Guinness’ The 1759 reviewed: A distinctive, flavorful, pricey brew

 

By Alan J. Wax

A bottle of Guinness The 1759

A bottle of Guinness The 1759

Guinness has a winner, albeit a pricey one, that’s generated some controversy among beer geeks.

The big international brewer’s late October release, called The 1759, comes in a frosted, black, corked, 750 ml Champagne-style bottle nestled in a velvet-lined box and is priced at $35. Guinness says it produced only 90,000 bottles, largely for the U.S., of what it described as “a luxury beer.”

News  of the beer’s release, however, unleashed a stream of largely negative comments in various social media. “Guinness, yuck,” one read. Guinness, some suggested, was a giant evil monster. A marketing gimmick, said others. Few said they would pay the $35. But others, I read, had paid $50 for a bottle of this limited edition brew and, then shared it among friends. A good notion.

No one will ever accuse Guinness of being a craft brewer. Yes, it’s big on marketing as is its parent, drinks giant Diageo. Still, Guinness has been brewing that black elixir known as Guinness Stout for 250 years. It’s a wonderful brew when poured properly on draft at an Irish bar.

I’m sure many naysayers hadn’t tasted The 1759, which Guinness describes as an amber ale brewed with peat-smoked whiskey malt and fermented to 9 percent ABV.

I have, thanks to a sample shipped to me by Guinness’s PR folks. And I can say it’s distinctive, flavorful brew that most drinkers would be happy to sip, albeit at a lower price.

I shared my sample with a group of knowledgeable, advanced homebrewers/BJCP judges, among them the owner of a just-launched commercial brewery.

The group’s reaction was largely positive, although one taster thought it too smoky.

It was an interesting brew, they agreed. In fact, If you didn’t know it was from Guinness, you might think it was a terrific American craft brewed beer. I rated it 4/5 stars.

The 1759 poured a deep brownish copper and offered up a peaty nose that suggested a burning pile of fall leaves. But there are also notes of caramel, butterscotch, roasted malt, and suggestions of bacon. The hops were subdued. Full bodied, almost chewy with a creamy finish, it’s a complex brew that doesn’t hide its 9% ABV alcohol level.

In fact, it’s one of the better beers I’ve had recently. Would I pay $35 for it? Perhaps, once. But if someone chose to gift me with another bottle, I wouldn’t say no.

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Guinness goes upscale with a $35 limited edition brew called 1759  

Guinness 1759By Alan J. Wax

Guinness is going upscale.

The Irish brewer, best known for its iconic stout, is introducing a limited edition, ultra-premium amber ale called Guinness The 1759.

The brew’s grain bill includes traditional barley malt as well as peated malt usually used for making Scotch and Irish whiskies.

“The fine peated whisky malt used in the Guinness The 1759 brewing process brings a complex taste to the amber ale that gently complements the hop flavors, resulting in a liquid that is distinguished and innately Guinness.” said Michael Donnelly, master brewer at Guinness’ St. James’s Gate brewery in Dublin.

Donnelly described the new brew as having a rich butterscotch aroma with subtle hop notes and mellow caramel flavors combining with a subtle hop character along with fruity sweetness from a strong ester profile. Guinness recommends drinking the 9 percent ABV beer from a 6 oz. Champagne flute.

The new beer is to be the first in series of limited “Signature Series” brews to be produced at Guinness’ Brewhouse No. 4 at St. James’s Gate.  Only 90,000, corked and capped 750ml bottles were produced. The beer, packaged in a black velvet-lined gift box, will retail for about $35.

The beer’s name is derived from the year founder Arthur Guinness signed the 9,000-year lease at St. James’s Gate in Dublin,

Distribution at selected bars and retailers is expected to commence by the end of October. It will also be sold online at reservebar.com

Guinness officials credit the growing U.S. craft beer market as a force behind the new brew. Most of the production will be shipped to the U.S.

“The United States is driving a beer renaissance that hasn’t been seen globally for decades,” Doug Campbell, Guinness brand director, said in a statement. “Today, the expectations of beer connoisseurs and enthusiasts are significantly higher.” 

Earlier this year, the company debuted Guinness Blonde American Lager ($8.99 a six-pack), the first offering in the new Guinness Discovery Series.

We’re anxious to sample this brew, but wondering if it’s worth the price. Would you buy this brew?

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Virginia’s Devil’s Backbone wins again at GABF, MillerCoor’s AC Golden Brewing unit also a winner

gabf_medalsBy Alan J. Wax

Top honors at this year’s Great American Beer Festival went to AC Golden Brewing, Devils Backbone Brewing Co.-Outpost, Marble Brewery and Draught Works, each of which medaled in multiple categories.

