Friday, October 28, 2016

Hiking and Maryland Beer at Sugarloaf Mountain

Normally after a nice climb up Sugarloaf Mountain we descend and head directly to one of the top wineries in Maryland, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. However, this past weekend we decided to investigate a nearby year-old brewery: Mad Science Brewing Company.

theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App showed us that the brewery is located north of the mountain on a route to Frederick. It is located in Thanksgiving Farm; grows Columbus/Zeus, Nugget, Centennial, Cascade, and Magnum hops; and is as nano as possible. On our visit there were four beers available: Helles Belles lager, Rye-Sin Amber IPA, Antidote Pale Ale, and Hemophilia, an Imperial Stout on draft and nitro. This was very tasty, even refreshing after the hike. More refreshing was the Helles Belles. This is a fantastic beer, light but flavorful with the right amount of minerality and hops. Well done. And a fellow hiker raved about the Antidote so there are good things coming out of this nano brewery.

After a round, hunger set in so we headed into Frederick to the long running restaurant-brewpub Barley & Hops. In fact, the brewery has been operating since 1999 producing a wide range of beer styles.  Over bratwurst I chose a sampler of the Catoctin Clear Blonde Lager, Vinz Clortho Gose, Gore'd Pumpkin Duppel, and Drunk Dial Porter.  The lager was very good, flavorful, just not the minerality and hop balance as the Mad Science version. The gose was very interesting, tart and smokey. The last two were my favorites with the pumpkin duppel showcasing the squash and ,alt as opposed to the dreaded holiday flavors. And the porter was spot on. Nicely done and a highly recommended spot to eat. Cheers.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#VABreweryChallenge #49 - Sweetwater Tavern Centreville

We've been off the #VABreweryChallenge for too long and stopped of at local brewpub chain Sweetwater Tavern Centreville for an early Sunday dinner. There are two other Sweetwater Taverns, one in Merrifield and the other in Sterling, with the trio sharing the same beer menus. The food is quite nice and reliable across all three with the beer decent, but not exceptional. The Naked River Light is a lightly hopped Pilsner suitable as a lawnmower beer. On the other hand their Iron Horse Lager has more flavor and hop profile and more satisfying on my palate. The Great American Restaurants Pale Ale was my favorite - a solid offering. The Great American Restaurants Oktoberfest was as expected with suitable maltiness - I just don't care for the style. And finally, their Ghost Town Pumpkin Ale is not bad, spices added to the glass rim not the brew. I like that serving method. Cheers.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Garofalo Artisan Liqueurs - Unique Liqueurs from Virginia

During our recent excursion into Winchester we missed a gem in Garofalo Artisan Liqueurs, a local spirits maker of various liqueurs such as "Night Life" Coffee Liqueur, Ginger Lime Liqueur, Tart Cherry Liqueur, Francesca Inzero Walnut Liqueur, and Father Ewing Liqueur. The distillery is a proud member of the Shenandoah Spirits Trail and was opened in 2013 by Dick Garofalo at the age of 73. Shows this plenty of life left after retirement. His signature liqueur is the Francesca Inzero Walnut Liqueur (named after his "bootlegging" grandmother) and made from walnuts originally harvested from a walnut tree near the house. Got to try this one next.

However, two liqueurs that I did indulge in are the "Night Life" Coffee Liqueur and Tart Cherry Liqueur, both purchased at my local ABC store for $24 and $28 respectively after taxes. The coffee liqueur is very smooth with an espresso backbone and subtle cocoa at the tail. In order to obtain this flavor profile, Garofalo uses ground coffee from locally-based Cabin Creek Roasters and cocoa nibs. The tart cherry liquor was my favorite of the two - reminding me of a drier version of the Hungarian Bonbon Meggy. There's plenty of tart, sour cherry flavors and just a hint of sweetness. My type of liqueur. Cheers and remember to use theCompass to visit the distillery.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Vertical - The Sequel to Sideways

On Saturday October 15th, Rex Pickett and Loose Gravel Press LLC will officially release Vertical: Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail, the sequel to the wildly popular Sideways movie and book. In a major plot twist Miles Raymond is now famous after the release of the film version to his novel "Shameless" and Jack is down on his luck, divorced and jobless. As you guessed Shameless is Sideways, the story of two friends on a bachelor party weekend in Santa Barbara Wine Country wine country.  How much Miles' fictional success follows Pickett's actual life story would be an interesting discussion.

