Monday, February 28, 2011

The Session #49 - A 'regular' beer

Alright, so I am doing my first session blog post. This session is all about 'regular' beer and is from Stan at Appelation Beer. What is a regular beer? What is your regular beer of choice? Why is it your regular beer of choice? Sounds simple right? Hmmm.... maybe not. I think that the problem begins with that first question. After that, it should come pretty naturally.

So, what constitutes a regular beer? Is it something that can be found easily? Is it something you drink on a regular basis? Is it something that can be obtained by the masses (relatively) easily? I say yes to all three of these. But, that still leaves a pretty broad classification. And to that, I agree. No reason to narrow down your regular beer. If that is the case, it isn't really a regular beer now is it?

Ok, on to regular beer and my personal choice. To be honest, this is a style that changes from month to month and sometimes even day to day. What may be a regular beer for me today isn't necessarily what will be a regular beer for me tomorrow. A regular beer can evolve with the seasons. It can evolve with your tastes. It can change with accessibility and location. So, basically what I am saying is that as you grow, so does your regular beer (or at least it changes). For the past few months, my choice of regular beer has been from a local brewery to me in Westport, Massachusetts. The brewery is known simply as Just Beer. The beer that I have as my regular beer right now is called Moby D. It is a nicely hopped American Pale Ale. It sort of straddles the line between pale ale and IPA, but is a great beer that goes with all kinds of food. It is exceedingly drinkable and at 5% abv, a single bomber in a night is just about right. I can have it alone, or if I feel like not having much to drink, my wife and I can split it.

The reason this beer is regular to me is that it is relatively inexpensive (I purchased a case of 12 bombers at the brewery for about $25, 3 cases for $60) and is a year round beer available at the brewery. And the brewery is easy to stop by and pick it up. Maybe that is tough for some people but for me, it is on my way back and forth between Providence (where I live) and Cape Cod (where my wife's family lives). Westport is right off of the highway and an easy side trip. We can stop by, pick up a case (or three) and get right back on the highway where we were going. So, it is easy to find (at the brewery!). It is something I drink regularly (and can be drank regularly). It is pretty inexpensive and can be purchased without much problem. So, it answers all of the criteria I set out when starting this. It is my regular beer for the time being.

With all this being said, I have had regular beers in the past be Narragansett Lager, Heavy Seas Marzen, and Yuengling Amber Lager among many others. This isn't my first regular beer and it won't be my last. This just happens to be the regular beer of the moment. Here's to regular beers!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mister, Fred, Bernie, and The Donald

Oh you poor, poor Mets fans out there. In truth, I am partially one of you (although I am a bigger Red Sox fan of course). Mister Met has the right look there. The mess that has been made of the Mets organization now (and going forward) is amazing and I ain't talking about the Amazins.

So, Fred Wilpon et al decided to put all their investments into funds with that upstanding citizen Mr. Madoff. And then, when the market crashes, and their funds keep going up and up, they don't stop for, oh I don't know, two seconds, and ask themselves why that is the case? Yeah, I don't think that they did anything technically wrong, but the amount of stupidity is just unreal. How did this happen? Why did it happen? More importantly, how is Freddy the head of a major corporate entity such as the New York Mets? It is just tragic, that's what it is.

And now, what does he want to do? Well, Freddy is trying to sell a portion of the team. But no, oh no, he still wants to be the guy making the decisions, so there will be no majority sale of the team. We all know that Freddy makes such great decisions, don't we? Why wouldn't a new minority owner want him to be the guy heading the show? I mean, it's a no brainer right? According to the Wilpons, they have lots of interest in someone buying a minority share.

Yes, I will believe that when I see it. Why would anyone do that? What possible reason? Not only are you buying into a team that has had some remarkably bad press (I mean really, they are connected to the scum of the past century in Bernie Madoff), but the team is a true mess on the field. Add to that that the Wilpon's have the entire team ALREADY borrowed against and that silly little BILLION dollar lawsuit going against them in court now and you have what makes little sense for anyone to want to get involved with this team. But they have a lot of interest. Yup.

