Saturday, December 29, 2012

miBeer almost ready

2012-12-30 MR
FileMaker Go database (free) for tracking and rating beer, as well as keeping inventory and even BJCP judging (unapproved, as yet).

Even allows one to record temperature manually by using iCelsius temp probe.

See screenshots below, more descriptions will be added.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


2012-12-16 - MR

New York, New York. The city so grand they had to name it twice.
I [heart] NY.
The Big Apple.
The Big Easy, wait... what? No that's not right. Well, some of this was written in the wee hours before bedtime, so please forgive my mixed metaphors. Or whatever.

What does NY have compared to other cities? Besides EPA Region 1's office? It has wonderful food, fantastic architecture, friendly people, and bars up the wazoo.

Of course the Rockefeller Center Christmas (we can call it that - right?) tree was #1 on the list to see. As it was dreary rainy cold and wet there was not as much sightseeing in the scant amount of daylight left.

Did not see Tracy Jordan or any of the cast of 30 Rock. However did find Del Frisco's grille. Nice place, and had my first surprise - a free beer. A group was coming to sit at the bar, and someone asked if I minded moving (did not) - the guy said "what are you having, it's on me." Free beers are always good. Free beers from friendly strangers - even better.

The place had a great looking brick pizza oven, but opted for the lamb sliders as lamb is a fave.

and had one more beer before leaving to see what else there was on the agenda. Had these on tap:
Ommegang - Abbey Ale [#3,447]
Abita - Turbodog (can't believe never had this on tap)

Made my way to a bar called the Stag's Head at 239 East 51st Street.

This place came well-recommended as a place for good American craft beers. More of a beer bar, there was a restaurant as well, but the beer in this case was paramount. The bartender was very friendly and was happy to explain to me and others what was available. Tried the following:

Firestone Walker - Union Jack IPA [#3,449]
Perennial - Heart of Gold - wheat wine ale (did not know anyone besides Smuttynose who made this)
Butternuts - Doppelbock (note probably not from Butternuts, will be edited)
Peak - Maple Collection - Organic Maple - really nice caramel maple finish

At this point had an almost transcendent experience, one that beer fans will recognize and savor. A couple were chatting with the barkeep, about what to try. There a bit of dissing of a Rhode island beer on tap, and I did defend their dark lager, as it is in fact brewed by Cottrell Brewing.

The woman spoke up and said something to the effect that she and her husband had just discovered Belgian beers for the first time - today. She (innocently) asked: "Do you know anything about Belgian beer? Do you like Belgian beers?"

Smiling and pointing to the Club-Belgique shirt logo, I replied that yes, there was a minor passing familiarity with some Belgian beers (400+/- at last count, with more to come later in the evening). We three had a great conversation about beer and Belgian beer in particular. Suggested they check out Club-Belgique, and join if they want to (remember it's 100% free).

Told a few brief stories about some of the places the Club has met, especially the De Koninck brewfest in Antwerp 2011 and 2012. They told me about the BXL bar, which I passed by on the way to the Stag. They admonished me to promise to go there. I was meeting a business contact soon, so I texted him the address - said my goodbyes - and wished all a "Merry Christmas, happy holiday".

Upon entering BXL (technically BXL East, or "The Best Belgian Beer and Food in New York", which we were inclined to agree) one first sees the cute (or hideously haunting) La Chouffe gnome over the bar. Then, the magic starts.

Club-Belgique rule of thumb #7 - any bar with a house beer (and it's not a brewpub), it's probably a great bar. BXL has their huisbier - BXL Cuveé allegedly from Ommegang. Good complex flavour with a hint of coriander finish.

The place has a lot of beers, and I mean a lot. They also have a fantastic menu that is exactly what one would expect from Belgium. Things like hanger steak...

...and steak tartare, which were both fantastic. Note tartare means "as rare as you can".
Meaning really really rare.
As in raw.
As in the mitochondria are still functioning.

It was spectacular.

The bartender and waitstaff were very accommodating, even suggesting which beers to try. And more to the point - the beer. Tried the following:

BXL Cuveé house beer - from Ommegang
De Musketeers - Troubadour Magma - Belgian IPA
van Steenberge - Piraat
De Dolle - Dulle Teve 10 (mad bitch) - Tripel [#3,456]

Sadly, had to end the night while it was still young, and gird my loins for the next day's (metaphorical) battle; but there will be many more visits to NYC.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New England Brewing

2012-12-13 - MR

On the way home meandered to the door of New England Brewing, in Woodbridge CT. Their tasting room is open weekdays at noon. As I arrived one could sense the wonderful aroma of something cooking - smelled like beer!

