"Beer me, Earl!" reviews – Part 4 of 4

Note: Most of the information gathered in these regional beer profiles has been gleaned from the the wonderful users over at BeerAdvocate. Their reviews are a must for any serious brew-hound. Also, I decided to exclude brewpubs from these profiles and just stick with actual craft breweries. Generally a brewpub makes beer that is only sold in it’s own establishment. I wanted to stay with breweries whose product you could actually find at your local store/distributor/bar. Hopefully. And I’m only going to highlight 2 or 3 per region. Also, feel free to nit-pick. I dig beer and all, but I’m certainly not the absolute last word on it. – Earl

Finally winding this bad boy down.  Phew!

Heff – “I’m from Alabama.  Beer me, Earl!”
Heff requested a Birmingham-specific profile, but since there are only two breweries in the entire state, I thought I would talk about both of them.  Quick note first: Heff wanted to know about a Birmingham area beer called Vulcan that he used to drink a ways back.   Unfortunately for Heff, Vulcan Breweries/Little Star Brewery in Birmingham closed it’s doors 8 or 9 years ago.  Sorry, dude.

Good People Brewing Company, however, is now brewing in Birmingham and they get some pretty good reviews on BeerAdvocate.  There are only a handful of reviews so far, but still.  They look like a small operation right now.  In fact, they are looking for guest brewers to give ’em a hand and they are offering a free t-shirt for the effort.  Hmmm.  Anyway, right now they are only brewing ales, but they hope to brew a lager or three in the near future.  Besides the standard pale ales, IPAs, brown ales and stouts they also make a Roggenbier which sounds interesting.  A roggenbier is a traditional German-style rye beer, and I love ryes.  All in all with knowing not a great deal about this brewery, I would still recommend it.  If only because they seem to earnestly care about craft beer culture and producing fine brews.

Olde Towne Brewing Co. in Huntsville is the other brewery in Alabama.  It’s been around since 2004 when brewer Don Alan Hankins started selling his wares at Humphrey’s Bar & Grill in Huntsville.  The first microbrewery there since the repeal of Prohibition.  The company has had a tough time of it in the past few years.  Lost the entire brewery to a fire in 2007 before re-opening a year later.  They make a nice variety of brews including Olde Towne Bock, Olde Towne Hefeweizen, Olde Towne Amber Ale and Olde Town Pale Ale.  I don’t know if they have resumed bottling yet, but now that Alabama has joined the rest of the country in passing laws that allow breweries to make higher alcohol brews they should be notching their production up a bit.  So look for that coming from them soon.

Paticus – “I’m from Tallahassee, Florida.  Beer me, Earl!”
As Downtown Guy pointed out in the comments section, good luck with that!  Craft beer in that part of the state is as dead as disco.  So I considered my options and decided that writing about any other specific region in Florida doesn’t help Paticus or Hank at all.  So I’m going to pick a couple of breweries that I hope are state-wide that I find interesting.  There are only 11 breweries in the state.  Maybe, just maybe they will be available in the Tallahassee area.  If not, there is always Pabst Blue Ribbon (do yourself a favor and watch that clip).

Saint Somewhere Brewing Company out of Tarpon Springs is a pretty interesting operation.  I wonder if they took their name from Jimmy Buffett’s song “Boat Drinks” (“I gotta fly to Saint Somewhere!”)?  They focus on Belgian-style ales only and I only see four beers that they have made in small batches thus far.  I think I’ve seen the bottles up here in NY, so I would assume that they are available all over Florida.  But you know what happens when one assumes.  The Lectio Divina is a highly rated Belgian Strong Ale with an ABV of 8.0%.  Nice.  Their Saison Athene is their take on the traditional Belgian Farmhouse Ale.  Still pretty strong for a farmhouse.  I love Belgian beers and Belgian-style beers.  So I would definitely give these guys a chance even though they probably are a bit more expensive than your standard beers.

Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa is slowly but surely making their way northward.  It’s been spotted as far north and east as Jacksonville, so I assume they will be making their way to Tallahassee soon if they aren’t already there.  Very, very prolific for a small, local micro-brewery.  Lots of British-style beers like Big Sound Scotch Ale (a wee heavy) and Chaveta India Dark Mild, an English-style dark mild ale.  Lots of American styles too.  Basically, a lot of styles.  31 in all.  That’s a lot for a smaller-sized brewery.  And all of them get some fairly good reviews.  I’d give ’em a try if I could find ’em.

