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KelSo Pilsner Can Misses the Mark

KelSo Beer Co. joined a growing craft beer trend this month with the release of its pilsner in 12 ounce cans. In most cases we think the canning wave has been a good one for craft beer with its protection from light, and the fact that cans don’t weigh as much as bottles. Craft beer cans are also fun conversation starters: “I’ve never had a beer this good out of a can!” So we were pretty excited when we heard that KelSo Pilsner, brewed in Brooklyn, would also be canned at Greenpoint Beerworks in Brooklyn on a mobile canning line from Iron Heart Canning. This past week we picked up a six pack at Prospect Heights Beer Works and hurried home to taste the only beer that’s been canned inside city limits.

The can touts a beer with a “spicy nose, slightly sweet, with a dry finish” but it seemed to be missing the dry finish and was dominated by the sweetness that threw off faint herbal notes from the hops. We were hoping for the clean snappiness of the Pilsner on draft. It might be worth waiting for the Nut Brown Lager and IPA that KelSo plans to can in the months ahead.

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AleSmith IPA for #IPADay

Last year we acknowledged #IPADay by drinking through Sam Adams’s Latitude 48 deconstructed IPA limited release variety pack. Then we had a bunch of other IPAs. This year, we’re doing a little AleSmith IPA. Just the one bottle. Look how we’ve evolved (read: we’ve had too much drunkenness lately).

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Rodenbach Oak Series Vertical Tasting

Two of the most popular trends right now, oak aging and sour beer, combine in Rodenbach’s Vintage Oak Aged series. We picked up the 2007 and 2008 versions of the limited release for a mini vertical tasting (meaning we tried multiple vintages of the same beer side-by-side) this week and were surprised by what we found. Both beers had a delicious funkiness mingled with oak. The 2007 was more tart with layered fruity flavors like cherry and plum. The fruitiness of the 2007 was followed up by strong oak flavors in the aftertaste. The 2008 tartness was focused into more of a green apple sourness than dark fruits. The oak was more restrained and oddly allowed the earthiness of the beer to shine come through more.

The beers are limited release but shouldn’t bee too hard to get your hands on – we found ours at a Whole Foods. We have seen the beer in 2007, 2008, and 2009 versions in stores and hope that the series continues.

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Captain Lawrence Bottles

Some of the most exciting small local breweries often focus their early attention on draft beers. Not much of a problem if your local bar regularly carries them or your favorite beer store has them on tap for growler fills.  But, if you were looking to share that brewery with friends or have one of their beers at home on your couch you were out of luck.

With their expansion into a new brewery in Elmsford NY, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company has added a bottling line. We were excited last month when bottles of Freshchester Pale Ale, Captain’s Kolsch and Liquid Gold started showing up in our local Brooklyn grocery stores. We grabbed some of the pale ale and kolsch to try recently and were pretty impressed. As we expected the beer was noticeably fresh but we were surprised as how close both beers were to the draft versions. The pale ale is well balanced and the kolsch light and refreshing. Both will be great go-to beers this summer.

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Thanksgiving Beer Guide

We’re not going to be in the U.S. for Thanksgiving, but we thought it would be nice to put together a guide ahead of time for some great beers that would be perfect for this fall holiday. (Beer spa post is forthcoming!)

Many of the beers from our Fall Guide would be great for Thanksgiving but are disappearing from shelves. Here are a few beers easily available in NYC beer stores:

Ommegang BPA – This Belgian Pale Ale gets rave reviews with good reason. Ommegang’s Belgian yeast gives a distinct spice note to go alongside the solid hop character. There is enough subtly to the beer that it won’t overpower some moist turkey. The nice dryness should help lift some  heaviness of traditional Thanksgiving dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes off the palate.

The Breuery Autumn Maple – This beer has some of the spice that pumpkin ales tend to have (allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg) but uses yams instead of pumpkin. The yams end up giving a more subtle flavor that lets the maple and molasses shine through. We were impressed that The Breuery was able to keep this beer from being too sticky sweet (we give credit to the Belgian yeast).

Founders Brewing Co. Porter – Founders Porter is one hell of an easy drinking, chocolately, roasty porter year round but it gets even better when the weather becomes chilly. It won’t overpower your meal and at 6.5% ABV it can warm you up a little without it being too noticeable for your family.

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Founders Blushing Monk

As many of you know, we are big fans of Founders Brewing Co. beers. Recently they started a Backstage series of 750 ml bottles and we were very excited. The first in the series was Blushing Monk, which they had apparently brewed as a one-off beer back in 2007.

