Sunday, July 29, 2012

National IPA Day

This thursday, August 2, is the second National IPA Day.  It's a day to celebrate one of the most popular styles of beer brewed today.  Here is an article with more on this special day created to encourage people to honor what is likely the most popular style of craft beer.

So why should you drink an IPA on this day?  Why do we even have a day like this?  Beer geeks will obviously participate in honoring the IPA.  We don't really need a special day to consume such a great style of beer.  However, if someone tells me they are gonna have a special day to honor the IPA, then of course you don't have to tell me twice.  I'm going to participate.

My challenge is to you non-craft beer drinker, or maybe you closet craft beer fans out there. Step out of your comfort zone and try a couple different IPA's that you normally pass on when browsing the shelves of your local beer store.  Push yourself to drink two or three of them.  Many times people who aren't into IPA will take one sip and pass because "it's too hoppy".  Hey, you probably didn't love coffee or that first college sip of natty light in your initial journey down those beverage paths.  Those are acquired tastes, and the same can be said about IPA.  I didn't love my first taste of Bell's Two Hearted many years ago, and now it's one of my favorite IPA's on the market.

There are IPA's out there that are not insanely hoppy and can be quite enjoyable to the IPA newbie.  Let me give you some recommendations:

Sixpoint Bengali Tiger:  This beer, while not my favorite, is a nice entry to an IPA.  It's non-threatening with it's hop presence, is quite drinkable, and goes down smoothly.  Not as bitter as some IPA's can be.
Founders All Day IPA:  Extremely refreshing, full of nice hop flavors, and insanely light.  This IPA you can really drink "All Day" because it is only 4.7% ABV.
Bell's Two Hearted Ale: One of my favorites.  Maybe a little more hopped than others, but it is nicely balanced and is quite true to style.  Make sure you drink 2 though....because I said so.
Stone IPA:  A little more bitter than others, but still quite refreshing and crisp.  Easy to find and rather enjoyable.  Go for it!
New Belgium Ranger IPA: I was pleasantly surprised the first time I had this one.  A nice IPA by a brewery most people who are new to craft beer aren't afraid of and could definitely be on board with.

The best recommendation I can make, however, is to just go local.  These days most places have a craft brewery that's within driving distance.  Many of these craft breweries will have special IPA's on tap that day to celebrate.  Be watching your favorite brewery's twitter feed or website for more information on what they will be pouring.

What will I be doing this year for IPA day?  Well, being the beerdaddy, my evening will likely be spent at home with my wonderful boys and awesome wife.  I would love an opportunity to go out to my favorite local spots, but I wouldn't trade my time with my boys for anything.  What will I drink?  This is a great question.  I have many many options for this day, and I have not made the decision yet.  Look for another blog post about this later this week.

What will you drink for IPA Day?  Let me know via comments here or tweets.  Looking forward to hearing from people about this, and spread the word by adding #IPADay to your tweets to add to the celebration that is IPA!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Spunky Imperial IPA....Ska Decadent IIPA

I didn't know much about Ska Brewing before diving into their Decadent Imperial IPA.  So I decided to check out their website.  The first thing i noticed was the blaring Ska style music coming from the page, and then the really awesome web design they have.  It's an awesome website, I recommend you check it out.  These guys seem like they have fun doing what they do and this is part of the joy of craft brewing.  I also have a special place in my heart for Colorado breweries.  My sister lives there.  We vacationed there a lot when I was a kiddo.  It's one of the most beautiful states in our awesome country.  No coincidence that Colorado produces some of the most awesome beer in the country either.

I have had their Modus Hoperandi from a can previously and really enjoyed it, so when I landed the Decadent Imperial IPA in a recent beer trade I was ecstatic to give it a try.  One of the benefits of having friends located throughout the west coast and rocky mountain area is that I am lucky to receive some awesome beers that are not local.  These are real treats.  So let's dive into this wax-dipped gem....I mean, if it's dipped in wax it has to be awesome right?  Here is what the beer geeks at Rate Beer have to say about this one.
Choose Your Vessel:  For this brew, I went with the Bells 16 oz Tulip glass.  I do actually have a Ska Brewing Pint Glass I received from my sister, but it was for a different beer and I wanted to use a tulip.  The larger Bell's Tulip is awesome for these larger bottles.  Getting into this brew was a bit of work.  The wax didn't want to come off easily and I had to be careful to not get any wax in the beer during opening.  I like the look of wax-dipped bottles, but in actuality, I'd rather this practice disappear.

