Dogfish Head Namaste Review

1-DSC_0539Having just finished mowing the grass for the first time this year, I think it’s only fitting that we introduce a style normally associated with warmer weather- Witbier, or Belgian White. It’s one of my favorite styles to enjoy in summer, as it is light and refreshing…otherwise known as the opposite of everything I reviewed in the months of November-February…

Witbier and Hefeweizen (aka Weizenbier aka Weissbier) account for the majority of “wheat beer” produced today, with lesser known sour wheat varieties being Lambic, Berliner Weisse, and Gose.  Whereas Hefeweizen is normally associated with Germany, Witbier is associated with Belgium.  The name Witbier, or White Beer comes from the presence of suspended yeast and wheat proteins, which give it a hazy, sometimes white color.  It is traditionally flavored with a spice blend called “gruit,” which commonly includes orange peel, coriander, and (less traditionally) hops.

Popular examples of the style that you may be familiar with are Blue Moon and Shocktop Belgian White in the domestic market, and Hoegaarden on the import side.  Hoegaarden is a perfect visual example of the name “white beer,” while the most popular U.S. examples are normally orange in color, presumably due to the large amount of orange/orange peel used in the brewing process.

Style: Belgian White (Witbier)

Produced by: Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware, USA

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From Dogfish Head:

A Belgian-style White made with dried organic orange slices, fresh cut lemongrass and a bit of coriander. This beer will be a great summer quencher. Namaste was brewed with Leo from Birra del Borgo in Italy as a tribute to our friends at 3 Fonteinen brewery in Belgium, who recently had devastating production loss (1/3 of their annual production!) at their brewery.

ABV: 4.8%

Appearance – 4.5

Glassware – Libbey 16-Ounce Midtown Pilsner Glass

There is enough carbonation here that it doesn’t take too much effort to raise an inch think, bright white head.  It sticks to the walls of the glass heavily as the head recedes to a thin layer over several minutes.  It’s made up of small to large size bubbles, and is refreshed with tons of bubbles that form small at the bottom of the glass, and rise up growing is size until they reach the top.  Now, I’ve noticed this effect many times before, but this time, it’s a bit different.

This Wibier is unfiltered, so there’s a fair amount of sediment left in the bottle (and glass).  That sediment, mostly yeast particles, are what make the beverage cloudy.  In this case they also serve to show you how strong the force of the rising bubbles is, as it is strong enough to keep the yeast particles consonantly circulating up through the center up the glass, and then down the sides once they reach the top.  I suppose this happens with most beers, but you don’t normally get to observe it so clearly.  Notice all of the sediment in the picture below:

1-DSC_0540The color is golden yellow, and with a significant amount of sediment, making it quite cloudy.

Aroma – 3.5

The aroma is surprisingly reserved.  For some reviews, I can pretty much complete this section without moving the glass closer, as the aromas practically fill the room.  But that is not the case here.  Closer inspection reveals the expected banana bread and typical Belgian yeast aromas.  In general it smells much more lemon citrus compared to Blue Moon or Shocktop, which are much more Orange forward, though it carries the same coriander aroma as they all do.

Let’s get in even closer and see if we can discover anything more unusual.  No.  I can’t.  I know the bottle says “orange slices, lemongrass, and peppercorns,” but I can’t distinguish any of those aromas specifically (aside from the previously mentioned citrus aroma).  Let’s see if any of these flavors are more prominent in the taste…I’m tired of not drinking it yet anyway.

Taste – 8.0

The previous question is answered immediately with your first taste.  Your first impressions are lemon/orange zest of the tangy-almost but not quite bitter variety, and a noticeable lemongrass finish.  Like the aroma, the flavors are mild, straightforward, and are well balanced.  It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve had a Blue Moon (which is notable considering it used to be one of my favorite mainstreams), but I can say with confidence that this is faaaar less sweet compared to that.  This is like the savory lemon chicken dish, where blue moon is the orange sherbert…  Or something.

That’s not a bad thing, as less sweetness is often desired when the temperatures rise, and when people drink more often because they actually need to hydrate, rather than just for recreation.  I think the almost bitter, but not description is accurate.  There really is no lasting aftertaste at all…just a thirst for more!

With respect to the peppercorns…I don’t get them.  Maybe I’m confusing them with the mild corriander flavor that I am used to in beers of this style, or maybe the pepper flavor is contributing to the almost bitterness, but there is certainly no spiciness that often follows.

Palate – 4.0

Namaste is built for summer.  It is light to medium in body, heavy in carbonation, low on alcohol, and refreshingly drinkable.  The flavors are on the mild side, so I doubt you would get tired of this after just one glass.

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Overall

After waiting a while to review this (I’ve tried every night this week, but something has always come up), I finally get why this is popularly reviewed highly: it’s well balanced, light, and with basic flavors that almost everyone would enjoy.  I daresay many people turned off by the flavors of typical lite beers might enjoy this a lot, it’s that mild.

So there you go.  Looking for a mild-mannered but totally summer beer a level above your ordinary ale?  I suggest giving this a shot.  But don’t just buy one like I did…

Score (out of 5): 4.0

 

Dividend Champion Stocks Review – April 2014

April is already more than half over, and I have yet to publish the update to this series. In the future, I hope to get this out a lot closer to the first of the month, as the prices and statistics are all based on prices from the last day of the previous month (in this case 31 March). So what does a few weeks matter in the long term if we’re looking for investments to hold for decades? The short answer is usually not a lot…the day to day action in the market and small differences in share prices won’t matter in the long run. On the other hand, larger swings in share prices can matter more.

Take for instance KO, which when I began working on this post was hovering around $38.50/share and a yield of 3.16%, but is now sitting at $40.7 and a yield of 3.00%. Bottom line, always do your in-depth research on these companies before thinking about investing, to include looking at more up to date pricing than you see here.

Due to a mostly sideways March, this list will look quite similar to the previous months edition…it takes more significant market action to push a larger number of stocks in or out of our top 25. Let’s take a look.

The Best Values – April 2014

To arrive at this top 25 list, we start with the latest Dividend Champions Spreadsheet, then perform the following screens (you can find the latest spreadsheet here: http://dripinvesting.org/tools/tools.asp at the “U.S. Dividend Champions” link):

  1. Cut negative 5 year Earnings Per Share (EPS) Growth
  2. Cut negative earnings / No P/E
  3. Cut yields below 2%.  Over time, low yielding stocks could be good dividend investments, but they will need to maintain very high growth rates to compete with those in the 3-4% yield range.  V is an example of a low yielding stock that is under 2%, but might be worth considering.
  4. Cut P/E’s over 20.  This will eliminate many big names in dividend investing, but with a list so large, why not pick the best current values?
  5. Cut Chowder Rule under 12 and Tweed Factor below zero.  These are combinations of yield, P/E, and 5 year Dividend Growth Rate (DGR).  Stocks with the highest DGR and yield, with the lowest P/E will float to the top when sorted by these metrics.

We then sort out the MLPs, ADRs, and Small Cap and below stocks…they deserve special consideration…and a post of their own if I can find the time…for now we’ll stick with plain old companies, medium market cap (2 billion shares) and above.

