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Hop Cast – Episode 162: Hair Of The Dog Doggie Claws

In episode 162 of the Hop Cast Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder dig deep into Brad’s cellar and pull out 10 years of Doggie Claws from Hair Of The Dog. This 11.5 % ABV Barleywine was first first brewed by the Portland brewery, Hair of the Dog in 2001. Brad didn’t have a bottle of that very first years Doggie Claws but the ten years start at 2002 and move up to the most current release from this past holiday. It was great to see how this beer changed over time and to speculate on how the recipe might have been adjusted from year to year. If you’re hiding any bottles in your cellar for that special occasion, you’ll see that we didn’t come across any major issues with any of the years which was pretty surprising and amazing for such a big vertical.

Hope you enjoy this very special episode and thanks for watching the Hop Cast.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (394.9 MB).

Hop Cast – Episode 160: 4 Calling Birds & Fantome de Noel

The holidays are here and for episode 160 of the Hop Cast Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder are sitting down in front of the tree for some liquid holiday cheer. The first beer they open up is the 4 Calling Birds, the latest holiday beer from The Bruery. This tasty Belgian Strong Dark Ale comes with a big ABV at 11.00% and should be shared with friends and family. The second beer they open up is the Fantome de Noel. This Saison also comes in with a big ABV, 10%. Unfortunately Brad and Ken picked off DMS in this beer so they weren’t really able to enjoy it but don’t let this discourage you from picking up a bottle from Fantome.

Instead of milk and cookies this year, why not leave Santa a delicious beer. Happy Holidays from the Hop Cast and thanks for watching.

Having issues watching this video? Try the Quicktime (288.6 MB).

Beer Of The Month – July

Pretty sure the Hop Cast crew is in love with summer. So far this summer has been filled with lots of bikes, beers, baseball and boats. Just being outside, hanging in someones backyard can bring a smile to your face. It sure beats those rough winter months here in Chicago where all you want to do is well, nothing. Most of the time we just grab a big stout from the cellar and hide in bed. During the summer, the adventure can last all day and night. That’s why for the July beer of the month we have picked Victory Brewing’s Summer Love. This 5.2% American Blonde Ale is excellent when you’re looking for something to help beat the heat. Hopefully you’re drinking outside in the backyard because the aroma of citrus and grassy hops should pair perfectly with that environment. There is a wonderful floral hop aroma that balances the whole thing out. Once you finally taste this beer, it’s hard to not enjoy yourself. It’s light, crisp and fruity and those hops add a slight tingle to your mouth. A bit more complex then your average blonde ale which makes you want to take another sip to see what you might of missed. Even if blonde ales aren’t something you usually enjoy, give this one a try on a hot day and at just under $10 for a six pack it won’t pinch the wallet either.

Ken Visits Vintage Estate

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I recently found myself taking a trip to Youngstown, Ohio with my sights set on some beers that are out of the Chicago market.  Having some luck last time around, I planned on stopping at a couple places in Cleveland on the way.  I soon realized, thanks to my gracious hosts, there was no need; because the #1 rated beer store in America (according to www.ratebeer.com) is located right in Youngstown!!  It quickly became a prioritized destination for me and I was not disappointed.

Vintage Estate Wine and Beer is the beer drinker’s playground.  They have a great selection of American craft and also plenty of special imported beers (such as some great Belgian sours!!).  Not only is this a great place to buy coveted beers for your home habits, they have a bar connected right next to the store!!  So grab a pint, and get to shopping!!  The bar was pouring some tasty treats on draft including Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Avery Maharaja IPA, and Saison DuPont.  They even let you buy a bottled beer, open it up, and continue to shop while you drink.

Many may find such a vast and overwhelming selection a bit intimidating.  And oftentimes, in establishments with such critical acclaim the staff can become pretentious or “too cool for school”.  Vintage Estate does not fall into this category.  The staff is extremely knowledgeable and very willing to help with any questions.  So whether you’re an experienced beer drinker, just getting into the game, or shopping or a friend or loved one you can feel right at home.  I talked personally with owner, Phill Reda, who is very passionate about what he does and it shows.