We were surprised by just how red the beer was – almost like a red wine – and by the short-lived pink head on it. The beer was dominated in both smell and taste by the raspberries used in fermentation. It smells as though you’re putting your face in a basket of fully ripe, fresh raspberries. While the taste was definitely defined by the raspberries, it didn’t have the tartness we usually associate with the fruit. The 9.2% ABV was essentially unnoticeable with the sweetness. We had never had a beer like it but we look forward to more beers with such intense fresh fruit flavors.

The next beer in the Backstage series is Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS), which they expect to release later this year.

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For #IPA Day: A Journey Through Latitude 48 IPA

Today is International #IPADay, “a grassroots movement to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide through social media,” wrote Beer Wench Ashley Routson, co-founder of the movement. A grassroots beer movement? We’re totally on board!

We decided to acknowledge the day by trying Samuel Adams’ Latitude 48 deconstructed IPA limited release variety pack. We hadn’t yet sampled a single hop variety series and thought this would be a good place to start. Here are our tasting notes, beginning with Latitude 48 IPA and continuing on to the five IPAs brewed with each individual hop variety in Latitude 48, comparing each of their flavors:

Latitude 48 IPA: Floral and grassy in the nose. Fresh. Smooth in the front and bitter in the back. A little bit of pine.

East Kent Goldings: Lemon in the nose. Earthy, evergreen. Smoother on the tongue. Less bitter.

Hallertau Mittelfreuh: Lemon in the nose. Not as fragrant. Bitter, grassy, not piney or sticky. Subtle.

Zeus: Woody, very bitter on the end. Tangy, but not in a good way. Unbalanced.

Ahtanum: Orange in the nose. Pine. Less bitter. Soft, subtle, smooth. Floral, grassy.

Simcoe: A subtle bitterness. Lemon. The least intense of them all.

Our favorite: Latitude 48 IPA. It was full, balanced, complete. But of the separate hop varietal beers, it’s a tie between East Kent and Ahtanum for their smooth, less bitter flavors.

What did we learn? We learned that hops are blended for a reason. But it was a fun journey for the palate.

(Full disclosure: we did this yesterday. Cheating? Maybe. But don’t worry, we’ll be drinking IPAs today too. Oh, yes we will.)

Yup. That’s a hop.

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Stiegl Lager

As some of you may know, we are planning an important two-week trip to Austria this fall (where we will be actively seeking out good beer). Recently my coworker Alison brought in a six-pack of Stiegl lager – a beer from Salzburg, Austria –  for Sarah and I. The beer showed some of what we love about the Austrian/German beers we’ve tasted: clean flavors, attention to detail and balance. It’s a golden straw color, with a slight hoppy grassiness. The malt sweetness is enough to provide a base for the spicy hop flavors. Stiegl was a great way for us to get excited for the beers that we will be trying in November.

– Giancarlo

 

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Marco Island Brewery

Wherever we are, we always try to sample the local beer options. So being on Marco Island, we went to the Marco Island Brewery, which we learned opened last September. Currently they offer three beers brewed in house: a pilsner, a red ale and a Belgian wheat. We both got a flight of these three beers and a Cigar City oatmeal stout – an excellent oatmeal stout with vanilla flavors.

To us, the Marco Island beers seemed to be somewhat one-note. The best of the three was the Belgian wheat, except – as you’ll see from the picture – it was served with an orange wedge in it. You’ll also observe that the red ale wasn’t really red. To supplement their house beers, they have a solid bottle and tap list. We couldn’t resist a Bells Two-Hearted Ale, which we aren’t able to get in New York and we love.

Left to right: Belgian wheat, pilsner, red ale, Cigar City oatmeal stout

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Beers in Ft. Lauderdale

This weekend we were in Ft. Lauderdale, which mostly involved attending a wedding and avoiding macro beer. We did, however, manage to enjoy some craft brews we had never seen before at the hotel bar: Key West Sunset Ale and Hurricane Reef Pale Ale from the Florida Beer Company. The Sunset Ale was a slightly sweet summer ale and the Pale Ale was a well balanced American pale ale.

Both beers were nice and refreshing after spending much of the day out in the Florida heat. Unfortunately the bartender gave us some of the worst pours we have ever seen. Both beers were poured into frosted glasses without any regard for the head or for the overflow that was needed to fill the glass with anything but foam. This created a sticky glass and gave us the impression that the craft beer selection was not well looked after at the bar.

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