Congrats to beer!

If you haven’t checked it out already, here is the list of the Great American Beer Festival winners.

What is this big beer ordeal you may ask?  The GABF is the Superbowl of beer.  YES, it’s that awesome.

A special congrats to our boys Green Flash for winning a medal with La Freak, and another special high five to our new comers Caldera with their winner Ashland Amber!

gabf-logo

In Defense of Beer Growing Pains

As we’ve written about many times, Arkansas is finally experiencing a beer renaissance. We’ve also stated many, many times in the past: “Listen, Arkansas will catch up…. Just look at these other states (pointing fingers at Missouri and North Carolina) and that’s the future!”

Well my friends, the future is happening. We are still behind, and perhaps we’ll never be a Colorado, California or Oregon, but that’s OK. We can be so much more than what Arkansas was two years ago.

Most of us beer geeks are very happy about the recent surge in available retail beers and new breweries or brewpubs. We love a selection, and we love to talk about beer, and now we can talk about our growing beer selection. Hell, I’ve already talked about beer and selection like what? Five times already?

What comes with this new beer market, however? What are the responsibilities of the “beer knowledgeable?”  What will happen to the current small group of Arkansas beer lovers?

As the market grows, people’s tastes will change, people’s opinions will change, and people’s attitudes will change. Sometimes for the good of craft beer… and sometimes for the worse.

We currently have some beer snobs among us. Generally speaking, being a beer snob is bad. No one enjoys a snob, you see. Some people look for a snob, or perhaps trust a snob, when they are looking for an educated opinion on a particular subject. But no one wants to hang out with a snob, unless they want to act snobby with the snob. Just one more time: snob. Disclaimer: I’m not pointing out John, but rather the complete idea of a snob.
snob-def2
The beauty and magic of the beer movement is the lack of snobs. Beer traditionally represents the working class- it was the drink that brought forth civilization, and it was the drink that nourished people through humanity’s horrors, and it’s the drink that everyone enjoys. The current American beer movement represents unity, high caliber workmanship, art, and being awesome. Samuel Adams, one of our patron saints of craft beer, exemplifies this when they literally shared as much hops as they could JUST to keep brewers alive and producing good beer. How many “collaboration” whiskey or wines do you ever see, compared to craft beer? We see brewers HELPING each other rather than eating each other alive. When Fritz Maytag kick started this craft beer boom, his main focus was to grow the market as a whole, rather than compete against any other brewers. That’s a piece of magic – and it is still in use today.

So as Arkansas experiences more beer, we will see more people taking interest in this beer. You will see people rally behind the battle cry of “BIFF LIGHT SUCKS!” And yeah, we are guilty of that. Like, really guilty. But you’ll never, ever, see us point at someone who is enjoying a Biff Light and tell them that beer sucks, then laugh, then talk about how our craft beer is so awesome it made my lazy eye energetic and vivacious.

We need beer geeks that welcome all kinds of beer lovers, and help them decide what beer is right for them. There is no wrong beer. It will pain some to say this…. But it’s true. There is no wrong opinion. Yeah, some are totally insane, but it’s an opinion, and in ‘Merica, we respect that.

But what happens if there is a general consensus that a beer is bad? And what if the educated beer drinker knows this? That’s where we encounter the slippery slope. As a true beer geek, it is your responsibility to SUPPORT GOOD BEER. Just because it’s craft doesn’t mean it’s good. This is vital in a growing beer market. We must support GOOD BEER. And if it’s in an appropriate place, explain your opinion.

Sit down, let's talk about beer.  I'm friendly and approachable.  And super cool.

Sit down, let’s talk about beer. I’m friendly and approachable. And super cool.

It’s great to see debate and discussion about craft beer because that shows that people are thinking about beer. Recently, there was a good debate about Prairie Artisan Ale pricing on the Facebook group Arkansas Beer Geeks. (If you haven’t joined this group, we highly suggest you do!) So is it good or bad for beer prices to be rising?   As with most of life’s answers, yes and no. I’ll stick with the argument that growing a beer market is good, and super premium options are good. If you’ll look into the future- Colorado, California- you’ll see a well-developed market with amazing affordable craft beer and amazing luxury craft beer. There is no wrong beer.

Hopefully we will have a fresh new crop of beer lovers who know and understand the responsibilities of being a good beer geek. It’s about education and love, dude. We want everyone to love beer. We want everyone to feel welcomed to the beer scene. People want good beer, and we should be there to show them the way. Beer is better than wine when it comes to a social or culinary beverage. Hands down. We have to let people experience this – not talk down to them or talk bad about other beers.

