Monday, November 30, 2020

A Few of Owen's Favorite Craft Beer Spots

Look below for a few of Owen Ogletree's absolute favorite places in the world to enjoy craft beer. If you love beer and travel, make a note of these bucket list spots...

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Back in 1991, when I first saw beer writer Michael Jackson's Discovery Channel special that features this Amsterdam brewpub, I knew I had to visit. I still feel excited each time I see the statuesque windmill and walk through the doors to the taproom. Started in 1985 by a famous Dutch folk musician who loved chemistry and brewing, the place was once a bathhouse with water pressure powered by the adjacent windmill. The name 't IJ comes from the river that runs just outside, but the name also sounds like "egg" in Dutch, thus the ostrich egg on the logos. Expect Belgian-styled beers like a Wit, Dubbel, Tripel and strong ales, with modern additions like IPAs, red ales and Bocks served alongside munchies such as nuts, dried sausages, and Dutch cheese cubes sprinkled with celery salt. The place is a brisk hike from central Amsterdam but well worth the steps. Taster beer flights are available, and a second taproom has opened in the Vondelpark area of the city.

Escondido, California, USA
Stone Brewing has been creating exceptional craft beers for years, and there's no better place to enjoy them than the breathtaking
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Escondido
. The complex includes a massive bar area with a glass wall looking into the main brewery. Trees, boulders, wooden tables and a water feature surround the central bar where the draft selection includes 36 taps, and the food menu is loaded with local, organic, farm-sourced cuisine. Step out into the beer garden area for more seating, a tranquil pond, boulder landscaping and a short nature trail. Leashed dogs are welcome in the one-acre beer garden. A second location exists in the form of
Stone World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station
in San Diego. Both are "must-see" spots when visiting the area. The blurry photo occurred when Greg Koch, Stone Brewing's co-owner, grabbed our camera for a group selfie when we visited him back in 2010.

Bamberg, Germany
Historic Bamberg ranks as one of the most scenic and iconic locales in all of Germany, and there's no better place to sip a bit of the city's history than the renowned
smoked beer brewery tavern in the heart of old town. Over the years, I've taken more than a hundred friends to Sclenkerla - many of which thought they wouldn't like smoked beer (Rauchbier). Every single protester left Schlenkerla with a new love and appreciation of this classic lager style. Having the beer fresh from the brewery makes all the difference. Expect a dark Marzen-style brew made with malt that is smoked over a beechwood fire. The beer is served by gravity tap from wooden barrels hoisted to the top of the bar. The brewery also produces specialty smoked variations made with wheat, oak, and a high gravity malt bill. There's even a golden lager that picks up a smoked note simply from repitching the Rauchbier yeast and running the wort and beer through the brewery's smoky lines and hoses. The tavern houses several historic dining rooms, a central courtyard and a swag booth selling glassware, tin tackers, apparel and more. The pub opens at 9:30 am to allow loyal patrons to stop in for sausages, bread and a glass of Rauchbier on the way to work. Hearty Franconian menu items include crispy pork knuckle, bratwurst, beef brisket, and Bamberg-style onions with pork and smoked beer sauce. Owner
Matthias Trum
is a wonderful friend of mine who has worked hard to preserve the history and charm of Schlenkerla.

Decatur, Georgia, USA
1997 saw the American craft beer movement just starting to take hold. Three buddies from Athens, Georgia (Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore) had decided to open a specialty beer pub in a slightly run-down spot in downtown Decatur, and many people thought the three guys were crazy. It didn't take long for the
Brick Store Pub
to bring new life to the area and become established as one of the country's best craft beer destinations. The front door leads into the atmospheric and welcoming main bar that's loaded with delectable craft beers, while the stairs to the left of the bar take patrons to the gorgeous upstairs Belgian Bar that pours an exceptional range of hand-picked Belgian beers from taps and bottles. Across from the Belgian Bar, check out the pub's beer vault that stores prized, vintage brews in a climate-controlled environment. The kitchen rolls out a satisfying range of tasty pub grub to enjoy alongside your beer, and Brick Store recently expanded the outdoor seating space to the rear of the pub.

