Brewery Tour – Birmingham, AL

Avondale Brewing

IMG_3412The place was almost empty on the Sunday that I visited. Considering it was one of the only brewerys opened at that late, I was surprised that the crowed was so sparse. The people actually present were  mostly older, more sophisticated drinkers. In the background, they mostly were playing relaxing vocals. The beer was served behind a dimly lit wooden bar. There were  wooden insulated mash tuns in the background. In short, this is the type of place I like to drink.

IMG_3413The tap menu was relatively diverse, if not very long. I decided to grab a flight of their core beers to get a good ide of the location. I also had absolutely nothing to do that evening and an uber to drive me home so it just made sense. I was very pleased to find that the bar provided very generous pours… even though at the end of the night they proved to be rather expensive. My matronly barmaid set before me a plethora of beers to sample. A few of their beers stood out in my mind.
Their white was lightly spicy, with a good bit of yeast to give it some body. It had a good expressive character with coriander playing  major role. The Saison had a very resinous sweetness which lingered on the tongue. Their version of a trippel had a strong and powerful flavor, tasting similar to the saison with a bit more punch. It did a very good job of masking the 9% abv. Finally my personal favorite of their line up was a Scottish ale. At around 5% abv it was both sessionable and highly delicious. It had a lovely roasted tone with a good malty backbone that kept me coming back for more!

Rating:7/10

Web Page: http://avondalebrewing.com/

Address: 201 41st St S, Birmingham, AL 35222

Cahaba Brewing

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Cahaba has a very relaxed vibe, despite the fact that trying to pronounce its name will put you into a twist. The tap-room and brewery are located in a huge warehouse. The wide open space gives a sense of comfort and provided excellent acoustics to the live jazz band that was playing during my visit. The crowed is very vibrant, young people drinking on the front porch, and people with family’s enjoying the ambiance inside. The staff is very friendly and happy to recommend a beer to suit your mood or preference.

Although none of their beers stood out as exceptional, they were all well brewed and suited the relaxed mood of the brewery. The house blond was an easy drinking beer, with a light hint of lemon. Although it was a bit yeasty, it was a highly quenching brew. The dunkelweiss had a strong chocolate character, unusual but not unpleasant. There was not too much estery banana flavor although it had a stronger clove profile. My personal favorite in their line up was their double IPA. It was solidly dank, a  bit malty, but it does have an overall balanced palate. It’s a beautiful Amber color, almost a burnt pumpkin.

Rating: 8/10

Web Page: http://www.cahababrewing.com/

Address: C, 4500 5th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35222

 

Good People Brewing

IMG_3419When I went to good people, it was during a baseball game at the local stadium. I had to trudge for about 10 minutes to get to the brewery from my parking spot a half mile away. On my arrival, I was ready for a beer! Thankfully Good People has a very large selection of beers to choose from. The tap-room is a wide open space, with lots of seating and very wide windows to allow a nice breeze to cool down the weary traveler. There is relaxed soft music in the background, hop cone lights, and comfortable beat up furniture in the corner. Although their line up is extensive, many of their beers are unremarkable, all be it pleasant. Only a few beers stood out of the mix.

IMG_3416One of their best sellers is Snake handler, a double IPA. I thought it was pleasant, with a big malty character, although the hops are very subtle. In my opinion, it is more like an American barley wine than a double IPA. All that said, it is overall pleasant with a solid bitterness and not too much alcohol burn. I believe it was well fermented but lacked substantial hop nose and flavor. On the other hand their beer el Gordo was a very good Russian Imperial Stout, with smooth roast and coffee flavor with chocolate on the finish. It was like mixing Kona coffee and Godiva Chocolate. It had a fantastic silky mouthfeel, and did a great job concealing it’s almost 14% abv.

