Bobcat Cafe Fever

I have been wanting to visit the Bobcat Cafe & Brewery for a long time and I was not disappointed. The brewpub is located right on the main “drag” in downtown Bristol, Vermont. We arrived a bit before the dining room opened and were immediately “assigned” a table for when we were ready to eat and we sat at the bar while waiting. The decor is old, warm and homey… lots of real wood everywhere. The bartender was very social and quite knowledgeable about the beer that they were serving. They had 12 taps with their own beer that night along with a small selection of “foreign” taps. I also noticed that they have a “mug club” here and the tender told us it was fully subscribed… a good sign. Since 4 oz. beer “samplers” were only $1 and I had a designated driver with me, I was able to sample all 12 of their in-house selections. While I definitely felt that some of them were better than others… several were very good, one was not good at all… the brewer clearly knows what he is doing.

When we did get to dinner, I was pleasantly surprised to find much more than just the standard pub fare… in fact some of their offerings were down right unusual… Vermont venison/chorizo meatloaf, for example. I had a nice salad and an order of something they called a “pecora” (batter fried slivered vegetables), which were both very tasty. The traffic through their door while we were there was busy (a Saturday night), but the staff efficiently moved them through. As with the bartender, the wait-staff was knowledgeable and very friendly. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and will hope to get back there sometime soon.

A VTHopHead Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at the VTHopHead house is all about family, close friends, great food, football and, of course, good beer. While most people are focused on the turkey n’ stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie (I like these too) for my son Jamie and I it is also a time to pull out a “special” beer (or few) to add to the holiday cheer. This year he has scored an excellent Unibroue selection, including their abbey tripel La Fin Du Monde, and what will be my first beer from Nova Scotia, Alexander Keith’s Premium White. I also will have a slightly chilled bottle of Allagash Musette, one of their bourbon-barrel aged brews, on “standby”, just in case. This is shaping up to be a really great Thanksgiving!

Hmmm… I can hardly wait for Christmas!!

Featured Writer at The Hop Press

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I have joined a small group of beer writers/bloggers on a new RateBeer.com endeavor called “The Hop Press” that can be found at www.hoppress.com. I am really happy to be a part of this select group. As one of their featured writers, my column will appear on Saturday each week on the Hop Press site. I will probably write more articles than just the one that is featured each week and all of my Hop Press articles can be viewed at koenemann.hoppress.com. I hope that you choose to visit this new site regularly and that you enjoy not only my posts, but the posts of these other talented beer bloggers.

Pumpkin Ales – A Sign of the Season

I have been drinking a few pumpkin ales lately… ’tis the season for harvest-type ales, of course. I am not usually one for pumpkin beers… typically the spices are just a bit too much for me, but below is a run down of three of my most recent samplings… all of my RateBeer ratings can be found at http://www.ratebeer.com/user/10669/ratings/

Clipper City Brewing Co. – Heavy Seas – “The Great Pumpkin” (ABV 8.0%, 3.2/5.0)
Bottle/22 – Pours a nice “pumpkin” amber in color with a very small whitish head that fades to almost nothing… low carbonation. Aroma is slightly sweet and almost all pumpkin spice (clove, nutmeg, cinnamon,etc.) and nothing else. Flavor is a bit more complex. Some pumpkin, spices (as noted) and a bit of harsh, unpleasant alcohol character. Slightly bitter and astringent at the end. Lingering bitterness with little else.

Shipyard Brewing Company – “Smashed Pumpkin” (ABV 9.0%, 3.6/5.0)
Draft at Great Lost Bear (Portland, ME) – Poured a coppery amber in color with almost no head and very little carbonation. Aroma is malty and sweet with the expected pumpkin pie spices. Flavor is interesting. I am not usually one for pumpkin beer, but this one was actually quite good. What made it for me was the reasonable amount of spices that were used… not overpowering at all. Plenty of malty sweetness with just enough hops to keep it from being too sweet. This one is actually a good pumpkin beer…

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. – “Imperial Pumpkin Ale” (ABV 8.0%, 3.3/5.0)
Bottle/12 – Pours a quite dark orange-amber in color with almost no head and very little carbonation. Aroma is sweet and heavy with “pumpkin” spices… cinnamon. clove, nutmeg, etc. Flavor is not nearly as sweet as I expected, but nearly overpowering with spice. Pumpkin flavor is actually apparent and lends some moderation, along with the hops that sneak in underneath, to the malty sweetness. Finish is slightly bitter and clean… except for the lingering pumpkin spices, which I seem destined to (burp!) relive for a while. Beer is pretty good, actually, but too many spices… a common complaint that I have about this type of beer.

All-in-all I enjoyed all of these beers (I usually do), but the Shipyard “Smashed Pumpkin” really stood out as my favorite. Seek it out… you will not be sorry!!

Requiem for Pennichuck Brewing Company?

It is not uncommon for me to search the Web for artifacts concerning the particular beer I am drinking at the time. I am sitting here drinking a Pennichuck Brewing “The Big O” Oktoberfest Lager and have just run across some very sad references to the Pennichuck Brewing Company. Apparently it has escaped my attention, until now, that Pennichuck has been on the brink of closure for the last month or so; a fact that now seems virtually inevitable.

On October 18th, Pennichuck announced that they would be closing up shop after about four years of operation. No reason was given for the closing. On October 19th the company announced that it had secured “angel” funding and would not need to close after all. However, on October 31st the following listing appeared on the NH Craigslist:

Pennichuck Brewing Co is realigning all company assets. We have
multiple listings for Glass ware, grain, tools, growler bottles, 12 oz
bottles, 22 oz bottles, photo copiers, brewery equipment, milk crates, Desks,
chairs, computers, beer, pallets of boxes, 6 pack carriers, If it was
in the brewery and not listed here call or email to see if we have
what you are looking for. You are welcome to come to the brewery to
look at what is selling or just buy the last of the Pennichuck beer
that will be sold for the next 9 or so months until we begin
production again. We are located at 127 Elm St, Milford, NH 03055.
603-261-5957. Email philjewett@yahoo.com

While this listing indicates that they hope to begin production again at some point, it seems fairly unlikely; given that they are selling some of the very equipment and supplies necessary for that process.

I mourn the demise of this and any fine brewer, for whatever reason (I’m sure that the bad economy didn’t help)… its a fact that 80% of all business startups fail within their first 3 years and Pennichuck beat those odds. As I sit here enjoying one of their excellent beers… IBF winner of the Bronze Medal in 2006 and the Silver Medal in 2007… I can’t help but think of what I will be missing while I wait to see if they are able to resurrect themselves or if, unfortunately, they will simply fade into brewing history.

There is no question that I will be on the lookout for any remaining Pennichuck beers at my favorite suppliers; hoping to gather that last taste of their little bit of beer heaven… or perhaps just stash away enough to see me through for a while and hope that they get back on their feet. Either way, I am sure to enjoy whatever I can find.