Hard seltzer is a thing. Why is it a thing? It’s bubble water with a kick! I don’t understand. No no, don’t tell me. This isn’t that post, this is a rant. Don’t muddy it up with facts and reasoned arguments.
Bud Light is making seltzer now? I could make the joke that Bud Light is basically lightly carbonated water, so it fits pretty well, but as I understand it this is only Bud Light for the sake of branding, and has no actual beer in it. So literally they’re just trying to bash you over the head with their marketing and advertising, capitalize on something that’s currently popular, and annoy the rest of us.
Yes, annoy the rest of us. There’s going to be literal minutes of advertisements from AB-InBev this coming Sunday, for the Super Bowl. We’re all going to become intimately aware of what Bud Light Seltzer has in store for us. It’s going to be painful. I see some retweeting into my timeline of something called PostyBar and PostyStore and I have no idea what that is and it sounds pretty dumb.
Can hard seltzer really taste any different than me pouring a shot of vodka into a seltzer can? What’s the point? And why not just have the vodka? Or a beer. Not Bud Light, a real beer. I actually tried to taste this for this post but neither of the places I went had singles of it, and no way am I buying a package of this nonsense. Surprised it doesn’t come in 40s to be honest.
Nasty marketing gimmick beverage. Maybe I’ll skip the Super Bowl anyway, who needs it? It conflicts with the kids bedtime anyway, and no one invited me to any parties. I do like to have some chips and pretzels, maybe some guacamole. I bought a jar of ‘craft beer salsa’ that I’m excited to try. A beer would go good with those things, but not that Bud Light Seltzer nonsense. A nice crisp IPA, something with some bitterness. Or Nugget Nectar, which is of a similar style to the beer in the salsa, maybe it’ll pair nicely.
I am absolutely not looking forward to a summer of gigantic supermarket displays of boxes upon boxes of nasty Bud Light Seltzer blocking my view of the good stuff.
This reminds me of that Last Week Tonight bit they did talking about how terrible Bud Light is. If you haven’t seen it, go look it up.
Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’ll probably be active during the first half of the Super Bowl tweeting nonsense. You can also email him at email@example.com.
The name of the game is Beersport – two beers enter, one beer leaves. Beersport.
The return of Beersport! Made famous by J.R. Shirt on BeerGraphs and on the Drinking With Shirt Podcast. Feel free to badger Shirt to reprise either here. This classic beer competition returns with a classic Oktoberfest battle between Von Trapp Oktoberfest and Alementary Oktoberfest. Vermont vs. New Jersey. Go.
Oktoberfest season is tailing off as October comes to an end, but I assure you these beers are still tasty well into November, and further!
Preconceived Notions: I’ve had both these of these beers a fair amount. I like them both. The style is not super broad that I can easily say much about them cold, so it’ll still be a good head to head battle. I’m a member of Alementary’s Order of the Atom, which maybe gives this an unconscious bias, but you’re just going to have to live with that.
Appearance The Von Trapp had better head retention, otherwise they’re both pretty similar bronze colors typical of an Oktoberfest. The packaging is both appropriately Bavarian blue with the brewery logo. Both in 12oz cans.
Winner: Von Trapp
Aroma The Von Trapp has a sweet malt smell with a lot of light biscuity caramel notes. Reminds me some of some dark cherry smells.
The Alementary has a much stronger smell, and a much richer one. Almost like a fresh loaf of bread with butter wafting into your nose.
Taste It’s a fairly gentle sweetness with the Von Trapp, but with some bitterness/astringency. The malt is not dominating as much as I would like, with some drying taste on my mouth from the hops. Though the malt builds with each sip which is nice, it sort of rounds out into form.
Alementary’s taste is rich too, with a nice complex malt flavor. It’s sweeter and maltier. A nice sweet glaze on a good loaf of bread. This beer has a vibrant taste and rich malt flavor, but not overbearingly so. There’s a sense of fullness that then fades into a gentle almost honey aftertaste.
Mouthfeel Von trapp tastes a little airier, a little more carbonated, and a little less full bodied.
Alementary is almost sticky, and hits more tastebuds, is a more fullfilling experience.
Overall I like both beers. They both make me happy. The Von Trapp is a little simpler, maybe a little easier to drink in volume, but the Alementary is a more complete beverage and is really wonderful.
Beersport Winner: Alementary
Alementary takes down the inaugural BarleyProse Beersport. Great beer, check it out.
Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s pondering starting a Barley Prose podcast. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have lots of thoughts about beer. Perhaps too many thoughts. Even though I run a beer blog, I don’t typically think these thoughts in easily organized fashion, or I think them in in-opportune places like the car or as I’m falling asleep. So this is an attempt to pull out those thoughts into a post.
