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Archive for Beer & Hard Cider

PRODUCT: Shandy ~ Half Beer, Half Lemonade

Strawberry shandy. Photo courtesy Traveler
Beer Company.


Shandy, short for shandygaff (no one knows the origin of the word), is beer diluted with a non-alcoholic beverage. It’s a traditional British pub drink that mixes lager with lemon soda, ginger ale or ginger beer. Carbonated lemonade, cider or other citrus-flavored soda can be used.

Whatever you use, consensus is that shandy is a refreshing summertime drink.

The shandy tradition dates back to the 17th century. Today, English publicans blend an English ale or beer with various lemon and lime beverages.

With a new twist on the tradition, Traveler Beer Company of Burlington, Vermont, makes three craft shandies (4.4% ABV):


  • Curious Traveler Shandy, a shandy from wheat ale infused with real lemons and limes (4.4% ABV). Lemon lovers: This shandy has a lively fruit flavor and a powerful fresh lemon aroma
  • Time Traveler Shandy, a wheat beer, brewed with real strawberry
  • Jack-O Traveler Shandy, the newest flavor, brewed with lemon peel and added pumpkin


    It you’re looking for a Labor Day activity, how about a make-your-own shandy bar? Just assemble the ingredients, print out brief “instructions*” and put them in a frame next to the beer.

    Shandy Bar Ingredients

  • Lager beer (plus wheat beer or nonalcoholic beer if you’d like two styles)
  • Citrus soda, sparkling lemonade, sparkling soda
  • Ginger ale/ginger beer
  • Lemonade: plain, sparkling, Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • Berry lemonade: blueberry, strawberry, raspberry (muddle the berries and mix with regular lemonade)
  • Sparkling cider

    Shandy Garnishes

  • Lemon wedges
  • Lime wedges
  • Berries

  • Glasses (start with small-to-medium size)
  • Swizzle sticks to stir
  • Paper towels for spills
  • Napkins

    What adult trick-or-treaters want: pumpkin shandy. Photo courtesy Travel Beer Company.


    If you don’t want a shandy bar, gather whatever shandy brands you can find and have a tasting.

    Samuel Adams makes Porch Rocker, if you can still find it (the distribution period is through July). Anheuser-Busch’s Shock Top Lemon Shandy is available through August. Also look for Harp Lemon Shandy, Labatt Shandy and Saranac Shandy Lager and Lemonade.

    Fentiman’s brews two soft drink shandy styles, non-alcoholic shandy and a low alcoholic version brewed to .5 ABV ABV (1 proof), which allows it to be sold as a soft drink.

    We like to use shot glasses or juice glasses for this type of tasting. It lets everyone try a small amount of each brand, and return to their favorite with a larger glass.

    More about shandy.

    *Instructions can include: (1) Shandy is half beer, half soft drink. (2) Create your own signature shandy with the soft drink of your choice. (3) Be neat, and clean up your spills!



    FOOD HOLIDAY: National IPA Day

    In the 19th century, the British living in India drank ale from England—largely because the Indian water supply had microbes that caused digestive problems to foreigners not raised on it.

    But not all beer could withstand the long journey to India in a hot ship’s hold. A style evolved—India Pale Ale or IPA—that had higher levels of alcohol (7%-8% ABV, alcohol by volume) and hops, both of which act as preservatives to help the beer withstand the voyage of up to six months.

    The two components created an assertive beer, strong from the alcohol and both bitter and aromatic from the hops. The style paired well with robust food—the red meat and strong cheeses that were popular British fare.

    Today, there’s fast transportation to the Pacific Rim, and plenty of bottled water and Coca-Cola for travelers. The IPA style has evolved (or devolved, in the case of British IPAs) to 5.5% ABV, but are still highly hopped. American IPAs tend to stick with the old style, higher alcohol.

    Whenever we’re handed a craft beer list, we look for the IPA. But you can do well in supermarkets, too. Boston Beer Company, brewers of Samuel Adams, has embraced the IPA style, with eight different IPAs.


    Some of the IPAs from Boston Beer Company, brewers of the Samuel Adams brand. Grumpy Monk is a Belgian-style IPA. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Check your local retailer for the limited edition Samuel Adams IPA Hopology Variety Pack: two bottles each of six very different, bold and flavorful IPAs, including innovative twists on traditional styles.

