Twenty Best Beers

I want to report out on the 2020 best beers according to Zymurgy magazine. Not familiar with Zymurgy? Zymurgy is the publication of the American Homebrewers Association. The 20 best beers are the opinions of American Hombrewers Association, AHA, members and may not reflect the opinions of drinkers of swill. Swill may be a harsh term but there really is a flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and quality difference for the beers in this list.

I am pleased to report that a handful of my go to beers, including 3 at the top of my list are in the top twenty.

Number 1…. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, from Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI. I was introduced to this beer on one of my many work trips to North Dakota and it is now being distributed in Texas…..yes, it is in my fridge. Two Hearted is brewed year round.

Number 2….. Pliny the Elder, from Russian River Brewing Co. It is a double IPA coming in at 8% but….. drinks very smooth with an incredible mix of aromas and broad but smooth bitterness. I have only been able to have this beer on three occasions and can probably give you date, time and location when I was able to enjoy this beer! It really is that good. Drawback, very hard to find……gotta know somebody! Available year round but…..only in limited quantities.

Number 3…… Pale Ale by Sierra Nevada. This was probably my first exposure to real beer nudging me away from my usual swill….the beer came out in 1980, it probably was late 1980’s before I was treated to the wonderful, bottle conditioned ale featuring, new at the time, Cascade hops. Confession, I did experiment with non swill in the late 70’s, Anchor Steam beer after it was reintroduced in 1971.

Number 4……..Heady Topper by the Alchemist in Stowe, VT. This beer has not blessed my lips, but…….I am on the hunt now. This is a double IPA and according to the recommendation printed on the can…..it is best consumed from the can. According to the review in Zymurgy that is to “allow your senses to enjoy the maximum hop experience.”

Number 5……. Hopslam Ale from Bell’s Brewery….. my go to Double IPA. It is best consumed fresh……..but I have hoarded it far into the year, hidden away from the local beer gnomes that raid my stash. Very high on my list. Mark your calendar, this beer is distributed in January and February……then the dearth sets in. Dearth, a beekeepers term when nectar is not available for the bees and also appropriate for this nectar of the gods hoppy beer. At 8% it will help make you toasty….nice!

Number 6 …….. Zombie Dust by Three Floyd’s Brewing Company, Munster, IN. Three Floyd’s describes it as “intensely hopped”. That description places it on my list of beers to hunt down. The Zymurgy review calls it “Insanely drinkable”….. sounds like a gotta have beer. Only 6.2%…..yum.

Number T 7……. Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, by Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO. Very nice beer coming in at 8% …..very good hoppy aroma and and hop flavors. I have been able to track this one down, although not in my top list I would never turn it down.

Number 7 T……. Kentucky Breakfast Stout, barrel aged, by Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI. It is a strong Imperial Stout that I find Rivals my favorite Imperial Stout, the barrel aged Parabola from Firestone Walker. It is 12.3 % and best shared in 4-5 ounce glasses with good friends. Complex flavors and aromas and really warms going down. Patting myself on the back, my home brewed Imperial Stout, also aged on toasted and bourbon soaked oak, is on par with this beer.

Number 9………Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR. This is a beer that almost always graces my fridge. Two of favorite hops are used for this beer, Citra and Mosaic, both during the boil and during fermentation. It is a very fresh and clean drinking beer.

Number 10…….Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA. I have had an opportunity to sample this beer and it is treat for the palate with wide variety of flavors and complex set of pleasant aromas. At 9% ABV it will warm you up nicely.

The remainder of the top twenty; Treehouse Julius, sounds delicious, Founders All Day IPA …..a go to session ale loved by me and my beer drinking partner, Focal Banger by Alchemist….I know nothing of this beer but need to hunt it down, Jai Lai by Cigar City….I have had it a couple of times and it is a very pleasant beer, Celebration Ale by Sierra Nevada…..damn good beer, I really like it! Pseudo Sue by Toppling Goliath, the reviewers were very complimentary of this beer – yep another one to chase down, White by Allagash Brewing, apparently a real nice example of the classic Wit Bier style, Sip of Sunshine by Lawson’s Finest Liquids, this is a NEIPA this is an 8% beer, Odell IPA, , been there, done that beer many times and bought the shirt, the Odell IPA knocked my socks off the first time I tried it! Very yummy! Hazy Little Thing by Sierra Nevada Brewing……I love this beer, great aromas and flavors…yum

