Been too long

First off, I’m sorry to have been away from this for three years. I could make up some bullshit excuse, but honestly, I just grew tired of it. Life has started to even out a little lately, so I’m going to give this another try. Instead of trying to force myself into multiple posts a week like most blogs, I have decided to try to maintain a once a week update, but fully knowing that’s not going to happen and not beating myself up over it. 

I’m happy to announce my new endeavor, Sunday Suds. In this reinvented blog, I’m going to take part of my Sunday, when I have the free time, to sit back, relax, and review a brew. Really take my time and enjoy every sip. I realized that over the last few years, I was drinking beer as a way to unwind after the workday, and wasn’t actually tasting the beer. I think that at least a few Sundays a month if I can just focus on the beer I’ll be able to better enjoy my weekday drinks as well. So, for better or worse, here we go!
Sunday Suds #1. January 20, 2019. 

As you may recall, one of my favorite ways to buy beer is because I like the name or the packaging art. For SS1, the name won me over. Scottie’s IPA. For a period of my youth, I was known as Scottie (or Scotty, I was a never really sure how people thought to spell it), and while that’s gone, one or two people still call me that on occasion. It may be from a bygone era, but I still embrace the nickname when I have to. But enough about my past.

Moat Mountain Brewing Co., in the Mount Washingotn Valley town of North Conway, NH recently brought this one to market. They report that this is the brewer’s favorite recipe that, over the past eight years, has been honed to balance American and Australian hops. I think they’ve done a fantastic job. This isn’t a very strong smelling beer, giving off only a slight grapefruit accented pine nose. The first sip really opens things up, though. The pine gives way to a pleasant and mild green melon flavor and a slight effervescence that reminds me of the newest wave of haute-couture IPAs, the Brut IPA. (Writer’s note – I’m still on the fence about those). 

After a few minutes to warm up from my slightly-too-cold beer fridge, the melon yields to a pleasant hop resin mouthfeel. It’s the right amount. Sometimes the resin sort of sticks to your palate and it dictates the entire beer. This rolls around a little then wears off, allowing the other flavors to be experienced as well. Moat reports this brew to be only 45IBU, but it comes off feeling more like a 65-70. I’ll openly admit that I understand IBU as far as being a 0-100+ scale, but I have no clue how they measure or rate or whatever. I just base my feelings off of other 40-50IBU beers that seem less bitter than this. If anybody out there in interwebsland can enlighten me, I’d be happy to learn something new. 

Further into this beer, the flavor is still evolving, with mild lemon and grapefruit coming to the forefront while leaving the melon behind. As the temp comes up more, the resin subsides slightly, leaving a lemon-y tang with the pine. Overall, Scottie’s IPA is an amazing and eclectic beer that deserves any and all praise it receives. The flavor has evolved drastically, and I have thoroughly enjoyed this latest offering from Moat Mountain. 

I would 100% recommend Scottie’s IPA to anyone looking for a solid IPA that really shows what the style can offer.

<>BM
P.S. WineyWoman just handed me a Vermont Maple Puffed Corn, uh, thing, and it really complemented this beer!

Islamorada Beer Company, Islamorada, FL #Islamoradabeerco

I came across this brewery on a total fluke. WineyWoman and I were in Miami Beach, FL, for a few days, visiting with friends from Germany and Holland (I know, that makes no sense, but just roll with it)…We wandered into a small hole-in-the-wall liquor store on a side street between Ocean Ave and Collins Ave, just to see what they had to offer. They had tons of generic beers, an equal amount of wine, and then a cold case of singles and 6-packs to go. In this case, we discovered a lone row of Islamorada Beer Company (IBC) Sandbar Sunday. The name rung a bell, as the following day our plan was to go to the Keys. One quick Google search (ain’t smartphones grand?) and we knew exactly where the brewery was located.

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The following morning we picked up our rental car, and headed out on the 75-minute drive south from Miami Beach. If you’ve never been to the Keys, you need to go. Once you get past some of the more built up areas, especially in Key Largo, things only get more beautiful as you go south.

