Editor's Note: Imagine my surprise to find out—two-and-a-half years after the event—that I had never written an account of this epic weekend! I searched the entire house for tasting notes only to find them recorded in electronic form on my computer. Please enjoy this account with my apologies for the delay.
Our second Dad's Weekend Out (DWO) began with a shopping list. Daniel, David and I were each charged with bringing some good beer. As you may recall for the previous year's event, we had some samplers from Dundee Ales & Lagers and Long Trail Brewing Co. It may have been nominally instructive to include them in our tastings, in the end, these beers were not very good; they were consistently among the lowest-scoring beers in our portfolio. (I believe there was also a sampler from Sam Adams/Boston Beer Co. that we never even got to... I am confident that these would have scored better, however.)
My local Stop & Shop has a serviceable beer selection, including beers from Southampton Publick House, Brooklyn Brewery and Brewery Ommegang, but for a wide selection of quality craft brews, I travel to Ardsley to shop at DiCicco's Market. They even fill growlers from their half-dozen rotating taps! While they didn't have everything on my wishlist, they did fill my growler with Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, and they had Sprecher Special Amber! Looks like I was also able to snag the Six Point Gorllia Warfare Coffee Porter and the excellent Southern Tier Créme Bruleé.
Dan prepared a fantastic— and very manly—meal that included bacon-wrapped venison loins! I'll just let that sink in for a moment...
We took a more organized approach toward tasting and ranking the beers this year. Instead of randomly trying whatever hit our fancy, we grouped the beers into categories. This allowed us to really make direct comparisons between beers of similar types. We had six tasting sessions over the weekend, typically having four beers at each session. Sessions included Pumpkin Ales, Fruit Beers, Chocolate Beers, Coffee Beers, and a wrap-up session in which we gave a couple beers a second tasting.
Friday Night's session was a little more free-form. If I remember correctly, the unifying theme was that these beers each came in a 22 oz. Bomber. First up was Namaste from Milton, Delaware's Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales. Despite its exotic Indian name, this is more of a Belgian-style witbier, spiced with dried orange peel, lemongrass and coriander. This 4.8% ABV brew had a nice aroma, but fell a little flat in the flavor department for us. That said, I would like to try it again sometime.
Second, was Brewery Ommegang's Hennepin Ale (7.7% ABV). I am a big fan of (nearly) every beer they make. They have developed a strong reputation for Belgian-inspired beers and they are made upstate, in Cooperstown, New York. This farmhouse-style Saison was the clear winner of this session, outscoring the other beers in Aroma, Flavor, Mouthfeel and Overall. The spicings are exotic: Grains of Paradise, Coriander, Ginger and Sweet Orange Peel, but more full-bodied than a witbier.
Next up was Sprecher Special Amber. This is a Viennese-style lager with an interesting bitterness and an ideal 5.0% ABV. Avid readers of this blog may know that in the late 80s, I toured the Sprecher Brewery in the heart of what was then Milwaukee's stinky tanning district and got to taste the most complex, freshest, beer I had ever had (up to then) right from the cask! It was a transformative experience that really changed my attitudes toward beer. Since then my motto has been "Life is short—Drink only good beer!"
Our experience with Sprecher was not quite as favorable in this session, but to be fair, it's hard to compare fresh from the brewer's cask to bottles that have been shipped out east. It did, however score a respectable 27 points in the flavor area. Well worth trying!
Last up, was Stone Brewing Co.'s Escondidian. Named for their hometown, Escondido, CA, this limited-run malty brew scored well in the flavor category, although we found the aftertase a little off. Not a bad beer, just not at the level of Hennepin.