Yes, that’s right, it’s time for the third and final installment of my Top 25 Breweries to Check out at GABF. Just in case you missed the first two installments, click here for part one (first 10 choices) and here for part two (next 8 choices).
My final 7 choices begin now, and remember, these are in no particular order.
Flossmoor Station – When I think of Chicago area breweries I immediately think of Goose Island, Three Floyds and Flossmoor Station. Oddly though, I have never had a single beer from FS. I know them only by reputation. Since they are technically a brew pub, they utilize their smaller scale and constantly experiment, more often than not, with positive results. If I were going to GABF, I would be strongly inclined to check them off my list.
Stewart’s Brewing Co. – These guys are from Bear, DE which really isn’t that far outside of Philly, but oddly they don’t have a very strong distribution in the area (at least they didn’t when I lived there). If things haven’t changed in a big way, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a decent amount of Northeast residents that are unfamiliar with Stewart’s completely. They are extremely low-key to say the least. I remember seeing them at some of my first ever beer fests in PA like Kennett Brewfest and Philly Craft Beer Fest and wondering who they were and where they came from. Quite a few festivals came and went before I actually was brave enough to try their product and, once I did, I was appalled that I had missed out on so many opportunities. From then on I never passed them by, and was never once disappointed.
Odell Brewing Co. – It wasn’t until Odell started their Woodcut Series back in ’08 that my radar picked these guys up. This past May saw the 4th release in the line, an oak aged lager. All four have a 96 or higher on ratebeer.com. From what I understand, their standard offerings are pretty darn solid as well, especially the IPA. Working with wood, a lot of hops, brett…these guys might be on the trend train, but I want on board.
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. – You know that other massive American-based brew fest, The World Beer Cup? Yeah well it’s huge and Firestone Walker has won the Champion Mid-sized Brewery three times now. As far as I know, that’s unprecedented. It’s quite clear, these guys are one of the best around when it comes to making beer. Union Jack is probably my favorite single IPA in the world. Double Jack is easily in my top 5 favorite double IPAs in the world. Abacus is very possibly my favorite all time barleywine. Their anniversary beers are outstanding, Parabola, I mean come on… If I didn’t put these guys on the list somewhere I would have to kick my own ass.
FiftyFifty Brewing Co. – I would imagine that there is a few of you out there that read Draft Magazine. You know, the Playboy of beer. Beer porn. Anyway, do you know the section called “What’s In a Name?” That is where I first heard of FiftyFifty. Though I can’t exactly recall the details of the story, I remember being intrigued. I also liked the imagery and design that they evoked through their labels and website. As it turns out, they make a killer imperial stout, or so I gather. It’s a 100 on ratebeer.com and it won bronze at last years GABF in the “Other Strong Beer” category. Obviously, Timperial Stout wants to take a stab at this one.
Ballast Point Brewing Co. – The San Diego beer scene is a force to be reckoned with. Stone, Green Flash, Alesmith, Port/Lost Abbey/Pizza Port, Alpine, Coronado…I’m out of breath. All of these breweries make amazing beer and It’s really impossible to dispute that. If you were to fish for one thing that seems to tie all of these breweries together, it would be hops. Every one of these breweries, with the exception of the Belgian style based Lost Abbey (but Tomme’s other labels pick up the slack there), make stellar IPAs. Ballast Point makes at least three and each is more stunning than the last. If you find yourself in dire need of a little IBU boost at GABF, take a gander at BPB’s booth and see if Sculpin is a flowin’.
AleSmith Brewing Co. – I shudder a little bit when I think about Alesmith, in the very best way possible. I love this brewery so much. I wish everyday that Seattle would distribute their product, though all it really takes is a trip to Portland for purposes of stocking-up. I love Alesmith so much because I very passionately enjoy a lot of their beers. I’ll never forget the first time I tried, well, most of the beers that I’ve tried by them. The IPA is, like I said above, from San Diego. There’s just something special about those SD IPAs. Horny Devil is so perfectly Belgian with its fantastic sweetness and remarkably balanced spiciness. Old Numbskull is all that you could ever ask for in a barleywine. And Speedway Stout my friends…to drink Speedway Stout is to have a religious experience. I can tell you that there was a large period of time when I was very quick to answer any brave soul willing to ask me what my number 1 favorite beer of all time was with, Speedway Stout. Now I’m a bit more cautious to answer that question but, if I was forced to at gun point, my answer would be Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Possibly if I were to get a hold of the barrel aged version of Speedway, that answer would be different.
