Shakespeare in Beer

Ms. Tierney Pomone from Stouts & Stilettos reached out to me and offered the opportunity to do a beer review together. What you see here is our first She Said/He Said Beer Review. We took a stab at Kettleface by Columbia Kettle Works and St. Boniface Brewing Co. 

Be sure to follow Tierney on twitter and bookmark her very nice website.

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Tierney, Kettleface and Shakespeare

Tierney: So, not every day is perfect, and most days are nowhere close to it. This is sometimes why we find ourselves drinking. While certainly not the best coping mechanism, there’s truly an art to taking the edge off a bit while distracting yourself with ‘The People of Happy Hour’ and chatting with your local bartender.

Today I took advantage of this solace directly across the street at the Midtown Tavern. I enjoyed a few Nugget Nectars, a few chicken wings, and the company of at first no one at all, then a good friend, then once again my own solitude.

Tonight was the perfect moment to dive into Kettleface. I’m feeling perfectly honest and also hopeful that once I crack this can I’ll continue to find comfort in a delicious brew.

Since it’s in a can, and called Kettleface, I obviously must drink it direct from the can to my face right? Well, I want to see its color and get a bit of the aroma, so I did pour a small amount into a small snifter for judgment. It’s a deep amber color, and the aroma is very bready, almost biscuity.

Okay, maybe the Nugget is interfering. I just went and drank some water, grabbed a few carrots from the fridge, and queued up some Netflix. Ah Shakespeare in Love, an old favorite. Let’s enjoy this beer with Joseph Fiennes on the tv.

So, I dig into Kettleface, and it was not what I expected. The can tells me it’s a double dry-hopped Imperial Red Ale. Sweet, can’t wait to dig into this hopped up red! Okay wait, at first taste that’s not what’s happening. It’s super grainy. Hang on, more water, more carrots, let’s watch more movie and come back.

Wait wait wait. Untappd says this is 9.2% ABV? My can doesn’t say that! Pretty sure you have to put that somewhere on the label, but okay, here we go. So some of the hops are coming through now, maybe I was just expecting the wrong hop flavor? It says there are Simcoe and Centennial – the less aggressive flavor makes more sense now. Going into a beer blind will give you the most honest outcome, and I’m glad I knew next to nothing about this before opening.

I watched a little more movie and waited for it to warm, hoping this would make it easier to decipher the flavors. 20 minutes into the movie, 20 minutes into this beer. The hops are coming forward, but not in a way I wanted them too. This beer is getting bitter now, but still paired with that grainy flavor I just can’t shake. I don’t know what to do, I don’t really like it. I really want to like it, I don’t want to give up!

“Stage love will never be true love” alas they are right, as I don’t love this beer, and don’t want to pretend that I do. I don’t want to drink the rest. It’s so bitter yet grainy. It’s everything I don’t love in a beer. Parting is such sweet sorrow dear Kettleface, but you were fated for someone else…

Bearcat:

/cracks open Kettleface

//opens email

 ///sips

Hmmm… “The Lady doth protest too much” or not enough. I have known you long enough to know that you don’t like it. Extra points to you for “an honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.” Yet I will ask you to drink it again and see if you remain unimpressed.

I very much like this beer but my biases are all on display here. Columbia Kettle Works is as close to a neighborhood brewery as I am ever going to get. I like their beers and mostly I cheer them on as they make slow steady improvements and growth. So T and dear reader, know that “love is blind, and lovers cannot see”.

I think if you put Nugget Nectar and Kettleface side-by-side you are going to see disappointment as they are in some ways similar but the Nugget Nectar is far more devoted to the hop. Kettleface is not a hop bomb; something to which we have come accustomed.

I like the bitterness as it warms slightly. I think it helps to broaden the flavor profile but it can be off-putting as the beer reaches room temperature. Some beers really open up as they reach this state and improve. Kettleface is best served cool or cold and in that sense, the pounder may do it some disservice.

