Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Willibrew House Taps

Willimantic Brewing Company is one of my favorite breweries in Connecticut.  Unfortunately, all the way across the state and there's no real easy way of getting there.

So when I get the opportunity to go there I take full advantage of the visit.  That is, I have a designated driver and I drink as many different beers as possible.

Willibrew isn't all about the beer either.  The  brewpub is located in an old post office and the atmosphere is amazing. The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable.   And the food?  Oh my goodness!  My favorite is their build-your-own burger.  I get balsamic beer glazed onions, grilled portobello mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles on mine with a side of garlic fries.  Their garlic fries kick ass!  They are literally french fries with minced garlic dumped all over them.  Potent and delicious!

They're beer is some of the best craft beer I've had.  This past trip I tried all the Willibrews on their beer menu - nine in all.  Don't freak out.  I didn't drink nine full pints of beer.  I'm a lush but not that big of a lush.

Hubby and I shared a flight of five different Willimantic brews and then shared a couple pints each. 

Anniversary Amber (5.9% ABV) brewed in honor of the brewery's 22nd anniversary was one of my favorite brews of the day.  It is a clear amber ale with a light floral and fruity aroma.  It is lightly sweet with a fresh fruity (raspberry) quality.  It is nicely balanced by a slightly bitter finish.  Overall: excellent!

Mail Carrier Maybock (5.9% ABV) is a clear amber colored ale with a light malty aroma.  The taste is malty and fruity.  Sweet without being cloying.  A nice balanced brew.  The finish is clean with a hint of malt.  Delish! Overall: very good!

Hopsolutely EPA (6% ABV) is a cloudy honey color with a head that diminishes to a filmy ring that hugs perimeter of the glass. There is a big malt presence up front then the hops emerge to end in a nice bitter finish.  Overall: very good!

Hop Abyss (6.9% ABV) is another of my favorite brews.  It is a deep sable brown with a dense head.  The flavor, hmm, imagine a hopped Russian imperial stout.  Espresso coffee and dark chocolate merges with a lovely hoppy bitterness.  The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth.  This beer is black IPA perfection!  Overall: Excellent!

Mysterious Barrel Aged Sour (9.5% ABV) is described as "a blend of various barrel aged sour beers".  I fully admit I am not a big fan of sours.  Let me tell you here and now that I loved this beer!  It is a hazy copper color with a swirl of foam on top. The aroma is boozy and fruity - kind of brandy-like.  The taste is sweet and tart.  There is a definite champagne quality to this brew, both in flavor and mouth feel.  It finishes dry and slightly bitter.  This is truly the most amazing sour I've ever tasted.  Overall: Excellent!

Sterling Nugget IPA (6.2% ABV)  is a cloudy honey color.  The aroma is kind of sweet for an IPA; fruity.  The initial taste is of malt and fruit but hoppy bitterness quickly emerges to create a nice balance of flavors.  The finish is pleasantly bitter.  I liked this one!  Overall: very good!

Address Unknown IPA (6% ABV) is a bright amber color.  This is what an IPA smells like!  Mouthwateringly hoppy! This brew is for the true hophead.  The taste is bitter, bitter and bitter.  NOM!  Overall:  Very good!

Certified Gold Ale (4.7%) is a brew for everyone.  Sessionable, easy drinking and flavorful.  The aroma and flavor are pleasantly malty.  This beer is just right, not too bitter and not too sweet.  Just right!  Overall: very good!

Casked Mail Carrier Maybock with rosebuds (5.9% ABV) is a clear amber colored ale.  The aroma is lightly malty with a hint of roses.  The taste is malty and fruity but the rosebuds add a remarkable pepper-like aspect.  A distinct rose flavor emerges towards the end and makes for a unique and delicious beer.  I've never tasted anything quite like it and find myself craving it.  Awesomeness! Overall: excellent!

The beer at Willimantic Brewing Company are consistently good, fresh and delicious with varying degrees of excellence.  Very rarely do I happen upon a brewery that I can say I like every one of their beers. WBC is that kind of brewery!  Outstanding!


Monday, April 29, 2013

A visit to Thimble Island Brewing Company

I just so happened to be in the vicinity of Thimble Islands Brewery so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to stop in and get a growler refill.

The last time I was there (February) I had spoken with brewery co-founder Mike Fawcett about future expansion plans.  The new tanks have been installed and this weekend they finally brought their two new 15BBL fermenters online.  

