Four Beers to Spring For

spring summer beers 2014

I’ve been on something of a beer-buying binge this May and June and have enjoyed more than my fair share of new releases and old favorites.  I know this because my recycle bin has been filling up faster than usual – that’s always a sure-fire way to measure.

Between mowing the lawn and grilling out – or any ordinary sunny day – there’s no shortage of excuses to pop a cold one while working or cooking.  And my fence-mounted bottle opener makes this all too easy.  The best part: the magnet just below catches those pesky caps.  It works so well, my wife insists on opening my bottles for me just to watch the magnet snatch the caps out of mid-air.  (Now that’s service!)

As the temperatures rise and summer settles in – the first day of summer has officially arrived! – here are a few late springtime/early summer favorites for 2014.

– Newcastle Bombshell English Pale Ale.  The famous British brown ale brewery brings back their spring seasonal, with moderately successful results (the original is still better).

– New Belgium’s Summer Helles Lager. Helles-style (light colored) lager is the Big New Thing for American microbreweries. Think Spaten or, my favorite, Weihenstephaner Original.

– Old Bust Head Brewing Company’s Bust Head English Pale Ale.  A decidedly American take on the English pale ale that’s brewed in nearby Fauquier County, VA.

– Great Lakes Brewing Company Eliot Ness Amber Lager.  I’m a sucker for Great Lakes Brewing’s mellow, full bodied lager (as well as its Burning River Pale Ale).  It’s a great brew from my home state of Ohio (yet it’s from Cleveland, so, some pluses and minuses).

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Published in: on June 23, 2014 at 10:57 pm  Comments Off on Four Beers to Spring For  
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It’s About Time

old pocketwatch

That I got back to blogging.

Winter ended and surprisingly, we actually had spring this year. Not a long one, mind you, but one longer than the usual day or two. All the while, bit by bit, my family, work, and the house sapped my energy. Along with my time, the ideas and the motivation disappeared. And dormant sat The Hip Flask, month after month.

During that time, two posts have sadly sat in the queue since March, nearly complete. Yet writing and editing is less than enjoyable after a long day, and the prospect of sitting in front of another computer during the precious few hours between the kids’ bedtime and my own did not excite. I admittedly have not been up to much, aside from the occasional cigar after work – about which I’ll soon post. Drink has been mildly entertaining: particularly notable were the bottles of Rolle Bolle, one of New Beligum Brewery’s new summer seasonal ales, I enjoyed over the Memorial Day weekend. Along with a few Miller High Lifes, because this is America dammit!

I hope you all have been drinking well during my recent absence. To those making your own homemade brandy – peach or otherwise – keep sending the comments and questions! If you’ve had a comment in limbo, please accept my humblest apologies.

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In the meantime, for those information hounds that also enjoy a fine “craft brewed” beer, the New Yorker produced an excellent interactive graphic of American craft breweries – their Idea of the Week – which contains both state or brewery data and can be sorted according to eight tab selectors, including “total breweries,” “annual production” (state data) as well as “fifty largest breweries,” and “new breweries (opened in 2012).”

Needless to say, it’s a beautiful geographic depiction of the rise of American craft brewing, which I declare, is here to stay. As the New Yorker notes: “These beverages have become so popular that craft beer now represents thirty per cent of Costco’s beer sales…But such statistics and anecdotes fail to communicate a fascinating aspect of the craft-beer boom. The beverage is colonizing what one might call the craft-beer frontier: the parts of the country that are far from the major craft breweries of the West Coast and the Northeast.”

Published in: on June 10, 2013 at 10:32 pm  Comments (3)  
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Indian Summer, Fall Drinking

I’ve recently noticed an interesting trend in seasonal beer production: autumn brews seem to be issued earlier and earlier each year.  Although summer remains in full swing, the light and fruity summer varietals are already fighting against the encroachment of next season’s choices.

In the normal course of events , cool weather beer – traditionally Märzen or Oktoberfest varieties – is issued in early September, a few weeks prior to the annual event held in Munich, Germany.  Then, once Oktoberfest has officially ended in early October, we still have until at least mid to late November to enjoy the fall flavors until the weather turns truly cold and wintry.

Yet I found myself standing in the grocery last weekend (on the last day of July, no less), holding a bottle of New Belgium Brewing’s Red Hoptober in my hand – a fall seasonal beer in July!  Thus, not only is this new trend of early issuance  interesting, it’s also most certainly welcomed – at least by me.  (I’ve previously confessed, on several occasions, my love of fall brews.  They are my favorite beers during my favorite time of year.)

But let’s get back to Red Hoptober, a new release from the Fort Collins, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing.  From its name, I presumed it to be a cross between a hoppy and spicy India Pale Ale (IPA) and a traditional, hearty Oktoberfest-style ale.  And my presumption wasn’t too far off once I cracked open a bottle.  The brewery poetically describes Red Hoptober as “shining like autumn leaves in a globe glass, this beer pours a dark and lovely garnet as it builds a bright, inviting head.”

Red Hoptober is certainly not a summer beer, but nonetheless I find it to be enjoyable on warm summer evenings or over a spicy dinner.  I am not particularly a fan of IPAs, finding them too overpoweringly hoppy to enjoy – scotch should be spicy, not beer, I say.  But Red Hoptober’s balance between the IPA and Oktoberfest tempers its spiciness to reasonable and smoothly mysterious proportions.

Summer hasn’t ended yet – not by a longshot –  but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start drinking fall beer.  However, you might consider waiting until the sun sets and the air cools.  And then, if you try hard enough, you can almost smell autumn’s arrival.

Published in: on August 3, 2012 at 11:25 am  Comments (3)  
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