Meanwhile, brewpubs receiving top honors were Beachwood BBQ & Brewing Beach, Brasserie Saint James and Bastone Brewery.

The winners, announced at the festival in Denver on Oct. 4, emerged from a pool of 5,507 individual commercial beer entries and 89 Pro-Am entries. A total of 268 medals were awarded.

The awards, among the most coveted in the brewing industry, often are compared to winning the Super Bowl or medaling in the Olympics. Winning a medal often translates into higher sales for the winners, if not prestige.

This year, the awards recognized a new category of brewer with the “Very Small Brewing Company and Very Small Brewing Company Brewer Award going to Draught Works, of Missoula, Montana, and its brew team.  The brewery won gold with its Scepter Head in the American Strong Ale Category.

Marble Brewery, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and its brewing team received the awards for Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.  It won gold in the Other Strong Beer Category with its Double White and gold in the Imperial Red Category with its Imperial Red.

The Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year awards went to Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. – Outpost, of Lexington, Virginia, www.dbbrewingcompany.com/theoutpost.aspx and its brewery team. The 15,000-square-foot Outpost is the newest addition to the Devils Backbone brewing group, which also received awards at the GABF in 2013 and 2012. Outpost took gold in the Germany-Style Schwartz Beer Category with its Schwartz Beer and silver in the Bock and American-style dark lager categories, respectively with its Turbo Cougar and Old Virginia Dark.

The award for Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year went to AC Golden, of Golden, Colorado, and the AC Golden Brewing Team, which took gold and silver in the American-style Amber Lager Category with its Colorado Native Amber and its Colorado Native Golden, respectively. AC Golden is the development brewing operation of MillerCoors.

Bastone Brewery, of Royal Oak, Michigan, and its brewer, Rockne Van Meter, won honors for Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year. The brewpub took a silver medal in the Wood and Barrel Aged Beer Category with its Private Stock  #472 and silver in the Belgian-style Strong Specialty Ale Category with its Thor’s Hammer.

Brasserie Saint James, of Reno, Nevada, and brewers Josh Watterson and Matt Watterson won for Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year and brewer. The brewpub took a gold for its Daily Wages brew in the French-Belgian style Saison category. Its specialty is Belgian-style beer.

The Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year award honors went to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Long Beach, California and brewers Julian Shrago and Ian McCall. The brewpub’s Mocha Machine took gold in the Coffee Beer Category and its Un Atout won gold in the French-Belgian style Saison Category.

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Long Beach, California and brewers Julian Shrago and Ian McCall. The brewpub’s Mocha Machine took gold in the Coffee Beer Category and its Un Atout won gold in the French-Belgian style Saison Category.

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Scottish 80 Shilling, brewed by Bear Republic Brewing Co. of Healdsburg, California, won the gold in the ProAm competition, which pairs amateur brewers with professional brewers, who scale up the award-winning homebrew recipes. The winning team included Bear Republic brewmaster Richard Norgrove, and AHA member Michael Kelly. Silver went to Spencer Pale Ale, from Kokopelli Beer Co., of Westminster, Colorado, which paired its brew team AHA Member Daniel Christensen. Bronze was awarded to I Wanna Rauch!, Springfield Brewing Co., of Springfield, Missouri, brewed by brewmasters Ashton Lewis and Bruce Johnson, and AHA member Keith Wallis

Industry professionals—222 from 10 countries— judged the competition. They worked together in small groups and, without knowing the brand name, tasted beers in each of 145 specified style categories.

A list of the winners is available on festival’s web site.

Fifty-two first-time entering breweries won awards in the competition and four breweries tied for most medals won, with three medals each: 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend Oregon; Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, Baker, Oregon; Devils Backbone Brewing Co.–Outpost, Lexington, Va.; and Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, Colorado.

Since 2002, the most-entered category has been American-Style India Pale Ale (IPA), which saw 279 entries in 2014. This year’s gold medalist was Breakside IPA from the Breakside Brewery in Milwaukee, Oregon.

This year’s competition featured three new categories: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer, with 41 entries; Historical Beer, with 12 entries; and Kuyt Beer, which had no entries

Industry professionals—222 from 10 countries— judged the competition. They worked together in small groups and, without knowing the brand name, tasted beers in each of 145 specified style categories.

 

 

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An impulsive visit to Chateau La Nerthe proves to be a worthwhile decision

By Alan J. Wax

The gates to Chateau La Nerthe

The gates to Chateau La Nerthe

Our day of touring Avignon and its Palais des Papes had drawn to an end. What else to do with just a few hours of daylight remaining?

