Beer Ice Cream in Brockport

Decided to take the team out for a team builder/happy hour, and to do that, what’s better than a darts tournament? We discovered a relatively new brewery/winery in town, just south of the Brockport campus: RG Brewery and Five Sons Winery.

The setting was fantastic; a small tasting room with a porch overlooking a large yard. (Hard to set the outdoor scene, as we were in the middle of a snowstorm at the time. Also, bonus: we were greeted at the door by a couple of friendly dogs.) The tasting room has a back door, which leads through the kitchen into the production facility, which features a wall of dartboards and made for a nice relaxed office outing.

The list of beers is small, but complete and varied enough; I tried their Dragon’s Breath Stout, which had a little more heat than I like in my beer. I’ve tried a few “hot” beers now, and as much as I like my food spicy, I don’t want that stuff in my drinks.

Their Hopperhead IPA and All America DIPA however, were much better. The Hopperhead actually had a little more bite than I expected – it’s listed at 125 IBUs.  The All America a little less, and it was definitely smoother.

Food is available as well. They have what can really be described as typical pub fare; burgers and quesadillas and whatnot, all fresh-made in their small kitchen in the back.

But what caught my eye was their ice cream! They use their own wine and beer to make fresh ice cream. And yes, it was snowing, but there was no way I was passing this up.

four single-serving cups of ice cream on a "beer flight" board
Beer ice cream from RG Brewery/Five Sons Winery

I tried a flight of four: the Scotch ale, an Apple Pie torte (which I believe was one of their wine offerings), a porter, and the Hopperhead. As anticipated, the apple one was the most traditional flavor. The porter didn’t seem to have much kick at all, and the bitterness of the Hopperhead overpowered any sweetness in the ice cream. But the Scotch ale ice cream was outstanding. Just enough kick, just enough sweetness.

All in all, a solid visit from me. Worth making a special trip? Probably if the weather is nice, yes, to sit outside on the porch. Looks like they’ve got some events planned, including an oyster night and a chocolate pairing night, coming in the next few weeks, so I’d anticipate keeping an eye on their site for future things that might make it worth a special trip.

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Do You Even Crowler, Bro?

Until not that long ago, I would have assumed that if you mentioned a “crowler” in front of me, that you were just making up words.  I was not always the astute and seasoned blogger, admirer, criticizer and prose generating beer themed adult who sits here today.

I was just a boy, once.

Only the biggest bestest beers get to live in the Guinness glass

 

It turns out that a number of these new craft beer tasting/tap rooms are also willing to sell a beer to go. The standard size is the growler, a 64 oz. portion.

Now, sadly, I am the only one in my household who tends to lean back in the chair for a beer. Which means that a to go serving with the equivalent of four 16 oz. glasses of beer is just an awful lot for me to bring home.

As awesome as it is to have your own jug of beer. A jug!

I don’t own this but it’s nicer than most of the furniture in my house.

Well, this is where the crowler comes in.

The crowler is a 32 ounce serving of beer to go. This equates to two very tall, full pours into a 16 oz pint glass. My most prized piece of glassware, the Guinness glass, holds a bit more, making for a more comfortable drinking experience.

I am all about this! Two tall beers is a decent amount of drink, maybe it’s one with dinner and one later in the evening, or one while cooking and then the rest at the meal. It works either way.

This was the first crowler I ever purchased. It’s a rite of passage, for me, in a sense, in that it’s another step into a world of appreciation for the finer things. Like locally brewed and concocted beers and ales.

This crowler came courtesy of the fine folks at Full Boar Brewing in North Syracuse, New York. I have written about them before, in glowing phrases. They really do conjure up a great range of beers, from New England IPAs, to stouts and porters, American style pale ales, ambers, and so on.

This is their new “Imperial Cin,” an imperial oatmeal stout. This sucker clocks in at 10.7% ABV and 54 IBUs, and, IFBMCBB*, is “brewed with Cinnamon Sticks and Madagascar Vanilla Beans.” Fine choices, says I.

