The Six Pack Commitment

 

Commitment is an act, not a word. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
Oatmeal – It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore™

There’s an entire sub-genre, it would seem, of stand up comedians and nervous protagonists of rom-com movies who lament on the American male’s deep reluctance to make a commitment. Perhaps this is hyperbole, or a stereotype that is easy pickings for humorists. Or, perhaps not. Maybe men really do have a harder time committing.

But what does this have to do with beer?

I’m getting to that, imaginative dialogue partner. Be patient.

This writer has found that the best way to discover and appreciate new beers, in the part of the world where I reside, is the very magical “Craft Your Own Pack” offer at Wegmans.  For future brevity, I will refer to this as the CYOP*, and the act of purchasing and enjoying these beers as “cyopping*.”

They don’t all fit under the Xmas tree, sadly

I’ve touched on this before, in previous posts.  For a very reasonable $10.99, thirsty Americans can choose six different beers from a handsomely displayed set of refrigerated shelves full of ambers, pilsners, lagers, stouts, ales, pale ales, IPAs, and even ciders and lemonades.

(It should also be noted that, unless watchful eyes are afoot, a person could theoretically take individual beers from craft four and six packs in the adjacent aisles and place them discretely into their “craft my own pack” holder, and the seller is none the wiser. Though my own Wegmans now has an employee stalking those very aisles every Saturday and Sunday morning, perhaps meant to halt that sort of rogue shopping banditry style cyopping).

This is the most recent six pack I crafted. A typical range of pales, IPAs, sours, fruity beers, and other mouthwatering treats meant to delight both young (well, you know, 21+ young) and old alike.

Six heroes. Fighting injustice.

Of these six beers, four are new to me. I’ve knocked back my share of Bel Air Sours and Sierra Nevada Pale Ales over recent months — they are both delicious representatives of the sour and American Pale Ale genres. The IPAs are ones I have not tried as of yet. The amber ale was tasty, and refreshing, and while the blood orange ale was as well, though it could have stood more orange flavor.

But the bigger question is, would I commit to buying an entire six pack of any of these?

(Confession: I attended a birthday party for my wife’s cousin’s 3 year old son, two weekends ago, and grabbed a six pack of the Sierra Nevada pale ales to bring based on her cousin’s statement of “I’ll drink anything you bring over” and a limited subset available at the local gas station I hit on my way out of town. But those were bought knowing that I would only likely be having two, and sharing the others with him and any other guest that wanted one.  So that doesn’t count, for purposes of this discussion.)

I’m talking about the six pack commitment. Six of the same beers, in a row, in my fridge, all at once. To be drank, over a relatively short time frame, in order to clear out room for the next six beers.

(Author’s note: I’m not talking about that sad pack of hard lemonades, originally six but perpetually five, that the wife thought she might enjoy,  slowly turning into Lemon Pledge in the back. I’m talking about Daddy’s beers, friends.)

I’ve faced this dilemma before. I’ll have a beer, on tap in a bar or restaurant, or in one of these choose-your-own-adventure six packs, and enjoyed enough to take the plunge. I’ll go to Wegmans and buy a sixer of that variety, and by the time I’m halfway through it, I’ve had enough.  Sort of a best case buyer’s regret (I mean, they’re still beers, paid for, in my house, so I’m not exactly suffering).

Maybe this is a side effect of choosing fruity, off-the-beaten-path flavored beers. A berry ale that seems refreshing once every four or five months loses some of its magic if I’ve had 3 or 4 over a week’s time. This is the beer drinker’s equivalent of looking at everyone else’s date at a wedding and wondering what those other gals can do that your own date cannot, or shall not.

So, to be concise, a beer has to be pretty special for me to make the six pack commitment.  I had this one, in a recent CYOP, and deemed it worthy.

I took the plunge with the Great Lakes Brewery Ohio City Oatmeal Stout (5.4% ABV, 25 IBU).

I feel like we can make this work, oatmeal stout.

