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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our top 5 best beers of 2011

It is New Years Eve, the last day of 2011. This year has been a lot of things to many people, but for beer drinkers it has been a pretty decent year.  All this week we have been reading the best/ worst articles floating around the news and the internet.  We decided to compile one of our own from the best of category. As stated before in this blog, beer is subjective. Like food, it has memories that go with it and make it special, time and place become important. The beer experience is enhanced by the surroundings, the people, and your state of mind. With that in mind we each tackled the answer slightly differently.  

Brian Smith
Westvleteren beers are considered
some of the best in the world...
we didn't have any of those this year.

The first beer on a long vacation (This time it was an Old Dominion Aviator Amber)

Dark Helmet Schwartzbier at Titletown Brewery in Green Bay, Wisconsin

New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale, now readily available in northern Virginia.

Yuengling Traditional Lager, the house beer of the Smiths.

Jessica a.k.a Loverfishy

Red Eye Almost 100% Organic Pumpkin Ale. Pumpkin pie spice and aged over graham crackers (like their holiday ale was too) Pumpkin pie in a glass…I don’t even like pumpkin pie, and I couldn’t get enough

Rogue Juniper Pale Ale – Tastes like a pine tree in a glass according to my dad. To me, an IPA addict, that’s a pretty awesome thing. I discovered it at the Chocolate Moose in Ely, Minnesota of all places.

Lagunitas Maximus IPA – My absolute favorite IPA. Not very common in the upper Midwest, I get a bit excited when I luck out and find it on tap somewhere. Super hoppy, but still balanced, and not as much of a pucker-up aftertaste as the other superhopped IPAs.

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter – Yeah, quite a few places make a vanilla porter, but this was deep, rich, and smooth. One of the best I’ve tried.

I have to give number five a non-beer honorable mention to Stranahan’s Colorado whisky. Went on a distillery tour…cool place, and it’s owned by the guy who founded Flying Dog Brewery. The whisky is superb…buttery and smooth.

Skye Marthaler

New Glarus Stone Soup – This is my favorite beer and anytime I can get back to Wisconsin and find it makes me a happy man. I made it back this last May and brought a case back east with me. I don't know if New Glarus will be producing this in 2012 and if not that really sucks. 

Shmaltz He'brew Jewbelation 15 – A revelation and by far the best holiday beer I had. I recently got a second bottle to age out and I am looking forward to Jewbelation 16. I shared this with my father-in-law over Christmas.

Bruery Coton – Shared this with my best friend Rob back in May. We didn’t know what we had, it was my first Bruery experience, but we enjoyed the hell out that bottle. Maybe I should have aged that bottle but if you can’t share a ridiculously good beer with your best friend then fuck off. Seriously.

Dogfish Head Theobroma – Shared this with my brother Cody and his friend Matt while playing Settlers of Catan in September the night before we went to the Packers - Panthers game in Charolotte. It was delicious and both Cody and I are searching for another bottle of it.

Shiner Ruby Redbird – I drank gallons of this over the summer. I don’t know why it grabbed me like it did, but once it got a hold on me it became my go to summer beer. I still have one bottle left in the fridge that I will break out early next year on a cold winter’s day to remind me that summer does come back.

Honorable Mentions: New Glarus Spotted Cow in the stands at Lambeau Field and the Red Eye Rye Porter at the tailgate earlier that day.  

So there you go, our favorites or "best" beers of 2011. What were yours? Tell us down in the comments!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Three...count' em, 3 reviews of festive beers!

It's the end of the year so to finish out strong we are going all in with a festive triple header. That's right folks. We are bringing you 3 reviews of festive beers to finish out December.

I drank this from my new Spiegelau tulip glass from a freshly filled growler (10 minutes from the tap at the brewery to my glass at home.) It poured slightly hazy with a white fluffy head filling the glass with a bright sunny golden color. It is crisp, clean, and mildly sweet on the tongue as you drink it; though the aftertaste has a faint spicy weight to it. I think it is atypical to Belgian style golden ale, but it is delicious.

