Pub Dog “Blueberry Dog” and “Raspberry Dog”

As a “thank you” gift for helping out some friends, I was given an assortment of six Pub Dog brews in 750ml bottles. And really, when someone gives you 4.5 liters of beer, any beer afficionado should rejoice.

I’d been seeing Pub Dog beers around Maryland for a while, but hadn’t the opportunity to try them. But being a fan of several Maryland beers (including some gems from Heavy Seas and the masterpieces of Brian Stillwater), I was excited to try the line of brews from Baltimore-based (and Westminster, MD-brewed) Pub Dog.

I brought home the box, and decided to get crazy with their “Raspberry Dog”. I grabbed my favorite glass, and poured in the lager-style beer (5.0%, I believe). It had a dark color and, with no surprise, had a very slight tint of pink. Cute.

I immediately buried my nose into the top of the glass to experience the aroma and found, well, nothing but bitter air. Not bitter as in, “I smell hops,” it was bitter like, “ew, is that old raspberries?”

Still giving it the benefit of the doubt, I took a sip. To be completely fair, it does actually taste like raspberries. You get an immediate flavor in the center of your tongue, which finds its way to the sides and finishes with a very flat flavor. I ended up finishing the bottle, but just didn’t feel fulfilled.

The following night, I reluctantly reached for the bottle of, “Blueberry Dog.” As soon as I poured it into the glass, I realized I was probably in for a repeat performance. It’s also a 5% lager, but comes out of the bottle in purple-red color that is really quite attractive.

But like the raspberry beer, this also had no aroma. Even worse, it has no good flavor, either, which is really disappointing because I love blueberries. You find neither any identifiable blueberry flavor, nor any malt, hops, or even residual sugar flavoring.

“I know what it tastes like,” commented my wife. “Ass.”

I’m not as harsh, but I found that the beverage it most resembled was when you get a soda with very little syrup in it. Just a flat, bitter, lifeless flavor. Oddly enough (and not meaning to be this disgusting), I found that when I belched, I actually tasted blueberries. So really, they must be in there somewhere.

Unfortunately for Pub Dog, I prefer to taste my beers going down, and not coming back up. In the end, I could only stomach about four ounces, and the rest of the bottle was poured down the drain.

I still have a bottle of “Peach Dog” awaiting me, which I will give a fair chance to, but I suspect it may also be a let down. There are some non-fruity beers in the queue, so I’ll be interested to see how Pub Dog does with, well, normal beers.

As much as I like to support the small brewers, beers this devoid of flavor should really be re-imagined by their brewers. A lot could be learned by them cracking open something like 21st Amendment‘s “Hell or High Watermelon” or even something as mundane as “Bud Light Lime”.

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Big Orca Visits Troegs

This past weekend Big Orca had the pleasure of finally getting to visit Troegs new facility in Hershey, PA.  Our first attempt at a visit didn’t go according to plan.  When they first opened they were closed on Sundays since they didn’t have a kitchen serving food. Anyone that’s bought beer in PA knows that their beer laws are insanely strict but Troegs has since then remedied the situation and is open on Sundays serving what looks like delicious bar fare.

As we opened the door the first thing that we noticed was the bad ass wall art of the nugget nectar logo that took up the entire wall.

How sweet is this illustration?

Next we walked through their brew store that had the typical items on display, glasses, shirts and beer signs. There was a self guided tour available that let you see the various brew kettles they were using to produce their tasty brews. It was short and sweet and had information plaques throughout the walk to inform you on some of the processes used to make their brews.

The highlight of the building is their massive tasting room and snack bar.

Insane

If you click on the picture to enlarge you can get a sense for just how big the space is.

They had tons of beers on tap and they were very generous with their pours. All glasses were at least 16oz for normal ABV beers and most of the time a lot more. The prices were great for

Enjoying a Troegenator and Dim Wit on the outdoor patio.

the size ranging from $4 – $6. I had a chance to try out one of their scratch beers called DimWit which was exceptionally good for a Wit beer. It reminded of their staple wheat beer Dreamweaver with a kick. The spices and floral tones really popped on this beer and made for a pleasant surprise upon tasting it for the first time.

