Monthly Archives: March 2014

Growler & Gill Extreme Beer Tasting

We went back to The Growler & Gill on Saturday for their “Extreme Beer Tasting.”  What the owner said was that these were brews at the extremes of what is being done with craft brewing.  They certainly were an unusual lot.   My sister-in-law was adventurous and bravely went through the tasting. My wife, who isn’t much of a beer drinker, had a Malbec while we worked on the beer.

The first was Dogfish Head Immort Ale.  This was termed a “Strong Ale” and at 11.4% ABV I’m not inclined to argue. It was very rich with a hint of sweetness and smokiness.  Very good, and I have a bottle in my fridge right now.

The second was indeed at the fringes, a Kombucha Ale (I believe called Mava Roka) from Beyond Kombucha in Astoria, Queens.  Apparently Kombucha is usually an Asian herbal “tea” with reputed health properties, and fell foul of the FDA because of its definite alcohol properties typically between 1 and 1.5% alcohol.  The FDA said basically you have two choices: reduce the alcohol content below 0.5%, or call it an alcoholic beverage.  Beyond Kombucha went the adult beverage route.  I forget, but I think this one is about 6% ABV.  It’s weird, kind of like a ginseng tea with hints of grapefruit and I-don’t-know-what-all else. However, it kind of grows on you.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it, but I wouldn’t avoid it either.

The third was from Evil Twin, specifically Evil Twin Brunello Wine Barrel Aged Justin Blåbær (I looked it up) which is a Berliner Weissbier.  I don’t remember it very well, I’m afraid.  It was good, as most Evil Twin brews are.  An interesting thing about them is apparently there really isn’t an Evil Twin brewery, instead the (evil) genius twin is a gypsy brewer, based in Copenhagen, producing small batches in cooperation with various local breweries. This one came from North Carolina.  As it happens, at this moment I’m sipping an Evil Twin Hipster Ale, labeled as an American Pale Ale, but it has more hops than many an IPA, a slight smokiness, and some hard-to-describe distinctive flavor that must be a function of the variety or varieties of hops; very nice.  There was a strange hint of olives on the end which somehow worked well.

The fourth was Dark Horse Fore Smoked Stout.  The barley is placed over a peat fire as with a Scotch, and it has hints of both  whiskey and smoke, then a good shot of chocolate.  Very much worth a repeat.

The final one in the tasting was an Imperial IPA which sounds almost innocent, Brewdog Hardcore IPA.  OK, so it doesn’t sound that innocent.  These are the guys who have that TV show, the ones who worked with Stone to brew a beer on the train between San Diego and L.A.  This might be a typical IPA, except for one minor detail.  You know the bitterness scale, I.B.U.  The scale ran from 0 to 100, and it was thought that anything beyond 100 would be too much to drink.  I guess Brewdog didn’t believe this, and this stuff rolls in at 150 IBU.  It really didn’t hop my face off, but you *do* have to like hops.  If you find it, give it a try.

Back at our table we had Bavarian pretzels and a spinach & artichoke dip, second time around for both of those, and they’re very good.  Meanwhile I, the non-vegetarian, tried their Buffalo wings, and they were quite good, hot but not to the sweat-inducing level.

I also had a Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout, which tastes much like that sounds.  A good stout similar to the Dark Horse but without the peatiness.

I picked up a mixed six (for which you get 10% off) which includes an Immort Ale, a Dogfish 60-Minute IPA, the Evil Twin that I’m drinking right now, and a couple of others that are lurking in my fridge.  One I already had is a Dogfish 90-minute IPA, and I want to taste those two side by side, maybe tomorrow.

I want to go back there Thursday of this week (4/3) for their tasting of New Jersey beers.

All for now.


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You can’t disre…

From Campbell:

You can’t disrespect beer from a can! Sure there’s a bit of a stigma attached due to cheaper stuff, but I’ve had some damn fine brews that came canned. There’s a Southern restaurant I’ve taken my dad to where almost every beer they have is only available as a can. Sure I’ll take draught beer if I can, but there’s one called Bengali Tiger at said restaurant that I really, really like. I must admit I haven’t given Dale’s Pale Ale a try though, even though I see it everywhere. I think it might come down to name/package design for me (imagine that, from an artist) which is why I tried something by Stone around Christmas – I can’t recall what it was named actually, but it had a cool black label with a skeleton on it. It was a pale ale, although not as hoppy as a regular Stone IPA.

