Review: Laughing Dog Pure Bred Citra

I found this bomber at a local beer and wine shop and, as a lover of citra hops (which have only been around since 2009), I had to grab it. Single hop citra forever! Tonight, I was making ramen (yes, I know it’s trash food, but sometimes I just love making instant ramen and adding a bunch of veggies or chicken or an egg or vinegared onions to). It’s comfort food and I have no regrets.

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An Idaho brewery (look, I can’t always drink local), Laughing Dog Brewery isn’t exactly a newcomer, having been in business since 2005. Still, I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of them before now. They love their dog, Ben, and some dog-themed beer names make their way onto their labels – like Pure Bred.

This beer pours a hazy golden straw color with warm undertones. It produces a light, fluffy head about one finger tall and leaves some serious lacing. There’s a hoppy nose that is green, floral, and herbaceous! There’s also a piney, resin smell, which I don’t think is necessarily signature for this hop.

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As far as taste goes, it is generally fresh and bright the way that Citra is meant to be. It’s green and dank up front with a bright passion fruit pop to it. There’s a slight biscuity-ness to the malt, which must be one of the pale malts based on its flavor profile. This is a nice change, season-wise, from heavier and sweeter winter beers – it’s perfect for the days that are warming up in spring time.

It’s a little dray and abrupt on the finish for me, but I would absolutely buy it again. For less than $10 a bomber, it’s a good deal in my mind.

 

 

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Review: Elysian Bifrost Winter Pale Ale

It was Howard County Restaurant Week, I had a night off, and I was craving steak – the stars had aligned for me. I asked a few friends to join me for a lady date dinner, but, in my truest fashion, I arrived about 30 minutes early. Time for a beer? Time for a beer!

Centre Park Grill in Columbia, Maryland, has a decent beer selection and an excellent range of whiskeys and bourbons. Trust me, I love bourbon, but I was in a beer mood. I was even seated before my reservation time, so I didn’t have to sit at the bar (though I would have, even though it was near the front door on a cold night). Which is more depressing: sitting alone at a restaurant table or sitting alone at a bar?

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Elysian Bifrost Winter Pale Ale pours a hazy, orangey gold with maybe one finger of fluffy, foamy head. There’s some lacing to be found, but its staying power isn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen. The smell here is a lot of wet grains or cereal up front with some floral hops in the background. And I may be hallucinating some very faint citrus, but honestly I was second-guessing myself on that the whole time.

This beer leads with malty sweetness, which quickly fades into piney hops. There might be traces of coriander or nutmeg at work here, but just barely. This isn’t a strongly spiced winter ale. There is, however, a quick from that 8.3% ABV. The finish is just a tad dry, very gentle, and then ends on a sweet note. It has a robust mouthfeel and fairly low carbonation.

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Extremely drinkable, I do declare! But definitely seasonal, which is sad. I’d have this pretty frequently if I could find it. I’d absolutely buy this and keep it around at home for cold winter days.

Review: Uinta Ready Set Gose

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I made too much risotto. Way too much. A problematic amount of risotto. I have some regrets. I mean, I don’t regret the delicious garlic risotto with kale, only the quantity that my idiot brain thought would be a good idea. It’s going to be every meal for a week at this point.

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I had to open some white wine to make the dish, so I started with a glass of that – no sense in wasting it! After that, I moved onto a beer – this Uinta Gose that I was really excited about. I love gose beers! Sours and other sorts of bright beers really keep my palate interested.

This beer is brewed with salt and coriander and Uinta describes it as compared to a refreshing coastal sea breeze. It pours a hazy, honeycomb gold with no head. It smells wheaty, sort of like white bread from a big name brand smells. There are definite notes of lemon rind, which the can mentions in its description. There’s also a bright, peppery yeast smell to be found.

