Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thanks for Holiday Beer Gifts!

I have really nice sisters! One of them lives in NY. She gave me a hard-bound book version of my blog! So fancy and awesome! Thanks Rebecca. Another sister lives in Portland, OR. Rachel has hooked me up with beer before and for Xmas this year she got shipped me a special holiday Rogue collection.
It included a glass with the bottle art from "Yellow Snow IPA;" it also included a bottle of that, Santa's Private Reserve Ale, and Roguenbier Rye. I'm particularly excited about the Rye ale. Rogue has farms, and grows some of their own hops, barley, and now rye. It sounds like their first crop was demolished by slugs; not easy to combat.
 The beautiful and tasty Santa's Private Reserve ale.
 Mmm, mmm, mmm...
Yellow Snow IPA. Excellent. And not as yellow as I expected. 

Thanks Rebecca and Rachel! And hoppy holidays.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

HopCat - Short's Birthday Party

So I finally went to the HopCat for the first time recently. This was after a show in Grand Rapids, and I was excited to hear we were only a few blocks away from this highly esteemed beer bar.
HopCat is always cool but the night we went, it was a special Short's Brewing event! You can't really tell from this picture, but it was cool to see 34 Short's handles all in a row. It was in honor of the founder of Short's turning 34. He was running around in full mustache.
They were sadly out of S'mores Stout, which I have always wanted to try. However, I got 2 other unique beers. First the Captain Fantasy which combines 2 of my favorites - pear and Saison. It was delicious. Light body, Belgian yeast, pears. Then, out of pure curiosity, I tried The Gambler, an IPA aged in Bourbon barrels with tobacco. Whiskey, tobacco, and gambling all in one little snifter. It was weird. Very floral, strong tobacco smell and taste, sugar, and bitter hops. I liked it! But not enough to get it again. I love how unique so many Short's brews are.
Tobacco beer. "The Gambler."
 Cheers, no jeers! This photo includes Coke and a Cider.
Finally got to try the much-hyped HopCat "crack fries." With cheese no less. Delicious. Also these fried nuggets of joy. Rumor has it that there will be a 2nd HopCat location opening up in Lansing in 2013 with 100 taps and crack fries. I do hope there's enough of a craft beer market to support this along with all the existing beer bars in Lansing.

Brown Shugga', Oh Honey Honey

Random selection at Taps 25 one night. Lagunita's Brown Shugga,' a big American Strong Ale at 9.99% (let's just say 10) alcohol by volume. It is brewed with brown sugar, hence the name.
Good looking beer! Head stayed solid after a 5 minute restroom break. I came back and it looked the same.
 Still looking good.
Very hoppy. Pine, pineapple, oranges, caramel malts, sweet from the brown sugar but not overly so. Both alcohol and sugar started to stand out more over time.
Going, going, gone! Very tasty beer, extremely drinkable despite the high alcohol content, interesting concept on this one. I like. A-

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Birch and Barley

So I found myself in DC recently, on a business trip. I was hoping to do a little exploring on my own, and one night - I did! When I'm in a new city I like to research places I might like to go. Generally these places may incorporate any or all of the following: good beer, good music, homosexuals. In that order. I did not find the homosexuals but I did find the beer - at Birch & Barley. 
 "Hmmm...Where to go?"

"That place!"
I don't remember exactly what I had, but I started with a draft of a Saison from a cask. It was delicious. This place boasts having 555 artisan beers; not sure how many of those are on tap, but a lot. The beer menu also includes what temperature each beer is served at! Holy beer geek! My Saison was relatively WARM - perfection! And the servers were all extremely nice, enthusiastic about the beer, helpful...This was a delightful experience.
 The appetizer was 3 homemade rolls with creme fraiche and homemade beer mustard.
Then I got a fig-goat cheese-prosciutto flatbread. It melted in my mouth and I managed to eat the whole thing. Whoopsy.
Another great thing about Birch & Barley - they offer all the beers in 4 oz sample sizes for $2 or so depending on the beer. I finished the meal with something that had pomegranate and it was pinkish. I don't remember what it was but it was delicious.

Yay for food and drink! A for Birch & Barley.

Dude, Where's My Beer?

