Tardy Beer Resolutions And Thoughts

January just has that air of resolution about it. Bettering yourself, making plans, forging ahead. Like many, I probably could stand to drink less and exercise more. For me that mantra usually makes it until the first time I see Troegs Nugget Nectar in the store.

 

Which was last week. I picked up a case, and added a sixer of Bells Hopslam for good measure. I topped that off with a bottle of Allagash Bijoux, a sour ale barrel-aged on figs. I was going to grab a pack of Three Floyds Zombie Dust, but it was three months old and I held on to some thread of that healthy resolution and I didn’t buy beer I would end up pressuring myself to drink quickly before it wasn’t as fresh. Next batch.

 

So what does 2021 have in store for us, and for me, beer-wise? Well first off, look at that haul. Those are top-flight beers, hell, it’s a subset of top-flight beers available to me at a grocery store. (Wegmans in Montvale, NJ) Even five years ago that sort of availability would’ve been noteworthy, now I pick it up as part of my grocery run during a pandemic like it’s a box of Little Bites. Wegmans was actually out of Little Bites. It’s been harder to buy toilet paper this past year than it has been beers that previously were considered Whales.

 

One trend I’m noticing in my own beer drinking is that I’m definitely giving more chances to what I’d call “labors of love”, like that Bijoux. Beers that are brewery experiments, or projects, that aren’t necessarily larger volume brews. Last summer I had a beer called Thought Experiment (blueberry) from Threes Brewing. It’s a series of Saisons that they brew from leftover fruit that they use in other beers. I thought it was a pretty neat sustainability thing, and the beer was a nice refreshing and bubbly summer brew. This year I’m going to keep my eye out for fun single bottles like that. 

 

For Barley Prose, my goal is to redesign the site a little bit. I’d like to keep doing some fun Botty McBotface AI beer stuff, but I’d like it to be a sidebar, and not make you scroll through a bunch of bot stuff to get to the individual writers content. Look for that soon.

 

I’d also like to _brew_ beer more. I’ve been slacking. My goal for 2021 is small–just two batches. 

 

So that’s my early 2021 thoughts on beer and blogging. I’m now going to crack open a nugget nectar for my 85th Untappd check-in of that beer. I’ve got 10 more after than, and there’s no way I’ve checked-in every one I’ve had. 100 Nugget Nectars? That might be worth a post in it of itself. 

 Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s probably almost to 100 Nugget Nectars by the time this posts.  You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

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.

2020 My Year in Beer: Too Much of it in not Enough Places

With the cold weather, the end of year typically brings with it a warm nostalgia as we take inventory of the last twelve months and look towards the next twelve with naïve and stupid optimism. The nostalgia for me has nothing to do with sweet memories of childhood Christmases or anything like that, but instead with year-end social and pop culture best-of lists.  Top 10 albums, Spotify Wrapped and the Untappd Year in Beer.  That’s my jam.

Untappd is kinda like Instagram, in that the beer you’re drinking or the thing you’re taking a photo of is only part of the equation.  The other part is our needy human ego which makes us want to brag about being at a cool place and drinking a beer that’s way better than your less cool friends are drinking at their boring homes.  And if I can’t sit in a perfectly lit taproom, staging a portrait mode photo of a beer for 10 minutes before I even take a sip, then what the hell’s the point of logging it?  

I crossed the New Mexico state border only twice in 2020, funnily (or sadly) enough both times to Texas.  That’s it.  Last year was photos of beer in Barcelona and pints in Paris.  Needless to say, pics of hard-to-find beers geotagged in exotic locations were just not a thing this year.

Back in 2018, I logged an embarrassing 341 unique beers across 6 states and 75 different venues on Untappd.  This year it was a sad 19 unique beers from 8 different venues, led by my #1 drinking hole, Untappd at Home.  

Yet somehow, I bet I drank more beer in 2020 than 2018 (and maybe 2019 combined).  Instead of exploring new venues and tasting exciting beers by the bottle, we bought cases of our favorite beers to-go at the taprooms, brought them home and, well, we drank them.  That was the miserably sad formula, supporting the local economy one 16-ounce can at a time.

