Time for a Change

I know I’ve had some faithful readers here over the years, and perhaps some of you have been wondering what has become of me.  Well I’m taking my writings to a new blog.  Same name and same content, but I won’t be charge $106 by blog site to keep my name.  So, if you’re looking for me, I can be found here.  


Fort George Brewing Co – Cavatica Stout

A few years ago my brother decided he would be joining the Coast Guard.  I’m not entirely sure I would blossom and flourish in that Cavaticaparticular setting, but he seems to be enjoying it.  One of the nice things about his job is that he gets to travel and live in a bunch of different areas.  He went to boot camp in Cape May NJ, was stationed in Boston for a time, and now lives in Astoria Oregon.  Since being officially stationed there he’s managed to take the boat to various islands, travel through the Panama Canal, and hang out in Guantanamo Bay for a little while.  I love to travel, so some of those actually do get me jealous.  Well he is about to move again from Astoria to Seattle, and we’ve never made it out there to visit him.  My wife and I change that next week.  Next Wednesday we fly into Portland to spend a couple of days in and around hipster paradise.

Being an avid beer lover, it sounds like Oregon could be a bit of Mecca for me.  My brother and Megan Vs Beer have managed to give me a few different examples of that.  I’ve received different beers from Deschutes, Ninkasi, Rogue, Hair of the Dog, and a variety of others.  Since we of course have to check out where my brother has been living the past few years, and it’s a free place to stay, we’ll definitely be heading back to Astoria.  One brewery I know I’ll be visiting while in Astoria is Fort George Brewing Co.

My brother informs me it’s right around the corner from his place.  It’s a brewery he had been telling me about for a while, and he made it even more interesting when he brought a variety of their beers back to the east coast for me.  I previously reviewed their Oatmeal Pale Ale, which I really enjoyed.  But I’ve worked my way through a few other beers from them as well.  I didn’t review it, but their Vortex IPA was really good too.  Since it is stout month, and I’m looking for a few ideas of what to do while in the Portland area, I figured it was about time to dive into their stout.

My brother has told me this beer is definitely his favorite, so I was holding on to it for a while waiting for the right time to enjoy it.  Fort George apparently has an affinity for spiders, so there are quite a few spider facts and pictures surrounding the can.  Although intrigued their love became the artwork for this particular beer, I’m not especially a fan of particularly large arachnids.  I’m trusting that they didn’t use them in the brew, so I was really looking forward to it.

This beer has a super dark oil appearance to it as it hits the glass.  Fort George goes as far as saying this beer will stain your cavatica glassclothes.  I didn’t really feel like giving that a test, so I’ll take their word for it.  There is a light brown/tannish head that develops on the pour.  There is certainly great lacing and residual sticky residue left on the sides of the glass after a nice little swirl.  Agitating the beer builds the thick and creamy head right back up.  Of course it was far too dark to get a sense of clarity, but you can see a little carbonation around the edges.

As a good stout should, both chocolate and coffee seem to dominate the aroma of the beer.  One nice thing is that they list the malts and hops they use in the brew on the side of the can and on the site.  There are no chocolate malts in the brew, but they use Munich which I suppose help give some of that nice dark chocolate smell.  There are some light roasted aromas that come off the beer as well.  These combine nicely with rather fragrant coffee scents.  The sweet malts are quite evident, but the hops seems to get swallowed up on the nose.  There is a slight woody earthy quality to the smell as well.

While there are certainly stouts out there that take it easy on some of the big stout aspects I love, I’m glad to see this beer features some nice bold stout qualities.  The beer has a typical sweet malt intro that is accompanied by some of the rich dark chocolate I pulled out of the nose.  The bold coffee flavors come in and are quickly met by huge roasted notes.  The big roasted flavors reach a peak towards the end of the brew.  Right near the end I get my first taste of some hop that could be hiding behind all that chocolate and coffee.  The beer ends with a nice sweet and chocolate flavored finish.

The beer borders on having an almost milk or oatmeal stout quality.  The big thick and creamy mouth is always nice for a bold stout like this one.  Thankfully they provided just enough carbonation to keep it slightly lighter; however, the bold roasted notes towards the end still keep it heavier throughout.

