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