Sunday, December 18, 2011

2012: The decline of HOPS, the rise of SOUR

After frequenting a popular craft beer establishment in the Kansas City area, creatively named Beer Kitchen No. 1, my friend and I were discussing our predictions for the craft beer market. Right now the hoppy brews are thriving, and in the utmost demand. But how long can this IPA craze sustain itself? Just like any industry, trends in the craft beer world come and go. We believe the least traveled path in the industry right now is sour beer. What the general public does not realize is how hard craft breweries are working to refine their sour beers in anticipation of this coming trend.

My only experience with sour beer was during a tour at the New Belgium Brewery, where I cautiously sipped on a La Folie from the Lips of Faith series. It was an unexpected, bitter, and somewhat pleasant taste.  Growing up I was always a fan of sour candy (Sour Patch Kids), although that most likely has no relevance to sour beer whatsoever. Sour beer is definitely an acquired taste just like a Double IPA or a Belgian Tripel. Currently, I believe this is the time for breweries to make their hop-centric beers more refined and well known before sour beers become the new territory that craft beer lovers want to explore. It is weird to think that IPAs could possibly become the Old World, while Columbus' ships have already started to sail the ocean blue in search of sour beer...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wonderful Surprises of San Francisco

This past week I traveled to the lovely city of San Francisco for the first time. Being from the Midwest, I was exposed to a plethora of brews that do not make it into the Bible Belt. For the past six months, I have longed for just a sip of anything from Russian River. Finally, I was able to experience my first Pliny the Elder and Damnation. Also, my girlfriend and I stumbled into a wonderful beer bar, Toronado, in the Haight Ashbury district. My indecisiveness immediately took over when having to decide between the rare selection of brews. By the time we left, I had ordered a Russian River Damnation (noted earlier), Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, and Evil Twin Christmas Eve. Toronado was truly a gem because not only were the brews fairly priced, but also it had your typical beer bar bartenders (agitated, restless, and knowledgable).
Furthermore, we visited 21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant. Although I never heard of this brewery before researching San Francisco's beer scene, I was pleasantly surprised. 21st Amendment's Black IPA (Back in Black) is one of the best out there. Also, its winter brew, Fireside Chat, has a great spiciness that is consistent through each sip. Another exquisite part of the brewpub is the food pairing suggestions. After talking with our server, I learned that 21st Amendment has to can and brew all of its beer offsite in Cold Springs, MN because of its rapid growth. Additionally, it is one of the few breweries that is huge on canning. My personal preference has always been to put beer in bottles, but 21st Amendment makes me rethink the concept of canning craft brews. The mundane look of canned beer is absent at 21st Amendment, and it allows creative artwork and excellent branding to prevail on each can. I cannot wait to see what steps 21st Amendment will take next in its growth strategy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Subtle Smokestack: Harvest Dance Wheat Wine

I had the pleasure of trying one of Boulevard's newest additions to the Smokestack Series, Harvest Dance Wheat Wine. This beer was delicate, crisp, light, and citrusy. Weighing in at 9.1% on the ABV scale, by no means is this brew light in terms of alcohol percentage. The most common suggestion is to pair the Harvest Dance Wheat Wine with cheese, but I think this beer is more multi-dimensional than its given credit for. I sipped on a (tulip) glass while enjoying a nice slow roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables. It paired excellently with the chicken and the sweetness did not override the meal at all.

If you have not begun to check out Boulevard's Smokestack Series, then you are truly missing out. This series offers a line of diverse and refined beers that add to Boulevard Brewery's portfolio. Additionally, there is a beer for any palate or occasion. Boulevard has built a strong foundation in its flagship line, but the Smokestack Series is what separates this brewery apart from most others. For those eager to have a good sample of this series, I recommend picking up the Boulevard Smokestack Series Mixed Four, which includes the four original Smokestack brews and an awesome snifter glass.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bountiful Brews of Winter

Winter seasonsals' are out in full force, and I have had the pleasure of trying quite a few. I think the biggest shocker to the craft beer community was New Belgium's decision to stop producing 2 Below and begin distributing its new winter ale, Snow Day. Personally, I was a huge fan of 2 Below, but I will admit that New Belgium has impressed many with Snow Day. Not only does Snow Day have a dark malty color to it, but also it contains a favorable amount of hops. This hoppiness is actually quite surprising out of a winter seasonal. Over the next few years, I believe that a trend for breweries to start producing hoppier winter seasonals' will be on the rise.
Two other winter brews that I have enjoyed are Isolation Ale by Odell Brewing Company and Celebration Ale by Sierra Nevada. Isolation Ale is a classic winter ale in that it has your dark amber color and sweet malty taste. It is a great beer to sip on next to the fireplace. Celebration Ale is another winter seasonal that is an IPA style. The initial taste and smell are the piny hops that make up this brew. Also, the beer's color is bright orange, which is atypical for most winter seasonals'. In the end, it works well for this West Coast brewery that sticks to what its good at. Fortunately, there is still a long winter season ahead of us, so I encourage you to sample as many as you can!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Social Media for Beer?

