Beer Review: Mendocino Brewing Co Red Tail Ale

Two friends are about to get married and I couldn’t be more excited. Although it was not on purpose, I still like to take credit for having introduced them. I met one in a writing group and dragged the other to it and they hit it off right away. Now, they’re getting hitched! They’ve asked me to be in the wedding, give some speeches, and even make some very minor alterations on the bride’s gown. For love, I’m more than happy to help.

This will be a picnic wedding, potluck style, so I’m bringing some of the stuff for a charcuterie plate (though there will also be a mini fonude pot because my friends and I are nothing if not ambitious). One thing I’m cooking off is some pork and apple sausage made at a local buthcer shop. It smells amazing. While a work, there’s nothing like a beer to keep me company.

To celebrate one union (my friends), I’ll opt in for another: birds and beer (two of my favs). Poured from a bottle into a pint glass, this rich, honeyed brown beer is just a touch hazy looking to me. Though there is an extremely minimal head, there’s a bit of a dusting of foam that dissipates in about a minute. The smell is sweet and raisin-like, which must come down to the malts in this beer as it’s only 6% ABV. There’s no hops smell at all – I get nothing but malt (but not the roasty kind), all sweet amber brown scents.

The first taste is as sweet as is to be expected. There’s not a lot of depth here, flavor-wise, and it’s a little watery-tasting or thin to me. There aren’t layers of flavor at work here. It’s malty, it’s brown, it’s sweet. That’s really it. I feel like the carbonation is a little high for what this is trying to be. There’s actually something slightly acidic and off about it to me.

I bought a six pack and I’ll probably drink them, but I doubt I’d buy this again. Two out of five. No thanks.

Beer Review: Lakefront Brewery Inc. Fixed Gear Red IPA

Recently, I visited Green bay, WI to meet some long-time online friends. We know one another as fellow crazy bird people from Instagram and Facebook and, kind of on a whim, I bought a plan ticket to go and meet them for the first time. Adventure! It was sort of a crazy thing to do, meeting strangers from the internet, but they felt like longtime friends and I knew I had to try.

Silas the Senegal (left) and Pepper the Green Cheek Conure (right), along with their humans, were there to greet me.

We spent the weekend eating, playing board games, drinking beer, cooking, and going up in a Cessna over Lake Michigan. It was pretty great!

Being in a new city meant I had to try some new beers that were local and that I couldn’t get anywhere near me. Obviously. We went to a bottle shop with a massive collection of beer, lots of which I’ve never seen in my area, and I made a bee line for the Wisconsin local beer section. Lakefront Brewery Inc’s Fixed Gear Red IPA was one of the six packs that I grabbed.

This was a lovely amber color, reddish with a fluffy off-white head. It left behind some fine lacing as I drank it. It’s a very pretty beer overall. There’s not a lot of nose there. Maybe a little raisin-scented, which I often find in those higher ABV beers – which this is most definitely not. We’re talking about 6.8%. Pretty middle of the road, honestly. There’s also some notes of floral hops going on here, but nothing especially green or bright.

While playing a few rounds of The Game of Things (which is a little bit like scattegories), I dug into this beer. It’s a tad dry, but very flavorful overall. It’s sooth and slightly fruity with a little bit of a hop punch, but never too much. It’s really easy drinking. I could happily enjoy this beer all day long.

If I could ever possibly find it in Maryland, I’d buy this one again. Easily four out of five mugs for me.

Beer Review: Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale

Do you ever just get an idea for a dish stuck in your head and it pesters you until you finally buckle under the pressure and try to make it? That’s what happened with this sandwich. I had some leftover brie and a bag of brussels sprouts in my fridge and the thought of this creation haunted me.  I wanted a brie grilled cheese stuffed with roasted brussels sprouts and smothered in grainy mustard.

Well, it was a mess. It oozed out all over the place. I had to pick globs of brie up off of the plate with my hands and just sort of tuck in like I had no manners at all. It was an experiment, but it was a damn delicious one, even if it was maybe a failure in some ways.

This beer was, similarly, an experiment that I think didn’t really pay off. It pours straw gold with a hint of orange from the bottle. There’s a very ephemeral, short-lived head that’s less than a finger high, which disappeared in about 30 seconds. Maybe less. The carbonation in this beer is very active in the glass, bubbling away.

It doesn’t smell like much: faintly bready and almost like a witbier. I don’t smell a whiff of cinnamon, though, which is disorienting. You think it’d be in there, front and center.

