Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Beer Is Good

I want to draw your attention to my hometown, South Bend, Indiana for what seems to be a rare opportunity to try some special and amazing beers.  South Bend is not what I would normally consider to be a city that has a wealth of craft beer, but it is growing.  Granger has an excellent little craft brewery called Bare Hands and a little further away from South Bend you can find Iechyd Da, which I have heard is a fantastic spot that puts out really quality brews.  The Northern Indiana craft beer scene is really starting to blossom, which makes me extremely proud of my hometown region.

Probably my favorite bar in South Bend has always been Fiddlers Hearth.  It's a great little Irish Pub in the heart of downtown South Bend.  They usually have awesome music and a nice selection of craft beers in a non-smoking environment, which is not the norm for South Bend.

This coming Saturday, June 30th, Fiddlers is hosting an epic beer party called The Beer is Good.  The tap list isn't just good, it's phenomenal.  With special tappings of Founders KBS and Bells Black Note occurring at different times throughout the day, you could easily spend about 7 hours enjoying a fantastic beer selection.  The full list of beers and more event details can be found here.  But I am also going to go ahead and post the impressive beer list they are serving up, bolded are the beers I would definitely not want to miss:

Founders - KBS (11am)
Bell's - Black Note (6pm)

Stone - Verical Epic 11.11.11
Stone - Double Bastard
Four Horsemen - Porter
Four Horsemen - Citra American Wheat
New Belgium - Tart Lychee
Founders - Backwoods Bastard
Founders - Curmudgeon
Founders - Imperial Stout
3 Floyds - Tiger Jelly
3 Floyds - Ham on Rye
3 Floyds - Behemoth
3 Floyds - Al-Dabeyoun
3 Floyds - Blackheart
Bell's - Expedition Stout
Two Brothers - 2011 Bare Tree
Flat 12 - Mustache Ride
Flat 12 - Cuttlefish Cuvee
Flat 12- Haggard Joe, Whiskey barrel aged Joe Brahma 
Greenbush - Rage
Greenbush - Doomslayer
Greenbush - 1825 Steeped w/ MI Raspberries
Greenbush - Cabra Perdida
Southern Tier - Oak Aged Back Burner
He'Brew - Barrel-Aged Funky Jewbelation
He'Brew - Jewbelation Fifteen
New Holland - Night Tripper
Upland Teddy Bear Kisses
Boulevard - Collaboration #2 (w/ Deschutes)
Bare Hands - ThaIPA
Bare Hands - ThaIPA (Cask)

If you are in the South Bend area this weekend, I highly recommend attending this event.  If you do make it, pop over here and let me know how it goes.  Unfortunately I am not able to get away.  What beers on this list would you hope to try?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An All Time Favorite

Quick love given to one of my all-time favorite beers. Three Floyd's Dreadnaught Imperial IPA. Intensely hopped, mango, peach, citrus and a massive malt backbone keep this complex brew incredibly balanced, smooth, and dangerous. One of my all-time favorites. What are you all-time favorite brews?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Lesson in Beer Aging: Bells The Oracle

I didn't really get into craft beer until the fall of last year.  Meaning, I wasn't always aware of how special some brews are.  Sometime this winter I read more about a beer made by one of my favorite breweries, Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  The beer is called The Oracle.  I am a sucker for a double IPA.  Bells Oracle, according to Rate Beer, is among the best Double IPA's out there.  As I read about it further, I discovered that this is usually an August-ish release, and it's usually quite a small amount.  

August?  Wait.  My anniversary is in August and the first stop on our way to South Haven, Michigan was in Kalamazoo at Bell's......I know I took a photo of the tap list from that day, let me dig that up.  Sure enough, there it was.  Oracle Double IPA on tap when I visited, and I didn't even realize it.  Instead, that day I enjoyed the Rye Stout and Deb's Red.  Needless to say, when I initially discovered what I missed, I was pretty bummed.  Of course I am hoping to catch this beer when it comes out in August again.
Then Monday of this week happened.  Wife sent me to the post office and afterwards I stopped by the local Whole Foods market because sometimes they have beer gems.  Lo and behold, I found a bottle of The Oracle on the shelf.  At first I was shocked, and then the shock quickly turned to sadness as I realized that the beer has a bottle date of 8/2011 and is likely way past its prime.  I decided to grab it and give it a chance anyway.

Choose your vessel:  Bells Tulip, 12oz.

Nice Lacing
The Pour:  This one poured a hazy deep orange color.  A very nice looking beer with a 2 finger foam head that clung to the glass.  Sadly, the most impressive aspect of this tasting would prove to be the incredible lacing that remained on the glass.  Which shows that at some point this beer had some resinous hop action to it.

Aroma:  My first indication that this beer was past its prime.  Smelled sweet.  Sugary sweet.  Malt is the predominant aroma, which is not what you want from an IPA....let alone a double IPA.  I did get some faint hop aromas, slight citrus and floral notes.  Those aromas led me to believe that I would actually taste them.

