Category Archives: Other Stuff

Weekly Update 3/4/2017

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Falling Behind

If you follow my blog you may have noticed things have been a little quiet around here. Been far too busy at work and home to keep up with all the beer reviews but hoping to get things back on track. Some of the reviews that I am finishing up now were actually beers I drank months ago. My process usually works like this; I get home from work, open a beer, take a picture and make some notes. Then I come back at some point edit the photo, add the links, expand on the notes, etc.

Probably not the most efficient process but I work long hours and while I enjoy drinking a beer almost every night actually writing a review at that time would be difficult. So I fall behind and then spend a Sunday afternoon getting caught up on all those reviews. This time it will take a few Sunday afternoons to get caught up but I have had some great beer over the past couple months so you will want to stay tuned. You can follow my Facebook Page or Twitter account to see what’s happening on a more regular basis but reviews will be coming soon.

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Bottle Releases & Craft Beer Pricing

There is no question I buy a lot of beer and attend a lot of bottle releases. Just take a look at the list of beer currently waiting to be consumed (link here) and you will get an idea of the depth of my beer buying problem.

AnnThis morning I awoke and checked in with Facebook and Twitter as I do most mornings. There were several posts with lots of comments about the lottery style release of Ann a barrel aged saison from Hill Farmstead. I have been waiting for months to learn the details of this release as it is one of the few Hill Farmstead beers I have never tried. I believe the first and only release of Ann was in 2012 and somewhere around 180 bottles were released making this more rare than even Double Barrel Damon.

The details of the release can be found on Hill Farmstead’s website (link here) basically you register in a lottery, if your name is drawn you get to purchase a bottle for that given day. You can register once for each day of the release and the total cost is around $55 between the bottle, tax and fee for the lottery site. If you do not win you pay nothing, the small fee for entering is returned to you.

If you have ever been to Hill Farmstead, especially one of their bottle releases like the release of Damon, Double Barrel Damon, Flora and Flora Satsuma on 9/26/2013 you know how crowded it can get and the crazy lines that form. My post of that release can be seen here. In an effort not to replicate the crazy lines of that day Shaun decided to do the lottery style release for Ann which I think is great even at $50+ per bottle and here is why.

My time is worth something. I have a very busy job, three kids, a wife and all the duties that come with homeownership. If I can enter into a lottery style event, be chosen for a bottle and know that on February 4th I can show up at 11:00, grab my bottle and leave that is a much better solution than driving to Vermont to arrive at 9:00 or earlier and stand in line for many hours for the chance of getting a bottle. I am sure there were many in September that waited for many hours to have the final bottles sold to the people in front of them.

GashDon’t get me wrong I have waited in line for beer and I will again. Each brewery has its own style and bottle/can releases are no different. Allagash has an event coming up that I will go to, wait in line to get in and then wait again to grab a couple bottles of their new release Emotional Honey and bottles of some older beers that are making another appearance; Old HLT, FV13 and Tiarna.

Allagash does a tremendous job with their bottle releases with lots of games, food and samples. Combine this with lots of friendly craft beer drinkers and you have the makings of a nice Saturday morning. The difference is Allagash has the space to accommodate hundreds of people and while parking is not the best between the parking lot and on road parking everyone will have a safe place to park. Allagash also has many more employees to handle the crowds and make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Hill Farmstead does not have the space or parking for such an event and  when they do have an event they rely heavily on volunteers. Coordinating all of this for a weekday bottle release would be nearly impossible.

AlchemistThen there is The Alchemist and their truck load sales. Similar to Hill Farmstead they do not have a space to accommodate a large scale release so they do it in a public space in Waterbury. I have only been to one but it was lots of fun and you can read more about the trip here. I was in line at 6:40 for a sale that started at 9:00. There was a food truck, a band and again lots of great craft beer drinkers to chat with and pass the time.

There is no perfect way to release a beer. You have the retail version with the Bourbon County craziness on Black Friday, the draft only version with Pliny the Younger at Russian River and select bars, the brewfest version that almost ended in a riot at Cigar City’s Hunahpu Day in Florda and countless other beer events across the country with demand that far outweighs the availability of the beer.