Rating: 7.5/10

Web Page: http://www.goodpeoplebrewing.com/

Address114 14th St S, Birmingham, AL 35233

 

Brewery Tour – Atlanta, GA

Torched Hop

IMG_3398The atmosphere is a cool art-deco motif, sultry hop shaped metal chandeliers and brightly colored stained glass, leading to a vibe of sleek drinking rather than casual quaffing of beer. Beyond the dim lighting, there is ample brewing hardware in the background, letting the drinker know that they are still in a working brewery. The music reminded me of modern dance club, which matched the somewhat younger crowed at the bar. The staff was overall friendly but a bit standofish, giving advice but never seeming to interested in the drinker’s choices.

IMG_3399The beer is a mixed bag, however it is of generally good quality on the whole. Their IPA is certainly on point, with some citrus and evergreen notes. It is refreshingly bitter but not overpowering. Additionally, the smoked porter was very appealing, giving definitive  camp fire flavor that was also not overwhelming. Its malt base is rather mellow but it has a very smooth chocolate and coffee undertone. On  the other hand, several of their other beers failed to thrill me. for example The Belgian dark strong was highly undistinguished and lacked anything to make it stand apart. I would certainly visit again, however I will most likely ask for a small sample before I settle on a full pint of beer.

Overall: 7/10

Web Page: http://www.torchedhopbrewing.com/

Address: 249 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

 

Wrecking Bar

IMG_3402The Wrecking Bar is a great place if your are looking for beer, brunch, or even both.  During my visit, I enjoyed a beef cheek sandwich with caramelized onions and swiss, which proved to be both greasy and delightful. The fries were prepared well and nicely crisp. Music in the background spanning across the yester year album, featuring hits from from Jimmy Buffet, Nancy Sinatra, to Willy Nelson. The staff is increadibly frindly, making this an excelent location to sit back and sample a few beers.

IMG_3407I think that this brewery has an excelent and diverse line up of brews allowing the drinker to either enjoy their favorite style or take atrip across the globe. The Berliner weisse is tart and crisp, very refreshing due to a restrained sourness. One very cool beer was Spruce Juice, an American Pale ale, with highly expressive evergreen notes and a honey like sweetness. It is highly drinkable and seemed to take the best of a winter forest and distill it into a beverage with deep, rich flavor.  Finally, Mr. Brownstone Imperialized Pale Ale, was a great example of this ofshoot style. It balanced malt and hops, giving leading to a dank nose and strong papaya flavors. Overall the wrecking bar is an excellent destination, whether you’re looking for extraordinary beer or food.

9/10

 Web Page: http://www.wreckingbarbrewpub.com/

Address: 292 Moreland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Brewery Tour – Charlotte, NC

The Unknown Brewing Company

IMG_3376The Unknown Brewing Company has a fun atmosphere combining good music with a young crowed. As you sit down, through large glass windows you can see into the brewery. When I visited, there were people playing corn hole in the foreground with huge conicals in the background. The staff was friendly and helpful without being overbearing. Their Sweet Tea Beer was awesome, blending malt with the sweetness of honey and balancing it with the dark overtones of black tea. Having had many cups of sweet tea while in the south, I can say that this is a pretty good take on the original. Although their house IPA was pleasant, I think that ‘Scratch and sniff’, one of their session IPAs, was superior. I was sharp and refreshing with a mint and pine front and a dank nose. IMG_3378Finally, among their line up they had a few surprises such as ‘Kitten Snuggles’. Kitten Snuggles… the name says it all. It contained catnip, milk sugar, and apricots. Although its super weird, I genuinely enjoyed it. Hit had cherry pie type notes and a hint of sour, but was brewed without brettanomyces according to the staff. Overall it’s a fun place to hangout. The only improvement I could suggest would be the addition of some king of food.

