Our First Tavour Haul

img_2204As dedicated online shoppers and craft beer geeks, we couldn’t resist trying out Tavour – a site that helps you gain access to rare craft beer that you may not otherwise see in your neck of the woods. Each day, Tavour sends two notifications with featured beers that day that you can choose to add to your shipping crate. These beers vary based on your location, and they favor parts of the country that you may not often visit. We are located in Pennsylvania, and we saw a wide range of mid-west and west coast beers featured, including a number from Washington and even Alaska. The range of beer styles was impressive; everything from red ales to Belgians to triple IPAs were available. We ended up with a great selection including beers from the mid-west, west coast, and Alaska.

These were our picks:

img_2206(L to R: Oakshire Brewing Drop Bear IPA (OR; $8.99); BuckleDown Brewing Citra Clencher (IL; $4.00); Bale Breaker Bottom Cutter Imperial IPA (WA; $4.00); Anchorage Brewing Company Within Us Double IPA (AK; $6.99); Anchorage Brewing Company Pie Assassin IPA (AK; $6.50); Bale Breaker Fresh off the Farm IPA 5th Anniversary (WA; $3.50); Boxing Bear Brewing Co The Red Glove Imperial Red Ale (NM; $12.99)).

img_2673As you can see, our selection skewed more towards hoppy varieties; however, there were plenty of other styles featured in Tavour. One of our favorites of the group was the Red Glove Imperial Red from Boxing Bear. It nicely married the piney hop flavor with a light malt sweetness. It’s a gold medal winner from the GABF 2016 and well-deserved. The two varieties from Bale Breaker showcased a wide range of different hop varieties, perfect for hopheads like us. The Citra Clencher from Buckledown is the quintessential crushable summer IPA with a refreshing fruit-forward profile. Anchorage Brewing clearly has their IPA game on point; Pie Assassin offered a nice creaminess to balance the bitter and citrus notes, while Within Us gave us a hefty smack of dank and juicy hops. We also enjoyed the Drop Bear IPA which highlighted Australia’s Galaxy hop varietal; the adorable bottle art definitely didn’t hurt either. If you aren’t familiar with the dangers of drop bears, be sure to protect yourself if you are ever traveling down under.

img_2617Overall, we found that the beers were excellent, the shipping was quick and straightforward, and the selection was unrivaled. We’d recommend you giving it a shot if you are interested in finding some rare beers from other parts of the country. This program is an ideal fit for people who are open to spending a bit more for rare craft beer; while buying a case at your local beer shop of course is cheaper than using Tavour, you will not see the rare options if you only shop close by. It is free to sign up and is NOT a subscription service – you simply start a crate whenever you want. You pay for the beers as you add them to the crate and then you will be charged the flat rate once it ships ($14.90). They also have a nice referral program that can give you $10 in credits per friend referred, which goes a long way! **If you click on our referral link, you will also get a $10 credit once your first box ships.** FYI, be sure to have it shipped to an address where someone over 21 can sign for it (we used a work address).

Planning on trying Tavour, or have you tried it before? Let us know in the comments!

Cheers!

Bethany and Mike

B1rthr1ght Brew1ng Hits the Ground Running

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Something feels different in the air in the quaint, sleepy downtown of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Could it be the throngs of new faces dipping into the local businesses along the historic main roads? Town gossip about wood fired pizzas and local beer? A subtle scent of hops and malted grains in the air? Thanks to B1rthr1ght Brew1ng Company, the answer is all of the above. B1rthr1ght Brew1ng opened at 57 S. Main Street in early February 2018 after years of planning and preparation. It is the first brewery to open its doors in the town of Nazareth, and it has already taken a lead in breathing fresh air into the historic downtown. We recently visited the brewery to check out the new space, imbibe some brews, and chat with brewmaster Wayne Milford.

img_1879Wayne has an impressive resume when it comes to brewing. He has over 20 years of brewing experience under his belt, including a long stint with Dogfish Head, a tour of brewing with some heavy-hitting European breweries, and designing and establishing six different craft breweries around the country. As if that wasn’t enough, he also has a degree in Intensive Brewing Science from Vermont’s American Brewers Guild. At long last, B1rthr1ght Brew1ng represents Wayne’s time to fully embrace his knowledge and passion with a brewery of his own. Ask Wayne about his brewing technique, and his love for all things beer becomes immediately palpable. His expertise extends to all aspects of the brewing process, including harvesting, testing, and utilizing his own yeast for brewing. Although he considers himself an “IPA guy,” his brewing skills extend to many varieties of beer, ranging from lagers to sours to Belgians. img_1876The philosophy behind B1rthr1ght Brew1ng encompasses not only excellent beer, but also sustainability and contribution to the local community. Wayne and his family are now Nazareth locals; the three “1s” in the brewery name represent Wayne’s three children who were a part of the brewery from its very beginnings. Similarly, B1rthr1ght Brew1ng embraces family and community through developing the “Birthright Cycle,” which will create a symbiotic partnership with local farmers and vendors to minimize waste and maximize the grassroots community feel of the brewery and Nazareth as a whole. Tasting the local flavors through freshly brewed beer is one of the greatest parts of local craft brewing, and B1rthr1ght Brew1ng is truly capitalizing on it. Wayne is currently brewing off-site and is (im)patiently waiting for his brewing equipment to arrive at B1rthr1ght within the next five weeks or so. We can’t wait to see the Cycle fully in action.

img_1871We found ourselves in hop heaven while sampling their draft beers. We tried three varieties of IPA and a pale ale. One of our favorites was The Constable, their double IPA. This beer captured everything we love about IPAs — a bright juicy snap that quenches your thirst with a floral bitter finish, coming in at 8.4%. Endlessly quaff-able. We also loved Mosaic Mirrors, a double dry hopped double IPA at 8.2% ABV that showcases big fruity flavors, a soft, smooth mouthfeel, and a hefty dose of dry hopping with mosaic, citra, and moteuka hops. The beers all showed maturity in flavor profile and reflect Wayne’s decades of brewing experience. He spoke mysteriously of some more exciting brews to come in the near future, but for now we will have to wait and see what he has in store.

img_1880Now, on to the pizza. Oh, did we not mention the pizza? Yup, they have skilled chefs, a big open kitchen, and a wood-burning oven serving up thin crust, perfectly crispy gourmet pizzas that are top notch. We tried the “Sir Mallard Newton” (that name!) which features duck confit, figs, caramelized onion, baby arugula, balsamic, and lardons. It was stellar. You can also find some salads and sammies on the menu.

img_1878B1rthr1ght Brew1ng truly captures the spirit of craft brewing through its impeccable beers, delicious food, and commitment to the local community. Swing by for a beer (or three) and chat with any of their friendly and passionate staff to hear about it for yourself. Their official grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting will be Wednesday, April 18th from 5-7pm. Congratulations to Wayne and his team on this new adventure!

Cheers,

Bethany and Mike

Bitter is Better at Trillium Brewing Company

This past weekend we traveled to Boston, MA for Bethany’s grandfather’s 90th birthday party. On our way up north, we enjoyed a great pit stop at Two Roads Brewing Co. in Connecticut. Our second pit stop before reaching our AirBnB in East Boston was Trillium Brewing Company in Canton, MA, about 20-30 minutes outside of Boston. We had heard a great deal about Trillium lately but haven’t seen much of their product down here in PA. We were excited to experience their brewery and beers and finally felt like we can be  part of the popular kids in school. Trillium is a relative newcomer to the craft beer world, having established themselves in 2013 at their original Fort Point neighborhood location in South Boston. Since then, they opened their large brewing facility and taproom in Canton, with the Fort Point location currently focused more on bottle distribution and piloting small batch beers. However, they have plans to expand the Fort Point location to include a restaurant and brewery set to open in 2018.

Upon arrival, we were impressed by the size and busyness of the Canton location. The parking lot was filled beyond capacity — we ended up parked a block away on a side street. Expecting a long wait to get our beers, we were surprised to see that we could walk right up to the bar and order straight away. We’re still not certain where they put all of those people parked outside, but we are definitely not complaining about it. The facility is divided, with the right side serving as the taproom and the left for purchases of growlers, crowlers, and beer-to-go. The building was modern with rustic elements, including old barrels for seating. It is dog friendly, so if you love bringing your pooch on your brewery visits, this is a great place to go. The brewing area is to the side of the taproom, offering a commanding presence from their huge steel tanks — it is quite an operation. They had a wide selection of beers, with the hoppy New England varieties the most prominent along with a few darker beers and some funky sour options. We tried two IPAs – the Farnsworth Street IPA and Heavy Mettle Double IPA, two pale ales – the Double Dry Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale and the Launch Beer Pale Ale, and the PM Dawn American Stout with Cold Brew Coffee. We were blown away by the hoppiness of their IPAs — incredibly full flavor and massively bitter with loads of citrus. They really pay homage to the New England hop-forward tradition! Our favorites of the hop varieties were the Farnsworth Street IPA and the Launch Beer — we found them to be well balanced and refreshing. We grabbed a four-pack of the Launch Beer to share with our family, and it was very well received. The PM Dawn stout was also delicious; the cold-press coffee was a prominent flavor and provided a refreshing change of pace from the hoppy beers. However, we’d recommend having the stout BEFORE the hoppy beers, as the bitterness of the IPAs can dampen the taste of the stout. All in all, Trillium is very hip, very hoppy, and a great place to experience true New England-style beers.

Have you been to Trillium before? Let us know in the comments! Check out our other brewery reviews here.

Cheers!

Bethany and Mike

Ella, You Had Me at Barrel-Aged Quad!

Beer release alert! Free Will Brewing Co. in Perkasie, Pennsylvania released some heavy hitters this Thanksgiving weekend – the Ella, a Belgian-style quad ale aged in apple brandy barrels, and the Ralphius, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. Ella and Ralphius are named after two of the brewers adopted dogs (awww!), and both are high gravity, barrel-aged animals with a serious kick. We didn’t want to spend our Saturday night on the floor, so we went for Ella tonight and will spend some time with Ralphius tomorrow.

When I saw that Ella was a Belgian style quad I started to get excited. However, when I saw it was barrel aged for one year in apple brandy casks and weighed in at 14.9% ABV, time stood still. To be fair, I haven’t met a barrel-aged quad that I didn’t like, but I must say that this beer is truly impressive. I expected an overwhelmingly alcohol-forward character with that high of an ABV, but the Ella’s complex and rich flavors play out much smoother than expected.

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Upon opening, the beer releases a very distinct nose of sweet Marsala wine and toffee. The first sip is smooth, decadent, and crisply carbonated. There is a hint of apple in the finish but mostly big roasty caramel flavors paired with sweet and earthy fig and raisin. This is a complex, well crafted beer that will go straight to your head. We can’t be alone in our assessment — this beer won gold in 2015 and bronze in 2016 at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (say what?! A trip to Chicago might be in order!).

Free Will is selling Ella and Ralphius in big 750ml bottles so get yours while you can (and find a friend to share it with….or not). Keep an eye out for our post tomorrow on the Ralphius. To see our other beer reviews, visit In Our Fridge.

Cheers!

Mike and Bethany

Two Pints Takes the Road Less Traveled

img_0542This past weekend we found ourselves trekking up to New England once again, though this time heading to Boston for the weekend to celebrate Bethany’s grandfather’s 90th (!) birthday. It wouldn’t be a Two Pints trip without a smattering of brewery visits interspersed with family time. One of our favorite past times is seeking out local breweries in areas we pass through on our way to our various destinations — it helps break up long drives and gives us an opportunity to visit breweries we may not otherwise get to see. We were excited to see that Two Roads Brewing Co, located in Stratford, CT, was just a few minutes off Route 95 north, about a third of the way through the state and just under three hours from the Lehigh Valley. Looking back over our extensive Instagram collection, we were surprised by how many Two Roads beers we have enjoyed and shared – they have been consistently solid with top-notch flavors.

