Category Archives: Terrapin Beer Co.

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.

Advertisements

1 Comment

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

Stone/Terrapin Dinner at Chops & Hops

A crowd of local beer enthusiasts was on hand January 13, 2011, to celebrate the first anniversary of the Watkinsville steakhouse (and beer bar) Chops & Hops. For the event, Chef Richard Miley prepared five courses, each paired with a beer from Stone Brewing Company and Terrapin Beer Company. While both breweries may be known for their IPAs, it was the slightly sweeter imperial IPAs and richer stouts that complemented the Southwest-inspired flavors of Chef Miley’s cuisine.

The night began with a reception and cask-conditioned Stone Pale Ale dry-hopped with Simcoe hops. This was a great, easy-drinking beer that highlighted the piney notes of the Simcoe hops perfectly.

First Course: Romaine Wedge Salad, Wasabi Lime Dressing, Cherry Tomatoes, Avocado, Bleu Cheese and Chilled Crab paired with Stone Levitation and Terrapin So Fresh & So Green, Green

Light citrus notes from the Amarillo hops in Levitation (dry-hopped with Amarillo) and So Fresh & So Green, Green (“wet”-hopped with fresh Amarillo) paired well with the spicy bite of the wasabi lime dressing. The lighter body of both beers was well-suited for the salad course, standing up to the strength of the dressing and bleu cheese without interfering with the delicateness of the crab and avocado.

Second Course: Charred Corn and Onion Soup with a Mexican Chorizo and Goat Cheese Quesadilla paired with Stone Lukcy Basartd and Terrapin Hoptaneous Combustion

The beers paired with the second course took two different approaches in working with the flavors of the food. Burnt sugar flavors of the Lukcy Basartd played off of the caramelized onion in the soup and the creaminess of the goat cheese quesadilla. The smokiness of Hoptaneous Combustion (the smokiest of any keg or bottle I’ve had of it) went beautifully with the smoked flavors of the soup.

Third Course: Caribbean Scorched Conch and Calamari (from Chef Joe Cascio of Square One Fish Company in Athens, GA) paired with Stone 2006 Double Bastard and Terrapin Rye Squared

The increased malt sweetness of both double IPAs brought out a sweet coconut flavor from the rice and were a well-balanced match for the light, fresh flavors of the conch and calamari.

Fourth Course: Chili Verde Pork Chop, Black Bean Puree, Jalapeno and Cilantro Mashed Potatoes paired with Stone Ruination and Terrapin Hopzilla

Another pair of double IPAs,Ruination and Hopzilla did anything but terrorize the course. Both beers offer strong hop aromas and flavors with notes of citrus and tropical fruit. These sweeter hop monsters accentuated the subtle sweetness of the tomatillos in the chili verde while also providing a contrast to the actually chili peppers in it, which kept the heat fresh with each bite. The smooth and savory potatoes and bean puree also popped against the sweetness of the beers.

Big Daddy Vlady's Chocolate Pudding with Russian Imperial Stout Whipped Cream and Candied Bacon paired with Stone 2010 Russian Imperial Stout and Terrapin Big Daddy Vlady's Russian Imperial Stout

For the final course, the beers found their way into the dish, creating an effortless pairing situation. The entire course was well-balanced, never becoming too sweet, but remaining rich in flavor. The dark, roasted flavors of both stouts helped to bring out a true chocolate flavor in the pudding. The whipped cream contained just enough of the Stone RIS to give it a deep flavor while remaining silky. Finally, candied bacon was the perfect sprinkle, teetering delicately between sweet and savory.

The dinner was wrapped up with yet another cask: Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout with coconut. The coconut provided just a hint of milky sweetness to go along with the roasted coffee and oatmeal smoothness–a unique end to an unforgettable meal, and a year of great food and beer at Chops & Hops.


6 Comments

Filed under Events, Stone Brewing Co., Terrapin Beer Co.

Moove on over Milk Stouts

[Update: Moo-Hoo has hit shelves and taps in Atlanta and Athens today (Nov. 1), much earlier than the previously reported December release.]

