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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dogfish Head Faithfull Ale

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery from Milton, DE continues to put out interesting beer.  One of there latest is a beer called Pearl Jam Twenty Faithfull Ale. Clearly, the brewer is a fan of the band, and good for him/her that they get a chance to tell everyone in such an interesting way.

Front Label

Side Label
I like Pearl Jam enough, but if I were to be giving a tribute to a band my top ten list would be the following based on my IPod/ITunes listening data:

1. Marillion
2. IQ
3. Pallas
4. Satellite
5. Sylvan
6. Arena
7. Pendragon
8. Riverside
9. Phideux
10. Glass Hammer

Maybe I should get back into homebrewing!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sanders Chocolate Stout

I'm not generally a fan of chocolate-flavored beers, but I'm always looking to try new beers.  Yesterday I came across a Sanders Chocolate Stout from the Detroit Beer Company.  I had tried this special beer last year, the first time it was offered.  My recollection was that the beer was only average, but like other seasonal beers, the recipes change from year to year, so I thought I would give it another try.

2010 Edition
2011 Edition

There must be a storied history behind this beer and its makers.  First of all, neither versions of this beer were brewed by the Detroit Brewing Company.  In 2010, the label said the beer was brewed by the Detroit Rivertown Brewing Company.  I could find no record of this brewery in my searches.  The 2011 version was contract-brewed by Liquid Manufacturing in Brighton, Michigan.  An internet search for this company revealed some disturbing facts including  a warning letter from the US Food and Drug Administration.  URL: Not exactly who I would trust with my special holiday beer.  Also interesting is the fact that the "Detroit Brewing Company" does not seem to exist.  Instead, that Internet site directs you to the "Detroit Beer Company."  Which is it folks??  Pick a name.

The Sanders part of the title is a well known candy company in Detroit, who contributed the cocoa that was used in the beer.  The 2011 edition of Sanders Chocolate Stout was pleasant.  The chocolate flavor was subtle and well balanced with other flavors.  The beer was not as heavy or as full-bodied as I expect in a stout--it was more like a porter.  All-in-all, this beer is worth a try.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Odell Brewing Company

Even though I live in Michigan, I have been to many Denver area breweries in the past year.  Lucky me!  On my latest trip we headed to Ft. Collins, which is a nice town that is blessed with superior breweries.  Today I highlight one of those treasures--Odell Brewing Company.

 We we there on a cold November day and the place was packed.  There were about 20 folks waiting to take a brewery tour.  Also, to our delight, the taproom was having their "Dark Days of November" pouring.

We ordered up a "co-pilot" paddle of samplers for each of us.  This particular paddle contained six of their darkest/heaviest beers.  Wow.  The lightest was a double IPA!!  Cheers to dark beer indeed.
The Odell Brewery Hall of Fame.  Notice that most of these have been aged on Oak.

The Odell Brewery Taps. 

A delightful sample of six Odell brews.
Unfortunately, Odell does not sell their beer in Michigan.  I purchased a Bourbon Barrel Stout and a Woodcut #5 and enjoyed them with family and friends on Thanksgiving.  I look forward to coming back sometime.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Craft Beer from Mexico

The other day I was perusing my local beer store for something new and interesting and the text of a label caught my eye.  It said, "The Best Rated Mexican Craft Beer."  The beer was brewed by the Baja California Brewery in Mexicali.  The beer line is called Cucapa.

On a hot summer day, I really do like a Pacifico, Corona, or Dos XX.  Mexican beer to me was light-bodied, low hopped Pilsners that were more thirst-quencher than palate-pleasers. I had wondered why there were no local "brewpubs" in Mexico.That has apparently started to change.

I purchased three of the five Cucapa bombers that I found:  an IPA (Runaway IPA), a pale ale (Chupacabras), and an imperial stout (La Migra).

All were quite good and definitely craft beers.  I look forward to trying the rest and to having more beer options the next time I vacation at the Mayan Rivera.




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beer for the Pope

Beer is synonymous with Germany.  The Germans gave us the Purity Laws, steins, Oktoberfest, and a bunch of great beers.  Dusseldorf, Munich, Cologne, and Berlin are all famous for their local beers.  Given this background, it was only a matter of time before Pope Benedict XVI, who is German, was brewed his own beer.

