Boston Beer Adventure

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Boston, MA for Beer Advocate’s Night of the Funk at the Cyclorama—part of their 9th annual Belgian Beer Fest. We opted to not participate in the giant beer fest on Saturday and to just enjoy the funky goodness of Friday night’s tasting. We sampled around 60 various beers from American Wild Ales to Sour Lambics to a Wood Aged Abbey Ale, and even though they were only pouring 2 ounces each, I managed to get tipsy enough to not recall much. We definitely enjoyed the limited gathering of only 500 people; the space never felt crowded, there was plenty of beer (Except Mikkeller’s ran out almost immediately), and some tasty snacks to be had. We had the opportunity to sample some of the local breweries that are doing the wild yeast styles which got us excited for the following day’s plans to visit the local breweries.

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I was holding those for friends, I swear!

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The plan was to get to the Sam Adams Brewery when they opened for tours at 10am but our over-exuberance of the previous night left us dragging through the morning. I think we finally managed to find our way via the T before noon. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately as to be told by friends that did go on the tour), I did not make the tour of the facility as the smells and the sounds worked against my hangover. Though I did manage to get some outside shots :)

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By the time we made it north to Everett to visit Idle Hands and Night Shift Brewing, I was in much better spirits and ready for some beer tasting. The two breweries share a warehouse space in an industrial area that was sketchy enough to make our taxi driver worry for us.

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Idle Hands is housed in a smaller space with one guy running the taps that greats you immediately at the door. They offer 2 ounce tastings for free as well as growler and bottle purchases of their Belgian inspired beers. We had sampled their Flanders Red Ale (Charlton Rouge, which is their brown ale, Cognition, that has been barrel aged with wild yeast added) the night before and were excited to try their other offerings. We were not disappointed with the range of styles they had available. All were well crafted and delighted the palate, I only wish they were available in Georgia!

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Night Shift Brewing was significantly larger and had some tables set up for you to relax and enjoy your tastings next to a wall of barrels filled with various beers. I spotted two out of the three owner/brewers at the helm pouring for the crowd that was gathering. They offered tastings, flights, growlers, and bottles of their beer in a variety of styles from Habanero to Honey Dew Melon. We had sampled two of their Berliner Weissbier the night before and I really enjoyed the range and variety of flavors (I can’t say styles as they seem to be a blend of styles) of the beers and urge you to try them if you are in the area.

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We hailed another cab and headed east to Chelsea for Mystic Brewing, another Belgian style brewery, for reasons unknown there were not present at The Night of the Funk. We found them in another industrial area but in a much larger space than the previous breweries, with a large seating area and bar that offered free tastings of their beer along with growler fills and bottles of their beers. Through the large window behind the bar you could see the shiny tanks and people working diligently. We sampled all of their offerings and found them delicious and refreshing on this cool Boston Saturday.

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In our drunkeness, we completely forgot that we were heading to Trillum Brewery afterwards and were, for some reason, trying to locate the gypsy brewery Pretty Things. After realizing we could not visit them we made our way to Cambridge and had a late lunch at Cambridge Brewing Co. (brewpub) where we sampled some of their beers. Nothing too extraordinary, though we did enjoy their cask ESB especially.

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That pretty much rounded out or day and we wound up back at the hotel locked in the trance of the ‘boob-tube’, we had early morning flights out anyway. We failed to visit most of the good bars in Boston (Lord Hobo, Publick House, Meadhall, Jacob Wirth, and more!) and spent way too much time in the touristy area of Chinatown/Downtown (though we found the Salty Pig and Picco to be enjoyable bars), so a return trip is definitely in order.

 

Beer of the Week: Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weiss, New Belgium/Lips of Faith

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In the waning days of summer, nothing satisfies more than a crisp Berliner Weisse. As I begin this new segment of mine I knew my first feature had to be of my favorite style of summer beer. Though New Belgium’s take on a Berliner Weiss style is far from the traditional, it is definitely a good one to try—especially as the Summer is creeping into Fall.

 

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Jeff Lebesch opened New Belgium Brewing Company in 1991 after biking through Europe on “fat tires” ignited a passion for homebrewing back in his hometown of Fort Collins, CO. In 1996 Peter Bouckaert, a Belgian Brewmaster previously working at Rodenbach, influenced Jeff’s love of sour beers and came over permanently in 2009. The brewery currently produces over 764,000 barrels of its various beers and as of 2012, it was the third-largest craft brewery and eighth overall brewery in the United States.

