Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One for Fans of Boston Beer and Football

My buddy Frank is an avid New England Patriots fan, enjoys Samuel Adams beers, and also appreciates a good IPA. So when I read this story today, I thought it was written just for him. The Boston Beer Company announced the winner of it's Samuel Adams Patriot Homebrew Contest:
Adam Walsh just won "the big one" at Gillette Stadium without ever having to suit up, and, rather than the standard eleven opponents, Adam triumphed over nearly 200 of them. Football? No. Adam Walsh is a homebrewer from Massachusetts whose recipe for an IPA (India Pale Ale) beat out entries from all over New England to win the 2008 Patriot Homebrew Contest hosted by The Boston Beer Company, brewers of Samuel Adams(R) beers.

"Adam's IPA is terrific," said Samuel Adams Brewer and Founder Jim Koch. "It's not easy to brew an IPA that has a lot of flavor and maintains its balance, but Adam got it just right." New England Patriots' ticket holders won't have to take Jim's word for it. With Adam's help, Samuel Adams will brew his Patriot Homebrew IPA at its Boston Brewery to be served at the Samuel Adams Brewhouse in Gillette Stadium during the entire 2008-2009 football season.

Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company have a long history of supporting the brewing community. Their efforts include the annual LongShot competition and recent hop sharing program. The Patriot Homebrew contest is another way of evangelizing craft beer. It must be quite a thrill for a Patriots fan and beer lover to be able to serve his own beer at Gillette Stadium!

See the full press release here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

World Beer Fest - Raleigh Weekend Recap

What a weekend! The World Beer Festival Raleigh is history. Now that it's over, it seems a bit surreal. It all went too fast. Frank, Jerry and I arrived in Raleigh late afternoon on Friday. After checking in at the hotel, we headed over to The Raleigh Times Bar and made that home for the evening. We enjoyed an eclectic assortment of beer and bar food. A couple of beers stood out this evening. Pierre Celis Grotten Brown Ale was one such treat. This Belgian Strong Dark Ale was a one time bottling by Brouwerij St. Bernardus. I also had the opportunity to enjoy an Achel Extra, which was one of the Trappist beers I didn't find for my recent series on Trappist beers. Frank is a fan of Chimay beers and asked our waitress about their availibility and we were told Chimay is too "mainstream" for them to carry. Interesting comment, though I assume she meant in relation to the other Belgian beers they serve. We enjoyed the beers and food very much, and engaged in a lot of people watching.

Saturday it was time for the trip's main event. The weather forecast mentioned the possibility of storms, but the weather couldn't have been more delightful. We strolled over to the festival grounds about an hour before the gates opened. Already the line stretched around the corner. By the time the gates opened at noon, the line had gone around the block and had doubled over itself. We worried that where the lines paralleled near the gate there might be some blending. However, from what we saw folks were very orderly and stayed in the queue. The festival organizers are to be commended for the smooth and quick entry process. Indeed, the whole festival was extremely well-run and very organized. Details such as plentiful, clean porta-johns and free bottled water were most appreciated. There was a nice variety of food vendors present as well.

After gaining entry we were greeted by somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 brewers offering samples of their wares. Initially I had thought of keeping a running tally of the beers I tried. However, given the crowds, the limited time, and the sheer numbers of beers, I dropped the idea and simply enjoyed the offerings. There were quite a few brewers in attendance whose beers I had never tried, and I mostly stuck with those new beers. Although on occasion I did also opt for a sample from a familiar "friend". The crowd was thick, and for the most part, orderly. As the day wore on there was more bumping and jostling but the orderliness seen during the entry process persisted all day. The beer service was quick and well-done. Most booths were manned by volunteers though a few had representatives from the breweries.

A few memorable beers that stood out even without notes were Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, a big brown ale aged on Paraguayan Palo Santo wood; Holy Mackerel Mack in Black, an Imperial Black Ale fermented with pomegranate juice; Outer Banks Compass Rose, a spiced Belgian Ale; and Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #22, a Scottish Ale. I also had my first taste of Black Rasberry Nectar from Redstone Meadery. I wasn't sure what to think at first, but after a sip or two, I can see enjoying it on a hot summer day while relaxing on the porch. While we were shopping for t-shirts in the All About Beer Magazine tent, someone came by and filled our glasses with Samuel Adams Irish Red. This 2007 Beer Lover’s Choice winner is the latest addition to Boston Brewing's long list of products. When I went by the Boston Brewing booth later there was none left so it was apparently quite popular. Of course there were many, many more fine offerings, and looking back through the festival guide now, I see a few beers I missed completely.

