Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crank Arm Brewing

In my short time in Raleigh, Crank Arm has become one of my favorite breweries.  I have made a few stops here, including for their 1 year anniversary party this past August, and it's always a great time.  My girlfriend and I did the tour for the first time this past Sunday, to kick of Triangle Restaurant Week.

Crank Arm is located in downtown Raleigh, right in the heart of the Warehouse District.  Mike Morris, one of the co-founders and brewer, gave us the tour.  Mike gave us some great insight into the brewing process, having been a professional brewer for 16 years.  Crank Arm is not a big space (we stood in one spot for the entirety of the tour), but can pump out a ton of beer.

Some of my favorite beers in the Triangle come from this brewery, including the Unicycle Single Hop Pale Ale.  Each time the Unicycle is brewed, they use a different hop.  This time, it was Exp 342.  Unicycle is always good, and it's cool to see how using a different hop changes the beer, while keeping the other ingredients consistent.  My girlfriend had one of my favorite stouts, Motivator, that uses Videri cocoa nibs Cafe de los Muertos dark roast coffee.  She also tried two others that she really enjoyed: the Icycle and Beetaway.

(Photo cred to blrea)

While many breweries and bars in the Triangle host run clubs (such as Big Boss), Crank Arm has a bike club.  I've never attended as I'm not much of a biker, but from their online posts it seems to get a great turnout.  Crank Arm doesn't serve food, but it is very close to some great spots that you can order from.  They have menus inside for the nearby restaurants.

On January 22 at 2:22 PM, Crank Arm released a 9 month old Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, that I was able to get a hold of.  More on that later.

As mentioned in the captions, the first two photos are from Jill Knight of the News & Observer.  You can read the full article here.

319 W. Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Church Brew Works

This post is long overdue.  While up north for the holidays, my girlfriend and I stopped at one of the coolest places in Pittsburgh, just a few blocks from where I used to live, the Church Brew Works.

One of the most popular breweries and restaurants in general in Pittsburgh is located in the neighborhood of Lawrenceville in an old church and has been operating since 1996.  The history section of their website gives an extensive background.  Obviously, I love it for the beer.  But one of the great things about Church Brew Works is it draws people of all ages and interests because of their great food and unique setting.

On this day I had the Coffee Stout.  A solid coffee stout but not as rich and thick as I would like.  My girlfriend had the Pipe Organ Pale Ale on Sriracha cask.  We had the pierogis for an appetizer.  I've had many pierogis in my day, most for pleasure and a dozen or so for competition, and these were good.

The Church Brew Works have an extensive list of beers they make.  Something I always liked about them was they seemed to be really involved in the craft beer community in Pittsburgh.  Whether it be a festival, Pittsburgh Craft beer week, or hosting Pittsburgh MASH with Brooklyn Brewery, Church Brew Works was always there.  If you're visiting Pittsburgh, it should be near the top of your list.

3525 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Running in 2015

I think about running far more than I think about craft beer, but up until now that has not translated into more blog posts.  In fairness, you can practically stumble in any direction here in the triangle and land in a brewery (I often do).  An easy post to start off would be what I want from running this year.

Except for a short hiccup along the way, I have been running fairly consistently for the past 8 years since I took that first step at cross country practice when I was 15.  When I started grad school, I stopped racing.  I kept running, but it was hard for me to keep a consistent training schedule and just couldn't commit to a race.  I put the miles in, but had very sporadic workouts, long runs, etc.  It's a lame reason, but I was just content with staying in shape until school was over.

School is now over.  In 2015, I want to race.  I'll start off with a 5k, and if I can get into a consistent schedule and build up my miles, hopefully a half marathon.  At the moment, I'm at roughly 30-35 miles a week on 6 days.  I feel pretty good about my fitness level.  I typically average around 7:00-7:10 per mile for a 4-6 mile easy run, but I have not been doing workouts and am not in racing shape.  I work 12 hour shifts on weekdays and often run after work on those days, but it's been tough to get a consistent schedule.  With my two-week schedule at work, it may be easier for me to run 7 days one week and 5 the next, so I think that is something I'm going to try.

