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Drinking on Caribbean Time

I recently traveled to the Caribbean where I visited Saint Martin and Anguilla. Both are beautiful countries. And of course, when traveling to paradise (or anywhere else!) one of the foremost questions of any beer enthusiast’s mind is “What kind of beer can I drink there?” followed shortly thereafter by “Where can I go to drink it?”

Drinking on Caribbean Time - Anguilla Beach
Besides researching what one does for 10 days in paradise, I also made it top order of business to find the local brews available for consumption on the island.

While Saint Martin doesn’t produce any local beers, there were still plenty to be had from surrounding islands or even a few imported from the United States, Europe or Asia. Craft beers (imported of course) are rare to come by but I still made it a goal to try as many different beers as possible. I quickly learned that even beers like Heineken taste different (literally) in the Caribbean than the United States.

 

Where is St MaartenThe Islands

St MaartenSaint Martin is approximately 37 square miles and is actually divided between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern half (French side) goes by Saint Martin and the southern half (Dutch side) goes by Sint Maarten. I stayed in a nice area called Pelican Key along the Dutch side in a villa right on the beach. This is one of the best spots if you like to beachcomb, or to see beautiful sunsets and cruise ships leaving from the main port in Philipsburg.

AnguillaAnguilla (pronounced Ann-gwilla – similar to “vanilla”) is a British overseas territory directly north of Saint Martin; it’s about 25 minutes by ferry from the port at Marigot. Approximately 16 miles long by about 3 miles wide, Anguilla is much smaller and sleepier than Saint Martin. In fact the common method of reaching the island is often to fly into Saint Martin then take the ferry over, rather than trying to fly over to the little island. I only took a day trip to the island (not long enough to spend there by any means!) but was able to visit a few locations – more on that later!

 

Guavaberry RumThe Rum

The primary beverage of choice on Saint Martin is their locally produced rum. While it’s not beer, I have to say their rum is delicious and probably the best rum I’ve had in any of the islands! You’ll find homemade rum everywhere – outdoor markets, grocery store shelves, and of course at all the bars and restaurants.

Drinking on Caribbean Time - Almond RumThere are a plethora of flavors available, although they are most known for their Guavaberry flavor. Guavaberries grow on trees and are a rare fruit found high in the warm hills in the center of the island. If you’re ever on the island, I also highly recommend you take a shopping trip to Philipsburg and make sure to stop at The Sint Maarten Guavaberry Shop (just avoid Tuesdays as this is the most busy cruise ship day). They cannot send their liquors from Saint Martin to the U.S. and Canada, but I would travel back just to stock up on this stuff. They also make some really good hot sauces and spices, which you can order online from the states.

I picked up some Guavaberry and Island Almond rum for the trip home. The woman manning the tasting counter at the shop informed me that the almond flavor is “the Amaretto of the Caribbean” (it was pretty damn good).

Cruzan RumI also recommend both Rum Jumbie (the Vanilla Splash flavor was my favorite) or Cruzan Rum (which also comes in many flavors). They’re awesome in mixed drinks or even on the rocks.

ShotglassesAnd of course if you’re drinking quality liquor, you should get some hand-painted quality shotglasses! I picked these up from a French couple at the market at Marigot (a must-visit if you go to Saint Martin).

 

The Beer

Drinking on Caribbean Time - CoronaIn Saint Martin I managed to try 19 unique beers. 20 if I count the mysterious dark bottle of motor oil we purchased at a small corner market that listed “alcohol” on the contents (although to this day I’m not exactly sure what was in that bottle). “Craft beer” isn’t really a thing on the island, but that surely didn’t prevent me from indulging.

The primary thing I can say that is pretty awesome about the Dutch side of the island is that there are little to no rules involved with the where, when and how of alcohol consumption. It’s basically a free-for-all and you can crack open a beer while you are going for a stroll  or even driving to the beach (I don’t recommend this on the French side, however, I’m pretty sure their laws are not as lax). There is also a complete lack of “no glass” rules on the beaches – in fact – something that really amazed me was not once did I see broken glass anywhere on the sand, yet people are drinking from bottles of beer everywhere.

Here’s the official list of the beers I enjoyed while in the Caribbean:

  • Amstel Bright
    Not to be confused with Amstel Light, Amstel Bright is a pale lager formerly produced in Curaçao, but now it’s brewed in the Netherlands and then exported back to the islands. It’s not sold in the states, only the islands.
  • Asahi Super Dry
    If you like sushi or frequent Japanese Steakhouses you’ve probably had this beer at one point. It’s brewed in Japan of course, and is an easy-drinking island beer.
  • Carib Lager
    Brewed in Trinidad & Tobago, this is your standard Lager – however I can personally vouch that getting a bucket of Carib beers (with lime wedges) and watching the planes fly in at the famous Sunset Bar & Grill in Saint Martin is the perfect way to spend a full afternoon!
  • Ceres Royal Stout (Ceres Extra Strong Stout)
    One of the two stouts I tried while on the island, it’s highly ranked by “the bros” on BeerAdvocate. It is a malty, toasty, coffee-flavored stout and overall I preferred this one over the Mackeson (listed further below). This brew hails from Denmark.
  • Corona Extra
    Almost everyone should be familiar with Corona Extra, which is brewed in Mexico and a very popular beach beer (with a wedge of lime included of course!)
  • Crabbie’s Ginger Beer – Original
    Crabbie’s is from Scotland, and it’s good stuff. Very flavorful and refreshing, and a great change up from the typical beers available. The original version is flavored like ginger (of course) and lemon and lime.
  • Crabbie’s Ginger Beer – Spiced Orange
    Flavored to match it’s name, like ginger and orange, this was also a very refreshing brew.
  • Desperados
    This was new to me, and came in several variations depending on what you’re in the mood for. The Desperados line of beers comes from France and is considered a Lager.
  • Desperados Red
    This variation is sweeter and higher in alcohol than its sisters, and is good to change things up if you want something different than the traditional normal flavor.
  • Desperados Mas
    This was my least favorite of the three Desperados I tried, it is a pale Lager and comes in the lowest in alcohol content at 3.0% ABV.
  • Elephant Beer
    This is a Strong PIlsner brewed in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s definitely your go-to beer if looking for a higher ABV (7.2% to be exact) while you’re in the islands.
  • Full Sail IPA
    This was one of the two beers I had while on Anguilla, and it appears Blanchards brought it in from Oregon. That’s a long trip for an imported beer!
  • Heineken Pilsener
    Brewed in the Netherlands, this appears to be a slight variation of the Heineken we know in the U.S. (in fact I swear it tastes better). They also come in smaller bottles (almost mini-bottles if you will) than the ones you’re used to seeing at home.
  • Mackeson Triple XXX Stout
    My first experience with a stout while in a tropical location, and while a decent milk stout from Trinidad & Tobago, it isn’t quite as tasty in a warm climate as the lighter beers.
  • Presidente
    A classic for drinking in the islands and “the true taste of the Caribbean,” Presidente is a Pilsner produced in the Dominican Republic.
  • Red Strip Jamaican Lager
    Most people are familiar with Red Stripe as it’s readily available in the U.S. – it’s brewed in Jamaica.
  • San Miguel Pale Pilsen
    A German Pilsener from the Philippines, this was the second beer I tried while on Anguilla.
  • Tiger Beer
    This is a Lager from Singapore – I wouldn’t say it’s anything special but will quench your thirst on a hot tropical day.
  • Tiegerbrau
    The mysterious beer that is very similar to motor oil (and also tastes like it). All I could derive from the label was that it was based from a German malt formula and supposedly did have alcohol. However it tasted pretty terrible so I didn’t spend much time analyzing it.
  • Tsingtao
    A Lager from China, I think this one is “ok” but I’d drink some of the other beers on the list before reaching for this one.

 

Bars and Restaurants

There are a few places that are a must-visit for your drinking purposes if you travel to Saint Martin or Anguilla.

Sunset Beach Bar (Maho Beach, St. Maarten)

Sunset Beach BarFirst and foremost, the Sunset Bar & Grill on Maho Beach is a must-see purely to go watch the airplanes take off and land. They only have a narrow airstrip with which to perform this feat, with ocean on one side and mountains on the other. I highly recommend going by around noon and checking the surfboard to see what times the big jets are scheduled to land. There is generally a constant stream of airplanes landing from early to late afternoon, but the larger jets are by far the most spectacular to watch land.

Bucket of CaribAirplaneThen, go get yourself a bucket of beers and a prime spot on the small strip of sand near the blast zone (although not in the blast zone) – and I promise you’re in for some real entertainment! I actually went here twice while on my trip and it never gets boring. Plus, you can’t beat free-flowing drinks and a great view!

Loterie Farm Treelounge (Loterie Farm, St. Martin)

This is a chill, hidden-away-in-the-trees, open loft area that is on the grounds of Loterie Farm, which is nestled on the hillside of Pic Paradis (another attraction I highly recommend you see). Loterie Farm Treelounge has a plethora of beer, cocktails and wine available for your consumption as well as tapas if you’re hungry.

TreeloungeIf you’re into activities such as zip-lining, or hiking, Loterie is also the perfect place, especially if you would like to also see Pic Paradise. As you may read when researching Pic Paradis, driving up to the start of the trail for this scenic overlook is not recommended, as the route is secluded and surrounded by trees (which often results in tourists being mugged). However, Loterie Farm has a hiking trail that leads up to the start of the trail for Pic Paradis, and it’s the recommended way to go if you want to see this particular attraction.

I’m not a habitual hiker, and I’d say that the trail is definitely doable, however, bring sturdy shoes and be prepared to do a bit of climbing up rocks and fairly steep hills (there are ropes to assist you). If you don’t get around very easily, this probably isn’t the way for you, but the hike itself provides some spectacular views and interesting surroundings such an area with a very old-looking well and trees with thorns on the trunks.

