Friday, February 28, 2014

Foothills Flights and Triple C Brewing

There were still places to see and beers to be had on our Charlotte beer-venture, so when my friend Tom had an errand to run, I gladly tagged along. Mostly because of its prime location, right next door to Duckworth's. This self proclaimed Grill & Taphouse has an impressive menu for both food and drink, so if you are in the greater Charlotte area, I'd highly recommend checking them out.

It was pretty hard settling on my lunch (I went with a buffalo chicken cheesesteak, which was awesome, and possibly blasphemous to people in Buffalo and in Philadelphia) and it would have been even harder settling on which beers to try, but Duckworth's made it easy. February was Foothills Brewing month.

Sexual Chocolate
 As soon as I saw that they actually had it on the beer-list, I knew I needed to try Sexual Chocolate. It's one of those beers that you always hear about being great, but rarely ever see. An imperial stout that tastes like a bitter dark chocolate bar. It was fantastic and a great start to our lunch.

Foothills Brewing
After finishing our appetizer, the food came and along with it was a flight featuring other Foothills brews. Tom and I both went with the same line-up; Cottonwood Frostbite, Hoppy Medium Imperial Brown Ale, Jade IPA, and People's Porter. All fantastic, especially the porter, one of my favorite styles.

After settling our bill, it was time to make a beer-run, then home to rest up, the next brewery on our tour was just a day away.

Triple C Brewing Company

We were the first guests to arrive, right as Triple C was opening their doors. The space inside is great, pretty minimalistic and sharp. Clean concrete floors, exposed brick walls, and a great view into the brewery.

Triple C

After looking over their menu, we settled on a pair of flights. I went with the Golden Boy Blonde, Light Rail Pale Ale, Greenway IPA, and a Smoked Amber. Of the flight, I really enjoyed the smoked amber. It had just enough smoke to contrast the caramel flavors in the amber ale. There were still some beers to be had, so after our flights, I settled on giving a pint of the Cajun Stout a try, and I'm glad I did!   
It was fantastic, an extremely well made American stout with a nice spicy kick in the finish. Without a doubt the best Charlotte beer I had during my travels down south.

We were also lucky enough to have been at the brewery the same day they were releasing a new beer, so we also got to give their new Black IPA, Space Cadet, a try. I always tell you about the styles I like, but this is a style I don't typically care for. That said, this one was definitely better than most that I've had. The hops didn't clash with the darker malts, it had a nicely rounded flavor.

After our glasses were empty, we decided we probably needed a pair of glasses to take home, and a growler of the blonde ale, and a t-shirt. Triple C stole my heart that day with their great beers and very cool brewery. I'll definitely be back the next time I'm in Charlotte!

What other beery goodness did I get into in Charlotte? Stay tuned to find out!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Birdsong, NoDa, and Milestones

As our brewery tour kicked off in Charlotte, I found myself hovering on the edge of a milestone. I first joined Untappd and began tracking my beers on April 1st, 2011. The first beer I checked into was a Maibock from a brewery close to Frankfurt, Germany where we were living at the time. For my 1000th beer, I would go to the Birdsong Brewery in Charlotte, NC.

Birdsong Brewing Co.

According to Google Maps, Birdsong and NoDa Brewing are 171 feet apart, which is pretty awesome for the first leg of a brewery tour. So, we parked the car and walked down the shared driveway of these two breweries to Birdsong Brewing Co.

Birdsong Brewing Co.
Opening in 2011, Birdsong, like most of the places in NoDa is in an old industrial building. Lots of exposed bricks and beams. The tasting room was on the smaller size, and already starting to fill with people. We looked over the menu board and ordered some flights to try out a few of their beers.

I settled on my four; MexiCali Stout, EP Single Hop Mosaic, Jalapeño Pale Ale, and The Pride Belgian Dubbel.

1000th different Beer!

The MexiCali stout was the first beer I had of my flight, making it my 1000th different beer! It was a nice basic stout with just a touch of spiciness to it. Very subtle, it would have been easy to miss if not for the name. A very good start to the flight. I enjoyed all of my beers from Birdsong, especially the Jalapeño Pale Ale. Different, with a spicy, fruity kick at the end. Not overpowering but served as a nice contrast to the malty sweetness.

