Beer, Wine and Spirits. Tastings and Travel. News and Events. Classic Flavors from Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across the Drinks World.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 59 Drink: Veo Grande 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Chile has been dealing with a major natural disaster and its people are in our thoughts and prayers. This South American country, which gained its independence from Spain in 1818, was hit by an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter Scale. The people in this country have endured challenges in the past and they will overcome this tragedy.

Chile's wine history goes back to the 16th Century when Conquistadors brought vines to the colony. Today it is known for producing some amazing wine values. The country is now one of the top five wine exporting nations in the world.

Veo Grande 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is a fine example of the superb values to be had from Chilean vineyards. It is a wonderful garnet color with some lively fruit in the aroma. The wine drinks slightly older than the label. Not huge depth, but a quick flash of cedar and some nice tannins in the finish. Good level of tart cherries carries this wine along very nicely.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 58 Drink: Karlsson’s Gold Vodka

Sweden is pretty famous as a vodka producing country. Peter Ekelund combined that heritage with the Cape Bjare New Potato to create a new vodka brand in 2004. Distillers tested nine different potato varieties and several different formulations before finally settling on a blend of seven different spuds.

Karlsson’s Gold Vodka is made from “100% virgin new potatoes.” The 80 proof spirit has a slightly candy nose and a thin, light mouth feel. Overall clean and crisp flavor.

Hey Toyota: Let the Pints for Prostates Car "Race"

Toyota has been having more than its share of problems in recent months. They've had to recall 8.5 million vehicles to solve various safety issues, most involving accelerators and braking systems. Critics have charged the recalls came only after Toyota had ignored customer complaints and accident reports.

This week Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda was the guest of a House of Representatives hearing and later gave a tearful apology to company employees. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the recalled Toyota vehicles are "not safe." Sales of Toyotas are said to be off 10 percent.

In the middle of all of these problems, Toyota continues to try to market its cars. For most of my driving life the Toyota brand has stood for quality, but that reputation has suffered a major body blow. Still, with its involvement in NASCAR, Toyota Racing has launched a major advertising campaign asking fans to "Sponsafy" a car. Fans can create a virtual NASCAR car and through a voting process the top car will end up as a pace vehicle at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte on May 22nd.

Well, I thought "sponsafying" a car for the contest might be a fun way to promote the Pints for Prostates campaign and reach a few men with a simple message: "Get a PSA Test." After all, look at what the NFL did for the cause of breast cancer awareness early this past season by allowing players to wear pink. Click on the photo and you'll get a view of the Pints for Prostates car that was submitted.

Amazingly, Toyota Racing has rejected the design saying it "Contains offensive or inappropriate content." Really? What is offensive about a car design that encourages men to pay attention to their health? Using the universal language of beer to reach men with an important health message certainly cannot be inappropriate for a sport that was once sponsored by a tobacco company and has had cars sponsored by beer, spirits and wine brands for decades. Makes you wonder if Toyota has something against men's health?

There is still time for the Pints for Prostates ride to be part of the Toyota Sponsafy promotion and with your help we can make it happen. Please send a quick email to Kym Strong (kym_strong@toyota.com) of Toyota Motorsports and Greg Thome (greg_thome@toyota.com) of Toyota Corporate Communications. Use the subject line "Race the Pints for Prostates Car."

Thanks for your support.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 57 Drink: Schlenkerla Helles

Brauerei Heller-Trum's Schlenkerla is best known for its smoke infused rauchbier. But not every beer made by the brewery, which dates back to 1678, is smoky. A case in point is Schlenkerla Helles, which is brewed at the same facility and uses the same yeast, but is quite a different drink.

Schlenkerla Helles is a 4.3 percent alcohol by volume lager that has a nice bright straw color and fluffy white foam. The firm malt mellows out the hop in this beer and creates a great level of drinkability. Some say they can taste a hint of smoke in this beer, but my feeling is that the malt might pick up a bit of caramelization from the brew kettles. If anything, the grain is slightly more pronounced than you would find in some other German lagers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 56 Drink: Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout

Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, Ore., makes some award winning brews, including Overcast Oatmeal Stout. With the help of organic coffee from Wandering Goat Coffee Co. and a 13-hour cold water steeping process, the beer becomes Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout.

