Saturday, May 26, 2012

American Craft Beer Fest 2012

For the last five years, the Alstrom Brothers, Todd and Jason of BeerAdvocate, have hosted the American Craft Beer Fest on the picturesque waterfront of Boston, MA. This year, according the Courtney Cox (no, that Courtney Cox), approximately 15,000 attendees will meander through the Seaport Convention looking for the next great beer or perhaps an old favorite. Either way, this beer festival has much to offer for the hardcore beer geek and the relatively new craft beer drinker.
Luckily, I will attend the festival in two capacities, volunteer and drinker. On Friday, June 1st, I will volunteer for the second year in a row helping out anyway that I can. Last year, I had the privilege to pour for Maine Beer Company. David and Daniel Kleban were amazing hosts, answering any questions that I or the attendees had about their beer. They have developed a great portfolio with the Lunch IPA being the most sought after prize. Hopefully, I will have have the same luck again this year, pouring amazing products for a great brewery.
On what has become an annual tradition, my wife and I will attend the afternoon Saturday session of the 2012 festival. If this day wasn't already going to be full of jovial merriment, my brother-in-law, Jamey is making the trek from DC to join us for a day of great food and great beer. I can't wait to see his reaction when we walk onto the convention floor with all the breweries and winding booth lines. My guess is this, "Holy F$*K!".
Today, Emily and I picked up a handbook and after perusing through the festival handbook, one cannot help but notice the representation of local Massachusetts breweries. You have the big boys, Sam Adams and Harpoon with many outstanding brewpubs like Cambridge Brewing Company (recently named the best brewpub by, Gardner Ale House, The People's Pint and Amherst Brewing Company. Massachusetts nanobreweries are also well represented with Idle Hands, Night Shift, and Enlightenment Ales. Although Massachusetts craft beer is lagging behind many states, it is great to see the industry beginning to blossom and flourish within the commonwealth.
A beer festival of this magnitude will attract many of the major players in craft beer from around the country such as: Bear Republic, Lagunitas, Flying Dog, Brooklyn, Great Divide and Ommegang just to name a few. However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that two states, North Carolina and Maryland, are well represented. North Carolina has an excellent beer culture and it is great to see Big Boss Brewing, Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery (one of my wife's favorites), Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing making the journey north for the festival. I know very little about Maryland, let alone its beer culture, but I am looking forward to getting to know Franklin's Brewery and Restaurant, Flying Dog and Heavy Seas Brewery.
One of things that I love about this festival are those breweries that appear to be anomalies at the festival. For example, Jackie O's from Ohio, miles away from any New England craft beer drinker, attended last year's festival and stole the show. Their beers, Dark Apparition and Berliner Weisse are some of the finest interpretations of their respective styles produced in the United States (IMO). This year's festival is no different with breweries representing West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, District of Columbia and Utah. Last week, I had the privilege of watching Jamey graduate from The George Washington University, which allowed me to sample multiple ales from and DC Brau, which I believe could be this year's Jackie O's.  
All-in-all, the American Craft Beer Fest is an amazing event and I am very fortunate to live in its home state having the luxury to sample amazing craft beer from around the United States! If you have the opportunity to attend this year's festival or those to come in the future, the ambience and beer are outstanding and I highly recommend experiencing this festival.


Here is a list of some of the beers that I am looking forward to trying:

Amherst Brewing - Barrel-aged Black Friday Stout
                                St. Valentine's Day Massatucky
                                Pistachio Creme Pie

Big Boss Brewing - High Roller IPA
                                Monkey Bizz-ness

Boulevard Brewing - Test Saison Noir

Bridge Beer Works - Baltic Porter
                                  Black Lager
                                  Coffee Stout
                                  Pale Ale

Cisco Brewers - Island Reserve Lager
                          Island Reserve Russian Imperial Stout
 DC Brau Brewing - On the Wings of Armageddon
                                 Penn Quarter Porter
                                 Stone of Arbroath
                                 The Citizen
                                 The Corruption
                                 The Public Ale

Duck Rabbit Brewery - Hoppy Bunny American Black Ale

Enlightenment Ales - Nip of a Cap

Lawson's Finest Liquids - BIG HAPI
                                         Double Sunshine IPA
                                         Knockout Blonde
                                         Permagrin Rye Pale Ale

NoDa Brewing - Coco Loco
                            Ghost Hop White IPA

Olde Mecklenburg - Captain James Jack Pilsner
                                 Rein Pale Ale

Pioneer Brewing - Pioneer Path of the Unknown
                              Pioneer the New Frontier

Rising Tide - Atlantis
                      Ursa Minor

Thomas Hooker - Chocolate Truffle Stout

Throwback Brewery - White Heron Chai Porter

White Birch - Berliner Weisse

Wormtown Brewing - Hopulence American Double I.P.A

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bear Republic Brewing Company - Racer 5 IPA

