Featured Posts
  • Cigar City Brewing Brewery Tour

    Cigar City Brewing Brewery Tour

    Most people who are into craft beer are well aware that Florida has yet to make its mark amongst the other leading states in the US when it comes to craft beer production. My opinion might sound harsh to some but the reality is we are not like the West Coast, Mid-West ...

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  • Joe Heron - CEO of Crispin Cider

    Crispin Cider & Food Pairing At The Filling Station

    The Filling Station is one of those divey food joints taken right out of an episode of Man vs. Food. The kind of place where you want to go unwind, eat a damn good burger and enjoy a craft beer, my kind of place. This past Wednesday we were invited by ...

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  • Cigar City Papaya IPA – Fruits of labor

    Cigar City Papaya IPA - Fruits of labor

    I truly believe the word diversity should be printed on every bottle brewed by Cigar City Brewing. This Tampa native brewery is never afraid to experiment with different flavors and local ingredients in order to create unique tasting beers. Capitalizing on ingredients commonly found in Florida, as well as a ...

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  • Laughing Dog CSB – A Bitter Bite

    Laughing Dog CSB - A Bitter Bite

    One of the many things I love about craft beer, is the artwork breweries use on their products. Its always fun to walk through an aisle of craft beer and reading all of the crazy names and funny labels these breweries come up with. Recently I discovered a brewery called ...

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Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

The holidays are upon us, and as we celebrate the end of another year with our family and close friends, no better time calls for a good winter beer. Ranging from medium to dark colors, from refreshing to robust, there’s a beer to satisfy every thirsty palate during this time of year. One beer in particular that I eagerly await during the holidays happens to be Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. This beer has become a tradition of the holidays in my house. I have shared this beer with my loved ones for many years at the dinner table so I figured I’d give it the respect it deserves.

Sierra’s Celebration Ale is not your typical winter ale, as a matter of fact it’s more of an IPA than anything else. It’s got the traditional hoppy profile found on many of their other offerings, but there’s something about it that just makes it unique. Maybe its just the fact that I have to wait a whole year to get my hands on one, or perhaps because of the personal connection I have with it. Whatever it might be, this beer puts me in the holiday spirit every year.

Appearance: Pours a copper color with a fluffy white colored top. The head stays on top for a while and slowly dissipates into a ring sized lacing. Moderate carbonation runs from the bottom to the top of the glass.

Smell: An aromatic bouquet of fresh hops greet you on the first whiff. Inviting citric aromas with a scent of pine and a faint smell of roasted malts lurk in the background.

Taste: Nice and chewy first sip with a biscuity flavor and a good prick of spiciness from the fresh chinook hops. Well balanced yet robust but at the same time refreshing and enjoyable, such an elegant and finely crafted brew. As the beer warms you get a good taste of the malts with a little sweetness as the hops roll off a bit.

What can I say? I love this beer. I might sound biased but I look forward to it every holiday season. Pair this up with a roasted pork and you are good to go. This beer is just that good.

Happy holidays.

- Cheers.

Lagunitas PILS Czech Style Pilsner

The Pilsner beer style, often unappreciated and overlooked. A style that has unrightfully earned a bad reputation due to poorly made adjunct macro lagers. That is not to say that all Pilsner beers are bad, and thankfully, a lot of craft breweries have at least one Pilsner style on their repertoire. Some of them are faithful to the original recipe, while others like to experiment with the flavors a little bit.

I am always in the lookout for a good brewed Pilsner, after all it is one of my favorite styles. This weekend I stopped by ABC Fine Wines & Spirits in Kendall and picked up a 6 pack of Lagunitas Brewing Co. PILS. I had tried this beer a couple of years ago and had mixed feelings about it, however I really wanted to give it another try since I feel my palate has changed over the years.

Apparence: Pours an opaque orange color with a fluffy white top, moderate lacing and lightly carbonated.

Smell: Huge malt profile with a bready and toasty aroma. Faint citric notes buried underneath the malts.

Taste: An expected malty first sip. Yeasty and earthy with a chewy  mouth feel. The beer mellows out and gets a nice bitter kick towards the end as some of the citric notes pop through. Nice alcohol clocking at 6.2% makes it a playful brew. Perhaps not a typical Pilsner taste although it is very refreshing and easy to drink.

Lagunitas PILS is a solid brew in my book. Although it took me by surprise at first, once I finished pounding the second and third one, it felt right at home. Like the kind of beer you crave after a long workday and wish you had in your hand to sit down and relax. Great stuff by Lagunitas.

- Cheers.