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IBC is located in a small single-story building on the side of Rt1, and you’d likely miss it except that it’s the yellowest thing in the world. Seriously, Big Bird isn’t this yellow. Anyway – we arrived about ten minutes before they opened, so we took a short walk two blocks to the Atlantic Ocean and drool over the beautiful day we had.

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Upon returning to the brewery, the door was unlocked and we were welcomed in by a wonderful young lady named Crystal. Right away the conversation was easy going and the beers were being poured. That day we were offered seven tasters, including a bunch of their pilot batches.

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Every single brew we tried was off the charts awesome. From the basic Sandbar Sunday, a great brew for typical southern Florida weather (read: hot and sticky), to their Pump Key pumpkin beer. Yeah, who’d expect to find a pumpkin beer in Florida – surprised me, for sure! The one beer that stuck out in my mind – so much that after we spent the afternoon at a beach resort Crystal suggested we check out, we went back and bought a half growler to bring home – was No Wake Zone, a pilot batch ale brewed with coconut and Key Lime. I seriously thought about this beer all afternoon as we sat on the beautiful white sand, soaking up the sunshine.

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I knew it was a risk trying to get a growler home on an airplane, even in checked baggage. I was concerned that the pressure changes due to being 32,000 feet off the ground might cause the glass to break; or the TSA agents might fancy a drink while searching luggage…Luckily everything went fine – my bag wasn’t searched, the glass was strong, and the beer (over two weeks “aged” here in New Hampshire) was just as good, maybe even better, than when it was fresh.
No Wake Zone, a coconut and Key Lime ale, is incredible. I was a little unsure of how coconut would work in a beer, but I’m happy to report that IBC knows what they’re doing! The nose isn’t overly powerful, just a basic ale aroma – it smells like a beer. I can’t sense any coconut on the nose to let me know what I’m about to get into. Only a very slight hint of lime says “hey, get ready for some fun!” And what fun it is! That first sip releases all sorts of flavors. The coconut comes rushing to the front, filling my whole palate with a smoothness I’d attribute to having a beer on nitro. That superb silky mouthfeel, with the added benefit of coconut to round it out. After that, Key Lime shows up to the party – fashionably late, but still welcomed. It adds a slightly sweet tang to the finish, just so the coconut doesn’t get to hog the whole palate. Deeper into my first glass and I’m starting to pick up on a slight coconut aroma being released. It’s not strong but does allow the flavor to expand slightly – the way red wine breathes as it sits in a decanter or large glass. I’m going to be a good boy and save the rest of my 32oz bottle for tomorrow, as much as it pains me. I know I’ll enjoy the rest of it if I wait a day.

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-Beer Man

Sierra Nevada – Harvest Single Hop IPA

Sierra Nevada loves to experiment. A lot. They’ve done a whole series called “Beer Camp” that involves a 12-pack with twelve unique brews. I’ve experienced a few of those, and they were, honestly, hit or miss. I liked a few, and some others I think required a different taste. This brew, Sierra’s Harvest (number 1 of 5), is hopped entirely with one varietal – Idaho 7. A bit of Googling has revealed that Sierra Nevada is monopolizing this one. The entire first page of results were directing back to either Sierra’s own website, or other sites like BA, BSJ, and untappd (no, I have no problem giving a free plug here…we’re all friends, in it for the brews).

