Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

There's a simple rule I like to try to follow when traveling: Drink Local. Whether you're out of town on business or on a family vacation, nothing beats being able to grab some fresh pints or bottles of whatever the local breweries have to offer, especially if said offerings are not available in your area.

I've had some great beers from breweries in Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada and beyond that I wouldn't find just about anywhere else and certainly not back at home in New Jersey. My opinion has always been that if I'm in say, Georgia, it's silly for me to spend my cash on stuff I can pick up any day of the week like Sam Adams or Anchor products when instead I can grab some beer from SweetWater Brewing Company out of Atlanta, which is not available in New that's exactly what I did.

First up was some 420 Extra Pale Ale, which SweetWater describes as a West Coast Style Pale Ale, so I guess means it'll be a bit hoppier..although wouldn't that just make it an IPA? Let's find out:

It pours from the tap with a fairly watery, copper color with barely any head retention and no residue left on the glass. Typically average overall and not a great first impression for this one.

The aroma is a bit better with sweet caramel notes blending with floral hops. This carries over into the flavor and some biscuit-y bread notes start to shine through a bit here as well. I'd say we're still stuck on simple here, which wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't combined with average. Sierra Nevada does simple with their regular year round lineup but does so with bigger, bolder flavor, so the simple part of the equation works. The 420 Extra Pale Ale, on the other hand, just sort of sits there.

I thought this one was just too bland and easily gets lost in the sea of pale ales that are available in the market today. I'd probably pass on it in the future unless it was sitting amongst a Bud, Heineken and Corona lineup as my only craft option. I wouldn't mind having one's just doesn't do anything for me.

So, you're probably thinking to yourself that I tell you to drink local and then with the first local beer I mention basically say it wasn't anything what gives? Well, you're certainly not going to fall in love with every beer you try, and for every one you do try that may be mediocre, the next might blow you out of the water, which was pretty much the case for me with the SweetWater IPA.

I can't say enough about this IPA. It's incredibly easy to drink, has a full flavor and aroma that throws sweet caramel, pine, pepper, grapefruit, rugged earthiness and more at you, all while remaining balanced but with a definite nod to the hops as should be the case with any IPA.

Even the appearance was spot on, withe a creamy head atop the copper liquid body and lots of soapy residue left on the glass after each sip.

Again, I enjoyed every sip of every pint of this IPA that I had and it quickly shot to the top of my list of favorite IPA's, along with the likes of Bell's Two Hearted Ale and Smuttynose IPA. It reminded me a bit of a hoppier, IPA-d out version of the Troegs HopBack Amber. This one is just uber-enjoyable. I wish SweetWater distributed in New Jersey, because their IPA would be a staple in my fridge. If you're in Georgia, make it a point to find and enjoy as many pints of this stuff as you can...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Abita Asks Beer Lovers to "Save Our Shore"

In the first high profile move that I've seen within the craft beer industry to support the Gulf Coast communities affected by the BP oil spill, Louisiana's Abita Brewing Company will soon be announcing it's plans to roll out Save Our Shore, a Charitable Pilsner where "75 cents of every bottle sold goes to the rescue and restoration of the environment, industry and individuals fighting to survive the disastrous Gulf oil spill."

As for the beer itself, the label text continues that "this unfiltered Weizen Pils is made with Pilsner and Wheat malts. It is hopped and dry hopped with Sterling and German Perle hops. It has a brilliant gold color, a sweet malt flavor, and a pleasant bitterness and aroma." Check out the full label artwork below.

The ABV weighs in at 7.0% and bottles should begin hitting the shelves sometime in July.

Abita gets a big thumbs up for it's efforts here, and it's not the first time they've done something like this. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005, Abita brewed and released Restoration Pale Ale to help the recovery efforts of New Orleans and the surrounding area.

I would challenge all production breweries to incorporate a special release beer into their lineups that has a portion of it's proceeds donated back to charity. It doesn't and shouldn't have to be for major events like the oil spill either: giving back to medical, educational and athletic programs on the local or regional levels is just as important and necessary. I know that most craft breweries aren't exactly cash cows when it comes to overall profit and cash flow, but donating back with just one beer for just one cause would be a great thing to see.

As it stands now, this spill obviously hits close to home for the Abita family and I'd urge everyone to pick up a few bottles when they spot them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another New Magic Hat Seasonal? Hex Ourtoberfest Arrives This Fall

This one's been out there for a while via the TTB COLAs Online site, but I did a Google search and scoured some of the more popular blogs that uncover this sort of thing and found nothing on it: Magic Hat, the craft brewing industry's unofficial king of lineup changes, is getting ready to introduce Hex as a new fall seasonal for 2010.

Not much information can be found on this beer as of yet, but if and when I receive an update from Magic Hat or elsewhere this post will be updated accordingly. Right now, it looks like it's coming in at 5.4% ABV and will be available in 12 ounce and 22 ounce bottles. I do know that it was poured this past weekend at BeerAdvocate's American Craft Beer Beer Fest in Boston and that has it listed as an American Pale Ale, but with no reviews on the latter thus far it seems as if that style tag is a best guess at this point. All that the label notes is "Ourtoberfest," which doesn't help much in terms of style but does seem to suggest that there will be a typical Magic Hat twist with this one.

Hopefully this doesn't mean that Roxy Rolles, the current Fall Seasonal, has fallen into Magic Hat's ever growing pool of axed beers, as it is one of my favorite offerings from them and seems to be a fan favorite as well, but with these guys you never know.

Stay tuned for more info when it become available...

2010-07-13 UPDATE: confirms via a MH distribution rep that Roxy Rolles has indeed been replaced by Hex Ourtoberfest. I guess MH never got around to replying to my email inquiry. You can also see the beer's specs there as well, via the official MH website.

2010-07-13 UPDATE #2: I just checked my email to see when I sent the inquiry to MH so that I could post here and rip them for not responding, but noticed the email was sitting in my Draft box rather than Sent they never responded because I never sent it. Oops. My fault. NOT MH's, and they did not ignore me in any way.

