Posts Tagged With: growler & gill

Hats for the Summer

Magic Hat Brewing Company

The Magic Hat Brewery has been putting a performance into every bottle of beer since 1994. Today, the South Burlington, VT-based brewery puts out upwards of 175,000 barrels each year, and the brewing process, in all its strange and satisfying glory, has never been more accessible.

If summer is the time for easy living, then it’s time for easy drinking beer. I’ll never turn down a good stout, but it’s not my first choice this time of year. I notice that each of these five brews has very moderate alcohol. I wouldn’t call them “sessionable” but they’re not far from it. This was last week’s tasting at Growler & Gill.


Here’s their summer seasonal, a wheat beer brewed with ginger. It pours gold with a brief white head. The nose gives some ginger but also a grape quality like a white wine. The flavor is like a shandy with ginger and malt. It has a medium mouthfeel with silky effervescence and a long ginger ale & malt finish. Very refreshing. 5.5% ABV, 20 IBU

MHT_ELECPEEL_12oz3D_2014Electric Peel IPA

From spicy ginger to tropical fruit, this starts with an intense grapefruit nose. The flavor is of grapefruit and malt with citrus hops reinforcing the grapefruit. I can see this would be very refreshing by the pool or ocean, especially once tired of notorious Mexican beer with slices of lime. It has a gentle finish of grapefruit and hops. 6.0% ABV, 65 IBU

MHT_DRMACH_12oz3D_FINALDream Machine India Pale Lager

Summer dreaming can use a Dream Machine. This pours amber with a white head. It has an interesting lagery nose with some nice malt and a lot more hops delivering spice with maybe a hint of floral. The flavor is of bakery malt with a slight sour citrus note and a certain roastiness. The finish is gentle and alternates between hops and sweetness. I suppose that IPL is cleaner and easier drinking than IPA, but usually I’ll take the IPA. 5.7% ABV, 50 IBU

MHT_9_12oz3DMagic Hat #9

Their flagship, this is light amber with an off-white head, dissipating to a ring around the top of the glass. It has a light yeasty nose with hardly any hops at refrigerator temperature, but some floral hops emerge almost immediately. The flavor is very malty with just a bit of sweetness, then some hops come in on the end to dispel the sweetness and dry things out a little. The hops are very restrained. A little stone fruit comes in and persists in the malty finish. There’s more caramel as it warms. Last year, the presenter described #9 as a gateway drug to craft beer. I guess so, but it’s a bit bland for veterans, with just a hint of apricot fruit and spice and a touch of hops. I’ve heard it recommended for IPA virgins so maybe it can be a first step on the slippery lupulin slope. 5.1% ABV, 20 IBU

MHT_WILHELM_SCREAM_12oz3D_2014Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin

Looking back to last fall, a movie reference? It leads with pumpkin on the nose, but more ale than pumpkin in the flavor–not a complaint–with a nice spiciness to it. It spreads foamy on the tongue, almost chewable and I like it. It has an aftertaste more than a finish, but quite nice. 5.4% ABV, 20 IBU

Images courtesy of Magic Hat Brewing
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From Rawalpindi to Frederick

Flying Dog Brewery

Here we have an Aspen brewpub conceived in Rawalpindi that became a Denver brewery which moved to Frederick, MD for mysterious reasons, presumably reasons not connected to Barbara Fritchie.* It must be one of–if not the only–brewery founded by an astrophysicist. Carnegie-Mellon can be proud.

fdNumeroUnoNúmero Uno Summer Cerveza

“Ale brewed with agave nectar with lime zest added.” Clear gold in the glass with a brief white head. It leads with a citrusy lager nose where lime is clear and there’s flour-like malt and a hint of spice. The flavor is malty, citrusy, crisp and refreshing, with an underlying sweetness that grows with subsequent sips. This is what Corona would be if it grew up. The finish is light, brief, and beckons the next round. 4.9% ABV

