Add A Comment September 21st, 2012

Columbus Microbrew Festival

Posted by Mike

MicroBrew Fest is an annual beer fest at North Market featuring breweries from Central Ohio and few other breweries in the state. $20 got you a souvenir pint glass (which I later left at Mac’s Cafe) and 10 tasting tickets. Having never been to MicroBrew Fest in the past I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  We went in the afternoon on Saturday and after waiting in line for the bathroom, waiting in line for the ATM, and then waiting for tickets I was ready to drink some beer.

I didn’t try every beer, nor can I remember every beer I had, but a few of them did stick out. Mt. Carmel Brewing Company’s Harvest Ale was one of my favorites. I’m typically not a huge fan of ESB’s but this beer was rock solid. It started out with a wonderful balance of sweet malty caramel and light hop aroma and the flavor was much of the same. It actually didn’t taste much like an ESB at all, which is probably why I liked it. I later got a full pint of this.

Buckeye Lake Brewery had a few great beers. Admittedly I wasn’t too familiar with this brewery, but was pleasantly surprised. I sampled a bit of their IPA from my wife’s glass and it was really good — a nice blend of pine, orange peel and other citrus notes; hoppy but well balanced. I myself went with the brown porter, which had a little coffee up front and a few chocolate notes throughout.

I really tried to only go for beers I’d never had before, but I couldn’t pass up Columbus Brewing Company’s hop hammer that is Bohdi. It’s such a great IPA. They also had a one-year-old Black Ale/Strong Black Ale which was pretty incredible. Even being a year old, it still had plenty of hop aroma left. The beer’s alcohol (north of 9%) is masked by a sweet caramel flavor. I would have probably called it an Imperial Black IPA. In fact I did suggest it to someone at the CBC tent and was quickly corrected.

It’s worth noting that your 10 tasting tickets won’t get you 10 samples of beer. Five-ounce samples of each beer ranged from 1 to 4 tickets (most were 2 tickets). You could get full pints for 3 to 8 tickets too. Once you had a glass and a wristband, you could purchase additional tickets for 50 cents each. Or if you stood around long enough the chances of someone walking by and giving you a few tickets were pretty high.

September 17th, 2012 Add A Comment
Brouwerij De Molen

Kopi Loewak Imperial Stout

Posted by Kyle
2012 batch, from a 11.2 oz. bottle, served in a pint glass
RateBeer: 99 / Beer Advocate: 85 / Untappd: 4 caps

LOOK

Dark brown — almost black — with a huge tan head that dissipates to a persistent 1/4 inch.

SMELL

Lots of espresso with a solid stout backbone.

TASTE

Stout up front, java in the back. Coffee notes mask the alcohol flavors.

FEEL

Thick, but surprisingly tingly.

OVERALL

The Short Version: It’s a heavy stout masquerading as an iced coffee. One of the best around.
The Long Version: Kopi Luwak is shitty coffee. That is to say, Kopi Luwak coffee beans are found in cat shit. Despite where the beans come from, the beer is absolutely incredible. As far as coffee stouts go, it stacks up against all the heavy-hitters; and the lingering flavor you’re left with is unlike almost any other. It’s extremely well-balanced — especially given the alcohol content — and really drinkable. The only thing that could make it better is a nice, dry-rubbed steak.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Spotted: Weiland’s Gourmet Market
  • Style Imperial Stout
  • ABV 11.2
  • IBU 85
  • Origin Netherlands
September 10th, 2012 Add A Comment
Evil Twin Brewing

Femme Fatale Brett IPA

Posted by Kyle

2012 batch, from a 22 oz. bottle, served in a pint glass
RateBeer: 93 / Beer Advocate: NA / Untappd: 4 caps

LOOK

Pours a hazy golden hue with a thin off-white head.

SMELL

Sour aroma, with hints of green apple and citrus rind.

TASTE

Brettanomyces funk comes through a tiny bit at the beginning, mixed with lemongrass, and lighter fruits. The middle is dominated — but not overly — by hop flavors. Floral notes near the end mingle with bright sweetness and hops, while a full blast of that Brett flavor clears things out.

FEEL

Pretty light in body, not that carbonated until the finish.

