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“Lucky Dogs” Get Private Tour of Flying Dog Brewery

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A few posts back I had written about the Hubster’s wins in our local Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition.  First place won the chance to have their beer professionally brewed at the Barley & Hops brewpub.  But SECOND place (aka. the Hubster) won a private tour with 10 select beer buddies at the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.

We have since cashed in on that prize, and he now has his sights set on winning second place again NEXT year!  We had a rare and fantastic opportunity to spend half a day on a personal guided tour with two of Flying Dog’s top brewing experts.  For almost 5 hours, we had access to the brewery, professional brewing information, and of course Flying Dog beers.

Breakfast of Champions

The tour started off with a brewer meet and greet and liquid breakfast in Flying Dog’s tap room.  We became fast friends with our two tour guides – the two Bens.   Ben C. came from the banking industry in PA and worked his way through the ranks to become one of Flying Dog’s top brewers.  Ben S. is FD’s science guy, tasting coordinator, quality control lead and scrabble guru.  He has the awesome responsibility of ensuring that Flying Dog’s beers are always top quality.  I can personally assure you they are both doing excellent work!

We also tried a very unique beer called Keith’s Gose.  Unique because it is a sour beer brewed with Old Bay seasoning, intended to pair with steamed crabs.  I guarantee you’ve never tasted a beer like this before.  The only thing missing were the crabs.

The “Have it Your Way” Tour

It was our tour, our way, whatever we wanted to see, ask, or taste.  We went outside, back inside, past the grains, around the brew tanks, down to the experimental brewing operations, back up to the fermenters, stopped for a refill (fresh Raging Bitch Belgian IPA straight from the tank…ahhhahh), into the boiler room, over to quality control, across to bottling, on to kegging, upstairs to storage, past the hot room, into the hop cooler, back over to bottling, and finishing in the tap room for a potty break and refills.  Shew!  The homebrewers were in heaven, soaking in the beer data, tips tricks, stories, and snagging some recipe ideas.  The two Bens seemed happy to share their knowledge with an enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable group.

Behind the Scenes Tidbits

They can recycle their yeast up to 15 or 16 times, depending on the beer.  And each generation spawns better and better beer.

There’s a hot room used to store beer at garage temps.  Ben S. has to taste these beers to determine the shelf life and durability of any given 6-pack after it’s been sitting in the garage all summer.  It’s a tough job, but at the end of the day, it’s free beer!

Artwork is EVERYWHERE in that brewery.  But the best artwork is on the labels.  All label art is designed by Ralph Steadman.  But the brewery art and murals are painted by local artists who have studied Steadman’s style.  Their reflective work appears in the entrance hallway leading to the brewery and in numerous locations throughout the brewery.

Who Spiked the Beer???

After potty breaks and refills, the two Bens led us into a conference room and Ben C. poured 6 beer samples in  labeled cups.  These beers were intentionally spiked with contaminants that produce common off-flavors in beer.  The point is, in order to produce good beer, it is equally important to know how beer should and should NOT taste.  It should NOT taste like creamed corn, green apple, butter, or circus peanuts (banana – unless its a hefeweizen).  All good flavors for jelly bellies, but not so much for beer.

Some large brewers intentionally produce these flavors because they appeal to certain tastes.  For instance, creamed corn is a flavor produced by DMS that actually appeals to a wide audience, and which you will find prevalent in some select and very well known commercial brews.

All Good Things Come to an End

We ended on a huge high note as Ben S. pulled out some specialty beverages from the secret stash, including side by side comparisons of their current and vintage Horn Dog Barleywine; their special Secret Stash Harvest Ale; vintage Gonzo Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (my personal favorite); The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (stellar!); and side by side tastings of the almost released Fever Chocolate IPA, as it was supposed to taste vs. the production version.  Both versions of The Fever were great beers, but the chocolate flavors dropped out of the final packaged version, which resulted in a very tasty non-chocolate IPA. The original version is absolutely delicious and completely different – a full hoppy IPA with a smooth blend of chocolate flavor that totally works.

By the end of it all, we had two new beer buds in the two Bens.  We found our way to the gift shop, purchased current and vintage beverages and lots of swag, then hugged it out and made our way safely home.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the two Ben’s.  We can’t thank you enough for your gracious hospitality and generous sharing of beer knowledge.

Your Chance to Tour Flying Dog Brewery

Visit Flying Dog’s website to sign up for a tour or attend one of their offbeat events.  It’s a great time to hang out with friends, sample some stellar brews, and learn how beer is made by one of America’s finest breweries.

Cheers Beers!

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Firkin Fest Closes Out Frederick Beer Week

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Last Saturday, Frederick Beer Week came to a close. I can’t think of a better way to end an exciting week of nonstop beer activity than with an easy, fun day on a hop farm.

You may recall my post last year about the Frederick Beer Festival at StillPoint Hop Farm. This year was every bit as much fun. All the great Maryland breweries were represented, but this year, the festival featured a different twist. The beers were tapped from firkins – and so this year’s festival was dubbed Firkin Fest!