The taproom is cozy and tastefully decorated - I mean what is better than various and sundry beer bottles, and a pumpkin from halloween decorated with the brewery's logo. Note as this was December 13 - and the pumpkin appeared to be incorruptible - maybe it's time to call the Catholic church? Spoke to Rob of the brewers, as well as some lads visiting form CA. Sadly, learned of the NEB Barleywine which is sold out.

Tried the following beers; note one of these was not on tap but fresh from the bottling.
Elm City Pilsner [#3,437]
Barrel Aged Stout Trooper
668 the Neighbor of the Beast - nice Belgian strong ale, extra points for the name!
Wet Willy Scotch Ale - not a smoky as some

Probably head back for a visit tour in early January, as they are bottling/caging their winter beer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Triumph, Climax, Trap Rock


Stopped in at Triumph Brewing in Princeton NJ.

One of the biggest challenges is finding a place to park But with that out of the way, strode down the long entrance to hall and sat down at the bar.

Triumph appears to be quite a nice, fancy restaurant. No food was tried as I had already eaten, but things look and smelled good. The bartender was friendly and pretty much understood it was the tasting that was the reason for the visit.

They have a pretty good range of beers, that are good or better in terms of flavour and representation of the style:
Honey Blonde [#3,420]
Amber Ale
German Pilsner - very, very good
Small World Coffee & Cream Stout
Bengal Gold IPA
Nutt's Brown Ale - no it's not "Nut"

Did not list the "snakebite" which was a cider/ale mix. Tried it, but like the German "radler" it is not a beer per se.

Stopped in at Climax Brewing in Roselle Park NJ. As with all brewers (as opposed to brewpubs, whom obviously want customers to enter) an email was sent to Mr. Hoffman to ask permission to visit.

Not to give away any spoilers, but this brief visit was representative of the passion that some brewers have for their craft. To put it in perspective, I had arrived a bit later than I had thought, and was told I could "only stay a couple of minutes".

We said our goodbyes about 45 minutes later.

As with many micro brewers today, Mr. Hoffman is not a brewer by trade (chemical engineer) and this was an adjunct to a hobby. Also as with many brewers, there's such a sense of pride when you are shown a home-designed and built growler bottler that probably works as well as anything from Enterprise Tondelli.

In the too-short visit, the creation of the brewery was related, as was the change from clear to amber growlers. As with many micro breweries, the costs of raw ingredients and glass continue to be a challenge, as well as distribution issues.

The beers sampled were:
ESB [#3,426]
Hoffman Lager Doppelganger Bock - lagered for 6 weeks

Note the "Hoffman" appellation usually means the beer is a lager instead of an ale. Picked up a few more at the local liquor store - Climax is not available in CT USA.

Trap Rock Brewery and Restaurant in Berkley Heights NJ was where dinner would be served. Note that any brewpub with "...and restaurant" in the name is sometimes a cause for concern, as the beer sometimes takes a backseat to the food.

Not here.

The head brewer Charlie surprised me by recognizing the Club-Belgique logo on the shirt. We chatted a bit, and had a brief tour. Apparently they (as other have said) will be expanding due to changes in NJ brewing laws that allow brewpubs to sell beyond their walls.

The beers - by the way - do not take a backseat to the food. They are all very good, some spectacular.

The restaurant is also no slouch. Duck confit with brussel sprouts was fantastic. Service from Pam was exactly what one wants when quietly eating at the bar, sampling beer - the exact amount of attention with a bit of pleasant conversation. Not ignored, like some places recently.

As with any brewer, naming a beer can be a challenge. Certainly "Ægir's Pride" is a name someone researched. Wikipedia: "Ægir hosts a party for the gods where he provides the ale brewed in an enormous pot or cauldron provided by Thor and Týr."  Okay.

Now also the prize for the least creative name is "Mr. Porter", but why stop there? Let's have a "Mrs. Stout" as a beer-soul-mate. Although one would suppose a name like that would not please some distaff customers.  

Charlie stopped by later as I was done eating, and talked about how they plan to bottle some of their beers, as certainly their 11% Ægir's pride should age well. It was suggested to have a "christening" instead of a ribbon cutting ceremony. Take a newly-bottled 750 ml; and (carefully) break it on the corner of the building. Save the intact neck and mount it on a plaque over the bar, as a conversation piece.

