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Chocolate – It’s All About The Stout!

Okay, okay, I know that this is a WINE blog, but I drank a beer today that was just so darned good that I had to tell you about it.

Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout is one heck of a beer! It is the most “chocolatey” stout I’ve ever had, and I mean that in a GOOD way. This beer is almost sweet, with a creamy mouthful and some vanilla and coffee flavors to add to the chocolate. It is well balanced and has a long finish. Some beer drinkers may think that it’s too much, but I really love it.

This stout is brewed with well water from the brewery’s original well, which was sunk back in 1758.  Samuel Smith brews in traditional coppers and uses stone Yorkshire Square vessels for fermentation.

Samuel Smith Brewery is located in North Yorkshire where my ancestors are from! Now maybe that makes me a little partial, but I don’t think that is the reason I enjoy this stout so much! I think it’s because they make some delicious beer. Who knows, perhaps some of my long lost relatives even help with the brewing!

To check out Samuel Smith Brewery’s website, click here:

Looking for Beer in Orlando?

Living in Florida makes winery visits a travel adventure. Okay, we have fruit wines here. We even have a few wineries utilizing hybrid and muscadine variety grapes, which I really do need to check out sometime. A visit to wineries using the Vitis vinifera varieties that I so love, however, requires either a plane ride or a long road trip.

Brewery visits, on the other hand, can be made in abundance. Nice and close to home for me is The Crooked Can Brewery, only about a 15 minute drive from my house. And the beer? Pretty darned good!

Located in Winter Garden, Florida (a suburb of Orlando), Crooked Can isn’t the only show in town. Winter Garden is turning into quite the spot for food and beverage.

Plant Street Market in historical downtown Winter Garden is home to a fun array of shops, restaurants and this fun spot to drink. It reminds me a lot of a very clean, mini version of Pike Place Market in Seattle, without the fish throwing! Some of the many vendors include a bakery called Euro Bake World, a great coffee shop Axum Coffee, a pretty flower shop called E Fusion Botanical and the wonderful Market to Table Cuisine, where one can purchase fresh cooking ingredients and products to take home! I bought some truffle artichoke dip, leek & truffle premade soup, maple pecan butter, an Italian marinade and more!!!!

But I digress. I’m here to talk about the beer!

We started out having their Chocolate Stout. It was my favorite of the day, but actually seems more like Coffee Stout. I really like it though. It is brewed in collaboration with Axum Coffee Shop (mentioned above) by using a variety of their coffee beans. It is a deep colored stout with lots of coffee flavors and a bit of cocoa powder on the palate. With only 5.1% alcohol, I could have had another!

Instead, after finishing off our glasses of Stout, we decided to order a flight. I love their flight presentation, using an “airplane” to carry the small glasses of beer.

Our personally selected flight included:

Domestic Bliss – This is a Belgian style Ale with a beautiful golden color and a wonderful rich and creamy mouth feel. There is lots of spice on the palate, especially clove! I really enjoyed this Ale. This goes down very easily, but at 9.5% alcohol, beware of how many you order if you’re driving!

McStagger Imperial IPA – This is a Double IPA with grapefruit galore on the palate. I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s 9% alcohol, so again, drivers beware of too many!!

Cloud Chaser Hefeweizen – This German style wheat beer has some fruit and spice, along with a bit of a medicinal Band-Aid essence on the palate. My husband liked this one a lot, and at only 5.3% alcohol, drink away!!!!

Stout – This is another deep colored Stout with lots of coffee on the nose and palate. I really liked this beer, but still preferred the Chocolate Stout. This has 6.7% alcohol.

Crooked Can Brewery is a really fun place. We’ve been here a few times now. We often sit outside on their huge patio listening to live music while hanging with friends. They also have a service window from the outside, which makes it very convenient and easy to grab another brew.

Oh, and if you prefer cider, they have that too!!!!

For more information, check them out here:


2007 Sprecher Barley Wine (A Beer For Your Wine Cellar!)

I’m obviously a huge wine lover, but I’m a beer lover too! I’ve been all over the world tasting wine, but I also drink a lot of beer along the way. I’ve tasted wonderful beers in Belgium, France, Italy and Germany, but my favorite beer in the world comes from right here in the good ‘ole U. S. of A.!

Sprecher Brewery is located in Glendale, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee) and was founded in 1985 by former Pabst employee Randal Sprecher. They make an award winning Root Beer, as well as many other sodas. They also make some fabulous award winning beers, with my favorite being their seasonal Dopple Bock, which is only released in the winter. Since this is a wine blog though, I thought that I’d talk about their Barley Wine. Okay, so it’s not wine, but it’s REALLY tasty!!!

