Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Election Results Are In

It's official: the election for the new logo for Justin's Brew Review is over. The results are in and the winner is...B!

Sorry that you all had to endure the slanderous political ads during this grueling logo election. I was really starting to get tired of A's infamous catchphrase: "We can't afford four more beers!" But I think that it was B's platform promise that really swung the election in its favor: "Read my lips: no new beer taxes". Whatever the case, I'm just glad that it's all over and done with. Now we can focus on the more important issues, like what other White House homebrews we can expect to be concocted over these next four years. (Oops, I just transitioned from talking about a logo election to the real thing.)

For those of you that like numbers (nerd alert, cough cough), here are some charts showing the number of votes and where they were cast:

Join the discussion, get beer-related updates, and don't miss out on exciting opportunities (like voting for a logo) by connecting with Justin's Brew Review via your favorite social media platform:
Thanks for reading. Prost!

Monday, December 10, 2012

National Lager Day

December 10th is National Lager Day, another one of the random "Hallmark holidays" for beer lovers. [1] I celebrated with a couple Yuengling Traditional Lagers at our favorite local restaurant, The Conewago Inn, or as my wife and I like to call it, "The Inn". If you ask me, there is nothing more "American" than enjoying a classic, time-tested Yuengling brew. In this area, a "Yuengling Lager" is such a standard that you don't have to ask for it by name; you simply ask for a "lager". I like that.

In honor of Lager Day, I'm going to share a few tidbits about the tour of Yuengling's Pottsville, PA brewery that my wife, Diana, treated me to as an anniversary gift one year. (Yes, I know - my wife rocks!)

Front of the brewery. That's Diana at the bottom left.
Established in 1829, Yuengling is America's oldest brewery. It is a 5th generation family-owned operation. The tour guide told us that the current owner, Dick Yuengling, is grooming his daughters to be the 6th generation of owners. Pretty cool stuff.

Here's a picture of the guy that writes this blog
Yuengling also has a brewery in Tampa, Florida (we didn't get a chance to tour the Tampa facility that day...). I'm fairly convinced that they opened the Tampa location for the older Pennsylvanians who retire to Florida or at least spend their winters there. Makes it easy to find their favorite lager. Okay, you got me; that's pure speculation on my part. At any rate, Yuengling is obviously doing something right, because they have continued to exhibit steady growth over the years.

Part of the bottling line
The brewery is in an old building that was obviously not set up with lean systems in mind. First of all, the brewery is situated in a multi-story building, so it is more difficult to complete the manufacturing process. Also, the building is old so things are much more "cramped". I suppose people must have been shorter and smaller back in the day, because it seems like old buildings are always so much more compact than the buildings of today.

Old buildings are often not without opulence.
Here's a stained glass ceiling in one area of the brewery.
It's amazing what you can do in a small space though, because Yuengling produces 2.5 million barrels [2] of beer annually. Google's conversion calculator tells me that's 630 million pints! But compared with the big boys of brewing like AB InBev's Anheuser Busch, Yuengling is tiny [3]. I'm having trouble finding production numbers for comparison at the moment, so I'll go the other way. Compared with many other microbreweries, Yuengling is big! Consider that Dogfish Head Craft Brewery only produces 75,000 barrels a year. Also consider that when Tröegs moved from Harrisburg to Hershey, they planned to double production to 60,000 barrels a year.

Kegs in the cellar / conditioning area
Wrapping up now, the coolest thing about Yuengling was that you could tell it was steeped in tradition and rich in history. The tasting room at the end of the tour had an awesome old bar. The cellar where they condition the beer still had evidence of the Prohibition years [4]. In fact, there were still portions of the brick wall that government officials had erected in an effort to keep people from accessing the cellar, thereby effectively eliminating any chance of making beer.

Yuengling tasting room bar
(Photo courtesy of
I very much enjoyed taking it all in. If you live within a few hours driving distance of Pottsville, I highly recommend making the trip to Yuengling for a tour.

I hope that you enjoyed this National Lager Day by celebrating with your own favorite lager. Thanks for reading, and as always, prost!

[1] Wow, that opening line was extremely reminiscent of the beginning of my last post. I really gotta get a new hook...or blog more frequently than once a month!
[2] The unit "barrels" is abbreviated as "bbl", but I didn't use it here because I'm not sure how many people are familiar with that abbreviation. Also, I think it's silly that the abbreviation has two Bs. Here's an interesting article that tells where that second B comes from:
[3] Even so, the Brewer's Association does not consider Yuengling to be a craft brewery because they do not meet the third of three criteria. A craft brewery must be 1) small, 2) independent, and 3) traditional. Even though Yuengling is not considered to be a craft brewery, they are a microbrewery.
[4] On December 5th, we just celebrated the 79th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, aka Repeal Day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Visiting Dogfish Head on #StoutDay 2012

November 8th was International Stout Day, one of the many Hallmark holidays for beer lovers. You may recall that I posted about IPA Day in August, though I opted out for September's Sour Beer Day. I'm not sure if October had a special day since there's already a couple weeks devoted to the beer style and the festival, Oktoberfest. I have yet to find a calendar of all the "beer days", but when I do, you can be sure I'll share.

I'm not entirely sure why there seems to be such an explosion of popularity in these "beer days", but they are obviously designed by and for the craft beer enthusiast (CBE). I believe that "beer days" are partially driven by CBEs wanting to show off to their CBE-friends via their favorite social media platform (many in which Justin's Brew Review participates). Badges like the one pictured above from Untappd are doled out to CBEs who post them to their social media profiles, thereby instilling a sense of community among posting participants. But I believe that the explosion of popularity in "beer days" is also partially attributable to the explosion of popularity of craft beer itself. One article from June 18, 2012 says that "the total number of breweries in the United States now exceeds 2,000--more than at any time since the 19th century, let along the prohibition years of the 1930s". Another article from August 6, 2012 says that in the last year, 350 new breweries were opened. That's nearly one brewery for every day of the year! As the craft beer scene continues to increase in popularity, I believe we'll see a proliferation of complementary products and services, such as the "beer days".

