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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Victory: Something old and something new...

Victory really knows how to take over the taps at a bar near you.  One of my local faves is the Pour House in Haddon Township, NJ.  Victory brought a load of cool stuff including Braumeister Pils, and Smokin' Oats Porter, but I really went for some vintage 2009 Old Horizontal Barleywine.  I was tempted into grabbing a Ranch S Double IPA as well, and was pleasantly surprised by its dual nature: malty and hoppy at the same time.  The aroma of Ranch S is worth investigating all by itself, with a funky, earthy, hoppy goodness that isn't too far off sticking your face into a pile of hops and inhaling deeply.  Put some groovy beers together with an old friend who's about as big a beer geek as you are, and it makes for a pleasant evening of catching up on old times as well as discussing what's new...

So thanks for hanging out with my friend Jesse and me.  We had a wonderful time chillin' with some Victory brews, old and new.  Cheers!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Greetings with 3 Saranac Beers

It's almost Christmas, so of course, we need to throw in some more Christmas and Winter related posts.  Here are some thoughts on some seasonal beers.

Saranac Vanilla Stout

I am pretty sure I have had Saranac Pumpkin Ale while ago, and maybe their Octoberfest once, so I am not well-versed in this brewery, but I do love stouts and consider myself a good judge of them.  Good lacing on the tulip glass I am drinking it out of, which is nice.  I am having it at my work's holiday luncheon.  I definitely want to try more of this when it has a chance to warm up, but I can already smell and taste vanilla tones to this beer. 

This is interesting.  It doesn't have the bitter roasty tones of a more robust stout.  It reminds me of winter and Christmas and the holidays because of the vanilla taste, and I like that, because I do not always associate the cinammon and other warm spices with winter warmers.  Nice smell, nice lacing.  Not my first choice as a stout because I prefer the roasted toasted flavors of stouts, but this is quite nice. At 4.8% abv, it is pretty weak as far as beers go, but it makes it more of an easy-drinking beer.  The fact that Saranac gets some nice vanilla flavor out of this beer without making it boozy is nice.  Will I drink a whole six pack?  Maybe not, but I would definitely come back to this beer again.

Lake Effect Lager and Chocolate Lager:

Lagers are not my favorite style of beer, so these two beers didn't make a lasting impression on me.  I think the Lake Effect Lager worked better, because it was just a lager.  The chocolate lager seemed to be "reaching" for something it did not quite achieve.  I also had Saranac's Big Moose Ale, and as I remember that was pretty good, too.

I think I need to buy this multi-pack of Seasonal Saranac beers and drink more than one each, and do a proper review.  If anything, it will give me a chance to have another Vanilla Stout, which I very much enjoyed.

Want to learn more about Saranac's "12 Beers of Winter"?  Check out their website.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays, Citizens!  Here is a lazy-ass post from last year.  Consider it the Ghost of Christmas Post.  Catch up with us over the next week or so and we will have some festive things for your reading pleasure.  Cheers!

Here it is--your Ferment Nation Christmas 2010 Beer Roundup!

Check out these three Christmas beers this Yuletide.  Make yours the merriest, yes the merriest, and the happiest, yes the happiest.  Drink Safely and don't forget to leave Santa a wee nip of something strong to take the edge off!

Corsendonk Christmas Ale:

This Belgian dark ale comes in a great gift pack (six beers and a glass) for the holiday season. It is very even-tempered as a dark ale and quite tasty. The aroma is just wonderful and complex with hints of dried fruits and some exotic spicing. [Read the Full Review]

Nøgne Ø / Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales / Stone Brewing Co.Special Holiday Ale:

Bearing gifts, they traverse afar... I'm not very familiar with Nøgne Øas a brewery but I'm about to become really interested in this brewery from Grimstad, Norway. This 2009 version of the special collaboration between Kjetil Jikiun and the other two wisemen (Ron Jeffries from Jolly Pumpkin and Mitch Steele from Stone) is worth its weight in rare herbs and glinting riches. This Special Holiday Alepours so dark reddish brown that it is almost black, topped with a generous foamy tan head. [Read the full review]

