Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sierra Nevada Summerfest

This review has been on deck for a while so here goes. I was perusing the interwebs a while back and found some kind words regarding Sierra Nevada’s seasonal offering Summerfest. I stored the info in my brain bank for safekeeping and for recall at a later date. Well my beer soaked memory pulled through and I recognized the Summerfest at Tipsy’s build your own six-pack cooler. One thing lead to another and I was going home with a Summerfest. As a side note, building six packs is now my preferred method of buying beer (other than buying bombers of Imperial Stouts) and would recommend this strategy to other aspiring beer Yodas.

The Summerfest poured with a mountain of head perched overhead. It was well carbonated as would be expected of the style. There was not much happening in the nose department other than some faint malt aroma poking through. I dove into the brew was met with supreme delicacy. A very mild malt character rounded out to the delicate finish. Bitterness was only used to balance the malt and left the brew without any detectable hop character. There was no indication on the label that wheat was used in the brew but for some reason it automatically reminded me of a mild summertime wheat beer. Overall, this was a very refreshing beer without any dominating aspects. Although its primary attribute is mildness, I thoroughly enjoyed this brew and would buy it again next year. This is outside the “norm” of FatCat’s preferences but this could be another case of an abused palate enjoying a gentler offering. Although Summer is trying to hold on for as long as it can, Fall is just around the corner. Summer beers will soon be a distant memory as we combat the cold with thick potent brew. So let us embrace our memories of summer beer before it’s too late, and to hopefully get FatCat caught up on his summer beer reviews.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weston's Little Lucy Hot Pepper Ale

I’ve searched high and low for a comparable brew to Flat Branch’s (Columbia, MO) Green Chili beer. Up until this point I have been largely disappointed with all the other pepper beers I’ve tried and was to the point of surrender. But our partners to the North, Weston Brewing Company, pulled through and introduced Little Lucy’s Hot Pepper Ale. Based on my past failed purchases I hesitated to invest in an entire 6-pack of the pepper ale.  However, fueled by my quest for great pepper beers I committed and brought home my bounty. Would my gamble pay off? Lets find out!

Little Lucy poured with a very brief head. The aromas began immediately leaping from the glass and into the atmosphere. There was very distinctive pepper character in the nose that filled the whole room with its delicious aroma. The smell was very inviting but intimidating at the same time. Risking the cauterization of my palate, I took a swig of the potential pepper spray. The taste initiates with some slight malt sweetness and then sweeps you into the red zone. It’s was not that hot at first, but as everyone who likes hot stuff knows it’s the post-swallow that will get you. So I waited and braced myself for the heat. The heat came but was very manageable, no watering eyes or sweaty brows. It definitely has a kick in the heat department but has a very good pepper flavor with it. The hot pepper character was the star of the show and is what made this brew great.  I've updated this to FatCat's Epic Brews at the top of the page.  Check it out!

As a warning, it’s been a long time since I’ve had Flat Branch’s Green Chile Beer so I have to base any comparison off of aged memories. With that being said, I think I like the Little Lucy as much or dare I say more than Flat Branch’s. Little Lucy is definitely hotter than I remember Flat Branch’s being but both have outstanding pepper/chili character blended perfectly into the brew. For anyone who has never tried pepper beer the idea of peppers and heat in beer is rather off putting. If you like peppers and hot foods normally, then give Little Lucy and/or Flat Branch Green Chili beer (if you’re in Columbia, MO) a chance. The only reason I tried Flat Branch’s Green Chili beer is that it was included in their sampler. After the sampler, I liked it so much that I ordered a 16oz draw of Green Chili beer and set myself on a quest to find something comparable in the KC metro area. As a word of caution, the Little Lucy is best consumed in conjunction with a meal as the pepper/heat will make a great complement to any type of Mexican dish or grilled fare. The other reason to drink Little Lucy with a meal is the liquid heat is a bit upsetting to an empty stomach.