At any rate, I wouldn't typically go out of my way to celebrate a "beer day" and technically didn't this time around either. We just happened to schedule a vacation with my in-laws to Lewes, Delaware that coincided with Stout Day. And of course Lewes is only a few miles away from Milton, which means a trip to the awesome Dogfish Head Craft Brewery! (You may recall that I posted about our last trip there in May.) My wife was kind enough to schedule the tour and tasting on Stout Day. (Yes, she rocks.) And the "off-center" geniuses at DFH decided to provide only stout samples that day, so we rocked out by tasting:

  1. Bitches Brew
    (rated 100 overall by 620 on RateBeer users!)
  2. Chicory Stout
    (rated 96 overall by 1,634 RateBeer users)
  3. Palo Santo Marron
    (rated 99 overall by 1,682 RateBeer users!)
  4. World Wide Stout (WWS, from 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008)
    (rated 98 by the Bros. on BeerAdvocate and 100 overall by 1,898 RateBeer users!)

Judging by those ratings, craft beer lovers obviously love Dogfish Head! I thought that all four beers nailed the style, and I especially liked the notes of roasted coffee in the Chicory Stout. The coolest part, though, was the vertical tasting of WWS. I was able to taste how the beer changed over time. The older it was, the sweeter it got. My favorite of the WWS was the 2010; it had matured nicely without too much sweetness.

How did you celebrate Stout Day? Did you even know about it? What's your favorite stout at the moment? Let me know in the comments or catch me on FB, G+, or Twitter. Prost!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election is NOT Over

Yes, you read the title correctly. The election is not over, because you weren't provided with all of the choices. Cast your vote for the new Justin's Brew Review logo today!

Yes, I went there, but I only did it in the interest of making sure your voice is heard. Use the comments section or send me an email at to vote.

Actually, this election has been going on for the last week via social media, and I apologize for not thinking to post it here until now. If you aren't yet connected to Justin's Brew Review on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter, follow the links I just provided and get connected. Or you can always visit my blog later, and click on the social media links at the top of the page to get connected.

Don't miss your chance to have a hand in the future of Justin's Brew Review. Popular vote decides; there is no electoral college to factor in to this decision. Remember: if you don't vote, you can't complain about the outcome.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Yorktoberfest 2012 Video

Here's my video from Yorktoberfest 2012. More detailed post to follow.


Cast -
  • Justin Mann
  • Man #1
  • Man #2
  • Man not Appearing in this Film
  • Lots of extras
  • Wik
  • Als0 wik
  • Als0 als0 wik
  • Wi n0t trei a h0liday in Sweeden thi yer?
  • See the l0veli lakes
  • The W0nderful teleph0ne system
  • And mani interesting furry animals
  • Including the majestic m00se
  • A M00se once bit my sister...
We apologize for the fault in the credits. Those who were responsible have been sacked.
  • Cameo appearance by Will Ferrell (at marker 1:54)
  • M00se Trained by Yutte Hermsgervordenbroti
  • M00se Choreographed by Horst Prot III
  • Miss Taylor's M00ses by Hengst Douglas-Home
We apologize again for the fault in the credits. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have been sacked.
  • Director - Justin Mann
  • Writer - Justin Mann
  • Producer - Justin Mann
  • Music - the CD that happened to be playing when I recorded this (in between bands)
  • Cinematography - Justin Mann
  • Editing - Editing? We don't need no stinking editing. (Or at least, we didn't use no stinking editing.)
  • Casting - Justin Mann
  • Set Decoration - Yorktoberfest organizers (especially Matthew) and vendors
  • Costume Design - GAP
  • Makeup Department - Absolutely N/A
  • Visual effects - Wee Wowem LLC
  • Stunts - Evel Knievel and Robert Overcracker
  • Transportation - my wife, Diana

Closing Thoughts:
Thank you, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Full credit to you for the crazy credits and M00se references.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Broaching Beer Bias

Today, I'm pondering how bias plays a role in beer reviews.

("What Ales You?" Image Courtesy of
What makes a good beer? Is it taste alone? What about the color or appearance? Maybe it's the smell or mouthfeel. Of course, these are all attributes that are typically considered in an attempt to objectively assess whether or not a beer is "good". But I submit that for every beer review, there are some behind-the-scenes factors that readers are not privy to and of which the reviewer may not even be aware.

Artwork on package or label

"First impressions last, but don't judge a book by its cover."(1) Yet we do, consciously or not. Attractive packaging artwork catches our eye as we're browsing through the rows of six-packs. The colorful design on the bottle label practically yells "Look at me! I'm interesting. Drink me!" Even those that claim to overlook such marketing ploys would probably at least admit when the artwork is appealing, which has to play into the end result on some level. Otherwise, the craft beer industry wouldn't bend over backwards to create intriguing, eye-catching artwork for their packaging and labels. thinks so too: "A great label becomes part of the beer somehow. It's a doorway to the drink - both a reflection of and an invitation to the brewer's art...Very few [labels] are neutral."

Favorite Brewery

Okay, so I like Tröegs. So what? I'll tell you so what. It is more difficult for me to criticize a beer brewed by Tröegs than any other brewery out there. Brand loyalty plays a big part here. I would like to say that all beers from Tröegs' brewery are the best you'll ever have. But that's simply not true. They have made a few brews that are not my favorite, so when I'm being completely honest, I'll tell you that I think Dead Reckoning Porter's 53 IBUs make it too bitter for the style. Speaking of bitter, Perpetual IPA is over the top in that category and is just too far out there for my liking (though it's a bit more acceptable for the style). But when I'm trying a new Tröegs brew--one from their Scratch Series for example--I have high expectations before I even take the first sip. I fully expect to like it before I try it! I'd say that's a bit biased.

Circumstances or Environment at Time of Review

How about the time or place or circumstances surrounding the event (yes, event) of enjoying a brewski? Yeah, they certainly play a role. Following is a list of a few I thought of. I'll let you decide how they might affect the outcome of the beer review.

