Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

There’s a new brewery in town. Brand spanking new, not even on the market new. Adroit Theory is a nano brewery based in Purcellville, Virginia. Their aim is to have beers to market in 2013. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be selected as a taste tester for their early batches.
I arrived home from work in late March to find my taster box waiting for me. It contained the beer, a couple of pretty sweet stickers, and the official taste tester envelope with details on the beer and the feedback forms and such. It looked something like this.

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And this…
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Some info about the beer itself. I received the B/A/Y/S (Black as your soul) batch 004. Here is what the guys over at Adroit Theory say about their brew.

Ghost 002 – Is a remake of Ghost 001, our first batch of B/A/Y/S. we started with a relatively straight forward stout recipe that we quickly scaled up to Imperial status. The final grain bill was 52 pounds on a 1/2 barrel system!

We also wanted to add a more pronounced hop profile than typically found in such a beer. We selected two of my favorites: Simcoe and Amarillo. While the final product did not have a pronounced citrusy hop profile, the bitterness in the flavor profile is quite nice.

To balance the richness of the brew, we added hazelnuts for a nutty character. We then added cherries to boost the residual sweet flavor. Both are subtle, but welcome additions.

Finally, to give the beer a truly unique experience, we aged the beer for 3 weeks on reclaimed chestnut staves. Chestnut is an extremely rare specie of wood, and has a pleasing aroma when cut. We thought, what better way to enhance the beer.

Ghost 003 – Is Ghost 002 aged in a bourbon barrel from Woodinville Whiskey

Ghost 004 – Is Ghost 002 aged in a rye barrel from Finger Lakes Distilling.

And now on to the beer itself.

Aroma: Big boozy bourbon nose with some follow on bitterness from the roast barley. I also picked up some coffee and a mellow, sweet chocolate hint on the back end

Appearance: Pitch black, pours thick and heavy. Carbonation is quite low, which causes just a hint of a dark tan head that dissipates quickly to leave a thin sticky line round the glass

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Flavor: Big big chocolate flavors up front, much more than the aroma would indicate. This gives way to a nice counterbalanced roasty bitterness. I hadn’t picked up on the cherries before now, but there is definitely hints of dark fruits coming through. There is a little booziness from the bourbon as you would expect, but there is little alcohol burn from this beer

Mouthfeel: Again, as with the appearance, this is a thick heavy beer. Even with a fairly low carbonation, this is has a nice creamy mouthfeel. This may sound odd, and I mean this in a good way, but there is almost a grainy chocolate feel at parts. I wonder if that could be attributed to the chestnut staves. I like it. Nice and sticky on the way down to remind you that you are drinking a 9% beer

Overall Impression: Very impressed with the initial offering from Adroit. I’d love to have one to sit in an aging cabinet for a year, or one of the other variations to do a side by side comparison. I definitely look forward to trying more from their line when available. Based on this beer I see no reason to think they won’t be around for a long time to come. I for one welcome our new Purcelville overlords!!

I certainly support local, but with beer, local or not it has to be good. And this certainly fits the bill.

Cheers (and I’ll leave you with some more details)

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Homework done…

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UFC Undisputed 3 review (Part 1)

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

I will start this by saying that I’m not any type of technical wizard on UFC Undisputed’s prior incarnations (either 2009 or 2010), but I love the game and the sport. The beauty of this game is it gives you a much better knowledge of the overall UFC product. Before getting UFC 2009 I would have considered myself a fan, but more of a casual fan than a hardcore type. I would purchase an event if I recognized more than just the headliners in a PPV.
This game makes you much more familiar with the rosters up and down, in all divisions. So the more you play the games, the more names you start seeing pop up on upcoming cards that you recognize, the more PPV’s you invest in. So now I’m a hardcore fan. That’s what the game does.

I’m going to be doing this review in 2 parts, simply because the game only came out on Tuesday, so I haven’t had a lot of playing time as of yet. I don’t work for a gaming site or anything, I’m just an idiot fan with a blog who wants to review the game, and it would be unfair to review the career mode without giving it a fair shake of the stick, as this is where a lot of people spend most of their time in this game. So look for that upcoming in a week or two.

