Another dispatch from the front lines, courtesy of our intrepid western New York correspondent Breezer Marieezer.
Another dispatch from the front lines, courtesy of our intrepid western New York correspondent Breezer Marieezer.
Pleased to present the first review from our newly appointed “reporter in the wild,” Breezer Marieezer, on a mango IPA for which she has a complicated relationship.
I’ve been attempting to lure her, one of my run club homies, here to Barley Prose to write longer form pieces, but, in the interim, I’ll be reposting these on her behalf, and with her blessing, as well as any other beers of which she might be persuaded to share her opinions.
Thanks Bree! Keep those reviews coming in from the big bad world!
Rose: Why do men chase women? Johnny: Well, there's a Bible story... God... God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. Now maybe men chase women to get the rib back. When God took the rib, he left a big hole there, where there used to be something. And the women have that. Now maybe, just maybe, a man isn't complete as a man without a woman. Rose: [frustrated] But why would a man need more than one woman? Johnny: I don't know. Maybe because he fears death. [Rose looks up, eyes wide, suspicions confirmed] Rose: That's it! That's the reason! Johnny: I don't know! Rose: No! That's it! Thank you! Thank you for answering my question!
What does this fantastic scene from Moonstruck have to do with running? Or beers? Or any damn thing?
Let me explain, or, as Inigo Montoya said, “no, there is too much, let me sum up.”
Men run because they fear death.
I should speak for myself here, and not my entire gender.
I don’t fear death. I recognize that it’s part of the circle of life. I saw the Lion King. You have to have someone die before they can hold the new cub up and sing “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba!” (actual Zulu lyrics, I looked them up) and so on. I get all that.
What I fear, instead, is a gradual, slow death, incapacitated by inactivity, lifeless, slumped over in a chair or a bed in some assisted living center, awake but not really awake. Overweight, and achey, and struggling to haul my big old ass up off the couch or up a flight of steps. I’ve seen too many other old folks go out that way.
I run because it restores a sense of vitality to my life. I run because it’s a way to remind myself that despite my advancing years, I can stare mortality in the face, let the Reaper know that even though he will eventually catch me, that I’m laced up and ready to make him WORK to catch me.
So, having said that, let’s take a foot tour through one of the many fine neighborhoods in my town.
Wednesdays are run club nights – my run club runs a (mostly) closed-to-traffic stretch of trails and city sidewalks marked off and known as the Creekwalk each Wednesday after work. The full route is 5.5 miles, though some of it was closed for construction. I modified the route today to shorten it up to a 5k (3.1 mile) route, as I have a marathon in a few days and didn’t want to overextend myself. This is a nice meandering path around a few different parts of downtown Syracuse, including a loop around our interactive museum, the MOST.
Of the 26 minutes I was running, I had about a ten minute stretch to start where the sky was dry, though gradually “purpling,” and then a 15 minute downpour, followed by (of course) a let up just as my run ended. Because that’s how these things go. Likely, my pace picked up due to the heavy rain, as I was inclined to get my miles in and move on to the second portion of my trifecta.
Historically, the run club has started and ended our Wednesday runs at a cafe, chosen primarily due to its proximity to the Creekwalk and ample parking.
While pleasant in a general sense, and containing some outdoor seating, I don’t need coffee at 5:30 PM. That’s a late hour for caffeine. I generally have something more refreshing in mind that late in the day, especially after a 30 minute run.
So, wouldn’t we be a happy-as-heck run club to find out that a brand new pub/tavern was opening up right along our route?
The Preserve opened its doors officially earlier this month. Our run club prez made arrangements with the place so they would set aside a table for us.
This place is really very pleasant and upscale. I ran first and then headed in for a beer, and immediately felt like Rodney Dangerfield’s character from Caddyshack.
Cloth napkins? Faux fireplaces? People wearing pants? I felt like some kind of fancy person. Come on now.
They had a long, comfortable looking bar — so populated with people that I had to elbow my way in to look at the taps.
The bartender was pleasant in both appearance and disposition and she did that thing that girls do that makes me crazy. She poured me a beer. I love her!
I had two beers today, the first of which was a nice, if not particularly memorable, IPA. The second beer, however, was a revelation.
