Category Archives: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Good Beer and Fare(well)

This post begins (what will hopefully be) a series of posts I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time, but (obviously) have not actually gotten around to yet. To briefly catch you up, I have recently moved from Athens to Winston-Salem and into the real world (college finally ran its course and I had to find a real job). Athens still holds a very special place in my heart and while I won’t be there nearly as much, I look forward to watching its beer culture continue to grow and blossom from afar. I look forward to exploring the local beer culture of Winston-Salem and the rest of North Carolina, as well as the entire Southeast region (and I plan to share as much of that as possible with all of you). But first, let’s travel back to May 5th for a bittersweet, but incredibly delicious event.

As someone who loves great food and great beer, and really loves the two smartly paired, I’m immediately interested in attending almost any beer dinner. When I heard that Richard Miley, chef at Chops & Hops, was hosting a beer dinner to bid farewell to two friends and fellow beer lovers who were leaving Athens, though, I didn’t have to think about whether or not I’d be attending. The night ended up being one I won’t soon forget and was full of some wonderful pairings of food and brew, but more importantly some awesome fellowship among beer lovers and friends.

For those of you who haven’t been to Chops & Hops, I highly recommend it. Chef Miley’s cuisine shows his training and technical ability as well as his Southwestern influence, but leaves no question of his unpretentious character. You’ll see no difference in the playful, but flavorful food from this dinner.

The evening began with a reception accompanied with a cask of Lazy Magnolia Reb Ale, a pale ale, on cantaloupe. Lazy Magnolia, a craft brewery from Mississippi that seeks to highlight classic Southern ingredients, recently launched in Georgia and has featured a limited lineup locally (only their Southern Pecan has been available in bottles with a few others intermittently on draft). The cask was a great beginning, with a light and moderately-hopped base and subtle cantaloupe flavor. I would reach for this beer a lot this summer if it were regularly available.

Once we were seated, the meal began with a course of beef carpaccio served with a homebrewed pecan pie brown ale. The roasted, nutty, and sweet flavors of the beer played perfectly with the beef, which seemed to melt in my mouth. The beer was unmistakably Southern and the carpaccio Richard’s Southwestern tinge, yet they worked together. I was so consumed by everything going on that I forgot to take a photo, so your visual experience will begin with the second course.

Next, we were treated to an oyster course which included buffalo fried and raw varieties of the molluscs with a habanero cocktail sauce, accompanied by a guava saison. As someone who has grown tired of the overplayed chipotle and other assorted pepper craze (I’m looking at you Bobby Flay), the habanero cocktail sauce was really great and provided a nice twist on the traditional horseradish kick. The spice and texture of the oysters worked really well with the saison, which brought plenty of tropical fruit flavors and just a hint of funk.

Shortly after finishing the second course, a slew of paper boats emerged from the kitchen with the third course: chili cheese fries made with Terrapin Moo-Hoo braised boar and habanero cured bacon. Chili cheese fries are about as “typical bar food” as you can get, but this deluxe version was full of rich, deep flavor in the boar meat, a bit of heat from the bacon and diced peppers, and an awesome combination of crisp and soft potato from the fries. Paired with this course was Founders Double Trouble, which enriched the boar with its hearty malt backbone and accentuated the heat with its ample hop profile.

Glancing at the menu ahead of time, I was a bit worried about this next course. I didn’t worry about how the yard bird & waffle topped with bourbon maple syrup and powdered sugar would taste, but it seemed like something that may be too heavy after three courses and…well, we’ll just say many beers. I shouldn’t have worried, though–the waffle was light and crisp, and the savoriness of the waffle and bird melded beautifully with the sweetness of the syrup and sugar. Paired with this course was Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton. The oak-aged hybrid of an Old Ale and Double IPA somehow snuggled right in between the savory and sweet of this dish and the wood lent a bit of earthiness to the protein.

Continuing the now ridiculous parade of gluttony was jerk swine, beans, and pineapple jasmine rice paired with Avery Maharaja. The jerk swine actually came from a whole hog, whose head was shared with the guests of honor (I may have stolen a bite as well). As the third Imperial IPA in a row, you might think that the beers were getting a bit boring. The nuances in each beer, though, were so well matched with each course that I don’t think anyone even thought twice about having three Double IPAs consecutively. In this course, the rich pork worked perfectly with the malt sweetness, while the spiciness and pineapple sweetness of the beans and rice enveloped the flavors of the hops. Another play on sweet and spicy, but somehow completely different.