  • At a party with friends
  • After a bad day at work
  • At a beer-tasting event
  • After being given a free beer
  • At the brewery
  • At home by oneself
  • At a restaurant with delicious food
  • At a restaurant with crappy service
  • After receiving bad news
  • Watching a Presidential debate

The Desire to "Fit In"

What about the beers with a lot of hype? Consider Russian River's Pliny the Younger (or Elder), The Alchemist's Heady Topper, 3 Floyds' Zombie Dust, or maybe even Tröegs' Nugget Nectar. (Refer to Beer Advocate's Top 100 most popular beers.) Each of these is purportedly among the best beer on the market. We talk 'em up; the suppliers mark 'em up. We go out of our way to get the good stuff. We pay more for a pint than we are willing to admit in mixed company, helping to shoot more holes in economists' theories about rational consumerism. And for what? A sublime swig of suds? Meh. I'm sure it's good beer, but I bet it's not all that and a bag of Chips Ahoy. Yet we perpetuate the hype by bragging to our friends and posting comments to our beer circle on Google+. Why? Because "everyone else is doing it". (Watch out for the edge of the cliff, my friends. It's dangerously close.)


Even the most conscientious beer reviewer will be influenced by one or more of the above factors, if not something else I've missed entirely. So as a reader of such reviews, you have been warned. Don't believe everything you read. When you're reading a review, take it with a grain of salt. Just as writers/speakers are admonished to know their audience, readers should know their writers. If you're not a regular reader of the beer blog upon which you've stumbled (perhaps this one!), get to know the author. Determine what predilections may prevent pure opining. Read more than one review of the same brew and take an average, as it were. And then form your own opinion. After all, in the words of LeVar Burton, "You don't have to take my word for it."(2)

(1) I had an idea about what I wanted to say here but couldn't quite phrase it right. After Googling for more ideas, I ran across this unique cliche mash-up and simply had to use it. Source:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What is Oktoberfest?

It's a beer and a festival! This year marks the 179th Oktoberfest, which started yesterday and will last for 16 days. Held in Munich (Bavaria, Germany), Oktoberfest is the world's largest fair, with somewhere around 5 or 6 million attendees each year (1). During the festivities, visitors consume almost 2 million gallons of beer.

Beer maids and waiters must be able to carry 10 beer-filled mugs at a time. (3) (7)
(Image Source:
The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 (2) to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race! Anniversary celebrations were held annually thereafter, which each becoming larger and more elaborate, including the introduction of carnival rides. (3)

Underneath one of the big tents at Oktoberfest 2012.
(Image Source:
Oktoberfest beer is a variety of the Märzen style, which I discussed in a previous post about smoked beer. Like all German beer, the Oktoberfest beer is brewed according to strict German standards called the Reinheitsgebot (4), which has been in effect since 1516. Also known as the German Purity Law, Reinheitsgebot precisely defines the four ingredients allowed to be used to brew beer: barley, hops, malt, and yeast (3). While I'm a big fan of innovative craft beer, I can certainly respect the brewing traditions that Germany has upheld all this time.

I've tried a few different Oktoberfest-style beers this year, including:
  1. Tröegs' Scratch #73 "Fest Lager", which they've unofficially dubbed OkTröegerFest. At 5.5% ABV and 35 IBUs, this yeasty lager was growler-worthy. I very much enjoyed this one-off and would be appreciative of another appearance next year (hint to the Trogners if you're reading this!). You can read more reviews on BA and RB. Justin's Brew Review gives it an "A-".
  2. Yuengling's Oktoberfest was also rockin'. However, it was a limited release because Yuengling does not have the capacity (5) to produce seasonal brews. I had difficulty finding any to try, but I did receive a sixer thanks to my father-in-law who was able to purchase an entire case! I'm milking it (beering it?) because I don't want to run out too quickly. BA likes it better than RB, but Justin's Brew Review gives Yuengling's offering a solid "A".
  3. Samuel Adams calls their version Octoberfest (yes, they Americanized the beer's moniker). It is both excellent and available. Boston Beer (brewer of the Sam Adams brand) rarely disappoints in my opinion, and this is no exception. If you like the Oktoberfest style beer, you should go get yourself some of this. It rates well on BA, and RB ranks it very highly for the style. Justin's Brew Review gives it an "A+".

The mayor of Munich ceremonially taps the first keg at Oktoberfest 2012.
(Image Source:
Many places throughout the world hold their own (smaller!) version of Oktoberfest. Locally in York, PA, we have the 2nd Annual Yorktoberfest coming up on October 27-28. My wife and I will be attending, so let me know if you'll be there too -- we can toast a brew. Also, look for a post after the event. You can read about my experience at last year's Yorktoberfest here (a "live" post) and here (a more detailed, follow-up post).

How are you celebrating Oktoberfest? Are you planning on attending any festivals? Wearing lederhosen? (6) Or drinking Oktoberfest-style beer? Let me know in the comments or send me a message on your favorite social media site: you can get me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.


(1) Source:
(2) Note that the math does not add up: 2012-1810 = 202, but this is only the 179th festival. That's because the fair has had to be canceled 24 times due to cholera epidemics and war (3).
(3) Source:
(4) I love long German words! This one is pronounced RYN-hytz-geh-boht. You can listen to the pronunciation here.
(5) Sources: a tour of Yuengling's Pottsville, PA brewery that my wife took me on over a year and half ago that I have yet to blog about (yes, I'm behind) and
(6) You can get a nice, basic pair of lederhosen (leather pants) for a mere 165 euros ($215) here.
If you really want to go all out, you can get some premium pants for $325 on the same site. They also sell dresses and other authentic German garb on that site.
(7) The Guinness world record was set in November 2008 by Bavarian Anita Schwarz when she carried 19 full beer steins (5 in each hand and 9 on top) that weighed a total of about 90 pounds over a distance of 40 meters and placed them on a table without spilling a drop. (Source: and Image Source:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blogging 'Bout Bad Beer

I've had a question on my mind for a while: should I blog about bad beers?
 This meme is not meant to imply that Dos Equis is a bad beer.
I blog about good beers and rave about them. So why not rant about bad beers? Equal opportunity beer blogging, right? I guess my main hesitation in blogging about bad beers is that I know I'm no expert. Who am I to say that a beer is bad? Maybe I just don't care for the style. I certainly don't claim to be a beer savant, so what does my opinion really matter anyway? Your opinion is surely different than mine on occasion, so you're never going to fully rely on what I have to say. My opinion may have some sway with you (you are reading my blog, after all), but in the end, it's your opinion that matters as to whether or not a beer is good.

