Posts Tagged ‘ Craft Beer ’

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. (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.


Beer+Chai Tea=Mutinous Battle Chai

Yes. You read the headline correctly. recently highlighted a collaboration project between Mutineer Magazine and New Holland Brewing Company (Holland, MI) known as Mutinous Battle Chai. The idea for this collaborative beer began in July and was finally released at the Falling Rock Tap House (Denver, CO) during the Great American Beer Festival.

Photo Credit:

Mutinous Battle Chai was initially thought of a chai tea inspired saison. Ingredients include:

Malt: 80% two-row barley, 20% Malted Rye

Hops: Summit, Styrian Goldings

Spices: Traditional chai tea spices, Saigon cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, crystallized ginger, pink peppercorns, and toasted fennel

Yeast: Belgian wit (first fermentation), Merlot yeast (secondary fermentation)

Other Ingredients: Michigan beer sugars (first fermentation), Nutty Dutchman Brown Ale wort (secondary fermentation)

This collaborative beer seems like a complex and ambitious beer. According to the article, Mutinous Battle Chai does not fit into any style category. Good thing that is what Mutineer Magazine and New Holland Brewing Company were going for.

Mutinous Battle Chai is another example of how spirited craft beer enthusiasts and brewers are. This crazy and eccentric beer shows how Americans continue to push the boundaries on beer and brewing. Beer styles will continue to evolve as craft brewers continue to innovate the art of brewing.

I am not sure if Mutinous Battle Chai will be bottled or distributed in a larger market. However, proceeds from Mutinous Battle Chai and Mutineer Magazine go towards A Child’s Right. A Child’s Right is a non-profit charity that works to provide children with clean and safe water in areas where drinkable water is scarce.

Photo Credit: A Child’s Right

So even if you can not get your hands on Mutinous Battle Chai, purchase an issue of Mutineer Magazine and support A Child’s Right. This month’s issue is filled with some cool stuff, including a feature on Mutinous Battle Chai and an interview with James Watt of BrewDog.

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! 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?

An Amateur Beer Review-Part II

Initially An Amateur Beer Review Part II was going to be titled What Not To Do During A Beer Review.

Well when I tried to write out a list of things that you should not do when reviewing a beer, I decided that it would be easier to just make a list of tips that you will help you conduct a proper beer review. So now Part II of this segment will be titled Tips for Reviewing Beer.

To make this seem somewhat official, I came up with 10 tips that will help you review a beer well. Many of these tips are made up from mistakes and lessons that I have learned from reviewing beer. If you stick to this guide, you will hopefully avoid some of the amateur mistakes that I made when I started reviewing beer.

Now crack open a beer. I hope you learn something.

This picture is from a review of Flying Dog’s In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen I conducted earlier this summer. I wish I would have known these tips before reviewing this beer.

2)Tips for Reviewing Beer:

(1)Do not go into a review blind.

Before conducting any review, do some background research on the beer. What brewery brewed this beer? Where is the brewery located? Does this beer have a unique story behind it? Does the name of the beer have some sort of special meaning? Is the Abv (Alcohol by volume) high or low? What is the beer’s style and are there any unique ingredients used in this beer?

While this  may all seem simple, you will be surprised how easy it is to dive into a review without knowing a single thing about a beer. The “pre-review” takes about 5 minutes and is a great place to get started.

(2)If you are reviewing multiple beers in a session, make sure you review them in the right order.

If you do not review multiple beers in the right order, then you will misread characteristics of the beer. The best way to order beers is based on hoppiness (IBU’s) and alcohol content (Abv). The beers with the lowest IBU’s and/or Abv should be consumed first. This will help you avoid having lingering aftertastes from intense beers appear when reviewing beers with a sweet or mild flavor.

(3)Be wary of how many beers you try to review in a session.

Number 2 and 3 kind of overlap. While it is important to be ambitious and hard working during a review session, reviewing too many beers can hurt your individual reviews. This becomes especially true when reviewing beers with high Abv. Drinking many beers in a session can hinder your focus and accuracy during a beer review.

Along with this I want to note that if you do decide to review more than one beer in a session, make sure you rinse with water when you decide to move on to the next beer. This will help cleanse your palate from any flavors that may still remain from the previous beer.

(4)Be careful conducting a review off of a sampler.

While some beer review guides tell you to avoid reviewing samples all together, I slightly disagree. I just want to express that you should approach any review of a sampler (or tasting for that matter) with EXTREME CAUTION! When reviewing a sampler remember that a sample is just a sample. It is not a full beer.

So, when writing about a sample or sampler you should tone down your review. Write a couple of sentences about each beer in the sample to give your reader an idea of what they will get if they try this beer. While it may not be as in depth as a complete review of one beer, a sample review will still give readers a sense of what they will get if they order this beer.

To see this illustrated I will provide a link for a sampler review I did at The Brew Kettle in Strongsville, OH. I think this is a pretty fair example of how a article about a sampler should be written. For more click here.

Samplers can be fun, but you must be careful how you review them!

(5)Never, ever guess ingredients used in a beer!

This was a lesson I learned at a meeting with SNOB (Society of Northeast Ohio Brewers). Early on I built a comfort zone where I began to think every beer was using pale malt or cascade hops. Truth is unless you know for sure what ingredients a brewer used in a beer, do not guess!

If you do not know what ingredients a beer uses, then just describe what you see, smell, taste, and feel. You can still write a great review without knowing every ingredient used in the beer.

(6)Keep in mind what this beer is trying to be.

You will probably figure this out in the “pre-review”. Is the beer trying to be innovative or traditional? Is the beer meant to be bland or is it meant to overwhelm with flavor? What is the beer’s identity? These are all important to know as you review.

