Monday, 31 January 2011

Cantillon Gueuze & Kriek.

In 2009 I visited the Cantillon brewery in Belgium. Unfortunately due to my better half feeling ill, I did not get to stay after the visit and drink a load of Cantillon. And I flew Ryanair with no checked luggage so could not bring any beer home. I only had my two included samples of the Gueuze and the Kriek.

I had already had the Kriek before. That was in a bar in Rome and it did not go down too well then. However I found it started to grow on me a little at the time so I was curious to see my reaction in Belgium. Indeed I enjoyed the samples in Belgium so I wanted more.

Late last year, after a year of pleading with the good folks at drinkstore to find a source, they came through and brought in both the Gueuze and Kriek.

If you have never had a proper Lambic before, it is an experience everyone should go through. It is the equivalent of sucking a lemon for the first time. You either love it and want more, or you throw the lemon as far away as possible (hitting whoever talked you in to it) because you don't like the sourness.

The Kriek, pictured above goes through the normal lambic brewing process and then (over a year later) gets dumped in a wooden barrel along with a load of fruit. This kicks off another fermentation were the wild yeast on the fruit and the wood itself are responsible. There is no commercial or cultured yeast of any kind used.

The result? A super charged sour beer that is like being slapped in the face with a wet fish. The tartness from the fruit makes you suck your lips in. There is a certain amount of sweetness from in the form of cherries. You may also pick up other fruits like apples and a hint of the wood it matured in as well.

There is no fruit in the Gueuze however. This is a beer where a number of lambics of different ages are combined. An older 3 year old lambic which is considered mature is mixed with a younger (but still green) lambic of about a year and a half. It is a little fruity yes, but not because of any real fruit. Mostly it is sour and refreshing. There is a certain element of vinegar but you would not put it on your chips (fries).... Or would you? hmm.....
It is very carbonated but delicate like Champaign.

Due to the way these beers are made, it is probably not possible to give an accurate description because each batch can be different, in the same way that wine differs from year to year.

These beers are not for everyone but should be tried at least once. You may just find yourself liking them and then pulling your hair out trying to source them.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

O'Hara's Leann Folláin resurrected.

The one and only time I tried Leann Folláin was in 2009 and I decided I would not bother again. Since then I have learned that the original batch was a sort of a mistake but they found enough people enjoyed it that they might as well sell it on. A while ago, Carlow Brewing Company bottled a newer version and has since put it in larger 500ml bottles. The beer has the same name but it is a very different beer. Gone is the sickly syrupy texture and overpowering sweetness. We now have an aroma of rich sweet chocolate, molasses & Coffee. In the mouth the coffee comes first followed by the very rich chocolate, toffee and sweet molasses with some liquorice and a nice dry hop finish. The beer is still sweet but is counter-balanced with the roast coffee and I reckon a little more hop bitterness to turn this into a very smooth and easy to drink imperial stout. 6% is perhaps a little low compared to many imperial stouts but that is what I will call it.
Drinkability? Immense and I might just have to say that this is now my preferred stout from the the good people at Carlow Brewing Company.

While my wife was in Florida, she picked me up one beer. A single lonely bottle of beer. She made up for it with a 6 pack of Oberon though. So from Tampa, Florida I present to you Jai Alai from the Cigar City Brewing Company. Jai Alai is of course an American Pale Ale. My brother-in-law (also a brewer) enjoyed many of these while in Florida. The aroma is all pine, grapefruit and caramel. The taste brings everything from the aroma with the very obvious addition of tropical fruits, mango mainly into the fray to create one of the most interesting American IPA style beers I have had. It was lovely and I quickly regretted I only had one bottle.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Bells Oberon - The beer that started a journey

I talked recently about Bells Two Hearted Ale and mentioned that it was Oberon, which was the first Craft Beer I remember drinking that started me on the journey and Craft Beer revelation I am on. I came back from Alabama on New Years Eve but my wife stayed on a couple of weeks where she went to Florida for a few days and brought me back a Florida beer (more in the next post). I had asked her before she left to check for any other interesting beers. She told me she found none.

She Lied....

When I came home she directed me to the fridge to get her a glass of water. My brain registered the strangeness of specifying the "fridge" but that is where we keep the water after all. I open the fridge and find a 6 pack of Oberon and my heart skipped a beat. This beer is the first beer I ever had that was not mass produced in a mega brewery. And I had it in it's home State of Michigan in 2004 over Christmas and in to New year of 2005.

