I Used To Own A Record Label and Now It Might Finally Do Some Good

I tried to write this post six and a half years ago but it didn’t work out. Today, I’m gonna try to make this work. Here we go, in 2002 I released 3 EPs from bands that no longer exist and who’s members have gone on to work in offices. The first is PGS – Worth A Thousand Words. PGS tried to sound like New Found Glory, Blink 182, etc but sound more like a watered down Everclear. However, they were pretty popular and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have started the label and the singer and I are still friends all these years later and I love them.

Do you want your Pop-Punk to have more screaming? Then enter Summer’s End and their EP The Death of Celeste Blue. This band couldn’t figure out if they wanted to be Screeching Weasel or Finch so they were both at the same time. This is only a half joke Jim the clean singer in the band was actually in this weird acoustic band with members of Screeching Weasel. Fun fact we paid a crazy amount of money to make the jewel cases for this CD blue. Then the band stole over 100 CDs from me and never paid me for them. Good times.

Finally we have the most critically acclaimed of the three releases The Blind Leading the Blind a split between The Amazing Interceptors and B.O.T. I really deep down love the songs on this split, Scott Heisel of Punknews, Alternative Press, getting out of Rockford, IL alive fame gave this split a favorable review. The song Stretched Around a Dream got played multiple times a day on Sirius and XM satellite radio’s indie stations well before anyone had a satellite radio in anything but their rental car. As a bonus we left a B.O.T. song off the split called “Attention” and that song is now available here for the first time ever. It’ll cost you $1 everything else is pay what you want.

So why am I doing this? To finally recoup the money I lost? No. I don’t expect to make $5 doing this, but we keep hearing about releases never ending up anywhere digitally for one reason or another so my first goal is to preserve this thing I did almost 2 decades ago. I’ll be able to show this page to my kids and try to explain that music used to come on shiny discs and not directly into the implant in your head. My second goal is to raise some money. EVERY CENT I make from this from now until the end of November is going to the Transgender Law Center. My hope is to change the charity monthly. My third goal is maybe release some new music. I don’t have a bucket list but if I did, releasing a vinyl record would be on it. So maybe at some point I have enough money put to the side to do that and we donate a big chunk of that money to charity as well.

Thanks for reading, here’s the link. https://beminedigital.bandcamp.com

Beer in Review: 2018

I’m not going to waste much time this year with this intro paragraph. Every year for the last few years I’ve summed up my year in beer. We’ll go through some of my favorite places and breweries, my top 10 ciders of the year, and of course my top 50 beers. So lets not waste any time, thanks for reading I hope your 2018 was great and here’s to a wonderful 2019!

Best Place to Drink Beer: Denver, Colorado 

This year I finally got to go to one of craft beer’s meccas, Denver, Colorado. And everything I had heard was true. There are breweries across the street from breweries. Sick of the brewery you are sitting in? Walk 2 blocks South and you’ll find another brewery. It was a dream scenario. And the food? I hardly had any bad meals while I was there. Also, GABF is easily the best run beer festival I have ever been to. There’s absolutely zero bullshit that normally comes with a giant beer fest. Denver was by far the best place I drank beer in 2018. 

Best Brewery: Revolution Brewing

In 2017 Revolution overhauled their Deep Woods series of barrel-aged beers. The lineup was astounding, casting a looming shadow over Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout lineup. This year they knocked those beers out of the park again. Throw in the rotating League of Heroes series of IPAs, another delightful run of seasonals, and two of the best places to drink beer in Chicago and this is a crown that Revolution definitely deserves to wear. 

Top 10 Ciders of 2018  

10. The Northman – House Cider
9. Tired Hands – Frequency Illusion
8. Stem – Real Dry
7. Shacksbury – Dry
6. Angry Orchard – Understood in Motion 3
5. Angry Orchard – Newtown Pippin
4. Vander Mill – Oaked Chapman’s Blend
3. Shacksbury – Classic

Shacksbury Classic is the funkier cousin of their fantastic Dry cider. The apple flavor is a little tart before vanishing from your palate and what lingers is just a touch of blue cheese funk. They’ve recently started barrel aging this and calling it “Classic re-invented”. I need to get a bottle ASAP.

2. Angry Orchard First Flora

Angry Orchard’s First Flora moves from number 5 to number 2 on my list. Something custardy and vanilla opened up in this cider that wasn’t as prevalent the first time I had it. It is creamy and funky and just unlike anything you can get off a grocery store shelf.

  1. Angry Orchard Super Natural

I have been to five FoBABs and I have never gone back for a second pour of something. I always keep moving, trying to find the next thing. After having a decent pour of it at an Angry Orchard dinner in the Fall, I went back three times for Super Natural at FoBAB.

This Pet Nat cider is wonderfully fizzy, unfiltered, and easily the most delicious cider I drank all year. I wish I could bring a bottle of this to every party I go to and just blow people’s minds. There’s enough funk to be more interesting than 99% of hard ciders but the bottom line is that it’s approachable enough that you could use it as the jumping off point for anyone who is looking for the next step in cider drinking. And wine drinkers would fall head over heels for Super Natural. This isn’t just my favorite cider of the year its one of my favorites of all time.

