That’s a Sour Meat-A-Ball…

Welcome to the barnyard blues.  No review tonight guys.  Or rather no new review.  Recently my birthday came and went and I celebrated as I have the past couple years.  With a 375ml of Cantillon Blåbær.  This beer, for lack of a better way to describe it, is just magical to me.  I can sit and smell this brew for years and still find complexity.

This beer is Cantillon‘s flagship lambic, blended with wild blueberries and sold once a year exclusively at Ølbutikken in Denmark.  Sidenote, if anyone can help me land a bottle of batch#6 I would be exceptionally grateful.  As I’m sure most of you know, it’s not an easy one to come by; and that’s a big part of why I chose it as a birthday anniversary beer.

In early 2010 I came across a few bottles of batch #4 (which the review is for) and near the end of the year came across a bottle of batch#5.  What you see in the photos is batch #5.  While the fruit shines slightly more in batch #5, I really enjoyed the cheese and funk aromas in the fourth batch.

The batch#4 review that follows was written in 01/15/10.  Without further ado, here is my first beer review I ever did:

First let me preface by saying I grew up on a 44 acre Cattle and Horse farm that had wild blueberries, wild strawberries, wild apples, wild blackberries, wild pears, and a few other little goodies growing on the property. And I believe it’s that reason that I truly love this brew.

I poured directly from the fridge into a Lindemans tulip (how many of you want to kill me for that?). Pours wonderfully, although quite hazy. This could be the fridge more than the beer though. For some reason my fridge always tends to chill haze lambics and gueuze.

A dark mix of garnet and deep violet create almost a mahogany color topped with a very interesting head. It has this amazingly pink center that fades ever so gradually down a hue to a whiter pink on the edges. As an artist I find this color ramping to be sublime.

Initial impressions on the nose are a vinergary tartness but it actually feels as though it’s alive. The tartness level literally felt like it curled inward progressively. I loved it. The usual funk/barnyardy smells are present and make a strong showing which then seem to literally morph into a wild blueberry tartness. And I swear I pickup some stinky cheese (but a good stink) about midway through the nose.

Still chilly at this moment. I definitely taste the cheesiness in the middle to the end. Some more vinegary notes compliment the odd cheesiness well. The blueberries are almost a flash at this temperature. The tartness increases towards the middle with the fruit flavor literally flicking your tongue on initial taste.

The fruit flavor is sublime to say the least. If you like wild berries, this is just amazing. Dominated by wild blueberry, with some flavors/consitencies that seem like the skins as well with a slight grapefruit tartness. I can best describe the wild blues as to me, tasting like a grapefruit with a light zesting of lemon rind, perhaps a drip or two of fresh lime juice.

As it is now rounding the recommended temp I feel I should divulge further.

So much more wild blueberries on the nose. The smell has almost become the inverse of what it was. Now the cheese is playing the low and slow role. It hints in the front, but the blues now dominate from middle to end.

While intriguing cold, this is now changing into a wild blue bomb. Cheese & vinegar await you the second you swallow, but I am just blown away by the wild blue flavors. Also picking up some very subtle oaky notes in the front of the smell.

Mouthfeel appears to thin a little as it warms, but it coats your mouth so wonderfully I couldn’t give it a lower score. It seems to clean itself up so well as it travels.

The aftertaste is no longer in the middle of the tongue as it was earlier (I swear it stuck dead center with the berry-ness). It now is a clawing sourness that I love more than anything. Literally feels as if there are two hands clasping the sides of my tongue. Loving this, extremely pleasant.

Sorry for the book, this is my first review and I have literally two pages of notes and feelings about this particular brew.

Thank you Cantillon and Jepe!

I prefer gueuze in most situations, but I find myself unable to put this down and not think about it, although I’m sure rarity and excitement play into that here’s the real reason…

Directly quoted from my notes:

“This farm boy is practically time traveling to a simpler year. Cliche I know, but honestly I am awash with feelings and memories of growing up on the farm. Barefoot through the grass, eating handfuls of wild fruits, running with the horses as a child…Highly recommended to ANY country folk, I’m curious if this brew envokes anything similiar for the city dwellers. I could literally smell and daydream all day with this beer in hand!”

Cheers all, be safe out there.

