Thursday, March 27, 2008

Coaster: Cisco Brewers

The distinctive design of the Cisco Brewers graces this coaster. Cisco is one third of a facility that also houses a winery and a distillery on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Want to find the brewery? The coaster is functional in two ways: a resting place for your beer and a map to find your way back.

I've never been to the brewery but whenever I was in Boston I made a special effort to pick up some of their beers. Cisco had unusual packaging as all their beers were only available in capped 750ml bottles only. Standouts include their Moor Porter and Whale's Tail Pale Ale. Their blond ale, one of surprising complexity, was Bailey's Golden Ale and was a staple of my Maine summers for several years.
Cisco is now distributed down the east coast, from Massachusetts to as far south as Washington D.C.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coaster: Celis Brewery

This one's from the now defunct Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas (obviously). Pierre Celis (of Hoegaarden fame) started the brewery in 1991 making primarily a witbier called Celis White. Unfortunately, Pierre made the poor decision to allow Miller Brewing to buy a controlling interest and in 2001 they closed the brewery.

The Celis line is still produced by Michigan Brewing who bought the rights to produce the beers after the brewery closed.

Somebody must have brought this to me because I have been to Texas only twice and I have never had Celis White (must get around to that someday) as far as I can remember so somebody must have brought this coaster to me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sam Adams Glass, Grätzer and Belgium

I've been meaning to write a little note about these new Samuel Adams glasses for awhile and now is as good a time as any. Boston Beer released these glasses in 2007 after (supposedly) painstaking scientific research on what would be the best glass for their flagship beer. I received two of the glasses as a thank you for being a founding subscriber to Beer Advocate magazine.

I don't know if all the claims and marketing are accurate but there are two great things about the glass. First, it absolutely delivers the hop aromas to your nose better than most glasses, Second, it feels great in your hand, very ergo friendly. They are great glasses for any kind of lager (even doppelbocks) and light ales and since I was short on good lager glasses, they get quite a workout at my place. Recommended.


I can't say enough about how great it is to read the beery gems mined over at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. I have always considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable about beer styles and the history of brewing but Ron keeps digging up new styles and redefining the old ones. I'm especially enjoying the posts about the Polish style Grodziskie/Grätzer.
Looks like Tim Webb will have a new edition of the Good Guide to Belgian Beer out soon. Now I have to get the new one!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tasting Notes: Narragansett Lager

Brewery: Narragansett Brewing Company
Date Poured: January 2008
ABV: 5.0%

My Mainer friend Dave sent me this beer in a box full of Cadillac Mountain Stout. Talk about a rough in the diamonds.

The story of Narragansett mirrors the story of many an American regional brewer in the second half of the 20th century.

Narragansett was a regional brewery based out of Rhode Island and founded in the 1880's. It was quite popular around southern New England for years. It was a sponsor of the Red Sox in the old days and Robert Shaw's character in Jaws drank cans of Narrangansett.

The Haffenreffer brewery (of Boston, where Boston Beer now houses their test brewery and Sam Adams tour) became closely involved with Narrangansett in the early 60's as many regional brewers struggled to survive. Eventually, the Haffenreffer lines would become part of Narrangansett and then all were swallowed by the Falstaff Brewing company. The brewery in Rhode Island was closed in the early 80's and the brand quickly declined in quality and sales. The brand has changed hands many times over the years but in 2005 it was purchased by an interest that revitalised the recipe and the brand and it is now being contract brewed by High Falls Brewing (JW Dundee, Saranac) in New York.

Pours bright yellow gold with a creamy white head, lots of lacing, persistent but becomes thin. Lot's of bubbles Lightly sweet and bready pale pilsener malt, light twinge of noble hops.

Taste is basically the same. Sweetish aftertaste. Inoffensive but I wish it had a bit more crispness in the mouth.

This is a nostalgic brand. Being that I am not a native of New England I can say it's no better or no worse than a lot of industrial lagers but doesn't particularly appeal to me.

Narragansett Beer

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tasting Notes: Houblon Chouffe

Brewery: Brasserie Achouffe
Date Poured: January 2008
ABV: 9%

A burgeoning style, the Belgian IPA, is taken on by Brasserie Achouffe. But hell, if you're reading this blog, you know all about this beer. On to the notes!

