Marca Binny’s 1949 Official Launch Party

   I was excited when I found out that Binny’s was launching an exclusive new premium cigar, the Marca Binny’s 1949. But then I heard about the Official Launch Party Binny’s is holding to kick off the new cigar. This is an event every cigar fan in Chicago needs to know about.

   What do you have to do to get an invite? Buy a box of Marca Binny’s 1949 series cigars, any size.

   To say thank you for supporting the new cigar, Binny’s will invite you to the Marca Binny’s 1949 Series Official Launch Party on August 20th, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, at the Fumare Lounge at 305 W. Golf Road in Schaumburg. Attendance is limited to the first 50 customers who buy a box of MB 1949.

   You will meet master blender and industry legend Arsenio Ramos, who will speak on the new cigar and his experiences in the world of tobacco. Bring your MB 1949 box to have it signed by the blender.

   When you arrive you will be given a free five pack of MB 1949 cigars, including one of each size. There will be special discounts on the cigar exclusively for the night of the event. On top of all this, a free drawing will be held for door prizes. And who doesn’t like a little swag?

   Basically, Binny’s wants to give you the chance to meet a legendary cigar blender, the chance to meet and hang out with other tobacco enthusiasts, get some free stuff and the opportunity to get more cigars at great prices.

   Sounds like a good time to me.

Locally Brewed Argus Beers Hit our Shelves

Argus Brewery is the latest brewery to hit our shelves, and it is brewed locally here in Chicago.  The father and son brewing team of Robert and Patrick Jensen are excited to sell their beers at Binnys, and we are thrilled to have them.  The duo introduced three beers to the market:  Country House Red Ale, Pegasus IPA, and McCafferys Irish Cream Ale.

 

The brewers at Argus enjoy the challenge of developing and distributing locally brewed beers that authentically mimic the best beers in the world.  Pegasus IPA is no exception, as the recipe is derived from a brewmaster at Smugglers brewpub in Telluride, Colorado.

 

We had the chance to sample Pegasus IPA, and as soon as it hit our glasses we noticed its reddish copper hue, a color a bit dark and deep when contrasted with many other IPAs.  The flavor started out with some sweet and sugary caramel malt.  The slow reacting bitterness receptors then kicked in as our mouths were coated with mild hop flavors.  Pegasus was a bit more balanced between malt and hops than many IPAs, yet was still bitter enough to bring a smile to the faces of hopheads.

 

If you have been to the Country House restaurant and are a beer lover, then you have probably seen the Country House Red Ale on tap.  Argus contract brews this beer for all three of the Country house locations.  The same is true for McCafferys Irish Cream Ale and Pegasus IPA, except that they are contract brewed for Ballydoyle Irish Pubs.  Now you can find these delicious beers at Binnys, in addition to these popular watering holes.

 

Have you had a chance to enjoy the locally brewed beers of Argus yet?

 

Announcing Marca Binny’s 1949

   Here’s the big news: Binny’s now has a exclusive new line of premium cigars:

 

Marca Binny’s 1949

 

   The Marca Binny’s 1949 series took two years and more than fifty blends to create. It features 100% first generation Cuban seed tobacco aged a minimum of 3-5 years.

   …Which sounded pretty impressive to me. So I called up George Eshou, the Binny’s cigar guy who had a major hand in the creation of the new line of smokes.

   “Our intention was to provide consumers with a memorable cigar at an incredible price point and the Marca Binny’s 1949 is that cigar,” George told me. “This brand could easily sell for double what we have it set, but that was not our intention.”

   To reach this goal, George flew to Nicaragua to meet with rockstar Cuban master blender Arsenio Ramos. Ramos is one of the most famous blenders in the world, responsible for creating some of the great Cuban blends. George then spent months sampling different blends, tweaking the final blend until the cigar was perfect.

   The MB 1949 has some impressive credentials. The tobacco comes from Jalapa and Esteli in Nicaragua, growing regions known for some of the best tobacco in the world. They are rolled at Raices Cubanas in Danli, Honduras. Raices Cubanas rolled four of Cigar Aficionado’s top 25 cigars of 2009, and is responsible for brands such as Illusione, Padilla, Casa Fernandez and more.

   What’s your favorite shape? You can get these medium to full strength cigars in the following sizes: Canonazo 52×6.25, Petit Robusto 52×4.25, Robusto Largo 52×5.25, Tabacon 60×6 and Tres Petit Corona 44×4. Ranging from $4.25 to $6.50 per cigar, the MB 1949 line is very competatively priced compared to other brands of this quality. You can find the full lineup at all Binny’s stores.

   George is confident that this smoke will amaze any cigar afficianado for its rich, complex, refined and balanced flavors, especially at this price. Be sure to give one a try.

