this is the list as compiled in about March of 07, and then added on from there. Now that this is all up in one fell swoop, we can expect much more reasonable postings from here on out. New comments have been added in red.
Perm’s Beer o’ the Week (or Month, or whenever…)
N.B. The earliest installments have yet to be retrieved and so may be lost to posterity. Hopefully the editors will begin to be a bit more organized henceforward.
Atlantic Brewing Co. (Maine, USA) Bar Harbor Blueberry
Had this on our honeymoon, and brought some back to NC. Quality, not too fruity.
North Carolina has popped the cap!!
Wild Goose Pumpkin-Patch Ale (Frederick Brewing Co., Maryland, USA)
rated 8 out of 10 on the Mark scale.
I’m not sure what happened to the Mark scale, but it fell into disuse sometime in 2006.
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (Delaware, USA)
rated 9 out of 10
Heather Ale’s Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale (Scotland)
Everything the Heather Ale folks brew is worth drinking. Ebulum, for me, is the best of the best.
North Coast Old Stock Ale (California, USA)
I’m glad I started making more detailed comments, because I remember NOTHING about this one, other than I thought it was good. Oh, it’s a strong ale from the makers of Old Rasputin. It’s beginning to come back now….it’s a Headache Beer (see below).
Wild Goose Snow Goose Winter Ale (Frederick B.C., USA)
UK Edition: these three you’ll have to cross the Pond for, but they’ll pretty much make the plane ticket worth the fare.
1. Young’s English Stout Draught
Better than Guinness
Well, I should say so. I must say, just a year ago I was quite ignorant about the world of stouts. English stout is quite a different beast from Irish stout. This comment also hearkens back to my college buddies Sandy and Mark; the three of us would rate beers by saying, “It’s no Guinness.”
2. Young’s Nut Brown Draught
3. Jennings’ Cumbrian Ale
If you can actually find this, you’d better drink up!
Domaine des Rocs Grand Cru “Special Brown” Ale (Belgium)
gave this a perfect 10/10. Solid Belgian
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (CA, USA)
strong but solid. A good barleywine.
Victory Hop Devil (Pennsylvania, USA)
Paulaner Hefeweizen (Germany)
a perennially-favourite wheat beer. One of the tip-top
Rogue Hazelnut Brown (Oregon, USA)
people seem to either love or hate this one. I thought it was worthy of a “Good Lord!”
Flying Dog Tire Bite (Colorado, USA)
one of my favorite American bitter craft brews
Harpoon Hibernian Irish-style Red (Harpoon Brewery, Massachussetts/Vermont, USA)
a good foil to Killian’s – something different to say in the red ale department
Avery’s Salvation Ale (Colorado, USA)
like the love child between Irish whisky and Belgian ale – no, really
Avery’s The Beast (Colorado, USA)
Worth having once so that you can say you’ve had it – 14% ABV. It’s for sipping and respecting. Imagine it as the port of beers.
Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock (Germany)
another 10/10. Great with desserts (chocolate) or sweet meat like venison or pork.
August of 2006 I received Garrett Oliver’s tome “The Brewmaster’s Table” and was a disciple from page 1. From here on out I begin to apply a lot of Mr. Oliver’s wisdom and food-beer theories. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It’s incredibly informative and very entertainingly written.
Durham World Beer Festival! Here are a bunch of my favorites:
First Place (Three stars)
Abbaye du Val-Dieu Tripel (Belgium)
Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet (Belgium)
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale (USA)
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (USA)
Du Pont Foret Organic Ale (Belgium)
Du Pont Moinette Brune (Belgium)
Highland Tasgall Ale (USA)
St. Feuillien Abbey Triple (Belgium)
St. Peter’s Cream Stout (England)
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (Heaven)
Weienstephaner Dunkel Weiss (Germany)
Second Place (Two or two and a half Stars)
Allagash White (USA)
Arcöbräu Bavarian Wheat (Germany)
Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA (Scotland)
Brasserie des Rocs Triple Impériale Dark Ale (Belgium)
Clipper City Hop3 Loose Cannon (USA)
Clipper City Small Craft Warning Uber Pils (USA
Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (USA)
Du Pont Saison (Belgium)
Kuhnhenn Simcoe Silly Belgian Pale Ale (USA)
Sierra Nevada Brown Ale (USA)
St. Bernardus Abt. 12 (Belgium)
St. Peter’s Organic Porter (Belgium)
Unibroue La Fin du Monde Triple (Québec)
Wild Goose Oatmeal Stout (USA)
Third Place (One star)
Anderson Valley Brother David’s Triple (USA)
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter (USA)
Greene King Abbot English Ale (England)
Lakefront Belgian White (USA)
Orkney Skullsplitter (Scotland)
Stoudt’s Double IPA (USA)
Unibroue Blanche de Chambly (Québec)
The star method was a festival-specific rating that I devised on the spot, and abandoned afterward.