Here is the “Top 25″ Chart with the best of the best:

5This “bubble” chart shows three things: 10 yr DGR (vertical), yield (horizontal), and years of increasing dividends (bubble size- smallest is 5 years, largest is 46 years).  How can there be only 5 years of consecutive increases on a chart with 10 year DGR?  In those cases, the company either failed to increase or decreased the dividend sometime in the period 5-10 years ago, though the growth rate over the last 10 years still remains high enough to be competitive.

The simple explanation is that the farther to the top right corner of the chart, the higher you’re dividend return will be over time, and the larger the circle, the more confidant you can be that the company can weather tougher economic times while continuing to pay and increase dividends.

Whether or not you recognize the stock symbols, you probably know most of the companies here, and that’s a good thing…it’s much easier to invest in a business you understand than one that is foreign to you.  WMT, TGT, MCD, AFL, MSFT, and IBM are well known businesses, and have some of the longest streaks of dividend increases out there. You probably recognize all of the largest bubbles with the exception of HP Helmerich & Payne (not Hewlett-Packard), which is an oil & gas company.

This chart suggests that many of the long standing dividend growing companies eventually fall in the 2-3% yield range and the 10-25% 10 year DGR mark (right there where many of the biggest bubbles are).  It’s difficult to grow/pay more than that amount without growing the percentage of profits paid to dividends to eventual unhealthy levels.  If you want higher dividend growth or yield, you are going to have to step further outside to companies with less of a track record, like CBRL, WEC, MAT, and DRI.  MCD’s position on this chart is impressive given that it has been paying and growing dividends at such a high rate for 38 years.

Lets look at the data in more detail:

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Note that the majority of the stocks here are not new this month, as a fairly even March held the list mostly consistent. Recall, the green are previous good values and the purple are previous good values that we own.  Here are some other thoughts:

  • There are 2 new companies on the top 25 list: GPS and PFG.
  • 2 companies fell off the list since last month: HCC and UNP, both due to yields that were previously just above 2%, and fell below the 2% mark after upward price action.
  • CCE is Coke’s independent bottler, marketer, and distributor in Western Europe.  It doesn’t have the long track record of growth that KO does (7 years vs 52), but the DGRs are twice as high, as smaller companies can grow faster than larger ones.  Seeing that KO is a bit overvalued currently (even more so after the recent 4% day), CCE may be the ticket.
  • Two restaurants return from last month, remaining very high on the graph- CBRL and DRI (owns several restaurant chains).  Their numbers are solid, though the restaurant industry, being a luxury industry and not one of necessity, will always be subject to more volatility than many of the other industries on this list.  As a note: these companies are also some of the smallest on the top 25 list.  In general, the smaller, the more room for growth, and also, the more risk.
  • HP has recently increased its dividend up to nearly 3% from sub 1%, thus “artificially boosting its DGR to very high growth rates.  It’s worth noting that while they have continuously increased dividends for 42 years, it was at a much lower yield than they currently pay.
  • Most of the companies above are not in our portfolio, and that’s OK.  For the most part, that means that the companies we bought have appreciated in price out of the “good buy” range, which is the whole point of buying low, isn’t it? : They will come back around into the buy range eventually, and we’ll be waiting.  Until then, there are plenty of current good values.

Here are the stocks with 5 year DGR’s (but not enough history to calculate 10 yr):

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The chart is not too helpful for this group, as most are in the same DGR range with the exception of WU, which is a standout.  Higher yields in this group are currently only available in the tobacco industry, PM and LO, which are so similar that they almost overlap.  Note the downward direction of DGR for LO and CMS as you go from 5yr to 3yr to 1yr – this is something to monitor over time, as it could be an indicator that longer term dividend growth is slowing. Overall, not really any notable changes from last month.

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And here are two with only 5 years of dividend history, and a 3 yr DGR:

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DPS remains on the 3yr DGR list and is joined by COH. COH is an intriguing stock, as it is not often that you see an apparel (and a luxury apparel company at that) company in the same conversation as the rest of these. That’s the beauty of this type of analysis- it’s not about preconceived notions of what a certain type of company should do, it’s all about what they have done in the past (and while this is no grantee of future performance, it is a good place to start your evaluation).

And finally, how are all the remainder of the “big names” in dividend investing doing (that didn’t make the cut)?

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These stocks are sorted by Tweed Factor.  Under the current sorting methodology, the stocks closer to the top are the closest to breaking into the top 25 list.

Plenty of big names here.  We own more than half of them already, and I hope to buy the rest at good prices over the next few years.  At that point, the process would switch from opening new stock positions to increasing the ones at the best current valuations.  Some other thoughts:

  • The # of years of dividend increases is astounding in this list (an average of 30 years).  Though the combination of DGR, yield, and P/E may not be as favorable as those in the charts above, there is a lot of comfort in investing in a track record of performance such as these.  Is it worth overpaying?  That’s up to you.
  • Some of these big names come in favorably under a P/E of 20, but fall short with lower DGR or yields.  Examples are GIS and PEP.  They are all close to being good values, which means you won’t be overpaying too much for them now.
  • Some companies here due to low DGR across the board from 1 to 10 years: T, VZ, NWN, and LEG being examples of low growth.
  • INTC falls out of the recommended list not due to financial data, but because at this point, you might as well wait and see what they do with the next dividend payment (should be announced mid-April).  If the dividend is not increased from the current rate, the growth streak will be broken at 10 years.

I have a feeling that with April’s price action, we’ll see more differentiation between this month’s list and next months. I’ll do my best to get future posts in this series out closer to the 1st of the month, or at least in the first week.

Happy researching.

Links to previous posts in the series:

March 2014

Feb 2014

Jan 2014

Brewers Art Ozzy Review

1-DSC_0341If you do a search of the style Belgian Strong Ale on beer reviewing sites, you’ll likely get a top 10 list such as this:

  1. Westvleteren Extra 8
  2. Struise Pannepot
  3. Struise Pannepot Reserva
  4. Rochefort Trappistes 8
  5. Abbaye des Rocs Brune
  6. Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus
  7. Chimay Bleue (Blue) / Grande Réserve
  8. Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw/Blue
  9. Abbaye des Rocs Grand Cru
  10. Bush de Nuits (Scaldis Prestige de Nuits)

Aside from # 7 on this list being my favorite beer of all time, what else does this list tell us about Belgian Strong Ales?  First, of the 8 breweries represented here, 7 are located in Belgium, and the eighth is in Quebec.  3 are brewed in by monks in Trappist Monasteries and 5 are commercial breweries.  These beers have been brewed since 1838, 2003, 1595, 1979, 1998, 1862, 1471, and 1769, so the style certainly draws on hundreds of years of history- though some recent attempts at the style have been quite successful.  In general, this style has some of the most die-hard fans of any, and include many people’s favorite beer.  How is a relative newcomer from Baltimore in a can going to compete with all of this?

Style: Belgian Strong Ale

Produced by: Brewers Art, Baltimore, MD, USA

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From Brewers Art:

Our answer to the Belgian «devil» beers (i.e. Lucifer, Duvel, etc.). Both rich and dry, this beer is all too easy to consume in large quantities. Hopped with Styrian Goldings.

