8 Beer Gear Items for Brew Nerds

personalized-growler-set-printed-32-300x300You just don’t know what kind of beer to get that craft beer nerd in your inner circle. Hey, it’s cool – I don’t know what Super Smash Brothers games my girlfriend’s son has either.

But you know your craft beer enthusiast would grin from ear to ear if he or she opened a cool brew-centric gift. But what to get? It isn’t any easy question to answer, given that person probably already has t-shirts from their favorite breweries in their closet and hundreds of pint glasses in the cupboard.

Thankfully, capitalism has an answer. Anytime something gets as hot as craft beer, someone not in the beer business is going to see an opportunity, and that means an easier shopping season for you. In that spirit, here are our top eight beer gear gift ideas for your favorite beer aficionado:

  1. Beer Makes Me Happy T-shirt: From TeeSpring.com comes one of many craft beer t-shirts now on the market. This one, however, has a nice flavor of snark. “Beer Makes Me Happy,” it reads. “You, Not So Much.” It says, “Greetings, I’m a beer connoisseur,” while also saying, “Don’t bother me. Can’t you see I’m drinking craft beer?”
  2. Personalized Growler Set: I sort of hope my girlfriend is reading this, because a personalized growler and pint glass set is a pretty cool gift idea for a beer fan such as myself. Sure, I have a collection of growlers from breweries from Louisville, Ky., to Nashville to Detroit, but I don’t have one with my own name on it. And this set is designed to look, well, like it’s your own damn brewery. It’s the stuff of dreams. Oh, and hey, beer.
  3. Personalized Coasters: In the same vein, here’s a neat gift idea from PersonalCreations.com that lets you make personalized bar coasters. And it doesn’t just stop at memorializing your faux fantasy brewery, it actually delves into different beer styles – they look like labels lifted right off the bottles as they roll off your imaginary bottling line. I sure hope that pale ale is dry-hopped.
  4. Wooden Brewfest Six-Pack Holder: This is more than just a six-pack holder – this cool gift idea from PorterHouseCrafts.com enables the beer lover on your list to do a private sampling for him or herself or for others at a social gathering. You get the beer caddy, two paddles and six five-ounce tasting glasses. Get a mix-and-match six-pack at the nearest beer store and go to town.
  5. Tap handlesChalkboard Tap Handles: You probably know the couple with the kegerator in their basement, right? Every time you go to their house, they have a new home brew for you to try. Well, here’s an ideal gift for those friends, courtesy of HomeWetBar.com: Chalkboard tap handles. Whenever they tap a new brew, they can simply scribble the name of it on the tap handle and start pouring. Everyone wants to write “Brad’s Bad-Ass IPA” on a tap handle, don’t they?
  6. Joe Sixpack Beer Belt: Laugh all you want about a belt made for canned beer, but canning craft beer is very much in vogue. In fact, IPAs taste pretty darn good when poured from a can – or, heck, even quaffed straight. And with this contraption from GroomStand.com, the beer geek on your list can pack six of any quality wherever he or she pleases.
  7. Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit: Everyone can’t be a gung-ho homebrewer, but with this Brooklyn Brew Shop Kit, brewing a nice, drinkable IPA in your own home is within reach. Hopped with Columbus and Cascade hops, this easy-to-use kit will make your favorite beer nerd a merry one. (Comes in other styles as well.)
  8. Merry Craftsmas Shirt: Yes, one more shirt from TeeSpring.com. This one is part tee, part ugly sweater, bearing the greeting, “Merry Craftsmas and a Hoppy Brew Year.” Seriously, what better way to enjoy the holidays than wearing this monstrosity with pride?

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

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Beer Magnets: Just What Your Fridge Needed

BottleLoftFrom the “What Will They Think of Next?” file comes an invention called bottleLoft, a simple refrigerator upgrade that enables beer drinkers to do something they could never do before – suspend their beers from the ceilings of their fridges!