Taste: Malt, malt, and more malt.  If this one had been stored in a cooler, there may have been a chance the hop flavor would at least have been noticeable.  To make matters worse, the alcohol has now become more noticeable in the beer.  So you have a sweet, malty, alcohol flavored mess of a beer here.  No hops noticeable at all.  Tasted more like a barleywine than a double IPA, and Barleywine's are not my thing.

Overall:  Despite my knowledge that this experiment would not end well, I was still disappointed and just sad.  Sad that this particularly beer wasn't enjoyed the way it should have been.

Conclusion:  When I checked out at the register, I talked with the cashier about how this beer was past its prime.  She asked "beer doesn't really go bad does it?"  I then explained to her how certain beers do well with age, and certain beers do not.  Beers that are supposed to showcase the hops (and other flavors like coffee and/or chilis) do lose those flavors with time.  It's a sad fact of beer.  Bells indicates on their website a shelf life of 6 months for this beer, and I bought it at 10 months.  I knew this wasn't going to go well, but I decided that this poor bottle needed to be put out of its shelf-life waiting misery.  What I did gain from this was a sense of what this beer is supposed to be.  The faint citrus and floral hop aroma I got indicated to me that, when fresh, the beer is likely a hop monster that is balanced with a heavy malt presence in the backbone.  Definitely a beer that under normal circumstances would be right up my ally.  I wish I would have known last August that it was on tap at Bells when I visited.  After I purchased the Oracle, I had a brief twitter conversation with Bells about it.  They reported that the aroma would be noticeably different, but that the beer might still be ok.  Sadly, it was a dead bottle.

The moral of the story:  Drink your IPA's, Double IPA's, and any beers that have flavors like Coffee or chili. These beers are definitely best when consumed as fresh as possible.

Have you had experiences with beers like this?  What's in your fridge that you need to get to now?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A New Baby

Must take a timeout from beer discussion to introduce my second son, Lucas Paul, to all 4 of my readers.  Lucas was born 6/11/12 at 3:35pm.  He tipped the scales at 3.535 Kg which is about 7.12 pounds.  He measured 21.5 inches long and has a full head of reddish brown hair.

My wife's water was broken at 10:00 as a measure to induce labor.  She started having pretty strong contractions around 2:00.  At 3:25ish she started pushing and about 8 minutes later Lucas was born.  She did this without any medication, which is quite impressive.  I thought I needed an epidural at one point, so I'm not sure how she did it, other than knowing that she is amazing!  He is calm at the moment, very little crying, and seems to be a good sleeper so far.  Here are a couple photos:
Happy Pappy

Touchdown Baby

My boys and Me.
So back to beer discussion :-)  I am a firm believer that every big life event requires a special brew to celebrate.  I have a few options sitting at home in my cellar and need to decide what to enjoy tomorrow night upon our return.  Founders KBS, Founders CBS, Avery Uncle Jacob's, Goose Island Juliet, Founders Better Half, Upland Raspberry/Blackberry Lambics, Barrel Aged Old Rasputin, and many others to choose from.  Looking forward to that celebratory brew.

What beers have you had to celebrate life's special moments?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Review #5: Triton Railsplitter

Indianapolis has really started to develop an awesome craft beer scene.  The growth has been incredible over the past few years and extremely fun to watch.....and taste :-)  One of the breweries that has taken Indianapolis by storm is Triton Brewing.  Located on the northeast side of Indianapolis, Triton had their grand opening in the fall of 2011, and I got my first taste of their brews in December.  The brewpub is one of the best in the city.  They often have great food trucks serving up delicious eats, amazing guest taps of harder to find brews, and of course they have their high quality selection of original beers.  This place has everything you want from a brewery.  If you haven't been there yet, this weekend is a great time to try something new!!

Triton has 5 beers that are year round brews.  Magnificent AmberDeadeye StoutFieldhouse WheatFour Barrel Brown, and my favorite and the subject of this review: Railsplitter IPA.  Triton's flagship beer clocks in at 7.0% ABV and about 70 IBU's.  Let's dig in to this hoppy masterpiece....shall we?  Well, I shall, you may have to live vicariously through this blog until you go get your own....which I suggest you do.

Choose Your Vessel:  Tulip Glass.  Remember, IPA's and Double IPA's deserve the finest of Tulip Glasses.

The Pour: This one pours a deep copper color and a thick foamy head begins to develop as the pour comes to a close.  The tulip accentuates the head of this brew and it ends up being a solid 2 finger-width head that almost spills over the lip of the glass.  I let it sit for a bit and that head did not go anywhere.  Just an indication of a resinous and robust IPA.  The beer holds itself well in the glass.  Perfect pour.  As I sit back and take this picture, the beauty of the beer strikes me as something I haven't noticed before.  It's really nice to look at.  Attractive in every way.  The deep color suggesting that you are about embark on a flavor adventure.
Aroma: Mostly pine and grass are what I get when I take a whiff.  It actually smells like a beer that would have a much higher IBU measurement, but 70 IBU's is pretty solid for a standard IPA.  I do get a bit of a sweet malt hint towards the end of my inhalation.