   More big cigar news is on the way. Stay tuned for news about a kickoff event Binny’s is planning. It’s going to be big.

 

Sorachi Ace: The Rare Hop Results in Unique Flavor

Sorachi Ace is not only the name of the latest Brooklyn Brewery beer to hit our shelves; it is the name of a rare Japanese developed hop.  Presently Sorachi Ace hops, which are a cross between British Brewers Gold and Czech Saaz hop varieties, are only grown on a single farm in Oregon.  The result of this union is Sorachi Ace hops, which are celebrated for their lemon zest and lemon grass aromas.  While some may expect a beer that is named after a hop varietal to be a bitter IPA, Brooklyn has decided to use their bounty of the scarce hops to fashion a saison. 

 

Upon further thought, it makes sense for Brooklyn to craft a saison using this hopafter all some of our favorite saisons, such as Ommegangs Hennepin, are celebrated for their lemon zest and lemon grass characteristics.  Sorachi Ace (the beer) fits this profile:  it is pulsating with a lemon citrus aroma, backed up with some herbal spices and yeast.  The flavor is packed with more lemon, spice, and a bit of that funk that seems like a staple for saisons. The finish is mildly bitter but extremely refreshing.  There is absolutely no alcohol presence, despite Sorachi Ace (the beer) clocking in at 7.6% ABV.

 

Due to the uncommonness of Sorachi Ace (the hop and the beer), it is presently only available at three of our city stores:  South Loop, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park.  We will keep our fingers crossed for our other stores, but unless Brooklyn Brewery gets their hands on more of the limited lemony hops, it looks like this is it for now.  Have you ever tried a beer infused with Sorachi Ace hops?

Feelin’ Kinda Blue?

Feelin Kinda Blue?  If so then we have just the thing for you.  Kinda Blue is the newest release from Boulder Beer, and is the tenth such offering in their Looking Glass Series–a series that hasn’t seen an addition since Hazed and Infused in 2001.  Kinda Blue is a wheat beer brewed with the addition of real blueberries.

 

Like the name suggests, Kinda Blue only had moderate blueberry aromas.  The color of the brew was much darker and more orange than most traditional wheat beers.   It was spritzy in the mouth with nice carbonation.  There was little going on in the hops department, the dominant flavors were wheat and bread.  The beer had a noticeable tartness, especially on the finish, as well as a hint of lemon zest.  Overall Kinda Blue fit the brewers description of only having muted tones of blueberry.

 

Kinda Blue fits the bill as a refreshing wheat beer that is perfect for the summer.  But if you are looking for a blueberry beer gushing with fruit, you may want to look somewhere else, as we would only consider this offering kind of a blueberry beer.  Our favorite blueberry beer, Dark Horses Tres Blueberry Stout, unfortunately wont be out for another 4-5 months.  What is your favorite blueberry inspired brew?

BridgePort Brewing Company Coming to Binny’s

Oregons oldest craft brewery, BridgePort Brewing Company of Portland, is on its way to Binnys.  BridgePort earmarked Illinois to be the 19th state to feature their beers, picking the week of August 16th as a tentative release date (although we may see it earlier). Bridgeport will be offering up two hoppy brews in the Land of Lincoln, their award winning IPA, as well as Hop Czar, which is a double IPA.

We had a chance to sample Bridgeports IPA, which has previously been decorated with gold and silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival.  We found that the 5.5% ABV IPA is a balanced version of the style, with citrusy hops accompanied nicely by sweet caramel malts.  The beer sets itself aside from many other IPAs due to the fact that it is bottle conditioned, drinkable, and not overloaded with bitter hops.

We are excited to add another offering from the great beer state of Oregon to our ranks, with the likes of Rogue and Widmer products.  The beers of Bridgeport will not only stand out because of their great taste, they will be the only IPA and double IPA in our stores available in 12-packs.  Which beer from Oregon would you like to see hit our shelves?

Rogue Releases OREgasmic Ale

Rogue has released the next beer in their Chatoe Rogue seriesa series based on malt from Rogue’s own barley farm and hops grown on Rogue’s own hopyard. OREgasmic Ale is the third installment in the series, following Dirtoir Black Lager and Single Malt Ale. Given the name, it is evident that someone at the Rogue Brewery really enjoyed OREgasmic Ale. We hoped we would get the same pleasure when we got the chance to sample it.

OREgasmic Ale had a big dose of bready and grainy flavored malts, similar to the first two beers in the Chatoe Rogue series. Also like its two predecessors, OREgasmic Ale had a lot of earthy hop characteristics. Citrus hops and caramel flavored malts were also evident. The finish was clean and dry, and left a lingering hop bitterness on the palate.

