Saturday, June 26, 2010

Welcome to Maine: Geary's Pale Ale

The D.L. Geary Brewing Company of Portland, ME is one of America's first craft brewers, and in my opinion one of its finest. David Geary was a true pioneer when it came to brewing in New England. He incorporated his business in 1983 with a vision of opening a small brewery in Portland, ME for local consumption. This was a novel concept at the time, as only a handful of "brick and mortar" microbreweries existed, most of them being on the West Coast.

Geary went to England and Scotland to learn the craft of brewing beer, and spent the winter months of 1984 honing his skills at six different commercial breweries in those two countries. When Geary returned to Maine, he drew up his business plan, got all his ducks in a row, and got to the task of building a brewery. The D.L Geary Brewing Company opened its doors in 1986 and on December 10th of that year, the very first pint of Geary's Pale Ale was sold. A New England classic was born.

I've been drinking Geary's Pale Ale since about 1991 when I was handed my very first Geary's Pale Ale all those years ago by the legendary Bruguru. Bruguru was ahead of the curve and has been drinking American craft beer from its infancy stages. 19 years later I still remember like it was yesterday being handed a cold bottle of this beer, and that distinctive Geary's label with a Maine lobster on the front of the bottle. When I took my first sip, I was totally floored, and this beer has remained one of my favorite beers of all times.

It is always a fond beer memory. My friend had actually been drinking Geary's since 1987, only about a year after they had opened, so he had been a loyal Geary's drinker when very few people outside of Portland, ME even knew Geary's existed. He has a great story of how he got turned on to Geary's Pale Ale that I just have to share here from Bruguru:

There is a story behind my first Geary's Pale Ale. It was one of my very first visits to Portland, Maine, back in 1987. Gritty McDuff's had not yet opened, and I had yet to visit my first brewpub. Still, I was quite full of myself as a beer lover, and strode into a small convenience store and asked for a six-pack of Sam Adams. The owner, a crotchety old fellow with an exterior as tough as the lobsters Maine is so renowned for, regarded me with a scowl.

"You like Sam Adams?" he asked. "I got something a lot better than Sam Adams."

I assumed that meant he didn't have Sam Adams, but I was intrigued. I asked what that was. He didn't reply, but instead plunked down a six-pack of Geary's Pale Ale on the counter.

I'm glad that crusty old Mainer decided to share a local beer with my friend. Brugru of course went on to become one of Geary's most loyal supports and drinkers, and handed me my very first Geary's Pale Ale. The rest is history.

Geary's Pale Ale a classic example of a British Pale Ale. It is brewed with a very distinctive yeast strain from Hampshire, England called Ringwood. Ringwood gives this beer a very unique earthy aromas and flavors, as well as a byproduct called diacetal, which gives the beer in varying levels "buttery" flavors and mouth feel. You want this character in a classic British Pale Ale, and Geary's Pale Ale strikes a wonderful balance of malt, hops, estery fruity flavors. It is such a flavorful yet drinkable beer, and is just a fantastic beer to drink or to match with a variety of dishes. It is a tradition of mine when ever I visit Portland, ME to enjoy this beer on draught with a twin lobster dinner at Dimillo's Floating Restaurant, which actually sits on Casco Bay. It makes for a wonderful experience, and Geary's Pale Ale is just a natural with lobster.

Geary's Pale Ale pours to a bright, deep copper color, with a nice, white head that slowly fades, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The nose this beer is fantastic with good spicy hop aroma, paired with earthy aromas of yeast. The palate is firm and crisp with a rock solid malt backbone, and light jammy flavors of fruit. The mouth feel is a touch buttery from the Ringwood yeast adding to the complexity of this beer. Geary's Pale Ale finishes with more good malt and light fruit up front, then ends with a long, dry, bitter hop bite that lingers on the tongue.

This is just a world class beer, that has been world class for past 24 years. Its is available in select U.S. markets, and I'm happy to say I have always had access to this beer. It is a beer well worth trying, and one that should be a staple beer in anyone's beer fridge. For more information about this beer and its world class brewery, vist:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mad Fox up and running!

Great news for beer lovers in Northern Virginia. The Mad Fox Brewing Company of Falls Church, VA is officially brewing beer and will be slated to open shortly. That is owner/brewmaster Bill Madden brewing up his first batch of his multi-award winning kolshbier.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cleveland Rocks: Fat Head's Brewery and Saloon, Cleveland, OH

The hunt for great beer is an endless one for a beer lover. Anytime I find myself on a trip any where, it is a new beer hunt. I make sure that I look for what is brewing locally, and try to visit as many local brewpub and breweries as I can. Cleveland, OH is a city I have been to on a number of occasions, so I was very happy when I visited about a year ago to find that in the suburb of North Olmsted, OH another outstanding brewpub/brewery had joined the ranks of great places to drink beer in the Cleveland Area.