This bad boy, right here, the Good Nature Brewing American Brown Ale.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am long partial to the brown ales. The first post that I wrote for this blog, in fact, was a review of another brown ale.
Today’s beer was brought to me (via the Reserve) from the Good Nature Brewing Company, based out of nearby Hamilton, New York. Their American Brown Ale (6.2% ABV, IBU 47) is described on the brewer’s web site, ITBMCBB*, as “rich with prominent chocolate & toffee notes. Dark & robust but smooth.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This thing had all kinds of depth of flavor. I’m partial to most craft beers’ version of a brown ale, but this was hands down the best of all that I have had. Sweet, and rich, and wonderful.
Perhaps I don’t have a sophisticated palette. If you challenged me to find the notes, or hints, in this beer, I’d just look at you like you were growing extra heads, or make a joke about your mama’s mouth feel, or some other dumbass snarky wisecrack.
This is where I grow frustrated by my own lack of innate poetic talent. (Yes, I do understand that prose, by definition, is a style of writing devoid of poetic flair, and that this is barleyprose.com, and, yet, I still strive to be more of a wordsmith here in this space, hence my desire to blog in the first place).
I’m going to work on a random beer superlatives phrase generator, that will pull from a few different sets of phrases to auto-magically build me poetic and beautiful descriptions of all the delicious beers I’m enjoying these days. So, for now, imagine that the blanks are replaced by words and phrases suggested in parentheses. Use technology to accomplish what my tired weeknight brain can’t do on its own.
“This beer tastes like what it would taste like if a _________ (real life occupation) made love to a _________ (creature from any ancient society’s mythology or folklore) in the middle of a ________ (uncommon vehicle or domicile), and then together raised a baby with their shared feelings of ________ (semi-appropriate emotion), and, finally, that baby cried _________ (positive adjective) tears of __________ (cold liquid) into a pint glass.”
This idea has real potential!
Until that tool is ready, go out and visit the Preserve, if you’re in town, or head out to Hamilton and grab a nut (brown ale!).
When you see a can of Other Half in the wild, you buy it, and drink it.
Other Half Brewing, if you don’t know, is a very highly regarded brewery in Brooklyn, New York. They make a lot of beers, though they’re primarily known for their IPAs, and many of them are of the hazy New England style. These leads to lines, and hype, and all that jazz. I’ve been twice myself, both times just to drink in the tap room. The second time I did manage to purchase available cans, but they were ‘just’ a Kolsch, because those just don’t go as fast, despite it being an amazing beer.
So barring that odd adventure out to Brooklyn, I don’t get to drink these IPAs that often. They don’t distribute cans as far as I know, so it’s always odd when you stumble across a fresh can of Double Dry Hopped Space Diamonds in a store, as I did this past weekend. The ethics of this are questionable. The beer I purchased obviously isn’t funneled through the normal ways alcohol is distributed in New York, despite being only a dozen or so miles from Brooklyn. Other Half probably doesn’t know the beer is there, they have no idea who it is that’s selling it, what condition they’re keeping it in, and if it’s properly representing the brewery the way they wanted it to. This beer wasn’t in cold storage somewhere, it was out on the counter by the cash register by itself, not even as part of the typical 4-pack. Someone probably went down to Other Half, waiting in line, bought as much beer as they could, and brought it back to sell.
The beer was priced at roughly twice what it actually would’ve cost at the brewery. I purchased it. This isn’t the first time I’ve bought a single like this that I suspected wasn’t on the up and up, but for me, the drinker, this is my only chance to actually taste that beer, barring trading for it on the secondary market which in many ways is the same thing. Having purchased it merely 16 miles from the brewery versus someone possibly packing and mailing it across the country, in the summer, in a warm truck, for a beer trade is almost definitely fairer to the beer.
It’s an interesting catch-22. I understand breweries like Other Half having a desire to control their distribution as much as they can, trying to insure that the beer is as close to the way the brewer intended when it reaches the drinker, something that’s a huge concern across the industry. While this obviously subverts that process, it’s also not putting their beer into someone’s unsuspecting hands. Very few people are going to pay that second-hand mark-up without an understanding that there is no guarantee it didn’t sit in a hot trunk all day before being transported to Long Island.
