The Fall Beers… It’s Time

I’m sitting here, watching the Yankees try to avoid choking their season away, while also keeping track of my Fantasy Football team.  At the same time, I’m sipping on an Allagash Black (a Belgian Style Stout).  You wouldn’t think these things would be related, but they are.

You see, it’s just about Fall.  (Or, in the beer world, it’s been fall for about 3 weeks).  The weather is getting cooler, the beer is getting heavier, boozier, and more delicious.  In fact, it’s almost Stout season (a more winter beer, but I’m kinda like the beer industry, I rush it.)  But I do like Fall beers, even though I’m a hop head.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest:  This was the start of the craze, wasn’t it?  This malty beer, darker in hue, really sets the tone.  It’s the classic version of the Marzen beer, flavorful, but not overwhelming in malt.  You can drink it, but it’s a bit heavier, so expect a heavy stomach.

Southern Tier Harvest:  This is a new one for me.  A bitter that leans more toward a pale ale.  The hops are toned down, but they’re evident.  This is a beer you can drink all day long, as the leaves are falling around you.  This is a tasty, tasty beer.  Delicious.  Highly recommend tracking this one down.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler:  A traditional Brown Ale.  Not hoppy, and heavier.  Another very drinkable beer.  Perfect for a football Sunday.
But, you ask, what about the millions of pumpkin beers out there?  Not for me.  I don’t love flavoring my beer that way.  I can try one or two, but if it’s not sessionable, it’s not for me.  The flavor overwhelms me.  Dogfish puts together a good one, but that’s about the only one I’ve had.

Pumpkin isn’t for beer, it’s more for coffee… and even that’s pushing it.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time Trade Paperback by Dan Slott

Spider-man has always held a special place in my heart.  When I was a kid, I can remember going to the drug store on Valley Road and picking up the latest issue–whether it was Amazing Spider-man 275 (which I never got to read the 2nd half of) or a Marvel Tales reprint of the Looter issue.

So, when it got closer to my own son being born, I started to read the websites about Spider-man again.  I knew about One More Day and I followed some of the Next Big Thing that followed it, but once the BIG TIME collection came out, I knew I had to have it.

So, how was it?

It reminds me of Spider-man of old.  Peter Parker is having a stroke of good luck: new girlfriend, new job, and some positive press for Spidey.  Of course, J Jonah Jameson still hates him (and JJJ is the mayor now…), but things are good for Spider-man.  But Slott turns that good vibe on it’s side, challenging parts of Spider-man we’ve never seen before.  Spider-man loses a key power, and supervillains use that to their advantage.

Spider-man also decides No One Dies, and overtaxes himself to make sure that happens.

Overall, it’s great fun.  Slott understands that when it’s at it’s best, the comic is a soap opera with some superhero action on the side.  He spends a great deal of time building up Spidey’s support cast, and I expect a bunch of those plot lines to start to pay off in future episodes.

It was a great read.  I hope my son, Ben, enjoys it as well.

STONE, Enjoy by 9.21.12 IPA

Press release from the Stone Brewing Company.  This sounds pretty cool:



ESCONDIDO, Calif. (August 20, 2012) — Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA is devastatingly fresh. Yes, devastatingly. Why? It’s specifically brewed NOT to last. Imagine a beer that MUST be consumed by the date prominently featured on the front in order to preserve its hoppy goodness. Well Stone fans, imagine no more. Stone Brewing Co. is unleashing said beer in Chicago, New Jersey and Southern California, enter “Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA.” This amazingly fresh double IPA is loaded with hops—11 different varieties to be exact, giving the beer a massive hop profile and a balanced palate of bitterness and dryness.

“At Stone we take freshness seriously, so much so that we laser-etch the Enjoy By date on each bottle,” Greg Koch, Stone Brewing Co. CEO and co-founder stated. “However, Stone Enjoy By IPA is a project that takes freshness to an entirely new level.”

