Caring is Sharing!

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Bottle Share

Bottle share graveyard

Have you ever been to a bottle share? A bottle share is when people gather at a specific location to taste and discuss different bottles of beer brought by the people attending the share. The beers are usually hard to acquire making these shares incredible opportunities to try new brews.

These are my absolute favorite beer experiences! I enjoy these events so much because I love talking to people about beer! These occasions require and promote conversations about the beer you are tasting. The environment is much different than a beer festival which is often loud and filled with people who have the sole intention of getting drunk.

Bottle share graveyard

Bottle share graveyard

Shares are great because you can try a lot of beers without getting wasted. Most pours are usually around 1 ounce. This of course can vary based on the number of people at the share.

Bottle shares are also a great way to meet and make new friends. You may even establish relationships for future beer exchanges. Some of my most valued beer connections were made through bottle shares.

Bottle share requirements vary at each event. Some are very general, asking that the beer you bring is not available locally.  Others are more particular, expecting you to bring a certain style of beer. The terms may also specify that you bring a certain amount of beer. Perhaps the host will insist that you only bring beers that have a beer advocate rating that is above 90. Many attendees come with their most prized bottles hoping to impress others. This definitely works out for your benefit!

Local bar where we had a bottle share

Local bar where we had a bottle share

Depending on where the share is being held, there may be a charge to attend. Most bottle shares at local bars have an entry fee which usually includes one of their beers. Bottle shares are also hosted at homes, requesting only that you bring the beer. Make sure you line up the empty bottles (the graveyard) so you can take a picture after the share is over.

If you’re interested in a bottle share, call your local bar or bottle shop to see if they are hosting any soon. If not, check Facebook or Instagram. You may want to host your own. If you do, you have the benefit of setting your own rules. It is essential that you provide some food to share also. Most importantly, have fun! That’s what this is all about. Life is Craft!

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Digging for Gold

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Many great beers come from breweries that are off the beaten path. When first hearing of some of these places, I questioned whether I would ever be able to try them. Not only are they in the middle of nowhere, but they often have a very limited area of distribution. Even worse, many of their most coveted brews are only available at the brewery itself. A visit to the brewery may also offer the opportunity to taste “experimental” batches only available on tap. You may drink something that you love knowing full well that you may never have it again! I have had the awesome experience of visiting some of these elusive breweries in recent travels and most of my current favorite beers come from such.

The back stories of many of these breweries are fascinating! They first create exceptional beer and then often utilize marketing strategies that are ingenious to create a “buzz”. Their methods include special release days and actual lotteries to purchase their beer. The most common strategy is to produce an amazing beer and limit the quantity. If the beer is known to be rare and great, consumers will find a way to get it at any cost. My most recent vacation is proof of that!

Around Christmas time, I entered myself and my wife into a lottery to win the opportunity to purchase 6 bottles of Kern River Brewing Citra Double IPA. My wife won, of course. So what I initially intended as a 6 hour solo drive to pick up beer turned into a 3 day family vacation!

Kern River Brewing Citra Double IPA

Kern River Brewing
Citra Double IPA

This was a win win situation for all! Our trip included visiting close friends in Huntington Beach, the Long Beach Aquarium, surf lessons for the kids, dining at some of our favorite restaurants, and finally the trek to Kernville, CA!

Kern River Brewing tasting

Kern River Brewing tasting

This brewery is located in the southern part of the Sequoia National Forest. The area and route was new to us and more beautiful than we had expected. I could have stayed for days and might have if it were summertime. We enjoyed dinner and beer tastings on the patio before loading up the car with our winnings and some additional purchases. It was a tight fit in the trunk with our luggage and the coolers that I had already filled at my favorite California beer stores. We decided not to calculate what winning this contest actually cost us!

There are so many more beers and breweries that I look forward to seeking out! Our vacation planning always includes a search of breweries in the areas that we will be venturing to. Take every opportunity to get out there and have you own experiences! It’s awesome to see firsthand what is going on in the world of craft beer and tasting fresh from their tap. There are hidden gems all over the world. There may even be a hidden gem in your backyard. Life is Craft!

