Baxter the dog has been back in Vermont for a week after spending three weeks away for the holidays, and he is finally on a normal sleeping schedule and able to properly review his latest craft beer. He just didn't have time when he was in Washington, as he was too busy playing with his friend D'fer and frolicking about in the snow.
Last night the girlfriend and I made a visit to 14th Star Brewing Company up in St. Albans, VT, about 30 miles north of where we live in Burlington. We were able to sample some beers and get a tour of their three-barrel operation, as well as get a history of one of the state's newest beer producers.
14th Star is named for Vermont, which was the 14th state. It was started and is run by two Army veterans, who drew up their business plan in the mountains of Afghanistan. Apparently they had a lot of free time, describing their usual day as "23 1/2 hours of boredom and a 1/2 hour of terror."
The duo has been homebrewing for seven years and started selling their concoctions last spring. They began with a one-barrel system, but soon started selling that out within five hours. That forced them to shut down for a few months before re-opening in November at their current scale.
They are still in a bit of an experimental stage, as they have only produced one beer more than once. They had two beers on draft at their tasting room on Friday night: An American Pale Ale and an Amber Ale.
Those style names don't really tell the story of their beers, as they don't stick to the traditional parameters. Their pale ale was much more malt-dominant than most recent iterations, and the hops served more to balance the finish than anything. The beer Baxter chose to review today was their amber.
Ambers are typically the beer of choice for those who are new to the craft brew world. I abandoned them long ago as I've grown more and more fond of higher IBUs or darker roasted malts. 14th Star's amber had me thinking I might try some more should the opportunity present itself. The brewers loaded up the beer with aromatic hops, while keeping the more balanced flavor that is typical of an amber.
Craig's Review: As I suggested above, I was pleasantly surprised by this amber. The difference is noticeable from the start, as the hop aroma, particularly the Cascade variety, is dominant. The malt is present when it first hits the tongue, with some slight roasted flavor. The finish is more bitter than expected, and also brings a bit of citrus.
If 14th Star is still trying to figure out what they want to make on a permanent basis, I would suggest this. It is palatable enough to appeal to a lot of folks, while being unique enough for the more hardcore beer enthusiasts. Well done.
Baxter's Review: To be honest, I'm still dreaming of the wide open spaces I had back in Yakima now that I am all cooped up in an apartment here in Burlington, but I suppose I can give my review. The beer had that icky smell that a lot of Craig's beers have, but once I tasted it I liked it. Was sweet and yummy, but I did have to get a drink of water to wash the aftertaste out of my mouth. What is with you humans and your love of bitter flavor? You are all crazy.
That is what Bax and I will be drinking for the game. We will also be enjoying some burn-your-mouth and destroy-your-tongue-and-make-you-want-to-die leftover Thai food from last night. I've always told myself to avoid ordering the dishes with the most peppers next to them. I went against that last night, and I paid dearly (and will again today).
Let us know what you are having for the game, or discuss any new delicious beers you've tried lately.