So did the Double Dry Hopped Space Diamonds by Other Half hold up? Is it as the brewer intended? I like to think so. I haven’t had this one at the brewery, but it tasted the way I would expect it to taste, matching similar beers I’ve had there, matching the tasting notes others have made. In short, yes, it was delicious.
The aroma trended orange. Oranges and mangos were what hit me first, particularly the riper, or danker, part of that spectrum. Like if you turned that orange or mango over and found it soft on the other side.
The taste matched, for the most part. Very boozy with some of that hop burn that’s typical of strong NE IPAs. I know you’re supposed to taste pineapple with these galaxy beers, but I think it’s a stronger flavor than that. Like a tart mango or something tropical. There’s a lot of spicy/phenol flavors going on too. Plenty of layered flavor making this a delicious concoction that I downed faster than I should’ve.
It’s very New England obviously. The mouthfeel is soft and the ‘juice’ is everywhere, on the nose, on the palate, on the trip down your throat. You won’t mistake this one for a V8 with vodka though, it was a beer full of hops strongly expressing fruit flavor and aroma.
This is the first in what I expect to be a series of posts with a common motif.
That theme is to write about two things that are dear to me. One of them, you might have guessed, is beer.
The other is a pursuit of mine that I feel goes hand in hand with beer, and, in the circles in which I travel, I think I’d be able to find a number of fine, sweaty folks who agree with me (no, the perspiring people I am referring to are not mob trial witnesses).
That second thing that is dear to me? Running.
However, let’s not jump to any rash conclusions. Not everyone who runs drinks beers. Delicious, craft beers, with fruit flavors and subtle hints of things. And, similarly, not everyone who drinks is a runner. In fact, I know plenty of thirsty Americans who don’t run farther than their own basement fridges.
But, and here’s the thing, if you Venn diagram’d this sumbitch, well, you’d find quite the nice intersection of runners and beer drinkers.
Why do you think this is?
The concept of this post, and likely subsequent ones, is to lay out a course and cover it at a brisk pace, near a local watering hole, and then follow said run with a cold brewski. In other words, the “run,” the “relax,” and the “refresh.” In that order.
Since we ramped up this little slice of bloggery, I’ve been meaning to stop at WT Brews, in Baldwinsville, New York. Like the previously reviewed Buried Acorn, it’s a tap room, a place brewing a number of local beers that I’ve yet to try.
So prior to driving over there, plotted out a very nice 3+ mile course that would start and end right at the brewery. And I ran it.
This course actually ran by two different cemeteries, both on Tappan Street. It set me a wondering — how many people die in this little town? Perhaps I should have altered the route to go past a third cemetery, on the basis of “good things come in threes” and “deaths come in threes,” either of which would be a suitable pattern to sustain.
It was, in other respects, a delightful, if not a bit warm, typical weekday run for me. Most nights, after work, I try to get a 30 minute or so workout in at a pace that is comfortable but not taxing, and at the same time work up a good sweat. This route surely qualified.
The run was followed by a pop in to the aforementioned WT Brews. Forgive my piss poor photo taking skills here, but I was goofy with sweat and weakness and a lack of hoppy delights.
This tap room boasts both a number of in house products, as well as several guest taps.
This is a really enjoyable little place, hitting on a number of details that make it a sweet spot. Complimentary pretzels, a dart board, and the A/C cranked up on an 80+ degree day, to name a few.
Not to mention chairs with an abundance of assfeel.
Given my predilection for fruity, tart, not-so-beery tasting beers, I naturally went with the passion fruit gose.
I can’t tell you what their brewmaster might tell you about this beer — it’s so new, it’s not even mentioned on their list of beers on their web site (though they do identify 13 other home cooked products there).
What I can tell you, though, is that this gose comes in a close second to the Brown’s Brewing Guava Gose written up here as my all time favorite beer of this style. Tons of tartness and flavor. It has “hints of yumminess” in it!
I would come back and slurp down more of these, without question.
It ended up being quite the nice capper to a weekday jaunt. I shall be back, probably to sample their blonde ale and IPA, on subsequent visits.
“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
—Charles Bukowski, Women
(This post was written in the wee hours of Tuesday, September 11th, 2018).
Say what you will about Bukowski, but the man was a expert on the subject of drinking. An earnest examination of the reasons we drink are central to the thoughts I’m trying to get out of my brain in this particular writing. We drink to be social (or antisocial), to help us relax or to be gregarious or to be any other thing we’re not when we’re sober. We drink to get a little buzzed or even a little drunk, or maybe just because we love how whatever we’re drinking tastes. It seems we drink to change our current plight from whatever it is to something… else. Same for you?
I write about beer on the internet (thanks for having me, dudes!). But this is a piece about not drinking beer and the funny hole it can leave in the life of someone who is accustomed to drinking beer. And then finding a suitable reason to drink a beer anyway. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ There is a beer review at the end of this, I promise. But it’s likely that review will have little to do with this post. Or maybe it will, who knows.
My girlfriend and I love our neighborhood brewery (and a few nowhere near our neighborhood). The modern craft beer culture has given birth to a new varietal of community hubs, these great taprooms we all love. Talented people making delicious beer that doesn’t taste like the beer in the next city over. It’s uniquely local in taste and culture and style. Neighbors, with their kids and dogs in tow, all congregating on patios in the sunshine, talking about things going on in our lives and our communities or on the block where we live. Over a beer. In some ways and for some people, the craft beer taprooms are the new piazzas, a 21st century place of congregation for neighbors.
I could count on one hand (or maybe two) the reasons I should probably drink a little less than I currently do. But this particular self-imposed beer hiatus is purely vanity and gut-related. Six weeks to lose a few pounds and the two biggest things I figured I could cut to help my progress were beer (duh) and olive oil (for real!).
As I am a human and therefore flawed by design, I’ve not chosen a route of sobriety for these 6 weeks, but opted to substitute wine (and the occasional whiskey) for beer in the evenings, or with a meal. Carbs, man.
The first day was a Saturday that went like any other Saturday. But when the bright orange New Mexico sun started to wane, the brain’s default entertainment choice was to head to Bosque or La Cumbre or another one of our local favorite breweries for a tall, cold beer to extinguish the dying embers of the warm, late summer day.
But hold up, I’m not drinking beer.
What the shit am I supposed to do to entertain myself? Watching the Mets will only make me want to drink more. I am allowing myself wine, but how many craft beer taprooms near you serve wine? I don’t know either because I always have the beer.
I think we binge watched the new season of Ozark and a week went by. And when that week was up, like Bukowski, I had a beer to celebrate! To celebrate a week of not drinking beer! I’m currently drunk on irony.
Today is a day that again challenges one’s notion of “the why”. For a lot of my friends that I’ve met through our shared love of the the New York Mets – east coasters and New Yorkers mostly – September the 11th is truly not like any other day. The sadness of losing a family member or spouse or loved one is a guttural, haunting pain, but still somehow different than the hurt of thousands of your neighbors (and maybe friends and loved ones, too) being killed in an attack on the place you live. That morning of September 11th, 2001, I was on a Mets message board receiving news from a lot of those east coasters and New Yorkers I still communicate with today over all the same things we did back then – Mets baseball, politics and music, and yes, beer.
I lived in Long Beach, California in 2001 and call Albuquerque home now, so while I can lend my heart to any of those friends if they needed it, they touched an experience that day that I could never understand in the same way. Still, the gravity of the day makes me want to drink something, not to forget, but just to not feel everything quite so much. Or maybe to feel it all a little more, I’m not sure.
Today is also my father’s birthday. But before “9/11”, September the 11th was already a somber day for my dad, as his brother had died on his birthday. Can you imagine losing your brother on your birthday? And then years later, on your birthday, which is also the anniversary of your own brother’s death, fucking September 11th happens? As you’ll understand, my dad didn’t celebrate anything on his birthday and when he remarried, his new wife’s birthday was September the 9th, so he quietly shifted his back towards hers, and they’d celebrate both their birthdays together, a couple days before they each had to navigate their own sadness, I’m sure.
