Posts Tagged ‘Harpoon’

The Monday Hangover: Oct 22-23

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Naturally, the weekend started with a trip to Curtis Liquors for some beer browsing. I had recently heard of Backlash Beer Company, and happened to see their two brews, Convergence and Groundswell on the shelves. Of course, they wound up in my clutches, and will be reviewed (hopefully) soon. A cool feature: they dip the bottle tops in wax (a-la Makers Mark, Knob Creek and other bourbons, but somewhat unusual on beer bottles), and put a cool logo stamp on the top, like a signet ring. Nice touch.

Also liberated from Curtis was a six-pack of New Zealand Breweries LTD Steinlager Pure. Beautiful matte-finished green cans, slim due to their 300ml (10.1 oz) volume. Purchased almost purely for aesthetics, and again, an upcoming review. It tasted like any other lager, but was on sale for $5. It may still be cheap beer, but it’s FOREIGN cheap beer!

Apropos of cheap beer from foreign lands, the main score: Baltika Brewery Grade 9 “Extra Lager.” I had mentioned this one before when I snagged the glass pint-sized bottle and yearned for the 1.5l. No such regrets this time… The 1 quart, 1 pint, 3 oz plastic-clad wonder was mine for the equally wondrous price of $3.75. That’s 51 oz of beer, which breaks down to 4.25 beers, or 88¢ per drink. At 8% abv. Looking forward to a fun evening when I unleash this Russian monster. I swear I heard it whisper “I must break you.”

Before our cocktail night, the Lady Friend and I also sampled a Clown Shoes Muffin Top, which is described as a Belgian-style tripel IPA. It was… interesting. Hoppy nose with a hint of Belgiany-wheaty-banana lurking underneath. The wheat is much more prevalent in the taste, though with plenty of IPA hop to confuse my mouth. It was good, but I much prefer the Tramp Stamp, which leans more towards the hoppy versus the Belgian wheat flavors. Still, at 10% abv, it was just the thing to kick my Friday evening into gear, and motivate my apartment cleaning activities.

Saturday brought a perfect fall day with big cartoon Simpsons clouds, ideal for a baseball game. I play with some former coworkers, and this was our “World Series,” the final game of the season. The Knives slashed The Guns 9-8, though it was a well-fought battle. Following the game, we convened for a backyard barbeque and, of course, a wide selection of beers. The Lady Friend and I brought Harpoon’s 5:30 club mix pack, containing the IPA, Munich Dark Lager, UFO White and Belgian-style Pale Ale. My consumables were, as near as I can remember, the following:

- Harpoon IPA: nothing wrong here. Always a pleasure.

Samuel Adams Bonfire Rauchbier: it didn’t smell like smoke (Rauchbier is literally a smoked beer… it’s odd, and lovely in small doses) but there were elements of charcoal in the taste. Not bad, but not stunning. I have a feeling they kept the smoke flavor subdued to keep the masses happy. Nothing like the rowdy Bamberg boys.

Trinity IPA: from the Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, RI. I’ve been there several times, and their IPA is outstanding. They only sell their six-packs near Providence, but luckily someone hoofed it up from the Island of Rhode.

- Samuel Adams Black Lager: well, most people brought Harpoon beers, but someone brought a Sam sampler. I’ve had all the Harpoon ones that were at the party, so I took to trying a couple of these Sams. The black lager had a light body but mild roasted flavor. Not bad. Acceptable, but again, like most Sam beers, seemed to be dumbed down for mass appeal.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager: like the Harpoon IPA, this is a go-to in Boston. Nearly every bar in the city serves this flagship brew, and given the choice between this and the usual macrobrews, I’ll happily chug this every time. Lots of flavor for a lager; if you think it’s “too strong,” then maybe you shouldn’t be drinking beer. You really can’t go wrong here, and Sam Lager has probably helped countless lost souls over to the land of craft beers. For that Sam, I thank you.

The Monday Hangover: Oct 8-9

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Following a trip to Curtis Liquors, I returned home with a sample pack of Mercury Brewing Ipswich Ales, including their Original Ale, Summer Ale, and IPA. I cracked an IPA (very nice, decently hoppy, but not out of control) before cocktail time. I finished the evening with an impulse buy, a Baltika Batch 9 lager.