About two months ago a friend and I discovered an interesting social media tool for craft beer lovers called Untappd ( This interactive website allows you to log your brews from either a computer or smartphone. The biggest reason I enjoy Untappd is because of its like journal-like aspect. It is interesting to keep track of all your new beer discoveries and then be able to look back at them a month or two later. Also, a great feature titled "The Pub" shows the trending micro and macro beers that other Untappd members are drinking, which serves as a great source of reference when trying to decide what to pick up at the liquor store.

There are even more features that make this quirky website fun for the beginning craft beer drinker. First, you can befriend other Untappd members and see what beers they are enjoying. Second, when you log in beers on your smartphone, there is an option to add your location and keep track of where you've been (just in case you somehow forget). Lastly, you can add a personal wish list of beers that you would like to try on your profile. Currently, my wish list consists of the Chocolate Ale by Boulevard Brewery, Midas Touch by Dogfish Head, and Pliny The Younger by Russian River.

Overall, Untappd does a wonderful job at combining the friend element of Facebook, the trending element of Twitter, and the location element of Foursquare.  Along your Untappd journey you also have the opportunity to earn many badges. My most recent badge I received was "I Believe in IPA!" for trying three different IPA style beers in a thirty day period. I hope that I was able to give a solid overview of the website, and believe me there is much more to discover to on Untappd than I revealed!

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Belgium Brewery: Check It Off The Bucket List

Well folks, I had the pleasure of attending the New Belgium Brewery this past weekend with one of my good friends. First off, let me state that Fort Collins itself is a mecca for craft beer. Every restaurant seemed to have an impressive selection of taps (especially Choice City Deli). I recommend traveling to this beautiful little city if you want to experience great brews and take in the spectacular scenery of Colorado.

Now back on topic...The New Belgium Brewery tour completely surprised me in every aspect. I have been on a quite a few brewery tours and this one was definitely the best. We had a wonderful tour guide, Mike Bussmann, who gave such a great overview of the brewery and its beers that even a novice beer drinker could easily follow what he was describing. And let me say that throughout the tour I was never left thirsty. Everyone was able to sample five beers (Abbey, Frambozen, Blue Paddle, La Folie, and Fat Tire).

Besides the diverse samples, New Belgium also has a fantastic tap room that you can settle into before or after your tour. I can only imagine what it is like to huddle up in the tap room with a group of friends and a pint glass in hand on a snowy day. The tour itself lasted around an hour and a half and there was never a dull moment the entire time. The ambiance, creativity, and personality of the brewery that you will experience is exuded as soon as you enter the parking lot. After taking the tour, I had a new found respect for the New Belgium brand.

I believe that New Belgium has set the bar very high in terms of branding for craft breweries. Additionally, New Belgium has genuine initiatives, such as sustainability and community involvement, that clearly show how much a company can contribute back to society. It is evident the moment you walk into the brewery that its employees enjoy being there and are loyal to the company. So at the end of the day I raise a glass to New Belgium Brewery, an establishment that would be a FOLLY for any connoisseur of craft beer not to support!

(Photo Courtesy of New Belgium Brewery)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Brewtiful Beginning

I created this blog to showcase an appreciation and love for the craft beer industry. Not only is beer mesmerizing because it is one of the oldest beverages in the world, but also beer transcends borders because it is interwoven throughout many cultures. The beautiful aspect about today's technology, transportation, and communication is that we have the capability to share with one another our experiences from any corner of the world. Personally, I am always looking for the opportunity to travel around the world and gain new experiences. Throughout every experience, I always seem to find that discovering new beer ends up being an important part of my travels. In this blog, I invite you to come along on an everlasting journey that will include reviews of beers from around the world, updates on breweries both new and old, and thoughts about the industry. Most importantly, I invite you to join in on the discussion. I WANT to hear your opinions, discoveries, and updates. Together we can build a more knowledgable beer community that supports, respects, and grows the appreciation of this wonderful libation!