Relaunch!

Hello, everyone.

I'm sad to say that I have been woefully negligent of this site over the 10 months. Nothing to do but get back on the horse, so to speak.

And no better way to get my mojo back than a beercation to the East Coast's Beer Mecca, Asheville, North Carolina! I will be headed there TOMORROW, with stops at countless breweries and top bars planned!

The blog posts will come with the PRB Relaunch starting next week, but you can check out day-plans and the on-going journey LIVE via Twitter and Instagram! Interwebs-permitting, you MIGHT even find a livestream or two via Twitch!

I will be hitting up tours and drinking beers at New Belgium and Highland tomorrow (Friday, 12:30pm and 6:30pm, respectively), with the rest of the weekend's schedule to come, again, via Twitter!

Beers in Review: Going Back to Christmas!

Let's see how my writing is after all this time...

Nothing like doing a Christmas beer in May, right? In December, I got to check out the 2017 version of Mad Elf from Troegs Independent Brewing, but my parents were also kind enough to grab me a bottle of their barrel-fermented, bottle-conditioned variant, Wild Elf. Pouring a highly carbonated reddish-amber, cherries are the big player in the Elf beers, as I got both the cherries as well as some cranberries. There is also a significant funky note in the beer. The beer is 11% ABV, but the booziness is hidden by the fruit tartness. Honestly, I feel like I probably liked the straight-up Mad Elf better, but I highly appreciated having an opportunity to check out the variant. Thanks for both, Mom and Dad!

Finally moving on from Christmas, I jump to a similarly-styled beer called Pleroma from Sweden's Omnipollo Beer. Officially an American Wild Ale, Omnipollo calls Pleroma a "raspberry creme brulee sour ale with lactose sugar, raspberries, and vanilla". A hazy, ruddy pink-red color that checks in at 6% ABV, I got lots of tart raspberries and some red wine notes. The beer is zesty and effervescent, but it goes away quickly.

Finally, let me write about the beer I just had. Edmund's Oast Brewing Company looks to be fairly new to Charleston, SC, and very recently made their way to Columbia. Hush That Fuss is their American Pale Ale. I found it to be surprisingly pale in color and while playing like a session pale (5.5% ABV), I found this beer very different from just about any pale ale of any style. It has a wheat component to it (I'm not entirely sure it works) along with some citrus notes, most notably orange. Mildly hoppy overall, I feel like I need to track down another one of these to really get a good feel for it.

Six-Pack of News, Volume 30: It's About Time Some Breweries Get Back to Basics

Over the last five years or so, I've noticed that a few prominent breweries who had one iconic beer were choosing to set aside that icon and try to diversify their portfolios. I mostly point to brewers like Guinness, Newcastle, and Sierra Nevada. Well, after a couple of years of declining sales figures, Sierra Nevada has announced a re-dedication to their famous Pale Ale. Brewbound has lots more, including quotes from a Sierra Nevada executive.

This article from the Beer Street Journal is a couple of weeks old now, but it's one of my favorite breweries, so screw it. Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC has refreshed their branding to eliminate the cartoonish Scotsman in favor of more natural symbols.

In additional Asheville-area beer news, Full Pint reports that Catawba Brewing Company has hit milestones in their ongoing brewery expansion. The expanded facility will focus on canning of Catawba's beers along with those from the recently-acquired Palmetto Brewing Company. The facilities of the Charleston, SC-based brewery will be utilized for much of both breweries' draft beer production, with the former Palmetto facility undergoing an expansion of its own later this year.

Because they apparently haven't learned from the cliff-dive in popularity that such beverages have taken over the last couple of years, MillerCoors and Arizona Beverages are collaborating to bring a spiked Arnold Palmer (half-icea tea, half lemonade) beverage to markets. (Beerpulse)

Craftbeer.com recently released their 2018 list of each state's top craft beer bar, according to their readers.

Let me tell you. I need to check out The Drinks Business website more often for beer news. I was going to post this article on how an Australian brewery trademarked the phrase "The Colour of Beer", but there are also articles on smuggled beer in Singapore, a 20,000-mile pub crawl, and something called Goat Tosser! Read about the Aussies, then just check out the site as a whole, or at least the beer side!