So, now on to the meat and potatoes of the game with what I have played thus far.

New changes and tweaks
The past 2 offerings of this game have definitely been heavily biased toward those who favor striking over the ground/grapple game. The game still has some of that bias, but it’s certainly been evened out more. Fighters who traditionally excel on the ground (think BJ Penn) are much more dangerous, in either top or bottom position, both in terms of striking/counter striking, and clinch/reversals/submissions from top or bottom position. This makes the game immediately more challenging because if you decide to build a fighter in career mode, you now have to make sure to dedicate time to submissions/takedown defense, rather than just making a hulk who punches/button mashes every fight

They have also added an extra difficulty level, from 4 to 5. This definitely adds a much needed “tweener” level. Beginner and Experienced in past versions were way too easy, and advanced/expert were too hard (at least too hard to try to learn on). This year they have Beginner, Experienced, Advanced, Expert, Ultimate. The Advanced is a good starting point for players who are familiar with the game, but are keen to add to their skill set. I never really got into the sway/step moves, but find in Advanced mode, it’s a huge plus with regard to weapons in your fight arsenal.

New submission system
I for one welcome our new submission overlords. In terms of actual in the ring gameplay, this is the most noticeable tweak. In the past (as mentioned above) those fighters who favored the submission style were facing an uphill battle. You make your submission move then twirl your R stick furiously in an attempt to get the submission to hold. It worked when the other guy was almost dead anyway, so you still needed superior striking to get into a submission that would work. Now, when you try to submit, an octagon pops up with a blue and red band representing the corner your fighter is in. If you are executing the submission you must overlap and stay over the band of your opponent. Conversely, they must try to “outrun” you. Guys with superior skills with submitting in the game will have a larger band to work with making it easier. Strikers and stand up guys have shorter bands making their submission resistance weaker. I’ve seen a few people complain about it but I absolutely love it. You still can’t pop a submission every time, but it feels much more natural with regards to the actual fighters profiles.

Roster
Seven weight divisions, 150 fighters, Pride rosters (including Royce Gracie). Not much more to be said, huge upgrade

Event Mode
Outside Career mode, this is the mode I play most with. It allows you to set up a fight card, up to 8 fights, multiple weight classes, title/non title, ppv/ultimate fight night. I will sometimes set up a fight card to mirror upcoming PPV’s, just for shits and giggles. This has stayed pretty much the same, in terms of gameplay, but the one major improvement is the ability to choose which player to control after the initial screen. I’ve sometimes mistakenly pressed go before selecting a fighter, and they didn’t have the option to choose controllers after that one screen, infuriating to say the least.
The game has some pre-loaded events of PPV’s past, but what I think would be a great idea is if they made available for download some of the upcoming events. If I could log onto the Xbox marketplace and download the fight card for UFC 144 and 145, I would do it. Just a suggestion.

Ultimate Fights Mode
Haven’t played this yet. This is very hard, and very specific so I usually get more comfortable with the game as a whole. What this mode has been excellent for in the past is rounding specific skills. For example, you will get bonus points if you submit your opponent the same way, and in the same round as the real fight went. This means you may need to practice your kimora, heel lock, whatever. Advancing here usually unlocks actual video footage, but as I said, I haven’t played it yet.

Tournament Mode
I have not played this one yet as I dove right into event, career and title modes in limited time yesterday. What I will say about this mode is it made me a much bigger fan of the UFC and cost me money. And here is why. It absolutely behooves you to set up a 16 bracket tournament, give yourself the control options for all players. You will get a feel not only for what each players strengths and weaknesses are, but you will also gain a better knowledge of the actual weight divisions and all the fighters within. I’ve purchased more PPV’s because I recognised more fighters on the card due to the tournament mode. I usually play this mode early, a full size tournament in each division to learn which players I favor using in the game itself and who is in which division. Always good for learning and perfecting moves too.