Ain't No Sunshine

Florida is known for a lot of things: beaches, alligators, the Golden Girls...but beer is not one of them. Sure, there have been some acclaimed breweries to open in the Sunshine State over the past couple of years (Saint Somewhere in Tarpon Springs and Cigar City in Tampa come to mind. Hmm, maybe you just need to be in the Tampa Bay area to brew good beer here), but by and large Florida has always been sort of a beer wasteland, and it kind of makes sense. The state's primary industry is tourism and most folks heading down for a nice, tropical vacation don't have an Imperial Stout or a hoppy IPA on the brain.

The other craft beer issue in Florida is simply finding the stuff, be it anything brewed within the state or beyond. Walk into your typical liquor store or supermarket (at least in the Orlando area), and you'll be greeted by a boatload of Bud, Miller, Coors and Corona. You might find a smattering of Samuel Adams products or maybe some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but more often than not that's just about it. So for my recent trip down there I knew the pickings would be slim, yet was semi-lucky enough to stumble upon a store that stocked some craft stuff, including locally brewed beers from the Florida Beer Company out of Melbourne, FL. Although I seemed to recall some lukewarm things at best about the brewery, I happily grabbed one six-pack each of the Key West Southernmost Wheat and the Hurricane Reef Pale Ale. Unfortunately, my cloudy memory turned out to be mostly right.

The Southernmost Wheat was up first and it actually starts out nice enough in both the aroma and flavor, with wheat notes blended with hints of lemon, lime, yeast and some sugary candy from the Belgian yeast. The problem begins at the end of each sip, which comes across as a bit too lime-y with even a bit of saltiness in the mix at times. Not awful, but certainly off-putting and it definitely took away from the overall flavor of the beer.

The next issue was the mouth feel. This one was light bodied, as it should be, but waaaay over-carbonated to the point that it was noticeable time and time again and made it seem at times as if you were sipping a Sprite and not a beer.

In the end I didn't hate this one as the flavor was pretty good for the most part, but the little things here and there as noted above made the Southernmost Wheat less than memorable and more of an average beer than I was hoping it'd be.

So, maybe the Hurricane Reef Pale Ale will be a little better, right? Wrong.

The only place where the Pale really excelled was the appearance, which came across as a nice looking, lighter bodied English Style Pale Ale with a decent copper color and a nice frothy head.

Flavor and aroma were downhill from there, coming across as average at best and at times worse than that: malty and biscuity with hints of grass, but there was an odd butter/rubber/perfume blend that jumped in here (and I've seen it in a few other beers too) that just seemed out of place. The base of the beer was pretty good but the mashup of other, odd/off flavors that were thrown into the mix really took this one down a few notches and made it a pedestrian beer overall that I just wasn't crazy about.

Sadly, I'd almost certainly pass on both of these beers on my next beer excursion in Florida, and they've left a bad (or at least bland) taste in my mouth for the Florida Beer Company as a whole. I love to drink local as often as I can when I travel, but will be looking elsewhere in the future.

Is Fat Tire the Next Sam Adams?

You would certainly think that Fat Tire, the wildly popular Amber Ale from Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Company, is on it's way to becoming the next Samuel Adams Boston Lager based on both how often and where I saw it available during a recent drive down to Florida.

Until recently, Fat Tire had been a mystery to much of the East Coast, almost like a craft brewed counterpart to Coors, which was similarly mysterious to and sought after by East Coasters 25-30 years or so ago. And while the Coors brand has been well entrenched nationwide in the world of macro beers for quite some time now, Fat Tire has been the little-craft-brewery-that-could, slowly crawling across the Mississippi River and finally finding it's way into some East Coast states within the past year or so.

North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia are amongst the latest states to fall under the Fat Tire distribution footprint, and while I did spot the beer here and there during a similar trip around this time last year, it's presence has grown amazingly since then: from bars and restaurants to packaged goods stores and even gas stations, Fat Tire is everywhere. On tap, in six packs, twelve packs and 22 ounce single bottles as well, the marketing blitz that this beer has made at the retail level is insane.

This is a great step for the overall availability and acceptance of craft beer and I hope that New Belgium continues to push Fat Tire further into more states with a strategic growth plan. That said, there's still a long road ahead.

Fat Tire is currently not available anywhere in the Northeast/New England regions, and both will be tough nuts to crack. Craft drinkers from these areas are not only typically fiercely loyal to the breweries from their respective regions, but are generally also more loyal than the rest of the country to the Samuel Adams brand as a whole, especially New England where there roots of the Boston Beer Company of course remain. And while it's neither a full on craft operation nor craft beer, Yuengling's Traditional Lager has a dominant hold on much of the "tweener" market in the Mid-Atlantic states.

Regardless, I think such a push can be successful, and they've got one huge advantage that the Sam Adams brand has intentionally ignored thus far: Fat Tire in cans.

Canned craft beer is making a huge push (nearly 100 American Craft breweries can their products now), and canned beer can be taken any number of places where glass bottles are neither allowed nor practical: music festivals, camping, fishing and the beach are just a handful of said places. Plus, by keeping out both light and oxygen, cans help to keep beer fresh for a longer period of time.

So, while New Belgium has got a long way to go before Fat Tire catches up with Sam Adams (and hell, maybe that's not even their intent, but it certainly seems like that's the long term goal), it's doing a bang up job now in the states that it does have distribution in, or at least the ones that I've been to. If you live in a state where Fat Tire is not yet available, keep your eyes peeled and shoot the brewery an email if you want to see it sooner rather than later. If you live in one of the newly added or long standing distribution states, keep on drinking that Fat Tire and help to make a better case for it's continued, successful growth.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Whether he is taking inspiration from a 2,700 year old Turkish recipe, brewing a beer using one ingredient from every continent on Earth or simply slipping a Golden Shower past the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales is always pushing the envelope in the world of craft beer. At Dogfish, what often starts out as a quirky, brainstorming project is still almost always done for the greater good and advancement of craft beer. Sure it's fun to take what many would call over-the-top risks, but doing so without purpose is just plain silly, and thankfully the Dogfish crew is constantly looking to provide the consumer something new and worthwhile to experience rather than just looking to generate some press with some zany, new concoction.