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The first sip is good. It’s a balanced gose with some bright and salty notes. There’s maybe la little spice or peppercorn at the tip of the tongue. It’s complex, but not overwhelming. There’s peppercorn and lemongrass coming through as it warms up – it also gets more sour as this happens. There’s a mildly savory finish with that salt on the back end.

The pucker on this beer grows as it comes up to cellar or room temperature, which is odd but delightful. I love a good sour. I would absolutely buy this again.

 

 

Bar and Beer Review: Rams Head Tavern in Savage, MD

Here’s another bar and restaurant, tucked neatly into my back yard. Yes, readers, I am still on a quest to find My Bar. Will Rams Head Tavern in Savage Mill, MD fill that opening? That’s debatable. It has some highlights, but it doesn’t really have the right vibe for me to feel comfortable there all that often. For one, it’s pretty big. It’s a three story restaurant with many tables and a bar on the main floor, more tables upstairs, and then a basement pub all the way downstairs. I’m usually a fan of cozier set ups than that.

The food is decent, though maybe a few dollars more than I generally like to spend. I’ve only been there on weekends, so I haven’t been able to take advantage of any happy hour specials (which include $3 draft beers and some free appetizers on weekdays from 4-7). Their house beers come from Dominion and Fordham Brewing in Delaware.

I grabbed a seat at the bar ahead of some friends (I’m chronically early everywhere) and was taken care of by the bartender, Mike, who I quizzed on their relationship with Fordham. As he explained it, neither Rams Head nor Fordham owns one another, but that they sort of grew up together in the Annapolis location and are now considered partner businesses.

They look like they carry at least six Fordham beers at any given time, plus about a dozen guest taps. The manager, whose name I didn’t catch, told me they have “hundreds” of bottles. Now, I’m a draft girl most of the time, but I may need to explore this in the future. Plus, on the first Thursday of every month, a new beer is released and a promotional pint glass is part of the deal (first beer is $5, you keep the glass, and refills are $2).

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My friends and I feasted on crab dip and Old Bay dry rub wings that night and, I have to say, the food was solid.

Fordham Wisteria Wheat

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This draft beer pours a clear yellow straw-like gold, so I figure it must be a filtered wheat beer. No head was present when I got this beer, but there was some mild, creamy lacing. The low light may have obscured the color of the lacing (and maybe even the beer a little). Mike said its taste trends toward banana and clove, which I like very much in wheat beers.

There’s a definite bread or grain smell with some light banana notes. There’s also a yeasty zing to the scent. It has a very light and crisp taste that mellows into banana bread and clove, just as promised. I would call it very crushable.

Crash Zone IPL

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This beer looks like an amber with a rich, creamy-looking head. There’s not much nose here, maybe a little hoppy, with some sweet grains. It smells like an amber to me. And it tastes a bit like a hoppy amber as well. The aftertaste is a little dry to the point where the finish of this beer makes me want a tall glass of water or something else on my palate. I tried a sample and I wouldn’t order a full pint.

Gypsy Lager

This is perhaps their flagship beer as well as the one I am most familiar with. I also happen to really like it. It’s solid. Pours a light golden brown. It’s clear with minimal head. It’s a very easy drinking beer. It’s mild, crisp, and refreshing when cold. Even after warming up a bit, it’s still really solid. Not impressive or special, but a genuinely good go-to.

Fordham IPA

Here’s a short review for you (because I didn’t care for it and also because I was enjoying my night with friends and not taking many notes at this point): it’s too dry and bitter for me. There’s a very dry finish. As it warmed (and as I got more inebriated), it became a little less overstated and a little more drinkable.

 

Bar and Beer Review: Olive on Main in Laurel, MD

I wanted to spend my afternoon off having lunch and a beer somewhere while running errands and Yelp suggested to me that Olive on Main might be a good choice. After waiting in line at the post office for almost 30 minutes, I was game.

