The first annual Together We Drink Beer Draft rolls on with rounds 7 through 12! Since today is the first day of the NFL Draft, we figured it was the perfect time to wrap up our beer draft. The back end of our draft is replete with value picks and steals, as well as a few sneaky picks from breweries to watch out for this year.
York: Kook, Pizza Port Brewing Company (DIPA)
Pizza Port is a fascinating brewery. They do things differently and don’t seem to play into nearly as many mass market expectations as others. The beach culture and neighborhood-y aura they go for is embodied in their goofy can art and simple but delicious beers. In the world of DIPAs, there are a ton of high draft picks that get gobbled up by well known beers like Heady Topper, Pliny the Elder, and everything from Tree House. Similarly, during the 2012 draft, everyone knew QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III would be going back-to-back to start the draft. Soon after came Ryan Tannehill, then Brandon Weeden, then Brock Osweiler, then Russell Wilson. We can stop there, because he fits my point. Wilson is unfit to play NFL QB as far as many measurables go. But since 2012, he has won a Super Bowl, been to the Pro Bowl, and, oh, won the fan-selected Rookie of the Year award over all those other QBs. Sometimes a difference in stature is exactly what's needed to find success in a position thats become a bit rigid--whether we're talking about quarterbacks or DIPAs.
Shane: Convivial Suaréz, Grassroots Brewing (Saison)
Grassroots Brewing is an offshoot arm of the legendary Hill Farmstead Brewery, and I'm happy to say they exhibit exactly the same level of skill. I've never been a huge saison guy, but I feel the same way about this beer as I do about Shambolic (York's 3rd round pick). It elevates the entire style. This beer pours an absolutely gorgeous ruby red color, and offers a hint of sweetness and just enough pucker to let you know it’s there. The beer is brewed with hibiscus and lemon, and both flavors come through beautifully. Can't say enough good things.
Pete: Citra IPA, Other Half Brewing Company (IPA)
Another beer that changed how I view a hop by helping me see a quality I had never experienced. I have read reviews of Citra beers that say you can taste melon in certain IPAs. I have always been skeptical because, for me, Citra was always citrusy and fruity, but never melon. This beer exceeded my expectations, and it really shows why single-hop beers can be special. Some breweries just make these beers because they are simple and people will like them. But this really takes a single hop and shows you how many great flavors can be coaxed out of it.
Pete: Society & Solitude #6, Hill Farmstead Brewery (DIPA)
Burlington is a great city. Well, from a Jersey guy, it's more of a town, but a great town. In every local Burlington bar, you can get just about any of the beers you see on all the beer blogs. This was not a beer we expected to find, but it was amazing Mosaic goodness. The Society & Solitude series, much like the Double IPA series, is something everyone should try. They really take beers to the next level. There is no Double Mosaic, but it is clearly the next best thing.
Shane: Madness & Civilization #7, Hill Farmstead Brewery (Imperial Stout)
I can’t keep choosing mainly IPAs and sours. I've got to mix something dark in. Fortunately, Hill Farmstead Brewery made what I would consider one of the best stouts this side of Mott the Lesser in 2016: Madness & Civilization #7. Obviously this is just one beer in a continuing series, but, to me, it stands out. Just a beautiful blend of rich, chocolatey elements that make a perfect stout that doesn’t become cloyingly sweet. It takes a deft hand to stop on the right side of this line, and maybe nobody has a defter hand than the folks at Hill Farmstead.
York: Mass Riot, Prison City Pub and Brewing (IPA)
In 2001, the Carolina Panthers (still a relatively new team to the NFL) used a third round pick that had many people shaking their heads. It was an undersized speed man that appeared to be nothing more than a punt returner, and who played the first two years of his college career at a community college and the latter two in the (not yet fully respectable) Mountain West Conference. The Panthers did their homework here and nabbed Steve Smith before anyone else was thinking about it. Fast forward to five Pro Bowls, dozens of NFL accolades, and what looks like a clear path to the Hall of Fame, and they look like geniuses. I see Prison City as those 2001 Panthers. They were on the verge of greatness on my first visit, and when I came back a year later they had just tapped Mass Riot. Now, the beer is winning accolades in competition with craft beer Giants (ha, couldn’t resist) in the IPA categories. Check the story out here!