The Pour:  Deep orange in color and fairly clear.  As the beer fills the glass I thought for a minute that no head would form, but thanks to the design of the glass the head begins to form towards the end of the pour.  A solid one and a half finger white foamy head appears and really sticks around for a while.  Indicates to me that this will have some nice lacing, which it did, and would also be somewhat resinous, which again it was.

Aroma:  Mostly citrus hops.  Orange peel and some grapefruit.  I'm getting a hint of some sweet mango as well.  Also present is the slight smell of alcohol and a hint of some sweet caramel malt.

Taste:  Tastes less hoppy than it smells.  Definitely get the orange and grapefruit hops with a little bit of malt.  Alcohol swarms the palate towards the end but the beer ends up rather sweet and somewhat syrupy in mouthfeel.  Alcohol is not as well hidden as with other Imperial IPA's I've had.  However, in a strange way, the beer is quite balanced and incredibly smooth to drink.  Sweet and maybe just a trace of bitterness.  I definitely get some sweet tropical notes as I progress through the beer.  I also am getting more malt than I expected with this one.  Bottle says best before 4/2013 which tells me this is pretty fresh.  So I expected more hops especially with the advertised 95 IBU's.  Quite drinkable.  3/4's of the way through I really start to feel the 10% ABV.  A little more carbonation would make this brew more crisp, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Overall:  Not the most incredible Imperial IPA I've had.  Does have some uniqueness which is what I always look for in a beer.  I expected it to be hoppier than it actually was, but it definitely had a nice balance of sweet flavors with the hops which you don't see often from Imperial IPA's.  These guys know what they are doing. I look forward to trying more beers from Ska in the future.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Local Flavor...Flat 12 Amber Ale

I had an intern at St. Vincent a couple years ago who told me of this local brewery that was just getting started.  She knew the head brewer, Rob, and she spoke very highly of his beers.  This was when I first heard about Flat 12.  At that time I was just starting to scratch the surface of craft beer and so I was eager to experience Flat 12, but wasn't able to find time to get down there.  My first trip to Flat 12 happened last September with my buddy Phil.  I had the chance to speak to Rob, and although he is a Red Wings fan, he is a pretty cool guy and really knows his beer.  A couple years later, Flat 12 Bierwerks is growing, flourishing, and putting out awesome beer after awesome beer.  I had the privilege of attending their anniversary party earlier this year and enjoyed some amazing rare brews that they celebrated.

Until recently, you could only go to the tasting room located downtown in Indianapolis and purchase growlers and enjoy pints.  Last week, however, bottles of two of their standard beers hit shelves in 6 packs. I chose to go with their Amber Ale, which is one of my favorite Ambers and if it's ever on tap in my area, I typically order it.  Now I have the chance to enjoy a bottle at home and for the purpose of todays blog I get to review it.  Here is what the folks at Rate Beer have to say about it.  Now, it's my turn:

Choose Your Vessel:  I went with the brewery pint glass.  Picked up the Flat 12 glass back in September in hopes that someday I could use it with a bottle of their beer.  I like the glass, but I would prefer one with their traditional winged 12 logo.  Nevertheless, the pint glass is a great choice for an amber such as this.

Let's also take a moment to comment on the bottle label.  There is a lot going on with this label.  I appreciate the drawings, the letters, and the whole "Hello My Name is Amber" Amber Ale portion.  It's quite comical and enjoyable to look at.  Impressive job with this one.  It's quite unique and sets itself apart from other labels.  Not quite as out there as artwork from Three Floyds, but it has its own identity and I really appreciate that.

The Pour: Deep Amber in color.  About a one finger head.  For some reason a bunch of carbonation swarmed the logo so my photo of the beer didn't turn out as well as I had hoped.  Decent lacing throughout consumption, but not as impressive as other brews.  Ambers, however, aren't usually known for incredible lacing, so it's not really an issue here.  Really a nice looking Amber Ale as you can see in the photo below.

Aroma:  Sweet malt aroma, hints of toffee and caramel.  A touch of citrus hop aroma is noticeable here, but definitely a malt forward smell overwhelms the olfactory senses.  It's quite nice.