For Palo Santo Marron, an unfiltered Brown Ale aged on Palo Santo wood from Paraguay, Dogfish decided that they wanted a wood-aged and flavored beer yet did not want to take the typical bourbon barrel approach and in turn end up with the typical bourbon flavor that most of the breweries that experiment with barrel aging end up with, so what did they do? They built a 10,000 gallon wooden brewing vessel on-site at their Milton, Delaware facility specifically for the production of this 12.0% ABV beer. Said behemoth is claimed to be the largest wooden vessel of it's kind to built in America since pre-Prohibition.

So, what started out as a smaller scale, experimental project eventually turned into a large scale, year round beer worthy of it's own expensive-ass holding tank, and the results are absolutely fantastic.

The deep brown color of the liquid here is basically black and looks much like a porter or stout would. That, combined with a nice creamy tan head atop the body, makes for a very inviting beer.

A smorgasbord of awesome aromas then hit you head on: this one is boozy with bits of caramel, wood, semi-sweet chocolate, licorice and brown sugar...all of which are tied together by a bread vibe that creeps in throughout. The aromatics all carry though to the flavor where a nice bitterness comes out to play and blends with more burnt wood and roasted malt characteristics that didn't show up in the aroma very often, if at all. It's even a bit smoky here and there, with brown sugar and somewhat of a raisin bite seemingly carrying you through each sip. The finish is dry and quite harsh but fits perfectly here with the medium bodied, slick and somewhat hefty beer that most definitely has some hotness to it from the higher alcohol content. Great job.

Palo Santo Marron has quickly become arguably my favorite Dogfish Head beer. I've always been a big fan of their 90 Minute IPA, but I think this one may have surpassed it on originality and overall flavor and balance. It's absolutely a sipper, but a damn fine one at that and one that you'll certainly want more of once your glass is empty. Make it a point to try the Palo Santo Marron. Soon. Seriously. Get up, go to the store and get some. Now.

Hopback, beer, Dogfish Head, Delaware, Palo Santo Marron, Brown Ale, Sam Calagione, Paraguay

Thursday, May 6, 2010

She Grew Up in an Indiana Town...

I've always found it interesting that Chicago's most sought-after brewery is located in Indiana (and when I say sought-after, I'm not kidding: Three Floyds Brewing Company is amongst the most popular and most traded breweries in the America, and they also host Dark Lord Day, a once a year event that draws in thousands of beer lovers from all across the country, if not the world).

Founded in Hammond, Indiana in 1996, Three Floyds moved slightly south a few years later to it's current Munster, Indiana location and has been selling the crap out of it's beers from there ever since. Their beer used to be available in and around Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City some time ago, but with minimal brewing capacity, the brewery had to scale back it's distribution footprint and now focuses largely on the Chicagoland area while being available in Indiana and select parts of Wisconsin and Kentucky as well. Needless to say, limited availability plus insane popularity makes obtaining their beers outside of their home territory a difficult task, but I was able to get my hands on several bottles of their regular lineup not too long ago.

Gumballhead started things off and quite frankly it's a dangerously drinkable session ale. There's a very nice blend of citrus and pepper along with a juicy candy-like vibe mixing with a bit of bread in both the flavor and aroma. Juiciness shines through a bit more in the flavor. Wheat comes into play here and there but does not pop as much as you'd expect for an American Wheat Ale. It's not as simple as I remember it being in the past (not that it was ever simple), but I seem to recall it having much more of a wheat profile. This is an endlessly refreshing beer.

Pride and Joy takes the juiciness of Gumballhead, cranks it up a touch and adds a good dose of pine to the sweet candy and bread notes that are in the mix here as well. Pine and fruit sweetness is always a kick-ass combination for me, and there's no exception here. The flavor is juicy throughout and hops pack a punch but don't overpower. There's also a slightly burnt woodiness at the finish. This one is well balanced overall and again, highly drinkable. It's not a traditional Mild Ale by any means but it's a nice Americanized version of one and I'd take it any day of the week.

Three Floyds flagship beer, Alpha King, is a bigger take on the American Pale Ale style but is careful not to slip into "Imperial" territory. The aroma brings notes of caramel, pine, citrus, grass and pepper. Lots of hops, but again stays away from Imperial or even standard IPA territory. The flavor takes the reins from the aroma and hits you with pine and caramel up front, citrus in the middle and then more of a bitter, rugged finish that still holds a hint of sweetness.

Robert the Bruce stands out the most amongst the year round portfolio as it's the only real "dark" beer of the bunch and certainly the only one that leads the way with a malt-heavy flavor. Earth, darker berries and nuttiness is the theme of the aroma here, along with hints of juicy hops in the back. This carries into the flavor which has that rugged earthiness but maintains a healthy sweetness as well. It's a bit juicy and a bit smoky with some roasted malt at the finish. The medium body on this one is a bit slick and tough and just perfect for a Scottish Ale. Solid.

Finally we have what turned out to be a big disappointment for me: Dreadnaught. This beer is one of the highest profile beers that Three Floyds offers and consistently lands on lists of Top Beers in America and Top Beers in the World. It's a well respected, insanely popular and much loved beer...but I just don't get it. Don't get me wrong, it's okay, but it's no where near best-of-the-best level in my opinion. I've had scores of Imperial IPA's that were better.

It pours a clear light copper color with a surprisingly small sized head that is quick to dissolve. Interesting. Maybe the aroma will be better? Not really. It's got a pepper/sweet candy/citrus/wood thing going on with a hint of booziness, but everything is very faint and very tame. The flavor steps it up a bit by actually taking a slightly different direction: there are hints of smoke and tobacco here, along with more of an earthiness. Hoppy. Bitter. Dirty. Sweetness is definitely lacking. Citrus and pepper may come out in the middle on occasion. Pretty good flavor, but the overall experience is a bit lacking.

Again, I can't believe the hype around this one. I don't want to bash it as a bad beer because it's far from that, but it's just not memorable. Certainly not worth $10.00 or so per bottle. Sorry Dreadnaught.

The big winners here were the two beers I was expecting to enjoy the least: Robert the Bruce and Pride and Joy. Both are quite enjoyable all around. Alpha King and Gumballhead are very good as well, but I just preferred the others a bit more.

