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Thirsty Thursday - Otter Creek Copper Ale Beer Review

Otter Creek Copper Ale

Otter Creek Copper Ale

Middlebury, VT
5.0% ABV

This weeks Thirsty Thursday Beer Review takes a dive into a Vermont “Altbier” – Copper Ale by Otter Creek brewing company.

Middlebury, Vermont is a quaint New England college town located off route 7. With a great deal of character, this town is the epitome of all American “small town” feel.

I’m not particularly fond of said, Middlebury College that is located here as they were an arch rival of mine back when I played hockey for the Bowdoin Polar Bears.

Regardless of how I feel, this school has a serious history of dominating academically as well as athletically. The Panthers ruined my chances on more than one occasion at winning an NCAA championship. To make matters worse, I had to painfully watch them win two during my four years playing for Bowdoin. Let’s just say… I know this town and school a little too well.

Back to Beer

Vermont is beginning to be win over the rest of the world with regards to its micro brew scene. Something about the outdoors, trees and its organic culture coincide well with brewing good beer.

Otter Creek Brewery (OCB) opened its doors in 1991 and has since teamed up with Wolaver’s Fine Organic Ales. OCB has a variety of year round and seasonal beers available in 15 states in the northeast and midwest. They are available on tap and in 12oz bottles.

My sister and her family were making the drive from Canada so it was only fair I had something cold to offer them upon their arrival. She always has something in the fridge for her brothers. I purchased a 6 pack at the local grocery store for $9.99.

Appearance – upon first pour the copper and red amber colors give justice to the name. The head was fluffy and stayed throughout the tasting.

Aroma – the smell was of sweet malt and honey with hints of grass.

Taste – the beer hits the tongue with a hint of sweetness and general malt characteristics.

The Verdict

The Copper Ale was extremely enjoyable and even though I was only holding a piece of Vermont in my pint glass it instantly made me feel as if I were there. The level of carbonation makes the beer very refreshing and the flavors make it taste oh so good.

Side facts:

Altbier – translated means “old beer” and is a German style of brewing beer using top-fermenting yeast. Originally invented in Dusseldorf, Otter Creek brewing company adopted this age old brewing practice to their flagship beer – Copper Ale.

Copper Ale food pairings – Otter Creek recommends hearty foods like Smoked Sausage, Grilled Salmon, Gouda and Roast Pork to accompany this tasty brew.

I highly recommend tracking down the Otter Creek Copper Ale and I am looking forward to sampling other brews from this Vermont based microbrewery.

Earn that beer,


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Thirsty Thursday - Non-Alcoholic Beer Review

This weeks Thirsty Thursday will review Bitburger Drive Alcoholfrei, Buckler, and Kaliber non-alcoholics- all available in most beer stores.

Why the heck are we doing non-alcoholic beer reviews? Well… let me tell you.

There are a number of reasons why it is important to have a look at the non-alcoholic class of beers. First and most importantly our father made the choice some 20 odd years ago to give up drinking and is always on the look out to find good “Near Beers” (He’s probably spilled more beer in his earlier days than I’ve had to drink).

In honor of him, we’ve decided to help with his quest to find the best non-alcoholic cold one.

Secondly, I came across a great non-alcoholic malt beverage at the bar this week and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Who knows, maybe there are more out there…

The Setting

After a long drive into Montreal to celebrate a friends new job- I was thirsty for a beer. We went to support his move to manage a relatively new drinking establishment called the Royal Phoenix Bar in the hip mile-end region of the city.

After quenching my thirst with a pint of Sleeman’s Honey Brown (the happy hour special) I was ready for another. With a long drive home I pondered my alternatives and being the responsible man I am I asked the bartender if he had any non-alcoholic beers available.

To which the barkeep shockingly replied, “As a matter of fact we do. Bitburger Drive. We just got it in last week and I didn’t even know it was non-alcoholic. I actually served it to some of our patrons when they asked for an import.”

