Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sorachi Ace by Brooklyn Brewery

Picked a bottle of this at Cork & Barrel a few months ago after Avenue Pub's Brooklyn Brewery's tasting. Sorachi Ace wasn't part of the tasting that night, but it was discussed. At that time I'd actually not heard of the Sorachi Ace hop, a rare Japanese grown hop. During American Craft Beer Week, NOLA Brewing dryhopped their Blonde Ale with Sorachi Ace as part of their dryhop vertical series, following their excellent Blonde Ale dryhopped with Sorachi Ace cask ale a few weeks previously.

It's a beautiful color- a golden light orange with a white head that stayed throughout my enjoyment of the beer. It's spicy and faintly herbal, with a lemon citrus aroma. Easy drinking and a dry finish. The style is a saison and the spiciness specific to the Belgian yeast works with the spiciness of the Sorachi Ace hops in a truly unique but very satisfying and drinkable way.

I drank this one slowly, savoring it. My opinion, it's a very special beer, and a good one for the summer.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Beer-nouncements of note

1) Tom and I were successful in checking a bag full of wonderful beers from CT. We had some time to kill between checking out of the hotel and when our flight left, so we went to Marshalls and got a small hard sided suitcase and three towels on sale, and then went to the Michael's craft store next door for bubble wrap, packing tape, and scissors. We bought 8 bombers of beer that we can't get in Louisiana:

* Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu: BA Review
* Dogfish Head Red & White: BA Review
* Victory: V-Twelve: BA Review
* Avery Collaboration Not Litigation, batch 3 from 2009: BA Review
* Cisco Brewery's "Wood" Series Cherry Woods (MA): BA Review
* Berkshire Brewing Co Raspberry Barleywine/Strong Ale (MA): BA Review
* Long Trail Double IPA (VT): BA Review
* Allagash Tripel Reserve (ME): BA Review

Tried to get good beer geeky things because they are all for the upcoming beer benefit at NOLA Brewing for Nathaniel Zimet, the chef-owner of Boucherie that got shot last weekend. (Click here for information)

#2: NOLA Brewing has been approved for financing to start a beer canning line! This is awesome news... to quote their announcement:
Our canning line is still about six months out, giving you all plenty of opportunity to get excited about it! We’ll roll out with our Blonde Ale and then, as quickly as we can, begin canning our other beers. All of NOLA Brewing beers, the year rounds and the seasonals, will be available in cans.The year round brews, NOLA Blonde, NOLA Brown, Hopitoulas and 7th Street Wheat will be available in six-packs of 12oz cans and our seasonals will be available in four-packs of 16oz cans.

They list several EXCELLENT reasons for going with a canning line rather than a bottling line:
* Cans are more environmentally friendly than bottles. In New Orleans, you can’t recycle bottles but you can recycle cans. We’re a green brewery and we don’t want our bottles ending up in a landfill somewhere; since cans are environmentally friendly, we chose to go with them.
* Cans provide better packaging for the beer. Cans protect the beer against light oxidation and provide you with a better flavor than bottles.
* You can have cans on the street, you can’t have bottles. In New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras, we like to drink our beer in the street and cans are just a better choice.

I'm very excited! Truly, this is a golden age in which we live.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beer in New England

Have enjoyed a couple nice beers that we don't get in Louisiana.

Long Trail Unfiltered IPA- very nice and low key IPA from Vermont. Also had the Long Trail Ale on draft, an alt style ale that is malty, delicious, and highly drinkable.

BBC Steel Rail Pale Ale from Berkshire Brewing Company. The weather today was unexpectedly hot and sunny, and this was perfect to have coming in out of it after the funeral. Followed by Widmer's Double IPA.

Also tried: Naughty Nurse Amber/Pale Ale from a City Steam, local Hartford brewery. Pleasant drinking, nothing too special, but fine and dandy for pre-wake drinking.