Taste:  This one is definitely a hop punch in the mouth.  You get a good balance of pine, citrus, and a little tropical fruit right up front with a little malt background that holds everything together nicely.  The beer finishes extremely bitter and dry, which certainly could be off-putting to some.  For me, though, it just makes me want more.  I definitely enjoy a heavy bitterness in my IPA's and this one does not disappoint.  The bitterness also hangs around for a while after I take each sip.  The flavors of this beer assert themselves aggressively, another attractive feature for me.  Halfway through I also noted that this one is refreshingly crisp and just has a really nice fresh taste to it.  Also, the lacing was quite moderate on the glass throughout the tasting.  Was so interesting that I had to take a picture.
Overall:  Definitely my favorite of the Triton year round brews.  I actually have no problem saying it's one of my favorite standard IPA's to date.  For me, it's the bitterness that really makes me crave each sip.  This is definitely a beer I recommend to friends, and one that I have sent to people as extras in beer trades.  If you read this and would like one, send me an email address so we can set something up.  I'd love to get this beer out and help spread the good work that Triton has done if I am able.  Cheers to Triton on a job well done!  Enough writing....I need to go grab another.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekend in Beer-view

One more weekend is in the books.  Yes, my wife is still pregnant.  Just over 39 weeks now.  We were both really hoping that baby would come this weekend so that we wouldn't have to work this week.  Since baby didn't come, I decided to enjoy some awesome brews.

Friday evening I was supposed to go out and celebrate my buddy's birthday in Fountain Square.  Not only was the celebration for his birthday, but it was also a celebration of Indianapolis changing the smoking laws for bars.  I have been eagerly anticipating the day when Indiana starts to catch up to other states with regards to smoking bans, and finally my city stepped up.  Of course I wished the whole state would be on board, but I'll take a ban for my city.  It's great.  While I wasn't able to go out as planned, I am definitely looking forward to enjoying smoke free air at several Indy establishments.....Moe and Johnny's, Red Key, and Mass Ave Pub to name a few.

With my plans effectively squashed by an insanely gross shower that required chemical warfare to clean, I decided to also enjoy a couple good brews prior to attacking the bathroom.  First up was Firestone Walker Double Jack IPA.  This double from Firestone Walker is probably a top 5 double IPA for me.  Again I received it from my sister in Colorado.  Here's what beer geeks say about Double Jack.  It lives up to it's lofty reputation.  It's an explosion of citrus, tropical, and piney hops with just enough malt background to make you coming back for more.  I finished the bottle rather easily.

By the time I finished the Double Jack, my friend Tom came by to hang out while the wives when to get pedicures.  Fun times.  I busted out my bottle of New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series Tart Lychee.  I've only had a few of the Lips of Faith Series from New Belgium.  This is definitely a sour ale I will consider buying again.  It's definitely tart, and has a subtle Lychee sweetness to go with a touch of cinnamon.  I'm glad Tom was over because it's definitely a beer I would share.
Lacing from the Deviant Dales
Saturday was a one beer day.  One beer days are nice sometimes.  They are also needed occasionally as well.  Saturdays beer of choice was Oskar Blues Deviant Dales.  This double IPA comes with an assault of hops that blows me away every time I pop open one of those sleek cans.  I just love the intense hop flavors and aromas this one dishes out.  Again a gift from my sister in Colorado, I wish I had year round access to this Colorado treat.  A top 10 DIPA.

Today, Sunday, has been an active day.  Went to church.  Went to the Zoo with a crazy 2 year old.  Lots of activity.  Thirst quenching was a must this afternoon.  Had a beer that was new to me, Marble Brewery's India Pale Ale.  Good solid IPA.  Could easily be an every day drinker, but it's from New Mexico and we don't get this one around here.  Nice citrusy hops that linger for a bit after you finish your sip.  I'd drink this one again for sure.

We finished Sunday afternoon at a cookout with our friends Brian and Dana who were in for a short visit from Colorado.  I brought him a Three Floyds Zombie Dust and one for myself.  Also enjoyed a Founders Centennial IPA.  Overall this was a successful weekend, minus the lack of new baby....but at at least I was able to appreciate some fine craft beers.  Bring it on Monday....and bring it on work week.

What beers were in your glasses this weekend?


Friday, June 1, 2012

The Old Reliable

When I arrived home yesterday it became apparent that a storm was brewing. Also brewing lately for me has been my desire to rediscover the classics. One of the issues with a craft beer obsession is that we get so enmeshed in the search for rare and unique beers that sometimes we lose sight of those equally awesome everyday drinking beers. So today I decided to rekindle my passion for an all-time favorite, Bells Two Hearted Ale. This one boasts the classic IPA flavors that I love in a great beer provided by generous centennial hopping. There is nothing like having a great craft beer while watching a solid downpour. That's exactly what I did. Don't take for granted those awesome beers that you can get at any store. Enjoy them. What are your old reliable craft beers?

Later in the evening I decided to stay with the Bells theme and go for a Hopslam. I still have about 5 or so of these left. It still packs a solid hop punch and that touch of honey rounds this one out quite well. Flavors may not be as pronounced as they were in January. So if you have any Hopslam, I suggest you take advantage and finish it!!