Grateful Dead-Inspired Beer: American Beauty

beer - dogfish head american beautyI’ve never been a fan of the Grateful Dead; I love rock music, but I don’t like extended jams.

But American Beauty, a new small-batch imperial pale ale from Dogfish Head Brewery, intrigued me. Here’s why: Dogfish Head reached out to Grateful Dead fans asking for suggested ingredients for the beer that would honor their favorite band – let the Deadheads supply the recipe.

My first thought was, “What sort of ingredients might a nation of Deadheads be inclined to recommend?” Hmm. Perhaps we’d best leave that one alone.

The result was more than 1,500 different suggestions, with one clear winner: organic granola. In other words, hippie food. OK, I’ll bite: how does granola work in an Imperial Pale Ale? Quite well, actually, at least in the hands of the Dogfish Head brewing team.

American Beauty pours with a big, clean head, a medium-hazy, dark orange body and plenty of lacing. It certainly passes the eye test. But it’s the nose that really begins the intrigue – there’s an expected floral aroma supplied by the plentiful American hops in this beer, but there’s also something else; there’s an earthy tone to it. Does that come from the organic granola?

More importantly, is this the stuff from the blessed fountain they were singing about in the song “Ripple?”

The ale’s flavor is surprisingly balanced – not the hop attack one might expect from an imperial ale (the beer is 55 IBU). It has a crisp flavor, but one which confirms the toasty earthiness on the nose. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the granola includes almonds, which may have something to do with it.

Interestingly, this beer is smooth, with a great, natural hop flavor. And yet it’s not one of those Imperial Ales with a flavor or mouthfeel that lingers on. I found this a tad ironic, given the way a Dead concert would no doubt linger. Or a mid-song Dead jam. No, the flavor of this beer clears the palate after a few moments, which means that each subsequent drink is like a fresh start.

What a long, strange trip it has been.

Also, at 9.0 percent ABV, you can taste the alcohol – which is probably similar to how a Grateful Dead show might have tasted. Although, one can imagine that the smell at a Dead show was quite a bit more, em, earthy than  American Beauty. (Cough, cough.)

Dogfish Head recommends American Beauty with pork chops, jambalaya or frites, and also with blue cheeses. I had a few nibbles of medium white cheddar while drinking it, and it was only a so-so pairing. I should have checked ahead of time and picked up something more appropriate. Maybe the Dead fans could have made a suggestion. Is Sugar Magnolia a food?

But the bottom line is, this one you can enjoy alone or share with a friend. Hats off yet again to Dogfish Head Brewery.

In other words, drink up and go home.

This post was originally published by

NABC’s Naughty Claus Makes the Wish List

NaughtyClaus-710x1065Ah, Christmas: Good tidings, sleigh bells, reckless consumer spending and seasonal beers. To the surprise of no one involved, many of us prefer the latter. For those folks, there is New Albanian Brewing Company‘s Naughty Claus, rolled out last week around Louisville.

I made the drive to NABC’s Public House to enjoy a pint and some breadsticks with my girlfriend this past weekend, and I have to say that Dave Pierce and his brewing team over at New Albanian did it up right.

To be bluntly honest, I’m actually not usually a fan of Christmas beers — I find that too often breweries overdo the spices in order to make the beer more … well, Christmasy, if you will. The same goes for a lot of the pumpkin beers I’ve had. When it stops tasting like beer that is made with pumpkin and starts tasting like liquid pumpkin pie, that’s when they’ve lost me.

louisville beer - naughty clausNaughty Claus is not one of those over-the-top brews; it is imminently drinkable, like a solid, mild pale ale that just happens to have that something extra to it. Even the tagline spells it out, calling the beer a “seasonal ale with spices.” So, while the medium body, slightly sweet malts and mild hop character (it’s only 12 IBU) take the lead here, you still get a sense of the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel within.

I was fond of the interestingly sharp finish that comes from the spices, but for the most part this is, again, just a really solid, easy-drinking ale with a kick. I could easily see this one going well with your Christmas dinner. Or, hell, your Thanksgiving turkey in a couple of days. Or by itself. (Just be careful, because while it goes down like a session beer, it packes 8.0 percent ABV.)

Until next time, happy holidays and drink locally. Especially the beer.

