Oct 19, 2009

Allagash Vagabond!!!!

Just a few days after I wrote about beers that are hard to find, and the thrill of hunting them down, I struck gold!!! Allagash Brewing just this morning released a beer that has been aging for 4 years in Oak Barrels! Very limited release, only 500 bottles! You could only get it at the brewery, and limited to 2 bottles per person. Well, being in Arizona, I am about 2000 miles away from the Brewery in Maine. So, as luck would have it, my brother and sister in law live in Maine, not far from there. My sister in law went over this morning, and got THE LAST TWO BOTTLES!!!! It went on sale at 9am, and she got the last 2 bottles at 11:05. Damn did I luck out! I can pretty much rest assured I will have the only 2 bottles in the state of Arizona.

I should be getting this treasure in the next week or so, and rest assured, I will be writing about it! Probably more then once! Check back for details!

Learn more about Allagash Brewing at http://www.allagash.com

Oct 18, 2009

Battle of the Arizona Beers!

This past weekend, we (my wife, daughter and I) attended a “Battle of the Arizona Beers” at the Whole Foods Market in Chandler, Az.

This was a small gathering of breweries from through out Arizona, coming together with a sample of their different (hopefully best) beers, and allowing the public to “vote” on which one was their favorite via a secret ballot.

There was a total of 7 Brewery’s attending. BJ’s Brewery and San Tan Brewery, both from Chandler. Four Peaks out Tempe. Old World Brewery and Sonoran Brewery both from Phoenix. Prescott Valley Brewing from Prescott, and Nimbus Brewing, making the drive up from Tucson.

Each brewery had between 3 and 5 beers each to sample. I have to admit, that Arizona is getting better when it comes to beer. I had a good number of beers I would consider good. There was only one I didn’t care for, and that was The Old World Wit, but not because it was a bed beer, I just don’t care too much for Wits. Although, it’s a pretty typical example of the style

I did have a couple of beers I LOVED. They were both from Four Peaks One of my all time favorite “hop bombs” is their Hop Knot. A very citrus, pine flavored glass of hop juice! Not a lot of malt, just ALL HOPS! One any hop head would enjoy. By far, the BEST beer I have all afternoon was their Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, called Sirius Black. A dark, almost black, rich, heavy, high abv beer, that after just a 2 oz sample, I felt warm after! Probably the best beer I tasted out of Arizona. My far and away #1 vote. Followed by Hop Knot at #2.

My #3 was an odd choice. It was Cordillera Blanca from Sonoran Brewing. It means White Chocolate, and that is JUST what this beer tasted like. It tasted like liquid, carbonated white chocolate. I have NO idea how they did it, but everything about this beer was white chocolate. Not the greatest beer I have ever had, in fact, I’m not even sure I could drink a whole 12 oz’s, but what a unique, but pleasurable surprised. I gave them my #3 for the sheer uniqueness of this brew.

All in all, I was pretty impressed with the beer that was on display. While we might have a ways to go to catch up with other states, like California, Michigan, or Oregon, Arizona has come a long way in a few short years, and it seems I keep hearing about more brewery’s opening up. Who knows, in a 10 more years, we may just be up there with those states. Every year it gets better and better, and I am excited to see what the next few years have in store.

Oct 17, 2009

The Thill of the Hunt!!

After weeks of dragging the baby into Whole Foods, or calling liquor stores, stopping by Total Wine on the way home from work, I finally found it!

Over the last year, Stone Brewing (one of my favorite brewers) has been releasing one time run collaborations with different brewing companies. These beers are run in one fairly small batch, making them fairly hard to find. I had not had one at all, but then I heard about the most recent one, I made it a point to get one.
It was collaboration with Maui Brewing, and Hawaii home brewer Ken Schmidt. It is a Kona Coffee, Macadamia Nut, Coconut Porter. Coffee, and Porter, 2 of my favorite things, and I LOVE coconut, so I figured I had to get one of these.
It was released the middle of Sept. The day it was, I was at Whole Foods, talking to the beer buyer, whom had never heard of it and not sure if, they would be getting it. I stopped at Bevmo, AJ’s, Cost Plus, and Total Wine, none of which had heard about it yet. I started calling Sun Devil Liquors, Topps Liquors, no luck. After a week, I started getting discouraged. I ended up talking to a person at Whole Foods that stated she didn’t even think they would be getting it!
Another week or two went by, and I basically gave up. Yesterday, for what ever reason, after picking up my 8 year old daughter, we were driving to pick up my baby daughter, and we drove past Whole Foods, and I decided to swing in and grab a case of Bigfoot for the up coming camping weekend. Well, they didn’t have any more Bigfoot, and am I glad they didn’t. I went down to the Stone section, and low and behold, there it was!