Visit a winery, of course. Which one? I turned to my GPS, hit points of interest, attractions and then wineries. A list displayed with the wineries closest to our position, along the Rhone River, near the Pont d’Avignon. With traffic in every direction, a spot decision was required. With a quick glance while stopped for light, I I instantly recognized Château La Nerthe, just 20 minutes away. Off we went.

La Nerthe is one of the historic estates of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appelation with 225 acres of vineyards in the stony southeastern portion of the region. Château La Nerthe, whose origins trace back to the 12th Century, has been owned by the Richard family since 1985. Their vineyards are all organic. The annual production is about 290,000 bottles of red and 40,000 bottles of white.

La Nerthe's stony vinyard

La Nerthe’s stony vinyard

The estate’s well-lit, modern tasting room was reached by driving up a narrow, gravel lane through the stony vineyards. The classic chateauneuf terroir of the famous galettes, or large, round stones, dominates the vineyard, where vines on average are 40 years old. La Nerthe grows 13 different grape varieties.

Château La Nerthe, whose origins trace back to the 12th Century, has been owned by the Richard family since 1985. Their vineyards are all organic. The annual production is about 290,000 bottles of red and 40,000 bottles of white.

The tasting room was abuzz as we arrived late in the afternoon. A group of American tourists from Southern California on a winery tour was busy sampling Le Nerthe’s wares.

Soon, I would, too. And later be joined by a group from Pennsylvania. What is it with all these Americans?

Le Nerthe's  tasting room wine dispenser

Le Nerthe’s tasting room wine dispenser

The wines, poured from a dispenser built into a wall behind a tasting bar, was a step up from some of the rustic tasting rooms we’d visited during our travels.

I was especially eager to try La Nerthe’s CdP Blanc. White Cdps—and numerous whites from other Rhone appelations are hard to find in the U.S. and I’ve enjoyed them immensely when offered the opportunity.

La Nerthe’s white is made predominately from Roussanne along with Grenache, Clairette and Bouboulenc. The 2013 vintage was being poured. Pale gold, it offered an intense it was fresh and round with a nose of peach, citrus and flowers and lively acidity and mineral notes on the palate followed to a lengthy finish.

Three CdP Rouge followed, the 2011, 2010 and the 1996. The 2011, a blend of blend of  syrah, grenache noir andmourvedre, was soft with notes of red fruit and spice. The 2010, a blend of  Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, was for me a perfect CdP with its plush body and complex notes of ripe cherries and plums, spice and earthiness. The 1996 offered a raisiny, stewed red fruit notes and earth, but left an impression that it had peaked.

Finally, a surprise. Fine de Châteauneuf-du- Pape, a brandy, labeled an eau-de-vie, a rarity in the appellation.  Made from a white wine base distilled three times and aged in large oak barrels, it reminded me of a lightly hued cognac, quite aromatic, fruity, smooth and flavorful with a bit of an alcohol bite in the finish.

Not wanting to weigh down my suitcases, I bought only a bottle of the ‘13 blanc and the ’10 rouge., though it was temping to buy the brandy. Only the prospect of a credit card bill that I could not pay put the brakes on that.

The spur of the moment decision to visit Le Nerthe provided a welcome respite from playing tourist and terrific dividends from  tasting such terrific wines.

 

 

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New York’s top winery accolade goes to Long Island’s Macari Vineyards

 

Macari Vineyard on  Long Island's North Fork

Macari Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork

By Alan J. Wax

A multi-generational, family-owned Long Island wine producer founded almost two decades ago is getting long overdue recognition.

Macari Vineyards, which now produces about 14,000 cases a wine annually from 200 acres of vines in Mattituck, on Long Island’s North Fork, won the New York State Winery of the Year award at the 2014 New York State Wine & Food Classic, an annual competition run by the New York State Wine & Grape Foundation.

“It was really great. We’re really happy,” co-owner Alexandra Macari said of the award announced Aug. 13 in Watkins Glen. She attributed the win to the winery’s staff. “We have such a solid team,” she said.

Owners Joseph Macari Sr., his wife, Katherine, and Joseph Macari Jr., who runs the winery with his wife, Alexandra, and their children, founded the winery in 1995 on 200 acres of the family’s 50-year-old, 500-acre waterfront estate,  Some of the acreage is used to raise livestock, including Texas Longhorn cattle, goats, donkeys, horses, ducks and rabbits.

In June 2007, the Macaris added 20 acres of vines to their holdings and a second tasting room when they purchased the former Galluccio Vineyard in Cutchogue.

The Macari vineyards, planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viogner, Grüner Veltliner, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier and Syrah, are largely farmed using biodynamic methods with fungicide and pesticide sprayed only once a year. Chemical nitrogen and herbicide has not bee used for the past 16 years. The vineyard was briefly on the selling block a decade ago.

