Sunday, March 10, 2013

Is Pliny the Younger the Best DIPA? Nope!

Instead of 6 month it only took 6 or so days to get some real beer talk going.  I'm improving. The last post I did before dropping off of planet beer was a comparison of Heady Topper and Fat Head's Head Hunter DIPA. Since I left off with hops I'll come back the same way. And there is no better time than now since Philly hop heads are all a buzz over the annual arrival of Pliny the Younger.

Philadelphia is one of a handful of cities outside of California that receives Pliny the Younger. So when it hits the town the rush is on.  This year I relied on Twitter to ensure I got my PtY fix. After getting a tech geeks version of a heads-up I slid into Teresa's Next Door for a couple glasses of the hoppy elixir.

Pliny the Younger @ Teresa's Next Door
Is it worth the hype? Should you stand in line for hours or pay an outrageous amount for a few precious ounces?  Been there done that, so for me, no. However it is a great IPA. This year's version is fantastic. Big fresh hops is what this is about. It's very well balanced, so no over the top bitterness or cloying sweetness. The danger is that even at 11% it's too easy to drink.

For years Pliny the Younger has been put on a giant hop pedestal and worshiped.  Sure it's great but there are some serious contenders for the title of ultimate IPA. Both Heady Topper from The Alchemist in Vermont and Abrasive out of Surly Brewing in Minneapolis are serious hop forward beers. They come in 16oz cans, which may be my favorite format for IPAs.  Whats not to like about big cans? No light creeping in to destroy those delicate flavors, lightweight and of course, more beer than a 12 oz bottle. I've gushed about Heady Topper many times. A couple posts back I have it besting Head Hunter IPA. For me it goes above PtY and sits on the top of hop hill.

With that said I recently had the chance to have Abrasive DIPA. Amazing!  Opening the can gets you an immediate aromatic hop wave to the face. The flavors are big tropical fruits: grapefruit, orange, tangerine and mango. The hops are dank and resinous with an aggressive piney bitterness. This pulls up along side Heady Topper and although it doesn't pass it, it hangs in there neck and neck. If you are lucky enough to have a can, drink it now.

A real surprise came from Evolution Brewing in Maryland: Lot No. 6 DIPA. A fantastic flavor mix of mango, tangerine, orange zest, toffee and hints of pepper. The sweetness balances out the piney resinous blend of Citra, Columbus and Centennial hops. Great to see this newer brewery putting out such a high level DIPA.

As it is with life with the good comes the bad. Not necessarily bad, but unfortunately disappointing. Two beer that I always have at the top of my DIPA list were shockingly lacking this year. Bells HopSlam and Troegs Nugget Nectar both seemed to have slipped against the competition. HopSlam while still offering a big mix of citrus and pine, seemed sweeter with more of a malt background. Nugget Nectar (bottle) lacked that impressive hop profile that you expect from a DIPA Imperial Ale*.  However the cask version did not disappoint. For both Nugget and Slam it might not be that they are fading but simply that the new kids in the glass are bringing it bigger and better when it comes to an impressive hop experience.

Double IPAs continue to grow in popularity. Each year more and more offerings hit the shelves.  Pliny the Younger while still a fantastic representation of the style has serious competition for the title of "The Best DIPA". Heady Topper and Abrasive deserve serious consideration. Other brewers such as Lawson's Finest Liquids, Hill Farmstead, Tired Hands and Alpine certainly have beers that could jump into this race. Unfortunately I didn't have any to compare. Hopefully I'm lucky enough to have another lineup of beers worthy of a PtY comparison.

*I was reminded that Nugget Nectar is not a DIPA.  Yes I know it's an Imperial Red Ale.  Because of its hop forward profile it tends to get lumped in with IPAs. My bad! Taking that into account it still seems to be under performing when compared to past years.

DIPA Rankings
1. Heady Topper
2. Abrasive
3. Pliny the Younger
4. Lot No 6
5. HopSlam
6. Nugget Nectar

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It LIVES!!! The Blog that Would Not Die!!!!

Yes, Yes, Yes true believers, I have crawled out of the muck and slime to touch fingers to keyboard. Put down the shovels, call off the priest and tell the guy who engraves headstones that he can go home. This little beer blog has risen from a 6 month coma with a touch more life to live and beer to investigate.

