Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Welcome to the Chocolate Nightmare Before Xmas!!

First things first.  I need to acknowledge all of our contributors this year:
As I mentioned in the header, each one of these people were excited to join Beer411 this holiday season.  The craft beer scene never ceases to amaze me.  In the last few years, meeting like-minded people out there from coast to coast has shown me time and time again that, "Good People, Drink Good Beer."  Please take a moment and pick up what these guys are throwing down.  Lots of great info, beer/food reviews, and craft beer gifts out there among this crew!

When it came down to the last and final beer review on the 2014 Countdown, I had a few ideas swirling about.  Personally, when it comes down the 1st Day of Xmas, I try and review something new... something that isn't impossible to find... or some crazy one-off-limited-edition-barrel-aged-one-time-only deal... not necessarily something "common" but something that's very enjoyable for those that can track it down.

Luckily, Matt G's Beer Haul strikes again.

But this time, I wanted to bring another beer to the table.

That's right - two for the price of one.  

Welcome to the Chocolate Nightmare Before Xmas.

Our first review is the Cocoa Psycho from BrewDog.  BrewDog is fairly accessible in most places in CT.  However, the Cocoa Psycho is an elusive offering in their lineup. Kudos to Matt for tracking this one down.  

Checking in at 10% abv, this Russian Imperial Stout hails out of the UK.  Their website description reads:

Welcome to the world of Cocoa Psycho, a liquid dimension where pure indulgence reigns. 

Well, this sounds like fun.  Don't mind if I do.

Looking through my glass, there's no light shining through the chocolatey abyss that awaits me.  About 1/2" of dark khaki pillowy head sits on top after an aggressive pour.  On the nose, a sweet blast of maltiness with notes of black roasted coffee.  The taste is right on par with the nose.  Rich black coffee notes dominate with some bitter chocolate hints as well.  There's a bit of heat from the alcohol - oh heeeeey, it's 10% abv.

The mouthfeel and finish give it a pleasant balance of chocolate, coffee, heat and maltiness in my opinion.  It's a dessert beer no doubt so if you ARE able to track this one down, make sure you save room after dinner.  Food pairings?  I say, slide that dining room chair next to a plate of Italian Cookies... or if you grew up with me and my cousins, you'd go for the plate of Aunt Connie's Cookies.

My one drawback?  Be prepared to make it rain for this one... walst DE-licious, this 12oz bottle was about $13.  Woof.  Not sure how many times Matt is going to go back to the store for this one.  But, we all appreciate his impulse buy.  The things we do for research.

NEXT on our Holiday BONANZA Finale is the Boulder Beer Shake Chocolate Porter.  Boulder Beer is out of Colorado where I believe they might know a thing or two about brewing. Just a hunch.  Read it on a napkin once.  ANYWAY, this is their Shake Chocolate Porter, which sits at a comfortable 5.9% abv.  And if we learned anything from our first review, this is not something you start your night our with.  My guess is that you want to save this one for dessert.

As was with the Cocoa Psycho, this beer is also very dark.  Again, I poured aggressively and found myself with about a YETI FINGER of off-white head (shout out to the Beer Coasters and their YETI metrics).  On the n.... oh, oh my.  The Nose.  The freakin nose on this beer... did I just pour myself a legit chocolate shake in a glass or is this a beer??  Ok, still beer.  But WOW, you get what I'm driving at.  The smells that are coming out of this beer are AMAZING.  Let's head down memory lane for a moment... If you're ever helped Mom make brownies or chocolate cake back in the day and she handed you the rubber scraper loaded with the left over batter... that's EXACTLY what this is.  Sugary chocolately sweetness.  Maybe even some hints of coconut.  I can only imagine what this will taste like.

It's surprisingly subdued after the chocolate bomb that just went off in my nose. Matt and I also picked up notes of peanut butter.  The porter style is coming through a bit now on the mouthfeel.  Dry, light, thin.  Not sure if that's true with ALL porters but overall I find that they are lighter or thinner than stouts.  The finish is also dry and almost crisp.

I have to say, this is a SILLY AWESOME beer, especially for chocolate lovers.  I've seen a few Boulder Beers in CT but perhaps I've just overlooked this variety. I encourage you all to seek this one out. Fairly accessible, won't break the bank and it's a treat.  For my food pairing... I guess I'd actually want to pair this with a brownie or some chocolate dessert of some sort.  I know that sounds like a chocolate overload, but with the porter style being as dry and thin as it is, I don't think pairing the two would be too overwhelming.  The sweetness of the dessert would fill in those blanks.

Thank you all for joining us on this Beer411 - 12 Beers of Christmas journey.  Reaching out to a few of my beer friends has been a great experience and I expect future literary collaborations coming to Beer411 in the future.

So from all of us, to all of you... Please drink responsibly, enjoy yourselves, crack that special brew you've been saving and have fun with family and friends.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Two Turtle Wedded Doves!

Harpoon’s Gingerland UFO
Style: spiced wheat beer
ABV: 5.2 percent

Hey everyone! What an amazing countdown to Christmas this year - so many amazing contributors and varieties of brews. I am shocked to see that not too many holidays ales many have made the naughty list this year … are people being too nice?

The future hubs and I are sitting here, finalizing seating charts and confirming wedding vendors while sipping on Harpoon's Gingerland UFO.

Truth be told, this is not my first taste of this brew. I had it in the tap room at Harpoon back in July and didn’t love it, but thought I just wasn’t “ready for it.” It was a sticky humid day, the place was packed and hot, and it just didn’t mix well with ginger and winter spices. I had a few sips and put it down.