Pic ParadiseIf you do take the Loterie Farm trail, once you cross the road and ascend the final part of the trail to Pic Paradis, make sure you turn right and go slightly downhill once you hit the opening with the towers – the direction you’re supposed to go for the overlook is not well-marked and my brother and I spent some time wandering around before we figured out the proper direction. Once you find it, you won’t be disappointed – it’s a breathtaking view and the picture here doesn’t do it justice.

Blanchards Beach Shack (Meads Bay, Anguilla)

Blanchards Beach ShackBob and Melinda Blanchard moved from Vermont to Anguilla to pursue their dream of opening a great restaurant on a sleepy Caribbean island. Their first restaurant, Blanchards, was a resounding success. Thanks to this (and to my delight) they decided to open a second restaurant, Blanchards Beach Shack, which opened in December of 2011. I first became acquainted with their life story and entrepreneurial adventures when I read their book, A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean. It became my goal to visit one of their establishments if I ever reached Anguilla – so I was very excited to be able to experience lunch at their Beach Shack firsthand.

Blanchards Street TacosBlanchards Beach Shack is definitely one of the top places I ate while on this trip. Their food is excellent and very high quality, they had several beers available (including an imported craft beer from the states) and the view from Meads Bay was absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend their “street tacos” and I’m pretty sure anything else on the menu is excellent as well.

 

Lessons Learned While Drinking in the Caribbean

  • Saint Martin is an awesome island, especially when it comes to drinking brews on the Dutch side. You’re free to pop open a cold one wherever and whenever the mood strikes, which is something it’s easy to get used to (and forget you can’t do most places back in the states!)
  • Stouts are rare to come by, but for good reason. They just really aren’t as tasty in tropical 80 degree weather – no matter how good the stout is. Plus, your beer will be warm in about 10 minutes. 😉
  • Carib is better with lime, just like Corona.
  • Elephant is your best bet for a high ABV light-bodied beer.
  • Presidente always tastes a little better than you expect it will, especially after an uphill half-day hike!
  • Desperados Red is a great switch from all the typical lagers but it’s too sweet to drink more than two in one sitting.
  • The Heineken Pilsener tastes way better than the Heineken that you get in the states, and it comes in a little “mini bottle.” This is true for several of the beers down there – no idea why they come in munchkin sizes (maybe it’s because your beer gets warm so fast??).

 

This was a long article, so if you stuck with me through the whole thing, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it – and as much as I enjoyed visiting Saint Martin and Anguilla! I highly recommend the trip for anyone, and I’m definitely looking forward to the day I can go back again and have an ice cold Carib on a warm, sunny beach.

Carib Bottle Cap

 

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Weekly Roundup – Cool Beerish Products

Beerish Products - C5 Beer PongC5 Beer Pong Tables
C5 beer pong tables are the beer ponger’s dream come true. They have a variety of color themes to choose from and if you’re feeling really creative, you can even personalize one with your own design. (Photo courtesy of c5beerpong.com)


Beerish Products - CraftgeerCraftGeer – Beer Glassware and Apparel
I can personally attest that CraftGeer products are pretty damn cool. All the cool craft beer drinkers have them! I recently purchased a pair of their snifters and their Mason Betta and in addition to the cool factor, I was really impressed with their service and delivery!


Beerish Products - Peele PaddlePeele Paddle – Beer Tasting Paddles
Ever wonder where to get some fine quality, handcrafted beer flight paddles? Wonder no more, Peele Paddle is here! I own a few sets of their four-hole red oak finish paddles and they’re very good quality. Even better, you can choose from 3 different styles of glasses to add to your set – I have some of the 6oz Mini Pilsners. They also have some really cool looking 6 pack carriers they’ve recently added to their product list!


Beerish Products - Beer FlightBeer Flight Paddles
Beerflight.com is another great go-to site for awesome quality beer flight sets. I looked them up after I came across their flight paddles at a local hangout called Liberty Tavern. You can choose from different colors for the stains on the paddles as well as 3 different types of glassware – what’s nice is the style of paddles and glassware are slightly different than those offered by Peele – so between the two you have a lot of options! Definitely check these out as well if you’re interested in some flight options.


Photo courtesy of Beersocks.netBeer Socks Another beer lover told me about Beersocks.net when I noticed them sporting these awesome socks at an event. I’m sure many of you participate in events that would be perfect for rocking out some beer socks so stock up now! You can choose from a variety of colors and if beer isn’t your thing, they also have socks for Tequila, Vodka, and Whiskey! (Photo courtesy of Beersocks.net)


What are some of your favorite beerish products? Let us know by posting in the comments below!

 

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Beer of the Week: Founders Double Trouble

Beer of the Week - Founders Double TroubleThis week’s featured brew is Founders Double Trouble. As Founders states on their website, it’s “An imperial IPA brewed to turn your world upside down.” The bottle label artwork also deserves a special mention, it’s quite the treat. For the full effect, make sure you don’t forget to turn your bottle upside-down (after it’s empty of course!)