I have been drinking Tidings over the last week and I have been consistently surprised at how refreshing this beer is. It is not like all the other festive beers I have been drinking at or reviewing. It clocks in with a sly 7.8% ABV but the alcohol is hidden very well. I could easily see myself enjoying this on a hot summer day. I do hope this will be a reoccurring seasonal because I will purchase it without hesitation again.

Full disclosure, I have a bias for Port City Brewing, they are my local, only about a block away from where I hang my hat. I recently started getting growlers filled there, they are wonderful people, and I hope they are successful.

It poured a bronze color, clear, with a light tannish head that stuck around longer than expected. (It was a hard pour, but worth it for the blast of caramel that filled the air.) I drank this out of a lager glass. It has a smooth, malty taste that stays with you through the drink and into the aftertaste. This is also when the alcohol reveals itself, but it doesn’t stay around long. It comes in a winter sessionable 6.4% ABV.

Overall Ebenezer Ale is an easy to drink beer, not as rich or with as much caramel taste as I expected when poured but definitely enjoyable and a good party companion. You could work through several bottles of this in a row and not get bored.

My first thought when I drank this was, well that is different, particularly from the other two beers that I had reviewed earlier. It poured a clear copper color in the lager glass, the head dissipating quickly. It has a nice carbonation on the tongue and a fair share of hops that stand up as you swallow the ale and mingle with the bitterness in the aftertaste. They are never at the forefront though. This ale is not heavy on the drink. You could easily session this ale, and while lighter than expected, it has a nice body to it for winter drinking. I only had one bottle of the Winter Welcome Ale and this is disappointing because I would like to try a few more to form a more thorough opinion.

Normally I would include the "propaganda" on each beer from the brewery, but this has been long enough. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season and thanks for stopping by! 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Don't look now, but here comes the Jolly Good Fellows podcast!


You can now subscribe to us on iTunes. Find the podcast here!

The year might be almost over, but new things are still happening here! That's right folks, we have recorded our first podcast. The "we" in question is your hosts Skye Marthaler and Dan Maiella. In this our very 1st edition, we discuss beer in the news, how rock bands are paid in NYC,  bad explanations about glassware, and other random bits of information.

If you like it, have suggestions for improvement, recommendations for other topics then please let us know down in the comments.

*Be forewarned we do work a bit blue*

You can find the podcast here or copy and paste the link below.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cellaring Beers or the creation of “Skye’s Special Reserve Selection”…in three parts (Part 2)

Maybe we really can "drink 'em all" (original here)
Part 2:  Why I do this now, to what ends, & the perfect bottle.

So now I am cellaring beer, slowly building up my stocks in the basement but, as stated in the subtitle above, to what end? As discussed in part 1, the reasons I started this were not necessarily the reasons people do it. To be frank, my reasons were more driven by “necessity” than any overarching goal or purpose; I don’t drink fast enough, I get bored, and my compulsion to try new styles runs over my good sense. (An apt comparison for my beer consumption is Pokemon (Gotta Drink’em all!)) Toss into the mix that I give beer second chances and you end up with a nice bit of disorganized cellaring.

So I find myself in a bit of a cycle. My little completionist obsession to “drink ‘em all,” mixed with disposable income, stirred by the knowledge that I have the space to do this puts me in my present predicament...which isn’t quite right. I enjoy the position I find myself in. I get to satisfy my compulsion, drink beer at my pace, and the best part, if I don’t like something or I get bored I take the remaining bottles and put them in the “special reserve selection” to temper their perceived deficiencies or enjoy them at my convenience. It’s a win-win!

All those puzzle pieces have organized themselves into something bigger and expanded the answer of “to what end?”  At present if asked my answer is twofold, the first being I find myself purchasing differently now. I find myself buying beer more like folks buy wine. I’m purchasing more and more beer in bombers or larger bottles. Once upon a time it was a rare occurrence when I would buy them, not because of the beer inside but because of the quantity that needed to be consumed after cracking it open. A not impossible task to enjoy by yourself, but better enjoyed by friends. Similar in size to a wine bottle, it makes for easy cellaring and more often than not the contents in these bottles are the big, bold, complex styles that can be aged.  