York: The Hustle, Local Brewing Company (DIPA)
Local Brewing is know, as a lager shop. That is both rare and difficult to do, but Local has figured out a way not only to make a multitude of delicious lagers, but also Belgians, IPAs, sours, and stouts. The lager lineup they put out has completely changed my mind about lagers being a "meh" style and shown me the light with things like Mezcal Lagers, Black Lagers, Hopped Lagers, and a bunch more. That makes it all the more impressive that The Hustle is so noteworthy. At the top of a very impressive list of beers from Local, I place The Hustle. Sticking with the beauty in unexpected places theme (and the San Francisco theme), take a look at DeForest Buckner. This guy played for Oregon, which had one of the worst defenses in the NCAA the year he was drafted, giving up almost 500 yards a game. Buckner, a defensive player, then went on to be the 7th pick in the draft and rank among the top rookie performers. With both football and beer, true talent seems to identify itself regardless of whether it fits a theme.
Shane: Mambo, Local Brewing Company (DIPA)
I've got to go back to the West Coast for this one. Or rather, stay on the West Coast (thanks for stealing my thunder by choosing a Local beer before I could, York). Mambo really blew me away. It still stands as one of the best West Coast IPAs I've ever had--though that could be because it adopts a lot of East Coast elements. It's a big, juicy, fruity hop-bomb that pours a gorgeous hazy orange color. I know this is a few years too late, but it's a beer that reminds me a lot of Chip Kelly. Forget what you may think of him now. Chip Kelly was a New Hampshire native (shoutout!) who brought his electric, fast-paced, east coast style of play all the way out to Oregon and thrived, the same way Mambo takes a tried-and-true New England formula and applies it to a west coast brewery. If and when I finally make it out to San Francisco, Local will absolutely be one of my first stops.
Pete: Kentucky Christmas Morning, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (Imperial Stout)
Oh, this beer is a long story. Hardywood's Gingerbread Stout has an important place in my heart: I used a fake trip to Richmond for the release of Gingerbread Stout as a ruse to ask my wife to marry me. That release has changed a lot since then. They have aged this beer in everything from bourbon to apple brandy barrels. Where is the line for perfection? Well, add coffee and age it in bourbon barrels does the trick. We did a vertical of Gingerbread Stout, Rum Barrel, Christmas Morning, and Bourbon -ged Gingerbread Stout. This was the best. They have the right amount of coffee and a great amount of barrel aging without being overly boozy.
Pete: The Fruits of Our Labor (Passionfruit), Burley Oak Brewing Company (Sour Ale)
Ah, harkening back to Ocean City and our yearly trip to spend Labor Day on the beach. Burley Oak is right around the corner, and, wow, they blew our minds. They have a great selection of sour beers aged with fruit, and this was by far the best. I love passionfruit in beer. This adds the right amount of acidity to the beer while injecting huge tropical flavor. You can see my bias for this fruit based on this list--and I left at least one passionfruit beer off.
Shane: Divine Encounter, Garrison City Beerworks (DIPA)
Garrison City Beerworks is doing a ton of great things right now. In fact, I'd put them up against anyone as the best brewery in the state of New Hampshire. But head and shoulders above the rest stands Divine Encounter, a double IPA that the brewery no longer produces (you're in luck though--the backbone of the original recipe lives on in a new DIPA called Isosceles). It's hazy, juicy, and all around delicious. Is it weird to pick a beer that doesn’t exist anymore? Maybe. But it’s still one of the best things I drank in 2016.
York: Fides in Fermento, Hop Dogma Brewing Co. (Stout)
Despite how many amazing beers can be found on the West Coast, virtually none of them are porters or stouts. Fides in Fermento stands alone at the top of that list, and stands up to any East Coast stout I've come across. Every good brewery in California seems to feel the need to make a stout, sometimes seemingly just to say they can, so it's extremely difficult to know what to expect. As such, I try 'em all, and am happy to say Hop Dogmas has it figured out. In the 2002 draft, there were two defensive linemen from the UNC that were both top prospects. They played for the same school, on the same side of the ball, next to each other on the line, and were even roommates. One of these picks was Julius Peppers, a perennial Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer, and the other was Ryan Sims, who went down as one of the biggest draft busts in the Chiefs' history. You can't know for sure what you've got until you try it.
York: Daisy Cutter, Half Acre Brewing Company (Pale Ale)
In my opinion, the later rounds in a draft are the time to go for the picks that may not have the highest ceiling, but have a comfortably high base. I'm normally a big fan of adjuncts done well, but Daisy Cutter is one of the simplest, truest favorites of mine. Antonio Brown went at pick number 195 in 2010. Everyone knew the guy had all the core skills, and there was almost no chance he wouldn't make it as a third or fourth receiver. Fast forward just a little bit, and Brown is one of if not the most highly rated player at his position, and it's largely because there's never been a question about his base abilities. That's the way that I see pale ales. I know I like 'em, and I know that when done well, it's probably the most enjoyable style you can session your way through with.
