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Cocoa Mole! Cerveza Para Cinco de Mayo!

The hubster brought home a surprise bomber the other night.  Something new, completely unique and amazingly good.  If you’re lucky enough to have access to New Belgium Brewing Company’s specialty beers, then bypass the Mexican beers this Cinco de Mayo and pick up a bottle of their Cocoa Mole.  Holy Mole, this beer is spiced just right with ancho, guajillo and chipotle peppers; cinnamon; and bittersweet cocoa.

If you’re not familiar with mole, it’s a heavy spiced Mexican sauce or rub that’s sweet, spicy, and full of delicious, fruity smoky lingering heat.  Imagine that in a beer and you’ve got Cocoa Mole -“Porter de Mexico”.  Introduced as part of New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, this beer is not for weak taste buds.  The spices permeate the beer without overwhelming.  You can taste every ingredient, yet the combination is brilliant, and like the sauce, the chilies and leave a sweet fruity lingering heat that blends perfectly with the spicy cinnamon and bittersweet chocolate.

For those of you who like stats with your beer reviews, here we go…

  • Medium bodied
  • Dark
  • Full Flavored
  • 9% ABV
  • IBU’s?  Target hops are used, but IBUs aren’t even listed – the spices pretty much replace the hops in this one.
  • Spices – Ancho, guajillo, and chipotle peppers, cinnamon, cocoa

If you’re thinking you’d rather cook with it than drink it, then hey, you’re not alone.  I can easily imagine cooking this down to a thick syrupy demi glacé and spooning it over mounds of tender roasted chicken or pork (Remember the beautiful food in the movie “Like Water for Chocolate”?) .  Or scoop some vanilla ice cream, pour Cocoa Mole over and top with chocolate syrup for a delicious beer ice cream float.  Yum!  Don’t believe me?  Check out New Belgium’s website for some creative Cocoa Mole recipes.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good authentic mexican cerveza on Cinco de Mayo.  And in the heat of summer, a cold (yes, I said cold) Corona can be just the ticket (and it happens to be one of the few beers that encourages fruit).  But for a true Cinco de Mayo flavored filled cerveza experience, you’ve got to try Cocoa Mole.  At less than $10 a bottle, not only will you get a memorable beer experience, but you’ll also have a gorgeous artsy bottle that will melt down into one heck of a nice cheese plate (check out New Life for Old Beer Bottles) !

Happy Cinco de Mayo Everyone!  Viva la Mexico and Cheers Beers!

Flying Dog Unleashes the Wildeman

January 20, 2012 2 comments

Great news for hophead fans of the Flying Dog Brewery!  They’re releasing their new Farmhouse IPA – The Wildeman – in Maryland, Virginia and DC.

I recently took a growler of the Wildeman Farmhouse IPA home, and let me tell ya, the hubster and I were in hoppy heaven. Mind you, I’m not a hophead, but I do love beers that have a good dose of hops balanced with mild malty sweetness. The Raging Bitch fits this profile, and so does the Wildeman. Its a golden hoppy beer with lots of flavor, the smooth drinkability of a farmhouse ale, and a really nice well balanced hoppy layer. Raging Bitch fans are gonna love it, and many of the brewery staff have already dubbed it their new favorite. Hey, I was there and heard it with my own ears!

The Flying Dog Brewery's Wildeman Cometh to MD, VA and DC

If you’re in the Frederick, Maryland area on Thursdays, come to Flying Dog for a tour and bring your growlers. They open the taps up for growler fills on Thursdays, and its a great time to get a sneak preview and stock up for the weekend on their scratch and pre-release brews, as well as their full time beer line up. Their Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, K9 Winter, Gonzo Porter, Gonzo Barrel-aged Porter (kick butt), and Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout are just a few of my personal favorites.  And just a tip – the Gonzo Imperial Porter and the Double Dog make a kick butt black and tan.  I can’t account for separation, but the flavor is unreal.  There are at least 10 or 12 taps to choose from so mix it up any way you like.

