Quaff Bros: Catching Up, Blue Melvin, and Beyond

Quaff Bros. is a gypsy beer label from Cincinnati, and now across Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. It’s been three years since my post helping you know your local brewery. There have been some changes at Quaff Bros that we’re going to get into, but rest assured, the future is bright and blue (melvin)!

Quaff Bros

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First Look at New Riff Distilling

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View of New Riff Distilling from the Party Source

On Wednesday I got to attend a media sneak peek in the newly opened New Riff Distillery. I could tell as it was being constructed that it was going to be a beautiful facility with a lot of serious investment behind it. After talking with the production manager Jay Erisman and learning about the research, planning, and science that has gone into creating New Riff, I am firmly convinced that this will be a world-class distillery and treasure for local whiskey lovers.

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500 Gallon Pot Still

The outside of New Riff is impressive, with a glass tower showing off the 60 foot column still. Inside the copper was polished and ready for photos. The large glass windows, stone walls and urban location reminded me the Town Branch distillery in Lexington but as Jay walked me through the distillery it became clear that New Riff was going to be a very different distillery than Town Branch. To start with the equipment itself is different. New Riff has both a column pot still so that they will be able to produce a variety of spirits, even adding some modifications to the traditional column still so that adjustments can be made to the distillation process at all levels. Jay pointed out over and over again little details they had adjusted or changed to ensure that they would be producing the highest level of whiskey they could. Everything from the angle of the mash tubs to the placement of the grain silos has been deliberately calculated, not just for the product they will start producing this week, but also for what they hope to be making ten years from now.

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Taking the tour with Jay Erisman

Everyone who is opening a new distillery has to create a story behind their brand. Many distilleries do this by telling you about their grandfather the moonshiner and the secret recipe he handed down. These stories are charming but often you find the facts don’t always add up when you scratch below the surface. That is why I was so impressed by New Riff’s attitude toward the outside resources they are using to get started. One resource in particular is the consultant who was instrumental in the development of New Riff, Larry Ebersold.  Ebersold is the former master distiller at the MGP distillery in Lawrenceburg and Jay repeatedly credited him for his contributions to New Riff. And speaking of that Lawrenceburg distillery, that is also the source of the OKI Reserve bourbon that New Riff will begin selling this summer. Neither of these things, hiring a consultant or bottling a sourced bourbon, are at all unusual in the world of whiskey, but it is rare enough for a distillery to even admit doing it, let alone celebrate it.

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The Doubler Room can hold up to 50 people.

Although small compared to other well-known bourbon producers, New Riff is large for a micro-distillery and even though they just opened their doors, they are planning for growth. In the meantime, while waiting for the barrels to age, you will be able to book one of their two beautiful event spaces for private events. You can also become a part of their innovative Ranger Program. Becoming a New Riff Ranger not only gives you a lifetime membership, a discount at the gift shop, and bragging rights, it allows entitles you to one personalized bottle of single barrel bourbon four years after you purchase your membership. Buy one for your friend’s wedding this summer and they can toast you with their bottle for their 4th anniversary.

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The Tower Room had a bar, outdoor patio, and can hold up to 150 people.

Needless to say, I left New Riff feeling very excited. It is great to see that our area’s distilling history is starting to be revived alongside its brewing history. And may I say, well done to Ken Lewis. Bellevue now has the country’s largest beer and spirits store with a microbrewery and a distillery all in the same location. If he can just build a monorail to take you to each location he would be the Jungle Jim of the alcohol world.

Review: Quaff Bros Big Kahuna

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Coconut beers always seem to be a disappointment to me. It always just seems to be a hint of coconut, leaving me wanting more. After drinking Big Kahuna from our buddies Quaff Bros across the river (though brewed on this side at Listermann), I can safely say that this is no longer the case. Utilizing coconut flakes, toasted coconut, and coconut oil, this beer essentially tastes like it has been aged inside of a giant coconut that previously housed bourbon.

It starts off looking like every other stout, porter, etc. in the world. The only differentiating figure looks-wise is the Coca Cola head on it; big brown bubbles. It gave me pause for a moment because I was under the impression that fatty coconut kills head retention. I guess not always. From the smell alone, you know that you’re going to be in for a treat if you’re a fan of coconut. For just about the first time I’ve experienced with a Quaff Bros beer, the barrel takes the back seat here. In the driver’s seat (and probably the passenger’s, as well) is COCONUTBourbon is in the child seat in the back and the base beer (an imperial porter for those who care), is bound and gagged in the trunk.

