Tag Archives: American

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

titos

With so many micro-distilleries popping up around the country I thought it would be nice to review a vodka from one of the early success stories from the micro-distilling movement. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is celebrating its 16th year in business. Tito’s was stared by a guy named Tito Beveridge (with a name like that how do you know go into the alcohol business) who started out making vodka infusions as gifts and somehow ended up founding the first legal distillery in Texas. Since winning a double gold medal in the World Spirits Competition they have come to be known as one of the go-to brands of vodka for people who are serious about cocktails but also aware of price. I have even heard of some up-scale bars and restaurants who are using Tito’s as their well vodka so that the taste of their carefully crafted cocktails don’t get ruined by sub-par vodka. This really is the path that every micro-distiller around the country is hoping to follow, although few of them look ready to compete at this point.

Despite having been aware of the brand for many years I had not actually gotten around to buying a bottle until now. Tito’s is a 100% corn vodka and it does have the characteristic sweet and creamy taste that most of the corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have. But the other corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have a lot more of a flavor to them. And when it comes to vodka that is not necessarily a good thing. Tito’s is incredibly smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel and just a hint of sweetness before you do taste the alcohol at the end. But it is not a burning alcohol and you can drink it without making cheap vodka face and coughing. One reason for the difference is that Tito’s microdistilled in an old-fashioned pot stills and so they have more control over the process than with column stills. I would say it is very similar in character and quality to Buckeye Vodka but is a few dollars cheaper per bottle and, in my opinion,  slightly better. Don’t be put off by the cheap looking bottle and plastic cap. Part of Tito’s mission statement is keeping their product as affordable as possible and they are clearly not investing too much in bottle. Instead they use quality ingredients, a careful distillation process, and then distill it just enough (six times) to get out the impurities and strong corn flavors but not so much that all that is left is the ethanol flavor. So there you have it. If you want to support local vodka at an affordable price go with Buckeye but if you want a bottom line better vodka for an even better price, go with Tito’s.

If you want to listen to a tasting and review of Tito’s you can hear it on this week’s episode of Bottom Up.

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Audacity of Hops [Book Review]

Before even cracking open The Audacity of Hops:The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, just totally judging it by it’s cover, I’m psyched. I dig the play on Obama’s Audacity of Hope book (not trying to get political), turning it into Audacity of Hops. It’s also an applicable title as well because this is the story of the American craft beer movement and much of that movement has been pushed by American hops and the usage (or over usage depending on your preference) of them.

The-Audacity-of-Hops

The author starts with a skim through the ancient history of beer, early american beer, and prohibition in a few paragraphs. This is good for two reasons: this info has been covered extensively elsewhere and it allows him to get more in depth with the people, places, and most importantly stories of the American craft beer movement. The Audacity of Hops goes into significant, but not overwhelming, detail about the various reckless gambles around the founding, or expansions, of many breweries as well as the contexts of the time for people and beer. The author makes this retelling enjoyable and engaging, there are plenty of facts sprinkled throughout but not page after page of yearly quantities and revenues I’ve encountered in other books.

However the book tends to be heavy with hyperbole, especially with the early home brewers. The author makes it seem that these men, Jack McAuliffe and Fred Eckhardt, birthed a brand new discovery to the universe with herculean effort. While in reality they only did what people around the world had done for millenia, brew beer at home. Now I don’t want to diminish their efforts, they certainly broke the law of the land at the time and did something few had done in 30 years and those who had done it recently hadn’t done it well.

The book could, at quite a few points, do with better editing. The author has a tendency to run on about random breweries that didn’t survive beyond a year or two. Should they be mentioned? Certainly, otherwise there could appear a nonstop success with no failures. However, they don’t each need 3 or 4 pages. We also don’t need 2 paragraph biographies of every single brewer nor do we need them repeated frequently. I think by the end of the book I’d read a description of Fritz Maytag (owner and resuscitator of Anchor) at least 10 times.

At first I was doubtful but the structure of the book has proven itself to work well. That structure is mainly chronological but also, more importantly, geographical. We move through the years hoping across the United States and occasionally over seas. From San Francisco to New York, Juneau, Boulder, Baghdad and back. This works to tell how the craft beer story is an American one and isn’t just in California (though they can rightfully claim the birthplace).

