Category Archives: Columns

Column: The fires of fall have been stoked

 

In my opinion fall and winter are the best times of the year for a beer drinker. As food flavors deepen into fall, you need a change of pace from summer’s cheerful pale lagers. The stouts, barley wines, browns and some great seasonal brews all make their arrival.

One seasonal that always draws me in is the pumpkin ale. I make it a mission to seek out the best of the year.

I usually try to buy the pumpkin ales in mix packs or as singles because more then one or two gets to be a bit much. Pumpkin Ales can be quite varied. Some brewers use natural ingredients, even choosing to hand-cut pumpkins and drop them, while others use flavoring. Most are spiced in a way to make them taste like pumpkin pie using ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. The average alcohol by volume can range from 4 to 7 percent.

I feel the better pumpkin ales contain natural, hand-made ingredients though I am told that it is quite a labor-intensive project for brewers.

To me most of the brews change pretty significantly over the course of a few years so that is why it is important to revisit them. For example, I feel Post Road (Brooklyn Brewery) was once a top 10 but has now faded back to the pack.

The one real standout I had this year was the Pumking from Southern Tier. This was a pumpkin pie on steroids, wow. Also up there on the list this year was the Dogfish Pumkin and the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin. Does Weyerbacher do anything wrong?

The good ones are hard to get as they go quick. I hear that Cambridge Brewing Company in Connecticut has a great one on tap but I haven’t made it up there yet. Hopefully I will before Halloween.

What I have had and liked this month

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

An American Strong Ale brewed by Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware USA, ABV: 12%

Poured from the bottle into a snifter a dark, dark black with hints of brown when it hits the light just right. The head was beautiful with tan or brownish hints. The aroma was malty, with slight wood or earth notes and through in some caramel and vanilla. It is clear immediately that this would age in an awesome way. The taste is so full with dark fruits and a very unique wood like taste. It is sweet at times and bitter – outstanding. Sweet toasty malt taste with slight bitter hop middle and alcohol finish. On the palate the flavor keeps developing for quite a while. Just really nice and a big kudos to Dogfish for pushing the boundaries a bit.

Jerrod Ferrari is editor of The Stamford Times and Wilton Villager. He is also the operator of It’s The Beer Talking blog at https://beertalking.wordpress.com/

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Column: A good beer festival in Connecticut, say it is so

Readers of this column have often asked me to speak about how bad the beer scene in Connecticut is. An event coming up this month in Waterbury turns that assumption upside down.

 

The Brass City Brew Fest will be held in Waterbury on Saturday, Sept 13 and is just what the beer loving Nutmegger has been looking for.

I went last year for the first time and went home more then impressed. You want to get there early and pay the $10 extra dollars to get into the Belgian beer tent. There is one place you can get pretty much every Belgian beer that crosses Connecticut’s borders, plus some.

The four-hour festival is set at Library Park in Waterbury, just across from the courthouse and under a beautiful clock tower. For all you hear about Waterbury it was a beautiful setting with plenty of grass to mosey around in.

The American selection is mostly from the Northeast but you get the big guns there such as Dogfish Head, Boston Beer Co. and Allagash. The west coast sends over Anchor Steam, Ballast Point, Eel River, Lagunitas, North Coast and Sierra Nevada.

You also get to sample the best beers from this so-called poor state for craft beer. Connecticut will put its best foot forward with the outstanding Cambridge House, BruRm@Bar, Carlson Craft Brewery, Cottrell, Farmington River, John Harvard’s, New England Brewing Co., Olde Burnside, SBC (Southport Brewing Co.), Thomas Hooker and another Connecticut great brewer the Willimantic Brewing Co.

Tickets are $30 in advance and can be purchased at http://www.brasscitybrewfest.com/ or $35 at the gate. The event only runs from 1 to 5 p.m. but that is more then enough time to sample everything you want. I would suggest getting there early and beating the crowds.

 

What I have had and liked this month

 

Review: Captain Lawrence Captains Reserve

 

An Imperial/Double IPA brewed by

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

Pleasantville, New York USA

ABV: 8%

Glassware: Tulip

Had the Captain Lawrence Double IPA on tap at Delaney’s In New Haven. It pours a dark yellow or off orange – it is hard to put your finger on this color. The head is amazing and the lacing is sick. The lacing literally follows you down the glass to near perfection. It smells hoppy but not in a way that will blow out your senses because it appears to be well balanced in both aroma and taste with a nice malt and citrus backbone. This is probably one of the smoothest Imperial IPAs I have ever had. It is bitter but that malt backbone keeps it from ripping your taste buds apart. Outstanding.

Beer Advocate food pairing suggestions: Cuisine (Barbecue) Cheese (peppery; Monterey / Pepper Jack, sharp; Blue, Cheddar, pungent; Gorgonzola, Limburger) Meat (Game, Grilled Meat, Salmon) 

My ratebeer.com rating: 4.2

Jerrod Ferrari is editor of The Stamford Times and Wilton Villager. He is also the operator of It’s The Beer Talking blog at https://beertalking.wordpress.com/

Column: Don’t judge a beer by its label

 

This past month I have found myself guilty of judging before being fully informed on several occasions – a big no-no for a journalist. I should know better.

I like to think of my self as classy, semi-stylish and refined gentleman and I like my beer to reflect that.

Several times this month I turned my nose up at trying a new beer because I thought the labels looked cheap or gimmicky and boy was I wrong.