BREAKING NEWS: Trump to Implement Tariffs Critical to Beer Industry? (UPDATE)

Just like the tax bill that preceded it, the Trump Administration's latest economic policy could have a significant impact on the beer industry. President Trump announced tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum, potentially starting next week. The idea is, the tariffs will reduce cheap steel imports from countries like China and encourage more domestic metal production, which will create more jobs. Trump prefaced today's announcement with a morning tweet:

Of course, aluminum cans have always been a key beer storage device, but the cans have become more attractive to the craft beer industry in recent years due to the can's elimination of light pollution, which can be highly detrimental to craft beer. According to craft beer trade group The Brewers Association, the aluminum tariff could increase the cost of a case of cans by nearly a quarter. Trump is attempting to unilaterally impose these tariffs under "national security concerns" despite opposition from trade groups from various industries (including the BA), numerous U.S. businesses, and members of Congress, including members of his own party. Opponents say these tariffs will have unintended consequences, including price increases in products across many industries, as well as layoffs. 

MillerCoors summed up the beer industry's issues well with the following statement on Twitter:

 

 

Now, there is likely a fair chance these tariffs will not go through in their current form, or at least not survive long-term. Many in Trump's own administration have advocated for more targeted tariffs, the Brewers Association and others have questioned Trump's "national security" angle (especially in regards to aluminum imports), and the staunch Congressional and business opposition likely means Trump will be in for a fight on this issue in the coming days and weeks.

UPDATE, 3/2/18, 8:09am: So, according to news reports, President Trump's tariff announcements came as a bit of a surprise to the White House staff, who spent the rest of the day walking Trump's comments back, forward, and possibly even sideways. The policy does want to seem to be enacted by this administration, but it seems like the timing and exact numbers could still be in the air a bit. Again, it might be up to the groups listed above to work to get the policy modified. An additional item that may influence this policy are the threats of trade wars from other countries, where they tax U.S. exports into their countries in retaliation of the steel and aluminum taxes.

BrewVue: Wyndridge Farm

It's been a while now, but I had the opportunity to check out a few breweries while up north for Christmas. First off, I made my second trip ever to Wyndridge Farm, located on a repurposed farm just about a mile from where I went to high school in Dallastown, Pennsylvania.

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Wyndridge is more than just a brewery. In fact, they utilize York County, PA's excellent apple orchards to produce a number of different hard ciders alongside their beers, and they also produce a number of unique craft sodas. But for all their quality drink production, their greatest asset may be the grounds and premises.

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This is in the dead of winter. Imagine when the grass is green and there are leaves on the trees. I can be absolutely amazing. You can see the little arch/gazebo thing in the distance--Wyndridge is big on weddings, as they also have an attractive barn converted into a rustic indoor reception space. There is also a similarly-themed standard restaurant and bar space for public use.

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Getting back to the relevant topic of this blog, the beer selection can be a tad limited--just 4 core beers with a few seasonal and limited run options that might bump that up to 6-7 options at any one time. But if you pair it with the hard ciders, which includes a nice cranberry-apple ciders and a hoppy cider, you have a decent overall drink selection. Beer-wise, everything tends to be solid, though nothing that will blow you away. Do what I did this last time: try a sampler. Just be sure to throw a cider in there, too!

 

 

Beers in Review: With a Special Brown Ale

Before we get to the brown ale mentioned above, we turn to Baltimore's Duclaw Brewing Company and Fast, Faster and Disaster. A limited release IPA at 6.5% ABV and 62 IBU, I found this yellow-gold beer to be fairly light in both flavor and body. Almost playing like a sessionable IPA, though the alcohol level doesn't support that. Flavors found include assorted citrus notes (mostly orange and a bit of lemon), as well as passion fruit and maybe a bit of pine. Disaster has a moderate hop bite and a fairly clean finish. I found this to be a fairly straight-forward IPA.