fdRagingBitchBottleRaging Bitch Belgian-style IPA

“Two inflammatory words…one wild drink.” Pours clear amber with a foamy yellowish head that laces the glass. The aroma starts with Belgian yeast, then spicy hops then bready malt. Slightly heavy mouthfeel, slightly silky. The flavor is really spicy and fruity like a cloved orange, then a wave of malt arrives with spiced edges. This gives a rich balance of hops and malt, and the spicy note is intriguing. This would go well with spicy–not hot–food like creamier Indian dishes or Mexican dishes. The finish brings in a dark caramel note and lingering hops. As it warms, a note like fermented dark fruit sneaks in. Perhaps better a little colder. 8.3%ABV

fdSnakeDogLabelCropSnake Dog IPA

This shows slightly hazy pale amber with a cream head, quite persistent. It has a pine and spice nose with full bready malt and a bit of yeast. This isn’t their Belgian IPA but suggests the style. A hoppy slightly honeyed flavor follows, again with lots of malt and medium body. The finish continues the hops with a metallic note, then malt spreads back across as another wave of flavor This ebbs leaving a nice lingering bitterness. This isn’t a hop bomb, just a good solid IPA. 7.1%ABV


Pours straight amber with a brief head that laces the glass. There is a strong cat pee nose with a hint of fruitiness. If you can get past the aroma, the flavor is totally different with lots of malt leading to blood orange peel and very little hops. The finish is smooth and resiny hops come in, drying things out.

fdOldScratchLabelCropOld Scratch Amber Lager

Dark amber in the glass with a medium off-white head. The aroma is of rich deep caramel malt with spicy hops, earthy. The flavor gives heavy malt with fermented fruit like plums, and toffee notes. The finish is the lingering flavor but it gets drier as hops assert themselves. 5.5% ABV

PALEALE6packPale Ale

Amber with a copper tinge and a brief white head. Gives a rich malty nose with caramel sweetness beneath spicy hops. It has medium body with almost no effervescence. The flavor strikes a good balance between caramel malt and hops with a little shot of crisp cracker coming through. The finish is long and gentle, mostly caramel with a hint of spice-pine hops. Very good, and you can tell it’s a flagship because it’s the only one in this set where the name is simply the style. 5.5% ABV.

The bottle copy is trite, but in this case quite accurate: “The classics transcend time and place . . . definitive in nature, molded by nurture, and the epitome of taste.”

* Speaking of classics, and not of beer:

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word;
“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a [Flying?] dog! March on!” he said…..

— John Greenleaf Whittier

Bloodline and Pale Ale images courtesy Flying Dog Brewery

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Newburgh — Brewed with Heart

Newburgh Brewing Company

Newburgh Brewing Official Logo

People have been brewing beer in Newburgh since before America was America – it’s a tradition we’re proud to be a part of. Most important, we honor you. We love making beer. We pour our passion into this brewery every day and we are deeply honored each time you choose to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Cream Ale Can_ManhattanCream Ale

This is their version of a New York regional standard, originally brewed “to compete with the surging popularity of lager beer.” Well, lager may have won the war, but cream ale survived to continue the fight. The nose is basically “beer” with mild malt and a hint of spicy hops. It pours clear golden straw with very little head. The flavor is of crackery malt, very dry and even drier on the finish with what tastes to me like Saaz hops, but is not. The website shows Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, and Cascade. I had expected something sweeter, perhaps because of the dreaded (or legendary) Genny Cream. This is much better, a crisp summer sipper. 4.2% ABV, 35 IBU

East Kolsch_ManhattanEast Kölsch

Kölsch is the ale equivalent of pilsner, native to Köln (Cologne) in Germany, and this one is crystal clear straw in the glass with a brief bright white head. It has a subtle aroma of bready malt with a hint of hops and a tiny fruit note. Medium mouthfeel comes with some sweetness, lots of malt, and a hint of earthy hops. The finish goes from slightly sweet to dry and back again, ending dry. 4.5% ABV, 25 IBU Until recently this was exclusively available at Blue Smoke in Manhattan, and it must go great with their barbecue. Those outside the city should thank Blue Smoke for sharing this with the rest of us.