When I arrived, there was a lot of activity in the brewery.  Despite that, Mike and Justin took a moment to say "hi".   I was pleased that they remembered me from my last visit and was even happier when they offered kind words about the article I wrote about my last visit (click here).

We chatted briefly the new fermenters.  These new tanks are a big deal for them because they increase their production capabilities enormously.   Bigger tanks mean more beer.  More beer is just all kinds of awesome.

I let them get back to their work and, while my growler was being filled, I had a tasted of their American Ale.  It was also my birthday and when I logged the beer on Untappd I had another happy surprise of getting a badge for drinking a brew on my birthday!  

Thimble Islands currently makes only two beers - American Ale and Coffee Stout.  As I was talking with their tap tender, I asked if there were any plans in the works for any new brews.  

In fact, they had just finished a test batch of a new IPA.  That got me very excited; if you know my beer preferences you'll know why.  As were were discussing the new beer, co-founder Justin Gargano went around the back of the bar.  To my delight he offered up a taste.  

Wow!  This was turning out to be the best birthday in recent history!!

The IPA, as yet unnamed, was delightful!  Even my husband, who is kind of meh on IPA's liked it.  

It poured a clear golden color with - in grand IPA style - a big bubbly head that clung to the sides of the glass.  The aroma was mouth wateringly hoppy.  The flavor was quite nice.  The initial taste was a light, flavorful blend of hops that progressed into a pleasant bitterness that built through to the finish.  

Justin informed me that what I tasted may not be exactly the same as the final product.  It will all depend on the availability of the variety of hops they end up using in the finished recipe. 

The test batch was delicious!  I can't wait to taste the final product.

Visit Thimble Island Brewery's website or check them out on Facebook

Small Craft Über Pils

I bought a six pack of Small Craft Über Pils brewed by Heavy Seas pretty much on a whim when looking for something for my Friday night/end of the week decompression session.  It was a cold  beer that I'd never had before from a brewer I'd never heard of.  That's good enough for me!

Small Craft (7.25% ABV) pours a bright gold bordering on amber.  It starts out with a generous head the diminishes to linger finger high head that leaves behind a wisp of lacing.  

The aromas is a little hoppy and a little bready with a hint of sweet malts.

The alcohol is well disguised beneath layers of caramel malt and mildly bitter hops.  Small Craft is slightly sweet and nicely balanced.

The mouth feel is medium with pleasant effervescence.

This is a smooth drinking beer with fairly bold flavor.  

Overall: Good

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CoCoNut PorTeR

Maui Brewing beer isn't distributed in Connecticut, but I managed to get my greedy little hands on a 4-pack of CoCoNut PorTeR.  I can't tell you how because then I'd have to kill you and then I'd have one less reader - that's not good.

I was really excited to try this beer.  CoCoNut PorTer (6% ABV) is hand-crafted and with 200 pounds of house-toasted flaked coconuts per 25-barrel batch.  That's a lot of coconutty awesomeness!  Sounds like YUM to me!

It pours a rich dark brown with a big thick mocha colored head.  The head dwindles but a nice layer of froth remains to grab the sides of the glass.

The aroma has a lot roasty malt and a tease of toasted coconut.   Mmmm, promising.

The flavor is big on dark malt with hints of coffee, chocolate and vanilla.  The coconut creeps in on the back end but not as boldly as I had anticipated or hoped.

The mouthfeel is medium to light and very smooth.  The is nicely drinkable for a darker beer.  

I liked CoCoNut Porter but was disappointed that the coconut was as subtle as it was.  I was really hoping for big bold coconuttiness.  

Overall: very good.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Buffalo Gold

I received this bottle as a gift.  I don't know if it's a beer I would have selected for myself.  That is, if I saw it on the shelf at my beer store, I wouldn't have picked it up on impulse.  But after trying it, I would definitely grab a bottle or two of Buffalo Gold. It's a surprisingly tasty beer!

I don't know why I'm surprised, though.  I like  Boulder Beer Company's Hoopla a lot.

Buffalo Gold (4.95% ABV) pours a rich reddish gold.  My gentle pour didn't build a big head but what it had was thick and lingering.  

The aroma is a mouthwatering blast of caramel malt and toasted grains.

The taste is sweet caramel malts with a hint of melon; honeydew perhaps.  The sweetness is balanced out by a mild bittering and complimented by yeasty breadiness. This is a very flavorful beer. 

The mouth feel is light to medium with nice effervescence.

