Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils

I finally got a chance to try Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils Pilsner this week, and it just so happens that it was worth the wait (and the $10 for the six-pack). It pours a golden yellow (closer to hazel, I guess), telling you that there’s real ingredients in there. Like REAL pale malt and a proper amount of hops and love.

I’ve talked about Pilsner before on the show (we had Victory’s Prima Pils), and this is in the same style. Let me rephrase that: this is another Pilsner, but not a whole lot like Prima Pils. It’s more its own style, very far from megabrew quality and still not extremely Americanized with hops. It’s a delicate balance between light maltiness and a crafty-handed hoppiness. It would pair well with just about anything from chips & salsa to cold air, except chocolate.  I think they put it best on the site:

Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pills is an uncompromising, small-batch version of the beer that made Pilsen, Czech Republic famous. Unlike mass market “pilsners” diluted with corn & rice, Mama’s is built with 100% pale malt, German specialty malts, and Saaz hops. While it’s rich with Czeched-out flavor, its gentle hopping (35 IBUs) and low ABV (just 5.3%) make it a luxurious but low-dose (by Oskar Blues standards) refresher.

There’s an air of confidence we get when trying something we’ve never had from a brewery like Oskar Blues. They typically don’t go way outside the definitions of styles we expect to taste and they do what they do so well. They use quality ingredients, give back to the environment and to the community, and provide us with a superior product we can enjoy every day.

Oskar Blues should open their second location on the East coast by the end of 2012, and soon the cans I get might say “Brewed and canned at Oskar Blues Brewery, LLC in Brevard, North Carolina.” I can’t wait.

Monday Night Drafty Kilt

Have you ever wanted to wear a kilt?  I know a certain restaurant chain where the female servers wear kilts too short, but then again those aren’t kilts and they serve a different purpose.  I also saw Samuel Jackson wearing a kilt in a movie but that’s probably irrelevant.  Anyway, I stopped in to Moondog Growlers in Dunwoody, Georgia during my conference over the weekend and had a few tastes of what they had on tap.  Scott was super-nice and made us welcome to stay and enjoy ourselves.

Moondog Growlers Sign

Or until 9:00, at which time he promised to kick us out.  This was completely understandable – it was Saturday night and this was a store, not a bar.  It is a great place and I recommend it to any- and everyone.  The Dunwoody store has 40 taps and is decorated in an excellent fashion.  Never have I seen such fantastic woodwork in an independent retail location.

I tasted some IPAs I’d never had a chance to before, such as Jailhouse Brewing’s Mugshot IPA, Red Brick Brewing’s HopLanta, and Hop Head Red by Green Flash Brewing.  I also had Victory Lager since I had the chance to grab a quick half-pint.  And it was excellent as expected.

Back to the kilt – I wanted to take home something in a growler that I wouldn’t be able to find down south where I live, and I knew a beer from Monday Night would certainly be impossible to find outside of the Atlanta Metro area.  At the time, Moondog Growlers had two of their beers on tap: Fu Manbrew Belgian-Style Witbier and Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale.

I have previously been unaware of exactly what style the Scottish Ale is, but after pouring this one and putting my nose down the glass, I found it: Scotch.

Very alcoholic on the nose, with hints of red wood and a cider-like tingle.  It has a very strong flavor profile that presents itself on the middle of the tongue, with a warm alcoholic finish and little aftertaste.  Scott told me this was a daily drinker, and I believed him.  Not for me, though.  My daily drinker must be a session beer so I can enjoy a few over a few hours; this one kicks my ass at 7.2% ABV.  Still a wonderful reception, to be had again or given as a special gift to someone who enjoys heavy, tasty, malty beers.  I have a few friends, and this might just blow their kilts up.

Style: Scottish Ale/Wee Heavy
Pairs with: Itself and strongly-flavored dishes; chocolate, some cheeses, I expect.
ABV: 7.2%
Availability: Year-round

Find out more at mondaynightbrewing.com

More about Moondog Growlers at moondoggrowlers.com

Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout

I got to go to Atlanta this weekend for a work-related conference and took the opportunity to visit a couple of the new growler stores that have popped up into the scene in the northern metro area.  One of these was The Beer Growler, of which there are currently five locations total – I went to the one in Alpharetta.  I should also mention it was a Sunday afternoon.

I chose Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout, because the fact that it’ll be in a growler I’ll need to drink it over a few days after opening it, but no longer than three.  A good stout is easy to drink and light on the palate, a definite for a daily drinker since I have no friends who’ll come over to help.  The folks at The Beer Growler also mentioned that this was a special edition and wouldn’t be around long or found in bottles.  Therein lies the greatness of the growler store – the ability to take home something the brewery didn’t put in a bottle.