I know what you’re thinking…but come on man, how can you be scared of something named Little Lucy?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hops in Containers update 08/24/2011

Cascade Cone
The end is near for the hop plants. The fruits of my labor are on the vines and it is a matter of time before I will have a FatCat Estate brew in the works. All three plants are displaying cones and I am getting anxious to start harvesting some of my bounty. Seems that the cones are growing the best the higher they are on the trellis. The excess part of the vine (the slack in the adjustable trellis system) is very bushy but doesn’t seem to be producing any substantial cones. I pruned the plants once before and haven’t pruned them since. Not sure if under pruning was a factor. My previous pruning didn’t seem to effect the growth rate all that much. I do think the pruning helped with the browning of the leaves when it was very hot. I also started watering a lot more after the near death experience the Cascade plant endured, so this may have also helped the brown leaf situation. I fertilized with Miracle Grow once a week. I think next year I will dilute the Miracle Grow and fertilize twice a week. I did have a problem with a grasshopper eating my plants but I “dispatched” a grasshopper and haven’t seen any since. They must have got the message. I’ve been using an organic soap insecticide throughout the season which seemed to help protect the plants. However in recent weeks the Hallertau plant has been assaulted by insects leaving a majority of the leaves riddled with holes. Bastards!

The Cascade plant made a miraculous comeback after the initial main vine death scare. As I mentioned earlier a smaller vine was climbing the trellis post after the main vine died. I allowed this vine to climb and it appears will actually produce cones! The cones on the Cascade plant have matured the most and should be ready for harvest shortly.

The next best looking plant is the Centennial which is in-ground plant. This plant seems to have the most cones but they are not as big as the Cascades.

The Hallertau went from best to worst in the health category. It has been eaten alive by insects and there are very few cones showing on the plant. Hopefully it’s a late bloomer and I will be surprised by the plant once again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Belgian School - Doodle Dubble

The second lesson of Belgian School re-ignited my interest and confidence that I can enjoy Belgians.  Next in line for Belgian School is the local brew Doodle Dubbel.  Can it keep up the momentum and count itself as one of the best Belgians in the world?  Well we're about to find out. 

Doodle Brewing Company is operated out of Liberty, MO by Nick Vaughn.  The companies sole brew is the Doodle Dubbel and is offered on the Missouri side of the line.  I like to refer to this brew as the "Dood" and I will address it as such from here on out.  The Dood arrives on scene with moderate head,  it's not overly carbonated but persists nicely.  The nose is dominated by big yeast aroma giving way to some sweet malt smell.  The aromas incited a flashback of super yeasty brews that have been haunting my dreams.  I paused briefly to send a prayer to the beer gods asking them to spare me from another yeasty prune juice, amen.  With the beer gods blessings, I took a swig of the Dood and was pleasantly surprised.  It definatley had a significant yeast character but the yeast balanced nicely with the malt sweetness.  There were caramel notes with muted dark fruit character hiding in the background.  All the tastes were balanced well without any aspect overpowering the others.  The Dood finished dry and was very refreshing for a Belgian.  Overall I liked this brew much better than the Ommengang Abbey Ale (also a Dubbel).  I am pleased I liked this brew so much, not just because I found another Belgian I actually like, but because it's from a small local company.  As I mentioned in the Ommengang review, it's ranked number 5 on Beeradvocate so the Dood has taken down some high level competion.

As I posted this blog entry some guys grabbed me and threw me in the back of a car as I exclaimed, "Careful man there's a beverage here."  They began to interrogate me on how I could choose the Dood over the Ommnegang.  To that I said, "You're not privy to the new shit. So uh, you know, but that's what you pay me for."

Previous Belgian School Lessons:


Thursday, August 18, 2011

FatCat Brew Day: Oktoberfest

Although many companies have already released their Oktoberfest "seasonals", the FatCat is just starting.  I know I'm late since it's a month and a half until October but I hope everyone can forgive me for not having it ready in August.  Since its a brisk 91 degrees out I can tell Fall is just around the corner.  Don't worry I'm hurrying to get the Fatcat Oktoberfest ready for the masses.  In a couple of months (you know in OCTOBER) we'll put the FatCat brew up against some other Oktoberfests in a shootout.  Stay tuned.