David and Toppling Goliath

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Pseudo Sue

Pseudo Sue

This post is dedicated to a single beer . Just days after my last post about beer trading, I received a beer in a trade that was beyond all expectations. I had heard good things about it but I was completely caught off guard.

Toppling Goliath

Toppling Goliath

The beer was Pseudo Sue by Toppling Goliath  Brewing Company out of Decorah, Iowa. The beer is ranked #21 on Beer Advocate, but in my opinion should be more towards the top. The brewery considers itself “Forward thinkers and cunning crafters, building a revolution based on future thoughts not past experiences”. The brewery has been around since 2009 and is currently going through an expansion.

Snifter

Snifter

Pseudo Sue poured a bright golden orange color that seemed to glow. The aroma was very fruity and it formed a thin pale white foam head that dissipated pretty quickly. The first thing that came to mind was bubblegum, which is a taste that I’ve never had before. It totally took me by surprise. Grapefruit and mango followed the bubblegum flavor. The beer had a resinous finish that was a little spicy. The mouth feel was relatively thin with a very nice foam lacing left in my snifter.

Lacing

Lacing

This beer had an extremely clean feeling and taste from start to finish. It was very balanced and held it’s flavor even after warming. This may be my new favorite beer. The only challenge is that I don’t have easy access to it. It looks like it’s back to the trading table. Life is Craft!

Tis The Season, For Trading Beer

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Packed Boxes

Packed Boxes

I love this time of year! This is the perfect season for a post about one of my favorite new hobbies, beer trading. When you trade beer, it feels like the anticipation and joy of  Christmas every time.  Before I go any further, let me add this disclaimer: It is illegal to send beer through the mail unless you have a special license.

Labeled Boxes

Labeled Boxes

When I first headed  down this craft beer path a year and a half ago, I had no idea where it was going to take me. I started enjoying great beers from all over. The more I learned, the more I realized there were beers out there that I needed to try. I had heard from a friend about beer trading, but had no clue how to get started.

One day while on Facebook, I stumbled across a page called “I Love Craft Beer-VIP”. After being accepted, I began making friends with people from all over the country. I noticed that a guy had the same name as me and figured I would reach out to him. This evolved into my first trade ever. Now I consider this other David Moore a good friend. Funny how things work out!

Packaging Materials

Packaging Materials

I was definitely nervous the first time because there is quite a bit involved in a trade. You need to make sure it’s fair and that you do a great job packing the beer for shipment. It was extremely helpful that I had plenty of perfect supplies saved from shipments that I received from online beer stores. I am very particular when packing up the precious bottles. I always put beers in zip lock bags and bubble wrap. Luckily that first trade went off without a hitch. I lost my beer trading virginity.

Beer mail

Beer mail

Now that I have been trading for a while, I have come across other websites that also facilitate beer trading. Since I have had great experiences thus far, I’m sticking with my current group of new found friends. I am happy to say that I have had every beer that is on my bucket list (so far) and I’ve been able to help others get what they want too. I trade anywhere from 4-8 boxes a month which can be an expensive hobby. I love it. My fellow beer traders and I are in the process of organizing a convention for drinkers and traders of craft beer to take place next August in Colorado. If you’re interested in trading beers, my advice would be to start small and find a trusted website. You truly can find every beer you’ve ever wanted to try.

Merry Christmas and Happy Beer Trading. Life is Craft!

The Zombie Apocalypse

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This post is special to me. It’s my first review about a single beer. The title is fitting with Halloween right around the corner but no need to be scared. This post is about a beer that I have been pursuing for about a year. It’s highly sought after by most avid craft beer drinkers and very difficult to get outside of the Chicago area. I’ve tried ordering it online. I’ve sent friends to hunt for it while they were on vacation. I’ve unsuccessfully tried trading for it in the past. Finally, I was able to get a bottle by trading away a can of my prized Heady Topper. It’s so hard to trade for something you are unsure of when you know you are giving away something exceptional. Being my second beer trade ever, I was nervous. I’m very particular about the way I package and ship my beers. Fortunately, my beer arrived safe and sound.

