Thursday, July 31, 2008

Upstate New York, Part III

After another weekend in Saratoga Springs with college friends, I have a few more beers from Upstate New York to log.

Davidson Brother's IPA
Tap -- The Parting Glass, Saratoga Springs, NY
no hops in aroma whatsoever... and few more in flavor. slightly sweet and very pale. an incredibly weak ipa.
Score: 5

Lake Placid 46'er Pale Ale
Bottle -- Minogue's Beverage Center, Saratoga Springs
hazy pour, spiderweb lacing on glass... fruity, mild taste... drinkable, but a little bland. lake placid's frostbite ipa was a much better, more flavorful beer.
Score: 7

Mendocino Black Hawk Stout

Bottle -- Minogue's Beverage Center, Saratoga Springs
dark looking beer with thick head: impressive... smell of sweet malts, and even a little alcohol... flavor is chocolate malts, but mostly water... very thin. mediocre. it was much more enjoyable the next morning when i tried to make it into a breakfast stout by adding a little coffee...
Score: 4

Mendocino Saratoga Lager

Bottle -- Minogue's Beverage Center, Saratoga Springs
this is listed as an octoberfest, which is quite interesting. flavorful with lots of sweet malts... smooth and sessionable. i had low expectations for this one, which helped produce such a high rating.
Score: 8

Southern Tier Back Burner
22 oz Bottle -- Gordon's, Waltham
a barleywine wtih an even 10% abv. very cool looking mahogany color. first word i would use to describe aroma would be hoppy. dan went the other way: juju fruit. the flavor too was very hoppy, reminding me more than anything else of bear republic's red rocket ale. dan was thinking stone's arrogant bastard. hoppy, alcoholic, and some molasses / cocoa in back of flavor. while dan and i had different takes on the beer, we did agree that this is not your traditional barleywine, but is still a nice beer.
Score: 7

Southern Tier Jahva
22 oz Bottle -- Walpole Wine & Spirits
an imperial stout with an even 12% abv... are they rounding these numbers off? black pour. smell is sweet, some hops, no coffee. flavor is mostly burnt chocolate malt, and again, some hops but very little coffee. coffee flavored beer isn't for everyone, but i like it. and with a name like jahva, you really should bring it. a disappointment.
Score: 6

Keep an eye out for:
Davidson Brother's Dacker Authentic Adirondack Ale
Bottle -- Minogue's Beverage Center, Saratoga Springs
copper/orange pour with thin lacing... sweet malty aroma... sweet caramel is joined by piney hops and fruity overtones... medium mouthfeel, grainy, drinkable. this is exactly what an ale is supposed to be.
Score: 8

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Dad's Thoughts

I have mentioned this before, but my Dad is a big fan of the beer blog. (In the picture below, he is the one in the middle.) I knew I was in trouble when he raided my fridge looking for all of the beers I had tried in the previous week. And now he has written a full article about beer (in his collumn for our local paper, The Kennebec Journal).

A couple of quick thoughts.
1) My Dad won me over on Shipyard's Prelude. I first tried this beer at a Mexican restaurant in Portland, and the spice of the meal probably made me miss some of the complexity in this one. But enough excuses. I would actually rate Prelude as a 9, which makes it one of Shipyard's finest offerings.

2) Maine is a hub for brewing. My friends dismiss this as my homerism for everything Maine. There will be a full rebuttal to come.

3) Breakfast stouts! Oh yeah, this has a post written all over it... and one very angry fiancee. Anyways, read on.

Raise a stein to toast first-rate beers brewed in Maine
By George Smith, 07/23/2008

Beer is driving Maine's economy forward, one bottle at a time, in microbreweries all over the state.

This is very good news.

Maine is carving a niche and earning a reputation for the very best beers, while the nation's favored brew, Budweiser, goes international with the purchase of Anheuser-Busch by Belgian brewer InBev, a huge conglomerate that now can boast a bevy of brews from Beck's to Bud.

There's nothing new about this, either. Fifty Maine breweries prospered during Prohibition, causing the state's governors to occasionally call out the militia to stop the illegal beer brewing. Today we're taking a different approach.

In 1985, Maine was one of the first states to allow microbreweries to serve their own brew on premises. Many of these brewpubs whipped up such delicious concoctions that they expanded into the retail market.

I'm learning a lot about beer by reading son Josh's beer blog ( What father wouldn't be proud of a son with his own beer blog?

OK, his mother and I are most proud of Josh for his chosen work at My Brother's Keeper at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, serving the most needy in the Brockton area.