Sierra Nevada Porter
also “better than Guinness”
Legend Brewing Co. British Mild Ale (Richmond, VA)
Limited batch and limited distribution. Such a big shame, but if you’re in Richmond, it’s worth going out of your way to sample. Yum.
Foothills Brewery Seeing Double IPA (Winston-Salem, NC, USA)
had this on draught at the Joyce – VERY nice American IPA! Not obscenely hoppy.
The James Joyce Irish Pub on Main Street is one of the best things that Durham, NC has to offer. It was a hang-out and favorite watering hole of mine for quite a long time. It’s the kind of place that fiddlers name original tunes in honour of.
Saison Du Pont (Belgium)
Yeah, this got a 2nd (not 1st) place from me at the Beer Festival in October, but repeated partakings have lifted this one to the tip-top for me: it’s my current (1/2007) favorite brew. Try it with Cajun food (étouffée) or Thai (anything with peanut sauce and lime) and you won’t go wrong.
Koningshoeven Trappist (Netherlands)
Caramelly brown, pleasantly sweet but, as opposed to a Tripel, not a gigantic ABV on this one. The quote from Sara was, “It’s like a hug in a bottle.”
Trumer Pils (Trumer Brauerei, Berkeley, CA, USA)
Don’t discount Pilsners that aren’t Urquell before you sample this one – it’s solid.
Stockyard Oatmeal Stout (Chicago, IL, USA)
Nice, easy-drinking American stout.
Left Hand Milk Stout (Longmont, CO, USA)
A really good one if you like your stouts on the sweet side.
Ayinger Ur-Weisse (Aying, Germany)
One of the best wheat beers I’ve ever tasted, bar none. Ur-Weisse, indeed.
dark beer month!
A. LeCoq’s Imperial Extra Double Stout (Harvey’s Brewery, UK)
The darkest beer I have ever had – and one of the absolute best. If you think you know Stout, but have not tried this one, then you don’t know all there is to know. Truly amazing.
Geary’s London Porter (Maine, USA)
proof that Americans can make convincing British-style beer. Try it with a good steak.
Brooklyn Monster Barleywine (Brooklyn Brewery, NY, USA)
I have now added “barleywine” to my MS Word’s spell-check dictionary. As should you all, based on this offering from Mr. Oliver & co. Rumor is that they blast the opening chorus from Carmina Burana when they brew it. This is what we call a “fighting beer.” Useful in hand-to-hand combat, I’m sure. Treat it with respect and it will satisfy you long into a cold winter’s night.
Traquair House Ale (Scotland)
A fascinating strong Scots ale from a brewery with an even more fascinating history. Complex, plummy, strangely satisfying.
Fuller’s ESB (London, UK)
This is seriously a contender for “beer of the year.” If I were a sorority girl (which I most decidedly am NOT), my only appropriate response to this brew would be, “OMG!!!!” As is, my only appropriate response to this brew is, OMG!!!! I now understand the potential of an ESB, and what it should truly represent. If, as their label boasts, Fuller has given us the “original” ESB, then we are presented with a case of the source never being outstripped by its scions. This beer is incredibly more refined and well-rounded than any American ESB I’ve ever had, all of which usually seem (by comparison) to be overly hoppy and bitter simply for the sake of the hops and bitterness. Fuller’s, on the other hand, utilises the hops and bitterness to a complete-picture end: it gives them a purpose, and a meaning, and has something to say with them. I drank this with an amazing pork tenderloin dish at The Purple Onion Café in Saluda, NC (where each of you will be treated when you come to visit us in our new digs), and the pairing was spot-on.
Delirium Tremens (Belgium)
This is actually the second time I’ve tried this one. The first time, I came away strangely confused and unsatisfied by it, but after seeing an ad in All About Beer magazine hailing it “the world’s most perfect beer,” I knew I needed to give it another shot. I call it the John Coltrane of beers – keep listening (or, in our case, sipping), and eventually you hear what it’s trying to tell you. This beer refuses to give away all its secrets to just anyone at anytime. It plays hard-to-get, but keep after it and it will reveal its sultry passion. My take is that it’s a bitter Belgian ale. Not a white beer (a la Hoegaarden), nor a Trappist (dubbel or otherwise), nor even a Saison…yet distinctly Belgian all the same. I would go out on a hunch and say try it with spicy Thai or Vietnamese. Or maybe game bird in a dark sauce. Me, I had it on its own. It paired extremely well with the billiard cue I had in the other hand.
