Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Support your local brew pub!

So, I was out this past weekend doing my old-man version of a pub crawl. That would be three different bars and then back home to go to bed before midnight. I could talk about the first couple of bars I went to (and the amazing Struise Tsjeeses I had at one) but the one I want to talk about today is the last one, Trinity Brewhouse.

I have been going to Trinity off and on for about ten years now. I used to go just about every week. I was a member of the "Mug Club" they had there. Eventually I tired of the place as I felt that the beer wasn't anything special and I just lost interest in it.

Well, fast forward about five years and I have made a nice transition into full fledged beer dork-dom. I still would stop by Trinity once in a while and felt the beer was OK, but nothing special. I could get much better beers out at the beer bars around. But, then came this past weekend.

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due. Sean Larkin, the brew master at Trinity, has taken some risks on beers recently and the quality of the brews has jumped WAY up. I am still not so sure about the draught system at the pub. I have heard complaints of carbonation issues. I also always tend to get hangovers there more than other places, maybe something with the system. But, it was never that big of a deal to me all in all. The beer was always what I sort of shrugged about. It was always "eh, whatever". Sean changed that. Where before I would only see the flagship IPA, a red, a pale ale, a lager, and an imperial stout (definitely the best), I now get a whole host of fantastic beers.

I now walk into the pub and see a barrel-aged scotch ale, a barley wine, a dunkel weisse, a kolsch, an imperial red, and maybe even a cascadian dark ale? The beers are bigger, better, and so much more well made. So, yes, the beers are a huge improvement over old standbys they used to have. Hell, even the food has gotten better there.

This past weekend, when I went in, I had the barrel-aged Scotch Ale.... on cask! And oh my, was it ever fantastic. The beer was strong as a good scotch ale should be. The barrel-aging wasn't overly done. It was in Woodford barrels but the bourbon just added a nice subtlety and the beer did the talking. And having it on cask just made it that much better. This is a beer perfectly made for cask.

My wife had the Cascadian Dark Ale that they had there. Yes, here in Rhode Island, we had someone brewing a CDA, and it was really good. Not my favorite style, but a great job with it for sure. We followed that by splitting a pint (mind you, all of these are full pints!) of the Barley wine. Caramely and sweet, it was a great beer. Maybe a pint is too much, but you certainly get your money's worth with it. My bill came to $17 for the three full pints. All beers were not low in alcohol either, so you would expect to pay more. I know their normal lower alcohol pints usually run in the $4 range. So, either way, you get a good deal in my opinion, especially here in New England.

So, yes the beer was excellent. The bartenders are actually good again too! But, while there, I realized what, even more than the beer, that I liked so much about the place. This place is Providence. It is where I live. It welcomes everyone in and keeps them all happy. It is a neighborhood type pub in the middle of a nice sized city. What more could you want?

I am glad to have rediscovered my love for my local brew pub. Do the same with your local brew pubs too. Keep them going, and they will pay you back in more ways than just beer.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 10 Beers of 2010

Just like last year, I wanted to put together a list of my favorite beers from this past year. These are not in any particular order. They are just my favorite ten beers from the year 2010.

The Bruery Hottenroth - I had enjoyed a Berliner Weissbier style before with the Fritz Briem 1809. But, the Hottenroth just blew me away. It was an amazing beer that I first had on a warm April Saturday. The tart lemony flavor make this one of the most thirst quenching beers I have ever had. This beer was made for the summer. Low in abv (3%) but so much flavor. Just an incredible beer for sure.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler - This is probably the most welcomed beer to my taste this year. As a fall seasonal, I had been unenthused by most Octoberfest beers. Thankfully, Sierra Nevada, in deciding to brew a fall seasonal a bit different from these normal fest beers, did a great job with a relatively simple, excellent drinking beer. Lots of good roasted flavor here with a nice bit of hops, this beer was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you SN for brewing this beauty. I look forward to more of it next year.

