Posts Tagged ‘Belgian’

Review: Stella Artois Chalice


“It’s a chalice, not a glass.”



stella_chalicesSo, I belong to a word-of-mouth marketing group called BzzAgent. Every once in awhile they send me some free stuff, and I tell people about it. Pretty simple. Occasionally, they have BOOZE stuff, which is pretty much why I signed up in the first place. This is one of those times. They sent me a logo’d 33cl (~11.2oz) drinking chalice to drink their beer with. I already had the 40cl (~13.5oz) bigger sister, likely from some bar giveaway, but unique glassware is always fun. Until I have to move again.


Stella Artois is the current campaign, and they sent me a glass chalice. They like it when you call it a chalice. Stella is a Belgian lager, and a big brand of Anheuser-Busch InBev which is pretty much the largest producer of beer in the world. I would show you some choice quotes from the legal agreement they sent out, but that link has mysteriously disappeared. Basically I’m not supposed to mention any other brands and just stick to the Stella basics, which is difficult because I like to compare things. For example, there may be another beer company who made it a point to create their own custom drinking glass to enhance the flavor of their product. Just saying. It happens.

Not that this is anything new. A great number of breweries, especially in Europe, have brand-specific glassware to serve their beers in. The theory is that the shape, size, thickness, and other features of the glass are tailored to each individual beer and everything tastes better. Certainly glassware makes a difference. You wouldn’t want a martini served in a plastic red cup, or a fine scotch sipped through a twisty straw (well, maybe you would, but you know what I’m saying). So that’s where Stella is coming from. They’re also big about the ritual of the drink. There’s a certain well-known Irish stout that also has a bit of ritual for a proper pour, but the Stella dance is a NINE STEP NUMBER:


stella_ninesteps

Yikes.



Now, I’ve never known a bartender to go through that many steps to pour a beer, despite what the commercials say. Even on a train. But then I don’t order Stella that much. The tastiest one I ever had was from a keg, but most likely you’ll find it in a bottle. A green glass bottle. Green glass doesn’t block as much light as brown glass, and the beer gets skunky, like a number of other imported European brews. In sciency talk, the beer is light-struck in a process called photodegregation. When the light-sensitive isohumulones in the hops are exposed to light, they break down creating, among other things, sulfurous atoms creating the undesirable aromas and flavors. Why they haven’t made the switch to UV-blocking brown glass despite this known flaw is beyond me, but I suspect it has to do with brand recognition. Some argue that the sulfurous qualities are intentionally created traits in certain brews. I don’t really buy that. I’ve had both good and bad examples from the same brewery, so either way, inconsistencies exist in the product. Maybe it’s from being light-struck, maybe not, but a beer brewed in Europe has plenty of opportunity to sit in less-than-ideal conditions, even on the supermarket shelf. So let’s do the ritual and see if the chalice can enhance my Skunky Artois.


stella_steps


I had my bottle chilled and ready to go. The glass was washed purified, and I popped unveiled the bottle. The alchemy part was fun, but I skipped the plum bob for the crown, also known as building a head. Having misplaced my antique Belgian dagger, I went with a samurai sword for the beheading. It seemed to work just fine. The head crown was judged to be exquisite, I cleansed my glass chalice, and bestowed the frosty beverage upon myself.

Man, this terminology gets tricky.


stella_closeupSo, how did it work out?
Well, the brew nosed sweet with cereal grains, and a mild skunky aroma. Not the worst one I’ve smelled, but that sulfur musk is still in there. It does smell corn sweet, which makes sense as corn is an adjunct used in the brew. It’s even bragged about as part of their ad campaigns.

The taste?
Well, it’s a little too sweet. Very rounded, very pleasing, very refreshing. I can’t say that I notice the difference the chalice makes to the taste, as opposed to swigging straight from the bottle. The chalice does impart a nice handfeel… there’s some weight to the chunky stem that counterbalances the liquid. The stem also allows you to handle the chalice without touching the reservoir itself, which would raise the temperature of the beer from the heat of your hand. Lagers should generally be served as cold as possible. Stella recommends serving at 36°-38°F, just a shade above freezing. Bad things happen to warm lagers.


Did it make a difference? Maybe, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Having a little ritual to a beverage can be nice sometimes, but other times you just pour the beer already. Either way, now I’ve got a brewery-specific piece of glassware should I pick up some more Stella. Actually, I’ve got one more bottle in the fridge, so I guess it’s time to start the ritual over again.