The other answer is a little more esoteric. I have become captivated by the idea of “the perfect bottle” and let’s be honest here, it borders on the pretentious and ridiculous side of things. Here is a personal example of beer perfection.

Several weeks ago I was drinking Spotted Cow in the stands of Lambeau Field while my Green Bay Packers played football below with friends to my right and left. For me it is a perfect memory. At that time and place I don’t know if a better beer would have fit the situation for me. (Yes, there are better beers out there but at that time and place for Skye Marthaler Spotted Cow was the best beer) Remember folks, beer is subjective and our so are our experiences with it.

So what does that example have to do with my still nascent idea of “the perfect bottle?” First off this concept is built on two tenets this blog promotes.
  • Beer should always be approachable
  • There is a time and place for every beer.
Simply put the “perfect bottle” is having the right beer at the right time for the right people. Here is where cellaring comes in, it gives you the luxury of time and allows you to plan for your beer future because sometimes you have to wait for the the right beer and drinkers to show up.

Next time I’ll discuss a bit more of what is currently living in my special reserves and how I decide what goes and what stays.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Beer Links for Boxing Day!

Folks, it's Boxing Day, so don't get too crazy out there in the weird, weird world of consumerism. Instead, kick back, crack open a tasty one and enjoy the last vestiges of 2011. 

Another great Google image search! Original here.
In the News!

Deputies: Man returned to beer after bank robbery (ABC 7 News-Chicago)
Maybe he needed cash to pay for his pint. I love these types of stories, they make great logic puzzles

New law makes for ‘great day’ for Ohio’s craft-beer breweries, owners says (Youngstown Vindicator)
I do like tasting rooms!
Beer goes highbrow with beer sommeliers (Hindustan Times)
I must admit that this makes me a little bit uneasy. Beer should always be approachable.

Christmas Eve family feud over beer ends with man’s neck severely cut (Sun-Sentinel)
Where do I even start with this’s messed up, but the snark at the end is the ringer.

Local identity infused in Schlafly beer, mission (
Schlafly makes good beer and it is wonderful to see their success in the shadow of a monolith. I hope the succession plan works and the quality doesn’t diminish.

Beer facts (
We need all the facts we can get around here.

How about beer? This tells when and how it will flow (Pittsburgh Press)
Let’s step into the way back machine. Fascinating article from the end of the bad old days.

Beer Festival excites Uyo residents (The Nation (Nigeria))
I find the beer culture in Africa fascinating, a lot of it driven by vestiges of colonialism.

Top 10 Buzz Brewers of 2011 (Washington Times)
I would have thought Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery would have been on that list. Otherwise it’s pretty solid...bit of homerism at the end.

CSA study says beer brewers adding jobs faster than other industries in Larimer County, Loveland (Reporter Herald)
Beer will see us through these economic doldrums

Beer Baron: Believe the buzz over big stouts (Wisconsin State Journal)
The great white whales of the beer world. They do exist!

Perfect article end our December news links on. We will be talking about stouts and winter warmers in January and February. (Big beers deserve 2 whole months!)

Site News!

We will closing down the year with a final review of a festive beer yet to be selected and maybe some commentary on the side. We will have a beer roundtable of the best five beers each of us fellows have had this year and I swear Brian will have an edition of “To the Lab.” We hope your holiday season so far has been joyous and festive.

As always you can find us on twitter: @beerfellows
See what we are drinking on Untappd: BeerFellows

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Holiday PSA - Be safe out there!

Folks, we here at Jolly Good Fellows appreciate a good brew, but during this holiday season, and at all times really, we want people to not only enjoy beer but also be responsible and safe. If you have been drinking don't drive. Turn over your keys to your host, take a cab, or designate a driver. Christmas is so much more merry when we are all there to enjoy it. 

Welcome to Your Weekend - Christmas Eve Edition!

Brought to you by brown Christmas and woodland critters, with
 special guests Red Eye Brewing and Breckenridge Brewery Christmas Ale
 (Photo by Loverfishy)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wow, just wow...

This is what you
are looking for!
Jewbelation 15 is an excellent beer. It is rich, complex, spicy, and incredibly smooth. This is beer as a port wine. There is so much going on that I would actually prefer this as an digestif after a meal.

