Wednesday, January 10, 2018

 Here are some of my top beer debuts of 2017!
This was my pick featured in the beer website October's
2017 Rookie Of The Year feature. 

Hopefully 2018 will have as many 
impressive rookies as ’17 did!

Cheers Y’all and Happy 2018!

As soon as the new year hit, I’ve hit the ground running, stopping by some of the newest breweries that have opened within the last few months. This includes From The Earth, Good Word, Pontoon, and New Realm. Atlanta and its surrounding cities certainly have a lot to look forward to with so many new guys crafting ales and lagers adding to the already booming selection we have been blessed with.
Along with my cruisin’ for a brewsin’, I’ve been writing a gang of articles; I just contributed a piece to All About Beer for the first time (look for that) along with a couple more surprises on the way, but I just saw that the awesome beer website Oct.co just posted my submission for what I considered my top beer rookie of 2017. I sent them a few of my faves but due to limited space, they could only use one and honorable-mentioned my other joints. So with that, congrats to the Wild Heaven DIPA collaboration being selected called To Dan! in honor of my late friend Dan Rosen. I would’ve picked that one as well due to so many factors involved with it including the power of good people bouncing back from a major tragedy. (I wrote about it in my Brick Store story for CraftBeer.com too, here. This is one of the best pieces I have ever scribed by the way.) However, I wanted to make sure the others I turned in got the love they deserved as well, so here they are below. Of course, there are tons more, but I can only do so much right now. Shit is crazy out here! I will be adding more as time allows.
Happy sippin’ to 2018 and beyond!
Ale

Wild Heaven (Collaboration)
To Dan! Coconut Double India Pale Ale
8.5%  
Decatur, GA

Easily the most heartstring-pulling brewing collaboration of the year, Decatur, GA’s Wild Heaven collaborated with a dream team of brewers to craft an amazing double IPA infused with fresh coconut called the To Dan! Due to an unfortunate circumstance, this IPA was brewed to help raise funds for the former wife of the late Dan Rosen, a stellar brewer, globetrotting beer authority and co-founder of the award-winning Mazurt Brewing Company who was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident in early June of 2017. Wild Heaven’s brewmaster Eric Johnson, Hamp Covington (Dan’s business partner of Mazurt), Cigar City head brewer Wayne Wambles, and Max Lager’s owner John Roberts proved that craft beer is for more than imbibing; its for paying respect, unifying, and giving during somber times. The To Dan! was a complete success by the way. And delicious.


Monday Night Brewing
Situational Ethics Imperial Stout Series
13.5%
Atlanta, GA

Monday Night Brewing has lit up Atlanta’s beer scene after opening their second location in the city’s West End—their massive “Garage” barrel-aging and sour brewery—in 2017. Their first bottle release from the new facility were 500ml-vessels of their decadent Situational Ethics imperial stout at 13.5% ABV in three versions—the Cinnamon Vanilla Maple Bourbon Barrel, Coconut Vanilla Rum Barrel, and Coffee Vanilla Bourbon Barrel. All three were stellar. Notice “were”? Unfortunately, they were very limited one-and-dones but undoubtedly one of the best introductions to a new brewing site 2017 has seen. Another release this year, the triple dry-hopped Space Lettuce Double IPA was no joke either. Finally, a “case of the Mondays” we all welcome.


Creature Comforts
Tropicalisma Double IPA
8% ABV
Athens, GA

Already putting the entire state of Georgia in a frenzy to locate any retailers selling their now nationally renowned Tropic├ília IPA, Creature Comforts added fuel to the fire by releasing what’s loosely termed its “double” version, the Tropicalisma. While the malt bill and hops—Citra, Centennial, and Galaxy—are the same as ‘C├ília (but intensified), the ‘Lisma uses the yeast of their equally phenomenal Duende IPA, along with an 8% ABV kick. The result is a plethora of citrus fruit notes met by a perfect blend of hop varieties only local Georgians and a few implants were lucky to consume. Hopefully they will make more when their highly anticipated expansion opens its doors in mid-2018. Hurry up!


