Beer Review: Surly Brewing Co. Abrasive Ale

Surly Brewing Co. Abrasive Ale

New York City has its share of great breweries and we also get a good supply of out of state beer from the local distributors. Unfortunately not all beer can make it to NYC. Fortunately there are good people who will bring good beer with back from far away lands. Fellow Beer Advocate buddy John R. surprised me with a beer from the far away land of Minnesota, a can of Surly Brewing Co. Abrasive Ale. Surly Brewing started brewing beer in December of 2005 in Minneapolis and was named Best Brewery in America by Beer Advocate in 2007, only 16 months after they opened. In May of 2011, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the “Surly Bill” into law, which allowed breweries that produce less than 250,000 barrels each year to sell pints of their beer at their brewery. This was all due to Surly wanting to open a bigger brewery where people could sample their beer. I have heard a lot about this brewery, yet have not had a chance to try them. I am glad I got to sample one of their most famous beers.

What makes this double IPA interesting is that they use oats as an adjunct. Oats add to the body of the beer and help mellow out hop bitterness. I will say this is one smooth tasting beer.

Appearance: Hazy Gold, Light Orange

Aroma: The aroma of the Citra hops comes through first with grapefruit and tangerines.

Taste: Fruit forward from the Citra with a nice earthy bitterness from Warrior hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium Body rounded off by the oats

Overall: A delicious DIPA. Too bad not available in NYC.

Rating: 4/5

Good stuff!

Here’s to hoping that Surly Brewing gets distributed to NYC one day. Until then I’ll have to rely on the kindness of friends!



2015 NYC Beer Week Opening Bash

Last Friday marked the beginning of NYC’s annual Beer Week in which the city celebrates everything that is New York State beer. This entire week is full of beer filled events showcasing the best New York has to offer (check out for a list). The NYC Beer Week Opening Bash party officially kicked things off with a great event at the Altman Building in Manhattan.

Over 40 brewers from across New York State occupied two floors of the event space. A wide range of craft brewers were represented. From larger brewers such as Ommegang, Ithaca, and Southern Tier, to smaller craft brewers such as Transmitter, Dyckman, and City Island. There was even one brand new New York brewery there debuting their first beer. Headed by Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett, Cuzett Libations is the result of two well known beer personalities in NYC brewing together. Their first beer is Cuzett Grisette which is a 4.3% ABV session saison.

Other beer highlights for me included Chester, NY’s Rushing Duck Ded Moroz with Coconut Russian Imperial Stout. A very interest stout as you can see by the description:

Rushing Duck Ded Moroz

Brewing out of Lakewood, NY, Southenr Tier brought their Grand Arbor Farmhouse Ale. This one was interesting in that it was brewed with maple syrup. The earthy sweetness of the maple syrup was a nice addition to the tartness.

Southern Tier Grand Arbor

I was happy to see that there was a nice selection of cask beer available at the event as well. NYC’s Radiant Pig brought a lovely dry hopped cask version of their Junior IPA:

Radiant Pig Junior IPA

This Strawberry Blond Cask Ale was brewed by NYC’s Alphabet City Brewing Company:

ABC Beer Strawberry Blonde

In addition to all the beer, the were a number of local restaurants serving up snacks to soak up all that beer. From tacos and chili to ramen burgers and pulled pork sushi rolls. There was also a oyster raw bar and pretzel necklace making table.

Fool’s Gold Tacos and Chili

Blurry oysters

Pretzel Necklaces

Ramen Burger

The Bearded Alchemist was even their to mix up some crazy beer based cocktail:

Overall this was a great event. Very well run and organized with plenty of space to drink and eat. I will definitely be attending next year.


Beer Review: Stone+Baird+Ishii Green Tea IPA

Stone + Baird + Ishii Japanese Green Tea IPA

I love Japanese craft beers. I first visited Japan in September of 2011 and I immediately fell in love with the country. So much so that as soon as I came back home from that trip I immediately purchased another ticket to go back. The craft beer culture in Japan is amazing, albeit very young, having only been legally allowed since 1994. Before 1994, a brewery in Japan had to produce 17,000 barrels of beer (this was no problem for big brewers like Sapporo and Asahi), but a change in the laws that year reduced that to only 500 barrels. This is when “Ji-Biiru” (地ビール) or “Local Beer” started to appear. The term “Ji-Biiru” was eventually was replaced by “Karafuto Biiru” (クラフト ビール) which directly translates to “Craft Beer”.  In the past 21 years the Japanese craft beer has exploded. Nowadays there are small breweries popping up everywhere and new craft beer bars open up almost every week in Tokyo.