On hand as of yesterday. My beer order was off a little as I was not specific enough. I am still on my walker due to hip replacement. The Double Bell’s Two Hearted is a nice sub as is the Odell Mountain Standard IPA!
A look into my patio beer fridge. Home brews in bottle include Mosaic SMaSH IPA, Honey Blonde with my Honey and a real nice Wit Bier for my wife.
Don’t believe the tap handles….. I have my Juicy/Hazy IPA on one, my West Coast IPA on another and Scrimshaw Pils on another. Waiting to brew again for the number 4 tap.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

American Craft Beer Week

Yes, there really is such a thing. I decided to look into it and I think the event is a great way for “we” beer drinkers to help inject some $$$$ into breweries and associated businesses that may be having a tough time during this Covid-19 pandemic. There is a button to Commit to Give Craft Beer…..to go beers where available, gift cards, delivery or merchandise. https://www.craftbeer.com/news/american-craft-beer-week. Check out the link and be generous if you can!

Commit to Give

American Craft Beer Week (May 11-17) is the annual nationwide celebration of small and independent U.S. craft breweries. Join the celebration and support independent brewery businesses by giving the gift of craft beer through delivery of beer, beer-to-go, gift cards or merchandise. Use our nationwide list of to-go beer options by breweries to find craft breweries that are offering to-go or delivery options near you

I hope by copying and pasting I am not committing a faux pas. Prior to this craft beer week I have been filling at least a 64 oz. growler once a week or more in addition to purchasing a gift certificate from my nearby taproom…….something I encourage all y’all to do!

Shout out to my two local taprooms, The Cove on Hamblen in Forest Cove, TX and The Hop Stop in Humble, TX…..FYI the H is silent in Humble!

Forest Cove Discovery

I shouldn’t say a discovery, rather it was verification of a FaceBook discovery. I saw a post for a Craft Beer and Wine bar on Hamblen Road in Forest Cove. Well, it was well worth the stop. “Only” 31 beers on tap and I can only “sample” a few ……… each visit. I may have to schedule a couple of visits per week….yee haw!

The place has only been open three weeks and new has not even been rubbed off! It is well worth many return visits. The location has a great patio area and is very dog friendly.

My lucky day was today……….honestly, every day is a lucky day for me when I wake up on this side of the grass! Also lucky for a great variety of beers……. and to top it off – today was $4.00 IPA day. It doesn’t get much better than that!

As Arnold once said, ” I’ll be back!”……..and I will add – often!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Berry, Berry Good Beers

I was out inspecting my bees today and had the good fortune of visiting my apiary two blocks south of the Megaton Brewery in Kingwood. I took a quick look at the activity and made plans to open the two top bar hives to harvest a bit Sunday morning before the Women’s World Cup Final. I intend to leave them with enough honey to get into the fall. I had not broke much of a sweat, my deodorant seemed to be in place, so I decided to pop into the brewery.

I am normally an IPA guy but I still had one more apiary to visit. I chose a 9 oz pour of the Blueberry Lemon Heimdall Farmhouse Ale. Surprisingly good! Next up was a pint of the Cranberry Kolsch. Easy to drink but not what I expected….little or no noticeable cranberry flavor nor aroma. Now a 9 oz pour of the Wildberry Kolsch. The berry flavor came through nicely and a pleasant aroma. Of the 3 I really enjoyed the Blueberry Lemon Heindall. As I was waiting to order a 32 oz growler can to go of my favorite of the day, the board flashed and it was no longer available! Damn! I needed to bring some beer home to my wife and daughter.

It was suggested that I try the Heimdall Farmhouse Ale, sans the Blueberry an Lemon additions. I tried a taster, and although a pleasant beer, I didn’t think the girls would go for it. I asked them to can up the Wildberry Kolsch………and guess what? The keg went dry. What’s a guy to do?

Scratch the Wild and add Cran for the Cranberry Kolsch. Hope the girls like it!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Easing the Pain of Loss

A beer and bee story, bittersweet, poignant yet ends on a comforting note!

I went off to one of my bee yards to add a couple of supers as the nectar flow is on. One hive is swollen up and really needed some room so adding the super was the perfect thing to do. The bees immediately crawled up into the new space – Yee Haw!

Unfortunately the hive next to it…very active two weeks ago, was void of activity…..no need to add a super to it. Pulled the top off and no signs of bee life. As I dug in deeper I was amazed at how clean the girls left the house. I got there just in time, no small hive beetle larva present and no evidence of wax moths!

Here is the, glass half full, view. I now have 20 deep frames, fully drawn out and 10 medium frames, also fully drawn out! I now have some deep frames to help accelerate the growth of the swarms I have been catching and some medium frames to add to supers, ready to be filled with liquid gold. All 30 frames are in the freezer to kill any eggs and/or critters lingering. My smile is beginning!

Loaded the truck feeling a bit let down but knowing I still have some great opportunities for growing my apiary. I decided to swing by the beer store on the way to my “Goo” friend John’s house. They usually have a great selection and I scored big time!

Wow, this beer is amazing! Made with Northern California orange blossom honey. Wanna know more? https://coopaleworks.com/our-beers/

It is a double IPA so I need to be both selfish and careful😜. This beer is so smooth. I bought 3 – 4 packs, one 4 pack left at John’s house, minus the two beers as we consumed to help sooth my wounds over the loss of a hive!

It helps!

So now this gray bearded old man is a bit happier and now making plans on where to use these nicely drawn out frames! FYI- this is what a drawn frame looks like.

It really helps the bees. It takes 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax.

PS, I have two 4- packs of Alpha Hive in my fridge if you are interested and I may be willing to share. Yes, 9.7% ABV beer warms the soul and makes me smile.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Bees & SMaSH IPA

I made a run to my two most distant Apiaries today. One in Splendora and the other in Grangerland – also known as the “berry farm”. I needed to add a deep box to one of my new hives in Splendora and poked my nose into see if the supers were filling with honey on the other three hives. They look promising but still a few weeks away from being ready for extracting.

Out at the berry farm I pulled 5 nicely filled frames. Would love to have had more Ready but – it will be a very good season based on the activity I saw today. The weather – 90 degrees F and 57% humidity made for a warm day. The bees were bearded up on the outside to keep the inside temperatures under control.

FYI- I am not feeding the bees, just haven’t removed the feeder yet! It was hot and I couldn’t beard up! I just had to sweat my ass off! For whatever reason, and they won’t tell you, the girls in the 8 frame hive were a little defensive today – Therefore, full gear and lots of sweat!

Upon return home and before unloading the truck – oh yes, and setting up in the garage to extract honey – I treated myself to my excellent SMaSH IPA! How can I tell what I’m drinking as in, I don’t put labels on my bottles? I use a bottle cap code. The SMaSH is a patriotic beer!

A hint of honey money in upper left background of the photo…… yes, I sell honey.

Ah, there is the box needing extraction! Now, I was interrupted at about 2/3 finished with my beer by my phone ringing. My friend and fellow Home brewer, Mike H, severely twisted my arm and forced me to delay extracting honey- Beer was the reason. “Meet me at Hop Stop in Humble”, more of a statement than a request.

Every Thursday they offer a rotating sampler and….. good folks, good conversation and a good place to drink beer. Traffic was crap, especially on the return trip, but it was well worth the trip….thanks Mike!

Still managed to extract and clean up. Lovely amber honey from the berry farm- “Blakelock’s Berries”. Check them out on Facebook.

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

An IPA Start to my Birthday

Maybe I should have waited! Oops

My SMaSH Mosaic IPA. First beer to start the evening. Then an Odell’s Fresh Grind IPA…. Wow! Then a Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter with distilled Hop oil. Gotta love a Texas Backyard Birthday!

Then a nice slab of salmon with pesto butter!

And what a great treat- the family searched far and wide and found 5 – six packs of Hopslam! I am in heaven. Gotta find a cold and secret place to store them.

Thanks Lisa for a card that made me cry!

Dessert? Carrot cake and –

Very yummy!

It is not so bad to be two years beyond Medicare age!

Maybe a Hopslam night cap?????

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

Flying “Under the Radar”

Saturday September 3rd found daughter Lisa and I at a new brewery in downtown Houston, “Under the Radar”. The day started with a play at the Alley Theater in Houston, “A Night With Janis Joplin”.  Great play and the lead in the play, Kacee Clanton, was channeling Janis Joplin’s spirit…….from nearby Port Arthur, TX. We attended the 2:30 afternoon performance so we were free to explore downtown. What better form of exploration than to find a new brewery and partake.

My good friend and fellow homebrewer, Mike and his lovely wife Annette had texted me last weekend from the Grand Opening of “Under the Radar Brewery”! Lisa and I were a week late for the Grand Opening but, as the old cliché goes, better late than never.  We arrived in time to witness the end of the Texas A&M Aggies take an OT win over my old school, UCLA. While catching the two point conversion by UCLA I struck up a conversation with a young lady, named Kelli, intently watching the game. She is an Aggie, “Poli Sci” major and yes of course, an attorney. Better yet, she is married to one of the owners. More about that connection later.

We found a close and convenient parking spot at 1506 Truxillo Street (home of the brewery and beer garden), adjacent to the Deutscher Fleschwagen food vendor! Oh my…..translation is the “German Meat wagon/truck.” The smells were heavenly and I will have to report out on another visit about the food. Lisa and I were focused on the beers for this visit.