I’m definitely looking forward to finding my way over to Fort George brewery sometime next week.  I actually just saw that they will be offering this very beer aged in rye barrels.  I will certainly be on the lookout for that one.  If you’re familiar with the Portland and Astoria area, let me know some things I should be looking out for out there.  Maybe I’ll bring some good beer back for you.

Teacher Grade: A

Dogfish Head Brewing Co – Birra Etrusca Bronze

This post is my triumphant return to the blogging community.  I got a little jaded with my blogging by the end of last year, so I felt like Ietrusca needed to take a little time off.  While I really only meant it to be over the holiday break, I managed to get fairly busy over the past few weeks of the new year.  So I really felt like I didn’t have a lot of time to get on here.  It’s not like I haven’t been drinking craft beer or listening to good music.  Trust me, I’ve still been formulating different blogs in my head, but I just haven’t found the time to get back on here.  Hopefully you missed me and can’t wait to read my ramblings.

Even though I wasn’t posting anything on here, my views really kept up with the almost two years of posts in my history.  Guess I can keep contributing despite not actually writing anything new.  Also, while I was gone, it’s not like I have been buying and drinking craft beer.  My collection has continued to grow, I brewed perhaps my best beer yet (A black ipa), and I even took some notes for future reviews.  I’m not sure if I’ll abandon those notes just yet or not, but if you’re interested in reading my opinion on any of these let me know.  My notes are for Old KILTer Scottish ale from Olde Main Brewing Co, Blitzen from Blue Mountain Brewery, and the latest collaboration from Stone known as Perfect Crime.  I can put one of these up if there is interest.  Otherwise I’ll continue pressing on.

Anyway, I picked up this bottle a few weeks ago.  Dogfish is of course one the most hot and cold breweries out there.  There is no other brewery that produces some of my most loved and hated brews of all time.  Anyway, this is part of their Ancient Ales series.  Historically I haven’t loved a lot of the beers in this series, but I can’t help but feel the need to give it a try.  For this brew, Sam traveled to Rome to analyze drinking vessels found in 2,800-year-old Etruscan tombs.  Based on their findings, they brewed this ale using two-row malted barley and an heirloom Italian wheat.  Some of the specialty ingredients include hazelnut flour, pomegranates, Italian chestnut honey, Delaware wildflower honey and clover honey. While this beer had all the signs of things I typically dislike in my beer, I still had to give it a shot.  Plus it seemed like the perfect beer to get me back into blogging.

This one pours a nice bright orange reddish color.  It really has an almost candied quality to it.  There is a very substantial tan head that develops on top of the beer.  Some very light lacing develops on the side of the glass, and you do have some much more substantial sticky residue as well.  As you can tell from the picture, the clarity in this one is great with some very visible carbonation as well.  The carbonation bubbles back off overtime, but they are quite plentiful right after the initial pour.

EtruscaThe fruits in this one certainly dominate the aroma coming out of the glass.  The sweet malts are fairly large and back up the fruits quite well.  According to the bottle, they utilized both actual pomegranates and pomegranate juice.  Therefore, pomegranate is the biggest aroma that you get out of this one.  I pick up a little bit of the honey sweetness to this one as well.  There seems to be a little bit of light raisins, as well as, a bit of spice from some clove too.  While it doesn’t say it anywhere on the label, I seem to find some slight cherry aroma too.

Overall I would say the flavoring on this one is rather light.  Everything works well together, and you don’t have any huge flavors that dominate, but overall it’s quite light.  The sweet malts come out however they are somewhat subdued.  This beer hinges more on the specialty flavors that are added rather than the base flavors.  The honey sweetness combines with the malt intro to make it a somewhat sweet start.  Midway through a sour cherry and bold pomegranate flavor come in.  The pomegranate flavor carries through all the way to the end.  There is a kick of carbonation and yeast slightly past the midway point that adds a lot of character to the beer.  The yeast brings a little bit of clove and spice to give the beer a little needed kick.  The beer ends with some lingering pomegranate flavors and overall sweetness.

I would say this beer is rather sweet overall, but they did a good job of using a yeast that added a lot of character.  The beer is certainly dominated by a syrupy nature, but yeast and carbonation help to even it out.  The beer has a rather moderate body because of this nice mixture.

