Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Wedged between the Oktoberfest and pumpkin ales of fall and the Christmas ales of, well, Christmas are the Halloween beers, including Rogue's Dead Guy Ale and Wychwood's Hobgoblin. And the great thing about these beers is most will be around long after the jack-o-lanterns have rotted.
So skip the candy (or not) and grab a cold one. They're spooky good.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

El Leviathan, esse!!

Tired of fish tacos? Want to eat something that'll put up a fight? Check out my latest post on D.C. Foodies.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's not pumpkin. It's Scottish!

In a season of pumpkin ales, Duck-Rabbit’s Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale is a nice change of pace.
The six-pack was a blind grab at Sam’s Quik Shop as the missus and I headed home from Durham, N.C., after the World Beer Festival. The carton merely said the beer was a seasonal, but I’ve sampled Duck-Rabbit enough times to trust that whatever the seasonal was would be decent. Besides, I’m always attracted to limited edition beers.
Because it’s fall, I assumed I was buying a six-pack of pumpkin ale, but was tickled to see the plaid Balmoral cap perched atop the duck-rabbit.
The dark, amber colored ale is somewhat sweet (thanks to the 8 percent alcohol content) with a rich, slightly spicy finish.
The wee heavy is a great strong ale to sip on the air gets crisp and the temperature starts to fall. But if you don't live in North Carolina, you're out of luck. In that case, consider other Scottish ales like Skull Splitter, Belhaven's Wee Heavy or Old Chub Scottish Style Ale from Oskar Blues, any of which will do just as well.
Still want pumpkin? Bake a pie.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Who's the Big Boss?

I know. I know. It's a terrible pun. But it illustrates my point: too many people know too little about North Carolina's craft brewing scene.
That scene includes Big Boss, one of the best breweries in North Carolina, if not the East Coast.
I've been a beer fan for years, but it wasn't until I moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., that I became a craft beer enthusiast. It was breweries like Foothills, Carolina Brewing Company, Duck-Rabbit and Big Boss that showed me why craft brewing is such a special endeavor.
Think about it like this: Anheuser-Busch brews millions of gallons of Budweiser in a state-of-the-art plant in St. Louis, Mo. Basically, it's beer by HAL. Big Boss Brewing Company is a group of guys brewing beer in a warehouse in Raleigh.
The warehouse is also home to Big Boss' brewpub, Horniblows Tavern (admit it, you love the name).
Despite being located in an industrial park in north Raleigh, Horniblows is one of the best bars in the city. It better be, it's a pain in the ass to get to.
Earlier this year, the missus and I swung by Horniblows with our friend Val. After a couple wrong turns, we pulled into Horniblows' parking lot, a bar closer to a tire store than another watering hole. If it weren't for a trailer parked out front with the Big Boss logo painted on the side, we would've driven right by the place.

It's a good thing we didn't. Inside, the industrial park gives way to a dimly lit, dark wood bar. And as you'd expect at a brewpub, where the mash tun is churning away in the next room, the selection of beer is tempting and unique.
In addition to Big Boss' popular Bad Penny Brown, Hell's Belle and Angry Angel lines, Horniblows had a Holly Roller II IPA and its Belgian style Surrender Monkey Farm House Ale on draft.

They also had Galaga.

Last weekend, Big Boss brought its seasonal creation -- Black Diamond Express -- to the World Beer Festival in Durham.

Black Diamond is an IPA infused with blackberries. As horrible as that sounds to someone who hates fruit-flavored beers (me), Black Diamond is a solid beer. The blackberries are a subtle compliment to the hoppy flavor of the IPA. If more breweries would take such a restrained approach to fruit flavors, their fruity beers might turn out better (looking at you, Abita).
Toss in the quality beers, a great bar, and friendly staff eager to show off their beers, and it's easy to like Big Boss and the craft beer scene.
But here's the rub: unless you live in North Carolina, Hell's Belle, Angry Angel and the rest of the craft beers brewed in North Carolina are out of your reach. Hopefully, as the craft beer scene continues to grow and evolve, more great beers become more widely available.
In the meantime, I'll be loading the trunk every time I visit the Tar Heel state.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fat Tire rolls into Durham

So that’s what all the fuss is about.
Fat Tire, the beloved beer of so many and the long-for beer of so many others, was one of the new beers at this year’s World Beer Festival in Durham, N.C.

And you know, it ain’t too bad.
For years I’ve read about the beer brewed in Ft. Collins, Colo. On message boards, those who've had it swear by it and lament the fact that they can’t get it once they move east. For folks like me who have never traveled to Colorado, such talk creates curiosity. What is it about this beer that makes so many people long for it? There are a lot of beers brewed in Colorado that are available nationally, so why all the fuss over Fat Tire?
During the Brewers Association’s Savor event in D.C. last February, I asked Kim Jordan, the head of New Belgium Brewing, if she planned to distribute Fat Tire any further east than Tennessee. Not at the moment, she said. If I was that interested, she invited me to visit the brewery.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to travel that far (though a trip to Colorado wouldn’t be a bad thing). New Belgium set up a booth at the Durham festival and brought its famous beer. Though the brewery was at the back of the festival site, it was my first stop. And the charming couple working the booth was more than happy to put up with my picture taking and questions.
Like I said, Fat Tire is a pretty solid ale. And as a former North Carolina resident and fan of the many breweries in the Triangle and across the Tar Heel state, I understand where Fat Tire’s fans are coming from.
If I could get sixers of Foothills and Big Boss here in D.C., maybe I wouldn't be as enamored with them. After all, we tend to want what we can’t have. Or maybe they're really as good as I think they are. Of course, taste is relative.
During the festival I heard rumors that New Belgium is considering making Fat Tire and its other beers available on the East Coast. I’d be tickled if they did. But I also wonder whether doing so would deflate Fat Tire’s mystique.
Now, New Belgium wasn’t the only new face at the festival. One of Utah’s very few breweries, Uinta Brewing Company, showed up with a half dozen offerings from its product line, including its Angler Pale Ale. Despite coming from a state known more for Mormons and teetotaling, Uinta produces a quality beer. And unlike New Belgium, I’ve already seen Uinta’s beers show up around D.C.

And now, the rest of the rest from the festival. Normally, there would be more photos, but my battery died and using my camera phone got old fast.

(Wedge Brewing Company)

(Rogue Brewing)

(Hook and Ladder Brewing Company)

(Ft. Collins Brewery)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Of honeymoon and murder

Cute, huh? They're dead now. I killed them. I grilled them. Then I ate them and fed 13 of their friends to my friends and loved ones. Strangely enough, the whole experience reminded me of my honeymoon. Check it out at D.C. Foodies.