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The brewery itself did not disappoint! It is housed in the former Baird press manufacturing building which was erected in 1911. The brewery makes great use of the space, stylishly blending a modern, open-air taproom overlooking the brewing area while maintaining the historic feel of the original building. The large, rectangular bar sits in the center of the taproom with seating on all sides, surrounded by some smaller tables spaced throughout. The taproom creates a jovial inviting atmosphere perfect for enjoying their beer. Speaking of beer, we didn’t have a beer we didn’t like from the ten we sampled in our flights. We tried most of the year-round options, including their best-selling Honeyspot Road IPA, Worker’s Comp Saison, Road2Ruin Double IPA, and the Nitro Espressway Cold-Brew Coffee Stout — out of this group, the Double IPA and the Coffee Stout were our favorites. It’s not east to find a perfectly balanced double IPA that doesn’t leave you feeling punched in the mouth by hops, but is bitter enough to leave you craving your next sip; however, Two Roads has absolutely mastered that art in the Road2Ruin.  The coffee stout was also a delight — strong and flavorful cold-brew taste with a clean finish, perfect for the chilly weather.  We also imbibed some of their more limited releases.  img_0540-1We were impressed by the Miles 2 Go, an unfiltered pale ale brewed using decoction mashing, an intensive multi-step mash process thought to be the best method to fully release the malt flavors. The labor paid off in this beer, as it had an incredibly full flavor of hops as well as the sweeter malt taste — it was far more complex and interesting in taste than your standard pale ale. We love our history, so it is exciting when brewers pay homage to old methods of the craft. We also sampled a pilot release beer, the Field Yield Pale Ale. This beer was brewed with fresh citrus and floral-forward hops grown and harvested from the brewery’s own hopyard. It is described as having “fresh and hoppy effervescence,” which is accurate — the freshness of the hops give it a bright, bursting, yet light bitterness with clear notes of citrus and grapefruit.

All in all, we were downright bummed to have to leave Two Roads to continue on our journey. It is a fantastic brewery to visit with a great vibe and even better beers. Excitingly, Two Roads recently broke ground on Area Two Experimental Brewing which will be built adjacent to the current brewery and will feature Brett, sour, and spirit-based beers. It is set to open in Fall of 2018, so keep an eye out for their new releases.

Stay tuned for our upcoming reviews of Trillium Brewing, Downeast Cider, and Harpoon Brewing! Check out other brewery reviews here.

Cheers!

Bethany and Mike

Local Brewers Collaborate Earlier than Planned

Eight minutes earlier, to be precise. When two of our favorite local breweries come together for a collaboration beer, we get pretty damn excited. The intrepid minds behind Bonn Place of Bethlehem and Lost Tavern of Hellertown got together and released Eight Minutes Early, a full bodied double cream ale with vanilla, cocoa, and Monocacy Creek Coffee served on traditional draft or nitro. On its own, it is rich and smooth with a strong coffee backbone brewed with the rare and difficult to find Souther Star hops from South Africa. However, this beer shines brightest when each brewery introduced their own unique twist to a cask version with variations aptly named Fire and Ice. Bonn brewed the Fire version which introduced cinnamon and cayenne peppers to finish it off. The additions really round out the beer and add some kick. The spice is subtle but builds slowly on the palate and after a couple sips you will notice a pleasing burn.

Lost Tavern brewed the Ice cask, which added spearmint and peppermint to the original brew. This one is truly unique and complex akin to a peppermint mocha coffee. You can definitely skip that piece of gum for the ride home.

To try both cask varieties, you’ll have to visit both breweries, so be sure to plan ahead. While you are at Bonn Place, also give the Nice Item Northeast Pale Ale a try. It’s a cloudy and dank pale ale loaded with hoppy goodness and represents a rare departure from Bonn’s typical English-style beers. At Lost Tavern, be sure to also check out the recently released Udderly Lost – a toasty, chocolate-forward milk stout.

Check them all out at Bonn Place and Lost Tavern and let us know what you think! It’s always a blast to have a beer and chat with Sam from Bonn and Tony of Lost Tavern. And don’t forget – it’s BYO pink flamingo at Bonn Place, so follow the flamingo link to find the cheesiest lawn ornament to add to Sam’s burgeoning collection.


Check out our other posts featuring our favorite local (and not so local) breweries here!

