Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oskar Blues - Dale's Pale Ale

Confession time.  I couldn't care less about the Oscars.  In fact, the only Oscar I've been able to think of since all this "Oscar Fever" started its pandemic is Oskar Blues.  Luckily, I just happen to have a few cans waiting for me.  As I've mentioned about 100 times before, I live in a small rural area so we don't have access to everything that a craft beer drinker might desire.  Oskar Blues is one of those beers that doesn't make its way out here, so to crack open a can is always a special treat.

Also, their "Deviant Dale's" began hitting the shelves recently!  Get a few (if you can) so I can live vicariously. In the meantime, this is going to be the next best thing.  Let's pour!

I love the juxtaposition of cans and tulip glasses.

Aroma 11/12
I was very concerned initially as the beer smelled metallic and like minerals.  However, I determined this to be a problem with the remaining water in a recently washed glass and not the beer.  A stern reminder to always use clean (and apparently dried) glassware.  The aroma for Dale's Pale Ale is not exceptionally complex, but it performs its job admirably.  The piney hops can be smelled right out of the can and a small pour allows that pine to fade almost entirely into the background.  A molasses and citrus blend take over and give it a sharper sweet smell.  While the molasses isn't the typical smell for a Pale Ale, it is a welcome variation on the theme.  As the beer warms, a grassier hop note is also introduced and is quite nice.

Appearance 3/3
This beer pours like a fire and when in the glass it exhibits all those colors that we love so well:  burning embers & bright golds.  The haziness dulls down the edges a bit and gives the colors a rust-like quality.  The head is slightly more than a finger, persistent, and ends with a milky pour on top of the existing head.  It's wet and thin, and eventually pinholes of escaping carbonation begin to dot the surface.

Flavor 19/20
The beer starts out fairly unassuming, but nearly ambushes the drinker by springing into the backbone.  The palate soon finds itself surrounded by a myriad of cohesive flavors.  Caramel sweetness is easily found and a warmth can be detected at times with a faded citrus not far off.  Holding the beer in the mouth reveals a toasty, cracker-like malt which combines extremely well with the aforementioned light citrus.  Good citrus?  Crackery/biscuity malt?  Now THAT's a classic pale ale!  The majority of the hops wait to reveal themselves until the finish and they comprise the second wave of ambushers.  Other than the citrus, the hops were all but absent in the backbone.  Now they come forward in a fury!  The tone quickly changes from light malted, citrusy nuanced theme to a reintroduction of the darker caramel and the a wonderfully contrasting bitter.  The bitter continues exclusively to the finish, and with the help of a 6.5% ABV leaves the mouth dry and begging for another sip.

Mouthfeel 5/5
The carbonation was initially very tiny and its lively nature helped add a refreshing nature to this beer.  It loses some in the bottom half, but still has enough to keep up appearances.  The body plays appropriately off of the carbonation.  In the first half, I would have said "medium-light" body.  Toward the end it is safe to call it medium bodied, at the least.  The warmth is hidden, even if at 6.5% it is not a monumental challenge to do so.

Overall Impression 9/10
A tasty, tasty pale ale!  I especially like the way that the aroma doesn't overshadow the flavor, but instead gives a foreshadowing of things to come.  The colors are grand, the flavor is mouth-filling, and the mouthfeel helps makes this rich version of the style still come off as lighter and refreshing.  Beers like this is why we should all like Oskar Blues.  Oh, and it gets extra for being packaged in "the metal" (er, cans).

Total 47/50
I was worried at first because the can reads along the lip, "A Huge Voluminously Hopped Mutha of a Pale Ale."  I thought it was going to be over-hopped for the sake of being extreme and at the expense of a great style.  However, Oskar Blues has me eating crow (not an ideal food pairing), by not only remaining true to the pale ale style, but by also ratcheting things up a notch in the process.  You get the balance, you get the bisuity/crackery malt, but you also get some caramel and a stronger hop presence than more pale ales have.  The result is a delicious ale that a hop head can appreciate, and someone that prefers a bit more balance can also nod their head in agreement.  The can reads, "Rocky Mountain Pale Ale."  Finally, a beer that the Rocky Mountains can be proud of.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Surly - Abrasive Ale

Well gang, it's time for another DIPA review before they lose that great hop characteristic!  This is a beer I've heard a lot about and definitely had to pick up a 4 pack of 16 oz cans.  Allow me quote the can (propaCANda?) before continuing.

My beer run.  Not pictured on top of the BEERamid: Surly Furious

"Sure we're abrasive.  We were abrasive long before we were Surly.  If you visit the brewery you can still see remnants of the industrial manufacturing factory Omar's parents ran for 35 years within those same 4 walls.  Bandsaw blades, grinding wheels, and sanding discs came long before ales and lagers.  Bu let's be honest, this is a lot more fun.  Pale in color, this over-hopped, under-brewed Double IPA has almost twice the amount of hops & malt crammed in the can."

Four thoughts.
1.  That's the only time I wish to use the phrase "crammed in the can."
2.  Does anybody know if this beer is exclusively available in MN?  I have heard rumors of such things, but also seen a number of people with access.  Help clear me up on this, won't you?  Please comment.
3.  This beer was canned on 01/09/2012, so I should still be getting a pretty good representation of this beer as it was when it was fresh.
4.  I'm glad Surly mentioned their industrial roots in the propaCANda.  It goes a long way to explaining the angle grinder depicted on this can.

Let's pour!

Aroma 12/12
Starts strong and sweet with distinct honey, pine, and musty straw notes.  This eventually melds into a splendid citrus bouquet, which itself then blends into an orange and caramel candy.  If you let this beer warm a little, you'll soon find that the caramel strengthens with every minute and becomes a rich, sticky caramel note that you'd swear you could suck from between your teeth.  It even holds its own against the plethora of hops!

Appearance 3/3
A perfect head that initially appears wet and solid, eventually takes on a more lumpy, traditional look and then remains as a disc in my tulip glass.  The color is quite nice and the heavy malt presence allows to take on a variety of shades.  Copper, gold, dark honey, bronze, and rust all make up this virtual fireplace of bright red/orange hues.