In the afternoon, I ran into fellow FABTS member Robert, who was attending with his friend Hank. Robert and Hank had plans to attend both the afternoon and evening sessions. Good show guys, but one session was plenty for me! There was also good music at the festival. We enjoyed the rock of the Brooks Wood Band during a break for lunch, and later some reggae from Jah Creation.

I should mention some food-related items as well. Cabot Cheese of Vermont had a selection of very tasty cheeses. I was especially fond of their horseradish cheddar, though all the cheeses were enjoyable. Also Blue's BBQ was offering two excellent sauces. The Carolina Pepper Sauce was labeled Hot, but was more flavor than heat. The Habanero Reserve Sauce offered more fire but was also very flavorful. During the festival, we learned that our friend Jerry has an almost insatiable appetite for roasted peanuts. He knew which booths were offering peanuts and returned to them often.

We ended the festival day by sitting in on the "Pairing Beer and Chocolate" presentation put on by Julie Johnson Bradford, Editor of All About Beer Magazine. The highlight of that session was the selection of Oskar Blues Ten Fidy in one of the pairings. This elusive Imperial Stout has been impossible to find around here, and was not offered at the festival. This was a special treat and I was thankful we made the last-minute decision to sit in on this presentation. It appeared most of my fellow attendees were thrilled with this surprise as well.

After a refreshing rest back at the hotel, we headed over to Woodys City Market for a quick dinner. They have 22 taps and a modest bottle selection. All three of us opted for Philly Cheesesteaks. I enjoyed my sub with Victory Prima Pils, a nice, crisp lager that I'd not had in quite a while. Our draft beers were served in plastic cups. When we inquired about glasses we were told "We aren't serving in glasses tonight." It was too odd of a statement to pursue further. We ended the evening watching the Celtics-Hawks game back at the hotel, during which we were appreciative of Jerry's penchant for gathering peanuts.

We had planned on shopping for beer to bring home at a local store. Colleen had given me a shopping list of beers she wanted me to pick up. Unfortunately we were unaware of the puritanical law in North Carolina that prohibits the sale of alcohol before noon on Sunday. That we were unable to bring back some beers we can't get locally was a disappointment, but a valuable lesson for next time. So after a quick breakfast at iHop we headed home early Sunday morning as we were all anxious to get back to our families.

I think I can speak for my travel companions when I say we all had an excellent time. We tried lots of new beers as well as enjoyed the companionship of good friends. I collected quite a bit of swag as well. There will be no shortage of beer coasters around here for some time. The festival coincided with Frank's birthday and I think it was a fitting celebration. We owe our wives, and kids, a debt of gratitude for allowing us to be away from home for the weekend. I'm looking forward to possibly attending the next WBF in Durham this October.

A few photos from the weekend can be found here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Area Weekend Beer Events

There are some interesting beers being offered for tasting this weekend. I'll be at the World Beer Festival in Raleigh, NC.

Friday, April 25 - 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer Tasting:
Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale - Kiuchi Brewery - Ibaraki, Japan
Paulaner Original Munich - Premium Lager- Munich, Germany
Podge Belgian Imperial Stout - Brewed And Bottled By Picobrouwerij Alvinne

Saturday, April 26 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:

William Street, Downtown Fredericksburg
J.W. Lees 2006 Vintage Ale aged in Sherry casks
J.W. Lees Moonraker Barleywine
Plus One Customer Choice (with reasonable restrictions)

Plank Road, Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Gouden Carolus Grand Cru 2000 Vintage
Gouden Carolus Grand Cru 2004 Vintage
Plus One Customer Choice (with reasonable restrictions)

Saturday, April 26 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine and Gourmet, Alexandria
Beer Tasting:
Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale
Gouden Carolus Grand Cru Van De Kaiser (Blue)

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

If you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Local Papers Report on Craft Beer

A couple of articles on craft beers were printed by local papers recently. I always enjoy seeing the press cover craft beer, as opposed to the large corporate breweries. It means education about good beer for more people. On more than one occasion I've had friends tell me they "had no idea" there was more to beer than the macro's they've been drinking until they saw some article in the newspaper.

