Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter hits Northern Virginia

It's gotten cold here in Northern Virginia.  17 degrees when I walked the dog this morning.  And the wind chill?  Let's just say BRRRRRRRRRRR.......

So it was perfect night to come home and enjoy the butternut squash soup my darling wife had made for dinner.  I opened the fridge and looked for a hearty winter brew to compliment it.

And here's where I have to take back my previous post.  I had picked up some of Old Dominion's Baltic Porter.  Paired with some sourdough bread, savory soup and fresh sharp cheddar cheese it provided a smooth compliment to the meal and an even better after dinner beverage.   Dark in color, smooth, chocolate-like flavor and a pleasant aftertaste.

I have to agree with David over at Musings Over a Pint that this is a fine example of another good seasonal brew from Old Dominion - and I do hope they keep up the quality when they move to Delaware.  I just wish that a beer named after my state was still going to be in this state.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beer gone to the dogs

Every now and then I find it's fun to attach a theme to my beer purchases. For example from one of my earlier posts you could infer a summer/winter seasonal theme.

So I found myself examining the brews at Wegman's a few weeks ago and looking for something that would catch my eye. And with thoughts of my 9 month old chesapeake bay retriever I was drawn to two 6-packs that prominently featured dogs in the name or artwork. Heck, there are worse themes to go with, especially considering on my favorite beers of late is Smuttynose's Brown Dog Ale.

First up, is Ellie's Brown Ale from Avery Brewing Company. Now it's not just that the dog on the label looks exactly like my Chessie but I'll definitely be heading back to pick up more of this. Fresh from the Rocky Mountains, this dark ale features a nice chocolate taste that is more reminiscent of a porter than what you usually think of as a typical ale. Smooth and fulfilling as an after dinner drink it's been the perfect brew to chill after a hard day's work and enjoy.

Now if one beer label looks like my Chessie, of course I also had to reach for the beer that reminded me of my 12 year old Black Lab - Black Dog Ale from Spanish Peaks Brewing.  And just like my Lab, this beer was smooth and calming on the soul like that big dog head resting on my lap.  There's a very nice malty flavor to it that makes a pleasant and smooth drinking experience.

So the lesson I learned was what?  That beers that remind me of my dogs can't go wrong? No, not quite.  But it did point out that putting together a "beer theme" can be a fun way to pair up beers you may not have thought of before.  Or at least it adds some joy to the shopping experience.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The choice formula changes

The hardest thing in life is choice.  And since I love a great seasonal beer there's no better feeling than peering at the choice of brews in the beer aisle. My usual rule is to choose the small, local brew if I'm weighing an option of two similar brews.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently face with a choice of two seasonal winter brews. Either Old Dominion's Baltic Porter or Michelob's Winter Cask Ale.  Usually it would be an easy choice - my rules for local small guy would make me go with the Dominion.

But here's the rub.  Old Dominion is no longer local.  With the recent news that Old Dominion is closing the Ashburn based brewery.  So now my math has changed.  A beer that's local in name only or an attempt by a large St. Louis based brewery to try something different with better quality.

My decision?  You'll need to read the previous post to find out :-).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Multiple Beer-sonality

Or as one might say "An Ale of 2 Seasons".

I usually don't venture to the Giant unless it is to explore the expanded beer section. And what a variety I had to choose from the other night.

The weather is getting colder which is an opportunity to put aside the light and refreshing taste of the summer ales and embrace beer's dark and heavier side. So my taste buds were automatically drawn to the holiday porters. A choice had to be made between a holiday Dominion Porter and Michelob's Winter Bourbon Cask Ale. Well since I no longer have any loyalty to Dominion it was an easy choice (more on that later).

Ahh... but as I walked back up the aisle, there was that last remnant of summer calling my name. Kona Brewing Company's Longboard Lager. So I grabbed a 6 pack and pondered the dichotomy of the situation.

And you know what? It works! At the end of the day and during a dinner the lighter lager refreshes. And for an evening of relaxation the darker cask ale provides a satisfying respite. If this keeps up, I'll have to find some other summer/winter mixes to enjoy. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

3 weeks till my birthday

Don't mean to imply anything, but if you're interested I wouldn't complain if this made it to my beer glass....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If You Must Celebrate Oktoberfest With Only One Beer

.... Make it Ayinger's Oktober Fest-Marzen.

I received an amazing gift over the weekend in the form of beer gift basket. I decided to open one of the individual Oktober Fest beers this evening.

I opened the freezer and reached in to grab the frosted glass. The bottle opener paused on its own as it moved to remove the bottle cap. Poetry and art in a bottle cap? You know when someone puts that much effort into a bottle cap the beer that is about to come is going to be great.

Smooth amber crawls up the glass replacing the frost. A white foam gathers at the top saying "smell me". And when the lips touch the beer.....

Well, here's where the story is best told by others.

Suffice it to say, I'll have to find some more. I usually espouse the virtues of local brews. But it was a wonderful break from my usual pattern to try the Ayinger.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall is in the air....

