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.


Mr. JK’s Geoduck (and Blue Point Toasted Lager)

May 18, 2010

That photo to the right is not the world’s largest piss clam. It is a geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck), and it has been an object of intense interest of Mr. JK ever since he saw one on one of the Food Network/Travel Channel shows that play on a constant loop in the apartment he shares with Mrs. JK.  I thought they looked kind of interesting, and the descriptions sounded tasty, but had I gone to the undiscovered country without ever eating one, I would be ok with that.  Not so with Mr. JK.  He was Ahab, and this humble (albeit oversized) bivalve was his Moby Dick.

Mr. JK finally tracked down someone from the Pacific Northwest who would overnight a live one.  I am not going to hazard a guess as to what that cost him, though he did say that shipping costs nearly doubled the price.  Mr. JK is legendary for his frugality, so his willingness to pony up to get a geoduck to New York is proof of his obsession with the mollusk.

We searched the internet for some idea as to how to prepare it, and the general consensus was to blanche it in boiling water for about ten seconds, then plunge it in an ice bath to stop the

Ahab and his White Whale

Geoduck Foreskin

cooking.  After a few minutes in the ice water, you remove the membrane that covers the ‘neck’ and remove the shell.

We thinly sliced the ‘neck’ which we dipped in a homemade ginger-soy dipping sauce.  Mr. JK, N (Mr. JK’s colleague) and I all thought this was fantastic.  You cannot get sashimi any fresher than from a mollusk that was alive just a few minutes prior to you popping it in your mouth.  Later that night we used the body to make a white clam sauce for pasta which everyone else thought was so-so but I thought was great (probably because I made it).

We consumed many beers that day, but one of my favorites was the Blue Point Toasted Lager that N brought with him.  I am generally not a fan of lagers, as I find them to be somewhat bland, but this has a toasted flavor that comes from Blue Point’s “direct-fire brew kettle’s hot flames that impart a toasted flavor” according to Blue Point’s website.  That does not make a whole lot of sense to me, but that is their explanation.  It has a pronounced malty flavor while still being fairly light.  I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did, 6.5/10.


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.


Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA

March 20, 2010

Some Captains of Note:

Captain Jack Sparrow – Why is the Rum gone?

Cappy Dick – Cartoon from the Sunday Star Ledger, usually included projects for kids to do, like “pick up pebbles with your toes and put them in a pile.”  Probably a closet drunk.

Captain Morgan –  Fuel for frat parties.  Major ingredient in crappy summer drinks. Truly a vile tasting liquid.

Captain America – The dorkiest of the Comic Superheroes, but I do not read comic books.

Captain Xenu – The Demon of Scientology, nightmare fuel for Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Captain Beefheart – The Delta Blues after being drenched in Acid.  Trout Mask Replica is a bit overrated.  Go with Mirror Man, or better yet, try Safe As Milk.

Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA – Loads of hops as soon as you pop the cap off the bottle.  Burnt orange in color and crystal clear, with a minimal head.  This beer punches you in the mouth with flavor, and that is a good thing.  Very hoppy flavor, with a nice malt balance.  This is a complex beer, very enjoyable, and at less than four bucks for the bottle, something of a bargain.  8.5/10


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