 Much has been written on the relationship of cannabis and hops.  Long story short, they are in the same plant family but contain different chemicals and therefore are used differently. Most importantly, I saw these 2 beers, had a chuckle, and decided they should be reviewed together as a theme.
 O'Fallon Brewery is from Missouri. The label of their Hemp Hop Rye ale simply says it is a "malt beverage brewed with hemp seeds." Sadly their website does not currently have information on this beer and I'd like to know their intent. What kind of flavor or other characteristics do the hemp seeds add? This is a very pretty amber beer, with a sweet smell; I picked up on pears and a bit of the rye. The beer is a nice amber ale with a little extra flavor from the rye and caramel malts. Overall, very nice. I'd have this again. B+
Lost Coast Brewery is from Eureka, California. They describe this beer as: "Indica is a hoppy, full-bodied ale. It has a higher than average alcohol content balanced by radical bittering from Columbus hops, then dry hopped with generous amounts of Willamette and Centennial hop flowers." Indica poured a cloudy thick orange-amber with a fluffy small head. It smelled like peaches, oranges, pines, and grass. Lovely! It tasted very nice - strongly bitter - felt like an assault on my tongue. In a good way of course. A pleasant sting of fresh bitter hops, light citrus and fruit, especially orange. DELISH! A

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I remember reading about Mamma Mia Pizza Beer a couple of years ago, getting curious enough to want to try and find it, and then promptly forgetting about it. You can't get it in Michigan but on a recent trip to Wisconsin, I saw a display of it and instantly grabbed a bottle.

I must admit, it's a unique product. It's beer...Brewed with actual pizza. From their website: 
The Margarita pizza is put into the mash & steeped like a tea bag. A whole wheat crust made with water, flour & yeast is topped with tomato, oregano, basil & garlic. The essence of the pizza spices is washed off with hot water and filtered into a brewpot, where it is boiled for a long, long time...
My BFF's boyfriend was brave enough to try it with me. It looked innocent enough. It smelled pretty mild. Suprisingly mild. Like beer and oregano. We faced tasting it with trepidation and curiosity.
 Well...Here it goes.
Yep. It goes. The verdict? Meh. I was kind of hoping it would be surprisingly delicious or outrageously disgusting. I think we were both kind of expecting the latter.

 Andy survived it.
 So did I.

It basically tasted like a standard crappy lager with the addition of some oregano and extremely mild garlic and tomatoes. Not disgusting. Not delicious. Kind of weird. But mostly meh.

Eating pizza = A+
Pizza Beer = D

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Brewery in Lansing! EagleMonk.

Lansing is small enough that I usually know the latest "haps," if you will. But I stumbled upon this new business purely by accident. I randomly decided to take a different route to work yesterday and saw a small green building labeled "EagleMonk Pub and Brewery" approximately 2 blocks from my job. They opened less than a month ago, and I eagerly stopped by after work that same day.

The main room was bright with about 8 tables, several of which were taken up by patrons. There was a small bar with about 6 beers on tap (Stout, Rye, IPA, Pale Ale, Irish Red Ale, and Hefeweizen). They also had a few wines on tap, and even a few sodas on tap! When in doubt, I go for the IPA, so I gave the Annie's IPA a try. Pints were all $4.

It was a decent-looking beer. Amber colored with a thin white head that quickly disapeared. Truth be told, I have a cold so my taste and smell glands were possibly subpar. But even with the cold I could smell bitter hops but also something sweeter. Some caramel malts soon, but also something gum-like. The taste was also sweeter than I expected with plenty of caramel malts, but a bitter finish. It was a medium and soft-bodied beer; light and pleasant to drink. 5.5% ABV and well-balanced, so it has good drinkability. This was not a hop-heavy in-your-face IPA (which is the way I like them) but it was certainly pleasant.

 Besides the beverages, EagleMonk serves pizza, sandwiches, and salads. I did not try any food although the pizza sticks caught my eye.
Besides the main dining room there is a small game room off to the side which simply holds a foosball table and a shuffleboard table. I'd love to see some couches, dim lighting, fun music (I don't recall what music, if any, was playing while I stopped by).

