Craft Beer Tasting Adventures

For BeerNexus.com


The increases in technology promoting more accessibility to canning have been a
boon to both the craft brewers and to us the craft beer drinkers. For the brewers it’s
the ability to get more of their product out to us and in some cases to let someone
unleash their inner artist abilities designing a can label, many of which are fun
designs. For distributors and retailers, cans take less space than bottles, are lighter
and are really hard to break, plus you can sell a dented can.  I can’t remember ever
buying a dented bottle. For us consumers, we’re seeing many more 16 ounce four
packs and the availability of more small batch one-offs at the brewery tasting rooms
than we would ever find in the stores. So it’s expanding the number of different beers
we can taste. It’s also potential increasing the demand for brewers to continue the
quest for their “next” brew for us to taste, which we can debate whether that’s good
or bad.

The other big advantage for consumers is cans are much easier to transport!
Whenever I travel I’m always looking around to see what local craft beers I can try. I’m
also looking for cans I can bring back to share some of the adventure with others,
especially when I’ve flown somewhere. I have in the past packed a bottle or two in a
suitcase and hoped it wasn’t going to get broken, which translates into a bunch of
beer soaked clothes and broken glass. And yes I was lucky in all my previous tries
that nothing broke. But with the much wider variety of cans available I only look for
and pack cans in suitcases now. It does take some planning as you need to under
pack so you have the “weight” space for a few cans. The lighter weight of a can vs
bottle comes in very handy here as if you over pack and your bag is over fifty pounds
the baggage fee you’ll have to pay will increase the cost of those cans to a ridiculous
price; which is why I always pack a scale.

This first half of this year was good for adventuring as I was in Texas, Connecticut
and California. The Women’s Final Four was in Dallas so was there for four days to
hopefully watch my UConn Huskies go for five straight, which unfortunately didn’t
happen. We were lucky to find a close liquor store with a good selection of local craft
brews. I had done some research beforehand so recognized some of the names
which, for me, gives you a better feeling than just going in blind. As we tasted I was
pleasantly surprised with the good quality and started to put some aside to bring
home. We did make a couple of additional runs to the store as you don’t want to get
too much at once so that you need to have a beer with your Wheaties on the
morning you’re leaving because you overbought.

The following month was a week in California. Landed in LA and headed immediately
up to San Luis Obispo, or as locals know it SLO, for a few days. Did get to try a few
brews up there, but that is major wine country so needed to apportion my drinking
time appropriately. Should there be one I could also pick up the pen for WineNexus
as I do also enjoy going to vineyards and tasting as well as a good bottle of vino with
dinner, but that’s a different world than what craft beer currently is. Back down to the
Santa Barbara area to meet with other friends and quaff a few more of the local suds
in bars and then back to LA. So here it is, a day left and I have no brews to bring
home; this could put a damper on this trip, beer wise that is. But now I get to sing the
praises of Trader Joe’s! We hit a local one and they have a very nice selection, but it
gets better. They have no problem with selling you singles and they don’t mark them
up at all, basically just divide the six pack price by six! I can’t think of any liquor stores
I’ve been to that don’t markup singles and there are those know for adding an
outrageous amount. Now I know why I wish our local Trader Joe’s had a liquor
license! I grab a six of interesting looking brews and pack most for the plane ride
home.

On a separate driving trip, I had also stopped in CT at Thimble Island Brewery for a
growler and picked up a couple of four packs of a couple of their brews. So I’ve got
ten brews plus a special bottle from Maine Brewing so while they’re fresh we need to
consume these. Trying to coordinate a date with the guys isn’t as easy as I
suspected but we finally agree on one and we meet on a Sunday afternoon to do
some tasting.

But before I get into the tasting I need to fess up that I need to pay a little more
attention what our ”friends” at The High End and Tenth and Blake (the craft divisions
of AB/InBev and MillerCoors respectively) are doing vis-a-vie acquisitions. As many
(including myself) have pointed out as the megabrews continue to buy up craft
breweries it’s easier to be duped or confused when looking for new craft ones to try.

One of the beers I brought back from Dallas was a Karbach. I didn’t realize till I got
home and read an article by Jim Koch who was railing about the lack of anti-trust
oversight when AB/InBev was allowed to buy Karbach in late 2016. I also got caught
in CA when I bought a Golden Road that was brewed for Trader Joe’s and only later
realized I wasn’t paying enough attention when I was buying beers I hadn’t had. To
be clear, I do avoid, but not boycott the brands acquired by the megabrews. I will
sample their wares at times, more often in a bar than buying for home consumption,
but I do actively support the craft beer brewers as much as I possibly can. I must
share with you this visual which one of my friends found recently and shared with us.
It’s titled “An Illusion of Competition” and it gives you a graphic of all the brands that
the five major megas own. It’s well done and what’s scary is it’s already well over a
year old and there are a few acquisitions not on there! So take a look and come on
back./
www.visualcapitalist.com/5-big-companies-control-worlds-beer/
Like I said a very good visual.

