Saturday, June 29, 2013

Evolution Public House: Quality Food and Beer in Salisbury

Since the advent of the US-13/50 Salisbury bypass about 10-15 years ago, a trip to Maryland's Ocean City has gotten a bit more efficient but it's now missing a tour of downtown Salisbury.  Without giving the rest of Salisbury its due, the drive through business route 50 leaves the impression of a rundown industrial feel that many urban areas have, though perhaps it was always this way.  The town is perhaps best known for Salisbury University, a University of Maryland system school, and the headquarters of Perdue, the poultry company.  If you like craft beer, it'll also be known to you as the new home of Evolution Brewery, previously located in Delaware, and its attached brewpub, Evolution Public House.  Both are housed on Vine Street in downtown Salisbury, right along a railroad track and a seemingly nowhere culinary destination (nearby is a Holiday Inn, a hospital, and a gas station).  Kudos to Evolution for setting up shop in old Salisbury, a place now off the path for beach-bound tourists, and not on overdeveloped US 13, which is where everything else in the area that's part of a big chain seems to be located. What they've brought to the downtown area is not just top quality beer but a top quality dining experience.

Beer, food, and palm trees in downtown Salisbury

The Public House, which is where I went with my wife Kathy for dinner and, a few days later, with the full family for lunch, is in the left side of an old warehouse building, with a tasting room and the brewery occupying the right.  A lively bar area with some seating for dining is right through the front door, and a modest sized dining room is to the right.  When we there both times, the dining room was only modestly filled, and at times, we were the only party in the room.  Good for us, I suppose, though it makes me worry about the future of the establishment.  The menu is full of interesting dishes with beer pairing recommendations.         

The big board of charcuterie, beer, cheese, and specials for the day

For an appetizer, we started with a charcuterie and cheese board, which consisted of prosciutto and Camembert (our meat and cheese of choice), mini pickles, a maple-flavored jam, magno chutney, granny smith apples, artisan bread, and figs.  The presentation was quite exquisite, and everything on the plate, particularly the Camembert, matched in flavor. 

For dinner, I had the PH Fish and Chips.  The chips were tasty if standard housemade fries, while the fish was battered in a Primal Pale Ale batter and served with a side of gribiche sauce in lieu of cocktail sauce.  The fish was quite tasty, as it was soft and flaky and still steaming minutes after being served, and the batter was moderately crunchy, rich with flavor, and not greasy in the slightest (a common fault I have with fish and chips).  The gribiche sauce is a much better condiment with this type of dining--it's green, creamy, and robust with herbal taste.  Portion size was quite good--the perfect amount of fish, and perhaps a touch too many fries.

If you go to a brewpub, you have to try a burger at some point, which is what I had for lunch. I had their burger--billed as the "Johnny Burger"--topped with provolone and with a side of fries.  It came on a thick, almost buttery brioche roll with lettuce and red onion.  The meat was tender, done exactly to order, making a top-notch burger. 

Since this was the end of a week-long vacation, we had dessert with lunch as a last bit of decadent fun.  It doesn't get more decadent than an ice cream cookie sandwich, served with glasses of cold milk, a hot chocolate sauce, and, yes, cookie dough spread on the actual cookie.  This is as ridiculously good as it looks and sounds.  I split this with my eight-year-old daughter, who said that, when she grows up, she wants one of these desserts for herself. 

Okay, I haven't mentioned the beers yet, which is my main reason for going.  After some deliberation and help from our server, I went outside their nice main line of beers and with more exclusive items available seasonally or exclusively at the Salisbury location--Menagerie 8 and Prelude Gold with dinner and Spring Migration with lunch.  Menagerie 8, the best of this solid threesome, is a flavorful strong ale that's earthy, malty, and full of flavors such as dark fruit, sugar, caramel, and even honey.  I had this during the appetizer and it paired quite well; at one point, it hit a perfect note with the camembert.  Prelude Gold is a Belgian Pale Ale with a bit of a barleywine-type boozy kick.  It's quite smooth and malty.  When I ordered Spring Migration, it wasn't even on the board yet and I got the first taste of the keg (lucky me!).  This one was aged in a rum barrel and it comes through in the taste.  Malt, rum, wood, and honey come through well in this beer, and it's a bit boozy but not overwhelmingly so.

Menagerie 8
Spring Migration
Prelude Gold

Overall, the Evolution Public House is not just about their beer but also exquisite food.  You don't have to be a beer person to enjoy this place (indeed, three diners at a nearby table were partaking in bottles of Coors Light).  The food--tasty, well presented, and much more than standard pub fare--stands up on its own.  Hopefully, there's enough business happening to keep this place going for a long time. Take a slight detour on your way to the beach and enjoy what they have to offer, or make it a day-trip destination.