I enjoyed reading this and think that many fans of craft beer will enjoy it as well. It’ll gives you a long list of new beers to try and a concise history of American craft brewers and breweries that I haven’t found elsewhere. Plus some fodder for arguments over contract brewing, the importance of brewery X vs brewery Y, and “How dare he not include [insert favorite local/regional brewery here]!”.

Lastly, I have a new favorite beer quote & motto for what I try to do with the blog:

“I still see people buying and swilling terrible beer. I sometimes think my job is like farting against a gale, but I just keep moving forward”

– Michael Jackson.

You can pick this up on Amazon at $15 for the paperback version or $10 for kindle. It should also be available at any other bookstores.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I reached out to the author and his publisher was kind enough to hook me up with a free copy. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.

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Beer Review: Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale

This is the last of the beers that Oskar Blues provided for us to review but keep looking forward to the Ten FIDY review in the next few weeks. So far I’ve really enjoyed everything they’ve made. I had G’Knight (imperial red) a few months back and it’s still my favorite, then Deviant Dale’s India Pale Ale is next up, followed by Mama’s Little Yella Pils,  and lastly Oskar Blues’ scotch ale Old Chub. I’m happy to be drinking this red, white, and blue can of Dale’s Pale Ale after having done my civic duty and voted. As always, on to the beer!

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Beer Review: 3 Floyds’ Zombie Dust

I got a message from a friend the other day saying that he had a 6-pack of this available and I immediately freaked with joyous excitement. I’d never had Zombie Dust before but all past experiences with 3 Floyd’s left me teeming in anticipation of a tasty brew.
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Beer Review: Stone IPA

Beer Advocate has this at a 95 (off 2,516 reviews), rate beer puts it at 100 (based off 2,837 reviews), finally untappd knocks it down to 4 stars which I guess compares to an 80 (from a whopping 10,861 ratings). That gives me a pretty solid feeling that this will be a fantastic beer. Basically 14,000 people gave this beer an average of an A-. This beer gets a lot of hype as being some crazy bitter uber hard core beer that is not for wussies and needs some kind of beer pedigree to drink. That whole mindset doesn’t sit too well with me. It’s that type of thing that prevents people from getting into craft beer in the first place. Sure it’s safe to recommend a friend to stay away from this for a bit and steer them toward something else first. But by hyping this beer up so high in the end puts your friend down saying they aren’t good enough for this beer. Anyway, rant over time to drink!

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Beer Review: Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

I have a slightly shameful thing to admit, thus far I have not been a fan of Stone beers. My first encounter with them, with Arrogant Bastard in fact, had been when I was still relatively new to the big wide world of craft beer. We were out at an early lunch on a Sunday and I saw this beer I’d never heard of before, Stone Arrogant Bastard, and I figured I’d give it a go. Yeah… not a good lunch beer. I didn’t take any notes like I would do now but I remember finding it very over aggressive. I also recall having the IPA, the Sublimely Self-Righteous, and the Ruination before… never caring much for any of them.

When I was at the Beer Bloggers Conference Randy Clemens the “Social Media Linchpin” (great job title) at Stone took part in a panel about networking with breweries. During the panel he mentioned how he will send beer to bloggers and never see anything from it. As soon as the panel was over I hoped up and introduced myself and first told him the above about my history with Stone, I then told him any beer he sent me would get a fair review and a post on the site. Stone is a far away brewery that actually has a big presence in Ohio (coughWhereYouAtNewBelgiumcough) and I know a lot of people around here really like Stone. He said to email him and he’d see what he could do. I forgot about it and didn’t think of it again till I got this weird email from UPS that someone was shipping me something, well that something arrived today and it was this:

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Beer Review: New Belgium Ranger IPA

If you recall from my New Belgium review roundup I failed to write, or more likely failed to save, my notes regarding my tasting of their Ranger IPA. You may also recall that I freaking loved their beers. So when I made a pit stop in Nashville last week I was sure to pick up some more Ranger. You can get New Belgium in Indiana as well, but still no distribution in Ohio or KY.

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