Big Brew Beer Festival

 

I normally don’t do this sort of stuff, but who doesn’t like a good beer festival? John from Big Brew Beer Festival sent me this information and if you enter “EXAMINER” in as a code, you’ll get $5 off your ticket.

The Big Brew Beer Festival, originally scheduled for Saturday, December 8th at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, NJ is being rescheduled due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Event organizers feel this is an appropriate course of action due to the ongoing relief and recovery efforts in the State of New Jersey. Here is the new information:

Big Brew Beer Festival
Saturday, February 16
3pm – 7pm
Morristown Armory (430 Western Ave., Morristown, NJ)
http://www.bigbrewbeerfestival.com

All previously purchased tickets will be honored at the 2/16 event or refunds are available.

 

Best Brews April 2012

April was another great beer month. I started “drinking outside the box” and incorporating themes into the beers I chose to try. Here are the month’s winners:

1. Dogfish 120 Minute IPA (2011)

I loved everything about this beer. A hop head’s dream.

2. Founders Imperial Stout

I think I love everything that I’ve had from this brewery.

3. Sierra Nevada Hoptimum (2012)

Just as good the second year. Filled with hoppy goodness.

4. The Bruery Trade Winds Tripel

An incredibly flavorful summer seasonal.

5. Green Flash Palate Wrecker

A beer that lives up to its name. Great DIPA!

Honorable Mention: Lindemans Faro Lambic, Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze

Biggest Disappointment: Birra Del Borgo Rubus

I thought that this would be a raspberry beer with a little bit of funk. It wasn’t. The undercarbonation made it a chore to drink.

Best Brews March 2012

I really got back on the wagon in March. I had so many brews, went to AC Beerfest and did a beer-related March Madness. So, here are the winners for the month:

1. Fuller’s London Porter

Katie sure can pick a good beer. One of the best porters I’ve ever had.

2. Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009)

Such a rich and complex brew.

3. Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale

Another solid brew from a great brewery.

4. Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly

A totally yummy oak aged DIPA.

5. Victory Ranch R Double IPA

A great DIPA, available draft only.

Honorable Mention: Dogfish Head Noble Rot, 16 Mile Inlet IPA

Biggest Disappointment: St. Peter’s Fruit Beer (Grapefruit)

Absolutely awful. Total drainpour. Not even the bottle made up for it.

March Madness – Final

March Madness – Finals

The final matchup. This has actually been a really fun experience. It’s forced me to go back and really look at what I drank and put beers of completely different styles up against each other and evaluate them. Perhaps this becomes an annual thing. So, onto the last matchup…two great beers, but only one can emerge victorious.

(3)     Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011 v. (2) Stone 15th Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Winner: Stone Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Comments: This was pretty hard to decide. How I finally came to the decision was that Stone 15 changed my opinion on the style as a whole. I would definitely try other Black IPAs since I found one that is so good. Terrapin Reunion really didn’t change my opinion on the style. I love beers with chilis. I would have tried another one regardless of whether I had this beer or not. Stone takes it.

Thanks for following March Madness! If you want to see the final bracket, you can check it out here Round 6.

March Madness – Final Four

March Madness – Final Four

We’re now down to the Final Four. Every beer that’s made it this far is one that I’ve really loved. This is definitely going to be a tough matchup. Let’s see who makes it to the finals…

(1) Westmalle Trappist Tripel v. (3) Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011

Winner: Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011

Comments: I know, I know…how could Terrapin beat Westmalle? I loved both beers. You can’t argue with how solid of a tripel Westmalle is and against any other matchup, it would probably win for me. But, my favorite style of beer involves chilis and hot peppers. You give me a solid beer that gives me a bit of heat, it’s sessionable and incredibly flavorful? I’ll grab that over a Belgian nine times out of 10.

(2) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA v. (1) Avery Out of Bounds Stout

Winner: Stone Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Comments: Another difficult matchup. I really couldn’t find much fault with Avery’s offering. What it came down to for me was that I’ve had better stouts than Out of Bounds, albeit not many. I have not found a black IPA that is any better than Stone, nor have I found one that made me sad when I was getting to the end of the bottle. The flavors were balanced and the roasted malts didn’t overwhelm the hoppiness. For me, it was perfection within the style.

