On Friday, Beer Blotter offered its 300th post! Over less than a year has elapsed since we first went public on BeerBlotter.com. We have a had a blast so far, and we look forward to much more ahead.
In almost 11 months, we have managed to put up more than 300 stories (this article is #302). From our editor’s first beer review of Lazy Magnolia’s Jefferson Stout to Mark Leavens’ review of sandwich board art over at Atlantic Crossing – we have come a long way.
While we look forward to big changes over here, we wanted to take a look into the past and discuss the three biggest, and most memorable, moments in our short history. We have visited Belgium, Holland, France, Canada, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland, New York, Washington DC, Portland, Chicago and more – all in that 11 month period.
These three moments stick out the most:
#3 — Beer Blotter Spawns From the New Orleans Beer Arrival & A Chicago Surprise
If you have ever visited New Orleans, you are probably aware that its almost impossible to find a good beer. You are almost assured of being stuck drinking some fruity concoction of a massive amount of liquor. Not anymore.
We visited New Orleans in the beginning of last November with little knowledge of any beer scene. But, we stumbled our way through bar after bar and discovered that craft beer does exist. In fact, we were floored with what we found; hope for a good future was established.
While we were in New Orleans, our editor was surprised with a no notice flight up to Chicago. It was her first visit – and a great opportunity to see an amazing world of craft beer. We visited the Publican, drank Three Floyds at the Map Room, bought a bounty of beer at Binnys and took in a Browns v. Bears game, before returning to New Orleans.
Upon returning, we decided to launch this site. Beer Blotter was born over a pint of Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout and NOLA Hopitoulas at the Avenue Pub. From that moment – 300 articles followed.
#2 — The Crew Visits West Flanders
The entire crew decided to throw down and take an excursion to Belgium, back in March. We planned the trip for a period of 12 months, holding epic Belgian beer tastings once a week until we left. As part of the trip, we decided to visit Germany, France and Holland as well.
Every day was filled with splendor. From the iconic bottle shops, to the revolutionary brewers, Belgium brought us to our knees. We saw Cantillon in Brussels, visited Moeder Lambis during its opening week, drank gallons at De Molen, sorted through bottles at Paters Vaetje, and gifted a Pliny the Elder to Hane at De Gans.
But, nothing was more epic than a one day visit to West Flanders. I had caught a pretty vicious cold that had put me out of commission for a few days, but I refused to allow it to defeat my trip to Westvleteren to catch Westy 12. I sucked it up, chugged some orange juice, bought some nose spray (so i could taste again) and we took off for West Flanders.
When we arrived at the Saint Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren – my cold cleared up. Whether this was an amazing intervention of the almighty himself or simply an incredulous recovery – we will never know. But, it all came together as my first Westy 12 was placed in front of me.
From there, we trucked on to St. Bernardus, visited a brewer’s cottage in Woesten, drove to France to sample Escambeq’s best (with a brewer who could not speak English), drank De Struisse’s finest in a living room at De Zon and enjoyed splendid wonders from the private collection of Alvinne’s owner. I’m unsure that this day could ever be eclipsed.
#1 — The Closing of Water Street Brewing & Alehouse
The number one moment is not a happy one. But, it certainly had a profound effect on me.
For days I labored over visiting my favorite beer spot before it would shut its doors, for the final time. In the end, I didn’t go. The horror was too much for me to handle.
If you never got a chance to read the hardest post I ever typed, take a gander now. For purposes of brevity, I will not relive the words that came to mind when I head that Water Street Brewing would close down. But if you were around me for those few days – you know it was always in my mind.
Bars come and go – that is for sure. Some bars leave way too early; that was the case with Water Street. Because of a legal spat that keeps the former Water Street brewing space vacant to this day (we just saw the space this past weekend and its still not even close to re-lease), Water Street was forced into early retirement.
But, like all great combatants, Water Street may rise again. Their Facebook page has provided snippets of hope to those of us who yearn to have Queen Nina pour us another IPA. Recently, Nina announced that Strange Brewfest would return this year! This was an amazingly welcoming sign that Water Street is still alive and kicking – somewhere.
