Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Just Beer Project: Just Summer

The Just Beer Project has finally branched out beyond their Anytime IPA with a beer release for the summer, appropriately named Just Summer.  You can find a short write-up I did on The Just Beer Project and Anytime IPA here.

Just Summer is an unfiltered wheat beer that comes in at 4.2% abv.  It is an incredibly straightforward wheat beer, which I believe is exactly how the Just Beer Project planned it.  The low alcohol content in the beer allows Just Summer to be a perfect companion on a hot day, and is quite refreshing after a day out in the sun.

It would be nice if The Just Beer Project sold Just Summer in cans.  It would be a great beer to bring to the beach or other places where glass can't go.

Its exciting to see lower alcohol beers that aren't IPAs.  Bring 'em on!

You can find Just Summer in Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and Hartford, CT.

The Just Beer Project, Just Summer, Session Beer
The Just Beer Project Just Summer

Please Note:  The Just Beer Project sent me this beer.  I am in no way associated with the Just Beer Project, and all views of the beer are my own. When I'm sent promotional beers, it guarantees I will write about it, but it does not guarantee a positive review.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Trying a Few Beers from Westbrook Brewing Company

One of my favorite things about being a beer fan in this day and age is shopping for beers when I travel to different states.  Crossing the border into a different state opens a whole array of unique and unfamiliar beers that one doesn't normally have access to in their home state.  I compare it to finding a treasure trove of beer, and taking home my booty.

New York isn't too far from my home base, but I really don't go there too much.  That said, I haven't had much of a chance to explore their local beer and the different array of beers that are distributed to New York.  A few weeks ago, Kerry and I took a day trip and paid a visit to Rushing Duck for a tasting, and stopped in Peekskill Brewery for dinner and to sample some of their beers.  It wasn't too late on the way home, so we popped into Nanuet, NY's Growler & Gill, a pub that has a most excellent bottleshop for purchasing beers to take home.

This was my first visit to Growler & Gill so I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I had heard good things.  I ended up bringing home lots of beers that were new to me, including beers from Grimm Artisanal Ales, Bell's Brewery, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, and more.  In this case, "more" included 2 beers from Westbrook Brewing Company, a brewery I had only sampled beers from in the past.

Beer Haul, Growler and Gill, Smuttynose, Bell's, Ommegang, Grimm, Kentucky, Stillwater, Westbrook, Cigar City
Some of the beers I got from Growler and Gill

Westbrook Brewing, perhaps best known for their imperial stout Mexican Cake (aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and fresh habanero peppers), has a limited distribution to South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and New York right now (according to their website).  You can expect to find their beers on draft, in bottles, and in cans.

I was especially excited to be able to bring home two of their year round beers, One Claw and White Thai. One Claw was an absolutely delicious rye pale ale.  Coming in at 5.5% abv,  it wasn't overpowering or palate wrecking at all. What I had was just a smooth, easy drinking pale ale with a touch of spice from rye. White Thai (5% abv) was a unique take on a witbier, having been brewed with fresh lemongrass, ginger root and Sorachi Ace hops. Although not my favorite style, it was a solid beer, and was interesting enough for me to keep returning to my glass.  I loved flooding my nose with the wonderful Asian-inspired aromas in White Thai, and could pretend I was on a boat in the Arabian Sea, returning from adventure (or maybe just on my couch in NJ).

Now that these beers are done, I am certainly looking forward to returning to New York and finding some more brews from Westbrook!

Westbrook Brewing, South Carolina, Beer, Craft Beer, White Thai
White Thai, a unique witbier from
Westbrook Brewing, South Carolina, One Claw, Pale Ale, Beer, Craft Beer
One Claw, a rye pale ale from Westbrook

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Weyerbacher Camelopardalis, Brewer's Select Series

Easton, PA's Weyerbacher Brewing Company, brewers of awesome beers such as Merry Monks, Blithering Idiot and Old Heathen, like to experiment with different beers in their Brewer's Select series. After having completed a beer for each letter of the NATO phonetic alphabet, they have now turned to constellations. I thought it would be fun to use this space to learn about the experimental beers that Weyerbacher is brewing, and also to learn a little bit of astronomy along the way!