Flavor 19/20
This beer certainly comes in waves at your tongue and each newly introduced ingredient seems to fight the one before it for your tastebuds' affections.  It's like a tasty game of King of the Hill!  At first, the beer offers a light wash of caramel with a brighter citrus mixed in with it.  Next the caramel becomes dominant, but only as long as it takes me to count to two!  It is interupted by a sudden splash of bitter before taking the reins again and being gradually overcome by a bright hoppy citrus and a lighter bitter.  The citrus is quite a surprise!  It is quite lemony and instantly demands your attention at the tip of the tongue.  When holding in the mouth a "caramelized sugar" version of the malt can appear from time to time.  Quick "wine tasters' slurps" quickly bring forward the warmth, citrus, & caramel.  The finish is initially gentler than the backbone, as it continues with the bright citrus notes, but eventually it too becomes bitter and with a detectable alcohol warmth that more than once elicited an "Oh, HELL yeah." from this reviewer.  The aftertaste is a bitter made somewhat tangy by the abundance of citrus, and very dry.

Mouthfeel 4/5
The biggest problem here is that the carbonation is all but gone toward the end of the pint.  Granted, I could be drinking it a little more quickly, but I'm writing a review and other beers have dealt with this problem so why can't this one (especially at its price of around $16 for the 4 pack).  The malts make it smooth and full-bodied, and it seems like the beer is sliding around the mouth.  It foams up ever so slightly and leaves a prickle of warmth on the tongue after swallowing (a neat sensation).  The warmth is certainly detectable at times, but is never distracting nor unpleasant.

Overall Impression 10/10
This is a DIPA that offers more than just shouting "HOPSHOPSHOPSHOPS!" at the drinker.  It has a great smooth body, a caramel that is balancing for the most part, and a bright citrus in unexpected places.  While I wish the caramel had been as strong in the flavor as it was in the aroma, it is a wish that is more a fancy than a demand.  Thankfully, the intelligent use of hops allowed for sweeter citrus flavors to come out and not make this beer a bitter bombshell.  Granted, the hops only showed one real flavor (lemon zest goodness), but the prowess used when utilizing them truly made the difference.

Total 48/50
With a name like Abrasive, I was very afraid that this renowned beer would turn out to be a one trick pony.  And while I love pony rides as much as the next bearded 30-year old beer blogger, I'd rather have a beer with complexity of flavor or brewed very, very well.  Luckily, in Surly's Abrasive Ale we have both.  Far from subtle, this beer smashes the drinker time and time again with flavor like waves upon rocks.  Also like waves, the flavors come and go in the mouth; first citrus, then bitter, then sweet, then bitter/CITRUS, and then begins to settle down a bit.  The best part of this beer is, and if you read nothing else about this review, then read this: this flavor pattern happened time and time again.  It's truly remarkable!  Most beers have flavors that can be detected at different times or during different swallows.  Abrasive Ale gave the same consistent waves time and time again (which, by the way, makes reviewing MUCH easier).  It really is a neat sensation to pick up on and try to follow along with.

Kudos to the boys at Surly.  I finally found you (after 6+ hours of driving) and I'm glad I did.  I picked up one of every kind of beer that this particular liquor store had, so be on the lookout for more Surly reviews in the future.  Cheers!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Founders - Double Trouble

I have no idea how I've not reviewed this beer yet.  I like to review these big IPAs as soon as possible while they are fresh and closest to how the brewer intended them.  I got through some of the big boys, but this one has somehow eluded me.  It's another big DIPA from Michigan (Hopslam from Bell's being the other that I've reviewed) and it is often paired against its interstate "rival."  Heck, a local bar in the Quad Cities had an event for just such a purpose!  Check out the awesome graphic below.

Pretty sure this image is the property of RIBCO.
On a note entirely separate I FOUND MY DIGITAL CAMERA!  No longer will my shots be imbued with a pinkish hue.  I giggled like a school girl when I found it.  Not only will I be able to take higher quality shots for the blog again, but I found it just in time for beer fest season!  Now you can be inundated with all sorts of high quality digital images (I know you're excited)! Enough with the ramblin'.  Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
You can easily smell this brew before ever pouring a drop!  It starts of sweet with mandarin oranges and pine, but quickly goes through many permutations.  The first being a bit more tropical with bits of mango, lemon zest, and a hint of warmth.  Next some faint caramel and toasty malts appear.  It settles into what at first seems like a lemony note, but the tropical theme hasn't had it final say yet!  It turns into a sugary pineapple with a classic grassy hop behind it.  Absolutely beautiful, even if it's not much balance.

Appearance 3/3
Extremely high clarity for an IIPA, but it still manages to show a moderate range of gold and honey tones.  A nice column of carbonation ever-ascends to the top and helps keep the aroma strong  The head is fair in size, a light orange pastel in color, and appears wet and creamy upon settling.  Oops, there was a splash left in the bottom of this bottle that managed to put a nice haze into it and remove some of that surprising clarity.

Flavor 17/20
Bitter, bitter, and more bitter.  First things first, this beer was bottled on 01/06/2012, so it's not even two months old.  I can't assume hop characteristics would fade a ton in that amount of time, but I am allowing for some flavor decay.  This beer begins with a dainty lemon zing before delving into the more brawling flavors.  The caramel comes next, which adds a nice, mellow roundness to the whole works and helps the bitterness seem slightly less aggressive than a mother wolverine with a kidney stone.  The bitterness in this in intense and dominates the flavor profile. Grapefruit is not hard to find behind this bitter (big surprise), but other flavors must nearly be sought out in order to be detected.  As mentioned, caramel, bitter and grapefruit come forward rather easily, but the notes of pineapple (or any of the other fruits for that matter) are all but imagined.  As I mentioned in the "Appearance" section, there was a splash left in this bottle when I began tasting it.  I cannot state how important it was to pour in that last splash of beer.  It completely changed the clarity and the flavor.  Before that splash, this beer tasted bitter with little else at all!  Adding that last splash, gave a somewhat balancing caramel and strengthened the citrus.  The finish on this is a continuation of the grapefruit and the bitter, which leads into a dry aftertaste.

Mouthfeel 5/5
I can't believe that this is 9.4% ABV!  I never would have guessed.  The body is medium-full and very pleasantly smooth from all the caramel malts.  The carbonation is ample, but nearly absent toward the end of the bottle and teeters on becoming non-existant save for a quick swish in the mouth.  The beer also posseses a light creaminess not typically found in IIPAs or DIPAs.

