Jun 22, 2009

"Beer Me, Earl!" Reviews - Part 2 of 4

Note: Most of the information gathered in these regional beer profiles has been gleaned from the the wonderful users over at BeerAdvocate. Their reviews are a must for any serious brew-hound. Also, I decided to exclude brewpubs from these profiles and just stick with actual craft breweries. Generally a brewpub makes beer that is only sold in it's own establishment.  I wanted to stay with breweries whose product you could actually find at your local store/distributor/bar.  Hopefully. And I'm only going to highlight 2 or 3 per region.  Also, feel free to nit-pick.  I dig beer and all, but I'm certainly not the absolute last word on it. - Earl 

Just a quick note from the last post.  Jimmy Bastard asked me to clarify the misconception between beers and lagers.  Here is the quick down and dirty.  All lager is beer, but not all beer is lager.  The two main types of beer are ales and lagers.  Lagers are newer, historically, dating back to the mid-19th century.  Lagers are made at colder temperatures using yeast that ferments at the bottom of the cask, while ales use a top-fermenting yeast at higher temperatures.  Lager also takes longer to make.  Anywhere from 2-3 times as long.  The term "lager" comes from the German word for camping or storage as lager casks were stored or "lagered" in caves to keep the temperature cool.  That's it!

Okay, boppers...back to the beer profiles.

Michelle - "I'm from NYC.  Beer me, Earl!"
More specificaly, Michelle is from Brooklyn.  And when you are talking about beers from NYC, you are probably talking about beers brewed in Brooklyn.  Which is quickly becoming one of the great craft beer regions in the nation.  The whole state, in fact, is enjoying the craft beer revolution.  New York is third behind California and Washington with 28 breweries, including my current favorite Southern Tier Brewing Company from Lakewood.  Every single beer they make is fan-fucking-tastic!  I give it my highest Earl review, whatever that is worth.

But back to Brooklyn.  Just about anyone from the East Coast or anyone into good beer already knows about Brooklyn Brewery.  They make some fantastic brews and they have been doing it for a while now.  But there are some lesser known breweries in Brooklyn that are making some waves and challenging the big boy in the bourough.  Sixpoint Craft Ales is one of them.  I was first introduced to this fantastic brewery by the lovely and talented Gia when she was working as a restaurant manager.  Sweet Action was the name of the beer, and although it is called an American Blonde Ale on most sites it is really so much more.  A hybrid of ale and lager yeasts combine to make "undefinable drinkable magic", as they describe it themselves. It's a bold and bright star on the craft beer scene and you should definitely check it out.  Bengali Tiger American IPA, Otis Oatmeal Stout and Brownstone, an American Brown Ale, are all just as delicious. They also make a bunch of seasonal and speciality brews.  Great, great brewery!

The other great brewery in Brooklyn is Shmaltz Brewing Company (He'Brew) out of Coney Island, although that could be disputed.  The main marketing offices for the company are in San Francisco and the beer is mostly brewed in Saratoga Springs, but fuck it!  It's Brooklyn that influences the styles of beers they make so it is a Brooklyn beer.  Harumph!  Talk about whimsical beers! They have two main lines of beers.   The Chosen Beers are brewed under the He'Brew flag and the Freak Beers are marketed under the Coney Island name.  Jewbelation, Rejewvenator, Genesis and Lenny's Bittersweet R.I.P.A (a tribute to Lenny Bruce) are all fantastic.  I just had the Rejewvenator last week and it was made with dates.  Last year they brewed it with figs, so it seems like they will change it every year.  Crazy, and crazy good.  Coney Island Lager, Albino Python, Sword Swallower and Human Blockhead are all great year-round beers from their Freak line.  But it is their seasonal Freaktoberfest that takes the cake when it comes to the weird.  It's actually a pretty light-tasting American Amber or American Red beer, but the coloring they put in it makes it come out blood-red!  A great beer to have at Halloween even if it isn't as tasty as the stuff from the He'Brew line. Bottom line?  The Coney Island beers are good, the He'Brew beers are great!  Give 'em a go.

Savannah - "I'm from Georgia.  Beer me, sugar!"
This is gonna be a tough one.  There are only 3 breweries in the state and only 11 brewpubs, and I have never tried any of them.  I kinda find that hard to believe.  I would have thought Atlanta itself would have had twice those numbers.  I guess Georgia has some work to do when it comes to craft brewing.  See what you can do about that, Savannah.  Okay, sugar?