This is a great location for me (post-work beer!) and I will definitely stop by again if for nothing else than to try the Hefeweizen and Stout. And to enjoy the monk and beer decor and definitely some shuffleboard. :)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Doughnut Beer and Pumpkin Beer

So, I totally took notes on this beer, and can't find them. No mattter. A couple of weeks ago, I randomly went to a beer store in Lansing and there were cases of these bright pink bottles at the front of the store drawing me in. I knew what they were instantly, and I got excited. VERY excited. Rogue's Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale. Right?? Not thinking I would be able to get one, I asked my sister who lives in Oregon to hook me up. Luckily I found this first. On their website (I had checked previously) they listed stores you could buy this beer by the bottle - in Oregon, Washington, California. I had NO idea they would come to Michigan.
I enjoyed this with a friend who described it as, "Homer Simpson's Fantasy." Spot on. This is good. Sweet, but not overly so. Really a surprisingly balanced beer with subtle cinnamon, maple, doughnut, and smokey bacon flavors. Definitely one to try! A
It's been unseasonably chilly lately, almost feeling autumnal. Not to mention the stores are already stocking up on Halloween goodies and...Octoberfests and Pumpkin Ale. I'm enjoying Samuel Adam's Limited Release series and cannot turn down a new pumpkin beer. I'm less of a pumpkin beer now than I used to be. Mainly becacuse I've had more bad ones than good ones. But every year I absolutely MUST have a Pumking. I do not see a ton of Southern Tier's beers in Michigan, but I hope I can find one this year.
Anyhow, Fat Jack is a "double pumpkin" ale with plenty of booze and pumpkins. 28 lbs of pumpkin in each barrell to be precise, and 8.5% alcohol. It poured a fairly attractive deep reddish amber with a thick solid foam head. The nose was mild, just a touch sweet. It tasted of caramel malts, pumpkin, subtle spices (nutmeg, cinnamon), but not sweet. There was a bitter edge and a slight smokey flavor as well. A rather full body and enough alcohol to make this a slow-drinking beer. It's still one of the better pumpkin beers I've tried, but my beloved Pumking still reigns supreme. B+

Lovely Ladies, Less Than Lovely Beer

Sometimes I like to drink multiple beers that follow certain themes. A specific style or country, for example. This time it was red-headed women. I visited Oade's Big Ten Party Store for the first time recently. It is near a Big 10 University and I always assumed it to be a place for fraternity members to stock up on cases of Coor's Light. But nay! I was surprised to find a wide selection of beer, in cases/sixers/singles including many bombers (22 oz. bottles) and local varieties. A little more pricey than it should be, but I selected 2 beers from breweries I had not seen before from MI and PA.  
Both beers had lovely ladies on their labels. The first was "Amber Tease" from Schmohz in Grand Rapids. The label described it as, "A smooth drinking traditional California Common Style Ale with the sweetness of the girl next store - hiding a darker and bitter side."
Ok, I've never heard of a "California Common Style Ale" - apparently it's a Steam Ale. I don't like this though. It is a cloudy/murky dark amber with a thin tan head. The nose was strong - lots of banana! which surprised me. It was sweet and odd. Basically overripe bananas. The taste - again, this odd overripe banana flavor that I do not understand. Sweet at first, then a hint of "naughty and dark", metallic. It is thicker than expected, and is only a tease (a term I'm not crazy about, more negative points for them) because now I want better beer. Dumped half the bottle. D
Next was Stoudt's Scarlet Lady Ale - an Extra Special Bitter from Pennsylvania. ESBs are usually slightly stronger ales. This one poured a very cloudy dark amber with a thin tan head that instantly disappeared. The nose was mild; slightly bitter, citrusy, and spicy. It tasted good! Apples, honey, grass, some bitter hops. Feels very balanced, some sweet malts but nothing overwelcoming. The mouthfeel was light-to-medium and smooth. Overall - tasty but nothing mindblowing. A fine beverage and comparing it to the Amber Tease...It is classier all around. B

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Rastafa Rye Ale

On a hot Saturday recently I found myself painting a porch purple and doing yard work. It was very fun and satisfying. Around noon I got a hankering for food + beverage. I opened this Rastafa Rye Ale from Blue Point Brewing Company in New York.

