41. MKE – Hoptoberfest

What a bad sports weekend for me.

Crying Tebow? Entirely relevant.

First, I was excited that the Nationals were able to force a game 5 against the Cardinals.  But then, on Friday night, they managed one of the most crushing losses I’ve seen in quite some time.  They were up 6-0, let the Cardinals back in it and then were up 7-5 in the 9th.  Sadly, Drew Storen had a meltdown (in easily the most important game of his career) and gave up 4 runs in the top of the 9th.  Crushing loss.  Then on Sunday, the Patriots crapped out against the Seahawks.  I hear the Seahawks are supposed to be decent this season, but I can’t grasp that concept.  The AFC East is a barrel of mediocrity this season as the Jets and Patriots will be battling it out for first place in a division that has 4 teams at 3-3.  Sad, very sad.

On to the beer.  It makes me happy.

Milwaukee Brewing – Hoptoberfest

Sight:  A nice welcoming copper color.

Smell:  Malty aroma, with a light biscuity smell mixed in.  Lots of grassy hops to brighten things.

Taste:  A nice malty sweetness throughout laying a nice groundwork for this Oktoberfest.  The biter grassy hops sneak in toward the end and leave you with a light slightly clingy finish.

My overall grade:  B

Likely to be my last Oktoberfest, this beer from MKE was quite tasty.  A nice ending to the season.

Two Brothers – Oh Brother!

Sight:  Bright orange color with a light thin head

Smell:  It’s definitely a Belgian style.  Subtle cloves with a bright fruitiness.

Taste:  Creamy with a powerful malty sweetness and a mix of light dried fruits.  Very bright and very good.

My overall grade:  A-

Another of Two Brothers’ 15th Anniversary beers that was definitely worth bringing back.  A very good tripel.

Now, I’m off to hope for a better sports weekend. (maybe the Yankees will be eliminated tonight!)

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40. Southern Tier – Harvest Ale

It’s October, which means it’s MLB playoff time!  A fun time of year, if you have a horse in the running.

My beloved Red Sox were beyond miserable this season, and I wrote them off in late August.  It was a sad season.  So, I’ve been rooting for my adopted team, the Nationals (I lived in DC for nearly 10 years, it’s okay).

They’re currently on the cusp of being eliminated, and I’m fairly certain that them shutting down Stephen Strasburg is going to be a big mistake.  I know the argument is that by sitting him, it’ll give him years and years of healthy productivity.  My argument is this:  How often to teams make the playoffs?  I know teams like the Yankees or the Cardinals are perennial playoff teams, but what about mid-level market teams (like the Nationals)?  They’re always fighting to make it, and more often than not, failing to do so.  Why would you stifle your chances?  It’s not every season that you’ll be running on all cylinders and your entire team meshes together.  Why sit a guy who almost always gives you a win (or at the very least gives you a great chance of winning)?  Especially when the reason for sitting him (playing it safe after Tommy John surgery) has no evidence of actually helping.  If the Nationals fail to win the World Series, you will never hear the end of this conversation.  Sports writers are currently churning out arguments for playing Strasburg and they’re storing them up, just waiting to inundate you with them until Spring.  It’s gonna suck.

This week I tore through the Southern Tier Harvest Ale and the Two Brothers Victor’s MemoriAle.  Both quite tasty.

Southern Tier Harvest Ale

Sight:  Gold brown, like fried potatoes

Smell:  Grassy hops with a little light biscuit aroma.  Subtle though, nothing too crazy floating around in there.

Taste:  Malty flavor throughout with spicy grassy hops settling lightly on top.  The finish is clean and a little thin and the ends slightly bitter.

My overall grade:  B

As I’ve said before, Southern Tier tends to be hit or miss for me.  This beer’s a hit.  I really enjoyed this one.  They’ve created a highly drinkable beer with a lot of flavor.  Nicely done.

Two Brothers Victor’s MemoriAle

Sight:  Dark brown in color with the slightest bit of ruby red shining through.

Smell:  Molasses and coffee.  It’s like an old school breakfast.

Taste:  Thick and creamy mouthfeel with mild chocolate and burnt coffee, bitter but slightly sweet with a thick heavy finish.