(7)Keep in mind how well this beer fits into its proclaimed style.

This will help quite a bit with number 6. Understanding what style your beer is proclaimed to be and if your beer fits that style will help you write a better review. It will also help you understand the beer’s identity.

For style guidelines visit the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidlines. This set of style guidelines are used by judges of many national competitions. It will also help you get an idea of what to look for with certain beer styles.

(8)Keep your bias under control.

First you need to know your bias. What beers do you prefer?

Then you need to do your best to keep this out of your beer review. Unfortunately, this is hard to do.

My best advice is if you follow all of the other tips, you will have just enough to appreciate a beer to the point where your bias is at the least subdued. Just do your best and you will be just fine.

(9)Remind readers who will enjoy this beer.

It is ok if you do not like the beer you are reviewing. Just remember that all beer drinkers are not the same and drinkers will feel differently about a beer. If you take a few lines to be optimistic and tell your readers what profile of drinker will enjoy the beer you review, readers will get much more out of your review.

(10)Take your time! Enjoy your beer!

Be patient. Drink slowly and enjoy your beer. And take copious amounts of notes. The more you have the easier it will be to write a review later.

Most of all, enjoy the beer you are drinking. All beers are made with a purpose. Never forget that.

An Amateur Beer Review-Part I

Thanks to a suggestion by my friend Jonathan Lim (if you write the 100th. comment he will get you free netflix…so comment), I have decided to do a series of posts explaining the process of how to review a beer.

Reviewing any beer is an art form. It may seem easy to the naked eye, but the truth is that reviewing a beer takes plenty of practice, patience, and focus. Many beers have subtle qualities that make it very easy to get confused during a review. I feel as though I have only built a comfort level on my ability to review a beer well within the past month (This blog started in Feb. 2010…so yeah, it takes a lot of practice).

With that being said, I want to remind everyone that these segments will be a crash course in beer reviewing. While I have built a solid knowledge base for beer, there are still many things that I have to learn.

To keep this easy, An Amateur Beer Review will be split into the following three parts:

1) How to review a beer.

2)What not to do during a beer review

3)A walk-through beer review with Stoudt’s Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest.

I hope An Amateur Beer Review serves to be a helpful segment. I will do my best to include mistakes that I have made in the past as well as suggestions that will help you get started as a beer reviewer.

Your Amateur Beer Enthusiast working on a review of He’Brew Genesis Ale. Check out the review for an example beer review.

1)How to review a beer:

When I became interested in beer reviewing, I used Beer Advocate as my guide. Beer Advocate is a great way to start building a foundation for beer. Not only do they break down how to taste a beer, they also provide in-depth information on reviewing a beer, beer styles, and history about beer. I also feel that Beer Advocate is a welcoming resource to those who are a bit intimidated by beer experts.

Another great place for beer education is Great Brewers. I recently discovered this resource and it has proven to help my beer writing. In terms of beer education, Great Brewers gets a little more detailed and dives into the science behind beer. For reviewing, Great Brewers gives you examples on what qualities to look for in a beer and words to describe a beer. This proves to be immensely helpful, as writing about beer as a beginner is very challenging.

Alright. Enough introduction. Here are the five areas you want to explore during a beer review:

Appearance: How does the beer look? Is the color gold, straw, tan, amber, copper, brown, black, orange, ruby? Can you see the carbonation in the beer or does it look think and viscous (this means syrupy)? Does the beer have a large amount of foam that dissipates quickly or lingers for some time? Does foam stick to the sides after dissipating? What is the head’s (interchangeable with foam) color?

Smell:While this number is disputed, smell accounts for about 80%-95% of how a drinker will perceive the taste. When you go to smell a beer, give it a few quick sniffs. Then swirl it in you glass to bring out the aromas. What do you smell? Does the malt used have nutty, bready, toasted, roasted, caramel, coffee, chocolate, toffee, or biscuity qualities? Are the hops giving off citrus, pine, earthy, floral, grassy, perfumy, or spiced aromas. Can you pick up fruit hints in the flavor? Can you smell certain spices or a yeast smell? Continue to smell your beer throughout the drinking session to see if any aromas come out as the beer warms?

Taste: It is important to note there is a right way to taste a beer. Take a sip and let the beer sit on you palate for a bit. Swirl it in your glass and taste again. Also note how the beer tastes as it warms since many flavors tend to be masked when beer is served a very cold temperatures. When it comes to taste, a good tip of advice is that the words you used to describe the smell will probably be the words you use to describe the flavor. Is the flavor subdued, bold, intense, inoffensive, overwhelming, hearty, robust? Does the beer have a dry, fruity, clean, spicy, acidic, bitter, or wet finish? Do certain flavors appear in the front, end, or sides of the sip?

Mouthfeel: One of the toughest things to do as a new beer reviewer is to not clump mouthfeel and taste together. How does the beer feel when it sits on your palate? It is thick and viscous, or is it liquidy and wet? Is the mouthfeel tingly, creamy, warming, oily, smooth? Does the beer have a large amount of carbonation or is the carbonation more moderate? Is the carbonation pleasant and bubbly, or prickly and sharp?

Drink: This is where you make a conclusion about the beer. How was the overall consumption of the beer? Would you drink another? You should also make remarks here about other beers that are similar and how well the beer fits into its style.

Well there you have it! I will make a page for this section just so people can reference it in the future.

Please comment if you have any questions about how to review a beer. I would be happy answer any questions people have.

Stay tuned for An Amateur Beer Review Part II where I will lay out what not to do when reviewing a beer.

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?

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.