Stone Brewing Co. has been brewing since 1996 and now is located in Escondido, CA. They are well known for their hoppy beers which are very popular in Japan. I saw Stone and other various California craft brewers on tap at numerous craft beer bars. Since California is as close to Japan you can get within the continental US, those beers arrive in Japan a bit fresher than anything from the East coast would. I didn’t see any East Coast beers in Japan, besides the occasional Brooklyn Lager. Since green tea and beer are the two most consumed beverages in Japan, it almost makes sense that these two flavor profiles be blended together. It also makes sense that Stone Brewing would team up with one of the most popular Japanese craft brewers, Baird Brewing Company. Owner and Head Brewer Bryan Baird officially opened the brewery in 2001 in the city of Namazu, Japan. Since then they have become one of the most successful Japanese craft beer brands and have opened up several tap rooms across Japan. Ishii Brewing was founded by owner and head brewer Toshiyuki Ishii in 2010 in Tamuning, Guam. Ishii worked for Stone for 4 years before returning to to Japan to work at various breweries. It was Ishii who approached Stone about making this unique beer as a project to benefit the 2011 tsunami relief fund.

I absolutely love this beer. I loved it when I first tried in back in 2011 and I love this version as well. The use of Australian Helga hops masks the 10.1% ABV very well with delicious fruity notes.

Appearance: Golden, but with a lot of sediment. I’m guessing that is from the green tea.

Aroma: Herbal tea smell is at the forefront, but the fruity hops support it nicely.

Taste: This stuff is amazing. The green tea and IPA are perfectly combined. Almost like having green tea ice cream at the end of a Japanese meal. There is definitely a bit of a grassy after taste, but it’s very pleasant.

Mouthfeel: Smooth. Real smooth.

Overall: Dear Stone – please make more of this!



So here’s to hoping that this beer will get a yearly release.


Mugs Ale House Mystery IPA Contest

Hop Lovers

Mugs Ale House is the oldest craft beer bar in Brooklyn and is where I tasted many of my early craft beer favorites for the first time. Owner Ed Berestecki first opened Mugs in 1992 in Williamsburg with an 8 tap system, which now has grown to 32 taps and two beer engines for cask beer pours. Mugs hosts many beer events throughout the year, most notably is their Split Thy Brooklyn Skull event in which every beer on tap has an ABV of at least 8% or more. 2015 will be the sixteenth year they will host this event. Back in 2012 Mugs started a new yearly event, the Mystery IPA Contest. Now entering its forth year, I got together with fellow hopheads to enjoy an afternoon of IPA tasting.

The rules.

The concept of the event is very simple. There are 12 IPAs on tap, but none of those IPAs have their brewer’s tap handle (this year there was a 13th IPA included). When you arrive you get a tasting glass and a pencil and paper for taking notes. You get to try all the IPAs as much as you want for 2 hours, then you cast your vote for the IPA number you enjoyed the most.

IPAs #1-9 were behind the bar. #10-13 were pour yourself jockey boxes.

After you cast your vote, you receive a pint glass to drink as much IPA as you want for the third hour. Good thing there was a nice supply of free pizza to help soak up the beer. After the votes were tallied, the generic tap handles were replaced with their appropriate brand name handle.

#10 was Singlecut!

The mystery IPA line up for the afternoon by number:

1) Abita Wrought Iron IPA

2) Alesmith IPA

3) Bell’s Two Hearted

4) Blue Point Mosaic

5) Captain Lawrence IPA

6) Founders Centennial

7) Green Flash Soul Style

8) Greenport Harbor Otherside

9) Lagunitas IPA

10) SingleCut Billy Half-Stack

11) 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die

12) Sixpoint Bengali

13) Peekskill Eastern Standard

Announcing the winners.

The IPA that receives the most votes will be on draft for the next six months. Last year SingleCut won with their Billy Half-Stack IPA, which this year dropped down to 5th place. This year there was a tie for first place! The top two IPAs of the afternoon were Alesmith IPA and Blue Point Mosaic. I voted for Alesmith as my favorite and had the Blue Point Mosaic as my second favorite. This was my second year at this event and I had another great time. I will definitely be back again for 2016.