The “Enjoy By” date printed on each bottle is reflective of a 35-day package-to-drink cycle, meaning to fully maximize the beer’s hop glory, it must be consumed before or by the end of the 35-day cycle. And Stone is making sure it will be; on September 22, if any beer remains on the shelf it will be immediately removed. This is an unprecedented feat of coordination by Stone…but this beer is worth it. How can you locate one of these awesomely fresh bottles? Visit and use the interactive map to find exactly which retailers, restaurants and bars are carrying the beer, either in bottles or on draft. If it looks like Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA isn’t at a location near you don’t fret, we will unleash this beer to other markets in the future!

Since Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA is a very limited release, Stone Brewing Co. will measure “buzz” for the beer through the company’s social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (StoneBrewingCo) and the Enjoy By IPA website. Fans of the beer will be able to express their desire to get Stone Enjoy By IPA back in their city by using any or all of these. Hopheads are encouraged to comment, tweet, Instagram, and share with fellow hop enthusiasts in real time, all in one place….ohh, did we mention go to

Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA social media mavens are encouraged to use the following hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to plead for the beer’s return to their city, or just preach the sheer awesomeness of this IPA:

Southern California fans: #EnjoyBy #SoCal
Chicago fans: #EnjoyBy #Chi
New Jersey fans: #EnjoyBy #NJ

Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA

Blog Post:

Stats: 9.4% abv, 88 IBUs
Availability: Limited 22-ounce bottles and draft, beginning August 17
Hops bill: Calypso, Super Galena, Simcoe, Delta, Target, Amarillo, Motueka, Citra, Cascade, New Zealand Nelson Sauvin, and Australian Galaxy
Distribution: Southern California, Chicago and New Jersey

Mitch Steele

Tasting Notes, provided by Brewmaster Mitch Steele

Appearance: Golden with a creamy white head
Aroma: Intense dank hoppiness, resin, peaches, and hints of tropical fruit are all evident in the aroma.
Taste: Smooth malt upfront, quickly dissipating into a massive onslaught of hops.  The dankness and peach come through strongly.
Palate: Smooth, hints of alcohol, and a perfect balance of bitterness and dryness on the back end.
Overall: We took the opportunity with this beer to use several interesting techniques we’ve learned during our many years of brewing great Double IPAs.  The result is an intense dry beer with very little malt sweetness, but with plenty of malt flavor to provide a background to the enormous…or shall I say “ginormous” hop character.

Hopping, as might be expected, was over the top. First, the brew was mash-hopped with Calypso, a beautiful fruity hop that we also used in our Stone 16th Anniversary IPA, after which we kettle-hopped with a very small dose of Super Galena hop extract for bittering. Then, using a technique known in homebrew circles as “hop bursting,” we loaded up very heavily on the flavor hops at the end of the boil and in the whirlpool. Simcoe, Delta, Target and Amarillo were used in the late kettle hop. Motueka, Citra, and Cascade were used for the whirlpool hop. As you can clearly tell, this beer was super hoppy even before we dry-hopped it, but then we went for it…dry-hopping with one pound per barrel EACH of New Zealand Nelson Sauvin and Australian Galaxy. Drink extra-super-dank-and-tasty Stone Enjoy By 09.21.12 IPA well before its 35-day shelf life to maximize the pungent glory that this beautiful, intense hop profile provides.

"Dr." Bill Sysak

Suggested food pairings, provided by “Dr.” Bill Sysak

Appetizers: Guacamole, kimchi, salt and pepper shrimp (or tofu), sausage-stuffed jalapeños
Main course: Chicken-fried steak, Merguez sausage, gumbo, chile relleno, Thai drunken noodles
Dessert: Carrot cake, peach cobbler, ginger spice cake, pumpkin cheesecake
Cheeses: Parmigiano-Reggiano, extra aged Cheddar, Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue, Mimolette
Cigars: Alec Bradley Trilogy Authentic Corojo, Altadis U.S.A Edición Limitada, Camacho Select

Craft Beer Bars: The Cloverleaf Tavern

ImageThe Cloverleaf Tavern in Caldwell, NJ was the first craft beer bar I ever went to.  I’d heard about the bar’s signature beer promo:  The MBA.  The MBA stands for a Master of Beer Appreciation.  It’s the greatest idea in the history of beer ideas.