Anchor Holiday Ale 2009:

Eleven months I wait for this brew to hit the shelves. As soon as the pumpkin ales have all shown their fall finery in liquor stores around town I begin to peek around for the first winter brews. Anchor Brewing offers one of the most solid and stalwart lines of brews and the "Our Special Ale" stands out among these. Every year the recipe is different (and so is the tree pictured on the label) so it's a holiday surprise every time. [Read the full review]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bahoukas Antique Mall

Aaaaaarrrrggghhh... This handsome fella greets visitors to the Bahoukas Antique Mall in Havre de Grace, MD.  After swashing buckles all day (or is it buckling swashes?), I suppose he might treat himself to a cup o' grog at the local tavern.  Looting and plundering seems to have been good to him, judging by the treasure trove of beer memorabilia up in the attic.  The BrewMania MuZeum's wall advertisement on Rte 40 caught my wife Rachel's attention on the way home from Thanksgiving in Silver Spring.  She indulged my need to stop in and check out the stuff, and we were both impressed by the sheer volume.  Owners Barbara and George Wagner were incredibly friendly and accommodating, allowing us to browse and take tons of pictures.  They even let our pup Molly inside (thank goodness she didn't pee anywhere!) while we strolled around.  You can find them on the web at www.bahoukas.com and also on Facebook!

Not only does Bahoukas have lots of cool beer memorabilia, but it is a really great antique store in its own right.  The downstairs portion contains tons of books, toys, tools, jewelry, and pretty much anything you can think of.  There is no way to photograph every article, but here is a quick look around at the downstairs:

But of course, you know why I really stopped into Bahoukas Antique Mall... The beer stuff!  Again, it's hard to get every item, but the following slideshow should give you good enough reason to stop by.  There's a ton of stuff from Anheuser-Busch, Rolling Rock, Coors, Genny... these may seem like boring macros to most Ferment Nation readers, but remember that they were the craft beers of their days.  Marketing their products relied heavily on giving crap away to bars and customers, so you'll notice entire displays of certain breweries.  But these collections come from far and wide, so Cheers to George and Barbara for digging up some of the rarities on display.  Check them out:

And so there you have it.  El Presidente's trip to Bahoukas Antique Mall.  Please check them out, won't you? Havre de Grace is a cool little town, and if you get a chance to visit Barbara and George, please do it.  They are super nice and have a rockin' store.  But don't try shoplifting anything... That pirate has his eye on you.

Get it?  Eye on you!  'Cuz he only has one eye.  You know, the patch.  He's a pirate.  With a patch...

One eye.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Beer Bloggers Conference is an amazing event that brings beer bloggers together from across the nation and around the world.  I have had the good fortune to meet some amazing pioneers in the beer blogging world, and that includes the characters from Seacoast Beverage Lab and 2BeerGuys.  They have collaborated on the Beer Advent Calendar, which brings you 31 bloggers blogging all through December and helps true craft beer enthusiasts warm up those chilly December nights (and days) that lead up to the new year.  Check out the calendar and the sites listed below, but don't forget to read my personal review of Flying Fish's winter offering.  Cheers!

Seacoast Beverage Lab and 2beerguys present:

Beer Advent Calendar

advent calendar 300x296 Beer Advent Calendar
When @2beerguys and I went to Portland for the 2011 Beer Bloggers conference, we were amazed by the amount of camaraderie between all of the bloggers, east coast and west coast.
To give thanks and to give back all of the 2beerguys (Sean, Amber, Ryan, Jen and Ian) and I decided to host a collaborative Beer Advent Calendar. Each day you will read a review of a beer written by bloggers you may or may not know. Our goal was to have 31 different bloggers writing a review of a different beer, totaling 31 for the month.
The concept of the Advent Calendar is religious and only lasts 25 days, we understand that. But to have fun with the idea we are extending the calendar to the full 31 days and having no religious ties to it. Just think of it as a fun way to celebrate beer and beer bloggers during the holidays. Check back here every day for a new post from a different blogger. Cheers!