The cinnamon is the dominant taste, though. It’s nice and strong up front, but fades about as quickly as it came. Honestly, the aftertaste of this beer, once the cinnamon disappears, taste a lot like applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled into it. The beer is made with long grain rice so it’s no wonder it has a very light body and flavor.

Honestly, there’s not a lot going on here. It’s refreshing enough if you like cinnamon (and I do), but nothing really great in the end. Personally, I wouldn’t bother buying this experiment again. Just two out of five mugs.

Review: Oliver Brewing Co Balls to the Wall APA

I love beer and I love food. I’m a simple creature, really. I also love cooking and few things go better with food prep than a cold beer. In this case, I had plenty of time for beer as I was braising a small pork shoulder with some apple cider vinegar. This would eventually become some beautiful pulled pork with a spicy-sweet bbq sauce.

The Oliver Brewing Co website promises “a gratifying hop punch” with this beer, so I had some expectations in place before I even tasted it. No one likes to be disappointed, so don’t get me all worked up for nothing, please, beer.

Balls to the Wall fills my glass with a rich golden color that’s slightly hazy in appearance. There’s a fluffy, energetic white head that falls away fast, leaving behind a few spots of lacing. It smells very hoppy (as promised!) in the family of something very piney and green. It doesn’t smell dank at all, but very bright and fresh, perhaps like mowed grass (which I sort of hate because it sets off my allergies, but in theory it smells really nice).

Seriously, I can’t with this green towel. I thought it was a good idea, but I was sorely mistaken.

The first taste is a hop wallop to be sure. It’s not a palate wrecker, though. It’s still very refreshing on the whole. And – good in my book – it’s not too terribly dry on the finish, so that’s a thumbs up from me. It’s honestly kind of like licking a pine tree… if it weren’t for the sap and bark and other gross stuff, I guess. Imagine with me, here.

I really enjoyed this and found it flavorful and fairly well balanced. Five out of five mugs, I’d definitely seek this out in the future.

Five American Beers to Drink on July 4th

Cracking open a few beers sounds like an excellent way to celebrate that American classic, the Fourth of the July. Here’s a quick rundown of five interesting and refreshing beers made here in the good ol’ US of A.

21st Amendment Hell of High Watermelon

This strange (and strangely refreshing) wheat beer made with watermelon isn’t usually something I’d enjoy. I’ve had watermelon beers before, and often found them to have a sort of candy-like sweetness that was unpleasant. Hell or High Watermelon, however, beats that rap and is exceptionally good to drink on a hot day. It’s en excellent beach beer, let me tell you.

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

Coming in at a little over 7% ABV, this beer packs a bit of a wallop. It’s got some hop bitterness to it, paired with some decent grainy flavors, but it’s an incredibly smooth drinking beer in spite of the alcohol content. If you like your IPAs with a punch of flavor, this is a great choice for sunset on the back patio.

Bell’s Oberon Ale

A wheat ale with a little sourdough funk and some light notes of fruit, Oberon is a great go-to for a wheat ale with some character (and comes highly recommended by my friend, M). It has a fairly light body and some decent carbonation (though not too much), which keeps it feeling nice and refreshing. It’s got enough flavor to stand up to food, so try it while grilling or chowing down.

Anderson Valley Briney Melon Gose

I think you all know where I stand on gose beers. This is a personal favorite (though Anderson Valley makes at least two others that are fantastic) as it’s tart, faintly salty, and incredibly bright. It’s a very easy beer to drink, as long as you like the decent sour punch, and is perfect for hot weather.

Union Craft Brewing Anthem

As a celebration of the recent 200th anniversary of the penning of the Star Spangled Banner, this Baltimore brewery whipped up a golden ale to delight the senses. With a decently grainy base and a Mosaic hop finish, this pairs great with the classic American grilled goods that we so love in summer.

Review: Laughing Dog Pure Bred Citra

I found this bomber at a local beer and wine shop and, as a lover of citra hops (which have only been around since 2009), I had to grab it. Single hop citra forever! Tonight, I was making ramen (yes, I know it’s trash food, but sometimes I just love making instant ramen and adding a bunch of veggies or chicken or an egg or vinegared onions to). It’s comfort food and I have no regrets.

