New local beer alert: Rivertown Ojos Negros Barrel-Aged Fruit Sour Ale (and the new Lambic)

Following the amazing success of their Lambic, Rivertown Brewing Company will be releasing “Ojos Negros”, a fruit sour ale. This will be one to watch for. I don’t have much more concerning it now, but when we do, we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Edit: While we’re at it, the label for this year’s Rivertown Lambic was approved. See below!

(H/T to Beer Pulse)

Beer Review: Quaff Bros’ What the Wheat?

Wheat wines: what is there to say about them? As the underrated, under-produced little brother of the barley wine, it’s tough to get a grasp on the style. Including New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole, Snuttynose’s Wheat Wine, and the long-but-not-forgotten 2009 version of Founders Nemesis, I can count the number of locally available examples of the style on one hand.

With this in mind, it doesn’t surprise me much that the Quaff Bros decided to cook up an under the radar style. As was noted in an earlier post, they are putting out some really great beers, both in terms of the creativity of the concepts and the quality of the finished product. This offering was brewed at Listermann, home of the delicious Cincinnatus.

What the Wheat?, like all of Quaff Bros offerings, is barrel aged. In keeping with the theme, the barrels used to age originally hosted Bernheim Wheat Whiskey. The difference between a wheat whiskey and a bourbon is simple: rather than 51% of the grain bill consisting of corn, it must be made up of wheat. I haven’t tried Bernheim itself, so I can’t speak to it at the moment. As for What  the Wheat?, however, here we go…

Continue reading “Beer Review: Quaff Bros’ What the Wheat?”

A Different Viewpoint of the Moerlein Lager House

[Ed.: As I’ve said in numerous other places, the authors at QCD are given almost full discretion to create critical and/or contrarian content. We aim to maintain QCD not as a vehicle to softball or pander, but to provide a voice that is willing to say when a product is subpar. As consumers in the beer, wine, and spirit market, we owe it to ourselves, our readers, and those industrious men and women who create and sell these products to be as honest as possible. With that in mind, this is the first (and definitely not the last) piece treading this ground. If you disagree (or agree) with Steve, let us know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more! – J]

I know many of you are going to disagree with me on this article, but I am going to write it anyways.  Part of me thinks I am going to get excommunicated from the city of Cincinnati for voicing this opinion.  Oh well, here goes nothing.

As a craft beer destination, I think the Moerlein Lager House is not as spectacular as most people think.  It is fine; just not the second coming.

Sure the structure is beautiful, the location is perfect, the food is good and the outdoor space is phenomenal.  I also think it is going to make a ton of money and be wildly successful and great for downtown.  But I am talking about the beer.  And that is where it has fallen short, at least thus far for me.

Let’s start with the guest tap and bottle list.

Yes it is good and yes it is great that before the game you can buy craft beer downtown.  At the same time, if you showed me the beer they sell at the price it is sold, I would not be more compelled to go there over many of my favorite Cincinnati beer bars (Dutch’s, Dilly, Fries, and Comet in particular).

Moving onto the brewery part.

The funny thing about the Lager House is I don’t even really think of it as a brewery but more of a Cincinnati focused gastropub that brews beer on the side and is owned by a large brewery.  Want proof?  They had a grand opening with exactly zero beers brewed on site and to date have made two styles.

This is a place that has every resource available to make fantastic beer.  They have state of the art equipment, a world-class brewer, and a ton of capital.  To me, it is clear that the brewing part is just not high on their list of initial priorities.  Seeing that the commercial turn around on an ale is about 10 days and on a lager is about 28 days, they could have easily knocked out several batches by now (even if they started brewing the day they opened).  This is the part I don’t understand- why pay for that brewer if you are not going to give him the keys to the car?

Maybe it is still in the working out the kinks stage.  Maybe I’m being overly critical because there were such high expectations.  Maybe I just need a to display a little patience.  Or maybe everyone else loves the beer and thinks I’m crazy.  But at least for the time being, when I am in the downtown area and want a locally brewed beer, you can find me drinking Mitch’s beer at Rock Bottom.

Magic Hat’s Spring Fever variety 12-pack

To my surprise I found a Magic Hat Spring Fever variety 12-pack at my local Kroger store. Having heard of Magic Hat but having never tried any of there beers before I was quite excited at the find. What follows is my opinions regarding the 4 brews included in this variety pack: the #9, Vinyl, Demo, and +/-.