A Visit to the Schlafly Tap Room

schlafly beer - barrelThis originally was published by The Alcohol Professor. If you’re in St. Louis and love beer, you gotta check this place out.

A visit to a craft brewery’s tap room is like a vacation in itself – especially if said tap room is as cozy and fun as Schlafly’s tap room in downtown St. Louis.

Opened in 1991, Schlafly’s was the first brewery tap room to open in St. Louis after Prohibition. While in town recently for a Monday Night Football game, a friend and I decided to have lunch at Schlafly and to take in the surroundings, along with some beer. It was a good decision, for several reasons.

For starters, I counted 16 brews on tap, from standards like Kolsch and the Pale Ale to a blackberry cider and a couple of cask ales. That’s a lot by comparison to most microbreweries I visit – I’m accustomed to choosing from between 8 and 10, or maybe 12 for a slightly larger craft brewer. …

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SweetWater Brewing Beers Coming to Louisville

sweetwater IPA - beerAtlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Company will begin distributing its products in Lousville in November. It’s been coming for a while now, with distribution to Lexington and the northern part of the state. Now we’ll be able to get six-packs in stores, with more to follow.

I’m going to just paste the full press release here for all the details:

ATLANTA (October 2013) – Kicking off the week of Nov. 11, Louisville locals will officially be able to wet their whistles with SweetWater’s lip-smackin’ lineup of hoppy, unpasteurized ales. This announcement comes on the heels of the brewery’s recent $19 million expansion, quadrupling brewing capacity. Its entrance into the state of Kentucky earlier this year marked the first time the brewery had opened distribution to a new state since 2008.

“Now that we’ve successfully launched Lexington and Northern Kentucky, we’re finally ready to venture into Cardinal Country with River City Distributing,” said Vice President of Sales for SweetWater Brewing Company Dave Guender. “Louisville has been on our radar for a while now, and we’re rolling into the market just in time for football season and college hoops around the corner.”

Sweetwater 420 - beer“We’re extremely excited about our new partnership with SweetWater Brewing Company,” stated President of River City Distributing John Harris. “Our employees and customers have been waiting for this beer for a long time!”
SweetWater is bringing “the beers you’ve been training for” to thirsty locals starting with six-packs of SweetWater bottles in off-premise grocery stores, package stores, and specialty bottle shops, followed by their flagship 420 Extra Pale Ale on draft at on-premise bars and restaurants later in November. Package will include the following brands:
  • 420 Extra Pale Ale – SweetWater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale is a West Coast style pale ale with big hops and a crisp finish. First brewed on April 20, 1997, this beer has developed quite the following in the Southeast. 420 is extremely well-balanced which makes it a perfect introduction to a new town…that’s why we say “drink ‘em if you got ‘em!”
  • SweetWater Blue – SweetWater Blue is a unique, lighter-bodied wheat ale enhanced with a hint of fresh blueberries. This brew’ll give folks a good whiff of a blueberry influence, with a subtle taste and an extra clean finish. This ain’t no fruit beer, but it is our breakfast beer, and perfect for hanging outside on a Kentucky derby day.
  • SweetWater IPA – This mammoth India Pale Ale (IPA) is dry-hopped to the gills, delivering a kick-you-in-the-teeth hop chop. The brew is unfiltered and, like all of our beers, always unpasteurized to leave all the natural flavors intact. SweetWater IPA recently won first place in a blind tasting against 15 of the best IPAs in the country held by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • SweetWater Tackle Box – The SweetWater Tackle Box variety pack is a hefty 12-pack collection featuring three of SweetWater’s favorite year round brews, along with a fourth style of a little something special in each box.
Want to get in on the action? A crew from SweetWater Brewery will taste their way around the area with sampling celebrations and sponsored festivities in late November. Online fans can wet their whistles too by following the Kentucky Facebook page for details on how to enter SweetWater’s “Catch a Trout” tap handle contest. The challenge rewards the first 20 fans who can find and post photos with the brewery’s iconic trout tap handles at local bars around town with free SweetWater Schwag.
To learn more about SweetWater Brewing Company and its full lineup, visit

Another Weekend of Louisville Beer (and More) …

louisville beer - nabc pickmans ale

New Albanian’s Pickman’s Ale: Mildly hoppy. Sessionable. And great with beer cheese.