Limpy – “I’m from Connecticut.  Beer me, Earl!”
And he’s right.  That statement does sound kinda gay.  I had no idea the Limpy lived so close by.  I can literally see Connecticut from my back yard as it is right across the LI Sound.  Now I’m thinking of moving again.  Hey-yo! Also from the fine state of Connecticut is another blogger friend who writes Always Home and Uncool.  A blog and a statement that I can relate to, even if I don’t have kids.  I have cats.  What was I talking about.  Oh yeah…Connecticut beer.  There isn’t much of it, to be honest.  They really need to step up their game if they want to compete with their New England brethren on the craft beer front.  But we will do our best with what we have.

The Olde Burnside Brewing Company in East Hartford seems like a very cool brewery.  They started out as an adjunct to their ice business, actually.  They noticed that some of their customers were coming in for large quantities of their water to home-brew their own beer because their water shared many mineral properties with the clean, crisp waters of Burton-on-Kent in the UK.  So they decided to brew their own beers in the Scottish tradition to honor their ancestors.  Pretty cool.  Olde Burnside Ten Penny Ale, a Scotch Ale, is their flagship brew.  They also make a Black and Tan called Dirty Penny Ale and an American Pale Ale called Highand Fling Spring Ale, which may be a seasonal.  The beers get a varitey of ratings on BeerAdvocate, but it seems like one of those things that I would have to try myself.  And the reviewers on that site are particulary snooty at times, so one never knows, do one?

Thomas Hooker Ales & Lager out of Bloomfield IS Connecticut’s beer.  Well, according to their website at least.  I have tried a few of these and they do make some fine brews.  Originally Troutbrook Brewery, they were re-marketed as Thomas Hooker Ales & Lagers in 2003.  I’ve tasted the Blonde Ale, the Oktoberfest and the Nor’Easter Lager from their line.  All solid offerings.  But it is their Liberator Dopplebock that really blows people away.  One of the best reviewed beers I have come across in a while.  Seems like they do well with all of their stronger alcohol brews.  Nice!  One strange offering from them is their More Than a Mouthful Watermelon Ale.  I don’t normally do fruit beers, but that sounds pretty damned interesting.

And I’m done!

I hope y’all found that as fun and interesting as I did.

Cheers! – Earl

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Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. BEER!

"Beer me, Earl!" Reviews – Part 3 of 4

Note: Most of the information gathered in these regional beer profiles has been gleaned from the the wonderful users over at BeerAdvocate. Their reviews are a must for any serious brew-hound. Also, I decided to exclude brewpubs from these profiles and just stick with actual craft breweries. Generally a brewpub makes beer that is only sold in it’s own establishment. I wanted to stay with breweries whose product you could actually find at your local store/distributor/bar. Hopefully. And I’m only going to highlight 2 or 3 per region. Also, feel free to nit-pick. I dig beer and all, but I’m certainly not the absolute last word on it. – Earl

This has been a lot of fun, and informative for me as well. I am finding a bunch of beers that I would like to try myself, and I am giving the list to Gia to see if she can get a hold of them thru work. Here goes part III:

Jennifer – “I’m from Minnesota. Beer me, Earl!”
When I first saw Jennifer’s beer profile request I thought “Blech…Leinenkugel! I hate that stuff.” Then I thought “Hmm…Arcadia. I love that stuff!” Then I realized that Leinenkugel is from Wisconsin and Arcadia is from Michigan. I’m afraid my East-Coast bias is rearing it’s ugly head once again in these profiles. Sigh. So it was off to BeerAdvocate for me to see if I recognized anything at all from Minnesota.

