Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Back Road Brewery Fall Fest 2012

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

My busy season at work is about ready to hit full stride in the next couple of weeks, so I’m trying to get in some last-minute play time before the poop hits the fan.  My husband and I made an impromptu trip up to La Porte in the northwestern corner of Indiana on Saturday to visit a small brewery.  It was a wonderful surprise to discover the brewery was hosting a small fall festival, and had invited several other breweries to participate. In attendance:  Back Road Brewery of La Porte, IN  –  Four Horsemen Brewing of South Bend, IN  – Crown Brewing Company of Crown Point, IN  – Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, IN   –  One Trick Pony of Lansing, IL  –  Shoreline Brewery of  Michigan City, IN.

And there was a cool German polka band, Ein Prosit German Band . The accordion player pictured above was one of my favorite characters of the day. I was completely amazed by the band’s ability to drink beer and play at the same time.

 It was a toss-up between Accordion Man and Pink Tuba Girl.  She was polka grooving so hard we never did get a clear picture of her.

My husband is a plumber (among many other things), and since he’s not a craft beer drinker and my designated driver, he always zooms in on the brewing equipment when I drag him along to visit a brewery.  Back Road Brewery is a small operation housed in an old factory building along some railroad tracks.  My dad would have loved the combination of beer and the occasional train rolling by.

This was me at the beginning of the day, with my nose in my glass. Of all the brews I sampled, my favorite of the day was a Three Floyd’s offering called Snow Weasel, a fantastic dry hopped porter. My second favorite was Back Road’s Blueberry Belle Gunness Stout, which reminded me of some really tasty blueberry coffee I used to buy.

This is a representation of me by the end of the festival, when I decided I couldn’t feel my teeth any more.

New Belgium Lips of Faith – Tart Lychee Beer Review

Thursday, July 26th, 2012


This summer I gave myself permission to get some rest. I realized I needed to take a break from a lot of my self-imposed busy-ness.  I’ve taken a break from blogging, experimental cooking, knitting, gardening, etc.  I did plant a garden, but due to extreme drought here in northeastern Indiana, it’s barely producing enough for fresh eating, and not much extra.  What I have been doing this summer is reading, watching old movies, hanging out with my family, and of course rating beer, and attending beer related events with my beer-god of a brother-in-law.

To give you an idea of how much tasting I’ve done, here are my stats from the past 3 months: 285 beers encompassing 66 of 73 styles.  I should qualify that many of these ratings have not been done by drinking a whole 12 ounces of each beer.  Many times my brother-in-law and I will visit a brewpub and order a tasting flight, which we share.

This summer I discovered I really like sour beers (lambics, saisons, sour/wild ales).  One of my favorites of the summer has been a very tasty American wild ale, Tart Lychee from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Series.


New Belgium Lips of Faith Tart Lychee
Commercial Description:  56% ale aged in oak, 44% ale brewed with lychee and cinnamon. To sweet and sour! In celebration of one of the greatest combinations ever, lychee fruit brings tropical sweetness to the party hosted by Felix, our golden wood-aged sour beer. Cinnamon sticks were invited to spice things up and so are you! Get in on the tasty revelry that is Tart Lychee.

My take: This wild ale poured a hazy golden color with a moderate creamy head with some nice lacing. Both the aroma and taste of this beer really surprised me.  It was an interesting combination of elements I would have never dreamed of putting together, but it totally worked!  In the nose I detected creamy lactic, sweet, tart, fruity, and vanilla and cinnamon aromas.  The flavor was similar to the aroma, but with more complexity.  The flavor was light musty yeast, earthy oaky malt, sweet lychee fruit, tart creamy lactic acid, and a definite cinnamon heat in the finish. The brew had a light tingly body that was very refreshing.

Since I first tried this beer a few weeks ago, this is the one I’ve found myself craving at the end of a hot day… and have we ever had some hot ones!  In fact, the weekend I first tried this our temps were in the 102 range.  If you’d like to try this beer, it’s distributed widely across the nation with the exception of the northeast and a few states in the deep south. You’ll find it in 22 ounce bomber bottles, price ranging from $10 to $15 a bottle.


Beer, Cheese, Herbs & Wine – Part 2

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

My dad, brother-in-law and I hopped in the car bright and early last Saturday morning and drove up to Michigan beer country.  There are so many great breweries in Michigan that it was hard to choose. We decided that it would be best to limit our visit to 3 breweries, and it took us almost two weeks to completely make up our minds. The decision was for Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo, The Livery in Benton Harbor, and Greenbush Brewing in Sawyer.  Bell’s was open the earliest, so it was our first stop. I made one big mistake on this trip. I was so focused on beer tasting that I completely forgot to take pictures of the beer!  I plan to do better on my next brewery trip.