Found a bomber of Blue Point Rastafa Rye Ale at the package store- given my weakness for rye beers and Blue Point Brewing, it was a gimme. Was at room temp at the store, and we have no fridge in our room. So between last night and tonight, we iced it down several times in the ice bucket till it was chilled.

Ooh, tasty. Seriously beautifully hopped combined with the spiciness of the rye malt.

We are hoping to get the supplies to check a bag full of beers for a fundraiser for a local New Orleans chef, Nathaniel Zimet, who got shot in an attempted armed robbery over the weekend. Read more about emerging fundraising and support here and here. Wish us luck in our mission... WISH IT!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

ACBW Super Saturday

Hooray, the culmination of New Orleans' ACBW celebration occurred yesterday with the Avenue Pub's Super Saturday beer tasting. $20 got you a ticket for 12 4-oz samples, with the opportunity for up to three bonus pours if you could produce receipts from other ACBW events. Which, of course, we could. So 15 pours! Let me see if I can remember what I had...

NOLA Sorachi Dry Hopped Blonde
NOLA Citra Dry Hopped Blonde
NOLA Amarillo Dry Hopped Blonde
NOLA Centennial Dry Hopped Blonde
NOLA Cascade Dry Hopped Blonde
Rogue Dad's Little Helper Black IPA (on cask)
Brooklyn Cuvee de Noire
Rogue John John Whiskey Barrel Aged Dead Guy Ale
Stone Highway 78 (Green Flash/Pizza Port Collaboration)
Red Brick Dog Days Hoppy Heffe
Rogue Capt. Sig's Northwestern Deadliest Ale
Abita Abbey Ale (on cask)
Moylan's ESB (on nitro)
Brooklyn EIPA (on cask)
Moylander Imperial IPA

My thoughts:

I just loved the entire NOLA hop variety vertical, served over 2 different ACBW sessions. Listening to the staff of the brewery talking on both Friday and Saturday, you could also tell that they had a blast putting it together. Playing with beer can be so much fun!

Recently, Rogue has come to my attention as a really thoughtful brewery with an exciting and excellent array of beers. I'd always known Rogue as the brewers of Shakespeare Stout and Dead Guy Ale, but I was never really that interested in them. I'm not sure if it's because Rogue's distribution has picked up in Louisiana, or if New England never really distributed the full lineup of beers, or if they are expanding their brewing, or if The Avenue Pub has been able to craft a relationship with the brewery/their distributors that bring beers here you just don't find anywhere else. Whatever it is, I've absolutely adored several of the beers I've had over the past month or so: the John John, the Capt. Sig, the Love & Hoppiness, the Chatoe Rogue series (have had the First Growth Single Malt and the Dirtoire Black Lager, and have the First Growth Creek in our stash, yet to be tasted,) the Charlie JLS Release #22, Dad's Little Helper Black IPA, and Yellow Snow IPA.

Rogue joins Stone as West Coast brewing stalwarts that I didn't give a tiny rat's ass about before I moved down here and now have my eyes opened. Possibly the sheer number of Northeast beers on the market at home overshadowed these two pioneers of the West Coast.

Speaking of Stone, I really enjoyed their collaboration beer with Green Flash and Pizza Port. It was a wee heavy style and quite drinkable even on a hot muggy day. Collaborations are usually a lot of fun and I always try any that come my way.

People seemed to have a great time, the Avenue staff (and volunteers) handled themselves and the rush with their typical grace and aplomb, and many, many thanks to Polly for putting together an amazing lineup of beers, not just on Super Saturday, but all week long.

Will be in CT for most of this upcoming week, and perhaps I might have the opportunity to sample and discuss some of the aforementioned Northeastern brews.

Hope everyone had a wonderful American Craft Beer Week! And don't wait till the next one to try something new and exciting...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Local Yokel's Night

So... freaking... sleepy...

Guess that's what a bunch of beers'll do to ya! So. Local's Night at the Avenue Pub. Where beers from local breweries were featured, and featured quite nicely I may add.