Shane: Double Dry-Hopped Patina Pale Ale, Austin Street Brewery (Pale Ale)
I've been high on Austin Street Brewery for quite some time now. Their Patina Pale Ale is one of the few pale ales in Maine that can stack up against heavy hitters like Bissell Brothers and Maine Beer Company. But the double dry-hopped version leaves it in the dust. We’ve always been fans of dry-hopping, and in this case it really highlights the pineapple elements of an already great beer, turning it into a fantastic juice bomb. Austin Street has been gaining steam in Maine of late, but for a little while it felt like they were living in the shadow of giants like Bissell Brothers and Foundation, both of whom were housed in the same building complex. It's kind of funny that York led with an Antonio Brown comparison, because I was going to make the same analogy here. For years, Antonio Brown sat in the shadow of Mike Wallace, and it wasn't until Wallace left in free agency that people began to realize that, holy crap, Antonio Brown might have been better this whole time. Likewise, once Bissell moved on to a new facility, it felt like a lot more people began to sit up and take notice of the amazing things happening at Austin Street.
Pete: Bringing Sexy Back with Blueberry and Vanilla, Aslin Beer Company (IPA)
YEAH. This is an amazing beer. Usually blueberries in beer doesn’t work very well unless you use a ton of them to get the right flavor. This was perfection. Amazing fruit and the right amount of twang from the berries to play off the acidic character and tropical notes of the Mosaic hops. To build on the previous post about passionfruit, I love Mosaic, yes I do, I love Mosaic, how 'bout choo?
Pete: Funky Gold Mosaic, Prairie Artisan Ales (Sour)
I love dry-hopped sours. I love Mosaic (see the previous pick). This was an amazing introduction to Prairie and the Sovereign (a Belgian restaurant in DC affiliated with the folks at Churchkey). It's a great spot that with great food and an unparalleled selection of Belgian beers. That happens to include dry-hopped sours, and, man, that is great. This beer brings out all the great facets of Mosaic, but in a sour. You can tell the quality of a brewery when you see how they use brettanomyces and hops. If they can do both? It's money.
Shane: Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Company (DIPA)
I absolutely cannot believe I’m getting Pliny the Elder in the last round of our draft. This beer is a legend. Pliny the Elder and Heady Topper have been the West Coast/East Coast answer to one another for years, and we were all privileged enough to finally try it in 2016. It's a wonderful, deceptively simple beer that does exactly what it needs to to bring out big flavor in a crisp, clear package. Pliny the Elder was everything I wanted it to be, and getting it in the final round is highway robbery.
York: Wolf Among Weeds, Golden Road Brewing (IPA)
Mr. Irrelevant no more! I had every intention of going for another funky beer with the last pick, but I'm so high on Wolf Among Weeds that I can’t let it go. Much like the Daisy Cutter, this beer doesn’t dress itself up or boast about fruit or smoke or coffee or any flavor other than deliciously crisp, hoppy beer. I hope this is read not as Golden Road being the worst beer on the list, but rather that it's in with the top 36 beers the three of us had last year. As much as it pains me, I can't help but think about Tom Brady being a 6th round pick and putting everyone in his draft class to shame. Cheers to everyone on the list, and looking forward to a great 2017 season!
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The 2017 NFL Draft is almost upon us, and you know what that means: it's mock draft season. Next to bracket season, mock draft season might just be our favorite time of year. Mock drafts are just plain fun.
This year, we've decided to mix things up by holding a mock draft of our favorite beers from last year. 2016 was a fantastic year for beer, not only for us, but for the beer community as a whole. Some well-known legends like Tree House took their brewing game to new heights. Some newcomers like Foam absolutely blew us away. And we even had the opportunity to taste legendary beers like Dinner and Pliny the Elder for the first time.
More than a few of these picks surprised us [EDITOR’S NOTE: If you told me someone other than me would wind up choosing Swish, I’d have called you a damn liar], and it's interesting to see how each of our writers weighed the merits of each beer. Agree or disagree? Let us know!
York: Focal Banger, The Alchemist (DIPA)
There's one specific draft scenario that reminded me so closely of this "Beer Draft" pick of mine that I have to bring it up. In 1999, every commentator, fan, and even most teams penciled in three QBs off the board first and then Ricky Williams. Williams was the well-known, flashy guy who played at big bad Texas and had incredibly high expectations. After the first three picks went as expected, the Colts stuck with the same position but decided to forgo those preconceived notions and draft Edgerrin James, who went on to have an even more successful career than the also productive (though very dramatic) Williams. If you haven't already caught on, Focal Banger is my James aand Heady Topper is Williams. Heady is renowned for being a top beer and while it certainly is a class above almost all else, I think Focal Banger is that much better.