It poured an incredibly deep clear bronze with a rich tan head that hung around a lot longer than I expected. I drank this out of a port glass. At first sip you get a mouthful of spice that stays with you throughout the quaff and lingers in the aftertaste. For me it is a very pleasant taste and it leaves a tingle on the sides of the tongue. The beer is a lot smoother than you would expect with a lot of caramel taste. This is a beer that you have to be careful with though, it comes in at a big but devious 15% ABV. The alcohol is masked very well by the smorgasboard of hops and malts.

My only regret is that I did not purchase another bottle to age out. Here is to finding another couple of bottles to store because this beer will get better with age. For me this hits all the marks of an excellent beer. It hits the spot of everything I want in a winter seasonal beer.

Jewbelation is a series that has been going since 2004. Jewbelation 15, a kosher beer brewed by Shmaltz Brewing Company out of Saratoga Springs, New York, celebrates the brewery's 15 years of brewing. I looked for the "propaganda" on the beer but really couldn't find much from the brewery other than the importance of number of 15.

Happy Hanukkah everyone! L'chaim!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cellaring Beers or the creation of “Skye’s Special Reserve Selection”…in three parts

This last weekend I was sorting through my latest holiday beer purchases deciding which ones would be drunk over the holidays, and which ones were to be shelved away until a future yet to be determined. It dawned on me that I should discuss my cellaring madness. Our wine friends have been doing this for years to great acclaim and success. Guess what, beer can do it to. I’d like to share how I came to this, why I do it now, and how I go about it and what the pros recommend.

Part One: How I arrived at this condition of storing awesome beer in my basement for sustained periods of time

Three things got me into aging beer; one is my never ending desire to try new things, particularly beers. As you may have picked up as a reader of this blog I love beer a lot, it makes me happy and I like to talk about it. At the same time I also have a weird little completionist quirk. I want to try, at least once, every beer I see. This is clearly impossible, but I’m ok with it. I walk into a store, see brews I have never tried and buy them. Sometimes I get multiple different brews. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The second factor frankly is that my spendable income increased over the last decade. More purchasing power lets me buy more beer. Combine that with my little desire to trying everything means that I usually overbuy. It’s incredibly difficult to go into a beer isle and walk out with only one thing. Sometimes the selection available is overwhelming to me. But let us get back on topic, simply put, my supply overruns my demand meaning I have to find homes for the excess.

The third is once again another confession on my part. It involves a bottle of 2001 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine. A decade ago, while living in Stevens Point, I spied a sixer of it in JR’s, my local bottle shop at the time. I jumped right on it and bought it with my usual enthusiasm. It was everything a barleywine should be but I couldn’t stand it. Originally I argued the beer had skunked out, but the truth of the matter was at that time I was not smart enough or experienced enough to enjoy what I was drinking.

This started it (2010 model shown)
Picture by Sierra Nevada
Five of the bottles were drunk. One bottle though, passed notice living on a side shelf in Rob’s fridge for the next eight years. Every so often we would laugh and joke about it being still in there and I would trot out my little heresy on how the batch was skunky. Rob eventually gave the bottle to a good friend of his, Chris, who took it home, cracked it open, drank it, and promptly declared it phenomenal, one of the best things he had ever drank. (Another confession, (You’re getting the two for one special today) I enjoy barleywines now, but I have never went back to the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, someday soon I will have to remedy that.)

When Rob informed me of Chris’ discovery I was a bit shocked, one that the bottle had survived that long in Rob’s fridge, (He was developing and refining his tastes for beer diversity over the years and has an unquenchable thirst) and two what an idiot I was for never taking another chance. Eight years from the time the Bigfoot was unintentionally laid down not only had the beer aged and improved but so had I. Now I was ready for the beer but the beer was gone. Disappointed but not dismayed that experience lent itself to the third factor. I give beer second chances. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hanukkah & Beer!

In the spirit of Hanukkah and to tide you over until I finish some beer commentary and the Jewbelation review here is an excellent little article and radio spot on the Jewish brewing community and its history.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Beer links brought to you by Hanukkah!

