Posts Tagged ‘IPA’

Review: Why BLATANT beer is awesome and you should buy some.

I certainly hope you’ve heard of Blatant Beer by now.

If not, prepare for a trip to the liquor store.

BLATANT! Brewery is the ale-producing offspring of brewer/owner Matthew Steinberg, Massachusetts brewing legend. He’s been involved with breweries such as Offshore Ale, Harpoon, Rapscallion, and helped Drew Brousseau with his startup brewery, Mayflower. He left Mayflower in 2010, and decided to finally start his own brewery, though as a contract brewer without his own facilities. He’s since brewed at Just Beer in Westport, and Paper City in Holyoke. Steinberg sees nothing wrong with the stigma of contract brewing (brewing your own beer in someone else’s brewery, or even having them brew it FOR you with your recipe) but strongly advocates growing the local beer community. He and I actually seem to share a lot of similar views when it comes to beer, and Honest Pint has a GREAT interview with him here. But I want to talk about the beer.

Last summer I bought myself a bomber of a boldly graphic-ed local IPA called Blatant and was blown away. It was a true American-style IPA, combining the best of East Coast dry bitterness and West Coast sweetness. Absolutely incredible. So I gushed about it to anyone who would listen, and may have called the brewer “a magnificent bastard” on Twitter after downing 22oz of his 6.5% abv hoppy wonderfulness. He actually responded, and after some bantering and an exchange of emails, I finally got to meet up with the man himself, Matthew Steinberg. He had a couple tastings scheduled in Cambridge, and suggested that I stop by. So I did.

This is a man who knows his beer. And is excited about it. Very. In fact, he’ll talk your ear off about beer, which is kind of awesome. During our chat, in between sample pours to curious shoppers, he described his beer as being “a brand without branding appeal.” He wants the beer itself to be the important part, rather than the label. Curious, as I find the simple graphic very eye-catching and appealing. He was pouring samples of his two beers: the aforementioned IPA (which was in such short supply at the time due to wild demand he had to score some bombers from a friend’s stash) and his Session Ale.


A session ale is a low(er) alcohol beer designed to be tasty, yet, well, sessionable. Depending on who you ask, a session beer has no more than 4/ 4.5/ 5% abv, so in theory you could drink many of them in a session without getting smashed. After the arms-race of insanely hopped high-alcohol double/Imperial/triple ales coming from the West Coast the past several years, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction: session ales, a notable local example being Chris Lohring’s Notch Brewing, with no beer over 4.5% abv. Among brewers, it’s said that a true test of a brewer is to make a flavorful yet low alcohol beer, as it takes more attention to detail and craft. Blatant took the challenge, and Steinberg was kind enough to give me a bottle to sample (and a pint glass!).

Well, it’s got a lovely amber glow, and a nice thick head that dissapates slowly. The nose is certainly hoppy, but very pleasing. It smells like an IPA or strong pale ale, with sweet spruce pine, a darker, resinous sap, and a slight undercurrent of overripe tree fruit. There’s a touch of cereal grain in there, like the first whiff of a fresh box of Cheerios, but it’s blown away by the hoppy delightfulness. Let’s have a taste.

Oh wow.

Let’s have another taste.

Ok. I can type now. It’s certainly a flavorful beer. The malt is MUCH more apparent in the flavor, with a nice barley cereal flavor and a good dose of toastiness, though not to the level of a brown ale or stout. Toasted not roasted. A little bit of metallic sharpness, again from the malt, and some hop bitterness in there, dry and powdery, like a good East Coast style, which itself borrows from English style ales. It’s very reminiscent of Mayflower’s Pale Ale, with a bitter dry hop and solid malt back. This is maltier, however, though not in a caramel-syrupy-sweet-mess, but rather clean and breakfast-like. Good solid grain. Liquid bread. It starts hoppy, moves to the lovely grain in the mids, and finishes with a mix of both. Smooth, incredibly tasty, and still under 4% abv.

It’s pretty amazing. You don’t get beers like this from amateurs, and Steinberg is one of the Massachusetts pros, having worked in the brewing industry for the past 15 or so years. It’s hard to believe this brew clocks in at 3.8%… the flavor would have you thinking it’s at least 5% abv. A fantastic session ale. The IPA blew my socks off, but the session ale shows what a true crafted beer is. I wouldn’t waste time with a low-alcohol beer if it weren’t phenomenal. Go get some.

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!

Rule 37: The Calypso Campari Orange

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

So, this one is KIND OF an original. Not really. I didn’t make it up, but it does have a bit of a personal twist to it. I got an email from my friend Leelz, who sends me these things from time to time, with some drink suggestions. There were some interesting beertails (a term I personally abhor, but can’t think of a better alternative), one of which involved Campari and orange juice. So let’s give it a go.

The Calypso Campari Orange
This is the pint version.

– 1 oz Campari
– 1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
– Top with IPA of your choice

Um. Yeah. Pretty easy. Equal parts Campari and orange (a regular Campari Orange is 1 part Campari, 2 parts orange juice over ice) and dump it in a pint glass. Top with an IPA of your choosing.

The article was geared towards spicing up canned beers for a party setting, so the directions are slightly looser. They suggest taking a “hearty sip” out of your canned IPA to make room for the mixer. I decided to make the mildly classier pint glass version, using a single-hop homebrew IPA that the Irish Lad and I concocted. This one used solely Calypso hops, hence the name. His Amarillo-hopped version turned out to be tastier than my Calypso choice, but it was as fun experiment, and now I’m left with multiple bombers to drink or give away. I’m sure this beer has peaked by now, but let’s give it a go anyway.

In the nose, I certainly smell orange juice, and the Campari comes through, but the IPA isn’t making much of an aroma impact. There’s a bit of a wet grass smell to it, fresh and clean, like a damp lawn getting mowed. A very mild moldiness lurkes underneath, though I’m blaming that on the homebrew being a month or five past its prime.

