Archive for the ‘Beverage’ Category

Alchemist Celia Saison

So if you didn’t get the memo, Celia Saison is not Heady Topper.  That’s certainly not a shocker and really, anyone that buys this beer based on the hype of brews produced by the Alchemist alone is bound to be disappointed, no matter what comes out of the bottle.  But for those that had a chance to drink a beer or two at the Alchemist before Irene washed it away, you know that this beer is at the other end of the spectrum from the start.  Take away a brewers core ingredients and you’re bound to see them produce a very different product than what you are used to seeing.

Unfortunately Celia Saison doesn’t seem to stand up even when you give it a pass on it being a gluten free beer.  It feels like a puzzle with the pieces incorrectly jammed together so they fit, but form an unrecognizable picture.  The orange peel is distinct and pleasant enough and you can tell that this is generally a beer in the saison family, but other than that it’s just off.  After the orange the taste is overly medicinal and pretty off-putting.

The first batch of this beer was pulled off the shelves when Alchemist brewer John Kimmich didn’t feel it was up to standards.  I’m not saying this batch should have been recalled, but I’d wager a guess and say that this beer isn’t up to the standards of what most folks expect from the Alchemist, gluten free or not.  Here are a couple of other takes on it from the beer geeks at Beer Advocate and Steve Greenlee at the Boston Globe.

Verdict: If you’re a beer geek, stick to Heady Topper.  If you’ve got celiac disease, stick to cider.  

Actually brewed in Ipswich, Massachusetts, we decided to review this beer anyway.  


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An under appreciated aspect of the Vermont beer scene is the incredible affordability and availability of growlers.  By and large you can snag them at breweries in all sorts of shapes and sizes with the added bonus of being able to try before you buy.  In recent years retail operations began getting in on the business, with Hunger Mountain Co-Op doing weekly fills on Thursday afternoons and Pearl Street Beverage installing a growler bar with rotating taps.  One would hope the popularity of these retail offerings will spread further.  I’d hazard a guess that since it won’t last more than a day or two most customers don’t just buy a growler and run.  Rather they browse the shelves for new bottles or pick up a few items for dinner.

It wasn’t until a holiday trip that I realized how good we have it in Vermont.  Stopping at a beer house restaurant for a quick beer my jaw dropped when I saw the growler list.  The prices were staggering, ranging from $20 to $40 for beers that in Vermont would set you back roughly $8 to $12.  Good beer isn’t hard to find, but good beer at bargain prices is something to celebrate.

On a recent Thursday at Hunger Mountain we grabbed a growler of the Trapp Dunkel.  I had my hopes on another offering, but as is true with some many things in life, if you snooze you lose.  The high profile and rare beers are long gone towards six o’clock, but I was still more than happy to grab my growler and head on the way.  Pouring the beer into a glass later showed of the beer’s deep chestnut brown color. The nose has a great roasted malt flavor and while the beer is on the darker side it has a thirst quenching quality.  It’s a crisp and bright beer with a light sweetness on the finish.

Verdict: A delicious dunkel at a bargain price. 

Brewed in Stowe, we’re thrilled when Hunger Mountain Co-Op features beers from the Brewery at the Trapp Family lodge.  Follow them on Twitter @TrappFamily and like them on Facebook

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The week is lagging, so we’re firing off a quick late week coffee post to jumpstart these last two days.  The Sapbucket household has been trying to ease back on the number of cups of joe consumed each morning.  But the Black River Roasters French Roast was so good that it lasted just over a week.  Great for the tastebuds, not some much for our overall caffeine intake.  Oh well, it was worth it.  We brewed this a variety of ways (strong and stronger), drinking it black, with half and half, and milk.  It never lost the essential french roast flavor.  Sometimes the phrasing on coffee packaging is misleading at best, but with this coffee what you read is what you get: A full bodied blend with a smooth, rich finish.  The coffee wasn’t bitter or overly roasted, just dark and smooth.

Verdict: Black River Roasters delivers a go-to French Roast

Roasted on Flynn Ave in Burlington (and also in NJ for the New York City area) we purchased this bag of beans at City Market.  Check out Black River Roaster’s story (name changes, expansion and offerings), like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @BR_Roasters

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Otter Creek Vermont Sampler

Make new friends but keep the old ones is how the saying goes.  It seems not a day goes by without a new brewery opening or a new beer coming on the market.  It’s been a bit overplayed, but it does occasionally feel as though this is a golden age for beer drinkers.  With all these new offerings and excitement generated by “extreme” beers, it is important to remember your true friends.  The ones that have been a bed rock of the craft beer movement for decades.  Otter Creek was my first craft beer.  And while it hasn’t been cranking out beers that people line up for hours to get a taste of, it has produced reliably great craft beer while showing it can master new styles as well.

For my money, the Otter Creek Vermont Sampler 12-pack is one of the best bargains in craft beer.  Selling for $12-$13, the mixed 12-pack gives you Copper Ale, Stovepipe Porter, Black IPA (now year-round) and the current seasonal. To break down this bargain box in a little more idepth: you get Otter Creek’s flagship beer (Copper), a flat out exceptional porter (ranked by the NYTimes as #2 in their porter tasting), a wonderful rendition of the Black IPA style created by VT Pub & Brewery founder Greg Noonan, and a one off like Roasted Red, Spring Bock, Otter Summer, or Oktoberfest.  In some cases the Copper might be the weakest of the bunch.  Which is a hard thing to type since it was easily my favorite beer the first few years after I turned 21.  But you get the enjoyment of that old friend while tasting the new offerings like Black IPA.  There’s a little something for everyone here and if you’re stocking up for a summer weekend with friends, you can’t go wrong with Otter Creek’s Vermont Sampler.