Wachussett/Public House Larry DIPA - Normally I am not a fan of American style IPA's. I tend to enjoy DIPA's a bit more however as I feel they create a much better balance than the normal AIPA's. I am generally not a hop head and I don't care for piney flavor in my hops. This had very little pine in the flavor and just a great overall balance. Just a really nice DIPA. Nice and inexpensive too make this a good beer for me.

Berkshire Brewing Lost Sailor IPA (on Nitro!) - Have you ever had an IPA on nitro draught? I had not and this was one heck of an experience. I enjoy the regular Lost Sailor (an English style IPA, good malt, decent hops, great balance), but putting it on nitro just added an incredible creamy feel to the beer that just made it absolutely incredible. BBC does a number of beers for nitro tap and this is one that I see pretty often now here in New England. That is an excellent thing in my opinion and I look forward to having this as a go to beer for many years to come.

Berkshire Brewing Lost Sailor Aged in Cabernet Barrels - Now I know you may think that me putting the same beer on here is sort of silly. Fear not, brothers (and sisters), for this beer is NOTHING like the regular Lost Sailor. It is an IPA in name only. The aging in the cab barrels soured this very nicely and made just an amazing beer. It wasn't seen often (I had mine at Armsby Abbey in Worcester) but it was such a memorable beer for me. And because my wife was there, I had to fight to just get a sip of this beer. BBC should definitely do more beers like this and maybe even bottle a few of them.

Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze - I still can't believe I bought this bottle (let alone find it). Again, this happened at a night at Armsby Abbey. This was the last bottle they had and they charged a ransom for it. My wife needled me enough to get it however. She still owes me to tell you the truth. But, what a beer it was. A great sour beer with amazing flavor. We were with a number of friends and we all tried it. I think it was a big hit, even with them never having really tried sours before. Luckily we ganked the bottle and it sits on our bookshelf proudly. Most expensive bottle of beer I have ever bought (and hopefully stays that way for a long time to come).

Duchesse de Bourgogne - Ah the good Duchesse will now make her appearance. I love a good Flanders style red and this is one of the best of that style. A bit of a vinegary smell comes off of this beer, but the flavor is sweet with bits of sourness. Fruit flavor is front and center on this beer. Cherries mostly with some strawberry and raspberry as well. Just a great beer to have at any time.

Ithaca White Gold - Aside from the gusher that I had at Thanksgiving, this beer was amazing. I had it first time on tap at Track 84 during Providence Craft Beer Week in October. I was floored. I had never had an American Pale Wheat Ale before this. But, what a beer this was. There is just a slight tartness to the beer which goes nicely with the full carbonation (or sometimes TOO much carbonation, grumble grumble grumble). Ithaca does some good worth with their Excelsior series, and this was no exception.

Three Floyds Blackheart IPA - Another English style IPA that I found at Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown in DC when I was back home to see the family for Thanksgiving. Somehow, they get Three Floyds there. I don't care how, but they do. And this beer shows me why I want to see 3F distribute more than they do. They are an outstanding brewery from the little I have had of theirs. I want more! This beer is just a super drinkable, nicely hopped, beautifully full flavored IPA that I could sit down to drink with almost any type of meal imaginable.

Founders Imperial Stout (2009 vintage) - This was the beer that I came away from the Open It! weekend with a new respect for. I have gotten to the point where I don't care for stouts too much. This beer though made me think I may just need to find the RIGHT stouts. What a beer. Lots of chocolate and coffee flavors as well as the normal roasted stout flavor. But, add in hints of dark fruit and a smoothness (from only a year of aging!) and this beer is maybe my favorite stout of all time. It is even the type that could be vying for the top spot on my all time beer list. It was that good.

So, there is my list. I would love to hear from others on beers that they just loved this past year. Is there something I need to try? Tell me about it please.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A bit late Thanksgiving beer review

Ok, so over two weeks have gone by since Thanksgiving, but I wasn't around the week after Thanksgiving (still in Maryland visiting the family) and this week I have been catching up here at work for my missed week. So, anyway, here is a quick rundown on the beers we had for Thanksgiving Day.

