Brooklyn Black Ops

April 26, 2012

I’d make some ‘Black Ops’ crack about securing this bottle in a Mission Impossible style raid, complete with scuba diving, spelunking, skydiving, and jaywalking, but the truth is that GEB called me a few weeks before Christmas to say she was in a beer store and they had some Brooklyn Black Ops and should she get some for her Dad for Christmas and I shouted “YES! OH! GOD! FOR THE LOVE ALL THAT IS HOLY! GOD! YES!” She somehow got the impression that I was a tad excited that Black Ops had made it down to Texas so she grabbed me a bottle as well.

According to the label, this is a Russian Imperial Stout which was aged in bourbon barrels for several months. It was bottled flat and refermented in the bottle using champagne yeast. The vanilla and oak aroma from the bourbon barrel is immediately apparent. The aroma is almost overwhelming, but the flavors are surprisingly muted, with some chocolate and coffee as well. It has a light and crisp mouthfeel which I attribute to the champagne yeast refermentation. This has over 11% ABV but there is no alcohol burn at all. The Black Ops is what a Black Velvet should taste like. The only downside to this beer is that GEB did not get me more than one bottle, but  I am glad she got me the one, 9/10.


Brooklyn East India Pale Ale

March 8, 2012

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, Brooklyn was always a Borough Too Far. My dad worked in Manhattan (he even had an office in the Empire State Building for a few years) so I went to the ‘City’ (as we called it) every so often, and when I got older, it was always Manhattan I went to for record buying or weed scoring expeditions. Bronx is the home of the Yankees and Queens is the home of the Mets, and as my grandfather was a big baseball fan, he’d take me to those boroughs to see games. Even lowly Staten Island got a visit now and then via a trip on the Staten Island Ferry (Still the best tourist bargain in America. How can you beat a free boat ride through New York Harbor?). But Brooklyn was the one borough I never really visited. There were no baseball teams, the Dodgers having left for Los Angeles long before I was born. My dad did not work there. The Ferry did not go there. And while I am sure I could have scored some sweet records and good weed in Brooklyn, I had to pass through Manhattan to get there, where I could score the same, so why bother?

Consequently, I never got to know Brooklyn well, and even in recent years, when Brooklyn became the epicenter of hipster culture, making the formerly decrepit neighborhoods of the borough must visit places if you wanted to see certain bands, I tried to limit my time there. I found it too easy to end up in the wrong neighborhood, and just never felt as comfortable there as I did in Manhattan. I tried to remedy that by taking a few bike tours around Brooklyn with the Vinman, but  we got hopelessly lost each time, which confirmed my impulse to avoid the borough.

I may avoid going to Brooklyn, but I don’t avoid the beers from Brooklyn Brewery. (Holy Cow, that transition was smoooooooooooooth!) Brooklyn Brewing is one of the more consistent brewers out there, always turning out quality beers. The East India Pale Ale is no exception to that rule. Sweet maltiness is offset by a mild and pleasant bitterness and a crisp, clean and dry finish. This is not a hop bomb IPA, but is a well rounded, refreshing, and easy drinking beer, 7/10.


America’s Lousiest Craft Brewer

May 27, 2010

I have now tried all of the beers that Butternuts Brewing has to offer, and I can safely say that they are the lousiest craft brewer in the United States.  I panned their Snapperhead IPA a few weeks ago, but when Mr. JK picked up a sampler pack for the recent party that Mrs. JK threw for her friends, I gave their other beers a try.  With one minor exception, that was a big mistake on my part.

The Pork Slap Pale Ale suffers from the same problems that the IPA had.  It has weird flavors that do not mesh at all, and the taste is just off.  Great name, so I will give it a 3.5/10.

I did not take a picture of the Weisse beer, and that is because I took two sips and poured it down the sink.  I am just going to leave that one ungraded.

The one minor exception noted above was the Moo Thunder Stout. This poured a deep brown with a fluffy cappuccino coloured head which lasted to the bottom of the glass.  It had a nice roasted malt flavor and a creamy mouthfeel.   While it falls well short of the standard set by Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Stout, it was a good drink, esepcially when compared to Butternuts other offerings.  I will give it a 6/10.  If you absolutely must try something from Butternuts, stick with the stout and avoid everything else.


Butternuts Brewing Snapperhead IPA

May 4, 2010

In my quest to make amends for my internet idiocy concerning canned beer, I am seeking out any and all craft beer in cans out there.  The Butternut Snapperhead IPA came highly recommended by someone with serious beer bona fides but I found it disappointing.

The beer pours a pale orange with a slight head that hangs around to the bottom of the glass.  The aroma has some citrus to it, but it also has a soapy smell to it, and it is just off.  Not as off as the taste, which is more sweet than bitter, and the bitterness is astringent and off-putting.  I may have picked up a six from a bad batch, but I am not going back to this beer to find out, and I certainly cannot recommend that anyone else give it a try either, 4.0/10, and the Snapperhead IPA is being bumped up a half point because I like the packaging.


