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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bolt Cutter Barley Wine: Founders Brewing

Many of us eagerly await the releases of the beers from Founders Brewing Company's Back Stage Series.  The latest was Bolt Cutter, a barley wine that commemorates Founders 15th anniversary.  The beer was released in mid November, 2012.  The brewery has clearly gotten the hint that craft beer lovers were having a hard time acquiring bottles from this limited release series, as the last two releases have been fairly to find in stores.  Indeed, a few days after the release of Bolt Cutter I saw about 20 bottles in the beer section of a grocery store. I still see bottles of Frangelic Mountain Brown in stores.  I must admit, however, that I miss the pleasure of finding a bottle or two of these previously rare beer releases.

I purchased several bottle of Bolt Cutter to put away in my cellar.  At 14.5% ABV, they will age well. I love the story behind the label.  You can read it here:

The beer is pretty much what you would expect from a barley wine--sweet maltiness offset by a strong hop bitterness and a strong alcohol character.  I like barley wines and this is an excellent example of the style.  I was glad to see that for this back stage release the brewers at Founders decided to go with a traditional style.  I look forward to seeing how this fine beer ages over the next several years.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Bruery: 5 Golden RIngs

The Christmas season is my favorite for beer.  It is this time of year, that the some of the best high gravity beers are released.  I eagerly await each year to try the newest Christmas beer from Anchor brewing and the Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing.  This year I had a special surprise.  As part of my Rare Beer Club monthly membership, I received a bottle of "5 Golden Rings" from The Breuery in Placentia (Orange County), California.

Everything about this beer is satisfying.  The beer is a limited release and is number five in a 12 part series that follows the verses of the 12 Days of Christmas.  Each year the brewery makes a one-time beer based on the next verse of the famous Christmas song (although the brewery is counting in the opposite direction than the song, starting with a partridge in a pear tree and ending with 12 drummers drumming).   I missed the first four verses, but am glad to have finally caught onto the tune.

5 Golden Rings is Strong Belgian Golden Ale that is made with a collection of spices and pineapple juice. It is an outstanding 11.5% ABV.  It is the best beer I've tasted this year, and the year is nearly over (and I drink a lot of beer).  The slight sourness of the Belgian yeasts is offset with the slight citrus and sweetness.  It is a thing to behold and I'm officially going to ask Santa for a few more bottles.  I'm interested to see how they interpret "6 Geese A Laying."


Monday, November 26, 2012

Arcadia Brewing Company

Arcadia Brewing Company has been a consistently great producer of Michigan beers for 15 years.  The brewery is located along the main street (Michigan Ave) of Kellogg, Michigan. I visited on a chilly Thanksgiving weekend with some friends.

The place was very roomy inside, with a bank of windows that let patrons watch the brewing activities. They also have a section where they sell bottled beers for take out. 

When we visited they still had some bottles left of their 15th Anniversary Brown Ales.  There were two varieties: 15th Ale which was brewed with cherries and aged in bourbon barrels and XV Ale also brewed with cherries but aged in oak wine barrels.

 There was an extensive collection of brews on tap and what looked like a tasty menu.  One of our party thought the brisket was excellent.  The beers were excellent too.  I saw on the beer menu a cask Scotch Ale, Loch Down, that was made with ghost chilies. One of my party informed me that ghost chilies (AKA: Naga Bhut Jolokia), were the hottest chilies in the world.  I checked and indeed they hold the Guinness World Record with a Scoville rating of 330,000 - 1,000,000.  Note that a jalapeno has a rating of 2,500 - 10,000.  I ordered it anyway.  It was HOT!  I finished the pint but my throat was warm for quite some time afterwards.

A fun time at a fun place.  Highly recommended.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dark Horse Brewing Company

I finally had a chance to make the hour drive from Ann Arbor to Marshal, Michigan to visit the Dark Horse Brewing Company.  I've been enjoying beer from this company for years, including serving a keg of Crooked Tree IPA at my last birthday party.

From the outside, the place looks a bit rundown, but I think this works well with the "Marshal-old-West" theme.  The exterior is wood shingles, with a variety of ornaments, including a keg on a pole. On the same lot is a skate shop and a Harley shop.

The first thing you notice when you enter the establishment are the thousands of ceramic beer mugs hanging from the ceiling and walls.  There are literally thousands and each one looks to be unique.  They are all numbered and each has it's specific place so that mug-club patrons can find their mugs.


We tried several of the beer and all were very good.  They don't have samplers, but they will give you a taste of whatever you want to try.  They will serve you a half pint, which turned out to be a great deal, because they usually arrived in a pint glass filled about three-quarters full.  The beer server explained that she was bad at math.  She also bantered with us about the beer and the menu.  Speaking of the food, they had a surprising variety of sandwiches, pizzas, and appetizers.  All of the food we ordered was really great.

Overall, this is a excellent brewpub that makes great beer, has a slightly off-center attitude, and good food to top it off.  Highly recommended.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Themed Labels

Halloween is upon us again.  Here are a few beer bottle labels to help celebrate the holiday.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Weather-Related Beer Bottle Labels

Hurricane Sandy is causing widespread devastation along the upper Eastern US today.  In memory of this storm here are a few weather-related beer bottle labels.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Zombie Beers

Ok, I really like AMC's "The Walking Dead," which had it's third season premier last night.  What's that got to do with beer?  Well,  nothing, except that the food section of TODAY published a cool article on the top five beers to have while surviving the zombie apocalypse, called "5 Killer Beers for the Walking Dead." The writer was Jim Galligan. See it here:
Beer and Zombies.