Big shout outs to the folks at Vintage Estate Wine and Beer for some wonderful additions to my cellar!!  I will certainly be back and I encourage any travelers and especially locals to check out this outstanding beer destination.

Vintage Estate Wine and Beer
7317 South Ave
Boardman, OH 44512

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Our Night At The Publican

This past week I had the opportunity to go to the very hyped up restaurant The Publican. There were six of us who went; Maeve Price, Don Radlund, John Burkett, Shawn Riggins, Ken Hunnemeder and myself. Ken had been to The Publican earlier in the week with his family for brunch and really enjoyed it and couldn’t pass up a night of trying some great beers. Since The Publican has an outstanding Belgian beer selection, I thought the dining experience would be worth sharing with the Hop Cast audience. I went there expecting The Publican to be kind of an upscale Hopleaf. The Publican is not at all like Hop Leaf. Hop Leaf is a beer bar that happens to serve good food; The Publican is all about the food and just happens to have good beer. The Hop Cast is all about the beer so I’m going to try and focus on the beer first and food second.

Finding The Publican can be tricky if you don’t know where you’re going. Its located in the West Loop in the Fulton Market area hidden next to factories and art galleries. I had made a reservation for the six of us last week so we had no problems getting seated. The atmosphere is rustic and noisy, you are seated at large communal tables with strangers sitting right next to you. I didn’t mind the communal seating, it contributes to the whole dining experience. Once seated we began to look over the large beer menu. The menu is one large sheet of paper so much easier to read then the book Hop Leaf gives you. Most of the beers on the menu are belgian beers which can be confusing and difficult to figure out what to pick. As a result of that it makes it easy to go for the things you recognize like the Alpha King or Left Handed Milk Stout. But I was in the mindset of going out of my comfort zone so no matter how much I might of wanted a Goose Island Imperial IPA I wasn’t going to do it. While looking over the menu I just needed to point out that our waitress was amazing and new a great deal about the beers on the menu. Too bad I didn’t have a Hop Cast card to give her that night I think she would of loved what we do here. On the menu I was drawn to the abbey beers. Abbey beers are brewed by commercial brewers, and license their name from abbeys; some defunct, some still operating. Since there were only three beers in this section I picked the first one the Witkap Pater Singel / Stimulo from Brouwerij Slaghmuylder. The Witkap is a Belgian Pale Ale coming in a 11.2 oz bottle and has an ABV of 6.0%. When the beer comes out they pour some out into the glass and leave the rest in the bottle for you to top off. The Witkap pours a light cloudy golden color which seemed spot on for a bottle conditioned Belgian. It pours with a small white head that hangs around till the last sip. A light sour aroma comes out but is backed up with some grains and hops. In the taste, the sour is more tart with a good lemon and orange citrus to clean it up. This was a great beer to start off the night with, refreshing and slightly sour and very drinkable. But if you’re looking for something even more drinkable then you might want to check out the Blanche de Bruxelles from Brasserie Lefebvre SA that John Burkett ordered. This one was recommended by our waitress, it is a Witbier and comes in at 4.5% ABV. Maeve wanted something with more hops so she ordered the Poperings Hommel Bier from Brouwerij Van Eecke N.V. This isn’t your typical IPA but an outstanding Belgian version. Ken ended up with the standby of the Alpha King since they were out of his first choice of beer. With first drinks out of the way the food started to pour in… we ordered a lot. Pork rinds, frites, sardines got us off to a decent start. The sardines were maybe my least favorite thing we ate that night but definitely weren’t terrible. Next came out the duck heart, beef tongue, farm chicken, sea bass, and ribs. Hands down my favorite dish of the night was the duck heart. It is great that The Publican tries to use as many local farmers as they can for their meats and produce.