Oberon is essentially a Belgian style*1 Wheat Beer of the American persuasion. It is rather similar then to Blue Moon? Well I was also introduced to Blue Moon around the same time, in fact I think I had Blue Moon first so that sort of set me on the Craft Beer path first but it is brewed by Coors so is not a Craft Beer.... Anyway, Like Blue Moon, Oberon is usually served with a slice of Orange. You can either dunk it in the beer or take it off in disgust (but still suck the juice of course). Any similarity the two beers have end there because where Blue Moon is thin and lacking in any character*2, Oberon is what I would call outstanding for an American Wheat Beer. The aroma is all wheat, spice, orange and grainy. In the mouth the first thing that came to mind was that it tasted like a multi-grain beer, it is of course as all beer has multiple grains but you know what I mean. All of the aroma comes through in the taste and is followed by a chewy malt backbone and a nice bitter finish.

It is a beautiful beer and I am glad that having been parted from it for a number of years, I still find it interesting and moreish and quite complex for what it is.
I have one bottle left to be shared with some other beer geeks, some of which write their own blogs.

*1 It would be wrong to call it that as this is a distinctly American beer and should be proud of that.

*2 I would still rather a Blue Moon that a Coors Light or any other mass produced fizzy yellow stuff. Blue Moon is also better on tap than bottle in my opinion.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Mellow Mushroom - In a beer desert is like an oasis.

Foley, Alabama is not rich in places to drink Craft Beer, at least by American standards so it was a pleasure to look up and find out about Mellow Mushroom in Pensacola Florida. It got better because when I mentioned that before the trip it turned out there is a Mellow Mushroom right in Foley*. In fact it is only a short walk from my mother-in-law's. I only got to go on my last night though. The fact it is my brother-in-law's favourite restaurant is a bonus but we went there for some drinks and not to eat so I can't comment on the food.

Mellow Mushroom prides itself on having many beers on tap from around the world as well as bottled beer. They mix Mega brewery beers with plenty of Craft Beer. The Sweetwater beers from Atlanta had a good showing with 3 taps. Oh see that paddle above the taps? That is a sample tray and they offer various sizes so you can sample some beer. As it turned out I had had pretty much everything on tap that I was interested in trying so I looked to the bottle menu.

VelkyAl on Fuggled suggested I track down the Milk Stout from Left Hand so I had to order that. This was my first milk stout, at least that I can recall. Now there is one problem here. It was served ice cold from the fridge in a frosted glass. That meant I had to take my time and let it warm a little but even cold it went down very well. The aroma was sweet milk chocolate, a little hint of coffee perhaps. The chocolate dominated the taste, again milk chocolate as opposed to dark chocolate you get with most other stouts. Some liquorice came through as well as the bit of coffee. Overall it was not an eye opener of a beer, it was not all that complex or even anywhere close to the best stout I have had. What it certainly is though is an extremely smooth and easy to drink beer that leaves you wanting more. I could not actually let it warm for an hour before drinking so I may be missing out on some subtlety but I doubt it. I reckon it is just a brilliantly made beer that does not claim to be anything more than it is. Now if I can just find it in Ireland so I can try it at a better temperature....

* I have since submit the location to

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Phuca - Franciscan Well Winter/Christmas Ale

I missed out last year so this year I made sure to get in to The Bull & Castle to try some. It was not for me I'm afraid. The aroma was all about the cloves with plenty of nutmeg. The taste? Well it tastes like Christmas. This is exactly the way you describe the Czech drink of Becherovka. I can no longer drink Becherovka after a rather stupid night where I downed the best part of a bottle of the stuff with a friend. I was sick for 3 days so anything that reminds me of it is not something I will enjoy.

So if you like your Christmas beers full of cloves etc then this is something to look out for.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Beers in Alabama - part 5

These are the final few beers from the batch I bought at Winn-Dixie while in Alabama, though not the last post regarding beer during the trip. All of these beers are all from the Tommyknocker Brewery in Colorado.

Maple Nut Brown is exactly as it sounds. A nutty brown ale with maple syrup. The result is something I found a bit sickly.

