The Full Bar - all my pages

Saturday, May 30, 2009

IPAllapalooza -- IX

Only one tonight (so far): Green Flash Hop Head Red, which isn't really technically an IPA. Okay, whatever, but it's brilliant. I wasn't that impressed with the Green Flash West Coast IPA in bottles (loved it on draft), thought it kind of blaring and harsh, but this was great. Fresh piney fruit, deliciously lively and just this side of sweet in the mouth, bitter but not astringent finish. Yum. Don't care if it's 'not an IPA,' it's one of the better entries in the IPAllapalooza.

All this talk of taxes

There are a lot of proposals for beer tax increases in the air right now -- federal, state, and local; here in the U.S. and in Europe. The worldwide recession has not just affected people and private industries, it's -- gasp! -- cut government tax revenues. Luckily, governments are the one enterprise that can increase their revenues by simply taking more money from other people. Yay!

One of the ways they do that are by excise taxes, taxes imposed on particular products or services that the government picks, seemingly at random: tanning booth sessions, for instance, or tires. There is a sub-class of excise taxes, commonly referred to as "sin taxes," that purport to try to help people not partake in behavior or consumption that is thought to be bad for them, or, worse, immoral. These include, of course -- of course! -- beer taxes.

The current argument for increasing beer taxes goes like this:
  • We need increased tax revenues to pay for all the wonderful government programs.
  • Beer taxes haven't been raised in X years (admittedly, quite a while...and can you give me a good reason why they should have been?)
  • We should raise beer taxes because that would serve the twin purposes of 1)raising revenue needed for wonderful government programs that benefit everyone; and 2)encourage people to drink less, because higher taxes mean people drink less.
Allow me to shoot some holes in this.

First, it's damned near immoral to raise taxes in a deep recession. At some point, especially with excise taxes, you're taking money away from people who don't have enough to give it to people who don't have enough (while stripping away enough to continue paying the wages of the government employees who administer the programs).

Second, if the government programs truly are wonderful and benefit everyone...grow (or borrow) a pair and tax everyone fairly (and progressively). Don't put it on the back of moderate drinkers like me whose only 'sin' is to enjoy a beer.

Finally... I'm already buying beer that costs more than 90% of the beer sold in this country. The beer I buy costs almost twice as much a case as the popular beers do. What purpose will increasing the cost of every beer sold serve when the people who buy the more expensive beers are already paying that much and more? Simple: it's about raising revenues, not moderating behavior. And at that point, sweetie, you should be talking income or sales tax, or I should be voting your thieving, lying ass out of office.

An increase in the beer tax will fall most heavily on more expensive beers. Craft beers. Imported beers. Specialty beers. The beers you probably drink, if you're reading this blog.

So why aren't you doing anything about it? E-mailing your representatives is easy as hell these days: go to, put in your ZIP code, and you can hit your Senators, Congresscritter, and state reps with one easy shot. Do it. Tell them you do not want to see an increase in the beer tax. Tell them that you would rather see cuts in spending or fair, across-the-board tax increases before you'd want to see any kind of sin taxes or excise taxes. Tell them you don't mind paying your FAIR share of taxes, but that voting for unfair taxes will cost them your support.

Hell, start a petition at your local bar or beer store. Get freakin' militant. It's your money they're after. And don’t be one of those sniveling warts who join in their own punishment: “Oh, sure, I guess I can pay a nickel a six-pack more. I probably shouldn’t drink so much anyway.”

You pay enough already for the sin of working at your annoying job. You do NOT have to pay more to have a beer when that 8-hour shift in hell is over. Be a man, defend your beer from the pasty-faced safety Nazis and morality police who want to tax it right out of your hands. The price of beer freedom is eternal vigilance.

IPAllapolooza -- VIII

Couple more -- three, actually -- IPAs...of sorts.

