Monster Mash!

By now, most lovers of craft beer have heard plenty about the maker of Monster energy drink, Hansen Beverage Co., initiating a trademark dispute with Rock Art Brewery, ordering it to stop selling, advertising and promoting a beer called “The Vermonster.” Additionally, the large corporation wanted the tiny brewery to compensate it for attorneys’ fees.

If you haven’t read this (because now it’s old news), you can read about it all over the place or watch the Matt and ‘The Monster” video. And you can also find the declarations that Hansen backed off, including a time line and sincere thank you from brewer/owner Matt Nadeau (you may also be interested in his video calling for support to Trademark Reform where he talks relatively kindly about the actions of Hansen.)

My reason for posting is to share the hilarious Halloween costume a Vermonster vs. MonsterBurlington, VT family created to commemorate the occasion. I send thanks to Beth and Jim for entertaining me (even if laughing that hard after my surgery wasn’t such a good idea…), and hope they don’t mind me sharing it with the world!

Now that the attack on Rock Art is over, I’m hoping to return to drinking Hansen Natural Green Tea Soda and hopefully LOTS of Vermonster!

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Red Star Sunday Brunch

You wouldn’t know it from their website, but the most fabulous brunch in southwestern PA is held on Sundays from 10 AM – 4 PM at Red Star Brewery & Grille in Greensburg.  And naturally, we were visiting for the beer, which has been brewed on location since late 1998.  

We were doing some beer traveling this weekend, which I hope to write about soon, but Red Star was a clear highlight of the trip simply because we didn’t arrive with expectations of such wonderful fare! We were somewhat overwhelmed by what we found.

Red Star opens at 10 AM on Sunday, and today there was not a single customer in the place at that hour, so we “geek toured” the facility – taking photos of the beer menu, the bar, the trapeze artists swinging from the ceiling, the old train station benches, the brewing equipment…  We were seated, and then explored the brunch options without asking the price. In a beautiful facility, with so many freshly prepared options, we expected to pay a large price.

Instead, we were pleasantly surprised. For $14.99 we found a chef creating sushi rolls to our specifications (spicy tuna, smoked salmon with cream cheese, and crab), a Belgian waffle station with a variety of toppings, a made-to-order pasta and omelette station with a wide variety of “add ins”, a carving station with ham and savory cheese side dish, bacon, home fried potatoes, poached salmon and ratatouille, fresh fruit and a variety of desserts including beautiful cakes and cups of chocolate mousse. Additionally, eggs Benedict and banana nut bread were brought to our table.

Everything tasted terrific, and for a buffet situation, it was all beautifully presented. But of all the choices, I was most blown away by the eggs Benedict. The poached egg was so very fluffy that hidden under the hollandaise sauce (the most savory and delectable hollandaise sauce ever!), the egg looked like a dollop of sour cream! Oh my, was it rich. I was glad D and I shared one. The sushi was also impressive. Who would have thought we would find sushi for brunch in Greensburg?!? It was made exactly to order, and such a treat.

And with this lovely meal, we were able to order craft brewed beers after 11 AM. I was glad to see they had 10-oz glasses on the menu, and treated myself the Canvasback American Pale Ale, which is served on nitrogen (tiny bubbles go better with breakfast!) D had two fun and interesting beers – the Christmas Ale (Dark Wheat) and Santa’s Little Helper Barleywine (2007). The 2001 Barleywine was listed on the board, but it was bumped by Voodoo’s Child – a spiced Munich dunkel – which Heath tried (it was so smooth and creamy, I had to walk up to the bar just to make sure it wasn’t really on nitrogen.) Also at our table for tasting was Iron Horse Irish Dry Stout. All of the beers were good, but the Christmas Ale definitely won for “most interesting.” It had a rootbeer barrel aroma, and the flavors of fruit (cherry, cranberry and orange) and clove spice. This was Red Star’s first attempt at a Christmas Ale, and they stated it was modeled after no other. Fabulous job!

Our waiter, whose name I didn’t pick up, was terrific. He was attentive, but not overbearing. He was interested in knowing about our beer travels, but not nosey. Even when the place started to get busy, he kept an eye on our emptying plates and glasses. We really relaxed and enjoyed this meal (and it was all we needed to eat the remainder of the day!)

Countdown to Christmas – Week 1

The first 7 days on the Advent Calendar of Beer

Dec. 1  – St. Bernardus Christmas Ale in a bottle (Brouwerij St. Bernard)

Dec. 2  – 2007 St. Fillian’s Wee Heavy Scotch Ale (aka Barleywine) on Cask (Selin’s Grove Brewing Co.)