 

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The traditional German Berliner Weisse is a cloudy, sour, wheat beer with less than 3% abv. It can be found in European squatt or steinie bottles and is served in a wide-rimmed, bowl-shaped chalice, about twice the size of the bottle (because Berliner Weisse should foam almost like champagne) with a shot of flavored syrup to cut the tartness of the beer. The style dates back to the 16th century in Berlin where about 700 breweries produced the popular beer but by the late 20th century, there were only 2 breweries in Berlin still brewing the style. By law, Berliner Weisse may be brewed only in the German capital, because, similar to the Kölsch ales of Cologne and the Trappist ales of Belgium, the name enjoys the legal protection of an appellation d’origine contrôllée.

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New Belgium/Lips of Faith’s Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weiss comes in at a whopping 8%. They’ve taken care of adding the fruit for you, with the Yuzu. The yuzu is a citrus fruit from East Asia believed to be a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda. The beer pours a lovely golden straw color with a nice white head that quickly dissipates with no noticeable lacing. The aroma is a sharp lemony, sour yeast that really hits the back of your sinuses. Upon tasting, the tangy tartness pierces the tongue and then finishes delicate and dry.

You can find New Belgium’s Yuzu in most local beverage stores but, if you are in the Atlanta area you should stop by Max Lager’s Downtown and try their take on the traditional Berliner Weisse, Air Lift, you’ll be glad you did!

Four Georgia Brewery Visits in under 5 hours and 200 miles.

The progression of blurriness in the photos that follow should offer you some insight to the amount of delicious beers I had the privilege of sampling last Saturday.

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The Travel Map from Lawrenceville to all points in-between.

A beer-buddy from Washington DC decided to drive down for a visit during the Labor Day weekend and I aimed to titillate the senses with what Georgia has to offer—beer-wise. I live outside the perimeter on the north east side and knowing a visit south side would be a rare occurrence it was an obvious choice for our day trip. We set out after a fantastic lunch at my local brewpub, Local Republic, around 1pm. 

JailHouse Brewing Company

Our first stop was the Jailhouse Brewery in Hampton, GA, about an hour south from Lawrenceville. Jailhouse has been brewing their beer in a refurbished 1920’s jail house since the fall of 2009. On tap for the afternoon were: Slammer Wheat,  Mugshot IPA, Misdemeanor Ale, and my personal favorite of the day: 4D v.12 - Molly Ringwald (a Red IPA). Four tasting are offered with the purchase of a brewery glass and many other items where available as well (hats, shirts, Frisbees, and more!).

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The space is cosy and packed with gorgeous copper kettles, giant fermentors, and bright tanks. There was a quick tour led by Brewer John Pierce filled with all the details on the history of the brewhouse and its founders. The beer flowed cold despite the humid Georgia heat in the beer garden to the side of the building where visitors mingled with the staff.

Strawn Brewing Company

30 miles west of Jailhouse lies Strawn Brewing located in Fairburn GA. Founded in 2011 by brothers Will and Lamar Strawn and friend Doug Evans, home brewers with a passion for brewing that really shines in their flagship beers. The taps were manned by the current brewers wives (Lamar has since stepped down), Linda and Kim, and they had 4 beers on tap: Scottish Ale, Amber Ale, American Wheat, and their newest Strawn IPA. We purchased a glass and enjoyed all 4 beers. We had just missed the tour but did have a peek at the equipment as we made visits to the restroom, all had been reclaimed from the dairy, soup, and toothpaste manufacturing industries and kept the breweries opening costs low.

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The vibe of the brewery is a real local pub feel where locals belly up to the bar and converse with the brewers while listening to live music or just hanging outside playing games of Cornhole or Giant Jenga. And just like at your local pub, the conversations range from the beer making process to politics and is always lively.

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Blue Tarp Brewing

Driving another 30 miles north-east put us at Blue Tarp, one of Atlanta’s newest and Decatur’s first full scale production brewery who just opened for tours the previous weekend. After procuring the brewery glass we set forth to sample the beers on tap: I was especially looking forward to the Fünk Weisse, which is in my favorite style for the summer (Berliner Style Weisse Ale brewed with 55% wheat and sour fermented with Lactobacillus), BantamWeight Ale, Hopsided IPA, and we even had the opportunity to taste a very young Mother Hoppin’ DIPA during or fairly exclusive tour of the brewery (a few doors down from the tasting room) since we arrived late and Owner/Brewer Tom Stahl was kind enough to show us around.

