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The Pacific Northwest Beer Walkabout

Big Block Brewing

Big Block Brewing

You may have noticed there haven’t been any new articles posted on Tasty Mug for quite some time. About 2 years to be exact. Blog-writing truly is a full-time job (or in my case it was a second full-time job). After relocating to Seattle 3 years ago, I realized I didn’t know a darn thing about the beer scene on the “right” side of the country, and I definitely didn’t know enough to write about the beers. In the past few years I’ve been busy getting very well-acquainted with amazing plethora of breweries, events, places and people involved in the PNW beer industry. It’s been an amazing journey – one that I’ve only just begun.

It may be a while before Tasty Mug posts new articles, but I plan to keep my Events section up-to-date with all of the awesome festivals and events that come my way, including anything that involves beer, cider and good old-fashioned liquor. In the meantime, you can always follow Tasty Mug’s drinking shenanigans on Untappd, Instagram or Twitter. Cheers and stay frothy out there my drinking friends!

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Brew Review 2014

Brew Review Logo 2014

Great Brews for a Great Cause
Enjoy a night of great beer featuring local and national breweries as well as select imports. If you live in Columbus, Ohio, enjoy craft beer, and want to support a great cause check out the Brew Review event happening THIS Friday – October 17th starting at 7pm!

Brew Review is a casual evening tasting craft beers. Come for the beer and stay for the hors d’oeuvres, music, and mingling. 100% of net proceeds will support Creative Living’s Resident Assistance Program. Creative Living is a non-profit organization encouraging independent living for adults with severe physical disabilities by providing wheelchair accessible housing and assistance and by creating a supportive environment for people to learn, work, live and contribute to the community.

What’s On Tap
Want to know the brews on the menu? Check out this year’s list:

  • Actual Photon
  • Actual Oktoberfest
  • Anchor Steam Beer
  • Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout
  • Atwater Vanilla Java Porter
  • Barley’s Blood Thirst Wheat
  • Barley’s Centennial IPA
  • Barley’s Russian Imperial Stout
  • Barley’s Scottish Ale
  • Brooklyn Lager
  • Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale
  • Estrella Damm Daura (Gluten Free Beer)
  • Ithaca Flower Power IPA
  • Lager Heads Bed Head Red Ale
  • Lost Coast Tangerine
  • Mt. Carmel Harvest Ale
  • Rockmill Petite Saison
  • Rockmill Tripel
  • Rogue Dead Guy Ale
  • Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
  • Uinta Hop Nosh IPA
  • Victory Prima Pils Wheat
  • Wolf’s Ridge Beta Belgian Dubbel
  • Wolf’s Ridge Clear Sky Cream Ale
  • Wolf’s Ridge Driftwood Session IPA
  • Wolf’s Ridge Trail American Amber


Event Information:

Brew Review – A night of great craft beers with Creative Living

Date and Time:
Friday, October 17, 2014
7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Location:
Grange Insurance Audubon Center
505 W. Whittier
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Grange Insurance Audubon Center is located on the Scioto River just south of downtown Columbus.

Tickets:
$35 for tickets purchased before October 10th, $40 after and at the door.
You’ll receive 15 tasting tickets and a custom tasting glass that’s yours to keep.
Purchase your tickets
today!

Want to invite a friend or follow the event on Facebook? Check out the Brew Review Facebook event page.

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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 – 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: Founders Curmudgeon

Beer of the Week - Founders CurmudgeonAn “oldie but goodie,” this week’s guest is one of my favorite brews, Founders Curmudgeon. Curmudgeon is an old ale brewed with molasses and aged in oak. It packs a punch at 9.8% ABV, but is so well balanced it’s easily drinkable, and potentially dangerous. I know I could personally down more than one in a sitting – but that’s the good kind of dangerous, right?? Only available in March and April, you better pick yours up before the getting’s gone!