Top 50 Beers of 2018

50. Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero – IPA
49. Mikerphone Brewing Mikerphone Check 1, 2 – Double IPA
48. Modern Times Fruitlands (Guava and Passionfruit) – Gose
47. Half Acre Beer Hates Astronauts – IPA
46. Revolution Brewing Fistmas – Red Ale with Ginger and Orange Peel
45. New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red – Fruit Beer
44. Penrose Barrel-Aged Vanilla Spectral – Imperial Stout
43. Solemn Oath Lu Tonic – Kolsch with Ginger, Lemon, and Lime
42. More Brewing Co. Strawberry Marbles – Milkshake IPA
41. American Solera x Cloudwater Brew Co. Pole – Double IPA
40. Collective Brewing Project Cup o Beer – Gose w/ Lime, Ginger, and Lemongrass
39. Odd Side Ales Hazels Nuts – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Hazelnuts
38. Founders KBS – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Coffee
37. Central Waters Cassian Sunset Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cinnamon, Coffee, and Vanilla
36. Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Vanilla
35. Brewery Bhavana Piglette – Grisette
34. Revolution Brewing Cafe Deth – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Coffee
33. Listermann Barrel Aged Vanilla Chickow – Imperial Brown Ale with Vanilla
32. The Bruery Vindictive II – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout with Zinfandel Grape Juice
31. Goose Island Proprietors’ Bourbon County Stout (2014 & 2018)
30. Revolution Brewing Deth By Cherries – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cherries
29. More Brewing Co. Barrel Aged Henna Karma – Imperial Stout with Cocoa Nibs, Cinnamon & Toasted Coconut
28. Founders CBS – Imperial Stout Aged In Bourbon Barrels that held Maple Syrup
27. 3 Floyds Dark Lord Chemtrailmixx – Imperial Stout aged in Rye Barrels with Cinnamon and Pink Peppercorns
26. Prairie Artisan Ales Apple Brandy Noir – Imperial Stout aged in Apple Brandy Barrels
25. Cruz Blanca Agent Pina – Saison aged in Chardonnay Barrels with Pineapple
24. Guinness Antwerpen Stout Aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels
23. Revolution Brewing Deth’s Tar – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels
22. Solemn Oath End All – IPA
21. Speciation Artisan Ales Incipient Tart Cherry – Golden Sour Ale with Cherries
20. Collective Brewing Project Doom Berry- Foudre Aged Ale with Cherries
19. New Glarus Cran-bic – Lambic Style Ale with Cranberries
18. The Bruery Black Tuesday Port – Imperial Stout aged in Port Wine Barrels
17. Brewery Bhavana Grove – Double IPA
16. Collective Brewing Project Strawberry Passionfruit – Foudre Aged Ale with Strawberries and Passion Fruit
15. The Bruery Chocolate Rain (2015) – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cocoa Nibs and Vanilla
14. Jester King Spon Muscat – Spontaneously Fermented Ale with Muscat Grapes
13. Revolution Brewing Ryeway to Heaven – Imperial Rye Ale aged in Bourbon and Rye Barrels
12. Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight – Imperial Stout with Coffee and Maple Syrup
11. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Midnight Orange – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cocoa Nibs and Orange Peel
10. Mikerphone Brewing – Mikerphone Drop DDH Pale Ale

Last year in the number 10 spot was Mikerphone Brewing’s Mikerphone Check 1, 2. This year its tamer Pale Ale pal takes over that spot. Released in 12oz 4 packs this was my go to for one of the last months I lived in Elk Grove Village. With so many hazy IPAs pushing 7% ABV and above it was nice to have the same dank, juicy quality of a hazy in a 5.5% ABV package. This beer should be their year-round flagship. I’d swing by to pick it up by the case.

9. Lagunitas Born Yesterday Unfiltered – Fresh Hop Pale Ale

I’ve been a big fan of Lagunitas’ Fresh Hop take on their Dogtown Pale Ale for years now. But they keep tweaking the formula and this year’s version is the best one yet. Born Yesterday has one of the most intense aromas of any beer I drank this year. And a commanding bitterness to match. If you’re mad at hazy Pale Ales because they aren’t bitter this beer was the perfect marriage of the old and new schools.

8. Speciation Artisan Ales Run the Joose – Foudre Aged Sour Ale with Tangerine, Passion Fruit, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, and Blood Orange

While visiting Speciation back in March I was surprised to find their tap room to be open. As far as I knew it was still a work in progress. And to be honest while I was there it still was. One of the beers on tap had the funny name Run the Joose which I would later come to find out is meant to be a “fuck you” to haze bros. Well guess what Speciation this is the EIGHTH best beer I had in 2018. It tasted like sour Hawaiian Punch. Doesn’t that sound delicious? It was! So make fun of whoever but keep making these awesome over fruited sours.

7. Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue – Pale Ale

At the end of 2017 Toppling Goliath moved production of their beloved Pale Ale, Pseudo Sue from a contract brewery in Florida home to Iowa. The first 4 pack of Iowa made Sue I brought home was the Sue I remember drinking from a bomber at my first Dark Lord Day in 2015. I was convinced that this was going to be the beer I drank the most of this year. (That honor actually goes to Solemn Oath’s Lu Kölsch) But the beer started arriving in Chicago older and older and sometimes it was hazy and sometimes it wasn’t. I kind of gave up on it. Then in the last couple months I started ordering it at bars when I saw it on tap and it took me back again. Pseudo Sue is now the best Pale Ale I can buy with ease and on a regular basis.

6. Goose Island Foudre Red – Oak Aged Red Ale

This beer has been released a few times under a few different names but over the Summer Goose finally put it into 500ml bottles and sold it at their tap room. Foudre Red is stunning. The interplay between the oak and the cherry is done better than any other cherry wild ale I’ve had before. Drinking this beer was like having Bourbon County for the first time. Or Halia for the first time. I had to slow down. Sit, sip and appreciate this beer for what it was. Lightning in a bottle.

5. Revolution Brewing Coffee Eugene – Porter with Coffee

The first time I ever went to Revolution’s brewpub this beer was on tap. It blew me away just how much it tasted like a great iced coffee. After not making it for a few years the beer returned last year, but unfortunately in a very small amount and I missed out on it. This year I was able to grab a six pack and it was exactly how I remembered it. In a year of hits for Revolution, Coffee Eugene stands above them all.

4. Goose Island Bourbon County Wheatwine – Wheatwine Aged in Bourbon Barrels

Admit it. You had ZERO expectations for Bourbon County Wheatwine. We all know the Barleywine isn’t as good as it used to be so how could the Wheatwine be any good? This beer is a showstopper. It tastes like a caramel covered grilled pineapple. Never in the Bourbon County lineup has there been as good of an example of what the barrel actually does to beer. At 15.4% ABV you should get 2 or 3 close friends together, share a bottle, and contemplate…..everything.

3. Goose Island Reserve Bourbon County – Imperial Stout aged in Elijah Craig Barrels

The winner of this year’s Bourbon County lineup is Reserve. As someone who adores Bourbon County Stout this is Bourbon County Stout turned up to 11. Something about these carefully curated barrels took everything I love about BCBS and made them smoother, richer, boozier, and more dramatic. Its a shame this one has to be so hard to get because it blew its easier to find counterpart out of the water and off this year’s top 50 list.

2. Old Nation M-43 – IPA

Hazy IPAs are not a fad, not a gimmick, they are a style of IPA, like West Coast, Session, etc. They are here to stay and I’m really enjoying drinking them. No Hazy IPA I had this year was as good as M-43. Its the closest I’ve found to the OG NE made hazies. If you blind tasted this next to Julius there is NO WAY you’d tell the difference. Coincidentally as of just YESTERDAY M-43 is available in Chicago. I had it on draft and just cannot get over how incredibly well executed this beer is. If the thought of someone pouring some guava puree into your orange juice makes your mouth water track down some M-43.

1. Hopewell Brewing Co. Outside Voice – Mini Pale Ale

We carried two pizzas three blocks to Hopewell’s tap room. I hadn’t eaten in hours. I needed something low in ABV so I wouldn’t fall asleep in my pizza. I ordered this, Outside Voice a 4.8% “Mini Pale Ale”. As I walked back to the table intense fruit flavor was leaping out of the glass. There was no way it was this “Mini Pale Ale”. I sniffed. I sniffed again. The aromas of tropical fruit were overwhelming. Then I sipped. It was great. Then I swallowed. It finished like mineral water. In a year where almost every large brewery bet on malt beverage hard seltzers Hopewell made a beer that actually tasted like a hard fruit flavored Topo Chico. Outside Voice only has one major flaw. It’s not available year round and I didn’t buy it by the case to get me through the Winter.

Uppers and a Downer My Trip to Tulsa Oklahoma

On May 17th, 2018 I arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma one year after the last time I had visited Tulsa or TUL as it’s proudly proclaimed on baseball hats, stickers on the back of pickup trucks, and cans of Hanson Bros. beer. There’s a good chance you just cracked a smile upon reading the letters that formed the words Hanson Bros. Probably because when you saw them you thought of three little brothers with hair as long as a girls dancing in front of a green screen while singing a song with lyrics that make precisely zero sense. Well, those three men are the reason I have been to Tulsa, Oklahoma two times.

My wife has been a fan of Hanson what seems like her entire life. It doesn’t really matter when she started liking Hanson she does now and has for as long as anyone can remember. I married this woman, we have two children, she still likes Hanson. Last year she decided that she had, had enough. We were traveling 11 hours Southwest to the Sooner State so she could attend H.day. That’s Hanson Day and if you think that Hanson Day is just one day you haven’t checked my bank statements because it is actually three days. This all culminates in a fourth day called The Hop Jam. Where Hanson’s love of music, beer, and keeping all of their fans in one place for maximum value comes together.

