Double the Tripel with Victory Beer Golden Monkey

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Picked up these two gems from the store today. Victory Golden Monkey 750ml cork and caged bottles. The best part? Bottled in November 2010 – must have been hanging out on the shelves for some time now. Cool find!

Beer of the Month Club: A Quick Overview

Wait, what?

The beer guy’s at the door?

No – that can’t be right.

Unless of course you belong to a monthly beer club that delivers delicious new beer to your door every single month!

I always get a laugh out of the fact that I have beer delivered to me in a perfectly packaged cardboard box fully protected from any flight turbulence or an overzealous UPS package handler.

Regardless of the hilarity factor, a monthly beer club is a must for those of us who truly enjoying trying new beer. Personally, I belong to one of the more popular clubs out on the web aptly named “Beer of the Month Club” (www.beermonthclub.com).

I was first introduced to this club by my girlfriend who seems to continually fuel the fire that is my craft beer hobby – and of course for this I thank her! She purchased four months of the service as a 2010 Christmas gift and the rest has been history.

A 12-pack arrives at the door every month and includes four different styles of beers from two different breweries from across the country.

I must admit that at one point I cancelled the subscription – the price, which is just short of $40 per month, seemed a bit too steep. Afterall, I can take my $40, run to my closest craft beer store and hand pick 16 bottles for less than $2.50 per bottle.

But then I realized that although I’m not lazy (I still head to the store every other week), the allure of having beer delivered to meet seemed too much to pass up. So I resubscribed and I’m glad I did!

During the most recent delivery, I received beers from two breweries completely new to me (one of the best perks of the club).

Sante Fe Brewing and Lost Coast BreweryThe State Pen Porter and Nut Brown Ale brewed by Santa Fe Brewing (@SantaFeBrew) in Sante Fe, NM (I’ve never even been to New Mexico!) and the Alleycat Amber and Great White from Lost Coast Brewery (@lostcoastbrewer) in Eureka, CA recently found their way to my apartment in Jersey City, NJ.

With every delivery the Beer of the Month Club includes a newsletter named Malt of the Earth describing each of the breweries, beers, and even suggested sampling temperature.

In addition to domestic and international 12 packs, the Beer of the Month club also offers a “Rare Collection” which includes beers selected by world renowned beer connoisseur Michael Jackson. Read more about the Rare Beer Club here.

Whether you are just starting off on the craft beer journey or are a long time traveler, I strongly suggest looking into a monthly club. You will definitely not regret it!

Do you currently belong to a monthly beer club and what great breweries have you discovered?

A Journey to the Last Tap at the Airport

This evening I walked a distance that can only be described as the length of two football fields. Trust me, it’s a lot when you’re lugging a carry-on and laptop bag.

But see – when you’re on the prowl for a pint of craft beer, no distance is too great.

There are five different bars at the Buffalo airport, four once you have passed through security. All four bars seem to be stocked by a distributor that macro breweries keep on retainer.

Every single adjunct domestic and importer lager that you would expect was available. It was a craft heads worst nightmare. As I posted on Twitter, I was half expecting Freddy to show up and shake me out of a dream with metal claws.

A funny thing happens when someone like myself is placed in a situation like this – I try to trick myself into thinking a beer is not what it really is. Persuading myself that some creative aspect went into making that “beer”.

Sam Adams Light becomes “the new offering”, Guinness is a “rare ale” from the Isle of Eire, and Bud Light Lime … Ugh, I can’t keep this up. Bud Light Lime tastes like lime flavored sugar water – disgusting.

There’s gotta be something better.

I finished half the bottle before I said no more (masochistic much?). I got up and looked down the terminal where I knew the remaining three bars stood. I started a walk that I thought ended in a place I’ve already been to – macro hell.

As I walked past the first stop I glanced at the bottles and saw the same as before. But the taps proved different – something caught my eye.

I wiggled up to the front of the bar and did one of those awkward shoulder, neck, head reaches to get a better view over the guy sitting right next to me. He looked right at me, they always do, with a look saying “what’re you doing weirdo?”. Whatever – back to the taps – false alarm. Sam Oktoberfest – better, but still not good enough.

The second stop was worst than the first. One final bar left – literally at THE OTHER END of the airport. I start the walk.

As I approach the bar, it feels different. I don’t know why – I sense… craft beer optimism in the air. I glance at the tap handles.

Bud Light. LaBatt. Sam. Dundee?

Um, kind sir, Mr. Bartender – WTF is that at the end there?

Dundee Oktoberfest?

Wait, is Freddy playing a trick on me? When Daniel the bartender pours it, will cockroaches spill from the copper handle into that frosted (I know, right) pint glass? Is it a mislabeled tap that actually pours Bud?

