Category: Beer

New Belgium Brewing Lips Of Faith Series Beer Review: Transatlantique Kriek and La Folie Sour Brown Ale

Transatlantique KriekTransatlantique Kriek Ale

New Belgium Brewing, like any other cutting edge craft beer maker, isn’t afraid to take risks to create new and exciting beers. Their Lips Of Faith Series of beers have forged new territory, with both good and not-so-good results, depending on whom you ask. They teamed up with Brewerij Boon of Belgium to create Transatlantique Kriek, an ale they call, “a spontaneously fermented Lambic Ale” made with Polish cherries.

Bright red in color and a dead ringer for a Lambic (think of Raspberry 7-Up but slightly darker), the Kriek is equally effervescent and pours clean into the glass, never really achieving a foamy head. Then the welcoming gurgling subsides and there is the unmistakable (yet pleasant) cherry aroma. It’s like smelling Sweet Tarts in liquid form. The taste, as you would expect, is crisp and clean (that would be New Belgium’s golden lager tempering the sour cherry) and has a sweet mouth feel. The cherry tartness never lingers and produces a satisfying finish.  This is a great summer sipper that’s worth trying.

La Folie Sour Brown AleLa Folie

The next Lips Of Faith Series ale we tried in a fortnight was the La Folie, which is French for “The folly.” This latest New Belgium creation is a sour brown ale that’s aged for one to three years in large, oak barrels called foeders, creating a deep mahogany ale. I’ll admit I have been hesitant to drink sour ales, farmhouse or otherwise, for some time. La Folie, however, changed my mind, and will do the same for you – if you give it a chance. The sourness hits you right away on the opening sip, but once the assault on your taste buds subsides, things begin to mellow as the complex flavor profile begins to take shape. I noticed strong hints of sweet fig and plum, plus some green apple thrown in just to remind you that you’re drinking a sour ale. Let this sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving; allow the ingredients some time to “stretch their legs” before enjoying this great new addition to New Belgium’s Lips Of Faith Series. Cheers!

Craft: Spirits & Beer, Miami, Saturday, November 9, 2013

What is craft? What does it mean to ply one’s craft? These were questions that would be asked throughout the Craft Spirits & Beer event held in November at Soho Studios, in Miami.

Craft, in the strictest sense, is defined as an activity involving skill in creating things by hand. During this inaugural event this idea was evident in the distillers and brewers in attendance. Complementing the craft beer and spirits were chefs and food purveyors that also embraced that ideal.

Over 30 artisans attended the event, though it never felt overly crowded in the warehouse space.  It was a treat to sample some of the stellar and rare offerings.

In addition to the tasting portion of the event, there were panel discussions, bringing experts in the field of beer brewing, distilling, as well as the bar and restaurant industry.  We attended a panel discussing the idea of craft and what the future holds for the craft ideal. Craft is a highly subjective term that means many things to many people, but this panel focused on what they defined as craft as it relates to their particular industries. Is it quality over quantity? The artisan creating something unique in a world of cookie cutter products? These questions may not have an easily defined answer, but the conversation is worth having.

Although it may not have been the intention of the organizers (perhaps it was due to lack of advertising) but the event was not a crowded affair. We were able to try samples at each booth or table without a long wait. This gave us an opportunity for more personal interaction with the representatives.

We’re hoping that the crowd present was at least enough to give event organizers a reason to hold it a second year. Maybe craft is too subjective a term to define in black and white, but we’re eager to learn (and try!) more.  Cheers to the artisans who epitomize the true essence of craft.

13 Even Wilton Manors

According to the superstitious (i.e. neurotic), 13 can be an unlucky number. For the owners of 13 Even located in Wilton Manors, it is anything but unlucky.

In fact, most nights if you’re lucky enough to drive down Wilton Drive and pass by 13 Even there’s a good chance you’ll see most, if not every one of its tables and bar, filled with eager patrons enjoying a glass of wine amongst friends; a fine craft beer; one of 13 Even’s signature small plate dishes – or a combination of all the above.

It is not a large establishment. And that’s a good thing. Where many gastro pub/bistro wine and beer bars can be noisy affairs, 13 Even is a little haven away from the hustle and bustle.  Nestled quietly among other small shops, at the far end of Wilton Drive, 13 Even sits waiting to be discovered.  