There is just something about oatmeal stouts that appeals to me.   First off, while I am a cold cereal & milk guy most days, my default plan B breakfast is a bowl of instant maple brown sugar oatmeal.  The stuff keeps on the pantry shelf for ten thousand years, and doesn’t require anything besides a half cup of boiling water (good for days when there’s no milk left) and, if circumstances allow it, maybe a small pat of butter.

So maybe the oatmeal stout appeals to my innate love of warm, soothing oatmeal breakfasts.

Maybe it’s just that rich, chocolatey, silky kind of flavor that they all seem to possess.  I can’t think of a single oatmeal stout that I didn’t at least passively enjoy.  It’s specific to oatmeal stouts, too, as the Russian Imperials and milk stouts don’t grab me the same way.

Some of these oatmealers, such as the Buried Acorn’s (which they have sadly not brewed in some months), were worthy enough to get their own blog post.  Others, like the Ommegang oatmeal stout, or the Blue Moon cappuccino oatmeal stout, are like one night stands in my mouth, just coming across my palette briefly but remembered fondly the next morning.  And yet others, as in the Full Boar Dark Victory Oatmeal Stout, to be dreamed of and likely prose’d here as well someday.

Others, though, well, if they’re locally available in the six pack format, and I’ve already sampled them at a local pub or through a recent cyopping, well, then, I’ll get down on one knee, and in a classic romantic fashion, offer my commitment to drinking them.

<cue rom-com tissue honking and/or sitcom applause track>

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Counterpoint: Thanksgiving is Actually a Bourbon Holiday

Note: If you haven’t yet read Ceetar’s wonderful new piece entitled “Thanksgiving is a Beer Holiday”, please go get your main course there first, then come back here for some dessert.

Turkey. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Green beans. Cranberry sauce. Fourteen kinds of pie (I hope, I hope, please please please let there be fourteen kinds of pie, pretty please).

While, in theory, a pumpkin ale sounds like it would be devoured in perfect harmony with the dishes that make up the classic Thanksgiving menu, I offer an alternative to you, gentle reader. I humbly posit that exchanging beer for bourbon might pair just as well with the food, and leave you not feeling so full that you wanna eject stomach gravy all over your granny’s shaggy living room carpet.

I’d be a damned liar if I told you that La Cumbre’s La Negra bourbon barrel aged stout or Marble’s Pumpkin Noir will not make an appearance at our Thanksgiving get-together. Like Ceets said, the day is long, start early. But when others zig for that IPA or another stout, I’m gonna zag my way on over to the bourbon shelf and do turkey day my way.

Since the drinking will begin closer to sunrise than sunset, it’s imperative to get out of gates slowly so I’ll start my Thanksgiving with the Basil Hayden’s Two-By-Two Rye. This is as close as you can come to a non-alcoholic beverage where bourbon is concerned (checks in at a measly 80 proof / 40% ABV). It’s as smooth as Sade, so you’ll still be able to talk to people without any slurring or mumbling (which will likely come later).

Ah, talking to people. A pitfall of Thanksgiving. We’ll all be happy to see our friends and most of our relatives, but sometime in the early afternoon, that vocal Trump-supporting in-law will show up (and in fairness, he’ll have to deal me, the “libtard craft beer blogger”), and that’s when Knob Creek is the best goddamn thing in the whole wide world.

This particular bottle I picked up last month on a motorcycle journey across the southern United States that culminated in a bourbon trail run through the beautiful state of Kentucky (with DD, I should add, the bikes were parked for this particular leg). I left home with an empty bag I planned to stuff with bourbon bottles and that bag came back full, gentle reader, same as my heart just now as I recall riding past mile after mile of cotton fields with a delicious liquid bounty tied down to my faithful iron colt. Sweet irresponsibility.

