Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Craft Beer Explosion at Martin's Super Markets

If you're like me, you occasionally find yourself at the grocery store to pick up the milk, eggs and fabric softener. In my experience, the only thing that can make this task less mundane is to toss in a beer run!

This is where Martin's Super Market has excelled over the last couple of years, especially in the stores on South Bend Ave. and Heritage Square (Although Eric at Michiana Beer Nuts has praised the Goshen store as well). Before the craft beer explosion, there were only a few places in South Bend with a good selection and while those stores are still great, it's nice to have yet another option.


The tastes of this area have evolved with regard to beer, and some of the Martin's stores that were once known for their vast selection of Bud/Miller/Coors have evolved as well to now include quite a variety of craft breweries.

The man responsible for this, who shall remain anonymous to protect his identity from obsessive beer geeks with speed dial, has worked hard to convince his company that people really will pay $10 for a single bottle of beer. He likes beer, and although he's not necessarily as into it as some of us, he makes sure to follow the area beer scene to keep his shelves stocked with great beer.

It has paid off...


In the past two years alone, the space dedicated to beer at the South Bend Ave store has over doubled, with even less space dedicated to the fizzy yellow stuff. You'll find most of the favorites here now from the likes of 3 Floyds, Bell's, Founders, Great Lakes, Stone, Goose Island, and many more. Along with the regular and seasonal lineups from these breweries, as of about a year ago, they are now one of the key spots for specialty releases as well, bottles that were typically much more difficult to find.

So when your husband/wife/life partner complains that you are spending way too much on beer, take a tip from me and hide it in the grocery budget!

Monday, January 28, 2013

South Bend Craft Beer Week

For those of you that don't currently follow us on Facebook, I posted a note last week stating that most cities with a serious craft beer scene have a yearly "Craft Beer Week," and followed that up by asking, "So why not South Bend?" The response was huge!

These craft beer weeks tend to involve a wide array of events at all types of establishments in the area, such as Beer/Food pairings, Tap takeovers, special tappings, etc. Due to the response, I decided to move forward with planning the 1st Annual South Bend Craft Beer Week and have teamed up with South Bend Foodies to help take this to the next level.

So other than the fact that I'm shooting for late May or early June, there aren't any specific details at this time. I wanted to get the word out as soon as possible however so that a "buzz" could be generated, and the week could be thoroughly planned.

A dedicated website has been reserved for this, which I will unvail as soon as possible. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions, questions, etc., feel free to send me an email (andy@thebeerisgood.com), hit me up on Facebook, or contact South Bend Foodies (southbendfoodies@gmail.com).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Founders Brewing Co. finds new approach to releasing KBS

On a yearly interval, Founders Brewing company releases one of the top beers in the country, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. Currently ranked #9 by users of the popular craft beer site, BeerAdvocate.com, this beer has become very difficult to find over the last few years. In previous years the brewery would hold an official release day on which fanatics would gather their mules (beer slang for people brought along to facilitate the purchases of excess quantities), and stand outside the building as early as midnight, just to receive 12-24 bottles each when they opened at 10 or 11. Last year, the craziness came to a head when the turnout was so overwhelming that Founders cut in half the stated allotment of one case per person, and even then, hundreds left empty-handed.

Fast-forward to this year with the most recent installment of their Backstage Series, Bolt Cutter. To avoid long lines and chaos, they chose to sell tickets to buy bottles, with proceeds benefiting local charities. Each person that bought a ticket was able to pick up two bottles on a specified day, over a 5 day period. No lines, no mules, no insanity. Tickets didn't even sell out for a couple of weeks, giving all of those interested a chance to grab one. Their approach worked so well that it is now being carried over to the KBS release, with a limited amount getting distributed throughout the brewery's footprint.

For some, the camaraderie of standing in the cold for hours and sharing beers with complete strangers is part of the experience. For the rest of us with grown-up responsibilities that love this beer and would like to purchase more than a few bottles at their local store, the change is welcomed.

So after my long-winded description of the event surrounding one of my favorite beers, here is the release information directly from Founders...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Historic Drewry's Beer Reborn


This is the type of news that develops acute, localized tension in the already tight skinny jeans of Hipsters; retro beer!

If you are from the South Bend area you may remember, or have at least heard of, Drewry's Brewing Company. At one time, they had a fairly large brewery and campus just off of Portage road, a couple blocks North of Angela Blvd. Indiana Beer Blog did a nice writeup on the history of this brewery that you should read if you have time.

