Archive for the ‘ Updates ’ Category

2011, Resolutions, and Craft Beer.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone was able to kick back and enjoy the beginning of 2011 with some delicious craft beer.

A few weeks ago in my post An Amateur Beer Enthusiast is Back, I mentioned some of the monumental progress that the craft beer industry made in 2010. While it is important to reflect on past successes, 2010 has come and gone and now it is time to move forward into 2011.

So craft beer fans….where do we start?

Photo Credit: Craftbeer.com

Leading up to 2011 Craftbeer.com released and article by Brewer’s Association Web Editor Meghan Storey titled Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Beer Lovers. Now I know that New Year’s Resolution articles seem so tired and true, but Storey’s list is both practical and fun. The following are Storey’s 2011 Craft Beer Resolutions:

10. Introduce someone to craft beer.

9. Try at least one new beer a month.

8. Participate in an American Craft Beer Week event. (May 16 – 22, 2011)

7. Host or attend a beer tasting.

6. Cook with craft beer!  Craftbeer.com has several resources and recipes for cooking with craft beer.

5. Give craft beer or brewery gear as a present. Most brewery websites have fun gifts for you to purchase.

4. Learn more about your favorite beverage; read a book on beer or brewing. I have been told that Charlie Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing is a great book to start building a knowledge base with.

3. Experience a beer festival. Whether it is a week long event like NY Craft Beer Week or a simple weekend celebration, beer festivals are a great way to meet the people who work passionately to provide drinkers with the best beer.

2. Plan a side-trip to a brewery on your next vacation.

1. Bring craft beer to a housewarming or dinner party.

I have decided that for 2011 I am going to follow through on these resolutions and share them with my readers on An Amateur Beer Enthusiast. I encourage you to implement these 2011 Craft Beer Resolutions as well. They all are very easy to complete and will continue to move the craft beer industry forward in 2011.

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An Amateur Beer Enthusiast is Back!

Wow! It has been a long time since I have written for An Amateur Beer Enthusiast. Since my last post at the beginning of October my life has changed drastically.

For readers who do not know, I have moved to New York City from Twinsburg, Ohio (Near Akron/Cleveland). The reason I moved was because of a job I accepted with an NYC beer distributor. I now work for a company that specializes in the sale of a variety of American craft and specialty import brands. While NYC has a great craft beer scene, there is still much work to be done to improve the growth and development of craft brands and their placement in bars and stores.

Thus far it has been very exciting! I love craft beer and working in distribution has given me the opportunity to learn about beer and the industry. One of my main goals when I began An Amateur Beer Enthusiast was to work with craft beer (in any way possible). Now I have achieved that goal and I want to reignite this blog to share with beer lovers what I have experienced working with beer.

I am entering the craft beer industry at an important time. 2010 has been one of the most productive years for craft beer and the market for higher quality beers continues to grow. Craftbeer.com (recently rated Men’s Journal Best Beer Website for 2010) recently released an article highlighting major happenings for the craft beer industry. 2010 was a great year for the growth and opening of micro and nano breweries (check out Pretty Little Things Beer and Ale Project to see what a nano brewery is like).

Here is a logo from one of Pretty Little Things beer offerings. Just one of the few nano breweries entering the craft beer market.

And you know what? It is only going to get better in 2011.

So as we head toward 2011 I plan on getting An Amateur Beer Enthusiast back on its feet. With new posts in the works, I look forward to comments and page views.

Drink up my friends. Things are looking great in the craft beer world.

NY Craft Beer Week

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting New York City during the 3rd annual NY Craft Beer Week.

I know today is the last day of the festival, but the video for NY Craft Beer Week is still entertaining to watch.

While I was unable to visit any major events, I was able to take some time out of my schedule to visit some of NYC’s craft beer bars. The cool thing about this festival was that even if you did not have the time (or money) to attend some of the bigger events, many bars participating in the festival featured a selection of draft beers from specific breweries.

The first bar that I visited Thursday evening was Bar Great Harry. Located in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood, this small craft beer bar featured drafts from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company (Pleasantville, NY). This brewery is located an hour north of New York City and has a reputation for crafting award-winning beer.

Since Captain Lawrence brews were being featured, I decided to sample their cask Kölsch. Previously I have never tasted a cask beer, so I did not know what to expect. I also lack experience with the Kölsch style, so I was just tasting this beer to see if I enjoyed it or not.