300 posts of Beer Blotter has brought us this far and we vow to keep it going. In the next month, we hope to have our new site running, filled with gobs of media and more user friendly resources.
Stick with us, please. We’ve enjoyed your company.
I have been dubbed Timperial Stout for one simple reason: I love my beers deep, dark and mysterious. Lucky for me, the people over at Brouwer’s Cafe have created a night to honor that holy opaque beverage we call stout. I’d be remiss to not mention it and provide my take on how one would work up a game plan for such an event. I’ve posted the list below, that was so thoughtfully provided by the folks over at Seattle Beer Week. In this case, it has proven very helpful that two members of the SBW collective get a paycheck from Brouwer’s. After each selection I have provided some commentary. I’ve tried to be brief, but you know…I love this stuff.
Allagash Black is delicious and unique, but it’s not all that rare so I’d skip it here and get a bottle at the bottleshop if you’ve never tried it.
Avery Black Tot on the other hand…pretty damn rare. This is the third release in Avery’s Barrel-Aged Series and is an imperial oatmeal stout aged in Gosling’s rum barrels. I’m sure this wont be cheap, but I’d bet it’s worth every penny.
Avery Czar is, in my opinion, one of the best regularly available imperial stouts out there, but for this event, “regularly available” = “skip it”.
Avery Meph Addict is Avery Mephistopheles with coffee added. I have never had (or seen for that matter) this one, so rare…yes. The original Meph is a beast of a brew. I recommend you tread lightly with these fellas, they are over 15% abv.
Avery Mephistopheles – See above
Beer Valley Black Madness – I’m either unaware of this beer or this is a mix up on words. Beer Valley makes Black Flag Imperial Stout and Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale, but I’m not so sure about Black Madness. The SBW site lists “Black Madness” again for the Firkin-Firkin event at Elysian, so I could be misinformed, or not informed at all as the case may be.
Big Sky Bottleworks 11 is going to be showing up at special events at Brouwer’s for a few years to come now I’d assume, considering the beer was made and kegged exclusively for them (Bottleworks, Brouwer’s, same difference). Never-the-less, it’s a very intriguing beer with some intense sour and vinous notes. Worth a taste if you missed out on the bottles.
Big Time Old Rip – Bill Jenkins knows how to make a beer folks. If you don’t make it to the U-district with much regularity, you may have never had this one. Go for it, drink local.
Boulevard Nitro Dry Stout – Boulevard out of Kansas City, MO has been doing a lot of experimenting lately. They seem to be really making things happen, and everything that I have had of theirs so far has been quality. They are still fairly new to the Seattle market…I can’t say that I’ve seen a lot a kegs come through. I would never get this because I don’t like dry stouts, but if you are into Guinness, Murphy’s, Beamish, Moylan’s Dragoons, etc, check it out.
Chuckanut Export Foreign Stout – The words “Export Foreign Stout” are not very commonly used, but they basically indicate a “bigger” stout, built for long journeys on boats and such. Considering the many recent accolades being tossed in Chuckanut’s direction, when I see that brewery name on something I want to try it. Seems like a great starter to the evening to me.
Dick’s Woodford BBN Oak Cream Stout – I, sadly, don’t know a lot about this one, but the words “oak” and “cream stout” get me excited. Worth a try, and possibly a bit more manageable in the abv category.
Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout – This one is extremely high on my list of best beers on planet Earth. ‘Nuff said. Oh, except beware of the strength – 18%.
Double Mountain Imperial Chaos is a draft only imperial stout from the impressive folks down in Hood River, OR. I’ve never had this one, but I have continually been impressed by 2x Mountain. I think I’ll be trying this one.
Elysian Dragonstooth Stout – One of the best single stouts in Washington, if not the country. Very underrated in this area, possibly due to its permanent availability and therefore lack of hype. Even still, I wouldn’t get it at an event like this. Get a bottle at Whole Foods and take it home.