Give Three Floyds offerings a go if and when you can and while your at it, send me a few more bottles of Dreadnaught. I'm willing to give it another chance. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think so...

beer, Hopback, Three Floyds, Indiana, Chicago, Gumballhead, Pride and Joy, Alpha King, Robert the Bruce, Dreadnaught, Dark Lord Day

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Harpoon Continues Brewing Through Water Main Break

Harpoon Brewery maintained production at it's South Boston facility over the weekend despite a water main break on Saturday just west of the city that left more than two million people in the Boston metro area under orders to boil their tap water before consuming it.

Although the boil water order only ended as of today, Harpoon was able to keep production moving because they already boil their water via the brewing process each day for 70 minutes, which is 69 minutes longer than the one minute the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority recommended that citizens boil their own tap water.

Check out the NECN video for more:

Old Dirt Hill

First off, an apology to any Dave Matthews Band fans out there for using one of their worst songs off of their worst album for the title of this post. I know it sucks (although it has gotten better as it has evolved over the years) but it fit. DMB is from Charlottesville, Starr Hill was founded in Charlottesville (but has since moved to Crozet). Utterly cheesy I know, but you get the picture.

Anyway, I had been hearing good things about the Starr Hill Brewery for some time now, but despite the fact that the Virginia state border is only a three hour or so drive from my house (i.e. it's pretty damn close to New Jersey in the grand scheme of things), none of it's breweries distribute here. Needless to say, I was stoked when I came into possession of a six pack of their Northern Lights IPA, which was supposedly one of the highlights of their arsenal of beer. I'm happy to say it's pretty damn good stuff indeed.

For whatever reason, I tend to gloss over the appearance of most beers, but just can't do that here with Northern Lights. It looks friggin' fantastic, pouring an awesome hazy orange/copper color with a huge, pillowy head that has great retention to it. Once it settles in a nice, web-like residue pattern is left on the glass. This is just great looking stuff.

The flavor and aroma dial it back a notch from awesomeness of the appearance but are both still quite solid. Hops take the citrus route with more subtle grass and pepper notes coming into play as well, and a nice earthy maltiness balances things out yet still lets the hops lead the way. There's a bitter, biting pop from the hops throughout along with a toasted bread vibe at the end of each sip.

While this one is available year round and I could certainly drink it year round, there's just something about it that screams "Summer IPA" to me. I guess maybe it's that lighter, non-extreme feel that it's got to it, but this one would be perfect to knock back on the porch at the end of a hot summer day.

A relatively tame, more traditional IPA? Sure, but it's a solid one, and it's got me itching to try some more Starr Hill stuff, so a job well done.

beer, Hopback, Starr Hill, Charlottesville, Virginia, Northern Lights, IPA, India Pale Ale

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's Hard to Be a Saint in the Citi

As a life-long Yankees fan, I've grown accustomed to the higher standards of baseball in the Bronx. At the same time, I've grown equally accustomed to watching their cross-town rival Mets screw the pooch 99.9% of the time. So, when both opened grandiose new stadiums last year it should have been a foregone conclusion as to which would be the nicer finished product, right? Wrong. Yankee Stadium is elegant indeed, but Ebbets...strike that, Citi Field takes the cake for the best stadium in Gotham.

And the best part (for me) about Citi Field? The beer selection. While you are for the most part stuck in a sea of Heineken and Nine Dollar Schlitz at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field has Big Apple Brews, a large-ish beer stand in the Taste of the City section of the ballpark that offers about 30 different beers from around the world. Want more? Three of the eateries (from Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group) in Taste of the City offer up specially brewed beer from the Brooklyn Brewery that are available only at said establishments.

First up is the Shackmeister Ale, a pale ale brewed for the Shake Shack, an uber-popular burger joint who's original location opened back in 2004 in Manhattan's Washington Square Park. Shackmeister comes in on the lighter side of things overall, from color to aroma to flavor, but that's not a bad thing here as you should be looking for an easier drinking beer to complement your burger and fries, not overpower them, and that's exactly what this beer accomplishes. There's an overall sweetness to it from some caramel malt blending with some floral, grassy, even candy-like flavors at times. Very easy to drink and again, a nice beer to pair with your burger which, if you didn't know already, you may have to wait 45 minutes or more in line to get one. Yep. Shake Shack is that popular and it's burgers are that good.

Next in line is what was for me both the highlight beer and far and away the best food I had at the ballpark. Hell, it's the best food I've had at any ballpark. I'm talking about El Verano Taqueria and their Sabroso Ale. Once you enter the gates at Citi Field make a mad dash to this stand and order the taco combo, which consists of a pork, chicken and steak taco and each one is fantastic. As for the Sabroso, I've seen it listed as a Pale Ale by a few different places but it struck me as more of an ESB. It's got a caramel, earthy malt vibe to it with floral and grassy hops balancing things out, along with a hint of citrus. I'd even say there's a slight bit of nuttiness at the bittersweet finish to this one, which comes in with a slightly creamy mouth feel overall. Great balance all around. I thought it went fantastically well with the spicy (but not overpowering) tacos.

Finally, we have Blue Smoke Original Ale brewed for the BBQ-themed Blue Smoke. I've heard great things about the original restaurant but wasn't terribly impressed with the pulled pork offered at the game. It was a bit dry and fairly bland overall. As for the Ale, I'd have to say that it's the least impressive of the three Brooklyn ales we're discussing today. That's not to say it's bad (it's not), but one of them has to come in last and well, the Blue Smoke Ale is it. The aroma and even the flavor are somewhat faint, with caramel and grass leading the way and providing a very mild but balanced base. There's a slight juiciness and a bit of a hop kick here as well, but again everything comes across as tame. It's almost like a lighter, less flavorful version of the Sabroso. I'd call this one slightly above average.

In the end, all three of these beers are fairly similar to one another but each one strays slightly from that similar base they all seem to have and that makes for definitively distinct beers. For me, the clear winner is the Sabroso, which by the way is the only one here that is truly unique to Citi Field. While you won't be able to run down to your corner store or bar to grab the Shackmeister or Blue Smoke, they are available at their restaurants' other locations in the city. As this is the only El Verano Taqueria in operation at the moment, it's your only option for the Sabroso Ale.

Kick-ass, wildly creative beers? Nope all around. Solid, flavorful beers that pair well with the styles of food with which they are sold? Absolutely.