Next up, I checked out this beer on Beer Advocate, and saw this beer rated just average (less than 3.5 out of 5). Now, of course a review website is FAR from scientific, and perhaps BA needs to revise their ratings descriptors, as a mere 0.51 score difference could mean the difference between an "okay" and an "exceptional" beer. There may also be some bias in that score, as many craft beer nerds tend to not think highly of brown ales, red ales, and similar styles. I mention all this because I think this may have been the best brown ale I've ever had. I can't speak much to the beer's color beyond "dark brown"--the local watering hole where I had this beer was pretty dimly lit. It checks in at 5.7% ABV, 32 IBU, and I found it to be REALLY tasty! There are plenty of caramel malt and burnt or toasted malt notes along with dark sugars and toffee, some grassy hemp notes and maybe some nuttiness, as well. I found it to be smooth and sweet, but not so high a sweetness that I couldn't enjoy 2 or 3 of these in a sitting.

Beers in Review: A Pair of New England IPAs

The first BiR of 2018 brings a brand new brewery to the site. Green Bench Brewing Company prides themselves on being the first microbrewery in St. Petersburg, Florida. Turbid is their New England IPA series in which they rotate hop and yeast varieties with each batch. This one in particular was Turbid 6, which checked in at 6.5% ABV and used Galaxy, Simcoe, and Azacca hops. It pours a solid gold color, and mine wasn't hazy, which is unusual for the NE IPA style. Flavor-wise, I found it to be very balanced, with a fair amount of malt combined with a juicy mouthfeel and flavor notes, notes which also included a hint of pine and a very mild bitterness. This beer also brings a medium-full body. While I've certainly developed an appreciation for the typical IPA over the years, I'm not really a hop bomb lover. I tend to prefer some of the IPA variants (American IPAs, English IPAs, New England) to the straight up IPA style. As a result, I found this beer to be quite enjoyable.

Next up is Lancaster, SC's Benford Brewing Company and Mama's Mango Milkshake. Also a New England IPA, this one brewed with mango. Coming in at 8% ABV, it plays pretty much as you would expect for style, including the hazy copper/burnt orange color with plenty of particulate in the glass. I don't have a great sense of smell, but the namesake mango was prevalent in the aroma, which also included a bit of orange, as well. Flavor notes included the expected mango, along with overall tropical greens, and maybe a bit of pine (though, that may have just been some of my interpretation of the greens). I was expecting a bit of a sweeter beer, but the low sweetness didn't bother me, personally. It's quite hoppy and brings a lot of hop bite that hangs around the back of the throat. The flavors and clean and intense, which tends to make it a little more of a sipper than a full-throated drinker.

Big Game! Big Time Beer Commercials!

Unless you traditionally live under a rock, you know that a significant American football game was held on Sunday evening. This game draws over 100 million American viewers each year, and so each commercial slot fetches a pretty penny, and advertisers try to make the biggest splash possible with their tv spots. This year, Budweiser brought ads for their namesake brands, plus a third for Stella Artois, while Michelob Ultra brought a pair of entries to the game. Let's check out their ads!

We lead off with Michelob Ultra, who tries to swing for the fences by bringing the oh-so-dreamy Chris Pratt into its commercials. "The Perfect Fit" shows Chris trying his darnedest to nail his new Ultra role, but it ends up not being what it seems. Chris Pratt brings every ounce of his charming self to the commercial, but I really felt like the ending didn't have enough "oomph" to it.

 

Let's face it: you already either love or hate the Medieval-style "Dilly Dilly" commercials that Bud Light has been doing all football season. In "The Battle of Beer Run", the concept gets even more ridiculous with the arrival of the Bud Knight...see, 'cause it rhymes with Bud Light! Get it? Anyway, the whole attempt to cash in on the Game of Thrones-driven popularity of the Medieval Era made this an obvious theme that Budweiser attempted to humorize with the "Dilly Dilly" line. I generally enjoyed the first couple of the series, but now I'm pretty well over the whole thing. I didn't care for the craft beer dig in the original commercial, where a commoner was sent to the Pit of Despair for gifting a homebrew to the King instead of Bud Light. This isn't Bud's first Big Game dig at craft, as I remember an ad a few years back where Budweiser decided to crap on the craft beer industry, specifically mocking "pumpkin peach ale(s)" while their newest High End acquisition at the time, Elysian, HAD JUST RELEASED A PUMPKIN PEACH BEER! Here's this year's first Bud ad. Let's move on.

