The Friday Pint #139 – Bells Kalamazoo Stout

After a week away (mostly spent looking for somewhere who will employ me so I can do this more often) I return with a delve into my somewhat small stash of beer at home.

I obtained the bottle of Kalamazoo stout I drank for this post as part of a six pack I purchased from the Hualapai Kwik Stop for just $4.99 plus tax. It is the fourth bottle I have opened, and probably the best so far.

The first bottle I enjoyed. The second was a disappointment compared to that first taste. The third was somewhere between the two. By this bottle, I’ve become used of what to expect. My expectations are neither too high, or too low. As such, I find myself able to enjoy it much more.

I wouldn’t call it an astounding beer. It’s not one that has made me run to social media, or my friends, and say “you must try this, it’s great”. That being said though, it’s closer to being one of those beers, than it is an “avoid at all costs” beer. I also think it’s good enough not to be grouped in with the large swathe of forgettable beers in the middle.

It is made with brewer’s licorice, and named after the city in which Larry Bell began his brewery. It’s a rather easy drinking 6% stout, and one that I like a slight bit more with each sip. I wouldn’t say go out of your way to try it, but if it comes your way, it’s worth at least a few moments of your time.

 

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The Friday Pint #138 – Uncle Bear’s Blueberry Saison

Uncle Bear’s Brewery is located in Phoenix, AZ. Uncle Bear is actually a Labrador, and his image can be seen in the brewery’s branding.

On February 10th, I tried Uncle Bear’s Blueberry Saison as part of a number of Arizona brewed beers.

Based on the name, I was expecting to somewhat enjoy this beer. I was expecting a refreshing fruity beer, with a few of the flavours I’ve come to expect from traditional saisons.

What I found was a beer that disappointed expectations. The aroma, unsurprisingly, was very strong in blueberries. Blueberries were also present in the taste too. Again, this is to be expected in a Blueberry Saison. The beer did seem much more dry than I was anticipating, and nowhere near as refreshing as I would have liked.

If I had to recommend an Arizona brewed beer with blueberries, I would probably pick Big Blue Van from the College Street Brewery in Lake Havasu. I found that beer to be much more refreshing and thirst quenching than this one.

 

On an historical note, I’ve been made aware that it’s been two years since the Dancing Man Brewery opened in the old Wool House in Southampton. It’s now been over five years since they first started in The Platform Tavern. I may have been slightly disappointed with the initial offerings, but over time things improved, and Dancing Man soon became one of my favourite things about Southampton.

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The Friday Pint #137 – Kingman House of Hops Golden.

This week’s beer is one of six Arizona brewed beers I drank on February 10th at the House of Hops in Kingman, AZ.

Golden is the House of Hops house beer. I had tried it once before drinking it for the purpose of this blog. Neither time offered up anything that could really get me enthused about the beer.

Whilst drinking, I noted that it seemed bland and boring. It might be a beer that reveals more over time, but it’s not really a beer I’d want to drink again and again, especially when there are other choices on the same bar I know I’ll enjoy and get more out of.

I also wrote that Golden is “not a beer to sit and devour, and not a beer to refresh and enjoy without thinking about it either”. This was followed up by “balanced in a boring way”

The House of Hops will soon have a brewery right next door to it. Rickety Cricket is currently being built ready for opening later this year. I’m not expecting to like everything (even my favourite breweries have had brews I wasn’t a fan of) but I’m hoping they’ll have brews that are more exciting than Golden.

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The Friday Pint #136 – Black Bridge Brewery Cliffdweller DIPA

This week is Arizona Beer Week. As a result, I took myself back down to Downtown Kingman to sample some of the Arizona beers available in the House of Hops. They will be featured in future installments of The Friday Pint.

Before I made it to the House of Hops, I paid another visit to the Black Bridge Brewery. This time it was to try Cliffdweller DIPA, a collaboration with the State 48 brewery of Surprise, AZ. Cliffdweller stands at a mighty 10.8%, and whilst not the strongest beer available on the tap list, it arguably drinks like it is. Wicked Poison in contrast, is a deceptively easy drinking 14.2%

The description of Cliffdweller posted on the brewery’s Facebook page stated that it was brewed using fresh hops from the Pacific Northwest, including Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade. These hops aren’t used lightly either, and it would seem many were used in the bittering stage of the boil. Cliffdweller is easily the most bitter beer I’ve had since moving to America, and quite possibly since I moved out of London a few years back.

