Oot and Aboot: Craft Beer Night at the Ballpark

(Note: Author is not Canadian; rather, he prefers the quaint mispronunciations depicted in the blog post title.)

Friday night is a low ebb for me. After the rigors of a work week, I can find the energy for only a very small amount of coordinated activity.

Plans with other adults, where I have to interact in meaningful dialogue? Uh, no. That’s not really going to work.

There are a few excursions, however, that I can summon up the mental fortitude for. One of them is a trip to the ballpark. I am blessed enough to live just 15 minutes from the home stadium of a AAA baseball team, the Syracuse Chiefs (soon to be the Syracuse Mets, at which point I am sure they will be afflicted by boils, locusts, hot fire, and other various Biblical plagues).

In an attempt to drum up attendance, in a park that consistently has lots of leg and elbow room available, a number of promotional events have been added to the schedule.  New in 2018 is…

CRAFT BEER NIGHT.

Oh, yeah, that’s right.

For $20, the buyer, in this case myself, is awarded a 200 level ticket to the ballgame and two beers from a selection of 16 oz. delights, all served courtesy of a fine local tavern called Now & Later.

While the tavern itself has a dozen or so beers on tap, and several dozen more in cans and bottles, they bring a subset of these to the ballpark to be sold to thirsty baseball fans such as myself.

These beers do normally go for $10 a throw, so, essentially, the Friday ticket to the game is free with the promise of drinking two craft beers.

I CAN TOTALLY DO THAT.

(I suppose you could also look at it as the purchase of a $12 ticket to the game, and then two $10 brews discounted to just $4 each, but, somehow, in my brain, the concept of a free ticket to the game makes more sense).

I chose to partake, first, in this juicy IPA, so juicy, in fact, that the word “juicy” appears multiple times on the can.

My second choice was a Gose, the only Gose that I saw on the menu, this little number which touts itself as being derived from grapes.

These were both good, but not great, beer choices.  They got the job done, is what I’m saying.  I won’t delve into all of the subtle details of these particular beers because, quite honestly, they weren’t quite memorable enough for me to feel the need to do that.  They were cold, and beery, and alcoholy, and went particularly well with the hot dog and deep-fried-cornbread-stuffed-with-jalapeno-cheese-and-bacon things that were also consumed that night.

Sadly, the home team couldn’t muster all that much offense, giving up four runs before we found our seats and ultimately losing 5-0.

Given all of the goodness I was soaking in, though, I didn’t mind that either, particularly.

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Going To Homebrew Club Meetings

Are you a fledgling homebrewer? A lapsed homebrewer? An interested in homebrewing homebrewer? Much like how everyone now has a podcast (stay tuned for a possible Barley Prose podcast), everyone is a homebrewer.

Maybe you should attend a homebrew meeting. Homebrew meetings are a lot of fun, and a great way to socialize with like-minded individuals. Typically you can find all sorts of brewers, from the not so serious folk who just occasionally mix up a store bought kit, to the ones that will go into detail about their custom built brewing setups and have more pictures of it than they do of their kids.

You’ll find all sorts of beer too. You’ll find mostly forgettable pale ales from kits. You’ll find good beer, and bad beer, though it’s less common than you think. Mostly you’ll find flawed beer that kinda tastes good but has off-tastes, or wild yeast creating unwanted flavors or other common brewing mistakes. You’ll taste some weird and unique stuff at homebrew clubs, and I’m not just saying that because I brewed a rather suspect peanut butter honey hefeweizen.

There is also good beer. Lots of good beer. You’ll taste beers as good as anything at an average beer bar, and depending on the membership, perhaps some that are even better. I’ve met people doing all sorts of zany things, making delicious beers across and between styles. It’s fun to try new things, learn how different people approach and think about beer, and just generally drink and have a good time.

Some people fool around with yeast, some people will talk your head off about water chemistry. In most cases everyone is supportive and just happy to talk about, and drink, beer. If you don’t want to go in the weeds talking about chlorine content in your town’s water supply, you don’t have to. The same goes for process. Members will happily discuss techniques and equipment with you, provide tips or suggestions, or just inquire about what you’re doing and thinking. What recipes are you building in your head? What would you like to brew next? If you’re not into that, that’s fine too. You can keep it as simple as “I added some oats for mouthfeel” or “You could try adding some honey to boost ABV if that’s what you’re going for.”

