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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

On Tour at Urban Artifact

This past Saturday, I finally had a chance to get out and visit Urban Artifact which sits on the North Side community of Cincinnati. A spacious and currently being renovated old church is what is now this home for sour bases beers. The church was purchased last year and the brewery was able to open earlier this year. I was able to get a chance to tour the brewery and have a more reflective talk with Scott Hunter who is their Chief of Strategic Development and of course, finally get to taste their offerings.

First, before talking about the beers, I feel that I should describe the feel of the brewery as they have a lot of good things going on. Now, I am not one that usually goes to church, but this is the kind of mass that I can get into for sure. The church itself was built around 1873 and was active until 2008. I mentioned spacious earlier, and it is. There will be a floor that will act as a reception hall and is slated for completion for next year. And, they are currently in talks to have a restaurant on the premises. I mean this place is spacious.

 As for the brewery, that is kept in separate building in the back and also bolsters a lot of room which is great for all the maneuvering done with the making of the beer. A good thing is that they are separated which helps for oversight as well as regulations. They also use a unique process for their sour mash which helps to balance out the acidity. They are careful to use all fresh hops and like to experiment with one off beers as well. While I was there, I was shown one planned for a Christmas release later this year, that was being aged in Bourbon barrels and will be a tart stout. I will be back for that one. Currently, there is no packaging for cans or bottles but that is in the works and in the tap room, one can get growlers to take home.

 But getting to the tap room, that is located in the basement, you will have a variety of things to do as well. Drink beer, obviously, but you also have various board games available and as I mentioned a location for live acts to play on stage.One thing that patrons like is to create their own beer experiences by adding various flavorings to their beer. Essentially, you are given the choice of various flavored liquid that you can add to your beer to enhance the tartness or even cut it as a hops blend liquid is also a selection. It can be kind of fun as people can customize and experiment to make their beer their own. There was also various artwork that was on display for purchase by local artists which was neat, but a thing that stole my eye was one their recycling of many things including the copper pipes for the bar taps. But the bar itself was a neat feature, it was wood that was had what seemed to be metal glass burnt into the cracks where under the class was malt seeds. It really added some character, so if you go then make sure to check that out.

Another key thing that I didn't even notice until it was mentioned was the lack of televisions there, and it was kind of refreshing as people actually communicated. Imagine that, conversation being the focus. As far as food, they don't serve any currently but there are advertisements for places that will deliver and during some events they will also have some of the food trucks on hand. All in all a great place to chill and hang out and look forward to coming back to check out an act as well.

Oh yeah, the beers, that may be important, lol. Well, they had six on hand although one was on its way out to be replaced by a double IPA which was being released tonight on June 30th. And two of the beers do have a nitro option to enhance them and of course were the ones that I chose. But the list was as follows:

  • Finn (Nitro Version)
  • Kodiak (Nitro Version)
  • Harrow
  • Keypunch
  • Clothesline
  • Axl (This one was ending and I believe will be replaced by the Double IPA)
I will be adding a review for each of these but the Keypunch is a key lime Gose and surprisingly ended up barely being my favorite over the Kodiak which was a great sour ale infused with coffee flavors.

Thank you to Scott for the tour and time to talk, as well as to Emily and Chris who were there to provide the refreshments and did a great job of sharing details as well.

***As a footnote

Since the time of this writing, I have also learned that not all beers will have a sour component at Urban Artifact as previously thought. Some beers are actually brewed as wild beers that use wild yeast. These beers complement the tart ones and are the two styles featured.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Art of Cellaring Beer

A good many beer enthusiasts get into the habit of cellaring beer, which can be a great way to learn how to smooth out flavors over time. But in doing so, a person has to know the right kid of beers to cellar. For instance, a common rule is to choose beers that are at least 8% ABV. But, that is only a baseline as it should also be the right kind of beer. For instance, hop heavy beers such as IPA's will lose some of their bitterness over time and although they will be drinkable, they won't most likely be the expected taste that is desired.  But, cellaring more malty and lower IBU beers can create a more distinct taste as the flavors open up over time. For instance, here is one of the beers that I have cellared recently:

As indicated Voodoo Vator over time becomes much more smoother and in fact, the taste of the alcohol was lessened even more then when fresh. So what should you know about cellaring?