Brown Ale_ManhattanBrown Ale

“In the south of England, they prefer their brown ale maltier and lower in alcohol. Here in Newburgh, we tend to agree.”
This is an English Brown Ale, classic for the style. It pours dark brown with brief tan head. The nose is roasty malt flirting with smoke. There is a light to medium mouthfeel with slight creaminess, and less bite than suggested by the roasty elements. The finish carries that malt with a refreshing light bitterness and ends up smooth. 4.2% ABV, 25 IBU

Magnanini Niagara Tripel_ManhattanMagnanini Niagara Tripel

Brewed with Niagara grape must, in fact more grape juice than water in the recipe. Golden straw with a medium off-white head. There’s a slight sour bite to the nose, then tartness on palette swinging quickly to sweet. There is more grape than malt in the flavor, and this might lure white wine drinkers who think they don’t like beer. The tartness persists into the finish with crackery malt notes shading all the way to toast. Very complex with high alcohol and almost no bitterness. 11.3% ABV, 10 IBU

Hop Drop DIPA_ManhattanHop Drop DIPA

This pours with a persistent bubbly white head coating the glass over medium amber with slight haze. The nose is of strong piney hops with a hint of citrus. Caramel malt duels with hops on the palette with caramel slightly in the lead. On the finish a sort of cinnamon bun malt emerges from a lake of pine & resin hops, lingering long. 10.0% ABV, 65 IBU

Oh, and let me give a quick look back to Winter, and a seasonal that I tasted then. (Don’t worry, winter won’t be back soon.)

Winter Spruce Porter

A Baltic porter, your nose gets filled with Christmas tree, with resiny hops on top of the real thing. The flavor is surprisingly balanced, full to medium bodied and pine-hoppy over a dark malt backbone. It’s not really bitter, and sweetness balances the whole thing, along with a surprising note of mint. You have to be in the right mood, but I’m impressed. 6.6% ABV

Images courtesy of Newburgh Brewing Company
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Southern Tier: From Tangier to India (Pale)

Southern Tier

Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York, has grown to produce more than 100,000 barrels of beer annually. The hand crafted ales are now available in more than thirty States and points beyond.

Founders Phineas DeMink and Allen “Skip” Yahn started the brewery [in 2002] with the vision of reviving the practice of small batch brewing to a region rich in brewing tradition.

This was a tasting at Growler & Gill, followed by extensive testing/tasting at home to confirm and extend my research. Have I mentioned lately that research is the best part of writing this blog?


A soft start to the tasting, I couldn’t pick up the tangerine, though at least one taster said he did. Without the tangerine it came across as a bland IPA. It was the first offering of the evening so my taste buds weren’t masked by anything else. Pours orange straw with a very brief light head. On the next try I got a fruit nose, not necessarily tangerine, but this time I had just eaten fruit tart. Citrus hops in the nose, to be sure. The flavor was quite bitter, perhaps in contrast to the tart, but plenty of crackery malt and citrus hops. The aroma needs a wide mouth glass and volume; it doesn’t work in small portions. The finish is fairly mild, citrusy, and not very bitter; the hops hit hardest in the flavor. 4.6% ABV

stSonnetLabelCrop_02Sonnet Saison

This saison is really good rich farmhouse stuff, described as “Belgian Style Super Saison, Ale Brewed with Lemongrass.” The beer is pale gold with a bright white foamy head. It has a yeasty funky nose with lots of malt and spice, almost white pepper. Bottle conditioning gives it a rich foamy mouthfeel, and the flavor shows complex spice like spice cake with ginger and pepper. The long finish continues the spicy malt and no hops that I’m aware of. 8.5% ABV


“Bottle Conditioned Sparkling Ale Brewed with Rose Hips” Pale amber in the glass with a very generous foamy head. Delicious citrus hops hit as soon as the cap comes off. Tangerine and sweet malt aroma with a floral cast and a little note of bread flour. The flavor starts with honeyed malt and lots of hops, now a bit more herbal but then fruitiness comes in, more like apricot than citrus. Hops play with malt on the quiet finish with only moderate bitterness. Very easy drinking which could lead to trouble at 9.0% ABV