I was recently asked what lessons I learned in 2020.  I should have said “resilience” or some shit, but my answer was that sometimes it’s OK to drink 3 beers on a Wednesday night and, for me, every night in 2020 felt like a lonely Wednesday night.  The world’s a hellhole, gimme another beer. #selfcare

And maybe that’s the rub.  Pandemics aren’t the time to satiate our thirsty egos by padding our beer stats or sharing well-curated insta shots (unless they’re in mountains and you’re surrounded by trees and no humans).  We hopefully help keep our favorite places chugging along with our to-go orders and make this little sacrifice until we’re back in that taproom again soon, amongst friends and strangers, taking heavily filtered photos of pint glasses and once again drinking beer in public. 

Here’s a perfect 2020 song off my favorite album of the year, Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud.  The song, “Can’t Do Much” is a love song, but feeling isolated and questioning your sanity over something you love and miss, well, I figure that could be any one of us this year.   Until we’re in that taproom again, stay home, practice social distancing, wear the damn mask and support local beer. 

 

 

 

 

Stay Home, Drink That Giant Stout

We can’t have large Thanksgiving gatherings this year, since those potentially spread Covid far and wide, but we can still drink our Thanksgiving beers at home. I don’t usually have a large beer-drinking crowd, but enough that I can buy something new and interesting to try, or crack open a bottle of some rich aged stout to share among a few people. The lack of those people present in my house on Thursday is not going to stop me from opening something though.

Stick that turkey in the oven and break out that bourbon barrel-aged monster you’ve been aging. It’s strong, but the best thing about these beers is that they taste better approaching room temperature than fridge temperature, so even if you’re just sipping over a few hours, they’re still delicious. Drink them more like bourbon than like beer.

 

Alementary makes a beer called Figgy Pudding, which is typically described as an English Barleywine, though I’m not sure that really captures it. 

Big sweet bready malt, with a full range of supporting characters from light toffee to low chocolate. Fruit aromas of apricot, date, significant fig. Flavors of holiday fruitcake with massive malt structure. Figs for days, with supporting apricot. Date and Prune are secondary.

It’s a really neat beer, and I really love it. It’s also one of those that you can age. I’ve got a few bottles from previous years and I’m intending to open one up around noon on Thursday. At 9% it’s not as heavy hitting as some could be, but either way I”m looking forward to enjoying it slowly while I pull together appetizers/snacks or mashed potatoes or other such foods. 

So much of Thanksgiving drink media talks about pairing your beverage with the meal, but that just feels like clickbait to me. The meal is one small portion, and you’re probably snacking all day. You’re definitely DRINKING all day right? The drink for 1pm spinach artichoke dip is different than when you have your plate stacked high with various mashed tubers. Drink what you like!

 

I was in NY briefly earlier this month and went to a bottle shop in Valley Stream that I usually go to, but hadn’t been since the pandemic started. They’re pretty good with having some more of the local Long Island breweries that don’t distribute to me in New Jersey, and other various breweries distributed to NY but not NJ. Mayflower brewing company is one, and I saw they had a Thanksgiving Ale. I picked up a 4-pack of that, to be my ‘drinking with dinner’ beer. 

 

After dinner, which is typically earlier in the day than ‘real’ dinner time, I suspect I’ll need something crisper and bubbly. This might be the time for a bottle of champagne, or a nice pale Ale. We’ve got a nice bottle of Pinot Noir sparking wine from Sparkling Pointe that might be right, or I did buy a 4-pack of Alementary’s Random Placement Of Things which would fit the bill too.

Finishing beer? Probably something small and smooth. A better person might say water here, but I’m thinking of a few light and fruity ales I have in the basement, or something like a dark mild. Plenty of taste, but nothing overpowering. Something to coast to the finish line with.

Whatever you enjoy, stay safe and go ahead and tag @BarleyProse with what you’re drinking. Cheers!

