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!