I got around this past weekend. I was actually in search of cider for a story I’m working on for another website, but I really like hoppy more than fruity. So I made it a point to have some Louisville beer along the way.

My first stop, on Saturday afternoon, was at New Albanian Brewing Company. I was in search of Gale’s Hard Cider, by way of Thomas Family Winery, but there were no bottles left (drat!). Instead, I tried a New Day South Cider, which wasn’t bad at all. Then I cleansed my palate with some breadsticks and had a (NABC) Pickman’s Ale, which is one I don’t believe I have tried before. I’m an APA guy, so I couldn’t resist, and it didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, it’s long on kick (6.5 percent ABV), medium on hops (52 IBU) and just what I needed to go with NABC’s spicy beer cheese. It has a burnt orange color, thin head, medium hop nose, just a touch of citrus tone and a quick hop bite that gets there before you expect it to. The hop flavor then continues to emerge drink after drink. Thumbs up.

louisville beer app - buckheads

Pick a beer. Any beer.

On Sunday, I watched some football with my pal Greg and had a flight over at Buckhead Mountain Grill in Jeffersonville, where Tisha Gainey always has a kick-ass selection. It’s always fun to use Buckhead’s Craft Beer App, in any case, scrolling through what’s on tap, separating the ales from the lagers and whatnot. I worked my way up the hops ladder (after tasting one Angry Orchard Cider) with Upland Campside Session Ale (4.5 percent ABV, 50 IBU); Daredevil Liftoff IPA (7.2 percent ABV, 72 IBU); Sun King Bitchn’ Camaro (8.7 percent ABV, 89 IBU), and Stone Ruin Ten Imperial IPA (10.8 percent ABV, 110 IBU).

I let Greg have a taste of the Stone Ruin. Here was his reaction: “That grabbed a hold of my whole mouth! Holy shit!” After that, he said, “I’m going back to my Miller Water.”

Yeah, I couldn’t taste anything by the time I finished off that flight. I also went a bit outside the region with the Stone Ruin, but I figured it was the perfect way to cap off a hop orgy like that one. Glad I only had four-ounce pours of those, though. Yikes. I bet Greg wishes he didn’t even have the one sip.

louisville beer - apocalypse irish red ale

Apocalypse Brew Works Irish Red Rapture: So smooth and creamy, it’s like bathing in a pool of kittens.

A bit later, still on a quest to find ciders I could write about, we wound up at O’Shea’s Irish Pub in the Highlands. There, I was greeted by something on a different part of the beer spectrum, but also one of my first loves: an Irish red ale. But not just any Irish red — it was an Apocalypse Brew Works Irish Red Rapture. How could I resist? And luckily, my palate had been wiped clean by tasting samples of cider.

At 5.9 percent ABV and 26 IBU, it looks like a brown ale, and even has coffee on the nose. It’s so creamy and malty. This is the kind of beer I typically go for in fall and winter. I wrote in my notes, “Leah rules.” Obviously, I was referring to brewer Leah Dienes.

After that, I went home and watched football. And fell asleep in the process. Totally worth it.

New Louisville Beers at Apocalypse, Falls City

apocalypse brews - louisville beer blogHad a couple pints at Apocalypse Brew Works over the weekend. Leah Dienes just keeps on brewing up tasty Louisville beer.

ABW Hop Project: Cluster (4.6% ABV, 42 IBU) is Apocalypse’s APA of the moment. It’s another classic summer ale that has just enough bitterness to let you know it’s there, but is smooth-bodied and sessionable. This one pours a cloudy, dark orange – it was almost red. Of course, I drank it from a plastic cup in the not-too-well-lit Apocalypse tap room, so that probably influenced my vision. I liked it so much that I had two of them.

Speaking of APAs, while I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet, Falls City announced the release of 502 APA. If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m an APA guy, and this one sounds pretty nice.

Here’s the description from Falls City: “This American Pale Ale is the next beer in our single-hop APA series.  We used only Amarillo hops in this beer giving it strong citrusy characteristics with hints of orange peel and grapefruit.  A mild, toasty malt backbone helps to balance out the bitterness.”

