Tis the Season

Posted: September 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

The fall: my favorite time of year. The weather gets cooler, football is on all day Sunday, people prepare for Halloween and Thanksgiving, my birthday is coming up, and most importantly: the beer!

I’ve always said that the fall is the best season for beer. Both Oktoberfest and Pumpkin beers are prominent and I think that they are the best seasonal beers, especially since I consider the summer a dismal season for beer. I’m just not a fan of the light and citrus flavored beers found in the summer. I feel like most of them taste like lemon Pledge.  The fall, however, is the opposite. Rich and deep flavors take over the beer world. Pumpkin beers are my personal favorite. Nothing like sitting back on a cool fall evening and tasting the blend of spices that are brewed in a Pumpkin beer.

The first Pumpkin beer I had of the season was at the brand new Nicky’s Beer Garden BBQ in the Bronx. They had a Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale on tap. I never had an Imperial Pumpkin ale before so I was immediately interested in trying this beer. It had the smell and taste of the typical pumpkin spices, but being an imperial, it packed an extra kick with about 8% abv. It was a great beer to have with my bbq ribs dinner and then later on while hanging out in the backyard beer garden.

I admit to not drinking many Oktoberfest beer this season, but that is because I’ve been very much into drinking the Pumpkin brews. This Friday I will be going to a Harvestfest party which will hopefully serve up some good Oktoberfest beer. I need to try as many of those as well since the beer seasons go by very quickly. The winter seasonals will be out before we know it and I will be longing for the tastes of the Fall.

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Beer Revolution?

Posted: August 24, 2011 in Bar Reviews
Tags: ,

I haven’t sat down and had a beer with the intention to “taste” it in awhile now. I promise to get back to reviewing individual beers, but for now I will discuss what seems to be a “beer revolution” coming our way.

There seems to be a growing trend of “beer bars” opening up in areas where there usually aren’t any. I discovered my favorite bar, The Bronx Alehouse, earlier in the year. Not only do they have an excellent and constantly rotating beer menu, they also have some of the best bar food I have ever eaten. I tend to end up there almost weekly and never get sick of, or run out of, anything they have to offer. They also have their “Beer Club” in which I am working my way to becoming a Gold Member. You need to drink 100 different beers and I am up to about 18. I fully intend on getting my name up on their plaque.

Also, in what I am very excited for, is the grand opening of Nicky’s Beer Garden right in my neighborhood of Throgg’s Neck on East Tremont Avenue. An extensive beer list, southern BBQ food, and weekly karaoke. If I were to be polled, those are the only three things I would say I’d like to see in a bar. I will help to make sure Nicky’s is a success and open for many years to come. My neighborhood has needed an iconic place like this for a long time.

Also opening very shortly is Growler’s Beer Bistro in Tuckahoe, NY. Another bar which seems to have an extensive beer menu and excellent food menu. I don’t know much else about this place other than the location, which is in a great little town right across from a train station. Since I’m in Westchester half of my time, I also intend on spending some time here.

All in all, these three bars are in areas not exactly known for having a highbrow beer culture. Most bars I see offer Sam Adams as their “premium” beer. Nothing against Sam Adams (I love their beer) but its about time more and more people are recognizing that there is so much more to drinking beer than just getting hammered off of a bunch of bland Macrobrews like Bud and Coors. I hope that we really are seeing a beer revolution in the works.

Here is another great video from Cantaloupe showcasing Rockmill Brewery’s Saison. And I know I’ve been quiet as of late. I’ve been busy this summer. Once I get a second to just sit down and review a beer or a great beer bar, I will. I fully intend to review The Bronx Ale House soon.

I absolutely love Dogfish Head’s 60 and 90 minute IPAs. IPAs, or India Pale Ales, are one of the first beer styles that got me into my beer snobbery. A well made IPA offers a great hoppy flavor, similar to a literal kick to your taste buds. Dogfish does the IPA style almost perfectly and when I heard that there was a 120 Minute IPA, which means it had hops continuously added for two hours, I needed to try it. The only obstacle blocking my path? Dogfish Head does not brew it frequently. For over a year I would check their website wondering when they were going to begin brewing and selling this coveted drink for a beer snob like myself.

Last month I finally received a lead from the brewmasters themselves that 120 Minute was being brewed and shipped within the month in small shipments. I was now on a quest to find this precious beer. Last week I scoped out the three places I usually go for all my beer snobbery needs: Skibbos in the Bronx, DiCiccos in Pelham, and Fairway in Pelham. I thought that at least one of these places would have it. I was wrong. I thought that perhaps since the beer was being shipped in limited quantities, my favorite beer spots might just not have been able to order them on time. I almost lost all hope.