Rating this beer is a little difficult.  This ancient ale is also known as a gruit.  Historically I’ve never really had a love for this style.  So, as far as gruits go, I’d like rate it rather highly.  However, my actual rating system is based on whether I’d like to drink this beer again.  As far as returning to this beer, I don’t really see that happening.  So this may actually be the first beer I have to give a double rating to.  If you’ve been spurned by the gruit style like I have, then you should definitely check this one out.  I’m glad I had this beer, but I won’t be grabbing another bottle for me.

Gruit Grade: A

Teacher Grade: D


Black Beer Friday Recap

Black Beer Friday has come and gone, and I wanted to make sure I let my faithful readers know how my Friday went down.  As expected, I did spend most of my morning out shopping.  Thankfully I managed to get a few of my own desires in there as well.  I went up to the beer store I know back home and picked up a few beers there, and I got a special black friday release from The Gaslight Anthem as well.  Most of my day, however, was spent running around Khols, Michaels, and various different stores in the mall.  I ultimately hit the wall in NY & Co.  My wife had me stand in a line that spanned the better part of the store.  It was certainly that line that broke my spirit and left me needing a beer.

I had a thought to head over to the only brewery I could think of in the area: Cricket Hill.  All of those plans drastically changed when I decided to Facebook my local craft beer restaurant.  They were advertising that they had received one keg of Stone’s Enjoy by 12.21.12 and Lucky Bastard.  Now I was certainly still going to have my black beer for black Friday, but I also couldn’t help myself with these rare offerings.

I had hoped to sit in the bar area of the restaurant, but that section was packed, so we accepted a little table back in the restaurant.  Before even seeing the beer menu I ordered a glass of Enjoy by.  While sipping it I got a beer menu and saw that they were offering a special deal for the beer, a glass, and the t-shirt.  While that may be turning the rare beer a little too commercial, I really couldn’t help myself and went for the entire combo.

I was really impressed by Stone’s Enjoy by.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised really, they create great beer.  I knew this was supposed to be a day dedicated to black beers, but this was certainly too light to be called a black beer.  One beer that I have really been looking forward to from Stone is the final edition in their Vertical Epic series.  Vertical Epics are all designed to be consumed on a certain much later date.  This beer takes a much different approach.  It’s supposed to be consumed before a certain date: 12.21.12.  The brew has a nice sweet malty backbone, but it’s dominated by some big fresh wet hops.  Somehow it ends up being big and syrupy but also fresh and clean.  The beer’s alcoholic content is quite strong, but it’s relatively easy drinking.

The second beer I had got me a little closer to my goal for black beer Friday, but it was another I couldn’t help myself moment.  A few weeks ago I managed to grab a bottle of Lucky Bastard from Stone.  Cloverleaf didn’t make quite as much noise over having a keg of it, but I was really excited to give it a try.  I wanted to save my bottle for a little while, so I was happy I could try it without having to open my bottle up.  By this time I was enjoying my buffalo chicken salad. It may have been a lapse in judgement for my palate, so I have a feeling my taste was slightly effected.  This one had a very sweet malty backbone with hops that are really big, solid, and tangy.  There is a certain bold oaky earthy feel to it.  This one also had a big time warming effect as well.

My final beer had to be something big and black.  I knew my wife’s patience was running out, so I needed to get my actual black beer for black Friday before it was too late.  I decided I would join Cloverleaf’s MBA program while I was there, so I had to pick a black beer off a much more specified list.  There were a few good choices; however, I checked my Untapped account to see what I hadn’t checked into yet.  I’ve had Old Rasputin before, but my app didn’t show it, so I decided to go with the big creamy imperial stout.  I’ve done a full review of Rasputin before, but I decided to take a couple of notes on it.  It has some super big chocolate notes with light coffee and roasted notes.  The mouthfeel is almost like alcoholic chocolate milk.  It’s probably one of the most creamy beers I’ve ever had.  I don’t really remember that as much the last time, so I’m thinking it may have been slightly different on tap.

I may have come up a little short of my black beer goals last Friday, but I had a great day for some of the more rare craft beers.  I’m hopeful Enjoy by will make its way here in bottles, but I am real happy I got to have it.  While it wasn’t a Black Friday filled with Black beers, they were certainly good beers that helped me forget the pains of shopping.

