It’s an iHeartBeer Birthday

Today is a special day for iHeartBeer.  It’s our birthday. Not the birthday of iHeartBeer the blog but iHeartBeer the man. It is also the day we officially can no longer claim to be in our mid 30’s and must accept our status of being in our late 30’s. In order to mark both the occasion and lessen it’s sting we were presented with some wonderful beer related gifts.

First my wife gave me this beautiful handcrafted wooded six pack carrier.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

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Equipped with it’s own bottle opener.

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It looks amazing stocked with six of my homebrews and just feels awesome to carry.  It’s like I’m carrying an old tool box but instead of tools that I have no idea how to use it’s full of beer that I definitely know how to use.

The next gift came from my wonderful in-laws who found a way for me to enjoy one of my all time favorite beers even more. Tripel Karmeliet is a Belgian Tripel that I have spoken very highly of  in the past and I thought there was no way I could love this beer even more. That was until I received a Tripel Karmeliet glass specially designed to be for this beer.

Designed by Antoine Boosteels, of Bosteels Brewery, maker of the Tripel Karmeliet this elegant glass is decorated with four Fleur-de-lis.

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According to Bosteels Brewery the pourer holds the glass at a slight angle and slowly begins to fill the glass until the beer reaches the tips of the Fleur-de-lis. The rest of the glass will be filled with a nice frothy head.

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It just so happens I happen to have a bottle of Tripels Karmeliet downstairs in my beer fridge.

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes and my family for these amazing gifts. They will be put to good use.

Cheers!

RayRay

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Birthplace of my Hops

I saw this video on posted on CraftBeer.com’s Faceboook page today.  They are talking about the type of hops I am currently growing (Cascades). I thought it was interesting how a type of hops that was essentially ignored by the big breweries and “left on a shelf” at Oregon State University due to having too much aroma is now fueling thousands of craft breweries in the US.

Cheers Oregon State University!

RayRay

I know you are but what am I! – An immature Hopsdate

Hops + Update = Hopsdate

Visited my hops today and they reminded me of me: slightly immature but marvelous looking.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

It didn’t hurt it gently rained while I was visiting so they have a nice looking shine to them.

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(These guys have a way to go)

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I’ve been researching on when the best time to harvest hops. Most forums say mid August – September. I also learned about the “squeeze test” when you squeeze the hops between your thumb and forefinger and if the hops spring back into its original shape they’re ready. These do not have the spring back I’m looking for yet but that’s okay little fellas we have time.

Cheers!
RayRay

A beer run to Beer Run (Charlottesville, VA)

BeerRun

A week ago I decided that it would be fun to visit my sister in her town of Charlottesville, VA. Visiting Charlottesville allowed me to accomplish a couple of things at once.  I am able to visit with my sister who I don’t get to hang out with enough but also while I am there I am able to visit one of my favorite places in Charlottesville, Beer Run.

Beer Run is unique establishment because it combines a bar + restaurant + beer store into one harmonious location for food, beer, and a neighborhood bar. Most impressively Beer Run is able to perform these three tasks at a very high level of quality and customer service. We arrived at Beer Run while their Sunday brunch was in full swing. They were on a 10-15 minute wait which was music to my ears because all I wanted to do since we started our journey to C-ville was gleefully stroll Beer Run’s aisles mentally placing beers into the shopping cart in my brain.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Outside of a Total Wine, Beer Run has one the a most diverse selection of beers I have had the pleasure of browsing.  This is remarkable considering that the space used to display their beer inventory is around 1/100th the size of a Total Wine.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

I love that they have a refrigerated shelf just for purchasing individual cans of beer. As you might remember I am a huge fan of the do-it-yourself six pack. Two minor annoyances of DIY sixers are they usually only offer bottles and also you will need to cool down your beers before you can enjoy them.  BOOM, refrigerated individual cans for you to create your own sixer.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

They of course have their own ‘Wall of Happiness’ otherwise known as shelves of 750ml bottles (not sure if anyone there refers to the 750ml bottles as their Wall of Happiness but I do like the think they get happy like me whenever they walk past it). The bottles are organized by style, location, and even personal recommendations by the staff.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

This is a beautiful image.  Starr HillWild Wolf21st Amendment, and DC Brau all stacked on top of one another. I was very tempted to just try and push this shelf over to the register. Luckily just as I was beginning to loosen up they called our name and we sat down to eat.

While I am always pleasantly surprised at Beer Run’s in-store beer selection what honestly shocked me the most was how delicious their food was. We were in time for the Sunday brunch and it didn’t take long for my eyes to zero in on the ‘El Guapo Breakfast Burrito’. When I’m out in public with family I try to keep my caveman instincts in check whenever someone drops a breakfast burrito the size of jar of pickles in front of me.  So with as much restraint as I could muster I sliced the flour tortilla  in half and gazed in anticipation as hot steam escaped from the burrito and the layers of scrambled eggs (locally grown), black beans (organic) and pepper jack cheese all oozed together. The El Guapo was served with a spicy Pico de Gallo (house-made) and Texas Frites which only increased the enjoyment of this dish. 