Continue reading “Magic Hat’s Spring Fever variety 12-pack”

Hello (an introduction from QCD Contributor Tom)

A brief introduction from one of the new Queen City Drinks team members… I’ll be looking forward to some great content from Tom! Welcome!J


Hey there readers,

Just wanted to hop on and quickly introduce myself. I’ve been drinking beer for more years than I’ve legally been allowed to, but only drinking good beer for the past 7 or so. And of those 7, I’ve only been thinking about good beer for the past 2 years. I got started on the path towards good beer during a family trip to Europe. Our last stop was Brussels and a dinner on the Grand Platz. When asked what we wanted to drink we just asked for whatever the popular local beer was. By the time we finished, the four of us had finished 5 bottles of Chimay Grande Reserve (the blue label). This was back in the old days of 2004 when Kroger only carried AB-InBev and Miller/Coors products. Of course, now you can get the Chimay Grande Reserve just about everywhere. Well, that set me on my course to drinking good beer and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for any type of Belgian Ale from Coor’s Blue Moon to Victory Brewing’s Golden Monkey (my favorite beer) up to the fantastical Trappistes Rochefort 10 and it’s 11.3% ABV of awesomeness.

I hope everyone will not necessarily agree with, but at least enjoy the many beer reviews to come!

-Tom

The Three Dos and Don’ts of Beer Releases

First, a very brief introduction:

My name is Steve and I am going to be writing for this site from time to time.  I am a self-described beer geek and home brewer who is still a young pup at 24.  I have no prior ties to Cincinnati, so I think I may be able to present an outsiders perspective on beer in the area.  I hope to provide a fairly straightforward opinion about the local beer scene and give both praise and criticism where deserved, all while promoting you to imbibe in more craft beer.

Now that that part is over, time for my first post.

How To Fix Beer Releases

As craft beer in general continues to grow like wildfire, the beer releases from breweries have turned into a certifiable shit show.  KBS, a beer that just a couple years ago was fairly easy to obtain in Ohio, came and went from beer stores in a matter of hours.

The current situation leaves more people empty handed than ever before, and while there is no ideal way to distribute 100 bottles of beer to 1,000 people that want them, many bottle shops make the situation worse by the way they release the beer.  I am here to highlight the right and wrong ways (according to yours truly!) that a place chooses to release beer.  And now we will have a public service announcement to all beer stores in Cincinnati…

We will start with the WRONG ways to release bottles:

1)   Reservations/Lists– There are many reasons why this does not work well.  For starters, the majority of stores have no idea how many (or if they will get any at all) bottles will be in their allotment.  Also, places that do this don’t tend to publicize that they do it, so many people could get screwed out of innocent ignorance.

2)   Best Customers Only– To me, this is basically the worst method possible.  In theory, this is a great idea.  Reward those people that come regularly.  In practicality, it is borderline impossible to know how frequently someone shops at a store, so what happens is the owner ends up reserving the bottles for his buddies and making good customers mad.

Here’s a quick aside: I was searching for CBS at a bottle shop that will remain unnamed.  I shopped at this store on average 2-3x per month since I moved here and spent what I would classify as a good amount of money per trip.  I asked the guy working about how they were releasing CBS, and he said that it was reserved for only their best customers, like all of their releases.  I asked them how he classified “best customers” and he said trust me, he knows.  I have not set foot in that store since.           

3)   Release Bottles When They Arrive– Another one that seems innocent enough on the surface, but in practicality it fails.  The reason?  It means that anyone who works normal people hours can never get bottles.  Since beer costs a lot of money, and the majority of people work normal people hours, I am going to go ahead and extrapolate that this includes the majority of the craft beer population.  This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if there was some advanced notice, but since beer stores don’t know what day the bottles are going to come in and what time their deliveries arrive, it is near impossible to take time out of a working day to take a trip to a store.

And now onto the RIGHT ways!  If your bottle shop currently does one of these methods, give yourself a round of applause.

1)   Random Lottery– I know it’s not ideal, and I know it means sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but hear me out.  Every time you make a purchase at a beer store for one month prior you get one ticket in the lottery.  This process is announced in a newsletter that goes out to current customers, and you MUST ASK to be placed in the lottery when you make your purchase.  By doing this, everyone that wants a chance at the bottles gets a fair and equal chance, plain and simple.  It will also allow new customers to try these bottles from time to time rather than the same guys over and over.