See the story here:

A few months ago, the Brewhouse Suedstern in Berlin brewed a pilsner called Pabst Pils Bier (which translates to Pope Pilsner Beer).  A regular pilsner, however, simply would not suffice for His Holiness.  The brewers serenaded the brew with Gregorian Chant played through a boom box " the light of a new moon."  What a great excuse for a late night party at the brewery.

There's no report on whether the Pontiff liked or even tried the beer, but I would love to sample one of the bottles.



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Avery Brewing Company: Demons of Ale

Halloween is just a few weeks away, and pumpkin beers are everywhere.  Avery has an even better trio of beers that are season-appropriate:  The Demons of Ale!  These beers will assault your taste-buds and keep you warm on these chilly Fall nights.  The labels are really cool and mysterious.

The first is Samaels Oak-Aged Ale.  This beer is relatively low in bitterness (41 IBU), high in oak flavor, and 15.3% alcohol by volume.  It is only brewed once a year in limited batches.  I purchased my stash of these beauties at the brewery in the summer of 2011. I tried one and will let the rest age for a few years.

The second is The Beast, a high-gravity Grand Cru Ale.  This wonderful beer has 68 IBUs of bitterness and is 14.9% ABV.  It is brewed only once a year (on August 1st) in limited quantities.  I found one from 2005 at a local beer store.  Yum!

Finally, there is the top demon beer:  Mephistopheles' Stout.  This fallen angle is an imperial stout extraordinaire at 107 IBUs and 16% alcohol. What a treat.  The beer is also only brewed once a year on December 1st.  The bottle I found was from 2007.



Friday, October 14, 2011

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout

I must say that I have enjoyed the hype surrounding the release of Founders Brewing Company's Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS).  The brewery did a masterful job of creating a buzz in the craft beer world and then producing just enough to have fans calling for more and, of course, complaining.  The brewery's CEO even got in on action by posting a very sincere explanation of how they produce their Backstage Series beer, of which CBS is a part, and the beer distributing business.  The explanation, posted on the brewery's website, just added to the demand for CBS.  Well done Founders!

The controversial CBS
Allow me to address the complaints.  First, people were complaining about the low availability.  I have no problem with that--this is the whole idea of a limited release beer.  Only those who were really into the craft beer scene were likely to get a bottle.  The owner of my favorite beer store told me he would hold a bottle for me, because I'm a regular customer.  I also happened to find another bottle in a different store just sitting there waiting for someone to recognize its value, and willing to pay the steep price.

Which brings me to the second complaint: price gouging.  I admit that the two bottles I was able to find varied in price from $20 to $26.  Most stores probably only got 6-12 bottles to sell.  Why not jack up the price if it will still sell?  On the other hand, I feel cheated by the place selling CBS for 6 bucks more than what I found elsewhere.  If I were running the store, I would keep the price low with the expectation that beers like CBS will keep customers coming to my store rather than somewhere else.  It is these weekly (or more often) purchases that make a profit for a store.

The important question is:  Is the beer worth the price?  Probably not.  I haven't tried CBS yet and likely will wait a few years for a special occasion.   But in terms of hype and adding to my beer bottle collection, I'm very happy to have two bottles and to be able to talk about it.



Friday, October 7, 2011

Beer Bottle Labels: Dogs

In memory of my old English Setter that passed away this week...a selection of beer bottle labels that feature canines.  Rest in peace sweet dog.



Friday, September 30, 2011

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery: Pangaea

Now here's an interesting brew: Pangaea.  The folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery decided to make a beer with ingredients from the seven continents.  According to their website, here is what they used from where: crystallized ginger from Australia; water from Antarctica (not sure what else they could have used from here); basmati rice from Asia (unfortunate); muscavado sugar from Africa; South American quinoa; European yeast; and North American maize.  Not the grains I would have picked,  but it's a fun concept and the name of the beer is clever.  The beer is interesting, but not what I would call excellent.  I hear they are working on similar collaboration with Google.  Hard to imagine what this might be.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Shmaltz Brewing Company

As a collector of beer bottles, I like it when brewers do a little extra for their labels.  Some labels are artful, others are clever, a few are intellectually engaging, and some use humor.  The label is an important part of marketing the beer.  I recently came across a set of beers brewed by the Shmatlz Brewing Company that are marketed with a Coney Island theme.  The labels featured a guy hammering a nail into his nose, a circus freak, a lady showing cleavage and gleefully swallowing a sword, and a buxom lady with streaked hair lovely holding an albino python whose head is very close to her mouth.  Sex sells, right?  The labels extol the oral sensibilities of the beer, etc.

