Collesi: Award winning craft beer from rural Italy.

Howdy, Nation!  Squigs here.  The Happy Hour Guys were recently invited by our pal Adam Levy – "The Alcohol Professor" and founder of the New York International Beer Competition in its exciting inaugural year – to experience the fine wares from the 2012 NYIBC International Brewery of the Year.

The fine beers of Collesi!Collesi comes to us from Apecchio, a small town in the foothills of the Italian Alps.  Giuseppe Collesi was looking for ways to diversify the offerings of his family farm, and research led him to form Fabbrica della Birra Tenute Collesi.  Working in Belgian style ale production and taking advantage of the resources at hand – the water coming out of the mountains and the grains and malts from the land his family has been cultivating since the early 1870s – Giuseppe created an absolutely wonderful line of artisinal beers.  Speaking of the water, the minerality of the land seems to affect a crispness to the beers that is somewhat unique to Italian beers.  Collesi's offerings are the true bounty of his home.  We sampled the Chiara (wheat), Bionda (blonde), Ambrata (amber), Rosa (red), Nera (stout), and Triplo Malto (triple malt).  I particularly enjoyed the Rosa which was full-bodied with a lovely sweetness, the Nero which was surprisingly light for a stout but with great flavor including a lot of cappuccino, and the Triplo Malto which is created with, yes, triple the normal malt (more sugars, more alcohol) resulting in a refreshing but complex blend of fruit and yeast and malt.  The Triplo Malto might be enjoyed as one would drink champagne.

Collessi is indeed looking toward distribution in the US, and this will be aided by their new state of the art brewing facility opening this autumn.  So, keep an eye out for these fine artisinal craft ales with roots deep in the Italian countryside.  That's what's HOPpenin', y'all!

Wonderful artisinal craft ales from Apecchio, Italy. Brewmaster Giuseppe Collesi (at center).

Beer Balls!

Jimmy and Squigs on the scene!For those in NYC on this beautiful spring day, a little bit of time indoors at 404 10th Avenue was time well spent!  Today, we were presented with Beer Balls thanks to the gang at GetRealNYC.  Unlimited craft beer (some AMAZING stuff) with unlimited meatballs of amazing taste and variety.  It was a lot to juggle.

There were so many great brews being poured.  A couple of nifty surprises were the espresso amber from Peak Organic (a lot of vanilla and coffee happening there) and an impromptu pairing of Original Sin Cherry Tree Cider and Ommegang Aphrodite... such different pours but with such interesting similarities.  Of course, there were plenty of big ol' beers too.  So many wonderful pales (Hill Farmstead Edward) and IPAs (Dogfish Head 75 Minute on cask) and imperial stouts (a fab barrel aged brew from Kelso) and hard-hitting reds (Tongue Buckler from Ballast Point) and much much more.

Casks and many balls.And the meatballs!! So many choices! Beef, turkey, elk, venison, and more!  We tried so many amazing bites, but a couple that really stood out were the cumin and mint tinged balls from Blind Tiger and the Berkshire pork and chive soup dumpling meatballs with wonton chips from Alewife Queens.  Wow!

NYC beer lovers were out in force. such a great turnout, but not prohibitively crowded!The Crew. Great job, GetRealNYC!!We love the gang at GetRealNYC!  Patrick and Cuzme and Mary and the gang consistently bring us fantastic events with great brews and nosh.  We hear tell of an amazing outdoor event headed our way in May, and when it's announced, you can be sure that the Happy Hour Guys will get you the 411.  Thanks, y'all, for the amazingness!  THAT's what's HOPpenin', y'all!  Cheers!

We're going to grab some balls!

(Okay, maybe I should have rethought that title.)  Artsy Guy here.  Howdy, Nation!  For those of you in or near NYC, Saturday April 7 will bring quite the amazing event: Beer Balls!  Some of our favorite folks in the NYC craft beer scene are the peeps at GetReal NYC, and they're giving us yea one more reason to love them.  This event will combine some of the best craft beer from here and abroad with every kind of meatball imaginable from many an NYC chef.  Session admission brings unlimited servings of both.  What??  Yes!!

And right now, there is an amazing deal cookin' over at Thrillist, good through March 27.  Click on over there for an early bird discount on the various admission packages.  So grab your package.  Then grab NYC by the balls!  That's what's HOPpenin', y'all!

American. Craft. NYC. What a day!!

The inaugural NYC American Craft Beer Festival hit the Lexington Armory today with a sound wallop. 

The Guys at the Fest. You can tell it's Squigs by the scraggly goatee.Squigs (Artsy Guy) here.  Where to start?  There were craft brews from all over this great nation of ours: Kelso, Stone, Weyerbacher, Great Divide, Rogue, Victory, Cigar City, Clown Shoes, Wandering Star, Brooklyn, Green Flash, Long Ireland, Empire, and on and on and on.  And everyone brought some A game.  This hop head was particularly jazzed with a lot of IPAs, double IPAs, and black IPAs on the docket.  But there was so much more, and we happily took the tour in two ounce servings.