ABV: 7.25%

Appearance – 3.5

Glassware – Speigelau Tulip Glass 

A fairly vigorous pour was necessary to produce a .5 ” head, bright white in color, and consisting of tiny to small size bubbles.  Despite the lack of carb in the pour, the glass immediately begins forming bubbles all over- small around the sides, and large at the bottom, and these bubbles steadily rise to the surface maintaining a decent foam layer well enough until the glass is mostly empty.  Impressive.

Color is much lighter than expected, especially compared to darker, opaque Belgian Strong Ales.  At first glance, this could easily be mistaken for a plain old lite beer, especially since it comes in a can.  I have a feeling the golden yellow color and perfect clarity conceal far more flavor than you will find in you average light beer, but we’ll have to find out.

Aroma – 3.51-DSC_0348

Honestly, the aroma you get when pouring and just looking at the glass is once again light beer…though I wonder if my eyes are biasing me.  A closer inspection reveals much more depth than you will find in any pilsner or light beer.  Candy-like sugars, white wine grapes, green apples, and mild citrus all show up.  There is a sweet yeast aroma that rises from the persistent head (even after 20 minutes) that confirms- this is no ordinary light beer…this is a Belgian.  Overall, the aroma is clean, crisp, and straightforward.  It is a bit sweet, a bit tart, and a bit fruity…not unlike white wines of the sweeter varieties.  I have a feeling the taste will lean much toward the savory and drier side of things, but lets find out.

Taste – 5.5

It seems that I was, in fact, fooled after all.  The mixture of the light, clear, golden yellow color, the white foam, the can packaging, and an initial impression of light beer aroma has lead me astray.  One taste is all it takes to dispel any of that nonsense.  The taste is wonderfully mild on the tongue considering the high level of carb.  I’ve got to say- all of that carb stays pretty well under control in you mouth- bordering on creamy, but a bit more harsh than that.  The flavor is really quite difficult to describe, as it is so mild.  You get slight versions of the aromas I saw before: a subdued white wine, a subtle sweet yeast breadiness, a light lemon citrus balanced with the previous flavors.

The finish is decently bitter…more-so than I would prefer.  You may ask what do you have against bitter?  The answer is that some bitterness is good- it is a vital flavor component in many good styles of beer.  Where it goes wrong for me is when the bitter is so powerful that all of the varied flavors that the brewers worked so hard to cram into the can are “punched” aside, leaving you chewing on air trying to work the bitter taste out of our mouth.  This beer takes me to that point, and almost goes past it.  It doesn’t help that it’s pretty darn dry at the same time, adding to the aforementioned effect.

The final flavor, which I suspect was never intended to be there, really seals the deal for me- the metallic finish/aftertaste.  Now plenty of beers can have this type of flavor- some describe it as metallic, tinny, iron, or even blood-like.  It can come from contact with metals during any part of the brewing process, oxidation of the ingredients, or…what was this packaged in again?

Don’t get me wrong.  None of the above flavors I described are very strong- the good, or the bad.  That makes for a drink which is overall very mild, sometimes nice, and sometimes a bit yuck.

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Palate – 4.5

Of all the 4 reviewed categories, the palate stands out as the best. Plentiful carbonation sustained a head throughout the entire review, yet was supportive of the flavor and not overpowering in the mouth.  The light mouth-feel of the beverage went well with the light flavors contained therein.  The alcohol, claimed to be at 7.25% might as well have not been there…I really didn’t ever notice it in the slightest.

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Overall

The more I think about this review (in fact, I thought about it for a day before finishing it up), I think it may not be fair to compare it to the top 10 in the style as I did before.  The brewers themselves compare it to Duvel in their comments, not the ones I listed above.  I tried Duvel at the recent Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival, and guess what, it did in fact seem similar to Ozzy (though the details beyond that are lost…).  Since I haven’t reviewed Duvel yet, we’ll have to hold off on this comparison for now, though it is on my short list of things to pick up.

If your curious if you’ll like this or not, good news, it’s much cheaper than buying the import…and if you can buy a single, it may only cost you $2 or so!  The best comparison I can make is to Midas Touch, and I realize that’s a bit of an odd comparison, but both had a subtle white grape flavor that sticks with you throughout the tasting.  I personally thought the Midas Touch was a far more enjoyable beer, but your results may vary.

If you’ve had this, let me know what you think about it.

Until next time…

Score (out of 5): 3.4

 

 

April 2014 Site News

I thought I would take a few moments to write down some various thoughts related to the site.

  1. Frequency of posts.  It has slowed.  I know.  It’s not due to lack of motivation or interest…but tied much closer to the certain developmental stage of our two boys (turning 1 and 3 soon) which means I really can’t even sit down at the computer for 5 seconds or there is a problem.  Like the older one has locked himself in the bathroom and has drawn “letters” on the mirror for me with my deodorant.  I’m positive that while I think things will get better when the boys can play more independently, I’m also sure that everyone with older kids knows that it will not get better (perhaps easier is a more appropriate word) for a while.  Oh well, I still believe.  I have every intention of continuing to post more often, but the reality is that research, writing, and reviewing time almost always has to be traded for sleep time, and I’ve been unwilling to trade that as much lately.
  2. Ads.  You may have noticed there are a few ads on the site.  What you do not know is that it has been a 4 month battle to get them there.  You see, AdSense has a policy that doesn’t allow content about the sale of alcohol or drug use, etc, but the first scan of your website when you apply automatically rejects you at the mere mention of the word “beer.”  This site is within the policy, but it took many attempts to get to the point where a human would actually acknowledge this and look at it.  I don’t know if I will ever make enough money for the effort to have really been worth it…making money from the site was never a primary goal of mine, though I would like to make enough to break even on the fees for hosting/domain/site design/etc.  It is possible to make decent money from a blog such as this, but it very likely requires more of a time commitment than I can manage right now.  I’ll be happy with anything after waiting so long to get approved.
  3. Domain.  Honestly, it’s always been clunky, and I’ve been somewhat dissatisfied with it.  So I’m planning to change it up to something more in line with the majority of the content.  Making this change is not nearly as easy as it sounds (or as it should be) though, as it involves duplicating the entire site and copying it to a different web location, and then fixing everything that got screwed up on the transfer.  I’m a total novice at this, so I’m still trying to figure out how to make this happen.  Stay tuned for updates on this.

Things to come in the near future:

  1. April edition of the Dividend Champion Stocks List
  2. A debt reduction update, including paying off our second loan this month
  3. More reviews- Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, Heavy Seas, Saranac, Ommegang, Brewer’s Art, Chimay, Firestone, Harpoon, and probably a bunch more that I am forgetting
  4. A new site theme.  Or at least a new title banner.  Time to grab the camera and start taking some “spring” pictures.

Southern Tier Grand Arbor Review

Saison.  It seems like every time we do another review around here we’re introducing a new category, which for an experimentalist like me is awesome.  Each time we introduce a new craft beer category, we add a new entry under the “Beer Reviews” menu up top.  Check it out if you haven’t yet, it’s a quick way to navigate through all the various reviews we’ve done in the last 6 months since we began with the site.

