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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Beer Lover’s New York

Sometimes, amazing things happen. We are writing a book.

It’s called “Beer Lover’s New York” and it’s part of the Beer Lover’s series published by Globe Pequot Press, which already includes Colorado, Oregon and New England.

The book is a guide to beer in New York State, broken down by region. Each region will include breweries, brewpubs and bars. The book will also feature recipes for homebrews and foods made with beer in mind.

We’re traveling across New York (all the way to Southern Tier) from now to August, on weekends and holidays. We’d love for you to email us any suggestions on great places to visit!

To say we’re excited would be an understatement.

It’s because of you, readers, that we have this amazing opportunity. Thank you.

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Session IPAs

IPAs have been on a tear in the craft beer community for the past few years. Hoppy IPAs can be great summer brews with floral aromas and crisp bitterness. The intense bitterness in IPAs or other hoppy beers is often accompanied by higher alcohol content from using more grain to help balance the beers out. Many breweries have an imperial version and they can be among the most highly touted beers around – think Pliny from Russian River or 120 Minute from Dogfish Head. They can be delicious but also intensely boozy with ABVs in the double digits. A new trend is emerging with breweries looking to highlight the hop character of IPAs without the heavy hitting alcohol levels, creating session IPAs.

One of the most popular is All Day IPA from Founders Brewing in Michigan but local breweries seem to be taking up the call with some of the tastiest beers around. Boat Beer from Carton Brewing in New Jersey (below) was a hit in New York City last year for its bright snappy citrus flavors and a manageable 4.2% alcohol. Barrier Brewing in Oceanside New York keeps their Unimperial IPA to 4% ABV but still gets some intense bitterness in the pint. Brooklyn Brewery is joining in with Scorcher #366, a hoppy pale ale which will be released next week and celebrates the new hop variety #366 and weighs in at 4.5% ABV. 

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Brooklyn’s Dry Irish Stout in Bottles

Brooklyn Brewery’s Dry Irish Stout, normally a draft-only beer served from January through March, will be available to take home in a 12oz bottle format. As the brewery states, the roasty and smooth stout is good pairing for oysters, burgers, and of course corned beef and cabbage. The beer is not only a great example of a local dry stout but also one of the closest things to a winter seasonal since it does not become available until January and is gone by spring.


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Pairing Beer with a Tri-Tip Steak

Dave Kassling, owner of Tri-Tip Grill (which has locations in Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center) generously gave us a couple of tri-tip steaks to experiment with beer pairings. This weekend we made up the steaks. They’re already rubbed, smoked and charred when you get them, and come with instructions on how to cook them to medium rare. We picked a few beers based on experience and recommendations from readers. Belgian styles and IPAs were among the most popular so we chose a few different local or regional beers and a Trappist beer to try out with the steak.

We tried a Westmalle Dubbel, Southampton Burton IPA, Ommegang Rare Vos and Harpoon Leviathan Quad with the meat, and here are our assessments:

Westmalle Dubbel: At first we thought this would be the winner because the effervescence of the beer would cut through the richness of the steak while there would be enough flavor to stand up to the steak.  The dark fruit and clove flavors of the beer went surprisingly well with the char on the meat at first, but it left a strange aftertaste with the smokiness.

Southampton Burton IPA: We picked this beer for the earthy hop bitterness and the solid malt backbone. It turned out to be too bitter for the steak and blew the flavors off the palate. We still like the beer but it just didn’t work well as a pairing.

Ommegang Rare Vos: Perfectly complementary. The effervescence from the Belgian yeast cut through the fat of the steak while the slight spice and understated hop bitterness complimented the char and smoke from the meat.

Harpoon Leviathan Quad: Too strong and overpowering for the meat. Again, the dark fruit flavors mixed with the smoke flavors in a strange way we didn’t like. Clocking in at 11.75 percent ABV, the beer was just too big.

The winner? Ommegang Rare Vos!