Camelopardalis is the 6th release in the Northern Hemisphere constellation portion of the Weyerbacher Brewer's Select Series.  It was released on Friday, March 7 in the Weyerbacher's Easton, PA taproom.  12 oz. bottles of Camelopardalis are only sold at the brewery, and you will only be able to find an extremely limited number of kegs throughout Weyerbacher's distribution.

Weyerbacher, Camelopardalis, Brewer's Select Series, Belgian Style Imperial IPA

Weyerbacher Camelopardalis (from Weyerbacher)

  • A 10.2% abv, 40 IBU Belgian-style Imperial IPA
  • During the whirlpool, over 200 pounds of Hopsteiner OCC Experimental and Simcoe hops
  • Grain bill was composed of 100% North American pale malt, and was fermented with a Belgian wheat beer yeast
  • Weyerbacher brewed this beer to be consumed right away, and advise against aging it!
Constellation Camelopardalis (from Constellation Guide and Top Astronomer)
  • Camelopardalis is from the Latin derivation of the Greek word for "giraffe"
  • "Camelo" - camel, "Pardalis" - leopard
  • You can thank Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius and German astronomer Jakob Bartsch for creating and documenting Camelopardalis in 1624
  • 18th largest constellation in the night sky
  • Has 3 stars with known planets
  • the brightest star is Beta Camelopardalis, but overall the constellation is faint
  • Beta Camelopardalis is a binary star with a yellow G-type super giant
  • Camelopardalis contains an intermediate spiral galaxy known as NGC 2403, as well as some other clusters and galaxies.

Camelopardalis poured a clear, golden color with a moderate, white head.  The aroma is pure hops (the fruity, grassy kind).  This Belgian-style Imperial IPA drinks with almost none of the bitterness you would expect from a beer in the style of an IPA.  You do get some of the simcoe hops, but the yeast and malt take over the rest of the flavor of the beer.  There is a slight spiciness in the finish.

Weyerbacher Camelopardalis, Brewer's Select Series, Belgian Style Imperial IPA

Overall, I really liked Camelopardalis.  The aroma reminded me of an Imperial IPA, while the flavor and mouthfeel of the beer reminded me more of an strong Belgian ale.  I love tasting unique beers like this.  I hope they continue to make many more of them!

For other beers in the Weyerbacher Brewer's Select Series, click here!

Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7th Blogshare!

Here are some great articles to ponder over on this Friday.  Hopefully your weekend is in sight!

1.  The team who run the blog I Drink Good Beer put out some great content.  A few days ago they posted this article where they visit Angry Erik Brewing, one of NJ's newest breweries.  Those pictures are making me thirsty!  Can't wait to visit Angry Erik myself!

2.  Chicago based blog Guys Drinking Beer love doing verticals.  They recently posted their notes on a 5-year vertical they did with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout ('09-'13).  You should check out their other verticals while you're over on their page!

3.  When I first saw the press release for Stone Brewing's Go To IPA, I had to check my calender to make sure it wasn't April Fool's Day.  They already had their fairly low alcohol Levitation Ale.  Also, I figured if they brewed another low alcohol beer, it would have an edgier name than Go To IPA.  Either way, here is a blog post Stone published about the creation of Go To IPA.  From what I've heard from people who've tried it, it's a pretty tasty brew.