The labels expand a theme and got me, at least, to give them a try.  As expected they were all mediocre beers, except for the albino python.  This beer was supposed to be a wit-style, which should have high carbonation.  This beer, however, exploded with carbonation.  When I poured it into a glass as carefully as I could, 9/10 of the glass was foam.  Nothing says amateur brewing more than a super over-carbonated beer.  I waited, but the foam just kept building.  I decided to brave the foam and take a sip.  The beer foamed in my mouth.  Now maybe there is some other sexual reference there that I'm not getting, but once you are past the label the beer better deliver something.  Eventually, I did something I rarely do, I poured the foaming mess down the drain.

Lesson learned?  Probably not...



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Original Gravity Brewing Company

One of the best things about Milan (pronounced "My-Lynn"), Michigan is the Original Gravity Brewing Company.  The brewery takes its name from the first measurement a brewer takes of his or her wort--the boiled malt, hops, and other stuff that has yet to be fermented.  Gravity is measured with a hydrometer that floats in the wort and the reading is based on how much the hydrometer sinks.  The first measurement is called the Original Gravity. After the wort has fermented, another reading is taken, the Final Gravity.  The difference between the two measures allows the brewer to estimate how much of the sugars have fermented and, thereby, estimate the alcohol level by volume.  In their excitement to pitch the wort (add yeast), many home brewers forget to measure the original gravity (OK, maybe just me...).

The taproom was large with the brewing equipment sharing the same space.  The interior feeling was very much like sharing a beer with the brewer in his own workshop.  There were seven beers on tap.  We tried a sampler of them all.  General impression: Really Good Beer!  The IPAs and the amber were heavy on the hops, which I like.  The standout beer, however, was the "440 Pepper Smoker."  Just as the name implies, the beer is made with jalapenos and smoke.  Not normally my thing, but these flavors were well balanced.  The beer maid mentioned that the brewer was thinking about upping the pepper in the beer.  I think this would be a mistake.

 They also served a selection of deli sandwiches on sourdough or multi-grain. We ordered a turkey Reuben and a smoked turkey and guacamole.  The brewer (I think) made them in the back room and served us himself.   Both sandwiches were excellent and too big to finish.   Looking around the place, my impression was that this was a local, family establishment where people went to relax and catch up with the local happenings.

Located only about 20 minutes from Ann Arbor, the Original Gravity Brewing Company is just another reason why Ann Arbor is a Michigan beer lover's mecca.



Monday, September 12, 2011

Avery Brewing Company

I visited a new beer store over the weekend in Ann Arbor, MI.  I was very surprised to find that they had refrigerated bottles of "Ale to the Chief" from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, CO.  This beer was brewed to commemorate the USA presidential election in 2009.  It was a one-time production and a beer I never thought I would get a chance to try.  Alas, I purchased five 650 ml bottles.  At 8.75% ABV, I figured that it would age just fine and having found it cold would improve these chances.

I opened one of the bottles when I got home.  What a treat!  Flora, hoppy, and everything I like in an Imperial IPA.   The other four took their place in my beer aging cellar, alongside the likes of a few bottles of 1987 Thomas Hardy Ale, a couple of 1988 Samiclaus Ales, two 1989 Ninkasi's from Anchor Brewing Company, and several other assorted future treats.  Out-of-sight, out-of-mind.  Out-of-sight, out-of-mind...



Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dragonmead Microbrewery

I've always liked the medieval theme (castles, swords, wenches, and the like), and I have long enjoyed bottled beers from the Dragonmead Microbrewery (in particular, Final Absolution Trippel and Armageddon Grand Cru). So, visiting the brewery in Warren, MI was a distinct pleasure.  Here's their website:

I've been to the brewery a couple of times and have yet to be disappointed.  The brewery is located on a service road next to the busy Interstate 696.  You have to know that it is there, because you will never just happen across it.  This adds to the mystic, m'thinks. 

The interior is dark, hardwood decorated with flags, banners, coats of arms, suits of armor, and other medieval accouterments.  The numerous award they have won are also part of the decor.