If you don’t already have a growler, you can buy one in their gift shop for $5. In fact, at $5 a growler, you might wanna stock up on those too.  They’re like shoes…you can never have too many.   Stick around for the tour, its a fun (and cheap) date night at $5 a pop – includes tokens for tastings and a commemorative Flying Dog glass.   I love our hometown brewery!

If you’re nowhere near the MD, VA, DC area but you still get Flying Dog, then be patient.  I predict the Wildeman will gain a very quick following and will eventually make an appearance in a liquor store near you.  But then again, life offers no guarantees.  Grab your buddies….it’s time for a road trip!

Cheers beers!

Cheers Beers’ Favorites from 2011

December 31, 2011 2 comments

2011 has been an amazing year of beer!  Every beer store visit offers new introductions to breweries and beers we’d never seen before.  Some are easily forgotten, but others have managed to chisel a permanent residence in my adult ADD brain.  And that’s saying’ something!  So in honor of 2011, I’ve created a list of my personal stand out favorites. Some were newly introduced in 2011 and others were just newly introduced to me.  Don’t get caught up in numbers – the order doesn’t reflect any preferences, just keeping count.

So without further adieu, here are 12 favorite Cheers Beers’ discoveries from 2011….

1.  Franklin’s Highland Hugh – a Wee Heavy that puts me in Wee Heaven.  I love scotch ales, and this one is sublime.  Available only at the brewpub in Hyattsville, Maryland – if you’re ever in the College Park area, don’t miss out on a trek to Franklin’s Restaurant and Brewery.

2.  Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour  – a seriously orgasmic sour beer (see great review from the Booze Dancers).  Monk’s Cafe has pushed Philly even higher up on our beer bucket list.

3.  Bell’s Wild One Sour Brown Ale  – A Bell’s brewpub exclusive and one of the best sour beers I’ve ever had.  I can only hope they keep this one around for our next visit to Kalamazoo, MI.

4.  Roy Pitz’ Watermelon Lager  – I LOVE watermelon, and man do these guys know how to make a fantastic fresh off the vine flavorful watermelon beer. Roy Pitz has just expanded the size of their brewery and they are now bottling.  Access is currently granted to the lucky residents of PA, but they’re working to expand in MD and surrounding states, so just give ’em time to work their way into your neck of the woods.  My best of show brewery discovery for 2011.

5.  Dogfish Head’s Hellhound – a really delicious, unique, not heavy but full flavored hoppy beer finished with lots of lemon citrus flavor – one of my favorite hoppy beers ever with a great story behind the label.

6.  Founders Back Woods Bastard – delicious sipper that packs an amazing bourbon punch – well done Founders!  Am also a big fan of it’s sibling…the Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale.  Definitely a favorite brewery discovery of 2011.

7.  New Glarus’ Wisconsin Belgian Red – Not your traditional malty hoppy beer, but it has earned a reputation (and awards) as one of the world’s best fruit beers for a reason. Imagine tart cherry pie in a glass…so good!

8.  Firestone Walker’s Union Jack IPA – my favorite IPA discovery in 2011.  A WOW beer for sure, and a very welcome new comer to the MD beer scene.

9.  Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ale – a delicious surprise from Brooklyn Brewery.  A zesty belgian saison with a mild hoppy bite.  A gourmet beer for a gourmet meal!

10. and 11.  Dogfish Head’s Death Metal and Black & Red – Both are dark, thick, rich, decadent imperial style beers.  For espresso lovers, Death Metal is your beer – so full of delicious sweet dark dense chocolate and coffee flavor. The Black & Red is a sinful chocolate stout loaded with raspberry and mint.  Dessert anyone?

12.  Lagunitas’ (Bavarian Style) Doppel Weizen – It would be sad to forget this one since I just tried it last night.  But after one hearty sip, I knew it had to be on the list.  Lagunitas makes some of the most delicious and flavorful beers on the market, and this one is no exception.  I love how they’re branching out and introducing some new styles this past year.  And even though the styles are different, Lagunitas has branded the taste of their beers.  Truly, there’s no mistaking a beer that’s been brewed by Lagunitas.

