This is Part Four of an ongoing series chronicling the Grand Beercation of July 2011. To start at Part One, click here.
What is this so-called pizza’ed pie?
Post Magic Hat, we checked into our hotel and called a cab to drive us downtown for an evening of dinner and drinks. Well, after asking the waitress at the Vermont Pub & Brewery, and the bartender at Magic Hat for dinner/beer suggestions, they both pointed us towards American Flatbread, an organic flatbread pizza restaurant with supposedly great beers. We had walked past it earlier in the day, as it’s about a block away from VT Pub & Brew.
The cab driver we got was certainly a character, telling us how lucky we were to call when we did because he was around the corner from the hotel getting the car washed. Apparently some sea gulls (lake gulls?) had left a few presents on the windshield earlier that day. Oddly enough, he referred to them as “dump chickens,” while Lady Friend calls them “dump ducks.” My coworker calls them “Mondo birds,” coming from his brother’s time spent in Biddeford, Maine. I had never heard any of these terms and think they’re all lunatics. The driver then proceeded to tell us his life story in four miles, about being on dialysis and medication as a result of a liver transplant at age 21. Nothing like talking to a liver transplant to take the fun out of a weekend of boozing. Apparently, when he had his original liver, he was very fond of drinking, as he described having “double Zombies” with his mother, and some ‘shine that he estimates was 225-250 proof.
Ok. Sidebar. I’ve looked into this subject quite a bit in the past, and there are a few things wrong with that statement. In the US, alcoholic proof is measured by the amount of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) in a beverage. The proof is simply double the alcohol by volume (abv), so a liquor that is 80 proof is 40% alcohol. Bacardi 151° (the symbol for proof is “°”, the same as “degree”) is, naturally, 151 proof, or 75.5% abv. The highest proof alcoholic beverage produced is Everclear, a neutral grain spirit that clocks in at 190° (95% abv). It’s about as close as you can get to pure alcohol by normal distilling methods, because at this level, when you try to distill (boil) the mixture further, the alcohol evaporates with the small amount of water left and doesn’t concentrate any more (called an azeotrope). Everclear is allegedly used in laboratory experiments, because it’s as reasonably close as you’ll get to pure ethyl alcohol.
The point is, anything over 200 proof is theoretically impossible. So whatever liver-destroying moonshine this guy was drinking certainly wasn’t 225+ proof. But that’s getting technical. In his defense, I’m sure it TASTED like that. Moonshine is unaged corn spirit that is usually distilled to a high proof. Because it isn’t mellowed by aging in barrels, which gives it color and flavor, it usually has a very rough, raw, burning taste. You can drink a 150 proof aged rum and enjoy it, because of the flavors added by aging, but even a 100 proof unaged spirit is going to taste relatively raw, and make you think it’s something much stronger than it is.
So, we got to Flatbread around 4pm ready to stuff our gullets, since we had an early lunch, and many beer tastings that afternoon (about 13 samples by my count). There was about a 5-10 minute wait for a table outside, so we moseyed over to the bar thinking we’d get a beer to start while we waited. We thought wrong. The beer list was… impressive.
It was a daunting list, with special bottlings up to $30. This is BEER. Serious beer. However, when I’m faced with this kind of situation, I default to the local house brews, of which there were plenty. American Flatbread is partnered with Zero Gravity Brewing. For some reason, I didn’t make the connection that Zero Gravity on the menu referred to the name of the brewery, and was trying to puzzle out how you make a 0.000 gravity beer. Yeah. I’m a genius. They don’t seem to have any sort of official webpage that I can see, and most links direct back to American Flatbread. It seems that there’s a master brewer, Paul Saylor, and that everything is brewed on the premises. As near as I can tell. Would have been helpful to think of all this while I was actually there, but I was hungry.
So we ordered our pizza. I don’t like most toppings, so I got the cheese/herb on my half, and Lady Friend had some sort of mushroom veggie horror on hers. I’m of the opinion that sauce is a vital part of good pizza (this guy gets it), and the flatbread just didn’t do it for me. It was just cheese and bread, but not pizza. Granted, toppings would have helped, but pizza is such a simple thing that it doesn’t always need it. This “pizza” needed it. Lady Friend wasn’t thrilled either, but downed it since she was hungry.
As for beers, I convinced her to stick to the local stuff. I went with the Anniversary Ale, a session pale ale, and her starter was the Weizenheimer wheat beer. Both were excellent, and the pale ale had plenty of hop. I was starting to fade after the cheese intake, and we ordered one more beer apiece. She had the Bach Nein, a strong dark lager, and I had to try the TLA IPA, a double dry-hopped beast. It was a big flavor punch, lots of bitter hop. I was starting to get hop burned after the first couple sips, as the day’s tastings caught up with my mouth, and by the end of it I was just in full palate fatigue. I’m told that raw cashews are good for palate cleansing, and are used at wine tastings, but we decided to go to Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream (when in Vermont…). I was really looking forward to some nice creamy vanilla, or a choc chip, but the closest they had was chocolate chip cookie dough; too filling. Went with the chocolate, and it was delicious, but not as refreshing as I had wanted.
No passport stamp on this one, due to my own ignorance.
Next post, Part 5, 3 Needs Brewpub.