Jun 24, 2010


I am desperate.  Hell, we all are, aren't we?  Maybe we're desperate to get a job, maybe we're desperate for love, maybe desperate to change the world. 

Maybe all three.

Unless you've been living under a tar ball for the past few weeks, you've heard about the Gulf oil spill.  What's ensued in the mass media coverage has been a disgusting display of wealth battling wealth, with politicians who have gladly taken (and will continue to take) vile oil money battering the very executives who have lined their pockets.  Blame has been scattered like automatic rifle rounds, and as usual, our government has looked like a bunch of total disorganized asses in trying to handle the damage.

The last straw for me was hearing Sarah Palin (and Gary Bauer and others) blame environmentalists for the disaster (the theory being that, because of a ban on offshore drilling, oil rigs have had to drill and traverse more dangerous places).  I won't get into why this is ludicrous because frankly, the Democrats have been equally inane.  The American government has continued to make an absolute mockery of itself, and is so tied up with in-fighting that it forgot about the EVENT.  And in the throes of all this coverage, what do the networks provide us?  An underwater HD camera so we can watch the blood spill from the wound. 

As usual, it is not a government catastrophe.  It is a human catastrophe being played for political purposes while the people in the area suffer, and could care less (I imagine) about who ends up getting re-elected out of the deal.  If you want to help (and goddammit, YOU SHOULD), you have to help the people.  Don't waste your time worrying about the government or writing to your local comptroller or whatever.  My family in the Gulf has said as much: help the PEOPLE.  And, to tie this all together, what better way to help the people than with a beer, no?

I've mentioned here that Abita is one of my favorite breweries in America.  They take tricky ingredients (strawberries, raspberries, pecans - all local by the way) and make terrific beers.  When Katrina happened, they whipped up Restoration Ale, which by their count has raised over $500,000 for Katrina clean-up.  Now, once more, they put their money where their mouth is and are working on S.O.S. (Save Our Shores), a wheat and malt pilsner that generates 75 cents for the Gulf clean-up with every bottle purchased.  The beer will arrive in 41 states in Mid-July.  If you want to help now, they have a shop set up with some merchandise, from which 100% of all proceeds will go to the effort.  The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board will help direct the funds to the most useful places.  Sounds like a plan . . .

I highly encourage you to swing by there and check out their absolutely gorgeous website.  No, no.   That wasn't good enough. 


Yes, that is better.  The website imagines the gulf prisitine, perhaps even better than before.  Maybe you scoff at this.  Maybe there is no real way to get the Gulf back to where it was.  But if there is a way to do it, staring at the gusher isn't it.  Fighting over political games CERTAINLY isn't the way to do it.  Sometimes we have to help people, and if drinking a beer or copping a T-shirt is the best way to do that, then even better.  Again, the beer appears in Mid-July, and I plan on picking up as much of it as I can.  It sounds like the perfect summer beer, made to restore perfect summers.

Jun 21, 2010

The NY Brewfest (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog)

If you want to take a look at where craft beer stands today, the two contrasting events I experienced at the NY Brewfest this weekend should pretty much sum it up.  I showed up a bit later to the event than I wanted to, arriving at about 2:45 to catch the ferry for Governor's Island where the event was held.  I was greeted with a line, the magnitude of which I was not quite prepared for.  I knew the event was sold out, and hoped for some sort of huge flu outbreak that would incapacitate the bulk of the crowd, but I was greeted by some of the organizers with pretty encouraging (if slightly nerve-wracking) news: in just its fourth year, the NY Brewfest was attended by 10,000 people. 

Boasting 100 breweries, most showcasing two or three beers, I was a kid in a candy store.  (The only trick at a festival like this?  MAKE A WISHLIST.  I did, and I got to every beer I wanted with my palate and sobriety intact.)  I thought, "Wow, ten thousand people!  A LOT of people love craft beer."  But I was yet to experience event number two.  As I was sipping my second sample of the day, a guy to my right exclaimed, "Oh my God.  This is good.  It tastes like Rolling Rock!"  That was when I had to hang my head and sigh.  Yes indeed, craft beer is rife with breweries, and its lovers are fifty fold what they were even ten years ago.  But sadly, any event pouring tons of beer (particularly one accessible from Staten Island, Long Island, and New Jersey) is going to attract its fair share of binge drinkers with no interest in art or craft, but with lots of interest in keg stands and filling up a liter Poland Spring bottle with the beer from whichever brewery's rep allowed them to in exchange for a sneakily placed twenty.  (Both of those things happened). 