But Josh's beer blog is really interesting. He's broadened my beer horizon with detailed analyses of more than 450 beers: stouts, porters, ales of every kind.

I was hooked the first time I tasted excellent beer on our honeymoon in Germany.

When we returned to Munich a few years later for Oktoberfest, sitting in huge tents with 5,000 others, eating slivers of salted white radishes, drinking hearty, tasty beer in huge steins, I knew I'd found my beverage of choice.

For years, I bought German beers St. Pauli Girl and Beck's until great beer came to Maine, made by our very own microbreweries.

We have some of the world's best and that's not just bragging. Maine brews often top their competitors at national and international events.

There are plenty of good ones nearby, including brewing companies Sheepscot Valley in Whitefield, Kennebec in Gardiner, Oak Pond in Skowhegan and Kennebec River in the Forks.

Preferring stouts and porters, my personal favorite is Sebago Lake Trout Stout (of course, a fish on the label!), with a score of 9 from Josh using a scale of 0-to-10. It's difficult to find locally, but Bridget Palmer at The Lighthouse Wine and Seafood Market in Manchester special orders it for me.

When I turn to ales, Shipyard often is the top choice and its Prelude is a winter ale that I continue to enjoy through the summer. It's a great beer that gets a 7 from Josh.

I stockpiled some of it after a visit to Shipyard's interesting brewery in Portland.

Over Father's Day, we gathered some of the family at a camp at Round Pond on the coast, and Josh treated me to a carefully selected six-pack. I felt a bit like a traitor with the selection of a Smuttynose Robust Porter (a 10 from Josh), brewed in Portsmouth, but this one has quickly become a favorite.

Of course, there have been brews that disappointed, no more so than a splurge on a $6.75 imperial coffee stout brewed with "real fair-trade coffee" by Montreal's Brasserie Dieu du Ciel.

The stout is called Péché Mortel (French for "mortal sin."). It was not sinfully delicious. I learned that I like coffee and I like stout, but I don't like coffee stout.

After the first sip, I remembered Lin's admonition that, "It should be spectacular. No beer should cost that much!" It wasn't and it shouldn't.

But it might be a great breakfast beverage.

Of course, I'm kidding. Surely I don't have to caution you to drink responsibly and never operate any kind of motorized vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

One of the great aspects of microbrews is that they're designed to be savored -- not chugged. And they are expensive, too. These are beers for "when you're only having one."

Actually, I'm sitting here right now, sipping my one beer for the evening, an Andrew's St. Nick's Porter (an 8 from Josh), brewed by Andy Hazen and his son, Ben, in a Lincolnville barn shared with a 32-year old goat.

Andy puts his Golden Retriever "Miller" on the label along with "Brewed in Maine" in bold. You've got to love that.

Join me, won't you? It's good for our economy.

George Smith is executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. He lives in Mount Vernon and can be reached at

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Well, you probably saw this coming. Starting to brew my own beer has been in the back of my mind for about a year now. When Kelly and I were looking for new apartment's, my biggest questions concerned access to a garage in which I could start my brewery. Things began to get serious when I purchased The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by master brewer Charlie Papazian. Come the Fourth of July weekend, Dan, Kelly, and I were en route to Walpole Wine & Spirits, which also had a pretty decent homebrewing section.

Now I don't like shopping, but on matters of great importance I am very deliberate. I examined all the different homebrewing kits, checking the equipment included with my notes on what I would need. (It was upon opening one of the kits up that I drew the ire of the stores staff...) One of the biggest decisions was whether to buy one of those easy homebrewing kits, or a brown bag that the store had put together with all of the ingredients needed for that recipe. I chose the later since they included the style I had finally settled on: a pale ale.

$225 later I was the proud owner of: 6-gallon carboy, 7-gallon food grade quality plastic bucket and lid, 16-quart stainless steel pot, funnel and strainer, 2 plastic hose, racking cane, bottle filler, spigot, airlock, hydrometer, thermometer, 24 glass bottles, cleaning brush, bottle caps, bottle capper, 2 cans and 1 bag of malts, 2 packages of hops, and 1 package of Irish moss. (36 more bottles, bleach, and a stirring spoon I had at home.) Now it was time to start brewing!

In many ways, this was the easy part. I quickly decided homebrewing is more cooking (something I can do) than chemistry (something I cannot do.) For those of you who are interested, here is a stripped-down list of the steps to brewing your very own pale ale:

1) Put bag of grain malts in a gallon of water to steep and bring to boil.

2) Remove grains. Add two 4 lb cans of malt extracts and 1 oz of Liberty hops. Boil for 30 min, stirring constantly.