I have not had a fresh hop beer this year. This is extremely disturbing, as it’s one of my favorite ‘styles’. I know it’s not as big a thing in NY/NJ as it is in the Pacific Northwest, but usually I stumble across enough to scratch that itch. The beers are so fresh and grassy and wonderful. The bitterness is definitely more pronounced, more piney, than is common these days, but I love that. Checking on Untappd for two of the ones I know get packaged, Founders and Victory, it appears late October/early November is when I’ve had them in the past, so I was perhaps just a wee bit early, thought I suspect this isn’t as ‘fresh hop’ as you’d get if you lived in a hop farm. Between starting this post and publishing it, I’ve found and consumed two Founder’s Harvest Ales.
The weather has started turning towards chilly, the pumpkins are out, as are the spider webs and all the associated Halloween accouterments. Does that mean we’re supposed to start drinking those heavy dark beers aged in delicious spirit barrels? Because I’m down. Bring on the stouts. My goal, as usual, is to consume more beer than I buy. I suspect I’ll fail.
I’ve noticed that I see a lot of really interesting single bottles out there that I buy and feel like I need to share to open. Things like Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra, or Firestone Walker’s Anniversary beer, or some interesting wild NY beer from Plan Bee that sounds amazing, or this special stout blend from Alementary that’s amazing. The problem is I clearly don’t have enough friends, and not enough friends that are over enough regularly to drink beer with. I need to remedy this, but does ‘hey want to be my friend I have beer’ go over well at the Kindergarten drop-off line? It’s possible I should just drink these beers myself or with my wife and stop trying to make them fit into some special event.
Because I’m as much a sucker for a three-minute punch of guitar rock and harmony as a I am for a cold beer, I occasionally find myself visiting a blog site called Powerpopaholic to discover new music. The guy there ostensibly “reviews” singles and albums in the Power Pop genre on a scale of 10 but because he likes power pop, and the stuff he reviews has already met the conditions of the type of music he likes before he’s listened to it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give a review of less than 7—it’s all 8s and 9s over there. It’s either really great, or really good.
I’m guilty of the same with beer. At the urging of a friend several years back I downloaded the Untappd app allowing you to “check in” every time you have a beer, photograph it, indicate where you bought it, who you drank it with, and share that info with your beer-enthusiast followers (and surely some back-end AI delivering data to ad generators and marketed to taverns and brewers). Everything is a social network today. We do things only to get credit for having done it, and wind up with personalized encouragement to do it more. By the way I have only 24 “friends” on that app. For God’s sake please follow me (springer66).
I don’t use Untappd to record every beer I have. Wait, you had 4 Budweisers, in an hour, in your backyard? Not telling. What I think it can be useful for is to track variety—both in the beers I try and the places I try them. That’s the best kind of beer anyway: evocative of the moment you drank it, the places you were, and the good times associated with it. That’s another reason my reviews of them can’t be trusted: If I feel good enough to tell the world, or at least 24 people, that I just drank a particular beer, I probably also liked it.
So when my friend Ceetar asked me to write about the beers I had on a recent trip to France, Brussels and the Netherlands on his excellent blog, I was hesitant in the sense that if you want to know anything particularly technical about the beers I had there, you’re following the wrong guy: my reviews are pretty much worthless. According to Untappd, over the 16 days I spent in Europe I had 10 different beers in 10 different cities—which between us is a huge motherf-ing lie—and all of them, according to me, scored a rating between 3.75 and 4.25. They were all good! But to the extent variety, experience and unique places count, I have a story to tell.
France: We Drank Some Beer Here
We (me, my wife and 13-year-old son) left our Brooklyn home on Friday August 16, arriving in Paris the following Saturday afternoon.
I actually don’t have a lot to say about Paris, beer wise. For one thing, I figured there I’d do what the locals do and drink wine with our meals; for another, I wasn’t much using the phone then and so didn’t actually Untappd the beers I had there. Beyond all that, we discovered France is basically closed for business in August and it was only us tourists there anyway. I’m not joking: most of the shops were closed, and a plumber to fix a malfunctioning toilet in our hotel room wasn’t even available for two days. That’s a good way to thrust oneself into local culture and a foreign tongue: puis-je utiliser vos toilettes?
We had some enjoyable beers there at cafes, though the only brand I remember was the ubiquitous Budweiser of France, Kronenbourg 1664. I can recall being hopeful that this Continental export lager would somehow reveal itself to be something special when consumed locally, as we’d experienced with the impossibly fresh and delicious lagers we drank when we visited Germany five years before, but it wasn’t really the case.
