Reports from the Wild: The Astounding She-Monster Mango IPA

Pleased to present the first review from our newly appointed “reporter in the wild,” Breezer Marieezer, on a mango IPA for which she has a complicated relationship.

I’ve been attempting to lure her, one of my run club homies, here to Barley Prose to write longer form pieces, but, in the interim, I’ll be reposting these on her behalf, and with her blessing, as well as any other beers of which she might be persuaded to share her opinions.

Thanks Bree!  Keep those reviews coming in from the big bad world!

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Pair at the Fair

This blogger thought, on a recent trip to the Great New York State Fair, that each beer and drink consumed was worthy of a pairing.  Not necessarily pairing beers with the exact right culinary treat, but, rather, all of the various things that a drink might be paired with at the fair.

Note: These were taken over the course of many hours, by a trained professional beer blogger.

Beer 1:  The Adirondack Bear Naked Ale, served up courtesy of the Shamrock Pub adjacent to the Midway.  A fine, refreshing American amber ale.  Lighting below is due to the author hiding in the shade of a vendor tent on a very bright and summery August day.

Naked bear

Pair with: a Reuben Egg Roll — corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese, wrapped in a jumbo sized egg roll wrapper, deep fried and served with Thousand Islands’ dressing for dipping.  I would punch my momma in the ear to eat one of these.

Reuben egg roll? What a country!

Beer 2:  Empire East Coast Amber.  To be truthful, I thought the first beer was going to be an American Pale Ale, not an amber, but also didn’t mind having a second one of that type.  I’ve been on an amber ale kick of late, having enjoyed the Session Amber at Buried Acorn most recently.

East Coast representin’

Pair with: A visit to the Sand Sculpture, normally backed by a beautiful large slide show of various New York landscapes and parks to visit.  Well, for most of the day, anyway…

Gave the IT guy some giggles

Beer 3: Lake Placid Ubu Ale, an English Ale (7.0% ABV) named after a dog, one of the many beers I first enjoyed from the Wegmans’ “Craft Your Own Six Pack” aisle.

Sit, Ubu, sit! Good dog.

Pair with: Naturally, a beer named after a dog is best paired with a watching of the New York State Police K-9 units that serve so intelligently and proudly.

Good dog! Have a beer shaped chew toy.

Beer 4:  Buried Acorn Hot Whip IPA, another one I had enjoyed at the Buried Acorn tap room and knew just what I was getting.

Orange whip? Three orange whips.

Pair with:  Chicken, in a waffle, on a stick, served with a side of maple syrup.  The innovator who came up with this deserves every penny he or she makes.  What else can we jam conveniently inside of waffles?   The possibilities are endless, when you think about it.  I’m even thinking of replacing my wallet with a waffle stuffed full of credit cards and cash.

Genius!

Beer 5: Galaxy Andromeda IPA, because, five beers in, I am seeing stars.  Due to the buzz, naturally.

Galaxy quest

Pair with: Stars, my friends!   The New York State Fair brings in quality musical entertainment, and multiple free concerts every day from established new and classic musical acts.  This year included Smokey Robinson, Live, Collective Soul, and a bunch of country/pop acts I wouldn’t recognize if you had a gun to my head.   How about a free concert from ZZ Freakin Top?  There’s your stars, sir/madam.

They rocked in 99 ways, one for each year of life they had each lived, or some quantity akin to it

Beer 6: Not a beer at all, but, rather, a hard cider flavored wine slushie.  I generally don’t drink a lot of the slush because of the brain freeze, but this is like a jacked up cup full of applesauce.  It’s what fairs are all about.  The black and white straw accents it nicely, I find.

Lush slush

Pair with:  A big fan, pushing misty cool relief at a guy who’s had several drinks over the course of the day.

Ah, sweet relief

Also, while not pictured, this wine slush and the subsequent second one “for the road” pair, sadly, with a wipe out on the author’s bike ride home, causing a bent chain, skinned knee, chin, and a bruised hand and wrist.  All in the name of a good time.  This is the price we pay, kids.

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Review: The Hops Spot

There two kinds of people in the world.  There are those who eat poutine, and those who do not.

(Author’s note: there are actually several other kinds of people in the world.)

What’s poutine, you say?  I’ll pretend you’re asking me that, semi-imaginary reader, strictly for purposes of moving this write up along, and not out of ignorance.