3) Add 1 oz of Cascade hops and Irish moss. Boil for 15 min more.

4) Strain pot (this is called wort) into 6-gallon carboy (glass jug) filled with 4-gallons of cool water.

5) When temperature is below 90 degrees, add yeast and agitate carboy. Place airlock on top of container. Let ferment for 10 days in a cool, dark place. Do not -- under any circumstances, as much as you may want to, as good as it may look, as much as she may try to seduce you -- drink the wort.

6) Siphon beer into bucket with 2 cups of sugar at bottom. Pour beer into bottles and seal with bottle cap.

7) Age for 16-18 days. This, obviously, was the hardest part.

8) Drink the beer!

You can see that homebrewing really isn't that difficult... although I suppose I should withhold judgement until I try the beer first. Really, the waiting is the hardest part (that wort is a delicious smelling temptress!). Which brings me to the name of my first beer: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part Pale Ale. Ratings to come in another 10 long days.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CBC Summer Seasonals

As you will see in my list of Best Brewers I fell in love with Cambridge Brewing on my very first visit. My second visit to sample their summer seasonals was just as good... despite the poor bartender's head exploding when Dan, George, and I all ordered a sampler of all their seasonals. I'll rate these in the order that I drank them, from weakest to strongest.

CBC Half Wit Belgian Style Wheat
an unusual cloudy peach color... typical belgian smell of banana and cloves, but also a strong citrus aroma... fruity taste with both citrus and something resembling a peach flavor... grainy mouthfeel -- i liked it. (george did as well, dan did not.)
Score: 7

CBC Hefe-weizen
yeasty aroma... taste of banana and wheat, and also quite tart... smoothness you would expect in a hefeweizen... 6% abv is something you might not expect... a slightly unique and very well crafted hefeweizen. the best of their summers. (george agreed, dan seemed less excited.)
Score: 9

CBC Bitchin' Bitter
a copper amber beer... sweet smelling, but aroma is more buttery than anything else... taste is of grassy hops and something else i cannot place... very true to style. (dan agreed, george seemed less sold.)
Score: 8

CBC Tripel
slightly cloudy, golden appearance... aroma is singularly of malts... bready malts bury anything else cbc was going for here... i prefered their tripel threat. (dan and george liked it more than i did.)
Score: 6

CBC Arquebus
a "summer barleywine"... sickeningly sweet in both aroma and flavor, honey and green apple... this strongly reminded me of a white wine... not pleasant. the blunderbuss was far superior. (dan and george strongly agreed.)
Score: 3

CBC You Enjoy My Stout
an imperial stout, and another sweet offering from cbc... molasses and alcohol register presence strongest... pretty good, but i guess i was expecting something more here. (dan liked it, george did not.)
Score: 7

Monday, July 14, 2008

Belgian Quadrupel vs. Belgian Strong Pale Ale

I am really getting into Belgian styles of beer, but more often than not it is a Tripel or a Witbier that I am drinking. So trying new Belgian styles is a high priority on my shopping list. Here are a couple of good New York brewers take on two very different Belgian styles.

Brooklyn Local 1
750 ml Bottle -- Gordon's, Waltham
thanks to dan on providing this one; i almost purchased it on my way to his house as i had heard very good things prior to. a belgian strong pale ale -- it even sounds awesome. golden pour with fluffy white head -- nice lacing... fruity, yeasty aroma... distinctively belgian yeast dominates taste, with fruity apple overtones in background... alcohol is well disguised, but it goes down so smooth you almost want to chug it right down... excellent.
Appearance: 4/5, Arom: 8/10, Flavor: 10/10, Palate: 5/5, Overall: 18/20, Total: 4.5
Score: 10

Ommegang Three Philosophers
Bottle -- McKean & Charles, Waldoboro, ME
a belgian-style quadrupel, my first i believe. interesting pour: dark brown with a reddish tint, neat head... bold aroma of sweet toffee, raisins/molasses... wow, surprisingly strong taste of tart cherries, and some alcohol... VERY sour finish that lingers on palate... interesting but not great.
App: 5/5, Aro: 8/10, Flv: 6/10, Pal: 4/5, Ovr: 12/20, Tot: 3.5
Score: 8

My pick: Brooklyn Local 1

Monday, July 7, 2008

Black and tans

So I promised in my last post to expand on my last drink of the night at Owen O'Leary's: a Black & Tan. Now my experience with Black & Tan's is limited to Saranac's B & T and Olde Burnside's Dirty Penny. I really enjoyed the last of these, so thought I would give the style a little more thought. A B & T is a blended beer that layers a dark and a light beer and is generally done by bartender's. More and more brewer's have started to get into the act as well, although it is still not considered a traditional style. I am not sure what I think of the style, so I tried a few on my own.