A Tale of Two India Pale Ales

April 22, 2010

Whenever I am in a bar or a store with a good selection and I am dithering over what to drink, I usually end up getting an IPA.  India Pale Ales generally have the right combination of flavors to please your taste buds and are usually low in enough in ABV that you can have a few and slake your thirst.  IPAs have become the standard bearers for most American craft brewers, and with good reason.  They are usually drinkable enough for the casual beer drinker to enjoy, yet still interesting enough for the beer dork to sniff, swirl and text their impressions to other beer dorks.

There are several elements I associate with IPAs.  First, IPAs are more aggressively hopped than other beers that do not have ‘imperial’ in their name.  Second, the malt profile is elevated a bit due to the aggressive hopping.  Third, there is usually some wood, generally oak, in the aroma and the flavor. Fourth, IPAs tend to be among the more affordable offerings for any given brewer.  My guess is that IPA sales are the bread and butter business of most craft brewers and those sales finance the more exotic offerings that many craft brewers produce.

The Fire Island Red Wagon IPA is a decent example of an IPA.  It poured a dark amber, with a nice head.  The hops were earthy and fruity, but not as bitter as I normally like my IPAs.  There was nothing outstanding or particularly memorable about this beer, yet I can easily see myself polishing off a six pack over the course of an evening.  That is one of the wonders of IPAs.  Even if they are not great examples of the genre, you can still pound them back.  The Red Wagon IPA gets a 6/10.

I have extolled the virtues of Dogfish Head before, and I am going to do so again right now.  The 60 Minute IPA is pale amber and slightly cloudy with some grassy hops aroma immediately apparent, and some light citrus notes on the back end. The light caramel malts bring some sweetness to the bitterness of the hops.  This is an excellent beer, as enjoyable as they come, 8/10.  My only complaint is that at nearly twelve bucks a six pack, this is pricey for an IPA, especially when you get other IPAs which are almost as good for well under ten dollars.


New York, New York (Two Beers from New York)

April 21, 2010

And the hits from NCAA pool keep rolling in! I received a nice package the other day from two New York LOSERS.**  Hey, if they are sending me beer, they lost.  One Vice Blog reader from New York and the Vice Blogger himself pooled their resources and sent me their beers in one delicious package.  Sticking with the NCAA Pool theme, I would categorize the two beers as Bracket Busters.  They are both based on traditional styles, but they are both so different from those styles that they end up being unique.

The first bottle I cracked open was the Captain Lawrence Birra DeCicco.  This is brewed in collaboration with DeCicco’s Market, a local Italian specialty shop, and is a rare one.  I have never seen it in my local beer emporium, and they carry damn near every beer imaginable, including several offerings from Captain Lawrence.  In fact, it is so rare that I could not find any mention of it on the Captain Lawrence website.  According to the label, the beer is “[f]ermented with our house Belgian-style Ale strain to impart the classic fruity and spicy flavors of a traditional abbey ale. Infused with imported Italian chestnut honey and jam to create rich and smoky undertones. Re-fermented in the bottle using even more Italian chestnut honey to give the beer its lively carbonation.”

That description sums up this beer.  Beer Advocate describes it as a Dubbel, but it is not like any Dubbel I have had before.  This was an interesting drink, earthy and spicy, with the honey flavor more prominent than the chestnut flavor, though that was in there as well.  It poured a very dark ruby color, with a decent head.  It is sweet and malty, and the Belgian yeast gives it a funky edge, which I bet will only improve with age.  If I can track down another bottle, I am going to stick it in the cellar for at least a few months and let the funk rise. Fresh from the brewery, it gets an 8/10.

Next up was the Southampton Cuvee de Fleurs, a saison brewed with a variety of edible flowers.  I opened this, poured some into a glass, when my phone rang.  I took the call in the other room.  When I came back, the kitchen was filled with the flowery aroma of this beer.  This has more perfume than a French knocking shop, more flowers than a Mafia funeral, more bouquets than Princess Di’s Wedding, more scents than the perfume counter at Bloomies, more … you get the idea.

The Cuvee deFleurs poured a golden orange, with a fluffy head and nice lacing.  The aforementioned floral aroma permeates the taste as well, with some black pepper spiciness to balance it.  I would offer this to someone who thinks that beer is not as complex as wine.  There is a lot going on in the glass.  It is a saison, but it is not like any saison I have come across, and I have tried many.  I don’t think I would enjoy drinking more than one bottle of this at a sitting, but that one bottle is to be savored.  Great beer, 9/10.

**I am an insufferable asshole when I win anything.  God help all of you if and when any sports team I root for wins a championship.  I was a complete and total prick during the Cowboys dynasty with the Triplets.  Sweet Jeebus, I was a douche when Jason Kidd and the Nets made the NBA Finals in back to back years, and they never won the championship!


Saranac Root Beer

April 15, 2010

Saranac is a brewer in Upstate New York.  I will get to their beers soon, but I had their root beer the other night and it was outstanding.  Sweet, cold, nicely carbonated, and hell yes that is vanilla ice cream in the mug.  The ice cream hit the root beer and it all foamed up into a sweet, sticky, delicious mess.


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