The Winery of the Year award recognizes consistent quality of wines, said Jim Trezise, president of the wine industry group. At least seven wines had to be entered into the competition. Trezise said numbers are assigned for Bronze, Silver, Gold, Double Gold, Best of Class and Best of Category, and then the total is divided by the number of wines entered to derive a ratio; the winery with the highest ratio receives the award. This year, there were 863 entries, 733 of them medaled.

Macari is the third Long Island winery to receive the top winery award, which last year went to McCall Wines, of Cutchogue, and in 2004 to Paumanok Vineyards, of Aquebogue.

Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled, from the Finger Lakes wine region won the coveted Governor’s Cup trophy as the judge’s top wine. The winery was purchased last year by Gene Pierce, owner of nearby Glenora Wine Cellars.

This year’s competition included 835 New York wines, 20 hard ciders and 8 spirits from across New York.

Macari winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch

Macari winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch

Macari won Best Red Wine and Best Cabernet Franc for its 2010 vintage on its way to its Winery of the Year award, along with several other top medals. “We really believe in Cabernet Franc from Long Island, said the UC Davis-trained Kelly Urbanik Koch, Macari’s winemaker since June 2010.

Macari’s other awards included double gold for its 2012 Chardonnay Estate, gold for its 2010 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Dos Aquas red blend, and 2013 Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc. It also received silver medals for its 2007 Merlot Reserve, 2010 Bergen Road red blend, 2012 Chardonnay Reserve, 2013 Rose and 2010 Block E Viogner

The awards were based on blind tastings by 22 expert judges, including four from California, 10 from New York, seven from other states, and one from France. They included wine writers, restaurateurs, retailers, and wine educators. Judging panels determined the initial awards, with the top-scoring wines evaluated by all 22 judges for Best of Category and Governor’s Cup awards.

Such awards and medals are useful marketing tools for the numerous small wineries across the state that were eligible to enter the competition.

The complete results can be download from industry group’s web site.

The Best of Category awards, all considered for the Governor’s Cup, went to:

Best Sparkling Wine: Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery 2005 Brut Seduction, Methode Champenoise

Best White Wine: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Rose Wine: Anthony Road Wine Co. 2013 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Best Red Wine: Macari Vineyards & Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc

Best Dessert Wine: Idol Ridge Winery 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Best of Class awards went to Double Gold or Gold medal wines in classes of at least seven wines. The winners:

Best Oaked Chardonnay: Coffee Pot Cellars 2013 Chardonnay

Best Unoaked Chardonnay: Martha Clara Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay

Best Overall Chardonnay: Martha Clara Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay

Best Gewürztraminer: Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2013 Gewürztraminer, Estate Bottled

Best Dry Riesling: Wagner Vineyards 2012 Riesling Dry, Caywood East Vineyards Estate Grown

Best Medium Dry Riesling: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Medium Sweet Riesling: Barnstormer Winery 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling

Best Sweet Riesling: Wagner Vineyards 2012 Riesling Select, Estate Grown & Bottled

Best Overall Riesling: Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, Estate Bottled

Best Sauvignon Blanc: Hosmer Winery 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Best Pinot Grigio: Swedish Hill Winery 2013 Pinot Grigio

Best Grüner Veltliner: Three Brothers Wineries & Estates 2013 Grüner Veltliner, Estate Reserve

Best Vinifera White: Seneca Hayes Wine Cellars 2012 Riesling-Gewürztraminer

Best Other White Vinifera Varietal: Millbrook Vineyards & Winery 2013 Tocai Friulano, Proprietor’s Special Reserve

Best Cayuga: Lucas Vineyards 2013 Cayuga White

Best Traminette: Thirsty Owl Wine Co. 2013 Traminette

Best Vidal: Swedish Hill Winery 2013 Vidal Blanc

Best Vignoles: Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Vignoles

Best Cold Climate White Varietal: Tug Hill Vineyards 2013 LaCrescent, Estate Grown

Best Hybrid White: Lucas Vineyards 2013 Harbor Moon

Best Niagara: Lucas Vineyards Miss Behavin

Best Vinifera Rose: Anthony Road Wine Company 2013 Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Best Catawba: Woodbury Vineyards Foxy Blush Renard

Best Native Blush: 21 Brix Winery Thirsty Elephant

Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Brotherhood Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Best Merlot: Osprey’s Dominion Vineyard 2010 Reserve Merlot

Best Pinot Noir: Ventosa Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir

Best Cabernet Franc: Macari Vineyards & Winery 2010 Cabernet Franc

Best Lemberger: Inspire Moore Winery & Vineyard 2012 Change

Best Syrah: Billsboro Winery 2012 Syrah

Best Other Red Vinifera Varietal: Fulkerson Winery 2013 William Vigne Dry Zwiegelt

