Friday, December 20, 2013

Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

In the spirit of getting the Spadanuta Family Christmas Tree last weekend, I decided to drink a beer that was very festive in appearance. It even says Merry Christmas and Happy New Year on the bottle's label. Thanks to Erica for getting me this one.

Before you is a beer created by Anchor Brewing Company for the last 39 years. It's called Our Special Ale and this one was their 2013 edition. This offering is truly special each year as every batch is brewed using a different recipe from year to year.

Right out of the bottle the smell of Christmas spices is evident and the dark color of the beer alluring. I was expecting it to be lighter in color and more like an IPA since there was a Christmas tree on the label and I always associate IPAs with a fresh pine scent.

The aroma of Our Special Ale is so complex that it was hard for me to put a finger on all the different smells I was experiencing. I associated the smell with a variety of holiday treats you might enjoy, including gingerbread men, molasses cookies and the delicious caramel and toffee bars my aunt likes to make each Christmas. There was also a sweet maltiness that was noticeable as well.

This is beer form? Yes please.

The smell complimented the taste perfectly and it had a very rich and robust flavor with a sweet aftertaste. Nutmeg and gingerbread flavors stuck with me throughout the drinking process, while caramel and molasses also came through with each sip. Simply put, I loved Our Special Ale and couldn't get enough of it. Before I knew it my glass was empty and I was down to my last sip of this delicious beer. 

One thing is for certain though. I will be drinking this beer this time again next year.

Anchor's Our Special Ale is only sold from November to mid-January each year and has an ABV of 5.5%. I highly suggest it to any beer lover looking for something new to try or anyone who loves the aroma and taste of holiday spices and Christmas cookies.

Phil tested, Phil approved for your holiday enjoyment

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Take the Black Stout: A Game of Thrones inspired beer

Winter is coming!! Or at least the final showdown in the console war between Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. The third and final episode in South Park's "Game of Thrones" trilogy airs tonight at 10 PM on Comedy Central, so what better way to send off Matt and Trey's playful nod to Game of Thrones than to talk about a Game of Thones inspired beer?

Called Take the Black Stout, this Belgian Dark Ale was brewed by the Brewery Ommegang located in Cooperstown, NY. It stands at 7% ABV, is brewed with star anise and licorice root and is as dark as the carpets of the palace were after the Red Wedding took place.

Robert Baratheon tested, Robert Baratheon approved

In addition to the licorice root and star anise, Take the Black Stout is also brewed with chocolate, caramel and roasted barley malts. This results in a variety of flavors that start sweet, become hoppy and finish with a roasted fruity taste. It could also be described as earthly.

To simplify, Take the Black Stout has the hoppy aroma and taste that you would expect from an IPA with chocolate and caramel flavors coming through as well. There is also a sort of raisin like flavor and aroma that accompanies it throughout the drinking process. The roastedness makes up the majority of the aftertaste. 

Needless to say I enjoyed drinking Take the Black Stout out of my gold rimmed Ommegang goblet as I watched the first two episodes of South Park Game of Thrones. If the beer was this good every night for the members of the Night's Watch I wouldn't hesitate in joining them, well maybe if it wasn't for the White Walkers and their zombie minions wanting to decapitate us at any given moment.

Almost worth dying for

Unfortunately, if you're hoping to try a bottle of Take the Black Stout it will be very hard to find. It was released at the beginning of November and only one batch was brewed by Ommegang. Such is the story of all their limited must-have beers. If you're lucky though you may be able to find a bottle at a beer store hidden on the shelf among all the commoner beers.

South Park's final Game of Thrones episode which pits the boys against one another to try to get an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 as part of a 96% off Black Friday deal airs tonight. HBO's Game of Thrones is expected to come back late April or early May 2014. Until then happy beer hunting and try your best not to cross the path of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage Beer Raffle

This year Big John and the rest of the Ronk Beverage crew decided to hold another beer raffle...this time on Friday, November 1, 2013. Their last raffle, which occurred in March of last year, was a huge success and an event that I immensely enjoyed. This year they upped the ante and had 72 bottles of beer to raffle off to their favorite customers.

