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Whiskey Hotline Hits the Road: Ireland

On my most recent trip to Ireland I had the opportunity to travel with Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) and attend their Origin Green Conference focused on sustainability and green food and beverage production in Ireland. I met Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny, watched the Gaelic football championship game (Ireland’s Superbowl) in a traditional Irish pub and visited my favorite brewery, Guinness.

 

Day one of my trip started in the County Cork at the historic Midleton Distillery. Midleton is home to Jameson, Powers, Paddy and pure potstill Redbreast, one of the best Irish whiskeys on our shelf.  They also provide whiskey on contract to support long existing independent brands.

 

New pot stills in Middleton

 

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: France Part III

Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil continues with his notes from the Rhone. Find previous entries on the Binny’s Blog here and here.

 

Domaine Saladin

 

We visit Domaine Saladin located in Saint Marcel d’Ardeche. This is a new label for Binnys, just arriving in stores a few weeks ago. Another impressive operation managed by patriarch Louis Saladin’s daughters, Elizabeth and Marie-Laurence Saladin. These ladies produce beautiful, pure, understated wines from hand picked grapes on land that has been farmed organically pretty much since the dawn of time. Meaning, they farm the same way they always have, organic before organic ever got popular. The wines are bright and remarkably restrained. The 2011 Paul, a co fermented blend of grenache and clairette blanche, shows the lift of fresh red berries with hints of citrus and spice box. The Cheyveron is also nicely balanced. The Per El (“For Her”) blanc, created by Louis for his wife who prefers white wine, is a sublime blend of 5 varietals aged in stainless steel vats.

 

Domaine Saladin

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: France Part II

A group of Binny’s wine people traveled to the Rhone Valley in France, joined by legendary importer Peter Weygandt. Check out day one from Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil here. He continues to share his experience:

 

Wine Barrels

 

We spend time at Domaine Les Aphillanthes, near the village of Rasteau, with vigneron Daniel Boulle. We tasted several interesting wines – the 2011 Rasteau 1921 Cuvee is epscially good (2010 here). The name refers to the year the vines were planted – aromas of blackberry, licorice and Provencal herbs abound. The finish is long and the flavors complete across the palate.

 

Wines of Domaine Les Aphillanthes

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: the Rhone & Southern France

Several Binny’s employees, led by Binny’s Wine Buyer Barbara Hermann, traveled to the Rhone Valley and Southern France, in search of the greatest wines the region offers. Joining them was legendary importer Peter Weygandt. Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil shares the experience:

 

Raymond Usseglio Vineyards

 

The business part of our journey begins when we meet Peter Weygandt, an importer of European artisan wines, in the hillside town of Chateauneuf du Pape. First stop, Domaine Raymond Usseglio, where we tour the vineyards and taste wines with Raymond’s son and heir apparent, Stephane. The impressive array of 2011 cuvees and 2012 barrel samples show the quality and care of this vigneron. Surprisingly, at least to me, the 2012 whites are amazing – lush and balanced with rich tree ripened fruit.

 

Raymond Usselgio Bottles

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A Sleeping Giant or Living in the Past?

There’s a stirring Down Under. Earlier this month Wine Australia, a new division under the Australian Government, gathered 250 key retailers, restauranteurs, wine journalists and beverage directors in Adelaide to pick, poll, quiz and conference. The objective: find out from the “front lines” what Australia needs to do to re-engage the wine consumer. The conference schedule was full and each was packed with Australian winemakers, marketers, and importers eager for perspective.

 

 

Panels included a great mix of retail, press and trade representatives. Subjects didn’t pull any punches. I especially liked the one titled “Retailer – Friend or Foe” (what?). After three full days of talking, it was time for wine country immersion. That meant winery visits, vineyards tours and “master classes” by coalitions of the top winemakers of each region – Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale.

 

 

Oysters were great with these classy dry rieslings.

 

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Beer Buzz Hits The Road: Michigan

On a recent trip to Michigan, 34 Binny’s employees embarked on a beer education adventure. With visits to Greenbush, Dark Horse, Arcadia, and Saugatuck, we walked away with a new and profound knowledge of what these breweries have to offer- and only just a little bit of a headache.