Overall Impression 8/10
Lots to love here if you love hops.  It's a well-crafted beer in many areas, including: body, appearance, head, and hidden warmth.  Its smell was more complex than the taste (far from a sin), but the flavor seemed a bit content to overpower its drinker with hop bitter instead of hop flavor.  If you love a bitter beer, this is a match made in heaven!  If you're looking for a bit more balance or to see what hops can TRULY offer a beer, then this beer will still be tasty, but perhaps not your ideal IIPA.  I enjoyed this beer, it is far from being bad or lacking in flavor.  However, to only focus on the bitter of the hop, sells that plant short as it is capable of so much more.

Total 44/50
This score places it at the tip top of the "Excellent" category and rightly so.  It's very well made, laden with flavor, and has not only camouflaged its alcohol warmth, but also apparently wrapped it in stealth technology.  This is a hop lover's DREAM.  If you love hops and you love bitter, then look no further.  However, as I mentioned earlier, I believe that hops are capable of so much more than simply landing vicious right hooks to my tongue.  They can be sweet, tropical, spicy, herbal, piney, woody, and floral (amongst others).  Why not utilize those capabilities?  I certainly know that Founders is capable!  I also know that while some of those characteristics would not have jived with the beer they were trying to make, some of them would have and we wouldn't have been any worse off for it.  I'll certainly buy this again next year when it comes around, but I'll be buying for the bitter and not for the balance.  In finishing, I'd like to give Founders props for making a behemoth beer and calling it an IIPA, when it seems all too easy to call a beer an "Imperial" and then try to get away with something less than.  Good work, Founders.  This certainly qualifies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Samuel Adams - The Vixen

I was very pleased to see these Samuel Adams bombers on the shelf.  It seems I see plenty of the seasonal variety packs & sixers, but rarely their big, fancy, limited engagement bombers.  These must be an exception because I saw these all over the place.  "Good on ya!" to Sam Adams for not only producing 3 gajillion different seasonals, but also these more risque offerings that aren't necessarily aimed at "the masses."  It's a beautiful thing when a brewery is not "scary" to the macro crowd, still caters to the craft beer crowd, can "evangelize" craft beer by giving the macro crowd new things to try, and be large enough to do this on a national scale.

Samuel Adams just might be the most influential craft beer brewer in America and not just because they're the biggest.  Think of the sheer number of people they have gotten to try craft beer simply by being available, reasonably priced, and approachable by the average beer drinker.  The last characteristic is one that was created out of the first two, but they earned it all their own.  Let's face it, to the uninitiated those big ol' walls of bombers and crazy looking sixers might be rather intimidating.  Grocers, have tried to help my making the "pick six" variety packs, but ultimately it's a big wall of beer that most folks have never heard of.  Enter Samuel Adams.  They look like a 12 pack, sit with the other 12 packs, but have a reputation for being a better beer.  The taste has the good fortune to be of high quality, yet not avant garde enough to scare away the macro beer drinkers.  Who knows?  Maybe next time they pick up one of the seasonals.  It's like the perfect gateway beer.  Keep on spreading the craft beer gospel, Samuel Adams!

Editorial over.  Today's review is for one of the aforementioned bombers entitled "The Vixen."  It's a good choice for Valentine's Day, right?  Course it's also a good choice because Samuel Adams recently got their own Twitter account (@SamuelAdamsBeer) and I never properly welcomed them.  Let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
Nevermind pouring, simply opening the bottle puts the perfume of chocolate in the air.  The sniff from the pour shows why.  There are gobs of dark chocolate galore!  As in "Did I just place my nose into a chocolate fountain?"  The strong chocolate fades slowly in conjunction with the head, allowing eventually a roasted caramel malt to briefly appear, and what seems to be a lemony hop!  Lemon?  I must be mistaken, correct?  Absolutely not.  It's strange when it first starts to become detectable, but as the head dies out almost completely, this beer settles nicely into an almost equal parts blend of roasted chocolate malt, caramel malt, and the sharper, almost sour note of the Hallertau hops.

Appearance 2/3
The beer is very dark brown/black in shade and shows glints the color of stained cherry wood when held to light.  The head was enormous on this beer (see above pic), but fizzled down a bit quicker than I thought it would considering its size.  Thea head is a nice tan shade and is creamy looking to the point where each bubble is nearly indistinguishable from the next.

Flavor 17/20
The slight bitter of roasted malt shows itself first and then the chocolate from the aroma can be easily detected on the tip of the tongue.  The backbone continues this blend, but rapidly shows itself to be more than meets the eye (or nose!).  From its roasted, chocolatey beginnings, the beer rapidly becomes spicy with cinnamon which tingles on the tongue.  By the way, the chocolate is still running full force.  After holding the beer a while in the mouth, the tiniest hint of heat is becoming apparent toward the back of the tongue and it makes a pretty awesome blend with the super-smooth chocolate.  The sour hops are present, but with such strong primary flavors one almost forgets about them entirely.  The finish is a insanely bold stroke of cinnamon across the palate before it melds with the cocoa nibs, roasted malt, a distinct warmth, and a faint amount of heat from the chili peppers.  Whether or not someone from a culture that enjoys spicy foods would be able to taste this heat is debatable.  However, being a gringo that enjoys heat, I can say that it is barely detectable in the finish, but lingers on in the aftertaste when all the other flavors have dissipated, which helps it stand out a bit more.  In fact, that's about all the aftertaste is: a continuation of the earthy cocoa nibs and the gently rising and falling of the chilis' heat.

Mouthfeel 4/5
The chocolate smoothness that gets to take over (at times) is very nice and something that a lot of good malts can bring to a good bock.  Much like the head, the carbonation is initially somewhat aggressiv, though never prickly, and then fades away when held in the mouth.  This "aggressive" sensation is somewhat abetted by the spicy cinnamon, which does come across as a bit heavy.  The abundance of malt smoothness plus the lightly foaming carbonation lend a light level of creaminess that seems welcome and not out of place for the style.

Overall Impression 8/10
I dig this beer!  It's LOADED with flavor and very unique ones at that.  It labels itself as a "chocolate chili bock," but it strays far from the bock style with its hop aromas, roasted malt, and lack of clarity.  That said, I don't really care about the "straying from the style" as much as I once did.  What I do care about is the rather abrasive cinnamon that yells at you to sit up and pay attention.  It enters loudly, causes a ruckus, and then leaves almost as abruptly as it came.  It's a great ingredient to include in this beer, but I should've liked to see it blend more harmoniously with the other flavors.

Total 40/50
This is a tasty, chocolate forward beer that I would not be afraid to drink again.  It's a unique experience and if you're looking for something different to try, then have I got a Vixen for you to meet.  I feel that the strong cinnamon held it back in several areas.  It interrupted the flavors instead of complimenting them and it lent itself to an aggressive carbonation.  I feel that this score should be higher given the beer's flavorful nature, but I stand by my ranking.  Samuel Adams has done to me what it has done to so many other drinkers - gotten them to try something new.  I've only had three other beers in my life that have had a chili in them (Rogue, Bent River, Cave Creek) and this one was vastly different than any of them.  The smooth, chocolate-laden malts, bit of chili heat, and alcohol warmth were definite highlights that allow this beer to be a lesser expensive bomber to share among friends.  I guarantee they've not had anything like it.  It all goes to prove their old slogan, "Samuel Adams.  Always a good decision."

And so it was.  Welcome to Twitter!

Monday, February 13, 2012

B. Nektar Meadery - Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser

Today's choice of review is appropriate for two reasons:  1.  Last night was the mid-season premier of "The Walking Dead" on AMC which the wife and I enjoy quite a bit.  2.  An article last week in the NY Times about the Renaissance of Meade.  (Click here for article)

For those not yet acquainted with mead, it is a wine made with honey in lieu of grapes.  Just as grapes can be early or late season (especially in Gewurztraminer varieties), so can flowers and thus even something as incalculable as the seasons can result in some major differences in mead.  Not to mention the different types of flowers (orange blossoms, wildflowers, etc).  Talk about the potential for nuance!  Also this is labeled as a "Cherry Cyser" which I found out is a mead (honey) with apple juice added.  Cysers are also a likely precursor to ciders/hard ciders.

The first time I tasted mead from B. Nektar was at 2011's Midwest Brew Fest in Plainfield.  They made a great showing and were one of the celebrities brewers of the day.  I bought a Zombie Killer t-shirt that day because of the great label art, even though B. Nektar did not have any Zombie Killer with them.  Today is my first taste of this mead and I've been more than patient.  Let's pour!

Big hand to Kelly for picking up this bottle in one of her not-so-recent forays into Michigan!!

Aroma 10/12
This is difficult for me to judge as it's mead and not my usual "comfort zone" of beer.  I have a feeling that will be a recurring theme here.  The bottle smelled of cherries upon opening, but with a 2-3 oz pour in my tulip the smell is mostly wine-like tannins.  They are slightly acidic and smell similar to a sweet white wine.  I am serving this chilled as I saw them doing at the Fest so I hope it is appropriate to do so for this particular style.  It has a lovely floral character that becomes more exposed as the bottle warms a bit.  The added cherry juice begins to show as well, but still lies well behind the "tannins" and the floral esters.  The more this glass warms, the better it smells.  I clearly didn't let this bottle sit out enough.  Make sure this is served LIGHTLY chilled if you have it.  Anything more will do this mead a disservice. (Even if the bottle does say to "Serve cold... zombies hate the cold...")

Upon finally achieving what I felt was an optimum temperature, the mead is an excellent combination of the sweet white wine, apples, and cherry juice with the floral note hanging way back.  Each sniff seems to allow the primary aromas to alternate in the spotlight!  The cherry note does smell like a juice and not that of cherries off the tree or cherry pie, etc, but it is fairly rich.  I'm not smelling any honey directly, but I assume that fermenting greatly alters honey's characteristics.

Here's a question for mead drinkers:  Is the aroma growing stronger because the mead it warming, because like wine it also needs to "breathe" and oxygenate, or a combination of the two?

Appearance 3/3
Since mead is not carbonated, there is no head to judge.  It is crystal clear and has a color a bit lighter than that of a blush wine.  The cherry juice and natural pigments of the honey create a light coral or salmon shade.  Not a lot of hue changes throughout the glass either, just one big cup of cyser-looking goodness.  I really wish I knew if this were good or not.  I can say that it also has some fair legs when given even a small swirl.

Flavor 18/20
This is phenomenal.  Immediately the tongue is bathed in a sugary honey sweetness and a tart cherry wave.  It's not sour the same way that Brett is, but in a sour we're more accustomed to in fruits.  Holding the mead in the mouth reveals a backbone that showcases all this mead's flavors in a wonderfully complex harmony.  The cherries are sweet, but ring sour on the sides of the tongue.  Its tart cherries are the star of the show and we find out now that they are quite understated in the aroma.  Honey lends its smooth, coating nature and blends its sweetness flawlessly with the cherry.  It's a delicious pairing that I'm surprised doesn't exist more in other flavored goods.  The finish shows the darker, more authentic, almost bitter cherry flavor that throws the salivary glands into overdrive.  The aftertaste isn't much, but is a faint haunting of the sour recently swallowed.

Mouthfeel 5/5
Smooth!  Smooth!  Smooth!  I can only assume that honey's naturally viscous quality help make this mead so wonderfully silky.  The body is light as expected, but I don't believe it to be any different than a wine.  Oddly, lightly swishing the mead in the mouth allows what feels like an extremely light carbonation to appear.  I know that most will think that its just from the swishing, but I'm not swishing this like mouthwash!  I don't believe what I'm doing is enough to cause bubbles in the mead.  Is carbonation possible?

Overall Impression 9/10
This is good stuff.  It's not in my wheelhouse of expertise, but I really enjoy this flavor.  It is, of course, very sweet like a cider, and has many characteristics of a wine with out all the acidity.  I would say it's more akin to drinking a juice, but I would not degrade this mead like that.  Juice is too simple and easy.  The blending of flavors in this mead took a lot of work and brewing prowess.  The body is one of the best attributes and if all meads exhibit a similar characteristic due to the honey in the brewing process, then you can expect me to incorporate many more meads into my regular imbibing.

Total 45/50
Why aren't more things flavored Cherry + Honey?  With what a great combination it is, I'm rather surprised that we don't see it in bubble gums, lollipops, sodas, and various other sweets.  Besides utilizing a great flavor combo, B. Nektar has really blended them superbly to allow the best of each ingredient to be recognized.  Can I again comment on the smooth mouthfeel!  Wow!  Even in oak barrels, I don't believe I've ever drank something so smooth.  They have a pretty good distribution in the eastern U.S., so if you find them, buy them. It's a great experiment into the world of mead.  I end with the quote from their bottle.