That place is Fat Head's Brewery and Saloon. For those who know good beer, Fat Head's Saloon is a legendary Pittsburgh, PA beer bar, that in 2009 branched out, and established its own brewery in the Cleveland area. You can find the Fat Head beers pouring at the original saloon in Pittsburgh, PA but it is here in Cleveland where the Fat Head beers are brewed, which made it a must visit for me.

Like the saloon in Pittsburgh, Fat Head's Brewery gets it right on so many levels. The space is huge, the atmosphere is awesome, its well staffed and well run. The menu like the saloon in Pittsburgh is extensive and they offer the legendary Headwiches, which are huge over stuffed sandwiches that will satisfy the biggest eaters. I suggest if you are in Cleveland, try the Full Cleveland a one pound sandwich of grilled kielbasa, bratwurst, hot pepper kraut, melted Swiss, thousand island dressing, and Cleveland's own Stadium mustard. To die for.

What the real draw here is of course is the beer. Fathead's serves at any given time 10 of their house brewed beers along with about 20 more taps of craft brewed beers and imports. The selection is staggering. As much as I love the choices, I go with the house brews, and you will not be disappointed. Fathead's has only been brewing since 2009 but have already offered about 40 different beer styles, and they are doing them all very, very well. I could have lost an entire afternoon in this place. On my trip I was able to enjoy their IPA, Chocolate Stout, hefeweizen, and Czech pilsner. I was very impressed with how flavorful and stylistically accurate these beer were. A very good sign indeed.
Great atmosphere, great service, great food, great local beer. For a brewpub/brewery experience, you can not ask for more. Growlers to go as well. I love this place, and it quickly has become a personal favorite of mine. Fat Head's Brewery and Saloon is an absolute must visit if you ever find yourself in and around the Cleveland, OH area. For more info visit:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beer intolerant? There is hope: Lake Front New Grist Beer

The thought of being "beer intolerant" is unimaginable to me, but sadly it is true. There are people that suffer from a digestive disease called celiac disease. Those who suffer from this can not tolerate gluten, a protein found in in wheat, rye, and barley. These grains are the life force in beer, so if you are a Celiac, odds are you can not enjoy a beer.

In 2005 the Lakefront Brewing Company of Milwaukee, WI decided to brew a gluten free beer for celiacs so they could enjoy a beer as well. Lakefront's answer was a beer called New Grist, a beer brewed from sorghum and gluten free yeast grown on molasses. This beer was one of the very first gluten free beers available on the U.S. market, with only a handful of other domestic and imported examples that have followed.
I have to commend Lakefront for brewing a gluten free beer for celiacs. I don't know what life would be like living on a gluten free diet and not being able to enjoy a glass of beer. New Grist gives celiacs a chance to enjoy beer, and one has to applaud Lakefront for their effort. Brewed with sorghum and rice, this is a light, slightly sweet tasting beer, that is quite different from what a beer drinker is use to.

New Grist pours to a very pale, golden color with a short, white head that fades, and a vibrant carbonation. The nose has some crisp rice aroma, and some slight sourness. The palate is lean, with flavor of sorghum, that tastes like grain, and a touch of tart sourness. This beer finishes with more crisp and dry rice and sorghum flavors, then ends with a slightly sweet flavor that lingers.

Not really a beer that I would find myself reaching for too often. It is crisp, refreshing, and has some character with the sorghum and rice flavors and light sourness. The rice in this beer really dries the beer out, and the light sourness makes it refreshing. It has a unique taste for sure, one that might take some getting use to.
I'm glad a beer like this is out there, and I know if I was a celiac, New Grist would be a staple for me. It "is what it is" a gluten free beer, and should be judged as such. Worth a try for the curious beer drinker, and a welcome beer for a celiac. Only a handful of examples gluten free beers are on the market, so New Grist would be a good choice I think. For more information, visit:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

English Pride in the American Heartland: Maumee Bay Cask IPA

Toledo, Ohio has got a secret. Many might not know this, but Toledo has one outstanding brewpub in the Maumee Bay Brewing Company. This brewpub/microbrewery sells some of its more popular beers under the Major Oliver label, and they have even brought back the long since gone Buckeye Beer, a Northern Ohio staple for decades. But to truly enjoy what Maumee Bay has to offer, one has to visit Toldeo, and the brewery/brewpub itself, one must go to the source.

