Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Malted Barley Recreation/Homage Party!

If you've read this blog in the past 6 months you should be quite familiar with my review of the best beer bar in the world, The Malted Barley in Westerly, RI. I was ecstatic when I did my review of this spot for many, many great reasons. I am still yearning to treck across the state of Connecticut just to have a sip of the fine brews they carry, and to also allow the delicious cornocopia of pretzels they serve to slide down my gullet, and into my belly. That being said, I couldn't contain my enthusiasm for this spot, and even while I sat at the bar I was texting photos to my friends Mark and Laura knowing full well that they too would be coming out to the Eastern Connecticut/Rhode Island area in a few weeks as well. I believe I said to them, "You need to try this spot, it's simply that incredible".

Well, sure enough on their visit to Foxwoods Casino Mark and Laura made it a point to stop at The Malted Barley. It was no surprise to me when I started receiving texts from them at the bar, such as "Holy shit this place is so awesome" and "I can't believe this spot". I was living vicariously through them that weekend, and I knew exactly the overwhelming feeling of joy, excitement, and raw pleasure they were feeling while sitting in that dimly lit bar in southern Rhode Island.
Around mid March Laura, Mark, my girlfriend Alissa and I decided to have a "Malted Barley Recreation Party". It turned out that Mark and Laura had been perfecting a pretzel recipe for a few weeks, and they were eager to share in the enjoyment with us. We were so very excited. Since we all live nearly three hours away from The Malted Barley, it was our idea to try to recreate the amazing atmosphere that we all experienced in that amazing bar in Westerly, RI.

The night was a huge success, and it was chock full of pretzels and delicious beers. We made a batch of salted pretzels, as well as a batch of pepperoni and mozarella stuffed pretzels dusted with parmesan and served with pesto butter, and a batch of jalapeno and cheddar stuffed pretzels. All of them came out fantastic! Nice and crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside with huge bursts of runny cheeses, pepperoni and spicey jalapenos! The pesto butter was the perfect pairing for the pepperoni and mozarella stuffed pretzel, and so was the Tilted Smile Imperial Pilsner by Uinta brewing.

Speaking of beers, we wanted to make sure we captured the variety of brews you can get at The Malted Barley as well. We had a vast array of malt treasures to choose from that night. The pictures below capture a good fraction of what we had that night, and how varied our selections were. It was interesting to see how different beers paired differently with each pretzel we baked. By the way, Detour IPA by Uinta paired with the jalapeno and cheddar pretzel was killer. The hops complimented the hell out of the spicey jalapenos, and so did the strong alcohol taste on the finish.

As you can see, we had one hell of a night recreating one of the best bar experiences any of us have ever had. Until we all can find time to treck back out to Westerly, Rhode Island I am sure we'll be doing this again, and coming up with new and varied pretzels, as well as beer pairings to have with them. Thanks a lot for the good time Mark, Laura, Alissa and everyone at The Malted Barley, and thanks for the inspiration!

And The Utimate Party Animal...RORI!




My Bloody Valentine by Alesmith

I have recently become a very enthusiastic fan of Alesmith, and many of the beers they make (see my previous review of their Nut Brown Ale). They do an excellent job of making classic styles, and they also do an exceptional job of putting a west coast spin on traditional styles of beer. Well, this beer is no exception at all. My Bloody Valentine is a red ale, but not a red ale in the traditional sense of the word. It's a red ale that you would expect from southern California hop enthusiasts, as I am sure you'll agree after reading my review below.

Beer Name: My Bloody Valentine
Brewery: Alesmith
Style: Red Ale/Amber Ale
Location: San Diego, CA
Packaging: 22oz bomber
Price: $6.50/22 oz bomber
ABV: 6.66% (so awesome)

Appearance: Very dark amber/mahogany in color, with dark crimson highlights when held up to the light. The beer pours with a thick, creamy white head that is 3 fingers thick and takes forever to dissipate, leaving behind widespread lacing.

Aroma: Sweet caramel malt on the nose, followed by a resinous pine aroma with some citrus (grapefruit) on the back end.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Slightly more than a medium body, but just shy of a full bodied beer. A generous amount of carbonation on this one as well. There's a ton of sweet caramel up front, quickly followed by biscuit and dough flavors. The finish has a beautiful resinous pine flavor that really creates a dry finish to an otherwise malty, sweet beer.