Title mode
One thing I haven’t seen mention when other review sites talk about the game overhaul is the title mode overhaul. In the past you had 12 fighters to beat to become champion. If you were defeated, you simply got a rematch and could fight as many times as you like to advance. This time you start as a ranked fighter. Choose your pro, and they will start you around 15th in the ranks. With each win you will advance through the ranks. Depending on how dominant your win in the prior bout was, you can jump up 3 or 4 places at a time. If you lose however, you can drop 6 to 8 spots in a single go. In the fight immediately after your loss, they will talk about how you need a win or your chances of ever getting a title shot are gone. If you lose a second time, then it’s game over. No restarting at the 8th fight. Back and try it again (I should say here, I got my ass handed to me twice in 3 fights, which is why I lost a title shot, both times to God damned Cain Velasquez, sorry Junior, I tried). New game, new title run. I love it, makes it much more challenging.

That’s where I am at for now. I will post a second follow up probably next week when I have had time to test the career mode fully, as well as the Tournament and Ultimate Fight modes.

What the game developers have done with this installation of the game was remove many of the little things that detracted from the last game, and improved on the strengths. There is a very significant upgrade in almost every facet of the game.

Come back next week for part 2.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HockeyandBeers

Another day, another glowing beer review from me on an Ommegang beer. Don’t shoot the messenger. Blame Ommegang, they make the beer, I just drink it.

I’m a hockey guy, as the blog title infers, but I have to imagine that if I was a craft beer and baseball fan, Cooperstown would possibly be a patch of heaven on earth. Ommegang and the Baseball hall of fame right in the same area.

Anyway, enough gushing, on to the beer itself.

This beer pours a light straw color, with a hazy body. This all sits beneath a large brilliant white fluffy head, that lasts for quite a while before finally fading to leave a nice intricate lacing down the glass.

Once poured, you get to savor an aroma that brings light orchard fruits out, pears, apples and even some apricot. There is a tart but subtle hop aroma that finishes with a nice peppery bready yeast overtone, as you would expect from a Belgian ale.

Taking the first sip I get lots of sweetness from the malts, as well as a balanced fruit taste, maybe a hint of orange. This sweetness is perfectly balanced with the crisp hop bite. Combining the hops and the spicy yeast this beer offers a great blend of sweet and bitter to leave you wanting little else.

There is a fairly high level of carbonation with the BPA, that keeps the beer light, but not light bodied. There is a medium body on this and no alcohol burn at all. The finish is dry and astringent, but in a good way.

Overall this is a Belgian ale for sure, but it does have some distinct American characteristics like the dry hopping with Cascade hops. All in all another very enjoyable beer from Ommegang. It has actually allowed me to forgive them for not including the Chocolate Indulgence in the 2010 gift pack.

You can find out more about Ommegang for yourself by visiting www.ommegang.com

You can follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/hockeyandbeers

I have a confession. I have heard about Harpoon Brewery before. I have heard many good things about Harpoon Brewery before. I have had some (though not a lot) of their beers before. But I hadn’t previously heard of their Leviathan Series until a couple of weeks ago.

So now I want you to familiarize yourself with them so you don’t have to stumble into them like I did.

This is my review for the Leviathan Quad.

Aroma: Straight out of the bottle there is a sweetness of toffee, caramel and lingering vanilla. Dark fruits also add to the nose, but this is perfectly offset by the hops and alcohol so it’s not a sickly sweetness.

Appearance: A dark amber yet clear body with a small tan head. The head dissipates quickly leaving only a slight line around the glass.

Flavor: Vanilla and roasty malts set up a sweet first taste. This mingles with flavors of dark figs and honey, all of which is offset by a subtle hop bite. Coming through with the alcohol warmth is a spicy peppery punch from the yeast that helps balance the beer out.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation in this full bodied ale. This is both cloying and sticky to let you know you are drinking a heavy beer, but in a very good way. The alcohol phenols come through in every facet of this beer, including the mouthfeel.

Overall Impression: This is a fantastically complex heavy beer. It is enjoyable and evolving from first sip to last.