The majority of the beers at the raffle were aged for one or two years and came from Big John's own personal collection, which he had been saving just for this raffle. Bourbon County, Founders, Brooklyn Brewery and Sierra Nevada were just some of the great breweries that had themselves represented.

Before the raffle began at 10 PM, everyone was welcome to come into the store and enjoy a free glass of Palm beer as they discussed their favorite beers with other beer lovers in attendance (we even got to keep the glass after the raffle was done!). 

Eagerly awaiting for the raffle to begin

Everyone was given 24 (I think that was the number) raffle tickets and was able to divide them up as they chose, to have a better chance of winning the beers they were interested in. If you got your ticket pulled you were entitled to buy the beer you had won. Some of the more highly desired beers included Bourbon County Coffee Stout, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Firestone Walker's 16 Anniversary Ale and Sierra Nevada's Barrel Aged Bigfoot. Tom and I divied our tickets up and the raffle began shortly after we were done.

Big John gave another one of his heartfelt speeches that was both brief and right to the point. He thanked everyone for coming out and said little else besides: "Let's get to the raffle!"

With the help of his girlfriend Lindsay (who also works at Ronkonkoma Beverage) they pulled ticket after ticket and called the numbers on each. Every winner excitedly came up to the table full of fabled beers and redeemed their prize.

Both John and Lindsay had a blast while raffling off beers

The raffle lasted a little under an hour, until all the beers were claimed. I'm about 99% sure that everyone in attendance walked away with at least one prize, while there were a lucky few people who came away winning multiple rare beers. 

Tom, who only was interested in the Barrel Aged Bigfoot and the Firestone 16 Anniversary Ale (there was only one bottle in the raffle) ended up winning the 16 Anniversary Ale (so lucky!) and buying a four pack of Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout.

Tom was more than happy with his winnings
I ended up winning a bottle of the 2012 Stone Collaboration beer Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout (which I was ecstatic about) and DevESTATEtion by Sierra Nevada. Big John also ended up letting me buy unclaimed bottles of Sierra Nevada's Harvest Ale and Avery Old Jubilation Ale
 John Sr. and Lindsay ringing up some of the lucky winners

Tom and I had a great time and there was nothing but smiles among the crowd of people who showed up at Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage on November 1, 2013. Needless to say, they held yet another successful beer raffle this year with many happy customers who had the chance to bring home beers (and they did) that are no longer available to buy in any beer store. I still think however that the biggest smiles that night belonged to all the employees of Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage.

Thank you for the great time John and crew. You know I will be there every time you decide to have another beer raffle and I will always blog about it.
Your Friend,
Phil Spadanuta

The beers I took away from 2013 Ronkonkoma Beverage Beer Raffle

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Beer Showdown: A Blind Tasting of the Final 6

Pumpkin beer should be in a class of its own with how many different types there are and the varying flavors of each. It's one of the most popular fall beverages among both beer connoisseurs and people who are just looking to get a delicious glass of Pumpkin Spice beer at John Harvard's Brew House. Brewing companies have noticed this rising popularity of pumpkin beer and as a result more and more companies are producing their own pumpkin beers. By stepping into the pumpkin beer brewing spotlight, they too hope that they can share in having their product be a part of the coveted pumpkin(beer) pie that everyone loves getting a taste of. This year Tom and I decided to do a blind taste test on what we considered the top 6 pumpkin beers that were offered this year to truly decide, without bias, which were our favorites.

