Raspberry Beer Run

A major theme on our departure from Madison was seeking out raspberry beers – specifically New Glarus Raspberry Tart, and with the same passion, but not nearly the concern, Founder’s Rübæus.

New Glarus is busy working on an expansion project, and already brewing at the new facility, but I am speculating that they haven’t been producing Raspberry Tart lately. Even at the facility, there were apologetic signs to explain that it can not be purchased on site. This is a unique framboise – a lambic brewed with “Wisconsin farmed wheat and year old Hallertau hops” that is refermented with Brettanomyces yeast found on the Oregon-grown berries – that weighs in at 4% and is found in wax-sealed 22-ounce bombers.

D and Dain went to Steve’s Liquors to get some, but Steve’s didn’t have any. The employee at Steve’s referred them to another store, even calling ahead to confirm five cases were available (but not placing a reservation.) In the interest of kindness, our crew allowed some guys from Colorado to go first in Steve’s checkout line. Don’t you know, those “Coloradans” (we called them something different, but it’s not a nice word to use here) overheard the conversation, drove ahead, and bought ALL FIVE CASES?!?!  We just wanted a few bottles and they bought every last one… At $8. a bottle, who would have thought they would get all 5 cases right out from under us?

So we searched and searched, finally finding success in McFarland, WI – two bottles tucked in the cooler at Bob’s McFarland Liquor, and ten more after a tense search at J & B Liquor (when he figured out what we were asking for, the guy at J & B was so excited to sell so much to us, he threw in a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red Cherry Ale!) We celebrated our finds by stopping at Culver’s for cheese curds before hitting the road to have lunch,  buy some fudge and cheese, and a take brewery tour in New Glarus.

As for Rübæus, the problem is a little different. We really didn’t look very far at first – we get this in PA, an we were planning to go to Founder’s on this trip. Our hunt for NG Raspberry Tart changed that plan, but we still felt confident we could get this along on our way. At the Great Taste, however, we learned differently. Rübæus, the brewers told us, will be removed from the line-up due to the overwhelmingly increased cost of raspberries. They are brewing a Cherry Ale (not currently described on the website, but now available at the brewery; they were available side-by-side at the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Festival.)

UGH! This news broke my heart, especially because I really didn’t care for the Cherry Ale. I love the 7% beer brewed with raspberry puree, served from a bottle with the prettiest label ever (the only thing better than a Rübæus is Rübæus on tap mixed with Founder’s Imperial Stout!) Unfortunately, it just doesn’t cellar well, so while we did get a case as soon as we got home, and I will savor every bottle, it won’t last long.

This sad news came on the heels of hearing that Founder’s will also no longer brew Devil Dancer. Norman Miller shared the story with Massachusetts readers, and it’s centered around that darn hops shortage.

Well, as far as I know, there is still Raspberry Eisbock from Kuhnhenn in our cellar. If you’ve never had it, you must read the description at this blog (why not read all of the fruit beer descriptions while you’re there – they are terrific reading!)

I’ve now got plenty of raspberry beers to get me through the summer…

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D and Zeno’s BrewFest

The most frequently asked question of me at Dark Lord Day was, “Where’s D?” Several of the men commented that their wives wouldn’t go to DLD for them… 

Honey, I didn’t go FOR him – I went in spite of him! I went for myself (although the truth is I probably wouldn’t have gone if Heath and Kim hadn’t included me in their ride.)

Anyway, he had to work all weekend, but did get the day off on Saturday to attend Heather & Jake’s wedding. And since he was in State College, that provided an opportunity to attend Zeno’s Belgian Brew Fest, which ran from 3-8 PM on April 26.

Looking at the full list of 70 bottles and 6 taps of Flemish, Wallonian, Trappist and Farmhouse beers, it does sound like a good time!  Here is what he enjoyed:

  • De Dolle Dulle Teve
  • De Rank XX Bitter
  • Duchesse de Bourgogne
  • Gulden Draak
  • Melbourne Cherry
  • Petrus Aged Ale
  • Piraat

Am I jealous?  Absolutely not… That same night, I was drinking Hoppy Chick IPA on cask at The Livery, and I had both a Vanilla Porter and a blended glass of Rubaeus/Imperial Stout at the new Founder’s location.

