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.