As You Like It straight from the can, I do think you may have cut off some of the aromas and some nuance from the volatile elements. I love drinking beers from the can but in the glass, this beer was quaffable and did not linger. For me… when it comes to this beer, “I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it” and maybe “my love’s more richer than my tongue.”

I do think this is a great beer but my biases are all out there.  “Above all; To thine own self be true…” this beer may not be for you.

Yes, it is a bit bitter but I will leave you with one last Shakespeare quote: “The course of true love never did run smooth”.

Hops ‘N’ Clocks

Rod Smith and Chad Rieker from CKW with their Major Award

This past Friday The National Watch and Clock Museum hosted their eighth annual Hops ‘N’ Clock beerfest in Columbia, PA.  This was the fourth time I have attended this unique and perennially sold out event.  The National Watch and Clock Museum is one of those great secrets of Central PA.  It’s a hidden gem.  Since opening in 1977 it has grown from less than 1,000 pieces to more than 12,000 artifacts and time pieces detailing humanity’s efforts of tracking the passage of time.

In early July each year the museum invites local brewers and restaurants to take over the building and ply visitors with tasty libations and light fare.  For a small donation ($30) you get a ticket for three hours with a up to a dozen breweries and a near equal number of restaurants each offering generous samples with the opportunity to check out the entire museum.

This year saw a great lineup of Lancaster and York based breweries including, Gift Horse Brewing, Wacker BrewingLancaster Brewing Company, Liquid Hero Brewing, and Columbia Kettle Works; as well as Roy Pitz Brewing, and Troegs. Bailee’s Homebrew & Wine Supplies had an assortment of homebrewed beers and offered tips for prospective and established homebrewers. The fest was not all beer with J & J Miracle Mead and Wyndrindge Farm poured samples of a mead and hard cider.

A number of great food options included two from Columbia; Prudomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen and Bully’s.  Both restaurants have impressive and well curated beer selections if you are ever in the area.

Music was provided by Fire in the Glen playing a lively mix of traditional Irish and Scottish folk/drinking songs.

The sold out event was well attended but not overbooked.  It was easy to get a refill with more than enough of time to try all the offerings.

Many great libations were on hand but some of them stood out more than others:

Odin Stök by J & J Miracle Mead is a fully fermented buck wheat honey mead.  It drinks dry and heavy; tasted of buck wheat honey but lacked any of the sweetness.  This was my first time trying mead and it was an interesting experience.  Clocking in at 18% ABV, Odin Stök was for sipping and would make for a nice after dinner drink.

Citra Wheat by Gift Horse Brewing Company was a well-executed American pale wheat ale with a healthy dose of Citra hops.  Dry and citrusy it made for an easy drinking beer that stood up well among a room full of good brews. Gift Horse’s Roasted Irish Ale was also good with plenty of roasted malts and bready notes.  Gift Horse is still working towards completing their brewery in York but once it is done I plan to pay a visit.

Rülpsen Meister by Liquid Hero Brewery is a Roggenbier.  If you have not heard of the Roggenbier style you can be forgiven.  It was a first for me as well. I don’t know if Rülpsen Meister was true to style as it was my first but it did have a great rye spiciness along with a solid body while being quaffable.  If you get the chance to grab one of these it is highly recommended.  Each year that Liquid Hero has come to this event they bring a surprising style or uniquely brewed beer.  It’s shows commitment to the event and is really appreciated.

Bitter Beer Face by Bailee’s Homebrew was a 100 IBU pale ale that lived up to the great name.  The homebrew was an impressive tasting beer regardless of it being brewed in someone’s garage; I assume.  A intensely bitter pale ale dosed with a variety of hops.  It provided a dry long finish that showed off the resin and dank flavors.

