Taking Advantage of Quarantine Beer Shipping Policies

The unexpected benefit of being quarantined and not being able to visit tap rooms is that breweries are empowered, by desperation and by the relaxing of strict rules against it, to deliver and ship beer. Even as some states have relaxed guidelines to allow us to visit and drink in certain situations, the ever-persistent pandemic has us drinking most of our beer at home. 

Early on I ordered either pick-up, delivery, or whatever I could get from local breweries to try to support them as they struggled. My locals make great beer, so this is not particularly onerous. Most recently I picked up two very interesting beers from the Alementary in Hackensack, NJ called Sweet Summa’ Child, and #Staycation. Sweet Summa’ is a ‘hot, honey wheat ale’. Honey, Cayenne, citrus, meant as an ode to summer cuisine. Amazing. #Staycation is a gose, slightly tart, with pineapple, coconut and ginger. The ginger really makes this next level, as it lends some spiciness but also a warming sweetness too. Couple that with the tart, and the fruit, and I’m starting to wonder if eight was enough.

There are other breweries out there of course, ones in a larger radius from my home that I either like to visit, or would like to visit when I have the time. Now that it’s somewhat irresponsible to just hang out in public with others, I’ve been taking advantage of delivery or shipping options. Most recently, Magnify Brewing in Fairfield, NJ. Fairfield is not far from me, in fact I used to work there, but it’s outside my usual routine and requires a special trip, but you better believe that when they started offering beers for delivery, I jumped. I’ve been a fan of Magnify since inception, I visited their brewery within a few weeks of opening, met the owner and both his parents, and enjoyed the first beers they produced. 

Magnify makes a lot of beer, especially a lot of New England IPA, and they do a good job of it. Specifically, they’re one of the breweries that are, and this is as of yet unverified by me, nailing the ‘fruited gose’ style. Fruited beers, due to the unfermented sugar in the can and therefore the potential for that can to ferment, create CO2, and explode, are the latest hot button issue in the craft beer world, if you don’t count the ongoing failure of the Brewers Association to adequately address racism, which is absolutely a thing that is happening, but also one I don’t feel fully versed in discussing, but still wanted to mention. 

Fruited Gose. Is it a good idea for breweries to sell a product that you HAVE to keep refrigerated or it will explode? That’s the debate. A lot of it comes down to how you think about beer–is it a fresh produce type thing, like milk, where the consumer is expected to keep it cold, be aware of it’s expiration, and take responsibility for that? Or is this a beer too far, and breweries should absolutely not be selling dangerous exploding cans to potentially un-aware consumers? I have some thoughts, but I’d like to taste one of these beers first, which brings me back to Magnify.

Coming today, to my house, is a shipment of Magnify beers that includes Pastry Proof, a variation of their Trade Proof series, because you can’t trade a beer that’s going to explode in an unrefrigerated USPS truck. Pastry Proof is a heavily fruited smoothie style Gose inspired by berry pancakes. Conditioned on blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry and maple syrup. Thick and fruit forward. Roll the can before cracking! Interesting. I mean, who can argue with that? That sounds delicious. I’ll let you know. 

New York is much better than New Jersey with the ordering beer for shipping. Luckily, my parents still live in New York and will happily, though I can’t say I gave them a choice, accept beer deliveries for me, as I did with a shipment from Plan Bee earlier this year. Recently, I was alerted to the fact that Threes Brewing, a great brewery in Brooklyn that typically has other locals on tap when you visit and was the host for at least one BeerGraphs meetup, would also ship other brewery beers along with theirs on their site. This was all I needed to hear, and I quickly ordered their Short Fuse, and Oak Aged Smoked Helles, their Thought Experiment, their Dare to Know, and then Greenpoint’s Please Stand By, Folksbier, who I’d never tried but wanted to, Cucumber Lime Glow Up (this is a pickle beer. I repeat, this beer tastes like pickles), and Wild East’s Temperance. 

Thanks to quarantine I’ve gotten to try a lot of breweries and beers that I would’ve had to put extra effort into getting to otherwise, so I guess you could call this a silver lining. Hopefully testing ramps up, vaccines and treatments emerge, and we can all hoist a pint in person with our favorite breweries and people soon, but until then, appreciate the less-local breweries that will ship you amazing beer, and encourage them to keep doing it. 

 Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s finishing off a bottle of Japanese whiskey. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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A Completely Uninformed Super Bowl Esque Rant About Bud Light Seltzer

Hard seltzer is a thing. Why is it a thing? It’s bubble water with a kick! I don’t understand. No no, don’t tell me. This isn’t that post, this is a rant. Don’t muddy it up with facts and reasoned arguments.

Bud Light is making seltzer now? I could make the joke that Bud Light is basically lightly carbonated water, so it fits pretty well, but as I understand it this is only Bud Light for the sake of branding, and has no actual beer in it. So literally they’re just trying to bash you over the head with their marketing and advertising, capitalize on something that’s currently popular, and annoy the rest of us.

Yes, annoy the rest of us. There’s going to be literal minutes of advertisements from AB-InBev this coming Sunday, for the Super Bowl. We’re all going to become intimately aware of what Bud Light Seltzer has in store for us. It’s going to be painful. I see some retweeting into my timeline of something called PostyBar and PostyStore and I have no idea what that is and it sounds pretty dumb.

Can hard seltzer really taste any different than me pouring a shot of vodka into a seltzer can? What’s the point? And why not just have the vodka? Or a beer. Not Bud Light, a real beer. I actually tried to taste this for this post but neither of the places I went had singles of it, and no way am I buying a package of this nonsense. Surprised it doesn’t come in 40s to be honest.

Nasty marketing gimmick beverage. Maybe I’ll skip the Super Bowl anyway, who needs it? It conflicts with the kids bedtime anyway, and no one invited me to any parties. I do like to have some chips and pretzels, maybe some guacamole.  I bought a jar of ‘craft beer salsa’ that I’m excited to try. A beer would go good with those things, but not that Bud Light Seltzer nonsense. A nice crisp IPA, something with some bitterness. Or Nugget Nectar, which is of a similar style to the beer in the salsa, maybe it’ll pair nicely.

I am absolutely not looking forward to a summer of gigantic supermarket displays of boxes upon boxes of nasty Bud Light Seltzer blocking my view of the good stuff. 

This reminds me of that Last Week Tonight bit they did talking about how terrible Bud Light is. If you haven’t seen it, go look it up. 

Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’ll probably be active during the first half of the Super Bowl tweeting nonsense. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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A Quick Look Inside My Fridge

Peeking at the on deck circle for Ceetar’s drinking lineup.

What’s in my fridge? I always have too much beer, so I keep the ‘extra’ beer in the basement fridge or just in the basement cabinet, anything I have up in the main fridge I intend to drink pretty soon, or have as an offering to my wife. So let’s take a quick look at what’s on tap for me.

A. Nugget Nectar, the seasonal offering from Troegs, is an amazing beer and something I look forward to every year. It’s rare for me to pound through a six-pack without deviating for variety’s sake, but this beer is often an exception.

B. Spotted Dog is a cream ale from Alementary presumably in the vein of Spotted Cow from New Glarus an in honor of their brew dog Marjie. I had one on tap the other day and found it deliciously drinkable, light and easy, with plenty of flavor. 

C. Super Eight by Dogfish Head I’ve talked about here before, and this is one remaining can that somehow snuck through from August. Fruity, slightly tart and quite yummy. Super fruits! Can’t go wrong.

D. Rum soaked raisins I meant to serve with the Coquito at Christmas and didn’t. I should probably just throw them out?

E. New Holland Dragon’s Milk. I bought a 4-pack of this tasty bourbon barrel aged stout to pair with a New Holland bourbon from the same barrels, as I thought it’d be an interesting experiment. Somehow I haven’t yet found the time to imbibe both bourbon and high ABV stout at the same time for uh, science.

F. Apfelwein. A fermented apple beverage from Germany, in a can! I’ve made this before, and it’s delicious, so I was curious what a canned variety would taste like.  It’s not quite hard cider, but not quite sparkling apple juice, but somewhere in that family.

G. Bell’s Hopslam is an amazing beer and it speaks to how far craft beer is come that you can just grab six packs of this off the shelf now, whereas even a few years ago you had to basically camp out for one bottle.

H. Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte is something I bought for my wife. This one’s from Breckenridge. She had one and said it wasn’t really anything special and it seems she hasn’t been drawn to have another. 

I. Why do I have jarred tomato sauce? *hands in Italian-American card* I think this was a last minute ‘oh crap, we have no food. Frozen ravioli and sauce it is.’

J. Recess is a CBP infused juice beverage thing. It tastes good, but I don’t think the CBP does anything beyond that.

K. Cayman Jack Margarita. Another wife product, and margaritas are yummy.

L. Duchesse De Bourgogne cherry chocolate. One of the first sour beers I ever had, way back in 2007, this time in cherry and chocolate, which are great flavors too. Was one of my christmas presents and I’m happily enjoying them. A reflection on that first beer fest might be an interesting post. 

M. Las Colombia Coffee Vanilla Draft Latte. Was a present my wife got, one of us will get to this as an afternoon/early evening pick me up one of these days.

N. Left Hand Chai Milk Stout, Nitro. I have no idea. I thought my wife would like this but she hasn’t touched it. I think that’s too many flavors for me, but there is a delicious brown ale with some chai tea in it that’s pretty darn awesome on a not-pictured shelf, so maybe I should try this too. 

So, what’s in your fridge?

Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s already consumed three of the beers in this picture. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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The Darkest Beer Holiday

It’s time again for the winter solstice and time again to drink the darkest beer for the darkest days.

Let’s make this one a tribute to Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout. A true classic. A delicious no-nonsense Russian Imperial Stout. There’s nothing added to this beer, no gimmicks, no pastries, no lactose. It’s a 10% darker than night, true pleasure of the winter season, beer.

It also ages fantastically. I’m on record as enjoying high alcohol beers more a year out than fresh. I’m not opposed to drinking a Black Chocolate Stout fresh, but I typically buy some and start drinking ones from last year, or even older than that. I had a 2018 this week, and it was just terrific. The alcohol burn you’d get fresh had mellowed into a roasty, bitter chocolate deliciousness. I actually did a three year vertical of this beer a few years back, which was a lot of fun. I still have one of those in my cellar, which is five years old now. I think I’ll open that one this season too.

Don’t fret though, I have plenty of other darkest beers to drink this season. I think I might celebrate the solstice with the Collective Arts beer on the header image, Origin Of Darkness. The store had a few variations of it, but I couldn’t resist the one with chocolate and pistachio cannoli. Dragon’s Milk is also a delicious one, and the heaviest of all of these. Arecibo by Alementary is more of a sweet stout, with the lactose and the coconut. It’s a beautiful pairing of flavors. That’s a good one to open while backing cookies.

Enjoy the Winter Solstice, beer’s newest drinking holiday. 

Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s racking up the dark beers. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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Ode To Overflow

An overflowed beer glass can be a beautiful thing
It may happen when you toast mugs with the king
The foam cascades down
But there’s no need to frown

Don’t fret the bad pour
We can always brew more
Enjoy the fluffy head
Even on an Irish red

The cascading foam
Makes me feel far from home
Like in a beer festival hall
Where I’m tasting them all

It may make a mess
All over your dress
But when does a night full of win
Ever end with clean linen?

So play cheers with your buds
Let’s drink down those suds
And always remember
To tip your bartender.

Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s rarely poetic. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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Inaugural Barley Prose Beersport: Oktoberfest Edition

The name of the game is Beersport – two beers enter, one beer leaves. Beersport.

The return of Beersport! Made famous by J.R. Shirt on BeerGraphs and on the Drinking With Shirt Podcast. Feel free to badger Shirt to reprise either here. This classic beer competition returns with a classic Oktoberfest battle between Von Trapp Oktoberfest and Alementary Oktoberfest. Vermont vs. New Jersey. Go. 

Oktoberfest season is tailing off as October comes to an end, but I assure you these beers are still tasty well into November, and further!

Preconceived Notions:
I’ve had both these of these beers a fair amount. I like them both. The style is not super broad that I can easily say much about them cold, so it’ll still be a good head to head battle. I’m a member of Alementary’s Order of the Atom, which maybe gives this an unconscious bias, but you’re just going to have to live with that. 

Appearance
The Von Trapp had better head retention, otherwise they’re both pretty similar bronze colors typical of an Oktoberfest. The packaging is both appropriately Bavarian blue with the brewery logo. Both in 12oz cans. 

