Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Belgium Loft Update

In the previous post I mentioned that I couldn't locate Loft anymore and had e-mailed the brewery. Today I received this response:

"First off, thanks for your email. We do appreciate questions from our fans, so thanks for taking the time to share your's. Loft was indeed discontinued, because while our brewmaster and his crew considered it one of our greatest achievements, our brewers had a desire to tinker with the recipe a bit. The result was Skinny Dip, which is now our summer seasonal. Skinny Dip is very similar to Loft, but with a little modification. Imagine Loft with more grapfruity hops (Cascades), the same kaffir lime twist and this intriguing slightly fruity background.

You should be able to find Skinny Dip in the same places you found Loft in Arkansas, if you're interested in trying it.

Thanks again for writing! Let us know if you have any further questions.

Andi Rose"

So I guess I'll be trying out some Skinny Dip on my next trip west. Thanks to New Belgium for the response.

Beer Hunting: Arkansas and Tulsa

5/26 -5/29, 2007

I knew I wouldn't have a lot of time for beer hunting on this trip since I was travelling from Atlanta all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma with my young children in tow. The events planned around this family reunion were going to take up most of the free time I would have while in town and, let's face it, being the primary caregiver for a 5 and 1 year old for a long weekend isn't the most conducive situation for beer hunting anyway. However, I had a plan, knew what I wanted and had a fair idea of where to find it.

Passing through Arkansas, I knew there were a few decent stores in Fort Smith and using Beer Advocate's great BeerFly directory, I narrowed my visit down to Empire Liquors as it had a nice selection and, almost as important, was located right off the interstate which meant it would be a quick and easy stop.

On previous visits I had seen beers from New Belgium and that was my target for the Arkansas stop. I was looking for La Folie first (hopeful for this being stocked but knew it was not likely), Loft second and after that any New Belgium beer that struck my fancy. There was no La Folie and I couldn't find Loft either. (Since the trip I have seen that Loft is no longer on their website so it may be discontinued or perhaps renamed. I e-mailed the brewery to check.) It's getting hot in Atlanta these days so New Belgium's Sunshine Wheat looked pretty good to me. I grabbed a sixer and Breckinridge's Oatmeal Stout caught my eye. I love a good oatmeal stout so I decided to give that one a whirl too. So in less than five minutes, I had my two sixers of Colorado beer and got back on the interstate.

The day I was leaving Tulsa I stopped off at the Country Hollow Liquor Store to see what might be distributed in Oklahoma that I can't get back home. Country Hollow was said to have the best selection in town in one BeerFly entry and was right on my way out of town. I stopped in and started browsing, 5 year old in tow and 1 year old in my arms. A gentleman working there asked if I needed something and I said, "No thanks, just browsing." It was then that he informed me that children weren't allowed in liquor stores in Oklahoma! I asked if he was kidding and he said he wasn't and that it was state law. (I was aware that Oklahoma was a 3.2 state, meaning that if you wanted beer with the full alcohol content you would have to go to a liquor store to get it but not this particular law.) I replied that OK, I would go when he offered me the option of letting my oldest wait by the door (for some reason, if the kid is in your arms, like my youngest was, it's OK). Since the end of the beer aisle was by the door, I said OK and did a quick scan of the row. Atwater Block from Detroit had a dunkel and since I don't see a lot of dunkels, I grabbed it. I wish I could tell you how the selection was but I didn't want to leave my kid by himself! (As an aside, liquor stores in OK aren't allowed to sell ice either. Crazy laws...)

So on this trip I definitely learned I need to leave the kids with Grandma if I want to grab a sixpack in OK! I also learned that buying beer is a lot easier in Arkansas and finally that when your 1 year old is sleeping, you don't care enough about beer hunting in Memphis to wake her up!

Posts on these beer to follow.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Out of the Cellar: Middle Ages Druid Fluid

Brewer: Middle Ages Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY
Added to the Cellar: January 2005
Poured: May 2007
ABV%: 9.5%

This is one of my favorite barleywines and I have never quite been able to hold onto one this long. While young, it's a one-two punch. First, you're hit in the teeth with a wallop of citrusy hops and while your palate recovers from that it slaps you with a distinct warming alcohol flavor in the finish. I love it every time!

Now, nearly 2.5 years later, it is utterly transformed. The hops are muted now but still a persistent hop bitterness is present. The malt now shines through as any hint of alcohol flavor is gone. The hops and the malt have intertwined and provided balance. No longer are the hops overpowering and no longer is the malt character so sticky and sweet. The mouth is much cleaner in the finish. The only drawback is that the balance now makes the body feel thinner, on the verge of being too thin but it's got a velvety smoothness now.

I don't often say this about barleywines but this one has appreciably improved with age. It's far less harsh, nicely balanced and really, really smooth. I don't think it will improve much more than this but it's a dream with 2.5 years on it.

The Official Middle Ages Brewing Website

Thursday, May 17, 2007


What's the blog about? Well, yeah beer.

My impetus for finally starting this blog is the trip to Belgium I have planned for August of 2008. I figured I would need a place to write about the trip and post pictures and this seemed like the best idea.

So what's in this space until then?

Well, I have notes from old trips I've taken, including my two previous Belgian encounters and other various road trips and beer runs. Those will be here.

I have a fairly large collection of beer in my "cellar", some of which I've had nearly 5 years so I think I can detail my tasting notes from the cellar and provide at least one man's experience with aging fine beers and how the results turn out. (And this will help keep track of my results for my own personal use too.) Notes on vertical tastings will be posted as well.

I love a road trip and any trip is the opportunity to locate beer that you wouldn't get to taste otherwise. Results of my beerhunting will be good fodder for posts.

Hey and maybe I'll get some free samples out of this! (hint, hint) I must reiterate that any samples received will be given a detailed and thoughtful write up, though I cannot promise that I will like everything I taste!

So let's countdown to the Grande Choufferie (that will be my first event attended in Belgium) and enjoy the beery ride.