Ok, the story here is that I saw what I swear was a plastic two litre bottle of this beer on the shelf. (UPDATE: Apparently it’s a 1.5l plastic bottle) For about $4. I almost bought it, because a) it’s 2l of beer for $4 and b) it was probably FANTASTICALLY horrifying. Then I noticed a pint bottle (this one was actually glass) on the shelf below for about $2, and decided that was a better idea. I took a closer look at the label and found that it was from St. Petersburg, Russia (awesome potential for a horror show) and that it was an 8% abv lager. Yikes. Bring it on. It smelled quite fruity, with a hint of alcohol to it, but tasted surprisingly pleasant. I was expecting much much worse, and was actually a bit disappointed that it was so drinkable. Best comparison? A malt liquor forty. It’s got that fruity, over-boozed taste to it, like they took a cheap lager and upped the abv with some grain spirit. I might very well go back for that giant plastic bottle.

Saturday began with a recon trip to Bin Ends, a new-ish liquor store in Braintree, near the South Shore Plaza mall. They deal mainly in wine, but also have a very nice craft beer selection (including the entire lineup of Clown Shoes brews) and an interesting offering of spirits. The staff was very nice and knowledgeable, and I snagged a Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp, and their new release, Muffin Top. I was also intrigued by something that caught my eye right at the front register; several bottles by Meletti, including a sambuca, and anisette, and an amaro. As I was explaining to the Lady Friend what an amaro is (a bitter Italian liqueur, used as an aperitif, or digestif), the clerk seemed impressed that I knew what I was talking about. I wound up buying the bottle of amaro as my bottle of the month (the way I build my bar is to budget myself to one new bottle of liquor per month). I usually aim for under $30, and the amaro clocked in at a very reasonable $18 (a 750mL bottle of Campari, a very well-known amaro, will run around $30 in MA). The Lady Friend wound up with a bomber of Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles, a Belgian strong dark ale she had enjoyed at one of Irish Lad & Wifey’s gatherings, some bottle of Malbec wine, and an inexpensive sparkling for further sabering adventures. Bin Ends was a score… great product, knowledgeable and friendly staff.

Following lunch, (with an Ipswich Summer Ale) we ventured into the city to feed the squirrels on Boston Common. Lady Friend was meeting a friend for dinner and a concert near Fenway, so we decided to lounge around the city for the afternoon, weather permitting. It wound up being above 80°, strange even for a New England October weekend. We packed a few travelers, the Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp, and a Bear Republic Racer 5, storing the amber nectar into some Nestea bottles for inconspicuous consumption in the park. Apparently, the police had their hands full dealing with some other dbags that day, so we sipped our cold tea in peace among the bucolic splendor of the Land of Squirrels.

Once Lady Friend departed for her rendezvous, I spent some more time among the bushy-tailed rodents enjoying my buzz until I hopped the T up to Somerville to visit the Irish Lad and Wifey. She picked me up from Davis Sq. and we opened a bottle of prosecco back at the homestead. Did I say opened? Rather, we sabered it off. Tee hee. A glass of bubbly was enjoyed before the Irish Lad joined, and I suggested he try a Black Velvet. We mixed the prosecco with a can of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout with very pleasant results. Better than Guinness, as there is an added element of the dark chocolate taste, nicely cut by the fruity wine. Irish Lad was a bit apprehensive at first, but then agreed that it was indeed a tasty tipple.

From there, we moved to a bottle of his recent homebrew, a hoppy brown ale. It nosed with a lot of hop, and tasted the same. There was a slight element of malty brown ale in the finish, but not quite enough, in my opinion. Since the brew has been bottle conditioning for about two weeks, we decided that with further conditioning, the overpowering hop would likely mellow, leaving a better balance in the taste. I got two bottles to bring home, which are currently fermenting further in the cabinet under my kitchen counter.

