Monday, December 25, 2017

'Holy Shit Beer of the Week' Christmas Edition

Love the Christmas and winter season beers.  It's really the only time of year when you can comfortably throw down a high gravity, viscous, powerhouse of a beer and not feel guilty or bloated.

We can't tell you how disappointed we are that so few retail outlets carry these seasonal favorites, but we finally found a fine selection at Total Wine on Dale Mabry, which was our 4th stop of our search. 

These 5 Christmas beers purely at random, except for the one that we drink every year.  Be sure that you grab one of these seasonals quickly, because they don't hang around long.

The first up is Santastique beer (5.6% ABV) from Danish brewer, To Øl. Interesting beer, it is a Belgian style blonde brewed with cardamom, orange peel and lemon zest and added Coriander and Lime Zest as a treatment.  The flavors are quite subtle and almost overshadowed by the 4 malts and 3 hops. Much lighter than expected and would be a fine holiday beer in a place where it doesn't really get cold at Christmas, like Florida, for instance.

Our second trial was a newer offering from the English brewer, Ridgeway. these guys until recently only produced Christmas beers that we are certain you have seen before:  Bad Elf, Lump of Coal, Reindeer Droppings, etc.  Santa's Butt (6% ABV) is labeled as a white porter, but for the life of us we can't see why they would call it either of those as that it is neither white, nor a porter. Frankly, if you have tried their 10 or so other holiday offerings then you have tried them all (including this one) as that they really all taste the same with very little in the way of flavor or style variation. A mediocre brown ale that you should pass by.

The third is our favorite Christmas beer and high on our list of all time favorite beers. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (10% ABV) is the quintessential holiday beer.  St. Bernardus Abbey in Watou, Belgium has made this masterpiece of flavors that is a pure delight to sip with the slight burn of the warming alcohol, fermented molasses, apricots, licorice and marzipan that are highligted by the perfect balance of brewing sugars. If you have an aging rack in your collection, this one get better and better as it ages and we typically let ours age for 2 or more years before enjoying. Unbelievably good.

The fourth of our marathon is quite nearly as good as the St. Bernardus, and a few of the snobs think that it may be a bit better (blasphemy!). Het Anker Brewing from Belgium reintroduced their Gouden Carolus Noel (10.5% ABV) in 2002 after a 35 year hiatus, and boy are we glad that they did. This ruby red delight has 3 hops and 6 herbs and spices added to make your tongue dance with delight as you sip.  So easy to drink that you may have trouble sipping and not guzzling, but at 10.5% sipping would be wise. Stunningly delicious.

Our fifth offering is a local delight.  Gingy (9% ABV) by Tampa Bay Brewing is a .... well .... it's a Christmas miracle!  This imperial porter with notes of chocolate, caramel, and molasses would be fine and dandy as a stand alone, but with the addition of ginger, nutmeg, allspice and a dash of cinnamon you have a world class Christmas delight.  The burn of the alcohol is heightened by the burn from the ginger, then a fine spicy afterthought lingers on your tongue.  Any old timers will recall the Christmas Farm Ale from Dunedin Brewing, which was a fine holiday treat, well this beers takes memory and makes it much more of a treat. Kudos to TBB for creating this delight, which we hope will arrive every year with Santa. Love this beer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Our Annual Pairing Guide for Thanksgiving 2017

Hello Snobs, and welcome to the beginning of the season of debauchery where some of us ... many of us .... OK, most of us will stuff everything in our fat faces that we can get our hands on.  We must admit that Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday, because it is an honest holiday with no hidden meanings, no religious connotations, no commercialism, just simply getting together with family and friends and enjoying a feast of thanks.
Frankly, some of us .... many of us .... OK, most of us will overdo the feasting part a tad .... some ... OK, we will way overdo the face stuffing bit so you don't want to fill up on liquids, do you?  You also don't want to drink something that will kill you palate so that you can't enjoy the oral delights that you are jamming into your pie hole.  Love the high IBU Ipa's?  Well, this is not the holiday for those as you will damage your taste buds and not be able to enjoy Grandma's delicate Jello casserole. Bud Light will be fine, won't it? Are you nuts? Those highly carbonated mass market beers will fill you up so much that you may miss out on the Pumpkin Pie.
So let's talk low carbonated, lightly flavored accompaniments, shall we? "Like water?" you ask. Oh hell no, it's much easier to paste on a fake smile while we hear, for the 24th year in a row, Uncle Walt's story of how he told President Clinton off at a meet and greet. Your family's ignorance is much more tolerable with a mild buzz.