Owen O'Leary's Black & Tan: Guiness & Owen's IPA
Sample -- Owen O'Leary's, Brockton
i was curious to see what owen's made their black and tan's with since the darkest house beer was an irish red. sure enough, they went with guiness... interesting. this was entirely separated when served: stout on top, ipa on bottom. hardly any aroma and guiness rules the taste, with few if any hops making their presence known. in this case, blending the two beers essentially just lightened up the guiness. i found the end product to be fairly bland: making a black and tan with two watery beers, of course yields a very watery result.
Score: 4

Black & Tan: Avery Out of Bounds Stout & Trinity IPA
Bottle's -- Gordon's, Waltham
so the next day -- after cooking out for the 4th -- i blended my own black and tan with two beers dan had left in my fridge from the previous week. these two mixed together without any problem, and was, not-surprisingly, fairly dark (much like the most popular black & tan, mississippi mud.) roasted malts rule both aroma and taste. hops do appear in finish, although they are sufficiently dulled by stout. better, but still not quite what i am looking for.
Score: 5

Black & Tan: Ipswich Oatmeal Stout & Geary's Pale Ale
Bottle's -- Wine Basket, Brockton
okay, one last try here. so before i paired a weaker stout with a strong ipa. let me try it with a bolder stout and more balanced pale (not to mention, two of my favorite beers...) again, mixes well (i am not quite sure how the bartender did that...) smell of coffee is foremost here, but you have to dig for it. flavor is again of roasted malts, but bitter hops come through much more this time... as bitter sweet chocolate. i like how this one came together, but i am not sure the sum adds up to either of its parts...
Score: 7

Conclusion: Black & Tan's, while kind of a fun idea, have a limited purpose. I suppose if you want to drink a few dark beers, you could lighten it up with a few of these. That said, while some of the characteristics of the lighter beer can come through in the right circumstances, more often it will just dilute the darker beer. If you think about it, brewer's would blend it for you if it really was better. I may order a black & tan when desperate at a bar, but I wouldn't recommend using your quality beers to do so. No regrets though -- this was an interesting exercise.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Owen O'Leary's

Owen O'Leary's was the hangout when I was in college. Dollar pizza. 25 cent wings. Cheap pitchers of beer. What more could you ask for? We loved it. Well, I loved it at least. And that was without finding out that they brewed their own beer. How this little fact escaped us really amazes me... and slightly embarrasses me. But those were different days. Dollar pizza and 25 cent wings are a thing of the past. In fact, you are hard pressed to find Stonehill students there any time of year. They all go to Buddie's now -- a local townie bar with karaoke... But I digress. Here is what I was missing:

Owen O'Leary's Dave's Blueberry Ale
Sample -- Owen O'Leary's, Brockton
as it was my first time trying any of these beers, i ordered the sampler, as i often do. the beer had barely hit the table before i started scooping the blueberries out of my ale (and lemon out of my wheat beer...) now i don't have a problem with brewers using fruit as an ingredient in their beer, but i doubt that any of these brewers intended for fruit to be floating in their beer when served. anyways, this beer really didn't need it as there was blueberry everywhere here... strong, fairly natural flavor (as opposed to overtly chemical flavoring...) not bad.
Score: 4

Owen O'Leary's Golden Eagle Ale
Sample -- Owen's
okay, so i was little confused by the description of this beer as a "full-bodied copper ale." it was neither of these things, but it was a good example of a golden ale. aroma of grains, lightly bitter finish, smooth and balanced... solid.
Score: 5

Owen O'Leary's I.P.A.
Sample -- Owen's
very mild hop flavor... much closer to a pale ale if you ask me. i guess i don't have a whole lot more to say here.
Score: 4

Owen O'Leary's Irish Sunsetter Red
Sample -- Owen's
i was surprised to discover that i enjoyed the irish red more than the others at owens. i was about ready to write off the style as simplistic and sickeningly sweet, but there were a couple of additional dimensions here that i appreciated. besides sweet, toasted malts there was a hop presence and even a slight java taste. still a little watery, but i liked the attempt at flavor at least.
Score: 6

Owen O'Leary's Summertime Wheat
Sample -- Owen's
fairly bland with slightly funky aftertaste... goes down quick, but not especially enjoyable. kelly liked it more than i did... and she kept her lemon in. maybe i wrote off floating fruit too quickly...? naw.
Score: 3

And there was one more beer that I tried at Owen's. But I am going to save that one until next time, only here, on Josh's Beer Blog.