Overall: 8/10

Web Page: http://www.unknownbrewing.com/

Address: 1327 S Mint St, Charlotte, NC 28203

Wooden Robot Brewery

IMG_3387On the night that I visited, the Wooden Robot was packed to the gills. However, much to their credit, there was still ample table room to put down your beer. The place has a very vibrant atmosphere, not taking itself too seriously but providing a great place to enjoy some refreshing beer in good company. The servers were incredibly friendly and eager to talk about beer and make suggestions. They all had an extensive knowledge about the line up and seemed genuinely interested in the patrons enjoyment of their beer. Their Mocha beer was awesome,  with a touch of Ovaltine and instant coffee. It brings to mind memories of chai latte and morning cups Joe. This beer brought a genuine  smile to my mouth while i was sipping it. IMG_3386I wish I could wake up to that beer in the morning. Also top-notch was their  ‘Renegade sour’. It was mouth puckering with great nose and solid flavor. It is a no frills beer with nothing to hide any fermentation flaws behind. It is tart with clean fruit character and a solid funk. The rest of the line up included good old reliable beers that while they did not stand out, were obviously brewed with care by knowledgable brewers. I wish that I lived closer to this brewery and could visit it more often. This is a must visit brewery to anyone in Charlotte!

Overall: 9/10

Web Page: http://woodenrobotbrewery.com

Address: 1440 S Tryon St #110, Charlotte, NC 28203

Sourdough Kvass

I’ve recently been experimenting with making sourdough breads. Now, while I haven’t perfected it to the point of blogging (hopefully that will come soon) I have made some tasty product. However, for every one success, there are probably three failures. Personally, I hate wasting food, especially failed cooking experiments. While I was pondering what to do with the bread besides trying to compost it, I remembered the relatively obscure Russian beer kvass.

FullSizeRender_1Classically, a kvass is a low alcohol beer brewed from old rye bread. The bread is mashed and the resulting slurry is fermented and consumed in a thick, often lumpy, smoothie. In more modern variations, the bread is separated from the sugary liquid and then the resulting wort is fermented. Being low in alcohol and before the time of “modern” brewing, it is likely that kvass developed a level of sourness after only a few days. It makes sense that a sour dough bread, having had lactobacillus already sour the mix, would be a perfect choice for a more modern take on the classic Kavas.

In order to extract as much sugar from the wheat as possible, I mashed with a bit of brewers malt just to make sure that the enzyme level was high enough. I had relatively poor control over the mash temperature so the temp ranged from the mid 150s to the low 140s. After an hour I did a quick sparge and then squeezed the brewing bag to extract a fair amount of liquid. I then boiled for an hour with a single bittering hop addition.

FullSizeRender.jpgI wanted to take this one step further. Since this beer is about as far from Reinheitsgebot as you can get, a bit of experimentation was in order. I chose to make this beer into an herbal beer, adding thyme and basil to complement the bready characteristics. I wanted the beer to remind the drinker of bread sticks and salad (sounds a bit weird, but its a combo that has worked for Olive Garden for years). Going above and beyond I wanted to see what this beer tasted like in both a “clean” and “soured” form. One gallon went to a clean German wheat fermentation, the other went onto some jolly pumpkin dregs I had kicking around the house.

Recipe: San-Fran Kvass

Weird… Yah, Tasty… depends on who you ask. The clan version is very pleasant, with a freshly baked bread flavor and a hint of herbs on the finish. It only has a mild level of sourness, just enough to give a slight twang on the tongue. Overall, it is dry and refreshing, perfect after a day under the sun! The sour beer will be ready in a few months and will hopefully be drinkable. This modern take on a Russian kvass brings together San Francisco sour dough flavors with a nice basil and thyme backbone. At such a low, ABV this is a good session beverage which has a sour tang without the need to mess with sour bugs…. unless you want to.

Recipe: 2 Gallons

OG: 1.036 —- FG: 1.000 —- ABV: 4.73%

  • FullSizeRender2.5 Lb Sour Dough Bread
  • 0.5 Lb Brewer’s Malt
  • 10 g Tradition
  • 10 Basil Leaves
  • 3 Sprigs Thyme

1 Gallon with Wyeast 3056

1 Gallon with Jolly Pumpkin Dregs