The usage of all homegrown Oregon ingredients made OREgasmic Ale a very unique pale ale. The Chatoe Rogue series will continue in October, with the release of Wet Hop Ale. Vino Envy Ale will be the final installment in the series, and is also slated for release later in the year. In the case of OREgasmic Ale, do you think the name fits the bill?

Spanish Bargains to Return to Binny’s

   It was just about two years ago when I heard that some of my favorite Spanish bargains including wines from Bodegas Naia, Bodegas Luzon, and a few related producers would no longer be distributed in Illinois. This was a portfolio of fun, approachable wines at stunningly affordable prices. Not only was Binny’s losing a bunch of easy to recommend values, but I was losing several personal favorites, wines that I liked to drink (a friend of mine had even taken inspiration from one of these wines when naming his newborn daughter).

   Well, they’re coming back.

   After some changes with suppliers and distributors, these wines are working their way back into our market. I was pretty excited when I had the chance to taste through the new vintages:

 

   A white that I remember quite fondly is Las Brisas from Bodegas Naia. The notes of grass and cat pee (in a good way) on the nose indicate the 25% sauvignon blanc in this blend. The 2009 Las Brisas is fresh and high-toned, with notes of tropical fruit salad. It is less graceful than I remember, less floral, but as easy-drinking and fun as ever, and a steal at $9.99.

   Showing more cut and focus is the 2009 Naia Rueda, from 100% verdejo. The nose has a sauvignon blanc-like grassiness, with good citrus fruit. Grapefruit and other citrus fruits dominate the palate, with just a hint of minerality adding complexity to this otherwise fruit-dominated wine. The 2009 Nora Albarino also shows notes of fruit salad big peach and apricot and melon, with a little bit of sweetness that adds weight.

   A red new to the portfolio is the 2008 Granate Garnacha. A slightly Rhoney and dark nose of heavy raspberries leads to a broad wine with good tannins. The fruit isn’t the focus in this brooding wine. I was surprised that we can sell this value for $12.99.

   A red that we’re excited to welcome back is the Mano A Mano. This Tempranillo from Spain has always been a great value under ten dollars, and the newest release is no exception. The Mano A Mano is full of up-front raspberries and is very full-bodied for the price, offering enough tannins to grip the palate.

   Maybe the biggest surprise of all was the 2007 Venta Mazzaron, a tempranillo. This wine is fantastic on the nose, with notes of big blueberries and meat, specifically bacon. A friend said “This smells like money,” and I nodded. Gamey on the palate, with charred bacon and smoke all the way through, riding over big, plush fruit. It might not be elegant, but the Venta Mazzaron offers intensity and complexity you rarely see at this price. Which is $12.99. I’m planning on buying a few bottles for myself.

 

   Most of these wines are not yet on Binny’s shelves. But they’re on their way, and should be available any day now. If you’ve been missing them as much as I have, let the folks at your favorite Binny’s know.

Aging an Ancient: Midas Touch

We all know how well barley wines and many stouts age, as well as several Belgian styles of beer.  But what about aging obscure styles, like herb and spiced beer, or fruit beer?  Yesterday we experimented with two vintages of Dogfish Head Midas Touch, one bottled in May 2009, the other bottled in April 2010.

For those not familiar with Midas Touch, it is based off of the oldest known fermented recipe in the world.  The Turkish inspired beverage uses ingredients from 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas.  Some notable ingredients used in this brew are saffron, white muscat grapes, and honey.

The aged version of Midas was sweeter, spicier, and fuller bodied than its newer counterpart.  Its appearance was cloudier, and it had superior head retention as well as lacing.  It had a lot of additional flavors going on, due to the fact that it wasnt nearly as boozy as the fresher version.  The noticeable alcohol presence in the fresh Midas seemed to drown out most of the characteristics that made the aged version so desirable.  One thing was for sure:  setting this beer down for over a year improved it tenfold.

Time and again high alcohol aged beer outshines fresh versions.  Once the alcohol dies down, other flavors break the surface and shine through.  What is the most obscure beer that you have aged?

We Have Farmer’s Tans

Southern Tier Brewing Co. is fine-tuning their seasonal lineup.  Instead of bringing back Ubersun, the imperial wheat beer that many have enjoyed for several summers, Southern Tier has released Farmers Tan.  Farmers Tan is an imperial pale lager, released in a bottle featuring a rooster with a sunburned face, wings, and legs.

 

The most noticeable thing about this brew is the bitternessit is heavily hopped with earthy and piney characteristics.  A biscuit malt backbone provides balance, and lemon zest and citrus flavors round the beer out.  The alcohol is barely noticeable at 9% ABV.

 

It is sad to see Ubersun goit was a delicious brewbut for some reason didnt have the popularity that we think Farmers Tan will.  Are you excited about the introduction or Farmers Tan or sad to see Ubersun go?