Saturday, November 16, 2013

Justin Has Brew-Reviewed

Well, folks, as Geoffrey Chaucer is credited with telling us, all good things must come to an end. This officially marks my last post on Justin's Brew Review.

I had a rather enjoyable time making something from nothing. I learned about blogging, promoting a blog, how to grow an audience, marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO), to name a few things.

Oh yeah, and I learned a lot about beer! I definitely didn't post everything I learned, even though that was originally the intent when I got started. I got to try a lot of great-tasting beers over the years. Problem is, I was learning faster and tasting more than I was able to devote the time to blog about.

The content of this blog,, will be available to you as long as the host (Blogspot/Blogger) is around. I hope that you find it to be a good resource. I also plan to maintain my social media presence, at least for a time. Updates will be beer-related, of course, and will likely be geared mainly toward events, news, happenings, etc. local to the greater York, PA area. You can read all of my blog posts related to the York, PA area here.

A hat tip to my mother-in-law, Gina, who encouraged me to venture into the world of blogging almost 3 years ago. And a big thank you to my entire family who supported my efforts. A great big, huge thank you to my wife, Diana, who put up with my antics the most. She was very understanding of my "need" to take a picture of every single beer I tried, and she was always patient while I made my tasting notes.

And now, a resounding "thank you" to my readers. Thank you for reading and for making this blog a success. I had a great time learning, tasting, writing, and then reading your comments here and on social media. I appreciate the connections that I've made with some of you, and I hope that you will stay in touch.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
    --traditional Gaelic blessing

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Smart Advertising for Craft Beer

Advertisers are getting smart. I heard an ad on a local radio station today for a restaurant that was promoting their great craft beer selection. With that phrase, my ears perked up and I started listening. All because they added that one simple, little word: craft.

Image courtesy of
See, I don't care if you've got a great beer selection, because that's so run-of-the-mill. That probably just means you have both kinds of beer: AB-InBev and SABMiller. But if you've got craft beer, well, that's a whole 'nother story. A Clydesdale of a different color, as it were.

Slightly-modified image compliments of
The craft beer industry continues to grow, and consumers are seeing the benefits of that growth. For example: choices! When someone advertises craft beer, you can usually expect that the selection will be pretty great, with a variety of breweries and styles. Consider McCleary's Public House in Marietta, PA (less than 1/2 hour drive from York). My wife and I love to dine there, and I always take a few minutes to peruse the craft beer menu, which is broken down by style. (Their online beer menu is not quite as well laid out as their printed one.) Similarly, consider Victor's Italian Restaurant in York, PA, another favorite of ours (and about which I've previously written). Their rotating "beer bible" acts as your guide to fun for the evening. Both places advocate craft beer, and craft beer enthusiasts show thanks by frequenting their establishments. Win-win.

So if you're in advertising and you're reading this, I hope you've picked up on the fact that you need to use the word "craft" in your beer ads. Because craft-beer geeks won't listen if you don't, and plain-beer drinkers won't notice if you do. Prost!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Session #77 Roundup (a.k.a. Why IPA is a Big Deal)

Well, we "only" had 33 participants for this month's edition of The Session (including myself), and it sure took a while to read through all of the blog posts! There's a lot of work that goes into hosting this endeavor, but I sincerely enjoyed reading the responses. I really wondered why IPA is such a big deal, and I was happy to see that many people had also be wondering the same thing. Following is a quick list summarizing some of the top reasons cited:

  1. HOPS! for the taste / flavor
  2. Different than mass-produced "macro" beer
  3. Hype / abundance of supply

Probably one of the most frequently mentioned IPAs was BrewDog's Punk! IPA, which I have not yet had the pleasure of tasting. It's definitely on my list to try, though!

Also of note, I was happily surprised to have gotten responses from bloggers around the world and on at least three continents. To name a few places: USA, Canada, England, France, and Australia.

By the way, before I get into my roundup notes, I wanted to make sure that all of you beer bloggers who are interested are registered with They maintain the most comprehensive lists of beer blogs that I've found yet. By my count, there are over 1,100 beer blogs in North America, over 500 international blogs (i.e. outside of North America), and a number of industry blogs too. For your consideration.