Yesterday, local writer Greg Kitsock wrote Flavor That Grows on Trees in the Washington Post. This article talks about wood aged beers. Aging beer in used bourbon barrels, or over wood chips is a growing trend. Perhaps this is seen as a way to get new and different strong flavors in face of the current hop shortage. Or perhaps beer drinkers are just looking for something different. Local breweries Old Dominion Brewing and District ChopHouse are among those given mention.

Today's Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star picks up a wire service article entitled Small brewery enjoys not being 'beer factory'. The Straub Brewery in St. Marys, PA is the focus of the article. This family owned brewery was founded in 1872 by German immigrant Peter Straub and survived when many family breweries have not. I found it interesting that Fodor's travel guide listed Straub's "Eternal Tap" as one of the five best places in the country to have a beer. Three taps are available where visitors can pour their own samples. Just be sure to wash your glass afterwards.

Enjoy these two interesting articles and be sure to share them with your non-craft drinking friends. Other articles can be found under the CRAFT BEER IN THE NEWS heading in the sidebar on this page.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Heading to Raleigh and the World Beer Festival

Friday afternoon some friends and I are heading to Raleigh for a bit of a mancation and to attend the World Beer Festival. Saturday also happens to be Frank's birthday so we'll include some celebration of that event as well. Our plans call for us to arrive in Raleigh Friday afternoon. We'll search out a local establishment offering "meat and beer" and settle in there for a spell. Saturday afternoon we'll hit the festival. Of course, we'll take in more of the local craft beer scene Saturday evening (suggestions welcome.)

I won't be blogging from WBF, so watch for a report next week. However, I will try to send some notes via Twitter on occasion. If you are so inclined you can follow me. I'd welcome the opportunity meet up with any readers of these Musings. I'll be wearing the beige Blue & Gray Brewery cap. Or send me email in advance via the contact link.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Another Brewpub Coming to Northern VA

As posted on DC-Beer by Gregg Wiggins:
Bill Madden will be opening a brewpub of his own in northern Virginia next year. It's in the early stages of planning and raising investors and there's no location yet, but expect The Mad Fox, an English-style gastro-pub, to open in the late second quarter or third quarter of 2009. Rick Garvin's helping set up the company and Rick will be one of the Mad Fox Brewing Company's board of directors; Bill will be in day to day control as CEO and Chairman.

And head brewer, too, he promises.

Gregg goes on to tease us by stating he's withholding further details until we read it in Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. Subsequent posts to DC-Beer from others make guesses as to possible locations. Northern Virginia is open to interpretation, but it's probably a safe bet that Fredericksburg isn't on the list. No matter, I like the sound of "English-style gastro-pub". I'm looking forward to getting the next issue of MABN. I have a paid subscription but still see the free copies first so I'll be watching for them to show up in the stores.

Update, April 27: You can follow the progress of Bill and company at the Mad Fox Brewing Company blog.

Virginia Brewing Company Beer Fest, Head Brewer Announced

The Virginia Brewing Company of Winchester, VA will be holding a beer festival May 2-4. Here are details from an email received today:
The Virginia Brewing Company (VBC) holds its Grand Opening & Beer Fest on May 2-4, 2008 at the ZeroPak complex in Winchester, Virginia. Join the festivities as the VBC taps great craft beers, hosts live music, and welcomes the public to the Shenandoah Valley's new brewhall and event space.

The VBC Beerhall is located at 580 N. Cameron Street, two blocks north of Old Town Winchester, and will be open Friday, May 2 from noon to midnight, Saturday, May 3 from noon to midnight, and Sunday, May 4 from noon to 5 p.m. Enjoy your favorite tasty beverages, savory eats, and great music from Fly featuring Phil Zuckerman, The Speakeasy Boys, Craggy Island, and more.

Check out the Beer Fest flyer, get directions, and visit us for regular updates at...

Unfortunately, I've been informed that no Virginia Brewing Company beers will be ready in time for the grand opening. However, brewer John Hovermale, Jr., previously of Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont, has returned to his native Winchester to brew craft beer for the VBC. Hopefully we'll see beer coming out of Winchester soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Enjoying a Winner

The 2008 Brewers Association World Beer Cup winners were announced in San Diego last night. One of the local winners was Clipper City Winter Storm Category 5 Ale, which was awarded a Gold Medal in the International Pale Ale category. This beer is one that I happen to enjoy very much, and indeed is mentioned frequently on this blog. Looking back on those posts, I feel compelled to add a disclaimer. To paraphrase Tom Cizauskas, "Caveat: I am NOT employed by the Clipper City Brewing Company." Coincidentally, just last week I enjoyed the remaining bottles I had on hand from the 2007 release of Winter Storm. Alas, I'll likely have to wait till next Winter to raise another glass of this now award-winning beer.

