Flying Fish Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale

April 13, 2012

Is this the best Brown Ale I have ever had? Yep, this is the best Brown Ale I have ever had. I know that sounds like I am damning with faint praise, as I am not a huge fan of Brown Ales, so let me go a little further: This is one of the best beers of 2012. Granted the year is young, but if I have many beers better than this one, it will be one hell of a year for beer.

Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale and Elk Steaks

Flying Fish is not available here in Texas, and it is one of the many things I miss about living in New Jersey (along with good pizza, WFMU, and the New Jersey Turnpike, the golden roadway of the East). I was lucky enough to secure a bottle of the recently released Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale in a trade with MZ, and all I can say is




This beer is really that damn good. Brewed with chestnuts and honey harvested in New Jersey, both of which are prominent in the aroma and the flavor, and which are balanced by the addition of Chinook hops and some nice warmth from the 8.3% ABV. I paired this with some elk steaks (one of the great things about living in Texas is that I have neighbors who hunt Elk, Moose, Bear, Wild Boar, Deer, etc. and they are quite happy to share their bounty with me) and it was an outstanding match. The Flying Fish Exit Series has been excellent from the get go, and this is a worthy addition to the roster, 9/10.

MZ also included a couple of bottles of the Exit 4 which I reviewed a few years ago. Not much to add to that review, just another outstanding beer from New Jersey’s finest brewery.

Jester King Commercial Suicide Brown Ale

February 3, 2012

A rare misstep by Jester King, the bottled Commercial Suicide just did not live up the lofty heights reached by some of it’s brothers and sisters from the Jester King family. I have had this Brown Ale on tap several times and have always enjoyed it, and had a special sour version of this made with wild yeast and drawn from a gravity keg when I visited the brewery this past summer, which was fantastic, but this was an over carbonated, overly yeasty, slightly woody, mess of a beer, 5/10.

Jester King has a bunch of beers hitting the market soon, and I will try each and every one of them. I am also hoping to make the trek back to Austin one of these days to get back to the brewery and try whatever they have tapped for the day, but this is the last bottle of Commercial Suicide I am going to pick up.

Happier Times: The Taps at the Jester King Brewery

The Sixth Day of Christmas: Lost Coast Winterbraun

December 19, 2011

I have never had a brown ale that I loved. I have never had a brown ale that I hated. Brown ales are the mediocre middle children of the craft beer world. Damn near every brewer makes one, and whenever I have one, I am always slightly disappointed. Not because whatever brown ale I am drinking is bad, but because I could have had something better.

Winterbraun by Lost Coast Brewing is a chocolatey smooth brown ale, with some notes of coffee and dark fruit.  It pours a rich, velvety blackish brown with ruby highlights, and a cappuccino colored head. It has a nutty aftertaste and and there is the mildest of nutmeg flavors here. Do I love this brown ale? No I do not, but I do like it more than most brown ales, and would gladly drink this again, 7/10.

The First Day of Christmas

The Second Day of Christmas

The Third Day of Christmas

The Fourth Day of Christmas

Mister JK’s Belgian Beer Adventure

October 16, 2011

Mister JK is a Mover and Shaker, a Titan of High Finance and Commerce.  If I were to publish his address here, the Occupy Wall Street Gang would camp out in from of his guiding to protest him, chanting “Hey! Hey! Mister JK! Send Some Bacon Our Way!”  HA! The joke would be on them because Mister JK always keeps a six month supply of premium bacon in his deep freeze. HA! again, I say!

Mr. JK spent the better part of this past summer working in London.  He says he was just working out of the London office, but I suspect he was part of negotiations concerning the dissolution of the Euro and the return of the Deutsche Mark to its rightful place as the Kaiser of Currencies.  Knowing that Mister JK has their back is giving the Germans the intestinal fortitude to tell those lazy shiftless idlers to the south to go Nehmen Sie fine Wanderung. Read the rest of this entry »

McNeill’s Brewpub and Brewery, Brattleboro, Vermont

July 20, 2010

Mr. JK’s teenage son, Lee Harvey TK, has taken to calling me the ‘Brewpub Wizard’.*  The nickname is based on a single fortuitous happenstance which occurred a few weeks ago up in Vermont.

Lee Harvey TK, seventeen years old and the proud carrier of a learner’s permit, was itching to drive, and Mr. JK and I were perfectly content to let him play Hoke to our collective Miss Daisy.  We needed beer, food and fireworks for the Fourth of July, and decided to go to the food co-op in Brattleboro for the beer and food.  In the days leading up to the Fourth, we had been drinking beers from McNeill’s Brewery in Brattleboro.  Their beer ranges from good to great, and at $3.99 for a bomber bottle, their brews are certainly cost effective.  I insisted that we also stop at McNeill’s for a beer while in Brattleboro.

I had never been to McNeill’s, but that did not stop me from telling Lee Harvey TK how great the cheeseburgers were at the brewpub as we drove to Brattleboro.  Our normal route to Brattleboro was blocked off due to a July 4th Parade, and the detour had us all twisted around.  I was in the backseat barking directions to Lee Harvey TK, even though I had no idea where I was going.  Mr. JK was shouting contradictory directions, with about as much idea of where he was going as I did.  He shouted “Left!”; I barked “Right!”  For some reason, Lee Harvey TK ignored Dad and turned right, and as we turned the corner, McNeill’s was in front of us. I cannot emphasize this enough:  This was sheer dumb luck.  I had absolutely no idea where the brewpub was located.  As we parked, Lee Harvey TK turned to me and said, “These cheeseburgers better be good.”