Journey Without Maps Double IPA
8.1% ABV
Atlanta, GA

On the brink of being 25 years old, Georgia’s oldest craft brewery is making sure this monumental achievement gets ushered in style with its first 16-ounce can release containing the Journey Without Maps Double IPA. Thanks to the appointment of the new and very talented director of brewing operations, Gavin McKenna, Red Brick’s last launch of 2017 will bring in the new year with arguably their best IPA to date. Journey boasts five pounds of Citra, Eukanot, and Denali hops per barrel balanced with malted wheat and flaked oats to let Georgia and its surrounding states know they are stepping their game way up in 2018.

New Belgium
Felix Aged in Apple Whiskey Barrels and Oscar Aged in Blackberry Whiskey
8.8% ABV
Fort Collins, CO

One of the most enterprising and significant brewing companies in the world, New Belgium, has rewarded their fans’ patience by finally bottling their Wood Cellar Reserve Series’ revered Felix and Oscar aged in apple whiskey barrels and blackberry whiskey barrels direct from Denver’s own Leopold Bros. Distilling. Cleverly named after the Odd Couple sitcom of yesteryear, the Felix—which serves as the base for La Folie—and Oscar (the base for Le Terroir) were presented in 375 ml and 750 ml bottles complete with corks. In 2017, this refreshingly complex tandem not only met expectations, but exceeded them. New Belgium knows their sours.

Deuces!


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Peep the new Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA can for 2018!

 This flagship IPA just got a facelift and I’m feeling it!

Whaddup?!!!
As crazy as my life is in the beer world, here is another fun coincidence. So I’m getting a Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA poured during an annual holiday luncheon for one of the publications I write for at the upscale Capital Grille and right when I take a sip, I get an announcement that the brewery changed the can’s art in my inbox! The chances? Pretty damn slim, but hey!
Anyway, here’s what the press release said direct from Athens, GA regarding the new look. I dig it. Shout out to artists Richard Biffle on the dopeness.
Look for the new artwork to start hitting shelves in early 2018.

Cheers!
Ale

 Terrapin says…
“Hopsecutioner, Terrapin’s most popular IPA, just got a packaging update. The updated can and bottle labels are a bit brighter and incorporates elements found in other Terrapin packaging, like the background rays.
“We wanted to bring Hopsecutioner into the same visual world as RecreationAle and Hi-5, without losing the look of the brand we’ve been building since 2010.” Says Julia Weckback, Marketing Director. “Our core IPAs are often on shelves together, and we wanted to ensure a cohesive brand image.”
Have no fear, the iconic Hopsecutioner turtle isn’t going anywhere. The turtle looks a bit more modern, but he’s still representing Terrapin’s “Killer IPA.” The beer in the can is still going to be the same: a piney and citrusy IPA with a strong malt backbone.

Terrapin’s flagship beer for over 7 years, Hopsecutioner continues to be a strong seller for the brand, growing almost 35 percent in 2017. Available throughout Terrapin’s distribution network, Hopsecutioner will soon be available in Michigan and Wisconsin."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Automobile standouts from 2017!

By request, I am going to start sharing more pages and experiences on this blog from Lifestyle Publications auto column and Instagram! Here’s Part One of what I have driven in 2017. This Chevy Bolt EV above was an impressive hybrid!

Cheers Everyone!
So yes, as many of you know, I also review cars, hence my “Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’” slogan is complete! Of course, I know how to separate the two and responsibly feature both separately, so when we are not drinking, we need cars to get us around, right? Well, while my Ale Sharpton alter-ego takes a break, I love testing out automobiles, and do my best to let you and my millions of readers for Lifestyle Publishing’s Driver’s Notebook section know what’s hot on the road with a more down-to-earth, everyday life approach. I thank you and the automakers for asking me to share my experiences on this blog. That means a lot!
With 2017 coming to a close, I am going to start posting some of the sedans, coupes, trucks, vans and sports car standouts that I have reviewed throughout the year. To kick things off, I am going to start with General Motors since Chevrolet has an incredible deal right now where EVERYONE gets their gracious employee discount for a limited time. (Go here for details.)


