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News from the IPCPR Trade Show, Part II

    Binny’s cigar guys George Eshou and Mike Trella recently spent a week in New Orleans at this year’s IPCPR (International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers) Trade Show. You can read Part I of George’s notes from the event here. Here he continues his notes from the event, featuring new cigars presented by General Cigar Company. From George:


    As impressed as we were with all the cigars we picked up this year, General Cigar had to be the one company that impressed us the most with their new product lines.


Macanudo Cru Royale

    When is the last time you smoked a Macanudo? It’s literally been years for me but the new Macanudo Cru Royale could definitely be one of those ‘go to’ smokes on a more regular basis. This entirely new blend consist of exotic tobaccos exclusive to General Cigar Co. and they are truly something to talk about. Cru Royale is made up of Brazilian, Nicaraguan, and Dominican filler tobaccos that are held together with a secret binder from “La Vega Especial” or “The Special Field.” The inner components are wrapped with a beautiful, dark brown, Ecuadorian Habano leaf that screams flavor. This new Cru Royale is upper medium in body but full flavored and oh so delicious.


Macanudo Vintage Maduro 1997

    For more than 25 years, General Cigar has cultivated a library consisting of 50 bales of each proprietary crop. Carefully monitored and aged according to exacting standards, these tobaccos are cloistered until General Cigar’s team of cigar masters deems them extraordinary. Enter Macanudo Vintage Maduro 1997. As the first-ever Maduro worthy of the Macanudo Vintage designation, this truly limited collection features the best of the exceptional 1997 Connecticut Broadleaf crop, a gift from Mother Nature herself. The 13 year old wrapper covers tobaccos from four other major growing regions from around the world: Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil, and the Dominican.


La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Obelisco

    Handcrafted from a blend of Dominican and a unique double Nicaraguan ligero, this ground-breaking figurado is a feat of cigar- making artistry, for it replicates the shape the of the monument that inspired its creation. This unique shape is covered with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and the combination of all these tobaccos gives you a La Gloria Cubana unlike any other. I think his full-bodied blend is outstanding and I’m sure you will agree once you’ve smoked one.


La Gloria Cubana Serie N

    This new, four-cigar collection delivers the goods by marrying proprietary Nicaraguan tobacco with a dark Capa Oscuro wrapper. Through artisanal blending and by employing specific frontmarks to maximize the unique flavor, Team La Gloria Cubana proudly unveils this stimulating, medium-bodied offering punctuated by spicy notes and balanced to reveal a refined smoke.


Hoyo de Monterrey Reposado en Cedros

    This new installment from Hoyo comes in three sizes and is packaged in a rustic-style looking box. Made up of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican filler tobaccos, held together with a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and finished with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, each Reposado en Cedros is wrapped and aged with a thin sheet of cedar to enhance the flavor profile during the aging process.


    – George Eshou


    We have yet more news and reviews from the trade show coming your way, including more cigars plus some cool new accessories. Check the Binny’s Cigar Blog again soon.

Good Wine From Italy


   Thirty-something Binny’s Wine Consultants crowded into a room in a basement in one of our suburban Binny’s locations yesterday afternoon. This was part two in a two part series of classes highlighting the wines of Italy, a subject diverse enough to tie up any wine professional for a while. Italy is, after all, infamous for having multiple wines with the same name, multiple names for the same wine, and not listing varietals on wine labels, except for when they do.

   Jenni Heim, our resident Italian wine nut (admirably!) led us through a tasting of over thirty wines from central and Southern Italy. Though education was buried in her message, the gist of it was enthusiasm. These are delicious and approachable wines! People need to know about them!

   Right NOW!

   Some of her enthusiasm may have rubbed off on me.

   Somehow, I have always held this cynical idea that inexpensive Italian wine is overly acidic and lacking in charm. This was probably a self-fulfilling prophecy; I managed to avoid the good, cheap stuff for years. But yesterday afternoon I tasted all these wines, not a single one over $30, most half that, and discovered all I’ve been missing.

   Just a few greats you might want to try:


   A central theme to our tasting was that generally, the farther South you look in Italy, the less the wine is focused on acidity, meaning better entry points for the American palatte. This is apparent in the 2007 Aia Vecchia Lagone, a Bordeaux-style blend from Tuscany. Its big nose of cocoa and stewed tomato leads to a fat, modern, ripe red. It’s good, but for under fifteen bucks, this should be a slam dunk for anybody searching for a bargain red along the lines of Californian or South American.

   The 2008 Quercia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo shows surprising grace for one ten dollar bill. Light and smoky on the nose, the focus of this wine is in its lightly tannic grip, which supports the light fruit beautifully. Another graceful wine is the 2009 Colosi Nero d’Avola from Sicily, which features bright, lightly sweet strawberry fruit notes and surprisingly tight tannis. The 2008 Costera by Argiolas shows light, easygoing fruit with a distinct note of Black Jack gum in the nose.