I hope this gives you some ideas for new beers to try in 2012.  Best wishes to all of you for many new and exciting discoveries and beer ventures in 2012, and on behalf of Cheers Beers, have a very happy, safe and prosperous new year!

Cheers beers!

Beer Mixology: Fruitin’ Up the Beer

Beer Fruitology….the artful science of beer and fruit compatibility. Ok, not really a science, but more of a research project that I’ve been playing around with this summer.

Ah yes, I hear the “eews” and the “icks” already.  I agree, this experiment is not for the finicky, and finicky I am not. I am however, a huge lover of fruit, and I consider myself a bit of a beer mixologist.  Since I’ve already waved my freaky beer mixin’ flag with  Waterweizen and Beersicles posts, what the heck, I’ll wave it a little higher and share my fetish for mixing fruit and beer.  Many beers have fruity character anyway…whether they’re made with fruit or not, so it’s really not as far fetched as it sounds.  And I’ve seen a number of bars throw a spoon full of somethin’ somethin’ into a pint of beer…stranger things than fruit, I assure you.  So fruit, my fun beer drinking friends, is just the beginning my beer mixology experiments!

Now, I do give these mixes some thought beforehand, and some are definitely better than others.  I haven’t tried anything with bananas yet, perhaps a nice banana orange clovey heffeweizen would be interesting.  Hmmm, I’ll save that for the winter project.  But I have discovered a few interesting combos. Some look prettier than they taste, and some I thought were exceptionally (even surprisingly) good.

So without further adieu, here’s a visual review of the summer’s beer fruitology findings…


Hubster’s Hopricot Homebrew with Fresh Grapefruit

The beer is a delicious fruity hoppy IPA with great citrus character and apricots thrown in during fermentation. The grapefruit pair perfectly with this beer. The beer brought out the sweetness in the fruit, and the fruit brought out the citrusy hopiness in the beer. A surprising favorite among my research subjects, regardless of its fleshy appearance.


Kiwi Berliner Weiss

Berliner Weiss has to be one on the best light summer beers (another homebrew). Mildly sour, light, crisp, and of course, fruity.  It lends itself so well to beer fruitology.  You can throw just about any kind of fruit into this beer and it’ll work.  Some just work better than others.  The kiwi in this mix isn’t overly sweet or sour and has a very distinct flavor that I wish had blended more with the beer. The flavors worked, but the kiwi was too crunchy and didn’t absorb the liquid, so the mixology part didn’t really happen. If it had, then I think this would’ve been a good combo.  It does make for an interesting photo.


American Strawberry IPA

Sliced strawberries in a full bodied, fruity American IPA homebrew. It looks pretty, but I didn’t get any wow flavor factor from this combo. Again, very separate flavors that remained separate throughout the drink – they weren’t complementary, but they didn’t clash either.  I’m leaning that some fruits might be better crushed first.  Strawberries are one of them. However, IPAs definitely work best with citrus.  Lancaster Brewing Company’s Strawberry Wheat is perhaps an obvious choice for this fruity combo.  But I tend to steer away from the obvious in search of happy accidents.  Much more fun that way.


Blueberry Weizenbock

I used the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Weizenbock and added a nice scoop of fresh blueberries.  You see this done at a lot at of bars that serve blueberry beers.  But this is a different combo that really works well.  A great beer on its own, the Weizenbock has a nice heavier, malty fruitiness that’s complemented by the more complex, sweet and tart flavor of the blueberries.  Next time I drink this beer, I’ll be sure to have blueberries on hand.

                             

Sweet Bumbleberry Berliner Weiss

Traditionally, sweet woodruff syrup is added to Berliner Weiss’.  Sweet woodruff actually imparts a sweet Lucky Charms marshmallow flavor to the beer.  However, Northern Brewer recommends the addition of blackberry syrup to their Berliner Weiss homebrew kit. I didn’t have blackberries available, but I did have frozen mixed berries on hand. So I made a bumble berry simple syrup.  I suspect you can use this simple syrup recipe for virtually any kind of fruit.