Brugge, Belgium
t Brugs Beertje
ranks as the best beer bar in the scenic, medieval town of Bruges. With over 300 Belgian beers and five taps, this cozy "brown cafe" features walls covered in antique beer tin tackers and memorabilia. My friend Daisy Claeys started the pub back in 1983 and became one of Belgium's most active craft beer advocates before retiring in 2017 and passing the pub on to her trusted co-owner and managers. Beer writer Michael Jackson filmed portions of his 1990 Discovery Channel "Beer Hunter" series in the pub, and craft beer tourists from around the world make the pilgrimage to Beertje to soak in the classic Belgian ales and warm atmosphere. If the small front parlor is full, a spacious back seating room awaits. Check the atypical opening hours before planning a day to visit the pub. When my
Brewtopia Events LLC
tour groups visit Bruges, this pub has always been the favorite stop.

Troutdale, Oregon, USA
Located on a former farm and large poorhouse on 75 beautiful acres, this charming hotel complex is just a short ride east of Portland near the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
McMenamins Edgefield
houses 100 cozy sleeping rooms decorated with folk art depicting elderly characters who lived and died there. Stroll the grounds to visit the brewery, brewpub, winery, distillery, heated mineral pool, herb garden, nine-hole golf course, movie theater, Jerry Garcia statue and a multitude of bars scattered around the property. The delousing shed is now a gift shop. The power station is now a brewpub. The trash burning shed is now a cigar and cocktail bar. A storage cellar room has been converted into a Grateful Dead tribute bar. Tasty house-made beers include Terminator Stout, Hammerhead Ale, Ruby, Black Rabbit Porter and Sunflower IPA. If you find yourself in the Portland area, be sure to spend at least one night at Edgefield.

Aldworth, Berkshire, UK
My second favorite cask ale pub in England has to be a remote, rural pub to the west of London that was named the UK's 2020 "Pub of the Year" by the Campaign for Real Ale.
The Bell Inn Aldworth
has been in the same family for around 250 years and treasures its history, warm personality and unspoiled interior. The pub pours local cask beers from brewers such as West Berkshire Brewery, Arkell’s, Rebellion and Loose Cannon, with the simple food menu including house-made soups alongside mouth-watering crusty rolls filled with meat or cheese. The Bell is normally filled with locals who have always given me and other visiting strangers a warm welcome. The men's toilet is outdoors in a rustic shed with no roof, so guys can pee while gazing at the stars. Locals call it "the planetarium."

Amsterdam, Netherlands
I simply love Amsterdam - the canals, architecture, art, progressive culture and pubs are so appealing. Imagine an Amsterdam beer pub that only serves craft beer made by the 400+ Dutch breweries. This pub actually exists and is known as
Proeflokaal Arendsnest
. Owned by my beer expert friend Peter van der Arend, Arendsnest is tucked away on a quiet street on the edge of central Amsterdam and offers a vast selection of craft beers from the Netherlands. It's a dream for Untappd patrons who will love ticking all the rare beers on draft and in bottles and cans. The place boasts a beautiful, welcoming atmosphere and amazing sausages and cheeses from the region. If the main bar area is packed, try the downstairs seating area. Peter van der Arend is pictured behind the bar in the photo.

Pilsen (Plzeň), Czech Republic
Czech Pilsner lagers originated at the Pilsner Urquell brewery in the mid-1800s, and even after all the years of political and ownership change, the brewery still produces the world's greatest Czech Premium Pale Lager. No true craft beer lover should miss the
Pilsner Urquell
tour that takes participants across the historic brewery campus and into three brewhouses from different centuries. The culmination of the visit is a tasting of unfiltered Pilsner Urquell beer in the icy, historic cellars. While most of the lager is now fermented in massive stainless steel tanks, the tour beer is fermented and matured in old, traditional, wooden vessels. This exceptional beer offers a huge depth of complexity from Moravian malt, spicy Czech Saaz hops and light notes of buttered toast from the malt and fermentation. Most pubs in Pilsen serve wonderfully fresh Pilsner Urquell alongside hearty Czech cuisine.