Since I left off with a post on big hoppy beers I figured why not return the same way. Presently Philadelphia is in the midst of it's annual love affair with a certain Younger visitor from Russian River. What better time than now to focus on the hops hitting the glass?

Coming up....Is Younger still all that??? 
And no smart ass you won't have to wait 6 months to get an answer!!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Head to Head Hops: Heady Topper & Head Hunter

Currently I'm fortunate enough to have two amazing examples of how to do a great IPA.  Heady Topper from The Alchemist and Head Hunter from Fat Head's Brewery both have an almost cult like following and for good reason.  Mind blowing hops, super hype and limited distribution create a real want from those in the beer world.  Having both beers in house presented the perfect opportunity for a head-to-head (sorry couldn't resist) comparison.

Heady Topper
For those of you who have had Heady and taken the time to read the can know that I broke one rule in conducting this tasting, I poured it into a glass. Sorry HT purists I needed an equal playing field.  Besides why hide that spectacular golden pour. As pleasing as it is to the eye, upon opening a can, the aroma of super juicy green hops is completely intoxicating. Smelling this beer is instant joy for any hop head. What starts on the nose continues with the first sip. Boom, big tropical flavors of grapefruit, mango and pineapple.  It's all there with the accompanying sweetness holding back any bitter punch. No fear the sweet side is pleasant and never cloying. Even though some pine bite comes around in the finish there's no harsh ending here.

Head Hunter
Not nearly as accomplished along the hype trail as Heady, Head Hunter is still no slouch. Previously only available on draft, it was bottled for the first time this year. For good reason it became a monster seller right out of the gate. The hops are working overtime in this one.  While the aroma blast out of the glass isn't epic,  the pine bite is immediately detectable. Wet grass, pine and citrus (pineapple and grapefruit) are all present. The bitter side moves right in and the sweetness that shows stays in the background to keep everything in check. A wonderful bite along with flavors of citrus and pine flow from start to finish.

So which is better sweet or bitter? Heady or Head Hunter? As always personal preference will be the judge. I gravitate towards DIPAs/IPAs with a sweet side that blend in enough bitterness to prevent everything from becoming a cloying, headache inducing mess. Heady does this perfectly. Head Hunter is fantastic but Heady is tops in this match-up.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Black Ops 2009. How You Have Changed

So what does it take to get me out of a little blogging slumber?  One might think a great bottle share event held by Philly Beer Scene and Philly Tap Finder a few weekends ago might unleash my inner beer spirit.  The event offered up some  impressive beverages provided by a stellar group of beer aficionados from the area. Even though imbibing a mind blowing variety of beers did awaken my Beerwise spirit, my blogosphere remained silent. However last week's rumbling weather sent me into the basement for something equally dark and devious.  Brooklyn Black Ops (2009) seemed the perfect fit for a blustery night and it was all that was needed to break the blogging drought

Brooklyn Brewery was one of the first breweries to catch my attention eons ago when I got into craft beer. Black Ops was the first of the big barrel aged bourbon beers to find it's way into my cellar. Back in 09 when I bought the bottle I bitched a bit about the cost (here). At that time there were very few beers I'd willingly lay down over $20.00 for in order to purchase a single bottle. Now that's laughable.
Garrett Oliver & Mr. Iambeerwise
Philly Beer Week 2008 London Grill
(Brooklyn Brewery commercial description)                                                                   Barrel-aged in Woodford Reserve bottles. Brooklyn Black Ops does not exist. However, if it did exist, it would be a robust stout concocted by the Brooklyn brewing team under cover of secrecy and hidden from everyone else at the brewery. Supposedly, "Black Ops" was aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented with Champagne yeast, creating big chocolate and coffee flavors with a rich underpinning of vanilla-like oak notes. They say there are only 1000 cases. We have no idea what they’re talking about.

Black Ops has always been a good beer. Big dark chocolate, espresso, raisin and oak flavors with a hint of vanilla.  When fresh the bourbon flavors were never huge and the beer did come off boozy.  Age has knocked back the booze factor and made the raisin, espresso and bourbon blend more enjoyable. The key to enjoying this is to have it at room temperature. There is a HUGE difference. When cold the flavors are very muted. Once the chill fades the true flavors come alive.

