Barrel-aged beers always peak our interest. And though they’re usually bourbon barrels, current trends in the beer industry are calling for whiskey, scotch, rum, and even wine barrels to get the job done. But do they stack up? It all depends on whose taste buds are involved. Seeing as we’re the ones doing the judging this week with Boulevard’s Rye-on-Rye, it stands to reason to see if you agree with us…
Have you ever pursued a beer for years, only to find that when you actually landed it, your joy was somewhat diminished? I have, and here’s the story about it…
First off, let’s set the record straight. As beer drinkers, we all have that unofficial list of brews in our mind that we’d love to get our hands on. That hoppy IPA from a brewery far away, that stout that slips from our grasp more times that we can count, or that limited run of anything in-between, but there never being enough to satisfy everyone. Sure, we’ve all been there. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about your other list of beers.
If you’re like me with an Untappd account, this list is a tangible one that you see pop up on your home screen every time the app is open. It’s a list among the lists. In fact, one could argue that it’s the only list that matters. Scoring beers on this list are nothing short of a pipe dream, a rare possibility that only seems to occur when the planets align correctly or when enough money is shelled out. I personally don’t even add beers to this list unless I know they’re going to be difficult to get, ensuring for me that the “Wish List” is like my own personal “Make-a-Wish” foundation that grants requests every couple years or so. These are the true white whale beers, and every serious craft drinker has them on their own personal bucket lists.
Over the past few years, I’ve gone out of my way to score a few from my list. Maine Dinner. 3 Floyd’s Dark Lord. Bell’s Black Note. Sam Adam’s Utopia. Burnt Hickory’s Charred Walls of the Damned. Whether by being the beneficiary of someone else who bought them, going in on a purchase together, or buying them myself, they have all become part of liquid history. Crossing them off the list has been weirdly gratifying in a way that only other craft beer people would understand. And sure, something else always gets added to the list, but the pursuit to find these beers has always been what it’s all about. The hard work always seems to pay off.
Enter Canadian Breakfast Stout by Founder’s Brewing Company. For those who know beer, this was virtually unattainable unless you were willing to fork over in excess of $300 for a bottle. A true whale in the pod, this stout only saw a limited production run of bombers in 2011, and a brief resurgence in 2014 on draft only. Few had the opportunity to have it, which made it that much more enticing. I contemplated pulling the trigger on the steep price more than once, just to satisfy my curiosity and finally put to rest the longing for such a gem. However, as a final piece to the barrel-aged series releases of 2017, Founder’s announced that they would be opening the vaults and releasing the long-sought after CBS, causing nothing short of pandemonium and elation among beer fans everywhere. And so, in the first week of December, it hit the shelves. EVERYWHERE. And therein lies the problem.
What problem you ask? Well, let me put it this way. Remember when the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, putting an end to the seemingly endless streak of not winning one since Babe Ruth got traded? How about the Cubs winning it all in 2016, finally shutting up the people who claimed the curse of the goat was going to keep them from what they had been wanting for the past 108 years? Or what about our own Cleveland Cavs finally taking it all last year? The goal finally achieved, the inevitable question lingers: WHAT NOW??? You see, in some sick and twisted way, I did want the streak of not finding CBS to eventually end, but I wanted it to be elusive enough to merit a feeling of satisfaction when I did. With the floodgates being opened and every Tom, Dick, and Harry being able to get their hands on a bottle, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow had been cheapened. Heck, I was able to get my hands on 4 bottles of it myself, while being in 2 different states during the week it came out. For some reason that I just can’t seem to make sense of, I didn’t want it to end this way.
So, after finally getting to taste a beer that was on my wish list for years, I can say it truly is one of a kind. A beast of a stout brewed with real Canadian maple syrup, it will always hold a special place on my wall of bottles. But I’m always going to wish that it just would have been a bit harder to get there in the first place. And though I may be the only one that will be looking this gift horse in the mouth, I’m OK with that. After all, the wish list goes on…
Ok, let’s face it–we’ve all had our bad experiences with beer before. Too sour. Too bitter. Too flat. Too malty. Too carbonated. As seasoned craft beer drinkers, we’ve come to expect the disappointments from time to time, knowing full well that for every bad beer on the shelf, there’s sure to be 10 good ones to restore our faith in trying again. But have you ever just not been able to open the beer at all? In what has got to be a first for both of us, we needed to employ the use of some unconventional tactics in order to get to the beer itself. Watch and see…
Phone: (216) 771-4404
Flagship Beers: Dortmunder Gold Lager, Eliot Ness Amber Lager, Holy Moses White Ale, Burning River Pale Ale, Commodore Perry IPA, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Seasonal Beers: Conway’s Irish Ale, Hop Madness DIPA, Chillwave DIPA, Rally Drum Red Ale, Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA, Oktoberfest, Nosferatu Imperial Red Ale, Ohio City Oatmeal Stout, Christmas Ale, Blackout Stout
Special Releases: Alberta Clipper Porter, Altbier, Ales for ALS, Imperial Smoked Porter, Hop by Numbers IPA, Lawn Seat Kolsch
The Down Low: If you’ve shown up at any backyard barbeque in the past 20 years or so, chances are somebody showed up with the Great Lakes sampler pack for everyone to share. It’s always a go-to option for a last minute beer stop, it satisfies beer drinkers of several different styles in one convenient box, and it makes you look like you’re the only one that cares about good beer in a sea of other macro beer choices that everyone else grabbed from their nearest gas station.