The new Founders Brewing

Derek, Heath and Kim also introduced me to Culver’s that day, where we got the family-sized order of Dairyland Cheese Curds. My life is forever changed (and my cholesterol is forever high!)Yummy Curds!

Real dairy-fresh white and yellow cheddar cheese curds breaded and cooked to a gooey, cheesy golden brown. These curds are made in Wisconsin just for Culver’s!

 

 

Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, VA)

Just a few miles from Rockfish Gap entrance to Skyline Drive, we found Blue Mountain Brewery and Hops Farm – a brewery and pub with a real farm look to it! 200 hop vines adorn the font of the property (nothing growing on this visit!) The building is anchored on one end with a large barn-like area for the brewing, and long extension with a welcoming large front porch. It was dark when we arrived, and the warm glow of interior lighting streamed from the multiple windows and doors.

Inside there was an angled bar with seating for 8, and 8-10 tables of varying sizes with bench seating. Comfortable couches and chairs provided seating adjacent to the fireplace, and we noticed a little sitting nook in the back (next to the kitchen) that looked like it just jumped out of an episode of Trading Spaces. Beer literature and brewing books were placed on coffee tables and shelves. The yellow walls and warm lighting made the place feel very welcoming, and the high ceilings gave an illusion that the place is bigger than it really is.

Blue Mountain Brewery was packed when we arrived, but we did locate two seats at the wood-topped bar, which wasn’t too high, and didn’t have a lip, so I could actually eat at it! Pints on a Wednesday night are $3.

  • I was disappointed to learn that the Full Nelson Pale Ale, listed as being available on draft on February 20, was not (maybe after Feb. 20?!?!), so I had it in a bottle. At 60 IBUs, made with a blend of four different hops (Nugget, Cascade, Centennial and Columbus), this had a nice bite to it. 
  • D started with an Evil 8°– a Belgian-style dubbel that was rich with candi sugar and hints of chocolate and dark fruit. It was probably our favorite of the three beers we tried.
  • He also had an Irish Dry Stout, which was served on nitrogen. It was dark and clean, with a thick tan head. Absolutely true to style, this was slightly roasted and light in body. Not my favorite style of stout, but brewer Taylor Smack has done a fine job creating it.

It was a real tease to sit at the bar, looking through large glass windows right into the brewing area, watching them bottle the Dark Hollow Artisanal Ale (a bourbon barrel aged stout), knowing that we wouldn’t be able to buy/taste it.

Our bartender was certainly not a waitress. While the rest of the staff seemed to be very good, she was inattentive and could perhaps use some beer etiquette training.  For instance, since my beer came in a bottle, she opened the bottle and put it in front of me.  Then she proceeded to ask if I wanted a glass.  Do I want a glass?!?!  Can I drink it any other way? I tried to ask her a few questions, but she seemed very disinterested in the customers until someone came in with whom she held hands and chatted for some time.  Hmmm.

But we were generally impressed by the food menu. For instance, we started with the Puree of Parsnip Soup. It was AMAZING! With little flakes of dried sage and drops of truffle oil, this was a perfect starter on a cold night.  It is one of the best soups I’ve had in awhile. There were plenty of interesting things on the menu – the fruit and cheese board looked tasty and generous, and highlighted local cheeses. There was a roasted veggie pizza that I wanted to photograph! The crust was so very thin that it looked like a sand tart cookie. Every inch of the pizza was covered in goodness – a cilantro pesto, roasted yellow squash and zucchini, onions, mushrooms, mozerella and tomatoes – and the whole thing was littered with dollops of goat cheese and sprigs of fresh cilantro.

We had sandwiches on ciabatta bread instead. D really enjoyed his sandwich made with Kite’s Virginia Ham. I enjoyed the contents of mine (avocado, sprouts, tomato, hummus, cucumber), but suspect the bread was toasted on a surface where the ham had been, because my veggie sandwich had a liquid smoke flavor to it (I just ate it without the bread, and with a side salad, this was plenty filling for me!)

