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In past years around Valentine’s Day I’ve written about Valentine’s gift ideas for beer lovers and I’ve written about chocolate and beer pairings. This year, I’ve chosen to highlight beers that are Valentine -worthy. So, whether you are sharing your love of beer with others or keeping it all to yourself because it is just that damned delicious, here are some suggestions.
Paris is known as an incredibly romantic city, so we asked our friend Cecile Delth, who runs an awesome beer shop there called Brewberry, what her go to Valentine’s Day beer was. She told us that she loves the Bee My Valentine from To Øl“It’s a cacao stout brewed with cacao nibs honey and strawberries. It’s like a valentine cake or a box of chocolate. It’s a perfect one for this special day.… I love big pastry stouts”
Augie Carton, from Carton Brewing in NJ wanted to make a chocolate flavored stout with roses for Valentine’s Day. He says it took them 2 years to make what would become Cupid, because they kept putting chocolate into a stout and it didn’t really come out right until they took the chocolate out and used chocolate malts-which made it perfectly chocolatey in just the way they were looking for. Then with the addition of roses in the whirlpool for aroma. The way he describes what he was looking for in this beer and achieves is one of the things I’ve noticed about Carton’s beers often being about creating something that is more a short vignette expressed through beer rather than than just a unique version of a particular style. “It’s like your forgot Valentine’s Day and stopped at a drugstore on the way home and grabe a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a dozen cheap roses and tried to cover your butt.And that’s Cupid!”
“I always associate Valentine’s day with overloading on sweets and chocolate.”says Nicole Erny, Master Cicerone and Beer Sensory Educator from Oakland, CA. “It can be a great excuse to break out a hearty, sweet beer like La Trappe Quadrupel or even something sticky like Mikkeller Raspberry Trippelbock, which is tasty in small portions alongside a rich chocolate dessert. Strong and sweet makes for a luxurious, rich and fast-acting drinking session which is perfect for a romantic dessert at home.”
Be Minefrom Barrel of Monks Brewing, in Boca Raton, FL is one of my own personal favorites. When I asked Brewmaster Bill McFee how this beer came to be, he told me that he wanted to make a really special Valentines beer and decided that using tart cherries and cocoa nibs with their Quadrophonic Quadrupel was just the thing. “We are very proud of how it came out. Both the cherry and the chocolate are balanced, not overwhelming. This is not a “candy beer” but a full flavored complex beer that has just the right amount of tart cherry and chocolate flavors complimenting the dark fruit and raisin flavors of our Quadraphonic. We think it is a perfect beer for sharing with someone special!”
If you ask Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, a question, then you should expect your answer to go beyond just the beer and be food oriented! So, while Sean didn’t commit to a favorite beer, he did offer some advice on how to create the perfect beer-infused candy for Valentine’s Day. You can check out some of his recipes here.
As for us, we will leave the chocolate making to the pros but have great plans for the post-Valentine’s weekend. We’re heading to Asheville for our 3rd AnnualAsheville Beer Safari Weekend. So, in addition to the divine local beer, we’ll be visiting French Broad Chocolates for a private tour and tasting. Hopefully they will have some of the amazing chocolate truffles they make with beer on hand!
We’ve all seen magazine articles with advice on “Eat This, Not That” offering healthier options of our favorite burgers, wings, cheesecake and other comfort foods. This inspired us to offer some better options for gift giving when it comes to buying for your beer geek friends. And more importantly, as a guide for you to share with your well-meaning, non craft-beer savvy, friends and relations. (You know, the ones that think just because we like craft beer we will love every gadget that has the word beer stamped on it.) While we appreciate their thoughtfulness and generosity, some of them could use a little guidance in their search for a brewtiful gift. So, to stop them from wrapping up those Shark Tank failures they found on the shelves of TJ Maxx just in time for the holidays, we’ve collated a list of “Don’t Buy This, Buy That” for you to conspicuously post where all of your well-meaning little elves will see and (hopefully) become enlightened!
Don’t Gift This!
Just don’t. Really not sure whose décor calls for a bottle opener shaped like your state, but pretty sure they are not the folks reading this article.
