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Terrapin/Cigar City Vapricot Apricot Ginger Imperial IPA

9 Oct

Terrapin Beer Company out of Athens, GA and Tampa’s Cigar City recently collaborated on an imperial IPA featuring apricots and ginger, called Vapricot. These bottles just started showing up in and around south Louisiana. Here’s what they say about it:

When you can’t see the smoke through the haze, reach for a beer that cuts right through. Two neighboring breweries in the South, Cigar City Brewing and Terrapin Beer Co., introduce ‘Vapricot’ Apricot Ginger Imperial IPA. Brewed with apricot puree and ginger for a sweet and spicy profile, this multidimensional beer will help you see things more clearly.

Vapricot pours a dark amber color, and the apricot aroma is immediately evident. It comes off rather strong even as I poured it into the glass. The ginger was also pretty apparent on the nose. The taste is all ginger. It’s a ginger overload. Yeah, there’s some fruity apricot, but I don’t get much in the way of hops. At 9.05%, it’s also pretty potent. There’s a spicy kick on the back end, which I guess is from the ginger, or maybe there’s some hops or rye. Either way, this beer didn’t do it for me. At all.

Terrapin/Cigar City Vapricot

Terrapin/Cigar City Vapricot

Stone Enjoy By 10.31.15 – Too much booze, not enough hops

8 Oct

Over the last week, the latest in Stone Brewing’s Enjoy By IPA Series has started hitting shelves around south Louisiana. Stone takes a lot of care to get this beer in beer drinkers’ hands as quickly as possible, with the drink by date actually being the name of the beer. Hoppy beers like IPAs should always be enjoyed fresh, and I love that Stone really emphasizes that with not only Enjoy By, but with all of their IPAs. They recently started dating their hoppy beers with both the bottled date and the drink by date, which is a great move in my opinion. But they take it a step further with Enjoy By.

This exquisite liquid patchwork of more than a dozen hops is a devastatingly fresh double IPA. Freshness is a key component of many beers – especially big, hoppy IPAs – but we’ve taken it further, a lot further, with this one. We brewed this IPA specifically NOT to last. We’ve gone to extensive lengths to ensure you get your hands on this beer within an extraordinarily short window, and we’ve sent a very clear message in the name of the beer itself that there is no better time than right NOW to enjoy this IPA!

Enjoy By weighs in at 9.4% and 88 IBUs, and includes a baker’s dozen hop varieties that include Ahtanum, Super Galena, Simcoe, Amarillo, Delta, Target, Calypso, Cascade, Citra, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Motueka and Helga. Whew! That’s a bunch. It’s available in 22oz bombers and six packs of 12oz bottles, though I have only found the large format bottles so far.

It pours a rather clear light copper-orangish color with a smallish head that fades pretty quickly. The aroma is kind of disappointing, given the attention to the freshness of the beer. I got some resiny peach and tropical notes, but they were kind of subdued. There is a clear aroma of alcohol as well. The flavor is also a bit subdued, with the overriding flavor being booze. Yes, that’s what I get from this. Alcohol burn. Sure, the finish is dry with some bitterness, but the hops are clearly overshadowed by the booziness. That’s a disappointment. In fact, the 22oz serving became rather hard to drink. I hate to call it unenjoyable, because it’s not a bad beer. It’s just disappointing coming on the heels of their 19th Anniversary Thunderstruck IPA, which I thought was Stone’s best IPA in a long time. I even get more hoppiness from their Ruination 2.0, which is more restrained in the booze levels.

Stone Enjoy By 10.31.15

Stone Enjoy By 10.31.15

I’m not sure what to attribute this to. I know the beer is fresh. It was bottled on September 24th, so it made it to me from southern California inside of 2 weeks. I used to love this beer back when it was first released a couple years ago. But back then, only certain parts of the country got certain batches. So while we in Louisiana may have missed out on a batch here and there, we would get a batch that other places didn’t. The 10.31.15 batch was a national release. I wonder if the larger production runs of this has had an affect on the hop utilizaton. I don’t have the answer, but I do know that the last several releases that we’ve gotten here (4.20.15 and 07.04.15, as well as this one) haven’t lived up to the first few. I remember absolutely loving the Enjoy By 05.17.13 batch, and even commented in my review almost 2 1/2 years ago that I was “hard pressed to find much booziness at all,” and that it was “really really easy to drink.” Boy how things have changed. This version is all booziness and is hard to drink.