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An Idaho brewery (look, I can’t always drink local), Laughing Dog Brewery isn’t exactly a newcomer, having been in business since 2005. Still, I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of them before now. They love their dog, Ben, and some dog-themed beer names make their way onto their labels – like Pure Bred.

This beer pours a hazy golden straw color with warm undertones. It produces a light, fluffy head about one finger tall and leaves some serious lacing. There’s a hoppy nose that is green, floral, and herbaceous! There’s also a piney, resin smell, which I don’t think is necessarily signature for this hop.

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As far as taste goes, it is generally fresh and bright the way that Citra is meant to be. It’s green and dank up front with a bright passion fruit pop to it. There’s a slight biscuity-ness to the malt, which must be one of the pale malts based on its flavor profile. This is a nice change, season-wise, from heavier and sweeter winter beers – it’s perfect for the days that are warming up in spring time.

It’s a little dray and abrupt on the finish for me, but I would absolutely buy it again. For less than $10 a bomber, it’s a good deal in my mind.

 

 

Review: Elysian Bifrost Winter Pale Ale

It was Howard County Restaurant Week, I had a night off, and I was craving steak – the stars had aligned for me. I asked a few friends to join me for a lady date dinner, but, in my truest fashion, I arrived about 30 minutes early. Time for a beer? Time for a beer!

Centre Park Grill in Columbia, Maryland, has a decent beer selection and an excellent range of whiskeys and bourbons. Trust me, I love bourbon, but I was in a beer mood. I was even seated before my reservation time, so I didn’t have to sit at the bar (though I would have, even though it was near the front door on a cold night). Which is more depressing: sitting alone at a restaurant table or sitting alone at a bar?

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Elysian Bifrost Winter Pale Ale pours a hazy, orangey gold with maybe one finger of fluffy, foamy head. There’s some lacing to be found, but its staying power isn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen. The smell here is a lot of wet grains or cereal up front with some floral hops in the background. And I may be hallucinating some very faint citrus, but honestly I was second-guessing myself on that the whole time.

This beer leads with malty sweetness, which quickly fades into piney hops. There might be traces of coriander or nutmeg at work here, but just barely. This isn’t a strongly spiced winter ale. There is, however, a quick from that 8.3% ABV. The finish is just a tad dry, very gentle, and then ends on a sweet note. It has a robust mouthfeel and fairly low carbonation.

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Extremely drinkable, I do declare! But definitely seasonal, which is sad. I’d have this pretty frequently if I could find it. I’d absolutely buy this and keep it around at home for cold winter days.

Review: Uinta Ready Set Gose

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I made too much risotto. Way too much. A problematic amount of risotto. I have some regrets. I mean, I don’t regret the delicious garlic risotto with kale, only the quantity that my idiot brain thought would be a good idea. It’s going to be every meal for a week at this point.

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I had to open some white wine to make the dish, so I started with a glass of that – no sense in wasting it! After that, I moved onto a beer – this Uinta Gose that I was really excited about. I love gose beers! Sours and other sorts of bright beers really keep my palate interested.

This beer is brewed with salt and coriander and Uinta describes it as compared to a refreshing coastal sea breeze. It pours a hazy, honeycomb gold with no head. It smells wheaty, sort of like white bread from a big name brand smells. There are definite notes of lemon rind, which the can mentions in its description. There’s also a bright, peppery yeast smell to be found.

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The first sip is good. It’s a balanced gose with some bright and salty notes. There’s maybe la little spice or peppercorn at the tip of the tongue. It’s complex, but not overwhelming. There’s peppercorn and lemongrass coming through as it warms up – it also gets more sour as this happens. There’s a mildly savory finish with that salt on the back end.

The pucker on this beer grows as it comes up to cellar or room temperature, which is odd but delightful. I love a good sour. I would absolutely buy this again.

 

 

Bar and Beer Review: Rams Head Tavern in Savage, MD

Here’s another bar and restaurant, tucked neatly into my back yard. Yes, readers, I am still on a quest to find My Bar. Will Rams Head Tavern in Savage Mill, MD fill that opening? That’s debatable. It has some highlights, but it doesn’t really have the right vibe for me to feel comfortable there all that often. For one, it’s pretty big. It’s a three story restaurant with many tables and a bar on the main floor, more tables upstairs, and then a basement pub all the way downstairs. I’m usually a fan of cozier set ups than that.