My dad died on February 27, 2015. That’s a sad day on its face for the obvious reasons. When the anniversary of that day comes, I remember where I was when I got the call that he had a stroke, I remember when we all met in San Antonio at the hospital to be with him, and I remember how I cried as we waited for him to leave this earth after his breathing tube was removed. His birthday should be something happier but it’s just not. There’s too much sadness in the nearest concentric circles of people in my life, but the sadness gets louder and heavier as the circles expand outward to people I don’t know and will never meet because of the pain of what this day represents. Happiness or conviviality is a feeling that just doesn’t fit with today, even if I’d desperately like to feel something like it.
So I wanted to celebrate something this evening. Or forget something. Or both, in my own peculiar way. Bukowski, where you at?
I type this now while drinking a red wine and trying to stay true to my stupid diet in a way that makes little sense, but my girlfriend and I did share a beer tonight. Like our neighbors at our favorite breweries, we congregated, talked about things in our lives that remind us that we’re, in fact, still alive, and we shared a moment over a beer as strange and unique as today is.
Warning: Actual beer review ahead.
In February, she went to Europe and somehow managed to bring a few unbroken bottles of beer back to America. I think one or two still remain, but tonight we cracked the Põhjala Virmalised, one of the finest IPAs in all of Estonia. Brendan Fraser approved, no doubt.
Reviewers online have things to say about it, like this:
“Samea, kuparin oranssi väri. Ei juuri vaahtoa. Tuoksussa raikas sitrus. Maku melko kepeä, raikas, vähän katkera.”
I cannot, with any integrity, say that I disagree.
We did drink it after the “best before” date of July 22, 2018, but today, for me, is about appreciating things that have expired anyway.
It was strangely sedimenty, a little bitter, a little floral and a little hoppy all at the same time. A bunch of components that might not work on their own, but they conspired to make this thing – an Estonia-made American IPA – a pretty good thing. Seek it out next time you’re, well, in Estonia.
We had one 12-ounce bottle. We shared it and raised a glass to my old man. And this strange little beer somehow fit in nicely on a day when nothing else seemed to.
Happy September 11th, everyone. Whatever happiness you can find, hold onto it. Maybe drink it up.
Note – at the time of this writing, the author, clean of beer and olive oil, has lost 4 pounds, but is questioning his sanity and his current dietary roadmap.
They say “good things come in threes.”
Three little pigs, for example.
We Bare Bears.
And so on.
The reality is, I think, that good things come in quantities of X, and that the human brain is preconditioned to notice a pattern upon the third of three related events or outcomes.
In other words, one is an accident, two is a coincidence, but three is a PATTERN.
Does that make sense?
Of course, they also say “deaths come in threes.” So, maybe, that means deaths are good things? That’s some grim business there, it is.
Where am I going with this? Let’s do some arithmetic, my fine readers.
Beer + lunch + beer = 3 things I stuffed in my face
So, that’s not a death. That’s a good thing.
And when you know a good thing, you circle back to it. We’ve been enamored of late with our newest local poutinery, the Hops Spot, on Walton Street in Syracuse.
Read my initial review here, and educate yourself on another fine triumverate, poutine! (Ingredients: cheese curds, fries, gravy).
We returned to the Hops Spot recently, and, despite the confirmed and re-confirmed greatness of the poutine, I decided to veer off to another part of the menu for my lunch and beer choices.
First, the warm up beer, a beautiful hazy sumbitch (read “sumbitch” in your best internal Jackie Gleason as Buford T. Justice voice).
This, my friends, is an Industrial Arts Wrench New England IPA, or NEIPA as they are sometimes abbreviated. I know from Ceetar’s instagram posts that he’s had at least one of these in his fridge.
This yummy thing, ITBMCBB*, is “A pithy explosion of aroma and flavor, beyond hazy, and loaded with Mosaic and Citra to the point of stickiness.” So, for the record, I did not spill any of it on myself, so I will not venture a guess beyond assuming it’s not any stickier than any other beer that isn’t congealing on Ceetar’s floor.
It is, however, tart and fruity and delightful. Much like the sours and goses I’ve been enjoying of late, it’s just got a nice bite to it.
Served in a 10 oz. glass, but with a 6.8% ABV, it’s got a decent amount of punch and I would partake of it again.
(I’ve decided, of late, that when having two beers and lunch all in one shot, to try and reach out into more of the 10 ounce portions, just because it makes for a long afternoon otherwise. Life strategy, courtesy of the Barley Prose).