  The contenders for best Pumpkin beer of 2013

We narrowed it down to these six (listed from left to right):
1) Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, 8.0% ABV
2) Ithaca Country Pumpkin, 6.3% ABV
3) Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, 7.0% ABV
4) Wolavers Organic Pumpkin Ale, 5.35% ABV
5) Harpoon UFO Pumpkin, 5.9% ABV
6) Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, 8.0% ABV

To do our blind test we poured a 3 ounce glass of each beer, labeled with a number corresponding to which one it was, and each tried them at our leisure and compared them. It's the first time either of us has done a tasting of beers without knowing what we were drinking as we were drinking it. This is a great way to taste test beers because neither of us could form opinions just based on the name alone and which ones we've liked in the past.

 Waiting to be consumed and gain recognition for their greatness

The whole process was interesting because I thought I was going to be able to pick out each of the beers based on their flavor...boy was I wrong. Since I couldn't figure it out I had to go by taste alone. We even had Tom's Mom take part in the tasting as well so she could give us a third perspective on our favorite pumpkin beers. 

Tom with his flight of beers

These are the notes I took, based on what everyone said on each of the beers we drank.

1) Schlafly:
Tom's Mom - That one had a bit of an unusual flavor. (Ranked 6th)
Tom - Tasted borderline repulsive. (Ranked 6th)
Phil - Sweet and delicious, almost like a rich pumpkin pie. (Ranked 1st)

2) Ithaca: 
Tom's Mom - This one is nice, but not the best. (Ranked 2nd)
Tom - Definitely not the best, but not the worst, above average. (Ranked 3rd)
Phil - Very plain. Nothing particular that I liked about it. (Ranked 6th) 

3) Dogfish Head:
Tom's Mom - Not Bad. (Ranked 3rd)
Tom - Delicious pumpkin spices. (Ranked 1st)
Phil - Tasted more like a coffee beer. Good variety of spices, great flavor. (Ranked 4th) 

4) Wolaver's:  
Tom's Mom - The others are better than this one. (Ranked 4th)
Tom - Kind of plain. (Ranked 4th)
Phil - I noticed a taste of cinnamon. A light beer, not overpowering. (Ranked 3rd)

5) Harpoon UFO:
Tom's Mom - It's got a nice taste. This one's my favorite. (Ranked 1st)
Tom - Delicious and not too sweet. (Ranked 2nd)
Phil - Good, but the flavor is not enough especially when compared to the others. (Ranked 5th)

6) Weyerbacher:
Tom's Mom - A little off taste, not too good. (Ranked 5th)
Tom - Another one that was repulsive to me. (Ranked 6th)
Phil - Strong and satisfying. The spices were sweet too. (Ranked 2nd)       

Picking out my favorites

So to rank our beers I've come up with a points system. (1st = 6pts, 2nd = 5pts...5th = 2pts, 6th = 1pt). Here are the results:

1st place - We have a tie between Harpoon UFO Pumpkin and Dogfish Head Punkin both with 13pts.

2nd place - Another tie except this time between Wolaver's Organic Pumpkin Ale and Ithaca Country Pumpkin both had 10pts.

3rd place - A third tie between Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Schlafly Pumpkin Ale with 8pts each.

To me it seems that the statement "like mother like son" holds true in our pumpkin beer tasting as Ithaca, Dogfish Head and Harpoon UFO were ranked as the three best by both Tom and his Mom.

I on the other hand appreciate different tastes and enjoyed the Schlafly, Weyerbacher and Wolaver's the most. 
Since we only had a test group of 3 different tasters I've consulted for the number ranks (out of 100) for all the beers that were part of our tasting for a better understanding of where other people place them when compared to one another.

Beer Advocate ranks (average):
Dogfish Head Punkin - 89
Harpoon UFO Pumpkin - 81
Ithaca Country Pumpkin - 84
Wolaver's Organic Pumpkin Ale - 78
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale - 88
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale - 94

Looks like the Beer Advocate community agrees more with my choices haha. It just goes to show that everyone has different tastes and ideas of what makes a pumpkin beer good. What's even better is that I thought I was going to pick Harpoon UFO Pumpkin as my favorite since it consistently has been every year and I couldn't stop talking about how great it was. It came as a huge surprise when I found out that I ranked it 5th out of 6, which Tom thought was hilarious.

