The Charleston Beer Exchange

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While waiting for us gals to arrive on Saturday, our dad and Ed did some exploring in downtown Charleston. They stumbled upon a cute beer shop near the battery called Beer Exchange. We returned to Beer Exchange during our Charleston day, and after browsing their exciting selection, quickly decided to buy a few bottles for an impromptu (birthday) beer tasting.
The Beer Exchange was Charleston’s first craft beer store when it opened in the fall of 2008. In addition to 900+ bottles and cans, they have nine rotating draft lines to fill growlers, and will ship any of the beers listed on their website (state laws permitting). One of the coolest services they provide is personalized beer tastings for parties or business events. You can hire the Beer Exchange staff to come to your home and deliver a blind tasting of several different beers of the same style, brewery-specific tastings, or chocolate and cheese pairings– just to name a few of the options.
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In contrast to our experience at Westbrook, the Beer Exchange staff couldn’t have been friendlier. After asking where we were visiting from, the cashier pointed out the famous Tørst glasses available for purchase–owners Scott Shor and Rich Carley have a close relationship with Jeppe of Evil Twin. We told her that a visit to Westbrook was on the agenda, and she suggested visiting The Revelry, a new brewery downtown, and Edmund’s Oast, a brewpub also owned by Shor and Carley. She was clearly passionate about beer, but totally unpretentious– a rare thing in the beer world.
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Photo credit: The Beer Exchange
For our tasting we decided on two local beers and a couple interesting bottles from old favorites. Prairie’s Flare, a citrus-forward gose, and a black currant sour by SC’s Thomas Creek were the crowd favorites. But that, my friends, is a post for another day. Have a great weekend!
-R
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Dyckman Beer Co.

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It’s official, my favorite part of working at Hops & Hocks is getting to meet so many interesting, inspiring NYC brewers. Last Saturday, Juan Camilo of Dyckman Beer Co. was in the shop sampling his Café Con Leche, a light, smooth, milk stout with a huge coffee flavor and notes of cocoa.

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Four years ago, while working a less-than-stimulating job as an investment banker, Juan started homebrewing as a hobby. Shortly thereafter, while looking at a list of NYC breweries sorted by borough, he noticed a significant gap in his neighborhood of Uptown Manhattan. The wheels started turning. Juan threw all his energy into a business plan for what is now Dyckman Beer Co., a brewery inspired by the people and spirit of Uptown. The Café Con Leche exemplifies this inspiration. It’s made with Café Bustelo, a Cuban-style coffee and bodega standard in NYC. Juan decided to use Café Bustelo because he grew up seeing it in his local bodega and drinking it at home.

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Unfortunately, the weather was gray and bleak on Saturday, so it wasn’t as busy in the shop as it’s been during past tastings. This gave me more time to talk to Juan about Dyckman’s plans for the future, though. They’ve been brewing at Thomas Hooker in Connecticut, but are in the process of purchasing an old bread factory in Uptown that will serve as a brewing facility, tasting room, and restaurant! Juan also told me a little bit about the beers he currently has in the works. Those in the NYC area should be on the lookout for Dyckman’s cherry red saison, passion fruit wit, and Suave IPA, a session IPA (love the name!). If those beers are as tasty as the Café Con Leche, Dyckman’s future is very bright. 🙂

National Beer Day

HELLO! Happy spring! Happy Thursday! Tuesday was a good day for beer. First and foremost, the new batch of Boulevard’s Love Child has finally landed in Blacksburg! AND GUESS WHO SCORED A BOTTLE? Me, bitches. While I want to drink this Goddess of a beer tonight all by myself, I’ve decided to save it for my graduation in May. Do ya hear that, Rach? Big fun ahead!

Want to know another reason that Tuesday was a great beer day?

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Barrel Chest is a beer and wine store in Roanoke with one of the best tap lists in the area, in my opinion. Tuesday I stopped by with my friend Cindy to shop and drink. My favorite thing about Barrel Chest is that you can get reasonably priced 4 oz pours of all the beers on draft. With so many good options, this is a must! We sampled 5 awesome beers, starting with the Founders Rubaeus.