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

The Gargoyle, a menacing mythical creature, guarding and poised always watching. A symbol of strength and one of those nasty creatures you never wanted to come across during a game of Dungeons & Dragons. A fitting icon for a brewery that holds back no punches and isn’t afraid to experiment. I’m talking about none other than Stone Brewery out of Escondido, California. Known for their extremely hoppy beers, these guys revolutionized the craft beer movement as we know it by turning everything up to eleven.

The Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale happens to be one of their bastardized experiments, and I mean that with the most outmost respect. A beautiful mastermind that consists of a really hopped up IPA mixed in with the characteristics of a stout to make up the DNA of this beer. And if that doesn’t catch your attention then I don’t know what else will. Putting all flattery aside, I dwelled into the abyss to face this monster for the first time this week and I have a tale to tell.

Appearance: Pours pitch black with a thick and foamy tan colored top. Great lacing leaving a frothy residue around the glass.

Smell: Big roasted malt aroma with a thick caramel smell. Hints of molasses and dark chocolate with a faint hop spice aroma lurking in the background.

Taste: Very good first sip, extremely hoppy, much hoppier than I thought by judging from its smell. Some of the complex aromas get a bit lost with the amount of hops this beer has. Surprisingly light bodied and refreshing although I expected it to be heavier by judging its color and smell. I guess this beer really had me fooled. Coffee notes pop up half way along with some roasted malts but in the end it stays bitter all they way through. Alcohol makes its presence as the beer warms and really gave me a pretty damn good buzz.

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale is an extreme beer, no way around it. It flirts with the characteristics of a great stout but it hides it well underneath layers, upon layers of unadulterated hop bitterness. Definitely a beer to experience at least once. I’m glad I did and I wouldn’t mind going back for round two with this beast. Well done Stone.

- Cheers.

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada out of Chico California needs no introduction and their beers speak for themselves. Using quality ingredients as well as a hard to match craftsmanship, Sierra Nevada simply know how to brew great beers. Case in point is their new seasonal fall beer called Ruthless Rye IPA, a beer that’s been getting a lot attention, and rightfully so. Ruthless Rye is the successor of the old Glissade seasonal, a golden bock style beer that never quite reached the high status of other Sierra Nevada offerings. Although a great tasting beer and one I happened to enjoy every fall, it just never turned too many heads, which is why Sierra decided to take a different approach and introduce a more exciting fall seasonal beer this year.

The new Ruthless Rye IPA shows no sign of being just a gimmicky seasonal beer. At first sight of the label you can clearly see there was a lot of thought put into it. Sporting a new design never seen by Sierra beers in the past, the artwork is dark and moody, with a comic book style that I think fits perfectly with the beer. Sure, the rye IPA style has been done in the past by other breweries but Ruthless Rye comes in as a nice surprise by Sierra Nevada, it shows a change in direction from their previous artwork, and a style that will definitely make hop lovers happy.

Appearance: Pours a reddish, rusty copper hue with a beige colored top. Lively carbonation all the way through. A solid lacing sticks nicely all around the glass.

Smell: Big whiff of West Coast piney hops with a big aroma of apricots, pears, tropical fruits and spices. The quintessential Sierra Nevada aromatic hop smell.

Taste: It starts bitter on the first sip, it then settles into slightly bitter profile, and then it ends bitter (you get the point…its pretty damn bitter). Nice texture on the body, not too heavy but not too light, just perfect. Rich malt profile with some spiciness from the rye malt. Alcohol is nice at 6.6% and fits in perfectly. Finishes slightly dry leaving a bit of hop resin.

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye is a welcomed new addition to the Sierra line-up. As always they have crafted a close to perfect beer, full of character, flavor , and enough bitterness to please all the hop heads. Go out and try it.

- Cheers.

Summit Brewing Winter Ale – Lifestyle Video

I love those moments when inspiration comes knocking at your door. The times when creativity just spurs out of nowhere and you feel like you need to pick your ass up and do something creative. Lately I have been feeling that way so I’ve tried my best not to let those sparks go to waste, that’s why I picked up my camera and decided to shoot a short video this past Saturday.

Basically I wanted to capture a personal moment, one that always relaxes me and puts me at ease. Shooting it was somewhat of a challenge since I had to shoot it myself (except for the beer pour in which my wife helped frame and focus the shot) so I had to make sure all of the elements where right; exposure, composition, light, and most importantly focus. I had fun doing it and I’m happy with the results although there’s always room for improvement.

Anyway I hope you enjoy it.

- Cheers.

Antigoon Belgian Beer

Beer labels play a huge roll on craft beer, not only do they catch our attention but they also serve as an artistic expression for a lot of breweries. Some of them take real pride on this, one brewery that comes to mind is Flying Dog which features the artwork of renowned artist Ralph Steadman.