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I am so damn proud of this title haha.  For those of you not getting the blacksploitation reference, see:

What we have tonight is an incredibly rich, decadent, and intriguing Russian Imperial Stout from Nørrebro Bryghus and one seventh brewed by now Hill Farmstead owner Shaun E. Hill.  Here’s the kicker though.  It’s aged in Bordeaux wine barrels which lend the typical vinous and a not so typical smoked meat quality to the mix.  Which it turns out is quite a good thing in a heavy stout.

A little backstory directly from the label:
“…brewed in October 2008 by 7 of the best brewers in Denmark as a pooling of their individual recipes for the beer. After primary fermentation, this fraction of the brew was racked into an American oak barrel from a Bordeaux winery. After 7 (!) months in the barrel, the beer is intensely complex…”

The appearance is dark as is expected for a stout of this caliber.    A small ring of bubbles that have interesting shades of deep violet and crimson over the usual tan foam.  One thing that begs to be noted is the alcohol legs.  Some dancing in the glass and a film will coat it’s entirity.  And at 12% it’s no slouch.

The nose has acres of meaty, smokey, red wine notes.  Figs, caramel, some tannins at play, plenty of oak.  Honestly though, the bordeaux barrels did wonderful things to the nose.  It’s lovurly.

The taste has a kiss of malty sweetness, but an immediate astringency comes into play, lots of oak and tannins at first.  Opening quickly into that beautiful bordeaux influence of oak and smoked meats.  Some bitterness and roast is left on the palate but dies slowly after the finish.  A true treat that I wish I could get more of…please Shaun?


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Pessimist meet Dissident…

The Dissident 2010 from Deschutes was recently released and snatched up faster than usual.  As always though, it was worth the effort.  Whilst ringing in at 10.5% abv, what you have before you is a supremely drinkable sour brown.   I’ll get more into how well liked this brew is, but first, the tasting notes.

Upon breaking the wax and uncapping, a flip reveals “Bravely Done…” on the underside of the cap.

The appearance in this particular photo is not as pleasurable as it was with a backlight (I’ll have to remember that for the next time).  A vibrant red apple hue with crisp, bright highlights and a small crown of white suds.

While not the most complex aroma I rather like this one.  I could sum it up with just brettanomyces, cherries, and alcohol but that would be no fun and tell you guys next to nothing.  The cherries are reminiscent of Smith Bros cough drops in their distinctly sweet nature.  They are the predominant smell initially, but then opens up to a rather alcoholic back end.  The brett provides a little funk to the mix and the initial brewers yeast providing a nice light airy quality to the whole entire schpeil.  I’m assuming they used a nice belgian yeast to ferment first and then soured.  There’s slight hints of malt sweetness that dart in and out that the cherries play well off of.

The taste is delicious.  Like a more drinkable version of Supplication.  I feel they have nearly the same cherry presence.  Dissident, however, is softer, much less acidic, yet nearly double the alcohol content.  Dissident is much, much more dangerous.  Even the girlfriend came back for several swigs off the glass.  Definitely a winner of a brew and one I’ll happily never pass over.  It’s so delicate, yet potent at the same time.  Wonderful balance, and not one seen in most american 10+% abv brews.



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New Years and Aged Beers…

Wrapping up the last trades of 2010 for me and figured I’d post a picture of things to come.

I’ve been slacking a little bit on the writing end of things but rest assured I’ve got plenty in the pipeline at the moment.  I have a quick review of Hair of the Dog’s Matt and Deschute’s Dissident coming in as well as Three Floyd’s Hell’s Black Intelligencer, Norrebro’s Seven Bourdeaux Barrel’d, Norrebro’s Stevns CCC 2009, White Birch’s Natasha, Cascade’s Vlad the ImpAler, oh and that subtle little minx Drie Fonteinen Malvasia Rosso Druiven Gueuze.

Cheers all, Happy New Years!

Posted in Beer Photography, Blog News, Cantillon Brewery, Ithaca Brewry, Lost Abbey Brewery, New Belgium Brewery, Saint Sixtus Monks Brewery | Leave a comment

Unwind with me…

A true full fashion review will be up after I bang out the other two posts I have backing up the assembly line.  But after taking a smell and a sip I had to break out the camera. I’m really enjoying this brew, it’s not world class for wildly fermented ales, but it is definitely a very solid offering with a lot of nice touches.

