Best Beers 2010: #9 Bell’s Expedition Stout

22 12 2010

A quick search of Bell’s on this site results in a lot of hits. Bell’s Beers is frequently on our list of best beers so it should come to no great surprise that they show up on this list, too. In this case, we look to Bell’s Winter Seasonal: The Expedition Stout. Expedition is an Imperial Stout. Available only between October to March, this is the perfect beer for the dark, cold winter months. According to the brewery, it uses twice as much grains and five times more hops than their flagship stout: Kalamazoo Stout. The result is a velvety smooth stout that warms the body as well as the soul. This is one of the many Imperial Stouts that got me through the Snowpocolypse the Mid-Atlantic witnessed last winter. It has been almost a year since I last drank this beer. But I still think about it often. And now that I am on the West Coast, there is nowhere to find it. I miss this beer a lot.

Photo Credit: Johnnydrunkenirishman/

Bell’s Expedition Stout
Style: Imperial Stout Score:
100 Points (99 for style)

Appearance: Inky black with viscus, oily consistency. Chocolate milk colored head with cappuccino foam-like  texture. No apparent carbonation. Excellent lacing.

Aroma: Chocolate, coffee, dark fruits (black cherry, plum, raisin), slight burnt toast or smoke. Hops are earthy and spicy; fresh tobacco, wet moss.

Taste: Reminiscent of aromas. Chocolate, toffee, hazelnut and burnt toast.

Mouthfeel: Velvety smooth with a fully chewiness. Very slight carbonation. A deep, warm booziness. A lingering sticky sweetness.

Imperial Stouts (like yesterday’s Dark Lord), are notoriously difficult to pair with food. Often big beers like this have an off putting umami tang that makes them a poor choice with chocolates, cherries, berries or other dessert items. Expedition lacks a distinct umami note but is rich in the chocolate, cherry, and berry notes. Thus, making it a wonderful choice to pair with dessert. On the other hand, it is such a full beer, it could just act as dessert itself. Also, I would pair this beer with a hearty red meat. A chili or stew would be a perfect match to it. Something that is sturdy and will not fall down next to it, but would also benefit from its bold flavors.


Best Beers of 2010: #10 3 Floyds Dark Lord

21 12 2010

There are some beers where the reputation precedes itself. These are the Holy Grails of beer. These are the beers that make the drinker a holy guru just by having consumed it. Whether these beers deserve the accolades are beside the point. They are great just because everybody thinks they are.

Usually these beers are on a super limited release. So limited, in fact, one has to be at the right place at the right time in order to get it. Usually at the brewery on the release date. Belgium’s Westvleterlin is an example of this. Another example is this one: 3 Floyds Dark Lord. Available only with a ticket, at the Munster, Indiana, brewery on the last Saturday in April, Dark Lord is one of the rarest beers in the world. People trade dearly beloved items from their collections in order to get a ticket to Dark Lord Day. People will travel the world to get to a small city on the outskirts of Chicago. It is a big deal.

I actually have never been to Dark Lord Day in Indiana. Although I know some one who has. He says it is an amazing time. Beer drinkers from all over the world come and trade, share and talk beer. It is a festival to rival any domestic Oktoberfest celebration. And it is a thing of legends.

Instead, I got my taste of The Dark Lord at a 3 Floyds tasting last June that coincided with the Savor festival in Washington DC. The brewmaster flew in from Indiana with about a dozen beers, all of them great! From their amazing American Wheat (Gumballhead) to their barleywines and imperial ales, I loved them all. But in the end, the penultimate beer was The Dark Lord. Made with Intellegentia Coffee, vanilla, molasses and aged for a year on Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels, it was intense, smooth and (as the name suggests) dark. Just a little three ounce pour sent me far and away. Maybe someday I will be able to make it out to Munster for a Dark Lord Day. But in the meantime, I will just have to hang on to the memory.

3 Floyds Dark Lord
Style: Imperial Russian Stout Score:
100 Points (100 for Style)

Photo Credit:

Appearance: Dark, through and through. Slight ruby highlight with thick, mousse-like mocha head. No apparent carbonation.

Aroma: Espresso, caramel, bourbon, oak, vanilla. Slight umami/soy sauce tang. Earthy hop aromas.

Taste: Coffee, chocolate, vanilla, oak, bourbon whisky, umami/soy sauce meatiness. Booziness on the back palate.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, chewy and velvety. Boozy heat and astringency.

As for food pairings, I would not pair this with anything. A post-dinner aparatif seems like the perfect job for this one. But if I had to choose something, sweet red meat would be perfect. Fillet Mignon or prime rib would be ideal. Or, if you blew all your budget on the beer, meatloaf with mashed potatoes.