A double IPA, this pours with a generous ivory head over amber. The aroma is rich with molasses, malt and strong piney hops with an herbal character. The flavor delivers Belgian-like yeastiness and fruit, an apricot note, lots of hops and a hint of spice. The finish emphasizes more piney hops, a solid shot. The last time I tasted this I wrote “Unearthly, maybe; unbalanced, definitely . . . and intended to be.” 9.5% ABV

Choklat Oranj

Pours black, no more, no less, with a chocolate milk head. The aroma and flavor have intense dark chocolate with lots of orange peel, mouth filling and mouth coating. This is not to my taste but I would think it would be excellent if you liked fruit with your dark chocolate…and likewise if you poured this over vanilla ice cream. RateBeer gives this a score of 100. 10.0% ABV


At home I decided on Quadrupel IPA — not in style but rather four IPA varieties — to focus on one of their greatest strengths. They write “At the Southern Tier Brewing Company, vigorously hopped beer is our standard and inspiration.” No argument here!

stRightOfWay-labelCrop_02Right-O-Way IPA

This is a session IPA, orange-amber in the glass with a bubbly yellowish head. The nose is of complex hops, floral and herbal with light citrus and pine. The mouthfeel is light and foamy, the flavor is of medium bready malt with hops all around and a hint of fruit. The finish focuses on the hops settling into earthy bitterness. Light alcohol, unlight hops. 4.5% ABV


I’ll call this a flagship, setting the IPA standard at a high level. It’s another orange-amber beer with a brief bubbly head. There’s no surprise that the aroma is hop-forward, similar to Right-O-Way but even richer in hops and certainly maltier. There’s an earthiness, strong and hoppy, with something like tea in the flavor. The mouthfeel is rich, and the beer finishes up with quite strong resiny hoppiness–and tea. This seems like a heavy hitter after the session IPA, making me look forward even more to the doubles. 7.3% ABV


Here’s a double IPA, slightly hazy pale gold with an off white head which lingers. It’s another rich mix of hops (4 kinds)where nothing sticks out of the melange, earthy with maybe a little resin over a bread malt backbone (3 kinds of malt). There are more earthy hops and malt on the palette with a medium mouthfeel rather refreshing. Thorough hop bitterness–now more piney–settles in. As the beer warms, some caramel notes enter the flavor and linger into the finish. 8.2% ABV


Single hop, single malt, double IPA. This has the same color as 2XIPA but a bigger light yellow head. The clean hop profile tends toward the crispness of a European hop like Fuggles rather than the citrus or pine of the New World. The malt undertone is similar to 2XIPA but simpler. The flavor is much like the aroma but the caramel touch arrives sooner than in the 2XIPA. It has a very smooth finish, well balanced between hop and malt. I’ll state a minor complaint that the bottle doesn’t say WHICH one hop and one malt are used. Last time I knew it was Mosaic. Maybe they change recipes but not labels. Ah, the website says “Equinox hops and Superior Pale malt” so there’s my answer, and undoubtedly it’s easier to change website text than label text! 8.1% ABV

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Little Lagoon, Lotsa Beer

Lagunitas Brewing Company

Mark from Lagunitas came to the Growler & Gill, presented the beers and told some stories, making for an interesting tasting. The brewery was founded in 1993, exists in Petaluma CA, and has expanded to Chicago IL. According to Mark, all the beers in the tasting were from Chicago. Let me digress for a moment to a quote from

We all loved the beer but the mission was larger than the ordinary joy of a hoppy-sweet quaff. It was driven unseen by an urge to communicate with people, to find our diasporidic tribe, and to connect with other souls adrift on a culture that had lost its center and spun its inhabitants to the four winds to wander lost and bereft with a longing to re-enter the light. Beer, we have learned, has always been a good lubricant for social intercourse!