Damn, that was pretty difficult. All of them were fantastic beers that I would love to try again. Here’s the updated bracket if you want to take a look Round 6. I’ll see you April 2nd for the finals!

March Madness – Round Four

Now it’s getting to the really tough matchups…I’m going to be sad to see any of these beers go home, but let’s see who lasts to the next round.

South Region

(1) Westmalle Trappist Tripel v. (2) Fuller’s London Porter

Winner: Westmalle Trappist Tripel

Comments: This was a ridiculously hard decision. I loved the London Porter, but the Belgian-y goodness edged it out by a hair. 

West Region

(1) Founders Red’s Rye PA v. (3) Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011

Winner: Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011

Comments: Upset alert. I loved the Terrapin beer and I knew this was going to win because I would pull that out of the fridge before the Founders offering. But, Red’s Rye was a fantastic brew.

East Region

(1) Anchorage Bitter Monk  v. (2) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Winner: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Comments: I love Belgian IPAs like no one else, but I have a few that I could put in the category of Bitter Monk. The Stone Black IPA stood alone as the best of the style that I’ve ever had and was incredibly enjoyable. 

Midwest Region

(1) Avery Out of Bounds Stout v. (3) Green Flash Double Stout

Winner: Avery Out of Bounds Stout

Comments: This was another close one. I liked the Avery brew a hair more than the Green Flash one, so it edged out the win.

If you want to see the updated bracket, you can take a look here: Round 5

March Madness – Round Three

It’s the Third Round of March Madness. This is definitely going to have some tough matchups…

South Region

(1) Westmalle Trappist Tripel v. (5) Fuller’s ESB

Winner: Westmalle Trappist Tripel

Comments: Wow, this one was a tough matchup. I thoroughly enjoyed both brews, but Fuller’s just couldn’t stand up to one of the best tripels that I’ve ever had. 

(3) Unibroue Trois Pistoles v. (2) Fuller’s London Porter

Winner: Fuller’s London Porter

Comments: Although the offering from Unibroue was fantastic, the London Porter was one of the most drinkable and satisfying porters I’ve ever had. A close one, but Fuller’s came out on top.

West Region

(1) Founders Red’s Rye PA v. (4) Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager

Winner: Founders Red’s Rye PA

Comments: This one wasn’t all that close. Although I appreciated trying an imperial helles lager, the rye pale ale was more my cup of tea, and one of the best beers I’ve ever had that showcased rye. Founders ran away with this one. 

(3) Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011 v. (7) Lagunitas Censored

Winner: Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011

Comments: Almost any beer that I put up against the Terrapin brew was going to lose. Nothing against the Lagunitas offering, but it just couldn’t stand the heat (horrible pun, I know). 

East Region

(1) Anchorage Bitter Monk v. (5) Kane Head High

Winner: Anchorage Bitter Monk

Comments: Nothing against the Kane brew, but it was just outmatched by the outstanding flavors of the Bitter Monk. This one was a blowout. 

(3) Port Mongo IPA v. (2) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Winner: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Comments: This was a close one. Both were absolutely fantastic beers, but Stone gave me renewed faith in the black IPA style. 

Midwest Region

(1) Avery Out of Bounds Stout v. (4) Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

Winner: Avery Out of Bounds Stout

Comments: This was a close one. Both were great beers, albeit from slightly different styles. What this one came down to was style preference, and for me, I chose the stout. 

(3) Green Flash Double Stout v. (10) Victory Storm King

Winner: Green Flash Double Stout

Comments: This one wasn’t as close. Storm King was like the Gonzaga of beers. It got past the first two rounds, but you knew it would eventually be knocked out. 

You can see the updated bracket here Round 4.Until next round…

March Madness – Round Two

Second Round

South Region

(1) Westmalle Trappist Tripel v. (8) Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
Winner: Westmalle Trappist Tripel
Comments: Although Solstice D’hiver was a solid and enjoyable beer, it couldn’t stand up to the Belgian-y goodness of Westmalle’s offering.

(5) Fuller’s ESB v. (4) Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009)
Winner: Fuller’s ESB
Comments: Man, this was a close one. I loved both beers and they had very different flavors. What it came down to for me is that Fuller’s ESB was the best ESB that I’ve ever had. I couldn’t say that about Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009), even though it was a fantastic beer. It came down to the wire on this one.