Mills River, North Carolina
Yes, "Malt Disney World" does exist, and it's located in North Carolina. If you've made the pilgrimage to the gorgeous Sierra Nevada facility in Mills River, you know the awesome scope and appeal of the place. The brewery produces all the old favorites like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Stout, Torpedo, Hazy Little Thing and Bigfoot Barleywine, with a load of exceptional brewery exclusives thrown in for fun. Be sure to try the unfiltered Pale Ale that's made with an added dose of Cascade hops. Take a detailed guided tour or a self-guided walk along the upper-level brewery catwalk and exhibition and be sure to check out the massive back patio and amphitheater. Sample mouth-watering menu items from the kitchen and purchase sampler trays to try all the beers. There's also a gift shop with tons of swag and beer to take home. NOTE: Due to COVID, the facility is currently welcoming guests for taproom takeout, curbside pickup, virtual experiences and online orders. Dine-in, tours, gift shop and outdoor areas are closed to visitors through the end of the year.

Westvleteren, Belgium
Many people worldwide consider the Trappist beers made by the monks of Saint-Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren to be among the greatest ales ever brewed. To sample these amazing beers without paying the inflated prices of unauthorized resellers, you must visit the blissful cafe In de Vrede located just across the road from the abbey. The cafe and gift shop usually offer the Westvleteren Blond Ale, Westvleteren 8 and the extraordinary Westvleteren 12, served alongside sandwiches and small plates made from the abbey's own cheese. With an impressive complexity in aroma, flavor and mouthfeel, Westvleteren 12 is genuinely heavenly. A visit to this peaceful corner of Flanders makes for one of the greatest craft beer pilgrimages on the planet.

Aying, Germany
Just a 30-minute drive south of Munich brings you to the
Ayinger Privatbrauerei
, Aying Brewery Guesthouse Hotel and the brewery's wonderful
Ayinger Bräustüberl
beer hall restaurant. The hotel and beer hall are positioned across the street from each other in the center of the tiny, picturesque village of Aying, while the brewery is located just down the quiet road. In my opinion, Ayinger brews the greatest traditional beers in all of Germany, and the welcoming Bräustüberl makes the ideal place to enjoy the beers alongside a dish of hearty Bavarian fare. Beers include an exceptional Helles, Pilsner, Dunkel, wheat beer, malty Jahrhundert Bier and the amazing Celebrator Doppelbock. Sit inside to soak in the old-school Bavarian decor or grab a bench in the cozy beer garden. The hotel offers a more upscale restaurant and a variety of beautiful sleeping rooms.

Wellington, New Zealand
My Kiwi buddy
Kelly Ryan
made outstanding beers for Thornbridge Brewery in the UK, and when this brewing rock star moved home to New Zealand, I knew I had to visit him at his current brewpub gig -
Fork and Brewer
. When
Kerri Allen
and I spent an afternoon with Kelly, we were blown away by the flavors, technical merit and creativity of his 30+ house beers. My favorite was an authentic Burton-style ale called "Burton Ernie." Fork & Brewer sits in the heart of "windy Wellington," and the friendly, cozy spot produces some of the best beer in the Southern Hemisphere. The pizza and pub grub menus are also exceptional. If you are lucky enough to visit, plan to stay for at least five hours, then take a taxi back to your hotel for a nap.

Appletreewick, Yorkshire Dales, UK
If you know me, you know that I love authentic cask ales in a beautiful pub in the UK. Craven Arms ranks as my favorite pub in England. Yorkshireman David Aynesworth and his son Robert bought a rundown pub on the side of a hill in the lovely Yorkshire Dales, removed the linoleum floors, fluorescent lights and 1970s wallpaper, taking the pub back to its 19th-century roots by installing stone floors, a rock fireplace, gas lights and historic decor. In 2006, Robert even built a replica of a medieval "cruck barn" behind the pub. With tree trunk trusswork, wool insulation, exterior heather roof thatch, and walls from stones found on-site, the Yorkshire Dales has not seen a new cruck barn since Henry VIII was alive and kicking. Craven Arms serves the best cask ales from the region, and the kitchen cranks out truly amazing dishes made from traditional recipes. Annual beer festivals and ferret races at the pub are popular with the locals. The group photo below was taken with David in his cask ale cellar during one of my Brewtopia group trips several years ago.