When you sign up, you get a card with a list of beers on it.  Ales, IPAs, Lagers, Belgians, Seasonals and more.  Every time you have a beer on the list (start with the seasonal that’s in season so they don’t run out)… it gets checked off.  After a year,–yeah it takes about a year)–you get your degree.  Your name up on a plaque, a gift card, a t-shirt, and the right to drink out of a 20 oz glass when everyone else gets a regular old pint. 

I got to try some great beers when going for my MBA (of course I have it).  Dogfish Head Old School was probably the highlight, drinking that to substitute for Dogfish Head 120–which was out that year.  Plus, there are some “regular” beers to help initiate the uninitiated… like Stella Artois.  Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale was a great one as well.

But getting your MBA is just the start.  After that, you move on to the PhD–you guessed it (or maybe you didn’t) Professor of Hops And Drafts.  This program is much more intense.  It’s a year long program, broken down into semesters (aka Seasons).  Each season there’s a new beer list-13 to 15 beers to try before the next season comes along.  At the end you get another t-shirt, another plaque, a bigger gift certificate, and you can drink out of an even bigger mug. 

Definitely the highlights of my drinking at the ‘Leaf came here.  Schlafly AIPA was discovered because of this program.  McNeill’s Dark Angel stout.  As we went through the program, my friend and I checked off our favorite–and, unfortunately, least favorite beers–of the season.  I finished my program last winter.  You can do it again, as the beers are always changing.  Each time you go through the program, the rewards amp up.

And the Cloverleaf is a place to get more than just beer.  They have great burgers (and have introduced me to the wonder A-1 sauce on a burger), a fantastic Sunday brunch, and some very cool promotions.  If you’re just getting into craft beer, this is the place to go.  A great place to learn about beer, and to discover your favorite styles.

Happy Anniversary, Carton Brewing

Today’s Cocktail Hour choice is from a favorite local brewery.  I am drinking a Carton Brewing SS 2012 (We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat).  It’s an Imperial Pale Ale, an amped up version of their Flagship Beer, Boat Beer.  Boat Beer is a nice session pale ale.  Simple, easy, drinkable.  Great for a summer afternoon.

This beer knocks the Boat right out of the water.  It’s hoppy, malty, declicious goodness.  It has everything one wants in a beer.  The bigger hops, the sweetness from the malts.  This is Carton’s best beer (and believe me, they have a lot of good beers).  They brewed this beer for their 1 year anniversary, which is this month.

I love Carton Brewing.  My first trip to Carton was on a snowy January afternoon.  My wife and I took a ride down to Atlantic Highlands, a small town along the Jersey Shore.  The brewery is one of the most chill, relaxing places I’ve ever visited for beer.  It’s in a building that looks like a converted Firehouse  On Saturdays, they’re open from 12 to 5, and I think I got there at 4:45, expecting to run upstairs, try the beers, buy a pint glass and run out.

Instead, I got something completely different.  The bar area was packed with about 15 people all sampling the beer, talking, laughing, and watching college basketball.  I thought I was going to have to wait forever, just to get a sample.  Instead, one of the guys behind the bar made eye contact with me, and said, “You ever been here before?”

When I responded, “No,” he stopped what he was doing and gave me the personalized tour of the brewery.  He focused on the importance of their water, if I remember correctly.  Then, once he finished, he shrugged and said, “Let’s go drink some beer.”

Each beer came with a story–and my favorite that day was the Carton of Milk Stout, a dark beer that rings in at such a low alc %, that you never feel full.  It was the best hands on brewery tour I’ve had.  Since then, any time Carton is on tap, I make sure I grab a pint. And last night, I found out the anniversary beer was going to be at a Growler Station so I knew I had to fill up.  (I also picked up some Carton of Milk.)

