Procrastination

I’m working a few shifts at Hops and Hocks this week to cover for a friend who’s out of town. On Friday night one of my favorite customers came in, and he ended up giving me a really cool beer to try!

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Finback Brewery was founded in 2013 by two longtime friends. After home brewing for eight years Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford left their full time jobs to launch Finback in Glendale, Queens. I’ve consistently been impressed with the brewery’s canned IPAs, but didn’t know what to expect from Procrastination–an IPA brewed with coffee.

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Procrastination pours hazy, dusty orange–the color of a dirty grapefruit. The nose is mostly tropical fruit, with just a suggestion of coffee beans in the background. At first you think it drinks like your typical North East IPA–creamy mouthfeel, juicy, tropical hop sweetness–but then a wave of coffee swoops in. The bitterness you would expect to taste in a cup of coffee or IPA is there, but but there’s also the roasty, mocha quality characteristic of a dark beer. So cool!

This was only my second or third coffee IPA, and I enjoyed Finback’s execution more than the others I’ve tried. I like how they added coffee but maintained the light/medium body and juiciness I seek in an IPA. Do you have a coffee IPA recommendation? What about another unusual coffee-infused style?

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Westbrook Brewing

The Chitwood family just got back from a lovely vacay in Folly Beach, South Carolina! While there we drank a lot of good beer (..and rosé..and prosecco..). The SC beer scene had definitely improved since our last trip. The highlight of the week was finally visiting Westbrook Brewing Company, a longtime favorite of the Barley Babes.

Westbrook only packages a handful of their beers, and we were excited to see a draft list filled with brews we’d never tried, or for that matter, heard of. Maddy ordered a flight of small pours for group, and we got a few pints as well. Two standouts from M’s flight were the Key Lime Pie Gose and Coconut Weisse Weisse Baby. The KLPG is loaded with tangy, sour lime and rounds out with a graham cracker finish. Maddy noted graham cracker on the nose too; Westbrook nailed this one!  The table also enjoyed my pint of juicy Nelson Sauvin IPA. It’s the style of IPA I’ve come to expect from NYC breweries like Grimm and Other Half. Finally, we were excited to try the Mexican Cupcake, a session version of Westbrook’s hyped imperial stout brewed with habanero peppers. The cupcake didn’t quite live up to the cake, but it’s nice that you can experience almost the same flavor profile in a lighter, lower ABV beer. Great for summer!

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The small tap room was hopping on Friday evening. Groups of friends gathered for post-work pints and young parents kept a relaxed eye on their kids over flights. Like us, I think everyone was looking for an air conditioned spot to drink beer and escape the oppressive SC heat.
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Our only complaint about the visit is that the Westbrook staff wasn’t very friendly. No one that helped us was overtly rude, but they seem to keep lines short by taking an all-business approach to customer service. I didn’t feel comfortable asking to taste before ordering, and when I ordered a beer that had just run out, the bartender walked away instead of recommending something else. We’re often on the other side of the counter, so we understand the stress that comes with a busy weekend night. I guess we just wanted to experience a deeper personal connection with the staff since we’ve loved Westbrook for so long.
We’ll have more highlights from our trip later this week! Another favorite destination: The Charleston Beer Exchange!

“My Milkshake Brings…”

Remember Food Pairing Friday? That was a cool thang we used to do. I’m not writing about a food pairing today, but a food-themed beer that’s been all the buzz in Bushwick these past two weeks.

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I put Tired Hands/Omnipollo’s Milkshake in January’s H&H Beer of the Month Club package, and immediately started getting requests that I find more. This extra special IPA was brewed with oats and lactose sugar and fermented atop strawberries and vanilla beans. To further enhance the milkshake-like body, 50 pounds of local apples, which are high in the gelling agent pectin, were also added to the boil. Finally, the beer was hopped with Citra and Mosaic hops to provide tropical fruit flavor and aroma. Yeah, it’s pretty great…

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What I like most about this beer is the slightly tart finish, which is rare in an IPA unless it’s specifically supposed to be sour. It’s ridiculously complex. Sweet, tropical hop flavor is followed by strong strawberry, notes of vanilla, a little bit of funk, and then the beer closes with a lactic tartness that makes you forget you’re drinking an IPA! I didn’t find it as full-bodied as the name “Milkshake” would suggest; I definitely noticed the creaminess they were trying achieve with the fruit, but it certainly isn’t heavy or syrupy. Tired Hands has released blackberry, peach, pineapple, and guava varieties in their Brew Cafe, which means another Philadelphia beercation is on the spring agenda.

