Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welcome to the 'MAINE' Event!!

Allagash Curieux
Brewery: Allagash (Portland, ME)
Style: Belgian-style Tripel
ABV: 11.0%

If you ever find yourself driving up North on I-95 to the state of Maine, you'll notice a unique tagline on the Welcome sign that reads, "Maine... the way life should be." Clearly, the peeps over at Allagash made this their mantra when they created the deliciousness that is Curieux. You have all different types of beer in this world... and ultimately, what are we searching for? For a beer that puts a smile on your face. A little boozy, full of flavor, maybe a little bitter, or sweet, or hoppy... whatever your poison is. And this beer, well frankly... is the way BEER should be.

...and at 11% ABV, you can't have too many. So put on your big boy pants and saddle up to the bar.

My girlfriend and I were on our way to see a show at the Warner Studio Theatre in Torrington, when we realized that we made GREAT time driving from North Haven. So, to reward ourselves, we grabbed a delicious offering from the people over at BACKSTAGE.

On a side note: If any CT Beer Heads find themselves in the Northwest corner of our fine Constitution State, swing by the Backstage in Torrington. They have 20(?) rotating taps, have held (2) tap takeovers, one from Harpoon, one from Hooker, and have been bringing in some really tasty brews over the past few months. Flying Dog's Raging Bitch, Stone's Oaked Aged Arrogant Bastard, Victory Storm King, Dogfish's 90 min...

Ok, back on track here. So Michelle and I sit up at the bar and what's staring at me in the face, Allagash Curieux. This is Michelle's FAVORITE beer too... and I can't recall ever finding it on tap, EVER.

Poured in a snifter, the color was a dark orange with a good amount of fluffy white head, about 1-2 fingers worth. The nose on this beer is HUGE. To go along with the color, it had a orange/honey notes... I also got some clove and some other fruity characteristics (banana?). I'm also getting some vanilla and some toasted coconut in there as well (did I mention this had a HUGE noise to it?). In addition to all of these smells, the Curieux is also aged in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels. So I'm also getting some strong oak and booziness as well.

Things that make you go, Mmmmmmmm.

The taste is just as big as the nose. Creamy vanilla and toasted coconut right off the bat, with some fruity qualities in the middle and some oak and boozy notes on the finish. For 11.0%, this beer isn't as powerful as you might think, but don't let all these flavors hide the fact that one too many could end your night pretty quickly. The flavors are huge... I don't know if I would even pair this up with anything since it stands so strongly on its own. But if I had to pick something, perhaps this would go well with a light dessert like a creme brulee or rice pudding. Something sweet, but not too sweet... let the Curieux do the rest of the work for you.

What can I say overall... I think this is my biggest review to date. Fantastic beer, but unfortunately, extremely rare. Luckily, they JUST tapped this keg the day before so hopefully my friends and I can continue to enjoy the fruits of Allagash's labor for the next few weeks. If you're out, and you find this on tap, and you're a lover of craft beer, look no further than the Curieux.

Overall: A+

In addition to your regularly scheduled beer review... and going on the MAINE theme, I also wanted to direct any of you readers to another FANTASTIC story coming out of the state of Maine. Ok, ok... I'm bias because it IS my sister, but what the heck, a brother can be proud of his sister, can't he?

I recently discovered that my sister, Carey, who hails from Saco, ME, was just named MRS. SACO!!! But WAIT, there's MORE! AAAAAnd I recently found out that with the support of her husband, Mike... She is NOW going for the title of Mrs. Maine!! Go Care Go!!! So if you have a moment, check out her link below as she blogs her way to the Mrs. Maine Pageant...

Happy Friday everyone!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Longest Day of the Year Deserves a Good Beer - Cisco Grey Lady

Cisco Grey Lady
4.50% ABV

On the official first day of summer I am drinking the Cisco Grey Lady AND I think I am in love.

The Belgian White (Witbier) beer from Nantucket, Mass., got beat up in ratings on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer, scoring Cs and Ds from the masses. They called her “boring, flat and weak” … WHAT?!

Well, I am the beer drinker who will fight for her honor.

