Did you know New Holland Brewing makes spirits? I didn’t until I came across their Beer Barrel Bourbon. They have a full line of whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, and liqueur, but their bourbon aged in barrels that contained their Dragon’s Milk Stout obviously stood out to me.
You’ve probably heard of New Holland’s Bourbon Barrel-aged Dragon’s Milk Stout. It has an “Excellent” rating on Beer Advocate. It’s one of the most popular, and widely distributed, barrel-aged Stouts. New Holland’s Beer Barrel Bourbon spends three months in the same barrels before being bottled.
Tasting Dragon’s Milk and Beer Barrel Bourbon side by side was a real treat. The influence they have on each other is apparent, and both are improved by the other’s contributions.
I used the Beer Barrel Bourbon in an Old Fashioned with 5 by 5 bitters, simple sugar, and a maraschino cherry garnish.
Now, since you’ve made it this far, I’ll let you in on something: I don’t know anything about spirits. I mostly stick to beer and wine. I won’t pretend to actually review this bourbon. It certainly tasted bourbony, but I can’t tell you how it compares to other bourbons. I do think those last three months in a beer barrel adds some unique and enjoyable flavors.
I do feel qualified to review Dragon’s Milk Stout. The thing that stands out the most for me with this beer is how much bourbon influence it has, without any added bourbon heat. This is as smooth as you’re going to get for an 11% ABV beer. I’ve never enjoyed bourbon flavor more!
I also enjoyed the Beer Barrel Bourbon “neat,” and that also tasted bourbony.
Evans Brewing is Orange County’s oldest craft brewery. They’ve been around since 1994 but I only recently caught wind of them and their gorgeous bottles. I tried out their three prettiest bottles in the hopes that the beer inside would match.
Approachable Bastard Session IPA
Approachable Bastard is packed full of flavor for a Session IPA. I was surprised by how dark it poured, and how malt forward it is. The citrus hops shine though nicely though. I like that this is different than most Session IPAs, with a much fuller body and nice malt flavor. I might have guessed that it was an Amber Ale had I not seen the bottle.
The KrHOPen IPA
The KrHOPen is an excellent West Coast IPA with big piney hop flavor and bitterness. I really enjoyed this clean, dry, hoppy brew. This was my favorite of the three.
Pollen Nation Honey Blonde Ale makes great use of its honey addition. I’ve grown wary of honey beers in general as they often have strange flavors: usually either cloying sweetness or an off putting earthiness. Pollen Nation suffers from neither of these flaws. It’s just sweet enough, and the honey blends really nicely with the blonde ale malts and hints of fruity esters.
I recently had the brilliant idea of spending a few weeks listening to as many craft beer podcasts as I could find and ranking the best ones. Well, turns out there are eleventy thousand craft beer podcasts out there. To further complicate things many of them specialize in topics in addition to craft beer: various regions, brewing, homebrewing, movies, etc.. So, instead here are a few craft beer podcasts that I enjoyed, without trying to rank them or be even remotely exhaustive. I listened to at least three episodes of each of these.
The Brewing Network has been around for a long time and they produce very professional and entertaining podcasts. If you want the most polished podcast covering craft beer and brewing skip the rest of this article and just go subscribe to The Brewing Network’s podcasts. The Session is the original Brewing Network show. Their top notch hosts interview beer industry professionals and the best homebrewers. The Session is a great mix of entertainment and great craft beer and brewing information.
Max and Jonny are local to me in Chico, California but I’ve yet to meet them. They stick to a formula of reviewing two beers and a movie in each episode. They review a variety of beers, but usually at least one of them is local(ish). The movies are recently viewed in the theater and they’re not shy about spoilers. Max and Jonny are charming guys and their banter is entertaining. Conversational, on the spot, reviews like theirs are of course subjective, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to disagree with at least one of them about one of the beers and/or the movie, which is part of the charm of the podcast for me. The hosts are both musicians so there is also some great music included in their podcast.
Hosts Brian Quain and Jeff Brennan travel Florida chatting with brewers across the state. I don’t think I’ve actually had beer from any of the breweries they visited in the episodes I listened to, but their interviews are so entertaining I still enjoyed the podcast. You get a lot of insight about the local beer scene and brewing from their chats.
This podcast is definitely geared towards brewers. The host is Brad Smith, author of BeerSmith software. Each episode includes a knowledgeable guest. Recent guests include a Grandmaster beer judgde, a brewery owner/brewer, brewery Director of Operations, and author Stan Hieronymus. Brad does not shy away from the technical details of brewing, which is a bit dry at times, but probably the most informative of all of these podcasts.
We are certain the craft beer enthusiast in your life will love one of these great gifts. We’ve tracked down the best brewing equipment, books, shirts, and more to make your holiday shopping extra tasty! Cheers!
These bottle openers are made from American, once-fired, .50 caliber ammunition. They donate at least 15% of profits to veteran charities. They have a variety of holiday, event, and armed forces themed openers. Each opener can be custom engraved.