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a clear, medium amber with foamy head, and nice retention around the glass with lacing.

Smell: Very aromatic and hoppy with notes of grass, pine, citrus and a hint of floral.

Taste: Very hop forward with a fair amount of bitterness which lingers on the palette but isn’t overwhelming. Towards the end the malts kick in the sweetness which helps balance out the hoppiness. Earthy and citrusy notes as well. Very flavorful.

Mouthfeel: Medium mouthfeel that is crisp yet creamy. Has a smooth, bitter finish.

Overall: This is a very good representative of the DIPA (Double Imperial Pale Ale) style. Great summer-time porch sipping beer.

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.19 / 5

Style: American Double / Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.4%
IBUs: 86
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts: Not listed
Hops: Not listed
Special Ingredients: Not listed
Availability: Seasonal (Spring/Summer) typically May-June
Food Pairings: Cheese (peppery; Monterey / Pepper Jack, sharp; Blue, Cheddar, pungent; Gorgonzola, Limburger) Grilled meat, fish or barbeque.
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Oversized Wine Glass
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

Where to get it:
Just about any store that sells craft beer when in season.

 

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Weekly Roundup – Beer Apps for Drinking on the Go

The craft beer market is booming, and so is the list of beer apps you can download for your mobile phone. I’ve outlined some of the bigger players below. There are lots of choices, so you may ask “Which one should I choose?” The answer really depends on what you want to do! If you’re a major beer geek and want to track and record detailed tasting notes, Pintley is for you. If you want to go the road-more-traveled-route, Untappd is probably the most popular choice. Want to pioneer a new app? Try out Beer Hunt – it just launched this month.

untappdUntappd
Untappd is one of the more pervasive apps in the beer community and is focused on the social aspect of beer drinking. It allows you to share the beer you’re currently drinking, as well as where you are drinking it. You can rate the beer, upload your own photo, and add comments. It has a friend functionality similar to Facebook; you can connect with others and then see what they’re drinking and when they are nearby. Not sure where to go grab a pint? You can also see nearby bars and breweries near your location. There are also other cool features like “trending beers” and the ability to toast (aka “like”) what your friends are drinking.

brewskimeBrewski Me
Brewski Me is a similar concept to Untappd, but uses awards instead of badges, and has some additional features letting you select how you consumed a beer (can, bottle or draft) and add it as a favorite. You can add tasting notes, photos, and share your comments on Twitter, Facebook and check in through Foursquare. It delivers customized beer recommendations by comparing your ratings to other ratings in the database.

brewgeneBrewGene
BrewGene is also like Untappd and Brewski Me; it lets you rate beer, find new beers, and connect with other beer drinkers. You can check in to locations and when you add beers you can do a quick 1-5 star rating or add detailed tasting notes. I’d recommend checking out their Top 100 Beers list as well as the Beer of the Day for new suggestions on beers to try.

pintleyPintley
Pintley is a beer rating and tracking app that also syncs with the Pintley website. While there are social aspects to it, such as being able to follow other users or read their tasting notes, the focus of this app is tracking what you drink and providing recommendations based on your beer preferences. For example, if I drink 3 Belgian Ales, then click the “recommended” tab, Pintley will compile a nice list of other beers I may like based on my tastes. You can also do detailed ratings in the app that break out the different components of beer tasting and then share what you’ve rated on Facebook or Twitter.

beerhuntBeer Hunt
BeerHunt is a mix of a beer app and game. You log your beers as you drink to earn points; you gain more points if it’s a rare beer or from another country, or simply a new beer you haven’t had before. The more points you get, the higher you place on the leaderboard, which then lets you unlock badges. In the future BeerHunt plans to add deals for free beer or swag related to how many points a user has. There are also other cool tidbits of info such as the app keeping track of how many ounces of beer total you have consumed, as well as how much time has elapsed since your last brew. This one looks promising and fun and I’ll be giving it a try – who knows maybe down the road I’ll even score some free swag.


instagramInstagram
Instagram is, of course, not officially a beer app, but it deserves an honorable mention for its capability for dialing a beer enthusiast into the craft beer community. I jumped on this bandwagon after reading an excellent list of 15 Must Follow #CraftBeer Instagrammers posted by The Beer Wench on her Drink With The Wench Blog. If you use Instagram at all, I highly recommend you go to the “explore” tab and search for #craftbeer – your eyes will be opened to a whole new beer community that is clearly passionate about beer, photography, and sharing their experiences with other beer enthusiasts.

 

What beer app is your favorite?

 

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Beer of the Week: Rogue Juniper Pale Ale

Beer of the Week - Rogue Juniper Pale AleThis week’s featured brew is Juniper Pale Ale from Rogue. This ale is out just in time for warmer spring weather – especially for those of us in seasonal climates. I label this good warm-weather beer for doing some yard work, especially when you dust off the ‘ol riding lawn mower!