As a sweet end to the bittersweet night, we were served Pastel Barracho made with Founders Breakfast Stout and Terrapin Moo-Hoo paired with a glass of the former. Meaning “drunken cake”, this Tres Leches-like cake was light on the dairy and heavy on the booze. The creamy and caramel flavors of the cake were exactly what you’d want with the dark Breakfast Stout and chocolatey Moo-Hoo, lending them levity and underlining their heft at the same time.

After dinner, I was treated to Cigar City Brewing Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, a local beer from Charlie’s, one of the guests of honor, future home. The bottomless pit of a stout was a great ending to the evening, with all the deep, robust flavors of an ideal Russian Imperial.

Lastly (yeah, I thought it was over too) before we left, I tried some of another special cask: Terrapin Monk’s Revenge aged in a Calvados barrel. The Belgian yeast and brandy notes made an awesome pair, and were still quite enjoyable…even after the entire dinner.

The entire meal was a great exhibition of Chef Miley’s mastery of the ingredients and understanding of how the each course would play with each beer. The sense of community felt that night as many of those who produce, sell, serve, and lovingly consume beer in Athens came together to send off a few of their own. As I prepared to leave town myself, it cemented the great things I had come to feel about the Athens beer community.

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Filed under Avery Brewing Company, Chops & Hops, Cigar City Brewing, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Events, Founders Brewing Co., Terrapin Beer Co.

Sour in the Peach State

For the past few months, I’ve read that sour beers are an emerging trend and then seen them, myself, popping up on draft lists around the state. In an effort to constantly expand my beer repertoire, I’ve sipped nearly any sours accessible. They have ranged from mildly tart to face-puckering. As summer approaches, though, and the temperature reaches downright uncomfortable heights here in Georgia, one particular type hits home: the sour peach beer. This Monday afternoon, I found myself drinking two different sour peach offerings: New Belgium Eric’s Ale and Dogfish Head Festina Pêche. This was my second time trying Eric’s Ale, a limited part of New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, and Festina Pêche was a thirst-quenching standby last summer, but this was the first time I was able to taste the two together. They certainly shared some characteristics (they both bring tartness and peaches to the table, after all). They had nearly the same light straw color (Eric’s had a slightly more orange tint) with quickly receding white heads (although, the Festina’s foam stuck around a little longer). It was the differences between the two beers, though, that was the biggest treat. Let’s take a closer look at each:

First up was New Belgium Eric’s Ale. As I mentioned earlier, Eric’s is part of the Lips of Faith program from New Belgium, an experimental line of rotating beers. Eric’s Ale is classified as an American Wild Ale, a style that seems to be on the rise but one I can’t seem to find much information about. While I can’t find much consistent information for the specifics of the style, an American Wild Ale is usually influenced by Belgian-style ales and is exposed, in one way or another, to wild yeast or bacteria, imparting a sourness to these beers. The process of making Eric’s Ale is quite experimental, indeed. A sour beer that has been aged in oak barrels for several years is blended with another beer, sweeter and higher in alcohol content. This blend then undergoes a secondary fermentation with added peach juice. The sour tartness and ripe peach flavor certainly prevail, but many other notes picked up in the complex brewing and aging process play supporting roles. Through barrel aging, the oak imparts a subtle vanilla flavor and a dryness that compliments the tart ending. I find the balance of fruity sweetness and sourness very nice, and extremely drinkable considering the 7% ABV. An alcohol content this high is uncharacteristic of a sour or wild ale, but is likely accomplished mostly by blending in that sweeter ale to the sour beer. This beer definitely makes you pucker, but that’s what you signed up for, right? New Belgium says that this is “A sour beer for those who don’t like sour beers. And a fruit beer for those who don’t like fruit beers.” I would agree, but I like both sour and fruit beers, so I don’t seem a qualified judge for the statement’s accuracy.

