’t too noticeable, Hennepin is perfect for this time of year.

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier; Brauerei Weihenstephan; Freising, Germany; Hefewezen; ABV: 5.4. A wonderful full-bodied hefeweizen. Hazy golden in color, Hefe Weissbier has big notes of sweet malt and yeast complimenting the wheat, with a nice backbone of citrusy fruit. This beer rivals Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse as my favorite hefeweizen.

I congratulate Growlers on their opening, and welcome them to the ever expanding family of brewpubs in town.

Great Minds Brew Alike

June 9th, 2010 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Saison Du BUFF is a rather interesting brainchild

There’s been more and more collaborations between craft breweries over the last year or so, and the trend continues with a saision brewed by Dogfish, Victory, and Stone.

Dogfish/Victory/Stone Saison Du BUFF (Stone Brewing Co.; Escondido, CA; Saison / Farmhouse Ale; ABV: 6.8) is a complex and very eclectic ale. It’s brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Scarborough Fair anyone?) and each is quite noticeable in both the nose and taste. The former reminded me of the aromas that one would experience in an Italian kitchen, while the latter is balanced by citrusy fruit and ginger with notes of sweet caramel at the finish. Saison Du BUFF pours a hazy golden color, and is quite easy to drink despite its complexity.

I salute Dogfish, Victory, and Stone for brewing Saison Du BUFF, and recommend it to beer connoisseurs who are looking for a unique experience.