Yikes. Here we go.

Ok. Um. It’s attacking my tongue. It’s zippy and tangy. That would be the Campari. It’s the dominant flavor in this concoction. Campari bittersweet all up front. There’s some maltiness in the background, but it’s pretty overwhelmed by the Italian. I’m going to need a second attempt to see if I can break through the resistance at Salerno.

Taste two: Zing! On the tongue. Campari again. The orange is in there (even got some pulp into the mix, yargh) and that malt does shine through a bit more. But not enough.

Upon tasting the homebrew on it’s own, it was determined that it’s certainly fallen off. It’s not bad, but there’s a sour note that wasn’t there before. Past prime, but still ok. Just not the hoppy wonder it once was. Maybe I should have used the lone Dogfish 60 Minute IPA lurking in my fridge after all.

So, I think the recipe is solid, but the beer let me down on this one. That said, if you’re going to use a full ounce each of Campari and orange, make it a BIG, bold IPA to stand up to the bittersweet amaro. It’s meant to add a bit of flavor complexity to an IPA and liven things up, but with this one it just dominated. I’d like to try it again, halving the amounts of Campari and orange, to see if I can get a better balance. Play with this one if you like… there’s a great drink in there somewhere. A magical combination of the right IPA and the correct addition of Campari. If you find it, let me know.

Mil-wacky in March, Part 2: Mil-wacky, Wis-cahn-sin

Yet another travel series that I never seem to finish. This one tells the tales of our Milwaukee adventures in late March of 2012. We went there to do some serious drinking. Oh, and also Trevtastic got married. Yeah, some girl actually married that boy. But still, it was a good excuse to show the Lady Friend the various drinking landmarks of Milwaukee, so that’s what we did. Wistful wanderings in Wisco. Part 1 is here.
Yah dere hey.

Ok. Enough Chicago. Time for the real destination: Milwaukee, WI. We flew into O’Hare with the intention of driving up to MKE, so we started off with the acquisition of our sweet rental vehicle, a Chevy Captiva/ Daewoo Winstorm. The Lady Friend had reserved a “small” vehicle, and we got this monsterous crossover contraption that looked like a Big Wheel made from Legos, stale breadsticks, and shellac. Since I’m used to driving Elsa, who is only about 4′ tall, or Phantom, the Lady Friend’s Corolla, the Captiva was like sitting in a ski lift. Apparently this counts as a compact vehicle in the Midwest. Still, it did seem to move better than most domestic plastic monsters, and in about an hour, we hit Milwaukee.

Holy redneck, Batman. I think we made a wrong turn and drove to Alabama.

We met Trevtastic and cohort Meissner for brunch at The Wicked Hop (Milwaukee is really into brunch) and started with a few beers. The Lady Friend asked me to find her something new and local, and got Oscar’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout from Sand Creek Brewing in Black River Falls, WI, about halfway between Milwaukee and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Not exactly local, but at least in the same state. I went with a Central Waters Mud Puppy Porter, which was quite tasty. Much smoother than her Oatmeal Stout, which was on the bitter side. The Lady Friend was content with sipping her stout while I went for a second round: Lakefront’s Poison Arrow IPA. I’m told it’s only available on tap at The Wicked Hop, but I wasn’t able to confirm that. Still, I’d never seen it before, and it was mighty tasty: an excellent West-Coast style IPA. While finishing up, I got a message from LB, a friend from high school who moved to Milwaukee (by way of Flore-da) several years ago. We were crashing at her house for the rest of the trip, and she shot me a text to say she was doing some work around the corner above the Milwaukee Ale House. We still had a bit of time to kill before our 2pm Great Lakes tour, so the Lady Friend and I headed over for a hello, and a quick drink.

Can’t have an alehouse without ales. And mugs.

The Milwaukee Ale House is the brewpub for Milwaukee Brewing Company. I had been here for dinner on my previous trip, and found their beers to be good, but not great. Their IPA in particular irked me last time, as it was described as “aggressively hopped” but was pretty weak. It had some hop to it, but was nowhere near anything I’d call aggressive. I made a point this time to try some other hoppy offerings to see if they could stand up. While the Lady Friend tried their Hop Happy IPA, I went with a pale ale, followed by a sample of their dIPA.

Pull Chain Pale Ale 5% abv 43 IBU
Nose: Bitter aroma; sharp, slightly savory, English-style hop with a decent cereal malt sweetness.
Taste: Tastes much as it smells. Sharp, bitter English-style hop with a cereal maltiness. Overall bitter, but drinkable.

Double IPA Double Imperial Pale Ale 9.5% abv, no IBU listed.
For some unfathomable reason, this beer was listed under the heading “Session Beer.” WTF? Session beers are defined at 4-5% abv, depending on who you ask. How could a 9.5% double IPA possibly fit that category? Anyway, the menu also claimed that their dry hop was “totally over 25 pounds!” when making the beer. Ok then. Let’s taste it.
Nose: Candy sweet, almost like a bubblegum Belgian, but heavier, with more body behind it.
Taste: Wheaty bubblegum sweetness, but with an alcohol kick. Tastes like a wheat beer with a shot of grain alcohol. Not very well balanced, since I didn’t get much hop bitterness, and too boozy.

So, not the greatest experience. I’d still love to give the full lineup of MKE Brewing a run and see if there’s some gems in the mix, because I haven’t hit any yet. That said, the beers I have sampled were all perfectly drinkable, just not anything I’d seek out specifically. Perhaps on my next MKE voyage I’ll have time to give them my full attention, but this last trip had other priorities. It was time for a tour of Great Lakes Distillery. Right after I took some shots of a Lamborghini Murciélago that was parked at the curb.

A Lamborghini in Milwaukee seems as out of place as a John Deere tractor in NYC.