First up, Boulder Mojo Rising DIPA. A very hefty, solid DIPA, big-bodied, aromatic, robustly bitter. Maybe too hefty; there was almost too much body here, although it never went sweet-flabby on me. Cathy really liked this one.

Next: Thomas Hooker Hop Meadow IPA. Now, this one I really liked. Fresh, clean, hoppy yet not overbearing, and a great brisk finish that begged for another sip. I'd go for more of this, a lot more.

Finally, later, after an old friend stopped by and we wound up on the deck, drinking beers and listening to the neighbor kids underage-drinking back on the ballfield (okay, I didn't know for sure they were drinking, but I have faith that they were), we opened a bottle of Green Flash Le Freak, one of those so-called Cali-Belgique beers (that are really an excuse to overhop just one more kind of beer, mom...please?), a tripel/IPA fusion. It's arresting: big nose of hops and weird phenolic fruit, a lava-like heavy body spiked with a bitterness that doesn't seem to meld with the malt, and a muddled finish. I did not like this one much. Kind of like putting Plochman's Chicago Fire Tabasco Mustard on sushi. Two good things do not always make a third good thing when combined.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

For the Love of Lager

Only two tickets left for my next Tria Fermentation School event: For the Love of Lager, set for June 10th. I'll have lots of great lagers for you, plus appearances by some great local lager brewers (Bill Covaleski of Victory and John Trogner from Tröegs will be there to harrass me and entertain you) and the usual tasty snack-bites.

Whoops, sold out. Thanks!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sympathy for the Devil

It looks like no one's commented on anything on Uncle Jack's blog for five days. Come on, folks: he's a good guy, it's an entertaining blog (though now that his dog has taken over, it's gotten a lot more serious and content-oriented). Go read Jack's blog. More important? Say something! It's the only decent thing to do.

IPAllapolooza -- VII

I did get to stop at Mahar's in Albany today, but only briefly -- sorry, Bill, I didn't get a chance at any WiFi to let you know, we should have done cell #s -- and grabbed a Harpoon IPA. Actually, I had a few sips of Cathy's: I had a Chiswick Bitter (okay; should have waited for cask at Memphis) and a Guinness 250th Anniversary (nice: full, a bit chocolatey, much better body). The 'Poon IPA is indeed more like a pale ale, but it's good: drinkable, fresh, good hop character (not massive, but well-defined). Think of it as a winning jockey next to DIPA's NFL linebacker.

Then I had some Wolaver's IPA, another organic. This was more like an ESB: malty, not a lot of hop character. Okay beer, but I wouldn't think "Oh, an IPA," if someone handed it to me blind.

Philly Suburb Bars -- Round 2

I appreciate the help on Philly let's move into the suburbs. Here's what I've got, and this time, I want additions/suggestions, AND I'd like to know if you don't think some of these are going to make the cut. No brewpubs/breweries, please: I've got all of them already. Be polite, no rabid slamming, but do give me reasons if you've got 'em.

Thanks for your time and effort on this!