The staff was incredibly friendly and possessed a sense of urgency you only see when a restaurant has a well trained staff.  They were prompt and polite with everything from inquiring if you needed a refill or asking if you had any questions about any of the beers.  The only minor issue I had was that their menu contained everything they serve throughout the week. While patrons who frequent Beer Run every week might not notice for someone  new or out of town it was a bit confusing. Like I said, minor, if the only issue of my visit is my own inability to remember what day of the week it is you’re doing a bang up job.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

After lunch I finally made up my mind and picked out some beers:

  • Aloha B’ak’tun – Belgian Chocolate Stout from Maui Brewing Company.
  • CoCoNut Porter – Porter from Maui Brewing Company.
  • Eagle Claw Fist – Imperial Amber Ale from Clown Shoes.
  • Brown Angel brown Ale – Double Brown Ale from Clown Shoes.
  • Blonde Hunny – Belgian Blond Ale from Wild Wolf Brewing Company.

Keep a look out for reviews of these great beer.

Cheers!
RayRay

That’s a Clown Shoes beer bro…

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Once a week my coworkers and I try to venture away from our cubicles, ledges, squatted offices, or upside down trashcan in a hallway work spaces. We desire to feel the sun on our faces and have the crippling humidity surround us like a giant insulated hamster ball. Yes, once a week we try and go out of the office for lunch.  One of the main criteria for choosing a lunch location is it’s proximity to a Total Wine. There we are able to walk off our lunch by pacing the beer aisles picking up our favorite brews or what we hope will be our next favorite brew.

It was exactly this type of scenario that lead me to discover Clown Shoes and their Belgian-style Tripel Indian Pale Ale called ‘Muffin Top’. If you have ever been to a Total Wine or any beer store with a large wall of 750ml bottles you will undoubtedly know the agony a beer drinker feels when looking at shelf after shelf of these mysterious bottles. I love trying new beers so I always pick up a couple 750ml bottles during our weekly run but with our lunch break quickly coming to an end and a burrito the size of a puppy burning a hole into my colon I did not have the time to look over and inspect every bottle.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

This is where the artistic side of my brain began to take over. As I am pacing down the aisle I decided that since my latest home brew was a Belgian Tripel I wanted to sample some new Tripels. Almost immediately my eye catches the name Muffin Top and I am intrigued.  I pick up the bottle and see that the name of the brewery is Clown Shoes. Being a Washington D.C. native I was instantly reminded of Bryce Harper’s famous ‘That’s a clown question bro’ quote so now I was sold.

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

The image on the label was the next thing to catch my eye. The style of the design is not what I am accustomed to seeing on a beer label and along with the unique name really set it apart from its other 750ml neighbors. The style  reminds me more of something (and I mean this with the utmost respect) I would see spray painted on the side of a 1970’s van. The detail of the image is also something to be admired. Everything from the Clown Shoes tattoo stretching across the shoulder blades of our muffin-topped man to the gentle way his muffin-topped companion holds her Clown Shoes beer bottle to the sandcastle Clown Shoes logo and tiny shovel leaning against it.  When I see this much style and detail be put into a label I always have high hopes that same type of dedication will be put into the beer.

First some Fun Facts about Clown Shoes and their ‘Muffin Top’ beer: 

  • Clown Shoes might be the first beer created out of spite. To quote Gregg Berman “a group of us submitted the name to the Beer Advocate contest that resulted in The Wrath of Pecant.  Our submission didn’t crack the top 5.  This burned me up inside.  While driving one day the epiphany came: I could make my own Clown Shoes beer.”
  • Clown Shoes Beer mission: Our mission now is to produce beer without pretension while being free and a little crazy.
  • Clown Shoes beer is brewed by Mercury Brewing Company out of Ipswich, MA.
  • Muffin Top has “intense flavors, reminiscent of candied fruit“.
  • I might of been onto something about that 70’s van design I mentioned earlier.  Awesome….
Image by iHeartBeer.com

Image by iHeartBeer.com

Muffin Top definitely has the fruity flavor I’ve grown to enjoy in Belgian Tripels. The candied fruit flavor reminded me of something from my childhood. I want you to know that I mean this as a compliment but the fruity flavor reminded me of the syrup you get when you eat fruit from a can of Fruit Cocktail. As a kid we didn’t really eat a lot of fresh fruit. It was nearly always from a can and I loved the taste of that syrup. This beer brought back some of those memories and I found myself tipping the beer back in order to get every ounce much like I did to a bowl of fruit cocktail. Muffin Top also has a 10% ABV yet does not have that high alcohol taste that sometimes accompanies beers with higher than the “normal” 4.5-5% ABV. I didn’t have that “Wowza this has a lot of alcohol in it” reaction. Instead it was more of a “Wowza, I should of bought more than one bottle of this!” reaction.

If you find yourself wandering the 750ml wall, what I am now dubbing my Wall of Happiness, keep an eye out for a chubby couple walking hand in hand on the beach enjoying the sunset in the distance. If you do see this them do yourself a favor and pick up a couple bottles. Hopefully someone will notice your beer selection and ask you, “What kind of beer is that?”.

Cheers!
RayRay