Starr Hill Brewery Releases Summer Jam Can Variety Pack

starrhillSummerJamStarr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia) has officially announced the launch of Summer Jam as the brewery’s first ever variety 16-pack of 12 oz. cans.

To give their fans a more easily accessible option so that they may enjoy Starr Hill beers at this summer’s music festivals, barbeques and pool parties, the brewery has united a selection of warm weather brews in the newly released Summer Jam Can Variety Pack.  This variety 16-pack will consist of four 12 oz. cans of each of the following summer-worthy brews:

  • Remastered Grateful Pale Ale – “A fresh spin on the American Pale Ale. This remastered recipe gives Grateful a fruitier hop aroma, more citrus hop flavor and a smoother, fuller body.”  ABV – 4.7%  IBUs – 45
  • The Hook Grapefruit Session IPA – “The tart freshness of grapefruit perfectly complements this full-flavored beer’s bright citrus hop character, while its sessionable body brings you back for more.”  ABV – 4.9%  IBUs – 38
  • The Love Wheat Beer – “The Love is an unfiltered wheat beer, also known as a Hefeweizen. It is distinguished by its extremely light body and fruity aroma, finished with spicy notes.”  ABV – 5.1%  IBUs – 9
  • Warehouse Pils – “In celebration of the Dave Matthews Band 25th Anniversary show, we’ve brewed a special beer: a German Pilsner is dry-hopped with German hops, golden in color with a mildly floral flavor and a crisp malt finish. It’s perfect for those warm spring days–this we admit tastes so good.”  ABV – 5.5%  IBUs – 20

“We’re thrilled to release this unique package as our first can variety pack just in time for summer,” says Jack Goodall, Marketing Manager at Starr Hill Brewery. “As the temperatures rise and craft beer fans hit the road for their own summer tours, these cans are the perfect companion for any outdoor adventure.”

Always proud of their musical roots, “the Starr Hill team has also curated a collaborative Spotify playlist of their favorite songs” to pair with the beers of Summer Jam and all of your endless summertime adventures.  Check out the free, two-hour playlist by clicking here.

The Summer Jam Can Variety Pack is out now and available throughout the summer months.  You can find this mixed 16-pack of 12 oz. cans at fine craft beer retailers located in Alabama, Virginia and throughout the rest of Starr Hill Brewery’s distribution footprint.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Grateful Pale Ale from Starr Hill Brewery

GratefullabelAlways grateful for another amazing week, we show our thanks by having a look at the newly “Remastered” version of Grateful Pale Ale from Starr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia).

Not too long ago, we hit you with the news that Starr Hill Brewery had “Remastered” a classic by updating the recipe for their Grateful Pale Ale.  The brewers decided to take Grateful back in the direction of an American Pale Ale instead of a Session IPA.  The beer was tweaked so that it would carry a fuller mouthfeel to support “a revamped hop bill [featuring] Cascade, Mosaic, Centennial and Falconer’s Flight.”  Thanks to hop-bursting techniques, Grateful Pale Ale now has enhanced aroma and flavor profiles that have been carefully balanced by the beer’s sturdier malt backbone.  Grateful Pale Ale – Remastered is available now in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 12 oz. cans, and on draft at craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Virginia and throughout the rest of Starr Hill’s distribution area.

Now that the particulars are out of the way, let’s really see what these changes are all about by getting into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Grateful Pale Ale – Remastered from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance: Grateful Pale Ale pours up a soft golden in color with a little over a finger of white foam resting on top.  Held to the light, bright yellows gain vibrancy, push forward and dominate the color.  Despite a slight chill haze, the body is clear and shows off a vivacious carbonation presence.  The head recedes quickly to a fluffy ring that successfully lays down a complete sheet of lace on one side of the glass.

Aroma:  Lemon and orange zest make themselves known first with a very fresh floral tone following closely behind.  This opens a bit further to expose a bit of grassiness and grapefruit.  This fresh and citrusy aromatic profile just screams of refreshment and clean hop goodness.

Taste: Right off the sip, citrus gets all up on the palate with big notes of grapefruit, orange and tangerine (zest and juice).  That floral and grassy earthiness turns up here as well to break things up a bit.  All of this hop character eventually gives way to a softly sweet malt layer.  The malts are nondescript in flavor, adding just enough sweetness for balance.