Well that about covers it. If you are going to GABF this week, damn you, I am super jealous. Please do your very best to enjoy each and every minute of it. Visit the breweries that you know and love, but also visit the breweries that you have always wanted to try but couldn’t for whatever reason. I am very hopeful that my musings can be found valuable to you in some way. If you have other suggestions for our readers, please do not hesitate to post a comment. If you end up checking out a brewery that I recommended and you have an opinion on their product, good or bad, let us know. Safe travels to you all.
***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com with any questions, concerns or comments***
Enjoyed on 6/23/2010
Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co.
Location: Denver, CO
Beer: Espresso Oak Aged Yeti
Presentation: 22 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped and Foiled
Vintage: Bottled on 3/15/2010
Style: Imperial Stout
Barrel: Oak Chips
Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees
Notes From the Bottle: Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout is a new addition to the Yeti clan. A generous infusion of Denver’s own Pablo’s espresso adds yet another layer of complexity to this beer, combining with the vanilla oak character, intense roasty maltiness and bold hop profile to create a whole new breed of mythical creature. It’s official, you can now have Yeti with breakfast.
Food Pairings: Breakfast burrito, eggs Benedict, hash browns, cheesecake, creme brulee.
Cheese Pairings: Gouda, brie, swiss
Beer Advocate: A-
Rate Beer: 100 (4.08)
The combination of coffee and beer has an unclear history. When it was and who it was that first combined the two alludes me. Though the amalgam of two of the worlds most loved brewed beverages seems like a painfully obvious invention, it is by no means a traditional fusion for brewmasters. In fact, one just may consider coffee imperial stouts to be yet another page in the ever-expanding history book of the world’s extreme beer movement.
The “obvious” tag comes with the natural flavor components of the two core ingredients of this style, and how they compliment each other. The thick, treacly black nature of stouts comes from roasted and chocolate malts that impart a bevy of flavors upon the brew, most pertinently: coffee accents. Coffee on the other hand, coats the mouth in a blanket of oils and astringent bitterness. In many cases, deep stouts leave the bitterness of the hops far too hidden in the depths to play a substantial role, but the addition of coffee breathes life back into the bitterness component of the beer.
The “coffee flavor” will always stand above the rest in such a brew. The best brewers will find a way to bring complexity to the stage. It is the mouthfeel, the sweetness, the chocolate, the roasty elements that support the coffee that will separate your run of the mill coffee infused brews from the all-time greats. The original Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti is one of the most masterfully created imperial stouts I have ever had, so we already know that the backbone is strong with this one. Let’s see how perky the espresso version makes the palate.
She pours the color of fresh black top with a timid head that quickly settles to the familiar “wisp and ring” that I describe so often. While that froth lasts, it’s a sight to behold. So rich and luxurious. Reminiscent of Mexican hot chocolate or a dark roast espresso or mocha’s foam. A mild clinging to the walls of the glass exists, but mostly in sporadic clumps, like arms of lather reaching for freedom from the vessel’s confines.
The scent is deep and complex. As the brew warms, the coffee becomes more and more overpowering, but prior to the bean’s reigning supreme, there is a very earthy undertone. May the hops actually be discernible? These smells of freshly tilled earth and hop farm, entwined with coffee, lend the impression of what may be the scent of raw coffee beans. Perhaps I’ve been transported to the fields of a Colombian Coffee farm. I can see the workers gathering and harvesting without rest. Just imagine the bean’s long journey to Denver and their careful roasting. Do you think they ever thought that they would end up in a beer?
A lot of chocolate sweetness is able to cut through it all, which is a relief. I feel almost as though I can smell the oily nature of the fluid that the beans secreted. The boozy scent is mostly hidden until she warms quite drastically and a medicinal quality emerges. The melding of this medicine, dirt or earth, coffee… seems to fuse into a perfume of fermented dark grape or cherry skins. Very intriguing. My mouth waters.
The mouthfeel is very creamy and epitomizes body. This is yet another quality of imperial stouts that separates the men from the boys. No skimping on grain bills here.
At this point the booze is very recognizable, but the intense bitter of the coffee competes with considerable mettle, and my mouth is ecstatic to play host. The oils of the coffee are as coating as I’d assumed they would be, and thus the flavors linger with no premonition of dissipation. In fact, the flavors seem to improve with the added heat of my mouth. I need more!
Ultimately, if forced to choose, I’d prefer the uninfringed original version, with its natural complexities, but this is very nearly the best coffee beer I’ve ever had. My excitement was palpable when I first read that Great Divide would be treating their Yeti with various additions. The chocolate version is well worth a taste as well. If you like an imperial stout as much as Timperial, these are not to be missed.
If you like Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, you should try…
Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard-earned money at a local bottle shop, and aged to perfection by yours truly.