There is no wrong beer.

So as we experience more and more people talking about beer, getting snobby about beer, interested in beer and drinking good beer, let’s remember to raise our glasses to being a good beer geek, sharing the love, and welcoming anyone and everyone into the beer scene. Let’s raise our glasses to supporting good beer. Let’s raise our glasses because beer is art.

Cherry Funk and Friends

Beer Review: Prairie Cherry Funk

Style: American Wild Ale (Sour Ale aged on cherries)

ABV: 7.5%

Drink if you like: Tree fruit, SweetTarts, monogamy, and beakers.

Catfish

Prairie Artisan Ales, how we love you. You bring us fresh World-Class beers from just across our state line. The beautiful art on your label foreshadows the wonderful flavors found under your cigarette-smoking, catfish-adorned cap. You hail from Oklahoma, yet we don’t even mind. Let us delve into the newest Funk line from our friends at Prairie.

FullSizeRenderCherry Funk pours cloudy amber with strawberry hue. One finger of light pink head forms a bubbly blanket with a hard pour. A light earthy funk with a hint of cherry bite in the nose. Some sour qualities are present in the smell with other acidic aromas. One wonders if the taste will follow suit. A sip brings cherries to the forefront, albeit more subdued than expected. Velvety malt notes remain behind the curtain as the acidity level increases to create for a dry finish.

Described as a Sour Ale, Cherry Funk dials back the sour in this beer’s case. This would be a great entry-level Sour for those not ready for the pucker factor of big Sour flavors.

Being the intrepid explorers of flavor that we are, it would be unfair not to mention a blending experiment we performed with Cherry Funk. Although this beer is good on its own, we found sheer glory when we blended Cherry Funk with Evil Twin Lil’ B. Three parts Lil’ B to one part Cherry Funk was the sweet spot, literally. The chocolate and coffee flavors in Lil’ B made up the hearty body of this blend with the cherry and funky, mild sour tones of Cherry Funk adding an ideal level of acidity to send this mélange over the top and definitely in our top 5 beer blends we’ve experimented with.  Give these two as a gift and call it “the beer version of cordial cherries.”

Prairie specializes in limited-quantity brews. Do yourself and your tongue a favor and grab this Cherry Funk before it is gone. Don’t forget its partner, Lil’ B!

Natural State of Beer

It’s a wonderful time in the Natural State right now. You may be agreeing with me in your head, and why wouldn’t you? The cool fall weather is wonderful, the Hogs have won a few games, your spouse is distracted with parent teacher conference stuff, and everyone seems in a great mood. The real reason everyone is in a good mood is simple: beer. The surge in Arkansas beers is continuing, and we have nothing but delicious nectar of the goods to reap.  Whether it be wonderfully skilled brewers like Core and Ozark Beer Company or promising new breweries like Lost Forty and Blue Canoe.

Yes, my dear friends, it’s good to be a beer-loving Arkansan. Finally!!

AR-Beer

On that note, let’s kick this blog into gear. We have some new fresh beers in our area, and we want you to know about them. Pick them up and try them. If you don’t like the beer, you’re a communist and you should get outta town before we Red Dawn Wolverines on your rear.

START THE REVIEWS!

Prairie Artesian Ales Funky Gold Mosaicfunky-gold

Perhaps one of our most favorite new beers from this bright shining star of a brewery, this dry-hopped sour ale knocks a home run with an amazing balance of tart, dry, funky and hoppy flavors. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. The guys at PAA decided to give us this cake by dry hopping their Prairie Gold beer. Enjoy pungent tropical mosaic hops and flavors like lemon, grapefruit, hay, barnyard funk, grape, and some small malt notes of cracker. If sour beers are your bag, this is a must-have. If you’ve never had a sour beer, what are you waiting for?

Calcaldera-ipadera Brewing IPA

Football is here. We all know what happened that one time you drank four bourbon barrel aged imperial stout beers before the game last year. Listen, and learn: give a beer the time it deserves. Otherwise you can end up like Darren and Chad. They have matching tattoos of final score of the 2013 Razorback VS Alabama game. On their lower backs. Anyhow, this is where Caldera Brewing IPA comes in handy. Clocking in at a reasonable 6.1% abv, this beer packs a wonderful hop profile that seems to go amazingly well with pre-game trash talk. The Caldera folks know what they are doing, and you can rest easy picking up two or three sixers of this delicious IPA for the game. Enjoy your smack talk with wonderful flavors of pine, citrus, pineapple and biscuit.

hornacopiaHorny Goat HornyCopia

‘Tis the season for pumpkin beers. Horny goat has proven exceptionally reliable when it comes to good beer at good prices. We’ve never had the option of their pumpkin beer here in Arkansas, so make sure you pick up a sixer and kill it ASAP. I once heard that pumpkin beer never gives you a hangover. That is wrong, of course. But don’t let it stop you from enjoying a nose that reminds you of, yes, pumpkin pie, and flavor notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, caramel and brown sugar.