    The Samuel Adams IPAs below differ in different styles, ABV and IBUs, International Bitterness Units, reflecting the bitterness from the hops.


    Dark Depths, a Baltic-style IPA from the
    Samuel Adams brand. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Samuel Adams Dark Depths (Baltic IPA, 7.6% ABV, 60 IBUs) is a dark and fierce bottling. The brewers reimagined Baltic porter as an IPA, combining the big and contrasting flavors of dark roasted malts and six varieties of bold citrussy hops with the smoothness of a lager. Dark Depths is available year-round, nationwide.

    Samuel Adams Grumpy Monk (Belgian IPA, 6.5% ABV, 55 IBUs) is a spirited reinvention of the traditional Belgian ales brewed by monks, reimagined as a complex IPA. The brew combines six hop varieties with the traditional spicy clove and fruit flavors of Belgian ale yeast. It’s a bold new twist that might make a conventionally-minded monk a bit, well, grumpy. Grumpy Monk is available on draft year-round, nationwide.

    Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA (IPA, 6.0% ABV, 60 IBUs) is brewed with five different hops from the 48th latitude—the prime hop-growing territory in the Northern Hemisphere, also known as the “hop belt.” The result is a distinctive, layered IPA hop character. The 2013 batch is inspired by the new Mosaic hop variety from Washington, which imparts a bright, citrusy flavor. Latitude 48 is available year-round, nationwide.


    Samuel Adams Tasman Red (Red IPA, 7.0 % ABV, 60 IBUs) is a bold and lively red IPA that combines the grapefruit, piney and earthy character of Topaz and Galaxy hops grown around the Tasmanian Sea. Smooth and roasty malts and hints of coffee also shine in this balanced and smooth brew, which has a dry, citrussy hop finish. Tasman Red is available year-round, nationwide.

    Samuel Adams Third Voyage (Double IPA, 8.0% ABV, 85 IBUs) is a bright and intense double IPA with a vivid hop punch. Inspired by Captain James Cook, whose third voyage made him the first to navigate a treacherous route from England to New Zealand to the Pacific Northwest, this brew combines hops from three growing regions, uniting for a citrussy, earthy and bold character. Here’s an example of the hop profile that the brewers have chosen:

  • Cascade hops, bred at Oregon State University—the most widely used hops by American craft breweries, imparting a citrus/grapefruit aroma.
  • Simcoe hops, bred in Washington by Yakima Chief Ranches, which yield different aromas including citrus, earthy, passion fruit and pine.
  • Zeus hops, developed by Yakima Chief Ranches: citrussy, slightly woody and sometimes resiny.
  • Summer Saaz hops, with aromas of passion fruit, citrus and melon, from Hop Products Australia.
    Here’s a list of all the different types of hops.

    Third Voyage is available year-round, nationwide.

    Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA (White IPA, 5.8% ABV, 61 IBUs) draws inspiration from the crisp wheat character of a white ale and the intense hop flavor of an American IPA. Fusing these two styles together, American and Australian hop varieties impart bold grapefruit notes balanced by a crisp wheat malt while the subtle addition of apricots and orange peel provides a slight sweetness and zest to round out the brew. Whitewater IPA is available year-round, nationwide.




    FATHER’S DAY: Spielgau IPA Glasses

    As any beer connoisseur knows, quality glassware enhances the enjoyment of quality craft beer. And you don’t have to be a connoisseur to know that there are different shapes of glasses for pilsners, wheat bees and other beer styles.

    That‘s because nuances of engineering reflect the different attributes of a particular style of beer (or wine). For example:

    Like a champagne flute, a tall, narrow glass enables the beer to release its flavor more slowly. But for someone who likes a pronounced head, a glass with a deep bowl allows it to form.

    The classic stein and pint glasses are generic glassware that don’t nudge the beer in any specific direction. Before modern engineering, practicality and fashion ruled:

  • The 10-sided handled pint mug, introduced in the 1920s, kept the beer cooler longer by keeping warm hands off the glass.

    IPA, Globe Pilsner, Wheat Beer and Tall Pilsner glasses. Photo courtesy Spielgau.


  • The dimpled glass, introduced in the 1940s, enhanced the visual appeal of the fashionable darker beers by allowing light hit the dimples in the glass.

