Buying Beer Online

I have a nasty addiction to EPIC’s Big Bad Baptist. I absolutely lovewhat is binary options the stuff and it is easily one of my top 5 beers, you can read my review of it from earlier this year over here. It’s a fantastic bourbon barrel aged imperial stout that is usually widely available and reasonably priced. One of the cool things about Big Bad Baptist is that each batch is slightly different varying malts, hops, coffee, barrels, and length of time in barrels. This introduces some great variety but has caused me major grief in the past month.

It’s not so much the beer that’s caused me grief as much as Ohio’s archaic and idiotic laws. Ohio has a ban on all beer over 12% ABV and Big Bad Baptist batch #13 was 12.2%. Some bottles were released from the distributor to stores before this was discovered but then distribution was cut off and stores could sell out of what they had. I was lucky enough to score 1 bottle at Cappy’s over in Loveland but my desire to cellar demanded more. With all other local stores sold out I turned, for the first time, to the internet to buy my beer.

After checking out a few sites I decided to go with Craft Shack offers a variety of beers from across the country at all levels of ABV. This does come with a slightly increased cost and a significant shipping charge. You also have to buy a minimum of 3 bottles.

Shipping only took 7 business days but at $16 I feel like it should’ve come faster. A big concern of mine was the quality of the packaging. Having traded many beers I’ve seen some great and some horrendous packaging. CraftShack’s was slightly above average but left much to be desired. They used molded cardboard(?) and then wrapped the bottles in newspaper.

The molded cardboard is great. However, I’d have preferred to see some bubble wrap around these bottles and would really love to see a bag around them. If one breaks somehow and the box gets wet then the package gets pulled and your beer never gets delivered. This is why when I trade beer all bottles go in their own Ziploc. That was a concern for me here but obviously not a problem as I still got my beer!

All said it was pricier than I would’ve liked but I feel it was a fair premium to get beers I can’t get here.



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Beer Release Review: Triple Digit Cranium

Cincinnati’s own Triple Digit Brewing Company is releasing a new beer. Known for their triple digit original gravity beers all clocking in upwards of 10% they are adding to that lineup with Cranium. A bourbon barrel aged imperial oatmeal stout with coffee and vanilla. Suffice to say this beer has a lot going on and a lot going for it! I stopped by Dutch’s Bar, Bottle Shop, and Larder tonight for the draft release party. If you weren’t able to make it then hit up Listermann’s Brewery this Friday (11/8) for the bottle release.

Triple Digit Cranium

Photo courtesy of Dutch’s

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Beer Review: Green Flash Green Bullet

There is a growing trend among craft brewers to move their IPAs away from the traditional 3-C hops (Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus) and on to new and exciting hop varieties that have only been developed in the past 10 - 20 years. I mentioned this last week in my review of Clown Shoes Galactica which predominantly features the galaxy hop. Green Flash has decided to feature the Green Bullet hop in the aptly named Green Bullet beer. I’ll let Green Flash’s blurb about this beer take it from here.

Named after a super-robust New Zealand hop, Green Bullet™ is a well-balanced Triple IPA being bottled today for the 1st time ever. Brewmaster, Chuck Silva initially released this Pacific Gem to celebrate the Green Flash 9th Anniversary in 2011, and it was an immediate hit! Now, this cult favorite will be available from coast-to-coast as a seasonal release from September through December 2013. Be on the lookout for this high-caliber addition to our arsenal in 4-packs, 22oz bottles and on draft, because you do not want to miss the release.

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Beer Review: Clown Shoes Galactica & Hoppy Feet

Ohio is receiving lots of distribution from new (to us) breweries at the end of 2013.  New Belgium, Deschutes, and others will be here before the end of the year but it’s getting kicked off with Clown Shoes. Clown Shoes is a contract brewing operation out of Massachusetts that’s known for somewhat insensitive beer names like Tramp Stamp, Lubrication, and Brown Angel. Controversial names haven’t stopped them from making big and interesting beers for a few years distributing them to a variety of states before finally coming here.