AJ's Sports Bar & Café -- Levittown
Alison Two -- Fort Washington
America Bar & Grill -- Chester Springs
Austrian Village Restaurant / Bar -- Rockledge
Blue Comet -- Glenside
Blue Dog Pub -- Lansdale
Blue Dog Tavern -- Chalfont
Blue Pear Bistro -- West Chester
Brother Paul's -- Eagleville
Candlewyck Lounge -- Buckingham
Capone's Restaurant -- Norristown
Craft Ale House -- Limerick
Drafting Room- Spring House -- Spring House
Epicurean Restaurant And Bar -- Phoenixville
Fatty's -- Wyndmoor
Firewaters -- Glen Mills
Flanigan's Boathouse -- Malvern
Flanigan's Boathouse Of Conshohocken -- Conshohocken
Flying Pig Saloon -- Malvern
Four Dogs Tavern -- West Chester
Gullifty's Restaurant -- Rosemont
Half Moon Restaurant & Saloon -- Kennett Square
Hulmeville Inn -- Hulmeville
Iron Abbey Gastro Pub -- Horsham
Isaac Newton's -- Newtown
Just Sports Bar & Grill -- Bristol
Kildare's Pub -- West Chester
Lucky Dog Saloon And Grille -- Lafayette Hill
Mermaid Inn -- Chestnut Hill
Mesquito Grill -- Doylestown
Newportville Inn -- Newportville
Otto's Brauhaus -- Horsham
Pickering Creek Inn -- Phoenixville
Quotations -- Media
Ron's Original Bar & Grille -- Exton
Spence Café -- West Chester
Spinnerstown Hotel -- Spinnerstown
Stephanie’s Lounge -- Doylestown
T.G.I. Friday's -- Exton
Teresa's Next Door -- Wayne
The Drafting Room -- Exton
The Note -- West Chester
The Whip -- Coatesville
TJ's Everyday -- Paoli
Union Jack's -- Glenside
Uno Chicago Grill -- Langhorne
Uno's Chicago Grill -- Bensalem

IPAllapolooza -- VI

Sorry, no WiFi in Dover Plains: we traveled to Cathy's mom's yesterday, and stopped at Triumph New Hope on the way to pick up a growler. What to have... Hey, Simcoe IPA! I've been wanting more of this since the Manayunk Fest. We not only got a growler, we got two glasses right there to slake our pre-travel thirst.

Good idea! The Simcoe is killer good: light but not wimpy, authoritatively hoppy without being brassy or harsh, and fresh as balls. We never did get into the growler, but that bad boy's going down tonight.

(By the way...we're in Albany, and just found a beer garden joint (Wolff's) next to the Miss Albany diner...Hmmm...)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

IPAllapolooza -- V

Only one tonight: Peak Organic IPA, but it's a good one. Cathy and I agreed: very fresh-tasting, and without the heaviness some of the previous ones had. Not sure I liked every little bit of the hop character, but the perfect balance and truly fresh aspect carried the day. I'd definitely get more of this one.

IPAllapolooza -- IV

Last night's IPA was New Holland Mad Hatter. I like New Holland beers...sometimes. But Mad Hatter has just never done much for me. I find it blaring, without subtlety, and shouty. So it was last night when I tried it once again. I was ready to like it: we're getting pretty darned fresh New Holland these days, so maybe that would help. Didn't. Bring me more Poet, I'll drink that all night, but the Mad Hatter just yells "BITTER!" in my mouth, and stomps around like a loonie. I like an authoritative beer, but this one's more like a blowhard.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

IPAllapolooza -- III


Avery IPA was my only IPA of the day yesterday (been kind of busy, and I'm just getting to it, hope to have more tonight), and it was a beauty. Orange-gold, brassy and sassy, with a tight cap of soft creamy froth that just never died, the whole way through the pint. It was lively, not thick or heavy, and not overly bitter or harsh at all. Full of hops, but not full of itself.

The hops beat goes on...

More Localer than Local

Local 44 is having a "Locals Only" weekend, starting this Saturday. There is no truth to the scandalous accusations that this is a celebration of the Penn brats going home; the synchronicity of this celebration of the bar's neighborhood and name with the end of the UPenn school year is strictly coincidental. (Did I say "brats?" I meant "scholars!")

What does "Locals Only" mean to you, the smart, legal-drinking-age beer consumer? One hell of a draft list; check it out here. I tell ya, I'm crying that I'll be in Albany this weekend. (Mahar's, here I come!).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Philly's Bars: where would you go?

As I told you, I'm working on the next edition of Pennsylvania Breweries. There's been an explosion of good bars in the state, and I want to get the best of them in the book. So I'm asking for help.

Here's the first list: Philadelphia. I'm not looking for arguments: these are potential entries. Please don't take this as voting for your faves, or slamming bars you hate. All I'm looking for are bars I might have missed. I'm looking for places with good drink (not necessarily beer) and good atmosphere. And folks: NOT brewpubs! I've got them covered, believe me. I'm just looking for bars. (And just Philadelphia County for now; we'll get to the rest of the state.)