Mar 11, 2010

Beer Laws - Iowa 1, Philly 0

Let's be honest: America has a checkered history to say the least.  Even the most steadfast, flag-waving patriot would have to admit that.  We've had slavery, Tuskeegee experiments, the McCarthy era.  That doesn't even count eight years of this, eight years of this, and over forty fucking years of this.  If you want to know where America stands right now, I would do yourself a favor and watch Glenn Beck's this-would-be-a-funny-script-but-it's-not-it's-real-so-it-makes-me-shiver-and-sob interview with disgraced Democratic Representative Erick Massa.  Don't fret; YouTube will hook you up.  It will be the most wondrous, heart-wrenching, belief-in-humanity-negating 9.5 minutes of your life.  Basically, a Democrat uses cancer and a Democratic conspiracy to cover up his gay fondling hi jinks while a Republican refutes his non-points by saying that he is the target of an EVEN BIGGER Democratic conspiracy, each proclaiming himself the more put-upon while covering ABSOLUTELY NOTHING related to politics or bettering our battered country.  If that's not America in a nutshell right now, I don't know what is.

Also encapsulating America?  Beer laws.  Beer laws are unique in their representation of our country's history in that most of them are old, outdated, and still on the books.  These laws are literal representations of where our collective heads were at decades ago.  They are our history, albeit a short-sighted and ignorant portion of our history, which makes it all the more tragic that they still exist, let alone are being enforced.  If you don't know, several states have laws that make it illegal to sell beer over a certain ABV.  Or, as with the recent debacle in Philadelphia, some even have beer "registration" laws.

You see, in the state known as "Pennsylvania", the brilliant state government representing "Pennsylvania" decided that all beer had to be registered.  So let's say I own a bar with 75 beers to choose from.  I have to go to the state liquor board and register that I carry each of them.  At this point, you should be scratching your head.  Wait.  It gets better.

Over the weekend, three UPSCALE alehouses in Philadelphia were raided by gun-wielding police who confiscated unregistered beer to the tune of several thousand dollars.  Now, Pennsylvania has tons of beer.  Go to central PA.  A Yuengling on tap costs $1.75 ALWAYS.  Kids don't even have to scrape together beer money the old-fashioned way (selling their "disabled" parents' Oxycontin).  If you've got two dollars, you can drink in a bar.

Thankfully, states are starting to get the message.  Sean from Fullsteam helped lead the charge in North Carolina to get their bullshit laws repealed, and now Iowa has gone and done away with theirs.  It was all part of a huge and actually sort of interesting budget restructuring for the Iowa state government.  The beer part of the bill was,  according to lawmakers, "budget neutral".  Budget neutral . . .  in a budget restructuring bill.  They just tacked it on!  That is awesome.

I know I shit on a lot of places that aren't New York, but in between mad rows of corn, Iowa really has their stuff together.  I mean, this is the place that launched Barack Obama into the national spotlight, legalized gay marriage, and now they're the latest to banish their outdated beer restrictions.  I might be a leftist wealth-hater, but I love this country.  I love it SO much that I'm going to move to Iowa, where the first black President can oversee me marrying some dude, and I can serve Old Rasputin or Midas Touch at my bangin' gay wedding reception in some goddamn peace.  Now that's America.

Mar 9, 2010

I Wanna Bock Right Now

The Bock: not particularly popular outside of beer lovers, yet it is one of the oldest styles of beer still being produced.  The bock originated around the 1300's in the German city of Einbeck (likely responsible for the name too).  If Belgium has taught us anything, it's that monks love beer.  German monks most certainly had this trait (they're German), and when it came time to tackle the problem of how to nourish themselves during religious fasts, they turned to our sweet sweet alcoholic friend.  So, these monks whipped up what became known as a "a bock".  Because of the desperation of the monks to be nourished, this beer is characterized by a rich breadiness, a high gravity packed with carbohydrates, and a nice juicy alcohol content perfect for taking your mind off of what Jesus thinks of you. 