Great Lakes Brewing Company has been in business since 1988, and although we have sampled most of their beers more times in our beer drinking careers than we can count, we never hesitate to grab the next new one that they make. Their styles have grown over the years to include just about everything out there, and even though they aren’t the absolute best examples of most of those styles, there’s something to be said for being able to make them all on a large scale. Serving a good portion of the northeast region of the United States, as well as adapting to trends in the craft beer industry such as canning beers and barrel-aging everything, Great Lakes has ridden through waves of changes over the years and continued to keep their heads above the water.
Our favorite beers by these guys have always been the seasonal offerings. Near the end of summer, Lake Erie Monster rises from the depths and finds its way on to beer shelves. Nosferatu, the imperial red ale named after the famed vampire, is a must-have when the months turn cooler and Halloween starts showing up in retail stores everywhere. And when the falling leaves give way to snowflakes, there’s nothing like warming up on a cold evening with a Blackout Stout or a Christmas Ale while patiently waiting for the warm weather to return.
Be sure to check out the brew pub itself in the historic market district of downtown Cleveland if you get the chance. With food options galore inside, as well as in the neighboring community, you’ll be hard-pressed to save room for the beer that drew you there in the first place. It’s a great place to stop after a Cleveland Indians game, or before for that matter. And the next time you show up for that barbeque, be sure to grab the sampler pack. After all, everyone wants to feel like a hero once in a while…
Deth’s Tar, an appropriately-named imperial oatmeal stout by Revolution Brewing, is going where few beers have gone before. Besides being ridiculously smooth for a beer that clocks in at almost 15% ABV, it also comes in a can. Join us for the ride…
Naming a beer after a decadent dessert is a tall order. How does a brewery pack in the flavor of a mud cake into its beer, bringing together a rich smell of chocolate and pecans in liquid form? Though we can’t exactly answer a question like that, we will try to answer the question of whether or not the taste of this brew can live up to its smell. Noa Pecan Mud Cake Stout by Omnipollo is our dessert of choice this week…
The term “barley wine” came about some 300 years ago when brewers would age ales in casks for an extended time. They used this term since they used similar processes in wine making, but instead of using fruit, they would use barley. Then, they would get together with wine drinkers and compare the strength and quality between the two. The brewers would normally bring them out once a year, or for special occasions to show off their skills in beer making. Since there weren’t many different styles of beer back then, most barley wines would be just stronger versions of a pale ale with bitters, often leading to them being referred to as old ales or strong ales. Most barley wines originally had ranges of between 8-12% ABV, depending on a few criteria.
Bass was the first brewery to commercially launch a barley wine in 1903, entitled Bass No. 1 Barley Wine. Many breweries followed suit, but it wasn’t until 1975 that the first American brewery, Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, launched one of their own. It was called Old Foghorn, and it was released for mass production. But because they didn’t want to turn people off by thinking they were making beer into a wine, Anchor Brewing removed the space between “Barley” and “wine,” thereby combining the 2 words together for label approval purposes. Sierra Nevada’s “Bigfoot” soon followed afterwards, but was (and still is) a much more hop-forward version of a barley wine.
The history of this style reminds us of what many breweries do today when they barrel-age beers. Could this have been the start of BA beer making? We’re not sure, but learning about this style sure makes one wonder. Barley wines are not as popular as many other styles in the industry today, but are still considered to be the leaders in complexity and high gravity. So if you’re looking for a smooth, complex, high ABV beer as a nightcap, there’s a barleywine out there waiting for you…
An unruly child should never be left with an unattended beer. Why? Not because they’d drink it…most hate the taste anyway. No, it’s more because they would have a hard time resisting the urge to shake it that we’re worried about. Luckily in this case, the beer lived through the experience long enough for us to sample it. Whipped Stout by Stillwater Artisanal and Oliver Brewing Company is a stout meant to be shaken, and after a little help from one of the younger kids in the room, it was more than ready for us to give our input about…
If you’ve been following our recent Beer of the Week activity, you may have picked up on a theme. It’s been a darn cold winter in the northeast, and it’s only just begun.
There are few things that have the ability to warm you up and lift your spirits in the face of bitter cold temperatures like a hearty, bold stout. And the higher the ABV, the easier it is to forget about the astronomical heating bill hitting your mailbox as we speak.
A recent article from the Wisconsin State Journal featured their picks for the best imperial stouts to combat the cold. Check out the article here, and see if any of your favorites made the list.
We’d also love to hear from you! Leave us a note in the comments box, and let us know what you’re drinking this winter.