SS 2012 is a great New Jersey beer.  I know it’s meant to celebrate their anniversary, but I hope it comes out every year at this time.  Hell, it should even beer a regular year-round beer.  It’s that good.  Enough alcohol to give you a buzz, but light enough to sip at cocktail hour.  Either way, Carton sells you on flavor, fun, and great employees.

Can’t wait to stop by the firehouse again, soon.

Happy Anniversary, Carton… Here’s to many more.

Cocktail Hour

Summer is waning.  It’s mid-August, and September is rumbling toward us.  School starts again.  Soon the weather will get cold and the fun will be over.  And a different kind of fun begins (stout season… oh yeah.)

Meanwhile, my wife and I haven’t had much of a summer.  For most of July and some of August we were waiting for our first child to be born.  We weren’t able to go on vacation.  We didn’t hang out by a pool.  We went to a few BBQs, but mostly we just waited.

Last week, our son showed up. 

So, there’s still some summer left for us.  We’re enjoying our baby, enjoying the warm weather, and just enjoying being a family.  That said, there’s still no vacation on the horizon.  We’re kind of house bound.  So, we’re making due with what we can.  And, that means taking part in one of my favorite parts of vacation…. the cocktail hour.  (Kind of like Happy Hour, but… every day–and without the drink specials.)

Every day at 4:30, I declare it Cocktail Hour.  We break out the chips, the wife has a soda (for now) and I have a beer.  My beers have been of the summer variety.  Full Sail IPA has been a popular choice.  Narragansett Summer (see? it’s still SUMMER gosh darn it), is one of the best summer beers out there.  Today I also picked up a 4 Seasons IPA by Voodoo Brewery, which I intend on sampling.

Gotta do something otherwise you go stir crazy.

Now, I know this is a beer blog, but what are you favorite cocktail hour drinks?

The Myth of the ESB (Extra Special/Strong Bitter)

And here’s where the UK of old–very, very old–screwed up some marketing potential. 

The last time I stopped by my local liquor store, I picked up a six pack of Anderson Valley’s Belk ESB.  I’d seen it reviewed a few places, and it got high, high marks.  I’m a fan of Red Hook’s ESB and Yards ESA, and wanted to try some of the higher rated ESBs.  (Still searching for Fuller’s ESB, btw). 

As I was making my purchase, the owner of the store commented on what a good beer it is, and I replied that I’d been really into Bitters lately.  He agreed they’re good beers, but said that a Bitter is their worst seller.  It’s because of the name.  People don’t want to buy something that is specifically labeled a “bitter.”  Brings up memories of those Bitter Beer face commercials, I guess.

People will drink bitter beers–just look at the popularity of IPAs and Double IPAs.  But they don’t want something that is marked Bitter.  Doesn’t sound good.

But here’s the problem.  An ESB is not actually bitter.  In fact, it’s very malty and is probably closer to a Cream Ale, or maybe even a very flavorful lager.  It’s a sweeter beer.  So, why is it called a Bitter, you ask?

Well, here’s where the UK screwed up.  Way back when, if you went into an English pub, you could get a sweet stout.  You know, an Oatmeal or a Milk Stout.  Very popular, and very sweet beers.  Not a hint of bitter at all.  Solid, heavy beers.  The other kind of Ale they had was a lighter malty beer.  Not as sweet as the stouts.  What to call these beers? 

Well, if the stouts were sweet beers… then the other lighter ale must be a Bitter.

Really, really mis-labled.  But still delicious. 

So, if you’re searching for a beer, and want to try something new, don’t hesitate if you come across an ESB.  It’s bitter in name only. 

Try it out.

Autumn is Coming

If you’ve been in a liquor store, beer store, gas station, or bottle store in the past week or so, you’ve probably noticed something on the shelves.  Oktoberfest beers.  Beers labeled Harvest beers.  Pumpkin beers.  And then, after making your purchase, you step outside and remember it’s still August and it’s 157 degrees out with 110% humidity.

It’s confusing.  Beers can’t seem to get their timing right.  Pumpkins don’t really get ripe until October, so you know all those pumpkin beers are using last year’s pumpkins. 