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This is a really good brew. I’m a huge fan of single-hopping, as it lets the brewer tweak the brew to really bring out the aromas and flavors that a particular hop has been bred to offer. Idaho 7 really hits it out of the park on flavor, but aroma may be a bit lacking. The pour offered an aroma that was reminiscent of Heineken. This isn’t a bad thing, I like a Heiney or two on a hot summer day, or when I’m in the garage with my mates. I just wasn’t expecting Sierra to pour with such an aroma. The color of the full pour was a nice amber hue, with plenty of medium-sized bubbles rising constantly. The first sip was amazing. Considering I went into it with pretty low expectations based on the aroma, I was more than surprised. There’s a solid, fresh-picked orange flavor, like the kind you buy from the side of most roadways in Florida. Along with the up front orange hit, a bit of stone fruit pokes though, a Georgia peach-type flavor. Very little pine resin, but something new came through on the finish. Tea. Green tea. I’ve never experienced tea as a hop quality, but I rather like it. Somehow you wouldn’t expect to pair beer and tea, but it works. Sierra claims that it’s more of a black tea flavor. I’m no expert on tea (that’s Winey Woman’s other domain, but alas, Celiac Disease keeps her from enjoying the majority of beer), but I’d say it’s more green than black tea. Regardless of what tea quality you find here, I think you’d have to agree that this is one super smooth brew. Half way though the pint-and-a-half bottle in my favorite “super-tankard,” and I’m not looking for the end. I’m hoping this one keeps going, a bottomless beer, if you will.

As Sierra’s first of five special editions, each focusing on a different use and/or varietal of hops, they’ve gone above and beyond. I was able to procure brew number five along with this one…but numbers two, three, and four are still MIA in my area. I’m hoping I can get my hands on them…

Beer Man

White Birch Brewing – Nyx

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Dark and delicious!

This beer is dark. Like dark as night dark….hence the name. The aroma is super strong, too. Even before my first sip I can smell the malty goodness from a couple feet away. The head was a nice, thick, creamy, chocolate-colored foam that lingered for quite some time.

The first sip wasn’t at all what I expected. There’s no sharp attack from the malt, like you get with some dark beers. This is just smooth all the way through. It’s got a chocolate flavor to go along with the color of the head; and a slight coffee hint that rounds out the aftertaste, which is good since I love coffee, but not as much as I love beer. Part way though my massive tankard, I’m finding that there are some hints of hops beginning to poke though the wall of malt. It’s not a lot, just enough to take the pointed sweetness down a bit.

As I reached the midpoint of this one and the temperature came up a bit, the flavor changed massively. The chocolate started to wain a tad, with coffee coming to the nose, accompanied by a stronger hop scent. The end of this bomber offers another round of coffee-ish malt, with the hops fading into the background….and a yearning for more.

This was one simply awesome brew, and I can’t wait to try more of this unique creation next fall/winter.

Beer Man

Atlantic Brewing — New Guy IPA

Note: Sorry for the delay in posts! Beer Man and I were in the process of selling our house and life sort of took over. We should be posting far more from here on 🙂

I found this brew (along with some others I’ll be reviewing soon) at a beer emporium in Concord, NH that I’d never seen been to before.

This IPA is so nice and refreshing. So many breweries have been leaning toward Doubles or Imperials, and this is a nice throwback to an earlier time when IPA wasn’t about being big and bold. There’s really not much citrus in this one, just a pleasant piney flavor and smell. The beer first hits you palate with a nice sweet note that transitions to a good, old-fashioned pine bitterness that lingers on the roof of your mouth. Overall, I’m quite pleased with this one, and I’m really looking forward to our summer vacation to northern Maine so I can visit the brewery in Bar Harbor.

<>Beer Man

Long Trail Brewing – Limbo IPA

Spoiler Alert — I know at the start we stated that this blog was going to be for the Average Joe, with no snobbery. I’m breaking that rule on this one.
Limbo IPA is a special new brew from Long Trail. They’ve used a “new variety” of hops, coming from Australia and the Pacific Northwest. Why. Why are they importing hops from across the country and half way around the world??? They’re ruining their “small-town brewery” image here. They could have found a local variety of hops, grown in the northeast, that is comparable to whatever they’re using from around the world (they conveniently don’t mention what “new varieties” they’re using). Many, no, most, of the other breweries I’ve been enjoying lately are clearly proud to let their customers know what hops they’ve used in their beers, but Long Trail is being secretive for some reason.

