You Know Those IPA’s That Are Like, Double IPA’s, You Know?

(Hat tip to the Simpsons, and Otto, for the phrasing of the title of this blog post. )

I’m here to once again bring you a series of platitudes about beer drinking.  And that, my friends, is this.

Higher ABV in a beer makes it better.

This comes from the “bang for your buck” school of thought.

I’ve been trying to curtail my intake of late – as a parent of both teen and pre-teen children, I know that eyes are on me to make sure my head is screwed on straight.  Those post work beery meet ups and workout inspired hard seltzers, which lead to “cooking beers,” and so on, and, well, it’s a slippery slide.

Like a lot of folks, I’m what you call a “Black Diamond” drinker.  What I mean by that is, like a skier tackling the toughest of slopes, I start my day with a long gradual descent, during which my mood improves, my confidence builds, and, yes, my ability to make sense and limit profanity pushes its outer boundaries.  And then, as if being ejected forcefully from a lift, I go sailing down that downward side of the mountain, hurtling towards danger and potential destruction.

My answer to this has been the “one day, one beer” motto.  During the week, I’m holding myself now to just a single beer, had with dinner, to wash down my meal and hopefully pair up nicely with what I am cooking.  I try to keep a few Guinness or other darker beers in supply that go well with red meats, stews and other fall oven baked goodies.

But the go to beer has got to be a double IPA.  I mean, if I’m only going to have one, it should give me a bit of a brain wollop.

 

Having added more IPAs to my routine, I can say that the double IPAs only bring double joy, and no real negatives. The extra hoppy flavor is not overwhelming but rather a comforting friend, like Bob Saget’s homosexual companion Joey from Full House.

The Southern Tier brewery is based out of Lockwood, NY, which is in the very southwest corner of New York State, closer to Erie PA than any metropolitan area of the Empire State.  They have a wide range of beers and I’ve yet to have one that I didn’t enjoy.  This particular 2X IPA, ITBMCBB*, is “an India Pale Ale kicked up a notch to form a true Double IPA: feverishly hoppy with a malty backbone and higher-than-standard alcohol content. Citrusy hops tease the senses with aromatics and lingering bitterness, while just the right balance of malts disguises 2XIPA’s extra gravity.”

I mean, sure, yep, I agree!   I have no gift for flowery compliments.  It tastes good, yo!  It pairs well with chicken, or pizza, or, well, you know, anything you’d want to wash down.

I’m on the lookout for more locally available 2X IPA’s.  Please feel free to share your faves.

Let’s dust off the Prose-inator to bring this home:

“This beer tastes like what it would taste like if a

made love to a

in the middle of a

while listening to the Greatest Hits Album of the world’s greatest band, ever, that being of course

and then together raised a baby with their shared feelings of

and, finally, that baby cried

tears of

into a frosty pint glass.”

Some Rambling Thoughts About Beer

I have lots of thoughts about beer. Perhaps too many thoughts. Even though I run a beer blog, I don’t typically think these thoughts in easily organized fashion, or I think them in in-opportune places like the car or as I’m falling asleep. So this is an attempt to pull out those thoughts into a post.

I have not had a fresh hop beer this year. This is extremely disturbing, as it’s one of my favorite ‘styles’. I know it’s not as big a thing in NY/NJ as it is in the Pacific Northwest, but usually I stumble across enough to scratch that itch. The beers are so fresh and grassy and wonderful. The bitterness is definitely more pronounced, more piney, than is common these days, but I love that. Checking on Untappd for two of the ones I know get packaged, Founders and Victory, it appears late October/early November is when I’ve had them in the past, so I was perhaps just a wee bit early, thought I suspect this isn’t as ‘fresh hop’ as you’d get if you lived in a hop farm. Between starting this post and publishing it, I’ve found and consumed two Founder’s Harvest Ales.

The weather has started turning towards chilly, the pumpkins are out, as are the spider webs and all the associated Halloween accouterments. Does that mean we’re supposed to start drinking those heavy dark beers aged in delicious spirit barrels? Because I’m down. Bring on the stouts. My goal, as usual, is to consume more beer than I buy. I suspect I’ll fail. 