Santa Rosa, California
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the quaint and cozy town of Santa Rosa, be sure to get in line at Russian River Brewing about 30 minutes before the doors open. This extremely popular brewpub is run by Vinnie Cilurzo, a former winemaker who transitioned to craft beer in the '90s. Vinnie's Pliny the Elder has achieved cult status and was one of the handful of potent, hoppy beers that created the style of Double IPA. Along with hoppy beers, Russian River also offers a range of funky, wild, barrel-aged beers such as Damnation, Temptation and Supplication. Sandwiches, pizza and calzones are on hand to enjoy alongside the exceptional beers. Russian River ranks as one of the greatest brewpubs in the world, and the owners have opened a beautiful second location in Windsor, California, that I have yet to visit.

Brussels, Belgium
I still get chills every time I walk into Cantillon, and it's not because of the cool temperature of the brewery - it's because of the exceptional beer and atmosphere. This family brewery is also a historic museum, offering self-guided and expert-led walk-throughs, followed by a tasting of the brewery's flagship Lambics that offer a huge depth of complexity and pleasant acidity from wild fermentation and multi-year barrel-aging. After enjoying your tour samples, hang around in one of the two tasting parlors to purchase and sip bottles of some of Cantillon's rare fruited versions and specialty Lambics that are always on rotation. When sitting in the tasting area next to the old wood-burning stove, you'll feel as if you stepped back in time 100 years as you savor an ancient style of ale. A gift counter sells t-shirts, souvenirs and bottles of Lambic to take home.

Dusseldorf, Germany
Just like the citizens of Cologne (Köln) Germany love golden Kölsch ale, folks who live a few miles away in Düsseldorf are fiercely loyal to Altbier. Amber to copper in color, Altbier is a historic German ale style that used to be consumed all around the region, until pale lagers became popular. Moderate malt richness is balanced by German hops, with some Altbiers ending sweeter, and others offering a more hoppy, bitter finish (like
- my favorite). Like Kölsch, many Altbiers enjoy a cold lagering period that reduces fruity esters to low levels. Altbier offers 4.3–5.5% alcohol, a crisp, grainy malt character and a medium body. It's so enjoyable to wander the streets of Düsseldorf, visit all the Altbier taverns, drink lots of beer out of small glasses, and compare the flavor nuances of different breweries. The Uerige brewery tavern ranks as my favorite place in Dusseldorf to enjoy flavorful Altbier and hearty German cuisine in a traditional setting.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Georgia Beer Reviews - August 2020