With the ever growing list of new Pumpkin beers that come out each year it's hard to keep up sometimes. Breweries even tend to put a slight variation on their Pumpkin beer formula, which results in a different experience drinking the same beer each year. As a beer blogger I hope to share with you some of my insight as to which pumpkin beers out of the list of hundreds are worth spending your hard earned cash on!

Please comment on my Facebook (Phil Spadanuta) or my twitter (@philchesteak) and let me know what you think of this post. Have you tried any of our final six and have input to give? Is there any pumpkin beers that you feel deserve recognition that we may have skipped over trying this year? Any and all comments are welcomed and appreciated.
If you'd like you can also check out my post from last year of The Top 5 Pumpkin Beers of 2012.

Thanks guys and keep it here at for all of my opinions on the craft beers that you must try in your lifetime!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beast Bitter

A knight's worst dream is a bitter beast waiting for him in that final throne room as he tries to reach the princess in peril, or if he's a bit more on the selfish side, a room filled with treasure. However, if you switch the order of the words you are left with Beast Bitter, which has a completely different meaning and is instead a beer that will have the knight(you) and the dragon(your mortal enemy) partying until the wee hours of the night as they discuss past relationships and how they both hate their jobs.

Beast Bitter is the second Middle Ages Brewing Company beer I am reviewing that my amazing friend Erica got for me on her trip to Syracuse, NY. Beast Bitter is an Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB) more on the malt end of the spectrum which results in a fruity and toasty tasting beer.

  Every time I try a new beer this is the beautiful sight I'm greeted with

Poured from a 12 oz bottle Beast Bitter is a nice amber orange color and smells of citrusy hops and toasted grain. I took a sip and the most noticeable flavor was that of toasted grain, which perfectly complimented the smell. As I continued drinking I began to notice some citrus notes with a non-overpowering bitter after taste. The carbonation was also well done and made the beer as good as it was and without it, Beast Bitter wouldn't have had the bite to it that I liked so much.

Beast Bitter is not overly inventive or as different as some of the other beers I've tried, but instead a beer for beer lovers to enjoy that want a nice standard beer that is consistently good, and at 5.3% ABV it packs a little more punch than most commercially successful beers.

Great from start to finish, I will be drinking this again in the future, right after I get a decent chestplate and shield so I could make the journey to the magical land of Syracuse, New York feeling prepared for the monsters that await me there.

 Instead of Mead they should have been drinking this in the Middle Ages

Beast Bitter is brewed by the Middle Ages Brewing Co. located in the upstate town of Syracuse, NY, where castles and dragons are abundant.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bullseye Wholesale Beverage: A place you can find beer prices right on target!

Most of the time when you visit my Beer Blog you expect to hear about the beers I've been drinking and what makes them so great (or not so great in some cases). While it's true I love drinking beer and writing reviews on each one, the whole process and my blog wouldn't be possible without the wonderful beer retailers and beverage centers of Long Island. In the past I've written blogs on different beer stores that I frequently visit and why I continue to do so today. Recently I had the opportunity to continue in this trend and speak with Kurt Meyer Jr., the owner of Bullseye Wholesale Beverage in Smithtown, NY.

In 2009, Kurt Meyer Jr. and his father Kurt Meyer Sr. opened Bullseye Wholesale Beverage to much success. Before its opening the Smithtown area was pretty barren when it came to other beverage centers located in the area. Kurt and his father saw an opportunity to get their start in the beer business and with the help of a friend they bought the vacant building. The rest is history.

It's been five years since its opening, but Kurt continues to run Bullseye just as he did when it first opened. He makes sure that the shelves are always filled with a variety of delicious beers, including craft beers and limited releases that are normally hard to find. I've also noticed that his prices are on average lower than some competing beverage centers I go to, which I asked him about.

"If the prices are good and the product is there then people will come in. I'm trying to win customers, not increase the size of my bank account."