A first pour of this rich, dark treat gives notes of wood, chocolate, and even some coffee.  A thick khaki head forms and stays a while, but not the whole time.  It is thick without feeling like a loaf of bread, and flavorful without being too hoppy.  To me, this is the right amount of malt so that it doesn’t overstay its welcome in my mouth.  It warms the back of the tongue and the throat with an aftertaste of alcohol, and at 6.1% ABV subtle enough not to get upset about.

I did find from the page at Bell’s Web site that it’s a Winter seasonal, and it is available in bottles and draft.  However, it wasn’t found in the bottle that day and I took a chance on a Bell’s beer being fantastic.  I won.

I had three in a row that night and I must say I forced myself to stop there.  I’d hate to think I ruined a chance at my second opinion, but the first one speaks for itself.  I’d get this one again, only I’d love to share it next time…

Style: Stout
Pairs with: Spicy and/or tomato-based (Italian, Thai) and even milk chocolate and caramel, I’d say…
ABV: 6.1%
Availability: Winter

Ben on Beer Episode 9 – The Keggle

In this episode, we taste the pumpkin ale that Ben made back in October and talk about brewing equipment.  Ben will have to convert a keg into a brew kettle, so that should be fun.  Cheers!

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Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Releasing Pugachev’s Cobra at Special Barrel Aged Beer Tasting Event

Top 100 Craft Brewery Releasing its Third Barrel Roll Series Craft Beer on Dec. 5

REDLANDS, CALIF. – Nov. 5, 2012 – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, one of the top 100 craft brewers in the country, is celebrating the return of winter by releasing its bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, Pugachev’s Cobra on Saturday, Dec. 8. Hangar 24 will also be marking the occasion by hosting an inaugural Barrel Aged Beer Tasting Event that day with twelve different beers to choose from for sampling.

Pugachev’s Cobra, which won gold at the 2012 California State Fair, is an intense assault on your senses. This Russian Imperial Stout, with a thick caramel head, is bursting with aromas of chocolate, vanilla, oak, bourbon, licorice and dark fruits. Flavors of chocolate-covered plum, sweet malt, bourbon and roasted coffee explode on the pallet with every sip. Pugachev’s Cobra features three different-dark roasted malts and rich maple syrup in a truly unique brewing process to create complexity and depth. Once fermented, it’s then aged for eight months in freshly emptied bourbon barrels. While Pugachev’s Cobra can be enjoyed the day it is purchased, Hangar 24 recommends cellaring the bottle for up to three years to receive the full flavor effect.

Pugachev’s Cobra gets its name from an aerial maneuver where a pilot suddenly raises the aircraft nose to near vertical before dropping back to attack mode. Pugachev’s Cobra was first released on Dec. 10, 2011 with 3,495 bottles; due to the extremely popular demand for the craft beer, Hangar 24 has increased its production for 2012 to an estimated 6,000 bottles.

Attendees of the inaugural Barrel Aged Beer Tasting Event will be able to sample six, 4oz pours of any of the following Hangar 24 Barrel Aged craft beer:

On Draught:

o   2012 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2011 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2012 Hammerhead

o   2011 Pugachev’s Cobra aged in Rye Barrels

o   2011 Immelmann aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels

o   4th Anniversary Dopplesticke Alt aged in Rye Barrels

In Bottles:

o   2012 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2011 Pugachev’s Cobra

o   2012 Chandelle

o   2012 Hammerhead

o   2011 Humpty Bump

o   2010 Immelmann


Pugachev’s Cobra will be available for sale in 750mL bottles ($20 each, limit 6) and draught in Hangar 24’s Tasting Room in Redlands, California. Limited Southern California distribution to on- and off-premise locations will begin on Monday, Dec. 10.

Tickets are available on Dec. 8 for $25 in the Tasting Room. The first 250 participants will receive a complimentary, Hangar 24 Barrel Aged Beer taster glass. Hangar 24’s Tasting Room will be fully open on Dec. 8 and will be serving all of its craft beer styles.

For more information on Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, please visit www.Hangar24Brewery.com.

About Hangar 24

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery began with a true passion for good beer, the absolute love of flying and the pure enjoyment of being around great friends. Owner and master Brewer Ben Cook and his buddies used to meet at Hangar 24 after an afternoon of flying to trade stories, talk aviation, play music and share a few cold ones that Ben just finished brewing at home. These days, the location where these fine beers are brewed has changed, but the quality time spent enjoying a delicious, handcrafted beer and conversation is the same as ever. Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employs more than 50 team members and its distribution is now spanned throughout Southern California with its addition of another company, Hangar 24 Craft Distribution. Its annual capacity now stands at approximately 40,000 and its Brewery and Distribution Center together employ nearly 100 people.