So, now we get to The Donald. Not going to say too much about him, but he has supposedly contacted the Wilpon's about purchasing a majority of the team. Well, this is definitely unlikely right now since of course the Wilpon's don't want to sell said majority. And then, beyond that, do you think Bud Selig and his fellow cronies want The Donald as part of baseball? They didn't want Mark Cuban*, so why would they want another over-the-top personality like The Donald?

So what is this going to do to the Met's team on the field? Initially, not much. The team is what it is though. Not much in the way of new free agents or players that are received via trade. So, the team you saw out there on the field last year is likely to be the same one you see this year. In other words, it may not be pretty. Johan Santana is out to start the season. Hopefully he will be back sometime during the season. But, there isn't much otherwise. Some decent pitchers in Pelfrey, Niese, and Dickey. But, nothing spectacular there. Offense has lots of injury prone guys like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay (sort of with the latter). The team could be decent, but likely isn't going to be great. And in the NL East, that just isn't good enough. Atlanta and Philly are just better teams. Well, Philly is at least. And Florida isn't so bad either (although losing Uggla hurts).

But, we are really going to see how things are affected following the draft and especially next offseason. The draft will tell us if the Mets are going to actually pay to get the good picks. That remains to be seen. Next offseason, the Mets have a TON of money coming off the books as well. I doubt they will sign Reyes. I know they won't sign Beltran. Castillo and Perez will be lucky to make it through camp on the team (and this would be bad.... real bad.... for the Mets as a team). So, if they are somewhat aggressive on free agents next offseason, then we will know that the team is a bit more solid than it appears right now. But, I am not sure that that will happen. I think this is a sinking ship. Sandy Alderson and his team in the general management office have a lot of work ahead of them. Thankfully, they are good and are likely to be able to keep things going there. There is likely few who could do better in this situation. But, oh, what a mess. This will be a tough year or two to follow the Mets.

I still am not sure I see a situation where the Wilpons manage to hold onto this team, but Bud and the gang may be able to work something out for them. I just don't know how it will happen, and it scares me what damage this will do to the team itself.

*By the way, MLB made a huge mistake in not giving Cuban a shot with a team, but that is another story entirely.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Night on East Avenue

So, back a couple of years ago, my wife Cherie and I decided that we were going to get into craft beer. We had always liked beer to a point, but didn't really know much about it. We decided we wanted to drink 365 beers for the year of 2009. Well, we went WAY past that and came close to somewhere near 500 I think. At the time, we came across a pub in Pawtucket, Rhode Island that seemed fantastic to us: Doherty's East Avenue Cafe. They had like 40+ taps at the time and, since it was about fifteen minutes from where I live in East Providence, I didn't have to make the trek down south county way to the Mew's Tavern*. Alas at the time, I thought more taps equated with better beer so ignored other great bars around.

Anyway, my wife and I went to East Ave often and became regulars for the most part, usually going on Monday nights. That was wing night ($0.25 wings!) and they also offered beer promos from local breweries (and some not so local ones).

We met some great bartenders there as well. One, Gina, has become a great friend outside of the bar as well (she makes a mean Cannellini Beany Thingy.... and yes that is what she calls it). Ray, the other bartender there, has always been great to talk to, especially if I want thoughts on IPA's (his major preference). The staff was always good for the most part. The beers were good for us at the time. Lots of your Magic Hat, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and other large distribution crafts as well as local crafts such as Mayflower, Fisherman's, and Newport Storm. They had a few of the BMC lagers of course.

Overtime, however, as I discovered more and more complex beers, I grew to take East Ave for granted. The beers just weren't interesting to me anymore. I also realized that the prices were not good for what you were getting. I started to sour on the beers there. I moved onto only wanting really nicer high end beers. I wanted the hard to find Belgians. I wanted the high alcohol specialty beers. I wanted only things that were special and rare. And East Ave didn't have those options, or if they did, they were extremely high priced. The place fell out of favor with me. I didn't go back much. It also didn't help that the owner drove my wife nuts with his habit of dipping at the bar where we were eating. I don't have an issue with dip, but really, at the bar, with food there? Maybe that was overly sensitive, but I think a lot of people could get behind that. I still went there every once in a while, but not nearly as often as I had in the past.

