Review: Vunderbar! Pilsner, Smuttynose Brewing

Vunderbar! Pilsner
Smuttynose Brewing Co. — Portsmouth, NH

  • Style: Pilsner lager
  • Bitterness: 15 IBU
  • ABV: 5.1%
  • Malts: Pilsner and acidulated
  • Hops: Czech Saaz
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle (provided by brewery)

Description:  Made for taking a break from the Sturm und Drang of modern life, this elegantly refreshing pilsner was created with German malt balanced with the spicy tang of Czech Saaz hops. The bread and biscuit flavors of the grain are topped with the floral character of the Noble hop, which may just get you to shimmy into your favorite lederhosen, bust into a quick schuhplattler and loudly proclaim, “Das ist Vunderbar!” Prost! — Smuttynose Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  This seasonal release is available in from June - September in 6-packs and on draft. It even comes with its own theme song which you can enjoy here. I'm drinking this as part of my series on lagers.

The tasting:  Best by 10/1/13 date stamped on the bottle. Light golden in color, hazy, with a white head that dissipates fairly quickly. Aroma of grainy malt, hay, and a touch of bright lemon. Taste of bread, toasted grain, along with grassy hops. There's a light touch of malt sweetness in the middle. Alcohol is not noticeable in aroma, but mild notes are present in the taste. Overall hop bitterness is very low. Vunderbar! is light bodied and has a prickly effervescent mouth feel. It's crisp and refreshing--perfect for a summer day (that we will eventually enjoy in Oregon).

Rating: 4 star. Really Good! I want this again!   I've come full circle on Pilsner lagers. When I first started this blog, I despised them. Now, I've grown to appreciate the simple pleasures of a well made pilsner. Vunderbar! is one of them.  If you're looking for a a light, easy drinking beer to accompany you this summer, give this one a try.

Have you tasted Smuttynose's Vunderbar?

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LTD 05: Vienna-Style Lager, Full Sail

LTD 05 Vienna-Style Lager
Full Sail Brewing Co. — Hood River, OR

  • Style: Vienna Lager
  • Bitterness: 28 IBU
  • ABV: 5.6%
  • Malts: Pale, Chocolate, Caramel
  • Hops: Czech Saaz
  • Sampled: 12 oz. bottle (provided by brewery)

Description: "This copper colored lager is refreshingly smooth, with a hint of dark roast and a clean hoppy finish." — Full Sail Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  While the style originated in Europe, two common examples come from Mexico (Dos Equis and Negra Modelo). Full Sail's Vienna Lager was released in April and will be available through June. 

The tasting:  Deep reddish orange in color, crystal clear, with an off-white head that dissipates slowly. Aroma of caramel, bread, and light earthy notes. Taste is similar to the aroma, with prominent caramel and grainy malt flavors forming the backbone. In the middle, it has a touch of malt sweetness. Alcohol is not noticeable in flavor or aroma and hop bitterness is very low. LTD 05 is light-bodied and has a crisp, effervescent mouth feel. It finishes with bready and herbal notes.

Rating: 4 star. Really Good! I want this again!  I'm glad Full Sail released a Vienna lager as part of their LTD series. It's got the malty flavor of an amber ale, but is light and refreshing. Give it a try before it disappears in June, and consider saving a six-pack or two for summer!

Have you tasted Full Sail's LTD 05 Vienna-Style Lager? 

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Beer Run: Limited Release

Here's a recap of a bunch of limited release beers I've sampled during the last few months. Four of them are stouts. Stout is a wonderful style that complements a wide variety of flavors. The four I tasted integrated milk chocolate, oysters, bourbon, and coffee!

Also included is Stone's ultra-fresh Enjoy By IPA. I tasted the 2.15.13 vintage. Finally, we have a beer made with breadfruit, which is described as having a flavor similar to undercooked potatoes. Hey, who knows?  It could be the greatest thing since sliced bread!

Have you tasted any of these limited releases?  What did you think?

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Tomlimson Tap Room — Indianapolis, Indiana

While attending a convention in Indianapolis, I visited a few local watering holes. The first stop was Scotty's Brewhouse. Next, was Loughmillers's Pub & Eatery. The final stop was Tomlinson Tap Room.

Tomlinson Tap Room
222 E. Market St., Indianapolis, IN 46204
Indianapolis City Market

The Beer:
  • Taps:  16 drafts, featuring Indiana brewed craft beers.  Current taplist is updated on their Facebook page.
  • Standard Pour:  16 oz., served in a shaker glass.
  • Taster Tray:  No
  • Bottles:   No
  • Growlers: Yes.  The Thursday special is $10 fills (excluding glass).