This beer is described as “Spring in a glass”. After tasting the Captain Lawrence cask Kölsch, I did not find this beer to be spring in a glass. While it was very good, it had an extreme sour taste that makes this beer more of a sour ale.

The first thing I noticed about this cask Kölsch was how smooth it was. Unlike many beers stored in kegs or keg systems, cask ales tend to lack that carbonation in the mouthfeel. The foam on this Kölsch was practically fluffy, and added a pleasant texture to the beer.

Cask aged ales also add flavor to a beer depending on what type of cask you use. While the flavors from the hop and malt were subdued, the sour lemon taste of this beer served as the most present flavor. The sour lemon taste was biting, as this beer may be to acidic for some. Overall I enjoyed this beer and liked the soft mouthfeel coupled with the harsh flavor.

Friday evening, I decided to visit Rattle N Hum located in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood. Smuttynose (Portsmouth, NH) and Ballast Point (San Diego, CA) were the two featured breweries that evening.

Rattle N Hum is a craft beer bar with 40 taps, 4 casks, and more bottled craft beer than I care to count. I was even surprised to see a beer from Hoppin’ Frog (Akron, OH) on their bottled beer list. It was the only beer from Northeast Ohio that I saw during my visit.

From their list, I tried their Smuttynose Oak Aged Imperial Stout ’08. This beer was aged in Jack Daniels oak casks and spotted a 10.1% abv. As with Captain Lawrence’s cask Kölsch, this imperial stout had an incredibly smooth texture. The head on Smuttynose Oak Aged Imperial Stout ’08 was incredibly creamy and there is a strong viscosity to this beer.

The flavor of this beer was also harsh. Smuttynose’s beer had a strong alcohol flavor coupled with a harsh oak taste that will remind you of drinking Jack Daniels Whiskey. There are also toffee and coffee flavors in this stout. This beer is definitely a sipping beer.

I had an awesome time visiting NYC during NY Craft Beer Week. Both Bar Great Harry and Rattle N Hum had incredible atmospheres that were perfect for socializing with strangers over a delicious beer. If you are ever in NYC, then visit either of these bars for some quality craft beer.

This quote was on the wall at Rattle N Hum. Nice.

If anything in this post gets you excited, I encourage you to take a look to see what beer festivals are happening in your area. Beer festivals are a great way to sample limited edition brews that are usually not available in your market. If you are willing to travel, Road Trips for Beer and Beer Advocate are excellent resources to see a list of upcoming beer events.

If you happen to live in Northeast Ohio like I do, then take a look into Cleveland Beer Week (Oct. 15-23). The festival is in its second year and it should prove to be even better than last year. I am excited for this festival, as some of the events happening for the week look huge! (Brewzilla anyone?)

Beer Tastings and The Weekend in Review

Crack open a beer. This will be a long one.

Over the weekend I got a bit ambitious and decided to cover two local beer tastings for my Examiner page.

On Friday I attended an Oktoberfest and Fall Seasonal beer tasting at Heinen’s in Aurora, Ohio. This was the first event I attended to kick off a weekend filled with trying new beers. While my decision to attend this tasting was last-minute, I enjoyed tasting a variety of quality fall seasonals at a low $10 admission price.

Here is one of Heinen’s Beer Specialists pouring Southern Tier’s Harvest Ale.

On Saturday I attended a Pumpkin Ale Blind Tasting at Vintage Estate Wine and Beer in Boardman, Ohio. Vintage Estate is rated the Best Beer Retailer in the world for 2010 by Ratebeer.com! For those who remember, I also mentioned Vintage Estate when I posted about Drew Nelson’s blog 365 Days…365 Beers.

From the moment I walked in to Vintage Estate I could see why it was ranked best in the world. From the moment I walked in Owners Phil and Sandy Reda welcomed me with open arms. These two love craft beer and are relentless about offering the best customer service possible.

Let me try to paint a picture for you of what Vintage Estate is like. The shop area has over 800 craft beers and a quality wine selection in stock. There is also the VE Tasting Lounge which has 12 rotating craft beer kegs, a wine bar, Ohio’s only mead bar, and a selection of single malt scotch.

Here was the draft beers available during my visit. Kegs at VE do not last longer than week.

Back in the shop there is a section of seating known as the VE Terrace. This gives you the chance to “sit while you shop”. If you buy a beer from the Tasting Lounge, you can freely walk around with it in the shop or relax at the terrace and have a discussion on craft beer. Or if you would prefer to drink a beer from the shop, you can bring it into the Tasting Lounge, purchase it without an opening fee, and drink it while you shop.