So was it worth the hefty price tag back in 2009? Hmmm, almost. As good as it is I could never put it up there with some of the barrel aged heavyweights such as Parabola or KBS. There just isn't enough bourbon or that richness you would expect from an aged imperial stout. I haven't had the most recent version so I'm not sure how it compares. However if you're lucky enough to have an older bottle, no fear, open it and enjoy. Though it might not be the most impressive BA Bourbon Stout it is one that has improved with age.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Philly is Blessed with Hill Farmstead

Those who live in and around Philly already know how blessed we are for beer. Well life keeps getting better.  Hill Farmstead, one of the current crop of hot breweries, is invading Philadelphia in a big way. Over the next few weeks Shaun Hill's creations will be pouring at special tap events throughout the area.

Shaun Hill started Hill Farmstead Brewery two years ago on family land in Greensboro Bend, Vermont.  Since then the buzz for his beers has grown louder and louder. The well made handcrafted beers have gained a serious following. The limited output of the brewery and a small distribution area has made them highly sought after.

The flow into Philly has already begun. Teresa's Next Door, Tired Hands Brewery and Railroad Street Bar& Grill have all done their part to spread the H.F. love in the burbs.  Next up July 4th at TJ's Resturant & Drinkery starting at noon. Then Blue Dog Pub (Chalfont) July 12 th at 5PM. Rumor has it that Capone's will also be dedicating a night to the mighty H.F. . More details to come. Cheers!

TJ's Restaurant & Drinkery
Tap Time - 12:00 NOON
Celebrate our nation's Independence Day with some fine brews from Hill Farmstead!
- Taplist -
Edward Pale Ale
Florence Organic Wheat Saison
Harlan India Pale Ale
Citra Single Hop Pale
Nor (Double IPA, collab w/ Cigar City)

Blue Dog (Chalfont)
Join us on Thursday, July 12 at Blue Dog Chalfont beginning at 5 pm for a Hill Farmstead Brewing Company Beer Tasting! . . . and Maine Lunch IPA!!

When you arrive at Blue Dog, we’ll have the following beers waiting for you-
Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA Imperial IPA (8% abv)
Hill Farmstead Edward: American Pale Ale (5.2% abv)
Hill Farmstead Harlan IPA (6% abv)
Harlan is Edward’s slightly more aggressive alter-ego. Dry Hopped exclusively with Columbus hops.
Hill Farmstead / Tired Hands The Myth of Saison
Hill Farmstead Florence Wheat Saison

Maine Lunch IPA (7% abv)
We will also be selling, by raffle, a few rare bottles, including Cascade Sang Noir and The Vine. And we always have a little stash of KBS bottles.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Philly Beer Week 2012 is On

Yes folks it is BIG, BIG, BIG beer time in Philly once again.  During almost any week Philadelphia offers a solid schedule of impressive beer activity, but Philly Beer Week goes above and beyond. The masters of the beer universe take over the town for 10 glorious days and beer fans reap the reward.

With so many events happening a good game plan is in order. There are several sources if you are trying to figure out whats flowing where and from who. Obviously the Philly Beer Week site is a must but I've got to give big props to Philly Tap Finder. PTF has up to date draft lists, beer style and bar info. It's a valuble source to help us imbibers properly navigate the week's activities. Check it out. Cheers!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Beer Board of the Week (Road Edition) @ The Charleston Beer Exchange

Most of my picks for Beer Board of the Week have been local (Philly area). This go around is coming from the road. Charleston South Carolina might not be the first town you'd think to roll into for a southern beer adventure but it has it's fair share of good craft beer spots. Perhaps the best place for variety and unique bottles is The Charleston Beer Exchange (CBX). 

Located in the French Quarter (surprise, New Orleans doesn't have the only one) on a quiet side street, CBX is a shop small in square footage but huge on selection.  Besides having shelves packed floor to ceiling with beer they operate 9 rotating taps for growler fills. If you're paying attention to the photos you've noticed their large growler isn't the normal 64oz instead these guys raise the bar with the 128 oz. Now that's some serious take home! Besides the amazing selection and kick ass growler station, CBX takes online orders (sorry no shipments to PA) and the guys who run the place are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable on all things beer related.