With all this food coming out it was time for some more beer. Next up for me was the second beer in the abbey beers section, the Triple karmeliet by Brouwerij Bosteels. This was a great and complex beer, again a slight sour nose with orange and grass. A soft floral taste with spice and bitterness. Really it seemed to have something new in every sip. I wasn’t sure what Ken was doing at the other end of the table, he ordered up a Duvel for his second drink. A solid and tasty beer sure but come on…you are at The Publican, try something new buddy! Maeve who is stuck on the IPA’s went with the Ridgeway IPA, which was fun because it came in one of those oddly shaped english bottles. A few more dishes of food came out and we chatted, ate and drank. Looking back I can’t believe we almost didn’t order a third beer but I’m so happy we did. Ken who had been ordering light redeemed himself with his last pick, the Brabant from Avery. I can’t believe I liked this since it was a wild ale and I’m not one to love a sour ale but tonight I was going out of my comfort zone and trying anything and everything. For my last beer Don and I decided to split the Aventinus Vintage 2003. This beer rocked and was maybe my favorite of the night. Over all it was an outstanding night at The Publican and I had a fabulous time eating and drinking some things I might of never tried. I think everyone else at the table would agree.

In the end The Publican is really hyped up and I don’t think it lives up to all the attention it gets. Sure it is great but the best meal I have ever had? I don’t think I could say that. One of the most interesting meals, maybe. I could definitely see myself maybe stopping in for a drink and some pork rinds but I don’t think I need to have a full meal. If you have some money to burn, then drink and eat like royalty for a night. At least you will be able to tell your friends you ate something crazy.

For The Love Of Hops 2009

For The Love Of Hops Ticket

Being a Two Brothers Brewing fan and a lover of the Hops, I was really excited to go to the For The Love Of The Hops festival. Before going I somehow built up the festival in my head. I think it was due to the fact that Two Brothers was posting facebook and twitter updates for weeks before the thing kicked off. They posted every new guest keg that they were getting and with each post I was getting more and more excited. Also since Three Floyds Dark Lord Day was an incredible event a few months ago I thought For The Love Of The Hops might be just as good.

On Saturday afternoon I drove out to Warrenville with Maeve Price in the front seat, and Ken Hunnemeder and Charlie Drews riding in the back. The Two Brothers brewery isn’t too far from Chicago and its right off the expressway, so it makes for an easy trip. The parking at the brewery wasn’t as bad as Three Floyds but we did end up having to park about two blocks away. When we first walked in we had our IDs checked and were given wrist bands. Then we had to wait in the line to buy tickets for the beer and food. This was one of the slowest lines we had to wait in all day. The tickets seemed like a good idea, it keeps the people pouring the beer from having to deal with cash and should speed up the pouring lines. Each ticket cost $6 and got you one beer. Some of those beers came in 9 oz glasses and some came in 20 oz glasses. Overall $6 for a beer felt a bit expensive, especially when all of the beers I wanted to try came in a 9 oz glass. On any other day you visit the Two Brothers Brew Pub, most of the beers are only $4 and the other ones like the Northwind are $5. Charging two extra dollars for a beer brewed on site is ridiculous, if anything all the Two Brothers beers besides the Hop Juice should of been on special for like $3 for the event, not marked up in price.

So we got our tickets and then went to get a glass of beer, the four of us ended up getting a Hop Juice right away since that was what this festival was for. The Hop Juice was good and a damn fine DIPA. It is smooth and thick at the same time with a the booze burn bringing up the rear. Being 10 % ABV this guy packs a huge punch. The four of us ended up finding a table inside and basically planted ourself there. About 45 minutes after we showed up and one Hop Juice into the festival Stephen, Selina, and Brad Stark showed up and joined us at the table. From then on every 45 minutes a few of us would go wait in the guest tap line for the next beer to be released and then bring 9 oz glasses back. Just about every guest beer would run out 10 minutes after the keg was tapped. So we made sure to get there extra early especially for the Avery Voltron and Surly Darkness. To be honest I’m not a sour beer fan so the greatness of the Voltron was lost on me. But Ken, Stephen and Brad Stark loved it and declared it best in show. My personal two favorites were the Surly Darkness, and the almond cream soda from Two Brothers. I know, a cream soda. But is was really good and both Maeve and Selina agreed it rocked.

