The 2018 GSN Holiday Gift Guide Day 7: GrowlerWerks uKeg

For the second year in a row, GSN recommends the GrowlerWerks uKeg pressurized growler to keep your favorite local brews fresh. Even if you already have one, make sure to check out their website for a lot of new add-ons and shiny new versions. (see our previous review here)

f you’re like us, many of your favorite microbrews aren’t sold in bottles. When you bring home that limited-release double IPA from your favorite brewpub, chances are it comes home in a glass growler. However, we know glass growlers have their drawbacks: They go flat once they’re opened, they let in air, which spoils your beer, and they don’t travel well.

Our founding mission at GrowlerWerks was to make a growler that worked. After testing all the options available, we realized that nobody had cracked the code on a pressurized growler to keep beer fresh. So we designed the uKeg: It’s easy to use, with an automatic regulator cap that holds CO2 inside, instead of externally, variable carbonation from zero (off) up to 15 psi, and a dispensing tap so beer can be easily served without removing the cap. It also has a liquid sight glass, an ergonomic handle, and it’s easy to clean.

Find out more at: Growlerwerks

What’s Brewing: New Belgium Oakspire

It’s becoming more common in the beer industry to find brewers crafting around the infusion of the Bourbon Barrel flavor. With more and more brews like these on the shelves, it can be tough to navigate the seas of whiskey flavor that lie in abundance. Enter New Belgium’s Oakspire Bourbon Barrel Ale.

Many beers that age in ex-bourbon barrels tend to have a heavier malty profile such as a stout or porter since the more dense body can work well with the addition of a little bourbon kick. New Belgium’s take is a little different. Their ale is much lighter in body than the more conventional bourbon barrel ales, and it works very well. This most certainly is aided by their choice of bourbon. The flavor of Knob Creek bourbon starts off strong, but finishes smooth and almost tart. The beer itself has little to no heat or “boozy” qualities, and this can be a rarity for any bourbon aged ales. There is little to no head retention and this is most likely due to the high alcohol content at 9% ABV, but even with a beer this strong, it doesn’t come across as just a whiskey flavored beer.

The whiskey permeates the palate, but has different flavor components throughout the sip and swallow. This leaves you with a flavor rotation every time you take a sip. There are notes of a very subtle toffee character that tends more toward caramel. The bottle itself says it has notes of vanilla, but this was nigh undetectable in our tasting session. But this isn’t a knock against it. There’s plenty of other interesting aspects to make you want to keep the bottle nearby.

If you aren’t a big whiskey drinker, this might change your mind. Just take care to share this with a friend as it’s easy to go a little overboard with this one.

GSN Rating: 3.75/5

For more information go to: New Belgium

Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew

GSN Alert: September 7th – National Beer Lover’s Day

Beer and the process of brewing beer may predate known history.  As varied as the methods, grains, and flavors, beer continues to change and evolve over time.
Virginia colonists brewed beer. William Penn included a place for brewing beer within the colony of Pennsylvania which can still be visited at Pennsbury Manor today. The first President of the United States recorded a recipe for brewing beer in his notes. Samuel Adams holds a place in both beer and tea history in this country.  There were a few beer lovers and patriots among the nation’s founders.
The United States also derives its rich brewing history from beer-loving German immigrants during the mid-1800s. Some of those immigrants families’ names are as familiar today as they were a hundred years ago.
While some names have faded into the past, smaller batch brewers continue to experiment with old and new recipes.  The crafting of beer carries rich traditions, often requiring years of training and experience in the trade. Depending on the brewery, the path to brewmaster may take years to develop the skill and expertise necessary to produce a quality beer every time.  One certain requirement is a love of beer and the craft. Toast to this iconic beverage on September 7th with a pint of your favorite!

