Breweries "Visited"

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not the White Whale, but Still a Monster

Beer #52 Leviathan Barleywine / Harpoon Brewing Company, Boston, MA 

Dear people who say there is no global warming,
I drove home from work today, January 31, with the windows open.  On a day in the middle of winter that felt like the middle of spring, the only thing I could do was get some fresh air going and absolutely crank The Rolling Stones on the drive home (went for the  first half of the Exile on Main Street album - guaranteed to get the blood pumping).  When winter punches us in the face and dumps 36" of snow in one day come late March, I'll remember this day.
Thanks,
Gary

Today's beer from Harpoon was built for a colder day.  Drank it regardless, as I was interested in this beer for two reasons.  One, my version of a "winter" beer is a barleywine, rather than some of the other traditional seasonal offerings (recall: I don't like stouts and porters).  Go here for a quick primer on what a barleywine is, and for those too lazy to click, rest assured it's a beer, not wine.  Two, I was interested in this beer strictly due to the name.  Leviathan is one of those fun, underused words that I should probably weave into conversation more.  "Did you see that basketball game last night?  He was a freaking leviathan on the boards!"  Feel free to join me here.  Plus, Moby Dick is one of my all time favorite books, for whatever that's worth.

So the beer: the Leviathan series is Harpoon's take on big, unique beers.  The Barleywine pours a rich garnet color, and gives off a strong malt scent.  The flavor is dry and full of sweet malt taste, with strong notes of raisin and peppery spice.  This checks in at 10% ABV, and definitely tastes like it, too.  You can tell this beer packs a punch.  If Captain Ahab had this beer aboard the Pequod, he wouldn't give a damn about finding the white whale.
The picture makes it look more purple than it really is.  Sorry.
Things to Think about Today:
The Rolling Stones occupy a warm spot in my heart, as I grew up listening to them non-stop.  It was sort of a ritual: someone brought a radio to the basketball courts, and we'd run and listen to the Stones all day.  The Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World will probably pop up again somewhere on the list of things to think about, but for now, think about rocking out tomorrow with the windows down on your way home.  Spring will be here soon, right?

I'm always hearing voices on the street/I want to shout but I can't hardly speak.

Beer 52: Westmalle Trappist Ale Tripel





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzKUzRJUzQ0 

I’ve forgotten how totally awesome this song is.  Enjoy!

***

Tonight’s beer is a draught pour of Westmalle Trappist Ale Tripel.  I totally forgot to take a picture of it.  Instead you get a very sparkly dachshund.
Sparkle Flash!

It poured straw color with a very small head.  It smelled of hops but was lacking in the banana and clove scent that I was expecting.  It drank with a nice body but left a pronounced bitter finish.  Once it was gone, I declared it to have “left me feeling empty and sad.”  I had far greater expectations for this one.  After writing this post and reading reviews on beeradvocate.com, I really think there was something wrong with what I was served.

Oh well.  You win some and you lose some.  This time in the form of a subpar beer.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I am the Keymaster. Are you the Gatekeeper?

Beer #51 Fantome Saison / Brasserie Fantome, Soy, Belgium 
Remember how I was going to be in Seattle this week?  Yeah, about that.  Maybe not!  I'll find out soon, but I need to play it by ear for a bit.  Business travel sounds glamorous, until you actually do it with some regularity.  Then?  It loses the luster.

Thankfully, I know one way to solve life's little problems - by drinking beer.  Tonight's selection is a saison from Fantome.  This beer has a hazy orange color, and hits you instantly with a citrus (tangerine?) aroma. The taste follows the aroma and has an orange and sour apple fruit taste with just enough of an earthy, grassy finish.  Really nice balance here; complex and refreshing all at the same time.  Plus, the logo from the bottle is clearly related to King Boo from the Mario Brothers series of Nintendo games.  See?   Practically twins!



For the record, King Boo is Marci's go-to character for our Mario Kart battles.  Anyway, this brewery is named for a local legend, the ghost of Countess Bertha de la Roche.  Her spirit still reportedly haunts a nearby castle.  Not sure if I believe in ghosts, but I believe in delicious, unique beer, and this one delivers.  It may not end up there at the end of the year, but for now, it gets a coveted spot in the Top 25.

Thing to Think About Today:
This would be a good time to tell you about when I saw Ghostface Killah perform live as part of a summer music festival (with Method Man and Raekwon backed by The Roots).  However, that's a story that I'll save for a later day.  No my friends, I think we'll stick with a classic today:

We're going to play Twister, do some breakdancing!!







Beer 51: Brasserie Fantome

I just want to eat dinner, drink this fantastic and very interesting beer and chill out.  It’s been that kind of day.  I’ll try to be profound tomorrow.


Tonight’s beer is from Brasserie Fantome.  It is the brewery’s saison and it is quite good.  Gary picked up this beer based on two reasons.  1. He’s on a saison kick.  2.  The label.  Seriously.  How can you not buy a beer with that label?

I poured it into my trusty tulip glass.  It was shockingly opaque and a wild apricot color.  Interesting.  It poured with a white head that disappeared in short order.  A good swirl released light fruit notes, maybe grape but more tree based fruit -- like a green apple?  There were the requisite hops as well.  It had good carbonation and drank thin.  Aside from the fruit from the scent carrying through to the taste, I also got something very organic and earthy.  Almost a savory food flavor that none of my go to beer adjectives could describe.  It finishes with a bit bitter and good saison pepper.  This is a very unusual saison and I really enjoy it.

What I can’t figure out is whether this is Fantome’s standard saison or if it is one of the seasonals for which the brewer is known.  I would love for it to be a seasonal version because he uses closely guarded mystery ingredients and I want that to cover that earthy, organic flavor I couldn’t place.  Either way, I’m hooked and will definitely be on the lookout for more of this one.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

1) Rap cover of Whitesnake 2) ????? 3) Profit

Beer #50 Bluebird Bitter / Coniston Brewing Company, Coniston, England
Lately, I've been fascinated with musicians covering songs, but performing them in other genres.  One, I think it's interesting to see how songs get interpreted, and two, I HAD THIS IDEA YEARS AGO.  You're probably familiar with Ben Folds covering Bitches Ain't Shit, for example.  I've previously encouraged you to think about some dude covering Boyz N The Hood.  Awesome and unique and hilarious, all at the same time, right?

