Sunday, June 14, 2015

I just tapped my latest beer creation.  3 weeks ago, I brewed 10 gallons of Kolsch.  I was very excited about this batch because it was my first time using my new 17 gallon stainless steel conical fermentation vessel!!  Even the words sound cool.  But, I digress. I love the Kolsch style of beer.  I visited Hamburg, Germany a number of years ago.  As we sat around the table, the waitress brought us a long wooden tray with circular cut outs that held 10 cylindrical Kolsch glasses.  This tray is called a kranz.  Once she sat the kranz on the table, we each grabbed and raised a glass of beer, loudly proclaiming "Prost!"  We downed our beer and took another one and did the same thing until all the glasses were empty.  The waitress then brought another filled kranz to the table.  How could you not like Kolsch after an experience like that?  I enjoyed the experience so much that I had a woodworker friend build me a kranz for home.  Once I tapped my keg of Kolsch, I called a few friends over and we proceeded to fill the kranz tray with my new beer.  We then Prosted the night away!!  Kolsch is the perfect summer beer!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Much Guinness Can One Drink In a Week?

I may have the answer to that question. Let's see. My story starts on Saturday, March 13th. The day of the Atlantic City Saint Patrick's Day Parade. Sadly, there is a torrential downpour, hurricane force winds and flooding. The Parade is canceled. What to do? The keg of Guinness I have in my living room pub is at least 3/4 full, so naturally the answer is have a party!! At 2pm, the guests start to arrive. At 2:05pm, the Guinness is being poured in typical Irish fashion. At 9pm, the guests leave. I couldn't keep track of the pints poured, but let us just say there were many.

Wednesday night is St. Patrick's Day. It happens to be a work night. Oh, what the hell. I'll pour a couple of pints. Two glasses will never hurt me, after all, Guinness is supposed to be good for you!

Before I know it, it's Friday. My friends and I head to Philadelphia for Super Saturday weekend. Super Saturday is Six Nations Rugby day when all six teams play three games in one long day. We spend all of Saturday in an Irish Pub watching matches beamed via satellite from Europe to Philly, but not before we spend Friday night at Bard's Irish Pub drinking pint after pint of Guinness. A couple of different pubs later, we're back at Bard's finishing off the night. It's now 2am. That's a lot of Guinness. Before I know it, it is 8am and it is time to get ourselves up and head to Tir Na Nog Irish Pub for the rugby matches. Tough moving, but we rally. A full Irish breakfast will give you the kick in the rear you need to have that next pint.

Once again, time flies by and it is 5pm. I haven't seen the bright daylight let, just rugby. Bar tab closes in on $400.00 (6 guys). We pay up and head to McGillian's Ale House. I can definitely feel the day coming to an end. Not quite yet though, as I don't make it back to the apartment until 11pm. After an uneventful morning, I slowly make it home on Sunday afternoon. My wife says to me, "Do you want a pint of Guinness?" "No thank you honey, I think I have had enough for the week." She says, "Ok, but I am having one, I am really looking forward to it." She pulls on the tap, the tap sputters and spits. Keg is empty, wife is mad. How much Guinness can one drink in a week? A lot!

The Beers in Review

Rader Blonde Belgian Ale:
This 6.5% blonde ale had a very familiar aftertaste that I couldn't quite nail down. A peak on the bottle, revealed that the beer was brewed with gin. Interesting. Made a good appertif. Light, spritzy and full of flavor.

Hoffman Lager Beer (Helles): Another excellent beer from Climax Brewing in NJ. Brewer Dave Hoffman is so proud of his German lagers that he doesn't name them after Climax Brewing like he does with the rest of his beers, he names them after himself! He has done his German heritage proud with this Helles style lager. A light lager, this is an awesome drinking beer. Rhineheitsgebot!

