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.”

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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.

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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 

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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.

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