Squirrel Farts is now accepting solicited product reviews! Send me a bottle and I’ll take a pretty picture and talk it up in the amusing tangential manner you’ve come to expect. Beer, spirits, mixers, whatever. Contact here for details. Note: I will mention that the review was solicited, hell, I’ll even brag about it. Free booze? Damn right. But The Man says I have to say I got it for freebies. I’m excited about free stuff, so whatever. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it, or that I’ll give it a good review. But chances are if you read this blog, then we’ll get along. Put it to the test: send me your booze!

The Bully Boy Speakeasy

So, last Friday night I went to Bully Boy’s speakeasy party.

It was pretty sweet.

Let me explain.


A couple months ago, the Bully Boys started dropping hints on Facebook and Twitter that they were going to throw an exclusive bash to celebrate their one year anniversary of the distillery. Old-timey garbed dudes started showing up at local bars, and posters appeared around town, each with a QR code to scan, which took you to a website. From there you registered, and got a secret entry password to the secret location (which wasn’t revealed until a week before the party), in the style of old speakeasies. I still have no idea what my password actually was, since the audio file kinda slurred the last word. Black gull? Black gulp? Black colt? Not a clue. Something like that. So I planned to equally slur the last word to gain entry.

Finally, the location was revealed: the Waterworks Museum out in Chestnut Hill. It’s located on the reservoir, and was the original municipal water pump station for the City of Boston until the 1970s, when the source was switched over to the gigantoid Quabbin Reservoir out in Central MA. The Lady Friend and I arranged a logistical puzzle (she was coming from Seaport in the city, whereas I was coming from work, then into the city on the T) and met up on the green line, carefully avoiding the horror of the B train through Boston University. Seriously, it stops every 30 feet out there. Ridiculous. After snagging a C train to the Reservoir stop (they were running shuttle buses after Reservoir, so we totally lucked out on that one) we had a brief stroll around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir itself, and over to the museum. Entrance was gained via the side door, and in we went. They actually never even asked for the password.


I bet it’s haunted.



Just inside the door, we ran into co-Bully Boy Will Willis, and chatted for a bit before continuing farther in to the museum. Holy snotrockets. This place was HUGE. Three story-high machinery lit with accent lights towered above, while the DJ pumped out remixes of classic Prohibition-era ditties (before switching over to some sweet Ace of Base). Several bars were set up throughout the machine room, and we sidled up to one to get a few drinks. I led off with a Mojito (pre-mixed, but Mojitos are a pain to make) and the Lady Friend went with the Rough Rider, the whiskey cocktail. After our traditional Bully Boy cheer “BULLY!” We took in the small details while sipping our drinks: the cigarette candle holders (real cigs… I checked), Bully Boy branded coasters, match books and empty liquor bottles as flower vases, all arranged on wooden casks. The Bully Boy logo projected brightly onto the machine room floor, and the guests, some decked-out in Prohibition-era attire, meandered in to clutch highball glasses and stare at the mechanisms looming above.


And jamming out to some sweet tunes. I did indeed see The Sign. And it opened up my eyes.



Our next round of drinks worked out quite nicely as the Rule 37 for the week:

The Commodore

- 2 oz Bully Boy White Rum (our pour was at least double that, but I’m the last to complain about a heavy-handed bartender)
- Top with Night Shift Brewing Trifecta (Belgian-style pale ale)
- Garnish with lemon wedge

Um. Pour a whole bunch of rum into a pint glass and top with the Night Shift. Plop a lemon wedge in there and drink it.


Whoa. It was certainly boozy. Trifecta is a 7% abv beer to begin with, so there’s a decent amount of punch in this pint. Yes, it’s more of a beertail than proper cocktail, but this totally still counts. Nosed with a strange mixture of sugary blackstrap rum and a Belgian-y sweet & sour aroma. The Bully Boy certainly overpowers the brew, but it’s still in there with a faint cry of “I’m not dead yet!” The taste? My notes read “oh that’s strange.” A Belgian fruity and sour note, offset by the sugar of the rum. There’s certainly a boozy astringency as well, and an almost grapey sour quality to the Belgian. I’d have to try the beer straight to get a better idea of it, but the two did get along quite well.

As we slurped our Commodores, the OTHER Bully Boy, Dave, came over and chatted with us for a bit. As we were talking, Michael O’Mara, co-founder and brewer of Night Shift, walked up, fresh from delivering kegs at the American Craft Beer Festival, and we were introduced. His altered suggestion for the drink was a shot of Bully Boy rum, topped with the Trifecta and lemon wedge, but served in the skinny highball glass over ice. It probably would have been a more manageable alcohol content, and a better blend of flavors, but I was satisfied with my big ol’ pint o’ booze.