Vibe:  Casual taproom (21+ only) located within the vintage Indianapolis City Market

Food:   Small selection of snacks, but you're welcome to bring in your own food from the nearby vendors.

Specials:  They offer great specials most days of the week (see collage below). On the Tuesday I visited, they offered three beers for $2 a pint!! 

If you're looking for Tomlinson Tap House, you won't see it from the street. It's located on the second floor of the Indianapolis City Market. The Market originally opened in 1886 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's essentially a farmer's market with a wide variety of vendors.

I started with the 388.5 (Belgian Blonde) from Sun King. It was light and refreshing, with notes of coriander and pepper.  I also ordered the Barfly IPA (on special for $2 a pint), but sadly, the keg ran dry.  Word to the wise, order the $2 beers first.

If you're in Indianapolis for a short time, and don't have much time to explore, I highly recommend you make a trip to Tomlinson's.  You'll find an excellent assortment of local craft beers and enjoy them in a unique environment! It was my favorite Indy beer stop!

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May 7, 2013 Taplist

Loughmiller's Pub and Eatery — Indianapolis, Indiana

Sandwiched between the Westin Indianapolis and Marriott (and across the street from the Indiana Convention Center), Loughmiller's provides a convenient alternative to the high priced food and limited beer choices offered by the big hotels.  

Loughmiller's Pub & Eatery
301 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204

The Beer:
  • Taps: 14 on draft (4 macro, 9 craft, 1 hard cider) with a nice selection of local beers.
  • Standard Pour: 16 oz., served in a shaker glass. Smaller 10 oz. pours are also available.
  • Taster Tray:  Yes, four 5 oz. pours.
  • Bottles:  23 selections (17 macro & 6 craft) 
  • Growlers:  No

Vibe:  Casual restaurant and pub. 

Food:  Burgers, salads, and sandwiches.

Since it was so close to my hotel, I made two visits to Loughmiller's. On my first trip, I had a Dragonfly IPA from Upland Brewery. On the second visit, I ordered a Jamaican Jerk sandwich and a taster tray. The sandwich could have used more jerk spice, but the mango salsa was freshly made and added a nice touch. The Cobb salad was highly recommended, so my colleague ordered it.  Unfortunately, it was overdressed and he couldn't finish it. I jumped at the chance to taste some local beers as part of a sampler tray. Here's what I tasted:

  • Lost River Blonde Ale, Cutters Brewing Co.
  • Half Cycle IPA, Flat 12 Brewery
  • Indiana Amber, Oaken Barrel Brewing Co.
  • Sin Bin Belgium Pale, Triton Brewery.

My favorites were the Indiana Amber and the Dragonfly IPA. I wasn't crazy about the Lost River Blonde Ale as it had a mild vegetal flavor.

If you're staying at the Westin or Marriott, or need a break during your convention seminars, take a quick walk over to Loughmiller's and grab a beer! Check out their website for more details.

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Scotty's Brewhouse — Indianapolis, Indiana

Scotty's Brewhouse has 5 locations in the state of Indiana. I visited their Downtown Indianapolis Brewhouse.

Scotty's Brewhouse
1 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46204

The Beer:
  • Taps:  I counted 27 draft beers, with a solid craft selection (21 available when I visited). 13 were from Indianapolis or surrounding cities.   
  • Standard Pour:  16 oz., served in a shaker glass with prices ranging from $4.50-$6.00 (craft).  Mugs and pitchers are also available.   
  • Taster Tray:   No.
  • Bottles:  Very heavily skewed towards macros.
  • Growlers: Yes!

Vibe:   Casual restaurant / sports bar.  Kids allowed.

Food:   Pub grub, specializing in burgers.

Specials:  Varies by day of week. Check their website for details.

Scotty's owns Thr3e Wise Men Brewery, whose beers are featured prominently. Thr3e Wise Men also has a standalone brewery and restaurant in Indianapolis. I tasted their Brown Ale called @BrewhouseBrown #Awesomesauce (I guess they're big Twitter fans) and liked it. For dinner, I ordered the quarter pound Cajun burger, which had a great spicy kick to it.

If you're into bigger meals, you can get a half pound burger. Or better yet, put on your sweatpants and order up the 32 oz. Big Ass Brewhouse Burger! Defibrillator not included.

Scotty's is a good place to sample local beers, get a burger, and watch a game. The food, beer, and service were great. It does have chain restaurant vibe, though. I don't mean that in a negative way—it just does. On a closing note, terry cloth napkins are awesome!