Friday, April 30, 2010

An Emperial IPA for Stone's 14th Anniversary

The folks at Stone Brewing Company posted a brief yet info-packed video yesterday announcing the details of their ever-changing Anniversary Ale that is released each summer.

For their 14th Anniversary this year, it seems as if they are taking one of their most traditional approaches ever with a Brit-inspired Emperial IPA, and by traditional I mean it sounds a bit off the beaten path nonetheless yet still a bit tame for Stone at the same time.

Check out the video for more info:

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA Announced from stonebrew on Vimeo.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Craft Beer Stunner: The Griffin Group Acquires Anchor Brewing Company & Establishes Anchor Brewers & Distillers, LLC

Wow. Fritz Maytag, owner of Anchor Brewing Company since 1965 and one of the long standing pioneers of the craft brewing industry, has sold the brewery. Again...WOW.

Hot off the press via BeerAdvocate:



Acquisition Continues the Legacy of a San Francisco Icon

(San Francisco, CA) - April 27, 2010 - The Griffin Group, an investment and consulting company focused on beverage alcohol brands, announced its acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company which includes its portfolio of craft beers and artisan spirits, including the award winning Anchor Steam Beer.

The Griffin Group is led by beverage alcohol veterans, Keith Greggor and Tony Foglio, two longtime San Francisco residents who have been working with Anchor Brewing Company's owner, Fritz Maytag to maintain the iconic brewery and distillery in San Francisco.

"Anchor Brewing Company has a long history in San Francisco and The Griffin Group is ushering in an exciting era while maintaining our proud, time-honored history," said Fritz Maytag. "Combining Keith and Tony's passion for the Anchor Brewing Company, their industry experience and expertise only means that Anchor will be enjoyed in San Francisco for generations to come."

"Since 1896, Anchor Brewing Company has been an icon of San Francisco's history and culture," stated Griffin's Founding Partner, Keith Greggor, "I am honored to bring Anchor Brewing Company into our family of craft beers and artisanal spirits through establishing Anchor Brewers & Distillers, LLC."

Anchor Brewers & Distillers intends to establish a "Center of Excellence" in San Francisco for craft brewers and artisan distillers from around the world. An epicenter of development, education, entertainment and innovation, all designed to further contribute to the culture and heritage of craft beer and artisan spirits.

"San Francisco is the perfect place to establish this center," stated Tony Foglio, "Through our extensive portfolio of craft beers and fine spirits our focus will be to educate and satisfy the increasing consumer demand for authentic, quality and natural products that reflect the passion of their creators."

Continuing the Anchor heritage, Mr. Maytag has been named Chairman Emeritus of Anchor Brewers & Distillers.

The Griffin Group operates as both boutique merchant and investment bank for premiere craft beers and artisan spirits. In addition to the Anchor Beers, The Griffin Group will assume control of the spirits brands including Old Potrero Whiskey, Junipero Gin and Genevieve Gin through the acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company. Additional affiliated companies to be held under Anchor Brewers & Distillers include Preiss Imports, a leading US specialist spirits and beer importer, and BrewDog USA, LLC, the US division of the leading UK craft beer.

The Griffin Group is headquartered in Novato, Marin County, California.

Hopback, beer, Anchor Brewing, sold, San Francisco, Griffin Group, Fritz Maytag

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Carolina Blues

North Carolina is the most under-rated beer state in the country. Sure, places like California, Colorado and much of New England receive all the hype, but North Carolina is home to some real brewing gems. From the Pisgah Brewing Company in the the mountains of the western portion of the state to the Weeping Radish Eco Farm and Brewery along the eastern shores of the Outer Banks and with The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Top of the Hill and more in between, North Carolina is a growing force to be reckoned with in the craft brewing world.

My personal favorite brewery from the state however is fortunately also one of it's easiest to come by. Highland Brewing Company cranks out it's beers in Asheville, one of the coolest little cities you'll ever visit.

Highland was founded in late 1994 by Oscar Wong and started with a 6,500 barrel capacity that was draft or 22 ounce hand-bottled offerings only. A few years later they added a bottling line that allowed them to start packaging in 12 ounce bottles and they have been steadily growing since, now having the capacity to brew up to 20,000 barrels annually.

Their portfolio includes a nice range of styles from a wickedly tasty Oatmeal Porter to a tongue tingling Kashmir IPA, but the beer we'll be looking at today is their most popular offering, Gaelic Ale, a highly quaff-able Amber Ale with a nice balance to it.

What I like about this one is the simplicity paralleled with a bit of uncertainty. For instance, I couldn't really completely put my finger on what was going on in the aroma. It's got a nice sweet malty caramel base for sure thanks to a good dose of caramel malt, but is there some cocoa in there? Some faint, juicy, citrus hops in the back? A slight tick of pine, and perhaps even some spice notes like a hint of cinnamon? Hmmm. I'm probably over-thinking it but there seems to be more here than meets the eye, although the flavor is much more direct.

Earthy, rugged notes lead each sip with a good roasted malt tone, but the sweetness from the caramel is still there as well, and the juicy hops that I thought I picked up in the aroma are certainly present at the finish. Although they certainly make their presence known, hops never really come out and attack the palate (which works nicely for the style) and they let the malt do most of the talking for a balanced overall flavor.

A very easy beer to drink, and at 5.8% ABV it's still arguably at the top end of what would be considered a session ale. Many people like to max out session ales at about 5.0% ABV, while others will push it up to about 6.0% ABV. I tend to fall in the latter group. Regardless, it's still quite good. It's not going to blow your palate away with bold or new flavors, but that's not the idea here. Take this one for what it's aiming to be and you won't be disappointed.

Hopback, beer,
Highland, Asheville,
North Carolina, Gaelic Ale,
Pisgah, Weeping Radish,
Duck Rabbit, Top of the Hill

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dripping in This Strange Design

Packaging makes or breaks a beer. What's that you say? I'm crazy? Well yeah, but not really. Beer in and of itself should be judged solely on the liquid that is either in the bottle or from the tap. This alone is simple enough, yet it's getting to that liquid that can often prove difficult.