I grabbed 3 12 oz bottles ($6.99 a piece!)

I was going to save them for a special occasion, but last night, I could wait, I poured one, and sat back, ready to enjoy.
It was VERY dark. Had a slight coconut, toasted coffee aroma. I was excited!!! I took one sip, and was a little disappointed. Not as much flavor as I would have figured. Then I realized that it was VERY cold. So I decided to let it sit for a few minutes, and let it warm. Boy, am I glad I did!! Totally different beer after a little warming. Very complex! Not a lot of coconut flavor, but a pretty strong macadamia suggestion. Mostly coffee however. Not like brewed coffee, but more like a taste of a roasted espresso bean flavor. A very rich, full flavor. Very complex. It finishes with another hint of coconut, and a sort of chocolate covered macadamia nut.

This is the first beer I ever “set out” to buy. Most of the time, when I find something in limited release, I sort of happen upon it. This is the first time I ever made a point to get something hard to find.

Honestly, this may not have been the greatest beer in the world, but the quest I went through to find it, I think really added to my enjoyment of it. The “thrill of the hunt” so to speak. It was a lot of fun, and I plan on keeping an ear out for something else to try and hunt down. When I do, I’ll be sure and write about it!

Learn more about Stone at http://www.stonebrew.com/

Oct 3, 2009

Seasonal Brews..

My favorite season for beer is coming up! Some of my favorite styles are coming up! I really like the fall/harvest beers. I love pumpkin ales (as long as the pumpkin is quite faint, and subtle. Fall is followed by all the Christmas/winter ales, which are among my all time favorites. What seasonal brews would I recommend? Glad you asked.

For fall, there are some really good brews. Sierra Nevada normally releases their anniversary ale around fall. Always something nice to look forward too. Normally a pretty hoppy/ IPA style brew (surprising coming from SN, I know). Dogfish Head offers up great pumpkin ale called ‘Punkin Ale’. It has more spice in it then pumpkin, but a nice, refreshing fall beer.

Winter Warmers are just great! Some good ones to look out for. Get the Sam Adams Christmas 12 pack, and in it, you will find Old Fuzziwig. A very smooth, drinkable Winter Warmer. Deschutes Brewing does Jubalale, another great one. And as always, look out for Anchor Brewings “Our Special Ale” which is one I always look for, and set a few aside, because it callers really well!

After Christmas, most breweries will release their Barelywine’s. My highest rated style. I love them. Great balance of malt and hops, and high ABV to keep you warm on those chilly winter nights (we don’t have a lot of them in Arizona!). My favorite? Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot is just a great beer, and one of my all time favorites. Stone’s Old Guardian is always a good one to try. As is Anchor’s Old Foghorn. Great Divide’s Old Ruffin is a great example of the style.

Barelywines caller very well too. I have a number of them set aside, including Alaskan’s Barelywine, Avery’s Hog Heaven, and Moylan’s Bareleywine. Can’t wait to break into those either!

Sep 28, 2009

A new favorite........

My favorite beers are always changing. There are however, always a few beers that are always in my 5. Three Philosophers, one of my all time favorites always, as is Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barelywine (I have a 6 pack of 09 sitting in my cellar!). Stone's Ruination is always awesome. Devil Dancer by found, although I've only ever had one, is one of my all time favorites, and is the highest rating I've ever given a beer.