While there are some famous versions of people dabbling in covers, I want to take this to the next level: I want to form a band and perform NOTHING but covers from a different genre.  One possible direction is to give the acoustic guitar treatment to some famous rap songs.  First three I think we need are California Love by Tupac, It's Tricky by Run-DMC, and O.P.P. by Naughty by Nature (I'll also allow Hip Hop Hooray).  The other direction is the one (so far) less traveled:  rap covers of 80's hair metal.  I think that's a niche where we can be first to market.  Maybe one set of each per show?  I don't know yet, this is still just a concept I'm working on.

So now we now come to the problem: I have no musical talent whatsoever.  None.  My contribution will be either knowing the lyrics to every relevant rap song from 1986-1996 or I'm happy to serve as MC on rap covers of power ballads.  I think I can handle that.  Therefore, I need musicians to actually, you know, perform the music.  This is where you come in, blog readers.  You have musical talent, I have a vision.  Let's do this.

And now you know my master plan for future success.  While daydreaming about my upcoming performance at the Grammy awards, I like to drink beer.  Today's beer comes from Coniston, an English brewery.  I've had this on draft previously at Teresa's Next Door, but I spotted a bottle during my field trip to Total Wine yesterday.  This is a traditional bitter, and pours amber with a foamy head.  Nice orange aroma, with a biscuit/bread flavor and floral notes (maybe lavender?) along the way.  Yes, the beer style is called "bitter", but that's actually not a dominant flavor.  What surprised me most was the 3.6% ABV - the flavor suggests a stronger beer.  A very easy drinking, very tasty beer.  Cheers, mate!



Thing to Think About Today:
Clearly, you need some additional examples before you get on board with my plan for sure stardom.  I hereby present to you a Ukranian polka band + Katy Perry.  THIS COULD BE US, PEOPLE!


And yes, I have this mp3 on the iPod.  You knew I did, though.  We fight, we break up/We kiss, we make up.

Beer 50: Unibroue Maudite or Holy Shit!


Wow.  Beer #50!  That feels like a major milestone in this adventure.  Looking back at the first fifty days, I’ve realized that I have no ability whatsoever to remember what I’ve drank.  Thank god for GoogleDocs and my iPad.  I may look like the nerd in the beer store, but at least I’m not going to have another “How did I forget I’ve already sampled Norwegian beer” double posting moment.  I’m also going to have to ease up on adding things to my Top 25 list.  I have nine tagged already.

***

Today we drink Unibroue’s Maudite.  (Sorry I forgot to snap a photo but hopefully this picture from Unibroue’s website will satisfy you.)

It smells of hops and Belgian beer sugar.  The head was slightly off-white and craggy.  The beer itself was reddish brown and cloudy.  The taste is fantastic -- cinnamon, nutmeg, hints of yeast, fruit.  It is an amber red ale that drinks quite smooth despite the 8% ABV and the medley of strong and complex flavors.  It finishes dry, leaving me wanting more and very happy that I have the 750mL bottle!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Am A Real American (Ale)

Beer # 49 Old Court Ale / 16 Mile Brewing Company, Georgetown, DE
A beautiful day in the neighborhood! Slept in, did some chores, went for a run, did some shopping, and stopped by Total Wine to stock the beer shelf.  This store has  always been a mecca for wine, but they've stepped up their beer game tremendously in the past year or so. Formerly just a home for domestics and some macro brewed imports, their beer aisle now lets you buy single bottles of some really unique and interesting craft brews.  And buy we did.

We ate dinner at Ulysses Gastropub in Wilmington tonight (great meal, by the way), so I decided to keep it local and sample a draft from 16 Mile Brewery. The Old Court Ale is named for the original historic courthouse in Sussex County, where the brewery is located.  In fact, all of their beer names have a tie to something significant in the state of Delaware.

The website for 16 Mile calls this beer a dark pale ale, and the draft was definitely a dark amber color in the glass. Good hop and malt flavors up front, but not much bitterness. A hint of sweetness and some very mild earthy flavor in the finish. A nice, drinkable yet flavorful beer. If you find yourself in or near Delaware, this one is worth your time.

Thing to Think About Today:
If we're talking the First State and historic buildings dating back to the 1700's, we're clearly talking about a place steeped in American history.  I'm a fan of history - I'm always curious to know the story behind the places I visit and I always love learning about the past.  Whenever we go somewhere with a historical marker, Marci knows that I'm guaranteed to stop and read.  I was also a big fan of wrestling when I was a kid.  Let's combine the two, and celebrate American history with a Real American:



And yes, I have this mp3 on the iPod.  I am prepared to fight for the rights of every man.




Beer 49: Stone Brewing’s Vertical Epic Ale or Hiding in Plain Sight


Lately I’ve been intrigued by the work of two artists who hide in plain sight.  Their art is a cross between painting and photography and it is utterly fascinating.  Examples of work by Liu Bolin:





(I believe all these photos are courtesy of this artist.)

The other artist is Cecilia Paredes.  She lives and works in Philadelphia!  How have I never seen her work before last week?  




(photos courtesy of mymodernmet.com)

I’ve also been haunted by the song Someone I Used to Know by Gotye.  Check out the video:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UVNT4wvIGY&feature=youtu.be 


It’s very much in the same vein as the work of Liu Bolin and Cecilia Paredes.  I absolute cannot stop watching this video.


***


Tonight I opted to just drink a beer at dinner and not worry about the blog so for tonight’s review I’m tapping into a review I had on reserve from this week’s trip to State College.  At some point since my college graduation, The Deli decided to become a really awesome beer bar and I continue to be astounded at its selection every time I visit.