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Wrecking Bar Brewpub

We had a little too much fun at the last brewery, so by the time we made is down the street to the Wrecking Bar it was dinner rush and we sat in the fairly empty ‘Beer Garden’ which also houses the brewing equipment below. Located near Little Five Points and Inman Park at the corner of Moreland and Austin Ave. the Brewpub is on the lower level of 20th-century Victorian-style building facing Austin and has been operating as such since 2011.

I sipped on the Habanero & Cedar Aged Victor IPA and Piper Down 80 Shilling Ale while munching on a huge plate of french fries with a variety of dipping sauces and a delicious burger. That Habanero beer was something else and I definitely recommend you give it a try. I only wish I had to stamina to try all their other selections but I will have to save that for my next visit.

I snapped one very blurry photo of the pub that I won’t bother to post here. I was much too concerned with stuffing my face at this point to get any more photos and was in a wonderful beer and food coma on the drive back to Gwinnett County.

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All in all, it was a fantastic trip featuring some amazing breweries on the south-side of Atlanta and I definitely recommend you take the time to go visit yourself! You will really need a designated driver for such an adventure, we kept ours happy with free food, energy drinks, and lively drunkarly conversations. Big thanks to Mr. Syn Lee for the ride :)

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You can find a comprehensive list of breweries in the Georgia area on the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild website.

Do You Have a Favorite Beer App? [UNTAPPD]

I don’t remember who introduced me to this crazy addictive app but I do remember how obsessed with earning badges I became. I found myself standing in the middle of bars, sometimes surrounded by others doing the same, staring at my phone like someone who had little interest in my surroundings. But in truth, I was simply logging and tracking my newly tasted craft beers and the little badge detail made it just that much more exciting. I recall proudly showing off my newly achieved badges and my friends doing the same. So it is sort of social, right?

Untappd a really nifty app that helps you remember what you tasted, allows you to rate it on a scale of 1-5, make little notes, and add a photo, all while being pretty social about it as well. You can add a multitude of friends so that you can track what they are drinking, which has come in handy since I moved away from all my drinking buddies in DC and you can see what and where people are drinking all over the world! It’s kinda like a drinking game I suppose and you can play any time.

I currently have 127 badges that I have earned since January 19th 2012 and I have this crazy goal to hit the Extraordinaire badge soon (1,000 distinct beers and I am at 891!) so when I go out to drink I always order something I haven’t had before. This not only allows me to get closer to my goal but I also have the opportunity to try beers I may not normally try.

Another cool feature is being able to add a beer yourself, so if you are a homebrewer or drink a friends home brew you can add those beers as well! This feature allows you to name the brewer, the beer, add the ABV and style as well as a description of the beer before rating.

It’s pretty easy to see what someones favorite style is based on the level of their badges, for example I am a level 10 on the Pucker Up and the I Believe in IPA! badges, so clearly I love sour beers and IPA’s. You can also create a wish list by manually entering the beer or adding it from the beer screen that you may have viewed after someone logged it (There’s also a Wish List badge!).

 

They also have a Supporter option, this gives you some cool features (such as stats and exportable data) and a special badge. I haven’t opted for this as of yet, so that’s all I can tell you really.

Do you have a favorite beer app? Post it up in the comments. In the meantime add me on Untappd to see what I’m drinking!

*not a paid endorsement, I just dig this app.

Exhibit A(le), Growler Shop

I popped in to my local growler shop yesterday, Exhibit Ale, which is run by proprietor and part time lawyer Jesse Hachat. Located in Historic Downtown Lawrenceville you will find 30 rotating beers on tap and I was determined to find something to take home. Unfortunately, they can (by law!) only offer a limited selection of tastings, 1 for $1.50 and 4 for $5, to help you decide.

It was fairly quiet on my weekday visit so I had the opportunity to take some photos of the space and its owner. Sporting two over sized couches and sparse decor it’s clear the main focus here is the beer.