Last night, I sampled two bocks.  I have had several before, including the epic and delicious Troegenator, but since I was having two in the same night, I decided to blog about it.  The first I tried was Abita Mardi Gras Bock.  As I've mentioned before, Abita is one of my favorite breweries (Turbodog is truly the work of minds beyond our own) so when I saw they made a bock, I jumped all over it.  Bocks generally come out around this time of year (corresponding with winter and Lent), so I was happy to see Abita putting out a beer that should be perfect for their situation: in Louisiana, home of the biggest Hedonist help-me-through-religious-irritation festival there is. 

Their bock tends toward the Maibock, a paler version of the traditional bock.  It pours a lovely yellow-golden, almost honey in color.  The body is flecked with bubbles, though the beer is not particularly carbonated on the tongue.  The taste is a hint bready yes, but sweet too and lighter in body than the Trogenator.  It has a nice toastiness with hints of cracker and a slight butteriness.  It also has the slight boozy twinge that often shows up in the style without being yeasty.  It skews way lighter than many bocks, and the decision to roll with the lighter Maibock is a great decision, since they're brewing for the hot Louisiana climate.  But ultimately, something about Mardi Gras Bock falls a bit flat.  None of the flavors come through with much gusto, and there are windows of flavor seemingly left wide open.  The finesse that most Abita beers show in mingling odd styles or difficult ingredients is mysteriously absent here. 

Next up was Ayinger Celebrator.  Ayinger is a German brewery and Celebrator has one of the top reps as an authentic German doppelbock (double bock = higher alcohol).  I had never had it, but I can safely say that it is fantastic.  It pours a very dark brown with minimal head.  It presents aroma notes of rich wheat toast, caramel, root beer, and maple syrup.  The caramel presents in the flavor as well, but most of what you get is a robust yet gentle roastiness.  What is so unique about this beer is how the grain comes through so crisp and clear, despite the high alcohol.  You can imagine the malt being gently roasted when you drink it, and the fresh flavor of the grain (as well as letting it stand out as a flavor element) brings a lightness and an elegance to the beer.  Celebrator also presents notes of molasses, a touch of alcohol warmth, and a hint of mellowing carbonation.  This beer clearly has its reputation for a reason, and tasting it not only offers the opportunity to have a great beer, but also to taste some good old-fashioned TRADITION.

Most people probably aren't up on bocks, but for the transitional Spring weather, they offer the perfect segue from the dark, heavy, high-alcohol beers of winter to the (generally) lighter beers of summer.  More and more American craft breweries are trying their hands at them, and the opening up of the craft beer market in the States has afforded up the opportunity to stock up on imports as well.  The other great thing about bocks is how well they pair with food.  Bust out some Irish soda bread or even a chocolatey dessert, and you got yourself a nifty pairing with minimal effort.  If breweries end up throwing out gallons of unused bock this summer, I blame you.   

Mar 4, 2010

Quick Shout to Big Clout

Oh there are so many things to take a man's attention away from his passions: horrible days at work, cars that give you erections, catatonically staring at the computer screen hoping a certain comment writer will read a certain blog post and respond with new and hilarious misspellings.  But once in a while I manage to sneak away and have a night with just me and the lady.  She is my whole world, and she encourages my alcoholism beer love with gusto.  So, even when we're out to a romantic dinner, or having a chill night alone, she never hesitates to let me down a new beer and blabber on about Plato (a unit for measuring the Original Gravity of a beer) or Belgian yeast strains without batting an eyelash.  She even pretends to be into it.  I mean, nothing ruins a sentimental starlit meal like asking the waiter for a Shitstorm IPA or a Dead Racist Oatmeal Stout, but I'll be damned if she doesn't encourage it.  (TRADEMARK!)

