Wednesday, January 27, 2010


318 Broadway, Providence
Julian's is a highly recommended beer bar that has escaped me until now. I suppose "eclectic" is the first word that came to my mind upon entering with its brightly colored tapastries, purposely chipped mirrors and worn floors, the odd chandelier, and huge neon sign exlaiming OPIUM. The bathroom, however, is downright bizarre with its collection of GI Joe's and cartoons playing on a small TV. Very Portland, Oregon. They even played the same sort of hippster and trance music I would hear out west. The food was leagues beyond pub food, with interesting ingredients and an obvious focus on presentation. Most importantly, the selection on tap was a great mix of foreign and domestic, and clearly rotated regularly. A cooler behind the bar had some pretty intimidating rare Belgian beers going up as high as $60! I am a pretty simple guy though and they had me at proper glassware and our own water pitcher at the table.
Score: A-

Oskar Blues Gordon
Tap -- Julian's
not from a can today -- i jumped all over this when i saw it on tap. served in a tulip glass, but too cold. very hoppy and sweet, without being cloying.
Score: 9

Offshore Hop Goddess
Tap -- Julian's
called a belgian pale ale. probably wasn't a fair comparison coming from the gordon, but i found the hope to be quite pungent and the malts to be somewhat skunky. i liked this as much as any of their other offerings though.
Score: 6

Baladin Elixir
Sample -- Julian's
this was very tart, to the point of wincing as you drink. absolutely unpleasant. have to say, i haven't had a good beer from italy yet.
Score: 3

Delirium Nocturnum
Sample -- Julian's
alcohol and liquorice on the nose are what i remember best from this beer. bears unmissable similarities to a shot of jameson. not bad though.
Score: 7

Gouden Carolous Noel
Sample -- Julian's
malty and alcohol are kind of all over the place. meh.
Score: 5

Best in show:
St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition
Sample -- Julian's
oh, i liked this a lot. slightly sour nose while flavor is very tangy, spicy, and hoppy. 5% abv was a welcome contrast to those other monsters. fantastic.
Score: 9

Monday, January 18, 2010

Countdown to 1,000

I have alluded to this point already, but we are nearing a big milestone on the beer blog: 1,000 beers rated! A countdown has been added so stay tuned. To aid us in our march, here are a dozen new beers that cover the spectrum.

Bear Republic XP Pale Ale
22 oz -- Luke's, Rockland
i only have access to the most basic of bear republic products, so any time i have a chance to try another, i do. this had the prominent floral hops you would expect and is well balanced with nutty / biscuity malts. good not great.
Score: 7

Brown's IPA
Bottle -- Minogue's, Saratoga Springs, NY
a pretty raw beer. eric warned me against it and he was right. not reccommended at all.
Score: 2

Genesee Cream Ale
Can -- Minogue's, Saratoga Springs, NY
not sure how it started but i have kind of taken to trying the local equivalent of bud where i travel. genesee is one of those beers that have been around forever, but now is pretty much limited to upstate new york. kind of fun to drink, and slightly better than i expected.
Score: 4

Hair of the Dog Adam
Bottle -- Corks's, Portland, OR
barleywine or old ale, either way i wanted to age this beer as long as possible (it is left over from my honeymoon in may.) i finally broke down but eight months was a pretty good run. smokey, hoppy, with a hint of liquorice. does remind me of a scottish. creamy and drinkable. worth the wait.
Score: 9

High & Mighty Home For The Holidays
22 oz -- The Lighthouse, Manchester, ME
my first high and mighty beer didn't go over too well, which made exceeding expectations doable. while its a holiday ale, there is no spice, it is a straight up brown. alcohol was high, but drinks pretty easy. not bad, but wouldn't rush back.
Score: 6

Liberal Cup For Richer or Porter
Tap -- Liberal Cup, Hallowell, ME
roasty and smooth. i like most all porter's, but this was good. heavy enough though that i had to switch over to their backhouse bitter after just one...
Score: 7