If you follow me on Twitter (for those who enjoy more than sporadic updates every month or so, I recommend you do), you know that I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Terrapin Beer Company’s Moo-Hoo since I had a taste of the uncompleted beer after the brewery’s Hop Harvest Festival in September. Moo-Hoo is a chocolate milk stout made with cocoa nibs and shells. Rumors surfaced as soon as news of this beer was released drawing comparisons between it and the second installment of Terrapin’s collaborative Midnight Project Series with Left Hand Brewing, Depth Charge. I was skeptical, however, as Terrapin’s contribution to the collaboration beer was an addition of Jittery Joe’s espresso a la their popular Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout. It was Left Hand who shared their proficiency in brewing with lactose, regularly exhibited in their highly regarded Milk Stout. As the beer’s release has drawn closer, I’ve waited to try it for myself to see what Spike and the team came up with for a milk stout that was all theirs. After seeing hints that Moo-Hoo was ready last week, I am happy to say that I finally tried the chocolate milk stout (or a pint or three) this weekend.

Last Thursday night, I stumbled upon a keg of Moo-Hoo at Blue Sky in downtown Athens. A bar with an excellent selection of bottled beers but no regular drafts, the bright red jockey box on the bar displayed a Moo-Hoo tap handle rather conspicuously. Blue Sky has hosted a couple of casks featuring Terrapin’s special releases in the past, but I’ve always managed to hear about them ahead of time. My anticipation to try this beer was almost over, or was it?

Moo-Hoo at Blue Sky

The keg, which I was told had only been put on just over an hour before my arrival, was all gone. How? There were about a dozen people at the bar, and while I expected Moo-Hoo to be tasty, they couldn’t have put that whole keg away in an hour, could they? [I later found out that the keg was provided for a pub crawl that had stopped by earlier that night.] I extinguished my disappointment with one of Blue Sky’s bottled offerings and called it a night.

On Friday, I had plans to visit Terrapin for an event benefiting Nuci’s Space with a concert featuring Dave Barbe & the Quick Hooks with Patterson Hood (see below). After my near miss the night before, I hoped to score a taste of Moo-Hoo at the brewery. Upon arrival, I almost spotted the Moo-Hoo tap handle from across the room. I’ve got some, right? No! Moo-Hoo doesn’t come out until December, and won’t start pouring at the brewery until November 3.

Dave Barbe & the Quick Hooks with Patterson Hood at Terrapin Brewery

So this is the end of the story, right? We’ll all just have to wait until next week to find out what Terrapin’s first milk stout tastes like? I’m a bit too stubborn to have given up that easily. It didn’t happen at first, but after talking Moo-Hoo with the bartender and flexing some beer knowledge, I guess he decided I was worthy of a sample. I thanked him politely and scurried off to share my first tastes of the chocolaty contraband with the only person I knew who was more excited about this beer than myself: my girlfriend.

Taking our first sips next to these soon-to-be-lucky cases

The aroma alone of this beer is enough to put a smile on your face. Light roasted notes along with little mocha sweetness reminded me of a blended iced coffee. On the colder side, the dark roasted malts and cocoa nibs play a bit of a stronger role that would lead immediately to the bitter ending associated with some stouts if it weren’t for the sweetness of the added lactose, which fades in very gradually and never becomes overly sweet. As it warms, the flavor evokes more thoughts of chocolate milk, although the similarity never becomes quite as literal as other chocolate stouts I’ve had (think Rogue Double Chocolate Stout). A more complex, grown-up flavor prevails, perhaps due to the addition of cocoa nibs (around 900 pounds worth from Olive & Sinclair) rather than processed cocoa powder. I also detected a little hint of vanilla, although I haven’t heard that any was actually added. The mouthfeel was exactly what I look for in a milk stout, with the lactose (and flaked oats) adding palpable texture and creaminess that still ended rather cleanly. Moo-Hoo is quite drinkable, especially for the style. In my opinion, Spike has pulled off something really great here. The flavors could have easily been present, but ruined by a watery mouthfeel, or a satisfactory texture could have been undermined by an over-sweetened taste. Moo-Hoo hits the spot on the cow (this will catch on, I promise), however, in every dimension.