Well, as things have a habit of doing, I ended up tiring of the specialty beers I wanted. I had them. I liked them. But, I realized that I missed having good beer at a comfortable place with people I like around me. Recently, I have returned to East Ave to find exactly what I was missing.

The pub has expanded their drafts now to 82 lines (including two casks). They still have a lot of junk beer on tap (BMC as well as their house Newport Storm Hurricane Amber which just isn't that good, even if is a local RI beer). However, they seem to be hitting a very nice middle ground with their beers. They have a bunch of good, solid offerings in the $5-$6 range for a pint. That is decent around here. You can even get some nice deals (I had a $4 10oz pour of Ithaca Flower Power the other night for example). Gina and Ray are still there every Monday. Wings are still there. Jack (the owner) is still there, but he stopped dipping! He seems to have worked to correct the shortfalls of the bar. The high end beers are still a bit pricey, but that is alright. I have enough selection of other beers that I don't need to get those there, although I can get one in a sampler and it can actually be cheaper per ounce that way.

But, the pub is back. The atmosphere of a good pub is there and there is nothing like it. I am back to enjoying beer. I don't need to find those rare specialty brews. That comes in its own time. I can enjoy beer for what it is, a great drink. The other night, I started with the aforementioned Flower Power and then followed that up with a basic Narragansett Lager (as it was the promo beer that night). My wife started with a six sampler of Lindeman's Framboise, Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Old Speckled Hen Pale Ale, Dogfish Head Indian Brown, Cisco Moor Porter, and Wachusett Milk Stout. She then went with a four sampler of Pretty Things Jack D'Or, Pretty Things St. Boltoph's, Rogue Dead Guy, and Sir Perry Pear Cider. We then together shared a Narragansett Porter to finish the night. Nothing earth shaking with those beers. But, almost everyone was good to excellent. The worst may have been Wachusett Milk Stout and that wasn't that bad (although Wachusett isn't really a great brewery, Larry DIPA aside).

The food is also good there, if a bit pricey. I had a mushroom and swiss burger that was actually one of the better burgers I have had in a while. I got with it a huge side of excellent baked beans (decided I didn't want the fries). My wife got a turkey sandwhich on rye which was also very good. On the side she had a really good cucumber salad. We also had one bowl of 10 wings in orange ginger sauce (mmmmmmm).

So, maybe this seems similar to my next to last entry on rediscovering the local brew pub, but maybe that is a recurring theme for me this year: rediscovering things you used to like and liking them again. That isn't such a bad thing. I look forward to having more good selections at the East Ave pub. I look forward to more nights of Gina and Ray. I look forward to more nights of listening to Cherie and Brian (the bar manager) discuss their beloved Mets (and how poorly they will be playing). Here's to your local pub. Learn to love it and understand that if it has shortcomings, you can often see past them and still enjoy the place. It has taken me a long time to get to that point, but I am glad I am there. I hope to remain for a good long while.

*South County, for those non-Rhode Islanders refers to pretty much anything in the southern part of the state. It isn't an actual county or anything. Just more Ro-dielanese.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goals for 2011

Ok, so 2011 is here and I want to put some goals about what I want to get to with this blog this year. Nothing that is difficult to achieve, just basic, simple ideas.

First off, the second part of the blog, that old baseball thing, I really need to talk more about it. I ended up being bored and frustrated with the red sox last year and therefore I didn't write too much about it. However, I am still a fan of the game in and of itself. So, with that being said, I will be writing more about that (however, I will still be talking beer for sure).