And no one is in the mood to buy a heavier, malty beer, when they know it’s just going to sit in their stomach and make them sweat even more.  Me?  I just picked up a case of Narragansett Summer, because I’m really not ready to let go quite yet (and I love Autumn).

But what’s the story?  Why so soon?

As we all know, Samuel Adams sets the tone for all craft beer.  And if you remember, they released their Summer Ale back in like… March (maybe April).  It must be their bestselling beer. 

So, once that hits the shelves, everyone tries to catch up.  That moves the market up.  Which means, the breweries have to kind of plan ahead with their brewing of the fall beers.  And because, to them, summer starts in March, then Fall must start in August.

And here we are.  Trying to hold on to the last strains of summer, as the beer community is telling us… let it go.  Embrace cold weather.

But, I’m still a sweaty mess.

I’ll stick with my summer ales until September, then.


The Pros and Cons of a Home Kegerator

ImageOne of my silly dreams in life is to own a Kegerator.  I would love to have fresh tapped beer on my premises, ready to drink at any time.  I debated registering for one for my wedding (we didn’t have a house then, so no room) and I debated registering for one on our baby registry (somehow deemed inappropriate…. I don’t get it).  But yeah, I’ve always wanted one.

Look at the pros:  If you find a beer you love, maybe one you can only get in growler like say Carton’s Boat Beer or Kane Head High, you can always have it at your house, by picking up a keg once a month or so.  You’d also be the hit of the party, assuming you had a beer everyone likes on tap.  Plus, it just seems really classy.  No fuss, no muss, just fresh beer, anytime.  Delicious and wonderful.

But, there are two hindrances to me getting one.  One, they’re expensive.  It’s 500 bucks for a kegerator easy.  And then you have to pay for a keg.  Some of the best beers are 90 bucks a pop.  So, you usually end up relegated to Miller Lite or Pabst, just on money alone.

Second, I like to try new beers.  I love going to the liquor store each week or every two weeks and stocking up with stuff I’ve never tried before.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but it’s always interesting. With a kegerator, I’d be stuck with 1 beer for months at a time.  (Or a month….)

But the allure of a kegerator still stands.

So, what say you?  Those that have and those that don’t?

Is it worth it?

Today Is IPA Day!

Today, August 2nd, is a day to celebrate IPAs.  So go out, drink an IPA and enjoy yourself!

Here are some of my favorite IPAs and Double IPAs.

Kane Head High:  From the New Jersey brewery, and one I’ve reviewed before, Kane never fails with this beer.  It is always drinkable, and any time I see it on tap, I order it.  The beer is smooth and full of citus goodness.  The hops don’t overwhelm and lead to an almost sweetness.  Probably my favorite beer, right now.

Carton Brewing 077XX:  A Double IPA (in my eyes), and just as good as the Kane beer.  Smooth and boozy, this is a beer to get a buzz on.  The other great New Jersey beer.  The same hoppy deliciousness as the Kane, and addicting as well.  I’m dying to get back to Carton and grab a growler of this.  It’s been too long.

Troegs Perpetual IPA:  Recently had a six pack of this, and when it’s cold and fresh, it is just plain good.  This only style of beer this quality brewery has been missing had been a really solid IPA.  Perpetual goes above and beyond that.  A great example of what an IPA should taste like, especially once you get your taste buds adjusted to the IPA flavor–if you’re an IPA newbie.

Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale:  Unavailable in New Jersey, but worth hunting down (PA is your best bet).  Fresh and good, it’s like biting into an orange.  The hops are mild, but the flavor is sharp and decadent.  One of the best IPAs out there.  Find this.

There are many other quality IPAs and DIPAs out there that I haven’t coved.  Pliny the Elder by Russian River is impossible to track down, but well worth it when you find it.  Pliny the Younger even more so.  I’m a huge fan of Terrapin beers and their So Fresh & So Green, Green is fantastic.  That was one of my gateway IPAs.

But, today is August 2nd, so you need to drink an IPA.  Tell me which ones in the comments below.