Lunch on Thursday was no different as I tried Stone Brewing’s Vertical Epic Ale.  I’ll admit that I think of the offerings from Stone as more of beers for Gary so I usually don’t pay much attention to them.  For some reason this one spoke to me.  It poured a medium to dark brown and I swear it had a slight greenish tint.  It had bold flavor -- cinnamon, hops and toastiness up front with a bitter hop finish matched perfectly with green chili pepper.  This beer is bold with lots of flavor.  Combine that with a 9.4% ABV, it’s not for the faint of heart.  


Beyond fantastic taste, this beer has an interesting background.  It’s part of Stone’s vertical series that started on February 2, 2002.  These bottle-conditioned ales are specifically designed to be aged until sometime after December 12, 2012.  (Sorry I drank this one early!)  They are designed for a vertical tasting.  Each beer in the series is released one year, one month and one day from the previous year’s edition.  My beer was released on November 11, 2011 and the next and final one is due out December 12, 2012.  I will definitely be on the lookout for opportunities to participate in one of these vertical tastings.  


I kid you not that I woke up this morning dreaming about this beer.  It would be a perfect brunch beer.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Docther? Doctor. Doctor? Dochter.

Beer #48 Belle-Fleur / Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar, Baarle-Hertog, Belgium
Two days in the office, two days on the road, one day in State College.  Not a bad way to spend a week, and even better - it's over.  Someone asked me what our weekend plans were, and I had to pause.  Think... think... nope.  Nothing, nada.  How good does it feel to not have anything planned this weekend?  This is conducive to drinking beer, I'd say.

For today, I'm going with an IPA from De Dochter,  newcomer in the Belgian beer world. An odd website - half of it is in English, half in Dutch.  Dutchlish?  Anyway, this beer pours with a foamy head, and has a cloudy gold color.  The hop flavor dominates the beer, with a taste of bread along the way.  It finishes dry, some light hints of grass and lemon.  Good find, and I recommend you try if you want a beer that balances the hop flavor without cramming it down your throat.

Nice....
One of my dreams in life is to be multi-lingual.  I'm barely competent at English, so it's a long shot, but at some point I hope to be able to speak another language.  I'm thinking that this beer adventure may help; I've been spending a lot of time on Belgian brewery websites, and I think I'm starting to learn some Dutch.  I mean, at least I thought I was getting the hang of Dutch, but today's brewery (that's "brouwerij" to us fluent in Dutch) threw me off.  I was certain the translation of this brewery's name was "Doctor..."and I was getting all sorts of doctor jokes and puns queued up.  Such as this great scene from Spies Like Us:


But then, I come to find out the name of this brewery translates into "the daughter of the ear of corn."  WHAAT?  I have no daughter of the ear of corn jokes at the moment, and nothing for you to think about in that genre.

Thing to Think About Today:
Therefore, we'll stick with my original plan, and highlight one of the most transcendent basketball players ever, Julius Erving.  Or as we know him, Dr. J.  The Doctor was my first favorite basketball player, and might still own that title.  He helped revolutionize the game, and always seemed to be a highlight waiting to happen.  With the Sixers enjoying some success again this year, the thing to think about is this:

How the Sixers only won one title with Doc running the court, I have no idea.

Beer 48: Oude Kriek or I Love You, Phil Knight

"Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me: There is a villain in this tragedy that lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno's response to it."

-- Phil Knight, Chairman of the Board, Nike

Courtesy of statecollege.com
Yesterday the life and legacy of Joseph V. Paterno was celebrated in the most inspiring and amazing way in front of some 12,000 plus friends, family, Penn State alumni, former and current students and athletes and fans. It was overwhelmingly joyful and sad. As images of Coach Paterno came and went on the screens, athletes and academics alike joined together to expound on the impact and legacy this American icon had on just about everyone who ever encountered him. Much gratitude was given to Sue Paterno for sharing him with the world. I sincerely hope she can find some iota of comfort knowing that she is not alone in her sadness.

I sat there for more than two hours completely engrossed in what the speakers had to say. Each time a speech concluded, I thought it would be the one I wrote about today. I wavered on who did the most justice to Coach Paterno’s life and legacy until Phil Knight took the podium. He shared stories of Nike coaches trip where Joe would perform Wild Thing to the delight and amazement of those in attendance. In twenty days from now, it will be the first time in twelve years that performance doesn’t happen. As someone who loves tradition, I imagine that will be difficult to bear witness to. Phil Knight talked about his relationship with Joe -- how Joe became his hero. He brought down the house with the quote with which I opened this post.

Phil Knight is my new hero. He gave voice to what so many of us were thinking. Prior to that statement, he said, “In the year in question it turns out he (Joe) gave full disclosure to his superiors, information moved up the chain to head of campus police and president of the school. The matter was in the hands of a world class university and by a president with an outstanding national reputation. Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me.”

Ouch, Penn State. Ouch.  Somewhere in Penn State’s Athletic Development Office, there is a fundraiser having years shaved off his/her life. Trust me. I am a fundraiser and seeing the head of what is probably one of Penn State’s most generous corporate sponsors so utterly incensed gave me cold sweats.

Phil Knight went on to speak for a few more minutes and closed with the question of who will be our hero now noting that the bar has been set very high. With a final thank you, he turned and walked strode off the stage. To say the audience went wild would be the understatement of the century.

Thank you, Mr. Knight, for being our voice.

I’m certain that I’ll have more thoughts to share from the memorial service in the coming days, but for now that’s all I can share.

***

I came home from work today looking for something to sample that would make me happy. I didn’t want to be challenged by tonight’s beer. I didn’t want to chance a disappointing selection. I opted for one of Gary’s recent purchases: Oude Kriek from Hanssens Artisanaal in Dworp, Belgium.

The color of the Oude Kriek can best be described as cloudy fruit punch. Its head, albeit tiny, is unapologetically pink. It smells of tart cherries and funk. The flavor. Oh, the flavor. If you’re a fan of sour ale, Flemish red ales, etc., you know the scent that leads to great sour taste. I smelled it. (This is when the choir of angels started singing, rainbows appeared and bunnies hopped joyfully across the lawn. Ok, it wasn’t like that at all, but it could have been.)