4.  I recently came across the Hey Beer Dan blog.  It's a very unique blog in that the man behind it, Dan Fox, has a 30 year career at an ad agency where he ran the Coors Brewing account.  His thoughts on craft beer are a little different than I am used to reading, but I think it's a great, thought provoking read either way. In this post, Dan talks about how he thinks craft beer is getting away with irresponsible marketing.  The kind of marketing Big Beer could never get away with.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

I would love to hear any opinions you have on these articles.  Feel free to hit up the comments below!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bolero Snort Takes Debut Year by Its Horns

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's a great time to be a beer fan in the state of New Jersey.  At the beginning of 2014, I wrote this article highlighting some of the breweries that had opened up shop in NJ in 2013. Already this year, 4 out of the 5 breweries listed at the bottom of the article as still "in planning" are open for business!

Bolero Snort Brewery, There's No Rye-ing in Basebull, Rye Lager, New Jersey Craft Beer
Bolero Snort There's No Rye-ing in Basebull

Bolero Snort was one of the new breweries who opened in 2013, and they just celebrated their first anniversary!  They currently have a few fermentation tanks set up at High Point Brewing in Butler, NJ, but are on the lookout for a space to build their own brewery.  You can find Bolero Snort's beers, which I will detail below, in stores mainly around central and northern Jersey, but also a few southern Jersey liquor stores as well!  Their updated distribution list is here.

Bolero Snort Brewery, Blackhorn, Black Lager, New Jersey Craft Beer
Bolero Snort Blackhorn

The guys at Bolero Snort pride themselves in their full flavored beers (dare I say sessionable?!).  As of today, they have 3 year round beers.  Ragin' Bull is Bolero's take on an amber lager, and it comes in at 5% abv. You don't need to wait until baseball season to enjoy There's No Rye-ing in Basebull, a delightful rye lager that sits at a nice 4.2% abv.  Bolero also brews an American black lager called Blackhorn, which has the highest alcohol content for their year round beers at 6.5% abv.  An ample dosing of Warrior, Centennial and Zythos hops gives Blackhorn a nice hop kick.

Bolero Snort Brewery, Ragin' Bull, Amber Lager, New Jersey Craft Beer
Bolero Snort Ragin' Bull

Just recently, Bolero Snort was able to can one of their beers for the first time.  They brought in Iron Heart Canning, a mobile production canning company, to help package Lucky Buck, a 4% abv Irish dry stout they wanted to have released for St. Patrick's Day, in 16 oz. cans.  Brian from I Drink Good Beer was in attendance for the canning.  His awesome post recounting the day can be found here.  Lucky Buck has been delivered to retailers, so if you see some out in the wild you should pick up a 4-pack!

Bolero Snort Brewery, Lucky Buck, Dry Irish Stout, New Jersey Craft Beer
Bolero Snort Lucky Buck

For Bolero Snort's first anniversary they brewed up an imperial porter, aptly named Happy Buck'n Anniversary.  Before bottling, they built their very own counter-pressure 4 head bottle filler to do the job. See the picture below!  They hand bottled, labeled, waxed and numbered just under 1,000 750 mL bottles, so this release is very limited.  They start making deliveries of Happy Buck'n Anniversary on Friday, March 7!  

Bolero Snort Brewery, Counterpressure Bottle Filler
Bolero Snort's DIY bottle filler

Bolero Snort Brewery, Happy Buck'n Anniversary, Imperial Porter, New Jersey Craft Beer
Bolero Snort Happy Buck'n Anniversary

Slated to be shipped out on Friday, March 28 will be Bolero Snort's newest year round beer, Longhop. Bolero Snort founder Bob Olsen had this to say about Longhop: "At 4.2% abv its super session-able and brewed in the West Coast style.  With four hop varieties it has a nice firm bitterness with aromas of tropical fruits and melon with hints of pine."  Be on the lookout for Longhop in cans!

You will be able to find Bolero Snort Brewery at the Beer on the Boards craft beer fest in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ on Saturday, March 22.  They will also be defending their 2013 People's Choice Award at the Atlantic City Beer Festival on April 4-5.

I can't wait to see what else Bolero Snort has in store for their 2nd year!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How are Those Cheap Beers from Trader Joe's, Anyway?