I prefer to be general in my descriptions of beer. I write to share my experiences and love for craft beer.

3 Floyds

3 Floyds

This beer that I’m so excited about is called Zombie Dust and is brewed by 3 Floyds Brewing. The brewery was founded in 1996 by Nick, Simon and their father Mike Floyd in Hammond, Indiana. Since 2000, the brewery has been located in Munster, Indiana. In 2005, Three Floyds opened a brewpub adjacent to the brewery in Munster. Their head brewer is Chris Boggess. In 2014, 3 Floyds was rated 3rd best brewery in the world by ratebeer.com. Their motto, ”It’s Not Normal” ales and lagers.

Zombie Dust

Zombie Dust

This beer definitely lived up to all the hype! Zombie Dust is an American Pale Ale that is 6.4% alcohol and has 192 calories per 12oz. It’s color is light orange and amber and showcases the citra hops which imparts very distinctive citrus and tropical fruit characters to the beer. The beer has a nice medium head of foam with a very sweet malt aroma. The strong citra hop characters are present across the board with a strong bitterness that leaves a nice resinous flavor on the tongue that hangs around.

Foam lacing

Foam lacing

The beer has a medium to thick mouth feel as you consume it and it leaves a nice foam lacing on your glass from top to bottom as you drink it. I love the citrus and grapefruit notes that come through with this beer. The beer is rated number 10 on Beer Advocate’s top 250 beers list.

Another thing I love about his beer is the artwork on the bottle. It was done by Tim Seeley, who is a comic book artist and writer. I must say this beer is on my top 5 list, I just need to figure out how to get more of it. I highly recommend picking some up if you see it anywhere or know anyone in the Chicago area. I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse. Are you? Life is Craft!

Artwork by Tim Seeley

Artwork by Tim Seeley

East Coast Beer-Cation

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Today I am bringing you the “beer” highlights from my 18 day excursion throughout the Northeast coast. This trip for the most part was a family vacation with many awesome experiences. With my love for craft beer, it also was a hunt for some very elusive beers that are not available anywhere on the west coast. My trip included stops in Washington DC, Hershey PA, New York City, Jackson NJ, Providence RI, Boston and Salem MA, Portland ME and Burlington VT.

Lakefront Brewery

Lakefront Brewery

My beer-cation started in an unlikely place, The Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, WI. We had a layover there and needed some lunch. Without too many options, we stumbled upon a pizza place that had a couple of nice craft beers. I chose a nice IPA from Lakefront Brewery and Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing. This was an unexpected way to start the trip and was the first of many surprises. After landing in Washington we headed for the car rental center, which was an adventure itself. During my four nights in Washington I enjoyed beers from DC Brau Brewing Co., which included The Corruption IPA, El Hefe Speaks Hefeweizen, Daughters of Poseidon Black Oyster IPA and Pen Quarter Porter. These beers were full of flavor and I had never heard of them until now.

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Troeg’s

The next two nights were in the historical chocolate town of Hershey, PA. The highlight of Hershey, besides the amusement park and chocolate, was realizing we were staying two miles from Troeg’s Brewing Company. We went there for dinner both nights and I had the grass fed meatloaf both nights. The first night I paired the food with the pale ale and two of their scratch beers. The second night I had the Perpetual IPA. The beers were all amazing just like the food. What made Troeg’s so unique was the entire experience they offered. They had a really big retail shop with lots of merchandise and beer. They also had a very cool self guided tour (if you missed the guided one) which was very kid friendly.

After a memorable experience in Hershey, we packed up and headed towards New York City. We were about 5 miles from the border between PA and NY when my son informed me that he had to use the bathroom. We were literally in the sticks. I noticed a gas station sign and pulled off the next exit. My wife asked me “Are you pulling over for beer?” I was confused until I saw what she was referring to…a big sign that advertised craft beer! I felt like I had struck gold. In this little roadside store off the highway I discovered 4 beers on tap and a walk-in beer room that stocked brands I’ve never seen before. Jackpot!