- New Beer Reviews
Remember to grab some take-home beer from your local craft breweries and craft beer stores. These businesses need your support right now! Look below for a few Georgia beers (and a mead) that Owen has enjoyed in the last couple of weeks...
Steady Hand Beer Company
Future Mind Porter
This dry, delicious American Porter offers notes of dark chocolate, bitter cocoa, coffee, light hops and a wonderful roasted malt character. During the current fad of pastry stouts, it was great to enjoy a well-made dark beer that's not too sweet. This beer would pair well with blackened meats or vanilla custard. 
Schoolhouse Brewing
She Wore a Raspberry Sorbet
This raspberry fruited Berliner Weisse from Marietta's new Schoolhouse Brewing glows with a gorgeous raspberry hue and tastes of wheat, fruit and a balanced note of lactic acid for sourness. Try it alongside chicken tacos with cilantro and pico de gallo. With a tart, fruity drink this good, who needs a margarita?
Monday Night Brewing
Cardigans of the Galaxy
Definitely one of the best Double IPAs I've tasted in some time, this 9.5% ABV beast packs a big wallop of aroma and flavoring hops, but the wonderful finishing bitterness makes this IPA stand out. Generous additions of Columbus, Mandarina Bavaria, Simcoe, Citra, Ekuanot, Mosiac, Comet and Galaxy contribute to this hoppy masterpiece. 
Wild Heaven Beer
Fig Branca
This dark, creamy, 10% ABV, sweet stout brewed with lactose, cocoa nibs, and Fernet-marinated figs goes down smoothly with lingering notes of chocolate, spice and alcohol warmth. If you love complex, chewy stouts, this is the beer for you. Enjoy it with vanilla cheesecake or peach cobbler. 
Wild Heaven Beer
Fauci Summer
Be sure to also try Wild Heaven's Berliner Weisse that's fruited with pomegranate, black cherries and lemon verbena. At only 3.5% ABV, this delightfully tart ale packs an impressive mouthful of complex fruit and herbal character. It's perfect for summer. 
Southern Brewing Company
Double Fog Machine Hazy DIPA
SBC's new Double IPA is filled with luscious malt, oat and cereal notes that are enhanced by intense, tropical fruit and pineapple character from the blend of appealing, aromatic hops. This 8.5% IPA goes down deceptively smooth and would make an excellent accompaniment to grilled seafood. 
Monks Meadery
Dragon's Nectar 
The guys at Monk's Meadery are masters at creating lower alcohol honey wines that still offer fantastic complexity. This 6% ABV mead contains additions of passion fruit, hibiscus and dragon fruit for a symphony of herbal, spicy, fruity notes that highlight the delicious honey backbone. 
NoFo Brew Company
Reizen Belgian Blonde
NoFo stands for "North Forsyth" county, and this new brewery's spacious and attractive tasting room in Cumming pours a range of delightful classic styles, with a few trendy beers thrown in for fun. Reizen Belgian Blonde Ale is made with Pilsner and Vienna malts, Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Saaz hops, and a spicy Belgian yeast strain for a truly authentic taste experience. 
NoFo Brew Company
Rhine River Doppelbock
You guys know that I love malty Doppelbock lagers, and NoFo simply nailed this 7.8% ABV example. Expect a beautiful brown hue with flavor notes of toffee, dark bread crust, toast and hints of dark fruit complexity. This tasty brew goes well with mushroom pizza and mole enchiladas. 
Akademia Brewing
Helles Lager
Akademia took my taste buds back to Munich when I sipped their delightful new Helles. This golden lager is made from German malts and hops and shines with a brilliant clarity, honey-like malt note and floral, spicy noble hops. Lagers don't come much better than this one. Enjoy it alongside warm pretzels with spicy mustard and grilled beer brats. 
Twain's Brewpub & Billiards
Germantown Pils
This extraordinary German-style Pilsner is one of the best I've ever savored. Twain's talented brewer Mike Castagno did an amazing job in creating a smooth, clean, technically-accurate, appealing lager with elegant German malt complexity and light notes of European hops. Head to Twain's Billiards & Tap in Decatur to grab a four-pack before it's gone.
Creature Comforts Brewing
Loopulus Hazy Double IPA
This glass of hoppy, hazy heaven was brewed originally in 2017 in honor of the Brick Store Pub's 20th anniversary. I'm pleased to see it back on shelves for a limited run. With 8% ABV and a profile of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops that create notes of tropical fruits and citrus, the malty canvas of this ale offers a chewy softness from cereal grains, followed by a slightly sweet, satisfying finish. 
The Lost Druid Brewery
Hercynia Bavarian-Style Hefeweizen
This interesting German-inspired wheat beer from Avondale Estates boasts the famous clove and banana character typical to Hefeweizens, but Hercynia also includes intriguing, complex hints of a variety of cereal grains, along with spicy, fruity character from the yeast. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Bold Monk Brewing: Patience is a Virtue

Story and photos by Owen Ogletree

Originally published in Southern Brew News.
(COVID-19 UPDATE: Bold Monk has responded to the pandemic by spacing out tables inside the brewpub and setting up patio seating. The place is sanitized regularly, and employees wear masks and take all possible precautions to protect the safety of patrons.)