Shane: Vanilla Cherry Dogpatch, Almanac Beer Company (Sour)
If you had told me that York and I would have the top two picks and that one of us would choose a sour and the other would choose a New England DIPA, I definitely would have predicted it the other way around. But I've come around to sours in a big way, and no one consistently produces better sours than Almanac. Vanilla Cherry Dogpatch is a complex beer with a good amount of pucker on the front end and smooth vanilla on the back. If Focal Banger is the Edgerrin James to Ricky Williams' Heady Topper, Vanilla Cherry Dogpatch is my JJ Watt. Some people might consider it a reach to take a sour with my top pick, but I think this one is gonna work out just fine. A worthy first round pick.
Pete: Mott the Lesser, Tributary Brewing Company (Imperial Stout)
I had my draft chart in my mind a week before the draft. I played out the first round 1,000 times, expecting Focal Banger to fall to me. But much like Adrian Peterson unexpectedly falling in the draft...I am left with no choice but to draft Mott the Lesser with my first pick. One of the best stouts I have ever had and great way to start our May Beercation. This beer elevates barrel aging to an art form. It takes four different liquor barrels, and you get the right amount of character from each one. This beer is so balanced and flavorful, it is truly worthy of the hype that surrounds it.
Pete: Built to Spill, Foam Brewers (DIPA)
Following that selection up, I chose a brewery that was relatively unknown to us going into the May Beercation. We found Foam Brewers because we needed a brewery to go to, so Brian just plugged "brewery" into google maps. We hit the jackpot and found one of the hottest new breweries in the country. My second pick, Built to Spill, a juicy, amazing, peachy New England IPA that none of us thought we would be trying on that trip. This beer's ranking is more amazing when you look at the laundry list of top notch IPAs we were drinking that day.
Shane: Gose (Raspberry/Key Lime), Aslin Beer Company (Gose)
I’m a little annoyed that Pete stole my #2 pick, but I'll look past it because this is a worthy replacement. Simply put, I’ve never had a gose this good. Aslin offers the perfect amount of sourness without going over the top into warhead territory, and the flavor combination of raspberry and lime works incredibly well. The balance this beer strikes reminds me of nothing so much as Marshall Faulk, a #2 pick and one of the greatest hybrid players of all time. Much like Faulk lived up to the hype that surrounded him, Aslin somehow managed to live up to and exceed the high expectations Pete built up in our heads.
York: JJJULIUSSS, Tree House Brewing Company (IPA)
The 2004 draft featured six University of Miami players going in the first 21 picks. Four of them have made Pro Bowls since and the others are by no means busts. I felt a little pressure to get the top Tree House pick on the books early, since I know all three of us are high on them. JJJULIUSSS has been my favorite pick from the powerhouse program so far, and while I certainly could've waited until a later round for another very good beer from this brewery, I made the call to lock it up here.
York: Shambolic, Tired Hands Brewing Company (Saison)
Shambolic is my Sebastian Janikowski. Seb got drafted in the 1st round. He's a kicker. Know how many other kickers have gone in the first round? There was one other. In 1966. Saisons are the equivalent of a special teams position to me. I know they've got a specific place in their respective industries, but I've just never really been excited about them. Shambolic is by far, without a close second, my favorite saison. Very few beers stick out so dominantly in their class to me, and I couldn't risk letting this go to someone else later. Over-drafted like a kicker in the 1st? Maybe, but sometimes being that special gets you higher on the list.
Shane: Dinner, Maine Beer Company (DIPA)
I can’t believe I'm getting Dinner with a third round pick, but here we are. In a way, I understand: Dinner is such a legendary beer that, even though all three of us gave it a perfect score, it was really just living up to expectations. But scoring one of the most universally loved New England IPAs in the third round of our draft? That’s almost Tom Brady-level draft value, right there.
Pete: Wakatu Sour, Almanac Beer Company (Sour)
Dry-hopped sours are now collectively a thing we are all into, and this was one of the best. Great way to experience Wakatu hops, with that nice, balanced funk of Almanac beers. Fruity, citrusy, just a great flavor profile. You can sip this beer for hours because it's just so complex you don't need much to satisfy you. These bottles might be at your local shop and you probably ask yourself, "should I?" Well, if you ask us, the answer is always, unequivocally, yes, yes yes.