 

Beer Buzz extraordinaires, Kyle Fornek and Pat Brophy also break down exactly what beers the crew enjoyed most during the trip!

 

Our mode of transportation

Our mode of transportation


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First Stop: Greenbush Brewing
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New to the Illinois market and to the shelves of Binny’s, Greenbush Brewing Co. is a popular brewery living by the motto “Good Beer Wins.” We toured their facility as well as their soon-to-be used 15-barrel brew house. Greenbush is taking the necessary steps to adapt to their consumers… by making more beer.

 

Greenbush2Here are our top two brews from the visit:

 

Anger – This could very well be the best black IPA on our shelves. Somehow it seems to perfectly harness everything we love about a good porter like flavors of chocolate and brown sugar, with hop aromas and flavors still balancing wonderfully due to the addition of Columbus, Amarillo, Simcoe, and Cascade hops. Despite what the name tells you, this beer will make you happy.

 

Brother Benjamin Double IPA – This beer is incredibly well balanced, huge maltiness up front with a drying bitterness on the finish. The alcohol is very well hidden. We could have drank a lot of these, but there was a ton of other great beers to try!
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Second Stop: Dark Horse Brewing Co.
darkhorse1

Imagine a playground for adults. That’s exactly what Dark Horse Brewing Co. is. They have a stage where local bands play weekly, a skate shop, a sand pit, an outdoor and indoor bar… do we need to keep going? It’s well worth the three hour drive up to Marshall, Michigan.

 

Brews we enjoyed the most at Dark Horse:

 

DHblog2Reserve Special Black Ale – Upon first glance it looks like an Irish stout with its creamy tan head and black as night color. However this brew is packed to the gills with chocolate and caramel flavors, with a hefty amount of sweetness that balances nicely with an underlying citrus hop taste.

 

Falconers Flight Single Hop Crooked Tree IPA – Falconers Flight is a fairly new hop and this is the first we’ve tried of it. Kind of a weird mix of tropical fruit and pine, but it works with the medium malty profile of Crooked Tree.
DHBlog3

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Third Stop: Arcadia Ales
arcadiablog1

Arcadia was the third stop on our day, so it was awesome when they greeted us with a fantastic meal, good company and of course, great beer. We ended the night with a tour of their brewery. Fun fact about Arcadia: they still use a direct fire brew kettle to brew their beers. This gives some beers a heavy, caramel flavor.

 

The two brews we enjoyed most at Arcadia:

 

arcadiablog2Whitsun – Very flavorful, sessionable beer. It had a nice balance to it; not too heavy on the orange, not too much coriander, not too “wheaty.” Wonderful summer beer.

 

Cocoa Loco – We had a chance to sample the cocoa nibs that go into this beer, and boy are they bitter and just about unpalatable! But once the brewers at Arcadia have their way with them during the crafting of Cocoa Loco, the end result is flavors of chocolate cake and molasses with only the slightest bitterness.

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Fourth Stop & Brew Day: Saugatuck Brewing Co.

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hopfinder

Saugatuck invited us to come brew at their brewery. It was a great experience for so many of our employees as many hadn’t brewed before. We took Saugatuck’s Pathfinder Pale Ale and added Citra, Simcoe, and Nelson Sauvin hops to it. We then dry hopped it with hard to find Mosaic hops. We’re looking forward to its release, soon!

 
Here are the beers we enjoyed most on draft at Saugatuck’s brewpub:

 

sbblog2Pathfinder Pale Ale - This is what makes Saugatuck Pathfinder Pale Ale different from most other American Pale Ales: it is not overly bitter or hoppy, it is under 5% ABV, it is more malt forward, it is very earthy, and generally speaking, it is relatively mild and drinkable. If there can be a such thing as a session pale ale, then this is it.

 

ESB Amber – This beer is all about subtlety of flavor. Biscuity malts and a lighter hop profile help this one go down easy. Yes, it’s not an extreme IPA or barrel aged stout, but there is still a lot of complexity to be found in this brew.