During construction of Atlanta's Bold Monk Brewing, co-owner/brewer John "J.R." Roberts experienced an "Apollo 13" moment when he phoned co-owner Alan LeBlanc with the faithful words "We have a problem." Bold Monk's contracted brewery system fabricators had gone into financial receivership, and Bold Monk's paid-in-full brewing system was stuck in Canada, while the tanks were being held up in China.
What's a world-class brewpub to do without a brewery? "We were at serious risk of having to pay for a whole new system, which would have been a disaster," J.R. recalls. "We were constantly on the phone reaching out to anyone I thought could help. We finally managed to get our brew system out of Canada. With payment of a small 'ransom,' I also negotiated the release of our tanks from China. This was a seriously frustrating time, but worth it in the end."
Worth it, indeed. Since opening in late 2019, Bold Monk has quickly become one of the most popular and attractive brewpubs in the country. When a group of Belgian beer aficionados visited last month, they all told J.R. that Bold Monk was the most beautiful and appealing brewery they had ever experienced. One in the group even asked, "Why don't you come build a Bold Monk in Belgium?"
Located a few miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, Bold Monk's impressive space includes free parking, a gorgeous central bar, bright dining space, cozy back booths with a view of the open kitchen, an upstairs "library" bar, and an events-friendly "cellar room" near the brewery space that houses four beer-aging wooden foeders. J.R. and the LeBlancs spared no expense in giving Bold Monk eye-catching, European-inspired murals, art, furniture and fixtures, and designers and architects were given creative freedom to fashion unique and alluring details. A forested beer garden is even in the works for a spring opening date.

How did Bold Monk's owners become fascinated with brewpubs? Alan LeBlanc's wife Cindy is J.R.'s aunt. While J.R. was living in Boston in the early '90s, Alan and Cindy visited for Thanksgiving. J.R. was an accomplished homebrewer and loved craft beer, so he took the LeBlancs to all the brewpubs in town. "Alan and Cindy had been working in Russia and were moving back to the states in search of a business opportunity," notes J.R. "Brewpubs had a huge success rate in the early '90s, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. We decided to move back south and work together on a brewpub concept in Atlanta. Cindy and Alan knew restaurants, and I knew brewing. We thought about calling our first brewpub 'Lager's,' then Alan suggested the name 'Max Lager's.' Max Lager's Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery is still going strong in downtown Atlanta and now ranks as Georgia's oldest brewpub."
With the success of Max Lager's and sister restaurant White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, J.R. and the LeBlancs began planning a new brewpub concept. They all adore Belgian and European cuisine and beers, so the idea of Belgian-themed Bold Monk was hatched. Beer recipe ideas came from J.R.'s European beer vacations, while a plan for horizontal bladder serving tanks came to him when he was checking out similar tanks at 1516 brewpub in Vienna, Austria. The horizontal tanks above the bar at Bold Monk contain a huge plastic "bladder" bag that's filled with beer. Gas pressure on the outside of the bag pushes the beer out of the tank to the tap, and when the tank is empty, the bag gets refilled or recycled. It's an ingenious way to serve beer and keep it in top shape.
Many of Bold Monk's delicious food items were also inspired from European travel. "The recipe for our amazing fries came from a Belgian Michelin-star chef who decided to open an Antwerp fry shop - known in Belgium as a friterie," says Alan. "The place makes the best fries and sauces in Belgium, so we visited, tasted, and talked with the cooks and servers. I took detailed notes on a greasy paper fry container. Everyone made it clear to us that the French stole the idea of fries from Belgium."
Along with Bold Monk's inspired fries, patrons can choose from mouth-watering food items that include smoked brisket bitterballen, sautéed Brussel sprouts, Monk Burger, fish, steak with fries, duck with fries, pizzas, mussels and Belgian yeast waffles. "There's a Bold Monk beer to complement any of our menu items," notes Cindy. "But we are not a brewery with a side restaurant, we are a full brewpub. Our wines are all hand-picked European bottles, and we also make great cocktails.