2)   Serve the Beers On Premises– This is not a legal option for everyone, but for those that it is, it makes way more sense to get many pours out of a bottle and let more people try it.  Plus it eliminates the eBay selling.

3)   Release the Bottles At a Predetermined Time- Tell everyone in advance when you will release the beer.  Ideally, it would be a weekend morning.  This way, people with 9-5 jobs are not left out, and everyone has a fair heads up to get the bottles.  There is no loss to the store for holding the bottles for another week since they are going to sell out in an hour anyways.

So there you have it; the three Dos and Don’ts of bottle releases.  I am sure there are those that disagree with these, so fire away in the comments below!

Steve

Housecleaning: Guest Writing for Queen City Drinks

Now that I’m starting to feel good about this blog and what kind of content I’d like to see on it, I’m going to venture out into the vast world of the interwebs and try to start soliciting some more content providers (AKA: bloggers). This will be in conjunction with a real domain name in the near future and a more professional-looking page in the longer-term future. For now, though, all I’m concerned about is content.

I’m going to keep it very informal; set up a user name, post as you feel, and I’ll get it published, with full attribution to you, of course. Though I will make exceptions, I would prefer content to be locally-driven (Ohio, preferably Southwest Ohio, or Kentucky, preferably Northern Kentucky). This can be for beer, wine, or spirits. Shoot, if you’re clever, I might even accept coffee or tea. They are “drinks” after all.

Anyways, if you have a voice you want to be heard, but are too lazy to start your own blog or just want to write for someone else’s for a change, get in touch with me at @Cincy_Drinks or josh.ryan.osborne@gmail.com

Beer Review: Listermann’s Cincinnatus

When Listermann released Cincinnatus, a bourbon barrel-aged stout, last year, I was ecstatic to try it. Not only do I love bourbon barrel stouts (rather, pretty much bourbon barrel-anything), but a majority of my homebrew purchases had been made at their store. I thought it would be a nice way to try a new local offering and support my local homebrew store at the same time.

The first time I had it was at Olive’s on Ludlow during a Hoperatives Happening. It seemed a little hot, with the base beer overwhelmed by the barrel treatment, but it was not a bad first stab at a tough to brew beer. The next time I swung by Listermann, I picked up a couple bottles to cellar at home. Because I fail at cellaring, I ended up opening one a month or so after purchasing it. It was completely flat. Sad face. I was a tad irritated, but I realized stuff happens, so I chalked it up to a bad bottle. Fast forward a few weeks later: I decided to give it another whirl and open my remaining bottle. Also flat. Double sad face.

By this point, I was more than a tad bit irritated and gave the beer a relatively scathing review on Beer Advocate. Chris from Listermann contacted me on the site and graciously offered me another bottle to re-review. Having moved into our new house and using almost all my free time renovating, I unfortunately never managed to take him up on his offer.

Fast forward even further to December or January. I was at a beer tasting with some friends and someone opened an unlabeled swingtop bottle and poured some for everyone. It was a chocolatey-bourboney (yet balanced), delicious smelling and tasting imperial stout. Imagine my shock when a year or so after being extremely disappointed with older Cincinnatus, that this amazing beer in my glass was the 2011 version of the same beer! My first impression was reinforced by equally-great tasting pours of it at the Cincy Winter Beerfest. I happened to be at The Party Source  a couple of weeks ago and came across bottles of the new version on the shelves there (which was a surprise to me since I thought it was only sold at Listermann’s store). 

With all of that in mind, Chris, here’s your new review!

Cincinnatus pours motor-oil black with, to my extreme delight, an inch or so of mocha-colored head. Carbonation! The picture above was one of the last I took, by which time it had faded. The smell is very complex, with a good whiff of bourbon, of course, but in a reasonable fashion that doesn’t overwhelm the other notes of coffee, roasted grain, vanilla, brown sugar and oak. So far, so good.

The taste is what really impressed me. The balance of the flavors is not only an improvement on the last batch, but is up there will some of the better barrel-aged beers out there. No flavor overwhelms the others; instead coming at you in waves. The sweetness, vanilla, and oak from the barrel treatment are followed swiftly by the slight bitterness and coffee flavor of the toasted grains. It is finished up with a bit of yeast-iness which I didn’t care for, but really can’t be helped, considering that it is bottle-conditioned with live yeast. Despite being 9.5%, this is a easy-drinking beer, though I advise you to sip on it to let it warm and open up for the full effect.

