Monday, November 30, 2015

Ballast Point KC! Launch Events Today!

Ballast Point! In KC! I thought this day would never come.
I had the Ballast Point Sculpin IPA fresh in San Diego about a year ago and it changed my whole outlook on IPAs. In my opinion, it perfectly embodies the new world tropical hop character that so many brewers try to pull off these days. It's got that super fruity hop aroma typical of the New Zealand and Australian hops with lemon, grapefruit, mango, apricot, and peach characteristics. At the same time, it's got a solid floral fresh hop backbone and a solid balance. Bitter, but not make you cringe bitter like some of the SD IPAs.

At the time I had it, it was probably in the top 5 IPAs I had ever tasted. I kind of assumed that we wouldn't ever get Ballast Point in town, but now Central States is doing me a solid and they're bringing BP to KC! And it's happening today! There's four launch events today:

11am - Martin City Brewing Co
3pm - Green Room Burgers & Beer
4:30pm - Barley's Brewhaus Midland 
6pm - Tapcade

At each of the events they're going to be taping:

Sculpin IPA
Grapefruit Sculpin IPA
Calico Amber Ale
Big Eye IPA

In addition to the tappings, the brewers will be on hand at Barley's at 7pm for a meet and greet. So go show them some KC love and make this gloomy day brighter with some of the best IPAs in the world!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fest Report: Strong Ale Fest 2015

Strong Ale Fest shockingly focuses on strong ales. I'm just now getting around to writing this review because I'm still hungover. Just kidding. Sorta. This fest is one of the good ones, folks. The people at Beer KC have these fests down to a science at this point. Read below to see the details and what I thought were the best beers of the festival.

Not Beer
Organizationally, the festival is great. From the beginning with checking IDs early to speed up the line, to plenty of porta potties for the eventual urge to pee, things just go well. There's plenty of space for lines to form with Pennsylvania Avenue between McCoy's and Kelly's providing the venue for the festival.

At $40 for tickets ($50 at the door) this festival is about average for a beer festival. Value is good because the line-up features some nice obscurities. Perennial, for instance, brought 2 beers that hadn't been in the KC market before. You won't find any out of market options, but most of the breweries who bring their A game. Lines are very manageable, and for nearly the entire festival, you beers were available with little to no waiting. There was still tons of delicious beer available when the festival ended, too.

Best in Show
This one wasn't hard for me. Perennial brought their Maman aged in Evan Williams 23 year barrels. Maman (which means mom in French) is the base for Perennial's excellent adjunct stouts, like Abraxas and 17. They throw it in barrels, because who doesn't love a good barrel-aged imperial stout? This variant of Maman was a bit more thin than the regular, but I didn't mind.Honestly, Maman is such a thick beer, that the slightly thinner body might be an improvement. This beer created the only line in the entire festival, and was a good 50 to 75 people long at some points. However, despite the line, in what may be the greatest gift ever given mankind, this beer lasted for just over 2 hours. I might have been responsible for drinking over 20 pours.

The runner up wasn't hard, either. 2nd Shift brought Coffee LSD with Kenyan Karimikui coffee. When pouring at the festival, the beer was only 2 or 3 days old. An already great beer, the addition of coffee makes it fantastic. I need more of this in my life.

Running out of the sought after beers is just a fact of beer festivals. This is a new category I'm adding to highlight some under the radar beers that make it to the end of a festival. For this fest, I was drinking Cinder Block's Imperial Coffee Hop'd with Cocoa Nibs at the buzzer. This imperial brown has a ton of coffee in it. The cocoa is barely noticeable with the amount of coffee, but I'm not complaining. This is a coffee forward beer, and I'll gladly guzzle it down.

Check out a few photos on our Facebook page below.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bourbon Co Pig Roast at the Belfry

Instead of competing with the deal-crazed maniacs trampling each other to get 25% off some electronics they don't need anyways this Friday, might I make a suggestion: 

And short of that, just go get yourself some BCBS and chill at home and watch the mayhem on TV.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thankful for Beer

After Oktoberfest, which isn't really a nationally recognized holiday (yet), I think Thanksgiving may be the greatest holiday in America. I would go with Christmas, because, well, Christmas is awesome, but it's not really a holiday that everyone can celebrate. (I mean, everyone could celebrate Christmas, but I imagine it makes non-Christians feel a bit strange. Of course, it's really just a winter solstice celebration re-appropriated by the Church to appease those wild Saxons anyways...)