 The bottle informed me that a portion of their profits go towards youth in the Caribbean who are orphaned, at-risk, and provide resources for education. Yay! Also this beverage has 48 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) and 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).
 As you can see, this is a lovely ale! Poured a bright orange-amber with a thick 2 finger head that lasted a very long time. Smells of rye and spice stood out. Also a bit of sweet citrus, bitter hops, and pepper.
And the taste! It is was very good stuff. Hops stood out but seemed very balanced with the rye malt base. Very flavorful but not over-powering. Good rye, hoppy, and spicy notes. The mouthfeel was a little thicker than I expected, but did not feel heavy. 
I enjoyed the Rastafa Rye Ale with an entree from Palace of Jamaica - Jerk Chicken, cabbage, rice and beans, plaintains. Fantastic meal! The alcohol in the beer was not noticeable in taste or feel but 1/2 a bottle was plenty for a hot afternoon. I'd absolutely get it again.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Werewolf from Lithuania

 So, I had some time to kill on the West side of town last week. I stopped by Horrock's, a great grocery store with a good beer selection. Interestingly enough, they had a display of beer from Lithuania - Brewery Rinkuskiai. I've had beer from Russia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico...But never have I ever seen Lithuanian beer. At $2.99 I gave it a shot and selected "Werewolf," a Belgian-style dark lager. Nice tacky label and bright red "8.2% alcohol!" tag caught my eye.

The label declared, "You must be sure you want to taste it." And also "Werewolf has an attractive dark color (not really), slightly sweet, reach (sic) taste of malt and slight aroma of hops."   

Well, I wasn't sure I wanted to taste it, but geez, take a chance on me. The appearance was fine. It was an attractive clear amber, medium shade, with plenty of redness and basically no head. There really was very little carbonation. It seemed flat.

 It smelled very sweet. A bit floral, candy-like, mostly sweetness. It also tasted very sweet. The malts were heavy, sugary, just a touch of dark fruit, and a slight hint of metal and alcohol.

I'm not usually into overly sweet beers, and this was a pretty sweet beer. It felt medium-bodied, smooth, but again, flat.

Overall, meh. Not one to get excited about, but not horrid. If you're into dark Belgian ales there are many better ones out there. But, for a cheap buzz and entertaining bottle, I'd consider trying another Brewery Rinkuskiai product.
 This particular one was consumed with Taco Bell. Cuz I was "hungry like the (werewolf)."

New Cantina Burrito (chicken): Pretty good! Cilantro-y. B
Loco Dorito Taco: Nothing but class. A+
Brewery Rinkuskiai's Werewolf: C

Monday, June 11, 2012

Arrrgh: Heavy Seas Yule Tide

I randomly picked this up on a recent trip to Indiana. I was basically looking for things I hadn't seen in Michigan that were interesting and affordable. Yule Tide from Heavy Seas in Baltimore, Maryland spoke to me. I like pirates. And lately I *really* like Tripels. This is part of their "Mutiny Fleet" series, aka Imperial, aka strong flavors and boozy. This particular bottle sold itself as having "an avalanche of flavor" and 10% Alcohol By Volume.
 So, I notice on their website that this is a retired beer. I could not find a date on the bottle, but assume it's been at least...9 months maybe? Since it appears to be a Winter ale. But the website also says it's vintage dated (what does this mean?) and recommends aging it.
It poured a pretty clear orange-peach-amber with about a finger of head that quickly dissipated. It smelled like bread, yeast, and sweet-sweet-sugar. The taste is also very sweet. Sugar, pears, bread, Belgian yeast, and just a touch of bitter hops.

This definitely had an "avalanche of flavor" and the alcohol was just barely noticeable in the flavor. I really like Tripels and have had some great ones recently. This is why Yule Tide was a bit disappointing. A little too sweet and a little too much alcohol for me. It did not feel subtle, and had strong flavors, which I do like. But there are much better Tripels out there. I do like the pirate label though.

ARGH!!! C+

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nude Beach and Golden Monkey

My girlfriend and I have a fun project! We are saving beer labels to collage onto a coffee table. We have many labels, about enough to cover half the table so far. As of late, I have selected some beer choices based on cool labels for the project.
Check out Nude Beach! Totally judged based on its cover, but it was a good beer too! Orange, cloudy, thin white head. A citrus-y wheat beer with a mild yeast smell and taste too. Pleasant, well-balanced, fairly mild. A good summer beer. And nudity = funny.
Golden Monkey from Victory also has a fun label. And I like Tripels, and I really liked this. It's a pretty hazy peach color and poured with a large foamy head.  It smelled and tasted of cloves, banana, a touch of spice, and mild yeast. It was super smooth, light, and crisp. High alcohol content at 9.5% ABV, but this was not noticeable to me in the flavor.
It's good stuff. And hopefully soon we'll have enough labels to make our coffee table one-of-a-kind.