  1. The beer should be a minimum of 8% ABV as a general rule. Although, I have done slightly lower and been okay. Only trying and tasting will let you know what to expect.
  2. Make sure you choose a comfortable temperature. Usually, this may be the coolest place in the house and commonly this is the basement. But some will even use back-up refrigerators. I, myself, use a cool area in the basement.
  3. Store the bottles in darkness and upright. There is no need to place bottles on their side, this is beer not wine. The ultimate goal is to keep them out of the light and sealed away to avoid oxidation. So if you buy a case, like I do, then leave them in the boxes. Get what you need and then close them back up.
  4. Don't mess around and use brown. As I mentioned, you want to keep the light out, so it is best to use brown bottles. Often you see green, but they are not as good and can potentially skunk your beer.
  5. Know how your beer tastes before cellaring. If you don't drink one fresh then how can you compare if the beer improves?
  6. Understand there may be no change. There is no guarantee that the beers will get better with age, so know that going in and don't become frustrated. You may have some that stay the same, but you will be pleasantly pleased at some point as well.
  7. It's only your opinion that counts.
These are just a few things to keep in mind and I hope you do decide to adventure out into the cellaring world. With some of the great things being done with  craft beer, it is definitely worth giving it a try.

Cheers and Happy Drinking!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Beer Review #48 MadTree Brewing BlackTart ( 8% ABV )


Give Me Five with Braxton Brewing Company

One of the newer breweries now located in the Cincinnati region, Covington, Kentucky actually, is Braxton Brewing Company. They recently opened and have already created a nice buzz about their brewery located on West 7th. I had a chance to talk with Jonathan Gandolf who is their head of marketing about the brewery and make them the focus of the next Give Me Five!

1. What Makes The Brewery Unique?

"Braxton Brewing Company aims to combine the age-old technique of brewing beer with new consumer technology. We have a very diverse team with different brewing and business backgrounds. We want everyone on the team to bring something special to the table. Whether it be our Brewmaster, Richard Dubé, with 35+ years of brewing experience or our CEO, Jake Rouse, with experience building software partnerships at one of the largest tech companies in the world, we are now leveraging all of these experiences to create one cohesive brand and beer experience." 

2. How Did You Come About Starting The Brewery?

"Evan Rouse, our head brewer, started home brewing at the age of 16. In his very first competition, he won best in show. At 18, he was hired to work at Hofbrahaus in Newport as an assistant brewer. There, he learned how to make recipes that scale. At the same time, Richard Dubé was working at Moerlein in Cincinnati. After Evan decided, with his brother Jake's urging, that he could start his own brewery, Richard decided to join the team. Evan, Jake, Richard, and Greg Rouse (father of Evan and Jake) formed the Co-Founding team. It was a little more than 18 months in the making but the team that we have assembled, we truly believe it's the best in the business." 

3. How Many Beer Offerings Does The Brewery Provide?

"It depends how you define "offering" -- with 5 nitrogen tap handles we'll always have some fun with our "Nitro Series." We have four flagships: Storm Golden Cream Ale, Sparky Hoppy Wheat Ale, Crank Shaft IPA, and Dead Blow Tropical Stout. On draft right now we also have Blown Gasket Robust Porter." 

4. Where Do You Envision The Brewery Heading In The Future?

"We want to continue to make some of the best beer in Cincinnati and the Midwest. We also want to use beer as a catalyst for change in Covington. Beer was the first social network and it can be a vehicle for change. We've seen so many people collaborating, meeting, and building in our space. We truly want our space and our product to be a resource for the community that we call home."

5. When Did The Brewery Become Established?

"We announced that we were coming to Covington on April 7, 2014. 51 weeks later, we opened our doors on March 27, 2015." 

Jonathan, thank you for taking the time to share some of the Braxton Brewing story. As one that has visited the brewery, I urge others to do the same. Congratulations on the success of the new brewery and cheers to future success down the line!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Beer Review Bluegrass Brewing Co. Barbarian Honey Ale ( 8.5% ABV )


Beer Review Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale ( 6.5% ABV )


Chinese Food and Beer - A Good Night Out at AmerAsia

This past Saturday, the wife and I had dinner at one of our favorite places, KungFood Chu's AmerAsia in Covington, Kentucky. This is a great little place that features some of the best Chinese food in the Cincinnati region and on top of that, some of the best beer selection for any establishment. During our time there, I was able to sample three new beers: 2 from Rhinegeist and one from Apocalypse Brew Works. Both are regionally local breweries, Cincinnati and Louisville and as I always, I try to support the local movements as we all should. As far as the food, I went with the Mongolian beef, chicken wings and a spicy egg roll. But we are here to talk beer so let's get at it.

My first choice was the Rhinegeist Stryker.

This beer featured a good off-white head with good lacing as well as a nice clarity with an amber hue. There was a smooth pine taste that complemented the dankness of the aroma very nicely. As for the texture, it was creamy with a crisp finish and an average duration. The mouthfeel was very pleasant and there was no taste of the alcohol. A really good balance of the hops and malts considering that the IBU is 100. I would have expected more a citrus aroma being an IPA, but it seemed that it may have been lost to the hops. On a five point scale, I rank this one as a solid four. For this beer the ABV is 10.8 % with an IBU rating of 100.

The second choice was the Rhinegeist A-Side. 

This beer featured a solid amber color and a fruity aroma, although the hops seemed to be a little more faint on this one. But, the keg had actually kicked during the pour, so I only received a 1/2 pint so maybe that was part of the reason. As for the head, it poured an off-white head and although the taste was smooth, there wasn't as much bitterness as expected. There was some dankness, but it wasn't as strong as expected and there wasn't as much duration on the finish, although there was also not much astringency. This is one that I would like to taste again but as it stands on a five point scale, I have to rank this one as a solid two and a half. For this beer the ABV is 6.4% with an IBU of 75.

Fallout Dust

The third choice was the Apocalypse Brew Works Fallout Dust. 

This beer featured a rocky off-white head that provided some nice lacing and a nice bright yellow hue with a good amount of carbonation activity. The aroma was a nice citrus lead by lemon and there was a nice balance of the hops and malt.There was really no astringency and came across as a very sessionable beer. The finish was nice, crisp and smooth, while the texture was slightly watery but fitting for this beer.As for body, it was what I would consider light. This would be a good beer to just sit back and enjoy while relaxing. I would rank this one a three out of five. For this beer the ABV is 4.6% with an IBU of 41.

All in all, it was a great trip out for dinner and if you are in the Cincinnati area and like Chinese food and beer then this is definitely a place that you should check out for a meal and a few pints. Always a good time and away from the drafts there are tons of bottles and cans to choose from as well. You will have many reasons to not order a macro-beer here.

KungFood Chu's AmerAsia  521 Madison Ave # B, Covington, KY 41011 (859) 261-6121

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Visit to Braxton Brewery - Covington, KY

This past Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to make a visit to another brewery that has opened in the Cincinnati area and this time, it was on my side of the river which was nice. And what side would that be? The right side of course, lol. Covington, Kentucky is now home to Braxton Brewing, one of the newer breweries to recently open up in our region. Located on West 7th, it is nestled into what I guess could be called the business district of Covington, which is actually nice because one option that they do not have is food on the premises. While that sounds bad, there are many choices around them including one of my favorites which serves the best Chinese food that I have ever had in the Cincinnati area. I will share that information another day in another post. So before I discuss the beers, here are some photos of the decor which is very spacious.


So, what about the beers?

Well, I took the liberty of trying them through a flight and started with the four that caught my attention. So as seen below from left to right as well as light to dark. I chose the Kentucky Home, Crank Shaft, Dead Blow and Blown Gasket.

Kentucky Home is a cream ale and features an abv of 4.8% and a 14 IBU. This beer provided a nice sweet malt aroma and a light body taste and texture. It proved to not be too heavy at all and I can see it easily be very sessionable. It reminded me of some of the lighter beers in that it didn't bog me down. The appearance was a nice clear yellow, but there wasn't much of the white head to speak about as it tended to diminish quickly with no lacing. But, there was something of a candy sweetness with it as I finished the beer which I couldn't place but it definitely worked.

Crank Shaft is an American ipa and features an abv of 6% and a 75 IBU. This beer was also clear in appearance and displayed a nice orange/amber hue. The head was off-white in color and provided a fair amount of lacing. There was also a great citrus aroma lead by grapefruit along with pine on the back end. I could really smell the freshness of the hops. As for the taste, the mouthfeel was excellent and the hops seemed to be very well balanced. The body of the beer was medium and the texture was dry with a great crisp finish. There was no tasting of the alcohol and duration of the finish was average to long. This was a pleasant beer and honestly, one of the better ipa offerings that I have had from any brewer. It was very nice and smooth to say the least.

Dead Blow is a tropical stout and features an abv of 7.3% and a 26 IBU. For an adjunct, dates are used with the brewing process. This helps to present a nice aroma of fig and what I would call the black fruits. The head was tan/beige colored and did produce some nice lacing. It had a very smooth taste and as you would expect was characterized by the sweetness of the malts. The body was a nice medium while the texture was slightly creamy. But the mouthfeel produced was excellent as it just enveloped the mouth and would seem to be nice with a cigar.

