January 31, 2010

I was a guest reviewer!

One of the best parts about writing this blog (and going out to try all the beers I try) is the cool people I've met that I otherwise probably wouldn't have ever come across. The craft beer scene is exploding and the people involved in it are - from what I can tell - extremely open and welcoming. We all have the same goal: get people out of their comfort zone of the mass produced beers and get them to try some of the amazing varieties that are available.

I'm on twitter and follow (way too) many people involved one way or another with craft beers. Brewers, bars, bloggers. You name it (and if it starts with a "b") I'm following. So when I saw that a fellow blogger at lostinthebeeraisle.com was looking for guest reviewers, I responded immediately.

Check out my review of Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout on his blog here.

And check back here next week for his guest review on my blog. We're also going to do a virtual beer tasting together sometime in the next couple of weeks, which he'll then post. I'll put the link to that up once we've completed it.

Have I mentioned how much fun I'm having with this all? I'm a lucky, lucky beergirl!

January 29, 2010

Stone Levitation Ale

Stone Brewing is one that seems incapable of putting out a bad beer. I've liked everyone I've had, all varieties (porters, IPA, strong ales). Their IPA was #7 on my top 10 IPA list.

Levitation is another hit. It's a great session beer at 4.4% ABV, which is unusual from Stone. Stone beers tend to have a higher ABV than this one. It pours a clear, dark amber. Nice smell of hops - citrus, pine. And the same comes through in the taste, backed by some caramel malts. It's bitter, but not not that biting bitter that I get from some of my favorite IPAs. Actually, this is the beer I've been turning to when I want to continue drinking but need a break from some of the bigger tastes I usually go for.

I don't think this is a very complex beer and not overwhelmingly one way or the other, which is probably why I'm not writing as much as I usually would. Having said that, it's a very good, very smooth, very drinkable beer that is well worth trying.

January 27, 2010

Port Brewing Older Viscosity

One of these days I'm really going to remove myself from Tria's email list. That email is to my eyes like the music of the pied piper was to the ears of the rats (and, I guess, the children). Every time I get one I find myself at Tria post-haste. It happened again this past Monday. I was ready (very ready, after the long Sunday night I had) to spend my night on the sofa in front of the TV. But when I saw that they were tapping a keg of Older Viscosity I knew I wanted to get there to try it.

Older Viscosity is the Old Viscosity (for those of you familiar with it) made stronger by six months spent in bourbon barrels. This is a big beer - 12% ABV - that tastes like a big beer. I took a seat at the bar next to a man who was drinking one, and I honestly thought it was wine he had, given how it looked in the glass.

The pour is an inky black. I could overwhelmingly smell the bourbon along with hints of chocolate, vanilla, and some dark fruits. I was a bit apprehensive to taste it. And for me, that apprehension turned out to be the right feeling. As I mentioned above, this tastes like a big beer. It's definitely a sipper, and if you're going to have one, you're likely going to have only one.

There's a lot of bourbon in the taste. But, much like the aroma, you also get chocolate, oak, vanilla, and brown sugar. Definitely not my cup of beer, but others seem to really like it. From what I can tell, if you're a fan of this type of beer this is one you'll want to try. It reminded me of the Lost Abbey Angel's Share. Interestingly, Port Brewing and Lost Abbey are brewed by and at Port Brewing Company, and are both overseen by the same head brewer. I want to try some of their other varities, because I think I'd really enjoy them and then wouldn't feel so badly about not liking the two that I have written about!

January 21, 2010

Emilisse Royal Imperial Stout

When I heard that I could among the first people in the country (!) to taste a Dutch beer that was recently imported in to Philly, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Forget that I could tell I was getting sick and should probably stay home to get better. Some things are worth getting sick for.

The Emilisse Royal Imperial Stout turns out to be one of them. It's a big, roasty, toasty stout imported by 12 Percent Imports. It pours a deep, dark brown, and looks thick and creamy in the glass. The aroma is of coffee, chocolate, roasty malts. Like the last beer I wrote about, this is a strong one - 11% ABV - that hides its alcohol well. Chocolate, coffee, and molasses are the predominant tastes.

I like that this is a big beer that doesn't necessarily taste like a big beer. It's almost deceiving that the alcohol is hidden as well as it is. But as the saying goes - caveat emptor. Buyer beware. Always good to ask the question about what you're drinking so you don't pay the price the next day.

My understanding is that there will only be 10 kegs of this imported to the US. So it's definitely going to be hard to find. If you see it, you should grab one. And not just for the bragging rights.