Overall it was an enjoyable experience, but it would have been more fun if we could have talked to some of the staff or the brewer (understandably, he was very busy.) Perhaps we will get back another time. This was out of the way, but a nice side trip!

Photos to come later… We’re off to Winston-Salem, and D is already a little antsy at the time I’ve taken to post this.

Liar’s Club – Alpine, CA

This morning we got up and did a little last-minute shopping before heading for the desert. Because we got out of town so late, we had an opportunity to stop for brunch in Alpine at the Alpine Inn.

It is a funky little place – dark inside, and made me think it’s where the old people go – but we really enjoyed our “Sunday Country Brunch”.  For $12.95, we had a choice of one of many menu items. D had the huevos rancheros, which came with rice, beans and hash browns. I had the seafood omelette with the tomatoes substituted for the potatoes. All brunch meals come with biscuits and gravy, and handmade Bloody Mary’s on the house.  Pretty good food, and very interesting place.

Heading toward the highway, we decided to check on the Liar’s Club (located at 2806 Alpine Blvd, Alpine, CA 91901) – did they open last night? Are they open now?

The answers were Yes, and Yes!  It was 11 AM, and they were just opening for the first full day of business.  What a great time we had there, too.  There were 32 active taps, and a few in reserve, as well as a large bottle selection.  They offered 10-oz glasses and pints, and the selection was terrific! We had a few things from the taps:

  • AleSmith Speedway Stout (awesome!!)
  • San Diego Brewing Co. Chocolate Porter (on nitrogen with a Hershey Bar tap handle)
  • Fox Barrel Cassis Cider (yummy!!)
  • New Belgium La Folie
  • Rubicon Wheat Wine

We really enjoyed the people, too.  Pete, our bartender who moved with the business, and Heidi, a bartender in training, were great with us and all of the incoming customers, and we met Louis Mello, the owner, and a guy who I suspect may be Al Guerra, the new business partner. Despite the first day hectic feeling, they were all very willing to share information about the place, the beers, and the beer scene.

                    Liar’s Club             C and D at Liar’s Club

I know I’m not “from here”, but I can say with conviction that this is a great beer bar and so very worth the beautiful drive from the city. The selection is amazing – anything you could want (except a macro) – and the food looked great. It will get louder once televisions are installed, but otherwise, it’s got everything going right for it. Oh – and best bathrooms of the trip! The ladies room was really pretty, with a feminine selection of hand soaps and lotions. Hooray for a beer bar with a beautiful head!

C at Anza-Borrego

I’ve got some photos of the new place, and perhaps I’ll get some links and/or descriptions up later, but after a day in the desert (Anza-Borrego), and a long drive back to La Quinta, I’ve got to get to bed.

Congratulations on your opening, [New] Liar’s Club – we hope you are still around on our next visit!  BTW – anyone have a phone number for this place?

IPA at ATL

A four-hour layover in Atlanta was made bearable by the addition of Sweetwater Draft House & Grill on Concourse B.  The airport pub features several of Sweetwater Brewing Company’s beers – there were four on our visit : 420, IPA, Hummer and Blue.

We enjoyed the IPAs (served in 15-oz and 20-oz glasses at more than $6.00 each!) with the Portobello Mushroom Sandwich and the Big Kahuna Fish Sandwich.  The IPA was well hopped with a very pleasant aroma.  Much more than I expected at an airport eatery, and certainly superior to our other choices – Budweiser Brewhouse & Smoking Lounge or Sam Adams Brewhouse (which featured Ale, Lager, Winter Lager and Cherry Wheat.)

Countdown to Christmas – Week 3

The third 7 days on the Advent Calendar of Beer

Dec. 15Old Fezziwig® Ale  (Samuel Adams) – Winter Warmer

Dec. 16 – Carolina Winter Porter (Carolina Brewing Company) – an American Porter created with Simcoe hops.

Dec. 17 – Christmas Ale (Corsendonk) – Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Dec. 18 – Winter Ale (Wyerbacher)

Dec. 19Cherry Vanilla Maple Porter (Brutal Deluxe Brewing) – our 2006 homebrew Christmas beer.