Saison, French for “season,” is a Belgian ale originally brewed by farm workers in their downtime during the slow winter months, which was then stored in farmhouses until it was served to the “seasonal” farm workers during the hot summer months as a way to “keep them hydrated.”  Brewing  in the winter for summer consumption has been popular for hundreds of years for two reasons:

  1. There’s not too much to do around a farm in the winter
  2. The batch is far less likely to spoil while fermenting during the winter and spring than it is in the summer

Though the Saison’s typical of historic times were usually lighter in alcohol in the 3 to 3.5 % ABV range (to keep the focus on hydration, not recreation), today’s Saisons are tailored more toward the typical range of craft beers: 5 to 8% ABV.  It seems “Farmhouse Ale” is not a true category on it’s own, but was likely popularized by American craft breweries wanting to promote this style of ale as “more American,” or at least without an obviously French name that might turn off some die hard domestic drinkers.

Well, now that you’ve had your history lesson for the day, let’s get on to the review!

Style: Saison

Produced by: Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY, USA

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From Southern Tier:

Flemish brewers add sugar as an adjunct during fermentation. We add “American sugar” in the form of real maple syrup made by our neighbors at Big Tree Maple, a farm literally across the road from us. Cheers to collaboration and big old trees. Tasting Notes: Earthy Aroma; Mild Bitterness; Dry Tart Finish Pair With: Salads, Seafood, Earthy Cheeses, Fruit Desserts.

ABV: 8%

Appearance – 5

The recommended glassware for Saison is the Tulip glass, which is included in my new Craft Brew Glassware set.  A slow pour (there is abundant carbonation) still results in a full 2″, bright white head with a range of bubble sizes reminiscent of sea foam…reducing down to partial coverage on one side of the surface after 3 minutes.  As it reduces, it leaves heavy lacing all over the glass.  Tilting the glass leaves a thick layer of foam clinging…which then slowly falls back down into the liquid.  As the glass sits, bubbles (small in size) rise from all over the glass and stack up on the top layer of foam- thick at the edges.

The color is a beautiful golden color- orange tinted, and cloudy enough that it lets all the light through the glass, but none of the detail.  Pretty much everything about this is appealing to me.  Appearance isn’t everything in craft beer (obviously), but on appearance, this does everything you could hope for.

1-DSC_0333-001Aroma – 4

Southern Tier calls this a “Belgian Farmhouse Ale,” which we now know means “Saison,” and so it follows that the typical Belgian Ale characteristics show through in the aroma.  The first thing you smell is the spicy mixture of yeast that the Belgian style is known for.  Examining it more closely brings is citrus hops in the form of lemon and orange, and a bit of a unique sweet element from the maple syrup, though it’s not a strong or particularly obvious aroma.  It doesn’t smell overly sweet- the major players here are the yeast and the citrus.  The aroma is definitely more Hefeweizen than anything else.  Let’s see what direction the taste brings us in.

Taste – 7.5

The taste has something in common with Hefeweizen, but definitely has the more sour nature that is associated with “farmhouse ales.”  Maybe a way to describe it is that it is like a cross between a Belgian/Hefeweizen and an IPA.  It has the yeastiness and the banana/coriander/clove sweetness from the one, but the spiciness and a bit of funk from the other.  It’s a good combination, and more enjoyable than the straight funkiness of an IPA in my opinion.

There is a lemon/orange that comes along with the slight funky flavor, transitions into tart, and then bitter on the finish.  There is some noticeable alcohol in the finish, though it comes through more in the nose than in the mouth.  There is a noticeable sweetness that hangs around, even after the other flavors are gone.  Is it maple syrup?  It is maple syrup-ish.  Its not super obviously maple, but it is good.

1-DSC_0338-001Palate – 4

Mouthfeel is substantial- medium to heavy, and certainly fuller than you would guess based on the appearance.  Many hefeweizens have very much the same look and smell, but have a much lighter, more watery feel.  The substance and the density here is quite pleasing.  Carbonation, though appearing on the high side, was even and pleasant on the palate.  Alcohol makes an appearance, but backs up the general flavor medley quite well without being over the top.

Overall

I’m a big fan of Saisons, or Farmhouse Ales, or whatever you want to call them.  They are quite unique…and the sort of sour flavor is not enjoyed by everyone, but I like them.  The inclusion of maple syrup in this one is welcome, as I believe it is a first for me, though in this implementation it is not a strong flavor.  In fact, I would have liked the maple to come through a bit more prominently.

You may see the scores and think “so it scored high in everything except the taste…” and I suppose that is true, as while I appreciated the flavor and would enjoy it again, it wasn’t perfect, and I think there is room for slight improvement.

Overall Southern Tier continues to impress with its availability and its command of an extremely wide range of styles.  I will continue to seek them out and buy anything they offer…in my opinion they are all worthy of your money and time.

Score (out of 5): 4.1

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival – 2014 – Timonium, MD

You may have heard of the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival.  If you haven’t, it’s a multi-city tour (9 stops this year) that gathers (you guessed it) beer, bourbon, & bbq vendors, some merchandise, and LOTS of people into a large building for mostly all you can enjoy fun.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to go to in years past, but it never quite worked out for one reason or another.  Luckily, with the help of Grammie (watching the older boy), Erienne (transportation), and Mason (entertainment + crowd pleasing) we made it happen.

The following will be my thoughts as they come as I review my pictures.

1-DSC_0294Before we get started in earnest, let me suggest one thing:  order your tickets ahead of time or bring cash.  I failed to do so and apparently so had everyone else, because all of the ATMs in the area were empty.  So we drove back out of the fairgrounds to an ATM, then fought the packed parking lot again, and finally made it inside.

Once inside, you are directed through a queue to either claim tickets purchased in advance, or buy them with cash.  We paid $45 for my ticket and $25 for Er’s designated driver ticket.  I’ll go into more detail on cost/value as I sum up my thoughts towards the end of the post.  After paying for our tickets, we grabbed my tasting glass.

1-DSC_0330The glass is nicely made , is labeled with the year and festival logo, and has a heavy bottom for stability.  The glass measures about 4oz when filled to the top, and has a line near the .5oz mark.  The beer samples were always a full glass and I saw bourbon pours anywhere from right at the .5oz mark to much more.

In Maryland, the festival is held at the State Fairgrounds in the Cow Palace, which is a large, warehouse style building that holds various expos and shows throughout the year, and of course, cows during the State Fair.  The building is split into thirds, and for this festival the center room was the entry and ticket area, tables and chairs, and a few bbq vendors.  The room on the left housed the bourbon, merchandise for sale, some beer, and a few food vendors.  The right room held more beer (those breweries with tents), a stage, and a bean bag toss setup.

The festival draws a pretty big crowd…there were so many people that it was difficult to move around at times, though that got better as the day went on.  The basic setup in the “left” room was tables with a brewery sign and two different samples.  Most were kegs run through coolers, but a few breweries just brought bottles/cans.1-DSC_0222

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I’ll try to throw some reviews in here and there, though they won’t be very detailed, or helpful.  I tried to go straight nerd and brought a list of all of the beers so I could write quick thoughts down, but the reality of the event (especially the volume of people) made that difficult.

Evolution Exile Red – basic red/scotch ale, enjoyable, but not particularly unique

Magic Hat Pistil – a bit sour and a bit of floral hops, unique

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Anchor Steam Breckle’s Brown – Really good sweet, medium dark malty flavor, need to find this one for full review

Full Tilt Patterson Pumpkin – the girl was mixing this with an old favorite of mine – Post Road Pumpkin Ale.  While I thought that sounded intriguing, I’ve had plenty of Post Road before, so I went with the straight Full Tilt.  It was heavy, sweet, full of nutmeg, clove, sweet Cinnamon, with strong overall flavor but low alcohol flavor.  Look forward to reviewing this in the fall.