The other night we went to one of our guilty pleasures: Stand, right outside Union Square.  The burgers are great, the sides are meh, but the milkshakes.  THE FUCKING MILKSHAKES.  Being boring stay-at-home losers with foodie pretensions means we watch a lot of Food Network.  When Michael Symon said he drank THREE of this place's Toasted Marshmallow milkshakes on Best Thing I Ever Ate, we had to go.  The peanut butter cup milkshake?  Heaven.  The Chocolate Mint Cookie?  Delicious.  Apple Pie?  They BLEND A PIECE OF PIE INTO IT.  But the Toasted Marshmallow milkshake is the kicker.  It is so good that if killing puppies was the only way to make the milkshake come to be, we would be farm-raising the little Fidos for slaughter.

Anyway, they happen to have a nifty beer list too (when they aren't out of everything).  Though they were out of the Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter for the second time (I guess I'm not the only one who thinks it sounds good with a burger), they had Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold.  Captain Lawrence is really gaining lots of steam here, as they are a NY state brewery, but people have been losing their shit over CL with extreme dementia well beyond what I expect.  So, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Well Captain Lawrence, let me say, Liquid Gold is unbelievably wonderful.  Even with food that it didn't belong in the same room with; even in a glass meant to hold . . . I don't know . . . a lame mojito or something; even when it wasn't my first choice.  This beer kills.  Incredible bursting fruity notes of pineapple and lemon that explode on the tongue with force but without overwhelming the delicate grass and prominent - yet easy to screw up - Belgian yeastiness.  How this all balances, I have no clue.  I've truly never tasted anything like it.  It is so crisp, so bold and refreshing, so addicting . . . it's like drinking one of those yellow smiley faces.  I want one now.  But sadly I have not.

So, even though Captain Lawrence really should have me review his (or uh . . . her, but probably not) beers with a comprehensive hand and a panoramic view of the whole line, I can't.  Because I can almost never find his damn beers.  But suffice it to say that Liquid Gold is a really monumental achievement.  Just fantastic.  Thought you should know.

Mar 2, 2010

Pure Hogwash

Last night was one of the most enjoyable nights I've had in a while.  Sitting around drinking Sixpoint Mason (a dunkelweiss) from a growler while blogging and watching basketball (even if the games weren't great) was . . . creatively invigorating, oddly enough.  I had another experience like that last week and it sprouted from seeds planted several weeks ago.

I wrote about meeting Sean Lily Wilson of North Carolina's burgeoning Fullsteam Brewery back in the day.  We had a killer conversation, a couple fantastic beers, and he gave me a bottle of his Hogwash Hickory-Smoked Porter with the caveat that I couldn't drink it without some barbecue in the mix.  I never had a free night to just sit around, drink, and eat barbecue until last week.  Tragically, I had to run in to work quickly last Tuesday so I set my DVR for the 'Cuse game, dashed in to work, and used the trip in as an excuse to treat myself to a BBQ dinner.  I work near a semi-decent BBQ place that, in a pinch, was allowable.  I NEEDED to try this beer.

I don't know if Sean knows this, but I was terrified to try his beer.  Between all the hype, my general unimpressed-ness with most porters, and the fact that I KNOW HIM PERSONALLY, I had no idea what I would do if I didn't like it.  It was likely my first journalistic dilemma.  I certainly didn't have it in me to give a fluff review, praising a beer I didn't believe in.  But who could say something bad about the product of such a good human being with such a promising future? 

Thankfully, after I tasted the beer, this was no longer an issue.  Hogwash, alone or with my pulled pork sandwich, is simply outstanding.  The usual porter signifiers are there: in color and body it doesn't shatter any new ground.  But in flavor, Hogwash brings an earthy, hearty flavor to the usually blah porter palete.  The hickory lends a brilliant smokiness that rounds out the flavor and adds just a touch of sweetness, though the beer finishes on a slightly drier note.  With a tender piece of barbecue pork (or even with the side of Memphis dry ribs), the beer goes even sweeter and the barbecue gets even smokier. 

The best part of this beer might be how frigging EASY it is to drink.  Hogwash certainly holds rewards for those willing to dig deep, but hand it to a friend at a barbecue and I bet they'll guzzle two or three, all the while wondering what makes this beer so damn addictive.  The one bottle I had was not enough.  I wanted to drink one more; I wanted to suddenly be at a sunny-day barbecue surrounded by friends and family.  But that's the power of a good craft brew.  I was transported there either way, from a NYC apartment on a rainy Tuesday to a hot-as-hell Southern Saturday Barbecue and Bluegrass Hoe-down (this is an annual event that takes place in my brain). 

