Beer Review: Zero Gravity’s Madonna IIPA

I’m into IPAs just like the rest of the world, but I like them to be balanced. IPAs that are too aggressively hopped seem like they’re trying to cover something up. It’s easy to hide low qual ingredients or beer flaws with more hops. Anyone can do that. But brewing IPAs that are balanced, where hops play nice with malts and the flavor is big, but not overwhelming? That’s an art….

It’s Oktoberfest Season.

The fall season isn’t only for pumpkin beers – though you may not know it given their abundance on beer market shelves…since August – it’s also for Oktoberfests. Been too focused sipping that P-spice beer to think about this other seasonal? No prob, here’s a quick run down on the style and a few to look for at the store (because sometimes, choosing is the hardest part).

Break it down for me:  

Oktoberfests are a German style lager (remember lagers and ales make up the two main families of beer). Traditionally they were brewed in March (hence the word Marzen on many Oktoberfest labels which means March in German) and were fermented at cooler temps in caves for months until they were ready to be enjoyed in the fall season.

This beer style has a clean refreshing taste with a sweet malty flavor and a dry finish. Often Oktoberfests have a kind of bready/toasty/caramel flavor that gets me thinking of toast with butter and honey (you too?). What you won’t find is much bitterness because the hops in this beer ride in the backseat. Note that while this style has a sweeter backbone, it’s definitely balanced and should not taste cloying at all.

But which brands should I choose?

I stopped by Weggies last week, which has slowly become a favorite beer store of mine, and grabbed 3 Oktoberfests. These were recommended to me by the beer expert on staff, Barnabas Schickling. Side note, if you’re at the Pittsford Wegs, Barnabas is the best person to talk to. If he’s around, you’ll spot him towering over the beer aisle, with lots of knowledge to spare. He’s the best. Based on recs by Barnabas, I left with three Oktoberfests – Sierra Nevada, Two Roads Brewing, and Paulaner Brewing.

The Paulaner was the lightest bodied and cleanest tasting of the three, though it had the darkest color (quick beer fact for ya – beer color comes from the malt used in the brewing process). Paulaner is a German brewery known for making great traditional beers. I’d agree, their beer was solid and I’d drink it again.

Sierra Nevada has been collaborating with another German brewery on an Oktoberfest for the last few years and it was actually really good! For some reason, I’ve started to become a little skeptical of the larger craft breweries beer quality, which is probably a little unwarranted, but this beer was well brewed. It had great balance and was full bodied. I liked the way the flavor took over my mouth. Barnabas mentioned that this was the best batch he’d tried within this collab series and I feel the same.

Finally, I enjoyed Two Roads Brewing’s Oktoberfest as well. This too had a bigger flavor and was certainly malt forward (which is should be), but it had a bit of bitterness that the other two didn’t have. Overall three solid choices I’d recommend.

And, what should I eat it with?

When I sip a beer, I immediately start to think about what type of food I could pair it with. For these Oktoberfests, cheese is a no-brainer, so think about a mild cheddar, or in my case I had a dutch-style cheese made by cheese maker Cooperstown Cheese Company I’m also feeling like a light blue cheese could be nice too.

Outside the cheese arena, you could partner an Oktoberfests with a salty pretzel and mustard or maybe a german style sausage with sautéed cabbage with apples. The simple tip here is pairing the beer’s sweet flavors with some saltiness.

 

Alright, you’re on your own now, but keep us in the loop. Have you tried some Oktoberfests that you enjoyed? What’s your experience with them?

 

P.S. If you’re looking for some local Rochester options to try, here are three:

Pilsners.

The crisp, clean lager you should have been drinking all summer. Good news, it’s good all year too.

Listen, I love Pilsners. I feel like you hear a lot of brewers say the same, but fewer mainstream craft beer drinkers share the sentiment. Why is that? Maybe it’s because when I say Pilsner, you automatically think…Bud Light, right? Well that’s totally reasonable because for a long time, this has been the pilsner reference point for many people. BUT, now we’re living in a world of amazingly flavorful beers, and it’s not just IPAs that are getting the creatives juices, well-brewed pilsners are climbing to the top and your choices are limitless (beer aisles are my proof).

So, why pilsners? Honestly, they’re extremely drinkable and they’re great for summer (which is why I have one open right now). If it’s been a long day and I need to kick back and crack a beer, or I’m day-drinking on the lake, or maybe just back-yard hanging with some friends, I want a pilsner In. My. Hand. And that first sip?…oh man, if it’s a good one, it’s kind of transcendent.

Not sure if you knew this, but good pilsners are not easy to brew. It takes hard work and a lot of awareness/expertise on the brewer’s part. Not to mention, high-quality ingredients are essential here because hops take more of a backseat allowing other elements to shine. To me this style is about balance. Pilsners should have a full flavor, but also feel extremely drinkable, like you can throw a few back. There should be a little bite from the hoppy bitterness, but that’s offset by the lightly sweet, toasty, biscuit-like flavors from the malt. These beers are going to taste clean – that means you’re not going to get too many fruity flavors, like you might with an ale.

Pilsners & Food: Pair these guys with food too! A lighter bodied beer, in taste and color, Pilsners pair well with food that won’t over power its flavor. Think sushi, fresh summer salads, light pasta dishes. Pilsners also complement mildly spicy foods, quelling some of the serious heat and heightening other flavors in the food. Don’t forget about cheese too; we’re looking at goat cheese and mild brie.

Quick side note: Pilsners are a German style originally brewed in the Czech Republic in 1842. They’re part of the lager family (vs the ale family) and there are two main types: German Pilsners (drier and more bitter) and Bohemian Pilsners (a bit sweeter, more malty, less bitter). Now you can impress your friends and drop some knowledge.