The Divided States of Pumpkin Spicelandia

We live in a time of fake news, alternative facts and a nation so bisected that as we hurtle helplessly through the autumn and a hostile election season, the only topic more divisive than “who do you want to be president?” is most likely “do you like pumpkin stuff?”

Maybe it started with the latte, who knows.  But the seasonal pumpkin invasion soon infiltrated supermarket borders, claiming for its own once solidly chocolate dessert territories like cookies, ice cream and pudding.  As tyrants are seldom content to stand pat, the great pumpkin oppressive would march on to claim key alcohol enclaves, with stalwarts schnapps, rum and vodka the next to fall.  

Would beer be conquered by the pumpkin, as well?  Or is pumpkin flavor actually invigorating our fatigued taste buds and should be treated as liberators instead of invaders?

~~~

BeerAdvocate.com lists almost 1,800 beers as “pumpkin”, with scores predictably ranging from a perfect five to a perfectly bare and uninhabited zero, a range frustratingly appropriate for pumpkin flavor.  I don’t know that I would go so far as to equate pumpkin beer with prison wine, as my intrepid colleague did recently in this piece for Barley Prose, but I generally put up a spirited defense against the three-flank holiday pumpkin spice attack of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. 

Biases are learned behaviors, and to tear them down, it often takes an experience that hits close to home to shake foundational beliefs and make you see something with new eyes and a different clarity.  

Meet the Pumpkin Noir Spiced Ale by Marble Brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The description on the can reads “Our lady of darkness always chooses the burnt slice of pumpkin pie.  Heads have been known to roll around here until we achieve the perfect balance of carbonized fruit, delicate spice and velvet viscosity.”  

A lot to chew on there.  

The Pumpkin Noir is an annual seasonal and this year’s version checks in at 8% ABV on the nose, and pours a deep, spooky black with a creamy and frothy head.  As we saw in the supermarket usurpation, pumpkin spices invade in the fall and with the dessert territories already conquered, it was wise to attack the cold-weather beers, typically dark and malty stouts and ales.  

The aroma of the Pumpkin Noir is a strong amalgam of the pumpkin spices, but the taste is more subtle.  It starts like a porter but with a nice spice on the tongue (from the ginger?).  It’s a full beer, warm and comfortingly boozy, but not heavy-handed with unnecessary pumpkinry. 

The verdict?  This beer is damn good. It’s delicious. 

So what’s the lesson here?  That the pumpkin faction were right all along?  Maybe not.  Pumpkin for the sake of pumpkin, you know, pumpkin spice Pringles, chicken sausage and PSL pasta sauce (!?) is a marketing cash-grab directly targeting the nostalgic, autumn-loving Starbucks drinkers.

But a pumpkin-flavored beer made thoughtfully by a brewer whose creations you love and trust can maybe be a different story altogether.  We can still hate with all our guts and vitriol one another’s stances on things as polarizing as pumpkin flavor, but maybe we should just shut up, try a pumpkin beer and remember the lesson Edwin Starr tried to impart on us: “War, what is it good for?”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Slop and Prison Wine and Pumpkin Beers

When I was in high school, obviously, alcohol was a bit harder for us to come by.

Obviously, we had our opportunities, when a friend’s older brother maybe was in town, or when we were clued in to some party in the woods somewhere where someone had procured a precious keg.

But, also, sometimes we took matters into our own hands.

I had a buddy Matt, who had a recipe on a yellowed sheet of loose leaf paper.  The end product of that recipe was a concoction that was fondly referred to as “the Slop.”  While I can’t recount the full ingredients list, it involved juice, and sugar, and yeast, and a cooler that was left alone in the forest somewhere to ferment for a bunch of weeks and do its thing.  And we drank the Slop and it was good.

Well, let’s redefine the term “good.”  It was alcohol and we made it and it was ours to drink.  And perhaps that was what was truly good about it.  Not the mouthfeel, or the hints or nuances.  We’d mix it with iced tea, or apple juice, or something to make it taste less like embalming fluid mixed with gummy bears, and then voila!  We was a drinkin’.

(What does this have to do with pumpkin beers and seasonal ales?  Bear with me, faithful readers).