You don't have to void your wallet of hard-earned cash when you want to pick up some good beer.  If you happen to live near a Trader Joe's that sells beer (sorry Pennsylvania), then I have some suggestions for you to try.

First off is the Mission St Anniversary Ales.  They are brewed and bottled in 22 oz. bottles for Trader Joe's by Steinhaus Brewing Co, which is really Firestone Walker Brewing.  They have been releasing a new Mission St. Anniversary each year for the last several years.  From my memory, last year's Anniversary Ale was good, but 2014's release is great.  Sweet caramel and dark fruits up front, with a burst of citrus at the end of each sip, on top of a layer of alcohol makes this beer incredibly tasty.  And it only gets better with each sip as it warms.  Steinhaus/Firestone classify this beer as an Imperial Brown Ale, and it comes in at a warming 8.5% abv.  Oh, and the 22 oz. bottle was $2.99! 

Trader Joe's, Mission St, 2014 Anniversary Ale
Mission St. 2014 Anniversary Ale
There are other beers in the Mission St. line, including a pale ale, IPA and hefeweizen.  I know they are packaged in 12 oz. bottles and sold in 6-packs, but I have yet to give them a try.  Sounds like another trip to Trader Joe's!

Next up is Boatswain H.LV (Heavy Lift Vessel) Ale.  This beer, coming in at 7% abv, brewed and bottled in 22 oz. bottles by Rhinelander Brewing in Wisconsin, also had similar qualities to a brown ale, but was quite different from the 2014 Anniversary Ale.  There was a similar caramel backbone, but there was much more of a hop bitterness that attacks your taste buds than in the Anniversary Ale.  It honestly reminded me of an Indian Brown Ale, or the little brother to an American barleywine.  At $2.99 for the 22 oz. bottle, definitely a good deal!

Trader Joe's, Heavy Lift Vessel, Boatswain
Boatswain H.L.V. Ale
Another beer I tried from Trader Joe's was Boatswain American IPA, which rings in at 6.7% abv, and is brewed and bottled by Rhinelander Brewing in Wisconsin.  It definitely wasn't the best IPA I've ever had, but it was MUCH better than lots of other beers in the same price range.  The Boatswain IPA had a strange hop flavor that was difficult to describe, and a bit of a harsh aftertaste, but it was still a decent beer.  It does the trick for $2.99 for a 22 oz. bottle!
Trader Joe's, Boatswain IPA, India Pale Ale
Boatswain American IPA

Yea so, give these beers a try and let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Some New Beer Toys

I got some new beer toys recently.  Last fall, Kerry got me a starter kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop, and, more recently, three beer mixes from Brooklyn Brew Shop.

I love the idea of Brooklyn Brew Shop.  Basically, they give a great introduction to stovetop and all-grain brewing.  The starter kit includes a 1-gallon glass jug to use as the fermenter (along with airlock and stopper), tubing, thermometer and other odds and ends to help with your stovetop all-grain brewday.  The biggest thing you need that isn't provided is a brewpot.

Also for Christmas, my sister and her husband got me The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli.  The book covers the history of the American craft beer revolution.  I can't wait to read it, but I just need to finish The Wheel of Time first!

Last but not least, I picked up Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus using a gift card from Christmas.  In the book, Stan covers the history and brewing of Trappist, abbey and strong Belgian ales.  If you're not aware of it, check out his excellent blog, Appellation Beer.

Brooklyn Brew Shop, Chocolate Maple Porter, Kit Contents, Homebrewing, Beer
Chocolate Maple Porter Kit
Brooklyn Brew Shop, Mixes, Homebrewing
A few of the beer mixes from Brooklyn Brew Shop
Beer Books, Homebrewing, Brew Like a Monk, The Audacity of Hops
The Audacity of Hops and Brew Like a Monk
Look forward to some future posts fearing these homebrews and books!

Have you homebrewed before?  Let me know if you had any success doing all grain on your stovetop!