Having opened less than six months ago, we were both eager to try it out after checking out their fairly extensive wine, beer and food menu on-line.  The first time we went to 13 Even was during a late-afternoon, early evening walk into Wilton Manors.  We were only planning on have a glass of wine but temptation overruled and we decided to share the pork belly and watermelon salad followed by the BBQ chicken, gouda and jalapeno flatbread.  We were hooked at first bite.  The pork belly melted in our mouths and the flatbread, although lacking the expected spice from the jalapeno, was also quite good.

On our next visit, after perusing over the menu we finally decided on the patatas bravas (roasted potatoes in a spicy red sauce topped with a sunny side up quail egg) and the chicken empanadas.  We could have had several of the garlicky, spicy patatas bravas – and for a moment considered licking the bowl clean of the sauce. The empanadas were light and flaky on the outside and savory within.

13 Even is a friendly, charming place with something to satisfy every palate. Whether you’re in the mood for a red or white wine, maybe something a little sparkly, or if you’re looking for a good craft beer, chances are you’ll find just what you’re looking for on the menu. The prices are reasonable; the staff is friendly and will treat you like you’re a regular, even if you are a “newbie.” Oh, and if you’re dropping in to have a drink, chances are you’ll be justifying having a second one.



New Belgium Brewing Trippel Belgian Style Ale and “Lips Of Faith” Series

Craft beer drinkers in our area are celebrating because New Belgium Brewing (Colorado) beers have finally made their way to South Florida. Sure, we’ve enjoyed New Belgium’s signature Fat Tire Amber Ale on numerous occasions, but most hop heads would agree: In the world of American craft beers, the Fat Tire is serviceable, at best…a nice stand by ale with a familiar flavor and headiness you like. This isn’t a knock on the Fat Tire, but  a compliment on how consistent New Belgium is in creating an accessible craft ale year in and year out. However, New Belgium’s specialty ales and seasonal offerings are worth checking out.  We sampled several of the big bottle offerings in New Belgium’s “Lips Of Faith” series (love that name) as well as their signature Trippel.  Availability in South Florida limits us to only a few of New Belgium’s ales that we can try, but these are well worth trying if you can find them:

Heavenly Feijoa Tripel Dieu du Ciel! (ABV 9.4%)

The mad scientists at New Belgium brought together two innocuous flavor profiles to create one unique ale. The Heavenly Feijoa Tripel combines hibiscus flowers with Feijoa (pineapple guava). The melding of tart sweetness and exotic tropical flavoring makes for a unique, aromatic drinking experience. Like any Belgian-style Ale, the aromas and flavor came alive once it neared room temperature. The Heavenly Feijoa Tripel gets a 4 out of 5 bottle rating due to its flavor, color and complexity (5 being the highest rating on the Wanderlushes beer scale).

Trippel Belgian Style Ale (ABV 7.8%)

The Trippel Belgian Style Ale is a veritable hop lover’s delight. But despite how much hops you throw into the mix, a Trippel is a Trippel. The Trippel has a strong mouth feel, yet its unique Belgian yeast strain counterbalances the strong hop notes with a soft, fruitiness.  We could definitely pick up the traces of coriander that added just a hint more spiciness. The New Belgium Trippel gets a 3 out of 5 bottle rating.

Cascara Quad (ABV 10%)

This sweet, complex ale is brewed with dates and get this…coffee cherries. We weren’t sure what coffee berries were until we did a little research into and then it all made sense. The Cascara Quad is dark and it is strong, but it is also a delicate ale, believe it or not.  Malt is front and center with a bit of banana present in the quaff, as you’d expect, but there are also strong hints of clove, fig and caramel…especially when you let it warm up a bit in the glass. We were very impressed. The NBB Cascara Quad gets a 5 out of 5 bottles rating on the Wanderlushes beer scale.

Paardebloem Ale (ABV 9.0%)

After enjoying Heavenly Feijoa Tripel Dieu du Ciel and the Cascara Quad, the Paardebloem Ale was probably our least favorite of the Lips Of Faith series we tried. Brewed with dandelion greens for bitterness, New Belgium collaborated with Red Rock Brewing (Salt Lake City, UT) to create this Belgian-style ale. The wild Belgian yeast is evident at the beginning and middle – yet even with some wood-aged beer and grains of paradise added in, this ale fell short of our expectations. It’s not a bad ale by any stretch (any craft beer maker would be proud to create an ale like this), but it does lack complexity. The Paardebloem Ale gets a 3 out of 5 bottles Wanderlushes rating.