Creator Brian Conti of Charlotte, N.C., funded his invention with a KickStarter campaign that yielded $60,597 – more than three times the amount he sought for startup money.

Working via Strong Like Bull Magnets – a super-strong magnet product and another of his inventions that was funded by KickStarter – Conti merely wanted to solve a confounding issue.

“One day I opened a beer and the cap went under my kitchen island,” Conti said. “I was having a hard time retrieving it, so I grabbed a magnet to retrieve it, and the light bulb went off.”

The fact that whenever he bought a few six packs, his fridge space was nil further inspired him – why take up shelf space, when you can just hang ’em? And, sure, any bottled drink with a metal cap will work with bottleLoft, but with the boom of craft beer, the bottleLoft is a natural for the beer nerd in your life.

And think of the benefits: That shelf space now consumed by a plethora of hoarded craft beers can now be used for things like, say, leftover pizza.

Conti experimented, created prototypes and then created more prototypes. Once he had the design he wanted, KickStarter did the rest. The size and power of the magnets had to be tested, and mounting obviously posed an issue. Each bottleLoft is affixed to the fridge ceiling with a special 3M adhesive strip made for lower temperatures. Each strip is rated to hold 110 pounds per each square inch.

“Design is an iterative process,” Conti said. “There were definitely iterations of magnet size and spacing, and various iterations of the general geometry of how the magnets are held and secured.  Also testing of various adhesive grades and amount took place.  So, about five rounds of prototyping to get to the final configuration.”

Interestingly, the magnets are powerful to the point that, if simply affixed to a large piece of metal, they could hold as much as 50 pounds. But the bottle cap is so small and such a small part of the bottle itself, that a very precise magnet was needed.

“A typical 12-ounce bottled beverage weighs 1.2 pounds,” Conti writes on his website. “However, the magnet needs to have a much stronger pull ability as the bottle cap is the only metal the magnet can ‘grab’ onto … and a bottle cap is a pretty thin piece of steel.  The magnet in bottleLoft is designed to attract a standard bottle cap and hold up to an additional 3.6 pounds.”

If you ever get to the point you no longer want bottleLoft in your fridge – or if you, for some insane reason, stop drinking beer – the adhesive can be scraped off with a putty knife.

Conti said once he fulfills the Kickstarter orders, he will begin offering bottleLoft to the public. Look for it on the Strong Like Bull website in January.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

A Guide To German Beer Styles For Oktoberfest

Photo by Leigh Wolf

Photo by Leigh Wolf

Oktoberfest is upon us: lederhosen, bratwurst, schnitzel and beer. Lots of delicious, German beer.

Of course, when I travel to talk to people about beer, I often find that there isn’t a lot of understanding about the difference between German-style beers and others. At the end of the day, it’s all about malts, hops and yeast for any beer, but the beer heritage in Germany is deep and unique.

So, for anyone out there who is about to crash an Oktoberfest celebration – and there will be a lot of you – here’s a brief guide to some of the more recognizable beer styles and what to expect from them (with a little help from the very complete list at GermanBeerInstitute.com).

Altbier: This is a style on which I cut my “good” beer teeth at my local brewery back in the 1990s. It is copper in color, cool-fermented, medium-bodied and ultimately just really drinkable. I love that there is a slightly dry finish to these beers. Great with a pretzel and beer cheese. Sierra Nevada brewed a version of this with Victory this year.

Berliner Weisse: Sometimes called “the people’s champagne,” this is a tart, spritzy, refreshing beer that is low in alcohol and high in drinkability, especially in summer months when you need a thirst quencher. This is one that can only be brewed in Berlin, so you may not run across it at your local event. Then again, this isn’t Germany. Florida brewery Funky Buddha does a Berliner Weisse series you may want to check out.

Bockbier: Now we’re talking. This is a beautifully robust beer that usually is consumed in spring, but is perfect for fall and winter as well. It’s dark in color, heavy and malty, yet a smooth and drinkable beer that begs to be sipped and savored. Oh, and word to the wise: they come in at more than 8 percent ABV. La Trappe makes one of the world’s more popular bocks; proceed with caution.

