It’s cold AF in New England this week, so we’re turning up the heat with the Mexican Cake—a stout brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon and habañero peppers from South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing Company.
You may have heard of Westbrook through their work with Evil Twin Brewing—the two collaborate on a lot of brews, including previously windowsilled goodies such as Bible Belt and Bozo Beer—but they more than hold their own when it comes to making tasty beers.
The Mexican Cake is a prime example. It was originally released in January of 2012 to celebrate the brewery’s one-year anniversary. People dug it so much, that Westbrook now releases it every May. They have also released several barrel-aged versions, and have even released a few versions that combine the Mexican Cake with Evil Twin’s Break series. You hard core Windowsillers will recall that I had the Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break on the sill in May of 2017.
What can I say about this stout, other than that it’s delicious? All those ingredients are palpable in the beer, and the habañero kick at the end definitely warmed my throat, no matter how frigid the temperatures outside were. I may have waited several months to open the bottle—I got two for my birthday back in August—but I don’t think I’ll be waiting that long to open the second one!
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Not only is it Stout Season, but it snowed and was extremely cold in the North East this weekend. That meant I needed an extra beefy stout to keep me warm. Who do you go to when you need a beefy stout? Evil Twin Brewing, of course. At 17.2% ABV, and with the consistency of pure motor oil, the Bozo Beer is one of the beefiest stouts I’ve ever had.
So why Bozo? According to a piece in the New York Times, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø (owner of Evil Twin) designed this beer “make fun of” the extreme flavor experiments in which craft brewers like Mikkeller often engage. Said Jeppe: We added cocoa, chocolate, coconut, cinnamon, oak chips, chili, coffee, vanilla, hazelnut, chestnut, marshmallows. It’s not a beer I’d drink, but it came out excellent, and it gets crazy high ratings.”
So, when Evil Twin made this beer, which was brewed in conjunction with Westbrook Brewing Company, they set out to make a ridiculous beer, kind of to make fun of us craft beer bozos. With all those giant flavors, and all that booze, I really loved this brew. I’ll be a bozo all day long if it means Jeppe keeps making this beer. It’s amazing!
How about you, Windowsillers? Would you be a bozo for this delicious Bozo Beer?
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Sometimes, you just need a cool brewery on the Windowsill!
I love when a brewery is good to its followers and fans. Back Channel Brewing Collective is one of the coolest breweries I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with on social media. It all started a week or two ago when, while perusing my Instagram feed, I ran into a post that featured a super delicious looking IPA… in a bowl. A bowl? Yeah. Straight up. Like a soup bowl.
I commented on the post, asking if the brewery distributed to CT, because the beer looked good and the bowl was kickass. I almost immediately got a DM from the company—actually by Josh Leddy, one of the owners and brewers—saying that they didn’t distribute to my area, but they wanted to send me something to try. How cool is that?
About a week later, the beer mail came. Not only did Josh and Back Channel send me a 24.5 oz crowler of their brand new Gonzo IPA—they only sell beer out of their taproom, and Minnesota state law says they can only sell in 750 ml or 64oz containers—I also got… THE BEER BOWL!
Before we get into the bowl, let’s chat a bit about the brewery itself. Back Channel was founded in 2016 by Josh Leddy, Melissa Leddy (yep, they’re married), Mark Makarem, Matt Olson and Joe Meehan. Their brewery, which sits on a back channel of Lake Minnetonka, opened its taps in 2017. Not only did the location inspire the name, but Josh Leddy told me the other meaning of the name. “Backchanneling is a secondary, or secretive, way to pass information around,” said Josh. “So all of our beer names are descriptions of famous Minnesotans, or people with significant ties to Minnesota.” Their beer names act as hints to the identity of the inspirations for the beer itself.
OK. So why, exactly, does Back Channel Brewing have beer bowls? Josh actually sent me some marketing copy about this. It seems the gang was on a beer trip in Asheville, NC, and they plum ran out of clean beer glasses. They had to use bowls. In doing so, they realized how having such a wide opening for your beer made the aromatics of their IPAs pop like never before. Also, the care it took to take that sip—two hands, nice and slow—also added to the experience of tasting the beer. Hence, the official beer bowl was born.
I suppose I should talk about the beer, right? The Gonzo is an IPA brewed with Motueka and Strata hops. Josh told me that the batch completely sold out in five days, making it the fastest beer ever to sell out through their taproom. Why is it called Gonzo? Well, the brewery never really reveals who has inspired the name of a particular beer, but I did get one hint: someone from Minnesota was very involved with Jim Henson’s Muppets. My guess? Jerry Juhl—head writer for the Muppets Show. and native of St. Paul. Whether I’m right or wrong, the Gonzo was pretty awesome. Think Julius from Tree House Brewing Company… in a bowl.