 The modest alcohol content makes this brew perfectly sessionable.  It goes down nice and easy.

I liked it.  Summer's coming and this would be a good brew to refresh you on a hot day.

Overall: very good.

Visit Boulder Beer Company's website for more info about about their beers of check them on Facebook.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Beerific Javanilla Cocktail

This concoction is a match made in heaven.  The sweet richness of Saphouse vanilla bean mead mixed with Berkshire brewing coffee porter tastes like a beerific cappuccino whipped up a coffeehouse barista.

It's especially special since Berkshire Brewing is the distributor for New Hampshire based Sap House mead in Connecticut.

Beerfific Javanilla Cocktail

2 Ounces Saphouse Meadery Vanilla Bean Mead
11 Ounces Berkshire Brewing Dean's Beans Coffeehouse Porter

Pour chilled vanilla mead into a 16 ounce glass.  Top with coffee porter.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grolsch Premium Lager

If I've said it once then I've said it a thousand (or more) times, I am NOT - I repeat, NOT - a fan of beer packaged in green bottles.  Why?  Because, from my experience, they tend to have a skunky smell and tasted.  Blech!

However, for a good cause, I sucked it up and bought a four-pack of Grolsch.   Actually, for two good causes.  

One was purely selfish.  Hey, I never claimed to be magnanimous. The first reason for making the sacrifice of  swilling brew from a green bottle was the whorish motivation to get an Untappd badge.   The reason for the Untappd badge is the celebration of Queen's Day in the Netherlands. Which is actually the secondary rationale behind getting the Grolsch.  I have no genealogical ties to the Netherlands but I'll drink to just about anything.


Lest I forget, there is actually a third reason for getting Grolsch.  The bottles! They are capped with swing top caps that are great to re-purpose.

Grolsch (5% ABV) is an okay beer.  It's nothing special, but if you're like me then you probably have some juvenile memory of drinking Grolsch.  For me, it was my introduction to imported beer.  And, I'm fairly certain I was under the legal drinking age at the time.  Some introduction, huh?

The smell is mildly skunky, kind of earthy and a little like mowed grass.  
The appearance is a pale gold.  

The taste is a little malty, a little bitter and very light.  It also has the unpleasant undercurrent of skunk.  

The mouth feel is very light, as well.  The alcohol content makes it very sessionable and exceptionally drinkable.

This is a pound it back kind of beer.  Like I said, it's not a great beer but it doesn't suck.  And it's beer.

So, drink 'em if you got 'em.  

And raise a cold one to the reigning queen of the Netherlands on April 30th (or the 29th if the 30th falls on a Sunday or May 1st if it falls on a Friday).  Complicated, I know.

Long live the queen, forever may she reign and whatnot!  CHEERS!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cooking with beer - Beerific Apple Pie With Rustic Cheddar Beer Crust

This ain't your gramma's apple pie!

The apples are marinated in beer so when they get put into the crust their pretty well sauced.  

As for the crust, I would almost rather chew glass than make pie crust from scratch. I literally want to chuck the dough across the room when it comes time to roll it out.  But this crust is a must-do!  Beer and sharp cheddar cheese mixed into the dough make this crust amazing!

Beerific Apple Pie With Rustic Cheddar Beer Crust

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6-8 tbs pale ale or wheat beer
2 tbs melted butter

7 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced 
16 oz pale ale or wheat beer
1 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbs flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp corn starch

Note:  I used Samuel Adams Summer Ale in the crust and a combination of the Summer Ale and Boston Lager for the apples.  Delish! (I drank what was left in the bottles  :D)

Combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix until well combined.  Add the remaining flour and continue mixing for about a minute.

Move to a bowl and add the cheese and 6 tbs beer, mix until just incorporated. Don't over mix. If the dough is too dry, add more beer until the right consistency is reached.

Split into two equal sized portions and form into disks. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill until very firm, about two hours. Because this dough is so soft, it is very important for the pie dough to be very cold and very firm.

Place the apples, lemon juice and 16 ounces of beer in a bowl and allow to soak at room temperature for 2 hours. If the apples are not fully submerged, toss every half hour to redistribute. Remove the apples from the beer and allow to drain and dry for about 30 minutes, or until fully dry.

Preheat oven to 350.

Add the apples and the remaining filling ingredients to a bowl and toss to coat.

On a well floured surface, place one of the disks, add flour to the top of the disk as well. Roll out into an even thickness.