Pours a pale, lightly hazy, yellow gold with a huge billowy ivory head that is the consistency of whipped cream. Lots of huge chunky lacing. Citrusy hop aroma, fruity Belgian yeast. Lots of estery, bready aromas.

Very hoppy flavors and bready, yeasty tripel type flavors. The perfect marriage of a tripel and IPA. The combination of Amarillo, Tomahawk and Saaz is odd enough. Then combine that with a fruity, earthy tripel...well that's nothing you see everyday. Dry in the mouth, lots of hops in the finish and aftertaste. Really drinkable for my tastes. Some hints of alcohol in there but the 9% ABV is masked nicely. Still unlike anything I have ever had before. Totally unique. Totally quaffable. It's amazing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New England, July 2005: Part 3 - Oak Pond Brewing

Having packed up all our camping gear the night before, Dave and I got up, left his wife and their 100 year old farmhouse behind and headed west on I-95. (Yes, it was actually I-95 South but it goes west in this part of the state, trust me.)

About an hour into the trip, we stopped by a general store in Skowhegan to pick up a few provisions. We grabbed some snacks and some breakfast and then something in the cooler caught my eye. It was a bomber labeled "Oak Pond Brewing Dooryard Ale". The reason it caught my eye is that I had lived in Maine for over four years and prided myself as knowing a bit about all the in-state breweries. However, this brewery had seemed to escape my attention. I grabbed the bomber figuring it was time to sample some of Oak Pond's offerings.

The clerk who checked us out commented on how much he liked Dooryard Ale and after chatting about it for a a minute, we learned that Oak Pond Brewing was right there in Skowhegan and virtually around the corner. After learning that, we decided we couldn't leave town without at least stopping by.

We pulled the car into the "dooryard" at Oak Pond and the brewery was indeed open for business. Oak Pond resides in what once was a chicken barn. It started up in 1999 but the current owner has only been there since 2003. The owner, Don (Chandler, as I later found out), was manning the operation that morning, showing people around the brewery and selling growlers and bottles of his ales and lagers. Did I say lager? Maine brewers don't make lagers. There was an Oktoberfest for sale and I asked Don if it was indeed a lager or simply an Oktoberfest-style ale. Don reported that it was indeed a lager beer. A pleasant surprise as, at that time, Oak Pond was the only brewery in Maine producing a lager. (As of 2008, I believe this is still the case).

Don let us try some samples of some of the beers he had on tap. Of all the brews sampled, it was the Nut Brown Ale that grabbed me. Nutty, malty and smooth as velvet. I bought a growler to go. Dave took to the Oktoberfest and picked up a bomber of that. With that, we had a pretty nice haul to drink around the campfire that night.

Oak Pond Brewing is one of those hidden gems that I love finding when I'm travelling. They do not make "extreme" beers (although they do make a seasonal Doppelbock) and the average beer snob would dismiss their beers as "boring". That's their loss. Oak Pond makes well-crafted, sessionable beers and is truly local. I would imagine that most of Don's sales come from Skowhegan and within a 60 mile radius of the brewery. He's your neighbor...who just happens to make some damn good beer. That's one of the many things I miss about living in Maine.

Anyway, we paid for the beer, got back in the car and started our drive north, up through the Appalachian Mountains toward The Forks.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Belgium Trip Update

I finally have my airline ticket to Brussels so I have been paying a bit more attention to what's happening in the world of Belgian beer and getting some tips from other bloggers on what to look for when I go.

The photo I used for this post is courtesy of They have offered some of their beer photography for free use by other bloggers. This photo is of a neon Kasteel sign in Brussels.

This post over at eventually led me to find this hopeful article about the fate of Liefmans Brewery. Looks like the Duvel Moortgat brewery will be taking over brewing operations in preparation to make an offer to take over the Liefmans operation. Good news indeed!

Lew Bryson reports that Orval (one of my favorites) is a completely different animal when fresh. That hadn't occurred to me so I will have to make sure that I get a bottle when I get over there.