The second sour: Dogfish Head Festina Pêche

Following Eric’s Ale was a pint of Dogfish Head Festina Pêche. This is the Delaware brewery’s summer seasonal, considered a “neo-BerlinerWeisse”. The Berliner-Weisse style is a wheat ale that incorporates Lactobacillus, creating a sour taste from the formation of lactic acid. Traditionally, these are then mixed with fruit syrups upon serving to help cut into the sourness. Instead, Dogfish Head added pureed peaches to the beer prior to fermentation. While I haven’t had a traditional Berliner-Weisse with syrup, I have to imagine that the fruit being fermented in the beer must create more of a fruit flavor throughout, allowing the peach to take on more than a single note. The first notable difference here, compared to Eric’s Ale, is the presence of wheat. The wheat shows up in the aroma and taste, but I sense the biggest difference in mouthfeel (think of the palatable cloudiness you get from your favorite Hefeweizen). Both beers finish refreshingly dry as a result of the tartness, but the wheat also helps to coat your tongue and leave a bit of lingering sweetness. As I noted earlier, I have had this beer many times before, most often from a bottle, but tasting it on tap this time seemed a little less tart than I had remembered from my last time. This could be due to a slight recipe alteration this year, my taste buds being a little numb after the New Belgium, or simply my mind failing to accurately remember my last Festina Pêche. In any regard, the bite from the tartness (even the one a little stronger in my mind) seems more subdued than Eric’s Ale. Also a bit more tame than the Eric’s Ale is the ABV at 4.5%. One last pleasant surprise in this beer isn’t about what’s there, but what’s not: hops. There is no detectable hop flavor or aroma in this beer (true to the style). My brain and mouth were initially confused to see the fish on the pint glass but never feel the alpha acids of hops stripping the enamel from my teeth, but it’s so nice to see Dogfish Head restrain its love of those bitter buds to put a different twist on a traditional style.

Overall, both of these beers are very refreshing and perfect for the summer. The Eric’s Ale tends to bite a little harder and would serve to wake up my mind after a long summer day. It’s Festina Pêche’s sour and wheat that will have me continuing to reach for it when I seek shelter from the hot sun. They would be great before a light summer dinner or alongside a great salad. They are also something I will surely be trying to incorporate into some of recipes using Georgia peaches (I’ll update you on this later). The familiarity of fruit in these can help bridge the gap for anyone making their foray into the world of sour beers. Next time you want a nice refreshing brew, but are a bit burnt out on bitter, give one of these a try.

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Filed under American Wild Ale, Berliner-Weisse, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, New Belgium Brewing Inc., Uncategorized

The Tail End of a New Tradition

Atlanta’s a mere 70 miles from Athens, but I seldom find the time to make it over to the big city. When I found out that Atlanta would be hosting its first Beer Week this year, however, I knew I’d have to somehow make time for the trip to enjoy some wonderful beers with wonderful people. I watched much of the week come and go, not being able to fit a trip to Atlanta into my schedule. I settled for enjoying some beers at my place, cooking a few dinners with beer, and going out in town for some newly released beers (hardly settling, right?). [While I didn’t take any notes to write reviews, I did try the following for the first time at Trappeze Pub: New Belgium Eric’s Ale, Terrapin ’08 Big Hoppy Monster, Terrapin ’08 Rye Squared, and Terrapin ’08 Imperial Pilsner...go have any and all of these, they were amazing!] Finally, on Saturday I had a chance to get over to Atlanta with my girlfriend. After eating lunch with her dad, we made a couple quick beer stops. I was able to grab one of the last bottles of Terrapin’s Side Project Vol. 6 90 Shelling at Tower Wine & Spirits, which I hope to taste and review very soon. Next was a quick stop at HOBNOB, for some milkshakes made with my girlfriend’s favorite, Left Hand Milk Stout (I’m sure these would turn out great at home, but if you’re in the area, you should drop in to grab one). The next and final stop on our trip was Decatur’s Brick Store Pub. Arriving late in the afternoon, we found the place pretty crowded (perhaps because it was the last day of Atlanta Beer Week, or because there was a free concert on the square just outside the pub that night, or perhaps simply because it was Saturday at the Brick Store Pub).