But today as we sit Christmas tree side, watching snowflakes flutter outside our window in Charlestown, this is a much more appropriate time to crack open a beer inspired by the Gingerbread Man. As always, I am a sucker for the label which reads: “Brewed, not baked. Poured, not sliced. Inspired by a classic tale. Deliciously spiced. Welcome to Gingerbread Land.”

The pour: It’s hazy, and we can barely see our fingers through the other side of the glass, auburn/deep orange … Phil says cooper in color

Aroma: Sweetness right away -- which is scary for me – not a huge fan of sickeningly sweet brews – followed by orange, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon

Mouth feel: medium-bodied and very effervescent, tingly all over the tongue

Taste: Not at all what we expected from the nose. It’s a bit tart, leaving that tingly sensation behind your ears, then comes the subtle sweetness, ginger and winter spices. It finishes with a malty-biscuity-ness. Yum!

We like that it’s not heavy -- it's light and crisp which makes for easy drinking.
Phil, who tends to have a sweet tooth says he could easily make this his “beer of the night” -- having multiple rounds.

Me: While I like It and think it’s a refreshing change from the porters and stouts that I usually drink this time of year, it would still be a one and done for me.

Tonight we drank this beer alongside some bourbon BBQ marinated turkey tips and grilled veggies and it was delicious. Despite the name, this is not a “dessert only” type of beer. I actually nabbed a piece of a sugar cookie and paired it with the tail end of my beer and “Eeeeww ... gross!!” like drinking OJ after brushing your teeth. If you wanted to pair this with desserts I’d stay in the same family; snicker doodles, gingerbread cookies or maybe pumpkin pie.

Happy holidays and merry Christmas to all of our readers! Time to teach Phil how to tie a pretty bows on welcome bags. Kayteestinch will return in the New Year, as the tag team husband and wife drinking/blogging duo, The Olivieris (does that mean I have to change my Twitter handle …?) Cheers!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nothing says Xmas Treat like 3 French Craft Beer Hounds

Bootleggers Mint Chocolate Porter
I’m totally stoked that Tony invited me to be a part of the 12 Beers of Christmas!!  I usually spend my days, creating and finding the best gifts and gadgets for beer lovers, which is awesome! But drinking beer is always a welcome distraction. Over the years, I have done a review here and there(usually on YouTube with Beer Coaster Toby @beercoastertoby), but after all the drinking and tasting I’ve done, this might be my first ever written beer review.  So(insert knuckle cracking), here goes...

My contribution to the 12 Beers of Christmas will be Bootleggers Mint Chocolate Porter. Why this beer? Why not??  It sounds like a Christmas treat in a bottle.  

About the Brewery:  Bootleggers Brewery is from Fullerton, California and was started in 2008 by experienced homebrewer and entrepreneur, Aaron Barkenhagen. “Drink Fresh, Drink Local” is the motto at Bootlegger’s Brewery.

Style: American Porter
Available: Winter
ABV 6.1%
IBU 15.7

Appearance: Dark brown in color with amber ruby highlights. There is a small tan head that doesn’t stick around for long.

Aroma: It smells of mint with whiffs of roasty chocolate and maybe a doughy-woodiness.

Taste: Dark chocolate with mint in the middle and finishes with a bitter roasted flavor.

Mouthfeel: Thin, but creamy--nice for a porter.

Food Pairing: Christmas cookies, no question.  Buttery, sugary, preferably shortbread cookies. They will balance the chocolate and mint.  

Summary: This beer is reminiscent of an Andies mint.  A nice chocolate porter with mint in the middle and a roasty chocolate finish. The most exciting part is that they didn’t ruin it with the mint. It so easily could have been a disaster of mint extract proportions, but it isn’t. They created something that is approachable for the beer novice and complex enough to intrigue the beer geek.


To check out the Gifts & Gadgets for Beer Lovers from Gina and the Craft Beer Hound team you can visit them at www.CraftBeerHound.com, FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest!

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Thursday, December 18, 2014

4 Calling... Beer Coasters!

"Welcome to the Beer Coasters Podcast, an entirely self-absorbed beer show....wait, wrong Gig."

We usually just record ourselves talking about craft beers each week, but I felt since Tony had been a guest on our show a few times, the least I could do is try and submit something in writing. So far this month I've reviewed two Bière de Gardes and an Imperial IPA and I've been dying for a Porter, Stout or Winter Warmer. I've also noticed this year that quite a few local bars and restaurants have been neglecting these styles on tap this season. So with that said, my submission this month to Beer 411's 12 Beers of Christmas is...what, no drumroll? Fine! I'll be throwing Ipswich Ale's Winter Ale into this Yankee Swap of reviews. Around the holidays there's no better place to be than New England and I thought it would be appropriate to review something seasonal and close to home. This beer is exactly that. Brewed by Ipswich Ale Brewery in Ipswich, Ma. It's an American take on an English Old Ale.

"A British style Old Ale perfect for easing the cold winter months, our Winter Ale offers a malt selection with hints of fig and chocolate, creating the perfect cozy balance of hops and malt." ~Ipswich Ale Brewery

I'll be the judge of that!

Of course, I have to review this the only way I know how..."Beer Coaster's Style!"

Since 1991 Ipswich Ale has been brewing unfiltered and unpasteurized Ales and has been around longer than most craft breweries here in New England.


Style: Old Ale

ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 35
Available: Winter

Appearance: Color is a lighter shade of brown ale with some amber highlights. in addition there's a nice "fingersworth" of head (I like to makeup words)

Aroma: Herbal hops, some toffee, fruit (maybe apricot) and some yeasty sweetness in there too.