Come to find out, a company based in Chicago has bought the rights to Drewry and is looking to revive the brand, (notice I said company, not brewery) with 3 beers. From what I gather, they are currently in the stages of looking for a brewery to contract with and will be available in select markets. In fact, if you are going to the South Bend Brewfest tomorrow (1/12/13), you will be able to taste one of these beers.

While I'm intrigued that someone is trying to breath life into a piece of beer history, I'm certainly left wondering what the motivation is behind this. Is it simply a company looking to cash in on a niche and the booming craft beer industry? Are they passionate about beer? As long as the beer is good, it probably doesn't matter, but I'm looking forward to trying it for myself.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bell's Hopslam to hopslam your mouth soon!


Just got word from my guy in the biz that deliveries of the oh-so-delicious and hoppy nectar from Bell's, known as Hopslam, will be hitting stores in South Bend on Friday 1/11/12. 

I did a review of this beer a couple of years ago, and I'm sure it still holds up. It's a huge explosion of hop juice in your mouth, which gives way to sweet honey and a dash of bitterness. During a time when Stouts and Porters are prevalent, this is a great beer to break up the darkness.

There will be a cask and keg of this at Fiddler's Hearth on January 17th at 5pm, along with 6 other hoppy Bell's brews. I had a few glasses from the cask last year, and it really is tough to beat. It ran out within about 2 hours.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bell's Black Note released in 4-packs.


I haven't posted in a while (more on that later), but this was too good to resist. The famed "Black Note" Barrel-Aged Stout from Bell's, formally only available in 750ml bottles at the General Store (aside from random kegs popping up from time to time), with releases kept to word-of-mouth only, is now available in 4-packs currently at the general store. An unknown amount will also be distributed somewhere around their footprint, but that information has also yet to be released.

It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend you pick one up.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Whale Hunting

Recently, Andy and I had an epic little tasting of some very rare and truly world class brews (read: whales). First up was a beer that Andy brought, Goose Island's King Henry, a 13.4% English Barleywine.
Goose Island King Henry
King Henry is kind of a big deal. One of the highest rated barleywines (#1 on Beeradvocate.com and #3 on RateBeer.com), as well one of the highest rated beers period (#7 on Beeradvocate.com), King Henry was released late last year. The big hype surrounding this whale is that it was aged in the same barrels as one of the most sought after beers of all time, Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare (Imperial Stout, 13%). These same barrels were first home to the most sought after bourbon as well, Pappy van Winkel 23. Needless to say, we were both very excited to finally give this beer a try. It was a very rich and decadent brew, full of smooth toffee, vanilla, dark chewy fruit, and bourbon, all seamlessly melded together to create a nearly flawless offering. Thanks again to Andy for giving me the chance to try it, I was beginning to think I never would.

Next up was a beer released about a month and a half ago at Three Floyds Brewpub, their Conquistador de Muerte (Milk Stout, 8%). To make this beer, Three Floyds took their Moloko milk stout and aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels with ancho and guajillo peppers for two years.  The particular bottle we enjoyed was #307 of 405.

Three Floyds Conquistador de Muerte

We were both excited, yet apprehensive to try this beer, mainly because Andy has had Three Floyds Cognac Dark Lord de Muerte, their Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout aged in cognac barrels with similar chili pepper treatment, and said that it was dangerously close to being too spicy. This de Muerte poured as black and viscous as motor oil, with no head to speak of. The nose was reminiscent of chocolate Tobasco, but everything came together in the taste, with smooth chili peppers, chocolate, light bourbon vanilla, and toffee rounding out this fantastic beer.

All in all a great chance to have some good beer, and I'm really looking forward to opening some more rare and delicious bottles with Andy in the future.




Monday, October 15, 2012

Half Acre Brewery Tour

For our next brewery tour, Kristin and I went to Half Acre Beer Company in Chicago this past Saturday in the early afternoon. It was kind of a last minute decision, as we were on our way to Local Option (a Chicago craft beer bar Andy has profiled before) to watch the Notre Dame vs. Stanford game. Even though it was last minute, we're glad we stopped, as it was the best brewery tour we've been on yet.

In line for the tour!
Every Saturday at 1pm, Half Acre admits 60 guests at a price of $10 each to come on an hour and a half to two hour tour of their brewery. Though a little skeptic of the $10 price tag, Kristin and I soon realized this was the single best deal we've come across in a long time. This modest fee gives you a Half Acre pint glass, 3 pints of beer (from which you had 4 options) over the course of the tour, and a very intimate (in a good way) experience with how Half Acre runs their brewery.