    Manufacturers of fine glassware learned that they could, among other adjustments, engineer glasses to bring out the particular qualities of a variety of beer:

  • A larger body keeps the beer cooler for longer.
  • Etching the bottom of the glass helps to maintain the head and the release of carbonation (so the beer doesn’t get flat as quickly).
  • A slightly narrow neck traps the aroma.
  • A double thick bottom better insulates from any warmth from the table top.
  • A stem or a narrower bottom where it’s comfortable to hold the glass keeps away heat from hands that could warm the brew.
  • An outward-turned lip can enhance the sweet notes of the beer.

    Fron left to right: IPA glass, globe pilsner,
    wheat beer glass and tall pilsner. Photo
    courtesy Spielgau.



    If you’re a fan of IPAs (India Pale Ales—which happen to be our favorite tyle of beer), check out Spiegelau’s new IPA glass. The manufacturer collaborated with Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada breweries to create a glass that best displays the nuances of IPA-style beers.

    Twelve different prototypes were developed by Spielgau and tested by the bewers, designed to showcase varying aromatic profiles for “hop forward” IPA beers, preserve a frothy head and volatiles and maintain a comfortably wide opening for the drinker to “nose” the beer.

    Why is the engineering so important? In the case of the IPA glasses:

  • Thin walls maintain proper beer temperature longer.
  • The slender, bowed shape amplifies the hops aroma.

  • Wave-like ridges aerate the beer to balance flavors.
  • A wide mouth allows the drinker to “nose” the beer comfortably for heightened aroma.
  • Raw quartz silica combined with state of the art production methods help sustain the head and the carbonation. It also delivers the beer evenly across the palate for a pleasant creaminess and harmony of sweetness and acidity.

    The 19-ounce/540 ml glasses are $24.90 for a set of two. You can buy them on Amazon.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Crispin Hard Apple Cider

    Crispin Original, our go-to hard apple cider.
    Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.


    For the upcoming trio of holidays—Memorial Day, Fathere’s Day and Independence Day—we’d like to recommend something festive to drink: sparkling Crispin Hard Apple Cider.

    Whether or not you’re currently a cider fan, we’ve got to evangelize over what we think is the most elegant of hard apple ciders.

    The naturally fermented line is made from the fresh pressed juice of Northwest apples—not from apple juice concentrate like many ciders. And there’s also pear cider, or perry, made from 100% pear juice; there’s no apple juice sneaked in to lower the cost of ingredients.

    It’s pure, clean cider: There is no added malt, grape wine or spirit alcohol, no added colorants, sorbate or benzoate preservatives.

    And unlike beer, which is made from grain, cider is 100% gluten free.


    But don’t take our word for it: Head to the store and pick some up. You can party hearty: Cider is less filling than beer. The Crispin line has an ABV of 5.3%…and a deliciousness index of 100%.

    Read the full review.



    CINCO DE MAYO: Chipotle Beer

    Some people don’t want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with tequila: They want a beer. So here’s a hot number designed by Frontera Grill’s Rick Bayless for Bohemia Beer:


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • Chipotle rimming salt (recipe below)
  • 2 fresh lime wedges, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce or 1 teaspoon canned chipotles en adobo, puréed
  • Ice
  • 6 ounces chilled Bohemia beer
  • Garnish: cucumber slice

    1. MAKE chipotle rimming salt: Thoroughly mix 2 tablespoons coarse (kosher) salt and 1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile powder in a small bowl. Pour out onto a small plate to use for rimming beer glasses.


    Beer and hot sauce with a salt rim. Photo courtesy Bohemia Beer.


    2. WET the rim of a tall glass with lime wedge. Then dip the rim of the glass into the chipotle rimming salt.

    3. SQUEEZE the juice from the remaining lime pieces into the glass. Stir in the chipotle hot sauce or chipotles in adobo.

    4. FILL the glass with ice. Pour in the Bohemia beer. Mix gently. Garnish glass rim with a cucumber slice. Serve.





    PRODUCT: Game Of Thrones Beer

    Blonde Ale is the first in the new Game Of
    Thrones beer line. Photo courtesy Brewery


    For Game Of Thrones fans, there’s an answer to the question of what Joffrey Baratheon might have drunk as he sat on the Iron Throne—or at the dinner table.