Taste: Hop forward w/some spices, solid malty backbone (I dig that) and little figgyness as well. It's kind of a winter warmer style beer with some extra hops for good measure.

Food Pairing: Chocolate covered bacon! (I'm pretty sure I just won this 12 beers of Christmas thingy with that pairing)


Me: (the most important rating) 3.5 out of 5 pints
Beer Advocate users: 82 (good) out of 100
Untappd: 3.34 out of 5 bottle caps

Top three places to drink this beer:
Chucktown Public House in Charlestown, MA
Ruffina's in Chelmsford, MA 
Ironworks Tavern in Warwick, RI

Shoutouts: Ipswich Ale, Tony Leone (@ToeNee11), Matt Girosky (@Matt_Girosky81), @HipsterBrewfus, Brian Stephen from @Malted_Musings, Dan and Kristien from @OmNomCT, Jay from @LeafandYeast, Will Siss from @BeerSnobWrites and the rest of the guest writers that follow.

Thank you for reading my tiny blog post.

PS. "...and remember folks, this is your blog, I'm just drinking in it"


To check out more from Mike and the Beer Coasters Podcast you can visit them at www.BeerCoastersPodcast.com, FacebookTwitter or YouTube!

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

5 Golden Narwhals!! Bada bum bum!!

(Let's see how many of you get the Muppets reference in the title.)

Anyway... the Sierra Nevada Brewery makes a lot of great varieties.  Summer time picnic?  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Kellerweis.  Too plain?  Need more hops?  Sierra Nevada Torpedo or if you are lucky, Hoptimum.  Looking for their classic hoppy holiday style?  I always look fwd to Sierra Nevada Celebration.

Now there's one winter time style that they make VERY well.  Sierra Nevada Narwhal.  An imperial stout.  Here's their description directly from the website:

Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come.

And what's this?  Matt snagged a Bourbon Barrel Aged version just released this year (or perhaps it's the first time we're getting it on the East Coast).  Yeaaaaah buddy.

Appearance: A thin layer of khaki head on the pour.  The lacing on the glass has some syrupy/oily characteristics along with some tan bubbles.  And boy is this dark.

Smell: On the nose there's a party of things going on.  Wowza.  Vanilla.  Boozy.  Malty.  Come to think of it... I feel like I'm smelling a Bourbon Blonde Brownie if there ever was such a thing.  And if anyone from NoRA Cupcake is reading this, please invent a Bourbon Blonde Brownie Cupcake.

Taste: Sweet malt right away.  You get a lot of the heat from the alcohol, as well.  I wonder how that would settle over time.  After all, the website does mention that it would age well.  There's also some dark fruits in there too... like a bourbon-soaked raison.

Mouthfeel: As I mentioned... alcohol warmth, sweetness. Actually, it was thinner than we thought but you do get a lot of that syrup coating that we noticed on the lacing.

Finish: More of those dark fruit notes, a bit of coffee too.  Perhaps from the roastiness of the barrel.

Overall: Matt and I both found that this was delicious.  The BBA Narwhal is a treat no doubt, but be prepared to pay the price.  I believe this bottle ran Matt about $15-$20 for a bomber.  But you now what, the #Beer411 countdown only happens once a year so why the heck not.  Beer is supposed to be drank with your friends to appreciate the good times.  If you're lucky enough to come across one of these bottles and you have a little extra spending money - yeah, it's worth it.  It's perfect for a sipper on a cold night and ideal to share!

Food Pairing: Bourbon Barrel Aged beers are very difficult to pair in my opinion.  Truth be told, there's so much going on from the vanilla, to the full-bodied Imp Stout style, to the boozy bourbon heat that you get from it, not to mention all of the other flavors.  For this pairing, I say skip the food, enjoy everything that this Sierra Nevada variety has to offer and pair it with THIS VIDEO:

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Buck the Trends with Lagunitas and Hipster Brewfus

When Tony asked me to be a part of his 12 Beers of Christmas, I knew I had to say “yes.” First, because since the day Brewfus hit the scene, Tony has been stood behind me, supporting me the whole time. Secondly, I haven’t done a beer review in a while, and thought it might be fun to stretch those muscles. And thirdly, it would be kind of a dick move to have said “no.”

So for today’s 6th Beer of Christmas, I bring you Brown Shugga from Lagunitas. Lagunitas is one of those breweries who I know makes good beer, but I very rarely buy. Well, that used to be the story. In the latter half of 2014, Lagunitas has been a go to for me, including a purchase of an entire case of “Sucks.” Which, by the way, I drank entirely too quickly. With the addition of their new brewery location, I am ecstatic that the two brews of theirs I love most, will be available more often than not.

Alright, alright, alright, let me tell you about the beer.

If you didn’t know, Shugga is an American Strong Ale, and if you don’t know what an American Strong Ale is, it’s a beer that tends to be pretty boozy. And at nearly 10%, this beer is pretty damn strong. But that ABV is hidden by the butt load of brown cane sugar dumped into each batch. I bet you just put 2 and 2 together right now, huh?

Seriously though, the sweetness, the malt, the hops, the body, everything in this beer is just 12 ounces of perfect liquid balance, waiting to be poured down into your suck hole. It has a complexity just begging you to sit down and figure out. First its sweet, no wait, it’s kind of hoppy, NO, it’s boozy, NO WAIT...

The worst part about this beer is how easy it is to drink a ton of them and then stand up and realize you are way more drunk than you had intended on getting.

