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?

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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. 

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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?

 

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Beer and Society: My Beer Story

This post is my final project for an excellent class I took at Central New Mexico (CNM) Community College called Beer and Society.  For the people in the class who have to read this post (sorry!), you can skip past this next part and rejoin after I describe the class for anyone else.  For those not in the class, read on!

  Class peeps, feel free to skip to END DETOUR below!

The name Beer and Society hints to exactly what the curriculum is.  Each class is a series of two-pronged lessons where we first learn from history professor Dr. Brandon Morgan about the origin of a beer, its birthplace, which local ingredients were used and why those ingredients were chosen, as well as any social or political ramifications that helped shape why that beer was made at the time and place it was.  Great stuff!

Then we taste!

(sorry for the amateurish vertical video)

The Advanced Cicerone, Dr. Asa Stone, then takes the helm and works with us to understand what we should be looking for in the beer we’re sampling, from its appearance to aroma, taste and mouthfeel, all the while looking for hints of the ingredients and backstory that we just learned about from Dr. Morgan.

Did I mention there are culturally appropriate food pairings?  Cause there are.

German schnitzel and a dynamite red cabbage sauerkraut!

Week 2 was a schnitzel (prepared by a CNM chef) that was paired with an array of German and Czech beers as the class explored the Early Modern Era and a handful of styles including the German Pils, the Festbier, the Dopplebock, Weissbier and others.

Needless to say, the Beer and Society class is super cool and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone in the Albuquerque area.

And the end of my little CNM advertisement 🙂

Back to the matter at hand, my beer story.  The previous week’s class, I think, was my favorite out of all the great classes, specifically the discussion on food and beer pairing that followed a scrumptious plate of Beef Wellington (which was accompanied by tasters of Stone IPA and New Belgium Fat Tire).  Someone in class mentioned they would have paired the IPA with a green chile cheeseburger and it took me back to the 2018 New Mexico IPA Challenge, where I contemplated why New Mexicans love hop-forward IPAs so much, and pondered the synergistic intensites of New Mexico green chile and aggressive New Mexico IPAs. 

I’m taking a kind of circuitous route to get to my point, but after thinking about spending the last few NMIPA challenges with friends, my brother and my girlfriend, I realized that my beer story is this:  beer is no longer just a thing I drink while doing other things.  It’s become, in many cases, the central focus for a lot of events I plan my life around.

It went from being just a lamp on a table at a party to the host of the damn thing.

Beer as a character in my life has grown in importance the more I got to appreciate it, same as my heart has grown fuller for people I’ve come to know more closely.  Conversely, some lesser characters fade away in life, same as those (dirt cheap) 12-packs of  Shaefer in college, but beer as a character in my life has gradually been basking under a larger and brighter spotlight.

For example, while we’ve all gone out to fill a growler, a friend and I turned a simple growler run into a capital “G”, capital “R”, Growler Run, a yearly motorcycle trip that’s taken us countless thousands of miles across 20 states in the US, up to and across Canada and down to the tip of Baja, Mexico in search of a local growler fill to take back to our campsite.  The motorcycle trips would have happened regardless, but they’re built and centered around a thing we love in our lives – beer – but with a desire to experience a slightly different version of it made by different hands in a different place altogether.

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Aside from running to another country with one of my best friends to fill a growler, my brother, Dan, and our good friend and neighbor, Jeff, have graduated from having beers while hanging out, to hanging out while trying to make our own beers.  We’ve only finished three different batches to date, but as our appreciation for beer has increased over the years, so, too, has our desire to understand it (and make it taste a little better, while we’re at it). 

It’s like I casually swiped right on beer years ago, and now realize beer has a toothbrush in the glass on the bathroom sink.  

So what then, now that I’m shacking up with beer for good, it seems?

Well, beer school, naturally.

I bounced around a good many colleges after high school, getting (part of) an education so I could play some baseball, but I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Now, I’m 44, a Unix engineer for a massive telecom company, and I still don’t necessarily know what I want to be when I grow up.  But instead of taking classes in this scripting language or that cloud computing technology, I’m taking classes at CNM to learn how to make freaking beer.

Alas, the thing I did at college has become thing I now go to college for.

~~~

For those not familiar or wanting more info, the Brewing and Beverage Management program at CNM offers industry certifications as well as an associates degree program.  Info can be found here.

ALSO! If you’d like to write for Barley Prose, send an email to Ceetar at admin@barleyprose.com.

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