Nope. Nada. Zilch. Nothing out of the 11 breweries and 15 brewpubs in the state. But I did find the worst reviewed brewery I have ever seen, and another that was pretty close. Both in Cold Springs. Wow. Anyway, I have decided that I am going to pick a couple of them based solely on my interest in their beers. And based solely on that, I would love to try a bunch of the beers from Surly Brewing Company in Brooklyn Center. Check out the names of THESE beers. CynicAle, Hell, Furious and Tea-Bagged Furious. Awesome! And they come in cans, which I love. Double the awesome! I can’t really tell you exactly what kind of beers they are because they brew them specifically so that they can be easily categorized into one style. As their head brewer says “”Surly Brewing Company’s beers are NOT brewed to fit into ANY beer style guidelines. So please spread the word!” So I’m doing it. It looks like they are only available in Chicago outside of Minnesota. Pity. I would love to give them a try.

Lift Bridge Brewery in Stillwater is probably the newest brewery in Minnesota. They only have 6 beers or so in their stable, but they all sound interesting and their website is simple and informative. One beer that they brew, in particular, tickles my fancy. It’s called Biscotti and it is a Belgian-style ale inspired by the biscotti recipe of one of the brewer’s grandmother. Grains of Paradise, Vanilla and anise notes are present in addition to the traditional hops, oats, honey, malt Belgian yeast. Sounds sooo tasty. Since it is so new, I would assume that it is only available local, but you never know. Check it out.

Candy – “I’m from Boston. Beer me, Earl!”
What can I say about Boston? No seriously, what can I say about Boston that doesn’t end with “sucks!”? Just kidding, Candy. I love Boston. Hate it’s teams, but I love the city. It’s so small and cute, it could fit into NYC’s back pocket. There are 18 breweries in Massachusetts with 2 of them in the Boston. One of them, of course is the Boston Beer Company (Samual Adams). But they certainly don’t need little ole me to huck their wares. They do very well on their own, thank you very much.

But Harpoon Brewery also makes some fantastic brew coming out of Boston. Their UFO Hefeweizen, along with the rest of their UFO line, was probably among the first American un-filtered pale wheat ales that I ever tried. And it always delivers. Nothing that will blow your mind, but some real solid beer. I also really dig their version of the Winter Warmer. Nothing better on a cold winter night than a tasty Winter Warmer. And the beer is pretty good too! 😉

I’m going to head out of Boston for the next brewery. Cape Ann Brewing Company is located in Gloucester, which is famous for it’s fishermen. Fitting then that their flagship beer is called Fisherman’s Brew. It’s a great, drinkable beer that goes down really smoothly. This past October I wrote about Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout, the only pumpkin beer that I have ever had in stout form. It was easily one of my favorite pumpkins last year. A sweet change of pace. They also make a delicious kölsch-style beer called Fisherman’s Ale. A kölsch is a German-style ale, much dryer and lighter than many of their European counterparts. I’ve tried a bunch of their beers as it is one of the brewers that Gia represents. But I can honestly say that I have truly enjoyed ever single one of them. Hmm…I wonder if there are any in the fridge right now?

Cisco Brewers Inc. out of Nantucket and Wachusett Brewing Company out of Westminster also make some really great beers. In fact, I’m having a Wachusett Country Ale right now. Very nice!

Sybil Law – “I’m from Ohio. Beer me, Earl!”
Ohio, surprisingly (at least for me), has a real decent craft beer scene going on. 16 breweries and 26 brewpubs in the state. That’s pretty damned good. And let me tell you, they are some of the highest rated breweries I have seen on BeerAdvocate. I think I figured out where my next vacation is gonna be.

It was just prior to tackling this project that I first came across the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. It made a ridiculously strong showing in 2008’s rounds of craft beer festivals. Just about everywhere you looked, Great Lakes Brewing was taking home another award. The Burning River Pale Ale, Edumund Fitzgerald Porter and the Eliot Ness Vienna-style lager all earn excellent marks. As do most of their beers, frankly. I just can’t see how you could go wrong here. I’m itching to get my grubby paws on some of this stuff in the worst way. Went to the local distributor this weekend to grab me some, but they are waiting for their next order. I’m there when it comes in. With a bottle opener in one hand and a cold glass in the other. It’s rare to see a brewery earn this much high praise. Must be wonderful. Can’t wait!