Low prices and fresh beer seem to be the winning formula for Kurt and Bullseye Wholesale Beverage, but running the store as smoothly as he does wouldn't be possible without the help of his supportive family, who also help out at the store as employees. Kurt's fiancé Casey normally works the register at the front of the store and always greets me with a smile when I come in. His sister-in-law Meghan and cousin Sascha also work there. 

I asked Kurt what some of his favorite beers are, and what beers got him to be the beer lover that he is today. He told me that initially he wasn't much of a beer drinker and would only drink German wheat beers because he didn't know what else was out there. Then one day a beer came into his life that changed his opinion on beer forever.

"If I had to pick one beer that opened up my beer drinking world it would have to be Stone's Russian Imperial Stout. It was just so rich, powerful and sweet, unlike anything else I have tried before. "

For a first time choice of drinking a craft beer I don't think he could have made a better decision. Other beers Kurt likes include Ballast Point's Sculpin IPA, Lagunitas Sucks and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin.

Every experience I have had at Bullseye Wholesale Beverage has been a positive one. In addition to their great prices, Kurt has come through for me on multiple occasions. This year I was able to try Stone's R & R Coconut IPA collaboration beer thanks to him.

If you're looking for one of the best places to buy beer from with the most variety in the Smithtown area, look no further than Bullseye Wholesale Beverage.

Kurt Meyer Jr. and his fiancé Casey make Bullseye Wholesale Beverage a winning beer store

Bullseye Wholesale Beverage is located at 395 Middle Country Rd. in Smithtown, NY. Their slogan is: "A beer is not just a beer. All told, there are 27 different styles of beer, with a further breakdown of 49 substyles. Have you tried them all?"


Monday, September 9, 2013

Middle Ages Apricot Ale

Recently on her trip to Syracuse, New York, my friend Erica made a visit to the Middle Ages Brewery and picked up an assorted six-pack of the different beers they brew. I never heard of the Middle Ages Brewing Company before she mentioned them to me, let alone any of their beers. Trying one new beer is exciting enough for me, but six?! It's like a dream come true. The first beer of the six that I will be writing about is Middle Ages Apricot Ale.

Mmm apricots

Apricot Ale is just as you would imagine it being; a lightly carbonated, fresh and fruity beverage that was perfect to enjoy at the tail end of my summer. Just like the bottle it comes in, Middle Ages Apricot Ale pours a light orange color that is pleasing to the eye. The amount of carbonation was just right and gave this beer a head that wasn't too large or even worse, non-existent. The smell of apricots was enjoyable as I raised my glass to try a sip. 

Before I say whether or not Middle Ages Apricot Ale is "the bomb" as Jesse Pinkman would say, one side note: I've tasted a ton of different fruit beers with varying degrees of fruitiness. A lot of the companies brewing these beers seem to fall into the problem of making a beer that just tastes like a beer with a hint of fruit flavor. Luckily Apricot Ale doesn't fall into that category. 
Middle Ages Apricot Ale is delicious. It's a sweet beer, but not overly sweet. It's not as sweet as let's say a Starburst candy, but damn is it good. The tanginess sticks with you throughout the drinking experience. Apricot Ale is also a very light beer (4.4% ABV) so feel free to enjoy two or three in a night with little worries of drunken stupor. I know if I had more than one bottle I would have!

It reminded me of when I used to put a spoonful of Smuckers Apricot Preserve on my toast when I was younger. Middle Ages Apricot Ale is filled with delicious apricotty flavor and I would love to drink more of it again in the future.

Thank you for the delicious beer Erica and Middle Ages Brewing Co!!

Think this in beverage form

Apricot Ale was brewed by Middle Ages Brewing Company located in Syracuse, NY. It's the first Middle Age beer I've done a blog on.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tröegs Java Head

Saturday is the perfect day to buy beer, especially at the start of the beautiful, sunny Labor Day weekend. While I think you should never need an excuse to have a barbecue, Labor Day is usually everyone's go to holiday to justify one last summer meat cooking extravaganza before the kids go back to school and leaves start falling off the trees.

