Father’s Day Is The Best Drinking Holiday

Father’s Day is the best drinking holiday. At least for fathers of a certain age, meaning me.

 

New Years is a waste. It’s at the end of the holiday season and I know I’m often burnt out of overdoing it. Were you not drinking heavy stouts all month? Were you not gorging on Christmas cookies? Maybe you’re doing the end of the year wrong. Sure, I’ll have some champagne, enjoy a beer or two, but my heart’s not in it. 

 

St. Patrick’s Day is just culturally weird, and it’s also not a day off. It’s often in the middle of the week. I love Irish Soda Bread, and enjoy a good Guinness, but this is just not a good showcase for a drinking holiday.

 

The various summer holidays have a lot to say for them. You get together with friends and/or family, don’t really have a ton going on otherwise in terms of buying presents or decorating trees, and you’ve often got lawn games and pools and fireworks and a grill. Having a few beers while standing at a BBQ grill and haphazardly flipping burgers is a lot of fun, and I’m definitely looking to make up for all the missed ones from last year.  I even wrote about this recently, about how nice it can be having a summer weekend of drinking and friends and family.

July fourth isn’t much different than any other summer birthday or gathering though. There’s a lot of delicious summer beers out there nowadays, that’s super fun to have in the pool, under the trees, while playing cornhole, or whatever your favorite summer activity is, but it’s not quite a holiday really. It’s more of a summer mood, a summer aesthetic. You’re either driving somewhere, or you’ve got hosting duties that require a little more alertness and time.

I did the day before Thanksgiving thing when I was in my 20s, back when you were still kind of reunited with people from high school home for the holidays. Before Kids. That was fine, though truthfully it wasn’t much different than any other night out, except you’ve got all the amateurs and all those people from high school that maybe you don’t normally talk to for a reason.  Our go-to was Croxley’s Ale House on Long Island, home of (then) 10cent wing specials on Wednesdays that for some reason they didn’t waive on those Wednesdays. They also easily had the best craft beer menu on Long Island,I learned so much about what beers I like from Croxley’s.  We’d get there before the drunk rush, have some of the best wings you can get outside of Buffalo, and enjoy a few beers from the comfort of a seat before milling around in the bar area. Seated drinking is so underrated. 

 

So that brings us to Father’s Day. Generally, a stereotypical Father’s Day is about leisure and relaxing. Even if you’re a maniac like me who decided he wanted to make Baked Ziti, sfogliatelle, black russian sourdough bread, semolina italian bread, and tiramisu, a lot of the day is often just lounging around in an easy chair with a beer in your hand. 

 

As an aside, I ABSOLUTELY made that tiramisu with Alementary’s Arecibo, a coffee beer, instead of coffee and Kahlua. It was amazing.

a shot of tiramisu, dusted with cocoa and chocolate, and a tupperware container of homemade sfogliatelle pastries, sitting on a picnic table

I drank a lot of beer yesterday. My mother actually brought me a few 4-packs from Barrier Brewing on Long Island, an excellent brewery. I tried two of their Deadly Combination series, an IPA series with rotating hops. Motueka + Citra, and Idaho7 + Citra. Good beers, but not as good as Our Sour #12: Lupulin Lollies. 

 

Lupulin Lollies is a DDH Kettle Sour IPA with a hint of lactose. I loved this beer. It had a lot of sour fruit notes up front, that refreshing summer bite that’s so perfect in hot weather, but it faded to a normal IPA type bitterness and hoppiness. The lactose seemed to give it some balance. I need to try this one again alone, and really focus on it. I’m looking forward to doing that with the next three.

 

I drank a few other things too, with less and less focus on them. We had the little inflatable kids pool up, and I had my feet in that a lot, when I wasn’t just reclining in one of the outdoor chairs, munching on various snacks. I finished the day sipping on my own MAD Brewery Brown Ale, of which I have yet to name. Featured on a recent Mets On Tap episode, it’s just a fine, plain, brown ale. 