Kenny Rogers returns with his new album You Can’t Make Old Friends released on October 8th

Digital review copies available upon request

Grammy-award winning Kenny Rogers continues his brilliant creativity with his new album You Can’t Make Old Friendsset for release on October 8th. Being the first country album since Water & Bridges in 2006 he stretches his artistry into new musical territory. He brings these fresh new tracks with his classic sounds by collaborating genres to tell his great stories through rock and roll, soul, gospel, southern rock, zydeco, and sounds of the Southwest.  Rogers even ads those old friends to the record like Dolly Parton, collaborating a brand new duet.


Kenny Rogers continues to bring year 2013 with a bang, after the announcement of his induction into theCountry Music Hall of Fame this fall.  Rogers also performed on the main stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival to a colossal audience on the grounds and around the UK as it was televised on BBC.  His Through The Years World Tour has included stops in Morocco, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada and the U.S.

This fall and winter, Rogers’ tour will roll on with more U.S. and Canadian dates, including the Christmas & Hits Through The Years Tour, his annual holiday performances, in late November and December.  In addition, a novel Rogers co-wrote with Mike Blakely, What Are The Chances, is being released today (September 3rd) and Rogers’ New York Times Best Selling autobiography, Luck Or Something Like It, will be released in paperback on September 27th.


 **Kenny Rogers – You Can’t Make Old Friends – Track Listing**
1.    You Can’t Make Old Friends (Duet With Dolly Parton)
2.    All I Need Is One
3.    You Had To Be There
4.    ’Merica
5.    Turn This World Around
6.    Dreams Of The San Joaquin
7.    Don’t Leave Me In The Night Time (Featuring Buckwheat Zydeco)
8.    Look At You
9.    Neon Horses
10.  When You Love Someone
11.  It’s Gonna Be Easy Now


Also, if you see that Kenny is touring in your area and you would like to interview Kenny about the upcoming show, please let me know. 


09/14  Oxford, ME – Oxford County Fair – Oxford, ME
09/25  Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium – Concert for Cumberland Heights – Nashville, TN
10/10  University, MS – Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts – University of Mississippi
10/11  Branson, MO – The Oak Ridge Boys Theatre
10/20  Charleston, SC – Southern Ground Music & Food Festival – Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island
(Special Guest of Zac Brown Band)
10/26  Pocola, OK – Choctaw Casino
11/09  El Dorado, AR – El Dorado Municipal Auditorium
11/10  Branson, MO – The Oak Ridge Boys Theatre
01/23  St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles – The Country Music Cruise 2014
01/13  Carmel, IN – The Center for the Performing Arts – The Palladium


With Special Guest Linda Davis
12/01  Concord, NH – The Capitol Center For The Arts
12/02  Verona, NY – Turning Stone Resort Casino – Event Center
12/03  Englewood, NJ – bergenPAC
12/05  Newark, NJ – Prudential Hall, New Jersey Performing Arts Center
12/07  Newport News, VA – Christopher Newport University’s Ferguson Center For The Arts
12/08  Morgantown, WV – West Virginia University – Creative Arts Center
12/12  Paducah, KY – Carson Center
12/14  Sault Sainte Marie, MI – Kewadin Casino – DreamMakers Theater
12/16  New Philadelphia, OH – Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas
12/21  Naperville, IL – Pfeiffer Hall – North Central College

Abbey Stanerson

Regional Publicity Manager

Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah & Washington

Webster & Associates, LLC a public relations & marketing company
 615.777.6995 x238 | fax:  615.369.2515 | mobile: 319.551.7636

Against the Grain Rolls Out More Goodness

louisville beer - against the grain logoEveryone is buzzing about the Bo & Luke release on Sept. 14, but let’s not forget that Against the Grain rolls out good stuff constantly. I love stopping in to see what’s new. In my two recent visits, I tried a few different styles – one of which didn’t even yet have its clever name up on the board.

Black Pale Ale (6.2% ABV, “just over 40” IBU) – The bartender simply called this one a “black pale ale,” and as I noted, there was no description for it next to the “Dark” label on the tell-all ATG chalkboard. But this beer, whatever it’s called, is a really nice blend of hops and roasted malts. It’s like what might happen if an APA and a nut brown had a love child. I really enjoyed this one.

Pale Pattern Boldness (5.7% ABV, 40 IBU) – This is an american pale ale with a finish that is almost sour. In fact, it really caught my taste buds off guard, because the bitterness was oddly tempered. Otherwise, it’s about what you’d expect: a cloudy, dark orange ale with light head, medium body and plenty of legs. Solid, but not my favorite ATG brew.

