We’re presenting our list of 12 great beers for the season. We’ve tasted well over 200 Christmas beers over the years. Some have been bad elves, others have been nothing short of gifts. Some of the ones on this year’s list are relatively easy to find, others are from our archives and beer vault. We hope even the ones from the archives will have stories that will help you find you own path to great beers. Follow these links to find earlier posts in the series: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth,
Ten Top Tripels: #3 Brewers Art Green Peppercorn Tripel at Sly Fox, Royersford
Date: March 8, 2019
The Story— Brewers Art was a part of the first craft explosion, opening its doors in 1996. From the outset visitors debated whether the big draw was the classy cuisine or the first rate beer, but we heard precious few complaints about either. It remains a destination brewery-restaurant and a required stop on a Baltimore beer crawl.
At one point, Brewers Art could brew more beer than the in house consumption required and it began to bottle the beers. Belgian quality beers with local freshness were a big hit and their small house brewery faced then had the problem of trying to meet demand. Their answer was to contract bottles at Sly Fox’s brewery in Royersford. We had some trepidation about the move; complex Belgian beers are hard to duplicate on different scales at different breweries. They were lucky enough to have the guiding hand of Brian O’Reilly, one of the most talented brewers in the Mid Atlantic to ensure the project’s success. We will be on the lookout for a bottle this spring, though, since O’Reilly has moved on to his own place in Philly (What is it with that city??!!!)
We haven’t had this beer in a few years, and it’s on our list for revisiting. It is, however, one of our highest rated tripels among the nearly 400 we have tasted over the years. We were also skeptical about the green peppercorns, but some of Belgium’s best craft brewers use peppercorns and they add complexity without getting in the way of the delicate balance between malt and hops.
We note from the website that this year’s version will be on tap soon. We assume that will be a house-made version, and it’s been a long time since we’ve tasted that. It’s worth your time to take a field trip — we might see you there.
The Beer— Way too easy to drink. Slightly sugary light fruit and inviting spice. It’s not just complex, it’s bewildering. Touch of heat shows the 9.2% ABV, but it’s remarkably moreish for a beer of this strength.
Value — Very Good. Most of the house-brewed beers go for $6.50 a goblet and you can cut that to four bucks with a visit to the bar during happy hour. This beer received one of the highest scores we’ve ever given a tripel.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
To start the month of March we’re featuring our top ten tripels over the past several years– these are wonderfully complex and even delicate strong golden ales. At their best, Tripels are among the best beers in the world. At their common norm, they’re heavy handed, big-boozed and barely better than the malt liquors of the 20th century. Here are ten beers that could show the rest of the country how it’s done.
CAVEAT: The days of flagship beers, except for the Sierra Nevadas of the world, are gone. Most breweries have a handful of beers they produce regularly, but even the lists of “usuals” vary with time. Reviews posted here about craft beers on both sides of the Atlantic are intended to provide a sense of the strengths of the breweries featured and are subject to change.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”
In February, we present Beers for your Beer Vault: well aged beers that aged well. Read on for the links to these beers as well as Pennsylvania weekend trips and great beers for the new year. Click on “read more” to find easy links that take you to these beers.
February: Beers from our Vault: #12 is Stone Master of Disguise, then scroll down for “more beer reviews” to see the rest of February’s offerings.
January featured small town brewery trips. In February we lay down beers for interest or improvement. We started the New Year with a series of big beers for winter. Read on for the links for all these beers and more. The first of the Pennsylvania Brewery weekend finds was here. Scroll back for the others in the series. Our aged beers begin here . Scroll up for the others. Find a set of links to Great Beers for the New Year here – scroll down to find the dozen links.
Here are direct links to some of the aged beers: Stone Porter with Chipotle; Lost Rhino Wandering Belgian IPA; Magic Hat Wee Heavy Champ; Samuel Adams Norse Legend Sahti;
Augustiner Bräustuben: Munich’s Best Bargain is a Refuge Away From Tourists
The Augustinian Monastery founded the Augustiner Brewery in Munich in 1328. Napoleon’s sweep across Germany forced its secularization in 1803 and the brewery found its way into the hands of the Wagner family buy the middle of the 19th century.
The last of the Wagners, Edith Haberland Wagner left her majority share of the brewery to a charitable foundation whose mission is to provide good beer at fair prices to the people of Munich, and to use “profits” to better the city.
Happily tourists are included in the beneficiaries of the foundation’s efforts. The Hirschgarden is the biggest in the world, and the Keller and Biergarten is the best center city beer garden anywhere. Brewery restaurants in downtown Munich provide decent beer and Munich’s best beer. Most serve from wooden barrels; Augustiner is the last of Munich’s breweries to use them extensively.
While the prices of all the places you’re likely to run into are fair, the best bargain in the city for Augustiner beer is in the Bräustuben, the brewery restaurant at the current site of the brewery at Arnulfstrasse 52 a short tram ride from the main station. Only 5.5 Euros buys you a liter of the glorious Original Helles, which is one of the best lager beers in the world. The dunkel goes for the same rate and the Edelstoff, slightly stronger and sweeter, is only .20 Euros more. A daily menu features specials that go beyond schnitzels and roasts but those German standards are tasty and affordable. A schnitzel or perch fillet is less than 12 Euros and some filling choices drop below 10 Euros.
It doesn’t hurt to get a reservation, but we’ve never had a serious time being seated. The main hall used to be the brewery stables – it’s big and noisy and exciting. These days, we prefer that relative serenity of the Bräustuben, with its rich dark woods and comfortable table seating.
Less of a bargain, but more of an adventure is the Keller on the opposite side of the tracks from the brewery. The garden is hard to miss; we’ll take you downstairs in the Keller in our next post.
We’ve taken a winter hiatus to work on our next book. The book is a guide to beer travel in the Mid Atlantic. It features breweries where you can walk back to a comfortable room to spend the night after visiting the brewery. We feature B&Bs, Inns, and iconic Hotels along with some of the most interesting beer destinations in the region.
Watch this space for some of the gems we’ve found in researching this project. And look for a new Beer of the Day starting the second week of June.