Lastly, he broke out a bottle of Harpoon 100 Barrel Series, #38 Dôcesná, which I found to be somewhat unpleasant. This seems to be a trend with the 100 Barrel Series, as we intensely disliked the Rye IPA. The Oyster Stout, however, is excellent. This Dôcesná creature poured medium dark, almost like a German dunkel, and smelled of Czech pils staleness. The taste was right in there as well, with a pils rubbery cardboard presence, and a slight dark maltiness to the finish. Ugh.

The Lady Friend and I reconvened the next day for lunch at the Union Brewhouse. We did some more work on our 99 beer lists, and she opted for an Opa Opa Pumpkin (Cask) Ale, while I started with a Hoegaarden Wit-Blanch, a very popular Belgian white ale. Second was a Lexington Brewing Kentucky Ale, tasty, though a bit forgettable, and lastly a Coastal Extreme Newport Storm Summer Ale, which is nicely hopped for a summer, and some call it an IPA.

Being Columbus Day, I had Monday off, and spent a good deal of it watching Ken Burns’ documentary “Prohibition,” while tasting an Ipswich Original Ale with lunch, finishing out the trio from Mercury Brewing. Dinner brought forth a Williams Brothers Joker IPA, and a post-meal tasting of the Meletti Amaro. More on that to come. Another drinktastic weekend drowned in intoxicants. Excellent.

Das Oktoberfestenmunchenpretzeldrinkenbieren, jah!

Octoberfest season!

The ol’ SquirrelFartsMail inbox started lighting up a couple weeks ago with notices of various autumnal October/Oktober festival drinking opportunities (I subscribe to quite a few drink-related newsletters). I generally avoid the larger gatherings, preferring smaller venues with easier (quicker) access to the beer. I don’t like crowds; I don’t like lines. Several of the festivals were listing ticket prices in the $40+ range, which I think is a bit steep, since that generally doesn’t include food or beer. What am I paying for? The privilege of coming to your festival and spending more money? Blow me.

One of the emails caught my eye: Harpoon Brewery. Yes, I’ve been there many times and written about them here before, but since I’m a Friend of Harpoon (sign up… it’s free) they send me various emails about deals and events that usually include a discount for Friends. The one that caught my eye was an Oktoberfest Kickoff night at Jacob Wirth, a German beer hall-style restaurant in Boston that’s been there since 1868. The deal was that the first 50 Friends of Harpoon would get “a genuine Harpoon Octoberfest mug (1 Liter!) and 2 passes to Harpoon Octoberfest.” Well, kinda, but more on that soon. It sounded like a good excuse to drink some nice German beers in the city on a Tuesday night, and I managed to talk the Lady Friend into it.

We met up at South Station (I had a couple Harpoon IPAs at Clark’s and flipped through the latest BeerAdvocate mag while waiting for her to get out of work) and headed over to Jacob’s (in a very roundabout path… I was using my beer compass). It’s over in the theatre district, and has been there for about 6,000 years. It’s definitely a place worth checking out, though I have a few tips: go on an off night (the bar area is extremely narrow and crowded), order good German beers (for the love, don’t order a Bud Light), and be aware that the food is overpriced for what is essentially trumped-up pub grub, unless you want some of the crazy German food. The biggest widespread gripe with Jacob’s has always been the quality of service; they certainly don’t have the varsity squad of Boston’s waitstaff here. There was a big kerfuffle last year where the owner apparently saw the negative reviews they were getting on Yelp, and called the waitstaff losers, telling them to shape up or ship out. Maybe that was an overreaction, but I’ve never been really satisfied by the service there, and apparently I’m not alone.

Now, it seemed busy for a Tuesday, and I’m assuming the Harpoon event was responsible for most of that draw. It was about a 10-minute wait for a table, which was fine, but once we sat down it took about another 10 minutes for any server to even acknowledge us. What? At least give me a nod or a quick “sorry, I’ll be with you in a minute” so I know that you know that we’re sitting here. Strike one. So, we ordered appropriately German beers (a Hofbräu Dunkel for me and a Fransiskaner Dunkel Weiss for she) and got our food order in while the waiter was nearby. I ordered a grilled chicken BLT, no tomato, no mayo. What I got was grilled chicken with lettuce and mayo. Really? Why is there mayo on here, and where is my bacon? Strike two. However, I was hungry, and hate sending food back, especially in a place where it’ll take another 20 minutes for a sandwich. I managed to snag a good place in the Harpoon line that was forming, and got my “genuine 1 litre mug,” which was ACTUALLY a 20 oz glass, nowhere near a litre, which is 33.8 oz. Don’t lie to me like that, Harpoon. Grabbed the free passes, and headed back to the table to finish dinner. We each had a second beer (me: Lammsbrau Dunkel, she: Spaaten Optimator) and then got the hell out of there.