I’ve noticed that I see a lot of really interesting single bottles out there that I buy and feel like I need to share to open. Things like Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra, or Firestone Walker’s Anniversary beer, or some interesting wild NY beer from Plan Bee that sounds amazing, or this special stout blend from Alementary that’s amazing. The problem is I clearly don’t have enough friends, and not enough friends that are over enough regularly to drink beer with. I need to remedy this, but does ‘hey want to be my friend I have beer’ go over well at the Kindergarten drop-off line? It’s possible I should just drink these beers myself or with my wife and stop trying to make them fit into some special event.

Just some things I’m musing about.

Endless Horizon: An Enormously Satisfying Collaboration

“1234” by Feist currently has in excess of 101 million plays on Spotify (generating fistfuls of Canadian bucks in royalties, too, I hope).  It’s a simple song about an innocent love in the rear-view mirror, but it’s hard-coated in the sweetest of pop candy shells.  The song caramelized itself onto the brains of millions of listeners after it appeared in this eminently danceable iPod Nano commercial, and even if you maybe started to hit ‘skip’ on your brand new Nano after about the 40th time hearing it, there was still plenty of nourishing sustenance remaining on the rest of Leslie Feist’s acclaimed 2007 album The Reminder.

Take “The Park”. Set in an outdoor space in snow-covered London (complete with chirping birds filling the arrangement), this is a crushingly sad song about a relationship that couldn’t endure the harsh darkness of winter and it withered and died.  A thematic line could be drawn from “1234” to the “The Park” but the emotions dripping from each song couldn’t be more disparate.  

The album is chock-full of gems, including another fav of mine, “The Limit to Your Love”, a tender piano ballad about unrequited love with an emotionally unavailable partner that got ripped into this dark, soulful jam by James Blake (I love when he sings “like a wat-uh-fall in slow motion!”). So many good songs!  Anyway, it’s no wonder the New York Times’ Kalefa Sanneh named The Reminder the number uno album for all of 2k9.

So when Feist teamed up with my favorite band in the whole goddamn universe, Wilco, on 2009’s “You and I” off of Wilco [the album], well I was beyond ecstatic that two of my beloveds were joining forces, even if it was for just three minutes and twenty-five perfect seconds, to create something that bottled each of their best in one collaborative mini-miracle.  

~~~

Surf days back at Bolsa Chica State Beach used to conclude with lunch at the OG Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach, and when they opened the larger Beachwood BBQ and Brewing spot in downtown Long Beach, well the best brewery (and fried green tomato sandwich) in town was now just a bicycle ride away from my Belmont Shore apartment.  Countless evenings having pints of Amalgamator IPA, Udder Love Milk Stout, and the James Brown Ale are some of my fondest memories of gritty and gorgeous Long Beach.

So as a native New Mexican who called the LBC home for 16 years but is once again a Burqueño, a collaboration featuring Beachwood Brewing from Long Beach and Albuquerque’s own La Cumbre was, for me, like Wilco and Feist getting together one more time, but to make beer.  I would have let TicketMaster gouge me for $65 bucks plus applicable ‘convenience’ fees to watch these guys brew live and in person.

For me, when I hear “tropical”, it evokes images of palm trees and maybe even Long Beach’s vocal, wild parrots, but a tropical stout is still the dark, roasty stout we know and love, but with a subtle charge of sweet and sometimes fruity esters.  The Endless Horizon tropical stout (to this shitty, novice palate anyway) is mostly the former – shadowy, rich and roasty with coffee on the nose, but I do get a slight nectar on the back end, which triggers “tropical” and evokes memories of those beautiful green parrots making all that racket above the Vons on Ocean Boulevard.

Long Beach’s wild parrots. Photo: lbhomeliving.com

The Endless Horizon poured slow and thick like all the crude (what up, Belmont Brewing) being sucked from the ground by the steady, synchronized Long beach oil derricks bobbing for unrefined black gold.  The head was frothy and thick and conjures a crumbly wave on a blown-out Bolsa Chica afternoon.  This beer is a very drinkable late summer stout but also says to the now arriving autumn, “Hey, where ya been? We’ve been waiting for you.”

New Mexico + Long Beach = AMOR POR VIDA

Endless Horizon is still available in 4-packs at La Cumbre.  Get it before the sun dips and the horizon is no more.

 

You and I, we might be strangers

However close we get sometimes

It’s like we never met

But you and I, I think we can take it

All the good with the bad

Make something that no one else has