As an artist and craft beer drinker I cannot stress enough how important this is for me, a well designed label not only serves for aesthetic purposes  but  also tells a story, they appeal and intrigue us, and therefore it creates a bond between consumer and beer. During my last visit at Total Wine & More I came across a beer that triggered those kind of emotions, a Belgian Golden Ale called Antigoon brewed by Brouwerij De Musketiers. I had no prior knowledge of this beer, but at first glance of the odd label I was hooked, all of the elements were there and I became intrigued by it.

I did some research to find the meaning of the label and found a pretty cool story behind it (thank you Wikipedia). The label tells the legend of a Roman soldier named Brabo who slayed a mythical giant that terrorized the villagers of a town in Antwerp. The evil giant would guard the river Scheldt’s bridge demanding a toll from all of the villagers who dared to cross it. The penalty for not paying the giant meant getting their hand chopped off and then tossed into the river. Until one day the giant met his match and got a taste of his own medicine by the brave soldier.

I received another interesting tidbit of information about this beer from Ed Roberts via twitter. Apparently this beer was brewed specifically for Robert Wiedmaier, chef/owner of Brasserie Beck, a contemporary European style restaurant located in DC. The beer became so popular on tap that they thought it would be a good idea to bottle and distribute it. So will Antigoon beer live up to its mythical tale?

Appearance: Pours an opaque and cloudy golden color with a moderate sized white top. Extremely slow lacing sticks nicely on the glass, barely moving (amazing). No visible carbonation

Smell: Fruity Belgian yeast up front with hints of pears, banana, clove and spices.

Taste: Prickly and peppery on the first sip, settling into the fruity characteristics of the Belgian yeast. Medium bodied with alcohol showing its fangs as the beer warms up. Bready flavors towards the end with hints of coriander. Extremely flavorful with a dry finish.

Antigoon is a top notch true Belgian golden ale with tons of flavor. Although on the lighter side of alcohol compared to most of its Belgian brethren, at only 6.8%, is enough to keep you on your feet while making it an enjoyable session beer. The artwork on the label is worth the price alone but if you happen to love authentic Belgian beers with an awesome story behind it, don’t think twice about picking this up.

- Cheers.

Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace

A couple of months ago I was invited to a private tasting held at the Gold Coast Beverage headquarters in Pompano Beach, where the guest of honor was none other than brewmaster and craft beer pioneer Gareth Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. Gareth talked about his new book The Oxford Companion to Beer, a 960 page book that covers everything from the origins of beer and brewing techniques, to the variety of hops from different regions, beer culture, and much more. Another interesting topic he touched on was the current trend of food and beer pairing in many high end restaurants, much like the roll wine has played over the years. Overall it was a very enlightening and informative experience to say the least.

Some of the beers we sampled that morning were Brooklyn Local 1, Local 2, and one of their most recent creations; Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. This saison style or farmhouse ale is brewed with a Japanese hop called Sorachi which is notorious for its lemony citric characteristics. A fine hop choice for the saison, a style known to be light and refreshing. Needless to say, the Sorachi Ace blew me away so I decided to stop by Total Wine & More to pick up a bottle and do a proper tasting at home.

Appearance: Poured a bright orange color with tons of carbonation. A fluffy white colored head sat nicely on top of the glass with an evenly dispersed lacing.

Smell: Bright and citric snap with a familiar smell of champagne. Earthy and rounded hop aromas with herbal notes and peppery spices.

Taste: Herbal with an almost tea-like bitterness, a little bit pungent with predominant flavors of lemon and hints of orange zest all around. Prickly mouth feel with an effervescent carbonation. Earthy and light bodied with a filling yet refreshing dry finish. I believe this will pair very well with a Thai or any other Asian dish.

Sorachi Ace is an outstanding representation of the saison style with an ace under its sleeve (pun intended). Interesting flavors of lemon makes it a palate cleansing, session brew. Excellent beer by Brooklyn Brewery, I would recommend it to anyone.

- Cheers.

Cerveza Hatuey Cuban Style Ale

I’d say that 99.9% of the beer that gets showcased on Beer In Focus has been personally chosen and purchased. There’s been a few exceptions where I’ve been invited to an event or a tasting and gotten free samples, but ultimately it’s all on me to keep the content up by purchasing new beers and share my tasting notes. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy getting free samples from time to time, however the whole “beer reviewing” situation becomes somewhat tainted once you are given free beer and you are more than likely expected to write something positive about the product, whether you really like it or not.