Gritty McDuff's

Gritty McDuff’s

The next  noteworthy stop was The Lobster Shack in Ogunquit ME. I have to first mention that the lobster rolls and fish tacos were to die for! I enhanced my meal with a very tasty IPA from Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub. The beer started of hoppy and finished smooth and sweet. What a great beer to drink while watching the ocean waves crashing on the shore. We then headed up the coast until we got to the Portland area.

Maine Beer Company

Maine Beer Company

Upon arrival, we headed straight for the Maine Beer Company. This brewery was brand new and looked awesome. The tasting room had a cooler full of Main Beer Company Lunch IPA, one of the most sought after IPA’s being made today. It did not disappoint. This beer had that traditional west coast IPA taste, very resinous and bitter. This beer easily earned the title of my new favorite beer. I sat down with the family and tried some other beers before purchasing some bottles to go and a nice t-shirt.

Beer in a tin cup

Beer in a tin cup

Our second night in Portland we ended up eating in a restaurant called Silly’s. The name should explain everything. The buffalo cheese fries were amazing and I also got to try the Rising Tide Zephyr IPA, in a tin cup. Ironically, this restaurant was located across the street from Maine Mead Works,  which was unfortunately already closed for the evening.

The last leg and my personal favorite part of our adventure took us across New Hampshire and up Vermont to Burlington.  While searching a small town in New Hampshire for a public restroom, we followed signs to a farm where we picked our own blueberries. Once in Vermont, we stopped at a maple syrup and cheese farm for tours and tastings.

Prohibition Pig

Prohibition Pig

Then came Waterbury, VT, where Heady Topper is brewed by The Alchemist Brewery. We decided to eat at The Prohibition Pig for a late lunch not knowing that this building was the original Alchemist Brewery. The burgers were on point but the beer was off the charts. I had Heady Topper on draft, Hills Farmstead Edward on Draft, and Lawson’s Finest Sip of Sunshine D.I.P.A. on draft. You could not have had a better lineup than that. We couldn’t leave Waterbury without a factory tour and cones at the Ben and Jerry’s right down the road.

Heady Topper

Heady Topper

The next day in Burlington, I was on a very specific mission…to secure a case of Heady Topper. The planning of this began months prior to my trip!  Through a series of phone calls to liquor stores in the Burlington area and the brewery’s website, I was able to determine the few stores that sell this exclusive beer and the anticipated time of their weekly delivery. This was key because Heady Topper will sell out within a few hours of delivery (even with each store’s 1 case per customer rule).  I had set my alarm the night before so I could arrive at the beer store before it opened and get in line with the rest of the hop heads. It’s hard to explain my excitement at seeing those cases roll out of the truck after waiting an hour and a half. I had to drink one before boxing the rest up to ship back to Vegas. It was well worth the effort!  The remainder of my time in Burlington was spent biking at Lake Champlain and touring and tasting at Lake Champlain Chocolates. The restaurants in Burlington were all about supporting local farms and most offered Heady Topper! What an impressive place!

Heady Topper

Heady Topper

This entire journey was so incredible for every member of my family. It was well worth the months of planning. I’m totally looking forward to returning to the Northeast coast again one day. But that’s not quite the end of this story. This beer-cation for me just happened to end the same way it began, in an airport. We arrived at the Burlington airport early and I was thrilled to find a bar right next to my gate. Why not enjoy a final beer before I leave?  I of course chose the Heady Topper. For the first time in my life I actually followed the directions and drank it from the can. Life is Craft!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heady Topper VS. Pliny the Elder

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Heady and Pliny

Heady and Pliny

Even though I have just recently found this new passion for craft beer, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be putting these two beers in a head-to-head battle. Living in Las Vegas, it’s hard to find most beers, especially these two. Luckily I’ve had limited success finding Pliny the Elder when I have visited California. Most people never have the opportunity to try even one of these beers, let alone both at the same time. It was perfect timing from two very good friends of mine.