Pete: Swish, Bissell Brothers Brewing Company (DIPA)
Was this a move to screw over Shane to take one of his most beloved beers away from him? Perhaps. But this was one of my favorite beers of the year too. A great expression of everything that Bissell can do. This beer was bright and fruity while being soft and drinkable at the same time. Overall, one of the better IPAs I have tried.
Shane: Tesseract, Grimm Artisanal Ales (DIPA)
Hey Pete, go to hell. Losing out on Swish is a shame, but this pick definitely helps soften the blow. Tesseract is a beer that’s tough to get your hands on, and I really hope I have the opportunity to try it again. We were lucky enough to try a bit at a Grimm tasting in the Lord Hobo Brewing Company taproom. It's a big, juicy, flavorful New England DIPA that delivers on the considerable hype behind it. Grimm Artisanal Ales is an interesting brewery. They don't have a brewery of their own, and instead operate as a "gypsy brewery," using existing facilities. In that way, Tesseract reminds me of Terrell Owens: a surefire Hall of Famer, but a perpetual journeyman, never settling down (of course, as of writing this, Grimm is in fact building a facility in Brooklyn). I really enjoyed getting to try this beer on draught. Now, to get my hands on some cans...
York: Blind Pig, Russian River Brewing Company (IPA)
Russian River is another example of a brewery that has multiple beers in the upper echelon of the craft beer world. Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger have reputations that speak for themselves, and the sours make a lot of high lists as well. Blind Pig is the original IPA from Russian River, and my favorite. Before the Plinys and sours, there was a simple, delicious Bling Pig that set their course. I can't help but think of the Long family here. Chris and Kyle long were both first round picks and have lived up to it with multiple pro bowls, a Super Bowl, and other accolades between them. Both are known names in the current NFL landscape, but they owe at least some of that success to the original: Howie Long. Howie went in the second round and went on to have a Hall of Fame career. He's certainly not forgotten about, but gets a lot less love than the others, just like Blind Pig compared to the Pliny brothers.
York: Subliminal Message, Grimm Artisanal Ales (Sour)
Shane took my favorite cherry beer AND one of my top sours all in one shot by grabbing the Vanilla Cherry Dogpatch early. That said, Subliminal Message is a hell of a fallback. Just this past year, Houston and Washington hit the mid-first round both looking for receivers. Washington was slated to go first when Houston came running with a trade proposal to move up one spot. Washington happily took the trade, added a late round pick on top, and still got to draft a WR who was high on their board. Subliminal Message was very high on my board and even though Shane took a similar beer, that freed me up to take some of my earlier picks in it’s place. Everybody's happy in this swap!
Shane: KarnL, Plan Bee Brewing Company (Sour)
One of the single best sours I have ever had in my life. I didn’t know much about Plan Bee going into this, but I was blown away. A blended sour aged with cherries in double rye whiskey barrels. If that doesn’t sound incredible to you, I don't think we can be friends. The cherries come through in spades, with just the right amount of smokiness from the whiskey filtering through on the back end. Honestly, KarnL could have been my first round pick--it’s similar to the Vanilla Cherry Dogpatch in a lot of ways--so getting it in the 5th is tremendous value. In a lot of ways, it reminds me Richard Sherman, a fellow 5th round pick who seemingly came out of nowhere to take the NFL by storm with his big, brash style of play.
Pete: Double Dry Hopped Melcher Street, Trillium Brewing Company (IPA)
This beer was the winner of a blind tasting we did on our New England Beercation. We paired this with two other Mosaic-forward beers to see if we could pick out the beers and to see what our favorites were based purely on the beer, not the label. This beer beat out Mosaic Fort Point from Trillium and Bright from Tree House. This beer was one of my favorites from the trip because it really just punches you in the face with so much Mosaic flavor. You get bright citrus and tropical fruit, while also experiencing the earthy, dank qualities of the hop. This was the first beer that I felt that I could taste the "green pepper" people say they sometimes get from Mosaic. Amazing beer, and a clear winner.
Pete: Berliner Weisse (Passionfruit/Mango), Aslin Beer Company (Berliner Weisse)
This was the second beer I ever tried from Aslin and was the beer that confirmed for me that Northern Virginia had something special with this brewery. You think berliner and you think tart and light. This beer was just all fruit and tart from the beer and the passionfruit. Sadly you could only drink this at the brewery, but it has been my favorite berliner of theirs by far. Most people go to Aslin for the hops but more people need to be aware that they do fantastic berliners that might be better than their IPAs.