I highly suggest following these dudes on Facebook, as Fullsteam regularly posts hilarious pop culture whatnot from the absurd outskirts of technology and entertainment.  Plus their beer is good, and when it rolls into NYC I will proudly go to my local alehouse, order a pint, and get transported to a magical world where I have no job but tons of money, no tact but tons of friends, and no obligations pulling me forward: just the desire to live.  For me, that's what beer and barbecue are all about: the great times.  Add this experience to the list.  

Mar 1, 2010

I'm Back Bitches, and It's National Beer Day . . . Bitches

Well, well, well.  Looks like we're all alone.  I set out this tray of fresh grapes and ripened cheese for you.  Lay down by the fire . . . I have an oil that smells like pomegranates.

If you didn't notice (I'm assuming you have something better to do), I've been gone for . . . oh I don't know.  Something like 26 years.  The demands of running a restaurant, maintaining a relationship, having friends, and being stunningly good-looking take up their fair share of my schedule.  Unfortunately, blogging - despite the money and groupies - took a backseat to life.  Take heart: I kept drinking heavily, if not as adventurously.  You know?  Sometimes a dude just wants to sit back, drink a beer, finish it, and not write a bunch of shit about it. 

But I was beckoned back.  I've been eating monstrous amounts of exotic food, hanging with cool beer people, and hearing about how my lack of blogging has left a Haiti-sized hole in people's lives for the past few weeks.  Good food and beer deserves to be written and talked about.  So, forgive my occasional diversions away from beer.  They keep me interested in my own blathering.  That leads me to this.

I hadn't even logged in to my Blogger account in weeks.  When I did a few minutes ago, I was greeted by a comment from someone I can't yet identify.  A random perhaps?  It said this:
I don't know the appropriate place to post this, but in general NYC does not have the best food, not by far, not in my opinion.  I've been in NYC for a year and a half and I've had better food, lb for lb, in m home state of MA, every day of the year.
This person goes on to say that NYC doesn't have decent Chinese food (!) or pizza (!!).  This has nothing to do with beer, but I also LOVE food (possibly more than beer, but I write about beer because I know more about it).  Plus this is my spot, so I think this is an appropriate time to express my disdain for other people's opinions.

New York sucks.  That's right.  Manhattan?  Are you kidding me?  Everyone knows it's lame now.  Especially this person who posted this, who according to their profile lives on the Upper West Side.  The UWS is LAME, all caps.  In fact, aside from Park Slope, it might be the lamest section of the whole city.  So hey lame-ass: zip it.  Because no matter how much NYC sucks and has been commercialized and has become a playground for the rich, it KILLS wherever you are from.  This commenter says he/she is from Massachusetts.  Even worse.  I blame Massachusetts (well . . . and Giuliani) for New York sucking.  They come here from their wack-ass suburban podunk shithouse and wear their goddamn Tufts sweatshirts all over the city and make everyone be quiet late at night.

If you live in New York, let's get one thing clear: you came here because we have something your home doesn't.  Maybe it's hip-hop, or educated people, or running water.  But we have it.  You want Chinese food?  GO TO FUCKING FLUSHING.  It's like China 2.  You want pizza?  Um . . . get slapped in the face (if you're a man; if you're a woman, just trip over something).  You can't find pizza in NYC?!?!?  Well, maybe you can refer me to a good helmet store.

This person says we don't have good Greek food.  I live in Astoria.  Look it up.  I just had Lebanese today and FUCKING NEPALESE last week.  Please lame-asses from other places: just shut up and go home.  Or take New York like it is and enjoy it.  A bit more?
You cannot get a good steak bomb here (not one good Ma/Pa sub shops in NYC anywhere).   I haven't even found a place in NYC that makes their own donuts (Marty's donut land in Ipswich, MA.)
Oh well then let me catch the next horse and carriage to IPSWICH FUCKING MASSACHUSETTS.  According to Wikipedia, Ipswich is 97.6% white.  Wow.  Shocking.  No good Ma and Pa sub shops?  I live right down the street from Sal, Kris, and Charlie's who would ground your favorite sub shop into a paste that would be untastable on their amazing subs.  Then your favorite sub shop (which, if you recall, was recently turned to a paste) would be shit out by someone WAY cooler than you.  Then try Nicky's Vietnamese.  You will have the best subs of your life, and they show the Simpsons on a constant loop. 