When you Google Hanukkah
and select the first image it takes you here (SFW)

In the News!
The Festival of Lights starts on Tuesday. To all my Jewish friends and readers I hope you have a very happy holiday season. 

How did I miss this?! Well mark your calendars, we are doing something for this next year, Dec 17, 2012.

Top Ten: Craft beer themes of 2011 (Washington Times) Pretty decent list of craft beer themes for this past year, on a serious note it will be interesting to see how they continue to trend. On a not so serious note, Fuck Yeah Beer!

Police Report: Stolen Beer; Thefts From Vehicles (Waukesha Patch) While Waukesha isn’t a small town it still has some small town charm. Odds that the beer stolen at 12:36 AM was Miller Lite? I’ve got three to one.

Now on Tap: Beer Chocolates and Candy Marketed to Men (ABC News) I have a ridiculous sweet tooth so I would be game to try these. I think the best one is the stout caramel bars….holy shit these are expensive! A good sixer of beer or a small bag of candies? I think the decision is pretty self-evident.

Samuel Adams’ Single Batch series:  4 great beers in 22-ounce bottles (The Boston Globe) I spotted two of these today at my local Total Wine, I think I may have to go grab 8 for a special write up (4 to drink, 4 to cellar)

Beer buys bubble over as the mercury rises (Herald Sun) I can’t say I’m too surprised we know our Australian cousins love beer, but I would really like to see the American version of this.

Jingle Beers (London Free Press) A selection of recommendations for across the pond. Anything that mentions Krampus is welcome in these links.

Beer makers wage turfwars over high-end consumers (Business Daily Africa) Someday there will be a craft beer revolution in Africa but right now we have to content ourselves with the premium beers of Heineken and Miller Genuine Draft. Ugh.

Fear the beer bill (Daily Local News) My views on blue laws are pretty simple, get rid of them. I understand the complaints, but it is monopoly breaking in a sense and it brings Pennsylvania in line with a fair portion of the nation. It will be better for consumers and the brewers.

This is a goddamn atrocity!

On that note here is what will be happening hopefully around the site this week. A small piece on cellaring tomorrow, a review of Jewbelation on Wednesday, and on Thursday you can expect the last minute beer gift guide just in time for last second gift buying this weekend.  

We missed “Welcome to your weekend” this last weekend, but it’ll be back in time for Christmas holiday.

As always you can find us on Twitter at: @beerfellows and you can friend us on Untappd to see what we are drinking also under beerfellows.

If you have thoughts, comments, or recommendations on the blog let us know in the comments. As always thanks for stopping by and Happy Holidays! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Ale Review Doubleheader!

A couple of days behind, but to make it up it is a Christmas ale doubleheader!

The elf has always been
slightly disturbing to me.

The Mad Elf I am reviewing though is slightly different having been aged an additional year. It was originally purchased in a sixer last year at this time. I drank or shared the others, but saved one. Describing Mad Elf to a friend I once called it “Fruitcake in a bottle…but better.” That does fruitcake more justice than it deserves but I think the point still stands. This is a big complex beer with a lot of pieces to it. This bottle has aged well over the last year, becoming rounder, smoother, and the alcohol has better presence, now hovering in the background. Overall it has become better mannered.

As has been the case lately I drank this out of my Hamm’s chalice. It poured with little head and a very nice reddish bronze color. It drank very smoothly with a pleasant aftertaste of honey, a bit of a spice, and just a hint of fruit.

I like this better than the younger version currently in the refrigerator. My gig on the “fresh” stuff is that the alcohol is interruptive. It masks the other ingredients and takes away from the beer. The aged version behaves better and frankly has improved itself.  No matter what version of Mad Elf you find yourself with, be advised that it has a bit of punch coming in at 11% ABV. This year I am saving two bottles, one for next year and one for 2013. I recommend this beer and I always pick up a few sixers every year for the holidays. (Mad Elf is a Book beer and can be found on page 181)
I would marry this beer label
if I could. 