After a few more tastings we headed to the middle room to check out the bbq.

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1-DSC_0233There were three food vendors set up in the back of the room (to the left of where I was standing when this picture was taken), and a merchandise table off to the side where they also had water and soda’s for the designated drivers.  As an aside, 2 ticket’s for soda/water is basically all you get for your DD ticket, other than free samples from vendors, and a small plate of pork bbq if you catch it at the right time (we did).  I was pretty disappointed at this…I had thought all of the bbq would have been included in the ticket price, or at least a voucher for an actual meal for the DDs.  IMO, the DD ticket should be free, as you really don’t get anything for it except being let in the door.

Anyway, after playing with the balloons for a while, we checked out the food vendors.  The prices were not cheap…we would have easily spent $20 on a couple of sandwiches…something which I was not very happy about after spending $70 to get in.  So we decided to wait and get lunch/dinner on the way home, and continued on to see what else we could find.

As fate would have it, we wandered by this stand (also in the middle room), which was empty, but had a sign which said “Whole Hog 4:00.”  It was 3:50.  1-DSC_0241There were only three people standing there, and we confirmed that this was, indeed the line for free bbq.  Soon after, the line had grown to several hundred people, and they brought out the hog and proceeded to pull it apart.  If you’re planning to grab this in the future, I’d plan on grabbing a spot in line 10 minutes before the times listed on the sign (I think they did 3 hogs that day).  I don’t know how long the people in the back of the line had to wait, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 20 minutes or more.

We got a small plate for each of us, and I doused mine with the “hog juice” or whatever the Carolina Style BBQ sauce was that they had and sat down at a table to eat.

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The pork was good- and really good with the sauce if you’re a fan of Carolina (vinegar) bbq.  The little boy ate all of his pork and then started eying up the plates of people sitting around us.  It wasn’t much…certainly not a meal, but it was better than nothing.

With something in our tummies, we moved on.

 

 

 

First, we hit up the Sierra Nevada table, where they were offering their flagship pale ale and another called “Ruthless Rye.”  Under normal circumstances, I would have gone for the pale ale, never having been a fan of rye, but I had decided to only try new things if at all possible, so the rye it was!

1-DSC_0254Surprisingly to me, it was not overly harsh or bitter…in fact, it was quite nice.  So either the Rye is not so “ruthless” after all, or maybe I got the pale ale by accident.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the pale ale though…  Will have to give this one a try again if I can find it.

Next I tried the Woodchuck Private Reserve Barrel Select.  The person pouring gave me a small amount in the bottom of the glass and said “tell me if you like it.”  I was a bit confused, as I thought that was the whole point of filling up the tasting glass… I did like it, and she filled it up.  It was less sweet & tart than the regular cider, and had a minor, but good woody flavor.  Definitely more character than the regular.

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils.  When was the last time you had a pilsner and had much to say about it?  Right.

As we wandered, we found some Maryland sports related art that we liked.

1-DSC_0255We didn’t buy (it wasn’t really the right environment for carrying around canvases…) but got some business cards.  The artist will paint these (and many others) for between $50 and $150 depending on the size.

1-DSC_0262Next, we tried some combination of Brooklyn Brewery Scorcher, Duvel (classic yeasty Belgian), and Full Tilt Camden Cream.  I think this was the Camden Cream:

The little guy was quite curious, and needless to say we developed quite a crowd of people chuckling at him, and all his attempts to reach the glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took random pictures.  I didn’t know that guy.  His beard was sweet though…

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At this point, the little guy was getting hungry, so he and Mommy went out to the car for some of the good stuff.  I wandered around to the other side of the building, where on the way, I found this sign:

1-DSC_0295Now let me just say, the first time someone drops their glass and everyone around you yells “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” you’ll wonder what just happened.  By the end of the session…it happens a LOT.  Glassware + concrete floors + all you can drink = lots of drops.  They sell lanyards that hold your glass, which I highly recommend, though I didn’t buy one.  I saw them for $5-10 depending on the vendor.

Continuing on to the other side of the building, the setup was quite different.  The breweries had tents on this side:

1-DSC_0284There was an area set up for “bean bag toss.”

1-DSC_0278And a stage with a band playing.

1-DSC_0281I grabbed a few more samples:

1-DSC_0277Yards Brawler: Labeled as an IPA, but this is definitely towards the darker and maltier side of IPAs.  It was good, and I’d definitely grab it again for a full review.

Union Craft Balt Alt.  Honestly I really don’t remember this at all…

And Curious Traveler (Lemon).  This is a smaller batch lemon shandy type beer brewed at the Sam Adams Brewery, but by a separate small company.  And let me tell you, it is goood.  I’m a fan of the Saranac Summer Ale, and the Leinenkugels Summer Shandy, but at least by my small sample, this beats both of them.  Intense fresh lemonade flavor, not too sweet, not too bitter.  All around good.  I’ve seen strawberry and grapefruit varieties of this in the store (but not in a place where I could buy them as singles), so those are probably worth a shot also.

The family joined me again and we browsed a few more vendors.

1-DSC_02901-DSC_0313But the little guy was spent.

1-DSC_0316I grabbed one more sample, and we headed home.

1-DSC_0292All in all, we had a good time (especially Mason and I) and I definitely hope to go again.  Here are a few things I would consider for next time:

  1. Pre order tickets.  Or bring cash.  Finding an ATM in an area where everyone has already cleaned them out is a pain.
  2. Unless you want to really owe your driver, suggest they do some shopping or something fun while you are there.  They really don’t get anything for their admission.
  3. Plan on eating before or after.  The combination of the lines and the prices were enough to make us wait until the drive home.  There is some free bbq available, but it comes in small quantities and you’ll need to be at the right place at the right time, or it will be gone.

Boy, that took a long time to finish posting.  Such is life for me right now.  Hope you enjoyed reading!

Rogue 19 Original Colonies Mead Review

The last Rogue bottle I reviewed- Chocolate, Banana, and Peanut Butter Ale, was a major disappointment.  On the other hand, the Pumpkin Ale that I had before that by Rogue (but did not review as I shared it with family on Thanskgiving) was excellent.  Let’s hope this offering sets us back in the right direction.

So what exactly is mead?  From Wikipedia:

Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, and frequently fruits, spices, grains or hops (hops act as a preservative and produce a bitter, beer-like flavor).  The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% ABV to more than 20%.  The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey.  It may be still, carbonated or naturally sparkling, and it may be dry, semi-sweet or sweet.

OK, so it’s made with honey, no grains, and it can be sweet or not, and carbonated or flat.  I bought this bottle completely randomly, so I really have no idea what to expect.  However this turns out, I expect it will be unlike anything I have had before!