Poutine is a dish of french fries, mixed with cheese curds (known in some parts as “squeaky cheese”), and then topped with gravy.  The same kind of gravy you’d normally be ladling over stuffing and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, that is to say.

It looks like this, in its simplest and most delightful form.

Poutine!

Now, you might think that a person would have to travel to the great white north, AKA Canada (sometimes affectionately known as “America’s Hat” or “America Jr.”) to find a proper plate of poutine.

But if you thought that, you’d be wrong, and, possibly, oblivious.  I can forgive you.  Let’s not let it ruin this fantastic thing that we have going here.

No, the dish of poutine pictured above was served up right here in one of Syracuse’s newest eateries, The HopsSpot.

I visited this place with a few buddies recently and had me a big ol plate of poutine.  I washed it down with a couple of delightful beers from their excellent beer list, in another installment of my running “two beers, one lunch” motif.

The beer list can be found on their web site and when dining there in person, on paper menus (they run 4+ pages long), with over 40 choices of draft and can/bottle beer to choose from.

I started my day with a Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale.

Hair of the dog, ayuk nyuk

Those who’ve read this blog before will know that I have a penchant for a brown ale.  They speak to me, in fact, I can think of very few brown ales that I have not enjoyed.

There’s something comforting about them, smooth and inviting, like wearing my granddad’s sweater.  Except, in this case, I’m stuffing that sweater into a pint glass and then wrapping it around some poutine that’s landed in my gut.

This particular brown ale (6.5% ABV, 29.5 IBU) is particularly tasty.  The web site doesn’t provide the usual floral descriptions, or mention hints of any particular flavors, so I will describe it as being the resultant product of a love affair between a Canadian lumberjack and an Egyptian belly dancer, sprinkled liberally with pixie dust and magic brown slurpiness.

I moved on from the Dog to an IPA, this time going with the Troegs Independent Perpetual IPA (7.5% ABV, 85 IBU).  I do pick my drinks out often based on the “maximum punch” process, preferring higher ABV choices to lower ones and 16 oz. servings to the 10 oz “specialty” sizes.  So this bad boy fit the bill on both counts.

This IPA, ITBMCBB*, “emerges rife with sticky citrus rind, pine balm and tropical fruit.”  Now, pine balm would be a hard flavor to identify on my best days.  I have pine trees growing behind my house, though I’ve never balmed them or sought balm from them.

Nor can I claim to taste tropical fruit, or sticky citrus rind.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not still a fine, fine choice.  It’s hoppy, sure, but in a fun, delightful way, like when the neighbor’s kid gets too many pixie sticks in him and starts hopping up and down the street like he’s on a pogo.  You don’t care, it’s someone else’s child, let him get all hopped up.

The Hops Spot has a menu full of good looking choices – burgers, salads, and several other varieties of poutine, all of which I hope to sample in the upcoming weeks and months.   Not to mention another 38 or so beers, most of which are new to me (though I was pleased to see them carrying choices from the Buried Acorn on their list, among others).

For those not local to Syracuse, go out and find yourself some equivalent poutinerie (yes, that’s a real word, it’s on the Hops Spot web site after all) and dig in to this northern delicacy.

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Review: Buried Acorn Brewery

I’m a man with many ideas.  Some of them are more practical than others.

One idea I had recently was a line of greeting cards where every message, happy or sad, was followed by the phrase “ya jackass” or “ya big idiot.”  Because the juxtaposition of emotions is, of course, wildly funny.

“Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary, Ya Jackass!”

“Condolences on your Family’s Loss, Ya Big Idiot.”

I’ll let the reader judge the value inherent in that concept.

Another idea I had was for a brewery to open here in Syracuse where I live, only, instead of being downtown, where parking is at a premium, and requiring more driving time to get to, instead, that brewery would open in the northern suburbs, perhaps even adjacent to one of my regular running routes, and serve up all kinds of delicious local beers.

Well, lo and behold, this second idea has come to pass!  In the form of the brand new Buried Acorn Brewery and tap room.  The tap room features “16 draft lines pouring Barrel-Aged mixed-fermentation sour Ales, classic and long-forgotten Farmhouse styles, as well as some monogamous hopped up offerings.”

Sixteen draft lines.  That’s a respectable set of choices!

Open since July 13th, I meandered down to the new joint after work and after a humid four mile run, thirst buds locked and loaded for a sudsy replenishment.   The initial beers available at the time (a few more have since been added) is shown below.