I’ve heard mixed reviews on this beer though. Many people have told me that they agree with my assessment, while others have loved it. So just because it’s not my favorite, maybe you will find it to your liking. So grab a bottle and let me know.

Cap City Beer Fest is Saturday

6 Oct

The Cap City Beer Fest is this Saturday in downtown Baton Rouge from 11am until 3pm. You can get your tickets for $40 here, unless you like paying $50 at the gate. If you’re still on the fence, check out just some of what will be featured there:

  • The Saint Arnold Chapel of Love will be set up where Saint Arnold will marry people, beer, hops, etc. Usually this is only reserved for GABF, so it’s pretty special that they are bringing this setup to Baton Rouge.
  • Gnarly Barley’s Peanut Butter Korova milk porter will be available.
  • Parish Neapolitan Stout will be on hand.
  • New Belgium Le Terroir dry hopped sour will be tapped.
  • SweetWater Happy Ending imperial stout will be on hand.
  • And finally, there will be a keg of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) available.
Saint Arnold Chapel of Love

Saint Arnold Chapel of Love

The weather should be great Saturday afternoon, so get your tickets now for Baton Rouge’s first and only outdoor beer festival in downtown.

Cap City Beer Fest Flyer

Cap City Beer Fest Flyer

Stone Ruination 2.0 – Is it an improvement over the original?

2 Oct

Last spring, Stone Brewing announced that they were retiring their Ruination double IPA after 13 years. This news led to some serious resistance by fans of this hop bomb, however, it was to be replaced with a bigger and better version of its previous self, Ruination 2.0. This version promised to have an updated hop profile that used hops that weren’t available back when the first one came out over a decade ago. Stone has an entire blog post about Ruination 2.0, but if that’s too long for you to read, here’s a more succinct summary:

Stone Ruination IPA was the first full-time brewed and bottled West Coast double IPA on the planet. As craft beer has evolved over the years, so too have techniques for maximizing hop flavors and aromas. For the second incarnation of our groundbreaking India pale ale, we employed dry hopping and hop bursting to squeeze every last drop of piney, citrusy, tropical essence from the hops that give this beer its incredible character. We’ve also updated the name to reflect the imperial-level intensity that’s evident in every sip. Join us in cheering this, the second stanza in our “Liquid Poem to the Glory of the Hop.”

Ruination 2.0 is brewed with Centennial, Magnum, Citra, Simcoe and Azacca hops, the last three of which weren’t even available back in 2002 when the original launched. They also changed up some of the hopping techniques to include hop bursting, which is when you add the vast majority of the hops after the boil, so that those wonderful hop oils don’t boil off, leaving you with the great flavor and aroma, and less bitterness. Stone has also stamped the bottles with both the bottled on and enjoy by dates, which I think is great. They implore you to drink this beer within 90 days of bottling, so now you don’t have to guess on either date. This beer is available in both 6-packs and 22-oz bombers.

Ruination 2.0 pours a beautiful orange color with a slightly off-white head that contrasts nicely with the beer. The clarity is great on this one, which is something I’ve come to expect from Stone. The initial aroma is that of tropical fruit: I get a healthy dose of mango and pineapple on the nose. There are more tropical flavors coming through in the flavor, but with the addition of pine and resinous hops. The mouthfeel is on the medium side, and the hops coat your tongue to let you know they are there. It finishes with a slightly bitter kick, with a touch of alcohol heat. This beer weighs in at 8.5% and you know it. I find that the 12 ounce serving is just about perfect for this one. A 22-oz bomber gets to be a bit much toward the end of the bottle.

Stone Ruination 2.0

Stone Ruination 2.0

All in all, I enjoy this one more than the original. The original had even more back end bitterness and was a bit grainy to me. I really like that this is available in 6-packs, and it is one of the better double IPAs that you can find with regular success in our market. There are better seasonal and one offs around, but often times those aren’t available, or some of the other good double IPAs on the shelves are older than dirt (Endeavour and Timber Beast, I’m looking at you). I think Stone’s 19th Anniversary, Thunderstruck IPA, is better than Ruination 2.0, but again, that’s a one time brew that we won’t see again any time soon. The new batch of Stone’s Enjoy By IPA should be hitting shelves next week, so hopefully we’ll get another great Stone double IPA soon.

Brew at the Zoo: Beers I’m Serving

1 Oct

Friday evening, the Baton Rouge Zoo plays host to the 2nd annual Brew at the Zoo event. Naturally, I’ll be there helping to serve beer at the Brasseurs a la Maison homebrew area. I say area, because our homebrew club will have more than 30 different beers being served out of a canoe fitted with a whole bunch of taps. And on two of those taps are beers that I brewed.

