Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beer, Beer, Beer and, Well, More Beer

I am sad this blog has languished. And unless someone picks up the ball, it will certainly languish once more after the start of the new year as I will be alcohol-free. Might as well call me mr. big o'doul's. Heaven help me. But, while I still have the opportunity to share with you some brews I have been imbibing, I will do so.

I know what you're saying: How the hell can I remember what I've been drinking? Easy. I've been using an app called Untappd. Nope this is not a pitch for them. I'm not being compensated by them nor receiving any special perks. I just thought that some of you out there who enjoy craft and microbrews might like some way of keeping track of what you have enjoyed and what you wouldn't drink again even if your life depended on it. I know when I'm standing in front of a vast array of beers I'm not always sure what I've had let alone if I enjoyed it or not. So, I have Untappd to remind me and also suggest other beers I might enjoy based on what I've had in the past. Just a little tidbit - I'm writing this post based on what I've kept track of using Untappd.

Just a warning: this will be a fairly long list so there won't be any lengthy descriptions. I will, however, add a rating to each on a scale of 1-5 stars () - I think we're all familiar with how that works so I won't go into it. We all good? Well then, let's get to the beers shall we?

As I write this post, I'm enjoying an Abita Amber. It's smooth, somewhat malty but very low on the ABV scale at 4.5%. It strikes me as a very versatile beer that could be paired with virtually anything. ()

The other night at Buffalo Wild Wings, I had two beers. Well, wait, that's not really right. I had more than two beers, but I tried two different beers. Yeah, that's what I mean. The first was a Tallgrass IPA. (★) Tallgrass is not available in the Northeast so it was nice to have something different. It's not overly hoppy like some IPAs (not that I mind that), but it's a well-balanced beer that goes down easily. Methinks a bit too easily.

The other beer was from a brewery I hadn't had in a very long time. A quick note: Atlanta Brewing Company (now formally known as Red Brick Brewing Company) was founded by my former babysitter when I was but a wee, lower case dubya. He opened the Brewery in 1993 and the first beer that left the building was the Red Brick Ale. Well, the other night, after finishing a Tallgrass, I had the Red Brick Brewing Pale Ale. (½) I must say it was pretty nice. It was hoppy without being overly bitter and went down quite smoothly. I definitely wish I could get it back home.

Before I left for Mississippi, the family and I went to one of our favorite pizza places, Flatbread Company in Canton, CT. It has great clay oven pizza made with organic ingredients from local farms and a very laid-back atmosphere - the kids like to sit on the futon couches. Anyway, they always have good beers on tap and this night was no different.  I was happy to see they had Cisco Brewers Whale's Tail Pale Ale (★) as one of their offerings an I ordered without hesitation. It's a solid pale ale and not overly hoppy, that is to say, not too, too bitter at all. If you can pick some up somewhere, I suggest you do so. It's a very nice, drinkable pale ale.

I'm going to wrap this post up with some beers I've had recently at Backstage Eat. Drink. Live. Backstage opened a little over a year ago in Torrington, CT. Thankfully, they love craft brews and usually have 20 or more on tap and another 60+ in bottles. They even have special nights where a brewery comes in and takes over the taps. We were fortunate to be there when there were Dogfish Head and Brooklyn Brewery  takeovers. I started off the Dogfish Head night with the Namaste (½), a Belgian-style White beer that really set the tone for the night. I followed that by going to the other end of the spectrum and had the tried and true 90-Minute IPA, () the beer di tutti beers. For those of you who have had this you know I can't say anything more about it - it's about as perfect a beer as you can get. And if you haven't had it, you are doing your palate a great disservice - shame on you. Finally, I took a chance and gave the Theobroma (½) a try. Part of their Ancient Ale Series, Theobroma is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilis and annatto seeds. The chocolate and honey are certainly noticeable, but what it gives it its character is the slight burn/heat on the finish from the chilis. A nice offering from a brewer that never ceases to surprise.

At Brooklyn's takeover, I was all over the map. I started the night with the East India Pale Ale (½). Dry-hopped but not a terribly hoppy beer as is common in most Pale Ales. Predominantly malty flavors are balanced with a faint bitterness and the finish is very clean - certainly a worthy session beer. I quickly followed the Pale Ale with a Pennant Ale '55 () - a "lighter" beer than I usually drink, but a decent one nonetheless. It's a nice ale that goes down easy and would be a nice introduction for someone interested in English-style craft ales. I finished the night with the Brooklyn Pilsner (), their attempt at capturing the pre-prohibition German lagers. Although I usually pass over pilsners, I gave this one a shot and I wasn't disappointed. This offering is slightly more malty than its Bavarian brethren which was a welcome surprise. It's definitely not one I'd turn my nose up at.