Last night I tried a beer I've never had before; a coffee stout made by Troegs
the same people that brought us Nugget Nectar:

The first thing I noticed when I saw this six pack of Java Head was the packaging. There's a skull on every bottle that has two coffee kettles that are pouring coffee for eyes, a bowl of coffee beans for a nose and seven tall glasses of beer that comprise the mouth. I don't know who did the artwork, but it's one of the most interesting pieces I have seen on a beer bottle. 

I poured the beer into my tulip glass and was left with a foamy beer with the perfect amount of head.

It tasted as good as it looks

I took a sip and my taste buds were high-fiving each other as they indulged themselves in a very delicious beer. Java Head should be known as the standard of what makes a good coffee stout. The smell perfectly compliments the taste for a very pleasant beer drinking experience. Throughout the night Tom and I couldn't stop drinking Java Head into the early hours of the morning as we attempted to beat the bullet hell Steam game Jamestown on Divine difficulty.
That's one dark tasty beer!

We almost finished the whole six-pack with no trouble and we both agreed that Troegs Java Head is a beer not to be missed, especially for those who enjoy stouts and darker beers.
Java Head was made by Troegs Brewing Company located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It has an ABV of 7.5% and will make you wish all beers tasted this good! It's sold in six-packs and available for around $12.

Life is filled with many different beers, but not all of them are created equal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Founders Rübæus

Founders is one of my favorite brewing companies and one whose releases I look forward to every year. Lucky for me Founders always has their beer release calendar readily available on their website, so I know when to look for my Founders Favorites (that's my new term!) in my local beverage stores Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage and St. James Beverage. The calendar is regularly updated every year to account for their new releases and the elimination of some older beers. When looking at the calendar for this year I was shocked to find out that their cherry beer, Cerise, that came out last year was no longer being brewed and would not be available to buy this summer. Cerise was one of the best cherry beers I've had so you could imagine my disappointment. That disappointment quickly faded when I discovered the beer that was taking its place this year for a summer release.

And that beer is Rübæus, Founders new raspberry beer. During the brewing process, fresh raspberries are added at five separate times which give this beer its deep red color and intense raspberry flavor.

The smell is also dominated by raspberries and the taste is sweet and fruit-filled down to the very last drop. I can drink Rübæus for weeks and not get tired of it, which is what I have been doing. I've already bought two 4-packs both of which there is not one bottle of beer left.

Simply said, every time I drink Rübæus it's a magical experience. The raspberry taste is just so good. When I'm enjoying a bottle around friends who haven't tried it before I always make sure to have them try a sip and tell me what they think. So far every person that has tried Rübæus has told me that they like it and not just like it, they like it a lot.

  My glass of Rübæus never stays this filled for too long

This is one of those beers that is so good that I wish they released it in more than just a 4-pack (I'd gladly welcome a 36-pack of Rübæus being sold in stores). Every time I buy Rübæus the four measily bottles of it don't manage stay in my fridge for more than a week, especially when sharing with friends.

I really hope Rübæus doesn't go the way of Cerise and is still being brewed next year so I could enjoy it again next summer. Right now it holds the title for "My Favorite Beer to drink during the summer," and it doesn't look like it will be dethroned any time soon.

Rübæus was created by Founders Brewing company of Grand Rapids, Michigan and has an ABV of 5.7%. A 4-pack currently goes for $13.99 (plus bottle deposit) at Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage and is still available there right now! What are you waiting for go get yourself a 4-pack of Rübæus!!!

Mr. White agrees that Rübæus is the bomb diggity yo!@

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

R & R Coconut IPA (Robert & Ryan / Rip Current / Stone)

So the other day I was browsing Facebook as anyone with some downtime would do and came across a picture posted by Bullseye Beverage located in Smithtown, NY. I've followed their page in the past and have done some beer shopping there before, but I haven't seen any new posts from them until recently. It just so happens they posted a picture of a beer I have been waiting to try since hearing about its conception.