Add you pie dough to a pie pan and press into shape, removing any excess. Add the filling.
Roll out the second disk of pie dough and add to the top of your pie. Press the top crust and the bottom crust together at the edges, cut holes to vent steam.

Brush with 2 tbs melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cover the edges with foil of the edge starts to brown too quickly.

Founders KBS

I've stated previously that my experience with Founders beer has been hit or miss.  I'm finding that, although my preference in beer leans towards a lighter hoppier brew, that when it comes to Founders beer I like their darker beers much better.  They scored some big points in my book with Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  That is a seriously good brew!

KBS (11.2% ABV) is a breakfast stout aged in bourbon barrels.  Other bourbon stouts I've had are aggressive and taste more like bourbon than beer.  The bourbon flavor in this one is a subtle afterthought.  Very nice.

It pours a rich, velvety black with hints of ruby.  The tawny head is creamy but minimal.  

The aroma is roasty coffee with hints of dark chocolate and undertones of bourbon.  Very promising!

The first thing that I noticed when tasted KBS was how full and creamy the mouth feel is, almost luxurious.

The taste is an explosion of coffee, chocolate and toasted malts.  The bourbon flavor builds along with a pleasant boozy warmth and finishes the same.

Despite the high alcohol content, this is a smooth drinking beer.  The alcohol adds character without being distracting.

The flavors and aroma intensify as the beer warms in the glass and enhance the enjoyment of this wonderful beer.

Overall:  Excellent.  Get some! (if you can)

For more information about their beers visit Founder's website or check them out on Facebook.

Monday, April 22, 2013

CraftBrewGuy Presents: Cask Night @ Relic Brewing

When I received the invitation from Craft Brew Guy to attend an exclusive tasting at Relic Brewing the decision to go wasn't a difficult one to make.

The event was limited to 25 people and included two brews casked specifically for the event, lots and lots of samples - more than I could drink and THAT is saying something! - and very nice glass with the Relic logo on it.

I would like to first thank Aron, Craft Brew Guy, for putting together the tasting event.  It was great fun and I enjoyed meeting with so many other beer enthusiasts.  It was also nice to meet head brewer, Mark Sigman, and the other Relic staff.  

With permission, I poked around the brewery.  I am always surprised when I see a micro brewery.  It's amazing how much beer and in such a wide variety is brewed in such a small space and with such limited equipment.  It's really impressive.

I tried all the beer they had to offer that evening.  They were all good but one really stood out for me.

Belgian Farmhouse Rye, a casked version of their Belgian Funky Rye (6.5% ABV), that had added honey and orange.  The color is a deep, cloudy amber with a head that diminished to a bit of foam that clung to the edge of the glass.   The aroma was awash with a orange, honey and the hops imparted a kind of nutty and floral quality.  The flavor expectation that the aroma teased at was fulfilled.  It had deep complexity of flavor; it was rich and delicious.  I had more than one glass of this . . . mmmm, so good.

Blind Justice IPA (6.6% ABV) was the other casked beer.  The beer was a bright, deep gold with a nice lingering head.  The aroma was a nice mix of hops and malt.  The flavor had a juicy tropical fruit lurking behind the bite of the hops.  The bitterness was balanced nicely by a touch of malty sweetness. The finish was crisp and pleasantly bitter. 

Calypso Wheat (5.5% ABV) was a pale golden color.  The aroma was wheaty with hint of hoppy sharpness and spice.  The was a nice wheat ale with the surprising tropical tang of calypso hops.  Wheat beers aren't my favorite but the hops made this brew something special.  

Insomnia Black IPA (5.6% ABV) poured very dark with a big off-white head.  The aroma is hoppy with a strong whiff of roast malts.  The flavor was hoppy citrus and dark malts however I thought the overall taste was a little lacking on this one - I guess I expected more.

Fortnight IPA (7.4% ABV) poured a hazy amber with a decent sized head that grabbed the glass.  The aroma mostly citrus fruit, especially tart grapefruit.  The flavor had a nice, tart grapefruit bite balanced be malty sweetness.  It had a creamy mouthfeel that made it go down easy. 

Clockwork Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) poured a muted hazy yellow with a thin head.  The aroma was citrussy and a little earthy.  The flavor is very hoppy and crisp.  It goes down dry with very little (if any) malt to balance out the bitter bite.  That doesn't bother me, though.  I love a bitter brew!