~~~

Post-script: I got to see Feist perform “You and I” live with Wilco in LA in June, 2009. I couldn’t find a video of that particular show online, but it was probably something like this minus dear ol’ Dave.

~~~

 

Hoppy Gilmore is a lover of buzzbands and beers.  Engage with him if pics of doggos and hot USL soccer takes are also your thing.

Instagram: @1.21gigawattts 

Twitter: @chingonrecords 

An Imprecise Beer Journey in Europe

Brand IPA, Den Haag

Because I’m as much a sucker for a three-minute punch of guitar rock and harmony as a I am for a cold beer, I occasionally find myself visiting a blog site called Powerpopaholic to discover new music. The guy there ostensibly “reviews” singles and albums in the Power Pop genre on a scale of 10 but because he likes power pop, and the stuff he reviews has already met the conditions of the type of music he likes before he’s listened to it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give a review of less than 7—it’s all 8s and 9s over there. It’s either really great, or really good.

It’s a Trappe!

I’m guilty of the same with beer. At the urging of a friend several years back I downloaded the Untappd app allowing you to “check in” every time you have a beer, photograph it, indicate where you bought it, who you drank it with, and share that info with your beer-enthusiast followers (and surely some back-end AI delivering data to ad generators and marketed to taverns and brewers). Everything is a social network today. We do things only to get credit for having done it, and wind up with personalized encouragement to do it more. By the way I have only 24 “friends” on that app. For God’s sake please follow me (springer66).

I don’t use Untappd to record every beer I have. Wait, you had 4 Budweisers, in an hour, in your backyard? Not telling. What I think it can be useful for is to track variety—both in the beers I try and the places I try them. That’s the best kind of beer anyway: evocative of the moment you drank it, the places you were, and the good times associated with it. That’s another reason my reviews of them can’t be trusted: If I feel good enough to tell the world, or at least 24 people, that I just drank a particular beer, I probably also liked it.

Super 8 Primus in Brussels

So when my friend Ceetar asked me to write about the beers I had on a recent trip to France, Brussels and the Netherlands on his excellent blog, I was hesitant in the sense that if you want to know anything particularly technical about the beers I had there, you’re following the wrong guy: my reviews are pretty much worthless. According to Untappd, over the 16 days I spent in Europe I had 10 different beers in 10 different cities—which between us is a huge motherf-ing lie—and all of them, according to me, scored a rating between 3.75 and 4.25. They were all good! But to the extent variety, experience and unique places count, I have a story to tell.

France: We Drank Some Beer Here

We (me, my wife and 13-year-old son) left our Brooklyn home on Friday August 16, arriving in Paris the following Saturday afternoon.

Some beer in Paris.

I actually don’t have a lot to say about Paris, beer wise. For one thing, I figured there I’d do what the locals do and drink wine with our meals; for another, I wasn’t much using the phone then and so didn’t actually Untappd the beers I had there. Beyond all that, we discovered France is basically closed for business in August and it was only us tourists there anyway. I’m not joking: most of the shops were closed, and a plumber to fix a malfunctioning toilet in our hotel room wasn’t even available for two days. That’s a good way to thrust oneself into local culture and a foreign tongue: puis-je utiliser vos toilettes?

Get us to Belgium

We had some enjoyable beers there at cafes, though the only brand I remember was the ubiquitous Budweiser of France, Kronenbourg 1664. I can recall being hopeful that this Continental export lager would somehow reveal itself to be something special when consumed locally, as we’d experienced with the impossibly fresh and delicious lagers we drank when we visited Germany five years before, but it wasn’t really the case.

The only other beer I recall having in France, thanks to this photo we took on the luxurious Thalys train, wasn’t a homeland beer, but one originating from our next stop on the trip.

A Great Place to Drink Beer and Pole Vault

Belgium. It’s a totally underrated country. About all I knew about Belgium before we arrived came from war movies where it’s always cold and desolate with Germans shooting at you. I also knew a girl from Belgium once, and she dressed drably–not that I wouldn’t have given her the exact same impression about Americans.