Doppelbock: Another bock-style beer that is a heavier version of a Bavarian bock. Starting at 7 percent ABV, this is another one that begs a designated driver. Or at least a really sturdy liver. My favorite Doppelbock is Celebrator, which comes from Ayinger. So smooth.

Dunkel: This is basically a mild, dark lager beer that is malt forward and gently hopped. Coming in at around 5 percent ABV, it’s drinkable and perfect for a fall romp in a beer garden. Keep your elbows up. And if you’re looking for a Dunkel outside a festival, Hacker-Pschorr makes a classic version.

Hefeweizen: Some call this Weissbier, but it’s an unfilitered, easy-to-drink wheat beer. More of a summer beer, but hey, if you’re offered one at an Oktoberfest event, you’d be a fool to turn it down. Hefeweizen and Weissbiers are everywhere (think Blue Moon and Shock Top), but I have a buddy that swears by Schneider Weisse.

Helles: A straw-colored, drinkable beer, this is a perfect entryway into German beer for the beginner. It usually comes in around 5 percent ABV, and if a light beer drinker can’t get through one of these without making a face, he or she probably should stick with iced tea. Helles is closely related to a style known as Dortmunder – check out Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold.

Photo by Yuting Hsu

Photo by Yuting Hsu

Kölsch: A German ale (not lager), Kölsch is the beer of Cologne and is one of the lighter entries into German brewing. It’s kind of a lighter cousin of Altbier, but employs a special yeast that helps give it a slightly fruity flavor. Reissdorf Kölsch is a classic example of this summer favorite.

Märzen: This might be considered the beer that founded Oktoberfest, as it came to be an annual October beer release. Wanting to get rid of it fast to make way for winter beers, German brewers began holding festivals to move it along. Thus, Oktoberfest. It’s an amberlager with a kick, sometimes yielding over 6 percent alcohol. Hundreds of these are currently on the market, from Sam Adams to Paulaner. Hell, why not try ’em all?

Pils or Pilsner: If you’re drinking a beer as you read this, there’s a good chance it’s a pilsner (or pilsener). Why? Because 9 out of 10 beers consumed worldwide are pilsners. You can chalk that up to American light beers technically being pilsners, but the fact is it is the world’s most popular beer style. It’s ultra-light and drinkable, perfect for those long sessions of watching football and flirting with bartenders. Look no farther than Pilsner Urquell.

Schwarzbier: A black lager that might fool people with its surprising drinkability, given its dark appearance. It’s rich and mild, with a subdued, malty character, lacking the hop bite of many light lager style beers. If your friends are the kind of people who think “dark” beer is a style, you could probably quaff a couple of these and convince them you’re drinking motor oil. Grab a Sprecher Black Bavarian and hold on to your taste buds.

That’s the short list. When you head to your nearby Oktoberfest to hoist a few lagers and do the chicken dance, that should get you started – maybe you can try one of each. For a list of Oktoberfest celebrations across the U.S., check out Gayot.com.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

If You’re Making Chili, Be Sure To Use the Right Beer

Photo by makatcheks.

Photo by makatcheks.

One of my best friends is a minister; Kory is in his 40s and has never tasted alcohol before. But when he decided to enter a chili contest a few years ago, he reached out with a question: “What kind of beer do you use to make your chili?”

Yeah, I make pretty good chili. And to me, beer is an essential ingredient. What I’ve found over the years is that different styles of beers can add different flavors and textures. What I do is just choose the beer I want, pour in a twelve ounce bottle once all the other ingredients are there and the chili is ready to simmer.

Oh, and be aware that many recipes just say “one 12-ounce bottles of beer.” Some even say absurd things like “one bottle of beer (such as Budweiser).” These are the ones who aren’t looking deeper for an added flavor layer. I guess that’s no crime, but if you’re going to make chili, why not go for it?