 

After the "Dilly Dilly" inanity, Budweiser hits a home run, in my view, by tugging at the heartstrings. The US has had its fair share of natural disasters in the last year, ranging from devastating hurricanes and flooding to wildfires. In "United We Stand", Budweiser shows us how their breweries do their part to help out in times of crisis by converting their canning lines from beer to water for distribution in disaster-struck areas. This is easily my favorite ad of the group.

 

ABI continues to pull at the heartstrings with their Stella Artois ad "Taps", which features Matt Damon and highlights and encourages the partnership between Stella and Damon's Water.org charity, which is providing more easily accessible water to developing parts of the world.

 

Chris Pratt and Michelob Ultra provide the latter bookend in the game's series of beer commercials with "I Like Beer", which teams up Pratt with a number of professional athletes and places in him in multiple athletic situations like lifting weights and running a race. It serves to let Pratt play up his more awkwardly humorous side that I and many others came to enjoy on his time on the tv comedy Parks and Rec, on which he starred before he became a movie megastar and joined the Pantheon of Awesome Chrises (Pratt, Pine, Hemsworth, Evans). For me, this is a far better effort than Michelob's first offering.

 

What about you, dear audience? Which of these ads did you enjoy? Feel free to leave a comment!

 

Six-Pack of News, Volume 29: A Frisky Start to 2018

2018 is only a month old, but there's been plenty going on in the beer world. I also want to give shout-outs to some expanding breweries related to my own local interests. But that will be later; let's get the bad news out of the way first.

A few notable breweries have fallen on hard times since the calendar flipped to 2018. Pabst Blue Ribbon may be the cheap beer of choice for many bars and restaurants across America, but the brewery seems to be undergoing a constant shedding of personnel since 2016, when they were temporarily buoyed by 2015's then-skyrocketing hard soda (Not Your Father's Root Beer, etc.) market. That niche offering came crashing down fast and hard, and Pabst just announced their latest round (and 2nd round in 2 years) of major layoffs. Under this layoff, Pabst will fire 50 employees and reduce their overall headcount by 70. Brewbound has all the details on the latest round of firings, as well as Pabst's overall roller-coaster ride of the last few years.

Obviously, one of the biggest news stories in the beer world was ABI's acquisition of Asheville, North Carolina's independent craft beer beacon, Wicked Weed Brewing. In response, the numerous breweries in the Charlotte area have created the Charlotte Independent Brewers Alliance (CIBA). The over 20 breweries across a 6-county area have been meeting informally for some time, but now have united into an official organization. Again, Brewbound has lots of details, including the official CIBA press release.

Related: Read all about the ABI/Wicked Weed transaction from last year!

The folks at Vinepair sure like their lists, and 2018 has been no exception. So let's talk beer tourism! First up is The World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2018, which includes 3 international cities. Seoul, South Korea is #6, and I'm sure it's a lovely city. I just don't know if it's a great idea to advocate visiting there, given the current political fragility of the Korean Peninsula. Anyway, if you are looking for something more specific than just a great beer city, check out Vinepair's 5 Hotels for Beer Lovers, which will point you to several boutique hotels across the United States that might be run by breweries or even found on the premises of breweries!

The Disney Parks in Orlando, FL and Anaheim, CA are ever-evolving family destinations, but there is an ever-growing group of more...grown-up (read: "alcohol-based") opportunities at both resorts. WDW News Today is reporting on the latest round of changes to Anaheim's Downtown Disney dining and shopping district at the Disneyland Resort. Notable among the changes is a Ballast Point Brewing Company brewpub/restaurant space, which will include the first-ever brewery on a Disney property.