Look for this on shelves in December

Again, Moo-Hoo will be out in stores sometime in December (I’d guess early December) as Pumpkinfest phases out. While it was originally listed as an entry in the one-off Side Project series earlier this year, Moo-Hoo will be a returning seasonal offering each winter (something I am quite excited about, and I’m sure you will be too once you try it). As is the case with all of Terrapin’s seasonals, Moo-Hoo will be available in 6-packs and kegs. [If anyone at Terrapin finds this, please do some special casks of this stuff with added goodies…I’ve got some ideas if you need help.] I don’t have any clue about distribution of Moo-Hoo, but I assume it will be the same as their other seasonals currently, so if you can get Sunray Wheat and Pumpkinfest, you should be able to get your hands on this stuff.

1 Comment

Filed under Milk / Sweet Stout, Terrapin Beer Co.

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!

Leave a comment

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

Soaking up some local love

There were plenty of reasons to celebrate at Trappeze Pub tonight. First, the local craft beer institution turned 2 years old today. While more and more bars in Athens are offering craft beers and microbrews, none match the combination of selection and beer knowledge offered by Trappeze. In addition, local brewery Terrapin Beer Co. was on site for the debut of its new Belgian style imperial stout, Dark Side. While there was quite a crowd on hand, I managed to squeeze up to the bar and began the night.

First up was a cask featuring a dry-hopped version of Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale. Thanks to my neighbor at the bar, Mr. William Orten Carlton (“Ort” is an Athens bar staple, early cultivator of the Athens music scene, and featured writer for Athens’ Flagpole Magazine), who politely yielded in ordering his second serving of the hoppy rye concoction, I was able to get a pint of the cask ale (although, it wasn’t without much perseverence and a careful tipping of the cask by bartender Kathleen. Ort was rewarded for his sacrifice by receiving the last pint out of the cask, and we dove in together. The beer was amber in color and very murky, undoubtedly due to the yeast and hops residing in the bottom of the cask. An off-white head about a finger’s width tall lasted only long enough for me to first observe it, and then fell, leaving little lacing in the glass. Upon first taste, the familiar sharpened sweetness of the original Rye Pale Ale stood strong, but gave way to a nice fresh and preserved hop flavor, reminiscent of white grapefruit. My attempts to pin down exactly what variety of hops were used (per my tongue and the Terrapin crew) were to no avail. I was offered a guess, however educated or uneducated it may have been, by a Terrapin staffer of Cascade. I also overheard more than once around the bar that the hops had been grown in-house, although I was never able to confirm it with anyone. Whatever the variety be, I think the dry-hopped Rye was not just an interesting variation on one of Terrapin’s flagship brews, but an elevation of the original Rye itself. I was impressed with just how well the sharpness of the rye and the fresh hops complemented one another, and would definitely love to see an encore of this beer. Many might have been turned off by the glass I ended up enjoying. The yeasty, hoppy beer in my turtle pint glass probably wasn’t the same as the first pint enjoyed from the cask, but why should it be? Drinking a cask ale is an experience. From the tapping, to the interesting and creative small-batch variations, to the often short window of time it’s available, a cask ale is just as much about everything happening around the cask as what’s in it. I found nothing unpleasant about the pulpy matter in my glass. If anything, I enjoyed the even closer connection I was offered to the hops that went into the beer.