Shane: Doubleganger, Tree House Brewing Company (DIPA)
This is another sneaky value pick. Doubleganger is probably my favorite beer of 2016. It's Tree House's amped-up version of Doppelganger, which is an amped-up version of Alter Ego, which is an amped-up version of Julius. Got all that? Up to this point, Doppelganger was probably my favorite Tree House beer. Not so anymore. Doubleganger leaves it in the dust--there is so much dry-hopped citrus on the nose of this beer that I almost can’t believe it. So why is it my 6th round pick instead of my 1st rounder? Well, it's solely because neither Pete and York have had it, and necessity is everything here. Even Aaron Rodgers fell to the end of the first round simply because no one felt the need to use a high draft pick on a QB that year. So don't let that fool you: much like Aaron Rodgers, this beer is incredible.
York: Bourbon Barrel Sidamo (2016), Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (Stout)
No better beer-football analogy than stouts and offensive line, right? Hardywood makes up an astoundingly large percentage of my top stout choices, with holiday versions, rum aged, bourbon aged, raspberries, vanilla, and any other delicious dark beer adjunct you can think of. The Bourbon Barrel Sidamo is my Joe Thomas. Thomas got drafted by the Browns with the number three pick in 2007. All he's done since then is go to 10 straight Pro Bowls and be recognized as one of the top players of any position in the NFL. Bourbon Barrel Sidamo is a big beer in every way and takes one of the very top spots on my list of dark beers.
Don’t worry, this is only the beginning! Check back here on Thursday to see rounds 6 through 12 of the inaugural Together We Drink 2017 Beer Draft!
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Brewery Name: Hill Farmstead Brewery
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 403 Hill Road, Greensboro, VT 05842
Facebook: Hill Farmstead Brewery
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a special event post. Vermont’s famous Hill Farmstead Brewery made a visit down to Pete’s territory in Washington, DC, for a special tasting event at ChurchKey, a restaurant and bar well-known for its outstanding beer selection. ChurchKey is an old haunt of Pete’s, so, naturally, he couldn’t pass it up.]
Event Location: ChurchKey, Washington DC
Background: So, this event was on my radar for a while because ChurchKey did a great job getting out the word. Because they are justifiably renowned for their beer selection, ChurchKey gets all the great breweries to visit. If ChurchKey doesn’t get it, it probably doesn’t come to DC. However, since they have access to everything and everyone knows it, it can make it very difficult if you want to go there. The last time I visited, people were packed four or five deep at the bar in the middle of the day, which doesn’t often lead to a pleasant drinking experience. My game plan had been to go in, get a glass of the 1-3 beers I want to try the most, and then get out of there.
Still, I wanted to brave this event because Hill Farmstead has been one of the breweries that I have wanted to visit forever. I have gotten to try their beer on several occasions in Philadelphia, and every beer has been fantastic. We also got to try a lot of their beers on our beercation to Vermont. We chose to skip Hill Farmstead because we tried so many of their beers in Burlington, and we did not have to time to swing by when we had already stocked up on way too much beer. The draft list had all the favorites I wanted to try from Abner (double IPA) to their Double Citra IPA. And even the random beers like Everett, which many people say is the best porter in the world.
Two weeks out, the Facebook event already had 500 people attending, which was more than double the amount for most special events. My normal game plan would have been to get to the bar at 10am to wait for the doors to open at noon. However, I have not wanted to wait in line too much lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many articles about getting to releases eight hours early, but I just feel like if I can’t get the beer…I will get it eventually. If I have to wait more than 90 minutes for something, I just haven’t seen it as being worth it. But given the uniqueness of this event, I wanted to at least get there a little early.
Vibe: We got in line at 11:45, and were pretty far back (as you can see). But the ChurchKey staff has really worked out the kinks in their system. We moved pretty quickly and got into the bar at around 12:45. An hour wait for an event like this seems perfectly okay. But would they still have all the beers on tap? I have been to many an event where the advertised beer lasts for 20 minutes before it kicks. Much to our delight, the entire draft list was on and they had everything still on draft after we left around 3pm. The staff was really attentive to the entire crowd and they also regulated the line perfectly. The line at the bar was never more than 2 people deep and most of the people were groups of friends just hanging out and enjoying the beer. There was SOME table hawking, but you can only do so much to prevent that. Overall, this event was expertly run, and our entire group was happy to try all the beers we wanted.
The Beers: While there, I was able to try:
Final Thoughts: Great event, great beer, expertly run. A+ all around from the bar. Though I wonder if this event was almost too perfect. I feel like I got to try everything that I wanted to try. While I want to go back to Vermont, I don’t know how far out of the way I would go to visit the brewery because you can get all the beers in Vermont. That being said, the beer is world class and everyone should get to try it. I just have a lot of great breweries on my bucket list.