When I went on this trip last year I brought an enormous chip on my shoulder with me. I figured that everyone there would be uneducated and unsophisticated. I treated people I met poorly. I regretted the entire trip. While I was there I bounced between three places. Prairie Brewpub (a Tulsa outpost of one of my favorite breweries in the whole word Prairie Artisan Ales), Valkyrie (a cocktail bar who’s ambiance and drinks rivals Chicago’s The Violet Hour), and American Solera (the newish brewery started by Chase Healey the former brewmaster of the aforementioned Prairie Artisan Ales). In all my research I could not find another place I thought was worth a visit.

When I started researching this second trip desperate to find something new to do I stumbled upon a number of breweries that had either just opened, were about to open, or in the planning stages. With a pass to The Hop Jam secured I decided to shoot an email over to the brewery that seemed most interesting to me Heirloom Rustic Ales. Pretty quickly I got a response from Jake Miller. After a few emails we agreed that I should stop by shortly before opening on Friday.

After banging on a few doors and a couple windows I finally spotted Jake toiling away in the brewery. One more terse knock on the window and I got his attention. He let me into the brewery, a space that was quite a bit bigger than I was expecting but that this growing operation was already making feel much more compact than it actually is. One of the first things Jake wanted to show me was a new foeder and a set of new tanks. He proclaimed “this was our two year expansion plan”. Heirloom Rustic Ales has been open for six months.

With a “who do you think you are” attitude I began to politely grill Jake about the audacity of opening a brewery that’s focusing on open fermentation and “Slavic style peasant beers” in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It appears that thanks to breweries like Prairie and American Solera the craft beer drinker’s palate in Tulsa is expanding. Jake told me that of beer drinkers in Tulsa only 2% are drinking craft. So there’s plenty of room to grow in a city of 400,000.


After squeezing between some tanks and checking out some of the open fermented beers Heirloom is working on we walked a long dark hallway into the taproom. At first glance the taproom seems to be following the Chipotleization of most brewery taprooms. The ceilings are exposed, there’s subway tile but take a closer look and you’ll see some thoughtful touches. There’s some oversized chairs and a run in one spot, a communal table around a corner that feels almost isolated, and the seats at the bar have backs. You should post up and stay a while.

In the taproom I was invited to try plenty of beer. One of the beers Jake was most proud of is Agrarian Lights the first ever all Oklahoma beer. It is a crisp, lemony, tart Weiss style beer perfect for the 90 degree, 100 percent humidity days the locals get to enjoy beginning right around the time I roll into town. I also tried Sticky Bottles the brewery’s “flagship” Pale Ale. This is the beer that people would hunt every bottle shop for, if it ever left the brewery. It is fruity, sweet, and reminded me of the first time I tried any of my favorite Pale Ales.

Another stunner was Plains an open fermented Saison that unfolded beautifully across my palate. Three hundred bottles of Plains we’re meant to last a few weeks in the taproom. Come by whenever, grab a bottle. It took less than a week for every one of them to get sold.

Back in the brewery Jake showed me the new 16oz cans they couldn’t wait to fill. The labels have beautiful, stark drawings of an owl or a fox. 6 inch tall works of art that I wold love to decorate my fridge with. After some more pleasantries and a hope that we would see each other on Sunday at The Hop Jam I departed. Every seat at the bar was taken, there were people sitting at tables, and the parking lot was almost full. Heirloom Rustic Ales had been open for forty five minutes.

Going on the advice of Chris Koentz of Pollyanna Brewing here in the suburbs of Chicago I headed to Cabin Boys Brewery. My Lyft pulled up to a large industrial building. If it wasn’t for the walls of the building being painted with Cabin Boys whimsical aesthetic I would have assumed it was a machine shop. And for all I know it probably was at some point. As I approached the door I heard some people chatting outside and I started to wonder just how this place might be laid out.

The taproom is modestly sized but doesn’t feel cramped. All the trappings are there, the communal table in the back, the rail along a wall, and plenty of seats at the bar. I took a seat and ordered my first beer. I was enjoying Cast-a-Line the brewery’s very refreshing Kolsch when I caught my first whiff of the uphill battle Tulsa’s new breweries are facing. Two men seated next to me were working their way through a flight. Three tasters in one man turned to the other and said “Do they make all the beer here?”. To this man’s left are two giant windows showing off Cabin Boys generous amount of stainless steel. Yes sir, all the beer is made here.