New York has THE BEST FOOD ANYWHERE.  Maybe in ten years, they won't, but since right now we have Gordon Ramsay, Mario Batali, Chris Santos, Buttermilk Channel, Zarela, the Harrison, all of Queens (the most diverse place on the planet statistically), Wylie Dufresne, Bobby Flay, Morimoto's, David Bouley, Per Se/Ad Hoc, Les Halles, Aquavit, Resto, Momofuku, Jean-Georges, Jacques Torres, Max Brenner's, Katz's Deli, Le Cirque, Tom Colicchio, Alain Ducasse, about 500 other world-renowned chefs, and authentic regional cuisine from every country on the planet, we do. 

Also, if you are like this commenter and say your favorite beer is Peak IPA, please, stay out of the deep end.  I bet there's a nice fucking donut hole in Ipswich that would love to have you.

Jan 28, 2010

Schlafly Reserve Barleywine 2008 vs. Victory Old Horizontal

Me and barleywine: a new but torrid affair that has taken me from Utah to California to Pennsylvania to St. Louis.  You can get it all year, but I highly suggest taking the merciless chill from a winter's night with a barleywine, and if you can get friends together to share it, even better.  It might be the best bonding beer in existence.  I love barelywine not as much for the flavor but for the experience.  My girlfriend loves it for the flavor, and the fact that it makes her feel like she's drinking an elegant sherry in our humble apartment.

Recently I came upon two barleywines and I would highly suggest you do find some of your own.  It can be jarring, so I wouldn't START with barleywine if you are a beer newbie.  But if you find yourself laughing (or even better, scoffing) at your friends and whatever light swill they are drinking, you might enjoy a barleywine.  At the very least, it puts you to sleep. 

The Schlafly Reserve Barleywine (St. Louis) I had was from 2008.  That is not an exceptionally long time to age a beer, particularly a barleywine that can easily handle 10-15 years.  But I'm sure it made my glass(es) somewhat different than if I got it fresh, right off the bat.  It poured with virtually no head, with minimal carbonation in both body and mouthfeel.  The body is rife with hints of red and orange, lending it a copper or light rust color.  The aroma is heavy on alcohol, with notes of fresh grain and a brandy quality.  In the body, as I said there is little carbonation.  The body and flavor run super rich and malty, typical to the style, but SRB absolutely floods the mouth with flavor.  It is one of the best beers I've ever had in terms of flavor distribution: no taste bud is safe.  As for what you get, SRB is oak-aged, which takes some of the bit out and replaces it with some sweetness and nuttiness.  These present up front, while the slight hints of alcohol warmth and hops buddy up to them at the finish.  The luxury of SRB is that none of the flavors dissipate, and the sweet malt that starts hangs on until the very end, not being replaced by any flavors, but merely partnering up with them.  It's a good call, and a complex trick, but the end result is a really rewarding barleywine. 

Victory's (Pennsylvania) success at barleywine unfortunately doesn't get any better than the name: Old Horizontal.  It makes me think of an old man who comes down from the hills once a year with barleywine for all the little kids.  Anyway, the differences between Victory and SRB are small in number, but huge in effect.  Victory lands on the hoppier side of barleywines, along with, say, Blue Point's Barleywine.  It has a much more robust carbonation in the body.  Between the hops, the fizz, and the lack of oak-aging, Victory is a more tangy, biting brew.  The hops are both piney and grapefruity, and they make up the bulk of the beer's finish.  Ultimately, Victory Old Horizontal doesn't have the huge, warm flavor that I love from barleywine like SRB, and the parts just don't quite gel.  Don't worry Victory.  Golden Monkey, Prima Pils, Storm King: you have more amazing beers coming out of your brewery than some entire states.  But for Barleywine, I'm going to hang in St. Louis for a bit.  Then I'll probably take a nap.