Finally, some congrats are due to breweries in my old and new hometowns. First checked out Crystal Ball Brewing Company in West York, PA in 2016. While they made some quality beers, the tasting room set-up and accessibility was lacking. CBBC was always aware of this, and have now rectified the situation with the opening of #CBBCity (as they want to call it). Their new space is located in the heart of York City, which is far more accessible, and offers local spirits (thanks to Pennsylvania's revamped liquor laws) and food from their next door neighbor, Issac's Deli. The York Daily Record has more on CBBC's journey. Next, congratulations to Columbia, SC's original craft brewery, the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery, on finally opening their new production space at Owens Field, Columbia's small-plane airstrip. Hunter-Gatherer restored an historic airplane hanger into an expanded production space and tasting room that opened it's doors in the middle of January. (Courtesy: Columbia's Free Times weekly)

Commentary: Beer Fests Showing Signs of the Bursting Bubble?

Gerald Jowers of my local Columbia, SC alt-weekly paper, the Free Times, wrote earlier this week about the problems being encountered by beer festivals in various cities in the Carolinas, specifically pointing to Charlotte’s declining Oktoberfest and recently-cancelled festivals in Charleston and Columbia. Jowers is wondering whether “beer festivals [have] run their course”. And, of course, the answer, on the whole, is no. But we will likely see a culling of some of these festivals, and I believe we are seeing the first sign of the impending craft beer bubble burst.

The craft beer industry, and its many fans, have been celebrating the opening of the 6,000th brewery in the United States, an impressive milestone. Thing is, many craft beer commentators have been awaiting the bursting of the craft beer bubble since we reached the FIVE THOUSANDTH brewery opened in 2015. The fact that such a niche industry is opening an average of more than one brewery per day should raise some alarms, as could the declining year-to-year growth in the craft beer market. I say “could” because it can also be argued that such double-digit percentage gains from the early 2010s were unsustainable in any economy, to say nothing of craft beer still FAR outpacing it’s bigger macro brothers (who have seen declining SALES, not GROWTH, for years). I tend to lean towards the latter sentiment.

A real indication of the bursting bubble may now be coming from the festival and event market, which looks to be becoming over saturated. In his article, Jowers points to the decline of Charlotte’s Oktoberfest. Now, it's entirely possible this festival just fell on some bad luck and/or hard times: increased government scrutiny, bad weather, inconvenient construction. But a quick glance at the Charlotte, NC tourist website reveals that Oktoberfest is one of TWENTY festivals that prominently feature craft beer held in Charlotte alone! That doesn’t even take into account events held within driving distance, such as a number of South Carolina festivals or events held in the Raleigh or Asheville (arguably the East Coast craft beer Mecca) areas. To me, Charlotte and much of North Carolina seems ripe for over saturation of the event market. Here in Columbia, Jowers mentions the cancelled Cream of the Crop festival, which is typically held in March in conjunction with Soda City Suds Week (one of TWO craft beer celebration weeks held in Columbia, in back-to-back months, no less). Yet that same organization, F2T Productions, is running a beer-and-BBQ event next month AND the same venue, City Roots, will be hosting another beer festival JUST TWO WEEKS before Cream’s formerly scheduled event! These are just two out of at least five events happening in the first quarter of 2018, and that doesn’t even mention the numerous events set to be held in conjunction with the aforementioned craft beer celebration weeks being held in February AND March! The Columbia area has a good number of people, but has always been a bit behind the times on the craft beer scene. This scene has exploded in the last 5 years, perhaps exploded too far.

No, beer festivals have not “run their course”. The market exploded, and has likely passed its point of sustainability. I would not be surprised to see, over the next 5-10 years, a fair reduction in craft breweries—I feel like a number in the 4000-5000 range would be good—and a significant culling in the number of beer-featured events, which in some cities can be occurring every other weekend. I don’t expect a catastrophic collapse of the craft beer industry, unless driven by outside economic factors. But I do see an industry that will soon be ripe for a…correction.