Oakshire Brewer Matt Van Wyk notes that "People's palates are becoming more and more accustomed to fuller-flavored beers. And there is a group of people out there who want more flavor, but are not necessarily hop heads."

Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout has plenty of coffee aroma and the java just keeps coming through in abundance in the flavor profile. A rich and rewarding stout. If you love coffee beers, look for this one.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 55 Drink: Avery White Rascal

Avery Brewing has been around since 1993. The company has built a reputation for quality beers, especially among higher alcohol and extreme brews. In fact more than half of the beers made by the company have 8 percent or greater alcohol by volume levels. Adam Avery and his brewing team get high marks for brews like Hog Heaven Barleywine, The Reverend Quadrupel Ale and Mephistophele's Stout, which is a 17 percent abv winter seasonal.

“We’re kind of pigeon holed a bit as making extreme beers, but we make a lot of great session beers,” Avery says. In fact, some of my favorite Avery beers are lower gravity brews full of flavor, like Ellie's Brown Ale, 14'er ESB, Karma Ale and White Rascal Belgian-style White Ale.

Avery White Rascal is a 5.5 percent alcohol by volume Belgian-style white ale that pours a pale yellow color with a thin white head. The wheat, coriander and orange peel come together nicely in this beer. The citrus and spice flavor notes are perfect for the warmer weather months.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 54 Drink: Napa Cellars 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Cellars tasting room is located off Highway 29 near the landmark Mustards Restaurant in Oakville. The winery was founded in 1996. Winemaker Joe Shirley focuses on making reasonably priced wines in a region where most wines are priced beyond the average drinker.

Napa Cellars 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark purple color and has a slight cherry hint to the nose. The grapes in this were sourced from St. Helena, Oak Knoll and Rutherford Vineyards and aged for 18 months predominently in French oak. Smooth drinking red with a moderate level of tannins and good levels of dark fruits. At $26 a bottle this wine is a good value to drink now and is likely to improve nicely over the next 3-5 years.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 53 Drink: Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale

Firestone Walker Brewing is nestled in Paso Robles, Calif., a part of the world better known for wine than it is for beer. The brewery actually started in 1996 at the home of the Firestone Winery in Santa Barbara County. In 2002, Firestone Walker purchased the former SLO Brewery and relocated its operations.

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale is a 5 percent alcohol by volume pale ale created using the patented Firestone Union oak barrel brewing system which employs 60-gallon new American oak barrels. Marris Otter Pale, Munich, Crystal and Chocolate malts are brewed along with Magnum, Styrian Golding and East Kent Golding hops. The ale was the first product brewed at Firestone Walker and still accounts for 50 percent of the company’s sales.

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale offers up plenty of smooth flavor. It pours a bright copper color with a sturdy tan head. Aroma offers a slight sweetness that is paid off in the flavor. Very drinkable ale, with drying hops emerging in the finish.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pints for Prostates to Raffle Trip to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival

Pints for Prostates will be offering beer lovers a chance to win a dream trip for two to the largest craft beer event in the United States, the Brewers Association Great American Beer Festival℠, which will be held in Denver from Sept. 16-19, 2010.

The winner and a guest will get a chance to sample beers from an estimated 450 breweries serving more than 2,100 beers at the GABF. They will also receive tickets to one of the top gourmet beer events in the nation: The Denver Rare Beer Tasting II, along with visits to great craft breweries and special access to insider beer events.