Additional notes: Kathy had a scallops and risotto dish for dinner, which she truly loved.  I had one taste, and it was quite, quite good.  Water is served in old square-bottomed tequila bottles at your table--a neat touch.  From the dining room, you can walk through a pair of doors that take you into the brewery area and you can keep going into the tasting room.  I've been to the tasting room before but not on this particular trip.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Changes to My Current Top Ten

Okay, this was probably evident as of this review--there have been some significant changes to my Current Top Ten (side right column of this blog).  Firestone Walker Parabola enters the list at number two and screws things up royally.  So, three of my four top beers are not IPAs.  Sierra Nevada Hoptimum also enters the list, at number ten.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton has fallen out of the top ten, as has Firestone Walker Wookey Jack.  Nothing against either of these beers—I love them both still—but it’s getting harder and harder to come up with a top ten.  Fear not, they are sitting right on the cusp, as are Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, Stone Enjoy By IPA, Duvel, and a few others.  There’s really not much separating the bottom five of the top ten and a bunch of others.  Depending on the day and how I’m feeling, there could be some interchangeability. 

So, the list now has three stouts, six IPAs (I’m throwing Nugget Nectar into this category, even though it’s technically not one), and a quad.  A hophead list that doesn’t have hoppy beers at the top two spots. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout

Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout
11.0% ABV
The Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, San Diego County, CA
22 oz btl
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Bottled on 3/14/13
Reviewed on 5/31/13

Appearance: Pours a thick dark brown color with a toasty beige head that has decent retention.  Great lacing.

Smell: Strong coffee and chocolate, malt, hops, dark fruit, spice, licorice, caramel.

Taste: Strong coffee and chocolate flavors with fairly strong bitterness right at the front.  Malt, spices, licorice, and caramel follow with hints of dark fruit. 

Mouthfeel: Quite bitter and dry on the palate.  Fairly thick with some texture.

Overall: Strong tasting imperial stout that's dominated by coffee and chocolate flavors.  Malt, hops, spice, licorice, and caramel provide some milder flavors that give good accents.  Quite bitter and dry.  Overall, probably a shade off of the regular Stone IRS as its increased bitterness makes it a bit harsher to drink, but this is still quite nice.

My score: 95

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: Ayinger Brauweisse

Ayinger Brauweisse 
5.1% ABV
Brauerei Aying, Franz Insel Kammer KG, Aying, Germany
16.9 oz bottleServed in St. Bernardus chalice glass
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 1/25/13

This hefeweizen pours an effervescent hazy gold color with a thin white head that dissipates quickly.  Nice lacing.

Smell consists of wheat, yeast, banana, hops, malt, bread, slight spice, citrus.

Taste consists of wheat, hops, banana, citrus, mild clove, bread, biscuit, malt, slight yeast.

Mouthfeel is smooth, dry on the back end, and with a good strand of earthiness.

Overall, this is a tasty hefeweizen with a nice profile of flavors and a good overall mellowness.  Comes across quite fresh and the flavor are almost perfectly integrated.  As far as this style goes, it ranks well with Weihenstephaner.  Super easy to drink.

Score: 94

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Firestone Walker Parabola

Firestone Walker Parabola (2013)
13.0% ABV
Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
22 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass

Reviewed on 6/16/13

This imperial stout pours a dark brown color with a nice toasty beige head.  Solid lacing.

Smell has smooth chocolate, vanilla, cherry, malt, slight coffee, slight caramel, mild hops, slight alcohol, slight spice.

Taste has smooth, velvety chocolate complemented with cherry, which comes across as almost like a cherry cordial, some coffee, vanilla, alcohol, mild hops, malt, slight caramel.

Mouthfeel is quite smooth on the palate.  Very easy to drink despite the alcohol content as there is moderate to slight amounts of bitterness and dryness.

Overall, a superior tasting stout with a complex taste profile and very little with which to find fault.  The chocolate, vanilla, and cherry flavors come together perfectly, with nice hints of coffee, caramel, and hops coming through.  There are some good bourbon aspects coming through as the temperature rises.  There's no surprise that this is so highly regarded and sought after.

My score: 99

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Southern Tier Hop Sun Summer Wheat Beer

Southern Tier Hop Sun Summer Wheat Beer
5.1% ABV
Southern Tier Brewing Co., Lakewood, NY
12 oz btl
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Date on bottle: Bottled on 3/19/13
Reviewed on 6/1/13 

This wheat beer pours a light golden color that comes across as almost clear.  Good white bubbly head that has decent retention.  Nice lacing.  Moderate carbonation evident.

Smell consists of hops, wheat, yeast, mild malt, some floral and herbal notes, mild spice.

Taste consists of hops, mild malt, wheat, breadiness, floral and herbal notes, mild touch of spice, some citrus.