Yesterday I made a stop at Skibbos to buy some Hell or High Watermelon. As I’m paying for the beer I just had a hunch to turn around and, lo and behold, the 120 Minute IPA was right there with the rest of the Dogfish Head beer. I quickly snatched it up and took a picture of it to brag, to those who know what it actually is, on facebook.

At 20% APV, I decided to split the beer when trying it. Thankfully I did. The beer was mighty potent, but delicious. Upon pouring, the beer was a very dark amber with minimal, almost non-existent, head. The smell was like any other IPA, only multiplied by 100. The hop aroma hit my nostrils and told me I was going to have a powerful drink. The taste was heavy in the hoppiness up front with many hints of coffee and chocolate in the finish. The mouthfeel was rather thick, almost like a thin syrup.

There’s a reason why the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA was referred to as the “Holy Grail for Hopheads”. Not only was it hard to find, but once found it was the almost perfect beer experience. This beer shouldn’t be for the faint at tongue, nor should it be used for any heavy drinking. Enjoy this beer slowly, paired with some food. Even drinking only half I felt satisfied. I’m already looking forward to finding another bottle in the (hopefully) near future.

New Video Page

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Video Series

Check out my video page up top. Our friends at Cantaloupe.tv have a monthly video series based around various different breweries. The first deals with a brewery known as Sun King located in Indianapolis.

For the past many years, I have been a member of the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. Random fact for a beer blog? I’m getting to the point. A few months back, a group of us have decided to remodel the office and turn it into a place to hang out during the week, with a cable TV and bar set up.  We decided to turn the Friday nights we were there to paint a great way to also try out different craft beer. A fellow beer enthusiast brought over a couple packs of 21st Amendment’s Monk’s Blood and Fireside Chat beers. These beers struck my interest before I even tasted them. They all come standard in a can, something not too often seen in the world of craft beer. Also, the art on the packaging is great. You should never judge a book by its cover, but before I even tasted the beer I could tell that this brewery had a sense of fun and dedication to them. After that fateful night, I was automatically interested in 21st Amendment Brewery and wanted to try their other beer.

Fast forward to a couple of months later. I headed out to a great bar in Massapequa appropriately named The Good Life. One of the beers they had on tap was 21st Amendment’s Hell of High Watermelon. I’m not that big of a fan of fruit beer. I usually find them too sweet, tasting more like soda than beer. However, my interest in the 21st Amendment Brewery outweighed my distaste for fruit beer and I decided to give it a try. The beer was served in a tall glass with an actual watermelon wedge on the top of the glass. It had a color that reminded me of lighter watermelon jolly rancher with a significant amount of carbonation. Not much in the way of a smell, but the flavor is what surprised me. The taste was not a strong fruit flavor. The watermelon flavor was in the backtaste and served almost as the period in an otherwise crisp and refreshing beer. With a low ABV%, Hell or High Watermelon is what a great light beer should be. I usually equated light beer with the Bud, Coors, or Miller variety: light but lacking in a good flavor. This beer is light, but actually has a flavor I enjoy.

Now I have a new go-to beer when going to a BBQ. It is the perfect beer to have with a hamburger while sitting in the hot sun. This beer is recommended for anyone with working taste buds. Try it and you shouldn’t regret it.

One thing I have noticed at many beer bars is a Cask Ale. I’ve noticed that often there will be a beer on cask which will rotate pretty frequently. A few weeks ago, while at The Bronx Alehouse, I decided to try their Cask selection of the day. Always looking for something new to drink in the beer world, I figured this would be a good opportunity to expand my beer tastes.

The beer on hand that day happened to be Sixpoint Otis Stout. The first thing I noticed wasn’t the smell or the appearance, but rather the temperature. Usually beers are served pretty cold, but this beer was served at room temperature. This wasn’t a big deal to me as I know a good beer doesn’t need to be, and at many times shouldn’t be, served ice cold. The appearance was what I would expect from a Stout, dark and with a decent head. The smell was minimal but the taste was where I began to realize what makes a casked beer unique. The beer had a subtle sweetness to it in the back. I wasn’t sure if this was normal for a cask or if it was just the flavor of the Stout (I will have more on this later). Overall I enjoyed the beer. It was different than what I was used to, but tasted good and paired nicely with the Hog Wings (which are so good I could write a whole post on them alone) served at the Bronx Alehouse.

I hadn’t encountered another cask until last night when I was up in Stamford, CT at the Southport Brewing Company. I’ve been wanting to try this place out for awhile after hearing they brew their own beers in the city where some of the best people I know live. Went there last night after getting some Colony pizza (another food so good I could write a whole post on) and I noticed they had their Blonde beer on cask. I decided to give it a try and once again the beer was served at room temperature. The casked blonde was yellow and not very transparent (similar to the look of a wheat beer). Very different from the  Blonde served from the tap, which was clear and golden. The beer didn’t have much of an aroma, the mouthfeel was very similar to the Sixpoint on cask, and the taste, while different, still had that subtle sweetness in the back as the Otis Stout had.

