Zinzinnati

I spent last weekend in Cincinnati visiting my best friend, and loyal BBs reader, Haley! Cincinnati has a booming craft beer scene, and we packed as much Cincy beer as we could into my short trip.
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I arrived late on Friday night and we relaxed on Haley’s roof and enjoyed a couple cans of Rhinegeist Crash. Rhinegeist is probably Cincinnati’s most known craft brewery. The barely three-year-old operation has experienced enormous popularity and growth since opening in June 2013, and they just started expanding distribution to the East Coast. I really enjoyed the flavorful, easy drinking Crash pale ale. It has tropical hop notes, mild bitterness and a short, clean finish.
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On Saturday morning we went to yoga at the newly renovated Central Parkway YMCA and browsed at The City Flea. Our first beer stop of the day was Taft’s Ale House, named for 27th President, William Howard Taft. Taft’s is housed in a renovated Evangelical church. The enormous three floor space has a bar on each floor, tons of seating, a private events space, and a full food menu. We grabbed flights on the top floor (in the balcony?) and took a seat to discuss the important issues of the day. 😉
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Unfortunately they were out of Haley’s favorite beer: Snake in the Grass, a Belgian-style blonde brewed with lemongrass and local basil. I thought all the beers I tried were solid. My favorite was the Nellie’s Key Lime Caribbean Ale, described by Haley’s husband Andrew as “the craft version of a Bud Light Lime.”  It’s a wheat beer brewed with key lime juice and coriander. So refreshing!
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From Taft’s we walked to Rhinegeist, just half a mile up Elm Street. Rhinegeist was having their annual mini Oktoberfest inside, but we went straight to the rooftop bar–Haley and Andrew’s favorite in the city. Rhinegeist has a huge selection of beers and ciders on tap. I wish I could report on the rosé cider, but I only had eyes for beer! Andrew recommend Rhinegeist’s flagship IPA, Truth, the brewery’s most solid offering in his opinion. I wasn’t disappointed! Truth is packed with West Coast hops and effortlessly masks the 7.2% ABV. I also enjoyed Haley’s choice,  Chester, a dry saison brewed with sour cherries.
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The people-watching on the Rhinegeist roof is highly entertaining, but we finally tore ourselves away from lederhosen, bachelorettes, and dress-wearing runners to take in the view. Andrew and Haley pointed out all the old buildings being converted to swanky new apartment buildings and businesses. Like Bushwick, the landscape of Cincinnati is constantly changing, and understandably it hasn’t been without controversy.
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From Rhinegeist we took Cincy’s new street car back to the apartment for a little r&r. Haley and I made this delicious, extra crunchy, pistachio guacamole, and we had more skyline time on their balcony. The coolest sight on the balcony might be the outhouse Andrew built for their dog, Zoe! Do you recognize the material on the roof?? It’s covered in different varieties of Rhinegeist beer cans! Such a great idea. Reduce, reuse, rep great beer. 🙂
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The main event on Saturday evening was a trip to the Cincinnati Oktoberfest, the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. We hopped back on the street car for a quick one mile trip downtown and emerged in a different world.
Although over half a million people turned out for “Oktoberfest Zinzinnati,” it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded. We easily grabbed beers and found seats next to an Oom-pah band. Andrew got in touch with his German heritage, grooving along to the music, and even convinced Haley to get up and do the chicken dance with him (am I the only one who didn’t know it’s an Oktoberfest song??)
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Deciding that a lap was in order, we moseyed over to another band with a less traditional set list. An Oom-pah take on oldies and classic rock? You know we were into it. Another round of beers and we found ourselves in a Congo line sandwiched between a gaggle of very enthusiastic International students from the University of Cincinnati and a group of friendly middle-aged Midwesterners. It was one of those moments when you think, “How exactly did I get here?” but decide not to care because you’re having so much fun.
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We ended the evening on the swings at the Smale Riverfront Park, recapping the day and gazing out at the John Roebling Suspension Bridge. The bridge spans the Ohio river between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, and was built 30 years before Roebling started an even bigger project– the Brooklyn Bridge! When worlds collide, it’s a beautiful thing.
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Thank you, Haley and Andrew, for showing me such a good time in Cincinnati! I’m already thinking about my next trip. If you’re a craft beer lover, this growing city needs to be at the top of your vacation wish list!

Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival

I can honestly say that the Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival was the least crowded, most relaxing beer festival I’ve ever been to. We never had to wait in line for beer, there was plenty of room to stand and hang out, and it was after five before breweries started running out of beer. Plus, all the pours were extremely generous, which never hurts. 😉

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After a solid breakfast (We used the stove! We boiled water! We scrambled eggs!), Allison and I got to the festival at around one. It’s held in Carroll Gardens right next to the Carroll Street Bridge, a tiny bridge over the Gowanus Canal. It was an absolutely perfect early fall day: sunny and warm with a slight breeze coming from the water.

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Once inside we basically just bopped around to whichever brewery struck our fancy. It was sooo nice not having to strategically plan our route based on lines. The standout of the day for both of us was Ferrari Beer from Staten Island. We tried the Sour Red Ferrari several times, a medium-bodied, mildly tart brew with a hint of cherry. He also had a very limited amount of his delicious smoked beer, Smoky Hollow, which is a great style for fall. The other sour at the festival was Lithology Brewing’s Ugly Mug, a rye gruit. It was so refreshing–tangy, even lighter bodied than the Ferrari, and with a spritzy carbonation and hint of funk.

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It was awesome talking to brewers that I have a relationship with through Hops and Hocks, and even though I’ve had their beer many times, I couldn’t resist sampling! Third Rail’s Field 2 is one of my favorite NY farmhouse ales; I can’t wait until it’s available in cans again. Allison particularly enjoyed Radiant Pig’s Eastside Rapture, a hoppy wheat that I’ve blogged about before.

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Our favorite IPAs of the day were by Flagship and Other Half.  The Flagship IPA is balanced and juicy with a light to medium body and citrusy hops. It’s the kind of beer that I could drink all day long, so obviously we returned to Flagship a couple of times. 😉 Other Half’s Hop Showers has tropical hop flavors and a distinct funk. They recently released this one in super cool cans.

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We broke for lunch at 3:30 and enjoyed massive sandwiches from Big D’s food truck. I know I sound like a broken record here, but there was absolutely no line for food, and it was super easy to find a spot to sit and eat. I went with their vegan grinder (be proud, Riles!) and Allison enjoyed the spicy chicken.

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After lunch we continued to plug away at our lists. I finally tried Gun Hill Brewing’s infamous Void of Light, which won gold in the foreign-style stout category at GABF last year. They also poured the Catskill Hop Harvest, a sessionable English pale ale with mild, earthy hops.

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At five a couple of breweries started to pack up, but at this point we were losing steam. We made one more stop at Ferrari for a final taste of sour red, and then left to have a photo shoot on the bridge.

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Back home we went to our favorite spot these days, the fire escape, and snapchatted crazy pictures of ourselves talked about our favorite brews of the festival. Mexican takeout and a couple hours of Entourage capped off one of the most pleasant days I’ve had since moving to New York. Cheers to Friday, New York beer, and good memories.

Sour Power

As you know, Allison and I went to the Brooklyn Local Craft Beer Festival on Sunday. That debrief is going to take a bit longer, so in the meantime I want to tell you about finally trying two sour beers from Russian River!

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Russian River’s sours are regularly ranked among the best in the world, but they’re incredibly hard to get your hands on. The only East Coast city that the brewery distributes to is Philadelphia. You might remember that I tried their famous double IPA, Pliny the Elder back in the spring. My friend Zoe traveled home to California recently and brought back bottles of Supplication and Consecration to share with me.

Zoe’s favorite is Consecration, a 10% sour dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants. We cracked this one open first and headed to the roof, where we enjoyed a stunning view of the NYC skyline and jammed to early 2000’s rap blaring on the Roberta’s patio. Consecration is full-bodied and tart with flavors of dark fruit, oak, chocolate, and red wine. To me the high ABV isn’t really apparent in the taste, but maybe I was just distracted by all the different flavors I was picking up on. This is such a complex beer! Zoe says it’s even better on tap at the brewery.

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Next we drank Supplication, and I think I liked this one even more! Supplication is a brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. Both the sourness and carbonation were more intense than in Consecration, and I also liked the little bit of funk provided by the brett. I’m going to make the bold statement that all brown ales should feature flavors of tart cherry and woody funk.

Thanks so much for sharing these with me, Zoe! It’s so satisfying when famous beers actually live up to the hype. Delicious beer, girl talk, and a rooftop—that’s really all you need in life. It was Wonderful.

Life Gose On

We’ve entered that gorgeous, magical, fleeting period between summer and fall. Yesterday I went for an afternoon run and wasn’t afraid of collapsing from heat exhaustion! Allison wore pants to work! The smell radiating from the trash piles on the streets wasn’t quite as pungent! To celebrate, Allison and I took to our fire escape (in jeans and sleeves!) and enjoyed Evil Twin’s Mission Gose.

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A gose is a salty/sour beer with a low alcohol content. They’ve been my (and everyone else’s) beer of the summer. Maddy, who is typically ahead of the curve, has been into the style for quite a while.

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Evil Twin’s Mission Gose is more sour than salt forward, and has a slightly lingering pucker. The carbonation is mild and there are strong flavors of lemon, coriander, and grass. It’s flavorful, refreshing, and the bottle makes you feel like you’re at a swanky cocktail party, not just chillin’ on the fire escape because you’re too scared to climb the ladder to the roof. As a professed lover of warm weather, I’m usually sad to say goodbye to summer, but you know what? Let’s do it. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready for a fresh start in a new season. Farewell Summer 2015! This is the perfect beer to gose out on.

(I had to get one more pun in there.)

-Rach

The Great Pumpkin Tasting

This Monday, on an unseasonably warm, fall afternoon, we enjoyed a pumpkin beer tasting on our back porch!

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Along with our parents and my friend Laura, we tried six seasonal brews and took extensive (and sometimes comical) notes. Here’s what we thought:

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Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin

Lee: Consistently good all the way through; no bad aftertaste.
Pam: Would go great with fall food. Spices stand out more than the pumpkin flavor. DELICIOUS. I could drink a lot of this bev 😉
Maddy: Lil’ funky from the farmhouse-esqueness. Light, crisp, ez drankin’
Laura: Great. [It took her a little while to get warmed up…]
Rach: Very Belgian. Slight booziness emerges as it warms.

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Tröegs Master of Pumpkins

Lee: I liked the first one better.
Pam: Clove and nutmeg stand out
Maddy: Very spicy, immediately on your lips. Pumpkin pie spices.
Laura: Spicy. [Don’t worry, she’ll catch on..and when she does, it’s genius]
Rach: Tea quality to it. Tastes like a chai tea latte. Don’t like this one as much.

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Saucony Creek Maple Mistress Ale
[okay, so this one isn’t pumpkin, but it’s seasonal…]

Lee: Not a fan of the art work. Powerful maple aroma.
Pam: Maple flavor, but not sweet. Boozy?
Maddy: Smells like a salty sweet potato- YUM! Little bit of rum at the end…
Laura: Breakfast beer; we should have topped this with bacon. Thicker (like cream soda), cinnamon, brown sugar
Rach: Don’t like as much as I did on tap, but still really good. Maple has a strong presence, boozy aftertaste.

“I wish ships were still wooden, ya know?”
-Maddy, very contemplatively, while drinking the Maple Mistress

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Southern Tier Pumking (2013)

NOTE: This was our first experiment in aging a beer and we were quite pleased with the results. We kept it in the refrigerator in our parents basement for a little over a year. I read on a forum yesterday that you should store aging brews upright, and I’m happy to report that we did…luckily…despite being completely unaware of this recommendation.

Lee: Picking up on apple flavor/smell.
Pam: Not like cough syrup anymore, more pumpkin taste. Smells like a Yankee Candle.
Maddy: Smells pumpkiny and less syrupy- like the vegetal [original spelling preserved] pumpkin. Favorite so far, very flavorful.
Laura: Bud Light mixed with Scentsy wax. Crumpled autumn leaves with sap. [See what I mean?]
Rach: Has really mellowed; not nearly as boozy as last year. Less spicy than the others we’ve had so far.

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Southern Tier Pumking (2014)

Lee: Maple at the end. Maybe a little bit bitter?
Pam: Tastes a lot like the 2013. Maybe they figured out how to make it taste good without needing to age it for a year.
Maddy: Flavor is the same as 2013, but much longer lasting. Spice on the nose.
Laura: Looks like Shock Top! Stronger! Pumpkin rokks [this last part is underlined several times]
Rach: Like this even more than the 2013; richer and more crisp. Delicious with the aged gouda.

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Southern Tier Warlock

Lee: I still don’t like stouts.
Pam: I’m finally starting to like stouts!
Maddy: Favorite pumpkin beer ever!!! Goes great with spicy squash on pizza. Subtle coffee and pumpkin flavors.
Laura: I love it. Roasted pumpkin, chocolate, molasses. Smoother than a lot of stouts, velvety.
Rach: [Was apparently too busy stuffing her face with pizza to take notes…]

BBs do Brewdo

On Saturday we went to Blacksburg’s annual beer fest, Brewdo. This was Brewdo’s sixth year, and in addition to having beer from 40+ breweries, the festival also featured cider, Attimo wine, live music, and home brewing and cooking demonstrations. We have a few criticisms of Brewdo. Once the majority of festival goers had arrived at around 1, the venue felt crowded, and the lines for beer and food were loooooong. Worse still, many breweries ran out of beer and packed up their tents by 3, with half of the festival remaining! I bought a 20 pour bracelet and left having used only 13. Despite these drawbacks, we still managed to have a good time. 😉

IMG_3733Beer connoisseur, fashionista, florist. Anything this girl can’t do?