Red Ale

I don’t remember what specific beer I recommended to Kory back then (and I always wondered what he did with the other five bottles in the six-pack), but at the time I was heavily into making what I called “red ale chili.”

The reason I was so into it is that red ale was sort of my gateway beer back in the 1990s, starting with a beer by Bluegrass Brewing Company in my hometown of Louisville, Ky. (This was actually a German-style altbier, but it did the trick.)

But the maltiness of a red ale, for me, adds just a bit of sweetness to the mix, a nice little hint of something that isn’t spice – and my chili has plenty of spice. The times I made this beer I used things like Sam Adams Light (do they still make that stuff?) and Killian’s Irish Red – once, I even used a Murphy’s Irish Red – but with the proliferation of craft beer now, the possibilities are insane.

But imagine putting something like a Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale into a bowl of chili, with all its caramel malt character. Now you’re talking.

A classic English-style pale ale works nicely here, too.

Pale Ales

Photo by Andy Pucko.

Photo by Andy Pucko.

As time went by, my taste buds moved toward American Pale Ales and then India Pale Ales, so I started experimenting with those as an ingredient in my chili. What I found was that the hop bitterness enhances the flavor of the peppers, while adding a distinctive bite to the mixture.

I would be hesitant to use a really big IPA, like an 2XIPA or an imperial, but a good 50 to 75 IBU IPA has worked for me in the past. Think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or something a tad milder like a Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale. In fact, pretty much any American-style IPA, from a Cigar City Jai Alai (delicious!) to a Bell’s Two Hearted to a Victory Hop Devil, would be a good one to start with.

I’ve begun using IPAs in my chili primarily because I do tend to make it so spicy. Hops and spice go together, so mixing them can help enhance both. Hey, why else would people drink beer with hot wings?

And if you start to like IPA chili, well, then you can consider graduating into the “big” IPAs. Let your taste buds be your guide.

Stout

Stout is a perfect base ingredient for stew, so it’s also a natural ingredient for chili. Hey, chili is a kind of stew, right? And we know that beef goes well with stouts.

You can go for the rich malts of a time-honored favorite like Guinness, but imagine the possibilities. We talked about the addition of sweetness to a spicy pot of chili. I found more than one recipe online that called for Samuel Adams Cream Stout as the beer of choice, which is intriguing to consider.

Good lord, what would Young’s Double Chocolate Stout taste like in chili? It’s a question worth asking if you can bring yourself to part with a bottle of it.

Others

As I said above, let your taste buds be your guide. Use your favorite chili recipe (I always use my own, but there are a bajillion of them on the InterWeb) and just experiment with each batch. What would chili taste like with a strong ale, for instance? Something like a Lightning Brewery Old Tempestuous, perhaps? Or a bourbon-barrel-aged beer like Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale? (Hey, we don’t mess around here in Bourbon Country!)

And there seem to be more and more pepper beers rising to the surface these days, beers that pair hops with pepper spice from the get-go. How could you go wrong with one of those?

The sky is the limit, and your chili palette is blank. And once you find the beer that’s right for your chili, you’ll know what to do with the remaining five bottles. To get you started, here’s a recipe from epicurious.com for that Sam Adams Cream Stout chili. Enjoy.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 5 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large jalapeño chiles with seeds, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 7 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons (packed) minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce*
  • 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (such as Sam Adams Cream Stout)
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped green onions
  • Coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Preparation

Toast cumin and coriander in skillet over medium heat until darker and beginning to smoke, about 4 minutes. Cool.

Sauté beef in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until no longer pink, breaking up with spoon, about 8 minutes. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, all bell peppers, and jalapeños. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add mixture to pot with meat. Mix in toasted spices, chili powder, and chipotle chiles. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, and beer. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated up to 2 days (or freeze up to 1 month). Rewarm over medium-low heat.