Without further ado, Laurelwood’s Framboise…


Posted in Beer Photography, Laurelwood Brewery | 1 Comment

Epoch Haulidays…

Well, I arose to my door to see what was the matter…a box from a courier and the bottom’s all splattered?  Practically in tears, and well aware of the contents, I unwrap, bottles intact, declaring this nonsense.

Apparently the truck was a little cold yesterday as the two Framboise’s had started to freeze.  I’m hoping they will still be alright, the rest of the box was perfectly fine.  I pulled them out and saw the caps still intact, which is good, but one bottle was a little less full than the other.

Considering myself lucky though.  This is one of the best boxes I have received.  Just epic brew after epic brew.

Huge, epic, massive Thank you to the generous soul who put this together!

Cheers all,

Posted in Beer Photography, Cascade Brewery, Deschutes Brewery, Hair of The Dog Brewery, Laurelwood Brewery, Upright Brewery | Leave a comment

A Sour Stroll Through Belgium…

Good evening all, tonight we have coverage of a small tasting the local beer geek crew partook in.  We didn’t get to Vlad, Barrel’d Everett, or that sneaky elusive Druiven Gueuze (which is going in my celler for a long time).  We did, however, get to De Struise Aardmonnik/Earthmonk 33cl, Mikkeller Special Series: Cherry Alive! 25cl, and Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze Vintage 75cl (Red Label, 2002, hand dated).

Jen and John broke out several cheeses, some grapes, apples, regular and sweet potato fries, and some crackers.  All of which paired really well with the sour “over the pond” excursion of a lineup we had.

First up was the Mikkeller Special Series: Cherry Alive!.  Which, while a tiny odd shapen bottle, had a beautiful pale burgundy wax.  I don’t believe this one has ever seen these shores for distribution.  Huge Thanks to Rachel for sending this one from Belgium specifically for the tasting group, not to mention the Malvasia (Druiven Gueuze).  According to the label, this particular brew was aged in Cantillon barrels with their Kriek cherries and rings in at quite a hefty 9%abv.

The appearance is decent, but nothing really spectacular.  A slight orange tinge to an otherwise ruby coloring with a meager off white head.  Not hazy but not exactly clear either.  White the head would say little carbonation, there were bubble pockets all over the glass within moments.

The aroma is mostly ethanol for me.  Not extremely pleasant, but there is a kick of acidity and tart burn to the nose.  Some Cantillon funk can be perceived on the back end of things.  Reminiscent of Duck-Duck Gooze or Flaming Fury.  In other words, extremely acidic and lively on the nose.

The taste is definitely a high point though.  Hits the tongue with an apple cider character.  It just feels like a nice viscous cider.  Little carbonation, I was expecting more life but was wrong.  Makes the namesake a little ironic though.  Very little alcohol on the taste, but there is a heavy warmth, although I think it’s the acidic shine.  Loads of oak and woody qualities play with the tart acids and that’s about the end of the complexity here.

Overall it was an enjoyable brew, I just think our bottle might have been past it’s prime.  I love heavily acidic beers, this one just fell short of the mark.  I’ve been kind of spoiled with vintage Cantillon though.  Price per ounce on this one is rough, worth a try though.***

Onto one I’ve been wanting to try for some time.   De Struise Aardmonnik/Earthmonk, a rather traditional Oude Bruin.  This is a 2008 bottle and also may have been a little past prime.  8%abv and according to the label, 5000 bottles every 2 years.  I’d like to get my hands on a fresher one, although some harsh descriptors were thrown around by some of the tasting members haha.  Things like blood, scabs, and other tasty terminology.

It poured a deep dark mahogany with crimson edges.  A very small head and little carbonation.  Extreme alcohol legs though.  Coats the glass with a visible tan slick film as it’s tossed about.

The nose brings some heavy sour notes but they feel restrained.  As if they could explode at any second.  Some light malt sweetness finds it’s way out, almost a floral honey like quality.  Loads of plum notes as well.  Plum, figs, some vanilla and some oaky notes.