First off, let's mention the beer, which I should add is top notch. We each had a pint of Daisy Cutter (American Pale Ale, 5.2%) and Ouija Pilz (Czech Pilsner, 5.7%). Daisy Cutter is Half Acre's most well known and best selling beer, as it should be, sitting just below Three Floyds' Zombie Dust and Hill Farmstead's Edward in my favorite beers in the style.  This was our first time having Ouija Pilz, and I have yet to look at reviews on it, but I thought it was a very delicious and representative take on the style, while Kristin preferred her Daisy Cutter.

Half Acre Daisy Cutter

Our tour lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, though it may have been longer had we not left immediately at its conclusion in order to make it to local option and see the game. The two tour guides (unfortunately I forget their names ) tag-team led us through the typical brewing process, while periodically adding details about what makes Half Acre the place it is. They were both a lot of fun, and made the tour enjoyable and understanding even for those not familiar with the brewing process.


Central Waters Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout
I can't help but mention our great time at Local Option, where we got to watch the game and I got to enjoy a Central Waters Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout (Imperial Stout, 9.5% - a long time want of mine), and Kristin had a Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf (Double IPA, 9%) All in all a great Saturday, and I highly recommend stopping by Half Acre for some growler fills, cans, or if you are able to, their Saturday tour!

LaSalle Grill hosting Dark Horse Beer Dinner

We are just 10 days away (October 25th) from another great beer dinner at LaSalle Grill in South Bend. These are now a fairly common occurrence from them, as they take great food and craft beer quite seriously. I would reiterate the details, but I blew up the flyer so you can see for yourself...


Monday, October 8, 2012

IPA Fun

Recently, I've had the fortune to come across and trade for a handful of world class IPAs and double IPAs. Most of these were acquired through trading on beer website forums (specifically Beer Advocate). For the last decade, hops were showcased prevalently on the West Cost, with breweries like Stone (Ruination IPA), Russian River (Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Blind Pig) and Alpine (Bad Boy, Nelson, Exponential Hoppiness) producing huge hop bombs that do far more than showcase the bittering properties of our favorite vine, the hop. While we've been blessed to enjoy world class IPAs from Three Floyds, most areas of the Midwest and East Coast were void of world class pours of this delicious style - until recently. The curious thing about the IPAs I've had the privilege to enjoy recently, is that they come from a very unsuspecting place: Vermont.

Ephraim
Two of the brews I've gotten to enjoy come from my absolute favorite brewery, Hill Farmstead. Located literally in the middle of Nowhere, Vermont (well, Greensboro actually - but you do need to drive down a lengthy dirt road to get there), owner and master brewer Shaun Hill has been brewing up quite a buzz in the craft beer scene for the last year. After only one year of operations, Hill Farmstead was voted the 5th best brewery in the world according to ratebeer.com. Most beer enthusiasts who have had his beer agree, myself being counted in that number. Mr. Hill's IPAs are never bottled, only served on draft or in growlers, in order to ensure they are consumed when they are at their freshest and most delicious. The two double IPAs I've had recently from Hill Farmstead are Ephraim (DIPA, 9.8%) and Society & Solitude #5 (DIPA, 7.8%). Ephraim is one of Shaun Hill's most famous creations, an absolutely gargantuan double IPA packed with flavors of grapefruit, tangerine, mango, and a light pine, all supported by a hefty caramel backbone. The other double IPA, Society & Solitude #5, will only be brewed once as part of an ongoing experimental IPA series. Society #5 is brewed to showcase the magnificent citrus qualities of New Zealand hope varieties. Utterly drinkable given the ABV, Society #5 bursts with grapefruit and oranges, while bolstered with a light sweetness (the malt backbone was practically inexistent). I can unequivocally say this was the best beer I've ever had, and I couldn't decided after the last sip if I was happy I had the opportunity to try it, or sad knowing I would never have it again. Either way, it will be the benchmark by which I judge all other double IPAs in the future.

Society & Solitude #5
Another Vermont brewery making serious waves is The Alchemist, located about an hour Southwest of Hill Farmstead in Waterbury, VT. The Alchemist is most well known for its flagship double IPA, Heady Topper. Only distributed in cans, Heady Topper has garnered enough accolades to become the third highest rated beer in the world on Beer Advocate. A well deserved spot, as Andy noted after he tried his first one last week:
Heady Topper













One of the interesting things about Heady Topper is that the brewers encourage you to drink it out of the can (it even says so ON the can!) in order to maximize its flavor. I'd have to agree, I poured a Heady into a glass once and it was just not as good. I typically have a steady stream of Heady Topper coming in every month, so if any readers ever wish to try this masterpiece, shoot me an email!