This lambic is dry from start to finish. It hits you right away with a phenomenal sourness that pinches your tongue and tickles the roof of your mouth. There is tart cherries, vinegar, and something barnlike with a nice underlying but very mild sweetness. I’ve described some other Flemish ales or geuze beers as gateway sours. This one is enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers shaolin level. Chew on that for awhile, folks.


Here’s to the Wu, brass balls and exceptionally good lambics. Cheers!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dear Phil Knight, Will You Be My Friend? Check Here for Yes.

Beer #47 Centennial IPA / Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, MI
Hectic day - took a road trip with Marci and some friends to pay our respects at the Joe Paterno Memorial Service today on campus.  It was absolutely amazing to be in the building and see everything live.  Speeches came from past players, students, the first Mayor of Paternoville (who just happens to be in our tailgate crew), and the Dean of the Liberal Arts College.  The highlights were one of the more moving speeches I've ever heard courtesy of Jay Paterno and commentary from two of my fraternity brothers, Jimmy Cefalo and Phil Knight. If you missed it today, do yourself a favor and catch the highlights or better yet watch a re-broadcast.  The trumpet solo of Hail to the Lion at the close is a touching moment worth seeing as well.

It was a surreal experience, filled with laughter, tears, stories, and reminders that there will never be another Joe Paterno.  I'm still a bit in shock that I was able to be a part of this in person, which is something I'll always remember in the years to come.  A remarkable day to give tribute to a remarkable man.  We stopped by the Paterno statue on the east side of the stadium - an avalanche of flowers, cards, posters, hats, shirts, and countless other tributes were left by fans at the base.  We left behind some white roses, a small offering for a larger than life coach.

One of the homemade signs, damp with a day's worth of rain.  And  tears.
We did manage to stop and get lunch and a beer at The Deli, one of my more favorite restaurants in town in recent years.  Much improved food, and they offer up the best beer menu in town with a nice mix of domestic and import craft beer choices.  I went for the Centennial IPA from Founders, a nice and flavorful yet easy drinking IPA.  I didn't take notes (ooops), so please just trust me that it's a good choice.  Or, drink one and provide me with some commentary!
This + The Deli's baked potato soup?  Aw yeah.....
Thing to Think About Today:
While all of the speeches at the memorial today were inspiring, I officially have a new man-crush.  Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, spoke from the heart about his relationship with Joe, and how Joe had been his "hero" for the past 12 years.  He shared some touching and humorous stories about Joe, but towards the end he changed gears and the tone of his remarks.  It was surreal to watch; Knight, a polished executive, started speaking quickly and emphatically.  Do yourself a favor and watch the video - it's very much worth your time.  If you don't have ten minutes, the exclamation point Knight hammers home is this: "If there is a villain in this tragedy, it is in that investigation and NOT in Joe Paterno's response to it.  And yet, for his actions, he was excoriated by the media and fired over the telephone by his university."

BAM.  Phil Knight didn't attend PSU and has no connection besides his personal relationship other than we wear Nike gear (like most other colleges).  So for someone of his magnitude to go on record and vigorously defend Joe speaks volumes about the character of Coach Paterno, a PSU Board eager to find a scapegoat, and an unchecked media only interested in making splashy headlines.

I take back my earlier statement.  I don't have a man-crush.  I think I have a new hero.

Beer 47: Hof Ten White Gold

Today we are on the road for A Memorial to Joe at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.  I'm keeping today's post short and sweet and promise to write something more in depth tomorrow about the memorial service.

***

Today I'm drinking Hof Ten White Gold Farmhouse Ale.  (I'm coming up with nothing for a brewery website.  Sorry about that.)  This one came from a tap and I'm without a camera so there's no evidence of this one.  Instead I give you Blog Dog:
Picasso contemplating his guest post
I figured Gary's on a farmhouse ale kick, I might as well join in!  The color of this one is golden straw color.  It was one of those beers that just looked good.  It smelled sweet and funky.  Quite nice.  I would describe it as well balanced.  It had great fruit up front and then finished with pepper.  Exactly what one would expect from this type of beer.

It was easy to drink - even at 8% ABV- and I definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beer 46: Birraficio Le Baladin Nora or I'm too Tired to Care

So I just finished writing a pretty good post considering how braindead tired I am and fucking Blogger disappeared it. (Anyone?  Anyone?  Please go watch The Wire.)

***

Tonight I drank the Nora from Le Baladin in Italy.  As you can see from the photo, the bottle is adorable and that's pretty much how it made the cut to come home with us from the beer shop.  It's the little things in life.

Into my trusty tulip glass it went...all apricot colored liquid and barely-there head.  It smelled of sweetness and malt but was a little too perfumed for my nose.  It had average carbonation.  Not a bad thing at all, just making an observation.  It drank very light but sweet and maybe with a bit of citrus.  Honestly it reminded me of beer from college.  I did not drink good beer in college.  (Sorry, Phi Gams.  While you never served good beer, it was plentiful and free and that's all I needed back then!)

After finishing my review, I checked out Beer Advocate and that kind of blew me away.  This one is an Egyptian inspired brew with ginger, myrrh and orange peel.  That explains some of what I tasted.  It got an exceptional rating.  That adjective was not in my thinking at all when drinking the Nora.  Fascinating.

Gary had way better luck with Nora's sister beer, Super.  Check it out here.

I'm off to relax for a bit.  Tomorrow is a big day.  I have tickets to the memorial service for Joe Paterno at the Bryce Jordan Center.  It should be an emotional and profound day.

Cheers.

My People!

Beer #46 Super / Birraficio Le Baladin, Piozzo, Italy
Tried to cram a lot of work into today, which didn't go very well.  Hey, you can't win them all.  Out of the office again tomorrow, which probably isn't going to get me more caught up on my work.  However, the good news is that we're headed to State College for Joe Paterno's memorial service.  I imagine it's going to be an emotional day, but I'm very happy my schedule worked out so that I can say farewell in person.

