Beers in Review: Clearing the Slate (plus Programming Notes)

I'm clearing out the Notes app of all of my beers to be reviewed, so let's get to it!

Leading off is Unknown Brewing Company's latest in their traditional not-quite-anniversary releases, 3.5ish, celebrating 3 1/2 years of beer-making by Unknown. This time around, the Charlotte-based brewers made what is called a "gueze-inspired lambic". This beer comes in at 6.1% ABV, and pours a slightly hazy golden color. While the flavor profile is generally mild in potency, it leads with considerable pungent notes, including a whole lot of funk and perhaps some leather and even a bit of B.O. (yes...THAT B.O.). Other notes include a little bit of salt (expected for the style) and a moderate lemony sweetness that sits towards the back of the drinking experience. These Unknown "anniversary" beers are always a little bit out there, and this one is no different.

Immediately after the 3.5ish, I had 'Round the Riverbend from The Hourglass Brewery in Longwood, Florida. Riverbend was what was referred to as a "mixed-fermentation rye saison", and had enough similarities to the 3.5ish that I feel that something resembling palate fatigue may have affected my overall interpretation of this beer. This beer pours a crystal-clear straw gold, and like the 3.5ish is quite funky and pungent, also bringing tobacco and a musty note to the beer. Some hints of pepper and fruit (cherry or sour cherry?) are also present. I found this beer to be a bit overwhelming, but I am completely willing to chalk it up to the back-to-back drinking experiences.

For something completely different, we turn to Asheville's Highland Brewing Company and their limited release Hawaiian Lounge Juice Extra IPA. Highland was aiming for an IPA that was "deceptively drinkable" despite being 8% ABV. They did this by overloading it with tropical qualities, even to the point that I was picking up citrus rind and fruit leaves or greens in the aroma. These all carried through into the flavor profile and combined with the tropical hops to generate a moderate bite. The flavor profile also features plenty of fruits, including pineapple, mango, passion fruit, and even some sweet or candied orange. The tropicality extends into a juicy mouthfeel, as well.

Closing out this edition of BiR are two Hefeweizens.

Lonerider Brewery in Raleigh, NC seems to come and go from the Columbia, SC market, but I always find them to be a solid contribution when they're here. Their award-winning Shotgun Betty does an excellent of nailing the textbook modern Hefeweizen style. It brings a bit of banana, plenty of clove (along with lighter amounts of other spices like All Spice), and plenty of grain with a fairly light body. The bubblegum sweetness is also very much present but not overpowering with this beer. The review shows it: there's not a lot of flourish to Shotgun Betty, frankly, but there are few American offerings that better exemplify the style.

Finally, we turn to Charlotte's Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and their Hornet's Nest Hefeweizen. As expected, Hornet's Nest pours a completely cloudy straw color. The flavor profile leads with bubble gum and clove which are supported by banana, black pepper, and a few other spices. Just like Betty above, OMB nails the standard Hefe flavor notes, though I felt like I also detected a small amount of malty sweetness in their offering. Hornet's Nest also tends to be a bit more powerful, with bolder flavors (especially for the style) and a fairly heavy body. Still a really good Hefeweizen, though.

As a programming note, I leave for vacation on Friday, so posting will be minimal/sporadic. I'm heading to the Jersey shore again, and there are a couple of new breweries to check out. So, I'll have plenty of content for when I return Labor Day Weekend, and if WiFi allows, I might try to livestream something from a brewery or two. No promises on that last part, though. The best way to keep up with what's going on will be through the PRB Twitter and PRB Instagram accounts.

Thanks, everyone, and see you next week!

Beers in Review: PRB Goes Hypocrite???

So, needless to say, I spent a lot of time back in May talking about Wicked Weed Brewing and their assimilation by A-B InBev. Based on my comments, posts, and whatnot, one might think I was against this whole merger thing. And they'd be right! That said, I picked up a couple of bottles of Wicked Weed beers shortly after the merger. Because hypocrisy is how I roll! Really, though, I figured it was best to pick up a few bottles that I knew were made pre-merger, before the whole thing goes to crap. So, let's get to it!