The Lady Friend and I stayed a bit longer, exploring the museum, tasting more cocktails and having some snacks. We headed out as the party got REALLY crowded, and made our way back to the T, complete with Indiana Jones-style lawn sprinkler evasion maneuvers. While waiting for the God-forsaken T train way out in the wasteland of Cleveland Circle, we observed a pointy kitty (large rat) shuffling and snuffling along the rails. The Lady Friend, unperturbed by our new acquaintance from the Order Rodentia, and perhaps feeling a bit cocktail-laden, insisted on sitting on a junction box clearly marked “Wet Paint.” Luckily for her, it had dried by that point leaving khakis unblemished for the trip home. Bully!

White Birch Brewing

Ah, the unspoilt expanses of granite-laden New Hampshire. The Lady Friend and I were up that way to visit Maggie the Thunder Kitten of Doom, and took the long way back to Braintree, by way of Hooksett, NH. It wasn’t exactly on the way; Hooksett is past Manchester on the way to Concord, so it’s a detour whether traveling on 101 or 93. Manchester is kind of like the last civilized outpost before the frontier lands of NH. The only reason to drive past it is to visit the mountains, lakes, or Vermont. You know, wilderness.


I’ve included a helpful map.



However, there was a reason for venturing into such dangerous, possibly bear-infested, territory: White Birch Brewing. No no, that’s White BIRCH, with an “R” not a “T.” Trust me, the White Bitch website is totally different. Anyway, I had seen their clean, black and white graphic labels on shelves in the South Shore area, but had never been intrigued enough to purchase one. As a N’Hampsha native, I can appreciate the white birch (state tree!) branding, but there would always be a different brew I was more interested in when beer shopping. Since we were already up in the Granite State, a minor detour sounded like a good excuse to finally check out what they do.


Well, as brewery exteriors go, that’s a different one.



Yup. It used to be a car dealership. Now it’s a brewery. It turns out they do pretty much all Belgian-style ales, which are not exactly my most favorite. But I was certainly willing to partake of the free tasting. Ben the Brewery Assistant was pouring the samples, so we dove in.





Belgian Style Pale Ale
Year-round flagship beer
Nose: Tart fruit, almost like a cider or a sour ale.
Taste: Foamy head. Belgian wheat, but not too banana/yeasty. There’s a nice hop bitter that helps to cut through the yeast. (The yeast used is their house yeast, a Belgian strain.)

Hooksett Ale
Nose: Caramel. Sweet malt.
Taste: Malty, with a slight bite to the end.

Wrīgian Belgian-Style Ale with Rye Flakes
Pronounced “Rye-gan”
Nose: Fruity malt aroma. Caramel.
Taste: Malt. Slight rye spice to the back end. Nice little bite to cut the malt.

Oak Aged Tripel
Flavored with rye-soaked oak chips
Nose: Foamy head. Slight sour apple aroma.
Taste: Starts fruity, foamy, with a soft carbonic. Slight spice in the start, changes over to malty mid, with a rye whiskey snap to the finish.

Dubbel
Nose: Dark color. Noses with a dark, malt, some syrup, and a slight roast.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. Malty start, but Belgian yeastiness helps add spice to cut the syrup, without being too mouth-coating. VERY nice.

2nd Anniversary Ale
Flavored with oak chips
Nose: Malty, but with a sweet roasted flavor.
Taste: An open sweetness unusual for a beer. An evaporative sensation opens up the taste, unlike the heavy syrup sensation/mouthfeel that was expected from the malty nose. Maybe it’s a higher alcohol punch (it IS 9% abv) that helps cut through the malt and give a slight evaporation.


So, that did it for the tasting. All Belgian-based, which is not my preference, but certainly some interesting things with rye and oak in the mix.


Live Free or Die!
Yeah, pretty much everyone in NH has a vanity plate. It’s like a law or something.



So, White Birch is about two and a half years old (hence the 2nd Year Anniversary Ale we tasted). Two weeks before our visit, they had moved to their new (current) location, which was previously a car dealership. They’re running a 7 barrel system, which is quite a step up from the 20 gallon system they started with, proudly displayed in the main room. There’s plenty of beer for sale on the giant wall of happiness, and we picked up a Colonial Ale that looked interesting, though we haven’t cracked it yet. Among the beers were some dog treats as well, made from the spent brewing grain and some peanut butter. As we were snooping around, pickup trucks were drag-racing from the traffic lights on Rt 28/Rt 3/Hooksett Rd. Yeah, Hooksett is that kind of place.


Yup. Toooootally a former car dealership.



So. That was the White Birch experience. If you live up that way, or are making a road trip, stop by.
Beware of bears!

Soused in SanFran – Part 3: SFO D2 Magnolia



This here is Part Three of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.