Today's beer is my first foray of the 365 journey into Italian beers, courtesy of Birraficio Le Baladin.  My paternal grandfather was Italian, so I've now covered a solid 75% of my ancestral background in beer thanks to this plus the Polish beer, Zywiec.

I found this beer (and Marci's) in the ever-improving beer section at Whole Foods in Devon.  What their beer section lacks in size, it makes up in quality.  The Belgian strong pale ale is a cloudy amber hue, and has a good malt scent.  The taste is lighter than the scent suggests, with a good carbonation.  Warm but subtle hints of fruit and vanilla, with caramel in there somewhere.  In all, a pretty decent offering.  When you think of Italy, you instantly think of wine, but there are definitely some decent Italian breweries out there.

A nice 8% ABV, which came in an oddly shaped 8.45oz bottle.  Sort of wish there was more beer to have, I suppose.  The brewery is located in Northwest Italy, between Turin and Nice, which seems like a place I should probably visit.

"Super",  which is Italian for "pretty good"
Things to Think About Today:
Italy is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and everyone knows that I'm a fashion trend setter.

Now that you've stopped laughing, let me suggest we think about some famous American travelers and their quest for the hottest Italian fashions:


And I just realized that Dr. John was the guy singing the song in this video.  See?  We all learn something new every day.  Until we meet again, friends.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Beer 45: Bockor des Jacobins Rouge

No matter how terrible you feel, I double-dog dare you to listen to this, not sing along on the top of your lungs and finish with a smile on your face.  Not that I spent approximately three minutes of my evening commute doing just that...


Let's just leave it at I feel a lot more optimistic now than I did at 5:37pm.

***

cuvee des jacobins rouge
Photo courtesy of bockor.be
Tonight I'm sampling Bockor's des Jacobins Rouge.  I had to pull a photo from the brewery's website since I had this one from the tap at Teresa's Next Door.  It is a Flemish sour ale that pours with ruby highlights in the brown-color ale.  It poured with a loose two finger head that slowly faded away.  It had a whiff of funkiness from the yeast with some fruit scented undertones.  It was love at first sniff.  It drinks with a fantastic tartness - specifically tart cherry.  The sourness morphed from tart fruit, some lemon and then into a nice dry finish. I would call it exceptional.  Goddamnit.  I can't possibly put this in my potential top 25, can I?

Around the World and Home Again

Beer #45 Cellar Door / Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Baltimore, MD
Back in the house after two days in Detroit.  I don't mind traveling; I get to see different parts of the country, meet some great people.  But there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed.  One extra thing to call out today: if you haven't read Marci's post from yesterday, you should.  Dinner tonight is Fellini's - no better way to announce you're home than by visiting your favorite restaurant.  On to the beer!

Today's beer comes from Stillwater, a gypsy brewer who has been all the rage in the beer world during the past year.  Another farmhouse ale (the weather must have me thinking of summer), this one is far more complex than the Bam Biere.  Both are great, but Cellar Door just seems to bring a bit more to the table.  The beer pours a cloudy, straw color, and has a fantastic flavor - there are distinct sour notes, but the taste of bread dominates.  There's a tartness and some citrus, and has a crisp finish.  Highly recommend this, and anything else you can get your hands on from Stillwater.  Check Marci's review of Stillwater's Stateside for an example of another beer from this great brewer.

Thing to Think About Today:
Marci was having some fun on Sunday thinking back to the good ol' days of YO! MTV Raps. Like most of my friends, I watched that program religiously.  One friend is rumored to still have episodes on a VCR tape somewhere.  So, let's take you back to one of the unquestioned mega-stars of the YO! age:  MC Hammer!

Jesus, how the hell popular was Hammer in the late 80's? Apparently he was absurdly and astronomically popular beyond anything we've ever seen before, as he could get away with wearing a damn zebra striped SPEEDO, work boots, and gloves to his pool party video shoot. Check that again, slowly: MC Hammer spends a majority of this video wearing an animal print banana hammock. Huh?

However, I do give him credit for installing a remote control waterfall in his pool.  That's awesome.  No wonder he went broke.  I need one of those.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Beer 44: New Holland's Dragon's Milk

With a memorial photo of JoePa on the big screen, stadium lights turned shining bright and the low hanging clouds, Beaver Stadium served as a beacon in what felt like an exceptionally dark night last night.  At my house last night, miles and miles away, I couldn't help but notice how supernaturally light it was outside my windows even at 9pm.  Somehow that bright sky in Berwyn was lit -- at least in my mind -- by same light shining forth from Beaver Stadium.  I felt connected to Joe Paterno, Penn State, the students solemnly standing vigil, and thousands upon thousands of alumni despite the physical distance.

But that's how Penn State has been all my life.  Connected.  Sometimes simply. Sometimes in the most complicated way.  But I always felt connected.  Joe and Penn State will also always be connected.  You can't have a football coach -- who was never just a football coach -- impact a university in so many ways off the playing field and not have that be the case.  I guess that's why I feel like I knew Coach Paterno -- because he was always there.  He may not have known it, but I spent more Saturdays with him than I care to admit.  

I sat with my Dad, probably before I could even throw a football, cheering on Joe and his Nittany Lions during elementary school.  I've made the pilgrimage to Happy Valley countless times.  (And not just because I married a RABID Penn State fan.  I was watching Penn State football well before he showed up!)  Hell, Joe was my wake up call for most of those Saturday mornings.  I'd tell myself a 75-year-old man was probably awake and dressed long before my lazy ass was ready to roll out of bed and he was going to work hard that day while I was going to stand around, eat fried food and drink copious amounts of beer.  Years later, I'd think about the 80-year-old who was still showing me up on Saturdays and just this past season, Joe hits 85 and looks 65 and I hit 36 and feel 56 on some mornings.  