And now, a hiatus, from the beer talk, to turn Barley Prose into Burger Prose. This is the Hops Spot’s Smokehouse Turkey Burger, served with bacon, provolone, aioli mayo and a side salad of mixed greens and grapeseed oil vinagrette dressing. You’ll note that the tiny red puply objects in the lower right of my tray, banished there due to their being disgusting and vulgar.
New glossary term alert! In the “Two Beers, One Lunch” theme, the two beers will be referred to as the ____ and the ____. Readers, please, I need input in the comments section on a good duo to use as aliases for these bookends.
Back to our review!
The second beer of the meal was the Carton Brewing Company East Coast Double IPA (7.8% ABV, 80 IBU).So, to my chagrin, a double IPA is not an IPA twice as large as a regular IPA. That would be the shit, were it so. But it ain’t.
What is a double IPA?
A double IPA, loyal reader, is an American style of beer where double the hops are used, and then additional malts are added to balance out the flavor.
And now you know!
This was my first double IPA, and, so, I was surprised that it was not hoppy in the way that a normal IPA is. Still delicious, but more of a balanced flavor, to be sure. Again, ITBMCBB*, this drink will take the imbiber on a journey, where they shall “find dank green resinous hops popping over orange, mango and papaya aromas, with just enough sweetness of body to make the long finish a pleasure to have around.”
Um, yep! Abso-damn-lutely! I know, from my own end, that’s more “barely prose” than “barley prose,” but that’s my style. I appreciate you’re continued reading, clicking, commenting and co-beveraging.
There’s more goodness still to come. The Hops Spot routinely has 40+ beers on tap, plus tons of other menu choices (though, to be honest, I yearned and still yearn for more of the classique poutine). We will be back.
Tasting and sharing JW Lees Harvest 2001, weed beer, German sessions and more
Many people save beer. Some people intentionally age things, with various degrees of care, to see how they’ll taste. Age is a factor on many beers, and while it’s generally a negative, some beers exhibit some interesting and tasty characteristics as they get old. It’s especially interesting to see how beers taste fresh versus aged, especially yearly releases that you can compare glass to glass at the same time. Doing a vertical tasting of vintages is a great experience.
I sometimes will save a bottle or two intentionally, but most of the time it’s because I bought something that can keep, and always seem to have beer on hand that needs to be tasted fresh. I’ve got bottles in my basement that I’ve told myself “I’ll drink that this weekend” for years. The higher ABV of beers like this play in as well, as you’re not often to going to open a 22oz bomber of 12% beer to drink alone after dinner.
So you take advantage of the opportunity to open these bottles when you’re away for the weekend with a few friends. We all have young kids, so we kept it reasonable, choosing to try things rather than burn through imperial stout after imperial stout.
Plan Bee Kevbo
Farmhouse Ale with NY hops. This was really good. It was too hoppy for everyone else but I happily finished it off. Plan Bee makes amazing and beautiful beers and I need to get up to the Hudson Valley and visit them. Soon.
Smuttynose Rocky Road
Pastry stout. It was fine, enjoyable. Nothing particularly stood out. Faint whisps of marshmallow on the nose are fun though.
Dr. Fritz Briem Piwo Grodziski Grätzer Ale
Another one that didn’t quite hit the mark with everyone else, that I adored. It’s a sour smoked wheat ale. At 4% it’s a session ale and I really wish I had a dozen more.
Victory White Monkey
A Chardonnay barrel version of their Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel. I think I liked this one better, the flavors were calmer and more grapey.
New Belgium The Hemperor HPA
This was not good. I guess if you’re really into weed, and really enjoy that dank herbal aroma and taste, you might enjoy this, but not us. No. This is what I imagine bong water would taste like. It was an interesting try, and I’m definitely still interested in beers like this given the familiar relationship between hops and weed, in that they both belong to the Cannabinaceae family, but this beer was not drinkable.
Innis & Gunn Blood Red Sky
I don’t love regular Innis & Gunn, but this version with rum barrels and a Scottish red? Delicious. Lots of ripe red fruit and caramel sweetness. Candy apple almost, but less saccharine. Fun, though everyone else disagreed, so I took the last bottle home for myself.