Overall: 9.5/10 This a very interesting, and satisfying take on the classic red/amber ale. It stays true to the style with it's sweet  caramel malt backbone, but the California style of hopping really balances this brew out nicely and surprises you with the strong hop finish. The dry finish of the brew is very refreshing, and allows the mouth coating from the malts to dissipate just in time for the next sip. Once again, Alesmith has done an excellent job of putting a California spin on a classic style! Cheers!

PS-Probably the BEST packaging I have ever seen for a beer. The back of the bottle reads "best paired with dinner for one, or your favorite emo album". Classic.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Stone Enjoy by 04.01.13

I had been waiting a while for my local beer distributor to get this brew in stock. I heard a lot of hype about Stone's new "Enjoy By" series of beers, and how incredibly fresh they were supposed to be. They are supposedly "so fresh" that they're purposely made "not to last", so that the drinker MUST enjoy the beer before the "enjoy by" date.  I was looking all over the store for it for roughly 30 minutes. Defeated and exhausted by my search, I slowly dragged my feet up to the register, eventually accepting that I would never get to try this brew. As I stood at the register (with the other 6 bomber I picked for my stock) I looked at the shelves behind the register, and low and behold there stood multiple bottles of Stone's "Enjoy By 4.01.13". Excited, and with a new found motivation I happily place my beers onto the counter, and pointed my finger behind the cashier and exclaimed, "and one of the 'Enjoy By's' as well please". Finally, I finally got my hands on one! Well, here's the review. I hope you enjoy it.

Beer name: Enjoy By 4.01.13
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: DIPA
ABV: 9%
Price: $11.99/bomber
Packaging: bomber (1 pt. 6 oz)

Appearance: The beer pours a pale golden hue with a 2 finger thick, creamy white head. There's a generous amount of lacing that slowly falls down the glass. The head is very rich, and very thick.

Aroma: A lot of pineapple up front, which mingles with citrus fruit (grapefruit, orange peel, and some lemon peel). A lot of freshly cut grass on the nose, which gives the beer a really earthy aroma. There is some slight pine and resin on the finish, with some sweet caramel malt coming through at the end as well.

Taste/Mouth Feel: A medium body, with moderate amounts of carbonation. Pineapple and pine notes on the front end, followed by a very sweet (caramel) malt center. The finish has a nice, bitter hopiness and slightly alcoholic taste. There are a lot of crisp, clean tastes on this one. The hops definitely give the beer an earthy taste, and the fresh cut grass profile is present throughout the tasting.

Overall: 9/10 This brew definitely presents itself as a fresh tasting one! The hops give the beer a clean, crisp and dry profile. The malts give the beer a rich caramel sweetness that isn't overwhelming and well balanced with the hop additions. What I really like is that the earthiness of the hops really allow the malt to shine as well in this brew, and leave you with a deliciously clean aftertaste in your mouth. Not a whole lot of a residual mouth coating on this brew. The alcohol linger a bit in the back of your throat, but it doesn't overpower any of the other profiles of the beer. Overall, a very good beer. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Flying Dog Double Dog

While perusing the selection at the local beer distributor, I came upon a six pack of the Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale. I have been very much into high ABV beers recently (always), especially high ABV beers that work magic with their malt and hop profiles to create a well balanced beer. Also, it's nice to have one beer, feel a little "nice", and then just call it a night. Sometimes, calling it a night isn't the case at all, and it's nice to go slightly overboard without feeling like a bloated slob. I digress.

The point here is that high ABV beers are very interesting on many levels. What a lot of beer drinkers rarely realize is that the alcohol that is a result of the fermentation process adds just as much to the flavor profile of the beer as the malt, hops, and yeast. I always tell my friends who are just starting to get into craft beer to make sure they sample high ABV beers, along with session beers to see how complex, and differentiated the flavor profiles become. You see? High ABV beers are about more than getting you wrecked. In fact, if that's the only reason you drink these beers, well, then you might be missing some interesting magic that happens during the brewing and fermentation processes.