The tongue gets loads of plums too.  Light kisses of tartness and acidity.  I thought the nose hinted at more but again I was wrong.  It’s very nice, a thoroughly enjoyable bruin.  A nice drying quality in the finish but it lacks that trademark Struise crispness.***

And now the highlight in my eyes.  Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze Vintage.  Red Label.  Bottled April 13, 2002.   The bottle is beautiful, the label is beautiful, hand dated, and over eight years old.  6%abv.  This is one of the more sought after Vintage’s of Armand’s wonderous gueuze blends.  And my friends, it is so completely worth it.  One of the top aromas I’ve encountered.  It is amazing.

As usual, Armand’s Vintage blends shine like the goddamn sun.  Beautiful appearance.  Tangerine orange with bright, vibrant yellow highlights.  I swear it glows.  A nice fluffy white head.  I think I’m witnessing perfection.  At least in my young eyes.

The aroma.  Sweet baby jebus.  Intensely intoxicating funk punches through in an incredibly refreshing way.  Lively, quality white grape juice notes.  Lots of green apple meat, lychee fruit possibly?  Amazingly complex, the brettanomyces has done some mind blowing things.  A distinct grassy quality, light citric flavors, but the tartness does plow through.  Which I love.

The taste is very effervescent.  It’s very lively and quite nice.  Boatloads of funk, barnyard, and grassy notes bombard the senses.  A slight orange peel astringency pops in and the leaves with a trail of grapefruit tart notes.  Very soft for the carbonation.

While the taste wasn’t as epic as the nose, this was an incredible brew that I am ecstatic to have tried.

Cheers all!

Posted in Beer Photography, Beer Tastings, De Struise Brewery, Drie Fonteinen Brewery, Mikkeller Brewery | Leave a comment

Snow, ice, and small batch releases…

Just a quick blurb of an update for now.  Recently the trip to the Alchemist was made to nab some bottles of their double IPA Heady Topper.  Now most of you are aware I’m not much of a hop head.  Let’s face it a brew like this is rather lost on me (although on tap I quite liked it, oddly enough, it’s one of two IPA’s I would drink again).  So in an effort to thank those I trade with most and those that can and will appreciate such a brew, and in the ol’ holiday spirit, I am sending my entire allotment to my two top traders and Bruery trustee.   3 bottle limit, 600 bottled, and yes the canning is still on hiatus.

While the weather was crappy, the release was great. I’ll have a quick supplementary post to this once I get a couple more pictures.  They gave out keychain bottle openers, pins, coasters, and a very nice packaging and wrapping on the bottles.

After we grabbed our bottles we headed over to the Blackback Pub and Flyshop.  I grabbed a half pint or so from the end of Petrus Aged Pale and sampled some Hill Farmstead brews.  Great little place, but I was getting a bit antsy.  I wanted some bottles for myself so we drove out to Lawson’s small release on the way home.  Grabbed a couple bottles of Maple Nipple and Red Spruce Bitter Holiday Ale, and headed back to the house.

A damn decent release, and had I not overslept (when do I not?) I would have brought the camera.

Cheers all! Happy Channukah!

Posted in Beer Events, Beer News, Beer Photography, Lawson's Finest Liquids, The Alchemist | Leave a comment

No Locusts? You call that a plague?

Tonight/Today’s post will be covering the tasting notes of the three beers left from last weekend’s tasting.  Cascade‘s Bourbonic Plague, Moonlight Meadery‘s Oaked Wild Blueberry Mead, and Foothill‘s Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate.  Let’s go in ascending order so we can end on the best of notes.

We’ll start with Foothill‘s Bourbon Barrel Sexual Chocolate.  I’d like to preface with the fact that while I liked the non barreled version of this beer better, other members of the tasting had just the opposite to say.  The flavors were all spot on though, honestly the only complaint I had was with the body.  But being barreled, naturally it thinned out.  Stats on this beer include an abv of 9.75% and an ibu reading of ~85.   Yet the resulting brew is neither bitter to excess, nor alcoholic to excess.

It’s rather odd though, being the hype that this beer didn’t get (possibly because it wasn’t $45 a bottle) as it too (again, like Rare Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island) was aged in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle Barrels.   Sadly I am not enough of a bourbon geek to appreciate the differences.