The only other beer I recall having in France, thanks to this photo we took on the luxurious Thalys train, wasn’t a homeland beer, but one originating from our next stop on the trip.
A Great Place to Drink Beer and Pole Vault
Belgium. It’s a totally underrated country. About all I knew about Belgium before we arrived came from war movies where it’s always cold and desolate with Germans shooting at you. I also knew a girl from Belgium once, and she dressed drably–not that I wouldn’t have given her the exact same impression about Americans.
But Belgium in fact was lively, fun, safe and attractive, and the weather was gorgeous: Bright blue skies, never too hot. We also had a ton of delicious beers here that highlighted both Belgium’s great tradition of brewing and also, influences from the craft movement that we hadn’t seen much of in Germany or in France.
Brussels is a gorgeous old city, plenty to do and see; not completely overwhelmed with tourists and just large enough to explore by foot. We did a little research to find where we might experience good beer and found a fantastic bar called Moeder Lambic just in time for a sun-soaked happy hour after a long day of sightseeing. Here, I had a super fresh Californication double IPA from Brussels’ L’Emeritage brewery that was dynamite. Afterwards we hiked on a restaurant called In’t Spinnekopke where I asked our waiter to recommend something to accompany our mussels and out came a bottle of Wikap Pater Stimulo, a mellow Belgian pale ale with a very cute logo.
Just outside of the central train station plaza in Brussels you’ll find a symbol of craft beer’s growing globalization—an outlet of the Brewdog franchise that grew from the Scottish beer bros who established a brand through a reality TV show. Very nice hangout for the after-work crowd, and a convenient meet-up space where our friend Otto trained in and joined us. Long story, but my wife’s parents were friends with Otto’s folks through work and many years ago, she spent a summer babysitting a then-young Otto and his brother in their home in the Netherlands. Grown-up Otto lives in Belgium now and after our happy hour (your standard Brewdog lineup that were just fine but I can I also can now find in my local C-Town supermarket), the four of us hiked to a Brussels restaurant where we ate pork products and enjoyed the less widely-distributed Karmeliet Tripel, a fruity distinct Belgian style ale that really reminded me I was in Europe.
Inspired by what I’d seen in the movie, we spent the following day “In Bruges” which just as depicted in the film was a fairy-tale like old city inhabited nearly entirely by tourists. Like American elephants we climbed to top of the bell tower where Brendan Gleason had his ultimate misadventure, had one of our better meals, and popped in a pub to down the brightly shining locally brewed Brugse Zot IPA. I spent most of the day quoting the film: “Back off, Shorty.” “You heet the Canadian.” Etc. Good times.
The next day we traveled by train to Lueven to meet Otto at his place there. Lueven is beautiful old college town that you probably know as the home city of the Stella Artois brewery, which has a giant facility along the highway and rail tracks. We checked out surrounding abbeys where for hundreds of years monks were the original microbrewers. One of these abbeys, maybe it the one pictured here but not certain, got out of the beer business some years back when it sold the recipe for its brew to the no-frills German supermarket operator Aldi. Aldi you may know is a vertically integrated retailer famous for its German efficiency– coin-released shopping carts, cashiers who also stock and sweep floors, and low priced, indifferently merchandised but high-standard food. If you buy their abbey-style beer thinking it’s some knockoff, know this: it actually originated here in the 16th century.
Lueven’s historic downtown is lined with streetside cafes fronting stunning old buildings on cobblestone streets, lots of students, and a lively town square where, on a Saturday evening, there was a rock-and-roll pole-vaulting contest going on. We grabbed some chairs, and drank strong Belgian ales (the rich, reddish La Trappe Quadrupel) while eating fried food and watching athletes from all over the world launch themselves 20 feet in the air for our amusement. A truly insane and magical evening.
A Great Place to Drink Beer and Ride Bikes
From Lueven we continued north into the warm, watery and flat Netherlands, and the tiny North Sea beach town of Petten, were Otto’s parents have a summer residence where we set up for most of the next week. Germans love the Netherlands beaches, filling “camping” fields all around with closely-packed caravans along the dikes and on one evening, whooping it up in a town-square festival complete with an Abba cover band and Amstel on tap.