Saying “Goodbye” to “The Brick”

18 12 2010

Photo credit:

Today is a sad day for beer drinkers everywhere, especially me. It is the final day of The Brickskeller, that venerable Washington DC institution and mecca for beer lovers everywhere. After more than 54 years, The Brick (as it is lovingly called by its fans) will close its doors for the final time.

The Washington Post has a very good update and interview with its owner, Dave Alexander. It is an especially sad day for me. I worked at The Brickskeller for almost a year. And it is what inspired this blog. I met some of my best friends there (both human and beer alike) and I am so very sad to see it go.

Depending on whether or not you believe the hyperbole, the Brickskeller helped set the tone for modern beer culture. They claim to have been the first to host beer tastings in the late 1980’s and their final tasting was last week. They claim to have given such young upstarts as Sam from Dogfish Head the boost up they needed to become great. And nearly every beer bar on the Eastern Seaboard has at least one alumnus of The Brick on their Staff. Greg Engert of Churchkey DC is one of the most famous of the former Brick employees. His quotes have been in the Washington Post, The New York Times and on NPR. He once said that he respected The Brickskeller for being a “liquid library” teaching him everything he knows about beer. I would agree. After one year working at the Brick, I still had not tasted everything on the menu (the largest in the world according to the Guinness World Records), though I tried my damnedest.

There are a lot of reasons why the Brick went under. And I am sure no one knows exactly why. It would be easy to blame the slow economy. Others would blame mismanagement by the owners. I would like to think the Brick was done-in by its own success. When I moved to Washington DC in 2007, there were very few bars with a quality beer list. You could find some places with a couple good beers on tap. And most liquor stores and corner stores would carry the usual macrobrews. But by the time I left earlier this year, a new restaurant or bar was not taken seriously unless it had at least a dozen beers on tap. And they all had to be quality. Churchkey, with its over 30 beers on tap and six cask ales was hailed for its list. Pizza Paradiso had a beer list longer than their pizza menu. The Black Squirrel has worked to become the third brewpub in DC. The Biergarten on H St. has over a dozen German beers on tap. Meridian Pint only serves American craftbrew. And that doesn’t even count the dozens of new bars and others that have stepped up their game since I have left. Corner stores, liquor stores and grocery stores have all picked up their game as well. It is common now to find Magic Hat, Dogfish Head, and Flying Dog replacing tall boys and 40s in up and coming neighborhoods. All this in less than 3 years. When I first started at The Brick in November of 2009, DC was considered a “beer wasteland” that was starting to “get better” by a visiting brewer. By the time I left in the following Summer, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada said that DC was a “world class beer city”. Greg Koch of Stone concurred by adding “no city in California has the quantity and quality of beer that DC does.”

And so, it is with a heavy heart, I say “goodbye” to the “Brick”. The new owners have promised to keep it as a beer bar with a trimmed down menu and an improved ambiance. But the name stays with the Alexander family. I wish them the best of luck and toast the loss of a good friend.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2010

14 12 2010

Folks, it is just two weeks left until Christmas. And if you are still scratching your head trying to figure out what to get the beer drinker in your life, we are here to help.

This time last year, we recommended some things you can get your beer drinker. And if we may say so, it is still a really good list.

We have a few ideas to update the list.

Books and Movies! A bunch of really good beer books have come out in the past year. We can really recommend Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer. It is quite possibly one of the best books on beer history, production and consumption on the market. The Naked Pint is also a really good introduction to beer drinking. And 1,001 Beers to Drink Before You Die is one of the most helpful books in our library. The documentary Beer Wars is a really good look at the rise and struggles of craft breweries in the United States.

Photo Credit: Calamity_Sal CCKegerator– What beer drinker wouldn’t love having delicious beer on tap at their every whim? For less than $500, you can surprise the beer drinker in your life with their own kegerator. Or, if you are handy, you can pick up a pretty cheap bulk freezer/fridge off of Craig’s List and convert it into a Kegerator yourself. There are a lot of different designs available on-line.

Beer Cellar– Does the beer lover in your life have a large collection of vintage bottles? Where are they being kept? In the back of the fridge? In the basement on a bookshelf? Or even (heaven forbid!) in the back of the closet? Make sure their beer is stored correctly, safely and neatly by investing in a beer cellar. For just a few hundred dollars, your beer collection can be stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment in order to ensure proper aging.

And don’t forget to check out last year’s recommendations. There are some really good ideas there, too. Including a trip to a famous beer city or homebrew supplies.

And happy holidays!

How to Pour a Beer

5 12 2010

There are a lot people out there who have asked me how to properly pour a beer. This robot does a pretty good job. Although I would like to see some more head on the top. But when it comes to robots pouring my beer, who am I to complain?

From make magazine.