I assure you that next season I will be bounding out of bed on football Saturdays, ready to cheer the living legacy left by Joe Paterno, not quite believing that a chapter I never thought would come to a close in fact did.  I'll also spend the rest of my years with Coach Paterno serving as my inspiration...to be dedicated to education, to believe in something passionately, to give selflessly of my resources whether they be time or money, to love and be loved on a scale that's almost unimaginable.  

***

At this point the beer doesn't seem even remotely important but I promised myself I would review every night no matter what.  Didn't see this "no matter what" coming!  

Tonight I picked New Holland's Dragon's Milk.  I think somehow it was fitting for tonight since it is aged in oak barrels and somewhere in the pages and pages of reading about Joe Paterno, I read that he enjoyed a bourbon now and again.  Bourbon, oak barrels, Dragon's Milk, oak barrels.  See...I'm making connections.

Into my trusty tulip glass it went, black as night.  I'm not kidding.  There was no light penetrating this beer.  The tan head came and went - nothing remarkable about it.  It smells of vanilla beans.  It drank with a fantastic silkiness, lots of vanilla notes, a great oak flavor and a nice alcohol warmth (not surprising at 10% ABV).  This may be one of my favorite stouts.  

With that, I'm off to finish dinner, savor this beer and see if I can't get the army of dachshunds to start a JoePa-Terno chant.  They're typically the strong silent type, but you never know.  Cheers!

Whales and Motown

Beer #44 Scrimshaw  / North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA
Keeping it brief today.  Still sad about yesterday's news, and trying to get my hustle on today.  Right into the beers:

Today's sample comes from North Coast, their Scrimshaw Pilsner.  Scrimshaw, of course, is art made from the bones or teeth of whales.  Thankfully, no whales were involved in the production of this beer.  This beer has a nice hops/barley taste, with some floral notes sneaking in.  Although not very complex, this is a good beer - nice and easy drinking.  I could definitely seeing this beer make an appearance at a tailgate next summer/fall.

Thing to Think About Today:
Probably should have used Moby Dick (one of my favorite books) for the thing to think about today, but I felt  like I was a little too hard on Detroit in my earlier post.  Obviously, a lot of great music came out of Motown through the years.  More recently from Detroit, Mayer Hawthorne has appeared on the scene delivering a contemporary take on that old sound.  And he does so very well:


How can you listen to that and not feel good?  Great summer time music, that song.  We were fortunate to catch him live two years ago at The Roots Picnic, and he's fantastic.  Check him out if you get the chance.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Goodbye and Thank You, Coach

Beer #43 Bam Biere / Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Dexter, MI 
College football, Penn State, and the world at large lost a great man today with the passing of Joe Paterno at age 85.  I'm sitting here trying to type something profound and meaningful, seeing how one of my idols and role models isn't around any longer.  I've got nothing in the profound department, just sadness.  I've previously wrote about the surrogate grandfather role Joe played, so I won't repeat that. My good friend has penned a more elegant tribute, so I'll just send you to his article instead.  Thanks for reading.


I'm a firm believer in celebrating people's lives rather than dwelling on the negative, so I'll get on with the show.  Today's beer comes from the fine folks at Jolly Pumpkin, another brewery where you're guaranteed to find a great beer in anything they produce.  It's a given.  The Bam Biere is farmhouse ale, and pours a golden color.  The sour aroma hits you immediately, and the first sip gives you a rich combination of fruit, sour, and... I don't know.....deliciousness.  Very light, very tasty, very clean, and very easy drinking at 4.5% ABV.   Enough beer.  I'm off to drink bourbon.  Seems like Joe would approve of that, he was a bourbon man.
Complete with fun dog logo!
Thing To Think About Today:
Marci recently wrote about various renditions of Hallelujah, thus taking what would have been a good song here.  I think I have another for you to think about today, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and their soulful rendition of Amazing Grace:

"They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone.  I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."
- Joseph Vincent Paterno
1926-2012

Goodbye, Coach Paterno.  And thank you.

Beer 43: Nøgne ø #100 or It's Not Time

I'm not sure if you all care what I have to say on the topics of the life and work of Joe Paterno, but I plan to put together some thoughts.  I'm just not ready yet.

Instead I shall share some knowledge that Gary dropped on me today.

(I Got It Made by Special Ed plays in the background)

Me:  Is this a Tribe Called Quest?

Gary:  No, it's Special Ed.

Me:  The VJ from MTV? Yo MTV Raps?

Gary:  No, you're thinking of Ed Lover.

Me:  Who was the other guy who worked with Ed Lover?

Gary:  Dr. Dre.

Me:  (silence)

Gary:  (curious look on his face)

Me:  Dr. Dre was a VJ!

Gary:  No, there are two Dr. Dres.

Me:  (silence while processing this information)  What! There are two Dr. Dres!?!

Gary:  Yes.

So there you have it.  I've been living in this world for 29 years and had NO IDEA I was sharing it with two  Dr. Dres.  Fascinating.

Photographic evidence:

Dr. Dre photo courtesy of askmen.com
Dr. Dre (right) courtesy of VH1.com
Obviously any writing that involves Yo MTV Raps! must contain a little Ed Lover dance.  Enjoy!

***

Today I'm drinking Nøgne ø #100 out of Norway.  It is a barley-wine style ale.  I poured it into my trusty tulip glass and it was a deep, dark brown.  If I managed to get the light to hit it just right, there are maroon highlights.    The scent of this one was interesting.  Molasses, earthy sweetness, woody.  The light tan head dissipated rather quickly.  

The taste is not at all what I expected.  Roasted malt.  Vanilla.  Maybe cocoa?  It drank thick and finished with some bitterness.  

Sidebar:  Remember when Keystone Beer advertised against bitter beer face?  Bitter isn't always bad.

In fact, the brewery describes #100 as having massive hop bitterness.  This is where my taste for beer gets very interesting.  Low hop flavor = good.  Medium to big hop flavor = bad.  Massive hop overload = back in my good graces.  

With that, I am off to put one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time to good use - my orange immersion blender.  A snowy January Sunday demands soup.  And I demand to use my immersion blender!