January 19, 2010

Allagash Curieux

I'm not sure that I would have tried the Allagash Curieux on my own. It's a bourbon barrel-aged tripel. Nothing about that says that I'm going to like it. It's not going to be hoppy. It's going to taste of bourbon. I like the tripel style but don't love it.

And yet, love it I did! I was at Monk's Cafe and was told this was a special beer and that I had to try it. Good thing other people have taste beyond IPAs and force me outside of my comfort zone.

It poured a nice amber color. The bourbon came through in the smell, but not so much so that I was afraid to try it (not being a huge bourbon fan). There was also some vanilla, oak, and fruitiness coming through. Taste was pretty much the same as the nose. This is a strong beer - 11% ABV (although, I actually thought it was 22%, so I'm relieved to find out it's not) - but the taste is not overpowered by the alcohol. I found it to be very drinkable. You can taste the bourbon but it doesn't completely overwhelm the palate, instead blending well with the vanilla, oakiness from the barrel and fruits that you would expect from a tripel.

I agree that this is a special beer and one well worth tasting.

January 12, 2010

Bell's HopSlam

Oh. My. God. How have I not had this beer before? It is such amazing, hoppy goodness. Has anyone ever recommended it and I've not listened? I just don't understand.

I know I said I was going to try more porters and stouts, and I am. But when I got the news that The Foodery had the HopSlam in, it was a no-brainer. I needed to get my hands on some. And I am so glad that I did!

The minute I opened the beer - before I even poured it - I said out loud "I'm going to love this". The smell itself told me all I needed to know. It was that citrusy, grapefruity smell that is heaven to me. The taste didn't disappoint. If anything, it exceeded my expectations! This is a strong beer - it's a double IPA and comes in at 10% - but you would never know it from the taste. It has all the hop bitterness and attendant citrusy flavors, but it's so nicely balanced with the malt and honey sweetness that it's not overpowering at all. This is really an amazing beer - I don't know anyone who's tried it that hasn't loved it.

Unfortunately, it's an extremely limited release. If you live in the Philly area, I know it's on tap at North Bowl (or was on Thursday night when I was there). It's also available at the Foodery in NoLibs, as I mentioned above. Or, I should say, was available on Tuesday when I was there. I have a feeling this is going to go quick, so do what you can to get your hands on one before it's too late.

January 11, 2010

My 10 in '10

Okay, okay. I shamelessly stole this idea from my friend's blog (btw, she's a great photographer if you're looking for one. Check out her blog and site). But I loved it and wanted to do my own "10 in '10" - ten things I'd like to accomplish this year.

Why so late, you're wondering?

Well, there's a few reasons. First, this isn't really a blog about me and my resolutions. Second, I like being fashionably late. And finally, I'm a procrastinator. (That last one is probably the real reason.)

Also, I believe in the power of words. Once you put something out there, you better be ready to back it up. So I wanted to make sure that if I say I'm going to do it, there's at least a chance it will really get done.

These are not in order of importance, by the way. Just kind of as they came to me. Not are all related to this blog, but all are related to my life and what I'd like to see happen this year.

1) Shoot some webcasts and post them

2) Blog more consistently. Not always about beer, but with that as the overall theme (I think this post counts towards that)

3) Volunteer! I've been saying for years I want to volunteer and I finally have the time to do it

4) Travel somewhere I haven't been before - hopefully international, but I'll settle for somewhere cool within the US, too

5) Take more advantage of all that Philadelphia has to offer (true confession: I lived about a 15-minute walk from the art museum for almost 5 years and never once visited. Pathetic!)

6) Learn how to do more with my Mac than just access the Internet and use the PC-compatible software

7) Spend more time with friends and family and less time with Twitter and Facebook

8) Run a 1/2 marathon and the Broad Street Run and set a PR in both

9) Try beers that I swear I'm going to hate only to realize how much I love them (or not, but at least I'll know for sure)

10) Continue to learn about beer and figure out how to really turn my love for good brews in to something I can do to support myself (open a bar? write a book? work for a brewery? Possibilities are endless!)

Okay, so that's it. Obviously there are some things that didn't make it on to the list that I hope will happen this year, but this is a good start.
Have any resolutions/intentions/whatever you want to call them you'd like share? I'll hold you accountable if you do the same for me.

January 7, 2010

Flying Fish Exit 1 Oyster Stout

As I write this I'm sitting on my floor. That's because there's something wrong my my router, and I have to sit with my laptop connected to the router in order to get on the internet! This is crazy! I was on the phone with Comcast yesterday because my internet connection was so slow. So while my downloads are faster, now it only works if I'm directly linked to the router. Grrr! (if anyone has any suggestions on how this might be fixed, I'd appreciate hearing them!)