If you see any I've missed, please leave a comment, or drop me a line. Thanks!
(I've added some from your suggestions, and some that I did have on my original list but somehow dropped while getting them here. Keep 'em coming, and thanks again.)

The Abbaye
Atlantis (The Lost Bar)
The Bards
The Belgian Café
Beneluxx Tasting Room
Bishops Collar
Black Sheep
The Blue Ox Bistro
Brauhaus Schmitz
Bridget Foy’s
Bridgewater's Pub
Brownie's Pub
Cantina Los Caballitos
Chick's Cafe
City Tavern
Dark Horse
Dawson Street Pub
Devil's Alley
Devil's Den
Dirty Frank's
The Dive
Drinker's Pub
Drinker's Tavern
Druids Keep
Eulogy Belgian Tavern
Fado Irish Pub
Fergie's Pub
Flat Rock Saloon
For Pete's Sake
Good Dog
Grace Tavern
Grey Lodge Pub
The Institute
Irish Pol
Irish Pub (Walnut Street)
Johnny Brenda's
Jose Pistolas
Khyber Pub
Kite And Key
Local 44
London Grill Bar And Restaurant
Mad Mex Philadelphia
McGillin’s Old Ale House
McGlinchey's Bar and Grill
McMenamin's Tavern
Memphis Taproom
Misconduct Tavern
Monk's Café
Moriarty's Pub
National Mechanics
New Deck Tavern
North 3rd
O'Neals Pub
Old Eagle Tavern
The Plough and The Stars
Prohibition Taproom
Pub & Kitchen
Pub On Passyunk East
Race Street Cafe
Royal Tavern
Society Hill Hotel and Bar Restaurant
South Philadelphia Taproom
St. Stephens
Standard Tap
Sugar Mom's Church Street Lounge
Swift Half
Tattoo Moms
Ten Stone
Tir Na Nog
Tria Washington Square
Union Jack's
Whisky Kitchen
White Dog Cafe
World Cafe Live
Yell O'Bar

Monday, May 18, 2009

IPAllapolooza -- II

On we roll, without a care. First up tonight: Lakefront IPA. I haven't had many beers from Lakefront (dammit. LIPA is hazy, fresh-smelling (citrus, grass), and drinkable. Take Bell's Two-Hearted and dial the hops down a bit, the body up a bit, and you've got it. I'm liking IPAs that are drinkable, not insane. I want my DIPAs to be insane, and I want my pale ales real drinkable.

Cathy, on the other hand, doesn't care for it. Says it has "that buttery thing" that she doesn't like. Diacetyl? I have a very high threshold for diacety; I just don't notice it until it's overwhelming. I dunno. Maybe she's got something. But I don't mind drinking the rest of it at all.

Next? Deschutes Red Chair IPA, one of their Bond Street series. That seems quite appropriate, actually, because this tastes like a brewpub beer, one you'd like to sit and enjoy at a bar while talking with your friends. Red Chair is quite smooth, with no harshness. There's a good flow of hops aroma as I suck in a sip, it's good, it's really nice.

Taste this, and you know that Deschutes has been brewing great beer for a long time. It actually reminds me of Jameson 18: round, beautiful, without the trace of a flaw. In fact...after this beauty, the Lakeside taste clunky, rough, awkward. Wow. I love side-by-side tasting. I love this beer, too.

But...let's put it in context. Is it an IPA? The brewery says it's 6.4%, and 55 IBU. That sounds like IPA to me. But I read "reviews" that say it's more like a pale ale, not an IPA. What the hell has happened to us? Might be able to make more out of this than a series of tasting notes after all. G'night, Jack!

Dodging the Bullet: anyone have advice?