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The Rubaeus poured a sweet pink hue, with just enough sweetness and flavor from the addition of the raspberries. Light bodied at 5.7% and slightly tart, this brew had us dreaming of summer dresses and garden parties. This is a warm weather beer if I’ve ever had one!

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Next up, Terrapin’s Hop Selection Ella Double IPA. Personally, I’m a Terrapin fan in general, so this DIPA was a must try! Their Hop Selection program features their favorite hop variety of the season; in this case it was Ella, an Australian variety known for it’s floral, spicy aroma. We found the Hop Selection insanely juicy and packed with flavor. Cindy equated it to a Peach Mamba. We both decided Ella hops are straight up de-li-cious as we downed this brew in what seemed like moments.

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We moved onto AleWerks Bitter Valentine…and wow.

“How do they make it taste so much like weed smells?”

That sums it up best for us on this one.

I guess it’s something about things grown in the Northwest? 😉

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I had long awaited the moment I got to try our next sample: Stone’s Chai Spiced Russian Imperial Stout. I’m about that chai life. The nose was heavy spice, mainly cinnamon, and rich dark grain. It smelled HEAVENLY, YOU GUYS. This RIS was supa smooth and dark chocolatey, with ginger and cinnamon all up in there. I really wanted a bigger pour of this one.

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After the heavy stout we were both craving something with a bite, so we went ahead and ordered one more sample. We chose the BFM Square Root 225, a barrel aged saison. For me, this beer stole the show. It was so funky and had the perfect amount of lip puckering. We both decided that sour beers would forever be our favorite style of beer. I honestly can’t get enough sour in my life.

Not too shabby for National Beer Day!

-Maddy

The Secret is Out 

Hey, guys! I’m in Connecticut right now visiting my friend Amanda (you might remember her from my Birreria post). Amanda and her dad have shown me such a great time so far! Her dad stocked the fridge with TONS of beer, including several bottles from, Berkshire Brewing Company, a Massachusetts brewery I had never tried before.

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I just wanted to shoot off a quick post to tell you about an awesome new brewery that came into Hops and Hocks to do a tasting on Saturday. Secret Engine is a NYC-based brewery gypsy brewing creative, small-batched beers. Their head brewer, Mike Mare, wants to focus on brewing styles OTHER than IPAs, because let’s face it, while I love IPAs, they are a dime a dozen these days.

Mike and his Secret Engine co-owner, David Monaghan, generously brought growlers of their pilsner and red saison into H&H, and we also have their imperial brown and Cactus Pear Saison on draft, so patrons could sample those as well. Yeah, you read that right, a Cactus Pear Saison. Cactus Pears grow wild on Long Island, and in an effort to make a beer using super local ingredients, the SE brewers were inspired by these prickly, fig-shaped wild pears. Because the fruit on the inside of the pears is pink, Mike said that the mash looked like Pepto-Bismol! The end result, though, was a golden, slightly cloudy saison with a crisp mouth feel and tart flavor. It’s as refreshing and springy as their imperial brown is roasty, chocolatey, and complex. I’m so impressed with these guys! Can’t wait to try their next concoction.

Have a great Monday!