Dec. 20 – Anise Spruce Ale (Brutal Deluxe Brewing) This the second of two Christmas beers we brewed in 2007, and it’s possible there is a better name and I just don’t know it.  We were really looking forward to the spruce essence, but the star anise completely overpowers it – a bit reminiscent of NyQuil, unfortunately.  Hopefully it will mellow with time, but not in time for Christmas.

Dec. 21Gray’s Wassail (Gray’s Brewing Company); Olde Frosty IPA from the Firkin  and Solstice Dubbel (Selin’s Grove Brewing Company) – yes, it was a busy day of beer drinking on Friday. D had the Gray’s Wassail at home because he had to work, while I took the afternoon off and camped out at Selin’s Grove for six hours. 

I can’t speak for his Wassail, but I thoroughly enjoyed Olde Frosty IPA from the firkin! It was tapped at 3:30 PM, and kicked in 1.5 hours.  I had the honor of finishing off the last 1/2 pint! It had a piney hop character with hints of caramel sweetness, and the flavors of the wood really came through (apparently it was only in there for 4 days.) This is a beer I’ve looked forward to tasting all year, and I wasn’t disappointed. I brought home a growler of Olde Frosty on CO2 for D to try, and it will be interesting to compare.

Also, Selin’s Grove brought out the Solstice Dubbel on this special day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Pumpkin Ale was still on (but I bet it isn’t any longer), so I had a 1/2 pint of that, as well as a glass of Razz Merry.  My holiday favorites – all in one place!

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!

Cleaning Out the Basement

We’ve had a friend in town for the week, and on Thursday evening, while sitting at the Brewhouse Grille enjoying Russian River Pliny the Elder, D turned to me and said, “Let’s have a party – tomorrow night!”  And so we did…

We called a few friends – some who were free and unfortunately, some who were not – and picked up the worst of the clutter.  Jerry brought veggies from his organic garden in Venango County (romaine, celery, shallots, red onions, acorn squash), so D whipped up a salad and put together a great stew in the crockpot (I turned the squash into a fabulous soup for Saturday at the hawkwatch.)  

We thawed out a loaf of Zingerman’s farm bread.  D went to Wegman’s for cheese, olives and the like, and he scoured our basement looking for a few prize bottles of beer, as well as a few certain to please the palates of our intended guests.
Smoked Porter
This resulted in a great group of friends from birding, beer drinking and concerts gathered around our table for hearty food and a lengthy tasting.  Below is a complete list of the bottles opened for the table tasting:

  • Russian River Brewing – Damnation
  • Brouwerij Het Anker – Gouden Carolus ~ Carolus D’Or– Grand Cru Of The Emperor(brewed once a year, on the 24th of February, birthday of Charles the Fifth)
  • Alaskan Brewing Co. IPA
  • AleSmith IPA
  • Butte Creek Organic Revolution 10th Anniversary Imperial IPA
  • Moylans Hopsickle Imperial Ale (Triple Hoppy)
  • Cisco Celebration Libation (no year at the moment…no active website found)
  • Alaskan Brewing Co. Smoked Porter * (2006; yummy with nova lox and bread)
  • AlesSmith Speedway Stout
  • Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout

The only disappointment of the night was Victory V-Ten (brewed and bottled September 12, 2002) – this beer was corked, caged and carious (I know…that word applies to teeth, but it sounds good here!)  This was, unfortunately not well aged, which resulted in a big bottle of vinegar.

D and the Line-Up

And of course, we poured several other interesting things – bottles for individuals to enjoy.  We also tasted boilo (boilo : a popular homemade Yuletide beverage – ingredients include orange and lemon juice, honey, cloves, caraway seeds, and large amounts of whiskey; served hot in shot glasses) from a friend in the coal region, D’Reyes Peach Liquor which we brought back from Mexico and St. Clair Vineyards Port from NM. *There was also Glenlivet Nadurra single malt Scotch which paired so well with the Alaskan Smoked Porter.  Thanks, Dakotablue!!

The “starter” hit food was Nancy’s yummy salsa, and Marcy brought an array of beautiful and tasty desserts from the Pennsylvania Bakery which made a lovely finish to the night.