   Moreover, these wines all get a big thumbs-up for their texture, grip and value: 2005 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino, 2006 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2007 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso.



   I’m used to tasting the whites of Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, so the Italian whites were refreshingly balanced and refined, even the cheap ones. Aromatics are key here.

   The 2008 Botromagno Gravina shows big time lemon creme on the nose with apricot and flowers. Beautiful! The good fruit and herbal cut on the palate are nice, but this is about the nose.  A wine that caused controversy is the 2008 Terredora Fiano di Avelina. What some people described as an off-putting nose of shoe rubber (or even sulfur?) I found more along the lines of heavily-toasted waffle cone and cream. The Fiano shows tart lemon on the palate, leading into brown sugar and toasted vanilla. Wonderful!


   Of course, this list is in no way exhaustive. Be sure to ask for recommendations in the Italian asile the next time you’re in the mood for a great value.

Rogue 21 Ale Available Exclusively at Binny’s

Rogue Brewmaster John Maier has brewed 21 different beers for the 21 years of the Oregon Brewers Fest.  For this years festival John crafted a batch of Olde Ale, called 21 Ale, scheduled to only be brewed this single time.  Brewed with 14 different ingredients, 21 Ale utilizes hops and barley grown by the Rogue Brewery.  The beer clocks in at a very drinkable 8% ABV.

21 Ale will only be on draft at 21 different locations throughout the United States, including only one spot in the Chicago area.  However, 21 Ale will be available in the Chicago area exclusively at Binny’s, in 25.4oz black ceramic bottles.  Look for the liquid to arrive at most Binny’s by next week, but in very limited quantities.  It shouldn’t be very hard to guess how many cases of 21 Ale there are to go around.  To see if Rogue’s newest offering will be available at your local Binny’s, email

Fall Seasonals Besides Pumpkin and Oktoberfest Beers

When it comes to breweries fall seasonal lineups, Oktoberfest and pumpkin beers reign supreme.  There are some breweries that shy away from these two traditional styles of beers, instead crafting styles not always associated with fall.  We would like to highlight a few of the beers that fit this bill.



Goose Island and Southern Tier both make a beer called Harvest Ale, both being excellent choices for someone looking for something a bit hoppier than a traditional Oktoberfest beer.  While both of these brews share some noticeable characteristics with Oktoberfest beers, such as their copper color and toasty malts, both are quite a bit more bitter than anything with and Oktoberfest label on it.

Brown Ale

In favor of Tumbler Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada nixed their Anniversary IPA, which had been their fall seasonal for the past 3 years.  Probably not a bad idea considering Sierra Nevadas winter seasonal is Celebration Ale, one of the most celebrated IPAs around.  Tumbler possesses the classic nutty, toasty, and caramel traits associated with a brown ale, but perhaps has a little more of a hop presence than many of the brown ales out there.

Blonde Ale

New Belgiums Hoptober Golden Ale could arguably be the brewerys most coveted seasonal. This creamy, medium bodied ale debuted as New Belgiums fall seasonal last year.  Hoptober is pleasantly bitter, clocking in at 40 IBUs, and also quite drinkable for a 6% ABV beer.

Pale Ale

The commemorative Humming Ale joined Anchor Brewing Companys seasonal lineup this year.  The first new seasonal beer in 5 years for Anchor is loaded with citrus hops, while still retaining a satisfying balance.  We could not help thinking that Humming Ale is exactly what a pale ale is supposed to taste like; it seems if Anchor has yet again set a benchmark for a style.

Other breweries also make obscure seasonal beers, but we wanted to highlight the above ones not only because of their deliciousness, but because they are widely available.  You shouldnt have a problem finding each of the listed beers at the majority of our stores.  Do you have a favorite fall seasonal that is not an Oktoberfest or pumpkin beer?

Guinness Black Lager is Coming to Binny’s

Guinness Black Lager is coming to Binnys! 


Building on 250 years of brewing tradition, the brewers of Guinness are introducing a new lager, and they say its like nothing youve ever tasted. The brewers tout the traditional lager brewing methods used to craft Guinness Black Lager, resulting in a refreshing, easy-drinking taste that youd expect from this style of beer.  But the the new brew still has the real flavor and character of Guinness in addition to its lager attributes. The brewers think that Guinness Black Lager is best of both worlds an easy-drinking lager with the character of Guinness.  Look for this exciting new offering at your local Binny’s the week of September 1st.

Okotoberfest Beers Hitting Our Shelves

A sea of Oktoberfest beers are flooding Binnys. 


One misconception regarding Oktoberfest beers is that they are actually around in the month of October. While some are still left over during the month they are named for, several of the more popular ones will be long gone come October. The Germans start celebrating Oktoberfest in mid September, and the world’s largest fair always ends on the first Sunday in October.