My apologies about the banner - damn photo-sharing sites. But I'll get that fixed sometime. Also, I have some Barleywine-style beers at home that I'll be giving a go hopefully around Christmas. So, look for those reviews some time too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Think My Muse Has a Problem

Do you want to know what's worse than talking about not being able to write? Writing about not being able to write. Look at my blog, ask my DadCentric buds, check out CultureBrats, hell, just look here - they'll all tell you that I have been an utter #FAIL as a writer as of late. But, that's changed. My muse, who has been on extended leave until recently, has returned (however briefly we'll soon find out) looking like she spent a year in Vegas. And what, you might ask, has inspired me so? Beer, of course. That and my brief Thoreau-like walk around the pond in the apple orchard. But mostly beer.

Friday night I stopped into a new packie in the area. Great store: big, clean, friendly. The only problem is that they are still pretty thin in the micro/craft brew area. The ubiquitous names are all there, but it is lacking some of the local faves. Anyway, I grabbed some Sam Adams Octoberfest and the Latitude 48 IPA. Not sure how I'd missed the latter, but I had. According to the Sam Adams Web site: Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA is a unique IPA brewed with a select blend of hops from top German, English, and American growing regions all located close to the 48th latitude within the “hop belt” of the Northern Hemisphere. The combination of hops in this beer creates a distinctive but not overpowering hop character. The beer is dry hopped with Ahtanum, Simcoe, and East Kent Goldings hops for a powerful citrus and earthy aroma. The hop character is balanced by a slight sweetness and full body from the malt blend. Hmmm, hop belt - who knew? Well, color me intrigued. It does have a distinctive hops character, but it isn't the full hoppy mouthfeel and bitterness of Sierra Nevada's Torpedo (but really, what is?). As far as IPAs go, this offering is on the lighter side, which I imagine, is what Sam Adams was hoping for. It has that nice fresh pine and floral aroma and taste one expects from an IPA, which is complemented by a nice malty/bready backbone to give it some decent body. All-in-all it's a nice British-style IPA and certainly a good one to try if you're not all that familiar with IPAs or have been hesitant about hoppy ales.

Saturday found us in Massachusetts at Nashoba Valley Winery for some apple pickin'. This might come as a shock to some of my Mass. homies, but I had never been apple picking until this day. I know. But I'm willing to try anything when there's a brewery involved. Or single malt whiskey. Or both. So, who knew there were some many different varieties of apples? Ok, ok, put your hands down you kiss-asses, that was a rhetorical question. Anyway, after walking the rows of the orchard we made our way up to the shop where they have their wines, beers and spirits available for purchase. I was tempted to pay the $3 for a shot of the whiskey but deferred considering I had driving to do. I grabbed a six-pack of the Nashoba Valley Winery IPA - you're surprised, no? We made our way back to the porch where I took the opportunity to try this American-style IPA. I noticed that earthy pine I've come relish almost immediately after opening. There was the distinct bitterness on the first sip, but it quickly dissipated which came as a bit of a disappointment. It finished somewhat watery and that's unfortunate because it had a good hoppy body to it - or so I thought. It does have a nice balance to it - there were some sweet malts underlying the hops, but it didn't finish. I was left wanting more. Maybe it will be borne out in subsequent bottles - I did rush this one more than I would have usually. I hope so.

Let's hope my muse has decided to stay around for awhile. Maybe I just have to give it more beer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Girls Night Out

So, my closest girlfriends & I have vowed to do a quarterly night out. With our hectic schedules, kids, careers, family..... life in general.... we just weren't seeing enough of each other -- so we had our first one last July...... and then we had our second one on Saturday night. Yes, you are a very smart reader if you noticed that 6 months (almost 2 full quarters) had elapsed between nights out..... but hey, we are trying.

Anyway, two of my girlfriends, my sister (Aunt P) and I went out in Boston on Saturday night. We went to the totally hip Eastern Standard. Apparently, this is where the "who's who" go to "see and be seen" in Boston. Honestly, I typically do not frequent "hip joints".... no, I'm more of a RedRobin or Chili's girl -- but, this place was suggested and well, I went with it -- boy am I glad I did.

My college roommate (I'll call her Barbie) made our reservation weeks and weeks ago, and so when we arrived we weren't subjected to the 2+ hour wait that those who didn't plan ahead had to endure....

The drinks menu was expansive -- but I wasn't feeling that adventurous, so Aunt P, Barbie & I decided to share a bottle of wine. After perusing the wine list and determining that I couldn't afford 75% of the bottles listed, we slected a bottle of Merlot -- and here's the review:

First, a photo .... taken with my iPhone

The 2007 Osso Anna Merlot was very, very nice. The flavors were sublte, but deep.... chocolate, vanilla, a slight hint of oak. The smoothness was remarkable -- the gentle flavors lingered -- there was nothing acidic about it. The restaurant charged $40 for the bottle -- I've seen in listed from $19-$23 online, so although it's slightly higher than the typical wine reviewed here -- it was too good not to mention.