Bitter As Appropriate (3.4% ABV, 30 IBU) – “Yes, please” is what I wrote in my notes. That pretty much sums it up: This is an easy-to-drink, light-bodied ale with just enough bitterness to let you know it’s there. A classic summer session ale, not unlike New Albanian Brewing Co.’s Houndmouth.

Kentucky State Fair Homebrew Competition: the Judging Begins

kentucky state fair homebrew competitionThe Kentucky State Fair is about a lot more than livestock, deep fried candy and that creepy Farm Bureau giant – there’s also the annual homebrew competition, and this year there are 529 entries.

Yeah, that’s a lot of entries. Leah Dienes of Apocalypse Brew Works is the person charged with making the judging happen. I chatted with Dienes, and she told me she has 48 judges from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio on board, and nearly half are Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) certified; this number includes two national judges and a master judge.

“BJCP judges are dedicated folks who travel to judge competitions with no compensation and have had to take exams to get into the program and judge competitions to stay active and to move up the ranks,” Dienes said.

Here’s how the judging works: Each beer receives a written sheet describing its aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression, and two judges will score each beer based on these categories. They are separated into the 28 BJCP styles, and those are also separated into the 80 substyles.

Dienes said that between the two scores, with an allowable margin of 7 points between them, the final score is determined within a scoring range of 0-50.

“Each beer takes an average of 12 minutes to score,” she said. “The sample poured is usually one to two ounces, and yes, we do drink them.”

farm bureau freddy - kentucky state fair

Creepy. As. Hell. Luckily, he’s not part of the homebrew competition.

I asked about palate fatigue since, well, that’s a lot of freaking beers. She said while it can be a problem, the way it is dealt with is to keep flights somewhere between 8 and 12 beers.

The most competitive category? The American Ale category, which includes APA, American Amber Ale and American Brown Ale.

Judging takes place tonight starting at 7 p.m. and tomorrow morning and afternoon (9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.) with multiple flights each night. If you’re at the fair, be sure to stop by and check it out.

And if it sounds like fun, well, Dienes said it absolutely is.

“The fun part is the free BJCP app that breaks down all of the beer styles individually and includes classic examples of each,” she said, “so you can drink and read what the judges are looking for.”

Dienes, of course, has been a participant – and usually a big winner – in the state fair contests before. Her advice to would-be brewers is of the common-sense variety.

“My philosophy is to brew what you want to drink,” she said, “since you only enter a couple of bottles. Competitions are great for honing your brewing skills since there are specific parameters the judges are looking for in each style.”

Random Beer Names Nearly as Fun as Random Band Names

louisville beer blog - pintI’ve spent most of my adult life making up random band names and/or assigning phrases I hear in everyday life to fictional bands.

Random person: “I’ve got a midday migraine that I just can’t get rid of.”

Me: “The Relentless Midday Migraines would make an awesome band name.”

Random person: “Asshole.”

Today I stumbled across a random beer name generator that’s nearly as fun. It truly is absolutely random, so you can just hit the button marked “Generate!” over and over to see what comes up. It’s almost like beer-name roulette or something. Here are a few that came up for me:

  • Sheep-Moron Tripel
  • Amber Flacid Tornado Rauchbier
  • Flaming Chicken Pale Ale
  • Yellow Hairy Pinto Extra Special Bitter
  • The Ardvaark Formerly Known As Napolean’s Smutty American Light Lager

I could do this all day. I probably would if I didn’t have a job. Anyway, have fun, and you’re welcome.

Free Smuttynose Brewing Tasting at The Keg

the keg logo - louisville beerTodd Antz announced that there will be a free beer tasting this Thursday, June 27, at the Keg Liquors‘ Clarksville location.

The tasting will be comprised of five beers from Smuttynose Brewing Company of New Hampshire. Antz notes Wednesday will their first day available in Indiana, so the tasting is sort of a “welcome to Indiana” event.

Here’s what you get to try:

The tasting is 5-7 p.m. and is open to the public, so long as you’re over 21. So, you can either go to the Louisville Bats game and pay $1 each for Bud Light, or you can try some previously unavailable craft beer for free. Seems pretty obvious to me.