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Anderson Valley: 5 New Offerings

Admittedly, it has been awhile since us Chicagoans have been provided with something new from Anderson Valley Brewing.  That is until now, as the Boonville, California based brewery has released three new beers into our market.  Furthermore, the popular beers Boont Amber Ale and Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema are now available in 6 – pack cans!  Perhaps these new offerings as well as past offerings in a different package are a result of Anderson Valley being under new ownership.


Two of the new to the market beers mentioned above are of Belgian influence, and available in 750ml bottles, another package that Anderson Valley has not introduced into the market until now.  The first is Brother Davids Double Abbey Style Ale, clocking in at 9% ABV.  Next is Brother Davids Triple Abbey Style Ale, clocking in at 10% ABV.  The third beer Anderson Valley introduced this week is an imperial IPA.  All three are only $6.99, which is a far cry from most similarly styled beers.


What are you looking forward to enjoying more, the past favorites in cans, or the new  bombers?

4 New Black Holes

Have you had the pleasure of trying Black Hole, Mikkeller Brewing Co.’s monster version of a Russian Imperial Stout?  If you are indeed a fan, then you will be happy to hear that the Danish brewery has launched an entire barrel aged series of Black Hole.  The 13.10% ABV mammoth stout has been aged in four different types of barrels:  bourbon, rum, scotch whiskey, and red wine.  Each version is now available at most Binny’s, but in very limited quantities.  Email if you want to see if your local Binny’s has them in stock.  Which of the four versions of Black Hole are you most looking forward to?

Beer Brewed With Hot Rocks

We were excited to see two new beers from Port Brewing come through our doors this week. One is another boozy, loaded with hops edition of their annual Anniversary Double IPA (it is similar to last years version). The second beer that arrived in Chicago from the San Marcos, California based brewery is the one that caught our eye. Hot Rocks Lager is a collaboration between Port Brewing Company and Bend Brewing Co.



What interested us about Hot Rocks Lager is the old school technique employed in the brewing of this beer: “Sizzling rocks were heated until they glowed like hot magma and were then dropped into the wort causing it to boil.” This method became the feature that results in what Germans refer to as stein beer.


The 6.5% ABV Hot Rocks Lager poured a dark copper color, suggestive of a brown ale. It had a significant smoky aroma and flavor, reminiscent of a German rauchbier. A toasty and nutty flavor was apparent, along with a decent amount of bitterness. It was light bodied and a pretty easy drinker.


Have you ever taken on a beer brewed using this old school technique?




Unapologetic Reds From R Wines


   I’ve mentioned before that there seems to have been a sort of blowback against Australian wines in the last couple years, following a decade of popularity. The sales of Australian wines are down, especially in the $20+ range. Maybe I’m reading into things too much, but in my tastings, I’m starting to notice that Australian wines in more recent vintages 2008 and 2009 tend to show a little more restraint and a little less alcohol and plush, ripe fruit.

   As I’ve stated before, this is a trend that puzzles me, especially considering the fact that consumers are flocking toward other fat, hot, new world wines, such as Argentinian malbec, Spanish red and modern California Cabernet.

   This was on my mind when tasting through some new offerings from R Wines and their sub-labels Southern Gothic and Marquis Philips, newly returning to Binny’s shelves. When tasting through these wines, I began to smile, smirk, and even giggle a little.

   The lineup is unapologetically plush, with massive fruit and eyebrow-raising alcohol levels. The 2008 Poor Thing Grenache is a super-modern lightweight with notes of strawberry candy on the nose, with basic light cherry candy on the palate and touches of spicy oak. The 2008 Southern Belle Shiraz is ridiculously jammy, showing tons of weighty fruit on the palate blackberries and currant in an overblown style. This McLaren Vale shiraz spent time in Bourbon barrels. Seriously.

   I was surprised at how these wines contrasted with my experiences with past vintages. Their prices have been cut almost in half (down to $18.99), and they have taken a stylistic shift from slightly Rhoney and subtle to massively modern and fat. Mr Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate said of the massive Southern Belle, “It lacks only complexity.”

   The 2008 Marquis Philips GG Grenache is even fatter than the shiraz, with an incredibly wood-influenced nose of cedar and red fruit, and a palate of chocolate covered cherries and then more chocolate. It shows crazy weight, boasts an alcohol of 17.6%, and is almost unrecognizeable as grenache. Mr. Miller again: “It is what it is.” This is a steal at $19.99, again for fans of the style.

   But the show stopper was the 2008 Grail of Lisa Shiraz. Available only in limited quantities, this wine impressed me most with its thickness. I don’t mean that it has a full texture, I mean this liquid is the most viscous wine I have ever had in my mouth that does not claim to be a dessert wine. The fruit is black cherry, plum and currant and obliterates any possible subtlety. The alcohol is 18.3%, which is a lot of alcohol, but it doesn’t seem hot for all its weight. This wine is unreal; it is a caricature of over-the-top Australian shiraz taken even farther over the top, all the way to the other side, and it is completely unapologetic in doing so.

   I once had the fortune of meeting the winemaker of these wines, Chris Ringland. He is a humble and softspoken guy who doesn’t seem to hold any misconceptions about what he does, which is to make wines that people can enjoy right now. That’s how I see this particular lineup. They aren’t classic wines, but they are worth the time (and the twenty bucks) of any fan of wine as an experience unlinke many others.

What’s Your Pedigree?

Whats your pedigree?  Marstons Brewing from England sure knows what theirs is.  It comes in the form of an English Pale Ale.  The delicious Pedigree is now in distribution in Chicago, and available at many Binnys locations. 


What makes Pedigree unique is that this English Pale Ale is brewed using the mostly abandoned technique of brewing in oak casks.  Brewing in oak casks is more costly due to the frequent maintenance and labor intensive techniques associated with this type of brewing. Pedigree is light and sessionable, clocking in at 4.5% ABV. If you are looking for a hoppy Americanized pale ale, then this is not for you. But if you are seeking out a drinkable, old world pale ale, then this should be right up your alley.


When it comes to English Pale Ales, what is your pedigree?

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