Photos by Michael Gallagher

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BeerUnion #beeradventure Update: We Finished!

Yesterday we conquered the hardest-to-reach bars on the Good Beer Seal list: Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn and Adobe Blues, both on Staten Island, with the very generous help of our brother/brother-in-law Jake (seen previously in this post). After hours of driving, delicious beer and food, we sat at Adobe Blues, a little worse for wear, deliriously high-fiving each other. Because in week two, when we mapped out a schedule of bar visits, we seriously thought we might not make it. Forty-one bars is a lot of bars to go to in one month.

So. If anyone is crazy enough to want to do this themselves, here is some advice and what we learned along the way:

– Hydrate.
– Check what time each bar opens BEFORE you go. You’d think this wouldn’t even have to be said, but you’d be surprised how many bars were closed when we got there before we wised up.
Start early.
– Take days off.
– Don’t judge a bar by its façade. The most special bars we went to have the crappiest-looking exteriors.
– Don’t avoid the outer boroughs. There are really awesome places in hard-to-reach areas.
– When you go to Staten Island, drive. We didn’t want to deal with the public transportation. We saw bus stops everywhere but very few buses, so we were happy we had a car at our disposal.
– Really, though, go to Staten Island. At least the one time. We didn’t want to either and we whined about it. But Killmeyer’s is a hidden gem (it’s really, really hidden. Like, way out there). And it’s worth it.
– Some bars in Manhattan (ok, and Brooklyn) are overrated.
– Bring friends! We can’t emphasize enough how fun it was to have company on this adventure of ours. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us: Fred, Matt, Robert, Emily, Jeff, Craige, Seth, John, Kim and Jake.

If you’re not interested in conducting your own 41-bar adventure (we don’t blame you if you’re not) stay tuned. At the end of the month we’ll be posting a recap of what’s best among the Good Beer Seal bars… and where you don’t need to go.

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The Three Best Local Beers to Have This Summer

Now that summer has officially arrived (in all its hot, humid glory) we thought we would put together a list of three beers we think are best to have this season.

Greenport Harbor Brewing – Summer Ale 5.3% ABV
Super refreshing but still full of flavor, Greenport Summer Ale is brewed with some orange blossom honey and nicely hopped (lending a bright lemony flavor). Crisp and dry, it should be great with fresh summer dishes.

Brooklyn Brewery – Summer Ale (cans) 5% ABV
Brooklyn’s Summer Ale made the jump to cans last year and has been one of our summer go-to beers since. The canned version is extra crisp and snappy and lends itself easily to backyards and patios.

Captain Lawrence Brewing – Kolsch 5% ABV
It’s available year round but the summer is the best time of year for this beer. Light and refreshing with some slight fruitiness. A great local example of a classic German style.

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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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Some big changes are in store…

Hey you guys, we’re super excited to announce some big changes that are coming up around here at BeerUnion. First is a brand new logo! Designed by local artist and designer Marcelo Gallegos, it will give you a sense of the kind of look and feel we’re striving for.

You will, of course, notice, that it doesn’t fit in our masthead. That’s because a new website’s in the works! So stay tuned…

In the meantime, send us your email if you’d like us to keep in touch with our upcoming newsletters! And check out our new tumblr, where we’re posting photos of what we’re drinking and where we’re going on an almost daily basis.

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Trader Joe’s Beer Selection

Sarah and I have been enjoying Trader Joe’s since we moved to Brooklyn but rarely buy beer there. I didn’t expect the beer selection to be good but I have to say that there is actually a decent variety. There are always a few beers from Rogue, Brooklyn, Anchor, Victory, and Samuel Smith. There is also a line of Trader Joe’s brand beer: vienna lager, dunkelweizen and bock among others. For noticeably cheaper than other beer stores I have recently picked up:

Otter Creek Copper Ale

Stockyard Oatmeal Stout (Stockyard is a TJ’s brand)

Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale

Anchor Steam

Anchor Liberty Ale

– Giancarlo

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