Mil-wacky in March, Part 1: Chicago

Yet another start to a travel series that I never seem to finish. This one tells the tales of our Milwaukee adventures in late March of 2012. We went there to do some serious drinking. Oh, and also Trevtastic got married. Yeah, some girl actually married that boy. But still, it was a good excuse to show the Lady Friend the various drinking landmarks of Milwaukee, so that’s what we did. Wistful wanderings in Wisco.
Yah dere hey.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted for awhile, this is why. If you didn’t notice… well… never mind.

Yes, I know that the series is named for Milwaukee, and Chicago is a different city, in a different state. I understand that. But as a whole, we spent the most time in MKE, so… too bad.

The adventure starts, as most do, with a trip to Harpoon Brewery. Well, not exactly. But we walked right past it in our usual combination of parking garage -> Silver Line -> Logan Airport. With nothing else to do in the terminal, I stared at the TV, because I can’t resist that flickering siren. In the entertainews cycle I caught a story of some woman in California who was caught speeding three times, in one hour, with speeds over 100mph. Are you kidding me? Shoot her in the leg, take her car and say “have fun commuting now.” I was making comments along these lines and bantering with the Lady Friend when the girl in front of us turned around, agreeing with my heavy sarcasm. Strangely, she then proceeded to ask if it was the first trip the Lady Friend and I had taken together. I guess it was our passive-aggressive conversation about the Lady Friend wanting the aisle seat, despite booking MY name for it. I actually hate the aisle seat (I’m a window guy) but it was amusing that SHE booked the tickets and still didn’t get the seat she wanted.

It was an uneventful flight, sitting in between the Lady Friend and some crunchy-emo girl reading a Nicholas Sparks novel, likely because nobody loves her and no one ever will. Especially if she keeps reading that dreck. We touched down in the massive complex that is O’Hare, and paid a quick visit to my dinosaur friend, before boarding the CTA (or whatever silly name they have for their transit system) into the city.

My Chicago tradition. Although Denver might be more apt.

It was about 40 degrees and “fahkin raw” in Boston when we left, but a sunny 65° in Chicago, as we hauled our bags and winter coats down the sidewalk to our temporary base of operations: the Congress Plaza Hotel. Nice hotel. Old and classy. Allegedly haunted. Great view. They even have their own logo-printed wallpaper.

Awesome: king bed.
Not Awesome: The hinges on the bathroom door sounded like a witch being boiled alive. Despite the acres of space in the bed, the Lady Friend woke me up every hour on the hour with a hideous screech from the bathroom door, since she has a bladder the size of an infant salamander. Fact.

We changed into warm-weather garb and headed out in search of food. We found a pizza chain with a combo deal for a jumbo slice and a pop. WTF is a pop? Silly Midwest. Despite the odd name for a liquid that educated people refer to as “soda,” I will grant that their jumbo slice was indeed, quite gigantoid.

Pen added for scale. It didn’t actually come with my meal.
This thing was seriously large.

Thusly stuffed, we made it to the Sears Willis Tower, slapped down $18 each, and proceeded to wait in a line full of swollen Midwestern parents and chubby nasal-accented stinkchildren. Then there was a brief movie. Then another line. Then into the next room, containing another line. Finally, through a revolving door into a line in front of the two under-sized elevators. Push and shove, push and shove, sardine can, 103 stories up and we’re there. The “Skydeck.” Urchins ran amok as their birth-givers squealed over the shot glasses, t-shirts and official Willis Tower branded Lego kits in the gift shop. We did our viewing out the windows, and stood on the protruding “skyboxes” which extend out from the building about 4′. Unfortunately, they’re on the most uninteresting side of the building, and all you can see on the horizon is the endless flat expanses of Illinois. Thrilling.

This was the slightly more interesting view.

After waiting in another 45-minute line just to get DOWN from the observation deck, we needed to get far far away from people, so we strolled along the river before popping into a pub for a few pints of liquid powerup. It was named Poag Mahone’s, which is either some sort of chain, or just a popular name for an Irishy pub. It’s suspect as to whether anyone of Irish descent has ever set foot in the place. Either way, it was properly dim and pub-like, and had many signs for some sort of sporting team, a so-called “WHITE Sox.” Well, that’s just silly. A Frankenstein assemblage of large wooden bar back, old-timey stained glass room dividers, and pop-culture Gaelic phrases stenciled on the walls made it seem like this place was trying a bit too hard. Most importantly, they had a decent beer list, with several selections previously untasted by Squirrelfarts and the Lady Friend, so most of the bars sins were quickly forgiven. I went with a New Holland Mad Hatter IPA, which was excellent. Resin and overripe fruit on the nose. A syrup start and VERY bitter hop kick. Dry, sour, finish but quite tasty. It’s got quite the hoppy punch. The Lady Friend’s Great Lakes Brewing Commodore Perry was a bit too sickly-sweet with fig for me, but she enjoyed it. From there she moved to Two Brothers’ Cane & Ebel rye beer, and I hit up the Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, which I’ve heard about, but never seen in MA. It came in a shiny silver tallboy can and was quite an adventure. Fresh, wet, hop aroma; spicy and pungent. The taste was all at once woody and smokey, with some dark spice. It was like drinking in the smells of a springtime camping trip: the wet trees, campfire smoke, and decomposing leaves. Wildly entertaining. I thought it was great. Snag one if you see it.

I had been giving the Lady Friend some insight to the unique personality of the Midwest, in that there’s a lot of cheese, a lot of beer, and pop-culturally, they seem to lag about five years behind the coasts. I believe I told her to expect someone to describe something as being “da bomb.” Or reference Spider-Pig. Or McLovin. Or Ella, Ella, Ella, Eh, Eh, Eh. Naturally, as soon as Little Miss Salamander Bladder went to the bathroom, the yokels at the very next table started quoting Borat and CRACKING UP. I couldn’t have possibly come up with a better example than that, and she totally missed it.