Wall mounted state bottle opener
Dent free bottle cap opener
Instead, a bottle openercan make a nice gift if it is unique in a way that serves a purpose. We first came across this style of opener at La Trappe in the Netherlands. There are many versions around now, Rodenbach even makes them out of old wood from their old foeders. What is cool about it is that it keeps the cap from being bent when you pull it off the bottle, so if it is a rare bottle, collectors can have a nice cap as a souvenir.
Don’t Gift This!
Here is another alcohol related gift that we were so amazed existed we felt compelled to include it in the mix. Just because something is called a gift set doesn’t mean it makes a suitable gift. Single Malt flavored toothpicks? Is this the solution for having an after dinner drink and still being able to drive home? Get an UBER for heaven’s sake!
Scotch infused toothpicks gift set
handmade pen with resin tinted and textured with locally grown hops
If you want something crafty and unique, but still beer themed, how about this brewnique writing instrument for your beer writer friends? (Some of us still use pen and paper).
Don’t Gift This!
I guess I can’t knock beer flavored water. I mean, when we were growing up, I never imagined that I’d even be paying for water or drinking it out of a plastic bottle like a baby. So maybe this has it’s place? Yea, well, I didn’t think so either.
Beer Flavored Bottled Water
How about instead of water with a beer taste, you buy your friends with a taste for tasting beer some tasteless toothpaste? This is a great stocking stuffer for beer judges, cicerones and other who take their beer tasting seriously.
Don’t Gift This!
I bet this was some crazy idea a guy came up with at a party. When he was drinking. A lot. But in reality, who really uses these? I bet lots are bought as novelty gifts and remain on a shelf for years. Can you imagine walking around a party with a bottle sitting on your waist and leading the way? ( Reminds me of that one-liner, “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy!”) Then again, it’s not likely many of you would be drinking a decent beer out of a bottle and not in the proper glassware in the first place.
Retractable belt buckle beer holder
Instead, how about some nice glassware, like Teku glasses? These glasses were designed to be the perfect tasting glass for most beers. They are nice looking as well as functional. We received a pair of these as a gift one year and they remain among our favorite glasses.
Don’t Gift This!
And this one wins the grand prize for what the hell were they thinking? The descriptor on the website says “Grow your own edamame, a classic Japanese bar food, in a planter that looks like a glass of Japanese beer.” How can this even be a thing? And who is buying it?
An edamame growing kit in a Japanese beer glass planter.
Live Hops Plant
Instead, why not give them their very own hops plant? And if you want to add a little whimsy to your gift, put it in something fun like this kitschy vintage planter !
Collectible Kitschy Vintage Planter
Hope this helps ease up the stress of your holiday shopping. If not, we suggest a beer for you to ease up the stress and also as a gift! After all, who wouldn’t love to see a bottle of their favorite holiday beer peeking out of their stocking? Cheers!
Thanksgiving remains the official kickoff for the holiday season for most people, despite retailers putting out holiday deco and playing Christmas carols earlier and earlier each year. It is the time of year we start our holiday shopping, decorating, card writing, visiting and celebrating with friends and family. For those of us that are beer lovers, the season begins when our favorite holiday beers start showing up at our local retailers. Every year I look forward to enjoying Brasserie Dupont’s Avec Les Bons Voeux with my Thanksgiving dinner. This year I waited until the last minute to go pick some up, a mistake I will not make again, since my local stores were out. C’est la vie. This gave me the opportunity to try some other beers, which led me to wonder what the favorite holiday choices were of my friends and colleagues in the beer universe. So, I asked. Apparently, I am in good company. I found out that two of my incredibly talented friends, (they serve as beer sommeliers, international beer judges, writers, consultants and more!) Sofie Vanrafelghem, from Belgium and Phillipe Wouters, from Canada are also both devotees of Avec Les Bons Voeux.
The following are some more holiday beer choices, stories and thoughts shared by other friends from around the globe:
Chris Swersey, supply chain specialist at the Brewer’s Association: “I always like Sierra Nevada Celebration. It’s seasonal, fall early winter only, celebrating that year’s harvest. It also changes every year, depending on the hop crop. This year’s is REALLY yummy.”