At the same time, as a beer blogger, I believe that I have an obligation to report my unbiased opinions to readers. After all, it's good to know what bad beer tastes like so that you have a point of reference for good beer. You really can't define something without its opposite. I like how Boak & Bailey puts it:
Taking the time to drink bad beer is a useful way to calibrate the tastebuds, correct your perspective, and stimulate the tastebuds. Sometimes, it's just about remindering yourself that bad beer is still beer and won't kill you.
So what do you think? Do you want to read occasional reviews about bad beer? Or would you rather just read about the good ones? Let me know what you think in the comments, or on FacebookGoogle+, and/or Twitter.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

#IPADay and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Today is IPA Day, which means you should stop reading for a minute and go crack open a bottle of hoppy, craft-brewed India Pale Ale. Why are you still sitting there? Go on - git! I'll wait...

Alright, now that you've got a brew in-hand, let's figure out what this #IPADay thing is. (Hint: it has nothing to do with Apple's tablet. Someone just decided to capitalize the "D" too.) From
Founded in 2011 by beer evangelists and social media personalities Ashley Routson and Ryan Ross, IPA Day is a universal movement created to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide, using social media as the common arena for connecting the conversation together.
IPA Day is not the brainchild of a corporate marketing machine, nor is it meant to serve any particular beer brand. IPA Day is opportunity for all breweries, bloggers, businesses and consumers to connect and share their love of craft beer. It is an opportunity for the entire craft beer culture to combine forces and advocate craft beer through increased education and global awareness.
Getting involved is easy; the only requirements are an appreciation for great beer and the will to spread the word. Anyone can participate by enjoying IPA with friends, making some noise online with the #IPADay hashtag, and showing the world that craft beer is more than a trend.
Sounds like something I can get behind! So to celebrate, I raise a glass of Dogfish Head's illustrious 120 Minute IPA. Prost!

I picked up this bottle during a recent trip to Lewes, Delaware, which is only a few minutes away from the DFH brewery in Milton. As you can imagine, being so close necessitated a visit. (If you missed my blog post about the brewery tour, you can read it here.) Unfortunately, when I got there, the brewery did not have any 120 Minute. 
I had wanted to try the oft-discussed, highly-sought beer for such a long time, but I had never been able to get my hands on any. I thought for sure I would be able to get it straight from the source. Alas and alack, such was not the case. It appeared I was going to be leaving a sad and empty-handed fellow, but thankfully, I found a few single bottles in a beer-liquor-wine shop in Lewes! At $8.99 for a 12-ouncer, it was a steal. It is not uncommon for the highly-demanded beer to command a price of $13+. I bought two: one to enjoy in the near future and one to age for a few years. The near future has come and gone, so here are my tasting notes:

Appearance: A deep, hazy orange with a thin cream-colored head. Look at those hop particles floating around in my glass. Makes my mouth water just watching.

Smell: You can tell there's a high alcohol content to this one, but it's not knock-you-off-your-feet overwhelming. Noticeably sweet smell mixed in there, too. Actually, it reminds me of DFH's Burton Baton (which I haven't formally reviewed yet - stay tuned).

Taste: WOW! I have never had anything like this! It's beyond great. Extremely smooth. You know that it has a high alcohol content (18% ABV!) from the first sip, but it's amazing how well the beer hides it with the sweetness. Fizzy yet smooth...soooo smooth! Is that scotch? Wishing I had bought a third and fourth bottle. Now my mouth is tingling from the hops, yet it is offset by the slight numbing effect setting in from the alcohol. It's amazing to me that this isn't more hoppy-tasting; 120 IBUs is nothing to sneeze at! I mean, it's boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped, dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month, and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops. It's a hophead's dream-come-true! But the 18% ABV isn't extremely evident either. It's as though DFH found the perfect mix of hops and alcohol: both very high and balanced. I'm impressed.

Mouthfeel: It doesn't get any smoother than this. Full-bodied fizziness to be enjoyed.

Overall: Impressive. This beer lives up to the hype. The only downside in my view is the availability factor. Rock on, Dogfish Head. You know what's up.

1770 BeerAdvocate users rate it an overall 87/100.
1980 RateBeer users rate it an overall 99/100 and a 97/100 for the style.
Clearly, people like this brew.

Justin's Brew Review gives it an A+.
Clearly, Justin likes this brew.

Do you? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on Facebook, Google+, and/or Twitter. Also, let me know how you're celebrating #IPADay. Cheers to beers!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christmas (Beer) in July

Feliz Navidad en julio!
Today is July 25, exactly five months until Christmas. So I decided it was appropriate to celebrate (with a) Christmas (beer) in July. Okay, so it's not exactly a Christmas beer, but the label has a Poinsettia on it. That's good enough for me. I figured we all need something to help keep us cool during these hot summer days, and this beer does the trick!

This beer is brought to us from Mexico by Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (part of the Heineken company). The only other Mexican beer that I've ever had (thanks to my father-in-law, by the way!) was Tecate, which incidentally is also brewed by CCM. In fact, I believe that the large majority of the beer I've consumed to-date has been domestically brewed. Makes me wonder what I've been missing. If you've got any suggestions for great foreign-brewed beers, please let me know.

Noche Buena is a Bock weighing in at an average 5.90% ABV. Apparently I'm on a Bock-blogging kick, since my last post was also about a Bock. Noche Buena is of the darker variety of Bocks. Admittedly, I am a big fan of darker beers. Their colors color my opinion before I even taste them. They just look like they're going to have more body, more depth than a lighter-colored beer. Of course, some of the lighter-colored wheat beers such as Hefeweizens are fairly alluring simply because of their hazy, unfiltered, golden-clouds-in-a-glass, come-and-drink-me look that foreshadows the tantalizingly tart flavor profile awaiting your tongue. There's still just something about the alluringly dark beer that beckons my taste buds.

But I digress.