Maine Beer Co – Peeper Ale

You would think that the beer industry is one thing that would avoid having an app, but one of the most used apps on my phone is my Untapped app.  Of course, if the app tells me anything, it may be that I drink too much.  I had been hearing about Untapped for a while, but I had never actually decided to start using it.  Then, the day after my birthday last year, I decided to get my app usage going. I’m not sure how many unique beers the typical beer snob drinks in less than a year, but I would like to think that reaching 200 unique beers in ten months is a big accomplishment.  Regardless, I had some silly thought that reaching 200 in less than a year would have to be a special beer, so I went with a little beer I’d never had before.

As some of you know, we recently purchased a new home.  So, like most proud Americans, we decided to have a little house-warming party to celebrate.  Having only lived in apartments and condos, I wasn’t sure how house-warmings normally took place.  I was a little caught off guard when a few people began asking where we were registered.  I never realized that was a thing for new houses.  My ultimate solution was to just tell people to bring me beer.  While most was easy to find beer, I did receive a few nice little gems from my good friend Gavin.  This particular beer from Portland, Maine struck my interest the most.

Being made in a town like Portland, everyone surely expects this beer to made on the west coast, but this is one of those rare good breweries that comes out of the beautiful state of Maine.  Maine Beer company doesn’t really have any information on their background on their site, and I’m not going to try to grab some unreliable site, so all I can tell you is they appear to be a very environmentally friendly and socially aware brewery.  Their nondescript labels jumps out at you, but not in a way you would really expect.  It is bold in its simplicity, which I kind of admire.  This particular brew, Peeper Ale, originally had me thinking I was going to be drinking something with some spicy kick, but I quickly realized I had misread the spelling of its name.  PEEPer ale is a very hop forward and clean pale ale using US Magnum, Amarillo, Cascade, and Centennial hops to develop some really good hop complexity.  Once I got the style straight, I was far more excited to dive into this beer than I originally had planned.

This one pours our a very pale yellow golden color.  There was an ample amount of sudsy white head that develops on top of the beer.  I was actually quite surprised by the amount of head that developed on top.  It reminded me of a saison or farmhouse ale.  The bubbles are quite big and soapy in appearance.  There is some really pleasant and long lasting lacing that develops on the side of the glass along with some very sticky residue that lingers around.  There is definitely a light haze that seems to only intensify as you get further into the bottle.  Finally you do see a few bubbles from the carbonation in the glass.

Just looking at the beer in the glass you can’t help but smell some of the hop aroma coming off the glass.  Getting closer for a more legitimate whiff results in some very big and bold hops.  The hops seem to have a lot of herbal smells and very little pine.  It does have a pretty earthy scent with some very light sweet malts as well.  There is a bit of lemony citrus and pineapple notes to this aroma profile.

The one thing that was clear from the first sip was that this is a really good hop forward beer.  You have a very short sweet malt intro to the onset of the beer.  The malts combine with some nice well balanced lemony pineapple flavors.  The really big floral hops come in with some very pleasant herbal flavors.  There is some nice pine that kicks up in the second half of the beer.  It doesn’t become too bitter overall, but it is just enough to give some nice hop complexity.  The beer ends with some nice earthiness as well as a little light hops and citrusy pineapple.

The flavors in this beer are really well-balanced and quite flavorful.  The hops are definitely big, but they tend to be more herbal.  This helps the mouthfeel to be slightly more bearable for those who are only moderate fans of hops.  There is certainly lots of carbonation which creates a slight champagne feel to it.  It does manage to dry out a little towards the end, but it helps keep the beer rather light and refreshing.

As always, I have no idea if you can find this beer in your area, but it is a good beer to pick up.  It may not jump off the shelf at you, but if you’re willing to give it a chance, you’ll be more than happy you picked it up.  I’m just happy it walked its way into my house for a little party present.  Of course, I won’t hesitate to pick up anything else from this company in the future.

Teacher Grade: A

What to Brew Next?