Not too long ago I was approached by a rep at a beer event to see if I’d be interested in writing about a newly crafted beer introduced into the market. I was skeptic at first due to the aforementioned reasons, but ultimately I agreed under the condition that I would not sugar coat my words and that I will give it an unbiased review. The beer happened to be Hatuey Cuban Style Ale , a beer that had apparently been through a transformation not too long ago. No longer a macro-adjunct lager, this new incarnation of Hatuey has been brewed from the ground up by Thomas Creek Brewery out of  South Carolina to cater craft beer drinkers.

Bacardi (yes, the rum guys) who own the rights to Hatuey are the ones behind this new rebirth, claiming that this recipe is the same one used back in the golden days of Cuba when Hatuey was considered to be a premium brand and the most popular beer of those days. So will Hatuey version 2.0 live up to the hype and reclaim the premium tagline it proudly earned during its glory days?

Appearance: It pours a bright copperish/golden color with modest carbonation, a nice and fluffy white top with a pretty good lacing.

Smell: Pale malts upfront with a hint of citric hops. A little bit of roastiness somewhere in the background as well as a faint alcohol whiff.

Taste: A good dose of roasted malts that tangle with a very pleasant bitterness from the hops, throw in a hint of citrus and you got a very craft like first sip. Light bodied and refreshing with a crisp finish.

Hatuey Cuban Style Ale is a pretty solid entry level craft beer, not a world beater by any means but a fresh new rebirth to what was considered a premium beer over 60 years ago in Cuba. Using an old and proven German recipe along with the standards of todays methodical craft brewing approach, Hatuey Cuban Style Ale comes as a refreshing alternative amongst other American macro brews in the market.

- Cheers.

Smuttynose Winter Ale

It’s been a while since my last post, but today I felt like breaking out of my hiatus and get some creative juices flowing back into my system. Between the holidays and a trip to Europe I haven’t felt much of a desire to sit down and write. Honestly, sometimes I just like enjoying a beer for what it is and not having to worry about jotting down notes or doing photography prep work, but the show must go on. Ever since the holidays I’ve been craving for a good winter brew, something full bodied with the right amount of spices to warm up the body. I went to Total Wine and picked up a Smuttynose Brewing Company’s Winter Ale, a New Hampshire brewery I have gotten hooked on as of late. Not only are their beers good but their labels are also excellent, as they always seem to use vintage photography to depict their beer styles.

Appearance: It poured a dark brown color with some reddish hues when held against the light. A really thick and frothy beige colored top poured right from the get go with a lacing that dispersed quickly. Solid carbonation.

Smell: An interesting aroma of dark cherries mixed in with cinnamon and other spices. Roasted malts and caramel are present on the nose as well as a faint licorice aroma.

Taste: Solid roastiness on the first sip with a lingering smokiness that last throughout. Prickly carbonation and a semi-robust body makes this beer easy drinking despite its roasty nature. The bitterness is tamed by a malty backbone as well as some sweet tartness. It finishes dry and slightly sour, however all of the ingredients seem to mesh well together.

Smuttynose Winter Ale is definitely an easy drinker for a winter ale that will warm you up but doesn’t try too hard to push bold flavors across. Everything is well balanced just as a good brewed beer should be. Pick one up while you still can.

- Cheers.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale – One Wholesome Pale Ale

Terrapin Beer Co. out of Athens Georgia has received a bit of negative press this month after the news broke out that macro beer giants Miller Coors had purchased a minority stake of the company. Rumors and concerns of the buyout began to spread amongst the craft beer community. Some claiming the brewery’s debt drove them to this decision, while others say it was the right move due to the brewery’s much needed expansion.

In the meantime, we can only hope that this business deal doesn’t jeopardize the product quality that Terrapin Beer Co. has been delivering to craft beer drinkers since 2002. Having said that, I bring you a beer that has been on my radar for quite some time, Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale. Since there aren’t too many rye ales out there that I know of, I thought it would be a nice change to try their take on this beer style.

Appearance: Poured into a pint glass, bright and clear light copper color. Bubbly carbonation with some concentration in the bottom of the glass. Not a lot of head from the pour but the lacing was solid throughout.

Smell: Very clean aroma of grains and a citric hop character. Faint roasted malts in the background with some pine undertones give this beer a great overall smell.

Taste: Earthy with a good dose of rye grains give this beer a bready and chewy mouthfeel. Good all around bitterness with a nice citric touch as well as some honey-like sweetness. The rye gives it a good complexity but yet it retains all the character of a classic American Pale Ale. The finish is crisp and refreshing.

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale is one wholesome American Pale Ale due to its graininess. I like to think of it as a “breakfast beer” if there was such a thing. Almost full bodied with a crisp and refreshing finish that could (oddly enough) pair up very well with a side of bacon and eggs.

Don’t pass out on this one, give it a try.

- Cheers.

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