Beer - The flavors of the Thanksgiving feast are all over the place, so it is important to choose a beer style with a broad flavor spectrum.  As always we will recommend Saison DuPont (6.5% ABV) as the premier beer to pair with the meal. Low carbonation, wonderfully earthy flavor, decent alcohol content makes this a perfect accompaniment.  We do acknowledge that many of you don't particularly like the barnyardy taste of saisons, so as a substitute we recommend that you use a British style bitter (no, they are not bitter to the taste, the British just love to name things in a confusing manner, for instance black pudding isn't a pudding at all, it's frigging blood sausage .... erk) or a fine brown ale. Think Fuller's ESB (5.9% ABV) or Newcastle Brown Ale (4.7% ABV) which are malty, with low carbonation and even ever so slightly sweet.

Cider - Didn't think about ciders, did you? That's why we are here for you. Ciders have very low carbonation and are sneaky.  That asshat Uncle Walt will think that he is drinking apple juice up until the moment he passes out on the sofa watching football. Stfu, Walt.  We are lucky enough to have a fine cidery right here in town that makes a dandy cider (and mead), if you can get it.  The Cigar City Traditional Hard Cider (5.5% ABV) is about as good of a cider that you can find for your dinner.  Should your taste buds be a bit jaded, like ours, you may wish to try the San Juan Hail (11.0% ABV) mead made with Brazilian pepper, honey, pineapple, Serrano  and habanero peppers.
If you want a cider more readily accessible try Crispin Ciders, especially the Crispin  Artisinal Reserve Lansdowne (6.9% ABV) which tastes like cider mixed with Scotch ale and molasses, which, to be honest, will either be loved or hated or perhaps Crispin's The Saint (6.8% ABV), which smells and tastes like a Belgian trippel.

Wines - Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This light and fruity delight is what we typically pair with our Thanksgiving dinner (ikr?) and is so easy to drink even your overly plump, soda swilling cousin from Alabama will find herself sipping a glass or two. Wine snobs are even bigger asses than we are and if you lucky enough to have one in the family you will hear 'Red wine? With poultry? Are you mad?".  For this pompous ass we suggest that you hand them a glass (that you spit into, first) of dry riesling like the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling which is inexpensive and subtle and pairs with almost anything.

Hard Liquor -  We really don't recommend strong liquor until after everyone has said their goodbyes, then you can pour yourself a stiff one and thank god that you won't have to see them again for a year.

Cheers, Bon

Thursday, November 2, 2017

International Stout Day 2017

HEY! It's November 2nd which means that today is International Stout Day!

Yummy, yummy, yum. There are some fine, fine stouts being produced locally for sure. You can go to Angry Chair Brewing ( and have Moon Butter Milk Stout w/ Chocolate & Peanut Butter (7.7% ABV) or Triple C’s Milk Stout w/ Chocolate, Coffee &Cinnamon (7.5% ABV). 

Perhaps you could travel over Rapp Brewing in Seminole ( and bathe in their Chocolate Milk Stout or their divine Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. 

Who us? We probably will travel over to Six Ten Brewing ( just north of the airport and drown in the Horchata Stout (8.5% ABV).... no, I can drink a lot more if I stick to their 5% Stout, which means I can drink in quantity, and still enjoy quality. Cheers, Bon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Oktoberfest Beer

If you are even vaguely the same as us in the love of beer, you will change your beer selection with the seasons. Stouts and porters in the winter, holiday ales during the holiday blitz at the end of the year, saisons in the spring, and of course, Oktoberfest beers in the fall. Mmmmmm, Oktoberfest beers. There are several Oktoberfest beers available right now at your local vendor, but did you know that there are actually 2 types of Oktoberfest beers?

The one that is sold here in the U.S. is the Märzen (5.8% ABV) style beer.  It is an amber beer style that was developed over 200 years ago to celebrate the original Oktoberfest. The Märzen name comes from “March beer” because it was historically brewed in March to be at peak flavor for the Oktoberfest celebration. Today this style is available year round in the US due to popular demand. This full bodied beer with its rich malt flavor and dark toffee note, has an underlying fruitiness and masterful hop balance.