It was then that I noticed a sign on a door that encouraged visitors to bring their beer through it. I opened the door and was greeted by a cavernous space.  There were round plastic tables with metal folding chairs haphazardly arranged around them. One wall had a massive screen with a baseball game being projected on to it and a lone dart board. An open door led to the outdoor area where I had heard some people chatting earlier. A few more tables were outside they were lined up across from a food truck that proudly boasted its 6lbs Hot Dogs for sale. Cabin Boys Brewery is an impressive space to drink their well crafted beers in. Besides the Kolsch I also had Huntman a very solid American IPA, and Cornerstone a peppery, dry, and tasty Saison.

I walked back into the taproom and who should be standing along the rail? Mr. Jake Miller of Heirloom Rustic Ales was chatting with someone. Not knowing anyone else in the building I figured I should rudely insert myself into their conversation. I was rewarded with being introduced to Andrew Jolly of Doubleshot Coffee Company. He and Jake were discussing what kind of hops they should put in a cascara tea. I was among my people. Jake had to get back to the brewery and that left Andrew and I have to have a rousing conversation about everything from Hanson to the coffee shop and roaster he works at. We agreed that I should stop by in the morning, paid our tabs, and went our separate ways. Tulsa was finally starting to click for me.

Bright and early the next morning and by bright and early I mean 10:30am (what I was on vacation) I took a Lyft down to Doubleshot. Shortly after ordering a mug of coffee “to stay” Andrew noticed I had come in. He hopped out from behind the bar to give me a tour. Now it could just be the caffeine but Andrew’s enthusiasm for not just coffee but Tulsa and Doubleshot is for lack of a better word uplifting. This dude loves coffee and he loves that he’s serving people in this community. He’s like a Doubleshot cheerleader. And this is where things like Heirloom, Doubleshot, and Valkyrie all started to make sense. Jake was so proud that they had built a brewery in the part of town that Heirloom is in. The bartenders at Valkyrie seem so grateful to make sophisticated cocktails for a crowd that they were probably told wouldn’t come. And Andrew seemed so happy to show me the roaster where every bean is manually brought to life to be brewed and drank around Tulsa and in their inviting coffee shop.

After the tour Andrew pulled me a shot of their house espresso Ambergris. Words can’t really do it justice but it was like drinking a slow melting expensive bar of chocolate. Buttery, rich, quite honestly one of the better shots of espresso I’ve ever had. After that I was treated to a pour over of the Panama Hartmann Natural. The cup was sweet with a red fruit finish. When the barista asked me if she had done a good job I was literally speechless. I eventually stammered out a “yeah…you did good….”.

Nice and caffeinated I left Doubleshot ready to tackle the rest of my day. I told Andrew I had hoped I would see him the next day at The Hop Jam or at least around town for one more drink before I headed out of town. It was time for the next stop on my epic quest. So, I walked two minutes down the street to American Solera’s new location. Ok, so not a very epic journey. But what awaited me at AM SO SOBO would have been worth a hike.

I approached 10 minutes before opening and there was already a large group of people. They were also bottle sharing which I didn’t even think about as I had lugged a lot of stuff with me to Tulsa from Chicago. I’m sure I could have offloaded quite a few beers had I known. The reason for such a large crowd was that Sons of Darkness was going on tap. A 16% Imperial Stout aged in Woodford Reserve barrels in collaboration with Indiana’s 18th Street Brewery. However that is not why I was there. It seems that in the time between my visits to Tulsa brewer Sam Regan has become a sort of hazy IPA whisperer. And I was eager to get my hands on Pole made in collaboration with UK hazy IPA overlords Cloudwater Brew Co. I ordered my pour (after being mistakenly poured a Sons of Darkness because that is literally what all 30 people in front of me had ordered) and the beer is soft, citrusy, and well just one of the best hazy IPAs I’ve ever had.

Inside this SoBo location of American Solera you’ll find a charming taproom. It feels like maybe you’re inside a mom and pop bakery. Except you’re drinking a pastry stout instead of pastries. But, it is the outside space where this location really shines. Over a half dozen communal tables sit under an awning that protects a bit from the sun but does almost nothing to stave off the humidity. Outside of those tables are barrels lots of barrels. Post up next to one of those and drink Someone Loves You in Copenhagen a foeder aged ale that was then aged for six months in cherry wine barrels and then refermented with cherries. Lots of cherries. A few sips of this tart refresher and you’ll forget about the sunburn you have going.

And what of Sons of Darkness? I of course had to round out my visit with a taste. Silky, smooth, the right amount of burn, Sons of Darkness is one of the best barrel-aged stouts I have ever had. The stouts Chase was making at Prairie were no accident and this beer proves he’s one of the best in the world at making them and then barrel aging them.

I got in my Lyft back to the hotel a bag full of crowlers, bottles, and coffee heavy on my lap. I reflected on what a great time I had in Tulsa this year and the passionate, incredible people I talked to. I hope to see you again next year, and make some new friends as well. Thank you to Jake at Heirloom Rustic Ales for opening the doors for me and being so kind and generous, same goes for Andrew Jolly at Doubleshot Coffee Roasters. Until next year…..