    Brewery Ommegang and HBO, producer of the hit series, are partnering on a series of beers inspired by the drama. After much collaboration, they launched the first Iron Throne beer, a blonde ale, in tandem with the third season.

    While Joffrey is a teen, everyone, including young children, drank beer until modern times. Before reliable municipal water supplies, water from available sources—wells, lakes and rivers—harbored disease-causing microbes. Because the water is boiled during brewing, the microbes were destroyed, making beer the safe choice.

    We haven’t been able track down a bottle of Game Of Thrones beer: The store locator on the website only tells you what retailers carry any beers from Brewery Ommegang. Your best bet may be to email or call the brewery:, 800.544.1809.


    Brush up on the different types of beers in our Beer Glossary.
    *The line is not distributed in Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota,West Virginia and Wyoming.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Irish Red Ale

    It’s as comforting as an evening in an Irish pub, says Samuel Adams about its Irish Red Ale, which brings together a roasted malt sweetness with a light but earthy hoppiness.

    So head out and pick up some Irish Red to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

    Irish Red Ale is a refreshing, lighter beer style closely related to English Bitters. As with all recipes, there are numerous variations; but all tend to have the characteristic deep red color and mild flavor.

    In Ireland, the brew is called Irish Red Ale, Red Ale, or Irish Ale. Imports from Ireland include Beamish Red Ale, Caffrey’s Irish Ale, Murphy’s Irish Red and Smithwick’s.

    Among American-brewed Irish Reds, look for Goose Island’s Kilgubbin Red Ale, Great Lakes Brewing’s Conway’s Irish Ale and Saranac Brewery’s Irish Red Ale.


    Look for Irish Red in the bottle. Photo courtesy Samuel Adams.

    According to, some experts characterize Irish Red as a sub-category of English Bitters or Pale Ales. Others, including the Beer Judge Certification Program, believe Irish Red stands as its own distinct style.

    Adding to confusion, some American craft brewers have taken American Amber Ales, added coloring or a bit of roasted malt and called them Irish Red as well.

    What’s the difference between an Amber Ale and an Irish Red?

    The recipes are very similar. The main difference is the measure of bitterness in the beer. Amber Ales use more hops to achieve more bitterness. The secondary difference is the origin of the hops and the type of malts: Irish Red use more English malts (often toasted malts) and hops, American Amber Ales use more American malts and hops.

    For beer drinkers who prefer less hop influence, Irish Reds offer virtually no hop aroma low to moderate hop flavor, as well as low to moderate malty aroma and flavor. They have a very clean finish with a low buttery or toffee flavor. The use of roasted barley for coloring often results in a slight roasted finish and also creates a dry finish for the beer. Unlike English Ales, Irish Red has no ester (fruity) flavors.

    As you lift a glass, remember to says “cheers” in Gaelic: sláinte (pronounced SLAWN-cheh)

    Check out the different types of beers and beer terminology in our Beer Glossary.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Ale & Beer

    Still looking something special for Christmas?

    Whether for your own guests, as Christmas gifts or host/hostess gifts, pick up some Christmas beers.

    Anchor Christmas Ale and Samuel Adams have good national distribution for their holiday brews, and your regional microbrewer no doubt has a seasonal special ale, beer, porter or stout. Here’s a list of Christmas brews.

    A Christmas ale is typically rich and dark ale, brewed with special holiday spices and often, a higher alcohol content to ward off the winter chill. However, even wheat beers, the lightest style, get the holiday treatment.

    Different brewers use cinnamon, clove, coriander, ginger, nutmeg and/or vanilla, and perhaps a touch of honey.

    Christmas ale makes a holiday beer drinking more special. It’s a welcome holiday gift, stocking stuffer or host gift for beer lovers.


    Merry Mischief is a gingerbread-spiced beer from Samuel Adams. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    A trio of yeasty treats for Christmas. Photo
    by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    We received an assortment of the Samuel Adams holiday beers, and enjoyed these festive brews:

    Cranberry Lambic is a crisp fruit beer that delivers rich cranberry flavor along with notes of banana, clove and nutmeg. While many people enjoy a lambic with dessert, some astringency and tartness makes this beer companionable to any course. It’s perfect with roast turkey.

    Holiday Porter is a rich, robust, smooth and malty: Four different types of malted barley plus a dash of flaked oats are used in the brew. The deep roasted flavors pair well with hearty or spicy fare.