 

Heady Topper

Heady Topper by Alchemist Brewery

I had invited a couple families over on a Sunday afternoon to hang out by the pool. Both the dads are craft beer lovers like me. One of them had sent a message through our wives that he was bringing over a gift for me. Honestly, I was thinking he was bringing over Drake’s AromaComa or Stone’s RuinTen. When he showed up, he placed a 4 pack of beer covered with a bag on the table. As soon as I saw the bottom of the four pack of cans, I knew that Heady Topper by The Alchemist was in my house. Although I was excited as a kid on Christmas morning, I opted to play dumb and let him reveal the surprise. I’m so thankful for these two friends that totally get the beer passion. It has become standard to bring back beers for each other whenever any of us travel. Great friends to have.

 

Pliny the Elder by Russian River

Pliny the Elder by Russian River

That same weekend my other friend from work (who knows nothing about beer) was in San Diego for a short vacation. I asked him to look for some beers including Pliny the Elder. Knowing his determination to come through, I had very high hopes. After searching several stores, he found 5 bottles for me along with some other beers on my wish list. When I met with him to pick up the beers, (in a parking lot like a drug deal) he asked me if this beer was made of gold. Through his experiences of hunting for Pliny, he realized just how hard it was to get. I know that pain all too well.

 

Now we can get to the topic at hand. I like to explain my experiences in layman’s terms. I really don’t like being too technical when talking about beer. No matter what I think, these two beers are amazing! It’s like splitting hairs but it had to be done and my opinion will definitely vary from others.

 

Heady Topper

Heady Topper

I’ll start with Heady Topper from The Alchemist. This beer is rated #1 on Beeradvocate.com and #22 on Ratebeer.com. The beer has 8% alcohol (ABV) and has 120 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). The beer has a golden color that comes across a little cloudy with a medium foam head that diminishes pretty quickly. The beer has a nice amount of foam lacing as you drink it. The aroma of the beer is very clean with notes of citrus, dough, fruitiness and some floral notes. The taste comes across as grapefruit and is very bitter with a slight sweet caramel note from the malt. You will also slightly taste the 8% alcohol in this beer. There is a nice peppery spice on the back end of the beer. The mouth-feel tends to be a little thicker than anticipated with a normal amount of carbonation.

 

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder

Next up, Pliny the Elder from Russian River. This beer is rated #4 on Beeradvocate.com and #18 on Ratebeer.com. It is the relative of the immensely popular Pliny the Younger, which is only available once a year for 2 weeks at the brewery. The beer is at 8% alcohol  and has 100 IBUs. Pliny has a copper orange color that is really clear. It pours with a thin foam head that diminishes rather quickly and leaves minimal lacing as it’s consumed. The aroma is a treat in itself. It is piny and grassy with strong citrus notes. The first taste that comes to mind is citrus, but not for long. You are then hit with the strong resinous and bitterness that dominate the beer. There are also subtle tastes of fruity spice. The mouth-feel on the Pliny is very smooth and silky with normal amounts of carbonation. This beer never lets up, it finishes as strong as it started and hangs around for a while long after the beer has been consumed.

 

Now’s the hard part…choosing between two beers that both have the characteristics that I love.  I have to go with Pliny the Elder. The Pliny had that strong piny taste that I love in my IPAs, which hid the 8% alcohol very well. The Heady was very good but lacked that strong piny flavor and had more of a malt sweetness to it causing it to have a thicker mouth-feel to me. I also loved that the Pliny had a strong finish that stuck around for a long time. To me these were the only minor differences in the beers that led to my personal conclusion. Honestly, like most avid craft beer drinkers, I would take either beer on any given day. The only down side to drinking these beers is that all other beers are held to a new standard and hardly ever live up to these two heavy weights. My advice to anyone who likes beer is to try and get your hands on either one of these beers. Whether you like what you taste or not, it’s all about the journey and these two will definitely make it a fun one. Craft is life!