Best Vinifera Red: Harbes Vineyard 2012 Red Blend

Best Vinifera/Hybrid Red: Buttonwood Grove Winery Redbud

Best Other Red French-American Varietal: Johnson Estate Winery 2012 Chambourcin, Estate Grown

Best Cold Climate Red Varietal: Thousand Islands Winery 2012 Frontenac

Best Hybrid Red: Lakewood Vineyards 2013 Long Stem Red

Best Concord: 21 Brix Winery Ella’s Red

Best Fruit Wine: King Ferry Winery 2013 Apple Mystique

Best Cider: Kaneb Orchards 2014 St. Lawrence Cider

Best Spirit: Hidden Marsh Distillery Judd’s Wreckin Ball Corn Whiskey

Best Ice Wine: Idol Ridge Winery 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Best Vinifera Sparkling White: Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery 2005 Brut Seduction, Methode Champenoise

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Highlands distiller Knockdhu adds some smoke to its AnCnoc single malts

Distiller pays homage to its heritage with a series of limited edition peaty expressions

By Alan J. Wax

A distillery in Scotland’s Highlands region, an area largely known for its floral, sweetish, fruity single-malt whiskies, now is offering something for those who enjoy a bit of smoke in their libation.

The Knockdhu Distillery, which more than a century ago began producing whisky with a strong peaty flavor imparted from the turf-fired malts available at the time, now, has recently released a limited edition collection of peaty whiskiess with bolder, smokier flavors under its AnCnoc. (pronounced a-NOCK) brand

The collection includes three expressions, Rutter, Flaughter and Tushkar—named after traditional peat-cutting tools. Rutter and Flaughter currently are available in the U.S., while Tushkar, for now, only is currently available in Sweden.

For many imbibers, peat smoke is a key flavor in whisky and for others it may be the reason they don’t drink whisky. While few whiskies are actually noticeably peaty, peatiness, or smokiness, has become one of the best-known characteristics of Scotch whisky, and it’s through this smoke character that distilleries try to define themselves.

Traditionally, the more peated the barley, the higher the phenol levels in the spirit, and the smokier the whisky will taste. Peatiness is measured in PPM, or phenol parts per million.

The new AnCnoc whiskys display their PPM level on their labels, allowing the drinker to select an expression with a level of smokiness to their liking.

I have to admit, I am not much of a fan of such extreme smokey expressions as Ardberg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Laphroig and Talikser. I still recall my first sample of Caol Ila, which suggested licking a newly tarred road. No, personally I favor fruity, floral, sweetish whiskies from the Highlands and the Speyside whisky regions.

Playing with the character of their spirits seems to have become de regueur for some producers in recent years. I believe in marketing terms, they’re considered brand extensions.

But, I’m always game to try something new.

Flaughter

Flaughter

Rutter

Rutter

AnCnoc Rutter, the first release in the collection, is named for the spade used in sizing and separating peat blocks. Peated to a PPM of 11, this golden-hued whisky initially reeks of burnt wood and earth and then gives way to delicate spices, sweet tones, tropical fruit-like esters, notes of minerals and a hint of vanilla. It’s quite drinkable.

anCnoc Flaughter (pronounced FLAH-ter) is named for the spade used to remove the top layer of peat. Peated to a PPM of 14.8, the pale gold, whisky offers up aromas and flavors of ash mixed with sweet melon notes, hints of vanilla oak and a long-spicy finish. Despite its higher PPM, this seems a more mellow whisky that its companion expression.

The AnCnoc Tushkar is said to be the most peated ot the trio, at 15 ppm, but was not available for tasting.

Both Rutter and Flaugher currently are available at U.S. spirits retailers with a suggested retail price of $85 for a 750 ml bottle.

I have tasted the smoke and I like it.

 

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Great American Beer Festival tickets go on sale; steps taken to curb scalpers

GABF_Logo_LRG_V_RGBBy Alan J. Wax

It’s just about that time of year, again. And you’ll have to act quickly.

Tickets for the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF), to be held Oct. 2-4 in Denver, go on sale July 30 at Noon (EDT) via Ticketmaster.com. And event organizers are taking steps to curb scalpers who may have contributed in past years to the event’s sellout in a matter of minutes.

Members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association may buy up to two advance tickets until July 20. Admission to the Saturday, Oct. 4 afternoon session will be AHA and BA member, but the number of tickets is limited.

Tickets are $80 per session. Designated driver tickets are $25.

The scene at 2103 GABF (Brewers Association photo)

The scene at 2103 GABF (Brewers Association photo)

Last year, general admission tickets to the nation’s biggest beer event sold out in just 20 minutes and a sellout this year is expected again. Last year’s sell out led to speculatation that scalpers were attempting to corner the market.

