Review: The Traveler Beer Co. Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy

The good folks at The Traveler Beer Company present the latest in their limited edition line of shandies with Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy — a self-described “cheerful wheat beer” taking inspiration from aromas commonly associated with the holiday season. Surprisingly absent are the notes of nutmeg, dark fruits, and rye bread commonly found in holiday beers; instead they are substituted with light notes of orange and pomegranate up front. The real pleasure is in the baked cinnamon apples and faint pinch of ginger in the finish, which lingers gently for a rather long time. It’s a solid alternative to the usually bloated offerings found this time of year — like your Nana’s cooking or your uncle’s unsolicited political opinions.

4.4% abv.

A- / $7 per six-pack / travelerbeer.com

Review: The Traveler Beer Co. Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy 2017

The unofficial post-Labor Day arrival of autumn ushers in things people look forward to all summer long: college football, campfires, and everything consumable blessed with a generous infusion of pumpkin. The beer world is not immune to this trend. One trip down a local beer aisle presents a plethora of pumpkin flavored beers around this time of the year, ready for consumption in every style imaginable.

Burlington, Vermont’s Traveler Beer Company joins in the chorus with its latest offering: The Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy. The front-end is heavy with typical autumnal notes of gingerbread, clove, and little bit of nutmeg. This combo can be a bit potent on the first sips, so if a mouthful of pumpkin pie happens to suit your palate, this will do the job nicely. Over time the rough edges smooth out and there’s a splendid aftertaste of vanilla and ginger.

In a previous review two years ago, Chris found this particular offering too sweet and overwhelming. I can see where he would reach that conclusion. Perhaps the recipe has changed a bit, because as pumpkin beers go, there are far worse to be found lurking in the great pumpkin patch.

Pairs well with a dollop of Cool-Whip.

4.4% abv.

B / $7 per six-pack / travelerbeer.com

Review: Lord Calvert Black Canadian Whisky

The original expression of Luxco’s Lord Calvert didn’t exactly win over the heart and mind of our Editor-In-Chief earlier this year. Facing this new extension of the brand with mild apprehension and a chaser in tow didn’t seem too unreasonable — in fact, it was suggested in the accompanying press release. Thankfully, the good Lord bucks the trend of delivering an underwhelming experience with Lord Calvert Black.

Arriving in select markets this spring, Lord Calvert Black is a 3 year old blend offering much more caramel and oak on the nose than the original. Much to its credit, it mercifully abstains from assaulting the senses with an all-out grain invasion. The cereal and faint rubbing alcohol notes are still present on the palate, but they’re balanced out nicely by hints of sherry, vanilla, and spice. The finish is short and sweet, with vanilla and spice enduring and providing an inoffensive landing.

In the expansive and diverse world of Canadian whisky, there are offerings far more complex and enticing than Calvert Black. But this is a decent entry-level bottle for those wishing to sample something new without breaking the bank. For the four dollar boost in price, this is a more than reasonable bargain and a marked improvement over the original.

80 proof.

B / $15 / lordcalvertwhisky.com

Book Review: Whisky Rising

Obsessive Japanese whisky fans are no doubt familiar with the writing of Stefan Van Eycken via his website, Nonjatta. It was one of the first and most comprehensive resources on Japanese whisky available on the internet, and Van Eycken and his intrepid staff diligently scour the island for the rarest of bottles. They have even curated a few highly coveted limited editions of their own.

The product of over a decade’s worth of intensive research and scholarship, Whisky Rising is an immersive, nearly intimidating 400 pages of reviews, recipes, history and infographics beautifully presented with considered layout and design choices. Van Eycken’s writing style makes it easy to get lost in the rich amount of information provided. Each chapter is informative without relying heavily on the stylings of academic prose.

The biggest obstacle of Whisky Rising is the relatability of its content. Not any fault of Van Eycken’s, but the collective availability of these rare and precious bottles stateside presents a massive degree of unintended difficulty to anyone actually hoping to taste these spirits. Many of these gems only pop up via auctions or private sales. Even basic entry-level expressions are scarce in public supply, especially when compared to the availability of single malt, bourbon, and other whiskies. Demand for Japanese whisky is currently at fever pitch, and there appears to be no remedy to meet market cravings anytime in the foreseeable future. Unless reading while overseas or the beneficiary of an amazing retail resource, Whisky Rising reads less as a reference guide and more like a holiday wish catalog, future vacation planner, or adventurous bucket list.

Probably the most in-depth almanac on Japanese whisky ever committed to the English language, it is everything you would ever possibly care to know about Japanese whisky, but didn’t know to ask. Between this and Dominic Roskrow’s excellent Whisky Japan, there are few stones left to overturn. Both would serve well on the bookshelf of any hobbyist, casual or serious.