The second Oktoberfest beer is less well known because it is not sold here, but is only available at the festival in Munich. This golden Oktoberfest lager is the only beer served in Paulaner Oktoberfest tents today. It also happens to be the best-selling Oktoberfest beer in Germany.  Brewed once a year, and only available while supplies last, Oktoberfest Wiesn is the pinnacle of German brewing: deep golden color, full-bodied and wonderfully mellow, with a balanced harmonious taste and the pleasant fragrance of hops. At 6% ABV, it is stronger and bolder that the usual lager.  I drank 7 liters of this delight while in Munich and was so very proud that I was still vaguely functional at the end of the evening.

Whichever beer brand you choose is irrelevant in that all of the German Oktoberfest beers are fairly similar, but try them while they are still available.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Florida and Tampa Bay Area Great American Beer Festival Winners 2017

Another GABF on the books and a few Florida came home with some bling. It is quite surprising to us that with as many fine, fine breweries that we have here, there were so few winners. Are the breweries in Florida not submitting?  We wouldn't think that the beers here are in any way substandard, but why are so few winning?  Hmmm, anyway, here is a list of the winners from Florida and those from the Bay area.  We are very proud of our winners and would appreciate if you visited these fine establishments and congratulated them on their wins ..... oh, and don't forget to try their brews. - Bon

Bay Area Winners:

Gold - Mischievous Black, Six Ten Brewing, Tampa       
Dark Lager

Silver - Ringmaster Raspberry Berliner Weisse, Big Top Brewing, Sarasota
Berliner Style Weisse

Gold - Three Tun, Brew Hub, Lakeland       
Ordinary or Special Bitter

Gold - Rome City IPA, Brew Hub, Lakeland 
Session India Pale Ale

Silver - Milk Bone, Pinellas Ale Works, St. Petersburg 
Sweet or Cream Stout

Other Florida Winners:

Gold - C Porter, LauderAle, Fort Lauderdale   
Field Beer

Silver - No Crusts, Funky Buddha Brewery, Fort Lauderdale             
Field Beer

Bronze - Duke Snider's Imperial Stout, Walking Tree Brewery, Vero Beach
Imperial Stout

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Craft Beer vs. Corporate Beer

While we know that the large corporate beer companies are buying up craft brewers, and we realize that we need to support real craft brewers and not these corporate giants, how do we know which brewery is really craft and which are not? Well, we are happy that you asked. The Brewers Association has created an symbol that small brewers may place on their label to help you identify real craft brewers. The craft beer lover has a right to know when they are purchasing from an independent craft brewer or from big beer and this symbol will help you do exactly that.

Craft brewers who want the seal do not have to be a BA member, but they need to meet criteria. The criteria are:

1. The brewer must fit the BA craft brewer definition:
•Small – Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales).
•Independent – Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
•Traditional – A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

2. The brewer must have an active TTB license to commercially brew beer in the United States.

3. Breweries will sign a licensing agreement that will cover many bases, including if a brewery sells. If they are no longer a craft brewer, they aren’t allowed to license the seal. They’ll have to remove it from future packaging.

We ask that you look for this label, we ask that you support the small brewer. Cheers, Bon

Thursday, June 1, 2017

TBS Official Beer of Summer 2017

Have you ever tried a beer that you were sure that you were not going to like, but when you tasted the beer you were blown away by how much you enjoyed it?  On a recent jaunt to the beaches we were offered a rather dismal, but not surprising, array of crappy corporate beers .... and TropiCannon, by Heavy Seas Brewing.

In the first part of the surprise, Heavy Seas Brewing from Baltimore, Maryland, is one of those brewers who makes beers that usually don't excite us.  When given a choice of one of their beers vs. other beers, we almost always choose 'other' and while the beers are not usually bad, they usually aren't terribly impressive either. Part 2 of the equation is that we don't particularly like beers with fruit, and while we are not reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law) purists, we feel that fruit is better used in sissy drinks with umbrellas. 

That is why we are surprised that we liked this beer so much. TropiCannon Citrus IPA (7.25% ABV) is a variation of their flagship Loose Cannon IPA, but with loooooots more citrus.  In this version they added blood orange, grapefruit, mango and lemon flavor, and reduced the piney flavor found in the Loose Cannon, to create a wonderfully refreshing IPA that was so delightful that we now can't get enough of it and actually seek it out. 

While the ABV is too high for this to be a true session beer, we found it very easy to drink several at a time, staggering away from the bar with a satisfied smile.  This is why we have chosen the TropiCannon Citrus IPA as our official Beer of Summer.  Cheers, Bon