The Beer Connoisseur Club

BCClubLogoIt’s about time someone recognized the need for a club of beer aficionados.  The folks at The Beer Connoisseur® have been in the beer scene for about five years now – publishing a great magazine, keeping us up-to-date on the industry, and telling us of beer events around the country.

Their latest venture – The Beer Connoisseur® Club, is an extension of that passion for beer in that they want to, in their words, “…become the world’s most common place where people meet, share, learn, and organize around beer!”  It will be a national club, complete with membership cards and magazine subscriptions.

Membership is only $35 per year and the membership benefits, should you choose to take advantage (and you should), can save you more than the membership fee in discounts on brewery apparel, dining, homebrew equipment, event tickets, other club memberships, beer tours, and more.  There will be members-only events and brewery tours, and even a concierge service you can employ as a member when you travel to arrange for VIP treatment at some of the club’s global partners!

The Beer Connoisseur® Global Network of Partners includes Allagash Brewing Company (ME), Red Brick Brewing Co (GA), Breckenridge Brewery (CO), Asheville Brewery Tours, and many others.

So why not?

Right now the club is trying to raise the initial funds to cover “…the fulfillment of the member’s magazine issues and membership cards, and to support the club staff and start-up costs for live events around the country.”  There currently is a Kickstarter project to do just that, and you can help by backing the project.  Here’s what you can get by

Pledging $1 or more:

They’ll raise a glass to you and nod their heads as a “Thank You!”

Pledging $35 or more (Founding Member):

You’ll become a founding member and receive a one-year membership in The Beer Connoisseur Club, 12 months of FULL ACCESS to the new, including Beer School!  You’ll get special recognition in the Fall 2015 edition of the magazine – your name will be printed (you can opt out of this)!

Pledging $60 or more (Founding Connoisseur):

Same as the $35 level, but doubled!  Two years of membership and magazine subscriptions, plus the founding member perks!

$100 or more (Founding Sponsor):

Five-year magazine subscription and membership!

$315 (Group Level):

Ten one-year magazine subscriptions and Website access, membership cards for everyone, and lots of street cred for giving the gift of membership to at least nine people!

Right now (June 24, 2015), there are 166 backers who have pledged a total of $10,594 toward the goal of $35,000.  So c’mon – let’s see more card-carrying card carriers!

Read more about the club and the Kickstarter project here.

Create Georgia Beer Jobs

I’m all for our breweries in Georgia. I’ve started to focus on the beer industry in my home state since there are so many beer bloggers out there, and this issue couldn’t be more important to brewers here and now.

When I was in Colorado and was introduced to what is now craft beer (back then we simply called it microbrew), I was at dinner with a friend.  I tried a brown ale called Alligator Ale at a Hops brewery in Colorado Springs.  My friend had the same, and after dinner he told the waitress he wanted a growler of Alligator Ale.  I had no idea what he was asking for.

The waitress brought him a half-gallon jug of Alligator Ale to take home.  I immediately ordered the same and understood what greatness I had just realized.  That was in or about the year 1999.  One can still do this in Colorado at a brewpub.

Fast-forward to, say, 2014 – except now I’m in Georgia at a brewery or brewpub.  If I wanted to take a growler of beer home from a brewpub I am simply out of luck – Georgia is still not up to speed on the benefits of allowing breweries and brewpubs to sell limited amounts of fresh beer directly to consumers.  45 states allow some form of direct sales, by the way.  We are not one of them.

New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado has opened a new brewing facility in Asheville, NC.  It has been said that they included Georgia in their search for an east-coast home, but our current laws caused them to hastily pass us over.  North Carolina will end up with 140 more jobs because we’re just not a welcoming state.  While I’m on the subject, other breweries from the other side of the country have broken ground over this way but not in Georgia.  Sierra Nevada (California) and Oskar Blues (Colorado) also chose North Carolina, and Stone Brewing (California) chose Virginia.

The Georgia Craft Brewers Guild is behind an effort to change our laws, and they need a lobbyist to run in the trenches for us.  If you live in Georgia (hell, even if you don’t) and you love craft beer, please support the efforts to raise this state above #47 in breweries per capita.

This IndieGoGo project ends January 2 and is currently not getting enough attention.  The Georgia Craft Brewers Guild needs $30K for the legal help, and I need more full growlers of fresh beer.

At the very least, go sign the petition at to let folks know you’re on board.