Ommegang Witte
Bottle -- Julio's Liquors, Westboro
a very light translucent color. spicy, yeasty, almost musty smell. taste is unmistakably tart lemon. thin and chalky mouthfeel. good not great. victim of high expectations to be sure.
Score: 6

Southern Tier Cuvee Series 2 (Oak Aged Series)
22 oz -- Cork's, Mansfield
a strong ale. tons of vanilla here. all kinds of sweetness. unlike anything had tried before -- never a bad thing.
Score: 6

St. George Summer Ale
Bottle -- Rick's Wine and Gourmet, Alexandria, VA
the last beer remaining from my dc trip. biscuit malts provide more body than you would expect in a summer. not bad.
Score: 6

Victory Yakima Twilight
Bottle -- MA
i saw this referred to as a double ipa, but beer advocates designation as a strong ale seems much more on point to me. a bold beer with 9% abv, plenty of hops and malts. pretty good, i thought. thanks, dan.
Score: 8

Weyerbacher Insanity
22 oz -- Luke's, Rockland
i am kind of off of barleywines right now so this bottle sat on my shelf untouched for over a year. didn't exactly mellow in that time though. big sweetness and definitely warming.
Score: 6

Wild Goose IPA
Bottle -- Luke's
product of maryland. i knew this was an english ipa before i looked it up because it definitely has those distinctive biscuity malts. didn't meld together especially well though.
Score: 5

Sunday, January 17, 2010

To the top of my to do list

Ebenezer's of Maine has been on my radar for a couple years now, but this glowing article may give me the kick in the butt I need to finally make it happen.

Nowhere like here for beer
Interest became expertise; now the world points to Lovell if you want a best of brew
By Steve Greenlee, Globe Staff January 17, 2010

LOVELL - Once you get through the town of Fryeburg, you keep heading north on Route 5, through several miles of dense white pines and ramshackle houses with RVs parked out front, past The Wicked Good Store (breakfast, lunch, take-out pizza, 12-packs of Miller and Coors Light), past the local self-storage facility, past Lovell Hardware and not much else, and there it is - whoops, you passed it - down a dirt road but barely visible from the main drag: Ebenezer’s Restaurant & Pub.

Ebenezer’s is a world-renowned bar, but it looks like any other house in the area. If not for the carved wooden sign hanging from the tree out front, you would think it was just a house. Once you step inside, you can hardly believe you’re deep in the woods of western Maine.

The restaurant seats a few dozen people, and the bar is so tiny it would be crowded with 20. But this is beer heaven. Ebenezer’s has 35 Belgian ales on tap and several hundred varieties in bottles, most of them stored in an astonishing beer cellar.

Belgian glasses - tulips and goblets, each tailored to a specific beer - glisten from racks above the gleaming copper-top bar. Behind the bartender is the huge array of tap handles. Dozens and dozens of bottles sit on shelves in the glass case to the right. The iconic pink elephant that is synonymous with the Delirium Tremens strong pale ale, one of the finest beers in the world, sits on a tap at the front of the bar, there in a class by itself.

People come from all over, even from the West Coast, just to sample the selection here. Devotees have been known to plan vacations around a trip to Ebenezer’s. It is no wonder the place has been named the No. 1 bar, beer restaurant, and beer destination in the world by the likes of Beer Advocate magazine and (A sign over the entrance boasts about these superlatives.)

So what is the world’s greatest bar doing in the middle of nowhere? Chris and Jen Lively bought the place precisely because of its location. They were living in Los Angeles - a trained chef, Chris was a food and beverage consultant for a hotel chain - and they decided to get out. They came to Maine, where Jen’s parents lived, to have a go at running a restaurant. In 2001, they stumbled across Ebenezer’s, which was up for sale.

“My wife found this place, this restaurant that had this house attached to it, with 3 acres of land, and it was basically the same price as a two-bedroom house in the ghetto of Los Angeles,’’ said Chris Lively, 36. “We took this over, and we never expected it to become what it did. It had Coors, Bud - it was a redneck bar. . . . We wanted to build a restaurant. That was the dream, the restaurant. We wanted to have a few nice beers, too; we brought in Westmalle, Chimay, whatever we could get our hands on.’’