Bell’s Eccentric Cafe was spacious, open, and relaxed.  There were neat old beer ads on the walls, and wooden African masks, which we thought was a weird combination.  I love this old beer blurb I found outside the restrooms.  There was much more text below this, but it wasn’t possible to get a picture where all of the text would be visible. I was able to find the entire text on Google Books.  This appeared on page 81 of the  September 8, 1941 issue of Life magazine.  It’s an absolute hoot, and worth the read.

Our bartender was courteous, and helpful, and I had a little fun chatting to an old local who hit on me, in a tasteful old geezer sort of way.  We opted for tasting flights on this trip, so we would be able to sample a wide variety while maintaining both our palates and our wits.  We also ate food through the whole trip, and all three of us were well under the legal limit for driving (so no comments about drunk driving.  I don’t roll that way, and neither does my BIL or my dad).

I’m really kicking myself about not taking beer pictures.  You should have seen the cool tasting trays in this place.  They were wooden platters in the shape of Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. The trays had numbered round indentations which held six 4 ounce glasses. We chose  Quinannan Falls Special Lager, Rye Stout, Java Stout, Lager of the Lakes, Oktoberfest, and Best Brown Ale.  All were excellent.  I don’t think Bell’s makes a bad beer.  My favorite of the six was the Java Stout. I rated it 4.2 at and my tasting notes are: Coffee, smoke, and chocolate aroma. Black with a minimal creamy brown head. Dark roasted coffee, smoked meat, cream, chocolate, ash flavor. Smooth, creamy full body. Really great stout.

Since we had a good breakfast on the way up, we took our time with the tasting, ate some bar nuts, and then walked around the corner to Bell’s General Store. Not only did the store stock Bell’s gear and beer, but they also offered a huge selection of homebrew supplies. I was amazed at the variety of hops and yeasts, and a store employee told me it was just a small sampling of what’s available in the beer world.  I bought a Bell’s beer glass and a few beers for some friends and then we headed out for The Livery.

The Livery is located in an old brick building. The neighborhood is full of empty buildings, and you can see that the recession has not been kind to this town.

The brewpub was located in the basement of the building, and I wasn’t expecting the run down old VFW feel when we walked in.  Despite the dimly lit, run down feel of the place, the atmosphere was laid back and comfortable.  We ordered a hummus plate and a pizza to eat before we got too far into our beer tasting. We spent quite a bit of time at this location, trying about 12 different brews. The hummus was really great.  The pizza was ok, but was made with a premade crust.  Our beer selections: Lawnmower Lager, Red Canoe, Maillot Jaune (Biere de Garde), Malcolm’s Best Bitter, Raspberry Wheat, Steep Canyon Lager, Old Cedar English Strong Ale, Mandeau Man Ruby Red, Steel Wheels Oat Stout, Guide, McGilligans IPA, and Anniversary Ale (6th – Bourbon Barrel Imperial Brown Rye). Generally speaking, their beers are solid, and some exceptional. My favorite was the Steel Wheels Oat Stout with a rating of 4.2. Tasting notes:  Toasty malt, chocolate, coffee, ash aroma. Black, thick creamy head (like an espresso crema) that sticks to the glass. Chocolate, coffee, smoke, raisin, charcoal ash flavor. Medium to full body. At this point I remembered I hadn’t been taking pictures, so I snapped our empty glasses.  A friend, who had been following our shenanigans on facebook, “yelled” at me for uploading a picture of empty glasses.  I believer her exact words were, ” You’re supposed to take the picture before…”

After leisurely finishing our pizza and hummus we headed off to Greenbush Brewing.  Forgive me ahead of time, but this brewery was not the most positive experience for me, so you’re going to get some negativity.

We walked in and the place was LOUD.  The music was cranked, and the place was over capacity.  A sign on the wall indicated a capacity of 32, but I counted 40+.  Service was non-existent, the place was chaotic, and customers were confused about how to order.  My brother-in-law got a bartender’s attention, who then tossed him a piece of paper and a pen telling him to write down our selections, and to bring it back.  I took the paper back up to the bar, and both bartenders completely ignored me while waiting on people who had come in behind me.  I finally had to get snippy to get served.  Not cool at all.  This is a new brewery, and they need to expand the premises and work on their service.  Food is minimal, there is no formal menu, and if you want it you’re going to have to ask for it because they don’t offer.

