IPAs are like…Hot Sauce?

So, on top of enjoying a good beer, I really enjoy hot and spicy foods. Fresh peppers, daring Mexican, Indian, Thai, Buffalo wings, and most of all, hot sauce! Some people would put me in the insane category. I eat things that can make grown men cry. I’m no tough-guy, nor am I trying to be when it comes to the tongue-torching things I adore. I’ve seen people devour foods so hot and spicy that I wouldn’t dare do more than a bite. Besides the fact that a good beer can help wash away your misery, what exactly does this have to do with beer?

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Can Craft Beer Afford To Play With The Big Boys?

As a self-proclaimed Beer Geek I often find myself checking out a restaurant’s beer list before I decide if it’s really where I want to go have a nice dinner or not. If you’ve ever looked at a Happy Hour list or daily specials at your local watering hole you are no stranger to the fact that Craft Beer takes a back seat to the big boys on the block. Mind you, I’m not talking about the tap rooms or establishments that pride themselves on local, state, and Craft Beer offerings in general. I’m talking about the places where they force down the American macro-lagers; Bud, Miller, and Coors (BMC). We’ve all been there when we see specials for $2 domestics or $6 buckets. Go ahead, ask for a Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada and get your bill for $5.75.”Oh, that’s an import.” they’ll say. Imported from where? Boston? California? Give me a break! Bars and restaurants have started calling these larger craft offerings “Premium”. In other words, not available for their specials funded my the big marketing machine of BMC.

I’ve always wondered if the Craft Beer industry can play by these same rules, or better yet, can they afford to? Continue reading

Hoppy Yum!

Hoppy Yum!

To kick off Charlotte Craft Beer Week I wanted to share with you an experience with one of my favorite North Carolina Craft Beers, Foothills Hoppyum IPA!

Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy a good IPA. The funny thing is, there are many, many flavors and characteristics in each and every IPA. Some of them are relatively light in color and others can be deep amber. I’ve seen them crystal clear all to way to a beautiful unfiltered hazy and cloudy appearance and anywhere from a biscuit bready malt flavor, what non-hop heads call “balanced”, down to virtually no malt flavors at all…all hops. Now, all IPAs are hoppy. Loaded with Hops. IPAs can have hops that are piney, earthy, floral, fruit, and downright bitter! My favorite hops are the ones that come through in aroma and flavor on the citrus side. Specifically, grapefruit. Step in Hoppyum. It is relatively easy to find in the North Carolina area. I hope you are lucky enough to find a pint in your home town. I like Hoppyum so much that I decided to give it a shot as the first Homebrew beer that I ever formulated from scratch. Let’s see how this turns out.

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Beer Snob

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Am I a beer snob? Nope! I refuse to put myself in the category of snob when it comes to beer. Honestly. Drink what you like. All I ask is that people try something new every now and then. You’ll be surprised at what you might find.

A few years ago I was in the Bud-Miller-Coors crowd. Not exclusively, but yeah, I bought it and drank it during games, at the pool, and whatever was on special at the pub. I had already tapped into the craft beer industry via Dogfish Head. The 60 Minute IPA was my favorite craft beer. I would buy craft beer for special occasions, parties, and at business dinners where everyone else was drinking fancy wine. I didn’t feel like such an oddball when I ordered an Imperial beer that came in a stemmed glass instead of a pitcher and a plastic cup. I really didn’t switch exclusively to craft brews until I saw the documentary Beer Wars. Now it’s all about business for me. Don’t get me wrong, Bud-Miller-Coors make good beers. Some of their “craft” offerings are pretty good. I just choose to support the craft beer industry with my hard earned money vs feeding the giants. Besides, the big three beers are not even American companies any more. They have been absorbed into worldwide mega-corps. Believe it or not it’s hard to find beers that aren’t owned by the big three.

I’m not out there trying to wine-ificate beer. I’ll talk to you about beer when you see that I’m drinking something that isn’t fizzy and yellow. I’ll let you know that Guinness won’t get you “hammered”. Dark beers don’t mean more alcohol. If you tell me what you like I’ll try to help you find something that YOU think is good. I’ll tell you about flights. Flights are a great way to sample several different beers in small servings. I’ll let you know that most bartenders will let you taste a craft beer before you order a pint. Yes, I do brew my own beer at home. If you want to know more about matls, hops and fermentation, just ask me!

I love brewing beer and trying new favors when I see them on the taps. I’ll talk as much or as little about beer as you want to know. I’ve met many, many great people out and about and in the online world who are passionate about beer, how it’s made, and getting people to try something new. Am I a Beer Geek? Yup! Just don’t call me a snob. Drink what you like, and if you think you might like what I’m drinking, just ask!