The beer isn’t bad, despite what my above diatribe may have indicated. There’s a quite strong nose of orange, with a little hint of herbs, too. The first sip offers up a nice hoppy fizziness on the tongue, followed by a slight bitterness. It’s not so bitter that you pucker up and reconsider what you’ve gotten yourself into, however. The overall mouthfeel is smooth with a slight bite from the new “mystery” hops. I did like it, but I’m just disappointed that they couldn’t be bothered to use local ingredients. I’d have to say with this gaff, Long Trail has now graduated from micro-brewery to craft brewer; and I’m sad to see this happen.

<>Beer Man

Peak Organic–Citrus Saison

This one is different. It’s not at all what I was expecting, and that’s unfortunate. The first whiff after I poured it smelled like Budweiser. Plain old Bud. It even tasted like Bud; with some extra citrus flavors on top. I’m probably not being entirely fair here, as I believe this was intended to be a summer brew for Peak, not a 10-degree day winter drink. I’ll be looking for this one again come summer….try it when the temperature is about 70 degrees higher.

<>Beer Man

Smuttynose Brewing with Stone Brewing — Cluster’s Last Stand

wpid-20150120_053502.jpgThis beer is great. To start, it pours with a near-perfect head. The first sip starts out with a pleasant hit of malt, balanced with full citrus hops. Like the head I was able to achieve in pouring, the first sip is nearly perfect. This is a wonderful collaboration beer. The bitterness of the hops starts to poke though after a few swallows, but it’s nothing overwhelming; there’s still plenty of sweetness from the malt to keep things in check.

After a while, the bitterness dissipates somewhat, leaving behind a well-rounded beer. I imagine part of this is because the brew has warmed up a little (5-10 degrees maybe?), and partly because it’s got enough of an abv to make a dent in my sobriety as I sit on the couch watching Top Gear and writing this, relaxing after a marathon of a Monday at work. With a “man’s dinner” of steak and potatoes, this beer is excellent as well.

This is an all-around wonderful brew from two powerhouses in the craft/micro-brewery genre. I will definitely be seeking out more bottles quite soon.

<>Beer Man

Dogfish Head — Kvasir

They describe this one as an ancient ale from a Scandinavian leather-clad priestess who, prior to things like grape wine being invented, insisted on a strong alcoholic mix of grain, fruit, and honey. They based this brew on what a Swedish brewery and a biomolecular archaeologist have uncovered about this “grog.”

It was good. Rather good, in fact. Sort of a “shandy,” but way better. I’m not a fan at all of having grapefruit juice or whatever mixed into my beer, it rather spoils the whole experience for me, effectively ruining both drinks. Kvasir, on the other hand, perfectly balances booze and juice. They’ve sourced lingonberries and cranberries for tartness, as well as cranberry juice, and combined that with birch syrup and honey to sweeten the deal.

The first sniff reveals a huge profile of tart cranberry, followed by a slight sweetness of lingonberry (anyone who’s eaten at furniture super-store Ikea knows what I’m talking about if they’ve had the meatballs meal with lingonberry jam). Anyway, the first sip offers sweetness like a shandy, but still enough “beer taste” to make you not want to pour it down the sink. The subsequent sips continued to provide more insight into this mysterious brew. There was a distinct sharpness from added herbs, along with a perfect sweetness from the syrup and honey. Further into the glass, the honey came to the forefront, allowing the cranberry to take a breather. Towards the end of my glass, I was finding myself disappointed that it was empty, but quite happy I’d experienced all 25.4 fl.oz. of mysterious goodness. If this is what Dogfish Head can do with an ancient recipe, I’m seriously looking forward to what else they can bring to my glass.

<>Beer Man

Kvasir by Dogfish Head

Kvasir by Dogfish Head

Harpoon Brewery, Windsor, VT — something a little different this time.