With aching feet temporarily silenced by our intake of liquid painkillers, we set off for some deep dish pizza because a) it was Chicago, and b) I would have wanted deep dish pizza no matter what city we were in. The sun dipped at a low angle on the horizon, and the combination of the Magic Hour and my mild buzz led to the Lady Friend gaining a lead of about a block, while I lagged behind shooting and giggling over the intensely orange solar beams and resulting crisp shadows. We finally made it to the restaurant, and tucked into a Founder’s Centennial IPA and some good (but not great) deep dish (Paxti’s was better). A post-dinner cocktail was debated, but I was wiped out. Waking up at 5am, a day of travel, and hiking around a city tends to do that. Time for a king bed and a horribly squeaky bathroom door. Tomorrow: MIL-WACKY.

The Monday Hangover: Feb 18-19

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

Friday night started with a mini outing to Bin Ends. Despite mooching at their Meletti liqueur tasting the night before, I returned with the Lady Friend in tow to hit up their Stone Brewing tasting. The sales rep had left early, but the Bin Ends staff was more than willing to pour and taste with us. We worked out way down the line from the IPA to the current Vertical Epic, a chili-infused brew with some lovely pepper flavoring, reminding me of a jalapeño lager homebrew from several years ago. We then browsed the shelves, and I scored some Narragansett Bock and Left Hand’s new Nitro Milk Stout. The ‘Gansett Bock had just come in that day, and I was informed that I was the first customer to purchase it. Score.

Though I didn’t really enjoy the Gansett Bock at the tasting party last week, I’ve since read several reviews claiming that Narragansett really nailed the style. I started to second guess myself… maybe it was a GOOD beer but in a STYLE I don’t enjoy. I like doppelbocks, like Spaten Optimator, but maybe I’m not as fond of regular bocks. I think that the Gansett might deserve a second chance, maybe even alongside a couple other bocks for comparison. It’s not a style I can ever recall seeking out, so maybe I have an anti bock bias. The Left Hand Nitro, on the other hand, (see what I did there?) is something I’ve been dying to try, so finding it at Bin Ends was a total score.

Giggling to myself over the new beer treats, we returned to SFHQ for our usual regiment of Rule 37’s new cocktails. The Lady Friend tried a Derby, since she’s picked up an affinity for bourbon, and I made myself a Manhattan variant using Meletti’s amaro.

Though we had pegged this as a “relaxing” weekend after several events in a row, the Lady Friend agreed to a casual trip down to Plymouth’s Mayflower Brewery. I had been exchanging tweets with Mayflower earlier in the week, and we decided to make the trip to taste their winter seasonal, an oatmeal stout, before it was replaced with their spring hop brew. The Lady Friend was interested in the stout, but didn’t want to buy the sixer without tasting it first. Well, after tasting it, she decided to purchase a six pack from the brewery. Yup. Could have saved us a trip to Plymouth, but then we wouldn’t have gotten to see our Mayflower pals, Sarah and Mike. Mike is part of The Best Beer Blog gang, and seemed a little off, having gotten little sleep the night before, and dealing with an unusually busy tasting day at Mayflower. Sarah, on the other hand, was her usual bouncy smart-alecky self, and we all chatted a bit after the crowd dwindled down. We’ll be making another visit after the spring hop brew goes on the seasonal tap, which should be sometime in early March.

Happy place.
Oh, and that’s the Lady Friend’s jacket on the floor. Classy.

Post-Mayflower, we stopped off at the Union Brewhouse for another couple checkmarks on our 99 beer lists. I’m somewhere around the mark of 55/99, which is somewhat disappointing for the amount of time I’ve been working on it. We go through Brewhouse phases, where we’ll visit several weeks in a row, then take a break for a month or so. The Lady Friend opened with Offshore Brewing’s Hop Goddess, and I went with Mendocino Brewing’s Black Hawk Stout. I found the Black Hawk to be a bit dry and lacking, but this was on the heels of Mayflower’s chocolaty porter, and oatmeal stout. The Hop Goddess, however, was very tasty. A nice mix of bitter and citrus sweet hop approaching IPA regions, though the brew is described as a Belgian Pale Ale. Since it was on tap, I skipped a few places down on the list (I’m going in alphabetical order, while the Lady Friend chose to start at the end of the list) for a Hop Goddess of my own. The Lady Friend continued on with a Sam Adams Alpine Spring (since it was on tap), and then a Red Hook Long Hammer IPA.

Sidebar: Should you want to follow our drinking adventures, you can find both of us on Untappd, a social media/tracking program. It’s kind of like Yelp or Foursquare for beer. I’ve tried Pintley before, but found Untappd to be a much easier and cleaner design. Kruppcakes started last week when she saw me using it during our Harpoon tour, and it’s a really neat program for beer geeks. Hit my “follow” button on the sidebar, or click here.

So, after stuffing ourselves with beer and WAY too much garlic bread (which totally ruined my appetite for the rest of the night) we picked up a pizza and headed back for a low-key evening at SFHQ. We cracked a pint of White Birch Brewing’s Colonial Ale, part of an Apprentice Series they offer. However, it was way over on the farmhouse ale/sour/flemish style that neither of us enjoy. We had no idea it had that flavor profile, and had a couple sips before dumping the rest. I was expecting more of a cedar-infused ale, but the sour/vinegar caught us offguard, and we wouldn’t have bought that style if we had known (it wasn’t included in our tasting). I’m sure someone like the Irish Lad would find some redeeming qualities in this brew, but it’s too far off my palate radar for me to enjoy.

We moved on to an amazing brew: Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA. This is the epitome of a West Coast style IPA… fruity, citrusy, sweet and delicious. I brought one of these bad boys back from City Beer Store in SFO, and then found a bomber at Luke’s Liquors in Rockland. I want to freeze this beer and skate on it, then thaw it in the spring and drink it. It’s deliciously flavorful. Most likely, a bit too fruity sweet for some, but just an example of how differently the hops can change the flavors of beer.