Leading off is Napoleon Complex Hoppy Pale Ale (which, if considered broadly, is a very interesting name for a beer now). It's fairly sessionable at 5% ABV, and brings a nice balance to the table. Pouring a clear pale yellow to straw color, Napoleon's plenty of floral and aromatic hop notes, along with some mild pine. Reflecting the balance, malt notes are also present, with perhaps just a hint of caramel. There is also possibly a bit of citrus present, which may be pushing through more via a slightly juicy mouthfeel.

Next up is Pernicious, Wicked Weed's year-round IPA. Coming in at 7.3% ABV, Pernicious pours a hazy pale gold color. Leading the flavor profile are tropical fruits like mango and papaya. I also detected a small amount of grapefruit in there, as well. The back end has more resinous pine notes. Wicked Weed doesn't list IBU numbers on their website, but there was just a very mild amount of bitterness--typically I expect more bitterness from these flagship-type IPAs, but I'm not complaining. I also noted a highly carbonated and frothy mouthfeel in this particular bottle. Overall, Pernicious continues to be an excellent IPA. I hope it maintains that high level in the future.

Beer News/Self-Promotion 2-fer! Beers Brewed for the Solar Eclipse!

In case you haven't been paying attention to celestial current events--and that can be understandable, given the volume of terrestrial current events--the United States will get to experience a solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. A solar eclipse is a phenomenon where the earth, moon, and sun align in such a way that the moon blocks light coming from the sun. While all of North America will experience the eclipse in some form, there will be a path from Oregon to South Carolina that will experience 100% blockage of light from the sun, called "Totality". For the path of Totality to cross the entire continental United States is a very rare, once-in-a-lifetime event. Obviously, lots of people are very excited to experience this phenomenon--local tourism groups are expecting 600k-1M or more tourists here in the Columbia, SC area alone!

Some craft brewers, never ones to ignore a great marketing opportunity, have joined in the eclipse craze with, surprise surprise, eclipse-themed beers! Draft Magazine posted a list of six beers brewed specially for the eclipse, and I mention this because one such beer is Carolina Blackout by Lancaster, SC's Benford Brewing Company! On a totally related note, stop back around midday Monday for my video review of Benford Brewing Company's Carolina Blackout! I promise it will be up and posted before the eclipse hits the Carolinas/East Coast (roughly 2pm, Eastern)!

Video Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Part 4

I'll be honest, guys--sometimes I live up to the "Pourly Reviewed" moniker. This is one of those times.

In today's video, I check out 2 more entries from Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across the World series. This pair of beers features collaborations with Houston's St. Arnold Brewing Company and Japan's Kiuchi Brewery!

BREAKING NEWS: San Franciscans Steamed at Anchor? Legendary Bay Area Craft Brewery Cashes In/Sells Out

San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing Company, a pioneer (and originator/founder?) of today's independent craft beer industry with over a century of history, has been bought by Japan's Sapporo Holdings Limited for a reported $85 million. As is typical in these matters, the brewery claims that the beer, which at this point will still be brewed at its facility in the city, will be unaffected by the transaction. SFGate.com, the online sister site of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, has plenty of coverage on the reported acquisition, including comments from Anchor's owners. Brewbound (among others) is reporting the sale price.

Redhook just decided to blow up the concept of a calendar

This is exact time of the year, I'm usually getting ready to bemoan the early entry of fall & Octoberfest beers onto the market. Boston Beer/Sam Adams is usually the biggest culprit, but it's not unusual to see several such beers on shelves before August 1st. I will say that it seems like virtually everyone has taken the advice and pushed back their fall beer distribution, even if just for a couple of weeks.

Redhook Brewery, however, decided to go in the other direction, as I saw this in the grocery store earlier this week:

Winterhook. Winterhook! Redhook impressively blew past the fall holidays and pushed straight into the winter months! IN JULY!

Beers in Review: Catch-up

One Asheville-based brewery that always ends up flying below my personal beer radar is Hi-Wire Brewing. Typically, they don't end up being my first choice, which was my own personal mistake until the Craft and Draft birthday event, when I led off my afternoon of drinking with Hi-Wire's Citra-Hopped Gose. The ABV falls in line with most goses and sours at 4.2%, and it pours a fairly clear golden yellow color. As would be expected by the hop varietal used in dry-hopping, along with the style, citrus fruits lead the way in the flavor profile. Lemon and lime are the primary fruits, along with perhaps a hint of grapefruit. I was also getting a decent amount of what I thought was grassy or grainy notes. This gose is separated from most others in that there is almost zero sweetness and a very slight amount of saltiness. I found it to be a decent enough gose, but I would have liked to have seen SOME flavor aspect be bolder and move to the front, whether that means an increase in citrus flavors, or more saltiness, among other options. Still, an overall mild option isn't a terrible starter for an extended drinking session.

Next up is the Lime-a-Peno Blonde Ale from local brewer Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. I got this despite my general distaste for pepper beers--there have been very few that I have legitimately liked. Still, I'm willing to give them continual chances, especially pepper beers from different breweries. Brewed with jalapenos AND lime (in case the name wasn't obvious), this 5% ABV Blonde brought a fairly clear pale yellow hue. I found plenty of green jalapeno in the aroma, and it followed into the flavor with plenty of pepper and other vegetal notes. Despite the peppers used, there was very little spiciness to the beer, which to me was surprising but not unwelcome (I find many pepper beers will overdo the spicy angle). A mild amount of citrus sweetness rounds out the flavor profile. I said I'm typically not a fan of pepper beers. I probably wouldn't call myself a fan of this one, either, but it's probably the closest I've been to legitimately enjoying such a style. So, a net win in my book for Swamp Cabbage.

Event Recap: Craft and Draft 3rd Birthday Party

The following was on-track for a Wednesday publishing, when a Tuesday night thunderstorm had other plans, knocking out my cable and internet. Things finally got up and running on Friday. I apologize for the delay, and am glad to finally be able to bring you this recap. -Justin

 

On Saturday afternoon, I took the opportunity help celebrate the 3rd birthday of one of my favorite beer stops in Columbia, SC. Craft and Draft is not a large space, by any means, but co-founders Kellan Monroe and Andrew Johnson have gone to great lengths to make C & D the premier beer bar and bottle shop in the city of Columbia. They only have a dozen taps and a couple of stand-up coolers of cold beer to go with several shelves of take-home (room temperature) options. But you will never find a Budweiser or Coors Light here, and I find that they have set themselves apart from most of the other notable craft beer spots in the city by continually having beers and breweries that can't be found anywhere else in Columbia!

 

Beyond the beer selection, Craft and Draft is not your average bar--they will be closed by 10pm at the absolute latest on any given night, so it's not a "go and get hammered" kind of a place, though that isn't your typical craft beer drinker's goal, anyway. In following with their usual hours, the party ran from noon to 7pm. By 3pm, the place was pretty packed.

 

Again, not a large place.

In addition to a quality line-up of regional drafts inside the shop,

 

there were also a good variety of beers outside the store, including breweries from Gainesville, Florida, and multiple North Carolina locales. Again, Craft and Draft brought in breweries we tend to not see too much (Bhramari & Twin Leaf from Asheville and Swamp Head in Gainesville), despite the fact that virtually everything at the party was made within 200 miles of Columbia! Also outside were a number of food trucks including the local TV stars from the 2 Fat 2 Fly stuffed chicken wing truck!

In the end, this was a seemingly successful and definitely well-attended event. Craft and Draft brought a solid beer selection to the party--it's always nice to get beers from folks we don't always see here in Columbia. THAT is Craft and Draft's hallmark, and it makes the life of a craft beer adventurer like me MUCH easier! Cheers to Andrew, Kellan, and everyone at Craft and Draft! Here's hoping for many, many more years!