Dec. 3  – Bush de Noël – Scaldis Noel (Dubuisson)

Dec. 4  – Razz Merry (Selin’s Grove Brewing Co.) – a brown ale made with raspberries; had it straight up, and also in a 1:2 blend with Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout

Dec. 5  – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2006 (Anchor Brewing Co.)

Dec. 6  – Samichlaus Bier 2003 (Schloss Eggenberg)  This beer gets a special mention since it is brewed only once a year on December 6.  We drank it to honor this year’s batch.  According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is the strongest lager beer in the world with 14 % alcohol and 32° original extract content.

Dec. 7  – New York Lights Christmas Ale (Brutal Deluxe Brewing)  This is our homebrew, and one of two Christmas beers we brewed in 2007.  This particular beer was brewed during a camping trip at Watkins Glen, and the flavor was enhanced with orange zest, cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger.  Right now, the ginger is a bit overpowering, but we’re hoping it will mellow a bit.  It did have a really nice head and a beautiful amber glow.

Countdown to Christmas – Introduction

Give it to D to find a creative way to clear out some of the inventory…  How about a new and/or different beer each day between December 1 and 25?  He calls it his Advent Calendar of Beer.

Instead of little candies, we get little beer surprises each day.  I’m not exactly sure what the rules are – perhaps he’s making them up as we go along – but it’s been fun trying.

We kicked it off with a weekend away on December 1 and 2, joining up with friends and traveling the “golden triangle of PA beer,” which includes Otto’s Pub & Brewery in State College, The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, and Selin’s Grove Brewing Co. in Selinsgrove. 

In addition the the three brewpubs, we enjoyed several additional stops including Zeno’s Pub in State College (where I picked up my St. Nicholaus Brewer’s Reserve in the pretty velvet bag!), a private tasting with the Ferry’s, and an extra visit to Bullfrog for Sunday Brunch (yummmm – beer and eggs – the last time I did that was at Holy Cow in Las Vegas.)

Over the course of the trip, we consumed the brews below.  I know the list looks long, but remember that there were 4 of us traveling, 8 of us at the tasting, and the three brewpubs all offered half-pints. 

At Otto’s – they had 10 beers on tap plus 2 on the handpump

  • Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale on cask
  • Mom’s Elderberry Stout
  • Ottonator Doppelbock
  • Apricot Wheat
  • Jolly Roger Russian Imperial Stout on cask

At Zeno’s – so many taps and bottles, we can’t count that high…3 cask beers (there is a good reason this place was placed in the Top 50 Places to Have a Beer (#41))

  • Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale on cask (again!)
  • St. Nick Bock – Penn Brewing
  • Gouden Carolus Ambrio
  • Bell’s Two Hearted – featured on the TODAY show this week
  • St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – this is the first year available in US in bottles, and was the honorary first beer on the Advent Calendar.

At Bullfrog – they had 12 of their own (2 on cask) and two guest taps; unfortunately the Hop Harvest kicked the previous day.

  • Blue Collar Brown on cask
  • Wolfsblood Scotch Ale
  • Lights Out Imperial Stout
  • Edgar IPA
  • Inspiration Red

In bottles at the Ferry’s house (I think more were consumed – these were just for the tasting; many more were not consumed!)

  • Strawberry Creme Ale – Brutal Deluxe Brewery (our homebrew)
  • Mount Desert Island Ginger Beer – Atlantic Brewing Co.
  • Black Raspberry Reserve – Sly Fox
  • Christmas Ale – Great Lakes Brewing Co.
  • Old Man Winter – Southern Tier Brewing
  • Scratch Beer #4 – Troegs Brewing
  • Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2006 – Anchor Brewing Co.
  • 2007 Smoked Porter – Alaskan Brewing Co.
  • Hibernation Ale – Great Divide Brewing Co.
  • Old Abominable Barrel Aged/Bottle Conditioned Barleywine – Stout’s Brewing Co.

At Selin’s Grove – there were 8 beers on tap and 2 on the hand-pump

  • Pumpkin Ale on nitrogen
  • Mud Puppy Organic Brown Ale on cask
  • Mud Puppy Organic Brown Ale on nitrogen
  • India Pale Ale
  • St. Fillian’s Scotch Style Barleywine on cask; the second beer on the Advent Calendar

Thanks to Heath and Kim for keeping a great pictorial diary of the trip (most of the photos I’ll use in this post are his…they still need to be edited before they get added…)  It was great fun to travel with them. 