Pluot Ale (ABV 10%)

A plum and an apricot got drunk, hooked up and had a love child they called pluot. Sounds weird, right? But this hybrid fruit actually exists and is the basis for the New Belgium Brewing Pluot Ale. The aroma is unmistakably fruity. Combine this with Belgian ale yeast and you have an exotic little combo of flavors going on. The Pluot wasn’t our favorite of the Lips Of Faith series thus far, but it is by far the most complex and is worth trying. This could work as a dessert beer to be paired with slices of fresh apple or pear. The Pluot Ale gets a 4 out of 5 bottles Wanderlushes rating.




Bottle Rock Festival Napa Valley May 10, 2013

It’s not often when you can say you were a part of music history. So, when we heard about the first-ever Bottle Rock Napa Valley 2013, a four-day festival of music, comedy, wine and food taking place May 9-12 at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds (, we jumped at the chance. They had us at Napa, really, but when we found out that Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes were going to be there we knew we were all in.

We made our way to Napa Friday morning. The drive from our hotel in Petaluma to Napa was spectacular. The hills and mountains leading from Sonoma County into Napa Valley are lush, fertile and dotted with wineries large and small. Getting to Napa was half the fun. Once in town we decided to get some lunch at the famous Oxbow Market. We shared a freshly baked bread, burrata and prosciutto at an Italian eatery called Enoteca Ca Momi. Everything was fresh and delicious. Then it was time to park the car and head into the festival. Speaking of parking: To ease over-crowding in town, festival planners set up a large parking area outside of Napa. Shuttle buses took concertgoers to and from the event throughout the day and evening. This was a minor inconvenience logistically, but understandable given the amount of people expected to attend the festival over the four-day period (over 100,000). We purchased tickets for the day both were performing which was the second day of the event. Of the 16 acts performing that day we our goal was to see the blues rock quartet Vintage Trouble; Alabama Shakes; The Shins, The Black Keys and The Flaming Lips.

Let the music begin! Vintage Trouble went on around 2:15 and rocked the house, though at this point people were still filing in. At around 4 p.m. Alabama Shakes took the stage and really got the crowd involved. Once their set was finished, The Shins took the stage just after 6 p.m. and played for nearly an hour. The headline act that Friday were The Black Keys. In between, we wandered to the one of the other stages to see The Flaming Lips. By the time The Black Keys came on stage at around 8:30 (it went from very warm during the day to chilly as soon as the sun went down), the field was packed with people. Speaking of people, Bottle Rock was an eclectic mix of young and old; hipsters and tree huggers – and, scores of “patients” who brought their medical marijuana to the festival. People watching was just as interesting as the bands themselves. Throughout the day we also managed to visit several (many, really…) winery booths, the shopping village and the local stage where an impressive local band, Buttercream Gang, was playing. Bottle Rock was a large event, but it had an intimate feel to it.

The food and drink choices were plentiful. Over 30 restaurants and eateries as well as over 40 wineries in the Napa Valley area took part to give concertgoers a wide array of eclectic menu options. The short-rib and arugula pizza we ate from Travigne was delicious, as were the sticky ribs from Morimoto, definitely several notches above typical festival choices. We expected as much as Chef Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill) was involved. A perimeter of tents was set up around the grounds to allow easy access to wine and beer; food was available in a dining area close by the three stages with plenty of picnic tables available and a video screen showing the main stage. Winery partner booths that we visited included Gloria Ferrer, Grgich Hills, Priest Ranch and Silver Oak. Prices for the food were reasonable but some of the wines by the (small) glass were exorbitant. Because of the warm weather during the day we ended up drinking more of the sparking and white selections. The reds were perfect when the temperature started going down, though.

All in all Bottle Rock Napa was a lot of fun, and a tremendous success for the town of Napa and the first time organizers. Bottle Rock Two is scheduled for the same time next year, so we’re seriously considering attending this amazing festival again. Our only knock, and it really is a minor one, was the parking situation. Next time we’ll take our private helicopter.


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