The trip includes:

-- Round Trip Airfare for Two to Denver (anywhere inside the continental U.S.)
-- Three Night Hotel Stay at a Convenient Downtown Location (Double Occupancy)
-- Two Tickets for Three Sessions at the Great American Beer Festival (Thurs./Fri./Sat. Nights)
-- Two Tickets to the Denver Rare Beer Tasting II (Friday 1-4 p.m.)
-- Hosted Pub Crawl with Rick Lyke, Beer Writer and Pints for Prostates Founder
-- Special Access to Insider Beer Events to Meet Brewers and Taste Limited Release Beers
-- Gift Cards for Lunch & Dinner at Denver Brewpubs & Beer Bars

The total estimated value of the trip is $2,500. The winner will be selected on Aug. 21, 2010.

Tickets will be available where legal at beer festivals and other events for a $10 donation or three for a $25 donation. You must be at least 21 years old to enter and to take the trip.

All proceeds benefit the Pints for Prostates (www.pintsforprostates.org) campaign, which supports programs to fight prostate cancer and help men and their families battling the disease. More information about the trip is available by email at rick(dot)lyke(at)gmail(dot)com.

Day 52 Drink: Alaskan Smoked Porter

In the current issue of DRAFT magazine there is a Trek article I wrote about a visit to Bamberg, Germany, the recognized international beer capital of "rauchbier" or smoke beer. But in the U.S., if you are looking for smoke you will want to head to Juneau, Alaska.

Smoking barley is a different process than roasting barley. Roasted barley is what gives stouts and porters a dark color. Roasting barley, which is similar to roasting coffee beans, is done with indirect heat at higher temperatures.

Geoff Larson, co-founder of Alaskan Brewing in Juneau, Alaska, says the company’s Alaskan Smoked Porter was happenstance resulting from some research into the early days of brewing in Alaska and the fact a salmon smokehouse was located right across the street.

“We’d share fish and beer,” said Larson. “We had a big advantage in working with a professional colleague in the area of smoke. Sandro Lane had a computer controlled smokehouse that gave us repeatability.” The type of wood used – in the case of Alaskan it is alder – has a direct impact on the beer’s final flavor profile. He notes that brewers 300 to 400 years ago “had a constant battle with smoke” and that writings from those times make negative references to beers that were too smoky.

Alaskan Brewing made its first smoke beer in 1987. Eventually, Alaskan Brewing bought the smokehouse and uses it each fall to smoke barley for Alaskan Smoked Porter, which has won more medals than any other beer in the history of the Great American Beer Festival.

“It’s all about balance. Smoked malt makes up only a portion of the grist. You don’t want too much smoke and you don’t want too little. You want to balance the smoke and the beer character,” Larson says.

Alaskan Smoked Porter pours a dark brown with amber edges and a tan head. This 6.5 percent alcohol by volume beer offers a whiff of smoke in the nose. The flavor has a good overall level of sweet smoke, with hints of dark chocolate and roasted malt.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 51 Drink: Deschutes Jubel 2010

Deschutes Brewery from Bend, Oreg., promotes Deschutes Jubel 2010 as a "once a decade ale." Well, sort of. The beer can be found on draught at its pubs as Super Jubel around the holidays. This is, however, only the second time it has been bottled. The last time was back in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium.

Deschutes Jubel 2010 is a rich mahogany color and pours with a thin head. There is a subtle malty nose in this 10 percent alcohol by volume brew. This beer is fairly easy drinking, but clearly shows a strong malt backbone in the flavor profile. Hops are present, but not the story with this beer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 50 Drink: Session Black

Founded in 1987, Full Sail Brewing Co. is in the middle of big beer country in Oregon. They make a few pretty hefty brews themselves, but the brewery also is leading the way in a craft beer revival of sessionable brews.

Full Sail's Session Black Lager was the 2009 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal winner in the Black Lager category. One taste will tell you why. It pours a nice rocky tan head and offers a malty aroma. The beer is a lovely dark mahogany color and very drinkable. It has an overall good caramel malt base and a slight amount of balancing hop bitterness. At 5.4 percent alcohol by volume in a stubby 11 ounce bottle, this is a good session choice.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 49 Drink: Hvedegoop Wheat Wine

Indiana's Three Floyds Brewing Co. combined forces a couple of years back with Mikkeller of Denmark to brew Hvedegoop Wheat Wine, a 10.4 percent alcohol by volume brute of a beer. Three Floyds got its start in 1996, Mikkeller in 2006. Both have built a following among beer enthusiasts.