The list included Dragon's Milk brewed by New Holland Brewing in Holland, Michigan.  One of my favorites and a great choice for any type of apocalypse.

Another was Worldwide Stout by Dogfish Head Craft Brewing in Milton, Delaware.  One of the highest gravity beers on the market (not being sold this year. Boo!) and one that would definitely change your perspective on the zombie apocalypse.

Rounding out the list were: Session Black Lager (Full Sail Brewing); Hell or High Watermellon (21 Amendment Brewery); and Labyrinth Black Ale (Uinta Brewing).  I've not tried these, but the latter one sounds excellent.

If I were trying to survive the zombie apocalypse (or simply enjoying the third season of "The Walking Dead") here's my top five beers:

1) Mephistopheles' Stout (2011) by Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO; 16.43% abv). Fight evil with evil.

2) Armageddon Grand Cru (Quadrupple) by Dragonmead Microbrewery (Warren, MI; 11.65 abv).  Nothing like Armageddon to destroy the zombie horde.

3) Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout (Release #3) by Epic Brewing Company (Salt Lake City, UT; 11.4% abv).  A little Bible thumping can't hurt.

4) Anubus Coffee Porter by Laughing Dog Brewery (Ponderey, ID; 9.25% abv).  I just think that the God of mummification and the afterlife might have advantage over the undead.  Plus, the jackal head is cool.

5) Double Dead Guy by Rogue Ale (Newport, OR; 9.0% abv).  Double dead has to be stronger than just being dead.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Boston Beer Company: Barrel Room Series

The Boston Beer Company (aka Samuel Adams) is constantly coming up with new and interesting concepts.  I've enjoyed their Limited Released, one-off specialty beers, and the Brewmaster's Collection of beers for decades.  Many of these beers pushed the envelope for more than just the actual beer and used interesting bottling and marketing concepts.

The same is true for the Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection of beers. The collection focuses on traditional Belgian-style beers, but with a unique Samuel Adams twist.  Traditional Belgium-style beers use wild yeasts and bacteria that create a signature spiciness and sourness.  Indeed, in some styles, Trappists Lambics for example, wild yeast is allowed to blow into the brewery from nearby fields.  This is not really practical for a full-scale brewery, so Samuel Adams creative staff developed a yeast/bacteria blend that achieves the Belgian-like flavors with more consistency and less time.  They call the mixture Kosmic Mother Funk and it is used in all of the Barrel Room beers.  These beers are also aged in oak barrels and come in totally unique bottles that are corked and caged.

My beer vendor had three of the four varieties.  The first was Stony Brook Red, which I would consider to be an imperial red ale.  It is low in bitterness (10 IBUs) and high in alcohol (9% ABV). Three yeasts are used in this beer, including champagne yeast for bottle conditioning.  The second was New World, a tripel brewed with both barley and wheat malts.  This beer is low in hops (17 IBU) and is 10% ABV.  The final beer was Thirteenth Hour, a stout brewed with 13 ingredients (hence the name), including 7 malts.  It is lacking in hops (17 IBU) and is 9% ABV.  The other beer in the collection, that I'm still searching for is called American Kriek.  This one sounds the most interesting of the group and is a traditional cherry lambic, made from Michigan Balaton cherries.  Oh, and Balaton is a registered trademark of Michigan State University. Cool!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brewery Vivant: Grand Rapids Michigan

Grand Rapids, MI continues to live up it's title of "Beer City USA."  Back in late 2010, a couple of guys with a lot of brewing experience opened a brewery in a former funeral home.  As I understand it, the concept was to brew Franco-Belgian-style beers in an ecologically responsible way and to pair those beers with local, wholesome food. Thus, Brewery Vivant was born.

Some of Brewery Vivant's Offerings
I'd seen this brewery's beer sold in cans for some time in the beer aisle of my favorite store.  However, being a beer-bottle collector, and having grown up in the age of "cans=bad beer" I never purchased it.  The buzz, however, surrounding the brewery continued to grow and they were getting rave reviews from just about everybody.  As a lark before going out golfing one afternoon, I grabbed a 4-pack of the imperial saison (called Zaison), thinking this style would be perfect for a hot day golfing.  Note that the cans are a pint (about 16 lf oz) and pretty pricy at about $14 a 4-pack. I opened the beer and took a drink.  Wow, I thought.  The beer was marvelous, with a slight hint of spices (peppercorns and orange peel according to the label).  About half way through the pint, I was a little confused as I started to feel an alcohol-buzz.  Sure enough, after carefully looking at the label I found it was 9% ABV!  About twice what I was expecting given the style.  My golf suffered a little, but we all make sacrifices right?

Okay, not a great beer for golfing, but an excellent beer for just about everything else.  The saison, and the other styles they make, are currently some of my favorite beers.

The reputation of Brewery Vivant continues to grow.  They have recently collaborated with the craft brew giant New Belgium Brewing in Ft. Collins, CO.  The first of their collaborations is on sale now in Michigan called Escoffier Brett Beer, a French farmhouse ale (biere de garde). The beer celebrates the pairing of beer and food.  I hear that the next beer will also be a farmhouse ale presented as the next incarnation of New Belgium's "Lips of Faith" series.  Now that New Belgium beers are being sold in Michigan, I hope that we will be able to get it in the Great Lakes State.

I look forward to seeing what else is in store for Brewery Vivant and simply must make a trip over to Grand Rapids to visit the brewery.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beer Bottle Labels: Sea Creatures

Go figure...most of these are from breweries near the ocean....