Citra Session by Columbia Kettle Works was the best beer I had all night.  It was perfectly executed and showed off the Citra hop flavors beautifully. Heavy in citrus and tropical notes in the nose with a slight grapefruit.  It was properly bitter with a clean and light mouthfeel and a crisp finish.  Easy drinking and refreshing, Citra Session stood head and shoulders above the rest.  I was also not the only one to think so highly of the most local of brewers attending as Columbia Kettle Works won the “People’s Choice Award.”  Columbia Kettle Works is a short five minute walk from the museum and had plenty of local support.

Hops ‘N’ Clocks was a great event that supports a great museum.  If you would like to attend next year look for it the first Friday after the 4th of July with tickets going on sale in early June.  It is a great time and provides needed support for a community trust and you will be hard pressed to find a more unusual atmosphere for holding a beer festival.

Juxtaposed Breweries Help Define Community Brewing

Even given the explosive growth of the craft beer industry it may seem strange to say that sleepy little Elizabethtown, PA has two breweries. Moo-Duck Brewery opened eight months ago and has a wonderful location a stone’s throw across from the beautiful train station. Then, this past week Cox Brewing Company opened its doors to the general public for growler fills.

A fellow beer drinker and I decided to visit the two during an especially rainy day. What we came to find is two completely different approaches to craft brewing.

Our first visit was to Cox Brewing Company. Cox is a veteran-owned brewery started by Nick Cox and Tim Kreider. Pulling up to the industrial park located brewery you immediately get a sense that these guys are passionate about their service to this country and brewing beer. The winks and nods to military service are everywhere but are not overwhelming and tastefully give it character.

Three beers were on tap: Liberty Lager, 82nd Amber Ale and CH-47 IPA. Talking with Nick and Tim about the beers showed they had put thought into their product and its place in the local market. Cox makes beer for people that may not have considered trying a craft beer. The three brews are as approachable as the men brewing them.

The Liberty Lager is a pale lager brewed for the guy that likes an ice cold Budweiser tallboy but wants something with a bit more bite, or to support a local business. The beer was dry and clean with a easy noble hops bitterness in the short finish.

82nd Amber Ale was the best of the three with a great color and a thick frothy head that sticks to the glass. Medium bodied with a proper malts and hops balance for the style. Tim put this beer as between a Yuengling and Sam Adams and that description nails it. The guy that regularly orders a “lager” at the bar would be wise to consider this one.

CH-47 IPA is a crisp ale with a easy drinking bitterness. CH-47 is not bombed out with hops but instead provides a gateway for the first time IPA drinker. Clean in the start with a slightly dry finish it would make for a nice compliment to a burger.

Brewing beer requires hard work and can be described as an investment of “blood, sweat, and tears.” For Nick and Tim this looks to be true. They are investing themselves in this business. In fact, Tim lost three fingers building a Jockey Box; due what I assume is to an accident with a saw.  Nick and Tim are committed and passionate about both beer and veteran service.

When asked if they plan to sell pints at the brewery they expressed a focus on continuing to to serve their bar and restaurant customers in the area. They do fill growlers and offer generous samples at the brewery making it well worth a visit.

Our next stop was Moo-Duck Brewery; a short five minute drive from Cox. I have visited Moo-Duck about a half-dozen times since their opening and after about eight months I feel like they are starting to hit a stride. The beers are coming into focus; as exemplified by their two seasonal beers now on tap.

Honey! Strawberry Blonde is brewed with 48 pounds of fresh local strawberries, carefully picked and cleaned by hand. By the pictures in the link you can see they are the tiny, bright red variety; these I personally favor. The only thing the beer missed was tiny seeds to pick out of your teeth. Crisp and refreshing but not overly sweet. Its soft pink hue and bubbly light body complimented the flavors well. Strawberry in the nose and slightly tart and sweet in the finish. It was wonderful and the perfect example of what is possible with local seasonal brewing. It is highly recommended.

The last beer of the day was Big Sit Summer Ale, another fruit beer made with lemon and orange peel and dosed with orange blossom honey. The citrus tones are evident in the nose and the honey comes across nicely in finish. Light and refreshing with lemon and orange coming though as equals playing well together. Eminently drinkable this is a great beer to enjoy on your back porch.