Horny Goat Strawberry Saison Song

Yet another perfect tailgating beer, Saison Song will surprise you with tasty Belgian saison notes rounded off with an interesting strawberry component. This beer quaffs beautifully and leaves a delicious berry note in the end. As a side note, I’ll say that this beer also pairs well with chasing after children who may or may not have eaten a rock. Who eats a rock? Take this easy-drinking beer for a drive and enjoy nice flavor scenery.

Don’t forget to take advantage of this wonderful time!  The more beer you buy, the more our Natural State beer scene will grow.

The Legend

Beer Review: Saison Dupont

Style: Saison/Farmhouse

ABV: 6.5%

Drink if you like: Clean flavors, Belgian farm hands, Boston Celtics, grass, summer.
Although we’ve mentioned this glorious beer in previous articles, such as here, here, here, here, and here…it only recently came to our attention that in three years of beer blogging and many, many bottles of this wonderful liquid flowing through our livers, we’ve never formally reviewed Saison Dupont. Please forgive us for this egregious error which we will correct….NOW!

Saison Dupont“The Legend” as Saison Dupont is often referred to in beer geek circles around the world, didn’t earn this moniker with a quirky label, clever name, or mass marketing. This industry classic has survived years of imitation and still remains the glittering benchmark of the Saison style.

I didn’t have to go far to get my hands on this beer. This has been a staple in my cellar for quite some time. A glance at the yellow and white checkered label warms my soul. I slowly remove the cage and loosen the cork. POP! The complex aroma instantly fills the room.

Saison Dupont pours golden yellow with residual haze. Yeast sediment clings to the bottom of the bottle. A hard pour reveals a frothy white head, reminiscent of a healthy Belgian design. Beautiful lacing forms between sips. The nose blends notes of bread, citrus, great sour funk, coriander, and faint earthy hops.

The taste requires some time to process. “Complex” is an understatement. At first gulp, sweet fruit flavors lightly coat the tongue. Think peach and orange peel. This initial welcome is immediately followed by an onslaught of chewy bread, pepper, bananas, grass, and dank barnyard notes. Belgian funk is generously intertwined into these flavor layers as this clean and crisp beer plays out. The thin body, dryness, and high carbonation combine to play a significant role in the enjoyment of this beer.

Larry Bird

“If I sink this three pointer, I could celebrate with a Saison Dupont!”

I thoroughly enjoy the Saison style and have many favorites. In the end, I can’t help but compare each one of them to The Legend, Saison Dupont (not Larry Bird…but similarly awesome).

We gave this beer a rare rating of 5 Diamonds. You can find this beer all over our great state.
5diamonds

 

Ashland Amber…Will You Marry Me?

Beer Review: Caldera Ashland Amber

Style: Amber Ale

ABV: 5.4%

Drink if you like: Balanced flavors, caramel, trophies, ninjas, and aluminum.

Much to the delight of craft beer enthusiasts, great beers are rolling into our state at a frequency we’ve never before seen. Brewers have taken notice of the evolving palates in Arkansas and they’re happy to oblige us.

From the Pacific Northwest, we’re proud to welcome Caldera Brewing Company and one of their flagship beers, Ashland Amber. While the Amber style may not sound as sexy as a DIPA or a Sour, this is a beer you would take home to meet your parents. The marrying type. Ashland Amber has made quite a name for itself over the past few years on the competition circuit. In 2014 alone, Caldera Ashland Amber has racked up the following prestigious awards:

Gold Award – Category: Amber Ale – Competition: North American Beer Awards
Silver Award – Category: Amber Ale – Competition: Los Angeles Beer Awards
Silver Award – Category: British Style Pale Ale – Competition: Australian International Beer Awards
Silver Award – Category: Amber Ale – Competition – Beverage Testing Institute, Chicago, IL

4 awards in 8 months is quite impressive. Before the can is even opened, we know this is something special. We’ll be the judge of that…

Ashland Amber pours clear dark amber brown with great head retention that laces the glass. A quick sniff reveals a biscuity malt with a good dose of caramel. An earthy hop presence is subtle with a detectable scent of pine. The taste of Ashland Amber follows closely to the aroma with an initial greeting of sweet caramel malt, which is the star of the show, but does not overshadow a great balance of floral and citrus hops that add the perfect amount of bitterness. A faint pine flavor resides like a ninja in a dark corner. The medium body and carbonation enhance the drinkability of this beer.