Mouthfeel:  This Pale Ale is medium in body with a medium carbonation level.  The beer has good weight to it, allowing it to linger just a bit on the palate.  Although this brew is hop forward in flavor and aroma, the bitterness has been nearly canceled out with a beautiful balancing sweetness.  The ABV has minimal effect, and the beer proves to be wonderfully refreshing and easy-drinking.  A little orange zest is left behind to linger in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts: With its newly reformulated recipe, Grateful Pale Ale – Remastered certainly harkens back to the days of the classic American Pale Ale in body and feel while still staying current with its pronounced but balanced hop character.  Don’t let us mislead you because this beer absolutely highlights all the citrusy and refreshing qualities possessed by the utilized hops.  Hop fiends will surely find plenty to like in Grateful Pale Ale, but there is more at work here that must be lauded. This beer’s dedication to the Pale Ale may appear subtle on the surface, but it easily gets your attention if you happen to go looking for it. Its mouthfeel has a luxurious weight and texture to it that you just cannot find in today’s Session IPAs.  Then you have Grateful’s laser-focused balance that gives you hop flavor with very little residual bitterness.  This approach to the American Pale Ale provides us with a beer that can either be crushed without a thought after mowing the lawn or slow-sipped and contemplated over while relaxing after dinner.  Grateful Pale Ale – Remastered has depth, and it is clear that a lot of thought went into its development.  Incredibly well done and we will definitely be back for more.  Prost!

Starr Hill Brewery Remasters its Grateful Pale Ale

Remastered-Grateful-1_editedStarr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia) has officially announced the release of a newly-updated version of their classic Grateful Pale Ale.

To keep up with the ever-evolving craft beer landscape, the brewers at Starr Hill decided to give their Grateful Pale Ale the Remastered treatment.  Their overall approach to this update was to take the beer in more of an American Pale Ale direction rather than that of a Session IPA.  The first stage of this transition was to add “Carafoam and Torrefied Wheat . . . to the malt bill for a fuller mouthfeel.”  The hop bill was then revamped to feature “Cascade, Mosaic, Centennial and Falconer’s Flight in the kettle and dry-hop, replacing Chinook, Topaz and Columbus.”  Thanks to the utilization of hop-bursting techniques, Grateful Pale Ale now exhibits enhanced hop aromas and flavors that are balanced beautifully by the beer’s new malt backbone.

“Similar to when we refreshed the recipe for Northern Lights IPA, we didn’t want to throw out the soul of Grateful,” says Robbie O’Cain, Brewmaster at Starr Hill Brewery. “For Grateful fans out there, this is an enhanced, balanced version of this beer that’s perfect for the warm summer months ahead.”

Grateful Pale Ale – Remastered is available now as a part of the brewery’s Core Lineup.  This offering can be found in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 6-packs of 12 oz. cans, and on draft at craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Virginia, and throughout the rest of Starr Hill Brewery’s distribution area.  Keep an eye out for Grateful Pale Ale – Remastered while on your next beer run so that you can experience this new take on an old classic.  Prost!

Vital Information for Grateful Pale Ale – Remastered from Starr Hill Brewery

Release – Year-Round/Core Lineup, Remastered version launches late May 2017
Style – American Pale Ale
ABV – 4.7%
IBUs – 45
Featured Hops – Cascade, Mosaic, Centennial & Falconer’s Flight
Featured Malts – Carafoam & Torrefied Wheat
Availability – 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 6-packs of 12 oz. cans & draft
Beer Finder –

Tasting Notes: Coffee King of Hop from Starr Hill Brewery

4kingscoffeepour800To celebrate the workweek finally reaching its midpoint, we are getting into some Tasting Notes action with a little help from Coffee King of Hop Imperial IPA from Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia).

As we recently reported, Coffee King of Hop comes to us by way of Starr Hill Brewery’s Four Kings IPA Pack, a limited release mixed 12-pack that showcases the versatility of King of Hop Imperial IPA by offering it alongside inventive variants that feature various natural ingredients.  The lineup changes each year, and the 2017 Four Kings IPA Pack contains three bottles of each of the following four offerings:

  • King of Hop Imperial IPA
  • Coffee King of Hop
  • Mango Habanero King of Hop
  • Orange King of Hop

The Four Kings IPA Pack officially released on April 1, and these mixed 12-packs are available for a limited time at select craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Virginia, and other states within Starr Hill’s distribution area.

Coffee King of Hop immediately caught our attention when we opened the box, so let’s get into some Tasting Notes and see what this beer is all about!

