Quest’s Señor Kaldi Challenge

Quest Brewing Company held a one-night only event to try four pepper-infused, barrel-aged versions of their Kaldi Imperial Coffee Stout, my favorite Quest brew.

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The cast of taste-bud tormentors, from mildest on the left to hottest on the right:
1. Poblano (are there really peppers in this?)
2. Habanero (seriously, they called this a challenge?)
3. Aji Dulce (I’M SO SORRY I DOUBTED YOU)
4. Cask Chipotle (does my insurance cover uvula replacement?)

The first two tasted very similar and had next-to-no heat; I felt like the “medium” level was skipped. While it was fun to try these peppered brews, you won’t find me ordering them by the pint.

I immediately ordered the Nitro Milk Stout, which slowly quenched the burn, and watched my imbibing neighbors turn the taproom into a dance floor.

When the music died, I snagged owner and brewmaster Don Richardson and asked him about his new Milk Stout. Made with roasted barley and chocolate, this super creamy stout’s smooth body is thanks to the combination of lactose and nitro. The beer had a gorgeous color and thick head, yet the flavor was light, sweet and slightly earthy. And this brew weighs in at 5%, putting it on the lower end for milk stouts. If you have a friend who refuses dark beers because she expects it to be heavy or bitter, then order a taste of this one and make her a stout convert.

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Nitro Milk Stout: sweet salvation

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Milk Stout Risotto

Step aside white wine: beer is my new favorite risotto ingredient.

As much as I love beer, I’m always reluctant to cook with it. All I can think is, I could be drinking that instead of taking a chance on cooking!

After purchasing a growler of Westbrook’s Udderly Milk Stout from Greenville Hop House, I knew I’d have a few ounces of beer to spare. I searched “milk stout recipes” on Pinterest, expecting cake and cookie concoctions. Instead, I found a risotto, one of my favorite things to cook.

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You can see many of the ingredients in action or soon to take the stage: Arborio rice, beer, onions, garlic and thyme simmer, while sautéed mushrooms, roasted butternut squash and Parmesan cheese await the final flourish.

The finished product isn’t the prettiest risotto I’ve ever made, but it’s certainly one of the tastiest!

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I’ve baked beer bread a few times, but this is the first real cooking experience I’ve had with beer. Have you ever cooked with beer? Please share the recipe!

Meet Brewery 85’s 864 Weizen

Brewery 85's 864 Weizen

Guess who got a little excited and drank 75% of her beer before taking a picture.

The first batch of 864 Weizen graced Brewery 85’s taps this evening with all it’s wheaty glory. Let’s not beat around the bush: it’s pretty damn good. Yeoman’s Brown Ale is still my favorite, but 864 takes a very, very close second.

And what’s up with the 864 name? With the help of Riverbend Malt House and SouthYeast Labs, Brewery 85 has produced a beer made entirely of locally sourced ingredients. It’s a taste of the Upstate!

I had a great time at the bar, chatting with a variety of Proterra employees, Meredith McCameron and Jeremy. Everyone at this brewery is so friendly; don’t be afraid to pop in alone for a pint.

Remember that lemony, one-off beer I wrote about tasting during the tour? Turns out it’ll be available at Brewvival this weekend as Sweet Tea Sour. Don’t miss this last chance to sip a unique beer!

Don’t miss another beer release from the talented Will McCameron and his new brewmaster, who starts next month. You can follow Brewery 85 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Untapped.

An IPA Conversion?

This past Wednesday night, the Commerce Club hosted it’s monthly Brewmasters tasting. They continued a five-year tradition by having Stone Brewery serve at the first tasting of the year.

Scott Sheridan and Jason SelbyScott Sheridan, recently promoted to Southeast Regional Sales Manager, gave a brief intro and the traditional toast before sending the show into Jason Selby’s hands. Jason is now the South Carolina Regional Brewery Rep for Stone Brewery. Jason was an energetic, informative host who shared a brief history of the the brewing company and the story behind each of the beers we tasted.

Prior to this evening, I had only tried Stone’s Ruination and didn’t like it. My taste buds recalled an excessively bitter, unpleasant beer. But that was years ago and knowing my tastes have changed significantly, I eagerly signed up for this tasting.

These tastings consist of five or more beers from a single brewery. Bottles or cans are passed out to share at a table, giving you the opportunity to taste each one without committing to a whole drink.

The night began with Arrogant Bastard AleArrogant Bastard Ale. I’m most familiar with this beer thanks to the Most Arrogant Bar competitions that Barley’s in Greenville has won two years straight.

I was surprised to find a much more balanced beer than the taste bud-assaulting bitter brew I remembered. Be sure to stick your nose in this one: the rich aroma gives a perfect precursor to the deep flavors this hoppy beer brings. Despite the bottle text, I found this a drinkable beer.

From there, we tasted the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale. After aging in oak barrels, the ale takes on a sweeter flavor, which I did not like as much as the original. I do recall it being a favorite during the concluding votes, though.

Stone’s IPA and Ruination IPA were up next. Now was the time to briefly taste a beer and pass on the bottle, right? But once again, these beers surprised me with their drinkability. Of the two, I preferred Ruination because the first had a strong citrus flavor that hinted of grapefruit, which I don’t like.