The Slop was, in a certain parlance, our high school forest equivalent of prison wine.  Maybe a bit more elegant than a sock filled with yeast and orange slices hidden behind a toilet tank, but, yet, also maybe not so much.

To me, pumpkin beer is the craft equivalent of prison wine.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing but fond memories of my time slugging down the Slop in the wee hours of the night, in dark places with my friends.  And to me, pumpkin beer is the beer that tastes most like it was cooked up by enterprising and thirsty young kids trying to turn no-beer-nights into a fall festival.

This week, I’m drinking the Brooklyn Brewery’s “Post Road” Pumpkin Ale.

Not brewed in the woods by delinquent teens, to my knowledge

 

From those fine folks, ITBMCBB*, comes a drink that “use[s] a touch of spices and pounds of real pumpkins to create a warm but surprisingly crisp spin on the traditional pumpkin ales made by American colonists.”

This is a fine fall beer, with the right amount of pumpkinery. And like so many other products offered by the Brooklyn Brewing Company, this beer hits all the points you’d expect it to. I got to meet some of these folks when they had a table set up at the Great New York State Fair and I gushed about my love for their Brown Ale, their Bel Air Sour, and their various IPAs. I’ve yet to have a beer that these folks put out there that I wouldn’t buy again.

But here’s the thing. I’ll also go about 10 months without drinking a pumpkin beer and I will miss it about as much as I miss the Slop. Nothing against these guys, or anyone who puts out a pumpkin beer. But sometimes prison wine is best left out in the woods in that cooler.

I’m going to blow the dust of the ol’ Proseinator and let it bring this review home.

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

made love to a

in the middle of a

while listening to the Greatest Hits Album of the world’s greatest band, ever, that being of course

and then together raised a baby with their shared feelings of

and, finally, that baby cried

tears of

into a frosty pint glass.”

Drinking Beer And Staring At Trees

I’m enormously privileged, as far as COVID-19 and quarantine goes. I already worked from home, so the only thing that changed was the presence of my family, and granted a three year old and a six year old entering first grade that needs teaching all while attempting to work is no cakewalk, all things considered, it’s fine. My wife is still working as well, remotely every other week, so things move along. 

 

That’s not to say I’m not struggling, depressed, and concerned both with the mundane ‘Is my kid ever going to learn to write and is it even safe to have her back at school in any capacity?’ and the more abstract ‘Is this the dying gasp of the United States?’. Beer helps, and I’m not even going to pretend I’m waiting for 5 o’clock. That’s an arbitrary time. Our lives here were just ramping up to the chaos that is typical of a family in a suburban town–basketball, ballet, gymnastics, school, after-school events, etc. Extended family is not that close, but close enough to make a day of it on the weekends, which we frequently did. Now doing anything but staying home requires specific and focused planning. 

 

Suddenly, there’s time. It’s weird, because cooped up kids and teaching and working is like having no time, but you also have all the time. Yes, there are a billion things to get done, but it’s pretty easy to get any one of them done when you decide to. Throw in a load of laundry, feed the sourdough starter, vacuum, feed the kombucha, do a load of laundry, bottle the homebrew, pick up the rapidly growing pile of toys, have a beer on the deck staring at the trees…

Ahh, yes, having a beer on the deck staring at the trees. This is when I’m happiest. Maybe the kids are running around, going down the slide, fake-planting Pink-a-Bloom flowers from the PInkilicious book/tv series, or playing in the sandbox, or maybe it’s just me. One day in early spring when we had the windows open and the kids were just watching TV on the other side of the screen, it was just me and the wife, two beers, and the cool spring air. 

Maybe I would’ve found more time working from home, I’d only been doing that for four months when everyone else started doing it, but the normal hectic schedule of finishing work, getting kids from school/daycare, figuring out dinner and/or if there was gymnastics or ballet or something in the evening, then getting the kids through bedtime routines and into bed and asleep and then finishing any other chores, mostly cleaning up after the whirlwind, before climbing into bed myself didn’t leave much time for beers on the deck. 

