August Craft Beer Report – Southern Barrel Brewing, Hilton Head Brewing, Big Ditch Brewing, White Hag Brewing, Community Beer Works, 42 North Brewing
Whether a brewery sends me a courtesy sample, I visit a brewery on a press trip, or I stop in a brewery because beer, I sample a lot of beer. Each month, I summarize my favorites in a craft beer report.
The summer has been crazy with travel, work, family vacations, and a daycare disaster which left me taking on more stay-at-home-dad duties than normal. Along the way, I dropped the ball both on my blog and my monthly craft beer report. In fact, I kind of skipped July all together (and am publishing August’s craft beer report at the end of September…). However, if you want to catch a glimpse on what I was drinking in July, check out my article The Summer of Yuzu Beers: 9 to Try Before They’re Gone on Craft Beer.
Back to August though… August found me in Hilton Head Island for a family vacation and Buffalo for a press trip. Both are small market cities when it comes to beer but are brewing some amazing ales and lagers.
Big Ditch Brewing Gin Barrel Aged Beautiful River (16 oz bottle, 6.6% ABV)
Where: Big Ditch Brewing in Buffalo, New York
Pairing: Podcast recording with brewery president Matt Kahn
Notes: Gin Barrel Aged Beautiful River is a limited production run from Buffalo’s Big Ditch Brewing in which the Belgian-style farmhouse ale is aged in bourbon barrel aged gin barrels from Tommytrotter Distillery with the addition of brettanomyces and Galaxy and Motueka hops for dry hopping. Yes, it’s as complex as it sounds. Each sip brings out a difference nuance and each bottle – depending on its age – will most likely differ slightly as the flavors blend together. Expect a heavy amount of gin notes with citrus – could be lime – topical fruit, and coconut over a strong, oaky backbone.
White Hag Brewing Beann Gulban Irish Heather Sour Ale (Draught, 7.5% ABV)
Where: Hydraulic Hearth in Buffalo, New York
Pairing: A conversation about beer
Notes: I added White Hag Brewing’s Beann Gulban Irish Heather Sour Ale to both showcase what craft beer is doing overseas and to highlight the breadth of Hydraulic Hearth’s beer list. Hydraulic Hearth serves hearth fired pizzas alongside craft cocktails and a beer menu which focuses heavily on beers from Community Beer Works, which has an onsite brewery. In addition, they also open their taps to other craft breweries both domestically and internationally like Ireland’s White Hag Brewing. Beann Gulban is a resurrected ancient Irish style ale that most resembles a gruit as heather tops, not hops, are used in brewing the ale. Following traditions of the time, the beer is fermented with wild yeast strains and bacteria for a refreshingly tart, yet floral beer. For that modern touch, the beer is aged in French wine barrels for a berry like roundness.
Community Beer Works B(Lac) Magic with Raspberries (Draught, 5.1% ABV)
Where: Community Beer Works in Buffalo, New York
With: A flight of Community Beer Works beer
Notes: B(Lac) Magic sour stout with raspberries is the perfect example of why Community Beer Works has taken the Buffalo beer scene by storm. The sour stout is wild fermented with two different strains of lactobacillus. Both dark and sweet chocolate mesh together with tart raspberries in a flavor bomb that will keep you going back for more. And, at only 5.1% ABV, there’s no excuse not to.
42 North Brewing Borderland IPA (Draught, 6.8% ABV, 72 IBUs)
Where: 42 North Brewing in East Aurora, New York
With: A flight of 42 North Brewing beer
Notes: For me, 42 North Brewing’s Borderland IPA was the most impressive IPA I drank in Buffalo. I liked it for its drinkability. Even at 72 IBUs, the hops weren’t overpowering but delivered a bouquet of citrus, mango, pineapple, and hints of peach fuzz on the tongue. It’s the kind of IPA you can drink more than one of without succumbing to palate fatigue.
Southern Barrel Brewing Southern Helles (Draught, 5.4% ABV, 22 IBUs)
Where: Southern Barrel Brewing in Bluffton, South Carolina
Pairing: A flight of Southern Barrel Brewing beers
Notes: I was really impressed with everything both my wife and I sampled in our flights from Southern Barrel Brewing. In particular, the helles impressed me most. The beer delivered a medium malt backbone with a crisp finish. While I wouldn’t exactly call in authentic, it was more than a good domestic interpretation. Perfect for a nice helping of local shrimp and grits.
Hilton Head Brewing Tropical Lager (Draught, 4.6% ABV, 17 IBUs)
Where: Hilton Head Brewing in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Pairing: A flight of Hilton Head Brewing beer
Notes: Is this is the kind of beer that is going to get your full beer geek on? No. Then again, why does every beer you drink have to awaken your inner nerd? Tropical Lager from Hilton Head Brewing drinks exactly like it’s supposed for the humid summers of the low country. Expect a thin mouthfeel with enough citrus and tropical fruit notes to remind you of a session IPA but with a clean lager finish. Buy a six-pack, plop yourself on the beach, and quiet your inner beer critic for a little while.