Thanks to some fellow pub patrons, we were able to get two seats at the bar only a minute after walking inside and ordered what we had come to Brick Store for: Terrapin Boom Shakalager. The first available sample of Terrapin’s latest Side Project series in the state, I was happy we hadn’t missed out on this special cask. Having only released one other lager that I knew of (All American Imperial Pilsner), I was very interested to see what Terrapin’s Spike had done with this one. So, how was it? This is a clean, but hefty lager that’s distinctively Terrapin. There’s nothing light about this lager-the color’s about the only close-to-typical thing here. Our pints were a little translucent; I don’t know if this was due to chill haze, the cask, or if this is just how the final product will appear. An up-front malt sweetness is countered by a strong, piny hop flavor. The strength of the hops are not found in intense bitterness, however, but a fresh concentrated aroma and taste. [I later found out that the beer is dry-hopped with Tettnanger (a German variety that’s new to me), explaining the fresher hop flavor.] There’s a hefty alcohol presence detectable, but no boozy burn at all. Overall, I liked what I tasted, but I wasn’t enamored. Since this was offered in a cask, I hope that the final release will be elevated by some more carbonation. Perhaps this will improve the mouthfeel and taste slightly for me to like it as much as the other beers in the Side Project series.

'10 & '09 DFH Immort Ale

Dogfish Head Immort Ale ('10 on left, '09 on right)

Next, I took advantage of another special offering at Brick Store that night: a vertical tasting of 2009 and 2010 Dogfish Head Immort Ale (the clear winner for bargain of the day at $9 for two 12 oz. portions of these rare, and strong, beers). First, I tried the 2010. Immort is a deep, complex blend of flavors, all balanced delicately by the guys at Dogfish Head. Smoky malts emerge with the richness of added maple syrup, which is accompanied by the spice of vanilla and juniper berries. The newer Immort also ends with dark dried fruit flavors, leaving a lingering deep sweetness. The 2009 Immort: wow, what a difference! I honestly didn’t expect one year of aging to change this beer that much, but it sure proved me wrong. Served in different glasses, the color was a bit tough to compare, but the 2009 was a bit more honey-tinted. A much bigger sweetness, not unlike golden raisins, first hits you from the aged version. Overall, it had lost a lot of the very dark fruits but it still seemed to maintain enough robust depth to keep it from being too sweet. A subtle smokiness was still present, and the softened vanilla note provided a smooth transition from the initial sweetness to the slight smoked wood. A new Immort Ale was just the second Dogfish Head I ever tried, and while I think nothing less of the newly bottle version, I’ll likely pick up a few bottles to age soon. With only one year apart, this vertical tasting really showed me how drastically even a brief aging period can effect a beer’s qualities.

After finishing two of the 11% Immort Ales, I was quite satisfied with being done. What kind of beer geek would I be, though, only having three beers for the inaugural Atlanta Beer Week? I needed one more. To round out the experience, I decided to try one of the draught offerings from the upstairs Belgian bar. Having just purchased my first beer from Jolly Pumpkin this week (which will be consumed and reviewed within the week, I promise), I was excited to try some of a beer I’ve heard about for months: E.S.Bam. Jolly Pumpkin E.S.Bam is one of four Farmhouse Ales in a series from the Michigan brewery. After reading so many times about the stellar Belgian styles from Jolly Pumpkin, I had some high expectations. They were met. I have no clue whether the specifics of

Jolly Pumpkin E.S.Bam on the left, my girlfriend's Rodenbach Grand Cru on the right

E.S.Bam meet the Style Guidelines for a Saison, and I couldn’t care less. The beer was presented in a tulip glass with a beautiful, thick white head that probably would’ve lasted forever if you could keep your hands off of it. For me, this is what a farmhouse ale should be: dirty, earthy, slightly tart. There are many things going on in this one, but I’m less concerned with dissecting its individual nuances and more simply smitten with how authentic this tastes. The front and middle notes are reminiscent of the earth (in the wonderful way you can taste dirt in homegrown tomatoes). Later, the earthiness gives way to a little tartness finished by a dry end (more the texture of wood than the flavor of it). Upon tasting it, my girlfriend likened it to a “horse barn”, in a completely admiring and nostalgic way (she grew up riding). I can’t remember having another beer as representative of something without it being an actual ingredient. Sure, I’ve had a cherry lambic that tasted exactly like a cherry, or a coffee stout that tasted like a mug of the black stuff, but to encapsulate loamy, musty earth so well is incredibly impressive. What a great way to end the night and the first ever Atlanta Beer Week.

Now begins the countdown to next year’s festivities!

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Filed under American Strong Ale, Brick Store Pub, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Terrapin Beer Co.