Secondly, I want to no longer do beer reviews per se. There are plenty of those out there and let's be honest, who needs another mook like me telling them what subtle scents of caramel and brown sugar or citrus and pine I taste in a beer. You may get some of that if I find a beer I am really excited about, but it won't be in a beer review type of package. You want those, I would like to direct you here. I am going to talk about beers, but in truth I want to talk about my thoughts on beer at large. We'll see how that works out.

Thirdly, I want to do my best to focus on the business side of both beer and baseball. I have a growing interest in this. I work in business as a purchasing agent and it has gotten me more and more interested in this side of things. I would LOVE to find a job in either of my two areas of enjoyment for this blog, but that is unrealistic I am afraid. But, I don't want that to stop me from understanding why things are done the way they are in business and specifically in the areas of beer and baseball.

Fourthly, I may have to very well touch on my beloved Virginia Tech Hokies and their poor performance in football which almost always ends up leaving me unhappy at the end of the season (yes, the Orange Bowl stunk this year and James Madison... well... *shivers*... nothing to be said about that). Time for me to pay more attention to them and maybe post once in a while about them.

Fifthly, and lastly, I want to work on the quality of my writing here on this blog. I have read some great blogs with people who really know how to write. I want to be able to flow better and make for a nicer read. Maybe not throw a blog post together in 10 minutes (like this one) but spend time on it and really make it a worthwhile read for the readers.

I won't say I will post more, but I will obviously try for that. Here's to a successful 2011 in the blogosphere. Let's have some fun.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Support your local brew pub!

So, I was out this past weekend doing my old-man version of a pub crawl. That would be three different bars and then back home to go to bed before midnight. I could talk about the first couple of bars I went to (and the amazing Struise Tsjeeses I had at one) but the one I want to talk about today is the last one, Trinity Brewhouse.

I have been going to Trinity off and on for about ten years now. I used to go just about every week. I was a member of the "Mug Club" they had there. Eventually I tired of the place as I felt that the beer wasn't anything special and I just lost interest in it.

Well, fast forward about five years and I have made a nice transition into full fledged beer dork-dom. I still would stop by Trinity once in a while and felt the beer was OK, but nothing special. I could get much better beers out at the beer bars around. But, then came this past weekend.

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due. Sean Larkin, the brew master at Trinity, has taken some risks on beers recently and the quality of the brews has jumped WAY up. I am still not so sure about the draught system at the pub. I have heard complaints of carbonation issues. I also always tend to get hangovers there more than other places, maybe something with the system. But, it was never that big of a deal to me all in all. The beer was always what I sort of shrugged about. It was always "eh, whatever". Sean changed that. Where before I would only see the flagship IPA, a red, a pale ale, a lager, and an imperial stout (definitely the best), I now get a whole host of fantastic beers.

I now walk into the pub and see a barrel-aged scotch ale, a barley wine, a dunkel weisse, a kolsch, an imperial red, and maybe even a cascadian dark ale? The beers are bigger, better, and so much more well made. So, yes, the beers are a huge improvement over old standbys they used to have. Hell, even the food has gotten better there.

This past weekend, when I went in, I had the barrel-aged Scotch Ale.... on cask! And oh my, was it ever fantastic. The beer was strong as a good scotch ale should be. The barrel-aging wasn't overly done. It was in Woodford barrels but the bourbon just added a nice subtlety and the beer did the talking. And having it on cask just made it that much better. This is a beer perfectly made for cask.

My wife had the Cascadian Dark Ale that they had there. Yes, here in Rhode Island, we had someone brewing a CDA, and it was really good. Not my favorite style, but a great job with it for sure. We followed that by splitting a pint (mind you, all of these are full pints!) of the Barley wine. Caramely and sweet, it was a great beer. Maybe a pint is too much, but you certainly get your money's worth with it. My bill came to $17 for the three full pints. All beers were not low in alcohol either, so you would expect to pay more. I know their normal lower alcohol pints usually run in the $4 range. So, either way, you get a good deal in my opinion, especially here in New England.