I received my homebrew kit in February and have now produced two different beers.  Pretentious Hopster isn’t quite ready yet to be consumed yet, so as I wait with great anticipation, I have begun to start thinking about what I want to brew next.  I tossed around a few different ideas at first.  I wanted to create something I could drink over the summer and enjoy; however, I wanted to start heading into a style I could play with a little bit more.  Summery beers are somewhat easier to play with, but there are specific flavors you really don’t want to consume during those warm summer months.  I thought of doing a wheat beer, but my friend John just created a Hefe that he wasn’t quite happy about, and we tend to share our creations so it’s like I’ve also brewed it.  So, heading in a different direction, I decided I would brew something Belgian.  I love Belgian beer, and I almost fear brewing something that doesn’t live up to the amazing beers I’ve had from other breweries.  Of course I don’t expect to be better than trappist monks who have 100’s of yeas of tradition, but I want to brew something I’m proud of.  Ultimately I landed on the idea of a saison.  I’ve had quite a few of them lately, and I have enjoyed a lot of them quite a bit.  Plus, I get the feeling I can really play with the flavors.

I have a clone recipe, and I’ve found a few different recipe ideas online that I may try and use as the backbone of my creation, but I want to a little more free with my recipe this time.  The amber I made was a pre-made kit, and the IPA was a recipe.  So, this time, I want to take a recipe and make a few changes and alterations to really have something that I can call my own.  Perhaps something I make a yearly tradition.  I think I’ve found a recipe to use as a base for my beer, but I want to see if anyone has any suggestions on what I should be using in my ingredients.

Ultimately I’ve decided to try to brew what I will be calling an Asian Farmhouse Saison.  I thought it would be fun to put a little spin on the typical saison with this one.  So I have some ideas with a lot of the back half of the boil, but I’m really most confused with what steeping grains I’ll use.  The recipe I found as a base tells me to use 8oz Flaked Oats, 8oz Vienna Malt, and 4 oz Cara Red.  Looking these different grains up, they seem like they will be fine for what I’m doing, but I’m not really 100% sure on that.  Would any of you homebrewers change anything about those steeping grains?  Keep in mind I’m doing extract.  The malts are much simpler when it comes to extract brewing.  It has me using 4 lbs DME Golden Light (Briess) and 2 lbs LME Wheat Bavarian (Briess).  That definitely seems fine, but I’ll once again listen to any suggestions out there.

A lot of the fun should be coming in the hops and spices I intend to use.  Like I said, I want to try to make an Asian Farmhouse Saison, so I’m going to utilize Sorachi Ace hops.  I know Brooklyn makes a Sorachi Saison, so I’m trying to not really make something too close to theirs.  I really want to have a hop that can complement my Asian hops.  Once again I’m looking for suggestions, but based off the research I did, I think I will look to use Citra hops.  Does anyone else have any ideas on a good hop that can compliment Sorachi Ace hops?  Finally the spices that I’m looking to use are more Asian in nature.  Right now I’ve definitely settled on using candied ginger, but I don’t know if there is a good one to put with it.  I was thinking of using some orange in there as well, but I would like to use some other Asian spice with it.  I’m not great with spices, but is there a spice out there that would compliment the rest of these flavors really well?  I want to have flavors that all work together.

Pretentious Hopster is the beer that I like to drink, but this beer will be my true baby.  I want to really piece it together with some of my own concepts, so I can really call this one my beer.  I am definitely looking for some help, so if you have any thoughts on some good things to include, please let me know.  I am excited for this next one!

Albums In Rotation

It’s been a while since I did one of these types of posts.  Right before I jumped on a plane for a little trip to Jamaica, I loaded up my Ipod with a few new albums to be enjoyed while traveling and on the beach.  I really like having albums that remind me of my trips to different places.  I’ve already stated how Bon Iver’s self-titled album will always bring back memories of Italy for me.  Additionally, I listened to a ton of Star’s “Heart” album while traveling to and around Spain.  I wasn’t really sure what album would catch my attention on this particular trip; therefore, I decided I had to have a few just incase one of them wasn’t quite doing the trick.  In the end, although a few albums seemed to find their way to the forefront of the playlist, I think it was more about the entire rotation of this trip.  I didn’t find myself landing on one album or another too often.  I even had to throw on The Shin’s new one more than a few times as well.  Here are the albums that helped me chill out on the beach.