Tasty Mug Review

Appearance: Pours a clear, deep amber with a nice, frothy finger head. A small amount retains to the edges of the glass along with lacing.
Smell: Sweet, toffee, caramel or butterscotch with some subtle oakiness and can definitely pick up on the molasses.
Taste: Dark fruits, caramel, butterscotch or toffee, with very subtle oak notes. Definitely a warm, boozy sensation that emerges after a few sips. As the beer warms up the malts supersede the sweet notes.
Mouthfeel: Really creamy and smooth, but with a nice, medium body that’s not too syrupy in consistency, which to me makes it very drinkable. Lots of carbonation on the tongue upfront that very quickly smooths out.
Overall:
This is overall an excellent, well-rounded beer. While it has a boozy kick, it would be a good beer for someone to try that wants to step up their beer game and round out their palette. It’s not overly malty, overly sweet, or overly boozy … it lives in that happy place between all three worlds.

Tasty Mug Rating: 4.5 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 9.8%
IBUs: 50
Original Gravity: Not listed
Malts:
Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Availability: March – April
Food Pairings: Cheese (buttery; Brie, Gouda, Havarti, Swiss)
Glassware: Pint glass, snifter, oversized wine glass
Aging: Not recommended

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Beer of the Week: Trappist Westvleteren 12 (XII)

Westvleteren 12 (XII)

Westvleteren 12 (XII)

After sampling this week’s featured beer last night, I’m still reeling from beer afterglow this morning. Upon first sip, I can immediately taste why Westvleteren XII is often regarded as the best beer in the world. Brewed since 1838 at the abbey of Saint Sixtus in Belgium, it has never been available for sale in the United States. Running about $85 for a six-pack, it was well worth the price. You’ll be hard pressed to find it now, as this was a one-time-only retail release – most of the 150 stores nationwide that were selected to sell it ran out within minutes. All I can say is I’m extremely grateful for a good beer friend that was able to acquire some and share it with me.

Just for the record, “Trappist” can only be applied to beer brewed by Trappist monks in their monastery. Among all Belgian beers only six are allowed to use the name of Trappist – Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren.

Tasty Mug ReviewWestvleteren 12 (XII) in a glass

Appearance: Pours hazy, barely opaque chestnut color. Minimal head in this particular pour but was sharing with a friend. It has very fine bubbles that retain around the edges of the glass.
Smell: Just the right hint of sweet with dark fruits, raisins, plums, maybe some cherry, caramel and subtle malts.
Taste: At first sip it is clear why this was a highly renowned beer. It is complex, but perfectly balanced with just the right combination of sweet flavors that taste of dark fruits like fig or plums. There is caramel, brown sugar and a very subtle hint of spiciness at the end. There’s a pleasant warmth from the alcohol as it’s consumed.
Mouthfeel: Moderate in body, very smooth and creamy on the palate, the oxidation sits on the tongue. The fine bubbles round out the mouth feel with perfectly balanced carbonation.
Overall: Most anyone should be able to taste why this is one of the top beers in the world. It is complex yet perfectly balanced, has excellent flavor, and overall is one of the best beers I’ve ever tried. The drinkability is off the charts and I really wish I could say I had more than just the one bottle that I tried. I think it’s absolutely worth every penny and if I ever make it over to Belgium I’ll be making my way over to the Abbey of Saint Sixtus.

Tasty Mug Rating: 5 / 5

Additional Information

Style: Quadrupel (Quad)
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: Unknown
Original Gravity: Unknown
Malts:
Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Availability: Year-round but only available by reservation at the Abbey in Belgium (except for the one-time-only release in the U.S.)
Food Pairings: Buttery cheeses such as Brie, Gouda, Havarti, or sharp such as Blue and Cheddar; beef, smoked meats
Glassware: Snifter, Tulip, Goblet (or Chalice)
Aging: Can be cellared for long periods, under the proper conditions

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Upcoming Event: AleFest Columbus (2013)

Upcoming Event - AleFest Columbus 2013For the 8th year in a row, AleFest is coming to Columbus! It takes place this Saturday, February 2, 2013 from 2:00 to 6:00 PM. It will be held at Aladdin Shrine Center, 3850 Stelzer Road, which is right across the street from Easton Shopping Center. It just so happens it’s conveniently located very close to many Easton restaurants, making it easy to grab a bite to eat after you’re done drinking all that beer!

If you aren’t familiar with this event, AleFest is a craft beer festival. This year they will have more than 100 breweries and over 250 craft beers including rare draught lagers and ales, as well as cask ales.

According to ThisWeek Community News there will be about 15 new breweries and 25 to 30 beers that weren’t available last year, including 4 to 6 gluten-free beers.

