Great American Beer Festival 2014 – 15 Beers You Should Know

Great American Beer Festival 2014 – 15 Beers You Should Know 

(and may actually be able to find…)


Craft Beer Explorer has scoured the results of this years Medal Winners at the GABF in Denver, CO to compile this list of 15 beers that you should (and might actually be able to) find, buy, and drink in many parts of the country. Cheers!


1. Le Freak – Green Flash Brewing (CA) – Bronze Medal – American-Belgo Style Ale


2. Golden Monkey – Victory Brewing Co. (PA) – Gold Medal – Belgian-Style Tripel


3. Samuel Adams Tetravis (MA) – Gold Medal – Belgian Style Abbey Ale


4. Ommegang Witte – Brewery Ommegang (NY) – Silver Medal – Belgian-Style Witbier


5. Troegenator – Troegs Brewing Co (PA) – Gold Medal – Bock


6. Sweet Baby Jesus! – DuClaw Brewing (MD) – Bronze Medal – Chocolate Beer


7. HopFish – Flying Fish Brewing (NJ) – Gold Medal – English Style Pale Ale


8. The Kaiser – Avery Brewing (CO) – Silver Medal – German Style Doppelbock or Eisbock


9. Pivo – Firestone Walker (CA) – Gold Medal – German Style Pilsener


10. Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce – Yards Brewing (PA) – Bronze Medal – Historical Beer


11. Hop 15 – Port Brewing (CA) – Silver Medal – Imperial India Pale Ale


12. Narwhal Imperial Stout – Sierra Nevada Brewing (CA) – Bronze Medal – Imperial Stout


13. Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale – Otter Creek Brewing (VT) – Gold Medal – Pumpkin Beer


14. Porter – Founder’s Brewing (MI) – Silver Medal – Robust Porter


15. Milk Stout – Left Hand Brewing (CO) – Silver Medal – Sweet Stout or Cream Stout



Beer History 101: Session Beer Law



BEER HISTORY 101: Session Beer Law

Whether you’re new to drinking craft beer or not, you’ve more than likely have heard of the term “Session Beer(s)”. Personally, I myself have heard this term used out of context or to describe a certain beer in an improper fashion, much like how people use the word “EPIC” way out of context; “Hey man, that was one EPIC cheeseburger man!”. I overheard a guy at a local brewery one time describe the 9.5% alc. Russian Imperial Stout he was drinking as “Quite sessionable!”, and that he could “Drink 6 or 7 of these and still be able to drive home!”. Again, he was using the term “Sessionable” improperly when describing his drink of choice. (We at Craft Beer Explorer also do not condone any drinking and driving, what-so-ever! Please, drink responsibly.)

Now, what exactly is a “Session Beer” you may ask? By today’s standards, it is any beer with an alcohol content of no more than 5% alc. by volume. You may hear homebrewer’s describe their session beers as quaffable, or easy to to drink. Wikipedia describes this also as, “drinking in large quantities over a single period of time, or session, without the intention of getting heavily intoxicated. Unlike binge drinking, the focus is on the social aspects of the occasion.”


The origins of “session beers” trace back to two different drinking sessions in England during World War I and was imposed upon shell production workers. The licensed sessions were between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and again from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and this law continued in effect until the Liquor Licensing Act of 1988 were in place. The idea behind “session laws” were that workers could find beers that they could adequately quaff within the 4 hour restrictions without becoming too inebriated to return to work and perform their duties and not get arrested for being drunk and disorderly.


Session beers of that time might have been cask conditioned, mild or bitter, with an alcohol percentage between 3% and 4 %, but no higher. Poured into a UK pint glass of 20 ounces, unlike the US standard pint of 16 ounces. Patrons might have had upwards of 8 pints in a session and still remain alert or coherent. That may sound like a lot of beer, but by today’s standards with the rising ABV.’s of modern beers, the session rate only equates out to 1  beer per hour.