Flying Fish Exit # 1: Flying Fish Brewery from Cherry Hill, NJ, hit the nail on the head with this oyster stout. Their Bayshore Oyster Stout reminded me of my time in Dublin, Ireland drinking oyster stout at the Porterhouse Pub. Flying Fish made their oyster stout just as smooth and silky as the Porterhouses! And at 7%, it even had a kick that Porterhouses didn't. Can I get this in a sixtel?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Beer Trouble

What's up with me? I can't figure myself out. Maybe I should see a therapist. Is there a beer psychologist out there? Naturally, I enjoy beer. Maybe I enjoy beer too much. I fancy myself the connoisseur. All of the various beer styles appeal to me. Pairing beer with food is now a hobby of mine, as well as cooking with beer. I like to read about beer, write about beer and talk about beer. Here is my problem, I have draught beer in my home. Three taps going in the winter time and four in the summer. I switch beers by the season and also allow room for homebrew. I know what you are thinking, "What is the problem?" Well, here it is. I drink bottled beer. Not exclusively, as I partake in my taps on a regular basis. My point being, with up to four tap lines running in my home with various rotating styles of beer, why would I ever have to have a bottle of beer in my house?

The main selling point to my wife for having kegged beer in the house was that it would save money. I wouldn't have to buy all of those pesky, expensive bottles of beer anymore. But guess what? That's exactly what I am doing. I am such a beer geek, that, even with four different kegs in the house, I can not drink the same beer over and over again. I need help.

Beer In Review:

The Bad Elf Series

Bad Elf:
A winter golden ale with loads of hops. They add 3 pounds or so to the brew kettle. Oddly enough, the ale has a malty sweet smell, not hoppy. The initial taste is even sweet and then the follow through is all hop. Finishes warm. A good drinking ale for the winter months.

Very Bad Elf: This ale is brewed from an English recipe dating back to 1795. No question here which side of the scale this beer leans too. Malty all the way. Sweet aroma, sweet taste, warm finish. The Elf is becoming badder with each sip, clocking in at 7.5% abv.

Seriously Bad Elf: This English Double Ale is a hefty 9% abv. Extremely smooth, surprisingly light tasting, almost ESB ish. No mistake though, the alcohol will hit you. To quote my friends in Dublin, this beer is brilliant.

Criminally Bad Elf: Ahhh! A barleywine style ale for the holidays. This ale represents one of the reasons I look forward to the holiday season, a warm finishing ale to warm you up on a cold winter night. This Bad Elf version had a surprising twist to it. Very sweet and warm to start, but by the time the beer makes it to the back of your throat, a large hop wallop develops. Once you finish this 16.9 oz wonder, you'll know why the Elf went criminal.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Imperial or should we come up with a different name?

Let it be known, I'm all about the beer. Lately, though I seem to be getting tired of a trend that I see forming in the craft beer camp. Imperial. It's a word that is popping up in front of more styles of beer than I can count. Years ago there was one imperial beer and that was Imperial Stout. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a strong beer. I love my Belgians, I love my barleywines, I love my uber IPAs. I even enjoy all the different Imperial beers that have been served my way. I guess what I am getting at, is it's pretty cool to see an Imperial Pumpkin Ale or an Imperial Double Bock, but have we "jumped the shark," so to speak? If the shark was jumped, I think for me, it was when I saw my precious summer time favorite session beer turned into an Imperial......Imperial Belgian Wit Ale. Is it a contradiction or am I just off base here? I enjoy all styles of beer, I appreciate the effort, skill and creativity of our hand crafted brewers in all that they do. I'm probably just thinking out loud and my thoughts shouldn't have made it to the written page, but I was wondering, what do you think?

For those of you new to well brewed beer, the term Imperial is used when a style of beer is more extreme then the standard style. For instance, higher alcohol content, larger quantities of hops, malt, etc.

I'm really not complaining, just pontificating. I won't complain until Dick brews an Imperial Yuengling Lager!!!

The Beers in Review

Van Steenberge Golden Dark Belgium Ale:
From the VanSteenberge Brewery in Belgium, this 10.5% ABV pours a heavy, dark reddish brown with a sweet aroma. Well carbonated, there is a sweet, herbal mouth feel that finishes with a strong malty after taste. Once it goes down, about three seconds later, the heat from the 10.5% hits you. This is a delicious strong ale. One or two will do the trick.

Optimator: The Spaten Brewery in Germany makes a mighty fine double bock. Usually there is a chilly evening in October. The first one deserves an Optimator!! 7% ABV, a malty blast of lager heaven.