The Buckeye Brewing Company in Lakewood is another local brewery that has some fantastic reviews. The Hippie IPA seems to be their flagship brew, and it is always a good idea to go with an IPA in my opinion. Their beer bar in Lakewood, The Buckeye Beer Engine, is dedicated to craft beers and good times. They serve a wide range of craft beers from around the world in addition to their own very fine selection. They also seem to host a great deal of beer tasting events featuring other breweries. Way to spread the cheer, guys!

OK…3 posts down, 1 to go! Phew!

More to come soon: Alabama (Heff), Tallahassee, Florida (Paticus), Connecticut (Limpy and Uncool).

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Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. Want. Great Lakes. NOW!

"Beer Me, Earl!" Reviews – Part 2 of 4

Note: Most of the information gathered in these regional beer profiles has been gleaned from the the wonderful users over at BeerAdvocate. Their reviews are a must for any serious brew-hound. Also, I decided to exclude brewpubs from these profiles and just stick with actual craft breweries. Generally a brewpub makes beer that is only sold in it’s own establishment.  I wanted to stay with breweries whose product you could actually find at your local store/distributor/bar.  Hopefully. And I’m only going to highlight 2 or 3 per region.  Also, feel free to nit-pick.  I dig beer and all, but I’m certainly not the absolute last word on it. – Earl 

Just a quick note from the last post.  Jimmy Bastard asked me to clarify the misconception between beers and lagers.  Here is the quick down and dirty.  All lager is beer, but not all beer is lager.  The two main types of beer are ales and lagers.  Lagers are newer, historically, dating back to the mid-19th century.  Lagers are made at colder temperatures using yeast that ferments at the bottom of the cask, while ales use a top-fermenting yeast at higher temperatures.  Lager also takes longer to make.  Anywhere from 2-3 times as long.  The term “lager” comes from the German word for camping or storage as lager casks were stored or “lagered” in caves to keep the temperature cool.  That’s it!

Okay, boppers…back to the beer profiles.

Michelle – “I’m from NYC.  Beer me, Earl!”
More specificaly, Michelle is from Brooklyn.  And when you are talking about beers from NYC, you are probably talking about beers brewed in Brooklyn.  Which is quickly becoming one of the great craft beer regions in the nation.  The whole state, in fact, is enjoying the craft beer revolution.  New York is third behind California and Washington with 28 breweries, including my current favorite Southern Tier Brewing Company from Lakewood.  Every single beer they make is fan-fucking-tastic!  I give it my highest Earl review, whatever that is worth.

But back to Brooklyn.  Just about anyone from the East Coast or anyone into good beer already knows about Brooklyn Brewery.  They make some fantastic brews and they have been doing it for a while now.  But there are some lesser known breweries in Brooklyn that are making some waves and challenging the big boy in the bourough.  Sixpoint Craft Ales is one of them.  I was first introduced to this fantastic brewery by the lovely and talented Gia when she was working as a restaurant manager.  Sweet Action was the name of the beer, and although it is called an American Blonde Ale on most sites it is really so much more.  A hybrid of ale and lager yeasts combine to make “undefinable drinkable magic”, as they describe it themselves. It’s a bold and bright star on the craft beer scene and you should definitely check it out.  Bengali Tiger American IPA, Otis Oatmeal Stout and Brownstone, an American Brown Ale, are all just as delicious. They also make a bunch of seasonal and speciality brews.  Great, great brewery!

The other great brewery in Brooklyn is Shmaltz Brewing Company (He’Brew) out of Coney Island, although that could be disputed.  The main marketing offices for the company are in San Francisco and the beer is mostly brewed in Saratoga Springs, but fuck it!  It’s Brooklyn that influences the styles of beers they make so it is a Brooklyn beer.  Harumph!  Talk about whimsical beers! They have two main lines of beers.   The Chosen Beers are brewed under the He’Brew flag and the Freak Beers are marketed under the Coney Island name.  Jewbelation, Rejewvenator, Genesis and Lenny’s Bittersweet R.I.P.A (a tribute to Lenny Bruce) are all fantastic.  I just had the Rejewvenator last week and it was made with dates.  Last year they brewed it with figs, so it seems like they will change it every year.  Crazy, and crazy good.  Coney Island Lager, Albino Python, Sword Swallower and Human Blockhead are all great year-round beers from their Freak line.  But it is their seasonal Freaktoberfest that takes the cake when it comes to the weird.  It’s actually a pretty light-tasting American Amber or American Red beer, but the coloring they put in it makes it come out blood-red!  A great beer to have at Halloween even if it isn’t as tasty as the stuff from the He’Brew line. Bottom line?  The Coney Island beers are good, the He’Brew beers are great!  Give ’em a go.