Ladle chili into bowls. Serve with sour cream, green onions, and cheese.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

Five Perfect Beers for Father’s Day

dad-beerBeer really is a dad kind of drink, you know? Dad mows the lawn, he gets a beer as his reward. Dad fixes the sink, another beer. Big hairy spider killed with his boot, ninja-style? Beer.

So why wouldn’t Father’s Day be the perfect occasion to buy your dad a cold one? Or a sixer of something he’s never had before? I’m thinking something appropriately dad-like – something with some body. Something with muscle, and a bit of soul.

So, in honor of dads everywhere,  here is a list of beers that we believe the dad in your life would appreciate more than a Home Depot gift card this Sunday – and certainly more than that crummy tie you bought him last year (Mallards? Really?):

5. Omission Brewing Company Pale Ale (Silver, 2014 NY International Beer Competiton): This is one of those over-the-middle-of-the-plate ales, with plenty of hop flavor but not over-the-top bitter. Hey, at only 33 IBU and 5.8 percent ABV, dear old Dad can have a couple of these to wash down his ham and cheese on rye after successfully outwrestling the water heater and single-handedly saving the family from days of cold showers. Made with a blend of Cascade and Citra hops, it’s spot on for a summer Sunday afternoon. Seriously, break out the vintage lawn chairs and lawn darts – it’s time to celebrate dad’s big day.

4. Murphy’s Irish Stout (Ireland Brewery of the Year, 2014 NYIBC): Dads change the oil in the family car. Dads like steak. Think about it: Murphy’s Irish Stout (or any good stout, really) kind of looks like motor oil, and it also goes pretty well with a nice thick steak that has the circumference of a garbage can lid and is bleeding like a slain boar. Especially on Father’s Day. Treat your dad to a big, juicy steak along with this time-honored classic that is creamy, full-flavored and more than manageable at a measly 4.0 percent ABV. Your pops will appreciate this one.

3. Victory HopDevil: It’s floral on the nose and a deep burnt-orange-meets-red color, which may not exude dad-esque manhood, but make no mistake – this little devil will bite back. When dad defeats the flat tire in two minutes flat, then grills the best ribs and brats modern civilized society has ever known, give him a challenge with this hoppy, delicious beer. This one is made with whole American hops, like any self-respecting dad would expect, and it brings a slightly sweet malt balance to help take the edge off. At 6.8 percent ABV, however, don’t be surprised if he challenges you to arm wrestle after a couple of these. On the bright side, you know you’ll have a better chance to win if he’s tipsy. Don’t pull a muscle.

2. Franziskaner Weissbier: This one probably seems out of place on this list, but bear with me. I mentioned before about dads cutting the lawn, right? Well, let’s face it, dads do more than just mow –they dominate the lawn. And then they sit on the porch and gaze out across its lush green-ness with well-earned pride as beadlets of musky, victory perspiration drip down their foreheads – not unlike the beads of condensation on the glass containing this drinkable, spritzy, bready, 5 percent ABV wheat beer. Truly, it takes the post-mowing, backyard beer celebration to new heights.

1. Miller High Life: Yeah, this beer is not highbrow but, then, neither are most dads. This is what my dad drank when I was growing up, and he turned out just fine. In fact, I find that even the snobbiest of beer snobs I know will give High Life a pass – at least it doesn’t say “Lite” on the label anywhere. Truly, if you’ve not had one in a while, you may be surprised at the flavor – it is fizzy and drinkable, preferably served ice cold with a side of harumph, but it isn’t vapid like so many light beers. You can actually taste the grains in this. Plus, it’s cheap. And the girl in the logo is awkwardly attractive, even though she’s only line art. And when you plop the 12-pack down on the picnic table in front of your Dad, you’re going to get the paternal nod of approval. Kids, that’s priceless.

And it still beats that awful tie. (Mallards? Really?)

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

Spring Is Near – Break Out the Bock Beer

Bock - Hofbrauhaus DoppelbockWhile in many places the tradition has died, spring used to be the time when bock beer was released, much to the delight of beer lovers – especially those of German heritage.

