Monday, October 30, 2006

Review: New Holland Red Tulip Ale

My friend Kyle is a huge fan of this beer, but for some reason, I've never had an opportunity to try it, or scarcely any other New Holland brews. But now I see what Kyle likes so much. Look for more reviews from this brewery, hopefully very soon!

Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Southwest Michigan
Red Tulip Ale
BJCP Style:
10B. American Amber Ale

A: Low carbonation results in a skimpy head. Body is deep red, almost the color of cherry wood. Slightly murky.

S: Sweet malty aroma; low hops.

T: Big round malt flavor; touches of caramel and fruit, with the slightest hints of smoke, vanilla, and oak. Low hops.

M: Creamy, full; feels prickly on tongue.

D: Wow, this is so much different than most red ales! I had more or less given up on this style, but this beer may have turned me around. Such full flavor. I'll be trying more New Holland beers, and will be looking for this on tap come Spring.

Overall, the folks at BA seem to agree with me, although I seem to be the only one picking up on a vanilla flavor.

As an interesting aside, a portion of the proceeds of this beer goes to support the Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival each spring.

Review: Bell's Porter

Here's my second review of a Bell's brew. This beer ranks as one of my all-time favorites. Dewey's often has Bell's Porter on tap for their winter seasonal.

[ed note: had a chance to try this on cask recently. See my write-up from 2009]

Brewery: Bell's Brewery
Brewery Location: Southwest Michigan
Bell's Porter
BJCP Style:
12B. Robust Porter

A: When poured into my imperial pint glass, nearly 2 inches of creamy, tan head crowned this black, opaque brew.

S: Roasty, with chocolate malt and hints of raisin.

T: Roast upfront, but sharpness is not overpowering. Coffee and chocolate flavors throughout; slickness on tongue. Moderate bitterness with a dry finish.

M: Creamy, full.

D: Very drinkable--this is my favorite example of the style and my favorite Bell's beer thus far. Equally good in the bottle or on tap. A well-balanced beer with lots of complex flavors.

Most BA reviewers agree with me.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tasting: Boston's Bistro Pumpkin Ales

Last Thursday, Dave Boston hosted Boston's Bistro's monthly beer tasting, this time in his newly painted tasting room. As I reported in an earlier post, this month's style was primarily pumpkin ales (although Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter and Stone's 10th Anniversary Ale snuck in to round out the bill). The clear crowd favorite was Weyenbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale, followed by Dogfish Head's Punkin' Ale as a very close second. Although Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale (alleged to be the first craft pumpkin brew) was the group's third choice, I did not care for it and ranked it last, after the Southampton and the New Holland brews.

Not surprisingly, the Stone 10th Anniversary Ale was a big hit. The Breckenridge got mixed reviews. I thought the vanilla was overwhelming, although I noticed that the flavor rounded out as it warmed. This might be an interesting beer to cook with.

Some pics below. Boston's hosts tasting monthly. $5 gets you samples of 7 beers.

Shane, Jim, and Theresa engage in a pre-tasting conversation.

Batman, our facilitator

The pour.

Shane and George evaluate beers (and George applies terms from his anti-glossary)

The spread.

Shane with Dave Boston, Boston's Bistro owner and beer aficionado

Sunday, October 22, 2006

News: Craft Brew Calendar

More info about the calendar I mentioned in my last post. Jim Witmer has put together a fantastic all-beer calendar. Each month, Witmer focuses on a different style--including a great photo, style background, and suggested brews. As you can see from the front and back cover shots below, these would be great gifts for beer lovers (click on the photos to enlarge the shots). You can also pair them with a set of Italian beer glasses if you order through Witmer's website ( In the Dayton area, pick them up at Belmont Party Supply. I think they have them for sale at Boston's Bistro, too.

Front Cover

Back Cover

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

News: Beer in Media: Jim Witmer and Eric Asimov

There has been a lot of discussion lately about mainstream media producing disappointing craft beer coverage. Jay Brooks blogs extensively about media outlets that don't understand the beer they are reviewing (see Craft Beer Defined as "Unusually Flavored", Hip Trip Trips Up on Beer Pairings, and Dowd on Beer). These outlets must sense that there is growing interest in the art of brewing, but regularly, they send the wrong people to cover the stories (very often folks with wine backgrounds who don't understand the art and craft of brewing). These stories would be comical to those of us who do understand, but for the damage they do to the promotion of craft brewing (see Brooks' and Stephen Beaumont's criticisms of New York Magazine's "Ales in Comparison").