Nora McGunnigle, freelance beer writer, also is a fan of Sierra Nevada Celebration. Nora says that in general, she is not a fan of spiced beer of any kind; she is happy that this time of year also happens to be fresh hop season. So, it was no surprise when she also gave a shout out to Rhinegeist Dad (Hoppy Holiday Ale) which is described on the Rhinegeist website as a traditional winter warmer loaded with aromatic hops.
John Holl, NJ based award winning journalist, author and editor, shared this nice story about his own holiday beer tradition with a beer that is not traditionally thought of as a Christmas/Holiday beer:
“Every Christmas Eve I try to find a few quiet minutes to myself to enjoy a bottle of Duchesse De Bourgogne. It’s a tradition I started, by accident about 8 years ago. A friend had gifted me a bottle and I opened it while waiting for the family to come home from last minute shopping. By the lights of the tree I was taken in by this wonderful Flander’s Red and found myself slowing down, getting away from the bustle of the season, the commercialization, the craziness and actually thinking about all I was thankful for, the fun experiences during the year and all that I had to look forward to. It was a special moment with the beer playing a part. So each year, I carve out just a few minutes to open a bottle and slow down a little. It’s a little piece of peace.”
Katie Smith, brewer at Highland Brewery in Asheville, NC told us “I’m not a huge winter warmer fan so I tend to only drink Highland ones if I do which makes me a little biased; but my faves from us are Cold Mountain as well as Black Watch- which is like drinking chocolate milk.
Katie is not alone in choosing beer from her own brewery. Anne-Cathérine Dilewyns from Brouwerij Dilewyns in Belgium says her favorite is their Vicaris Winter 2017 and Marco Passarella, Sales and Marketing Manager from Brouwerij St. Bernardus, located in Watou Belgium, listed St Bernardus Christmas Ale, along with Orval and Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss Dunkel among his favorite Christmas/Winter warmer beers.
Meanwhile, there are some who, despite brewing their own Christmas beers, have a favorite from another brewery. Bill McFee, Brewmaster from Barrel of Monks in Boca Raton Florida, is just one of many St. Bernardus Christmas Ale fans: “My favorite winter beer is St. Bernardus Christmas. I have enjoyed that beer every year since it was released a few years ago. It has just the right amount and blend of spices, and is very drinkable and delicious!”
Inge Vermeire, guide extraordinaire from Brouwerij Halve Maan in Bruges,Belgium, was another who gave thumbs up for the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, as well as some other extremely delicious choices: “My all-time favorite is Stille Nacht (Silent Night) brewed by De Dolle Brouwers, 12% abv made with Poperinge hops, traditional brewing method small batches; because of the high density they say that you can keep it forever. Another favorite is Bush de Noel, also 12% abv- delicious but dangerous!”
Bush de Noël (known in the US as Scaldis Noël) from Brasserie Dubuisson in is also a favorite of Sofie Vanrafelghem, Stephane Bogaert, from Brasserie Saint Germain which makes Page 24 Beers in northern France and yours truly St. Feuillien is another of Stephane’s favorites, but beers from elsewhere in the world are on his Christmas wish-list: “I have heard about Nøgne ø Christmas beer series, but never had the chance to get one. Christmas beer seems to be famous in Nordic countries but in a way very different from Christmas beer traditions over here(France).”
Laurent Cicurel, one of the owners of La Fine Mousse in Paris France, said he likes In a Rush Cognac BA from O’Clock Brewing. This was a new one for me so I thought he was telling me he was in a rush when he messaged me with his choices! However, after researching and finding out that this brewery will be at one of the Christmas Markets in Paris, I have already put in a request for a few bottles with some friends headed that way for the holidays.
Fiona De Lange, Biersommelier, Beer Writer and Founder of the Bierbank, located in the Netherlands, chooses between her favorites based on the weather: “Val-Dieu Grand Cru, Duits & Lauret Winterstout, Jopen Ongelovige Thomas and Gouden Carolus Cuvee van de Keizer Blue. I’m looking for chocolate bitterness and alcohol warming. If it’s very cold I like more caramel and alcohol warming winter beers like Val Dieu and Gouden Carolus. If the weather is warmer with rain I prefer more chocolate / malt bitterness which you can find in the beers of Jopen and Duits & Lauret!”