Beers in Review: A Collaboration and a Blend

Without a doubt, regardless of the style, if I see a brand-new/never-before-seen brewery cross my local beer aisles, I am undoubtedly going to pounce on that beer. Collaborations are likely the easiest way to find such breweries, and Collaboration 7: Oak-Aged Lager is no exception. While Boulevard Brewing Company frequently shows up in my area, my only exposure to Creature Comforts Brewing Company was, I believe, from one of Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp series beers. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company? Never seen 'em. This collaboration checks in at 6% ABV and 16 IBU with a fairly light body, and is a hazy orange lager that tends to come out pretty fruity. In addition to many wine notes, especially the white wine side of the spectrum via Riesling grape juice, the flavor profile includes some citrus notes that bring a little bit of tartness to the lager. I also found some grain and corn notes in there, as well. The three breweries put a good amount of complexity into what is typically a fairly simple style. A very dynamic lager.

Next is a blending of words and beers from Rogue Ales. Hazelutely Choctabulous combines Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar and Chocolate Stout. The result is very dark brown to near-black stout that is 5.7% ABV and 51 IBU. Both beers play well with each other but also shine through in the flavor profile, which primarily features the two key players: nuttiness and chocolate. It's plenty tasty, though nowhere near as sweet as I expected, given the brewery's comparing of the beer to a "chocolate candy bar". Still, a really neat and excellent offering.

Beers in Review: Westbrook Pair

In today's review, we check out a pair from Mt. Pleasant, SC's excellent Westbrook Brewing Company.

Each Spring, Westbrook releases what is arguably their most popular and hard-to-get beer. To me, this falls under what I call the "bucket list" category, the best of the best of craft beer that can be somewhat difficult to damn near impossible to acquire. Westbrook's Mexican Cake Imperial Stout does have a May release window, but it goes fast, and rarely can be found too far past that release point. Fortunately, the fine folks at the Craft and Draft shop here in Columbia are totally awesome, and saved a kega for a brewery head-to-head event a couple of months ago. Cake was originally brewed for Westbrook's 1st Anniversary, and it gets aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon, and habanero peppers. The stout comes in at a powerful 10.5% ABV and is quite smooth-drinking. Drinking this beer, I got notes of semi-sweet to unsweetened chocolate--it's likely a good amount of sweetness was coming from the booze level--with a mild kick from the peppers, though I'm glad they don't take over the beer like peppers tend to do. There were also some slight hints of dark fruit and berries to me, but that could also be just my interpretation of the boozy sweetness. I had already scratched this particular beer off my personal bucket list a couple of years back, but social media was my friend in discovering C&D's spare keg of this, and I couldn't say no to a second try.

Citrus Redacted appears to be a modern version of a previous collaboration beer from Westbrook and a local bottle shop. Redacted is an Imperial IPA, 8.5% ABV, that plays a little bit like the recent New England IPAs. Redacted is a moderately hazy gold color with plenty of observable particulate matter in the glass. It bears a delightful and potent orange aroma, and the flavors of EVERY PART of a piece of citrus fruit came through: fleshy fruit (which was most prevalent) along with the rind and even the connective strands in between the fruit slices. Again, orange was most notable of the citrus present, though I also detected some grapefruit in there, as well. The beer overall was not too bitter, despite the presence of rind flavor notes. I found this to be a delightful IPA.

Beer News: Tax Bill Passed in U.S. Senate Includes Good News for Craft Brewers

The tax bill passed Friday night in the United States Senate may be subject to a deep partisan divide, but it does include tax relief for smaller craft brewers in the United States. The Senate passed an amended version of House Resolution 1, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 51-49, with all affirmative votes coming from the majority Republican Party, which holds 52 out of the 100 seats in the Senate (outgoing Republican Tennessee Senator Bob Corker joined the Democrats in opposition to the bill).

Included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), a piece of legislation that has been backed by industry trade and advocacy groups for years but has languished in the Congress. The CBMTRA will slash taxes by half on the first 60,000 barrels produced by brewers who make fewer than 2 million barrels a year. Other tax reductions are included on up to the first 6 million barrels produced by other brewers. Brewbound has more details, including quotes from the President of the United States and members of various trade groups.