Troeg’s new brewery is a huge departure from their previous brewery in downtown Harrisburg.  While the previous place had it’s charm, it was small and dank and not as accessible as the new Hershey location.  The new location looks like Troegs won the lottery.  Kind of like if a car guy won the lottery, he would build a huge garage and stuff it full of expensive automobiles; it looks like Troegs did the brewer’s version of that.  Everything looks brand new, well thought out and incredibly expensive.  It is really impressive to see how far they have come.

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El Gordo moves to PA

Last weekend after a 27 hour drive I arrived in the great State of Pennsylvania.  I left tortillas and oppressive heat for Amish buggies and Sheetz.  You take the good with the bad.

So first off, lets talk about the bad.  PA has some of the worst beer laws in America.  It is appalling how bad the consumers of PA get screwed.  Ill leave all the ends and outs of it for a later post, but if I wanted to buy a DFH 120 right now, my only option is to pay $200 to buy a case of it.

So what’s the good.  East Coast breweries. Im currently 10 miles from where Troegs is brewed.  I have been drinking Hop Back amber, Dreamweaver and Perpetual IPA all week.  Although I had to buy a case of it, I also got my first Oberon of the year.  Bell’s Oberon tastes like summer and it was hard to hear El Rojo talking about being able to drink it when ever he wanted while I pined for it in Tejas.  Well now that I’m home, it’s the first case I bought.

Besides access to all the wonderful breweries of the east, Im also closer to El Rojo, Hot Rod Lincoln and much of the other Big Orca Family.  Once I’m settled in and start brewing again there will be many more collaboration brews.  Not to mention, there will also be many  opportunities for the Big Orca family to get together for epic beer tastings.

To say I’m excited about being back on the East Coast would be an understatement.

Buying Beer in PA? You better love the shit out of it, cause your buying a whole case.

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My Last Home Brew in Texas

Last beer bottled in my tiny ass apartment.

A few weeks ago I bottled my last home brew in Texas.  If I had to classify it, I guess its a dry hopped double wheat.   I used the same hops and addition schedule that was used in the Big Red ale, but a completely different grain and yeast situation.  The main specialty grain in this beer is smoked wheat, but there is also oatmeal and biscuit malt.  I used Wyeast’s Ringwood Ale yeast to ferment it all.  I wasn’t expecting alot from this beer, but it really surprised me.  I’ll be drinking one with El Rojo shortly and I will let him share his thoughts on it.

Although I wont be brewing anymore beer in Texas, it doesn’t mean there wont be one last Texas inspired beer.  A very special ingredient was smuggled across half the US in the hatch of a speeding Subaru.   I wont reveal it until brew day, but it is gonna be epic.

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California Sun and Some Fine Beer

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a trip with my wife to visit her family in San Diego. After the disaster of a week we had before we left with the brutal storms in VA and no power, it was a great time to get away. While I was out on the west coast I had a couple cool micro brew experiences that I’d love to share.

A beautiful day at the Farmers Market in San Diego

The first cool microbrew thing I found was completely unexpected. We made the trek down to Little Italy Saturday morning to find a kick ass farmers market. On top of all the amazing food and fresh produce, I found and interesting little stand, Bottle Hood. This unique company takes used beer and liquor bottles and turns them into glasses and other random dishware. It’s an absolutely brilliant idea and I was pretty jealous that I didn’t think of something so simple. I’d definitely recommend visiting their website to check out what they do. Any of their items would make a great present for a microbrew loving friend or family member.

What beer geek wouldn't want these?

 Next stop — Pizza Port.

Pizza and micro brew, what more could you ask for?

This place was epic. It did exactly what I expected, made a killer pizza and had some fine microbrews to boot. Anyone familiar with our friends at FreeTail Brewing Co. in San Antonio can get a good idea of the vibe at Pizza Port. The restaurant had a perfect setup for eating pizza and drinking brew. They had counter service to order your food and then the rest of the restaurant was a bar area and long community benches with tables. It reminded me of a German beer hall California style. The kettles were exposed for everyone to see where they made their tasty brews.

Where the magic happens...

The atmosphere was great and there was only one thing to do while I waited for our pizza, grab a drink. The one brew that stood out was their Double IPA called Poorvato. This bad boy clocked in at 10.5% and didn’t disappoint. I don’t know what it is about IPA’s from Cali but they are freaking delicious. It honestly reminded me of Bell’s Hopslam but with a smoother finish and more grapefruit taste. That’s saying a lot since Hopslam is consistently rated on of the best Double IPA’s in the world. If it didn’t have so much alcohol in it, I could’ve drank it all night long.