Amazing Maryland Beers were served by Barley and Hops, Brewer’s Alley, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Evolution, DuClaw, and Brewer’s Art.   Some unique brews included belgian beers brewed with currants and peppercorns; some great IPAs – including last year’s Battle of the Bubbles competition winner, which was expertly brewed by Larry Pomerantz at Barley and Hops; Oatmeal Stouts; refreshing light lagers; german style bocks and dunkers; and more.  And then there was the homebrew tent, hosted by Frederick’s Original Ale Makers. Lucky attendees sampled from over 20 different styles of homebrew throughout the day.

The festival also brought back all of the great attractions from last year, only bigger and better with a larger and wider variety of vendors, more great folk style music, the ever-popular Hayride to Hoppiness, and hoola hoops!

Imagine plopping down on a hillside with a quality Maryland beer, on a beautiful day, in a gorgeous country setting, listening to live music and watching the little ones (and a few not so little ones) dance around with hoola hoops. It’s easy to see why Firkin Fest has become a fast local favorite for Frederick beer fans!

So once again we bid farewell to Frederick Beer Week – til next year!   In the meantime, plan your next visit to the Mid-Atlantic around some of our great breweries and pubs.  You won’t be disappointed.  Maryland has indeed become a great state for beer!

Cheers beers!

Cheers Beers’ First Beer Dinner

What better time to experience our first ever beer dinner than during Frederick Beer Week at our favorite hometown brewpub – Barley and Hops.  The Barley and Hops Spring Beer Tasting and Dinner not only featured their stellar house brews, but the event and the menu were all organized by head brewer and culinary creator Larry Pomerantz.  Each item on the menu, shown below, was designed to pair with one of Larry’s exceptional beers.

If you find yourself in Frederick, Maryland, stop by Barley and Hops for a quality pint or two and a great menu!  http://www.barleyandhops.net.

This was Barley and Hops’ premiere beer dinner  – hopefully the first of many to come (we’ve heard rumors that various themed beer dinners may be held quarterly!).  They seated 20 or more of us at a long family style table.  When beer and food are involved, it doesn’t take long for new friendships to form. We were all chatting and laughing and oohing and ahhing over the meal items as Larry explained his thought process behind the pairings and sought our reactions to tastes and flavor combinations.

Dinner is Served

We were so absorbed in the dinner that we missed most of our photo moments. Take my word for it…the cheese course was delicious!

Celery Heart Salad with Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp served with Larry’s fabulous Sugerloaf Saison and a Saison Vinaigrette.

Stout ice cream…a great way to top off any meal!

1st Course

A cheese course consisting of local goat cheeses that included a soft tangy baby swiss paired with his flavorful sweet and malty Highway to Helles;  a tangy cheddar that brought out delicious notes in the Tuscarora Red Ale; a spicy tangy jalapeño cheddar paired with the Hoptopsy ESB; and a magnificent soft zesty gouda paired with the Annapolis Rocks Pale.

2nd Course

A unique celery heart salad served with bacon wrapped shrimp, topped with a zesty saison mustard dressing, and paired with the Sugarloaf Saison.  The Saison is amazing by itself, but this course brought out the tangy citrus flavors in the beer.

3rd Course

A fork tender Cocoa and Ancho Chili Crusted Pork Tenderloin paired with his 80 Schilling Scotch Ale.  Wow, lots of smoky and chocolate flavors from the beer.  I would never have thought of matching a Scotch Ale with southwest flavors, but boy did it work.

4th Course

Stout Ice Cream with chocolate sauce – I keep telling you all that beer ice cream rocks!  By the end of this course, 20 people practically had their faces planted in their bowls trying to salvage every last bit.

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A Few Pairing Tips 

  • When pairing foods, match stronger flavored foods with stronger flavored beers….and visa versa.  Lighter foods with lighter flavored beers.
  • Hoppy beers pair well with hot and spicy foods.
  • Malty beers pair well with grilled and smoky foods

But the most important tip of all is slow down, stop guzzling, and pay more attention to how your beer and your food complement one another.  You might find that your meal is even more interesting and enjoyable.

Beer dinners are happening all over, so check out your local brewpubs and beer bars and find one near you.  They’re tasty, they’re fun, and you’ll learn how to get the most from two of life’s greatest pleasures – beer and food!

Bon Appetite and Cheers Beers!

Frederick Beer Week is Back!

For more information about Frederick Beer Week, visit www. FrederickBeer.com.

It’s that time again!  May 12-19, Frederick, Maryland is all about beer (as it should be) as our fare city celebrates our 2nd Annual Frederick Beer Week.

If you’re not familiar with Frederick, we are home to:

Last year’s Frederick Beer Week started this annual event off with a boom, and this year’s events prove to be bigger and better with two beer festivals, beer dinners, beer happy hours, brewery tours, great music (some of it about beer), the Battle of the Bubbles 2 home brew competition, and so much more.  Check out what’s going on….

