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…
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.
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.
Which leads me on to this week’s post, a list of places I’m most looking forward to visting (or visting again)…
I have spent a few minutes in the Distillery shop just after Christmas last year. Members of my family have 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.
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.
First conceived on April 20th, 1997, 420 Extra Pale Ale is 5.7% Centennial and Cascade hopped beer brewed with 2 row, munich and 40L malt.
It’s about six months beyond the date at which they say it’s best if enjoyed by. Given the style, I can easily believe that it would be better fresh. That being said, it still tastes fine, and I’m quite enjoying it.
I wouldn’t say 420 is a special beer. It doesn’t astound or amaze me in the way that some pales have or do. That being said, it is rather drinkable, and I wouldn’t complain if this was amongst my choices of beers in a bar or restaurant. Would I buy a bottle of it again? Possibly, if I found myself in Atlanta, GA. for enough time.
As such, for the most part, I don’t like coffee based beers.
Skipper Stout, for me, is a beer that seems to change with each sip I have of it. With one sip, the coffee flavour will be prominent and strong, and I will find the beer horrible. With the next, I can hardy taste the coffee at all, and for me Skippers Stout becomes much more drinkable.
Last week, my fiancee bought a case of Skipper Stout. Unlike me, she likes coffee, and so enjoys Skipper Stout much more than I do. From what I’m told, it’s actually a very nice coffee stout.
Temperature does seem to have a strong effect on what Skipper Stout tastes like. The coffee flavours seem to get weaker as the beer warms up. For me, this is obviously a good thing, but for the coffee and beer lovers, it’s probably not.
I’m not sure if the fact that I, a person who doesn’t like coffee, finds himself warming to a coffee stout says anything or not. If you do like coffee, I’d say it’s probably worth checking out.
Skipper Stout is a seasonal beer made available from November each year, until supplies run out. More information can be found here
Erie Brewing Company can be found on Twitter @eriebrewingco
Here, in the Pittsburgh area, there are a number of brewpubs in the planning stages, to go along with the significant number that have opened in the last few years. When I first came over to visit my fiancee, almost 4 years ago now, choice was limited. Now, there’s so much choice locally I have no need to seek out the beers from further afield.
It’s locality that I think is one of the key driving forces in the success of these new venues opening up here, and also back home in Southampton.
Soon it will be two years since The Butchers Hook in Bitterne Triangle opened, and a year since The Dancing Man first opened its doors. Both of these have quickly become embraced by the local community, and both support the community around them. Whether it be by providing a space for groups to gather, or by obtaining the beer and food from local producers, the area in which they are situated, and the people are important to the success of The Butchers Hook and The Dancing Man.
This success has only led to further expansion of the beer scene in Southampton. Bitter Virtue continue to expand their already impressive beer range, Sadlers now have a presence in Southampton (much to my delight), Brewdog will soon have a presence, and a number of micropubs are or very soon will be following in the footsteps of The Butchers Hook.
In a world in which we have become much more connected globally, people have seemingly become more attracted by local produce and services. Hopefully, the current trends can be sustained. A world in which I can stock a drinks cabinet mostly with liquor made in the local area seems like a good one to me.
Regular readers of this blog (or of my twitter stream) will be aware of the Dancing Man Brewery. Originally set up in The Platform Tavern, last year saw them expand into the old Wool House a few hundred yards down the road. The improved capacity has led to improved quality in the beers, and the increased number of taps has led to some good guests featuring on the bar. Combined with The Butchers Hook, and the opening of Sadler’s first location outside of the Midlands, Southampton has become a good place to drink in the last year.
Going back to Dancing Man, and in particular, bottled and canned Dancing Man. A few Dancing Man beers were bottled a couple of years ago, around the release of the 200th brew, Smokin’ Banjos. Unfortunately, those bottles didn’t quite live up to how the beers tasted on draft.
Moving forward to today, and Dancing Man beer is once again available to drink at home. This time however, it comes in cans. Currently, it is just Big Casino, Dancing Man’s IPA (Available from Bitter Virtue for £2.40 a can) that has been canned. The can I had on launch night tasted wonderful. By far the best I have tasted Big Casino in the time it’s existed.
As alluded to early, I took a six pack of Big Casino over to America with me. It was the first beer I had after a few dry days to give my body a chance to recover from all the farewell drinks. Compared to the can I had in The Dancing Man, this can (which had travelled over 3000 miles) didn’t taste as good. I’m going to put this down to the age old problem many beers have of “it doesn’t travel well”.
That being said though, it’s still a fine tasty beer. The problem comes when you have an example as good as that first can I had to compare it to, and you find yourself prone to nitpicking. As it is, the only problem I have is that it doesn’t taste as good as it did in Southampton, and really, I’m the only person I can blame for that. I probably should have opened a can at home before I left.
That seems like enough for this week. As I write it’s still New Year’s Eve, I have a can of Big Casino, and a bottle of Lagunitas Maximus in the fridge, and a selection of locally distilled spirits in the drinks cabinet. I’m sorted for the night.
However your 2015 was, have a great 2016.
I’ve actually started writing many new posts since I last actually posted something. I’ve been rather busy in that time, and hence haven’t really had time, or the desire to write anything.
Rather than dwelling over the minutiae of what I’ve been doing, lets focus on the now, and the soon to be.
I am now unemployed, albeit intentionally. I left work at the end of last month in order to move over to America. Of course, you’re now wondering why I’m moving to America, unless of course you already know. The answer is I’m getting married, providing of course they actually let me in. That won’t be for another month or so yet, depending on how long it takes for my visa to arrive after my interview.
As for the immediate future, tonight I shall be opening a selection of Fuller’s Vintage ales at The Platform Tavern in Southampton (where naturally, I am writing this post. I’ve tried writing in The Dancing Man, it’s not the same). I have 13 different bottles from 1999 through to 2014. I doubt we’ll be opening all of them.
Chances are it will be some time before I write here again, possibly not until I’m settled in America. I’m still active on Twitter though, should you want to know what thoughts are spilling out of my mind onto the interwebs.