Thursday, December 31, 2009

more gustatory libation in 2010

As 2009 is about to end in less than 12 hours, it is only fitting to look ahead to some upcoming venues for acquiring tasty victuals and excellent libations in the coming year. In addition to the Heavy Seas Oyster Fest as previously noted, the following larger scale food and beveraging events have been announced by the Trigger Agency for 2010. Although many of the below events will be touring to several sites in Maryland, DC, Virginia, and North Carolina, I'm listing the stops local to Baltimore here. More details can be found at their respective sites (which have not been completely updated for the new year quite yet):

I look forward to stopping by at least some of these in the coming year (fingers crossed). To better keep track of these upcoming festivals, I've started an events calendar at the bottom of this site. Please feel free to let me know of any Baltimore-local events worthy of being added.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Clipper City washed under the Heavy Seas?

Thanks to Geistbear, I was turned on to the brewing (hah) story that Clipper City Brewery may be changing their name as part of a rebranding effort for the new year. This will lead them to officially become "Heavy Seas," which is currently the name of their line of higher-ABV beers. While there hasn't been an official press release from them at this point, their use of a new logo (above) and referring to themselves as "Heavy Seas brewers" in recent announcements seems to be consistent with this.

While not terribly newsworthy, the idea of a well-established and successful brewery completely changing it's name for a purely marketing reason is an interesting decision. I've long felt that Clipper City's overall brand has suffered somewhat for having several lines of beer that are graphically and nominally different than each other - namely, the Heavy Seas line, the Clipper City series (with includes the further branded outliers of the Balto MarzHon and McHenry), and the Oxford Ales line. Yes, brand uniqueness can be important, both for building name recognition for specific brews and maintaining historical tradition (the Oxford series exists as a distinct entity because Clipper City took over the Oxford Brewing Company in 1998, for example). That noted, it is not immediately obvious to the casual observer that beers from each of these lines are, in fact, made by the same brewery.

I take no particular issue with the Heavy Seas name, as it is awesome. However, the traditionalist in me wishes they would have stuck with Clipper City, and reorganizing the brands around that. Head brewer Hugh Sisson originally chose the name in 1995 due to Baltimore being the first US port to develop and build the clipper ship, as a nod to the history of the area. From their site:

The Clipper ship is the symbol for a strong nautical and maritime heritage with a commitment to craftsmanship of the highest caliber. It captures both the hardy nature of our working class history and the romance of what lies on the seas ahead. Why be normal when you can be EXTRAARGHdinary? We believe in bringing beer drinkers the quality and flavor of a handcrafted beer while supporting the local communities we serve.

In any case, this is a tiny gripe in what will hopefully be a successful marketing move for a local company that excels at the brewing craft. Hopefully, this will bring a larger audience to some their more niche beers in the Clipper City and Oxford lines. More details on how the rebranded beer series will look can be found at BeerInBaltimore.

Although they've remained officially silent on the naming issue, today Clipper City announced its beer line-up for the coming year:

Winter 2010

HOLY SHEET - Über Abbey Ale 9% ABV - A Belgian Abbey style that is both aromatic and full bodied. It will benefit with aging up to two years.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. January.

SIREN NOIRE - Chocolate Stout 8% ABV - English style imperial stout, fermented and flavored with imported Belgian chocolate nibs. Smooth and easy drinking. Named for the Sirens who lured seafarers off course and ultimately to their demise.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. February. NEW

Spring 2010

Big DIPA - Double IPA 10.6% ABV – Triple hopped during brewing, well balanced with an earthy hop aroma and flavor. Brewed with 5 pounds of hops per barrel!!!
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. March.

LETTER OF MARQUE - Hop Rye Porter – Winners from our 2009 Letter of Marque Homebrew Competition will work along side our brewers to create this one time special release. Letter of Marque will feature a different beer every year selected from our national homebrew competition. Historically, a Letter of Marque was a document that made a Pyrate a legitimate professional. Hence, our Letter of Marque makes a home brewer a legitimate professional as well!
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. April. NEW

RED SKY AT NIGHT - Belgian style Saison 7.5 % ABV - country farm house ale. A complex yet delicate ale, brewed with a unique Belgian yeast which develops a spicy, fruity flavor.
Pyrate Fleet – 12 oz and draft - available March thru May.