Firestone Walker Parabola 10 is my number one on this list. I will scratch and claw to get it. It is a 13% imperial stout that was blended from all sorts of different barrels, vintages, what-have-you. It’s probably least rare this year then ever before in its existence, but still, very rare.
Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin is a fairly traditional oatmeal stout with a really great name. Decent beer by one of the premier breweries in America. I’d look for it on another day.
Full Sail Imperial Stout – Full Sail might be one of the largest breweries in the North West, but they still make really good beer, especially those in the Brewmaster Reserve series. This is not Black Gold, so it’s not barrel aged, but it’s a great beer. Worth getting on any other day, but there are better choices on this list.
Glacier Jack Daniels Impy Stout – Glacier is without a doubt one of Alaska’s finest. Sadly, even though we are the closest neighboring state, we don’t see all that much of their work. If this is in any way even close to matching the quality of their Big Woody Barleywine, this will be amazing. Get it!
Great Divide Espresso Yeti – Yeti, like Avery Czar, is one of the best regularly available imperial stouts out there. The espresso version is not as good in my opinion, but it’s a must try for all coffee junkies.
Green Flash Espresso Stout – I think this might be a keg only one-off brew. Sounds rare. Green Flash makes great beer. I’d go for it!
Hales Machete – This puppy is brewed right down the street from Brouwer’s. I give them a big “f%&@ yeah!” for the name but I think I’ll have to skip this one, only because of better options.
Hitachino Espresso Stout – This is the best espresso stout I have ever had, but you can get it in the bottle pretty easily. Not appropriate for this event.
Laughing Dog Dogfather – This is one of the best beers to come out of Idaho. I will skip it only because I still have a few bottles in the cellar, but it’s worthy of a purchase.
Left Hand Oak Aged Imperial Stout – This one is released annually in the bottle, and can sometimes be found during the “off-season” at local bottle shops. This beer is really freaking good, but get a bottle.
Lost Abbey Serpents Stout is Tomme Arthur’s idea of a Belgian stout. If there is an actual Belgian brewed stout out there that is this rich and delicious, I have yet to find it. Alvinne Podge is about as close as I can think of. If you have never had this beer you need to get it. This is fairly commonly available in bottles so I’d skip it here.
Mad River BBN Export Stout – A quality California brew, but not up to par with some of the competition.
Moylan’s Ryan O’Sullivan – I don’t often think of this beer when I ponder the great impy stouts of America, but I should. It is a high quality brew, but yet again, a bit too common for this event.
Odin Sour Stout – believe it or not, I have yet to taste the nectars produced by Odin. I know, it’s crazy. I don’t know much about the sour stout but I must admit I’m intrigued. This night just might be my first dance with Odin.
Oskar Blues Ten Fiddy – One of the very few, if not only imperial stouts released in a can. That’s pretty damn cool, and it’s delicious to boot. If I was at Brouwer’s on a regular day, I’d get it, but not tonight.
Port Brewing Old Viscosity – This beer is great, but not as good as its older brother. Go with the older.
Port Brewing Older Viscosity – Regular readers will know that I’m mildly obsessed with this beer. It’s chocolate covered pretzels to a T. Get this and be like the stout fella above…meditate for a bit – you will go places. I will most likely only get this one late in the evening, well after my better judgment has evaded me. This is only because I have had it a bunch of times already.
Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper is a good impy stout, but it’s a bit thin for my liking. I’d skip it.
Porterhouse Nitro Oyster Stout – This is a low abv dry Irish stout. Sorry but…not interested.
Porterhouse Nitro Wrasslers 5x stout – Sorry Ireland, your stouts are boring.
Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken – This was recently reviewed glowingly on this site by yours truly. It’s a damn good beer with a damn good story to tell.
Southern Tier Jahva – This is a member of the ST Imperial series, which should read “AMAZING”! Easily one of Beer Blotter’s favorite breweries in the world. Their stouts are impeccable. This one is just slightly less impeccable than the Oat below, so get that one.
Southern Tier Oat – See above.
Stone I.R.S. – This beer is very unique. I have never had an impy stout with such a strong tobacco flavor, which is a good thing in my opinion. Like Ten Fiddy, I’d order this in almost any other situation, but not tonight.