I’ll try to break these up a bit more for readability and sanity. Mostly my sanity.


Also, we’ve just gotten to Friday morning, so Sissy, you’re going to have to hold tight.
We’ll get to your part.
Eventually.

Maybe.


Friday’s first booze stop and lunch destination was the Magnolia Pub and Brewery, which, from the reviews I’d read, was highly recommended for both their food and beers. We hoofed it through the little “Panhandle” park and uphill to the corner of Haight and Masonic, dangerously close to Hippieville. However, it was around 11 or so, and the flower children weren’t out in full force yet, though a couple street urchins lounged about on the sidewalks nearby.

Once inside, we found refuge from the great unwashed hordes lurking on the streets, and discovered a rather aged decorating scheme to the pub. Antique patina-ed mirrors, a mosaic tiled floor, dubiously murky ceiling stains, chalkboard menus and lots of dark, heavy wood create an old-timey steampunk vibe that was a refreshing change from the shiny new brewpubs that lack the charm of their time-ravaged brethren.

Pictured: character.



Two things immediately hit us in the face when we walked in: steam, and the overpowering smell of barley malt. The temperature in the place had to be at least 75°, which felt tropical compared to the crisp autumn climate outside and entirely fogging the windows. If there were any doubts about this place being the real deal, the boiling wort under the floor made a persuasive argument. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple beer samplers from the bartender, Sal, who was extremely friendly, and looked like he was Zach Braff’s cousin. There were nine house-brewed beers on draft that day, so the Lady Friend and I split the list to get a taste of each. The flight includes six beers of your choice, which come in a unique, triangular-shaped, wooden tray of sorts, and your selections are thoughtfully written down on a little postcard. There were some interesting brews here, outside of the standard pale ale/ IPA/ stout offerings of most brewers.


Plus, they’ve won some medals. BEER medals.



Rosebud Belgian Ale
Nose: Similar to my bottle of Meletti Amaro. Sweet, with some eucalyptus and menthol.
Taste: Fizzy, carbonic bite. Mild, soothing flavor. A little cinnamon, a little wheat. Sweet.

Barking Pumpkin Pumpkin Ale
Poured VERY dark, almost like a stout. Very dark ale.
Nose: Pumpkin spicy with a roast quality. A sickly sweet roast that the Lady Friend pegged as “pecan pie.” Molasses.
Taste: Pumpkin spice start, eases to a bitter roasted bite in the middle.

Proving Ground IPA
100 IBU! Hopped with Simcoe, Stirling, Cascade and Washington.
Nose: Lovely hop! Citrusy sweetness.
Taste: Bitter, then sweet, then bitter, then sweet. A hectic jumbled start, eases to a resinous grapefruit bitter that lingers. Frenzied and awesome.

Dark Star Mild
Nose: English style malty bitter, like an English bitter ale. Roasted with some slight chocolate underneath.
Taste: BITTER roast on tongue. A strange sweetness I couldn’t put my finger on. Not milky, but some vanilla, with a mocha coffee finish. Couldn’t quite pin down that sweetness though. Intriguing.

Weekapaug Gruit
Had to ask about this one… a gruit is an herbal mixture for bittering beer without using hops. This one contained yarrow, rosemary, chamomile and anise.
Nose: Herbal. Eye-opening. Again, eucalyptus and cough medicine, as in an amaro. Roasted malt underneath.
Taste: Sweet. Herbal succulent. Lady Friend got potpourri, while I went with amaro, and Sal agreed with me on this. Very strange, and would be a good digestif. Don’t know that I would enjoy a whole pint, but very glad I tasted this one.

Blue Bell Bitter
Nose: No discernible nose. SLIGHT cereal sweet, though there was quite a bit of barley aroma in the air which made our nosing rather difficult. The tall highball style glasses helped funnel some scent out of the beers, but even with a good swirl, I couldn’t get anything out of this one.
Taste: Nice hop bitter start. Eases to a watery malt wash. Nice and mild. Very drinkable.

She-beers:
There was a bit of overlap in the lists, and we both had the Rosebud, Barking Pumpkin and Proving Ground IPA. These are the other three that were in the Lady Friend’s flight.

Long Break Bitter
Nose: Nice citrus hop. Lady Friend got some apple. Poured with a nice yellow straw color.
Taste: Mild hop bite. Carbonic. Clean. Light and refreshing with a hint of lemon.

New Speedway Bitter
Nose: Sweet. Light barley – not like a heavy malt aroma. Cereal grain, fruit.
Taste: Cereal sweet. None of the heavy malt syrup.

