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.

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.

Another New CT Beer


I’m going to call this one pleasantly hoppy – and just malty enough. Charter Oak is a new Brewery in the Norwalk area I just happened to try tonight.

I have the Pale Ale.

You’ll like it if you like a good light amber or brown ale and are looking for something with a hoppier edge – but not for anything too crazy.

This is yummy so far and I’m looking forward to trying their IPA and their Brown Ale.

Cheers, happy Saturday,  & happy primary GOTV everyone!

What to do on your First Day of Work


My first day of work in Connecticut was fun. I had been traveling for two days thinking about actually getting to work, and I was happy to finally be in an office. Out of either strong work ethic, or misguided ambition, I was the last person in the office that day. After realizing how much work actually needed to be done to get a new program off the ground – I needed a beer.

One of my co-workers recommended City Steam Brewery to me. It was close to the office, had good beer, and good burgers. I sat down at the bar, and even though it was busy, the bartender took time to talk to me for a little while about places I should visit in Connecticut, what beers from New England to try, and mentioned his mother was the head of the Democratic Party in one of Connecticut’s 169 towns.

This guy was great, but to give a well-rounded picture of the place I should mention that I’ve been there one other time and sat in the dining room – the table service wasn’t up to par with this bar service.

Back to my first time – I ordered a cheese burger & a Blonde on Blonde Pale Ale. I liked the beer – but I had an issue with how it was described versus how it actually tasted (not that it’s bad). It was described as super hoppy and very flavorful. It is – but the hop flavor is a little too straight forward to describe it as super creative.

Another thing that might throw you off about this one is that it looks like it would be relatively light, but it’s certainly heavier than it looks. Overall, this is a good, crisp, straight forward Pale Ale. Bottom line, if someone asked me “what does an IPA taste like?” I would give them a glass of this. If someone asked “Recommend me a new, creative tasting Pale Ale,” this would not be my first choice, but it’s a great go to.

One of the IPAs I didn’t have during this visit, but I like a little more is the Innocence IPA. What I like about this one is the mixture of hops and malt, so it really satisfies everyone. I’ve given this beer to people who say they don’t like IPA, but are fans of rich brown ales, and they seem to be able to tolerate it.

The last beer I want to talk about is a Connecticut classic. You can get it at almost any bar that has a decent selection, including a few spots in the airport. It’s the Naughty Nurse Amber Ale. This is a great standard beer and great for folks just starting to drink craft beer. It has English hops and a light malt flavor that goes down nice and smooth for a creative, but light and accessible taste. This is a must have for anyone coming to Connecticut.

Overall City Steam is a great spot. I’d recommend having a burger if you eat there – and maybe not diving into the rest of the menu. No matter what – you’ll find a beer you like. They also have comedy in their downstairs room on Friday nights. So this is the perfect spot for craft beer & comedy lovers.

More info on City Steam:

Follow on Twitter: @City Steam

More on the Beer:  http://www.citysteam.biz/beer_pages/styles_of_beer.cfm

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