Props to Boston Beer Company

I checked in on Untappd a few weeks ago to Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale.  I was disappointed in the taste and spoke of it being “…Sour. Astringent. Warm. Disappointing.”  It also went flat pretty quickly, so I tried to update my Untappd check-in with this information.  Seeing that I couldn’t, I took to Twitter and posted an update on my experience.  Sam Adams replied, leading me to a consumer complaint page (stay with me – I have a point).

I filled out the complaint page with my opinion of the beer (it seemed like they were in a hurry to get it to the market) and replied to Sam Adams that I had logged the incident.  “No worries,” I thought.  I was just letting them know, you know?

I got an e-mail the following day from some outsourced customer service company saying

I see from the details that you provided that we do not need any addition information to proceed with our tracking and investigation of your issue. I appreciate the cooperation and effort to provide the facts that we need and I have moved forward with a refund for the Samuel Adams HarvestPumpkin Ale that you purchased.

We are a small company, so please allow 2-3 weeks for a refund check to arrive…

I was taken aback at what I’d read – the company was going to simply reimburse me for a beer.  One beer from a 12-pack seasonal collection.  Also, they were not answering my question; I wrote back:

I understand that things like this happen.  I wasn’t expecting a refund though. I’d like to know what the brewmasters think about what I said, and whether they agree that the beer wasn’t supposed to taste that way. Is this a quality control issue or was the beer intended to be just what it was?


As a true believer in American Craft Beer and a connoisseur, I just want to know what happened. Refunding my money isn’t, in my opinion, a solution.
Ben Rehberg
Ben on Beer
I got absolutely no reply.  Today I received a check in the mail with a letter from Jim Koch:
It’s not every day you get a letter personally signed by the founder of this country’s largest craft brewery.  The check (for $10) also had an original signature.  The letter explains how there are sometimes mishandling incidents that occur and other variables outside of their control that can spoil the taste of the beer.  I understand that, and now it makes sense that the Hazel Brown Ale (from the same 12-pack) didn’t taste right either.  perhaps if I find another sampler at a different retailer I’ll give it another go.
In the mean time, I’d like to mention that this kind of personal contact would not occur with any larger beer company.  Try complaining to Anheuser-Busch about something – I guarantee you won’t get a check and a letter from the CEO.
This is what I love about craft beer – it’s made by people.  People you can actually get to know.  I have become less and less a fan of Samuel Adams over the years because of their far reach and obvious propensity to flood the market, but this experience has reeled me back in to liking the company a whole lot more.  Cheers to Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Lands in California’s Central Coast

I received a press release today and thought I’d just re-post it here:

REDLANDS, CALIF. – Nov. 1, 2012 – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, one of the top 100 craft brewers in the country, has expanded its California footprint to now include Northern Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and its famed Central Coast. Previously only available in Southern California, the nearly five year old craft brewery offers 30 different styles of beer across seven categories.

“Hangar 24 continues to grow and we are excited to see people resonate with the brand,” said Founder and Master Brewer Ben Cook. “I am incredibly proud of the hard work that our team has contributed over the past five years, including our brewery staff, sales team and distributors.  We’ve all worked together to get us where we are today.”

Hangar 24 is now available in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, San Benito and Santa Clara counties, in addition to already being featured in Los Angeles, Orange, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Riverside, San Bernardino (home of the brewery) and San Diego counties.

Hangar 24’s current craft beer offerings are categorized by style in groups including, but not limited to:

  • Year Round Offerings – Hangar 24’s seven core beers, offered throughout the year
  • Seasonal Offerings – The perfect beer for each of the four seasons
  • Local Field Series –  Each release features an ingredient grown in Southern California, including citrus, dates, red wine grapes, pumpkins and more
  • Barrel Roll Series –  Barrel aged beers available in very limited quantities

Some of Hangar 24’s craft beers that are currently available include, but are not limited to:

  • Orange Wheat – American Wheat Beer brewed with whole, pureed, 100 percent locally grown oranges added throughout the process
  • Amarillo Pale Ale – American Pale Ale dry hopped with Amarillo hops with an assertive hop flavor and aroma with a hint of caramel in the background
  • Alt-Bier Ale – Northern German Ale with a caramel dominated flavor, bready/toasty finish, followed by a roasty flavor to dry it all out
  • Hullabaloo (Seasonal, November-February) – A Scottish Ale brewed with American and English hops

For a full list of on and off-premise locations carrying Hangar 24 craft beer, please visit http://www.Hangar24Brewery.com/findbeer.htm. For a complete list of Hangar 24’s craft beer styles and categories, please visit: http://www.Hangar24Brewery.com/currentofferings.htm.

For distribution inquiries in Northern Los Angeles and Ventura Counties please contact Allied Distributing at (818) 362-9333. For distribution inquiries in California’s Central Coast, please contact Central Coast Distributing at (805) 922-2108.