But Lively’s interest in fine beer was growing, and it didn’t take long for word to spread that a bar with A-class beers had popped up in tiny Lovell (population 974), far, far from any city. Lively got more Belgian beers, rare ones that can be difficult to find in this country.

The Boston area’s finest pubs can’t match Ebenezer’s offerings. The selection is said to exceed even those of Belgium’s best bars. On a recent Saturday night, I tried a De Ranke XX Bitter Belgian IPA, a rare Pannepot Grand Reserva quadrupel, a Gulden Draak dark ale, and a Struise Tsjeeses pale ale, which is nearly impossible to find in the United States. The beers on tap included such unusual ones as Balthazar, a strong ale brewed with coriander, ginger, and cardamom; and Cantillon Rose Grambinus, a sour ale made with raspberries. Unfortunately, on the night I went, Ebenezer’s was out of one beer for which it has become famous: Black Albert, a Belgian royal stout brewed specially for Lively by De Struise Brouwers.

Some people come here for the low-key atmosphere, some come for the amazing selection of brews, and some come for both.

“They have a better beer selection than anyplace I can think of in a 200-mile radius,’’ said Anna McGreavy, 26, of Brownfield, who was seated at one of the eight stools at the bar and drinking a dark Belgian ale. “And it’s a nice, mellow, local scene.’’ The lack of pretense is important to people here. Drinking a Trappist ale or a Coors Light, you are equally welcome.

The food impresses just as much. This is no run-of-the-mill pub grub. There are salads and burgers, sure, but the menu also features appetizers like lobster quesadilla and coconut shrimp in sweet chili sauce and such entrees as mussels cooked in Belgian beer as well as a gourmet version of seafood scampi.

Some months, getting a table in the dining room or a seat at the bar is not much of a problem. The Saturday night in December when I visited, maybe 20 people came through the doors between 6 and 11 p.m. Several stayed by the bar, but others had come for the food - a family with a 3-year-old boy, a pair of elderly couples, another couple in their 20s. Other times of the year, the wait can exceed two hours. At the height of summer and especially in snowmobile season (the pub is on a popular trail), the place is often packed. During the pub’s Belgian beer festival in August, visitors camp out in tents on the adjacent golf course - despite the $250 per person prix fixe menu. (“It’s the greatest beer dinner in the history of mankind,’’ Lively said, laughing, though seeming not to be joking.)

Lively’s timing was fortuitous. Ebenezer’s rise has coincided with an explosion in the craft beer movement in the United States, which has in turn generated a surge of interest in Belgian ales, which are widely regarded as the gold standard. Websites run by beer aficionados point readers to Ebenezer’s. And Lively is building on his success: Last year he opened a second pub, the Lion’s Pride, in Brunswick, which has just as many beers but a more upscale menu. He says he’d like to expand further.

Yet Ebenezer’s doesn’t owe its success exclusively to beer geeks. The pub may be making its name by drawing people from all over the country, but something just as interesting has happened in Lovell itself. The locals were stopping by Ebenezer’s for an American lager and ended up sampling the Belgian ales.

“I was so pigheaded,’’ said Joe Davis, who lives in town and says he comes to Ebenezer’s every weekend. He drank Budweiser for two years here before Lively could persuade him to try a Belgian brew. Now that’s all he wants. “It took a long time, but it’s better quality - all these different flavors and everything.’’

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cambridge Common Revisited

This was only my second visit to Cambridge Common, the first coming this past summer. I have kept an eye on their rotating taps though, and have been very impressed with the sort of brewers they bring in. My trip their tonight was no exception. Honestly, at this point I would have to give them the title of best taps in Boston. Keep it up, Cambridge Common!