We relaxed with our pizza and Sculpin, and set about watching Bridesmaids. If you’re thinking about renting this movie, don’t. It was preposterously bad. The only thing worse than an unfunny comedy, is a BORING comedy. Though touted as a “female version of The Hangover, the two shouldn’t even be in the same category. Bridesmaids wasn’t a comedy: it was just a whine fest. Kristen Wiig’s dull character gets upset over the marriage of her friend, played by Maya Rudolph, (who hasn’t been funny in any role, including SNL) and can’t find a man of her own. While The Hangover is a gross-out buddy romp, Bridesmaids is a total snoozer. The biggest difference is that Hangover derives its comedy from the antics of memorable characters, and the group dynamic as they piece together a blacked out evening. Bridesmaids tries to stand on lazy writing, poor acting, forced one-liners, and female woes with a tired plot about the inability to find a man, and a weak secondary story regarding her failed bakery. Hangover succeeds in the role of identifiable characters, where the audience can relate to SOMEone in the group. Bridesmaids is too focused on Kristen Wiig’s whiny problems that no one cares about. The fact that it was nominated for two Oscars really shows you how much contemporary movies suck. It’s a joke that no one’s laughing at. The Lady Friend was pissed that she spent $1 to rent it from RedBox. That’s how unfunny it was. Don’t even waste a dollar on it.

What a turdblanket.

Lazy Sunday was spent tasting various beers in my fridge and trying to wash away memories of Bridesmaids. I’ve got way too many 12oz singles in my fridge, and devoted the afternoon towards working through part of the backlog. After a Lady Friend dinner (that’s a dinner prepared BY the Lady Friend, not a dinner consisting OF her. It hasn’t been a Donner Party kind of winter this year), I cracked the Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout.

I’ll say this: a way to ruin a good pair of britches… you will soil yourself with delight. It’s that good.

Sunset Grill and Tap. Mostly tap.

Too many beers.

That’s the only way to describe Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston.
Their website claims 112 taps and 380 bottles.

It’s out of control.

Not that it’s a bad thing.

Sunset at sunset.

I don’t pretend to know much about Allston-Brighton. It’s over on the Green Line, and takes FOR-EV-ER to get to, because the T makes about 73 stops along Commonwealth Ave for all the little Boston University snowflakes. Some of these stops are honestly about 100 feet away from each other. They only mode of transportation that have shorter distances in between stops are school buses. These behemoths seem to stop at each little dumpling’s individual house, and take 45 minutes to travel a half a mile when I just need to get to work and am stuck behind the yellow monster contemplating the engineering required to affix a battering ram to the front of my car. Or a rocket launcher.

Don’t think you’re going to drive over to Sunset either, as parking in the area is notoriously scarce and “permit only” for about 97% of the streets. If you park at Rite Aid, they will certainly tow you. So I don’t make it out to Allston much, with the exception of a pub crawl here and there.

We learned soon after this that tequila shots have no business on a 9-hour pub crawl.

Naturally, the Irish Lad is a big fan of Sunset, though the allure has kind of worn away, as now a trip to Sunset is usually followed by a visit to Do Re Mi Karaoke around the corner so Wifey and her friends can sing the most horrible songs in pop history. Loudly. Wifey can actually sing quite well, but her friends seem to think that volume = talent. Not the case. The Irish Lad does not sing. Evar. So for him to sit through these events is like an aural form of waterboarding. He keeps ALMOST going deaf, but never completely, because that would bring relief. Do Re Mi doesn’t allow alcohol, so generally a stop at Sunset is necessary for some Dutch Courage before venturing into the horrors of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” sung at Pratt & Whitney decibels. However, he suspects that he’s being conditioned to associate Sunset with pain, because Wifey doesn’t like beer, and as such, is not the biggest fan of a place that prides itself on 100+ taps.

I see no problem here.

Happily, on the last visit, it was the Lady Friend and Sissy, back from Cali for the holidays, who accompanied me to this Palace of Pilseners, Armory of Ales, Fiefdom of Fermented Fun. We snagged Sissy fresh off the plane at Logan, and headed directly for the bar. Being Sunday, we actually found the rarest of the rare: a free parking spot in Allston. Once inside the bar, I perused the list, while they each went with pre-determined samplers. The Lady Friend got the “Stick in the Mud” consisting of four, 5oz glasses of darker brews: Clown Shoes Pecan Pie Porter, Berkshire Brewing Company Coffee-Haus Porter, Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. Sissy started with the “New England Happy Camper” as being on the West Coast gave her a craving for New England beers. Plus, I suspect it’s hard for the hippie environmentalist in her to pass on something called the “Happy Camper.” That one loaded up the Magic Hat Ravell Porter, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, Jack’s Abbey Hopnius Union (India Pale LAGER) and Woodstock Inn’s Autumn Brew.

Meanwhile, I was having my usual problems with Sunset’s extensive list. I’ve come to learn that I have to choose three beers: my first choice, a backup, and a backup for the backup beer, since they NEVER seem to have my first choice, and occasionally, don’t have my second pick either. This occasion threw a new twist into the mix. I spotted Boulder Beer’s Mojo IPA on the list, a favorite of mine that I hadn’t seen in stores for awhile. The waitress assured me it was in stock, and she brought back a brew that was a much darker hue than the expected amber orange of an IPA. “This is Mojo IPA, right?” I was assured once more that it was. It had a thick head, and nosed of sweet malt, with vanilla, as if barrel-aged with a touch of bourbon. The taste was a mildly syrup sweetness, with a roasted/toasty malt characteristic. This was not Mojo IPA. When the waitress returned, I asked her to check what the tap was, and she reported back “Mojo Killer.” Well, that doesn’t actually exist, but the “killer” gave me enough of a clue to determine that it was actually Boulder’s Killer Penguin barleywine, nowhere near the hoppy delight I was expecting.
Le sigh.