Kalifornia Kölsch
Nose: Cereal sweet. Typical Kölsch, with a slight pils staleness.
Taste: Slight sharp bitter, but otherwise light and clean.


Somewhere in the midst of our tasting, we perused the menu, which was very artfully designed and crafted. Seriously, it was really nice, without being over the top. Totally fit with the rest of the aesthetic of the pub… an elegant vintage style with a patina of dust and years of service. The menu fare itself was apparently brand new, as they had recently changed their food offerings. I delighted in a fried chicken sandwich, which was moist, lightly fried and tasty, served on a soft, fresh baguette (we literally saw the bread guy carrying in bags of baguettes) with gooey melted cheese and salty fries. It really was excellent. Fresh and delicious. They Lady Friend decided to test out the gastropub leanings of the place, ordering a grilled cheese made with goat cheese, mushrooms and kale.

We both immensely enjoyed our meals, and eavesdropped on the bar staff’s conversations involving one of the customers across the room. Apparently, the customer had ordered a Snakebite, which is a half-and-half concoction of lager and cider. There was a mild debate amongst the staff as to how to make it, with one of the servers arguing that it specifically had to be half pilsner. It was a moot point, as the bar won’t even serve it. They will give you two beers and let you mix it yourself, but for reasons that weren’t quite clear, they won’t make it for you. It probably has been shown to cause cancer and birth defects, just like everything else in California. These stupid signs were in every bar, and I was surprised the next day when there wasn’t a placard in the shower telling me that water increases the risk of drowning.

Silly regulations aside, Magnolia was fantastic. Of course, we were there for an early lunch, so I have no idea what the usual scene is like, on a Friday night for example. They really did live up to their gastropub claims, without being douchy about it. Our bartender Sal was very friendly and helpful, and unless they’re pumping in fake steam and barley smell, it’s a true brewpub. Go there.




Sidenote: For New Englanders, you CAN get a Snakebite at the Coat of Arms pub in downtown Portsmouth, NH. After you’ve had a few, go across the street to the infamous Gilley’s and get some wonderfully greasy diner food served in an old dining cart.

Rule 37: The Boulevardier

I had entered a couple photos in a local art show Friday night, so our cocktail night was a bit delayed. Lady Friend started with wine at the show, then switched over to beer for dinner at the Union Brewhouse, where we each checked two more brews off of our 99 bottle list. She’s doing her list in reverse alphabetical order, and went with a Unibroue La Fin du Monde, which she enjoyed greatly. Another trip to Montreal may be necessary to stop by the brewery in Chambly. Her second was a pint of Blue Hills Brewery’s Okto Brau on tap (which was quite good… it didn’t taste like most Octoberfest beers. It really did have flavors of autumn somehow. Finished with a cereal sweet taste that I can only describe as Halloween candy Kit Kat bars. Seriously.) I crossed Haverhill Brewery’s IPA off my list (they’re one of our future drink destinations) and had a Harpoon IPA, which is never a bad choice.

So, after dinner, we adjorned to SquirrelFarts HQ, aka The Drinkatorium, aka The Cocktail Cave aka Hōm Bar. All names awaiting trademark certification. Lady Friend decided to stay on the beer train, and ignore the hallowed tenets of Rule 37. I had picked out a new drink earlier in the week after stumbling across one that sounded good in one of the drinking blogs/ articles I follow: about.com’s cocktail section. The article is here.


The Boulevardier


1 1/2 oz bourbon (I substituted rye)
1 oz sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
1 oz Campari


Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and STIR.
Strain with a julep strainer into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with orange twist.

Have a sip and exclaim “Ah, Paris!”
…even though it’s made with American bourbon, and Italian Campari.


Clearly, it’s similar to the Negroni, pouring bourbon instead of gin. It wasn’t bad, but the Campari overwhelmed the whiskey, even with an extra 1/2 ounce of liquor in the mix. Perhaps a bolder rye (I used Old Overholt) would be more willing to stand up to the Campari’s amaro insolence. I think I’ll try this one again, easing up slightly on the Campari. The whiskey added a smoothness to the drink not found in a regular gin-based Negroni. I used rye, wanting a little more bite, suspecting bourbon’s sweetness would be washed away by the powerful bittersweet in the Campari. A variant of the recipe, the 1794 Cocktail, seems to be just what I’m looking for.


It turns out, the Boulevardier is a bit of a classic, and older than its Negroni sibling. During Prohibition, cocktails really grew into their own, and expat bartender Harry McElhone started Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Since Campari, an Italian bitter liqueur, was widely available in Europe, a number of cocktails included it as a big flavor boost. Although this cocktail appears to be a whiskey version of a Negroni, (equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth) Campari was unheard of in America at the time, and would not appear until about 20 years later following WWII. Harry’s cocktail was named for a monthly magazine called, of course, The Boulevardier, as it was the signature drink of the magazine’s publisher. More on this can be found in the short article by Ted “Dr Cocktail” Haigh at Imbibe Magazine, found HERE. Go read it, then make a Boulevardier for yourself.