You’ll encounter brewers that generally only drink their own stuff, but gone are the days when most people get into homebrewing as a way to make better beer than 95% of what’s on the shelves. Even homebrewers these days are also craft beer fans. They’ll be drinking the local beer in your neighborhood, in fact the meetings might very well take place in a bar serving some of those beers. You’ll find brewers talking about clones of favorite, or hard to get, beers and also brewers citing professional beers that use a non-traditional ingredient you might be interested in brewing with.

Simply put homebrew meetings are typically a casual and non-judgemental way to talk about beer and brewing. If you’re already doing that online, why not try it out in person with real drinkable beer?


I’m a member of the Lower Hudson Valley Homebrew Club which could definitely use a few new members/brewers if you’re in that area.

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Volksfest: Drinking German Beer In The Sun

Out on Long Island, at a place called Plattduetsche Park, there are frequently German heritage festivals. One of these happened this past weekend, the 135th Plattduetsche Volksfest. There’s a parade, there’s plenty of German food, vendors, balloon animals, bounce houses, music, and of course, beer. I did mention this was a German peoples’ festival right?

 

It was hot, as per summer. Erdinger had flyers out with a special, five beers for $18 in an ice-filled bucket. I opted for that, trusting it to be fresh and clean, over something like 2017’s Oktoberfest from Hacker-Pschorr.

The Erdinger Summer Weisse is a new beer from Erdinger, I can’t say I’ve ever had strong feelings about any of their other offerings, but I did find this one a perfect fit for the environment. It comes in at a light 4.6% ABV and is still flavorful.  It’s got some mild bitterness to it, the wheat isn’t too heavy, and there are some good fruity citrus notes to it that keep it crisp and refreshing.

 

When the long tables feature a constantly refilling set of bottles and pitchers as everyone takes a beer, pours a beer, or goes to get another pitcher, it’s nice to have something that goes down so easy, and in this case was ice cold thanks to the bucket.

 

The next person to buy a pitcher got the Krombacher Pils, which is a perfectly serviceable beer, particularly for the hot summer months, but I just find pilsners a little too plain for my preference and I don’t enjoy the sulfur notes that typically accompany German ones. Another problem with beers like that is that they skunk in the hot sun way too easily. Perhaps I’m drinking too slowly, or simply become more aware of the flavor, but I could practically see the light skunking the pilsner as I was drinking it, unlike the summer weisse that I kept in the dark bottle.

photo by Ceetar
Hop oils being converted into skunk aroma.

After an enjoyable afternoon drinking beer and eating potato pancakes and bratwurst, we went home where I drank roughly three gallons of water to recover from the heat and alcohol. I got the kids to bed, and then I cracked open an IPA and enjoyed it in my comfortable climate controlled home.

 

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Review: Brown’s Brewing Company Guava Gose

If I were a poet, I would say that this concoction was the color of a sunrise, at Acadia National Park in Maine on the Atlantic coast, with schooners off in the distance, and fishing boats headed out for the day, and so on and so forth.

But that ain’t me, son.

I’m a man. A thirsty man, who enjoys a beer and a sandwich.

In this case, the location of the sandwich was the very recently opened Syracuse Press Room Pub, off of Clinton Square in Syracuse. This is a very hip new restaurant and tavern filled with Syracuse themes bric-a-brac and cool tables made out of cut down portions of actual basketball flooring. And some tasty vittles. In this case, the special of the day was a chicken teriyaki sandwich, topped with booze soaked salsa (see a theme yet?) and a side of their fantastically delightful homemade potato chips.

If you’re not getting the chips at this place, well, that means you blew it. YOU BLEW IT!

So, back to the Press Room. Their web site does tout the fine list of New York breweries featured among their beer selections, including “Ommegang, Brooklyn, Middle Ages, Browns, Ithaca, LIC, Single-Cut, Thin-Man, Rohrbach, Common Roots, Lake Placid, Empire, 1911, Critz Farms, Southern Tier” and promising that the list goes on from there.

(Which explains why my beer was served in a Southern Tier pint glass, despite not being a Southern Tier product.)

Today’s beverage is a Brown’s Brewing Company product known as the Guava Gose.