The conclusion: go to Jacob’s for some excellent, proper German beers, but don’t order food. It’s overpriced, takes forever to get to the table, and probably won’t be what you ordered.

Hop in the time machine and fast-forward to Saturday.
Octoberfest Day!

The madness begins

Saturday afternoon, we pregamed with a Brewdog Hardcore IPA before setting out for the Harpoon craziness. I’ve been to their festivals before, notably the Irish Fest, but never the Octoberfest. I had an idea of what to expect: long lines, drink tickets, and chaos around the beer taps. Octoberfest lived up to all the expectations, with probably over a thousand people there. On the other hand, we went into the much shorter Friends of Harpoon VIP line. Score. Then we saw the small print on the back of the free passes saying they were for Friday night only, not Saturday afternoon. Unscore. Wtf Harpoon? That’s a cheap move. No one thought to mention that anywhere in the emails or promotions. Thanks. So we had to pay the admission like a couple of average schnooks, and in we went, through the brewery to the parking lot on the other side where the festivities were in full swing. Keg bowlers bowling, German girls’ booben a-boobing, cake eaters eating, German oom-pah bands, um, oom-pah-ing, and everyone drinking. These things consist of two main activities… standing around talking or waiting in line. There’s the beer ticket line ($5/ticket/beer. Not outrageous) before the actual beer line (and the bathroom line). They had their IPA, Munich Dark, UFO White, and, of course, Octoberfest beers all on tap. Pick a beer, pick a line. I started with the Octoberfest, then went IPA and Munich Dark. All Harpoon, all tasty.

Who ARE all of these people?

There weren’t too many people over the age of about 30, and the ones that were really stood out, like “who brought their dad?” Of course, there were the hippie-dippies who always think it’s awesome to bring their baby to the brewery, and a lot of girls who were actively on the prowl. Not always nice looking girls, but those bloated late-twenty-somethings who stagger along clutching their purse and their beer realizing that all their friends are getting married, and they’d better do something quick, so why not go to the beer festival and find a boy-man to pounce on? Great people-watching fodder, which is what the Lady Friend and I mostly did while consuming our delectable drinkables.

Too many people in between me and beer.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, a couple raindrops fell and sent the crowd into a noticeable level of apprehension; there were several large tents set up for the bands and beer, but the majority of the patrons milled around outside. No way they would all fit under shelter should the skies open up. The rain held off, however, and we left, heading over to Drink, despite the Lady Friend’s determined efforts to ruin my surprise plans. After a short wait (there’s ALWAYS a wait, though the overdressed cougars in line ahead of us kept bitching about their dinner reservations and left, despite the fact that we only waited about 10 mins or so) we sat right at the bar and started the magic. The Lady had a Mojito, and claims it was the best one she ever had, while I went with a variation on the whiskey sour called a Tennessee, which uses maraschino liqueur in place of simple syrup. A bit drier than a normal sour, but excellent.

LF needed food, so we pretty much called it a night at that point, though I could have stayed at Drink for hours, playing with different recipes. Back to SFHQ for the night. Gute nacht, eichhörnchen furzt!

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:’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.