And here’s my take: Imagine I own a brewpub.  Right now I can only sell the beer I make to the people inside my brewpub, and they have to consume it before they leave.  If I become allowed to fill growlers with my beer for folks to take home and enjoy, I will

  1. Sell more beer
  2. Generate more tax revenue
  3. Make more beer
  4. Hire more people to help make and sell beer
  5. Buy less beer from breweries in other states
  6. Not have drunk people leave the brewpub (they can have one or two with dinner and take some to-go)

There are probably more benefits, but the big things for the politicians are job creation (check) and increased revenue (uh, check).  Let’s get things moving forward and maybe I’ll start that brewpub.


TK’s Beer & Wine, Now With Growlers!

My Beer Friends,

TK’s Beer & Wine in Tifton, Georgia, has been a virtual oasis for local beer enthusiasts for almost two years now.  Troy (the owner) runs the store with a few employees and has done a fantastic job advocating for his customers and doing his best to have good craft beer available.IMG_7043

Adding to this awesomeness, I am proud to announce that Troy has expanded the store to include twenty taps from which he can fill your quart or half-gallon growler.  Yes, you read that correctly: 20 taps.  For growlersIn TiftonIt’s true.

A little about growlers: the word growler dates back to the 1800s when customers of the local tavern would buy beer to-go and take it home in a covered pail.  As they walked home with the pail they’d inevitably shake it, causing the CO2 to escape (like shaking a bottle of soda).  The lid would gurgle as the gas forced it open a bit, sometimes sounding like a growl.  Growlers today are typically 32-, 64-, or 128-ounce containers, commonly made of glass and used to package draught beer at a brewer or retailer for consumption at home.  Georgia state law has only allowed growlers for a couple of years now, and only from retail establishments.

Our local availability of take-home draught craft beer has many benefits.  For starters, TK’s is the only retailer refilling growlers within a 90-mile radius.  Second, not all small craft breweries have a packaging line (read: bottles and cans) limiting their availability only to restaurants and bars who can serve beer on tap.  Before Georgia allowed growlers, there were many craft beers you could only find on tap and you couldn’t take it home.  Now you can.

There are some seasonal and other limited-quantity beers that even the larger craft breweries don’t put in bottles or cans – they release it only in kegs.  With the ability to get a quantity of draught beer to take home, we can experience so much more of what the craft beer industry has to offer.

And since draught beer packaged this way is in larger quantities, the product moves faster – this equates to fresher beer, which is closer to what the brewer wants you to experience.  Bottles and cans can sit on the shelf for months, which is not always a good thing.  Draught beer will move faster and be replaced by other fresh beer much sooner.

IMG_7036TK’s has some breweries’ year-round offerings (e.g. Brooklyn Lager, Sam Adams Boston Lager), and limited seasonals from well-known and upcoming brewers (Dogfish Head Punkin, Founders Rubæus).  Check out TK’s Facebook page for updates on what they have available, or call them!  Prices vary based on quantity. Currently they can fill your 32-ounce and 64-ounce growlers, or you can buy one of theirs for $7.99 (plus the price of the beer).  Re-fill anytime!

Whatever you do, go check it out if you’re in the area or just passing through.  TK’s also has a decent walk-in cooler with a wide variety of craft beers available.  Go take a look!

Review: 2014 Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale

Dogfish-Head-Punkin-Ale-labelI’m surprised that I never posted a review of Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale over the last few years.  This year was special – a local retailer added growlers to their offerings and I got to have Punkin’ from the tap!

The half-gallon went pretty quickly, but I did take some notes.  I have said in the past that I didn’t want to do quantitative reviews, but if I don’t keep to some kind of standard I’ll never be able to keep up with what I’ve experienced.  I have decided to use the Beer Judge Certification Program‘s beer scoresheet to take my notes and give ratings.  This will also allow you to bench my scores against other ratings, though others may be on a different scale.  BJCP scores are 0 to 50.


Sweet alcohol, cinnamon & nutmeg.  To my olfactory, this was a lot like last year.  Appropriate for this style.  (9/12)


It pours clear in a deep amber color.  The keg it came from was perfectly carbonated.  It has a foamy yet crisp head that lingers.  (3/3)



Hoppy up front, followed by sticky sweetness with an only slightly-floral bitterness in the alcoholic finish.  The next breath is of alcohol and spices. (16/20)


Positive.  The palate is well-compensated as it comes in to balance.  Warm in the throat.  The low carbonation makes it very smooth.  (5/5)

Overall Impression

After drinking for a few minutes, it begins to warm up (and so do I).  More spices surface and everything comes into play.  The alcoholic finish, while a bit strong at first, subsides and becomes quite enjoyable.  If I could change anything about this beer, it would be the quantity of spices present – its festivity gets a bit overwhelming in the same way that a strong scented candle does in a small room. (9/10)


The tally is 42 out of 50 (Excellent).