When it comes to food, brewpubs generally fall into a few broad categories.  There are those that serve high end gourmet food;  There are those that serve glorified pub grub; And there are those that are run by hippies and serve sprouted mung beans, hummus and baba ganoush (all ingredients locally grown of course).  Guess which category McNeill’s falls into?  Let’s just say that Lee Harvey TK did not get any cheeseburgers, and he really hated the hummus.

The bar at McNeill's

Mr. JK and I had a few beers at the bar while Lee Harvey TK sullenly drank his club soda, and whupped us at the various bar games they had.  We had the cask conditioned Warlord Imperial IPA, which was outstanding, and a few others.  Unfortunately, the taps were not working properly, so the selection that day was extremely limited.

On to the bombers we tried over the course of a few days:

The Champ Ale (named after the Lake Champlain monster, America’s very own Nessie) was light and refreshing, perfect for the blazing heat we had in Vermont.  It had a nice yeasty tang to it, very low hops bitterness, and a low 5.5% ABV.  The Champ Ale bills itself as an American Pale Ale, but it tasted somewhat Belgian to me.  Whether Belgian or American, it was still good, 7.5/10.

The Firehouse Amber is one of the better amber beers I have come across.  Amber Beers are like Brown Ales.  They are usually not bad, but they are almost never great.  The Firehouse is not great, but it comes closer than most amber beers I have tried.  It poured cloudy and amber, and had a nice fruity maltiness with a touch of hops bitterness.  This was one of the more pleasant beers of the weekend, 7.5/10.

Speaking of Brown Ales, McNeill’s Professor Brewhead’s Brown Ale, like the Firehouse Amber, is one of the better examples of the style that I have tasted.  It poured a light brown with a decent head and lacing.  It smelled yeasty and bready, with more hops in the taste than in the nose. The hops had a mild orange and apricot flavor to them, and balanced the malts nicely.  While brown ales are not my favorite style of beer, this is a good one, 6.5/10.

The Blonde Bombshell was a highlight of the blistering hot weekend in Vermont.  Hoppier than most golden ales, and certainly hoppier than I expected, this had a refreshing citrus flavor which was helpful on the one hundred degree days we were sweltering through, 7.5/10.

The Dead Horse IPA was a bit disappointing.  It was not awful, but considering how good the other beers were, and considering that IPAs are the bread and butter beers for most craft brewers, this should have been a home run.  Instead, it was a ground rule double.  The hops were not distinctive, and the beer just did not come together as well as the others we tried, 6/10.

*Lee Harvey TK’s nickname needs a little explaining.  As loyal readers know, Mr. JK has a BB gun at his house in Vermont, and we occasionally engage in shooting contests when we are up there.  I continued my Mr. Magoo like tendency to hit everything but what I was aiming at, while Mr. JK was humming along at a .500 clip.  Lee Harvey TK simply did not miss anything.  At first I thought he was lucky, but when he knocked down twelve cans in a row, and hit the bottle cap on his first shot, I realized it was not luck.  A few years from now, when he takes out both Osama Bin Laden and Kim Jong Il with a single shot from two miles away, remember who was the first to tell you about him.

However, it was not all driving and shooting cans for Lee Harvey TK.  We were watching the Spain-Germany World Cup game, and as the clock ticked down and Spain advanced to the final game, he said, “Break out the PASTA! Spain is going to the Finals!” Mr. JK and I both looked at him with that “You Did Not Say Something That Titanically Stupid In Front Of US, Did You?” look on our faces, and Lee Harvey TK immediately tried to backtrack, but it was too late.  For the rest of the week, we kept offering to make him “Pasta de Espana” or “Fettucine de Madrid” for dinner.  He replied “shut up, they have pasta in Spain” but he knew he had put his foot in his mouth, and that we were not going to let him forget it.

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

April 13, 2010

We return to the Lords of Delaware, Dogfish Head, and sample their Indian Brown Ale.  This beer has some sweet caramel and brown sugar notes from the roasted malts, and bitterness and fruitiness from the hops.  It pours a dark ruby chestnut color with a medium head and very low carbonation.  It is a melange of flavors, which is a good thing, but it never really comes together the way I think it wants to.  It tries, it really does, but the Indian Brown Ale never hangs together the way it should. At 7.2% ABV, you are not going to drink many of these, and the odd flavor mix mean you probably will not want to drink to many of them.  The Indian Brown Ale was not bad at all, and I imagine if paired with a sharp cheese, it might be great, but I can only give it 6/10.

Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre

March 30, 2010

If you like your beers malty and spicy, this offering from Dogfish Head is right up your alley.  The Raison D’Etre pours a mildly cloudy dark copper color with a minimal head and a thin mouth feel.  This beer is brewed with green raisins, beet sugars and Belgian yeast.  I picked up the raisin flavor, and the complexity that comes with using Belgian yeast was there as well, with hints of coriander and cardamon, but I did not detect any distinct flavor from the beet sugar.  I am docking it a half point because it was a touch too malty for me, but don’t let that deter you from giving it a tipple.  6/10.

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