See you out and about, cheers!

Once You Go Black

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I’ve found a new dark place to hide. Among my world of Craft Beers, tasting the amber, golden, yellow, and crystal clear, there is a deep, dark and refreshingly hoppy alternative. The Black IPA. I’ll go ahead and admit it. I’m a hop head. My standby beer is a good IPA but I do go off path and take in a good Pale Ale or Wheat beer too. Occasionally, especially when it starts getting cooler, I will take in a few Stouts or Porters. And let’s not forget Guinness. Dark beers have there place with me but they always seemed to lack a little something. Yes, I’m talking about the hops.

Over the past few months I have been reading about a relatively new entry in the Craft Beer marketplace, Black IPAs. Wait, what? Could it be the perfect melding of a dark, roasty beer with an over the top hop kick? As I came to find out last night, yes it can! The Beer Advocate description states that these beers “range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy”.

The first Black IPA that I tried was a Stone Brewing 15th Anniversary Imperial. Not being a huge fan of Imperials it was about what I expected. Dark, roasted, and hoppy. The alcohol content killed this one for me. Not bad, but definitely not great. Next up, Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA. Now we’re getting somewhere. A good balance between the dark chocolate flavor and a recognizable hop kick. A little disappointing that they called this one an IPA though. Not a big hoppy beer in my opinion. Lastly, I reserved the hard to find, and definitely worth the wait Olde Hickory Black Raven. This beer is like drinking a stout but getting kicked in the face with a good hop blast. Is this what Guinness would taste like if we hooked it up to the Randall?

So the Black IPA has made it to my rotation. Maybe I’ll even try this one in the Homebrewing schedule. There are plenty of Craft Brewers adding the Black IPA to their menus. Local brewery, NoDA Brewing Company has a limited release of Midnight Madness. Terrapin, Sweetwater, Sierra Nevada are all offering the style. The list is growing and I am buying. Looking forward to trying many more Black IPAs as we make our way though winter.

Cheers!

That Uneasy Feeling

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You know the feeling you get? That uneasy feeling? When you realize that your Homebrewing kegs are getting low? Well tonight it hit me. I opened the kegerator to adjust the serving pressure on my CO2 tank. I had to move a keg of Oktoberfest out of the way to reach the tank and realized how light the weight was. Uh oh…

Fitting end to October nonetheless. Is it “to style” to drink Oktoberfest in November? Anyway, I decided to pick up the IPA keg as well, just to test it out. Same story. Running low. Thankfully I’ve invested in enough equipment to have a homebrew pipeline! It is the bare minimum that you can call a pipeline. I own two 6.5 gallon primary and two 5 gallon secondary fermenters but have decided to avoid secondary fermentation to save some time and effort (and sanitizing). I have two fermenters in the chamber, nearly ready to load into the kegs! One American White and one Double IPA. On my last batch of homebrew I decided that I would hold a brewing session on the night that I tapped the new kegs and foresight has proven worthy.

Running low on tap means that racking to kegs is right around the corner. Get the dry hops ready! What are we brewing next? Have to keep the pipeline full. Have to avoid that familiar uneasy feeling. Keep your pipelines full, my friends.

Cheers!

Beer Vegas

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Las Vegas, NV may be the adult entertainment capital of the world but it is certainly not the capital of Craft Beer. I just spent five solid days in Sin City on a business trip and surprisingly was unable to find a Craft Beer haven among the decadent and lavish resort world of amenities. From the Venetian and Palazzo to Caesars and Fremont Street big beer is king.

I had exchanged pleasantries with several bartenders and cocktail waitresses through the week. “May I get you a drink.” “Sure, do you have any IPA’s?” “What’s an IPA?” “You know, a Pale Ale. A Craft Beer.” “Oh yeah! We have Shock Top and Blue Moon!”

One evening I asked a Bartender for a Craft Beer. He asked me what kind. I tamed it down and asked if he had a Pale Ales. He responded, “No, all we have is Sierra Nevada.” Ugh!!!

Although I was eventually able to stumble upon a Sin City Brewing kiosk is a casino mall (pretty cool to get a plastic cup of Oktoberfest in a food court) and a Lagunitas IPA at a sports bar, Vegas is obviously dominated by high-profit watered down consumer beer products. Craft Beer as we know is a substantial cost difference as opposed to Bud Miller and Coors when purchasing in a retail environment. If I was giving away free beer to gamblers, I would also pick the least offensive cost product as well. But when the casinos are serving top dollar name brand liquor such as Johnny Walker, Cabo Wabo, and Glenfiddich why can’t they splurge and provide a little Craft Brew for the people who enjoy it on the poker tables?