If you don’t understand what that means, clearly you need to drink more Lagunitas!

lagPILS Photo 12ozLagunitas Pils

Their recipe uses Saaz hops to be true to the original. Apparently this is one of only two of their products that use imported hops. (I forgot to ask what the other one is.) The Pils has no nose to speak of. It delivers crisp, light malt, then some bitterness comes in. Lightly fizzy. More hoppy than the typical pils, probably more Saaz hops than is traditional. Well, there is European tradition and there is Petaluma tradition. The Pils has a dry dusty finish. The website notes that it is their only lager. 6.2% ABV.

lagPale Ale Tap StickerNew DogTown Pale Ale

Yes, there really is a Dogtown, in Marin County, and there’s a light amber APA leading with a hoppy bouquet of flowers and pine. There is slight butter in the nose but this is distinctly NOT an off aroma. The flavor is hops & caramel & hops & malt, then the finish carries on the hops. Maybe this is a little one dimensional but I like it a lot. This is called “pale ale” but it is hoppier than many IPA. 6.1% ABV

IPA Photo 12ozLagunitas IPA

Pours amber with a light head. The nose is sweet with orangy hops, quite mild, with a hint of tobacco. The taste is nice honey malt with strong balanced hops. Bitterness drives finish, but with finesse, citrus and floral. 6.2% ABV

lagCTNOLA Fusion 24 Tap Sticker-01Fusion 24 Couch Trippin To New Orleans

This is a red ale with a lightly sour nose and a nice copper color. It seems “sessionable” but comes in at 5.7% ABV so some caution is advised. My palette found yeast and cracker and topped with moderate hops. It has a pleasant finish with hint of sour over malt with citrus and resin hops coming on. One-off, unfortunately, so you may not be able to find this.

Mark told the Saga of the Undercover Shutdown. Back in 2004-2005, the brewery hosted weekly parties that were apparently really excellent parties. Lagunitas supplied the beer, but it’s northern California, and some of the locals brought interesting botanicals to the party. The ABC hoped to catch the brewery selling pot and sent in undercover agents. What they found: sharing yes,selling no. Frustrated, the ABC came back on St Patrick’s Day and someone carelessly shared a massive joint with some undercover agents and was busted. The brewery was charged with operating a “Disorderly House” and could have been shut down permanently. Fortunately Lagunitas had good lawyers who didn’t smoke pot and reduced the penalty to a 20 day suspension. It’s not trivial to lose 20 days of production and distribution, but it’s survivable, so of course they produced a beer to commemorate the event. As it happens, each beer label has to be approved by the very same ABC. They did. Out of this came the Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, with the slogan: “We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights.” No, it wasn’t poured tonight, more’s the pity, but the story is fun. I’ve had this in the past and it was very good, but I don’t have it at hand to review.

However, I did bring a few bottles home to continue my review.

lagLilSumpinLittle Sumpin’ Sumpin’

This pours with a frothy white head over clear light amber. The hoppy nose is on citrusy side with pine, followed by complex flavors weaving malt and hops, a nice mouthfeel and a little tingle, perhaps the Sumpin’ Sumpin’. The finish is nicely bitter. 64 IBU, 7.5% ABV

lagLilSumpinExtraLittle Sumpin’ Extra

This has less head but in a light tan, over a similar color. The nose is hoppy but much more malty than the Sumpin’ Sumpin’. In the mouth there’s smooth malt, earthy, with a hint of cream. The finish is somehow milder than its (slightly) weaker cousin. 64 IBU, 8.5% ABV.

lagMaximusMaximus IPA

This poured with a full inch of sand colored head over clear amber, quite a persistent head. Intense floral pine hop nose, with malt building in the aroma. It delivers a solid smooth hop/malt blend. It has nice mouthfeel and some caramel comes in. Bitterness sets in on the finish but surprisingly moderate. This has lots of hops but enough backbone to carry it.

Let’s wrap up with a profound quote lurking on the labels:

“Life is uncertain. Don’t sip.”

Images courtesy of Lagunitas Brewing Company.
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Bahl Hornin’ from Boont

Off to the Growler & Gill for a tasting from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. The presenter was the Northeast Sales Manager for Anderson Valley (Ryan Niebuhr, I think, and apologies if I have the wrong name!)

First topic: Boontling. This is the local “language” of the Anderson Valley, complete with dictionary. It’s a hybrid from many ethnic groups that settled in the valley, with a very generous helping of “self-developed terms” (i.e. they made them up). So we’ll start with their motto, Bahl Hornin’ = good drinking, and you’ll see that printed on every label. Move on to Boont, which is Boonville, largest community (such as it is) in the valley, and home of the brewery. A few other terms: Heelch = a large quantity, Zeese = coffee, and Deep Enders = residents of the town of Navarro, an Enclave in the valley.