Here's the deal: I'm a sucker for slick packaging and presentation and really, we all should be. Why? Craft beer choices for the consumer continue to grow. Here in New Jersey we now have more than 100 American breweries that offer their products to us. I am of the mindset that as a brewery if you are taking the time to care about how your product is presented to the marketplace, be it through labeling, logos, tap handles, etc, then you'll be equally if not more so concerned with and attentive to the quality of the product you put in those same packages you took such pride in creating. That well designed packaging scheme is basically saying, "Check out how wonderful I look. The beer inside is even better. Take me home to drink and I won't let you down."

You can't be loyal to a product you've never tried, so why not start with trying to stand out from the myriad of other options surrounding your products on the shelves?

And yes, as is the case with everything, there are exceptions. There are breweries with top notch marketing and packaging efforts that couldn't brew a decent beer if their life depended on it, yet there are also breweries that have abysmal packaging schemes that put out some of the finest ales or lagers in the United States. But when push comes to shove, if I'm looking to try something new and am deciding between two or three brewery offerings that I know little to nothing about, then I'm picking the one that on the shelf is most appealing to my eye.

Sure, I understand that some craft breweries might not have the budget to develop their brand as much as they'd like beyond word-of-mouth marketing, and others may have both the marketing budget and also the creative brewing mind to capture liquid genius in a bottle yet can't fathom how to actually market that bottle, but in the end it's a shame that so many breweries are just unable to take that extra step to get their beers into the hands of consumers more easily.

Fortunately, there's a movement of breweries within the industry who do seem to get and thrive on the overall scheme of complementing great beer with great presentation (Great Divide, Stone, The Bruery and Dogfish Head are just some examples), and the latest to jump on board is the Left Hand Brewing Company out of Colorado, which is in the midst of drastically overhauling it's brand labels yet still very much keeping with the brewery vibe and marketing approach of the past.

Check out some of the changes below. While the old set wasn't terrible, it never really stood out either and got to the point where it had been around for so long that it seemed to be caught in that stale, 1990's looking, flat design. The new look just pops a whole lot more with more vibrant colors and lively graphics and certainly draws me in more at a quick glance to make me stop and find out what that beer is. I can easily see more people now doing the same and picking up these Left Hand brands to learn more and ultimately holding onto them to purchase, which in my mind means mission accomplished with the design reload. An excellent job all around by Left Hand.




Monday, March 29, 2010

Time of the Season

Seasonal creep has hit a new low in the brewing world. For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, seasonal creep essentially refers to breweries releasing their more popular seasonal beers sooner than the season that they represent dictates in order to maximize sales on that particular style from their portfolio.

From a business perspective, this makes complete sense. If you've got a Winter Ale that typically sells twice as much as your Octoberfest, then you best get the former on the shelves as soon as you can. The problem is that from a craft beer consumer standpoint it often leaves you scratching your head.

Case in point, and the reason for this post: I went out to dinner over the weekend and while the beer selection was limited, the bar had tap handles for Magic Hat Vinyl, Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Samuel Adams Noble Pils, which if you didn't know is the new Spring Seasonal from Boston Beer Company and is actually quite enjoyable and in my opinion is a significant step up from their former Spring seasonal, the White Ale. Anyway, I happily ordered up a pint of the Pils and not five minutes later our waitress had returned to inform me that the Pils keg had recently kicked and had since been replaced by the Summer Ale. Huh? Spring was barely a week old and the Spring Seasonal from one of the largest breweries in the country was already being shoved aside. Unacceptable. I decided to pass on the Summer and go for a pint of the Vinyl instead as while it's not nearly as flavorful or enjoyable as the Noble Pils or even the Summer Ale at that, it's still decent enough and is actually Magic Hat's Spring beer. A light, refreshing lemony summer wheat beer just didn't seem right on a cold, windy and rainy April evening.

(As an aside, and this is not Boston Beer's fault in any way, if a keg of one beer kicks and you replace it with something else, change the tap handle! I'm pretty sure it's actually illegal in New Jersey to dispense beer from a tap that's marked as another brand. Bad form by the restaurant.)

And while Boston Beer might not be the biggest culprit, they are almost certainly the most visible simply because of their size, yet are of course not the only offenders. I've been able to pick up four packs of Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale in early August, have already seen Leinenkugel's Summer Explorer Twelve pack on the shelves this year and just recently purchased a Lakefront Brewery Sampler Eight-Pack (reviews of these beers coming soon) where one of the slots was reserved for a seasonal beer from the brewery. I assumed that slot would be occupied by Snake Chaser, their Irish Style Spring Stout, but alas was greeted by a bottle of White Beer which is, you guessed it, their Summer offering.

Now, I'm not suggesting that a Summer Ale for instance should only be available from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but having it out in the market from late April until early September seems much more reasonable (although it's still too early for my liking).

Hopefully we've maxed out the seasonal creep for the breweries that are current offenders and others won't follow suit. The problem is that, again from a business standpoint, you can't really blame them for making the decision to do so as they'd just be trying to keep up with the other guys.

The only way to make these breweries realize that their release schedules can be a bit ridiculous is to refuse to purchase a beer that comes out with a crazy early jump on it's intended season. Maybe then they'll realize that they're doing a disservice to their other brands (you certainly can't grow a brand if you limit it's release window) and change their ways. Speaking for myself, I can say that my first sip of Samuel Adams Summer Ale is still weeks least.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Otis Blue

Sure were still in the early part of the year and it's not a new beer by any means, but I'm telling you now that Otis, a fantastically tasty Oatmeal Stout from Brooklyn's own Sixpoint Craft Ales, will be on my Top Ten Beers of 2010 list. It's that good.

From the rocky off-white head and luscious near black color to the aromas and flavors which both impressively balance a roasted malt, heartier base with sweeter caramel and chocolate/cocoa notes, along with a touch of coffee. Bitterness is fairly tame overall and the great balance along with a bit of chewy ruggedness makes this one impossibly easy to drink.

I paired it with some lobster enchiladas which were layered with a spicy red diablo sauce, rice and beans and it worked perfectly. Much as the beer itself strikes a nice balance between roasted and sweet, it helped to balance the meal as a whole with the sweeter notes complementing and somewhat taming the overall spiciness of the food.