As far back as Medieval Germany, people would typically drink a slightly lighter lager style beer most of the year. Meanwhile, bock beer was aged over the winter and fermented with bolder malts, creating a beer that not only was darker in color and bigger in flavor, but which also was about double the alcohol content. That was actually intended to provide a bit of extra nutritional value during Lenten fasting, but on “Bock Day” it also meant a fun time for all, as it coincided with a celebration that signified the coming of spring and, hopefully, better times after a long winter.

The name “bock” is actually derived from the Medieval German brewing city Einbeck; bock also happens to be the German word for “goat,” so as modern times approached, including in early American German settlements, signs and posters advertising the annual release of bock beer bore the likeness of goats. Sometimes actual goats would even get involved in the festivities as mascots. And the legend of how bock beer was “discovered” is quite a yarn in itself.

A newspaper article from 1914 probably tells the story best:

“It is legend that Jan Primus, or John First, whose name has come down to present times as ‘Gambrinus,’ had a vagabond serving man who ran away from his master and carried with him two stone bottles of beer with which to refresh himself on his travels. He drank the first bottle of beer and then buried the other until he required it. But he wandered far and it was not until hunger drove him homeward that he came on the place where he had buried the bottle of beer.

“It had had several months in which to ripen, or ‘lager,’ and the serf was delighted and surprised to learn that it had greatly improved in quality and flavor, and being a wise knave, he saw his chance to make favor with his master and escape the punishment which he rightly anticipated.

“Accordingly, the runaway took the bottle of lagered beer to his master and was not disappointed at the pleasure that the king found in the discovery. The result was that Gambrinus had his castle brewer put away a lot of beer every winter to ripen, and thus he became the patron saint of the ancient and honorable Guild of Brewers.”

Bock Promotion 1882, courtesy Susanlenox.

Bock Promotion 1882, courtesy Susanlenox.

Is the legend true? Eh, who cares. It’s a good story. And bock is good beer. I recently visited Hofbrauhaus in Newport, Ky., where Doppelbock was tapped for the season, and it was a delicious specimen – thick, rich, malty, slightly sweet and even just a tad chocolaty. It was also 8 percent ABC, so I only drank one.

Nearby Cincinnati is home to the oldest and largest annual Bockfest in the country in its historic Over the Rhine neighborhood, where much of the city’s brewing history is rooted. People gather to eat bratwurst and Rueben sandwiches, to celebrate spring, and of course to drink as much bock beer as their bellies can hold. A huge parade leading to the “blessing of the kegs” is led through town by a goat pulling a barrel of bock beer and the reigning Sausage Queen from the year before.

Steven Hampton, Executive Director of Over the Rhine Brewing District, said the annual festival, which involves at least a dozen of the neighborhood bars and pubs as well as a big Bockfest Hall with plenty of taps and tables, carries on the tradition of Bock Day in a very local way.

“It’s a very grassroots type festival,” Hampton said. “It’s not like your bigger Oktoberfest-type festivals – it’s more neighborhood-oriented.”

Of course, that’s how it was in the old days – you went to your nearest pub and drank with your friends and neighbors. Many back in the late 1800s and eary 1900s in German communities in America would take the day off from work to celebrate the coming of spring.

Bock beers should be out in abundance, so next time you stop in your favorite watering hole, check out what bock or doppelbock beers are availableAyinger Celebrator is a good choice, or if you want something  bit less bold, Shiner Bock is a fairly solid beer.

Just remember that most of them pack a punch. In other words, celebrate the coming of spring, but drink bock beer responsibly.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

A Christmas Flight For Beer Lovers

beer sam adams cheery chocolate bockOne thing I love about living in the Louisville, Ky., area is the beer scene. Everyone talks about California and Oregon (and they should), but there’s plenty to love in the Bourbon state as well.

And I’m not just talking about our excellent brew pubs, either. Exhibit A: Buckhead Mountain Grill. Sure, it looks and feels like a family steakhouse, but the place also has an impressive and massive beer list, with 42 (!) taps pouring local, regional and national brews.