Vertical EpicWe now reached the beer I expected to love most: Vertical Epic 12.12.12. Part of a series begun 2.2.02, these beers offered a unique twist every year. This final batch had elements I love in beers: a dark color, winter spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, a roasted malt flavor. Yet the beer tasted too sweet, the mouthfeel too flat and the spices too intense. In retrospect, I blame Ruination for doing its job of ruining my palate before a beer I should have loved.

In the photo to the left, you can see the final beer in a little plastic cup—for good reason. This is a dangerous sip of Crime, a 2013 release of bourbon barrel-aged Lukcy Basartd Ale brewed with a lot of peppers. A LOT. Take a look at the list here, as well as great explanations of Crime’s cohorts, Punishment and Southern Charred. The beer smells like Tabasco sauce and screams “why not??” before you can dare to ask who would want to brew such an infamous concoction. There was a chorus of “no way”s after Jason listed some of the peppers in the brew, but I toasted my neighbor and we quickly downed the beer like shots. I waited, expecting the ale aftertaste in my mouth to be overwhelmed by heat. Instead, I started to feel the burn right at the back of my throat, heat radiating from my sternum. Crime showed no mercy, punishing my entire esophagus. My neighbor felt the same way, and we quickly filled our glasses with IPAs and ales to quiet the fire.

Aftermath of Stone Brewing Tasting

The aftermath (note that quite a few bottles had already been cleared away!)

When all was said and done, this tasting proved to one of my favorites because it introduced me to beers I’d long avoided or would never have a chance to taste again. I was impressed by the kindness and enthusiasm of Jason, as he went table-to-table and chatted about each beer. During the voting round, I noted Arrogant Bastard Ale and Ruination IPA as my two favorites.

Barley’s will officially receive their 2013 Most Arrogant Bar award on March 5th, and I plan to be there with an Arrogant Bastard Ale in hand!

Do you like the sound of a monthly beer tasting + dinner? Then leave a comment here or fill out the form at the bottom of the Beer Events page and I’ll send you details about the Commerce Club’s Brewmaster meetings. You don’t have to be a member to attend.

Brewery 85 Tour + Tasting

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Will McCameron’s enthusiasm was palpable as the tour began Thursday night. Six friends and I visited Brewery 85 to partake in the tour and tasting I won in a scavenger hunt last fall. This impressive brewery, set on a quiet cul-de-sac along an I-85 frontage road, is poised to be a major contributor to Upstate beer culture.

Will McCameron

“Don’t be shy–keep up!”

The evening began with samples of the three options on tap: Yeoman’s Brown Ale, Southern-style Pale Ale and Quittin’ Time Helles Bock, which will all be available at the grand opening on February 1st. I can honestly say that every beer we had that night was stellar. Yeoman’s is definitely my favorite of the trio, and it’s nigh impossible to choose a second favorite. The pale ale is very drinkable, with enough bitterness to tickle the pallet without being overwhelming. On the other hand, you just can’t beat a good bock.

With mason jars in hand, we walked around the bar to begin the tour. The brewery has a unique, open layout—you can see sip a beer in the tasting area and watch a new batch of beer being brewed.

Will shared a little about himself, including his homebrewing history and experience training in Germany. We even had the pleasure of meeting his friend Brandon, who trained with him. Will gave a very enthusiastic, but realistic picture of the efforts that go into brewing; it really is a job you have to work hard for! I loved his regular geek-out moments, which gave us insight into the science behind the brewing process.

Five of my friends are Clemson grads, so they were delighted to find that Will is not only a graduate, but also keeps the university at heart when planning brewery operations. His interns are Tigers, and at the end of the brewing process, he “recycles” his spent grain to a nearby Clemson alum who feeds it to his cattle.

Like Ben at Swamp Rabbit Brewery, Will has his eye set on utilizing local elements in his beer and business. He’s using local yeast and has plans to grow hops and an orchard on site. After showing off the large outdoor patio, which houses fire pits and promises beautiful sunset views, Will shared some of his bigger dreams of partnerships and programs that expand brewing education in this region.

Kegs and Bourbon Barrels

I spy bourbon barrels!

Back inside, we headed to the cooler, where a variety of kegs sat ready for Saturday. Will also pointed out a collection of barrels from Van Winkle, Heaven Hill and Knob Creek. Bourbon-barrel aged brews—as if I needed another reason to love about this brewery! I may have done a tiny, happy jig at the sight of these beauties.

We wrapped up the tour at the tanks again, where Will treated us to a taste of the very first beer he brewed. This golden, lemony beer, reminiscent of Shock Top’s Lemon Shandy or Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, was a hit; perhaps Will was convinced to try to replicate it.

As far as future beers go, Brewery 85 patrons can expect to see brews like Oktoberfests and an IPA later this year. The next release will be the (864) Weizen, an exclusive beer to this area.

In case beer alone isn’t entertaining enough, Will has grand plans for brewery events, including live music, game nights and food truck visits.

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Thank you, Will, for a fantastic tour!

Opening day celebrations start at noon on Saturday, February 1st, and run until 4 p.m.

The public is invited to this non-ticketed event; everyone may order up to three pints (per SC law), each at $5. Though cash is preferred, credit cards will be accepted. Pack a chair, a jacket and your good spirits for an exciting opening afternoon!

And if for some absurd reason you are abducted by aliens or enlisted by the government for a secret mission in Kazakhstan and miss the opening day, you can try Brewery 85’s first beers at Mac’s Speedshop, Liberty Tap Room and Barley’s. Keep an eye on the website for brewery hours to post soon.

Follow Brewery 85 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Untapped.

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