You will not be disappointed if you do, Maumee Bay is located in the historic 19th Century Oliver House Hotel. The space is absolutely beautiful, sporting one of the most beautiful brew houses you will ever see, a full restaurant, and six full bars on three different floors pouring Maumee Bay beers. Nine beers were pouring on my last visit which includes a golden ale, a red ale, a pale ale, a porter, an English mild, a pilsner, a hefeweizen, an Abbey dubble, and a cask condition IPA. I was floored with the number of beers, but was totally floored with the quality. These beers were all very, very impressive, even more so than I had remembered them.

The food and the atmosphere at Maumee Bay will dazzle you, the beer will stun you. I enjoyed them all greatly, but their Cask IPA really got my attention.This has to be one of the most impressive IPA's I have tasted to date, and I have tasted some of the best of the best, in the hop lavish Pacific North West. This beer gives those hop monsters a run for its money, and then some.

Maumee Bay Cask IPA pours to a beautiful, burnt orange/amber color with a thick, creamy head, and avery soft carbonation. This beer is pulled from a beer engine or hand pump by gravity, and is served at cellar temperature, which is a cool 56-52 degrees.This is important, as the hop aromas and flavors really "breathe" and let you know what a superior IPA should smell and taste like. This beer is hopped with imported(from England) East Kent Goldings aka EKG's, and they are in this beer by the bale loads. The nose hits you from a mile a way. Waves of fragrant, flowery hop aromas flood the nose. It is like sticking ones face in a hop pocket full of fresh hop cones. There is a slight underpinning of pale malt, but hop aroma is the star here. The palate is firm with a solid base of pale malt, with a touch of caramel malt sweetness. The finish is the show stopper. A citrus bomb of hop flavors grab hold of the tongue and just does not let go.

The finish will make you pucker it is so bitter, and for a hop head, that is a little slice of heaven in a glass. Without a doubt one of the most impressive IPA's I have ever tasted, a big league beer from a tiny micro with class and character. If you ever find yourself in the Glass City of Toledo, OH, what ever you do, don't miss the Maumee Bay Brewing Company. For more info visit:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When smoke gets in your beer: Alaskan Smoked Porter 2009 Vintage

The Alaskan Brewing Company of Juneau, Alaska is a legend in the American craft brewing industry. Establish in 1986, this is one of America's very first brick and mortar microbrewers, and it is one of America's best. Over the years Alaskan Brewing has consistently produced exceptional beers available in only a handful of West Coast markets. I have been fortunate enough to try a number of their beers over the years, and one beer that is truly special is their winter seasonal release called Alaskan Smoked Porter.

This beer has won 18 medals at the Great American Beer Festival since it was first brewed in 1988, making it the most award winning beer the fest has ever seen. This beer is a rauchbier or "smoke beer" by style. Rauchbier is a traditional Northern Bavarian beer style where all the malt, or a portion of the malt used is smoked over a beechwood fire. The smoked malt gives the beer intense salty, sooty, smoky aromas and flavors, that can be shocking to the novice. Being Alaska, and the brewery in Juneau being located next to a salmon smokery, Alaskan Smoked Porter has a portion of its malt smoked over alder wood. Traditional rauchbier is based on a hearty lager such as marzen or bockbier. This beer is an ale, and is based on porter, a dark, chocolatey, roasty English beer style. The used of alder smoked malt in a porter makes this beer very unique and, when it was first brewed, a beer like no other.
I've had this beer on a few occasions both in 22 oz bombers and on draught on a few occasions, and each time has been spectacular. I was fortunate enough to acquire a bottle on a recent trip to the West Coast, and the 2009 vintage is as impressive as I remember the vintages I tried in the mid 1990's and early 2000's.
Alaskan Smoked Porter 2009 Vintage pours to an ink black color, with a rocky, white head that slowly fades, and a good carbonation. The nose on this beer is just awesome, with big, intense aromas of smoky aroma, paired with some hints of roast, but the smoke is here, and in a very big and good way. The palate is firm, with lots of good dark chocolate and roasty coffee flavors, paired with more salty, sooty, smoky flavors that work perfectly with the chocolate and coffee character of this beer. This beer finishes with more good chocolate, coffee, and roast up front, then ends with a very salty, smoky, bone dry finish that lingers.
This beer is phenomenal. Rauchbier is either a style you will love, or you will not. You can really smell and taste smoke in this beer, much like you can in good smoked BBQ. I love the intense smoke aromas and flavors in this beer, and it works so, so well with the dark malt and roasty flavors of a good porter. It is a winter seasonal, but this beer could be consumed year round. It is bottle conditioned, and can be laid down and aged for a few years. It 6.5% abv, it is a hearty brew, but one that is so drinkable. This beer is a fantastic match with a number of hearty dishes. A natural with BBQ, grilled, cured, smoked meats, game, and fish, and of course strong, smoked, and sharp cheeses.
A world class beer that must be tried at least once in your lifetime. For more info visit:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gaelic Star: Estrella Galicia

Spain is know world wide as being one of the Epicurean centers of the world. Spanish cuisine is truly world class, and the Spanish eat and drink very, very well. Spain is more associated as a wine drinking nation, and Spain produces some exceptional wines. One might not associate beer with Spain, but a beer drinking culture in Spain does indeed exist, and the drink of choice pouring in the tavernas and served with tapas, in not wine but beer.