About Hangar 24

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery began with a true passion for good beer, the absolute love of flying and the pure enjoyment of being around great friends. Owner and master Brewer Ben Cook and his buddies used to meet at Hangar 24 after an afternoon of flying to trade stories, talk aviation, play music and share a few cold ones that Ben just finished brewing at home. These days, the location where these fine beers are brewed has changed, but the quality time spent enjoying a delicious, handcrafted beer and conversation is the same as ever. Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employs more than 50 team members and its distribution is now spanned throughout Southern California with its addition of another company, Hangar 24 Craft Distribution. Its annual capacity now stands at approximately 40,000 and its Brewery and Distribution Center together employ nearly 100 people.

Ben on Beer Episode 8 – We’re Falling Off!

Let me apologize in advance for this episode.  Ben is on medication and can’t drink, and we’ve all been very busy so there wasn’t much preparation.  However, it proves that we’re human, just like you!  Thanks for watching and participating!

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First Pumpkin Ale

I can’t recall the origination of my idea to make pumpkin ale, but I do remember sticking with it.  It was probably sometime back in July when I decided I’d start brewing again and this time make seasonal brews, like a pumpkin ale for Halloween/Thanksgiving.

However, the season wasn’t on my side for making pumpkin ale in time for Halloween.  We don’t see pumpkins down here until the second week of October, pushing back the beer tasting well past Trick-or-Treating.  No big deal – we don’t join the majority of the United States when it comes to that holiday.  We’re really big on Thanksgiving and Christmas but not on the celebration of goblins and such.  Having pumpkin ale in time for a Halloween party just wasn’t on the top of my priority list.  Getting to drink it at Thanksgiving is a more highly desired and attainable goal.

I started searching back in August for a recipe, and luckily I found several.  There’s one at The Brew Site, Serious Eats, and Brew More Beer.  Taking something from each recipe and changing the ingredients again when I went shopping, I came up with this recipe:

5 Gallon Rehberg Pumpkin Ale


3 lb Light Dry Malt Extract 4 lb Domestic 2-row Malt 1 lb Crystal 20L Malt 3 oz Chocolate Malt 3.75 lb Roasted Pumpkin
2.5 Tsp Cinnamon 1.5 Tsp Nutmeg 1.5 Tsp Allspice 0.75 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets (9.4% AA) 1 oz East Kent Goldings hop pellets (5.7% AA)


  1. This will take three main stages: Roasting the pumpkin, Mashing, and Boiling.Cut the pumpkin into quarters (or smaller if you prefer) and remove the seeds and stems.  Place them on a baking sheet and put them in a 350°F oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin meat is soft.
  2. Put all your grains and the pumpkin in nylon grain bags and mash (steep) them at 145°F – 155°F for an hour.  Remove the grains and pumpkin, allowing them to drain into the wort.
  3. Bring to a boil and add the dried malt extract.  Boil for an hour, adding the Northern Brewer hops at 60′, the Kent Goldings hops at 15′, and the three spices at 5′.
  4. Ferment for one week in primary and rack to secondary.  Ferment for one more week, then bottle with 5 oz priming sugar.  Bottle-conditioning should be complete in two weeks.

    Poor man’s fermentation chamber

Thanks to John Larsen at HomeBrew Den in Tallahassee for his expertise and recommendations.

Batch Notes:

October 14, 2012: This recipe was followed.  Ended up with an adjusted OG of 1.046.  Pitch temperature was around 75°F.  Will rack to secondary on October 21, 2012.

October 21, 2012: I racked it to secondary yesterday, October 20.  I can still smell the spices but the fruitiness of the hops has settled in a bit.  It really feels like this is going to be good!  I have a gravity of about 1.012 now, and the calculators say I have about 4.3% ABV.  So far it hasn’t been very active in the Better Bottle, so I’ll be checking on it again tomorrow to see if the gravity has changed.  If not, it’s ready to bottle and cap — meaning we may can have it on the show on November 9.

October 23, 2012: Wow.  White Labs California Ale yeast is aggressive.  I got a final gravity of 1.010 tonight and decided that it was time to bottle.  I didn’t want to wait too long and not get a good carbonation, so here we are.  It was non-active in the Better Bottle and hadn’t really done much since I racked it to secondary on Saturday.  I added the priming sugar to the bottling bucket and went to work.  I yielded exactly 48 bottles, and the last one was only about 3/4″ short.  I hope it doesn’t explode.

This is the end of the process for the Pumpkin Ale; I’ll report back in a few weeks when we crack it open.  Look for it on the show November 9.

Ben on Beer Episode 7 – Victory Prima Pils!

In this episode, we taste Victory Prima Pils, which turns out to be an incredibly hoppy lager, and discuss Victory Brewing’s new brewery expansion site.  We also touch a bit on what Pilsner beer is, craft beer definitions, and announce the winner of the beer steins.

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