Buckhead even has a cool beer app that allows you to sit at your table or bar seat and create your own flight, complete with beer description, alcohol content and IBU. Developed in-house, the app will even recommend beers that are similar to your favorite – on the off chance your favorite isn’t available on draft or in bottles.

Beer rep Tisha Gainey currently has Buckhead fully immersed in the holidays with her 12 Ales of Christmas promotion, so I decided to build a flight from some of these beers at the Buckhead Jeffersonville, Ind., location (which is just across the Ohio River from Louisville) and celebrate with friends a few days early. Here’s what I tried:

Schlafly Hop Harvest IPA (5.7 percent ABV, 30 IBU): This is a solid harvest ale with a light malt body made with American hops (Amarillo, Centennial, Mosaic, Simcoe and Magnum). The blend of citrus and pine in both the nose and flavor is its calling card – it actually drinks like a floral and fruity, crisp summer beer. It is actually not a Christmas beer, per se, but rather a celebration of the fall hop-growing season. But hey, what better time than Christmas to enjoy the bounty of that season? Drink this one before your holiday festivities begin, so you won’t get filled up and spoil your dinner.

Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas (8.3 percent ABV, 21.5 IBU): This dark brown beer actually has a deceptively light nose and body. Made with caramel and toasted malts, along with ginger, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s truly a complex and interesting drink. On my palate, the ginger really broke through, with a bit of nutmeg right behind it, although my guess is this brew may

provide different sensations for different people. On the finish, it’s sweet and certainly Christmas-y. Worth a try.

Flat 12 Glazed Ham Porter (6.3 percent ABV, 34.1 IBU): Ham? Yep. That’s what it said as I scrolled through the trusty beer app. Hey, my grandma used to make ham just about every Christmas, so this was one I had to try. This beer is smoky, to be sure, and it does hint of the spicy-sweet glaze one would expect to find on a Christmas ham, but never fear – Glazed Ham Porter does not taste like pork. It’s actually quite an interesting beverage, with the assertive smoky sweetness carrying the load. Sure, it doesn’t really taste like ham, but if you’re looking something to drink with your ham this Christmas, this one will fit the bill.

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus beerThree Floyds Alpha Klaus Porter (6 percent ABV, 38 IBU): Good ol’ Three Floyds Brewing is a few hours’ up the Interstate from Louisville in Munster, Ind., and is the producer of some fine, hoppy beers such as Dreadnaught and Alpha King. Alpha Klaus Porter is an interesting blend of coffee tones, malts and hops, with a bitterness that seems higher than just 38 IBU. I drank my four-ounce flight pour with one of my friends’ hot wings, and it was quite a treat. Think of this as one you can sip while opening gifts with the kids.

Sam Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock (5.8 percent ABV, 15 IBU): A Christmas tradition in my family was that my dad always gave my mom a box of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas, so this was another one I felt compelled to add to my flight. Made with cocoa nibs and natural cherries, the nose is pretty overwhelming – it borders on cough syrup overwhelming, in fact. The tart cherry taste also overcomes the malts, and the beer finishes sweet. Not my cup of tea, but I bet my mom would like it.

Upland Teddy Bear Kisses (10.2 percent ABV, 80 IBU): Upland Brewing is located in Bloomington, Ind., and is well known around the region for its Upland Wheat and Dragonfly IPA. Teddy Bear Kisses is a great big beer – an imperial stout with deep, dark malts and plenty of alpha hops. Interestingly, the nose is rather light, which belies the robust flavor of the beast. It drinks like a dark, imperial IPA, and doesn’t hit the palate as hoppy as the IBUs would suggest. This one is a big, wet, slobbery teddy bear kiss, and I like it.

This post was written for and originally published by New York-based AlcoholProfessor.com.