Enjoyed on 3/7/2010
Location: Escandido, CA
Beer: Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter
Presentation: 12 oz – Brown Glass Bottle
Style: Flavored Porter
Recommended Serving Temp: 55 degrees
Notes from the bottle:
Food Pairings: Barbeque, smoked meats, chocolate, deserts
Cheese Pairings: Gouda, brie
Beer Advocate: A-
Rate Beer: 98 (3.87)
The Stone Collaboration series is another wonderful chapter in the big old book of recent brewing collaborations. To date, 6 have been brewed in this series, each being a triple collaboration with Stone acting as curator and permanent attendee.
It all began with the first brew being sent to market in late ’08 and has continued on a trend of about 2 releases per year. Each is brewed at Stone Brewing and is brewed once. This is what you missed so far:
#2 – a 9% holiday ale brewed with Ron Jefferies of Jolly Pumpkin and Kjetil Jikiun of Nogne-O. This brew has since been brewed at least one more time at Nogne-O in Norway and packed under the Nogne-O label. We are hopeful that it continues to be produced.
#4 – reviewed here.
The last 2 are already in the works and should be seen on shelves in due time.
There are some serious names being thrown around up there. Stone has created a monster! We love it!
Another really exciting thing about collaboration beers like this is that, in some cases, a result of joint brewing is joint distributorship. This means that we get to taste beers brewed, at least in part, by brewers who do not distribute their product to our market. At this time, in reference to this Stone Series, the collaboration involving Alesmith is the only relevant example of this in the Seattle area (lucky us), but this concept is never the less a valid reason for excitement.
Allow me to get back to the beer at hand. Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter (mouthful) has a really interesting story line. It was brewed at Stone in Southern California collaboratively with Garrett Marrero of Maui Brewing and Ken Schmidt, a homebrewer whose creation is the source of the recipe. Ken brewed a beer, inspired by Maui Brewing’s Coconut Poter, he called Aloha Plenty for the AHA Rally in ’09 and won first place. As part of his prize, the beer would be brewed in the Stone system and put on tap at the Stone Bistro. It was just an added bonus that the brewing ended up being in collaboration with Mitch Steele of Stone and Garrett of Maui. When the final product was bottled and sold under the Stone label, the project reached new heights of homebrewer fantasy.
One of the initial challenges of the project was to acquire the 1,000 lbs. of coconut, 300 lbs. of macadamia nuts, and 200 lbs. of 100% Kona Coffee that would be required to brew the beer with volume in Stone’s system. As you can imagine these are not cheap ingredients and not quite as abundant in Southern California as in Maui. The team used their resources and, naturally, made it happen. The second major challenge was to toast the 1,000 lbs. of coconut, a necessary process to pull out the flavors that would be imparted into the beer. The Stone Bistro Crew took up this task, which was done in the small bistro’s kitchen and took a whopping 32 hours to complete. Then, when it came to brewing day, in order to steep the essences of all these rare ingredients into the beer, steeping bags were required…a lot of them. In the end, 22 bags were required, more than Stone had available.
Keeping true to the collaborative spirit, the folks across town at Green Flash Brewing stepped up and lent a few of theirs to make up the difference.
A lot of people came together to make this beer possible, so let’s pay tribute to their efforts and tip one back. Here’s how it turned out:
No light can pass through the coffee black color of this beer. A very nice caramel shade is found in the head, which is fairly subdued on a vigorous pour and whimpers to near nothingness fairly quickly. Coffee possesses a very potent scent, and its presence in this beer dominates the nose. Chocolate and roasted malt does break through however on the tail end of the inhale. Each and every whiff seems to be slightly different from the last, a lot of nuances here. The nuts, as I suspected, are hard to place. I could image them sharing a buttery expression, but the stronger scents are too potent to allow it.
The mouthfeel is very slick and soft. Very little carbonation is felt, which matches the style well and would be off-putting here. This is essentially the best iced coffee (with no actually ice) I’ve ever had. It just so happens to be skillfully spiked with booze, which is slightly present as it warms. It has the aspects of coffee that I most enjoy, and leaves behind those I do not. The sweetness is just right. There is some oiliness and a dash of fruitiness. The chocolate and nut infusion adds complexity without stealing the stage and makes for an aftertaste that is not at all bitter or dry. That is a very key role here. The genius of their addition is now most evident.
It is the aftertaste of this porter that is most pleasurable for me. The aftertaste of coffee itself is often its least desirable attribute. You can feel it gripping to your tongue in a bitter rage and fouling the air before you with every word you speak. Coffee breath is deadly. Hell, beer breath might even be deadly, but, though this theory stands untested, I feel this concoction might intrigue a communicatory counterpart. Possibly, bait with curiosity and wonder.
