In Our Fridge: Clown Shoes Trillionaire

clown shoes trillionaireWow, I am so far behind in my drinking…I mean writing. I am far behind in my writing. So I am trying to…ahem…write… as much as possible this weekend. Fortunately, thanks to Cork and Cage, one of our local bottle shops, I have an awesome selection of beers that I am really excited to review. I just drank and reviewed the Sixpoint Puff which is an outstanding IPA out of Brooklyn that I highly recommend to fellow IPA lovers.

Next up to bat is the Clown Shoes Trillionaire, an English style Barleywine aged in scotch barrels, the greatest of all the barrels. It is an undisputed fact that after beer, scotch is the finest drink available anywhere, ever. The marriage of the two in the Trillionaire results in the manliest boozy beverage you can find. Throw in a fine cigar and I guarantee an hour of unadulterated bliss.

After the Puff it has taken my senses a bit of time to adjust to the sweetness of a barleywine but it was well worth the wait. The nose of this beer smells like someone poured a bottle of merlot over a stack of freshly cut lumber. (A ridiculous analogy, I know, but it’s true.) It has a very pleasing, thick, oily mouthfeel that coats your pallet in the most satisfying way and pairs perfectly with the Gurhka Beauty that I’m smoking. It has a mildly tannic finish with a smattering of hoppy bitterness but it is obvious that the malts are the star of this show. At a massive 12.5% ABV, you may want to share your bomber with a friend. Let it sit out from the fridge for a bit before pouring and use a goblet or tulip glass to maximize the aroma.

Clown Shoes is another new brewery to me and, if you’re interested, you can check them out here. Based on this experience, I will definitely be looking for more of their beers and would love to check them out next time I find myself in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Don’t forget to stop by Cork & Cage and let us know if there are any beers you would like to see reviewed here.

Cheers,

Mike

Advertisements

In Our Fridge: Sixpoint Puff

Sixpoint puffLast week on vacation I was fortunate enough to try a Sixpoint Resin. Sixpoint is a new brewery to me and I was really impressed right off the bat by my first foray into the brand. The Resin is a hoppy, citrusy, beauty that I blissfully enjoyed on the beach while my daughter crashed about in the waves. (I read to do that in Parenting Magazine) So this week when I stopped by one of our local bottle shops, Cork & Cage, in search of something new to try, Puff in the signature, Sixpoint, energy drink-sized can caught my eye right away. I told the manager that I had really enjoyed the Resin and asked how Puff compared. He said, “If you like the Resin you’ll love Puff.” It is Resin’s unfiltered big brother that got walloped with an extra round of dry-hopping before being tapped directly from the tank.

And let me tell you, that guy was right! As soon as I popped the top, the spray released a mist of citrus that hit me immediately. I was surprised to smell the hops so cleanly straight from the can. So I dove my nose in to investigate further and was greeted by a perfect, unmistakable dose of pine. When I finally forced myself to stop sniffing, the beer poured rich, bronze, and cloudy with a thick, dense, inviting head. The first sip, started off with the perfect amount of sweet malts that seamlessly drifted into those muscular, piney hops. The finish is bitter like an IPA should be and leaves you pining (get it?) to start all over again with another sip. But be careful not to sip too much because with a hefty 9.8% ABV (both the Resin and Poff are high gravity beers) this beer is supremely drinkable as Sixpoint has struck a harmonious balance between hops and malts.

Overall, this was one of the best beers I have had in a while and I am really excited to try more from Sixpoint. Pick some up if you can and let us know what you think. Check out Sixpoint  here and keep an eye out for more reviews of beers from my recent trip to Cork and Cage.

Cheers,

Mike

 

The Bonn Place Brewing Company

Bonn signTo say that Sam Masotto is passionate about beer is a gross understatement. He and his wife, Gina, are co-founders of the Bonn Place Brewing Company which opened its doors for the first time on July 31st of 2016. Bonn Place is nestled in a cozy, compact-yet-impressively-efficient former garage on the corner of Taylor and Mechanic Streets in the heart of south Bethlehem, PA. The space exudes a harmonious blend of rustic warmth with industrial modernity, and Sam’s eye for unique and historic decor makes the place feel as comforting as your grandad’s living room – that is, if your grandad had massive oak-clad tanks of beer in his home. Everywhere you look reveals something exquisite and often personal, from a chandelier made from wooden wheels dating back to the 1860s, to the red Bethlehem Steel I-Beam spanning the ceiling, to the growler on display paying homage to Newburgh Brewing Company, where Sam honed his craft as an assistant brewer for three years. Sam’s discerning eye and meticulous refinement of his brewing space reflects his goal for guests to not only feel welcomed into the brewery, but to also “see what goes into” brewing beer, as he sees the brewery setting as a reflection of the craft as a whole.