"Get on with it!"
Appearance: An opaque burnt sienna with a frothy, off-white head.
Smell: A good "dark beer" smell. Hard to say exactly what that means, other than it seems to fit the style.
Taste: At first, there's nothing particularly interesting about the taste. But as I thought about how to describe my tasting experience, I realized that there was a slight bitterness present on the back end. Not so much that after having one beer you'd notice it all that much (unless you're trying to write about it!), but I believe that it'd start to catch up with you after having several. So the finish was not entirely clean (would you call this "somewhat messy"?), but it was satisfying.
Mouthfeel: Smooth with a bit 'o bubbly, though not too much.
Overall: This beer was a refreshing reminder of cooler weather. Pretty good.

71 BeerAdvocate users rate it a 78/100.
115 RateBeer users rate it 26/100 overall and 66/100 for the style.
Justin's Brew Review gives it a solid B.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Beer Born on the Bayou

You may recall that right after Christmas, I wrote a post called "A Taste of Brew Reviews to Come" and included a picture of the 18 different beers I had received for Christmas. Well, I'm not slacking in the writing department...I'm slacking in the drinking department. I've only had one of these so far! As they say, so many beers; so little time!

At any rate, I have been trying many new beers, one of which is the subject of today's post: Covington Brewhouse's Bayou Bock.

I thought Bock was German for "dark"?!
This beer comes to us from Covington, Louisiana. I was quite confused when I poured it into my glass because the beer was so light-colored. I have only ever seen dark Bock beer, so I did a double-take. I figured I had either cracked a different bottle than I thought or Covington put the wrong label on this brew! Turns out I was wrong on both counts. The German word Bock does not mean "dark"; dunkel is the German word filling that role. (Duh, Mr. German minor.) Bock is actually the German word for "goat".

Boy, do I feel sheepish!
Turns out that this particular beer style is a Maibock or helles Bock. (In German, you capitalize nouns. The German word helles simply means "light".) According to Beer Advocate, "The Maibock style of beer tends to be lighter in color than other Bock beers and often has a significant hop character with a noticeable alcohol around the same as a traditional Bock. Maibocks are customarily served in the spring and are oftentimes interrelated with spring festivals and celebrations more often in the month of May." That pretty much sums it up. So without further ado, here are my tasting notes:

Appearance: Golden yellow. No head but it evidenced thin white lacing on the sides of my glass.
Smell: Almost like what I call a "typical beer" (run-of-the-mill type stuff, you know), but I caught a hint of passion fruit. It reminded me of a Juicy Juice® [1] flavor.
Taste: Nothing remarkable. And by that, I mean there isn't really any special flavoring. However, it has an easy-to-drink quality. The hint of passion fruit was not as evident in the flavor, but it's definitely in the background. The aftertaste isn't noticeable in a bad way, and it certainly is not a bitter beer. I'd drink more than one at a time.
Mouthfeel: I wouldn't say that you really notice the carbonation, but the mouthfeel is good. It is not too light and not too heavy. It's Goldilocks just right.
Overall: I would rate this beer as a B+. I thought it was pretty good.

Sixteen BeerAdvocate users gave it a 74 / 100.
Twenty RateBeer users were not so kind. They ranked it a very low 18 / 100 with a mere 6 / 100 for the style.

Have you tried this beer or any others by Covington Brewhouse? Let me know in the comments below or through one of the following avenues:

[1] References and/or links to Juicy Juice® are provided strictly as a convenience to our users and are in no way intended to express or imply an endorsement of these companies or their products by Justin’s Brew Review. Plus, it isn’t even a beer.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Homebrew, Take 2

Earlier this year, I wrote about my first experience trying a homebrew: an Irish Chocolate Stout made by my neighbor, Matt. A few months later, I had the pleasure of trying another round of homebrews.

The first is a Chocolate Almond Milk Stout, also made by Matt.

5.0-5.5% ABV; 31-34 IBU
Appearance: Opaque brown with caramel-colored head
Smell: Sweet alcohol - definitively stout
Taste: At first sip, it was a subtle flavor. As I continued drinking, I noticed it was light on chocolate, was "milky", and had a great stout flavor.
Mouthfeel: Medium; fizzy with a kick of carbonation.
Overall: Subtle flavor in an excellent stout. Maybe a little too much carbonation but a very good brew.

The second is an IPA, made by Matt's father-in-law.

I don't know the specs on this one, but I'd guess it's a sessionable beer, maybe 4.0-4.5% ABV.
Appearance: Orange hazy hue with a thick, off-white, frothy head.
Smell: The familiar comforting smell of hops, sweet and inviting.
Taste: At first sip, it was inviting and very drinkable. As I continued drinking, I noticed that there was a somewhat low bitterness factor. It was smooth and easy to drink with a welcome little kick. Possibly a hint of orange. A slightly bitter aftertaste, appropriate for an IPA.
Mouthfeel: Medium; smooth; definitely not thin.
Overall: Not as kicky of an IPA as I expected, but a great spot-on flavor.

I'm wondering what homebrews my readers are working on these days. Share your beery creativity by:
  1. leaving a comment below
  2. Tweeting @BrewReviewMann
  3. circling Justin's Brew Review on Google+
  4. find Justin's Brew Review on Facebook
  5. sending an email to
Blogging about beer is fun, and I'd really love to have some two-way conversations with other beer lovers. Prost!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Boulder Beer's "Hazed and Infused"

I'm going to attempt to chip away at my backlog of tasting notes and begin blogging about some of the beers that I have tried over the last few months (or year).

Today, we have Boulder Beer's "Hazed & Infused". As you may have guessed from the brewery's name, this amber ale comes to us from Colorado. Boulder Beer's website tells us that they are Colorado's first microbrewery (opened in 1979), receiving the 43rd brewing license issued in the United States. The founders, "Hummer" and "Stick", first opened the brewery in a goat shed. They have, of course, expanded since then, and I can assure you that their beer doesn't taste like goats! You can take a virtual brewery tour on their website.

