Sunday, December 31, 2006

News: Food and Beer Pairing

The Dayton Daily News recently ran an article by Jim Witmer on food and beer pairings. The article covers Oliver's tasting at Jungle Jim's, info from Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, and Witmer's own comments and photos related to food and beer pairing. Again, it's great to see the DDN covering craft-beer related topics.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes: Hoppy Christmas, Indeed!

Hope everyone had a great, ale-soaked Christmas!

I was the recipient of several great beer gifts this year. What a wonderful surprise Christmas morning to see that my wife, er, uh, Santa filled my stocking with Bell's HopSlam! Meanwhile, Mark, my soon-to-be brother-in-law, hooked me up with a subscription to the new Beer Advocate magazine, our friends Amanda and Benjamin gave me a bottle of North Coast's Brother Thelonious, and my in-laws presented me a bottle of Unibroue's Trader Joe's 2006 Vintage Ale.

The days off work gave me plenty of excuses to sample craft beer, too. The staple this year was the Santa's Private Reserve from Rogue, although I also had occasion to try the Redhook Late Harvest Ale. Christmas morning meant popping open a bottle of the Founders Breakfast Stout, which actually may be the perfect breakfast beer. I finally had an opportunity to sit down with some of the North Carolina brews that Ben from hooked me up with (look for a full report, with reviews, coming very soon). And to end it all, I topped the four-day weekend off with a 2005 Brooklyn Brewery Monster Ale barleywine last night.

UPDATE: I saw my brother and sister-in-law last night (we missed Christmas with the fam because our youngest is sick) and they gave me more beer-related presents. Eric apparently is in good with a distributor, because he got a heck of a deal. Gifts from them include a "Draft Beer Not People" T-shirt, a frosted UConn pilsner glass (Eric is getting his masters there), a variety twelve-pack of Thomas Hooker beers (includes Blonde, APA, Octoberfest, and Irish Red), a bottle of Unibroue 15, a bottle of Chimay Blue, a bottle of McChouffe, a bottle of Allagash Tripel, and a bottle of Jacobsen Dark Lager. And, they saved me a couple of additional bottles of HopSlam, which the family consumed on Christmas. A Hoppy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

News: Article about Bell's Illinois Distribution

Folks in the Windy City must be making noise about the lack of Bell's beers in Illinois. Last week, the Chicago Reader ran a very detailed article on Bell's pullout from the state, including an overview of the Illinois three-tiered distribution system, contrasting it with wine and spirit distribution. Larry Bell states his case clearly. The Reader should be applauded for such in-depth coverage.

Review: Founders Breakfast Stout

I picked up this four-pack at the last Jungle Jim's tasting. The shipment had just come in and there were less than five cases available. I was one of the first to race downstairs to get one. Ironically, I had never tried this beer, and knew of it only from others. It has quite the cult following (number 11 of BeerAdvocate's "best of" list and number 21 on RateBeer's parallel list) . Does the taste warrant the following? My take at the end of the review.

Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Western Michigan
Breakfast Stout
BJCP Style:
13E. American Stout

Appearance: Pours thick, black, opaque; low brown head; light does not pass through this beer.

Smell: Coffee, coffee, coffee, with heavy chocolate.

Taste: Did I mention coffee? Despite the heavy coffee, this beer is incredibly balanced. The coffee flavors play nicely with the dark chocolate flavors, making individual flavors hard to pin down. Was that coffee? Or was it the chocolate? Surprisingly not overly alcoholic, mostly just smooth. Some hops, but basically acting in a supporting role.

Mouthfeel: Thick, viscous, full.

Drinkability: I see what makes this beer popular. I've had a few coffee stouts (even brewed one), but what sets this one apart are the hints of dark chocolate hanging out at the fringes. They really round out the flavor nicely. On the other hand, you really have to be in the mood for coffee when you drink this beer (unlike some coffee stouts, this beer is more than just a hint of coffee!). I drank it late in the afternoon, and found the coffee taste to be a bit too much by the end. I'll have to try it in the morning sometime soon (perhaps Chistmas?). I'm generally more in the mood for coffee then.

This is a solid beer, well-balanced and interesting. All that being said, I'm not sure it makes my top 10 or top 20 list. Happy to have tried it (happier still to have three other bottles to try), and I'll look for it next year, but I think once a year is enough for me. I wonder if it isn't that scarcity (the beer is issued only once a year, right after Thanksgiving), as well as the novelty of the concept, rather than the taste itself, that make it so popular.

It is worth noting that I liked this beer much better than the last Founders beer I tried, the Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale. Now I'm eager to try their other beers and see where they shake out.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Notes: Local Beer Groups

Furthering the goal of exploring Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois breweries and brew-related events, I've added a few links to the page. Below are links to the relevant brewer's guilds (as registered with the Brewers Association). These links are great references, listing the names and locations of all member breweries within the state. Note that Ohio doesn't seem to have a guild.

I've included more informal beer guides. Again, not all states have them, and some states are better organized than others. But these sites can be good references for opinions or news that you can't get on the guild sites.

Brewer's Guilds

Beer Guides

BeerAdvocate's BeerFly and RateBeer are also indispensable resources for locating good regional beer.

Review: Goose Island Christmas Ale

Goose Island beers have long beer part of my beer repertoire. The beers are solidly build, generally toward the lower end of the cost scale, and readily available. In fact, I always look forward to ordering a Honker's Ale at the local art house theater. So why it's taken me so long to review their beers is beyond me (although AC did a guest post on the Wrigleyville brewpub recently).

Brewery: Goose Island Brewery
Brewery Location: Chicago (Northeastern Illinois)
Christmas Ale
BJCP Style:
21B. Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer

Appearance: Moderate to low head on pour. Creamy, light tan color; the beer itself has a deep ruby hue.

Smell: Chocolate and roasted malts, slight cola in the nose, moderate to low hops.

Taste: Chocolate and roast flavors upfront, with some astringency from the roasted malts; medium hops blend with the roast to produce a moderate bitterness, while vanilla and chocolate flavors round out the experience.

Mouthfeel: Some powdery tartness, mostly from the roasted and dark malts.

Drinkability: GI's website claims this beer is similar to a brown ale, but to me, it seems more like a hopped up porter, with it's roasty and chocolate flavors. A great nose that previews the flavors that follow. Some winter beers are so overpowering that I have to switch to something else after the first one. Not so with this beer. I could (and did) have several in one night. The brewery claims this beer can be stored for up to five years, but the relatively low ABV (5.4%) suggests otherwise. The folks over at BeerAdvocate give it generally high marks.

Monday, December 18, 2006

News: More craft beer in the news

Reuters has a nice piece today on Brooklyn Brewery that also gives a decent snapshot of the craft-brewing world in general. I'm kind of surprised that they mentioned the owners of the brewery, but failed to mention Garrett Oliver, their master brewer. But, nonetheless, it's always good to see good beer get good press.

News: Holiday Beer Gifts

Jim Witmer has a nice feature about beer for the holidays in the Life section of today's Dayton Daily News. He details different beer-related gifts such as pub crawl gift certificates, beer books, memorabilia, beer-of-the-month clubs, and beer-related travel. The related feature also has some nice photos displaying gift ideas.

I agree with all of Jim's gift ideas and would add a few. For instance, Belgian brews always make nice gifts, as do vintage ales such as Fullers, J.W. Lee's and Thomas Hardy's. And there's nothing like a kegging system to let that special someone know you care (hint, hint).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Review: Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière

Although this post marks the inaugural review of a Jolly Pumpkin beer on this site, this is the third or fourth beer I've had from this brewery. I was late in discovering them, but am working to make up as much time as I can. Look for more reviews later. And this summer, I'll be nearby and hope to make a visit to the source.

A bit about the brewery first. Jolly Pumpkin brews artisanal beers. Using only Belgian or French yeasts, all JP beers are bottle-conditioned and oak-aged. The labels are beautifully illustrated and represent the beers well. Like the beers themselves, each label is funky, mystical, plucked from a long-forgotten storybook.

Brewery: Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Brewery Location: Eastern Michigan
Bam Bière
BJCP Style:
16C. Saison

A: Billowy ivory head; cloudy straw color

S: Stong spiced aroma, with some clove and some citrus. Sweet, with slight hints of barnyard.

T: Hops upfront, but not overpowering; dry malt character, with dry finish. Grassy notes, some spiciness (nutmeg), some earthiness (barnyard). Lots of yeast character. Funky, earthy flavors dominate as it warms.

M: Big carbonation, explodes in mouth.

D: A lot going on, but spiciness and dry finish dance well together. This beer is sold by the sixer. I couldn't have more than one or two a night, but could see having it on hand as an occasional reward. The folks over at BeerAdvocate mostly give it high marks, although it's a beer that would be challenging to some, explaining the occasional low scores.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Events: Upcoming Jungle Jim's Tastings

A few more Jungle Jim's tastings coming up after the first of the year. Both the Garrett Oliver/Brooklyn Brewery and the Winter Seasonal tastings were excellent (and well-attended), so book your spots now.

Best of the New--new breweries and new brands from existing breweries.
Friday, January 12 from 7-9pm

Guest Speaker--The folks are working to line up a brewer from a local Ohio brewery. More details as they unfold.
Friday, January 26 from 7-9pm

Old World vs. New World--American craft-brews take on their European cousins.
Friday, February 9 from 7-9pm

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Recap: Seasonal Beer Tasting at Jungle Jim's

Friday night, Nathan, Kelly, Gina, and I met at Jungle Jim's for their winter seasonals tasting, held at the new, adjacent Oscar Event Center. At about 40 to 50 people, the crowd was intimate, but significantly smaller than the turnout for the Garrett Oliver tasting. Instead of housing us in the ballroom, this tasting took place in the smaller, but impeccable, bar.

Ten beers filled the docket (see full list, with comments, below), ranging from a delicate and crisp B.B. Burgerbrau pilsner, to Bell's bombastic HopSlam and Avery's murky and cryptic The Czar. As we sampled each beer, our host Derek provided context, while Ed, in charge of the event, diligently delivered new bottles and spirited away the empties.

At the end of the event, Ed distributed swag (Dos Equis and Tecate shirts, and enigmatic Guinness bags) and Derek met many of us back at the grocery store, where a select few were given the opportunity to purchase rare four-packs of this year's Founder's Breakfast Stout (Jungle Jim's only received a handful of cases this year, so supplies were very limited.) In addition to the Founders, the four of us filled a cart with other rarities and delectables before heading back upstairs to the bar for a final pint of the HopSlam (with complementary glassware).

There were no stinkers on the beer list, although many who have a lower tolerance for Harpoon's Winter Warmer may disagree. (Derek pointed out that you either love the beer or find it disgusting. Apparently, the table next to us fell into the latter category--they ended up opening up a Victory Storm King Stout as a "palatte cleanser"!) Here's the list in full:
  • B.B. Burgerbrau (Budejovicky Mestansky Pivovar)--sweet, crisp, with an apricot color. No skunkiness, in spite of the green bottles (3.5 out of 5)
  • Winter White (Bell's Brewery)--fruity esters, along with some clove spiciness; tartness from wheat malt; some hints of orange peel; Gina's favorite (4 out of 5)
  • Leffe Blonde (InBev Belguim)--golden malt notes in aroma, with a touch of caramel; low hops; some slight oxidation in the bottle we tried (3.25 out of 5)
  • Nut Brown Ale (Samuel Smith)--tawny color; some raisin in nose; very subtle hops; low diacetyl (3.75 out of 5)
  • Winter Warmer (Harpoon Brewing Company)--heavy, HEAVY spice in the nose, followed by overwhelming cinnamon and nutmeg flavors; tastes like pumpkin pie. Not for everyone, although I liked this a lot better than the first time I tried it, about 5 years ago. (3 out of 5)
  • Double White (Southampton Ales & Lagers)--clove in the nose; tart mouthfeel; spices well-balanced (4 out of 5)
  • Christmas Ale (Great Lakes Brewing Company)--beautiful color and very nice nose; spice overpowers flavor (could it be the ginger); despite its popularity, I think there are better holiday beers out there (3 out of 5)
  • Santa's Private Reserve (Rogue Ales)--spruce taste as part of a very nice hop profile; dry finish, not overly complex, but bold flavors (4.5 out of 5)
  • HopSlam (Bell's Brewery)--nothing I say about this beer will do it justice; wonderful citrus hop flavor--clean pineapple/grapefruit aroma and flavor (4.85 out of 5)
  • The Czar (Avery Brewing Company)--well-balanced, although it would probably be even better after about 6 months in the cellar; clean, roasty, but not overpowering. At the time, I didn't think it was overly hoppy, but wonder how much of that was influenced by the HopSlam that preceded it (4.5 out of 5)
The HopSlam was the obvious crowd favorite. I was quoted as saying, after taking the first drink, "I could retire now." For me, this beer represents the feeling I would expect after looking back on one's entire career, and looking forward to my remaining years, devoted entirely to leisure and grandkids.

I've said it before, and will repeat it here: if you find yourself in Cincinnati on the night of a Jungle Jim's tasting, make the trek up north. You won't regret it.

The Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale

The line-up, just before trying the HopSlam

The line-up, after the HopSlam!