BELOW DECKS (BARREL AGED) – Barley Wine 10% ABV – Our award winning barley wine which has been aged two ways - in wooden bourbon barrels and cabernet barrels. It will benefit with aging. VINTAGE DATED
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – VERY limited release. May. NEW

Summer 2010

SMOKE ON THE WATER – Smoked Imperial Porter - Details are Top Secret.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz. and draft – limited release. June. NEW

HANG TEN - Weizen Dopplebock 10% ABV – A classic German-style weizen bock, slightly cloudy and bursting with flavor. It will benefit with aging up to two years. VINTAGE DATED. Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. July.

SUMMER ALE - Details are Top Secret.
Clipper Fleet – 12 oz and draft -available June thru September. NEW

Fall 2010

PROSIT! - Imperial Oktoberfest Lager 8% ABV - Malt focused with five types of grain including Vienna and Munich malts - plus a secret extra malt that we use only in our Prosit! Balanced with 3 kinds of hops.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. August.

THE GREAT PUMPKIN - Imperial Pumpkin Ale 8.5% ABV - We add the pumpkin during the mash at precisely the right time to create just the perfect balance of malt, hops, pumpkin and spice.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. September.

THE GREATer PUMPKIN - Imperial Pumpkin Ale 9% ABV tbd - Our Great Pumpkin enhanced by aging in bourbon barrels.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – VERY limited release. September NEW

Early Winter 2010

WINTER STORM - Imperial ESB 7.5%ABV - Brewed with copious helpings of English malts plus US and English hops. Full malty flavors dancing with powerful hop aromas and a lingering, firm hop bitterness.
Pyrate Fleet – 12 oz and draft - available October thru December

BELOW DECKS - Barley Wine 10% ABV - Our English style barley wine - rich, malty, and opulent. Great at time of release but will benefit from bottle aging for many years to come. VINTAGE DATED.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. November

YULE TIDE - Belgian Tripel Ale 10% ABV - Slightly sweet with a complex malty flavor. The spicy flavor comes from our unique blend of Trappist yeast and Belgian candi sugar - making it both aromatic and flavorful. It will benefit with aging up to two years. VINTAGE DATED.
Mutiny Fleet – 22 oz and draft – limited release. November

They've also announced their next special event, the Heavy Seas Oyster Fest, taking place on Saturday, February 6, from 12 - 4pm at the brewery:

Thousands of Oysters - 12 Taps - Special Firkins
Live Music - Backstage Access to the Brewery

An All-You-Care-To-Taste fest of oysters and craft beer for the pyrate in all of us!
On tap will be Heavy Seas favorites and special cask ales. The fest also features 6 different kinds of oysters shipped in from around the world, plus several of the top local restaurants serving up their favorite oyster & seafood menu items. Live music and special behind scenes access to the brewery.

Tickets $49 and designated drivers are $35. Adult swim only (Must be 21+ to attend)

Tickets are now on sale here.

Clipper City may be setting sail for new and different waters, but I for one look forward to the treasure they will find there. (Oh, come on! How could I not?)

Monday, December 28, 2009

the Irish Christmas Pirate, and other nog creations

I am not, typically, a consumer of egg nog.

In terms of holiday beveraging, it has never been an important part of my family's Christmas culture, and so has never carried much celebratory merit with me. That noted, my fandom for The Office led me to acquire some nog last year in order to try the horrifying-sounding drink from A Benihana Christmas episode from that series - the Nog-a-sake:

  • 1 part egg nog
  • 3 parts sake

The surprise was that it was not "vile." However, it was also not "good," and as such, not something I will repeat in the future. The problem was that I still had nog remaining, and aside from the standard spiking with brandy or bourbon, I had a lack of creative ways to deal with the surplus. Then Jared became involved, and the result was the glorious Irish Christmas Pirate:

  • 1 part egg nog
  • 1 part rum
  • 1 part Irish Cream liqueur

It's not just tasty - it's damn tasty. The Irish Cream brings out some subtle flavors from the rum-nog combination that aren't as apparent when you have the two alone, which would be the standard Christmas Pirate. For the second year in a row, I am happy to welcome egg nog into my holiday celebrations, which I suppose makes it a tradition that I heartily endorse.