Fortunately, there are folks who seem to get it. On the local front, Jim Witmer has published a series of beer-related features in the Dayton Daily News. Witmer, DDN photographer and avid homebrewer, captures the spirit of brewing in his articles, which range from examinations of styles (pumpkin ales, barleywines, etc.) to beer-and-cheese pairings to coverage of beer-related local events (like the Dayton Art Institute's Oktoberfest, which always features a strong line-up of excellent beers, and Minster's resurrection of a beer recipe). Witmer often pairs up with Mark Fisher, the DDN wine critic, to provide insightful articles that promote craft beer. (Excuse the lack of links--Witmer's articles before a certain date don't seem to be archived on DDN's site.)

has developed quite a following among local beer lovers. We can still support Unfortunately, the management at DDN doesn't understand the appeal of brewing quite like Witmer does. As a result, Witmer's articles are on indefinite hiatus. It's a shame, because Witmer has a strong local following. We can still support Witmer's efforts, however. He has put together a 2007 craft beer calendar featuring beautiful beer photos and accompanying style information, suggested beers, and interesting tidbits.

On a national level, the New York Times also seems to get craft brewing. Eric Asimov's regular features "Ales of the Times" and "Beers of the Times" explore various styles of beers. In each column, Asimov presents accurate and interesting context about each style. He, along with fellow NY Times critic Florence Fabricant, pair up with the likes of Garrett Oliver (of Brooklyn Brewing), Phil Markowki (of Southampton Publick House) and other beer-savvy folks to explore flights of a given style. The tasting usually include 15-25 beers, and Asimov and others comment on the top ten, offering recommendations. His most recent column covers porters, but he's also reported on barleywines, pilsners, wheat beers, lambics, farmhouse ales, Trappist ales, American pale ales, and India pale ales. The current feature, like several others in the past, is coupled with an interactive segment that further promotes the beers.

Asimov also helps to bridge the beverage divide, elevating brewing by refusing to take sides in the beer vs. wine debate. He states: "I refuse to get into a battle over whether wine or beer is superior: is painting better than sculpture?"

Craft beer growth is outpacing the other segments of the beverage industry, according to the Brewers Association. It experienced 7 percent growth two years ago, 9 percent growth last year, and is showing 11 percent growth for the first half of 2006. Clearly, more and more people are being turned on to beer as something other than something one guzzles from a keg. Let us hope that more and more journalists and media outlets will follow the lead of the folks like Witmer and Asimov and produce features that educate their readers, instead of paying lip service to the growing interest.

Events: Boston's Bistro

Boston's Bistro, for those of you not from Dayton, arguably has the best beer selection in town. Dave Boston is passionate about beers and knows how to treat them. His pub is a cornerstone of craft beer in Dayton.

Aside from having a great selection of rare and interesting beers (as if that weren't enough), Boston's also hosts craft-beer related events, including tastings and pub tours. There are three events upcoming, all of which will be worth checking out.

  1. Bier Tasting--Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Southampton Pumpkin Ale, New Holland Ichabod, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Stone 10th Anniversary Ale and Breckenridge Vanilla Porter will all be on tap for a tasting this Thursday, October 18th. Only $5. Starts at 8.
  2. Most Arrogant Pub competition--Boston's is competing against other Ohio pubs to sell the most Arrogant Bastard between Nov. 3rd and Nov. 9th. Incentives include $2.00 imperial pints (the first pint is $3, but you get to keep the glass) and $7.00 growlers. Dave also promises Arrogant Bastard-related events throughout the week.
  3. Columbus Pub Crawl--Area pubcrawls are a regular event at Boston's. The bus to Columbus leaves at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2 and returns twelve hours later. The full agenda is still being worked out, but there are many interesting pubs and brewpubs in Columbus, many of which will surely be on the list. Cost is $40 and includes bus fare and beer on the bus.
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Notes: Warning

An unpleasant surprise in my basement this weekend. While organizing the portion of the basement where I store my homebrew equipment, I opened a case of wheat beer that I had brewed this summer. The batch was relegated to the basement because it was flawed. While not so bad that I need to dump it, it's not great. I keep it around and have a beer from the case every once and a while, hoping it will get better with age. Unfortunately, when I opened the box, I discovered tiny shards of glass--one of the bottles had exploded! I'll be drinking the rest of these REALLY soon so that I don't end up with shrapnel all over the basement. Bummer.

And to Matt, who helped me brew this batch and may have a few bottles left over, take caution. You have been warned.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Review: Bell's Best Brown

Here's the second installment in my reviews of Great Lakes area breweries (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois)--this one from Bell's, one of my favorite area breweries. In fact, my sister-in-law is getting married in Ann Arbor next summer and we are planning a side trip to check out the Bell's Eccentric Cafe.

Brewery: Bell's Brewery
Brewery Location: Southwest Michigan
Bell's Best Brown
BJCP Style:
11A. Mild (English Brown Ale)

A: Pours brownish amber, slightly murky. Not a lot of head retention--mostly a small ring around the outside of the glass.