Thanksgiving is not a religion-specific holiday, not particularly patriotic or nationalistic, and not specific to any group of people. Because of this, I think we can all agree that Thanksgiving is awesome. You'd have to be a pretty hardcore cynic to disparage being thankful for stuff. Also, eating and drinking too much and being with family (maybe too much also). And here's the other reason Thanksgiving is awesome--it's the perfect holiday for beer.

There are several reason for this--first is that Thanksgiving food doesn't really lend itself to pairing with wine or cocktails. It can be done, but beer provides a much better compliment to the food on the turkey table. Being a bit liquored up also helps you to take your crazy uncle's conspiracy theories in stride (yes, we all have one). Of course, Thanksgiving is an all day drinking affair, which is best managed with beer. And the final, and possibly best reason you should be drinking alcohol regardless of the vehicle--it helps keeps you from overeating so damned much. I shit you not--drinking alcohol with a meal has been scientifically proven to make you feel fuller for longer, reducing the chance that you're going back for that third slice of pumpkin pie. Or pecan pie. Mmmmm....pecan pie.

Santa Fe Java Stout
The point is, we need alcohol to manage this great holiday, and beer is the best fit. I, for one, will most definitely need to stay liquored up all day. In fact, I might need to stay in a constant state of inebriation for the next week. We're hosting Thanksgiving at our house for the first time ever, and 25 people are showing up (that we know of). Compound this with a sick 11-month old baby who is at home projectile vomiting as I write this, and the stress levels are running high in the Aber household. Regardless, Thanksgiving will be great.

Now, if you don't already have your beer plan mapped out, allow me to humbly present my strategy:


I need to have a buzz on before all the people start showing up, but I'm also going to need a morning pick-me-up, so I'm starting with some coffee imperial stout. My go-to these days for a great, reasonably priced, and easy to find coffee stout is Santa Fe Java Stout. It's the perfect breakfast beer. Of course, there's tons of other options out there, and if I was rich and had a personal assistant (or the ability to plan more than 3 days ahead), I would probably be drinking Prairie Bomb! or Epic Big Bad Baptist for breakfast. But that clearly isn't happening at this point this year.


Ba ba black sheep, have you any beer?
I'm probably going to start my dinner off with something rich and dark, but not overly sweet or heavy. I haven't made up a mind on what beer exactly this is going to be, but I love American Brown Ales and Schwarzbier for the task. They perfectly compliment the turkey table food flavors, and they have a balanced, dry finish that's going to keep you going. My favorite browns around are Avery Ellie's Brown, Civil Life Brown, and 4-Hands Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown. If I'm going with Schwarzbier, it's got to be Uinta Baba Black Lager.

Dinner--Second Half. 

By the time we're passing the food around for the second time, I've got to have something a little lighter if I'm going to have any hope of making it to dessert. It's got to be something spritzy and tart. Lambics are usually too sour for the task--if I took a sip of lambic after a mouthful of cranberries, my mouth might implode. So, lactic soured beers like Berliner Weisse or Gose are the way to gose. I'll probably be drinking Boulevard's Tell Tale Tart, but if I can get my hands on it, 4-Hands Preserved Lemon Gose would be badass.


If I can fit it in (haha, if), I'm going to be shoveling as much pumpkin and pecan pie in my pie hole as I can. To match these flavors, not overwhelm, and help wash it down, I like a roasty oatmeal or dry stout. The flavors compliment, but the styles aren't overly sweet so as to overload your palate. I'll probably be quaffing some Buffalo Sweat Oatmeal Stout with my pie. If there's any Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat left over, even better!
Boulevard Tell Tale Tart

Thanksgiving Day, 4pm. 

Beer doesn't pair well with naps unless you're living in a frat house. When I wake up, though, I'm probably drinking the rest of that Tell Tale Tart.

Pumpkin Beer.

I can't very well write a Thanksgiving Day post without throwing in a mention for Schafly's Pumpkin Ale. I know, I know, I may have just lost all credibility with the hardcore beer geeks, but I don't care. I love pumpkin beer, and Schlafly's is the most unabashed, in your face, pumpkin pie beer there is. It's like 8% alcohol of sweet, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin. I don't think I could really handle this beer ON Thanksgiving Day, but I'm definitely enjoying it before and afterwards. There, I said it. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

Monday, November 2, 2015

Flying Saucer Stout Week and Westport Strong Ale Festival

So I'm a little late in getting this post up. My original plan was to have this up Sunday night but from the sound of the fireworks (and what I'm pretty sure was a small bomb) along with my neighbors screaming and celebrating through the night, I didn't think too many people would be in their home browsing the web for beer news anyway.