A / $25 / BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON

Review: The Fruit Ales of Redd’s

Last year Redd’s introduced as its limited edition “pick” (pun intended) a Blueberry Ale. Like all good things, it has returned for another full season along with new sidekicks, Redd’s Raspberry and this year’s limited edition, Peach Ale. Not wanting to leave the other fruity siblings out of the loop, a full flight tasting was in high order.

One thing to remember: These are not ciders. This cannot be stressed highly enough. This is beer flavored with fruit, and should not be placed in the same category as cider.

Redd’s Apple Ale – Delivering well on its promise, the brand’s flagship serves up the tartness of crisp apples with faint traces of beer notes. It’s quite light and tart with a mild bitterness, like an incredibly mild cider. Complexity is minimal, and this is incredibly straightforward; what you see is definitely what you get. It’s a nice alternative to heavier ciders or beers, and could compliment a nice cookout on the beach this summer. 5% abv. B+

Redd’s Blueberry Ale – A lovely blend of apples and blueberries on the nose, reminiscent of candies from childhood – always an enticing plus. Those two notes stay consistent throughout, with lots of sparring back and forth between the sweetness of the blueberries and the tartness of the apples. It’s pretty well balanced until the end, when the blueberry sweetness becomes a bit overpowering. In a prior review, Chris awarded this a “B” rating. I’d stand by that, and if there was a way to tone down the sweetness a touch, I’d even go one mark higher. 5% abv. B

Redd’s Raspberry Ale – Redd’s found this edition working part time at a five and dime, its boss was Mr. McGee*. It carries a wonderfully strong raspberry aroma on the nose right from the onset, with not a lot of apple accountability happening. The raspberries are front and center stage the entire time, strutting their stuff. There’s a little bit of malt peeking about, and combined with the sweetness and apple tartness, it brings out sharp notes commonly associated with ginger. This is easily my favorite of the bunch. Wouldn’t change a stroke, ’cause baby it’s the most. 5% abv. A-

Redd’s Peach Ale – Lots of lovely peach cobbler and brown sugar on the nose, with a slightly medicinal bent. The taste is supremely floral, and a bit syrupy, but not to the point of irritation like some peach-flavored ales. There’s really not much apple presence in this one, as the hops and ripe peaches go back and forth all the way to the short, punchy finish. Easy sipping, it’s just in time for the long (drinking) days of summer. Go to the country, drink a lot of peaches. 5% abv. B+

each about $8 per six-pack / reddsapple.com

* with profound apologies to Prince Rogers Nelson

Review: Mikkeller Black Hole Imperial Stout

The enigmatic minimalism of Mikkeller’s Black Hole label cleverly disguises the complexity of what lies within the bottle.

As promised, this Russian imperial stout is as dark as its gets in color, with a beautiful nose of roasted chestnuts, coffee, and dark chocolate. That perfect storm trio carries on throughout the palate with faint wisps of honey, vanilla, molasses and campfire smoke. The vanilla takes has a stronger presence in the finish, which is wonderfully long and lingering.

At over 13% alcohol it most certainly has a kick to it, and it is definitely not a beer built for rapid consumption. This one demands your full time and attention.

13.1% abv.

A- / $12 per 12oz. bottle / mikkeller.dk

Review: Country Boy Brewing Nacho Bait Habanero Blonde Ale

While Kentucky is largely known for its bourbon (and rightfully so), not much has been made of its contributions to the beer world. Breweries from around the nation travel to my old Kentucky home to pick up used barrels for finishing purposes.

That said, for the last several years there has been a quiet movement to increase the quality (and quantity) of local breweries. Like many other places around the nation, the number of startups in the area has increased exponentially over the last several years, one of which is Country Boy Brewing. We took a trip around the track with its Nacho Bait Habanero Blonde Ale.

The nose is deceptively built on notes of grass, hay, and a little bit of yeast for good measure. However, one sip and there’s a strong bite of habanero that is wonderfully relentless. There’s a beautiful onslaught of pepper and heat carrying through to the finish which leaves a bit of a tingling sensation on the throat and lips. The warmth makes for a well-balanced chili ale that’s ideal for summer’s inevitable arrival.

4.9% abv

A- / $8 per 1 pint 9.4 oz bottle / countryboybrewing.com

Pappy Van Winkle Gets Older, Releases 25 Year Old Expression

Almost three years ago to the day, we were reporting on a Van Winkle 28 year old blend lurking in the cellars of Sazerac. Sadly, this expression was never to see a full release, leaving us no choice but to remain content with thousands of articles about the 23 and 20 year old varieties and nationwide frenzy of lotteries and raffles in an effort to obtain the precious gold.