Proper glassware is essential for fully enjoying your craft beer. I Prefer Craft Beer’s glassware designs are hand-crafted in house and released in limited quantities.
The Drink Local Teku Glass for IPA is durable, stylish, and sensory refining. The stemmed beer glass incorporates a large angled bowl and flared top lip, which promotes better head retention and enhances the flavor and aroma profiles of your craft beer. The large base of the beer glass provides stability.
The Silhouette Series Stout Glass is a unique craft beer glass that is designed to enhance the olfactory senses (sense of smell), which influence the different types of flavors we taste in craft beer, bourbon whiskey, and other fine spirits.
The Snifter Stout glass boasts a wide-bowl that narrows towards the mouth of the beer glass. The stout beer glass design enhances the subtle differences of the beer by opening up and funneling the aromatics toward your nose.
How To Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Great Beer Every Time is the definitive guide to making great beer at home. It’s great for reading cover to cover, or as a reference when you need some info on brew day. The fully revised and updated fourth edition was recently published with even more great information.
This book by Randy Mosher covers a bit of everything: beer styles, flavor profiles, sensory evaluation guidelines, craft beer trends, food and beer pairings, and draft beer systems. The second edition just came out and it’s even more comprehensive. This is an enjoyable read, and the perfect study companion for the Cicerone exams.
This is our only repeat from last year’s gift guide. They have continued to impress over the past year. Let’s see, we’ve scored Dark Star, Abraxas, Pseudo Sue, Yeti, RU55, Boom Sauce, and so many other fantastic beers. They also find amazing beer from breweries across the country that you have probably never heard of. Their unique store/club hybrid model works perfectly for us. You only buy the beers you want, and there is a flat shipping rate for as many beers as you want. Their gift cards make an excellent gift!
Rhinegeist Streaker IPA is an interesting beer, and the result of a unique “crowd sourced” brewing process. The Cincinnati based brewery let fans decide the hops, malts and name of the beer. The result is an IPA with 17% rye malt and tropical fruit hop flavors. It was dry hopped with Citra and Mosaic hops that blend nicely with the spiciness of the rye.
Rhinegeist only distributes to Ohio, Kentucky and Massachusetts but I’ve been able to get my hands on a few of their great beers through Tavour. You haven’t checked out Tavour you should get on it. They carefully select beers from all over the country (and sometimes internationally), you pick the ones that you want, and they deliver them to you at really reasonable prices. They really know craft beer, and their customer service is fantastic.
21st Amendment teamed up with Mike “Tasty” McDole of the Brewing Network for Tasty IPA. You can hear McDole discuss brewing the beer on this episode of the Brewing Network’s The Session podcast. The beer is a take on McDole’s homebrew IPA. It’s a pale, clear IPA that uses citra, mosaic, and ekuanot lupulin powder. The malts consist of two-row pale, munich, and pilsner. This makes for a floral, dry beer, with a big hoppy aroma. For me, really floral IPAs run the risk of becoming too perfumey. Tasty IPA rides that line without going over it. To the last sip it maintains a crisp floral hop flavor without getting perfumey. The beer is being distributed to twenty-five states.
As good as the beer is, the can art might be the star here. It’s a cartoon depiction of McDole’s intepretation of the famous American Beauty movie poster, drawn by Tasty’s son Mark. Tasty’s curvy form is clad only in green hops and his usual hat.
“If you like hops, and you love IPA, you’ll definitely enjoy this beer… even in spite of the naked guy swimming in hops on the front of the can. In all seriousness, this beer is delicious. The lupulin powder is made from the “heart of the hop,” where the hop resins and oils reside, giving this beer bright, fresh flavors and aromas of tropical stone fruits and pine, with a hint of spiciness.” – Shaun O’Sullivan, co-founder, and Brewmaster
The @BeerSelfie Instagram account gets tagged on more posts each day than we can reasonably repost. That is a fantastic problem to have and we deeply appreciate everyone’s support and enthusiasm! It becomes a balancing act though between sharing the amazing content you share with us and not overwhelming you with posts.
Which breweries are winning Instagram? Craft beer is a great fit for Instagram. Breweries can show off their brewery and latest brews, and keep fans updated on what they’re up to. Only the larger breweries tend to have much of a marketing budget, but others can compensate by taking some time to engage with their followers.
Here are the top 18 craft breweries ranked by number of followers (let us know if we missed anyone!):
No big surprises on this list. Most of these breweries are also in the top 50 craft breweries by volume. Exceptions include Firestone Walker, Cigar City, Mikeller, and Modern Times. Firestone Walker and Modern Times are growing very quickly, so it makes sense that they have a large presence on Instagram.
It’s not all about the follower count though. Some relatively small breweries have outsized buzz among beer geeks. Others are just really good at social media and make engaging with their fans a priority. Making excellent beer also helps. We did a super scientific poll on Instagram with a post asking people to “tag a brewery whose Instagram game is on point.”
Here are the craft breweries that got at least two mentions: