Archive for the ‘beer review’ Category

Beer Obsessed on the road: The Publick House in Boston, MA

Friday, July 9th, 2010

The Publick House

The Publick House was probably one of the first beer places to get jotted down on my “things to do in Boston” list. I believe it was about 2 years ago some important media thing listed this place as one of the top 5 beer bars in the country. Funny enough, while cruising around on yelp, many folks listed Publick House’s mac and cheese as the thing that can’t be missed. Besides loving beer, I love mac and cheese so off I went.
The Publick House if very accessible from the T (Boston’s “subway”). You get off at Washington Square and walk all of about a block. Its location in the Brookline area seems mellow in a Portland Oregon kind of way but that’s just a generalization for a guy who was there for all of one evening. At 7pm on a Tueday, the place was already filling up. It was just me so I was able to easily able to slot myself into a place. drinking Pretty Things field mouses farewell at The Publick House
My focus for the beer part of my trip was on local/regional beers so I ordered a bottle of Pretty Things Field Mouse’s Farewell. A “rustic golden ale” brewed with barley, wheat, rye, and oats. Of the Pretty Things I have tried in the past, I discovered they don’t worry much about keeping to style (not a bad thing). This beer was bright with orange and spice. A clean beer and interesting. Somewhere in here I put in my order for the mac and cheese. The beauty of the dish is you can customize it…so I added broccoli and bacon. publick house mac n cheeseThe dish soon showed up in all of its steaming glory. They use eggshell pasta and they had put it in the oven to get that nice baked on surface. While I was waiting for it to cool down, I ordered a Brooklyn Brewing Brown Ale to go with my meal. The beer was a clean and classic brown. It supported the mac and cheese nicely but ultimately a brown’s roastiness is probably a hard too much for this dish. The mac and cheese? Wow! Completely worth the trip on that meal alone. Here I am in a “top beer bar” and I’m going on about the mac and cheese. That is the beauty of travel I guess.publick house old rasputin on nitro
For my final beer, I broke my own rules and I ordered a North Coast Old Rasputin on nitro. I couldn’t pass this up as I kept seeing this setup around Boston. Man, why haven’t I seen this on the west coast? Old Rasputin + nitro = brilliant. It smoothed out any high octane edginess that the standard version has and envelopes you in a bed of lush creaminess. Fantastic.
You can’t go to The Publick House without walking up the street to their bottle shop. The Publick House Provisions. A nice bottle shop with an incredible selection of glassware on top of it. After making a few laps, I purchased a bottle of Brooklyn Brewing Local 1 publick house provisionsand DIPA that was under the Publick House name. Helping me with the latter beer was Josh, who was working the store that night. A very cool guy and we talked East coast beers and West coast beers and a few other beer things.

Worth the trip? Absolutely but if you are a beer person, you don’t need me to tell you that. What I can tell you is that you should definitely check out the mac and cheese!

josh at the publick house

thoughts on craft beer drinking on the big island of Hawaii

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

While on vacation with the family this past week I had the opportunity to quickly hit the only two breweries on the big island: Kona Brewing Co. and Mehana Brewing co.

kona Brewing SignKona Brewing Co.

Located in Kailua, which is probably the main destination town for most who come to the big island. Kailua has the cheaper hotels and the cruise ship port so this is the place where you will find the cheesy gift  shops and  companies that can sign you up for a wide range of outdoor activities. Fortunately, Kona Brewing is located on the north side of town where it is quieter. You can come into town, do some grocery shopping (we were staying in a house up north island), and enjoy a lunch and beer at the brewery without any distractions.
There is no doubt Kona knows what they are doing with beer. Their bottled selections, which are prevalent in stores all over the island, are clean, easy drinking, and nicely balanced. The brewpub has a variety of specialty beers on tap throughout the year. They currently had a couple of barleywines and a coconut brown that was fantastic (great balance of coconut and roasted malt). kona beerAs you can see from the pic of the bottle (below), they also do Belgian style beers which they unfortunately didn’t have any on tap while we were there. The Castaway IPA is a regular on tap on the brewhouse and it hit the spot. Nice citrus hop notes that cut through the heat and quenched your thirst (generally speaking, malty does not work in the hot weather of the islands….why people brew porters in this climate is beyond me but I suppose if you live here you would need some variety after a while).
The one elephant out there about Kona is that they contract brew their bottled beer and then re-import it to Hawaii. I don’t have any problems with contract brewing in general but Hawaii (especially the big island) is a place that could use a few more jobs. With all of Kona brew’s efforts to “go green” and other things, wouldn’t it be a great story if they opened a small production brewery and canned their beer for the islands only. It seems like a reachable goal.oceanic organic ale Canning lines and lots of cans are more affordable these days and generally you can’t take glass to the beach anyway. As successful as Kona Brewing is, this could be the icing on the cake for them.
Since the brewery sees a lot of tourists come through, it seems to show on the staff. It took a while for our waitress to come back and ask if we wanted another beer to replace our long since empty glasses. We were more working on her schedule as opposed to where the beer line was in our glasses (a particular pet peeve of mine). I supposed you get a bit jaded dealing with tourists whom may have more laid back expectations in general or maybe our particular waitress was not about the beer. Anyway, moving on:


Mehana Brewing Co./Hawai’I Nui Brewing Co.

Located on the rainy side of the islandmehana brewing sign in the city of Hilo, a beautiful area that is extremely lush and tropical. It also happens to be the wettest city in the U.s. We were rained on (dumped on!) at least four times during our visit around town.
Mehana is located in a warehouse area of Hilo (as warehousy as this town can get anyway). Mehana is a much smaller operation than Kona but I like the laid back vibe as opposed to the masses of tourists that hit Kona Brewing. They have a small parking lot on the side of the warehouse with a little sign that said they were open for tastings and tours. The big rollup door exposed their operation inside. Many fermenters, a brew system, bottling line, stacks of bottled product. Lots of kegs stacked up outside. I figured out later that Mehana had “joined forces” with Hawai’I Nui Brewing Co. and as far as I can tell they share the space and the equipment together. mehana brewing co. warehouse
I made my way inside following the direction of the sign that pointed to a small room that had merchandise for sale and about six taps. The lady there was very pleasant and asked if I wanted to taste anything. I was on very limited time but of course I said yes. She was quite knowledgeable about the beers that they had and that is great to see!  I tried their Humpback Blue which was fermented with a Belgian yeast strain. A light and drinkable beer with a nice subtle Duvel like tone to it. My other favorite was their brown ale brewed by Hawai’I Nui Brewing. Nice level of roast that complemented the malt profile quite well. This beer also just won silver at the World Beer Cup.
Ideally, I would have hung out here longer and taken the tour (of which I may have been the only one) but alas the kids were stirring. I’m sure I would have been able to talk to a brewer and perhaps share a beer. Again, I like the vibe of the place and it is a worth it destination if you are a beer lover on the big island.Mehana brewing co. beers

Beer on the shelves.

For craft beer, all stores carry Kona Brewing beers and it was my main beer since they are so prevalent. I particularly enjoyed the Big Wave Golden Ale.  It has a nice level of malt balanced with subtle fruity esters and very drinkable in the heat. I love the Kona Fire Rock Pale as it is an extra malty beer, which is right up my alley. However, it isn’t that drinkable for me in the heat of Hawaii. I’ll still drink it at home though.
A couple of the more expensive/exlusive grocery stores, usually within the resort areas, carried the Mehana beer but it was quite pricey (up to 15 dollars a six pack!). It really is best to go to the brewery and buy it there for 9 a six pack…plus you can mix and match. These stores also have the Maui Brewing Company canned beers. Other than that, there was a little more variety to mainland beers you can buy (SN Torpedo, Newcastle, etc) but that’s it.

In the end, I really enjoyed experiencing the beers of Kona and Mehana/Hawai’I Nui. I was certainly happy to get back home a drink an uber hoppy beer that my palate had been missing. It is similar to vacation itself: there is a certain sweet spot of time for me where too much time there and you risk growing tired of the place.  Too little and you don’t fully get to enjoy what an area has to offer. I look forward to going back though for sure.

pic of the week: The Bruery Trade Winds Tripel

Friday, January 8th, 2010

The Bruery Trade Winds TripelBeautiful range of color in this beer. Pilsner malt is the base of the aroma and there are other subtle aromas causing interest and intrigue. Some hops and tartness to the taste balanced with belgian malt flavor. There is a thickness to the taste… Interesting, non malot or hop, flavors as well. Lingering hop bitterness and carbonation sharpness.
A beautiful, subtle beer.

pic of the week: Monks Blood now available in the can

Friday, December 4th, 2009

A quick update and pic of the week:
Being distributed throughout the country but there is a limited amount. Check with the 21st Amendment for availability.
If you live in the Bay Area, Bevmo and specialty beer stores should be carrying it. Again, in limited supplies so talk with your beer retailor so that you can get yours.
I just had some on tap and it was terrific (same as what is in the cans). Here’s a shot of my two four packs and can’t wait to enjoy some more this weekend.