On my visit the growler station had some nice offerings including two Victory beers on tap. A fact that may of swayed my decision for this board as favorite of the week. More important, it's good to know the people of Charleston are enjoying some Philly flavor.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tasting Central Waters Peruvian Morning

The previous post focused on what's currently my favorite beer glass. Now it's time to highlight what recently went in it. 

Current glass of choice
Peruvian Morning is a Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout done by Central Waters Brewing in Amherst, Wisconsin. To be more specific it's a bourbon-coffee stout.  This is evident from the first sip. While the bourbon attacks the nose the coffee is what tackles the tongue. The roasted coffee/espresso bitterness is there from go along with some alcohol warmth. The flavors then slip to sweet dark fruit, caramel and bourbon with added touches of vanilla and oak. Though the flavor leans heavy on coffee the oak and bourbon really come through as it warms.

As satisfying as the flavor is, the appearance and mouth feel are disappointing. This is not a big, rich, chewy, sit by the fire on a winters night kind of beer. It's moderately thin. Not what I was expecting from a bourbon stout. The color follows the same underwhelming path. Instead of a deep, oily opaque, pour it's more brown/black with red hues.  Not a deal breaker, just not what I look for in a Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. I'm sure I'm being slightly critical since my last two beers similar in style were KBS and Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. Peruvian falls short of both.

The bourbon and coffee flavors, along with the aroma, are winners. I can see this as a solid breakfast/brunch beer. Pancakes with maple syrup, sausage and a Peruvian Morning, perfect! Although it won't take top spot among the heavy hitters in this style, Peruvian Morning is worth the purchase.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hey Dogfish Head...Sweet Glass!

Which glass takes top spot?

Kicking back and enjoying a craft beer is one of life's relaxing pleasures. Having that beer in a great glass can add to the experience.  Even though certain beers can require specific glassware I think most good beer drinkers have a favorite glass or two in their collection that handle a variety of beer styles. For me that glass has been the classic Duvel tulip. With a fairly large capacity, room for a brisk aroma raising swirl  and a fat bottom that fits perfectly in my palm, (make your own joke) the Duvel tulip is king in my cabinet.  No beer style has been denied access: Belgium Sours, DIPA's, Imperial Stouts, Rauchbier, Saisons, Pale Ales, Porters and so on have been enjoyed from those famous curves.

However, as of Sunday night there is a new glass on the rack and it's quickly moving in on the number one spot. From the creative mind that spawned "Randall the Enamel Animal" comes the Dogfish Head Signature Glass. Where the Duvel tulip flaunts sexy feminine curves, this goblet is all straight lines and heavy based machismo. A true man glass. What else would you expect from Mr. Calagione. While the 16oz capacity falls short of Duvel's 20oz and swirling requires a bit more care, what makes it a winner are good looks and a solid feel. Is it the end all, be all masculine imbibing vessel? Ehhh, maybe. Can it completely overtake the classic tulip? Hey for now it's the bad ass flavor of the week.  It's already a damn fine addition to my already over crowed glass collection. Time and many, many tastings will tell if it's worthy of the top self.  Cheers!

For more on the Dogfish Head Signature Glass

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beer Board of the Week

Dogfish Head rules at Craft Ale House. The 75 min is outta here!

World Wide Stout vertical. Cab please!
It's almost silly to announce when good beer is flowing around the Philly area. When can't you find a bar that has a killer line-up? The deep western burbs beyond King of Prussia were rich in offerings this week with the kick off of Suburban Beer Week 19468. One of the better  events was Dogfish's impressive appearance at Craft Ale House. No Sam C in the house but there were 21 DFH beers on tap including a firkin of 75 Minute and 4 years of World Wide Stout: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. Obviously not a night for the session minded. 

