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Hats Off to Magic Hat

Last week we hosted a tasting showcasing the wonderful beers of Magic Hat Brewing Company.  Magic Hat representative, Jessie Morris enthusiastically discussed the seasonal releases and brewing techniques of the off-the-wall company located in Burlington, Vermont. Magic Hat is unique in the sense that they like to keep things interesting, releasing beers that are never again to be recreated. Once they are out, that’s it, that beer will never be made again. I don’t know about you, but that makes for a great incentive to drink some Magic Hat and try something new. Magic Hat prefers to go against the flow, basically doing the complete opposite that the masses are doing. None of their beers fit into a formulated style category and that’s what sets them apart.

Their summer variety pack sampler consists of the staple not-quiet-pale-ale #9, but the other three always rotate, coming and going with the changing of the seasons. This summer brings about Blind Faith, a balanced IPA with a medium hop character; Wacko, the summer seasonal brew, made with beet sugar which gives it a lovely pinkish tint; and their Odd Notion which changes each season. This summer the Odd Notion is a “wild ginger ale” made with ginger root and Belgian yeast. The Summer ’10 Odd Notion is crisp, refreshing and full flavored. I’m am definitely sad to see this one go!

The summer pack is on its way out, but here comes the fall selection. Last Wednesday we were lucky enough to be some of the first to sample Hex, the fall seasonal. Hex had never been tasted before – other than the brewers in Burlington. The beer was delivered to our distributors at 4am and we were sipping on it our tasting by 5:30 pm. Hex is an Ourtoberfest, a German Oktoberfest style beer, made with ale yeast instead of lager yeast. Amber in color with hints of toffee and caramel. Toasted malts give a smoky finish. While I am sad to see the Odd Notion Wild Ginger Ale go, Hex duly steps up to the plate.

You can find Magic Hat beers, including plenty of the new fall seasonal Hex, at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples, FL or at http://www.decantedwines.com

Our next beer tasting will showcase Southern Tier Brewing Company’s collection. September 16th, 2010 $5 per person.

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Green Beer – Not Just For St. Patrick’s Day

Anderson Valley Brewing Company; a solar powered, environmentally friendly brewery in Mendocino, California. Many have the perception that a “green” business equals pricey products. But with more and more businesses hopping on the green wagon, that doesn’t seem to be the case, especially in California, where they know how to be environmentally-friendly and affordable at the same time.

Anderson Valley is using their PV solar panels to cover 40% of their annual energy needs. While this may not seem like a lot, remember that brewing beer is not light on energy consumption. Large boilers and heat exchangers work hard to heat the wort (the mixture prior to fermentation), hold it at a boil for 1 to 2 hours, and then cool it quickly. Larger-scale breweries that are constantly making batches of beer have developed a more efficient way of heating and cooling. Pipes running side by side take the cool water as it goes into the tanks on one side and pass it by the heated wort as it exits another tank. This heats the water that is about to be boiled, and cools the wort that needs to get down to 70 degrees prior to beginning its fermenting process. As much as brewing beer has not been a green process in the past, it is refreshing to see breweries making the step. And it’s not just the hippies out in California, Coast Brewing Company out of Charleston, SC is located in a sustainable community, uses local and organic ingredients and runs their brew kettles on biodiesel.

Although breweries are finding ways to deal with the excessive energy use, water is still an issue in the less-rainy areas of the country. I find it ironic to think about the clever saying  “Save Water, Drink Beer.” It actually takes 6 to 8 gallons of water for every gallon of beer produced. If you really want to save water, just drink water. But then, what is the fun in that?

If you think that Anderson Valley is spending it’s energy trying to save energy instead of creating tasty beverages, think again. Their beers are full of flavor and made with the finest ingredients grown in the nearby Pacific Northwest. One of my favorite beers of all time is their Poleeko Gold Pale Ale. Some pale ales can be overly hoppy, or too light. This one is just right, balanced and full bodied with a slight dry citrus flavor and a crisp light finish. If you are an IPA fan, try Hop Ottin’ IPA.  This big, hoppy beer is a hop-lover’s dream. 80 IBU’s in this sucker.

So there you have it. You can be environmentally friendly and make a damn good beer at the same time. If you want to check out some of Anderson Valley’s fine brews, you can find them online at http://www.decantedwines.com or in store at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL 34108

Poleeko Gold Pale Ale $2

Boont Amber Ale $2

Hop Ottin’ IPA $2

Special: $10 six packs. Online order code BEER. Expires 7.7.10 http://www.decantedwines.com

Discovering Your Beer Personality

Hercules Double IPA by Great DivideThe new, hot alcohol trend across the U.S. has been micro-brews.  Breweries are popping up everywhere from small towns in the Rocky Mountains to city dwellings like Philadelphia.  Everyone has to try the new hometown brew and is even more excited if they discover something ‘unknown’ to their friends and fellow beer-geeks.  Here in Florida, it has been a slower process.  We are not surrounded by breweries and even have a hard time getting some of these unknown beers in the state.  But with demand increasing, a few are starting to creep in.

Beers are very similar to wines.  There are different types of styles, regions, and brewmasters.  It almost seems overwhelming when you address the number of different options that you have.  A few months back, Food & Wine published an article about the best beers for wine lovers (click here to read the full story).  We’re republishing and expanding the list for those of you who are thinking about branching into new waters and discovering your beer personality.

If you like: Riesling, Dessert Wines
Try: Cider.
Cider is typically made from apple ciders varying in alcohol percentage from 2 – 6%.  Ciders can be made sweet and fruit flavored (apple, pear, black currant) or ultra dry.  Cider is most popular in the UK, but starting to make an emergence in the states.
Explore: Ace Pear Cider ($2), Fox Barrel Black Currant ($2), Blackthorn Dry Cider ($2)

If you like: Sauvignon Blanc, Light & Dry Whites
Try: Wheat beers.
Wheat beer is brewed with a large amount of wheat and malted barley.  There are two traditional styles of wheat beer:  witbier (Belgian white beer) and weissbier (German white beer).  The flavor profiles of wheat beers can differ significantly but in general are light and crisp, slightly sour, and often a citrus flavor.
Explore: Tangerine Wheat ($1.75), Wittekerke ($1.50)

If you like: Pinot Noirs, Light Reds
Try: Full-bodied ales.
Ale is brewed from malted barley and fermented relatively quickly giving the beer a more fruit-forward, floral and full-bodied taste. Ales come in a multitude of options:  pale ale, Belgian ale, brown ale, and scotch ale are just some options.  In general, the darker the color the more hops you will taste in the beer.
Explore: Pinkus Organic Pale Ale ($4), Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale ($2), Tripel Karameliet Trappist Ale ($5)

If you like: Cabernets, Heavy Reds
Try: Porters and IPAs
A porter is a dark-colored and full flavored beer made popular in London.  Very similar to stouts, these beers can be made with pumpkin, honey, vanilla, chocolate and bourbon flavors.  IPA, or Indian Pale Ale,  is a medium to dark-colored ale characterized by a bitter, hoppy and malty flavor.  IPAs have gained popularity in the U.S. and are made in a number of small micro-brews in the west.
Explore: Old Slug Porter ($5.25), Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA ($2), Great Divide Hercules Double IPA ($3.50)