Boulevard Brewing Company In The Limelight

Over at Boulevard is currently the featured brewery on their site.  Head on over and check it out and congratulations to Boulevard!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011 FatCatKC Barleywine Shootout Results

We’ve ventured to the outer reaches of beerdom and came back one step closer to becoming fully initiated Beer Yodas. This is one of the throwdowns I’ve been looking forward to the most, and it didn’t disappoint. This was a blind tasting meaning we did not know which beers we were tasting at the time of judging. I would like to welcome Big Ed to the FatCat team. The shootout was contested very closely and there was a photo finish at the end. We went back on instant replay and confirmed the winner of FatCat’s Barleywine Shootout!

So without further adieu the winner is…

Founders Old Curmudgeon                17.5pts
Bells Third Coast Old Ale                 16.5 pts
Great Divide Old Ruffian                 15.0 pts
Avery Hog Heaven                           14.5 pts
Schlafly Reserve Oak Aged            10.5 pts
Anchor Old Foghorn                          6.5 pts

Greg’s Favorites
Old Curmudgeon 5.0 pts
Third Coast Old Ale 4.5pts
Schlafly 4.0 pts

Super Dave’s Favorites
Avery Hog Heaven 5.0pts
Old Ruffian 4.5pts
Third Coast Old Ale 4.0pts

Big Ed’s Favorites
Old Curmudgeon 5.0pts
Old Ruffian 4.0pts
Hog Heaven 3.0pts

FatCat’s Favorites
Third Coast Old Ale 5.0pts
Old Curmudgeon 4.5pts
Hog Heaven 4.0pts


As I said before, the results of this shootout were super close. The top 4 brews were outstanding and made it very difficult to choose the standings. Anchor Old Foghorn was clearly the least favorite with the group. It was way too sweet with an almost syrupy texture. On my scorecard, I marked off the Old Foghorn and then concluded all of the other beers should be #1. However, this is a shootout, so I carried on with the difficult process of narrowing down my choices. The Schlafly Reserve was the black sheep as it was clearly different from all the other contestants due to its oak aging. The preference for the oak character was hit and miss with the group, some liked the extra zing and others did not. I personally liked the Schlafly Reserve and thought the oak character balanced nicely with the malt complexity in the brew. After the bottom two brews, the competition in the top four was a dogfight of deliciousness. The Old Curmudgeon and the Third Coast Old Ale (both old ales) exhibited malt complexity that was simply stunning. It was a coin flip between the Old Curmudgeon and the Third Coast for first place as either one deserved it. The Hog Heaven and Old Ruffian are American barleywines so they had the most pronounced hop character. Of course, Super Dave being the IPA junky that he is automatically gravitated to these two brews. The American barleywines seem to rely more on the hop character for their appeal and less on complexity. My personal favorite before the shootout was the Old Ruffian, which turned out to be the more balanced of the two American barleywines. The bitterness was not overwhelming and blended nicely into a semi-complex malt character. The Hog Heaven was heavy on the hops and was close to being an imperial IPA in taste perception. Simply put, there were no losers in the top 4.


Some of you may ask why are we comparing barleywines with old ales? I had that exact same question before setting up the shootout. I did some research to make sure I wasn’t making a horribly grave mistake. From what I gather, the difference between barleywine and old ale is in the terminology. Barelywine is a modern term and Old ale is a traditional term. So in theory an English barleywine is the same thing as an Old ale. The curve ball is in comparing American barleywines with English barleywines/Old ales. As with most “American” styles, the liberal use of American hops contribute to a much hoppier brew. So the question is how would the two semi-similar styles fair against each other in a shootout? If I’ve learned one thing from my past shootouts/throwdowns, your palate will be much more discerning when you taste beers back to back. When you taste a single brew, you like it or you don’t, but there is nothing to compare it to. When you sample similar beers back to back, you can pick out the small differences that would be invisible otherwise. Add the blind factor and you place further responsibility on your palate by taking away any brand preference/expectations you may have. I highly recommend this tactic to any beer drinker striving for a more discerning palate. I feel my ability to discern and explain the differences in beers have improved dramatically since I started back to back tasting of similar styles.

The Mrs. was predisposed on the day of the shootout so we had to improvise. Yes, that is duct tape disguising the bottles. This provides further truth to the phrase, “If you can’t duct it…don’t bring it to the shootout!”