The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose

This is a pretty beer with a moderate head. It’s a German sour style, in fact more tart than sour. I get lemony citrus and a fair amount of malt with a woody character on the finish. I like this better than full sours. There’s something here like pickles, not a word I’ve ever used in connection with a beer, but there too I prefer half-sours to full sours. Still not a fave but drinkable & sessionable at 4.2% ABV. They describe the history on their website: “Originating in the town of Goslar, Germany in the early 16th century, the Gose style (pronounced “Go-zuh”) was traditionally brewed using salted water and 50% malted wheat and was spiced with coriander and hops. It was fermented with both traditional yeast and lactic bacteria, giving it a slight tartness, similar to that of a Berliner Weisse.” OK, the name comes from Boontling, like so many of their names, in this case the combo of Kimmie (a man or father), Yink (a boy or son), and if you can’t figure out The Holy Gose then you need to brush up on religion, not language.

avBoontBoont Amber Ale

Their first beer, from all the way back in 1987. It’s their flagship and most popular beer on the West Coast (with their IPA more popular in the East). It pours reddish bronze with a moderate, brief head that then rings the glass. The nose is malty with a slight caramel sweetness, then gets more intense with a hint of a mix of hops as the temperature comes up a little. At first it seems mild on the palette, then the malt comes in followed by earthy hops and a grain character, and maybe a further hint of fruit. It ends up very balanced with a gentle, still earthy finish. IBU only 16, and 5.8% ABV.

Fall Hornin’ Pumpkin Ale

It seems that everyone has to have a pumpkin ale, at least this year, and this is a pretty good example. It’s coppery with very little head, not sweet and not heavy pumpkin but strongly spiced, with pumpkin coupled with allspice, cinnamon and clove. It’s slightly creamy and a bit of caramel sneaks in. Any hops are neatly masked though it comes in at 20 IBU (and 6% ABV).

avHopOttin_02Hop Ottin’ IPA

The presenter emphasizes that there’s a LOT of West Coast, so there is no one single “West Coast IPA” but perhaps three regional styles: So Cal, No Cal, and Pac Northwest, with the last as is almost a blend of the other styles. This is hopped and dry hopped with Columbus and Cascade giving a high IBU, 80 or so, but balanced so that it doesn’t seem so high. I get pine and citrus, malty and deep. 7% ABV, the highest of the set, showing that AVBC is not focused on high alcohol. As for the name, Hop Ottin’ is Boontling for “hardworking hops.”

avBarneyFlatsBarney Flats Oatmeal Stout

Pours nearly black with a quarter-inch tan head (the bottle describes this as “garnet-tinted ebony”; I’ll buy ebony but not garnet). There’s a tobacco note on the nose along with chocolate, and as it warms there’s a touch of sourdough bread. On the palette, chocolate and strong coffee somewhat mask the malt, then some hops come in late. The finish is quite dry. 5.8% ABV. Described as a tribute to and not a clone of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. Barney Flats is Boontling referring to an area of redwoods that is very dark even by daylight (Hendy Woods National Forest).

So raise a glass! Bahl Hornin’

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(Not So) Far Above Cayuga’s Waters

Poor Cornell. Never has a school’s song suffered so much at the hands of so many as has that institution’s “Alma Mater.” — Ed Cray

As for me, I have nothing but the deepest respect for my Alma Mater; here, let me illustrate:


Far above Cayuga’s waters,
There’s an awful smell,
Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters,
Others say “Cornell.”

I lived in Ithaca for five years, and unfortunately the Ithaca Beer Company wasn’t around then . . . which means it was more than 17 years ago and I’m not admitting how many more. The brewery is down in the valley near lake level rather than far up on the hills. In any case, they would have improved the whole experience and greatly raised the quality of the swill that the fraternities served. The tasting at the Growler & Gill showed how.

