Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout

Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.4%
22 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Reviewed on 8/17/12

This stout pours a thick inky black with a cocoa-colored head that dissipates quickly.  Mild carbonation present with decent lacing.

Smell reveals dark chocolate, coffee, caramel, chili pepper, oatmeal, smokiness, toastiness.  It tastes of cocoa, hops, slight malt, dark chocolate, oatmeal, slight chili pepper, smoky, toasty, caramel.

Mouthfeel is smooth, well-balanced, good strands of bitterness and dryness coming through.  Creamy with bold, definite flavors.

This is a bold, tasty Russian imperial stout with a solid profile of flavors.  Nice touches of bitterness and dryness.  I picked a bottle of this up at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, Ohio, while visiting friends in the area in June (and Hoppin' Frog is based in Akron).  Unfortunately, along with the rest of the Hoppin' Frog line, it's not available in my state. 

Score: 95

Monday, October 29, 2012

The IPA Man

Ok, I'm an IPA man, or a hophead, if you will.  As you can see from my current top 10, about half of that list consists of IPAs, and if I expanded it to a top 20, it would probably end up being more than half.  I seriously considered naming this blog IPA Man!

What is it, really, that I like about IPAs?  Well, the hops and the bitterness, of course.  For some reason, I just find that to be the epitome of beer taste.  For some reason, some people find this taste offensive.  I don't understand why!

Beyond those on my top 10 list, I'm also fond of Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Bear Republic Racer 5, Stone IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Victory HopDevil, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, Firestone Walker Union Jack, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Stone Ruination, and Founders Double Trouble, just to name some.

For me, if that bitter hop taste is present and upfront, you can't go wrong with an IPA.  If it's faint, it might still be good, but you wonder what could've been.  If it goes the other direction and just blasts my palate away, perfect.

After IPAs, I'd say stouts are my next favorite type of beer. I could call myself a stout man, but that just doesn't sound right.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Unibroue Maudite

Unibroue Maudite
8.0% ABV
Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, Canada
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass 
Reviewed on 5/28/12

This red ale pours an amber brown and is cloudy with a good bubbly head that keeps form.  Good carbonation with some nice moderate lacing.

It smells of citrus, malt, bananas, spice.  Fairly reminiscent of Unibroue's La Fin du Monde.  In a blind smell test, I'm not sure if I could tell the difference.

Taste has bananas, malt, spices, touch of honey, even a mild hint of maple.  A bit more sugary in taste than La Fin du Monde.

Mouthfeel has a slight earthiness to it with good bubbliness.  Decent balance of flavors.  Some moderate dryness.

Overall, this is a solid beer, reminiscent of La Fin du Monde (a good thing), though it's not as well balanced and has somewhat lesser taste.

Score: 91

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Breweries I've Yet to Try

In my quest to try as many offerings from as many breweries as I can, there are inevitably some breweries I've overlooked and have yet to sample.  The following are some of my most glaring omissions of breweries that distribute to my state.

Flying Fish
Jolly Pumpkin
21st Amendment

I know, I know--shameful of me!  I'll try to do better.  But one of the fun things about this hobby is that there are so many breweries and beers out there (and yet to come) that I'll never get to all of them.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Maryland's 20 Best Beers

According to the Baltimore Sun, here.  No real quibbles with this list, even if Stillwater's Of Love & Regret is one of my least favorite so far (I'm willing to concede I had a bad bottle or that my palate just isn't ready for it).  Actually, without thinking too much on any glaring omissions, I think this list provides a good overview of the best of the Maryland craft scene, and most are readily available in the area from a decent craft beer store.  

Of this list, which would I rank number one?  Evolution Lot No. 3 IPA.  

A cool experience is having a Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, number two on their list and mine as well, at a baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  Hopefully, it and another winning Orioles team reappear at the ballpark in 2013. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: Burley Oak Rude Boy

Burley Oak Rude Boy
ABV: 8%
IBU: 31
Sampled at the Burley Oak Brewery in Berlin, Maryland on 7/14/12; also purchased a 64 oz growler. 
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Reviewed on 7/16/12

Description from the Burley Oak website: "This 9 malt red ale is filled with complexity, presenting layers of barley spliced into the malty backbone. The wine of beers." 

This red ale pours a deep reddish brown color with a thin ivory-colored head.  There's good carbonation present and mild lacing.  Aromas of malt, rye, some hops, yeast, bread, and slight alcohol on the nose.  The taste has deep maltiness with notes of rye and yeast, hints of red wine and whiskey, and a touch of caramel.  The mouthfeel is earthy and grainy yet still has a good smoothness to it.  Flavors are well balanced.  Has characteristics of a whiskey, and a good dryness comes through.

A solid, tasty red ale from small brewery Burley Oak, which is located in Berlin, Maryland, close to Ocean City, Maryland, and about two and a half hours from the Baltimore area.  This beer is brimming with malt and rye popping out right at the front, and it completes with a nice dryness.  My wife Kathy gave this one a try after Bryan Brushmiller, brewmaster of Burley Oak and a cordial tasting room host, indicated that wine lovers find this one to be to their tasting (as noted in the description--"the wine of beers").  She liked it quite a bit then and says it's her favorite beer.  Well done, Mr. Brushmiller! 

Score: 93

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Epcot Food & Wine Festival: What's In It for the Craft Beer Connoisseur?