Broo Doo
While Vermont is churning out some second-to-none beer right now, we can't forget about the IPA king in our own backyard, Three Floyds. This month, Three Floyds monthly release is its wet-hopped IPA, Broo Doo (IPA, 7%, brewed with freshly picked whole cone hops).  Delicious and bursting with citrus and hop aromas, Broo Doo is another great installment in Three Floyds repertoire of fantastic hoppy beers. Though I have never had it, Andy has me very excited for Founders own wet-hopped IPA, Harvest Ale (IPA, 6.5%). Both Harvest Ale and Broo Doo will be available in our area within the next two weeks!




So that's my segment honoring the juicy hop. Thanks for reading my short novel, and I encourage you to seek some of those beers out. And as I said before, if any readers ever wish to try some of them, I might just have a few if you ask! Cheers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Founders Bolt Cutter Release Details


Today, Founders released information concerning the upcoming release of its commemorative 15th anniversary ale, Bolt Cutter (American Barleywine, 15%). This is shaping up to look like a pretty phenomenal ale, with portions of it being aged in bourbon barrels and maple syrup bourbon barrels, while the remainder was fermented through normal processes.  Fermentation and blending has been finished for several months, but Founders has held on to the bottles and kegs to allow them to mature. If I say so myself, that sounds incredibly delicious.

The release is set to occur on multiple levels. First, this Saturday (October 6th) at 11am EST, tickets will go on sale that will allow you to purchase an allotment of two Bolt Cutter bottles on a specified date between Sunday, November 11th and Friday, November 16th (my birthday!!!). If you are lucky enough to score one of these tickets (250 for each day, they will go FAST), you can go buy your two bottles on the day you are assigned (and ONLY on that day). Tickets will be sold hereBolt Cutter Ticket Sales

The next release of Bolt Cutter will be on draft at Founders 15th Anniversary Party on Saturday, November 17th at 11am in their Grand Rapids taproom. This is a free event that will operate as first come first serve. I would certainly expect this event to be crowded with a sizable line, so if you do plan on attending, arrive early.

Finally, bottles of Bolt Cutter will see normal Backstage Series distribution (this ale is in fact being considered their next installment in the series) as of November 19th. This means it will be a limited release, but should not be impossible to track down. With a little proactivity and patience, you should be able to find yourself a bottle or two.

So there you have it! Between now and December there are quite a few special releases from multiple breweries being distributed in the area. Happy hunting!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bell's Eccentric Cafe Visit

What's up everyone? Yesterday, I took a trip up to Bell's in Kalamazoo to have dinner with my girlfriend, Kristin, at the Eccentric Cafe. This was our second trip there, and it did not disappoint. The Cafe has a great atmosphere, and attracts craft beer enthusiasts and craft newcomers alike.

The tap list was very impressive!

After situating ourselves at two recently vacated spots at the bar, we ordered our first drinks. Kristin started with a glass of Two Hearted (American IPA, 7%), while I had much more I wanted to try. Because I was driving, I stuck to some smaller, but still delicious glasses to maximize what I got to enjoy.  My half flight consisted of Bourbon Barrel Batch 9000 (American Strong Ale, ??%), Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout (Fruit Stout, 10.4%), and This One Goes to 11 (Imperial Red Ale, 11%).

Pint: Two Hearted; Flight (left to right): BB Batch 9000, BB Cherry Stout, This One Goes to 11

The Bourbon Barrel Batch 9000 was far and away my favorite beer of the day - really great bourbon vanilla, molasses, plum, and chocolate. This One Goes to 11 was very enjoyable as well, but more on that later. Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout was not my pint of choice, and I was just not a fan of the mixture of cherry flavor and bourbon barrel aging. We then ordered some dinner. Kristin got the Pulled Pork Sandwich while I enjoyed the Smoked Chicken Sandwich. Both turned out to be pretty tasty. I do however wish I had ordered the Jambalaya as I had done the first time (delicious!!). After wrapping up the meal, we each ordered one more beer. I opted for the Raspberry Ale (not pictured, but very tart and delicious - I'm a big sour fan), while Kristin got a Two Hearted from the firkin.

Two Hearted on cask!