“Crowled” on December 21, in time for Festivus

I do drink a lot of stouts, so I figured I’d put on my researcher’s cap and determine what the difference is between a stout and an imperial stout. It turns out that in most modern cases, an imperial stout is just made in a fashion where the hops and malts are doubled or tripled during brewing, leading to higher alcohol content and more pronounced flavors.

This particular stout was delicious. I went in on a busy night just before Xmas and had a tiny sample of it to get a sense of the flavor, and then immediately decided to get a crowler to go.

This was, for me, my “gift wrapping” crowler, as I very deliberately knocked back two servings of it while wrapping all of the gifts that went under the tree for the family. A perfect mid-wrap quench, it was (they were).

Forgive the lateness of this post, our Xmas tree is now relegated to a big plastic bag due to January.

 

I will let the Prose-inator bring this one home. Happy crowlering, y’all!

“This beer tastes like what it would taste like if a

made love to a

in the middle of a

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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Happy New Beer!

A belated Happy New Year to the tens of people who loyally read the Barley Prose Blog and follow our various social media accounts!  And Happy New Year to my fellow BP blogger homies!  Grateful for you dudes (and our intrepid Instagram dudette who needs to post more, btw), and our friendship forged over our challenging an occasionally rewarding love of the stupid and beautiful New York Metropolitans Baseball Club™!  To bigger and brighter things for all of us in 2k19!

The festive period for me was a real slog.  A mixture of family, friends, too much food, lots of seasonal beverages, slothy days off of work, and slothy days ‘working’ while not accomplishing anything work-related at all.

The mundanity of those normal work days leads us to enjoy our everyday, go-to alcoholic bevvies the majority of the year, but hoard our rarities for occasions we deem ‘special’, a line of demarcation that likely means something different to all of us.

If I’d been saving any of my special bottles for a New York Mets championship, for example, I would likely die thirsty with those dusty-topped bottles sitting lonely and craving precious oxygen.  So while ‘the weekend’ may not be a special occasion necessarily, the capital N, capital Y New Year definitely is.  My girlfriend’s birthday is also December 31, so the reasons to celebrate uniquely and in a grand fashion were especially fertile.

We first cracked the out-of-production Trip in the Woods: Barrel Aged Narwhal (with currants!) by Sierra Nevada.  It’s a dark beer whose puckery profile (the tartiest stout I’ve ever tasted) did not taste like what the beer hinted at by its color. Enjoyable, but a bit summery with the slightly acidic currants.  But it’s the New Year and it’s beer, so it was still better than good.

Not my photo, but the holiday tie-in is perfectly apropos. (photo cred –> http://www.betterondraft.com/beer-reviews/sierra-nevada-trip-woods-narwhal-review)

We also had a bomber of the Double Sunshine Stout by Bosque Brewing from here in Albuquerque. An outrageously tasty golden stout powered by cacao nibs!  It’s as contradictory as Trip in the Woods, as the color in no way matches the flavor profile which made me grateful for 1) the risk taken by the brewers, and 2) a wonderful outcome that doesn’t always accompany a great risk.  

Sometimes overcoming fear and just taking the leap is rightly more important than the result for us thick-skulled humans, so it’s nice to celebrate both the risk and end result instead of searching for growth and value in a worthy, but ultimately unsuccessful chance taken. So good on ya, Bosque.

Enjoyable as both these beers were, we bought them at the liquor store a block away, the undisputed local champ, Jubilation Wine & Spirits.  But special occasions tend to call for that rarity that you can’t get at even the best liquor store, and that’s where our good friends and next-door neighbors came into play.  The sweet gift of booze!

Being the birthday/New Year double celebration as it were, our friends gifted us an incredibly rare, nearly 10-year old Scottish ale, which was peaking like 2000 Mike Piazza.  Behold the Traquair 2020. From the label:

“An ale brewed to celebrate the first decade of the 21st century and to be consumed before the end of the second decade. Traquair Brewery – tiny, historic, and rooted with deep traditions – is situated in Scotland’s oldest inhabited house.  Savour this authentic taste of Scotland.”

As stated, it was brewed in 2k10 and the bottle, in another corner of the label, encourages the drinker to “enjoy before 2020”.  Exceptional timing, I’d say.  