Oh. You’re probably wondering how The Hop Jam went. Well…..it didn’t. This happened instead…

This is the hallway leading to the waiting room of the emergency room at Oklahoma State University Medical Center. Saturday night I was having dinner with the always charming Dave Riddile of The Fervent Few and Collective Brewing Project, one of his co-workers Mike, Fred Hillenbrand of Upland Brewing, and their distributor rep for Tulsa. It was a great time and everything I always hope hanging out with beer people will be like. You’re drinking cool things, making inside jokes, and eating delicious food in the first five minutes of meeting. After dinner we went over to Valkyrie for a cocktail. And as I was sipping on my improved whiskey cocktail I started getting texts from my wife saying she was back at the hotel and not feeling very well. I finished my drink to go check on her and told everyone I hoped I would be back. I would not be back.

At 12am on a rainy Sunday morning I drove my wife to the emergency room. After three hours of testing it was determined that her appendix needed to be removed. And soon. Due to surgery scheduling and the lack of surgeons on Sunday it wasn’t until 3pm that they finally wheeled my wife down to surgery. By 5pm she was in recovery and we were almost ready to head back to the hotel. I spent the night watching her sleep off the anesthesia and drinking a Modern Times Fruitlands. I had missed my second Hop Jam and being able to see one of my favorite bands. But my wife was no longer in intense pain. In the morning we packed up the car and hit the road for a horrendous 12 hour journey home. Maybe next year we’ll have a completely enjoyable trip to Tulsa. As much as I wanted to say I’ll never go back because of all our bad luck in Oklahoma seeds have been planted and I very much would like to see how they grow.


Beer in Review: 2017

What a year it has been for me and my favorite beverage. On top of all my usual drinking shenanigans I went to Tulsa, OK to check out Prairie’s brewpub and see what they are doing over at American Solera. I crossed going to Shelton Brothers Fest off my bucket list and got to experience the magic of Good Beer Hunting’s annual Olly Olly “camping” trip. Speaking of GBH I also joined that crew as community manager and it has been the highlight of my year for sure. The Fervent Few is the best group of people I have ever got to chat with, meet in real life, and talk to for our podcast.

So with another year of life and imbibing under my belt here are some of my favorite breweries, places to drink, and my top 50 beers and top 10 ciders lists.  I hope that you got to drink some amazing beers this year. Cheers and here’s to an even better 2018! I mean for beer and cider and stuff. It was a rough year for everything else. Could it be worse? Whoooo boy….

Best Place to Drink Beer: Saved By The Max

Allow me to explain why the now closed Chicago pop-up restaurant modeled after the diner from Saved by the Bell was the best place I drank in 2017. It is because right before they closed they hosted a Goose Island beer dinner. It was reasonably priced and they promised some special beers. So knowing that I could con my wife into going because she was obsessed with this place I bought two tickets. What the dinner ended up being was an eight beer tasting led by John and Greg Hall. It was a magical night that I felt very fortunate to be at. Hearing the story of Pere Jacques told by the Halls is something I will never forget. Tasting the beers wasn’t so bad either.

Best Brewery: Mikerphone Brewing 










This is the first and probably last year I will name Mikerphone my brewery of the year. Why? Because their new brewery is less than a mile from my house and I am most likely moving. I have spent at least one day a week here since it has opened and I think at most I have been disappointed by two of their beers. So there is no argument that Mikerphone is my brewery of the year. But since we’re on the topic they did open an incredible tap room, produce a ton of incredible beers (I believe they are already on batch 100), make waves with their releases, and continually improve everything from their recipes to how they handle said releases. So I can’t think of another brewery that comes close to deserving this honor from me.

Top 10 Ciders of 2017

10. Shacksbury Ginger Spritz
9. The Northman House Cider
8. 2 Fools Tart Cherry
7. 2 Fools Cranberry Ginger
6. Cider Riot 1763 West Country
5. Angry Orchard First Flora
4. Angry Orchard Understood in Motion #1
3. Virtue Cider Michigan Brut

The best cider I consistently drank all year was Virtue Cider’s Michigan Brut. It is so dry it leaves your palate before you even realize it’s there. But leaves behind a whisper of slightly tart apples and some barrel aged funkiness. And it didn’t hurt that it went from four pack bottles to six pack cans.

2. Virtue Cider The Mitten Reserve

I could not find an official picture of The Mitten Reserve but this is a special bottling of Virtue’s bourbon barrel-aged cider. Instead of being blended with fresh juice like regular mitten this goes from barrel to bottle. This cider isn’t even carbonated. And it is the best representation of bourbon in a barrel aged beverage that I have ever had. The stillness helps carry massive caramel and oak flavors that is only slightly rounded out by the apple flavors. It’s like drinking a caramel apple.

1. E.Z. Orchards Roman Beauty

I had waited a long time to try E.Z. Orchards cider and this year I grabbed a few bottles of their stuff. Roman Beauty was the best one by far. It is truly a beautiful cider. The aroma is funky but with tons of luscious almost buttery apple and the flavor is mostly sweet but cut by a bit of tartness. This is what a Woodchuck cider wishes it could grow up to be.