The taste of summer. Cool, toasty malt with just the right amount of hop bitterness, the kind of brew to make you say, “Urquell? What’s Urquell?” Truly a great concoction from Brooklyn, a brewery that I’m beginning to understand is in league with Harpoon, Dogfish Head, and Fuller’s: a brewery that can do no wrong.
Harpoon IPA (Boston and Vermont, USA)
And speaking of Harpoon, here’s an oldie but a goodie. Excellent with pizza, or with spicy Asian stir-fry (à la Bali Hai Mongolian Grill). Worth the 6-pack.
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (Bell’s Brewery, Galesburg, MI)
This was a surprising shot-in-the-dark find that was dynamite with a gourmet goat cheese pizza at the Purple Onion in Saluda, NC. A strong New World IPA with a good blend of floral hoppiness and roasted malt warmth. This inspires me to investigate Bell’s Brewery further.
Last week (4/25) Sara and I went to our first-ever beer tasting dinner. It was held
at the Raleigh Times (a FANTASTIC bar/restaurant in Raleigh…probably my favorite eating and drinking establishment in the city, now that I’m leaving said city…) and hosted by Devon Arloski of the Dogfish Head brewery of Delaware. I have been a passive fan of Dogfish Head for some time, but after Wednesday’s dinner experience, I’m sold: lock, stock, and drinking barrel. I’m going to list all 6 brews we had over the course of the dinner, just because the experience in toto was so amazing.
1. 60 Minute IPA.
This paired so well with the Almond-melon gazpacho that it was served with that I could have gone home right then and there a happy, happy man. This is a rock-solid New World IPA that I’m sure would make the most down-and-out rotten day loads smoother. Also fantastic with lunch sandwiches, this flagship beer of the brewery has a good citrus character to balance the hops, and would make a great session brew.
2. Aprihop IPA.
Don’t let the name fool you; this is no “fruit beer.” (although some of those are incredibly good, too..). It’s a bit stronger (7% ABV) but is soft and velvety with just a hint of apricot sweetness, a thin seam if you will. I’d love to try this with hummus, but the falafel-like apricot-carrot-and-olive fritters we had it with matched it like a bride and groom.
3. 90 Minute Imperial IPA.
Now, I’ve had this beer before and loved it (gave it first place ranking in October at the Durham Beer festival), but sampling a brew at a festival and drinking it with a food pairing carefully prepared are two different animals entirely. The 90 Minute was served with a red snapper topped with tarragon pesto and accompanied with sautéed asparagus. Heaven. In the brewery’s own words, “a big beer with a great malt backbone that stands up to the extreme hopping rate.” The 90 (and 60, as well) refers to the length of time that hops are added (at 8-second intervals) to the boiling wort. They also make a gigantic 120 Minute version that unfortunately (18% ABV) is not available in NC.
4. Midas Touch Golden Elixir.
I had also experienced this one a while back. It is based on an ancient Near-Eastern (2500 BC) recipe and is reminiscent of mead or champagne. It is brewed with honey, Muscat grapes, and saffron in addition to barley. It was served for us with a cheese course of Petit Munster (stinky French cheese) and Smokey Blue cheese from the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, I believe) and I had a blast with it. Even if you’re not a fan of stinky cheese (what we used to call “Fumundah cheese”), you have to respect the wonderful balance and pairing this beer creates with it. Given the opportunity, I’d do it all over again. It would also go solidly with Brie, and not-too-spicy curry dishes as well.
5. Raison d’Etre.
If forced to pick one favorite from the night (hopefully I wasn’t), this might very well be it. A Belgian-inspired ale brewed with beet sugar, green raisins, and Belgian yeast, this is an ongoingly complex brew that went so well with our lamb chops and quinoa (the lamb was prepared in a D’Etre reduction) it was hard to tell where one stopped and the other began. More, please.
6. Indian Brown Ale.
I also had tried this one in October at the Beer Festival, where I ranked it in the second-place tier. Oh, if only I had sampled it along with a brown sugar cookie and vanilla ice cream, as it was presented to us at the dinner. This beer (a cross between Scots Ale, IPA, and American Brown Ale) has caramelized brown sugar that makes it a perfect companion to ice cream, but would equally be at home with smoked gouda, smoked meats, or a good dark stew. A perfect end to a fantastic dinner-and-beer experience.