Flying Fish Grand Cru Logo
Beer Advent Calendar – Day 14: Flying Fish Grand Cru presented by FermentNation
To celebrate the Holiday Season, 2Beerguys.com and Seacoastbeveragelab.com have teamed up with beer bloggers around the country to host the first annual beer bloggers advent calendar. This is the season of sharing and we intend to share our love of beer with you. 31Bloggers Blogging – click herefor the running list of beers/bloggers.
FermentNation Logo
Commercial Description:
This Belgian-style strong golden ale showcases a variety of the ingredients and brewing methods that help differentiate Flying Fish beers. The Grand Cru is fermented at a higher temperature than our other beers adding an undercurrent of fruitiness and clove (although there is no fruit or spice in the beer). Very lightly filtered, the Grand Cru exhibits complex mouthfeel, strong malt flavors, a spicy hop presence and a soothing alcohol warmth, followed by a clean, dry finish. It is excellent with food as well as served by itself.
  • Style: Belgian-style Golden Ale
  • ABV: 7.2%
  • Malts:: Two-row pale, Cara-Pils, white wheat, Demerera sugar
  • Hops:: Magnum, Styrian Golding
  • Yeast:: Belgian Abbey Style
  • Formats:: 12 oz. bottles,1/2 kegs, 1/6 kegs, cask-conditioned
  • Availability:: October 1 to February 1
  • Food pairings: Richer dishes, meats, cheeses, stews, smoked foods. As an after-dinner drink.