Bold Monk doesn't seem to follow or set trends. The owners simply stick to what they know and love. "There are certain things we all hold dear," notes Alan. "The mind has a depth of data that's collected over a lifetime. Cindy and I have worked in and visited Europe for over 30 years, and J.R. has been brewing for around 30 years, so we communicate all the time and bring our ideas and strengths to the table. We've put 20 years into the brewing industry in Georgia, and we've survived and thrived due to working together and reinvesting during economic downturns."
When the LeBlancs and J.R. built White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails during the 2010 economic downturn, construction was easy because contractors were begging for work. Not so with Bold Monk. Atlanta's economy was booming, and contractors were hard-hat deep in work. "Building Bold Monk was like dragging something into existence," J.R. recalls. "Slowly making the place take shape in busy Atlanta was really challenging."
Bold Monk wants its beer to taste like beer, yet still be creative and adventurous. J.R.'s luscious list of house-made brews include the hopped-up Shared Spirit IPA, Attainment Double IPA, Stained Rose fruit farmhouse ale, foeder-aged beers, White Oak Belgian Wit, Discipline Dubbel, The Way Tripel, Brother Ivan Imperial Stout, Indominus Quadruple, and the ever-popular slow-poured Bold Monk Lager. A special tap spout and patient pouring technique make for a tall, fluffy, creamy head on the elegant lager, and the tripel offers unique flavors from the use of American hops and Orval yeast. Several excellent guest taps are also available.
Afraid of buying bottled Belgian beers at your local package store for fear of them being old and oxidized? Put those worries to rest when leaving Bold Monk with a six-pack of super fresh beers that were probably canned within a few days of going on sale.  
Neal Engleman, J.R.'s talented assistant brewer, got his start by homebrewing. Neal was into craft beer in college and lived in beer-centric Bend, Oregon for six months just when the craft beer boom was taking hold in 2008. He later moved home to Atlanta, got a job serving tables at Wrecking Bar brewpub, and slowly worked his way into Wrecking Bar's brewery. "Homebrewing is definitely not the same as commercial brewing," Neal points out. "I was amazed at the amount of science that goes into professional brewing, and I learned so much about water chemistry, physics, pressure differentials, and moving beer from place to place."
Totally impressed and excited from the first time he visited Bold Monk under construction, Neal knew this was the place for him. "I love the new equipment, and can't wait to get into wood-aging beers on a big scale," he says. "I also enjoy making Belgian-themed beers and sharing just how remarkable these beers can be. Also, our bladder tanks are amazing. Any brewpub that doesn't have them is silly."

In 2018, a Bold Monk preview beer made at Max Lager's won first place in the specialty beer category at the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting. It's quite poetic that the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting then moved to Bold Monk in January of 2020 and plans to return in 2021. Any group looking to organize an event in one of Bold Monk's variety of spaces is welcome to talk to J.R. and the LeBlancs.
Be it beer, food, coffee, wine, cocktails, events or simply a quiet space in which to relax, people come to Bold Monk for a variety of reasons. "We're often asked about our target audience," says Cindy. "Our target audience is everyone. We want everyone to love Bold Monk as much as we do."
Bold Monk possesses a true heart and spirit, and the passionate, patient owners still don't seem to be rushing things. "We will never be finished creating Bold Monk," Alan claims. "The soul of Bold Monk may be Belgian, but it's really all about the shared spirit of our staff and customers - these are the people who give life to our brewpub."

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Thomas Hardy’s Ales: 1992 – 1999 Vertical Tasting Notes

By guest columnist Flavia Costa
June 2, 2020

            The English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy loved beer, and he regularly frequented Dorchester pubs and Eldridge Pope Brewery to seek out great beers. Years after Thomas Hardy’s death, Eldridge Pope Brewery created Thomas Hardy’s Ale in his honor. At first,this 1968 beer appeared to be a celebratory one-off. However, production resumed in 1974, and the beer was brewed every year until 1999, at which point the brewery ceased production. Since then, the recipe was picked up in 2003 by O’Hanlon’s Brewery until 2008, and again picked up in 2014 by Interbrau. Thomas Hardy’s Ale celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018!

            At the time of conception, Thomas Hardy’s Ale was a BIG beer. Indeed, this 11.7% British Barleywine required significant amounts of hops and malts, a long boil, and a 9-month ageing step on sherry casks. Once released, the brewery recommended cellaring the beer for up to 25 years before opening. The cellaring process introduced complexity and produced sherry and port-like flavors that resulted in a great-tasting and highly coveted beer.

Proper beer cellaring requires no movement or agitation, no light and cool temperatures. Agitation will kick up the yeast detritus at the bottom of the bottle, adding unwanted aromas and flavors to the beer. Light will cleave hop oils, producing an unpleasant catty flavor. Warm temperatures will allow the inevitable oxidation process to go unchecked which can result in unpleasant flavors and aromas in the beer.