A gose, for those of you not in the “knows,” is a specific kind of beer. And I had to look so that I could say something more sophisticated than “goses are so good!” Which doesn’t really help anyone.

According to the Wikipedia, a gose is “a top-fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. It is brewed with at least 50% of the grain bill being malted wheat. Dominant flavours in gose include a lemon sourness, a herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have prominent hop bitterness, flavours, or aroma. The beers typically have a moderate alcohol content of 4 to 5% ABV.”

This particular gose is brought to you by Brown’s Brewing Company. They are based out of Troy, New York, near Albany, and I have been to their taproom. I attended a wedding and reception there a few years ago, and in fact am in the proud possession of a Brown’s Brewing Company bottle opener that has served me well.

Anyhoo, the Brown’s folks have so many beers that their web site gives only very short shrift to this particular brew.

“Tart German wheat beer brewed with sea salt, coriander, and almost 400 pounds of guava puree! 4.75% ABV, 0 IBU”

That’s all you’re getting out of the Brown’s on this. So, allow me to supplement that with details.

This beer is tremendous! It is tart and sweet at the same time. It’s fruity as all get out and it’s got a wonderful aroma. I would best describe it as the by-product of a love affair between a mermaid and a fat clown that was taking a break from scaring little kids at birthday parties. Like John Wayne Gacy, if he hadn’t killed all of those people.

I’ve yet to find this one in the stores, which keeps me going back to the Press Room to enjoy them, and as long as it’s on tap there at a reasonable $6 per pint, I shall continue to return and partake.

I couldn’t even find an image of the product itself, but I think this one, shown in a Brown’s glass, is pretty close.

So head over to the Press Room, or, if you’re in the Troy area, to the brewing room, and suck down one of these bad boys. Or, you know, start stomping on the guavas yourself (writer’s note: stomping on a guava may or may not produce a delicious gose beer, when combined with several other steps and several weeks of waiting. I cannot confirm or deny this).

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Review: New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA

You know what’s good? Barbecue.

You know what’s better? Barbecue, washed down with the sweet nectar of life.

Out for lunch with a couple of my friends at Syracuse’s best local barbecue joint, the well renowned Dinosaur Barbecue, to enjoy their sublime Chicken Deluxe sandwich. Listen to this description!

“Mojito marinated chicken breast, melted American, lettuce, tomato, pickled onion & jalapeno relish, BBQ mayo, BBQ sauce”

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’d punch my mama in the ear to get to one of these sammiches.

(Minus tomatoes, which I don’t dig on, due to their textural similarity to what a human heart must be like if you were to pull it out of a man’s chest and then place it on a mojito themed chicken).

The choice for this particular day was to wash it down with a New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA.

Well, this beer is murky and delightful, with hints of deliciousness!

Honestly, as I find my voice writing beer reviews, I will admit, that many of the nuances of beer descriptions are just lost on me. It may be that this beer contains all of the wide variety of spices, aromas and flavors as described on the site’s own media.

ITBMCBB*, the Juicy Haze has a “very strong hop aroma of citrus (lemon, some orange, lime and grapefruit) and tropical (guava and pineapple), with light grassy and caramel-like malt aroma.”

And how’s the mouthfeel?  Well, hell, my mouth is full of beer and chicken, so it feels great!

This is a delicious tart beer and with an ABV of 7.5% it also packs a nice little wallop to it.  And that’s always a good quality by my own measure.

If I were writing copy for this product, I would describe it as the taste of “two sexy leprechaun ladies making out with each other in a rainstorm.”

This beer was served draft style but it’s also packaged in a pretty slick design by the fine folks at New Belgium. 

Go out and have one!

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July 4th Beer Selections

Just a quick friendly reminder that all craft beer is the perfect patriotic choice of beverage, and those red white and blue bottles you see everywhere are actually part of a huge international conglomerate.

 

Fruit beers and lightly soured beers are particularly popular lately. Goses as well, which is a style of beer with some salt in it.

 

I haven’t quite decided what I’m bringing to the party, the hosts have a keg of Yuengling which will do in a pinch, but I’m leaning towards something like Bell’s Oberon and Bell’s Two-Hearted, which are new to New Jersey.

 

What are you drinking? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @BarleyProse.

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