Hvedegoop Wheat Wine pours with a slightly cloudy amber brown color and a thin, but persistent tan head. The nose has a slightly woody character with hints of citrus. The flavor has a caramel base with some hints of fruitiness that is dulled out in mid-palate by a ton of bitterness from Apollo and Bravo hops. A big collaboration.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 48 Drink: Geary’s Pale Ale

Before opening his brewery, David Geary did stints as an apprentice at a half dozen small Scottish and British commercial brewhouses and returned home to work with his wife Karen on the business plan for D.L. Geary Brewing Co. The first ale rolled out of the Portland, Maine, brewery in December 1986.

Among the beers Geary’s makes are a London Porter, Imperial IPA, Wee Heavy Scottish Ale and Hampshire Special Ale. Geary's Pale Ale is one of the brews I profiled for the upcoming book "1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die."

Geary’s Pale Ale is brewed with pale, crystal and chocolate malts, Cascade, Mount Hood, Tettnang and Fuggle hops, and uses Hampshire yeast. In a blind tasting it would be difficult to separate the ale from those of Burton-on-Trent.

Geary's Pale Ale pours a classic pale ale copper-amber glow with a rich creamy off-white head. Slight hop aroma and the beer opens with a touch of fruitiness before the hops take control. Nice level of hop bitterness throughout with hints of roasted malt around the edges.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 47 Drink: Birrificio Troll Shangrila

Birrificio Troll is a small Italian brewery that produces unfiltered and unpasteurized ales. I had the chance to taste Shangrila, one of the brewery's year-round offerings, at a small gathering of good friends and great beers at the grapevine in Fort Mill, S.C.

Birrificio Troll Shangrila is an 8.5 percent alcohol by volume Belgian-style brew that pours a bright amber color with a tan head. The aroma is slightly brandy like with a touch of spice. The malt dominates the flavor, with a good biscuit base. A rustic character emerges with some apple and pear notes, and a slight background smoke finish.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 46 Drink: Schlenkerla Urbock

Schenkerla is a classic Bamber destination. We were lucky enough to visit and have a couple of pints with Matthias Trum in 2008. The brewery is recognized as the home of the traditional Bamberg smoke beer, which really is a throw back brew to the pre-1850s brewing style.

Tonight I had the chance to taste what was reported to be a 7-year-old bottle of Schenkerla Urbock. I trust the provenance of the bottle based on the other beers that were enjoyed along side of this brew. It was truly amazing.

It opened as a brownish brew with a tan head and a big smoked ham nose. The taste was much more subtle, but still unique. One Wisconsin taster said it was like smoked sturgeon. I cannot argue. A great beer from a great brewery in a great town.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 45 Drink: Louis Martini 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

We made a stop at Louis M. Martini Winery is St. Helena, Calif., back in 2007 and sampled some wines with Michael Martini straight out of the tanks, so we had tasted this cabernet sauvignon as an extremely young wine.

Sourced from Sonoma County vineyards, Louis Martini 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich red purple wine. Nice silky texture, good healthy level of fruit. Dark cherry and cassis dominate. Tannins are at a moderate level and the wine is very lively at this stage. A very good value -- we paid $30 for a bottle with dinner last night and saw it for under $12 today at a warehouse club -- and can be aged for another five years.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 44 Drink: Sierra Nevada 2010 Glissade Golden Bock

Sierra Nevada Brewing can trace its roots back to 1980 and is often credited among the early west coast pioneers that introduced craft beer fans to the power of hops.