I'm slowly getting back together from a PC collapse that almost dumped my data. I have the core of it backed up to an external HD, and probably could have recovered 85% of it from that, but it got me thinking about how much I'd lose if something happened to both the PC and the HD...which are less than a foot apart, plugged into the same outlet.

So, readers: do any of you have suggestions/experience with online backup services, like Carbonite or SOS? Like to make some suggestions? First thing I did -- already -- was make a DVD backup of the most important stuff -- writing, contacts, e-mail -- and I'm going to put that in our safe deposit box. But I want something quicker and automatic.

Thanks for your help.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

IPAllapolooza -- I

No explanation, but... I'm going to be trying a lot of IPAs in the next couple weeks, and posting quick tasting notes. Firsties...

Gritty's 21 -- Good, pure Gritty's (Brit hops, solid body), but...I was expecting something a bit more outbound for a 21st anniversary beer. I liked it, but I wanted to like it.

Founders Centennial IPA -- Big, solid (doesn't taste like fish), and much more bitter than the Gritty's. Surprisingly non-piney/citrus, though, given the name; maybe a little old? I keep trying this beer, hoping to find out what all the fuss is, and I've had good, great beers from Founders, but the pep others get from this one eludes me.

More to come...

Wacko, in haste

Had to take Thomas to a softball game recently, and I couldn't help noticing that we passed the Hulmeville Inn just before getting to the field. The weather was threatening, but the fields were busy, so I dropped him off and whipped down the the grocery store. I had errands, and I was being responsible!

But when the provisions were packed in the Passat, and I cruised back to the field, the game was still going on. I figured, sign from God, and headed Hulmeville-ward. I'd already had a beer just before I left (didn't know I was going to be the driver) so I had to go session-strength -- and wasn't that a cruel joke, since Our Favorite Sales Rep, Suzanne Wood, was there with a cask of Sly Fox 113. God, that hurt. I averted my determined-to-be-responsible eyes and perused the taplist. Hmmm...Magic Hat Wacko. The beet beer. 4.5%. Gotta do it.

Well, it was clearly beet-influenced: it poured red/pink, kinda like my fingers after I've been making borsch. I was just taking my first sip when the Hulmeville's reigning Alpha Beer Geek, Steve Hawk, tapped my shoulder. Hey! Oh. Yeah. I have a glass of Wacko. That's okay, Steve says, I understand, I had to try one too. Yup. So I sat down with Steve and his fiance (I'm sorry, honey, but I'm pathetic with names), and his prop manager, Rob Strigel (Rob's the guy holding the picture of Steve), and got stuck into the Wacko.

Not a lot to say. Wacko falls into that category of Magic Hat beers -- Circus Boy, Humble Patience, Participation Ale -- that's just kinda there. It's got a bit of earthy sweetness, a fresh aroma, but nothing really interesting except the color. It drank easily enough, but I sure would have rather had a Brawler. There's a low-alc beer with something to it. Wacko just didn't have a lot. I don't understand why a 'summer' beer has to have next to no flavor.

Anyway, when I had about an inch of Wacko left, Thomas called. A thunderstorm had blown up; could I come get him? Sure, I said, where are you? Under the flagpole. Okay. I tossed the Wacko back, said good-bye to everyone, and headed up the road...and thought, under the flagpole? In a thunderstorm? I called him, and said, where am I picking you up? He laughed, and admitted he'd realized how dumb that was just about the time he'd hung up. He was at the snack bar. We went home, and I got a bottle of Sam Adams Lager with dinner. Ooomph.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Drys Right About One Thing...

We went to an end-of-year party for my daughter's robotics team (they compete in the FIRST competitions) last night out in the country, not far from the Spinnerstown Hotel. There were about 20 girls and an assortment of parents, friends, and little kids, all hanging out at the home of the school's physics teacher. We had a potluck dinner (all highly organized, with signup by spreadsheet and e-mail), with ice cream made on the spot by a compressed air-driven churn one of the mentors had built (we are talking about a picnic with engineers!).