-R

Milk & Hops

On Monday I checked out a new beer shop/bar that’s super close to Union Square, Milk and Hops. The owner has two similar stores in Astoria (Astoria Bier and Cheese), and just opened the Manhattan spinoff in late February.
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The Milk and Hops space is sleek and inviting. They have a decent selection of bottled/canned beers and 10 taps. I took a seat at the white marble bar (#loveit) and asked to sample the SingleCut George Calme Ale D’Abbaye, a Belgian Dubbel. This was actually the first non-IPA SingleCut beer that I’d come across since living in NY, so I was obviously intrigued. The George is medium bodied with dark caramel sweetness and a bitter finish. As the beer warmed I got a bit of booziness, but it remained refreshing and drinkable throughout.
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As I sipped my beer (and took notes, obviously), I chatted with the extremely friendly bartender, Caroline. We talked about working in beer shops and she entertained me with stories from her many years of New York living.  She once had a gig spray-painting the side of a bus in Bushwick, and was almost finished when it started to pour! She powered through and finished the bus, and then promptly schlepped to the closest bar for a beer..or five.
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Next I ordered the Other Half Forever Ever, but not without annoyingly asking to sample three other beers: Captain Lawrence Frozen Flowers, Finback Double Sess, and Big Alice Queens Honey Brown (sorry Caroline!). Milk and Hops tries to keep mostly NY beers on tap, and other than SingleCut’s Billy 200-Watt DIPA, I hadn’t had any of their other offerings. I particularly enjoyed Big Alice’s honey brown, but was in the mood for hops, so I went for Other Half.
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I hate to say it, but Forever Ever is probably my least favorite of the Other Half beers that I’ve tried. This could be because it’s a session IPA, and I’m not typically a big fan of sessions. It’s light bodied and well balanced with with a nice piney hoppiness, but I just didn’t find it to be that flavorful. I enjoy their bolder, hoppier IPAs a lot more.
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 Milk and Hops has such a pleasant atmosphere, it’s hard to believe they are just down the street from the chaos of Union Square. Their cheese plates, which are artfully arranged and served on slabs of jagged slate, look amazing. I was enviously eying the couple’s next to me, although I did have complimentary salted corn nuts to snack on! I want to make the trip to the Astoria locations soon, and the lovely Caroline promised to come visit me at Hops & Hocks!
Have a great Wednesday!
-R

NYC Beer Week!

It’s New York City Beer Week! This annual event is put on by the NYC Brewers Guild to promote awareness of its brewing members and increase visibility of local beers. Although many of the NYCBW events are a bit pricy (i.e. an $85 dinner at Birreria with an Other Half beer pairing for each course of the meal!!!), there are tons of free and cheap events going on around the city as well. Bars are holding tap takeovers featuring local breweries, breweries are throwing release parties for their new brews, and beer shops are having more free tastings than usual. The beer shop that I just started working for, Hops and Hocks, is having a free beer tasting by a different local brewery every day this week! We kicked things off on Saturday with a tasting by War Flag, one of the city’s newest breweries. I was impressed with their flagship beer, the smooth, flavorful American Pilsner.
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Image by NYCBW
Reps from Brooklyn Brewery will be coming into H&H on Tuesday, and I was already able to try one of the beers they’ll be talking about: the Wild Horse Porter, a porter from their Brewmaster’s Reserve series that’s brewed with Brett. If you’re thrown by the combination of a full-bodied, chocolatey porter and the sour and funky flavors that Brett provides, don’t worry, I was too. It’s absolutely delicious though- rich and complex but also very drinkable and refreshing. I took a growler of Wild Horse to Ed’s on Saturday night and we pretty much devoured it.
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If you live in NYC be on the lookout for fun Beer Week events now through March 1st. It’s an opportunity to support local breweries, and an excellent excuse to drink more beer than you normally do on weekdays…

Swig Away

Last night I went to a free beer tasting at a beer shop on the Upper East Side, City Swiggers. The featured brewery was Two Brothers Brewing Company, which is located in Warrenville, IL, right outside of Chicago. It’s kind of funny that there’s a Three Brothers Brewing in VA, and a Four Sons Brewing in CA! Now we need some sisters up in there..dontcha think?

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I really liked all of Two Brothers’ beers, even their gluten-free option. The standouts for me were Revelry (an imperial red), Ebel’s Weiss (a hefeweizen), and Sidekick (an extra pale ale). Despite having 120+ IBUS, Revelry is extremely balanced and drinkable. The weiss has a strong, but pleasant banana aroma and flavor, and Sidekick is the kind of light, juicy beer that would be a real crowd-pleaser at a cookout.

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The Revelry... check out that lacing!
The Revelry… check out that lacing!