And now it's time for the main event. Following is my roundup for The Session #77. Posts are not presented in any particular order. I've made some notes about each of the posts, mostly summarizing the content but also with my own comments interjected. Please follow the link to read the original. A big THANK YOU to all participants! Prost!


Authors: Boak and Bailey
Notes: Boak and Bailey write that "We believe fruity, flowery, perfumed IPAs with showboating hop aromas and flavours have an intrinsic popular appeal." They quote Pete Brown: "'The first time you experience beers like this it's like tasting in colour and realising that you've only had black and white until now.'" Further, "From a British perspective,...IPA...symbolizes a sort of rebirth of the glory days of British brewing." Nice!

Author: James
Notes: Not a hop-head, James suffers palate-fatigue from big/bold IPAs. It's an acquired taste. he preferred malty beers when getting into craft beers. I'm wondering how he'd like a Black IPA (hehe). "The rate at which new characterful hops are being born, promoted and utilised these days is providing a never ending hype machine for new beers...And that's exactly what craft beer enthusiasts love, more beers, with different flavours, more often." Yep!

Author: The Beer Nut
Notes: The Beer Nut says that IPA divides beer fans. "...when it comes to strong and hoppy: more alcohol isn't always your friend." He talked about Scottish BrewDog's "IPA is Dead" series and loves their punk-centric nature and their ideas when it comes to brewing. The second in the series was "A great beer to explore, to take time over and get lost in...not...a style for chugging." Best line: "IPA can offer a broad range of experiences...To generalise about IPA is perhaps unwise." Well said!

Author: Derrick
Notes: IPAs dominate the popular beer geek hangouts (e.g. BeerAdvocate, RateBeer). "True, sipping palate searing IPA's beats swilling vapid nothingness of industrial lagers, but can't we do a lot better than this?" Interesting follow-up question! Derrick says that IPA is so common that even Costco has an IPA (Kirkland brand, brewed by Gordon-Biersch). Perhaps it's popular because it has a big, new flavor when compared with many other beer styles.

Author: Nathan
Notes: Nathan had BrewDog's Punk IPA and was blown away. While he was " in Norfolk,...there weren't many really hoppy beers. We had mostly dull brown ales but this Punk IPA stuff was magical." Punk IPA is apparently where it's at because Nate's response to my question is simply because "They're mostly [expletive] delicious."

Author: Alan
Notes: Alan restated my question as "What makes the use of the term India Pale Ale (IPA) for so many styles of beer so prevalent at this point in time?" And Alan states that the (obvious) answer is branding. "You take a familiar thing with a good hook and milk it for all it is worth." Then he comes back to answering my question, without really saying as much: "Hops...If you like that sort of thing." My favorite response though is that "[IPA] is code. The thing you have not had that you just might like." So IPA is less of a style (Alan says it's not a style at all, rather perhaps a sub-set of a style) and more of a marketing tack. Interesting ideas!
Question: By the way, Alan, I've always wondered: does the title of your blog mean it's a blog about good beers or is it a good blog about beers? Or is it just fun to be ambiguous?

Author: Yvan
Notes: Yvan says that IPA is a statement of non-conformity. At least, that's my paraphrase minus an expletive that is apparently commonly used by BrewDog. "IPA is to beer what the punchy new-world Shirazes, et al, are to wine." (Side note: Interesting, because I love a good IPA, and when I drink wine, I prefer a Syrah, which is the French varietal counterpart to the Australian Shiraz). "IPA is the 'new world' for beer...It's all about the hops." My favorite line is "I don't care in which your IPA beliefs lean -- I celebrate the diversity of the style." Amen! Style and variety...a little something for everyone. It's the "banner of that which we are calling the craft beer movement". Yep.

Author: Derek
Notes: I agree with Derek that IPAs are so largely represented that we see less of the other styles. I like that Derek says that there are many valid answers to the original question and that he's glad that there will many beer bloggers writing about this topic...that's exactly how I feel! He says history is one reason -- post-Prohibition American beer had to outdo its more mild European counterpart. He also says it could simply be because we choose to be vastly different from adjunct lager-drinkers. But the real reason, for Derek anyway, is because IPAs taste great. What a great piece!
Additional note: If you haven't already, you should definitely follow the link in his post to "The Great Hop Debate" ( Excellent post!