Style: Mead

Produced by: Rogue Ales, Newport, Oregon, USA

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From Rogue:

Situated just across from 40 acres of Rogue hops, 19 colonies of bees were carefully kept and fed. Their honey was extracted, filtered and brewed as a jasmin-infused Mead.  The Rogue honebees spend their days sampling the flavors of the farm and absorbing the terroir of the Wigrich Appellation. From blackberries, raspberries and cherries; to woodruff, lavender and pumpkins; to rye, corn and Rogues 7 varities of GYO aroma hops – the honey they produced is a taste of the terroir of the Wigrich Appelation. 

Brewed with 5 ingredients: Rogue Hopyard Honey, Wild Flower Honey, Jasmin Silver Tip Green Tea Leaves, Champagne Yeast, & Free Range Coastal Water.

ABV: 5.2%

IBU: 0

I’m not sure I’ve ever reviewed something that scored a zero on the IBU scale.  I generally like less bitter styles, so maybe this will be a winner for me.  After looking at the name “19 original colonies” I thought the name was some kind of reference to early American settlers…  I was, of course, wrong.  The name refers to the bee colonies who made the honey which made the Mead!

1-DSC_0215-001Appearance – 3

This is my first review using my Craft Brew Sampler by Libby.  I’ll do a full review on it after I’ve had a chance to use all the glasses.  Today, we’re using the chalice (called porter/stout glass in the sampler).  Pouring the mead into the chalice glass showed a sparkling apple cider type consistency- regardless of how you pour it all you get is a short lived stack of huge bubbles which disappear as fast as they form.  As a matter of fact, they were mostly gone by the time I could take a second picture.  There is no visible cling or lacing on the glass.  I do see a very small amount of tiny bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass, so that is encouraging.  Perhaps this will have a smooth texture after all.

The color is nice, it’s a bright golden orange color- mostly cloudy, but not so much that you can’t see detail through the glass.

Aroma – 4

If you couldn’t tell from the appearance that this was not your ordinary brew, you’ll certainly be able to tell from the aroma.  Primarily, it’s a combination of white grape juice and honey.  In fact, I could swear I was smelling raw honey right out of the bottle (or the comb, if you take raw even more literally).  As someone who enjoys honey a lot, I appreciate the intensity and freshness of this aroma.

There is more, but it is subtle.  It’s floral and per-fumy (suggested auto-correct :) ).  I guess that’s the tea flavors from the jasmine that was brewed with the honey and water mixture.  Overall, a unique and enjoyable aroma.

Taste – 1

Gosh.  Considering the aroma was quite pleasing, the taste took me by surprise with a wide range of rather harsh flavors that quickly presented themselves and then faded away just as fast.  Let’s try to break this one down in the order they appear:

  1. First, you get an apricot kind of sweet mixed with tart
  2. Then you get a massive amount of carbonation which fills your mouth annoyingly
  3. Next you get a kind of numb flavor as all of the fruit flavor fades away
  4. Which (strangely) transitions to bitter
  5. And then eventually a tea like finish, but not as clean

I can’t remember the last time I had a drink with this much going on that seemed this empty.  It’s not that there are no flavors present, but I think they just don’t work together and end up mostly canceling each other out.  It’s disappointing.  I think Midas Touch, which I recently reviewed, really spoiled me for what to expect out of a drink made from simple ingredients.  It was simple, and yet perfectly balanced, and pleasing to drink.  This, on the other hand, just makes you shake your head and wonder what they were thinking.

After some thought, I’m giving this a 1.  There is basically no redeeming quality to the taste.

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Palate – 1

I’m also giving the palate a 1.  There’s no balance of flavors, or if there is, you can’t tell because it’s masked by the mouthful of bubbles you get (think over-carbonated soda mouthfeel.  If I wasn’t told, I’d probably mistake this for being non-alcoholic, though that doesn’t really swing the rating in either direction.

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Overall

You know I like trying new things.  The majority of the time, I am fairly confident that even when picking bottles at random, I’ll enjoy the experience of trying something new, learning about the brewery, researching the style, and writing a review on it.  Rarely would I consider the money spent on a bottle “wasted.”  Unfortunately, this is one of those cases…there is just no reason to even finish the first glass.

I know mead’s can be good.  They wouldn’t have lasted so long as a beverage style if they weren’t.  So I have to assume that this is just a poor example of the style, though I don’t have the prior experience to confirm this.

Taking a look over at ratebeer, I can confirm two things:

  1. There are plenty of top-rated meads.  I should note that none of these top rated offering are made by beer producers.
  2. 19 Colonies Mead is probably the worst reviewed beverage I have ever looked up on ratebeer.  11 overall and 2 in the style.  2!  Weighted average score that compares to my rating is 2.39, which is well above my rating.

I’d say that this mead has two big problems:

  1. It sits on the shelf next to other Rogue craft beers, which are generally enjoyed by beer enthusiasts, not wine drinkers (or mead drinkers, if there are such a people).  So right off the bat, the buyer may not realize what they are buying, or really be interested in this kind of flavor, and be set up for disappointment.
  2. Regardless off what I said in #1, this stuff sucks.

After a near drain pour (The Vodoo Doughnut) and a total drain pour (this review), Rogue needs to step it up.

Score (out of 5): 1.8

Dividend Champion Stocks Review – March 2014

As a new parent, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands.  On a daily basis, my “free time” usually must be traded for out of “sleep time.”  To make things more difficult, a new bedtime routine has both pushed up bedtime, and eliminated all distractions (TV being the big one) prior to it.  I guess you could say the new routine is working, as the boys are falling asleep a bit easier, and a bit earlier.  And so are we (I guess we’re pretty tired too)!

You might be in a similar situation.  Or you might not have much free time for other reasons.  For whatever the reason, you probably think you don’t have the time or the knowledge to get started with dividend investing.  If so, than this series is for you.  In it, I try and pull out the best of the best- companies who have paid, and increased dividends for 5 or more years (a few more than 50 years), and are currently at prices which put the odds on your side for the most profit.  This is not all of the information you need to get started with investing, but it should serve as a good starting point, and answer the first question of “how on earth do I know how to pick stocks myself?”

Could you take the easy way out and dump all of your money in an S&P 500 ETF?  Sure.  But you probably already do that in your retirement account.  I do also.  How about starting up a tax free revenue stream than will replace your paycheck when you retire (given wise investments and enough time to grow).  This is entirely possible with some basic investing knowledge, 5 grand a year, and a Roth IRA.

The Best Values – March 2014

To arrive at this top 25 list, we start with the latest Dividend Champions Spreadsheet, then perform the following screens (you can find the latest spreadsheet here: http://dripinvesting.org/tools/tools.asp at the “U.S. Dividend Champions” link):

  1. Cut negative 5 year Earnings Per Share (EPS) Growth
  2. Cut negative earnings / No P/E
  3. Cut yields below 2%.  Over time, low yielding stocks could be good dividend investments, but they will need to maintain very high growth rates to compete with those in the 3-4% yield range.  V is an example of a low yielding stock that is under 2%, but worth considering.
  4. Cut P/E’s over 20.  This will eliminate many big names in dividend investing, but with a list so large, why not pick the best current values?
  5. Cut Chowder Rule under 12 and Tweed Factor below zero.  These are combinations of yield, P/E, and 5 year Dividend Growth Rate (DGR).  Stocks with the highest DGR and yield, with the lowest P/E will float to the top when sorted by these metrics.