This best part is this beer challenges you to drink it. The waves of intricacies wash over your pallet and remind you that even if you’ve been drinking for 10 days or 10 years, there are some beers, regardless of how many times you drink it, can still force you to be appreciative that breweries like Lagunitas exist.

So yeah, winter is here, and people are getting cozy with their porters and stouts. But I encourage you to buck the trends, and get down with this beer. Because, you know, it tastes so good.

To follow along with Hipster Brewfus on the interwebs, catch up with him on Facebook, Twitter or his website, HipsterBrewfus.com.

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Monday, December 15, 2014

On the 7th Day of Xmas: Malted Musings Tackles Two Biggies

As a collaboration with Beer411, I'm proud to present my entry into the "12 Beers of Christmas" ! To help celebrate the holiday season, I decided to take a look a two beers: one focused on hops, one on malt. Despite the style differences, both beers have been made for the winter season.

Photo credit: @Malted_Musings
First up is a beer from a new CT brewery: Charter Oak Brewing Company. Their "Lights Out Stout" smells deeply of heavy malting along with faint caramel and bittersweet chocolate, resembling super dark mahogany in the glass. At first sip this stout has a smooth initial taste with an under-bite of dark chocolate. The flavor profile quickly builds with a smooth crescendo to a high note of slight bitter hopping that is quickly balanced out with dense, semi-sweet dark chocolate bitters. The flavor is ushered out with exceptionally smooth, robust coffee and chocolate notes that slowly, serenely wind down into a heavy malting that sits, slightly bitter, on the back of the palate. This is a large beer, but with no flavor spikes to ruin the smooth transition from potent bitter hops to deep, rich, heavy malting. The malts and chocolate flavor is not overwhelming, and yet manages to sit warmly on the palate and warm you up for minutes after you finish your sip. A beer that can easily stand toe-to-toe with other stouts that are twice as expensive, this is a must buy for those cold winter nights. I've been super impressed with Charter Oak Brewing, and they keep managing to astound me with every one of their beers I try.

Photo credit: @Malted_Musings
For the next beer I went with a brew from one of my favorite breweries, Southern Tier Brewing Company (a New York based brewery). This is their seasonal beer that focuses more on hopping than malting. The Krampus pours out a rich gold amber, smelling mildly of floral/piney hopping. At first sip I get bright, high hop notes that smoothly develop into a mid-high piney tone. The taste then fades gradually into a high and smooth hoppy taste that slowly winds down into a pleasant wheat malty taste. This hop-kissed malty note lingers on the palate with the dull piney notes of the sharp hops. This is a medium-bodied beer with a fairly high AbV. Highly hoppy notes develop warmth and texture, which sit smoothly on the palate. Overall this is a good beer for those brisk winter days, as the piney notes really cut through and get you in the mood for the cold winter weather. Though personally I prefer more heavy malting in a winter beer, Southern Tier has made a rich and flavorful beer that remains well-balanced and still leaves you feeling warmed up. 
All in all the Charter Oak Lights Out Stout is a wonderful beer for the stout/porter fan in your life and I feel may be generally a little more accessible. The Krampus is a beer that truly takes after its namesake and is unabashedly sharp, but altogether warming despite the high piney hopping. Therefore, the Krampus would work well as a gift for an IPA fan to expand their universe a bit without sacrificing high hoppy notes. I want to thank Beer 411 for this collaboration once again, and remind all of you to also follow me on TwitterFacebook, and G+
Finally, to end, Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays to everyone! 

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Friday, December 12, 2014

On the 8th Beer of Xmas, OmNomCT shines for this Relic

We've had saisons. We'd had plenty of saisons. But, we can't say that we've had dark saisons, well, until recently when we tried Relic Brewing's Demiana. Then again, saisons have been brewed, traditionally, in unique ways. Made as beers that would be cold and refreshing for farm workers, they were brewed with whatever local ingredients and spices were on the farm or nearby. So, it was very well possible to have a saison at one farm, while 1 mile away you could have a very different tasting saison.
And, while most saisons that you taste nowadays have that same wheaty, spicy, and "wild" taste to them, there are definitely some breweries that like being different. Relic, based in Plainville, CT is one of those breweries that doesn't like to stick to the boring, the expected, and the norm. Case in point: their excellent Demiana.
As an added bonus before the review of this beer is some excellent background information about Demiana from none other than Mark Sigman, Headbrewer and owner of Relic (yeah, we totally beer-geeked out hearing from him):
On the origin of the name Demiana:
"Demiana was originally brewed as part of a series of beers based on relatively unknown historical women, like relics of history. This included, Hypatia, Genevieve, Demiana and Lucretzia. Each label was hand painted by Kristen Mixter of Avon, CT and follows a similar template. Having traveled so much around the world and visited most major historical sites, I have always been into interesting historical stories. For a dark saison, I wanted something from the Middle East, mysterious and dark, and then I stumbed on Saint Demiana. I visited the old Christian (Coptic) quarter of Cairo a few years back and was fascinated by the culture and imagery."
On the inspiration in creating a dark saison:
"As for dark saisons, well, we have done a lot of them at the brewery, and people are always intrigued since it's not a historical style, it's a made up style. Many people have never had one. So, for our first batch of beer up at Hooker that we decided to go brew there, we decided to do something so incredibly different than anything that had ever been done at Hooker Brewing before. I wanted there to be no mistake that although this four pack was brewed at Hooker, its 100% a Relic beer, with 100% Relic special yeasts and ingredients that make it authentic. It was really important to me to differentiate and assure my loyal customers that although we might be brewing some beers offsite, they will have their Relic flavors and usual qualities. In addition, I prefer dark beers and we make lots of them at the brewery."
Onto the tasting notes!
Appearance: on first pour, the saison poured out foamy, pushing to the top of the glass. But, after just a bit, it settled down to a thin layer. The color is dark, the same kind of color you'd expect to see in a stout.
Smell: immediately, the first aromas that come up are those classic chocolately and malty notes that you get from stouts. You can smell small hints of spice, too.
Mouthfeel: there's a good medium body to Demiana, not being too thick, but not watery. There's definitely some substance there.
Taste: at the first you get those hits of spice and that wild funkiness that you come to know and love from saisons. But, after just a bit, those raisiny, malty, and chocolately notes comes through that you recognize from stouts. And, there's just a tiny bit of tartness at the end which comes from some saisons and adds even more complexity to this brew.
Pairing: this is an interesting beer to try to match up food with because of its complex flavors. We feel like the food you pair this with needs to have some heft to it, needs some weight, needs some richness, needs some spice, and needs some bolder flavors. In terms of Christmas dinner, this would go nicely with a clove-studded ham, candied yams, and a beautiful stuffing. But, hey, make your own pairing too, there's no set rule to things.
Final Thoughts: Whenever we find any Relic out in Fairfield County, we snag it. To be honest, we didn't know what to expect with a dark saison. Would it taste like a saison and just have a darker color, or would the beautiful flavors of a saison get leeched out? Well, we're happy to say that this is one solid beer that's incredibly complex and does double duty. Despite its dark color, it's still goes down easy and you could easily throw back a few without feeling too bent. If you see this, it's a must try, must buy. This is one relic to hoard for your own personal beer stash.
To follow more OmNomCT check out their active Blog, Twitter and Facebook profiles.

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On the 9th Beer of Xmas, Leaf and Yeast Uses the Force

Dashing through the snow,
In a beat-up Chevrolet.
Through the tunnel we go, 
Please not Fuzzy release day!

The rings on Craig’s wrist ring,
As he pours me some delight.
What fun it is to sample and bring,
some Trooper home tonight.

OH, the malty smells,
give Matt a Nobel,
George Lucas misunderstood.
Take it from me, do as NEBCO says:
“Drink it it’s good”.

Photo Credit: @LeafandYeast
For those familiar with my work at Leaf and Yeast, we are a mixed bag over there. Sometimes we can get very technical with our beer prowess. And yet, as we often say, it’s just beer, don’t take it so serious. New England Brewing's Imperial Stout Trooper is one of those beers for me. Granted, I am unabashedly obsessed with the brewery, but it is a place that is special in my heart. This beer gets released right around Christmas every year, and it has become a ritual for me to drink a 64 every Christmas Eve. And you know what? I don’t think about the perfect malt balance. I don’t think about the chewy roastiness. I don’t concern myself with it’s coffee and chocolate notes, or it’s tantalizing aftertaste. I simply drink it, and enjoy the company I am with. Make no mistake, IST is a killer beer. But it’s not about that for me. It’s become an accompaniment to my holiday festivities, and I look forward to it the most out of all the beers I drink year-round. 

This is not a review to read if you are looking to know the intricacies of the Trooper. In fact, this could be about almost any beer. But what is important to me, is what the beer represents and how it reminds me of my favorite time of year: a chance to be with my family, spending quality time together. Not a normal beer review. But I’m not a normal beer reviewer.

May the pours be with you and your loved ones this holiday season.

Follow Jay on his podcast, Leaf and Yeast, or check him out on Twitter.

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Visions of Pink Elephants Dance on the 10th Beer of Xmas

Delerium Tremens (Brouwerij Huyghe)
(Photo credit: @TheBeerSnob)
For the last several years, I've toasted in the New Year with a Delerium Tremens, the strong pale ale from Brouwerij Huyghe of Belgium. There's something about its luxurious nose and wine-line flavor that fits right in with a celebration. Plus, it's fun to pop the cork.

Delerium Tremens is a Christmas beer too. Its golden hue sparkles in the candlelight and bold taste matches plenty of classic Christmas meals. It pairs well with turkey, as well as glazed ham. It stands tall as a dessert beer: you can drink it while eating a ginger man one limb at a time. You can also nurse a Delerium Tremens all by itself deep into the evening by the glow of the Christmas tree.

The only thing it has going against it is its name: no one wants to be reminded of tremors that come with alcohol withdrawal while you're imbibing in the great depressant. 

Keep your partridge in a pear tree. Make mine a pink elephant.

Follow along with The Beer Snob on Facebook, Twitter, or his website, BeerSnobWrites.com.

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On the 11th Beer of Xmas, Beer411 heads North

(Photo credit: risingtidebrewing.com)

Polaris from Rising Tide Brewing Company
Barrel aged wheat stout 
7.5 % ABV

(Photo credit: risingtidebrewing.com)

Being a craft beer fan and Connecticut native, I know how lucky I am to have great local craft beer available to me. Before visiting my brother in Maine last week, I did a bit of research before heading north. He actually used to live right across the street from Shipyard Brewing Company, a place I’ve been fortunate to visit on numerous occasions. I was looking at local breweries in the Portland area and came upon Rising Tide Brewing Company. They are located off of Fox St. in the city. Portland is also the home of other breweries like Bissell Brothers and well-known Allagash. Interestingly enough, the latter two are right across the street from each other on Industrial Way, just north of Portland center. It’s truly a treat to have FOUR great brewing companies within 10 minutes of each other. If you’re ever in the Portland area, I highly recommend stopping in!