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I'll say this right off the bat: I've always been a big Sam Adams fan. Maybe it's because I live in New England. Maybe it's because I've met Jim Koch. Maybe it's because they helped kick the craft beer movement into high gear. Or maybe it's because they brew beer that's just plain good. Whatever the reason, there will always be a space in my fridge reserved for Boston Lager.
A few months back, I wrote about our visit to the Sam Adams brewery, and the opportunity it gave us to take a peek behind the Sam Adams curtain. The brewers are always cooking up new recipes in their brew lab, trying out new hop combinations, dry-hopping techniques, beer styles, and more. If there's one thing Sam Adams has done well in recent years, it's keep up with trends. They had the foresight to launch their beloved "Rebel" IPA series just as the IPA craze began to take the nation by storm, and today those beers are counted among the brewery's best. That said, any craft beer aficionado will tell you that it isn't IPAs driving beer lovers to breweries these days--it's double IPAs.
So, needless to say, when Sam Adams reached out and asked if we wanted to sample their upcoming double IPA release, I couldn't have been more excited. Rebel Raw was first released last year and yielded very positive reviews. I had the opportunity to try it myself, and I was very interested to see what tweaks the tinkerers in the beer lab might have made to an already successful recipe. Before we go any further, let’s give Rebel Raw a little overview:
As you can see, the beer pours a beautiful golden-orange color, with just the tiniest hint of that New England haze many of us have come to know and love. It has a nice, frothy head--not too much, maybe two fingers or so--that releases a very pleasant citrusy aroma and settles fairly quickly. The character of the Cascade hops is very apparent in this aroma--mostly citrus, but a little bit floral as well.
The first thing that strikes me is how incredibly smooth this beer is, especially considering that it sits at a pretty aggressive 10% ABV. One of my primary concerns with last year’s iteration of Rebel Raw was that the flavor of the alcohol came through very strongly. Not so this year. As with any good double IPA, the bite from the alcohol sits on your tongue just long enough to let you know it's there before being washed away by the beer's more flavorful elements. There is also very little stick with this beer. One thing that sometimes pushes people away from New England IPAs is that they tend to coat your palate, lingering long after the final sip. Rebel Raw has none of that, and instead finishes crisp and clean.
That's the power of pine, and also the thing that stops this beer from being pigeonholed into the "New England IPA" category. This beer is almost an olive branch to the west coast, with the addition of the Zeus hops pushing a much more earthy, piney finish that I would have guessed from the aroma of the head. It's a really wise hop choice for this beer, allowing it to strike a beautiful balance between east coast citrus and west coast pine.
The beer's malt base is Sam Adams through-and-through, which should come as no surprise. Sam Adams is known for their Boston Lager above all else, and even in a double IPA the brewers just can't help but crank up the malt factor just a little bit. It gives Rebel Raw just a little bit of added richness that plays very nicely off the earthy, piney elements. While my personal taste generally falls more on the "juice bomb" side of the line than the malty side, it gives the beer a really interesting and unique personality. I'm betting you could blindfold me and I’d still identify this as a Sam Adams beer. Although it's only been around for a couple of years now, that familiarity makes Rebel Raw feel like an old friend.
Rebel Raw will make its way to shelves beginning on November 14, and a full list of states and cities where it will be available can be found here. The shelf-life of this beer is just 35 days, so if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a four-pack, be sure to drink it fresh! The brewers at Sam Adams have worked very hard to strike just the right balance of flavors, and letting the beer sit any longer risks throwing that balance out of whack.
Sam Adams asks you to "imagine burying your nose in a pile of fresh hop cones--that's the experience we want you to have when you take a sip of Rebel Raw." That's a good description. There are a lot of layers to this beer, and every step along the way will treat you to a different experience. From the citrus aroma that hits your nose the moment you crack open the can, to the fruity, malty balance that hits your tongue on the first sip, to the crisp, piney notes on the finish, this beer will take you on a ride. I look forward to grabbing a few more of these once they hit shelves, and I also look forward to seeing what next year's iteration will bring!
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Every beer has a distinct personality. So does every football team. Each week, we’ll take a look at the Monday Night Football matchup and discuss which beers best represent each team.