Happy Friday! Have you guys had any spectacular beers lately that we should know about? Been to any cool breweries? Great beer bars? Give us the dirt!

-R

Pretty Swell

The hoppy selection for November Beer of the Month Club has been available in Virginia for a while, but just came to New York last month! I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about Maui Brewing Company before choosing their Big Swell for November’s package.

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This is not Hawaii, but I thought maybe you could use a beach scene this morning.

MBC was founded in 2005 by San Diego native, Garret Marreo. They now have a brewpub in Lahaina, HI and a brand new brewery and tasting room in Kihei. MBC’s beer is delicious, but their commitment to the environment and local economy is even more impressive. They make their beer entirely in Hawaii, package using 100% recyclable materials, and their cans are designed by local artists. In a piece on craftbeer.com Marreo stresses the role craft brewers play in stimulating the local economy; sourcing ingredients and materials locally puts money in the pockets of community residents.

Photo Credit: Maui Brewing Company
Photo Credit: Maui Brewing Company

Big Swell IPA, one of MBC’s flagships, has earthy and tropical hop flavors, caramel malt sweetness, and a long finish. As H&H cheesemonger, Jackie and I shared this brew behind the charcuterie counter, we swore that we detected a hint of salty ocean breeze on the nose. It might have been our imaginations running wild, though…

Happy Monday!
I know it’s gonna be a rough one, but remember, it’s just threeish weeks until the next holiday!

-Rach

 

Friday Food Pairing: IPA+Peanuts

This post isn’t really about a food pairing, but a beer-infused food! Monday was my birthday, and my best friend Nikki and her husband Paul sent me IPA peanut brittle all the way from Napa Valley. IPAs and anything peanut are two of my main food groups. In college I used to eat a PB&J (sometimes two) every single day! Nikki probably thought I was a total freak, but at least she’ll always know what kind of dessert to get me…

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939 Brittle is made with Spanish Red Skin Peanuts, micro-brewed IPA, and a sprinkle of salt. It’s fresh, crunchy, and the perfect mix of salty and sweet. There are whole peanuts in every bite, and just a hint of beer hoppiness emerges at the end. The package touts that every bag is handmade slowly in small batches. I know that every company says this about every product, but this brittle really does taste fresh. You know how some brittles almost break your teeth when you bite into them? Not this. It has just the right amount of crunch.

Look at that peanutty goodness...
Look at that salty, peanutty goodness…

Thank you so much Nikki and Paul (and Neo)! I’m only allowing myself once piece of brittle a day because I want to savor the deliciousness as long as possible. As usual, you knew just what to get me.

Happy Friday, beer lovers!

Buzzed

This post is going to be pretty lacking in the picture department, but I have to tell you about a cool brewery I just found out about. Beanery Brewing from Vermont stopped by Hops and Hocks on Tuesday to let me sample their Ethiopian Coffee Milk Stout and Costa Rica Coffee IPA. Dark beers infused with coffee are pretty common, but I’ve only had one other coffee IPA, so I was stoked to try Beanery’s.

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Beanery is actually the first company to focus solely on coffee beers, and their flagship brew was the coffee IPA. First they came up with the recipe for a citrusy, easy-drinking IPA, and then they found the perfect coffee bean to infuse it with: one that when roasted produces lemon and brown sugar flavors. The result is a balanced, juicy IPA with just a hint of something extra– if I didn’t know the flavor was coffee, I’m not sure I would have even detected it. Luke Manson, the face of Beanery’s NY distribution, said that the brewery now believes that malted barley and water are better at soaking up the true flavors of coffee than water by itself. Malted barley, you’ve done it again.