A couple other local breweries whose beers I've been enjoying recently also did well. Starr Hill Brewery earned a Silver Medal in the Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout category. The medal was awarded for their Dark Starr Stout. Starr Hill beers have only recently become available in Fredericksburg. Recently moving brewing operations to Maryland, although they still claim Denver as home, Flying Dog Brewery garnered two medals, including a Gold for Gonzo Imperial Porter.

Other local medal winners include Great American Restaurants (AKA Sweetwater Tavern), Wild Goose Brewery (owned by Flying Dog), and Rock Bottom Brewery. Review the complete winner list and see how your local favorites did.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Reward of a Good Beer

It's been quite a week around here with various volunteer activities vying for attention this week. Each evening I was out for one, or more, activities. Of course, that made each day's wind down beer all that more enjoyable. No wimpy beers to relax with around here this week. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and Clipper City Winter Storm "Category 5" Ale both made the cut. These two seasonal selections were also notable as being the last of each I had on hand. (Okay, I admit I've set aside a few bottles of Bigfoot so I can do a vertical tasting down the road. That seems to be the thing to do, though I expect I'll miss the hoppiness when it fades with time.) It's always bittersweet when we finish off a seasonal beer. I did remark on Twitter last night that I'd certainly buy the Winter Storm year round if it was available, though one might argue that it would lose the aura of specialness if that were the case.

This will be a "no beer" weekend for me. I'm off on a camping trip with the Boy Scouts. The forecast calls for a good chance of rain overnight Saturday and Sunday, but at least it will be warm. So, what will be my "reward beer" when I get home Sunday evening? That's something to think about over the next couple of days. Next week is starting to look busy too. That's okay, I find the anticipation of a good beer is something to be enjoyed as well. And when that beer is to be savored after good works, it's all that much more pleasurable.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Local Beer Tastings - Weekend Roundup

Each weekend, several local establishments offer an opportunity for free beer tastings. Why not try something new this weekend?

Friday, April 17 - 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer tasting:
Koningshoeven Dubbel Trappist Ale
He'Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale Origin
Duchesse de Bourgogne Belgian Ale


Friday, April 18 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Allagash White Beer
Cave Creek Chili Beer (c’mon—you know you wanna try it)
Shipyard Old Thumper
Bavik Premium Pilsner
Pacifico Clara


Saturday, April 19 - 12:00 pm - ?
Kybecca, Fredericksburg
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:

William Street, Downtown Fredericksburg
Bell's Oberon Ale
B Bahnhof Berliner Weisse
Plus One Customer Choice (with reasonable restrictions)

Plank Road, Next to Ukrops
Tröegs Sunshine Pilsener
Floris Witbier Belgian White Ale
Plus One Customer Choice (with reasonable restrictions)


Sat, April 19 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Rick's Wine and Gourmet, Alexandria
Clipper City Tasting with Tom Cisauskas:
Clipper City Balto Marzhon
Clipper City Small Craft Warning
Clipper City Loose Cannon
Clipper City Peg Leg
Clipper City Red Sky at Night


Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

If you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the store know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Beer photo courtesy of Boak and Bailey.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

About Those Beer Bloggers and Their Opinions

Alan over at A Good Beer Blog has opened the proverbial beer can of worms with his post "The Anonymous Brewers Speak: Rating The Raters". He posts on behalf of an unnamed brewer:
Sites like R(H)atebeer.com are a thorn in the side for many brewers. They are dominated by a handful of posters that don't reflect the opinion of the general public. As with most critics they go off half cocked and I think often fully pickled. They pretend to know grain and hop varieties that they feel were used in a certain beer. I have seen the same poster rate the same beer twice in the same day and give it very different reviews. Hiding behind the mask of anonymity (like I am now) instills false bravery into these fellas (mostly boys but not all.)