So, yes the beer was excellent. The bartenders are actually good again too! But, while there, I realized what, even more than the beer, that I liked so much about the place. This place is Providence. It is where I live. It welcomes everyone in and keeps them all happy. It is a neighborhood type pub in the middle of a nice sized city. What more could you want?

I am glad to have rediscovered my love for my local brew pub. Do the same with your local brew pubs too. Keep them going, and they will pay you back in more ways than just beer.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 10 Beers of 2010

Just like last year, I wanted to put together a list of my favorite beers from this past year. These are not in any particular order. They are just my favorite ten beers from the year 2010.

The Bruery Hottenroth - I had enjoyed a Berliner Weissbier style before with the Fritz Briem 1809. But, the Hottenroth just blew me away. It was an amazing beer that I first had on a warm April Saturday. The tart lemony flavor make this one of the most thirst quenching beers I have ever had. This beer was made for the summer. Low in abv (3%) but so much flavor. Just an incredible beer for sure.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler - This is probably the most welcomed beer to my taste this year. As a fall seasonal, I had been unenthused by most Octoberfest beers. Thankfully, Sierra Nevada, in deciding to brew a fall seasonal a bit different from these normal fest beers, did a great job with a relatively simple, excellent drinking beer. Lots of good roasted flavor here with a nice bit of hops, this beer was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you SN for brewing this beauty. I look forward to more of it next year.

Wachussett/Public House Larry DIPA - Normally I am not a fan of American style IPA's. I tend to enjoy DIPA's a bit more however as I feel they create a much better balance than the normal AIPA's. I am generally not a hop head and I don't care for piney flavor in my hops. This had very little pine in the flavor and just a great overall balance. Just a really nice DIPA. Nice and inexpensive too make this a good beer for me.

Berkshire Brewing Lost Sailor IPA (on Nitro!) - Have you ever had an IPA on nitro draught? I had not and this was one heck of an experience. I enjoy the regular Lost Sailor (an English style IPA, good malt, decent hops, great balance), but putting it on nitro just added an incredible creamy feel to the beer that just made it absolutely incredible. BBC does a number of beers for nitro tap and this is one that I see pretty often now here in New England. That is an excellent thing in my opinion and I look forward to having this as a go to beer for many years to come.

Berkshire Brewing Lost Sailor Aged in Cabernet Barrels - Now I know you may think that me putting the same beer on here is sort of silly. Fear not, brothers (and sisters), for this beer is NOTHING like the regular Lost Sailor. It is an IPA in name only. The aging in the cab barrels soured this very nicely and made just an amazing beer. It wasn't seen often (I had mine at Armsby Abbey in Worcester) but it was such a memorable beer for me. And because my wife was there, I had to fight to just get a sip of this beer. BBC should definitely do more beers like this and maybe even bottle a few of them.

Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze - I still can't believe I bought this bottle (let alone find it). Again, this happened at a night at Armsby Abbey. This was the last bottle they had and they charged a ransom for it. My wife needled me enough to get it however. She still owes me to tell you the truth. But, what a beer it was. A great sour beer with amazing flavor. We were with a number of friends and we all tried it. I think it was a big hit, even with them never having really tried sours before. Luckily we ganked the bottle and it sits on our bookshelf proudly. Most expensive bottle of beer I have ever bought (and hopefully stays that way for a long time to come).

Duchesse de Bourgogne - Ah the good Duchesse will now make her appearance. I love a good Flanders style red and this is one of the best of that style. A bit of a vinegary smell comes off of this beer, but the flavor is sweet with bits of sourness. Fruit flavor is front and center on this beer. Cherries mostly with some strawberry and raspberry as well. Just a great beer to have at any time.

Ithaca White Gold - Aside from the gusher that I had at Thanksgiving, this beer was amazing. I had it first time on tap at Track 84 during Providence Craft Beer Week in October. I was floored. I had never had an American Pale Wheat Ale before this. But, what a beer this was. There is just a slight tartness to the beer which goes nicely with the full carbonation (or sometimes TOO much carbonation, grumble grumble grumble). Ithaca does some good worth with their Excelsior series, and this was no exception.