My overall grade:  B+

Another of Two Brothers’ 15th Anniversary beers and this is a great one to remake.  A good setup for the colder weather too.  Thick and a little boozy.

Well, I’m off to put on my Nats cap and hope they can force a game 5 tonight.

38. Two Brothers – Atom Smasher

Well, Labor Day has come and gone. Which means Fall is here! Or at least the Fall beers. I’m having a hard time saying that Fall is actually here, since it’s nearly 90 degrees outside.

Anyway, we got in our last trip to the pool this past weekend, and it’s now time to start getting out the warmer clothing and settle in with a fantastic Oktoberfest.

I love Marzens. They’re malty and sweet, and slightly refreshing. They’re warming, not winter beer warming, but subtly warming. A nice transition beer.

I really like this time of year.

I got a hold of a couple Marzens this week to get me started. First, the Two Brothers Atom Smasher.

Sight: Deep bronze in color with a light thin head. Just like the leaves on the trees (that will be turning soon, I know, it’s too early).

Smell: Biscuits, malts, a nice light hoppiness, and a slight red wine aroma (grapes and wood). Very interesting for a Marzen.

Taste: Malty and creamy, a sudden rush of carbonation. It settles into a light spiciness (like pumpkin pie) and a mild fruit flavor.

My overall grade: B

A good start to Fall. I like what Two Brothers did with this one. Something a little out of the ordinary, but didn’t deviate too far.

Speaking of deviating too far…

Sight: Brown with a subtle orange tint. A thin white head.

Smell: Huge hop aroma, very floral, not really fitting for what I would consider a Fall beer

Taste: Malty and creamy to start out. There’s a subtle spiciness to follow and then an explosion of bitter hops. The finish is very dry.

My overall grade: C

I understand that with a name like “Hoptober” I should really know what I’m getting myself into, but it was just a little too much. I appreciate that New Belgium was trying to do something a little out of the ordinary, but I was hoping for more malts and less hops. A decent beer, but not for the season.

I’m off to pick up a few more Fall beers!

33. Stillwater – A Saison Darkly

We went to the Shedd Aquarium this past weekend.  It was awesome!  Well, it was pretty cool for me (cause, ya know, I’m old and I’ve seen lots of fish before), but it was incredible for my daughter.  Eleanora went crazy for the fish!  Or as she likes to call them “ish!”.  For this week, she wanted me to share a letter she “wrote”.

Dear Shedd Aquarium,

I’d like to let you know that you are the coolest.  I saw lots of fish.  And when I say lots, I mean LOTS.  The first tank had so many fish; I wasn’t sure what to do.  I like that I can get right up to the glass and yell at the fish so they will look at me.  Especially the big fish that look like they might eat me, but they seem too tired and slow to catch me.  Thank you.

I would also like to say that you might want to be more fastidious with your entry requirements.  There were so many kids there that didn’t seem to appreciate the sheer number and variety of fish in your building.  I kept yelling at them and pointing to the glass to make sure they truly noticed and appreciated all the fish, but many of them didn’t seem to grasp the intricacies of such a glorious establishment.

Thanks!

Eleanora

It really was a blast.  Her screaming at the fish was hilarious.

This week, I got a hold of Stillwater’s A Saison Darkly and the latest Two Brothers 15th Anniversary beer.

First up, the Stillwater A Saison Darkly

Sight:  Dark, dark brown in color.  Under the lights, there’s a slight ruby tint hiding in the shadows.  Also, very bubbly, pour slowly.

Smell:  Lots of spice and sweetness.  There’s and underlying mixture of dried fruits that sneaks out to let you know it’s more complex than it seems.

Taste:  Creamy mouthfeel with lots of fruit and spice.  It’s very complex and layered with plenty of flavor to keep your tongue guessing.  And just when you think it’s going to relax, a light coffee and chocolate flavor holds everything together on the back.

My overall grade:  A

This is a great beer.  If you find it, get it.  It’s kinda pricey for a single bottle, but it’s worth it.

Next, the Two Brothers Take Two

Sight:  A nice golden color and crystal clear

Smell:  Malty aromas, it seemed almost kolsch-like

Taste:  Malty flavor with a light mouthfeel.  The finish was a bit bitter, but not overpowering.  It honestly seemed like an overhopped kolsch.