The other selection for the evening couldn’t be more different. It is Our Special Ale 2011 by Anchor Brewing Company also known as “Anchor Christmas Ale.” I bought a sixer of this at my local supermarket just the other day while tracking down selections for reviewing.

This poured nice deep rich brown color, burnt sienna / umber, with a big tan head. The head stayed around for awhile too and the beer laces up the glass as you drink it. I drank this out of a pub glass. The spices are immediately evident on pour and as you bring the glass up to drink. It is a chewy beer and it has a distinct aftertaste that, for me, took awhile to get used to. It is a woody taste that stays with you for a bit.

While dark and laden with spice this was a pleasant change of pace after the Mad Elf and I would drink this during a holiday meal. It comes in at a sessionable 5.5% ABV. It was interesting to find out that Anchor Brewing adjusts the recipe every year on this beer so no two years are the same. (I think that is pretty cool.) Since this is my first year trying it I have no basis of comparison to previous models.

The final line for me on this beer is that I am glad I picked up the sixer, but I won’t get another till next year. If you like dark holiday beers with a big spice kit then you may wish to track this down. (This is also a Book beer and can be found on page 912.)

"Propaganda" on the two selections
Mad Elf
The Mad Elf, a cheerful creation to warm your heart and enlighten your tongue. The combination of Cherries, Honey, and Chocolate Malts delivers gentle fruits and subtle spices. Fermented and aged with a unique yeast, this ruby red beer has significant warming strength that underlies the pleasant character of this intriguing yet delicious Ale. The Mad Elf, a jolly and delicious beer for the Holidays.

Anchor Christmas Ale
Each year since 1975, Anchor Brewing creates a distinctive Christmas Ale, available from early November to mid-January. A rich, dark spiced ale, our secret recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In which our intrepid adventurers enjoy more beer, watch their teams battle it out, and return home

Game Day

It was all delicious...except the propane. 
Sunday morning dawned cold and clear. After grabbing a quick breakfast down at Luna Cafe in De Pere, (a cozy eatery that made an excellent latte and had delicious scones) we stopped at the supermarket on the way back to the hotel to stock up on food and drink, well aware that everyone else was bringing drink and vittles. The basic items filled the cart fast, hot dogs, bratwursts, buns, chips etc. All was proceeding quickly until I walked into the “Beer Cave” There I spent the next 15 minutes trying to figure out what beer to take with me. (A quick side note on how I buy beer. If in a new area, or someplace I haven’t been in awhile I go out of my way to buy new styles or try new breweries.)

Your fearless author almost
throws out his back
(Photo by Summer Marthaler)
I ended up making two of my own six packs to go along with the remnants of the Capital Brewery Winter Skal and Amber left over from the previous evening.  Six new beers to try (I noahed my beer, grabbing two of each, Lithia Regner Red Ale, New Glarus ChocolateAbbey, Black Top Black IPA, Back 40 Bock, O’so Night Train Porter, and Milwaukee Brewing LouisDemise Ale)

By the time we had arrived back at the hotel and checked out, Justin had arrived. We tossed in his gear in the trunk, piled into the rental and headed over to Lambeau Field. Tailgating at Lambeau is a must for any NFL fan. For thirty bucks we had parking in a backyard mere yards from the stadium, and to top it off parking for most of the rest of the crew showing up. The last time I parked this close to the entrance was in November at the Chargers-Packers game. There I had to have a special parking permit and I was glad I was driving a brand new Cadillac. Here it was open to the masses. 

A motley crew with our token Raider fan

Shortly after we arrived the rest of the tailgating team turned up. First to arrive was Summer and Jake, having driven in from Goodrich, followed minutes later by Davey and Bones. Matt and Ann would arrive later in the afternoon. 

Jake, Summer, friends & Bones
The grill was fired up, the brats were soon on, and the beer started to flow. The first to go was the Rye Porter and IPA that Justin had brought with him from Red Eye Brewing in Wausau. The Rye Porter was fantastically delicious. Soon we were into the bottles of New Glarus and Capital Brewery. Jake and Summer worked on the Miller Lite they had brought, content to drink a beer that was comfortable for them. Between the food and beer, the bean bag boards were set up for some “fierce” competition and general trash talking.