And that can only mean one thing. Octoberfest!

After a long grueling day at work yesterday, I sped home took the dog for a good walk in the drizzling rain as a Nor'easter blows into Virginia. Wet leaves, chill in the air and it all added up to the first beer that caught my eye when I had to run to the grocery store for some last minute dinner supplies.

I figured, "I've held on to the light effervesence of the summer brews for a while. So long light, citrus. C-ya next year o' delightful opacity of the unfiltered wheat. Bring on the full flavor and belly satisfaction of Octoberfest!"

So to celebrate my first official Octberfest brew of the season, I salute my Northern Virginia neighbor - Old Dominion Octoberfest. Bring it on boys. Football season and beer time. Always a surefire crowd pleaser.

Now, my wife reports that Wegman's has a whole aisle of Octoberfest brews.... sounds like this project needs more research.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My hopes for Bud Ale fade

I hate to admit it... I've been looking forward to trying this new Budweiser American Ale. I've been thinking, "Wow, here's a major brewer that's finally listening to their customers and are saying we can deliver more than just a full and lite version of my swill. Maybe they'll impress me."

My delirium about expectations of a major brewer faded last night. I attended the National's baseball game and Miller Lite was sponsoring a "1/2 way to St. Patty's Day" promo complete with Irish dancers, bag-pipe playing firemen and green Nat's hats with a Miller Lite logo on it. As I sat in the stands during the 3rd inning feeling a bit parched, the Beer Man came through. I thought "what they heck let's get in the spirit and try a Miller Lite" (yes, my wife and kids did look at me like I had suddenly developed leprosy).

WHAT WAS I THINKING???? Ohhhh I felt suckered all right. But then I remembered, that this is the kind of marketing schtick that major beer brands go through. Create a bit of hope, pull you in and sell you some sort of beer flavored water.

Which brings me back to Budweiser American Ale..... Are you guys for real with a flavorful beer that adds to the experience? Or are you resorting to the same thing in a different package (with a higher price point) with the hopes of digging deeper into my pocket.

We'll see.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sierra Nevada makes me Hoppy :-)

I usually don't fall for the marketing hype of "anniversaries" and "specials" in terms of products. Hey, I do marketing for a living. I know what's going on the mind in that product manager ("oooo, new label and a schtick. I'll convince the distributors and put it on the shelves for a short while and see if I can increase the margin.")

Well, let me say this to the marketing manager at Sierra Nevada..... THANK YOU!!!! I picked up a six pack of the Sierra Nevada Anniversary ale. It's a very nice hoppy IPA that flows great and tastes even better after a stressful day at work. It went even better with the calzone and calamari we had from the local pizza joint.

They describe it much better on their website so feel free to bounce over there and get the description and such. But i'll leave it at this..... it's a limited release, I highly recommend you run out and grab a six pack. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Relaxation Beer

I know, I know!  It's been over a month since I've posted.  You're nagging me like my mother would for not doing my homework.  But hey, just like back in school I've still been drinking beer.

But tonight's subject isn't a review.  It's a comment.  I just got home from attending my homeowner's association meeting.  And you know, it's sad to say that the only thing that makes this evening bearable is the cold beer I put in my hand as soon as I walked in.  And that's the nice thing about a cold beer..... in moderation a good beer can save an otherwise unbearable evening.

Drink up friends.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Longboards and flops

Yesterday I mentioned a cool new pair of flip-flops with a built in beer bottle opener.  This evening's beer provided a perfect test for the ultimate beach accessory.  I'm sad to say this one really disappoints.  

The problem is that a good bottle opener combines leverage with grip to easily open your beer.  The positioning of the hardware where you couldn't get any leverage meant that you need extra force to open the beer.... all of which shook up the beer and did not make for a good start.

The good thing is the beer itself provided an EXCELLENT finish -- Longboard Lager from Kona Brewing Company.  No, it's not a local brew but I couldn't pass on the idea of a surfing inspired beer during a beach vacation.  So as I eased into the hot-tub with the kids it was a great end to a vacation day.  As lagers go, not much special about it.  But since beers are best experienced as a point in time... it was just right. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Empty Glass is on Vacation

And while usually that would mean no posts, for a dedicated beer reviewer like myself it just means more opportunities to sample and report back the goodness.

Of course my first stop on my vacation was to pick up a pair of flip-flops. While browsing the usually boring samples there was a glint of metal that caught my eye..... a pair of flip-flops with a bottle opener built in!! I'll test it later and report back on it's effectiveness.

But for now, here's the first official beer review of the week. Since I'm staying on the Outer Banks of North Carolina I had to insist on buying some North Carolina beer. And although Highland Brewing Company is on the side of the state in Asheville, NC it barely fit my criteria so I picked up a 6 pack of the Cattail Peak Wheat Beer.