Beanery’s beer is currently being brewed at the Smuttlabs brewing facility in Portsmouth, NH, Smuttynose’s site for producing more experimental, small batch brews. It’s only available in kegs right now, but they hope to come out with bombers in the near future. Beanery exemplifies what I love most about the world of craft beer: the dedication to creativity and innovation; the bravery to do something that no one else is doing.

Stadium Brews

Hey there, friends! Happy Earth Day! How are you celebrating?? I think I’ll pick up trash and sip an IPA later today! ANYWHO, yesterday I attended my first Salem Red Sox game of the season! Parkway’s Get Bent is now served on draft in their stadium as one of the only craft options, so why the hell wouldn’t I want to go?

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Local beer + Local team = Success.

To me, there is nothing more summery than drinking beer out of a plastic cup at a baseball game. It just feels right!

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Mac and I loaded ourselves down with Get Bents, nachos, and other stadium snacks, and found seats with the best mountain backdrop. Our deliciously hopped beers went swimmingly with the spicy cheese and jalapeños served with our nachos. I mean, how could Get Bent taste bad on a night that beautiful? It couldn’t.

NACHOS + GB

After we downed our GBs, it was time for another brew. Decisions…decisions….and a PBR Tallboy it is!!! I don’t know what could be more American than watching your local baseball team on a warm April night and drinking a PBR. If only we had had powdered wigs and a bald eagle perched on our shoulders.

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Who else is excited for the start of baseball season? Who else is excited for outdoor beer drinkin’ season? Who else is excited to see craft options popping up in stadiums? You can bet your ass I am!

ME + MAC

Cheers, babies!

Maddy

Beer 1

Hey, hey! Rachel, here. I hope you all had lovely weekends. I know that Maddy and some of you are still recovering from the Oyster Roast at Parkway on Saturday. The event featuring Rappahannock River Oysters, live music, and delicious Parkway brews attracted visitors from all over Virginia and the surrounding states! Congrats to Parkway on a second successful execution of this annual event. I wish I could have been there!

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I started off my weekend with Maine Beer Company’s Beer 1, a brew from their Hop Program. I love Maine Beer for a lot of reasons. First, it was founded by two brothers who took a chance, left their day jobs, and devoted themselves to brewing really good beer for a living. Second, they decided early on that they would always give 1% of their sales to environmental non-profits, and their slogan, “Do what’s right,” reflects that commitment. Third: their bottling. Even before I knew how damn good the stuff inside was, I loved their clean, simple labels and clever names. Finally, they just make such consistently delicious, high-quality beer. They worked on the recipe for their first beer, Peeper, over and over again trying to perfect it, because initially their plan was to only do one beer really well! I’m glad they decided to make more, because that level of commitment to quality has lead to a whole fleet of delicious brews.

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In their Hop Program, Maine focuses on brewing beers with new hops and hop combinations. Beer 1 features Mosaic, Columbus, Centennial, and Nelson Sauvin hops. I was unfamiliar with Nelson Sauvin hops before trying this beer, so I did a little research found that they’re named after the Sauvignon Blanc grape. They have a strong fruity flavor that resembles white wine, which I totally picked up on in Beer 1. It isn’t an IPA with hops that punch you in the face or ruin your palate. It’s light bodied, somewhat effervescent, and has a clean, subtle, citrus hop presence. Much like the bottle and the name, Beer 1 is simple, but good.

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 I hope your weeks are productive, fun, and contain spring weather! As I dive into this Monday, I’m going to keep Maine’s slogan at the front of my mind.

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Friday Food Pairing: Black IPA + Aged Cheddar

So I just scanned through all of our Friday food pairings, and it’s official: IPAs are getting most of the attention. Yikes! I promise that moving forward we’ll do a better job of incorporating a variety of beer styles in these posts. Next week, you won’t hear me mention hops at all…

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…but right now, I’m going to talk to you about another IPA, and I can honestly say that this one is different than all those we’ve written about before. Lagunitas NightTime has the huge hop presence that you expect from an IPA (especially one brewed by Lagunitas), but is also creamy and full-bodied with notes of smoke and cocoa. Usually I’m not a fan of Black IPAs; to me most drink like slightly hoppy porters, but the NightTime is PACKED with hop flavor. You wouldn’t think that citrus hops would work so well with smoke and cocoa, but it’s a match made in beer heaven.