In the second half of 2016, after my marriage fell apart, I had to uproot my life and move somewhere new. Alone. I picked a city nearer to a lot of my fiends, finally closer than I had been in years, but it was still a new life in a new place that I had to face on my own. This is the first time I’ve ever lived alone. I guess maybe I’m not alone with the birds, but they sure don’t pay rent.

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The place only has six taps for craft beer, so I balked a little. I’m a tad spoiled by craft beer bars with huge selections. Will this become my new bar? I treated myself to Burger (it would have been $6 on Tuesday, but I came on a Monday) cooked medium rare, and served with nice, crispy fries. It was a good, solid, flavorful, and presented on a tasty brioche bun. I’ll consider their well-reviewed falafel or a mezze platter next time.

Inevitably, I failed to take many pictures. Please find it in your heart to forgive me!

Manor Hill IPA

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Pours a lovely, hazy, dark golden color in a lightly frosty glass. It has a decently strong nose despite being poured very chilly. It smells floral and orange, lightly hoppy. The first sip is sweet, bright, and floral. It finishes with a pleasantly green happiness that’s sort of herbal in nature. It tastes the way that admiring a pretty flower garden feels.

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

Another frost glass and a golden pour. No head and just a film of foam to be seen. I can’t detect any nose at all, maybe because of the coldness of the glass. I took a second, comically deep sniff (somewhat embarrassing in public) and got a piney hop note that was very faint. The first taste has grains, isn’t too sweet, and is mildly hoppy. It’s refreshing up front, but has a dry finish in the back. It didn’t overwhelm my food, but didn’t quite stand up to it, either. It gets happier as it warms.

 

Beer 101: Fermentation

I know I’m skipping around a little bit (after all, there are several steps that come before fermentation in the brewing process), but it’s kind of because fermentation is my favorite. After all, it’s responsible for some of the best-tasting things in life: beer, wine, cheese, and chocolate to name a few. It’s a  crucial step, chemically, as it creates the alcohol that we all enjoy (presumably you enjoy alcohol – you are on a beer blog).

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Photo from uncommoncaribbean.com

The Basics

Fermentation, at its very simplest, is the chemical process by which yeast converts the malts‘ sugar (glucose) into ethyl alcohol and C02 gas – this yields both the alcohol content and the carbonation that make beer, well, beer.

 

We’ve explained a little bit that temperature is important for this process, depending on the kind of yeast being used and the beer style that is being made – an ale needs to be kept at 68 degrees Fahrenheit for about two weeks and a lager needs to stay at 48 Fahrenheit for about six weeks. This process creates a lot of heat as a byproduct and so the container in which the fermentation happens generally needs to be carefully cooled.

To avoid contamination by stray, wild yeasts, fermentation tanks are generally sealed off from the air with only a small vent for the CO2 buildup to exit the tank.

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The Details

I’m no chemist, so I’m not going to go into that level of detail! However, there are some interesting things that go on during the fermentation process that need to be addressed. Yeast basically works in two stages during fermentation: the primary stage and the anaerobic phase.

In the primary stage, the yeast consumes all of the oxygen in the cooled and aerated wort mixture. During this stage, sterols (which are a type of cholesterol that make up part of the yeast’s cell wall) are produced. These sterols allow the cell wall to be permeable so sugar and alcohol can move in and out of the yeast cells; they also allow the yeast to survive in an increasingly alcoholic environment

Once that oxygen is gone, the yeast moves into the anaerobic phase, during which most of the sugars in the wort are turned into ethanol and CO2. Additionally, flavor compounds like esters (fruity notes) , diacetyl/ketones (butterscotch notes), fusel alcohols (responsible for a hot or burning sensation), and other chemicals that can make or break the flavor of a final beer.

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Other Uses for Fermentation

Cacao seeds must be fermented (often out in the sun, on large tarps) before being dried and then roasted in order to create the chocolate flavor that we know.

In winemaking, fermentation begins naturally when the skin of grapes is broken and the wild yeast on them and in the air begin the primary fermentation stage, turning sugar in to alcohol.

