Sunday, July 20, 2014

What is a Belgian Pale Ale?

Style: Belgian Pale Ale

Brief history: The Belgian Pale Ale style has roots dating as far back as the mid-1700s. The style has changed quite a bit over the years, with the biggest change occurring during World War II when more Belgian brewers brewed and experimented with the style to compete with pilsners. They differ from other regional Pale Ale varieties, by traditionally being less bitter, using aged hops for a delicate hop finish, and boasting sweetish to toasty malt overtones. The style as we now know it stems from the influence of English hops and yeast strains.

Standard characteristics: As with American or India Pale Ale, balance is the key to brewing this style of beer with no one characteristic being more dominant than the other. The overall impression of the beer should be fruity, moderately malty, somewhat spicy, easy drinking, and typically copper to amber in color with an ABV range between 4.8 to 5.5 percent, with some exceptions,and  are considered Belgian session beers.

Nose: The aroma should have malt present with subtle fruit and hop character as well. The malt aroma should be toasty and biscuit-like with subtle orange or pear-like notes. The hop aromas should lean more towards being floral or spicy without being too dominant, and have subtle spicy pepper-like notes in the background.

Body: A medium to medium-light body is standard for the style with very little alcohol heat present due to the typical lower levels of alcohol within the beer. The carbonation should also fall well within the medium range for a smooth, easy-drinking mouthfeel.

Taste: The overall flavor profile for the style should be fruity and lightly to moderately spicy with soft, smooth malt and relatively light hop character. The hop bitterness should also be low to keep the beer in complete balance and enhance the drinkability.

Food pairing: Almost any pork dish is perfect for Belgian Pale Ales: sausages, roast suckling pig, pork chops, roast loin of pork, pork tenderloin, or pork shoulder. This beer is also ideal with roasted chicken, lamb, turkey, and a wide array of white fish.

Recommendations: Belgian Pale Ales are beers that can be enjoyed from a vast array of beer drinkers ranging from someone drinking his or her first craft beer to the most jaded of craft beer drinkers. The easy drinkability of these beers is important to the style and many have lower ABV’s and have been brewed to be enjoyed by the pint during a night out. Here are just a few recommendations:

Brewery Ommegang- Rare Vos

Russian River Brewing Company- Redemption

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales- Luciérnaga; The Firefly

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.- Verboten

Brasserie d'Orval S.A.- Orval Trappist Ale
Brooklyn Brewery- Local 1

Goose Island- Matilda

Brouwerij Palm NV- Palm

The Lost Abbey- Devotion Ale

Brouwerij De Smedt/Brouwerij Affligem- Affligem Blond

Good Karma

Beer: Karma

Brewer: Avery Brewing Company

Style: Belgian Pale Ale

ABV: 5.20%

Description: Avery’s Karma pours an amber hue with fluffy white head that leaves behind a fine lacing on the glass. The aroma is a mixture of bready and caramel malts, spicy and herbal hops, and Belgian yeast, bringing notes of bubble gum and that wonderful Belgian funk aroma. The taste is very balanced and simple, yet complicated at the same time. The strong flavors of bready and caramel malts linger throughout with the spicy and herbal hops appearing in the middle; the Belgian yeast is more of a background note, imparting a faint taste of pears and oranges. The medium body and medium-light carbonation give the beer a semi-dry finish and does not cause any amount of palate fatigue. Karma is a wonderfully light and refreshing beer that is great to have on hand for hot summer days spent lounging by the pool.

Food pairing: The light body, subtle hop aroma/flavors, and fruity characteristics from the yeast make this beer a prime candidate for a wonderful array of light summer foods. Try pairing Karma with grilled pork chops or seasoned chicken, as the spicing from the hops and yeast will add a layer of flavor and meld with the seasonings, while the malt sinks into the fat and the carbonation easily cleanses the palate. Also try pairing with any traditional Belgian dishes, such as Chicon Au Gratin, a dish made with endives.Each piece is wrapped in a slice of ham, topped with béchamel sauce and covered in melted cheese, and is a particularly fantastic pairing. If you are more of a meat fanatic, try pairing this with another Belgian dish called Boudin Blanc, a white sausage that’s made with milk and has particularly delicate flavors and fine texture unlike any other sausage. The traditional Belgian dish of mussels is also wonderful and light making for an enjoyable pairing.