Due to Senate amendments to the bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now goes to a House/Senate reconciliation committee, where members of the two chambers will work to create a bill that can be passed by the entire Congress. The bill may also still be in danger should opponents of the bill effectively work to change the minds of some Senators or Congressmen. It should be noted that while the Republicans have roughly a 40-seat majority in the House of Representatives, they only control the Senate 52-48. Assuming no Democrats will support this bill, Republicans can only afford two "Nay" votes to pass this legislation (in the event of a 50-50 tie, Republican Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill). Constituent advocacy in the coming days may convince a few key swing Republican Senators to change their stance in backing this bill.

Beers in Review: Let's Get Back To It

Leading off Beers in Review is an offering from Goose Island Beer Company's Cooper Project, their experimental bourbon barrel-aging series which had 3 offerings in 2017. Cooper Project #2 is listed as a blonde Doppelbock; this was discovered later during beer research, and explained the relatively light golden color that I was not expecting during the actual drinking experience, when it was merely described as a Doppelbock. While this beer had some nice notes, most notably some vanilla and caramel, I found the bourbon barrel characteristics to be too much for my enjoyment. I got a good amount of oak and plenty of boozy heat (9.2% ABV) that just took me out of the beer too much. Frankly, I don't drink many of the bourbon barrel beers, so I expect I would enjoy this more if I were more used to the experience.

Next is a tropical IPA from North Carolina's Catawba Brewing Company. Friki Tiki comes in at 6.5% ABV and 60 IBU, and will vary from batch-to-batch as they use a different tropical fruit and supporting hop bill. As an example, the Friki batch I tasted was a Pineapple IPA, while it is now listed on the Catawba site as a Guava IPA. The beer pours a hazy gold color, and as I tend to find in these tropical fruit-based beers, there was a whole lot going on in the mouthfeel. Fruity juiciness leads the way, but I also found a freshness working its way into the mouthfeel, supported by the pineapple fronds that I found in the flavor profile. Additional flavors included pineapple and plenty of other tropical fruits, along with a bit of orangy citrus. A moderate hop bite was also present within the beer, but it didn't overwhelm the other excellent flavors.

Beers in Review: Beers From Long Ago...

First up in today's BiR is Slow Your Roll from Bronx Brewery in New York City, of course. Slow Your Roll is a session IPA, just 4.6% ABV and fairly light in body and flavor intensity. The beer pours a lemon yellow color and is completely hazy. Citrus hop notes are the most prominent flavors present, along with tropical fruit and tropical greens and leaves. I also felt like I was getting a little bit of funkiness, but that may have been coming from the tropical sources.

Next is River Rat Brewery's offering created for August's Solar Eclipse, Moonraker. Coming in at 6% ABV and pouring a bold gold color, Moonraker is an India Pale Lager (IPL), a hybrid of the lager and IPA styles. To me, this hybrid style was interpreted as a sort of two-step beer. In the front half, I picked up the hoppy notes. This included citrus, especially candied orange, and perhaps a little bit of pine hoppiness. The back half of this beer brought more lager characteristics. There was a caramelly sweetness along with some cereal notes and a malty finish.

Finally, just my second-ever offering from Legal Remedy Brewing Company, the first being their excellent World Court Mocha Blonde Stout. Gorilla Law is a cherry Hefeweizen, and it looks like it may have been specially-produced for the brewery's 3rd birthday. The beer pours reddish copper, and measures at 5.8% ABV. I found it almost played like a farmhouse ale. There were mild cherry notes--far less than I expected--along with a little bit of a white wine taste and feel. There was a little bit of funkiness in there, as well, that really brought that farmhouse feel. Gorilla Law had a fairly light body, and I found it to be pretty refreshing. This beer maybe wasn't quite on style, but it was enjoyable.

BrewVue: 7 Mile Brewery

By sheer luck, I had the chance to stop by the 5th and (right now) final brewery in Cape May County, New Jersey.

