July Beer of the Month- Boulevard Double Wide IPA

My new beer fridge was getting low and I decided to do some bottle shopping. I was excited to see the Boulevard Smokestack Series on the shelves. These are high gravity, bottle-conditioned beers from Boulevard Brewing (Kansas City, MO). They are a limited release available in corked 750ml bottles, priced at around $10.99. The are four beers in the the series- Double Wide IPA, Saison, Sixth Glass Quadruple, and Long Strange Tripel. I only picked up the IPA on this visit, but I have sampled the Saison and it's worth trying.

Double Wide IPA (Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO)
Double-Wide I.P.A. uses Zeus and Magnum hops for both bittering and aroma with Ahtanum hops added for aroma. There are two additional dry hopping regimen, employing Ahtanum, Centennial and Chinook hops. The resulting beer is hop forward aroma, redolent of peach and apricot. The assertive flavor bursts with the citrus qualities of blood orange and lemon with a slight caramel malt backbone to balance the intense hop flavor. There is little restraint in the flavor of this beer; it is certainly not for the pedestrian palate. 8.5% ABV
Smitty's Review: Pours hazy orange- amber with a huge retentive light beige head. Nice aroma of fresh hops that give off notes of sweet exotic fruit. Medium bodied with a mild earthy texture (from the bottle conditioning). Initial flavor of caramel and toffee-esque malts that transitions to a huge bitterness mid palate, which is lemony and grapefruity. Clingy and resiny hoppiness on the finish with some slight alcohol warmth, and perhaps a bit of citrus like acidity. I am someone who is very picky with my IPAs, and this one gets my seal of approval (and was also a hit a recent tasting of beer aficionados). This beer is $7.99 in other states, but runs around $10.99 here thanks to our wonderful TN beer laws and second highest beer tax in the nation. While that seems a bit high, it's around the same price as a bottle of good budget wine. Sometimes you have to pay a little more for craftsmanship and quality in a beer. If you are wanting to try this one, I would suggest you grab it ASAP. IPAs are in their prime when fresh, as the hop flavors and nuances fade rather quickly.
Recommended Food Pairing: Spicy (but not hot) foods like buffalo wings, bbq, and cajun dishes. Would also pair well with many white cheeses, grilled chicken, and steak.
Where To Buy: Midtown Wine and Spirits and Frugal MacDoogal (liquor store side), Mr. Whiskers, Red Dog Wine and Spirits (Franklin)

check back for August beer of the month

Music City Brewers Festival

I just thought I would give you all a head's up that the Music City Brewers Festival is approaching. It has been selling out over the last few years, so I would suggest that you get your tickets now. They are available for purchase from the web site.

For those of you that have never attended this event, it is a great way for you sample beers from several breweries, most of which sell their products in Nashville. They also feature food from local area restaurants and live music.

I skipped the festival last year and will likely do so again this year. I have a huge rare beer tasting in San Diego the following weekend, in addition to some upcoming trips to Baltimore and Boston. However, I have been known to get coerced at the last minute. For those of you going, please report back on the comments and tell me how it went.

Road Trip- Noogfest 4.0

"What the heck is Noogfest?" asked my wife when I inquired about making an overnight trip to Chattanooga. Since she is not a member of Ratebeer.com, I had to explain. Noogfest is an annual unofficial gathering of various Ratebeer.com members in Chattanooga. Everyone brings beer to share for a marathon tasting. Luckily my wife agreed to go even though she is pregnant and can not drink.

This year, Noogfest was held at Big River Grille on May 31st, and was scheduled to go from 3pm EST to midnight. That meant that we had to leave Nashville no later than noon. Noon arrived and I was standing at the door, anxiously awaiting for my wife to return from our daughter's dance practice (which was running late). As soon as they pulled into the drive, I ushered my wife into van and handed off the daughter to her grandma. "Honey, slow down or you are going to get ticket," as I tried to contain my excitement that we were finally on our way.

We pull up to the Chattanooga Hilton Garden Inn at about 4:00 pm EST. I check in, hand off the room key, and drag my wheeled cooler over to Big River Grille. The host leads me back to a private room where about 25 people are busy rating beer. Ha! I did not miss much. A quiet room of "ratebeerians" means that things just got under way. I say my hellos and then head over to the beer table. One glance at the selection assured me that I made a wise decision to attend this event. The table was full of rare beers, many of which I have never tried. More beers were sitting in coolers, but there was one problem. 90% of these beers were high alcohol beers (over 10%!) and there was only 8 hours to drink them. Unlike my college days, hangovers are not an easy recovery for a middle-aged dude like me. I remembered the wise words of Ratebeer.com member Springslicker, "A beer tasting is a marathon, not a sprint." My plan of attack was to priortize the beers that I wanted to sample, pace myself, and drink lots and lots of water along the way.

Two hours into the tasting, my wife stopped by for dinner after shopping. I told her that the high alcohol beers were making me sleepy. She suggested that I drink a few diet cokes with dinner and walk her back to the hotel. Guess what? It worked. I returned to the tasting with a second wind and sampled beers until closing. I survived the 8 hour beer marathon! Even though I had enough energy to join the after hours tastings, I decided to go back to the hotel and get some rest. I woke up the following morning without a hangover, had breakfast, and drove back to Nashville a happy man.

Some of my personal favorites from the tasting were Lost Abbey Serpents Stout, Five Seasons Crouching Tiger Hidden Poulet Saison, Central Waters Brewhouse Coffee Stout, Valley Brew Wildcat Bourbon Barrel Sour Stout, and Tyranena Devil Over A Barrel.