In Spanish cuisine tapas are a number of small dish hot and cold appetizers served in Spanish restaurants and bars. They are wildly popular, delicious dishes, and the tradition is to go from tapas bar to tapas bar trying different house specialties, and drinking a lot of beer along the way. Here in the U.S. one can find good tapas at a good Spanish restaurant, and the beer you will always find is Estrella Galacia (Gaelic Star) from the Hijos de Rivera Brewery of A Coruna, Spain. This brewery was established in 1909, and Estrella Galicia is their flagship beer.

This beer is a pale lager by style, and it is a good example in my opinion. It is not the kind of beer that is going to bowl beer geeks over, but is a crisp, clean, refreshing beer, with a good balance of pale malt flavor and mild hop bitterness. It has a touch more body and flavor than your standard Eurolager like Heineken, and maybe it is just me willing this, but it seems to work very well with tapas.

Estrella Galicia pours to a deep golden color, with a thick, creamy, white head, and a good bit of carbonation. The nose on this beer has light herbal/grassy hop aroma paired with some crisp malt aroma. The palate is very crisp, with good pilsner malt flavor and a touch of malt sweetness. This beer finishes with more crisp pale malt flavorful up front, then ends slightly malty and grassy.

This is an enjoyable Spanish lager. The crisp and clean nature of this beer makes it an ideal match for tapas. The carbonation cleans the palate and allows the flavors of the tapas to come though, and the balanced malt and hop flavors work well with a variety of dishes. I recently visited an outstanding Spanish restaurant and this beer really worked well with a plate of jamon iberico. Jamon iberico is a cured Spanish ham from the fabled black pigs of Spain, that is the ham world's answer to kobe beef, or caviar. Salty, rich, buttery, this is phenomenal stuff, and the Estrella cleans the palate allowing you to really enjoy the jamon.

For more information on Estrella Galicia vist:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hops and Glory

Good news for beer lovers! British author Pete Brown's masterpiece Hops and Glory : One man's search for the beer that built the British Empire is available in paper back as well as hard cover in Canada and the UK. This book can be purchased at Amazon Canada and Amazon UK both in hard cover and paper back for a very reasonable price. More so than here in the U.S. This book is one of the most impressive beer books I have read to date. Beer lover or not, it is well worth the read, and a great book to own. Its that good. Go get your copy here:

Here is my review of Hops and Glory:

In the world of "beer" writing there is the late Michael Jackson aka The Beer Hunter, and then there is everyone else. Since Jackson's death in 2007, the dearth of talented writers on the subject of beer has been painfully felt. The truth of the matter is, good "drinks writers" are few and far between. Pete Brown has changed all that, and has set the bar to "Jacksonian" heights with his latest book Hops and Glory. This book is not only a tale about one of the most beloved and cherished beer styles India Pale Ale (IPA) but a history lesson on 19th Century Burton on Trent brewing, the all powerful East India Company, the history of the Raj, and a personal odyssey.

Brown is a masterful story teller, and he weaves the history of his search for the beer that built the British Empire and love affair with beer into an adventure story anyone would enjoy reading, beer drinker or not. The meticulous research Brown puts into Hops and Glory is amazing. This is a powerful story. Brown puts words into action in this book and the reader learn at his own personal expense. The fact that he actually convinced a Burton brewer to brew up an authentic IPA recipe from the 1800's for him? The fact that he takes said IPA from Burton on Trent via canal to London, and then on the sea voyage route to India the way it went in the days of the East India Company to the Raj? The fact that he just did not talk about it, speculate "what it must have been like" but he actually did it? One has to admire this, and the pay off for the reader is you are along for the ride when you read Hops and Glory. Brown makes you live it, breathe it, you are there with him.

No more tall tales or yarns about India Pale Ale. The story of the history of IPA needed to be told, and what a way to tell it. There are some bumps along the way, and why this book is so awesome is, its not just about the beer and its history, but the reader is living the adventure with Brown. We get the good, the bad, the ugly.

Hops and Glory is a history lesson, travel guide, and adventure story all rolled into one. I literally could not put this book down. It is an enjoyable, informative read, and I'm still amazed that Brown actually made the journey that many have talked about, turn into reality. A journey that will most likely never be repeated by anyone. This is "beer" writing at its very best.