Alright...onto my review of Polaris, a barrel aged wheat stout from Rising Tide.

Appearance: Black, slight burgundy on the edges, with a half-finger of head that dissipated fairly quickly

Smell: sweet, slightly boozy, as if aged in a wine barrel, a bit of funk! Feels bigger than a 7.5%

Taste: chocolate, molasses, hints of wine, slight cherry flavor, hints of vanilla

Mouthfeel: light body, medium mouthfeel, seems thin for a stout

Finish: Dry

Overall: a pretty good beer...not your typical barrel aged stout, but it has some interesting things going on. Polaris is in limited supply (I picked up 2 bottles, roughly 30 left at the time). From the label: “limited release of 150 cases”.

They released this a week or so before Thanksgiving. I’m interested to see how this beer develops over time...luckily I have that 2nd bottle! I’d give it a 7.5 out of 10. Cheers!

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Monday, December 8, 2014

This little piggy went WEE all the way to the 12th Beer of Xmas

Not too long ago, the Calvery Brewery in Oxford, CT had to shut it's doors.  With so many different breweries popping up in CT, it's certainly not easy to get a foothold in today's craft beer community.

Thankfully, Jason and Tom Sobocinski (owners of New Haven's The Ordinary and the Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro) were throwing around the idea to start their own brewery so they started checking out this new space that just became available.  While the Bros enjoyed the occasion homebrew from time to time, they wanted someone with brewery experience and begun searching for a brewmaster that could help make their dream a reality.

Meanwhile, while Tom and Jason continued looking, a gentlemen by the name of Tyler Jones was in the process of moving his family to CT after him and his wife had a baby.  In addition to his formal training, Tyler also had experience at both Mercury Brewing (MA) and most recently, the well-known Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire.  Tyler begun his own search, trying to find a place to brew some of his already established recipes and create some new ones.  So... let's review:

Jason and Tom needed a brewer.

Tyler needed a brewery.

Black Hog Brewing Company was born.

And in the words of A-Team's Hannibal Smith... "I love it when a plan comes together."

Since they opened their doors around Labor Day wkd, Black Hog has been putting out a deliciously consistent product - putting their own take on beer styles (i.e. Granola Brown Ale, Ginga Ninja, Easy Rye Da Rye IPA, Coffee Milk Stout among others.).   I had the pleasure of attending a Meet and Greet with Tyler Jones just last week at J. Timothy's in Plainville, CT as they released their latest offering, Bacchanalian Barleywine.

I couldn't think of a better way to kick off the #Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas countdown.  Let's do this.

Since I was reviewing this in a dimly lit bar, I couldn't get a good read on the color.  Carbonation was on the lower side as most barleywines are.  Ok, time to put your big boy pants on.  This beer checks in at a hefty 10.5%.  Due to the popularity of the release, I had a pretty far walk across the vast parking lot at J Tim's.  It's December.  It's Cold.  But, after a few sips of this barleywine, I was warming up nicely.

This style can be a little overly sweet, but thankfully Tyler incorporated just enough bready sweetness.  It played very well against the bitterness and orange citrus notes.

The alcohol heat is very evident on the mouthfeel and finish.  Tyler mentioned that over time, this will become much more subtle.

With a beer of this strength, and perhaps I'm slightly influenced by the Sobocinski Bros, but I would pair this with some strong cheeses (blue or Gorgonzola).  Perhaps a mac n' cheese with some of the stronger ones mixed in.

I'm not sure how limited this offering will be in the weeks/months to come, but if you see it on draft at the brewery, trust me - it's worth the trip.  I mentioned earlier in this post that it's quite difficult to separate yourself from the amount of beer offerings in CT, but I have no doubts that Black Hog Brewing will be a mainstay in the years to come. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, #CTBeer is in great hands.

Check out their tasting room varieties and hours among other cool brewery things at: 

(From L to R: Me, @CTBrewtopian, @O_Evets, and Brewmaster Tyler Jones)
Photo Credit: @jtimothys

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

Friday, December 5, 2014

Beer411 Spreading Some Holiday Cheer!!

#Beer411 #12BeersOfXmas

What, did you think that BEER411 would take the holiday season off this year?


My cousin and I may not be the most consistent bloggers, but if there's one season we thrive on, it's the holiday season.  Full of cheer, food, snow, roaring fires, an extra helping of pumpkin pie, tidings of great joy, good spirits and lots of delicious brewtastic offerings.  Let's all take a time out and appreciate the awesome variety of beers that we enjoy (or should avoid) this time of year.

We're going to switch things up a bit this time around.  

In my beer drinking travels in real life and on the interwebs, I've met some pretty awesome people who share the same passion that I do.  That being said, I'm HAPPY to announce that this year's 12 BEERS OF XMAS will not ONLY include posts from Katie and myself, but we will be joined by a myriad of people from coast to coast, including:

Starting Monday, December 8th, we'll be posting a new review everyday consisting of a beer that we might encounter or simply enjoy this holiday season.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Sit back and relax as we do the work for you.  Not sure what to get your boss or co-worker for the holiday?  Maybe your significant other is a big beer person and you have NO IDEA what to get them?  Not sure what to bring to that Yankee Swap?  Not sure what to bring to your annual holiday party? 

Let Beer411 & Friends lead the way.

Friday, June 20, 2014

T.G.I.Friday and for Friends and Funky Beers!!