Lately, I've been drinking a lot of Dogfish Head brews. I've always liked the 60 minute, and really loved the 90 minutes, and always thought the Midas touch was interesting, and enjoyable. However, a while back, I attended a tasting a Whole Foods in Chandler, hosted by Sam Calagione, founder and owner of Dogfish Head. We tried the 60, and 90 and the Midas touch, which was fine with me, all beers I like. However, we also tried the India Brown, which as pretty good, and Rasion D-etra, which was awesome! I ended up bringing a 6 of it home. Since then, I've bought many more! I've since, tried Black and Blue, very good, and Theobrama, which is awesome.

However, a new beer in my top 5 has got to be Palo Santo Marron. It is a dark brown ale, brewed in 10,000 gallon brewing vessels (the largest made in N America since prohibition) made of palo santo (holy wood), gives the beer a smooth, vanilla, caramel mix that is almost breath taking. At 12% ABV it’s pretty strong, but almost goes unnoticed. It’s smooth, some what heavy, but still easy to drink.

Since that tasting, my respect (as well as my knowledge of) Dogfish Head has increased 10 fold. I think they are one of the most daring, experimental brewery's out there, unafraid to take chances, and extremely good at what they do. My hats off, and my glass of Palo Santo is raised to Sam and his crew at Dogfish Head!

Sep 26, 2009

Am I a Beer Snob??

One term I have really come to hate is "Beer Snob". I have been called one more then a few times. What is a beer snob? I've heard the term "wine snob" as well. What is a snob? According to an on line dictionary, a snob is defined as

"a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field"

Well, for one, I don't consider myself an expert, just a fan. While I do have knowledge of beer that most of the people I know don't have, I'm no expert. Also, I don't hold in disdain anyone that doesn't drink what I consider "Good Beer". A friend of mine and I were having a discussion a while back at a bar after a softball game. He asked me, after ordering a pretty decent craft beer they had on tape, in an un-chilled glass "why do you have to be such a beer snob?" I asked him what he meant by that, and his reply "you only drink those girly beers". Well, for one, the beer I was drinking had almost 3x's the amount of alcohol as the one he had, and was, by anyone’s definition, heavier then his. So, why is this considered "girly" for one, and why am I a snob for ordering something the bar offered anyway? He told me, he only drinks Coors Light. I have tried over 200 beers in the last 3 years, he only drinks Coors Light, but I am the snob? I've never understood this line of thinking. I have nothing against the big brewers, Anheuser Busch, Coors etc. I don't like their product, but they have their place in the beer world. If you offered me a Bud Light, I wouldn't take it. If you offered me a plate of broccoli, I wouldn't take that either. Does that make me a vegetable snob?

Sep 25, 2009

When to drink this.....???

I grew up in a small town in western Maine. Since moving out of this small town, one of the top rated beer bars in the country has moved in (the top rated beer bar according to Beeradvocate.com a few years back). Ebenezer's Pub is a small bar in Lovell, Maine. The have what is probably the best selection of Belgian Beers that can be found on this side of the Atlantic. Over 35 taps, and over 700 bottles to choose from.
They have a beer brewed especially for them, called Black Albert, brewed by De Struise Brouwers (rumor has it this beer will no longer be brewed?!).
My dad was recently back visiting Lovell with my brothers. He was kind enough to pick me up a bottle of Black Albert ($16 for a 12oz bottle). This beer is almost impossiable to get your hands on here in Arizona, and if they are going to stop making it, I am left with a delemia? When should I drink this beer???
I think it will be sometime soon, but want to wait for the best time. I will be reporting back when I do, to let you know how good the beer was.

My first entry

I've wanted to start a blog for some time, but never knew what to "blog" about. Someone suggested the other day I do a beer column, or blog. I didn't want to at first, thinking there are just SO many blogs about beer out there. I wanted to do something at least slightly differ ant.
Then I got thinking about a lot of the beer blogs that are out there. Most are from people that appreciate and love beer, beer advocates. The review beer, and discuss beer in terms most of us wouldn't understand. I wanted to do a blog for the every day person. Educate and advocate, but not to the point of being pretentious, or, god forbid be a "beer snob". So, here it is, my blog "the beer czar". (No I have not been approved by congress).

Ken aka The Beer Czar