Friday, August 12, 2011

Founder's Canadian Breakfast Rumor

According to there seems to be some "proof" that Founders is bottling their Canadian Breakfast Stout is the next release in their Backstage Series.  Even though the article to cite their source of the "proof", hopefully they are right.  CBS is one of those Lochness Monster beers you can only read eye witness accounts but you never get to see the real mccoy.  Well looks like Nessy may be in a store near you in the near future.  Get your cameras...I mean palates ready!

To read the full article click link below:  Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout to be bottled

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 FatCatKC Barelywine Shootout!

It's time to separate the men from the boys with this one.  Barleywines are quickly becoming one of my favorite beer styles, so it seemed natural to gather six of them together and drink them back to back.  What could go wrong?  I've left good bye notes with my loved ones and picked the epitaph for my gravestone, "He was just here a minute ago."  Stay tuned for the aftermath to follow.

Anchor Old Foghorn

Founder's Old Curmudgeon

Bells Third Coast Old Ale

Schlafly Reserve Oaked-Aged Barleywine

Great Divide Old Ruffian

Avery Hog Heaven

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Doom Gloom and Craft Beer

With all of the news media outlining the fact the entire global economy is totally f'd and we are all doomed, you may ask yourself where's the silver lining?  Well in craft beer of course.  Apparently as the global financial crisis unravels, most individuals are drowning their sorrows with craft brew.  According to the Brewers Association independent craft brew sales were up 15% in the first half of 2011.  Craft beer measured by production volume increased 14% in the first half of 2011. 

Another measure of the craft beer movement success is the number of breweries in planning which is nearly double what it was last year.  See there it is.  The silver lining is delicious and gets you kind of light headed too.  Pretty cool, huh? 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Left Hand Widdershins

This caught my eye the other day at the liquor store.  It looked to be a special release from the winter time which was still hanging out.  It peaked my interest being a "barley wine" and oaked aged, so I pulled the trigger and slammed down the cash.  The label also mentioned it was brewed with Belgian candy sugar which adds another level of intrigue. 

I ventured into the great unknown which is Widdershins and poured it into a snifter.  The head was small but was persistent.  There was faint oak with some fruitiness present in the nose.  The mouthfeel was thinner than I expected and left something to be desired.  The oak character was distinct without being overpowering.  The brew was very dry without much sweetness as I would expect from a barley wine.  The Belgian candy sugar was an interesting choice and is normally used in belgian ales to provide a higher alcohol content without contributing to sweetness or body.  Unfortunately the Belgian candy sugar resulted in the brew being overly dry and thin in my opinion.  Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair in my review due to my anticipation of a thick sweet barley wine which Widdershins was not.  I think the vague "American Strong Ale" moniker would have fit nicely.  Overall, this was a decent brew with a nicely blended oak character.  Check out Nate over at KC Brew Review and his recent review of Widdershins.  He favored this brew much more than I did.  It's always interesting to see how different people drink the same brew and experience it differently.  Next week is Beer Geek Psychology 101 - The effects of past experiences on a beer drinkers attitude towards his/her current brew.  Riveting!!!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

FatCat's International IPA Day Celebration


International #IPADay


Information can be found at

Below is a summary of whats on their page:

#IPADay is a grassroots movement created to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide, using social media as the common arena for connecting the conversation together.

To participate, share your photos, videos, blog posts, tasting notes, recipes, thoughts with the world by any means of social media. Use hash tag #IPADay in your posts and see what others are saying by searching #IPADAY on google, twitter, or other social media resources.

Founded byThe Beer Wench and Ryan A Ross

FatCat's Thoughts of the Day:
IPAs seem to be the universal salute to craft brew in the US. Going to your local store, it’s hard to look in any direction without seeing 20 different IPAs. No style epitomizes the values of US craft brews more so than the IPA. The huge bitterness and assertive American hop character make the perfect representation of our typically over the top American culture. Today is the day to join craft brew lovers across the country in celebration of our love for craft. So raise a glass of your favorite and/or new IPA and join in the celebration. If IPAs aren’t your cup of tea, grab any of your favorite craft brew and celebrate anyway. Don’t forget to post on your preferred social networking site to show the world your participation in #IPADay.