I decided to start my de-thirsting by ordering a pint of the Oatmeal Stout.  They have both a regular and Nitro-charged version on tap; I went with the regular only because I failed to notice the Nitro until after my order was in.

The bartender was prompt and friendly and, of course, I love her!  She gave me this!  (Reasonably priced $5.50 pints, by the way, not too much of a crotch kick to the wallet…)

I have had a few other oatmeal stouts and they all speak to me.  I’m an oatmeal guy, it’s one of my go to breakfasts, and the mellow sweetness of the other oatmeal stouts I have had (Ommegang’s, for one, and also a cappuccino oatmeal stout by the Blue Moon folks) have all been a treat.

I think of it as a “breakfast beer.”  Not that I’m drinking beer with my breakfast, I mean, I have things to do!  However, on nights where my family and I are having the ever popular “breakfast dinner,” scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc., then the oatmeal stout is a winning choice.

This particular oatmeal stout (5.5% ABV, 23 IBU) is excellent.  Rich and creamy and cold and frothy.  It also contains, ITBMCBB*, “notes of chocolate and coffee,” though, I mostly just taste the deliciousness.   If it were any more oatmealy, I’d be topping this with maple syrup and a pat of butter.

I then moved on to the Alpha Bender IPA (7.3% ABV, 23 IBU).

It’s a golden, delightful treat, much like a Disney princess’ hair.  This particular IPA is described by the Buried Acorn site itself as being full of  “soft bitterness with ripe tropical fruit on the nose and a crisp dry finish. Crafted with NY State grown hops and barley while employing revolving hop editions from around the world.”  Doesn’t that sound pleasant?

To me, and perhaps this is why I’m not writing copy for breweries full time, the IPA tastes like “what it must taste like if a mythical dragon pee’d a rejuvenative cold mythical magic dragon pee drink into a pint glass.”

The bar is also hosting other local brewery products on some of their 16 taps.

I am likely to try the Critz Farms Pig City Porter on my next visit, as I’ve had that one in cans before but not in draft, and know it to be a treat as well.

The Buried Acorn is also now selling cans of some of their beers, to go, as well as growlers.  I’ve not ever purchased a growler of beer in my life but those branded ones are pretty slick.

The tap room itself is also a very pleasant joint in which to sit down and beer up.  They have bar and table seating, and board games, and the service was prompt despite there being a good sized weekday crowd present.

And the chairs have a delightful “assfeel” to them.

I’m looking forward to returning to the Buried Acorn and sampling some of their newer choices (the Ghoster Blanc and Hot Whip were not ready at the time of my initial visit, but now show on the company’s web site).

These folks also do have an active Facebook page and Instagram account, announcing specials and new offerings.

So, come bury your liver at the Buried Acorn.  I’ll meet you there.

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Come for the Chile, Stay for the Beer

New Mexicans, it can be safely stated, are culinary innovators. The Frito pie*.  The sopapilla. The green chile cheeseburger.  Borne of hunger and New Mexican ingenuity, with local New Mexican chiles chopped by precise New Mexican hands, the green chile cheeseburger is the most famous example of the edible imagination of the people of the 47th state.  Take a thing that is good and make it our own – bigger, bolder, spicier.

The Spanish brought chiles to the Native Pueblo tribes in what would become northern New Mexico in the 1580s.  Being ancestors to future New Mexicans who will want to amplify every last flavor they encounter, the Puebloans gravitated to a particular style of pepper, and modified it to the long, fiery chile pod generations of New Mexicans would masochistically devour, setting fire to our mouths while sweating through our insanely delicious meals.  We’re a little loco like this.

The New Mexico-style IPA follows in this tradition. We were drawn toward classic hop-forward profiles like Bear Republic’s Racer 5 and Green Flash’s West Coast IPA. While we thought the style was great, just like the chiles our forebears fell for in the 1500s, we needed MORE. The west coast IPA is cleaner and lighter by comparison. The Colorado-style (whatever the hell that is) seems something of a hybrid of west coast and New England styles. To drink an IPA in New Mexico, though, is not to drink a crisp or light beer, no. To drink an IPA in New Mexico is to submit your palate to an aggressive, punch-you-in-the-mouth, full-on assault by hops. See? We’re kinda loco.