Riverhorse Tripel: Belgian style Tripel from the Riverhorse Brewery in Lambertville. 10% ABV. I like my New Jersey Breweries, Riverhorse, Flying Fish, Climax. Truth be told, I haven't had a Riverhorse in years. Rumors were running rampant that with new ownership, Riverhorse had upped the ante a bit. This Belgium style Tripel does not disappoint. Perfectly spiced, evenly malted, very warm in the finish, one could put a "Brewed in Belgium" label on it and never no the difference. Comes in six packs, 12 oz bottles. Just perfect for the amount of alcohol in it. On a side note, if you try this brew, have some wasabi peas as a snack. Incredible together!!

ESB: Speaking of New Jersey, this ale is a treat I do not get to sample too often. Not one for overly naming their beers, The Climax Brewery in Roselle, NJ keeps it simple and special. Their extra special bitter is phenomenal. Smooth, easy drinking, perfect. Even better and unique is the fact that Climax Brewery only packages their beers in growlers. No 12oz bottles, No bombers. No champagne size containers, just a huge growler filled with their beer. You gotta love it, and you gotta have company!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hop it up!

I started growing hop vines in my backyard garden. I did this because I am a home brewer and thought it would be neat to add my own home grown fresh hops to the kettle. My other reason was that as an avid beer drinker and brewer, the hops, which happen to look really cool, would serve as a conversation piece and attention grabber. As it turns out, my hop vines are now the most interesting and physically imposing plant in the garden. Now, into my third hop season, the vines are pretty massive and yield a lot of hops. This year I came up with an innovative use for my fresh hop cones. The hop garnish. Instead of a wimpy piece of fruit in your guests glass of beer, I now place a fresh hop cone into mine and their beer glasses. Talk about a conversation starter! The great thing about the hop garnish, other than how cool it looks floating in the beer, is that it "belongs there." What better garnish then hops with beer?

For the brave among you, when you finish drinking the beer, eat the hop. Bitter as can be, but not that bad!

The Month in Beers

Sirius, from Lagunita's Brewing. Not the satellite radio company, but a special release, high gravity cream ale. Lagunita's Brewing released this batch as a celebration for spring. I was a little late and did my part by drinking four to kick off the summer season. I don't know if it was the 7% alcohol or my nostalgia for my high school go to beer, Genesee Cream Ale, but this beer was damn good. Well balanced hop bite with a malty follow through. Cool, creamy and delicious.

Flower Power IPA, from Ithaca Beer Co., Ithaca NY. Dr. Stu once again provided the refreshments. He loves all things Ithaca. He not only went to college in Ithaca, he went to two colleges in Ithaca. I wonder if this beer had anything to do with that? An extremely drinkable IPA with ever present hops in the aroma and taste, but not overpowering enough to make this beer have a one or two beer limit.

Here is one with a limit. West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego, Ca. Highly hopped and the taste is in every sip. Very strong grapefruit rind taste. This is a tasty brew, but I couldn't drink more than two. 7.5% alcohol, with a huge hop wallop in every sip. This beer was not only brewed with a large amount of hops, it was brewed with four varieties. Simcoe hops for the extreme grapefruit rind taste, Centenial hops for the piney taste, Columbus hops for the bitterness and Cascade hops for the aroma.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can or Can Not. That is the Question

I haven't written a beer blog in quite awhile, but that certainly does not mean I have not been drinking beer. First my usual beer related ramblings and then on to the beer!

I refuse to drink beer out of an aluminum can And the reason has nothing to do with taste, convenience or my ability to single
handedly crush one with my bare hand. My reason is about the protective liner inside the can. Have you ever heard of Bisphenol-a, also called BPA? If its name is not in the forefront of your mind, it should be. BPA is a chemical used in the production of plastic. It is also used in the production of plastic resin that is used to make liners for food and beverage cans. The most commonly used products containing BPA are canned food, plastic baby bottles, baby pacifiers, milk bottles, water bottles, canned soda pop and beer cans. BPA's claim to fame is that it does not absorb the odor of foods or change the flavor of foods that are stored in the containers. Over six and a half billion pounds of BPA are produced worldwide on an annual basis. Ninety five percent of all people tested were found to have BPA in their urine samples. I mentioned that BPA is a chemical, but did I mention it is toxic? Rats exposed to BPA were shown to suffer a greater incidence of breast and prostate cancer. Young rats showed signs of accelerated puberty. BPA consumption has also been linked to diabetes, miscarriages and a host of other reproductive failures. Currently, the government of the United States of America has introduced legislation to ban BPA in all food and beverage products. In the meantime, to lower your risk of BPA exposure, eat fresh or frozen vegetables as opposed to canned and purchase products, like beer in glass containers.