Like the original, Vertical's backbone is wine country.  This adventure involves Miles and Jack transporting his wheelchair-bound mother Phyllis to Wisconsin through Oregon's Willamette Valley where Miles is Master of Ceremonies at the International Pinot Festival. Phyllis has suffered a stroke and wants to ditch her assisted living facility to live with her sister. Their journey starts with a brief return trip to Beullton, where the reader is introduced to Miles intoxication with celebrity life as well as the self-induced comic situations that the duo encounter.

After a stressful trip, they eventually arrive in Oregon and the reader is introduced to the Willamette Valley wine scene - but only casually. Instead, the real focus of the book has become apparent, and that is relationships - those between friends, caregivers, and most importantly between a stoke impaired mother and son.  The "life is stranger than fiction" escapades keeps the readers attention, but it's the story of how Miles adapts to these situations and his out of control personal life that is most relevant.  For that reason, Vertical is not only an enjoyable read, but also a bit introspective - particularly the finale. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How Do You Whiskey? I, Whiskey: The Human Spirit

I stumbled upon this video honoring the human connections that are created through whiskey and it's rich heritage. The video was produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Passing Lane Films and features Virginia distilleries Catoctin Creek Distillery and Copper Fox Distillery as well as DC's whiskey destination Jack Rose Dining Saloon. From the producers:
Whiskey is a distinct spirit—it is science, chance, time, risk, ingenuity, love, intensity—all in a glass, when it’s done right. And like America itself, whiskey is equally known and appreciated for its diversity and individual expression. The story of whiskey is a story of entrepreneurs, scientists, and bootleggers and the whiskey they produce—a rebel spirit renowned for its individuality and colorful history. I, Whiskey is the story of the human spirit, ingenuity, and the forces that have shaped whiskey and society for ages.
I love the quote at the end by Scottish poet Robert Burns, "Freedom and Whiskey Go Together". Cheers and make sure you also view our interview with Catoctin Creek's Scott Harris.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Snooth Presents a Lodi Virtual Wine Tasting

 On the heals of a very successful 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference hosted by Lodi Winegrape Commission, Snooth continued the Lodi momentum by hosting a virtual tasting of four Lodi wines. For a recap,  once synonymous with old vine Zinfandel, the Lodi AVA currently grows over 100 different grape varieties and was named Wine Enthusiast's 2015 "Wine Region of the Year".  The region is located between the San Francisco Bay and the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is known for it's hot dry days and an evening breeze that commences on schedule every evening providing a noticeable diurnal shift in temperature. Perfect for retaining grape acidity. Lodi is home to approximately 65 wineries -- many multi-generational family operations.  During the Snooth virtual tasting Master Sommelier/Snoother Tim Gaiser interviewed Stuart Spencer, Program Manager, Lodi Winegrape Commission & Owner/Winemaker, St. Amant Winery, and Michael McCay, Vineyard Manager and Owner/Winemaker, McCay Cellars to discuses the diversity of the region through these four wines.

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards 2015 Belle Blanc Lodi White Blend  ($26) - (45% Grenache Blanc, 45% Roussanne, 10% Viognier). Acquiesce Winery is Lodi’s only dedicated white wine winery. This wine is made in the classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape Southern Rhône style from cuttings acquired through Tablas Creek Vineyard (originally from Château de Beaucastel Winery). The wine is simple floral, savory, stone fruit, light citrus, long fresh finish. Perhaps not that simple.

McCay Cellars 2013 Lodi Grenache ($35). I devoured this wine during the WBC16 winemaker dinner.   It is lighter bodied, with red cherry flavors and an herbal center; finishes with killer acid. A fantastic wine.

LangeTwins Winery & Vineyards 2014 Lodi Nero d’Avola ($20). Another #WBC16 favorite from during the speed tasting, this 5th generation farm family shows more Lodi diversity by growing grapes normally found in Sicily. The wine is very bright and fresh with dark cherries, mint, and a very smooth finish.  This is your afternoon table wine.

Klinker Brick Winery 2013 Lodi Farrah Syrah ($20). This wine spent 15 months in French oak providing a chalky, spicy, and smoky character. The wine finishes with very structured tannins. Nicely done and at this price, quite the value.