While the obvious and most common beer style pairing with spicy dishes is the IPA because the boldness of the hops stands up nicely to the intensity of the food, I usually prefer a sweeter based Porter or Stout to accentuate some of the flavors, especially if there is any seafood in the dish, as a spicy dish/IPA combination can often overwhelm the palate.

The Sixpoint lineup is draft only and is fairly difficult to come by in New Jersey, so if you live or find yourself near Asbury Park I highly recommend stopping into Langosta Lounge on the Boardwalk. The food is great and they've got Otis on tap, but who knows for how long...

Hopback, beer, Sixpoint, Otis, Oatmeal Stout, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Asbury Park

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Some good news and some sad news arrived from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania today via the Tröegs Tales March 2010 Newsletter. Let's start with the bad stuff:

Tröegs has announced that the last batch of Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale was brewed back in February and has officially shipped out for the last time. According to the newsletter, there was simply no longer any room in the portfolio (or the tanks) for Rugged Trail given the current beers that Tröegs is currently brewing.

I for one am sad to see Rugged Trail go. It has always been amongst my favorites from Tröegs (bet you can't guess my actual favorite...) and was a wonderful take on the style and a great session ale for sure. If you're a fan, I suggest you grab any and all six-packs of the stuff while you can.

Yet from this sad news comes some good, and while it's been out there as rumor for a while, Tröegs has officially given word that Javahead Stout, which was to be a limited, seasonal beer originally released last Autumn, has been given year round status and will now be available in 12 ounce, 22 ounce and draft formats. The 12 ounce bottles have already begun shipping and the 22 ounce and draft will be available starting in late March/early April.

Finally, Tröegs has also announced a new variety case called Anthology. It will replace the Tröegs Dozen variety case which has been around for a long while now, and will have two slightly different incarnations. Anthology Number One will contain Hopback Amber Ale, Tröegs Pale Ale, Dreamweaver Wheat and Sunshine Pils, while Anthology Number Two will swap in the Javahead Stout for the Sunshine Pils. The former is anticipated to be available from April until September and the latter from September until March.

beer, Hopback, Troegs, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Rugged Trail, Nut Brown Ale, Javahead, Stout, Anthology, Pale Ale, Sunshine Pils, Dreamweaver Wheat

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sweet Home Chicago

Collaboration beers are all the rage in the craft brewing world right now, and with the Brewers Association's annual Craft Brewers Conference coming up next month (April 7-10) in Chicago, a new one time only beer will make an appearance as the ultimate Windy City collaborative effort.

Heartwood Symposium Ale was brewed by members of the Illinois Craft Brewers guild at Chicago's own Goose Island Beer Company. It is 100% Aged in Bourbon Barrels and, according to the print on the label is the result of 15 Illinois breweries which "formed four teams, each creating a recipe and brewing it at Goose Island Beer Co: Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, Scotch Style Wee Heavy and a Barley Wine Style Ale." These were all aged separately in Bourbon barrels and then blended into the beer that will be presented at the conference.

This sounds like an amazing project. I'd sure love to get my hands on some, and I'm sure most of you would too, but good luck in your quest. The Symposium beers are typically tiny batch offerings that are bottled and given only to conference attendees and perhaps some members of the local press, so coming across one for non-attendees will be next to impossible.

Beer, Hopback, Craft Brewers Conference, Chicago, collaboration, Goose Island, term one, Heartwood Symposium Ale

Friday, February 26, 2010

Stone Skips Across the Pond

The guys over at Stone Brewing have finally posted the final part of their most excellent Stone Skips Across the Pond mini-documentary and the entire saga is now available for viewing in it's complete form.

For those who don't know, Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele from Stone made the trek over to Europe in July of 2009 to brew the latest edition of a collaborative Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne Ø Holiday Ale at the Nøgne Ø facilities in Norway. From there, they shot across to Scotland where they set out to brew Bashah, a Double Black Belgian IPA, in collaboration with BrewDog.

This isn't a technical look behind the scenes by any means, but rather a fun peek into the world of brewing and collaborations amongst friends and colleagues, and is definitely worth a look. Click below to watch or click on the image above to go direct to the Vimeo site for a larger, HD version.

Stone Skips Across the Pond | Full version from stonebrew on Vimeo.

Hopback, beer, Stone, Nogne O, Jolly Pumpkin, Norway, Scotland, Bashah

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thelonious Monk(shine)

Ah, Utah. I've never been, but it's a state that has always intrigued me for a variety of reasons. While my parents say it's far and away the most beautiful state they've ever visited, I've always seen it as the place that's chock full of bizarre laws: boxing matches that allow biting are not allowed (sorry, Iron Mike), no one may have sex in the back of an ambulance if it is responding to an emergency get the picture. More importantly, and for our purposes here, the liquor laws have always been odd as well, with alcohol by volume maxing out at 4.0% for beer and private club membership being required for full alcoholic beverage service.

Thankfully, things have loosened up a bit for Utah residents in recent years. While taverns, restaurants, brewpubs and grocery stores can still only sell 4.0% ABV beer, private clubs have morphed into non-membership bars with full alcohol service and state liquor stores can also sell beers that weigh in over that 4.0% ABV threshold. This has really allowed Utah breweries to get their creative juices flowing, and one such brewery is, ironically enough, Four + Brewing out of Salt Lake City, which is a division of Uinta Brewing Company.

Monkshine is their approach to the Belgian style Pale Ale, and I have to admit that I was a bit shocked at just how well this one came together. There's a lot of sweetness to the aroma from the Belgian yeast that gives off a nice candy-like vibe, and it mixes in with some banana and citrus notes and a good dose of grassiness/graininess. There is also a slight tick of corn in the aroma which I have found to come out in this particular style from time to time. Nothing offensive and nothing negative about it, but it is there.

The flavor continues on with the aromatic characteristics, and pulls off a more bitter than expected finish to compliment the sweetness that lingers throughout. General candy gives way to a slightly more specific bubble gum vibe. Again, there are some nice grassy qualities here. Refreshing.

There's a certain wispy farmhouse quality to this one that was really quite enjoyable from start to finish. It actually reminds me of a specific beer, but I can't put my finger on which beer that is. I'm sure it'll come to me eventually. I would certainly pick Monkshine up again and would say it is absolutely worth your time to try a few bottles. It's not a big beer that will knock your socks off, but rather something that holds truer to the style and is highly quaff-able.