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Review: Double Black Stout, Redhook

Double Black Stout
Redhook Brewery — Woodinville, WA

  • Style: Stout
  • Bitterness: 40 IBU
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Malts: Not specified
  • Hops: Not specified
  • Special Ingredient:  Coffee roasted by Caffe Vita
  • Sampled: 22 oz. bottle (provided by brewery)

Description: A collaboration between Seattle craft beer pioneers Redhook and coffee pioneers Caffe Vita, Double Black Stout is a robust stout brewed with Farm Direct Caffe Vita coffee, roasted and caramel malts, and plenty of hops for a rich creamy brew." — Redhook Brewery

Random thoughts:   This limited release is part of Redhook's Blueline Series. It combines two of the Pacific Northwest's favorite beveragescoffee and beer!!! 

The tasting: Near black in aroma with a dark tan head that dissipates fairly slowly. Aroma of roasted malt, coffee, and a touch of smoke. Taste is very similar to aroma. The coffee shines through from the beginning sip. Is also has a fairly strong earthy hop bitterness that pokes through the strong roasted malt and coffee flavors. Light to medium bodied, and moderately carbonated, Double Black Stout has a slick mouth feel. The alcohol is well masked in aroma and taste. Bitterness comes from the coffee as well as the hops. It finishes with roasted malt and loads of rich coffee flavor.

Rating: 4 star. Really Good! I want this again!  Of the many coffee beers I've tasted, Double Black Stout does an excellent job of showcasing the coffee from start to finish.  I just hope this won't keep me up at night!

Have you tasted Redhook's Double Black Stout?

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Flanny's Bar and Grill — Tempe, Arizona

While traveling to the Phoenix area for work, a craft beer loving co-worker introduced me to Flanny’s.

Flanny’s Bar & Grill
1805 E. Elliott Rd #104-105, Tempe, AZ 85284

The Beer:
  • Taps:  24 rotating draft beers (2 on nitro) featuring a broad range of craft beers mainly from the west. You can see the current taplist here
  • Standard Pour:  16 oz., served in a shaker glass with prices ranging from $5-$7. High alcohol beers served in a 12 oz. glass.  
  • Taster Tray:  Six 5 oz. pours for $9.50, with an additional charge for some beers.
  • Bottles:   A nice selection of 12 oz. bottles 
  • Growlers:  Yes!

Vibe:  Casual

Food:  Pub grub, burgers, sandwiches. See full menu here.

Happy Hour:  2-6 pm everyday and all day Sunday, $1 off appetizers, draft beer, bottled beer, and house wine.

I ordered Sour in the Rye from The Bruery. I first tasted this beer when I visited The Bruery’s Tasting Room last year. It was just as good as I remembered and at the happy hour price of $5 for a 16 oz. pour, it was an absolute steal! If you like sour ales, this is one to look for. For dinner, at my friend’s recommendation, I ordered the pulled pork sandwich. Topped with two crispy onion rings, it was tangy and delicious!

I've been pretty impressed with the beer options in the greater Phoenix area. If you’re in Tempe and are looking for a great selection of craft beer and a relaxed place to hang out, be sure to check out Flanny’s.  You can learn more at their website or on Facebook.

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Mother's Day Gifts That Mom Will Love!

When you were a kid, your Mom absolutely loved the finger paintings and Popsicle stick art creations you gave her for Mother's Day. When you were a teenager, she politely smiled when she received your handicrafts. If you're 21 or older, enough already! She doesn't want your artwork anymore! After everything you've put her through, including the 72 hours of labor (without an epidural) to bring you into this world, give her some thing she wantsBEER!  If for some strange reason, your Mom doesn't like beer, maybe she'd enjoy some wine, cheese, chocolate, or flowers. 

Monthly Clubs, who offers the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club also offers monthly clubs for wine, cheese, chocolate, and flowers. Monthly Clubs is offering special Mother's Day discounts for readers of this blog for ALL of their clubs. They even have a cigar club, if Mom's into that sort of thing. Prices start at $23.95 plus shipping. You can even chose a one-time delivery. For more details, check out the links below:


If Mom is deserving of such a fine gift, enter one of the discount codes below at checkout to receive your discount. If Mom's not into beer, chocolate, cheese, flowers, or winethen revert to Popsicle stick art!

NOTSOPRO5 - $5 off any membership, no expiration
MDAY15 - $15 off any prepaid order of 6 months or longer, valid thru 5/13/13
MDAY25 - $25 off any prepaid 12 month order, valid thru 5/13/13

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Orenco Taphouse: All You Need to Know About Hillsboro's First Taphouse!

Dirk and Tammy Baker are on a public service mission—to bring good beer to Hillsboro. With the upcoming opening of Orenco Taphouse, they’ll soon do it. 

