Tag Archives: craft growler shop

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/16/15

Ah, it is Wednesday.  As Christmas and New Years approach the news slows down, but it never sleeps.  Here are the Five Articles today taking you on a journey of music, cans, closings and openings.  Enjoy.

The Close of The First Act

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. — Winston Churchill

This is not my favorite Churchill quote. That would be: “I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.” It is the one I use the most.  It does the most to explain what has happened in the last few weeks of my life.

A year ago, I decided to leave the job I had.  I was at a crossroads in that job. I was at 5 years of service.  I faced a decision.  Either stay for another 25 years and retire or live a life that would make me content.  I choose contentment and not relative safety and security.

I may have written it before, but I started exploring Zen and meditation around the same time. Last summer, I found a website called Zen Habits and I read this particular post.  I’m not a person who looks at singular moments and says, “This changed my life.”  This blog post changed my life.

I’m not going to go into the details, but I suggest you read the post and do what I did.  I spent at least a month going through the list and then another month thinking about what it all meant.  I discovered that I had two passions, sports (specifically soccer) and beer.  Then, I laid out a perfect day for myself.  That day more than suggested, that my perfect job would be freelance writer.  So, I figured out a way to create a life centered around writing about beer.  The first step was to find a job that would allow me to do that.

Late September last year, I go to GABF and on that Friday I had down time and continued my job search.  I found the job for Craft Growler Shop and Tasting Room on Craigslist.  It as yet didn’t exist.  Even now I don’t know if I should have gotten the job.  By the time I went back to Lowes after a week away, I had another job.  It is 11 months later and I am forever grateful that Dan Davis, the owner, has trusted me enough to name me manager.

Then a few months ago another opportunity popped into my life.  This one courtesy of Daniel Hartis (one of the best beer writers and advocates for NC beer).  He had been approached by Jason and Kerrie Boys to write for their new magazine, Gravity.  Because of a changing job status for Daniel he had to decline.  He did point Jason and Kerrie in my direction from reading my beercounselor.net work.  Again, cut to today and I have a column in the premiere issue of the magazine and I’m working on my second.

I wrote all those words to explain that with my new position, I get a new schedule which will allow two things.  I now will close all week which means I now have my morning open to write and read about beer.  That will mean more posts and finally studying for the Cicerone exam.  It will also mean I have Sundays off to watch football and drink beer.

Anyway, the Five Articles will post more consistently.  It will also mean, I am going to change the reviews a little. I may do more week long tastings comparing different beers in the same style.  It definitely means, along with any reviews there will be a history of the style of beer being reviewed.  The goal will be to lay out the history and the style expectations of the beer I will be tasting.  Then see how it matches up in the way a judge would in competition.

There will be other life changes that these new occurrences will spawn.  Those will become evident as the year continues and I will keep everyone posted.  I just wanted to let everyone know that the second act of whatever this is, is about to begin.

Beer Counselor Special: South End Charlotte Brewery Tour, August 2015

Last week, I decided since I had my first Sunday off in 6 months I would use that time to do something special: Drink beer.  You may ask, “Don’t you do that every day.” Why yes, yes I do.  However, this time I wanted to make a full day of it in Charlotte (my once and future home) and do a brewery tour.

So, I texted Lankford, “What are you doing today?”

“Nothing, just cleaning house and laundry.”

“I’m going to Charlotte to drink beer, want to come along?”

“What time do you want to leave?”

“11:30”

“I’ll text you when I’m on the way.”

Thus began the South End Brewery Tour of August 2015.

20150802_131409We arrived at Olde Mecklenburg around 12:30 to an already packed house.  I decided to start off with something slow. I choose the barrel-aged Fat Boy Baltic Porter.  I say slow because this is a great sipping beer.  It’s dark, heavy, and flavorful.  You don’t want to rush a beer this good.  It is even better in a setting like OMB. The best way to describe it, to craft beer drinkers who haven’t been is a mini version of the Sierra Nevada brewery in Asheville.