A little history on this ale from Rogue:
“The Turkey was named the official bird of the Rogue Nation in August 2007. To commemorate the momentous occasion, Rogue Juniper Pale Ale was dedicated to “the turkey in each of us.”

 

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a clear, deep gold with an adequate head and minimal retention. Some minimal lacing as you drink.

Smell: Hoppy and piney and a little floral.

Taste: Dominant pine and hops upfront, then ends more on the malty side with a mild sweetness. It leans on the dry side. There’s a very slight taste to this that reminds me of the hint of a pilsner somewhere in the middle.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied but feels right for the taste of the beer, crisp and carbonated. Sticks to the tongue a bit at the end.

Overall: I’m classifying this in the “it’s a good craft beer to try for craft beer newbies weaning themselves off of Bud Light” category. It’s nothing extraordinary to a seasoned craft palette – it’s got some flavor, but it’s got a slight underlying taste that falls in line with something that tastes similar to a domestic. It’s got better flavor and hoppiness to it though, which shouldn’t come off too strong for a newbie palette. Would definitely be a good lawn-mowing beer on a hot summer day when you need something crisp and refreshing. Good session beer.

Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25 / 5

Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.30%
IBUs: 34
Original Gravity: 13º Plato
Malts: Maier Munich,Crystal, Triumph, C-15, Great Western 2-Row
Hops: Styrian Golding, Amarillo, Perle
Special Ingredients: Juniper Berries; Pacman Yeast, Free Range Coastal Water
Availability: Seasonal
Food Pairings: Turkey, Hot & Spicy
Glassware: Pint glass or mug
Aging: Not recommended

Where to get it:
My guess is this one is pretty easy to find when it’s in-season, I picked up a single bottle at the local Whole Foods.

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Weekly Roundup – New Beerish Places Open In Columbus

It’s springtime here in Ohio and new bars, beer stores, and restaurants are popping up faster than, well, let’s just say faster than a family of rabbits! Columbus has seen major growth in “Beerish Places” over the past 6-12 months, and it seems as we progress through 2013 this trend is continuing.


Opening This Week:


The Crest Gastropub
Facebook Page

The Crest, a new gastropub in Columbus opens today, Friday, April the 26th, at 4pm – just in time for Happy Hour! The Crest is focused on craft beer, local spirits, and fresh quality food in a comfortable, relaxed environment. They have 60 taps that include both craft beer and even some draft wines, as well as a couple Brothers Drake Meads. They also have 40 of their own housemade infusions and signature cocktails.

Where is it?
2855 Indianola Ave, Columbus, Ohio 43202
614-268-6838


The Pint House Beer Garden
Website
Facebook Page

The Pint House is located in the Short North and just opened this week – Thursday, April 25th to be exact. Open 7 days a week starting at 3p Mon-Fri and 11a on Sat-Sun, early reviews sound promising. Geared towards the 30-ish crowd there will be a focus on an upscale bar menu and a wide beer selection, as well as 1,000 square foot beer garden area.

Where is it?
780 North High St. Columbus, Ohio 43201
614-429-3986


Opening Soon:


The Ohio Taproom
Visit Website
Facebook Page

Located at the corner of Northwest and Third, The Ohio Taproom focuses on selling goods made in Ohio, starting with craft beer. They have various growler sizes available that you can fill with any of the 20 Ohio beers they have on tap. According to their social media feeds they are due to open any time, probably in the next couple of weeks.

Where is it?
1291 West Third Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43212
614-585-2212


Recently Opened:


Savor Growl
Visit Website
Facebook Page

Near the corner of Weber and Indianola, Savor Growl places a focus on providing fresh, high-quality beer in growlers to-go. There are 60 beers on tap with a mix of local, craft, and imported beers. This location was previously Weber Market, and was recently renovated and transformed into a growler fill shop.

Where is it?
2991 Indianola Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43214
614-261-6112


Arch City Tavern
Visit Website
Facebook Page
Also recently opened in the Short North, the Arch City Tavern website touts that they serve “Crafted Beer, Crafted Food, Local Spirits.” Their online menu currently has 24 beers on draft (mostly craft) and around 30 bottles of additional craft beers available. They also serve upscale comfort foods, such as lobster mac and cheese and the Arch City Burger, made with four kinds of beef.

Where is it?
862 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215
614-725-5620


The Pint Room
Visit Website
Facebook Page

Not to be confused with The Pint House (listed previously), The Pint Room is located in Dublin, Ohio, and can be considered the veteran of this list – and it’s only been open a few months! They boast 101 taps (which is quite impressive to look at when you approach the bar) and have large hanging menus hanging on the wall with the beers listed according to style. They also offer growler fills of various sizes, plus tasty food – including gourmet burgers.

Where is it?
4415 West Dublin Granville Rd. Dublin, Ohio 43017
614-889-6558

 

Are you a fellow Columbus-dweller? If so, have I missed any of the most recently opened Beerish Places on my list? If so, please leave a comment below!

 

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Beer of the Week: Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale

Beer of the Week - Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down AleAs seems to be the case with most beers from Lagunitas, Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale has a story behind it – and what beer with that kind of name wouldn’t!?