Mostly I’ve been drinking various beers from local breweries that I’ve been buying pretty much exclusively. I bought some beer styles that’ll last all summer, but definitely picked up some IPAs, NE IPAs and other styles that are better consumed fresh along the way. Not necessarily looking for anything super intense while I’m in my happy place, just a tasty beer that is a good companion. I’ve even started drinking it from the can, something I rarely did before. One less glass to wash, and sometimes  even the can doesn’t come in, it just sits in a bucket outside until that bucket is full. 

This is a good beer. This is a comfortable backyard. The trees are tall, and there are birds flying around and chipmunks zipping around the rock wall. Even in the heat of summer, there are enough trees that by evening the worst heat is gone, and if I’m lucky there’s a breeze to keep away the bugs. For a few moments, it’s soothing and relaxing. Then someone asks me to push them on the swings, and I get up. That’s a less relaxing happiness, but I can push with one hand and drink my beer with the other. The world outside is scary right now, but here under the trees, things might be alright. 

 

 Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s salivating over Oktoberfests and how many he’s going to drink outside this fall. Can his backyard fit a small fire pit? You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

Taking Advantage of Quarantine Beer Shipping Policies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Have We Learned? (Spoiler: Belgian Beers are Fucking Gross!)

Well, so far, 2020 has been a real punch to the anus.

Not gonna sugar coat it.  Barley Prose isn’t exempt, either, as we’ve managed just four sad posts for the entire calendar year to date.  On behalf of the entire team, I’m sorry we haven’t generated more witty and urbane commentary to help you with the anal-punch-osity of 2020.

While I’ve been doing my part as a local beer consumer, buying growlers from all of my favorite local joints to keep them in the black best I can, cracking open big jugs of beer and not having anyone to share them with does take some of the fun out of it.

So what’s the thing that finally gets my juices flowing?  Enough to write a blog post?

It’s this.  I’ve learned something important this year. As Ralphie said, “Oh, rarely had the words poured from my penny pencil with such feverish fluidity.”

Belgian beer is fucking disgusting.

I like a wide variety of beers.  I’ve written about them here in many columns.  I enjoy stouts, and porters, and sour beers, and New England IPAs, and, really, any IPA.  Brown and red ales too.  I’m partial to just about everything except beers that taste like the beer I used to drink in the 1980s and 1990s to get drunk, before I was making any effort to find delicious beer to drink.

And in my time drinking with the intent of writing content for this fine site, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a lot of new, different things.  And so I can say, authoritatively, that Belgium must be the saddest, off-spiced, nasty place in the world, if it can be judged based on the beers it produces.

Today’s representative offering is the Victory Brewery’s “Golden Monkey” Belgian tripel ale.  Tripel being, I assume, the Belgian word for “run through a homeless man’s shoe and/or a dead hooker’s asshole.”

I bought a variety pack of beers from Victory this past week and all of the other beer varieties in the pack were of a type I’ve been known to drink and enjoy. There were three each of a sour beer, a low calorie IPA, a regular IPA and a hazy style NE IPA. And three of these Golden Monkey beers, which might actually be apple juice that was anally raped and left in an alley to die a justifiably painful expiration.  I figured, well, at 9.5% ABV, I’ll at least give one a go.

Note that this beer, ITBMCBB*, has been infused with “exotic spice from the East.” Oh, good. I was hoping my beer would taste like a tuna casserole! How many warm summer nights did I crack open a cold one and think, “oh, man, this thing could use some fucking cardamom!” Oh, wait, that’s never happened, sorry. Only a jerk would think that.

Look, I’m not saying that all Belgian beers are as gross as this one. My co-bloggers may (and have) come to the defense of this style beer in a more general sense. I’ve had Stella Artois beers before, and Duvels, at least, and one or two others that I added to a Wegmans’ “Craft Your Own Six Pack.” And I can’t recall a single time that I thought it tasted better than any IPA I might have otherwise grabbed nearby.

So, to sum up, the next time you find yourself in Antwerp, and you have a thirst to quench, I’d suggest you give the bidet a try.

“On The Gargle,” a beer blogger’s tour of Dublin

I am fortunate enough to have a job that affords me some travel opportunities.  To date, those trips have all been domestic ones, but, finally, an opportunity arose for me to travel to Dublin for a week, all on the company dime.  And while there was much work to be done, there was also enough time for me to go out “on the gargle” a bit (i.e., out for some beers).

As someone who has already written specifically on the perfect nature of the Guinness, well, this was a wonderful opportunity to go to the source of this magic stuff.  And while I didn’t do the factory tour, I did sample quite a bit of it in Ireland, as well as some other common/popular beers there.

First, let’s start with “a pint of the black stuff.”  (I will be throwing the Dublin-specific jargon around in this blog post, in quotes, as one of the folks I was working with there was kind enough to teach me some drinking lingo.  This is in fact how they often order it over there, I can attest).

I had heard, from other folks in my workplace, that the Guinness in fact tastes different in Dublin. I will attest to that, but, also, that I only noticed it on the first Guinness I drank there. After that, they all just tasted like Guinness. Which is a fine, fine thing, of course.

I drank Guinness at just about every stop along my trip over the course of the week. It’s a good “foundation beer,” the base layer in a beer pyramid that I was assembling in my gut.

But there were many other fine choices that I enjoyed.

This is a Smithwick’s Irish Red Ale.  I learned, three days in, that despite the spelling, the locals pronounce it as “Smithick’s.”  It’s probably the second most commonly served Irish beer I saw on tap there (not counting “imports,” as there was Coors Light on tap there everywhere, and Carlsberg’s, and Heinekens, etc.).

This was maybe the beer I drank the second most of in my time there. They go down easy, have just 150 calories per 12 oz. serving, but with a smooth and easy to drink flavor. I bought a six pack of these at my local food jobber when I got back and they are equally good in a bottled format (just $9, too, another plus).

Another fine choice for when you’re out “in your cups,” as they say.

My enjoyment of the Smithwick’s led me to this tasty choice.  My hotel was within walking distance of a quaint little Irish pub, just far enough out of the city proper to feel like I had found some more authentic Dublin than the tourists might be frequenting.  A very punchy and funny bartender suggested that I might enjoy this one based on the fact that I was partaking of the Smithwick’s.  And then a fine local wanted to buy my wife and I a beer and so I ended up with a pair of these.  I ended up being not just “out” but in fact “out out” drinking, on that night.

 

It was certainly a tasty choice.  I don’t know that i enjoyed it more than the Smithwick’s, thought it was certainly a beer I’d drink again.  Also a red ale, but a bit thicker and stronger.

That same night, I partook in one of these.

 

At that point, though, I was deep enough “in my scoops” that I can’t recall whether or not I particularly liked it.

For an American drinker, used to a wide variety of beers, styles and flavors  locally, I think the range of beers I drank there was less diverse.  The folks at Guinness have taken a shot at making a lager-style beer, and this “Hop House 13” beer is also served all over town, from what I saw.

 

Lagers, to me, just aren’t interesting enough for me to want to drink them. This was a “one and done” beer for me.

The last beer from my tour was this one. I had this just once, on my last night in town. It was in fact the last beer I had in Ireland.

 

My punchy bartender friend, when I told him I was looking for something a bit more “beer flavored,” came out with this one.  This was the most IPA-style beer I had there and it was delicious.  Probably after the Guinness, it was the most memorable of the beers i had there.  I hope to find some of these in the states, but no luck as of yet.

I’d say, from the beer lover’s perspective, go to Dublin and drink a bunch of beers.  It’s a magical place, whether you get deep “in your scoops” or you’re just there “acting the maggot” (which means dicking around and not really trying very hard to drink correctly).