Drinking beer is fun.  We know this.  So what's better than drinking beer?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Drinking a beer with a FRIEND!  As I jump back into the blogosphere, I had the pleasure of my buddy Matt joining me this time around.  Let me explain a little... Matt has always been a beer drinker, but the last few months he's shown a lot more interest in the craft beer movement.  Drinking local, different styles, limited releases...  So when he asked me if I would join him to taste Two Roads Brewing Co Urban Funk, I didn't hesitate.

Two Roads Brewing Company, hailing out of Stratford, CT, is CT's largest brewery.  Only 25% of what they output is actually Two Roads beers.  The remaining 75% is all contract brewers (Evil Twin, Stillwater, Lawson's Finest Liquids, etc).  Back in April, they had a bottle release of 3 unique beers, including the Urban Funk.  From the press release...

Urban Funk Wild Ale is the first of several planned releases from Two Roads’ Captured Yeast Series.  With the help of nearby Sacred Heart University’s beer loving Biology Professors Kirk Bartholomew and Geff Stopper, a local yeast strain was captured and propagated for use in fermentation.  The yeast was captured during the evening of Superstorm Sandy so it’s a particularly hearty strain of wild yeast!  Urban Funk will be in corked 375ml bottles and truly funky with a unique, delicious sour flavor and an ABV of 5.6%. 

I will admit, about a year ago, I was NOT into funky sour beers.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed trying new styles, but sour or wild fermentation brews we're not my thing at all.  I found this style to be unbearable tartness.  I would taste them, but never would I have a full pour at a bar. Since then, my taste buds have certainly come around. I find them to have a pleasant candy-like quality with a surprising refreshingness to them.  Let's see where this one falls...

On the pour, the color had a golden hue to it.  Hazy, honey like... with thin white lacing that dissipated quickly.  The nose reminds us of the early fermentation of wine - white grape must.  It's not too sour on the nose, but the little that I am picking up is making my mouth water.  Taste time!

[Insert sour face here.]  Tart, "green apple like you were picking it right off the tree," says Matt.  Sour candy all up in here.  Usually I try and talk right after I taste a beer to try and pick up on the flavors I'm getting... but truth be told, Matt and I BOTH had a hard time talking because of the sourness!  And in a weird way, my mouth is still watering a bit... almost like I was eating Sour Patch Kids or a Cry Baby.

The finish is dry, tart.  We actually picked up a little grainy sweetness on the back once the sourness got out of the way.

This beer is NOT for everyone, but I'm certainly glad my taste buds have come around.  But, it was $10 and only in 375 ml.  Definitely a treat.  Matt and I both agreed that while we would buy this again, I don't think we'd wait in the 1-2 hr line if they had a bottle release again.  But PICK THIS UP if you can get some.  Thanks again to Matt for braving the bottle release and sharing this one!!

Onto our 2nd tasting... I thought I'd bring over the Allagash Saison that I picked directly from the brewery only a few weeks ago.  It made perfect sense to taste this, too... after all, I brought up some Two Roads Lil Heaven when I visited Allagash Memorial Wkd up in Portland, ME... so here we are tasting THEIR latest year round offering!  (Shout out to Rachel, Nick and all of my friends up in Portland!!)  From their website...

Allagash Saison is our interpretation of a classic Belgian farmhouse style. It is a golden hued beer, brewed with a 2-Row blend, malted rye, oats and dark Belgian candi sugar. Saison is hopped with Tettnang, Bravo and Cascade hops. Fermented with a traditional saison yeast strain, Saison exhibits notes of spice and tropical fruit in the aroma. Citrus and a peppery spice dominate the flavor and make way for a pleasant malt character. Saison is full bodied with a remarkably dry finish. 6.1% ABV.

Saison styles seem to be very popular these days.  And I do hold Allagash on a bit of a pedestal, but let's look at their track record... 9 out of 10 times, they deliver!  Actually I don't know if there's an Allagash I DON'T like.  That's it, 10 out of 10!  Haha... alright, let's get into this one...

The pour shows off a very yellow, clear beer.  About a finger of light fluffy white head.  But it's the smells that really drew us in.  I feel like someone filled a bongo bat full of ginger and smacked me over the head with it.  Awesome nose.  There's some grainy sweetness and just a hint of lemon.

Aaaaaaaand this is why saisons are popular.  The taste.  The esters in the yeast shine through.  I feel that people want something other than a Pale Ale or an Amber Ale... BUT, they don't want a bitter IPA or a full bodied Brown Ale or heavy Stout.  The taste on this is a home run... light, crisp, spicy.  White pepper and the ginger all over again.

The finish leaves your taste buds with a crisp, dry mouthfeel.  Which, in my opinion, just makes you want to jump right back in there and taste some more.

Being the latest year round beer, this shouldn't be too hard to find.  I would absolutely get this again.  Great summer go-to if you aren't sure what to bring to your next cookout or picnic.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We're Baaaaaaack!!

Heeeeeyy... you... Yeah, no, I remember you.  T-t-tim, right?  No, it's Tommy.  Tommy, right?  No, not that either?  Hmmm... ok, let's just start from the beginning.

Hello Interweb.  Tony, here.  1/2 of Beer411.  A few years ago my cousin Katie and I set up this blog to enlighten our family and friends out there about the In's and Out's of the Craft Beer World.  At times, things can be a bit daunting, so with a little courage and a little education - perhaps you too can impress your friends at the next company outing, or happy hour amongst friends, or even perhaps on date night.  Throughout our adventures in tastings, brewfests, beercations, reviews, releases and more - I hope you enjoy your stay here at our little corner of the internet.  And if you post your beer pics on Instagram, don't forget to tag your pictures with #Beer411 so you can show up on our site!