Ithaca WheatThe Ithaca crew led off with the Apricot Wheat Ale, described thusly:

Our easy-drinking wheat beer is light in color and body…perfect for those looking for a lighter taste. The combination of wheat and barley gives Apricot Wheat a different malt character than our other ales. The hint of apricot gives this beer a pleasant nose and fruity finish.

My impression was of a very pale ale where the nose led with a slightly musty apricot and candy, followed by a creamy mouthfeel with nuttiness and a hint of apricot cookie, with the apricot getting stronger on the finish. This was a bit like starting the meal with dessert, but very pleasant indeed and suitable for a session at 4.9% ABV.

Next up was Green Trail Easy-Drinking India Pale Ale, which pours a light amber with a light white head that holds a ring for quite a while. It has a mild piney nose. On the palette it leads with malt, a touch of herbs and a hint of pine. The hop bitterness sneaks in subtly. It’s a mild IPA which might be a good offering for friends who do not yet worship at the altar of Hops. I don’t know if telling them “it’s Easy Drinking” is necessary, they should figure that out. At 6.0% ABV it falls in between the “sessionable” IPAs and the heavier varieties. By the way, this ale plays well with Beemster cheese.

Next up was Flower Power IPA, the offering that I’ve seen the most. They describe it this way:

Ithaca FlowerEnjoy the clover honey hue and tropical nose. Simultaneously Punchy and soothing with a big body and a finish that boasts pineapple and grapefruit. Flower power is hopped and dry-hopped five different times throughout the brewing and fermentation process.

I found it to be fairly deep amber, flowery like a garden with herby notes, not sweet in the nose but complex. Hops take the lead on the palette, and then a sweet malt spreads through. This gives a mix of complex hops compared to the spare Green Trail. It’s easy to see why this is their flagship. I’ve had this before but it seems more complex and fresh on tap. It also tames hot salami.

They wrapped up with a new offering: Cruiser Berliner-style Weisse. This pours a straw color with a light head. It’s quite light at 4.2% ABV.  The nose seems almost like something is wrong as the sourness of the style announces itself. I’m sorry, but the mouthfeel is a little harsh and the flavor reminds me of, well, bile. This will be better with food as its acidity would cut through things like creamy Brie cheese. As a style, sour ale has not won me over and if I’m going that way I’d rather go all the way with Rodenbach.

All in all, it’s clear that beer in Ithaca has come a long way in [mumble] years.

While at the G&G I also had the Rushing Duck Naysayer Pale Ale. This is a medium amber with a light caramel nose. It’s a gentle sipper, a true session beer, malty with a certain warmth almost like touch of cinnamon. Pleasant and holds up well in the glass.


Images courtesy of the Ithaca Brewing Company
“Lake Cayuga” by Original uploader was Cornellrockey at en.wikipedia
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Mainely Maine

With a tip of the hat to a ticky-tacky tourist trap near Ellsworth, Maine . . . I was off to the Growler & Gill for a tasting of the Allagash Brewing Company of Portland Maine. I tasted five from Maine and two from elsewhere.


SaisonBottleAllagash Saison is clearly Belgian, yeasty and malty without the sourness of some saisons. Yes, there’s touch of sourness in the nose, but not on the palette. It has good body where some saisons are a bit thin. There’s a sense of sweetness to it, tempered by slight acidity and slight peppery spiciness; actually I find the finish pleasantly dry. 6.1% ABV, making this the most “sessionable” of a strong set.




photoTripel is classic Belgian. Poured orangey gold with about a half-inch head, leaving lacing behind and holding a ring for a long time. It leads with caramel, yeast and malt on the nose. Rich with great mouthfeel, hints of orange and butterscotch, a bit of herbs, a bit of honey, and a long yeasty finish. 9% ABV.




Curieux roomTake the Tripel, age it for two months in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, then blend this back with “fresh” Tripel.  Allagash Curieux pours a beautiful white 1-1/2″ head over a hazy golden orange with just the faintest hint of bourbon in the nose, along with mild hops over yeast. On the palette: bourbon, smooth, creamy . . . a very soft mouth feel with layers of malt, yeast, caramel, maybe a suggestion of butter pecan, and whiskey.  This is 11% ABV which is sneaky strong. Maybe the bourbon character is adequate warning that this is stronger than it tastes. The bourbon lingers on a long finish with maybe a touch of coconut.