The picture Bullseye Beverage posted that got me in my car within minutes

R & R Coconut IPA is the most recently released Stone 2013 Collaboration beer and one that I have been waiting for to appear in my local beer distributors. If you read my last post on W00tstout you know that I love trying all of the Stone Collaboration beers that come out each year, as long as I can find them. When I heard Coconut IPA was going to be their next one I kept a close eye until it popped up in my news feed.
I showed up at Bullseye, bought a bottle and was on my way. The next decision I had to make was when to enjoy this delicious sounding beer. My friend Dan was just conveniently enough having a barbecue over the weekend so I brought my R & R with me so I could get other people's opinions as to what they thought of the beer.    

Nothing like a good beer on a sunny day, especially with barbecued meats involved

After everyone arrived at the barbecue, I handed out samples to my friends who appreciate a good beer or those just bold enough and willing to try something new. This is unfortunately where the sad truth comes in; R & R Coconut IPA just isn't as good as I expected it to be. 
While I was expecting a fruity, sweeter IPA I was left with a pretty standard one that tasted simply like an IPA and nothing more. I'm not saying that it was a bad beer (Stone always produces quality beers), just one I wanted more of a flavor out of. The consensus of my fellow barbecue goers was similar. While initially enthralled at the idea of a coconut IPA, they too were surprised when they took a swig of R & R. We did all get a slight hint of coconut, but not enough to satisfy our Hawaiian cravings. I ended up finishing the bottle with no one else fighting me for it.

Anyone looking for a coconut beer is far better off trying Kona's Koko Brown Coconut Ale, which contains a flavor that is significantly more coconutty than R & R. I guess this is a lesson taught to me that not every Stone Collaboration beer will blow me away. You drink some good beers in life and then you drink some not so good ones.

If my post didn't scare you away from the notion of a coconut IPA, you will probably still be able to find a bottle of R & R if you look around. R & R Coconut IPA has an ABV of 7.7% and was created by Robert Masterson & Ryan Reschan (two homebrewers), Paul Sangster and Guy Shobe of Rip Current Brewing and Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

W00tstout (Stone / Farking / Wheaton)

W00tstout is the first and only Stone 2013 Collaboration beer I have spotted so far this year at my local beer distributors. In the past, I've tried to get my hands on as many Stone Collaboration beers as possible. Every year, since 2008, they have come out with about 2 to 5 different offerings, with three different brewers working on each one. Stone is always one of the brewers, while the other two spots are filled with other well known breweries.

Stone's idea with these beers is to have no boundaries when it comes to usable ingredients in the brewing process. They work with these other brewers to create some of the most unique beers they can come up with. Some of their past collaborations include Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout and Japanese Green Tea IPA.

I've been fortunate enough to try 2011's More Brown Than Black IPA, and 2012's TBA, Saison du Buff, and "The Perfect Crime." The main draw of these collaboration beers for me, besides their unique combinations, is the fact that these beers are only brewed once in a lifetime. Once they're all consumed that's it! You can no longer get/try/taste these beers ever again.

I think that's enough of a backstory for Stone Collaboration beers, let's move on to w00tstout.

W00tstout was created by Greg Koch of Stone, Drew Curtis of and Wil Wheaton of Star-Trek/Big Bang Theory fame. The beer is brewed with wheat (that was Wil Wheaton's idea if you hadn't guessed it), rye and pecans all aged in bourbon barrels. At 13% ABV it's no laughing matter and the bottle should definitely not be tackled by yourself (as I learned the hard way...oops).

The smell of w00tstout right as you crack open the bottle is strong, bourbon and rye mostly. Once you take a sip you fully realize what a complex, different beer you have here. My first thoughts when it came to the taste, besides having a strong alcohol content, was that of a coffee flavor. As I sipped it more and more the taste of pecans came out as well as the bourbon, with a hint of rye. A little bit of chocolate is in the flavor too. To summarize, w00tstout is delicious and the pairing of all the different flavors works well in this beer.