"Dedicated to the freaks and the geeks!  what started as a top-secret experiment with Michigan honey, cherries, and apple cider became a viral epidemic.  It won't be easy to survive, so grab your weapons and don't forget this bottle for backup!  Serve cold... zombies hate the cold...

B. Ware

Friday, February 10, 2012

3 Floyds - Zombie Dust

Photo blatantly stolen from 3 Floyds' website.
Oh, the interwebs.  A marvelous series of tubes helping bring beer geeks together though they be separated by many miles.  Last Saturday, that is exactly what it did.  Long story short?  I was chatting with fellow beer geek extraordinaire Lance about his recent procurement of 3 Floyds Zombie Dust.  Well, it wasn't long before Lance was good enough to offer me a trade.  Perhaps it was our impatience, or our excitement, or my recent distrust of UPS and a "lost" package... in any case we decided to meet halfway across the state, have lunch, and trade some craft beer.  My wife and I made a nice Saturday drive of it and she even threw in one of her stout cupcakes (with Irish Cream frosting) to seal the deal.

The amazing cupcakes.
Today's review is remarkably appropriate since the mid-season premier of The Walking Dead will be on in 2 days!  The wife and I are pretty excited.  Without further ado... Let's pour!

Aroma 11/12
Wow!  The label says Pale Ale, but this is clearly an IPA if not a DIPA.  Pine resin aroma is thick in the nose and not far behind is a splendid combination of honey, peach (a bit of mango), and grapefruit bitter.  A 2-3 oz. pour for smelling really lets the hops settle down and allows some malts to showcase their talents.  It was a rapid transition from the aforementioned fruits to a musty straw type of malt with herbal hops, the pine still lingering just behind them.  Pouring the full glass strengthened the hops and made it difficult to pick out the odd herbal and musty notes again, which, I confess, I did not detect at all in my first bottle.  However, a general sweetness has settled over the glass comprised of honey and citrus hops.  Caramel may be in there too, but it is blended to well and is competing against some rather formidable hops.  After warming the aroma becomes much brighter and shows its citric acidity.

Appearance 3/3
If you look at the picture below and don't want to drink it, you don't like beer.  It.  Looks.  Gorgeous.  The head is perfect in portion, has a nice pastel orange color, leaves fair lacing, and is stiff enough to shake (not wave) whenever I disturb the tulip glass.  The color is assisted by an all but perfect clarity and is full of bright honey shades, hints of peach, and lightly hued copper.  Fantastic.

Flavor 20/20
It starts with a light, sweet malt flavor that is soon CRUSHED by an absolute tidal wave of hoppy goodness.  The contrast is almost cartoonish and gives me a new appreciation for their bottle art.  The backbone is hops doing their thing.  The primary flavor is the grapefruit, the resin second, and the pine third.  The pine fades away to allow a dull lemon to come through and mingle with the initial grapefruit flavor, making it slightly brighter and more acidic.  A quick slurp brings out the alcohol (ABV not indicated on the label) and a lot of the fruit flavors!  After the beer warms it truly becomes more complex and allows the sweeter flavors to have their say.  The peach-mango note from the aroma is faint, but present and is more easily detected against the now present malts.  The resin's bitterness mixes with the malts and would have us believe that they're burnt, but truly they're a light caramel that, with the honey, tries mightily to provide some sweetness to balance this hoppy brew.  The finish is a sharp bitter that initially tingles the tongue (literally), but eventually the palate acclimates and the drinker is allowed to focus on the creamy texture and drying, bitter, sticky aftertaste.

Mouthfeel 5/5
This beer does a lot of cool things texture-wise.  Most noticeably is that it foams up very nicely in the mouth.  Not so much as to fill the mouth, but definitely enough to cover the tongue in a comforting way.  The best simile that I can give is that of several inches worth of feathers covering a floor after a pillow fight. It's not to the ceiling, but it's definitely buried.  The carbonation is tiny and leans more toward being refreshing and spirited instead of trying to make this beer seem heavier than it is.  Overall, the mouthfeel is... deceptive.  I'd call it medium, but the citrus flavors and the carbonation want you to believe that this beer is lighter than it really is.

Overall Impression 9/10
What can I say?  I really enjoyed it.  It has a big hop aroma, lighter mouthfeel than most "serious" IPAs, and is very complex as a whole.  It smells like absolute heaven!  Honey, fruits, resin, pine... I need to trade for this stuff all the time!  The taste is also fantastic.  It's definitely hop leaning, but if you let it warm a bit you're in for a much more balanced, citrus-sweet ride.  I cannot recommend enough to let this beer warm.

Total 48/50
I think that the only thing holding this beer back is inconsistency.  Maybe it's just so complex that I can't quite get a handle on it and see something new every time.  My first bottle (several days ago) earned the remarks from me, "DAMN! Resin galore and a very light body!"  The first bottle that I had tonight, definitely had some funky flavors in the aroma (straw, herbal hops, etc).  The second bottle was more like the first: honey, hops, citrus goodness, but still offered more caramel than either of the previous two.  I'm not sure what to make of all this.  I'm not an expert, that's for certain.  However, I'm no slouch either and I'd like to think I can taste differences like these.  Very odd.

In any case, they seem to all feature the honey, peach/mango, resin, pine and lighter nature.  This is the center around which all the bottles seemed to rotate.  I'm more than OK with that.  I wish I could buy cases of this.  CASES!  It's supremely tasty and I don't feel weighed down at all.  It makes me wish my wife didn't appreciate "The Walking Dead" as much so that I wouldn't have to share a bottle!  But what's craft beer without sharing, right?  After all, I'm glad that Lance shared this with me.  It's only right to keep the beer karma rolling, to "pay it forward," and share this ungodly, undead brew.  You could buy this for the aroma alone.  It's enough to keep you busy.  A big, fat "CHEERS" to 3 Floyds.  Your reputation is well-deserved.

The bottle reads, "This intensely hopped and gushing undead pale ale will be ones only respite after the zombie apocalypse.  Created with marvelous friends in the comic industry.  Art by Tim Seeley."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fort Collins - Z Lager & Food Pairing

Once upon a time, a very nice lady named Wendy sent me some vouchers for free cheese after I wrote about Cabot cheeses when they attended a beer festival I attended last summer.  I was stoked to get them (since I always enjoy Cabot cheeses) and couldn't wait to pair them with some great craft beer.