 

I didn’t have to go anywhere. I didn’t really HAVE to do anything. Except drink, and drink I did. It should be Father’s Day every day. 

 

 Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s probably sitting in his backyard with a beer, on his new patio, watching the birds.  You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

Drinking Outside The Box

Hey! It’s a beer post by a human being who’s not Ceetar!

Like many modern beer drinkers, I tend toward IPAs. But my wife and I decided to check out the new German-style Faircraft Brauhaus yesterday on the way to our weekly pub quiz night. Faircraft opened last year doing just to-go crowler and growler sales of their darker lagers and ales, and over the past few months, they’ve expanded into a full-scale operation, and we came away extremely impressed!

The menu is simple — some wursts, spaetzles, and whatnot — but was really fantastic. Even the pretzel & mustard combo, which is usually comically oversized, is a perfect side dish or appetizer. At a first glance, they’re mostly small plates, good for a snack, but we had the sausage plate, which came with half a loaf of sourdough and a scoop of the most incredible obatzda cheese spread you’ve ever had. We did *not* leave hungry.

a plate with sausage slices, cheese, and bread, next to a plate with a large pretzel, with a flight of four dark beers behind them
The sausage plate, “bretzel,” and a flight at the Brauhaus.

Nor did we leave thirsty, of course! They specialize in darker beers, so we went all in. From left to right in the photo above: Spinning Gold, a clean, easy-drinking Helles lager that my wife was bored by but I thought was good; Lucy’s Local, a Rye IPA that was heavy on the rye and light on the hops; Raven’s Ring, a fantastic Schwarzbier, and Low & Slow, their smoked porter.

Not pictured is the Bricklebock, a traditional single bock that I thought was the best of the bunch.

Faircraft is perfectly positioned in downtown Fairport in the former American Can Factory, just steps from the Erie Canal, with plenty of parking and a huge outdoor patio that will get a TON of use once the weather cooperates. They’ve got a ton of space inside as well, including a grand piano, so I’d anticipate some music nights there too. Really looking forward to seeing them continue to grow.

The five businesses in the Can Factory building — Faircraft, Compane Trattoria, Smokin Hot Chicks BBQ, Iron Smoke Distillery, and Triphammer Bierworks — make that whole space a real destination for us!

Beer Flavored Stuff, BLEH!

Beer flavored packaged food items are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Especially as we approach the Super Bowl, but in general ‘beer’ is being used as an adjective more and more, and I’m the sucker that always falls for it. Sometimes they even say ‘craft beer’, like these pretzels that I did end up enjoying. 

 

Enjoying a product, and it being a ‘beer’ product are two different things though. Take Lays Beer Cheese Kettle Chips that I bought recently. All those words are good! Beer, Cheese, Kettle, Chip! How could it not be good mashed together? 

Well, they are. But it’s mostly cheese and crunch. You get some gooey cheddar flavor, the crunch of the kettle chip, and maybe just a hint of malt and hops on the back end there? Or perhaps that’s just more cheese.  But that’s not unique to anything, and they’re not particularly beer flavored. They’re just cheesy potatoes, which are awesome. They’re good chips, but there are a lot of good chips, that’s not why I bought them.

I want to be pounded with the beer flavor. I want chips absolutely drenched in rich brown ale flavor. I want a chocolate bar that’s half porter. Gimme a salad dressing that’s been steeped with actual hop cones. 

 

Overall, Lays Beer Cheese Kettle Chips? Pretty good! Just not really a beer snack. Just take a look at the ingredients. Halfway down you get Beer Solids, Barley, corn syrup, hops and yeast. No specifics. 

Next up? These naturally flavored Guinness chips. They proclaim ‘Guinness® Flavor’–We’ll see.

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?

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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. 

Two Beers, One Lunch: RIP Sears

Two beers, one lunch. It’s fast becoming a theme around these parts. Kilgore Stout has enjoyed many, and it’s my term to regale you with the tale of my meal.