Be sure to read Alan's entire post, along with the comments here. A similarly-themed post by Stan Hieronymus entitled "A (beer) critic’s job? Demolishing the bad?" has generated a lengthy discussion as well. While my "Musings" carry nowhere near the authority of the two aforementioned bloggers, I have given a lot of thought to the type of posts I choose to make and what I want this blog to reflect.

What are my qualifications for writing this blog? Well, they're more like reasons than qualifications. I like craft beer. I like the people I met, the places I've visited, and the new beers I've been privileged to try. I write simply to share some of that fun with anyone who chooses to spend a bit of time reading it. I have opinions, but so does everyone else. I intend to stick with writing about beers, people, place I've enjoyed. I am not going to spend my precious free time writing at length about a beer I hated. I wouldn't presume to waste the reader's time in reading about some misery I experienced.

The same policy applies to comments submitted in reply to my posts. If they are vulgar or simply complaints with no constructive criticism, or part of a personal vendetta, they probably won't get published.

So sit back and relax. Have a beer, read a book, visit a brewery. It's all about having fun and enjoying the experience. That enjoyment should extend to beer blogs as well. Even when there's a brewing battle brewing, the participants can still have fun.

FABTS April Meeting

The Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society held it's monthly meeting on Saturday at Kybecca on Plank Road. It was a smaller than usual turnout, but the adventurous attendees diligently worked their way through 26 commercial beers. Before getting to the commercial beers we were treated to 5 different home brews brought in by members. One of these beers, offered by club founder Lyle Brown, was his "Tettnang IPA". This single-hop beer was described by Lyle as "a Celebration clone with all Tettnang hops." The flavor was not citrusy, but had a crisp hop bite over a nice malt base with a somewhat spicy finish. Lyle also shared a Vienna style brew, a "Rauch Helles", and a "Rauch Maibock". Do we detect a pattern there? Joe Gherlone contributed a "Golden Dopplebock" he was working on. Joe said the beer still needed some time. It was sweet, with detectable alcohol and was described as having "an eisbock profile."

The home brews out of the way, we started into the commercial beers. The theme this month was "bock beer" and Bock, Maibock, Dopplebock, Weizenbock, Eisbock styles were all represented. Hofbräu Maibock was the lead off beer, a classic example of the style. Next, was Anchor Bock, a hard to find treat. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen was met with mixed reviews. You either like smoke beers or you don't. Moving on to dopplebocks, La Rossa Doppio Malto was a pleasant surprise. Having only tried the pale lager Birra Moretti from this brewery previously, I made a note to try the dopplebock the next time I saw it on a restaurant menu. Gluek Honey Bock (from a can), Ettaler Curator Doppelbock, Saranac Black Diamond Bock, Sam Adams Double Bock (no glass adjuncts) all were tried and enjoyed.

After a brief break, we continued on with Weihenstephaner Vitus, Clipper City Heavy Seas Hang Ten, Bell's Consecrator Doppelbock, and Legend Dopplebock. Robert contributed a special bottle of the very limited Starr Hill "The Gift", bottle 276 of 350. The beer was just a bit 'skunked' but still an enjoyable dopplebock. Left Hand Smoked Goosinator Doppelbock was another smoked beer that divided the crowd. Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, Eggenberg Urbock 23° were next. Followed by two Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbocks, one from 2006 and an older bottle from 1996. To my palate the older version had taken on a more sweet, syrupy flavor. We finished off the bottled selection with a special treat of a 1997 Sam Adams Triple Bock. This 17% ABV sticky, black beer had a molasses and dark fruit flavor with predominate alcohol. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this rarity, but I can't say I am apt to seek it out. Thanks to Dave "5" for bringing these last two vintage beers. (There are so many Daves in the group we have numbers! I'm #3. That's Dave 4 in the photo to the right.)

Finally, we were treated to some filled growlers delivered by Ray Johnson from a couple of Northern Virginia and DC brewpubs. First up was a Maibock from the District ChopHouse & Brewery. Brewer Barrett Lauer created a very drinkable version of the style which I thought had a higher hop profile than is typical. I found it very enjoyable. After the meeting I helped myself to a more of this one. Nice job Barrett! Next up was a face-off of sorts. We had two Gordon Biersch Maibocks. One was from brewer Jason Oliver at the DC location, the other from Scott Lassiter at Tysons Corner. They were different enough that everyone had an opinion. You want to know which one was the favorite? Well, you should have been at the meeting! :-) Both brewers did a fine job. We also enjoyed two Dopplebocks from DC ChopHouse. Finally, the "Winterbock" from Jason Oliver was brought out. This is a bourbon barrel aged Dopplebock. The aging gave a subtle smokiness to the beer, which was very easy to drink.