Although none of the below have come from said establishments, now that Sara and I are relocating to Southwestern NC we have access to several dynamite beer markets: Bruisin’ Ales of Asheville, the Asheville Wine Market, and the Hendersonville Co-op. And, of course, numerous on-tap watering holes.
Weyerbacher Old Heather Imperial Stout (PA, USA)
Try this in a glass accompanied by some Ben & Jerry’s Dublin Mudslide ice cream. You’d swear that these two things shared ingredients with each other – the pairing is faultless.
Duchesse de Bourgogne (Brouwerij Verhaege, Flanders region of Belgium)
Don’t try this at a beer festival in the midst of sweet stouts, hoppy IPAs, or complex Abbeys. You won’t like it and you’ll give it a bad grade, simply because it’s so different from everything else. Sort of like drinking a strong Cabernet-Zinfandel blend with palak paneer and chicken jal frazie — you’ll end up thinking that the wine is bad. Rather, this beer, a remarkable example of Flemish Red Ale, should be experienced on its own, or better yet, with dinner. It is matured in oak casks, giving it a rich depth. It has a sourness reminiscent of Gueuze or unfruited Lambic, but has much more to offer than the Gueuze that I’ve tasted. There is a mild fruity (applish) acidity to the finish giving it a wine-like quality: not for nothing is it called the “Burgundy of Beers.” It is this acidity coupled with the pleasant sourness and wine-like dryness that makes it go so well with a variety of foods, from artisan cheese to seafood (I expect – I’m dying to try it with mussels and frites) to venison (I had it with a savory meat pie loaded with cardamom and other spices), and I’m sure there are other wonderful pairings lurking out there to be found. Definitely a keeper. It’s also not nearly as high in alcohol (about 6.2% ABV) as other Belgians, so it won’t knock you out for the rest of the evening.
Don de Dieu (Unibroue, Quebec, Canada)
I’m on a huge Unibroue kick right now. It took me a while to be brave enough to try their offerings, for a few reasons:
1) It’s Canadian. How many fine Canadian craft brews do YOU know of? (Moosehead? What?)
2) It’s FRENCH Canadian – the intimidation factor is high. Sure, I’ve stumbled upon French bière de garde, but that ALSO had a huge intimidation factor.
3) All of their offerings are styled, “Ale on Lees,” which I still have not seen defined anywhere. And Garrett Oliver doesn’t mention this brewery once in his book. Again, the intimidation.
4) My first experience with them was largely forgettable. I had a Blanche de Chambly at a billiard bar in Martinsville, VA (Sandy Whitesides’ wedding eve) and just didn’t know what to do with it. I was expecting a Hoegaarden clone, I think, and it wasn’t that.
I rediscovered this brewery at the 2006 Durham Beer Festival, and gave La Fin du Monde a 2nd-place, and Blanche de Chambly a 3rd-place. Again, like the Flemish Red, these beers don’t do well at festivals because they’re so damn different from everything else. The way to sample beers like these is either a) try them first, or b) try them first right after lunch. Subsequent outings with La Fin du Monde have skyrocketed it in my book.
So, Don de Dieu. Remarkable. The closest thing to a Belgian Triple Ale that I’ve found that’s not actually a Belgian. The Quebeçois have managed somehow to retain a bit more old-worldness to their brews than have the USA craft-brewers. Don de Dieu has a slight roasted-nut quality blending in with that great fruit-malt-yeast quality that I love about farmhouse-style brews. This beer would be fantastic with anything grilled (especially game), even more fantastic with spicy Latin or Asian dishes, and remarkable with artisan cheese. It’s 9%, so watch yourself.
Dogfish Head Immort Ale (Dogfish Head brewery, Delaware)
I put this brew in the category I affectionately call, “Headache beer,” even though I’m proud to say that this particular one did NOT give me a headache. (Generally speaking, “Headache beer” is syrupy barleywine, certain Belgian strong ales, and the like). Talk about a beer that you don’t know what to do with. Imagine a hybrid between a barleywine and a Rauchbier. Then add some crazy shit. It’s got peat-smoked barley (no kidding. Probably why I liked it – reminded me of Islay malt Scotch),organic juniper berries, vanilla, and maple sugar, a blend of English and Belgian yeasts AND it’s aged on oak. No joke. All in one brew. I finally figured out what to do with it – sip it slowly and enjoy the ride. Drunken goat cheese is a good companion. I expect fire-hot haggis would be, too, but that’s just a guess. Oh yeah. 11% ABV. But oh so much more.