Got Hops? We do. Introducing The Hop-Heads Beer Club™

hop-heads-beer-clubYou made it clear to us that quite a few of you wanted more hops. Actually, only hoppy beers to be specific.  We stuck our toe in the water earlier in the year and officially offered our members a way to customize their shipments each month, essentially calling us at the beginning of the month, finding out what the featured beers were and having us put only the hop-centric ones in their box that month.  It was better than nothing, but in the end, not optimal because you guys had to remember to call us and if only one or two of the four featured beers were aggressively hopped, you’d only get one or two beers that month.

So we’ve been quietly working with a lot of different breweries, better understanding how much it would cost to deliver a club that only features kick-ass, hoppy beers each month.  Not just IPAs mind you.  That would be so limiting, and you’d miss out on some really amazing hoppy beers.  Brewers are creating styles faster than ever.  More and more, you can’t easily categorize a beer neatly into any given style.  Take for example Mikkeller’s Wit Fit, which the brewery describes as a hoppy imperial wit.  Clearly not an IPA, but I’m here to tell you, Hop-heads will love this beer as it delivers plenty of citric, floral, and resinous notes, some acidity, and a clinging bitterness that hangs on in the finish.  Don’t panic. We’re going to run a ton of IPAs in the club.  In fact the majority of what we feature will be IPAs, but we’re also going to run India Pale Lagers (IPLs), hoppy Red and Pale Ales, and other hop-centric beers.   Hops are obviously the key ingredient used to balance the malty sweetness in a beer’s flavor profile, but they also contribute some pretty amazing aromatics and flavors so we’re not just focusing on beers that have crushingly bitter hop profiles, but also beers that explore the many hop flavors and aromas available to today’s brewers.

The club will feature two or more breweries each month and we’ll even drop in an import in there from time to time when it makes sense. There are some really neat breweries out there now like Mexico’s Agua Mala and Germany’s BRLO that are crafting outstanding American style IPAs and other hoppy styles that are just now making their way to the American marketplace.  That said, I expect something like 90% of our featured beers to come from US breweries.  We’re gonna send ya twelve, 12-oz. beers in each shipment, 3 different beers (4 bottles or cans of each).

We’ve got some pretty sweet beers lined up for our inaugural shipment in November, including Route 1A, an 8.2% ABV big, boldly flavored Double IPA from Ipswich Brewery in Massachusetts.  You’re gonna dig it.

No one else is doing anything quite like this in the market today, so naturally we’re really excited about this club and hope you are too!


Beyond the Bottle: Group Projects

the-rare-barrelWe’re in the thick of festival season at All About Beer—every brewery rep on the east coast I’ve talked to today has cursed October’s existence, and not without justification—and we’ve got two festivals of our own plus the next issue overhead. Thankfully, this job includes good distractions, and I was lucky enough to get behind the scenes for two recent group projects.

First: I got to be one of the blenders for Firestone Walker’s XX Anniversary Ale—usually a spot reserved for local winemakers who actually know how to blend things. I didn’t, but my bread-making/blending partner Arie caught me up to speed quickly—and we decided on a solid blend to compete against eight other teams of Paso-Robles winemakers. Our mix (30% Parabola and 15% Bravo, scribbles suggest…) wasn’t the winner, but the top blend—via one-man-blending-show Scott Hawley of Torrin Winery—was delicious and debuts October 29th.

Second, as another group project, I got to hang with some great folks for The Search for the Rare Barrel down at Berkeley’s The Rare Barrel, judging a flight of their various blonde sour ales to help find a very special combination of yeast characteristics (to serve to ferment many future barrels of beer). The winning barrels from our preliminary flights were then judged by panelists from The Rare Barrel, Lauren Salazar from New Belgium, and Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River. (If you’re heard of the famed barrel pH1, that’s what this project was about.)

The winning barrel gets released the last week of September. Back to spreadsheets! #festlife

The Rare Cigar Club

rare-cigar-club-largeNow, in addition to our Original Premium Cigar Club™, we are offering a new high-end club, The Rare Cigar Club! Each shipment will contain four hand-rolled, rare, small-batch cigars. Each cigar featured is extremely limited in production, made with the highest quality aged tobaccos, and typically boasts a retail value between 12 and 25 dollars.

One highlight from The Rare Cigar Club’s inaugural shipment is the Graycliff 10-Year Vintage Maduro Pirate, a Honduran-made Torpedo made by masterblender Enrico Garzaroli with a fully-matured Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper and extensively aged long-fillers from Honduras and Nicaragua. Other sticks include Partagas Aniversario 170 Salomone which features a 4-country blend, La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva Maximo that has a 94-rating from Cigar Aficionado, and La Palina Black Toro featuring a stunning oily ultra-dark Brazilian wrapper.

To learn more about The Rare Cigar Club and other exclusive cigars available through The Premium Cigar of the Month Club, visit The Rare Cigar Club page.

Beyond the Bottle: Wood & Beer

elevation-elevated-psaPart of my job includes keeping up on the latest reading. One of our Rare Beer Club features this month is a wheat wine aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels, and the technical beer book I’m currently exploring happens to be Wood & Beer: A Brewer’s Guide, by Dick Cantwell and Peter Bouckaert, which came out this summer. I got my sample copy via the Brewers Association, and this book in particular is nice to finally see. Wood-aged beers have gained massive levels of interest in the past ten years or so (an early page of the book notes 85% of U.S. breweries were using wood to somehow influence their beer in 2015), and this book’s been a long time coming. I recall first hearing about it at least four or five years ago via a barrel-savvy brewer friend up in NorCal—back when he was the one attempting to tackle this book project.

The book takes on everything from heady science to the really hands-on, blue-collar work of creating liquid-tight cooperage. It was particularly neat, going through it, to see how many of the main breweries cited were familiar from The Rare Beer Club. I learned Brouwerij Boon is notable for not only having its own cooper on permanent staff, but also for keeping whole tree trunks on site for the making of new staves. Cigar City’s got a gadget called the Spinbot 5000—allowing them to use recirculating infusion to get more out of various wood additions like American oak and Spanish cedar, in a shorter period of time. And there’s a detailed look into the blending practices of our friend Ron Jeffries over at Jolly Pumpkin, one of our long-time Rare Beer Club supporters, including the challenges of blending foeders of all different sizes. If you don’t know your vanillins from your furfurals, you’ll find some interesting bits.


Wekken Sour for Sour Beer Day 2016!

wekken-sourOn this second Saturday of September in spirit of Sour Beer day we find ourselves enjoying a Brewmaster’s Collaboration. Left Hand Brewing Co. has graced us with their Wekken Sour, a unique blend of their Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout and De Proef’s Zoetzuur.

This 8.9% ABV pours nearly black and coffee-ground like with a rich cream colored foam head that clings to your glass.

On the first whiff, you are immediately hit by the tart flavors which are then followed up with notes of figs, chocolate covered cherries, and a woody, earthy scent.

Unlike the aroma, the flavor is much more nuanced and complex. As it hits your tongue, you get a sudden rush of tang that quickly passes and is overcome by the richness of roasted malts, leading to a smoother flavor reminiscent of cacao nibs as it washes down just in time for the herbal hop notes to come through and tie everything together beautifully with a dry crisp finish.

Although this beer is perhaps not the best choice for the weather at hand, it was a solid beer that I would definitely recommend to anyone who is looking to venture into the realm of sour beers.