2017 Chevy Bolt EV
I was blown away by the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV. This is especially true when GM lived up to the hype that was generated from this all-new hybrid; its super cool representatives boasted it could make it to Asheville, N.C. on one charge from Atlanta and challenged me to see for myself. And guess what? It did! And after plugging it in at a charging station at the Aloft Hotel, I explored one of the most amazing beer cities in the world. Here is my full review for one of the many Lifestyle Publications that featured it along with my Instagram post here. That's an interior shot which also aimed to please.
Base price: The LT Trim is $37,495; Premium is $41,780 with all options as reviewed.
Gas mileage: 255 city/217 highway/238 combined
Please go here for more information.


I got a chance to drop the top down on Buick’s 2017 Cascada coupe that was a joy to drive during the late summer in Atlanta. Its standouts included a top that was easy to collapse when hitting the road (and great for the threat of rain), a surprisingly roomy trunk for a convertible, and a lot of options for the starting price around $33K. (My 1SH Sport Touring edition was $37,990 fully equipped including 4G LTE Wi-Fi.) Its sleek body, 5-star safety score, roomy trunk, and availability in Sport Red with 200 horsepower made this car one of the most memorable for 2017. Folks used to say Buick is for only the elders. Their new line of four-wheelers including this Cascada has me begging to differ.
Base price: $33,065
Gas mileage: 20 city/27 highway
Please go here for more info.


SUVs are killing it in today’s auto industry because consumers value power, speed, great looks, high-tech options and expansive cargo while accommodating multiple folks. The 2017 Tahoe accomplishes all of these feats with stellar results. Up to nine passengers can travel in its luxurious cabin while the lucky conductor takes on the options of off-roading to maneuvering through busy city streets thanks to its four-wheel-drive maneuverability in numerous trims. Getting this in all black sitting on 18-inch, polished aluminum wheels had folks wondering if a high-powered politician was inside. (Check out the Z71 Midnight edition above.) This was fun to drive for sure, and my extended family and friends didn’t want to see it go. Neither did I.
Gas mileage: 16 city/22 highway
Please go here for more info.




2017 GMC Canyon
Want a solid four-door pickup with good looks, an ease to load, and the ability to haul a massive load for an amazing price? Look no further than the 2017 GMC Canyon.  Even with all of its capabilities powered by a 3.6L V6 engine, it still had a smooth ride, was easy to park, switched lanes effortlessly, and took on Atlanta’s busy roads while looking good doing it thanks to its attractive exterior. Coming in both a crew and extended cab, it’s your choice how much you want to utilize this for work or play starting under $21K!
Base price: $20,885
Gas mileage: 22 city/30 highway
Please go here for more info.


Look for more reviews soon!
(All photos courtesy of General Motors.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

North Carolina brewery follows up on my controversial article for CraftBeer.com.

Black Star Line owner L.A. McCrae adds more insight and thanks to those who supported her mission to make extraordinary beer.
Here is the front page of the CraftBeer.com article I wrote. (Photo by Scott Douglas)

Cheers!
It has been a busy fall, but I had the opportunity to write two articles this past month for what’s turning out to be one of my favorite media sources to contribute to—CraftBeer.com. They do whatever they can to support craft and independent breweries; showcase the people who make them possible; provide tutorials; and simply spread the love of what I consider the most complex and wondrous beverage in the world.
To add, I appreciate how especially the editor-in-chief Jess Baker agrees with what I consider worthy stories; rewardingly, the feedback has been tremendous since my first contribution this summer. It was this story on Brick Store Pub’s 20th anniversary which CraftBeer.com nominated for the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards. That meant a lot! My profile on Little City Brewing in Raleigh here, and introduction to the incredible sour and barrel-aging complex Monday Night Brewing added called The Garage followed.
And then there’s my most recent CraftBeer.com article on BlackStar Line Brewing Co. here. It helped bring national attention to owner L.A. McCrae’s shocking recounts of racism, sexism, death threats, and overall shocking resistance from numerous members of their North Carolina communityespecially in their home base of Hendersonvillesince opening in early October of 2017. I was already familiar with Black Star through their Instagram posts on this handle, but when fellow writer Scott Douglas reached out and informed me of all the deplorable happenings that were going down, things got real. Scott wanted to know if I could help get the word out on a national level and I didn’t think twice. Luckily, CraftBeer.com was the first media source I reached out to and Jess didn’t blink an eye. It was posted within a business day of my submission.
L.A. McCrae at  her brewery. (Photo by Scott Douglas.)
The sharing of the article immediately followed on social media with retweets and Facebook posts, condolences in the comment section; financial backing to their crowdfunding campaign, and overall support from the craft beer community globally. Thankful for the results, L.A. wanted to extend the initial article by providing a follow-up interview geared towards recognizing others who have helped Black Star persevere; I happily posted our post-interview on my blog. Please read both the original article and L.A.’s important additions below.  Here it is:

L.A. McCrae: Ale, thank you so much for taking a late evening phone call from Javi [chief operation manager and assistant brewer Javier Naranjo] and I. We are so grateful for your responsiveness and support. As you know, last week was crazy busy for us. We completely overlooked mentioning some key parts of our story and want to make sure we give credit where it is due. Thank you so much for this follow up.

Ale: No doubt! I understand that you wanted to give some more detailed recognition to the many folks who supported you through all the adversity you have faced since Black Star Line's early stages in Hendersonville, right?
Yes. Almost from the very beginning of Black Star Line Brewing Co., Kendra Penland, the executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, has been helping us navigate locations and connect with our craft brewing family. She, along with members of the ABA, provided us a warm welcome to the area and truly extended their resources and capacity to make us feel ‘at home.’ Countless hours were spent with Kendra texting, emailing, and over coffees and beer, planning for our future. As we were dreaming out loud about convening the first ever Black Brewers' Gathering, it was Kendra who immediately said the ABA would sponsor, support, and do whatever they could to help us with the event and build the guild. She has been a de facto member of the team and truly a mentor in the industry. Kendra, the ABA, and our local brew homies are not just allies, but co-conspirators as we seek to transform communities by producing great beers. 
Also, our attorney Derek Allen and his firm have been critically imperative to our operations. Derek has been super responsive and helped us navigate various challenges, manage our risk, and truly focus so that we can produce the best beer. Being in Hendersonville allows us to have that type of accessibility, hands-on mentoring and support. When traveling across the Northeast to find and settle home, we certainly made a conscious decision to do it where we have family. Kendra, the ABA, Derek, the crew at Mountain BizWorks, and other brew homies—Hillman Beer, Triskelion, Habitat and so many others—have welcomed us to the family and are the reason we settled here in these mountains. 

That’s dope.
It has been the community and fellowship of those in our craft brewing family that has kept us going. They have given us hope when we were hopeless, encouragement when we were down, hugs when we felt lonely, and truly filled our wells with love. Thank you, y'all. 

I think that this is really cool to let the world know how there are also good people to combat the ignorance that unfortunately still exists.
When we think about those who have provided support and have been on the front lines with us from day one and through the recent events, the list is fortunately extensive. 
Kendra Penland of the ABA was with us every step of the way from day one. She was the one who reminded the crew and I to center our selfcare and really help us live into our mission of practicing collective healing and liberation. Internally, we consider her as our ‘older sister’ in the brewing industry who really provides a critical role as our mentor. Kendra immediately rallied the troops to support us, connect with us, and opened her entire network to us to make sure we felt held, valued, and affirmed in the community. In fact, we still have folks to follow up with! Thank you, ‘Auntie’ and ‘Big Sistah’ K!
Derek [Allen] has been absolutely essential and always just a text away. He always has our best interests at heart and has been our rock throughout all of the challenges, including our recent threats. He welcomed us into the brewing industry without hesitation. Recently, he has kept us grounded, focused, and steadily advancing towards our mission. 
Karmen Olson from the Craft Brew Alliance has continued to provide support from across the country as we look to refine our branding and marketing. Most importantly, she has connected us with others in the industry who see our value, our mission, and what we are attempting to accomplish. 
Tiffany and Patrick Wood have been new local best friends who have supported us every day with food, drinks, laughter, conversations, emotional support, and encouragement.
The folks in the city of Hendersonville have blessed us beyond belief with cards, words of encouragement, hugs, hand-written letters, and affirmations. Truly, the community has surfaced to show that racism, bigotry, and bias will not be tolerated. Local businesses sported the hashtags #WeAreBlackStarLine and #StandwithBlackStarLine and hosted conversations about community transformation, justice, and our social mission. 
Community organizations in the Greater Asheville area such as Bountiful Cities and Nuestro Centro have offered to collaborate with us so that we can reach more people, draw the circle wider, and leverage their resources to support us during these difficult times. The Progressive Women of Hendersonville (PWH) have consistently shown up to support with their bodies, dollars, laughs, and hugs. Organizations such as the Highlander Center, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), and Charlotte Uprising have continued to hold us in their thoughts and prayers and simply held space for us in a way that is inexpressible in words. Thank you. 
Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Highland, Preyer, Birdsong, Wedge, Gizmo Brewing, and so many others in the local brewing community have offered their time, talents, and treasures to bring light to diversity and inclusion in the craft brewing industry. It feels like our family grew beyond our wildest imaginations.
Without a doubt, there have been front line warriors who continue to be advocates, allies, co-conspirators and friends. For them, the Kendras, Dereks, Joes, Lisas, etc., we are forever grateful. 

