I want to say the conversation I had the most over the holiday break both in person and on facebook is the one where we debate whether or not the craft beer world has gotten over-obsessed with hops, and thus alienated potential members of our community because of our unreasonable obsession with bitterness.

I land in the camp that says brewers brew to serve their audience, and so what if we like hoppy beer? We’re supporting the industry. I would also argue that part of the issue folks have with IPA is the texture, not just the taste.

In the spirit of being solutions-oriented and finding a happy medium for everyone – I thought I’d take a minute to highlight a great choice for all of you out there who want to try some good craft beer, but aren’t quite ready to feel like you’re eating rye bread instead of drinking a smooth, well crafted beer.

Enter the IPL (India Pale Lager).

An IPL or APL is probably going to give you the hop flavor that maybe you don’t think you’re a fan of, but the texture of a lager will make your beer much easier to drink. It goes down more easily, and sits better in your stomach. The IPL is perfect for someone who hasn’t taken to IPAs – I promise at first you won’t even notice all the hops you’re drinking, because it’s just not going to be as coarse as an IPA you’d typically try.

I want to take a minute to talk about two beers you can get here in Hartford where I live. One is the George Jones IPL from City Steam Brewery (pictured above). I write about City Steam pretty often so I’m going to stop here to make sure folks in the neighborhood know it’s there, and say it’s good – try it.

Today I want to talk about Jack’s Abby Brewing, a real gem up in Massachusetts, and basically a champion of Pale Lagers. I’ve had their Kiwi Rising, made with hops from New Zealand (Kiwi Hops not to be confused with actual Kiwi flavor). This is a smooth beer that blends a hoppy and citrus taste perfectly. If you’re in New York, Connecticut, or Massachusetts, this beer is a must have. I bet Jack’s Abby will convince you or your hop hating friends that they can make it in the craft beer world. Jack’s Abby gets all the props for bringing diversity to the hoppy beer world.

You can find Jack’s Abby on twitter @JacksAbby.

If you want to read more thoughts on IPLs, I’ll send you to a couple articles from 2013 in the Washington Post and Burlington Free Press that joined the conversation about how we like our hops.


Christmas at City Steam


I’ve written about beers from City Steam Brewery in the past – but I did have to take a minute to write one about their Norwegian Wood this year. I want to confess a couple things before I write more. One is that I don’t particularly love Winter or Holiday beer. Give me anything from Autumn and I will have it all day, but Winter isn’t me. The next is that I’ve always liked City Steam because they have a lot of wonderful go to beers (you can read about City Steam’s beer here), but I have never actually found anything that stood out to me.

Norwegian Wood is both a beer from City Steam and a Winter beer, and I just loved it. Norwegian Wood is a Spiced Beer meaning basically what it sounds, the beer takes on the flavor of the spice that is used to make it.

The initial issue I have with a lot of beers folks drink over the holidays is that they’re a little to rich and creamy for me. The beer smells like light cinnamon and spice and has a crisp cinnamon flavor. It ends with some caramel malt flavor to balance the spice just before the finish. I’ll only say you should veer away from this one if you need a lot of hops in your beer – because you won’t taste that here. The lasting taste in your mouth will leave you saying “this tastes like Christmas.”

If you like decent beer you will absolutely appreciate this and can totally have two. If you typically go out during the holidays to get a cookies and cream martini with cinnamon on the rim – you’re going to start drinking beer because you had this.

If you get over to City Steam an added plus is that they will serve this on nitrogen for am extra smooth flavor.

This is absolutely recommended and props to City Steam for making a holiday beer so accommodating to every day tastes that remains yummy and creative enough for a total beer snob to rave about. Great work.

Lolita for the Holidays


Goose Island Lolita is one of my favorite beers to grab at the Half Door down the street from my house here in Hartford. Lolita is one of Goose Island’s Vintage Ales, all of which are unique Belgian Style Ales. Lolita in particular is a Belgian Style Wild Ale. The wild name points to the bacteria or yeast that the beer is exposed to, and largely gives it it’s taste. Lolita is aged in wine barrels on raspberries and her main flavor is sour.