Victory Storm King – You might have heard that this was the first impy stout I ever tasted. I owe it a lot. Luckily for me, it’s one of the country’s best, so I started off on the right foot. I’d get it if I didn’t already have a bunch in the cellar.
Walking Man Black Cherry Stout – Beer Blotter finds this beer to be like soda. If that sounds good to you, hop on board. Not so much for me, but I do love Walking Man.
Waterstreet Stout – Skip is gone. I have little faith.
In summary, since that was probably a bit of a task to read, I offer my top 5, in order of importance.
5) Double Mountain Imperial Chaos
4) Avery Meph Addict
3) Glacier Jack Daniels
2) Avery Black Tot
1) Firestone Walker Parabola
Week 16 of 52
(020) 421 20 57
Dutch Beer Bar
BEERS ON TAP (at time of visit) —>
BOTTLE: We didn’t take note of everything, but the list was vast and had a large number of De Molen offerings.
FOOD OPTIONS: No food.
BAR OPINION: In the months preceding the Beer Blotter Euro-trip, a lot of research was done. A lot. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise. Anyone about to embark on a journey to a far off land would do the same. What did we research? Well, we have been very vocal about our priorities on this trip, so I will only rehash them briefly…beer, food, art/culture…well that’s about all that really matters right?
The Amsterdam portion of our trip was at the very end. By the time we had reached the ‘Dam we had already hit Antwerp, Brugge, Gent, Brussels, various locations in West Flanders, Esquelbecq (France, Brasserie Thierez), Dusseldorf, Leverkusen (Germany, Bayer Leverkusen soccer match), Cologne, Paris, Bodegraven (Netherlands, Brouwerij De Molen), and many places in between. Moral of the story…by the time we got to the ‘Dam we were nearly spent, and believe me, it pained us severely. We had all been really excited about Amsterdam, especially since we had chosen ahead of time to forgo any cultural aspects that she may offer. Not that they weren’t worthy, but the ‘Dam seemed like a place for extreme partying, and that is what we planned to do there (I guess that in itself is a part of the culture, but you know what I mean).
I repeat, “planned”. Planned way in advance, without thought of how we would feel after staying up late every night drinking and waking up early every morning to exercise and get a start on the new day’s travels. Bottom line, our trip was grueling. It had to be. There was no way around it. One’s opportunity to travel to Europe is very limited, thus one must pack many things in. I doubt this truly needs explaining. In a nutshell, I…we need to go back. I get teary-eyed just thinking about the prospect of returning. Our experiences have taught us many things, and would surely yield much in a second journey, especially in Amsterdam, where I feel we failed to completely engross ourselves in what it offered.
Never-the-less, there was not a single beer related establishment that I had on my “must visit” list that we missed. How was this list conjured? You will surely not be surprised to hear that ratebeer had a hand, as well as the great Amsterdam Top Ten site. Number 1 on all of our lists? You guessed it, ‘t Arendsnest! Why? Check out the description on the Amsterdam Top Ten site:
One of the very few bars that [s]erve only beer from Dutch breweries. 350 different beers, not counting approximately 250 seasonal beers such as Bokbier, brewed by more than 50 breweries in different parts of the Netherlands. The owner is very knowledgeable and together with his enthusiastic staff is more than happy to provide his customers with information and recommendations.
We knew that this place would provide us with an ample selection of beers that we had never heard of and could never get in America. A true Dutch experience to say the least, just what we were after.
Just prior to arriving in Amsterdam we stopped for dinner at De Molen. This was after a very long drive from Paris, so not only was it late but we were tired, full, and a little buzzed. We decided that we would keep this first night a bit low key, which meant a trip to the number one on the list (which luckily was just a few blocks from our hotel) and a trip to one of the other non-beer related things that you have to do in Amsterdam: a weed cafe. You know…because it’s legal there.
Anyway, we write about beer so we will concentrate on that vice. After sifting through the rainy evening air, along gorgeous shop lined alley-ways and down streets that flank the many canals that bisect the city, we came to stand before ‘t Arendsnest. Finally, we had arrived. Once entering, any and all stresses were lifted from our shoulders. Not only was it dry, warm and bright inside, but it was invitingly cozy and bustling with the soothing din of the local clientele. The lighting, the design, the decor, all aspects of The Eagles Nest fit in just right with what we needed at that moment.
As you can see from the draught list above, our hopes of finding “strange” Dutch brews were realized here, just as we had hoped. Other than the only Dutch Trappist brewery La Trappe (Koningshoeven), Urthel, and the De Molen/Mikkeller collaboration brew Mikkel & Menno that we had discovered just prior to arriving, everything on the list was foreign to us. Though the bartender, like almost everyone in Amsterdam, spoke near perfect English, the place was pretty packed so we didn’t have much time to inquire about many of them. We ordered mostly blind (remember, the use of American iphones is pretty much negated in Europe). This is probably for the better. Sometimes going blind, being spontaneous, is more fun.
The Jopen Hoppen and Extra Stout were both procured. A quick word on the Hoppen – almost any time the word “hop” is alluded to in Europe, Americans need to proceed with an open mind (Alvinne is a clear exception). Something what may be considered extremely hoppy in Europe would be considered a weak pale ale at best to us. The Hoppen fit that mold. The Extra Stout on the other hand was really thick and delicious and would stand up against any American stout.
The Hertog Jan Grand Prestige, a big 10% ale was sampled, along with the Jubel Joop III Tripel, also made by Jopen. One of the favorites of the night was the Emelisse Espresso Stout which had a huge mocha colored head with massive bubbles. Oh I wish I could indulge in one right now! A few De Molen bottles were enjoyed as well such as t ‘Ooievaartje – a fruit lambic and, quite possibly the gem of our visit – Bloed, Zweet & Tranen, or Blood, Sweat & Tears. B, Z & T is a dark concoction that uses smoked malts and minimal hops. It can, quite deservedly, be found in the Netherlands top 50 beers on ratebeer.com.
In conclusion, ‘t Arendsnest was a must visit for Beer Blotter in Amsterdam, and should be a must visit for all beer lovers.
We thought we would start out our bevy of reporting on our trip to Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands with a short set of our “Top 3″ in Belgium and beyond.
There were three members of BeerBlotter.com on this trip, so its impossible to come to a verdict about the ranking of the Top 3 at this point. Perhaps by the close of our two weeks of stories on the journey, we will have formed a consensus. For now we are simply providing what we believe to be the best 3 places to visit in a particular category.
Please note: we did not visit everything, we couldn’t. Though Belgium is only about 90 miles across, there are so many places to visit. Those venues are not bunched in any easily manageable way, especially the breweries of West Flanders. Thus, we will expose our limitations – we can only rank those places that we visited. Later in the week, we will be providing reviews on each establishment visited, so you will be able to get a better idea of what was visited.
Also, we are stating the names of these places in Flemish or French so that you can find them on a map/online easier.
So, here we go:
Top 3 Breweries to Visit:
1) Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Heule, Belgium
2) Brasserie Cantillon, Brussels, Belgium
3) Brouwerij De Molen, Bodegraven, Holland (Ok Ok its not in Belgium – its in the Netherlands. But its so amazing!)