Another big surprise appearance was a vertical of Alesmith Barrel-Aged Old Numskull, as well as single bottles of Alesmith Barrel Aged Speedway and Wee Heavy. These beers are released once every year or two at the brewery, and are limited to around 200 bottles. The BA Speedway recently sold on ebay for over $500! This is just a prime example of the generosity of the Ratebeer community.

The winner for me was the Lost Abbey Cuvee De Tomme, which was a superb Belgian influenced strong sour ale that was delicately balanced. I would love to try this one again. I plan to visit Port Brewing in August, perhaps brewer Tomme Arthur has a secret stash of this stuff. One can only hope.

next road trip blog- Providence, RI

Smitty (front right) taking notes at Noogfest 4.0

Dining out- Radius 10

On an earlier blog, I mentioned three fine dining establishments that served craft beer. One of them was Radius 10. I figured if I am going to plug the place, I better check it out myself. My wife and I decided to visit on Saturday, July 5. Being the cheapskate that I am, I opted not to valet and I had to drive two blocks to find parking. I did not mind the walk because it was a nice night, perfect for dining on the patio area.

Ambiance- Well done, contemporary and trendy- blending very well into the gulch scene. Indoor and outdoor seating is available, with a view of downtown.

Food- Entrees are in the $24-30 range. Appetizers go from $3 to $15. We started off with the escargot, served on an artisan bread. The basil fed snails were tasty, but we thought the bread was a tad soggy and had way too much butter (and we love butter). For the main entree, I choose the Niman Ranch Pork Chop. Mine was cooked perfectly, tender, flavorful, and covered with delicious corn/avocado relish. The chorizo and cheese quesadilla side was disappointing, as the tortilla was saturated with oil. My wife thought the Halibut was cooked well, but said the seasoning was overpowering the flavor of the fish.

Service- From the server all the way down to the hostess, the service was outstanding. Everyone was friendly, and I never had to fill my water glass or wave anyone down. The service was as good as it gets.

Beer Selection- The beer list is small, but carefully selected. I appreciated that they included the craft beer offerings on the wine list, and separated the domestics from the Belgians. The Belgian list is too pricey for my budget, so I ordered a North Coast Old Rasputin ($8). It was probably not the best food pairing for the escargot, but the appetizer was selected by my wife after I ordered the beer. The second beer of the night was a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA ($8) that paired very well with my pork chop.

Since this is a beer blog, let me go further in depth. It is no secret that I take an activist attitude when it comes to beer in fine restaurants. Radius 10 does not to eliminate cheap beer from the menu, but they will only serve Bud Light, Budweiser, Michelob Ultra, and Miller Lite during happy hour. Thank you! That's progress! Get that crap away from my dinner. On the flip side- Yuengling, Stella Artois, Heineken, and Corona ( a big WTF) are on the full beer menu. With the possible exception of Stella, those other beers need to be moved to the happy hour list and replaced with some good European or American micro pilseners and lagers. I will even go so far to recommend removing all industrial pale lagers from the menu. I don't see any Gallo gallon jugs on wine list. So why cheap beer and no cheap wine? If customers want a Corona with lime, let them go to Hooters, Chili's, or the gas station on the way home. Cheap beer should never be served in fine restaurants. Radius 10 comes somewhere in the middle when it comes to my philosophy, and I commend them for that.

Summary- We enjoyed the visit and I was happy to have good beer choices. All of the dishes may not have been perfect, but were reasonably priced considering the quality and flawless service. Margot Cafe and bar is still my benchmark and favorite place to eat in Nashville. However, if I was with a larger party or needed a change of pace, I could easily see myself returning. Radius 10 is definitely worth checking out. I advise you make reservations, which can be conveniently done online or by calling 615-259-5105.

Oskar Blues coming to Nashville

I just received confirmation that Oskar Blues (Lyons, CO) has signed a deal for Nashville distribution with Lipman Brothers. For those of you unfamiliar with this brewery, they were the pioneers of putting US craft beer into cans. Don't let those silly cans fool you, because they brew some excellent craft beer. By the way, cans are far better for craft beer than bottles. Canned beer can not be lightstruck, has lower dissolved oxygen levels, and can be cooled down faster. Today's technology has a special water based liner that prevents any contact with the aluminum- so no metallic taste. Let's not forget the portability and recycling advantages. No glass in pool area? No problem when you are drinking Oskar Blues.

I have not received confirmation on which beers are coming and when they will hit the shelves. I would guess that we will see Gordon (a double IPA- hell yeah!) , Ten Fidy (imperial stout), Old Chub (Scotch Ale), and Dale's Pale Ale. Due to the ABV of these beers, you will have to purchase them from a liquor store. You high gravity beer drinkers are in for a real treat. If any of you know of any beer bars or restaurants licensed for high gravity beers, shoot me an email and I will notify Wayne Anderson at Oskar Blues. Let's show them that Nashville loves good craft beer, and that canned beer IS NOT synonymous with cheap macro swill.

email: centralgritlap@att.net

Nashville Brews Cruise

I just wanted to give a quick plug to Nashville Brews Cruise. This is a relatively new concept, and Nashville is one of three cities in which it is being tested. The concept is simple- a van takes small groups to all brewpubs in Nashville over a 4 or 5 hour period. The cost varies depending on the size of the group, but it ends up costing less than cabbing it to each destinations. I wish great success to this operation. Click here to check out the web site and to get more information

Another Local Blogger- The Beer Snob

Yes folks, we have another local beer blogger. Ladies and gentleman, I present The Beer Snob! While I like to occasionally review new beers in town, Beer Snob dedicates most of his blog to reviewing beers in great detail. He breaks down the "nuts and bolts" of the beer and gives you his genuine impression- good or bad. Check it out!