Author: Steve
Notes: Steve says that there is no deal! It's a "continuously shifting entity that changes with the advent of new brewing techniques and different hop flavours." Steve mentions the oxymoronic Black IPA and wheat heavy white IPAs that just aren't pale! "IPA is no longer a tightly defined style." Amen to that. Also, "what the beer is called shouldn't matter, it's what's inside the bottle that counts." Yep. The answer to the IPA question is "Its so popular because its not just a single beer style any more." Glad to have inspired the words to flow, Steve!

Author: Ryan
Notes: Tasty...hops! Historical context and creative use get a nod. While IPAs were originally designed to age, now everyone wants them 'fresh'. (Side note: think Heady Topper.) I've heard it before and Ryan brings it up here that hops are often used to cover flaws in a beer, so some brewers prefer to perfect their craft and not use the hops to cover up those flaws. "[IPA]'s something old that feels new's a new thrill for the 'old' beer drinker."

Author: Alan
Notes: Alan writes, "This one is easy to answer: it's tasty." My favorite line: "Craft beer is booming for one main reason: it has flavor." Yes! Also, "...I remain far more interested in the hops rather than the extra bitterness." Me too, for sure. "Unlike PBR, there was no mass use of guerilla marketing trying to make IPAs 'cool' so people would drink them. (Uhh...if there is, it's obviously working very well on me.)" Me too, Alan! I think it's just the trend, and word of mouth has made it popular.

Author: Nitch
Notes: It appears that Nitch may be a first-time poster! She is looking for an IPA, as they are apparently extremely difficult to find in France. I like how she says that even though she's got Germany on one side of her and Belgium on the other, she doesn't fancy the German lagers, at least not since she "realized that there were other brewing possibilities than what was mandated [by] the Reinheitsgebot." And as far as Belgium goes, even though she can get Duvel readily at the grocery store, they just don't have the craft beer selection that they could. So it's kind of like a "you want the one you can't have" kind of thing. My favorite statement: "...hops were what helped lure you away from the macro swill that was standard like breast milk." haha! I like "hop soul cleansing" too. Let the IPA trending craze continue.
Side note: Nitch, you may want to consider picking up a copy of co-author Sam Calagione's (Dogfish Head) "He said beer, she said wine". My wife read and liked it. (In France: or in USA:

Author: Jon
Notes: Jon says 'hops' is the answer (or the problem). Yes, "It's the hops--only, it's not the bitterness, but the hoppiness." I wholeheartedly agree! Interesting taste without the bitterness is where it's at. Jon refers to the "floral, fruity, juicy, spicy, amazingly flavorful qualities that brewers are able to coax out of these flowers." "Hops add a dimension to beer that is unlike any other drink out there, and the IPA brings that out unlike any other style of beer." Here, here! And I agree that IPA as a style will not be "on top" forever, and it is fun while it lasts.

Author: Sean
Notes:Sean writes that "Even at a coffee-centric beer event, an IPA took center stage." He makes some very interesting points about how IPAs should be hindered from such a prominently popular stance, yet somehow they overcome them. Possible reasons: 1) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale paved the way, 2) "IPAs are the IBU opposite of the BMC industrial water lagers and doing the opposite of what the big 3 did is not to be underestimated as a reason", and 3) Americans have developed a taste for different coffees, so why not appreciate IPAs? Interesting ideas, and I can certainly agree with #2.

Author: Jon
Notes: Jon and I agree that IPAs are a beautiful thing. But then Jon saw a toaster. Not just any $80 toaster. And he realized that the only difference between that and a $10 toaster was $70. They both make toast! And so it is with IPAs and "fizzy yellow water". Except not exactly - the IPA has some extra bells and whistles, flavor being one. And while that flavor isn't for everyone, that little extra makes all the difference for those that are so inclined.

Author: Noz
Notes: Noz is a first-time poster! IPAs were a foreign concept as he was on the edge of the craft beer scene. Noz is another BrewDog Punk! IPA lover. He says that it was a struggle to get through the first can but was left wanting more! So what's the big deal? Noz says it's because he doesn't know what attracts him to them! Probably a mix between clever marketing and addictive hops. I wholeheartedly agree!