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I also want to mention their Peppermint Bark Porter; I had never heard of a peppermint flavored beer! When I smelled my tasting cup I was a little nervous, because it has a lot of mint on the nose, but the peppermint flavor is actually quite subtle. The brewey rep said he was hesitant when the brewers decided to attempt this, but was pleased with the result. It’s basically just a delicious, chocolatey porter with a smidge of Christmas.

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Swigger City is really cool shop. At the front there’s a huge wooden bar surrounded by shelves and refrigerators of assorted bottles. This is where the tasting was held, and it was nice that there was actually room for everyone to stand around the bar! I didn’t have to fight my way through a crowd of people for each sample, or feel like I was blocking others from getting to the beer.

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In the back there’s a bar with 14 taps and plenty of tables to sit and enjoy a pint. I didn’t stay for a full beer because I’m trying to be responsible and save money (groan), but I’ll definitely go back with friends on the weekend. Thanks to the generous pours of the Two Brothers rep, I got my buzz on fo’ free last night. 😉

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight monks a brewing…

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Our mom is all about Trappist beer (beer brewed by monks within the walls of a monastery in order to cover their living expenses). This weekend, she picked up the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale at a cool little beer shop in Charlotte called Salud. When I had a sip of hers on Sunday night, I knew we had to write about it.

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The Christmas Ale is a Quadrupel, a strong, full-bodied, Belgian-style ale that typically features dark fruit flavors and a malty sweetness. Quads can be a bit heavy, but the St. Bernardus is remarkably drinkable.  Yeastiness and carbonation keep it light despite the slight booziness and strong dark fruit and molasses flavors.

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We decided to incorporate the Christmas Ale in the beer dinner that we made to celebrate our brother’s arrival. For the first course we served Fig & Olive crisps topped with onion jam and a sliver of aged cheddar. The dark fruit flavors in the St. Bernardus brought out the subtle fig notes in the crackers, and the funky cheese and strong onion jam helped to balance the beer’s sweetness. You could call it a perfect pairing…if I do say so myself. 😉

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Welcome home, Ed! We can’t wait to spend a whole week celebrating the season with you. And drinking LOTS of beer, of course.

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Top Hops

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In our last hours in the city, we ventured to Top Hops Beer Shop, a place that had been on our itinerary since we began planning the trip. Top Hops offers 600+ bottle and can selections, a 20 beer tap list, and beer drinking classes. Although it was hardly noon, we decided it was high time for a beer flight.

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Between the three of us, we tried 10 beers and particularly enjoyed the Inbev Cidre, Goose Island’s Matilda, and Singlecut’s Imperial IPA.

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The owner/bartender was incredibly friendly and entertaining, which could explain why the shop was so busy within an hour of opening. Top Hops was the cherry on top of a perfect vacation.

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Wild Wolf Wednesday

A couple of Wednesdays ago I went to Market Street Wine Shop’s weekly beer tasting featuring Wild Wolf Brewing Company. I knew that two of my favorite Wild Wolf selections, the Blonde Hunny and Alpha Ale, were on the tasting list, but I was mostly there to try the White Wolf, their wheat based IPA. The Wild Wolf website describes the White Wolf as having, “Strong citrus notes on the nose leading into a slightly sweet taste, then finishing with the hop bitterness characteristic of an American IPA.” Say whaaaaat??? I couldn’t wait to try.

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Does that look like 70 IBUs to you? Can’t judge a book by its cover! The White Wolf is refreshing, yet flavorful, light, but hoppy. It’s the kind of beer that you could easily drink a few of during happy hour on a warm fall afternoon, and at 5% ABV it wouldn’t even be that dangerous. I’m a fan of witbiers and a diehard lover of IPAs so this baby was right up my alley, but my friend Karen liked it as well, despite initially being intimidated by the emphasis on hops in the description. In addition to the White Wolf we also enjoyed the Blonde Hunny (duh), and the Area 151, a Belgian style Blonde Ale brewed with raspberries. If only my partner in all things beer (Maddy) had been there too!