Tastings Notes for Coffee King of Hop Imperial IPA from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance:  Coffee King of Hop presents itself as a deep golden in color with hues of burnt orange radiating at its core.  Held to the light, bright yellows and oranges push through.  The body is crystal clear and displays a lively carbonation presence.  The pour produced two fingers of lily white foam.  Those carbonation bubbles are quick to feed the head, so retention is fantastic.  The foam has great stick to it, and massive webs of lace are left behind on the glass after each pull.  An absolutely beautiful beer to look at.

Aroma:  One might expect the aroma of any Imperial IPA to begin with big, bursting notes of juicy hops, but this one actually leads with the coffee.  It is nothing crazy or over the top, just a lightly-roasted coffee note that is definitely motivated to quickly stake claim to this beer.  Proving to have floral and lightly fruity characteristics, the chosen coffee beans complement the hops with ease and actually accentuate their notes of fresh citrus fruits.  A touch of light caramel sweetness from the malts finishes off the experience and adds further cohesion to the profile.

Taste:  Things flip flop a bit here as the hops take the lead in flavor.  The base Imperial IPA’s hop notes of grapefruit, tangerine and passion fruit lay down a wonderfully juicy foundation.  Just as some herbal hop notes begin to reveal themselves, they are quickly overtaken by the rising coffee tones.  The coffee is easily identified by its roasted character and soft bitterness, but it then delights and surprises the palate with those floral and fruit notes found in the nose.  Translating as flavors of citrus, stone fruit and berries, these fruit notes fuse easily with the fruitiness of the hops to create a seamless and mighty tasty experience with each sip.

Mouthfeel:  This beer is medium bodied with a somewhat assertive carbonation level.  This combo keeps things refreshing and easy drinking, but the beer does retain a bit of stickiness on the palate.  The tongue is entertained by a hearty helping of hoppy bitterness and a touch of sweetness.  For an Imperial IPA, the 7.5% ABV is incredibly reasonable and further reinforces the easy-drinking nature of the beer.  Aftertaste is made up of juicy hops notes and a bit of lingering coffee roast.

Final Thoughts:  Although I have had many previous experiences with beers that combine coffee and hops, I was honestly a bit wary of Coffee King of Hop because it is an Imperial India Pale Ale.  Although uniting coffee and hops definitely makes sense on paper (and a practice I am fully on board with), it just seems that it would translate better in styles like American Pale Ales and India Pale Ales that possess a little less aggressiveness in the hop department.  In this case . . . I must say I was totally wrong because Coffee King of Hop absolutely nailed it.  The base beer’s established hop presence works beautifully with the chosen coffee beans to create aromatic and flavor notes that are simply unmatched in my experience.  Factor in the lower ABV level and the beer’s overall drinkability, and all those worries surrounding an Imperial IPA have been washed away.  In conclusion, Coffee King of Hop is certainly a standout offering in the Four Kings IPA Pack as well as in the Coffee IPA trend in general.  If distribution in your area allows it, be sure to pick up a Four Kings IPA Pack and let us know which of these tasty brews establishes itself as your favorite.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Double Bass from Starr Hill Brewery

doublebassbottle500As the work week finally comes to an end, we settle into our Friday by indulging in some Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout from Starr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia) for this week’s Tasting Notes.

Starr Hill Brewery introduced Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout in January as a new member of their All Access Series, a limited lineup of the brewery’s “most unique & inspired beers.”  This offering is a 7.8% ABV Imperial Stout that has been loaded with six malts (2-Row, Chocolate, Caramel, Crystal, Golden Oats and Flaked Barley), cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and lactose.  Clearly all about that malt and chocolate, the decadent recipe for Double Bass produces aromatic and flavor notes of dark chocolate, mocha, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate and dark fruit. Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout is a limited release that is available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.  If you wish to try this offering, Double Bass is still pouring in the Starr Hill Brewery Tap Room and can also be found hanging around on shelves and taps at select craft beer establishments in Alabama, Virginia, and other areas within the brewery’s distribution footprint.

Now that we are all caught up on this beer’s background information, it is finally time to put some Double Bass in this snifter and get to some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance:  Double Bass pours as a glossy, inky black in color.  Held to direct light, the deep and dark blacks hold but a bit of cola brown presents itself at the top of the pour.  The body is completely opaque, so the carbonation level cannot be observed visually.  The pour produced well over a finger of mocha colored foam (impressive considering the size of this snifter), and the head gradually falls to a thin top cap over time.  When swirled in the glass, the beer leaves behind a coating oil slick that makes it difficult for any lace to gain a firm hold.

