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Barley Legal

Beer meet Whiskey, Whiskey meet Beer.

Southern Tier Gemini


   I’m gonna be honest - I didn’t expect to like this beer.  Southern Tier’s beers have yet to give me that giddy feeling one gets when realizing a particularly incredible brew is being consumed. I’ve tried several of their heavier varieties and while they were quite good, there was something not quite on par about them compared to the amount of praise being given for them. 

   So I walked into this review a bit prejudiced - and I know for my normal readers and people who know me that is a shock - but this time Southern Tier pull it around and really impressed me. 

   Gemini is delicious, smooth, and hoppy. But what it doesn’t have is equally important - it doesn’t have that overly malty thickness inherent in so many “imperial” beers. It also lacks a bitterness that clings to the back of your throat for 30 minutes, which I know some people like, and I do too from time to time, but damn the finish on this beer was nice. It pops you in the face with a quick jab-to-the-nose of hoppiness then runs back to its corner to allow you to recover.

   The bottom line on this guy is go buy it. Gemini is really really delicious and easily conceals its 10.5% ABV. 

Bell’s Hopslam

I’m going to go ahead and call it. This is the best beer of the year. Less than three weeks into 2011 the best beer has already come out. I’ll simply have to allocate the rest of the year to hoarding as much of this beer as possible, so I can last until 2012.

This is a rare double IPA that doesn’t leave the inside of your mouth wrinkled with hop-funk 30 minutes later. Not that there is anything wrong with these beers, I love them - there’s nothing like the sledgehammer of hoppiness to your pallate. However, Hopslam has something these hopehemoths don’t - drinkability. I don’t mean Budlite drinkability - I mean after the first taste it’s all you think about until it’s gone and then you cry.

Due to this brew’s limited release, it is a bit hard to come by. So if you find a six-pack or mini-keg - punch, kick, and bite your way to the register, buy it and then lock yourself in a room and free-base this shit until you find beautiful beautiful hoppy-nirviana.

Thomas Creek Conduplico Immundus Monachus

   Greenville, SC based brewery Thomas Creek has just released this fantastically delicious beer. CIM (as it shall henceforth be called since I’m lazy) is a devilishly dark Belgian style imperial porter. At first glance this brew pours something more like motor oil than beer, but it doesn’t drink nearly as thick as it looks. The nose is malty - like you’re sticking your nose in a loaf of bread - and the taste is begrudgingly sweet, with a warm velvety taste that hides its 10% alcohol content impressively well. Suffice it to say that one bottle will give you a warm fuzzy drunk that will keep you smiling all night long.

Sierra Nevada - Estate Ale

    This is one of those rare beers that remind you why you started drinking beer in the first place (aside from the loneliness and the voices). This ale is wet hopped, which gives it a fantastic citrus zing and bitterness that cuts but doesn’t linger. The finish is smooth and while this is a heavy beer it certainly doesn’t drink like it. Sierra Nevada has certainly out-done themselves with this beer. It’s a shame its only available in limited quantity because I would stop using water completely and switch this - Bathing, drinking, everything.

Red Devil Face Puncher Peppermint Vodka

    Christmas usually doesn’t mean vodka for me, but this year is different. You see, I’m not usually a vodka drinker. I like my booze too taste like booze and generally vodka falls into the “can’t-taste-it-so-why-drink-it” or “tastes-like-paint-thinner” classes.

    This year, however, I decided to make some infused vodka for my family members who are less fond of beer and bourbon. I started with chocolate vodka, and It’s pretty tasty I gotta say. The first batch had some problems though. I used a cheaper vodka, which despite what I had read made a huge difference, as well as the chocolate that you use. I used Milky Ways and Dove Chocolate (it was just what we had), and using something with a higher cocoa content would have made it tastier. However, this post isn’t about the first batch’s short comings, its about the second try.

   I decided that the second batch should be something more festive, and decided that putting gingerbread in vodka would be a misstep so we went with peppermint.

   As I said previously, vodka is not my usual drink so I was just planning on buying something I knew to be decent then just go with it. On a whim I went with an unknown and I now have a favorite new vodka.