Since this is a fundraiser for the zoo, I figured it was appropriate to serve animal themed beers. Therefore, the two beers I brewed are called Space Monkey American pale ale and Macaw-fee brown ale.

Space Monkey APA is a pale ale that’s brewed with mostly Pearl malt, with a touch of Munich. It is hopped exclusively with Comet and Galaxy hops, thus the space theme. The nose is dankish, with some tropical fruit, grapefruit, as well as some herbal qualities. It really is an easy to drink pale ale, at 5.5%, but it is definitely hop forward.

Macaw-fee Brown ale is an American style brown ale with Cafeciteaux coffee beans added post-fermentation. This is a light-bodied brew, but with lots of roasted coffee notes both on the nose and upon first sip, but it is really easy to drink. There are some chocolate and caramel notes as well, and this beer drinks lighter than the color would indicate.

I’m really excited to share both of these beers with the attendees at Friday’s event. Unfortunately, if you’re reading this and haven’t purchased tickets yet, it’s too late, because the event is sold out. But if you already have your tickets, come find me at the canoe, and ask for both the Space Monkey APA and the Macaw-fee brown ale. I’d love to hear some honest feedback on both beers.

Hope to see some of you there Friday evening!

Space Monkey APA (left) and Macaw-fee Brown ale.

Space Monkey APA (left) and Macaw-fee Brown ale.

Parish Grand Reserve Day details unveiled

30 Sep

Parish Brewing will host their 3rd annual Grand Reserve Day on November 21st. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow (October 1st) at noon. Parish released details today. Check it out.

The link to purchase tickets can be found here.

Grand Reserve Day is Saturday November 21st 2015
Tickets are limited and will go on sale tomorrow at 12pm so don’t procrastinate, secure your tickets ASAP!
You will now have the option to PRE-PURCHASE your bottles for pickup on the day of the event. We HIGHLY encourage everyone to take advantage of this as it will result in shorter lines and a better overall experience!
Beer Purchase Limits: *ticket holders only
– 2015 Grand Reserve: 1 case (12ct. 750ml bottles)
– 2015 Imperial Reserve: 4 bottles (750ml bottles)
– Ghost in the Machine: 1 case (six 4-packs 12oz bottles)
– 2014 Grand Reserve aged in Four Roses Bourbon Barrels: 1 Bottle (750ml)

See you on November 21st!

Grand Reserve Day

Q&A with Great Raft Co-Founder, Andrew Nations

30 Sep

Great Raft Brewing is turning two years old next weekend, and to celebrate, they are throwing one helluva party. The Great Raft Ramble on Saturday October 10th is sure to be an absolute blast. There will be two dozen different Great Raft beers available, as well as several food trucks, live music and more.

Great Raft Ramble

I recently caught up with Great Raft co-founder, Andrew Nations, for a little Q&A session in advance of their anniversary. Check out what he had to say about the first two years, recipe changes and an upcoming sour program:

Two years goes by awfully fast. Where did you see Great Raft two years ago, and how have you met or exceeded those expectations?

It really has gone by fast. At times, it still seems like a startup with the numerous projects we have going on. Our first two years have been great and exceeded expectations on many levels. Our goal is to always make world-class beer, rather than aim for a certain amount sold. Fortunately those two things have gone hand-in-hand. We have been able to grow fairly quickly while maintaining consistency and quality. We embraced a concept I learned about from our friends at Port City Brewing who adopted it from Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada – growth can’t come at the expense of quality.

In the past year, you’ve expanded to the New Orleans market (late 2014) and the Baton Rouge and Northshore markets (summer 2015). How have people responded to those launches?

South Louisiana has been great and really embraced us. The first time we poured in New Orleans was during the 2013 WYES Beer Fest. “Shreveport, huh?” was a common sentiment to those just learning about Great Raft. We let our beer speak for itself and shortly after, our reputation for quality beer was established. Baton Rouge has been huge for us in a short amount of time. While waiting till August of this year to launch wasn’t ideal for fans of our beers, it was important for us. We needed many additional resources to properly launch and give the market the focus it deserves. It’s paid off. We’ve made a point to get the freshest beer possible to market – not leftovers from New Orleans, but rather fresh beer packaged for Baton Rouge.

How has having the ability to sell your beer directly to customers out of the tasting room been a boon to your business?