Top 50 Beers of 2017

50. Pipeworks Lizard King Pale Ale
49. American Solera Terroir Study Farmhouse Ale
48. Ballast Point Unfiltered Sculpin IPA
47. Goose Island Halia Wild Ale with Peaches
46. Central State Barrel Aged Gute Nacht Farmhouse Stout
45. Jester King Omniscience & Proselytism Blend 1 Wild Ale with Strawberries
44. Central Waters Cassian Sunset Barrel-Aged Stout with Coffee, Vanilla, and Cinnamon
43. Funk Factory Cherry Meerts
42. Trillium PM Dawn Coffee Stout
41. Modern Times Funky Bourbon Barrel Aged Monster’s Park Stout
40. Mikerphone/Saint Errant Get It Together Double IPA with Mango
39. Mikerphone Ode to my Family Berliner Weiss with Cinnamon, Cranberries, and Orange Peels
38. Founder’s Doom Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial IPA
37. Moody Tongue Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chocolate Barley Wine (2016)
36. Une Annee Peche Wild Ale with Peaches
35. Almanac Strawberry Basil Wild Ale
34. Brewery Bhavana Grove Double IPA
33. Pipeworks The Jones Dog Barrel-Aged Milk Stout
32. Revolution Straight Jacket Barrel-Aged Barleywine
31. Founders CBS Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels that held Maple Syrup
30. Soundgrowler Orange Haze IPA
29. Devil’s Trumpet Captain’s Quarters Wine Barrel-Aged Sour with Tart Cherries and Vanilla Beans
28. Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Rye Stout (2014)
27. AleSmith Vietnamese Speedway Stout with Vietnamese Coffee
26. New Belgium La Folie Grand Reserve: Geisha
25. Modern Times Monster’s Park Rum Barrel-Aged Stout with Cherry and Vanilla
24. Perennial Abraxas Imperial Stout with Cinnamon, Chiles, Cacao, and Vanilla
23. Revolution Straight Jacket Barrel-Aged Barley Wine (several vintages)
22. Mikerphone Brewing Teleport Massive Brambleberry Berliner Weiss
21. Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Stout (2015)
20. Pipeworks Barrel-Aged Cherry Abduction Imperial Stout with Cherries
19. Solemn Oath Patin Chocolate Porter with Rum Soaked Raisins and Pecan Praline
18. Three Floyds Dark Lord Ronaldo Imperial Stout aged in Madeira Barrels with Tart Cherries
17. Revolution Brewing VSOD Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels for Two Years
16. Founders Backwoods Bastard Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale
15. WeldWerks Medianoche Reserve Imperial Stout aged in Whiskey Barrels
14. Odd Side Ales Hazel’s Nuts Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Coffee and Hazelnuts
13. Ballast Point High West Victory at Sea Imperial Porter aged in Whiskey Barrels with Coffee and Vanilla
12. Praire Artisan Ales Birthday Bomb Imperial Stout with Chiles, Coffee, Cacao, Caramel, and Vanilla
11. Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Coffee (several vintages)
10. Mikerphone Brewing Mikerphone Check 1, 2 Double Dry Hopped Double IPA

I had at least two dozen IPAs made by Mikerphone Brewing this year but the one that stood out to me the most was the one they brewed first. If every other IPA Mikerphone brewed went away but this one I would be ok with that. Mikerphone Check 1,2 perfectly showcases the odd aroma of Citra hops while bringing out their huge citrus character. Citra might be not be as en vogue as it once was but that’s ok send all those leftover hops to the crew at Mikerphone.

9. The Bruery PB & Thursday Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Peanut Flour

If you read this list last year you know that I am a big fan of The Bruery’s outrageous bourbon barrel-aged Stout Black Tuesday. So when I heard there was going to be a new variant I got pretty excited. Unfortunately it was going to be a hard bottle to track down since it was only available to members of the Hoarders Society, The Bruery’s most elite reservation club. At my annual bottle share a good friend tracked down and offered up a bottle. People I know had gone to The Bruery and had it on draft and said it wasn’t all that great so my expectations were pretty low. But out of the bottle everyone agreed it was one of the highlights of the day. The peanut taste cut through the chocolate and barrel to make something that tasted genuinely like a great Stout and not just some sticky sweet candy bar. I hear this beer will be getting a wider release this year or next and it is worth tracking down.

8. Transient Artisan Ales Bad Hombre Imperial Vanilla Cream Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels

Transient was my last stop out of Michigan for this year’s KBS Week. I was sipping on a pale ale when the person next to me’s jaw dropped so hard I could hear it. Next thing I knew a glass was thrust into my hand with a terse “you have to try this”. I took a sip and was transported to an island ofchocolate covered marshmallows sitting in glasses of bourbon. It also helped that this beer was on nitro at the time adding to its creaminess. I ran up to the front and ordered a pour and bought a bottle. Fifteen minutes later there was a line out the door. Apparently we had squeaked in to a quiet release for this beer which had been posted to Facebook less than an hour before we got there. We watched as case after case walked out the door. I wondered if buying one lonely bottle was going to be enough. It wasn’t as I brought my bottle to a bottle share and didn’t even get to drink any. In the end the pour I had that day was still so memorable that it is number eight on this list. Here’s to hoping Transient makes this one again some day.