Okay back to our tasting. The four of us sat down I started out with the three lightest:
•        Deep Ellum –Dallas Blonde Ale – great graphics, reminded me of Chucky, so
maybe his wife and I haven’t started drinking yet. Nothing spectacular, but if your
outdoors in the Dallas area, this could go down easy all day.
•        Mother Earth –Cali Creamin – another good graphic with the beach, VW bus,
surf board etc. which some of us did not catch the connection to a popular song of
the sixties (we’ll let the younger set try to figure it out). Listed as a Vanilla Cream Ale
and yes you could taste the vanilla.
•        Modern Times – Fruitlands – Passion Fruit & Guava Gose – you never know
what to expect with a Gose, but this was very pleasant, just enough tartness to let
you know it was a Gose along with subtle fruit. A very drinkable beer and at 4.9% you
can easily do a few.
A good start so now we moved to first batch of IPA’s:
•        Deep Ellum – Easy Peasy Session IPA – yes it’s 5.2%, which some might
consider a touch high for a session, but not a lot of bitterness and the tangerine and
lemon peel added good flavor. Another you could sit outside in the Dallas area and
drink all day.
•        Deep Ellum – IPA – simply a very good IPA…think there’s a reason I brought
back three from Deep Ellum…
•        Pizza Port – Swami’s IPA – both of my more learned companions recognized
Pizza Port right away as a good brewer, but hadn’t had this one so a good choice.
And after tasting it was a very good choice, another very good IPA probably a touch
better than the Deep Ellum.
•        Karbach- Hopadillo IPA – I quizzed my companions about this one before we
drink it and none realized it was now AB/InBev. There was some recollection after I
reminded them about all the hoopla about AB/InBev already controlling over 50% of
the TX market being allowed to acquire one of the larger craft breweries. Again a
very solid IPA, you can see why it’s popular and was acquired.

If only one of the last four was on our table all day, none of us would have been
unhappy. And we’ve also started a little more of our friendly banter which we all
enjoy. So far I’ve done a great job, but we’ve now down to the heavy hitters”
•        Thimble Island – Experimental Batch #157 – you hafta like a brewery that just
says we’re going to number our small batch beers and you remember what you like.
The description is an 8.0% DIPA w/CTZ New Zealand, Rakau and Citra hops. This is
their version of a hazy juicy NE style IPA. It is very good but if you’re trying to mimic
that style you are in tough competition.
•        Thimble Island – Experimental Batch #158 – The description is an 8.0% Red
Imperial IPA w/only Denali hops. It is a rich amber red and you can just taste it’s a
higher ABV. Not a lot of hop bitterness so our IPA lovers don’t love it as much as our
none IPA lover.
•        Maine Beer – Woods & Waters – A 6.2% IPA  16 ounce bottle that was gifted to
me just recently and it’s maybe a month old.  I know you’re thinking why wait to pour
such a treasure but keep in mind the four of us are sharing 12 and 16 ounce beers
so although we’ve already tried nine our taste buds are still working. And this is pretty
amazing. This a commemorative brew incorporating Maine grown barley and wheat
along with Magnum, Simcoe, Mosaic, Columbus & Idaho 7 hops. It’s a very clean and
smooth IPA not bitter, that we all thoroughly enjoy and considered the best up to that
point.
•        Brewed for Trader Joe’s by Golden Road – Tap 79 – an 8.0% DIPA, it’s okay,
we’ve all had much better, but it’s also tough to follow a fresh Maine Beer.
So that’s it we’ve tasted all I brought and I’m feeling pretty good about it as I had only
tasted six of the eleven and there were no stinkers, a good variety, a fun time.
But we’re not done; more brews appear as my beer buds wanted to bring some of
their finds, so we’re up for the next round:
•        Sand City – Mofosaic – a Northport, NY brewery and obviously an IPA. His
cousin lives there (the town not the brewery) so he’s been there a few times and
really likes them. They’ve also done collaboration with one of our Fairfield breweries
and yes an excellent IPA.
•        Against the Grain – Pile of Face IPA – very funky fun can labels and a very
solid 6.5% IPA.
•        Against the Grain – Rico Sauvin DIPA – another funky label and another very
solid DIPA.
•        Zero Gravity – Bernie Weisse – a VT brewery so yes Bernie is the former Prez
candidate Bernie Saunders. Described as slightly sour, a great way to mellow out at
3.3%
•        And then our host brings out a 2008 bottle of Sierra Nevada Big Foot
Barleywine. At 9.6% this is our dessert and we’re sipping and enjoying it.

As we sip the last one we’re discussing the beers and picking our top three which is
different for each of us, although it wouldn’t take much to get one of us to change as
we had many very good brews. A fun afternoon, not all that different from an
afternoon in our favorite watering hole where we’re discussing the beers, recent
events and enjoying each other’s company.

I’m off to Long Island this weekend and plan to visit Sand City to see what I can find
for an upcoming family reunion event. Then it’s off to Milwaukee for a wedding, so I
hope I can find some treasures to bring home and share.

So keep it mind next time you travel; if you have the opportunity bring a few home to
share with friends; guaranteed it will be a fun time.




Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer.
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