To be clear, Hillsboro has good beer. However, when compared to the beer Mecca that is Portland, the options are limited. As a resident of Hillsboro, I’ve long pined for a craft beer bar like Bailey’s, Sarazeva, APEX, BeerMongers, etc.  At long last, Hillsboro is finally getting one of its own!  I met with Dirk and Tammy and they filled me in on their plans. First and foremost, let’s start with the beer first…

  • 20 Rotating Taps: Oregon breweries will be featured prominently with out-of-state breweries thrown into the mix.  Taps will be dedicated to certain styles, and different breweries will be rotated in within each style. 
  •  Bottles:   Hard to find, limited-releases as well as gluten-free and sour beers will be offered.
  • Serving Size & Glassware: 
    • Taster trays: I’m a huge fan of taster trays and am glad to see they’ll feature a 5 taster (4 oz. each) tray paddle.
    • Standard pour & vessel:  16 oz. will be served in a 17.5 oz. Libbey snifter.  No shaker glasses here!

  • Growlers:  All the rage these days, Orenco Taphouse will fill them. You can buy the glass from them or bring your own. They’ll fill with a beer gun and will purge the growler with a shot of CO2 before filling.
  • Digital Beer Board:  The DigitalPour system (featured at Bailey’s Taproom) will enable you to go online to see what’s on tap—and even how much beer is left in the keg!
Beer has long been a passion for the husband and wife duo. Dirk has been homebrewing for about 8 years. In 2010, he teamed up with Pizza Port in San Diego, to win a Pro-Am brewing competition with his Scotch Ale. Opening Orenco Taphouse is a step in Dirk & Tammy’s journey. Ultimately, they’d like to open a commercial brewery in Nashville, Tennessee. Until then, they’ll both keep their day jobs at Intel!

Here are some other things you should know about Orenco Taphouse:
  • Non-Beer:  In addition to the 20 beer taps, they’ll feature 4 dedicated wine taps, and hard cider and mead in bottles.
  • Food:  A few snacks as well as meat & cheese trays will be served. You’re welcome to bring your own food, or order in from nearby restaurants.
  • Other Diversions:   Three flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi
  • Address & Phone: 1198 NE Orenco Station Pkwy, Hillsboro, OR  97124,  503-432-1000
  • Hours:
    • Weekdays: 3 - 11pm
    • Friday & Saturday: Noon - midnight
    • Sunday: Noon – 10pm
  • Social Media:  Follow the latest on Facebook, Twitter, or their website.
  • Opening Day:   Friday, May 16.

While talking to Dirk and Tammy, it was clearly evident that they have a passion for beer and are dedicated to providing a great experience for their customers! My long wait is finally over!

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Orenco Taphouse Blueprint

16 Days Before Opening Day!

Buffalo Wild Wings and Redhook's Game Changer

Buffalo Wild Wings and Redhook (part of Craft Brew Alliance)  announced a partnership to bring Redhook's new Game Changer Ale to its 900 locations around the country. A snippet from the news story published in Seeking Alpha is show below. You can read the full article here.
This sounds like a great opportunity for Redhook to increase its exposure. If successful, maybe we'll see more CBA brands (Widmer Brothers, Kona, and Omission) served at Buffalo Wild Wings.
What do you think of the current beer offerings at Buffalo Wild Wings?
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Buffalo Wild Wings announced a partnership with Redhook, owned by Craft Brew Alliance (BREW), which will in fact bring an all new beer concept to all restaurant locations. The new beer, which will be called Game Changer, could in fact be just as its name says a game changer for this restaurant company.

"Draft beer is another cornerstone of our brand. We continue to create new opportunities to enhance the draft beer experience for our guests, increase our beer sales and improve our draft beer margins," said Sally Smith, CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings.

The new beer will be priced between domestic and imported draft beer, giving Buffalo Wild Wings great margins on a popular sales category. In the first quarter of fiscal 2013, alcohol and beer sales made up 22% of all revenue.

For Redhook, this is a tremendous opportunity. Buffalo Wild Wings is the number one draft account for over 50 different beer brands with 900 locations around the country. With this partnership, Redhook gains access to all 900 locations and should gain a more in depth partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings. The small craft beer company has been using partnerships to fuel growth. Earlier this year, Redhook launched Audible Ale, inspired by the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN. The company also has the official beer of the Seattle Sounders soccer team's fan club.

Buffalo Wild Wings continues to devote more attention to its alcohol sales. The majority of the restaurants have expanded the number of tap handles from 24 to 30. This allows each restaurant to have nationally known beers, regional favorites, and gives managers a say in local beers at individual restaurants as well. A new drink menu will roll out in July and will be centered by this new beer offering from Buffalo Wild Wings and Redhook.