The food was simply amazing. I'm not even going to say any more about it for fear I might salivate on my keyboard just remembering how good it was.
After dinner we did the obligatory drinks -- I had an absolutely delicious Hot Buttered Rum -- which, apparently for my own protection, doesn't seem to be included on their online menu.
I'd write more, but as I had to share the bottle..... I simply can't -- but we will be doing more girls nights and there will be more wine, so stay tuned :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Opera not-so Prima

So, we picked up a bottle of 2007 Opera Prima Merlot based solely on the bottle.... I thought it was pretty. This isn't exactly what it looked like, but close enough.... picture a big '07 instead of the '08 and well, that's pretty much what it looked like.

I opened it while I waited for Mr Big Dubya to come home from work, I poured a glass and began to sip...... it was acidic -- not very pleasing.

Let it breath, I told myself -- maybe this is one that will benefit from some breathing.

So I set my glass down and resumed yelling at my children.

Mr Big Dubya arrived home and poured himself a glass. Unremarkable and pedestrian is how he described it -- bland, slightly acidic but more so just blah.

We finished the bottle, but weren't wishing we had picked up another -- and probably wouldn't bother getting it again.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holidays, Hops and Malts

I love the holiday season. And by "holiday season" I mean mid-October until, well, April when it starts to warm up a bit. It's a time for big, heavy and hardy beers; spiced beers; and beers that just warm you all over. Yes, I know beers are cold and thus not conducive to warmth, work with me here and just enjoy the vision and sentiments. Anyway, I have been doing a lot of tasting recently so you don't have to. I know, I'm a giver like that. At least that's what I tell myself when I step on the scale. Note to self, if you're gonna drink like it's 7, 7 n-n-n-o tomorrow, get to a gym once in a while. So, like I just mentioned, I've been trying a lot of beers the past several weeks and I figure now might be a good time to share. Yes, I realize I might have done this before all the parties and all, but where's the fun in that? Here's a reason to go out and celebrate Little Christmas - just my little inconsequential gift to you. No, no need to thank me. No, really.

River Horse Variety Pack: I'm a big fan of variety packs - something about spice and life or something like that. I love them because it gives me the opportunity to enjoy what that brewer believes might be a good combo for beer drinkers or some brews they're introducing. Or I just buy them because they come in a really cool box. Dude, there's a hippopotamus on the box. A hippopotamus! How could I not buy it? In this particular 12-pack were Hop Hazard Pale Ale, Special Ale, Lager and (my favorite just for its name) Hop-A-Lot-Amus. I'm not reviewing each beer, but let's say it's not a pack that you'll find much wrong with. All-in-all, these are very solid offerings, none of which disappointed. But, let's go back to my favorite, Hop-A-Lot-Amus. This is an unfiltered Double IPA. Repeat after me: UN-FIL-TERED(uh). There is a lot of sediment floating around this beer so if that's not your bag, baby, you might want to avoid this one. As far as aroma goes, there's some malts up front, but the hops do fight for your attention, eventually winning out and you will detect a piney, citrusy aroma. The bitterness of the hops really does mask its 8.5% ABV which may make for awkward situations (read: falling on the floor) if you're knocking back a few while seated. I think it's a pretty good Double IPA and won't disappoint you drinkers with a penchant (that's French for hankerin') for hoppy beers.

Berkshire Brewing Company Cabin Fever: Last year, The Dubyas were invited to a party in early December. On tap at this particular party was Cabin Fever. It was a 1/3 barrel, a "log" as it's known in liquor store parlance. And damn was it ever good. Flash forward two weeks later and you would have found another Cabin Fever log at Casa Dubya. Flash forward once again to this most recent Thanksgiving and you would have heard me squee like a schoolgirl when I found a few bottles at our local "packie." And, of course, at our most recent holiday open house, another log just happened to find its way to our humble abode. I really can't say enough good things about this seasonal. It opens with a nice maltiness with hints of caramel and some spices. The hops only add to this complex aroma with some bold fruitiness. There's a noticeable hoppiness on the tongue, but not overpowering, which is tempered by the nice breadiness of the malts. There's no outright spiciness like that found in other winter warmer-style ales, but there is a faint, sweet candy-like quality on the finish. Honestly, I haven't been disappointed by a Berkshire Brewing offering yet - Gold Spike, Steel Rail, Berkshire Ale, Lost Sailor - have all been great brews and ones that I find myself going back to often.