The experience I had drinking Lolita was great. It smells nice and tart – and my first sip gave me a little bitter hoppy flavor to usher in the sour with some contrast. It went down smooth and I ended tasting some caramel malt flavor and was left with a nice, sour berry taste.

All in all I loved it and think people need to bring a bottle of this to their holiday gatherings. I like it because my family drink a lot of wine over the holidays, and could use a class or two on decent beer. This tastes at least a little familiar, but could really open the door to interest in craft beer. If you have family that won’t drink anything too fruity – this has enough body and additional flavor to satisfy, and if you have family that won’t drink anything to heavy or bitter – this has enough fruit to keep them comfortable and safe.

Lolita is a real work of art, along with Goose Islands other vintage ales and is a great choice for the holidays.

A Perfect Connecticut Octoberfest


 In a mission to try more Connecticut Fall Beer – I tried the Thomas Hooker Octoberfest Lager. A lot of people who start exploring the world of beer and start to develop what they think is a firm understanding of it, start to get scared whenever they see a beer is a Lager and not and Ale (for a number of reasons).

As one those people who’s starting to grow up – I recommend you don’t run from this one. This blend of amazing flavor absolutely called for spending the extra investment to brew a lager; it paid off with a solid, smooth beer.

This Amber beer is made with German Malts – and has just enough hoppy flavor to keep someone like me, who loves bitter beer, satisfied. What’s great about this beer is that the flavor lightly spiced, a little bitter, has just enough malt to take the edge off, and is nice and crisp. That’s a flavor that’s smart not to mess with, so the folks at Thomas Hooker didn’t.  This Octoberfest is crisp, refreshing, and has a full bodied, drinkable flavor the whole way through with no surprises. It’s not complicated.

This is a great introduction to Octoberfest beer for your friends who want to step out of their light beer all – the – time comfort zone, and it’s also totally a beer that you can have 2 or 3 of without getting sick of it. It’s one of my new favorites for football season, and I hope anyone else new to the New England or Connecticut find a chance to give it a try one of my new favorite go – to’s.

For More, Follow Thomas Hooker Brewery on Twitter: @hookerbeer

For More Updates, and information on the Breweries Friday open houses & Saturday tastings, visit: hookerbeer.com

A Nice IPA on the Road Less Traveled


One of my new Connecticut favorites has become Two Roads Brewing Honeyspot Road White IPA. They decided that some of the usual spice that gets put into an IPA was sometimes too much – and if they laid off a little bit, the beer could be a little more refreshing.

I liked the way the hops and the wheat were balanced. Whenever I try any beer with the word white in it, I get nervous that it’s going to taste too fruity… or be just too filling. This beer isn’t that.  This makes for a nice white IPA that you can have two or three of if you want – and still feel refreshed. There’s just enough wheat to make the hops taste smooth and to add a nice hint of wheaty flavor – but too much wheat to turn off a hop head.

I’m excited to try more Two Roads beer, and you can look at more to try here.

A Cure For Everything


I’ve spent a ton of time writing about my experience at different breweries,  what the people are like, and how I feel about the whole experience.

I’m going to broaden the topics a bit. That’s because I want to talk about the experience I have when I really, really appreciate a good beer (and really, really don’t appreciate a bad one).

I had a long weekend… and busy start to the week at work. All I really wanted to do was sit down, watch the xfiles, and have a drink. I was overjoyed to see that I still had Sixpoint Resin in my fridge. It’s one of my favorite go tos.

Sixpoint Resin comes in at 9.1 ABV, so don’t expect to have more than one or two if you’re out, but it really hits the spot at the end of the night.

This one is smooth, of medium weight, and serious flavor. The beer gets it’s name because the brewmasters extract hop resin and heat it to dissolve in the beer to make the beer more concentrated and flavorful. They call it “dangerously easy to drink,” and I’m on board with that.

If you’re a beer drinker and you haven’t tried it – you’re missing out. This is certainly a brewery I’m happy to live closer to.

More on the Resin here: Sixpoint Resin