What’s Brewing: Elysian Def Leppard Pale

Rock & Brews Restaurants have teamed up with Def Leppard and Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Company to introduce Def Leppard Pale to their customers and are offering fans a chance to win tickets to see Def Leppard on tour this year. Known for handcrafted American food, a mix of more than 100 craft and classic styles of beer on tap and in bottles, and their authentic rock-inspired, family friendly atmosphere, Rock & Brews Restaurants throughout the United States will be the first restaurant brand to offer Def Leppard Pale. In celebration, Rock & Brews Restaurants have a variety of promotions planned, including an opportunity for fans to win tickets to see Def Leppard in Los Angeles, as well as a chance to see the band on tour in many Rock & Brews’ markets. “Rock & Brews celebrates everything that is rock and roll and is the perfect place for fans to indulge themselves with a cold Def Leppard Pale,” said Joe Elliott, lead singer of Def Leppard.

Def Leppard Pale was brewed by Elysian Brewing Company in partnership with Def Leppard to fuse the infamous malt bodies of British ales with the mysteria of Pacific Northwest hops. The launch of the beer was timed to coincide with the Def Leppard 2018 tour.

GSN Thoughts: Slightly hazy. Cream colored head. Patterned lacing. Fruity hop aroma. Balanced flavor with a definite hop burst followed by slight sweet caramel malt, and finished with citrus peel that has a lasting bitterness. Traces of grapefruit and peach and a hint of pine throughout the taste. The beer has a dry quality that pairs nicely with the abundance of flavor. Medium carbonation and body. The malt balances well with the West Coast hop flavor. Not overly strong at 6% ABV, and a good brew to sip on while listening to classic rock.

Review by Kieran Jerome Matthew

GSN Alert: Upcoming Event – Philanthropic Foodies, Syracuse, NY, July 29, 2018

Photo courtesy of John Carnessali

Everyone loves a pop-up food and beverage event! For the seventh year in a row, Philanthropic Foodies will be hosting one of Central New York’s premier culinary showcases.  Over a dozen of the area’s best chefs and restaurants will be serving samples of their amazing appetizers, main courses and desserts. But, that’s not all, you can refresh your palate between tastings with an eclectic variety of beverages featuring everything from local spirits, cocktails, wine, beer and coffee.  

Last year, we had the chance to attend the event at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, which made for a unique and fun-filled afternoon. All the attendees had the chance to stroll around the zoo, as well as go on the large patio for some welcome Syracuse sunshine. Indoors, there were several stations offering tasty treats, as well as live music and the large auction (we won a few items!).

Chef Chance Bear

One of the highlights of any event like this is to get a chance to meet and talk with the local chefs and producers of beverages. Last year we got a chance to chat with Chance Bear who has cooked at the James Beard House on four different occasions! As well, we conversed with some of the representatives from 1911 Spirits who make some very interesting apple based spirits, and local brewers from Empire Brewing & Middle Ages Brewing. We ended the evening with some coffee samples from Peaks Coffee Co.

If you are interested in trying some world-class food and beverage from the heart of New York State in a world-class setting, there is no better event to attend!

Syracuse Marriott Hotel

This year’s event takes place on Sunday, July 29 from 4:00 to 8:00p.m., at the Syracuse Marriott, 100 East Onondaga St. which was recently awarded the AAA Four Diamond Award. Advance sale tickets are $100 per person, or $125 at the door. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

In between sipping, sampling and socializing, attendees can also bid on silent auction offerings, many of them food-focused. For auction information go here.

Since 2012, Philanthropic Foodies has raised more than $200,000 for local nonprofits. This year’s proceeds are earmarked for the Friends of Dorothy House, a hospice house for people with AIDS, and The Shamrock Animal Fund, a 501c3 not-for-profit fund that helps pay for veterinary care for animals in need that have owners with financial limitations who reside in Syracuse and Central New York. 

What’s Brewing: Catawba Brewing Soulshine Kolsch

Just as summer BBQs are shifting into high gear across the country, like-minded companies, Mountain Khakis and Catawba Brewing have joined forces to create the limited-edition Soulshine Kölsch.

With the official launch in late June, the co-branded Soulshine Kölsch marks a special collaboration between the apparel and beer brands, both of whom have locations in North Carolina and embrace the lifestyle of mountain towns like Jackson Hole, Wyoming: the hometown of Mountain Khakis.

In addition to sharing great taste, the two brands are committed to quality product, celebrate outdoor adventure and are committed to protecting lands and waterways. In line with both companies’ conservation stewardship, a portion of all Soulshine Kölsch sales will benefit the Catawba Lands Conservancy.

