Randall Night at Quest

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Quest featured an Ellida IPA with mango, pineapple and Amarillo hops. Don’t be misled by the fruit ingredients: the Amarillo addition keeps the sweetness in check.

I also tried my favorite Quest beer, Kaldi, cask-aged with blackberries. Again, the fruit flavor was very subtle, adding a little sweetness to this imperial coffee stout.

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I came for one and stayed for three. After chatting with Lauren Harris, manager of Gowler Haus-Spartanbug, and Craig Kinley from the original Anderson location, I had a half pour of Melusine. A biere de garde (“beer to keep”), this beer really feels like Spring in your mouth. Sweet flavors intermingle with a tongue-tingling carbonation, making me excited for a warmer season and sipping beer on Quest’s lawn.

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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.

Snow-bound

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The snow began to fall around noon yesterday, slowly wafting and eventually sticking by late afternoon.

Nearby friends invited me to a fireside movie night. I set out on the crunchy white path to their apartment with cookies and growler in tow.

Harpoon’s Winter Warmer provided a well-spiced addition to the night. This malty, amber-colored ale offers a lot of cinnamon and a little bitterness to counter the sweet notes. Though not my favorite winter beer, I still look forward to finishing off the growler.

Huge thanks to Greenville Hop House for the beer!

A First Taste of Brewery 85

Tonight marked Brewery 85‘s retail launch, the first time their beers were available for purchase. I popped into Community Tap just after the 5:30 p.m. start time and found an enthusiastic crowd already imbibing!
Community Tap crowdThe chalkboard above the taps announced pour #1: Brewery 85’s Southern Style Pale Ale and pour #2: Brewery 85’s Quittin’ Time Bock.  I squeezed my way to the counter and asked for a sample of the pale ale.

This first brew poured a darker, amber color. The flavor was bitter, though on the milder side, and I almost asked for a whole glass before trying the next one. In the end, though, the honey-colored, wheaty bock won out as my glass of the night—and at 8.5% ABV, it made for a good single drink.

Will McCamaron I also got a chance to catch up with Will McCameron, who I haven’t seen since I won the Brewery 85 Scavenger Hunt last fall. Naturally, I can think of a lot of smart questions now rather than when I’m standing by him, but c’est la vie. He told me to expect these two beers plus a brown on opening date. I was intrigued to hear him say he’s not completely satisfied with these first beers, but it’s the kind of dissatisfaction you welcome from a perfectionist and beer nerd who is always hunting for something to improve his beer.

One drink down, I headed to Roost for DJ Trivia night. My first visit to Roost was a success: the trivia was fun, the food was good and the beer list had a lot of great craft brews to offer. I tried the Chocolate Rye Porter, from River Dog Brewing Company in Ridgeland, SC, but ended up ordering Lazy Magnolia’s Jefferson Stout after “sweet potato” caught my eye. This sweet potato flavor was mild, with coffee and chocolate flavors taking the lead.

Roost Beef MenuAlthough my team’s score plummeted by the game’s end, the drinks made up for some of the upset. I wrapped up the night with the rich, dark Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing Company.

All in all, this night was a rousing success for beer. I’m eager to try more Brewery 85 offerings and peruse Roost’s menu again.

Review: Highland Brewing Company’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale

Highland Brewing Company‘s Gaelic Ale was one of my first loves. I’ve had many brilliant conversations over their popular American Ale, and I carry a Highland bottle opener on my key chain that I picked up at my first beer festival.

This past November, I visited Asheville with two of my aunts and an uncle. We arrived in town just before the Christmas parade, and barred by the eager crowd, we took seats inside TallGary’s Cantina. My uncle ordered me the seasonal on tap—Cold Mountain—and we marveled at the well-balanced beer from our warm window seats.
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I had no idea at the time that I was sipping a seasonal that folks go crazy for every year. It wasn’t until this beer hit the shelves in Greenville a few weeks later that I realized Highland was the creator. I gifted a few bottles this season, and still have one hanging out in my fridge.

Cold Mountain tied with another winter warmer-style beer, Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice, as my favorite this season. I love the malty body and the spiced flavor that isn’t too over the top. Highland tweaks the spices a little every year, so I look forward to trying next year’s and seeing how they differ.

Beer Events This Week – Jan 13-19

Mark these dates in your calendar:

Jan 16Brewery 85 pre-opening tasting at Community Tap, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Jan 18World Beer Festival at the Columbia Convention Center
I will be volunteering at Session 1 (noon-4 p.m.) and drinking at Session 2 (6-10 p.m.)

Jan 19Biggest Little Beer Festival at Barley’s in Greenville, 2-6 p.m.
Learn more at the Barley’s website and the Greenville News.

If you know of any other big events in the area, please share!

Review: Jester King Brewery’s Noble King

While my sriracha-honey-lime wings sizzled in the oven, I opened one of my favorite Christmas gifts: a beer!
Satyr Bottle Cap

Made by Jester King, a USDA certified organic brewery in Austin, TX, Noble King is described as a “hoppy farmhouse ale.” I enjoyed the vivid bottle art and text, although the satyr mascot on the bottle cap bordered on creepy. Can’t you imagine his maniacal laugh?

If you’re unfamiliar with the farmhouse ale style, here’s a hand dandy article that gives a little history and highlights this brewery.

As you can see in the below photo, this unfiltered beer poured a vivid honey-orange color. Though the description had me expecting a wheaty, bitter beer, the predominate flavor was actually sour. Still, the yeast-driven quality of the farmhouse ales makes the sourness manageable; and unlike most other sours I’ve had, this beer isn’t extremely fruity or sweet. It’s also on the fizzier side, making for intriguing mouthfeel.  Noble King