What Lagunitas has to say about it:
“We brewed this especially bitter ale in remembrance of the 2005 St Patrick’s Day Massacre and in commemoration of our 20-day suspension that followed. The ABC conducted an undercover investigation of our brewery, finding us guilty of operating a “Disorderly House.” We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights.”

Let me translate the above into layman’s terms for you. To me, this sounds like another example of an unfair crackdown from “The Man.” In this instance, “The Man” is otherwise known as the ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control).

Back in 2005, Lagunitas was in the habit of having weekly tasting parties that involved food, music, and of course, beer. Well for some reason the ABC decided Lagunitas was having too much fun, and undercover law enforcement started to attend these weekly parties in an attempt to rack up charges and shut Lagunitas down. Well, after 8 weeks they finally had enough “evidence” to temporarily shut Lagunitas down for 20 days.

Beer of the Week - Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down - LimitedThis situation (not surprisingly) did not sit well with Lagunitas, so to get back at “The Man” they have since produced various releases of this brew, as a kind of a homage if you will, to this historical event. I’m personally more than happy to partake in this bottled portion of beer history, and I recommend you go out and get your own six-pack to do the same while this limited release version is still out on the shelves.

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, clear, deep amber with a nice foamy head, lots of lacing and good glass retention.

Smell: Hops, caramel, very faint floral notes.

Taste: Very pleasant and balanced hoppy bitterness. Definite caramel malty tones to this as well. I found it to be quite delicious.

Mouthfeel: Well-balanced carbonation, crispness and smooth, medium body.

Overall: This is a very drinkable beer. In fact I’m mildly drooling just writing this review and have already hoarded a couple six-packs in my basement. The amount of booze in this beer is sneaky – you can’t even tell that it it’s a high ABV until you’ve had enough sips that the telltale boozy warmth sets in. The flavor is well-balanced between hops, bitterness and sweetness and my best guess is this will drink well on both warm or cold days; it’s versatile. I’d also recommend this brew to any craft beer newbies out there because it’s full-flavored with a lot of balance – it’s a great example of a well-done brew.

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.31 / 5

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 9.70%
IBUs: 34
Original Gravity:1.085
Malts: Not listed
Hops: Not listed
Special Ingredients: Not listed
Availability: Seasonal – April (packaging states it is a Limited Release)
Food Pairings: Cheese (nutty; Colby, Parmesan)
Glassware: Pint Glass, Snifter or Mug
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

Where to get it:
I’ve seen this in multiple beer stores locally and it’s not difficult to find at the moment. However, it’s listed as a Limited Release so I’d recommend scooping up your six-pack soon while the getting’s good!

 

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Drinking at The Daily Growler

The Daily Growler - FrontToday I would like to fondly introduce you to one of my favorite local establishments, The Daily Growler. Situated in an unassuming center of stores at the corner of Fishinger and Riverside in Upper Arlington, it may be easy to overlook at first, but The Daily Growler is a local gem that should not be missed.

A relatively new bar/growler-filling mecca here in Columbus, Ohio, the Growler opened on December 17th last year, about a week before Christmas. Opening when most folks are off work, thirsty, and in need of reprieve from the shopping malls is definitely not a venture for the faint of heart, but the Growler valiantly succeeded. In fact it has earned a great reputation from newbies and regular customers alike. After all, who wouldn’t love a place that offers 60 fresh craft beers on draft, as well as Happy Hour 7 days a week!

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the co-owner, and self-proclaimed Growler Czar, John Blakely during my most recent visit. He graciously shared his thoughts on how business was going and how the experience has been to date.

The Daily Growler is a family business, but John is the go-to guy and the face you’ll most likely see when you get your growlers filled or sit down to drink a pint. And when I say “pint” I mean a full pint! John emphasized that they don’t skimp on their pours at the Growler – their pint glasses are true to size – and half off during Happy Hour!

John is cool, laid-back guy originally from Ohio but who spent time out west after college, which is when he started to develop his own love of craft beer. He also spent some time in Portland, where he said the mindset isn’t what six-pack to pick up, but rather the question is “What craft beer should fill up my growler?”. Surprisingly enough, the term “growler” is still a relatively a new concept to many people, so if you’re unfamiliar with the term, this article on Beer Advocate explains it pretty well.

The Daily Growler - TapsThe Daily Growler fills a somewhat niche market. As you walk through the front door, the first thing that catches your eye is the row of 60 taps spanning the back wall and the family-style seating at large tables. The atmosphere is much more like a coffee shop than a typical bar, where you can buy a drink, hang out with friends, or shop-and-go.

The Growler is also a good destination if you’re having a casual event or a private party – they have a large back room that can be rented for a nominal fee, plus a refundable deposit to reserve the room (and prevent no-shows).