Mouthfeel is fairly smooth with some moderate dryness and bitterness.  A touch flat on the palate.

Overall, a good tasting wheat beer that's decent for its style.  Good wheat and hops flavors come through, with some back floral and herbal notes, citrus, and malt providing support.  Not a big fan of the style (see here), but it's a decently drinkable beer. 

My score: 86

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter

Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter 
10.0% ABV
Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, CA
22 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date on bottle: Best by 10/25/13
Reviewed on 12/29/12 

This porter pours a dark bubbly brown with a toasty beige head that retains good thickness.  Good lacing.

Smell consists of coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla, malt, hops, licorice, spices.

Taste has coffee, vanilla, chocolate, brown sugar, malt, hops, raisins, licorice, toasted bread.

Mouthfeel is smooth with some grainy bite at the back of the mouth.  Decent bitterness with a subtle touch of dryness.

Overall, this is a rich tasting porter with some good bitterness and a nice hit at the back of the mouth.  Hoppy and malty with rich coffee, chocolate, and vanilla tastes.  A nice smoothness comes through from start to finish, even as it has a bitter bite.  More flavors are revealed in tasting as the temperature rises.

Score: 95

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Tröegs Dead Reckoning Porter

Tröegs Dead Reckoning Porter
5.4% ABV
Troegs Brewing Co., Hershey, PA
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass 
Date on bottle: Bottled on 7/31/12
Reviewed on 11/18/12

This porter pours a medium dark brown color with a good beige head.  Moderate carbonation.  Decent lacing.

Smell consists of chocolate, mild coffee, malt, slight licorice, slight hops.

Taste has chocolate, definite hops, malt, coffee, slight chili note, slight licorice.

Mouthfeel is smooth with some earthiness from the hops.  Nice balance of flavors, good mix of dryness and bitterness.

Overall, this is a tasty twist on a porter.  Chocolatey classic porter mixed with good bitter hoppiness of an IPA.  Fairly smooth with a nice profile of flavors.  Something good for both fans of porters and IPAs.

My score: 91

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum (2013)
10.4% ABV
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
12 oz btl
Served in Duvel tulip glass
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 5/26/13

This imperial IPA pours a light amber color with a good thin off-white head.  Decent lacing.

Smell consists of strong bitter hops, grapefruit, citrus, strong floral, herbal, hints of pepperiness, malt.

Taste consists of dry, bitter hops, strong citrus flavors with grapefruit, some apricot, touch of orange, strong floral notes, spiciness, malt.  Quite crisp and tasty.

Mouthfeel is smooth yet somewhat earthy on the palate.  Quite dry and bitter.  Very fresh and crisp.

Overall, this is a fresh imperial IPA that has a strong flavor profile of dry, bitter hops and a strong mix of citrus notes.  Even though the hops are quite dry and bitter, they don't overwhelm, and there's enough maltiness to make this rather smooth.  As it warms up, some good texture comes through.  Nicely done.  Rates well with other imperial IPAs.  As it's from Sierra Nevada, it's widely available at a decent price. 

My score: 96

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: Boulevard Rye-on-Rye

Boulevard Rye-on-Rye
12.0% ABV
Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO
25.4 oz btl
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Date on bottle: Best by 11/2014 (Batch #2013-1)
Reviewed on 5/25/13

This rye ale pours a hazy brownish amber color with a thick bubbly ivory-colored head that has great retention.  Lively with evident carbonation.

Smell consists of hops, rye, yeast, malt, alcohol, breadiness, floral and herbal notes.

Taste has rye, hops, malt, spice, some alcohol, some caramel, hints of whiskey, milder than expected alcohol.

Mouthfeel is fairly smooth on the palate with some graininess.  Somewhat dry, somewhat bitter--fairly balanced between both.

Overall, this rye ale is decently flavored with less of an alcohol bite than to be expected from the ABV.  Good rye taste with a nice amount of hops and malt coming through along with caramel and some spice.  Fairly muted, and almost mellow, making it a bit dangerous given the relatively high ABV.  This one is almost like a barleywine in its flavor as it comes up to temperature.

My score: 92

Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot
7.85% ABV
The Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, CA
22 oz btl
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 5/23/13 


This strong ale pours a dark brown color with a slight amber tint.  Good off-white head that has decent retention.  Good lacing.

Smell consists of malt, dark fruit, caramel, hops, cherry, raisin, sugar, some floral.

Taste consists of malt, cherry, dark fruit, caramel, hops, sugar, some alcohol, some floral.

Mouthfeel is earthy and textured on the palate.  Bitter throughout with some dryness.

Overall, flavorful strong ale with a decent malty profile of flavors and solid bitterness.  Dark fruit flavors are fairly prevalent and come together well with maltiness.  Some hops and caramel also come through.  An interesting beer that is available at a nice price. 

My score: 90