So even though one of the events below has already started for the week, there's still plenty left in store to keep the victory celebration going all week long. I hope everyone has fun this week and can enjoy some of the festivities for the Royals victory. They had an unbelievable season and are truly deserving World Series champions. Congratulations Kansas City.

Flying Saucer Stout Week

Like I mentioned, I'm a little late in posting this but the good thing is Flying Saucer isn't hosting Stout Night. No, instead of just making an evening out of it, Flying Saucer is hosting their annual Stout Week this week. 

In my opinion, this is the best time of the year to start cracking open some of those bigger stouts you've been hoarding in your basement. I don't discriminate though. I still like to enjoy a big stout from time to time in the warmer months but with the cooler temperatures and earlier nights, a rich, robust stout is sometimes the perfect ending to a long day.  

This week Flying Saucer is going to have some pretty special beers on tap each night. All beers will be tapped at 7:00 PM and will include:

Tuesday 11/3 - Bell's Brewery Night featuring 2012 and 2014 Expedition Stout

Wednesday 11/4 - New Holland Brewing Night featuring Dragon's Milk, Coffee Dragon's Milk, Raspberry Dragon's Milk and Dragon's Milk with toasted chilis

Thursday 11/5 - Stone Brewing Night featuring 2014 and 2015 Woot Stout

Friday 11/6 - North Coast Brewing Night featuring Old Rasputin XII and XV

Also, the original plan was to have the Deschutes Beer dinner this past Sunday, but due to the Royals game it was postponed until Monday 11/9.  If you're interested in attending, contact Flying Saucer for reservations.

Westport's 5th Annual Strong Ale Festival

Beer fests can be a tricky adventure. While fun, they are not without their pitfalls. Typically you're given a 3 or 4 ounce glass to sample an unlimited amount of beer from breweries who have brought some of their most sought after releases to showcase for the event. It's understandable to lose track of how much you have consumed in that short period of time.

If you plan on attending Westport's Strong Ale festival, I would recommend pacing yourself, eating before, during and after and drinking plenty of water in order to avoid forgetting the event altogether.

This Saturday November 7th from 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM, Westport's Strong Ale festival will take place in the heart of Westport and feature over 70 beers weighing in at over 8% ABV.

Tickets will cost you $40 in advance ($50 at the door) and can be purchased here.

You may also want to break out your cowboy hat and boots (keep the spurs at home) because this year's theme is Spaghetti Western. Prizes will be awarded to the best dressed in attendance.

In case dressing up in western gear and day drinking isn't enough to persuade you to buy a ticket, just take a look at some of the beer that will be available throughout the day.

4 Hands Brewing - Ca$h Mony
2nd Shift Brewing - Brew Cocky, Coffee Liquid Spiritual Delight
75th Street Brewery
Bell's Brewery - Uberon (bourbon barrel aged Oberon), 30th Anniversary Ale
Boulevard Brewing - Saison-Brett 2014, Imperial Stout 2014, Rye-on-Rye, Love Child #5
Cinder Block Brewing - Black Squirrel, Imperial Coffee
Deschutes - The Dissident, The Stoic
Duvel Moortgat - Duvel
Firestone Walker - Double Jack, Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA
Founders Brewing - KBS, Big Lushious, Dirty Bastard, Dark Penance
Free State Brewing - Chili Mac (Owd Mac's), Cloud Hopper Imperial IPA
Goose Island - The Muddy
Gordon Biersch Restaurant & Brewery
Green Flash Brewing - Double Stout, Imperial IPA
Kansas City Bier Co - Wunderpils, Winterbock
Lagunitas Brewing - Imperial Pils, Brown Shugga'
Logboat Brewing - Imperial March, Alien Gold
Martin City Brewing - The Poitier, The Highwayman
McCoy's Public House - Tripel, Wee Willy Scotch Ale 2014, Ursa Major 2012
Mikkeller - Mosaic Imperial IPA
Mother's Brewing
Nebraska Brewing - Fathead, Barrel Ages HopAnomoly
New Belgium - Hop Stout, Rampant
North Coast Brewing - Old Stock, Brother Thelonious
Odell Brewing - Mountain Standard Double Black IPA, Russian Pirate
Perennial Artisan Ales - Maman aged in Evan Williams Japanese Blue Label 23 year barrels, Savant Blanc
Prairie Artisan Ales - Spaghetti Western
Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project - Baby Tree
Samuel Adams Brewing
Santa Fe Brewing - Chicken Killer Barleywine, Imperial Java Stout
Schlafly Beer Co - 2013 Oak Aged Barleywine, Christmas Ale
Sierra Nevada Brewing 
Southern Tier Brewing - Krampus, Creme Brulee
Tallgrass Brewing - Big Ricc, Velvet Rooster, Wooden Rooster
Torn Label Brewing - Lumber Lung, Quadjillo, Quadquila