But Belgium in fact was lively, fun, safe and attractive, and the weather was gorgeous: Bright blue skies, never too hot. We also had a ton of delicious beers here that highlighted both Belgium’s great tradition of brewing and also, influences from the craft movement that we hadn’t seen much of in Germany or in France.

L’Ermitage Californication: Terrific post-sightseeing beer that also glows in the dark.
For mussels in Brussels

Brussels is a gorgeous old city, plenty to do and see; not completely overwhelmed with tourists and just large enough to explore by foot. We did a little research to find where we might experience good beer and found a fantastic bar called Moeder Lambic just in time for a sun-soaked happy hour after a long day of sightseeing. Here, I had a super fresh Californication double IPA from Brussels’ L’Emeritage brewery that was dynamite. Afterwards we hiked on a restaurant called In’t Spinnekopke where I asked our waiter to recommend something to accompany our mussels and out came a bottle of Wikap Pater Stimulo, a mellow Belgian pale ale with a very cute logo.

Brewdog: Nice beer but we didn’t need to travel 3,600 miles for it

Just outside of the central train station plaza in Brussels you’ll find a symbol of craft beer’s growing globalization—an outlet of the Brewdog franchise that grew from the Scottish beer bros who established a brand through a reality TV show. Very nice hangout for the after-work crowd, and a convenient meet-up space where our friend Otto trained in and joined us. Long story, but my wife’s parents were friends with Otto’s folks through work and many years ago, she spent a summer babysitting a then-young Otto and his brother in their home in the Netherlands. Grown-up Otto lives in Belgium now and after our happy hour (your standard Brewdog lineup that were just fine but I can I also can now find in my local C-Town supermarket), the four of us hiked to a Brussels restaurant where we ate pork products and enjoyed the less widely-distributed Karmeliet Tripel, a fruity distinct Belgian style ale that really reminded me I was in Europe.

Enjoy with pork products
You heet the Canadian

Inspired by what I’d seen in the movie, we spent the following day “In Bruges” which just as depicted in the film was a fairy-tale like old city inhabited nearly entirely by tourists. Like American elephants we climbed to top of the bell tower where Brendan Gleason had his ultimate misadventure, had one of our better meals, and popped in a pub to down the brightly shining locally brewed Brugse Zot IPA. I spent most of the day quoting the film: “Back off, Shorty.” “You heet the Canadian.” Etc. Good times.

The original microbrewery, now at your local German discounter.

The next day we traveled by train to Lueven to meet Otto at his place there. Lueven is beautiful old college town that you probably know as the home city of the Stella Artois brewery, which has a giant facility along the highway and rail tracks. We checked out surrounding abbeys where for hundreds of years monks were the original microbrewers. One of these abbeys, maybe it the one pictured here but not certain, got out of the beer business some years back when it sold the recipe for its brew to the no-frills German supermarket operator Aldi. Aldi you may know is a vertically integrated retailer famous for its German efficiency– coin-released shopping carts, cashiers who also stock and sweep floors, and low priced, indifferently merchandised but high-standard food. If you buy their abbey-style beer thinking it’s some knockoff, know this: it actually originated here in the 16th century.

Pole-vaulting in Lueven

Lueven’s historic downtown is lined with streetside cafes fronting stunning old buildings on cobblestone streets, lots of students, and a lively town square where, on a Saturday evening, there was a rock-and-roll pole-vaulting contest going on. We grabbed some chairs, and drank strong Belgian ales (the rich, reddish La Trappe Quadrupel) while eating fried food and watching athletes from all over the world launch themselves 20 feet in the air for our amusement. A truly insane and magical evening.

Me, the Boy, Otto and the Wife. Fun times in Lueven.

A Great Place to Drink Beer and Ride Bikes

From Lueven we continued north into the warm, watery and flat Netherlands, and the tiny North Sea beach town of Petten, were Otto’s parents have a summer residence where we set up for most of the next week. Germans love the Netherlands beaches, filling “camping” fields all around with closely-packed caravans along the dikes and on one evening, whooping it up in a town-square festival complete with an Abba cover band and Amstel on tap.

Hertog Jan from the supermarket