So, here is my review of the Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale. Honestly, what really caught my attention in the store was the ABV of this brew. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the 11.5% listed on the six pack container. I thought to myself, "That is far more than a Double Pale Ale." I was overwhelmed with excitement to try this one. Well, here's the review...

Brewery: Flying Dog
Beer name: Double Dog
Style: Double Pale Ale
Location: Frederick, MD
ABV: 11.5%
Packaging: 12 oz bottle
Price: $16/6 pack of 12 oz bottles

Appearance: Beautiful, bright amber color indicative of a true Pale Ale. The head on this one is a creamy white, one finger thick head. There is minimal, spotty lacing on the glass. The lacing and the head tend to fall quickly on this one, with very little residual lacing remaining on the glass.

Aroma: A surprising amount of spice on the nose, as well as a malt forward presence. The hop presence is mostly pine and resin. There is also a slight pineapple presence on the nose, as well as a slight amount of citrus,

Taste/Mouth Feel: On the heavier side of medium body with a moderate amount of carbonation. There is a generous mouth coating from this brew that lingers for quite a while after the initial sip. A surprising amount of spice up front. I got a bit of pine and resin on the front of the tasting (but not a strong presence, and not for long), followed by a very distinct and strong sweet malt center with hints of toffee and caramel. The finish of the beer has a very distinct alcohol profile, creating a burning alcohol taste in the throat and the back of the mouth.

Overall: 7.5/10 Although this beer is a Pale Ale in appearance, I seriously have an issue with it being referred to as a Pale Ale, being that this is far more along the lines of an American Strong Ale. The hop profiles are present, but not enough to give you the tastes that are associated with Pale Ales. There isn't much going on hop wise on the nose, except for a sight pine and resin presence. I would've expected a hop forward presence on the nose and taste, but they simply weren't there. The sweet malt characters and blatantly present alcohol characters are the stars of this show. Enjoyable, but definitely more of an American Strong Ale than a Pale. Cheers!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Long Trail's Double White (with guest reviewer Alissa DeLucia)

Every great man (yes, I am a great man) has an amazing woman to share his life with. My girlfriend Alissa and I have been together for almost 4 years now. She is the woman I plan on growing old with, there is no question about that. Well, after being with someone for four years there are a few things you discover about them. One of the things I quickly discovered about this wonderful woman was her complete disdain for the taste of beer. I've also discovered how far she is willing to go to show me she loves me. Despite her distaste for malt beverages, she has still accompanied me to many beer events, and countless beer bars just so I can sample and enjoy the brews I hold dear to my heart. There is only one person in this world I love more than beer, family, and friends...and that person is Alissa. So you can imagine the enthusiasm that engulfed me when she said she would review one of the only beers she can tolerate on this blog.

Alissa accompanied me (and a group of 20 friends and acquaintances) this past summer to Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY for the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown event. This is where Alissa's taste buds were finally tantalized by a beer she enjoyed. In fact, Alissa visited the Long Trail booth at least seven times to get a refill of their Double White Ale. Quickly she realized that in the diverse world of beer there is something that even she, with the most scrutinizing of taste buds, could find and enjoy. Alas, I give to you the guest review of the one, and only love of my life, the beautiful Alissa DeLucia! I have not doctored this review at all. It's all in her words, and her descriptions.

Beer name: Double White
Brewery: Long Trail Brewery
Location: Vermont
Style: Belgian Double White Ale
ABV: 8%
Packaging: Bomber bottle
Price: $6/bomber

Appearance: Hazy golden orange, with a one finger thick white head.

Aroma: Citrus (lemon zest and orange peel), coriander.

Taste/Mouth feel: Yummy! Not super carbonated, and not gross like other beer. This is lighter than most beer I've had, not as heavy in your mouth. Not a lingering aftertaste with this beer, and a very low carbonation.