Fruity Simple Syrup – In a small saucepan I brought to a boil equal parts water, sugar, and berries.  Blend the mixture smooth, then strain and discard the seeds and skins.  Allow to cool some, then add 1 tbsp of the syrup to 12 oz beer, or use more or less syrup as desired.

This is a sweet fruity beer, comparable to a wine cooler actually.  If you’re trying to convert someone from wine coolers to beer, this is a great way to start.  Most of the sour characteristics are masked, leaving a mild, smooth, refreshingly pleasant berry flavored drink.

Tip:  Keep the syrup refrigerated and try it in lemonade and some of your favorite cocktail beverages.


Cranberry Water-Lambic

What can I say? Watermelon is my fruit of choice, and Sam Adams’ Cranberry Lambic is my beer of choice.  The two make a great pair.   Tart, sweet, crunchy, melony, and pink with a distinct lambic taste.  Only two problems, watermelon is only available in the summer, and Cranberry Lambic is only available in the winter.  But I managed to keep a few lambics on hand from the several cases that Santa brought me last year.  So excited that Sam Adams finally decided to release the Cranberry Lambic in cases!  If you find yourself without Cranberry Lambics, then no worries, Sierra Nevada’s Pomegranite Wheat and Magic Hat’s Wacko are two worthy substitutes.  Sadly, Smuttynose no longer makes Hanamai, which would be my other choice.  Watermelon works with most light fruity beers, and for me, it’s ideal because the fruit blends well with the beer, and the beer absorbs into the fruit, making it a great drink and good eats!

Cheers beers!

BeerRevue: Honey B’s Lavender Ale

The Honey B’s Lavender Ale is our first of this year’s three Sam Adams Longshot winners.  At 5.5 ABV, the Honey Bee’s Lavender Ale is a full flavored, crisp, refreshing, honey colored beer that’s perfect for spring/summer consumption.  It has light-medium body and the flavor is well balanced, mild and pleasantly sweet, laced with honey and, as it warms, a detectable hint of lavender.  Some nice fruity citrus notes come through with a slight hoppy bitterness that remains through the finish.  Honey B’s has an overall earthy, organic quality that I really like.  Would love to see this one as a 6-pack.

Double BeerRevues: DFH Hellhound and Black N’ Red

Two days a year, I work with the hubster to install signs in a local restaurant chain throughout the northern VA area.  That means lunch at Dogfish Head Alehouse, and boy did we pick the right weekend.  They had not one…but TWO of their newly released, limited, highly acclaimed, most sought after, hard to come by beers on tap.

Black & Red

I’d heard heard the name of this beer and thought it was probably a blend of DFH’s Black & Blue and Red & White.  Not even close.

“Black & Red is a velvety smooth dry-minted stout with a serious fruit problem! “

In my opinion, the Black & Red is more like an imperial chocolate stout with loads of raspberry and mint flavor.   At 10.5 ABV, this brew is smooth, rich, thick, decadent, sweet –  dessert in a glass, a sipper.  The chocolate from the grains is definitely there, but not prominent.  Instead, it provides a fantastic backdrop that complements the abundance of raspberry and mint – a beautiful combination of flavors that make this beer more of a stand alone aperitif.  I certainly wouldn’t pair it with a tuna salad sandwich.  I also did not detect any roasted flavor from the grains (even thought it’s mentioned in the DFH description), – in this case that’s a good thing.  I also love that there’s a slight tartness from the raspberries – so my first sip was similar to biting into a fresh dark chocolate dipped raspberry with a sprig of mint.  They actually used 100 lbs of organic mint from Washington’s Green Grocer, which was added to the secondary fermentation.  It starts out smooth and sweet, and finishes smooth and sweet.  This beer is just exceptionally brewed – just be ready for an intoxicating, euphoric, harmonious, flavorful beer experience.   Only available on draft – you’ll have to seek this one out!