monks blood in the can

I found the Ten Fidy!!!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

OK, not yet the pic of the week but I finally had the opportunity to try Ten Fidy from Oskar Blues. First a little history: While the Bay Area has had Oskar Blues distribution for a bit, Ten Fidy has been scarce. I’ve tried all the others and Gordon is a definite favorite. Where’s the teeeen fiddy? I’ve been asking people, retailers, and even an Oskar Blues rep who said “you have it”. Nope, until now. One of my crack staffers at work sent me a text that said “i found the ten fidy, you want some?”. Hell yes and you gotta love my staff…looking out for me even outside the office.
Wanting to do a montage for a while now, I thought I’d kick something out, post it and let you know that, yes, Ten Fidy is worth it. Not only are cans cool but having a beautifully smooth high octane Imperial Stout in a can is even cooler. I’m not going to post a review as I don’t have notes on this one since I spent more time getting some shots than critiquing. What I do know is that it is very rich in flavor and smooth. Aromas and tastes of roast, chocolate, and coffee all reminding me of fudge. Another good beer for washing down chocolate pound cake. The alchohol is well blended within Ten Fidy leaving you with a big mouthfeel beer that will want you sipping more.
What a beauty!

ten fidy montage

pic of the week: Port Brewing High Tide (fresh hop) IPA

Friday, November 20th, 2009

port brewing fresh hop ipa

Probably my favorite fresh hop beer of the season. I don’t have any notes with me but after I tried a bomber of this, I went back and bought a case. This is what remains. Hell of a review huh? Well at least you can deteremine the color from the photo (it was white balanced). I will tell you that there is plenty of beautiful hop aromas and flavors. Citrusy and beyond. But ohhhh the freshness of that fresh hop. Very apparent in the aroma and prevalent throughout the taste.
Highly recommended.

Hop Soup: wow…Rodger Davis’s latest creation

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

The name Hop Soup made sense after drinking this beer. You think of soup and you know that there is a base broth that makes up the majority. Well, Hop Soup is definitely based around a hop broth.
As Rodger Davis says in the Triple Rock description below: “it is the hoppiest beer he has ever brewed”. It is worth a try if you are a hop head visiting the North Berkeley area.

hop soup from Triple Rock

from Triple Rock’s description:
Hop Soup – (9.0% a.b.v)
By Head Brewers Rodger Davis’s accounts, this is the hoppiest beer he has ever brewed. A medley of the biggest Pacific Northwest hops are packed in with a distinct emphasis on additions for aroma. Backed by a sturdy malt base, it runs wild with hop flavor. As we head into the holiday season, we will be inroducing a new, strong ale every other week as part of our ‘Feats of Strength’ holiday series, all leading up to the celebration of Festivus on December 23rd, and the release of the 2009 Festivus “MiracALE”

Beer School at The Trappist was sold out both days….for good reason.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

nate and nicole: beer schoolBefore I talk about Nathan Smith and Nicole Erny’s excellent beer school, let me talk about what the students brought to the table. Oakland is the quiet, un-pretentious melting pot that is usually over shadowed by SF, San Jose, or its own crime stats. What people miss in Oakland, and what could be found in the crowd at Beer School, were people of all ages, races, genders, and walks of life. They were there to learn and enjoy beer. There were old and young, people who knew beer already and those that didn’t. There were homebrewers and non-homebrewers. White collar and blue collar. Everyone shared an open mind and some of that wonderful Oakland non-pretentious nature. Needless to say, I enjoyed the crowd and it is what I always have envisioned as a great environment for getting to know a few things about beer.

beer school menuThis was the third Beer School event but the first to happen in the new back area of the Trappist. While I missed the first two Beer Schools, this new location seemed to be a relief to Nicole and others as there is more room. The space worked well for the upwards of 35 folks in attendance. Tables were prepped with bread, water, sheets on the two styles of beers, and a menu of what was being sampled that day (please click on the menu photo for a bigger shot). The class itself on the Belgian Dubbel and Tripel styles of beer. As a nice touch, there happened to be three folks that have gone to all three Beer Schools, so they received a Trappist goblet and a gold star for their perfect attendance.