While it's been a few months since we last spoke, I'm going to start with this past wkd.  CT FRIENDS - START TAKING NOTES.  My sisters (who all live in different states) decided to coordinate a little trip up North to Maine and New Hampshire.  Being the only part of the equation coming from CT, I wanted to plan out my trip wisely.  Truth be told, anytime I'm out of the state, I ALWAYS try and pick up some stuff that I can't normally find in my local area.

CT FRIENDS - I have found the promise land.

After a little google search for package stores along the Mass Pike or 495, I stumbled across Julio Liquors in Westborough, MA.  When I go up North, my journey takes me from 84 to the Mass Pike to 495 and so on.  Looking at my GPS, Julio's only seemed to be about 10 minutes off of the highway.  I didn't want to go TOO far out of my way, but this was close enough to explore.  After taking Exit 11 off of the Mass Pike, I took the 2nd Exit (23B) off of 495 North, and before I knew it, I was there.

Let's just say, this didn't get a 100 Rating on BeerAdvocate for nothing.

I could have EASILY dropped more money then I did, but let me tell you... I was in beer heaven.  Night Shift Brewing, Lost Abbey, AleSmith, 21st Amendment, Great Divide, Firestone Walker, The Bruery... this place had it all!  And I'm SURE I missed a bunch of other names.

So... as you look to the months ahead, and see that trip up North on the calendar... make it a point to swing by Julio's.  Again, it's only about 10 minutes off of 495, and there's a Starbucks right next door.  Boom.

As I continued to drive north, I had a few other stops I wanted to make.  One of the things I LOVE to do is visit breweries in New Hampshire and Maine and bring up some local beer from CT.  Spread the good word that is Craft Beer.  The people that work in the industry obviously do it because they enjoy beer, so why not delivery some local goodness?!  So I delivered one of my favorites, New England Brewing's 668 to the good people at the Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, NH.  (Listen, after I dealt with the parking lot that was 495, I needed a beer.)  That and the coffee I got at Starbucks was letting me know that I should stop too...

First off, I love their slogan: TASTE THE LOCAL.  It took some serious will power NOT to buy a hoodie or shirt that had their slogan.  I have about 24 hoodies and 64 shirts... I don't need any more (And maybe if I keep telling myself that, I'll actually believe it).  I can't go through all the beers I sampled, but I'll say that they are definitely worth the trip.  I left there with a growler of Hog Happy Hefeweizen.  4.9%, just a touch of grainy sweetness, well carbed - great for a hot summer day.

The next morning as I woke up in Maine, I got a great workout in the AM, then set the GPS to one of my favorite breweries... Allagash.  I arrived at about 10:30am before the crazy Memorial Wkd rush with a 6 pack of Two Roads Lil Heaven, their newest Session IPA.  Let me say this... not only does Allagash continually make delicious beer, but they have an AMAZING team of people that work there.  It was great seeing some familiar faces from last year when I visited... and one of them even remembered me!  Soon after I arrived I found myself going through my own personal flight:  Allagash White, Saison, Victor, Victoria and Curieux.  YUM. YUM. YUM.  Thank you Rachel and Nick and everyone else I met that morning.  Enjoy the #CTBeer!!

Side bar... I also ran into my new friends at the Maine Brew Bus that I met during the Rising Pint Brewfest at The Rent just a few weeks ago!  They happened to be touring Allagash while I was there!  For more information on the Maine Brew Bus, check them out here.

In our conversations over my flight, I was informed that the space across the street which was formally occupied by the Maine Beer Company (when they were much smaller), was now the home of a NEW brewery called Bissell Brothers Brewing.  How could I NOT stop by?!  Unfortunately, they weren't open at the time, BUT... as luck would have it, ANOTHER brewery that was right next door WAS open... the Foundation Brewing Co.

I was informed that they had only been open 10 weeks.  I had a great time sampling the few they had on draft... and even left with a small growler of their Wanderlust #1, 4.3%, Summer Saison style that was dry hopped with several hops varieties.

Later on that day, we visited the Banded Horn Brewing Co in Biddeford.  I got to meet Ian McConnell, their head brewer and delivered another great #CTBeer offering, Relic Darkness Falls.  The beer here was also very good... my favorites were the Veridian IPA (a fresh IPA with lots of peach/mango flavors) and The Mountain (a RIS clocking in at 12%... which in my opinion, rivals Goose Island BCBS).

It was AT Banded Horn when I also very fittingly checked into my 1,000th unique beer on Untappd while I was with my family.  Great to think that I've had so many unique beers but there are still so many more to try out there!!

The last two places we visited were Elements, which was only about 3 blocks away from Banded Horn.  This place consisted of beer, coffee and used books.  It's a bloggers paradise.  Not a whole lot but great local offerings on tap, cans/bottles, not to mention some delicious coffee drinks.  The LAST place was the Run of the Mill also only a few blocks away.  Nice little pub with classic fare and their own beer on draft.

We crammed a lot in during the few days we were there... but it was so worth it.  There were a ton of places we didn't get to see this time around but hey... I have lot of yummy delicious beer to work my way through in the next few weeks.  Perhaps a review is in the very near future.

Next time you plan on visiting a brewery out of state, maybe bring along some local beer and pay it forward!  This industry is full of awesome people, why not spread the good word?  And don't forget to do a little research before hitting the road.  Addresses, tasting hours, etc.  You'll be glad you did.

Thanks again for supporting #Beer411 !!  
If you have any comments or are curious about a beer, feel free to let us know!

Me and the sibs at Banded Horn.