Samuel Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary

posted on November 14, 2012 at 11:05 pm by Ken Valley in Beer Reviews,Craft Beer

Utopias 10th Anniversary

Utopias 10th Anniversary

This past weekend, I had a unique opportunity.  A friend of mine had the chance to buy a bottle of the 10th Anniversary Samuel Adams Utopias.  Before the beer is complete, it undergoes quite a bit of a process; in addition to the standard beer ingredients there are also several sugars added (i.e. maple syrup).  There is then a long fermentation time, utilizing several yeast strains, finishing with champagne yeast since it can handle the higher alcohol content.  After it is done fermenting, it clocks in at a whopping 29% ABV.  It is then aged in casks that previously held bourbon, rum, tawny port and ruby port.

All of this equals a very complex beer.  There were three of us who tried it, and each of us has different experiences.  One tasted a smoky maple flavor, another tasted a sweet vanilla and maple flavor.  For some reason, I tasted a bit of banana flavor, with a lot of strong vanilla hints.  It was very alcoholic, reminded me of a whiskey, and burned all the way into the stomach.  It was definitely not for the faint of heart, but for a beer lover like myself, it was great.

Have you tried Utopias?  What did you think?

Iowa City Brewfest 2012

posted on October 22, 2012 at 10:25 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

Brewfest 2012!

Brewfest 2012!

It’s been a couple of weeks since Iowa City Brewfest, 2012, and I’ve had some time to reflect on the event.

With the “Brewmaster” ticket, we were able to enter an hour early, and many brewers had special or limited release beers.  Some of the more memorable ones included:

Overall, I was impressed with the high quality of the unique beers, but a bit disappointed by the low number of special beers.  For example, in the past, New Belgium and Boulevard brought beers either not yet available or a special barrel-aged beer, but this year both brought their widely available beers, from their Lips of Faith (New Belgium) and Smokestack Series (Boulevard).

Overall, it was a very good experience, but with the “Brewmaster” ticket, which has been very valuable in years past, it wasn’t quite as memorable.  My only hope is that the larger breweries recognize what a great beer hotspot Iowa City is, and start saving some of those memorable beers for us!

Did you go to the Iowa City Brewfest 2012?  What was your take?

Iowa City Brewfest 2012 is Saturday

posted on October 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

Welcome to Brewfest!

Welcome to Brewfest!

Just a reminder that the 2012 Iowa City Northside Octoberfest / Brewfest is this weekend, with the Brewfest on Saturday.

It looks to be an exciting year, since the number of Iowa breweries has grown in the last year, as well as a few new out-of-state breweries (Schlafly, Founders, Tallgrass Brewing, and Green Flash to name a few), not to mention the new Backpocket Brewery in Coralville.

The most recent addition to Iowa’s shelves is Stone Brewing out of Escondido, California.

Hope to see you there!

An Evening with the Basic Brewing Guys

posted on September 7, 2012 at 10:36 am by Ken Valley in Craft Beer,Homebrewing

Basic Brewing Guys

Hanging with the Basic Brewing Guys - (from left to right) Steve, me, Andy, James

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Northwest Arkansas.  While there, I had the privilege to meet up and hang out with the guys from Basic Brewing, my favorite brewing podcast and video podcast.  You may remember last year I had a chance to chat with the guys about the spontaneous homebrew I had made.

To begin the evening, we met up at Tanglewood Branch, where I had a chance to finally meet James, Steve, and Andy in-person.  While at the pub, I had a chance to try the porter made by the owner/brewmaster, J.T. Wampler.  After we finished our beers, we decided to head over to the Fayetteville square and enjoy some pizza from Tiny Tim’s Pizza and West Mountain Brewing Company.

West Mountain was a quaint restaurant that had been a pizza place for some time, but just began brewing at the end of 2011.  While there, as we were enjoying the pizza, I tried the Rye Pale Ale and the West Mountain Saison, with the saison being my favorite of the two.

After we had finished our meal, Steve decided to call it an evening, but James, Andy, and I went back to Andy’s home.  James had brought a few of the beers he had purchased while at the Great Taste of the Midwest the previous weekend in Wisconsin.  Additionally, I also wanted to see Andy’s automated brewing setup he had (along with the barrel he had just purchased; see the Basic Brewing Radio archives for more info).  While checking out the brewing setup, we split the Berliner Weiss James had just made (7/26/2012 episode of Basic Brewing Radio), along with a couple of New Glarus beers – the Thumbprint Saison and the R & D Sour Ale.  After a while, we realized it had gotten late, and we decided to call it a night.

Over the course of the evening, I had a chance to sample some great beers and enjoy great company.  I hope the next time I get a chance to visit Fayetteville the guys are available again, so we can have another great time.

Blue Tarp Brewing Co. in Decatur, GA

posted on August 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

Blue Tarp Brewing Co.

Blue Tarp Brewing Co.

A week or so ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Stahl, co-owner and head brewer of the soon-to-be brand-new Blue Tarp Brewing, located in Decatur, Georgia.

Over the course of about 90 minutes, Tom took me around the warehouse space that will be one of Decatur’s first production breweries.  In fact, Tom mentioned they helped change the law in Decatur to allow breweries.  At the time I took the tour, most of the equipment had been purchased or built, and construction was almost complete.

Tom mentioned the brewery plans on releasing two beers at launch, an IPA and a red, but I believe the names were still not finalized.  At launch, the beers will be on draft locally, with the plan to expand to a canning line in the near future.

When asked about the name of the brewery, “Blue Tarp”, Tom reminisced about when he and his good friend, also named Tom, first homebrewed, it was a rainy day.  Since they were using a propane burner outside, to protect the new brew from the elements, they decided to put up a blue tarp.  About halfway into the brew session, one of the brewers noticed a warning tag on the tarp that said “EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE, Do Not Place Near Open Flame”.  By that time, it was too late to take it down, and, luckily, the brew day ended without incident.  As an homage to that first day, Blue Tarp Brewing was born.

During the tour, Tom’s passion for great beer shined through, and I wish him a lot of luck with the new brewery.

Let us know if you get a chance to try some of Blue Tarp’s offerings when the y become available!

Backpocket Brewing Opens in Coralville this Week

posted on June 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

Backpocket Brewery Tour

Backpocket Brewery Tour

The time has finally arrived!  The new Coralville Backpocket Brewery will be opening this week.  There are pre-registered soft openings Tuesday through Thursday, leading up to the public opening this Friday, June 8.

We plan on making it sometime this weekend, so hope to see you then!

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