If you haven't heard of the upstart craft brewery based in Oklahoma called Prairie Artisan Ales, it's about time you became familiar. Prairie has some of the better Farmhouse / Saisons on the market already, and now they've dipped their toes into the Imperial Stout pool. Prairie Bomb! ($8) is a 14% Imperial Stout aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and chili peppers. It's a rich, luscious experience with a faint chili pepper kick on the tail end. This one is as good as it sounds, so you might want to get out in front of stout season and pick up some Prairie Bomb! before it's gone.
How much does the age statement on a bottle of bourbon mean? If you're like us, an older bourbon seems like it should be better, but doesn't always live up to the more mature billing, or price. One incredible exception however, is Elijah Craig 21-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon ($140). It's a remarkable bourbon that seems to be at an ideal age for sipping, with plenty of flavor, oak, and a subtle, easy burn. Where you might expect extra wood characteristics because of how long it spent in barrels you instead receive the welcome surprise of incredible balance. So have a pour and relax, and try to remember what you were doing when this stuff was put into barrels all the way back in 1990.
Belgians are known around the world for their brewing expertise. One thing that sets the Abbeys and the Trappists apart is the water they use to make their fine brews. Well it just so happens that the water on a small farm in Ohio is nearly identical to that of Wallonia, Belgium, where Belgian Ale originated. Rockmill Brewing took advantage, setting up their brewery on a small farm plot nearby and are creating some fantastic Belgian beers. Included in the small collection is their take on the Belgian Dubbel ($14). A few sips of this sweet, malty gem will have you asking for more, and wondering if you aren't drinking something straight from Belgium.
There are certain things that signal the start of the fall season. Leaves change color, football season begins, and Four Roses releases a limited edition small batch bourbon. This year marks the 125th for the historic distillery, and while they are celebrating year round, the 125th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch ($85) might be cream of an already prestigious crop. It's an enticing blend of three of Four Roses unique bourbon recipes bottled at barrel strength that smells and tastes like a creamy vanilla, brown sugar dessert. Only 8,000 bottles will see retail store shelves, so don't miss out on this autumn masterpiece.
Miles away from home (whether in the wilderness, on the water, or on the road), there are plenty of luxuries you can do without, but a good cup of strong coffee in the morning isn't one of them. With the Poler x Stumptown Camp Coffee Kit ($125) you'll never have to. This kit includes an AeroPress coffee maker with filters, two enamel coffee mugs, a Porlex Burr coffee grinder, a 12-ounce bag of Holler Mountain coffee beans, and more — all packaged in a custom carrying case perfect for travel.
When it comes to well known craft breweries, there are few with a reputation and reach equal to Dogfish Head Brewery. The Delaware-based brewers are craft pioneers and have never been afraid to push the boundaries of beer styles. By now you've likely met their 60 Minute IPA or their 90 Minute IPA, but you may not have had an encounter with big brother 120 Minute IPA ($12) yet. Dogfish has been brewing this beast for over a decade, but the supply is always limited, and those with access aren't always up to the challenge. If you crack one open fresh, it's less of a hop bomb than you might expect initially, but the IBU intensity will sneak up and bash your palate at some point during a tasting. Grab a couple bottles if you can, share with a friend or set some aside to age like a fine wine.
One word that we don't usually associate with whiskey is "sexy", but it certainly applies when it comes to Brenne Whiskey ($60). After all, a Single Malt Whiskey from France aged in Limousin Oak and finished in Cognac Casks sounds pretty damn sexy. And the taste lives up to that billing as well, with a fruit forward aroma and plenty of creamy goodness for your palate. Brenne isn't trying to be a bourbon or a scotch, but instead aims to embody a true French Whiskey. It's sophisticated, exclusive and most importantly, downright delicious.
The brewing history in our hometown of Cincinnati goes way back. Combine that history with our current beer soaked culture and some special things can happen. Rhinegeist Brewing is one of the newest additions to a growing craft scene in Cincy, and their newest creation is called Saber Tooth Tiger ($15). The double IPA hits with a full bouquet of citrusy hop aroma after it pours an inviting amber colored nectar. It's a smooth criminal taste wise, with plenty of flavor and just enough Saber Tooth hop bite that finishes crisp and clean. But don't be fooled, at 95 IBU, this is a palate wrecker that will have your tongue tingling after a session. Hunt down a growler before it goes the way of the Saber Tooth Tiger.
There are plenty of ways to get a quick dose of protein, but most of them have ingredients lists that you can barely pronounce — not Epic Bars ($34). They're made of lean, organic, meat from responsibly-raised, grass-fed animals, dried fruits, nuts, and seasoning. Choose from several delicious flavors like: Bison Bacon Cranberry, Beef Habanero Cherry, and Turkey Almond Cranberry. Each of the bars are gluten free, and are excellent sources of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin B, vitamin E, and more. So, forget about energy bars and powdered shakes, and start getting protein from real meat, like you're supposed to.
Already one of the best distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Buffalo Trace isn't one to rest on their laurels. The pioneering distillery is in the process of releasing the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection ($46 each), the returns from testing recipes and barrel treatments that began two decades ago. For their most recent wheat entry, the same bourbon recipe was put into barrels at different proofs (from 125 to 90) and aged for 11 years and 7 months. All four were then bottled at 90 proof. There isn't a bad one in the bunch, so grab one for your collection or all four for a taste test experiment of your own.
Upgrade your favorite dried-meat snack with Krave Jerky ($7). This all-natural jerky is made from pork, turkey, and beef, seasoned to perfection with a range of flavors across the spectrum from sweet to spicy. Flavors include black cherry barbecue pork, garlic chili pepper beef, lemon garlic turkey, grilled sweet teriyaki pork, and more. It's made from natural ingredients, and is low in fat and calories, so you don't have to feel bad about eating a whole bag. If you can't decide on just one flavor, join their club ($30) to get five bags of delicious jerky in the mail each month.
[Scouted by Erik]
For those of you looking to explore a new area of the rye whiskey circuit, we present to you Angel's Envy Rye Whiskey ($70). This unique liquid is finished in Franco Caribbean Rum Casks which previously carried French cognac. The result is a rye whiskey that begins in a somewhat traditional fashion, but finishes like one you've never tasted before. The aroma is strong with brown sugar and spice, and the taste brings vanilla oak, maple sugar and a dry but sweet finish. It's as if a really great rye whiskey was made by rum runners in the Caribbean.