As you may be aware, Columbus Winter Beerfest just took place a few weeks ago, on January 11th and 12th. They had quite a selection of beers available, so AleFest has some steep competition! However, I’ve been to this event in the past and it never disappoints. Last year they had around 1,500 attendees, and expect more this year. This is a much smaller number than the crowd that showed up to Beerfest, which in my personal opinion is why this event has a much more “refined” feel to it than the melee that Beerfest seems to be trending towards.

This year, AleFest organizers are also encouraging “tropical attire,” so if you need a break from your cold winter gear, break out your favorite Hawaiian shirt. Or if you’re really brave, maybe some coconuts and a grass skirt. 😉

What To Expect:

  • Over 250 craft beers from more than 100 world-class breweries
  • Expanded draught ales and lagers & cask ales
  • Commemorative AleFest sampling glass
  • Raffle for beer collectibles
  • Retail sales of wearables and glassware
  • Silent auction featuring beer memorabilia
  • Live entertainment by Nick Mitchell
  • Food concession available

Tickets are available for advance purchase on the AleFest website for $35.00 or you may purchase tickets at the door for $40.00. Buying a ticket will get you 20 samples of craft beer, a commemorative tasting glass and a tasting guide. You must, of course, be 21 to attend, and designated driver discounts are available.

A portion of the proceeds benefits SODZ Columbus Area Homebrew Club.

If you have questions or comments regarding the upcoming AleFest, you can email AleFest@earthlink.net, or visit the website www.AleFest.com.

Post a comment if you plan to attend!

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Columbus Winter Beerfest (2013)

Columbus Winter Beerfest 2013 - Tasting Glass

Columbus Winter Beerfest 2013

This past weekend was the 3rd Annual Columbus Winter Beerfest, held at the Columbus Convention Center. Beerfest goers had the option to buy tickets for either Friday or Saturday. Both nights gave the option of paying $10 extra to get VIP entry – basically you show up at 6:30p instead of 7:30p, get a few special beers and get a real 8oz tasting glass (instead of a 5oz plastic one). All Beerfest attendees were given 25 tasting tickets at the door (although I handed out very few of mine as most booths didn’t seem all that interested in collecting them).

What caught my attention this year was the 310+ craft beers they promised, and when I reviewed the list and saw newcomers to the event such as Kona Brewing, Hinterland and Ballast Point, I was in!

Friday Fun
My friend and I went Friday, which turned out to be a very good idea, as Saturday sold out and according to Amanda Forbes in her article on examiner.com it became “a hot, sweaty orgy of beer tasting.” She wrote “Attendees trying to get from line to line were like worms, weaving through or making their own tunnels through the sea of people.” Approximately 7000 folks showed up on Saturday and the event sold out.

Friday on the other hand, had a nice, leisurely tone about it with only 2,500 or so attendees showed up that night. My friend and I purchased our VIP tickets in December, scoring  them for regular entry price, so we arrived with the early group.

The Experience

Columbus Winter Beerfest 2013 - Crowd

3rd Annual Winter Beerfest

The first thing I noticed was the event was relocated to a larger space within the convention center this year, which was fine by me. The only thing I didn’t care for was the florescent lights blaring down the whole time (it didn’t set a very nice ambience). Although after a handful of samplers, I don’t think I noticed it anymore.

Drinking beer is hard work, and the 4.5 hours we were in the convention center flew by quickly as we scurried to sample as many beers as we could. We hit 16 stations total in that time, but there was no way I was able to drink all those generously poured glasses so I focused on getting my evaluative sips, sampled my friend’s as well, then we both poured the rest.

Columbus Winter Beerfest 2013 - Homework

Diligently tracking our samplers.

My primary goal of the evening was to try as many beers as I could that I’ve never had before, which meant I didn’t really sample the Ohio beers this time around.

I do have to say that in the past year my knowledge of breweries has steeply increased, so looking at the floor map of the booths made me feel  like I was welcoming old friends. I was a little disappointed to find most of the folks at the beer stations were volunteer pourers, however, and not actually from the real breweries. Hey, you can’t blame a girl for wanting be a beer geek with brewmasters when the chance may arise!

