From the HopPress: The Vermont Brewers Festival

The Vermont Brewers Festival

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, July 24th.

Last weekend was the 18th annual Vermont Brewer’s Festival (VBF) in Burlington, Vermont. I had not taken this event in for a couple of years, so I was really looking forward to visiting with some of the new breweries that were to be there this year and to see if they had made any changes in the event to improve upon the experience of the festival attendees from years past.

Organized by the 21-member breweries of the Vermont Brewers Association, the VBF is held every year on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington’s Waterfront Park. It is a truly beautiful setting to hold such an event and last Saturday’s hot and sunny weather made it seem that much better. The proximity of the lake and a steady,cooling breeze coming off of the water made the day seem pleasant, in spite of the fact that the temperature reached 90F that afternoon.

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Ratebeer Rating #1015: Weyerbacher QUAD

The “Commercial Description” for this beer reads…

Massively big and delicious, QUAD is an elegant and dark ale. Rich with complexity and flavor, try savoring it after a long day or during a fine dinner. You also might enjoy it as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to a dessert, but QUAD stands alone quite well. We recommend enjoying QUAD in a brandy snifter or wineglass so you can drink in the aroma of this fine elixir.

I thought that is was an excellent beer….

Poured a reddish amber in color with a medium light tan head that stuck around to produce some really nice lacing on the glass. I am glad that this beer is not too cold, as that would mask some of the more subtle dried fruit (raisins and prunes with hints of grapes or apples)aromas that this beer exudes. Malty, almost a brown sugar smell is pretty strong. Flavor is fairly sweet with the malts and brown sugar being the dominant portion. Some of the fruitiness does come through. A bit of alcohol that would probably be mostly masked by a cooler temperature. A truly powerful beer… definitely a “sipper”. I like it…

See my rating at Weyerbacher Quad

Follow-up on TPT’s Northern Forest: Beer & Cheese Tasting

Last Sunday afternoon I was one of about 10 lucky people that attended the Three Penny Taproom’s Celebrate the Northern Forest: Craft Beer and Artisan Cheese tasting event. The cheeses we sampled were specially selected for this event by Montpelier’s Jeff Roberts (author of The Atlus of American Artisan Cheese and an instructor at the New England Culinary Institute). Jeff’s cheese selections for this event were chosen as examples of relatively small production, very high quality cheeses produced in rural New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Some of the cheeses selected are not readily available outside of their local marketplaces and three of them (the two from Maine and the one from NY) are not typically available in Vermont at all. TPT’s Scott Kerner specially selected craft beer to compliment the flavors of each of these cheeses. Chef Joey Nagy, TPT’s chef extrordinaire, added other simple food items to each tasting pair designed to enhance the flavor of both the cheeses and the beers; particularly when tasted all together. The beer/cheese parings and my comments are as follows (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed below are solely my personal, very uneducated observations and are not a reflection of TPT, Jeff or the cheese manufacturers):

  1. BreBis (from Appleton Creamery in Appleton, Me) – A soft ripened Brie-style cheese made from East Freisian and Dorset sheep’s milk. Served with Allagash White beer and dry roasted hazelnuts. The cheese was very mild and although the beer was also mild it seemed, to me, to overpower the very delicate flavor of the cheese.
  2. Landaff (from Landaff Creamery in Landaff, NH) – A slightly aged (2-4 months), natural rind, semi-soft cheese made from raw Jersey cow’s milk. Served with Smuttynose Old Brown Dog and dry roasted hazel nuts. This was one of my favorite pairings of the afternoon. I had no idea how well hazelnuts and a good brown ale tasted together. The cheese was good, but sort of got lost in my event-induced “epiphany” surrounding the brown ale and the hazelnuts.
  3. Sweet Emotions (from Lazy Lady Farm in Westfield, VT) – A certified organic, cave-aged (3 weeks), soft-ripened, double to triple cream cheese made from pasteurized goat’s milk and Jersey cow cream. Served with Hill Farmstead Florence Wheat Saison and a dried whole fig. I enjoyed this pairing quite a bit, especially the “all in” combination of a small bite of the fig along with the beer and cheese. The flavors of the three just all seemed to blend together very nicely.
  4. Pecorino Fresco (from Dancing Ewe Farms in Granville, NY) – An aged (60 days), semi-firm, farmstead cheese made from East Friesian sheep milk from the farm. Served with Southern Tier Double (2X) IPA and tomato jam. The hoppy bitterness of the IPA was mellowed by the sharper flavor the aged cheese and the sweetness of the tomato jam enhanced the subtle malty understructure of the IPA.
  5. Tarentaise (from Spring Brook Farm in Reading, VT) – A semi-form, farmstead, aged (5-12 months), washed rind cheese made from raw Jersey cow’s milk from the farm. Served with Hill Farmstead Edward IPA and honeycomb. The intense hoppiness of the IPA was a perfect match to the hardy flavor the cheese. The honeycomb provided flavor contrast the stronger beer and cheese. This is a favored beer and this was a great cheese to serve along side of it.
  6. Blue Velvet (from Hahn’s End in Phillipsburg, ME) – A certified organic, aged (2-4 months), hand-pierced natural rind blue cheese. Served with the the honeycomb along with the . contrasting flavors of two different beers; Allagash Four and Allagash Odyssey. Each beer provided its own experience with the cheese. Several people in the session pointed to the fact that the Four’s hoppiness seemed to be enhanced by the cheese, whereas the subtle flavors of this quite strong cheese were enhanced by the Odyssey.