From the outside these Non-Alcoholic beers look like regular beers… Lets find out if they taste similar on the inside.

Bitburger Drive Alcoholfrei
Imported from Germany
0.0 ABV

Bitburger Non Alcoholic Beer ReviewI haven’t had a non-alcoholic beer in sometime and was shocked (in a good way) after tipping this bad boy into the pint.

It poured a golden straw color with a slight froth that hung around a little. The aroma wasn’t all that powerful and smelled a bit off, which from memory is like most “near beers” I’ve sampled.

It was crisp, clean and nicely carbonated, reminding me of its father (traditional Bitburger). Often, non alcoholic beers tend to be on the sweet and sugary side but not so in the Drive’s case.

All in all, I rather enjoyed the Bitburger Alcoholfrei and barely noticed I wasn’t drinking something a little more potent.

Would I order another? Absolutely and had the barkeep thrown one my way before he realized it was alcohol free, I probably wouldn’t have noticed either.

Not to be outdone… Jon wanted to get in on the action and gave a couple near beers a try (for my father’s sake of course).

Here is what he found:

BUCKLER Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage
Imported from Holland
0.5% ABV

The Buckler malt beverage is brewed by Heineken and imported from Amsterdam so it carries similar traits to other European brews minus the alcohol and calories. How many calories? There are just 65 calories in a bottle of Buckler.

The appearance of Buckler in a pint glass resembled much of the lighter style beers found in most bars. The shimmering honey color was topped with a thick layer of foam. The beer released minimal carbonation.

The aroma was over powered with heavy European hops.

The taste was light and sweet with very little crisp.

The Verdict:

This particular brew was on the watery side but if someone handed it to me in a bar I wouldn’t have been able to taste the difference between it and some of the light domestics most drink.

Imported from the brewers of Guinness
Less than 0.5% ABV

kaliber non alcoholic beer reviewThe label described this Malt Beverage by its rich amber color and full body, delivering all the taste of a premium import with less alcohol than beer.

The appearance of the Kaliber in a pint glass was light amber with very little to no head.

The aroma was strong homemade bread with heavy yeast characteristics.

The flavor was deep and the malts tasted of burnt caramel. On a side note; Guinness is also made from burnt malts.

How many calories in Kaliber Non Alcoholic beer? This darker malt beverage has a whopping 71 calories (hint of sarcasm). Again a favorable alternative to those really counting calories or those who chose not to consume alcohol.

The Verdict:

I think most would be fooled as to what they were drinking when trying to compare this reasonably good non-alcoholic to a domestic. I did notice a slight difference but it was very minor and was pleased with the result.

One versus the other

Between the two I tried, Buckler won this battle.

And a word for the wise… make sure the Non-Alcoholic beers are served ICE COLD. Makes all the difference.

A little Near Beer Info:


How is non-alcoholic beer made?

In the early days brewers would shorten the fermentation process and although it reduced the alcohol content it also altered the taste of the beer.

Nowadays malt brews are made the exact same way as their full-bodied (alcohol) counterparts and allowed to ferment to full term.

It is only before the very last step that the alcohol is then removed, either through reverse osmosis, heating or by vacuum evaporation. The basic premise is this; alcohol and water have different boiling points and therefor one can be evaporated at a lower temperature than the other (yay for science).

Once the alcohol is removed the beer is filtered and carbonated. Real beer avoids the previous step and goes straight to filtration and carbonation.

How many calories in Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Being that the majority of calories in beer come from the alcohol, Non Alcoholic beer is much lower and in some cases even has half as many as its alcohol filled counterparts.

Typically a non-alcoholic beer contains between 60-80 calories and is a perfect option for someone looking to pinch a few calories anyway they can.

When was non alcoholic beer first made?

“Near beer” dates back to the early days of Prohibition. Initially President Wilson tried to reduce the alcohol content to 2.5% but the Temperance Society wouldn’t have it.