Artsy pensive picture.

The Lady Friend was driving us back, so she nursed her first sampler, while Sissy moved on to an Allagash White witbier. Apparently Maine wheat beers aren’t terribly common in the wilderness of California. Slightly disappointed by my Boulder kerfuffle, I hesitantly dared to order the legend: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. Strangely enough, they actually DID have it. This sucker is beyond 100 IBUs, and clocks in somewhere in the range of 18-20% abv. It varies depending on the year. Last year there was a drought of 120min due to some problem at the brewery that led to the entire batch being dumped, but apparently it’s back. Nose: Hop. Wet, dank bitter, with some floral notes. The taste? Whoa. Wait a sec. Whoa. Syrup. Hoppy, but unlike any other. Malt, then an alcohol medicinal finish. It’s a boozy one. Apparently Sissy was starting to feel her beers as well, since she got rather chatty, and let several amusing quotes slip. She lamented living with a messy roommate claiming “Our [messy] bathroom is pretty much like her face,” and said that Lady Friend’s phone “…looks like Nintendo. It doesn’t look like a grown-up phone!” Ok there, Sissy. Time to get you home for some cocktails.

The Lady Friend drove. After that Dogfish 120, everything was kinda awesome and shiny.

So. Sunset is awesome. IF they have the beer you want. The actual space consists of two rooms, and a downstairs (I don’t think I’ve ever been down there). Big City, a sister restaurant lives upstairs with pool tables and some kinda cool retro styling. But you have to go to Allston to partake of the wonders. It’s kind of like CBC in that manner… a great place, but many perils await. Thar be dragons. And tow trucks. BEWARE!

Review: That Larry Fellow

Waaaaaaaaaaaa Waaaaa-a-wah Chusettttttt!

If you don’t get that, you clearly haven’t spent a winter in New England.

The brew was an offering from Wachusett Brewing Company, and one often overlooked; Larry.

Larry’s a great guy. A double IPA with no ABV claim on the label (Beer Advocate says it’s 7.5%). He’s not a braggart, but simply keeps his mouth shut and gets the job done.

Nose: Lovely hop aroma. A citrus nose with sweetness behind it. Almost chewy caramel sugar.

Taste: A mildly syruped mouthfeel, but not too cloying. Instant malt sweetness, a gooey nectar, followed by not a punch, but more of a weak slap of hop, like a lazy cat batting at a string just out of reach. He wants it, but can’t be bothered enough to actually ease out of his reclining position.

Or he’s too drunk.

A mellow, almost skunky stale hop bitter, but it’s not overwhelming. This brew is incredibly well-balanced, and it makes it difficult to discern where the malt ends and the hop begins. That’s why this is such a popular big IPA… it’s accessible. Much like Stone IPA, or a Racer 5, Larry has a mellow West Coast style that’s a perfect dIPA introduction course. It’s got more flavor, and more alcohol, but it won’t tear donuts in your front lawn with a Camaro. Larry’s a fishin’ buddy. The one who works as an electrician… he’ll change a light switch or extend a circuit for a case of beer, but also has the son with a kickass R/C robot. There’s real genius in there, but you have to get to know him first. At first glance Larry might seem to easy-going to pay much attention to, but then his house can be seen from space around the holiday after he finishes his elaborate lighting displays.

Larry’s a local pal. A good neighbor. You should spend an afternoon getting to know him.

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.


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.

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.

The Monday Hangover: Nov 12-13

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

Following last weekend’s trip to Cal-ee-for-nee-ah, it was nice to get back into the weekly routine of cocktail night on Friday. There were Rule 37 fufillments, a whiskey sour made with an overripe lemon (yargh… not recommended) and a cracking of a new bomber, imported from the west coast: Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter. The Lady Friend was quite keen to try this one, as she’s been gaining an interest in stouts and porters (she found an Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in Healdsburg that was quite enjoyable for her and JJ.) The Ballast Point, however, was WAY too coffee bitter for my taste. It was more coffee than porter, with cold-pressed beans overpowering the other chocolate and vanilla flavors in the brew. I’m not a coffee drinker, and called it quits on this one after a couple sips. The Lady Friend took down the whole bomber. I guess she liked it.

The following day brought a Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale to sip on mid-afternoon, with a Negroni before supper. The Lady Friend had picked up a bottle of Gallo sweet vermouth for me, a brand which I hadn’t tasted before. It has much more of a wine quality than some of the other brands, thought it blended quite well, assuming its place behind the bold Campari and schizophrenic gin flavors of the cocktail. The Lady Friend rather enjoyed a Tröegs Pale Ale with dinner, but there was much more beer to be tasted.

Saturday night was the main event. I had been talking to the Irish Lad about coming down for a sampling of the brews I brought back from Cali, when we got an email from JTops the Engineer, whose wife was busy babysitting that night. He went to college with Wifey, and is a craft beer drinker, as well as cocktail/spirit geek. Initially, he wanted to go out for some beers at a couple Boston-area craft bars. Instead, we invited him along to the beer tasting night, which helped to add a new element to the group, as he is generally strongly opinionated about most things. When I say “generally”, I mean “always”. And when I say “most things”, I mean “everything.” And he’ll be the first to tell you that. But, he does have the knowledge to back up his opinions, and is prepared to cite specific examples and show his work when called upon. Wifey was along as well, and sugared herself with some Smirnoff Ice, a couple Dark & Stormys (Stormies? Also, “Dark ‘n Stormy” is a trademarked term owned by Gosling’s Black Rum. Because of this, a “Dark ‘n Stormy” legally must only be made with Gosling’s. What a douchy move on their part.) and a pina colada that was half gone before I could turn around. The rest of us loosened our belts and tucked into the brews.