Back to the beer, "Hazed & Infused" weighs in at 4.85% ABV and is infused, or dry-hopped, with Crystal and Centennial hops. This is in addition to the Nugget, Willamette, Crystal, and Centennial hops used to brew the beer. "Hazed" was a "one-keg" experimental brew (often the best kind!) from 2001, but it was so popular with those who tried it that it became a mainstay.

"Hazed & Infused" definitely had a hazy appearance, evidence that it is, in fact, an unfiltered beer. It had a sweet fruity smell with an undertone of bitter hops. Though the hops were also evident in the flavor, the taste wasn't too bitter. It had a nice citrus fruit flavor and was very refreshing. "Hazed" makes for a good summer beer and is, in a word, "fun".

BeerAdvocate users give it an 85 (824 reviews), and the Brothers give it a 78.
RateBeer users give it an 89 overall and a 91 for style (1116 reviews).
Justin's Brew Review gives it an A-.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Tour

DFH's $30,001 Steampunk Treehouse
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware. My wife and I, along with our dog, made the trip down to the Delaware beaches. Incidentally, if you're looking for a good place to stay in Lewes, we highly recommend the Lazy L at Willow Creek, a very dog-friendly bed & breakfast.

Before I talk about my experience at the Dogfish Head (DFH) facility, I should tell you about my preconceived notions. I have always viewed DFH as a tree-hugging, peace-loving, far-out-there kind of brewery. Their slogan proves my prejudicial bent: "Off-centered stuff for off-centered people". Also, the names of some of their beers are pretty inaccessible: Raison D'Etre, Palo Santo Marron, Burton Baton, Festina Peche, Chateau Jiahu, Namaste, Sah'Tea, and Ta Henket, to name a few. I am not against things that are "different", and I certainly don't mind creativity. Yet, DFH just didn't seem to be up my alley.

Of course, none of this would keep me from taking a brewery tour! I always find it fascinating to hear about the history of a brewery, see the operations, watch the bottles go clinking down the line, and of course, sample the wares. And I have to admit that by the end of the tour, I realized that DFH was not as inaccessible as I had once thought.

Sam Calagione: the man, the myth, the legend. (Nice looking beer!)
Sam Calagione, founder and President of DFH, was an English major (like yours truly!) and, according to the DFH website, is the "brainchild behind all the wacky things that happen at Dogfish Head" [1]. The tour guide said that Sam decided to open DFH in Delaware because 1) his wife grew up there and 2) at that time, there were no DE breweries [2], so he could help to shape the beer laws. Sam must have done a pretty good job shaping the DE beer laws, because I'm happy to report that I was able to pick up some beers tax-free and in stores that sell wine, spirits, and beer all in one place [3].

Some of the original beer-making equipment
One of the stories our tour guide told us was about payday beer. As with all production ventures, things inevitably go wrong sometimes. So there are some batches of beer that just aren't, let's say, optimal. But it's still beer, so why let it go to waste, right? That's what the DFH employees thought too! So they would go in search of the "bad" beer and take it home with them. This became such a popular pastime that Sam implemented the payday beer. Now, employees are afforded the opportunity to specify which one of a few beers they would like to have, and it is delivered to them along with their paycheck every other week. I can imagine that DFH employees have a lot of friends wanting to visit every couple of weeks. Also, just think of how many disgruntled employees would change their tune if they got payday beer (hint to corporate America).

Another story that our tour guide told us was about the treehouse in front of the DFH brewery (pictured at the top). The Steampunk Treehouse was first exhibited at the 2007 Burning Man festival in Nevada and now permanently resides at DFH. (Read more here.) Sam bought it at an auction for $1, but it cost another $30,000 to ship and install. So the deal was a bit more than Sam "bargained" for (insert canned laughter here), but it yields a sweet first impression for DFH visitors.

"Where's the tap on this thing?"
The namesake of one of DFH's brews, Palo Santo, is actually a type of wood that only grows in one place on earth: Paraguay. Palo Santo, meaning holy wood, is used to condition DFH's brown ale and gives it a caramel vanilla flavor (mmm!). Interestingly, this wood is so tough that even a bullet doesn't damage it. As a matter of fact, the large tank pictured above is made of Palo Santo wood, and the craftsmen went through  seventeen diamond-tipped saw blades to make it. I cannot imagine enduring such a painstaking effort. But at least the beer is good!

A note about the 60 Minute, 90 Minute, and 120 Minute IPAs that DFH makes. Hops are added for flavor and are typically introduced to the beer at the beginning and end of the brewing process. Our tour guide told us that, one day, Sam was watching a cooking show. The chef was adding pepper to the recipe all throughout the cooking process because adding it all at one time would ruin the flavor. This "aha!" moment led to Sam's "Sir Hops Alot" contraption. Basically, he rigged a vibrating base to shake hops down into a bucket with holes in it. As "Sir Hops Alot" continued its vibrating endeavors, the hops would find their way out of the bucket and into the brew. (They have since refined the machinery, but this basic innovation got the job done!) This led to a continuous hopping process, thereby exponentially increasing the robust flavor of the beer. The 90 Minute, for example, is continuously hopped in this manner for 90 minutes. Genius!

From DFH's Rehobeth brewpub
And now for the sampling! During the tour, DFH was licensed to provide 12 ounces of beer to visitors for free. DFH decided to split that 12 ounces into four 3-ounce samples. I was privileged to try Festina Peche (peach-flavored, not a favorite of mine), 60 Minute IPA (an excellent IPA), Burton Baton (wow! amazing imperial IPA!), and Palo Santo Marron (a wonderful brown ale). Later on, we also visited DFH's brewpub in Rehobeth. There I sampled five brews:
  1. Sah' Tea -- Wow, spices galore! It's like Chai tea in a beer. I think you would have to be in the right mindset to drink this and maybe only one at a time. Very unique. I'm impressed.
  2. Indian Brown Ale -- Hits the style on the nose! Has a little extra spice, hence the "Indian", I suppose.
  3. Aprihop -- Lighter than I expected. A good apricot flavor. Easy to drink and refreshing at the same time.
  4. Midas Touch -- From the taste, this is what I would call a "normal" beer. However, it is slightly differentiated by the higher alcohol content (9%) and extra "bite".
  5. Tweason'ale -- Pretty good. I couldn't identify what "extra" flavor I was picking up on in this beer, but after reading  the notes on BeerAdvocate, I believe it was the sorghum and molasses.
I walked away with a four-pack of Burton Baton, one 750-ml bottle of Urkontinent (the DFH-Google(!) collaboration brew), and two pints of the extremely-hard-to-come-by 120 Minute (I paid $9 per pint, but it's not unheard of to pay $13 or more for a pint!).