The next time you’re out and about and happen to be behind the wheel don’t be afraid to try a couple of these Non-Alcoholic brews and let’s eliminate the stigma that comes with ordering one at a bar. There isn’t any shame in drinking one of these vacuum evaporated cold ones, especially when you’re the DD.


Jon and Sean

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Birreria - A New York City Beer Garden Review


BIRRERIA and the Gang Aft Agley

Beer Review Birreria

  • Fifth Avenue & 23rd Street, New York City
  • On top of Super Chef Mario Batali’s Eataly

Instead of reviewing just one beer, this week the Thirsty Thursday Beer Review will focus on a New York City beer garden. A must see hot spot for locals and tourists in my books.

BIRRERIA is a modern take on an old world Italian craft brewery and beer garden located atop a Manhattan office building. With a retractable roof this beauty of a place is ready for action year round; come rain or shine, winter or summer.

Although I prefer the summer months as BIRRERIA boasts beautiful views of both the Empire State Building and Madison Square Park. The winter months offer some beautiful indoor scenery if you catch my drift.

Aside from one of the best selections of beer in the city Birreria offers a wide variety of Italian food but I’ll refrain from comment as I have yet to sample any of the dishes. I’m guessing the food doesn’t stray far from Mario Batali’s Eataly which is located on the ground floor and offers some great varieties. Each section of the Italian style market restaurant offers a different taste- I might be mistaken but I think it goes Pizza and Pasta, Meat and Cheese, and Vegetables and Bakery.

Apparently the opening of the restaurant was delayed several months as they had trouble getting the large copper clad brewing system up 14 floors. A crane eventually came to the rescue and got the job done.

A relatively new addition to the NYC craft brew scene, Birreria and the Eataly were inspired by the best of Italy and America. Brewers Teo Musso of Baladin and Lurisia, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Leornardo di Vicenzo of Del Borgo put their knowledge together along with Eataly’s very own brewmaster Brooks Carretta to create three exclusive cask ales only available at the beer garden.

What is Cask Ale?

Thirsty Thursday Beer Review BirreriaIt is my understanding that Cask Ale is much like someone would make as a home brew (if you didn’t use bottles that is). It is beer served from the same cask in which it was conditioned. The beer is naturally carbonated, unfiltered, and served at a traditional cellar room temperature of 50 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to the Eataly Website here are the details to the House Brewed Ales:

An American Amber wheat brewed with dried fig and mustard seed.

Chestnut mild ale. Chestnuts are a unique brewing ingredient in Italy. Eataly Birreria’s Wanda is a moderate dark traditional mild ale with hints of roasted chestnuts.

Thyme Pale Ale. A traditional American Pale Ale with fresh thyme from the hills of Borgorose, Italy. A twist on a classic.

Beer Prices

The house cask beers are reasonably priced for a New York pub at $10, and the draft choices range from $6-10. On the high end there are a few imported bottles that range from $6-40. Some of the bottles serve 2-3 people but I think I still might need to try a couple on my next visit.

Beer I had: Gang Aft Agley

This time around I couldn’t stay long (probably a good thing) as I was off to meet friends at another local hot spot and only had time to sample one beer. Seeing as how I recently wrote about Scottish Ales I decided to give another a try and went with the Gang Aft Agley from Sly Fox Brewing Company.

According to the Sly Fox website the beer is described as,

“A Scottish Wee Heavy brewed with roasted barley and pale malts. A full-bodied malt lover’s dream beer: mellow, rich and filled with flavor. Gang aft agley translates “go oft astray,” as in Robert Burn’s famous line about “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…””

Birreria Beer ReviewMaybe it’s the lights… maybe the energy, but there is something about being in New York City that makes beer taste better. I really enjoyed this beer and as I alluded to in last weeks beer blog- I am growing fond of the malt brew.

If you have not yet visited the big city- do so. And while you’re here do not let the tall buildings and shiny lights distract you from giving Birreria a try.

I Look forward to trying other Micro Brews in and around the city but will surely keep this gem as one of my go to establishments. If you know of any other hot spots with local micro brews, by all means let me know!