Woodstock Inn Brewery Red Rack Ale: Back in September I wrote about Woodstock Inn's Pemi Pale Ale. I mentioned that this beer intrigued me and I was anxiously looking forward to popping into the Inn during our trip to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving. Well, we did visit...twice. Unfortunately, I wasn't in an all too adventurous mood and stuck to the Red Rack Ale. Sort of a "I know what I'm gonna get" mentality. And, well, I'm at the brewery dammit. Anyway, it's a solid amber, but I think it could use a little more fullness. That is, some of the flavor you'd expect from a quality craft beer are washed out. It has a nice floral hops scent with malty, bready undertones. It maintained a pretty consistent yellow-tan head throughout. But when it came to the taste, I feel like it was lacking; like they missed an opportunity to give it something more. Now, that's not to say I won't try it again, but after the Pemi Pale Ale, it was a little disappointing.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: Oh, Sierra Nevada, how quickly you have become my favorite. Can you open an east coast brewery so I can come and bow to your greatness? Huh? Was that out loud? That's internal monologue...internal! Well, what can I say about Sierra Nevada beers that I haven't already? Not much really. Celebration Ale is not what you'd expect of a winter offering. Why? One word: hoppy. Hoppy, hoppy, hoppy. Not spicy, not mulled, um, er, mulled-y and definitely not malty. No, this is another great pale ale offering from Sierra Nevada. It smells piney and citrusy so you know you'll get a mouthful of hop flavor. There is an ever-so-slight malty aroma but that quickly has its ass kicked and sent on its way. It has a medium mouthfeel and well-balanced carbonation which makes it easy to drink - if you don't have plans to drive it could easily be a great session beer. I must go buy some more of this. Allow me to reiterate: you can not, I repeat, can not go wrong with a Sierra Nevada beer.

Harviestoun Brewery Old Engine Oil: Now, c'mon and be honest, wouldn't you just want to drink this beer because of its name? Old Engine Oil: Viscous, Chocolatey, Bitter. Sounds good to me, sign me up. I had this beer over the weekend at J. Timothy's, which, if you live in this area or are ever visiting or lost, you should stop in and give it a try. Anyway, Old Engine Oil pours much like you think it would: thick and black and right off the bat you get hit with chocolate and coffee making it the perfect substitute for breakfast. There is a slight hoppy aroma but not overwhelming by any stretch. You will notice the chocolate taste right away followed closely by coffee. There is a slight fruitiness to it but the malt is much more prevalent, very much like one would expect in a stout. It is definitely a filling beer but with an easy drinkability and some kick to it. It is the type of beer that makes me want to look for more Harviestoun varieties. In fact, I'd love to find the Ola Dubh - that looks really good.

Beers that I still need to drink that are just sitting in the fridge waiting: Brewery Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel and Barrington Brewery Yule Fuel.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Molly Who???

Happy New Year!

Yeah, I know, I know.... I've been a sucky blogger lately -- and it's not because I haven't been drinking.... oh no, I've been drinking a plenty -- just haven't been writing about my indulgences.

So, once again I am recommitting myself to this space -- I will share with you the joy (or disappointments) of the wines I try and I hope you'll do the same.

First up -- a friend recently mentioned a wine she fell in love with.... I just had to try it. So, I sent Mr Big Dubya an email and told him he'd be wise to pick up a bottle on his way home from work -- at $27.99 a bottle, it is a little more expensive than our typical selection -- but sometimes you just gotta splurge. The label alone is enough to make me love this wine -- so, I have a feeling it won't disappoint.

Will be diving into this bottle tonight, and will hopefully have plenty to say about it afterwards -- in the meantime -- Cheers to 2010!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Compre este vino

I think it’s happening again. A couple of years ago, Sue and I picked up a Spanish rioja at a really great price (about $12) that we loved. It became one of our go-to wines. Today, the Marqués de Cárceres rioja sells for closer to $20.

A couple of weeks ago, we picked up another Spanish red, a 2006 Sabor Real Toro, for $9.99. We both thought it was so good that I kept the bottle around to remind me to write a review (even if telling people about it will drive up the price).

The 2006 Sabor Real Toro is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. Toro is the name of the wine, the name of the Spanish region that wine comes from, and the name of the Denominación de origen under which the wine is classified. (The Spanish are conservative with names like that; but for those in the know, the naming system quickly lets you know specifically where a wine is from.)

As I’ve written before, I’m terrible at telling you why I like a wine. But I can tell you that since Sue and I both liked it, that means it’s not too light and not too heavy, not too fruity and not too spicy, not too sweet and not too dry. I also know that we’re not the only people who have discovered that the 2006 Sabor Real Toro is an outstanding value. Just Google it and see what I mean.

If you find this wine—especially if it’s still about $10 a bottle—give it a try. And let me know if you agree.

P.S. Sue and I just joined the Zagat Wine Club. Have any of you tried this?