The taste, following this trend, is dominated by coconut, with a slight butterscotch flavor either from barrel or base beer. It’s tough to tell. The bourbon is even more muted in the flavor, though to be fair, barrel characteristics often include coconut notes, so it’s entirely possible this is getting lost. Also strange is a slight lactic twang on the finish. I have not the slightest idea what would lend this, but I don’t care for it.

The coconut here is obnoxious and somewhat reduces drinkability (in my modest opinion, of course), but that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to be obnoxious. This is a good, not great, beer, but I am happy that I have another bottle. If I’m going to buy a unique beer, I’d much rather make it a local one than one Sam has recreated from some terracotta pot in a third world country. I know there are a handful of people whose palates I respect who really enjoyed this, but I’m having a tough time putting it on the same level as Sour Grapes, Joseph, and a few other top tier Quaff beers. Maybe it’s just that I don’t appreciate coconut enough. Who knows.

There are still more than fifty bottles of this at Party Source, and if you and a buddy go in on it together, at $9.99 a bottle it won’t cost you more than buying a drink at the bar. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of coconut, you owe it to yourself to get over there and pick up the maximum of four bottles you’re allowed to buy.

P.S. In other cool Quaff Bros news, their “Corn on the Knob” will be on draft at Great American Ballpark on June 14 when the Reds take on the Milwaukee Brewers.

Review: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon

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Well, that’s a novel concept. I love me some barrel-aged beer. That’s largely because I love bourbon (the primary spirit barrels used for aging beer) and I love what a good bourbon barrel treatment will do for a beer. Oak, caramel, coconut and, of course, bourbon meld together with the base beer to make something special when it’s done right. When it’s not done well, it makes a boozy, bad beer, but that’s no different than making a subpar base beer in the first place. One such bourbon barrel-aged beer is New Holland Dragon’s Milk, a very readily-available (in both 12oz and 22oz formats) imperial stout made in our neighbor to the north (Michigan, for those of you geographically-challenged). I’m not the hugest fan of it, but it’s wide availability, small bottle format, and price point make it a good option for getting into barrel-aged stouts or for picking up when you don’t want to drop the dime or time to find something superior.

This bourbon from the same New Holland takes the concept and flips it on its head. You acquire barrels that once held bourbon and fill them with imperial stout to make Dragon’s Milk. Once you’ve filled those barrels enough times with beer (not sure if New Holland reuses barrels), then what? Break them up? Reuse the barrels for planters or decoration? Toss them? In what seems to be, at the very least, a product concept and profit maximizing burst of brilliance, they went another route. Why not – wait for it – put bourbon back into the barrels? At worst, you end up with a bourbon that isn’t affected by the prior beer in it at all and just tastes like bourbon. At best, you somehow get to impart the spirit with some characteristics of the beer and create something really unique. Either way, you get to sell it for $30.00 or so and the concept is cool enough that people will buy it (case in point: Me).

Concept aside, two important questions: how does it taste and is the beer factor identifiable? To begin with, at 80 proof, this is not a bruiser of a bourbon. My sweet spot is somewhere between 86 and 100 proof, with everything approaching and exceeding 100 to be too “hot” to enjoy straight and most things below 86 seeming too watery and dulled. This is most definitely a mellow bourbon, with no harshness or tannins from the oak present at all. You get a lot of caramel, a little corn, a little oak, a fair amount of sweetness, and some chocolate. It’s not the most complicated bourbon in the world, but it’s fun to try to pick out the impact of the beer. I’m certain that the hint of chocolate is picked up from it and I’m about 50/50 on whether the rounded edges and mellowness is due to the additional aging in the beer barrels or the fact that it’s only 80 proof. It’s definitely an easy drinker, even straight.

So, at $32.99 (Party Source), is it worth it to pick up a bottle? I’d say this: if you see it at a bar, try a pour first. If you really like it, go for it. I’m just hesitant to pay $33 for a neat concept when I live so close to Kentucky and all the variety of bourbon that entails. For that price you can buy a handful of very good single barrel bottles, including a few of Party Source’s Private Barrel Selection. I think that is a better use of money, but hey, if you have $33 bucks burning a hole in your pocket and want to give it a try, I wouldn’t argue hard against you not buying a bottle.