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Thirsty Thursday - A Ten Penny Ale Beer Review

Thirsty Thursday Ten Penny Ale Beer ReviewTEN PENNY ALE
Session Ale 5.6% ABV
The Olde Burnside Brewing Company

Today’s Thirsty Thursday Beer Review will take on The Olde Burnside Brewing Company’s micro-brew “Ten Penny Ale” and cover a little history behind Scottish Ale.

While the New York Knicks’ modest JEREMY “LIN-SANITY” is jumping off the couch (literally) and taking the NBA by storm, a small micro brewery just up the road in Hartford, Connecticut has been getting its fair share of fame by producing some high quality brews.

Any micro brewery that can hack it in an industry of major corporations and million dollar ad budgets is in my mind, like Jeremy Lin, a true unsung hero. If you don’t know who Jeremy Lin is I suggest you get off your couch and find out for yourself because it’s truly a heroic story, reminding us when we put our minds to it- anything is possible.

The Olde Burnside Brewing Company’s Micro-brew

Ten Penny Ale was awarded “Hartford’s Best Micro-brew” in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009, earning it some modest hardware (Connecticut).

The story behind the name is unique. The brewers grandfather used to say, “You can get a good beer for a nickel, but a really good beer will cost you ten pennies!”

The name may also have some relation to its Scottish Ancestry. Scottish Ales were originally given their names based upon the taxes that were levied upon them.

The lower the ABV (Alcohol By Volume) of a beer the less it was taxed. For example: A 3% ABV beer was taxed 60 schilling (the currency at the time) and higher ABVs were taxed at 70, 80 and 90 schilling. The Scotts used these taxes to refer to beer.

Another example of this throw back to the old Scottish Brewing tax is seen with Odell brewery based in Colorado which calls one of its micro-brews- 90 Schilling.

What is Scottish Ale?

Scotland has a long pedigree of brewing beer even though traditionally the beer was made using various roots and herbs, and not hops. The reason for this was hops were very expensive to import and the main supply had to be purchased from England. This did not please the Scotts to say the least.

Scotland eventually started to add hops to beer however being that barley was grown in massive quantities for production of Whisky the focus became all about malt brews.

The Ten Penny Ale Experience

I guess subconsciously one of the reasons I like this beer so much is because their motto coincides well with ours. We here at adopt the “EARN YOUR BEER” mentality while their motto is “WORK HARD, DRINK WELL…Ten Penny Ale!” (Hey, maybe they’ll sponsor us one day)

According to master brewer Joe Lushing, the Ten Penny Ale is a mellower version of a Scottish style ale that is second to none.

This beer is available year round at local bars and beer stores. Upon request they even offer draught beer options- smaller kegs are perfect for the weekend BBQ in your backyard.

Ten Penny Ale is copper-brown and lively with rich malt flavors. The ale gives off a heavy caramel tone while the head remains white and frothy.

I highly recommend this beer for the casual beer drinker looking to explore the craft beer scene as there is very little hop bitterness.

People are quick to assume that drinking craft beer is going to leave an extremely bitter taste in their mouth and stick to mass produce lighter beers. This assumption usually comes hand in hand from a first experience drinking IPA’s or darker burnt hop beers, however the Ten Penny Ale is highly drinkable and without any strong bitterness.

This beer is a mild Scottish ale and is worth checking out. Even more so if you are into supporting an ongoing family small business tradition.

Work Hard, Drink Well… and Lose the Beer Belly, not the Beer.


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Thirsty Thursday - A Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Review

Beer Belly Be Gone Weihenstephaner Hefe WeissbierSome of you might wonder how I decide which beer to review? To that I’d say- keep guessing… because there’s no real process to how I pick em. Suggestions are definitely welcome.

Lucky for me, my girlfriend and roommate are on a beer kick and I found a Bavarian beauty kicking around their fridge. Thanks ladies.

The Thirsty Thursday beer I chose to review this week is the German beer- Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. Say that 3 times fast.