Pick Axe Pale Ale is a better showing. Plenty of Grapefruit and Pine. I found it very similar to the Titan Pale Ale from Great Divide. Not a bad beer at all.

Butt Head is a Dopplebock that again has little going on. The aroma produces a slight sourness but mostly sweet malt. The taste similar with the addition some dried apricots.

One could be forgiven for thinking that this is a bottle of fairy liquid or some other lemon style dish soap. In fact it is Alpine Glacier, a lager so it is not even useful for cleaning dishes. To be honest this was not too bad, a sort of lemony lager that had a hint of dishsoap to it. I believe the single word I can use to sum up this beer is "Pointless". What is the point of a mostly tasteless lager from a Craft Brewer?

Orney Amber is another beer that is fairly boring. A little bit of orange and malt, a touch sour... Meh...

So Tommyknocker beer was not impressive at all from what I had. Now it could be that these beers have been sitting in Winn-Dixie for a long time and were past their best.... Just goes to show that not all US Craft breweries are world class.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Beers in Alabama - part 4

My next Great Divide beer was Titan IPA. With a name like that I expect big things and it is a big beer weighing in at 7.1% but... hmmm. The aroma was to be expected from an American IPA, grapefruit and pine dominate but a subtle peach is present too. With the exception of the peach (did I imagine it?) the taste is like the aroma but it is fairly biscuity and there is also a hint of a taste I have noticed in a number of their beers now. It is possibly bready, it certainly is doughy. I think of it as cookie dough when I come across this taste in a beer.
This is a very good beer but not a patch on their Hercules double IPA.

Back to Great Divide and we have Saint Bridget's Porter. I'm not sure if Saint Bridget would have liked porter or not but I do know that she was dead over 1000 years before the first Porter was brewed.
The aroma of the beer was sweet caramel and chocolate. The taste was similar with the addition of the cookie dough taste and I also got some liquorice and coffee. Overall it reminded me of Porterhouse Plain on tap if it were bottle conditioned instead and surprisingly not at all like actual bottle conditioned Porterhouse plain which is a different beer as far as i'm concerned.

On to another Colorado brewery and this one with fun labels. The Tommyknocker Brewery is nestled high in the Rockies just like another brewery I can think of.... The first beer I tried of theirs is called Jack Whacker which is an altogether fun name for a beer, especially if you were to drink a number of them and take the name seriously. This is a wheat beer with a fruity and wheaty aroma. The taste is not much at all, sort of wheaty and biscuty but mostly it is thin and watery. It does contain lemongrass which gives it a rather uninteresting floral thing but does little to entertain. Not off to a great start Tommyknocker but I am open to further discussion because American breweries tend to do rather boring Wheat beers compared to their European counterparts. Don'y worry because Americans more than make up for it in many other styles of beer. IPA's and anything with imperial in the name is usually world class.

The next post will be all about Tommyknocker beers.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Brew # 28 - Seeing Red V2

Last year I brewed Seeing Red which was a sort of Clotworthy Dobbin inspired beer, but not a clone. I just wanted something similar. This year I decided to try again. I ran out of base pale grain so I had to do a lot of adjusting. The result is a recipe similar to last year but very different. French Oak in the fermenter is just one other difference.

Speaking of Clotworthy Dobbin, I have two bottles in the fridge and am in need of some beer....

Seeing Red V2

9-D Irish Red Ale

Author: Reuben Gray (Saruman)

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 24.16 L

Efficiency: 75.0%

Attenuation: 75.0%

Calories: 169.63 kcal per 12.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.051 (1.044 - 1.060)


Terminal Gravity: 1.013 (1.010 - 1.014)


Color: 18.24 (17.73 - 35.46)


Alcohol: 5.01% (4.0% - 6.0%)


Bitterness: 23.3 (17.0 - 28.0)



1940 g Irish Spring Barley (pale malt)

2501 g Munich Malt

504 g Light Crystal

208 g Wheat Malt

400 g CaraPils Malt (brupaks)

100 g Chocolate Malt (pale)

50 g Black Malt

12 g Northern Brewer (10.9%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min

12 g Hallertau Mittelfruh (4.1%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min

16 g Cascade (7.6%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min

9 g Centennial (11.7%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min

1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

1 ea Fermentis S-04 Safale S-04

20 g Oak Wood Chips - added dry to primary fermenter

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.12

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Beers in Alabama - part 3

My second beer from Stevens Point is their Cascade Pale Ale. We are off to a good start with the name, the promise of Cascade is very tempting. The aroma reminded me of honey, orange and of course citrus. The taste is a sort of bitter orange with little sweetness to balance it out. It's a good pale ale but not so interesting that I would seek it out.