Nelson Golden IPA Alpine Beer Co., Alpine, CA
Hopped with Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand hop. I was talked into two bombers from Alpine in the City Beer store by the very helpful clerk, Stephanie. Alpine is about 30 miles from San Diego, and according to Stephanie, was flying off the shelves. They got several cases in the day before I was there, and the stock was already quite dwindled. She suggested I snag it while I could, so I grabbed the Nelson and one other, Pure Hoppiness.

Nose: Citrus right away. Strong tree/ stone fruit. Sweet and delicious. With my nose close to the liquid, I found an undercurrent of some cannabis-like bitter, lurking beneath the citrus explosion. Though I was initially dismissed for that, the Irish Lad came to my defense, smelling a bit of dank, and pointing out that hop plants are related to cannabis. So there.

Wifey said it smelled like tropical Mike & Ikes.

Taste: Doesn’t taste like it smells, and that becomes apparent right away with a sharp, dank, bitter start. It’s almost like a rye bitterness, which the Engineer suggested. It does have that spicy snap to it, then the expected citrus/ grapefruit sweetness washes in. I was getting a bit of mint/ menthol underneath which helped to open up the flavor. But again, the others thought I was crazy.

Armageddon IPA Epic Brewing Co., Auckland, New Zealand
The Lady Friend read somewhere that only 1,000 litres of this have been created. We weren’t sure if that meant 1,000 litres just this year or in the history of the beer. Allegedly, it used to be brewed with Simcoe hops, but was recently changed to Falconer’s Flight. According to their website, they use Simcoe, but there was no brew date on the bottle, so we have no idea what batch this was from. This was a 500ml bottle, a little more than a pint.

Nose: Mild piney bitter hop with some sweetish maltiness to the aroma. Also a slight citrus, and a reddish colored pour.

Taste: Much stronger malt than the previous Nelson. A hop spiciness, with some dry resin finish. Drinkable, and very well balanced. We all liked this one, but the Engineer was harder to please, noting that the nose died off too quickly, with a low alcohol push. He was “tasting the bittering hop by the end of the glass.”

Sculpin IPA Ballast Point, San Diego, CA
The only Ballast Points I’ve found out here are the Big Eye IPA, and whatever fishy names they chose for the pale ale and porter. I snagged this in the City Beer store intrigued by the promise of a citrusy West Coast style IPA. Apparently it won a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup.

Nose: Tropical! Sweet and juicy.

Wifey said it smelled like a Jolly Rancher.

Taste: Piney hop start. Wet, juicy melon. Watery and refreshing. This time, the Engineer came to my defense with the watery comment. I don’t mean watery as a weak flavor, but rather a wet, clean, and opening sensation on the tongue that allows more flavor to come out. It’s the opposite of syrupy sweet.
The Engineer and Irish Lad both spoke of cucumbers and melon rind, with some puckery citrus. Wifey had a sip and proclaimed “ruby red grapefruit, but ONLY the ruby red kind,” and the Lady Friend just said “I like this!”

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, MO
We took a break from my California hops to taste this one that the Engineer had brought along. It’s called a farmhouse ale, and was very wheaty-Belgian that poured cloudy. “Look at the haze!” was the comment from the Engineer.

Nose: Whoa. Took a big whiff… bigger than needed for this one. Very aromatic. Wheat. Banana clove. Bubblegum. Phew.
The Engineer: “Funk. Whole bunch of funk.”

Taste: WHOA. “That’s got some balls,” was my exact quote, though the Irish Lad suggested “Robust.” Took a bigger sip than necessary. Has some body to it, and a strength in there. Not a fan of this style, but it has a punch behind it that carries it along. The Tank 7 was really well done.
The Irish Lad noted that “the alcohol (8%) really makes it a nice drink,” while the Engineer proclaimed that there was “a whole bunch of cheese” in there.

Sockeye Red IPA Midnight Sun Brewing, Anchorage, AK
You know what you can get in California? Beers from places like New Zealand and Alaska. I bought this out of novelty.
This poured darker than I initially expected, until I realize it was a RED IPA.

Nose: Sweet up top, but a savory undercurrent that was puzzling the Engineer. Cheese and sausage. Savory meaty. Strange, but not unpleasant, just unexpected.

Taste: A little flat. Lower carbonation. Sharp bitter start, eases into a metallic copper taste, but not too much. A nice blend. This was the Lady Friend’s least favorite so far, due to the sharper bitter hop, rather than citrus sweet.

Double Daddy dIPA Speakeasy Brewing, San Francisco, CA
So, on our Cali trip, Ke$hia Ho was trying to decide if having Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA on tap was a good choice for her bar. I tried to order it at several places, but they either didn’t have it, or they were out. The Lady Friend and I finally did get a taste at Ke$hia’s bar, and liked it, but determined that it had a rather peanutty flavor to it. Having set the baseline, we could now find out if the double version was better.

It should also be noted that at this point in the evening, we broke out the cards and started playing “Asshole.” So, the notes may fall off a bit from here.

Nose: Staleness. Mustiness. Earthy, definately earthy, with a malty nuttiness.

Taste: Malty. There IS a peanutty flavor, as in the Big Daddy single IPA, but it’s much smoother and rounded out in the double.

Maiden the Shade specialty ale
Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, OR

This was recommended to me by Stephanie again. Plus, it had a nice label and a pun name.

Nose: It… just smells like an ale. Nobody in the group could come up with a better description. Malty grain.

Taste: Touch of bitter, but slight. Malty, cereal sweet. Tasty, but unremarkable.

Dogma Brew Dog, Fraserburgh, Scotland
On the label, it’s described as an “ale brewed with honey, kola nut, poppy seeds and guarana.” This launched a whole debate between the Engineer and the Irish Lad about brewing “weird beer for the sake of being weird.” The Engineer said plainly “Brew Dog bugs me,” while the Irish Lad admitted that they make “innovative tastes but not always successful beers.”

Nose: Sweetness. Malt, but sweetness under the malt. Honey. Lots of honey.