Worlds Oldest Brewery

Because the inscription on the bottle reads, “The Worlds Oldest Brewery (Seit 1040)”, I decided a little history digging was in need. After a few Google searches and multiple miss spellings I came across the official website and really liked what I found – (Great video explaining the brewery’s origin and their new state of the art brewing science).

Talk about history- the brewery use to be a Benedictine Monastery and in 1040 the monks were granted the right to brew beer. Petty cool monks if you ask me.

Beer was a part of their daily diet and was even consumed during lent as it was understood the monks did not break fast by consuming liquids (keep that one up your sleeve the next time the old lady wants you to try out her new “fasting diet”).

Today, not only do they brew beer but they study it as well. Weihenstephan is known as the Harvard of beer schools. The tradition of beer is taken very seriously and the brewing behind it is considered a science.

Being that the recipe for this yeast wheat masterpiece is a thousand years old, it’s safe to say they know a thing or two when it comes to brewing a tasty beer.

Lucky for us, Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier is available year round, nationwide and comes in two sizes (12oz or a 22oz bottle).

Here’s what I thought

In a standard pint glass the appearance is a deep golden wheat. The beer is extremely cloudy and hard to see through. After a strong pour releasing some of the aromas, there was a full long lasting white head which hung around. The beer let loose a general fruitiness and strong European Smell of Alcohol- likely from the yeast or Hefe. The beer is strongly spiced yet not overpowering.

Fellow reviewers noted hints of banana but I’m not to sure of that. The taste was crisp with a light citrus and spice. A very strong bread-like malt on the tongue but it in no way overpowered the beer like I’ve experienced in other Hefes.

This is a full bodied beer yet somehow a light tasting one at that. It is a very refreshing beer and comes close to matching one of my all time favorites which is also a Weissbier.

I give this beer an A and if you’re on a patio enjoying the sunshine an A+.



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Thirsty Thursdays: Duvel Beer Review

Beer Belly Be Gone Duvel Beer ReviewWhat better time to sample a Belgian beer than on a snowy Sunday afternoon watching not one, but two awesome NFL playoff games. Just to rub it in a little more- I later enjoyed some of New York City’s finest wings from Blondie’s with a tray of veggies on the side of course.

Needless to say it was a good night for me and both, Patriot and Giant fans. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Raven’s kicker, Billy Cundiff after shanking a 30 yard field goal. I always feel for those kickers but nonetheless I’m looking forward to a heated rematch and some awesomely expensive commercials in a couple weeks time.

Dave Matthew’s Band and the Belgium Golden Ale

Sunday wasn’t my first time sampling the imported Belgium Golden Ale “Duvel”. My first tasting came while I was over in Europe playing hockey. A few buddies and I planned a road trip from Cologne, Germany to Antwerp, Belgium and hit up a Dave Matthew’s Band concert while we were there.

After 10 of us piled into a van the trip literally started off with a bang. Our designated driver, lets call him “Shannon”, backed the van into a parked car while the occupants sat idling. Whoops. Not the best way to start off a road trip.

I don’t know if it was the fact that we were ten hockey players in a van or that the damaged car was filled with illegal contraband but the mildly pissed off owner of the car said that we should go.

We did however eventually make it to a pub in Belgium and my initial impression of Duvel was this – “What is this “magical” beer the Belgians drink?”

It was good, and I mean really good.

Served in a traditional tulip glass the foam rested on top of the crystal clear beer.

Looking back now I can’t remember with much detail what I liked most about the beer. If I had to guess, it had a lot to do with getting it fresh from the source, the quantity it came in and the people I was with.

New York City and the Belgium Golden Ale

Being an off day from the hustle and bustle I grabbed the 75cl bottle (the equivalent to 3/4 of a litre or approximately 26 ounces). To my surprise the bottle came nicely topped with a champagne cork and wasn’t something we often see here on this side of the Atlantic.

