The stores and bars where we buy our beer has the most prominent role in our beer drinking lives, even though brewers get all the fame. The following is what I’ve learned from retailers about the 3-tier system and their role in it.
Come on out to 50 West (7668 Wooster Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45227) this Thursday night to support a local brewery AND your local bloggers!! The guys at 50 West were cool enough to invite some of the local beer bloggers out to take part in their Cannonball event.
If you haven’t heard of Founders CBS I don’t blame you. If you haven’t heard of Founders then I am very sorry for you. Founders is a fantastic brewery out of Grand Rapids, Michigan that makes a range of amazing beers. The story of CBS starts with their winter seasonal Breakfast Stout. Founders Breakfast Stout is released from October through February and should be found in most better beer stores in most of the eastern half of this country. It’s a delicious oatmeal stout with flavors of chocolate and coffee, if you haven’t had it go out and buy it now.
Every April Founders releases KBS (Kentucky Breakfast stout). It is only available in the best (best at selling Founders that is) beer stores and you will likely need to enter a raffle or know someone at the store to get it. To make KBS Founders
takes the Breakfast Stout and [correction: KBS is not exactly the same recipe as Breakfast Stout, just very similar] ages it in bourbon barrels for a full year. So you get all that awesome coffee, chocolate, and oatmeal action found in the Breakfast Stout plus the oak and vanilla attributes brought on by bourbon barrels.
Once, one single time, in 2011 Founders released CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout). Instead of using standard 2nd use bourbon barrels (once for bourbon, once for beer) like they do with KBS they used 3rd use bourbon barrels that had been used to age bourbon, then used to age maple syrup, then used to age beer. Yep, bourbon maple syrup, I’d love to try that stuff. The maple syrup added more sweetness and complexity on top of an already complex and succulent beer. Here is Founders short blurb on this beer:
Canadian Breakfast Stout is an Imperial Stout brewed with a blend of coffees and imported chocolates, then aged in spent bourbon barrels that have most recently been aging pure Michigan maple syrup. The final product has had stellar reviews and is usually among the top 5 highest rated beers in the world on BeerAdvocate.
Founders CBS has become an unobtainable white whale for many craft beer aficionados out there. It’s so rare that in my 3 years of trading beer I have never once seen it offered for trade though many people are in search of it. I had honestly given up my hope of every having this beer until my annual trip to visit my family in Atlanta over Thanksgiving led us to The Brick Store Pub. The Brick Store Pub has an obscene cellar list that includes a bottle of CBS for $150 dollars! Though $100 of that goes to charity, so I rationalized this purchase because I always give around $100 to charity around the holidays but hadn’t yet this year. Thus that $100 took care of my yearly charity donation and I got CBS!! Enough of that, on to the beer!
I avoid reviewing rare beers on the site as I don’t want to tease people with what I’m drinking, that’s what Untappd and Twitter are for. However, I’m making two exceptions this week since both Founders CBS and Sam Adam’s Utopias are mind blowingly expensive, hard to get, and highly hyped. I also wanted to get more value out of these beers and help people know what to expect and whether they should pull the trigger and buy it.
If you’ve hung around craft beer nerds for a while you may have heard whispers about this or seen empty bottles around. If you’ve never heard of it’s a 28% ABV monster “beer” by Sam Adams. I say “beer” because at 28% it’s a beer in the loosest sense of being made from barley, hops, water, and yeast. The other thing you may have heard about this alcoholic beverage is its hefty price tag. Ever feel like $15 for a bomber is too high? How about $188 (including tax) for 22 ounces? Yeah, and that’s just this years cost, I’ve seen it as high as $220 in the past. When it came out this year (it’s always in the fall of odd-numbered years) I gathered a group of 5 friends to split the cost and the Utopias. Between 5 people it was still $36 for 4.4 ounces each. Enough background, on to the beer! But first here is Sam Adam’s long-winded blurbs about this beast of a “beer”:
THE TOOLS Truly the epitome of brewing’s two thousand year evolution, Utopias® is a blend of batches, some having been aged up to 19 years in our Boston Brewery, in a variety of barrels. For this brew, the barrels are quite literally an ingredient, with different barrels producing intense layers of flavor that continue to unfold with each sip. We began by using Jack Daniels barrels, but have continued to add to the array with Port pipes, bourbon barrels, congnac casks, sherry barrels, and most recently rum barrels.