Savannah – “I’m from Georgia.  Beer me, sugar!”
This is gonna be a tough one.  There are only 3 breweries in the state and only 11 brewpubs, and I have never tried any of them.  I kinda find that hard to believe.  I would have thought Atlanta itself would have had twice those numbers.  I guess Georgia has some work to do when it comes to craft brewing.  See what you can do about that, Savannah.  Okay, sugar?

Sweetwater Brewing Company out of Atlanta looks like they have an especially fine selection of brews.  The 420 Extra Pale Ale, Sweetwater IPA, Sweetwater Blue and the Happy Ending Imperial Stout (a huge, dry-hopped stiffy, for a full-figured beer, resulting in an explosive finish…yeah) all seem like fine offerings.  All have done fairly well on the award circuit as well.   In 2002 it was voted Small Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival.  High praise, indeed!  They make a barley wine called Jack Ass.  Yeah, I would love to walk into a bar and order a Jack Ass.  But the bartender would probably just pour one and say “A Jack Ass for a jack ass.”  So maybe I will skip on that one.  By the way, a barley wine is a beer that is so high in alcohol that they legally can’t call it beer anymore.  Nice!  Well, that’s not totally true even if it used to be, but let’s stick with it shall we?

Terrapin Beer Company out of Athens is another highly rated and highly successful brewery in the fine state of Georgia.   Like most brewers, founders Spike Buckowski and John Cochran are big Grateful Dead fans.  So they named their brewery after one of their favorite songs, “Terrapin Station”.  I’m a big fan of the use of rye in brewing, and they make a Rye Pale Ale and a Rye Squared (bigger booze) that I would love to try.  The Terrapin Rye Pale Ale was actually their first beer produced, and everything went from there. They make an entire line of high-alcohol beers that all look delicious, including the Big Hoppy Monster and a Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout.  Yummy!

2abes – “What about gluten-free beer?  Beer me, Earl!”
Okay.  It’s not a regional beer profile request, but some beer lovers prefer their beer gluten-free.  So let’s give it a go.  Generally, beer is made with four ingredients.  Water, barley, yeast and hops.  The German purity law of 1516 made this so.  Nowadays, many brewers use other ingredients as described previously.  Rye, dates, figs, wheat, cranberries, blueberries, etc…  Now celiacs can rejoice that sorghum, buckwheat, rice and other gluten-free ingredients are being used to make beer.

Bard’s Tale Beer Company makes a couple of really fine gluten-free beer.  Bard’s Gold and Dragon’s Gold.  These are the two that I see most often in the gluten-free section of beer distributors  The Bard’s Gold is made mostly with sorghum malt and the Dragon’s Gold is enriched with sorghum, buckweat, honey, corn and rice.  I’ve never tried either, but both are highly recommended.

Green’s Gluten-Free Beers out of West Yorkshire in England are serious about gluten-free beers.  It’s right in the name of their brewery, fer crissakes!  They really make some great variety of gluten-free beers.  They make an English Strong Ale, a English Bitter, a Dubbel, a Euro Pale Ale and a Tripel.  That’s a pretty fantastic array of styles.  I’m going to be honest here.  None of the gluten-free beers are very highly rated on BeerAdvocate.  But they tend to get kind of stuffy about their beers on that site.  Put it this way, if you can’t have gluten in your diet and you really want some beer, give Green’s a try.  Or Bard’s. 

Other gluten-free beers: Microbrasserie Nouvelle-France, Sprecher Brewing and O’Brien Brewery.

More to come soon:  Minnesota (Jennifer), Boston, Massachusetts (Candy), Ohio (Sybil Law), Alabama (Heff), Tallahassee, Florida (Paticus), Connecticut (Limpy and Uncool).

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Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. 2 down with 2 to go.  Phew!