Sierra Nevada 2010 Glissade Golden Bock is a 6.4 percent alcohol by volume beer that uses a combination of German Magnum, Perle and German Spalter; Slovenian Aurora and Styrian hops, along with two-row Pale, Europils, Munich and Crystal malts. The beer is a crystal clear golden color with a firm white head. The flavor has a nice malty backbone with a good level of hops for balance. Very smooth and drinkable.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 43 Drink: AGWA de Bolivia Coca Herbal Liqueur

I've got to hand it to the folks at Babco International in Holland. In today's crowded spirits market it takes something truly different to stand out from the pack. How about making a spirit from the same raw material used to produce cocaine? That should get a little media coverage and consumer attention.

AGWA de Bolivia is made using wild Bolivian coca leaves picked in the Andes and shipped under armed guard in 2,000 kilo bales to Amsterdam. There they are macerated and de-cocainized. The maker suggests using AGWA in a variety of cocktails or you could just mix it with a little soda water.

The 60-proof spirit is a lime green color. The aroma is on the sweet side and is a mix of 36 ingredients, including green tea, ginseng and guarana. The flavor leans toward the tea with a touch of spicy heat in the finish that is hard to nail down.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 42 Drink: Three Olives Rangtang Vodka

Three Olives Vodka is made in England from domestically grown wheat. The spirit is quadruple distilled. In addition to "Naked," Three Olives comes in a Baskin Robbins-style array of flavors. Cherry, Grape, Chocolate, Tomato and Triple Shot Espresso to name just a few.

The latest release, Three Olives Rangtang is a blend of orange and tangerine flavors. The vodka pours a translucent orangish color. It has an orange soda nose and the flavor drives home an orange zest quality. I could see this fresh citrus vodka working well in a variety of cocktail applications.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 41 Drink: Black Hawk Stout

Mendocino Brewing Company began life as the Hopland Brewery, one of the first microbreweries in the U.S., in Hopland, Calif., an early hop growing center in the Russian River Valley. Today the region is better known for its wines.

Today, Mendocino still runs the original Hopland brewpub, but most of the company’s beer flows from breweries in Ukiah, Calif., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The company now distributes to more than 40 states.

Hopland went public in 1994 by selling stock to fans through flyers that were stuffed in six packs. But the brewery hit a tough business patch in 1997 and Vijay Mallya, the Indian billionaire who is chairman of United Breweries Group, Kingfisher Airlines and Scotland’s Whyte & Mackay Distillery, acquired a majority interest in Mendocino.

Black Hawk Stout, a brews I covered in the soon-to-be-released book "1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die," was served at Hopland’s grand opening in 1983. It was designed to be a big, traditional dry Irish-style stout, using two row pale, roasted black caramel malts in the mash and boiling whole leaf Warrior and Cascade hops in the wort. The result is a beer that is crisp and refreshing, but also goes well with shellfish and roasted meats.

A thick creamy tan head and a rich roasted aroma open this dark as night 5.2 percent alcohol by volume stout. There are plenty of coffee and dark chocolate notes. Big, filling brew with a rich mouth feel and some burnt grain notes in the finish.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Day 40 Drink: Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout

Foothills Brewing brewmaster and co-owner Jamie Bartholomaus originally conceived Sexual Chocolate in 1996 as a special homebrewed beer to celebrate Valentine's Day. A decade later the beer was produced commercially for the first time and word quickly spread. To brew the beer Bartholomaus uses cocoa nibs that are cold infused in the stout after fermentation and during conditioning.

The beer’s name is a semi-obscure reference to the 1988 movie “Coming to America” that starred Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. In the comedy a fictional band named Sexual Chocolate performs the song “Greatest Love of All” at a church sponsored event. Sexual Chocolate has become Foothills most sought after beer. The company does a limited bottling of the beer and releases it once each year at the Foothills brewpub where people line up to get a bottle or two.

Tonight I was at the Flying Saucer in Charlotte for a vertical tasting of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages of this rare brew and had a chance to talk with Bartholomaus about the beers. Sexual Chocolate is one of the brews I covered in the soon-to-be-released book "1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die." The tasting proved that beers like Sexual Chocolate not only age gracefully, they can expand and take on new qualities.