I finished the Rye as I spoke with Ort about past and planned field trips to breweries and craft beer-loving towns (look out Asheville, my list of places to visit within a weekend just doubled). Next I ordered my primary intention for tonight’s visit: Terrapin Side Project No. 9 The Dark Side, a Belgian Style Imperial Stout. Dark Side unsurprisingly pours a deep brown, and provided a quickly retreating tan head (exhibiting more French than Belgian tendencies). Dark, roasted malts combine with almost bittersweet chocolate hints to provide a robust yet smooth taste, further complemented by a velvety mouthfeel which reminded me of dark chocolate even more. Upon dissection, hops are certainly present, but don’t at all try to stand in the way of the emphasis on the malt characteristics. This is a heavy stout, and would serve well as a winter warmer, so I really appreciate the timing of its release. Overall, this is another solid entry in Spike’s Side Project series. That said, I can’t say I’m running out first thing in the morning to pick up a few bottles of the new stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Side and as hard as it is to set my local-brew bias aside, I don’t find this beer incredibly new and unique in light of Wake ‘n’ Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout and Depth Charge Espresso Milk Stout, a collaboration between the Athens boys and Left Hand Brewery. Sure it doesn’t have all the same notes and nuances the other more similar brews contain, but I just get much of the same feeling about them all. On its own, the Dark Side is a very well-constructed ale, but considering the repertoire of Terrapin’s beers, it just doesn’t stand out from the other dark, roasted, chocolate, and  sometimes coffee combinations.

With two beers down and the crowd at Trappeze beginning to thin, I was able to actually grab a stool and speak with Kathleen (who was recently featured in an article spotlighting the bar in Athens Food & Culture Magazine…and I promise I’m done with the local media plugs, however both I’ve mentioned are awesome reads and free if you’re ever in Athens to pick one up). Needing something to bring me back from the Dark Side, I ordered a refreshing old standby: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. The keg had just recently gone down, however. It seems I have a knack for wanting the one thing of which a bar has just run out, but I’ve learned that it usually means I should just try for a completely different style. If I wasn’t going to come full-circle with my hop-bursted Bell’s, then I might as well stick with a dark winter warmer-type. As Kathleen listed some of the newer arrivals, the Mikkeller Christmas Porter jumped out. Mikkeller has just recently come up on my radar, and since then I haven’t stopped hearing about it. A Danish brewer more than a brewery, Mikkeller operates out of the facilities of various other breweries, traveling around Europe and the United States and creating some highly acclaimed beers in the process. I recently acquired a trio of Mikkeller single hop IPAs that I am waiting to try as long as hopefully learn more closely the characteristics of each hop variety (perhaps knowledge that would have been useful during my first beer). After all that I’d heard, my third beer became an easy decision. The “Christmas porter” turned out to be Mikkeller To From (or From To, according to some labels on previous years’ bottles, which include blanks right on the label making it an easy and obvious beer to give for Christmas). So how was my first taste of Mikkeller beer? Let me just say those Cascade, Warrior, and Simcoe bottles sitting at home have a lot to live up to now. A deep, nearly burnt flavor (think the fine line between creme brulee and charred creme) first hit my tongue and gradually faded away without a detectable hop note. The absence of a heavy, lingering dark malt aftertaste almost begged me to take another sip to remember what it tasted like. As I got further into the porter, I was able to detect different, yet subtle flavor notes, although identifying them wasn’t so easy. Cinnamon and what I might best describe as pine became more noticeable as I continued to drink. The mouthfeel was light for such a dark and complex porter, which I could certainly appreciate as my second dark beer in a row. I was surprised to find that the alcohol content topped out at 8%, however, a little lower than what I had anticipated while tasting it. This is a great Christmas beer and served well as my introduction to Mikkeller beers.

I had another great night at Trappeze with an excellent group of beers and beer-loving people. Congratulations to Trappeze on a wonderful two years, and to Terrapin for yet another Side Project release!

Leave a comment

Filed under American Pale Ale, Baltic Porter, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Mikkeller, Terrapin Beer Co., Trappeze Pub

It’s Friday…come on, get hoppy!

It’s one of those in-between autumn days. Even the trees outside Trappeze Pub aren’t sure whether they should let go of their leaves yet. I find myself wanting to dive into recently tapped dark winter warmers, but still clinging to the lighter amber and golden fall seasonals. I think I better ease myself into the cold winter, even if we don’t see freezing temperatures in Georgia until February.

