Sunday, March 27, 2011

Beer Dinner Menu

Today Kelly and I are hosting our first ever beer dinner as a birthday party of sorts for myself. There will be four courses paired with Belgian and Belgian-inspired beers (including two homebrews). It is all pretty exciting. Check this menu out. I will report back with results.

Beer Dinner Menu

Course 1:

DUVEL Belgium – Belgian Strong Pale Ale – 8.5% ABV with



Course 2:


Belgium – Farmhouse Ale – 6.5% ABV




Course 3:


Maine, USA – Dubbel – 7.0% ABV




Massachusetts, USA – Dubbel – 6.5% ABV





Course 4:


New York, USA – Belgian Dark Ale – 7.0% ABV



Massachusetts, USA – American Porter – 5.5% ABV




Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hopping into spring

As mentioned, hoppy beers are too commonplace to be a seasonal, but, boy, they just seem to taste better in the spring, don't they! Here are a few of the beers I've been drinking lately for all of you hop heads out there.

BrewDog Hardcore IPA, Score: 7
hard to believe this is my first beer fromt these guys, considering they are in the news so much. i expected the brew to be thoroughly undrinkable and while the alcohol comes on pretty strong it wasn't bad.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA, Score: 8
head and shoulders the best beer i have had from these guys. it would be nice to see more american brewers use the belgian yeast for their ipa's...

Middle Ages ImPAled, Score: 7
nice. hops aren't too sharp. does have an english bend to it.

Victory Yakima Glory, Score: 7
a cascadian dark ale / black IPA. pretty good take i thought. body isn't too heavy and flavor isn't too dark. could drink a couple of these.

Watch City Hop Explosion IPA, Score: 7
solid. tasted great compared to other lackluster offerings on tap (spearamint ale, tick tock golden ale...) hard to beat a load of hops.

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA, Score: 5
way too sweet for my taste. everything i dislike in barleywines.

Widmer Drifter Pale Ale, Score:6
a solid pale ale. balanced malts and hops, as most of their beers are.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bring on the Bock (and more)

Springing forward
By JOSH SMITH March 2, 2011

For New Englanders, the four seasons are an inescapable reality. The good news is that each season brings its own beer with it. Light, sessionable brews for summer, Oktoberfest beers in the fall, winter warmers, and in the spring . . . . Wait, what exactly is the style for spring seasonals?

Honestly, there really isn't one. The closest to an official spring seasonal would have to be Bock beers, which were traditionally brewed in springtime by German monks for sustenance during Lent. Bocks — along with the closely related Dopplebocks and Maibocks — are very strong, decidedly malty beers. ANCHOR BOCK BEER, VICTORY ST. VICTORIOUS, and SIERRA NEVADA GLISSADE GOLDEN BOCK are the most prominent seasonal examples. The latter is my pick for its lighter color, nice balance, and good drinkability (though I still prefer their previous spring seasonal, an ESB cleverly named EARLY SPRING BEER). And NARRAGANSETT has revived its Bock brew, which is hitting stores now in green 16-ounce tallboy cans.

The list of beer styles associated with spring doesn't end there. Wheat Beers, Fruit Beers, and more hoppy offerings all represented in the ranks of spring seasonals. Consider two of my other favorites: DOGFISH HEAD'S APRIHOP is an IPA flavored with apricots, the fruitiness both checking the hop bitterness and providing supreme drinkability. And SAMUEL ADAMS NOBLE PILS has a surprisingly assertive herbal hoppiness without scaring away those crossover drinkers that Boston Beer Company always appeals to.

So while they may be an eclectic bunch, many spring seasonals are worthwhile.But the very title spring seasonal is a bit of a misnomer. In a couple of weeks when the first day of spring rolls around (March 20), these specialty releases will have already been available for months!

In the uber-competitive craft beer marketplace, it's hardly surprising that an arms race of sorts takes place between brewers competing to debut their next seasonal offering. After all, there is only so much shelf space to go around. And to be fair, I've spoken with several liquor store representatives who swear they get calls inquiring about the release date of popular seasonals weeks in advance. So it makes sense that most spring beers debut in the dead of winter.

What really puzzles me is why the season itself is so short. Consider craft beer goliath Samuel Adams, from which many of their competitors take a cue. I saw their previously discussed spring seasonal, the Noble Pils, on shelves in January. If history is any guide, its run will be complete before the end of March. Compare that to the blockbuster SUMMER ALE which will run for five months, from April all the way to August.

Of course, brewers are looking forward to stretching out that summertime drinking as long as possible. But I would argue that people want a good flavorful beer during the spring months just as much. After all, nothing cures the winter blues like an easy-drinking beer outside on the patio! I cannot help but wonder if spring beers might hang on a little longer if there was a little more cohesion and character to the release.

Which begs the question: what style would taste best during the springtime? As a card-carrying hop head, an IPA with some grassy hops sounds awfully tempting. Ultimately, though, release as a seasonal might be redundant since most brewers make some shade of IPA as a year-round offering. Lighter, darker, and maltier seasonals are already in place, so my choice for a spring seasonal is simple — yeasty, Belgian-styled beers.