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ruins Pub - A Review of KC's First Self-Serve Beer Bar

Ruins Pub--KC's first self-serve bar.
The Ruins Pub opened a couple weeks ago in the Crossroads at 1715 Main. It's KC's first self-serve craft beer bar. I went down to check it out just before the grand opening to get an idea of what the hell a self-serve craft beer bar is. To be honest, I figured that the self-serve part of it was going to be a silly gimmick. (I despise the self-checkout lines at grocery and hardware stores.) But in spite of my skepticism, I was surprised to find that I love the concept. More on that beer part later--first, a little background on the place.

A few years ago, Scott Kalwei was doing the daily grind as an engineer in KC. In what seems to be becoming one of our generation's American Dreams, he got fed up with the desk job, quit, and went to Europe to teach English. The plan originally was teach in Europe for a while, then go over to Asia to teach there as well. But he landed in Prague and loved the area so much that he just ended up sticking around there for a couple years.

VW Bus in the middle of the bar!
While there, Scott discovered the ruin pubs. They're essentially just bars set up in old decaying buildings and courtyards that have been neglected for decades--not unlike setting up shop in the West Bottoms or Crossroads. After Scott came back to the US, he decided to recreate his favorite kind of Eastern European hangout in KC.

The bar has the same feel as a ruin pub from Budapest--there's a VW bus parked in the middle of the bar with a table in it, all manner of weird stuff hangs from the walls and ceilings, there's a mishmash of random furniture (including a bathtub cut in half as a love seat), and a huge graffiti-style mural adorns the wall next to the bar. The bar has a feel to it that is just weird enough that it doesn't come off as silly or disingenuous.

The food is an eclectic mix to match the decor--they've got the typical Eastern European goulash, fried bread and sausages, but also street tacos and pub sandwiches. Everything we ordered was good and reasonably priced. Service was slow, but it was the first day they opened for full lunch service, so I'm sure they've ironed out any issues in the kitchen or with the servers by now.

Self-serve taps with the RFID card.
Ok, now what you're probably really interested in--the beer! Like I said, I thought it might be a gimmick, but I quickly realized that idea is awesome. How it works--you get a card with an RFID chip and a pint glass when you sit down. Take the card and your glass up to the bar, set your card in the slot of whatever beer you want, and pour away.

The system measures and charges your pours to the 0.1 oz, so you can fill up a tiny sample while you're trying to decide, or just fill your whole glass. The system ticks up like you're at a gas pump. When it's time to pay, you just hand your beer chip card over to your server. You could literally stand there and go down the line and sample every beer on tap. And the beer selection was great, so you'll probably want to get a taste of all of them.

If you're really adventurous, you could even use Ruins Pub as your very own beer blending laboratory! No, I'm not talking about making a suicide...I'm talking about real beer blending like the pros do--blending various sours to get the perfect level of tartness, blending unrelated beers like IPAs with hefeweizens or sours with stouts to create something new, or even rounding out a barrel aged beer with some fresh stuff to get it just to your liking. I really don't know of any other place, unless you own your own bar, where you could do anything like this with this many different beers at once.

The bar has 40 self-serve taps.

I do see some potential difficulties with the self-serve concept that they're going to have to work through being the first of their kind. Normally your bartender would fix you up with the perfect pour--not necessarily so with the self-serve system. If you pour a beer, and you get all foam, you're not going to want to pour off that foam to fill your glass since you already paid for it. I'm also wondering what happens if you blow a keg and the get last bit of dregs or if you get a beer out of a keg with a dirty tap line? Will there be a way to dump a beer and get the money comped back from your card if something like this happens?

The other tricky thing is to keep an eye on how much money you're spending. They give you a 16 oz. pint glass but some of the beers are priced like they should go in a snifter (and rightly so). I managed to accidentally fill my pint glass full with New Belgium le Terroir to the tune of about $12. The per-oz and per-pint prices are on the menus at the table, and the system tells you exactly how much your pour costs real-time, but even with this it's still easy to pour yourself a mighty expensive beer if you're not paying attention.