7. The Bruery Mash & French Toast Barleywine aged in Bourbon Barrels with Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Maple Syrup

And its back to The Bruery for this just incredibly delicious Barleywine. Every component played with each other so well it was kind of hard to believe I could actually taste each addition to this beer. Did it taste like French toast? Of course not but in a year where I had lots of beers with lots of ingredients that ended up tasting like an unbalanced mess Mash & French Toast was perfect.

6. Dogfish Head Oak Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout Imperial Stout aged on Oak with Vanilla.

I was fortunate enough to go on Good Beer Hunting’s annual camping trip and at camp on the first night was a keg of this. So, what did I do? Filled my 16oz glass multiple times with it. There was no better beer that night for sitting outside in the slightly chilly, misty evening. The ABV kept me warm and the smooth oak and vanilla kept me drinking. The flavors here may be more subtle than say a Bourbon County Vanilla Rye but when you want to drink a bunch of delicious over-the-top Stout this is your beer.

5. Revolution Brewing Ryeway to Heaven Imperial Ryewine aged in Rye Barrels

Before I talk about why I think this beer is so amazing I just wanted to say this. If you combined all of Revolution’s barrel-aged offerings into one thing they would probably be my number one beer of the year. However, I’m going to single out just one. And that is Ryeway to Heaven. This beer came out the same week as Founder’s CBS a beer that everyone wanted to be a huge maple syrup bomb and instead it was very balanced and very delicious. Ryeway to Heaven tastes like barrel-aged maple syrup. Just through the mastery of aging, brewing, blending, etc Revolution created a flavor profile that many drinkers crave and it is mind bending. I would pour this over pancakes if I could. In a year where Revolution came out swinging with barrel-aged beers (including an incredible 2-year aged version of Deth’s Tar) Ryeway stands above them all. Do everything you can to get your hands on this beer.

4. Side Project Fuzzy (Blend 2) Foedre-Aged Wild Ale with Peaches

Higher up on this list is Peche by Une Anee the most delicious peach beer I have ever had. Until I had this peach beer. Fuzzy is delicate, with a funk that could only come from Side Project. And while it is of course sour it is also amazingly juicy. Fuzzy lives up to every idea you could possibly have in your head about a Peach Wild Ale made by Side Project.

3. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels (several vintages)

Of course I drank a lot of different Bourbon County Stouts this year and a lot of vintages and they were great as always but lets focus on 2017 BCBS. The complexity of Bourbon County this year reminded me of the first Bourbon County’s I ever had. And instead of the flavor being different with each sip the flavors unfolded across your palate with each swallow. 2017 Bourbon County starts with chocolate, then caramel, followed by roast, oak, and it finally dries out like shoe leather. For this year no “you’re not going to believe it’s good” caveat is required. It is fucking delicious and you owe it to yourself to go get a bottle because I don’t know where you live but here it’s still sitting on the shelf ready to be purchased the next time you want to open something really special.

2. Trillium Brewing Company Dialed In Double IPA with Sauvignon Blanc Grape Juice

I was very fortunate to get to try TWO DOZEN different beers by Trillium this year. And they pretty much all lived up to the hype that surrounds them. But nothing knocked my socks off like this. I didn’t know a NE-style Double IPA needed grape juice but guess what? I’m pouring Welch’s into everything from now on. Ok, I’m only half joking but this juicy, haze bomb got the perfect compliment from the grape juice. The grapes round things out a bit adding a white wine like finish and a grape-y sweetness to polish off any rough edges the base beer may have had. Adding fruit to an IPA is one thing but carefully blending in wine grapes is a trend I hope we see continue in 2018.

1. Perennial Artisan Ales Barrel-Aged 17 Imperial Stout with Cacao and Mint aged in Rye Barrels

Here we are at number 1. Perennial Artisan Ales one of my favorite Stout brewers took one of my favorite beers and put it in a barrel. The result is an oak and caramel covered York Peppermint pattie. And you know what? That’s it. I just fucking loved this beer.  I’m happy they didn’t ruin one of my favorite beers as the mint (my favorite part) is definitely still present but the boozy  whiskey burn makes it more of a comforting presence than the main flavor. Now how do I get a keg of this?

Glassvember 2017 – Brewery Ommegang Game of Thrones Goblet

I have never seen a full episode of Game of Thrones. However, I did buy a bottle of one of Brewery Ommegang’s Game of Thrones beers. At checkout I was given this glass. It has served me well. I like to drink stouts out of it. It makes me feel like Winter is Coming or Hold the Door or I drink and I know things or something from Game of Thrones. Thanks for the free glass.