A few courteous tweets also filled me in on Kite & Key and their Savage Sixtel Sunday (Rich on Beer has the details). A Randallized version of World Wide Stout infused with coffee and Vanilla beans along with a couple Russian River beers, Alesmith Speedway Stout and few others rounded out the draft list.  As much as I would of loved to cruise down to my old stomping grounds for an evening with Randall and the others, I stuck to the burbs. I'll have to wait to experience my first Savage Sixte at Kite & Key. For now Craft Ale House's DFH board is my winner of the week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hangin' with The Baggataway Beer Club

A few weekends ago I had the chance to hang out with a great group guys and take part in a themed beer tasting.  The group was the Baggataway Beer Club, the gathering was in Phoenixville and the theme was beer variations. Each person attending was to bring at least two beers to compare, i.e. Cigar City Winter Warmer 2011 and 2012 as a vertical or a beer with various treatments, i.e. Bourbon County Brand Stout, Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout and Bramble Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout. To round out the day there was also plenty of non-judged beer just in case anyone needed even more of a selection.

Now before you start thinking this is some pretentious group of beer snobs with their noses in the air understand that the Baggataway Beer Club (named after Baggataway Tavern. Sorry don't know the entire back story) is made up of guys with various levels of craft beer knowledge who get together every few months to casually enjoy good beer and food. How pretension can it be when games of Cornhole mix in with the tastings? All beers are judged and afterwards the victor (person with the highest rated beer) and the loser (worst beer tasted) receive trophies. I was lucky enough to win the later with Cigar City Winter Warmer 2012 judged as the stinker of the afternoon. The winner all versions of Goose Island Bourbon County

Thanks again guys. I look forward to the next gathering and hope to elevate my good name with a far better beer.

My contribution to the day. Proud to be a loser

Ohhhh the carnage

To the victor go the spoils

Friday, April 20, 2012

Suburban Beer Week 19468 & Pittsburgh Beer Week

As we wait for Philly Beer Week 2012 a couple of other areas are preparing for their own big beer week celebrations.

Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week

Currently in Philadelphia mentioning Pittsburgh will only bring up conversations about the undisciplined, cheap shot artist Penguins (not my words). Hopefully The Burgh is better with beer than the Pens are with stopping pucks. Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week kicks off today (Friday April 20th) and runs until Sunday April 28th. This is the inaugural year with 360 events planed over the nine day period. Details on all events can be found here (

Suburban Beer Week 19468

Why should the big city have all the fun? Beer flows proudly in the western suburbs beyond King of Prussia. As I found out several years ago after moving out of the city, the area along 422 is rich in craft beer. So much so that Suburban Beer Week 19468  launches Monday April 23rd and continues until Sunday April 29th. It all gets underway with a massive Dogfish Head Total Tap Takeover at Craft Ale House in Limerick. The beer week celebration is naturally small in scale when compared to the behemoth Philly Craft Beer Week but it looks to pack an impressive punch. The events center around four area bars all in the 19468 area code: Craft Ale House (Limerick), French Quarter Bistro (Royersford), Lucky Lab (Royersford), and the Railroad Street Bar & Grill (Linfield). Each bar will host one or more events during the week. For more information on events and times check HERE. Cheers to raising a few in the burbs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Heads Up Philly Heady Topper Is In

By the time you read this it may be too late! Hopefully the rush to get Heady Topper, one of the most sought after DIPAs, isn't so frantic that all those selling the canned elixir from Vermont's The Alchemist Pub & Brewery aren't already staring at empty shelves.  This is the first and possibly the only time Philadelphia will get Heady.  The current distribution in the Philly market is due to extra production. Look at it as a bit of a tease. For now once it's gone, it's gone. Here is more from the source (The Alchemist website)
Now that mud season is among us, I am happy to say that we finally have some extra product to send out of Vermont. Over the course of the next 8 weeks, we plan to make shipments to Philadelphia, Boston and NYC. We wanted to attend Philadelphia Beer Week in June, but realized that we will not have enough product to send out of state once summer is upon us.

So, we will have Heady Topper available in Philadelphia within the next 2 weeks. Origlio is helping us with this shipment; we hope to have a link on our website listing retailers as soon as possible. I do know that our friends Tom and Peggy, at Earth, Bread and Brewery will be having some sort of event with Heady. Wish we could make it! They are a lot of fun.
The event mentioned at Earth Bread + Brewery happens tomorrow night (4/19). They will be pouring Heady from cans and offering free can cozies while they last. I'd expect a few people to show for this little gathering. Remember keep your elbows in and no crowding the bar. Cheers!

(Photo from