Clown Shoes is initially gracing Ohio with 6 different brews: Galactica and Hoppy Feet are here in 4-packs of 12 oz bottles, Chocolate Sombrero, Genghis Pecan, and Muffin Top are all in 22 oz bombers, finally Tramp Stamp is draft only, at least for now. I did a review of a bottle of Tramp Stamp that I brought back from Georgia last year, you can read that here. I also had a bottle of their Chocolate Sombrero which, in short, is a spicy chocolate imperial stout starting out with some heat that slowly builds and adds in rich chocolate as the glass warms.  I have yet to have Genghis Pecan or Muffin Top and my thoughts on Galactica and Hoppy Feet are just below!

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Mashing For Mammaries at Osborn Brewing

In honor of breast cancer awareness month a local homebrew supply store, Osborn Brewing, is hosting Mashing for Mammaries. The event will feature homebrewers from the local Middletown Area Society of Homebrewers (M*A*S*H) and the Cincinnati Malt Infusers (CMI) brewing beer throughout the day. If you have an interest in making your own beer this is a great time to stop by the store and see the variety of setups and methods available to you. Knowing homebrewers there will likely be a fair deal of drinking going on while brewing too.10-17-2013 2-20-54 PM

Besides the brewing there will also be a topless car wash and if plans come together then there will be raffles throughout the day and a cornhole tournament. If you’re available to judge the tournament or have things to donate for the raffle please contact Brent Osborn at (513) 360-0076. All proceeds will from these activities will go to Save the Ta-Tas. The events officially start at noon but some brewers, like myself, will likely be getting there around 10:30 to get setup.

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Keep track of your beer cellar

I’ve wanted to write a post on cellaring for too long now, so long in fact that others have covered it better. So go back to last year and read Josh’s post on Tips for Cellaring Beer, he did a great job on the where and the what of aging beer. Then check out Joe Long’s post on Empty Growler about why he has stopped cellaring. They both covered most of the stuff I originally wanted to talk about, so to achieve my goal of writing a post on cellaring and not retreading old territory I’m going to talk about how to keep track of your cellar. You may think it’s not that hard but some people just shove bottles in box after box and have no idea what’s in them (coughBrentcough).

Beer Cellar

Does your cellar look like this?

Personally I didn’t want to do that and wanted to display them so I built some shelving and can easily see what’s there… if I’m standing in front of them. If I’m not standing in front of them I need someway to know what’s there, which is where the whole point of tracking them online comes in.

Beer Cellar

This is an old pic as all the shelves are now full

Also having an online system to track your cellar makes it easier to arrange trades by just being able to show other folks everything you have.

I want it all and I want it now

Going into writing this post I decided to first set out what I most wanted out of a cellar tracking system.

  • Smartphone App
  • Web Interface
  • UPC bar code scanning from a smart phone
  • Social media integration and updating
  • Untappd/BeerAdvocate/RateBeer integration
  • Importing/Exporting

I realized that some of these things would be asking a lot but if you’re gonna make a list of demands you might as well shoot big and go for a helmet full of cottage cheese and pictures of Bea Arthur naked.

The best around

Turning to social media I asked people what system they liked to use to track their cellars and the responses were decidedly split between The Beer Cellar and CellarHQ with a few people preferring good old-fashioned spreadsheets. I took a swing at all 3 systems and recreated my cellar in all of them, here’s the results:

The Beer Cellar

beercellar list
The website The Beer Cellar is better known by it’s URL This is the newest kid on the block but has some innovative features not seen elsewhere. The big to-do on this site that sets it apart is that you can set a flag on all your beers to mark if they are for trade (FT) or if you’re in search of (ISO) more. This is a pretty key feature for beer traders. Instead of having to write a big post listing the one or two beers you’re ISO and the 50 some you have FT you can just share a link to The Beer Cellar.