On to The Great Divide, a brewery we can get beers from in Ireland albeit only a few of their range. This is their Denver Pale Ale which is meant to be an English Pale Ale. The aroma is all malt and biscuit. In the mouth the first thing I noticed was how chewy the beer is. There is a strong malt presence. I did not feel it was very English but nor did I feel it was American. It was sort of an amalgamation of the two styles. Nice in its own right bit for me it was quite bland. There is also an odd flavour I can't place. It reminds me of what playdough tastes like which means I must have eaten some at some point, either that or the taste reminds me of the smell of playdough?

Next from the Great Divide is Samurai Ale which in my opinion is a great name for a beer. As you can see from the picture, it is light straw in colour and quite fizzy. It is also made of Rice... I am being reminded of a certain American Mega Brewery.....
Well the aroma? Feck all, the taste? Somehow less than the aroma... I am not sure of the point of this beer. It seems to only exist to compete with the aforementioned mega brewery. Perhaps the point of the beer is to ween drinkers of Bud over to craft beer but then why would they stop drinking tasteless fizzy yellow stuff and move on to more interesting craft beer when they can get the beer they like in both mass produced form and micro brewed form.
I only managed two mouthfuls before I passed it to my wife who rather enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Beers in Alabama - part 2

Another new brewery to me during the trip was Stevens Point Brewery in Wisconson. I started off with their 2012 Black Ale. This beer started off as a Fail for wasting my time with the blurb about 2012 and the end of the world according to the Mayans, which to any rational person who thinks about it for a moment, is absolute rubbish. The Mayans just had much longer calendars than our 12 month long calendars. That aside, it was a rather nice beer. I am not sure how to classify the style of the beer but since I am not bothered with styles, I will just say that it is what it is. There was not a whole lot of aroma, a little toffee and that was it. Tasting it brought some chocolate, espresso and liquorice to the table but I was never reminded of a stout or porter. It was more like a dark brown ale that happens to be black. I enjoyed it even if I was not excited by it.

Lazy Magnolia's second offering is called Indian Summer. Well what can I say? It's an American Witbier. The aroma was sour and fizzy. The taste? Well very little, there was a little sourness, a little spice but overall this is a watery witbier of sorts. One for BBQ weather for light beer drinkers methinks. Possibly a step above Blue Moon but I can't say for certain if I would not rather a blue moon? I think Blue Moon has a little more flavour and that's saying something.

Samuel Adam's is one of the old school micro breweries that is so big it borders on mega brewery these days. This is their winter lager which I had to get, tis the season and all that. The aroma is all malt so I was expecting a malt bomb. I was not disappointed as the malt ran wild in my mouth. Plenty of spice, but in a nice spicy way rather than a Christmas way so this beer would do well outside the Christmas season, but then again it is a winter lager as opposed to a Christmas lager. There is a very obvious orange flavour in the beer which is not surprising as they use orange peel at some point. If it was me it would be late boil so perhaps that is when they add it.
This is a solid beer and is the sort of beer that people like me, who are suspicious of anything with a lager label on it can drink and be reminded that there are some wonderful lagers out there.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Bell's Two Hearted Ale - A beer so good it deserves its own long winded post.

**Warning, the following waffle explains how I got in to craft beer. If you are just interested in the beer then scroll down to the picture**