Sweetwater Brewing Company out of Atlanta looks like they have an especially fine selection of brews.  The 420 Extra Pale Ale, Sweetwater IPA, Sweetwater Blue and the Happy Ending Imperial Stout (a huge, dry-hopped stiffy, for a full-figured beer, resulting in an explosive finish...yeah) all seem like fine offerings.  All have done fairly well on the award circuit as well.   In 2002 it was voted Small Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival.  High praise, indeed!  They make a barley wine called Jack Ass.  Yeah, I would love to walk into a bar and order a Jack Ass.  But the bartender would probably just pour one and say "A Jack Ass for a jack ass."  So maybe I will skip on that one.  By the way, a barley wine is a beer that is so high in alcohol that they legally can't call it beer anymore.  Nice!  Well, that's not totally true even if it used to be, but let's stick with it shall we?

Terrapin Beer Company out of Athens is another highly rated and highly successful brewery in the fine state of Georgia.   Like most brewers, founders Spike Buckowski and John Cochran are big Grateful Dead fans.  So they named their brewery after one of their favorite songs, "Terrapin Station".  I'm a big fan of the use of rye in brewing, and they make a Rye Pale Ale and a Rye Squared (bigger booze) that I would love to try.  The Terrapin Rye Pale Ale was actually their first beer produced, and everything went from there. They make an entire line of high-alcohol beers that all look delicious, including the Big Hoppy Monster and a Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout.  Yummy!

2abes - "What about gluten-free beer?  Beer me, Earl!"
Okay.  It's not a regional beer profile request, but some beer lovers prefer their beer gluten-free.  So let's give it a go.  Generally, beer is made with four ingredients.  Water, barley, yeast and hops.  The German purity law of 1516 made this so.  Nowadays, many brewers use other ingredients as described previously.  Rye, dates, figs, wheat, cranberries, blueberries, etc...  Now celiacs can rejoice that sorghum, buckwheat, rice and other gluten-free ingredients are being used to make beer.

Bard's Tale Beer Company makes a couple of really fine gluten-free beer.  Bard's Gold and Dragon's Gold.  These are the two that I see most often in the gluten-free section of beer distributors  The Bard's Gold is made mostly with sorghum malt and the Dragon's Gold is enriched with sorghum, buckweat, honey, corn and rice.  I've never tried either, but both are highly recommended.

Green's Gluten-Free Beers out of West Yorkshire in England are serious about gluten-free beers.  It's right in the name of their brewery, fer crissakes!  They really make some great variety of gluten-free beers.  They make an English Strong Ale, a English Bitter, a Dubbel, a Euro Pale Ale and a Tripel.  That's a pretty fantastic array of styles.  I'm going to be honest here.  None of the gluten-free beers are very highly rated on BeerAdvocate.  But they tend to get kind of stuffy about their beers on that site.  Put it this way, if you can't have gluten in your diet and you really want some beer, give Green's a try.  Or Bard's. 

Other gluten-free beers: Microbrasserie Nouvelle-France, Sprecher Brewing and O'Brien Brewery.

More to come soon:  Minnesota (Jennifer), Boston, Massachusetts (Candy), Ohio (Sybil Law), Alabama (Heff), Tallahassee, Florida (Paticus), Connecticut (Limpy and Uncool).

Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. 2 down with 2 to go.  Phew!


2abes said...

Thanks Earl, I gotta go find this stuff.

savannah said...

wow, sugar, thanks! i'll look for these. by the by, right here in savannah, we have moon river brewing co. but they might only be available locally. good stuff, too! xoxox

That Hank said...

Good luck on Tallahassee, there, bub.

Verdant Earl said...

2abes - Good luck!

Savannah - Moon River is a brewpub and I was trying to stay away from those because they are mostly local.

Verdant Earl said...

DG - yeah, I already know. 11 breweries in the state and none in Tallahassee. No brewpubs either. Gonna have to go with Jax, St. Augustine, Gainesville or Pensacola. Panama City might have a little some some. Not exactly a 10-minute ride no matter where I pick. Maybe I will just do North Florida, but that is a pretty big area. I dunno.

That Hank said...

And the thing about Florida is that substituting any of those for Tallahassee would be like writing about Boston because you can't write about NYC - there's no real overlap in scenes. No one's going to Jax for a beer.

Florida's just not a beer brewing state.

Verdant Earl said...

DG - Totally understand. I've been debating with myself about that dilemma since I did the California review. Oh well. By the way, I worked in Jax for a while and I hated it more than any place I have ever been. I certainly would never go to Jax for a beer. ;)

That Hank said...

Don't get me started on Jax. How can one place suck so hard?

white rabbit said...

That's what I've always understood about the beer/lager thing. Preach it bro!!!


Verdant Earl said...

WR - to the choir, man! ;)

Michelle said...

Wow what incredible sounding beers. I would love to check out the Shmaltz Brewing Co especially the Freak Beers. Now here is a question.....WHERE? Can I get these beers??

Made with dates and figs? RIght up my alley bro!!! AWESOME and THANK YOU!!!

Verdant Earl said...

Michelle - you live in the heartland for those beers. Go to any distributor or Whole Foods and they should carry them.

Heff said...

I'm enjoying these funky labels as much as anything else !