The Beers

Sierra Nevada, Torpedo Extra IPA, This, as expected, was a highly hopped beer. The grapefruit citrus rind, piney taste was paramount. It's bitter hop taste was completely balanced by the warming finish, due to the 7.2 % alcohol volume. Hopheads will appreciate this ale. I found it very enjoyable, despite not being a huge hop fan. Well crafted. Will make a nice year round addition.

Stoudt's, Abbey Triple (2001). That's right. Not a typo. 2001. My buddy, Dr. Stu gave me a bottle he found lying around in the back of an underused fridge. I thought it would be skunked. No way. She popped open like a brand new bottle. This beer was so alive, it seemed like the yeast was having a conversation in my glass. The ale was extremely thick and cloudy, I couldn't even see my finger in the glass, even only a 1/2 inch away from the glass wall. This 8 year old beer had an extreme mellowness to each swallow, followed by a big punch. I was using the 750ml bottle as an aperitif. By the time I had finished drinking it, I had forgotten about eating. I was truly intoxicated. I highly recommend aging this ale. Delicious.

Founder's Brewing Imperial Stout. Given to me by a state trooper, vagabond rugby player, this beer poured darker than a can of Castro Motor Oil. No head, pure black gold, Texas tea. 10.5% alcohol, 90 IBU's, this beer was malty with a hop bite. I can not tell you what my stout loving wife thought of it, as I did not share the three bottles that were given to me.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, unfiltered brown ale. Here is one I did share with my wife. 12% alcohol with a nice touch of carmel and vanilla notes. One or two of these was plenty to end the evening with. I thoroughly enjoyed this big beer. My wife, who only likes thicker, darker, warmer, high alcohol beers loved it. It surpassed her big beer standards.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Finally, a Real Irish Pub

I love an Irish pub. Even before I lived in Dublin, Ireland, I used to think the USA version of an Irish pub was the best place to quaff pints. Once I moved to Dublin, I found out how unauthentic the USA version of the Irish pub really was. When my stint in Ireland was finally over and I moved back home to southern New Jersey, I tolerated the phoney Irish pubs that were built here as "tourist" attractions. Authentic Irish furniture, expensive beers and no real Irish atmosphere.

Well, my drought is over. Wandering around Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, I was about to walk into the sister version of Atlantic City's Irish Pub, when right next door I noticed a drinking establishment named Bards. I walked into the door of Bards, a door I will be going through quite often. As soon as I walked in, it felt like I was in one of the many pubs I used to frequent on Baggot Street in the D2 section of Dublin. It was low key, cozy and as friendly as a good pub goer would like it to be. I met the bartender Evan and told him that I would be right back with my family. One of the coolest things about pubs in Ireland was that a lot of them were family friendly and Evan told me that Bards fit that bill.

My wife and I and two kids made it back to Bards and before I knew it we had two pints of Guinness in front of us, poured the traditional way. A rarity here in my section of New Jersey. Not only did I have a traditional pour in front of me, but let me tell you another mark of an extraordinary Irish pub. I was about three quarters through with my Guinness pint when I turned to look at some of the Irish wall hangings. By the time I had turned back around to grab my stout, without even asking, Evan had walked up with another full pint for me. It was like he could read my not to incredibly complicated mind. I asked Evan how long he had been bartending at Bards. He replied that he frequented the place so often as a patron, the owner decided to hire him.

Old, rickety wood floors, decidedly Irish pub furniture, fire place in the rear, Bards had so much charm and atmosphere I could easily have moved right in. Dart boards to spend the afternoon or evening with and just like in Ireland, no overkill with zillions of TV's. Two well placed TV's to catch the game on. A very nice Irish beer selection on tap. Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp and Strongbow Cider as well as Hoegarrden, Ithaca Brown Ale, Acme IPA, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Troegg's Hopback Amber. A few Belgian bottles to boot. This was even better than Ireland, a smorgasbord of beer.