As far as my list of demands go there is no smart phone app but there is a mobile optimized version of the page. They do include the ability to import or export your cellar as a spreadsheet which is handy for backups. Integration wise clicking the name of the beer will take you straight to the BeerAdvocate site for the beer, if one exists. I talked to the developer of the site some and he said social media integration is on his to-do list but isn’t currently a reality.


cellarhq list seems the most popular system based on the Twitter and Facebook feedback I got. CellarHQ has definitely been around longer than The Beer Cellar and seems to have a larger fan base. This site isn’t as pretty as The Beer Cellar but I consider that a good thing as it’s a simpler and more compact design.  One big difference between the two sites is that this one has some social media integration. You can use your twitter account to log into it and you can tweet when you add something to your cellar (like below) or just tweet a link to your entire cellar.

CellarHQ may not have a big flag for FT/ISO but you can add a note that leaves a red triangle on the line and you can hover over it to see the note, you could easily leave FT or ISO in this not box and achieve the same result as the FT/ISO flag. To be fair The Beer Cellar has notes as well, but no cool hovering action. Also like The Beer Cellar it’s got easy importing but unlike The Beer Cellar there is no export option at all. You could highlight, copy, and paste everything into Google Docs, but that kinda sucks.


Spreadsheets are ye olde standby of the beer cellar inventory tracking world with Excel falling out of favor to the online and easily shared Google Docs. The upsides here are that they’re simple, very easy to use, and extremely customizable. Want to keep track of the store you bought it from or who you traded with for the bottle? Easy, just add another column. The other really good thing going for this is an extremely simple and clean interface. No red triangles, or flag buttons, or anything like that. Just rows and columns. Sadly that’s where the upsides end. Spreadsheets are not “smart” in any way and lack any automatic social media or RateBeer/Beer Advocate integration.

Wrap up

Sadly no system I found contained my wish of a bar code scanner for entering beers. It’s troublesome to do because the SKU for KBS 2011 is likely the same as KBS 2013. Someone would also need to build a large database of SKUs first or have the users build it as things go along. Unrelated to features or usage The Beer Cellar has shown much better responses on twitter and to emails whereas I haven’t gotten any response from CellarHQ in writing this post. To me that shows The Beer Cellar has a stronger commitment to supporting it’s users. After trying these different methods I think it mostly comes down to preference. My preference is to stick with CellarHQ because I like the cleaner interface and the Twitter integration, though that is coming to The Beer Cellar soon. So what’s your preference? Or what system do you use that I failed to mention?


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Medley Brothers Bourbon Relaunch

Medley Brothers Bourbon was a classic bourbon that has been off the market for about fifty years, ever since the rights to the brand were sold by the family in 1958. Now thanks to Charles Medley and his son Sam, the family is bringing it back.

medley brothers relaunch

Having already resurrected two of the other family brands, Wathen’s Kentucky Bourbon – Single Barrel and Old Medley 12 Yr Bourbon, the Medley family now brining back their Medley Brother’s Bourbon with almost exactly the same label and, according to them, a very similar recipe. I was lucky enough to be at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar for the launch party last Thursday, tasting it in the first week it was available in Kentucky and got to talk with Sam and Charles Medley as well. It really was exciting to be able to talk a little bit about bourbon with a family that has been making it for eight generations. Charles and Sam were both gracious as well as passionate about their family business.

Charles and Sam Medley

Charles and Sam Medley

Unlike the Wathren’s Single Barrel and the Old Medley, this bourbon is meant less for sipping alone and more for use in craft cocktails. At 102 proof this bourbon is meant to stand up to other ingredients in a classic cocktail. While I didn’t get to try it in a mixed drink I imagine that the stronger flavor of this bourbon, especially in the cocoa and oak flavor, would lend itself well to both mixing and sipping. Medley Brother’s Bourbon retails for about $25 a bottle and is currently only available in Kentucky but should soon be available in Georgia,  South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. As for Ohio, well it will probably be a bit longer before you can get a bottle without driving across the river.