The final word: Avery Brewing Company has grown to be one of the most dependable breweries through consistently brewing well-made beers, and Karma is no exception. The balance between the hops and the Belgian yeast can be a difficult act to pull off, as some flavors may mesh well together and can contribute to a wide array of “off” flavors in the beer, which are certainly undesirable to all. However, when that balance is refined and in check - as it is with Karma - the result is a light and refreshing beer that quenches thirst and has a wide array of flavor combinations that occur at the same time. If you are on the lookout for some good karma in your life, pick up a six-pack of Avery’s Karma and drink up the good vibes.


Where can I get it? Currently available in 12-ounce bottles at: Backyard Ale House- Scranton, PA; Cooper’s Seafood- Scranton, PA; Wegmans- Dickson City, PA and Wilkes-Barre; Krugel’s Georgetown Deli- Wilkes-Barre, PA. Currently available on tap at Cooper’s Seafood- Scranton, PA.

Also check availability in your area here

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sam Adams Gives a Lesson in IPAs

Sam Adams is a brewery that has garnished quite the reputation over the years in the craft beer market as one of the industry’s true pioneers. Some craft beer “fans” have begun to complain that the brewery has gotten too big to still be considered craft, but despite its size, the company still brews great craft beer and is not shy of experimenting or imparting knowledge about beer to its loyal customer base.

Case in point: the Deconstructed IPA variety pack. Within this wonderful 12-pack, the brewery has put together a fantastic learning experience for craft beer newbies and die-hards, as well as some extremely enjoyable IPAs. Sam Adams has been brewing its delicious Latitude 48 IPA for several years with great success. However, the average drinker may not realize the complexities of the beer and that it contains five different hop varieties.

Sam Adams decided not only to discuss the hop varieties involved in the beer, but also to brew an IPA using each hop exclusively. Each IPA takes on unique qualities from the individual hop and also gives the drinker an idea of what specific flavors are being imparted into the beer from the hop. This is a fantastic and very unique educational experience that is typically reserved for the homebrewer to experiment with on a small scale. Thanks to Sam Adams, though, this educational – and delicious – variety pack is available to the masses.

So what hops are used in Latitude 48 and what do you have to look forward to with purchasing this variety pack?

No. 1: East Kent Goldings IPA: The East Kent Goldings hop imparts a strong floral aroma and taste with subtle citrus background notes and is a hop that can get a little lost in the shuffle with the sum total of all the hops in Latitude 48, but on its own, it truly stands out and creates a very easy-drinking and balanced IPA that treads the line towards being more like a Pale Ale in character.

No. 2: Mosaic IPA: The mosaic hop is a newer addition into the beer (added in 2013) and also a newer and very sought after hop in the craft beer industry. The hop imparts flavors of mango, lemon, citrus, earthy pine, tropical fruit, and stone fruit notes. This is a very complex hop that, when isolated, truly showcases the abundant amount of intricacies in one hop and is a very drinkable IPA.

No. 3: Hallertau Mittelfrueh IPA: This German noble hop is traditionally used in many German lagers and has a very nice mellow spicy hop with great flavor and subtle citrus tones. It is another hop that is not very aggressive, and on its own, the beer drinks more like a pale ale, but showcases yet again the subtleties of these hops.

No. 4: Simcoe IPA: The Simcoe hop is the darling hop to many hop heads and is used by a vast majority of brewers as a base hop when creating IPAs – and for good reason. It is powerful, bitter, and delicious and holds within it many of the qualities we associate with IPAs. The dominant flavors and aroma of pine and grapefruit are on display here and make for a highly drinkable IPA.