Actually, go have a Negroni. It may be newer, but it’s tastier, and still a classic.

‘CuseQuest Bonus Round: Albany Pump Station

Ok, I’ve got to get this out of the way right now.


That song goes through my head every time I think of the name “Albany Pump Station.”

Pump it up
A little more
Get your body moving on the dance floor



Have I started yet?
I have?
Ok.



The Lady Friend and I departed Beeracuse and headed to the wondrous Capital Region to meet up with some friends of mine just outside of Albany (actually outside of Schenectady, a town with the most ridiculous name… Niskayuna, not easy to type into a gps while on the Thruway). We got to see the newly-relocated Casey Sage, a golden retriever who loses her furry little mind every time she sees me, and the resident pooch, Rosie, a black lab. Critter Count: 12! Five of us (humans) went to the Albany Pump Station for some grub, and a beer tasting for me. Sadly, the pups stayed home (in separate rooms; they get into mischief together).

The Albany Pump Station, formerly the Quackenbush Pumping Station, was used to pump Albany municipal water from the Hudson River. A guy named Neil Evans bought the building in 1999 to build a brewhouse, bringing his family back into the brewing world. The Evanseseses had started a brewery way way back in 1786 in Hudson, NY, but, like everybody else, got closed down by Prohibition in 1920. According to their website, they were quite popular, even exporting to England and France. They also boast one of the country’s first bottling facilities in 1889, and even malted their own grain. The Pump Station is a solid two story brick building; very cool and industrial looking. Two giant cranes still hang inside and were used to haul the brew tanks up to the second floor, where they now sit making gallons of bubbling happiness.

It was certainly a cool place, and hopefully the beers would hold up. I’ve been let down before, but Albany Pump Station (C.H. Evans Brewing Company) more than rose to the challenge. I was the only one in our group to tackle the eight (8!) beer sampler for a very reasonable $7, though the other male with us stepped up and had a hefeweizen. Before the food came, I got to wander around and take a few shots. They opened up the main dining area by cutting away most of the second story, and you can look down on the whole place from the upper mezzanine.


Hi, BBack!



The group consisted of my friend from Maine, BBack, who had just moved to the area for a teaching job. Her twin sister, and the twin’s husband had been living in Cambridge for awhile before moving to Albany a couple years ago. BBack’s husband is the owner/operator of previously mentioned Blue Line Apiary in Maine, and he’s due to follow to NYState soon. Naturally, the Lady Friend was present as well.

When the beers came I scuttled back downstairs to start the sampling. The group was somewhat intrigued that I go to the trouble of taking notes, though Lady Friend was all too used to my nonsense and wasn’t fazed in the slightest.





Scottish Light
Described on the beer list as “an amber hue and short finish.”
Just like me!
…wait, what?
Nose: Sweet cereal, barley, with a slight cherry fruit
Taste: Cereal. Barley. Very refreshing.

Quackenbush Blonde
…I knew a Quackenbush blonde once…
Nose: No discernible aroma
Taste: Cheerios! Also had a light, floral hop flavor.

Smoked Hefeweizen
Nose: Banana wheat hefe smell. Slight smokiness. Everyone else smelled much more smoke than I did.
Taste: Cinnamon/ clove with a slight smoke finish. Not bad for a hefe.

Doc’s Pear Cider
They were out of the Belgian-style strong ale, and BBack wanted to try the pear cider, so I requested this as a substitute. A good choice.
Nose: Um. It smells exactly how you would expect pear cider to smell. Sweet and pear-y.
Taste: Light and crispy. Nice pear flavor with a touch of tart sweetness. Lip smacking. Very tasty. I am not generally a fan of pear flavors, or cider in general, but this was really good. After my taste, BBack drank the rest and I was sorry to see it go.

Belgian-style Dubble with Cherries
Nose: Mild, dark cherry aroma
Taste: Belgian wheaty texture, though no banana flavor. A tart, cherry syrup sensation with a malty roast.

Oatmeal Stout
Nose: Roasted malt. Slight sweetness detected.
Taste: Nice bitter roasted flavor. Dark and malty. Delicious.

Kick-Ass Brown
Nose: Sweet, with a hint of lemon fruit.
Taste: Malty with some lemon. Smooth. Low carbonated mouthfeel. VERY nice flavors. More going on here than a regular brown.