Pils to try:

  • At the store: Jack’s Abby: Sunny Ridge Pilsner (my fave) – Post Shift is also tasty, Troegs: Sunshine Pilsner, Victory Brewing: Prima Pilsner, Lagunitas: Pils, Brooklyn Brewery: Pilsner
  • On Tap: Roc Brewing: SmashPilsner (seasonal), Genny Brewing: Pilsner, Young Lion: Pilsner

Now that I’ve shared my very opinionated thoughts, what do you think? Already a pilsner convert? What’s your go to brew?

GIVEAWAY!

It’s GIVEAWAY time!

Give us your thoughts and we’ll give you… some free concert tickets. Nope, we’re not kidding.

We have some tickets to an Avett Brothers concert on Saturday, September 2 that we’re excited to give away. There are two VIP tickets that include admission to The Headliner Lounge, a parking pass, and awesome seats, plus we’ve got some lawn tickets we’re giving away too. Why? Well, really, why not? The summer is far from over and we want to make sure you’re rounding it out with some good fun and awesome music, all with a refreshing beer in hand (obviously).

So now that we’ve got your total attention, what do you even have to do to get these tickets? Just leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on this:

What’s the beer your summer activities can’t go without?

Just by commenting, you’ll be entered into a drawing for the tickets we just talked about👆. This giveaway will only be live for the next week (7/31-8/6), so if you snooze you will lose…

Oh, and none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for our friends at Young Lion Brewing (newly opened in Canandaigua) who so graciously donated these amazing tickets. They’re worth checking out, if you haven’t stopped in already.

We look forward to learning about the beers that are fueling your summer fun. Cheers!

 

P.S. We’ll be posting similar post/questions on IG and FB throughout the week for other opportunities to comment, although we’ll only enter you once. Feel free to share this with your friends! They’ll want to know about this one.

Women Who Beertend

Julie Rossette, beertender at Swiftwater Brewing, talks about her foray into beer, her love for beertending, and her spirit beer. Read on for her perspective.

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Women Who Beertend: Emily Nortz, Roc Brewing Co.

Emily Nortz slings beer at Roc Brewing Co. on the weekends and during the summer months when she’s off from teaching. Her positive energy behind the bar is palpable and we like her perspective on craft beer. Read on for her story.

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Women Who Beertend: Ashley Johnson, Three Heads Brewing

Ashley Johnson is That Girl from Three Heads (at least her Instagram profile says so). She holds her own behind the bar and as a rep for the brewery, bringing Three Heads beers to bars near you. Read on for more of her story.

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Women Who Beertend: Jacquelyn Parry, Stoneyard American Craft Beer Hall & Grill

Our friend and fellow Beer Gal, Keelan Walsh (server and beer geek at Stoneyard Brewing), got real with Jacquelyn Parry (pictured), the badass beertender over at Stoneyard American Craft Beer Hall & Grill, to learn her story and what fuels her passion for beer. Read more

Women Who Beertend – Stories, Beers, Passion

For this year’s Real Beer Week, we’re featuring local women who beertend (aka, the bartenders at your local brewery or beer bar). As the most immediate face of each brewery, these women work hard alongside their fellow barkeeps to provide you with excellent service and a memorable experience. There’s an art to beertending and each of the women we interviewed embody what it means to be a great beertender. They’re attentive, knowledgeable, positive, passionate, and fun. They’re more than half the reason you keep coming back for more.

Over the next few days, we’ll post four conversations with women beertenders here in Rochester. You’ll have even more of a reason to stop in each of these breweries after you read their stories. Cheers!

Featured women beertenders:

  1. Jacquelyn Parry, Stoneyard American Craft Beer Hall & Grill
  2. Ashley Johnson, Three Heads Brewing
  3. Julie Rossette, Swiftwater Brewing
  4. Emily Nortz, Roc Brewing Co.

Passport and a Pint Glass, Please.

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Now I usually live by the motto: “Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.” But I made an exception this past weekend for my Finger Lakes Beer Passport—and I must say, it went exceptionally well drinking at breweries then topping it off with a few wineries.

If you haven’t heard of this yet, don’t fear! You’ve still got plenty of time to purchase one. Even better, they’ve extended the duration from March to the entire 2016 calendar year. For $20, you’ll get $475 dollars worth of discounts at breweries all across the Finger Lakes region. There’s no way you’ll ever take advantage of the full $475 (but props if you do make it to all 52 breweries!). Simply get to the handful of great places in ROC and you’ll get your money’s worth.

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Now that was my passport plug and I don’t even work for them! Back to my weekend, we started in Montour Falls at Heavily Brewing Co. then worked our way up the east side of Seneca Lake, stopping at Rooster Fish Brewing, Grist Iron Brewing, and Two Goats Brewing. Here’s the skinny on my biggest winners from the weekend.

  1. Heavily Brewing | Winter Seasonal:

The buy one flight get one free passport special allowed us to try all of this brewery’s beers on tap. The winter seasonal was so tasty I saved just a bit of it to drink for last. Overall, Heavily offers an excellent atmosphere consisting of two floors with foosball, darts, pool, drinking card games, comfy couches, and bands on the weekend. The building is actually an old barn complete with a silo for that good ‘ole farm feel.

 

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Rooster Fish | Buckwheat Honey Saison:

Although these guys did not offer any discounts through the passport, their beer was worth every penny. My favorite was this saison, jam-packed with local honey and a smooth, yet distinct finish. Situated in the homey town of Watkins Glen, it’s the perfect place to stop in for a tasting or full drink (or two or three).

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