They also have some fun stained glass windows and mosaic work around the tap handles.  The brewery website tells you about the artwork and the names the artist.

The selection of beer is simply amazing. How can they have so many beers on tap?  I counted 46 beers on the menu.  They were out of just three of them according to a chalk board.  Fortunately, they have hefty samplers (6 oz I think).  To order them, they give you a card to fill out, and that card serves as the identification for the samplers.  Between my entire party, we still did not get to try them all.

They also have "snacks" or so we thought.  We order the cheese and crackers.  The waitress rattled off the many types of cheese--we choose white cheddar.  When it arrived, it was a large hunk of cheese and unlimited crackers.  Pretzels and hot mustard was also brought. It was more than enough for sharing among a party of four.  A wonderful way to sample for few dozen beers!

I look forward to my next visit.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kuhnhenn Brewery and Winery

It seems like more and more breweries are expanding their operations to include wine, mead, and spirits.  An excellent example of this is the Kuhnehenn Brewery and Winery, located in Monroe, MI.

We visited the taproom on a very hot, September day.  To our surprise, there was a home brewing store (Brew Shop) on the other side of the parking lot.  We decided to check out the store before the taproom.  The  Brew Shop was well stocked with supplies and brewing literature.  The store was also the meeting point for a local home-brewing club, as was evidenced by the numerous containers with fermentation locks and six packs of unlabeled bottles.  What caught my eye, though, was the bourbon barrel that was being used for home-brewing.  Cool.  The owner said he found it on the Internet for only $60. Hmm....just might see if I can find one for myself.

After the Brew Shop, we headed over to the Kuhnhenn taproom.  The place was nicer than I thought, judging from the outside.  The decor was hardwood, brick, and tap handles.  The medals that the brewery has won were hanging from the ceiling. The atmosphere was "sports bar," perhaps because Michigan was playing its first game of the 2011 season.  The wait staff were knowledgeable and attentive.

The selection of beer was impressive. There were about 12 bees on tap to choose from.  You could get a preselected sampler set of 5 for $9 or choose your own 5 for $12.  Among all in our party, I think we tried them all. Overall impression: Excellent craft beer! 

I choose to get a pint of White Devil instead of the sample pack.  My zymurgy-sense was telling me that I would want more than a taste of this Belgian Wit served in a chalice-style glass.  It turned out to be a good decision.  Here's how the brewery website described it:

"Our Imperial White Ale is a cloudy straw color, and has a zesty citrus nose and a medium sweet aroma. It is refreshingly crisp with a bit of a wheat flavor. With medium hop bitterness, this is a delightful brew for any season."

The drink menu also included 6 pages of mead and wine.  Wow.  We tried several of the meads.  I'm not much of an expert on mead, but the Michigan Tart Cherry mead was quite nice.  We brought a bottle home although it was pricey ($10 for a 6 ounce bottle).

All-in-all, a good visit...



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Black Lotus Brewery

I visited the Black Lotus  Brewery in Clawson, Michigan recently.  I had heard great things about the brewpub, so I was interested in checking it out.

It is located on a urban intersection near Madison Heights.  The place really did have potential.  There's a golf simulator connected to the taproom and the brewpub had sandwiches, burgers, salads, and pub-style appetizers.  And, of course, local craft beer.  Even better, they had a burger and beer special, six bucks for the combo.

Smiles at the Black Lotus Brewery and Restaurant
We all ordered our burgers and pints.  The pub was small, but fairly busy for an early Saturday afternoon.  There were several families there, with the little ones enjoying burgers and Mom and Dad having a pint.  Our beers finally arrived.  I usually order one of the heaviest beers on the menu, so I had an oatmeal stout.  It was pretty good, although not as heavy-bodied as I would have expected for this style of stout.  Others at my table had an apricot wheat (nice flavor),  an ESB (not nearly bitter enough for the style), a Hefeweizen (underwhelming), and a Pilsner (almost no color, watery, and an off taste that made me think it needed to lager for awhile.) All-in-all a disappointment on the craft beer side.  My companions told me that in past visits the beer had been much better, so I'll have to come back sometime.

We had time to finish our pints and order more  before our burgers finally arrived.  The service was slow, but functional and the burgers hit the spot.  I'd like to try the place when the golf simulator was open.  Beer, burgers, and golf...sounds like fun to me.