Kristen Brubaker was tending bar and again greeted me with a warm welcoming approach and was quick with a refill of my glass. Talking with her that day and with Mike previously reveals the different approach this couple has compared to their new neighbors. Mike (the brewer) and Kristen are former environmental educators. This permeates their approach to both the brewing and the business. These beers and the food they offer are based on what is local and fresh and are just outside the mainstream.

These two breweries are juxtaposed in many ways that provides a fascinating look at the different approaches available within this booming industry. Cox Brewing Company and Moo-Duck Brewery are servicing the same community in different ways; both in brewing style and business plan.

While Cox is sticking to traditional styles, Moo-Duck is trying daring variations on the classics. Cox is servicing local restaurants and only recently started selling growlers. Moo-Duck is slinging the beer at their own bar and only going into restaurants and bars cautiously; as they pointed out in a recent Beer Busters podcast.

But both are clearly committed to the community. Cox is partnered with veteran charities that they support and are doing good by those that served. Moo-Duck partners monthly with a local charity to offer a “charity brew” providing 50 cents from each pint sold.

Moo-Duck and Cox are both an example of what community brewing is capable of providing.  Breweries historically had been and should be part of the community they service.  Seeing this develop in Elizabethtown is adding to the quality of the community.  “Drink local” is not just a slogan. Drinking local beer is good for the economy and for the industry. So if you are in or near western Lancaster county or just passing through… give these two a try.

Beer as Abstraction and Comedic Repetition

If you ever had the pleasure of driving through Elizabethtown, PA you likely got a whiff of what are two of the biggest industries in Central PA; chocolate and dairies.  One is decidedly more pleasant than the other.  On breezy days the roasted chocolate aroma can waft for miles around from the M&M Mars plant.  It is always welcome and inviting.  Central PA has an abundance of chocolatiers. These include M&M, Hershey and preferred by me, Wilbur in Lititz.

In order to supply these plants there are plenty of dairy cows in the area.  Driving around Lancaster county back roads gives you a real sense of just how big the dairy industry is. They are everywhere.

These two facts makes Lancaster Brewing Company’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout a great representative for its namesake. I procured a 22 oz. bomber and poured the dark brown opaque beer into a snifter glass which brought forth a light brown to tan head that laced the glass lightly.  Aromas of bitter chocolate like a 70% cacao dark chocolate bar are accompanied by a soft sweetness and is inviting.  Lancaster Brewing created this with cacao nibs and it is evident with every sip.  This beer is chocolate through-and-through.

It has a velvety texture in the mouthfeel and is thick without the greasiness of some imperial stouts.  The lactose sugars are evident in the finish along with hints of caramel and roasted malts.  The finish is long, of again, cacao.  The beer tastes of Hershey’s syrup but has more of a refined chocolate expression in the long lasting and pleasant finish. This beer is beyond smooth in texture and mouthfeel with 6.8% ABV that is never evident or intrusive.

Deep, dark chocolate again and again given as a single note played over and over. But it works in the same way Portlandia got cacao to work as an example of repetition as comedy. If you like chocolate, especially semi-sweet or bitter chocolate you will love this beer.  The chocolate notes are divided up as you drink. In that the front it is sweeter and along the lines of milk or semi-sweet chocolate. The more bitter and refined dark cacao flavors come in the finish to wrap things up with a flourish. It’s dynamic yet monochromatic not unlike Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White.  This libation is not deconstructing what it is to be “beer” as monochromatic art can change both the concept of abstraction and art but it does let you explore the complexities of doubling down on a singular flavor profile.

Double Chocolate Milk Stout is an excellent dessert beer.  As local strawberries are soon in season, I would highly recommend this as a pairing or do as I plan to the next time and drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream in for a beer float.  It can be found on tap or in 12 oz bottles, but I would spring for the 22 oz. bomber and split it with a friend; it’s just right.

Lancaster Brewing Company’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval.