Category Archives: Beer

The King Is Back!

It’s my favorite time of year for beer and all because of this delicious autumn seasonal. This is fall at it’s finest. I just cannot get enough. Southern Tier Brewery of Lakewood, NY has grown to produce more than 60,000 barrels of beer annually. Founders Phineas DeMink and Allen “Skip” Yahn started the brewery in 2002. Since then, have created some of the most unique and thirst quenching beers on the market. Their dessert beer line is an especially popular choice on our shelves. Who could dream of such palate pleasers like Choklat, Creme Brulee, or Plum Noir? But the “KING” is my absolute favorite and for many reasons. Just the pure smell upon opening gives aromas of fresh pumpkin pie, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And each sip leaves you wanting another. The 22 oz. bomber is the perfect package for sharing, or like myself, selfishly enjoying alone. For the ultimate treat, pour Pumking into a tall glass with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Best beer float of your life. Hail to the “KING”!

I will take this over a pumpkin spiced latte any day.


STYLE: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 8.6%
FERMENTATION: Ale yeast, two types of malt, two types of hops, pumpkin
COLOR: Deep copper
EFFERVESCENCE: Medium carbonation
NOSE: Pumpkin, pie spices, buttery crust, vanilla, roasted pecans
FLAVOR: Malty sweetness, vanilla, clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, pie crust
BODY: Medium-light
GLASS: Goblet
AVAILABILITY: Autumn seasonal, August release / 22oz / 1/6 keg

Beer for Dessert

Southern Tier‘s stout series is simply amazing for those that appreciate chocolate, coffee, and crème brûlée,(who doesn’t?). The stout series offers seasonal releases of different beers brewed with a variety of dessert worthy flavors. They include: Choklat, Jah’va, Mokah, Oat Imperial, and Crème Brûlée which was recently released.

Brewed with the typical malts (2-row pale) and hops (columbus & horizon), the brewery also adds dark caramel malts, vanilla bean and lactose sugar to the mix to create the signature finesse and sweetness of the beer. Not only a best seller, Crème Brûlée, is also my favorite beer that Southern Tier produces…so when it arrived last week I was excited. However, not in the beer drinking mood this weekend I decided to use the beer in a dessert rather than drink it for dessert.

So here’s my extremely simplistic recipe I came up with for the beer. Please keep in mind that my sister, not I, is the cook (see her blog here) and this is about as complicated as dessert gets for me. If you want to try on your own, buy Crème Brûlée here.

Crème Brûlée Shortcake
serves 2 


  • 2 vanilla pound cake rounds (available at Fresh Market, or your local bakery)
  • Coconut Creme Gelato (can substitute for vanilla)
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Southern Tier Crème Brûlée
1. Unwrap the vanilla pound cake rounds and place on a plate
2. Scoop 1 large serving of the coconut cream gelato into the middle of the pound cake
3. Pour Crème Brûlée over the creation, using enough to create a “moat” around the cake
4. Top with chocolate syrup


Beer Review: Dogfish Head Theobroma

We were sitting at Amis in Philadelphia last weekend waiting for my sister, husband, and in-laws to join us for dinner. Grabbing a drink at the bar we thought best to order some local brews. Al spotted one of our favorite beers (not available in Florida) – Allagash White Belgian Ale – and decided on that. I spotted an unknown DFH beer (at least to me) brewed with cocoa and ancho chiles? Now I had to try that. After a sip of each beer, Al was holding the Theobroma hostage from me.

For those unfamiliar with Dogfish Head, they are the epitome of what makes craft beer great. They push the envelope, do things others wouldn’t, and are slightly crazy. But all great creations come from people that are just a little nuts. Dogfish Head got its start in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware serving microbrews and great food to summer vacationers in 1995. It wasn’t long before those vacationers craved the beer at home – mainly in the Philadelphia and DC areas. Year after year, they grew. Soon enough they were nationally recognized and distributed, their 120 minute IPA even created a phenomenon of its own. Today you can find DFH in 25 different states, although the majority of their brews stay at that Brewpub in Delaware.

Now about Theobroma…whose story may be more interesting than the beer itself. To quote the Dogfish website,

This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC.

Pretty deep for a beer, huh? Based on this discovery, Theobroma which means “food of the gods” is brewed with Aztec Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Nibs. Honey, ancho chiles and annatto (fragrant tree seeds) are added to the mix which deliver most of their flavors on the end of the palette. The beer is medium bodied with a low-hop, smooth finish. We paired this with a spicy pasta dish with jalapenos and sun-dried tomatoes. The sweetness from the cocoa balanced the spiciness of the dish on the front but didn’t overwhelm it because of the chile kick in the beer on the finish.

Overall, an interesting and complex beer and not surprisingly one of our new favorites. Want to know more? Check out this video DFH created about the beer, informative and fun!

Summer Seasonal Beer Tasting Recap

When it comes to summer beers, I want something light, crisp and thirst-quenching.  As far as seasonal releases go for micro breweries, many of them follow this suit…however there are a few that go off the beaten track.  Last night we had a tasting of over 20 new summer seasonals (and some of our regular favorites) to see who would hold the crown for best summer beer.  The results…well I’m sure you’ll be just as surprised as I was.  Below is a description of the Top 4, and later the full list of beers.

#4:  Victory Summer Love
Not surprisingly the brewers of Golden Monkey and Hop Devil hit us with another go-to brew.  They use a blend of American and German hops to achieve a floral yet citrusy flavor in the beer.  Crisp and clean and thirst quenching, just what summer needs.  Plus, hailing from the Philadelphia area…we can’t help but support this brewery…and there’s a baseball player on the label – what’s more summer than that?

#3:  Widmer Pitch Black IPA
Widmer is quickly rising to the top of the ranks for favorite breweries for us.  Although, I personally prefer the Citra Blond (I could replace my go-to Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat with it), the masses spoke and this was the clear favorite of the two Widmer’s tasted.  Although a Spring Release, it just hit the Florida market.  Black malts are used to arrive a toasty malt flavor, citrus essence, and some herbal aromas.  Smoother than most IPA’s, a truly unique style.

#2:  Brooklyn Summer Ale
After all the reviews on this brew, I was beyond excited to get it in.  What’s even better?  It came in cans.  I’m always looking for a good canned beer for the store, we’re a beach town and the beach patrol isn’t particularly friendly the glass bottles.  But when it arrived…I was shocked.  It took me straight back to my younger days with visions of Milwaukee’s Best dancing in my head….not a fond memory.  The goal of the beer was to achieve a 1940’s British Pub style ale .  Brewed from English barley malt, light golden in color with almost a bready (word?) flavor.  Oh, and it comes in bottles as well.

#1:  Breckenridge 471 Small Batch Series IPA
A double IPA as the summer beer of choice?  Well one this delicious deserves attention at any tasting – no matter the season.  The brewery describes its favored small batch beer as, “Hoppy? Brother, 471 IPA redefines hoppy.”  And that it does.  A combination of five different malts and four different hops, it will separate the men from the boys with a sweet forward flavor followed by a kick-you-in-the-mouth hoppy finish.

Full list of beers is below.  We’d also like to thank Widmer & Blue Point Brewery for donating some pint glasses.  We’re so happy about them, we’re giving them away to our customers!

Buy a 6-pack, get a free glass…online orders use code “BEERGLASS

Brew Ha-Ha:  Summer Seasonals

  • Ace Joker Cider
  • Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat
  • Cooper’s Sparkling Ale
  • Brooklyn Summer Ale
  • Breckenridge Brewery Summerbright
  • Full Sail Pale Ale
  • Bell’s Oberon Ale
  • Dogfish Head Festina Peche
  • Kalik
  • Breckenridge Brewery 471 IPA
  • Full Sail Session Lager
  • The Bruery Trade Winds
  • Lindeman’s Lambic Pomme
  • Southern Tier Raspberry Wheat
  • Blue Point Brewery Blueberry
  • Blue Point Brewery Toasted Lager
  • Widmer Citra Blond
  • Alexander Keithe Nova Scotia Brown Ale
  • Florida Avenue Brewing IPA
  • Widmer Pitch Black IPA

Beer is For Breakfast

Remember the 1980’s movie Cocktail? Brian Flanagan’s friend Doug quotes…”Beer is for breakfast, drink or be gone!” It’s one of my favorite movie lines. That’s how beer used to be. Watery, low alcohol, yellow beer (I suppose that type of beer is still on the market), that’s light enough to pour over your bowl of Cheerios. Part of your nutritious breakfast! This was before the days of high ABV craft brews. In the past decade of this craft beer revolution, the trend has been to cram as much alcohol into a pint of beer, while still retaining some sort of hop/malt balance.

Most recently however, the pendulum from the high gravity beers seems to be swinging back. More and more people are demanding session style beers, light enough to have a few pints and not fall off your bar stool, but enough ingredients to give you the complex flavor you are craving.

I love a full-bodied, full-flavored craft beer as much as the next person. But a lot of times that means high alcohol to go along with it. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always in the mood to drink to get drunk.  I have a pretty good tolerance, but for a 5’6″, 125lb female – one and a half pints of a 9% beer and I’m ramping up for a late night.