 

Be on the lookout for Hopfinder in stores soon!

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Keep up with other Beer Buzz adventures here or shoot us an email at beer@binnys.com if you have any questions or just simply want to talk brewskis.

 Dark Horse Group Pic

Have you visited any of these breweries? Let us know what you thought in the comments section below!

A Tour of Scotland Distilleries

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I was recently in Scotland on vacation with my girlfriend Kimberly, and we were able to visit a few distilleries. We started off in Edinburgh where we visited a place called the Scotch Whisky Experience. They have a fun interactive tour that shows you how whisky is made. After the tour they bring out samples of whiskies from Speyside, the Highlands, the Lowlands and the Islands to show the difference in taste between these regions. Then they bring you to a room that holds the Largest Bottle_bloglargest Scotch Whisky collection in the world. This collection was built by whisky connoisseur Claive Vidiz. It took over 35 years to build and holds 3384 bottles of Scotch Whisky. Needless to say, this puts my collection to shame. Then we finished the tour in the tasting room where they have the largest bottle of whisky on display. This bottle stands 4 feet 9 inches and holds 105.3 liters (about 150 bottles).

 

Our next stop was in the Scotch Whisky capital of the world, Dufftown. First stop Aberlour. We tried samples of the Aberlour a’bunadh, Aberlour 12 year and Aberlour 16 year. The 16 year in particular stands out for me. This was well rounded and has a nice complexity from both the ex-bourbon and sherry casks.

 

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: Ribera del Duero

A small group from Binny’s visited Spain’s Ribera del Duero. Bill Newton reports from the road:

 

Ribera del Duero

 

Spain’s Ribera del Duero is beautiful and rustic. On one hand, the region is home to world-class wine producers such as Vega Sicilia, Pingus and Pesquera. On the other hand, nobody acted surprised when a herd of sheep blocked traffic to cross the road.

 

The guys at Vega Sicilia don’t leave room for surprises. They want complete control over every aspect of their wine making process, including making and toasting all of the barrels used at the winery at their own on-site cooperage. Coopers everywhere char the insides of their barrels, determining the flavors that barrels instill in the wines they hold (just like with spirits, or even beer).

 

Toasting Barrels

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Binny’s Beer Buzz Hits the Road: Final Days in Beligum

Our journey is on its final stretch. Catch up with parts one, two and three.

 

We spent day six with the Van Steenberge brewery. As usual, this brewery has been in the same family for generations and produces some top notch Belgian ales including favorites such as Piraat, Gulden Draak, and Augustijn.

 

Van Steenberge Sign

Van Steenberge Sign

 

The brewery itself is very large and sprawls around several acres and has its own water source. They have been on this same property since 1784. Van Steenberge pioneered conditioning beers (carbonating naturally) in kegs and has a lot of space dedicated to conditioning rooms which hold bottles and kegs at slightly higher temperatures to allow the yeast to reactivate and carbonate the beers. Currently Van Steenburge produces about 65,000 barrels a year, of which 75% is exported. This is done on an impressive 100 hectoliter brewhouse that turns out six batches a day.

 

Halve Maan Brewhouse

Van Steenberge Brewhouse

 

What impressed me most at the Van Steenberge brewery was their yeast management program. They use seven different yeasts and only use yeast for three generations. They use two different yeasts for bottle conditioning, one for flavor and one to remove oxygen. Yeast management is crucial when so many of your beers tip the scales at over 10% abv.
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Binny’s Beer Buzz Hits the Road: Belgium Days 4 and 5

If you haven’t been following along, Nate Hadley and myself have been traveling through Belgium tasting beer, sight seeing and learning all about the culture! This is day four and five of our journey.

 

Hop Farm in Poperinge

Hop Farm in Poperinge

 

We spent day four with the Van Ecke brewery, makers of Poperings Hommel, among others. Our first stop was a hop farm in the town of Poperinge. This was by far my favorite stop of the trip to this point. It was a small, family farm called ‘t Hoppecruyt. We toured the fields, which were just past the initial sprouting phase and the vines were starting to climb.

 

Hops Growing

Hops Growing

 
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