An interesting read in The Independent today:
For more than 160 years the Trappist monks at Saint Sixtus monastery in Flanders have been producing a rich, dark-brown, beer renowned for its exceptional flavour and strength. But an unexpected misfortune has befallen this reclusive community of 26 Cistercians: their beer has been named the best in the world.Read the whole story.
The results of a trip south are often a slowly decreasing but merry little stash of singles in the closet and the fridge for the best part of a month as reviews get written. Sweet 1978 Rawlings, too. I am pretty sure I have only had two of the bottles previously, the McEwans Export and the Smuttynose Hefe. The future is unknown and that is great. I see about new brewery reviews including those nine new bottles for me from Middle Ages, three from Wolavers, four from Southern Tier as well as a couple of new Wittes and my first Mackeson's XXX stout.
One other pick-up at FLBC was a variety 12-pack of Great Divide ales from Denver Colorado which has obeyed my two rules for variety twelve packs: give me four types, three bottles each, and no lager. If you like lager you likely won't like an ESB or IPA and if you like those the lager is likely just a waste of space. Saranac makes a largely lager 6x2 pack which is quite legitimate...though I don't think I would buy one with great anticipation.
Beer Rag is a great new beer blog written by two brothers in the New York area which I have come across through the comments page hereabouts. First, what is not to like with a blog that can come up with photoshoppery like this:
Second, it is sort of like Readers Digest with way more beer but not that "Humour in Uniform" page. Third, not a lot of swearing which is good or bad depending on how much swearing you like.
Anyway, I picked up a Victory Hop Devil from Downingtown in eastern Pennsylvania, Blue Point Brewing Company's Hoptical Illusion from Patchogue, Long Island and a bunch of Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale while at Ithaca last week. I just noticed that the last one is made at "The Brooklyn Brewery, Utica, New York" according to the label which makes me think it must be contract brewed at Matts Brewing, home of Saranac. I will check up on that. If so, it would be interesting to compare the Brooklyn IPA with the same by Saranac.
- Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale: I don't think I have met a beer by Brooklyn that I do not respect greatly. This one is no different. It pours off-white over medium-dark straw and is one of the lighter versions of a US-based IPA out there. It has a medium-heavy malty body that places the hops, kind of uniquely for an IPA, behind the pale malt. It is grainy and quite sweet...not quite raisin sweet but grapey or maybe dried pear. Those hops are somewhat rough and a bit green, especially in the finish. It is not a complex beer so much as a fine one. The malt has sultanta and maybe a bit of grape or pear juice and a wee tiny note of smoke. No one is going to get a Satanic reference from the hop levels and disappointed advocatonians were looking for a bomb that just was not there. But I still approve.
- Victory HopDevil: Joe in China wrote about this hometown-ish favorite of his last October and I made some notes back then, too, in the comments. Victory has a great name and red "V" logo seen on its taps...and makes only great beer. Compared to the Brooklyn, the head and the ale are a notch darker, some lacing, but I am quite surprised side-by-side to find the front of the Victory softer. A far higher percentage of the advocatonians are on board, though. It's at the back where it makes its stand. A raisiny finish with some antique goldings somewhat evocative of Charles Wells Bombardier, that autumnal favorite around here. There is also a fall green aspect to it, which is making me thing of collards. Is that a leap no beer reviewer should make? No, this is a true BBQ beer. Big enough to withstand the sauce and sharp enough to cut the sweetness. And tastes like vegetable matter from the Old South. Kind of freaky now that I think about it.
- Blue Point Hoptical Illusion: Conversely, Blue Point goes the other way, with a light yellowish head and a paler straw tone. Lots of lace. The aroma is full flowery goldings hops way over the top. Thinking of the ever delightful Flower Power IPA from Ithaca, this one is even lighter and more purely floral. The sip is pure florist shop...but in an good way. OK. Family secret. I grew up a son of a flower shop and trained in Aalsmeer, Holland (Amsterdam burbs) on the wholesale side. So when I tell you that the hops in this brew are like freesia crossed with leatherleaf fern just trust me on this one. Below the hop is fine sweetness and lightness. While it is no thin macrocrap in terms of body, it has a much lighter mouthfeel than the other two. There is pear and apricot in the malt.
I found this beer at Wild Oats in Portland, Maine last week. $8.99 US for a six and it comes with the "Pry Off" cap - click the photo for the details. Why twist when you can pry?
First, this is not an old school porter with the required sourness up front in the vein of, say, Grants or that relatively unfortunate Sleemans experiment of last Christmas. This is a malty modern version, somewhat like the Cooperstown Benchwarmer but a bit bigger, with more graininess. Porters like these are actually the first beers a home brewer should try as there is lots of flavour but not one stands out for the style to be respected. There is a lot of room for both error and expression.
So, the Butte Creek take is a dark mahogany brew under a quickly dissipating white head. There is that pumpernickle-molasses rich dark sweetness with an edge of rough non-citric hop cutting the cloy. In the side by side with the Benchwarmer, there I note a bit of lime in the hop, giving it a bit of a vineous quality, there but nothing like an Ithaca Nut Brown. Compared to those two, the Butte Creek has none of it. It is more like a pale ale in its focus on grain with the hop playing the supporting role. At the bottom, however, there is a nice tang which I am guessing is more yeast than hop. All in all pretty fine.
Mike has done some excellent research with a map he has found showing the first places of libation in his hometown and my old stomping grounds of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Go read. If he'd scan the map we could put it up here as some interactive history with an edjificational twist. Just thinking of the youth of the nation.
Monday, we were in the Leatherstocking Region of central New York en route to Ithaca and the end of the vacation. Heading to the Baseball Hall of Fame, we stopped in at Cooperstown Brewing not actually in Cooperstown but in nearby Milford south on #28 about 7 miles...maybe. I reviewed their variety 12-pack last year and for the first time felt a little funny in doing what I do, going up the drive past the hop plantings and into this micro, having said bad things about their stout. These people work hard and who am I to say...no, I am the customer. I should rule...a bit.
No fear as I found a nicely laid out shop with very friendly staff. I noticed a brown I have not tried before but grabbed a six of their excellent Benchwarmer porter as well as a bright yellow t-shirt of the same. I took some photos (which I will post) of their small 1940-ish hanger-like structure by the railway tracks.
If you do go and you have kids, be there at 11:00 am as that is when the Milford to Cooperstown old fashioned railway leaves the depot next door and your kids think that is why you are there.
In April I picked up a IPA and Brown from Sebago and reviewed them here when I got home but last night we visited the Mall of Maine location and had the stout on tap. I don't know why Mainers make the best stout on the planet but they do. This one is creamy, licorice and chocolate. The location is in a mall parking lot but the service was friendly, the spinach and artichoke dip really good and prices for burgers good. But that stout on tap. Oh baby. The IPA on tap was great. The stout amazing. The logo is pretty nice as well.
Next, I get to find out of Connecticut has any weird beer laws that are worth reporting.