Luckily brewers are getting the hint and crafting some mighty tasty low ABV beers these days; beers that will get you through an evening at the bar with your best buddies without feeling the wrath the next morning. These beers are starting to become more accessible –  your favorite local brewery may even have a session style ale or lager. But what exactly is a session beer?

The style has actually been around since World War I, but has remained dormant until recently. As the story goes, during WWI shell production in England, workers were only allowed to have a few pints at their local watering hole during government regulated “sessions” of 11am-3pm and 7pm-11pm. Since they were shift workers and many of them were returning to work at odd hours,  they could only be served low alcohol beer in order to avoid being sauced on the job. Heavy equipment + drunk Brits is a bad combo.

Here is the official definition from Beer Advocate:

session beer
Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.

Probably the most well known session style beer theses days is (aptly named), Session Lager, by Full Sail Brewing Company. Winner of the World Beer Awards 2010 and coming in at 5.1% ABV. There are numerous other beers classified as session style as posted on the label, and still others that you might just have to classify on your own. A new summertime favorite and perfect boat beer is Cisco Brewing Sankaty Lager in both bottles and cans, at 3.8% ABV. Not specifically a “session” beer, but I am going to go ahead and classify it as one.

The hot days of summer are just around the corner. Now is the time to seek out your new favorite session beer!

Lager or Ale? What’s the Difference?

In honor of our first upcoming Brew Ha-Ha, or beer festival if you will, I thought I would dedicate a post to our most popular beer question….What’s the difference between a lager and an ale?

There are actually only two basic categories of beer:  lager and ale.   The difference lies in three main processes of the brewing that takes us a little onto the ‘beer geek’ side.

There are two different types of yeast strains – top-fermenting and bottom-fermenting.  The name is actually as simple as it sounds…top-fermenting yeast sits on top of the beer while it’s in the fermentation tank, bottom-fermenting on the bottom.  Ales use top-fermenting yeasts which rise to the top of the tank at the end of the fermentation process.  This type of yeast also adds the flavors to the Ale, which comes from chemical compounds within the yeast called “esters.”  Lagers use the second kind of yeast, bottom-fermenting, which is also able to be reused after one batch is complete.  However, this type of yeast does not add any flavor to the beer – that usually comes from hops and malts that are added in later.

The yeast used in ale prefers higher temperature for fermentation (room temperature up to 75 degrees F), the higher temperature also causes an increase in the fermentation process producing mature beer much faster than lagers.  Lagers, by contrast, ferment at a much slower pace and cooler temperatures (46 – 59 degrees F).  Back in the day, lagers were only made in cooler European climates like Germany.  The term ‘lager’ originally stems from the German word ‘lagern,’ meaning to store which helped Germans distinguish the lager process v. ale process (lagers need more time to ferment and therefore are stored during fermentation).

Other Ingredients
During the brewing process for ales, many recipes call for additional hops, malts, and other ingredients that result in a more bitter and malty taste than lagers.  Ale brewers tend to be a bit more experimental in their recipes adding flavored malts, roasted malts, coffee and even chocolate (called adjuncts in the brewing process).  Lagers are much more basic when it comes to ingredients, which may stem from the old German 1516 Beer Purity Law. It seems more lager producers follow this law trying to stay in the style of traditional German lagers.  The law was originally put in place to prevent brewers from using sub-par ingredients for a way to save some dollars.  However, it now restricts brewers (Germans in particular) to certain hops and malts to keep the crisp, clean taste of a lager.

So what does all that mean to me?
When it comes to beer, yes there are basically only two kinds:  ales and lagers.  But the amount sub categories in those two types has greatly expanded over the last few years especially with the increase of micro breweries across the world.   In general, lagers are lighter and crisper in flavor and ales have a bit more of a backbone.  But it really depends on the producer.  Best bet?  Ask your local beer professional (yours truly & our staff) about what would best match your tastes.  Or taste a lot of different styles – Pale Ales, IPAs, Stouts, etc. (like at our next beer tasting) and decide what you like on your own!..

New Definition of “Craft Brewer”

The Brewers Association has changed the definition of a “craft brewer.”

To accommodate the growing craft beer industry and those breweries that are coming close to surpassing the previous maximum on the number of barrels which constitute a craft brewer, the Brewer’s Association has changed the rules. The previous definition capped out a craft brewer at 2 million barrels per year. The new definition of a craft brewer, as of December 20, 2010, has been bumped up to 6 million barrels. To give you an idea of the quantity of beer we are talking about…1 beer barrel equals 31 gallons of beer, that’s about two kegs worth. 6 million barrels equals 12 million kegs. That’s one hell of a party.The Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams beers is staged to become the first craft brewer to surpass the 2 million barrel mark within the next few years.

