Friday, January 24, 2014

Hey You Guys!

It's no secret that I like chocolate. In fact, if we are all trapped there's a better than 50 percent chance that you could spread chocolate all over the floor and let me eat my way through to safety. So, after a long week it was particularly nice to come home to Boston Cream Pie and some Chocolate Indulgence.

Chocolate Indulgence is a Belgian-style stout brewed by Ommegang Brewery made with real Belgian chocolate (per the label). The "indulgence" might lead one to think this beer is rich, creamy, and heavy but it's really not that at all. It pours dark like the night and has a chocolate head that reminds one of pudding. Though not a dessert beer Indulgence goes down smooth after dinner with....well, dessert. The aroma is all Belgian. The taste is mild chocolate with the traditional Belgian musty fruit on the back end. Indulgence goes down easy for a stout with a medium body; nothing overpowering and that's a good thing as I'm not one to share a bomber.

Also, The Goonies is one of the best movies ever.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Visit to Hamburg Brewing Company

The first word that comes to mind after visiting the Hamburg Brewing Company is "corporate". It is not corporate. It is one of western New York's newest independent craft breweries. Located just off route 219 in Hamburg, the brewery boasts all the bells, whistles, and ambiance of a craft brewery that's exploded into a conglomerate. That's part of what makes this brewery hard to take in. For a start up brewing less than a year this place is posh. Everything from the brewing equipment to the pub is high end and new.

With time to kill and sans kids on a Saturday afternoon, we strolled down the way and dropped in on the brewery. Walking up the main entrance of the facility to the aroma of brewing makes for a strong first impression. Stroll down the hallway, past the brewing facility, to what can best be described as a cavernous, ski lodge-themed pub taken straight of the slopes in Vail or Banf or where ever the rich folk go in winter. It's beautiful if not daunting but at the end of the day people visit a brewery for one thing.

We sampled a few of the flavors including No Lux and OMS. Previously, we sampled the Oktoberfest while dining in the big city. All of the beers are solid if conservative. Hamburg Brewing Company strives for quality above all else. While they nail quality they lack in creativity. If you're looking for crazy experiment a la Dogfish Head you're looking at the wrong brewery. Hamburg Brewing makes the kind of beer you enjoy while your drinking but rarely seek out. We enjoyed the brews but it's hard to envision trolling the local beer stores asking for the latest from HBC.

What the brewery lacks is passion. Passion is the difference between quality and excellence. These guys obviously love craft beer and put up the bucks to prove it. The facility is impressive and the beer is spot on. The facility and the beer are also a little sterile. Nothing about the operation evokes an emotion - good or bad. The flip is they are new and starting out with quality is probably the single most important factor for the long-term viability of a craft brewery (well, after money). I don't know how or when they take the next step but there's potential. In fact, there's so much quality and potential that we took a growler of OMS home.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Fifth Beer of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a St. Bernardus Christmas Ale;
Left Hand Polestar;
Shiner Holiday Cheer;
Great Lakes Christmas Ale;
and a Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion.

Almost half way through the 12 Beers of Christmas with just over 24 hours until Christmas Day. Clearly things are getting lazy because the picture cuts off the top of the bottle. The backup picture cuts off the entire right half of the bottle - and both pictures were taken before I started drinking. On to the beer...

This beer is almost made in Trappist Monasteries. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is made in what was once a cheese factory known as "Refuge Notre Dame de St. Bernard" in Belgium. For a time, the Trappist brews were licensed to the owners of what is now St. Bernardus. Sadly, for us, the monks ended their experiment in commercialization and returned to their roots of brewing only for themselves and a few local pubs. Clearly these monks are not familiar with the roots of American commercialization (and greed).

Sint Bernardus - Watou left us with a very nice almost Trappist replacement. The aroma is sweet but it's just a setup. The taste is distinctly Belgian but not so sweet that it overpowers the beer. It does have a spicy tang with a molasses feel that really suits the holiday season. The dark, chestnut brown color just feels cozy. It's like drinking an ugly Christmas sweater (which is a compliment since these sweaters are apparently fashionable now).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fourth Beer of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Left Hand Polestar;
Shiner Holiday Cheer;
Great Lakes Christmas Ale;
and a Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion.

The real gift on this fourth day of Christmas is a new HVAC. What started out as a leaking humidifier quickly turned into a cracked heat element. I actually didn't think much of it. Here is the exchange with the repair man while showing me the cracked element on his fancy scope camera:

RM: You have a cracked heating element. See it right there?

Me: Oh yeah, this thing has run like a champ as long as we've been here. Guess I'll have to replace it in the next couple of years.

RM: I don't think you understand. I can't, by law, turn this system back on.

Me: Um, excuse me?

Maybe it's the new found poverty. Maybe it's the even warmth created by the new and improved, high-efficiency, heating system in my basement. Regardless, this Polestar is going down smooth tonight. That's saying something because during the dark, winter months I shy away from pilsners. Stouts and porters, preferably with a hint of chocolate and coffee, from now until spring is how I roll.

Polestar is well carbonated and is a little dry. It's light bodied so you can drink several (and I plan to this evening) without getting that "I feel full" sensation half way through the second round. There is a bit of spice but I get more from the hops. Also, this beer goes great with pretzels.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Third Beer of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Shiner Holiday Cheer;
Great Lakes Christmas Ale;
and a Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion.

There are two things I like about Texas: ZZ Top and Shiner beer (three if you include the scenes from Pee Wee's Big Adventure). Shiner Bock is a classic and not available in upstate New York...but then what to my wondering eyes should appear but the tale tell yellow of Shiner's good beer. 

Holiday Cheer is a dunkelweizen; which I believe to be German for "holiday beer". It's a malty and fruity brew that would seem out of place any other time of the year. Heck, even the color is of roasted chestnuts fresh off the open fire. You probably will not drink several in one night - a sixer is just about right for the season. Of course, you will need more if your sharing with friends; it is the holiday season after all.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Second Beer of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Great Lakes Christmas Ale
and a Sierra Nevada DevESTATEtion.

I don't wait for a lot of beers. Like most simple people, I like a lighter beer during the warm months and a darker beer during the cold. The Great Lakes Christmas Ale is one of the few specific brews I look forward to each year. The trouble is this beer always seems to be on a short run and it ain't exactly cheap; even for a limited release. So, I restrict myself to one sixer each season.

As you can tell from the image above I drank five before the yule log could get warm. Number six needs to last. I'm going to savor this one. Merry Christmas (Ale).

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Return of the 12 Beers of Christmas

Today we bring back the 12 Beers of Christmas. If last year's list is any indicator we'll get through at least five brews. Regardless, we'll be piss drunk by Christmas Eve and passed out under the tree for the kiddies by morning; preferably wearing nothing but a pink bow. With that image stuck in your head...

On the first day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought for me Sierra Nevada's DevESTATEtion.

Purists are not fans of mixing styles. Hands down the best part of craft beer in America is that we'll make any style beer and fuck you. Black IPAs are the premier reason for mixing styles. They're dark, a little malty, a little hoppy, and bitter.

DevESTATEtion is uses organic malt and estate-grown hops; that makes it healthier than your average craft beer. The real beauty of this beer is that it's smooth going down with a bitter finish. It's dark with a malty, caramel head but the aroma is all hops. A beer that slants towards bitter is better suited to Christmas Eve while dealing with relatives you see semi-annually. It's also good for kicking off a half-assed list - on a Monday. Anyway, here's a picture:

We have only a couple of holiday ales in stock so it's off to the beer store or this series is going nowhere.