After finishing our flights, it was time to move on, so I bought a Birdsong tulip glass which has the simple but lovely logo on it and we made our way 171 feet to NoDa Brewing Co.

NoDa Brewing Co.

The NoDa Brewing Co opened in 2011, and has quite the following. The decent sized tasting room was full by the time we got there, but there was plenty of room at the bar for us to go order a few flights to try out some of their brews. Four more beers were on their paddles and heading to the table. I went with Gordgeous, Coco Loco (2012 Silver Medal GABF), Woody and Wilcox IPA, and Tart Attack a special release Berliner Weisse. 

It was a good selection of beers, and the CoCo Loco was probably my favorite of the bunch. Just a hint of toasted coconut rounded out the flavor of the porter. I typically don't like coconut, but it seemed to provide a little subtle sweetness to the porter that I enjoyed. The Gordgeous was excellent as well, and that's what we decided to get a growler of to take home with us. 

My only complaint with NoDa is they didn't accept my American Homebrewers Association Membership for the discount that they offer, which made me sad. Oh well, there was too much good beer to hold a grudge.

The brewery itself is a very nice build, with windows behind the bar showing off their 15 barrel brew house. Rugged and industrial, keeping with the them of the neighborhood.

After all those beers and the first two breweries down, it was time to head home. Thanks for driving babe! 

Stay tuned to find out about the next leg of our Charlotte beer-venture!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Left the Snow Behind...Hello Sunny Charlotte!

It's been a pretty whirl-windingly amazing last 2 weeks in my world of beer. It all started out several weeks ago when my wife announced that she needed to go to Charlotte, NC for some work something-or-other.

Having lived a few years back in the Queen City, we made some pretty awesome friends down there, so whenever my wife has reason to be down there for work, I try to tag along, especially whenever there happens to be roughly 3 foot drifts of snow in our yard.

After looking at the prices for flights from Rochester to Charlotte, I made a sad face, then decided that 12 hours in the car wouldn't be too bad to see my buds and the sunshine. Besides, if I drive, I can take some beer!

Packed and Ready to Go!
A few days before the trip, my friend Tom starts digging up info and planning some brewery trips for us while the wives were at work during the week. Sounds good to me, I'll bring some local stuff down with me to share, and we'll search out the best beers that Charlotte has to offer.

That Sunday we set off on our first beer-venture and headed out to grab some lunch in the trendy NoDa district of Charlotte (Hipsters hang out there!) Our first stop was to get some lunch, but when we got there the waitress told us it was going to be a 30 minute wait, so we looked across the street and laid our eyes upon Growlers Pour House, and our lovely wives suggested Tom and I go grab a beer. Growlers was a cool little bar and bistro that serves up some American fare and oysters, but they more importantly have a modest but impressive beer list, including two on cask, and we both went for the same one. Heavy Seas Siren Noire.

Siren Noire
Road to Nowhere Porter
 After taking a sip of this delicious Imperial Stout, we get a text saying our table is ready, hurry up. An imperial stout served from a cask doesn't lend itself to hurrying up, but we finish and head back across the street to meet the ladies for lunch. Fish tacos and Triple C Road to Nowhere Porter (more on them later...stay tuned!) were on the menu. We at lunch, then headed to our first brewery Birdsong Brewing Co.

To be Continued!

Stay tuned to A Year 4 Beer for the next thrilling installment!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tapping New Kegs and Rochester Beer

The last few days have been pretty eventful in my world of beer.

Over this past weekend, the wife needed to go pick up some wine club packages down in the Fingerlakes. The sun was shining, even though it was brutally cold. Keuka Lake had even frozen over, the first time since 2004 according to our host at Ravines Wine Cellar. We grabbed our wine, and I made a quick dash to the closest brewery!

Our first stop was at Abandon Brewing, a place I've been many times now, but still stop at almost every trip down to the lakes. Something about their beers that I really like. They had a pretty good crowd of people there Saturday afternoon and I did a tasting flight of four beers; Harvest Saison, Grape Dubbel, Farmhouse IPA, and their Pale Ale.  