Session beers can be just as complex and satisfying in flavor and body as higher alc. percentage beers, but they’ll grant you the longevity to keep your wits about you while conversing with good friends for hours, or while cooking a delicious meal without getting dangerously and sloppily drunk. It seems that these days, nearly every craft brewery has atleast one or two solid “session beer” offerings. Whether you’re a fan of the oak aged milds or hoppier pale ales, you will find something that will sit well with you and keep you and your friends engaged for the night. I hope you found this article to be informative and hopefully the next time you hear someone claim their 11.3% Belgian Quad is “Sessionable”, you can politely correct them, and then call them a cab. Here’s to good beer… Cheers!


Here are some great examples of Microbrewed “session beers” that are highly rated :

10 Beers You Must Drink This Summer

Independence Day Weekend is upon us!  Surely most Americans will be outdoors, barbecuing, swimming, playing with explosives and drinking awesome craft beer.

Here is Craft Beer Explorer‘s guide to the must drink beers for Summer 2014.

Dogfish Head (DE) – Festina Peche – One of few Berliner Weisse style beers that are available nationwide. This sour peach ale is sure to make you pucker up, in a good way.



Stone Brewing (CA) – RuinTen IPA – While we don’t recommend drinking this monster IPA all day in the hot sun, this limited run beer from the IPA masters at Stone is worthy of consumption while celebrating the birthday of the good ol’ USA. 


Victory Brewing (PA) – Summer Love – Doesn’t the name say it all?  This sessionable ale carries a punch of lemon flavor at the end, bringing you back for sip after sip.

Victory Summer Love


Carton Brewing (NJ) – Monkey Chased The Weasel – This tart, crisp Berliner Weisse is brewed with mulberries grown just outside Carton’s brewery. Talk about sourcing local ingredients. 

Carton Logo

Founders Brewing (MI) – All Day IPA – The session IPA trend has swept through craft beer in the last year or so, and as usual Founders is leading the pack.  This IPA packs some hop punch, without the high ABV, and doesn’t sacrifice too much on the body.  This perfect poolside beer is available in 15 packs of cans, session on!  


San Tan Brewing (AZ) – Mr. Pineapple – “This hefeweizen brewed with pineapple juice got my wife to stop buying Shock Top. A victory for Craft Beer!”

theoneblk copy

Harpoon Brewery (MA) – UFO Big Squeeze Shandy – For the ladies, mostly… Don’t feel guilty guys, we know it’s delicious.



Maui Brewing (HI) – Bikini Blonde Lager – A Munich Helles Lager with floral hop flavors, this beer is a great way to convert your non-craft drinking friends.  It is like a typical American Lager, just much less typical. 



Four Peaks Brewing (AZ) – Peach AleMore Peaches! This tart blonde ale brewed with peach puree, has a clean dry finish.  See our full write-up from November 2013.


Carton Brewing (NJ) – Boat Beer – Carton made the list twice… yes, because I love them. What is summer without a Boat? This hoppy ale made with Kolsch yeast is Carton’s flagship beer, meant to inspire sessions without sacrificing ones’ ability to walk, speak, or remain conscious. 


Wanderlust Brewing Co. – Shakedown Series: Farmhouse Rouge



Wanderlust Brewing Co. (Flagstaff, AZ.)


Welcome to Wanderlust Brewing Co., a relatively newer brewery located in the great piney Northern Arizona region. Flagstaff is home to a good handful of fantastic breweries and Wanderlust one of them. Pretty much a one man show, built and ran by founder/brewmaster Nathan Friedman. Starting out as a homebrewer, Mr. Friedman honed his craft, art and passion for about 7 years before taking the next step into opening his own brewery.