Then there was a big bonfire (really big; there were whole trees in it, a pile of wood about 20 feet high), the girls presented awards and team gifts, some of them sang/rapped, there were fireworks. The girls walked down the road to a 'haunted house' (where planted friends who'd slipped away earlier screamed and jumped out at them) and shrieked so loud we could hear them a quarter mile away.

The one thing we didn't do was drink. There was no beer, wine, or spirits served. And you's true. You can have fun without drinking. You don't have to drink. I've always agreed with the New Drys on this.

So why don't they understand that you can drink, and have fun, and not have it turn into a tragedy or an embarrassing evening? Perspective. Rationality. Some even-handedness.

There are real problems that stem from alcohol abuse. The New Drys don't help the situation by contending that there is no safe level of alcohol use. We the booze drinkers don't help the situation by pretending that alcohol is not really dangerous. We need to meet in the middle. Because you can have fun without drinking. And because you can be safe while drinking.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mama's Little Yella Pils

Hats off to Oskar Blues for getting that beer name past the ATTTB. Damned fun-hating nimrods (and yeah, yeah, I know, zey are only follovink orderss...).

Mama's Little Yella Pils is, far as I know, Oskar Blues's first shot at a canned lager, and they did okay. The pour's yellowy-gold, and not bright, which troubles me a bit, to be honest. The aroma's good -- hopfen und malz, Gott erhalt's -- and it tastes clean enough, and it doesn't suffer from being over-hopped, a problem I have seen in some craft lagers. I had no problem putting this away in fairly short order.

But I have to say...west of Minnesota, I've noticed that craft-brewed pilsners tend to be on the heavy side. I thought that of the vaunted Moonlight Reality Czech Pils, too. Mama's just not quite as crisp as I'd like it. Her state-mate, New Belgium's Blue Paddle, is better, but still a bit...what, blunted?

I don't know if this effect would be better after a couple or not, but I did knock back two other cans in pretty short order late last week, so maybe it's not such a big deal. Doctor, please; some more of these...

Things That Suck II

Things suck again.

I won't be going to the Iron Hill Media fest this weekend; too much crap to do.

Somebody -- won't say who -- sucked down way too much of a really nice bottle of whisky -- won't say which -- without even noticing how nice it was. Cretin.

Miller Chill.

Maud's away overnight, getting 'the dog operation' at the vet.

There are still no bars within walking distance of my house.

It's raining. Again.

There is no brewpub in Newtown. But there is an Applebee's. Jesus wept.

Pennsylvania is finally non-smoking in bars, but there are way too many loopholes.

The PLCB still runs all booze in Pennsylvania, despite my best efforts.

Pollen hates me and wants to make me sick.

My computer's back, but I'm going to spend all day re-loading shite on it (You were right, Amy, damn you!), a process that's taking so long I'm here pissing and moaning.

I need a new phone, and no phone on the market has everything I want...and I don't really want that much.

I fell off Weight Watchers, and can't summon the will to go back. My problem, I know.

One good thing: Maud comes home in half an hour. Which will probably make the other things recede a bit. I miss my little dog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Can't Stop the Goat

We did get to the Sly Fox Goat Races on the 3rd. I hustled out of church (had to do 10:30 mass, I was the cantor), got home and changed (and waited around for Cathy to change...), and took off for Phoenixville...slowly. It was pouring rain (little did we know it was just the start of another week of the stuff), and we were wondering if the crowd would be as large or friendly as last year. "We can probably park on-site," I said optimistically. "We'll cruise by instead of going straight to the shuttle lot."

Wow. The size of the crowd in the parking lot made it clear that we were not going to be parking on-site. (But Sly Fox is organized: we took a shuttle bus from satellite parking, and didn't wait more than 3 minutes for it.) The rain had barely dampened the ardor of goat fans. The number estimated by Sly Fox was around 1500, down a bit -- okay, down a quarter -- from last year, though last year was a picnic afternoon on Olympus compared to this wet and raw rainfest (although we did have roving beer service this time). But do you get it? 1500 people came out in the rain to drink bock beer and watch goats race. Amazing.