Kim Lentjes, another friend from the Netherlands and founder of the Dutch Beer Academy, is also a fan of Gouden Carolus beers from Brouwerij Het Anker in Mechelen :
“My favorite beer for the season is either a Gouden Carolus Classic or a Deus Champagne beer from Brouwerij Bosteels. Both Belgian, I know.”
She went on to share a bit about both of her choices:
“The Gouden Carolus is based on a great story of when Charles V was emperor of Spain and the Netherlands and he would come to Mechelen to hunt. To get good fortune he would give away golden coins to the people. That’s why they called him Gouden Carolus, or, Golden Charles. However, the dear man had a stomache condition and he wasn’t able to drink wine because of the acidity. So, the grateful people of Mechelen brewed him a beer that is similar to red wine, the rich people ‘s drink. In the winter this beer makes me feel warm and grateful. It is rich, and dark and complex and has a great story. Drink it with a good steak with a rich sauce, red wine or even a great jus, and you’ll be in heaven. Great with venison too!
Ivo Bosteels pouring Deus at the Brewery
Deus is also a Belgian beer, but during the fermentation it is exported to France. There it is Aged/fermented with champagne yeast. The end result is a great slightly sweet beer with an amazing fizz!! Just like a champagne, but it is beer!!It is dangerously easy to drink!! it is an amazing beer!!! Very expensive, but I tend to spoil myself with it every now and then! Totally worth it!”
We have to agree, Deus is one of our go-tos for a sparkling New Year’s toast.
We are looking forward to sharing our favorites from those listed above, as well as going in search of those that are new to us.
How will you be celebrating the holidays? What will you be drinking?
Whatever it is, we wish you a Delicious Holiday Season!
While this is the time of year that a lot of folks start searching for stocking stuffers, we thought we’d take a closer look at the actual stockings (well, socks) themselves. The following options offer a variety of beer socks that can serve as your newest holiday stocking, stocking stuffer, or even a unique gift bag for a good bottle of brew. If you’ve traveled with us or read our blog article To Ship or to Schlep on how to pack beer safely for traveling or shipping, you will know that socks are a standard in Mike’s arsenal of packing products. So dig in your heels and get a foot up on your holiday shopping.
Will Run For Beer knee socks will make more than a style statement during your next race!
These ‘Bring Me a Beer’ beer socks come in a variety of styles, but regardless of which you choose, they are sure to get the message across!
These socks will add a little flair to your work slacks for a pick me up even when it is not casual Friday.
And for the crafters out there (I happen to know a few of you out there are involved in crafting and craft beer circles) here’s a knitting pattern to make your own beer socks!
And then there is this. The Sasquatch Loves Beer sock. Kind of leaves me at a loss for words, but I’m sure there are a pair of feet waiting for a pair of these somewhere!
Good beer and good music are two things that naturally go together. And as the craft beer scene continues to grow, a number of musicians have decided to express their artistic bend in suds rather than in tunes. The outcome? Some are probably better than others, but just like beer or music separately, it is always a matter of taste.
Below are clues to 5 rock inspired beers. See if you can guess which band created which brew. The first set of correct answers will win some groovy Beercation swag. Good luck and cheers!
1. Which group not only had a musical based on their songs on the London stage, but also produces a beer named Gladness which rhymes with the group’s name?
2. You would never expect this rock group from down under to be subject to conformity, but they chose a brewery in Germany to brew a fully reinheitsgebot compliant pilsner which is named after the group.
3. Which American brewery from Delaware, whose name is comprised of 2 animals makes a beer named after an album by a group who is often represented in merchandising by colorful bears? (Bonus points if you can guess the name of the beer)
4. Which heavy metal band aided in creating a beer that is named after one of their top hits and turned out to be a top hit for the brewer as well? (Bonus points for naming the beer.)
5. If you think about the historical regionwhere Czech lagers come from, or are a fan of the movie Wayne’s World, then you will surely know the name of the lager released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the UK’s 3rd best-selling single of all time.(No bonus points for adding the name of the band because if you know the song it is a no brainer!)
Writer on the Storm Beers and Life During a Hurricane By Ruth Berman
Our thoughts go out to all of our friends who have suffered through Harvey and Irma. We hope you are all safe and well and any damages are repaired and recovered soon.