Author: Dave
Notes: Dave is a first-time poster! IPA is what turned Dave on to beer. And he's one of the guys that actually likes the bitterness! He likes that it is so popular because it means you can almost always find one when you want one. It's the first style he drinks when trying a new brewery's offerings. You just don't forget your first love!

Author: Matthew
Notes: Matthew appears to be a first-time poster! IPA was something fashionable for craft brewers to latch onto in order to be different from the "macroswill" and "pumpage" of the "megafizz merchants" (nice!). The "'Crafties'...are constantly seeking new sensory experiences beyond that of slaking thirst and sating hunger". Nice imagery and great word choices!

Author: Looke
Notes: Looke enjoys starting a session with an IPA or when he wants to mix it up after having had some heavy bitters or stouts. Looke guesses that brewers, especially in America, like an IPA because they can easily quantify the IBUs. He thinks it's a good marketing metric for boosting sales. And here's something funny: Looke points out that we beer geeks help the brewers with free advertising by promoting the hype. Yes, we do! As if the IPA wasn't popular enough already, just think what the internet will be like now after this The Session (ha!). I like Looke's answer to the original question: "It's a beer for real beer lovers and it helps to set us aside from those that drink any old swill just to get drunk. We drink it and love it because it's not like your average beers..."

Author: Gareth
Notes: Gareth says that modern hop-forward American-style IPAs bridge a gap - you can drink them anytime and enjoy the un-subtle flavor. He has no problem with the fact that IPAs are "trendy". In fact, he welcomes it because that means he can easily find one when he wants one. He also enjoys the more traditional British IPA and pretty much all the sub-styles. " long may IPA rule!" Here, here!

Author: L Allen
Notes: Allen doesn't fully subscribe to #IPADay; rather, he touts it as "Drink What You Damn Well Please Day" (for tweeting purposes, I think we'd have to shorten that to #DWYDWPD). He does, however, thoroughly enjoy IPA. At the same time, to each his/her own! Allen's choice: Belgian. He doesn't like that everyone brews an IPA and thinks theirs is the best (true!). Brewers shouldn't neglect developing other styles, hoping that the IPA is their flagship. In general, Allen doesn't think that an IPA is the style of choice for converting the masses because they're often too bitter.

Author: David
Notes: David says that IPAs are gaining popularity in the US, UK, Italy, Scandinavia, and Australasia (that last one was a new one to me - IPA is the poster boy for the craft movement. Lagers were perhaps embraced over IPAs and other beers because they were easier to drink, refreshing, and looked appealing. But David has the following to say about his experience with Sierra Nevada's Torpedo: "despite its considerable punch, it was a refreshing, drinkable beer". David's answer to the original IPA question is two-fold: 1) IPA is "a base for challenge, for experimentation, for moving beer on, for saying, 'Oh, I like this, but I think I can do better.'" and 2) IPA is for proving how we're different, "How we're our 'own man', how we're independent." Agreed!

Author: Douglas
Notes: Douglas says that this is an easy answer: "Most everyone that has found their way into craft beer has done so because macro beer just wasn't doing it for them...what's the opposite of fizzy yellow water? Beer that's a little higher in alcohol and in the complete opposite direction in regards to hop profile." To paraphrase, craft beer is a brunette in an otherwise blonde beer world. Even though the craft beer world is oversaturated with IPAs, it's very flavorful and there's a lot of variety within the style. Bottom line is this: IPAs "are frickin' awesome". Agreed!

Author: Stan
Notes: Stan writes that, interestingly, nearly 18 years ago, beer author-brewer-consumer Randy Mosher said, “Americans have been starved for hops so long that right now we’re just shoving them down our throats.” But that 'phase' never ended! I found this to be particularly interesting: "At the beginning of 2008 pale ale was the best selling craft beer style in supermarkets, followed by amber ale, amber lager, wheat beers, and then IPA. Yes, wheat beers, then IPA." Stan says that "IPA has become a synonym for hops." I also like that Stan says of IPA, there's "no reason to be pissed off about the attention it is getting". Stan wraps things up by foreshadowing an IPA Day post, possibly about a "coffee-infused wood-aged extreme saison IPA". And with that, I'm thirsty!