Dave and Pascha went out of their way to make our trip complete by hosting the tasting, providing a nice assortment of finger foods, and allowing us to sleep over (and Pascha sent me home with a great reading list!)  Thanks SO much to them, and their entertaining children. 

Mary and Steve were delightful company for the tasting, plus I got to see Mary’s Galapagos program, which was cool.  It was really fun to see them again.

What a nice way to kick off the month!

French Broad Brewing (Asheville, NC)

After lunch, we returned to the Biltmore Village area seeking out French Broad Brewing Company.  We found it across the railroad tracks in a non-descript building with a small parking area.Inside we found a couple of tables and a small bar – just a few square feet of space for pints, and the rest of the visible space was for making beer.  It is a great facility, and neat to see how they convert a small part of the brewery into a music venue. 

D had a conversation with the brewer while I talked to some other patrons (who, strangely, seemed familiar to both D and I, but neither of us can place how or why we would know them.)

Knowing we would have plenty to drink later in the day, we stuck with taster glasses of the six beers on tap:

Goldenrod Pilsner 4.2%

Marzen Amber Lager 4.5% – an Ocktoberfest style

Cellar Reserve Lambic-style Beer – blackberry, aged over 3 years and blended with Grand Cru

13 Rebels ESB 4.8%

Barley Legal Barleywine 10.5%

In my humble opinion French Creek has some work to do to keep up with all the other brewpubs in
Asheville.  This was the first place we didn’t see a crowd.  People weren’t coming in to fill growlers, and the only patrons were tourists (I’m guessing the crowd grows when the music starts playing, and there was a line-up of bands!) 

The beers were simply okay.  Nothing got me really excited, and I was especially unimpressed by the lambic attempt.  The ESB was probably the best of the low-alcohol beers, and the Barleywine stood out, but nothing was pint-worthy.  I’m all about the underdog – smaller, more intimate pubs are generally my favorite places, but this place just didn’t do much for me.

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville NC

How very lucky for us that Duck-Rabbit was brewing on Friday, and accepted us as visitors!  This crude-on-the-outside building on the edge of town is a sparkling vision on the inside.  The smell of brewing came wafting out the doors, and it was fabulous to meet the friendly guys inside.

Paul (the owner and head brewer) and Ken (the self-described crazy homebrewer and right-hand man) are masters of the craft and extremely personable guys.  They run a great operation, and focus on dark beers.  Paul is a philosopher (formerly a professor, if I understood correctly), and Siebel graduate.  He’s been brewing for 20 years, and worked in Cincinnati and Louisville (Pipkin – now defunct) before opening this facility with a 20-barrel brew kettle.

They can’t sell on the premisis, but pointed us in the direction to where we could purchase Duck-Rabbit products.  But we were offered tastings of the four standard brews.  Here are a few (brief) impressions:

  • * Amber – good tasting American amber; high in carbonation
  • * Porter – really enjoyable; dark, roasty and a smooth oiliness in the mouthfeel
  • * Brown Ale – my favorite of all the ales; full hoppy flavor – made with Amarillo (YUM!) and Saaz hops, it had a fabulous aroma and equally pleasing flavor; not an English Brown, but a hopped-up good ol’ American brown
  • * Milk Stout – the subtle sweetness of this stout gave it a bright, lively flavor

We learned that the Brown Ale is made with a process called First Wort Hopping (FWH), which was a new concept to both of us.  It raises the IBU’s without creating an overpowering hop aroma or bitterness, resulting in a more balanced beer.  Perhaps that is the other reason I liked it so much.

We also learned about the seasonals: Barleywine (made with 95% Amarillo hops) in the winter, Rabid Duck Imperial Stout in the spring, Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale in the summer and Baltic Porter in the fall.

I hope to get photos up as soon as we get home…we’ll see if that happens!

Dark Horse Brewery (Marshall, MI)

Upon first glance, this place is not much at all!  It looks like an extension of the Wacky Willy’s, which is, perhaps, a beer distributor, and when we walked in the door we were greeted only by a cloud of cigarette smoke.  The tables and chairs are mismatched, from my distant perspective, the bar appeared to be home constructed, the ventilation system was exposed, 923 mug-club mugs hang from the walls and ceiling…I was definitely overdressed!

Unlike last night where we were toured around the place, the locals just gave us less than a glance and we made our way to a vacant table.  We were promptly acknowledged by a very patient wait person who really knew about the beers.  (As it turned out, Michelle is the Taproom Manager, and was basically running the place!) Continue reading