Anyway, since one of my last posts was about my newfound appreciation of stouts and porters I thought I'd write about one I've had a couple of times and really enjoyed - the Flying Fish Exit 1 Oyster Stout.

Before I write about the beer, though, I'd like to talk about the "Exit 1" part of the name. For those not living in the Delaware Valley, the beers take their names from the exits on the Jersey Turnpike. Each beer represents something about the exit it represents. Exit 1 on the turnpike is Carney's Point Township; it seems that the southwest bayshore (which I'm assuming falls in this township) has been responsible for supplying oysters to Americans since colonial times. While there are efforts today to save the oyster, hundreds of millions of oysters were harvested from this bayshore annually through the 1950s.

Another interesting fact is that oysters and stout had a long history in the UK, but eventually the pairing of the two fell away.

I, for one, thank Flying Fish for bringing it back. It mixes two things I love - oysters (mmm!) and beer. If only there were chocolate in it, it would be perfect. Oh wait. There is chocolate! This might literally be the perfect beer for me (even minus the hoppy bite).

The pour is a deep black. There's not a lot of carbonation, and it's really creamy. You can smell roasty malts and chocolate, as well as a hint of that ocean smell (anyone who has driven down the shore and rolled down their window to announce to their olfactory sense that they've arrived knows the smell of which I write). It's not - I repeat NOT - overwhelming and no one should be put off from trying the beer because of this. A lot of people don't smell this at all, as a matter of fact. And who knows, maybe I'm just imagining it because I want it to be there.

As far as the taste, it's a great combination of roasted coffee, chocolate, and a hint of brininess. I don't mind this taste (and a lot of others don't seem to, either). This is so good I could drink it all day! Or night. And given that it's only 7% ABV, that seems quite doable.

I think this is a great winter beer with just enough of a reminder of summer in there to lift my spirits through the cold, gray days. Seriously, try this if you see it. You won't be sorry you did (even if you swear you hate oysters).

January 2, 2010

A new year started off right!

I started writing this a couple of days ago. And now we're really in to 2010 and you know how I can tell? Because I'm already remembering to write "2010" on my checks, instead of "2009". Although, I've only written 2 checks so I shouldn't be too proud yet.

I had an amazing New Year's Eve, and hope you did, too. I went to Varga Bar for their 5-course (mostly) Dogfish Head beer-paired dinner. It was truly a delicious meal. Below is what I had for each course, as well as the beer it was paired with.

Course 1 - roasted green meadow farm longneck pumpkin soup. This was an amazing soup - not overly pumpkiny, creamy, done with lemongrass, toasted cinnamon, and pumpkin seed oil. The kind of soup that makes you want to lick your bowl clean. It was paired with the 120 Minute IPA (way to kick things off the right way!).

Course 2 - there were 3 offerings and I chose the oysters, which were served with a citrus relsih and didn't disappoint. Luckily I also got to try the other two options - grilled hickory-bourbon smoked octopus and a crispy wild mushroom polenta. Both were outstanding. My friend sitting next to me had the polenta, and I'm pretty sure I heard her moaning as she was eating it. This course was the only paired with a beer other than Dogfish Head; it came with the Troegs Mad Elf.

Course 3 - the cheese course! No choosing here - everyone got a rogue river blue with cherry balsamic reduction, an aged gouda with spiced almonds & black olive caramel, and a Vermont cheddar with spiced apple-cranberry and almond compote. I'm pretty sure I was moaning while I ate this course. It was paired with Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine. I should point out that by this time the effects of the beers were making themselves known. We weren't getting full pints, but it didn't matter. These were some serious beers!

Course 4 - I had the roasted winter squash and three cheese ravioli. "Amazing" doesn't begin to do it justice. It was served with crispy polenta, pecan-sage brown butter, shaved parmesan, sautéed pea tops, and royal trumpet mushrooms, and it was paired with the Worldwide Stout. The other two choices were a grilled rib eye and maple-pecan crusted duck breast; given that I'm a vegetarian, I didn't try either of them, but my friends said they were terrific.

Course 5 (the dessert course, thankfully!) - I ordered the housemade pumpkin pie, but honestly didn't eat much of it. By this point the beers were doing their job and the food had done it's job - I was sufficiently stuffed and feeling pretty good! The dessert course was paired with the Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada collaboration Life and Limb (which I did manage to drink).

Anyone familiar with these beers will know that the lowest ABV among the bunch is 10%. That's right - that's the lowest.

If NYE was any indication, 2010 is going to be a year filled with good beers, good friends, and good times. But I think we all already knew that.