The bitterness is to the point where it becomes rather difficult to pickup or think about anything other than that. I did however get hints of pine, which in that moment reminded me of Art Brew’s Pine Tree Beer. Other than that, I was unable to note anything about this beer.

Whilst I was there, the bartender also gave me a small sample of Cliffdweller mixed with 80 Shilling. The harshness of the bitterness was reduced slightly, but not enough for the mix to be something I’d drink reguarly. I would though, drink Cliffdweller again, albeit in a smaller amount than I did on Friday,

Cliffdweller DIPA will be available at Black Bridge Brewery, and at State 48 brewery whilst it lasts.

At the time of posting, Arizona Beer Week is approximately half way through. For those of you reading near Arizona who might like to pay a visit, it ends on Saturday February 18th.

 

On a related note, Black Bridge Brewery won gold at the Arizona Strong Beer Festival with their Katastrophic Humiliation barleywine.

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The Friday Pint #135 – Black Bridge Brewery No Pricks Allowed

A new year, a new numbering system. Out with the old way of starting from zero each year, and in with the new way of numbering each new Friday Pint post sequentially. Is this actually #135? I’m not sure, but it’s close enough, and if any of you actually bother to go back and count, you might want to reconsider your life choices.

As for the matter of why I’m here, typing; I actually went out and drank some beer today.

Back when I last wrote something for this segment, way back in March of last year, I was living in Pittsburgh, looking forward to trying all the beers the local area had to offer. Now, I find myself in Kingman, Arizona, a small city in the northwest of the state. Fortunately for me, Kingman just so happens to have it’s own brewery, with a second being built across the road from it.

The brewery that exists now is Black Bridge Brewery. It is situated on East Beale Street in the Downtown Kingman area. It was founded in 2013.

I have visited the brewery a few times since moving to the area in July. On a couple of occasions I have even written posts for here, yet they have not made it. By now, I have more or less tried each beer from the main range at least once. There are those I have enjoyed, and those that I have not. Eventually, I’ll tell you what those beers are.

As for today’s beer, today I drank No Pricks Allowed.

No Pricks Allowed is a 7.9% Prickly Pear Belgium Blonde. It’s rose in colour, and was co-brewed by Janelle, who was my server today. Based on my first impressions, I wasn’t really impressed with the beer. It’s not something I’d rush to drink.

That being said, I do think I was drinking it in the wrong circumstances. No Pricks Allowed seemed like a very easy to drink beer, and one that would make a great addition to summer parties. I think I would probably drink it with some added fruit, or as part of a cocktail or mix.

Which brings me nicely to Prickly Ginger (4.1%), a blend of the aforementioned No Pricks Allowed, and Black Bridge Brewery’s ginger beer. The addition of the ginger beer for me gives the drink a much needed flavour kick. Whilst there wasn’t anything overtly wrong with No Pricks Allowed, I personally found it lacking in flavour.

The last beer I tried whilst at the brewery today was Angry Elf, a 9.5% Russian Imperial Stout that was originally brewed as a home brew by one of the brewery’s bar staff. It will be featured at the Arizona Strong Beers Festival on February 11th, along with No Pricks Allowed, and Wicked Poison.

Angry Elf is among the most stoutiest of stouts I’ve tried in a long time. It is certainly the stout that has tasted most like burnt treacle I’ve had. Imagine a glass of liquid treacle toffee. Now imagine that sugar burnt even more, enough that only a hint of the sugar remains. That’s more or less where Angry Elf sits. It’s very much a cold winter’s night by the fireplace sipping stout. If only we had more of those in Arizona.

In the next edition of The Friday Pint, I’ll be trying beers from elsewhere in Arizona. Arizona Beer Week runs from the 9th to the 18th of February.

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The Friday Pint 2016 #9 – Festival!