I buy a couple cases of beer at their brewery whenever I get to Milwaukee. A few years back I bought a few bottles of the Barley Wine brewed in 2007 and stored them in my wine cellar. I pulled out the last one yesterday to enjoy with Sunday football. It currently has a golden orange, copper color. On the nose are caramel, butterscotch and some Christmas spices. The palate has the caramel and spices, along with sweet burnt brown sugar and toffee.  It tastes a bit oxidized, but not in a bad way. It is almost like Sherry. My husband made me share, and we both really enjoyed it.

Although not widely distributed enough for me, some of Sprecher’s beers can be found out there. I’ve found their Oktoberfest, Mai Bock, Abbey Triple and Black Bavarian at Total Wine here in Orlando. I also find them at a few brewpubs in the area. Luckily I’m headed to Milwaukee this week, so I’ll be stocking up on some of my favorites!

The next time you’re anywhere near Milwaukee, put a visit to Sprecher Brewery on your list of things to do. They have tours and tastings too, but you’ll need a reservation for those. Be sure to get directions or put it in your GPS, because you’ll be surprised to find that it’s located in a residential neighborhood!

Meanwhile, if you see Sprecher anything at your local retailer, grab it.  I have a feeling that you’ll love their beers as much as I do!

Here’s their website:

Gäubodenvolksfest, Bavarian Beer Festival Extraordinaire!

It’s that time of the year!  Oktoberfest celebrations are happening all over the U.S. and the world.  Of course, the most famous of all beer celebrations occurs in Munich, Germany.  Every year more than 6 million people from all over the world attend this Bavarian fair.

Second only to Oktoberfest is Gäubodenvolksfest, a beer and folk festival held every year in the Bavarian city of Straubing, located about an hour and a half northeast of Munich.  The locals and critics alike claim this festival to be more authentically Bavarian and much friendlier than the famous Oktoberfest.  Much of the reasoning behind this is that the festival in Straubing is full of locals, not the hordes of tourists from around the world who descend on Munich each year.  And that’s exactly what my husband and I, along with a friend, discovered while visiting Germany this summer.

Maximilian I Joseph, the King of Bavaria, founded Gäubodenvolksfest in 1812 as an agricultural festival.  Today it is held every year in mid-August and lasts 11 days. The festival has upheld it’s traditional character beautifully.  Only beers from Straubing and the district Straubing-Bogen are allowed to be served.  Several huge beer tents are packed to the brim with people wearing the traditional Bavarian garb.  Men and boys wear Lederhosen, the leather trousers with suspenders.  The women and girls are seen in the Dirndl dresses, with the wide, long skirts and a corsage, along with a puffy white blouse and a colorful apron.  We were thankful that there are some locals who attend in contemporary apparel, as we had no Lederhosen or Dirndl for ourselves!

There are six different tents, each sponsored by a different beer, which is served in that respective tent.  We started early in the afternoon, grabbing a beer and some food.  I had a big, traditional Bavarian pretzel, and my fellow travelers enjoyed their bratwurst and sauerkraut.  Here we enjoyed a very traditional Polka band.  It was early in the day, but people were drinking and dancing and having the time of their lives.  The servers were carrying huge amounts of food on long trays, or a fistful of gargantuan mugs of beer!

We kept moving from tent to tent, drinking the beer, toasting our fellow partiers, and listening to great bands.  They even had an all girl polka band called Hexen!  My husband and our friend especially enjoyed them!

As the beer flowed, our fellow partiers were delightfully friendly to us and included us in on the fun as we stood on our benches and exclaimed “Prost” as we clinked our humongous one liter glass steins with theirs and looked them in the eyes, as is custom in these parts!

Of course, I had to try one of the offered wines.  Well, I should say that I had to try the one offered wine!  It was a 2010 Müller-Thurgau from Franken.  This wine region is at the edge of northern Bavaria and is not known for elegant and complex wines, as are other parts of Germany.  The weather is habitually severe and this region often suffers from spring frosts.  The amount of fruit is frequently very limited from year to year.  Their wine is well loved by the Bavarians, though, and little gets to the United States.

One thing that Franken DOES have that no other wine region has is the bocksbeutel.  This is the squat, plump vessel in which Franken wine is bottled.  Literally translated, “bocksbeutel” is a goat scrotum!

I finished my wine and went back to beer!  We drank.  We clinked and shouted Prost!  We danced with new friends!  And then we walked back to our hotel!

If you’d like to visit the “real deal” Bavarian fair and beer festival next year, check them out at:

And remember; book your room early so you won’t need to drive!

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