Overall: I love this shit! I hate highly carbonated drinks, which is why I enjoy this so much. Is doesn't make you bloated when you drink it, and it's very easy to drink.  I love the citrusy taste and the lighter body. I highly recommend this beer for people that normally hate the taste of beer. I used to really like Blue Moon when I would drink beer, but this beer kills that beer! So if you're into Blue Moon, you've got to try this!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Struise Brewery's Elliot Brew

Anyone that is into beer knows full well that Belgian Ales are some of the best in the world. Even the though the United States is catching up very quickly, and U.S. breweries are making some great mock Belgian Ales, the truth is there is no substitution for the history and skill that exists in Belgium. That being said, I had never (before now) sampled a beer from Struise. My brother had gotten me two of these 11.2 oz bottles as a Christmas gift. I drank one two days after the holiday, and saved this one to sample further down the road for a review. I was amazed with how much the nose on the beer changed in just three months, and the overall taste of the beer. So, here' my review of Struise's Elliot Brew. Enjoy!
Beer Name: Elliot Brew-Vintage 2011
Brewery: Struise Brewery
Location: Woesten-Vleteren, Belgium
Style: Double IPA
Packaging: 11.2 oz bottle
Price: $8+/11.2 oz bottle
ABV: 9%
IBU's: 216 (holy crap)
Appearance: A dark, coppery amber hue (reminiscent of a red ale), with a large, pronounced creamy white head that is 2-3 fingers thick. A ton of lacing on this brew, and the head takes forever to dissipate. The lacing sticks firmly to the tulip glass, with a generous coat all the way around the glass.
Aroma: A lot of candied sugar on the nose, as well as caramel, and spice notes from the Belgian yeast (clove, pepper, and nutmeg). Not getting much as far as hops on the nose at all.
Taste/Mouthfeel: A medium body, with a moderate amount of carbonation and a somewhat dry finish. Up front there's a lot of the candied sugar, followed by sweet biscuit flavor profiles. However, the dominant sweetness quickly recedes to a very bitter, dry, and hoppy finish. There is an excellent candied sugar coating on the roof of my mouth, coupled with a dry finish over the tongue to the back of my mouth. A nice combination of sweetness and dryness on this brew. The hops are only present for  me on the back end of the tasting, and they're more of a bittering agent in the brew than a floral/aroma hop presence.
Overall: 8.5/10 This is a solid Belgian style brew, but it's not a DIPA as far as "American" IPA's go. I didn't get a lot of aroma hops, but the hops are surely present on the finish of the beer (bitter as all holy hell). I would've thought that with 216 IBU's the bitterness would have been present throughout the brew, but the candied sweetness really quells the hop bite, and holds it off to the very end. The beer is very spicey, due to the Belgian style of yeast.  It makes for a very interesting brew, and a very complex flavor profile (spicey, sweet, and bitter). I would more classify this brew as a Belgian dubbel, but definitely not an DIPA. Overall, a very good brew. Cheers!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Malted Barley, Westerly, Rhode Island