Each Sexual Chocolate vintage delivers a beer with a thick black pour that does not permit light to pass. The chocolate aroma is present and rich roasted flavors blend throughout the big beer. From there each beer is different.

Sexual Chocolate 2008: Peruvian cocoa nibs are used in brewing this beer. It has a fruity nose and a moderate cappuccino colored head. The cocoa lingers nicely in the finish of this brew and gives it a depth of character.

Sexual Chocolate 2009: Cocoa from Ecuador is used in this beer. There is more of a creamy thick head on this vintage and a sweeter chocolate base. Nice roasted notes with cocoa, coffee and toffee combining.

Sexual Chocolate 2010: The chocolate in this beer is sourced from Ecuador and Papua New Guinea. This brew has a thinner head and a slightly lighter mouthfeel. Nice dark chocolate notes and some dark skin fruitiness.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Day 39 Drink: Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year Old

Diageo's Classic Malts Selection has introduced many U.S. consumers to a range of Scotch flavors. The basic line up found in many bars is backed up by a collection of special releases of limited edition bottlings.

With so many whiskies, Diageo has rolled out Malt Matcher, a free iPhone application designed to help single malt drinkers pick out the dram that matches what they like the most.

The Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year Old is a Speyside single malt that uses ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry barrels during the aging. The 80 proof whisky has a medium body, round sweetness, hints of fruit and citrus, with a lovely smoky grain base.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Day 38 Drink: Hahn Estates 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Hahn Estates sits high on a hillside overlooking the agricultural abundance of the Salinas Valley. On a visit back in 2007, we found the winery to be a friendly, unassuming place that made some great wines.

Hahn Estates 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon pours a wonderfully sharp red gemstone color. The nose is alive with fruit and the flavor brings this home. The body is not that of a heavy and thick California cabernet, instead it gives you a ton of fresh fruit in a package that invites matching with food. A very nice bottle to share over a meal.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Day 37 Drink: Rock Bottom Brewer's Select Extra Special Bitter

Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery's Dave Gonzalez produces a good line up of standard brewpub beers and some interesting seasonals at the Charlotte location. The brewery's Uptown Charlotte location is convenient for people heading to sporting events and concerts, or for a pint after work. This Rock Bottom is actual part of the Gordon Biersch Restaurants chain.

Rock Bottom Brewer's Select Extra Special Bitter pours with a thick, chunky head and a bright amber color. The beer's flavor is more malty than you might expect from an ESB. The hops are present, but do not dominate. Very drinkable with a smooth, slightly sweet finish.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Day 36 Drink: Founders Centennial

As college buddies Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers dreamed of opening a brewery. That dream was put on hold for a few years, but it was kept alive as the pair made homebrew. Founders Brewing was born in the vacant and rundown Wolverine Brass Works building in Grand Rapids, Mich. In 2007, the brewery moved about a mile away to larger facilities.

Founders Centennial is an unfiltered IPA that 7.4 percent alcohol by volume and 65 IBUs. Slightly cloudy amber color with a moderately sized firm head. Overall inviting wild flower and spice flavor profile.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Day 35 Drink: Ithaca AlpHalpHa Double Honey Bitter

Ithaca Beer Co. opened in late 1998. Dan Mitchell had been thinking about opening a brewery in the Finger Lakes for several years. While checking out one brewing system in Texas that did not meet his plans, he found the equipment at a second location and it was shipped the New York. Ithaca Brewing has become recognized as one of the up and coming craft brewers in the northeast.

Ithaca AlpHalpHa Double Honey Bitter is brewed with organic barley, New York grown Cascade hops, local alfalfa honey and Cayuga Lake water. Pours a bright golden color with a thick rocky head. Plenty of floral hop aroma, crisp bitter flavor and dry finish. The brew is part of Ithaca's limited release Excelsior! Series and weighs in at 8.5 percent alcohol by volume.