As I said in the opening, I was familiar with Harpoon but not the Leviathan Series. My local beer store has a weekly beer tasting and this just happened to be one of their offerings.
This Quad was first released in March 2009. The current batch was released in February 2011. I absolutely would recommend people go out and get his before it disappears for another year.

And I will not stay so unaware of the rest of Harpoon’s portfolio for much longer. Great beer, great brewery.

This is a review of Ommegang’s Chocolate Indulgence. In 2009 I picked up one of the Ommegang gift packs (which consisted of 3 beers and an Ommegang goblet). The beers in that particular gift set were the Three Philosophers, Hennepin and this, the Chocolate Indulgence (The 2010 gift set I picked up had the Three Philosophers, Tripel Perfection and BPA, Belgian Pale Ale, and is still available in stores, at least in the Northern Virginia area, so I recommend picking it up before it’s gone).

Now back to the Chocolate Indulgence, which was thankfully released as a single bottle this year. I was born and raised in Ireland. I moved to America in as an adult. For me, the only stout I’d known was a Pint of the Black, Guinness. I didn’t want to know about other stouts, Belgian style or other.
I’m glad I broadened my mind to that limited perspective.

Now on to the review…

Aroma: Strong aroma of coffee, chocolate and rich roasty malts, with a very mild hop aroma, but not very noticeable.

Appearance: Thick, opaque black body, with a tan head made up of fine bubbles. The head eases back quickly to leave a nice lacing track down the glass.

Flavor: Coffee and chocolate very noticeable up front. This is followed with a malty sweetness which is offset by a medium low hop bite, and it finishes smooth, not too dry.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation with a thick and creamy mouthfeel. Little to no astringency on the back end

Overall Impressions: This is going to be a biased opinion because Chocolate Indulgence is one of my favorite beers, and Ommegang is one of my favorite breweries.
This beer has complex flavors that will delight beer snobs, while retaining the qualities of a great base stout that all beer drinkers will appreciate. Go get one of these before they disappear from your shelves for another year (or the fine people at Ommegang could make this one of their year round beers, hint hint). Truly an excellent beer.

This is my review of Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Cuvee Series ale. This review is for Number 2 in the series of 3 (unfortunately I have only been able to procure #2 and #3, both of which I will be reviewing. I have not been able to land a bottle of #1)

Aroma: Rich toffee, vanilla and caramel hit the nose followed by subtle but present hops.

Appearance: Ruby red, with great clarity. A bright ale with a small off white head that disappears fairly quickly leaving a soft foam ring on top of the beer that also eventually subsides.

Flavor: Roasty and sweet up front with a hint of figs and dark fruits. Vanilla and some nuttiness carries through to a nice coffeelike dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Thick almost viscous yet creamy body that slides from the glass. Fairly low carbonation, with a slight warming from the alcohol ending dry.

Overall Impressions: A fantastic warming, rich and decadent ale, with a multitude of complex flavors that all tie together. This has a great balance with flavors that change as the temperature rises, making this an ideal sipping beer.

A final note:
There are a couple of breweries that I have a particular affinity for because of the portfolio of great beers they consistently produce. Southern Tier is one such brewery. I do however try to be objective with my reviews, using the BJCP judging methodology (albeit absenting the actual scoring portion going forward).
It may seem like I’m gushing, but it’s not an intentional bias. There is a reason that I have an affinity for these breweries, and that’s the beer, just the beer.

There’s a new beer in town. The Washington DC area has some great beer bars, and a nice selection of brew pubs, but has been lacking in the retail brewery department. Now Port City Brewing puts an end to that with the recent opening of their craft brewery in historic Alexandria.

I was part of the happy group of beer enthusiasts that took part in the first organized brewery tour this past Saturday (02/12/2011).

The brewery was founded by Bill Butcher, a veteran of the wine industry, and began their first brew on January 15, 2011. Bill was also the tour guide and most gracious host to our afternoon.