The look was a beautiful blend of deep mahogany chocolate hue with dark, inviting burgundy edges.  The head is wonderfully frothy, very cappuccino like.  An amazing shade of tan is appreciated as it slowly (and I mean slowly) dissipates down to a few mere centimeters of what began as a towering two inch head.

The aroma was relatively standard.  Bourbon notes melding with the malty sweetness of a Russian Imperial Stout.  There’s a hint of something that reminds my nose of bakers chocolate as well.  Toffee and oak notes can be coerced out as well.  For a near 10% brew, I couldn’t find a lot of alcohol in the nose aside from the initial onslaught of bourbon.

The taste, as I mentioned earlier, reigned a tad thin for my tastes.  The mouthfeel is nice though, not overly slick from the liquor at all.  It’s rather tame at first but it does open nicely albeit tardy.  Lots of chocolate flavors coming through, all types of dark chocolate dance around with a mild bitterness that again reminds me of baking chocolate.  The bourbon really opens up after the swallow.  Really this beer is just a great meld of bourbon warmth and chocolate depth.  Very enjoyable, but I don’t think it’s different enough to really go out of the way for. ***

Onto Moonlight Meadery‘s Oaked version of their “Wild” Mead.  This brew is 20% wild NH mountain blueberries and 80% NH wildflower honey.  The resulting Melomel (fruited mead, I’m learning too!) was then oaked and ended with an abv of 14%.  This is my first commercial mead, although Moonlight errs on the artisanal side.

The sight is an imaginative blood red.  The deep crimson depths hold zero carbonation and the alcohol has legs galore.  Agitate the glass and all you see is a dull haze coating the walls.

The aroma is stunning.  Stop in your tracks stunning.  It’s very potent, with a buttery and rich nose coming forth without any hunting.  There are hints of wine-like berry notes, tannins, a delicately sweet sugary type of smell from the wildflower honey, but very little if any oak is perceived.  There is a definite ethanol bite to the nose, along with some traces of vanilla (which could be the oak actually coming into it a bit for me).  For all it’s beauty and wonder, the smell can simply be summed as honey drowned blueberries.  But do not undervalue the richness, it is heavenly.

The taste is also a bit thin, much like the Bourbon Barrel Sexual Chocolate.  But it is a honey-wine after all so I may be coming off a bit judgemental to those that know mead.  What starts as a moderate sweetness alongside some fruit meat, more tannins, and more alcohol; expands into an exceedingly dry sweetness from the honey that is much stronger than the initial hint suggests.  The aftertaste is very wine-like.  With the tannins and blueberry meat really shining through on the tail.  Incredibly hearty, and I truly look forward to more from Moonlight Meadery! ***

Ah.  While the mead was excellent, Cascade‘s Bourbonic Plague (a gold medal winner at GABF in 2009) was the highlight of the night.  Let’s go into some stats, shall we?  12.1% abv, sweet jesus.  Started life as a sort of Baltic/American Double Porter, which was spiced with vanilla bean and cinnamon, which then spent 12 months in select Bourbon and Wine barrels.  I’m assuming this is where most of the lactic fermentation takes place.  If you didn’t know, Cascade‘s sour brews are Lactobacillus only.  No Pediococcus or Brettanomyces in these to my knowledge.  Then the barrel aged version was fermented again on a heaping helping of fresh Dates.  All the work they put in is worth it.  When we get to the nose you can tell how much I’m fawning over this brew.

As you can see from the photo it did gush a little.  Ok…it snaked out the neck of the bottle after every pour.  It was rather impressive, although may have detracted slightly from the brew, unsure as this has been my only taste so far.

The appearance is rather nice for a beer that gushed.  Typical Porter shades of deep brown and blackness.  The edges get a great warm deep amber when the light is aimed.  The head stays for days, although the lacto does make some nice funky patterns on it if you let it sit for a moment.  Rather creamy too.  It’s a surprisingly ivory shade of white, almost too white, and laces like heavy cream.

The aroma is up there with my all time toppers.  Deliciously rich and complex.  Smells of cola syrup in a sort of simplified way.  Rich sugars from the Dates mix with lots of vanilla notes (thank you beans…), oddly an incredibly slight chocolate smell pokes in as well.  Cinnamon makes itself known near the end, but seems to mumble during the roar that is the nose of this brew.  The very end brings more Date smells to the mix.  I still get a wonderful cola syrup memory though, I’m talking about straight cola syrup, the old fix a stomach ache kind.  Must just be my nose tonight, again I am not getting much alcohol in the scent, but others at the tasting find otherwise.