My final evaluation of this experience? Back Channel is awesome. The Gonzo is amazing. The bowl? Although it’s a kickass souvenir, and it totally does everything Back Channel says it does with the aromatics, I’m probably more likely to use it for soup over beer in the future. I just can’t commit both of my hands for drinking every beer I ever taste for the rest of my life, lol.
Still, though, I have to give it up to Josh and the rest of the Back Channel crew. Their beer is legit, and I hope I get to try them again some day.
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Digging into the archives for another Friday local brewery shout out!
My good friend @beernarrator posted a can of Powder Dreams from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company a few days ago, and it reminded me of just how strong the Captain’s can game has been of late. That, in turn, inspired me to dig through my photo archives for today’s Windowsill brew: The Tears of Green.
Tears of Green is one of those fun, rotating series from the Elmsford, New York-based brewery. Thus far, they’ve released several versions of it, with the most recent being dry-hopped with Vic Secret and Citra hops. Today, however, we have the first version to be canned—the Motueka and Citra version. The beer was very solid, with bold tropical flavors and not a ton of bitterness. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking to try some of Captain Lawrence’s new-ish and best-ish (in my opinion) IPAs.
I also wanted to give a quick shout out to the brewery itself, which sold its first keg in 2006, and is still going strong 13 years later. I haven’t been there just yet, but I’ve always been an admirer. Cheers to the Captain, and cheers to Tears of Green!
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Dug to the back of the fridge and pulled out a flower!
For real, this is the last can of Trillium Brewing Company beer left over from my trip in September. Anyway, before we get into the Amarillo Dry Hopped Sunshower Super Saison, let’s talk about gravity!
No, I don’t mean the kind of gravity that caused Newton to get conked on the head by an apple back in the 17th century. I’m talking about gravity when it comes to brewing. According to Craftbeer.com, “A gravity reading refers to the total amount of dissolved solids in water. Since we’re talking about beer, those dissolved solids are sugars.” Basically, yeast needs to eat. Wort with higher original gravity (OG), or more sugar, means the yeast eats more, and produces more alcohol and other good things. So, the higher the gravity of a brew, the higher the sugar in it, which usually means a higher ABV. It can also mean a deeper, more intense flavor.
OK, now that class is over, let’s get to the Sunshower! It’s a high-gravity farmhouse ale which, according to Trillium, is inspired by the “ethereal refreshing mid-summer moments when we experience both rainfall and the heat of the sun in New England.” If you’re from New England, you know exactly what that means, and there’s no better way to describe it. The higher ABV (caused by the higher gravity, if you recall our lesson), makes an otherwise light and effervescent brew pretty punchy, which is a nice change of pace.
Although my leftover Sunshower can wasn’t exactly straight from the cannery—I had the rest of the ones I bought right after I bought them—the beer within was still pretty nice and quite tasty. The dry hopping with Amarillo definitely brought a little more complexity to the flavors, too. Really enjoyable. Need to review a fresh one next time!
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We’re building another fort on the Windowsill today!
Last February, we had an ass-kicking raspberry ale from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery on the Windowsill. It was called Fort, and I can honestly say that it’s still the strongest fruit beer I’ve ever had. Today’s beer is Dogfish Head’s follow up to that brew, the Fruit-Full Fort.
Rather than just raspberries this time, owner Sam Calagione has opted instead to open up his berry sensibilities by including a “boatload” of raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries and elderberries in this version of the Fort. The result is more of the same oomph that the Fort brought to the table. Boozy and fruity—almost like a glass of sweet wine. Be careful with this one, but enjoy the fruity goodness!
Did you notice the yellow bottle cap on the Fruit-Full Fort? Most Dogfish Head heads know what it means—that you’re about to get knocked on your ass by just a few sips, since all yellow-capped beers from Dogfish Head are over 15% in ABV. However, like everything else about this Delaware-based brewery, there’s a story behind it.
Back in the 1990s, when Dogfish’s World Wide Stout first came out, it had a very similar label and cap color to a different, much less expensive beer, the Indian Brown Ale. Sticky-fingered, stingy beer drinkers would often conceal World Wide bottles in their Indian Brown six-packs to sneak them past unaware liquor store clerks. The company took enough losses on the World Wide that it started using these yellow “Yield” caps to put an end to the thievery. Eventually, they started putting the “danger cap” on all of their hefty beers, as a warning to consumers that booze is on the way, and they might want to put on a helmet before sipping. For me, these aren’t a warning, though; they’re a challenge!
How many danger caps have you had, Windowsillers?
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Have you ever heard of Ca Phe Sua Da? I hadn’t either. As it turns out, it’s a style of coffee that originated in Vietnam. According to Steamy Kitchen, “Vietnamese Iced Coffee is an intensely brewed coffee concentrate that drips down into a tall glass of ice and a big spoonful of sweetened condensed milk.” The result is a rich, creamy, smooth, sweet and intense coffee flavor that can be a bit shocking to those of us used to “regular” coffee.