MMMmmmmmm..... Poorvato

After sampling brews and pizza at Pizza Port there was only one thing left to do, check out their epic bottle shop next door. I want to give a shout out to the guy working the store when I was there. I’m pretty sure his name was Davie, but he was the coolest guy I’ve met at a beer store. They were actually closing the doors at 8pm and he let me in at the last second. I told him I was from the D.C. and it meant a lot to me that I had a chance to check things out. The place was perfect with outdoor tables and benches for sampling and coolers upon coolers of fine and rare microbrews. Davie hooked me up in a major way and he made a customer for life. I’d highly recommend stopping by the Pizza Port bottle shop in Carlsbad if you get a chance.

So this is a Big Orca first, but El Gordo has no idea what I bought at the bottle shop until he reads this post. Instead of showing up with my Cali mother load next weekend at the front door, I’d thought I’d unveil my findings Big Orca style in this post. So El Gordo, here they are……..

You've just been El Rojo'd

That’s right buddy, we’ll finally be able to drink Pliny side by side and revel in all it’s glory. I can’t wait to sit back on a nice warm summer day and enjoy this fantastic brew with you. I also picked up a blended ale from Lost Abbey and a Triple IPA from Knee Deep Brewing. All came highly recommended from the guys at the bottle shop.

We’ll that about does it for my microbrew experiences in Cali. I had a fantastic time visiting my family on the West Coast and got some amazing beers to boot!

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Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

Amazing bottle

 

Voodoo Doughnut is the world famous doughnut shop in Oregon.  You know, the place that makes the little voodoo doll doughnuts stabbed with a pretzel stick.   I got to visit a few years back.  Luckily, in addition to trying the voodoo doll and mango tango, I had a bacon maple bar.  It was awesome.  A delicious doughnut topped with maple frosting and pieces of real bacon.   Rogue must have thought it was awesome as well, because they made it into a beer.

It tasted as good as it looks

Does it do the maple bacon bar justice?  It comes really close.  Smokey bacon flavor with hints of maple flavor and sweetness.  I think it’s overly smokey though.  It takes away from the maple flavor and unbalances the beer.  It’s a minor complaint though.

Overall, I like this beer.  I couldn’t eat 6 doughnuts without a stomach ache, and I wont be drinking anymore than one of these beers in an evening for the same reason.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a fun beer in a fun bottle that makes you smile when you try it.

Inside Voodoo Doughnut's Portland location

 

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The Power and Glory with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery – Part 2

Sorry I’ve been MIA folks but I had a pretty busy month. It’s well overdue but here is the second part to the fabulous beer dinner I attended at Nat Geo.

Russian River — Pliny the Elder (Double IPA) — Santa Rosa, California

The beer, the myth, the legend. Yes people, it does exist. El Gordo and I have been trying to get our hands on this beer for years since it’s has consistently been rated one of the top beers in the world. Well did it live up to the hype? YES! This was by far one of the most balanced double IPA’s I’ve ever had. It smelled of sweet nectar and didn’t disappoint once it hit my lips. From beginning to end there wasn’t a bad taste in my mouth. A hop punch in the face up front with an amazingly smooth finish. Luckily, we got the beer hot off the presses and the sweet golden liquid had only been in the bottle for a little over a week. I thought for sure the beer couldn’t live up to the hype, but it did. I’d highly recommend  going to ebay and trying to find a bottle asap.

J.W. Lees — Harvest Ale 2011

This beer was the least favorite of mine for the night(Sorry couldn’t find a pic on the web or their website.) It was a barleywine style beer fermented with champagne yeast. It’s was over the top malty sweet with tons of hot alcohol on the pallet. So far I’ve haven’t been impressed by any big beers that I’ve sampled from Europe other than a select few from BrewDog. I think I’ll stick to the states when it comes to finding barleywines and beers heavy on the alcohol.

Brooklyn Brewery — Black Ops 2010 — Russian Imperial Stout — Brooklyn, NY

 

 

 

 

 

To this day Black Ops is one of my favorite beers of all time. I’ve bought this beer for the last 4 years in a row and every time I buy it I fall in love with it all over again. This was a rare chance to taste one that had been shelved for a couple years because every year I buy it I can’t hold out long enough to let it age. The beer pours jet black with a rich almond colored head. The aroma is one of the most fantastic things about this beer. It smells like freshly made chocolate mixed with a moderate helping of vanilla beans. The taste brings the aromas to the forefront of the mouth and doesn’t disappoint. Even though it clocks in around 10% alcohol is the last thing you taste. The beer is incredibly smooth for the amount of punch it packs. This beer is pretty rare and hard to get but if you’re in the DC metro area make sure to start asking your local beer store for it around Christmas time.