Owen from FermentNation
Why I chose Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve:
New Jersey loves its craft beer. We import tons of intriguing brews from all around the country, and across the globe, but it’s always nice to be “home for the holidays” and enjoy a craft beer that’s brewed in your backyard. Flying Fish goes great with food. Period. The winter seasonal Grand Cru Winter Reserve is complex yet subtle, and brings warming holiday cheer to the table with serious drinkability, making it a perfect accessory for your festive meal.
Flying Fish has a very drinkable stable of session brews that are peppered with some more adventurous seasonals and their renowned Exit Series (which uses imagination and local flavor to highlight the Jersey Turnpike as a cultural tap room for those with a little Jersey pride!), so I decided to celebrate a local brewery this holiday season.
Flying Fish Crand Cru - Bottle
…And a partridge in a pear glaze… Roasted game fowl, crispy and savory skin with a sweet fruit glaze sounds like a dynamite food pairing for this golden seasonal from Flying Fish Brewing Company in New Jersey. Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve is a bottle-conditioned Belgian style Ale that appears in the colder months of the year. We all know that Winter is a wonderful time of the year to drink beer. It’s pretty much up there with Spring, Summer, and Fall.
But what makes a beer specific to the winter? Typically, the warming spices that appear in cold-weather food and beverage recipes will show up in Winter seasonals and holiday brews. You’ll see ales spiced with cinnamon, clove, allspice, and possibly dried fruit like figs or berries… Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve doesn’t have any spicing beyond the zippy hop presence and a bit of sweetness from the Belgian yeast, but the magic of brewing unleashes some fruity notes and a bit of clove in this bottle-conditioned ale. It kinda reminds me of a Belgian tripel…light. The 6.9% abv falls right in line with this description (Flying Fish’s website and many of the online reviews provide a 7.2% abv for the FF Grand Cru, but I’m looking at the bottle, and the label on the neck is telling me that it’s 6.9%. Not that big a deal, but worth noting.).
So, let’s follow up on the original question by applying it to the specific beer at hand: What makes Flying Fish Grand Cru a Winter Reserve? I contend that the celebratory attributes of this brew make it a really nice addition to a holiday meal. The color is a hazy gold, like straw. It glows a bit, possibly foreshadowing the alcohol warmth that spreads like holiday cheer when you get about halfway through your glass. The carbonation is fairly mellow, which allows the yeast to shine through more than the hops. The complexity shouldn’t be overlooked here, though it is subtle. Cara-pils malt and Styrian Golding hops give this Grand Cru a clean European session brew flavor — The richness appears early, but the finish is fairly dry. But with an abv hovering around 7%, things could get pretty festive in short order.
Flying Fish Crand Cru - Bottle Cap
Living in New Jersey grants me pretty easy access to Flying Fish products. Most of the 6-pack-bottled brews in their line, including seasonal offerings, are available in local stores and appear on tap in my favorite watering holes. Their Exit Series brews tend to be more experimental and higher in alcohol, while the standard line goes for more of a sessionable approach; Grand Cru straddles the line. Bigger and bolder than most of their brews, it stands out as a seasonal release and is fairly sought after when it appears. Truthfully, I look forward most of all to finding it on hand-pumped cask. I am kind of a sucker for cask brews in general, but this one is truly intriguing. Flying Fish Grand Cru could really shine if it mellows just a bit and the hop presence is given a chance to reappear at the finish– not up front like a pilsner, but all the way at the end, like an English IPA. Fezziwig would be proud to serve up pints of Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve, especially if they were hand-pumped from a cask.
FermentNation Logo
About Ferment Nation:
Give us your ales, your stouts, your Belgian tripels… Nothing gives us more joy than beer. Finally there is a safe harbor for all beer lovers to come and celebrate this magical beverage. This blog is a living, breathing document, subject to ammendment at any time. Grow with us. Be part of something. Become a citizen of the Ferment Nation!
Allow me to establish the constitution: Beers will be reviewed according to four categories, each with the potential for scoring one whole flag. The total of the four scores can reach a possible 4.0 flags. The categories will be as follows:
  1. Representation. That is, how does this beer compare to others like it?
  2. Drinkability. Would you (or could you) drink more than one?
  3. Style Points. Is it different? Over-the-top? Luxurious?
  4. Personal Preference. Executive decision
Flying Fish Brewing Company Logo
About Flying Fish Brewing Company:
Flying Fish Brewing Company is located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, approximately seven miles east of Philadelphia. In a state that once boasted 50 breweries, it is the first microbrewery in Southern New Jersey and the first new brewery built in that part of the state in more than half a century. From its opening in late 1996, Flying Fish has tripled its capacity and become the largest of the approximately 20 craft breweries in the state.
Head brewer Casey Hughes now produces four full-time styles, as well as a variety of seasonal beers.
The key word to describe all Flying Fish beers is “balance.” The beers are full-flavored, yet highly drinkable. Flavors harmonize, not fight for individual attention. Hopping is generous, but to style. Seeing beer as equal to, if not superior to, wine, Flying Fish beers are designed to complement food. Because of this effort, one can walk into any fine restaurant in the Philadelphia region and be pretty sure of finding a Flying Fish beer available.http://www.flyingfish.com/

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This Just In:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 13, 2011

Hunterdon Distributors
PO Box 811
Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
Contact: Nancy Maddaloni, Communications Director
Phone: 908-454-7445
Email: nancy@hunterdonbrewing.com
Website:  www.hunterdonbrewing.com

Hunterdon Welcomes Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey 
to New Jersey

Phillipsburg, NJ – December 13, 2011 – The New Year will bring a wave of excitement to beer enthusiasts in New Jersey. Hunterdon Distributors is pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement to distribute the highly acclaimed beers of Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey. In addition to an assortment of their most well-known beers, the inaugural launch will feature a special draft-only release brewed exclusively for the New Jersey market. Official release parties have already been scheduled for the first week of 2012.

Based in San Diego and founded in 2006, Port Brewing Company is comprised of two of the most highly regarded labels in the country: Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey. The Port Brewing line includes more aggressive and assertively hopped American & West coast-style beers, while The Lost Abbey concentrates on a unique collection of barrel-aged and Belgian-style ales. Led by Tomme Arthur, one of the nations’s most well-respected craft brewers, both breweries have found their way to the top of the craft beer charts with dozens of medals and media accolades to speak of over the last five years. Port Brewing was awarded both “Small Brewery of the Year” and “Small Brewer of the Year” at the 2007 Great American Beer
Festival and “Champion Brewery” and “Champion Brewmaster” in the Small Brewery category at the
2008 World Beer Cup. All of their products have received near-perfect ratings on both Ratebeer.com and
Beer Advocate.

