Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Hunt for Mad Elf

Mad Elf in the back of my car

I received a call from a friend.  He wanted to buy the case of Mad Elf a month ago, but forgot then went on vacation to Germany.  Now two days before having friends over for New Year's Eve, he wanted that case of Mad Elf.  But where is he going to get it.  Sure, you can find it easily when it comes out.  But two months later, the hunt was on.  A call to the brewery gave us a few leads.  The big case stores laughed at our inquiry.  Five, then six, then seven places told us no.  Finally, someone gave us a yes.  They had two cases, one had the name of another on it, and I placed my name on the last.  As far as I know, this was the only available case of Mad Elf east of State College, PA.

He is thrilled to get it.  The payoff for me, a bottle that he has had in his fridge, leftover from his case last year.  This is one beer that I really enjoy after a year.  I cannot wait to crack that open.  Look forward to a picture on NYE.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I Like Where I Work

I cannot say I have the absolute dream job (that, if course, would be working for a micro brewery), but I do enjoy going to work everyday and have some great co-workers.

This year, like every year, for the holidays, we five each other something small. As you can see from the picture, my co-workers graced me with a bottle of Lagunitas Imperial Stout and Anderson Valley Brother Jacob Triple. I returned the favor with a bottle of Delirium Nocturnam (wanted to give the Noel, but they were sold out) and Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti. Great gift exchange.

On the home front- my wife gave me a giftcard to my homebrew store. Cannot go wrong. I also sent out a couple of bottles of my first homebrew to my brother, accompanied with a bottle of Iron Hill Brewings 10th Anniversary barleywine.  I forgot to package up a bottle of the Troegs Splinter Black for my sister in law, who a) loves stouts b) just gave birth to my second niece- I think she could use a beer.

What were your beer gifts (given or received) this year?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beginning Homebrew DVD contest

Who doesn't like to win contests?  Who likes to homebrew, or is thinking about homebrewing? And finally, who would want to win an educational DVD that helps teach the steps to producing your own tasty brew?  Beginning Homebrew has given us a copy of their DVD to give out as a prize, and we would like to get the video out to someone who could use it (great cheap Christmas gift).

Contest Details:
To win a copy of this DVD, post a comment on this post, post a comment on A Beer in Hand's Facebook page's post about this contest or ReTweet the contest tweet (please list an email if posting a comment below).  The contest will take entries throughout the weekend, with a winner being drawn on Sunday evening.  Feel free to pass this on, the more people that are interested in the DVD the better, we might be able to get them to send us more.

Review of the DVD:

After watching this DVD, I have found that it is a very good informational video, that covers everything from sanitation to bottling.  Sure, you could YouTube all of the steps, but isn't it easier to just watch it all on one?  This video allows you to go step by step.  Maybe you are already reading one of the many homebrew books available, but want to see what they are talking about.  This video clearly shows each step in the process, making it easy for you to understand.

The video quality is good, not great, but the information is spot on.  The video is of one person talking, explaining each step of the homebrew process.  I am sure that experienced homebrewers can find some faults in the process (but I am not, so I find it educational), but they can find faults in everything from Papazian to Palmer.  This DVD package also comes with an additional CD-Rom that included a PDF of an instruction manual and flowchart, both are helpful as well.  I would recommend this DVD for the beginning brewer or someone that is trying to brew away from the Mr. Beer kit.  It would be fine for the experienced homebrewer, but they will not learn anything more than from what they already know from experience.

Sometimes favorite lists can be fun...

I just thought I would throw my 2 cents into the ring and let you know some of my favorite beers for Christmas time (generally speaking, the holiday season).  I consider these to be some of the best beers to come out around the holidays. I have not tried all of the holiday beers available, but from what I remember, these are what beers I have dancing in my head on Christmas eve.

  • Anchor Christmas Ale- a holiday tradition. Started in 1975, this has to be America's longest running Christmas beer (I did no research, but how could one be longer?).  The beer's recipe differs from one year to the next, as does the label- which features a different tree every year.  The beer is always very drinkable and very enjoyable.
  • Delirium Noel- This 10% bomb is what is needed on a cold winter's night.  The high abv is well hidden in the beer, which can easily lead to a empty bottle.  The calm spices make this beer enjoyable, and the ceramic coated bottle is a unique feature.
  • The Bruery 12 Days /Years of Christmas- There is just something about series, and these beers have been intriguing to me since they came out.  I love the unique ingredients added to make the name.  Two Turtle Doves used turtle chocolates, 3 French Hens was aged in French oak barrels- I cannot wait to see what they do for 12 Drummers Drumming.  The beers so far have been very good, with the Two Turtle Doves as my favorite.  If you see a bottle, you should pick it up.
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration- Who doesn't like Celebration?  Are there people out there?  Maybe one or two?  This is the beer that is easy to drink.  Not super high abv (6.5 % is still higher than 4% sessions), not spiced up, not a hop bomb, but a really nice drinking beer.  Now it is even labeled as a "fresh hop".  The hops and malt seem to work so well together.  One sip it is a ton of citrus hops, the next sip it features the nice malt.  Cannot go wrong.
  1. Scaldis (Bush de) Noel- the only beer that I put a number to.  I feel that this beer flies so far under the radar, it deserves some spotlight.  The above beers can be rattled off by beer geeks, most have tried them, all have heard of them- but when you ask if they tried Scaldis, many go blank.  This is the most drinkable 12% beer I know of.  It is sweet tasting with dark fruits and raisins.  Sure you can taste the booze (it is 12%), but the booze does not effect the mouthfeel.  I think it actually improves the taste, maybe thins the beer out a bit.  I don't know what it is about it, but everyone who I have had the pleasure of handing some to have all had the same comment.  Usually something like this, "Wow, that's a good beer".
So if you out looking at picking up some beers, maybe give this list a try.  Even better yet, give other beers that you have not heard of a try, they might become your favorite.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Troeg's Splinter Black

It was 14 degrees in the car when I started it at 6 a.m. this morning.  Why would I be getting into the car at 6 in the morning?  Troeg's was having the second release of their Splinter series, Splinter Black.  I did not have the Splinter Blue, but decided to have a bit of fun and stand in the freezing cold.  I have been a fan of series and sometimes do not completely understand their allure, but they usually are very good beers.