No. 5: Zeus IPA: The Zeus hop is another aggressive hop that has a lot of qualities that we love in IPAs, imparting very strong notes of pine and that wonderful West Coast IPA dankness, along with a subtle earthy citrus characteristic. This beer on its own is another great IPA for hop heads.

Finishing this beer experiment with Latitude 48 IPA makes for a much richer and enjoyable drinking experience now that our palates are acclimated to the specific hop flavors. Within this beer, we can easily identify the pine, grapefruit, floral tastes, and aromas. Once you are able to deconstruct a beer, it makes it much easier for your palate to do this task going forward with other beers, making all beer drinking experiences richer and more engaging.

The Latitude 48 variety pack is not only extremely educational for craft beer lovers, but is also delicious and very enjoyable for all fans of IPAs. Grab yourself a variety pack today and raise a glass to thank the good brewers at Sam Adams for a job well done!

Packs A Punch

Beer: Sculpin IPA

Brewer: Ballast Point Brewing Company

Style: American IPA

ABV: 7.00%

Description: Sculpin IPA appears a deep copper in color with a bright white frothy head that hangs on for a while, leaving behind a hefty spider web-like lacing on the glass. The aroma is full of hop goodness, with strong notes of mango, peach, lemon, apricot, and grapefruit with a sweet malt aroma dancing in the background. The taste follows the nose with a strong hop perception up front – mainly dominated by flavors of grapefruit, mango, and peach – and is quickly followed by a sweet caramel malt note that is coated again by hop flavors of pine and grapefruit before a crisp, dry finish ends the experience and leaves you wanting more. The moderate carbonation and body provide the perfect vessel to hold the strong hops in check, and there is not the slightest hint of the seven percent ABV hidden within. This is an absolute world-class IPA that can certainly be enjoyed in large quantities without the slightest bit of palate fatigue.

Food pairing: Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA is a fairly aggressive IPA, but it does hold enough sweetness within to make it a fantastic beer to pair with a very wide variety of foods. It is great match with any number of spicier Mexican, Thai, or Indian dishes. However, it is also a dream pairing with your next pepperoni pizza. The malt selection will pick up on the crust to help squelch the spicy heat that comes forth when the hops and pepperoni lock horns, and the perfect dry finish of the beer will cleanse the palate between each bite. The sweetness of the malt in Sculpin also makes it a great beer to pair with desserts. A really delightful pairing is with carrot cake. The spices within the cake will gravitate towards the hops while the malts will simply melt into the cake and cream cheese icing to bring forth a creamy sweetness on the palate that will elevate the hop presence and then leave the palate perfectly dry at its finish. Sculpin IPA is a beer to experiment with as far as pairing foods goes, as it is a true workhorse and can handle many dishes thrown at it.

The final word: Sculpin IPA is a beer that built up quite a legend for itself in the years since it was first released and has long been an IPA that craft beer lovers have searched hard for, although many of these IPAs cannot live up to the hype created. However, as this beer becomes more available, more craft beer fans are able to see that this is most definitely a beer that lives up to the hype and actually surpasses it. It is also a beer that inspired Ballast Point to continue making delicious brews and has been winning the brewery gold medals repeatedly at many beer events, most recently winning gold again at the World Beer Cup this past April! The final word on Sculpin IPA is this: stop reading and go pick some up, and if they are sold out, demand that more is ordered. It is an absolute must-try beer!


Where can I get it? Currently available in 12-ounce bottles/cans at: Backyard Ale House- Scranton, PA; J & H Beer- Plains Township, PA; and Krugel’s Georgetown Deli & Beer- Wilkes-Barre, PA.

To search near you try using

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer Beer Reading

Of course we all love drinking beer in the summer, but the season is also a great time to catch up on some reading, so why not combine two favorite summer activities?

The endless array of craft beer available can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to ordering at a bar, so a little knowledge goes a long way. Reading informative beer books will not only teach you more about some of your favorite beers, but you may grow to appreciate them even more when you discover great pairings, how the brewery works, or even if the beer is better with a bit of aging. There are plenty of new beer-related books to expand your mind – and palate – this summer.