With distribution in only eight US markets, products from both Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey have become some of the most sought-after in the industry. The company has always taken a conservative approach to expansion while putting more emphasis on providing a unique and well crafted product. When the time came to open a new market on the East Coast, they felt New Jersey was a perfect fit. As stated by Tomme Arthur: “Hunterdon's reputation  precedes it. A lot of our good friends in the brewing industry have their beer represented by Hunterdon and have nothing but good things to say about the company.”

Hunterdon Distributors is proud to be adding Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey to its already impressive product offering in the state of New Jersey. Please visit Hunterdon’s  website at www.hunterdonbrewing.com as details regarding the official release parties will be posted soon.


About Hunterdon Distributors

Hunterdon was founded in 1996 and has grown steadily over the years into a company with sixty-five full- time employees.  Hunterdon has raised the bar for craft beverage availability and selection in the state by providing the most diverse and sought-after portfolio the market has to offer. The company currently represents over fifty domestic craft brands, hundreds of imports and a unique line of micro-distilled spirits, sakes, ciders and meads. Owners Mike Short and Dave Masterson continue to focus on bringing quality products to the New Jersey consumer.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kermit Rocks

In case our readers don't know, El Presidente (that's me, Owen McCuen) is a voice actor with an ear for cartoons and stuff.  Not so long ago, a friend commented on my rendition of Rainbow Connection, "Wow, you do a  really good Kermit the Frog."  My response was, "Thanks!  I've been practicing for about thirty years."  If you'd like to hear Kermit and a host of other characters, check out my website.  Click HERE.

Okay, enough shameless self-promotion--Let's talk Muppets.  I was born in 1974.  Sesame Street was in full swing and The Muppet Show was about to come to life, with a pilot in 1975 and the show proper appearing from 1976 until 1981.  The original Muppet Movie opened in 1979, followed by The Great Muppet Caper in 1981 and The Muppets Take Manhattan in 1984, so my childhood was completely informed by Jim Henson's dream.  Henson reached kids and grown ups alike with Frank Oz by his side.  Oz is a genius puppeteer who also brought us Yoda, in case you forgot...

Children's programming has used puppets forever, and programs like Captain Kangaroo, Captain Noah's Magical Ark, The Candy Apple News Company, Fraggle Rock, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and others like them brought fabric to life and gave these puppets personalities.  They became friends that kids looked forward to interacting with, even if only by watching them and laughing at their antics.

But no single character has ever become so real to me as Kermit the Frog.  I have laughed and cried with Kermit, and he's pretty much my hero.

Why is Kermit the Frog more human than many of the people I've met?  Maybe it's his creator's energy that comes through.  Kermit and Henson are big dreamers.  I know that Jim Henson is no longer physically present, but his dreams are imprinted upon history.  The shows and films will live forever because the dream is not simply to entertain.  For me, Jim Henson's dream seems to be to teach people (kids in particular)... HOW to dream.  If you believe in yourself hard enough, others will begin to believe in you as well.  And when your self-confidence wanes and you begin to doubt yourself, your true friends will be there to pick you up.

Kermit does the truly human work of developing meaningful relationships with his friends.  Many crazy Muppet characters have wild personalities, but we frequently remember them by their relationship to Kermit.  Sesame Street's characters do this wonderfully (again, Henson and Oz), but Kermit's role as the chief dreamer and host of The Muppet Show puts him in the unique position of juggling these personalities and organizing them into the controlled chaos that makes The Muppet Show so gloriously corny and entertaining.