Anyway, Knob Creek, in my opinion, is always a little hotter than other bourbons, so this 115 proof / 57.5% ABV fire-breather (that was hand selected by none other than Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe himself!) will drop me into a proper early afternoon buzz, and will allow me to torch a would-be political debater like I was Drogon flaming a bunch of digital extras in a Game of Thrones throwdown. That was a long sentence, I’m sorry. But it’s one of those bourbons that makes you shiver and shake a little after you swallow it. It’s distilled with the kind of attitude you need to shake off rivals, so it’s perfect for this time of day with disparate personalities arriving and cautiously intermingling.

Now it’s time for the big Thanksgiving meal. And with all the flavors competing for our taste buds’ affection and attention, a special bourbon will need to be summoned to meet the challenge. This is when I call on the Maker’s Mark Private Select Oak Stave by Bill Samuels, Jr. These Private Select offerings by Maker’s are pretty cool. Dig this from their website:

Beginning as fully matured Maker’s Mark® at cask strength, Private Select is created by adding 10 custom wood finishing staves to each barrel…
The finishing staves can be any combination of five flavor profiles chosen especially for this program.

The five profiles can be a combination of any of the following: Baked American Pure 2, Seared French Cuvée, Maker’s 46, Roasted French Mocha and Toasted French Spice.

This particular batch, Bill Samuels decided to ignore the four other flavor profiles entirely and devote all 10 staves in this batch to Maker’s 46, so we’re left with a bottle that has the subtle sweet of the 46, but in a 110.6 proof, 55.3% ABV monster. Any flavor on your beautiful Thanksgiving plate can represent the Yin, and this wonderfully complex bourbon will Yang it the hell back around. A truly resplendent spirit.

Dinner is done, the plates are cleared.  Trump guy is in the other room watching football even though he hates football, and the vultures are in the kitchen picking at the leftovers. We have to pace ourselves here a little bit, so I’ll switch now to the Weller Special Reserve, my go-to everyday type bourbon. Weller replaced the rye in the mash with wheat, and for some reason, that makes it the easiest thing in the world to drink. I already used “smoother than Sade” (which was was a lie, nothing is smoother than Sade), so “smoother than Steph Curry’s release” seems like a full notch or two below Sade. I need a Prose-inator filled with sexy smooth similes to help me through this piece. Regardless, the Weller is smooth like Giant Steps Coltrane, as you can see by this nearly empty bottle.

People are hugging good-byes now, speaking on how we’ll all congregate again at the December holidays, only then everyone’s stress levels will be exponentially higher. No four-day weekend like glorious Thanksgiving, and many of us will feel overburdened because we spent way too much money buying gifts for everyone when bloated commerce seems completely out of the true spirit of the holidays. I already miss Thanksgiving, my comfy sweat pants and watching football with Trump guy who can be alright sometimes in his own ways.

At this point I’ll be slurring, all warm inside and telling everyone how much I’ll miss them, and at that moment, I’ll actually mean it. I’ll close with an offering from Washington state – the BSB (Brown Sugar Bourbon) by Heritage Distilling. The only difference between this thing and a Cinnabon at the airport is nothing, there is no difference at all. You will get a massive sugar buzz from the delicious airport Cinnabon and this easy 60 proof / 30% ABV warm, liquid treat will sneak up on you even though it tastes not like booze at all, but like that yummy $8 dollar, 900-calorie demon of an airport terminal delicacy that will leave you in a heap of sweaty regret. This particular bottle, however, was purchased as part of a fundraiser for Seattle’s homeless community during Pearl Jam’s 2018 epic summer “Home Shows”, so the slothy regret is tempered by its good intentions, if only slightly.

And with that, I bid you a Happy Thanksgiving, gentle reader. Be it bourbon or beer, Lions or Cowboys, Trump or anyone else, let your day be filled with hearty foods and spirits, and stellar company to match. And if you have any Pappy Van Winkle on your shelf, hit me up. I’ll bring by some leftover pie.

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Thanksgiving Is A Beer Holiday

People might talk to you about wine at Thanksgiving, and that’s fine if you like wine, but it’s really the perfect holiday for beer. There is no gift exchange. You’re probably filling your stomach with plenty of alcohol-soaking food. It’s an all day holiday but besides dinner you really have no obligations but to sit around and chat…..and drink.