Aroma:  Sweet and deeply roasted malts hit the nose first.  The malts eventually open up to expose luscious notes of chocolate.  Creamy fudge, rich dark chocolate, and satisfying milk chocolate are all present.  The roasted malts circle back around to finish things off with a black coffee character that works beautifully with all the chocolate currently filling the air.

Taste:  The flavor profile begins with a huge pop of bittersweet dark chocolate, and this note holds for quite some time.  As it fades, tones of cream, vanilla, cocoa and milk chocolate develop to create a flavor combination that is strikingly reminiscent of a gourmet, scratch-made hot chocolate.  The roasted malts supply closing notes of caramelized brown sugar and dark coffee.  Rich and intense, but still smooth and composed.

Mouthfeel:  Silky in texture, this Stout is on the lighter side of full-bodied thanks to a lifting carbonation presence. It is sweet on the palate, but still has a good amount of balancing bitterness from the heavily roasted malts, cocoa nibs and added hops.  Although gently warming, it certainly does not feel like this beer is pushing 8% ABV.  Decadence also resides in the aftertaste as it leaves behind notes of dark chocolate and fine coffee.

Final Thoughts:  To put it simply, Double Bass is a wonderfully executed, big, beautiful Chocolate Stout.  It possesses all of the roast and chocolate character you could possibly want while still somehow avoiding being overly sweet or cloying.  The hops are dialed in perfectly to stealthily provide balance while hiding behind the lightly bitter qualities supplied by the cocoa nibs and the more heavily roasted malts. Oh, and the mouthfeel on this Stout . . . a thing of beauty.  It has more than enough weight to it to firmly establish itself as a robust representation of the style, but it does so with a gliding gracefulness while on the palate.  Factor in that the ABV is so well hidden, and then you are left with a full-flavored Imperial Stout that maintains an almost unrivaled level of drinkability.  If there was a list of beers out there that makes a case for any time of year being Stout Season, Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout would certainly make our Top 5.  Prost!


Starr Hill Brewery’s Four Kings IPA Pack Returns with New Lineup of Variants

FourkingsposterStarr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Virginia) has officially announced that their Four Kings IPA Pack will return again this year to feature the brewery’s King of Hop Imperial India Pale Ale and three new variants: Coffee King of Hop, Mango Habanero King of Hop, and Orange King of Hop.

When it was first introduced in 2014, Starr Hill Brewery originally brewed King of Hop Imperial IPA to be a limited release within their All Access Series.  Brewed with “heaps of American hops from the Pacific Northwest” to create massive “flavor notes of orange peel, passion fruit, grapefruit, and gooseberry”, this Imperial India Pale Ale proved to be a huge hit with hopheads and eventually won the Gold Medal for the India Pale Ale Category at the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival.

Convinced that they had created a winner, Starr Hill Brewery decided to expand their approach to King of Hop Imperial IPA in 2016 by introducing the Four Kings IPA Pack, a limited edition mixed 12-pack that showcases the versatility of King of Hop by brewing a series of inventive variants that feature various natural ingredients.  The 2016 Four Kings IPA Pack also proved to be a success, and it is back again in 2017 with a brand-new lineup of variants.

After sourcing “all natural ingredients including hand-zested orange peel, whole coffee beans, mango puree and habaneros,” the 2017 release of the Four Kings IPA Pack will feature three bottles of each of the following four versions of King of Hop Imperial IPA:

  • King of Hop Imperial IPA
  • Coffee King of Hop
  • Mango Habanero King of Hop
  • Orange King of Hop

“King of Hop has proved to be an excellent canvas to showcase each of these additives, allowing for further exploration into the complexity of the IPA category,” said Starr Hill Brewmaster, Robbie O’Cain. “We are excited to offer three new variants this year, each creating a unique and delicious take on this style of beer.”

The 2017 Four Kings IPA Pack will officially launch at a Release Party in the Starr Hill Brewery Taproom on Thursday, March 24 (click here for more details).  The beers of the Four Kings IPA Pack will then enter limited distribution beginning on April 1.  You can expect to find the Four Kings available in mixed 12-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at “exclusive” craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Virginia, and other states within Starr Hill’s distribution network.  The 2016 Four Kings IPA Pack was ridiculously good, and you should expect the 2017 version to be more of the same.  Do not count on these beers to last long once released, so be sure you to get your fill before they disappear from shelves and taps.  Prost!

Vital Information for King of Hop Imperial IPA from Starr Hill Brewery

Release – Limited, launching March 24 at the brewery. Enters limited distribution April 1
Style – American Imperial India Pale Ale
ABV – 7.5%
IBUs – 50
Availability – Four Kings IPA Variety Pack of 12 oz. bottles and draft
Beer Finder –


Tasting Notes: Warm Up Winter Ale from Starr Hill Brewery

warmupTasting Notes closes out the week by seeking comfort in a tall glass of Warm Up Winter Ale from Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia).