Overall, this is a stellar beer. The only thing I didn’t care for was the slight yeast flavor, but I’m picking nits at this point. Too often do I pick on Cincinnati breweries for being boring and not reaching beyond the traditional styles. Listermann did reach, though not completely successfully at first. They should be credited not only for making the reach in the first place, but following up on it and making a beer that is not just a great local beer. No, that doesn’t give it enough credit. The 2011 Cincinnatus is a great beer, period. Kudos to Listermann for making a beer which it’s namesake city can be proud of.

Where to buy Cincinnatus 2011: Both Listermann’s store and The Party Source carries bottles. I’m not sure what it costs at Listermann, but they are $7.29 for a 12oz bottle at The Party Source. Pricy – yes – but perfect to buy a couple; one to drink immediately and one to put away for a special occasion. 

Edit: Apparently it is also available at Party Town for $6.99 a bottle. Thanks to @sheepNutz for the tip!

Boozing on a Budget: Evan Williams 1783

Boozing on a Budget: Evan Williams 1783

I don’t always drink spirits, but when I do, I prefer bourbon. Not that I’m the Most Interesting Man in the World (or probably even part of the top quintile of the Most Interesting) or anything. 

In addition to being not-overly-interesting, I happen to be not-overly-cash-endowed. Because of this, I like bargains. And in the world of bourbon, there is not better deal than Evan Williams 1783. At $11 or so a bottle, this, in many people’s minds, would dip into the infamous “Bottom Shelf” designation. Luckily for you and your wallet (or purse, of course), this price has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of 1783, which drinks like something twice it’s price.

I’m not a bourbon connoisseur, but I’ve got to the point where I can appreciate a bourbon that can be enjoyed without a mixer – or even without much more than an ice cube or a splash of water. Evan Williams, a ten year old small batch offering, drinks smooth as silk (perhaps even a tad too smooth, entering “soft” territory) without the need for any ice or even a drop of water. It’s not the most complex bourbon out there, but it has a pleasant caramel sweetness, a hint of citrus, and a decent amount of oakiness. The best part about it is that it lacks the characteristic harshness and burn of most cheap, young spirits.

Is Evan Williams the best bourbon I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking? Obviously not. I wouldn’t expect that from a $10, or even $20, bottle. It is however, in my modest opinion, better than pretty much anything in it’s price range and is more than acceptable for everyday drinking – whether you like yours neat or cocktailed up. This is definitely will be in constant rotation at my house. Two thumbs up for Evan Williams 1783 from this moderately interesting guy.

For much more thorough and informed reviews than the one above, check out Evan Williams 1783’s Bourbon Enthusiast review page.

A conversation with Quaff Bros’ Danny Gold

If you haven’t heard of Quaff Bros, you need to. They are making some of the tastiest, most unique beers in the Cincinnati/NKY area. They have a very different model than most brewers: all of the beers they released have been aged in a spirit barrel (often, but not always bourbon) and all of their beers are brewed at local breweries. For example, their newest beer, What the Wheat? (details below), was brewed at Listermann. Quaff Bros beers can only be found at The Party Source and currently there are less than 350 bottles of What the Wheat? left in stock, so hurry on over and pick a few up before they’re gone!

Danny Gold, one of Quaff Bros’ founding and current members, was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions I had about their operations and beers. What follows is that interview, with the only changes being minor ones for formatting and typos. Many thanks to Danny for doing this! Enjoy!

Who, exactly, are the Quaff Bros and how did they come to be?

Originally there were six of us, but over time with some guys moving on and what not, there are now two main guys behind the decision-making: myself (Danny Gold) & Jay Erisman, who is also the head of our whiskey and private bourbon barrel program. The name originally was Quaff Syrup, but TBA shut that name down in a heartbeat (no names with medicinal meanings), so with the time and effort already invested, we just made the change to Bros. For us it is the brotherhood between the Party Source and our local brewing community. So right now the Quaff Bros. really are Mt Carmel, Rivertown, Listermann’s and, most recently, Rock Bottom.

Can you give us a good summary of how your brewing process works, from brainstorming to the bottle landing on your shelves?