The brewery that started it all for me is Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have mentioned this before but the way I remember it is this. I think it was 2004 and I was there for Christmas for the first time. At the time I was a Cider drinker and not all that fond of beer due to it tasting crap and therefore pointless to me. Little did I know I was a prime candidate for a Craft Beer conversion because I was simply bored with the same poor tasting (or lack thereof) lagers. I did like Guinness though as it at least had some flavour.
I learned about Michigan cider (not sure what it was called) and Woodchuck Cider early on, although they were a little sweet and I missed Bulmers (Magners).
Then one day I was at a lovely rainbow infused lakeside town called Saugatuck and we stopped in a bar for lunch, or perhaps just a drink. I walked up to the bar to see what they had (probably looking for Cider) when I noticed some beer taps I had never seen.... Now I will stop here for a moment.
I came to the US with the absolute certainty that American beer is absolute crap. This is because American beer available in Ireland at the time was absolute crap. Sure don't most Americans drink light beer? A drink that I called beer flavoured water to everyone in the family drinking it! I actually recommended Stella Artois to one of my wife's cousins and he loved it. I was quite naieve back then.
So if you imagine this way of thinking, imagine my surprise, imagine the penny drop or more aptly the world shake when I asked that bartender what those odd taps where? His response? "Oh that's local beer!". What the hell was local beer? I thought all beer was brewed by massive mega breweries, that's how it is in Ireland or at least it was at the time with some exceptions.

The beer I had was Bell's Oberon, which is a sort of Belgian style Orange Wit served with a slice of Orange. Sort of like Blue Moon but with a lot more flavour and none of the megabrewery connections. I sucked down many an Oberon over the years when I visited Michigan but I never visited the brewery.

While it only started in 2004, I did not truly get serious about beer until 2008. When in the US I always asked for the local stuff when in a bar and I had many beers I can't even recall. In 2008 my wife's old friend from her year in Prague, another American came to visit and brought her new husband Al which we had not met yet. Al is also known as VelkyAl* and runs his wonderful blog Fuggled. Al came armed with info on beer I had never heard of, beer such as Galway Hooker and on visiting Galway we were on a venture to find some. We had a wonderful time in Galway and I tried some of the beer but being the driver I could not order my own pints.

Al introduced me to (an Irish site!!) which dealt with homebrewing and Irish Craft Beer in general. Again the earth shook because I found out about all these Irish microbreweries as well as British and other European breweries and more importantly I found out where I could get them in Ireland along with lots of American beer. Irish Craft Brewer has since evolved in to the Beer Consumer group Beoir, of which I of course am a member. I started this blog at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009 and the brewery that started it all, is the one I proudly get to talk about now even if it's only one of their beers.

So here it is, Two Hearted Ale from Bell's. I have heard many good reports of this beer since Al moved to the US and got his hands on it as well as from many other Americans, some of which are in Beoir and are home brewers like myself.
The aroma is all malt, citrus/grapefruit hops and pine along with caramel. This all follows through to the taste but what a taste. It is such a perfectly balanced beer with the bittering hops dominating the beer but the malty backbone is always there along with mandarin orange. Even thought it is 7.1% ABV it is eminently drinkable and a 6 pack might not last too long especially during a rugby game.
I can't express how much I love this beer. I'm not saying its the best IPA in the world but it certainly hits the spot. The special place in my heart for Bell's notwithstanding, this is a brilliant beer. Please would someone import it to Ireland? Please???
I did get two bottles back home though, I reckon I will drink one and share the other.

*Velky is the Czech word for Big from what I understand so VelkyAl means:

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Beers in Alabama - part 1

First beer up from my rather large collection of beers to get through was Southern Pecan from the Lazy Magnolia Brewery in Mississippi. You might be forgiven for thinking that this will be a sickly sweet pecan pie sort of beer but its not. They use whole roasted pecans in the mash. The result is a nutty brown ale. It's a little spicy and quite malty. Plenty of caramel in the finish. There is a little pecan flavour there too but that could simply be my brain assuming the nutty flavour is pecan because I know there are pecans in it. A nice and simple beer.

O'Fallon Brewery in Missouri was next up. Of course I picked their 5 day IPA, me being a fan of hoppy IPA style beers. The 5 day refers to the fact they dry hop it for 5 days. The result is a cloudy orange/amber coloured beer with plenty of pine and citrus in the aroma with a little mandarin as well. The first thing that came to mind when I tasted it was "weird". It starts off very bitter and then you notice a boozy caramel thing going on. The mouthfeel is quite thin but it's very carbonated which makes up for it and fills the beer out. Interesting and worth trying but there are so many others of the style that I prefer that I would not seek it out.