Video Review: A Local Hop Bomb?

In today's video review, I check out a Red IPA from the local Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. Check out my thoughts:

 

Also, stay tuned to www.twitter.com/pourlyreviewed THIS SATURDAY AFTERNOON for live updates from the Craft and Draft 3rd Birthday Party! The fun starts at noon, Eastern time! I'll have a full video recap after the event! (Also, come find me if you actually are in Columbia!)

Commentary: ABI Not Doing Anyone Any Favors With Their BA Response

In last week’s news roundup, I noted the latest volleys fired in the conflict between craft beer and Big Beer. The non-profit craft beer trade group The Brewers Association unveiled a "Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft" logo that can be displayed on packaging, websites, in taprooms, and elsewhere. Craft beer DOES have a specific definition from the Brewers Association, mostly centered around ownership stakes, and this logo can help better-inform customers about who is making the beer they choose to drink. A-B InBev’s High End, the group of former craft brewers now under the ABI umbrella, responded to the new logo by releasing a video featuring the head of the High End as well as the founders of Wicked Weed, Elysian, 10 Barrel, and others. In this video, these gentlemen spend more than 4 minutes trying convince us, the consumers of craft beer, how they continue to be JUST LIKE the little guy brewing in a small warehouse space in YOUR VERY OWN hometown. Walt Dickinson of Wicked Weed, the latest brewery to “sell out to the Evil Empire”, even dares to STILL unironically refer to Wicked Weed as a “smaller independent”.

Indeed, of everyone in this video (in which they seemingly dragged all of these guys to their “crafty wall” at ABI HQ to do their talking heads), Dickinson seems to be the most clueless--perhaps he’s just still in that star-eyed honeymoon phase. He advocates growing the beer industry as a whole, which will mean that “everybody’s got a great space in the market”. Of course, this sounds like a great idea! But use of the phrase “space in the market” is an unfortunate one, as it amplifies one of ABI’s biggest bullying tactics. ABI will use bribes—I’m sorry, “incentives”—to occupy as much shelf SPACE as possible in superMARKETS, beer distributors, and other shops. The amount of ABI-dedicated shelf space grows all the time, forcing true independent craft beer off of the shelves of those same retailers. Now, if this is all being done legally, and there is some question to that, then so be it—the laws should be changed, usually in state legislatures. But that's another commentary for another day. And Walt Dickinson and ABI should not be talking about how hard they are working for EVERYBODY, because this is a straight-up lie.

Dickinson’s (and others’) next fallacy is that beer is dying because of the ongoing beer “civil war”, and that market share is continually being lost to wine and liquor, whom Dickinson equates to a massive armada poised to wipe out all the entire beer industry while the various beer factions all also work to destroy each other with ole' timey muskets. Now, ABI’s market share absolutely is dwindling, and wine and liquor MAY BE picking up some of that, and perhaps those two are gaining ground overall. But craft beer is also growing, and despite ABI’s continual attempts to warm up to craft beer enthusiasts (this video isn’t their first “Kum-Ba-Ya” attempt), craft beer IS the biggest threat to ABI. If it weren't they wouldn't be buying up so many craft breweries.

Elsewhere, Garrett Wales of 10 Barrel claims that the Brewers Association is limiting customer choice by putting a label on a bottle. Going back to the bullying/bribery for space issue, there is no doubt that ABI are the ones limiting choice by putting more and more of their own brands on retail shelf space. Supporting independent craft brewers IS a factor many beer drinkers use in decided which beer to drink next—it may not be a critical or deciding factor, but it DOES influence people’s decisions, no matter what Felipe Szpigel, ABI’s High End head, says. This isn’t limited to beer—you see “buy local” initiatives for all kinds of products. In the spirit of Walt Dickinson earlier in the video, Szpigel later again tries to refer to the High End members as “small business[es]”, which is laughable.