Hellhound

This beer was brewed to commemorate the 100th birthday of Mississippi blues legend Robert Johnson, who supposedly sold his soul at the crossroads in return for fame and fortune, and upon achieving it, died at a young age.

“Hellhound is a super-hoppy ale that hits 100 IBUs in the brewhouse, 10.0 ABV, 10.0 SRM in color, and dry-hopped with 100% centennial hops at a rate of 100 kilos per 100 barrel brew-length. To accentuate and magnify the citrusy notes of the centennial hops (and as a shout out to Robert Johnson’s mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson) we add dried lemon peel and flesh to the whirlpool.”

Of course 100 IBUs represents 100 years, but keep in mind that’s 100 IBUs in the brewhouse, and 58 IBUs on tap.  Regardless, Hellhound is a very hoppy beer, and also very different from any other hoppy pales or IPAs I’ve  had.  At 10 ABV, I expected an imperial style beer – heavy, rich, and strong like the Black and Red which falls at 10.5 ABV.  I can’t imagine two more different beers – of course in flavor and style, but also in mouthfeel, alcohol strength, and drinkability.  My initial thought was “earthy”.  There’s an upfront earthiness that accompanies the strong flavorful, but not necessarily bitter, hoppiness of the beer; which is then followed by an abundance of citrus notes from the lemon and the centennial hops.  It’s a medium bodied beer, not dry and not sweet, not a session beer, not a sipper – just very drinkable, very complex, and very unique.  Hellhound is even more enjoyable when its slightly warmed and consumed with food, as the hop and citrus flavors are much fuller and more pronounced, but still complex.  This one will soon be released on a limited basis in 750 bombers for over $20 a bottle – a great one to split with fellow beer loving friends.

Both the Hellhound and the Black & Red are “must try’s” for any craft beer lover, and especially for DFH fans.  Both are different from any other DFH beer I’ve had, but still classic DFH in that they embody the brewery’s artful ability to blend and balance flavors, and create strong beers that are smooth, complex, unique, and delicious.

BeerRevue: Smuttynose Wheat Wine

Smuttynose Brewing Company has always been one of my favorite breweries, since our first visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire 7 or 8 years ago.  What a beautiful little New England port town – lots of shopping and restaurants.   But I want to talk about Smuttynose’s  2010 Wheat Wine Ale.

As a long time Smuttynose fan, I’m ashamed to say that until this year I’d never heard of this 2005 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner (GABF); but then that’s how Smuttynose seems to fly in this industry – under the radar, doing their New England thing, and making consistently great beer.

Having already tried a number of their specialty beers, including Gravitation, MaiBock, S’muttonator – all instant favorites – this one had me at the name.  Wheat Wine – could be a wheat beer, could be a barleywine, could be malt liquor. Not a clue, but it sounded different, and I’m a sucker for originality.

Wheat Wine Ale is actually a barleywine and wheat ale hybrid.  A style that is, in fact, recognized by the American Beer Association.  The color is a beautiful dark pink amber, and the aroma is deliciously rich. As for taste, this beer captures the full flavor of a barleywine, but the wheat ale seems to cut the thick sweetness of a traditional barleywine.  Considering the Wheat Wine Ale’s alcohol falls around 11-12% ABVs, I found it surprisingly smoother, maybe a little lighter, with lots of caramel and fruitiness.

I personally didn’t notice any stand out qualities from the wheat ale, except its mellowing, and somewhat drying impact on the heavy sweetness of the barleywine, and it brings a bright crispness to the overall quality of the beer; plus it has a clean filtered look and finish of a fine imperial ale.

If you’re a craft beer adventurer, then there’s really nothing to think about; but if you do need further convincing, then here are three very valid reasons to try this beer:  1) It’s a unique hard-to-find style, 2) it’s a GBAF gold medal winner, and 3) it’s brewed by Smuttynose – so seriously, what are you waiting for?

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