Bruce SpringsteenWrecking Ball – I’ve had a soft spot for The Boss for years now.  I grew up in NJ, but I didn’t grow up listening to his music.  In college, my friend and I started to hunt down different vinyl we thought we would enjoy.  It was at that time I ended up picking up a bunch of different classic Springsteen records and ultimately loving his stuff.  Therefore, when this one came out, I had to jump on it right away.  Bruce’s music always sounds like Bruce, but he manages to put a different spin on it in different ways.  I don’t know if he has ever had so many songs that have such an Irish country feel to it; however, I like it. His voice works really well with the style.  The title song, “Wrecking Ball”, is one of my favorite songs on the album.  It has some great NJ references to it that give me some pride that Jersey Shore took from me.  There are, unfortunately, a few songs I’m not really all that into.  “Rocky Ground” is a somewhat boring song, and it has a little R&B breakdown in it that I find rather annoying as well.  Bruce needs to stick to what he’s good at.  Additionally, I can’t help but think “Swallowed Up (In The Belly of The Whale)” is too boring as well.  Thankfully there is enough good real Springsteen material for me to still enjoy this record on the whole.

Justin Townes EarleNothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – This guy released an album a lot of people went crazy for a few years ago, and I just couldn’t get into it.  It was one of those albums I put on time and time again, but I could never find a love for it.  Thanks to the wonders of Spotify, I gave this new album a chance despite the fact I couldn’t get down with that album.  Thank goodness I did get this one.  This album has to be one of my top albums on my playlist right now.  Earle has a really bluesy and twangy quality to his sound.  A lot of the songs on the album are pretty quiet and easy listening, but they were giving me exactly what I needed for the beach.  His twangy quality only picks up even more on songs like “Memphis in the Rain”.  I think one of the things I like most about him is the Elvis Costello sound I hear in his voice and delivery.  “Baby’s Got a Bad Idea” has a great Costello rock feel with a country twinge to it, and it’s one of the more up beat songs on the album which I appreciate.

Of Monsters and MenMy Head is an Animal – This band was discovered through quite a few different mediums.  Paste has been talking about them for months, then I caught the video randomly on TV a few times, and I finally saw a favorable review on another resource.  I figured I needed to give them a chance.  This band comes from Iceland who has also given us great acts like Bjork and Sigur Ros, so I was even more interested in them for that reason.  Good music seems to come out of this strange little country.  They provide a really big full sound on all of their songs, which I really like about what they do.  I also appreciate the fact that they have both a male and female lead for the band.  They tend to lean more on their female lead, but it gives them a lot of ability to harmonize on nearly every song.  Of course, every member seems to get in on the chants which they seem to include on a whole lot of songs.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I think it adds to that full sound.  “Little Talks” is the lead single off the album, and it may be slightly misleading to someone new to the band how uptempo most of their material may actually be.  “Little Talks” is definitely the fastest song on the entire album.  The other songs provide some really full, slightly ambient music with some great harmonized singing.  They kind of remind me of The Head and The Heart with less folk influence.

The DecemberistsWe All Raise Our Voices to the Air – If you’ve been reading this little blog for the past year then you know I love this band.  Earlier this week I reviewed Colin Meloy’s book, I have reviewed their latest EP release on here too, and I named “The King is Dead” my favorite album of last year.  I guess I have a little crush.  This is a two disc live album from the act out of Portland.  Let’s face it, you don’t go get a live album unless you really like the band.  I wouldn’t go get a live album from a band I had never listened to before, and I won’t expect you to do that either.  I got this one because I do enjoy listening to the banter that goes on in-between songs, seeing how they change up material live, and I like to support the bands I enjoy the most.  I have The Foo Fighter’s live acoustic album too.  Most of the songs are performed fairly similar to how they were originally composed, but I’m alright with that for the most part.  Meloy opens the whole album by letting the crowd know they are in the wrong place if they are looking for Keith Urban.  It at least gets you laughing before they even play.  Another highlight for me is on a song titled “Dracula’s Daughter”.  Meloy declares that it’s the worst song he has ever written in his life.  He sings a song about the woes of being Dracula’s daughter before transitioning to “O Valencia!”  You’re not going to go get this one if you don’t like the band, but if you’re a Decemberists fan I think it’s worth checking it out.  If nothing else it ends up sounding like a greatest hits record performed live.

There were a few other albums I got for the trip, but I think these are the strongest out of all of them.  If you’re in the mood for some new music in your life, these are some good albums to check out.  While I have two new albums downloading as I type this out, I know these albums will stay in rotation for a while to come.