JW Lees and Co Harvest Ale (2001)
Have you ever had a 17 year old beer? Try it. This was neat. Raisin syrup was my first thought, but that’s an understatement for the depth of flavors present in this beer. I don’t really drink sherry, but this was probably closer to a sherry than what you’d typically think of as beer. What a fun experience. I just randomly bought this bottle recently too, from a random beverage place. I also picked up a 2009, so stay tuned.
All in all, a fun weekend. I’ve got more though! When are we doing this again?
The decisions that lead us to determine what things we love in this life are (a lot them anyway) swimming in bias. A book recommended by a good friend, or reliably tasteful media source? Yeah, I’ll buy it because I trust. A new Wilco record that I know I’ll love before it’s even released? My own stupid (but correct!) bias.
But how do you taste and fairly evaluate a beer that many have asserted is the best beer in whole stupid world? How do you tell your brain to not lend any credence to the beer’s assumed greatness simply because of its world-class rep? Conversely, any beer that heralded is definitely not gonna live up to the hype, so how do you not dock points simply because it doesn’t taste otherworldly? What if it just tastes like a good beer?
These are the dilemmas that come with drinking the Trappist Westvleteren 12.
The Westy 12 had all the OG hype that you’d now find swirling around a beer like Pliny the Younger. Similar to that out-of-print record I don’t give a shit about until I learn it’s out-of-print, the Westy 12, a Belgian quad, is not available at your liquor store or mine so that (artificially?) drives the demand. It’s made by Trappist monks at the Saint Sixtus Abbey in, you guessed it, (West) Vleteren, Belgium. This is not a beer that gets pumped out to anything resembling mass production. They make enough to keep the monastery open and running and that’s it. You have to get it in person, or pay a criminal amount online ($150 + shipping for a 6-pack anyone?) and then hope it all shows up in one piece. You also have to hope what you find online is not fake Westy like reported here or maybe here. It’s less shopping for beer and more like collecting rare stamps.
I didn’t have to drop a bunch of Bitcoin buying bottles on the dark web or take out a second on the house to put a few in the fridge. I got mine from my little brother who was living in Germany while working for the US Air Force. He’d successfully mailed two bottles my way in 2016, and when he and the wife and fam moved home to the US this year, they brought a few more back with them (at about €20 for a 6-pack at the Abbey, btw). Fortunately, a couple of those bottles found their way to my home.
You wanna talk hype? Dig this bottle. Paired with the proper Westy glassware, it looks like something the grail knights from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade should be protecting.
No label. Just a dark, chocolate-colored bottle with “TRAPPISTEN BIER” worked into the neck of the glass.
The cap is gold, features the logo, identifies the beer as 10.2% and lists a stamped-on “best before” date. The Westy I’m about to drink was bottled on 27 Oct, 2016 and is “best before” the same date, 2019. Today will do just fine.
Descriptions of the beer online read like letters to the editor in the back pages of Thanksgiving Food Porn magazine (which probably exists). A sampling:
“Aroma of fresh bread, raisins, hints of clove and allspice.”
“…flavors of brown sugar, dates, figs, caramel, chocolate, and spice.”
“Rich aroma with dark fruit, nutty malts, mild caramel/toffee, light Belgian yeast and a light herbal spice.”
Makes you wanna #GravyBoatAndChill no?
The internet and the hype machine have informed me that this beer is wonderful and I love it. If I’d paid $150 for a 6-pack, I’d likely force my brain to only accept that it was great, maybe for no other reason than to justify the financial drop.
A quick aside – I once had a chance to drink Pliny the Younger. I was in San Diego county and a friend who worked at a brewery told me a place in town had a keg. We called and they confirmed they did have it. $14 for a 6-ounce pour, and there was already a 45-minute line out the door. How do you properly appreciate that? How do you not make up your mind that it’s the best thing ever, or it’s totally overblown?
Back to the present. This Westy poured beautifully and looks like a thing you want to brag to all your friends about (me, right now). Without going full beer-nerd, I fully back the deep fruit notes described by the thanksgiving food porn guys. And while a decent comp, in my opinion, is the St. Bernardus 12, this particular Westy 12 is way boozier. Hype or no, this beer, with all its dark, bursting fruit is phenomenal. A richer, fuller-bodied beer would be hard to find on any continent.