Always, always start with the cask. Why? Because it's almost as hard to find cask ale in this town as a street without potholes or a vegetarian entree without crab on top of it. So when I SEE IT I DRINKS IT. Usually this works out well. This evening was no exception- it was NOLA Brewing's Blueberry Blond Ale. Not sure what they did to the Blonde and when (shoulda asked, but as you will see, there was a lot of NOLA stuff to discuss) but it was a tasty, subtly fruity beer without sweetness and with a pale blue head.

Another awesome thing happening was 4 NOLA Brewing draft packs (which is how they sell their beers) with 4 versions of dry hopped Blonde Ale. NOLA did an amazing cask series at the Pub a month or so ago, and this appeared to be an extension of that for ACBW. The Blonde was dryhopped in four different batches with 4 different hops: Mount Hood, Zeus, Czech Saaz, and American Saaz.

These are four VERY interesting hops to roll out. Here are my quick thoughts on them all:

Czech Saaz: the most delicate and subtle hopping of them all. A nicely balanced beer, drinkable, refreshing.

American Saaz: According to the NOLA head brewer, American Saaz hops were developed and initially grown/produced by Anheiser-Busch. Slightly more aggressive than the traditional Czech Saaz hops, it still made for a nice, subtly hopped ale. Hard to describe the difference between the two, but it was certainly a significant one.

Mt. Hood: had more hop aroma and hop-floral taste than either of the Saaz varieties.

Zeus: extremely polarizing at our table. Either loved or hated. Huge herbacious hop presence in the aroma and taste. Tom and I both loved it, and two beer drinkers we were drinking with (whose palates I absolutely respect) hated it. We had an interesting conversation about the chemical compatibility of certain extreme flavors based on this disagreement. (I love drinking in a group of people who love to drink beer!!)

Tom and I ended with glasses of Unibroue's Raftman and Abita's Satsuma Wit dryhopped with Citra hops. The Raftman was terrific as always, and the special Abita keg took a little getting used to- it was cloudy and unfiltered to the point of it looking unappetizing and initially had a pronounced aftertaste (which subsided after the first sip or two) but the citrus and wheat and grassy Citra hops came together in a very refreshing brew. I was slightly surprised, but definitely pleased. It's not a subtle beer by any means, but I could definitely see enjoying a few on a warm summer night. Made an average beer a thoughtful and interesting one.

Oh- we also had a pint of Rogue's Love and Hoppiness and Anchor Steam. Been a long while since we've had Anchor Steam on draft, and the Love & Hoppiness had an interesting story and profile. It's one of the beers in the 2011 series of John’s Locker Stock, which is a recreation of a beer brewed in 2005 for John Maier's wedding. It's a German Pilsner style which was definitely welcomed on a warm beer drinking day like today. Both pints of fine West Coast American Ale were fresh and delicious.

Hooray beer!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ACBW- Nanobrewery Night Beer Tasting

So, for the Wednesday night tasting at the Avenue Pub, things got ramped up in honor of American Craft Beer Week. 10 different beers from teeny tiny breweries were available to sample - 6 samples for $18.

The breweries represented:
Saint Somewhere in Tarpon Springs, Florida. According to Polly's tasting notes, "The brewer, Bob Sylvester, was a long time homebrewer that started selling his stuff a few years back; I'm pretty certain he still has a "day job"

Jolly Pumpkin out of Dexter, Michigan. They focus on using open fermentation, which provides a theme of general funk and sourness in their beers. Delicious funk.

Dieu De Ciel, a brasserie/brewpub in Montreal, with some amazing beers. They are... not American, but they are definitely "nano" and I believe that they've sent some great stuff to the Avenue Pub and offered to do so again, and this is not the kind of beer you say no to. (this is just the impression I got, though. I might be making crazy shit up.)

Bayou Teche, a local favorite with a significant market presence down here. They created a version of their Grenade called the XXX Grenade, which has been extra hopped with Citra hops, and dry..."hopped" with coconut. The brewer is still playing around with this, and requested specifically that it not be reviewed on a beer website at this time, so I won't do so here, but may get Tom to contact the brewery directly with his thoughts (since he's the one who tried it).

