The Jug Shop is one of those places that we love, but try to love quietly. Eric Cripe, the in-house cicerone, puts on amazing tastings that we give huge props to…but we don’t want them to get crowded, now do we? Currently, they are almost always full, or at least very busy, but we only have to buy tickets ahead of time for super-special ones. So go ahead and go, Beer at Joe’s readers, but don’t tell your friends, and for goodness sakes don’t Yelp it.
One of my favorites was “Eric’s Choice”. Possibly my favorite tasting yet. He started with “1809″ a Berliner Weisse style beer recreated by Professor Fritz Briem with Weihenstephan & Doemens Brewery. Apparently Berliner Weisse was dubbed “the champagne of the north” by Napoleon Bonaparte and/or his troops in 1809–thus the name. It’s bottle-conditioned, unfiltered, and unpasteurized. The smell is fresh and yeasty, with plenty of carbonation. It tastes tart but not sour, fruity, like peaches and cream– the term “lactic acid” gets bandied about a lot in its online reviews. Delicious and drinkable. I actually came back for more at the end of the tasting.
Next up was Avec Les Bons Voeux from Brasserie Dupont. And with this blonde, top-fermented ale we jump up to 9.5% alcohol. Smell is almost non-existent, a bit of a light hay smell (maybe this is the “fine hop aromas”). It has a much denser mouthfeel than the crisp 1809 and hints of fruit and mushroom in the taste. Because it is re-fermented in the bottle, this could be a fine aging beer. In the tasting notes he hands out at the Jug Shop, Eric mentions both this and the first one as good beers to cellar. That’s part of the fun in becoming a true beer geek, after all. I bet it would become a lot more interesting after a few years.
Next were two Ballast Point beers (Yellow Tale Pale Ale and Sculpin IPA) and then Pliney, now a classic. Next was Mikkeller’s Chipotle Porter, a beer I found so heavy and spicy I couldn’t drink it. Disclaimer: I don’t do spicy, so this beer never had a chance with me. But Joe does, and even he wasn’t crazy about it.
Here my notes get hazy: Weihenstephaner Korbinian, which I remember as being super tasty; and Alesmith’s Wee Heavy, which I’ve had before and enjoyed. The tasting finished with Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea, an imperial porter brewed with coffee and vanilla. According to their press release, “Our friends at Cafe Calabria created a special blend of hand selected coffees from around the world and roasted them fresh the day the coffee was brewed for addition to the beer. A 24 hour cold extraction process is employed to coax out only the finest flavors in the coffee, leaving behind many of the harsher, more bitter compounds. The pure vanilla extract added post fermentation is a perfect complement to this roasty goodness of this brew.”
I have exactly one word written in the notes section under this beer: yum.
Once the tasting finished, we gathered the bottles we wanted to buy and brought them to the cash register (Jug Shop has Velvet Merkin in 6 packs! Yay!). While up there, we chatted Eric up about Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog. It turns out the Jug Shop just got a bunch of bottles in–Eric said it might have been their single most expensive beer purchase ever. We asked him what it tasted like. We asked to see the bottle. And once our beer was paid for he said, “Alright. Follow me.”
He opened a bottle for us.
It tasted like scotch–smokey, malty, biting alcohol. We cut it with some water the way you would with scotch and it became slightly more drinkable. It would definitely appeal to scotch drinkers even more than beer drinkers. It is possible that I had to take a nap an hour or two later just to make it through the rest of the night (even though the rest of the night was just a cab ride home). Not a beer to party with, but a lot of fun. Thanks Eric!