That brings us to the New Mexico IPA Challenge, the Royal Rumble of IPA elimination tournaments. Preliminary rounds in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos led up to the championship, which was held on Saturday at the gorgeous new Bosque Brewing Co. location in Bernalillo, New Mexico.

the new Bosque North in Bernalillo, NM

The premise of the competition is simple. For 20 bucks, you are handed a tray with a dozen or so clear, plastic cups, each filled with 3-ish ounces of beer. You are also given an (empty) souvenir pint glass. You don’t know what the beers are. Under each cup is a number. Drink the cups of beer. On a piece of paper, write down the number of the beer that was your favorite and give that piece of paper to the bar-keep. They will pour you a pint of beer that corresponds with the number you chose and record your written vote. Drink that pint in your now full souvenir glass. Be happy, because beer. At the end of the day, the votes are tallied and the names of the beers are revealed, and you find out which you voted for, and which you roundly mocked like an arrogant jerk.

15 delicious, anonymous beers

We attended the Albuquerque prelim and final rounds in 2017 (won for the second year in a row by the excellent Boxing Bear Brewing Company and their Bear Knuckle IPA). We went to the first elimination round in Albuquerque this year, where 44 breweries submitted entries for the best IPA in New Mexico. There were, to me, a surprisingly high amount of hazies as the state has been a relatively slow adopter of this trend. Would our hop-heavy palates allow for this softer, fruity invasion?

NMIPAC standings before the final round

The previous 3 rounds whittled the 44 breweries down to a tidy field of 15 deserving finalists. At approximately 3 ounces per cup times 15 entries, plus an additional 16 ounces from the souvenir pint glass, each of us would be “tasting” the equivalent of a Super Big Gulp of boozy suds that day. Pretzels would reset our taste buds between sips. Lyft would cart our drunk arses home.

Aside from straight-up guzzling, there’s really no wrong way to do the blind taste test. I started sequentially, would jot down a few observations, work my way through all 15, and then start again at #1, noting the changes in each as both the temperature outside and the beer got warmer under the hot New Mexico sun.

Like a Joco Pastorius bassline, a few of Albuquerque’s premier beer makers have unmistakable hop profiles. In the elimination round, I knew La Cumbre the second that danky IPA hit my tongue (and also realized I spend way too much time and money drinking La Cumbre). It was the same in the finals with my #6 beer (which I guessed correctly to be Bosque’s bitter Just Bearly IPA) and #10 (AlbuMurky, the New England-style entry by the aforementioned Boxing Bear). I also guessed the Red River Bad Medicine Honey DIPA, but only because of the reddish color and caramelly finish. (We met the brewer later at the event and he described his recipe as the same hops used in Pliny the Elder, plus a ton of local honey. It’s not Pliny at all, but it tasted… unique.)

I liked the hazy #10 on my tray, but leaned more heavily toward the classic, hoppier offerings, deciding ultimately on #5, which was in this reviewer’s humble know-nothing opinion, the most well-balanced IPA on my tray. My brother went #5, too, and my girlfriend went on her own with #11. The votes were tallied and we walked through to the back of the brewery to await the results.

Wandering through Bosque

The announcer, shooting for some dramatic flair, slowly and agonizingly announced the third place winner as AlbuMurky, the hazy brewed by two-time defending champ, Boxing Bear. Another Albuquerque heavy-hitter, Marble Brewery, was announced as the second place finisher (my beloved #5 beer, which would turn out to be the Safeword IPA). Steve Harvey actually got the order wrong as it was Boxing Bear second, Marble third, but that was a small detail. He had one more chance with the winner yet to be announced.

So which storied Albuquerque brewery won the championship? None! It was Blue Corn Brewery out of Santa Fe (#4 on our trays, but apparently #1 in our hearts), the first non-Albuquerque brewery to win the competition since none other than Blue Corn back in 2013.

My girlfriend, to her credit, described the eventual champ as “not bad/top contender/got malty.” I described #4 as “bitter/too skunky,” proving definitively that I know jack shit about this beer-tasting thing. We did make the trip to Santa Fe on Sunday and stopped in Blue Corn to try a pint of the champ (named Gatekeeper IPA), but they didn’t have it on yet. Presumably, it’s a special or one-off recipe, so we’ll have to wait til they make a bigger batch before we can get reacquainted with it.

As for the hop versus hazy debate, Boxing Bear did comment in a classy concession post on Instagram that their hazy was a “risky” move. I can’t disagree too much with that and credit them for trying something different with a three-peat on the line.

The votes at the end of the day did lean heavily toward sledgehammer heavy hops, but like chile peppers, west coast IPAs, and tourists’ stolen cars, maybe the New England-style beer will be the next thing that New Mexico takes and makes her own.