Author: Will
Notes: Will says he understands the romance in the IPA story. He takes us through a brief history of the beer style, noting the heavy hopping thereof. He also discusses some of the reasons the term "IPA" can be misleading, not the least of which is the subjective nature of the 'pale' aspect. Of course, that segued nicely into an interjection about Black IPAs and the question of how you can have a "BLACK India PALE Ale". Personally, I don't mind the term because of the reason that Stan brought up in his post: "IPA has become a synonym for hops." So we're basically just talking about hoppy black beer. Anyway, I liked how Will said that "Modern IPAs are hop-tastic, alcoholic and unctious" and that he loves hop-forward beers, "but not to the exclusion of malt and yeast." I agree - don't get too wrapped up in one style and not enjoy all the other wonderful variety that is available to you.

Author: Bill
Notes: My beer-blogging cohort from the western portion of the commonwealth, Bill doesn't "see the point of fighting over beers that get hoppier and hoppier every year they're released." I like his statement that he is "a staunch believer that hops should mainly be used as a compliment to the rest of the ingredients that were tossed in to make that beautiful product we all so desperately search for." He goes on to say that it's not that he thinks IPAs are bad; in fact, he rather enjoys Lagunitas IPA YES! Me too, Bill. He also says that "Hoppy beers like IPA's taste all the same to me. There aren't any intricacies and nuances in flavors of said beers." Interesting! To wrap up, he says that it seems like some people that are into craft beer think that means IPA.

Author: Liam
Notes: Liam reframes the question as a two-parter: is IPA popular? if so, why? To answer the first question, he points to a 2012 Australian Hottest 100 Beers list, which, by my count, contains 17 IPAs. (Interestingly, I counted 16 pale ales, IPA's cousin.) Liam says that as "beer geeks" reached the point of saturation with regard to pale ales, they naturally shifted to the IPA. But now that the IPA is reaching that same point of saturation, Liam speculates that the shift will occur once again...perhaps this time to sour beers. I like how he ends by saying that "Sourness is just next to bitterness on your palate...".

Author: Nick
Notes: The IPA got Nick's attention in a big way. It was BrewDog's Punk IPA (so many people love that beer...I've gotta get my hands on one!). While it was hard to get through the first glass, Nick found himself wanting more at the end. (Sounds like my first coffee experience, by the way.) He began sampling more and more IPAs, chasing the bitterness. He mentions Mikkeller 1000 IBU, which sounds crazy. He appreciates the "complex flavour profiles" My favorite line: "I do feel like I’m flipping the bird at big business when I drink an IPA." He also says that he takes pride in "drinking an IPA that labels itself as being too much for common folk to handle."
Side noteI'm not sure that I'm the first to use the term "craft beer enthusiast", but I am fond using the acronym "CBE". Glad you like it, Nick!

Author: Jack
Notes: Jack is a first-time poster! He writes that IPAs are the most expensive beer to make and attract higher excises (in some jurisdictions due to ABV) and are the most consumed, aside from Pale Ale. Jack is a fan of the IPA. But why? "The very answers to this question lie not only within the style’s flavour and palate-smashing ability, but within trends and the culture of craft beer in general." Not typically someone jumps into without at least trying a pale ale first. Interesting that Jack says beer is *very* expensive in Australia. I'm wondering how it compares to prices in the US. Jack follows up with some amusing discourse about craft beer "three letter acronyms - of TLAs". I especially like Jack's writer's voice in this post - it's worth reading for yourself.