In the end breweries have to do what works best for them. For Hill Farmstead, at least with Ann, that is a lottery system and for others it means lines of craft beer fans waiting and hoping the beer lasts long enough for them to score a bottle.

If the beer is good than I want to try it. If the beer has taken years to craft; brewed, aged, blended, bottled, aged again than I will pay more for it. I have yet to be disappointed by a beer from Hill Farmstead or Allagash or The Alchemist and when you have a reputation of creating exceptional beer the beer buying public will pay. I don’t think any of these breweries are pricing their beer artificially high or limiting production to increase profits. Space and time are expensive which causes beer to be expensive. Yes there are plenty of great craft beverages out there that are less expensive but you are not going to be drinking $50 bottles of Ann or $15 – 375 ml bottles of Allagash’s Coolship beers everyday. It is a luxury item, a special treat and one that I am happy to pay for.

Is the beer worth $50+, I don’t know but I hope to find out. I will be submitting a lottery pick for each day, if I am chosen for a bottle then I will gladly pay the $50+ drive to Vermont and pick up my bottle of Ann. If the planets, stars and cosmos align and I am lucky enough to have my name drawn for more than one day than I will make multiple trips and tuck one away in the cellar for a special occasion. I will also be at the Allagash Wild Beer Round Up waiting in line on a cold January morning in Maine and if my schedule and time allows I will attend future truck load sales at The Alchemist. Chances are better that you will find me at one of the many other breweries that are making exceptional beer in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts.

Cheers to all and feel free to share your comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sharing my “extras”

The AlchemistI don’t go to bottle shares as I have 3 kids, a wife and a very busy job so my sharing of beer is typically limited to drinking with brother-in-law at family gatherings. I buy a lot of beer from a lot of breweries and have built quite the collection of boxes in my cellar.

This is my chance to share with all of you, clear out some “extra” beer and get some beer that I have not tried yet. I put together this

Wish List

I realize this list includes beers that many others are looking for so please do not think these are the only beers I am looking for.

If you are offering IPAs/DIPAs they must be FRESH which is why you will see a lot of saison/sour breweries on my list of wants.

Here is how I plan to work this;

I will post a photo of beer available for trade on my FB page (be sure to click the link and give it a like), comment on the photo with what you have to offer (please do not message me as it will be very hard to track messages, comments should be easier). I will leave each open for a day or two so more people get a chance to see it. I prefer in person trades but will consider shipping if you have something I want. I travel a lot within Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and occasionally Mass so if you live in the Northeast we should be able to find a place/time to meet.

Most of the beer has been stored in boxes, in a closet in the finished portion of my basement. The closet has no light, is not heated and remains somewhere around 60 degrees. Exposure to light has been minimal but there is no way to guarantee the quality of a beer that has sat for a time.

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Beer Storage / Cellaring

There are countless articles and much debate on the proper storage of and cellaring beer but I recently had a reader ask me to put together my thoughts so here they are. First I rarely buy a beer with the intention of cellaring it. The only ones I can think of are the few 12 oz bottles that I bought a 4/6 pack of – Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, etc. I typically would drink one and store the others for future consumption. However I do have what I like to call a “beer buying problem”. Like many craft beer drinkers I feel the need to buy that bottle of some newly released variety before it sells out and is gStorageone forever. Because of this I have amassed quite a collection of beer (see entire list here).

I decided to keep my storage as simple as possible. All of my beer is in boxes and kept in a storage room in my basement that is separate from the finished and heated part of my basement and not in the same area as the furnace. This room stays between 55 and 60 degrees year round. By using boxes in this room I take care of the two most important things; temperature control and light. Large swings of temperature, or storing beer too cold or too hot will shorten the lifespan and light is bad for beer.

Most craft brewers would tell you the beer is ready to drink when they release it, if it was not ready they wouldn’t let it out of the brewery. That being said there are some styles of beer that might benefit from some additional time in the bottle.