In Petten we mainly drank beers from the local supermarkets—Amstel, the lager which you may know is not marketed as “light” beer in its home country, and a pilsner called Hertog Jan. They were okay. We also used Petten as a home base from which we did day trips and stop-ins throughout North Holland—some by train, others by bike, visiting Haarlem, Alkmaar, Amsterdam, Zaandam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Uitgeest (pronounced OW-kaste), and Den Helder (which is also the name of my new Van Halen cover band), among other places, having at least one beer in all of them. I’ll speed through here as this post is getting pretty lengthy already.
I rented a bike, and can’t say enough good things about the cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. Almost all roads have separate bike lanes, including the highways, and cycle-specific signage that makes it almost impossible to get lost. I can’t ride more than 20 miles here in NYC without constantly consulting a map (and getting doored); in Holland I found my way around the entire country never having been there and without a clue as to the language. The lanes are all flat, proceed through beaches, farmlands and forests, and thanks to the wind, you can go pretty fast. If you like to cycle, go do it in the Netherlands.
I made several long rides, catching up once with the family at Zaanse Schans, the historic “old Dutch” neighborhood north of Amsterdam you see in the all tourist films and postcards. Here I enjoyed the local roadside delicacy—a herring sandwich—and washed it down with a local micro IPA called Hoop Kaper.
In Haarlem, we had Jopen beers at lunch and later that afternoon, encountered its brewery—stunningly set in a restored church. That’s my Northsea IPA in the foreground ahead of Wifey’s beer, which I believe was a pilsner (can’t be sure of that), and the ever-present frites. Nice place!
In Amsterdam, we hung out with Rembrandt and Van Gogh, and fought off 90-degree heat with this Ijwit wheat beer in a super-cool bottle. The beer endorsed by an ostrich. Refreshing.
In Alkmaar, we visited the famous cheese market, gorging on very good gouda, saw a crazy Beatles museum, and tried this Punt IPA brewed in the far northern town of Groningen.
Like many of the so-called IPAs we had here (the Hoop Kaper, the Brand we had in Den Haag) this beer wasn’t exactly what you’d consider an IPA here in the U.S., but they’re in the ballpark in the same way you might consider Rainbow’s “Since You Been Gone” a Power Pop song (it is, only one not by a brand-name power pop manufacturer). There are no doubt some Power Pop Cops and Pale Ale Police out there who might disagree, but like I said, it’s all good to me.
We spent our last night in a hotel in Den Haag, where bringing us full circle, the toilet malfunctioned. There was beer, and it was good. But it was time to fly home.
I’ve been told that when you’re hosting a party, that’s not a bottle share among beer-nerds, you shouldn’t only have double IPAs available. Also leaving the 18% Dogfish Head Raison d’Extra with the normal strength beer is also not wise. That’s a really good beer though.
The composition of your crowd matters a bunch. If you know everyone pretty well, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what people like. Even if you just have a few people that you know are into beer as much as you, you can get away with some craftier beers in there, but if you don’t, people aren’t really going to know what to do with your bomber can of New England IPA with a name like 100K Juicebox.
In a recent situation, I was hosting a five year old’s birthday party, which would include some of her daycare friends and their parents. I had no idea of their drinking preferences. (The adults. The kids were fine with apple juice and water) I wanted to have beers on hand that were drinkable, somewhat light in ABV, but also still rich and flavorful and enticing. None of this “I’ll just have a seltzer or something” nonsense. Don’t even get me started on hard seltzer.
I probably went overboard. Every time I saw an interesting beer that seemed broadly appealing I told myself to get a six pack for the party. This led to the following list:
Jack’s Abby Smoke & Dagger Black Lager
Alementary #IslandLife Lime Gose
Alementary Literary Trope Raspberry Witbier
Dogfish Head SuperEIGHT Super Fruit Gose
21st Amendment Sparkale Sparkling Rosé Ale
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
I also made about five liters of sangria.
The last two were last minute additions, though you might say I was already going overboard. I wanted the 60 minute on hand to have an IPA, and I also want to do an experiment with it to try to recreate 61 minute IPA, a beer brewed with Syrah must that they’re not making anymore but was delicious. More on that in the future. I know Oktoberfests are pretty crowd pleasing, so despite it being early August I picked up a case.
When you have that much beer, and that much variety, you have to expect leftovers. You have to fine with leftovers. Or you have to be planning another get together soon. I’ve already talked about being an accidental beer hoarder, and the last thing I need is more beer collecting dust in my basement, especially beers like this that don’t seem like they’d age that well.
So let’s talk about taste, because I’ve rambling on too long about buying beer, and not enough about DRINKING beer. Though, to be fair, this IS a beer blog and rambling about beer is sorta what we do right? The Jack’s Abby is really good. Jack’s Abby is a top-flight brewery, making amazing lagers. Buy their stuff. Drink their stuff. I don’t have as much experience with their ale project, Springdale Beer, but I’m sure it’s excellent as well. America, even craft America, still seems to equate dark beer with winter and cold, but a deliciously roasty black ale like this is a joy.
