15 April 2009

Extra ESB - 471 Small Batch

Rating: 7.1
Brewery: Breckenridge Brewery (Breckenridge, CO)
Glass: Pint
ABV: 7.8%
Seller: Blue Dog Tavern (Chalfont, PA)
When Enjoyed: 15 April 2009

The ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, is definitely a style that is getting harder to find in the tanks of American Microbreweries. The style in many ways is the non-colonial version of the IPA, medium-high bitterness with a stiff malty backbone with a blend of session-y working man attitude. In my opinion it tends to stick in between the IPA and other session beers, like Red Ales or French variants like Saison or Biere de Garde. This limited run offering from Breckenridge Brewery though has a distinct American character.

For starters the hop blend in this ESB leans a little heavier on the crisper American varieties (like chinook) than the British ones (like fuggles). Furthermore, they amped up the ABV a bit thus making it an "Extra Special" ESB. While the ABV comes as a surprise, certainly pegged it lower than that in a tasting (and 7.8% is still not too terribly high, just higher than than the style usually comports).

The pour comes out dissapointingly flat, however and the head is not very thick, though it has decent retention. Which brings me to the paradox of this beer, for an ESB its got plenty of bitter, but not much that is 'extra' or 'special'. The only surprising thing about this beer is the ABV, and even that isn't close to jaw dropping. While a solid beer by any measure, stacked up against similar quality beers in its session or IPA cousins, I'd choose the other beers.

The RD Bar Crawl - Beer Week Edition

Every once and a while Harry and Jim will embark on a more epic sized night out, hitting up three or more bars in one evening and detailing their adventure in a rambling post that will surely be more entertaining than analytical.

This also concludes the Responsible Drunk's coverage of Philly Beer Week.

What does one do after spending the better part of the day slowly getting wasted on delicious microbrews from the world over? One hops on the Broad Street Line and pilgrimages to Pat's Steaks, thats what. After that, one goes on a bar crawl, because why not?

Your intrepid responsible drunkards set out from Pat's Steaks to the newish South Philly spot Devil's Den (11th and Ellsworth) for what was deemed to be one of the Beer Fest after-parties. There, we partook in some tasty flights from Bells as well some other area brews. They were all tasty, though my memory of the night is pretty spotty. The DD is a happening little spot, if a little small for what seems like a great beer drinking venue and what at least sounded like good food.

From there it was a trip up Broad Street to the newly expanded Good Dog bar and restaurant (15th and Locust) for a purported Yards Firkin. For those who don't know what a firkin is, its a special quantity of ale stored in a cask (roughly equivalent to a quarter barrel). Yards brought their Porter and it was delightful. The Good Dog is the tall-skinny variety of bar, with three cramped rooms with two bars all on top of one another. If you need some space to breath, its best to trek up to the third floor. Ultimately, its a great reasonably priced place to descend into drunkenness with some good friends over a game of darts (but presumably if you don't care for darts or drinking, the food is not bad either).

To cap off our epic day of beer, we sauntered down the block to what is perhaps my favorite place in the city, Monk's Cafe (16th and Spruce). As a Belgianophile, capping a day of epic drinking with some epic ales, a pot of mussels and some frites is about all a boy could ask for. Be warned though, Monk's is popular and won't take your reservations. Get there early or plan for a covert take over of the barstools. Otherwise you will look like a jackass, and a sober jackass at that. To mark the occaision Monks had this year's first tapping of Duvel's Groen (Green Label). In many ways this is a Belgian white that owes a lot to German sensibilities. It's bright complexion refreshing quality are maintained through a solid malt complex, no small feat. From there, the final nail in the coffin was a bottle of Rochefort Trappistes No. 10. If you ever need a knockout punch, this is it, it literally sent Harry home. We'll probably review this in the future, so I'm going to withold my thoughts on it 'till then, but really this was the perfect nightcap to an epic day of beer.

14 April 2009

Philly, Craft, Beer and Festival Continuations

This is a continuation of thoughts of Philadelphia's Third Annual Philly Craft Beer Festival. The remaining thoughts of beer tried and reflections on the event as a whole.

On-Point Lager: Blue Point Toasted Amber Lager- Tried this lager and is one of the better to be had. Even though toasted, this lager avoids the smoky flavor and is very crisp. Just a great, flavorful and crisp lager.

A Couple More Rocky Runs: Manayunk's Tripel Lindy- Manayunk's Tripel offering. In general it did fit the style of a Tripel but came out a little flat. Expected it to be a little more interesting and flavorful, but instead was bland for it's style.