Prologue Rye Lager (5.6%) poured a rich amber with a wispy head.  The aroma is bready with pine and floral hops.   After drinking so many hoppy beers this one seemed sweet in comparison with malt taking the forefront.  There was still a nice tang of citrusy hops and a nice yeasty bread quality.  It finished with a nice lingering bitterness.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fish Paralyzer

Normally when I go to buy beer I have a pretty good idea of what I want.  And, because I'd rather chew glass than shop, more often than not I'll have a list in hand and make a bee-line to the beer guy at my favorite store and hand off my list.   He's good guy and accommodates my little eccentricity   

However, on occasion I'm forced to seek out my own beer.  Ugh!  Shopping!  But it's these times that I sometimes find beerific little treasures.   

Sometimes I'm attracted to a beer specifically because it has a cool name or a creative label.  I picked up Fish Paralyzer because of both.  And, there's the added bonus of a fun little tale on the back of the label.  

Seriously.  Fish Paralyzer - how cool is that for a name?? And the label has a nasty looking angler fish on it.  Awesomeness!

Fish Paralyzer (7.5% ABV) is brewed by RJ Rockers.  This is a true craft brewery where every single batch of beer is made by hand by the brewmaster.  That makes me very happy!

Fish Paralyzer pours a hazy copper color with big fluffy head. This is a dense brew with lots of sediment throughout with lots of bubbly carbonation rising along the sides of the glass.

The aroma a bright with spices, malt and yeast.

The flavor is a complexity of spices like clove and nutmeg, sweet malts and a wonderful breadiness.  However, the backbone of this brew is a bitterness just shy of massive.  

Fish Paralyzer is much more bitter than I typically expect from a pale ale, but I like it!

The mouth feel is medium and bubbly.

This is a tasty brew that is dangerously quaffable.  

Overall: Very good.

Visit RJ Rockers website or visit them on Facebook.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Two Roads Little Heaven

I swung by Two Roads brewery last night to sample the latest creation of brewmaster Phil Markowski.  He’s done it again with a delightful pale ale called Little Heaven. 

Little Heaven (5.7% ABV) is my kind of beer!

This gorgeous clear amber ale is topped with a nice bubbly head that dwindles to a thin glass grabbing layer of foam.

The subtle hoppy aroma belies the mouthwatering explosion of flavor.  Calypso hops add a suggestion of the tropics with a hint of juicy pineapple while creating a burst of full-on bitterness that continuously builds on the palate from start to finish.

The mouth feel is medium to full with a pleasant tingly effervescence. 

As the name would seem to suggest, the beer is a little slice of heaven.  Little Heaven is a bright, crisp pale ale that goes down oh-so easy; it is an excellent example of the style.

Like all Two Roads brews there’s always an interesting story behind the name on the label.  The account of how this brew got its name, as told to me by Brad Hittle, CEO of Two Roads, is actually quite amusing. 

Directly beneath the tasting room, there is a space that isn’t quite big enough to be called a room but larger than a crawlspace. .  As legend goes, during breaks employees of Baird would steal away to this secluded spot and would . . . uhm . . . indulge in some . . . er . . . horizontal refreshment.  Thus the room was dubbed “little heaven” for all the blissful goings on that went on there.


For more information about Two Roads Brewery visit their website and make sure to "like" them on Facebook!

Beer with Jesus

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cooking with Beer - Beer Braised Chicken with Peas

This is comfort food!  A hugely flavorful recipe using chicken and beer.  Easy to make, impressively delicious.  An excellent dish to prepare for a social gathering or as a nice satisfying meal.

Beer-Braised Chicken & Peas

3 3/4 Pounds Chicken Parts 
Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Small Red Onion, Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Pale Ale, Such as New Albion Ale
2 Tablespoons Spicy Guinness Mustard (or Other Grainy Mustard)
2 Cups Frozen Peas, Thawed And Drained

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken all over with Creole seasoning or other seasoning of your choice.  

In a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof deep pan, heat the oil over medium heat. 

In batches cook the chicken in the hot oil, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes per side.  Then transfer to a plate. 

Add the onion to the pan and cook until the they start to brown, about 5 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the beer and mustard, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Return the chicken to the skillet, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning chicken halfway through cooking time.  

Transfer the chicken to a serving dish, keep as much of the saucy goodness in the pan as possible.

Place the skillet over high heat and add the peas. Cook until the peas are tender but still green and the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. 

Spoon the sauce and peas over the chicken. Serve immediately.

Awesome with a side of smashed taters!