Oktoberfest brews are usually rich and malty with an ABV around 5-6%.  Different breweries versions are generally very similar, most following an age old German recipe. Malt characteristics include roasted, toasted, burnt, and caramel. Regarded as light and refreshing, Oktoberfest brews are ideal session beers.  Below is a list of available Oktoberfest beers available at Binny’s.



Sam Adams Octoberfest

Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest

Victory Festbier

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest

Left Hand Oktoberfest

Three Floyd’s Munsterfest

Shiner Oktoberfest

Great Divide Hoss

Lakefront Oktoberfest

Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Bell’s Octoberfest

Berghoff Oktoberfest



Weihenstephaner Festbier

Beck’s Oktoberfest

Ayinger Oktoberfest

Spaten Oktoberfestbier

Paulaner Oktoberfest

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest

Warsteiner Oktoberfest


Also keep an eye out for pumpkin beers; Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale and Lakefront Pumpkin Lager have already been spotted on our shelves, and many others are on the way.  Other trendy fall seasonals are also rolling in, such as New Belgium Hoptober Golden Ale and the newly released Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing.  What will you be sipping on this fall?

Anchor Brewing Releases First Seasonal in Five Years

It has been five years since the pioneers of the craft beer movement introduced Anchor Bock as the third seasonal beer in their lineup. The wait is over, as Anchor Brewing Company sent Humming Ale our way this week.  The fourth beer in Anchor’s seasonal lineup will be an annual fall offering, scheduled to be available from August through November.  Humming Ale is brewed to pay homage to the founding of the company 113 years ago, and the opening of Anchor’s new brew house 30 years ago.

Like the year round offering Liberty Ale from Anchor, Humming Ale is a pale ale.  The two brews share some striking similarities, although Humming Ale is loaded with citrus hops, while Liberty Ale is dominated by piney hops.  We could not help thinking that Humming Ale is exactly what a pale ale is supposed to taste like; it seems if Anchor has yet again set a benchmark for a style.

Don’t miss your chance to try this authentic ale from one of the innovators of craft beer– Anchor Brewing Company.  Humming Ale is delicious, straightforward, and extremely fresh right now.  What is your favorite Anchor brew?

Tasting Future Binny’s Hand Picked Selections


   A small group of Binny’s employees tasted across 35 Bourbon barrel samples last night. Sounds like a lot of booze, right? We made it through okay, though I think my cheeks and taste buds are still a little raw. It was worth it. We have some excellent Hand-Picked Bourbon coming your way.

   The goal last night was to pick new selections for three regular features in our Binny’s Hand Picked Cask program: Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, and Buffalo Trace. As we taste, we have to keep in mind the style of each Bourbon, not just choosing the best whiskey, but the best whiskey consistent in style.

   If you’ve ever wondered about the process, here’s how we do it: distillers send 200mL sample bottles selected for Binny’s. They look like they’re from a laboratory, with plain white labels with basic info: date of distillation, bottling proof, warehouse shelf location. Also, each bottle has the standard government warning sticker.

   In order to maintain consistency with each selection, we start by sampling the previous bottling,  then taste across the new samples, silently taking notes on each. Independence is key; only after everybody has a chance to taste and reflect do we discuss. Often the whiskey speaks for itself, making the voting easier.



First up: Blanton’s

   The previous Binny’s bottling of Blanton’s is wonderful. A nose full of honey, baking spice, and lots of butterscotch leads into a whiskey lively and spirited on the palate but mellow in taste. Good butterscotch, then the grain comes across, with a long finish of cherry and just a hint of smoke.

   We tasted five new samples last night, weighing each against the others to find the best, and most appropriate stylistically. We pick a favorite and a runner up, and it’s notable that we hit a consensus easily. The next Binny’s Hand Picked Blanton’s bottling is going to be great.



Next up: Eagle Rare

   The previous example of Eagle Rare is superb: the nose features caramel with good, tight grain, plus maple and butterscotch. There is a grassy quality on the palate, under the heat and toffee. It stays bright and fresh throughout with hints of mushroom, grass, and citrus, and remains delicious and bright.

   Due to demand, we will need a few barrels from these ten samples, and again consensus is reached quickly about the best choices. If you’re looking for an interesting Eagle Rare tasting experience, the 375mL and 1.75L bottles will be from a different barrel not seen in 750mL bottles. I think it might be fun to taste the two barrels, distilled on the same day, stored side by side, just to see the similarities and differences.


The Main Event: Buffalo Trace

   Buffalo Trace is one of the cornerstones of our Hand-Picked Casks program. We sell plenty of the stuff, so instead of a single barrel selection, we offer a multiple barrel vatting.  Not only are we able to get large yet consistent batches, but this gives us the chance to use different expressions together for a superior final blend. Talk to a spirits guy at Binny’s and he’ll likely tell you that our Buffalo Trace is the best Buffalo Trace around.