I have to say that I was very inspired by this tasting session. I was very impressed by the knowledge and understanding of cheese, beer and food that each of the three session leaders brought into the session. As I continue to build my own knowledge of the fun, exciting and exceptionally deep topic of beer/food pairings, I can only hope to aspire to a tiny portion of the skills that these people showed to me on Sunday. But, then again, half of the fun in such an endeavor is in the learning… for it is not every of life’s challenges where you can eat, drink and savor such an adventure along the way!

The Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue

It has become a summer tradition over the last several years for us to attend this wonderfully fun event in Windsor, VT. For details you can visit the Harpoon Brewery site at http://www.harpoonbrewery.com/index.cfm?pid=28568.

  • What:
    • Celebrating our 10th year in 2010
    • A celebration of the best of Summer—Fresh beer, great BBQ, & live music
    • The Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont offers an ideal setting for the event
    • 40 BBQ Teams from all over will be competing for prize money & trophies
    • A select few teams will be selling their award winning BBQ to the public
    • Great live music provided by the hottest local bands from Vermont
    • Come sit back, relax and enjoy the summer with friends at Harpoon Brewery
    • Brewery tours offered through out the weekend

  • When:
    • Saturday, July 24th, 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM (Entrance closes at 6:30 pm)
    • Sunday, July 25th, 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM (Entrance closes at 3:30 pm)

  • Where:
    • At the Harpoon Brewery, 336 Ruth Carney Drive, Windsor, VT. Map/Directions
    • Off Route 5, next door to Simon Pearce, exit 9 off Interstate 91
    • Free parking available in the fields surrounding the event site
    • Camping at the event is for competing teams only.

  • How Much:
    • Door charge is $15.00 per person. This admission fee includes 2 Harpoon beer tickets or non-alcholic beverage tickets. It does not include food. Children under 12 are admitted free, but must be accompanied by an adult.
    • Cash bars serving a selection of Vermont-brewed fresh Harpoon and UFO beer for $4.25 a pint
    • Various BBQ teams will be selling a wide variety of hot delicious BBQ
    • The event will be held rain or shine. Tickets not sold in advance.
  • Pets:
    • Dogs are allowed, but must be leashed at all times. Dog owners are responsible for the actions of their dogs and must clean up after their dogs. Harpoon reserves the right at any time to ask that a dog and its owner leave the event if the dog in not leashed, cleaned up after, or is misbehaving in our opinion. No refunds will be issued if a dog owner and dog are expelled.

See y’all there!

From the HopPress: The Taste of Beer

The Taste of Beer

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, July 17th.

Extra! Extra! Not everyone likes beer! While that is hardly news to any of us and sounds exceedingly silly to the average craft beer aficionado, it is clearly the case for many non-beer drinkers and the majority referenced dislike is the “taste” of the beer. I have even found that the so called “macro” beer drinkers don’t really like the stronger (more flavorful) taste of craft beers. Why do you think that is (says me)? It is not, at all, unusual for me to be a more than occasional “inner thinker” and for the last week or so, following a lengthy conversation with a decidedly non-beer drinker concerning my favorite brewed beverage, I have been thinking, quite intensely, about why I like beer. I thought that it might be interesting to other people to learn more about the phenomenon of “taste”, why I choose to drink beer (I like the taste) and some of the factors that might enter into the decision tree in determining whether a person likes beer or even a particular beer… or not

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Celebrate the Northern Forest: Craft Beer and Artisan Cheese

On Sunday (July 18) I will be attending a beer & cheese pairing event at the Three Penny Taproom here in Montpelier.

From Their Web site: This one is called Celebrate the Northern Forest: Craft Beer and Artisan Cheese and will feature specially selected craft beers courtesy of TPT’s Scott Kerner, paired perfectly with six artisan cheeses hand-picked by Central Vermont’s own Jeff Roberts (author of The Atlus of American Artisan Cheese). In addition, chef Joey Nagy will be providing some incredible accouterments for your enjoyment. The event runs from 1:00 to 3:00 and costs $40/person. Sign-up and pre-pay in person here at Three Penny- but do so soon, these events always fill-up quick!

Tickets still available as of 7/15/2010…

Vermont Brewers Festival This Weekend

Vermont Brewers Festival — Burlington, VT
July 16, 2010 to July 17, 2010
The Festival features 37 craft brewers from Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Mass, Maine, Delaware, Louisiana and, to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the European discovery of Lake Champlain by Samuel de Champlain, breweries from La Belle province, Quebec. This outdoor festival takes place in Burlington Waterfront Park with scenic views of Lake Champlain framed by the Adirondack Mountain Range.

Location: Burlington Waterfront Park, 1 College Street.

Time: Friday, 6 – 10 p.m.; Saturday sessions, noon – 4 p.m and 6 – 10 p.m.

Cost: $25 per tasting session.

Information: 802-760-8535 or visit www.vermontbrewers.com.

From the HopPress: Outside the Beer – Bottles

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, July 10th.

For years my father maintained a eclectic collection of beer bottles and other beer-related paraphernalia. He worked at the Sterling brewery in Evansville, IN during college and this set the stage for a near lifetime of collecting bottles and other odd “beer stuff” that struck his fancy. Pieces of this collection of his were sometimes visible around the house at various times throughout my life; its quantity and location carefully negotiated with my mother I’m sure. All of it now sits in boxes in their basement waiting for its next destination (likely my son). I guess that I was fortunate to discover Ratebeer early enough in my serious craft beer drinking days and simply avoided the need to maintain any kind of a physical beer collection… I have plenty of “stuff” already (my wife agrees). I have to admit though, some of the more interesting pieces of his collection were the various types of beer bottles. While it might be interesting in a future article to look, historically, at beer bottles, today I will examine the state of the beer bottle in the current marketplace. Beer bottles over the years have taken many forms and shapes, but today, while there is still some variation by brewer and by region, most bottles today fall into just a few major/broad types and sizes.

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