I start out with a Laughing Skull Amber Ale from our close neighbor Atlanta Brewing Company. I was already enjoying the resilient head, but this light and clear beer is smooth, full-bodied, and everything an amber ale should be. It reminded me that an amber ale doesn’t have to be the diluted cousin of other beers. That alone would make it a standout in the category for me, but the twist at the end is M. Night Shyamalan-esque. This amber ale finishes with a strong, hoppy presence that nicely balances out the smooth malty flavors. The quite noticeable, yet still reserved hops on the end transitioned beautifully into my next brew.

Up next was a slightly stronger New Belgium Hoptober. The boys from Colorado have really grown their brewery in the last decade, and with the popularity of Fat Tire, their distribution in Georgia has greatly expanded. Along with their flagship staples, the Southeast appears to be guzzling down their seasonal offerings. Along with a more pronounced hoppiness, this golden brings a slight increase from 5 to 6% ABV. This golden ale was pretty well balanced with a nice caramel malt flavor, and a slightly increased hop presence. The color was still a nice gold, and the head was nice and pronounced, leaving medium lacing. As an added bonus, I even got to keep my New Belgium glass.

As Hoptober ended, I eyed a rare offering from Athens’ own Terrapin Beer Company: an oak-aged version of last year’s Big Hoppy Monster, an imperial red ale. I’ve tried many oak-aged beers, saddened that the oak quality of many of them overwhelmed their other notes, but this batch I found the oaky aroma and flavor to both subdue and complement the hoppiness of Big Hoppy Monster quite well. The guys at Trappeze pulled this at just the right time, as the oak notes know their place but also do their job in accentuating the hoppy finish of this beast. The Oaked Big Hoppy Monster is a great booty call: a beer that I enjoy immensely for a pint and don’t want to revisit for another week or longer. This more mature version of the imperial red Monster is the cougar of the Terrapin lineup, one to be approached cautiously but bragged about to all your friends after having it.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Amber Ale, American Blonde Ale, Atlanta Brewing Company, New Belgium Brewing Inc., Terrapin Beer Co., Trappeze Pub

Hoppy birthday!: Terrapin gives birth to a new IPA

It’s been a little while since the last…ahem, first update. The academic world has demanded much of me in the past couple weeks. The beer’s been pouring the entire time nonetheless, so there’s much to tell.

First, Classic City Craft has a Twitter page. This will allow me to include more frequent updates on-the-go. For those of you not interested in diving into the Twitter world, CCC’s Twitter updates can be viewed in the sidebar of this blog (yeah, that’s it right over there).

On October 28, Terrapin Beer Co. held its third Wednesday night brewery tour, and its first tour featuring a new year-round IPA called Hopsecutioner. The crowd was a bit slim, but I was told that the Wednesday night tour is beginning to grow. For those of you who have never been to Terrapin, I urge you to take a visit. The small, cozy brewery seems like everything a craft brewery should be, and the staff made the tour anything but boring, even for those not interested in the actual brewing process. The tour offered visitors some of the first tastes of Hopsecutioner IPA (the very first sips were taken at a Terrapin/Left Hand beer dinner earlier in the week). So how was it? In the midst of the other offerings on tap: Pumpkinfest, Depth Charge, Big Hoppy Monster, and all of the Terrapin regulars, Hopsecutioner earned 5 of my 8 tickets. The new year-round IPA was pulled off  the line for the tour, so it lacked all of the carbonation that will be present in the finished product. The product I sampled was good, but I hope the last bit of carbonation added before bottling will provide a little extra bite that I look for in an IPA. At around 7.0% ABV, it is on par with most other American IPAs. Overall, I found Hopsecutioner to be a clean, refreshing, and very drinkable version of an IPA, lacking such a commonly overwhelming hoppiness that I feel polarizes most people’s opinions on the style. This new addition may not please traditionalists who look for an extremely hoppy, authentic IPA, but like many of Terrapin’s other beers, it is well balanced yet tame enough to appeal to a wide range of beer drinkers. Hopsecutioner seems like a welcome addition to Terrapin’s lineup, staying consistent with the overall tone of drinkability while filling a much needed niche in the ever-expanding collection of beers from the Athens brewery.

Leave a comment

Filed under American IPA, Terrapin Beer Co.