If it weren’t for the way noise bounced around the place, the open room and glass that allowed you to see the actual brewing operation  was cool.

Our selections were: Undertow Autumn Ale, trAKtoR Golden Ale, Distorter Robust Porter, Anger Black IPA, Terminator X, pHarmacy, Jackal Bocktoberfest, and Closure. We all agreed that the beers were good, but nothing struck us as being exceptional. My dad and I kept tasting the same overly sweet malt flavor in several of the beers we tried. The highest rating I gave at Greenbush was for the Distorter Robust Porter at 3.5. Notes: Chocolate, roasted malt aroma. Dark brown with a small tan ring. Dark roasted malt and peat flavor. Dry bitter finish. Medium body.

Maybe it’s because the three of us are no longer what you would call young, but we found the attempt to be hip with the names of the beer, and the beer descriptions that were more marketing than helpfully descriptive to be a little irritating.  When you’re trying that hard to be hip, you’re not.

Negativity aside, we visited the place, checked it out and got some ratings under our belt.  Now we knew what the place was about, and we headed homeward.  Once we reached home territory we decided it was time for more food, so we hit our local brewpub, Mad Anthony’s Lake City Tap House.  We were done with beer for the day, and just wanted food. This place has great food, and we decided to share appetizers: Hot wings, Gorgonzola fries, and Wisconsin cheese curds. We went home happy, sober, and full.  We ended our evening by sitting around a fire in my parents’ back yard.  It was one of the best weeks I’ve had off work in quite some time.

Imperial Crème Brûlée Stout Float

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I was going to apologize for two beer posts in a row, but on second thought, no I’m not!  Two of my favorite things ….. beer and ice cream. Why should I apologize?

My brother-in-law brought a bottle of this Southern Tier Imperial Crème Brûlée Milk Stout this past Christmas, and I remember liking it. I stumbled across a stray bottle when I was running errands the other day (it’s a seasonal beer),  so I snagged it. I’ve been meaning to try a stout float some time, and thought this might be the perfect beer to try it with. I was right.

I think the picture is self explanatory.

Edited to add: I  checked my account to see how I rated this back in December. I gave it an overall 3.9.  Black brown with a small thin head. Strong caramel vanilla aroma followed up by chocolate and coffee. Creamy full bodied mouth feel. Flavor was strong sweet vanilla with a bit a coffee and caramel.

Founders Devil Dancer Beer Review

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working way too many hours, not playing enough, and have been really stressed.  Today was my day off and I spent it running errands, so I decided to treat myself to a  new beer this evening.  I was rewarded with a BIG tasting beer from Founder’s Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  One of my favorite beers comes from Founders, and so far I’ve like everything I’ve tried from this brewery.

This one is Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA.  Commercial Description: Founders most complex, most innovative, most feared and yet most revered ale produced. Massive in complexity the huge malt character balances the insane amount of alpha’s used to create this monster. More IBU’s than any brewery has documented, more than you would believe and dry-hopped for twenty-six days straight with a combination of 10 hop varieties. Dangerously drinkable and deliciously evil. We dare you to dance with the Devil. 112 IBUs

My description:  This beer poured a lovely deep copper color, and had a small off white head that dissipated quickly.  I was hit with a distinctively hoppy aroma… citrusy hops, as well as sweet caramely malt. I was really surprised by the flavor, expecting to get smacked in the face with hops. While the hops was definitely strong, it was well balanced with a caramel sweetness that kept the beer from being overwhelmingly bitter. The finish was a nice roasted malt fading into a lingering hop bitterness. The beer has a full bodied, thick creamy mouth feel.  As I said before, this is a BIG tasting beer, and at 12% ABV this one is not for chugging. On a final note, while this is a great tasting beer, I don’t think it warrants the price tag of $18 to $20 for a four pack. Although it’s a different style, Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale is a really great tasting big beer coming it at about $7 to $10 a four pack.

I’m happy to have tried it and rated it on my ratebeer account, but I don’t think I’ll be getting it again because of the price tag. I will be sharing a bottle with my cousin,  giving a bottle to my brother-in-law, and the last bottle will go to my beer tasting facebook buddy in Colorado. Cindy, drink this one when you’ve settled in for the evening, or are relaxing on the weekend.