I’m going to a cask beer fest next week with a friend of mine, who took me to the Night Shift brewery a couple weeks ago. He’s friends with one of the guys who works there, so he gets some nice perks that get passed on to me. I got to try 6 or 7 beers while I was over there, and I enjoyed all of them. One was called Viva Habanera, which is an ale aged on habanero peppers. It’s weird, but very good. Don’t think I’d order a full pint of it, but a tasting glass of it is really fun. 

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Ramsey Wines & Liquors

 I visited Ramsey Wines & Liquors, but for me their beer selection has become the main event.  Their beer selection is huge, and several times recently I’ve gone on the “beer finder” for one or another brew, and up pops Ramsey.  Anyway, they have “mystery” 6-packs in a stapled brown bag, with two sorts at the moment.  One is “Even More Hops” and the other is some name like “New for Spring.”  Since I’m on a hop kick I picked up one of the former last week, and tried again this week.  To my very slight disappointment, the latest one is exactly the same as the previous one, but that’s not much of a complaint. 

One that I discovered and mentioned last week is Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues in Colorado.  As I said before I would have been put off by the fact that it’s in a can, but more fool I.  Good stuff, and now I have another.  Perhaps more importantly, I got the 6-pack for $13.47 (how they pick that number I don’t know).  Well, I saw Dale’s Pale Ale at Stew Leonard’s this week . . . for $9.99 per can!  Can you say, “quite a deal”?  I knew you could. 

Another one in the 6-pack is Ballast Point Sculpin West Coast IPA, and as I mentioned, the funny thing was that the night before I bought the first mystery six, I had the Ballast Point Sculpin at The Dog & Cask.  Excellent, rich IPA.  That IPA is from San Diego, like Stone, a brewery of which I’m very fond.  However, another item in the 6-pack is Stone’s Go To IPA, and I was disappointed by that one.  It struck me as all hops and little else. 

I had another one last week, Lasso from Great Divide, also in Colorado.  This one I didn’t find very memorable, quite drinkable but not one I would choose again . . . but now I have the opportunity to see if I change my mind. 

Today I had a Lancaster Hop Buggy Amish Grain Amber Ale.  This was pretty nice, good hops with a slightly nutty edge. Not a favorite, but I won’t mind having another. 

I have to look and see what the 6th beer is, I forget offhand.  Meanwhile I took a detour, a very unusual brew from Austria called Samichlaus Classic from Castle Brewery Eggenberg.  They note on the label that it’s brewed only one day each year, December 6, then aged for 10 months before bottling. However, it may then be aged for several years before release.  I have to say I’ve never had anything quite like it. My very first impression was chocolate, followed by molasses, and the very viscous quality further suggests the molasses.  It coats the palette and the finish goes on and on.  I don’t know how they age it during those ten months, but I find a hint of oak so a touch of toast and vanilla. That could come from something else entirely, of course.  They recommend storing and serving it at cellar temperature, so I only left it in the refrigerator for an hour or so.  This pays off in depth of flavor.  They call this a malt liquor.  I don’t know—yet—what distinguishes a malt liquor from an ale. It’s obviously a long way from the cold brewing and storage of a lager.

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Torpedo & Hops

(Someone wrote to me about Sierra Nevada Torpedo and O’Dells.)

I’ve had Torpedo recently and it was quite good; I might even have a bottle at home.  Many brews list the hops but I still don’t know one from the other, and there seem to be dozens.  I think I’ve had O’Dells, but not recently; I’ll keep an eye out.

As for the Laughing Dog, it seems that some brewers are out to out-hop each other, sometimes losing balance and ending up “all hops, no flavor.”  I’ll go pretty far down the hops road.  Lagunitas Hop Stoopid is a good one.  There’s a Lagunitas tasting at the Growler & Gill tonight, but Janet is under the weather so I think I’ll skip it.  Of course Stone makes some very hoppy ales, but I’ve been very happy with those.  I just noticed a new one. I like their Arrogant Bastard, but now they have an Oaked Arrogant Bastard.  I’ll have to try it soon.