The cool art-deco Orval; the painted branding of Stone and Rogue; the classic seafaring nature of Anchor, the rustic artiness of Dogfish Head and Smuttynose; the simplistic nature of Allagash, and South Hampton; the well balanced look of Brooklyn, Avery and Hitachino Nest and most foreign beers especially those from Italy and Belgium have labels that are not over designed and give the impression of something I want to enjoy.

To me there are different categories of labels that turn me off. There is the childish: Clipper City Brewing Co. and Opa-Opa; the amateur: McNeil’s Brewery and Stoudt; the ones with too much going on: Magic Hat and Flying Dog and the corny: Ballast, Unibroue.

Of course this is all clearly subjective and everyone’s artistic tastes are different.

I learned this past month that I will never judge a beer by its label again, not even subconsciously. Of course, we all know it is about what is on the inside that counts but when you are in the beer isle and need to make an impulse buy, a really bad label may get passed over.

This month Clipper City, Opa-Opa, Ithica and Ballast made me realize what I was doing subconsciously. I had passed up buying all three of these beers in the past just by the fact that there was something else to buy that looked more appealing. After it was suggested – through different avenues –  I try all three, my palate was thanking me.

From each of those breweries I found an IPA and really, really like.

No longer will a bad graphic designer fool me. They are just trying to keep all of the good beer to themselves.

 

What I have had and liked this month

 

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA — An India Pale Ale brewed by Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, Cal.

I guess I am just a sucker for beer brewed in San Diego. This IPA poured smooth, with a nice looking, two-finger head. It was hoppy and crisp with a slight bitter bite on the palate. I held off on buying this one for a while because I was unaware of the brewery. Won’t make that mistake again.

Column: The 21st century beer library

One of my favorite parts of being a journalist is the research. When people ask why I like my job so much, I say ‘because I get to learn something new everyday.’

Besides enjoying the taste of a great beer, half of the fun in having beer as a hobby is doing the research to find out what is out there, how it is made and how it can be made better.

In this the Internet age there are many resources available to a beer connoisseur.

I keep track of my own tastings on beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com. If you want to get a general consensus of where any beer in the world stands then these are the sites for you.

These sites also have written tutorials and columns along with event calendars.

Podcasts — most available on iTunes — are the best listening resource available on beer.

One of my favorites is Craft Beer Radio. This tandem, based in Pennsylvania, just finished up a fantastic series from Savor: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience. They were able to hook right into the sound board for talks on pairing beer with cheese and the popular He Said Beer, She Said Wine: A Debate on Food Pairing seminar put on by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Marine Old, an award winning wine writer.

Other podcasts such as Good Beer Show and Beer School are also very good while the rest fall off a bit into crudeness but are non-the-less informative.

For home brewing information Basic Brewing is far an away the best. The show’s host James is one of those guys that know just about everything about everything.

For magazines I break them down into two different categories: the glossy and the trade journal. The better of the first group is All About Beer Magazine and Draft Magazine.

For the second category and for a heavier read I like Brew Your Own and Zymurgy Magazine, which comes with a membership in the American Homebrewer’s Association.

Locally for me, the Yankee Brew News is a great way to keep up on local events and happenings.

There are really so many great books out there that it would be hard to mention them all, quickly however I will name a few: “How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time”, “Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide” and “Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery.”

Taking Maine for Granted

I guess I always took for granted the great beer culture I was surrounded by when I lived in Maine for four years while attending college. Well, not any more.I return fresh from my bi-yearly jaunt to the coastal region of Maine, and I return with many flavorful stories.

In the mid-1990s, Allagash Brewing was just getting its start when I was roaming the frosty hills of Portland.

Today they have now grown into one of the best Belgian beer impersonators in the country. I would have to estimate that if you were to rank the top 20 beers in Maine, 15 would come from Allagash.

Each area of Maine — the coast, the mountains, the lake lands — all have their own little beer communities.

All About Beer Magazine just named Portland one of the better beer cities in the nation. Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland is one of the country’s oldest microbreweries and does a pretty good job representing the area. 

Also in Portland is Gritty’s. Gritty’s beers have a distinct flavor that carries through in each of their beers. I’m not sure how they do that from a brown to a summer ale, but they do. Must be the malt backbone.

Way up in Bar Harbor, I find my favorite fruit beer of them all: The Atlantic Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale, made with real blueberries.

A hidden gem is the Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company and its line of brews. They have a tendency to be low in carbonation but non-the-less great.

There are so many great beers in Maine and I could fire them all off (Stone Coast Brewing, Sea Dog Brewing Co., Kennebec Brewing Co., Kennebunkport Brewing Co.) but my editor has me on a tight word count. Must be a wine lover. I regress.

The state of Maine was supportive of prohibition even before prohibition went national, hampering early development of breweries. However, they have made up for all of that in the past 20 years.

What I’ve had and liked this month

Allagash Four — An Abt/Quadrupel –brewed by Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME

Poured from a 75cl bottle at a restaurant in Brunswick, ME, at a surprising very good price. It poured amber brown with a small but nice looking head. The head went down quickly after the pour. It was malty on first taste but it was also cold and that seemed to be masking some of the real flavor. As the drinking went on the wonderful bouquet and flavor came through. I picked up raisin, some mild nut and lots of yeast and malt. It really just kept getting better and better and better. Wonderful beer. I was fully impressed by the end of the experience.