We then sort out the MLPs, ADRs, and Small Cap and below stocks…they deserve special consideration…and a post of their own if I can find the time.

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This chart shows three things: 10 yr DGR (vertical), yield (horizontal), and years of increasing dividends (bubble size- smallest is 5 years, largest is 46 years).  How can there be 5 years of consecutive increases on a chart with 10 year DGR?  In those cases, the company either failed to increase or decreased the dividend sometime in the period 5-10 years ago, though the growth rate over the last 10 years remains very high.

The simple explanation is that the farther to the top right corner of the chart, the higher you’re dividend return will be over time, and the larger the circle, the more confidant you can be that the company can weather tougher economic times while continuing to pay and increase dividends.  For example: DRI shows the highest yield, but is on the low end of DGR, whereas CBRL has very high DGR, but about average yield.

Whether or not you recognize the stock symbols, you probably know most of the companies here, and that’s a good thing…it’s much easier to invest in a business you understand than one that is foreign to you.  WMT, TGT, MCD, AFL, MSFT, and IBM are well known businesses, and have some of the longest streaks of dividend increases out there.

This chart suggests that many of the long standing dividend growing companies eventually center around the 2.5% yield and 20% 10 year DGR mark (right there where the WMT, TGT, and HP blobs intersect).  It’s difficult to grow/pay more than that amount without  growing the percentage of profits paid to dividends to unhealthy levels.  If you want higher dividend growth or yield, you are going to have to step further outside to companies with less of a track record, like CBRL, WEC, MAT, and DRI.  MCD’s position on this chart is impressive given that it has been paying and growing dividends at such a high rate for 38 years.

Lets look at the data in more detail:

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Note that the majority of the stocks here are not new to this series, the green are previous good values and the purple are previous good values that we own.  Here are some other thoughts:

  • There are 3 new companies on the top 25 list: HCC, UNP, and CCE.  There are now 3 insurance companies (HCC, AFL, and TRV), and 2 railroad companies (UNP and CSX).
  • CCE is Coke’s independent bottler, marketer, and distributor in western Europe.  It doesn’t have the long track record of growth that KO does (7 years vs 52), but the DGRs are twice as high, as smaller companies can grow faster than larger ones.  Seeing that KO is a bit overvalued currently, CCE may be the ticket.
  • Two restaurants return from last month, remaining very high on the graph- CBRL and DRI (owns several restaurant chains).  Their numbers are solid, and if you think the restaurant industry is a growth area in the future, than this may be a good investment for you.  As a note: these companies are also some of the smallest on the top 25 list.  In general, the smaller, the more room for growth, and also, the more risk.
  • HP has recently increased its dividend up to nearly 3% from sub 1%, thus the very high growth rates.  It’s worth noting that while they have continuously increased dividends for 42 years, it was at a much lower yield than they currently pay.
  • Most of the companies above are not in our portfolio, and that’s OK.  For the most part, that means that the companies we bought have appreciated in price out of the “good buy” range, which is the whole point of buying low, isn’t it?  They will come back around into the buy range eventually, adn we’ll be waiting.  Until then, there are plenty of current good values.

Here are the stocks with 5 year DGR’s (but not enough history to calculate 10 yr):

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The chart is not too helpful for this group, as most are in the same DGR range with the exception of WU, which is a standout.  Higher yields in this group are currently only available in the tobacco industry (PM and LO).  Note the decrease in 1 yr DGR for LO and CMS – this is something to monitor over time, as it could be an indicator that longer term dividend growth is slowing.

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And finally, how are all the remainder of the “big names” in dividend investing doing (that didn’t make the cut)?

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Stocks are sorted by Tweed Factor.  Under the current sorting methodology, the stocks closer to the top are the closest to breaking into the top 25 list.

Plenty of big names here.  We own more than half of them already, and I hope to buy the rest at good prices over the next few years.  At that point, the process would switch from opening new stock positions to increasing the ones at the best current valuations.  Some other thoughts:

  • The # of years of dividend increases is astounding in this list (an average of 30 years).  Though the combination of DGR, yield, and P/E may not be as favorable as those in the charts above, there is a lot of comfort in investing in a track record of performance such as these.  Is it worth overpaying?  That’s up to you.
  • Some of these big names come in favorably under a P/E of 20, but fall short with lower DGR or yields.  Examples are CVX, GIS, PG, JNJ, and PEP.  They are all close to being good values, which means you won’t be overpaying too much for them now.
  • Some companies here due to low DGR across the board from 1 to 10 years: T, VZ, NWN, and LEG being examples of low growth.
  • INTC falls out of the recommended list not due to financial data, but because at this point, you might as well wait and see what they do with the next dividend payment (should be announced mid-April).  If the dividend is not increased from the current rate, the growth streak will be broken at 10 years.

Happy researching.

Links to previous posts in the series:

Feb 2014

Jan 2014

Dec 2013

Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout Review

It’s been difficult to find time to do reviews lately- sitting down at the computer normally results in the almost 1 year old trying to climb something and the almost 3 year old going off and being quiet somewhere- you know, writing on the bathroom mirror with my deodorant, squeezing out all of the dish soap into a bowl in the sink, or “folding” a (already folded) basket of laundry.  So we’re squeezing this one in here and let’s hope they stay entertained for at least 20 minutes with a new episode of Paw Patrol (at long last).

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Today’s review is the second in the Blackwater Series by Southern Tier.  The previous review being Choklat, which was a thoroughly enjoyable chocolate stout scoring an overall 4.3.  Southern Tier is quickly becoming one of my new favorite craft breweries, with a wide range of styles available in 22oz bottles (at least it is in northern MD).  Click here for previous Southern Tier reviews.

Since today’s review is a Crème brûlée Stout, let’s get on the same page about the dessert.  From the wikis:

Crème brûlée  also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served at room temperature.

The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but can also be flavored with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, lavender, chocolate, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, coffee, liqueurs, green tea, pistachio, hazelnut, coconut, or other fruit.

This is sounding delicious.  Let’s get started.

Style: Imperial Stout

Produced by: Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, New York, USA

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From Southern Tier:

“a stout of great contention”
We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition.By comprehending the labyrinthine movement of time, one would not think it strange to trace the errant path of an ordinary object such as a cream dessert only to discover that it has been the cause of cultural disputes since the middle ages. The British founders of burnt cream and from Spain, crema catalana, both stand by their creative originality and we respect that, but it was the French Crème Brûlée, amid the strife of contention, that survived to represent our deliciously creamy brew.
9.6% abv • 25º plato • 195º L
Ingredients:
1/6 keg 2-row pale malt
dark caramel malt
vanilla bean
lactose sugar
kettle hops: columbus
aroma hops: horizon

These Southern Tier guys (and girls) are a crazy bunch.  Where else would you see words like “tantamount,” “bellicose,” and “labyrinthine” on the bottle describing their brew?

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Appearance – 3.5

Try as I might, I was barely able to raise more than a 1/4″ to 1/3″ head from this bottle.  What I did produce was light brown in color- lighter and much less apparent than I recall Choklat being.  The head is made up of small to tiny bubbles, with the small ones originating from the bottom of the glass and slowly stacking up around the glass edge.  Tilting the glass results in a good deal of tiny bubble cling, but those bubbles slide right back down into the liquid leaving barely a trace of lacing.  All of these signs hint to a lesser carbonated, smoother, creamier stout, and that is exactly what I am looking for.