Blown Gasket is a robust porter and features an abv of 7.5% and a 20 IBU. This one also produced a nice tan/beige head with some nice lacing, but no adjunct to speak of as being used. While it had good taste and flavoring from the malt along with the expected sweetness, there wasn't as much on the aroma that made it distinct for me. The texture was also creamy on this medium body one and at 7.5%, there was still no tasting of the alcohol. It didn't knock me back, but I can see it as one to be able to sit and enjoy.

Now away from those four, I did try one more as well as one again with a variance. Sparky is a hoppy wheat ale and features an abv of 5.5% and a 35.5 IBU. Full disclosure is that I am not always a wheat ale fan, but this one actually surprised me nicely, thank you Annette for recommending. The ale itself provided a nice fruity aroma along with a good scent of pine and earth. The head was white to off white and didn't hold as much on the lacing, but that is usually the case with some wheat ales. The mouthfeel was very crisp and refreshing with a nice duration on the finish. This could be a great ale for someone that wants hoppy but not a ton of it or even a novice trying to move into the ipa area. It is a well put together ale and as a side note, it is one that is available at Great American Ballpark.

As for the variance that I mentioned, I tried another Blown Gasket but this time with a twist. This time I had it with nitrogen rather than the co2 which is standard. Does it make a difference? Yes, it does and I would recommend that if you try the porter or the stout that you do the same. The nitrogen tended to bring out more of the aroma of the malts as well as their sweetness. The mouthfeel was even better and with this one, it actually gave it more of a Guinness feel. Very nicely done, thank you again Annette!

The whole experience was a great time and thank you to the staff as well as to Jonathan Gandolf, who I also had a chance to speak with during my visit. I do look forward to making a return and I recommend others to stop by and check out the brewery as well.

Drink Local and remember if it's here, then it's beer!

***Post correction: Kentucky Home is actually the mint julep beer for Braxton Brewery while Storm is the cream ale beer. It seems that sweetness that I couldn't quite peg may have been the mix of the fresh mint and the bourbon from the bourbon barrels.


via Instagram


via Instagram

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015

Video Beer Review - Moerlein Handlebar Double Stout ( 8.2% ABV )

Give Me Five with Urban Artifact

Following up on this series, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Scott Hunter who is Chief of Strategic Development for Urban Artifact, one of Cincinnati's newer breweries. For those not familiar with this series, I ask a brewery five questions and they provide five answers, in other words, give me five. Nice, crisp, clean and simple...just like some of the best beers. So let's get to it.

But first of all, many may not be familiar with Urban Artifact so here is there website link: They are located within an old Northside church in Cincinnati, which for whatever reason, sounds pretty cool to me. And it seems that there initial offerings seem to be quite sessionable which is also cool as I can imagine that you can sit and enjoy and not get too sloshed. But enough about my initial take, let's hear from Scott.

Scott Hunter

Question 1

What makes the brewery unique?

"We focus solely on wild and tart beers. Tart beers are beers that are produced using our modified sour mash technique and have varying levels of acidity. Wild beers are beers that are fermented with the wild yeast Brettanomyces. On top of all that we will have a robust traditionally soured beer program which has begun with collecting wild yeast from the air on our property and surrounding area."

Question 2

How did you come about starting the brewery?

It all started back in college when we found home brewing and it has really blossomed from there. We have engineering degrees and extensive experience in food and beverage manufacturing."

Question 3

How many beer offerings does the brewery provide?

"Currently there are two flagships; Harrow a Gose and Finn a Berliner Pale Ale. We also have our first two seasonal beers coming out which are Keypunch a key lime Gose and Clothesline which is a farmhouse rye. Our taproom has 12 total taps so we rotate through those with stuff brewed on our 1 barrel pilot system."

Question 4

Where do you envision the brewery heading in the future?

 "In the very near future we will start to come out with more wild beers and our third flagship Maize which is a Kentucky Common. Past that packaged product in retail stores and further expanding our traditional sour program will be on the agenda."

Question 5

When did the brewery become established?

"We purchased our property in August of 2014 and opened our doors on April 24th of 2015. The idea and concept goes back years prior however."

Well, there you have it, five questions and five answers. So venture out to Urban Artifact and check out one of the new breweries in town and get funky with some of their beers. Here is also a link to the rest of the team so that you can get to know them as well: Cheers and hope to see you there!

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