Still, as I said, this is an important day for beer and while having all those good Sly Fox beers on hand must have helped, I believe that what really brought people out was the good times. People actually complained because they couldn't see the goat races!

The beer was pretty awesome, though. We ran into William Reed right away, and he insisted on getting us two cups of Vienna Lager (great, malty but not thick, wish they'd make more of this). I tried to return the favor with the superlative and much-welcome Charles Bridge Pilsner, but he'd wandered off into the crowd and I gave it to Richard "Victory" Ruch. The Maibock (destined to be named DAX after the winner, shown here in the center of a long shot on his victory strut) was gorgeous, beautifully drinkable, and if I hadn't been at the edge of silly at that point, I'd have had another. I did get one sip of one of the eisbocks, and it was scary good.

The cool kids were definitely in attendance -- brewers, publicans, and others of us in the biz -- but they were by far out-numbered by the general populace: I ran into my kids' elementary school music teacher (and her husband and two toddlers). There were still plenty of very well-behaved kids this year.

That's what had a somewhat blissed Brian O'Reilly and a very happy John Giannopoulis so pleased when I ran into them. The Goat Races was not only still big in the rain, it was still big with the same kind of crowd. Folks brought their families, they watched the silliness of racing goats, they ate good food (really: we had bratwurst, I got some Shellbark Farms chevre), and some of them had really good beer, too. It was a really normal kind of thing; wonderfully so.

Eventually we had to go, before things had wrapped up. We got back on the shuttle bus, went to the car, and I let Cathy drive. But we had one more wonderfully normal thing to do...and I'm going to tell you about that over here. Because it's much more appropriate.

Monday, May 11, 2009

If you're trying to contact me...

My main PC crapped out today. I have limited e-mail (my account is still working), and I have no access to my files and notes. I've got the machine at the shop, and if they can't get it working tomorrow, I'm going to restore my backup files to my laptop.

If you're trying to contact me by my usual e-mail addresses, I can't read them. Call me, or send me a Gmail. Sorry, hope to be back up soon.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Sorry I've been away; I've got Goat Race stuff and a visit with Martha's Exchange brewer Greg Ouellette to write about. But I'm working this morning, and I double-dosed the coffee-maker. And the coffee tasted bigger, richer, more complex, and the buzz is definitely more intense, and I'm being innovative!


Wow. Now I get this whole thing like I never did before.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Session Beer Tasting Notes

Just to let you know... I am posting some tasting notes over at The Session Beer Project when appropriate. I put one up for Harpoon Brown Session Ale today, and here's one for Eel River Extra Pale. I'll let you know when I do these; it just seems right to do session-strength beers over there.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Deschutes Black Butte XX Porter

I got this bottle of Deschutes Black Butte XX Porter a while ago, and my hoarding instinct kicked in. Keep it, you can't get Deschutes here, you'll never see it again! The little voice saying "Drink it!" was all but drowned out.

Finally I gave in. Woof. Truly black, and opaque. What a big mouthful, one that bears no comparison to its namesake, the eminently quaff-o-matical Black Butte Porter. Aged in oak, spiked with coffee and cocoa beans, and 11% ABV, the XX storms the chops and detonates. It's not precisely 'integrated,' but this once I'll forgive that because the blast of beer is so rumbunctious. Boozy, coffee-bitter, this is a big beer that hangs over the edges, a sumo, not a samurai.

Best news I heard today: Black Butte XXI will be out in July. May have to travel somewhere that I can buy some.

The Session #27: As if one beer wasn't enough goodness...