My favorite spot to grab a pint when I need one for lunch during the week is The Dog and Cask in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. It’s located on route 17, directly across from what used to be a Sears warehouse, and is now a pile of rubble.  It is what you might describe as a gastropub, though I’m not sure we still use that term. It’s got pretty good food, generally in the standard American Grill form–burgers and fries and the like. Good appetizers. Not too many menu items, but ones that were well thought out.

This was a Sears warehouse

And of course, beer. The Dog & Cask pushes local New Jersey beer pretty heavily, something I appreciate as I’m located in the north part of the state, in a county that seemingly frowns on breweries opening.  Most of them are farther away than I typically get to, and it’s nice to be able to try some of these beers fresh and on tap.

My typical approach to the two beers, one lunch format is to order the first beer to drink and enjoy on its own, and then order a second to drink with the meal. I started with the Carton Brewing Mexican Coffee. This is a pro move and I can’t recommend you try it at home. Well, I CAN recommend you try it at _HOME_, but for a lunch hour where you want to be productive afterwards, starting with a 12% imperial cream stout is not recommended.

The beer is recommended though. Highly. The original form of this beer is Carton Regular Coffee, which is meant to mimic coffee with ‘milk and 2 sugars’. This is apparently a Jersey-ism, though one I’m not familiar with having moved here when I was 25. I drink my coffee black anyway. Mexican Coffee is that same style of beer, only with coffee syrup and aged in tequila barrels. This one’s more meant to mimic an after-dinner drink. Or, in my case, a pre-lunch drink. Oops.

It nails it though. It’s strong obviously, and two sips in my shoulders and neck are aching, which is something that happens to me occasionally. I take it as a gentle reminder that I’m tense and need to relax, and I take another sip. It’s got that creamy lactose taste, and mouthfeel, to it at first. Quiet notes of tequila and Kahlua, and they linger and build as I drink. It’s that first taste of tequila, the one you get before the burn. There’s no burn beyond the richness of the alcohol, it’s a sweet coffee taste. The coffee sticks around, like when you drink a good latte and it feels like the foam is sticking to all corners of your mouth and hitting every taste bud. It’s that sweet coffee taste that comes through on the nose, hint of tequila and Kahlua but mostly just delicious coffee and sweetness. By the time my burger arrives and I finish the beer as my fries cool, the tequila has really built up to a very noticeable level and I’m digging it. It has me thinking of sticky tables after a good dinner at a Mexican restaurant, with salt and margarita splashed all over the table.

The burger arrives. Did I mention I ordered a burger? I usually order a burger at this joint, as they’re pretty delicious. This one is the Burning Love Burger, fried onions, jalapenos, guacamole, etc. It probably would’ve gone well with the Mexican Coffee, but to pair with it I go with a pretty standard NE IPA from Bolero Snort called Seeing Doubull. All their beers are cow puns, which is awesome.  The burger is, as I alluded to, excellent. It’s juicy and got all that crunch from the onions, and the jalapenos give a little flavor to cut through all the fat. The fries are well salted, which would’ve gone well with the tequila from the first beer, but that’s gone, deliciously warming my stomach with alcohol.

Burning Love Burger w/ Bolero Snort Doubull

The Seeing Doubull goes well, as the hop burn and crisp flavor cuts into the burger flavors in a pleasant way. It’s using a newer hop variety called Strata. I get all sorts of tropical notes, particularly pink grapefruit. It’s very drinkable, soft mouthfeel and all, and I continue to enjoy it after I finish the burger and still have a few ounces left.

I finish my beer, tip my server/bartender, and drive back to work to sit at a desk until five before I can enjoy a nightcap and some pizza at home. At least it’s Friday.

Two Beers, One Lunch: Back to the Hops Spot, Again, Some More

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a “Two Beers, One Lunch” post, and there’s actually a good reason for that.

In December of 2018 I changed employers.  My new job is located further from the downtown eateries, and, also, because I am newer and still learning, it’s a tougher situation to drink two beers and then go back for an afternoon at work without risk being branded as “unprofessional.”  Or “a big lush.”