Beers that were sampled:
JP Pilsner - described as Czech/German [#3,428]
Ghost Pony Helles Lager - nice representation of a Helles, for those who care
Mr. Porter
Hathor Red Lager - named for the Egyptian goddess who created beer
Alpine Weisse
Kestrel IPA - "west coast style"
Ægir's Pride - Begian quad at 11%
Mighty More Ale - good American strong ale style
Captain Dunkin's Scottish Ale

One hopes that next year about this time there are bottles available.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vault Brewing

2012-12-11 - MR

First some updates
1) bloggers will be identified by initials; there some great stories out there from C-B members (Mr. IC, Mr. CA., etc.) who have not written an article yet.
2) There will no longer be a numerical rating of anyone's beer - a numerical rating (e.g. 8.7 of 10) is subjective.
3) Reminders will be at the top of each blog post from here-on-in.

Remember, go to Club Belgique and join! It costs a whopping $0 to do so.
Join Club-Belgique by: a) joining the forums; b) telling uswhy you like beer
That's it, and once voted in, every other month someone wins a Club-Belgique shirt!

Now, Vault Brewing in Yardley PA has a riddle for a name. Why is it called Vault Brewing?
Well, the most basic, simple reason is the answer - they have a bank vault!

This is also the "newest" brewer that any member from Club-Belgique has ever visited. Apparently opened in early October 2012, they weathered hurricane Sandy as they had a generator and a wood-fired pizza oven.

Started by a cadre of brothers the place had some nice touches (hammered copper signs on the tanks) and really eclectic food. I mean, prosciutto, fig and goat cheese pizza? But wow, the flavours come together so well, really nice.

What was also really nice was the beers. As they are a new brewery, they are apparently playing it safe with some tried-and-true styles. Although apparently they make a sweet potato beer that is very good. Thanks to everyone who came up to the bar to ask if it was available, to be told in a week or so (not when I'll be there).

Also the first time that a Club-Belgique member met someone from Untappd. Looked at who was trying the Vault's beers, and asked some folks nearby who had Untapped on their iPhones "any of you guys named 'Bob'"?

Beers sampled were:
Belgian Blonde - good basic representation [#3,414]
Bavaran Hefeweizen
IPA - a classic "no toxic hop levels" IPA, the way an IPA should be
Coffee Stout (nitro) - rich chewy, coffee notes
Coffee Stout, hand-pulled (or "cask") - subtle differences
American Stout [#3,419]

They also have a stainless steel growler, which is unusual. They also swap "dirty for clean" so they can properly wash the growlers out; talk about service.

Now one thing to be aware of, so you do not have the crap shocked out of you. There is a giant sculpture of a horse's head in the men's room. Dressed, season appropriate, in a Santa hat. Not all that conducive to micturation.

Good start Vault brewery, next year about this time lets have a Tripel, a Winter Warmer, and maybe, just maybe, caged 750 ml bottles of a Barleywine.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Appalachian and River Horse

2012-12-09 - After a succulent brunch at Elevation Burger,

it was just a hop skip and jump to Appalachian Brewing in Collegeville. Have tried some of the beers before, and since we had just eaten, no food was needed. But folks, if someone is tasting beer, they are probably a beer fan.

Suggested question and interactions are:
1) how was the beer?
2) did you like one more than the others?
3) would you like a glass of water?
4) do you want to order any more beers to drink?

Tried the following beers, note some had been sampled in the past at another in the Appalachian chain.
Mountain Lager
Water Gap Wheat Ale
Purist Pale Ale
Jolly Scott Scottish Ale
Hoppy Trails IPA
Trail Blaze Brown Ale
Susquehanna Stout
Volk's Weizenbok [#3,405]

Had no opportunity to sample any others...

Drove to the River Horse brewery in Lambertville NJ.

Again with the water-theme on this trip, for some reason. River Horse was not chosen due to any connection to cryptids (i.e. water horse), but to hippopotamus. Supposedly - and this has yet to be verified - the Egyptian or Babylonian word for hippo is the same phrase used to name beer brewing?

Interesting mythology; the building that currently houses the Water Horse was historically allegedly where those ubiquitous "oyster crackers" were made?

The brewery offers tours on the hour - on weekends - and it's a very informal walk through the production areas. Apparently even if only 1 person wants a tour, they will give it.

There were 4 beers on tap to try, but also some "brewers choice" came out as well. Although not fully carbonated it was great to try these straight from the fermenter; I mean, how fresh can you get. Very friendly staff, and had a nice time. 

Beers sampled were:
Belgian Freeze - not an "ice beer", more of a Belgian special ale [#3,406]
Tripel Horse - very very nice
Hop Hazard - not as hoppy as one might guess
Scotch Ale - fresh from fermenter
Oatmeal Milk Stout - that's right, not just oatmeal or milk
Hop-A-Lot-Amus - maybe should win a prize for the most convoluted name to resemble " hippopotamus"? [#3,411]

River Horse also sells mixed six packs and special holiday samplers, as well as nice glasses. Their "tulip glass" goes well with their Tripel.

So worth the drive to get there.