If you are planning on taking a DFH brewery tour (and you should), make sure you reserve a spot in advance. You can do so on DFH's website.

[1] One of Sam's "wacky" ideas was to brew a naturally-green beer using Spirulina (seaweed) in an attempt to thwart the obviously-evil plot to cheapen his beer by using green dye for St. Paddy's day. (Read DFH's take on it, and check it out on BeerAdvocate.)
[2] According to, there are still only eleven DE breweries currently in operation with one in the works.
[3] Don't even get me started on the odd setup we have in Pennsylvania! But please feel free to visit Lew Bryson's blog "Why the PLCB should be abolished" at

Friday, May 11, 2012

Back to the Brew-ture

It has been quite some time since my last blog post. If you already knew that without me telling you, then I owe you an apology. I just finished what was undoubtedly the hardest semester of my post-graduate coursework, and this Saturday, I will be walking across the stage to receive a Master of Business Administration degree. It was a rather enjoyable ride, and at the same time, I'm glad it's done. Time to get back to living life again. Also, time for some brew-reviewing!

As I alluded to in my last post, even though I haven't blogged in a while, I haven't stopped sampling the brewski. Today's sampling comes from our recent trip to Victor's Italian Restaurant in York, PA[1]. First on tap today, we have my first Sun King beer, Ring of Dingle, which is a 4.7% ABV dry Irish stout. Coming to us from Indianapolis, this stout was very smooth to drink, as a stout should be. Regarding the flavor: what can I say but wow! This amuse bouche was a delight, even with the bit of a bite in aftertaste. I'd drink it again. Surprisingly, there are no ratings on BeerAdvocate or RateBeer at this time.

For being a "Sun" King, this beer sure is dark!
Next up, I tried Roy Pitz Brewing's Lay Down Stay Down. Ah. May. Zing. Seriously. This local brew (Chambersburg, PA!) was extremely smooth, yet bright. Weighing in at 9.0% ABV, this Belgian strong ale was an instant favorite of mine. I loved the deep, dark flavor profile that jumped from the glass. It was very much like a brown ale (think Newcastle), but it was "bubbly" like the Belgian it is. I was super-impressed with this one. While BeerAdvocate doesn't have a rating for this yet, I was surprised that RateBeer gave "Lay Down" the smack down at a low 58 points (and only 30 points for style!). Regardless, Mr. Pitz, I'll be back.

One of these will bring you out of the Pitz, regardless of its moniker.
(Three or four is a different story.)
That concludes this post. I look forward to bringing you some more brew reviews in the not-nearly-as-distant future, relatively speaking. I've missed this! Hope you enjoyed the post. If you've got any comments on this post or have any ideas that you'd like to see me write about for future posts, leave me a comment below. And as always, you can get me on my Twitter handle: @BrewReviewMann. Prost!

[1] If you live in the area, you should make it a point to stop by Victor's. We loved the food and ambiance! The restaurant is in an old church, so there's definitely a lot of character. They have live music all the time. And they have a better-than-decent selection of beer...but you don't have to take my word for it!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Session #61: What Makes Local Beer Better?

I'm back from my sabbatical from blogging...for now anyway. I didn't mean to take a month off! I've been going through a bit of a dry spell, but only in terms of writing -- I've been sampling new brews, so I've got some notes for future blog posts. But for this post, I'd like to take the opportunity to respond (a couple days late) to a question posed by beer blogger, Matt, from the Hoosier Beer Geek. Actually, the question is part of an ongoing monthly series of questions called "The Session".

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. This month's topic is local beer. Here's the question for The Session #61:
Local Beer - "The term is being used by just about every craft brewer in the country. What does it really mean though? Is it more of a marketing term or is there substance behind the moniker? This month I want to think about what makes local beer better? I'm not just talking about the beer itself, although it's the focal point, but what makes local beer better? My connection to local beer is far from thinking that my beer is actually 'local.' Maybe you don't agree with me, and you can write about that. Bonus points for writing about your favorite local beer and the settings around it being local to you."

I'm not really sure what is so unclear about the term "local beer". It seems pretty straightforward to me: local beer is simply beer that is brewed locally. Am I missing something here? Take Liquid Hero Brewery, for example. There's no marketing gimmick here. It's simply three guys brewing beer in York, PA. That's local beer (for me, anyway).

Of course, not all the ingredients are grown locally. But who would expect that to be the case? After all, beer pretty much has its roots in Germany, and many hops and malts used to brew beer still come from Germany. Consider Lancaster, PA's own Lancaster Brewing Company. According to their website, the Lancaster Lager "showcases a balance of malt, along with German and European hops", including 2 Row Pale and Caramel malts as well as Hallertau and Saaz hops. Doesn't matter. The "outsourced" ingredients are "imported" and then brewed by local people. Sounds like a local beer to me.

So back to the question: what makes local beer better? I have to say that the quality of local beer is not automatically better simply because it is local. Let's face it -- some breweries just know how to make better beer than others, and it has nothing to do with proximity to where you live! However, the fact that it is local may make the whole experience better. For instance, take one of my favorite (and local!) breweries: Tröegs Brewing Company. (To be clear, I think the quality of their beers is superb.) I love the experience associated with visiting their brewery, which we affectionately call "T2". They have created a whole world for craft beer enthusiasts (you can read about my recent experience here). In their tasting room, I appreciate the opportunity to sample their brews, especially something from their Scratch Beer Series, and before leaving, I am always sure to have my growler filled with one of their finest. I enjoy walking through their self-guided tour, and to show my local brewery pride, I usually hit up the gift shop for some new paraphernalia too. The whole experience of gathering together with other craft beer lovers at this local venue is not something that would easily be duplicated for non-local beer. And even if it could be duplicated, I wouldn't feel the same pride I feel when I know I'm enjoying local beer.

