Down but not out... yet

Sorry for being MIA for so long.  I'm trying to rebirth this site at  It will be a bit more lightweight than this one but hopefully updated more regularly.
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Review: Avery Joe's Pilsner

It being summer and hot and humid down here in the mid-Atlantic, it's perfect weather to just do nothing, sit around and have a refreshing beer.  When I talk about summer beer, I'm not talking about beer with oranges in it, citrus all up in your nose, limes clouding any flavor your could get from an already light beer.  I'm looking for something light but robust, with a crisp, thirst-quenching aspect to it, a little clean hop bite that is balanced in its bitterness throughout a drink with a malt backbone that you don't even notice is there - but it is.

A pilsner beer really meets alot of these characteristics.  In fact, alot of the big beer companies, like Miller, Budweiser etc are pilsners.  They don't taste like a true pilsner however due to the additions of grains like corn or rice rather than hops and malt for flavor.  It really just doesn't give you that clean taste that you'd get from something like the Avery Brewing Joe's American Pilsner.

At first glance, this looks like your typical American light beer.  But when you drink it, it's actually a pretty bold example of the style.  There is a rounded crisp grassy hop bite on first sip which gives way to some grapefruit sprinkled with some pepper.  It warms a little bit after going down the hatch and the malt balance and 4.7% alcohol leave your palate clean and quenched.  The low ABV makes the Avery Pilser very drinkable and sessionable - perfect for hanging out during those long summer days.  This exemplifies the pilsner style to me and is an all around great beer.

Review: Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

The opponent of the Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron in the Washington Post's 2011 Beer Madness tourney - Breckenridge Brewery's Vanilla Porter.  Two beers couldn't be any more different and still be from the same style - in this case porter.  Alcohol level: DFH - 12%, Breckenridge - 4.7%; flavors: DFH - wood, cherry, a little chocolate/vanilla, Breckenridge - all vanilla all the time; Drinkability: DFH - sip, barely finish one, Breckenridge - drink a six pack no problem; Location: DFH - East Coast (DE), Breckenridge - West Coast (kind of, CO).

This was my first Breckenridge Brewery offering so I didn't know what to expect.  But I stumbled across some of these commercials that they put together, making fun of the latest trends in beer advertising (vortex bottle generating more "flavor" from Miller Lite and "freaky freezy" bottle labels that change color when it's cold), so these guys have a sense of humor and have a love for good beer. See a couple of the commercials after the jump.

So how is the Vanilla Porter?  Very nice.  The super low alcohol content surprised me so I knew it'd be mild and being a porter, I expected a nice malty flavor with some chocolate/coffee notes.  Poured out, it's got a beautiful dark almost opaque color with a rich caramelly head.  One whiff and you knew they weren't kidding when they say they use real vanilla beans in the brew.  As I drank it, I was again caught by how easy it was to drink and how light it was, but at the same time, it felt "thin" and milk-like.  Really faint bitterness from hops and just an overabundance of vanilla puts the beer in some sort of inbalance to me.  I like that it's bold with its flavoring but when I was done, I couldn't help but be left a little unsatisfied.

Review : Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

Received a bottle from my friend, Joel, of this dark beer since he was having trouble finishing. Not a good sign. This beer was featured in the Washington Post's Beer Madness in the porter style (or other dark beer style) bracket. It went up against another porter - Breckinridge Vanilla Porter (which I also got from Joel!) - and lost! What is this? A beloved DFH beer losing in the first round of THE beer tournament AND my friend can't finish it! Signs point to a beer that just isn't that great or I just can't handle with my hop-biased palate.

My last foray into dark DFH beers was the World Wide Stout and that was a tough one foe me. It was too high in alcohol, had too strong a licorice taste that bordered on crude oil and I couldn't take it even by sipping. The Palo Santo Marron is like the little brother to the stout, with a more subtle flavor profile and I think more balanced flavor. Its aged in old Paraguayan wood barrels as the label indicates and you can taste the wood in the beer in the aftertaste. Upfront, there are notes of caramel, vanilla, and some dark cherry. The 12% alcohol level balances the beer, cutting through the sweetness. Overall pretty good, definitely a sipper and for the adventurous!

Review: Avery Ellie's Brown Ale

I've been loving Avery Brewing when I tried some of their more 'extreme' beers (ones with tons of malt or tons of hops) at Galaxy Hut, Rustico, and other bars in the DC Metro area.  They just make beers with robust flavor that are quite easy to drink.  So I dropped by the Total Wine store and looked at some of their more 'normal' offerings and was in the mood for something smooth and warming, yet more on the sweet, malty side.

This beer reminded me of a better Newcastle.  Stronger toffee and chocolate notes with a more upfront bitterness but definitely balanced and very drinkable.  Super smooth that just hit the spot for a chilly day.  Just really indicative of the brown ale style and a standout for me.  Doggy!

Review: Ommegang Three Philosophers

This is a beer I've heard so much about due to its unique blend of cherry ale and Belgian quadrupel ale. At a whopping 9.8% alcohol level and complex mix of flavors, this beer is not for the weak. Let it warm up a bit after the pour to get the flavors well blended and you will experience something unique and good tasting. I don't say great because you can't escape the heavy alcohol taste which can mask some of the wonderful mix of caramel malt, Belgian yeast and spice flavor with a splash of cherry (no not like Dr Pepper - more subtle). Its truly unique; drink it while you're in a bold mood. The label art also rules.

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The Return

Yes... it has been too long. What can I say - I'm really lazy. But I got this thing called a smartphone a few months ago, it takes pics, has a blogging app, and I'm on it all the time so there are no excuses anymore (for now). I haven't stopped trying out new beers so I have a little backlog of things to talk about. Without further adieu, HOPTIMUM.

The Total Wine store limit this to one per customer. That plus the label art had me at hello. The guy's head is a HOP.

Tasted tons of crisp pine hop and grapefruit followed by a touch of biscuit sweetness. Not as extreme as I thought it'd be but met the hop fix I was looking for. Find it and drink.
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