(6) Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo v. (3) Unibroue Trois Pistoles
Winner: Unibroue Trois Pistoles
Comments: It’s been awhile since I tasted the Unibroue offering and honestly, I had a little trouble recalling the flavors. When I went back and read the review, it was obvious that this was a beer I enjoyed and didn’t have a problem beating out Yorkshire Stingo.

(7) Fuller’s London Pride v. (2) Fuller’s London Porter
Winner: Fuller’s London Porter
Comments: It’s another matchup between two offerings from the same brewery. Nice! This one wasn’t really a close matchup for me either. I fell in love with the London Porter, which Katie picked up a sixer of for me. The London Pride was a decent beer, but not nearly as satisfying as the porter.

West Region

(1) Founders Red’s Rye v. (9) Schlafly Christmas Ale
Winner: Founders Red’s Rye
Comments: Red’s was the best rye beer I’ve ever had. Schlafly’s was a decent holiday brew. This was a blowout.

(5) Carton Boat v. (4) Southern Tier Krampus (Imperial Helles Lager)
Winner: Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager
Comments: This was a close one, but that was because neither brew wowed me. Boat was a decent pale ale and Krampus was middle of the road for me too. Krampus won because it pushed the envelope a little more and I could see grabbing for one of these in the fridge before Carton’s brew.

(11) Samuel Adams Alpine Spring v. (3) Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011
Winner: Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011
Comments: No surprise here. I loved the Terrapin beer. Give me almost anything with a chili pepper and I’ll probably enjoy it. Alpine Spring was a solid beer, but couldn’t match Terrapin. Easy win.

(7) Lagunitas Censored v. (2) Southern Tier Pumking
Winner: Lagunitas Censored
Comments: This was another tough one. Both were solid beers that I really enjoyed. But, I used the same mindset as with the Unibroue matchup. Pumking isn’t my favorite pumpkin beer and Censored is probably one of my favorite ambers in a style that tends to bore me. Censored brought serious flavor to the party, so it eked out the win.

East Region

(1) Anchorage Bitter Monk v. (9) Saranac White IPA
Winner: Anchorage Bitter Monk
Comments: This was another blow out. Bitter Monk brought hops, balance and brett. Saranac White IPA was a good, refreshing beer, but got overwhelmed in the flavor department.

(5) Kane Head High v. (4) Founders Centennial IPA
Winner: Kane Head High
Comments: Upset alert! This was a close one, but Head High was a little brighter and the flavors worked for me a little more than the Founders offering. I think it’s because I’m not the biggest fan of Centennial hops. But, the local brew won this one by a hair.

(6) Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale v. (3) Port Mongo IPA
Winner: Port Mongo IPA
Comments: I think I remember enjoying Sierra Nevada’s brew more than I did, but regardless, Mongo had lots of different flavors and was way more complex than the Estate. They won by a mile.

(10) Magic Hat Encore v. (2) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Winner: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Comments: Yeah, no comments really needed on this one. Stone 15 was one of the best beers that I had during this time, period.

Midwest Region

(1) Avery Out of Bounds Stout v. (9) 21st Amendment Allies Win The War!
Winner: Avery Out of Bounds Stout
Comments: Another matchup that was a blow out. 21st was a borderline drainpour for me and Out of Bounds was a real treat. Avery takes it.

(12) Samuel Adams Holiday Porter v. (4) Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Winner: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Comments: This impressive brew from Flying Dog easily won this contest. I enjoyed the Holiday Porter, but Flying Dog brought more roasted malts and bold flavors.

(6) Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 3 – Pepper Porter v. (3) Green Flash Double Stout
Winner: Green Flash Double Stout
Comments: This entire region had pretty clear cut winners for me during this round, well except for the next matchup. I found a lot of issues with Fade To Black and found almost none with Double Stout. It was everything the style should be.

(10) Victory Storm King v. (2) Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011)
Winner: Victory Storm King
Comments: Many people will not agree with my opinion on this major upset. I loved both beers, but there were a few reasons that I picked the Victory brew. First, I didn’t have huge expectations for Storm King but I had huge ones for BCS. Storm King threw my expectations out the window and delivered a great brew. BCS was solid and enjoyable, but for all of the hype I heard about it, I expected it to be a little bit better. Also, I tried Brooklyn Black OPS before BCS…and I loved it. Trying BCS without the aging was a bit of a letdown. 

