Thursday, February 20, 2014

Heady Topper (The Alchemist)

Last night I decided to drink my final can of Heady Topper, a beer brewed by The Alchemist located in Vermont. This beer is normally released in very limited quantities to the New York area and it's especially hard to find on Long Island. Luckily we acquired some from Shoreline Beverage in Huntington (Thanks Stuart!) and Tom and I got to finally try the perfect 100 score rated beer on

I'm going to start by saying that Heady Topper is one of the hoppiest beers, if not the hoppiest, that I have ever drank. On the 16 oz can it even demands that the drinker enjoy Heady Topper right from the can so that the hop aromas they worked so hard to get into the beer don't escape. As the rebel I am, I decided to pour my Heady Topper into a glass (I really just wanted to get a picture of what the beer looks like out of the can).

Alchemist owner John Kimmich wasn't kidding in his lengthy description on the back of the Heady Topper can. The aroma of Heady Topper is off the hop chart! I never smelled a hoppier beer than this one. Heady Topper is an American Double India Pale Ale and is meant to give you "wave after wave of hoppy goodness on your palate" with each sip.

It is in that regard that Heady Topper succeeds. Everything about the beer screams hops and more hops with hops added on top of those hops. In all seriousness though this beer is ridiculously hoppy, almost too hoppy. For those of you who don't like the taste of hops or beers on the bitter end of the spectrum this one isn't for you.

As Tom and I drank this beer for the first time all we could collectively think was that there was almost too much hop flavor within it. By the time both of us got to the end of our cans we didn't want any more hops taking over our taste buds.

I think Tom said it best when he described the experience as taking a handful of hops and then putting it in your mouth and chewing on it. TOO MUCH HOPPINESS even for us hop lovers.

What it's like to drink Heady Topper: putting all of this in your mouth at the same time

Tom and I appreciate a good IPA, double IPA, or even triple IPA, but Heady Topper took it to the next level. Heady Topper had an aftertaste that stuck with us long after we finished drinking the beer. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed drinking Heady Topper (it was very smooth) and I'm glad I did, it just had too much of a good thing. If you're not in the mood for a hoppy beer then by all means don't pick up a can of Heady Topper. You really have to prepare yourself for the Hoptastic experience that you will imminently meet if you decide to pour some into your mouth.
Good, but only when drank sparingly
Heady Topper was brewed by The Alchemist, a brewery located in Waterbury, Vermont. It has an ABV of 8.0% and a hop reading of a planet composed entirely of hops. If you ever see it in stores give it a try, but be forewarned of the hoppy beating your tastebuds will receive after opening a can.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Monday, February 17, 2014

Big Mel and Lisa

Today I'll be doing something I have never done before in a Beer Blog. I'm going to review a beer that was brewed and given to me by a friend. You won't be able to find this beer in a beer store (yet!). I introduce to you a beer that my friend Mel and his family brewed that they call Big Mel and Lisa.

Besides going out of their way to brew a very tasty beer, Mel and his family even took it a step further by creating their own labels for the growlers they put their beer in. When I first took a look at it I was pleasantly surprised at how profession it looked. If I walked into any beer store and saw a bottle of Big Mel and Lisa on a shelf with the rest of the beers they sold I wouldn't think it was anything out of the ordinary. That's how good the label looks. But onto a more important matter. How was the beer??

Poured into my Bull Frog Brewery pint glass, Big Mel and Lisa had a light brown color to it with a bit of cloudiness and had a generous amount of head.

It's hard for me to exactly pinpoint both the smell and taste of the beer. Sweet and malty, Big Mel and Lisa was a very good beer and one that I could not stop drinking. Everything about it to me just seemed well done and balanced in a way that provided a flavor and sweetness I couldn't get enough of. (I think I might have tasted cinnamon undertones and a hint of fruit as well?)

My friend Erica agreed that it was a great beer. We both had multiple glasses of it throughout the night. One thing's for sure; Mel and his family have brewed a beer that, in my honest opinion as a beer blogger, could butt heads with the beers released by the big name companies. Sam Adams and Blue Moon have nothing on Mel and his family operated brewing company.