Evil Twin — Even More Jesus — Imperial Stout — Valby, Denmark

This was a pleasant surprise to finish off the night. Once again this beer poured jet black and had barely and head at all. The aroma was more of bittersweet chocolate and very subtle vanilla. The taste was absolutely fantastic. It had a sweet chocolate taste almost like milk chocolate which was surprising since the aroma was the complete opposite. It has subtle vanilla and cinnamon flavors to boot. This was definitely a sipping beer that would be nice to have to polish off a long day. There was no hint of alcohol at all and it came in right around 12%. A very impressive beer overall and I’m glad I had the chance to give it a try.

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Thirsty Thursday Beer Review

In the spirit of Thirsty Thursday, I stopped by Central Market to see what they had.  I was glad that I did.  First thing I saw was a lone Beer Geek Rodeo on the shelf so I snatched that up for later.  Then something new caught my eye, a Linchpin White India Pale Ale.  It’s a Founders and Green Flash collaboration, nuff said.  I put 3 in my basket.  I moseyed on down to the 6 pack area and saw Santa Fe Brewing’s Imperial Java Stout.  I had one of these in Houston and loved it.  San Antonio being slow, our distributors must have just gotten them in.  With a basket full of delicious beer, I paid my monies and hurried home with giddy enthusiasm.

Being this excited for the beer, I needed a cool backdrop for a picture.  I remembered my Japanese Orion mini-keg and decided it would work.  I procured it from an inattentive bar in Okinawa several years ago and have kept it with the hopes of making something cool out of it one day.  I’ve never seen another keg this size and shape before or after, so hopefully it is actually as cool as I think it is.  While I was digging the keg out of the closet I also found a Clown Shoes Hoppy feet 1.5.  Its a Double Black IPA and I thought it would be a good contrast to the White IPA LinchPin.

How’s the beer taste?  The LinchPin looks like a wit, smells like an IPA, and tastes somewhere in the middle.  Hoppy bitterness up front, followed by citrus and the fruity spiciness of the yeasts in the end.  I like it.

The Java Stout is amazing.  Just unbelievably good.  It tastes like something you would get in a cafe.  It is the most coffee flavored beer I have had.  It tastes like a coffee/espresso drink first and a beer second.  It is just phenomenal.  Obviously you have to love coffee to love this beer, and if you do, you will be blown away.

The Clown Shoes’ Hoppy Feet 1.5 is their 1st Anniversary beer.  It smells like chocolate malty goodness and tastes about the same with some bitterness to balance out all the malts.  Being an imperial it clocks in at 10% but you can’t taste it.  It is a fantastic well balanced beer.

 

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Sunday Night Stone Night

Still slacking on getting the epic beer tasting from the other weekend written up.  In the mean time here’s a quick review on a few Stone beers.  Up first is a beer Stone helped create to celebrate the 13th Anniversary of Bottleworks.  Its got 13 malts and 13 hops.  The 13 hops play in the background while the roasted portion of the 13 malts is up front.  Its a sweet sticky beer, not a hop bomb.

The second beer is a Stone collaboration with Bear Republic and Fat Head’s called TBA or Texas Brown Ale.  While Texas doesn’t get a lot of special/one-off brews, being called a Texas Brown Ale must have helped our cause in getting this one.  The molasses and Brown sugar help make this Brown Ale extra brown.  But, I was surprised by the hop presence and roasted/smoke flavors.  Not knowing what a Texas Brown Ale was supposed to taste like, I was expecting sweeter and less bitter.  It is a very good beer though.

 

 

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Memorial Day Brew

St. Arnold recently invited it’s fans to the brewery to zest oranges.  These oranges went into a beer that was supposedly to be aged on donated Louisville sluggers.  What was this beer for?  To benefit Operation Homefront and it was released on Memorial Day.  It is a very good beer.  Easy drinking, with a fresh orange flavor complimenting the hops and creating a smooth drinkable beer that would probably best be enjoyed at a picnic table.  Even better, profits from this goodness benefit Operation Homefront.  So drink up!

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