If you’ve got a trip to Belgium coming up, then definitely go to this place (duh). If it tastes this good in my living room, I can only imagine how much better it would be in the monastery with all the vibes set to “Optimal”. If Belgium’s not in the immediate future, but you can find the beer and the price is whatever “fair” is to you, then I still highly recommend it. Otherwise, get that St. Bernardus 12 at the liquor store and enjoy a different delicious beer instead.
One final note – It’s advisable to not search electronic bay dot com for rare and/or out-of print vinyl after drinking rare and/or out-of-print 10% beers. Your Chase card (and maybe your significant other) will likely hate you for it.
I mean, just because no one else has a thing, does it make that thing any better?
There two kinds of people in the world. There are those who eat poutine, and those who do not.
(Author’s note: there are actually several other kinds of people in the world.)
What’s poutine, you say? I’ll pretend you’re asking me that, semi-imaginary reader, strictly for purposes of moving this write up along, and not out of ignorance.
Poutine is a dish of french fries, mixed with cheese curds (known in some parts as “squeaky cheese”), and then topped with gravy. The same kind of gravy you’d normally be ladling over stuffing and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, that is to say.
It looks like this, in its simplest and most delightful form.
Now, you might think that a person would have to travel to the great white north, AKA Canada (sometimes affectionately known as “America’s Hat” or “America Jr.”) to find a proper plate of poutine.
But if you thought that, you’d be wrong, and, possibly, oblivious. I can forgive you. Let’s not let it ruin this fantastic thing that we have going here.
No, the dish of poutine pictured above was served up right here in one of Syracuse’s newest eateries, The HopsSpot.
I visited this place with a few buddies recently and had me a big ol plate of poutine. I washed it down with a couple of delightful beers from their excellent beer list, in another installment of my running “two beers, one lunch” motif.
The beer list can be found on their web site and when dining there in person, on paper menus (they run 4+ pages long), with over 40 choices of draft and can/bottle beer to choose from.
I started my day with a Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale.
Those who’ve read this blog before will know that I have a penchant for a brown ale. They speak to me, in fact, I can think of very few brown ales that I have not enjoyed.
There’s something comforting about them, smooth and inviting, like wearing my granddad’s sweater. Except, in this case, I’m stuffing that sweater into a pint glass and then wrapping it around some poutine that’s landed in my gut.
This particular brown ale (6.5% ABV, 29.5 IBU) is particularly tasty. The web site doesn’t provide the usual floral descriptions, or mention hints of any particular flavors, so I will describe it as being the resultant product of a love affair between a Canadian lumberjack and an Egyptian belly dancer, sprinkled liberally with pixie dust and magic brown slurpiness.
I moved on from the Dog to an IPA, this time going with the Troegs Independent Perpetual IPA (7.5% ABV, 85 IBU). I do pick my drinks out often based on the “maximum punch” process, preferring higher ABV choices to lower ones and 16 oz. servings to the 10 oz “specialty” sizes. So this bad boy fit the bill on both counts.
This IPA, ITBMCBB*, “emerges rife with sticky citrus rind, pine balm and tropical fruit.” Now, pine balm would be a hard flavor to identify on my best days. I have pine trees growing behind my house, though I’ve never balmed them or sought balm from them.
Nor can I claim to taste tropical fruit, or sticky citrus rind.
That doesn’t mean that it’s not still a fine, fine choice. It’s hoppy, sure, but in a fun, delightful way, like when the neighbor’s kid gets too many pixie sticks in him and starts hopping up and down the street like he’s on a pogo. You don’t care, it’s someone else’s child, let him get all hopped up.
The Hops Spot has a menu full of good looking choices – burgers, salads, and several other varieties of poutine, all of which I hope to sample in the upcoming weeks and months. Not to mention another 38 or so beers, most of which are new to me (though I was pleased to see them carrying choices from the Buried Acorn on their list, among others).
For those not local to Syracuse, go out and find yourself some equivalent poutinerie (yes, that’s a real word, it’s on the Hops Spot web site after all) and dig in to this northern delicacy.