We arrived at the tasting room at around 1.30pm, with the tour scheduled to start at 2. There were three beers on tap, and obviously we sampled them all. (Information below provided by the brewery, I’ll have full hockeyandbeer reviews of all styles in the coming days or weeks)

Optimal Wit – 5% abv – 15 IBUs
Brewed in the Belgian Wit Bier tradition. It is brewed with raw wheat and oats, and steeped with coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise. This ale is a pale golden color with a bit of cloudy haze from bottle conditioning. This unfiltered ale offers layers of complex, nuanced flavors that evolve in the glass. It finishes crisp and refreshes the palate.

Essential Pale Ale – 5.5% abv – 35 IBUs
A deep golden color with hop aroma reminiscent of fresh fruit. The pleasing bitter taste from American hops is balanced with English and German malts, and offers a complex full flavored character that is smooth and refreshing.

Porter – 7.5% abv – 45 IBUs
Robust Porter shows bittersweet flavors of coffee and dark chocolate. It has a very complex malt character enhanced by yeast fruitiness. (I had begun drinking the porter before realizing I hadn’t photographed it yet, not a stingy pour by the good people there, over-eagerness on my part!)

After our tasting we began the tour. Outside the brewery is a grain silo with a 40,000 lb capacity. This houses the base malt which is a Pilsner malt from Heidelberg, Germany.

From the silo the grain is transferred to the grain mill

From the grain mill the crushed grain is transferred to the grain hopper where it is weighed before being transferred to the brewhouse…

And from the crushed grain tank it is transferred to the lauter tun for the mash.

Once the mash is completed it is transferred to the brew kettles where the wort is boiled and hops are added (lauter tun in the foreground, brew kettles behind them).

The system itself is a 30 barrel system. After the beer has been brewed it is transferred to the fermenters. The brewery has 4 fermeters, two 60 gallon fermenters, and two 90 gallon fermenters. Here you can see the two large and smaller fermenters to the right of the lauter tuns and brew kettles.

And now to one of the more interesting features of the tour. The Hop Cannon. This was designed by Jonathon the head brewer. The hops are mixed into a slurry, and put into the Hop Cannon. It’s then purged of oxygen, and hooked up to the vent pipe. From there it’s shot up into the fermenting beer. This prevents the possibility of any oxidation of the beer. From a homebrewer who loves gadgets, I have to say, very very cool.

They use two yeast strains in the brewery, one for the porter, and one for the Wit and the Pale Ale and IPA. They have a tank to recapture the yeast at the brewery.

There was still one beer being fermented, that was not ready to be kegged yet, the Monumental IPA. We were fortunate enough to be able to taste some of this right out of the fermenter.

And this is the first tasting (for us non employee types) of the Monumental IPA. It’s got a great citrus burst up front. It’s not quite finished yet, but I’m looking forward to the final product if this little sample was anything to go by.

Once the beer has fermented, it’s transferred to the brite tanks and then it’s on to the kegs. So many kegs…

In addition to the kegs, the brewery will also be offering bottled beers. One of the little interesting things I learned was how the very fine details can make a huge difference. The bottling line was purchased from Southern Tier Brewing. When Port City first designed labels they were off by a couple of millimeters. So it back to the drawing board. Since the bottling line was purchased from Southern Tier, what better way to ensure your labels fit, than purchase a couple of Phin & Matt’s extraordinary ales and measuring their label. The payoff is of course, you have some more good beer to drink after taking your measurements.

This is the actual bottling line that will be used.

And that completed our tour of the brewery. Of course once you get back from the brewery to the tasting room you are greeted by the taps displaying the beer, and the wall of growlers beckoning from behind them.

So, it was off home after a great afternoon in the brewery with my growler of Porter tucked under my arm, and a smile on my face. And this is how I treated myself on Saturday night.

I would just like to extend my thanks to the great people down at Port City Brewing. And I would like to make a request to any Washington DC area resident who likes good beer. Try Port City beers. One of the things that I have seen in literature since I started homebrewing and became a member of the American Homebrewers Association was “Support your local craft brewery”. Well, now we have one, lets support it. These are high quality beers, from high quality people. They deserve our local support. I know for sure I’ll be back next week with my growler in hand.