Me, Nathan, and Kelly

Gina, my lovely (and patient) wife

Monday, December 11, 2006

News: Michigan brewing (including Bell's pullout of Illinois)

Born into a family with deep Ohio State football roots, I never thought I'd say this, but it's too bad I don't live in Michigan. Ohio is many things, but it's not (yet) a brewing mecca. With the loss of Thirsty Dog, Dayton has no breweries. Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland do a nice job putting out quality beers, but (with a few notable exceptions) nothing approaching the magnitude of what the Michigan brewers are doing.

Check out the growth of the Michigan brewing industry, detailed in this issue of Michigan Beer Guide. Yes, some breweries are closing, but new breweries are popping up to take their place, and many of the heavyweights (like Bell's, New Holland, and Founders) are expanding to fill demand.

On a related note, the article also references Bell's pullout of distribution to Illinois, covered in this article from the Chicago Tribune (link is to free abstract, you have to pay to read the article in full) and this article from, has been a hot topic among Midwestern beer folks. Not to worry though, as Bell's has picked up distribution in several other states and may be back in IL in about a year. And for you Chicagolanders making a trip to the source, rumor has it that your IL driver's license gets you 15% off.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Review: Wrigleyville Goose Island Pub

Wrigleyville Goose Island Pub
Reviewed by AC

[AC note: This is my first entry for Kevbrews, and it’s more than one month late. Now, I know that Kevin will read this and he might say to me, “You needed a month to do this!?” And I most likely would reply, “maybe.” ]

Chicago is a big town—a feast for the senses. Why, in just one day, I saw a man being arrested, a protest at a McDonald’s, a 26th-floor view of Lake Michigan, and the Goose Island brewpub in Wrigleyville. If you’ve been down (or up) Clark Street, you know that it is just one of the thousands of bars lining the road. Goose Island also has a very famous neighbor—Wrigley Field. These two conditions mean that parking is a fruit enjoyed by the crafty and resourceful. (Another Goose Island sits along Clybourn Ave.)

The Wrigleyville Goose Island also is a sports bar—wide screens are everywhere. This may disappoint more traditional pub hounds. But the best thing about this place is the beer. I had the IPA because I’m addicted to the bittersweet tang of hops—and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was giddy from the luscious, hoppy goodness. It was sensuous and delightful . . . I had beer from the source . . . I was Ponce de Leon at the fountain of youth—I was hopped up! At this point, it is was clear to me that comparing beer from the source to its bottled cousin is like comparing the experience of being in a riot to hearing about one from a friend: It just ain’t the same.

Alas, not all of my companions fared as well. Larry, the Northside balladeer, ordered the cask-conditioned ale, but he sent it back. “It tastes like soup,” he complained. He’s not a beer enthusiast and apparently doesn’t know much about soup either. I tried to sample other beers, but because of the raging blister on my lip, everyone seemed reluctant to let me touch their glasses.

I did have two problems with Goose Island. The bathrooms are unavailable to patrons without legs. I must have climbed 46 flights of stairs to get to the loo. That’s right—every time you have to piss, you must climb stairs in order to access the urinals. But more disappointing is the fact that Goose Island will not fill up your growler—unless you have an authentic Goose Island growler! I didn’t have one. So I grudgingly bought the big brown GI growler and had it filled with Honker’s Ale. I then hauled the brew many days across wide rivers and through dark forests only to be splashed over the spoiled palate of Mr. Kevbrews.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Review: Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale

Can't imagine the bizarre hits this blog will start getting, between the Dirty Bastard and Shane's Golden Shower review!

This is my first beer from Founders, a Grand Rapids, Michigan brewery started in 1997 by homebrewers Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers. Today, the brewery cranks out about four thousand barrels, and offers a pale ale, an IPA, an imperial stout, and a host of other specialty beers, including two rye beers I'm eager to try.

Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
Brewery Location: Western Michigan
Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale
BJCP Style:
9E. Scottish Strong Ale (Wee Heavy)

A: Mahogany in the glass; red when light shines through. Low head crouches atop my full pint, then rings the glass as I drink.

S: Mild roastiness, hints of molasses cookies. Low hops.

T: Strong flavor up front, with a grainy astringency. Some roast, but not much. A splash of chocolate in the finish, but also a licorice and a syrupy medicinal quality. None of the peat flavor I had wished would be present. Not balanced, as I had hoped--too medicinal, too syrupy, too much licorice.

M: Full mouthfeel, but harsh.

D: I only bought a single, and I'm glad I did. The flavors are all over the place, and the ones that predominate aren't pleasant. I detected slight hints of chocolate and toffee, but was overwhelmed by the harshness of it. If it weren't for the rave reviews on BeerAdvocate and the fact that this beer is named as an exemplar for the style by the BJCP, I'd content myself to have tried just this one bottle. I'll probably try it again at some point, to assure myself that I didn't just get a bad batch. I suspect this beer, at 8.5% ABV, will mellow well with age.