Warm Up Winter Ale has arrived as the latest release in Starr Hill’s Heavy Rotation Series, a lineup of “fresh styles . . . [that] rotates four times a year and is available in six-packs and on draft.”  For this release, the brewery crafted a smooth Winter Warmer that has been “spiced with cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg and vanilla.” Weighing in at just 6.1% ABV, this Dark Ale proves to be a “fine pairing for fireside sipping.”  Warm Up Winter Ale is available now in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft.  This limited release offering can be found at craft beer-friendly restaurants, bars and retailers in Alabama and throughout the rest of Starr Hill Brewery’s distribution area.

Like all releases in the Heavy Rotation Series, Warm Up Winter Ale is meant to be enjoyed while listening to some great tunes.  Starr Hill Brewery has curated the perfect Spotify playlist to pair with this offering, and you can check it out by clicking here.

Alright, let’s adjust the volume to the appropriate level and get to some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Warm Up Winter Ale from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance: Warm Up pours a striking, red-hued brown in color.  Held to direct light, the reds greatly intensify with glowing garnet tones.  Although it is on the darker side, the beer is clear and displays a dutiful carbonation presence.  The pour produced a solid finger of tan colored foam.  Retention is good, maintaining a half finger cap that lays down spotty lacing on the glass.  An absolutely beautiful beer to look upon.

Aroma: Mmmm, spiced cookie goodness resides within.  Notes of allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove eagerly greet the nose first.  Brown sugar and bready grain then arrive with subtle tones of chocolate and vanilla.  Packed with aromatics, this beer promises that a comforting, warming experience lies ahead.

Taste: The flavor experience begins with a gentle burst of soothing nutmeg and cinnamon. Clove, almonds, light ginger, a touch of citrus and some floral hop notes then begin to develop.  Vanilla adds a bit of a cream-like quality and rich cocoa amps up the level of decadence.  Although this may sound busy, the holiday spices are nicely tempered to keep each sip an absolute pleasure.

Mouthfeel:  This brew falls on the lighter side of medium in body with a moderate carbonation.  It avoids being too heavy on the palate, but still has enough weight to properly carry all of its flavors.  At 6.1% ABV, there is no trace of heat to be found whatsoever.  The aftertaste leaves behind some lingering notes of holiday spice and vanilla.

Final Thoughts: As soon as I first stuck my nose in this glass, Warm Up Winter Ale instantly conjured up childhood memories of getting into a tin of Lebkuchen, a traditional German holiday treat typically given as a gift during Christmas.  Wonderfully aromatic, these confections are basically large, holiday spiced cookies that are often coated with a vanilla or chocolate shell.  They are a perfect balance of sweet and spice that is unmistakable and incredibly nostalgic.  That said, nearly every aspect of these treats can be found in this offering from Starr Hill.  The common pitfall for spiced Winter Warmers is that they can easily result in an intense, overly spiced experience.  This is not the case with Warm Up Winter Ale at all.  Like the Lebkuchen, this offering gives you just enough of these delightful spices and then washes them away with the subtly employed sweetness of vanilla and cocoa.  Every aspect of the beer works in harmony to keep you coming back for another sip.  This is exactly what I seek in a Winter Warmer of this ilk.  If you enjoy Holiday Ales, this is a lighter example that is absolutely worth seeking out.  Prost!

Starr Hill Brewery Releases 2017 Lineup Calendar

allaccessshbStarr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia) offers the craft beer community a glimpse into the future with the official release of the brewery’s 2017 Lineup Calendar.

Just as we’ve done with previous posts concerning brewery release calendars, we are going to post Starr Hill Brewery’s 2017 Lineup below so that you can check it out on your own.  Before we do so, Starr Hill is going big once again this year and we need to cover a few highlights first:

  • The brewery’s All Access Series will see three new additions: Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout (January), brewed with generous cocoa additions for a mocha aroma with a bittersweet chocolate and dark fruit finish; Hop Buzz Coffee IPA (April), dry-hopped with whole coffee beans for a roasty aroma with subtle coffee flavor and citrus hops on the finish; & Resinate Imperial Red IPA (July), brewed with specialty malts for a ruby-red hue and firm maltiness, with American hops imparting citrus aroma and flavor.
  • Starr Hill’s Heavy Rotation Series will also feature three new brews: Warehouse Pils (March), a German Pilsner dry-hopped with German hops, golden in color with a mildly floral flavor and a crisp malt finish; Festie Oktoberfest Lager (September), a smooth and malty tribute to the great German Märzen, makes its awaited return to 6-packs for the first time in over four years; & Two-Tone Vanilla Porter (December), melds the aroma and flavor of real vanilla beans with the sweetness of chocolate, malt and subtle caramel notes.
  • The draft-only Debut Series will be rocking four new offerings: Scotch Ale (January), characterized by its huge malty nose and features a full, sweet palate with very little hop bitterness; Denali Double IPA (April), highlights the fruity aroma of Denali hops; Farmhouse IPA (July), blends American hops with spicy notes from the French yeast; & Russian Imperial Stout (October), for the holidays with special ingredients to be announced.
  • Arriving in February, the Spring Tour Variety Pack will be the first seasonal variety 12-pack of bottles released by the brewery in 2017.  It will feature Grateful Pale Ale, Reviver Red IPA, The Love Wheat Beer, & Warehouse Pils.

Check out the rest of the 2017 releases on the calendar available below, and settle in for another great year of craft beer from Starr Hill Brewery. Prost!


Starr Hill Brewery IPA JamBEERee Festival to Return in 2017

ipa-jambeeree-logo_2017Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia) has officially announced that they will once again host the IPA JamBEERee Festival at Hangar Park (5391 Three Notch’d Road, Crozet, Virginia) on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

Returning as “Virginia’s largest craft beer festival celebrating local India Pale Ales,” the IPA JamBEERee Festival is back with the intention to blow the minds of hopheads throughout the Southeast.  This lupulin-focused festival will “showcase a wide variety of Virginia breweries pouring their hoppiest styles and the release of several rare and exclusive offerings from Starr Hill, along with some additional non-IPA options.”

“The opportunity for experimentation within the IPA style is truly remarkable, and it’s always fun to brew with new ingredients and techniques,” said Robbie O’Cain, Starr Hill’s Brewmaster. “IPA JamBEERee is unique in the way it showcases the best Virginia-made IPAs from craft brewers and homebrewers alike.”

Since Starr Hill’s identity is firmly linked to the area’s vibrant music scene, the festival will be soundtracked by a lineup of live, local music.  Beyond the hoppy brews and live entertainment, this event will also feature food trucks and recreational games.  Proceeds from the IPA JamBEERee Festival will go to benefit a local non-profit organization.

Details on participating breweries, performers and tickets will be revealed in early February on, and I will of course hit you with an updated post at that time.  Stay tuned, save the date, and start making some plans.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: A Beer Pairing with the Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods

nealbros_200For a little change of pace, this week’s Tasting Notes gets its snack on with a special beer pairing featuring the delicious Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods (Toronto, Ontario).

I was recently approached by representatives from Neal Brothers Foods to see if I would be willing to provide them with some input on possible beer pairings for their line of “Extremely Tasty” Kettle Chips.  The more I looked over their available flavors – Maple Bacon, Montreal Steak Spice, Pink Himalayan Salt, & Spicy Srirachup -, the more excited I got about this possibly becoming a fun new project to be featured as a Tasting Notes segment.  I pitched my idea to them, and the good folks at Neal Brothers gave me the go-ahead.

Before this delicious, snack-filled pairing can commence, we first need to cover some particulars on Neal Brothers Foods.  Peter and Chris Neal started Neal Brothers Foods in 1988 by making croutons out of their mother’s home in Aurora, Ontario, and the croutons proved to be a huge hit with locals. The company quickly outgrew their headquarters in mom’s kitchen, and Neal Brothers Foods moved to Toronto, Ontario to create a variety of delicious products. With a dedication to the freshest ingredients, Neal Brothers offers products made from “organic ingredients to help sustain our environment and keep us healthy and chemical free,” and they are also firm believers in the Fair Trade movement.  This commitment to creating “great tasting, ‘better for you’ snacks” has made it possible for Neal Brothers to steadily grow.  One of their most popular offerings are these “all natural, non-GMO, kettle-cooked chips.”  Thanks to an exclusive partnership created with Whole Foods Market, Neal Brothers Kettle Chips are now available in the United States.

Now that we have all of that covered, let’s get our sip and chip on with a little Tasting Notes Beer Pairing featuring the Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods!


Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Pink Himalayan Salt Kettle Chips with Longboard Island Lager from Kona Brewing Co.