She came to me on tap, pouring hazy and yellow with a thin white head. The nose is zesty with lemon/orange and cardamom notes and the mouth feel is light, refreshing, well carbonated and delicious. She finishes slightly dry and tart, with bright citrus flavors. It's a thirst quencher and while I am not a purist, I do enjoy a citrus wedge from time to time in my pint - no accessories are needed here. The flavor stands on it's own.

I am very happy with this little lady and plan to invite her out more often.

I paired the beer with a Mediterranean platter from The Foundry in Davis Square, which comes with fresh hummus, warm pita bread, homemade tabbouleh and lemony olives. Consider my evening made. If you haven't been to The Foundry they have a great rotating beer list that pays homage to local breweries and houses some great craft selections. The food also never disapoints.

If you are kicking it at home and are looking for something easy to throw together, I would say a gooey brie or gruyere would go nicely as well. No need to turn on the oven or sweat over the grill.

So, if you need a date on a hot summer night - I say give the Grey Lady a call. She’s the perfect woman and gets a solid A from me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Harpoon's Rich and Dan's "Rye-d" On The Money

Harpoon Rich & Dan's Rye IPA (100 Barrel Series #37)
Brewery: Harpoon Brewery
Style: Rye IPA
IBU: 54
ABV: 6.9%

I'll be honest. About 8 years ago, I HATED hoppy beers. Just give me a nice Coors Light or Killians and let me be. That was my beverage of choice. I can remember hanging out at my friend Ian's apt back in the day and he breaks out a Dogfish 90 min IPA. He insisted that I would love this so being the good friend, I jumped into the pool, no questions asked. After a few sips, I told him, "No thanks man!" and happily went back to my sub par cold-activated beverage with no taste.

Thank GOODNESS, times have changed since then.

Through the years I started trying beer with hops... then some varieties with a little MORE hops... now, there isn't a beer out there that has ENOUGH hops! So now that my mind is TOTALLY open to micros and almost, if not completely, closed off to the macro brew population, in a way, I owe it to my friend Ian for introducing me into the world of deliciousness, ...and for introducing me into a world that makes me spend silly amounts of $$$ on beer. Thanks a LOT! Jerk.

A few years ago, when I just started talking to this girl, Michelle (whom is now my lovely girlfriend of 3 years and going strong...) she told me to stop by her restaurant where they specialized in amazing burgers, bourbon, and you guessed it, BEER! I was a total hop head at this point, so she tells me about this one that they have on tap that I'll like called Boulder Beer Company's Mojo Risen. It was FANTASTIC, but admittedly, not for everyone, especially those that are just opening their minds to the wonderful world of hops.

So it seemed ONLY appropriate to ask Michelle to help me out with this week's Beer411 review, Harpoon Rich & Dan's Rye IPA. At only 54 IBUs, this is a nice introduction to IPAs. I really like what Harpoon is doing with their 100 Barrel Series, too. To celebrate their 25 years of the company, they're asking their own brewers to come up with their own recipes. Revisiting their brewing roots so-to-speak...

Ok, enough banter, let's jump into the pool.

This beer pours and nice golden color with about 1 inch of nice fluffy white head to it. Once we held it up to the light, Michelle pointed out that in addition to the golden color, the beer had almost a orange hue to it. As we soon discovered, this beer would have a WHOLE LOTTA orange going on.

It had a nice lacing along the sides of the glass and didn't seem all that watered down. Given that this is a Rye IPA, the were evident rye/bready smell. Following the orange theme, this beer had a strong citrus nose to it (grapefruit/orange). The hops also gave this beer a pine/grassy essence to it. But, one can only get so much from the nose... drinkin' time.

Bitterness is right up front... but what's nice about this offering is how it disappears so quickly. The taste follows suit with the orange hue and orange smells. The mouthfeel is that of an orange peel with mild grapefruit notes to it. The finish as I mentioned, is nice and dry and goes away before really impacting your taste buds into a downward spiral. A nice easy drinking IPA, but FULL of flavor.