As residents of South Florida for 27 years, we’ve been through and fortunately survived a number of Hurricanes starting with Andrew all the way through to -and including most recently -Irma. Since Florida is the hurricane capital of the US, people who live here get into a kind of groove once they’ve weathered a few storms. Here’s how it usually goes in our neighborhood:
Storms start to pop up on the weather radar. We begin watching, but usually tracking is not accurate until a day or two prior, and even then, not so much. But we start stocking up as we see the tracks looking more and more likely to whack us once again. We buy water and freeze ice for when the power goes so we can keep the food (and beer) cold. We even freeze the water bottles to serve double duty. Then as it gets closer, we start buying weird stuff that we wouldn’t normally eat, like Underwood Deviled Chicken or whatever other odd stuff is left on the shelves that doesn’t require refrigeration or cooking. We all share our ladders and resources and put the shutters up. It gets dark in the house without the sunlight. It is depressing- a foreboding feeling of what is to come when the power goes out. We’ve lived through this before. The memories come back. We wonder how bad it will be this time. We start charging our cells, dig out old portable radios and battery operated fans, charge all of our spare batteries and throw out all the old batteries that we realized have been sitting around from storms 10 years ago and are no longer good. We debate about filling the tubs with water. Then we put all the patio furniture away or tie down what we can’t fit into the house or garage. We let some water out of the pool, fill the gas and propane tanks, check the generators to make sure they are working and we have extension cords for the 3 important plugs- window ac unit, phone charging cables and our beer fridge. Then we head out to buy more weird supplies, booze, snacks and necessities like chocolate before the county puts us all under curfew. Everything will shut down, no one is supposed to be out on the roads. We have nothing to do at this point but wait.
So, we gather with our neighbors to have a “last supper”. We don’t know if we’ll be able to cook on the stove for a while so we eat and drink well and try and chill as best we can. You think differently when you are faced with the possibility that your homes and businesses could be blown away. So on the eve of Irma heading our way I decided to wear a tiara. I also had some nice jewelry on, I figured hell, if I’m going to have nothing tomorrow, I may as well break out the good stuff and enjoy it. If ever there was a special occasion, now it that time! And this is exactly how it should be with your Hurricane Beers.
Each part of a hurricane calls for a different kind of beer.
For those of you who have never experienced a hurricane, here are some suggestions. (I hope you never have to try them out.) For those of you who have lived through a few of these, we’d love to hear your hurricane beer stories and hope you weathered it all without too much damage. Please share them on ourFB Page.
Pre-Storm Beer (to take the edge off):
As you prepare and are getting ready, you need something to numb your mind to the potential of disaster and relax you enough so that you can get through your prep and not have a hurricane stress meltdown. You also need to find something with a low enough ABV that you can concentrate on your tasks at hand and are coordinated enough to move that grill from the backyard to the garage without rolling it over your toes, yet enough of an ABV to help you stop visualizing what Mother Nature could do to life-as-you-know-it in the near future. This might be a good time for a tasty Gose, a session IPA or maybe even a Pilsner Urquell.
Hunkering Down Beer:
Once you are settling down for the duration, it is time to break out the good stuff. This is that special occasion you’ve been waiting for to put your tiara on and bring out those rare and exceptional beers you’ve been saving for a treat. We are not going anywhere for the next 24-48 hours, (well, except for running back and forth into the bathroom/saferoom every time there is a tornado warning.)
Hmm, let me see. Maybe the cans of AleSmith Boxcar Speedway Stout that we picked up on last year’s California Beer Rush Tour? Or some of the Westvleteren 8s and 12s that are sitting in my coke machine? Ooh! We have a bottle of Barrel of Monks Happy Accident! Checking through the stock can provide entertainment in itself, but knowing you are going to get to finally drink all of this stuff? I think we found the silver lining to hurricanes!
At any rate, my advice to you is this: Whatever your taste buds desire, regardless of rarity, value, or if you might be breaking up a full set from a vertical flight, open that sucker and enjoy every. last. drop. Your satisfaction will be the one thing that is certain when everything else is not.