The afternoon provided an enjoyable exploration of the world of "bock" beers. There's a lot more variety there than one might expect. As usual, our hosts at Kybecca were most gracious. We were provided with a very nice selection of cheeses, and crackers, to go with the beers we were enjoying. The plans for the May meeting are still unsettled at this time due to schedule conflicts of some of the members. Watch the FABTS website for more information.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Breweries

I've been aware of this book for sometime, but never got around to getting a copy. Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Breweries by Lew Bryson is just what the title says, a compendium of breweries in the tri-state area. Like so many folks these days, I tend to rely on the 'net, as there are any number of web sites to assist with the search for brewery information. However, online resources typically provide little more than raw facts, along with the occasional user review. Lew's book goes well beyond that. I recently acquired a copy of the book and have been impressed by the information provided.

There's the expected raw data on local breweries. But there's more. Much more than just a compendium of facts, each brewery section is a story by itself. The author personally visited each of the 58 listed breweries. He talked to the brewers and staff, and provides first-hand accounts on the atmosphere of the places he visited. Reading the histories behind the establishments gives insight to the people and their drive to bring good beer to the area. If the brewery also has a restaurant, Lew reports on the food as well. One thing this reader appreciated is the special considerations section at the end of each review where, among other things, the author notes "kids welcome" where appropriate. Also included is information on other local area attractions. This, along with copious other details, make this book very useful in planning a visit. I've already started making plans for a few day trips.

As it happens, our area is experiencing phenomenal growth in the craft beer arena, with more breweries opening frequently, with the occasional closing as well. There's an online errata to provide up-to-date information. I recommend getting a copy of this book if you live in, or plan to visit the area. Lew's writing makes for enjoyable arm chair adventures to some of our favorite breweries, although I can't imagine you'd want to limit yourself to that.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fredericksburg Weekend Beer Events

Opportunities to try some new beers this weekend in the 'Burg.

Friday, April 11 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Sam Adams White Ale
Shock Top Belgian White Ale
Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
Rogue Dead Guy Ale
San Miguel Dark Lager

Saturday, April 11 - 12:00 pm - ?
Kybecca, Plank Rd., Fredericksburg
Customer choice tasting:
First person in chooses beer of the day (with reasonable restrictions)

Saturday, April 12 - 1:30 pm to ?
Fredericksburg Brewing and Tasting Society Monthly Meeting
This month's focus is "bocks" of any type; Doppelbock, Eisbock, Maibock, Weizenbock...
Meet at Kybecca, Plank Rd.

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

If you attend these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the store know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Clipper City Red Sky At Night

I picked up a six pack of Clipper City Red Sky at Night last week, and have been looking forward to a relaxing evening to crack one or two open. The opportunity presented itself this evening. This Saison Ale is part of the Baltimore brewery's Heavy Seas lineup. Regular readers will know that I am quite fond of this extrAARGHdinary line of bottle-conditioned beers. I've tried all eight of the Heavy Seas beers and have never been disappointed. In the past few months I've even had the opportunity to enjoy three of the series served from fresh casks! First, Winter Storm "Category 5" Ale here, then most recently, Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale and Peg Leg Imperial Stout here. (Hint for Clipper City fans: Watch the events listings at Yours For Good Fermentables to find out where Tom will be showing up with casks.)

I served tonight's selection in my Heavy Seas shaker glass. It pours a nice straw-yellow color with a thick white head that drops fairly rapidly, leaving little lacing. The aroma is familiar Belgian yeast, with a fruity (banana, grape) background. The taste is earthy and fruity with an ever so slight citrus zest. There are spicy peppery notes at the finish. The flavor lingers pleasantly in the mouth with a light mouthfeel and very light carbonation. The 7.5% ABV is well-masked and barely noticeable.