I walked into Lambeau with a mild buzz, a full stomach and over the next few hours watched the Green and Gold dismantle the Silver and Black much to Brian’s chagrin. I kept my whistle wet with first a Miller Genuine Draft provided by Justin, and then discovered that New Glarus SpottedCow was being served at the stadium. A couple of those lasted until the last second ticked of the clock. 

As Brian would say, a pilgrim heading into an unholy land.
(Photo by Brian Smith)
We all gathered after the game, but the energy had drained out, washed away by the excitement and the cold. Brian and I drank the Lithias while waiting for the traffic to clear out, divvied up the remaining beer with Davey, and said our goodbyes as friends and family departed. It was evening when we left Green Bay heading southbound chasing red lights down Interstate 43 back to Milwaukee.

Late that night in the Best Western by Mitchell Field Airport Brian and I ate some wings and fried cheese curds. I washed mine down with a Coke, the alcohol of the last two days finally catching up, my taste buds demanding something different. Brian was resolute and polished off one more beer, this time a Point Amber.
The Seats (Photo by Brian Smith)

The early morning flight on Monday was packed with tourists and business men but still uneventful. The travel had wiped me out, but Brian had to rally and head into work for the afternoon. We brought back four bottles along with some cheese curds from “downtown” Gad, Louie’s Demise Ale by Milwaukee Brewing Company, O’so Night Train, and New Glarus Chocolate Abbey and Back 40 Bock. Two went with Brian, the Night Train and Bock, while I bagged the others. I drank one on the evening I returned. The Chocolate Abbey will be put in the reserve stocks to age for a year.

Brian showed more fight than his team. 
This was an experience where beer played a central role and to me it encapsulates what Jolly Good Fellows is all about. Enjoying beer, both new styles and brands, and those that are tried and true, rekindling friendships and creating new experiences and starting your own traditions. For me being a proud son of Wisconsin, drinking Spotted Cow and watching a Packers game from the stands of Lambeau Field with my friends goes down as one of my all time great beer memories. It was a little slice of heaven.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In which our intrepid adventurers journey to a land of beer and cheese

Brace yourselves folks. This one is going to be long and in two parts.

This is a story about the NFL and beer, two of my favorite things in life. But even before that it is a story about two friends going on an adventure 

It started innocently enough several months ago when the current NFL schedule was released. My friend Brian, (and contributor to this site), noted the Oakland Raiders would be playing the Green Bay Packers this season. This is not an event that occurs frequently, every four years to be precise. This time the game would be hosted by Green Bay. Brian, a true black and silver Raiders fan from Oakland, and I initially decided we would have to find a bar or pub to watch the game. As we discussed this problem of logistics the genesis of an idea occurred and it hinged on one important fact. We are "respectable adults" with income.  Why go to the bar when we could actually go to the game instead. It was agreed upon as a worthy cause and we turned our hands to planning this jaunt to the Midwest. 

Our final destination
December took forever and then just showed up. An uneventful flight brought us to Milwaukee. A quick conversation with the friendly woman at the car rental got us the wheels for our northward leg up the western coast of Lake Michigan. A stop north of Milwaukee netted us butter burgers at Culvers. We arrived at our destination as the sun was setting, the sky growing a deepening shade of pink.

Green Bay is a pleasant Midwestern town on the shores of Lake Michigan, cut through by the Fox River. Lambeau Field dominates the landscape, the decorations and paraphernalia hammers home the fact that the Green Bay Packers are not only the only show in town but beloved for it. For a lifelong Packer fan though, the trip to Lambeau Field is the hajj to Mecca. Curly and Vince are the saints of Packer fandom standing before the entrance of the one's namesake and where the other fashioned a team and lead them to halcyon days. All fans have their totems, but for Packer fans 1265 Lombardi Avenue is their crown jewel.  

Lambeau Field is a cathedral to Packers football and many Packers fans take pride that they have a stake in the team. The cynic in me lauds the fact that the Green and Gold propaganda machine is in full force to reinforce the believers and proselytize to the unwashed. Even Brian, the diehard Raiders fan, found  it impressive. We meet up with Justin (commenter JZee1) and his family and for ten dollars each we toured through the Packers Hall of Fame, a celebration of past and current glories and Packer greats. A view of the four Lombardi trophies in the sanctum of the Hall of Fame concluded our visit for this day. 