With that said, I want to make sure no one reads this review as a desire to change what Dogfish Head does.  There’s absolutely no way I’d tell any brewery to do anything differently – from my I love Craft Beer perspective, it’s perfect.  I wouldn’t believe for a second that a batch of Punkin’ that reached consumers wasn’t what Dogfish Head wanted to serve, so I know that this beer is exactly what they wanted me to have.  Besides – Dogfish Head makes “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.”  It would only be an odd beer if it were a perfect example of a particular style.

In the end, I highly recommend Punkin’ to those adventurous enough to tackle this year’s craft Pumpkin beers – it’s worth the time.

Inaugural Lansing Microbrew & Music Festival Coming Up April 18-19


Lansing, MI – Craft brew, music and culinary lovers will gather at Adado

Riverfront Park in downtown Lansing for the inaugural Lansing Microbrew & Music Festival scheduled for Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19.

The festival will feature 50+ carefully selected Michigan, national and international craft breweries, 250+ craft beers, ciders, meads and wines as well as more than 100 musicians, marching bands, Homebrewer’s Challenge, food and brew pairings, rare and sour beer tours, and local food vendors.

Rockville, Maryland, band O.A.R. and reggae and hip hop musicians Dirty Heads will headline the Lansing Microbrew & Music Festival, festival producers announced today. Dirty Heads will play on Friday, April 18, and O.A.R. will perform on Saturday, April 19.

To celebrate the eleventh Microbrew and Music Festival, the popular regional event will tour to Lansing to host the event on the banks of the scenic Grand River. VIP and GA tickets include five 8oz. pours and custom tasting glass and feature 50+ carefully selected Michigan, national, and international craft breweries, rare beers including a unique festival edition, representatives and brewers from each brewery, 250+ flavors of beers, wines, ciders and meads, live musical acts, including headliners O.A.R. and Dirty Heads, marching bands, a silent disco DJ dance tent, and local food vendors. Festivities are scheduled to take place from 5-11 p.m. daily. In addition, VIP ticket buyers will gain early admittance and have access to entertaining lawn games, a heated VIP area, private restrooms, a dining area, hydration station, and custom food and beer pairings.

Microbrew & Music Festival will be working in conjunction with the Greater Lansing Food Bank and Xero Waste Events to bring you a wonderful event. 100% of proceeds from alcohol sales will benefit both of these non-profits. GLFB provides emergency food to individuals and families in need in Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Shiawassee, Clare, Isabella and Gratiot counties. Food is distributed through an extensive network of food pantries and community kitchens located throughout the region. The Food Bank annually serves tens of thousands of people, many of them seniors and children. Our recipients also include the “working poor,” those individuals who are employed but don’t earn enough to meet housing, health, transportation and food needs. Xero Waste Events, is a Michigan non-profit organization providing comprehensive recycling services and educating communities on sustainable event practices. With the help of XWE, the 2013 Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival helped raise over $20,000 for Traverse City non-profit CherryT Ball which directly supports local food banks and Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center. We are proud to partner with Xero Waste, as they also contribute an annual portion of its revenues to local charities.

Sam Porter, founder of the Microbrew & Music Festival, anticipates the festival will provide a burst of energy to the central Michigan region. “We’re excited to launch our eleventh festival as the first annual Lansing Microbrew and Music Festival. We have welcomed over 50,000 ticket buyers to ten [Traverse City] Microbrew and Music festivals over the past five years to experience the craft brew culture and great music of Michigan. Our goal is to have another sold-out festival and help drive thousands of residents and visitors into area businesses, bars and restaurants during an otherwise slower week in April,” he says. Porter adds that after-parties at downtown establishments will further connect festival attendees with the retailers.

The Microbrew & Music Festival at Adado Riverfront Park will take place under a 4,000 capacity mobile tent – the first of its kind in the US. It will house the main stage and provide cover and protection from the elements, if needed. Previous patrons have compared this spectacular structure’s appearance to the Sydney Opera House. Visit Tent Venue’s Facebook page for more information.

The Microbrew & Music Festival educates, celebrates, and inspires community collaboration through the joy of craft brew and great music while raising funds for non-profits.

Tickets and festival details are available at Festival announcements, giveaways, and other information can be found at Attendees are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, as the festival has sold out in past years.

Ticket buyers must be 21 years old.
More Information:
Contact: Sam Porter, CEO: (231) 499-4968 /
Katrina Jenkins, Brew Director: (904) 537-0336 /


Beer. From Georgia.