Pump Station Pale
(Amarillo Hop)
Nose: Piney hop aroma, though not overpowering. Some tree fruit juiciness.
Taste: Very nice. Bitter hop balanced well with the malt sweet. Yum.


Our food came as I was finishing up the tastings, and everyone was impressed with the size of the sandwiches. Very tasty, and good fries. The New Yorkers picked up the check for my birthday (thanks!) and Lady Friend and I hit the Thruway back to Boston, battling traffic and downpours the whole way back turning an easy cruise into a demolition derby. We made it back unscathed, unloaded our precious cargo, and I finally got to sleep in my own bed of awesomeness. I declare the ‘CuseQuest completed!


Treasures from the journey!




Upta Potlind, Paht 2: Allagash

This is Part Two of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.


Aaaaaaaaallagash-y where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet
When the beer isn’t made from barley graaaaaain



Yikes. Enough of that.



Allagash is a wheaty kind of place, producing pretty much only Belgian wit styles. Apparently, they were one of the first in the US to really start making Belgians back in the mid-90s, and they’ve been doing pretty good ever since. They’re all over the place in ME, and not hard to find in other New England states, though some of their more exclusive bottles might be less common. I remember seeing many of their premium bottles on the list at American Flatbread in Burlington, VT. They’ve got a decently large facility in an industrial park on the outskirts of Portland, complete with hop vines out front, which I’ve started to look for at breweries.





Unlike most tours, we started with the tasting, which our tour guide, Kate, promised would make the actual tour more fun. They were currently finishing up construction on their retail/ tasting room, so there was a bit of drywall and paint reek wafting through the air. The space looked like it was expanded to be a decent size, with a cool bar that appeared to be constructed from old barn rafters. I imagine they get some rather large tours, as there were probably about 20 people in our group, and it seemed like a low-key day. There were four beers to sample:


White Ale
A Belgian Witbier, 5% abv. Spiced with Curaçao orange peel, coriander and a “secret spice.” This is their flagship beer and accounts for 80% of production. It’s distributed in 16 states, and DC, with California being the biggest market. Allagash uses bottle conditioning, so there is still active yeast in the bottle, creating the cloudy appearance (you’re supposed to invert the bottle and swirl the yeast around to mix it evenly before pouring). It smells and tastes like a Belgian. Wheaty, banana. Next.


Tripel Ale
A Belgian Abbey/Trappist Tripel “celebration” style ale. 9% abv, but doesn’t taste it. Honey undertones, but dry. Again, wheaty, banana. Move along.






Curieux
Ok, now we’re talking. This was unusual. They take the Tripel, and age it in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels for 6-12 weeks (it averages eight weeks). What you get is an 11% abv syrupy, smokey, bourbon taste along with the wheat. Yow. It was very interesting, but a bit too bourbony for me (I like bourbon, but this was a strange flavor). I think I’d need to sample more before making a verdict, but this was certainly intriguing.


Fluxus ’11
French-style farmhouse ale, 8% abv. Brewed every year in July for the anniversary of the brewery’s first beer sale in 1995. This is a “bier-de-garde” as it is aged and conditioned (or “guarded”) for six weeks. I was expecting something much more… let’s say “earthy,” from this farmhouse ale. They tend to be a bit on the bovine-deuce side in aroma and underlying tastes. This one, however, was built as a malt showcase, and certainly succeeds. They were aiming for “malty, but not too sweet,” and definitely hit the mark. I found it to be quite tasty, with just a hint of that Belgian wheatiness, but without an overpowering malt syrup as in a barleywine. This one is part of their “Tribute” series of beers, of which $1 of the sale of each bottle goes towards a charitable organization in Maine. Which makes me wonder if the bottle costs $1 more than it should. Yes, I’m a terrible person.


Tour time! Now that we had a healthy dose of 5%-11% wheaty Belgian bubble bearers, we donned our OSHA-approved, State of Maine issued occular protection apparatuses. Safeten up!



Pictured left, in resting mode, and right, in active deployment.





We were warned that we’d be entering a working brewery, and production was in progress today, so be aware of your surroundings. Also, “There will be things screaming ‘touch me!’ Lots of shiny buttons and knobs.”

Ooooooh, shiny.



Standard brewery tour, this is how to make beer, skip ahead, skip ahead. Interesting bits: they sell their spent wort for cattle feed. One of their whirlpools is an old Ben & Jerry’s dairy tank. Largest tank is 120 barrels (if my math is correct, 1 barrel is 31 gallons, so that’s a 3720 gallon tank. In beer terms it’s 39,680 12oz bottles. Approx one f-ton). Their production is around 4800 barrels per year. The bottler will run both bottle caps AND corks for 12oz bottles and 22oz bottles (many of their premium bottles are corked).