Winey Woman and I decided to visit Harpoon Brewery’s Windsor, VT., location for lunch this weekend. I was smart enough to remember my two empty Harpoon growlers, as I usually find something worth taking home a lot of to share with friends. This visit was no exception. Being a Saturday, the place was PACKED, but even so, the wait for a table was only about 15 minutes. That gave us plenty of time to wander through the retail section to see the new clothing, beer glasses, sunglasses with pop-toppers built in, and of course, plenty of bottled and canned beer.

Harpoon Brewery, Windsor, VT

Harpoon Brewery, Windsor, VT

Upon being seated, our waitress was prompt and knowledgeable about the new beers on tap. Harpoon had two pilot batches ready to serve, Boston Tea Party and Humble Braggert. BTP was described as a porter brewer with black tea, and HB was a double IPA with tons of hops. I opted to get a taste of both, along with ordering one of my seasonal favorites, Long Thaw IPA. The BTP was dark…like really dark. But what did I expect of a porter with black tea? I’m not much of a tea drinker, and when I do, it’ll be herbal or white tea mostly. This one wasn’t something I’d personally seek out, but if you like dark beers with a far amount of bitterness, this one could be right up your alley.

From L to R: Hard Cider, Boston Tea Party, Humble Braggert, and Long Thaw

From L to R: Hard Cider, Boston Tea Party, Humble Braggert, and Long Thaw

Humble Braggert, on the other hand, was awesome. So much hoppy goodness in one small sip, I was blown away. Having only had a small taste, I can’t comment on how it’ll hold up throughout an entire pint, but my small taste was enough for me to get a growler to go. Winey Woman got her standard Harpoon Hard Cider, as having Celiacs Disease makes drinking beer a rather unpleasant experience.

Might as well try a few!

Might as well try a few!

WW interjection: Harpoon’s hard cider is decent. Drinkable, but much more like fermented apple juice in taste than a highly developed flavor profile found in some other hard ciders. I much prefer Harpoon’s honey version of their hard cider. They have also done a pilot batch of dry-hopped cider that was truly delicious. Hint, hint, Harpoon!!!

WW enjoying her cider

WW enjoying her cider

Our lunches came out looking awesome, I had a BLT with beer battered fries, and WW had a tuna melt on gluten-free bread. Like usual, both meals were great, and we enjoyed our time immensely. As mentioned above, I took home a growler of Humble Braggert, and I also got a fill up of Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA. I remember having this one a few years ago when it was launched, and felt it was time to reacquaint myself with it. I’ll be doing full reviews of both of these sometime soon.

The Beer Garden has a warm atmosphere- a really nice place to grab a brew and some food

The Beer Garden has a warm atmosphere- a really nice place to grab a brew and some food

Along with Harpoon’s northern location, the light industrial park (Artisans Way) they are in features a distillery and a shop featuring Vermont food products. Since we were there and didn’t have any time constraints, we decided to wander about some. In The Sustainable Farmer, they feature a smorgasbord of local Vermont products ranging from the obligatory maple syrup to cheese, sauces, spreads, and a recent addition – Putney Mountain Winery. Much to our surprise, one of the owners was there, pouring samples of their delicious wines. After having a taste of all eight they had in stock, we picked out two, a cranberry wine and a cassis dessert liquor. Both shall be reviewed shortly by WW and myself.

Silo Distillery- just across the driveway from Harpoon

SILO Distillery- just across the driveway from Harpoon

The other alcoholic offering at Artisans Way is SILO Vodka. A vodka distillery that now offers other options, including bourbon and moonshine. I decided to sample the bourbon and moonshine, as I’d only ever had their vodka, which is amazingly smooth. The moonshine was definitely moonshine, but was clearly thought out. It had a rough taste, but wasn’t so rough that you couldn’t enjoy it. The bourbon, on the other hand, was incredible. So utterly smooth and flavorful, it was possibly the best I’ve ever had. I wanted to buy a bottle, but the price was quite steep, so I guess I’ll have to wait for my birthday or something… 😦

Overall we had an awesome time in Windsor, discovered some new drinks and revisited some old, and I can’t wait to bring you my thoughts on Harpoon’s brews.

<>Beer Man