*  the late, great Anthony Bourdain disagrees with the greatness of the Frito Pie

PS – Come visit us in New Mexico and drink our awesome beers!  New Mexico Ale Trail

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Oot and Aboot: Craft Beer Night at the Ballpark

(Note: Author is not Canadian; rather, he prefers the quaint mispronunciations depicted in the blog post title.)

Friday night is a low ebb for me. After the rigors of a work week, I can find the energy for only a very small amount of coordinated activity.

Plans with other adults, where I have to interact in meaningful dialogue? Uh, no. That’s not really going to work.

There are a few excursions, however, that I can summon up the mental fortitude for. One of them is a trip to the ballpark. I am blessed enough to live just 15 minutes from the home stadium of a AAA baseball team, the Syracuse Chiefs (soon to be the Syracuse Mets, at which point I am sure they will be afflicted by boils, locusts, hot fire, and other various Biblical plagues).

In an attempt to drum up attendance, in a park that consistently has lots of leg and elbow room available, a number of promotional events have been added to the schedule.  New in 2018 is…

CRAFT BEER NIGHT.

Oh, yeah, that’s right.

For $20, the buyer, in this case myself, is awarded a 200 level ticket to the ballgame and two beers from a selection of 16 oz. delights, all served courtesy of a fine local tavern called Now & Later.

While the tavern itself has a dozen or so beers on tap, and several dozen more in cans and bottles, they bring a subset of these to the ballpark to be sold to thirsty baseball fans such as myself.

These beers do normally go for $10 a throw, so, essentially, the Friday ticket to the game is free with the promise of drinking two craft beers.

I CAN TOTALLY DO THAT.

(I suppose you could also look at it as the purchase of a $12 ticket to the game, and then two $10 brews discounted to just $4 each, but, somehow, in my brain, the concept of a free ticket to the game makes more sense).

I chose to partake, first, in this juicy IPA, so juicy, in fact, that the word “juicy” appears multiple times on the can.

My second choice was a Gose, the only Gose that I saw on the menu, this little number which touts itself as being derived from grapes.

These were both good, but not great, beer choices.  They got the job done, is what I’m saying.  I won’t delve into all of the subtle details of these particular beers because, quite honestly, they weren’t quite memorable enough for me to feel the need to do that.  They were cold, and beery, and alcoholy, and went particularly well with the hot dog and deep-fried-cornbread-stuffed-with-jalapeno-cheese-and-bacon things that were also consumed that night.

Sadly, the home team couldn’t muster all that much offense, giving up four runs before we found our seats and ultimately losing 5-0.

Given all of the goodness I was soaking in, though, I didn’t mind that either, particularly.

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Review: New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA

You know what’s good? Barbecue.

You know what’s better? Barbecue, washed down with the sweet nectar of life.

Out for lunch with a couple of my friends at Syracuse’s best local barbecue joint, the well renowned Dinosaur Barbecue, to enjoy their sublime Chicken Deluxe sandwich. Listen to this description!

“Mojito marinated chicken breast, melted American, lettuce, tomato, pickled onion & jalapeno relish, BBQ mayo, BBQ sauce”

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’d punch my mama in the ear to get to one of these sammiches.

(Minus tomatoes, which I don’t dig on, due to their textural similarity to what a human heart must be like if you were to pull it out of a man’s chest and then place it on a mojito themed chicken).

The choice for this particular day was to wash it down with a New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA.

Well, this beer is murky and delightful, with hints of deliciousness!

Honestly, as I find my voice writing beer reviews, I will admit, that many of the nuances of beer descriptions are just lost on me. It may be that this beer contains all of the wide variety of spices, aromas and flavors as described on the site’s own media.

ITBMCBB*, the Juicy Haze has a “very strong hop aroma of citrus (lemon, some orange, lime and grapefruit) and tropical (guava and pineapple), with light grassy and caramel-like malt aroma.”

And how’s the mouthfeel?  Well, hell, my mouth is full of beer and chicken, so it feels great!

This is a delicious tart beer and with an ABV of 7.5% it also packs a nice little wallop to it.  And that’s always a good quality by my own measure.

If I were writing copy for this product, I would describe it as the taste of “two sexy leprechaun ladies making out with each other in a rainstorm.”

This beer was served draft style but it’s also packaged in a pretty slick design by the fine folks at New Belgium. 

Go out and have one!

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