GABF organizers said on the event‘s web site that they are attempting to deal with scalpers.

This year, general admission ticket buyers will be limited to four tickets and organizers further stated: “Unfortunately, the secondary market for popular tickets persists, despite many efforts to thwart it …There are measures in place to decrease access for scalpers, including the ticket limits that we set for GABF ticket purchases and Ticketmaster’s anti-bot and other security measures in their selling system. (Ticketmaster reviews all purchases to enforce our GABF ticket limits.) Again, though, while this decreases access, it unfortunately does not prevent a secondary market. To ensure you have a valid ticket, purchase tickets from authorized outlets only.”

The festival at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver is expected to draw up to 49,000 attendees over four sessions who will have the opportunity to sample almost 3,000 beers from about 700 U.S. breweries.

 

 

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They’re all beer aficionados on this bus

Brew Bus

Getting aboard The South Florida Brew Bus near the Funky Buddha.

A group of South Floridians discover their region’s breweries and beers with a chartered bus tour.

By Alan J. Wax

It began and ended in Boca Raton, Florida. For more than eight hours, starting on a recent sunny, Saturday afternoon and finishing mid-evening, 24 craft-beer loving South Floridians traipsed through five brewery tasting rooms, traveling from one to another aboard a luxury livery dubbed the South Florida Brew Bus, sampling dozens of beers at each—and more onboard.

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewry

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewery in Miami.

The beer lovers were among the 500-plus members of the Boca Brews Meet Up Group. The tour was organized by the group’s leader, Melissa Nowak, a former paralegal and Maryland expat now living in Boca Raton. A diverse collection of men and women — Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, Boca Brews meets monthly at different venues to quaff their favorite beverage and socialize.

The Brew Bus is affiliated with the Funky Buddha Brewery, which is in Oakland Park, Florida’s budding Culinary Arts District and, which highly regarded for its full-flavored, eclectic beers. Funky Buddha, the region’s largest brewer, started in Boca Raton, where it still operates a lounge and small-scale brewing operation.

I happened to be in Florida when a Boca Brews bus tour was scheduled and decided to join  the fun. Many of the breweries are in out-of-the way locations and the idea of visiting them without having to drive was appealing.

We departed from Miller’s East Boca Ale House in Boca Raton, with Funky Buddha Brewery our first destination. On board, cans of Brew Bus beer, brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa were passed around—along with pretzels and cookies. I found myself with a can of Rolling Dirty, an Irish-style red ale with a big malt backbone and a good dose of hops.

The breweries and their beers

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

The exterior of the Funky Buddha is deceptive, looking much like a store in a strip mall. Inside, however, there’s a cavernous tasting room and, of course, the brewing operation.  Since brewers can’t serve food under Florida law, a food truck sits outside. There are numerous beers on tap, but its possible to select a few for a custom flight. Servers write each beer’s name in white chalk on your paddle.  Opting for an eclectic selection of brews I was not disappointed.  Vanilla Cream Abdul Jabar Ale showed just enough vanilla to make it interesting—a cream soda kissed by hops. No Crusts, a brown ale with peanut butter and jelly, was interesting with its distinct, but balanced bready, peanut and fruit notes, but too sweet for more than a sampler-sized glass. Chocolate Covered Cherry Porter was tasty, but hardly summery with its strong bitter chocolate and roasted-grain character and undertones of cherries. Floridian Gone Wild is the brewery’s popular wheat beer turned into a tart, but soft refresher.

Mack House Interior

Inside The Mack House, Davie, FL

Back on the bus for a short hop to Mack House in Davie, Florida, home to the Holy Mackerel nano brewery. The tasting room-cum-college-dorm lounge, tucked away in a strip mall on the service road of I-595, offered a handful of interesting beers and some less so. The easy drinking Bowling Alley Blonde seemed to be an entry-level, session brew with its low hop bitterness and a sweet, soft malt character. The golden-hued Downpour IPA offered balanced bready malts and a resiny hop character. The best-selling Psycho Fish, a cloudy orange-colored, orange-infused, intensely flavored Belgian tripel was a delight with its estery Belgian yeast notes, bright orange flavor and notes of bubble gum. Mack in Black, a dark, strong Belgian-style ale was opaque and stoutish with roasty notes. Panic con Pablo is a copper-colored ale infused with a blend of coffee from a local coffee shop called Café Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee; too intensely coffee flavored for my palate.