Beer Review: Westbrook Brewing 4th Anniversary

Westbrook 4th Anniversary

I didn’t know much about Westbrook until last year when people online were eagerly waiting for the release of their Gose in the Spring. My local beer shop had a bunch so I picked up a six pack of cans to discover that it was delicious. Refreshing and tart, it is a great example of a Gose. Brewing out of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, husband and wife team of Morgan and Edward Westbrook opened their brewery in December 2010. Now that they were on my radar, I was on the look out for anything else they make. That’s when I heard about their Mexican Cake Imperial Stout. Aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and fresh habanero peppers, this stout is full of serious flavor. I look forward to it being released again this year.

Celebrating their 4th anniversary, Westbrook released their 4th Anniversary Chocolate Coconut Almond Imperial Stout this past December. So I was sure to pick up a bottle as soon as my local shop got them in.

Appearance: Very dark brown to black. Brownish head.

Aroma: The aroma of Swiss Miss with a little bit of coconut.

Taste: Lots of chocolate with a nice nuttiness from the almonds, but not getting much of the coconut on the palate.

Mouthfeel: Medium Heavy. Lingers in the mouth a little bit.

Overall: A great chocolate stout, but needs a little more impact like their Mexican Cake.

Rating: 4/5

Happy 4th Anniversary Westbrook!

Now bring on that Mexican Cake!


Beer Review: New Glarus Brewing Scream IIPA

New Glarus Scream Imperial IPA

When I think of New Glarus Brewing, I think of incredibly fruity flavors. Brewing out of New Glarus, Wisconsin, New Glarus Brewing has been making great beers since 1993. Founded by Daniel Carey and his wife Deborah Carey, they are best known for their Spotted Cow beer which is a cask-conditioned farmhouse ale sweetened with a little bit of corn. I know them best for their Raspberry Tart Framboise, an explosion of raspberries supported by light tartness. Extremely effervescent like a glass of champagne, the brewery even suggests that this beer be served in a champagne glass. Throughout their nearly 22 years of brewing, they have made a myriad of styles from pilsners to stouts to barley wines and everything in between. Unfortunately for me, New Glarus is not distributed to New York, so getting a chance to taste any of their offerings is a treat. So when my friend came back from his Christmas trip to the Mid-West, he surprised me with a bottle of Scream IIPA.


This limited brewed Imperial India Pale Ale is a hop lover’s dream. Apparently over 10 different hops are used in this brew including Cascade, Chinook, Vic Secret, Brewer’s Gold, New Port, and Columbus. Also in the brew broth is Wisconsin barley and English malts. A delicious example of an IIPA.

Appearance: Golden amber with a slight orange tint.

Aroma: Hops galore. Very fruity hop aroma with hints of pine.

Taste: Slight astringency on the front, but that quickly gives way to the flavor of Cascade and Chinook hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium body.

Overall: A delicious Imperial IPA that hides its 9% ABV well.

Rating: 4/5


So here’s to hoping more New Glarus beers make it to NYC.


Beer Review: Maine Beer Company’s Lunch

Maine Beer Company Lunch

So this new year I have decided to start up my reviews for the beers that I really enjoy. First up for the new year is Maine Beer Company’s Lunch India Pale Ale. Located in Freeport, Maine, Maine Beer Company has been brewing up delicious beers since 2009. Brothers David and Daniel Kleban brew up a wide variety of styles from their Peeper American Ale to their King Titus American Porter to their Barrel Program 1 which uses wild yeast and bacteria and aged in French red wine barrels.

Their Lunch IPA has been one of the brewery’s most popular beers ever since it first released. It is hard to find and usually sold out. Lucky for me, my local bottle shop had one left and I got to taste this wonderful beer.

Appearance: A nice golden orange hue with slight haziness.

Aroma: Hop heaven. Fruity, Citrus, Piney. Everything I love.

Taste: Wonderful fruity hop flavor from Centennial and Simcoe. A little bitterness from Warrior hops balanced by malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Typical IPA feel. Clean finish.

Overall: A delicious IPA. Hopefully I can get more of it!

Rating: 4/5

Now that I have tasted Lunch, I am looking forward to trying their Dinner Double IPA.