The Guinness at Bards is a huge attraction. Be it myth or fact, The Guinness is said to be the tastiest and freshest in all of Philadelphia. To have the freshest Guinness in Philadelphia means that Bards must go through a lot of the dark stuff and this I do not doubt. When we were there for early lunch on a Sunday, the place was beginning to fill up. What I found out was that it was not just for the Guinness, but for the food.

The food at Bards is incredible. One of my favorite dishes of all time is Chicken Pot Pie. Well let me tell you, the Chicken Pot pie that I shared with my wife and daughter (it was way to big for a 4 year old) was possibly the best Chicken Pot Pie I ever had. This pie had so much delectable pie crust surrounding the awesome chicken, vegetables and gravy, you could die and go straight to heaven. I personally ordered the chicken curry. Chicken curry? With all of the authentic Irish offerings on the menu? You bet. When I lived and Ireland and visited the UK a lot, I developed a taste for spicy curry dishes, which were very popular there. Bards curry was top of the line. I raved about it the whole way home. We also had a tortilla appetizer that had an amazing fresh, homemade salsa. Delicious.

At this point in my ramblings, do you think I like the place? I haven't had a chance to write a beer blog in a few months. With the new baby and all the activities around the house, sitting down to the computer to write about my favorite subject has been difficult. But once I got home from Bards, I made the time. This place was awesome. I will be going there every time I go to Philadelphia, you should too!

Bards is located at 2013 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, a block away from Rittenhouse Square, next door to the Irish Pub. 215-569-9585

Before I close, one suggestion to the owner, If Setanta Sports package was on the TV, I would be there for every Rugby game televised!! Maybe even for Hurling and Gaelic Football too. Not soccer though!

The Beers in Review

Slow Buffalo Brewing Company, IPA:
This beer will never be found anywhere unless you are friends with Rich Anderson and his brewing partner Jonesy. These home brewers brewed an IPA which was down right fabulous. Easy drinking, the perfect balance of hops. I loved this beer. These guys keep trying to make an uber IPA, but I am just thrilled to death that they fell short of one of those high alcohol, crazy, overly hopped, maniacal beers. This one was just plain drinkable and enjoyable.

Flying Fish Brewing, OctoberFish: I love Octoberfest beer. The whole German fest season strikes me right to the core of my Germanic roots. This is all I have to say about Octoberfish.... I purchased two sixtel kegs for my in house pub in Mid-September. By the End of October they were gone! Does this make me sound like a lush? It could, but OctoberFish attracts a lot of visitors. Get this one in bottles for yourself next Octoberfest season. Always one of my favorites.

Avery Brewing, The Kaiser, "Imperial Octoberfest Lager": By definition of Fest Beer, I knew going in that anything billed as imperial would not be a session beer. Sometimes the word Imperial scares me (this will be a topic for another blog), but I was prepared for this one as I only bought one bottle. Sweet malty aroma, strong malt taste with a taste of spices that are familiar in Belgian beers. Hop bitterness in the aftertaste. Warming finish. Taste improves immensely as the beer temperature warms. 10.03% alcohol. Be careful. This was a good one, but not a drink all day beer.

Weihenstephaner Fest Beer: If you are going to review a fest beer from Germany, might as well make it from the world's oldest brewery. Weihenstephaner has been brewing since the year 1040. Wow. At 5.8% alcohol this was the opposite of The Kaiser. Light yellow color, slight wet hay aroma. Malty taste as well as a grassy taste. All and all, once you had a couple bottles (Hey, it's a fest beer!), it was very good.

Dogfish Head Brewery, Punkin Ale: October also means Halloween and the start of fall. You can't get by fall without seeing a pumpkin or two. I have been searching the world for a quality pumpkin ale. I don't know why, because I can't stand pumpkin ale. I have tried many. They all start out fine, but by the time I get through the bottle they become too rich for my blood. The taste gets annoying. I want to like it. I want to have it. But up until now It has been a no go. I should have known Dogfish Head would have pulled this off. Not only was this beer drinkable ( I had four on Halloween night while trick or treating), it was so pleasant tasting that I can't wait for Thanksgiving. I have two bottles saved to have with pumpkin pie desert