Any last mentions? What would you like to see happen now?
We would love to lift the work of the Asheville Brewers Alliance because truly, without them and their steady mentoring and programming, we would not be here today. As it is the end of the year, we encourage folks to check out the ABA website [avlbrewers.com] and consider making a donation. The team at Sanctuary [Brewing], the ABA, Kendra, and Derek can certainly be cited for incubating our business and holding us with the care of a newborn baby as we mature in the industry and deal with challenges such as those we endured in this last week. 
Without a doubt, the frontline folks—through this experience and since the beginnings of Black Star Line Brewing Co.—have been essential to our success. Not only do they continue to provide support and mentoring, they are more than friends; they are family.
Thank you. 


For more information, visit their blackstarlinebrewing.com website, on Facebook, and follow them on their fun Instagram handle at @blackstarlinebrewing.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Don’t miss Creature Comforts’ triple bottle release on 11/24!

This stellar brewery is releasing Booger Hill, DaySpring, and Golden Door limited 750-mL bottles on the 24th!

Cheers Y’all!
As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Creature Comforts out of Athens, GA, because they are not only one of the best breweries in the state or even the South, but in the nation. It doesn’t hurt that they have some really good people working for them. Well for those who are also CC believers, I am happy to announce that they have a major bottle release to the third power on Friday, November 24th directly at the brewery’s Tasting Room along with the launch of their Bottle Service. It’s going to be their Booger Hill barrel-aged biere de garde at 7.8%; the DaySpring grisette (5.3%); and Golden Door oak barrel-aged, mixed fermentation saison at 6.7% in limited 750-mL bottles. This whole trio should be dope. Go pop ‘em and find out!
The official release and descriptions are here and below straight from Creature.
Peace.
Ale

Bottle Release Day 2017
We hope you will join us in our Tasting Room for our Bottle Release Day on November 24th, 2017. We will be releasing several bottles to-go as well as for onsite consumption. We are looking forward to sharing these special projects with you. For more information about the beers, check below.

Booger Hill is a barrel-aged biere de garde (7.8%) made with local honey from Booger Hill Bee Company. Booger Hill will serve as the second release from our Locally Grown Series, a series we use to showcase local ingredients sourced from farms in and surrounding Athens, GA. This beer was made over the course of 2.5 years and incorporated the disgorging process – a technique commonly used when making sparkling wine.


DaySpring is a grisette (5.3%) made with local wheat from DaySpring Farms. We first released DaySpring (2015) just a year after opening the brewery, and it was the first release from our Locally Grown Series. The 2015 release was the first time we sourced wheat from our friends at DaySpring Farms and we’ve now sourced their grains for several of our beers.



Golden Door is an oak barrel-aged, mixed fermentation saison (6.7%). Golden door is an expression of our house-mixed culture of yeast and bacteria – the backbone of our barrel program – and time. The flavor of this beer is driven by its time aging in wood.
 These three limited offerings will be available at the brewery starting on November 24. In addition, we will also launch our bottle service on the 24th for onsite consumption of limited and vintage bottle offerings.