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I drank NightTime on Wednesday and liked it so much that I decided to buy it again and come up with a pairing for today. In addition to hops, the most prominent flavor is smoke, so I did a bit of research on smoke-heavy beers and bought an aged cheddar from New Zealand to pair it with. Most people recommend sharp, strong-flavored cheeses with smoky beers.

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Mainland’s sharp cheddar has a smooth texture and sharp bite at the end. Interestingly, I thought the pairing made the cocoa notes in the beer more noticeable. Obviously it worked well with the hops, as hoppy beers love strong cheeses, and the smokiness was a nice addition to the sharp cheddar flavor. I just snacked on a few slices while I was making dinner, but I think this cheese would be ballin’ on a grilled cheese sandwich with caramelized onions. Am I the only one constantly daydreaming of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches because of this weather??

NightTime makes these cold winter nights a little less bleak
NightTime makes these cold winter nights a little less bleak

TRY NIGHTTIME. I adore Lagunitas, and this is now one of my favorites out of all of their delicious brews. If you do, I promise not to talk about IPAs for at least two weeks. Okay, okay, maybe one week…

Have a great weekend!

Friday Food Pairing: Coconut Curry and Green Tea IPA

IT’S THE WEEKEND, BEER LOVERS! I know you’ve all been anxiously awaiting Friday and the fun post that comes along with it. 😉 This week I (Maddy) took the reins for our weekly food pairing, and although it was quickly put together, it turned out stellar.

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 I had been sitting on some rice noodles and coconut curry simmer sauce for about a month when honorary BB, Allison, suggested we have pasta for dinner. Realizing I had Stone’s Japenese Green Tea IPA sitting pretty in the fridge, I thought, “Maddy, It’s time.” The simmer sauce is premade (sorry) and poured over veggies or meat in the final stages of cooking. I chopped up half a red onion, yellow squash, cucumber, and an orange pepper and threw them into a frying pan to sauté in olive oil. Note: I like to use cucumber instead of zucchini when I make stir-fry because it tends to hold its crunch even after cooking. After the veggies sautéed for roughly 10 minutes, I covered them with the coconut curry to simmer for another 10 minutes while I cooked the rice noodles. Rice noodles cook in boiling water for about 4 minutes. OR if you have more time, you can soak the noodles for 4-5 hours. This makes the noodles more like noodles used in Pad Thai. I chose the quickie method of boiling the noodles, and boom it was that easy; 25 minutes and dinner was on the table.

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Last minute spinach addition!

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Stone’s Green Tea IPA was the perfect complement to our meal. The slight heat of the simmer sauce was balanced by the refreshing, herbal green tea flavor of the beer. It was divine. We a got mostly earthy, slightly spicy, hop aroma on the nose. “But what does the beer taste like, Maddy?”  STRAIGHT UP DELICIOIUS. This brew is incredibly light bodied, tasting almost like green tea and beer mixed together: herbal, a hint of mint, and HOPS, baby. What more could you need? The addition of the tea made the beer taste super fresh, in our opinion. The most surprising part for us BBs was how flavorful it was for being so light and airy! I mean, this brew is jam packed with intense green tea and hop flavor, coming together in perfect harmony. We were sucking that puppy down like it was our jobs! And then, I looked at the bottle.

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10.1%??? 10.1%??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME, STONE? Allison and I could not wrap our brains around this beer!! How could a beer literally taste like a beer-tea-mosa, all light bodied…and smooth..and crisp, but be 10.1%?? BECAUSE IT IS RIDICULOUSLY BALANCED. THAT’S HOW. Somehow Stone has managed to make a 10.1% beer taste like a 6 percenter, and we’re INTO it. We highly reccomend this beer for anyone who is a fan of green tea, balanced beers, and surprise drunkeness.

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Yes, we did end up slightly drunk on a Wednesday night. But c’mon, as a wise woman once said, “It’s a Wednesday night, baby, and I’m alive.”

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Happy weekend! Cheers!

P.S. Send pairing suggestions! Give us a reason to cook! A reason to drink!
Help us live!!!!

-M