I don't have strict goals for this year, but I probably should.  For now I'm aiming at averaging as close to 6 days per week as I can, building to a consistent long run of 10+ miles, building to 50 miles per week, and racing.  Here we go.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sub Noir Brewing Company

Last night my girlfriend and I headed over to Sub Noir Brewing Company for the first time, while also meeting some of the 919 beer crew.  The 919 Beer Team is a group dedicated to "building, engaging, educating, and resourcing the local craft beer community" here in the 919 area code.  Their website, social media accounts, and events have been a great way to get involved in the craft beer community, especially for someone like myself who has only been here since June.  This past September, they organized Beericana, one the most fun and best run beer festivals I have attended.  They also have a podcast that I really enjoy.  Each month they hold an event called Taste the Triangle.  The January event took us to Sub Noir Brewing Company.

For $10, you got a tour, a pint, and a glass to take home.  The owner/brewer and his wife gave us some great insight to how this place got started, and answered many questions from the crowd.  Sub Noir is tucked in a small office space off Wake Forest Rd, with all the brewing done in-house.  The owner described his brewing setup as "homebrewing on steroids."  They are in the very early stages with no bottling and very little keg distributing, but expansion is already in the works.  They have acquired the office space next door to open their tap room up, and mentioned they hope to have some kind of distribution by this summer.

As far as the beer goes, my first pint was their D-Bag Double IPA.  It was a very solid DIPA, but for being listed as 100+ IBUs, I was expecting more of a punch from the hops.  It had a nice sweetness to it to balance it out.  My girlfriend had the Eccentrica Ginger Tripel.  Finally, I tried the Zee Count, a chocolate stout brewed with Count Chocula and aged on Videri cocoa nibs.  I'm a sucker for Halloween cereals so naturally I was drawn to this beer.  I will pay literally tens of dollars for a Frankenberry beer.  On second thought, there is no way that wouldn't be a disaster.

(photo cred to blrea)

Taste the Triangle was a great opportunity to get an inside look at a local brewery, while meeting some new friends as well.  We tapped out a little early to see the Wolfpack fall short against the Tar Heels.  Sub Noir is a unique place and a great addition to the craft beer scene here in the triangle.  The brewer mentioned his favorite style is sours and that's what he hopes to expand on in the future.  I always like to hear when brewers put the most effort into brewing what they enjoy, not necessarily what they think they can sell.  I'm looking forward to see what they do with expansion in distribution in 2015!

2039 Progress Court
Raleigh, NC 27608

My "running and beer" blog now is about 99% beer.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blue Mountain Brewery

While traveling up north for the holidays, my girlfriend and I made a visit to Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA.  This brewery happened to be right on the route we were taking, so it was a convenient stop.  This brewery being right off our route had nothing to do with me choosing this route.  I swear.  The restaurant had a decent crowd for Christmas Eve, with several other travelers thinking like we did.

First off, the space is huge.  The have tons out outdoor seating with beautiful views.  Inside is very large as well, except for the bar.  It wasn't bad on Christmas Eve, but on a normal day I can imagine it's not easy grabbing a seat there.  I'm not familiar with the area, but it seems to be in the middle of nowhere.  I read some Yelp reviews beforehand, and it seems like the place is always packed.  I can't imagine it has much competition.

To go along with our beer tasting, we ordered some pretzels and cheese, the perfect compliment to a flight.  The flight gave us ten 2.5 oz samples of beer.

Of the ten, I was least impressed with the Euro Lager.  A very light body, some bitterness, and an easy drinker.  To me it was a standard Euro lager, but just not really my style.  My favorite of the day was the Barrel Aged Sensible Mole.  It started with some malt, a bit of hops, and a great flavor from the bourbon.  Very smooth and balanced.  My girlfriend, who is typically not a fan of the big barrel-aged beers, enjoyed this one.