Verdict: A box of beer that’s both a bargain and a bounty.

Brewed in Middlebury, Otter Creek’s Vermont Sampler is available at most grocery stores, gas stations and beer stores throughout Vermont for $12.99.  Like Otter Creek Brewing on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @OtterCreekBrew

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Does’ Leap Maple Kefir

I’m a big believer in trying new things.  If there’s something new on a menu, chances are I’ll order it.  Same for new products on the shelf at the store.  A couple of days ago I saw Does’ Leap Kefir and figured, why not?  I love Does’ Leap’s goat cheeses and never tried Kefir, so I grabbed a big bottle and headed off.  One of my other principles about trying new things is that if you should try something at least five times before you give up on it.  Well I think I’m going to need a few more tries with kefir to make up my mind.

The first sip is familiar.  Kefir is often compared to yogurt, which I’d agree with.  Does’ Leap Kefir tastes like a thin or runny yogurt with a hint of maple.  The creamy texture extends that sense of the familiarity, but the taste then flips mildly sour.  It’s not dramatically unpleasant, just enough to wrinkle the nose or make you smack your lips and pull your tongue across the top of your mouth to figure out what you are tasting.

Downing my glass I figured I needed to come up with some other ways to consume the Kefir as I was unlikely to polish off the whole bottle drinking a glass a day.  The Sapbucket household was looking to make some pancakes later that morning, so we used the kefir as a substitute for milk.  Later that day we we’re starting to marinate some chicken and subbed it in for yogurt.  It both cases it really punched up our recipes.  The pancakes we’re incredibly light and fluffy, the marinade rich and creamy.  So as I continue to try kefir straight before passing judgment, I definitely won’t hesitate to use it as a substitute in any cooking that calls for yogurt.

Verdict: Awesome as an ingredient in recipes, we’re still warming up to kefir as a beverage. 

Does’ Leap is the only Vermont producer of kefir, you can check out all their great goat dairy cheeses and items on their website

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If there’s anywhere that maple wheat beers should be a-plenty, it is here in Vermont.  I was excited to see that Harpoon returned this 100 Barrel series brew for another run in 2012.  After pouring the beer in a pilsner glass, it produced a great fluffy head with a pleasant, grassy, and malty nose.  The beer had a crisp taste with just a subtle maple flavor.  The body was light and really complemented the balance between the sweetness of the maple and the malts.  We dubbed Rock Art’s Maple Wheat “the Maple-iest beer,” which we recommend for maple-heads, this beer will have broader appeal and we’re stoked that it made an appearance for the short Vermont sugaring season and unusual spring.

Harpoon has continued with its short, informative videos that give the brewers perspective on what went into making the beer.  If you’re curious, check out what Harpoon brewer Brett Simmons had to say about making this one.

Verdict:  A great brew for both maple and beer lovers alike. 

Brewed in Windsor and Boston, MA, Harpoon’s Catamount Maple Wheat is currently retailing for $5.29.  

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Magic Hat Over The Pils

Browsing the Vermont beer selection at The Beverage Warehouse in Winooski recently, I was surprised when I came across this bottle.  Standing out against the wall of 22 oz bombers, was this tall, elegant, foil capped beauty.  Unfamiliar with the label and graphics I picked up the bottle and was surprised to find it was a bottle of Magic Hat new Humdinger Series, which they describe as “an offering of the rarest of ales for each coming season.  Complex in nature, small in batch and big in character. Humdinger ales are brewed for discriminating palates and are available for a very limited time.”  Magic Hat’s Humdinger Series wasn’t on my beer radar screen when it was previously made, so naturally I scooped this up and trotted off excited for what might pour forth out of the bottle.

The beer poured a fluffy head, with a bready and yeasty nose.  Those qualities translated into the taste as well, with a touch of bitterness at the forefront of the mouth.  The beer was low on carbonation and light in body despite packing a bunch with an 8.1% abv.  My experience with Imperial Pilsners is limited, but the Over the Pils elicited thoughts of some great German beers I’ve enjoyed.  All in all, I thought this was exceptional and I’m thrilled that I came across it.  I’ll also now be anxiously awaiting the next beers in the Humdinger Series, Burn Pile and http://www.magichat.net/humdinger/graupelGraupel, which will debut on August 1st and October 15th respectively.

The Humdinger Series also has me excited about the goings on at Magic Hat.  The brewery gets a bit of a bum rap from the beer cognoscenti.  Magic Hat has served as an introduction to the craft beer world for thousands of beer lovers who previously limited their world view to AB-Inbev or Miller-Coors beer.  As those drinkers have expanded their beer horizons, its practically become vogue to bash Magic Hat.  Sort of like a teenager who says nasty things about the first person they dated after they breakup.  This has come in the form of claims about slipping quality, lack of attention to recipes and other knocks.  Those critiques have only increased with ownership of the brewery shifting to a larger corporation (North American Breweries) and former owner Alan Newman taking some shots at beer geeks.  Hopefully the Humdinger Series will bring those critics back around to Magic Hat and remind them that no matter what great beers they’ve enjoyed since their first craft beer, that Magic Hat still makes innovative and delicious beer.

Verdict: Humdinger indeed. 

Brewed in South Burlington at the Artifactory, we scoured the shelves of the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski to find this bottle at $8.29.  

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