2012 FREDERICK BEER WEEK EVENTS

Saturday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

So if you’re if you’re in the Frederick area this coming week (we’re just a 30 minute drive from DC and Baltimore), come join us for some great beer and tons of fun for big kids and for the little kiddies too.   We’ll see you there!

Cheers beers!

The Victory-Garden BeerVenture

Cheers Beers has been nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award!  Many thanks to Anne at Zen and Genki for her gracious acknowledgement.  As part of my acceptance, I shall follow a few simple rules…

Instructions for the Beautiful Blogger award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award
2. Paste the award on your blog
3. Link the person who nominated you for the award
4. Nominate 7 bloggers or less
5. Post links to the 1-7 blogs you nominated

Ground rules aside, I’m happy to recognize several of my long time, personal award worthy favorites for this BEAUTIFUL award …

The Victory-Garden Tour

Feeling the need to post something beautiful, our Victory-Garden Tour should be just the ticket!  We visited Longwood Gardens a few weeks ago, on (as luck would have it) one of the most gorgeous spring days yet.   Longwood Gardens is located in PA, just over the Delaware line.  Of course, when we travel, there’s always beer involved.  It just so happens that Victory Brewing Company is located only 30 minutes away.  Yay!

Our first trip to Longwood Gardens, it was spectacular.  Fabulous for kids of all ages.  Tulips were at their season’s peak, and trees were flowering everywhere.  But the real show was inside the conservatory, where florals, fruit trees and greenery filled every room.  Every turn offered an entirely new experience – new colors, sounds, smells.  Not our last visit, I assure you.

The brew pub at Victory Brewing Company in Downingstown, PA never disappoints.   We followed our usual game plan and bellied up early in front of the growler fillers.  What can I say?  It’s stupid simple entertainment for us big kids.  And of course we had to get a sampler, because the list at Victory always  includes new and rare items that we may have the chance to try again.  Their tap list is long and includes something for everyone – stouts, IPAs and hoppy bevs, belgians, barley wine, german style lagers, wheat beers, and three cask beers.  One of my favorites, St. Boisterous (maibock) was bellowing my name.  I also love the Golden Monkey.

A stand out was the smoked lager.  Smoked beers, when done well, are amazing, and the sure sign of a masterful brewer.  In fact, that’s one thing you can expect from Victory.  Whether or not you like their beer, you can’t say it’s not well brewed.  They have rightfully earned their elevated position in the craft beer hierarchy.  We’re just glad they’re within driving distance.   In fact, we’re considering a year-round pass to Longwood Gardens to justify more trips northward.  I hear the garden fountain exhibit (opening June 9th) is spectacular!

Ah, and here my wordy tour ends with some actually beauty – a small sample of our Victory Garden Beerventure… 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!

BeerVenture to DC’s Churchkey

January 17, 2012 1 comment

“Just put me in the car and I’ll go wherever you take me.”  That’s what I tell my husband when he starts planning a day trip to to somewhere.  He plans, I participate.  So on a gorgeous 60 degree day in January, we both jumped in the car and on the DC metro, then walked a good mile uptown to DC’s Churchkey .

The Churchkey features 555 beers from 30 countries, 55 are on draught.  Small pours and pints are available so you can test out a bunch without overloading.  We sampled local brews, including an exceptional IPA called the Corruption from DC Brau; as well as some farmhouse style collaboration beers from Stillwater, DOG Brewing, The Brewers Art, and Oliver out of Baltimore; Bear Republic’s tasty Heritage wee heavy scotch ale; and an unusual fruit beer from Japan (I couldn’t pronounce it, much less spell it).  In fact, we hardly scraped the surface of the beer menu which was categorized not by style but by flavor type – sour, smoked, fruit, hop, crisp, malt…

The Churchkey’s bar is dark and kinda urban-retro, located on the 2nd floor of an old building atop the four star Birch & Barley restaurant.  The executive chef for both the bar and the restaurant is a NYC CIA graduate, so the food is as fab as the beer.  We noshed on deep fried cheese stuffed pickled cherry peppers and crisp bricks of tender fried macaroni and cheese.  Piled up plates of golden tater tots were also a bar favorite.

The neighborhoods of DC have come a long way over the past decade.  The once smelly and not so warm and fuzzy areas have been converted into lovely neighborhoods lined with refurbished row homes populated by hip urbanites who are having an exceptionally positive influence on the local beer scene.  In fact, Beer Advocate recently ranked DC as one of the top five fastest growing beer cities in the US.  You’ll see why, as locals and visitors alike flock to window front tables overlooking the neighborhood streets.

Tack this one onto your next DC visit.  The Churchkey is a relaxing place to hang out and try some different beers, enjoy world class food, and explore the lovely residential side of our nation’s capital.  It’s also a brisk walk away from the local attractions….like the museums, the conference center…or the next beer bar.

Cheer beers!

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