File Sep 04, 10 54 53 AM

A look from the beer garden with the brewhouse in the background.

First round….for $ 15.00 I bought a logo glass and 3 tokens, we added a fourth token for an additional $5.00. Our choices were;

Dirty Blonde – I ordered the Blonde, I know, those of you that know me, are probably shaking your head because I tend to be an IPA fan, the hoppier the better. Lisa is a bit like me and she wanted the IPA….I  knew I would get a sip. I liked the Blonde and I know my wife will enjoy it.

Mid  Frequency IPA – Lisa…..yes she got the IPA. A good solid IPA, not over the top with bitterness. A good very drinkable IPA.

Midtown Bock – Because of commitments we decided to hold onto a token and sample the Bock and Porter on another visit.

Porter Authority

Radar Love – a light Hefeweizen. Now, I don’t normally drink Hefeweizens, but on this warm late afternoon I ordered  and glad I did. Very nice beer and very refreshing….coulda had another……. Just enough Magnum hops to keep it interesting but not enough to have my wife turn her nose up at it….So, Kathy my dear, there are two beers on this list that you will love.

File Sep 04, 10 57 53 AM

A listing of the usual offerings

There are plenty of tables to share with other likeminded beer drinkers with a nice mix of sun and shade in the beer garden. There is a Dynamo cornhole set on site to keep teams and groups talking smack and destroying their opponents. I noticed a few folks carrying in food and snacks as well as folks making use of the Deutscher Fleischwagen.

File Sep 04, 10 54 17 AM

Patrons enjoying a great day to drink beer……

Back to Kelli now. She introduced Lisa and I to her husband, Mike Norfleet, one of the three owners and still dabbling in his civil engineering work….He is a Purdue grad, but, he brews some very good beers so I will cut him some slack and …….  he did have the good sense to marry an Aggie! We chatted about beer, duh, as well as bees & honey. I think I put a bug in his ear to create a Honey Blonde or something similar somewhere down the road. I don’t have the inventory to supply enough for a 10 barrel batch…..It would be cool to find a local downtown source!  I told Kelli and Mike that I would see if I can find a contact for them.

We waited around long enough to catch a brewery tour conducted by Mike. He definitely has a passion for the craft and delivers with a strong authoritative voice. He also asked me to behave and not answer any of his questions…..I complied. The brewhouse is a 10 barrel system and they utilize 3 fermenters that also double up as brite tanks for force carbonating prior to kegging. They don’t have a bottling line so everything is kegged and distributed locally.

File Sep 04, 10 53 34 AM

Mike Norfleet, one of the owners up on his podium…..walkway between the mash tun and brew pot….delivering the beginning of an excellent tour of the brewery.

File Sep 04, 10 52 34 AM

Mike again…..drinking a cold one and leading the tour.

I am anxious for another excuse to wander downtown and sample the remaining two beers. It won’t be long. FYI, Mike and Kelli like Hay Merchant and I do believe you can find an Under the Radar offering there.

PS, Kelli, if we can keep it a secret, I will bring a 22 oz. bomber of my 3 year old Russian Imperial Stout, 11% ABV and aged on toasted, bourbon soaked oak.

Deutscher Fleischwagen

http://www.undertheradarbrewery.com/index.html

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

#undertheradarbrewery

#anightwithjanisjoplin

Honey, I Started the Honey Blonde

I have been in trouble since the moment I began sharing my wife’s Honey Blonde Ale, close to a year now! Really not hers but, I made it using some of the dark honey we harvested last year. She liked the honey so well that she took 6 pounds of the dark amber sweetness and hid it from the sales batches. I have been given very direct instructions for this batch……I am not allowed to give any of this beer away! I need to have my daughter Lisa share in some of the blame. She took a 6 pack to one of her trail races and addicted a couple of her friends. They were rewarded a couple of times.

This beer is an all grain brew, currently in the primary fermenter and probably ready to rack over to the secondary. The brew process,  a 90 minute boil, went very smooth. The starting gravity came out dead on to the expected number. The sample pulled for the gravity test, tasted pretty damned awesome.

Recipe;

Honey Blonde-p1

Details from the Beersmith Software. Whenever I read to sparge volumes I think – That can’t be right….to much water. At he end of the 90 minute boil it was a nearly perfect 5 gallons.

I will Bottle in another 7 days and should make my wife happy by mid August. Let me take that back, I always make her happy, she will be “happier” when this beer is ready  and happiest if I don’t share any……she can make that choice!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly,

Bishop

PS: My son Joe sent a text message as I was writing this post from Ranger  Creek Brewery and Distillery, San Antonio TX. Another one to add to my list.