Mike and I were thrilled to see another local brewery open its doors only a mere ten minutes from our home, so we emailed Sam and Gina right away to find time to sit down with them and try their beer. Sam immediately called Mike and invited us to come down the following day to meet him and his wife, check out the brewery, and of course drink some beer. He and Gina were incredibly welcoming from the start, with their love for connecting with other beer geeks palpable even during that first phone call. Bonn Place was hosting an album release party for Phillipsburg-based comedian (and friend of Sam and Gina’s)  Glen Tickle that night, so we were able to stick around after for some laughs and more beer as Glen and a group of fellow comedians entertained a crowd of friends, family, and fans at the brewery.

Sam and Gina poured us an impressive selection of beers to sample. The offerings at Bonn Place lean more toward English-style beers which are traditionally more malt-forward compared with their hop-centric American counterparts. Sam noted that the water in the area lends well to English-style ales due to its low minerality and similarly low pH level; however, hoppy beers are in the works but require an addition of gypsum to alter the water’s minerality for a more hoppy flavor.
chalkboardThe first beer we sampled was the Mooey Pub Ale, a classic English bitter at 4.8% ABV, which Sam told us about like a proud father. He noted that this beer came out as close to ideal as possible, highlighting its incredible clarity in both appearance and taste. Indeed, the Mooey was remarkably drinkable with a smooth malt-forward body and clean finish. The Mooey earned some bonus points with us when we learned that it’s named after “Big Fat Moo,” an oversized polydactyl Maine Coon cat belonging to Gina’s family. We have a similar giant Maine Coon ourselves, so we were of course excited to hear about Mooey and her impressive girth.

As we later sipped on the Opus Amber, a 5.8% ABV American amber ale named after the brewery mascot, a French Bulldog who lived near Sam and Gina on Bonn Place in Weehawkin, New Jersey, we learned more about Sam and Gina’s journey to Bethlehem. Though neither are Lehigh Valley natives, they fell in love with Bethlehem when working as actors in the hit play Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding, which was performed around the country, including five times at Bethlehem’s Steel Stacks. Sam has been homebrewing beer since 2008, a passion which was nurtured through working at The Pony Bar in NYC and subsequent internships at Chelsea Brewing, New Jersey Beer Company, and Newburgh Brewing Company. He had dreams of opening his own brewery for years, and he and his wife had originally set their sights on a farmhouse in southern New Jersey for their new brewery. However, they faced bonn facade.jpegnumerous challenges with the farmhouse which resulted in revisiting their love for Bethlehem as a potential home for Bonn Place. It wasn’t long before they were notified of the building available at 310 Taylor Street, and despite its drab drop ceilings and stark white walls, they took the plunge and began construction in April of 2015. Sam spoke of many nights spent in the building with his Subaru parked inside, a small cot on the floor to sleep on, and meals of liverwurst and Genesee Cream Ale while he worked to transform the space. Discovering beautiful brick walls beneath the Sheetrock and the red steel I-Beam hidden above the drop ceiling helped him visualize the impossible – turning this former garage/Pizza Hut/dojo/plumbing supply company into Bonn Place.

Fifteen months later, the Masottos opened the doors of Bonn Place, just in time for MusikFest 2016. Although the Mooey has so far been the biggest seller, other draft gems have gained attention as well. We tried the Pig Tale Pale Ale, both in its traditional form as well as on Nitro. At 6.2% ABV, the pale ale still has a strong malt backbone but laced with a slightly more bitter and citrusy bite. The nitro edition smoothed out the edges of the pale ale, adding an almost creamy texture  to the mouthfeel. We also tried the Scottish Breakfast, which is a “wee-wee heavy” featuring 6.8% ABV. Sam noted that the Breakfast has caught the eye of beer enthusiasts more than his other draft offerings due to its rich flavor profile featuring notes of warm caramel and coffee. He shared an exciting collaboration beer in the works – the Scottish Brunch – which will feature local coffee from the Monacacy Coffee Company. Sam spoke passionately about the importance of being a member of the local community, both in terms of connecting with other Southside Bethlehem businesses as well as the larger community of local brewers. He shared that the local brewers meet monthly to offer one another support, noting that the competitiveness that often comes with brewing beer hasn’t been a part of his experience in Bethlehem so far.

caskSam took us behind the scenes to check out the brewing equipment. Despite the small space for the operation, the Masottos have clearly made the most of what they have to work with. Bonn Place has a number of tanks, with some gorgeously clad in oak to exemplify the English style. The real show-stopper is a 1,000 liter 100% French oak foudre, which is typically seen at wineries and distilleries. Foudres have been popping up in breweries more often due to their use for wood-aged beer, especially sour ales. Sam was currently brewing a fiesty wood-aged wild ale in the foudre when we visited, and he gave us some samples of the beer despite it not being fully complete. The beer had a lot of personality with a very sweet nose of overripe peach and Romano cheese, but a tart, bright and somewhat biting fruity flavor profile. We also sampled a double IPA that is still in the works. The double IPA had been hit with one dose of dry hopping, though may get a second prior to being served. It had a delicious fruit-forward flavor of mango and apricot, and Mike and I both voted for one more round of hopping before it hits the floor to bring out some more bitterness.

sam and ginaSam and Gina’s interest in experimenting with beer left us with a lot of excitement for what is to come at Bonn Place.   In fact, if Sam himself was a beer, he stated that he would be a “spicy chipotle brown ale” because he loves spicy food, is loud, slightly crabby, and dark due to his Italian roots. Would he ever brew this “Sam Ale?” Believe it or not, he has already made a batch of it back in his home-brewing days.  We’ll have to keep an eye out for the “Sam Ale” to pop up at Bonn Place!

Bonn Place is a brewery not to be missed. Sam and Gina’s vivacious personalities and unrelenting tenacity are reflected in every ounce of beer they serve and every inch of their brewing space.  “It’s us,” stated Gina, reflecting on their journey to open Bonn Place. Casting a glance at Sam across the bar, she stated, “I’ve never seen someone push so hard for what they wanted.”

Visit Bonn Place for yourself and let us know what you think!

Cheers!
Bethany & Mike

 

Proper Brewing Company

It has been a long time since I felt heat as oppressive as this past Saturday in the Lehigh Valley. The temperature reached close to 99 degrees with a heat index pushing 110. Not to mention the ultra-high humidity which left us feeling like we were wrapped in a steaming hot, wet blanket all day. It was a no-brainer to make a visit to Proper Brewing Company, another local gem located in historic Quakertown, PA.

img_7151

Proper is still in its very first year of business, having opened late November 2015. It is in the heart of downtown Quakertown, housed in a building steeped in history – the Palace Theater – which originally opened its doors as a silent movie theater back in the early 1920s. It was closed in 1950 and later housed the Dimmig Appliance store prior to its current use. The space offers Proper plenty of room for their craft operation as well as space for a large bar, tables, and full kitchen. It is run by couple Brian and Kris Wilson who have been Quakertown residents for over a decade.

img_7154Prior to moving to Hellertown, Mike and I spent two years as Quakertown residents ourselves. We were ecstatic when we first discovered Proper while attending McCoole’s Beer Fest in the spring of 2015. While they hadn’t yet opened their doors, Proper offered a few of their beers for sampling at the festival, which were already top-notch. When the brewery finally opened, we couldn’t wait to check it out.

Although we’ve been to Proper a number of times in the past, we were impressed on this most recent visit by some improvements to the atmosphere of the brewpub. As a former theater, the interior of the building is vast. With incredibly tall and wide walls and extra-high ceilings it would be easy for the brewery to feel stark and cavernous. However, the owners have hung photography featuring artwork by Steve Tobin, a local world-renown sculptor, as well as warm lighting for an inviting feel. The impressive air conditioning system was also fabulous with the melt-your-face-off humidity.

img_7153Since their opening, Proper has consistently offered a great collection of beers. Their IPAs and stouts have been the stand-outs each time we have visited. On Saturday, we both got a flight and sampled 8 varieties of their beer. The Cinema Citra IPA is incredibly balanced and refreshing and makes excellent use of the Citra hop, adding a zesty, fruity bitterness. It was a perfect pairing for a hot, humid day. Mike was also very impressed by the No-Name Stout, which is a chocolate malt stout that offers just the right touch of cocoa sweetness with a slightly hoppy, barley-focused finish. Despite not being too big on fruit beers, I was impressed by Your My Boy Blue, a limited release which features a Belgian-style witbier with a dose of blueberries. Although the blueberry flavor was present, it wasn’t overly sweet due to a bright, slightly tart and bitter finish.

img_7156In addition to beer, Proper offers a full food menu featuring classics like Bavarian soft pretzels with beer cheese (drooling), a variety of flat-breads (try the BBQ pork with bacon and slaw!), as well as burgers, sandwiches, and even desserts (stout float anyone?). They have also joined forces with some Bucks County wineries to offer a selection of wines and hard ciders. It appears that cocktails may also soon be on their menu – yet another reason to visit! We love the community-oriented approach of Proper – they are part of the Quakertown Revitalization Project, aimed at revamping the historic town center. They also value their connections with other local business and are active in featuring live music from local artists.

It has been exciting to see Proper grow from a table we visited at a local beer festival to a full-fledged beer and food operation. Visit Proper yourself for some excellent brews and to support a great local business in Quakertown.

Any breweries you’d like to see us review? Let us know in the comments! For another local gem, check out our review of Lost Tavern!

Cheers!
Bethany

 

 

Flashback Friday: Day Drinking in Bruges, Belgium

DSCF1780In honor of our recent wedding anniversary (not really that recent but I needed an introduction) I would like to recount one of the best brewery/pub tour days from our honeymoon spent in France and Belgium.  On day five of our honeymoon we took the train from Lille, France to Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is an amazing little town near the North Sea in the Northwest corner of Belgium. It is known for its seemingly untouched medieval buildings, beautiful cathedrals, canals, and its historic Grote Markt.

As our train slowly rolled to a halt and we exited the station we were greeted by the long walk to the center of town. The roads were lined with picturesque homes that looked to be straight out of the 1500’s. The walk seemed to take forever as we stopped to snap so many pictures. Everything was intriguing from the doors and windows, to the street lamps, scooters and vintage European automobiles.  We wound our way through town towards the Markt with the spire of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Brugge (The Church or Our Lady Bruges) acting as a beacon.

DSCF1729 (2)

This stunning gothic spire at first just barely peaked out over a row of small homes and slowly revealed itself as we drew closer. We finally reached the cathedral and took a short tour. The Brouwerij de Halve Maan was just a few block to our south but that would be the last stop of the day after we circled around town.

On our way to the Markt we found a cute little gift shop where we bought my daughter a small ballerina statue and a bottle shop with a stunning array of Belgian, French, and German beers unrivaled by anything we have seen in the States. It was a bit early in the morning for a beer (even for us), so we unfortunately had to wait. We finally made our way to the center of town which was lined with sidewalk cafes and fashionable shops too expensive for us to patronize. The restaurants were too expensive for us also but we didn’t let that stop us from getting lunch and our first pints. We drank a lot of Leffe while we were in France and Belgium. Just about every restaurant sold it like US bars sell Budweiser. Bethany almost always drank the Blonde and I had the Brown. Both are very tasty, packed with flavor, familiar Belgian hops, malts and spices, but are also more accessible for people who haven’t drank a lot of Belgian beers. Leffe is available around here but not very widely. If you see it, give it a try and I know you will not be disappointed.

DSCF1816After lunch we continued touring the Markt, following the canals and buying Belgian chocolates at Dumon Chocolatier. At regular intervals, we stopped at a few more bars and drank a few more Leffe’s and Bethany found one of her favorite beers of the trip – the Hoegaarden Rosee. Hoegaarden has a vast array of different flavors in Belgium – far more than we have in the States. We are not typically into fruit beers but this was a refreshing wheat beer with just a hint of raspberry that maybe tasted even better knowing that it is not available in the US.

That afternoon reaffirmed a lesson that we had unfortunately learned before and that we are doomed to learn again: drinking Belgian beers for an entire day inevitably results in stupid behavior. After the Hoegaarden Rosee we found ourselves a little drunker than we expected. Of course, it was our honeymoon, we were in a foreign country, and we really didn’t care all that much that we were stumbling around this timeless, pristine, historic town like stereotypical, obnoxious Americans.

 

10464244_752773030171_4905195867255457837_n

Chouffe, Duvel, and Maredsous – oh my!

We were having too much fun to care, and when we finally circled back to that bottle shop, we grabbed two cold Belgians, popped the tops and wobbled down the street arm in arm like drunken sailors on leave. As we finished the last sips of those bottles of whatever it was we were drinking (things get a little blurry at this point in the day) we finally found our way to the south side of town and the Brouwerij De Halve Maan  whose history dates back to 1564.

10348549_752773763701_748023680031603264_nAs we entered we were greeted by a garden patio filled with tables and gleeful patrons. I absolutely don’t remember what I drank but if I know me, I had the Straffe Hendrick Qaudrupel. The next morning, I blurrily read that name on a goblet that I found in my bag which confirms my suspicion. This is a big, dark, malty, spicy beer that finishes with hints of dark fruits as most quads do. You won’t find this beer around here so you have to go to Bruges if you want to try it, but I can assure you that it is well worth the trip.

Before we left we, of course, had to ask the bartender to take our picture. He kindly obliged and we were promptly photobombed by a couple of opportunistic Belgian waiters who seemed quite adept at the art. We walked away laughing and had to run for our train which we were almost certainly going to miss. When we finally boarded and found our seats we listened to The Avett Brothers with shared earbuds. We sang through most of the train ride with what we thought were respectful, quiet voices but I am pretty sure that the whole car absolutely hated us, our drunkenness, and our terrible voices.

Best day ever.

Cheers!
Mike

Lost Tavern Brewing Company

img_7005

“Baby Stout” – my adorable 5 oz pour

As you may have surmised from our last post, Mike and I recently bought a home in Hellertown, PA. Home ownership has been incredibly rewarding thus far, and we really thought that our new life in Hellertown couldn’t be better. Little did we know that our newfound passion for nesting was, in fact, missing something. What was it missing, you ask? A local craft brewery in walking distance, obviously.

We then truly hit the jackpot when Lost Tavern opened their doors on Main Street in Hellertown only a few weeks after we signed mortgage papers. It is quite literally around the corner from our home – the walk is just long enough to help you justify that extra pint of Seeker IPA (I’ll burn it off on the way back!) but just short enough to be doable in nice weather.

The decor of the brewery is fantastic – it has an industrial-yet-cozy feel with both indoor and outdoor seating and a wide open front door. The Bethlehem area is steeped in steel history, making industrial decor particularly trendy around here.

img_6820

So shiny and new!

This brand new brewery was founded by four men who are ever-present on the brewery floor. The owners are well-informed, warm, and clearly beer geeks who are often found chatting with customers and running the taps with their bar staff. You might even catch one of the owner’s precocious sons scurrying around if you’re lucky. The brewery name has an interesting history in itself; Dutch settlers would typically establish a tavern as one of the initial community hubs in our local area, though Hellertown’s first tavern has been lost in history.

While Lost Tavern is not planning to serve food themselves, they have taken the initiative to bring in food trucks as well as connect with a local Italian restaurant to provide guests with food options. Mike and I were lucky to be there when Old Pappy’s BBQ was serving up pulled pork sandwiches and wursts – it was an excellent pairing with Lost Tavern’s beer offerings. They are also featuring live music and are actively involved in our local community. You really can’t beat it.

img_7004

Beers come in many sizes – perfection!

They have an impressive beer selection for their initial offering. On tap so far has been The Seeker (IPA), Double Seeker (You guessed it – double IPA), Edgewick Ale (English-Style Pale Ale), Grace (American Wheat), Oddfellow (Saison), Silent Partner (Oatmeal Stout), and Cider (American Hard Cider). We sampled all of the beers and were impressed by their drinkability and unique flavor profiles, especially for a first offering. The Double Seeker was a big standout – it packs a strong hoppy hit with plenty of richness and body to back it up. The Edgewick Ale stood out from other pale ales due to a sweet, almost caramel maltiness paired with a mild hoppy bite. Grace is a light-drinking summery beer that is perfect for their patio. I was also excited for the Cider as it’s made with apples from one of our favorite local orchards, Bechdolt’s, which is only 3 miles from Lost Tavern. I haven’t been a big hard cider fan in the past due to their typical dry and almost effervescent mouthfeel, but Lost Tavern’s cider was very flavorful and juicy. I also have to pay homage to whomever photographed their beer for their website – you really should check it out there rather than looking at my sub-par pictures.

We are stoked to have this gem right in our community and can’t wait to see what they have in store next. Support your local breweries!

Cheers!
Bethany