Our tasting room sales have always been great. We knew from the very beginning that this space would be huge for us. Profit margins aside, it’s been a great way to engage with and educate beer drinkers. We are able to receive direct feedback on new beers, host educational tastings and tours, and really connect with folks looking to learn more. Once people see our commitment to quality and learn about our passion for beer they become walking advocates for our beer.

What Louisiana market do you have your sights on next? Any immediate plans to distribute out of state?

We are currently looking at a few more markets in Louisiana but not any one in particular just yet. We need to let the dust settle from our Baton Rouge/Northshore expansion before we make our next move. Louisiana will always come first. Lindsay and I moved back from Washington D.C. to make beer in Louisiana first and foremost. I’m sure we will consider out of state distribution at some point.

Great Raft Brewing co-founder and president, Andrew Nations

Great Raft Brewing co-founder and president, Andrew Nations

Do you have any new beers in the works, either one off releases or additions to your flagship offerings?

We have a couple more releases this year including Creature of Habit, Awkward Uncle and possibly a few other surprises. Grace and Grit will also see another release this year around mid-October. No current plans for another flagship or year around offering. Launching with three flagships out of the gate was aggressive. Continuing to support and grow those brands is a priority.

Last spring, Commotion underwent a pretty major recipe redesign. Tell us about that and how it has been received.

The response has been great and something we can look back on as success. Ultimately I wasn’t happy with it and felt like I owed it to everyone to make the best beer we can. That wasn’t happening despite numerous changes in the day one recipe. I won’t go off on a tirade about continuous improvements but I’m really happy with this beer to say the least. It’s tempting to keep adding hops to this recipe but our Chief Brewer Harvey Kenney is always reminding me to “not wear my IPA pants to the Pale Ale party”. He’s right but when he isn’t looking Double Dry Hopped Commotion happens.

You recently started some work at the brewery on beginning a sour program, and as part of that, you were able to visit Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine. Tell us about that experience and how those plans are coming along.

Allagash was amazing. We decided we wanted to learn from one of the best and planned a trip to visit their head brewer Jason Perkins. Obviously their operation is much bigger but the concepts and best practices for producing world class beer remain the same.  Our experimental program is coming along nicely. We are currently awaiting a few tanks and our oak foeder and hope to have this program fully operation by year’s end.

You’re on a desert island with access to only one beer that’s not your own. What beer is it?

I love and hate this question. It’s a tough one but something I’ve thought about before. I would have to say Boulevard Saison-Brett. In fact, Lindsay and I popped a 2008 the day we signed the lease on the brewery. This beer is remarkable and one that can be enjoyed fresh or with some age on it. When fresh you get those wonderful Amarillo aromatics while aged the brettanomyces really shines. I once second guessed this as being my deserted island beer of choice…for about five seconds.

Destihl Wild Sour Series: Counter ClockWeisse, Here Gose Nothin’ & Lynnbrook Raspberry Sour

29 Sep

I’m taking Two-for-Tuesday a step further today, and you get three reviews in one. Today, it’s the Counter ClockWeisse, Lynnbrook Raspberry and Here Gose Nothin’ from Destihl Brewing in Bloomington, Illinois. These beers are all part of Destihl’s Wild Sour Series, and are all available in cans.

First up is the Counter ClockWeisse, and here’s what Destihl has to say about it:

This ‘reverse engineered’, Berliner-Style Weisse Bier is our interpretation of a traditional German-style sour wheat ale that is very pale light-bodied, low hopped, highly attenuated and pleasantly acidic and lemony-tart from our unique, spontaneous wild yeast and lactic fermentation.

This straw colored ale is very effervescent, while being very light bodied. As they say, the hops aren’t really detectable at all, and it’s really all about the tartness. At a mere 3% ABV, this is a really crushable beer, and I wish I had tried this back in pool season when it was hot outside. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less enjoyable now that we’re in fall. In fact, this would make a great tailgate beer. Or at least a nice change of pace while tailgating. Not sure I’d be up for drinking a lot of these in a row.

The Here Gose Nothin’ is a sour and salty German-style wheat. Destihl says:

Our Leipzig-Style Gose undergoes a spontaneous fermentation, similar to Belgian-style Gueuze/Lambic beers, and exhibits a complexity of acidic flavor and aroma contributed by wild yeast lactic fermentation. Lemon, lime and other citrus-like qualities are present in aroma and on the palate, which is balanced by the spicy character of added coriander and a mineral-mouthfeel from added sea salt.