Fast forward to yesterday, when the announcement broke regarding a 25 year old Pappy coming out of the woodwork. From the press release:

Each decanter is packaged in a handmade wooden box crafted in North Carolina by James Broyhill II of Heritage Handcrafted. The lid is constructed using the oak staves from the 11 barrels that held this bourbon. The outside of the box bears a metal plaque with the Old Rip Van Winkle logo and states “asleep 25 years in the wood.”

This batch came from 11 barrels, resulting in 710 bottles overall. Buffalo Trace has put a suggested retail pricing of $1,800 per 750ml bottle, a well-intentioned recommendation which will no doubt be adhered to by non profit-minded shopkeepers lucky enough to get their anti-capitalist hands on one. It’s looking like the new Pappy has a shipping date of April, so start camping out at your local store now before it’s too late!

Review: Booker’s Bourbon “Off Your Rocker” 2016-05 and “Noe Hard Times” 2016-06

In December of 2016, Beam Suntory informed the public that enjoying a bottle of Booker’s batches in 2017 will come affixed with a price increase of an additional $40 over suggested retail, resulting in a $99 price tag. The explanation included the customary press release rhetoric of supply/demand and a reduction in release schedule from six to four times per year. The news was not met well with everyone, from consumers and critics all the way up to distributors and store buyers. Beam Suntory’s not so subtle attempt to elevate Booker’s unto the ranks of Pappy van Winkle backfired and flopped, and the company backed off weeks later. Given the recent fanfare surrounding the brand, it seemed an appropriate time as any to test drive the final two batches of 2016.

Booker’s Batch 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” – A most appropriate nickname for this expression. This is very much a “Noe holds barred” bottle, deceptively powerful for only being 6 1/2 years old. The near-65% abv is quite evident right from the nose with a nice blend of charred oak and the signature combination of vanilla and tobacco that was customarily present in the pre-nickname Booker’s era. The alcohol refuses to sit back unless you add a bit of water to the mix, which brings out dark chocolate, pepper, and a little bit of cherry. The finish is long and strong, with more black cherry and vanilla that eventually eases up over time to provide a mild relief. A big and boisterous affair, much like the bourbon’s namesake himself, if legend is to be believed. 129.7 proof. $60 / A-

Booker’s Batch 2016-06 “Noe Hard Times” – Taking the volume down from Off Your Rocker’s 11 to about 8 1/2, “Noe Hard Times” (a tribute to Noe’s highschool football nickname) has plenty of vanilla dancing about on the nose, but it’s a tad lighter on the oak and alcohol notes when contrasted against other releases in the class of 2016. A bit of toffee, burnt brown sugar and a lovely medium length finish of dark cherry and vanilla. 127.8 proof. $60 / B+

This is not the last we will see of Beam Suntory’s strategic moves regarding Booker’s. Price increases are still slated to happen gradually and will reach the higher tier price points by late 2017/early 2018. If Booker’s is your brand, it may be best to stock up now. These two would be suitable places to start.

Bookersbourbon.com

Recipes: 2016 New Year’s Eve Cocktails

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the year is over and a fresh new start awaits us all. Here are a few last minute cocktail recipe ideas for your gathering. On behalf of the staff here at Drinkhacker, we’d like to wish you a safe and happy 2017. Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet for almost a decade now, and we’d like to see you here for our 10th anniversary celebration, so where ever New Year’s Eve takes you, please celebrate responsibly!

Midori Sparkle
3 parts Champagne
3/4 part fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 part Midori melon liqueur

In a champagne flute, combine champagne and grapefruit juice. Top with Midori.

Golden Hour
2 parts Stoli elit Vodka
1 part Contratto Vermouth Bianco
¼ part Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 dashes of Orange bitters
Absinthe spray
edible gold flake garnish

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass that has been sprayed with absinthe. Garnish with edible gold flake.

The Smokin’ Churro
3 orange slices
½ oz. molasses
¾ oz. Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
2 oz. Tanteo Chocolate Tequila

In a pint glass, muddle orange slices and molasses. Add Ancho Reyes Tanteo Chocolate and ice. Shake well. Strain over fresh ice into a rock glass. Garnish with a cinnamon-sugar dusted orange slice.

Recipes: Christmas and Holiday Cocktails, 2016

It’s been quite a long year for most folks. With the end of 2016 barrelling down on us, hopefully the world will finally allow the reprieve for which most of us have patiently waited and along with it, a moment’s peace. Let us all take a few moments this season to count our good fortunes, and maybe sip a cocktail or two along the way. Happy Holidays from all of us here at Drinkhacker.