You can see the updated bracket here Round 3.

March Madness – First Round Day Two

Here are the remaining matchups from Day 2:

South Region

(7) Fuller’s London Pride v. (10) Wychwood Hobgoblin
Winner: Fuller’s London Pride
Comments: Another easy matchup, despite the rankings. Hobgoblin was a bit thin and not really flavorful to me. Fuller’s won this one by a lot.

(2) Fuller’s London Porter v. (15) Molson Golden
Winner: Fuller’s London Porter
Comments: If I sampled Molson at home, it would have been a drainpour. But, I couldn’t find a sink at the bar to dump this in.

West Region
(1) Founders Red’s Rye PA v. (16) Beach Haus Classic American Pilsner
Winner: Founders Red’s Rye PA
Comments: Another blowout. Founders Red’s Rye was flavorful and complex. Beach Haus was just fizzy and wet and yellow.

(8) Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale v. (9) Schlafly Christmas Ale
Winner: Schlafly Christmas Ale
Comments: This was a close one. Although Old Fezziwig was an easy drinking winter seasonal, it didn’t floor me. The Schlafly brew smelled like Christmas to me with lots of spice. In the end, the Schlafly won despite the fact I could only have one or two. It packed more flavor, more complexity and I could see grabbing for a bottle before I grabbed the Old Fezziwig out. 

(7) Lagunitas Censored v. (10) Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve
Winner: Lagunitas Censored
Comments: I really didn’t like the Flying Fish offering at all. The Lagunitas offering just delivered for me. Easy to pick out the winner on this one.

(2) Southern Tier Pumking v. (15) Bell’s Pale Ale
Winner: Southern Tier Pumking
Comments: After sampling Pumking, it’s easy to see why craft beer drinkers seek this one out year after year. Bell’s Pale just paled in comparison…

East Region
(6) Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale v. (11) Rogue Yellow Snow IPA
Winner: Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale
Comments: Although I really enjoyed both beer, the Sierra Nevada won out. It satisfied the hop head in me more. Had the Rogue gone up against a different beer, it may have made it to the second or third round.

(3) Port Mongo IPA v. (14) Weyerbacher Hops Infusion
Winner: Port Mongo IPA
Comments: I loved Mongo IPA and I couldn’t stand Hops Infusion. I mean, I had to search for the hops. Another blowout.

Midwest Region
(1) Avery Out of Bounds Stout v. (16) River Horse Belgian Freeze Belgian Style Winter Ale
Winner: Avery Out of Bounds Stout
Comments: Nothing surprising here. River Horse just came up flat for me on this one and I was floored by the flavors on Out of Bounds.

(8) Avery Samael’s Ale v. (9) 21st Amendment Allies Win The War!
Winner: 21st Amendment Allies Win The War!
Comments: Wow, this one was difficult and not because I really liked both. It’s actually because I thought both were disappointing and I didn’t like either. This is one of the few matchups that I had to pick the lesser of the evils…

(5) Mikkeller Barrel Aged Chipotle Porter v. (12) Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Winner: Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Comments: As much as I loved the regular Mikkeller Chipotle Porter, this one completely missed the mark for me. It was actually that month’s biggest disappointment. Samuel Adams Holiday Porter isn’t the best porter I’ve ever had, but I could see throwing a few back without a problem. It upset the Mikkeller offering. 

(4) Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter v. (13) Samuel Adams Black and Brew
Winner: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Comments: This was an easy one. I loved the big and bold flavors of Gonzo, which were the opposite of Black and Brew. Black and Brew was a bit underflavored to me and just didn’t bring as much coffee as I would have liked. 

(6) Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 3 – Pepper Porter v. (11) Sixpoint Diesel
Winner: Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 3 – Pepper Porter
Comments: Another difficult matchup. One beer was supposed to push the flavor envelope and didn’t. The other was just a mediocre stout. I’d have to go with the Left Hand, just based on my affinity for peppers, even though it was just okay.

(3) Green Flash Double Stout v. (14) Samuel Adams The Vixen
Winner: Green Flash Double Stout
Comments: This is a matchup that I wish didn’t happen in the first round. I loved Double Stout and I knew it would easily skate through the first round. But, I liked Vixen. I liked that Samuel Adams was trying different things and I love chili peppers. But, alas, it wouldn’t make it to the second round. 