This one is really sour with the salt and coriander really prevalent. It pours a bit darker than most Gose beers that I’ve tried, and the 5.0% ABV is also a bit higher than most of this style. I think this is a weaker offering than the Counter ClockWeisse, as I don’t think I’d really want to have more than one of these in a session. It’s certainly sour and salty, and perhaps would be better enjoyed as a post-run thirst quencher.

The Lynnbrook Raspberry is a version of the Counter ClockWeisse. Destihl has this to say about it:

Lynnbrook, named after our founder’s family farm, is a wild Berliner-Style Weisse with raspberries added, resulting in a very refreshing beer presenting with fuchsia color and an aroma reminiscent of picking tart red raspberries growing next to an old, abandoned barn, with the raspberry-lemony aroma giving way to hints of brie and barnyard funkiness. The flavor is absent of any hops or bitterness and instead has initial impressions of subtle lemon and yogurt supported by tart, fresh raspberries and underlying lactic sourness. The beer’s dry finish helps cut through some sweetness from the fruit.

This was my favorite of the bunch. It poured a light hazy pink color, and the smell was really balanced between sour and sweet fruit. The tartness of the Berliner-style beer is cut somewhat by the fruitiness of the raspberry, which I find to be a wonderful complement. This is a very easy drinker, and quite enjoyable. I could definitely see myself drinking a few of these, and I think it would be enjoyed by a wide variety of beer drinkers.

Of these three, I’d rank my favorite as the Lynnbrook Raspberry, followed by the Counter ClockWeisse, then the Here Gose Nothin’. But don’t take my word for it. Grab a can of each and let me know what you think.

File Sep 28, 6 30 36 PM

Cap City Beer Fest – October 10th

25 Sep

Downtown Baton Rouge has been in need of a beer festival for years now. Finally, it is happening this fall. The Cap City Beer Fest is taking place Saturday October 10th, from 1pm until 5pm. Cap City Beer Fest helps support the Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge, and will be held in the North Boulevard Town Square downtown.

Tickets can be purchased for $40 online, and for $50 at the gate.

Cap City Beer Fest will showcase beers from around the country and the world in a relaxed and friendly outdoor environment. Patrons will receive a commemorative sampling mug and have access to unlimited, samplings of specialty beers in our Beer Gardens. We are dog-friendly! Come enjoy the beautiful outdoor atmosphere with live music, as well as fun games on the Town Square lawn. Gourmet food will be available for purchase.

Check out their website for more info on the beer, food and entertainment.

Cap City Beer Fest

Parish Brewing’s Neapolitan Stout

25 Sep

Parish Brewing is well around south Louisiana known for their Ghost in the Machine double IPA and Canebrake wheat ale. One thing they don’t have as a regular offering is a stout. While that’s not bound to change anytime soon, Parish does have a limited release stout available in their taproom right now. Neapolitan Stout is exactly what you think it is: a stout with chocolate (cocoa), vanilla (beans) and strawberries added to make it the ice cream of beers.

Thanks to the kindness of a neighbor who was at the brewery last week, I was able to get a crowler (yes, Parish now has crowlers available in their taproom) of Neapolitan Stout delivered to me. I cracked this one open over the weekend to celebrate LSU’s thrashing of Auburn Saturday. In a word, this beer kicks ass. It pours jet black, and reminds me of motor oil being poured from a can of this size. There is a beautiful tan head on it, and the crowler keeps the carbonation really well. The chocolate and vanilla notes are immediately apparent on the nose. This is not a roasty stout, but a smooth and velvety one, which suits me just fine. The strawberry notes come through as a subtle fruitiness on the back end, but the chocolate and vanilla combine to really make this a tasty brew. I hesitate to call this a dessert beer, as most of the time I consider those to be (overly) sweet, but this one worked well as an ice cream substitute. I can only imagine how good this would be actually poured over ice cream. But I wasn’t going to waste the little bit I had of it. Besides, I have no Blue Bell still, so ice cream doesn’t exist in my world at the moment.

File Sep 22, 2 39 56 PM

Parish’s founder and brewmaster, Andrew Godley, tells me that this beer should be bottled next week once labels arrive, and will be sold almost exclusively from the taproom. Unfortunately for us, this is likely just a one off beer, since he can barely keep up with Canebrake as it is, and we are all jonesing for more Ghost in the machine. But I’d really love to see this one brewed on a semi-regular basis alongside Dr. Hoptagon and Farmhouse IPA. Maybe if we all ask him nicely, he’ll consider it.

In the meantime, grab a crowler directly from the brewery or stay tuned on more details of the bottle release. I’ll update this post as I know more.


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