Outside of a handful of Belgian-inspired brewers like ALLAGASH and OMMEGANG, these extraordinary styles are underrepresented in the American craft marketplace. Yeast, for its part, is often overlooked despite being the catalyst for beer and imparting much of its aroma and flavor. Saisons are one of my very favorite styles for their earthy yeast, fruity flavor, and dry nature. And Witbiers (like SAMUEL ADAMS' WHITE ALE, their former spring seasonal) are cloudy, spiced, and can be enhanced with a lemon. So come on, brewers! Next spring, bring on the yeast!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Further thoughts from Newport

While my article's word count didn't have the room to rate these beers, they deserve a few words. Included is the Castle Hill Windward Weiss, a beer brewed by Coastal Extreme for several restaurants in Newport. We found it at Pour Judgement in Newport.

Newport Storm '10, Score: 8
description fits that of a black ipa. fuggles hops dominates both aroma and taste. i think another hop choice might have blended a little better with the burnt malt flavor but still very good. definitely the best i have had from the series. (special thanks to the flicker user for this cool pic...)

Newport Storm Peter, Score: 6
pours a translucent reddish -- a refreshing change from dark, muddled winter warmers. chai spice in aroma and piney / sprucey taste come on strong.

Newport Storm Winter Ale, Score: 7
taste is defined by smokey molasses. thinness of body actually worked well for me. one of my favorite beers of theirs yet.

Castle Hill Windward Weiss, Score: 6
i thought this hit a good balance between traditional and drinkable for a hefeweizen. my wife agreed, high praise.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Beer by the sea

Sipping at Newport Storm
By JOSH SMITH February 16, 2011

Ever since Narragansett closed its Cranston brewery 30 years ago, Rhode Island's brewing history has been sporadic at best. Contract brewers Hope Brewing and the Great Providence Brewing Company never successfully built a brewery, while Emerald Isle Brew Works' keg-only facility lasted just a few years. Fortunately, with a new brewery up and running and 100-year lease in-hand, Newport Storm appears here to stay.

Coastal Extreme Brewing Company, makers of Newport Storm, was founded in 1999 by a group of four friends from Maine's Colby College. Upon graduation, Brent Ryan, Derek Luke, Mark Sinclair, and Will Rafferty decided that brewing beer all day sounded like a pretty good way to make a living. Equally importantly, they decided that Rhode Island needed a microbrewery.

For their first decade of existence the guys operated out of three small garage bays in Middletown. They had had always dreamed of building a brewery of their own and, after five years of various delays, they finally moved into their new building in Newport last year. So one recent Saturday afternoon I rounded up my wife and a few friends to take a tour of the new facility . . . and maybe taste a couple of their beers too.

While the building itself is a fairly nondescript warehouse, the silo out front indicates that something special is happening inside. The visitor's center is a bright, open room housing both the gift shop and a classy bar setup for tastings. Laura Blackwell, head of public relations, filled our glasses here and then took our tour up to the observation deck overlooking the whole process.

Laura explained that it all begins with the silo out front and the grains stored within. On brewing day, the malts are piped into the building and crushed with Newport Storm's original green mill, before going into the mashtun along with water and hops. A heat exchanger then cools the hot wort enough so that the yeast can work its magic in the fermenter. From there it's into kegs, bottles, and cans and on to your refrigerator.

While the process hasn't changed much with the move, the guys did take the opportunity to implement a long overdue laundry list of changes. A new system that injects carbon dioxide into the bottle ensures that oxygen doesn't degrade the beer over time. Malts can be bulk-ordered from the same batch thanks to the new silo. And where Newport Storm formerly brewed some of its beers at a larger facility in Connecticut, now they're able to control the entire process from start to finish. Add it all together and you have more stable, longer-lasting, and just-plain-better beer. I've been drinking Newport Storm for quite a whole and I can already taste the difference!

But what about the beer? The tasting flight started with Newport Storm's flagship HURRICANE AMBER, a sweet, medium-bodied ale that is a good starter beer for those uninitiated to the world of craft. Next up is a walk on the dark side with their flavorful WINTER ALE Porter and the big, bold NEWPORT STORM '10 Black IPA (my favorite beer of the day). And their RHODE ISLAND BLUEBERRY is hands-down one of my very favorite fruit beers, no doubt thanks to the fresh, local blueberries used.

And if, heaven forbid, you don't like beer, Coastal Extreme also produces its own line of rum, named after the 17th-century Rhode Island pirate Thomas Tew. And the distillery is really making a name for itself after being featured on a recent episode of the Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs.

If you're interested in either the rum or beer, Newport Storm is located at 293 J.T. Connell Road in Newport. The tasting room and gift shop are open Monday through Sunday from 12 to 5 pm. A tour and tasting flight costs $7 for beer and $9 for rum . . . you even get to keep the glass!

With a beer and cheese tasting with Narragansett Creamery on February 19, the release of a collaboration brew, and a St. Patrick's Day Parade Lager in the works, there are plenty of reasons to take a trip to Newport. Go to support Rhode Island's only microbrewery but, even better, go to enjoy some great beer!