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Onward to South Beach’s only brew pub, Abbey Brewing, which contract brews its four house-designed offerings at Indian River Brewing Co./Florida Beer Co.  in Melbourne, Florida. Appearing bit rustic for this glitzy neighborhood, it offers more guest beers than those with its own tap handle. On a recommendation, I sampled Immaculate IPA, a copper-hued brew more in the style of an English ESB with notes of malt, fruity esters and more than a hint of hop bitterness.

Inside Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Stop No. 4: Coral Gables, home to Titanic Brewery and Restaurant, the Miami area’s first brew pub, located opposite the University of Miami Hurricanes’ baseball stadium. Titanic’s beers, not surprisingly are mostly British influenced and nautical themed, a sampler of six generally well-made brews cost just $6. Triple Screw Light Ale, a 4% abv German style ale, was more like a Pilsner than a Kolsch with its grainy, low-hopped character.

Captain Smith’s Rye Ale, a amber brew was deep brown, round, fruity and spicy from the malted rye in the grain bill. White Star India Pale Ale is a copper-hued Anglo-American ale made with Cascade hopes and British ale yeast. Loaded with juicy malt character along with citrus notes it was smooth, creamy brew.Britannic Best Bitter, a British styled ESB was amber hued with a fruity, malty and floral hop character.  Boiler Room Nut Brown Ale, also quite British in style, was a translucent reddish brown, creamy, grainy and a finish that was somewhat short.Shipbuilders Oatmeal Stout, deep brown with an oily character, it seemed thin bodied with an exceptionally dry finish.

Wynwood Brewing in Miami's Wynwood Arts District

Wynwood Brewing, Miami

Our final destination was the Wynwood Brewery, Miami’s first production brewery, located in the Wynwood Arts District, just east of Interstate 95 on a street lined with single-level warehouses tagged with graffiti. Having had a couple of Wynwood’s brews before and been disappointed, I was pleasantly surprised by Wynwood’s Fox, an imperial/double red with a deep russet hue, crisp and flavorful with big malt character and enough hops to suggest and IPA. I was, however, annoyed by the 12-oz. plastic cup and the $8 tariff.

Abbey Brewing Co., 1115 16th St., Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 538-8110.
 
Funky Buddha Brewery, 1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park, FL 33334 (954) 440-0046.

The Mack House (Holy Mackerel Nano Brewery), 9118 W. State Road 84, Davie, FL 33324 (954) 474-5040.

Titanic Brewing Co., 5813 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146 (305) 667-2537.

Wynwood Brewing Co., 565 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127 (305) 982-8732.

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Saranac’s new Single Malt brew will appeal to whiskey and beer aficionados

Label for Saranac Single Malt Scottish Ale

Label for Saranac Single Malt Scottish Ale

Scottish ale aged in single-malt Scotch whiskey barrels.

By Alan J. Wax

A recently released beer from the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. could be a beer for Scotch whiskey aficionados or, perhaps, a Scotch for beer drinkers.

The beer, called Saranac Single Malt is a strong Scotch ale – a one-off, limited edition brew that’s part of the Utica, New York-based brewer’s Saranac High Peaks series targeted to beer geeks.

Matt, established 126 years ago, besides being known for its Utica Club American lager and its line of Saranac beers, produced since 1985, is a big contract brewer whose customers over the years have included Brooklyn Brewery, Boston Beer Co., Harpoon Brewery, Kirkland (Costco) and numerous other labels that have since vanished into oblivion.

The Matt brewery, now ranked No. 11 in terms of sales volume among U.S. craft brewers, appears to have taken a step forward with this new release from its long-time aping of product lines of other brewers, among them Samuel Adams.

Like many beers on the market these days, Saranac Single Malt is aged in wood, but instead of Bourbon barrels, F.X. Matt aged its high gravity (9% abv) Scotch ale aged in hundred-year-old whiskey barrels from the Tomintoul-Glenlivet Distillery, a somewhat off-the-radar whiskey producer in Ballindalloch, in the Speyside region of Scotland. Its unpeated whiskey rarely is seen as a single malt; most of Tomintoul’s output goes into blended whiskies. Previously, the barrels were used to age Sherry wine. Matt started aging the beer almost a year ago on the oak.

“In our mind, the barrels are 125 years old!,” Fred Matt, president and 3rd generation owner, said in a press release.  “In all seriousness though, they are very close to that.  Imagine how much character is in this beer between our brewing history and the history of these barrels.  We’ll say 125 years worth of character.”

The beer offers an enticing nutty, caramel, scotch whiskey aroma and on the palate there are rich, sweet malt with undeniable Scotch Whiskey-like, oak, fruit and sherry notes.

To be sure, Matt is not the first brewer to go the Scotch whiskey barrel route. Two years ago, Schafly Brewing Co. in St. Louis released its own whisky–aged beer called Single Malt Scottish Ale (what else?) to mark its 21st anniversary. Schafly used emptied Highland Scotch whisky barrels from the Glen Garioch Distillery.