I have sours on the brain this week but wouldn’t find any relief this day. I settled for a taste of Founders Rubaeus fruit beer, it was nice and light and I can see myself sipping this on the back porch until nightfall. I realized I had yet to try the local Wild Heaven brews and sampled their Invocation Belgian strong ale, it was surprisingly sweet but had a delicious spice to it. As a fan of the Farmhouse/Saison, I had to try Green Flash’s Saison Diego and really enjoyed the light lemon spice flavor. I finished up with Port Brewings’ Mongo Double IPA, named after their defunct brewery cat, it is complex and very hop forward beer. In the end, I went home with a shiny new 32 oz growler of Great Divide’s Rumble, an oak aged IPA that I have enjoyed many times in the past.

Jesse has a great thing going here, if you are in the area and have a hankering for some amazing craft beers, stop in and say hello!

Terrapin Brewery, Athens, GA

I finally made it out to Athens to visit the Terrapin Brewery. Founded in 2002, brewers John Cochran and Brian “Spike” Buckowski knew they could make a unique contribution to the newly burgeoning craft beer scene in the South East, starting with their Rye Pal Ale which won gold at the GABF just 6 months into their endeavor. Fast forward eleven years, they are enjoying their 40,000 square foot brewing facility and are continually pumping out great beers. While it didn’t seem that there would be an actual tour of the facility the day we visited, there was plenty to see and do on the grounds.

After about a 15 minute wait, we were greeted at the door by a large hillbilly Terrapin lazily strumming his banjo. I was trying to take in the gift shop scene when I quickly realized there was a large line forming to purchase the tasting glass and proceed to the festivities. I jumped in line and grabbed their newest vessel in honor of their new canned beer, Recreation Ale ($15).

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There was a large selection of beers to taste: Golden Ale, Rye Pale Ale, Treehugger, Hopsecutioner, and Maggies were on the main bars and a special table was set up for the Golden Ale infused with basil and the Hopsecutioner infused with jalapenos and habanero peppers, both were delicious! There were plenty of Recreation Ale cans on hand as well.

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The weather was being temperamental with a light shower soon after opening that sent many indoors, though most were willing to wait it out and in the end enjoyed a great afternoon with fantastic Terrapin brews and outdoor activities.

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This is an unusual brewery ‘tour’ to say the least. Not at all what my guest and I had expected and are accustomed to, but I can see the draw for the community as a place to come and hang out before a night out or just a way to spend your afternoon. You will experience a beach like atmosphere and it’s recommended that you bring your own lawn chair (though there are picnic tables) and games to enjoy while hanging out and there was a food vendor onsite. The shop area in front is chaotic so have a game plan in mind once you arrive so that you can get your purchases and continue on to enjoy the brewery.

I look forward to Terrapins future brews and encourage you to visit the brewery soon!

Monday Night Brewing — Weekends Are Overrated.

 

The second time (the first is another story) I fell in love with a Georgia beer was at the Local Republic in Lawrenceville and someone told me I had to try this wit beer. The subtle ginger was what did it, it crept in slowly and made for the perfect summer brew. I discovered it was produced by a small craft brewery in Atlanta called Monday Night Brewing and was styled as a belgian wit called Fu Manbrew. It had recently won Gold at the 2013 US Beer Open in the Belgian Witbier category and quickly became my go-to summer beer.


When we moved back to the Georgia area last April I was anxious to see how the craft beer ‘scene’ was developing here in comparison to the DC area where we had spent the last 9 years, and quickly learned that it has been under some serious growth since the early to mid-2000s. I started planning brewery visits as soon as I got the whole work thing situated. I finally made it out to Monday Night Brewing last Monday night (when else would you make your maiden visit?) and was impressed with the brewery space and the brewers themselves. Jonathan Baker (Marketing Guy and Master of Mind Control) gave a great tour of the brewery and expounded on their passion for beer and brewing citing their 5 main ingredients for making beer: water, yeast, malt, hops, and love!


Monday Night was founded in 2006 and brewed under contract (standard for burgeoning breweries) by Thomas Creek Brewery out of South Carolina. The brewery itself didn’t have a physical location until 2012 when they acquired a spacious 20,000 square feet building at 670 Trabert Ave. in NW, Atlanta. There, they brewed their first batch of beer in January 2013 and opened their doors for public tours and tastings. Aside from the—somewhat—strange hanging mannequin that greets you at the door, the space is a fantastic place to meet friends, enjoy a game of cornhole, and drink some phenomenal beers. The bar has two approach points, one inside and one outside, which makes getting that next taste of beer a snap. There is plenty of seating inside and out and there is usually a food vendor on premise to help you curb your appetite. I really love the simple graphical style of the labeling, the logo, and the decor Monday Night uses, it definitely helps you locate it in the fridge at the store and gives the brewery a great, present day feel.