Victory DirtWolf Double IPA Bites Just Right

vicgtory dirtwolf double ipaThis post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

A few years ago, my ex-girlfriend and I decided to plant some American hops in our back yard; I thought it would prompt me to finally experiment with home brewing. It did not. Instead, the hops took over the back of the house and became a rabid beast that I ultimately had to cut down in its prime before it consumed us entirely.

Victory Brewing Company’s DirtWolf Double IPA is named in tribute to hops, and the way they “rise from the earth with the voracity of a wolf among sheep.”

The name is appropriate indeed. Featuring four different hops – whole flower Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra and Chinook – DirtWolf is as complex as they come, frankly. The hop blend swirls flavor all over the palate, and bites you when you least expect it.

DirtWolf pours a light, hazy orange with minimal, white head and plenty of thick lacing; the nose was tamer than I’d expected when poured into the glass. But on first drink, you’ll know this IPA is as aggressive as the very cool label art suggests.

For my nose and palate, the citrusy quality is what took charge. There certainly are other fruit notes going on in this beer, but due to the citrus, I would hold this forth as something that could almost pass for an extreme breakfast drink. I would say that’s especially true if you were using it to wash down an omelet with plenty of spicy sausage and a few dashes of hot sauce.

The body is crisp at first, but that grows into a thick mouthfeel that lingers, leaving with it a tingly bite mixed with a pleasant, creamy sensation. As the hints of pine and earthiness take hold, you find your palate not only happy, but feeling a bit challenged as well. That’s a good thing.

I couldn’t track down any IBU information on DirtWolf, but it’s not a Hopslam kind of beer – this one is more about flavor complexity than all-out bitterness. It works very, very well. I’d guess it at maybe 75 or 80, but a guess is all it is. I’ve been fooled before.

“As brewers who enjoy experimenting with beer styles and ingredient varieties,” said Victory President and Brewmaster Bill Covaleski, by way of press materials, “we are constantly looking to keep our core audience captivated and interested while creating opportunities to attract and introduce those new to the craft brewing movement. We think, and hope, everyone will be as please as we are with the result.”

I certainly am. And based on some of the ratings I have found online, I’m not alone in this. Now I’m wondering if I should re-plant those hops in my backyard. Just for another challenge.

New Book Sheds Light on Women’s Role in Whiskey History

fred minnick - whiskey womenThis one is via AlcoholProfessor.com. Here are a few ‘graphs to get you started, then a link to the full story.

The best story is the one that’s never been told, and a new book on whiskey history tells just that kind of story.

Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch & Irish Whiskey (Potomac Books), by Fred Minnick, goes back to the beginnings of distilling and reveals that not only did women have a large role in the emergence of distillation, they actually invented it.

“I had never heard that,” Minnick said. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought the Arabs invented it, but it was Mesopotamian women.”

He also learned through his extensive research –which took him as far away as Ireland – that a number of women in Scotland were actually killed for making something called aquavita, which was basically whiskey.

“They used it as medicine, but that was considered witchcraft,” he said. “If they were selling it for intoxication, they were just fine.” …

Read the Full Article.

Also, be sure to read my profile on the author, which was published last week in LEO Weekly.

 

The Rise of Cider (via The Alcohol Professor)

louisville beer - apple cider alcohol professor

Imagine this if it was wetter and could get you drunk.

Via AlcoholProfessor.com, check out my latest post there on the rise of hard cider. Here are a few paragraphs to get you started:

I had my first taste of hard cider about 15 years ago when my friend Greg introduced me to it. We were at an Irish pub, and when Greg ordered two pints, the bartender – in his thick Irish accent – exclaimed, “This is like rocket fuel, mate. It’ll blow your [freaking] head off!”

I had three of them that night, and I’ll say this much: Never mix hard cider with tequila.

That aside, along with the craft beer movement that is sweeping the U.S., cider is also enjoying an uprising; cideries and meaderies are popping up alongside microbreweries, creating new versions of an old favorite. And now autumn is here, a time when cider is on the minds (and in the mouths) of many. …

Read the Whole Freaking Post!