Hope that answers the question to your satisfaction. What do you all think? What makes local beer better? Leave a comment below or send me a Tweet (@BrewReviewMann). I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Live from Tröegs Brewing

Mural in Entrance (File Photo*)
Thought it was time for another "live" post, so I'm coming to you today from Tröegs Brewing's new facility (fondly known as T2) in Hershey, PA. I'm hanging out with some other craft brew lovers and Justin's Brew Review readers -- good times, good people, great beer. In true Tröegs pride fashion, I'm wearing my HopBack Amber Ale t-shirt. While this is not the first time I've been to T2, it is the first I've had a chance to write about it. Let me say that if you have not been here yet, you should really take the time to do so. There's no time like the present - come on out!

Currently, Tröegs is only offering self-guided tours, but their website tells us of plans on offering a low-cost, taste-as-you-go, guided version coming in late February of this year. If I understand correctly, you'll even get a souvenir pint glass out of the deal -- not too shabby! Back to the self-guided tour: when you come in the front door, keep going straight through the doors and you'll enter the tasting room. There are multiple barkeeps at the impressively long bar, which includes a growler fill-up station (actually, they have an automated machine that is fun to watch as it fills the growler).

The Impressively Long Bar
After you grab a brewski at the bar, take it with you as you hang a right and enter the self-guided tour area. (Don't worry - you can come back for more later.) It's a nice setup -- they have signs that describe each step of the brewing and bottling process. It's not nearly as intimate (read small) as their old Harrisburg brewery (read about the tour I took there just over a year ago), but it's definitely impressive, modern, and a bit more touristy (makes sense - it's only right down the road from Hershey Park). At the end of the line on the tour, you enter the gift shop area where you can pick up Tröegs paraphernalia and/or (probably "and") some cases to go.

Growler Filling Station
Alright, gotta go tend to my Pale Ale. Hopefully, you can make the trip to Hershey and visit this great new facility that Tröegs has crafted--like their beer--for the pleasure of all. Prost!

Thankfully, this sign was not on the entrance doors.

* The photo I used of the 2-story mural in the brewery entrance is a file photo because it is not currently there. I asked the Trogner brothers what happened, and they said that they are repairing multiple cracks in the wall. Never fear - they assure me that "it will return".

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Homebrew: Irish Chocolate Stout

Irish Chocolate Stout, the homebrew variety.  Not my homebrew, mind you.  I enjoy drinking craft beer, but I would not have the patience to craft it myself.  I'll leave that to people like my neighbor, Matt, who supplied this great beer for my tasting pleasure.  (Incidentally, I found out about Matt's affinity for beer when we ran into each other at Yorktoberfest, which I wrote about here and here.)

This was the first time that I've ever had the opportunity to try a homebrew, and I certainly hope it won't be my last!  I was impressed with how professional it tasted, especially since Matt tells me he brewed it in his kitchen!  I feel like it was something I could have bought at the local Mix-a-Six (even though there really aren't too many of those local to York, PA...but I digress).

Being that this is a homebrew, I was expecting to write that I didn't have any beery stats for you.  In fact, I even drafted the following:
Sure, homebrewers can have their beer analyzed at a laboratory in order to figure out the ABV and IBUs [1], but that costs money [2].  Precious money that could be put right back into crafting more beer.  I don't know about you, but I'd forgo the numbers in favor of more beer!
But it turns out that I was wrong - Matt tells me that the ABV should be around 4.5-5.0%, and using the beer's specific gravity, he feels that it's probably closer to 5.0%.  Also, the IBU was around 36-37.  He gave quite a few other details too - I'll share a few here.  The chocolate flavor was introduced using an extract.  (Incidentally, his next chocolate brew will use cocoa powder for comparison.)  Matt says, "I let my beer carbonate in the bottle.  It's an old school technique, but I think it allows the flavor to come through a little better and smoother than pushing CO2 through it in a keg."  It sounds like it takes at least two months until the beer matures:  one week in the primary fermenter, two to three weeks in the secondary fermenter (a glass carboy [3]), and about a month to age.  After that, Matt says he tests one bottle a week until he feels it's ready to drink.

Speaking of being ready to drink, let's get to the good stuff!

This stout was as dark as can be.  The frothy, caramel-colored head dissipated shortly after pouring.  A cursory whiff put me in mind of Tröegs JavaHead Stout [4].  A deeper inhalation brought a sweeter smell, almost a Hershey syrup scent.  My tastebuds soon realized the sweet flavor.  The initial impression: sweet, just like the smell.  As the liquid washed over the back of my tongue, the stout flavor kicked in.  Aftertaste was sweet as well, though not sickeningly so.  It had the right balance of strong stout and chocolaty sweetness to satisfy.

A very smooth, easy-to-drink beer, which backs up Matt's assertion that bottle carbonation lends to a better, smoother brew.  Overall, this Irish Chocolate Stout was excellent!  So do you craft your own brews at home?  What interesting combinations have you tried?  I'd be interested to hear what you have to say!  Just leave a comment or "tweet" me @BrewReviewMann.  Prost!

[1] One of Justin's Brew Reviews's most popular posts, "How Does Your Beer Measure Up?", goes into more detail about ABV, IBU, and color.
[2] In the same post referenced in Footnote 1, I mentioned that you can have a laboratory perform this test on your beer for about $10.  Unfortunately, I did not cite where I found this information - I apologize for that oversight.  I just "Googled" it and found a helpful blog post informing readers that White Labs performs this testing for a reasonable amount of money.  For your consideration, homebrewing reader.
[3] Having no idea what a glass carboy was, I had to look it up (see picture on right, courtesy of this blog).  I've seen these before and knew that they were used in homebrewing, but I had no idea that it was called a carboy!  Wikipedia says that a carboy's capacity is typically five to fifteen gallons (that's 40 to 120 pints according to and that they are also known as a demijohn (anyone else thinking about "Music Man" now, or is it just me?).
[4] Admittedly, I reference Tröegs' brews a lot.  What can I say?  I love 'em!  That being said, this comparison should speak volumes.