A single 10% ABV, 11.2-ounce bottle to share between the two of us.  The sticklers on Beer Advocate were a little bullish (4.18 out of 5 in 145 ratings), but the less refined and more forgiving crowd on Untappd liked it a bit more, with one asshole in particular raving:

“Dark fruits abound, fig, raisins, plums.”

Nice words, bro.  But his girlfriend liked the beer, too, and it was her birthday, so we’ll give him a pass for the lackluster review.

A beer from another continent, sitting patiently in a cooler for 8 full years, then sipped happily to celebrate the flipping of a calendar to a new year, and another trip around the sun for one birthday girl.  

Capital S, capital O, Special Occasion.

Enjoy all of yours.  And sometimes regular days are special ones, too.

~~~

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A Nocturnal Storm for the Longest Night

I’m not usually a dark beer drinker – I like my beer hoppy – but on The Longest Night for the winter solstice, well, you have to put old feelings aside and try something new.

A beer in a fluted glass sits on a coffee table in front of a lit Christmas tree
Nocturnal Storm, a vanilla porter from Rising Storm in Avon, NY

Rising Storm is a fantastic new brewery just off Exit 9 on Route 390 in Avon, NY. It’s a quick half hour ride from downtown Rochester, and only a few minutes from Mortalis, another new local place that’s quickly developing a rabid following.

The brainchild of Bill Blake and Jeff Reidl, fraternity brothers from our college days at Geneseo (although I’ve got a good eight or so years on them), Rising Storm simply brews good beer. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel; no crazy flavors, no gimmicks. Just a good variety of styles done right. (Their first NEIPA, called The What, earned my first 5 on Untappd.)

The rest of the Barley Prose team challenged me to blog a dark beer, though, so I figured this was the way to go. Nocturnal Storm is a vanilla porter that tastes pretty much exactly what I expected a vanilla porter to taste like: a little tinge of vanilla and coffee, but very smooth and very drinkable. I’ve downed an entire crowler this evening and I’ve enjoyed every sip. It’s only 5.8% ABV, so it’s not overwhelming either, but has enough kick to count.

Bill and Jeff are adding live music in the next couple of weeks, and they’ve worked hard to develop a strong local following. Keep an eye on this little place in Livingston County that’s going to make some noise in 2019. (Tell Sully or Doupe at the bar that Chris sent you.)

 

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“I’ll take a beer and some coins for the jukebox, please.”

As the sun fades this evening, I sit here drinking the remarkable winter edition Project Dank by La Cumbre while listening to the boygenius EP, a superb six-song collaboration by Julien Baker, Pheobe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.  The beer and EP pair surprisingly well, as they’re both phenomenal creations and neither are really a regular thing. The Dank is a rotating experiment, and even though the recipe changes with each release, the quality of each differing batch is as wonderfully reliable as any of the solo records released upon the world by the three women who comprise boygenius.  In short, excellent.

Kinda similar to La Cumbre’s gold-medal winning core lineup of beers, the aforementioned artists have pretty firmly established themselves in the indie circles of the music biz as solo powerhouses.  Baker’s Turn out the Lights was on the New York TimesBest Albums of 2017.   AV Club called Phoebe Bridger’s haunting Stranger in the Alps one of 2017’s best debut records, and Lucy Dacus’ Historian was only Paste magazine’s numero uno album of this whole year.  All these talented elements that stand so well on their own somehow swirled together magickally, and like a comet, we get boygenius (and Project Dank winter edition!) hurtling through our universe for this short, sublime window of time before the women all go back to gigging solo and we return to drinking La Cumbre’s flagship Elevated IPA.  No losers here, to be clear.  The staples are fantastic but the experiments can be rewarding in different ways, too.

On the wider topic of beer and music and how perfectly they go together…

I do very much like to drink an alcoholic beverage, be it beer, bourbon or wine (the Holy Trinity is really all there is for me), but I like the booze even more when there is great music to taste along with it. To that end, I’ve created “The Barley Prose Companion” playlist on Spotify for you to shuffle on your hi-fi while you enjoy that adult bevvy.  It varies from the overt (Tom T. Hall’s “I Like Beer”) to the subtle (Tom Waits’ perfect “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You”), where the hero is stuck with a last-call stout when the girl he’s been eyeing all night has snuck out of the bar at closing time.  Man, what a song.