Fermentation happens several times along the journey from milk to cheese, developing flavors and even creating the famous holes in Swiss cheese.

The workhhorse of bread making, yeast-based fermentation creates the textures, flavors, and rise in bread doughs.

Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee, and more can be fermented during the pickling process, allowing natural bacteria to create acids needed to preserve foods.

 

Review: Sam Adams Ginger Beer

This was brought to me by a thoughtful friend as a housewarming gift. He arrived, winter beer sampler pack in hand, and stay for an evening of board games and card games. We consumed several of those beers that night and I admit that I take absolutely no notes, so none of those got reviewed. Oops. This was one of the remainders from that night of revelry and so I pulled it out of its box in the fridge and gave it a taste.

All right. So. Real talk. This is called ginger beer. When I think of ginger beer, I think of a spicy-and-slightly-sweet soda beverage, kind of like Goslings in the ever-popular Dark and Stormy. This? This is not what this Sam Adams drink is.

This beer pours a rich, absolutely beautiful golden color, very clear. It has a fine wisp of a white head that leaves a little lacing. It has a nose like a light pilsner, I think, but with a little hint of a ginger zip to it.

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Up front, there’s some gentle ginger and spice with a kind of soft heat to it. It’s sort of malty and balanced. No hops to speak of and it’s only just slightly sweet. I’d call it crisp overall. It has some more Christmassy spice taste as it warms up, but the mouthfeel thins a little as the carbonation peters out.

It’s not at all what I expected from something calling itself “ginger beer.” To me, ginger beer is a wholly different animal. There’s nothing wrong with this beer, but I wanted something else from it. I expected more flavor and got a beer that is, quite honestly, a little bit bland. I would most definitely not buy this beer again. I would, however, opt in for some extra bird cuddle from a little friend who I’m bird sitting.

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Review: DC Brau The Corruption

I call the DC area my home and I definitely love the craft beer scene that DC and Baltimore have to offer. One of the staples of the area is DC Brau, a brewery inside of the District, and one of their flagship beers is The Corruption. It’s their take on a Pacific Northwest-style IPA and is made with plenty of Columbus hops that bring it up to 80 IBU.

DC Brau was formed in 2009 by two local restaurant industry veterans, Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock, who saw a gap in the area craft beer market and sought to fill it. The brewery experiments a little  with beer styles and have had offered a lot of American Double/Double IPAs in the past as well as a rye beer, some Belgian styles, and a Scotch AleWee Heavy.

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I had this brew at Yard House in Springfield, VA. Yard House, if I understand correctly, is a chain of  sports bars with a large tap selection of craft beers and is owned by the same company that mans Olive Garden and Seasons 52. So it’s no hipster-owned craft beer neighborhood bar, but it does tend to sport a massive beer menu with plenty of variety.

I met a friend for lunch there one day and figured I might as well review a beer while I was at it! I have a soft spot for local food and beverage, so I opted in for The Corruption. It’s a medium golden hue with a thing, nearly-white head (maybe a little hard to tell because Yard House is quite dimly lit). The head didn’t stick around long at all in my glass and didn’t really create any lacing.

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It has a very grainy nose with plenty of hops as well. It smells a little like fresh bread to me. The taste is slightly dry and bitter – not unpleasant, but a little drier than is my personal preference. It’s a good, solid beer with plenty of flavor, but that isn’t overpowering. All the same, it is solid in the way that it isn’t exactly stand out to me, either.

It did balance well with some savory food (roasted brussels sprouts and potatoes, a Cuban sandwich, some sweet potato fries), which I only barely remembered to photograph because I was famished and it was all delicious.

Review: Boulevard Single-Wide IPA

This was my very first beer in my new apartment! I know I’ve mentioned that I was moving in the last few posts – it finally happened, chaos, boxes, and all. As of this Boulevard Single-Wide IPA, I didn’t have a couch yet, so I enjoyed this beer sitting on the floor in front of my coffee table. But, most importantly, I was in my own, brand-new place, ready to start my new life.