As is typical with such a refreshingly-flavored beer, I enjoyed this one pretty quickly. That often happens when I'm trying hard to pick out the nuances in the aroma and flavor. The mild spices and lingering flavor profile are enjoyable and quite refreshing. Clipper City Red Sky at Night Saison Ale and a few slices of Havarti with chive cheese made an enjoyable evening snack. These beers are from the 2008 bottling and it is reasonable expect the flavor will change with time, although I don't really expect to keep them sitting around to find out just how it will develop.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Boston Beer Recalls Some Sam Adams Bottles

Boston Beer Company has issued a voluntary recall of some bottles of its Samuel Adams beers. Apparently there is the potential for small pieces of glass to break off into the bottle. It's important to point out there have been no reports of injuries, and that this is a potential problem. From the Sam Adams web site:
During a routine bottle inspection at one of our breweries, we detected possible defects in a small percentage of bottles resulting in the random presence of bits of glass, most the size of grains of sand, but some small slivers in some bottles as well. Based on this sample, we quickly began testing bottles of Samuel Adams at all of our breweries and identified that the problem appeared to be isolated to a single glass plant of the five that supply us.

We assembled a panel of food safety, medical and packaging experts including a medical doctor who have thoroughly evaluated the samples. People who bite or swallow a fragment could possibly be injured. While the possibility of injury to an individual consumer is very low and the Company has had no reports of any injury, we do know that the risk is not zero, so we are voluntarily recalling all products in bottles from this specific glass plant that we believe could possibly be affected. While we believe that the number of bottles that actually contain glass is significantly less than 1% of the bottles we are recalling, we are taking this measure to protect the safety of our drinkers.

Only bottles embossed with the digits N35 followed by the letters OI are affected. I did find that my bottles of Sam Adams Double Bock were among those affected. I should add that I drank one of these Friday evening without issue. I am disappointed to be missing out on the other five, but it's better to be safe than sorry. The folks at Sam Adams have provided an online form where consumers can apply for a refund. The toughest part is reading the ink-stamped code on the bottle, but otherwise it's a simple and painless process.

There is a discussion on BeerAdvocate where some folks are saying they have found the affected embossed code on bottles from other breweries. It will be interesting to see if other breweries are affected.

Update, April 9: Lew Bryson posts word from Boston Brewing that other craft brewers' bottles with the N35 code are not affected. The bottle in question is a custom-made Boston Beer bottle.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Session #14: Beer People

This month's session is being hosted by Stonch's Beer Blog. Jeff (AKA Stonch) has chosen the unusual topic of Beer People. I had a tough time deciding how to approach the Session this time. I finally decided I'd take the liberty to stretch the topic out a bit and write about a group of people, a few guys are who are among my closest friends. I've mentioned several of them in previous posts so I figured this would be a good time to introduce them formally. I give you Frank, Jerry and Tom.

Frank gets frequent mention in the Musings. He's a good drinking companion who is always open to trying new beers. Whenever I find another new "big" beer, I try to be sure to share it with Frank. He's not shy about trying strongly flavored and higher alcohol beers and I can always count on Frank to try out a new hop-charged IPA. It was Frank who brought the two growlers of "M" from The Church Brew Works to my 50th birthday party. I also recall that one of the first strong Belgian-style beers I ever had was brought back from an overseas trip by Frank. A former U.S Marine, he puts us all to shame with his endurance for having yet another beer, and is frequently heard to ask "So, what's next?"

Jerry drives to the Raleigh-Durham area very frequently on business and he's taken it upon himself the challenge to bring back beers I haven't yet tried. Even if I've tried the beers previously, he always brings back winners. After one recent trip he showed up unexpectedly at my door with a 4-pack of Samichlaus and a sixer of Highland Kashmir IPA. Recently I received a phone call from Jerry while he was in a beer store in North Carolina. He proceeded to list off the names of beers he walked down the aisle to see which ones I wanted him to bring back! Jerry's a brown ale fan though he never hesitates to try something new.

Tom is the member of our group whom I've known the longest. He often prefers a glass of Goldschläger over the beers the rest of us drink. However, he will enjoy a crisp lager from time to time, and is starting to develop a taste for Belgian Pale Ales. Tom does have a habit of nodding off in the evening which gives the rest of us a target for good-natured ribbing. Often he just shakes his head in disbelief that we're able to keep going.

Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't give proper mention to the wives of said friends. Most of the times when we gather, the wives are there with us. Although the typical male/female split frequently happens as the group starts talking, all of our wives understand our "hobby" and will often join in trying out the beers we break out. Regular readers will already know that my wife Colleen shares my interest in beer and food. One of the really great things about this group of friends is the bond extends to our whole families. Wives, husbands, and kids, are all friends. We all get together very frequently, not just to drink beer, but for dinner, church activities, to swim at the pool, and for kids' sports events. We all live in the same neighborhood and we all attend the same church, so there's much more in common than just a love of good beer. Suffice it to say, when we get together, it's never a bad time.

I'll close with this photograph of some gents enjoying their drinks. Jerry sent it and the accompanying description to parody our group:
Guys - The picture below outlines how we must keep our priorities straight. I also thought this might be us in a few years and I wanted to point out that Tom (green hat) is still watching us drink, Frank is raising a cheer for the 100th time to someone who doesn’t care, Dave is trying to say something but doesn’t want to put the beer / cigarette down, and notice how slim I look with a green shirt on :---))

I hope the guys don't mind that I focused this month's session on them. As Stonch wrote when announcing the Session, enjoying beer is "ten times better when you're with good mates." And these are my good mates.

Update, April 5: Stonch has posted a summary of the contributions here.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Beer Tastings This Weekend

Here's a summary of some upcoming local beer tasting opportunities.

Friday, April 4 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA
Lancaster Milk Stout
Penn Dark Lager
Wychwood Hobgoblin
Tennet’s Lager

Friday, April 4 - 3:00 - 8:00 pm
Rick's Wine and Gourmet, Alexandria
Flying Dog Garde Dog
Smuttynose Maibock
Stone Imperial Russian Stout
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

Friday, April 4 - 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Corks and Kegs, Richmond
Beer tasting:
Boulder Sundance Amber Ale
Boulder Hazed & Infused
Boulder Mojo IPA

Saturday, April 5 - 12:00 pm - ?
Kybecca, Plank Rd., Fredericksburg
Customer choice tasting:
First person in chooses beer of the day (with reasonable restrictions)

Saturday, April 5 - 1:00 to 5:000 pm
Total Wine, Fredericksburg
Brooklyn Brewery Tasting

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery, Fredericksburg
Beer samples and brewery tours

If you attend these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the store know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Doing That Twitter Thing

Okay, it's geeky, and I'm probably of the wrong generation to fully get it, but did I set up a Twitter account a few months ago. I then promptly forgot about it. That is until I received an alert that Tom Cizauskas over at the blog Yours For Good Fermentables was following* me. So I updated my account and decided to give Twittering a try for a while. There's a growing group of beer lovers getting in on this. And at least one brewery is using Twitter for quick updates. Perhaps it will be useful to post random thoughts that don't warrant a full-blown blog post. We'll see. I may get tired of this in a month, or even next week. If you want to play along, you too can follow me here.

*It's not as perverse as it sounds. On Twitter, following someone simply means receiving their Twitter updates.

Followup post, October 16, 2008: It's working.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Flying Dog Garde Dog

Last week a surprise package arrived from Flying Dog Brewery. The box contained a bottle of the brewery's new Spring seasonal Garde Dog. Flying Dog's latest offering is a Bière de Garde, a classic farmhouse ale. Typically French farmers would brew these beers in March and enjoy them through the Summer. The name means "beer for keeping." Despite that description I was too interested in trying the beer to attempt any "keeping".

Garde Dog pours a bright golden color with a frothy white head. Minimal lacing is left behind as the head drops. The beer makes a nice presentation. The aroma is light on the nose with yeasty malt and some light fruitiness. Toasted grains and a light hop bitterness greet the tongue. A slight spiciness is lurking in the flavor as well. The aftertaste is moderately bitter, with a bit of sweetness left behind. Mouthfeel is light with moderate carbonation.

This was an easy-to-drink beer. Though it's just 5.5% ABV, it goes down easily enough to possibly be dangerous. The flavor profile, while not excessive, has enough "ummph" to keep it interesting. This will be a refreshing drink for Spring and Summer. It has enough presence to keep the most jaded craft beer drinker interested and at the same time I can see serving this to some of my less adventurous friends without issue.

Thanks to Stephanie Kerchner at Flying Dog for sending along this sample. Stephanie included a teaser that she would soon be sending a sample of the newest addition to the Canis Major series, Kerberos. I look forward to trying that one too. :-)

For more on Flying Dog Garde Dog watch Stephanie and Executive Brewer Matt Brophy discuss their takes on the beer in this video on Flying Dog News.