Taste:  The sweetness of an Amber is the first thing I pick up, but shortly after the palate is dominated by a really nice blend of hops and malt.  Makes this a hoppier amber than most.  Toffee, Caramel, slightly nutty with a nice citrus hop flavor.  Medium carbonation.  Nice bubbles.  Sweet throughout with a strong punch of hops.  The beer starts to finish sweet, but actually ends up bitter.  A nice and welcome change to the drinking process.
Overall:  Extremely drinkable Amber Ale.  This one, while not a traditional amber due to the increased presence of hops, is probably one of my favorite Amber Ales I've had.  Maybe not quite as good as Bells Amber, but it's in the discussion for sure.  I really like the complexity of it.  Typically when I hear "Amber Ale" I know this is going to be malty and sweet, but with some depth of flavor as well.  This one has those components, but the hop presence just adds to the depth of flavor and makes this one an Amber that all hopheads can get on board with.  

You can pick up the Amber Ale at many liquor stores throughout the area.  Go get some!  Cheers and Enjoy!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sharing Beer with Family

I had a rare opportunity last week to spend quality time with my immediate family.  My sister, Lori, and her husband, Evan, flew in from Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a few days.  My little sister, Libby, and my parents also came down for a great family weekend.  Lori and Evan also came bearing gifts for me :-)

Upon their arrival, we enjoyed a Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow before heading to the Indianapolis Indians game where many Sun King brews were also enjoyed amidst the 100 degree heat.  The Cow was an extremely nice and dangerous double with a creamy body you generally don't get from any IPA.  Definitely not normal, but in a very enjoyable way.

We started on Thursday with a trip to Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana.  Lori and Evan had never been there before.  I was able to grab a couple of cases of Zombie Dust!! Score!  We tried every Three Floyds beer they had on tap that day and none of it disappointed.  I particularly enjoyed Boubon Barrel Aged Robert the Bruce, 219 (a hoppy pale which is rumored to be a Gumballhead and Zombie Dust blend), and of course Zombie Dust.  Don't sleep on the food at Three Floyds either, their Duck Fat Popcorn was fan-freakin-tastic.  We had such a good time at Three Floyds, although some of the customer service there was less than desirable.  My sister wanted to buy a t-shirt and they were out of her size in the one she wanted.  She asked the guy about the one hanging up and he replied sarcastically "it's hanging up size".  Way to be Three

Friday we enjoyed several great bottles while I smoked pulled pork and Habanero Sausage Bombs.  If I remember correctly, we enjoyed Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout, Grand Teton Lost Continent, Odell/Thornbridge Pond Hopper, Founders Devil Dancer, Founders Frangelic Mountain Brown, and AleSmith Yule Smith Summer 2012 Double IPA.  Every one of these beers tasted incredible.  The Mountain Brown probably has the best nose of any beer I've ever had.  The Pond Hopper and Yule Smith were both fantastic.  Devil Dancer is a monster.  The surprise of the group was the Lost Continent.  We all really enjoyed this one with it's tropical and citrus hop flavors that were incredibly drinkable.  Of course, the Bourbon County Coffee was off the charts, although slightly disappointed that the coffee flavor had diminished significantly.  A great beer sampling indeed.

Saturday, while Evan napped, I was able to spend some QT with Lori.  We drove around to the Bier Brewery and Flat 12.  We wanted to hit Sun King but their tasting room was closed due to construction.  Lori was particularly bummed about that.  However, we sampled some local Indiana flavors and they did not disappoint.  I really enjoyed Bier's PDG Pale Ale and their Fustercluck IPA.  At Flat 12 I was really surprised at how much I loved the Kiwi Kiwi Hefe.  I am not a Hefe fan typically, but this one had enough tartness from the Kiwi to make it incredibly drinkable for me.  Also enjoyed Liquid Fiction, a session IPA with enough hop punch to make you think you were drinking a typical 6-7% IPA.  Job well done on this one Flat 12.  Of course, a trip to Flat 12 is not complete for me without grabbing a pint of Walkabout Pale Ale.  A Galaxy hopped Pale that is one of my favorite brews they produce.  Photo of my Walkabout:

Saturday night when Lori and Evan got home from dinner with some local friends, we cracked open the Goose Island Bramble Rye Bourbon County Stout.  Hands down the best beer we had all weekend.  Thick, rich, berries throughout.  Smooth.  Rye Whiskey notes came through nicely.  The beer had a port wine characteristic that reminding me a little bit of Dark Lord.  Lots of complexity, even a little tartness in there.  Definitely a winner.

Overall a fantastic beer weekend.  Loved sharing epic beers with family.  Just can't beat spending quality time with loved ones and sharing the nectar of the Gods.  What have you shared with your loved ones?