But wait I would...

It took me a while to finally USE the coupons and another long while to actually partake of the cheese itself.  The wait is over.  I've been fascinated with beer/food pairings ever since I heard of the idea.  Wines are often limited in this arrangement by their acidity (at least this is the argument given by beer-food pairers).  Not to say that wines can't compliment a food.  On the contrary, they can and have for centuries.  However, as we all know, craft beer is truly coming into it's own, especially the last 20 years or so.  Its flavors are far from finite, its smells are sundry, and its mouthfeels are many.  It simply appears that beer would be able to pair better with foods given its range of forms and styles.  Today, I get to find out by doing my first food-beer pairing.  I elected to go with a complimentary pairing today and chose a food & beer that would be similar in taste and "compliment" each other.  Other options are a "contrasting" pairing where the items contrast, but in an interesting albeit dissonant way.  One can also choose to pair a strong beer with a milder food or vice versa.  There are also camps that endorse a "stong beer, strong food" correlation (and vice versa).  The best part is, there is no best way to do it.  It's taste!  It's flavor!  No one can tell you that you're wrong.  What works for someone else might pair terribly for you.  It's all an adventure!  Now go out there and get tasting!  Let's pour.

For the purposes of today's review, I'll score the beer as I usually do and then try to speak somewhat intelligently about how it pairs with the food.

Aroma 10/12
Being a rauchbier smoke is, of course, very prominent in the nose.  This beer manages to do it without the smoke being overwhelming or giving the sensation of covering up an inferior brew.  The smoke is far from campfire smoke, but falls just short of that sweet liquid smoke/mesquite tone.  A bready malt as well as a lighter caramel lie just underneath the smoke and the bread is the easier of the two to detect.

Appearance 2/3
The beer looks very nice.  It's as clear as a summer afternoon and pours the color of a bright orange liqueur.  The head is ivory in shade, but small even with an aggressive pour though its longevity was a bit surprising in length given the lack of size.  It even left a little lace.

Flavor 17/20
It seems right off that there are a lot of malts that aren't lending a ton of flavor on their own, but then again this is a lager and not an ale.  They are biscuity light at first and the caramel appears even lighter and fainter than in the aroma.  Thankfully, the backbone comes in strong with the tastes of a great, classic lager and a nice amber:  a light, dull sweetness, a mild bitter, and a refreshing amount of carbonation.  The smoke surprisingly takes a backseat to the lager flavors and instead rides along as a compliment to the amber notes (especially those mild bitters).  The smoke is much more present in the finish!  Still far from overwhelming, it is allowed more of a voice as it traverses the back of the tongue and leaves a dry finish.  It's smokiness blends nicely with a hint of spice and a stonger amber sweetness.  The aftertaste is a nice bitter (especially for a lager) and wisps of the smoke.

Mouthfeel 5/5
This feels like a lager should.  It has a good level of carbonation that remains throughout the bottle and foams just enough in the mouth to lend a refreshing nature, but not so much as to come off creamy.  The body is medium and feels substantial for the style.

Overall Impression 8/10
I'm conflicted.  Part of me wants the bigger flavors that I find in my ales, even though I know that this is a lager and should have lighter and more subtle notes.  I also appreciate very much that this beer did not try and hide a lesser quality product behind an overdone smoke flavor and/or aroma.  In fact, this beer showed its lager roots loud and proud!  It's a damn good lager that happens to have some smoke in it.  They just chose to have that smoke featured mostly in the aroma and in an exhale after swallowing.

Total 42/50
I really enjoyed the fact that this is a substantial lager masquerading as a rauchbier.  Not only does the smoke never come close to acting as a gimmick, but it also barely interferes with a delicious lager - instead choosing to enhance the overall experience of the beer instead of showcasing a single feature.  Does this make it complex?  No.  Does this beer go down surprisingly quick?  Yes.  Would I buy another sixer?  Sure thing.

FCB Z Lager & Cabot Smokey Bacon Cheddar
Knowing already that the beer is more substantial in body and bitter than I originally anticipated, I can hope that the creaminess of the cheese will accentuate those characteristics even more.

The cheese on its own starts out with a typical cheddar body.  Not crumbly like a 6-year cheddar, but not creamy like cheaper cheddar (and at almost $7 for the 8 oz brick, it better not!).  Suitably creamy in the mouth and mostly cheddar flavors, but with the bacon's saltiness sneaking around the palate.  The real bacon flavor comes when chewing the cheese/bacon with the back teeth and the cheese starts to fall away.  Then the bacon takes over in full swing and ends this cheese on a salty, smokey meat-filled note.

To be completely honest, this is an experiment for me.  Do I drink the beer first and then eat the cheese?  Vice versa?  Hold the beer in my mouth, and then eat?  I'll test out some different options and get back to you.  Right now, I'm going to try and not overthink it and just eat like I (or anybody else) would eat.

When tasting them together the smoke in the beer's aroma is definitely stronger than the bacon in the cheese.  It takes over at first, along with the lager flavors.  After trying some different tasting methods, I have found one that works well:  cheese, few chews, sip of beer, continue chewing.  The cheddar starts out lightly crumbly and creamy plus nice cheddar flavors, with a bit of sharpness to it despite not being indicated on the packaging.  A sip of the beer adds an amber sweetness and the smoke.  However, continuing to chew allows the smoke and bitter of the rauchbier to transition beautifully to the salty bacon goodness inside the cheese.  I couldn't have planned a better transition if I tried.

How else better to wrap this up than to state the obvious?  "Smokey beers go with smokey bacon cheeses."  Not the most complex pairing in the world, but definitely involves some of my favorites:  a good lager, bacon, smoke, and a nice cheddar.  That's a darn good afternoon kids.  I'd even try either of these foods with steak, pulled pork, baked beans, and definitely a burger.  This combo receives my official endorsement and my strong recommendation to try it.  I wouldn't even wait til summer.  This type of deliciousness knows no season.

Two last thoughts.
1.  Thanks for reading!
2.  It's a bit of a new style/format of review.  Let me know what you think.  I'm more than receptive to feedback.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Brrr Fest 2012

This past Saturday was the inaugural Brrr Fest in Coralville, IA, future home of Backpocket Brewing, and I had absolute blast.  The fact that this festival was indoors in no way dampened its spirit nor the spirits of those attending.  There was great craft beer to be had from all over the Midwest and plenty of new breweries that had been unknown to me until this day.  I love discovering new beers!  Let's get started, shall we?  Wait!  First we should make our pretzel necklaces.