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Beer Review: Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale

Rogue is a brewery out of Oregon and Voodoo Doughnut is a specialty doughnut shop in downtown Portland, Oregon. They’ve collaborated to make this monster of a beer name the Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Banana, & Peanut Butter (CBPB) is the second Rogue Voodoo Doughnut beer, the first was maple bacon and has been around for some time. Both these beers have been criticized as some of the worst beers people have ever had, the Bacon Maple holds a 37 on Ratebeer and 68 on BeerAdvocate while CBPB has a 27 and 65 on Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate respectively. It’s been too long since I had the Bacon Maple for me to weigh in on it here though I do not recall being overly fond of it.

My wife was kind enough to surprise me with a few beers as a little gift and the CBPB was in there. She admits getting it because she knows I love peanut butter… and it was in a pink bottle. Due to the internet’s general dislike of these beers I felt I owed it to everyone to share my thoughts on this one.

Here’s what Rogue says about this beer:

Rogue Ales has again collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale! This unique artisan creation has a dozen ingredients including chocolate, banana and peanut butter to match Voodoo’s “Memphis Mafia” doughnut - a nod to Elvis’ entourage.

Brewery: Rogue ales
Beer: Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter
Style: Other?
ABV: 5.3%
Calories: 159
Ingredients: 2-Row, C-150, C-175, Carafoam Special II & Chocolate Malts; Rogue Farms Revolution & Independent Hops;Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana; Pacman Yeast and Free Range Coastal Water

Roasted chocolate malt aroma begins to come out while it’s being poured. That gets joined by a hint of banana and slight nuttiness, but nothing strong enough to be identified as peanut butter.

Topped with a rich tan head built of tiny bubbles atop a black liquid that reveals a hint of ruby garnet highlights when held against an LED light.

Flavor features lots of banana which tastes more like an over abundance of ester off-flavor then an intentional act. This mixes with some more dark chocolate and a touch of nuttiness. As expected with warming comes richer, creamier, chocolate action.

Medium body and plenty of carbonation round out the mouth feel.

This isn’t as bad as so many have made out and my wife seems to like it a bit, however, I’m not likely to try it again. The chocolate (perhaps the easy element) was very well executed but the banana is overdone and the peanut butter is hardly more than a vague nuttiness.

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The Utility of Beer Styles

This post is in direct response to Andy Crouch’s article “The Futility of Beer Styles” in this month’s (October 2013) Beer Advocate magazine [Edit: Andy has made me aware that this was only part 1 of 3 and these concerns will be addressed in future parts. A fact not mentioned in the magazine]. If you haven’t read it yet then I won’t fault you for reading it before continuing this post. However, if you don’t get Beer Advocate magazine or don’t want to wait then the quick summary is that he advocates for discontinuing the use of beer styles.

Beer Style Poster

Without beer styles we couldn’t have awesome posters like this!

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Five Places to Get a Great Cocktail in Over the Rhine

I originally set out to make a list of some of the best bars in the city for this article. Nothing too fancy, just a list of places I would recommend to people from out of town if they wanted to be sure of getting a great cocktail. Once I sat down to think about it I realized I had a problem. Not only do we have too many great bars and restaurants who are putting skill, art, and love into their cocktail menu to list in one article, but I was missing out on a great excuse to try a whole bunch of new places in the name of research. So for now I decided to limit myself to the one area of the city I am already way too familiar with and will be adding the top five cocktail bars of other neighborhoods in future weeks.

12th Street OTR

Five Places to Get a Great Cocktail in Over the Rhine

The rapid change of Over the Rhine from an economically depressed historical neighborhood to the city’s newest hot-spot for trend setters and foodies has been a boon for cocktail aficionados. Craft cocktails are a must for every new bar and restaurant in the area, leaving us with dozens of places within a three block radius to get a $10 cocktail.  Luckily we are talking about really good cocktails here and they are pretty darn strong to boot so that makes them easier to swallow (har.) But with limited time on your hands you may be wondering which spots to be sure to hit on a night out. Here is my list of five places in Over the Rhine where you are guaranteed to get a good cocktail.