Best Name for Wanting to Drink Something Because You Would Never Drink It In Real Life: Manayunk's Schuylkill Punch- For those not from the Philadelphia Area, the Schuylkill is one of the rivers that goes through Philadelphia which people wouldn't want to touch around here, much less drink from. In terms of this beer, Manayunk's Schuylkill Punch is a Fruit Beer. Dominated by its Raspberry taste, it is a little too fruit flavored and sweet for my tastes and tastes nothing like a normal beer.

All Natural Drunk: Appalachian Organic Brown Ale- The organic movement is starting to enter the brewing world as well. Had my first organic beer the summer of last year and this provides a strong argument for the expansion of such a trend. The main thing I noticed with this brown ale was it being really rich in flavor. It was by far the most flavorful of any Brown Ale that I've had. If that's the organic impact, then there will certainly be a spot for organics within brewing.

Christmas in March: Verte du Mont-Blanc- This French Brewery tucked far away in the alps decided to make the trip to Philadelphia to participate and it was appreciated. Tried a juniper spiced ale. Generally more of a winter ale, spruce ales tend to be hit or miss with people. The piney flavor can be offsetting for drinkers, however this is a great version. The pine flavor is strong enough to taste but not overpowering to the point of not wanting to drink it. Just very well done and to bring out for tasting one of the rarer styles in beer was fantastic.

Other Thoughts:

That wraps up the new beers that were tried at the craft beer festival this year and here are a few other notes about the event.

A couple of the Californian Breweries had a bit of a disappointing showing in my mind. Stone and Anchor both came but had their most popular selections only. Stone with Arrogant Bastard and Stone IPA and Anchor with Anchor Steam and Anchor Porter. At a Craft Beer Festival one hopes to try some new or at least different beer offerings from breweries than what is the norm. Maybe it was the distance that led to them sticking to the standbys but the Colorado breweries that came seemed to have a variety of offerings.

Also disappointing was some of the breweries not at the first event. Unknown if they were only around for the second event and if the first event had some exclusive breweries of their own, but we did spend some time looking for some breweries and found only limited presence or none at all at the festival. Four+ we were especially looking forward to talking to the brewers of and finding out what brewing is like in Utah and what differences it presents towards the making of beer. Hopefully a chance shows up in the future.

The only other mild setback due to no fault of their own was Oskar Blues Brewery. It goes to show their popularity as by the time we got to their stand all of the beer was gone. However we have since picked up some of their beer and will have a review of it soon. Oskar Blues along with Sly Fox are once again showing good beer can in fact be found in a can.

Now for the long list of positives that made the Festival a truly great event. The organization of the event was superb with free transportation to the event, having the right number of people to stands making sure lines were basically non-existent for the event. It was great that the whole 4 hours could be spent for the beer and not for waiting in line. Also, everyone at the event running stands was very nice and approachable. Along with the introduction of some beers for the first time and a wide selection of great craft beer the event was well worth it and a great representation of what craft beer has to offer.

13 April 2009

Thoughts of Philly, Craft, Beer and Festival (Not Necessarily in that Order) - The Review Part Two

The Third Annual Philly Craft Beer Festival was March 7th at the Navy Yards. This was the first session of 2 occurring from from 12:30-4:30. 4 hours of sampling an assortment of local and non-local craft beers led to a flurry of tastes, discoveries and drinking. To give a sense of the madness that we were able to collect, here is a rundown in fairly chronological order. First the beers.

Breakfast Beer: Franziskaner Weiss- While not suggesting as a daily habit, certain beers do tend to pair well with breakfast food. The wheat beer and similar styles make a safe choice for pairing with the usual breakfast items such as eggs. This Weiss matches perfectly with our breakfast and is great by itself. One of my personal favorites in the category, it is a solid, filling beer taste with that hint of zing found in Weiss beers that makes it interesting.

(New) The Up and Comer: River Horse Honey Weizen Bock- The up and comer status is not necessarily for the beer itself, but the brewery. River Horse is located in Lambertsville, New Jersey. While being around since 1996, it hasn't really been prevalent until recently. Last year is the first time I can remember seeing their products readily available so it is pretty new to us. Either way their new beers are starting to seem to always impress. The oatmeal milk stout which we reviewed previously is very good and this one is as well. A little darker than most Bocks it still fits the style nicely and the taste of honey adds a nice touch. It is quickly becoming one of the go to choices at the Responsible Drunk.