Denver Broncos (4-2)
Shane: Anomalous, Garrison City Beerworks. Most great teams are built around the quarterback position. The Patriots have Tom Brady. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger. Likewise, most great breweries, no matter how prolific they may be, are built around a flagship beer. The Alchemist has Heady Topper. Tree House has Julius. Russian River has Pliny the Elder. Both the Denver Broncos and Garrison City Beerworks buck this trend. The Broncos currently start something called a "Trevor Siemian" at quarterback, but their defense plays such lights-out football that they remain one of the best teams in the league. Similarly, Garrison City doesn’t really have one flagship beer to rally around, but just about everything they put out is similarly outstanding. Since both of them are notable anomalies, it seems only fitting to use Anomalous to represent the Broncos. It’s one of my favorite Garrison City brews. Much like the Broncos, it’s very tough to beat.
York: Morph, Night Shift Brewing. Nobody was more surprised than I about the Broncos starting off 4-0 this season. When the Super Bowl champs watched their QB retire and several other key pieces move on to new places, I assumed it was time for the Broncos to have a down year. Instead, they morphed into a new kind of contender built on a more structured offense and a wildly productive defense. Seeing styles change, combine, and build on one another is a really fun way to see football. Coincidentally, it works for beer too. We visited Nightshift during our first beercation and I immediately fell in love. They've got plenty of impressive big names in their brewing history, but one of the beers that stuck out the most for me was the Morph. It's a rotating brew that changes with each recipe iteration but seemingly always becomes a top beer. The hops change, the malt changes, additions, subtractions, aggressive hopping, juice bombs, they do it all to this beer and it always turns into a winner. As with Morph, the Broncos look like they'll be contenders regardless of their current ingredients.
Pete: Rumpkin, Avery Brewing Company. This beer is 18% ABV and is an imperial pumpkin ale aged in rum barrels. Some would say making beers that are so strong misses the nuance of balance. How can anything like that ever be good? It's like the Broncos. Too much defense. Too much focus on that side of the ball. Have you considered watering down the defense to balance out the offense? Tell that to their Super Bowl victory, pulling a broken Peyton Manning across the finish line. Balance is overrated. Big, bold flavors will always be appreciated, and defense will always win championships. I love this beer. It punches you in the face with so much pumpkin and rum flavor it really knocks you for a loop. It's an amazing cold weather beer that fits the season perfectly.
Houston Texans (4-2)
Shane: Pale Ale, Omission Beer. Omission is a brewery centered around making gluten-free beer. As someone with a girlfriend who can’t eat gluten, I have, on occasion, decided to sample some gluten-free beers for the sake of curiosity. Omission’s Pale Ale isn’t a bad beer by any stretch of the imagination. It’s pretty middle-of-the road, and relatively drinkable. But it definitely feels like something is missing. That just about sums up the Texans, who are a fairly decent team with a lot of talent, and a "MISSING" sign hanging from the quarterback position. I don’t understand the people who choose to be gluten-free when it isn’t medically necessary. It’s a fad that people are obsessed with, and I can’t figure out why. Which is about how I felt about Brock Osweiler last year. Everyone seemed to love him. Everyone seemed to want him. And I absolutely did not understand. Omission clearly has talented brewers, but their curious decision to latch onto the gluten-free fad leaves me scratching my head, much like the Texans and their decision to attach the hopes of their franchise to Osweiler.
York: Chocolate Milk Brown, Fieldwork Brewing Company. I never know what to expect from the Texans. They seem to fluctuate between looking like Super Bowl contenders and looking like a team with lots of work to do faster than any other club. Catching a game with them playing at their peak is a real treat, and it made me think of my constant search of good dark beers on the West Coast. I've found a few, but they aren't easy to identify, and you never really know what you’re going to get when you order a stout or porter from a local brewery. I took a flyer on a brown ale from Fieldwork and I'm happy to say it was my favorite beer they had. This was Fieldwork playing at its peak. The Texans (like brown ales in California) seem to get forgotten about quite often, but when they're hitting on all cylinders, they’re top of the list.
Pete: On the Wings of Armageddon, DC Brau. This Texans team looks so good, soooooo good if you go back to week one. Now? Watt: injured. Osweiler: can't hit the broad side of barn. But they looked like they were going to be the scourge of the league. They were going to be the bringers of Armageddon onto the league with their well rounded team. But, much like every end of the world prophecy, they have failed. On the bright side, this beer is a lovely, rich, tropical fruit bomb. It was originally brewed in 2012 for the Mayan doomsday and has been consistently re-brewed because it is so good. Unfortunately, the quality of this beer will do little to turn the Texans fortunes. But it does have cool label art, so that's a plus.
Shane: Both teams have dismal quarterbacks, but the Broncos will pull it out, 23-10. (current record: 1-0)
York: Broncos take this one 31-13. (current record: 1-0)
Pete: Broncos, let’s say 24-3, I will give the Texans a field goal. (current record: 0-1)
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Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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