Excited ladies!
Making pretzel necklaces en route!

Very pleased to see such a strong female presence at Brrr Fest!
The Fest was held in a local hotel that will be a neighbor to the new Backpocket Brewing building.  Well, we weren't gonna miss out on a chance to see a new brewery under construction, right?  Maybe we should have. After standing around in the cold for a while, we were let inside the building and saw...

Well, first we waited a while...
Outside shot of the under construction Backpocket Brewery

OK, so we didn't see a ton, but we did get to check out the building in its roughest form as well as check out the floor plans for the place.  It's a large open design that will treat patrons to a direct viewing of the brewing and bottling processes.  Now onto the fest.

The Grounds
After being led for what seemed like mile after mile of a this hotel/conference center, we were finally close to the festival entrance (thank goodness all this line waiting was INside of the building).  Upon walking in we were treated to the following view

Looking straight ahead.

Looking 45 degrees left.

Looking 90 degrees left.
It's a clean, sterile looking environment that, admittedly, lacks the back yard bar-b-que charm of an outdoor gathering.  But it's January and I want to go to a beer festival, so right now this is the best thing out there.  In fact, the lack of festivals in the winter is appalling!  I'm insanely glad Brrr Fest chose to go this route.

As you can see the doors put you directly in front of copious amounts of beer stands and I wasted no time other than that of me dancing from foot to foot and clapping my hands like a 5-year old on Christmas morning.

The Facilities
The three pictures above describe everything pretty accurately.  Big, temperate, and with plenty of elbow room.  I thought that Brrr Fest did a great job with the limit they placed on ticket sales.  It was plenty full, but no so much that you had to fight a crowd.  Lines were always moving well and you could get a sample of a "special release" easily enough if you prepared accordingly.

There was a band playing and it set the mood rather nicely.  Some classic rock stuff from what I heard, but that's the best part... "FROM WHAT I HEARD."  This was not played at the typical outdoor festival levels or those of a live band in your local bar.  The volume was actually sensible and I could easily talk to my fellow festival goers.  I can't say how much I appreciate that.

Seating was in the corner to the right of the band and was primarily there for concession stand patrons, but it was never roped off or designated as such.  The amount of seating was ample and did not take up space that could have been used for beer.

Plus even more seating to the right!
The number of rinsing stations was average.  There were simply pitchers of water and buckets placed upon barrels provided by Cedar Ridge Distillery (YUM!).  They pitchers weren't being filled immediately (which left buckets full of watery beer everywhere), but eventually the staff caught on and did a pretty good job of coming around with a cart full of pitchers and making sure every station had adequate water.  As you can see in the pitcture below, there were also more than enough garbage cans provided.

As if that weren't enough, the barrels were for SALE for only $50!  If you were a home brewer intent on making a barrel-aged version of whatever... even if you're a small brewpub and felt like experimenting a little with one of your proven crowd favorites this provides an amazing opportunity!  At least I thought so, but I don't have a ton of experience buying empty barrels soaked in goodness.  Let's just say that my wife was hoping I wouldn't find out about the fact that they were for sale.

Brrr Fest will also be receiving extra-glitter-unicorn-brownie-craft-beer points for the following "little details"
1.  Providing tasting glasses made with GLASS and not plastic.
2.  Providing coat racks for all the people that would not be needing their coats during an indoors festival.
3.  Ample parking in both garages and paid lots.

However, they will be deducted points for their programs being essentially black & white print on a booklet of folded 8x11 paper.  Good information in there, but not a ton of effort made and no room for tasting notes!

The line at Topping Goliath Brewery.  One of the most popular
booths at the festival!  They rapidly turned into a celebrity.

Best shirts at the show!  I'm mad I can't remember the brewery
that wore them.  If you know tell me and I'll update this!

The lines outside the booth for Peace Tree Brewing.  Please note
the "speed walker" helmet on one of the pourers. :)

More Iowa brewers.

Pouring for Toppling Goliath

Toppling Goliath brought a bunch of different beers!  Kudos!

Some of you may wonder what inspired this picture.  Please see the next photo

Who can refuse that offer?

Olde Main put out their tasty seasonal brews!

Dear Rock Bottom, You should let these two do all of your PR work.
They were awesome.
Love, Sud Savant
Nice display for Sutliff Cider.

These ladies were most hospitable (although camera shy) even at the very end of the day. :)

Best logo of the day.
The Beers

1.  Granite City - "Batch 1000" Double IPA.  I figured it was only appropriate to start the day with my former employer that showed me beer could be more than an adjunct lager or German.  The aroma was of honey, pine, and citrus, while the flavor was malty, not sweet, and with a good round bitter.

2.  Keg Creek Brewing - Breakdown Brown Ale:  Very robust + a nutty roast.  They even add some extra bitter for a brown!  Nice touch!

3.   Keg Creek Brewing - Blackpowder:  Smells of cocoa.  Flavor is bitter cacao and very robust.  Mouthfeel is light considering the dark flavors.  Another good job out of Glenwood, IA.

4.  Lost Duck Brewing - Porter:  A sweet aroma full of dark fruit leads to a flavor laden with raisins, nuts, and  citrus behind them.  Tasty!

5.  Olde Main - Reindeer Fuel:  One of their 3 winter seasonals, this beer smelled like milk and a little chocolate.  I can only assume that the reindeer they speak of eat almost exclusively oatmeal.  The flavor was of course round and smooth as a baby's bottom with chocolate malts and a light coffee note.  The carbonation was a bit high.  Unlike anything I've ever smelled!  Fantastic!

6.  Olde Main - Elkman Milk Stout:  The aroma was very true to a milk caramel and caramelized sugar.  Very cool!  The flavor matched this aroma almost perfectly, but added a little bitter for balance.  I'd buy this!

I also had their "4 Men & a Buffalo" toward the end of the fest, but the only legible part of my notes reads "roast".  Doh!

7.  Peace Tree Brewing - Rye Porter:  The nose is smokey and oatmeal creamy.  Flavors are strongly of Rye whiskey, oak, and a lighter smoke.  Belgian yeasts are barely detectable, but offer a general sweetness.  Wow.