My overall grade:  B-

The story behind the beer is pretty interesting.  Two Brothers decided to use 2 varieties of every ingredient going into the beer.  Two water sources, two barley types, two hop varieties, and an ale yeast and a lager yeast.  It’s a pretty good beer.

Well, I better get to Petco and find my daughter a fish tank.

28. Sixpoint – Apollo

By the time you read this, I’ll be in DC.  My little family and I will be taking a nice long weekend trip to the nation’s capital.

It’s gonna be a weekend jammed packed with visiting family and friends, which I’m sure will end with me being completely exhausted.  I’m beginning to find that my vacations aren’t very relaxing.  But, there’s never a dull moment, so that exhausted feeling is always worth it.

I’ll be sure to get a hold of a few DC-area beers, hopefully some hard to find stuff.

Let me know if you’ll be in DC this weekend and I’ll do my best to meet up with you.

This week I’ve started my shift into summer beers.  I like relaxing with a nice light beer while only mixing in the occasional big beer.  Ah, summer.

This week I’m reviewing my first canned beer.  Sixpoint recently made their way to Chicago and I’m sure their sales are through the roof.  Everyone here is talking about them (rightfully so).  I got a hold of the Apollo.

Sight:  Golden in color and slightly cloudy.

Smell:  Bananas and citrus fruit with a wheaty undertone. Like a fruit salad in an open grain field.

Taste:  Citrusy and tangy with a gentle sweetness.  It’s not malty and settles in nice and light.  A nice wheat beer, and especially exciting coming from a can.

My overall grade:  B+

A great beer to sip while sitting out on the front porch yelling at the damn kids to GET OFF THE LAWN!

Two Brothers 15th Anniversary Beer #4 – Pillar of Salt

Sight:  Bright golden color and crystal clear.

Smell:  Light malty scent, very slight rye spiciness, not a lot there.

Taste:  Thick malty backbone with a spicy rye bite.  Surprisingly bitter finish.

My overall grade:  B-

This one wasn’t as good as the others, but still a decent beer.  I was able to find this on draft at Sheffield’s, but I’m hoping to find a bottle soon.  It’s becoming like a little treasure hunt at the local liquor store.

Now, I better get packing.  Let me know if you want me to say hi to Obama.

25. Left Hand – Smoke Jumper

Well, I missed another week.  I have good reason, seriously I do.

It was vacation time for me and my family.  We headed down to Jupiter Island in Florida.  It was fantastic.  It was a greatly needed break in a nice, hot and sunny climate.  I mean, look at that picture!

While down in Florida, I attempted to turn it into a bit of a beer trip.  So, I got whatever Cigar City products I could find.  I made sure I picked up the build-your-own 6 pack at Whole Foods.  I also visited the local brewery.

Tequesta Brewing Company was great!  If you happen to find yourself in that area, make sure you stop in.  It’s a pretty nice set up.  They have a long bar leading you deep into the establishment.  At the back is the brewery.  We sat back there on the couches with the huge stainless steel fermenters watching us, judging us.

We were greeted with this wonderful sight:

The sampler is the way to go.  You get to try out their 3 staples: Terminally Ale, Gnarly Barley, and Der Chancellor.  They also set you up with their 3 rotating beers:  something light, something heavy, and something completely random.

Every beer was great!  They’re doing nice work over there.

Starting with this week, I’m going to run 2 beers each week.  Since Two Brothers is going through their 15 beers, I’m going to try and get each one of them.  So, this week I have the Left Hand Smoke Jumper and the Two Brothers Bonfire.

Smoke Jumper:

Sight:  Dark brown, nearly black with a nice thick brown head

Smell:  Smoky and sweet aroma.  It was like being at a barbeque

Taste:  Surprisingly light with a mild malty sweetness.  There was little to no bitterness to be found.  It had an odd aftertaste that I had trouble placing

My overall grade:  C

I read great things about this beer, but it ended up disappointing.  Everything was great until the aftertaste, which kinda makes me think that something was off with the bottle I got.  I’ll give you another try Smoke Jumper, but I’ll be very skeptical.