So why not beer? Even leaving aside the ways certain beers can pair better with all that rich and heavy food, most of your drinking probably isn’t happening at dinner. So open up a big bottle you’ve been saving, maybe even something someone gave you during the holiday season last year. Have an unofficial bottle share. Introduce family members that aren’t usually beer drinkers to some of the different flavors some of these beers bring.

Thanksgiving may be dressed up as a fancy dinner in some respects, but it’s not, nor has it ever been. It’s a working man’s celebration that there is enough food to last the winter. To celebrate the harvest being in, the land being plentiful, to be thankful of those that help us survive and thrive. The classic dishes aren’t fancy dishes out of a fancy restaurant, even in the age of farm to table. They’re simple, classic dishes.  Meat, potatoes, veggies. This isn’t a 10 course dining experience; most of the time you’re chatting, and munching, and watching sports. So beer. Beer fits perfectly. Or cider. A crisp apple cider goes really well with a lot of these dishes, but let’s talk about the beer.

You’re going to start early, you’re going to have a big meal in the middle, long before you even entertain driving. You can have a few, or a big, beer. Open up that 10-14% bomber of stout that you’d never find a time to drink on your own. Share it. Bring out those pumpkin beers you bought but didn’t love, I bet you’ll find a lot of people interested in trying some of that. Did you score a bottle of some fancy limited release bourbon barrel aged concoction? Did you pick up a six-pack of less rare, but still delicious, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout? Did someone bring something you’ve never heard of but thought you’d like because you’re into beer? Open them! Drink them! Share them! Most of the guests are there with nothing to do but drink, chat, and eat. It’s basically a bottle share with a big meal at the end.

My Thanksgiving is going to be low-key this year, I’m eating out at a German restaurant, which probably means Oktoberfest with dinner. On Saturday I’m having some friends over, and that’s when I’ll break out the Thanksgiving beer. The Alementary makes a delicious English Ale aged in rum barrels called Figgy Pudding that I have a bottle of from each of their now three years of making it. I’m excited to do a vertical tasting of this. After that I plan to open a bomber of Brooklyn Brewery’s Tripel Burner, a Licorice-spiced tripel aged in white wine barrels, that comes in at 10.6% ABV.

What beers are you planning to share for Thanksgiving? Comment below, or tweet us at @BarleyProse on Twitter or @BarleyProseBlog on Instagram with the hashtag #Beersgiving.

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Run, Relax, Refresh: Full Boar Craft Brewery

You had me at “brewery”

Time for another installment of Run, Relax, Refresh, where our intrepid blogger combines a post-workday run with a stop at one of Syracuse’s fine local craft brewing establishments.

The Run:

This day’s journey took me along route 11 in North Syracuse, New York, to some residential side streets, and then spat me back out along the narrow shoulder of Taft Road, plus a couple of detours tacked on to get me to the 30 minute mark (my normal weekday exercise goal).

The route 11 portion of this run wasn’t bad, thanks to there being a sidewalk available set safely away from the road.  I was able to run past some of the town’s more quirky local businesses, such as Earthbound Metaphysical. I was hoping that this was a “Ray’s Occult Books” style shop of necromancy and paranormal resources, though it turns out they just sell fancy coffees and tees.

When I realized my route as originally designed was going to clock in at around 2.75 miles, I decided to tack on a couple of small detours.  One was to run down the access road at Hinerwadels, a famous local clambake joint that has sadly closed their doors this year (luckily, their gravel driveway remained accessible).  I also detoured over to the local junior high school and added a quarter mile by running a lap on their local track. These both had the added benefit of getting me off of Taft Road, where the shoulder is about as wide as Kate Moss’ torso.

The intermediate roads on this route, through residential North Syracuse neighborhoods, did have a nice display of foliage out for enjoyment.