Parish Brewing - for a beer just brewed up in Layfayette, this beer is impossible to get a hold of in New Orleans. It's a one man operation and all his kegs are distributed hyper-locally. ("nano-brewery"... "hyper-local"... my fancypants way of saying "really small" and "really nearby")

OK, here's what I drank:

I started with Parish Brewing's Canebreak. It's described as an American wheat style beer in the tasting notes but I would never, ever pick it out as such. I do agree that it was crisp, smooth, and refreshing. A good beer to start with, but flavor-wise, it had a tough time matching up with the other styles. I did like it though and would love to enjoy a pint on a warm spring/summer day.

Next up was what was probably my favorite beer of the night: Jolly Pumpkin's Baudelaire IO Saison. Probably the most expressive and complete of the tasting notes, it is a saison/farmhouse style. It pours a beautiful amber-ruby color and has spicy, floral notes mixed in with a mild bret-style funk. It drinks crisp and clean with a tart, dry finish. I really dug on this beer, a lot.

Third was the Saint Somewhere Lectio Divinia. I liked it OK, but it didn't make much of an impression on me being in the middle of the tasting. I enjoyed it more as it warmed. A nice beer to sip on. (side note: Tom tried Saint Somewhere's Saison Athene and it just did not work for me at all. I saw others enjoying it, and once Tom got used to it, he thought it was OK, but the aroma just put me off. I think it was a YMMV thing though, I think I just had an aversion to the wild yeast or something, weird.)

Time to try the Dieu De Ciel La Rescousee, a German alt style beer. It was a tasty brew, a nice contrast to the funk and sourness of many of the other offerings. Maltier than your average alt beer- gave it a roastier flavor profile than expected. Tom and I both enjoyed it, though.

I closed out with the other two Jolly Pumpkin offerings: the Madrugada Obscura "Dark Dawn" and then the Maracaibo Especial. The Dark Dawn was a Belgian stout style which was easily the most sour of the three Jolly Pumpkin offerings. It was rich in flavor, warming, light on the tongue, and as dark as Tom's soul. The Especial was a Belgian style brown ale that was amazingly complex with notes of spice, chocolate, citrus, and, of course, the funk. I want to go out and get as many Jolly Pumpkin beers I can get my hands on.

Tom closed out with a Peche Mortel which was certainly BADASS and definitely SOMETHING ELSE. I mean that in a good way, and capital letters are necessary to convey the over-the-top-ness of flavor, bitterness, booziness, toastiness, and intense coffee flavor. Good stuff, but a bit of a palate-blower, which is why Tom left it for the end.

The tasting seemed to be well attended with a variety of beer drinkers getting to know these tiny breweries. Definitely a very special ACBW experience (which is different than A Very Special Episode of ...)

Friday and Saturday, I'll be attending the events at the Pub. I feel like I should get out there to a non-Pub event, but... it's hard to fit them in and these events are the most thoughtful and exciting offerings.

Till the weekend...!

New beers from Salt Lake City

As part of American Craft Beer Week, Jeremy aka Beer Buddha of Cork & Barrel hosted a beer tasting which featured some new beers on the New Orleans scene. Squatters Brewery is in Salt Lake City and Cork & Barrel had several beers on hand to sample.

The first beer we tried was actually not from Squatters, but was from a partner brewery in Salt Lake City. It was a blond ale in a teeny tiny bottles (7 oz) called Little Slammers brewed and bottled by Wasatch.

It was your pretty standard golden/blonde ale, nice refreshing cold beer on hot day. And you can like carry it in your pocket!

Moving on: Hells Keep, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. This was very drinkable with Belgian yeast flavors and fruit/spice notes. Not hoppy, most of the flavor came from the yeast characteristics.

Easy drinking.