In Petten we mainly drank beers from the local supermarkets—Amstel, the lager which you may know is not marketed as “light” beer in its home country, and a pilsner called Hertog Jan. They were okay. We also used Petten as a home base from which we did day trips and stop-ins throughout North Holland—some by train, others by bike, visiting Haarlem, Alkmaar, Amsterdam, Zaandam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Uitgeest (pronounced OW-kaste), and Den Helder (which is also the name of my new Van Halen cover band), among other places, having at least one beer in all of them. I’ll speed through here as this post is getting pretty lengthy already.

Ride like the wind

I rented a bike, and can’t say enough good things about the cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. Almost all roads have separate bike lanes, including the highways, and cycle-specific signage that makes it almost impossible to get lost. I can’t ride more than 20 miles here in NYC without constantly consulting a map (and getting doored); in Holland I found my way around the entire country never having been there and without a clue as to the language. The lanes are all flat, proceed through beaches, farmlands and forests, and thanks to the wind, you can go pretty fast. If you like to cycle, go do it in the Netherlands.

Hoop and herring: A winning combination

I made several long rides, catching up once with the family at Zaanse Schans, the historic “old Dutch” neighborhood north of Amsterdam you see in the all tourist films and postcards.  Here I enjoyed the local roadside delicacy—a herring sandwich—and washed it down with a local micro IPA called Hoop Kaper.

Jopen one up in Haarlem.

In Haarlem, we had Jopen beers at lunch and later that afternoon, encountered its brewery—stunningly set in a restored church. That’s my Northsea IPA in the foreground ahead of Wifey’s beer, which I believe was a pilsner (can’t be sure of that), and the ever-present frites. Nice place!

Stunning brewery in an old church.
Cooled off with an ostrich in Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, we hung out with Rembrandt and Van Gogh, and fought off 90-degree heat with this Ijwit wheat beer in a super-cool bottle. The beer endorsed by an ostrich. Refreshing.

In Alkmaar, we visited the famous cheese market, gorging on very good gouda, saw a crazy Beatles museum, and tried this Punt IPA brewed in the far northern town of Groningen.

It’s goed.

Like many of the so-called IPAs we had here (the Hoop Kaper, the Brand we had in Den Haag) this beer wasn’t exactly what you’d consider an IPA here in the U.S., but they’re in the ballpark in the same way you might consider Rainbow’s “Since You Been Gone” a Power Pop song (it is, only one not by a brand-name power pop manufacturer). There are no doubt some Power Pop Cops and Pale Ale Police out there who might disagree, but like I said, it’s all good to me.

We spent our last night in a hotel in Den Haag, where bringing us full circle, the toilet malfunctioned. There was beer, and it was good. But it was time to fly home.

The Seasons Change, The Beer Remains Delicious

oktoberfest 2012Is it fall now? Society as a whole basically says Labor Day denotes when summer ends, if not when fall starts. Particularly in the Northeast where schools mostly start right after Labor Day. Back to school, last summer holiday, now it’s fall? Fall is the best season but I steadfastly remain a ‘September is still summer’ member. I went apple picking in mid-September a few years ago and it was 90 degrees and we all melted and my kid had a fever the whole time that we didn’t realize until we got somewhere cooler. No wonder she was dragging her feet.

We know the beer seasons are all screwed up, tied to distribution and seasonal tap space. I read a story a few years ago that basically explained seasonal creep as the bigger guys like Sam Adams making sure Octoberfest was available when Summer Ale ran out so they didn’t lose the tap handle in bars. So we literally drank the summer away..but fall doesn’t really start until the equinox, which is September 23rd at 7:50 UTC. That’s Monday. If you want to say fall starts at noon Munich time, on Saturday the 21st, I’ll allow it. 

Oktoberfest. I have very fond memories of my time there in 2012, and I’ve been a lover of the style for even longer. I mentioned that bought a case of Sierra Nevada’s for an early August birthday party, and you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s long gone. The remains of summer? I spent a lot of September finishing those off. Now, fall for real. 

The Märzen style, which can vary from gold to light copper in color and flavor, is a delicious one. Deliciously malty. Not a hophead? Try Märzenbier! Biscuity and caramely notes are usually prevalent. This is one of those styles that really nails the ‘liquid bread’ moniker. I’ve had just about every different one I can get my hands on. I make a point around this time of year, last Monday this year, to go into a shop that sells singles and buy every Oktoberfest I’ve never had. It gets harder and harder, but there are always a few. Then I load up on old favorites. 

Something I’ve noticed this year is that two of my favorites, Sam Adams Octoberfest and Brooklyn Oktoberfest, came across a little sweeter than I remember. My palate perhaps is changing more than I’d realized, though I have to admit by the time I got to the second, and third, Brooklyn bottle out of the 6-pack I’d bought, It was just as good as I remembered. I’m not sure there’s any beer more appropriate to drink in volume as an Oktoberfest. 

 

To summarize: 

-It’s not really fall until AT LEAST the opening of Oktoberfest in Munich.

-Don’t be afraid to finish off those summer beers.

-Oktoberfests are delicious and you should consume them en masse, or en Maß, the traditional measurement of for the amount of beer in an Oktoberfest mug. 

Drinkers Who Geek

One of your friendly Barley Prose bloggers has joined the ranks of Geeks Who Drink quizmasters! I finished my last training quiz last night at WhichCraft Brews in Webster, NY, and I’m hoping to get a regular weekly gig soon.

One of our roles is to write up our quizzes, and you can read last night’s rundown here.

a beer, mixing board and microphone, stack of free beer tokens, and a laptop on a table
A beer, mixing board and microphone, stack of free beer tokens, and a laptop on a table, awaiting the start of my first quiz hosting night.

WhichCraft not only produces their own beers, but has a really fantastic rotating list of local and national favorites both on tap and in cans and bottles. They also have an indoor food truck, which is exceptional. Massive points to Other Half, whose Double Dry Hopped Oh… was tapped yesterday and made for a fantastic quizmaster’s quaff last night.

Dialing it Back: A Seasonal Tale

I drank a lot of delicious beers this summer.

In that sense, yes, it was a great summer.  You’d think that for all of the delicious IPA’s, stouts, porters, pale ales, lagers, and ales I knocked back, there’d be a greater wealth of posts from this past summer.

I made quite a list in my brain of all of the fantastic posts I had hoped to write:

  • A rumination on the various delicious Saranac beers, served at my hometown minor league park and all celebrated as being “the Official Beer of the Syracuse Mets.”  See this Legacy IPA, at left, as an example
  • A road trip post on the Iron City Light lager, enjoyed on a road trip to Pittsburgh with co-blogger Mr. D’Orso (even tentatively titled “Two Pickets to Titsburgh”).  This post would have maybe highlighted my immediate response, when asked how the beer was, and I enthusiastically commented on how cold it was and how it was paid for
  • A renewal of my “pairs at the Fair” that I wrote in 2018
  • A post race/beer recap from this summer’s Boilermaker 15k, annually the biggest local running race I participate in (17,000 runners) and that includes a fantastic beer and live music fiesta at the culmination, and the complication of wearing a giant birthday-cake shaped hat as I do for this event every year (true story), and how a reporter called me a liar when I pretended that I found said hat in a portajohn (also a true story)
  • More reviews from tasty choices at my two favorite local haunts, Full Boar in North Syracuse, and Buried Acorn in Syracuse

Mostly, what would happen though, is I’d snap a photo, turn a clever phrase or two in my brain, and then fog over into a hazy (often a New England haze) beer induced feeling of complacency and buzz).

Summer, really, is maybe the season best accompanied by beer.  Hot days at the ball park, on patios, with friends, are the perfect time to light into a tall cold one.  It just didn’t translate to a lot of posts or writing.

Fall, on the other hand, well, the fall lagers, the pumpkin beers, the Oktoberfests and so on, well, there are lots of tasty choices on the horizon for autumn.

But not for me, not yet.

I will see you, Oktoberfest beer. But not yet.

September seems like the perfect time for me to take a little hiatus, ease up off the gas pedal.  I don’t really need to knock back so many beers (and hard seltzers and vodka crans and etc etc etc), and there’s less temptation in the fall.  The kids are at school, we are more busy chauffeuring and running around, the baseball season has ended, and a lot of social opportunities to have beers with my buddies (rec league kickball games, weekday lunches on the sneak, etc) have kind of dried up.

And that’s actually OK.

Those fall beers will still all be on the shelf in a few weeks time.  And the summer beers in my fridge will still be plenty drinkable.