We ended up leaving just after the Surly Darkness was tapped since the last couple guest beers didn’t interest us as much as the Avery Voltron  and the Surly Darkness. For this being the Hop Juice release party I was kind of shocked I only had one 9 oz glass of Hop Juice. Unfortunately Ken and I didn’t get any video at the For The Love Of The Hops festival, so you will just have to enjoy the photos. Maybe we will review a bottle of the 2009 Hop Juice on an upcoming episode. Overall the festival was fun, good beer – even if it was a tad expensive, tasty food, live music and not too crowded. If Two Brothers has the event next year I might check it out but I won’t be expecting as much next time. Finally, if you’re in the area be sure to check out the brewery they have tours every saturday at 1:00 and 2:30.

Hair Of The Dog

Recently my finacee and I were in Portland, Or visiting with family. Portland has so many different breweries and its almost overwhelming. The two of us have visited Portland a number of times and we’ve been able to make it to most of the breweries around town. Including Lucky Lab, Roots, Hopworks, Rogue, Deschutes… the list could go on and on. On our most recent trip we decided to check out a few breweries we hadn’t made it to especially since new ones are opening all the time. This time the spot that was highest on my list to visit was the Hair Of The Dog brewery. We had just missed the 2009 FredFest the weekend before. But that didn’t stop us from setting up a time to visit the brewery. Recently Hair Of The Dog has become my favorite brewery. My love affair with them started about a year ago on my last trip to Portland, Or. Being from Chicago you almost never see a beer from Hair Of The Dog unless you are at an event and some generous person brings a bottle to share. Hair Of The Dog makes powerful, delicious beer. The 2008 Doggie Claws is amazing and one of my favorite beers; I’m having a hard time not drinking the ones I have in my fridge. I also think if Alan the brewmaster ever did any sort of Russian Imperial it would probably blow away the Darklord. So in other words I was extremely excited to be visiting Hair Of The Dog and seeing where the magic happens.

You have to call before you visit Hair Of The Dog and see if Alan, the brewmaster is going to be around to give a tour. He isn’t at the brewery brewing every day like many of the other larger operations, so you have to work around his schedule. We set a time in the late afternoon to stop by the brewery. Finding the brewery is sort of tricky, you either have to know the Portland road system very well or use the directions on the Hair Of The Dog website. Once we finally found the place we pulled up to see the door of the brewery open and ready for us to enter. As you walk in it is sort of like walking into someone’s very large garage. Barrels are piled all around and off in the back you can see all the brewing equipment. The size of the place is less than half of the newly opened Metropolitan Brewery in Chicago. When we walked in further we found Alan stirring the brew kettle, he was on his first batch for the day with three more to go. Alan finished what he was doing and then welcomed us to his brewery. The tour started and ended almost at once, you basically walk around in a small circle and Alan explains what everything is. My favorite part of the “tour” was being able to see all the barrels he had and what was being aged in each one. After Alan showed us around the brewery we stepped up to his bar to try what he had on tap. He gave a little history about the brewery and talked about each of his beers. Alan had five beers for us to sample; Greg, Fred, Blue Dot, Ruth, & the 2008 Doggie Claws. The Greg was the only one I had not had and one of the more unique beers I have had recently. He doesn’t use any hops in the Greg, only squash.

Overall it was great to visit the brewery and I greatly appreciate Alan for taking time out of his day to show me and the finacee around. If you’re in Portland or just visiting and you love beer, be sure to make the time for Hair Of The Dog.