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Parkway had the prettiest tent by far. Trust me, it’s not like I’m biased…

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My favorite tap handle yet!

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What’s better than pumpkin pie? Hardywood’s Farmhouse Pumpkin

IMG_3760 When it comes to beer drinking, I’d say we learned from the best

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Beer festivals are the best setting for tipsy heart-to-hearts with lifelong friends

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Parkway Brewing, bringing people together since 2013

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New Belgium’s Hop the Pond is made with hops from England, Australia and the United States!

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Look at this cool dude.

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The Meter’s Running was like a miniature No BS! We approve.

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Different beer fest, same beautiful companions

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It got even more crowded as the day went on..

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Heavy Seas Loose Cannon never gets old

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Mom liked the mistress too

We weren’t able to try every beer (or even the majority!), but of those we had, here are some standouts:

Best pumpkin: Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin
Runner up: Foothills Cottonwood Pumpkin
Best IPA: New Belgium Hop the Pond
Runner up: Schlafly Tasmanian IPA
Best beer of the day: Saucony Creek Maple Mistress
Runner up: In our eyes nothing even came close…

We ended our night at Blacksburg’s new Mellow Mushroom! Free pizza, more delicious brews, and a perfect view of the Blacksburg sunset from their huuuge patio. Can’t beat it.

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That’s a wrap!

Keeping it in the Family

San Diego was baller, obviously, but before we get into that, I want to talk about another awesome HB brewery!

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On Saturday evening Nikki and I went to Four Sons, a microbrewery that’s also located about a mile from her apartment (lucky duck). As we pulled into the nearly-full parking lot, we passed a group of friends playing cornhole in front of the open doors, and spotted the colorful Falasophy food truck serving up vegetarian delights. Inside the brewery patrons watched football on large, mounted TVs and sat at the bar chatting with friends. We were pleased to see cobwebs and spiders hanging from the ceiling, and a witch figurine sticking out from the top of one of the brew tanks. As our friends from college undoubtedly remember, Halloween is very important to us. 😉

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We were immediately intrigued by all the interesting brews that Four Sons had on tap. Nikki ordered The Grape One, a double IPA infused with Concord grapes, and the Not So Dum, a raspberry blond that poured a pretty, deep pink color. I chose the Land of Hopportunity (an IPA) and the Great One (the double IPA base of the Grape One), and we both tried the Family Harvest Saison and the hefeweizen.

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We drank a lot of delicious beers this week, but our selections at Four Sons might have been our favorites. The Family Harvest Saison, brewed with pumpkin spice, yam, pecans, and cranberries, is one of the best fall seasonals I’ve ever had. Pumpkin spice is very present on the first sip, bringing to mind a traditional pumpkin ale, but then notes of cranberry and yam rush in, creating a medley of fall flavors that would make the Pilgrims proud. It actually reminded us of the Spicy Rivanna, a hot mulled wine by one of our favorite wineries in Charlottesville, Burnley Vineyards. The Family Harvest would be absolutely perfect to serve with Thanksgiving dinner, so if you live in the HB area I highly recommend adding it to your holiday menu.

The hefeweizen is the epitome of an easy-drinking, Saturday afternoon beer. Its citrus/lemon presence is noticeable without being overpowering, resulting in a light, flavorful brew that’s an utter pleasure to drink.

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Nikki was a little nervous before trying The Grape One because she’s not a huge IPA fan, but she ended up loving it. The addition of Concord grapes softens the hops, resulting in a sweeter and even more complex flavor than that of your typical DIPA. I’ve never even heard of another grape-flavored beer, so I’m impressed with Four Sons’ willingness to experiment, and was really pleased with their final product.

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I also want to mention Four Sons’ hospitality and story. The bartender who served us was friendly and helpful; he offered to carry our flights to a table for us, and then came by a few minutes later with a dish of pretzels. We were too squirrelly to borrow stools from a nearby table, so he moved some over for us. As you’ve probably gathered from the name, Four Sons is owned and operated by a family with four sons! I recognized many of those in the family photo on their website as the very same people working behind the bar during our visit to the brewery. They even have a policy to close every Tuesday for “family time.” As a member of a family-run, beer-focused operation myself, I love that Four Sons is an opportunity for this family to cultivate their craft and spend time together.