I also enjoyed this beer on Thanksgiving, which I did spend alone, and which did feel a little lonely. Still, I enjoyed some traditional(?) Thanksgiving hot dogs and a tasty beer to celebrate my new-found freedom. I’d already celebrated Friendsgiving a few days prior and Thanksgiving isn’t really one of my favorite holidays, so I promise it isn’t as depressing as it initially sounds!

Poured from a bottle and into a pint glass (the ones that I got in the divorce – sadly, not the Perfect Pint Glasses that I so love), this beer is a somewhat hazy, medium golden color. There’s a small, off-white head that vanishes slowly, leaving behind no lacing to speak of.

It smells hoppy and citrusy to me. Pleasantly bright.  There’s maybe also something slightly grassy about the smell – fresh, green grass. The beer is made with six varieties of hops (Magnum, Summit, Cascade, Centennial, and Citra) and is also dry-hopped for some big flavor. It’s also brewed with mostly crystal malts, so that creates a very nice and neutral canvas with a crisp finish.

The beer is a little bitter to me, but not so much so as to be offensive. It’s not super hoppy, surprisingly, and is a little piney to me. It’s not extremely flavorful, but it is well-rounded in my opinion. I find it slightly dry on the back end, though not bad in any way. It has relatively low carbonation.

It’s an easy-drinking beer that isn’t remarkable in any way, but is still tasty. It’s a good go-to. I would definitely buy it again.

Review: Gilly’s Craft Beer & Fine Wine

Disclaimer: Gilly’s used to be My Bar. Capital M, capital B. Mine. I lived about a 10 minute walk from it and went there way more than is probably healthy, both to drink and to write (while drinking). I don’t live there any longer, but I still always stop by for a pint when I’m in the area. So I’m probably biased toward the place, but it had several years to really win my affection.

They’re both a bottle shop and a beer and wine bar with 19 rotating taps. Additionally, they sell genuinely delicious sandwiches and cheese plates if you feel like snacking (although the sandwiches here are for more than a mere snack – they’re significant). The staff is always knowledgeable about their beers, and even just beer in general, and always give out plenty of sample tastes upon request.

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Last year, they joined up with Untappd and became a verified venue and now use a large screen TV and Untappd software to keep a live list of their beer menu. Gone are the days of printed menus and sharpie lines through the kegs that had kicked! If you check in at Gilly’s using Untappd, your user name and icon appear on the screen as well – a sort of digital territory marking for beer nerds, I guess.

I started with a spiced beer, Oliver’s Intrigue in Tangiers. I asked a little about it and learned that this brew was a collaboration between Oliver Brewing Company and Charm City Meadworks, both Baltimore local businesses. This beer is “brewed with orange blossom honey and gently spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and star anise.”

It pours a nice ruby brown color with a little off-white head that falls quickly and leaves lacing behind in its wake. I noticed very little nose, perhaps because the pour was so cold. Maybe I get a hint of a citrus smell, but I didn’t notice any spices on the nose.

The first taste is a brown ale with a slight peppercorn hint at the back of the throat. It’s lightly sweet, but not too malty. I’d say that there’s a slight tartness to it. I don’t find it at all dry or bitter and there’s a sort of heat to it that feels alcoholic. The drier finish becomes more apparent as this beer warms. It’s light and crisp with low carbonation. Easy to drink, but not as remarkable or distinct as other spiced beers I’ve tried.

I also splurged on a 10oz pour of a $16 sour beer from Belgium. The Brouwerji Alvinne Cuvee Freddy was a treat. It pours a beautiful, dark brown, ruddy color, quite opaque. No head at all on this pour. It has a really sour and funky smell to it and the taste is an amazing puckery sour! Honestly, it’s one of the best sours I may have every had – and for that price, it better be!

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Photo by @stunim of Instagram