Upon some research, it appears that cask ales are unfiltered and unpasteurized. The beer contains live yeast due to the lack of pasteurization, which develops the malts and hops differently than a keg. That is what gives a cask ale the sweeter taste I’ve encountered. Also known as “Real Ale”, this style is still very popular in England. I’d like to find more places that have beer on cask. I might have tapped (pun intended?) into another step toward pure beer snobbery.

As I head upstate tomorrow for Memorial Day Weekend, I wanted to put up another post. I have a few beer and bar reviews on my “To Do List”, but I figured I would talk about a beer style I recently discovered: Barleywine.

I first tried a barleywine at the Lazy Boy Saloon in White Plains, NY. The Lazy Boy is a great beer bar in an otherwise annoying area to go out drinking. White Plains tends to get packed with people looking for a “scene.” Lazy Boy, at least the few times I’ve been there, is a little bit more my style. I will save a full scale review for another time, but when looking through the Lazy Boy’s massive beer menu I came upon a Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball. The name alone was enough to peak my interest, but when I saw the style of beer I was almost put off. Barleywine? I didn’t know what to expect other than a probably sweeter beer. I usually lean towards a hoppier beer, but decided to give it a try anyway. I was glad I did. It was served in a standard pint glass with a dark brown color and a minimal head. The smell was strong and I could tell it was going to be a sweet beer. Upon tasting, I realized this was different from the usual beer I drink. That is not necessarily a bad thing, however. The Hairy Eyeball went down very smooth and went great with the steak sandwich dinner I was enjoying. Sweeter than your (or at least my) average beer, it didn’t seem like I was drinking beer.

The second barleywine I tried was at The Bronx Alehouse, my new favorite bar. A full review of the Bronx Ale House will be coming soon, I will assure you. For now, I will just mention how it has a great selection of beer on tap, a few of which are kicked and rotated in the few hours I spend there. I saw on their impressive blackboard that there was a Stone Old Guardian barleywine beer. Stone has slowly been creeping its way up my “favorite beer” list. I have never drank a Stone I wasn’t impressed with. Their Arrogant Bastard line of beers are incredible and I was sure, after trying the Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball, that I would love their barleywine. At a stronger abv., the Old Guardian was served in a 12oz glass, dark and amber in color. There was a strong and fruity smell, almost stronger than the Hairy Eyeball. The taste was similar to the Hairy Eyeball, however there was a very sharp flavor upon initial taste. I’d equate that to the Old Guardian’s 12% abv to the Hairy Eyeball’s 9%. Stronger alcohol content should mean a stronger kick in the taste buds. Just as enjoyable, especially while watching the Mets defeat the Yankees as an added bonus.

Overall I enjoyed the Hairy Eyeball over the Old Guardian. The Hairy Eyeball went down a bit smoother and was more pleasant to the taste. That is no strike towards Stone, however. They continue their streak of excellent beers I’ve tasted. Barleywine may not be my normal beer choice, but when the mood hits me at least now I know I can take a different path than just the typical IPA or Pale Ale.

Last Saturday, May 14, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company hosted their 5th Anniversary Pig Roast and BBQ. With Capt. Lawrence slowly becoming my favorite brewery, mixed with my love of supporting local businesses, I decided to check the party out. All I knew was that were was going to be great beer, food, and music. Thats all I really need to know to convince me to show up somewhere. Similar to Greg Behrendt’s “there might be cake”, if you tell me “there might be craft beer” its almost a guarantee that I will show up. It didn’t disappoint.

Walking from the train station I heard music similar to the Grateful Dead playing in the distance. I knew that had to be where I was headed. Following the sounds of the groovy jam band, I found myself at the brewery where I instantly saw a large and happy crowd gathered throughout the Captain Lawrence parking lot, some under a very large tent and some gathered by the stage where the band was playing. The beer selection consisted of the Freshchester Pale Ale, Liquid Gold, and the Saison, all excellent beer choices. I indulged in each beer, a great pulled pork sandwich, free pretzels, and five different bands, all of whom were very good. The gravy was convincing my girlfriend that Johnny Depp was at the party. For a better portion of the day, she believed that we were graced by Jack Sparrow’s presence. She was ready to approach him for a picture when she found out that it wasn’t Gilbert Grape, but rather a man named Jason who happened to be in one of the bands playing that day. His band, which I can’t remember the name of, happened to be very good and he did have me fooled as well for a good minute. Overall, I have to thank Scott at Captain Lawrence for throwing this party and look forward to their 6th year.