***Brasserie Thiriez in Escambeq, France – very cool too, if you speak French***
Top 3 Beer Bars to Visit in Belgium:
1) Paters Vaetje, Antwerp, Belgium (Amazing atmosphere and great bartender)
2) Poatersgat, Bruges, Belgium
3) Moeder Lambic, Brussels, Belgium (new, incredible)
Top 3 Beer Bars to Visit in Holland:
1) Cafe Gollem, Amsterdam, Holland
2) ‘t Arendsnest, Amsterdam, Holland
3) Beer Temple, Amsterdam, Holland (for the variety – and if you miss the USA)
Top 3 Places to Enjoy a Beer in Belgium:
1) ‘t Waterhuis Aan De Bierkant, Ghent, Belgium
2) Picobrouwerij Alvinne’s Loft, Heune, Belgium
3) ‘t Poatersgat, Bruges, Belgium (cmon, its in a medieval cellar)
Top 3 Beer Lists in Belgium:
1) Kulminator, Antwerp, Belgium (vintages really help)
2) Cafe Cambrinus, Bruges, Belgium
3) Bier Circus, Brussels, Belgium
Top 3 Bottleshops
1) Willems, Grobbendonk, Belgium (ridiculous, go here)
2) Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Heune, Belgium (worldwide selection)
3) De Bier Temple, Bruges, Belgium
Top 3 Beer Experiences in Belgium:
1) Drinking Nuclear Penguin & Sink the Bismark with owner Davy Spiessens at Picobrouwerij Alvinne
2) Enjoying Westvleteren 12 at In De Vrede Cafe on the St. Sixtus Abbij
3) Tasting young gueuzes and special lambics at Brasserie Cantillon
***Checking out the cooling cellar at Moeder Lambic was cool too***
Top 3 Places for a Meal in Belgium (Beer Involved Venues)
1) De Gans, Huise, Belgium
2) Bier Circus, Brussels, Belgium
3)Brouwerij De Molen (Holland) & Brauerei zum Fuchschen (Germany) (again neither in Belgium, but damn good)
***We didn’t make it to Den Djiver in Bruges – we dont have 100.00 for a meal***
Top 3 Belgian Food to Eat
1) Toast Cannibale (raw beef across bread)
2) Witloof Casserole (Belgian Endive with Ham and Cheese)
3) Stoemf (potatoes, sausage, herbs and vegetables all mashed together)
Top 3 Issues with the Current State of Belgium
1) Construction in Ghent! (the entire city is under construction – kind of killing the ambience)
2) non-uniformity of business days
3) unknown/spontaneously selected opening and closing hours (its always a guessing game)
***Note: We were there during off-season, and we knew that, so the hours/days issue is partly our fault***
There is more to come. I’m sure I forgot to rank many things. We will try and wrap it together soon.
We are still alive and kicking. We have been pre-occupied with endless beer consumption for the past 10 days. But with it all coming to a close, its time to re-inject ourselves into your daily news garb.
The trip has been magnanimous. We have met beers, geese, brewers, and nipping winds. Belgium treated us well.
Visits to Cantillon, Alvinne, Westvleteren, Moeder Lambic Pater’s Vaetje, Poatersgat, and de Gans – were top flight. But we have some negative marks for some Belgian staples as well.
We return on Sunday and promise to have full remarks by that time. Enjoy your weekend!
***Note: I apologize for the brevity of this post, but i am fairly certain resident beer nerd Timperial Stout wants to chime in tomorrow about this lineup. I just cannot contain myself***
Brouwers Cafe’s Big Wood Festival is probably our second favorite Seattle beer festival of the year. It closely rivals, and perhaps in the eyes of many, passes Brouwer’s Hopfest. But, being as its November – its the only thing in our minds.
Big Wood is a celebration of wood-altered beers. Whether beer is barrel-aged or enhanced by wood chips, you will find it here. This year’s Big Wood is kicking off on December 3, 2009. If its like most of Brouwer’s events, it will likely start around 4 PM. I would suggest getting there around 3:30, snagging a table and ordering some fried chick peas (awesome). Hold down the fort for your buddies and enjoy the night.
In any event, this year’s beer list is incredible. We pulled a copy of last year’s list (which is being posted tomorrow on beerblotter.com) and firmly believe this year’s offerings far exceed last year’s bevy.
Firestone Walker (The Black Xantus), Port Brewing (Brouwer’s Imagination) and Fremont Brewing (BN Barrel Dry Hopped Abominable) are all offering exceptionally curious ales for the event. I cannot wait to try them.
The big review is coming tomorrow – with Timperial’s full review of the goodies. Stay tuned, but make plans to see us on December 3rd!
Reminder: Brouwers has the best beer events. The next one coming up is Hard Liver Barleywine Festival. This is a great event with 4 oz pours – allowing you to actually try the whole list (or close to it) without going to the hospital.