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FuzzyBrew’s Favorites from the Winter Warmer

January 18, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Events, Memphis, Opinion

Winter Warmer taster

We tried a lot of beers at the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer this past weekend, so picking our favorites was a tough assignment. Here’s what we came up with:

Mike’s Picks

1. Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Company — I’ve heard so much about Russian River’s Pliny the Elder that I almost thought the skies would open up and angels would start singing when I took my first sip of this Double IPA. Well, all that did happen. It was amazing. Best beer of the day.

2. Festive Ale, SweetWater Brewing Company — Part of SweetWater’s “Catch ‘N Release” series, this strong ale has a hint of cinnamon and a load of malts that are perfect for sipping on a cold day.

3. Never Summer Ale, Boulder Brewing Company — Dark caramel malts, combined with lots of hops and a “top-secret brewmaster’s spice,” make this is a winter seasonal that you can’t put down.

4. Blind Pig, Russian River Brewing Company — With all the winter seasonals in the building, it was nice to try a really good IPA. The Blind Pig delivered a blast of citrus and floral aroma in a light, well-balanced brew.

5. Mogul Madness Ale, Rogue Ales — This winter ale tastes stronger than its 6.6% ABV and is my new favorite from the popular Newport, Oregon, craft brewery.

Grant’s Picks

1. Peach Lambic, Lindemans — I asked the lady serving us which of the frutiy lambics I should sample; this peach was recommended and did not disappoint. Aaaand it was served over ice cream. This may become a dessert staple in this house.

2. Pliny the ElderRussian River Brewing Company — This is a no-brainer. It was my second beer of the day (at the festival, that is) and would have been my first had I not lined myself up behind the wrong group of drunkards. I hope my recent homebrewed clone comes close.

3. Trappist Tripel Ale, Westmalle — Strong and tasty and super drinkable. Also totally palette-cleansing.

4. Gaelic Ale, Highland — Malty and somewhat hoppy. Very smooth and a nice reprieve from some of the overpowering brews I sampled. A great session beer.

5. Welcome Winter Ale, Samuel Smith — I love Sam Smith and passed this table over at first because I’m pretty familiar with their beers. But I’m glad the unfamiliar label drew me in. I’m not winter’s biggest fan, but I could surely cope better with more of this beer on hand.

Jeff’s Picks

1.  Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier — I’ve been reading the book, Smoked Beers, and just finished the part where they visit this brewery.  It absolutely lived up to its billing.  An insanely dense, smokey, bacon-like aroma blends perfectly into this Marzen-style beer.  I must have gone back to this beer 15 times at the festival.  A Rauchbier just jumped to the top of my to-brew list.

2.  Blind Pig, Russian River Brewing Company — This was the first time I’ve had this beer and I thought it was an incredible IPA.  If they told me I could walk around the festival and drink this beer only for the rest of the night, I would have done it.

3.  Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Company — The last time I had this was in Portland, Oregon, a few years ago, and it was as bad-ass as I remember it then.  A classic Double IPA.

4.  Moo Hoo Stout, Terrapin Beer Co. –Another first-time beer.  I was really impressed by the smooth, chocolate flavor and aroma of this beer.  I will seek this one out on future travels.

5.  Mogul Madness Ale, Rogue — This beer stands out for the sheer fact that after two hours of drinking, it was able to elicit quite a reaction from my overloaded taste buds.  Citrusy hops and a wallop of malts combined for a complex ale that really hit me.  I was thinking this was a barleywine when I first tasted it.

What were your favorite beers from the Winter Warmer? Leave a comment below.

Recap of the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer

January 17, 2011 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Events, Memphis

Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer

The Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer at Central Station in Downtown.

Memphis Brewfest‘s Winter Warmer beer tasting event Saturday drew a sold-out crowd of 800 beer lovers, who sampled hard-to-find craft beers and offerings from local homebrewers.

Beers brewed in the “winter warmer” style have a generally low hop bitterness and a “big malt presence, both in flavor and body,” according to Beer Advocate,  and “alcohol warmth is not uncommon.” So the festival featured a lot of full-bodied, strong winter seasonal beers and fewer IPAs, wheat beers and lagers.