Cheers,

Mike and Bethany

Adventures in Homebrewing: Getting Started

After years of drinking, researching, photographing, writing, and obsessing about craft beer, we have finally decided to brew some beer of our own. Looking back, we aren’t quite sure why it took us so long to take a stab at homebrewing. I remember some vague concerns about it being too sciencey, too expensive, too time-consuming, and a high chance of having to pretend to like 48 bottles of sub-par beer that we spent weeks brewing, all the while secretly wishing we had just bought some quality beer made by actual professionals. Despite our early hesitations, we somewhat impulsively decided to homebrew on a random Friday evening.

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Citra hop pellets

We made a quick trip to our local homebrewing store — Keystone Homebrew Supply — located in south Bethlehem, PA. For out of town readers, they also have a great online shop! The staff were incredibly helpful (and patient) with getting us set up with a starter kit, which included fermenting and bottling buckets, sanitizing powder, airlock, bottle capper, bottle caps, siphon, hydrometer, and bottle brush. At $65, it is a great set to get you going with the basics of homebrewing. We also picked up some liquid sanitizer, a couple cases of bottles, and our first ingredient kit. There are a few different complexity levels when it comes to homebrewing. The most basic are all-extract kits, which eliminate the need for adding hops and grains during the brew process, instead involving water and a pre-made extract that you simply pour into your boil pot.

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Malted grains for steeping

The mid-range option is partial-extract brewing, which uses extract with the addition of fresh grains and hops, often providing a better flavor but with a bit more effort than the full-extract version. The most complex form of homebrewing is all-grain brewing, during which you don’t use any extract and make the beer entirely from scratch. Typically, all-grain brews have the best (and most versatile) flavor profile and are definitely cheaper than extract brewing, though they require a bit more effort and knowledge.

For our first brew, we grabbed one of Keystone’s partial-extract kits for a citra pale ale. It came with a set of straightforward directions and all the needed ingredients. They set us up with the fresh grains and hops, and a malt extract was included in the kit. Overall, the brewing process went smoothly, and before long our 5 gallons of pale ale was happily fermenting in the basement. img_0320A week or two later, we bottled our first batch. Homebrews need time to further condition in the bottle prior to drinking to build up carbonation. After a long week of anticipation, we finally were able to drink our first homebrewed beer – the Perkwiler Pale Ale. We were pleasantly surprised with how it turned out — the hops gave it a nicely bright and bitter bite, and it had a clean finish. We wished it had a bit more fullness to the flavor profile — something that all-grain brewing will likely improve upon.

Since this first batch, we have continued to stick with partial-extract brewing as we continue to learn and tweak our methods. So far, we have also brewed a Belgian quadrupel, which is fermenting for a few more weeks as Belgians tend to have a longer fermentation period due to their higher sugar content. Most recently, we brewed and bottled a milk stout; it was supposed to be ready to drink this weekend but the low temperatures in the garage seems to have delayed the bottle conditioning. We’re giving that one a bit more time to build up carbonation before we try it out. We are also working on an experimental growler of wassail using our homebrewed pale ale with brown sugar and spices. It might be delicious, but it also might be terrible — that’s the fun of homebrewing!

On the whole, it has been incredibly fun and rewarding to practice homebrewing. It is an unreal feeling to get a buzz going from beer brewed in your own kitchen. As long as you’re up for a little bit of science-ing and with an open mind for experimentation, it can be an awesome hobby to pick up (and your family and friends will love you for it — if you end up sharing!). Here are some takeaways from our early forays into homebrewing:

  1. Your homebrew is only as good as your attention to the sanitation process — that is by far the most important part of brewing beer.
  2. Make sure you have a good thermometer to keep an eye on your boiling pot and the temperature of your mash.
  3. Throw some metal serving utensils in the freezer before you start. If your boil pot looks like it might end up boiling over, chuck a frozen spoon into the pot to quickly cool it down.
  4. Don’t forget to activate your yeast an hour or so before you start brewing so that it is ready to rock by the time it goes in.
  5. There are some extra homebrewing toys that are not huge investments but make your life a lot easier. We recommend a glass carboy secondary fermenter (helps a great deal with clarifying your beer), some extra airlocks (they can break pretty easily), a bottle drying tree, and a bottle washer. Find links to some of our picks below.