Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fifth Beer of Christmas (2016)

On the fifth day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Great Lakes Christmas Ale;
Ballantine Burton Ale;
Stone Enjoy by 12.25.16 (VA Prototype);
Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

I have zero interest in writing tonight. Long day at work dealing with entitled "team" members and Human Resources put a damper on the hump day. Followed this up with hockey practice for the boy; which, under normal circumstances, is a fine way to spend the evening. When you are in a foul mood to begin with standing outside in western NY winter watching hockey practice, well, it heightens the senses. Lucky for you dear reader I'm a trooper and pushing through the fifth beer. Who are we kidding? You are not reading this.

The Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale has long been a tradition in our home. I look forward to this beer more than I look forward to visions of sugar plums. Great Lakes makes a handful of fine beers but the Christmas Ale stands above them all. This drink pours a clean, amber brown with a light brown head. There is certainly some spice in the aroma with a sweet, honey aroma which pulls through on the back end. The malt is on the forward end of flavor providing a caramel-ish sweetness. A mild spice in the taste strikes a nice balance with the sweet.

I do feel a little better after that adult whine at the top.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fourth Beer of Christmas (2016)

Second quarter of Bills v Browns, Dec 18, 2016
On the fourth day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Ballantine Burton Ale;
Stone Enjoy by 12.25.16 (VA Prototype);
Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

Yesterday the Buffalo Bills tackled the Cleveland Browns in yet another futile matchup between two historic football clubs. The weather was cold, icy and windy with temperatures starting in the 30s and dropping to the low 20s by kickoff.  To your left (see picture, left) you're looking at a view of from my seat in the climate controlled Time Warner Cable suite located in the corner endzone of New Era Field. This is not quite how the 1 percent live; more like the 8-15 percent but it's still better than most of us could really imagine. It is not so much the luxury suite, endless food, open bar, private coat room, clean restrooms and uncomfortable courtesy you don't often see from vendors at football games (and I don't fault vendors one bit; thankless grunt work). No, it's not all of that. OK, it's some of that but it is more the stories these season ticket holders tell each other. Don't get me wrong, they are not back slapping over some kind of debauchery you might see from a President-elect. Rather, while you and I might discuss painting bedrooms these folks talk about upgrades at the country club locker room. My house party is their private party on the roof of some club in New Orleans. Oh, and every single person there was the nicest person you could meet. What does any of this have to do with beer? Nothing, I'm just bragging.

Ballantine Burton Ale (BBA) actually dates back to the 1930s. Pabst Brewing Company brought it back in 2015 (presumably minus the 20 years of aging). It really pains me to enjoy a beer made by one of the big brewers, particularly one so tightly associated with the hipsters. That said, BBA is one good beer. An American Strong Ale that is copper or deep amber in color this is a full bodied beer from start to finish. The aroma is full, malty and fruity with not much coming from hops. I definitely get a sweet, malt flavor with a cherry-fruit finish. BBA makes you feel like you are enjoying an after dinner drink with vanilla cake and white frosting on fancy Kate Spade china with an unusually small fork. If there is one knock, it is that this one is so big (11.3 percent) and so sweet that just one or two in any given evening will warm the cockles of your heart. Consider yourself warned if you start pounding BBA at the work holiday party.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Third Beer of Christmas (2016)

On the third day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Stone Enjoy by 12.25.16 (VA Prototype);
Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

I believe it was Daffy Duck that first taught me the patience of not opening something until Christmas. Thankfully, some 35-ish years later, the good people at Stone Brewing created a gift designed specifically to be opened before Christmas. Daffy always struck me as somebody with a little too much confidence in their own abilities.

At first glance, "VA Prototype" label on the bottle comes across as a warning (hey, if this beer sucks it's simply a prototype) or a marketing bit to promote the Richmond brewery opened by Stone earlier in 2016. It must be the latter because this Imperial IPA is just fine. I've heard some complaints that the beer is too clear to be filtered. My glass was a nice golden haze, baby. This one is not particularly better than the others from the "Enjoy by" series, just different. This is Stone so different is good and they make good beers. So, it's all good.

I was always more of a Foghorn Leghorn kinda guy.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Second Beer of Christmas (2016)

On the second day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

Be warned: you simply cannot drink this beer without getting Frosty the Snowman stuck in your head. Fortunately, it's a kids favorite in our household so I've had the song stuck in my head for weeks. At least now I have a good reason.

Hamburg Brewing Company opened in 2013. Given the recent blowup of the craft beer scene in the Buffalo area, HBC is practically an elder statesman and Frosty the IPA shows off their brewing chops. The beer is a beautiful light gold color with a haze that will remind locals of lake effect snow. It has the required hoppy IPA aroma. The taste is more bitter (bitterer?) on the front end than I expected but quickly transitions into a citrus, grapefruit finish. It's quite different from Hamburg's year round IPA so adjust expectations accordingly. If you're a year-round fan of IPAs and need something new and tasty to drink until summer when the rest of us come back to IPAs this is your beer. If you're like me, who changes to dark beer when the clocks change, this beer will be a welcome change of pace.