The Gingerbread Man
2 oz. vanilla vodka
1/2 oz. gingerbread syrup
2 oz. half and half
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
dash of ground ginger
rim of crushed gingersnap cookies, brown sugar and molasses

Combine gingerbread syrup, half and half, vanilla vodka with a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Rim the glass with crushed gingersnap cookies, brown sugar and molasses.

Cold Turkey
1 oz. Charbay Blood Orange vodka
1 oz. Maurin Red Vermouth
1/2 oz. cranberry Douglas Fir syrup
1 oz cranberry juice
1 oz orange juice
4 oz chai tea

Assemble all ingredients together and steam with espresso wand until hot.

NOTE: Should you find yourself without cranberry Douglas Fir syrup, you can make this without and it will be just fine. Less earthy, but fine.

Pomegranate Punch
1 orange, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 apple, diced
2 cups Sauvignon Blanc, chilled
2 cups pomegranate juice, chilled
1/4 cup apple balsamic vinegar (or white Balsamic vinegar)
4 bottles Strongbow Cherry Blossom Cider, chilled

Combine wine, pomegranate juice and Strongbow in a large pitcher or punch bowl. Add fruit and vinegar and stir to combine. Ladle the punch and fruit into smaller ice filled glasses.

Holiday Ornament (not meant for the tree!)
1 1/2 oz. Baileys Original
1 oz. vodka
1-2 oz. heavy cream
2 dashes peppermint extract
honey for ornament rim
crushed candy canes for rim
mini candy cane for garnish

Combine Baileys, vodka, heavy cream and peppermint extract into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake Well. Line the rim of clear ornament with honey and dip into crushed candy cane pieces. Funnel contents from shaker into ornament. Garnish with mini candy cane.

NOTE: You totally can do this in a glass. It’s fine.

Salt & Char Yule Nog
(Yields 12 glasses)
6 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch cinnamon
pinch kosher salt
6 oz. cognac
1 oz. jagertee
orange and nutmeg to garnish

Mix egg yolks and brown sugar. Slowly add in milk and cream. Add vanilla, salt, white sugar, cinnamon, cognac and jagertee. Whip egg whites then fold into liquid mixture. Serve in chilled glass. Top with orange zest and nutmeg.

Recipes: Thanksgiving Cocktails 2016

Once again, the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. However, this year seems a bit more unusual for those of us accustomed to having our team serve as the butt end of football jokes: the Detroit Lions are sitting atop the NFC North in first place. Here are a few recipes we’ll be putting to good use while explaining to our 92 year old grandmother why everyone is so angry at Alexander Hamilton these days.

Also, be on the lookout for our annual Holiday Gift Guide arriving in short order. (Tomorrow, actually!) Check back to get the lowdown on our giftable selections on a wide range of libations!

appleshoneyApples & Honey
1 ¼ parts Drambuie
2 parts kosher pressed apple cider
¾ part lime juice
1 sm pinch kosher salt
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 part kosher sparkling white wine (for dryer cocktail, 2 parts sparkling wine)
Garnish with thinly sliced apples and mint

Combine liquid ingredients and salt minus wine into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain over ice. Top with Sparkling wine and garnish with thin apple slices and mint.

Spiced Autumn Mimosa
¾ oz Ciroc Mango
¾ oz champagne
¾ oz fresh orange juice
1 cinnamon stick

Garnish with grated cinnamon, orange wedge and pomegranate seeds.

star-of-autumnStar of Autumn
1 ½ parts Facundo Neo rum
1 part Laird’s Applejack
¼ part maple syrup
¼ part lemon juice
apple wheel (green or Granny Smith) for garnish

Shake all ingredients with plenty of ice. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a thin apple wedge or curled apple peel.

punchHippocras Punch
4 parts white wine
2 parts Hendrick’s Gin
1 part chamomile tea
½ pineapple chopped
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 orange peels
1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small pot and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a teapot and serve hot in teacups. Garnish with pineapple, cinnamon stick and orange peel.

chicagoLast Harvest
Created by Ben Schiller, The Sixth (Chicago)

2 oz. Campari
2 oz. apple brandy
1/2 oz. Cinzano 1757 Vermouth
1 oz. Wild Turkey bourbon
1/2 oz. walnut liqueur
4 dashes of aromatic bitters

Build all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice for 15 seconds, then funnel into cocktail bottle. Drop in a small apple slice for garnish. Serves two.

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