So, last week saw me at the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival. There were some good beers, some not so good beers, and a few old favourites.

I started with Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose, which I believe was the first beer I had last year (only this time round, it wasn’t new to me). I drank this whilst standing in the queue for the Dogfish Head stand, where I got to try Romantic Chemistry for the first time. Romantic Chemistry is an IPA brewed with mangos, apricots and ginger, first released this year. It’s a beer I’ve been on the look out for on the local store’s shelf since I first saw Dogfish Head post about it on Facebook. It more than lived up to expectation, perhaps more than so, and I’d be tempted to buy a pack if I saw it on the shelf in the future.

Next up for me was an American Pale Ale from Stoudts Brewing Company. It was okay, but not enough for me to remember it a week later. North Country’s Lurnberry Stout however was nice enough for me to want to visit their bar and drink more of their beer.

Which is also the case with War Streets Brewery, a nanobrewery located in the Mexican War Streets neighbourhood of Pittsburgh. Whilst I didn’t particularly like the IPA they had on offer, the Resaca Red Ale, and Sherman St Stout (my favourite beer of the night) impressed me enough to make War Streets a brewery I want to drink more from.

Other beers consumed over the course of the evening included Thirsty Dog’s Old Leghumper, Ballast Point’s Victory At Sea, and Church Brew Works’ Spring Hill Sour.

This year was my second experience of the US style beer festival, where a single ticket price is paid, and all beer is included in that price. Whilst not having to worry about having enough money for beer is a good thing, I do find myself thinking “have I drunk the ticket’s price worth of beer yet”. Even if I take $10 off to cover admission and the glass, I don’t think I did.

If I took into account the rarity, and normal value of the beers I consumed, I probably actually did drink somewhere close to what the ticket cost. For all my focus on whether on not I got value for money from my visit, I’d still go again.

Only 51 weeks to go…

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The Friday Pint 2016 #8 – Flying Dog Lucky Sob Irish Red Ale

As I removed the cap from the bottle it occurred to me that I probably should have saved this weeks beer for St Patrick’s Day. As it is, that thought came too late, and I now have Flying Dog’s interpretation of an Irish Red in my glass.

I’m going to come straight out here and say I’m not a fan. I like red ales, and the irish reds are amongst the best I’ve tried. It’s not so bad that I can’t drink it, yet it’s nowhere near what I wanted or hoped for when I bought the six pack.

For a start, it’s not really red enough. In fairness though, colour is irrelevant, as can be seen by the many attempts to challenge perceptions through styles such as black IPAs or white stouts. Next up, it’s too bitter. I expect a red to have more malt based flavours. It does seem to be getting better as it warms up, but first impressions count, and currently I’m not impressed enough to buy another six pack.

This is one of the problems with buying beer in quanity. If you don’t like it, or it doesn’t live up to your expectations, you have the rest to drink. That being said, I can always use a couple of bottles for making beer bread.

Next week I’ll be spending my evening at the Pittsburgh Winter Beer Festival. If signal allows I’ll be live tweeting what I’m drinking, otherwise there won’t be anything from me until Saturday, when I sum up my festival experience.

If you’re reading this back in the UK, next week is birthday week in Southampton, with The Butcher’s Hook entering its third year of business, and The Dancing Man celebrating its first anniversary. Go and pay them both a visit.

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The Friday Pint 2016 #7 – The Bash is Back

Just when I thought I’d struggle to have something to write this week, some wonderful news appears on my Facebook feed…

Tickets for the fourth Birmingham Beer Bash went on sale this morning.

This year, the Beer Bash will form the conclusion of the first Birmingham Beer Week. Considering the rather limited choice when it came to beer when I first visited the city some eight years ago, the fact that there is now a week shows how far things have come.

As much as I’d like to be there this year, both time and money (and location) prevent me from being so. I do hope to be able to return at some point in the future though.

This year’s Bash runs from the 21st to the 23rd of July. Tickets can be bought here.

As before, the Birmingham Beer Bash can be liked on Facebook, or followed on Twitter.

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The Friday Pint 2016 #6 – The Ever Expanding Pittsburgh Alcohol Scene.