GAHopsIt’s a wonderful time in Georgia.  We have an explosive growth rate for beer brewers in the state and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down.  In celebration, I’m going to do my best to go the entire month of March drinking beers exclusively from breweries in the state of Georgia.  So far I’m off to a good start, having gone to the Secret Stash Bash in Atlanta where several local breweries showed up.

The Georgia Craft Beer Fest is March 22 (the FIRST ANNUAL, by the way) and there are already 25 breweries committed to showing up.  To tell the truth, I couldn’t name 25 of them. I think that may be dangerously close to 100% participation.  Last time I looked, the Brewers Association counted 63 breweries in Georgia, and over half of them were breweries in planning.  Enough said.

However, off the top of my head here are the Georgia breweries I’m aware of:

That’s 16.  I’m ashamed of myself that I may be forgetting 9 of my own state’s breweries. Of course, there’s no brewery around my part of the state.  If there were one to start, I’d be the one to start it.  There are many decisions to make…

I, subject to allotted time, will be updating this list with Georgia Craft Breweries as I come across them.  I hope to see all of them at the Georgia Craft Beer Fest in a few weeks.


If you know of a brewery in Georgia I haven’t mentioned here yet, please let me know!  You can find me on Twitter or just put one in the comments!

Epic Brewing Hopulent IPA (Release #79)

1-IMG_2221I’ve just opened this and I can’t stop sniffing it.  Hopulent IPA from Epic Brewing in Salt Lake City, UT is part of their Elevated Series of beers, and this one certainly smells so.  I can barely detect some sweetness in this low-carbonated copper-colored IPA over the  delightfully clean hop aroma (Centennial finishing hop, I’m guessing.  I’m probably wrong).

But I guess I should taste it.

And – Wow.  There is absolutely nothing excited on the front of my tongue.  This one’s pure hop juice – all over the center and back of the palate, where the sour and bitter tastes are detected (okay – I just learned that the Tongue Map has been disproven many years ago, but I seriously don’t taste any of this on the front of my tongue.)

That isn’t all Centennial or Cascade hops though.  Let’s have a look at the label (thanks, panoramic iPhone capability):

Epic Hopulent #79

Well, nothing.  However, when I looked at their site I discovered I’d overlooked one detail on the label: the release.

The release details give the beer a very personal view.  This bottle is from release number 79, of which I can see the details of that specific batch:

hopulent_release79_detailsI was right – Centennial hops on the nose (disclaimer: I grow Centennial on my front porch and simply got lucky at guessing what I smelled).  There are no Cascade hops to my surprise.  Columbus, Chinook, Centennial, and Simcoe.

I don’t know what to tell you – try this one, no matter what release.  I will say that the “release” stuff is no bullshit.  #77 was 0.1% higher ABV, and #78 was brewed in a different city (Denver).  That personal touch really does it for me.  I like small batches of hand-made quality beer, and I believe I’ve found it in Epic Brewing.  Knowing that these details are kept and that I can easily find the nitty-gritty on what exactly is in this bottle is enough for me to get another brew from Epic just so I can think about what all went into making that beer.

That’s partly (read: mostly) what my other new blog is about, by the way.

Some details about my particular bottle:

Epic Brewing Hopulent IPA

Style: India Pale Ale

Delivery: 22oz bomber

Brewed: September 18, 2013

Bottled: October 22, 2013 (this IPA was in the bottle for 69 days)

IBU: Not published and not available on BeerAdvocate, but I’d guess in the mid-to-high 80s.

Enjoy this one.  Just reading the BA reviews, it seems to keep getting better with each iteration.  Cheers!

Founders Backwoods Bastard

This is a first review in a long time.  I scored a few bottles of Backwoods Bastard a couple Backwoods Bastard bottleof weeks ago and decided to have it today.  Backwoods Bastard is Founders Dirty Bastard aged in oak bourbon barrels and offered as an annual limited November release.

It pours darker than a brown ale but not completely opaque.  It is heavy on the charred-oak smell and the taste of wood is prevalent.  A friend described it as “very bourbon-ey,” and I can’t find any other word for it.  It’s a mouth full of bourbon without the burn.  I can detect the sweet malts and a hint of chocolate, but the woodiness is almost overpowering.

At 10.2% ABV, Backwoods Bastard is beyond a session ale; the palate just can’t take the beating from the oak and alcohol.  The 50 IBU comes from some hops, but they are also smothered by the redneck whiskey.