Alas, it’s none of those. It’s actually the best Oktoberfest I’ve had all year. No lie. Of course, I’m not a huge Marzen fan so I can’t pretend to give these beers a shot – but I really enjoyed this one.

Malty, just the right amount of spice, and almost creamy and oily in feel – it really hit the spot. What a find.

Daniel explained that this singular tap handle is rotated with Rochester, NY’s own J.B. Dundee Brewery offering up IPAs, wheats, and stouts to those willing to try something different.

It was quite literally THE LAST tap in the airport. Amazing. Moral of the story, never give up. I certainly won’t in the future.

After I polished off two pints, I jumped in line to board my 4.5 hour delayed flight home. Mostly every other passenger looked frustrated, yet I sat with a look of content.

I found today’s holy grail.

The Daily Ups and Downs of Writing a Blog

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not an expert at public / social / blog writing.

I’ve been doing it for a month. By all sense of the definition, I am a total beginner.

As such, I have no experience in this, yet I do have an opinion.

And man, sometimes writing a blog is hard work!

Coming up with ideas is typically easy – there’s always something running through my mind. Something I want to get “down on paper”, something that I want to share with the small amount of people that are willing to listen to me.

The work begins once I have an idea. Usually I start off with a bit of research, which then leads to more research, which leads to reading, which leads to thinking, which leads to finding a creative spark .. and on and on the cycle goes.

Sometimes I find that “spark” rather quickly, other times I’m staring at a blank screen with what I’m ashamed to call writers block because a) I’m by no means a “writer” and b) I don’t believe I truly know what writer’s block is (like George R. R. Martin knows what writer’s block is).

When I do find the spark and words start to come out, it’s fulfilling. Letters form words, words connect into sentences, sentences create paragraphs. And usually after about an hour of focus I find myself proofing reading a decently sized entry.

I crop, caption and format pictures, upload them, and fit them where I think they make the most aesthetic sense. I add external links – then test them (afterall, broken links suck) through countless clicks of the “Preview” button.

Once all of that is done and I’m sitting here proud of what I wrote, a dark cloud of doubt casts a shadow over my creative efforts.

Who the hell is going to read this anyway?

It’s odd – I probably shouldn’t care. This is supposed to be as much a soapbox for myself as it is for the few people interested enough in what I have to say. But I do care – I want people to read my thoughts, ideas, and share them with other people.

Afterall, my mom finds me interesting. Maybe other people will too.

I battle the self doubt long enough to schedule my post and hit the “Publish” button. And then I wait. I wait as twitterfeed picks up the post and publishes it to Facebook and Twitter. And then I wait some more. And then I refresh some more.

I watch as the WordPress visitor graph slowly begins to live again (it’s probably been about 24 hours since my last post, right?).

Oh wait, I just got an email. Someone in Texas is now following me on Twitter? That’s pretty cool.

My friend just retweeted my post to 435 followers? Also pretty cool.

Whoa, an old co-worker that follows my blog just sent me an email asking me if I tried a beer I never heard of?!

And that’s when all of that previously felt doubt dissipates. It seems that, albeit small in numbers, there are people reading what I have to say about one of my favorite hobbies and they’re slowly participating in this community.

Here are two examples of what my friends sent me – welcome to the Craft Beer Community guys.

From Nate C – An email titled “craft beer enthusiasm”, Nate shared two links:

iTunes App
Thrillist Manhattan/BK Craft beer crawls

From Adam S – Asked me if I tried Mjolnir Beer yet.. Tried it? I never even heard of it!

So cool that these guys actually took time out of their day to share something craft beer related with me.

These are the types of things that will keep this blog going .. for at least another 24 hours 🙂

What has your experience been with writing a blog?

@traquairhouse Traquair Jacobite: Guest Review for @scbeerguy

Traquair Jacobite

Traquair Jacobite from Scotland

It seems like I’m a big fan of writing guest blog posts! It’s a good thing I spend a little bit of time putting some thought into my own blog, or else you’d be reading a blog full of links.

Here’s a thoughtful review that I did for Chris (@scbeerguy) and his website (www.scbeerguy.com).

Click here to read my review of Scotland’s own Traquair House Jacobite – a very interesting Wee Heavy Scotch Ale.

This was an awesome find and I hope you get a chance to try it one day!

Make sure you visit Chris’ site at www.scbeerguy.com for reviews, news, and a ton of other craft beer information.

What was the last unique imported craft beer that you enjoyed?

New Friends, New Beer, New Experiences – My First Bottle Share

BottlelineOne of the many benefits of my day job (which I cannot be more thankful for) is the ability to travel to many different places throughout the US.

Because I’m typically located in the same distant place for a number of weeks, I am lucky to have enough time to explore various local craft breweries and offerings.