The Fruit Beer That Wasn't: The Breury Black Orchard- Fruit beers seem to be gaining a lot of popularity recently. While before rarely taking up taps at local bars, now seems to often take up one if not two taps in a lot of places. A lot of this popularity seems to be focused on the lambics, which tend to be very fruity in taste and might be trying to draw in new tastes and tasters. The Black Orchard on the other hand is trying to do something different. The fruit like taste in this beer is complimenting the beer instead of overpowering it. The black wheat style's heavy and darker taste and the fruit taste match really well together. The Bruery's website mentions the use of Chamomile, Coriander and Citrus peel which creates a fruit like taste in the beer. At first taste it gives off the taste of black raspberry. It'd be nice to have more fruit beer go in this route of working to compliment and add a nice complexity to the beer instead of just overpowering the beer itself.

Home Brewing is the Best Brewing: Keystone Homebrew Belgian White- Keystone Homebrew is a homebrewing store located in Montgomery County that sells a variety of homebrewing supplies so people can brew their own beer. They just happen to brew a bit of their own too. Make that quite a bit. Keystone had one of the largest selections of beer on hand to try. Trying the Belgian White, it is a great matching of style and the Homebrews seem to have more flavor packed in to them. I'm sure the freshness and small batches help this process.

(New) The Lager of Bocks: Yuengling Bock- While Jim has given most of the description needed for the Yuengling Bock (look at Part 1 for his review) here are a few other things to note. In general we agree about its taste. After a couple of beers it seems like it would be very hard to tell the difference between Yuengling Lager and Yuengling Bock. However, the mild differences in taste does add a complexity unknown to the Lager and does fit Bock in style. The other note is on the availability side. While watching our World Champion (that will never get old) Phillies in Spring Training at Clearwater, Yuengling Bock on tap was available, so maybe it might also be available at Citizen Bank Park during the regular season and be a chance to try it, if you haven't already gone and done so. I will be looking into this as soon as I can make it to a game and keep everyone updated.

Here is Brighthouse Field's place to get beer. An amazing selection for a baseball stadium and there is Yuengling Bock; middle tap on the right hand side.

The beer fest was too large and grand to fit in one entry
so a continuation will soon follow with the rest of the beers and thoughts of beer fest.

Local 2

Rating: 8.4
Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
Glass: Chalice
ABV: 9.0%
Seller: Blue Dog Tavern (Chalfont, PA)
When Enjoyed: 11 April 2009

A new round of our continuing series of Brooklyn vs. Dogfish Head. In this round we've stepped up to the bomber class, today we have Brooklyn's latest installment in their bottle-conditioned series, a strong Belgian Ale called Local 2 and later we'll review Dogfish Head's berry fruit beer, Black and Blue.

The best way to sum up this beer is that it is a dark ale for white ale drinkers. Very rarely does a bold, malty, black as night ale have the adjective refreshing attached to it; this is one of those rare times. Typically, ales this dark are dark for a reason. Brewers like to showcase malt blends that pack lots of nutty, woody bready flavors together that make a high ABV beer enjoyable. Here, Brooklyn has toned down the ABV and added a citrus twist vis a vis an infusion of locally grown honey and hint of orange peel; flavors that are traditionally found in witbiers.

The up front citrus definitely softens the malt character a great deal, allowing it to finish smooth and without any alcohol or bitter aftertaste. In a way, the citrus flavors trick your brain into thinking this beer is a lot less heavy than it is. The downside to all this is, if you are a malt purist you have to dig real deep to get to the malt and yeast flavorings of this beer. While the beer is refreshing, surprising and mellow, it actually isn't all that complex. From the purist perspective, this might be a beer that would dissapoint a Belgian enthusiast but surprise an American one.

This certainly signals some exciting things on Brooklyns horizons. Along with a new line of reserve series, a double IPA and an Old Ale that are coming to a tap near you, Brooklyn is starting to dip its toe into the genre-bending tradition of American experimental brewing; a tradition that is mostly dominated by extreme beer types of the Dogfish Head ilk. That said, I would not be expecting a sextuple IPA's in the future for Brooklyn. Head Brewmaster Garrett Oliver is a man grounded in tradition and while willing to experiment, will do so with a firm grasp on classic tastes and a commitment to placing them in new contexts (ala Local 2) rather than just exploding our taste buds with Hop-Bombs.