    Merry Mischief is a rich, smooth and sweet dark gingerbread stout with the enticing aromas of the holidays. The intensity of cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg evoke the flavor of fresh gingerbread. Although it can be enjoyed with most foods, we especially liked it with gingerbread cookies and carrot cake.


    White Christmas is a crisp, unfiltered white ale blended with holiday spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel. Citrusy, wheaty and spicy, it pairs well with lighter fair, from salad (add dried cranberries and goat cheese) to dessert (try it with cheesecake or a fruit tart).

    Winter Lager is a full-bodied, malty, spicy lager with a deep ruby color and a “holiday” aroma of cinnamon and ginger; there’s also a hint of orange peel. The spices and roasty sweetness of the malts pair beautifully with Thai food and other spicy dishes where the chile heat needs to be subdued.

    Head to your nearest store and stock up.


    Browse through our Beer Glossary.



    PRODUCT: Omission Gluten Free Beer

    Omission beer is gluten-free and delicious. Photo courtesy Omission Beer.


    Beer drinkers with gluten sensitivities—or anyone looking to cut back on gluten—have an early holiday gift: Omission Beer.

    Gluten is found in many common cereal grains including barley and wheat—typical beer ingredients.

    On a mission to make a great-tasting beer without the gluten, the Omission team used traditional beer ingredients to handcraft the brew. They also developed a proprietary process that removes all the gluten.

    Unlike some earlier gluten-free beers, it contains all of the standard beer ingredients: barley, hops, water and yeast. And the aroma and taste will should please just about everyone.


  • Omission Lager, brewed in the traditional lager style, is refreshing and crisp, with an ABV of 4.6%.
  • Omission Pale Ale is bold and hoppy American Pale Ale, amber and redolent of Cascade hops. The floral aroma is complimented by caramel malt body, with an ABV of 5.8%.
    At a recent NIBBLE editorial tasting, it was all thumbs-up for Omission Beer.

    A six-pack or two would make a great gift for a gluten-averse pal.

    Here’s the store locator. Learn more about Omission beer on the company website.

    Brush up on your beer vocabulary in our Beer Glossary.

    Find more of our favorite beers in our Beer Section.



    PRODUCT: Sam Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary

    It’s rare, it’s expensive, it’s exciting: Samuel
    Adams Utopias. Photo courtesy Boston
    Brewing Company.


    Boston Beer Company has launched its 10th anniversary batch of Samuel Adams Utopias, a barrel-aged, limited edition, limited release brew. Only 15,000 bottles have been made.

    At a suggested retail price of $160, you probably can’t give it as a gift to all your beer-loving friends; but connoisseurs of craft beer will really appreciate a taste. Buy a bottle and invite them for a sip.

    This is no burger-and-pizza beer. Utopias is best enjoyed at room temperature in a snifter, as an after dinner drink like port or cognac. In fact, company founder Jim Koch considers Utopias to be on a par with the very best ports, cognacs and sherries.

    Packaged in a brew-kettle-style decanter, Utopias contains between 28% and 30% alcohol by volume (ABV). The purpose is not to break the beer alcohol barrier, says Koch, but “to make a wonderful, unique beverage.”



    The concept for Utopias developed 20 years ago, as the company sought to push the boundaries of ABV by creating a triple bock beer, with more intensity and alcohol than double bock beer. (Dopplebock is German for extra-strong, a beer of about 7.5% alcohol by volume, or stronger, and commercial beers had not been made beyond a ceiling of 14%).

    In addition to higher alcohol, the flavors of Utopias are greatly deepened by wood aging. The barrels used for aging are considered an ingredient, and individual barrels are hand-selected as carefully as hops, for flavor level. After years of experimentation with different woods (bourbon barrels, scotch barrels, etc.), the brewers decided that rum barrels provide the most desired flavors for this beer.

    The 2012 tenth anniversary blend includes beer from the original barrels of 20 years ago, the 1999 millennium bottling and other years. Koch finds flavors of vanilla, fig, cocoa, wood, dark fruits like raisins and bright fruits cherry and raspberry.

    The flavor is not just unlike any other beer; it’s unlike any other beverage in the world.

    Here’s a video of Boston Brewing Company founder Jim Koch discussing Utopias.



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