  • The Pairing – Since the flavor of these Pink Himalayan Salt Kettle Chips is going to be pretty straight forward, I wanted to keep the pairing simple by going with a highly drinkable lager like Longboard Island Lager from Kona Brewing Co.   The chips really showcase the potato by highlighting its earthy, hearty and lightly sweet qualities.  Combine this with a salt character that is incredibly spot on – not too heavy, but not too light – and you now have a chip that kind of forces your hand to return to the bag for another.  The idea here may be simple on paper, but these chips pack quite a bit of flavor and are mighty tasty.
    Pair this experience up with Longboard Island Lager, and the earthy grain and gently sweet notes of the pale malts easily lift that potato flavor to another level.  The lightly spicy, floral and citrusy hop tones push forward to work with and add complexity to the saltiness.  On the other side of the card, the chips improve the overall drinking experience by coaxing out a nice lemon zest note hiding within the beer.  Simultaneously, the beer clears out the saltiness of the chips while that saltiness resets the palate for another sip.  The goal here was to create an easy pairing to enjoy while you sit down to watch the game on the couch.  Mission accomplished.
  • Paring Alternatives – Staying with the idea of keeping it simple, I would stick with Lagers and lighter, easy drinking Ales to pair with these Pink Himalayan Salt Kettle Chips.  Since it is Fest season, you could skip the pretzels and pair these chips with a Festbier like the 2016 Oktoberfest Festival Lager collaboration from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Mahrs Bräu.  Looking for something more accessible (on multiple levels)?  Well, you could always go with a good, mass-produced Pilsner like Miller High Life.  In more of an Ale mood?  Go with a Blonde Ale like American Blonde from Cahaba Brewing Co. or a classic American Amber Ale such as Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Company. If you want to amp up this salty experience, you could always go with a briny Gose like Troublesome from Off Color Brewing. Also, if you are hosting a beer tasting, a big ol’ bowl of these chips will act as the perfect palate cleanser between brews.


Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Maple Bacon Kettle Chips with Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale from Starr Hill Brewery

  • The Pairing – Breakfast, anyone?  These Maple Bacon Kettle Chips hit the palate with a luxurious maple syrup flavor at first bite.  When I say maple syrup, I mean seriously good maple syrup.  You know . . . that maple syrup you see at the store, question the price, finally try it, and never go back to the cheap stuff again.  That kind of maple syrup.  As this flavor seduces the taste buds, things somehow get better as a smoky bacon note slow-rolls into the picture.  After a couple chips, you could swear that you just wolfed down a whole plate of bacon.  This bag is insanely difficult to put down . . . but we must to take a sip of Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale from Starr Hill Brewery.
    This English-style Brown Ale – like most English-style brews – is reserved.  Its aromatic and flavor profile is light in sweetness, light in hop presence, and smoothly teases your palate with soft tones of vanilla and maple.  Now . . . pop one of those chips in your mouth.  WHOLE. NEW. WORLD.  The maple notes now absolutely explode from the beer, making you question if someone shuffled in a new beer when you were not looking.  The sweetness is still contained, but the experience is increased tenfold.  The malty aspects of the beer then go to work on that bacon to pull out even more smoky pork goodness from the chips.  This combination conjures up the image of sitting down to an awesome breakfast where warm maple syrup wanders from my pancakes to not only the bacon on the plate . . . but also to my hash browns.  And I am not mad at it.
  • Pairing Alternatives – If you are not within Starr Hill Brewery’s distribution area, just seek out a good, locally available English-style Brown Ale like Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale or a more malt-forward American representation like Hazelnut Brown Nectar from Rogue Ales.  We can progressively step things up in intensity and sweetness by venturing into the world of Scotch Ales by pairing these Maple Bacon Kettle Chips with Old Chub Scotch Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery.  If you would like to bring out more bacon notes, go with a Smoked Beer like Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing Co. or a more traditional Rauchbier from Schlenkerla.  For a decadent, over-the-top breakfast experience, pick up some Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Co. and thank me later.  Cider fans, just about any Apple Cider you can come up with will also work wonders with these kettle chips.


Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Spicy Srirachup Kettle Chips with Oatsmobile Ale from Bell’s Brewery

  • The Pairing – If you are anything like me, you cannot think of a better condiment for just about anything than the perfect mixture of Sriracha and good ketchup.  So, I was obviously stoked to see these chips as an available option from Neal Brothers Foods.  As I greedily consume these Spicy Srirachup Kettle Chips, I am constantly reminded of the act of dipping really good, spiced fries (think curly fries from Arby’s) into that sweet heat concoction comprised of Sriracha and ketchup.  Seriously, it is spot on and I cannot describe them any better.
    Now, we must introduce the beer.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this offering, Bell’s Brewery Oatsmobile Ale is a Session Pale Ale brewed with oats.  The addition of those oats adds a creamy texture to the more expected pale malt and bright hoppy characteristics of the American Pale Ale.  That velvety texture makes you take more notice of the beer’s malt sweetness, and this works with the chips by bringing out the sweet tomato character of the ketchup.  The tropical hop notes then sync up with the chilies of the Sriracha, making you experience more than just heat.  Those hops force the chilies to bloom and expose their fruity and vegetal flavors.  That texture then reveals that it can pull double duty by making you believe that you have a much larger beer here to tackle the huge flavor of these chips, but still remains light enough on its feet to keep you sipping without the worry of getting weighed down throughout the experience.  This Oatsmobile Ale and Spicy Srirachup Kettle Chip combo just might be a perfect pairing.
  • Pairing Alternatives – If you are a fan of all things spicy, you are going to get a progressively more intense experience the hoppier you go with the pairing.  If you want to stay light but go a step further than a Pale Ale, a Session IPA like Stone Go To IPA from Stone Brewing Co. will do some good things here.  You can go full on IPA with a brew like Jai Alai® India Pale Ale from Cigar City Brewing or step it up big time with a Double IPA such as Snake Handler Double India Pale Ale from Good People Brewing Company.  Feeling adventurous? Pour up a Chili Beer such as Dia de los Serranos Double Stout from Green Flash Brewing Co. or Ghost Face Killah from Twisted Pine Brewing Company.  For those who may want to quell the heat and bring out more of the sweetness from the ketchup, you won’t go wrong in pairing these chips with a fine American Porter like Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Co.


Tasting Notes Pairing: Neal Brothers Montreal Steak Spice Kettle Chips with Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Co.

  • The Pairing – As I open up this bag of Montreal Steak Spice Kettle Chips and take big whiff of the exquisite aroma billowing forth, I cannot believe that this is the first time I have realized that Montreal steak spice is basically pastrami curing spice (some quick Googling proved my suspicions correct).  It is kind of crazy to think that it ultimately took a bag of chips for me to put this together, but the aromas and flavors in these chips are so pronounced and blatant that they make it unmistakable.  Garlic, chili flake and dill really pop in these chips, and a little coriander and mustard lingers in the background.  The hearty, meaty potato acts as a perfect replacement for the steak and provides a solid foundation beneath all of this savory spice.
    Since these chips are so big in flavor and incredibly complex, they need a beer dynamic enough to stand up to them.  My mind immediately went to Saison and one of the best out there is Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Co.  This beer has a beautiful peppery quality that is immediately at home with the garlic, mustard and potato notes in these chips.  The citrusy and floral hop tones then mingle with the chili and dill, making them even more pronounced.  The coriander in the chips then kicks in to intensify the earthy qualities of the Saison.  Finally, the beer’s effervescence easily cleans the palate after each sip is complete, allowing you to fully experience every aspect of this combo with each chip and sip.  Absolutely lovely.  If you have been looking for a way to get high-class with beer and snack chips, you just found it.
  • Pairing Alternatives – A wide variety of easy-drinking lagers will work incredibly well with these chips, but I’m going to stick with suggesting more complex brews to pair here.  Additional Saisons such as Saison Dupont from La Brasserie Dupont and Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang will act as fantastic stand-ins for Tank 7.  A Belgian-style Tripel would work as well, and I would go with La Fin du Monde from Unibroue or Tripel Karmeliet from Brouwerij Bosteels.  If mind-blowing complexity is your intention, snack on these chips while sipping a Sour Ale such as Oro de Calabaza from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales or Duchesse de Bourgogne from Brouwerij Verhaeghe.

The Wrap-Up – I cannot possibly relay to you how impressed I am with these ridiculously tasty Kettle Chips from Neal Brothers Foods.  They are not just fantastic chips, but they are truly incredibly good food.  As far as snacks go, they can curb some cravings and still remain pretty good for you thanks to their natural, non-GMO recipes.  It is obvious that no corners were cut in the creation of these Kettle Chips, and not one flavor was dumbed down for the sake of wide market appeal.  It is this component of huge flavors that makes these chips a perfect snack to be enjoyed alone or accompanied by a variety of fine beers.  The next time you need chips for a get-together you are hosting, be sure to swing by Whole Foods Market and delight your guests with the Kettle Chips of Neal Brothers Foods.  Prost!