Winner: Von Trapp

Aroma
The Von Trapp has a sweet malt smell with a lot of light biscuity caramel notes. Reminds me some of some dark cherry smells. 

The Alementary has a much stronger smell, and a much richer one. Almost like a fresh loaf of bread with butter wafting into your nose. 

Winner: Alementary

Taste 
It’s a fairly gentle sweetness with the Von Trapp, but with some bitterness/astringency. The malt is not dominating as much as I would like, with some drying taste on my mouth from the hops. Though the malt builds with each sip which is nice, it sort of rounds out into form. 

Alementary’s taste is rich too, with a nice complex malt flavor. It’s sweeter and maltier. A nice sweet glaze on a good loaf of bread. This beer has a vibrant taste and rich malt flavor, but not overbearingly so. There’s a sense of fullness that then fades into a gentle almost honey aftertaste.

Winner: Alementary

Mouthfeel
Von trapp tastes a little airier, a little more carbonated, and a little less full bodied.

Alementary is almost sticky, and hits more tastebuds, is a more fullfilling experience.

Winner: Alementary

Overall 
I like both beers. They both make me happy. The Von Trapp is a little simpler, maybe a little easier to drink in volume, but the Alementary is a more complete beverage and is really wonderful. 

Beersport Winner: Alementary

Alementary takes down the inaugural BarleyProse Beersport. Great beer, check it out.

Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s pondering starting a Barley Prose podcast. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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Beer’s Great Companion: The Pretzel

Beer and pretzels.  Great combo, classic combo even. I think the dryness of the baked bread and the wetness of the, well, the drink, is what draws them together. This isn’t the podcast Gastropod or Savor though, I’m not going to delve into the history of beer and pretzels, but I can imagine a barkeep thinking he needed something that would soak up some of the beer his customers were consuming.

I’m not going to pretend pretzel necklaces at beer festivals are classy or anything, but I see the appeal. It’s a fun little thing to do, it’s a portable snack, it’s that bar bowl of pretzels but in mobile form. Here’s a picture of me doing just that at a beer festival in Philadelphia back in 2011. 

Ceetar with his Pretzel Necklace and a small beer

Another classic place you get pretzels is, of course, Oktoberfest. Again, I don’t really know the history of this but I do have the suspicious that giant over-sized pretzels ‘Bavarian’ style are a somewhat new occurrence. These are typically a soft pretzel, very doughy, and very delicious. The pretzel has often risen during baking so much it’s actually split the outer shell, much like a well cooked bratwurst might. To continue the trend, here’s a picture of me at Oktoberfest 2012 with a giant pretzel and a liter of amazingly delicious beer. 

Ceetar with half a giant pretzel and a beer at Oktoberfest

And because a few months later I was still basking in the glory of that trip, here’s a piece of the Gingerbread House I made as an ode to the trip.

Gingerbread House of Oktoberfest beer vendor

Snyder’s makes an Oktoberfest style box of pretzels around this time of the year that you can find in stores. It’s nothing like a soft pretzel, though the description does say they let it rise longer to get that airiness. They’re very good pretzels, though they’re crunchy and hard. They’re airy on the inside and flake into pieces when you bite into them. I get a box every year.

 

Here’s a new product I stumbled upon recently. Typically you think of the malt part of beer going well with pretzels. The sweeter, breadier part of the beer right? These guys from Unique are made with malted barley AND hops. That’s cool! That means it’s got grain, yeast, hops and water in the process…which means that these pretzels ARE beer? Blowing my mind right here. sourdough pretzel ring

They’re sourdough so they already lend a little different mouthfeel and a little bit of tanginess that’s different from other pretzels. The hops are surprisingly apparent though. I find often these ‘craft beer ITEM’ purchases are very meh, especially when they’ve got such a gimmicky name. The french fries? Couldn’t tell. These pretzels have a slight hop bite to them though, that taste of the beer foam of an IPA, that slight grassy bitterness that hops give. It took a little getting used to, but once my taste buds adjusted I did really enjoy these.

Pretzels taste good! Who knew?

Please tweet your best pretzel necklaces and follow Barley Prose on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow Ceetar.

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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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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. 

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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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