As this brew gets further and further from iced coffee and closer to room temperature coffee, I am reminded of a coffee liquor and become obsessed with the thought of adding cream to this and making it a Caucasian…I mean, White Russian. Ah, even better yet, some vanilla ice cream would be just lovely in this beer. Yes, both editions would surely spoil the nuances of the flavor, but I can’t think of a better beer to experiment in those ways with. Such a shame this was brewed only once and is very limited. I’d say though, were any hope to exist for a repeat brewing, Stone would probably be the brewery most likely to issue it. There is precedence. Remember Stone’s 11th Anniversary Black IPA? Brewed once…and then made into a standard offering dubbed Sublimely Self Righteous.
Ultimately, this beer is not traditional. Not, as they say, liquid bread. This is liquid coffee-infused chocolate cake with little nut bits suspended within and coconut shavings on top. If that image doesn’t want you to try this beer you should check your pulse.
If you like Kona Coffee, Macadamia, Coconut Porter, you should try…
Kona Brewing Co.’s Pipeline Porter; Surley Brewing Co.’s Coffee Bender; Midnight Sun Brewing Co.’s Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter
Disclaimer: This beer was purchased on my own with my own hard earned money at a local bottle shop.
After the holiday week, Beer Blotter is back on track and ready to plan your New Year’s Eve night. Celebrating the new year amongst friends, beer lovers and great beer seems like the obvious thing to do. So we present you with a list of beer bars to stop by or beer events to attend tomorrow night, December 31, 2009. The focus will be on 2 cities, Seattle and New York City (where we were and where we are now) Check back on Monday for Beer Blotter’s regular weekly event posting.
Uber Tavern will have beer specials galore on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, so bring your sleeping bag and crash there. A list of specialty beers from our neighboring state, Oregon on tap for the occasion include Cascade Blackberry Nightfall ($4.00/goblet); Cascade Sang Noir ($5.00/goblet); Old Lompoc Old Tavern Rat ($3.00/schooner); Old Lompoc C-Note ($3.50/pint); Old Lompoc LSD ($3.50/pint); Old Lompoc Holiday Cheer ($3.50/pint). Enjoy your brews along side a smorgasbord of cured meats, cheeses and chocolates.
Fremont Brewing is hoping to entice Seattleites that may over indulge on New Year’s Eve to join the Resolution Run 5K and Polar Bear Dive. That will cure a hangover! After a 5K run and an OPTIONAL Polar Bear Dive into Lake Washington, Fremont Brewing will provide participants (over the age of 21) with unlimited beer and chili to warm them right up.
New York, New York (home to a beer lover’s dream NYE)
Blind Tiger Ale House will have unlimited beer and food from 9:00 PM-2:00 AM for $120.00/person.Call 212-462-4682 for reservations and details.
Rattle-n- Hum features an amazing tap list and karaoke to usher in the new year. Patrons have the option to pay-as-you-go, or buy a $150 open-bar ticket, which includes all beers, liquor and a Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops toast at midnight.
Beer Table is a modest establishment in Brooklyn, New York and is hosting the Past, Present and Future Dinner with two separate times to dine. The special menu includes three beers (from the past present and future) paired with spicy black eyed pea salad, Bamberg onion (stuffed with pork and topped with bacon) and potatoes, and Bayley Hazen Blue with honey and hazelnuts. The two sittings are at 8PM for $45 and 10PM for $55.
Then start start 2010 off right with Schneider Aventinus Eisbock from a gravity keg and butter beans with bacon.
If your in the mood for some R and R, some Dick Clark and beers in the warmth of your own abode. Then check out these winter warmers and Christmas beers, chosen by Timperial Stout.
The ice bock, also known as “Bavarian”, owes its discovery to a coincidence. According to the chronicles of the Kulmbacher brewery, some time around 1900 an apprentice forgot on a cold winter day to carry two barrels of bock beer into the brewery cellar. The barrels stayed outside, were covered by ice and snow and weren’t discovered until the following spring. The barrels had burst and the apprentice was reprimanded. But the carelessness was a stroke of luck because under the thick ice coat, a bock beer extract remained, strong tasting and high in alcoholic content. Even if the dark, tasty speciality is not produced in this spectacular way anymore, the chance that gave birth to this beer became a tradition. Today this beer rarity is brewed in a modern brewing and freezing process, but the incomparable taste is still the same and can always be enjoyed in winter months.
Mikkeller – To/From
From the website:
The second Christmas porter from Mikkeller. A spiced porter with fine malt background and lovely hop aroma and flavor. The label is designed as a ‘From To’ card – fill in the names and put the bottle it under the Christmas tree. The perfect give away gift for the lazy man/woman…!