Next week, I'm heading down to Walt Disney World and will be visiting Epcot during the 2012 International Food & Wine Festival.  While I've been to this event multiple times in the past, this will be the first time I've gone there with the craft beer connoisseur's discerning palate (okay, I'm laying it on a bit thick there--let's not forget my amateur status here).  There will be plenty of good things to eat and drink whether or not I got my beer geek on.  From the list of 30 marketplaces that will be represented in the World Showcase for the festival, the beer selection is not overwhelming for someone seeking craft beer.  Nevertheless, there will be some solid options to pursue, and, oh yeah, I'll be in Disney World!

What's shown below is not a complete list of what's available at the festival, or a complete list what's available at each indicated marketplace, or even a complete list of beers I might try.  Yeah, I might get a Boddington's, or a Hoegaarden, or even partake in a flight of German beers--I just wouldn't put any of them in even an expanded definition of craft beer. 

At the "Craft Beer" Marketplace: 

Widmer Rotator IPA (Spiced IPA)
Florida Beer Company Devil's Triangle
Full Sail IPA
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 

Side note: Okay, you can't go wrong with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  I've not had the other three, and I had difficulty finding any information on Devil's Triangle, but they seem intriguing. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Devil's Triangle is an IPA. 

At the "Florida Local" Marketplace: 

Florida Beer Company Key West Southernmost Wheat 

Side note: I don't know how the beer selections are made, or if brewery capacity/output is an issue (the festival runs from late September through early November--that's a lot of suds to produce for potentially thousands of people daily) but I'm somewhat confounded that Cigar City Brewing is not available in Florida at the "Florida Local" marketplace.  It's also somewhat amazing that, somewhat relatedly, some friendly nepotism wouldn't be at play here to have Big River Grille & Brewing Works, which has a restaurant and brewery on Disney property at the Boardwalk, represented at the festival.

At the "Hawaii" Marketplace: 

Kona Brewing Company Big Wave Golden Ale
Kona Brewing Company Pipeline Porter 

Side note:  I'll definitely be seeking out a Pipeline Porter when I'm done there.  Good work, Mickey!

At the "Hops & Barley" Marketplace 

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock
Samuel Adams Cream Stout
Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA

Side note: The Hops & Barley kiosk is there every time and it's always Samuel Adams, which is cool. Samuel Adams does make good beer.  Boston Lager is a classic, and Chocolate Bock sounds intriguing, even in the warm Florida sun. 

One last note--Le Cellier Steakhouse, which is at the Canada pavillion and a place where I will be dining, has (at least) three Unibroue offerings on its menu: Ephemere, Blanche de Chambly, and Trois Pistoles.  Interestingly, there is a Canada Marketplace at the festival, but only Moosehead is available there.

Instant Update: It appears that, according to Beers and Ears, Disney has made some changes  to its standard beer lineup.  For one, Guinness has been replaced by Young's Double Chocolate Stout, among other changes.  Click through the link for more changes to the standard Walt Disney World beer lineup (it doesn't appear to affect the Food and Wine Festival offerings).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reviews? Yes

A main part of this blog will be my posting of beer reviews.  For the last eight months, I've been keeping a journal where I've been reviewing beers based on the following five categories (also used by Beer Advocate):
  1. Appearance
  2. Smell
  3. Taste
  4. Mouthfeel
  5. Overall
I come from a fiction writing background, so this kind of writing is a bit different for me.  As I've been doing it, I've focused more on recording my full reviewing experience and trying to comprehend what it is I'm looking for in a beer, which has resulted in the writing being more prosaic than what I would normally compose.  It'll be interesting to see how my writing progresses as I write more reviews.

In addition to the five categories above, I'll also be providing my score (on a 1-100 point scale) along with the name of the beer and brewery, in what format the beer was packaged (12 oz bottle, 12 oz can, draft, etc.), what glassware I used (mostly my favorite, the Dogfish Head Signature Glass), and the date of the review.

I have one journal book complete and, in the last few weeks, I've begun a new one, so I have plenty of these to post.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Second Post

While I've been drinking beer for awhile now, it's only been the last year or so that I've gotten serious about craft beer and have made it a hobby and pursuit.  I've probably had the same path as many craft beer aficionados who started in the not-so-crafty 1990s.  Moved from the Budweiser-Miller adjunct lagers into imported fare such as Guinness and Newcastle and then into longstanding big-named craft breweries such as Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada.  I found my way to Magic Hat and Red Hook, and, for me, local fare such as Clipper City (now Heavy Seas) and, if I could make it to downtown Baltimore, Oliver.  When I hit around 30, I stalled, stopped pursuing new beers, finding comfort in a few stalwarts from the past that I liked.
Things changed for me in 2011, just short of my 40th birthday.  A visit to the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth, Delaware, re-exposed me to the world of craft beer.  Having the Internet handy allowed me to research what I'd missed the last decade and just what was what with all of those crazy beers I was seeing at the liquor store.
For the last eight months, I've kept a journal where I review beers on the measures of appearance, smell, taste, and mouthfeel, and give each entry a 1-100 score.  Every few weeks, I hit a liquor superstore in my general area and stock up on single bottles to try and  beers that I've already reviewed that I want to enjoy.
I'm still an amateur at this, but as you can see from my current top 10 list, I've expanded a bit since those early days.  As I've become more discriminating about what beers I drink, and operate under the quality over quantity principle, the more fun I'm having. Which is what's really all about--enjoyment!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I've decided to start a beer blog.  Here I'll post my reviews, thoughts, and whatever else I can come up with that's related to the world of craft beer.