During the pumpkin ale blind taste, many people relaxed at the VE Terrace to discuss their thoughts with one another.

If you are looking for standard macrobrews like Bud Light or Miller Lite then do not look here. Phil and Sandy do not carry any of the mass market beers.

“We do not sell crap,” said Phil Reda.

Vintage Estate pretty much gives craft beer fans the full tasting/shopping experience. I could easily see myself walking around this place with a beer in hand discussing beer with someone else. And with no TVs in the shop or tasting lounge (that’s right. No TVs) you will actually have to interact with other people.

After talking to Phil and Sandy, the biggest thing that stood out to me was that they described Vintage Estate as a place a woman could walk into by herself and feel safe.

There you go ladies. A place where most men are so focused on enjoying their beer that they will forget to hit on you.

Vintage Estate’s Pumpkin Ale Blind Taste was an example of how much fun a visit at Vintage Estate can be. About 70 people registered for the event and participants ranged from certified beer judges to craft beer newbies. This pumpkin ale blind taste was the better of the two events, as participants had an interactive experience. Participants had the opportunity to judge each pumpkin ale and discuss them with fellow participants. While the results have yet to be posted, you can see how I judged the pumpkin ales here.

All pumpkin ales were served behind this super secret VE centerpiece!

So what did I learn from these two tastings?

Well, beer tastings are tough. While I enjoyed the pumpkin ale blind taste, I was disappointed in my inability to recognize Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale. I reviewed Punkin Ale about two weeks ago and gave it fairly high marks. At the blind taste, however, I gave it a low score and I could not pick out which of the ales was from Dogfish Head.

Perception also plays a huge part in tasting a beer. At the Heinen’s tasting, I was able to take a look at each bottle label of the beers I tasted. Unfortunately, I am guilty of gravitating toward flashy looking bottle labels and almost begin subconsciously judging a beer based on how well I like the label.

The truth is my favorite beer at the Heinen’s tasting had the lamest looking label. O’Fallon Brewery’s Pumpkin Beer had a label that looked like it was drawn by a first grader. It did, however, have awesome flavor and probably had the truest pumpkin scent of any pumpkin ale I have tried.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that perception plays a huge role in how your beer will taste. That is why it is crucial to enter all beers with an open mind and no expectations. Vintage Estate’s blind taste was a great exercise on how to properly judge a beer. By having no prior knowledge of the pumpkin ales, I was able to judge each beer with an open and honest outlook.

While I did get frustrated with missing Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale, I truly enjoyed both tastings this weekend. Everyone’s palate is different and we all pick up different sensations in a beer. The tastings also served as an important reminder that perception has a strong presence when tasting a beer. As a beer taster, it is necessary to be aware of anything surrounding you that can affect how you perceive a beer.

I encourage you to check out my Cleveland Craft Beer Examiner page for more information on the beer served at both tastings. Heinen’s and Vintage Estate both have a great selection of craft beer. If you are looking for something new or something to help you stay warm during the cool fall season than look no further than these two shops.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

Beer and Religion: A good combination

On Saturday the Jewish day of repentance, Yom Kippur, ended at sundown. So in celebration of the completion to this holy day I decided that I would drink a kosher beer.

He’Brew Genesis Ale from Shmatlz Brewing Company is the flagship of the He’Brew line of beers that provides beer choices for those looking to consume something kosher. He’Brew Genesis Ale in particular is certified by Kosher Supervision of America.

A beer that is Rabbi-approved? Holy it may be, is it actually any good?

Well the picture says it all.

After drinking this beer its kosher identity made sense.  He’Brew Genesis Ale is a solid brown ale that does not overwhelm in any way. The aroma, taste, and mouthfeel all have moderate qualities that make this beer easy to drink. The flavors in this beer give it just enough to avoid being too bland. This beer will both satisfy those looking to be kosher and those looking for a refreshing brown ale.

Drinking He’Brew Genesis Ale reminded me that connection between beer and religion is not something new. In fact, monasteries were (and many still are) known for brewing beer. Indigo Imp’s Candi Man is a Belgian Style Double Ale that pays homage to the Monastic breweries of the Middle Ages. I had that beer earlier this year at a local beer tasting. While I enjoyed Genesis Ale more than Candi Man, it is cool to see that there are even beer styles that are rooted in religion.

There is also a Pittsburgh brewpub called Church Brew Works that operates out of the now defunct (but restored) St. John the Baptist parish. I reviewed their Pious Monk Dunkel last May and remember it having the same inoffensive qualities as He’Brew Genesis Ale.

You can learn more about He’Brew Genesis Ale on my Examiner page. The article is located here. It is a little more detailed and will give you a better idea about how this beer tastes.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

McNulty’s Bier Markt and Some Updates.

Yesterday I decided that I need to get out into the Cleveland beer scene a bit more. So I took a visit to McNulty’s Bier Markt in the historic Ohio City neighborhood.

Bier Markt is a pretty awesome place. This Belgian beer bar has a ton of beer choices (just look at the sign in the picture…99 is a lot). Whether you are looking for craft beer, import beer, specialty beers, or just a simple Pabst Blue Ribbon, you will be able to find it at Bier Markt.

It even has food until 2 AM. Nice.

During my trip to Bier Markt I had Dogfish Head‘s Punkin Ale (I love that beer!) and Duvel Green. I talked a bit about Punkin Ale yesterday, but Duvel Green was a new experience for me. I have had Belgian witbiers before, but have never sampled a Belgian pale ale. Most of all, God knows I would not visit a Belgian beer bar without drinking something Belgian.

Duvel Green was a solid session beer. It has a solid wheat texture coupled with a moderate hop finish. This beer is not bland, yet it does not overwhelm in any way. Overall not a bad choice if you want a Belgian style beer. Go to my Cleveland Craft Beer Examiner Page for more on Duvel Green.

In other news, your Amateur Beer Enthusiast is planning on doing a “How-to-Review A Beer” post (Thank Jonathan Lim for this one). I am pretty excited/anxious to write this post. I feel like I have come a long way in terms of my beer knowledge, but I want to make sure I review the beer that I choose the right way.

So what beer will I review for my “How-to” post? I am glad you asked.

I chose Oktoberfest from Stoudts Brewery in Adamstown, PA. I feel pretty good about the Oktoberfest/Marzen style since I have recently written about 3 very different Oktoberfest brews. You can check them out on my Examiner page.

Photo Credit: Stoudt’s Brewery

There is one more update before I sign off. Stay posted to both An Amateur Beer Enthusiast and my Examiner page for a very special Yom Kippur article. In honor of the Jewish day of repentance, which ends tomorrow night, I am going to drink Genesis Ale form Shmaltz Brewing Company’s He’Brew brand. This special beer will come to my taste buds all the way from San Francisco, CA.

Photo Credit: Shmaltz Brewing Company

That is all I have for you guys today. Enjoy the weekend and drink something special!

It is practially fall. Time for Pumpkin Ales!

Yesterday I had my first pumpkin ale of the season.

Dogfish Head‘s Punkin Ale was truly a pleasure to have. It was a complex brew filled with sweet, spicy, and real pumpkin flavor.

Punkin Ale may only be on sale in 4-packs, but it is well worth it!

I love this beer. In many ways reminded me of my favorite winter seasonal from Thirsty Dog in Akron, Ohio. Thirsty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale is in many ways similar to Punkin Ale. While I found Punkin Ale to be toned down a bit, both ales use similar spices to provide their beer’s character with a sweet and spicy contrast.

12 Dogs of Christmas Ale is so good it won’t last long. Get it when it gets released this November.

I will not get into too many details about Punkin Ale as you can check out my Punkin Ale review on my Examiner page. I just want to quickly comment on how awesome this beer was.

Before Punkin Ale my only experience with a pumpkin ale was Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale from Blue Moon Brewing Company. While I like Harvest Moon solely because I had no frame of reference with pumpkin ales, I think that Dogfish Head’s variety blows Blue Moon’s pumpkin ale attempt out of the water.

Punkin ale is original, complex, and has an authentic pumpkin flavor that does not taste like a nauseatingly sweet pumpkin pie.

If you are a fan of pumpkin ales such as this one, then I encourage you to visit Vintage Estate Wine & Beer in Boardman, OH on September 25th. Vintage Estate is hosting a Pumpkin Ale Blind Tasting event. About 8 to 10 pumpkin ales will be featured and tasters will not be revealed to their identity until they decide which ales are the best.

Have a pumpkin ale you like? Comment and let me know so I can pick it up and review it. Pumpkin ales will be a good break from the slew of Oktoberfest brews that get released during this season.