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7 Mile Brewery isn't much to look at from the outside, occupying your standard chunk of strip mall beside an escape room, a food market, and an insurance office. Indeed, before going to the brewery, one of the criticisms I heard about the location was a "lack of ambiance". Now, as we learned from Cold Spring, atmosphere and ambiance are far from everything. But even beyond that, I'm no decor expert, but I found this to be a perfectly fine space.

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I like the deep blue wall color. I think these narrow tables are nice. Sure, there's a some stainless steel around, and the stools and chairs are pretty industrial, but industrial tends to be a recurring theme at breweries. It's a good-sized space, too, so any inherently lacking atmosphere can be generated by a boisterous crowd. Long story short, I think the atmosphere of this place is perfectly fine. There's even a small outdoor space that is reached by walking through/past the production/tour area.

Let's get to what matters: the beer. They seem to have a 10-12 tap selection at any typical time, with two sets of taps so it's easier on the bartenders. I had the cherry Saison at another bar earlier on vacation, so here I largely stuck to core styles. Beach Bubbles is a solid traditional Witbier, while El Heffe was a really tasty Hefeweizen--though I found it to be more Belgiany despite the German-named style. I also tried the Shorty Stout, quite good, and the Black Rye Pea Aay, which I found to be a little unusual. After being open for just over a year, 7 Mile has quickly developed a reputation for high-quality beers, and most of what I drank supported that. At this point, it seems to be the top challenger to Cape May Brewing's status as the area's King of the Hill.

BrewVue: Cape May Brewing Company

Cape May Brewing Company, located in multiple buildings on the grounds of the Cape May Airport, is certainly seen as the big brother of the craft beer boom hitting that particular part of the Jersey Shore.

 Cape May Brewing Company recently underwent a rebranding, including all new logos and designs.

Cape May Brewing Company recently underwent a rebranding, including all new logos and designs.

This is the third time I've been to CMBC, and while still a solid visit, it was a bit underwhelming. For starters, Cape May County is performing extensive renovations and upgrades to the grounds of the airport. At the particular time I visited, this included extensive road renovations and closures, resulting in a less-than ideal parking situation that included trudging through a muddy field around the industrial building to get to Cape May Brewing Company's main entrance.

Cape May easily has the most impressive factory/production floor tour of any in the area, with an extended walkthrough area with videos and interactive exhibits with an opportunity to pick up a beer list or flight selection card before heading into the tasting room and outdoor beer garden.

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 The production tour (top) and the brewery's outdoor seating area (bottom). Courtesy the Cape May Brewing Company Facebook page.

The production tour (top) and the brewery's outdoor seating area (bottom). Courtesy the Cape May Brewing Company Facebook page.

At this particular visit, Cape May had 10 different beers on tap. While a fine number, and the most of any brewery visit so far, this is actually a low number for Cape May. There have been prior visits where they've had nearly double that number of beers on tap. To their credit, they continue to have their in-house non-alcoholic sodas on tap, as well. The root beer is excellent, and tastes similar to commercially-produced root beers, but with the flavor intensity turned up to 11 or 12. They also make a ginger ale which is very good if you can stand the intense taste coming from the ginger root used. It can be overwhelming to some people.

Really, you can't go wrong with anything in their line-up. Truly, one of the things that impressed me about this brewery in the past was the ability to have such an extensive tap line-up of 15-20 beers and have every one be of decent quality at minimum. Some of the more notable beers include the namesake IPA, the Honey Porter (which can be found on Nitro), and Apple Bomb, a fruit beer that'll knock you on your butt if you aren't careful--it's 8% ABV, but doesn't taste it. Arguably their greatest offering is The Bog, which is a super-tasty cranberry shandy. It's highly accessible for just about anyone to drink and absolutely perfect for being near several beach towns. Cape May calls The Bog a seasonal, but it seems to have a wide length of availability.

Cape May is still tops in the area's craft beer scene. But it is quickly being caught up to by a few breweries, especially one I'll be telling you all about next week.