The Hells Keep is one of Squatters' Reserve Series beers, as is the next one we tried, the Outer Darkness, a Russian Imperial Stout. Ooh, tasty. A bit lighter mouthfeel and flavor intensity than the style usually is, which may annoy RIS connoisseurs, but it worked in its favor for me and my palate. Again, this is an example of the style that is very drinkable. Roasty, chocolate & coffee aromas and notes, brewed with molasses and licorice root and aged in oak barrels.

Nice and dry on the finish. Yum!

The last beer I tried with Jeremy before I went on my way was Squatters' Hop Rising, which is their double IPA.

Big flavor- balanced nicely between malt and hops. For a double IPA, the hop presence was muted, but it, again, was enjoyable on the palate and it was a pleasure to drink. And really, that's all I'm looking for in a beer, ya know?

So, these opinions are based on very minimal consumption- small samples, so it's really a quick hit. I did buy bottles of the Hells Keep and Outer Darkness, and I'll be doing a more in depth tasting in the future. Probably will get the Polygamy Porter (from Wasatch) and the Hop Rising and do it up. Stay tuned! But that will likely be after ACBW is over, because I've got my hands full with that.

With that, I'm off to the Avenue Pub for their Wednesday night nano-brewery tasting. So excited! Will report back. (Promise.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

American Craft Beer Week to begin

I am not sure if ACBW officially begins today or tomorrow, but the Avenue Pub kicked it off this afternoon with a couple new beers from St. Arnold Brewing Company - the latest in their Divine Reserve limited series (a double IPA,) and their Weedwacker, which is their Fancy Lawnmower Kolch brewed with a Hefeweizen yeast. I've been waiting for a St. Arnold beer to really impress me, and this one did. It was the perfect beer to quench the thirst of a bike ride over with actual flavor to enjoy at the same time.

It has a increased hop presence, which made for an enticing aroma. The citrus and floral hop notes combined with the banana-clove smell of the hefe yeast was quite lovely. The combination of the yeast and the hops also translated into the flavor profile as well. A light, flavorful, really interesting beer. I love it when I find a beer like that! So, St. Arnold, well done.

I only had a sip of Tom's St. Arnold Divine Reserve Double IPA, but it was definitely a hop bomb palate blaster which rendered my Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere IPA thin and watery for a few sips. There was some discussion that while the hop aroma was delicate and fruity and piney, that the hoppiness somewhat overwhelmed the balance of the malt. Looking at the reviews on BA, it seems that isn't a consensus there, so I gotta try it again. Oh, my life is so hard.

Tom also had a Moylan's ESB today which they're serving on nitro. We enjoyed several of these a couple weeks ago during the start of what became a Tuesday night bender. It's really good- a nice balanced ESB with a wonderful creamy mouthfeel (that's what she said) from the nitro tap.

In other exciting British-style beer news (which is admittedly less exciting and sexxay than Belgian-style beer news, but we love the British stuff stupid lots), the pub had the Brooklyn Brewey Bitter on cask, which was pretty tasty, but a little thin in comparison to the Moylan's ESB. But a very enjoyable beer nonetheless- I'm always happy to have a bitter option.

Also dranked up good that evening: Red Brick Brewing Company's 16th anniversary Imperial Brown aged in Bourbon casks. This packed quite a punch- at 11% ABV, that's pretty much a given. I don't remember a lot of specifics about this beer, except that it was tasty, drinkable, the flavor changing beautifully as it warmed up, and most importantly, how it made me feel about myself. There's a lesson there somewhere.

American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) in New Orleans: lots of cool stuff going on in pubs all over town, not just the Avenue Pub. Get out there to some of the places you don't think about primarily for beer and let them know that you love craft beer and will support places with it!

Here's the schedule for everything happening in town.

>Here's the schedule for what's happening on the Avenue Pub website, which goes into the beers at their events in greater detail, if you are interested in that.

Here are the Beer Buddha's recommendations and picks for the entire week. Read them... READ THEM!

Here's the website for ACBW national.

All right, then, get out there and drink some amazing beer! And come back here to tell me all about it in the comments.