If nothing else, Saranac Single Malt demonstrates Matt is capable of producing a beer that can appeal to aficionados. Indeed, old dogs can learn new tricks.

 

 

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Long Island vineyard funded through Kickstarter offers different wines

Southold Farm+Cellar, an upstart winery, is producing distinctive wines made from familiar grapes.

 

Regan Meador of Southold Farm+Cellars, his tasting barn and vines

Regan Meador of Southold Farm+Cellars, his tasting barn and vines

By Alan J. Wax

A little more than a year ago, the owners of a Southold, Long Island, vineyard were seeking crowd-sourced funds to plant 9 acres of what they described as “weird” grapes. Now, they’ve not only planted their grapes but they’re selling their first vintage, albeit made with purchased grapes.

The owners of Southold Farm + Cellar, Regan and Carey Meador, raised almost $25,000 through a campaign on Kickstarter.com to plant what Regan Meador called “weird grapes.” This spring, they planted 9 acres of grapes – Teroldego, Lagrein, Goldmuskateller and the not-so-weird syrah— and now they’re are selling four wines from their hard-to-find, small, gut-renovated-barn-cum-tasting room on a rural North Fork lane.

The Meadors’ hope was to bring diversity to the Long Island wine market by planting grapes such as Teroldego, a red Italian variety grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Süditrol, Italy.

The Meadors, now 34, combined their savings with money from relatives two years ago to buy the 23.7-acre former Charles John Family Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork from Leucadia National Corp., which had pulled out all the vines.

Now, with fund raising behind him, vines planted and wine made and on sale, Regan Meador says he feels an air of excitement. “It’s so nice to actually sell something now. It was so esoteric and theoretical. Now I can put stuff in front of you.”

Regan Meador and his wines, inside his tasting barn.

The Wines

And what he’s putting out!

Southold Farm+Cellar’s wines stylistically stand out in the increasingly crowded Long Island market dominated by merlot and chardonnay.

The wines, except for one, are made from grapes purchased from area growers, including Rex Farr, who owns a certified organic vineyard, and the pioneering Mudd Vineyards. Meador made the wine at the Raphael winery in Peconic.

Meador, who has no formal wine making training, but has taken courses from the University of California-Davis and has apprenticed as at Osprey’s Dominion in Southold, was a planner at a New York City advertising agency before turning to oenology.

Greg Gove at the now-closed Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue made Southold’s La Belle Fille Brut Nature 2009, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sparkler. “It was a forgotten step child. It never saw the light of day,” he said, explaining that he bought the entire 100-case stock, disgorged the wines but did not add a dosage, and then slapped on his own label. The wine, it’s French name translates to “The Step Daughter,” sells for $36. It offers a nose of pears. It’s rich and fruity with a dry finish. “I wanted to give people the same experience I had in in stumbling upon it,” Meador said.

Devil’s Advocate, a Chardonnay made from the 40-year old Mustique clone vines at Mudd Vineyards in Southold, is not a typical chardonnay.  Though not a fan of Chardonnay, Meador said he felt compelled to offer one, albeit made his way. He barrel fermented the wine in large, 228-gallon wooden casks, leaving the wine on its skins for seven days. This wine fermented on wild yeast for over four months, going through secondary on its own. A bit of sulfur was added at the end. It’s full-bodied with tropical fruit and spice notes reminiscent of Gewürztraminer. It sells for $26 a bottle; 190 cases were made.

Cast Your Fate to Wind, Southold’s cabernet franc, also is a departure from the North Fork’s traditional handling of the grape.  It was made in a Chinon/Loire style, using whole clusters of grapes that were, in part, foot-stomped and aged in large casks. The organic fruit came from Rex Farr in Calverton. Dark, but light in body, it’s earthy, spicy and full of cigar box character. Meador produced 119 cases; it sells for $32 a bottle.

Damn the Torpedoes a crown cap finished, wild-fermented sparkling red wine in the Lambrusco style made from a Merlot-predominant blend that also includes Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. It offers up noted of dried fruit, and plums. A light summer red, it sells for $28; 148 cases were produced.

The wines already are attracting attention. In just a short time, Meador’s made his first sale to a restaurant— Damn the Torpedoes, Cast Your Fate to The Wind and The Devil’s Advocate are now available at The North Fork Table and Inn in Southold. He’s also selling wine online, and, relying strictly on social media, he attracted 60 visitors on his opening weekend.

And while that last number may seem small, Meador is unperturbed. “I don’t need a big cavalcade of people coming in the door. I want people excited about wine.”

 

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