Post-Hurricane Cleanup Beer:
It is hot. Trees are all over the place. Hopefully your house and car are in the same spot as they were when you went into lockdown. If you are lucky, you have power and a/c to go back into after a few hours of pulling debris and your neighbor’s lawn furniture out of your pool or cutting down broken trees and fencing. If you are not lucky you are shoveling mud out of your living room or putting tarps up. Regardless, it is still hot. Hurricane season comes to the southeast while the temperatures are high and it is usually miserably humid. You are hot from cleanup work, hot from aggravation, hot from no power. While I was shoveling out my pool all I could think of was IPA, IPA, I need an IPA. Why doesn’t the beer fairy come out and bring me an IPA? No beer fairy appeared. So, I went in and found one in the fridge. Mike was drinking a Saison. While my go-to for heat is usually something like an IPA or a German Pils, sometimes the heat makes me hanker for that mouth-watering tartness of a Flemish Red like Rodenbach Grand Cru– it is amazingly refreshing as well as delish. Point is, now is the time for something cool, wet and thirst-quenching.
It’s okay, the fairies may have not brought me a beer, but the angels were watching over me and mine. All of my family members and their homes and businesses survived with limited damage. So, I think we need to add one more type of beer here – some sort of celebratory beer- perhaps a Malheur Brut or some Deus in lieu of that bottle of Champagne?
Thanks to all of you who sent us your well wishes and positive vibes during Hurricane Irma.
“Well, I woke up this morning and got myself a beer. The future is uncertain and the end is always near.”- Jim Morrison
When I began working on this month’s article, I was thinking about heavier subjects, like brewery takeovers, the economics of beer and other things that are buzzing in the industry right now. As I started my research I became tired and cranky- I was just not in the mood to delve into these things. So, I thought maybe it was time to chill out a bit and decided to just find something light-hearted and entertaining to write about. So here is my break from the staid and sober (pun intended). I invite you to join me for a few minutes of reprieve by listening a few songs I found when I googled “beer songs”. The videos aren’t all that exciting, but the musical break is worth it, so feel free to just listen and enjoy.
It always surprises me how excited people get when we tell them that we have a beer tour company and take people on Beercations for a living. There are so many craft beer lovers with a desire to delve deeper into the beer community and make beer more than a hobby that I decided to take a look and see what was out there for those interested in a career change to beer. (I sometimes refer to my career change as my mid-life epiphany.)
Not surprisingly, there are currently multiple beer-related jobs in all 50 states as well as Washington DC. What is neat is that these jobs run the gamut from Brewer at BrewDog in Columbus, Ohio to Sign Holder at Koholā Brewery in Hawaii, where the job description reads : Hold Sign Front Street / Papalaua Corner and point people to the brewery. Which goes to show there is something out there for everyone.
So, whatever your skill level, interest or desired location is, if this is your passion- go for it. Life is too short not to follow your heart, passion and taste buds. And if by chance you follow a lead from this article that leads to a position, shoot us an email and let us know, we’d love to hear about it! Cheers!
Please Note: All job links were current as of the time this article was written. (That means hop to it or someone else may end up with your dream job!)
Father’s Day is coming up on June 18th. And apparently, card companies like Hallmark and others seem to think that a lot of dads drink beer because this is the time of year we tend to see the most cards with beer-related sentiments on them. And if this is your compass, then I guess bar-b-que is another dad-like passion as well. So if this is your inspiration for your Father’s Day gifts shopping, you could probably take the old man to a brewery and grab a few beers to celebrate his big day, or you could just do things the easy way and buy him a 6 pack of his favorite brew and grill up some steaks and move on. But c’mon, this is Dad we are talking about, so we know you can do better than that. Of course, you know that we think you should take him on Beercation, because that is the ultimate gift.. but we figured it was time to offer a few fresh ideas beyond Beercation and decided to look to Kickstarter for inspiration. Here’s what we found:
The good thing is he doesn’t have to be a total do-it-yourself kind of guy with this unit. He can use recipe paks to brew fresh craft beer from his favorite breweries around the world or come up with his own special brew. You may be over to visit dear old dad more often…
If he works hard enough and would rather just enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor in the comfort of his own home when it comes to beer, then this should help to make sure he enjoys it fresh on tap at his convenience.
A Kickstarter supporter for a local brewery or even a brewery mug club or similar type membership is the way to go. This particular Kickstarter project even offers a personal barstool at their brewery and swag for life as options!