Nothing is cheap in this city and I had to shell out a handful of dollars and cents, something I’ll gladly do over paying 5 dollars in any New York City establishment for a Coors Light. The alcohol content was a strong 8.5% abv.- giving you a good bang for your buck.

Considering myself more of a beer connoisseur (definitely still a rookie) than I use to be, I opted for a reasonably sized red wine glass in place of the standard tulip shaped glass most bars serve a Duvel in.

Honestly any glass will do and it is what makes you feel comfortable that is important. Just make sure it is clean, as I was reminded how important that is during a recent trip to ‘Beer School’ while visiting the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Colorado. Foam and bubbles stick to dirt in a glass and can make a good beer taste skunky.

I gave the Duvel a steady pour trying to give life to the beer and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of carbonation and foam sitting a top the pale golden beer. The initial smell was on the sweet side but the yeast took over reminding me of Stella Artois (its Belgium cousin).

The heavy foam which hung around forever made it look heavier than it tasted. The beer struck a mix of fruit and spice with a clean smooth aftertaste.

Crisp and clean is the simplest way to describe this beauty.

In my opinion this is a great beer for anytime, with anyone and with anything- 8.9 out of 10. Go earn it!



PS. Stay tuned for highlights from my trip to Anheuser-Busch brewery, time spent with the Budweiser Clydesdales and Beer School.

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Thirsty Thursdays: A Beer Review.

Bet I can guess what you are thinking- these guys are going to start writing beer reviews so that they can drink them. You know what? You’re right!

With the recent surge of craft beer and microbreweries across North America we want to share with you our passion and personal opinion on the many beers out there. The weekly review will encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Hopefully you’ll be more adventurous when it comes to making beer choices. The “winos” can’t have all the fun.

Last night Sean and I hit up a local restaurant walking distance from his apartment. The resto of choice was made thanks to Sean’s Entertainment book which gave us $16 off the bill (highly recommend grabbing one of these booklets if you don’t have it already).

Before sitting down we were scoping out what beers they had on tap. As the waitress guided us through the list of the usual Canadian suspects she finished with the special of the night- “Keith’s Ambrosia Blonde”. It was a very reasonable $4.50 for a pint of beer. A steal of a deal in terms of Vancouver’s inflated beer prices. We had to give it a try.

Keith’s Ambrosia Blonde is brewed by Alexander Keith’s. The brewery was founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1820. It has been producing beer in Canada for over two centuries and only recently made the jump across the border into the United States. Operated by Labatt, a subsidiary of Anheuser Busch-Inbev, Keith’s brand is produced throughout Canada. It is best known for it’s India Pale Ale but also has dark, light, amber and premium white varieties.

The Keith’s Ambrosia Blonde is one of the their seasonal brews. The brew-master refers to the beer as a deep gold and medium body brew which delivers captivating aroma, a distinct flavorful taste, slightly hoppy and hint of caramel, aged longer for a crisp finish that is perfect for warmer days. The Ambrosia Blonde taps out at 5.2% alcohol by vol.

Our initial reaction of this all malt brew was that it was much darker than your typical blonde. The beer had a full head which tried to hang around for a little while but eventually ran out of steam and faded away. There was no visible carbonation, but as Sean postulated, it might have been because they were serving us the bottom of the keg and the very reason behind the beer being on special. As I stared at Sean’s ugly mug through the pint I noted the clarity and golden color with a slight reddish tinge, which can most likely be attributed to the hint of caramel.

The verdict:

The Ambrosia attempted to keep a microbrew feel and taste. I was reminded of the Scottish beer Tennant’s I used to drink while playing hockey over there, which wouldn’t be too far off as the company’s roots come from Scotland. Keeping with the Keith’s novelty the Ambrosia Blonde offered a hint of hops without any bitterness. It was a crisp and dry finish.

As a rookie beer connoisseur this beer was tasty but easily forgotten.

If you have access to this brew-masters special in your home town, don’t just take my word for it- give it a try and see for yourself.

Stay thirsty,


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