Ok. Now we get to see the barrel “house,” two climate controlled rooms used for aging and conditioning the beers. The first room was cooler, and had an immediate smack of bourbon aroma, like a punch to the nose. Yum. This is where all the Curieux is aged (again, an average of eight weeks) before bottling. The second room was filled with 90% experimental brews with some great names. We saw “Zebulon,” “The Lude/ El Luderino/ His Ludeness,” “B’oncé,” and even a Three Sheets shoutout:

That curious little monkey.



That was about it for the tour. Overall, very cool. I don’t like Belgians/wheats, but they do some very nice work there. Allagash is one of the big boys in Maine, although nowhere near Shipyard Brewing, which is a MONSTER. We opted to check out some smaller places instead of Shipyard, so we didn’t make that tour. But Allagash was well worth the visit. It’s probably one of the larger “smaller” breweries. Our next stop was on the other end of the spectrum, a tiny place just down the road in the same industrial park: Maine Beer Company.











Beercation 2011: Part 5, 3 Needs

This is Part Five of an ongoing series chronicling the Grand Beercation of July 2011. To start at Part One, click here.

3 Needs
A fantastically divey taproom.



3 Needs is only about a block away from the madness of Church St in Burlington, but you’d walk right past it and never know what you missed. The Lady Friend and I wandered around the tourist maelstrom for a bit after acquiring some official VT ice’d creams before heading towards the last stop on our passport mission. Saw a few mildly interesting oddities on the way including a Golden Retriever puppy shaved in an unusual manner, complete with tufted lion tail:















…and yet, right around the corner, a Ferrari F430 Spyder.

This one goes to eleven.






I think you’ve got a bit of an identity crisis going on, Burlington. Artsy-fartsy or Ferraris… pick one.


Lady Friend asked me what “those red things” were. Those are brake calipers, dear. BIG ONES.




Anyway, we tracked down 3 Needs and headed in. They’ve got a weird airlock double-door thing going on which makes it awkward to casually stroll in while wielding photo gear, but I eventually made it. It was 7pm on a Saturday, and dead. Three others, a couple and one other solo gent, were in watching a soccer game, and not saying much.



I’m assuming it gets busier later on in the night. The reviews on Yelp say this is a “love it or hate it” kind of place, and describe the normal crowd as “Phishy.” Perhaps it’s better that we were there while it was quiet.

The bartender was very friendly, and told me they brew in the basement, and I’m kicking myself for not taking a peek at their setup. He chatted a bit about the various laws, saying they can brew and serve on the premises, but can’t sell growlers or kegs, and have to use a local liquor store for sales. The decor of the place is very 18-35 year old male demographic, with a pool table, punk rock stickers, liberated street signs and license plates, and a plethora of Family Guy and Simpsons cutouts.

Marge nipples?

It was definitely a dive, but with that “neighborhood-bar-where-the-locals-go” sort of vibe. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was sitting in somebody’s “saved” seat. While we were there, a few others wandered in, and casually strolled behind the bar to get their personal pool cues before settling down for a couple games. My thoughts might change if I saw the usual crowd, but I loved it. Good, solid place to sit down, shut up, and have a good beer.



Oh right… beer.



I started with the Citra IPA, which was bad move, since I was still in the throes of palate fatigue. If only B&J had vanilla! Lady Friend went with the Helles Boch, in a surprising move. I had suggested the pils or the Belgian wit, but she was wheat-ed out and wanted some flavor. Nice. The IPA was fantastic… hoppy bitter bite, but with enough smoothness to balance it out. The best beer I had on the whole trip. Lady enjoyed her boch… medium dark and malty sweet. I nursed the rest of my pint, since my taste buds had been hop-burned away, but she was feeling adventurous and got a (free!) flight of the four house beers. I’m not sure if that is standard, or if it was just quiet that evening, but free beer always tastes better. The Belgian wit, Helles boch and Paul’s pils were all pretty standard and drinkable, but the IPA was by far the star of the show. Excellent.


We stayed for about 45 minutes before venturing out for further adventure. After consulting with the bartender, who suggested VT Pub & Brewery (went there), then American Flatbread (there too), he mentioned the Farm House with its outdoor beer garden, right up the street. Done and done. Onto the next one, Part 6, the Farmhouse Beer Garden.


Passport stamp acquired for a grand total of 4! (5 if I had paid attention to Zero Gravity. Bah!) However, four stamps gets us an official “Drink Vermont Beer” bottle opener magnet! Vermahnt… do watcha wahnt.

Return top