It’s always different; the way we believe craft beer should be, with left brain thinking being our muse 24/7. Sometimes we let the barrels tell us and sometimes we already have a plan on what styles we want to do. Jay and I from day one have always picked the style or had a general idea that we took to whichever brewery we were working with at the time. Sometimes we bottle all the beer, sometimes we keg it all. It depends on the style and if it is a seasonal beer or not.

Judging by the beers I’ve tried of Quaff Bros so far, it seems that you use some very high quality barrels. Many brewers use Heaven Hill and other “lower shelf” spirits for barrels largely because of cost. Where do you get your barrels and what is done with them after a beer is finished aging in them?

Jay Erisman is one of the most respected men in his field. Jay with his private barrel program is able to get barrels that would cost most breweries an arm and a leg (that is, if they could get them at all). These include Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Dolce dessert wine barrels from Napa, rare Rye barrels and, most recently, Bernheim Wheated. The biggest problem is making enough beer for all the barrels that Jay gets. Most of the time breweries have the opposite issue of not enough barrels. As I am writing to you now, I am looking at over 15 different barrels in our stock room.

While some brewers have one-offs and other limited-release beers, Quaff Bros bucks the norm in that every one of the beers made is barrel aged. What made you decide to go with this model? Along the same grain, what are some of the features that a barrel treatment imparts that you really enjoy?

When I had the original idea four years ago, my thought was this: Why are we not making beer? How can we do this? And we can, what is the hottest style out their? At that time it was (and for the most part still is) aging beers in barrels or with oak chips and hops. The concept could not have been timed more perfectly, as Jay’s program was about to blow up. As far as flavor goes, every barrel is different but the one thing they do add is depth, intensity and complexity. Plus hey, we are in Kentucky and this is Bourbon country.

Tell us about your newest beer, What the Wheat? I was lucky enough enough to try it at the Cincy Winter Beerfest and picked up a couple more bottles at The Party Source last weekend. (Shameless plug: I’ll be reviewing it for a post this weekend.)

We wanted to create a beer style under the name Quaff that was not your normal everyday beer. After looking over the shelves and tasting brews from around the world for inspiration (this is hard work ya’ know), we both agreed on the nontraditional style of wheat wine. This big beer is not a classic wheat ale nor is it a wine. Confused? Don’t be. The manner of which this beer is based is on the more popular version called barley wine. But instead of barley the focus is shifted on wheat and the term wine comes from the boozy alcohol by volume. When it was finally time to brew this beer, it was an instance where the barrel as well as the time of the year picked for us. Originally, we were going to do a wheat wine with Persian lime. I’m kinda glad the barrel spoke up.

I know I’m very excited for The Party Source expansion and I’m sure I’m not the only one. What has you most excited about it? Will the expansion allow Quaff Bros to move production in-house?

I’m excited about the 40 tap-handle beer bar, getting back into selling home-brew equipment, the 10 barrel system brewery aka “The Shack in the Back”, but what I am most excited about the expansion of the beer department itself. Because in the end, we wanted to make beer so we were a micro part of something that myself, as well as our employees, managers, and even all the way up to the owner of the store loves so much, and that’s craft beer. Craft beer is such an exciting world and we feel very lucky and blessed that we are able to play in it. The expansion will allow The Party Source to do many things with not only their private whiskey labels, but also private beer labels.

The obligatory question: You. Desert island. Three beers and three spirits. What do you go with?

WOW! BEER: Gouden Carolus Noel, anything by Mikkeller, and a new found love for me, 8 Wired Saison from New Zealand. As far as spirits go, that’s Jay’s category but I’ll go Milagro Silver Tequila, Aberlour A’Bunadh Single Malt Scotch, and to save face, one of Jays private Four Roses barrels. He’ll like that answer.

Finally, what does Quaff Bros have up its sleeve that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the near future?

More left brain thinking and hopefully high quality small batch beers. Besides What the Wheat?, we poured an American brown ale aged in Four Roses barrels called Brown Chicken Brown Cow at Cincy Winter Beerfest. We will have it in bottle soon, but before that there is this same recipe, but aged in more specific 1792 [Ridgemont Reserve] barrels and we added a little local honey provided to us by our friends at Blue Oven Bakery. That, we will keg all of and it should be out in two weeks. We have some high gravity beers being aged in 18 year old Elijah Craig barrels and finally, Mitch at Rock Bottom is brewing for us a Robust Porter aged in Buffalo Trace barrels. Here we plan to add raspberries and vanilla. I am also getting my hands on some port and sherry barrels this summer, so look out!