The website describes it as, "a complex malty body enhanced with traditional spicy noble hops and a smooth, crisp finish." I, however, did not pick up on the malt body. But what I did notice - and enjoyed - were the hops which combined with the unfiltered texture made it a great lunch beer after a morning at the beach. Would I make it an every day beer? Probably not. But for experimenting and enjoying something different with a meal - most definitely.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cheers from Charm City

It's been a Baltimore Beer day.  We had a happy hour at work this afternoon to celebrate new business.  As our HR person ran out to get some beers she asked for some recommendations. My advice? "Go local, don't bring me back none of that generic, mass produced, ge
t it anywhere in the world swill."

So I was quite pleased to open the bridge and see some of Baltimore's own Clipper City Beer.  I've been a fan of their beer for quite a while - personal fave is the Small Craft Warning. However today the fridge had McHenry.  I've enjoyed McHenry at Camden yards many times, but in this setting it was a very refreshing beverage.  I've got to admit it was the perfect fit for a company happy hour -- light and refreshing but not to heavy as to hamper conversation.

But even an better beverage was waiting for me when when I got home.  As I looked in the fridge there was a six pack of BaltoMarZhon.  Rich amber color, malty flavor and poured into a chilled glass makes the perfect way to end the day.

I hope you get a chance to look for these beers.  Even better, drop by their site or if you want some insight as to their beers, check out master brewer Hugh Sisson's Blog.

As they say in Baltimore, "Cheers Hon!"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Daring... but part of mainstream

We never got around to grocery shopping this weekend so the family loaded up and went to Joe's Crab Shack for dinner (yes, I feel for a trite ad during a TNT movie this afternoon).

Walked up to the bar while waiting for a table and perused the handles on the draft beers.  Out of all the ones I expected to see there was one I hadn't seen before.  Beach Bum Blonde Ale.  Ahh something refreshingly new to try (or so I thought).

First, an opinion..... Light and refreshing.  I really like the color and the malty flavor which leaves a pleasant aftertaste.  It was a great compliment to the summer season and dinner meal (seafood of course).  Bit of a fruit taste like a hefeweisen with the lemon already added.  There are some at Beer Advocate that review it better, but suffice to say... I'd drink it again.

So what's there not to like?  It's another Anheuser-Busch beer.  Yeah for them for bringing out something seasonal that expands the palette.  However, it would be nice to see these restaurants looking for something a bit more off the beaten path when providing beer options.

Bottom line.  Good beer that I'd happily drink again, I just know where my money is going this time.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Official Beer of Summer?

Summer has hit hard here in Virginia.  The thermostat hit 95 degrees with the humidity of a southern swamp.  

So after a brisk walk with the family and dog it was nice to come home and as I started cooking dinner I grabbed the chilled glass from the freezer dropped a slice of lemon and wafted in the aromatic scent of .... Hefeweisen.

Flavor, body, aroma without being heavy.  Now, my choice tonight was Widmer's Hefeweisen, but I've also lately enjoyed a cold class of Pyramid and Erdinger.  It depends on how you define the traditional wheat beer depending on the Belgian and German variety,  but for me many unfiltered beers fall into this category and satisfy my taste for a refreshing light beer that isn't just another light beer.

Now from a beer snob's point of view one of the nice things about the popularity of hefeweisens is that it has also helped major manufacturers see the light and bring some better options to market.  From Blue Moon (made by Coors) to Shock Top (made by Budweiser) tastes and options are opening up for others.

So enjoy the heat and humidity.  A relax with a cold glass of My Official Beer of Summer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ballpark Beers

Summertime and there's nothing better than the crack of the bat and a cold beer.  Of course, my visit to Nationals Park last night gave me an opportunity to think about beer (yes, they lost in case you're wondering).

Once upon a time you had limited choices in beer at the ballpark.  But in today's modern baseball park your options are quite varied.  Off the top of my head i had my choice of Blue Moon, Peroni, Heinekin, Amstel Light, Bud and Bud Lite, Miller and Miller Lite, Leinenkugel, Corona and more that I can't remember.  My only wish is that the beer guys coming through the aisles had more choices.

It's good to have choices.  But what would be better would be more LOCAL choices.  I mean, in the DC area we have Old Dominon, Capitol City Brewing, Shenadoah Brewing Company, Foggy Bottom and if you're willing to go north to Baltimore we can throw in Clipper City.  Let's open up the ballpark experience to make sure that it's truly a LOCAL experience even in terms of beverage choices.

Oh, and in case you're wondering what my choice was?  Blue Moon.  Flavorful, crisp, cold with that summer goodness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I've talked about this blog for quite a while now.  And as a reason to go out and drink more beers, here it finally is. 

So pop open a beer, grab your mouse and lets explore the world of beers together.  We live in a great time for beer fans – our options have gone way beyond Bud, Bud Lite, MGD and Miller Lite. Thanks to globalization we have imports (YAHHH Belgium) and broader tastes which has spawned microbrews.  Heck, even the big guys are getting into it (have you tried Budweiser's new Shock Top?).

So for now, I'll sign off and go grab a cold one.  Check back for more beer fun.