So, all that said, here is my official list of all the beers I tried that Friday at Beerfest. I’ve noted favorites as well as beers that I would consider very unique for the taste buds, and other beers I would steer clear from in the future.

My Beerfest “Sampled Beers” List

A little about my rating system below.  I log all the “new” beers (anything I haven’t had previously or have not recorded previously) on my Beer Advocate profile, then rate them according to their rating scale of 1-5, while evaluating appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel, and overall impressions. For each beer below I’ve also listed its style, ABV, and my rating and any notes.

  • Frosted Frog Christmas Ale – Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
    Winter Warmer (8.60% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.75 – Very interesting flavor in both of the Hoppin’ Frog beers, a very strong sense of cinnamon in the Winter Warmer especially.
  • Hopped-Up Goose Juice – Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
    American IPA (7.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Harpoon IPA – Harpoon Brewery
    American IPA (5.90% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Harpoon Leviathan – Czernobog – Harpoon Brewery
    Russian Imperial Stout (10.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.75
  • Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale – Stone Brewing Co.
    Belgian Strong Pale Ale (9.40% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75
  • Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale – Stone Brewing Co.
    Belgian Strong Dark Ale (9.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4 – I really liked this brew (I wasn’t such a fan of the 11.11.11 although I know it’s highly favored by others). The 12.12.12 was an intriguing mix of dark and spicy with sweetness; a very complex and flavorful brew.
  • Big Wave Golden Ale – Kona Brewing Co.
    American Blonde Ale (4.40% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75
  • Koko Brown – Kona Brewing Co.
    American Brown Ale (5.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.75 – I rank this one high in the unique flavor category because it is heavy on the coconut aroma and taste (something I haven’t run across in the beers I’ve tried to date). If you’re a coconut fan this one is definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
  • Grass – 5 Rabbit Cerveceria
    American Pale Ale (6.40% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3 – This one gets a special mention because of its unique flavor as well. It is named adequately – it does smell and taste like, well, grass. I wouldn’t particularly care to drink a full pint but it’s now the second “grassy” beer I’ve come across in the past few weeks, and an interesting brew to sample.
  • 5 Vulture – 5 Rabbit Cerveceria
    Chile Beer (6.40% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3 – I’m wondering if the other beers (besides the two I sampled) from 5 Rabbit are just as unique – this beer was also on the odd side, but an interesting beer to try. This one is brewed with roasted ancho chile – which definitely gives it a spicy kick, but it’s more of a subtle “back of your throat” kind of burn than something that burns the taste buds.
  • Luna Coffee Stout – Hinterland Brewery Restaurant
    American Stout (5.60% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75
  • Saison – Hinterland Brewery Restaurant
    Saison / Farmhouse Ale (6.30% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2
  • Batch 19 – Coors Brewing Company
    American Adjunct Lager (5.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.25 – I recommend avoiding this one – I wasn’t aware (until later) that it is brewed by Coors, which basically explains why I thought it was very lackluster in flavor, smell, and pretty much all else. I had an issue with this primarily because it seemed they made a point to not indicate it was from Coors anywhere on the booth.
  • Krampus (Imperial Helles Lager) – Southern Tier Brewing Company
    American Double / Imperial Pilsner (9.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.5
  • 2XIPA – Southern Tier Brewing Company
    American Double / Imperial IPA (8.20% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4
  • Le Merle – North Coast Brewing Co.
    Saison / Farmhouse Ale (7.90% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75
  • Ruedrich’s Red Seal Ale – North Coast Brewing Co.
    American Amber / Red Ale (5.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Mogul Madness Ale – Rogue Ales
    Winter Warmer (6.60% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Yellow Snow IPA – Rogue Ales
    American IPA (6.50% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4.25 – There were several solid IPAs at Beerfest this year, this and the 2XIPA get a spot on the list, as well as the Sculpin from Ballast Point.
  • Old Chub – Scottish Style Ale – Oskar Blues Brewing Company
    Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy (8.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Chaka – Oskar Blues Brewing Company
    Belgian Pale Ale (8.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Sculpin India Pale Ale – Ballast Point Brewing Company
    American IPA (7.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4
  • Calico Copper Amber Ale – Ballast Point Brewing Company
    American Amber / Red Ale (5.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.5
  • Smooth Hoperator – Stoudts Brewing Co.
    Doppelbock (7.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4
  • Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady ESB – Stoudts Brewing Co.
    Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) (5.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 4
  • Green Flash Imperial India Pale Ale – Green Flash Brewing Co.
    American Double / Imperial IPA (9.40% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Omission Lager (Gluten-Free) – Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
    Light Lager (4.60% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75
  • Omission Pale Ale (Gluten-Free) – Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
    American Pale Ale (5.80% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25 – One of the best “gluten-free” beers I’ve had to date. It’s strongest competitor being Estrella Daura Damm (from Spain). Both start out with real barley and use an enzyme to strip the gluten away – which is also why both taste like “real” beer.
  • Nelson Imperial IPA – Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
    American Double / Imperial IPA (8.60% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Eugene – Revolution Brewing Company
    American Porter (6.80% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.25
  • Double Fist – Revolution Brewing Company
    American Double / Imperial IPA (8.30% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3.75
  • Railbender Ale – Erie Brewing Co.
    Scottish Ale (6.80% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 3
  • Derailed Black Cherry Ale – Erie Brewing Co.
    Cream Ale (5.00% ABV)
    Tasty Mug Rating: 2.75