Since moving over to the USA, most of my time has been spent in the apartment, catching up on TV series and podcasts, whilst thinking I should really be putting this time to more productive use. As much as I’d like to be visiting the many breweries and bars I’ve yet to go to, such things take money I don’t have coming in yet, and so such trips are limited.┬áThat being said, I can still read of openings, or soon to be openings, such as Wigle’s expansion into the world of cider (Threadbare Cider), and get somewhat excited.

Which leads me on to this week’s post, a list of places I’m most looking forward to visting (or visting again)…

  1. Wigle Whiskey (Distillery and Barrelhouse)

I have spent a few minutes in the Distillery shop just after Christmas last year. Members of my family┬áhave all been on the tour and told me it’s good. I’ve tried five different products from the distillery, including the award winning Organic Rye Whiskey. I’d like to spend more time there, to try more of the range, and some of the many cocktails they offer, which leads me nicely into…

2. Maggie’s Farm Rum

I’ve visited Maggie’s Farm once, way back in early 2014, whilst I was in the country on a visit. The bar was not yet finished when we popped in to buy a bottle of white rum (at that point the only product they had). The bar has long since been finished. The range has had a spiced rum (which is amongst the best I’ve tried) and queen’s share rum added to it, as well as a Pear Eau De Vie.

3. Insurrection Ale Works

Insurrection opened late last year, and following a number of positive reviews had to close to the public for a week so they could replenish their stock. They had literally been drunk dry.

Personally for me, the pale ales and IPAs didn’t excite me much. They were nice, but they’re not why I want to return to Insurrection. That would be the sour beers. A couple of which were on the menu when we visited earlier this year. From what I’ve seen posted on Facebook from them, there’s a number of beers sat in barrels, waiting for their moment to shine later this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to try some of them.

4. Rusty Gold Brewing

Situated in Canonsburg, with plans to open by July 4th. Given the rate at which new breweries seem to be opening in the area, I’ll be surprised if this is the only new place I get to this year.

5. Arsenal Cider House

Whilst Threadbare Cider is still some months off yet, Arsenal exists now, and is nicely situated not far from Maggie’s Farm and the Church Brew Works (a brewery and restaurant set in an old church, it looks nice, you should go). I’ve wanted to visit for a while, but have yet to find the time or means.

There are many more places I could add to this list. Every time I look I seem to find a new place to visit. Even as I write this, I’ve thought of Apis Meadery in Carnegie. It feels good to live in an area with such a vast amount of production around.

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The Friday Pint 2016 #5 – Wigle Hopped

So that, for what it was worth, was January. The month in which you either went dry or you just carried on as usual. I took a week off of alcohol myself at the start of the year, following the gluttony of Christmas and New Year. It actually seems to have done me good. Even in the weeks following, I haven’t been drinking as much as I may have done if I was still back in the UK. I have a small collection of beer to dip into, but until I have money coming in, it’s not going to grow much more.

As it is, sometimes I’ll have to reach for something other than beer to provide the inspiration for these posts. This week is one of those weeks, and the drink in question is a glass of Wigle Whiskey’s Hopped Whiskey.

Wigle are based in the Strip District of Pittsburgh (with a barrelhouse on the north shore). Since opening in 2012, Wigle have won a number of awards for their spirits. They have also supplied old barrels to local brewers to age beer in, some of which have returned and had whiskey aged in (Rounders Share was aged in barrels which previously stored barley wine).

As for the whiskey, you can tell it’s been hopped the moment you remove the cork. A floral aroma emerges from the bottle that is distinctly hop like. For those wondering, Cascade, Newport and Centennial were the hops used. Taste wise, it tastes how you’d probably expect a hopped whiskey to taste. There’s the warmth of the alcohol, quickly followed by the flavours imparted by the hops, which slowly fade in the aftertaste.

Personally, as a man who enjoys highly hopped IPAs, the idea of a hopped whiskey intrigued me, and the actual thing didn’t disappoint. I can easily see Wigle Hopped being a drink that people don’t like, either put off by the hops, or by the whiskey element.

At the time of writing, bottles are still available from the distillery, and for customers in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania online.

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