The primary criticism you’ll read about the Growler on review sites is the rather spartan approach they’ve taken with their decorating style. What most of you may not know, however, is that this is a prime example of designing with purpose – and being a designer myself by trade – trust me – I know what I’m talking about! Plus, the Growler is still evolving and they’ve been adding cool little touches over time. For example, between my last two visits they added large flat-screen TVs to the back room, display shelves with growler kits and board games, and a few other touches here and there.

John explained they carefully considered their design choices for the Growler, and went with the minimalist approach for one primary reason – to encourage interaction between mingling customers, and to encourage customers to ask questions about the beer when selecting their choices at the counter. Think about it this way, if all the taps look the same, you won’t be influenced to go with just what you know, but perhaps to ask some questions and try something new (and you just may like it!).

The Daily Growler - SignThe Growler strongly emphasizes one thing about their beer – they strive to serve the freshest craft beer possible. Kegs are frequently rotated, and if you come in for a growler refill, they swap out your old growler for sanitized, chilled one. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have a special growler dishwasher at my house! This is why they will only fill their own growlers, but when you first purchase one it’s only $4, and if you pair that with their Daily Growler special of the day, you can’t go wrong with price.

Also worth a mention, they make their own root beer as well, and as a self-proclaimed root beer aficionado, I will flat-out state that their root beer is damn good. In fact I almost wanted to fill a growler of just that alone!

One last thing to note, they don’t serve food at the Growler, and as stated on their website, “We are beer experts, we leave food to the food experts.” However, you’re definitely encouraged to bring your own food in to eat while you drink, and you can also ask to look at the menus for the 3 restaurants located in the same shopping center – they’ll gladly deliver your order right to the door.

The Daily Growler - InsideSumming things up, I highly recommend The Daily Growler for all of your growler-filling needs, or just somewhere to stop by for a well-deserved break and a couple of pints. You never know, you may end up liking one of the beers so much that you head home with a full growler for your friends or family to share!

Want to tell John how the Growler is a job well done? Just keep your eyes open for the guy behind the counter wearing flip flops – yes even on a cold, snowy Ohio day! I’d personally call this his trademark; he says he simply feels more comfortable that way, and his feet do too!

Want more of The Daily Growler?

Thirsty for more? Check out The Daily Growler’s website, and if you’re interested in The Daily Growler special of the day, I recommend that you “like” their Facebook page to get regular updates. If you’re an Instagram fan, you can also find them by searching for @thedailygrowler.

Have you been to The Daily Growler? If so, what did you think? Post your feedback or comments below.

 

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Beer of the Week: Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)

Beer of the Week - KBS - In Glass

Pour of KBS at Old Bag of Nails Beer-Fest Party

Every year the annual release of Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) is highly anticipated by craft beer lovers everywhere. KBS is a limited release, generally appearing in spring (this year at the beginning of April) and often sells out within minutes at the selected retailers that receive distribution. This year KBS shipped to 23 states, and because of the limited quantities (some stores only receive one case) customers are often limited to a single bottle, so you can imagine the race that ensues to acquire this coveted beer.

In 2012, Founders underestimated the demand for KBS and released a very limited amount, which definitely didn’t sit well with loyal fans. And while they never disclose how many barrels of KBS are produced, Founders did admit that for this year’s release they brewed “significantly more” KBS than they did last year

KBS – What’s the Big Deal?

Any limited-release or hard-to-acquire brew is often in high demand by craft beer fans, especially if it follows through on taste factor. Sometimes a brew is limited due to the amount of time or method involved in aging, ingredients, location, or other factors. I’ve personally had several of the more highly-esteemed beers in the craft beer community, and I do admit that KBS ranks up there in the top 10 for me.

Beer of the Week - KBS - brewtus614

Artfully arranged KBS bottles – compliments of Instagram friend @brewtus614

More About This Popular Brew

KBS “makes your taste buds squeal with delight” according to the Founders website, and I can vouch for this – it’s true. It is an imperial stout brewed with coffee and chocolate before being cave-aged for a full year in oak bourbon barrels under the city.

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a thick black, with a minimal dark-tan head with some retention around the edge of the glass; lots of lacing as you drink.
Smell: Nose is sweet and roasted with coffee, chocolate and a hint of vanilla and oak.
Taste: Lives up to the hype; roasted, chocolate, vanilla (which typically comes from being aged in bourbon barrels) with a little hint of sweet bitterness; can also pick up on the oak and bourbon.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with a real creamy smoothness; coats the tongue and lingers.  
Overall:
This was my first encounter with the esteemed KBS, and I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. I was drinking several very good beers in a flight while waiting for KBS to be poured at a local establishment’s Beer-Fest KBS party, and when compared side-by-side to KBS, the other beers definitely fell a bit into its shadow. In a special class, KBS is well worth the effort of hunting it down. I’m sure I’ll be doing the same when it releases again next year!

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.76 / 5

Additional Information

Style: American Double/Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.2
IBUs: 70
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Not listed
Hops: Not listed
Availability: Limited Release (released in April in 2013)
Food Pairings: Cheese (buttery; Brie, Gouda, Havarti); Chocolate; Smoked or grilled meat
Glassware: Pint Glass, Snifter, Oversized Wine Glass
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

Where to get it?
If you haven’t acquired a bottle or happened upon one of the select bars that had it on draft (for probably less than a day), then you’re probably out of luck until next year. Serious craft beer enthusiasts often hunt for the beer on the exact release date, or have connections within the community in order to acquire a bottle or two.