THE TRADE Samuel Adams® Utopias® is brewed in small limited batches, each their own blend of different vintages. We brew Utopias® at a very high gravity using a wide variety of malted barley and a touch of maple syrup. It is then aged in a blend of scotch, bourbon, port and cognac casks from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery.
THE LEGACY Samuel Adams® Utopias® actually began with our first experiments with aging and blending in barrels with the creation of Triple Bock® followed by Millenium®. It was with these brews that we began testing aging beer in barrels from various origins like bourbon, port, and cognac to discover each of their flavor contributions. Inspired by whiskey makers, we took the barrel aging process for Utopias® to another level by utilizing a variety of barrels and blending different vintages to create a truly unique taste experience.
I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Day which means the holiday season is in full swing and tomorrow is Black Friday, one of the busy shopping days of the year. The list below is more of a Cyber Monday list since I am an Amazon fanatic and hate going out on Black Friday. But if you’re reading this on Thanksgiving 2013 or in March 2015 the beer gifting guide below still applies for some great gifts for the beer geek in your group!
With the number of beers coming in bombers, and many of those only being special releases, there will eventually come a time in every beer lovers life when they don’t want to drink the entire bomber in one night. But it’s already opened and it’ll go flat overnight, that my friend is beer abuse and cannot be tolerated! Luckily there is a new product to help out in those situations, the Beer Saver!
I recently wrote a review of Cleveland Bourbon for Bourbon and Banter and I also recorded a podcast where we tried Cleveland in a blind taste test against Knob Creek. But since I paid $35 for the bottle I thought I better get my money’s worth by writing a review of Cleveland Bourbon for Queen City Drinks as well because I certainly won’t be getting my money’s worth by drinking it.
Cleveland Bourbon came out earlier this year, created by Cleveland businessman Tom Lix. Frustrated by the length of time it takes to make bourbon, Lix created a process to cut the aging time down to just over six months. First they age the bourbon in a charred white oak barrel for six months so that it meets the legal requirement to be called bourbon. Then they put the whiskey into a stainless steel container along with pieces of the barrel and subject to an intense pressurization system for a week. This pressure force-ages the bourbon by pushing the whiskey rapidly in and out of the barrel, mimicking the natural process that normally takes place over years in a rack house.
Bourbon lovers have been skeptical of this product and after tasting I have to say that they have good reason for their doubts. The most notable quality of the bourbon is the burn. This has a rough punchy aftertaste that grabs on to your throat and won’t let go. There are some barely discernible bourbon flavors, even a sweetness, that are present for just about half a second before the harsh taste of wood and a chemical burn hit you. Even several moments after swallowing the aftertaste sits on your tongue like an obnoxious party guest that just won’t leave.
With a burn like that I though trying it over ice would have to be an improvement. I poured it over my whiskey ice ball and the ice actually made it worse. The burning was less but the ice also took with it all of the more pleasant bourbon flavors. The only thing it left behind was the wood pulp flavor. A splash of chilled water proved to be the most palatable way to drink it. That splash allowed some more delicate notes, rose and a bit more lemon flavor, to come through while taming the worst of the aftertaste. That was the first time that I thought this might be able to be used in a cocktail if nothing else.
Despite the fact that I have not met a single person who actually enjoys this bourbon I actually expect that they will be in business for a while. There is a growing demand for bourbon all over the world and in foreign markets where there is huge demand, limited supply, and a lack of knowledge of what good bourbon tastes like I predict that Cleveland Bourbon will find an audience. For those of you closer to home who are looking to try a new, Ohio-based bourbon I strongly recommend that you give Cleveland a pass and check out Middle West Spirit’s Michelone Reserve instead. Their wheated bourbon is a unique product that takes bourbon in an interesting direction without leaving you with an acetone aftertaste.
In the continuing run up to New Belgium’s appearance in Ohio I’m doing a review of their flagship beer, Fat Tire. Like Accumulation and Ranger New Belgium sent this to me to review and help introduce our readers to their beers. Also like Ranger I previously reviewed this beer while on vacation in North Carolina, where New Belgium will soon be opening a new, second, brewery to compliment their original location in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Named in honor of our co-founder’s bike trip through Europe, Fat Tire Amber Ale marks a turning point in the young electrical engineer’s home brewing. Belgian beers use a far broader palette of ingredients (fruits, spices, esoteric yeast strains) than German or English styles. Together with co-founder Kim Jordan, they traveled around sampling their homebrews to the public. Fat Tire won fans with its sense of balance: toasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness. Fat Tire: Pairs well with people.