(7) Fegley’s Brew Works Rude Elf Reserve v. (10) Victory Storm King Stout
Winner: Victory Storm King Stout
Comments: Another upset in the same region. Once I tried Storm King, I fell in love with it. It was everything that a stout should be to me. Rude Elf was decent, but not something I would seek out again. 

(2) Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011) v. (15) Victory Otto Ale
Winner: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011)
Comments: Another matchup that wasn’t shocking. Brooklyn BCS packed a lot of stouty goodness. Otto was a beer that I was really looking forward to trying from Victory. But, it just fell flat. Brooklyn BCS won by a large margin. 

Now that we’re done with the first round…you can find the updated bracket right here –> Round 2.

March Madness 2012 – First Round Day One

First Round Matchups

South Region

(1) Westmalle Trappist Tripel v. (16) Dos Equis Special Lager
Winner: Westmalle Trappist Tripel
Comments: This was an expected blowout. Dos Equis was just fizzy and wet, and that was the good qualities about it. It just couldn’t stand up to a tasty Belgian brew.

(8) Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver v. (9) Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale
Winner: (8) Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
Comments: Talk about a close one. Baird came with some complex flavors making for a very unique pale ale. But, they just couldn’t stand up to the dark fruit and spicy hops of Solstice D’hiver.

(5) Fuller’s ESB v. (12) Ridgeway Criminally Bad Elf
Winner: Fuller’s ESB
Comments: I would say that Fuller’s came into the game underranked. It’s probably the best ESB I’ve ever had and had no trouble beating out a less than impressive barleywine that was all too thin and missed the mark. 

(4) Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009) v. (13) Morland The Tanner’s Jack
Winner: Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009)
Comments: Another matchup that wasn’t close. Fuller’s just had much more flavor and left me wanting for another sip immediately. 

(6) Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo v. (11) St. Peter’s Fruit Beer (Grapefruit)
Winner: Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo
Comments: It’s really not that hard to win against a beer that was a drainpour. Just saying. 

(3) Unibroue Trois Pistoles v. (14) Oxfordshire Marshmellow
Winner:  Unibroue Trois Pistoles
Comments:  Dark fruits and brown sugar beat out this mediocre ESB without a problem. 

West Region

(5) Carton Boat v. (12) Long Trail Hibernator
Winner: Carton Boat
Comments: An easy drinking Jersey brew? That definitely beat out Long Trail’s offering. 

(4) Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager v. (13) Bell’s Winter White Ale
Winner: Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager
Comments: Another easy decision. Bell’s was an easy drinker, but Southern Tier brought more to the table. 

(6) Bell’s Amber Ale v. (11) Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
Winner: Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
Comments: Although Alpine Spring didn’t wow me, I could drink that one over and over. I couldn’t really see doing that with the Bell’s brew.

(3) Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011 v. (14) Flying Fish ESB Amber Ale
Winner: Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011
Comments: This was another blowout. I loved the Terrapin beer and the Flying Fish offering was just okay. 

East Region

(1) Anchorage Bitter Monk v. (16) Shock Top Wheat IPA
Winner: Anchorage Bitter Monk
Comments: None needed here. Anchorage by a mile. 

(8) Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye v. (9) Saranac White IPA
Winner: Saranac White IPA
Comments: This was the closest matchup of the night. Although I enjoyed both beers, Saranac impressed me a hair more.

(5) Kane Head High v. (12) Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA
Winner: Kane Head High
Comments: Tommyknocker lost this one more than Kane won it. Tommyknocker missed the mark on this brew for me and I really enjoyed the Head High.

(4) Founders Centennial IPA v. (13) Boulder Mojo Risin’ Double IPA
Winner: Founders Centennial IPA
Comments: I really did not like the Boulder Mojo Risin’ Double IPA, so almost anything I put against this would win. Luckily, it was a brew that I really enjoyed.

(7) Sixpoint Spice of Life – Warrior v. (10) Magic Hat Encore
Winner: Magic Hat Encore
Comments:  Although Magic Hat Encore wasn’t an amazing beer by any standard, it came from behind to knock out Sixpoint’s offering.

(2) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA v. (15) Mikkeller Willamette Single Hop IPA
Winner: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Comments: Stone 15th made me have new respect for the style. This brew won by a large margin.