While this playlist is still a work in progress, I invite you (yes, YOU!) to contribute.  It’s a collaborative playlist, so anyone can add anything they like (I will only delete the decidedly crappy additions). I’ve skipped some obvious choices (“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”) and some annoying ones (“Beer for My Horses” – adore Willie, but Toby Keith ruins anything).  Needless to say, I’m sure there are kegs full of wondrous drinking songs I haven’t yet added. If you’d like to, please do:

The Barley Prose Companion playlist on Spotify

Cheers, y’all.

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Winter Lager: The Unbearable Grossness of Being

Beat it, old man
Seasons change and so did I, you need not wonder why.

- The Guess Who, "No Time" (1969)

Living in the Northeastern United States, I am privileged to get a full on experience of all four seasons of the calendar. Unlike some other parts of our fair nation, which oscillate between “extreme summer” and “moderately extreme summer,” or “rainy” and “fuck off, so rainy,” we get clearly demarcated spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons here.

Sure, sure, I’m the first to admit, that in Syracuse, winter comes on stronger than a Bill Cosby date and lingers far longer into spring than I’d care for. This is a small price to pay, in my opinion, for a chance to live and enjoy the range of climate-related emotions.

It’s tough, for example, to find a place more scenic than upstate New York in autumn, when the colors are at the peak of change, and the foliage snaps in bright and forceful reds, oranges, and yellows.

Unless that critical eye is turned to the same place in January, after a fresh coat of pure white snow has blanketed the landscape, covering the world in serenity and beauty. It’s just like a postcard, I find myself telling others.

Spring, once it’s finished taking it’s sweet ass time arriving, is truly a time of rebirth, of newness, where we can rub the winter’s sleep out of our eyes, dust off our bikes from a winter of indoor-trainer/non-use, plant our gardens, and put the Eskimo layers away for a well deserved hiatus.

Summer? Well, summer takes me to the joys of my childhood, long days riding bikes in the neighborhood, swimming at the Rec Center pool, ice cream, baseball games. Laying out in the sun, eyes closed, on my desk and soaking up all of that vitamin D just there for the taking.

BUT WHAT ABOUT BEER?

Oh, for certain, every season brings its own delightful seasonal beers to be enjoyed. Like I needed another reason to look forward to summer or fall!

Well, not every season. I can’t really figure out if there’s such a thing as spring beers. I think we maybe should be drinking dandelion wine or just wringing out our mittens and hoping that something has fermented in them over the course of the winter. But aside from that, hell yeah! Seasonal beers!

Summer, to me, is the time to drink light, fruity beers, beers that go well with being outdoors and enjoying the warmest of days.

Fall? Well, that’s a good time for those delicious Oktoberfest lagers, brewed up for mid September and available for a good chunk of the autumn.

Winter is stout season, to me. Thick, high alcohol content, dark and delicious and filled with complex flavors.

However, there’s another trend I’ve noted in winter beers and from the title of this post I think you see where I’m going with this.

What the fuck is the deal with winter lagers?

More like what the moose left behind, am I right?

You’ll notice that over the course of this post, none of these beers are shown in my home, or in a pint glass, or a frosty mug, or, really, even unleashed from the bottles.  That is intentional.

When I started drinking beers a couple of years ago, with an eye for new flavors and textures, I sampled a number of winter ales, Christmas beers, and seasonal lagers.

 

 

Santa gives these to naughty adults

I noticed, very quickly, that they all share a common characteristic.

They are nasty.

I’m also not alone in thinking this.  I’ve heard these quotes offered up by Ceetar, my co-blogger here.

 

 

Oh, I know, pinecone flavored beer!

“There are times the Sly Fox feels like I’m eating a jar of allspice.”

” I’m not saying winter warmers necessarily taste like rotted pumpkins, but I’m not not saying it either.”

 

 

 

I personally will go one step further, and break out the all new negative prose-inator.

That’s right!  For the specific sole purpose of capturing the sheer grossness of drinking, in beer form, the first three random spices that fall out of my spice rack, I’ve come up with an all new random negative praise generator.  Let’s give it a spin, shall we?

“This beer tastes like the embodiment of the disappointment that I would imagine the parents of uber-celebrity

