Beerman for Oct. 18, 2012

Rating brews at Conway beer fest and beyond

For Weekly SurgeOctober 16, 2012 

I sampled seven beers at the Crafty Rooster Beer Fest last Friday night (Oct. 12) – after having a lovely pre-fest pint of Weyerbacher Verboten inside the Rooster, 1125 3rd Avenue in Conway.

I should probably say, as a public service announcement, I quit drinking a considerable time before I drove home.

But rather than go on about all seven samples, I’m going to give the green light to one and the yellow light to another.

I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but the caution light goes to Magic Hat Heart of Darkness. It’s not bad. It’s just not that interesting. Other Magic Hat seasonals have been worthwhile, but I wasn’t impressed with Heart of Darkness. A stout can accomplish so much more – and should, if it’s named Heart of Darkness. If you want to give it a try, it’s available Oct. 15-Jan. 15.

The green light goes to Founders Harvest Ale. I completely agree with the Alström brothers, founders of, who gave Harvest Ale a 96 or “world-class” rating. The Alstrom site bills it as an “American IPA,” or India Pale Ale, but this is nothing like any other IPA you’ve had. I didn’t think it was too hoppy. The Founders Web site says “juicy,” and I think that’s a fair description. Get it soon, because it’s only available during October.


Belgo, New Belgium Brewing’s Belgian-style IPA, isn’t new, but I’m ashamed to say it’s new to me. It’s also a new favorite.

I’m not alone in this appreciation., another brew-ranking site, gave it a score of 94. That’s an A.

The flavor offers a nice twist on two favorites. Imagine a lighter Belgian ale with a tap of IPA hopping (and, in this case, the quality of Fat Tire). And like many Belgian brews, Belgo is a boozy 7 percent, enough of a bang to get you through a bad case of alliteration.

Russian Standard Vodka

Russian Standard was recommended to me by a friend who shares my affection for vodkas, so I picked up a statuesque bottle from Owens Liquors, 8000 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach.

Other friends have told me that vodka doesn’t taste like anything, and they ask me how I can taste the difference. But if they thought about it, they’d know that different locations have different flavors of water.

Out in the country, sometimes the water has a strong mineral flavor.

In big cities, sometimes the water tastes like Clorox Bleach.

Anyway, I have to admit, the different flavors of vodka are hard to detect. Some connoisseurs talk about marshmallow or mineral tones or even whipped cream – and that was before Smirnoff came out with marshmallow and whipped cream flavored vodkas.

So to make a case for Russian Standard vodka, I would say it’s like Ketel One with less of a marshmallow tone and maybe slight difference to the mineral tone.

Call me crazy, just don’t call me sober.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Often, during a private weekly drinking session with three friends, I have the chance to expand my understanding of bourbon. Corn-squeezed liquor hasn’t always been my favorite choice, but then recently a friend brought Wild Turkey Rare Breed to the front porch.

Rare Breed is a self-aggrandizing name, but in this case, it’s fairly accurate. That’s mostly because at 54.1 percent alcohol, or 108.2 proof, Rare Breed is smoother and kinder that some bourbons with less booze. I’ve had 40 percent, or 80 proof, liquors that were far more astringent and far less sweet than Rare Breed.

As it would happen, the Rare Breed label says it is “uncut with water,” so the idea is to add ice or a splash of water.

Oh, what the heck. Be a cowboy and shoot it straight. Just don’t smoke for a few minutes.

Contact Colin Burch at and visit his blog at

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