Cheers!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Beer 42: Infinium or Snowbound in Berwyn

The great beer-venture to Troeg's Brewery and the Brass Rail deli and bottle shop have been postponed due to inclement weather. I suppose it's better to be safe than to have some jackass end my beer blogging mission early due to his inability to drive in snow and ice. I hate being responsible.

Since my day has been limited to reading random stuff online and building two sets of shelves, I'm not feeling all that inspired to write anything creative.

***

I should have had a Pupperoni!
I had been hearing a lot about Infinium lately but never encountered it at any of the bottle shops I frequent. I lucked out a couple of weeks ago and decided today was the day to sample it. Infinium is a collaboration between Sam Adams and Weihenstephan. The bottle is labeled ale and it poured amber  with a nice white head.

The smell reminded me of raisins and apricots. That smell carried through to the taste but I also got licorice and figs. It also has a nice spice and a hint of tartness.  It is billed as biere de champagne but what I'm drinking doesn't give me anything that could be compared to champagne.  I'd expect dryness and the Infinium is not delivering.  Now that I've drank more of it, it is leaving a slightly soapy aftertaste.  You know how some beers get better as you drink them?  This isn't going to be one of them.

I wish I had paid more attention to what I paid for this one...because it was definitely too much.  Perhaps I need to start a potential bottom 25.  Sorry Sam Adams, despite having all the history of the world's oldest brewery (that would be Weihenstephan), you didn't seem to learn anything.  More research also reveals that I probably should have drank it from a tall, thin pilsner or even a champagne flute.

Oh well, kids. Guess I lost this round...here's to a Beer 43 being a winner!

Snow, Beer, Snow.

Beer #42  Infinium / The Boston Beer Company, Boston MA
And finally, winter has arrived to our corner of the world.  Quite frankly, I'm fine with a little snow on the ground; particularly when my to-do list today consists of putting a shelf together for the garage (to store our beer) and... that's about it.  So, that leaves plenty of time for catching up on some reading, lounging, and beer.  Shaping up to be a great day in the neighborhood.

Your beer for the day comes from a brewery that most everyone is familiar with.  Yes, these are the Sam Adams guys.  We're definitely staying away from macro-beers (Bud, Miller, Heineken, etc), so this offering is about as close as you're going to come to the mass produced world of beer.  This brewer should maybe get more credit than they do - they helped spark the craft brew revolution back in the mid-80's, and they continue to put out some adventurous new offerings.  Enough about that, let's get to the rundown on this beer: Boston Beer partnered with German brewer Weihenstephan to create this unique new style.  It comes in a champagne-esque bottle and is highly carbonated with a biscuit aroma and a dry finish.  The taste has some vague fruit notes (Orange? Apple? Pear?) with some heavy malt flavor, along with a solid 10.3% ABV.   It's unusual, and definitely not what you expect from Sam Adams.  I wish it had a bit more fruit flavor or sweetness to it, to be honest.

Thing to Think About Today:
Our plan today was going to be meeting friends for lunch and then drinks at Troegs Brewery.  The snow & ice storm forced us to scrap that plan.  So, in the spirit of a snow day, I encourage you all to think about snow.  No, not the powdery white stuff that falls down from the sky.  Today we're thinking about Snow, the powdery white reggae-rapper who fell off the face of the earth:

Everybody sing along:  Infor-MER!  Mumble mumble yamma yama mumble yamma, a licky boom boom down......


Friday, January 20, 2012

Beer 41: Duchesse de Bourgogne or Pitter-Pattery Nerd Heartbeats

Today I celebrated the 306th birthday of American statesman, printer, entrepreneur, author and inventor Benjamin Franklin.  Mind you, his birthday is actually January 17 and he's been dead for almost 215 years, but we celebrated nonetheless.  And if you follow me on Twitter (@TailgateNinja), I live-tweeted most of it!

The day started at 9:00 a.m. with a seminar entitled Franklin and Energy: Resources, Uses and Efficiencies.   Guest speakers included:

  • President and CEO of PECO, Denis O'Brien
  • Chief Astronomer of The Franklin Institute, Derrick Pitts
  • Dean of The Pennsylvania State University's Graduate School, Henry Foley

I have the distinct pleasure of working with Denis and Derrick through our Board of Trustees and museum programming, respectively, but this was the first time I've encountered Henry Foley.  The morning was spent extolling the life and work of Benjamin Franklin, his contributions to invention and discovery of electricity, and the future of electricity and energy consumption.  I was truly in awe of these people and the vast resources of knowledge they harbored.

I'm not going to bore you with my stance on how coal and oil are bad and how alternative energies are good.  It is by no means such a black and white situation.  What I will say is that you should read up on the subject and use sources that are conservative, liberal and moderate.  You'd be surprised at the amount of agreement out there in the world - you just typically don't hear about it.

After leaving the seminar at the American Philosophical Society, it was time to process to Dr. Franklin's grave at Christ Church Burial Ground at Arch and 5th Streets in Philadelphia.  

Imagine my delight when I walked out to find a FIRE TRUCK for the parade!

Obviously any legitimate parade needs flags and banners.

Franklin Institute, represent!  Who brings the pennants?  We bring the pennants!

Christ Church Burial Ground: Here lie some old-ass dead people!

That's me!  I'm making like a tourist and tossing pennies on Ben's grave.  It's a tradition!
After processing, speechifying and some praying, we headed to lunch where the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu was presented with the Franklin Founder Award.  Steven Chu was absolutely amazing.  I encourage you to pay more attention to his policy and efforts to identify, explore and make different alternative energies possible.

***

What better way to continue my celebration of Benjamin Franklin than with a Duchesse de Bourgogne Flanders red ale?  OK.  That's stretching it.  But that is what I drank tonight.  The best way I can explain a Flanders red ale is if an awesome oud bruin made babies with a lambic.  I poured the Duchesse into my trusty tulip glass and it was dark, dark brown with red highlights.  Gary took one look at it and gave it a "ooh, that's a dark beer."  I don't think he knew it was a Flanders red ale and one taste set him straight.  And he only got one sip because I immediately called dibs on it and attempted to bite his hand when he reached for the bottle.  (I'm only slightly exaggerating there.)