A good workout, overall, not the most scenic path I ever traversed, but it conveniently started and ended at the Full Boar Brewery and Tap Room.

The Relax:

On to the Full Boar!

This awesome little joint opened in 2016 in a local shopping plaza — always a plus, ensuring that there’s plenty of parking and that it’s not too conspicuous to leave my vehicle in front for 30 minutes without shopping, while I get my run in.

This place has a lot to offer, first off — each table has a caddy of individual sized snacks, chips and pretzels.

I’ll have these

I personally went with the Dipsy Doodles, which are like Sun Chips’ sexy naked cousin in the snack world.

Lots of comfortable seating abound as well as snappy decorations, as you can see.

Oh good I was just thinking of trying beer for the first time

But now, let’s remember, this isn’t an HGTV decorating show. I’m not here to comment on the feng shui, I’m here to partake.

They have a great selection of brews, of all colors and flavors. Not to mention these tricked out growlers converted into hanging lights (OK WE GET IT DECORATOR-BOY).

SOOOO many choices

I sampled the peanut butter and jelly flavored blonde, which was just a bit too odd, and then had a sour mango, which was a refreshing enough beer (though I prefer my sour mango beers to be sourer and mangoier).

The real star of this “triple R” was the chocolate peanut butter stout.

The Refresh:

Look at this damned thing. LOOK AT IT!

It seems all too appropriate to enjoy one of these beers on the week of Halloween. After a couple of days spent “borrowing” from my kids’ trick or treating haul, this stout was scratching me right where I itched (not in the sweaty runner crotch kind of itch, more of the emotional yearning sort of way).  It’s basically a Reese’s peanut butter cup, only in beer form (which is candy for the liver).

As per the menu, this beer is a 6.6% ABV choice and ITBMCBB*, it’s “smooth and sweet with a deep roast flavor. Nice peanut butter nose balances well with the dark Chocolate.” At $5 for a 16 oz portion, it hits my wallet’s sweet tooth as well.

As for the flavor, well, it’s sweet without being “cloyingly sweet.” (Note: that phrase is borrowed from every single episode of the show Chopped ever to air on the Food Fatty network). And it’s a stout, with delicious roasted flavor. I enjoy many stouts and this one ranks very high on my list.  Shout out to the great pint glasses that the Full Boar uses, too.  That groove at the top is perfectly contoured to my fat beer loving lower lip.

The Prose-inator loved it too! No surprise there. How would you describe it, Prose-inator?

“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.”

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Angry Erik’s Tongue-Tied Troll

A review of the decidedly not New England IPA, Tongue-Tied Troll

So, Angry Erik. Cool brewery name for sure. Sounds like a Viking.

Tongue-Tied Troll is the name of the DIPA. October and all, you know that I double-checked this wasn’t a pumpkin beer. It’s not. Comes in at a solid 8.1%, and you really can taste that burn.

Ordered this with my dinner one night, sight unseen which I never do but was with some non-beer friends and you know how it goes. Them plebes were drinking Merlot of all things. This came out not-hazy. It wasn’t clear at least, but I already had my hackles up.

The smell, it’s got aroma but like, almost no fruit. Maybe a whiff of something blackberry like, but it’s sickly sweet. Malt, honey, etc. Old-School I guess, lots of that dank 2000s hop bomb stuff.

Boom, that taste. Not cool, it really smacks you in the face with dank. I’m not trying to get high here man! I want a beer not a joint. This guy is hoppy and bitter, but you’ve got a ton of that bready malt sweetness and alcohol burn to it too! Even a fruit fly couldn’t leave the dang thing alone. The hops presented grapefruit and orange citrus type flavors, but in a muted balanced way and not in the juice bomb way that would elevate this thing to next level.

The mouthfeel was solid though. Full, slick and made me want to take another sip, which I am always wont to do.

Verdict: NEEDS MORE HAZE. Will do in a pinch, especially at 8.1%, but have to give this a C-. Don’t wait in line for this one. 

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