Three Floyds Blackheart IPA - Another English style IPA that I found at Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown in DC when I was back home to see the family for Thanksgiving. Somehow, they get Three Floyds there. I don't care how, but they do. And this beer shows me why I want to see 3F distribute more than they do. They are an outstanding brewery from the little I have had of theirs. I want more! This beer is just a super drinkable, nicely hopped, beautifully full flavored IPA that I could sit down to drink with almost any type of meal imaginable.

Founders Imperial Stout (2009 vintage) - This was the beer that I came away from the Open It! weekend with a new respect for. I have gotten to the point where I don't care for stouts too much. This beer though made me think I may just need to find the RIGHT stouts. What a beer. Lots of chocolate and coffee flavors as well as the normal roasted stout flavor. But, add in hints of dark fruit and a smoothness (from only a year of aging!) and this beer is maybe my favorite stout of all time. It is even the type that could be vying for the top spot on my all time beer list. It was that good.

So, there is my list. I would love to hear from others on beers that they just loved this past year. Is there something I need to try? Tell me about it please.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A bit late Thanksgiving beer review

Ok, so over two weeks have gone by since Thanksgiving, but I wasn't around the week after Thanksgiving (still in Maryland visiting the family) and this week I have been catching up here at work for my missed week. So, anyway, here is a quick rundown on the beers we had for Thanksgiving Day.

First, we opened up the Hottenroth from The Bruery. My family eats late (like 5pm or so) so we opened this around 12 or so to get things going. It was just my wife and I at that time. As always, a great beer. With the low abv, this was a nice way to start. Tart as always with lots of nice lemony flavor. Maybe not the best beer for the end of November, but I don't care, it was good.

People started showing up soon after that and we started getting down to some real business. We moved to the Ithaca White Gold. I was really excited for this one. I should have held that excitement. This beer was WAY over-carbonated and a mess in general. It nearly exploded and we lost almost half the bottle down the sink. Just a real mess. And then, to top it off, there was a ridiculous amount of sediment in the beer. Nasty looking dark sandy type of sediment. Yuck! I, being the stingy bastard I am, didn't want to waste it though (hey, I paid good money for that beer!). I had some. It tasted good, at least after I let the sediment settle out a bit. But, with the over-carbonation and all of the sediment, it took time. As I said, still decent flavors, slight tartness with good bready feel, but it was hard to get past the problems we had. Ugh.

After that, my wife opened up the Rodenbach Grand Cru. I was busy working on the white gold so had very little of the Rodenbach. This was a beer EVERYONE that tasted loved. My sister, my cousin, my mom even! So, I barely got any of that even after I had finished the white gold. Oh well, I know the beer and know it is good.

It was then time to sit down for dinner. We opened two bottle with dinner, Saison DuPont and Lost Abbey Judgement Day. Saison Dupont is always good of course, but I felt like it may have been slightly light struck. I got a bit of that green bottle smell. My wife insists that that was just the barnyardy goodness of the beer, but I am still not so sure. Well, this still went great with dinner for sure. The Judgement Day may not have been a good choice however. I think the beer was just too heavy for the normal Thanksgiving meal. It just disappointed a bit. Good, but not as good as I remembered it being on tap. No one really enjoyed the Judgement Day, but the Saison definitely received good reviews.

Finally, after dinner, we pulled out that '06 DFH Fort. This was good. Still a bit boozy though, even after four years! But, the booze was way smoother than it could have been. I enjoyed it a lot as an after dinner / desert type drink. Quality quality beer with lots of that great raspberry flavor. Very few tried this one as well unfortunately. A few, and they liked it, but they didn't want much. Guess they couldn't handle the 18% abv of the beer.

So, the day in beer had its ups and downs. I am still pissed off about the White Gold, but hey, it happens I supposed. I am more upset that Ithaca allowed that much carbonation into the beer. Definitely something they need to work on. But, I had a good day of good beer. A LOT of good beer.