Regardless of these potential pitfalls, I thought the place was great, and will definitely be making it one of my regular stops. Go check it out and let us know what you think of the self-serve setup!

Owner Scott Kalwei. 

Yep--that's a bathtub and a wire spool.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Short Pours Week of 10/26

This is hands down my favorite week of the year. Not only do I turn another year older (which is starting to get not so great) but the week includes Halloween and the start of the World Series, which I am sure many people reading this will be watching closely. As a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, I wish the Royals the best of luck and hope they can finish it off this year with a championship. They are a fun team to watch and the pride Kansas City shows for them is unmatched from any other city I've seen. But since this a blog about beer, let's talk about some of the events going on this week to check out and enjoy a beer while cheering on the Royals.

Samuel Adams KMF Grand Cru Tour 

This week will see the return on Samuel Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru (KMF) in the Kansas City area. In case you forgot, this beer made an appearance in Kansas City around this time last year. Sam Adams hosted an online poll to determine the last city that would see the KMF tour and Kansas City blew the competition away (actually I am not sure what the final numbers were but I know Kansas City won). This year though, no voting was required as Kansas City made the cut for a stop on the tour.

If you missed out on this beer last year, do not miss it again. I was lucky enough to try KMF last year due to the generosity of Justin Kendall from The Pitch after a kickball game and it was easily one of the best beers I tried last year. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to name a beer I tried last year that I enjoyed more. 

So where can you try to get your hands on this gem this week? The list of participating bars and restaurants is below. Make sure to call ahead or check social media to see when each place plans on tapping their allocation. 

bd's Mongolian Grill
Bier Station
Blvd Tavern
Conrad's Restaurant & Alehouse
Flying Saucer
Helen's JAD Bar and Grill
Charlie Hooper's
Konrad's Kitchen and Tap House
Lew's Bar & Grill
Martin City Brewing
McCoy's Public House
Rock & Run Brewery and Pub
Ruins Pub
The Tank Room
Tapcade at Crossroads
The Well
Waldo Pizza

Odell Beer Dinner - Nick & Jake's on Main

This Wednesday October 28th at 6:00pm, join Nick & Jake's on Main as they host Odell Brewing Co for what looks to be a fantastic beer dinner.
Tickets are $40 per person. Call 816-421-1111 for reservations. If you're thinking about going, don't wait too long to get tickets as same day reservations will not be accepted.
The menu for the evening looks like this:
Welcome Beer - Loose Leaf
Appetizer - Pair with 90 Schilling - Butternut squash & ricotta ravioli with sage brown butter and shaved pecorino romano cheese
Salad - Paired with Brombeere Blackberry Gose - Kale salad with roasted Brussel sprouts, black figs, honey roasted pecans, crispy prosciutto, feta cheese and white balsamic vinaigrette
Entree - Paired with Odell IPA - Chorizo Sausage, cherries and cornbread stuffed pork chop with bourbon maple glaze and roasted spaghetti squash
Dessert - Paired with Mountain Standard Double Black IPA - Pecan pie cheesecake with creme caramel

Flying Saucer The Black Pour and Deschutes Beer Dinner

As I mentioned earlier, Halloween is this week. Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year and with it being on a Saturday this year only makes it better. Now I'm not big on dressing up or coming up with an elaborate costume but I do love watching some old horror movies (think the early Halloween movies, not the third one though, that is still one of the worst movies I have ever seen) while snacking on a few Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins and opening up some special beers for the occasion. 

Flying Saucer will be celebrating Halloween this year by hosting an event properly named, The Black Pour. 

Join Flying Saucer on Halloween night as they tap 2011 Big Eddy Imperial Stout, 2013 Black Xantus and Evil Twin From Amager with Love.

Updated Monday 10/26
Well, it looks like the Deschutes beer dinner is being pushed back to Monday November 9th now due to the World Series. We'll have more information as it gets closer.

If you don't get your fill of dark beers on Halloween night, Flying Saucer will be teaming up with Deschutes Brewery to kick off Saucer Stout Week with a beer dinner Sunday November 1st at 6:00pm. 

We'll have more on the events for Saucer Stout Week a little later, but if you are interested in attending the Deschutes beer dinner, contact Flying Saucer to make your reservations.