S: Nutty chocolate aroma, hints of raisin as it warms.

T: Caramel with hints of coffee and toffee; low hop flavor--malt flavor dominates.

M: Moderate--low to medium carbonation.

D: This beer would be great as a session beer. It is smooth and easy to drink. Flavorful, but not overpowering. I only picked up a single bottle, and when I finished, I wished I had bought a sixer. However, given a choice between this and Bell's Porter, I'd go for the porter every time.

Most BA reviewers liked it. Many seem to agree, however, that as good as this beer is, some of Bell's other offerings are stronger.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Review: Thirsty Dog Old Leghumper

I recently decided to start focusing on beers and brewing in the Great Lakes region (specifically Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois). Most blogs seem to focus on the coasts or Colorado, so the Great Lakes region seems underrepresented (despite the fact that we have some amazing beers here). In keeping with this new found mission, I present the first of what I hope will be a long series of local beer reviews.

I started with Thirsty Dog Brewing Company's Old Leghumper Robust Porter. At one time, this brewery was Dayton's only true brewpub (although they've since packed up and left us dry). So here goes:

Brewery: Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Northeast Ohio
Old Leghumper Robust Porter
BJCP Style:
12B Robust Porter

A: Opaque, black, pours thick, rich mocha head, head settles quickly, but rings the edge of the glass.

S: Sweet, dark roast aroma--black and chocolate malts

T: Assertive roasted malt presence up front--you can really taste the black and chocolate malts; some slickness on the tongue; slight presence of chocolate and coffee, but mainly overpowered by roast bitterness.

M: Full mouthfeel, although not overly carbonated.

D: The roast bitterness is a bit overwhelming for me, although appropriate for the style. Pairs well with extra sharp cheddar cheese. Overall, I think the roasty taste is out of balance with the chocolate and coffee flavors. This beer is decent, but there are other examples of the style that I prefer more. Not sure I'd buy another sixer, but I would order it if it were on tap someplace and I'd certainly recommend it to a friend.

Most BA reviewers seem to like it more than I do (note that I've added this review to BA, too).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Events: More Jungle Jim's Tastings

I'm getting very excited about the Garrett Oliver discussion/food and beer tasting at Jungle Jim's on November 10th. Finally lined up a couple of folks to go, and now I just have to get the tix. Look for a write-up to follow (assuming tix are still available).

There are two more upcoming tastings that look promising. The first offers a head-to-head comparison between new world (read: American) craft brews and old world (read: European) brews. November 24th at 7:00 pm.

The other tasting may be equally engaging. The description is a little vague, but I take it to be a sampling of holiday beers found locally (and please correct me if you understand otherwise). This is the kind of tasting I've been waiting for! I've been planning to focus more blog space to Ohio (and Indiana and Michigan and Illinois) brewing, and it sounds like this tasting may fit in well. December 8th at 7:00 pm.

Also, reports another unique beer outing in Cincinnati--this one at Dilly Deli. Jim Cline, of Rogue Brewery, will be in town with lots of his brewery's beers in tow (including a keg of Rogue Hop Heaven Ale). November 9th from 5-10 pm.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

News: GABF recaps

Missed the Great American Beer Festival? No worries. Check out the links below for full coverage. And mark your calendar for Oct 11-13, 2007 to head for Denver for next year's festival.

Rick Lyke's blog Lyke2Drink featured great coverage. In addition to reporting from the exhibition floor, Lyke takes his readers into media only events that happened in conjunction with the event.

Jay R. Brooks' blog also includes extensive coverage, including lot of photos.

And the list of winners can be found here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

News: Brooks' "Longneck Tail"

Thanks to Jonathon for passing along this article by Jay R. Brooks that links the success of craft breweries to Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory.

A summary for those not familiar with the theory: traditional business models follow the Pareto principle, which states that about 80 percent of sales can be derived from the top 20 percent of product. Anderson has observed businesses turning this model on its head. The two most cited examples, and iTunes, make more money cumulatively from the 80 percent of their inventory that is purchased less frequently (the obscure books or songs) than the "hits" that make up the top 20 percent.

Brooks relates this theory to craft-brew by noting that although three main brewers still dominate the market (Budmillcoors), the craft brew industry survives by catering to the less mainstream tastes.

The Long Tail theory is hot right now, so it's being applied to all sorts of industries. Could this be a backlash against corporate homogenization? Whatever the case, it's certainly good news for those who brew and those who appreciate craft beers.

And be sure to check out Brooks' beer blog, Brookston Beer Bulletin. Brooks is a veteran beer writer with great insight into the industry.