Caffeine or Alcohol? Life Choices are Hard, Yo

Coffee and beer.

It’s a direct contradiction in terms of motivation and effect.

Most people drink coffee because it’s a stimulant. It’s what gets me moving in the morning. Without it I’m about as useful as tits on a lawnmower. I need that caffeine to function and, perhaps more importantly, not kill all of you where you stand for giving me that look. You know the look I’m talking about. There, you’re doing it right now! Lucky for you I had my coffee this morning.

Then there’s beer. Drank for the opposite effect, really, at least in my case. Alcohol is not what I turn to for a pick me up. It’s what I turn to for a lay me down, really. Sit on the deck, grab my guitar, pop open a cold one, and soak up some summer.

So, what to do with a coffee beer?

Troegs is German for “Drink It”

Let’s be clear here, first of all. I love this Java Head Stout.

ITBMCBB*, this tasty libation is a “creamy oatmeal stout… infused with locally roasted, cold steeped coffee through our HopBack vessel releasing subtle hints of cocoa, roasted nuts and dark mocha.” You getting all of that?

The beer and coffee flavors meld together wonderfully. I drink a lot of dark beers, porters, stouts, and this is one of my favorites in terms of taste. It’s got a warm, rich flavor and the coffee is prevalent. It’s also certainly a stout beer. It’s got both the beer and coffee vibes working for it.

(Sorry, if you want notes, and hints, you need Ceetar. That’s not my bag.)

But when do I drink this thing?

I’m not having a beer in the morning. That’s for 3rd shift employees, and lifers, and fraternity guys who don’t have anything else to pour over their Golden Grahams.

I’m not having this beer with my weeknight dinner. As much as a good stout goes with beef, if I have one of these beers after 5 PM, I’ll be tossing and turning late into the night. Can’t have that, Poppa’s got to get up in the morning, run the miles, earn the bread, make Momma happy.

I’m not having this beer with my lunch on the weekend – I like to nap after lunch. It’s the weekend, after all. DON’T JUDGE ME.

So, the only time I’ve found to enjoy a coffee beer is Friday evening, after work. It’s not as big a deal if I am up late, because it’s the weekend and I’m going to nap the next day anyway.

A window of one night, one meal per week, to enjoy a coffee beer, doesn’t seem like enough. Perhaps I work too hard?

Two Beers, One Lunch: De-Stressing

Sometimes you just need a burger and a beer. This would probably be my go-to for “chill out” food, when I just want to kick back and enjoy my meal, in this case lunch. I’d been dealing with some frustrations at work, and I just wanted to relax for an hour and put something tasty in my mouth. 

Best place for this by me right now is the Dog & Cask on Rochelle Park, NJ. I’ve talked about it before in this series, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it again. 

This time, to add to my frustrations, they had a few taps that had already been kicked, including my first two choices. I decided to finally try a house beer. Since Dog & Cask opened they’ve become a brewpub in a sense, having some beers that have been brewed by them. This always seems like a nice touch for a restaurant. On theme, the beer was called Pavlov’s Bell and it was a Double New England IPA.

photo by Ceetar
Mouthwatering isn’t it? Makes you salivate?

It was good. Nothing to wow me, but I enjoyed drinking it and even more so that it was local to the restaurant. It had a little of that grassy hop burn that a lot of NE IPAs have, with maybe a bit more malt sweetness coming through. Mostly mango and orange on the nose. Taste is similar, some light sweetness, the mango and orange, maybe even something redder like cherry, and that juice burn. Finished sticky in the mouth, lip-smacking you might say.  A good example of the style and an appropriate house beer.  

I’d intended to finish this first, but my burger came pretty fast so I ended up drinking this one with my food and the next on on its own, but that worked out just fine. I got the standard “Dog & Cask” burger with cheddar, cooked medium, with fries. It really did hit the spot, and the fries are always good here.

For my next beer I went light–a Kölsch from Czig Meister called Huntsman. 

I found this one oddly pillowy, in a way you’d usually ascribe to  NE IPA. It reminded me of the little air pockets in bread, and the smell was deliciously similar. Fresh yeast bread filled my nostrils, and the taste matched. It had a hint of something I’d say was sourdough with a bit of lemon though the beer wasn’t sour at all. It was sweet, and pleasant, and full of flavors that I loved. I could drink this one all day and enjoyed savoring it after I finished my burger. 