OVERALL

If you’re looking for lots of hops and/or lots of sour, this beer isn’t for you. Despite being an IPA, it’s not overly hoppy, and despite using 100% Brettanomyces yeast, it’s not all that funky. There’s a really beautiful, very controlled tartness to this beer that makes an off-the-beaten-path style extremely drinkable. Once the Brett flavor fades between sips, you’re left with a nice bread-y residue that makes the bright, fruity, floral notes pop that much more when you go back. It’s an exercise in restraint that yields a well-balanced, easy-drinking beer, just as much at home during Monday Night Football as paired with a well-made meal.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Spotted: Kenny Road Market
  • Style India Pale Ale
  • ABV 6.0
  • IBU 86
  • Origin Denmark
Add A Comment September 10th, 2012

Yabos Tacos

Posted by Mike

My wife has been asking me to go to Yabos Tacos for a few weeks now and I haven’t been all that excited to go. I thought, “Just another Chipotle knock-off right?” I was completely wrong.

They have a full bar with a fantastic variety of craft beer both on draft and bottles. Unlike other Mexican restaurants where you can only get Corona, Modelo or Dos Equis; their draft list included Southern Tier PumkingThirsty Dog MaibarkGreat Lakes Wright PilsTröegs HopBack Amber AleFat Heads Sorcerer and a few more. Bottles included more from Fat Heads, Stone Brewing and a few others.

Retro Beer

Though not really craft beer, they always have a rotating $1 pint. It rotates between Yuengling, Labatt, PBR or something along those lines. If you’re the one that kills the Retro Keg, you get to pick the next Retro Beer. Which is pretty cool.

The Food

The bar area is full service with a separate dining area where you can place an order and pick it up at the counter. The food probably exceeded the beer menu. I had the wet ground beef burrito, with a chips and salsa appetizer. All of the food is made fresh and comes out in minutes. I overheard part of a conversation with the bartender and another patron about the food and didn’t catch all of it but it basically amounted to the fact that they only use quality fresh products and meats in their food.  I would never think craft beer and great Mexican together in the same place. I’m glad I gave it a try. I’ll definitely be heading back there real soon.

1 Comment September 9th, 2012

Nano Brew Cleveland

Posted by Kyle

The Three Bs — Beers, Burgers, Bikes

Sam McNulty has to be a busy guy these days, what with owning and operating five bars/restaurants on Cleveland’s West Side. Luckily for him and his team, they’re all within 500 feet of each other; Ohio City’s section of W. 25th is home to Market Garden Brewery, Speakeasy, Bar Cento, Bier Markt, and the newest addition, Nano Brew.

On the surface, Nano Brew is pretty simple: a bicycle-centric beer bar that serves locally-sourced burgers. When you look a little deeper, though, it’s probably the smartest arm of the McNulty empire. With a one-barrel pilot brew system located in the rear of the bar, Nano serves as a laboratory and proving ground for Market Garden brewmaster Andy Tveekrem. Not only does he have a chance to tinker and toil on a smaller scale with little to no risk, he can get public feedback when he puts those smaller batches on draft. And if something hits, it has the chance to hit big. Successes are likely to be reborn down the block at Market Garden’s full-scale production facility.

In addition to their own brews — of which there were two when I visited — Nano offers an impeccably curated draft selection. Breckenridge, Dogfish Head, New Holland, Sixpoint. Just a sampling from the draft list. There are 24 taps in all, everything available both inside and out, at the patio bar.

If the two Nano drafts were any indication of where things are headed, we should expect great things. The InCOGnito Dark IPA was aptly named; not quite black, the beer had curious hints of dark fruit up front, and finished with very traditional English Noble flavors. The Namber Ale wasn’t quite as strong — in ABV or character — but was interesting enough, with a hearty hop beginning and complex malt ending.

Did the beers live up to the “experimental” nature I had expected based on pre-opening press? No. But they were solid, and Nano Brew is only in their second week of operation. I fully expect that as Tveekrem gets settled in, the beers will become more complex and exploratory. And if Sam McNulty’s track record is any indication, Nano Brew will become the next landmark in a veritable murderers row of craft beer joints on Cleveland’s W. 25th.

September 6th, 2012 Add A Comment
Mikkeller

Monk’s Brew Wine Barrel Aged Raspberry Belgian Quad

Posted by Kyle

Dueling Pints Edition

2012 batch, from a 12.7 oz. bottle, served in a tulip glass
RateBeer: 90 / Beer Advocate: NA / Untappd: 4 caps

LOOK

Dark, dark brown with the slightest ruby hint. Khaki head. Very light lacing.

SMELL

Fresh raspberries and red wine mixed with champagne. Oak. Hints of black cherry. Very effervescent on the nose.