Most of the beers served at the Winter Warmer are not readily available on shelves in the Memphis area, so it was a great opportunity to taste new things.

I counted more than 80 beers that were available for sampling, and tried 37 of them over a span of about three hours. At just 1-ounce, the sampling glasses were small, but helped since many of the offerings were high-alcohol brews.

Winter Warmer

A "beer volunteer" pours a sample at the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer.

The event was held at the historic Central Station in Downtown Memphis (constructed in 1914), which provided a nice, art deco-style backdrop. At times, the place seemed cramped, with 800 festival-goers plus volunteers and organizers competing for space, and it could be hard to see where the beer lines started. More tables and chairs away from the action would also have been nice.

Entertainment was provided by Susie & Bob Salley and the Memphis Raqs Bellydancers, though I was too busy sampling beers to really pay attention.

Some rare beers were auctioned off, including cases of SweetWater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale, Unibroe La Fin du Monde and Trappist Westvleteren 12. A case of Russian River Brewing Company‘s Pliney the Elder went for $185. Net proceeds benefited Cure Duchenne.

Big props to the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs, local homebrewers who served beers that included an oatmeal stout, coffee stout and a raspberry ESB. Their beers were great, and they went fast.

Sampling at the Winter Warmer

Lots of beer was poured at the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer.

Coming this week: FuzzyBrew goes all mythbusters on a famous beer quote, and the FuzzyBrew guys pick their favorite beers from the Winter Warmer.

There’s good beer in Nashville grocery stores

November 16, 2010 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Travelin'

Beers bought at Harris Teeter

Just a portion of my haul from Nashville.

If you’re a Memphian who loves beer and you’re ever in Nashville, check out the selection of craft brews in Nashville grocery stores.

When I was there last week on a work trip, I took a side trip to the Harris Teeter grocery at 2201 21st Avenue South near Vanderbilt.

My friend Brad had recommended Harris Teeter as a good place for beer, and it was a total score. I snagged lots of beer you can’t readily find on Memphis shelves.

Here’s what I brought home for me and my fellow FuzzyBrewers:

• four 6-packs of Sweetwater IPA. (For some reason, I can’t find Atlanta’s Sweetwater beer anywhere in Memphis. The IPA is like an explosion of grapefruit. It’s amazing.)

• one 6-pack of Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale.

• one 6-pack of Yuengling Porter. (Since Yuengling is headed to Memphis, I thought I should try more of Yuengling’s offerings. In Memphis, we can only get the Lager and the Black & Tan. I’d still like to try the Lord Chesterfield Ale.)

• one 6-pack of Starr Hill‘s Dark Starr Stout. (Starr Hill is a brewery in Charlottesville, Va., and I totally bought the beer after seeing the Grateful Dead-inspired label. But it’s quite tasty.)

• one 6-pack of Star Hill’s Festie, which is an Oktoberfest lager.

• one 6-pack of Fort Collins Brewery‘s Rocky Mountain IPA. (In Memphis, you can get tons of Fort Collins beer from New Belgium Brewing, i.e., Fat Tire, but not from the Fort Collins Brewery.)

More later from those of us at FuzzyBrew on what we thought about some of these beers.

Beer names that are crazy ridiculous

November 15, 2010 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Oddities

Sweetwater's 420 Extra Pale Ale

Sweetwater's 420 Extra Pale Ale

Moose Drool. Old Leghumper. Santa’s Butt. I’ll Have What the Gentleman on the Floor is Having!

These are all commercially-produced beers. Really, they are.

And they are among the Most Ridiculous Beer Names of All Time, according to the Huffington Post. (See the Huffpo story for the full list, including photos of the equally hilarious labels.)

Stone’s Arrogant Bastard made the list, which is a pretty ridiculous name but a damn fine beer.

I just bought a sixer of Sweetwater‘s 420. Now I’d really like a Happy Ending.

What are your favorite beer names? Leave a comment below.