Hopback, beer, Utah, Salt Lake City, Four +, Uinta, Monkshine, Belgian, Pale Ale

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let There Be Rock (Art)

The Double India Pale Ale has come a long way lately and it is finally starting to catch the attention of my palate. While the style is fairly young in comparison to most others in the beer world (it has really only been brewed for the past 15 to 20 years or so, and only truly became uber-popular and trendy in the early to mid 2000's), it arguably contains some of the most sought after products in the market within it's family, at least here in the United States. My problem with Double IPA's has been that in the past they've largely been something that was brewed to out do the previous guy in trying to create the hoppiest beer possible. Thankfully, this has started to change in recent years, and we're getting Double IPA's that are more balanced than ever, yet can still provide a palate shredding hop burst that standard IPA's just can't touch, and nor should they. A great example of what I think is a newer wave of the Double IPA is the IPA (II) from Vermont's own Rock Art Brewery.

It pours out of the bottle a murky amber/copper color with minimal head retention, but the real story here is the flavor and aroma. As noted above, a much more balanced attack is the key: there's a bit of citrus and also a peppery, slightly spicy bite and all of this blends quite nicely with a hint of caramel sweetness but more so a nice bread-like quality throughout. The aroma takes on a bit more of a biscuit quality while the flavor sticks more toward the traditional baked bread characteristics. Similar yes, but quite different at the same time. To add just a bit more complexity to the mix, a slight hint of pine comes through at times as well.

Balance is again the key in the mouthfeel, where there's a good bit of chewiness and a tongue-tingling bite from the hops meshing with the carbonation, but it's not as heavy handed as a typical Double IPA where often one's mouth can feel like it's being slashed with each sip.

This is a very drinkable beer in general, and especially so for the style. Hops certainly still lead the way but never overshadow any of the other flavors. I'd call it a bit of a "tweener," straddling the line between a standard and Double IPA, but still leaning heavily toward the latter. It could be seen as a nice introductory beer into the world of Double IPA's, but by no means would I call it tame, and it's 8.0% ABV is actually hidden quite nicely. Nice stuff.

Hopback, beer, Rock Art, Vermont, Double India Pale Ale, IPA

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Like It Hottenroth

Who's in the mood for a low alcohol, sour ale that's made using a wild bacteria culture? I'm guessing there aren't too many hands raised, but the truth of the matter is that these are all elements of a rare style of beer from Germany called Berliner Weisse.

The Berliner Weisse, as you may have guessed from the name, has roots in the city of Berlin and it's surrounding area dating back to about the 16th century, and is brewed with a large proportion of wheat. The beer tends to stick to the lower end of the alcohol by volume (ABV) spectrum, typically coming in around 3.0% ABV (to compare, most macro beers like Budweiser, Coors, etc tend to fall in the 4-5% ABV range, while most "sessionable" craft beers come in around 5-6% ABV), with the sour flavor created either by secondary fermentation in the bottle or by adding lactobacillus during the brewing process.

While a Berliner Weisse can certainly be enjoyed on it's own, it is often paired with flavored syrups, with raspberry and woodruff being two of the most popular choices.

The style is still somewhat difficult to come by, yet a growing number of craft breweries in the United States have been diving into it to offer up their own take. One such stab at the style is Hottenroth from The Bruery, a less than two year old establishment out of Southern California that has been cranking out an array of incredibly solid and flavorful beers since day one.

Hottenroth pours a light golden color that is mostly clear but has a slight haze to it. The mid-sized head quickly dissolves leaving no residue on the glass. Interesting. This one looks very much like a beer, yet at the same time doesn't. Very difficult to explain.

The aroma is incredibly tart and sour, with a bit of a funk to it. Green apple, a touch of lemon and maybe a bit of grass and wheat are present. There's not a ton going on here, but the tartness is very cool, especially when mixed with the apple. This carries over into the flavor which I really enjoyed. There is a LOT more tartness, with the beer being sour to the point of puckering your lips after each sip. Green apple blends in well throughout. Lemon notes are kept on the backburner for the most part but are definitely there as citrus plays a part throughout. Wheat chimes in toward the finish of each sip, which gets a bit bready at times, especially as the beer warms up a bit. There is certainly a lot of funk here too, but it fits in well.

This is good stuff. I can't really compare it to much else as the only Berliner Weisse that I can recall sampling in the past is the Dogfish Head Festina Peche and the last time I had it was years ago in a small sample glass at a beer festival. As the Hottenroth stands, it does a lot with a little. I really loved the overall sourness throughout. Could I drink this one or this style in general often? Probably not, bit it is most definitely a nice treat to have every now and then. I urge you to seek this one out and in fact seek out any beers from The Bruery, as I've had the pleasure of trying four or five different styles from them thus far and they've all been top notch.

Hopback, beer, Berliner Weisse, Germany, lactobacillus, The Bruery, Hottenroth, California

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TTB Find of the Week: Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary, Round One - Fritz and Ken's Ale

Fritz and Ken's Ale, The first of Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Celebration beers, will be hitting shelves soon and here is a sneak peek at the label, which is quite similar to the 30th Anniversary web page logo posted here a few weeks ago:

This stout is a collaboration between Anchor Brewing Company owner Fritz Maytag and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company founder Ken Grossman. Fritz and Ken's Ale is a "nod to the dark ales and stouts that seduced both Fritz and Ken in the early years."

Per a recent post by Sierra Nevada's own Bill Manley on BeerAdvocate, the beer was to come in at 10%+ ABV, but as the label here clearly shows it settled in just below that at a still-hefty 9.5%ABV. Manley continued that Maytag was to be in Chico on the 29th of January and that the beer should be "ready to go" by mid-March. One final note is his post was that as of now there are three collaboration beers with other brewers planned for 2010, and a fourth that will be a collaboration of all brewers in the Sierra Nevada family.

Sierra has really gotten into a creative zone in the past year or two (yet has still very much kept these new beers tied to their traditionalist roots) and for their 30th Anniversary it sounds like they're going to raise the bar even higher...

Hopback, beer, Sierra Nevada, 30th Anniversary, Stout, Anchor Brewing, Fritz Maytag, collaboration, Chico, California