First, we opened up the Hottenroth from The Bruery. My family eats late (like 5pm or so) so we opened this around 12 or so to get things going. It was just my wife and I at that time. As always, a great beer. With the low abv, this was a nice way to start. Tart as always with lots of nice lemony flavor. Maybe not the best beer for the end of November, but I don't care, it was good.

People started showing up soon after that and we started getting down to some real business. We moved to the Ithaca White Gold. I was really excited for this one. I should have held that excitement. This beer was WAY over-carbonated and a mess in general. It nearly exploded and we lost almost half the bottle down the sink. Just a real mess. And then, to top it off, there was a ridiculous amount of sediment in the beer. Nasty looking dark sandy type of sediment. Yuck! I, being the stingy bastard I am, didn't want to waste it though (hey, I paid good money for that beer!). I had some. It tasted good, at least after I let the sediment settle out a bit. But, with the over-carbonation and all of the sediment, it took time. As I said, still decent flavors, slight tartness with good bready feel, but it was hard to get past the problems we had. Ugh.

After that, my wife opened up the Rodenbach Grand Cru. I was busy working on the white gold so had very little of the Rodenbach. This was a beer EVERYONE that tasted loved. My sister, my cousin, my mom even! So, I barely got any of that even after I had finished the white gold. Oh well, I know the beer and know it is good.

It was then time to sit down for dinner. We opened two bottle with dinner, Saison DuPont and Lost Abbey Judgement Day. Saison Dupont is always good of course, but I felt like it may have been slightly light struck. I got a bit of that green bottle smell. My wife insists that that was just the barnyardy goodness of the beer, but I am still not so sure. Well, this still went great with dinner for sure. The Judgement Day may not have been a good choice however. I think the beer was just too heavy for the normal Thanksgiving meal. It just disappointed a bit. Good, but not as good as I remembered it being on tap. No one really enjoyed the Judgement Day, but the Saison definitely received good reviews.

Finally, after dinner, we pulled out that '06 DFH Fort. This was good. Still a bit boozy though, even after four years! But, the booze was way smoother than it could have been. I enjoyed it a lot as an after dinner / desert type drink. Quality quality beer with lots of that great raspberry flavor. Very few tried this one as well unfortunately. A few, and they liked it, but they didn't want much. Guess they couldn't handle the 18% abv of the beer.

So, the day in beer had its ups and downs. I am still pissed off about the White Gold, but hey, it happens I supposed. I am more upset that Ithaca allowed that much carbonation into the beer. Definitely something they need to work on. But, I had a good day of good beer. A LOT of good beer.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Open it, looking back

So, the Open it! weekend has come and gone (well past as today is Thursday now). I wanted to put a quick blurb about what I ended up drinking as there was some very nice beers opened.

First we started with Friday night's beer of choice. This was a recently purchased bottle of Captain Lawrence Golden Delicious. This was a very fruity tripel. An interesting take on the tripel for sure, but to be honest, not my favorite. Nowhere near as good as my favorites such as La Fin Du Monde and Tripel Karmeliet. But, a nice beer still. Following this, Just Beer's Gosnold's Hope (aka 1602 Porter) became the beer of choice. This was one of the more interesting beers I have ever had. It was slightly soured porter. Weird I know, but really really good. My wife drank most of this one as she is in heaven when it comes to sour beers. But, anyway, the Gosnold's Hope was a really nice roasty and sour porter. No way else I can really describe it. Just good though.

Second night started with me opening a 2009 Founder's Imperial Stout. Oh my. This is how stouts should be! I have gotten over imperial stouts of late, but this made me realize how much I can really really enjoy them. Fantastic beer with notes of chocolate and coffee like any good IS. But, there was an added undertone of dark fruit which I don't think I have ever had in a stout before. Absolutely heavenly.

So while I was enjoying my stout, my wife opened up a Pretty Things Confounded Mr. Sisyphus. This is a nicely aged belgian pale ale (aged in our beer "cellar"). Lots of flavor in this one like every Pretty Things beer (they are so good). A quality beer all in all. Don't remember too much about it, but it was good. Just not as good as the stout.

Overall, a very nice Open it! weekend. I look forward to next year's edition. Until then though, I will just need to open it myself.