As I said before, this beer is a solid, "gateway" beer into the Hop World. Call it a "Hop-Head-in-Training". Given the bitterness, Michelle thought that this would pair nicely with some sweet potato fries or a burger with some bacon (Man, I love this woman). I could see this beer going very well with some carmelized onions, or onion rings with a sweet dipping sauce.

Overall: Michelle A-, Tony B+. We both really liked this beer... but I do like the hops to linger a little more while Michelle liked that it had a dry finish.

...In other Beer411 news...

I love how the beer world brings us all together... I'd like to give a quick shout out to our friends Mike, Toby and Chris over at the Beercoasters Podcast. If you aren't sure what kind of beers you might like in the vast world of delicious beverages, allow these gentlemen to be your tour guides. With insight from Las Vegas, Boston and Texas, these guys do a great job covering the Beer World. Give them a listen if you have a chance!!

I'd also like to say hello to our new friends on the CT Beer Trail. I don't know how we got by without this website... It's basically the love child of Beer and Facebook. Brew Sessions, new releases, local Beer news... great place to learn about the local craft beer scene.

Alright... have a great week from Beer411!! Cheers!!

Next review(s): New England's Brewing Company, "668 Neighbor of the Beast" & "Allegash's Curieux" - STAY TUNED!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another way to get your Wheaties: Wolaver’s Wildflower Wheat

I visited Otter Creek in the winter while touring breweries in Vermont and left with two growlers. It was by far my favorite brewery tour in the “Freedom and Unity state,” and the building also sits right next to the Cabot cheese factory. Talk about great aromatics. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly and the tasting room also offers free popcorn, brilliant.

Needless to say, I am already a fan of what they can do - so when I plunked down on the patio at the Precinct in Somerville, and saw that their new summer ale, Wildflower Wheat was listed on draught I ordered it without hesitation.

The server brings it over to the table and it looks like the tap lines haven’t been cleaned in years. This beer is murky; but it’s cloudy, yellow color wasn’t enough to deter be from throwing it down the hatch … this is all in the name of research after all.

The smell is sweet and spicy; like honey, cinnamon, molasses and flower blossoms and the taste followed suit. It’s as if you blended a cider and hefeweizen together. It’s interesting that this was released as summer ale, because it reminds me of the fall season.

I tasted a lot of pumpkin, malt and clove. Perhaps they are looking to appeal to their pumpkin fans and blend it into the summer drinking season? Either way, this is a heavy, rich and filling pint. My friend took a sip and stated, “It’s delicious, but it’s like a whole meal.” Enter wheat from stage left.

While it WAS a delicious (I am a HUGE fan of pumpkin ales) it was a hot day and I wanted something lighter and more palatable. I didn’t order another one. For that I grade it with a B.

I hope they extend this batch through the fall season so I can enjoy it on a cooler October night.

Keep em’ coming Wolaver’s, I always enjoy what you do.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cape Ann Brewing Company Gives Beer the Spa Treatment

Have you ever gone into a spa or a new age health restaurant and had water served with cucumbers floating in it? (Boys stay with me I will get to the beer soon) Cucumber, with its earthy, refreshing crunch, improves the taste of tap water and spa aficionados use it improve the look of your skin.

Well color me happy when I was at the American Craft Beer Festival and saw that the Cape Ann Brewing Company launched a “Pick Ale,” infused with cucumber. Does this mean I can sip down a refreshing brew and fight wrinkles at the same time?

Well health benefits aside, I would drink this beer anyway. I am often weary of creative brews like these; they seem more like PR stunts than well-balanced drinkable suds, (side eye to the ‘Pickle Ale’ I also tried at the festival – blech and dump) This was refreshing and different.

The beer itself was golden in color and smelled like a garden. The taste was subtle and crisp, with a hint of salt. The cucumber flavor peaked out just enough. Appropriately named the Pick Ale, I can definitely see this enjoyed at a picnic on a hot summer day washing down some burgers and dogs.

I rate this an A –
It’s a great thing when creativity and science come together to produce a great craft beer. I am excited to head to Gloucester soon and check out the menu and see what else is on tap.

Road trip?
Cape Ann Brewing Company
11 Rogers Street
Gloucester, MA 01930