would feel if they knew that their child was consorting and cavorting with the likes of a totally unknown

instead of another celebrity of equal fame, value and prestige.”

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Beer Review: Great Lakes Brewing Nosferatu Imperial Red Ale

Why yes, I did win an age group award, and yes, I’d love to tell you about it

I think most people know in a very cursory fashion who Nosferatu is. I asked my 13 year old son, a voracious reader and fan of the genre, and he was familiar enough with the name to make the connection between Nosferatu and Dracula. I will admit, I didn’t know much more about the story than that either.

But the story, like this red ale, goes deeper than that.

Nosferatu was a film of the silent film era, released in 1922. It was a blatant knock off of the Bram Stoker “Dracula” novel, with character names changed in order to avoid copyright infringement (spoiler alert: it didn’t work, they got sued, and the movie production company never made another film due to the lawsuit).

But, also, Nosferatu was way uglier and creepier than Dracula. Like Harvey Weinstein, without the nice suits.

Handsome devil

Contrast that with Dracula, whom, thanks to cinematic portrayals, has often been given a cinematic luster of romance and sensuality. From Bela Lugosi, to Christopher Lee, to Gary Oldman, Dracula in films was meant to be a monster, but, also, simultaneously, a suave, debonair, neck licking Lothario.

Hell, I think even Count Chocula has that same reputation in the cartoon world.

Admit it, you’re aroused

And don’t tell me that Count von Count (that’s his real name!  I checked) from Sesame Street isn’t smashing copious amounts of puppet on his own time.

Aroused by felt. Barely even weird

But I digress.

Back to the red ale.

The Great Lakes Brewery web site has all kinds of great information on this beer at their web site, as well as their other fine products.

Here are some of the pertinent details, I’ll let them do the talking.

I’m not new to beer drinking (I had my first beer in 1987) but I am new to beer blogging, and new to looking at my beers with a more critical eye. I’ve knocked back my share of red ales over the years, too, without giving much thought to what makes them red.

Going in to this post, I was like 87% sure that it’s not blood (though a Nosferatu beer isn’t helping tilt that number in the right direction).

So, let’s learn something today, kids! (Author’s note: Kids should not drink beer).

According to the very authoritative sounding Craft Beer Club web site, red ales are red due to “specialty roasted malts that create a unique complexity within the finished beer and gives it a sweeter, butterscotch or caramelized flavor. The use of American hops varieties gives the brew very bold hops characteristics and tends to leave a dry finish.”

In other words, not blood.

<sigh of sweet relief mixed with notes of disappointment>

The long and short of it is, I recommend this red ale. It’s devilishly delightful and it will suck the sobriety right out of you, neck-first.

Finally, I’ll add, this beer is too beautifully made to be associated with Dracula’s ugly copyright knock off! Its a fine piece of craftsmanship. I’ll let the Prose-inator drive from here:

“This beer tastes like what it would taste like if a

made love to a

in the middle of a

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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My Illicit Other Half Space Diamonds

When you see a can of Other Half in the wild, you buy it, and drink it.

photo by Ceetar

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.

Follow BarleyProse on Twitter and me on Untappd. You can email me at beer@ceetar.com. No arrests were made in the research for this post. 

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Death, Drinking and a review of a fine IPA from Estonia called Põhjala Virmalised

“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.

Weezin’ the juice

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.

That’s the, um, flavor swimming around.

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.

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Two Beers, One Lunch: Back to the Hops Spot (or, Good Things Come in Threes)

They say “good things come in threes.”

Three little pigs, for example.

Stooges.

Blind mice.

We Bare Bears.

Less than four bears and more than 2

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.

Hazy shade of delicious

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.

If you had this right now you’d be eating it

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.

Carton of (liquid) smoke!

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.

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