8.   Peace Tree Brewing - Hop Rangler IPA:  Clean citrus aroma and a flavor that is anything but.  It's a spicy, bitter, and earthy IPA.  A nice change from the citrus/pine varieties.

9.  Peace Tree Brewing - Blonde Fatale:  This is a neat Belgian/wheat hybrid.  I can't wait to have this during the summer.

Covered in Peace Tree labels.
10. Peace Tree Brewing - Templeton Rye Oak Aged Imperial Stout:  This was one of the many barrel-aged beers at this festival.  I seems that every 4th beer was aged in a barrel.  However, this beer was aged in the barrels formerly used to house the famous Templeton Rye.  The aroma is, accordingly, RYE.  Wow.  It's almost like cherries are in the background and they're accompanied by a warmth.  The flavor, thankfully, is not as strong a rye note.  In fact my notes read (in this order): chocolate, rye, smoke, and a light char.

11.  Ommegang - Seduction:  Poured by a local taphouse.  This was welcome since I had not yet been able to pull the trigger on buying a bottle.  Served with a nice soapy head, this beer was definitely a Belgian, but with generous amounts of chocolate and alcohol warmth.  I'm now closer to pulling the trigger.

12.  Rock Bottom Brewing - Chai Latte Stout:  The aroma is an INCREDIBLE chai aroma, rich with cinnamon.  It has a strong carbonation and a definite brown tea flavor to escort the more traditional stout tones.  Very neat!

13.  Rock Bottom Brewing - Jarler Juleøl:  Pale ale with juniper berries and rye.  A Belgian yeast sweetens things and rounds things out nicely.

14. Rock Bottom Brewing - Lagrange:  My first reaction to this Black Double IPA?  "Oh yeah..."  Wow!  There's burnt malt, tons o' hops, and caramelized sugar in a beer that's sticky as hell.  Good work.

15.  Sutliff Cider - Hard Cider:  Looks like champagne, but tastes closer to pure, pressed apple juice.  It was served with a great head that fizzed out surprisingly quick.  Almost perfect clarity.  From Lisbon, IA.

16.  Toppling Goliath Brewing - Robust Porter:  VERY true to its name.  This porter is über-robust, dark roasted, bitter, with what seems to be walnut notes.

17.  Toppling Goliath Brewing - Zeelander IPA:  This beer is made with New Zealand & Nelson hops.  The aroma is simply, "WOW!"  It's full of passionfruit and grapefruit.  The flavor is bitter and some hop flavors that I was unable to describe.  I assume it's the NZ & Nelson hops that I am unfamiliar with.  Later on comes the more familiar pine and grass notes.

18.  Toppling Goliath Brewing - Naughty 90 Oaked IPA:  The aroma is citrus and clean.  The flavor was oak + citrus, but seemed off.  They came together almost as soap-like.  Disappointing and given the other reviews of this beer, I am hoping that this was simply an off batch/growler.  It did end with a nice bitter.

19.  Toppling Goliath Brewing - Morning Delight:  So I wasn't actually poured a sample of this.  My friend Kelly was poured a sample for this.  I'm not sure how she managed this, but I don't especially care since she gave me a sip of it.  According to subsequent conversations in the Twitterverse only about 10 people were poured this during the entire festival.  Let me just say this.  Founders, watch your back.  This is almost dead on to CBS without the maple syrup flavor added.  It is thick, silky, and on par with anything on the national, nay, global craft beer market.  I would trade half my cellar for 2 growlers of this stuff.  No BS.

Kelly with her sample of Morning Delight and appropriate t-shirt selection.
Me, septum deep in her Morning Delight.  Wait, that sounds dirty.
20.  Worth Brewing Co. - Bar Belle Blonde Ale:  The nose on this is insanely infused with flowers.  Both my wife and I, in isolated tastings mind you, decided that this beer smells like paperwhites!  Such a strong, floral aromatic nose!  The flavor was honey and light Belgian yeasts.  I would have liked to have had this earlier in the festival to have given it a better review!

21.  Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales - Fuego de Antonio:  I was disappointed that I didn't make it for the 3:00 pm pouring of their Noel de Calabaza, but I'm glad I made it for this one as it was the only sour that I had during the entire festival.  The aroma on this was almost all a very pungent Brett, but did have a few musty notes to it.  This is one funky smelling Fuego!  The aroma is, of course, sour, but not without some spice (cinnamon?) and more of the horse blanket mustiness.

22.  Brau Brothers Brewing - Moo Joos:  A sweet aroma of roasted malt and chocolate.  A flavor more akin to a dull chocolate syrup and a light char.

23.  Lucky Bucket Brewing - PreProhibition Lager:  It smells like a lager with citrus!  A pleasant surprise!

The Food
Can't really speak to the food as I did not eat any, but it seemed like typical concession stand fare (pizza slices, brats, candy, soda, water, nachos, etc) for reasonable prices.

The Debauchery
These pictures will now be shown to embarrass all the people that went with me.  They were great company for a very fun afternoon!  In case anyone was wondering, we did NOT drive immediately home.  We had a nice, long dinner first.  I'll start by embarrassing myself.

The worst part is I hadn't even had a drop yet.

Everyone loves pretzel necklaces!

Some more than others.


No less than 2 dozen people asked us about our pretzel necklaces that day.
It's almost like we've done this before.

OK, so one non-embarrassing photo.

The group!

The end.


This was a great idea and Backpocket did a great job of putting it all together (at least, I assume they put it all together).  My only regret is that I did not get to try a lot of the beers that I know and enjoy, such as  Backpocket, Great River, Bent River, Cedar Ridge Distillery, Millstream, Goose Island, Breckenridge, New Belgium, Crispin, Boulevard, Schlafly, O'Fallon (my wife is especially fond of their smoked porter), Lake Front, Potosi, Sprecher, & Point.  And that's STILL not even all the brewers that were there.  I wisely spent my time experimenting with brewers and/or brews that I had not tried before.

My only suggestions for Brrr Fest next year?
1.  Make it longer
2.  Hotel packages for out of towners?
3.  We're gonna need more than 1-2 pitchers at a rinse station.  How about a cooler?  Pony keg?

Congratulations to Toppling Goliath and Peace Tree for becoming celebrities of this event.  Longest lines, special releases, tons of beers... good work.  The event as a whole was a definite success and I look forward to getting my hands on some more of those eastern Iowa beers next year.  If I can wait that long.