Author: Glen
Notes: Glen gets right to it by answering the IPA question thusly: "I reckon it's for two reasons and they both start with the letter P. That's 'palate' and 'peer pressure'". He says that some beers he used to like are now lacklustre, but it's not the beer that's changed -- his palate has. The IPA is one style that easily overcomes that situation, and it does so with more hops. Glen says that he "can rarely drink more than two of them in a row before my taste buds start craving something else. And so I go back to something that is a bit more sessionable." Based on context, Glen uses "sessionable" here to refer to a beer that you can continue drinking because it hasn't yet wrecked your palate, rather than the typical meaning of low-ABV beer. Interestingly, Glen comes back around to talking about low-ABV beers at the end of his post, musing that it would be nice if the next popular style was session beer.
Side note: Philadelphia, PA-based drinks writer Lew Bryson has an entire blog dedicated to low-ABV beers at

Author: Tom
Notes: Tom says that it's not surprising that IPA is a big deal. He feels that it was "the logical initial step in the systematic rejection of domestic macro beer by your average craft beer drinker: replace neutral with overpowering and small with big." He also says that "IPAs have become the male version of the handbag: a necessary accessory craft beer drinkers can’t do without." Interesting! I'm not sure I can't do without an IPA, but I certainly do love them! Tom also mentions that it would be nice if we could get some more session IPAs (hint to brewers).

Author: Brian
Notes: Funny stuff! Brian starts his post by naming some great (possibly over-hyped) IPAs and then stating that "Just typing those words has Pavlovially created a shaker glass’s worth of saliva thinking about all that delectable, hoppy elixir."  (Yep!) He says that in "hop heaven Oregon, the IPA category accounts for 25.2% of the Oregon beer market". He quips that the three rules of craft beer are IPA, IPA, IPA. And he mentions a possible new variety: "I’m sure the BIPA (Bacon IPA) is in someone’s fermenter as we speak." I know a few people that would like a BIPA, Brian!


Friday, July 5, 2013

Session #77 - IPA: What's the Big Deal?

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic, and creates a round-up that lists all of the participants. I have the pleasure of hosting this round of The Session, and I've got a big question on my mind: what is the big deal about IPAs?

As I said in the announcement for Session #77, it's not that I don't like the India Pale Ale style. In fact, I rather enjoy it. What I don't get is why it's sooo popular. What makes it "the" craft beer style of choice? Have you ever noticed that restaurants that list their beer selection by style usually start off with the IPAs? What gives?

Maybe it's so popular because it's so different from, say, a Miller Lite or a Bud Light. Those beers are available everywhere, and they are extremely popular with non-CBEs*. So when someone is feeling adventurous and wants to try something different, well, what's more different than a beer that tantalizes your taste buds? But what about the bitterness aspect? Many IPAs are quite bitter, which doesn't typically translate into refreshing, and many people want to drink a beer in order to cool off and wind down. So many questions!

How about this? The craft beer industry recognized all of the above and developed a business model that just made sense. To be competitive, businesses typically focus on either differentiation or cost. Considering that the "big boys of beer" have such economies of scale that it's easy to keep costs low, the craft beer industry could never compete in that arena. And that's okay – I think CBEs would rather have "different". It's in the name: craft beer. CBEs want to know that the artisans who brew our beer focus on being creative, developing innovative ideas, and crafting their product. And for that, we're willing to pay a little extra to be "wowed". All things considered, it's blatantly obvious that the craft beer industry must differentiate itself from AB InBev and their ilk.

The craft beer market wants differentiation, too. People want variety and choices. They want to try new things and share their experiences with others. Conventional wisdom says that word-of-mouth advertising is the best way to spread ideas; people value a two-way conversation and trust what their friends have to say more readily than what a company tells them through one-way channels such as TV and radio. People also want to be part of a community, to connect with others. So when one person tries a craft beer and loves it, it is likely that they will then share this information with their friends. Of course, their friends have friends, the sum of which comprises a community of people that have similar tastes and interests. I like to refer to this community as the Craft Beer Enthusiasts, and it is the community of CBEs that has taken the craft beer industry to where it is today.

All that being said, I think people want IPAs simply because they're different from the norm. (Of course, if they get to be too popular, they'll become the norm!) People are funny – they want to be different from everyone else, yet they want to fit in. I think that's where the craft beer industry does it right. CBEs can enjoy beer that is not overcommercialized, which helps them be different from everyone else, while at the same time be part of the CBE community, where they fit in. (We're all unique, just like everyone else.) Give the people what they want!

Oh, and also, IPAs taste great. Prost!

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* CBE = Craft Beer Enthusiasts

Monday, June 17, 2013

Announcing Session #77 - IPA: What's the Big Deal?