Overall, I would say Winter Beerfest this year was a big success and is only growing with each new year. I personally found it provided great exposure to more new brews. They did a great job getting in some new participating breweries as well. Friday is definitely the night to go to avoid the masses. And even in that case, towards the end of the night the less-seasoned craft enthusiasts were dropping their glasses left and right. Thankfully, most of them had plastic tasting glasses. 😉

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Jungle Jim’s International Market

I generally make it a habit to take at least one trip a year to Fairfield, Ohio to visit Jungle Jim’s International Market. If you’re not familiar with it, Jungle Jim’s is a grocery store (although that term is probably an understatement) that houses a plethora of foods and beverages from around the world. It’s quite a spectacle inside with the huge variety of products and interesting decorations. It’s not just a trip to go buy groceries, it’s a full-fledged experience!

It has become such a popular destination that a second Jungle Jim’s opened last year in Cincinnati, Ohio. If you’re within a couple hours of driving distance from either location, it’s well worth the visit, especially if you’re looking for a particular beer or wine, seasonings, or food items from another country. According to Wikipedia, Jungle Jim’s has over 180,000 items, 60,000 which are of international origin.

Jungle Jims - Entrance

Animals guarding the entrance at Jungle Jim’s

What to Expect

Walking up to the store itself is interesting, as there are model animals out front near a pond with running water. [insert pic] As you walk through the front doors there are stop lights and other decorations on the wall.

Once you enter the store, you are presented with shelves stocked with snacks, mountains of cheese, every deli meat you could ever want, and of course the most important part – the alcohol section. It’s safe to say whenever I visit this particular department it’s guaranteed to put a dent in my wallet and raises eyebrows when I check out!

Beer, Wine and Other Beverages

There is a huge selection in the beer and wine department. On top of this you can also purchase spirits at Jungle Jim’s State Liquor Store. I especially enjoy browsing their single bottle section – their site boasts they carry over 1,200 different beers, running the whole gamut from your normal beer to crazy craft beers.

Jungle Jims - Beer

Glorious aisles of beer

My most recent trip I bought a cart full of single bottles from Belgium and Germany that I haven’t seen before. It’s definitely worth a visit for this section along – there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone!

Specialty and International Items

Several other areas within the store warrant a visit including the candy section, hot sauce aisles, gluten-free section, fresh meat and fish, fresh produce, and of course the rows and rows of international specialty items.

Jungle Jims - Fresh Tilapia

Fresh Tilapia

I personally find the produce area especially fascinating, as there are fruits and vegetables there that I’ve never seen the likes of before – even if you don’t buy them, it’s interesting to peruse. And if you really like fresh fish, you’ve got it at Jungle Jim’s! There are tanks of live fish in the seafood section.

Moving on from the seafood you will eventually run across the aisles of hot sauce (so many bottles in fact, that it is alphabetized!). If you have difficulty finding this section, just keep your eyes looking up for the fire truck hanging from the ceiling. Near this area you’ll also find the rows and rows of international products, which I could easily spend at least half an hour wandering through.

Jungle Jims - Hot Sauce

Hot sauce for everyone!