Color is like cola but darker.  It’s black with hints of brown and orange.  It is completely opaque- I can’t even see light through the edges of the glass when held directly in front of a light.

Aroma – 5

I’m not joking when I say that you can evaluate this aroma from about 6″ away from the glass (much farther than you normally would).  The smell is intoxicating (see what I did there?) like walking into a candy shop where they are making fudge on the giant marble slab, and dipping caramel apples.  Vanilla extract.  Toffee.  BIG Butterscotch.  Peanut Brittle.  It is amazing how much this stout smells like theses dessert treats, and not at all like a stout.

It’s not often that I ponder breaking the rules to award a score higher than the maximum, but this is certainly one of those cases.  Come to think of it, two of the most prominent examples of this came from two previous Southern Tier reviews…  Of course, this always worries me that the aroma, and not the flavor, will be the high point of the beverage.  Let’s hope that’s not the case today.

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Taste – 8.5

I’d first like to note that due to circumstances related to what I described during the intro, I had to take a break from the review for a while…so the tasting is at least 30 minutes (if not closer to 45) from pouring it in the glass.  That probably puts it a bit above the suggested temperature of 42°F, which will tend to emphasize the alcohol flavors.  Thankfully, it’s a 22oz bottle, and a chilled refill awaits when this glass is done.

Even with the time spent sitting and the warmer temperature, the taste is just as wonderful as I had hoped.  It definitely lives up to the aroma.  In fact, it pretty much mirrors the aroma: caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, toffee, slight chocolate, but adds a mild to medium bitter finish and alcohol sharpness.  It’s pretty sweet- I don’t notice much of a hop presence, though we know they are there.  They definitely remain in the background behind all of the caramelized goodness.

Dark malt is present, but presents itself in the chocolate flavor rather than the smoky flavor.  This is a good thing, as everyone who has tried candy making knows that burnt chocolate is a very bad thing.

Palate – 4.5

Palate is excellent.  Medium body is surprising for such a dark and flavorful stout.  Mouth feel is kind of oily and definitely sticky sweet.  Carbonation is mild (when left out while dealing with children threatening to harm each other) and creamy.  Alcohol is apparent, but not overpowering even when warm.

Overall

If there ever was a dessert beer category…this would be in it.  I feel like you really could categorize it “dessert beverage” and it would be more accurate than imperial stout.  It’s hard to say if I preferred the straight “Choklat” version or this one better.  I guess I’d have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed them both (they did get the same score after all).

And just like that, my time is up.  If you are a stout fan, and are looking for something on the sweeter side, but not your ordinary chocolate stout, I highly recommend giving this a shot.

Score (out of 5): 4.3

Sam Adams Tetravis Review

I’ve updated the portfolio page with February’s information.  It’s funny, at the end of January, the market was down what, 6% or so, and we were wondering if we might be headed for a rough year.  Now, 1 month later, we’ve gained back all of the losses, and then some with some investments.

I’ve got the first post of a new series in the works where we look back into 30 years of stock history to determine the long term trends, and how much various investments in that stock would have paid off over time.  Then, we use the past trends to project 30 years into the future to try and estimate future returns, and to determine if the course of the stock is maintainable or not.  There will be lots of numbers, graphs, and models.  It should be fun.  Look for the first post featuring both TGT and KO soon!

Style: Abt/Quadrupel

Produced by: Boston Beer Company, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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From Sam Adams:

Its deep complexity begins with a molasses sweetness with notes of dark fruits like raisin and fig and develop further with an undercurrent of tart spice from its distinctive Belgian yeast for a truly transfixing brew.

1-DSC_0094Appearance – 4.5

The cork explodes from the bottle akin to champagne, releasing wisps of fog and a delicious aroma (we’ll get to that later).  The pour results in a 1.5″ head, off white in color, and consisting of medium, small, and tiny bubbles.  A thick layer of foam coats the glass as it is tilted, though after 15 minutes or so, no lacing remained.  Throughout the glass, tiny bubbles rise from bottom to top, maintaining the head at a thin layer after the initial volume has died down.  The bubble size seems to get smaller as time goes on…I think there is a very good chance for an excellent creamy texture with fine, smooth carbonation.

The color is dark, orange-brown, and very cloudy.  I’ve mentioned that Chimay (the blue one) is my all time favorite beer, and so far this is very reminiscent of that, though it has been some time since I have had one.  With the aroma jumping out of the glass, I’ve got to move on.

Aroma – 4

In a word (or two), the aroma is dark and fruity.  Or maybe more sweet and fruity.  It’s full of that caramelized, yeasty, banana bread, raisin mixture that is common in Belgian’s.  I really don’t smell hops, and I didn’t expect too…they’re not really necessary in this type of beer anyway.  I really don’t smell much of a malt aroma either.  I do smell alcohol, as you would expect at this ABV (above 10%).

It will be interesting to see which flavors carry over strongest from the aroma.  Will it be more yeasty and fruity?  Or perhaps malty and sweet?  Let’s find out.

Taste – 8.5

My first thought is: I wonder if this is available year-round?  It’s really good.  I think the answer to the above questions is all of the above.  I taste yeast, sweet and tart fruits (both light and dark) like raisins and plums, but also green apple and pear, sweet malt, and an alcohol warmth.  I can’t help thinking that this is somewhat similar to one of my recent reviews, but I can’t put my finger on which one.  I’ll have to go back and review them.

The finish is quite mild: mostly malty, a bit spicy, and with a warm alcohol ending.  The lasting flavor on your tongue is quite neutral, with only an almost unnoticeable bitterness.

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Palate – 5

I would put this squarely in the heavy category- it packs a punch flavor, alcohol, and texture-wize.  That said, the mouth-feel is creamy and smooth as I had hoped, with plenty of very tiny bubbles backing up the flavor package.  For it’s potency, the alcohol is not over the top- it is apparent for sure, but I think it complements the flavor nicely.

Overall

The second high score in a row…perhaps I am getting soft…I don’t think so, I think these are just two excellent brews that stand out above most others.

I figured out what recent review that Tetravis is so similar to: Brewer’s Art St. Festivus.  They have quite a lot in common- dark, sweet, fruity, yeasty, and high alcohol.  It would be much harder to judge their differences than their similarities, and would require a side-by-side.  In fact, their final score of 4.4 was the same for both, though their individual scores were different.  When comparing them, they scored similarly in appearance and aroma, but I preferred the flavor of St. Festivus slightly more, while the palate of Tetravis was the clear winner between the two.  I have to imagine that the combination of flavor from one and palate from the other might result in a near perfect beverage (and score).

But why did this score lower in flavor than St. Festivus?  That’s hard to say, that review having been done more than a month ago.  Looking back at the review, I’m going to say it was the rum-like alcohol flavor and the mild citrus that made St. Festivus a bit more complex than Tetravis.

Overall, Tetravis is really good, and definitely worth a try.  I think it’s quite impressive that a brewery as large as Sam Adams produces small batch offerings as good as this (and for a reasonably low price).  I’ll be keeping an eye out for the remainder of the barrel room collection in the future.

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Score (out of 5): 4.4