Dad, Lori, Nolan, and Evan

Monday, July 2, 2012

Beer Advocacy at its Finest

I signed up for my Beer Advocate account in October of 2011 as a means to try and just keep up with the fast pace of beer news and other interesting information regarding craft beer.  What I didn't know, is that I would end up meeting awesome people and making valuable connections in the world of craft beer.

If you have any interest in craft beer at all, you should take advantage of the fantastic resources Beer Advocate provides.  For example: My little sister was visiting Boston recently, and asked me if I knew of any good bottle shops she could visit to find some gems.  Of course, I have never visited Boston, and so I started a thread on Beer Advocate asking for suggestions and I also found this information while looking on the website.  Within 5 minutes of starting this search, I was able to provide my sister with valuable information that helped her to find some nice bottles to bring home.

Another perk is the people you get to know.  Internet forums can be intimidating, and don't judge me for using them :-)  However, I have met some great people using a DMB forum for DMB shows and DMB geekdom, and Beer Advocate is no different.  Some of you may know that I have an affinity for Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, and if anyone wants to buy me this I would be forever grateful.  Anyway, I was able to land several bottles of the regular Bourbon County Stout and one bottle of the Coffee variant, but completely struck out trying to land the Bramble Rye version, which is imperial stout aged in rye whiskey barrels with blackberries and raspberries, and probably my most coveted variant other than the beer you should buy me off of ebay :-)  Anyway, I mentioned in a thread on Beer Advocate that I had missed out on this bottle, and when I met one of the guys from Beer Advocate at a local beer tasting, he took me to his car and gave me a bottle of the Bramble Rye.  Now I can add it to my collection of Bourbon County Stouts.

 What a generous community.  I couldn't believe his generosity and am forever grateful.  To me this is what Beer Advocacy is all about.  Giving people the opportunity to try beers that they are interested in and/or may not have access to.  Sharing.  Being generous.  I've learned that hoarding beer is not optimal and you should share with those who value it.

Which brings me to the next step in Beer Advocacy.  The Bottle Share.  This past saturday I was extremely fortunate to be a part of an awesome bottle share at the Upland Tasting Room in Indianapolis.  Many thanks to the Upland Indy team for allowing us to bring in bottles and share.  Here is the lineup of what was sampled this day:

Founders Frangelic Mountain Brown:  The special release that hits Indianapolis on Thursday and Friday this week.  The same guy that gave me the Bramble brought this special treat he acquired.  It's delicious, the Hazelnut coffee in this brown ale is just incredibly delicious.  If you are lucky enough to get one, I recommend drinking it immediately to get the full coffee flavor experience.
Jackie O's Bourbon Barrell Dark Apparition
Jackie O's Vanilla Bean Rum Barrel Aged Dark Apparition
Both of these brews are extremely limited releases by Jackie O's.  Both were awesome, maybe slightly boozy, but still remarkable beers. 
 DFG IPA by the Bier Brewery
Russian River Consecration Batch 6
Jackie O's Oil of Aphrodite
Firestone Walker 15th anniversary ale
Firestone Walker 14th anniversary ale
Firestone Walker 13th anniversary ale
This was my first time doing a vertical tasting of beers at different stages of the beers life.  Was remarkably interesting.  The 15 and the 13 tasted similar to me, while the 14 may have been a bit different.  I preferred the 15th because it just tasted better to me, but really it was like splitting hairs.

Goose Island Pere Jacques 2007 (the second oldest beer I've ever had, was really good)
Goose Island Matilda 2010 (infected, which is a good thing to Beer Advocate members)
Boulevard Love Child #2
Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge
Jack's Abby Hoponius Union
Brouwerj 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze
and Two beers I brought to the table:
Upland Bourbon Barrel Bad Elmers Porter
Stone Ruination 10th Anniversary IPA.  Another beer that is filthy good and not available in Indiana.
Here is the Wall...all the beers that were consumed 
What I gained from this event was extremely humbling.  I find that among my friends, I tend to have more craft beer knowledge than a lot of them, and usually I am the one recommending beers to them.  On this day, I felt like I knew absolutely nothing about craft beer.  The people that I spent time with are so above my knowledge level it was shocking.  But the best part, aside from trying these awesome beers, was that they all welcomed me and were extremely enjoyable to be around.  They recognized that I have a passion for this and took time to explain things to me and helped me to further my understanding of the craft beer culture.  I am looking forward to learning more from these awesome Beer Advocate guys and hopefully doing these bottle shares on a regular basis.  

Cheers to Beer Advocate for bringing such amazing people with a common bond together to share their interests with each other.