Ithaca Flower Power IPA
Sample -- Cambridge Common
honestly, my beer overall experience with beer from upstate new york has been very lackluster so i avoided these guys for a while. looking at some of their scores on beer advocate though, makes me think this may have been unfounded. this was an excellent ipa, i thought. name is fitting since the hops are very floral and citric. nice to drink.
Score: 8

Stone Leviathan
Sample -- Cambridge Common
never ponied up for this one before since amber's often fail to excite me. definitely has a hoppy edge around the malts. not bad.
Score: 6

Stone Cat IPA
Sample from cask -- Cambridge Common
stone cat has never impressed me as an overly serious brewer, but this was pretty good. it probably helps that i like most anything served from a cask at the right temperature. nose makes me think these are cascade hops, with a really grassy characteristic. sticky and light. surprisingly good.
Score: 7

Most exciting find:
Element Brewing Dark Matter
Sample -- Cambridge Common
ah ha, element brewing! i wrote about this new brewer back in october and have had an eye out for them ever since. cambridge actually had three of their beers on tap, but i had to try this one for its awesome name. it was described as a cross between an ipa and a schwarzbier, which actually seemed pretty accurate to me. dark pour but there without any trace of heaviness or burnt malts you may implicitly expect. bitterness really does come through, making it drink much like an ipa. very interesting.
Score: 7

Monday, January 11, 2010

Memorable quotes on beer

Regular readers will have noticed that I regularly rotate out the beer related quote at the header of my blog. I have run across these pearls of wisdom from a few different sources, foremost being The Ultimate Beer Lover's Cookbook by John Schlimm. Some of these are pretty great, so I thought I would put them all together in the same place for anyone who is interested. Enjoy.

"Why should mother go without her nourishing glass of ale or stout on washing day?"
- 1920's anti-temperance slogan

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer."
- Abraham Lincoln

"Beer: because one doesn't solve the world's problems over white wine."
- Anonymous

"40 dollars!? This better be the best damn beer ever.. [drinks beer] You got lucky."
- Barney Gumble

"Blessed is the mother who gives birth to a brewer."
- Czech saying

"Some people wanted champagne and caviar when they should have had beer and hot dogs."
- Dwight Eisenhower

"All right, brain, I don't like you and you don't like me - so let's just do this and I'll get back to killing you with beer."
- Homer Simpson

"I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."
- Homer Simpson

"Here's to alcohol, the cause of—and solution to—all life's problems."
- Homer Simpson

"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind."
- Humphrey Bogart

"Whoever serves beer or wine watered down, he himself deserves in them to drown."
- Midieval plea for pure libations

"There is more to life than beer alone, but beer makes those other things even better."
- Stephen Morris

"The easiest way to spot a wanker in a pub is to look around and find who's drinking a Corona with a slice of lemon in the neck."
- Warwick Franks

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Three new Scottish Ales

When there is snow on the ground it is time to break into some of those warming winter beers. Here are a few reccommended Scottish Ales I tried of late.

Atlantic MacFoochie's 7+ Scottish Ale
22 oz -- Luke's, Rockland
kind of strange name on this one -- the number seven refers to the 7.8% alcohol. malty with some smokiness in there too. pretty smooth. sat on my shelf for a while, which probably didn't hurt this one at all.
Score: 7

Penobscot Bay Old Factory Whistle Scottish Ale
22 oz -- The Lighthouse Wine & Seafood, Manchester, ME
i loved the first beer i tried from these guys -- their blonde ale. pretty good follow i thought. not overly alcoholic, and quite flavorful. nice.
Score: 8

My favorite:
Olde Burnside Ten Penny Ale Reserve
Bottle -- The Lighthouse
have been looking for this ever since dan managed to get a sample of this at the great international beer festival. got to say though, i chalked up his raving review to him being very drunk at the time. but this was really phenomenal. sweet malts, alcohol, and smoke, but they work together very well. high enough alcohol that it could be considered a wee heavy. whatever you call it, this is an amazing beer and i was surprised to find it only listed as a B on beer advocate. perhaps i should do a post of the most underrated beers of all time...
Score: 9