Two Brothers 15th Anniversary Beer #2 – Bonfire:

Sight:  Reddish brown, ruby undertones, with a thin tan head

Smell:  Wheat, definitely a hefe-style beer

Taste:  Creamy, malty, with a mild Belgian yeast tanginess to it.  A nice lightly sweet finish

My overall grade:  A

This beer was delicious!  It reminded me of the Weihenstephan Hefe-Dunkel (one of my all-time favorites).  It made me a little nostalgic.

Now, I’m gonna go send Cigar City a letter asking them to distribute up here.

24. Two Brothers – Red Eye

Well, good afternoon!  How are you today?  I hope all is well.

This week has been fairly quiet, so I’ll be taking this time to rant a bit about the Red Sox.

Whoops.

The Red Sox have been playing awful this season.  We’re a few weeks in and they can’t seem to get their act together.  Their offense looks okay.  They’re putting up a lot of runs and making it difficult for teams to beat them (or so you would think).  Their defense is great.  They’re actually the best team in baseball in fielding.  They only have a couple errors and their fielding percentage is nearly perfect.  So what’s wrong?

Pitching.

They have the worst team ERA in baseball.  IN BASEBALL!  Not worst in their division, or even worst in their league, but WORST IN BASEBALL!  What happened?  Maybe Bobby Valentine should let them enjoy their chicken and beer in the bullpen.  Who cares?

Speaking of Bobby Valentine… I hate the guy.  Already he’s stirring up trouble in the clubhouse.  He calls out Youkilis to the media, saying that he’s lazy (or something to that affect).  This of course confused Youkilis and caused Pedroia to come out and defend him.  Bobby Valentine needs to watch his step or he’ll be looking for another job.  I really hate him.  In fact, I think I’ve always hated him.  He was aggravating when he was managing the Mets and I couldn’t stand listening to him on ESPN.  It was nice when he was in Japan, you never had to hear or see him.  Although, there was that one time he was caught in the dugout with a fake mustache; that was funny.

So, the Red Sox are now tasked with sorting out their pitching debacle.  Something I hope they sort out soon.

Side note:  tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Fenway.  If you’re near Boston, it may be a good day to spend in the city.

This week I had the pleasure of drinking the Two Brothers Red Eye.

Sight:  Black.  Completely.  A nice creamy tan head that stuck around for a long time.

Smell:  Coffee.  Lots of coffee.

Taste:  Surprisingly light in the mouthfeel.  A lot of coffee flavor, but not overpowering.  A mild chocolate with a slightly bitter finish.  Ended quite clean for how big and dark this beer is.

My overall grade:  A-

From the bottle:

Red Eye Porter is the first of our 15 archive recipes we will brew to celebrate our 15th anniversary.  Red Eye debuted in the Spring of 2009 and quickly won acclaim from the public and press alike.  We brewed it a second time, which was the last time we made it, in the fall of 2009.

Since then it has easily become the most requested beer for us to bring back (like almost every day).  So, we hope you enjoy the start of our fun 2012 project.

This beer is great!  Happy Anniversary to Two Brothers.  I’m looking forward to the other 14 beers to sneak out of the archives.

I’m off to dust off my Youkilis jersey.

7. Two Brothers – Northwind

I’m a bit beat up this week.

I hadn’t been to the gym in over a year and it was definitely time to get back into the swing of things.  I was trying to decide whether I wanted to join the gym at my office or find somewhere else to work out when my wife suggested the LA Boxing gym down the street.

She joined a couple weeks ago and seemed to be enjoying the workouts, so I figured what the heck.  I checked out the schedule and kickboxing seemed to line up conveniently with my free time.  So I headed in, hoping that I wouldn’t have someone twice my size as an opponent.

I’m now 2 sessions in and luckily my only opponent has been a punching bag.  However, that punching bag has managed to cover my legs in bruises (although, that’s probably because I don’t know how to kick).

The punching bag is the kindest part of the workout, and those bruises don’t hold a candle to the beating I’ve received from the trainers.  After an hour of running, jumping, crawling, rolling, hopping, and diving exercises to go along with my punching, kicking and kneeing, I’m just happy I can still move.