Founders Red’s Rye P.A. Beer Review

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

I hadn’t planned to do another beer review so soon, but how was I to know I was going to run into another excellent beer right away?  This one is Red’s Rye P.A. Ale from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founders makes a lot of great beers including one of my favorites, their Breakfast Stout.

The commercial description: Pours a spectacular crimson red with a creamy tan head. Brewed with four varieties of Belgian caramel malts imparting a sweet richness. Reds Rye is impressively balanced with its hop bitterness and floral bouquet achieved from the dry hop. In the finish, the generous amount of malted rye used accentuates a spicy crisp finish.

My take: When I poured it into my glass it was a beautiful hazy copper color, and had a great big frothy beige head.  At first sniff I got a rich Caramel malt aroma. The next sniff gave me a sense of floral hops.  I was getting something else I couldn’t quite identify, so I’m going to assume it was spice, but I’m not completely sure. I’m glad I got a 6 pack!  After I did my weird little sniffy thing we beer raters do, I finally took my first taste. YUM!! Sweet creamy caramel!  I’ve tasted caramel-y beer before, but this is the first time I identified it so quickly. I also tasted citrus, and then the beer had a nice long bitter hop finish. The more I’ve been tasting, the more I realize I really like the floral/citrus hops flavor.  I think I’m going to have to study up on hops a little bit to see if I can learn something about the different varieties and flavors they impart. I’ve tasted some hops flavors that were so harsh as to be very unpleasant, and I’d like to know why the huge difference. As to palate, this is a medium bodied beer with a slightly creamy mouth feel.  Overall it has a nice balance between bitter and sweet. I think it’s a perfect late summer (going into fall) beer. It has that great crisp, citrus hops that you would associate with a summer thirst quencher, but a heavier creamy body that would pair well with rich harvest scents and flavors.   I drank a second one, and the arthritis pain that has been bothering my knees for the last couple of days is a little less noticeable.

Hoegaarden Beer Review

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I like beer.  I like beer a lot. I used to hate beer. When I first married my husband, I would take a sip of his Miller High Life and then shudder. Don’t ask me why I kept doing it, but for some perverse reason I kept taking sips of his gross beer. This went on for a few years.  Then one day I took a sip and realized it wasn’t so bad. Eventually, I would actually drink one on a hot day.

Then everything changed. My sister married Roger. Roger likes beer more than anyone I know….. and he has the Top 100 Beer Rater ranking on to prove it. Currently, he’s rated more than 3600 beers. I’ve rated a measly 27. Roger is my beer hero!

Because of Roger, I hate Miller High Life again. Thanks to my beer hero I was introduced to a world of creamy dark stouts, light crisp wheat beers, tart Belgian Lambics, dark malty Scottish ales, and …. oh you get the point. There’s an astounding variety of styles of beer, and I’ve just begun to scratch the surface.  Oh…. a little side note… my husband hates just about every beer I can convince him to taste. The only beer I really see him enjoy are Miller High Life and Jamaican Red Stripe. When it comes to beer we’re a mixed religion family.

I promise not to deluge you with beer reviews. I’ll only bother you with some of the better beers I try. I’m still a newbie to beer tasting, so please bear with me if you have more experience.

This past winter I was trying a lot of porters and stouts, but this summer I’ve been trying more wheat beers and have found a few that I really like.  On of the best I’ve tried so far is  Hoegaarden Witbier. The brewers description is an unfiltered Belgian White, flavored with coriander and orange peel, creating a sweet & sour taste.

When I poured it into my glass it was a hazy pale yellow and had a frothy white head that disappeared quickly. The first thing to hit my nose was a definite sense of banana and yeast. After another sniff or two I picked up a bit of citrus. The flavor of the beer was  in keeping with aroma. It had a great fruity/banana flavor, as well as a prominent yeasty/wheat taste. There was also a light citrus flavor that gave the beer crispness . Combined with a light carbonated body, I found this beer perfect for a hot summer day.  I’d like to rate it again later as my palate becomes more experienced to see if I can pick up the spices used in the brewing. This time around I wasn’t able to pick up those flavors.  Because of the extreme heat and humidity we’ve been having, I drank this pretty cold, which may be why I wasn’t able to pick up the spice flavors. When I get around to re-rating it, I’ll be sure the beer is a more appropriate temperature.

One last thing…. be still my beating heart!! My husband liked this beer and asked me to pick up some more! From what I know, this beer has a rather wide distribution so you should be able to find it in a well stocked liquor store.