Another nog creation that I have yet to try, but am clearly destined to, is combining egg nog with a stout or porter style beer:

  • 1 part egg nog
  • 1 part beer

I hear-tell that it can either be mixed, or possibly layered for an interesting visual effect. This will need to be examined in the name of SCIENCE.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Periodic Table of Beer Styles

Earlier today, Joe directed me to this poster of the Periodic Table of Beer Styles:

A bit of investigating led me to discover that the author of this image is Delirium Tremens on reddit Beer, who modified it from this more detailed but less visually appealing poster:

I really need to snag this for a wall somewhere... (which, I am aware, can be done here, among other places)

Harpoon Brewery chat today

Todd Charbonneau, head brewer at Harpoon, is hosting an all-day live chat today from the brewery floor until 19:00 EST. The details:

Have you ever wondered what a day on the job is like for the Head Brewer of your favorite craft brewery? Then today, my Friend, is your lucky day! Harpoon's Boston Head Brewer Todd Charbonneau will be hosting a marathon live chat all day today, straight from the brewery floor. Todd will lead you through a day in the life of a Harpoon brewer as the brewing magic unfolds. And, as it so happens, we will be brewing our flagship beer, Harpoon IPA.

Got a question? No problem! Todd will be answering your questions all day. Your beer and brewing-related questions, that is.

So drop in on the live chat any time between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM today to be our special "shadow" brewer for the day!

I'll unfortunately miss out on this due to that whole "work" thing, but Harpoon is a brewery that is doing some cool things in terms of products and events, so I recommend checking it out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Clipper City Gold Ale

Laura and I went out for ribs yesterday, which is as close to a mandate for beer as any meal can be. I was pleased to find that Clipper City Gold was on tap to compliment our repast.

  • Alcohol: 4.9%
  • Serving: 23-ounce draft
Scoring (in solidarity with Charlie the Beer Guy):
  • Appearance: 7 - A deep gold body, with a thick white head that fades to a clingy lace.
  • Nose: 2 - Malty and barely present.
  • Taste: 6 - Bready malt predominates up front, with grassy hop flavor asserting itself in the middle and end.
  • Mouthfeel: 8 - Lighter in body with moderate and balanced carbonation. No aftertaste.
  • Holistic: 8 - Incredibly drinkable, and very well-balanced. This struck me as great for sessioning, be it alone or with a meal.
Overall: 31 - The blonde ale is a tamer style than what I usually seek out to drink, but this impressed me quite a bit with it's balance of unexaggerated flavors and mouthfeel. This is an excellent choice not only as a session beer, but also as a great brew to introduce those used to the American light lager style to the broader realm of beer reality.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clipper City Yule Tide

Clipper City is an excellent local brewery, and their limited edition Mutiny Fleet line of 22-ounce beers is something I haven't kept up with as much as I'd like. In any case, 'tis the season, so I was compelled to pick this up when I saw it.

  • Alcohol: 10.0%
  • Serving: 22-ounce bottle, chilled, served in a freezer-stored Guinness historic-style pint glass
Scoring (in solidarity with Charlie the Beer Guy):
  • Appearance: 4 - Pours a cloudy amber, with a white head foamy head that fades quickly to minimal lace.
  • Nose: 6 - Spices, cloves, and a bit of fruit. A bit tamer than expected.
  • Taste: 6 - Hit of spices, estery-fruits, and sweetness upfront, with the aforementioned sweetness and a booziness asserting themselves more in the middle. Sour notes and alcohol in the finish.
  • Mouthfeel: 5 - Light to moderate-bodied with minimal carbonation, but with a cloying, syrupy quality. Moderate spicy aftertaste.
  • Holistic: 4 - Somewhat disappointing. This seemed a bit unfocused compared with other Belgian Tripels. The flavors involved weren't distinct, and the persistent sticky-sweetness with the sour notes was a bit of a turn-off.
Overall: 25 - Clipper City makes several quite enjoyable Belgian-style beers, and I went in with the assumption that this higher-ABV, limited edition would be more of the same... and it just didn't quite work for me. This isn't a bad beverage by any stretch, but clearly did not attain a level of complexity and balance I'd expect from a high end "flagship" holiday brew. Worth seeking out only if you are a Clipper City fan or a completest.