The flavors are incredibly well melded.  The bourbon comes through, but brace yourselves, I found the wine barrels to be a bit overpowering.  This is the exact opposite of what I would nearly always say.  Usually wine barrels are underdone in my opinion, and bourbon barrels are overdone.  This is just the opposite and what I always say I want, but I just felt the wine presence was too much with all the lacto tartness going on.  The cinnamon provides a welcome subtle warmth that the bourbon just couldn’t muster.  I can’t seem to find any vanilla or much of the bourbon flavors at all though on the tongue.  I think the Dates and Date meat round out the body and add to the nose more than they add any noticable flavor for me.

All in all though, Bourbonic Plague is a beer I wouldn’t hesitate to grab.  It’s incredibly well done as were all of tonight’s brews.

Again my thanks to John and Jen for hosting this wonderful tasting, providing some great tasty snacks, putting up with me photographing the whole night, and providing the highlight brew of my night.  Oh and also for giving me more brews to blog about, Thanks guys!


Posted in Beer Photography, Beer Tastings, Cascade Brewery, Foothills Brewery, Moonlight Meadery | 2 Comments

All Barrels Create Divinity & Endless Fun…

Greetings (I’ll stop at “G,” running out of title ideas haha), I’ve made a moment to come in and update.  Things have been rather hectic, as is usually the case but the local tasting group (Jen, John, and myself) recently got together for a decent little sampling and some tasty treats.

Soldiers ready…Ninkasi was the only one that made it out alive…

The brews for the night included:

  • Foothill‘s Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate (9.75% abv American Double Stout)
  • Moonlight Meadery‘s Oaked Wild (14% abv Wild Blueberry Honeywine)
  • White Birch‘s Barrel Aged Rye Four (11.3% abv Sour Rye or American Wild Ale, see review here)
  • Ninkasi‘s Oatis (7.2% abv Oatmeal Stout, seasonal release)(which also we never got to)
  • and Cascade‘s Bourbonic Plauge (12.1% abv, a blend of porters was aged in Oak Wine and Bourbon barrels, then blended with a porter that had been brewed with vanilla beans and cinnamon. That blend was then aged an additional 14 months on dates.)

Full reviews of all these (save for Ninkasi and the Rye Four) will be up in the coming days.  Huge thanks to John and Jen for hosting.  Jen baked up these little bread/cookie things that were delicious.  We spread some ricotta on them, topped with a mix of raspberry and apricot jam and a couple pieces of a very aged Bleu cheese.  The Bleu was so intense.  It melted right on your tongue but just kept opening up with more and more funky goodness.  It was right at the edge of where I like.  Pushing the envelope.  A very pleasant surprise.  Also, plain popcorn is a very good palate cleanser.

Some Barrel Aged Rye Four paired with Jen’s wonderful eats…

We’ll start things off with some quick notes of the Cuvee de Locals Blend we made with the two parts Rye Four to one part Moonlight Mead.  Apparently I only took notes once I added a touch of Bourbonic to the mix as well.  The aroma is all a mess of alcoholic notes, with a rich buttery-ness from the mead and some light tart notes from the Rye Four.  A little bit of the Dates come through from Bourbonic but it’s pretty much an alcoholic hedge maze to find anything.

The taste was exquisite though!  The wine barrel influence from Bourbonic Plague really comes through nicely.  Pinballing off of every other flavor, the spiciness of the Rye comes into play.  All playing with that wonderful deep richness from the mead, the lighter berry notes are almost gone but slightly noticable on the aftertaste.

Cuvee De Locals…Barrel Aged Rye Four (3 parts) + Oaked Wild Mead (1 part) + Bourbonic (1 part)

Don’t forget to check back in a couple days for reviews of Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate, Oaked Wild Blueberry Mead, and Cascade Bourbonic Plague.

Posted in Beer Photography, Beer Tastings, Cascade Brewery, Foothills Brewery, Moonlight Meadery, Ninkasi Brewery, White Birch Brewery | Leave a comment