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KBS Party at Old Bag of Nails

Old Bag of Nails - KBS SignAs many of you may know, Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) recently hit the shelves across the United States. If you haven’t acquired any by now, it may be too late – at least until next year! I personally had the good fortune to discover that Old Bag of Nails in Upper Arlington, Ohio was hosting a Beer-Fest, or in other words, a KBS pouring party, because they acquired a keg. This was great news to hear as a KBS newbie since I wasn’t able to find any bottles of KBS myself.

I arrived with two friends on a rather chilly Saturday morning to wait outside of the restaurant until they opened at 11am. As this was my first “limited release” beer event, my veteran beer-drinking companion suggested we arrive early and wait so we could snag bar seats and experience the party first-hand, so we joined a small group that was already waiting outside.

Places - Old Bag of Nails - KBS MenuOnce the doors opened and we were settled on our stools, we were presented with a menu listing an awesome selection of beers, most of them high quality brews I hadn’t yet sampled. The star on the menu, of course, was Founders KBS. Each person that paid the price got a token to reserve their pour of KBS once the keg was tapped at noon. In the meantime, we had a plethora of tasty choices to sample while waiting. I’ve listed some of the more notable ones below with the descriptions provided on the menu. If you don’t have a Beer Bucket List, or a list of all the beers you should try before the zombie apocalypse wipes out mankind, then all the beers below should be considered as contenders for your list.

 

The selections included:

  • Founders KBS (11.2% ABV and obviously the guest of honor)
    A hint of coffee, a hint of vanilla aged in oak bourbon barrels for over a year.
    Read my full review of KBS
  • Bell’s Hopslam (10% ABV)
    Brewed with honey; hoppy as hell
  • CBS Bodhi (8% ABV)
    Tons of citrus hops and good floral notes
  • Great Lake’s Alchemy Hour Double IPA (9.4% ABV)
    Hop-forward with balanced blends of mosaic and nugget hops
  • Troegs Nugget Nectar Ale (7.5% ABV)
    Intensified malt and hop flavors to create an explosive hop experience
  • Founders All Day IPA (4.7% ABV)
    A complex array of malts, grains and hops balanced for optimal aromas and a clean finish
  • Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA (12% ABV)
    Big hops balanced with tons of malts; double all the ingredients of the original Crooked Tree IPA (except the water)
  • Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout (11% ABV)
    Roasted malts and balanced with heavy hops
  • Great Lakes Christmas Ale (7.5% ABV)
    Brewed with honey and spiced with fresh ginger and cinnamon
  • Bell’s Hell Hath No Fury Ale (7.7% ABV)
    Roasted notes of coffee and dark chocolate together with the fruity and clove-like aroma (Belgian abbey-style yeasts in a recipe of roasty stout)
  • Weyerbacher Insanity Ale(11.10% ABV)
    A bourbon barrel-aged English style barley wine

 

Old Bag of Nails - Flight 1As you can probably guess by the alcohol content of most of these beers, the combination handed out quite the alcoholic wallop! But in my opinion, there’s no better way to experience day-drinking on a weekend.

I started out with a 4-beer flight of: Bell’s Hopslam, Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, Bell’s Hell Hath No Fury Ale, and Troegs Nugget Nectar.

It was all delicious, and my favorite of the four was the Plead the 5th, with a full-bodied rich and roasted malty taste. Interestingly enough, when comparing Plead the 5th to KBS a little while later, it really changed the taste profile when trying them side-by-side. Basically, while Plead the 5th is excellent, KBS is just a bit more excellent.

KBS Pour

KBS

By the time my first flight was finished, it was time for the pours of KBS. All the lucky ones around the bar cashed in their tokens for their share. As I’d been eagerly anticipating this moment, it was very exciting when the KBS really did live up to all the hype. It was full of boozy, vanilla, oaky, and chocolatey goodness. Read my full review of KBS.

Places - Old Bag of Nails - Flight 2We were in luck that day, as there was enough KBS to go around for a second round and I didn’t hesitate to partake. Then, as my final course, I had one more 4-beer flight (there were just too many good beers to try) which consisted of: Great Lakes Alchemy Hour Double IPA, Columbus Brewing Company Bodhi (one of my favorite locally-brewed IPAs), Weyerbacher Insanity, and Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA.

How would I sum up my experience at the second annual Old Bag of Nails Beer-Fest? Well, the bartenders were great hosts, we were supplied with complimentary buffet filled with pulled pork and other goodies, the beer was poured plentifully and we met several new friends. So overall I would definitely declare the Old Bag of Nails 2013 Beer-Fest a great success!

 

Old Bag of Nails - Enjoying Some Beers

Enjoying our beers at Old Bag of Nails