During a recent trip to upstate New York, I stumbled upon two breweries at a local beer store whose beer simply interested me – so naturally I bought a few bombers.

Hop Warrior and Dragonslayer

The Selection: Hop Warrior and Dragonslayer!

Hop Warrior (Imperial IPA, 8%) from Rooster Fish Brewing (website) in Watkins Glen, NY and Dragonslayer (Imperial Stout, 9.5%) from Middle Ages Brewing Company (@MiddleAgesBeer) in Syracuse, NY quickly found their way into my collection.

Score! Couldn’t wait to try these beers out.

Fast forward a few days and I find myself being invited to my first ever Bottle Share. For those unfamiliar with the term bottle share – it’s essentially a gathering of craft heads with the intent of sampling a number of different beers.

Each invited guests brings 2 to 3 different bottles for eager beer fanatics to try. Figuring that not a lot of people would have been exposed to small breweries from upstate New York, I graciously accepted the invite and lugged my two new bombers to the event.

I was the newcomer and was familiar with only two other people – that didn’t matter. Everyone was incredibly nice, polite and welcoming. The guests introduced themselves, asked questions and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

As we went through bottle after bottle of delicious craft beer from all over the country, I found myself relating the event to a craft beer festival except with beer not easily found at brewery tents.

The home run brew for me that night was the Reunion Ale ’08 brewed by Bison Brewing Company (@BisonBrew) from Berkeley, California. The Reunion Ale is brewed yearly as a memory to Virginia MacLean who passed away from Multiple Myeloma in 2007. Read more about Virginia’s story here.

Annually, different breweries participate in brewing the ale and there are frequent collaborations (check out this years Shmaltz and Terrapin Reunion Ale ’11 here).

The 2008 version was an organic red rye ale brewed with caraway seeds. Three years of aging did this little gem a huge favor by truly bring out the flavor. Fantastic brew.

Bottle Selections

Various Selections from My First Bottle Share

Other notable craft beers included products from Mikkeller (@MikkellerBeer), Schlafly (@Schlafly), Bell’s (@BellsBrewery), Founders (@FoundersBrewing) and the Sierra Nevada / Dogfish collaboration Life & Limb 2.

When it was my time to share, I found myself a bit apprehensive. I think I now know what home brewers go through when their beer is being judged at competitions – and I didn’t even brew the beer I brought!

I poured samples of Hop Warrior to the guests and eagerly awaited their response. Because no one had tried the beer before (including me), I was very curious about what they thought.

It was a success! Although not an extraordinary brew, the overall response was positive and I was happy to introduce the brewery to the event’s guests.

Unfortunately, not the same could be said about Dragonslayer. The craft beer had a rather unique taste akin to candy and plastic. Everyone was polite and thanked me, but I didn’t see too many folks grab the bottle for another sample. Lesson learned! You win some, you loose some.

Towards the end of the night, I even had the opportunity to try the elusive and hard to acquire Samuel Adam’s Utopias, a 27% American Strong Ale. Although I am extremely appreciative of the complexity of brewing such a beer and the guests willing to share it, I found it a bit overbearing. This is certainly a beer enjoyed very seldom in small sipping quantities.

Overall, my first bottle was a complete success and made me eager for more I’m already thinking about hosting my own bottle share with old and new friends alike.

What was the experience like at your last bottle share?

It’s still summer in Belmar, right? Beer on the Pier Event!

I know that it’s September already and although summer officially ends the day after this post is published, wouldn’t it be nice to come back for a fun filled Saturday in Belmar, NJ?

Well, here is your chance!

In the past month, I’ve gotten involved with a great group of guys and gals at newjerseycraftbeer.com. This group of devoted craft heads aims to spread the knowledge about the craft beer community throughout the state of New Jersey.

Beer on the Pier

Beer on the Pier - Belmar Marina, Sept 24th!

Our devoted leader, Mike K (@NJCraftBeer), recently requested the support of NJCB reporters to help talk and pour beer at the second annual Beer on the Pier event in Belmar – and, like with most craft beer related things, it was very difficult to say no.

I will be engaging on a long journey from Jersey City to the Belmar Marina to participate in the event as a proud representative of NJCB. I am very excited for the opportunity as it will be the first time that I will be volunteering at a craft beer related event.

Click here to read more about the event including the VERY long list of breweries that will be present including the likes of Weyerbacher (Easton, PA), Sixpoint (Brooklyn, NY), Oskar Blues (Boulder, CO) and Terrapin (Athens, GA).

Listed on the ballot are also a couple of local NJ breweries including River Horse (Lambertville) and Cricket Hill (Fairfield).

Don’t you think this is a great way to spend a Saturday? Hope to see you there!

Do you plan on making it out to the Beer on the Pier event?