So what is it about Nate and Nicole’s class? First off, they have an engaging style and obvious love of beer. They are certified BJCP judges and have a great depth of knowledge. Nicole, as a long time beer server at The Trappist, specializes in beer tasting, beer styles, flavors, proper storage and serving. Nate, a homebrewer who has medaled many times for his beer, has a lot of knowledge about ingredients, brewing process, beer history, along with the prerequisite beer tasting and beer styles. beer school triple pouringThey had done research on the breweries and the beer we sampled. During the class, they were both at ease speaking in front of an audience. They had a good flow in presenting information in that while one was speaking the other would pick up to fill in some blanks and then back again. They always opened the floor for questions and they provided the answers. Something to note : during any beer class (or wine class for that matter) there seems to be a spot about ¾’s of the way through were people have had just enough alcohol that the crowd starts swaying towards small talk. Nicole wasn’t having it and she reeled the class back in to finish the discussion, hats off to that. I have been to more than one class where the instructor just lets it go. Both Nate and Nicole made a point to get through all of the material to make sure that folks got the education they came for.
some beer school beersAll through the class, beers were being poured into fresh glassware and getting served promptly pretty much in sync with the lectures. Finished glassware were being cleared and water glasses were being filled, all by an excellent Trappist staff supporting the event. There were a couple times that we were asked to hold on to a sample to compare/contrast with the next one. This was not difficult as the staff were on beat (with support by Nicole) with their deliveries of the samples.
At the end of class, everyone received a full pour of any beer that the Trappist offered that day along with some plates of great cheese, meat, and bread. Folks hung out a socialized for a bit and both Nate and Nicole were available to answer any questions.

Needles to say, I am excited to attend the next Beer School so I’m going to make sure to get my reservation in early assuming that demand will continue to grow. See you there!

BeerAmerica.TV’s candid discussion with Garrett Oliver…a must see.

Friday, August 14th, 2009

garrett oliver

So now I have a portable device for playing videos during my commute to work (I take the train….not driving…). The are some vidcasts out that I really wanted to catch up on so this has been working great.
One of my favorites is beer america TV. Headed up by Paul Leone, he has brought professional video production to the web (he has a video/cable production background). Paul has been learning about beer throughout the episodes, which adds a nice dimension to it. The other dimension is John Pinkerton, Brewmaster and Co-owner of Moon River brewing company. John adds his beer and brewing knowledge to the pot and provides balance by answering Paul’s questions and giving good sensory information about the beer they happen to be tasting, for that particular epsiode. Other folks who participate on a regular basis are Chris Lady, and David Little.  Some of you may already know about these guys and their website, so on to my point:
There I was watching the episode:  “a candid conversation with Garret Oliver”. It was raw and full of intelligent opinions about beer, food, and the industry. Garrett pretty much talks non-stop through out the roughly 30 minute interview. He hardly takes a breath. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he is a well spoken, intelligent, busy, repsected man. Also, I had forgotton but Garrett has taken on writing the Oxford Guide to Beer. That sums it up my points right there.

I sent Paul a note and here’s what he has to say about the interview:
Garrett has been a good friend to BeerAmerica.TV and when we were out at the CBC, he had agreed to do an interview with us before we arrived, well things got busy for everyone and when we met up with him, we tried to find the quietest space we could, and he just started talking and away the interview went. I would have liked better lighting and sound, but when he started to say such good stuff, we just let him talk.”

It is ironic (in a good way) about the hasty production effort because Garrett starts off by talking about huge slick Hollywood movies with terrible stories and then how you can see a low budget film school production that will blow you away with its story, expensive production not needed (an analogy about big breweries making so so beer and little guys producing amazing beers). Well, beeramericaTV, here’s to just letting the tape roll and just getting down a great interview, expensive production not needed.
If you don’t have a portable player, no worries, download it and watch it on your computer, it is worth it. Keep up the great work Beer America TV!

Todd Ashman, Brewmaster of Fifty Fifty Brewing Co. Interview part 2 posted

Friday, July 31st, 2009

eclipse imperial stoutPart 2 is now up and available for free on iTunes (take it to the brewer) and on the take it to the brewer page. Enjoy.
Since part of the interview revolves around his award winning barrel aged imperial stout (bronze at GABF), Eclipse. I thought I needed a new pic to post with this entry and as much as I love the shot of the Trifecta Tripel that I took during the interview, I couldn’t face posting it again. I took on trying to shoot the bottle of Eclipse that he gave me. It wasn’t easy and I’ll admit that it took some post processing to get it to where it is. We do talk about this beer so there we go.
Once again, thank you to Todd and the crew at Fifty Fifty for being gracious hosts to the beer obsessed crew and we’ll see you again soon. Cheers.

For the interview, please go to the take it to the brewer page.

For more photos of the interview, go here.


Our next interview is with Scott Cramlet, brewmaster for Rubicon Brewing. Interview is done and just needs to get edited down…look for it in about two weeks.