The scent was all tart cherries.  The taste was mild fruit, lots of cherry, tartness and a bit of sourness.  It was nicely carbonated and finished dry.  I'm trying to figure out how to describe the feel of the beer in my mouth.  If you can identify beers that drink with thinness or creaminess, then I would say this one has a round feel.  Hopefully that makes sense to someone other than me.

One of my favorite beers in this style is Rodenbach Grand Cru.  I think they compare favorably with the Duchesse having a bit more fruitiness.  Goddamn, another one for my top 25 consideration.  I'm off to save my last glass of the Duchesse de Bourgogne.

In honor of Ben and in celebration of our own curious minds, huzzah!

Day Off = Beer!

Beer # 41 Butthead Bock / Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, Colorado
The morning started with the fine people at Berger Family Dealerships fixing my cracked side view mirror (remember how much fun that day was?), and the afternoon was spent driving home then being mildly productive around the house.  Damn, I love days off.

Speaking of this afternoon, while you're at work, I enjoyed a beer from Tommyknocker Brewery - their awesome doppelbock lager.  This beer has a very creamy malt taste with a caramel sweetness along for the ride. Very full bodied and flavorful, Butthead (a reference to bighorn sheep, not Bevis' friend) Bock checks in at 8.2% ABV, which surprised me a bit.  Didn't taste that potent - just tasted delicious.  I've been seeing some of their other offerings near me, particularly Hop Strike Black, which is encouraging, as I love most everything they produce.  Colorado breweries are among the leaders in the craft beer movement, and this brewery definitely helps support that effort.  They've redone their branding to make it more mainstream and retired their previous cartoon logos, which should help attract more attention on store shelves.

We've spent time in Colorado each of the past two summers, staying at a cabin at the base of a glacier 10,500+ feet above sea level. An amazing way to get away and unwind.  More importantly, the cabin is conveniently located near the Tommyknocker Brewery in the sleepy town of Idaho Springs.  Definitely get the sampler; generous pours of virtually every beer they have on draft.  Great food, too!

Thing to Think About Today:
If you're in Colorado during the winter, you're skiing.  I'm not a skier.  However, if you're there in the summer - and I highly recommend it - you're hiking.  An awesome hike if you're in the front rage of the Rockies is up St. Mary's Glacier.  Okay, so it's not technically a glacier, it's a permanent snow mass.  However, "glacier" sounds a lot cooler, and let's face it, it's pretty amazing to hike across a snow covered mountain in the middle of the summer no matter what you call the thing.  If you're heading there from the Denver area, just take the Fall River Road exit off I-70, turn right on Fall River Road, and keep driving until you see some signs.  Seriously, you can't miss it.  Can't think of a better way to spend a sunny, summer day.

Looking down from the bottom of the glacier at St. Mary's Lake
Right before we decided to glissade down to the bottom.
Glissade is a fancy word for 'slide on our ass'.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beer 40: Duvel Belgian Golden Ale or I Have Nothing Witty to Write Here

For the past few months, I keep turning the phrase baroque pop over and over in my mind.  I had never heard it before reading a response to my tweet about the unmatched excellence of the song Hallelujah.  I believe the tweet focused on Rufus Wainwright's take on Hallelujah, but you would be equally served by the original version by Leonard Cohen.  Hell, I would even take Jeff Buckley's rendition and I'm not even a Buckley fan.  (Hopefully that doesn't cause anyone to doubt my musical taste. Opinions, people, opinions.)  

As I cruised down I-76, belting out my duet with Rufus Wainwright, all was right in my world.  So right, in fact, that I opted to tweet about it.  Don't worry, I-76 doesn't allow for much cruising during the morning rush and I was stopped dead in traffic tweeting and singing by that point.  Seriously.  Who am I?  

Anyway thank goodness I don't act my age because if I did, I wouldn't have the lovely and intriguing baroque pop phrasing to contemplate.  A bit of Googling revealed a lot of information on the topic.  Baroque pop came about in the mid-1960s with artists like The Rolling Stones, Beach Boys and Beatles incorporating it into their repertoire.  This next part comes directly from Wikipedia:  Baroque pop stylistically fuses elements of pop and rock with classical music, often introducing instruments not common to rock and roll such as harpsichordsclavichordsviolinscellos and other stringsoboes and French horns. It is also generally characterized by highly orchestral, lush instrumentation. Now back to me:  This describes Rufus' Hallelujah perfectly.  But judge for yourself:



And while you're at it, thank me for introducing you to one of my all time favorite songs:



Turns out baroque pop started to fade away, but is enjoying a renaissance.  Take a listen to Florence and the Machine, Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, or The Decemberists.  Now you have some homework to do, don't you?  

***

That Golden Monkey glass owes me nothing.
Tonight all I can say is thank god for leftover chili and corn muffins...otherwise I'd be drinking beer and eating Special K.  And I'm fairly certain that is exactly the opposite of what Kellogg had in mind when promoting a healthy, balanced meal.  I'm not sure if anyone else agrees that Duvel Belgian Golden Ale goes well with chili, but I do now.  

I'm pretty pleased with my pour - based on the pouring instructions I found after drafting this post, I got it just right. Score one for Marci!  The name of this beer says it all: golden ale and that is exactly how I would describe the beer's color.  As you can see it poured with a substantial and white head that lasted a good long time.  I can't really report on the smell of this one due to a stuffed-up nose, but I did get a bit of sweetness and general beer scent.  It drinks crisp and smooth.  You can taste the hops (noble hops, from what I read) and I definitely get some sourness.  It weighs in at 8.5% ABV but the alcohol doesn't slap you in the face but rather gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.  

I'm not going to lie, I'm labeling this one potential top 25.  And with that, good friends, I bid you adieu.