Finally, like many others, I don’t quite understand why ABI continually tries to equate themselves to the small, independent craft breweries. I would imagine that a great deal of the demographic they are targeting, craft beer drinkers, are more educated about what they are drinking. And they can see right through ABI's ruse when they see their favorite brewery get swallowed up by Big Beer, which leads to some sort of production problem (see High End original Goose Island’s BCBS contamination problems in 2015), or they can no longer get their favorite craft beer at the supermarket because that market got paid to give ABI more space to hold Golden Road and Wicked Weed. We all can easily see through this level of falsity. ABI insists on being the “Evil Empire”—they are buying up these former craft breweries to try to hold on to market share. They need to stop trying to kowtow to the little guys and their fans.

Video Review: Revisiting a Favorite

In today's video review, I check out the 2017 version of Founders Brewing Company's Sumatra Mountain Brown. I absolutely loved the 2016 version, and wrote about it here. What were my thoughts on the 2017? Find out in this video:

I will be back Monday with some thoughts on the latest ongoing skirmish between the Brewers Association and A-B InBev. See you then!

Six-Pack of News, Volume 28: Strike and Counterstrike

Today's Six-Pack is spurred by the big news from earlier this week. The non-profit craft beer trade group The Brewers Association struck at Big Beer corporations posing as craft breweries (such as A-B InBev's High End) by unveiling a "Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft" logo that can be displayed on packaging, websites, in taprooms, and elsewhere. Craft beer DOES have a specific definition from the Brewers Association, mostly centered around ownership stakes, and this logo will help better-inform customers about who is making the beer they choose. (Brewbound)

ABI's High End responded to the new logo by releasing a video featuring the head of the High End as well as the founders of Wicked Weed, 10 Barrel, and others. I will have much more on this in a commentary later this weekend. (Draft Magazine)

Sometime ago, I mentioned how Stone Brewing made a beer using recycled wastewater from the San Diego area. Now, Ballast Point has taken another innovative and environmentally conscious step in creating beers using water produced via condensation, or pulling moisture out of the humidity in the air. (www.craftbrewingbusiness.com)

In the Six-Pack's obligatory list posting, Draft Magazine recently revealed their Top 50 IPAs in America, out of nearly 400 tasted. Obviously, there are a lot of hyper-local/-regional breweries on this list, so just try to seek out the ones that might be fairly close to you.

It's not news, per se, but I just did a video review of the Sierra Nevada/Garage Project collaboration, and I just found this Good Beer Hunting interview with one of the founders of the Wellington, New Zealand brewery.

Finally, my favorite bottle shop here in Columbia, Craft and Draft, is turning 3 years old soon! And they're having a birthday party!

Video Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Part 2

Today, I bring you two more beers from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Beer Camp Across the World collaboration pack! Check out my reviews of collaborations with Massachusetts's Tree House Brewing Company and Garage Project from Wellington, New Zealand!

Beers in Review: Dangerous Wits

I'm starting off today's BiR with a ramped-up version of the Wildflower Wit from Natty Greene's Brewing Company in Greensboro, NC. Wilderflower Imperial Wit checks in at a powerful 9+% ABV. It pours a hazy peach-to-orange color. There are plenty of spices coming through the flavor profile. That profile also features plenty of fruit notes, including some citrus specifically. There is a mild level of sweet booziness present as well--not a shock at the ABV level. But a really enjoyable beer, and perhaps a bit dangerous, as it is quite drinkable at over 9%!

Next up is a sessionable Blonde Ale from North Charleston, SC's Freehouse Brewery. Folly's Pride is designed to be drinkable in any situation, most notably the long, hot summers so present in the Carolinas. Pouring a crystal clear pale yellow, this Blonde is brewed with grapefruit, and that serves up the primary flavor notes in multiple ways. While there is a general citrus note, as well as the meaty grapefruit flesh, I found the bitter grapefruit rind to be the most-forward flavor note, with a fair amount of bitterness accompanying it. Personally, I could have used with a hair less of that bitterness, but otherwise, this is a light, crisp, low-ABV (4.8%) ale that serves as a solid summer option.