“The Great Northeast Brewery Tour” by Ben Keene: If you are looking to go on any beer adventure trips this summer, this is the book to check out first. If you were not planning any beer adventure trips, this book may just change your mind. Within it is great information about the breweries and drool-inducing photos of the beers and food. From Maryland to Maine, this book has you covered with some of the best breweries in those states discussed along with all the info you need, like hours of operation and addresses for the tasting rooms.

“Vintage Beer” by Patrick Dawson: We are all familiar with the notion that aged wine typically tastes better, but did you know that this is also true for a wide range of beers? There are certainly beers that are better enjoyed fresh, but this book gives the reader a fantastic breakdown of what beers are great to age and for how long. Properly storing beer to age is also discussed, as well as tasting notes on some beers that were aged and tasted over time. “Vintage Beer” is a fantastic reference guide for those interested in getting into the hobby of aging beer.

“American Sour Beers” by Michael Tonsmeire: The sour beer style is one that is continuously gaining popularity among craft beer drinkers. It is a style that many either love or hate immediately, but over time, as one adapts to the mouth-puckering qualities, it becomes something of an obsession. While this book leans more towards the technical aspect of the beer, it is full of great information for brewers and drinkers alike. If you are a fan of this style, this is a highly recommended book that will really give you a new appreciation for sour beers.

“Craft Beer for the Homebrewer” by Michael Agnew: This is the must-have book for homebrewers who are looking to recreate their favorite beers at home. This book is packed full of beer recipes straight from the brewmasters themselves. Within this book, you will receive the recipes for Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid, Allagash’s Black, Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown and Dead Guy ales, and Tröegs’ Nugget Nectar. The recipes are given in both liquid malt extract and all grain recipes so they can be used by brewers of all skill levels. This book alone will occupy a great deal of your summer.

“Cheese & Beer” by Janet Fletcher: Beer and food pairing has become all the rage as of late due to the wide range of flavors at play, but if you take a step back and examine simple beer and cheese pairings, a whole new world will open to you. The cheese world has long been full of wide and exotic varieties, ranging from simple cheddar to the stinkiest of French cheeses. However, this book breaks down all the subtle nuances of the cheeses and beer and examines what makes a great beer and cheese pairing. This is a great book to pick up to plan a lovely evening party at home.

Reading these books will not only give you a greater depth of knowledge about beer, they will also make your experience of eating and drinking even more enjoyable, which is perfectly timed with summer just beginning.

All American Ales

In recent decades, America has gone from a sad beer landscape with only a handful of similar bland-tasting beers to a vibrant and thriving beer scene. The ingenuity and forward thinking of America’s brewers have created a beer scene that the rest of the world now looks upon not with disdain, but with envy.

In this current landscape, nothing truly says “America” more than an American craft beer, and you can also enjoy your apple pie and hot dogs with any number of these great beers! This year, while celebrating the Fourth of July at backyard barbeques, the pool, or amidst firework displays, enjoy some of these fantastic craft beers that are truly American through and through!

Anchor Brewing Company, Anchor Liberty Ale: This is a beer rich with history and also one that many argue changed the American beer landscape. Liberty Ale was first brewed in 1975 to celebrate the bicentennial of Paul Revere’s historic ride. As the first modern American IPA brewed after prohibition and the first modern American single-hop ale and dry-hopped ale, Anchor’s Liberty Ale is the original craft brewed ale and the historic beer that started a revolution. It is also a beer that has stood the test of time and is still just as enjoyable today!

Yards Brewing Co., Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale: This is history in a glass and is based upon our founding father and avid homebrewer Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe! This strong golden ale tips the scales at 8 percent ABV as well. Not only is this beer highly drinkable, it also shows the foresight that Jefferson had even in good beer – truly a drink to toast to the past and future of America!

21st Amendment Brewery, Brew Free! Or Die IPA: The artwork alone for this beer will spark a patriotic movement within you; Abraham Lincoln is pictured breaking free from Mount Rushmore! However, the true movement is the delicious and balanced IPA within the can – yes, can – that will leave you inspired to enjoy another one. The fact that that this fantastic IPA comes in a can makes it seem even more American in spirit and should motivate you to bring a few along to any outdoor summer activities!