For the few of you who may be reading this and/or may actually have experience with this, I have a question. Is Westvleteren worth it? We will definitely be going to In de Vrede and sampling all the Westvleteren ales but I haven't decided if it's worth it to spend a bunch of time calling the monastery and spending another big chunk of time waiting in line at the monastery for my beer. Any thoughts are welcome.

I love De Koninck. One of the things I'm looking forward to most on this trip will be having another bolleke of fresh De Koninck in Antwerp. I have had bottled versions on this side of the Atlantic but in my experience the broad group of beers known as "Belgian Pale Ales/Ambers" do not travel well. At least not off of the continent. So it was nice to see that The Beer Tourist had a writeup of this fantastic ale from last September. Even nicer, I learned that the old unofficial brewery tap, Café Pelgrim, closed last March. The new unofficial brewery tap is Afspanning De Hand. I need to add that one to my list of stops in Antwerp.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Coaster: Great Guinness Toast 1998

I really need to work on my photography skills for these coaster posts. Anyway...

This coaster is from 10 years ago. K and I actually went and participated in this toast at a little Irish bar called The Fly's Tie in Jacksonville Beach, FL.

The beer situation in Jacksonville in the late nineties was pretty dire. You could get some decent beer at a few upscale specialty shops but you could forget about that when you went out to eat or drink.

The Fly's Tie was not far from our apartment and at the very least took pride in their taps. Nothing earth shattering, mostly Guinness, Bass, the occasional Sam Adams seasonal, some cider and Harp lager. But it was always a quality pint at a fair price in a very traditional Irish pub atmosphere. Good times.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Session #13: Organic Beer

I was always looking to try organic beers from the first time I saw them. Unfortunately, I found most of them lacking.

That has changed in the last 4 years or so as the range of organic beers has gotten better and, I think, the quality of the organic ingredients available for brewing has gotten better as well.

So what to choose? I wanted to get a beer from Pisagh Brewing up in Black Mountain, NC who brew all their beer to USDA organic standards. Their Vortex II Imperial Stout was one of the best beers I've ever tasted, organic or otherwise. Sadly, they do not distribute to Georgia and I wasn't going to make it up to North Carolina this month.

My next thought was to go with a bottle of Foret (marketed as Moinette Biologique in Belgium) brewed by Brasserie Dupont. It is brewed with 100% organic barley and hops and is certified organic by ECOCET in Belgium. But technically it does not have the USDA organic label so I decided to try and find something else. If you're looking for a good organic saison though, Foret is highly recommended.

So I decided to go with Lakefront Brewery's Organic E.S.B. Lakefront is based in Milwaukee and has just arrived in Georgia within the last few months.

It pours a deep amber with a thinnish, but persistent ivory head. Plenty of fine lacing. Smells quite biscuity from the malt, thin herbal bitterness but an overall sweetish aroma.

Taste is much like the aroma. A very British style ESB, lots of biscuity malt and a present but understated herbal hops presence. Finished very, very clean. Mouth is a bit on the thin side. If I had to pin this beer down to one style I would probably say it's just a bitter instead of an Extra Special Bitter.

It's not bad at all but could bring a little more as far as flavor. Good session beer.

Lakefront Brewery

Make sure you check out the other entries from the 13th edition of The Session. The rundown is over at Chris O'Brien's Beer Activist Blog.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Out of the Cellar: Unibroue Trois Pistoles

Date Cellared: March 2004
Date Sampled: February 2008
ABV: 9%

Straight out of Quebec, one of the great North American breweries is Unibroue. They specialize in Belgian style ales and one of their best ales is Trois Pistoles. The beer is named after a village in the Les Basques region.

I have had mixed results aging Unibroue beers and the shelf life on this one is only supposed to be 3 years. Let's see what happens.

It pours an opaque brown with a huge creamy tan head. The aroma is dominated by the signature Unibroue yeast. Ahh, that spicy Unibroue yeast! Bready and earthy, rich dark malt, sweet, lush candy sugar.

Surprisingly smooth body, lightly dry considering the sweetness of this beer. Some breadiness in the malt, some peppery spice, still a hint of alcohol and the body has thinned out a bit from when fresh. Sweetish finish some alcohol warming. Lightly bitter in the finish.

Success! This one ages beautifully. I have more so we'll check it out again in a few months.