The Fellowship of Gentlemanly Gentlemen

#gents or The Fellowship of Gentlemanly Gentlemen is a weekly, exclusive gathering of some of the world’s finest. Sampling exceptional craft beers, cigars and spirits; discussing politics, design and entrepreneurial affairs; the Fellowship aims to capture the true essence of living as a gentlemanly gentlemen. In a nutshell its a small group that gets together and share beers. It started in late February 2009 at Bridges Media Group, as a small after work get together but has quickly become much more. Each week there is a theme and everyone brings beers that fit into that theme. The beers are either ones that were picked up at the store that day or maybe that have been aging at home for years. Most weeks the group consists of Brian McCauley, Mike Kislovsky, Nick Campbell, Stephen Freshnock and myself. More recently the group is growing and more people have attended, including: Ken Hunnemeder, Timothy O’Connell and Brad Stark.

Most of the #gents are on twitter, so in order to sort of catalog and take notes on the beers that are being sample and enjoyed they put #gents into their twitter updates. This #gents code also allows for all the messages to be seen on The Fellowship of Gentlemanly Gentlemen’s website. These weekly gatherings make it a wonderful opportunity to experience a great selection of craft beers in a smaller non event setting.

Tuesday, May 6th marked the latest meeting of the gents with the theme, “Best Of Your Cellar“. Really it was more of a bring the best you have, it could include rare, aged, or even just a favorite. I brought with me a Three Floyds 2009 Dark Lord, a Pliny The Elder from Russian River and a Crack’d Wheat from New Glarus. Tyler a friend of Brian’s brought a Three Floyds 2008 Dark Lord, which was fabulous. I feel honored to have gotten to sample the 2008 Dark Lord twice in one week… the first being episode 39 of the Hop Cast. Brian shared a 60th Anniversary Special Edition Abt 12 that he had been aging for over a year. Stephen usually brings one of his home brews and he didn’t disappoint this weekend. He brought one of the few remaining bottles of his Rye. Stephen also brought a Fred which is from one of my favorite breweries Hair Of The Dog. Ken and I sampled the Fred and an Adam in a previous special. Finally from Stephen was the Ballast Point Victory At Sea. Looking back, I can’t believe we had all of that and it was only about half of what we drank that night, the list seems to just go on and on. Tim brought the Rocky’s Revenge Bourbon Brown from Tyranena Brewing, which I was rather impressed by. Brad Stark being new to the craft beer world picked up a Lost Abbey Inferno, which was reviewed on episode 22 of the Hop Cast.

We started off with the two Three Floyds Dark Lords so we could enjoy them before the alcohol took hold. From there we tried to work backwards but ended up jumping around. Beside the Dark Lord, stand outs included the aged Abt 12 and Hair Of The Dog Fred. The Victory At Sea was good, but had a bit too much chocolate for my liking.

Overall it was a fantastic night with some hard to find beers. If anyone in Chicago is looking to join us, you are more then welcome. Either contact me here, leave a message on The Fellowship Of Gentlemanly Gentlemen website or get a hold of any of us on twitter.

