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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A very beery holiday

If you follow us on Twitter you may have noticed that we made out like bandits on Christmas with beer gifts. Family members, secret santas, and friends from far away places showered us with beer for the holidays. We got some old favorites like Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout and some local brews like Ommegang Seduction. Thanks to our friend Hanna we received some great Midwest beers, brews we long for but cannot partake of in NYC.

We were very happy to get the beer, but were also impressed at how much  thoughtfulness was put into each gift. None were a random assortment. If you know a craft beer lover, think about giving them beer for your next exchange.

Here’s what we came home with:

From the Midwest

Bell’s Brewery – Christmas Ale
Bell’s Brewery – Special Double Cream Stout
Half Acre Beer Company – Daisy Cutter Pale Ale
New Glarus Brewing Company – Fat Squirrel
Two Brothers Brewing Company – The Bitter End (not pictured because we drank them!)

From Secret Santa

Brewery Ommegang – Seduction
Allagash Brewing Company – Four
Brouwerij Het Anker – Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw
Damm S.A. – Estrella Damm Inedit

From Our Cousin in Virginia

Highland Brewing Company – Gaelic Ale

From Dad/Father-in-Law

Two four packs of Samuel Smith – Oatmeal Stout

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New Year’s Eve Barleywine and Cheese Sampling

Over the past few years we’ve collected an assortment of barley wines of various ages. We thought New Year’s might be a good time to crack them open and share with some family as we ring in 2012. To take it a step further we made a trip to BKLYN Larder to pick out some cheeses to try out as pairings. The staff at the store was extremely helpful and excited to aid in picking out cheeses for a pairing.

We settled on several cheeses, most of which we think will stand up well to the strength of the barleywines. We also picked up a more delicate washed rind goat cheese that should be a nice complement to the older barleywines that have had some time to mellow out the intense hop character and hot alcohol flavors. Here are the beers and cheeses we will be trying out:

Brooklyn Monster Ale 2006, 2009, 2010
Dogfish Head Olde School 2006
Southern Tier Back Burner 2008
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Sherry Casks 2007
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Port Casks 2008

Morbier-aged at least 60 days (France)
Adelegger (Bavaria, Germany)
Gouda L’Anyse – aged 2 years (Holland)
Contralto Goat Cheese (Andante Dairy, Sonoma)

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Notes on Beer Selection in Austria


We’ll begin by saying that Austrian beer is good. Very good. First of all, there seemed to be no time of day that was unacceptable for a beer. Old men sipped beers in cafes at 11 a.m. and people were always enjoying beers during lunch. We even saw someone drinking a beer at 8:30 a.m. at the airport. Each restaurant, bar and cafe served beer in pristine proper glassware, in various sizes, and almost always with a lusciously fluffy head.

Much like German beer, Austrian breweries tend to stick to traditional styles. They are generally brewed with a precision and consistency that we rarely find in American small breweries. Pilsners are always clean but flavorful and dunkels always slightly sweet but in balance. With the exception of bocks, most of the beers were sessionable. The most variety that you can easily find is in the yeast flavors of heffeweizens. Generally, bars and restaurants carried about three or four beers on tap from one brewery along with several different bottles. This makes sessions of the same beer the normal practice. You simply can not compare two different pilsners or dunkels from different breweries back to back at the same bar. Trying more than three styles in a night or finding a big American IPA or imperial stout would be a difficult task.

We felt the need to discuss the beer selection in Austria, because, while quite good, it stands in stark contrast to the craft beer culture in the United States. Most bars we frequent carry at least six to eight craft beers on tap and some boast more than 20. Craft beer stores like Bierkraft or New Beer Distributor have selections of hundreds of bottles representing dozens of styles. We realized, over the two weeks that we were abroad, just how lucky we are to be participating in the craft beer culture here – in the experimentation breweries conduct, and the variety and access we have to fine beer.

And yet, there is something to be said for doing only a few things, but doing them really well.

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Founders CBS Dilemma

Our deep, deep love for Founders beer has been well documented on this blog (hereherehereherehere … and that’s not even all of the posts). Biased? Maybe. But Founders makes some damn good beer. But when our friend Pete over at Glen Cove Beer Distributor sold us a bottle of the highly anticipated CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout), we came upon a dilemma: do we drink it? Or do we age it?

We only have the one bottle. We’re lucky to have that one bottle. And we really (really) want to drink it. But as an imperial stout it should age well like its cousin, KBS. Based on our previous breakfast stout and KBS experience, it will mellow out significantly and get smoother.

But it’s just sitting there, taunting us. We know it will be good. But we know it will most likely be better if we wait.  What do you think? Drink it now or let it sit for a few years? Decisions, decisions…

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Franklin Beer & Grocery: Looking Good So Far

We had read earlier this year on the I Love Franklin Ave. blog that a new bar was coming in on Franklin Avenue in our neighborhood (from the same people who opened Franklin Park and Dutch Boy Burger). Since then we’ve kept an eye on it. Permits were posted, but it didn’t look like there was anything going on, until today. The metal grate was raised and we saw the progress they’ve made on the front. We also peeked in the windows – the inside is coming along as well, with a cool-looking bar. We Googled and found out that Franklin Beer & Grocery applied for a liquor license on May 19. Exciting.

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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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