Farmhouse Rouge, Wanderlust’s newest offering is part of the Shakedown Series and isn’t your ordinary Belgian Saison. Aged in red wine barrels then bottled in the traditional Belgian corked bottle, really puts you in the mindset that you’re about to enjoy something quite special. Pouring a deep burgundy color, Farmhouse Rouge looks more like a wine than a beer. Very minimal carbonation with a thin off-white head, immediately I get aromas of wine must, earth and a boozy sweetness. My initial taste picked up trace amounts of alcohol, rich red wine notes and spicy yeast esters.



As the beer sits on my tongue and mingles with my taste buds, oak tannins with notes of dark berries and candied fruits such as plum are pleasantly welcomed. The beers maltiness is much more subdued to the intricate nuances coming from the yeast character and red wine barrel aged notes. I don’t detect much hop presence at first, as there is very minimal bitterness and not much noticeable hop aroma or flavors. As it warms up though, the bitterness starts to creep forward and leave a lingering kiss on the tongue.



Farmhouse Rouge finishes off at 8.6% alc. and is one remarkable ale and will age incredibly well, if cellared properly. I suggest serving this at atleast 52* F to bring out all the fantastic nuances and complex layers. Enjoy it with a loved one on a special occasion or good friends at a dinner party and you’ll be the hero of the day. Cheers to Wanderlust Brewing Co. for making an incredibly unique ale. I eagerly look forward to trying this again in a year after a nice cellar aging and to trying more of your offerings.


Wanderlust Brewing Co.

1519 N. Main Street, Suite 10


Flagstaff, AZ.

Instagram (wanderlust_brewing)


Hangar 24 Craft Brewery – Local Fields Series – Vinaceous



Hangar 24 Craft Brewery (Redlands, Ca.)

Do you consider yourself a craft beer enthusiast? Have you made it all the way to becoming a 10th Level Beer Geek? Are you a full blown beer snob that will shoot down anything you consider sub-par with a quick snicker towards the less enlightened beer drinkers? Have you run out of options for finding something new, exciting and high quality? Well then, look no further than Vinaceous from Hangar 24 Craft Brewery. This Old Ale is part of Hangar 24’s Local Fields Series that incorporates locally grown Red Wine Grapes that is aged on French Oak for that classic, wine barrel touch.

Hangar 24 beers just recently breached the borders of Arizona and I had heard much buzz about them and their beers, so when I saw this I had to grab it. The base of this ale is a traditional Old Ale, strong and sturdy chiming in at 8.7% alc. The addition of fresh crushed Mourvedre Grapes from the vineyards of Temecula, Ca. add a special touch, making this Old Ale stand out. Vinaceous pours a deep burgundy with a rocky, off white head. Aromas of brown sugar, dark candied fruits and wine-like must piqued my interest as I held it up to my nose. Slightly sweet with trace elements of alcohol, dark berries and a vinous quality that intertwines with the malty backbone. Subtle hints of toasted oak round out the finish with minimal, earthy bitterness.


Vinaceous definitely has a mouthfeel and body more closely resembling wine over beer. As it warms up, the carbonation settles and leaves a fruity tingle on the tongue. A residual and slight warming feeling sits in my chest and brings on a pleasant calming sensation. This ale is definitely something that I feel both beer snob and wine connoisseur alike will rejoice over. It would be right at home with a few good friends on a warm, spring evening sitting on your porch while watching the sun set or for a special occasion like an anniversary dinner. Pair it with some fancy cheeses and artisanal crackers or nice cuts of red meat, the rarer the better for a delectable meal pairing. I would even pair it with a nice raspberry cheesecake or pomegranate tart for dessert.

No matter which way you enjoy this ale, you can’t go wrong. Drink it fresh or age it for six months to a year and you’ll have yourself a one of a kind drink to usher in the good times and make great memories. Cheers!

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery
1710 Sessums Drive
Redlands, CA 92374

Sunday-Thursday: 11am – 10pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am – 12am

Black Market Brewing Co.’s Embargo Imperial Brown Ale



Black Market Brewing Co. (Temecula, CA.)