Footnote: In related news, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar has an event next Thursday  featuring a cask of Dragon’s Milk and the Beer Barrel Bourbon. The folks from New Holland who brainstormed the concept and made it a reality will be available for answer questions.

Westvleteren 12 release at The Party Source

From the Party Source beer newsletter. Good luck and happy hunting!

It is with great pride and joy that we are announcing the release of the highly sought after Westvleteren XII. There are very strict rules and regulations handed down by the Abbey itself on how and when you can sell as well as buy these beers. Westvleteren XII displays a score of 100 points on both ratebeer and beeradvocate. It is considered by many to be the best beer in the world, as well as the most elusive. Westvleteren was founded in 1838, and has gained national recognition for their beer, which are not brewed for normal commercial demands. The Party Source Beer Department is one of the very few lucky retailers in the US to be able to offer these beers. However, with great reward come rules. In order to be one of the fortunate, you must follow the orders handed down by the monastery. So please check all of the details below on how you can purchase this amazing six-pack that includes two Westvleteren XII glasses. Mark it on your calendar, the Westvleteren XII Gift Set will be sold online for in store pickup ONLY at 12 pm on 12/12/12.

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING POLICY:

To distribute this coveted gift set to as many as possible, sales of Westvleteren XII are limited as follows: You may purchase one gift set of Westvleteren XII and one gift set only per person / household / address. Orders that violate this policy will be summarily deleted without notice.

Sales of Westvleteren XII are first come, first serve. There is no waiting list, and The Party Source cannot hold or sell gift sets in advance, take sales by phone or in the store. We also cannot deviate from these limits for anyone. Finally, we regret that we cannot combine orders of Westvleteren XII from multiple customers. Each customer can only order his or her own Westvleteren XII Gift Set.

The Party Source is pleased to announce that the Westvleteren XII Gift Set will go on sale exclusively online (for in-store pickup ONLY, sorry no shipping) on Wednesday, December 12th at 12:00 pm EST.

 

(Updated) Rivertown Old Sour Cherry Porter to be released this Thursday (6/14)

Update (per Rivertown’s Facebook page):

“Hey Guys they do but its special request only!! You need to ask for Danny gold or visit the kiosk. It will be available online by next week.”

Per a recent Facebook post on Rivertown’s page, the previously mentioned Old Sour Cherry Porter will be available this Thursday at The Party Source. I’m not aware of where else, if anywhere, it will be sold, but you’ll be able to purchase it in person or online. Some additional info from the Facebook post:

“Old sour.cherry porter! imperial porter aged in buffalo trace bourbon barrel, aged on dark michigan cherries and wild yeast (lactobocilus delbruki). Amazing!! available at party source in bellevue ky this thursday. U can also order online atwww.thepartysource.com

“Sold in 22oz bottles only, it was aged for almost 7 months!”

“this beer was fermented with wild yeast strains, and the ”bacteria culture”, (which.should.have.been mentioned sorry) lactobacillus delbrueckii”

I’ll be picking up a couple bottles of this, price permitting. If you decide to swing by The Party Source, make sure to pick up a bottle or two of Rivertown’s newest release of their delicious Lambic as well. I’m sitting on a bottle and am just waiting for the perfect time to open it. Last year’s release was very, very good, though.


2012 Van Winkle Bourbon Release at The Party Source

I just got an an email from The Party Source announcing the release of some of the most highly sought-after bourbons in the world, the 2012 Van Winkle bourbons. The email and all details follow below in its entirety.

Dear Van Winkle Bourbon Fans,

The Party Source is pleased to announce that the full line of Van Winkle whiskeys will go on sale Friday, May 11th, at 8:00 a.m. The whiskeys include:

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old 90 Proof
Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old 107 Proof
Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year Old Lot B
Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old 107 Proof
Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old
Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old
Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye

To distribute these coveted whiskeys to as many Bourbon lovers as possible, sales of the Van Winkle collection are limited as follows:

You may purchase one bottle of any Van Winkle whiskey. That can be any Van Winkle you choose, but only one bottle per person/household. 

Sales of Van Winkle whiskeys are first come, first serve. There is no waiting list, and The Party Source cannot hold or sell bottles in advance, or take sales by phone