Back on the hops topic, I noticed grumbling about Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, their first “West Coast Style IPA.”  The grumbling is because it does NOT contain Rebel Hops.  <rummage, rummage>  Ah, here’s the list, from the Sam Adams website: HOP VARIETIES American Cascade, Simcoe®, Chinook, Centennial, and Amarillo.  I looked on Beer Advocate and all the scores were in the “3s” ranging from 2.98 to 3.99, averaging around 3.6.  Everybody said it’s a pretty good beer but nowhere near “West Coast” in hoppiness. In fact several people suggested that it might be a way to introduce neophytes to IPA without scaring them off.   [I had that thought about the Captain Lawrence East Coast IPA.]

Looking up Torpedo, it turns out that the hops involved are “Magnum/Crystal/Citra as a dry hop.”

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Just now I’m sipping a Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues, a Colorado brewery.  It came in my mystery 6-pack and I would have normally been put off because it comes in a can. My mistake, it’s quite nice with an edge of hops. They call it an American Pale Ale, and it’s not as hoppy as that West Coast IPA, though it’s at least as hoppy as the East Coast IPA.   Very smooth and refreshing, lighter and a tad thinner than an IPA.

Earlier I had a Lasso IPA from Great Divide, another Colorado brewery.  That was perfectly nice but nothing outstanding, drinkable but I won’t seek it out, or avoid it for that matter.


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Medusa / Kaper

Just finished an IPA from Defiant called Medusa.  It was hoppy and not much else, but I may have lost nuances by eating olives with some hot pepper in them.  Before that I had a beer from Poland: Hevelius Kaper. It’s one of those newcomer breweries, established in 1690.  Interesting, somewhere between a Pilsner and a Belgian Ale, with an earthy, almost herbal quality to it.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it again, but I wouldn’t avoid it, and come to think of it I paid $1.69 for over a pint, so good value.  It was probably on sale because it wasn’t moving off the shelf. 

Regarding the Defiant Medusa: I know when a beer is hoppy or not, but I can’t distinguish one sort of hops from another. I would need some lessons there. I know that some have citrusy qualities, etc etc. 

I just noticed that Defiant is relatively local, Pearl River NY.


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Dog & Cask

 Janet and I made it to the Dog & Cask last night.  It’s a new “Craft Pub and Restaurant” on Rt. 17 in Rochelle Park (between I-80 and Paramus).  I commute past the place twice a day and watched it “Coming Soon” for months, and I see its sign outside advertising “Happy Hour 4-7” and “Happier Hour 10-12” plus “Join Us for Sunday Brunch” and “Try Our Home-Made Charcuterie” (that last probably puzzles some passers-by). 

The menu is a little sketchy for vegetarians, but there are some choices.  They have a lot of light fare, so things like an excellent hummus, olives & nuts, cheese board, and the aforementioned charcuterie.  We tried the first three of those, skipping the last.  The menu is very creative, not vanilla fare.  Janet had an excellent beet salad that sounded interesting to me.  I had something that I had seen raved about online, the pork belly. I can’t say that I’ve ever *had* pork belly before, but it’s sort of like a block of bacon, in this case served with beans, pesto, herbs, and a clam.  It was really a great mix of flavors. 

On to the beer! 

If you look at the online beer menu you will see Old Peculier, which is one of our all-time favorites, and I was raving about it before going, while suspecting that they might not have it.  Well, they didn’t. Bummer, because that’s one that we know Janet likes, whereas she isn’t going to like the IPAs or anything strongly hopped.  However, we know that she likes Belgian Ales, and the Maredsous Brune Abbey Dubbel fit the bill perfectly.  Very nice.  Meanwhile, I was intrigued to notice a “West Coast IPA” and an “East Coast IPA.”  I had no idea what distinguishes coastal IPAs, so I ordered Ballast Point Sculpin  West Coast IPA and then Captain Lawrence East Coast IPA.  As my friend Ed suspected, the primary difference was the amount of hops, with the West Coast version more heavily hopped.  Both of these were very good, and the Captain Lawrence might be a way to ease someone into the world of hops.  Janet followed up her Maredsous with a draft, Blue Mountain Evil 8,, described as a Belgian Doubel.  That one was even better.  Meanwhile, I finished up with the Dogfish Head Burton Baton, described as an American Double Imperial IPA.  God knows what that means, but it’s a very good ale. 

You may notice on the menu the He’brew Bittersweet Lenny’s Rye, Double IPA.  By coincidence, the night before I had a He’brew St. Lenny’s Double Rye “Immaculate Collaboration” IPA.  This was done in collaboration with Cathedral Brewing, and was quite good. 

Needless to say, there are JUST a few choices left to try on that menu!  A flight is an option, but that would be a flight of four draft beers and the two I most wanted to try were bottled beers. On another occasion, picking four of the drafts would be no hardship.   They also have an extensive whiskey menu, and they offer flights of whiskey or whisky as well.  I’m curious about those. 

On to the next coincidence.  I had done a little research about Old Peculier, from Theakston Brewing in Masham England.  I read that of their ales, only two are bottled: Old Peculier and XB.  This afternoon I went into the Ramsey Liquors, wondering if by some chance they would have Old Peculier.  They did not, but I promptly spotted Theakston XB!  That’s what I’m sipping right now.  I presume that XB stands for Extra Bitter and I confess that I’ve never had the classic “pint of bitter.”  Well now I’ve had a pint of XB, and it’s not bad, but it’s a little thin for my taste and doesn’t have the complexity of many of the current generation of ales, where spices and all manner of things are introduced into the brew kettles.  So it’s quite satisfactory but I won’t hurry back for more.  OTOH, I would grab Old Peculier in an instant. That is richer and darker, roughly between a porter and a stout. 

In addition to the XB I took a chance on a mystery 6-pack selected by Matt, the beer guru of Ramsey Liquors.  This will be fun to explore . . . and the first bottle in the 6-pack was none other than the Ballast Point Sculpin that I first had last night!  It’s a weekend of coincidences. 

As it said on the label of St. Lenny’s, l’chaim!

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Well, the first fruits of my visit to The Growler & Gill yesterday.  I had three of the six beers that I picked up. 

1.       Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA – very good, nice & hoppy, a hint of fruit.

2.       Evil Twin Yang IPA – half of their “Black & Tan” combination. As you might imagine, the other half is “Yin”.  Also quite good, slightly spicy.

3.       Ommegang Dry Hopped Belgian Ale – disappointing after the other two, but that may be because it was an un-hoppy brew after two good hoppy ones.  If I had this one first, it might have seemed much better.

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Growler & Gill

This place is terrific!  16 taps, hundreds of beers in bottle, good light food.  They give you tastes before you commit to a tap beer.  Janet went with a blueberry wheat, Lori went with a Paulaner Dopplebock, and I went with a Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA.  Tommy doesn’t drink, so he had an unusual bottled non-alcoholic beer, not a run-of-the-mill Kaliber.  The menu is light food, but everything we had was good: hummus, parmesan truffle fries, spinach artichoke dip, Bavarian warm pretzels.  They also have stuff like chile, wings, pizza, and Caesar salad.  There were lots of kids there, and they have a wide range of Boylans sodas.
They also had an “IPA Faceoff” which was a free tasting of six IPAs.  My favorite was the Racer X, but my second favorite was Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail which was—among other things—13% ABV.  An interesting one was Bluepoint Double IPA which was actually quite moderate on the hops. It might be a way to gently introduce someone to higher levels of hops.  I was the only one there who likes hops so I was the only one at the tasting.  By the way, this tasting ran from 4:00 to (I think) 7:00 so there were a series of rounds of the tasting.
The bottle beer selection is staggering.  If you get a mixed  6-pack it’s 10% off, and the same if you get three 22-oz bottles.  I went with a mixed 6 this time.
Every Monday is $2 off IPAs.  Every Thursday is a tasting from a particular brewery.  The one we missed this past Thursday was Innis & Gunn, this coming Thursday is Harpoon, followed by McKenzie Ciders and then Lagunitas.
You should come down for one of these IPA Nights or one of the brewery tastings. The only trick will be keeping someone legal to drive!!!

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