A massive disturbance in the Cincinnati beer scene is going to begin at 11 am Saturday morning. At that time Ei8ht Ball will officially open it’s doors.
The Cincinnati area has had some great bars for a long time now. Dutch’s, Lackman, Japps, and Arnold’s are all fantastic places full of amazing beer. Ei8ht Ball is a different beast entirely. Oh yes, it serves beer but it also brews its own beer. Yes, it has tap handles… 42 of them! And those tap handles contain some of the best beer you can get anywhere, including many locals. They also have bottles, but there’s no Bud Light here just a little thing called Zombie Dust and another bit of nothing called Cantillon Classic Gueuze, but nobody likes either of those!
The other great thing Ei8ht Ball has going for it, and against my bank account, is that it’s located in The Party Source. You have to cross their entire craft beer section to get back to Ei8ht Ball. The Party Source has been one of the best bottle shops in town for years and now they’re adding Ei8ht Ball… oh, and a distillery will be opening there soon as well.
I keep mentioning that it’s a brewery so let’s talk about their beer. Ei8ht Ball is opening up with 2 brews, Prodigal Son and K-Hole. Prodigal Son is an American pale ale that really does justice to the style. Far too many APAs are light IPAs and that’s really not what the style is about. K-Hole is just plain nuts it’s an imperial stout but it’s got so much coffee it’s crazy. Both of these beers are amazing and are must tries as soon as you can get down there. Mitch Dougherty is heading up brewing operations there. Mitch was formerly the head brewer at Cincinnati’s Rock Bottom and won gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup in Wood and Barrel Aged Beer for Sarah’s Two Headed Buffalo so the guy has lots of experience making awesome beer.
What’s a great bar, brewery, or bottle shop without great people though? For all the awesomeness I’ve already discussed it would suck if the people there didn’t know their shit. Danny Gold has been the craft beer guy at The Party Source for a while now and has done a phenomenal job at it but he couldn’t take care of this whole bar/brewery by himself. He’s assembled the Cincinnati beer dream team, they came together and formed Voltron wielding a pint instead of a sword! I already talked about head brewer Mitch Dougherty but Danny has also brought in Peanut Khales, formerly with the Dilly Cafe and always with the best damn beard in town! Peanut has been packing huge amounts of craft beer knowledge since before I was born.
So they’ve got 2 guys with mad beer knowledge so what, well they also have 2 awesome women with mad beer knowledge. Natalie Phillips was the head beer maiden at Belmont Party Supply up in Dayton, which was and still is Dayton’s best bottle shop. Lastly but certainly not least is Andrea Besl who was tending bar at Rivertown’s tap room and has been involved on increasingly higher levels at almost ever Cincinnati beer fest for the past few years. I’ve seen a fair bit of complaining lately from craft beer nerds that a place may have great beer but your server doesn’t know anything about them. These 4 don’t just know beer, they love beer, and they live beer.
This has been a lot of hyperbole but I really am truly excited for Ei8ht Ball’s future. They’re opening big and I know they’re only going to grow and get better over time.
Now that you’ve read all this go check out Brew Prof’s excellent post he did on Why you need to visit Ei8ht Ball.
Victory Brewing Company is one of my favorite breweries and is, in my opinion, underrated and underhyped. Golden Monkey, Storm King, Prima Pils, they’re all amazing beers that you should seek out if you haven’t had them yet. Victory is replacing their Imperial IPA Hop Wallop – which is a very accurate name for it – with a nuclear bomb of new flavorful hops and calling it DirtWolf. Here’s their PR blurb:
Darkly heroic, Humulus Lupulus (hops) have empowered brews with bite and character since the 11th century. DirtWolf is a tribute to these untamed vines which rise from the earth with the voracity of a “wolf among sheep.” Hops have made an assertive comeback in American craft brewing. Revel in the best U.S. varieties of hops, in their natural, whole flower form, as they bring a vital, pungent reality to the soul of a wild element in our dangerously satisfying DirtWolf Double IPA.