So, to help counteract all the calories I’ve burned, here’s the Northwind from Two Brothers.

The Northwind is Two Brothers’ winter release.  It’s a big, dark, malty imperial stout that’s designed to warm up your cold winter nights.

Sight:  Black.  Entirely.  It’s like old motor oil.

Smell:  A very mild coffee aroma, nothing too overpowering.

Taste:  Sweet and malty.  It has a slightly bitter taste, like old coffee.  Not much in the way of hops.  It’s surprisingly light in the finish, and doesn’t have any alcohol burn which was a little surprising since it’s up over 9% ABV.

My overall grade: B+

The Northwind is quite tasty and it’s definitely worth a try, but it seemed to be missing some of the complexities you would expect in an imperial stout.

I’m off to ice my shins.

1. Two Brothers – Domaine Du Page

14 hours of open road!Well, we made it.  We’re finally settled into our new apartment in Chicago (minus a few boxes and some stray items that we’re having difficulty finding places for).  We’ve got a great place in a great location.  Seriously, we’re about a quarter mile from the lake and about a 10 minute walk from Wrigley Field.  There are a bunch of restaurants, bars, and shops just half a block away.  So far, so good.

Our move took place at the very end of September, and being a Red Sox fan, I was pretty happy I was too busy to watch the games.  My beloved baseball team took a dive that I haven’t seen in quite some time.  It was like watching a disastrous train wreck occurring beneath a glorious sunset behind rainbow.  Such a beautiful moment scarred by such a huge disaster.  Shortly following the implosion rumors started spreading that Theo Epstein (the GM for the Red Sox) may make a move to the Cubs.  I’m starting to feel like the city of Chicago is trying to convince me that I should stick around.  If the Cubs win a World Series, will the Chicagoans burn the city to the ground?  I’m leaning towards yes.  But, man, will it be one hell of a party.

Once we were all set with our apartment, we had an opportunity to head out and investigate our surroundings.  I found myself going to an old craft beer standby:  Whole Foods.  Whole Foods has always been good to me in the craft beer department.  If you live in DC (and chances are, if you’re reading this, you do), you need to visit the Whole Foods on P Street NW.  It’s honestly a gold mine for craft beer.  Always a great selection with plenty of big bottles and rare stuff to pick from.  Anyway, the Whole Foods on N Halsted maintains a quality selection also.  Seeing lots of beer I’ve never seen before is always a welcome surprise.  Also, Three Floyds is readily available (bonus!).

For my first selection I wanted to go with something local, so I settled on Two Brothers (they’re not brewed in Chicago, but they’re close).  I had five options from them, which was fairly surprising for what I would consider a small brewery.  I had had the Cane & Ebel in the past (delicious), so I skipped over that one, because I wanted to try something new, and picked the Domaine Du Page.

The Domaine Du Page is listed as a French Style Country Ale, which honestly, could mean anything.  What comes to mind when you hear “French Style” for a beer?  Champagne?  Maybe Belgian style?  Light and airy with a dab of condescension?  And what about Country Ale?  A farmhouse maybe?  Amber waves of grain?  Perhaps a dairy farm?  Who knows?!?  Luckily, this beer isn’t condescending and it doesn’t smell like the back end of a cow.  In reality, it’s quite delicious.  On to my tasting notes!

Sight:  The Domaine Du Page pours a reddish brown color with a slightly off-white head.  It did have quite a long head retention in my warm apartment.

Smell: The aroma was sweet and malty, a bit of caramel in there.  It had a fresh scent to it, which I’m going to attribute to the hops.  It was reminiscent of being in an open field.

Taste:  A nice malty sweetness that wasn’t overpowering.  The caramel flavors sneak in at the beginning bringing in a soft and creamy mouthfeel which slowly gives way to a light hoppy flavor.  The hoppy flavor isn’t too bitter, it’s very refreshing and actually leaves you with a crisp taste in your mouth.

My overall grade: A- (I’m going with a school grading system, I think we all know that one well)

All in all, I’m quite happy with my first beer in Chicago.  Now, with Theo, if only the Cubs could win a World Series… there’s always next year.