Beeriffic Brews

Irish Lad and I are comrades in beer. His counterpart, Wifey, is not a beer drinker, and has started to get irritated when we hang out, because he and I geek out with beer talk, for hours if left uninterrupted. We both enjoy a wide variety of craft brews, as well as an ice cold PBR on a hot summer evening, or, sometimes, a cold winter night. I’m afraid that I’m responsible for that influence, as PBR was my affordable beverage of choice during the Great Unemployment period of 2009. Now that I’m back to contributing to society, rather than taking from it, we like to get together for beer tasting nights every couple of weeks. He and Wifey enjoy trips to the liquor store (or “packie” in Massachusetts, apparently) almost as much as I do, and we’ll usually pick up an interesting 22oz bomber or two on our respective excursions to sample later on. Living on opposite sides of Boston (North versus South) means we occasionally find things not available to each other, so we’ll snag a sample to share.

This is their bar. They share in my fondness of adult beverages

So we’ll wind up with several bottles of various brews, and get together to have a tasting. Wifey was having a “game night,” as she is wont to do, so there were more people than usual present. And a wider variety of drink choices.

Any excuse to have a bucket of beers in your kitchen.

The womenfolk stuck to a jug of sangria the size of a lobster pot, and the lads tucked into the beers. When Irish Lad and Wifey moved into their house, they inherited an extra refrigerator in the basement, and this became the holy beer fridge where all the nice brews live.

I can hear the angels.
(The Smirnoff Ice belong to Wifey.)

Irish Lad also does quite a bit of home brewing, so one of his latest was first on the tasting list.

Citra Pale Ale Homebrew
My favorite beer of the VT Beercation was a Citra hopped IPA from 3 Needs taproom, so I was excited to try Irish Lad’s attempt at a pale ale version.

::Initial thoughts::
Nose: Very fruity. Peach/nectarine.
Taste: Sharp, hop bite, nectarine fresh fruit.

Verdict: Delicious. One of the best of his homebrews so far.

::Second tasting::
The nice thing about having a friend who homebrews is that they always have way too much beer, and give it away. To me. I was gifted with a bomber of the Citra Pale Ale, and had a second tasting the next afternoon with Lady Friend. I was so intrigued by the peach/nectarine taste that I paired it with a fresh nectarine.

Nose: Fruity again, but picking up hints of tart apple as well.
Taste: Slight tart with hop bitter. Fruity and sweet, but in a tree fruit way,
not berry sweet. Juicy and refreshing instead of syrupy.

Verdict: STILL delicious. Nectarine made an excellent companion.

Boston Beer Works
Fenway Pale Ale

Boston Beer Works is a local chain of brewpubs.
Apparently they sell six-packs as well,
and I snagged a Fenway Pale Ale.
Nose: Smells… like beer.
There was really nothing remarkable about the aroma.
Taste: Well balanced. Malt sweet with subtle hop bitter.
Very inoffensive and light… tasty.
Could drink a lot without flavor overload.

Verdict: Tasty, but forgettable.

Harpoon Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA

Nose: Malty, but as a standard IPA. Nothing noteworthy.
Taste: Sigh. STRONG metallic copper aftertastes, as with some Irish red ales, only much more intense. Copper and metal.
Irish Lad: “Tastes like it was dry-hopped with pennies”
Other: “Green (unripe) hops.” “Tastes unfinished.”

Verdict: This was gross. I expect so much more from Harpoon.
It really tasted like sucking on a penny. Sharp, metal, bitter.

Berkshire Brewing Lost Sailor IPA
Nose: Nutty, roasted, malty.
Smells like a brown ale.
Taste: Very slight metallic sour.
Malty and roasted.
TASTES like a brown ale.

Verdict: Um… is this a black IPA?
Tastes like a slightly hoppy brown ale.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
I’ve had Sierra Torpedo several times (Irish Lad is a big fan)
and it’s never been a bad choice.
Nose: Earthy and farmy. Malt sweet with good floral hop. Cow pie.
Taste: A medium hop bitter taste, no bite.
Verdict: BITTER hop, but not sharp. Excellent.

Somewhere in there, Lady Friend arrived after an adventure in Moo Hampshire, and sampled some of the EXCELLENT chocolate chip cookies that one of the guest baked. Thick, soft, and a slight hint of coconut. Amazing.

Om nom nom

Also there was a weird Siamese cat, some boobs, and a giant dog. Seriously, he’s gi-normous.

Oh, and Irish Lad is growing his own hop vines.

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