In addition to the suds, there was food to be had.  I particularly enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich with twice-baked potato salad on top.  Jimmy devoured a Frito pie.  And there were tables offering ways to connect with fellow beer lovers, books for purchase (our pal Josh Bernstein with his Brewed Awakening), apparel, and more.  And a special package deal allowed folks into the connoisseur lounge for an extra fee.  We have to say that the perk was well worth it.  Pours of special limited and vintage releases from some amazing breweries.  Live music.  Nosh presented on trays.  (I particularly enjoyed the bacon wrapped scallops.)  And all of this in a dimly-lit (and muraled) downstairs room in the armory that had a fun speakeasy feel with setees and standing tables.

Jimmy and his Frito pie. The Connoisseur Lounge. Happy Guys with big beers.Jimmy! Sean McCain from Victory! Olivia Cerio from Empire! Chris Cuzme from Wandering Star! Amy Litt, social media genius! And Squigs on the Hipstamatic! Community.Mastermind Robert Howell led a team that organized an event that to this Guy seemed to run seamlessly.  His background in huge rock events was evident.  And the craft beer community was out in force.  As The Happy Hour Guys always say, the best thing about events like this and the craft of craft beer is the community it all brings together.  It was great to see old friends and meet new ones, all brought together by the art of beer.  Jimmy and I encourage you all to keep an eye on this event which we hope wallops us again in the future.  That's what's HOPpenin', y'all!  Cheers!

NYC American Craft Beer Fest ONE WEEK AWAY!!

Greetings, Nation!  Artsy Guy here.  I'm getting excited.  In just one week, the inaugural NYC American Craft Beer Festival hits the Big Apple.  Saturday, March 3rd, 2012!  Do you have your tickets?The Lexington Armory will be the place to be on Saturday, March 3rd!

Get your tickets now.  You'll save if you buy in advance.  Two sessions (1:30-4, 7-9:30) will find you sampling some of the best crafty suds this country has to offer.  Each session will be preceeded by a VIP/Connoisseurs Hour, and details to these magical entrance packages are available on the site.

And once again, I ask... Do you have your tickets?  The Happy Hour Guys will be there, keeping all y'all posted about the happenin' happenings.  We hope to see you there!  THAT'S what's HOPpenin', y'all!

Artsy in Cali: The Stuffed Sandwich

An oasis on Las Tunas Road.Howdy Nation!  Artsy Guy here posting from sunny Southern California.  Before there was a craft beer "scene" in the greater LA area, there was Sam and Marlene and The Stuffed Sandwich.  The place is not a beer bar or a beer store but it truly is a haven for beer lovers.

In order to get to the beer, you have to buy food (due to stipulations of their liquor license).  They offer sandwiches of all sorts, spaghetti, ribs, and salads.  On this visit, I enjoyed a delicious, super-buttery grilled cheese with deli pickle on the side.

And then... Oh the beer!  Sam has gathered a truly inspired bottle list from all over the world including plenty of US craft.  I was particularly taken with the list of various vintages of Stone anniversary, vertical epic, and collaboration brews.  And there are nine taps which follow a different theme each month: a specific brewery or beer style or region.  February's theme is barleywines, so my sampler included such treasures as Firestone Abacus, Rogue XS Old Crustacean, Victory Old Horizontal 2010, and North Coast Old Stock 2009.  My sampler came with instructions on how best to enjoy the experience, showing a true affinity for the amazing art form of craft brewing.

Sam is a legend in the LA beer community.  He has earned the title "Beer Nazi" which is a term of endearment from the multitudes who are of like mind... and a warning to those who are found to be inconsiderate or otherwise unruly or – God forbid – attempt to order a Miller Light.  He pours his brews with pride and deep knowledge (and his personal beer cellar is supposedly vast).  Sadly, though, he has been under the weather for some time and is currently in a rehab facility as he slowly improves.  The Happy Hour Guys send our best wishes to him as he recovers and to Marlene as she handily holds down the fort.  Sam and Marlene and The Stuffed Sandwich.  That's what's HOPpenin', y'all!

Artsy goes Rogue.

Rogue Nation Headquarters.Artsy Guy here hollerin' from the Central Oregon Coast.  A few weeks back, I happily wrote about the crafty brewers closest to my hometown, Ninkasi.  Since I'm back in the 'hood for the holidays, I thought I'd feature another "hometown" favorite, the award-winning Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon.  The Rogue World Headquarters sprawl out on the south side of Yaquina Bay, under the bridge.  I dropped into their pub, Brewers On the Bay, for a bite.

As the craft world has evolved, a few of their brews' names have evolved as well (i.e. Brutal Bitter was renamed Brutal IPA) and their ubiquitous Dead Guy Ale has undergone a few happy variations earning new names along the way.  But where Rogue seems to be flourishing is in its more experimental areas.  On this visit, I tasted their "John John" variations (barrel aged and otherwise) of a few old favorites.  My favorite of this tasting was the John John Hazelnut Brown Nectar aged in rum cask.  Yes!  In the midst of the recent hop shortage scare, Rogue bought the farm.  Literally... they bought a farm and raised their own hops and grains, and the result has been the lovely Chatoe Rogue line.  Rogue is also well-esconced in the craft spirits movement, winning awards for their juniper gin and rums.

Note: If you're a dude, you're "hops." The ladies are "malts." I don't really get it either.There's a lot going on under the jurisdiction of the Rogue Nation: brewpubs all over the west coast and distribution all over the world.  And they have a motto I really dig: Dare, Risk, Dream.  That's what's HOPpenin', y'all!