Afterwards, we were in need of some food, so we made the long drive over to CB Craft Brewers for another flight and some dinner. I went with the reuben (which I always do, anywhere a reuben is on the menu!) and four beers in my flight. 2 that I'd never had, and two that I really like. Poor Richard's Ale and the Night Owl Cream Porter were the new ones. Caged Alpha Monkey IPA and the Joe Latte Vanilla Coffee Stout were the ones I'd had before.  I was really impressed with the Poor Richard's and whats not to love about a vanilla coffee stout?

Sunday night was another day of mourning. I had the final pint of my American Amber Ale, which meant I got to put my new keg washer back to use. This was a sad occasion because this beer was a pretty big milestone for me in my brewing. This Amber Ale was my first all-grain batch! (Special thanks to my dad who was my assistant brewer that day!) But as beer goes, when a keg runs dry, another needs to be ready to take it's place. So that's what I did yesterday. I kegged up my Belgian Pale Ale and hooked it up to the CO2 so it should be ready to go by this coming weekend. 

As a reward for my hard work I enjoyed the first taste of the last keg I hooked up, my Belgian Dubbel I mentioned in a previous post. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, filled with beers that helped keep you warm on these cold nights. Keep your spirits up, the days are slowly getting longer and the end of this winter is in sight....behind all those piles of snow!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snowstorms and Belgian Strong Ale

Yesterday, Rochester got hit pretty good by an early February snowstorm. We got just shy of 12" of snow here at the house, but luckily there were some tasty beers to keep my spirits up. Last night we had our monthly BJCP Style Session at The Old Toad. (They also happened to have one of my favorite beers in the world, Abita Turbodog...on Cask!)

The style in question for the evening was BJCP Category 18 - Belgian Strong Ale

Probably my absolute favorite category of beers. I love everything about them; I Love Belgium, and I Love Belgian Beer!

The category is split into 5 sections, and we had two samples from each section. Our BJCP leaders put together a great spread of beers to try, and luckily these beers are getting easier to find here in the U.S.

Last night we sampled:

18A-Belgian Blonde Ale
Affligem Blonde
Maredsous Blonde

18B-Belgian Dubbel
La Trappe Dubbel
Chimay Premiere (Red)

18C-Belgian Tripel
Westmalle Tripel
Unibroue La Fin du Monde

18D-Belgian Golden Strong Ale

18E-Belgian Dark Strong Ale
Rochefort 10
St. Bernardus Abt 12

These beers are all quite unique in a way that only Belgian ales are. Fruity esters, spiciness, dark candies, sweet, but not filling, and a very restrained alcohol presence, despite some of these beers getting up past 10% ABV.

After the tasting I'm even more excited about my brewing this year. I should be trying my Dubbel out this weekend, and I've got a Belgian Pale Ale and Wit fermenting. My next brew is going to be category 18A-Belgian Blonde Ale.

Have you all had the chance to try out any good Belgian Strong Ales? What's your favorite? If you've never had the chance to try any, they are worth picking up and sharing with friends, or keeping to yourself! (Just watch out for that ABV!)


Monday, February 3, 2014

Empty Kegs...Farewell Christmas Ale!

This week marked the end of my latest keg of homebrew, I drank my last pint of Willow Valley Scottish Winter Solstice.

Scottish Winter Solstice

After finishing my pint, my thoughts turned quickly to my next keg of homebrew. A Belgian Dubbel that has been on deck for quite some time now. The next morning I hooked up the new keg to the CO2 and started counting down the days until it's carbonated and ready to drink.

The only problem I had now was that I needed to clean this dirty keg. What I needed was a keg/carboy washer, and that required a trip to Harbor Freight and Home Depot. I still have a few tweaks to make to it, but the design is straight forward enough and should be easy to change as needed.

Heres a few pictures and a little video of it in action. Let us know if you have any beer projects lined up for this year.


1/3 HP Sump Pump
Down into a Home Depot Bucket

Use it with a Carboy


Or with a Keg