A Look At Dark Lord Day 2009

This years Three Floyds Dark Lord day was much better then last year. I’m not just saying that because Ken & I ended up leaving with some bottles of Dark Lord this year. The line to buy Dark Lord moved so much quicker. We ended up getting there at about 12:00, Don and Mitchell Radlund had gotten there before us and already had a place in line. Ken and I dropped off the beer we brought to trade and share and ran off to get a sample of the Dark Lord 09. The golden ticket allowed a free Dark Lord sample of the 09 version. The line for this took about 30 minutes to make it through and that was around 12:30 pm. At that time they hadn’t tapped any of the guest beers so the choices were Dark Lord or the standard Three Floyds line. So I could understand why everyone was in that line. Once we finally had our Dark Lord we got back in the main line to share the samples. The beer was great! Much more drinkable and more balanced then last years. While drinking the sample we traded a few beers and bought some tamales from a lady selling them. If you didn’t get tamales from this lady you should feel lucky, some of the worst I have ever had. But it was food and I didn’t want to wait in the food line until after I had bottles of Dark Lord in my hands. The line was moving pretty quickly. Maeve and Mitchell said they would hold our spot in line while Ken, Don and myself went to buy some Popskull. Having a separate place to buy the other beers was a great idea. There was no line for this so it was very easy to walk up and get a few other beers you wanted to pick up that day. At this point our spot in line was only about 100 people away from the Dark Lord bottles… I quickly ran back to the car to drop off some of our stuff and then as soon as I got back they were walking in to buy Dark Lord. All of us got out Golden Ticket limit of four bottles. They had a lot more people taking cash and giving out beer this year which I think was helping the line move faster. Dark Lord was now in hand and it was time to drop it off at the car and enjoy some more of the festival.


Download the Quicktime (26.1 MB).

The beer continued to flow all day. Along with the Dark Lord 09 sample we were able to sample the oak-aged and Vanilla Bean 2009 Dark Lord. These were on tap at the same place as the guest beers. The guest beer area was in a terrible location and was just a crowed mess. Some of the guest beers we were able to try were the Vintage Harvest Ale, Canadian Breakfast Stout and Oak-Aged with cherries Behemoth. I didn’t get to try any of the Stone beers which was a bummer, but there was so much other stuff I don’t think I missed it. One of the worst lines we stood in was the line to get into the brewpub but the payoff was huge. Inside the Three Floyds brewpub they had the 2008 Dark Lord and the Vanilla Bean and oak-aged version of that. Unfortunately the Vanilla Bean 2008 was gone by the time we got in. But the oak-aged 2008 was fabulous. They also had a ton of other beers inside to try… I could see why this line was so long and moved so slow. Around 4:00 / 5:00 pm they started selling more Golden Tickets to buy more Dark Lord. I still had some cash so figured I would grab another four to trade and share with people. In the end I walked away with a good amount of Dark Lord. Very happy with this years event. Three Floyds stepped it up big time after the disappointment of last year.

Something Three FloydsThree Floyds should think about is moving the food tent and line away from the brew pub line. All the lines got very confusing at points, something to separate things might of helped. Next year I might hang out and drink and then just grab my beer before I leave. No real need to wait in the line when you have a golden ticket.

RockFest

I wasn’t planning on attending the 2nd annual RockFest this past Saturday. But a few friends who had tickets ended up not being able to go so there were some tickets up for grabs. I’m glad I was able to snag one of them because Rockfest was a solid beerfest. The event was held at the Rock Bottom in Chicago located at 1 W. Grand. It featured about 48 beers from seven of the midwest Rock Bottoms. The seven Rock Bottoms were Chicago, Des Moines, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Orland Park, Warrenville and Yorktown. Since all of the Rock Bottoms have their own brewmaster with their own recipes it was really interesting to try what should be the same beer from two different brewers. For example four of the brewers brought their version of the Naughty Scot and each one was slightly different. Which I guess is the whole point of RockFest, showcasing the differences in each beer by the brewmasters. The two Rock Bottoms that I thought brought their best to RockFest was the Chicago location and the Yorktown location. The Double Diamond Double IPA that Pete Crowley brewed just rocks! If you haven’t seen our interview with Pete be sure to check it out. Yorktown had a couple stand outs but the Cuvee du Sharon which is a Belgian Ale just had a nice creamy smooth taste. I believe the Yorktown Rock Bottom won the coveted golden bung hammer… not sure which beer they won the award for but they all were good so it was well deserved.

Rock Bottom might be a brewpub chain but this sort of festival shows that each one is doing something a little different. If you have a Rock Bottom in your area be sure to check it out, I’m sure you will find something you like. Next year if you can make it be sure to try and check out RockFest, I’ll be going again if I can.