Nestled in Heraldsburg, California, resides Bear Republic Brewing Company, creator of the award winning, Racer 5 IPA. This IPA pours a very light bronze with a small-frothy head that is one finger in height. This beer has impressive clarity imparting a welcoming brightness. After multiple sips, there are minor lacings that coat the interior of the tulip glass.
The smell of the Racer 5 is very aromatic. Both grapefruit and orange citrus notes dominate the aroma. Delving into the aroma further, the 4 C's - Chinook, Cascade, Centennial and Columbus - add a contrasting complexity. Finally, there is a malt sweetness that works very well with the abundance of hop varieties.
The Racer 5 IPA has a crisp and rich taste profile. Citrus notes of grapefruit and orange burst, but quickly dissipate into the second phase of tasting. This second phase was slightly dry with a touch of piney resin that was quite delectable. This lingering dryness swept over the back of my palate creating desire to quench my thirst, which I did again, and again, and again.
Bear Republic's website describes the Racer 5 IPA as, "full bodied beer brewed with American pale and crystal malts...", but I disagree. I found this IPA to be lighter than characterization on the website. It was medium bodied with a very nice level of carbonation.
I have had this beer so many times that I have lost count on the actual number. It is one of my favorite American IPA's with its amazing balance of hop character and malt sweetness; it is truly delicious. At 7.0% ABV, it is a little high for a sessionable beer, but I don't care. It is a great beer for any occasion. Try it and find out for yourself!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Chuck's Libations - Day #2

After a day of walking around Charlottetown, PEI and eating delicious sushi, Emily and I ventured to the provincially run liquor store. Here, we stumbled upon some amazing finds: Fuller's Porter and ESB in tallboy cans and a trappist ale, Orval. With great beer in hand, we left with an excited feeling, ready to begin tasting session number two.
After a long day of work, the old man was definitely ready to sit down and enjoy some full-flavored beer. Since Emily also wanted to take part, we decided to introduce Chuck to the Aprihop from Dogfish Head. He very succinctly stated that Aprihop for him had two very distinct tasting phases: an initial and final. During the initial phase, pine overwhelmed his palate. Being from the east coast of Canada, english-style IPAs overwhelm the market, so any beer that is hop forward may seem extravagant in comparison to these malty IPAs. As we conversed, while cooking supper, the beer had the opportunity to warm and open up leading to the final phase of tasting. The three of us were able to detect a very aromatic and fruity smell, which translated into a very pleasant tasting beer. Although this ale wasn't one of Chuck's favorites from week, he truly appreciated the innovative approach Dogfish employs to brewing their beer.
Next, I wanted to show my old man what a hoppy red ale could be, so I opened, Lagunitas Imperial Red. Upon Chuck's first sniff he exclaimed, "HOLY CRAP!" Moving past this initial wow-factor, the old man described the aroma of this red ale as if, "I was walking through a pine forest, immersed in underbrush when someone dumped grapefruit juice on me." All-in-all, a uniquely interesting, but somewhat accurate description of this extremely hoppy red ale.
Since my wife has discovered the great card game, Cribbage (one of last visits home), it has become a tradition that we play with my folks during each visit. For the first couple of hands, we enjoyed Oskar BluesOld Chub. Instantly, Chuck picked up on a "grapey" quality that morphed into a caramel or butterscotch aroma as the beer warmed. The taste profile was much different than the aroma. We both discussed how the beer contained a slightly burnt  quality, almost reminiscent of bitter coffee that contained virtually no aftertaste, which Chuck really enjoyed. During the last few sips, we both were able to detect a nuttiness that wasn't present during the first couple hands of Cribbage. Delicious!
After finishing our best of three series (which the old man and I won), we settled in front of the TV to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As a night cap, Emily and I decided to introduce Chuck to wonders of Saint Bernardus from Watou, a small Belgian town on the Belgium-France border. Here, the brewmasters create exquisitely crafted ales, most notably the Abt 12, a quad with a whopping 10.0% ABV. I knew from the sip that Chuck absolutely loved this beer. After setting down his glass, almost  in a state of "beer shock" he said, "Wow that's smooth, WOW!" I showed him the bottle and he was amazed that the beer contained 10.0% ABV because there was no detectable booziness or "heat." Upon learning this information, Chuck enthusiastically sighed, "It is sneaky good, it will sneak right up on you if you aren't careful." He went on to describe how the aftertaste was very pleasant, lingering on his palate creating connection between each individual sip. This quad a must-try for all beer geeks, especially those who love authentic Belgian ales.

I'm proud of Pop for experimenting with the fruity, the hoppy, and the sneaky.