Well done Mel, Lisa and family on a beer my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed. I can't wait to try some of your future brews!

Big Mel and Lisa was brewed by my friend Mel and his family in Bay Shore, New York. The ABV was around 8.0% and it was given to me in a 32 oz growler for my review.

Thanks Mel! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hopslam Ale (Bells)

Today I'll be talking about a beer that Tom has been anxiously waiting weeks for; Bell's Hopslam Ale:

Up until this year Hopslam has only been available to purchase in areas other than New York and Long Island. Luckily for us the Michigan based brewery decided to give us a taste of what Hopslam has to offer in 2014.

Tom asked Big John of Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage weeks leading up to Hopslam's release if he would be getting some in. Big John said he would see what he could do and he delivered!

Hopslam currently has a 100 score on Beer Advocate and is deemed as one of the best double IPAs in existence. Tom and I had to see what all the hubbub was about so we each got a six pack and set a night aside just to give it a sampling. At 10.0% ABV we knew this wouldn't be a going-anywhere-anytime-soon beer.

Tom's expression was nothing short of sheer excitement before taking his first sip

We both cracked open our bottles and let the tasting experience commence. The smell of Hopslam was that of a sweet, citrusy, hoppy aroma; almost like a sweet grapefruit with hops around it. The appearance was slightly cloudy with a nice light orange color that looked very appetizing.
Tastes as good as it looks, if not better!

The taste was out of this world. It was the absolute perfect balance of hops and sweetness, which allows me to confidently say this statement: Hopslam is the most drinkable IPA I've ever had. Let me explain. With most IPAs the person drinking is met with bitterness and a biting experience that may be too intense for most people to enjoy the beer. With Hopslam that bitterness is taken out of the equation and replaced with sweetness that is in no way overbearing, but rather welcoming. The honey that Hopslam is brewed with finds its way through the hops and high alcohol content and travels straight to your taste buds with each sip. Like I said before citrus also makes its way to the flavor, almost like they took a honey soaked grapefruit or tangerine and blended it into a delicious beverage. The hops are still present in the flavor, but are more in background as they let the honey and sweetness take center stage.

I wanted to open another bottle right after finishing my first, but I decided to hold myself back from the temptation. It was 10.0% ABV and I was already feeling tired before drinking it. After one bottle I was ready to lie down.

While drinking I came up with a clever analogy that Tom thought I should use to describe Hopslam in this review. Think of other IPAs as a sweet potato. A cooked sweet potato, plain with nothing added to it. While it's good as all sweet potatoes are, there's something missing. Something that could have been added to make the sweet potato eating experience even better. Hopslam is that very same sweet potato except it's slathered in butter and has cinnamon and brown sugar sprinkled on it. Why eat a plain sweet potato when you can have a superior one with delicious sweetness added to it? I could use the same argument for Hopslam. Why drink an average IPA that doesn't sway too far from the IPA formula when you can have Hopslam that was brewed with honey?

I rest my case. Hopslam is an IPA that should be tried by everyone. It will change your perspective on what makes for a great IPA. You will never look at other IPAs the same way again after trying Hopslam...I guarantee it.

Bell's Brewery is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hopslam is brewed only once a year every winter and the supply of it is very limited in Long Island and the New York area. Call your local beer store and get it while you can! 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Southampton's Russian Imperial Stout Release Party 2014

Each year breweries from around the world create their signature beers for the enjoyment of their loyal customers, who know that they will be getting a beer that they love from the companies they trust. Southampton Publick House is one of those very companies. Every year around the end of January they release their Russian Imperial Stout both on tap and in bottles for all beer lovers to enjoy. The same day they also release some of their very limited brews, some of which have never seen the light of day before. Attending one of their release parties (they usually fall on a Saturday) is the only way to try these beers for yourself and to grab a couple of bottles before they're gone until next year.

The 2014 RIS release party fell on February 8, this past Saturday. Without question Rob, Tom and I made the journey to the Publick house about an hour away so we could revel in some fine beer drinking.