Also from O'Fallon's is the Hemp Hop Rye amber ale. As the name suggests there is hemp, probably in the form of the seeds in the boil or mash. I would put them near the end of the boil but the beer is not listed on their site so I have no idea what they do with them. There is also some Rye and of course hops.
The result comes together quite well to form a buscuity, earthy, rye infused beer with some spiciness, toasty grains and overall feeling of well being... ok maybe not the last part... other than you know this is a well made and tasty beer.
I would not reach for this again because of novelty of the hemp (does it do anything for the beer?) but I would reach for it again (if available in Ireland) for the fact that it is a very good beer and easy to drink.

So there we go, three southern state beers from two southern states. It's a shame I could not find any Alabama beer all trip. I would have had to go north to Mobile and I did not have time.
I did actually come close. In Pensacola there is a place called The Four Winds food market and I went there because they stock about 750 different beers. I was hoping for some Alabama beer. Unfortunately they were closed on the 26th so I left disappointed and that is when I went back to Foley and bought all that beer from Winn-Dixie. So the four winds lost out on at least one sale of beer worth approx $150 give or take. Imagine, capitalist USA and a shop is closed on one of the busiest shopping days of the year...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

McGuires Irish Pub & Brewhouse - Pensacola, Florida

On St Stephens day (Boxing day UK, just the 26th Dec in US) we went to Pensacola. I needed a laptop hard drive from Best Buy. I took the opportunity to visit the areas brewpub called McGuires Irish Pub. An odd name and setup for a brewpub but it is what it is.

The place is full of PaddyWhackery from the Mural on the wall to the painted double decker bus (two of them) pointing the way. It reminds me a little of Johnny Foxes in the Dublin mountains which employs similar PaddyWhackery including the double decker bus but without any beer worth drinking.

The reason for being here was of course the beer. I got a sampler to try out.

Old fashioned ale - light, lager like, crisp.
Red - malty, bitter, metallic.
Raspberry - wheat, raspberry tartness, light like the old ale with raspberry added.
Porter - Intense espresso some chocolate light but lots of flavour with caramel finish.
Stout - smooth creamy but not as flavoursome as the porter.
Seasonal Christmas ale - plenty of spices and Ginger. Most obvious Christmas beer I have had. Bit sickly.

The Porter (highlighted in Bold) was my favourite. I proceeded to order a pint of it with lunch.

The food was pretty good too and I am sure people go there for the food as much as the beer. I don't think everyone was drinking the house beers. It's a very popular place and even the day after Christmas we had a 10 minute wait for a table. It was busy enough that we got our table before we got a chance to order beer from the very busy bar.

The entire ceiling of the pub, which consists of many large rooms, is covered in money. Most of which are dollar bills but the odd foreign note can be seen. I think I saw a €5 note up there somewhere. It brings to mind that if the place ever had an emergency cashflow problem, all they need to do is pick money from the ceiling as if they were picking berries off a tree. There must be many thousands of dollars in each room. I would love to know how they work it out for insurance purposes. If the place ever burned down, all that money would be destroyed and I doubt they could claim. People usually write their names on the dollar and then are given a staple gun to attach it.

One thing to note from the menu, they have an .18c soup using the same original recipe and same price as when it was first served in the U.S. Senate. Mcguires has been using the same recipe and price of this soup since 1977 making it older than me, although I reckon the brewery side of things is more recent than that. One point about the .18c soup, you have to order something else from the menu or else it will cost you $18 as clearly there could be issues if people could walk in off the street and order an .18c soup. The soup itself is actually possibly the best soup I have ever had. It is a sort of bean soup and I added some hot sauce in to it which made it heavenly and moreish.

They don't have free wi-fi which is a but annoying but not a deal breaker.

Overall impression was that if you find yourself in Pensacola or within an hours drive then it is will worth a visit for the soup alone but the beer is pretty good too as is the rest of the food.

Monday, 3 January 2011

If you ever want a layover in an airport, Atlanta has to be it!

So it's Christmas eve and myself and my wife are jetting off to Alabama for Christmas. I am glad to see the back of Ireland because it is freezing (like most of the Northern Hemisphere). We have had no water in days, the snow is shutting the country down and that includes the airport.

Luckily the airport was open and flights were operating as normal on Christmas Eve because that would have sucked and we might have missed Christmas. Our flight would take us to Atlanta airport for a 2.5 hour layover which is a good number, though delays can eat in to that.
As it happens, there were delays. First the incoming flight was delayed by about an hour but we go on the flight and all seemed well with the world. Then the Captain had to announce that it seems the equipment used by Dublin Airport to load and unload baggage does not actually work when it is this cold so every piece of luggage had to manually be removed and then ours loaded on. It took about 1.5 to 2 hours to unload the baggage and then another 1.5 hours or so to load ours. Needless to say, we would not make our connecting flight.