Then back to work feeling refreshed and content. It’s always nice to break up a busy or stressful day with delicious food and drink. 

Your BBQ’s Beer Selection: A Challenge

I’ve been told that when you’re hosting a party, that’s not a bottle share among beer-nerds, you shouldn’t only have double IPAs available. Also leaving the 18% Dogfish Head Raison d’Extra with the normal strength beer is also not wise. That’s a really good beer though.

The composition of your crowd matters a bunch. If you know everyone pretty well, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what people like. Even if you just have a few people that you know are into beer as much as you, you can get away with some craftier beers in there, but if you don’t, people aren’t really going to know what to do with your bomber can of New England IPA with a name like 100K Juicebox.

In a recent situation, I was hosting a five year old’s birthday party, which would include some of her daycare friends and their parents. I had no idea of their drinking preferences. (The adults. The kids were fine with apple juice and water) I wanted to have beers on hand that were drinkable, somewhat light in ABV, but also still rich and flavorful and enticing. None of this “I’ll just have a seltzer or something” nonsense. Don’t even get me started on hard seltzer. 

I probably went overboard. Every time I saw an interesting beer that seemed broadly appealing I told myself to get a six pack for the party. This led to the following list:

  • Jack’s Abby Smoke & Dagger Black Lager
  • Alementary #IslandLife Lime Gose
  • Alementary Literary Trope Raspberry Witbier
  • Dogfish Head SuperEIGHT Super Fruit Gose
  • 21st Amendment Sparkale Sparkling Rosé Ale
  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest

I also made about five liters of sangria.

The last two were last minute additions, though you might say I was already going overboard. I wanted the 60 minute on hand to have an IPA, and I also want to do an experiment with it to try to recreate 61 minute IPA, a beer brewed with Syrah must that they’re not making anymore but was delicious. More on that in the future. I know Oktoberfests are pretty crowd pleasing, so despite it being early August I picked up a case. 

When you have that much beer, and that much variety, you have to expect leftovers. You have to fine with leftovers. Or you have to be planning another get together soon. I’ve already talked about being an accidental beer hoarder, and the last thing I need is more beer collecting dust in my basement, especially beers like this that don’t seem like they’d age that well. 

So let’s talk about taste, because I’ve rambling on too long about buying beer, and not enough about DRINKING beer. Though, to be fair, this IS a beer blog and rambling about beer is sorta what we do right? The Jack’s Abby is really good. Jack’s Abby is a top-flight brewery, making amazing lagers. Buy their stuff. Drink their stuff. I don’t have as much experience with their ale project, Springdale Beer, but I’m sure it’s excellent as well. America, even craft America, still seems to equate dark beer with winter and cold, but a deliciously roasty black ale like this is a joy. 

I trust Alementary, my local brewery of which I’m a member of their exclusive Order of the Atom, to make good beer, and they’re particularly good with some of these lighter styles. The #IslandLife features Kalamansi lime, which gives the tartness a bolder more complex taste and is fun. The Literary Trope is standard raspberry wheat, something that always goes well together. 

Dogfish Head. You know these guys right? Their SuperEIGHT is a gose, but loaded with super fruits. It’s red. It’s delicious. Drink it. 60 minute is a classic.

21st Amendment was one of breweries I really was into when I first started getting into craft beer. I really enjoyed their black IPA, and Hell or High Watermelon has been a great summer beer for decades. The Sparkale is very much like a white sangria. It’s fizzy and fruity. My wife likes it, and it’s very gentle and pleasing.

Oktoberfests rock. Sierra Nevada collaborates with a German brewery every year, and this year it’s Bitburger. I had this one later in the evening, and as such remember very little about it. But I’m sure it was delicious and on-style. I have more. I will be drinking them.

It POURED the night of the party.
When they float, they’re ready to drink.

I’ve been drinking the sangria leftovers this week, as it’s going to go bad soon. This included spilling sangria all over my kitchen, and then spilling sangria IN the fridge when I opened the tap and set the cup down to refill while I was cleaning the floor. I’ll transition back to the beer shortly and I’ve got some work to do. Who wants to come over and help?