20150802_133617Next, we went across the street to Sugar Creek.  This is a smaller, more intimate space.  We sat down at the bar this time and I had the Saison, which I love, and Lankford had the award winning Dubbel.  This was another pretty full house and like Olde Mecklenburg and the other places we would visit that day, there were a lot of families there.  This is one of the things I like about craft beer.  It is trying to build a community and become just a regular part of people’s everyday lives.

20150802_145555We left Sugar Creek and headed to Triple C passing by Doc Porter’s Distillery, which looks to be coming along nicely.  We settled in at Triple C and ordered up the Smoked Amber.  This is a good introduction to smoked beer.  It isn’t heavily smoky but it does have a distinct smoked presence that if you like you can expand upon with other smoked offerings out there.  There was another nice crowd at the bar and families with kids and dogs scattered throughout.

20150802_154010We were both hungry at this point so we took a quick pit stop at Fuel Pizza on South Blvd. for a couple of slices and garlic knots.

20150802_162123Our next stop was Wooden Robot.  I parked over at Craft and we walked the two blocks or so to get to another packed house.  Lankford did comment that everywhere we went there seemed to be a good crowd.  Here I had the first beer of the day I had never had before, the rye saison.  This provided an interesting taste as the rye provided an intriguing addition to the light spiciness of the saison.

We finished up at Craft where we went to hang out and harass Dana and Julio before heading back home.  It was a good relaxing day filled with beer and friends.  I need to do this more often.  The next time I’ll change up the breweries and hit Sycamore, Lenny Boy, and Unknown.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/29/15

This weekend saw a lot of action in the Charlotte beer scene highlighted by Wooden Robot’s soft opening and the NC Brewer’s Celebration.  Here are some links about those and other things.

The Beer Counselor Is In: Questions Are Good & Don’t Be A Jerk

The modern craft movement has ridden a wave of IPAs to its current status as growth industry of the moment.  As the movement continues a lot of new people are hopping on board with just enough information to make themselves more confused than necessary.

Quick story.  Currently on tap at Craft is Lookout Brewing’s Black Mountain IPA on tap. You may have read a review of it.  A customer comes up to the bar talking to his friend and is trying to describe a black IPA.  He proceeds to order the black IPA on tap. I look at him confused and say, “There isn’t a black IPA on tap.”

“Yes, there is, the one from Lookout Brewing.”

He wasn’t from North Carolina so he had never heard of Black Mountain, he saw Black and IPA in proximity and just thought it was the beer style he heard so much about.

That brings up another point, most good craft beer bars will have the names of the beers written above the taps so you can read the information yourself.  This is a participatory endeavor by the way.

Yet I digress.

There are so many styles that people hear about and read about that it can be confusing.  How does someone who is just getting into craft beer navigate all the information and how does someone who has been in the craft world for a while help newbies without being condescending?

If you want a good overview of beer styles, go the craftbeer.com and click on the Beer Styles section.  This will give you nice surveys of almost all beer styles and also give you commercially available examples of each style.

If you want to get even more in depth go the Beer Judge Certification Program page and click on Style Guidelines.  This will give you a listing of every beer style that is judged in competition.  It goes deep into the style including acceptable characteristics (including stats such as AVB and color range) as well as the history of each style.

Another way is to ask your bartender questions. If it is a good bar, they will know enough information to get you started at the very least.  I love answering questions about beer and talking about beer.  Also I would rather you ask me what DIPA stands for, then have you order a double IPA, start drinking it, and complain that it is really hoppy and has lots of alcohol in it.

That leads to the next point, which is that we who know about beer cannot be condescending jerks to people who don’t know about beer.  If you go to a bar and ask questions and the bartender is a jerk, don’t go back.

The internet can create the illusion that knowledge in a specific area is common to everyone.  On the web, it is easy for all of us to participate in communities, like craft beer, where that is true.  That is huge fantasy. Not everyone knows what a DIPA is or what the difference is between a dopplebock and an altbier. As people who have lots of knowledge about craft beer we should seek to spread that knowledge to others while not coming off as a snotty know it all.

Growler Taste Test: Benford’s Smoked O’Hickory Brown Ale

The last couple of years has seen the rise of two families of beer that had been shunted off to the side as historical contrivances:  smoked beer and sour beer.