I look forward to my next visit to Monday Night and wish I lived closer so I could make it a regular outing! You definitely need to put it on your bucket list for Georgia craft breweries.

Adventures in Homebrewing: Seitan Brew
I am a novice homebrewers by all accounts, I brew one gallon all-grain kits–that I order online–where all the ingredients and directions have been carefully planned out for me. I’ve been doing this for the last year and it’s simply because I want to get comfortable with the process. I hope to one day understand what the hell these Brix measurements mean and that I will be able to successfully create and brew my own recipe!
Long story short, I was involved in a beer trade and the guy threw in a bottle of his homebrew and it was really good, so I expressed that in a note asking what yeast he used because it tasted unusual but delicious. He replied giving me the recipe; it was a wheat beer recipe with a Hefeweizen Ale Yeast that he called a Golden Ale. 
I have no idea where online one can buy small batch ingredients so I decided to visit my local homebrew store. I called ahead to verify that they milled the grains since I do not have a mill and upon hearing that they do I set out. I arrived and explained that I need small quantities for a one gallon batch and they guy said “no problem”, but when he heard my first ingredient (wheat) he explained that they were actually out of wheat due to the last shipment having bugs and had to be thrown out. Well this was definitely putting a damper on things since I was brewing a wheat beer! But then he said they had these small bags of flaked wheat and that “wheat was wheat” so I proceeded to gather the other ingredients. I got home and basically brewed the way I had previously brewed beers with the one hour mash between 145-155, a one hour boil with some hop additions, and then getting the wort down to 75 degrees– that’s when I noticed that it was very “goopy”. I couldn’t even get a hydrometer reading it was so thick. I have never brewed a wheat beer before so I thought perhaps it was normal and was simply hoping for the best so I filled up the primary using a funnel with a mesh screen to get most of the debri out.

By the next morning it looked like I had summoned an evil beer demon and it was sitting there mocking me. I asked the interwebz and was told that the LHB guy was an idiot and wheat is not wheat and I should ask for my money back. I think I will simply chalk it up to experience, move on and wait it out, and see how it turns out. I’ll post up in two weeks after I got to bottle the monstrosity!

Adventures in Homebrewing: Seitan Brew

I am a novice homebrewers by all accounts, I brew one gallon all-grain kits–that I order online–where all the ingredients and directions have been carefully planned out for me. I’ve been doing this for the last year and it’s simply because I want to get comfortable with the process. I hope to one day understand what the hell these Brix measurements mean and that I will be able to successfully create and brew my own recipe!

Long story short, I was involved in a beer trade and the guy threw in a bottle of his homebrew and it was really good, so I expressed that in a note asking what yeast he used because it tasted unusual but delicious. He replied giving me the recipe; it was a wheat beer recipe with a Hefeweizen Ale Yeast that he called a Golden Ale.

I have no idea where online one can buy small batch ingredients so I decided to visit my local homebrew store. I called ahead to verify that they milled the grains since I do not have a mill and upon hearing that they do I set out. I arrived and explained that I need small quantities for a one gallon batch and they guy said “no problem”, but when he heard my first ingredient (wheat) he explained that they were actually out of wheat due to the last shipment having bugs and had to be thrown out. Well this was definitely putting a damper on things since I was brewing a wheat beer! But then he said they had these small bags of flaked wheat and that “wheat was wheat” so I proceeded to gather the other ingredients. I got home and basically brewed the way I had previously brewed beers with the one hour mash between 145-155, a one hour boil with some hop additions, and then getting the wort down to 75 degrees– that’s when I noticed that it was very “goopy”. I couldn’t even get a hydrometer reading it was so thick. I have never brewed a wheat beer before so I thought perhaps it was normal and was simply hoping for the best so I filled up the primary using a funnel with a mesh screen to get most of the debri out.

By the next morning it looked like I had summoned an evil beer demon and it was sitting there mocking me. I asked the interwebz and was told that the LHB guy was an idiot and wheat is not wheat and I should ask for my money back. I think I will simply chalk it up to experience, move on and wait it out, and see how it turns out. I’ll post up in two weeks after I got to bottle the monstrosity!

Successful brew day last weekend. I plan to split the one gallon Saison into cucumber, tomato, and sweet pepper! The one in the back is a Bruxelles Blonde and the weird thing in the foreground is Kombucha :)