Today is the first Friday of May, so it's time for The Session, beer blogging on a common topic. The hosts this month are Joe & Jasmine, at Beer at Joe's, and the topic is beer cocktails. Here's what they had to say about it: "What’s your favorite beer cocktail (and yes, despite the title of this post, it can be a black & tan* or a shandy)? Find a recipe for that or a new one, try it, and tell us why you did or didn’t like it–even if you think beer cocktails are nothing but a good way to waste a beer. Have fun and try something new!"

I've been drinking beer 'cocktails' for years, not long after I started drinking beer, actually. My first was a Berliner Weisse with a schuss of raspberry syrup, stirred with ice in a goblet, and it was wonderful: refreshing, not too sweet, cold, and very different from what I was used to back in 1983.

The next was a long line of black & tans* (also called half-n-halfs, checkerboards, mother-in-laws, and other...less printable names) at brewpubs, starting at the first brewpub I ever entered, the Front Street Pub, in Santa Cruz (sadly closed, but a seminal place for me: it was where I first had squid, shark, and oyster shooters, and where I first wrote about beer). I loved the mix of hoppy amber and dry/roasty stout or porter, and drank it often. The first time I saw the layered-look black and tans, with the nitro-stout floating on top of (usually) boring lager, I was amused, and disinterested. Then I got a layered black and tan in a yard of ale at Cambridge Brewing back in the early 1990s, and I changed my mind: layers good!

Since then I've mixed a lot of beers. We were mad for it in the mid-1990s, then slacked off a bit -- just bored, I think -- and now it's popping again, an echo of the cocktail craze, maybe. I suspect that's why, earlier this year, I was commissioned to write a piece on beer cocktails for a cooking magazine. We went through a number of recipes, and they finally settled on three: a beer with non-alcoholic mixers, beer with beer, and beer with spirits.

There were a couple of leftovers, recipes that they didn't particularly care for. Naturally enough, I thought they were pretty damned good, and I don't want them to go to waste...and the chances of selling another beer cocktail piece seem slim. Here they are. I enjoyed them, hope you do too. (And yes, Stephen, I even mixed liquor with my beer!)

Dry Season – Saison is a spicy, ‘farmhouse’ style of ale from Belgium that I thought might lend itself to the spicy botanicals of gin. I mixed a dry London gin with plenty of juniper (you can spend more, but Gordon’s is crisp and full of flavor) into a glass of saison (I had a bottle of Victory Saison, so I used that), and the result was a somewhat lighter, turbo-charged saison. Take 8 oz. chilled saison and 1 oz. dry London gin. Fill a red wine glass with ice and cold water to chill. Dump the ice and water, add the gin and swirl to coat the glass. Add the saison, pouring to splash. Inhale and enjoy.

Doppel Espresso – Doppelbocks are damned good stuff, and they're a beer wine drinkers can really understand: they aren’t bitter, they’re strong, and they can be either dry, or sweet like a dessert wine. But they also have a nice chocolatey character to them that can get overlooked. I thought some coffee might bring that chocolate out, and it does. A great after-dinner beer cocktail: coffee and dessert in one glass. Take 2 parts chilled doublebock (Spaten Optimator is good; I used the Pennsylvania-brewed Troegenator) and 1 part coffee beer (I used Flying Fish Imperial Espresso Porter; there are a variety of coffee beers available on the U.S. market; check your local brewpubs, too). Blend in one glass by pouring together. Simplicity and deliciousness.

*Before the inevitable "Black and Tan is offensive to the Irish!" comments come rolling in (and I won't allow them to post, so don't waste your time and mine)... The Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, the British paramilitary group that quickly gained a reputation for brutality in the early 1920s in Ireland, became known as the "Black & Tans" because of their uniform colors, true enough. But "black and tan" as the name for a mix of a dark and lighter beer actually pre-dates that, going back into the 1800s. So stop being all Irish-American (like my wife and I are (descended out of Counties Wicklow and Antrim, respectively)) and in my face with it, and relax, and enjoy this delicious mixture for what it is: beer.