Also, check out this deleted scene from Frosty the Snowman (may not be suitable for some audiences).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The 12 Beers of Christmas - 2016 Edition

It's an annual rite of celebration that we propose to reinvigorate this tired blog by bastardizing the classic 12 Days of Christmas. Why should this year be any different? Honestly, you prefer us talking about beer because there is no way we can name 12 drummers in total let alone 12 drummers we would want to receive as a gift. Also, I have kids now so if anybody brings drummers and/or drums into my house we're in a huge fight. Let's get on with it, shall we?

On the first day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me Southern Tier's Krampus.

Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon who punishes bad children at Christmas time. I don't know any more than that except that there was a movie that approximately eight people watched. Krampus is kind of creepy but so is Santa Clause. For some reason, parents have to play bad cop all year and once a year we plow our kids with toys but give credit to some mythical figure. Actually, parents should celebrate Krampus because somebody else is playing bad cop for once. Merry Krampus!

Southern Tier's Krampus is a Imperial Helles Lager and it is quite good. Southern Tier has some top notch brews, including the 2X IPA and Choklat. Krampus deserves to be in the same company. Krampus pours a dark golden color with a thin head. There is a nice mix of malt and hop in the aroma but the malt outperforms the hops in taste. It's full bodied and feels big but it's an imperial so somewhat expected.

It's worth noting that the bomber is date stamped October 10, 2016 at 2:30p. There is not enough clear date stamping in craft beer so gold star extra credit to Southern Tier for letting the drinker see the freshness right on the label.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Father's Day Means Dragging the Family to Local Breweries

Rusty Nickel Brewing Company is situated behind the Ebenezer Ale House in West Seneca, NY. If you're driving down Seneca street and not paying attention you could drive by and miss the brewery entirely. That would be a mistake.

The best part of visiting any brewery is the beer. Rusty Nickel offers a host of beers "brewed just a little different". TJ Special Amber Ale is made exclusively with malt from New York State. Not Yo' Grandpa's Cream Ale will hearken any beer drinker back to his or her father's refrigerator circa 1983. With early summer heat beating down we started with the Fuzzy Navel Wheat; brewed with white peaches and navel orange zest. This is the type of beer you can drink all summer. In fact, we brought a growler of it home. We were tempted by the Slice O' Havens Orange Creamsicle but instead took on a pint of Pedal Pusher; a Bier de Garde. Pedal Pusher is a solid all around brew. We intentionally stayed away from the IPAs but that just gives us an excuse to return.

The second best reason to visit a brewery is the atmosphere and RNBC is second to none. The taproom is wood themed. The walls and ceiling are covered with parts of old palettes. Wood light fixtures, tables, and even the bar offer a warm, welcoming feel. The overall atmosphere was laid back maybe because it was a lazy Sunday afternoon. It's probably not always so chill. Every Monday is DJ and trivia night. Members of the RNBC Mug Club get a signature beer mug, discounts on pints, and VIP treatment for events and releases. RNBC even provides classic board games for both adults and kids.

Rusty Nickel Brewing Company
4350 Seneca Street
West Seneca, NY 14224
Open six days (Tue for private events)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Letting Beer Grow Old

Tonight we embark on an epic journey. A journey that may end in two, five, or even ten years. There's also a reasonable chance the journey ends early next week. This journey will require my gang of friends to seek out mythical pirate treasure buried somewhere deep under the homes of our seaside town while we simultaneously fend off a second-rate mafia crime family. No, wait, that's the plot line for The Goonies.

The topic tonight is aging beer. There is no journey; unless you count years of aimlessly roaming the earth until you reach the target age of your beer.

A quick Google search will help you find good information on putting your beer away long term. Your first stop should be a 2012 post by the professionals at Dogfish Head. There is also some good information to be found at Beer Advocate on cellaring beer. Guys Drinking Beer sum it up best when they say the key to cellaring is forgetfulness. Finally, the Washington Post has a good read on why not to cellar;  most beers are best served fresh.

The four bottles we are laying down are date stamped April 12, 2016. Today, May 15, 2016, they are in the back of the beer fridge where they will remain for years to come. The goal is to age the beers two to five years though I've read about some enthusiasts looking at 10 years; and read one post that claimed the staff at Dogfish Head said 120 Minute IPA can age 50 years. True or not, I'm not interested in a beer that will outlive me. So, a couple five years will be right by me.

 Stop by in 2018 for a review of this aged beer...or in 2019...or 2020...or next week.