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts The Session, chooses a topic, and creates a round-up that lists all of the participants. I have the pleasure of hosting the next round of The Session, which will take place on July 5. You have the pleasure of participating and/or reading (and also potentially hosting a future edition of The Session!). The choice is yours.

For quite some time now, I've been wondering what makes the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer so popular. Don't get me wrong--I thoroughly enjoy it and gladly participate in #IPADay. I'm just wondering, why all the hype? What is it about an IPA that makes craft beer enthusiasts (CBE) go wild? Is it because CBEs want to differentiate craft beer from crap beer? I don't care if a watered-down pilsener is labeled as "triple-hops brewed"; it wouldn't satisfy someone looking for an IPA.

At the same time, not all CBEs prescribe to the IPA way. The author (a beer writer!) of a recent article proclaims that "hoppy beer is awful" and that it is allegedly "alienating people who don't like bitter brews". I happen to like IPAs and DIPAs, so I'm not going to preach about only non-hopped craft beer, as the author suggests, just to turn people away from overcommercialized yellow-colored water. Besides, maybe the bitterness and hoppiness of an IPA is exactly what some beer drinkers that have yet to be introduced to the ways of craft might want.

So what's the deal? Let me know what you think by sending me a link to your blog post on July 5. Or if you're not a blogger, I'd still love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below, or connect with Justin's Brew Review on your favorite social media platform:

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Six-Pack Project: Pennsylvania Beer

With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, we've entered the (unofficial) start of summer. Barbecues, beaches and vacations lie ahead.

But what's a trip away from home without throwing beer into the mix?

Enter the Six-Pack Project. It's a new, collaborative effort between beer bloggers from around the country to highlight a six-pack of our state's native brews that we believe bests represents what the beer culture of our respective states offer. If someone is coming to visit, what bottles or cans would we want to share?

Here are our rules:
  1. Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state's beer culture.
  2. Beer must be made in your state, but "gypsy" brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  3. Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  4. Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.
Welcome to the inaugural round of the Six-Pack Project.


It was particularly difficult for me to choose the top six Pennsylvania beers, and I'm sure that if I went through this exercise a year from now, my list would be different. Pennsylvania has a plethora of breweries from which to choose, and then of course, each brewery offers multiple beer styles. So in order to begin whittling things down, I took a look through Lew Bryson's book Pennsylvania Breweries and picked out the breweries that I think are pretty good. Then, under each brewery, I listed each beer they make that really rocks. This list was much more manageable, but even so, I had way more than six. Next, I thought I'd try choosing six "main" styles from the list, something like:
  • Pilsener
  • Lager
  • Pale Ale / IPA
  • Porter / Stout
  • Red / Amber Ale
  • Other / Miscellaneous
Fortunately, my list parsed rather nicely into these categories. And so we arrive at the top six Pennsylvania beers, in order by style as presented above:

1. Sly Fox Brewing Company's "Pikeland Pils" (German pilsener)
This refreshing beer is brewed at both of Sly Fox's locations: Phoenixville and Pottstown. There are not too many craft brewers that put their product in a can, but this is one that does. At 4.9% ABV, you can put a few of these away before you'll notice much of anything, which is perfect for a hot summer day. It pours copper gold and is bubbly with an off-white, frothy head. The malty, bready smell is backed up with a sweetly-bitter, bready flavor with a kick. This tangy pilsener quenches the thirst and leaves a pleasant, lasting impression on the palate.
2. Yuengling Brewery's "Traditional Lager" (American amber / red lager)
Yuengling was established in 1829 and is America's oldest brewery. Even though they now also have a brewery in Tampa, Florida, Yuengling is based out of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Their "Traditional Lager" is such a standard in these parts that you don't have to ask for it by name; you simply order "lager". Though this 4.4% ABV reddish-colored lager has limited distribution, it is widely coveted...and rightly so. I consider it my "go-to" beer, and it certainly goes well with  any meal, all-American or otherwise. (You can read more at this previous post from National Lager Day 2012.)
3. East End Brewing's "Big Hop IPA" (India Pale Ale)
These days, in the world of craft beer, it seems like everyone continually clamors for the best India Pale Ale (IPA). IPAs are getting to be so commonplace, it's almost as if they're a dime a dozen...but not East End Brewing's version. Coming out of Pittsburgh, this IPA packs a punch in the pint. At an even-keeled 5.8% ABV, this IPA is a perfect complement to any social activity, whether it's dinner out or just shooting the breeze with some friends. If you're a hop-head, this is the IPA for you.
4. Spring House Brewing Company's "Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout" (American Double / Imperial Stout)
Spring House's brewery is based out of Conestoga, which is near Lancaster, where they also have a taproom. Weighing in at 8.5% ABV, this stout tastes just like you'd expect: it's like liquid candy! While some may prefer to drink this beer for dessert, I have had it with dinner and  loved it. This is a must-have for PB, chocolate, and beer lovers.
5. Tröegs Brewing Company's "Hopback Amber Ale" (American amber / red ale)
Tröegs is one of my favorite breweries, largely because they make so many great beers. But it helps that they are in Hershey, which is only a 45-minute car ride away from my house. Of all their beers, Hopback is truly exceptional and is the best of their year-round offerings. At a straight 6% ABV, this amber ale fills your mouth with a crisp piney and citrusy flavor with hints of bready caramel. This one's a sure-to-please beer.
6. Weyerbacher Brewing Company's "Blithering Idiot" (English Barleywine)
Brewed in Reading, this beer clocks at 11.1% ABV which catches up to you quickly while the Weyerbacher jester just points and laughs. This barleywine has a golden-red hue and exhibits a frothy head. While it smells like cherries, they aren't evident in the flavor. Bright and bold, you feel it all the way down. This is a robust brew with a fully body. Warning: this is not a sessionable beer!
I've identified these six beers as being the best in Pennsylvania, but of course, not all beer that is brewed is bottled or canned. There are some great breweries in the York area right now (e.g. Mudhook Brewing Company and Liquid Hero) and others in the planning stages (e.g. Baldy Beard Brewing Company) that I had to exclude based on the rule about bottles or cans.

Well, that about wraps it up. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts: did I pick the best Pennsylvania brews? Or was I way off? What are your top six PA brews? Let me know in the comments or through Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or even through a check-in on UntappdProst!


Here are the links to the other five blogs which are participating in this inaugural round of the Six-Pack Project:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rant: "Triple-Hops Brewed" Miller Lite

For this post, I'm taking a page out of a fellow beer blogger's proverbial book. Each week, Bill, author of, posts the "Monday Rant" and discusses his various and sundry pet peeves in the world of beer.

I don't like the advertisement that says "Miller Lite: The beer that's triple hops brewed." Why? Well, there are two main reasons:

First, I have a problem with the word "the" in that statement. It implies that there are no other beers out there that can compete. Um, ever heard of an IPA? I guarantee you'll get more hops out of the weakest IPA on the market than you will from a Miller Lite.

Second, what does it even mean? The Hoosier Beer Geek wondered the same thing. Let's consider some possibilities:

a) It means that three types of hops are added.
b) It means that hops are added three times during the brewing process.
c) It means absolutely nothing.

I vote "c". (Isn't that always the right answer in a multiple-choice question anyway?) I think that the Miller marketing team was feeling particularly cheeky that day and decided to try and make their beer seem unique.

Besides, plenty of beers use more than one type of hops. And as for adding more hops during the brewing process, well that's an extremely common practice. There's "dry hopping" (adding unboiled, dried hops to the beer, often in a keg or cask) and "wet hopping" (adding fresh, undried hops to the beer, typically within 24 hours of harvesting). And then there's "continuous hopping", a process developed by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head (see their 90 Minute IPA webpage). Continuous hopping is pretty much what it sounds like: it involves adding hops to the beer all throughout the brewing process. Practically speaking, one might add hops every minute, as Dogfish Head does for their 60, 90, and 120 Minute IPAs (each one brewed and continuously hopped for the duration suggested by its name).

So basically, there's nothing unique about Miller Lite's brewing process. The only reason you won't see anyone competing with Miller Lite's claim to "triple hops brewed" is because of Miller's trademark on the phrase.

That's my $0.02 anyway.