Take a step into a dark room, a single light flickers in the center. A man in a long, dark trench coat stands silently leaned up against a wall. Puffing on a cheap cigarette. He motions you forward. You cautiously take a small step, then another. Trying to gulp down that knot in your throat, he tells you to sit. Your nerves start to quake and suddenly, you hear the sound of a bottle opening and a drink being poured, slowly into a deep glass. You hear the liquid glugging and then he sets the drink before you.

Your nerves start to settle as you bring the glass to your nose, take in a deep waft. You pick up hints of bourbon, vanilla, cocoa and sweet tobacco leaf. You hold the silky, dark drink up to your lips and let it glide over your lips, into your mouth. Overjoyed, you take another deep sip and let it rest on your tongue. Greeted by semi-sweet cocoa and a slight boozy bite, this inky ale relieves you of your worries and nearly makes you forget the dark figure still hanging in the corner of the room. He offers you a smoke, you decline.



Wondering, how did such a treat come to be. You turn and ask the man, what is this and where can I get more? He says, “On the Black Market. Black Market Brewing Co. that is!”. You are indulging upon one of the best kept secrets in modern craft beer today. Embargo Imperial Brown Ale. Luscious, this ale is. Rich and fulfilling without being heavy. Embargo is quite special and complex. Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels with vanilla and cacao nibs, this is truly something that needs to be peddled in the underground. It is not for the faint of heart, nor the square. Embargo will hit you like rounds of bullets from a Tommy Gun at 9.8% alc. by volume. It leaves you yearning for more, like a deep passionate kiss from your best gal down at the speakeasy. Mild hop bitterness and a velvety finish can be easily imbibed by oneself, but is almost certainly best shared with a friend or two.

I highly suggest serving this at 50*F. to bring out all the complexities this ale has to offer. Embargo could be paired with a great cigar and a nice meal of rich, red meats and mild cheeses. The high ABV. will work well as a digestif to help settle your stomach, making room for that grandiose, rich dessert and yet another bottle of Embargo before you lay down for a long nights rest.

Cheers to the brewers and everyone at Black Market Brewing Co. for making one hell of an ale. I look forward to trying more of your brews. Until next time my fellow Craft Beer Explorers… Cheers!


Hinterland Brewing White Out Bourbon Barrel Aged IPA



Hinterland Brewing (Green Bay, WI)

Bourbon barrel beers have worked their ways into beer snobs hearts over the years. I have personally witnessed them in stouts, porters, Belgian quads, and even an ale. They come full of bold malty flavors paired with sweet vanilla notes and anywhere from a hint of bourbon, to a mouth full of rich, smooth bourbon flavor. So, when my beer guy came to me and said that we have a bourbon barrel aged IPA, I didn’t believe my ears! Have I found a beer full of precious hoppy flavors AND bourbon?!? I quickly grabbed a bottle and was on my way to chill the beer.


White Out IPA pours a dark amber color with a thin, yet lingering white head. Holding the beer up to the light, it gives off a ruby red hue. The aromas were faintly filled with bourbon. The bourbon aroma seemed to take over any hop presence in the aromas. When I took my first sip, I was pleased with a full mouth feel of floral hops that paired great with a smooth hint of vanilla. The end of the sip finishes with a subtle note of a smooth bourbon.

At first I was excited, yet skeptical about a bourbon barrel IPA, but Hinterland has not disappointed with any of their offerings so it was a must have. Thanks to Hinterland, I am now a fan of the interesting blend of hops and bourbon. I highly suggest you give White Out a try if you ever come across it. Or any of their other beers for that matter! As always, drink craft! Cheers!


Check out Hinterland Brewing on Facebook and the interwebs:

Or if you’re in town, stop by and have a fresh pint and thank a brewer!

313 Dousman St, Green Bay, WI 54303

Monday-Saturday 4 pm – Close

Sundays Closed

Happy Hour 4 pm – 7 pm

Dinner 5 pm – 10 pm