Validated by the many awards it has received over the past year, this Amber is on-point for the style. Caldera has successfully produced a highly drinkable, extremely enjoyable, and well-balanced beer, perfect for any setting. This daily drinker definitely just made our tailgate selection.

This beer is just a few weeks old here in Arkansas and is making its way to stores near you. If you can’t find this beer at your local establishment…ask for it!

We give this beer 4 diamonds:

4diamonds

Arkansas Spotlight: Fayetteville Ale Trail (continued)

We shall continue this week with Chris Butler’s account of beer exploration!   In case you missed last week, click here and delight in joy of a beer blogger’s tour…..or sit there and steam with jealousy.  Either one calls for a beer!

saddlebock-barn

Yes! That’s a brewery!

Next up, set apart from the others for many reasons, but most of all distance, we hit Saddlebock Brewing Company. While it’s not a long way off, just 15 minutes off of Highway 71 Business, it still seems you are in a different world while you enjoy views of the White River. The vision of Steve Rehbock (Chicago transplant, Brewmaster and owner) is one of green and sustainable. He gave us the tour of his gravity fed process, starting on the top of three floors in his barn-designed brewery. The largest in scope with 20 beers being produced, he distributes pressure-capped growlers and 22 ounce bombers throughout Arkansas. He is very engaging and driven; you can feel his passion when he talks about the brews. He talks about hard work and the future of his business, which include plans for a bed and breakfast across the street. Stay tuned for big ideas from Saddlebock

*PROTIP: The scenery and location are unparalleled by the region’s breweries. Go with the refreshing Helles Lager

People love good beer and good beer loves good people.

People love good beer and good beer loves good people.

Onward we traveled, towards Core Brewing Company. Located in Springdale, Core has the edge so far in distribution and in operation. Unfortunately, Brewmaster Jesse Core had a previous engagement on this day. Luckily there was plenty of beer to comfort us, so we each grabbed a pint and began the tour of the impressive facility. Starting with a system that Jesse wrote the code for himself, to the on-site chemistry lab, to the fledgling distillery, and a canning line which is helping with distribution production, you can tell this is a well-conceived operation. There is a visible charm around the brewery and tasting room, which adds to the experience of drinking with a local rising brewery star. They’ll soon be expanding to other states, Mexico, and will be opening a brewpub in Rogers in the coming weeks.

*PROTIP: Strong vision, distribution edge, and plenty of money backing. These guys will be big. Go with Black Lightning Black IPA

Second to last, we hit the newest and northern-most kid on the block, Ozark Beer Company. Brewmaster Andy Coates wasn’t in, but Lacie Bray gave us the lowdown on their concept and the background. Andy has previously worked at Great Divide and Goose Island, pre-ABInBev (think Biff Light), so the chops are there and the beer proves it. Having previously worked at West Mountain, Andy and Lacie came back due to Arkansas passing new liquor and beer laws that are favorable to brewers. They are a great example of a fertile beer-friendly Arkansas brining in serious beer talent. It feels nice to know such great people have chosen your state to make their home. They’ve just begun canning, much to the delight of all in the Northwest Arkansas region. They only make five beers, but they are all SPOT ON. Most are low ABV session beers which certainly showcase living the “Hard Work, Honest Beer” motto they advertise.

*PROTIP: Choose anything: you seriously cannot go wrong

This beer makes us so damn excited.

This beer makes us so damn excited.

fossil-cove-logoAnd finally, our motley crew found our way to Fossil Cove Brewing Co, thanks to our driver, obviously. Greeted immediately by dinosaur bike racks, dogs and a food truck before we even see a menu, this place screams “local.” With Wednesday quiz nights and Friday “Randall Nights” brew master Ben Mills is capitalizing on proximity to the university, the highway, and the Northern Fayetteville shopping traffic. The small brewery, which is maxed out in capacity already, is looking for expansion alternatives as demand continues to grow. Excellent food trucks such as Tyler’s House BBQ service the customer’s needs for food, games, outdoor seating, and TVs for entertainment.

*PROTIP: Try the small-batch SMASH beers

And thus ends the adventures of our merry band of beer bloggers. At least all that is fit to print. Massive thanks again to the Fayettevile Visitors Bureau, Jessica Leonard (our intrepid leader from the Bureau), all of the breweries, the brewers, their staff and of course all the other participants.

You can read Chris’s blog here:  http://astonesthrowandacenturyago.blogspot.com/

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