It was dark outside when we walked in.
Instead of retiring to Curly’s Pub, the bar /restaurant located at the stadium, the group headed across town down by the river to Titletown Brewing Company. A former railway depot right located by the still functioning railroad it has been repurposed as a brewery and restaurant. For the last month leading up to this weekend I had been looking forward to visiting this establishment. In particular one beer had captivated my imagination, the RooSession Ale, due to my fondness of English style bitters and I couldn't wait to try it.

When we arrived at the brewery the place was packed with Packer fans and locals, with a waiting time of two hours for eating. Fortunately the bar was open and we quickly sidled up to it and ordered our first round, me asking for the coveted RooSession ale, Brian an Expect the Wurst Amber, and Justin a Hopasaurus Rex IPA. Our barman, sporting a green Clay Matthews jersey, quickly filled several perfect pints with our selections. The RooSession Ale was off a nitro pour, it was creamy, drinkable, with a slightly bitter tea aftertaste. I wasn't disappointed, but it would turn out to not be one of the evenings beer highlights. 

We quickly fell into conversation about the pros and cons of our respective selections, the joy and insanity of hops, and our favorite beers. Eventually a table cleared and we were seated. I ordered an elk burger which would come to haunt me over the course of the next twelve hours, but it was excellent while eating it. The piece de resistance though was the giant baked pretzel. This thing was enormous but still incredibly tasty with a crispy outer crust and chewy inside. Perfect for soaking up the pints we had already put down. 

We didn't quite make it through the draught board, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Among the three us beer drinkers we did sample most of the draught board. Standouts for the evening included the Hopasaurus Rex, Dark Helmet Schwartzbier and St. Norbert’s Abbey Ale. We departed the brewery with full stomachs and a thirst mostly quenched but Brian and I made one final stop at a small market to pick up to sixers of Capital Brewery’s Winter Skal and Wisconsin Amber to tide us through for the rest of the evening. Game day was tomorrow. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beer Links brought to you by poutine!

I brought cheese curds back from Wisconsin
and will be enjoying poutine tomorrow night!
Beer links for the week of December 12! Brought to you by Poutine

In the news!
Allies Win the War: A beer for the greater good? (Washington Post) This sounds delicious. I'm going to have to track this down and review it. Love the design! 

Herald beer experts talk home brewing (Newcastle Herald) Insights from the Australians on making your own.

Wine soars as beer goes flat (Sydney Morning Herald) Interesting article on Australian consumption of alcohol. Beer consumption is down, but I think the stats are slightly misleading. A couple of good points on craft beers.

The 12 Beers of Christmas ( I like Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan, somehow I have to convince my mother-in-law that she needs to spend a day driving down from Nashville to get a growler of this Ginger Jaque.

Alleged Beer Thief to Fairfield PD: 'You Got Me' (Fairfield Patch) When are we going to get a better class of beer criminal? I want to see the write up for the guy boosting Chimay. 

Sunday beer distribution hours extended (The Daily Pennsylvanian) I always love seeing vestiges of prohibition wiped away. 

Beer is a serious business at Glendora liquor store (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) From lotto tickets to an awesome selection of brew. I think we need to get Jeremy to check this place out!

Beer shipments to slide for 7th straight year  ( The earthquake and tsunami did a lot of damage to the big brewers in Japan. I need to get smarter though on their craft scene. 

Cuyahoga County loans nearly $1 million for beer, stone companies ( Cheers to Fat Head Brewing success. I would love for more communities to recognize the value in local breweries. 

In site news!
Tomorrow you can expect a write up of our Lambeau adventure, on Wednesday another holiday beer is reviewed, (If you have recommendations let us know in the comments) Thursday is more commentary, and on Friday To the Lab returns! 
As always you can follow us on Twitter: @beerfellows We have also started using the Untappd App, username beerfellows. See what we're drinking there!

Once again thanks for stopping by!