“Our companies came together with such great synergy! Mountain Khakis does things authentically. Catawba Brewing does things authentically…it was a natural partnership,” said Mary Mayo, Creative Director of Catawba Brewing Co. “We share pride in this delicious summer beer and that Catawba Lands Conservancy will benefit from our efforts.”

Soulshine Kolsch: Slight bodied, mellow flavor. Low malt profile. Medium carbonation, with a very mild flavor.  Finishes dry and has some floral notes. A true session beer for the summer months.

For more information go to: Catawba Brewing

What’s Brewing: Alpine Beer Company

Alpine Beer Company began with Patrick and Valerie McIlhenney. While visiting friends in Northern California, the McIlhenney’s fell in love with the idea of opening a brewpub. Not right away but someday.

Pat discovered you could legally make your own beer. He was all over that and started homebrewing for fun. Homebrewing quickly turned into recipe development. Pat submitted his homebrews to competitions around San Diego County. He followed the feedback from judges and repeated the submission process until a high placing medal was awarded. Pat was hooked.

A local homebrew supply store hired Pat to work part-time. He eventually ended up teaching advanced homebrewing classes in the back of the store. The University of California at Davis offered extension classes in Brewing, Microbiology and Sanitation which Pat attended instead of taking a vacation from his firefighting day job.

Next, Pat insinuated himself on Skip and Ted, his friends who just opened AleSmith Brewing. Pat volunteered at the fledgling brewery, cleaning and helping out wherever needed. After a few years of working at AleSmith, Pat asked Skip if he could contract AleSmith to make some Alpine Beer Company beer. Before year’s end, “McIlhenney’s Irish Red” was released as the first-ever Alpine beer. Soon after that, Pure Hoppiness made its debut. Over the next two years, Pat and Val worked toward their next goal – opening their very own brewery.

The first beer Pat brewed in Alpine was an American Wheat Ale called Willy, named after Val’s brother who helped them build the brewery. The next beers Pat introduced were Mandarin Nectar, Alpine Ale, and Captain Stout. Shawn, the son of Pat and Val, began his brewing career in earnest. Shawn flexed his creative muscle and brewed Bad Boy for the first time. Alpine made their first venture into barrel aged sours with Ichabod and earned a Gold medal at the World Beer Cup. Shawn officially took on the role of “Head Brewer” and is focused on making magic in the brewhouse.

The brewery finally got some much-needed room to expand. The garage behind the brewery was converted into more fermentation and bottling space. Pat bought four double-batch fermenters from, of all places, Green Flash. Capacity was tripled to 1,500 barrels a year. Brewing at capacity was immediate. Pat and Val opened a tiny, 36 seat diner-style pub in the same building as the brewery, but at the opposite end and call it, “The Pub”. The pub focuses on a barbecue menu and Alpine’s delicious beer. On most days, you can find Pat and Val hanging out at the restaurant’s bar, chatting with their neighbors over a beer.

Green Flash Brewing who now owns Alpine sent us a nice selection of brews for review:

Duet: Pine forward hop flavor with undertones of citrus. Fairly rich, almost a DIPA in character. Medium body. Good carbonation. A little stone fruit can be picked out as well. The malt is heavy enough to balance out the beer but doesn’t overpower the subtle flavors that can be found. Earthy as well. Tasty beer.

Hoppy Birthday: Thick white head. Velvet mouthfeel. Bitter, and has herbal qualities. Notes of tangerine and a lot of pine throughout the tasting. A bit of tropical fruit notes can also be found. Medium carbonation and a lighter body than what you would expect from the flavor. Absolutely delicious! A 9/10.

Truck Trail: Mellow brew with caramel malt flavor. Indistinct hop flavors. Soft mouthfeel. Decent pale ale, but the hop flavor disappears quickly, leaving the malt.

Willy: Light bodied. Tastes a little like a corn-based beer. Thin flavor, but with some light floral aroma.

Windows Up: Bitterness that slowly recedes. Thick malt that creeps in. Medium body. Grassy aroma, with a resin quality. Slight citrus throughout the beer. An easy-going brew, but at 7% abv that can be dangerously delicious.

For more information go to: Alpine Beer Co.