TASTE

Holy hell, this is a difficult beer to describe. There’s so much going on. Mixes of raspberry, plum, fig, and cherry. There’s a subtle sweetness that turns a bit sour near the end.

FEEL

Very prickly. Bubbly like a champagne. The mouthfeel reinforces the aroma. Dry at the very end.

OVERALL

The fact that this is a beer astounds me. Supersedes any lambic I’ve had. It has so many wine/champagne characteristics. The alcohol is masked almost completely until the very end, but you can feel it on the way down. The only hint of grains comes up front, but dissipates quickly. The finish is unlike almost any other beer. That being said, I wish it had just a touch more beer to it; something to really let me know what it is I’m drinking. It’s really delicious, though. An excellent dessert beer. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the bourbon barrel aged version of this one to compare.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Spotted: Weiland’s Gourmet Market
  • Style Belgian Quad
  • ABV 10.0
  • Origin Denmark
September 6th, 2012 Add A Comment
Mikkeller

Monk’s Brew Wine Barrel Aged Raspberry Belgian Quad

Posted by Mike

Dueling Pints Edition

12.7 oz. bottle, served in my awesome Sawicki goblet
RateBeer: 90 / Beer Advocate: NA / Untappd: 4 caps

LOOK

Dark brown with hints of cranberry/red  — 1/2 to 3/4 inch light brown head that dissipates quickly to about 1/8 inch  — light lacing around the edges.

SMELL

Super heavy on the raspberry and maybe a light hint of oak in there too.

TASTE

Very heavy on the raspberry up front and all the way through. A light malty flavor towards the back. Finishes a lot like a wine would with light hints of oak. As it gets warmer I do get a bit of chocolate or cocoa towards the finish.

FEEL

Moderate carbonation, a little syrupy and a bit of the dry finish you might get from a wine.

OVERALL

Overall I’m not really all that impressed. The raspberry is overwhelming and I can’t help but keep thinking i’m drinking a lambic. I would never have guessed at the ABV however. It’s relatively smooth and I don’t get a lot of alcohol notes from it. It did grow on me eventually. As it got warmer some of that malt character came out and it became a bit more balanced. It’s not something I could drink more than one of in a single sitting.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Spotted: Weiland’s Gourmet Market
  • Style Belgian Quad
  • ABV 10.0
  • Origin Denmark
Add A Comment September 3rd, 2012

Rockmill Brewery Visit

Posted by Kyle

Mike and I are fortunate enough to work at a really great company. In addition to comprehensive benefits, a fun environment, and genuinely rewarding work, our employer takes us to places like Rockmill Brewery for our summer outing, like they did this year. The only unfortunate thing is that Mike was on vacation when we went.

That fact aside, the visit was incredibly enjoyable. Right around noon, about 40 of us hopped on a bus and made the trek down to Lancaster, Ohio, where Rockmill’s facility is located. After we arrived at their gorgeous estate, we were taken into their tasting room where Matthew Barbee and his crew had prepared a sizable food spread, with each dish to be paired with one of their five Belgian varieties on hand: Witbier, Saison, Dubbel, Tripel, and Cask-Aged Tripel. Some of the food pairings included pork belly sliders, fried chicken with kale crepes, and a tomato gazpacho, among others.

The food was delicious, and paired wonderfully with their hand-crafted brews. While we were imbibing, we were very much left to our own devices; some people wandered the grounds looking for the rumored waterfall, some received a thorough explanation of the various beer styles, and others just sat back and soaked up some rays on a beautiful Ohio afternoon.

After a while, once we were all fairly well-lubricated, Matthew took us on a tour of his production facility. Housed in an old stable, the brewery wasn’t anything like what I was expecting. It was really straightforward. Just a scaled up, very refined, hombrewing setup. He explained that their low-tech approach afforded them quite a degree of control over their process, a process that starts with the unique — and fairly perfect — water supply they have running through their backyard, and ends in one of their 18 50-gallon Blichmann fermenters or nine OYO whiskey barrels.

Matthew and his team were extremely gracious hosts, and very knowledgeable guides who patiently answered any and all of my questions about their yeast strains, production schedule, distribution channels, future plans, et al. But instead of me just telling you about all that, I recommend you take an afternoon and head down there yourself. The tasting room is now open to the public on weekends, and I’m sure Matthew, his team, and their brew dog Scooby would love to have you. Maybe you’ll even see Mike there, making up for his missed opportunity.