The view of the Publick House on the cold morning of February 8, 2014

We arrived at the Publick House extra early so we could each get one of the beer tickets they were handing out at 9AM, guaranteeing you the maximum number of bottles of each beer. On each ticket you then write in how many beers you would like to purchase, within the limit. They also list the price of each beer and the size of each bottle.

Besides Russian Imperial Stout, which they have every year, this time they had Scotch Ale and Double Ice Bock available for purchase. Southampton Scotch Ale is described as being brewed with traditional Scottish "Golden Promise" malt to deliver the biscuity, slight vanilla character and balanced with imported UK hops. It is 8.4% ABV. The Double Ice Bock is produced when a Bock beer is partially frozen to increase its alcohol content. The process is done twice which why it is called a Double Ice Bock. Its resulting ABV was that of a whopping 18% and the reason why it was only sold in a 7oz bottle and you could only buy one.

After filling out my beer ticket I spent some time talking with the Brewmaster of Southampton, Evan Addario. He asked me where I was from and we talked about the beers he brews. He made me feel welcome and I could tell he loved his job with how friendly he was, especially earlier in the day when he was handing out beer tickets with a big smile on his face as he greeted everyone.

Myself and Brewmaster Evan Addario

We then waited until the Publick House was set to open at 11AM. The time came and we shuffled inside with the rest of the crowd. Evan handed out complimentary Southampton pint glasses to us as we all passed the front counter. The turn out was great and there was a lot of people just as excited to try these delicious beers on tap as we were.

Everyone attending was all smiles as they drank some tasty Southampton beer

As we paid for our beers I got my first taste of Southampton's Scotch Ale in the pint glass provided.

I was met with a very pleasant surprise. The Scotch Ale both smelled and tasted like caramel, sweet delicious caramel. I loved it and couldn't get enough. I even told Evan on 2 or 3 different occasions, as he was passing by, how much I liked it.

Rob also got a Scotch Ale on tap, while Tom went with the Russian Imperial Stout for his first pint.

Good Beers, Good Times

I tried some of Tom's Russian Imperial Stout and while I did like it, I didn't enjoy it as much as the Scotch Ale.

I ended up buying 1 bottle of the Russian Imperial Stout, 2 bottles of the Scotch Ale and 1 bottle of the 7oz Double Ice Bock.

I thought it was funny how much smaller the bottle of Double Ice Bock was compared to the other two offerings. I've never seen beer sold in that small of a bottle before.
On a side note, the Southampton employees who were collecting our orders for us after we showed our receipts were super friendly. They wanted to make sure we got our bottles as quickly as possible with little to no waiting.

 One of the smoothest transactions

After we finished our first pints, we put our purchased bottles in my car and went back inside for some brunch on the restaurant side of the Publick House.

For $15 bucks we got to choose whatever brunch item we wanted as well as an included 12oz draft pour. I ordered the french toast with a side of bacon and a plate of scrambled eggs with toast. Each meal was complete with a garnish which included a piece of strawberry and an orange slice. I chose a 12oz of Scotch Ale to go with my meal.

The best breakfast I've had in a long time

The food was delicious. Everything about it was perfect and I couldn't have asked for a better breakfast. There was nothing left on either of my plates by the time I was through.
Overall my experience at the 2014 Southampton Russian Imperial Stout release party was everything I hoped for plus more. Tom walked away with 3 bottles of Russian Imperial Stout, while I had a spread of everything that Southampton had to offer that day.
Tom and I with some of the beers we purchased

I want to personally thank Evan and the rest of the Southampton crew that made this day possible and so memorable for me and everyone else who attended. I will be back every year you guys have a release party.

Here's a few more shots I took during the day of the event:
  The line outside the Publick House to get a ticket
Tom, myself and Rob waiting on line
The view of the bar

Southampton Publick House is located at 40 Bowden Square in Southampton, NY. They serve brunch and lunch from 12-3PM each Saturday and Sunday and are open 7 days a week for dinner. They have rotating out-of-this-world offerings on tap and I have never left disappointed.

If you liked this blog please check out some of the other ones I've written on my page here including my zany retelling of the Southampton release party I went to two years ago.