But this past week, after taking my first turn in an on call rotation, I had accumulated enough hours worked to be able to take a half day on Friday, which meant lunch out followed by a trip home to nap.

This meant a prime opportunity to return to the Hops Spot.

You may recall, dear reader, my previous trips to the Hops Spot, saved for posterity here, and then also here, and finally, also here!

Yes, there’s a pattern.  This is my preferred spot to go grab some delicious grub while also having a couple of brews.  I’ve yet to have a bad meal there, and they routinely keep a list of 40+ beers on tap from all over the northeast U.S. of A.

This meal started out with the Fat Orange Cat Brew “All Cats are Gray in the Dark” white stout.  This is a brewing company based out of East Hampton, CT, and they make a fine ass beer right here.

Pictured in the background, in blur, is one of my regular two companions, whom I will refer to as “the Imbiber.”

Yes, you read that right. Stout.

 

I’ve never had a white stout before, but having recently enjoyed a black lager, and after a ringing endorsement of this drink by our server (who swore that if you drank it with your eyes closed you’d never know it wasn’t a dark beer in color), I took the plunge.

Magnificent!

Hints of coffee, chocolate and vanilla, as per the menu, and I could say that I wasn’t really feeling the vanilla, but I was all about the coffee and chocolate flavors here.  My other companion, “the Sampler,” used the word “witchcraft” to describe this concoction, light in color but dark in taste, and I agreed that that was the best way to describe it. You could legitimately close your eyes and imagine it going down as a dark, rich stout.

The meal?  Well, after a number of visits enjoying the classique poutine, this trip I went with the very Indian flavored Chicken Tikka Masala poutine.

This is some shit right here!

 

Made up of fries, chicken tikka masala (Indian spiced) curry style gravy, chicken, cheese curds and fresh cilantro, it scratched me right where I itch. No, not the butthole. What I mean by that is, no one else in my family enjoys Indian food. Therefore, I look for opportunities to indulge in that style of cooking where I can.

Next up, beer number two, and I went with the full pint here.  Because I had the afternoon off and was headed right to bed after this, I figured, why not?

This second beer was the Stoneyard Progressive Adult v1 sour farmhouse IPA.

Big and sour and magical, and featuring “the Sampler” in the background

 

This was another winner! The sour, ITBMCBB*, is described officially as a “juicy, sweet/tart IPA. Brewed with lactose, oats, natural peach and orange flavors, lots and lots of Citra hops, lactic acid. Mmmmmmm.”

I agree with each of these things! Noticed the peach flavor specifically, but honestly, it was just a refreshingly tart and tasty sour beer. I’d buy another one of these, for sure.

So, let’s review. What have we learned here today?

1. This blogger keeps going back to the Hops Spot to try new menu items and also pick fresh choices from an always changing selection of delicious beers!

2. This blogger has two companions, “the Imbiber” and “the Sampler,” who make for pleasant company and co-enjoyment of beers and poutine.

3. I’m just dreaming about Indian food while eating American fare with my family.

4. Sours and stouts are great! (OK, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you knew that already)

 

Beer Food: Craft Beer Candy I Love Brew Barrels

Tasting these Craft Beer Candy I Love Brew Barrels

photo by CeetarMalt. I’ve had candies and flavors before that bill themselves as ‘malt’ and this is basically that flavor, though a lot more toned down than a lot of those more old-timey candies. It’s got that grainy sweetness to it. Earthy, a bit like root beer but with a little less bite to it. A mild caramel/sugar type flavor. It’s pleasant, but it’s mostly uninteresting.

I let this post marinate a few days, and now as I’m sucking on my third barrel I’m still underwhelmed. If you let a bit of it dissolve in your mouth a bit before swallowing to get a bigger taste, you get a little more of a warm caramel sauce flavor that you might find decorating a plate of ice cream sundae in an Applebees, but then it’s gone.

They’re not bad. They’re also from Target’s Valentine’s Day section which could mean you, reader who almost definitely is classified by your friends as a ‘beer lover’, could very well get them as a gift in the near future.