Backwoods Bastard in a tulip glassI must say it’s hard for me to appreciate, but if you like bourbon and the sweet taste lent to the beverage from the oak barrel, this one may be for you.  I do believe I have enough of it to keep for next year and compare it to 2014’s batch.  Wouldn’t that be something!

For what it’s worth, I’d still drink it again – but just one at a time.  It’s not a bad ale, just perhaps woodier than I expected.  I believe the last scotch ale I had was Monday Night’s Drafty Kilt, which I remember as being very heavy and sticky, with a highly alcoholic finish.  Backwoods Bastard isn’t as sticky or thick, but still finishes alcoholic with a lot of wood.  We’ll see if Founders changes the algorithm next year, and I won’t fault them if they don’t.  The name says it all – it tastes like it might belong in the trunk of a car headed down the mountain at night with no lights on…


World Beer Festival – Raleigh 2013

This won’t be an organized collection of thoughts.

I went to the World Beer Festival put on by All About Beer magazine in Raleigh, NC a couple of weeks ago.  It took a lot to get me to go – it was a very expensive trip, and the drive (one-way) was twice as long as the festival itself.

I’ll say it was an experience. It wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t terrible either.  Overall, however, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to carry out my mission at a festival of craft beer: talking to brewers and brewery representatives.  I spoke to just a few.  The big guys weren’t really there – New Belgium was so damn busy they were just slinging beer and moving the line.  Same for Mother Earth Brewing, Oskar Blues, and Sierra Nevada.  When I finally discovered that Dogfish Head was there (booth 42), the fest was nearly over and they were out of beer.  One person was at the table packing it up and didn’t seem like a conversationalist.

Pabst Blue Ribbon had a huge booth to sling PBR and sell anything from hats to PBR pajamas.  No kidding.2013-04-13 12.56.14

Most of the booths were staffed with volunteers.  While I don’t mind volunteers (it’s time-consuming and thankless work), it would have been nice to have knowledgeable folks at each booth (preferably from the brewery) to talk to about their beer.

I will say that Sierra Nevada was an exception – they had someone (a fantastic-looking woman) out front to plug their new North Carolina location and how they’re doing it all green and sustainable and tending to the needs of outdoorsy people.  Apparently you’ll be able to visit the new location via kayak.

I got to taste a lot of local-ish beers since they had a North Carolina brewer’s tent.  I knew I’d find a lot there I hadn’t had before since most of them don’t distribute in Georgia.  One memorable brewery was Raleigh Brewing, a downtown production brewery that has an on-site homebrew store.  Their head brewer, John Federal, gave a talk about starting a brewery:2013-04-13 15.19.51_halfsize

I approached him after the talk and told him I loved his House of Clay Rye IPA (one of his own creations).  We spoke briefly about starting a brewpub – something my drinking club is mulling over – and he wished me the best of luck.  It was by far the best interaction with a brewery that I had at the entire festival.  I went back to Raleigh Brewing’s booth and bought that same red shirt you see Mr. Federal wearing above.

I remember it being crowded:

2013-04-13 12.48.25


That part I didn’t enjoy.  It was so loud and full of people seemingly on a mission to drink as much beer as they can, even if it was two ounces at a time.  I found very few people interested in the breweries, quality, ingredients, or the brewers themselves.  In short, it was more of a drunk-fest than a quality beer event.

In retrospect, I can’t say I blame anyone for my displeasure except myself. These festivals serve only a couple of intentional purposes, and neither of them have anything to do with Ben on Beer getting one-on-one with breweries:

  1. Breweries want to get out to the market and get their beer in as many hands as they can.
  2. All About Beer magazine wants to generate more interest in craft beer and gain an increase in readership.

This is capitalism, and I am not against it.  I think it would be wonderful for a brewery to come away from the festival with 300 more customers who know the beer is good, and will remember that when they see it in the store.

The challenge is getting that crowd to remember anything after the event.

I guess a decent thing to do would be to list my thoughts here so maybe someone reading will have some direct language to consider:

It was a drunk-fest.  I said it before, and there’s really nothing I can do about it.

The talks were awesome, but if I wanted to attend all of them there would be no time before or after to visit the booths.  I guess I wanted more time, or maybe a separate day for beer nerd talk.

The restroom situation couldn’t have been handled any better.  Hats off to that one.

I can’t carry everything.  No backpacks allowed, but where do I put all my stuff when I have to pee?  I went alone this year.  I collected as many artifacts from the brewers as I could, and ended up loading myself down almost to the point that I couldn’t move about.

Well, that’s it for now.  Maybe if things come back to me I’ll update this post.  I most likely won’t go again unless I move much closer to the Raleigh/Durham area.