This past week, my gilfriend and I took a trip out to eastern Connecticut for a short 2 night vacation. We stayed near Foxwoods, and decided to really "play it by ear" for the entire trip. Tuesday morning, after eating breakfast at an amazing spot called Kitchen Little in Mystic, CT we decided to explore some towns near where we were staying in the North Stonington, CT area. We turned right instead of left off the I 95 exit for Foxwoods, and drove until we came to the village of Westerly, Rhode Island. This quaint little coastal town is just a 15-20 minute ride from the hotels and casino areas. 
After a short 15 minute ride, we ended up in the village of Westerly. I was really looking for a bar that served good craft beers, and had a really "chill" atmosphere. While driving, my girlfriend shouted out, "Hey, that looks like it might be a beer bar." I looked over to my left, and like a beacon in the night I saw a sign that read, "The Malted Barley". I was sure that this had to be a craft beer bar, and once my girlfriend and I got back to the hotel room, and I did a little research I saw that I was exactly right. Not only was this a craft beer bar, but it was a craft beer bar that had 36 beers on tap! I was completely consumed by my enthusiasm, and my girlfriend quickly grew tired of me talking about all of the beers I was looking forward to trying later that night.
We arrive at The Malted Barley at around 6:30 pm. Upon entering, the frst thing that struck me was the very casual, warm feeling you got as soon as you walked in. There was already a decent crowd there, and the locals and staff all welcomed us with smiles as we entered. The front area of the establishment was lined with tall round tables, that had 4 bar stools around each table. The fairly long bar was also lined with bar stools, as well as locals that were chatting away and sipping their malt beverages. The decor was very warm and simple, with different types of brewery signs, and beer nostalgia hanging sporadically around the walls. It was as though the bar was saying to me "hey man, we're all friends here, so take a seat and order a beer." I am not one to argue when a bar talks to me, so I quickly heeded its advice.
As we approached the bar, we were greeted by an incredibly outgoing and warm bartender with excellent tattoos. Being tattooed myself, I love going to a drinking establishment that proudly hires men and women that are clearly inked. Yeah, I am slightly biased here, but it does make me feel more welcome. What was also great was how much the bartender knew about beers. I listened attentively as he made suggestions to a couple sitting next to us at the bar. "Well, if you like hoppy, bitter beers, you should try this. It's a Sixpoint Resin Ale, and it's one of the best IPA's I have ever had." What a great suggestion, and the guy knew his beers. He shot the shit with me on many occassions about New Paltz, NY (the town I went to college in), and different beers we've tried. He was incredibly personable. And yes, I know it's his job to be personable, but he was personable in a way that made you feel like the guy really wanted to talk to you about beer. You could tell he enjoyed working there, and you could tell he took pride in his beer knowledge.
When the bartender handed us the beer/cocktail/food menu, I was quickly flabbergasted by what I saw. First, my girlfriend was completely satisfied with the selection of house cocktails, and the selection even made ME want one (I'm not a liqour drinker). Secondly, the beer list was a colossal representation of everything delicious in beer. There are 36 beers on tap, and even more selections in bottles and cans. I had never, ever seen Lagunitas Sucks on tap until I came into this bar. The menu was laid out by style of beer. This struck me as an excellent idea, and it makes it really easy for people looking to try specific styles. What also struck me was how well rounded the beer menu was, which offered a generous selection of every style you could imagine. I sampled two beers from the local brewery (and by local I mean a half mile from the bar). The brewery is known by the name Grey Sail Brewing. I had a pint of their smoked porter, as well as their Anniversary Imperial Pilsner. The smoked porter was excellent, with a rich dark roasted character and a significant amount of smoked notes. The brew also had a sweet maly backbone, with hint of chocolate and coffee. Overall, and excellent smoked porter. The imperial pilsner was also a fantastic offering. There was definitely a strong malt presence, which was balanced well with the aroma hops. A nice biscuit finish, with a slight bite from the hops made this a damn near perfect brew. I also had the Rogue Chocolate Stout, as well as the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. The Rogue Chocolate stout didn't offer any surprises for me. It was full bodied, and had strong notes of dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and caramel. The Cali-Belgique IPA by Stone really threw me for a loop. It had a nice amount of lemon zest up front, followed by a sweet malt backbone, and a beautiful clove and pepper finish. The beer reminded me of the offspring of a belgian witte and a west coast IPA. After having the beers I enjoyed, I wished I had the time and tolerance to try everything they offered here. Any style of beer you like, The Malted Barley has got you covered with multiple options!
The last, but certainly one of the most important aspects of this bar I would like to address is the food. I can some up the food these guys offer with just one word...pretzels. YES PRETZELS! The Malted Barley's food menus consists soley of pretzel options. Don't get me wrong, these aren't your run of the mill frozen, salted, dried out desperate imitations of a bavarian treat. Quite the contrary indeed. These pretzels are made with fresh, homemade dough, and stuffed or covered with fresh ingredients. Some of the pretzel options are; Asiago and Parmesan, Mozarella and Tomato stuffed with a side of pesto, and the Cheddar and Jalapeno stuffed pretzel. Not to mention, they also offer an array of "pretzel sandwiches" which are served on pretzel buns! Seeing this food menu made everything else in the bar seem that much MORE perfect. I mean, come menu comprised of nothing but pretzel options in a beer bar? Well, hell, that is damn near perfection as far as I am concerned. I had the Jalapeno and Cheddar stuffed pretzel with a side of apricot butter paired with the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA.  If this wasn't complete perfection, it was at least the closest I had every come to it as far as taste is concerned.
So, I am going to end this review here. Please, go check out the menus at The Malted Barley, and also check out Grey Sail Brewing's website as well. Rhode Island has a lot of creative, and inspirational things going on. You can tell they pride themselves on community, and really try to help each other out. So, I am going to show how much their warm hospitalty effected me by doing the same! Cheers!