Oxidation happens when the oxygen and free radicals present in small quantities in the beer oxidize several compounds and molecules, altering the taste and aroma of the beer. In many beer styles, oxidation is unflattering. For example, the paper or cardboard taste resulting from oxidation of lipids and free fatty acids is especially prevalent in lighter beers. Oxidation of hop polyphenols can result in reduction of hop aroma and flavor and can be perceived as harsh or astringent. A low ABV can allow contaminating microorganisms in low quantities to take over the beer, resulting in off flavors. As such, light SRM, low ABV, and hoppy beers tend to not age well.

On the other hand, some beer styles lend themselves well to the cellaring process. For example, dark, malt-forward, high ABV beers tend to cellar well. Example styles are British Barleywines, Imperial Stouts, and Belgian Strong Dark Ales. In addition to cooler temperatures slowing down the oxidation process, the dark malts and long boils in some of these beer styles produce antioxidants, protecting the beer from excessive oxidation during the ageing process. Oxidation in these beers tends to bring out notes of dried fruits, such as figs and prunes. Barrel-aged beers will amplify the notes from the compounds leached from the oak barrel such as vanillin (vanilla). As they age, high ABV beers will mellow out in perceived booziness and increase in perceived sweetness.

This past weekend, I was very fortunate to be able to participate in a vertical tasting of Thomas Hardy’s Ales from 1992 – 1999 that were cellared until 2020. Below are tasting descriptions for each beer, including comparisons between vintages where applicable.

This beer was rusted brown in color, with a chill haze that cleared as the beer warmed resulting in a dark brown, ruby color. A light and thin head formed initially but quickly dissipated. On the nose, caramel and toffee notes were followed by a light acetic note. The beer was slightly tart. Fig, date, and cherry notes shone through the sherry and rum notes. However, these sherry and rum notes became more dominant as the beer warmed. The mouthfeel was smooth with a medium body.

Slightly lighter in color compared to the 1992, the 1993 version poured with slightly more carbonation. There was more prune and sherry on the nose, and the acetic hint that was noted in the 1992 version was absent. The aroma was matched with more prune on the palate, and a light sweetness that increased in intensity as it warmed. Roasted notes and dark malt character were also more prominent in this version.

This year’s beer was the darkest of the vertical tasting, a deeper cherry brown that was almost dark brown. The aroma was reminiscent of coffee intermingled with prune and fig notes. Upon tasting, moderate fig, prune, and stone fruit notes were detected. A slightly tart note also accompanied this beer, a bit more prominent than the 1992 beer. As it warmed, fig became more prominent, and there was a distinct brown sugar note.

This beer is technically right at the higher end of the recommended ageing process (25 years). This beer was on the darker end of the color spectrum, although not as dark as the 1994 version. The carbonation and head retention were low as well. A moderate presence of prune, sherry and stone fruit in the aroma turned into distinct pecan and light butterscotch (diacetyl) notes as it warmed, reminiscent of your grandmother’s pecan pie. The body was sweet, and there were brown sugar and toasted notes in the aftertaste.

Lighter in color compared to previous years, this beer had less of the reddish copper tones shining through. Compared to previous years, the 1996 beer had a low aroma profile that was bright. The flavor was light, with a low molasses note. The body was also light compared to previous years and became lighter as it warmed up.

Similar to the 1996 version, this beer was also lighter in color with a low aroma profile. Low prune and caramel were more present compared to the 1996 version, with a warm alcohol note. The flavor was also subdued in this version, with a toasted note and some warmth in the aftertaste. This beer had a light-medium body.

After the low and subdued flavors from the 1996 and 1997 beers, 1999 was a surprise. This version was a deeper copper brown in color, and had rich sherry, porter, and prune notes on the nose. The taste was reminiscent of a lovely port, with sweet brown sugar notes in the aftertaste. The body was fuller in mouthfeel than in the previous two years.

In summary, all of the beers in this vertical held up remarkably well in the ageing process, and each year offered a unique combination of flavors and aromas. The evolution of those aromas and flavors as the beers warmed was remarkable and contributed to the complexity of the beer. If you see Thomas Hardy’s Ales on the shelf, seemingly unnoticed next to the newest beer trends, it is well worth it to pick some up and wait patiently for the beer to reach its full potential.


This tasting was in celebration of
The Beer Wench's 50th birthday!