(Photo cred to blrea)

It was a fun afternoon in Afton, VA.  Being that this is such an easy stop on the trek to PA, I'll probably be back again.  I occasionally see some beer from Blue Mountain here in Raleigh.  Overall, I'd say their lighter beers (Kolschs, pale ales, etc.) have been pretty average for me.  On the other side, I have really enjoyed several of their bigger, darker beers (Sensible Mole, Dark Hollow, and Nitro Porter).

Blue Mountain Brewery
9519 Critzer Shop Road
Afton, VA 22920

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top Beers of 2014

The year of 2014 was the year of beer for me.  I traveled to several bars, breweries, states, and more, unlocking probably a few too many badges on Untappd along the way.  After a year like this, a lot of the average beers star to blend together.  I remember each of these 5 like it was yesterday.

5. 2011 Southern Tier Bourbon Barrel Backburner
The first great beer of 2014 came very early in the year for me, on January 10th, at my favorite bar in Pittsburgh (Caliente Pizza & Draft House).  It was a packed house with brewery reps on site for this special event.  It was malty, slightly hoppy, some brown sugar, and the bourbon heaviness punched you right in the face.  The regular Backburner is 14.1% ABV.  This special tapping was bourbon barrel aged since 2011, with a higer ABV.  Thus, my love for bourbon barrel aged beers began.

4. Voodoo Cowbell Imperial Oatmeal Milk Stout
It's a shame that it took me so long to get to such a great brewery only 45 minutes from where I went to grad school.  I finally made it this past May and I was not disappointed.  The brewpub is an interesting place to say the least, with wooden doors hanging from the ceiling and red vintage refrigerators.  This nitro poured jet black and tasted of milk chocolate, coffee, some sweetness, and was extremely balanced.  This is the best stout I've ever had.

3. Troegs Nugget Nectar
People go crazy for this beer in PA.  There was a ton of hype for it in Pittsburgh, and when I finally got my hands on it it became my favorite beer until these next two came along.  Classified as an "American Amber / Red Ale" on Beer Advocate, this is clearly not your average amber.  It balances a nice malt background with the IBUs comparable to that of a DIPA.  Great beer.

2. Wicked Weed Freak of Nature
I never had a chance to taste their beers up north, but I often heard a lot of hype about a relatively new brewery from Asheville that was exploding in popularity.  The hype is real.  I grab Wicked Weed at every chance I get now that I live in North Carolina.  They don't make a bad beer.   This west coast IPA blew me away when I first had it this past September.  Huge citrus and hops that are perfectly balanced.  It was very hard for me not to put this at #1.

1. Fat Heads Hop Juju
Although Wicked Weed has a strong claim for my favorite brewery, I've only been having them since this past summer when I moved to Raleigh.  Fat Heads quickly became my favorite brewery this past year living in Pittsburgh, visiting the saloon in Southside many times, and for now will keep the title.  A seasonal DIPA that I unfortunately will not be able to get in North Carolina.  Lots of citrus, hops, some sweetness, and very drinkable considering the ABV and IBUs.  Drink two at your own risk.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Beer of the Month - December 2014

I had many solid beers during this last month of 2014, but nothing blew me away.  Looking back on Untappd, I gave one beer a 4.5.  A couple weeks ago over in Durham, I enjoyed Bull City Burger and Brewery's 2013 Bourbon Barrel Aged Snow Hill Winter Warmer.  It may be easier to list all the ingredients in the beer than to type that out.  The draft list described this as an American style barley wine with higher IBUs than normal.  I'm typically not a barley wine fan, but I really enjoyed this beer.  Bull City really nailed this one with the hops, spices, and bourbon flavor.

(Disclaimer: Not my pic)

I've been to Bull City a few times now and I really enjoy it.  The food, the atmosphere, the beer, it's always a great time.  I haven't done the tour yet, but I will have to sometime soon.

Rate: 4.5/5