I trust Alementary, my local brewery of which I’m a member of their exclusive Order of the Atom, to make good beer, and they’re particularly good with some of these lighter styles. The #IslandLife features Kalamansi lime, which gives the tartness a bolder more complex taste and is fun. The Literary Trope is standard raspberry wheat, something that always goes well together.
Dogfish Head. You know these guys right? Their SuperEIGHT is a gose, but loaded with super fruits. It’s red. It’s delicious. Drink it. 60 minute is a classic.
21st Amendment was one of breweries I really was into when I first started getting into craft beer. I really enjoyed their black IPA, and Hell or High Watermelon has been a great summer beer for decades. The Sparkale is very much like a white sangria. It’s fizzy and fruity. My wife likes it, and it’s very gentle and pleasing.
Oktoberfests rock. Sierra Nevada collaborates with a German brewery every year, and this year it’s Bitburger. I had this one later in the evening, and as such remember very little about it. But I’m sure it was delicious and on-style. I have more. I will be drinking them.
I’ve been drinking the sangria leftovers this week, as it’s going to go bad soon. This included spilling sangria all over my kitchen, and then spilling sangria IN the fridge when I opened the tap and set the cup down to refill while I was cleaning the floor. I’ll transition back to the beer shortly and I’ve got some work to do. Who wants to come over and help?
Lousy situations call for stronger beers. You can’t combat dealing with lice with a sessionable lager–break out the good stuff.
So far it looks like we only had the initial signs of an issue, and we’ve all been doused with medication and we washed clothes and towels and all that. Still, after that sort of panic and frantic washing, you can’t get away with sipping a gose, you need something with some heft.
Bring on Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake. Specifically Raspberry Truffle W-n-B, an imperial stout with coffee, oatmeal, cacao, and raspberry. Smooooooth. Delicious. There was almost no alcohol or stout burn to this, though it was sweet and thick and lovely. You could tell it was strong, but it was so full flavored that it was all balanced nicely. What a great stout, what a great way to unwind.
Day 2, everything seems fine but we still have to comb and check and are wary about everything. It’s still fresh on our mind. My hair still itches out of anxiety. Tequila. Tequila is definitely the way to go.
I opened up my bottle of Founders Mas Agave, an imperial gose brewed with agave, lime and sea salt. Margarita, clearly. It certainly smelled like it. I’d had a bottle of a similar beer from The Alementary a few months ago called Escape From Oaxaca which was less sweet, and more tequila-flavored than this, but this one was still fun to drink. In fact, it may have been easier to drink, even if I preferred the taste of the other one.
It’s sweet, from the agave, so if sweet isn’t your thing probably avoid both these beers. Apparently my ‘comfort beer’ tastes veer into the trope of single lady downing ice cream after a breakup. Something I think tequila would also be appropriate for, though I have been known to say tequila gose (haha) with everything.
Anyhow, this beer tasted like a margarita, but a sweeter one. One heavy on the lime juice and sweetener. I personally would’ve enjoyed more barrel aging on it, more tequila taste. This was 10% and went down easy. The salt balances the sweetness nicely, keeps it from being cloying, much like it might do in a similar margarita, but really the tequila should be the showpiece in a cocktail, or a cocktail-themed beer.
Drinking beer does not kill lice, but it sure does make a lousy situation more manageable. Until next time, because #kids, cheers!
I unintentionally paired Ommegang’s Take The Black Stout with some Game of Thrones Oreo cookies, which was a pretty nice pairing. Stout, chocolate, cookie, all good things. I paired both with episode one of season eight.
This beer came out originally in June of 2013, it was the second beer in the series. I was still under some illusions to the idea of having them all. I had a taste of this at a beer festival that same year, and ended up not drinking the bottle I had, until now.
I enjoyed it a lot more than I enjoyed most of the Game of Thrones beers from the earlier runs. The age definitely smoothed out the flavors, with the roasty malts really being intertwined with the star anise and the licorice. Those were a lot more muted than I suspect they were originally, they were an added twist of depth to the beer rather than hitting you in the face with what’s typically a rather strong flavor. Lots of chocolate flavors in there, that’s what really shone through to me. I drank this pretty warm, especially by the time I got through the bottle.
It’ll come to no surprise that Game of Thrones beers did pretty well on Untappd last night. Pictured below, a tweet from Untappd founder Greg Avola.
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.
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.