Last but not least, Jungle Jim’s has a nice selection of gluten-free groceries, so if you’re interested in gluten-free items, make sure to swing by this section as well.

Summed Up

If you want the full-blown Jungle Jim’s experience, with crowds and all, go during the weekend. You’ll be met with a bustling grocery store full of folks, some of which can even be seen photographing the restrooms (when you see them you’ll understand why). If you want a quieter shopping experience, go during the week. Either way, if it’s your first visit allow yourself at least two hours to wander around the store – trust me – you’ll need it!

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Beers, Brats and Chicken Hats at the Columbus Oktoberfest

Welcome to Oktoberfest!

Last night I attended the opening of the Columbus Oktoberfest, held at the Ohio Expo Center.

When I arrived, the Meiler Vier (the fourth annual four-mile run that kickstarts the festivities) was in full swing. Folks were dressed in a variety of costumes or running gear. Once the race ended, I spoke to a trio wearing full-body beer bottle costumes. They said while it was a challenge to run a 4-mile race as a beer bottle, the rewards they snagged made it well worth the effort. Each participant walked away with an event t-shirt, medal, and a free beer plus a World Famous Sausage and Cream Puff.

Speaking of cream puffs, if you haven’t had a cream puff from Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus you need to pay a visit to their restaurant in German Village and get yourself one! They’re as big as your kid’s head and full of awesome creamy goodness.

The Beer

Brooklyn Oktoberfest

Brooklyn Oktoberfest

The first line of business when arriving at Oktoberfest should of course be BEER. After working our way through the runners, my beer drinking companion and I headed into the Heidelberg Bier Hall to purchase 30 tickets each (plenty for a couple mugs of beer and a snack) then made a beeline for the Oktoberfest beer station. There was also a station for  a regular domestic brand – but any true beer drinker would avoid anything you can easily snag in a 12-pack at a gas station – just sayin’!

Available Oktoberfest brews included choices from:

  • Paulaner
  • Bitburger
  • Hofbräu
  • Brooklyn Brewery

I went with the Brooklyn Oktoberfest beer to start, and I have to say it was quite tasty. It poured with a solid head, dark copper color and was very drinkable (I should know – the mugs sold at Oktoberfest are 32oz!).

Happy about Hofbräu

The second beer I sampled was the Hofbrau Oktoberfestbier. It poured a pale gold with minimal head, and was lighter than the Brooklyn in body, crisp and smooth. I personally preferred the heavier malty taste of the Brooklyn, but you’ll just have to try them and decide for yourself! There were descriptions posted beneath each of the taps at the station, so you can read about each before you choose.

The Brats

There was an array of delicious-smelling meats and decadent desserts available in both the Heidelberg Bier Hall and the Budweiser Prost Hall. Beer brats, Schlamager brats and even deep fried brats abounded. There were also choices of chicken, BBQ pork or ribs, steak on a stick or even fried German bologna.

I personally headed for the desserts and ended up scoring a wonderful pumpkin roll from All About The Zel’s, who were kind enough to give me the roll for 4 tickets instead of 5 (as I’d spent the rest on beer).

The Chicken Hats

Chicken hats for everyone!

Oktoberfest is an interesting mix of folks running around in costumes, peculiar hats, and engaged in general shenanigans. I for one, noticed vendors walking around selling an assortment of chicken hats. While I’m always up for a good hat purchase, I found them a bit over the top. However, a friendly gentleman noticed my interest and offered to go 50/50 on the cost if I would wear a chicken on my head the rest of the evening. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a challenge.

Alpine Horns

Overall, I’d say the Columbus Oktoberfest warrants a visit to sample the beers and do some interesting people (and costume) watching. It’s family- friendly, but a bit pricey. Parking costs $8 a car, although it’s free to enter the event. Beer you get for your buck is average, with a filled 32oz mug costing 15 tickets ($15), and refills costing 10 tickets. I’d recommend going with a group to carpool, and while there are two stages, games (such as cornhole) and other events, we found it to be a bit anticlimactic overall. Expect to create some of your own entertainment – such as waging bets about wearing chicken hats.

Oktoberfest runs through the weekend opening Saturday at noon and running until midnight, and is also open Sunday from noon until 8pm. To read all the details and for directions, you can visit the official Columbus Oktoberfest website.