Posts Tagged ‘ James Jennings ’

Merry Christmas from An Amateur Beer Enthusiast!

It is Christmas once again, and everyone knows what that means!

Christmas is a time for time for great food, quality time with family and friends, a few presents, and of course some well crafted beer.

This Christmas has been a bit strange in terms of my beer selection. Typically I stock up on every winter seasonal possible since many of my favorite beers are winter seasonals. This year, however, I have decided to try to some new year round craft beers in order to replace the void I have with my inability to get Thirsty Dog Brewing Company’s 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale and Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale (2 of the best winter seasonals from Northeast Ohio). My first series of beers comes from a fun Colorado Brewery known as Oskar Blues.

What makes Oskar Blues special in the world of craft beer is that they were the first craft brewery to can their beer. Originally Oskar Blues beer was available on a draught only basis at the Oskar Blue Grill and Brew in Lyons, Colorado. In November 2002, brewery founder Dale Katechis  launched a campaign titled “Canned Beer Apocalypse” with the canning of Oskar Blues flagship beer Dale’s Pale Ale.

At the beginning, Oskar Blues could only seal one can at a time. Now Oskar Blues offer 6 beer varieties available in cans as well as several draught only beers available at multiple Oskar Blues locations throughout Colorado.

I sampled all 6 Oskar Blues canned offerings and I must say I am very impressed. For many craft beer enthusiasts the can is a symbol of the bland tasting macro produced beers. Oskar Blues on the other hand has put some of the best beer I have ever tasted into convenience of a can.

The debate between whether beer should be canned or bottled has always raged amongst craft beer fans. The perception among many is that bottled beer is superior to canned beer. This is not necessarily true, as Oskar Blues decision to can their beer was intentional.

Canned beer actually has several benefits. Cans keep beer safe from light and oxygen, provide easier portability than bottles for both outdoor events and commercial transportation. According to Oskar Blues website, 35% of the weight of a bottled beer is the bottle itself.

Cans also protect beer from potential breakage that is very common with the transportation of glass bottles. Working in beer distribution, I have witnessed first hand the horrors of broken glass and the mess that comes when bottled beers break.

And most importantly, you cannot hang beer bottles on your Christmas tree.

I know. What an awesome picture.

Here is a brief summary of Oskar Blues “Canned Beer Apocalypse” lineup:

Dale’s Pale Ale ( American Pale Ale, 6.5% Abv, 65 IBUs): This is Oskar Blues flagship beer. It has received several accolades, including a Gold Medal from the 2010 World Beer Championships and recognition in the New York Times as one of the best American Pale Ales. Overall this beer is a great session beer that is a light amber/copper in color, and has a slight sweetness and a solid hop finish.

Mama’s Little Yella Pils (Czech Pilsner, 5.3%Abv, 35 IBUs): Mama’s Little Yella Pils is what a pilsner should be. Want something light, easy to drink and full of flavor. Well put down that Miller Lite champ and treat yourself to this beer.

Old Chub (Scottish Ale/ Wee Heavy, 8% Abv): When I drank this beer, I was slightly reminded of 12 Dogs of Christmas. While Old Chub is not as sweet, it has a semi-sweet/smokey flavor that makes this beer very warming for the cold winter months. I will certainly be buying this again during the winter season.

Gordon Ale ( Imperial Red/Double IPA, 8.7% Abv, 6o IBUs): Named after Colorado craft brewer Gordon Knight, this beer falls into the categories of IPAs I like. I tend to gravitate toward IPAs that can couple strong hop bitterness with a full body and enough malt to prevent the beer from tasting to dry. Gordon Ale is an interesting take in the world of IPAs.

Ten Fidy (Imperial Stout, 10.5% Abv, 98 IBUs): Next to Old Chub, Ten Fidy is probably my favorite beer from Oskar Blues. This beer is rich in flavor and has a deep black color that always makes me smile when I pour it into a glass. Ten Fidy has the strong chocolate/toffee flavors that do well to balance out the hop taste.

Gubna (Imperial IPA, 10% Abv, 100 IBUs): Oskar Blues calls this a hop grenade in a can. This is definitely true, as Gubna is a complex IPA. Gubna pours an orangish color that has a slight haze to it. The flavor is strong throughout the beer, but does well to not be offensive.

So there you have it. These are the beers that I have been drinking as I prepared for the Christmas season. They are all delicious and it is impressive when a craft brewery has a lineup of beers that exudes this much quality. While Ten Fidy, and Gubna are only available in expensive four packs, I will not think twice about purchasing beer from Oskar Blues in the future.

Merry Christmas readers! Drink and be merry!

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+Chai Tea=Mutinous Battle Chai

Yes. You read the headline correctly.

Craftbeer.com 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: Craftbeer.com

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 Craftbeer.com 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.

Guinness Foregin Extra Stout Coming to America

It is really funny that I just wrote about Guinness on Friday.

An article from beernews.org said the Guinness announced the U.S. launch of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout today. While many American consumers are familiar with Guinness Draught, most Americans have probably never tasted Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.

Photo Credit: beernews.org

That is because this will be the first time Guinness Foreign Extra Stout will be available in the U.S. since prohibition.

The history behind Foreign Extra Stout is fairly interesting. Brewed at St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland in 1801, Foreign Extra Stout was Guinness’s flagship export beer. It was originally known as West India Porter.

Unlike Guinness Draught, Foreign Extra Stout is carbonated instead of nitrogenated. It is also brewed with a larger amount of hops. Along with a stronger hop flavor, the increased volume of hops in serves to preserve the beer that may have made long trip during exportation.

Foreign Extra Stout also spots a 7.5% Abv. This is considerably stronger than Guinness Draught’s 4.2% Abv. In short, Foreign Extra Stout seems like a stronger Guinness with a larger hop profile.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout will be available this October in 4-packs priced at $9.49.

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?

Happy 251st. Guinness!

Well the title says it all. Guinness turns 251 today!

Photo Credit: Wayyang Times

251….well that make Yuengling look like an infant.

Although I primarily drink American craft beer, I have been known to have a Guinness every now and then. Guinness has actually made its way onto An Amateur Beer Enthusiast a couple of times.

My recent post “Drink Up! Beer is healthy for you” highlights the antioxidants in Guinness that can provide advantageous health benefits. Not only is this beer the premier Irish Stout, but it is healthy for you! That is a nice deal.

In commemoration of Guinness’s birth, it is necessary to take a moment and pay respect to Guinness father Arthur Guinness. If Arthur were still alive (God rest his soul) he would be 285 year old!

Photo Credit: Counter Intelligence

Wow. That is old. Almost as old as drinking a Guinness with Toucan Sam’s cousin.

So take a moment tonight and drink a Guinness in honor of Arthur Guinness and his creation. After all, it is a lovely day for a Guinness.