Charlotte Craft Beer Week Coming March 18-28

Lager and ale fans in Charlotte, N.C., will tell you the region is going through a beer renaissance and the proof will be on display during the inaugural Charlotte Craft Beer Week from March 18-28 at events spread across the area.

Charlotte Craft Beer Week will feature tastings of rare and exotic brews, showcases for local and regional breweries, food and beer pairing events, and appearances by some major names in the brewing industry.

“The craft beer movement in the Carolinas really took off thanks to the Pop the Cap campaign which resulted in passage in 2005 of a bill in North Carolina to raise the maximum alcohol content in beer from 6 percent to 15 percent. In 2007, South Carolina went a bit further and raised its cap to 17.5 percent,” said Darrin Pikarsky, founder of the Charlotte Beer Club. “Since that time dozens of unique beers have become available in the Charlotte area and a terrific new wave of North Carolina craft brewers have brought some world class beers to market.”

Tickets for the events will be sold at each of the host locations and more information is available at the Charlotte Craft Beer Week website .

The complete event schedule is being updated daily, but the 11-day celebration of all things beer already includes:

March 18, 7-9 p.m.: Charlotte Craft Beer Week Tap the Keg Reception at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery at 401 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.
March 19, 7-10 p.m.: Brewery Night at The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium at 9605 North Tryon St., Charlotte.
March 20, 3-6 p.m.: Beasts of the East Big Beer Tasting at The Liberty Gastro Pub at 1812 South Blvd., Charlotte.
March 21, 3-7 p.m.: North Carolina Brewers Guild Tasting at The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium.
March 24, 5-9 p.m.: German Fest at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, 215 Southside Dr., Charlotte.
March 25, 7-10 p.m.: Freak Fest at The Common Market, 1515 S. Tryon St., Charlotte.
March 27, 1-5 p.m.: Cask Beer Festival, Duckworths, 1600 E. Woodlawn Rd., Charlotte.
March 27, 6-10 p.m.: Stone Brewing Most Arrogant Bar in America Celebration, Tilted Kilt, 13230 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte.
March 28, 2-5 p.m.: Charlotte Craft Beer Week Last Call, Common House, 1101 Central Ave., Charlotte.

Craft beer focused restaurants, bars and retailers interested in hosting or an event should contact Darrin Pikarsky at darrinpikarsky@gmail.com.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Day 34 Drink: Nils Oscar Rokporter

Nils Oscar Brewery is based in Nykoping, Sweden. Originally founded in Stockholm in 1996, the brewery is named after a Swede who traveled to America several times, returning to Sweden and establishing a farm. The company also operates a distillery and grows its own grains.

Nils Oscar Rokporter is a 5.9 percent alcohol by volume smoked porter that pours a brown amber color. Well balanced with a sweet smoky flavor and a good level bitterness in the finish from Fuggles and Amarillo hops.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Day 33 Drink: Flying Bison Aviator Red

Flying Bison Brewery is located in Buffalo, N.Y. The brewery started turning out beer in 2000 as a partnership between Phil Internicola and Tim Herzog. It was the first stand-alone brewing operation (non-brewpub) to operate in the city since the Iroquois Brewery closed in 1972.

Recent published reports have indicated that negotiations are underway between Flying Bison and the Matt Brewing Co. for the Utica, N.Y., regional to take an equity position in the Western New York company.

Flying Bison Aviator Red is a 5.2 percent alcohol by volume beer that is a dark ruby color with a fluffy head that thins fairly quickly. The beer has a nice caramelized malt character, coating mouth feel and a decent level of balancing hops.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Day 32 Drink: Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout

Otter Creek Brewing started turning out beer in Middlebury, Vt., back in 1991. The company started contract brewing Wolaver's Organic Ales in 1998, and in 2002 that company ended up acquiring Otter Creek.

Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout on draught pours black with a tan head that stays put throughout. There is a ton of roasted grain is this brew, with espresso and dark chocolate notes in a silky body. This 10.6 percent alcohol by volume beer finishes very dry for a Russian imperial stout. It just could fool you.