   Grays Peak Small Batch Vodka is amazingly smooth, tastes great and has literally no bite. It’s everything vodka should be, hell it was even decent warm.

   Peppermint vodka is delicious and absurdly easy to make as well (you could make it now and it would be ready for dinner today). It only takes two ingredients and a bit of elbow grease.

Step 1: Open Vodka and pour some vodka into a glass of ice - drink

Step 2: Put soft peppermint sticks in the bottle until the vodka is back up to the very top of the bottle.

Step 3: Shake until dissolved

Step 4: Repeat 1-3 to taste

   This vodka is delicious and great when mixed with chocolate vodka, Kahlua, or just milk.

   I hope you all have a merry and joyous Christmas and I’ll have some great new updates for you over the next week as well!

Abita! The Christmas Ale

Abita the Christmas Ale (Ale)
Had a very shiny label (Label)
and if you ever saw it (Saw It)
you would even say it’s awesome.

All of the other christmas beers (beers)
Used to laugh and call him names (Like Mich-Ultra)
They never let Abita
Join in any beery games

Then one sloppy drunk Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Abita with your hops so bright,
won’t you help me fly my sleigh tonight”

(for the record I don’t condone drunk magic sleigh driving -  you could crush an elf!)

Then all the Christmas Beers loved him (Like I do)
as they shouted out with glee,
Abita the Christmas Ale
You’ll go down in history!

Seriously though this beer is hoppy, rich and awesome. The most drinkable Christmas beer I’ve had this year. Grab a 6 pack while you still can and warm up your white christmas with this delicious brown ale!

Smuttynose Wheat Wine 2007 Vintage

   This, dear friends, is an interesting beer to say the least. Smuttynose is a kick-ass brewery, and I am glad to say I have never been disappointed to drink a Smuttynose. This beer is no different, though decidedly more pungent. 

   Wheat Wine is a member of their Big Beer series, and they have been brewing it since 2005. A mixture of a barleywine and a wheat ale, this thing packs a punch. Weighing in at 11.4% ABV its smooth and easy to drink, but packs an incredibly rich barleywine flavor that sticks to your tongue and tonsils and then when you’re not looking cracks you in the head with a warm happy drunk. 

   This beer is definitely something to try if you can find it, although I’m sure other years of this beer are equally as good.

SOS: Save Our Shores Pilsner

Next time you see this beer - buy all of it you can! Not only is this beer delicious but it’s made for a good cause. Abita Brewery in Louisiana donates $.75 per bottle to help clean up the gulf coast, and while its great to see a brewery doing its part to help the community and environment, that is not why you should buy this beer. 

This beer is damn fine and tasty. That is why you should buy this beer, and while it may not really be the season for a pilsner, this brew promises to bring you back to sunshine, warm beaches and spring - even in the depths of winter.

The Chocolate Beer Showdown

   And now for a smidge of human history: Prehistoric man was a hunter-gatherer, a past-age vagabond. Moving with the seasons and the weather - we are all descended from prehistoric-hobos. Luckily for all of us, our ancestors decided to  settle down (some time around B.C. 3000) and grow wheat and other crops - researchers think the main reasons for this are bread and beer. 

   Some time around B.C. 1100 Honduran villagers realized that cacao could be fermented - and the marriage of chocolate and beer began. In the past 3000 years or so their relationship has matured, and now there are a huge variety of brewers making all kinds of chocolatey brews for everyone to enjoy. I’m looking at four different choco-beers: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Rogue’s Chocolate Stout, Harpoon’s Chocolate Stout, and Sam Adam’s Chocolate Bock.

   I’ll start with the most disappointing first. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout hits your tongue like a bitter gym sock that was used to wipe up chocolate syrup 2 years ago by a college freshman then discarded to a dark corner. This beer was incredibly disappointing as it was one of the first chocolate beers I heard about and so I assumed it was good, but I don’t know why Young continues to make this crap. There is a distinct bitterness, but not the bitterness of dark chocolate - more the bitterness of citrus rind. After that the beer lingers on your tongue like a bar skank in your apartment the morning after a one night stand - awkward and unwanted.