After trying a friend's awesome IPA homebrew the night before, we headed up to Troeg's and got in line for our wristbands.  We got to the line about 6:30, and were given #190 and #191.  I guess we weren't as crazy as I thought we were.  Standing in line, we found some people got to the parking lot around 4:30, many others showed up at 5 and even more were there before 6.  It was cold.  Some brought other special release beers (none of which I tried, due to my strict no beers before 11a.m. stance).  Scattered around the waiting line were bottles of Dechutes The Abyss (2009), Victory Dark Intregue, Terrapin Wake n Bake, Voodoo Brewing's Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and many more.

This morning showed to me the stregth and determination of beer geeks throughout Central/Western/Eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and probably many other states.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What I wanted to have on Open It!

Sometimes, things don't go as you have planned.  I wanted to participate in Open It!, but that was derailed by a head cold, sore throat and my beer buddies surgery (he couldn't drink for a week).  So the bottles that I wanted to drink with friends, were left in the back of the fridge.

Among those bottles was the Avery Seventeenth Anniversary Lager, a dry hopped black lager- which quite possibly could be the first dry hopped lager that I have had, I don't remember having one before.

My nose is still not on top of its game, so the aroma may have been severely compromises.  The scent pulled heavy malt, with a nice citrus hop.

I was expecting it to be dark, and it was.  Not pitch black, but darker than many porters.  It poured a nice head, as you can see in the picture.  The head actually lingered around quite a bit.

When brought to my mouth, I could taste the hoppy bitterness before it touched my lips.  But when it got to my tongue, the malts were the star.  Nice chocolate malt flavor, does give way a tad to earthy, somewhat grassy bitterness.  Nicely balanced, the beer is smooth and perfectly carbonated.  The alcohol provides little burn, even though it is 8+%.

Overall, this was a very good beer- one I kind of wish I grabbed more of.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Homebrew Experience results

I was finally able to pop the cap and try my first solo homebrew.  It was not the first time I brewed, as I have been the helping hand with my brother on multiple occasions, including brewing beer for my wedding.

I finally was able to find time to start my new hobby.  While the brew day went well, there are many factors that you cannot oversee.  I was worried about contamination (even though I did my best to stay clean), improper storage (I thought my basement was a good place) and low/high carbonation.

I am proud to introduce you to my pale ale- Sierra Marietta.  (Marietta is the town that I live, the beer is a Sierra Nevada clone.)

The beer came out with a more malty sweet taste to it.  I was thinking it would be a bit more bitter, but it is still very good.  The cascade and centennial hops are present, and no where near overpowering.  This is very drinkable, and enjoyable (I had 4 last night while friends were over).

What would I do different?  I forgot Irish Moss, which will help clarify it.  Maybe add more hops to the boil, but not too many more.  I am also kicking around the idea of brewing an exact replica and adding a little herbs to it (maybe sage, rosemary or the like).

What I do know is that the beer is very enjoyable, and I am looking forward to another brew day. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Session #46- Unexpected Discovery

This month's The Session is hosted by Burgers and Brews.  It deals with something that I love- Unexpected Discoveries.  You know, when you walk into a bar and find it is a great beer bar; or you forget about a beer that is in the back of the fridge; or when you just randomly buy a beer, and it turns out to be your favorite beer of the night.  As they say:
"’s the unintended beer discovery that gives me the most thrill. It might be a run down dive, a yuppie bar, a backcountry gas station, or a sketchy bodega, but when I find good craft beer in places like this, completely unlooked for, it’s more rewarding than all those planned brewery visits."
I can think of more than a few times that this has happened.  Finding a new friend to lead me to Jay's Getaway in Morgantown, West Virginia.  Randomly picking Magic Hat's American Sour, and loving it.  Two of my favorite memories.  But the one that I will talk about, is what I consider one of the best deals that I have found.

My worst kept secret is that I love Max's Taphouse.  It was my go to beer bar (as it is with many other people), and it formed the beer geekery that I now employ.  They have some great specials, usually posted on a chalkboard across from the main bar (if you never have read it, you must when you walk in).  Special 12 ounce bottles are usually on special for $3.50 and "Big Bottles" are usually priced at $5.  And I just happened to run into Stone's Vertical Epic 09-09-09 on the Big Bottle list.

Five Bucks for VE 09-09-09?!?  Seriously!  When this beer was released, on Max's draft list it was listed as a Dark Belgian Ale.  This is one style that I like to try.  You never know what you are going to get- maybe a big spice bomb, maybe a dubbel, who knows.  On the nose, I got a lot of roasted malt, lots of chocolate.  Didn't know what I would think about it, but I brought it to my mouth.  (There are a lot of beers with roasted malt that I hadn't been into.  I couldn't get myself into the porters and stouts that I wanted to try.  I was in the middle of my hophead revolution.)  Once it hit my mouth, the taste took over me.  To me it was a porter with Belgian yeast, which made the beer an instant favorite.

So, when I saw this beer hit the $5 list, I instantly bought 4 bottles to take home (I had spent $9+ on the bottles when it came out).  This to me was a huge Unexpected Discovery, something I am always on the look out for.