Styles

Some styles of beer should be consumed fresh including; IPAs, Double IPAs, pale ales and many lagers. These beers will get worse not better with age so keep them refrigerated and drink them fresh. Many higher alcohol beers including barleywines and imperial stouts are good candidates for cellaring. I also have quite a few saisons and brett beers stored away, not sure they will get better with age but unlike the IPAs and pales they shouldn’t get worse. I also figure anything that has been aged in barrels by the brewer could be stored away for some time without much consequence. I drink my beer in the following order – growlers first (fresh beer is better), if I don’t have a growler in the fridge than any bottled or canned IPAs or DIPAs, then pale ales. If I don’t have any of those I will move on to the other beers in my fridge and/or cellar. This is why you see so many reviews of IPAs and pales on my blog as I try to drink them first and often do not make it down the list to the other styles. Some people have better reasons for cellaring beer but for me it is simply I buy more beer than I drink.

Verticals

Some craft beer enthusiasts have what is referred to as verticals of beer that date back many years. A vertical in the beer world is an annual release beer that you keep a bottle of each stored away. Some famous examples include Anchor Christmas Ale, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Stone Vertical Epic. While I have been drinking craft beer for years I was late to the vertical game so the only vertical I have is Rising Tide’s Polaris which only has 3 years. Because year one only had 336 bottles and I have 2 of them there are probably not that many people out there with verticals of Polaris. Some day I will open them and do my own vertical tasting of Polaris and see how it has changed over the years. Because I have at least 2 bottles from each year I can do this and still keep a complete vertical for the future.

Polaris

This is my simplified explanation of cellaring, for best results you should buy at least two bottles of each beer you plan to cellar so you can have one fresh and then drink the other a year plus later and see how age has affected it. I am sure other have differing thoughts on beer storage and cellaring but this is what I do, feel free to share your own process in comments. Now for a few photos of beer that is sitting in basement including enough Hill Farmstead varieties to make most craft beer drinkers jealous.

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Banded Horn Brewing Co. – Biddeford, ME

BandedBanded Horn Brewing has a great back story, I won’t go into the details as I want you to click through to their Kickstarter page, but the basics are Ian McConnell moved to NYC and worked at Sixpoint for several years before heading back to Maine to start a brewery. After he got back to Maine I met up with him on several occasions to talk beer and help him pull together the required bond and insurance for his project.

Ian is a great guy and as passionate about beer as anyone I have ever met. There is no question there will be great beer coming out of Biddeford soon but to make the experience better they have started a Kickstarter program to help build their tasting room.

There are great rewards including stickers, pint glasses,  t-shirts and other goodies. The stuff is nice but being a part of something bigger is the real reason to get involved in a Kickstarter project.

Help Ian get the tasting room built by supporting his Kickstart project – watch the video and donate – every little bit helps.

Banded Horn Kickstarter Page

Banded Horn

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Breweries Coming Soon to Maine / New Hampshire

This post has been moved to BreweriesInPlanning.com

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Tributary Brewing Co

Tributary LogoI have a great job that allows me to visit breweries on a regular basis and every now and then I have the opportunity to sit down with an icon like Tod Mott and chat about beer. Over the past month I met with Tod and his wife Galen a couple of times at When Pigs Fly in Kittery to discuss the plans for his much anticipated brewery in Kittery.

The tough part of my dual role as insurance agent and beer blogger is not sharing information on my blog until the brewer is ready. Today Tod asked me to help get the word out on the status of his brewery and I couldn’t be more excited to be the one to update you all. Those that follow the craft beer scene know the delays Tod dealt with getting the zoning changed in Kittery to accommodate his brewery. After several town meeting that hurdle was behind them which was followed by lease negotiations that went on for many weeks. The good news is the lease has been signed, the meetings with the contractors are happening and the paperwork for the brewers notice is in the works.

The Location

Trib Building

Tributary Brewing Co will be located at 10 Shapleigh Rd – Kittery, ME (Google Map here). The site is a former grocery store located next to the Kittery Post Office. Over the next few months the property will be going through a substantial build out to accommodate the brewery and tasting room. I toured the space with Tod and Galen and it will be a great space for them with tons of parking and the Kittery Community Market is also held in the parking lot. A great chance to buy local food and beer in the same place.