Sounds good, right? Well, that’s what the Saigon Scooter Selfie is; a Vietnamese style coffee stout. It’s brewed with coffee, as well as brown sugar and cream extract. The beer is the latest—along with the Geyser Gose and the Pachamama Porter—in the Two Evil series of collaborations between Two Roads Brewing Company and Evil Twin Brewing. For this Vietnamese-inspired stout, brewers Phil Markowski (Two Roads) and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø (Evil Twin) actually traveled to Saigon—they’ve traveled somewhere to brew all of the Two Evil beers—to work with Duane Morton, head brewer at Heart of Darkness Brewery.
The label is inspired by a real photo taken by co-founder of Two Roads Clem Pellani. Pellani was actually trying to take a video, but ended up taking selfie instead… on a scooter… in Saigon.
Much like the Vietnamese-style coffee, the end product of this collaboration was rich, creamy, decadent stout. The label describes it like a coffee milkshake, and that’s really what it is. I haven’t had another stout quite like it, and I really wish I had another. It also makes me desperately want to try the real Ca Phe Sua Da… so I think that’s what I’ll be doing next!
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We’ll keep it brief for you Friday Instagrammers, but I wanted to give a quick shout out to BAD SONS Beer Co. with this photo that somehow got lost in my archives. Their top notch taproom is located in Derby, CT, and has only been around since the summer of 2017. Despite its short time in business, the brewery has always impressed me with the quality of the brews it puts out. If you’re looking for solid beer in CT, you can’t go wrong with BAD SONS!
Unfortunately, I don’t have too much information about the Big Whoop. It’s a pretty hefty double IPA that, at 9.0% ABV, packs quite a punch. That being said, it’s still very juicy and smooth, which makes it a little dangerous. I didn’t know it was so potent until I stood up after I drank it!
I’ll actually be in the taproom with my good buddy, Brian and our wives this Saturday… Maybe I’ll see you there? Maybe I’ll have a Big Whoop?
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Ever since I first heard about Beer’d Brewing Company, I’ve been itching to get them on my sill. I liked everything I read about them, from the quality of their beer to the kickass logo and can designs. When I found out that the Stonington, CT-based brewery had expanded its distribution, and was now showing up on the shelves of one of my local liquor stores, I got my wallet and jumped in my car.
Before I get to the You Like ‘A Da Juice, let me tell you a bit about the brewery. Beer’d opened its taps in 2012, making it a relative old bearded man in the Connecticut craft game. The brewery was opened by beer-loving power couple Aaren and Precious Simoncini, and still uses a humble 7BBL system to make their delicious drinks. I love their philosophy on beer, too. Their site says:
“Our aim is to reincarnate the days gone by when beer was produced by someone on your block rather than a multinational corporation. We are obviously not concerned with economies of scale and we think that shows in the quality of our offerings!”
That sounds pretty awesome to me. That’s why I’m hoping to visit next month!
OK. Now for the brew, which is why we’re all here! The You Like ‘A Da Juice is a double dry-hopped IPA that started as an experimental batch—Episode 8 in Beer’d’s Next Episode Series. People Like ‘A-ed it so much, that now it’s a permanent part of the lineup. I certainly Like ‘A da hop bill. It’s made up of Eukanot, Mosaic, Galaxy and Citra—both in pellet and lupulin powder form during the double dry hopping. I Like ‘A Dis Juicy Beer!
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My Milkshake has brought you all to the Windowsill today! Damn right!
So what’s a Milkshake IPA, anyway? According to Denver Westword, it’s an IPA made with milk sugar and lactose, which gives it a creamy, milkshake-like mouthfeel and appearance. The style also typically includes “the kinds of sweet treats you would find in a Milkshake: strawberries, peaches, chocolate, vanilla, mangoes and the like.” Most milkshakes are also spinoffs on New England-style IPAs, because they’re inherently tropical and low on bitterness. The exact inventor of the style is hard to nail down, but Westword says that Milkshake IPA, a 2015 collaboration between Tired Hands Brewing Company and Omnipollo, is often credited as the first.
Cut to four years later, and milkshakes have been popping up all over the place, and in great abundance. The one on my Windowsill comes from Massachusetts’ Clown Shoes. They bill it as a Tropical Fruit Smoothie IPA, but a milkshake by any other name, is still a milkshake. This one is made with guava, mango and pineapple puree. Solid fruity flavors and good mouthfeel to boot. I enjoyed it very much!
In case you’re wondering about that badass label art, it’s designed by Michael Axt and depicts the following, according to Clown Shoes: “The Grim Reaper has grown weary of being Death. Here we find him festive, semi-retired, and at the beginning of a craft beer journey.” We’ve all been there, Grimmy. Welcome to the craft beer community!
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