Allagash_Pour_OdysseyOdyssey is a dark wheat beer bordering on a stout, slightly raisiny on the nose, then very creamy and smooth on the palette with a touch of peanut brittle with smoke on the end, where an oakiness emerges especially with vanilla on the finish. 10.4% ABV. I spoke to someone who is trying to like oak-aged beer, but can’t quite get there yet. If this can’t bring someone like that home, I don’t know what will, except perhaps a milder approach like Innis & Gunn.




Allagash_Bottle_BlackBlack seems very thin for stout, but with a nice hop bite. There’s tobacco on the nose and a deep treacle sweetness. It’s slightly smoky on the palette with a bit of creaminess and a sort of mineral tang, followed by mocha. Hops comes along on the end. 7.5% ABV, once again a bit more alcohol than is apparent.








photo 3I’d call the Allagash offerings unusual across the board. I think it’s been too long since I’ve been in Maine!   @AllagashBrewing







Moving away from Maine, I tried Local Option Morning Wood, from Chicago. They call it an Oak Aged Coffee Amber. This looks just like apricot nectar once the slight head recedes. It gives a malty & yeasty nose, then coffee arrives on palette. This is more like iced coffee than hot, but the carrying flavor is the malt. There’s oak too but–to me–quite subtle. To those who aren’t thrilled with oak, the oak may dominate the coffee. Instead, for me I get a long gentle coffee finish.

I finished up with Thornbridge Halcyon, an American style IPA from an English brewery, which sounds like a contradiction in terms but works very nicely. Moderate head with citrus notes. On the palette this is rich and piney, leading with hops into very clean malt. It’s very fresh with nice acidity playing off the molasses of pulled pork sliders.

Most images courtesy of the Allagash Brewing Company
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Bear Republic Tasting, Plus

I’m back from the Growler & Gill after a very interesting evening. The occasion was the tasting from Bear Republic Brewery, and this did not disappoint. They led off with the Racer 5 IPA, full-bodied and quite hoppy, a straightforward West Coast IPA. The next selection was Red Rocket Ale, described as a red ale like a Scottish strong ale. It’s interesting, somewhat full bodied and fairly hoppy, and neither of those things is typical of a red ale. Red ales aren’t my favorite, but I would rather have them crisper than this. Up third, appropriately, was Tripels Alley, a Belgian-style Tripel. This started strong with a mouthful of Belgian yeast and malt, classic stuff, followed by a wave of spiciness, especially coriander, and then finished up with an interesting, atypical little hop bite. The rep from the distributor said that Bear Republic likes to take styles to extremes. This worked great for me with the Tripel, less so with the Red. The tasting wrapped up with the Big Bear Black Stout, full bodied and malty, a bit of sweetness with hints of toast and coffee. Nice stuff.

After the tasting I was hard-pressed to choose one, but I went with the Tripel to go with jalapeno poppers. That worked very nicely with the maltiness complementing the pepper and the hops playing off the cheese.


Before the main event I tasted a few pale offerings. One was a Telegraph Pale Ale from California which I found to be a little thin. Then I tried Captain Lawrence Sun Block Pale Wheat. That made my palette sit up and take notice. Then I tried Rushing Duck Naysayer Pale Ale, another interesting one that I’d like to try again. Not an easy call, but I went with the Sun Block, a nice malt and caramel ale with a refreshing crisp edge to it. I had this with the G&G hummus plate: classic and red pepper hummus with pita bread, tortilla chips, olives, celery, and cucumber. The whole combo was very nice.

Of course I did some shopping on the way out, but those are chilling so you’ll hear more about them in coming days. Just now I’m sipping a super rich ale described as an American-Style India Pale Ale. It’s called Corne du Diable (Horn of the Devil) from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel!, from Quebec. The nose gives molasses and malt and a fermented hint that’s hard to place, similar to sourdough or maybe a freshly-opened jar of olives. On the palette this has a full-bodied yeasty maltiness with an even bigger shot of molasses and then good solid hop bitterness. Most unusual.

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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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