The food is decent, though maybe a few dollars more than I generally like to spend. I’ve only been there on weekends, so I haven’t been able to take advantage of any happy hour specials (which include $3 draft beers and some free appetizers on weekdays from 4-7). Their house beers come from Dominion and Fordham Brewing in Delaware.

I grabbed a seat at the bar ahead of some friends (I’m chronically early everywhere) and was taken care of by the bartender, Mike, who I quizzed on their relationship with Fordham. As he explained it, neither Rams Head nor Fordham owns one another, but that they sort of grew up together in the Annapolis location and are now considered partner businesses.

They look like they carry at least six Fordham beers at any given time, plus about a dozen guest taps. The manager, whose name I didn’t catch, told me they have “hundreds” of bottles. Now, I’m a draft girl most of the time, but I may need to explore this in the future. Plus, on the first Thursday of every month, a new beer is released and a promotional pint glass is part of the deal (first beer is $5, you keep the glass, and refills are $2).

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My friends and I feasted on crab dip and Old Bay dry rub wings that night and, I have to say, the food was solid.

Fordham Wisteria Wheat

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This draft beer pours a clear yellow straw-like gold, so I figure it must be a filtered wheat beer. No head was present when I got this beer, but there was some mild, creamy lacing. The low light may have obscured the color of the lacing (and maybe even the beer a little). Mike said its taste trends toward banana and clove, which I like very much in wheat beers.

There’s a definite bread or grain smell with some light banana notes. There’s also a yeasty zing to the scent. It has a very light and crisp taste that mellows into banana bread and clove, just as promised. I would call it very crushable.

Crash Zone IPL

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This beer looks like an amber with a rich, creamy-looking head. There’s not much nose here, maybe a little hoppy, with some sweet grains. It smells like an amber to me. And it tastes a bit like a hoppy amber as well. The aftertaste is a little dry to the point where the finish of this beer makes me want a tall glass of water or something else on my palate. I tried a sample and I wouldn’t order a full pint.

Gypsy Lager

This is perhaps their flagship beer as well as the one I am most familiar with. I also happen to really like it. It’s solid. Pours a light golden brown. It’s clear with minimal head. It’s a very easy drinking beer. It’s mild, crisp, and refreshing when cold. Even after warming up a bit, it’s still really solid. Not impressive or special, but a genuinely good go-to.

Fordham IPA

Here’s a short review for you (because I didn’t care for it and also because I was enjoying my night with friends and not taking many notes at this point): it’s too dry and bitter for me. There’s a very dry finish. As it warmed (and as I got more inebriated), it became a little less overstated and a little more drinkable.

 

Bar and Beer Review: Olive on Main in Laurel, MD

I wanted to spend my afternoon off having lunch and a beer somewhere while running errands and Yelp suggested to me that Olive on Main might be a good choice. After waiting in line at the post office for almost 30 minutes, I was game.

In the second half of 2016, after my marriage fell apart, I had to uproot my life and move somewhere new. Alone. I picked a city nearer to a lot of my fiends, finally closer than I had been in years, but it was still a new life in a new place that I had to face on my own. This is the first time I’ve ever lived alone. I guess maybe I’m not alone with the birds, but they sure don’t pay rent.

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The place only has six taps for craft beer, so I balked a little. I’m a tad spoiled by craft beer bars with huge selections. Will this become my new bar? I treated myself to Burger (it would have been $6 on Tuesday, but I came on a Monday) cooked medium rare, and served with nice, crispy fries. It was a good, solid, flavorful, and presented on a tasty brioche bun. I’ll consider their well-reviewed falafel or a mezze platter next time.

Inevitably, I failed to take many pictures. Please find it in your heart to forgive me!

Manor Hill IPA

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Pours a lovely, hazy, dark golden color in a lightly frosty glass. It has a decently strong nose despite being poured very chilly. It smells floral and orange, lightly hoppy. The first sip is sweet, bright, and floral. It finishes with a pleasantly green happiness that’s sort of herbal in nature. It tastes the way that admiring a pretty flower garden feels.

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

Another frost glass and a golden pour. No head and just a film of foam to be seen. I can’t detect any nose at all, maybe because of the coldness of the glass. I took a second, comically deep sniff (somewhat embarrassing in public) and got a piney hop note that was very faint. The first taste has grains, isn’t too sweet, and is mildly hoppy. It’s refreshing up front, but has a dry finish in the back. It didn’t overwhelm my food, but didn’t quite stand up to it, either. It gets happier as it warms.