   Our previous Buffalo Trace – vatted from thirteen barrels – is absolutely delicious, making a lofty goal for this next batch. It is light, sweet and spicy on the nose, almost salinic on entry and dominated by grainy spice at first, but then the brown sugar sweetness kicks in. Beautiful.

   This year, we had twenty barrel samples to choose from, which sounds intimidating. But the process is actually easier than with single barrel selections. Instead of taking detailed notes about each barrel, it is more important to get a snapshot of the flavor profile and how it relates to the ideal blend. Which barrels show more spice? Which show more sweetness? Which are right on?

   With these notes in hand, we experiment with the blend, literally blendng the different samples together in a glass, complimenting sweet with spicy, broad with spirited, until we agree that we have found the best expression of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. It’s sweet, light, graceful, and as soon as we get it in, it’s going to knock your socks off.

Coming Soon: Sierra Nevada Abbey Ales

Chico, CA (08/06/2010)”Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. announced a partnership with the Trappist-Cistercian Abbey of New Clairvaux to create the only authentic Trappist-style Abbey ales in America.


For nearly 1000 years, monks have been brewing ales behind monastery walls. Their closely guarded traditions and techniques produced styles of beer unlike anything else in the world. These unique Trappist-style Abbey ales are known for their uncompromising quality and compelling flavor. In 2011, Sierra Nevada and the Trappist-Cistercian Abbey of New Clairvaux are working to bring this centuries-old tradition to America with Ovilathe nations only authentic Trappist-style Abbey Ale.


This series of three Belgian -style Abbey ales is made in accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the monks. Each beer will be only be available for a limited time and will rotate through the seasons. The first beer in the series, scheduled for release in March, will be a Belgian-style Dubbel brewed with authentic Trappist yeast. The second beer in the series, scheduled for release in July, will be a Saison, the traditional Belgian-style farmhouse ale made in honor of the Monks dedication to labor in the fields surrounding their abbey. The third will be released in time for the holidays. It will be a Trappist-style Quadrupel rich with dark fruit flavors and the unique wine-like characters of these strong Abbey ales.


Proceeds from this project will benefit the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux in their efforts to rebuild an architectural marvela 12th century, early-gothic Cistercian chapter houseon their grounds in Vina, California a few miles north of Sierra Nevadas home in Chico.  The medieval chapterhouseSanta Maria de Ovilawas begun in 1190, near the village of Trillo, Spain. Cistercian monks lived, prayed, and worked there for nearly 800 years. In 1931, California newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst purchased the abbey and shipped it to Northern California. Hearsts plans were never realized, and the stones fell into disrepair. In 1994, the Trappist-Cistercian monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux, gained possession of the ruins, and began the painstaking stone-by-stone reconstruction of the historic abbey.


Located in Vina, California, the Abbey of New Clairvaux is a Cistercian Abbey of Strict Observance (Trappist). The abbey was founded in 1955 on 590 acres of Leland Stanfords famed Vina Ranch. The monks follow the Rule of St. BenedictOra est Labora (Prayer and Work) and spend their days in prayer, meditation, and tending to the labor of the working farm located at the abbey.


Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is one of Americas first microbreweries and remains highly regarded for using only whole-cone hops and ingredients of the finest quality. Sierra Nevada has set the standard for artisan brewers worldwide as a winner of numerous awards for their line of beers and ales including the flagship Pale Ale, Torpedo, Porter, Stout, Kellerweis, four seasonal beers, Estate Ale, Harvest Ale series and a host of draft-only specialties.”

New Holland Debuts a Honeyed Up Tripel

New Holland has added a member to its High Gravity Series.  Beerhive Tripel is the eighth installment in the series, and believe it or not, the second tripel in the series.  Beerhive is different from Black Tulip (the other tripel and a long standing member of the series)  in that it is brewed using some exotic ingredients.  Unlike the more traditional Black Tulip, Beerhive is concocted with the addition of locally harvested spring wildflower- honey.

Beerhive is a medium brown color, a few shades darker than a traditional tripel. There is just enough honey to be a defining characteristic, but not enough to overpower the palate or bring the beer outside of the style guidelines.  Beerhive has pleasant sweet malt characteristics, as well as hints of ginger.  Beware:  This beer goes down very easy for being in excess of 9% ABV.

Beerhive isn’t the first instance in which craft breweries have used honey as an ingredient in beer.  In fact there has been various beers like Bell’s Hopslam that have utilized honey in the creation of world class beers.  But perhaps Beerhive is the first tripel to apply honey as an element of the brew, and that makes it unique.  What is your favorite beer that has harnessed honey as an ingredient?

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