Avery Brewing Company, Ale to the Chief: This Imperial Pale Ale, or rather Presidential Pale Ale, as Avery calls it, is unique in that it is brewed every four years to commemorate the President’s inauguration. A beer that celebrates our democracy is certainly one worth drinking, and as with all of Avery’s beers, this is no exception – very balanced, but best enjoyed fresh. Thankfully, we don’t have too long to go until the next batch is brewed up!

Cigar City Brewing, Homefront IPA: Another wonderful and balanced beer from a fantastic brewery, or in this case, breweries. This is a collaboration beer between several breweries that is released every Memorial Day, with a large amount of proceeds going to charity. This beer is unique in that it was actually aged with wooden baseball bats – now that is American! Also, in 2014, a minimum of $150,000 from the sale of this beer will be donated to Operation Homefront, an organization providing emergency financial and other assistance to our service members and wounded warriors, making it even more American!

The craft beer movement occurring right now in America is something worth celebrating, and while enjoying craft beers is certainly an American way to celebrate, so is celebrating safely! So grab yourself some great American craft beer and toast to those who have made this country the wonderful place that it is today. Cheers!

The Thrill of the Beer

Beer: Rye of the Tiger

Brewer: Great Lakes Brewing Company

Style: American IPA

ABV: 7.50%

Description: Rye of the Tiger is golden amber in appearance with a frothy and slightly off-white head that sticks around for a while and leaves behind a very hefty lacing on the glass. The aroma has strong hop notes of citrus and pine backed with spice from the rye malt. The taste follows the nose with a few surprises along the way. The citrus hop flavors are up front and are soon followed by a bit of peppery spice from the rye malt, creating a wonderful flavor profile that is soon combined with notes of pine and a touch of honey-like sweetness before a perfectly dry finish. The medium body and moderate carbonation combined with the malt profile create a very creamy mouthfeel that still leaves behind a pronounced dry finish. Rye of the Tiger is another great IPA that showcases the ability of brewers to experiment with the style and still create highly drinkable and enjoyable beers.

Food pairing: American IPAs go well with a wide variety of foods; however, Rye of the Tiger goes extremely well with fried foods. Try pairing Rye of the Tiger with fried chicken, as the rye malt will melt into the crunchy outer layer while the hops will pick up on the chicken and the carbonation will cleanse the palate clean in between bites. Also try pairing with fried shrimp, fried oysters, or the all-American treat – the corn dog! The spicy rye malts will add a layer of complexity to the breaded outer layer, while the hops will enhance some of the citrus flavors locked within some of the dishes, and the heftier mouthfeel and moderate carbonation can handle the heavier foods and still leave behind a clean, dry finish. This is also a beer that has enough sweetness from the malt that it can pair nicely with some desserts, but lean more towards spicier desserts or those which will play nicely off the characteristics in the beer, such as peach cobbler, cinnamon swirl Bundt coffee cake, and especially the popular Indian dessert dish Gajar Ka Halwa.

The final word: Great Lakes is a brewery with a fantastic reputation for brewing some world-class beers – and sometimes breweries can falter under that weight – but Great Lakes always rises to the occasion. Rye of the Tiger is a fantastic example of the IPA style with an extra addition of rye for a kick of spice that is present throughout the beer. It still manages to have all the qualities loved in IPAs as well, notably the strong hop presence in the aroma and taste while also leaving behind a wonderfully dry finish. While drinking a few glasses of Rye of the Tiger may not inspire you to race up a mountain, strap a log to your back and run through the Russian landscape, or challenge Ivan Drago to a fight, it will awaken your senses to the many subtle nuances occurring within this fantastic beer!


Where can I get it? The availability of this beer will vary greatly with some areas receiving on draft availability while others will have draft and bottle. the best way to find this beer is to use Great Lakes Brewing Beer Finder and search for your area!