Ingredients: Water, malt (pale, smoked, cara-crystal, brown and chocolate), roasted barley, dark cassonade, hops (amarillo, saaz and cascade), spices (star anise, clove, cinnamon and coriander seeds) and yeast.
The Bruery – Two Turtle Doves
From the website:
2 Turtle Doves is the second in the 12 Days/Years of Christmas Services. We decided to take our inspiration from the name and base the beer on the “turtle” candy, brewing it with cocoa nibs, toasted pecans, caramelized sugar and a lot of caramel malts. Somewhere between a Belgian-style Dark Strong Ale and an Imperial Porter, this beer is designed to take the journey through time until 12 Drummers Drumming.
Alesmith Brewing Co.- Yulesmith Holiday Ale
From the website:
For the winter season, YuleSmith is brewed as an Imperial Red Ale. This version is maltier, more balanced, and darker in color than the summer version. Although quite malty, big hop flavors and aromas are abundant making this an unforgettable winter warmer. Winter YuleSmith is packaged in traditional holiday red and green.
Ommegang – Adoration
From the website:
Ommegang Adoration, brewed in the authentic style of Belgian winter, or noel beer, is dark, strong, malty and assertively spiced. At 10% abv Adoration is not a lightweight beer, and is best sipped before a roaring fire, or on a sleigh ride over the hills to Grandma’s house. (But let someone else drive.) It would also be a tasty accompaniment to dark roasts and wild game. Even at the strong abv, the beer is well-balanced and not at all hot or fiery. The dark malts give it lush, malty flavors and aromas, strongly complemented by the five spices, including coriander, cumin, mace, cardamom and grains of paradise. Hopping is modest, as befits such a beer.
Troeg’s – Mad Elf
From the website:
The Mad Elf, a cheerful creation to warm your heart and enlighten your tongue. The combination of Cherries, Honey, and Chocolate Malts delivers gentle fruits and subtle spices. Fermented and aged with a unique yeast, this ruby red beer has significant warming strength that underlies the pleasant character of this intriguing yet delicious Ale. The Mad Elf, a jolly and delicious beer for the Holidays.
Nogne O – Winter Ale
http://www.nogne-o.com/ (website is having some technical difficulties)
From the website:
A dark ale brewed specially for the Christmas season, with a rich, complex taste of caramel. This is a strong, dark and rather sweet Christmas Beer – just the way we think a Christmas beer should be.
Recommended serving temperature 12°C/53°F. Great with cheese or nuts. Ingredients:Lager, Munich, caramel, black, and chocolate malt; Chinook, Columbus, and Centennial hops; English ale yeast, and our local Grimstad water.”
Jolly Pumpkin – Noel de Calabaza
From the website:
Noel de Calabaza – Deep mahogany and malty, layered hops, figs, raisins, sugar plums, cashews betwixt rum laden truffles.
Port Brewing – Santa’s Little Helper
From the website:
Each and every year, the Jolly Old Fatman sits down and compiles a list of who’s been naughty and nice. It’s curious that he never knows which list to put our brewers on as this is one naughty but incredibly nice beer.
Originally brewed at the Pizza Port in Solana Beach in November of 1997. As dark as the biggest lump of coal Santa can deliver, this beer has earned a dedicated following and is code named Satan’s Little Hangover by those who have indulged in a holiday like manner from time to time.
Originally shipped from London to the Czarist rulers of Russia, Imperial Stouts are stronger, richer and more robust versions of traditional stouts. The increase in alcohol content means that literally, many of these beers are a meal in a glass all on their own. Made from copious amounts of Roasted and Black Barleys, our stout invites you to share a silky black body with hints of freshly pulled espresso from the coffee house, melding with dark bitter sweet chocolate from a Belgian Chocolateer and the ash of a smoldering fire on a dark winters night.
Just remember that somewhere out there, the jolly old fat man is making a list and checking it twice. He knows who’s been naughty and nice… Might we suggest that you forgo the Milk with the cookies this year and leave him of bottle of something incredibly nice- Say like Santa’s Little Helper? Mrs. Clause would probably like some as well. That is if Rudolph doesn’t drink it all himself. Bad Reindeer.
Malts- Two Row, Wheat, Domestic and English Crystal, Roasted, Black and Chocolate Malts
Hops- Phoenix, Challenger and East Kent Goldings
Yeast- White Labs California Ale and Proprietary Yeast Strains
Most importantly, while enjoying yourself at home or out on the town, be safe, have fun and HAPPY 2010!!!!