So Kermit becomes the unlikely leader of this rag-tag crew!  He's not a type A personality, but he is surrounded by lots of kooks trying to hog up the stage.  With Fozzie and his jokes, Lew Zealand's boomerang fish, Gonzo's cannon antics, and countless others trying to grab a bit of limelight, Kermit has to tame these loonies and produce a decent show.  Meanwhile, Statler and Waldorf are raining down insults, Crazy Harry is trying to blow everything up, and Sam the Olympic Eagle is squelching everyone's creativity.   Link Hogthrob's ego is no joke, by the way.  Oh, and who is more pushy and bossy than Miss Piggy?  With all of these alpha Muppets, Kermit should be overwhelmed, right?  But he is the reluctant leader.  When things go awry, who do they all run to?  Kermit.

Kermit loves.  He cares.  People trust him because they know that he just wants everything to be okay.  Kermit lives for his friends, who become his family.  And when the family succeeds, Kermit himself will share the joy.  This is why the other Muppets love him and trust him.  They know that the world is a big, scary place but Kermit's skinny green arms can provide a hug that gives people a safe place to dream those big dreams.

Kermit has been my friend since I was a kid.  The new Muppet film The Muppets made me laugh out loud because of the inside jokes that only Muppet fans would get.  I cried, too.  I think I will review the film after I watch it again.  You can check out the trailer for yourself:

But since I consider him a friend, how about having a beer with him?  That would be awesome!!  Gerard Walen from Road Trips for Beer wrote an article about the subject, and it is well worth checking out!  His assessments of the Muppets and their brews of choice are so dead on that Gerard must certainly be a rabid Muppet fan to know their personalities so well.  Read Road Trips for Beer's Muppet article HERE.

I would love to hang out with Kermit.  In fact, I've tried to live my life like he does.  WWKD? Kermit sees some of the circumstances in his life that could be bummers, but he makes the most of them.  His color, for example.  If you think that the song Green hasn't helped children all around the world realize that being different can be beautiful, you are dead wrong.  And if you feel like crying, just check out Big Bird's tribute to Kermit at Jim Henson's funeral:

Okay, that was mean.  I shouldn'ta oughta done that.  But it just goes to show how important Jim Henson's vision really was and is to everyone who shares it.  The emotion in Carroll Spinney's voice is just as moving as the words he sings.  And I hope it isn't lost on the readers of Ferment Nation.  If it is, then I'm afraid your cold, dead hearts are pumping ice water through your dirty veins.

I have very fond memories of watching The Muppet Show with my parents when I was a kid.  I couldn't ask for better parents (Love you, mom!!).   So, to tie this all together and make it really personal, I'll tell you a little about someone else I wish I could have a beer with: my dad.  He passed away on September 10, 2007.  There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him and miss him.  My dad was a football coach for darn near his whole life, beginning when he was just a teenager, and many of the kids he coached have gone on to become coaches themselves... And their players will grow up to be coaches as well, and so his legacy survives.  Dad had a special place in his heart for those kids on the sidelines who couldn't play for one reason or another.  He affectionately called them his, "sick, lame, lazy, and crazy," but they NEVER felt like they were excluded from the team because everyone has something to contribute.  Similarly, yet on a larger scale, Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog have touched the lives of countless millions, including those people who needed to be taught that it was okay to dream, and necessary to believe in yourself.  Why? Because everyone has something to contribute.

When I die, I'm figuring I will find some kind of heavenly afterlife (hope they have beer).  And when I get there, I won't be on the sidelines.  I won't even be in the stands.  No, I'll be on the field, playing the game the best I know how-- the way my dad taught me and the way Kermit taught me.  Winning team?  You guessed it...The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dark Horse Pekulator

Dark Horse Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock:  A coffee dopplebock.  You can taste the coffee.  It definitely has a different mouthfeel compared to coffee stouts and porters.  I think I may have to consult with El Presidente as to what the main aspects of a doppelbock are.  Double-headed demon on the label, which is cool, but no abv %, which is uncool, Dark Horse.  It is tasty out of the bottle.  No glass pouring this time.  I toyed with the idea of doing a full-on review, but I think a Citizen Review will suffice.  Maybe I will come back to this beer again.  Overall, enjoyable.

Check out more from DARK HORSE BREWING COMPANY here!