Although some may not be thrilled about the idea of such a large brewery continuing to segment itself in the craft beer market, in comparison, Anheuser Busch produces over 125 million barrels per year. That’s a heck of a lot more beer than Sam Adams is making.

Nick Matt, a Board Member for the Brewer’s Association, commented on the recent change: “Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.”

As larger craft breweries such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Magic Hat and Dogfish Head continue to grow and popularity increases, expect to see more of these companies getting closer to the larger volume production that The Boston Beer Company is at. The flood gates are open, the craft beer movement is in full swing. Cheers to that.

If you would like to see the full definition of a craft brewer, visit the Brewer’s Association website

New Arrivals: 1/19/11

New beers this week, just in time for our Domestic Microbrew tasting tomorrow night, Jan 20th

Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan

From:Kiln, Mississippi

About: Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is the first beer in the world made with whole roasted pecans. The pecans are used just like grain and provide a nutty characteristic and a delightful depth to the flavor profile. This beer is very lightly hopped to allow the malty, caramel, and nutty flavors shine through. The color is dark mahogany.

Ratings: Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup, B+ Beer Advocate

Price: $2.10 12 oz

Boulder Brewing Company Singletrack Copper Ale

From: Boulder, Colorado

About: Refreshing yet full flavored, medium bodied copper ale. Not too dark, not too light…it’s just right.

Ratings: Silver Medal in the 2002 World Beer Cup and Bronze Medal in the 2004 World Beer Cup

Price: $1.75 12 oz

Bells Brewing Oberon Ale

From: Kalamazoo, Michigan

About: A wheat ale fermented with Bell’s signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer.

Ratings: B+ Beer Advocate

Price: $2.25 12 oz

Cigar City Brewing Bolita Double Nut Brown

From:Tampa, Florida

About: An imperial northern English brown ale. Huge malt flavor and aromatics.

Ratings: A- Beer Advocate

Price: $11.25 750 ml


From: Lakewood, New York

About: The Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, unfolds a complex web of mystery around a beverage known as xocoatl (ch-co-atle). At Southern Tier, we’re not surprised that hieroglyphs of the ancient Maya depict chocolate being poured for rulers and gods. Brewed with bittersweet Belgian chocolate this is the perfect dessert beer.

Ratings: A Beer Advocate

Price: $9.25 22 oz

Beer and Food Pairing: Morimoto Soba with Sushi

Looking for a great beer to pair with sushi? You are in luck. Rogue Ales out of Newport Oregon has teamed up with Chef and Restaurateur Masaharu Morimoto, best known for his appearances in Iron Chef, to develop a line of specialty beers to specifically pair with his Japanese fusion style cuisine.The beers include Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, Morimoto Soba and Morimoto Black Obi.

My personal favorite, the Morimoto Soba Ale is brewed with roasted soba, a buckwheat grain which is a staple in the Japanese diet and used to make the traditional soba noodle. Buckwheat is known for its nutritional value, being high in potassium, phosphorous, vitamin B and protein. The best part of all though, is that it  is virtually fat free!

The beer itself is light and crisp, especially for an ale, and has a slight nutty finish. When you think of the typical beers that are served with sushi, often Sapporo, Kirin and Asahi come to mind; light lagers with limited taste. While they still may be refreshing and great in their own way…the flavors of sushi, with accents of wasabi, ginger and sodium filled soy sauce tend to overpower those light beers and make pairings complicated with fuller bodied ales. Thank goodness for Chef Morimoto, Rogue Ales, and ingenuity.

Morimoto Soba Ale, $7.75

Beer TV

If you like beer and television, the new TV series “Brewmasters” is your new favorite show. Founder of Dogfish Head Brewing Company, Sam Calgione, created a TV series based on the craft beer industry, adventure and travel, as well as the trials and tribulations of everyday operations. If you are a serious beer geek like myself, you may have seen every episode already…plus all the re-runs.

In his premier episode that aired on November 21st at 10pm on The Discovery Channel, we follow Sam and his crew as they embark upon the task of creating “Bitches Brew” as a tribute to Miles Davis album of the same name’s 40th anniversary. He has a tight deadline to create a custom brew that will please palates. They bring us along as they follow daily operations where anything can happen, as well as travels across the globe to seek out new beer recipes and ingredients.

As a craft beer drinker, it’s fantastic to see someone like Sam portraying craft beer in positive light in the mainstream. It gives me hope that one day a larger percentage of Americans will opt for a craft beer over adjunct based mass produced beer when given the choice.

You can watch video clips and find a weekly schedule at