I am more partial to smoked beers in all their forms.  My moment of conversion came with a taste of the Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter. Up to that point I had avoided smoked beers out of some strange smoked taste fear.  Now I am all in on the style.

IMG_20150615_160543Benford Brewing’s Smoked O’Hickory Brown Ale is a smoked beer that partially uses grains smoked there on the farm.  It pours with a pleasing chestnut/reddish brown color.  The aroma is, of course, smoky, but it has an undercurrent of a slightly sweet breadiness.

As a smoked beer and a brown ale it tastes of lots of malt.  The taste reflects the aroma well by being forward with the smoke, but tamping that down slightly with a modest bready quality.  There is not much of a hop taste that I could detect.   The hop bitterness comes through as a dryness that keeps the beer from sticking to your tongue too long which would make the smoky nature too much to take.

Warning, if you haven’t had a lot of smoked beer this could be a bit much for you.  I have seen customers order this beer at Craft and not be able to finish it.  Smoked beer, like sour beer, takes some getting used to.  However, if you do like smoked beer this is a well-made, lighter choice then the usual smoked porters, gratzers, or rauchbiers.

Benford is a small brewery located in Lancaster, SC on a farm about 40 miles south of uptown Charlotte.  I knew little about this brewery until we started tapping their beers at Craft.  It is an actual working farm with the water for the beer coming from a spring on the property and using the spent grain as food for the livestock.

As soon as I finished this beer and read about the brewery I knew what the first song was going to be in the playlist: “Hickory Wind.”  I choose the original version from The Byrd’s Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Enjoy it and the rest of the playlist.

The Beer Counselor Is In: There Is No Right Answer

When you first walk into Craft and look at the tap wall it can be a bit much.  There are 36 taps with the names and descriptions (which people don’t read) written above them.  It can often take a new customer and even regulars a moment to orient themselves to find something they like or want to taste.  That said, a strange thing happens with a lot of people.  They freeze up.  They stare, they ask for a taste of something, they ask you recommendation, they ask for another taste, they demur, and then they finally ask for a beer almost apologetically if it isn’t something they think a beer snob would love. They look at the wall and it seems like they are flashing back to school and taking a multiple choice test they have only partially studied for the last few days.

To those people here is my advice:  Chill the fuck out.  It is beer.  Buy a pint.  If you don’t like it, we have 35 other taps.  Or you know, you could buy a flight of five.  There is no right answer or wrong answer.  This isn’t like all the multiple choice tests you took in school.  This is an essay test only you can grade. Did you like the beer?  Why or why not?  Did you try a different beer?  Why or why not?

I’m not a teacher.  I’m not grading you.  I’m not judging you.  If you are in Craft and you are buying a beer, you are not going to get a bad beer.  Any beer we have on our tap wall is a good beer.  You might get a beer you don’t like, but that doesn’t make it bad.  Also, if you taste a beer and it tastes like something is wrong with it, before you tell the bartender make sure it isn’t the style of the beer.  Hefeweizen’s are supposed to be cloudy and sours are supposed to be sour.

I was a liberal arts major in a time when essay tests and 5 page final papers were how you were graded.  It wasn’t a multiple choice world.  You had to know things and understand things as you accepted that there were other things you could not or would not every really know definitively.

I think the unknown nature of subjective answers scare people.  We like black and white answers and easy categorization.  Those are easy to find multiple choice tests, but in the real world, we live in a constant state of gray.  You make decisions with partial information and choices with 50/50 odds of things turning out either good or bad.  We can’t see the future so anything you decide to do that takes place over a time longer than 20 minutes into the future is guess.

Please remember this.  As much as I love beer, it isn’t that important.  It should be the toy store or the comics’ page in the newspaper.  Just try one.  The worst that can happen is you don’t like it.  The bartender isn’t going to throw you out or shoot you for your choice.  Also remember, even a bad craft beer is still a craft beer.  Try something.  You never know, you may find a new beer you will love.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/8/2015

I’m back, maybe not better then ever, but with a clearer idea of what I want this blog to be.  More on all that in a post later today.  On to some quick beer news.

As I said, there will be at least one other post today, possibly more.  Stay tuned.

Growler Taste Test: Haw River Farmhouse Ales Newlin’s Original Belgian Oatmeal Pale Ale

Haw River Farmhouse Ales Newlin’s Original Belgian Oatmeal Pale Ale – 5.4% ABV

Growler 1 day old

Pales ales get short shrift in today’s American craft beer movement.  Many home brewers and professional brewers alike skip over the pale ale and go right to the IPA.  IPAs are sexier.  They are more of everything:  hops, malt, and alcohol.  They have even inspired a new term “session IPA.”  That is an IPA with lower alcohol and hop profile then a traditional American IPA.  Of course, that is close to the same description of an American-style Pale Ale.

This is a shame because American Pale Ale (APA) was the style that created the craft beer movement in this country in the first place.  Almost everyone’s first home brew is an APA. Sierra Nevada built one of the biggest craft breweries in this country on the back of its revered Pale Ale, which is still one of the best and cleanest examples of an American Pale Ale. it is also a wonderful style of beer that when done well gives just enough hoppiness to let you know you are drinking a craft beer, but not so much as to feel like you are eating a bag of fresh cut grass.

That is why I love it when a brewer eschews the marketing gimmick that is session IPA and creates a good and creative American Pale Ale.  Newlin’s Original Belgian Oatmeal Pale Ale from Haw River Farmhouse ales is just such a beer.

2015-05-11 15.03.18Haw River has created a quality pale ale with a huge name.  Right in that name (Belgian and oatmeal) you see this is going to be a little bit different than most pale ales.  It pours with a clean slightly hazy golden straw color and has a thin but strong head of foam.  The first thing you notice with the aroma is the presence of the dry-hopped Galaxy and Crystal hops which provide a citrusy and floral nose.  You also get a fruitiness from the Belgian yeast strain used in fermentation.

By using oatmeal the beer is given a smooth mouth feel and tamps down some of the hop bitterness.  You still get the citrusy and piney hops taste without it being distracting.  The citrusy hops combined with the fruitiness of the Belgian yeast and a nice carbonation makes this a nice refreshing summer pale ale.

Haw River distributes throughout North Carolina with their beers (including Newlin’s) are available in 500 ml bottles and kegs.  If you’re in the NC you should be able to find and enjoy their beer at a store of some kind of near you and if you happen to be passing near Saxapahaw during the weekend going somewhere else you can stop by their taproom and have a pint.

Growler Taste Review No. 3: Big Boss Monkey Bizz-ness

Wallonia is the predominately French speaking southern region of Belgium.  While it makes up over half the land mass of Belgium, Wallonia has contains only a third of the Belgian population.  It is also the home of the Chimay, Orval, and Rochefort breweries.  It is also the region that spawned the saison/farmhouse ale beer style.

20150427_170212Usually when you get a saison or a farmhouse ale, they are rather light.  The style was created to be enjoyed by Wallonian farmhands during the summer growing and harvesting seasons.  These beers tend to have a light amber color and feature a light taste that trends towards a fruity crispness.  The Big Boss Brewing Monkey Bizz-ness is a farmhouse ale that eschews such a dainty existence.  It comes at you with its 9% ABV and amber color and dares you to not like it.

The first thing you notice is the color.  It is a nice vibrant amber that has a thin off white head. banana-bread-oh-1732689-x Then you take a sniff and get banana, cloves, cinnamon, and all spice.  It smells like a nice fluffy piece of banana bread.  When you taste it you do not immediately get the alcohol.  It feels kind of medium heavy on the tongue the spices and sugars coat the mouth.  You get the taste of a moist banana bread.  It isn’t until the backend that you get the alcohol.  Then the best way to describe it is, like a piece of banana bread soaked in a light rum.

Whereas most saison’s and farmhouse ales are made for the beach or a summer picnic (lighter and a little more refreshing) Monkey Bizz-ness is a beer made for dessert or drank from a nice snifter while sitting on your porch at night watching fireflies dance and play.

If you like good beer, go and find this in a bar on tap or in bottles at your local bottle shop. As a shameless plug we have Monkey Bizz-ness in bottles and currently on tap at Craft Growler Shop.