The Equipment

The brewery equipment has been ordered from local providers; a 15 barrel brew house from New England Brewing Systems in Gloucester, Mass and the cellar equipment will include fermentation tanks, conditioning tanks and a large capacity brite tank from Tigpro in Portland, Maine. The combination of an extensive renovation to the building and the long lead time for the production of the brewery equipment means we will have to wait a few more months to enjoy Tod’s beer. If everything goes well they should be open in the spring of 2014 but I am sure there will be plenty of updates along the way. Like them on Facebook for more updates – Tributary Brewing Company Facebook Page

The Beer

The location, equipment and back story of the struggles to get zoning changes and lease agreements signed are interesting but the most important part of any brewery is the beer. Tod plans on having 3 flagship beers, a sessionable pale ale clocking in at approximately 4% ABV, a porter, and a saison that will change with the seasons. One of the items Tod would not share was the new name of his famous imperial stout. “Kate the Great” name was retained by Portsmouth Brewery but Tod has a very appropriate name for the next version of his famous beer. The beer will be self distributed in Maine only with growlers and possibly some bottles sold at the brewery. I am sure you will be able to find Tributary Brewing Co on tap at craft beer bars/restaurants from Portland to Kittery next summer but I anticipate making regular visits to the brewery for growlers.

The People

Tod Mott has been brewing professionally since 1991 with stints at a few breweries including Harpoon and of course many years at Portsmouth Brewery. During his time at Portsmouth Brewery he brewed Kate the Great an imperial stout that consistently ranked as one of the top beers in the world.

Galen Mott will be the business manager and will wear many other hats at Tributary Brewing.

Website – www.tributarybrewingcompany.com – nothing there yet but keep an eye on it for more info.

Facebook Page – www.facebook.com/tributarybrewingcompany

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October, epic beer month

If you are in any of the beer groups on Facebook you probably have seen the pictures of what is almost always referred to as “the best bottle share ever”. Basically a bunch of people get together, bring a few beers and everyone gets to sample them. These photos gave me the idea of have an epic beer month and a virtual bottle share. No you won’t be able to taste the beer that others post but you will get to see what everyone is drinking and drool at some rare/limited release beers. During the month of October I am going through the approximately 200 bottles of beer in my house and picking out the best of the bunch.

Epic BeerThe list of beers will be long, at least 30 since I average a beer a day, and will include bottles that I have been hanging on to for no good reason. What’s the point of buying great beer if you aren’t going to drink it?

I invite you all to join me in drinking truly exceptional beer for the month of October, post your pics on my Facebook page, share them on Twitter. Use #epcibeermonth hashtag and invite your friends, relatives and other beer drinkers to do the same. If you have a blog and want to put together a similar post go for it, the more the merrier.

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Fall in Maine

Banded HornI know things have been a bit quiet around here but trust me things are about to get interesting. Fall is my favorite time of year in Maine and due to tons of activity in Maine beers scene the fall of 2013 should be a great one. In the next few months there are several new breweries that should be selling beer.

Gneiss Brewing in Limerick Maine should be the first one as their Facebook page mentioned a possible opening the second week of October. Beer has been brewed and the growlers are there so it is just a matter of waiting for that yeast to do its thing.

Banded Horn Brewery in Biddeford may be the next one to open as their brewers notice was approved and most of the equipment is on site or on its way to the brewery. Having recently tried Ian’s IPA (pictured above) I am very excited to get more beer from Banded Horn. Again beer will be available in growlers at the brewery.

Bissell Brothers Brewing Co.,  Foundation Brewing Company and Austin Street Brewery have all signed leases and are setting up equipment and preparing to brew at 1 Industrial Way in Portland. This is the same building that Maine Beer Co and Rising Tide Brewing started in. Bissell Brothers are hoping for a November launch based on their Facebook page. Not sure the timing on Foundation or Austin Street but fall technically does not end until December 20th so there is time.

In extreme Southern Maine we have SoMe Brewing Company in York, space has been leased, build out is happening and brewers notice applied for. Dave should have beer for the year round residents of Southern Maine in the coming months.

Moving further North, Tumbledown Brewing has finally found space, signed a lease and submitted their brewers notice. Again not sure they will open in the fall but it is possible. Even further north the Friar’s Brewhouse in Bucksport is now operating and selling beer at Bangor Wine and Cheese.

What a time to be a beer drinker in Maine. Keep an eye on my FB page, blog, etc for updates on all of these breweries and more.

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