I would definitely drink this again, but it probably won't be around much longer. If you're like me and like to try new, very rich beers it will be in your best interest to track down a bottle of w00tstout while you still can and savor it. Stone has created another most try beer yet again!

I may be tired, but that beer is freakin delicious!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shipyard Melonhead

I always like to try new beers, especially of the fruit variety. I've had Blueberry Ale, Cherry, Black Raspberry Lambic, Coconut, etc. Some people would prefer to keep fruit out of their beer, but I welcome it with open arms. I love the taste of fruit normally so a fruit beer is always tempting for me to try.

While looking for a six-pack to pick-up at Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage on the way to my brother's place I came across something I've never seen before; a watermelon beer. The second I saw it, I thought to myself "Damn I have to try this." The picture on the bottle's label of a pseudo Ninja Turtle Watermelon headed Horseman also made my decision a lot easier.

Melonhead, brewed by Shipyard pours a light orange and didn't have much of a head right out of the bottle (maybe there should have been a headless watermelon horseman on the front).

It smelled like a combination of well, watermelon and beer. The taste is what really surprised me. I took a sip and was reminded of eating a watermelon candy. I had other people at my brother's try it as well and we all agreed on one thing; if the Jolly Rancher company made a drink based on their watermelon flavor this would be it. I also thought Japanese Melon soda.

While Melonhead is listed as a Spring beer on I think it's the perfect summer beer to enjoy among friends. I took my time enjoying each bottle and getting acquainted with the melon flavor of the beer.

This was one of the most out of the ordinary beer drinking experiences I've ever had, but one I'm glad I took the chance on. At 4.4% ABV Melonhead won't have a major effect on your dancing ability or overall confidence, but it's still a tasty beer. Give it a try!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mexican Cake

 I'm always interested to see what breweries from other states offer in the way of new delicious beers to try. I've had my share of beers from the Northeast, so it's a new experience every time I get my hands on a beer from a state I don't normally get to enjoy beer from. Two nights ago I got to try a world class beer as classified by Beer Advocate, my favorite beer reviewing website, that received a score of 96 out of 100 and that was made by a brewery located in South Carolina. That brewery is Westbrook Brewing Company, a brewery that I recently discovered thanks to Marty at St. James Beverage who got in a selection of their beers recently.

Mexican Cake, besides having some nice hand drawn art on each bottle's label, is a very unique beer with a mix of many different flavors. It's described as an imperial stout brewed with cocoa nibs, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans and habanero peppers. This combination of flavors is something you wouldn't normally see in most beers and is experimental by all means. Luckily the experiment turned out to be successful.

Immediately after opening the bottle the smell of all these different ingredients fight for the prime real estate in your nostrils. The cocoa and peppers stand out the most. The taste has more of a balance between the four ingredients with a slight burning sensation experienced by your taste buds with each sip (what were you expecting? It's habanero!). The cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla, masked by the spiciness of the peppers initially, will all slowly start to come out and say hello as you drink the beer more and more.

Overall this makes for a very enjoyable beer drinking experience, as long as you don't mind a little spice in your life, or throat for that matter. The burning sensation is never overwhelming, but sticks with you throughout the drinking period. You get more and more accustomed to it as you get closer to the bottom of the bottle.

Mexican Cake falls at 10.5% ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and in no way should be consumed alone. I drank my bottle with the help of my two friends Tom and Dave. We're all fans of stouts and Mexican Cake was a great way to commemorate a night where the three of us were reunited after not seeing each other for awhile.

If you can find yourself a bottle of Mexican Cake at a local beer distributor or through a trade via Beer Advocate I highly recommend getting one.

Dave is concerned for my well-being after hearing of the habanero peppers in Mexican Cake