5. The Lackman: This bar is probably my least favorite on the list when it comes to atmosphere and price but since this is list is about quality of cocktails it made the cut. The drinks I’ve had there are always wonderfully executed and served with a consistent quality. They have some barrel-aged drinks on a rotating basis, including a barrel aged negroni last time I was there. The bottle selection is not very deep but it is high quality. Service is usually very good even when it is crowded. The beer selection is great and rotates regularly. In short they are doing everything right, they are just missing some of the heart of other places and they charge you a bit more for the pleasure.

4. Bakersfield: I’ve written before about my admiration of Bakersfields’ cocktails. They were the first place in the area where I ordered a barrel aged manhattan and I love their Red Headed Stranger Cocktail. I also am a big fan of their $3 shot specials which always include a solid bourbon or tequila selection. I recommend stopping by on Fridays for a $3 shot of Four Roses. The cocktail list shows a great deal of thought and compliments their food and the vibe of the place. Just don’t go there if you are looking for a gin martini. Bakersfield loses points for being a tequila and whiskey only kind of place but you can’t expect urban cowboys to drink fruit flavored vodka now can you?

3. Neon’s: When Charlie and I did our run around OTR for Yelp Drinks Neon’s ended up with the winning cocktail with a smoked elderflower that was out of this world. They make their own bitters and syrups for their cocktails as well as a huge number of infusions so the variety of drinks you can get there is almost endless. They have a beautiful patio and a really excellent beer selection that is always good for trying something new. The drawbacks seem to have a lot to do with how popular it has become, with crowding and slow service being the most common complaint. Also, although I enjoy the creativity that can come from making your own infusions, they can be hit or miss. I’ve tried several bourbon infusions at Neon’s and unfortunately many of them seemed to be a waste of good bourbon.

2.  The Senate: The Senate Restaurant is one few places in OTR that manages to be a triple-threat. Great food, extensive beer list, and amazing cocktails that rotate out on a regular basis. The senate hits all the flavor profiles in their house cocktail list, from bitter to sweet, from fruity to fatty, from classic to cutting edge. I had a drink there once that was made with duck fat and looked like sludge but tasted divine and was served with a fig newton garnish. Recently I took my friend there for her bachelorette party and this was her reaction to the Fidel Castro she was drinking.

I think that says it all.

1. Japp’s: I realize that a lot of people probably think I am on the payroll for Japp’s considering how often I rave about it. But seriously, this place has everything a cocktail nerd could ask for. First of all, the atmosphere is great. Beautiful historic building with no TVs and frequent live bands that compliment the style. But this is an article about cocktails and here is where Japp’s really shines. The staff is trained amazingly well with a really high degree of professionalism and consistency for all of their drinks and I am willing to bet that this is one of the few places you can go in the whole city where you can order a Blood and Sand or a Martinez and not have the bartender ask you what’s in it. On top of the classic cocktails, the rotating weekly list of house specials is always great and the bottle selection is amazing. And let’s not forget that fresh juices and house made syrups and bitters that are standard at this location. Nothing but quality and the price is actually pretty reasonable if you look at what the other places are charging for similarly crafted cocktails. Not to mention that the bar’s owner and still regular bartender Molly Wellmann literally wrote the book on craft cocktails.

So now is the part where you go ahead and tell me how wrong I am. What places did I leave off? What places are over rated? I want to know. And before anyone says anything I do want to give honorable mention to Arnold’s, where I would actually rather drink most nights than a lot of the other places on this list. Arnold’s has a personality that can’t be beat in this city and they have upped their cocktail game considerably in the past few years but the mixed drinks are still inconsistent and rely on pre-made mixes . And let’s face it; wouldn’t we all rather keep Arnold’s feeling a little more down to earth and little less trendy?


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