August 27th, 2012 Add A Comment
21st Amendment Brewery

Hop Crisis Imperial IPA

Posted by Kyle
2012 batch, from a 12 oz. can, served in a pint glass
RateBeer: 99 / Beer Advocate: 89 / Untappd: 4 caps

LOOK

Golden yellow with a 1/2 inch head — dissipates to about 1/8 inch — and laces all the way down.

SMELL

Lots of citrus, bits of oak and earth, slight malt.

TASTE

Surprisingly biscuity up front. Quickly gives way to grapefruit and hops. Oaked smokiness masks some of the alcohol flavor near the back. Ends very bitter.

FEEL

Moderate thickness and carbonation.

OVERALL

It’s a really nice beer. Not too heavy-handed on the oak flavors, but enough to cover some of the booziness and add a nuanced finish. And you’re never confused about what you’re drinking; definitely a DIPA all the way through. Very drinkable for the high alcohol content, and pretty refreshing, especially near the end of summer. 21st Amendment continues to deliver on the off-the-beaten-path excellence I’ve come to expect from them.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Spotted: Kroger – Brewery District
  • Style Imperial/Double IPA
  • ABV 9.7
  • IBU 94
  • Origin California
Add A Comment August 26th, 2012

Columbus Summer Beerfest

Posted by Kyle

Columbus Summer Beerfest

A new venue. Some new features. Lots of very important people.

When I first heard the Columbus Beerfest was moving their summer event to the LC Pavilion, I was really intrigued. Outdoor fests are usually pretty rad — as long as the weather cooperates — and the LC is fantastic venue for any kind of event. I did wonder, though, how they would utilize the space, and if it would be conducive to easy navigation and wayfinding.

One of the positive ways they used the space was by inviting some local food trucks. A few of the more well-known trucks lined the festival entry, including Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Sophie’s Gourmet Pierogi, and The Cheesy Truck. Their offerings were a nice change of pace from the fairly uninspired grub available at the convention center refreshment stands. Others must have felt the same, all the trucks had a crowd throughout the evening.

Another nice (at least in theory) addition, was that of a VIP room. Set on its own in the A&R Bar, the VIP-only tasting room housed several more unique and limited brews, like Brooklyn’s Blast!, Hoppin’ Frog’s B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout, and The Bruery’s Mischief, among others. All well and good if the organizers hadn’t completely oversold the VIP tickets and packed the room to capacity.

If I had to guess, I’d say that about two-thirds of the total attendees had purchased VIP tickets. Probably double the amount that should have been allowed to. The entry line, even at 5:45, was absolutely ridiculous. It stretched all the way down Neil Avenue, around the corner onto Vine Street, and ended near the 670 off-ramp. Damn near every person that shuffled by was grumbling about the number of “VIPs” and the length of the line.

Once inside, some of my concerns about the layout were confirmed. There was no flow. No organization. No rhyme or reason. Tables lined the wall, on both levels, around the stage, a number of them were separated off in a corner, about a dozen or so were set up inside the main building, and then a handful were at the very top of the lawn. Those few at the top were a pain to get to — because of the incline and the crowds on the walkway — but some of the best breweries (Dogfish Head, Four String, Fat Heads) were up there, so it was worth the trip.

Dogfish Head had an expected selection, Indian Brown, Tweason’ale, Chicory Stout, and 90 Minute. Nothing too special. Four String had their usual duo, Brass Knuckle and Backstage Blonde, but also a third that I hadn’t yet tried called Big Star White IPA. It was pretty mild — tasty — but I still prefer their pale ale. Fat Head’s had a consistently large crowd all night, and with good reason. They had their excellent Head Hunter IPA there (which got tapped out before I could try some), Starlight Lager, and Sorcerer, a Belgian dark strong ale that was really nice. My beer of the night, however, had to go Elevator, and their “Big Vic” Imperial Mogabi. “Big Vic” is an American pale wheat ale, heavy on the hops with tons of fruit notes. If you see it on draft around town, be sure to give it a try.

All in all, the Columbus Summer Beerfest was a pleasant evening. The weather was perfect — not too hot, not too cold, no rain — the beer selection was slightly above average, and the food trucks were a nice add. They really need to look at curbing their VIP sales, though. Or increasing the price difference between regular admission and VIP to try to balance it out a bit. Until they do that, it’ll just be another excuse for Columbus to get drunk.