   Harpoon’s Chocolate Stout on the other hand features a welcome bitterness, reminiscent of 85% dark chocolate. It’s the bitterness you taste first, but that taste is quickly resolved to a full mouth feeling of chocolate. This is not just a taste of chocolate, this is effervescent chocolation. The roof of my mouth tasted like chocolate. My teeth - chocolate; even that weird spot under your tongue - chocolate. This sensation doesn’t linger too long, and is gently replaced with a taste of hazelnuts and a bit of toffee. This beer would go equally well with a steak as it would something terribly sweet, like a chess pie. This beer might also make for a killer barbeque sauce.

   The third beer in my round up was neither as rich and interesting as Harpoon’s nor was it anywhere close to as horrible as Young’s. Rogue’s Chocolate Stout was more of a stout than anything terribly chocolaty. It was a great stout, had just the amount of chocolate one finds in a really deep stout, which is less than I would consider enough to call it a “chocolate” stout. This brew is very tasty though, drinkable from the first sip through the bottle’s end. 

   The final beer, and winner of the “How Cocoa can Your Brew Go” Throw-down is Sam Adams Chocolate Bock. I know most of you are saying “A beer-guy saying Sam Adams makes good beer? Why doesn’t he just go ahead and say he liked the Beatles if he’s stating the obvious.” And believe me I know. I was really hoping that out of the four I tried someone would put up a chocolate beer that was as equally drinkable, tasty, and chocolate tasting as Mr. Adams, but none did. Choco Bocko starts out with a delightful creaminess and continues to bloom into a chocolate explosion in your mouth without any of bitterness. This is more milk chocolate than dark for sure, and it stays on your palate long enough to make you want more. My only complaint is that, so far, I’ve only been able to find this delicious brew as part of the Christmas mix pack, it deserves a six pack of its own.

Victory Tasting (Pt 2)

   I have to apologize. Getting back into the habit of writing has been more difficult than I thought it would be, and after just one post I found myself to be “stove up” as it were in the writing department. But I have always found the best way to beat the writer’s block is to just write and get through it so here goes nothing.

   Last week I was fortunate enough to get to taste 8 of Victory Brewery’s fantastic beers, and while the first four in our tour were delightful and interesting, the last four beers were each different and pretty damn tasty to boot. 

   The first beer of the four was a farmhouse style ale. Originally called V-Saison, the beer went on to be called Helios after the ancient Greek’s personification of the Sun, and with good reason. There is a lightness to this beer that is more like a pilsner than an ale. It has a great nose on it - like a farm-yard but in the best way possible, and the taste is citrus-fresh and light but with the distinct fruitiness of a Saison. This beer is the perfect thing to introduce someone to craft beer with - no harsh hops - not too thick - just delicious beery bliss.

   Speaking of hops, the next beer was Hop Wallop, and boy was it ever. This beer was like a swift kick to the scrotum of your tongue. Perhaps it was delicate nature of the previous beer, but this beer made me do a double take. The fairly sedate nose of the Wallop belies a tart funk that sticks to your teeth and tingles your gums for a few minutes after the beer is gone. This was certainly a beer for the hop-head in each of us.

   The second to last beer was the Storm King Imperial Stout, if there was a beer that was empirically the opposite of Hop Wallop it would be this one. {Full disclosure - this was one of the two beers from the tasting that made it home with me. They are all gone.} The imperial stout is traditionally a robust beer, and some are taken to the extent of being near unpalatable, but this was not one of those. The richness of the brew was balanced well by a 9.1% ABV, and a nose of coffee, and taste of toffee lead the way down your throat. While the taste lingered, it wasn’t unpleasant. It was clean and perhaps a bit dry - maybe not dry but I kept drinking anyway. Storm King is great, but the final beer was like candy.

   I know why they held this one ‘til last. If they had given us this beer before the others, we wouldn’t have wanted to drink them. V-12 is the candy-champagne of beers, and was the other beer I managed to get home with. It is sitting in my refrigerator waiting for some momentous day… or until I get thirsty. This brew is like the hallelujah chorus in my mouth. Thats all there is to say. At 12% its taste hides all the alcohol, but I promise you if you drink a whole bottle by yourself you’ll be set for the night, so do everyone a favor… and share with me.