As it turns out, our flight was with Delta Airlines who deserve a bit of praise for efficiency here. They automatically re-booked our flight to Pensacola, Florida* so when we landed in Atlanta, we still only had a 2.5 hour layover.

The delays were made all the sweeter when I cam across the bar beside our gate.

Sweetwater is a brewery in Atlanta who have the foresight to open a bar serving their beer in the busiest airport in the world. They are located on concourse B but don't worry if your flight leaves from a different concourse. If you have time, go there because Atlanta has a sort of subway system with a train every 45 seconds or something mad like that. It will swiftly get you back to your own concourse for your flight, just take in to account the walking distance from the subway exit to your gate which should be at most, 10 minutes.

Sweetwater also serves food by the way, though I did not try any. They sell T-Shirts and other Schwag as well.

On arrival I immediately ordered their IPA because I needed some hop bite after being so long an a plane. I was actually a little unprepared for this beer as I was thinking it would just be a good quaffable IPA but I was wrong. It was bloody fantastic! You have you usual IPA nose and taste with pine and citrus in the form of grapefruit of course but some tropical fruit going on as well. I was very thirsty so to be honest I downed it pretty quick and it was served too cold for me to get any of the subtlety I know is in there. My plan to have another one coming home failed but more on that later. There is a solid malty backbone to this beer which is lacking in many American IPA's that just seem to load in the hops on don't care about the malt. The beer was supremely balanced and makes me want to visit Atlanta in its own right, instead of just the airport. Atlanta after all is more than just a Delta Hub....

Next up at the airport I had the Georgia Brown. A very different beer to the IPA, where the IPA was complex this was a much simpler beer. The aroma is malty, a little chocolate and a hint of coffee. These qualities follow in to the taste with the addition of a strong nutty presence. A good beer and easy to drink. Again I reckon it would have been better if it warmed up but I had to knock the last half of this back because our flight was getting ready to board.

So that was my experience with the Sweetwater brewery bar in Atlanta airport, though not the end of my sweetwater experience.

*Our destination is South Alabama, Foley to be precise and Pensacola Airport is about an hours drive away.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Welcome to 2011 - A preview of things to come

In the next few weeks I will be blogging about the beers in the image above as well as many not shown. In fact that image above is my second batch (bought Sunday Dec 26th I think) of beers bought during my 6 nights in Alabama for home drinking. The batch above were bought at the local Winn Dixie (well known grocery store) in Foley, Alabama. When you get to the fridge section, there are a good few craft beers but I was a little disappointed that there was no more than a Walmart (rubbish for beer in any state I have been in). Then on grabbing a few and turning around I found random shelves with all sorts of craft beer. It was like a treasure hunt and for all I bought, I left more behind.

Now that is a lot of beer to drink (ignoring the blue moon, I did not go near it) considering it was Monday and I left Thursday. Normally I would not go near a beer till about noon but since I was getting up at 7:30 am it seemed only right to start. I had to so I could get through all the beer. It was Christmas after all so normal rules don't apply.

I managed to only leave 4 beers undrunk. My wife will bring those to my brother in law who also home brews and enjoys good beer. I also took one of each beer, which was 18 in total home with me. They survived the trip and will be shared with some lucky Beoir (yeah I am looking at you BeerNut)members at some point.

The two large boxes are pretty cool. They are mixed cases of beers from the two breweries in question. We can get some Great Divide beer in Ireland but none of the ones in the case which was convenient. Tommyknocker I had not even heard of before which is not surprising given just how many craft breweries are in the US that do not export their beer over here.

My most important discovery was Two Hearted from my beloved Bells Brewery, the brewery that got me on my quest for craft beer years ago. This was my first time trying Two Hearted which I had heard was a fantastic beer. My biggest regret in life is that in all the times I have been to Michigan, I never once thought to go the Bells! That said, if that is all I have to complain about in life then I must be pretty lucky. Well that and not being a millionaire lotto winner with no financial worries....

So here is wishing everyone a fantastic and Hoppy 2011 and may all your beery dreams come true.