01/26/07 UPDATE: I tried this beer on tap at a Founders tasting at Jungle Jim's and the beer couldn't have been more different than the bottle I reviewed here. Smooth and sweet, without a hint of the alcohol harshness I noted above. Looks like I'll have to pick up another bottle soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Review: Dogfish Head Golden Shower Imperial Pilsner

Dogfish Head Golden Shower Imperial Pilsner
Reviewed by Shane Dickey

I’ve got an idea: let’s round up all the senior VPs and directors of marketing from all the profit drunk American megabreweries that purport to peddle pilsners, bind them, gag them, and truck them up to Dogfish Head-quarters in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. For their edification, we’ll hide-strap them to barstools and force them to quaff a pint of D.F.H. Golden Shower Imperial Pilsner. (I know, I know! Why waste even one drop of this heaven-nectar on any Budweiser employee? Patience, good reader—patience!) After pouring them another (they’ll be begging for it by now after a lifetime of underflavored hogswill!), we’ll strip them to the ankles, give them a few good lashes with a wet bar towel, then slap down on the counter the fat manila envelope containing the explicit photographs we had taken of them and their various mistresses in compromising masochistic poses, all the while admonishing the hell out of them and saying tisk, tisk, tisk while rubbing our forefingers together and pissing on their faces, before casting them back, half-drunk, to their respective so-called breweries with sore asses, pillaged egos, and the promise that we’ll go to the press with the pics unless they see to it that the word pilsner is scratched off of every last bottle of horsepiss their factories churn out and the word beer forever eradicated from their lexicon.

I can’t help but think that the good folks at Dogfish Head had some sort of sordid scene in mind when they named their throwback pilsner. (Am I imagining things, or isn’t it usually the straight-laced Budweiser-peddling types who go for the really kinky homoerotic stuff?) Could D.F.H. brewmaster Andy Tveekrem have had in mind our using his dreamy golden concoction for this sort of forced evangelism? Who knows! Certainly the moniker ‘Golden Shower’ was intended to stir images of naughty excess even before cap one was popped.

Well, fantasies of busloads of humiliated Bud execs aside, pop a cap of the rare, seasonal D.F.H. Golden Shower is exactly what I did last Saturday afternoon. Being a committed pale ale aficionado, when a ten-spot is burning a hole in my pocket, it usually ends up going toward as strong and hoppy an IPA as I can find, but during my most recent trip to Belmont Party Supply , the Golden Shower had caught my eye and on the Saturday in question, I opted for it over the 750ml bottle of Stone Old Guardian (!) right next to it, mainly because I had windows to paint and hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast. Ho, ho but was I in for an awakening!

IPA lovers, here’s the pils for you. The naughty, naughty boys at D.F.H. run the Golden Shower through the same proprietary ‘continual-hopping’ process used for their award-winning Imperial IPAs which, in the opinion of this humble reviewer, are the gold standard for highly-hopped ales. Attempting to balance the hops and doing a more than adequate job is the full-bodied pilsner malt 100% direct-imported from the Continent. The net result of this happy marriage is a round, flavorful brew that pours like burnished brass from the brown bottle and settles like liquid gold with a satisfying splash in the glass while a medium-sudsy head rises up tantalizingly and, receding, leaves lingering an opaque white lace web. The mellow nose, mildly spicy on pouring, ripens as it rests, and is an understatement of the maltier flavor to follow. Prostrate on the couch, the paint drying in the can in the next room, I chewed through the 750ml, thinking as I replenished my glass how well the crispness and flavor of this—finally!—a real!—pilsner masked its 9% ABV. (Good thing I didn’t go for the Old Guardian! I’d never finish my work!)

Well, I came to at halftime and found myself confessing to my stocking-clad feet that I needed to get out more. Like back to Belmont Party Supply for another bottle of Dogfish Head Golden Shower. And to Home Depot for another can of paint.
Dogfish Head Golden Shower Imperial Pilsner
Availability: Seasonal (Purchased at Belmont Party Supply, 2621 S. Smithville Rd, Dayton, Ohio 45420)
ABV: 9%
ABU: 80
Appearance: 4.5 Smell: 3.5 Taste: 4.5 Mouthfeel: 4 Drinkability: 4
Overall Rating: 4.1

[ed note: This is the first in what I hope will become a series of posts for guest reviewers--KevBrews]