I will definitely say this, Two Hearted really does taste better than anywhere else, both on cask and draft, at the Eccentric Cafe. I'm guessing it is the fact that it is incredibly fresh, but it blows any bottle or draft of it I've had in South Bend out of the water. Much more juicy, and full of grapefruit and citrus flavor. As we left, we stopped into the General Store located out front, and I grabbed a Hopslam poster for myself, and a 6 pack of This One Goes to 11 for Andy. There seemed to be a handful of cases of "11" left in the back, but I would certainly call before planning a trip up there any time soon to make sure they have it. This beer will also see limited distribution, most likely this coming week.


All in all, a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday evening. The drive isn't too bad, about an hour and twenty minutes using the main roads out of South Bend. I highly recommend making the trip up one afternoon with a few friends to grab a flight or a few pints and a meal. If you would like to check the tap list before you make the trip, you can go to Bell's website via this link - http://www.bellsbeer.com/eccentric-cafe/beers-on-tap/. Navigating through the site will provide you with a food menu as well.

Cheers, and I hope you all make the trip one day!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Founders Breakfast Stout at The Mark (NOW) and Bleachers (9/28)


Founders Breakfast Stout was recently tapped at The Mark in Eddy Street Commons. I unfortunately didn't write down the taplist, but Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf was also on tap, with an additional keg waiting in the wings. Also worth noting is Three Floyds Dreadnaught on tap across the street at O'Rourke's Irish Pub.

Also, it looks like Bleachers in Mishawaka on Grape Road will be tapping Breakfast Stout and have a little release party at 6:30 PM this Friday (9/28). $5 pints!

P.S. - Currently enjoying a Three Floyds Rye da Tiger, their new Rye Double IPA. You can find this at the City Wide on Grape Road and the Belmont Bev. next to Notre Dame's campus. Highly recommended! The rye provides a nice spiciness on the finish. Cheers!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged BORIS Oatmeal Imperial Stout

My next review brings us to a beer I had to search long and hard to find in South Jersey, but seems to be very readily available in the South Bend area. Good thing too, because Barrel aged BORIS is a great bourbon barrel aged stout. Look for this gem at the City Wide downtown, and the City Wide on Grape Road.

Style: Double / Imperial Stout
Brewery: Hoppin' Frog Brewery
Serving Type: 22oz bottle into a snifter
ABV: 9.4%

Appearance: This beer is like motor oil. Completely pitch black, with a minimal head that quickly recedes to thin rim. The viscosity on this brew is very high, and this beer has some serious legs as well (alcohol residual on glass). 

Aroma: A really nice mocha comes out of the glass to start, followed by a vanilla creaminess. Some dark chocolate hangs around. A boozy bourbon sweetness watches over the whole affair, but without being discouraging. A little bit of roastiness rounds out the nose.

Taste:  Bourbon/whiskey vanilla is very up front, but not overpowering. The mocha coffee backdrop from the nose takes over from the booziness as the glass warms. Truly, half through the glass I feel like I am drinking a Starbucks iced mocha. A light booziness and brownie chewiness sits on the back of my palate through the end of the sip. 

Mouthfeel: This beer is a definite sipper. Really thick and very much like a milkshake. You'll be working on a glass of this for an hour - not because it's hard to put down, but because the flavors and heaviness of the body require you to go slowwww. Not much heat from the barrel aging, just enough to remind you to enjoy it and take your time.

Overall: After the second time trying this beer, I enjoy it a lot. I'll definitely get another bottle at some point in the near future, and I encourage you to do so as well!

Grade: A-


Special Bell's Tapping at Bar Louie (Mishawaka, IN)



Our friends over at Bar Louie in Mishawaka are throwing a little all day bash tomorrow including the likes of "The Oracle" and "Hopsolution," among others. Hopsolution will be a new one for me, although I'm sure it's rareness will really shine through. The Oracle on the other hand, well, it's every bit as incredible as people claim it to be. The Oracle is easily the best Double IPA in the Midwest, and would certainly hold its own against any of the delicious West-Coast DIPAs. Don't believe me? Good. I don't want you to drink it anyway. In fact, forget I said anything.

From the FB Event...

"HOP into Bar Louie this Thursday to drink some outstanding limited IPA's from Bell's Brewery! The beers will be tapped as soon as Louie's doors open at 11am. And the party will go on until the doors close or the beer runs out! Come on out and try the always amazing classic Two Hearted Ale. Also on tap will be 2 limited releases from Bells. Hopsolution IPA, which rarely makes it way out of their brew pub these days, and The Oracle Double IPA, which as been described by me as "drinking liquid gold". Even if you cannot make it, please pass this event on to some of your beer drinking friends who might like to attend."

This may be the last time you see Hopsolution in this area, and The Oracle won't be back until next year, so get it while you can...