Did you really need a reason to drink beer today?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Royal Liquor announces the arrival of Green Flash!

Royal Liquor announces they now have 

West Coast IPA
Imperial IPA
Double Stout
Hop Head Red

IPA Throwdown

I've had a couple of IPAs on deck waiting for their time to shine.  Well why not make it a throwdown?  I've heard a lot of praise for the Ska Modus Hoperandi but I balked at the idea of a craft brew in a can.  Seemed sacrilegious to me craft in a can.  But based on the heavily favorable reviews, I had to give it a go.  Up against it is the Schlafly American IPA.  This brew was mentioned in the comments of our IPA shootout a while back.  For a control group in the experiment I threw in one of my favorites, Bell's Two Hearted Ale.

Schlafly AIPA - 3.5 pts

7.2% ABV

The AIPA poured with a nice fluffy head that emitted an earthy piney nose.  The brew had a good mellow bitter with hints of faint grapefruit on the palate.  There was not a significant malt character in the brew giving the hops free reign of the flavor profile.  The bitterness lingers slightly into the finish.  With the lack of malt character, the mouthfeel seems thin which aids in drinkability.  What sets this IPA apart from most others on the market is its sour grapefruit taste.  Overall this is a pretty good IPA with good drinkability.

Ska Modus Hoperandi - 4.5 pts

I was skeptical about putting the craft in the can.  Especially an IPA in a can, for some reason that seems extra naughty.  The Modus Hoperandi poured considerably darker than any of the other two.  There was a two fingered head resting on top of the brew.  The nose was very subdued without much hop character present.  The only nose I could get was some faint earthy aroma.  Not looking good for the new guy so far but taste is 99% of the law or something like that.  As the color would suggest, this brew starts somewhat malty with mellow caramel character that gives way to hop character.  The hops are beautifully blended in the brew and give you that delicious deep dark grapefruit taste.  All of this out of a can?  I'm sold.  This is definitely one of my new go to IPAs.  Looking for a canned beverage for your next boat outing?  Turn away from those bland lagers and embrace the Hoperandi.

Bells Two Hearted Ale - 4 points

This is one of my favorites in the realm of IPAs.  I've reviewed this brew before and professed my love for its bright citrus and lemony deliciousness.  The Two Hearted is the epitome of refreshing.  I love it.  Did I mention it's refreshing?


The throwdown is complete and the metal mouth took the cake.  My initial apprehension was put to rest and cans seem to be an acceptable vessel for craft.  This was not a blind test which tormented me mentally for a few minutes.  My initial response was that the Hopus Moderandi was my favorite.  Then my brand loyalty kicked in and I had second thoughts about defiling the Two Hearted with a canned craft brew.  I wrestled my inner demons and came back to my original gut instinct deeming the Modus Hoperandi the winner!  Take that you stupid demons.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Belgian School - Trappist Rochefort 10

11.3% ABV

After my initial disappointment in the first lesson of Belgian School I had my doubts about these Belgians.  Had I finally met a style of craft brew that I didn't like?  Had I passed my craft beer climax (giggity) rendering my palate inoperable against new styles of craft?  I said my prayers to the beer gods begging for savior and popped open the Trappistes Rochefort 10.  The Rochefort 10 is ranked #22 on BeerAdvocates top 100 beers and is ranked the #2 Belgian Quad. 

It seems that my prayers have been answered because this is one righteous brew.  It pours with a quickly receding head that gives way to malt and caramel aroma.  The smell was awesome, begging you to dive into the goblet head first.  I obliged the invitation and dove in.  This brew was absolutely delicious with solid malt character and deep caramel notes.  The thin mouthfeel and sweet finish lend to dangerous drinkability.  It is very fitting that this brew is associated with monks because this has to be made with holy water.  I have thrown around the term "elixir of the gods" before but this is the real deal.  I have seen the light my friends and I'm back on the Belgian path to enlightenment. 

Go ahead dive in!

Previous Belgian School Lessons:

Ommegang Abbey Ale