Taste: The Irish Lad found this one “very gin-y.” It starts bitter, with a lot of honey sweet that starts in the middle, and grows to the finish. I thought both their Punk and Hardcore IPAs were interesting, and grabbed Dogma on a lark. It was certainly different, and I’m glad I tried it, but not something I’d have on a regular basis. I don’t really like honey all that much, and it seems to be the primary sweetener in this one. As the Irish Lad summed up, “I’m not saying it’s a good beer, but I’m happy I tasted those flavors.”

After eight different brews, we called it quits, and the unruly mob was forcefully expunged from my lair. The Lady Friend and I kicked back with a Lagunitas IPA to close with, since the Irish Lad had brought one over. I’ve puzzled before why he doesn’t like it, as I find it piney bitter, but generally tasty. Apparently he catches some sort of plastic quality in the brew, and the Engineer wasn’t terrible keen on it either. Regardless, the Lady Friend and I sipped it peaceably before retiring. Sunday brought a Widmer Brothers Drifter Pale Ale to sip on with some crispy bacon around the noonish hour. Delightfully and deliciously citrusy and tasty, with some lovely salty bacon. Then I busied myself with getting very little actually accomplished by not leaving SFHQ at all until finally crashing into bed to start another lovely work week.

Soused in SanFran – Part 2: SFO D1

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

Hold on to your butts, this is going to be a long one.

The dawn did done diddly dawned Thursday morning as JJ and her husband scurried about the apartment and left for work and classes, respectively. The Lady Friend and I eventually changed out of sleepy pants and rallied for the day’s adventures. The one certainty on the schedule was a lunchtime visit to 21st Amendment Brewpub, but after that we were open until tentative happy hour plans with JJ. We decided to walk, since it was a couple miles away, and I like to wander and do some street shooting. Went down by the water to see the Bay Bridge on the way, and then were plenty ready for lunch and beer.

Slightly bigger than Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH. Slightly.

21st Amendment Brewery is a brewpub in the South Park area of SFO, and is apparently near AT&T Park, a baseball stadium that is a whopping 11 years old. How cute. Fenway is almost 100 years old, so suck it California. 21st is, of course, named after the Twenty-first amendment to the Constitution which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment of nation-wide prohibition. I’ve had several of their canned offerings including the Brew Free or Die IPA, Hop Crisis ImpIPA, and Hell or High Watermelon (of which I believe there’s still a can in the Lady Friend’s fridge.) While they don’t have an official sampler of their beers, you can order a sample of each, which we did. However, the normal canned beers (which apparently are canned in Cold Spring, MN) were not on the list. They might have been on tap, but we were at a table instead of the bar, and didn’t get a look. Here’s what we got:

We tasted right to left.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple fruit. Slight malt. Very light and airy aroma.
Taste: Green, unripe tree/ stone fruit. Tart, apple.

Rammstein Bavarian Wheat
Nose: Banana clove. Sweet and aromatic. The Lady Friend described it as “circus peanuts” that marshmallowy orange candy.
Taste: Initial spiciness, eases off to a banana/ bubblegum wheat flavor.

Roasted American Amber Ale
Nose: Roasted malt/ barley. Not a coffee roast, but a TOASTED aroma.
Taste: Burnt toffee. Not syrupy. Not quite toast-like, but essence of golden brown crust, like fresh baked bread. Slight copper metallic, but very slight. We both really liked this one.

Fireside Chat Dark English Ale
Apparently they’re canning this one, but I haven’t seen here yet.
Nose: Very weak aroma. A stir with a fork yielded some slight fresh-baked cinnamon bread aroma.
Taste: Cinnamon raisin bread. Gives way to a slight syrup maltiness with a touch of roasted bitter.

Schooner’s Oatmeal Stout (Guest Brew)
Nose: Roasted oats. Yep.
Taste: Bitter coffee, but eases off. Very smooth. Finishes with a roast bitterness lingering. Nice.

Two Rivers Granny Smith Apple Cider (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple juice. Tart and sweet.
Taste: Tart start. Mouth puckering. Not too sweet, but finishes nice and apple-y. I’m not generally a cider fan, but this one was really nice, and not too acidic.

It was very lumber-y inside.

Following our sumptuous repast, we started wandering around with thoughts of heading down to a beer store where I planned to do some purchasing. However, though it began as a brisk, sunny day, by mid-afternoon it started to rain. Then pour. Plans for walking several blocks were aborted, and we about-faced to head towards Union Square. I had gotten in touch with a friend of mine from my former company, Qwadd Grafficks, who I met by chance on a tour of a printing plant in Wis-cahn-sin. She also turned up on one of our ski/snowboard house trips to Killington/Pico in Vermont (SnoHaus 2010). She left Qwadd to travel to France earlier in the year, and was now working as a bar manager in SFO. She traveled with two other Qwadd ex-pats, who, following the trip, became wine harvest interns in Sonoma County. Ke$hia Ho is a plucky little Asian girl with dance moves that demoralize any white boy within a seven-block radius, except perhaps Trevtastic. She rocks a New York fashion-sense, despite her Minnesota upbringing, and since I saw her last has developed quite an appreciation for, and knowledge of, cocktails. She had Thursday off, and agreed to meet us in Union Square, then hang out for the afternoon.

The Lady Friend and I ducked into a dark Irish sports bar to dry ourselves, just off of Union called Lefty O’Doul’s, who is apparently some former baseball player. It was appropriately dark, dank and bar-like, so we grabbed a couple stools at the end of the bar and ordered up two Anchor Porters. When in Rome. Sidebar: it also happened to be International Stout Day. A porter may or may not technically be a stout, depending on who you ask, but I had the oatmeal stout sample at lunch so THAT TOTALLY COUNTS. Louie, apparently a regular, was having a grand old time a few seats down slurping Heineken’s and hitting on the female waitstaff, who are plainly used to his advances. Ke$hia Ho strode in after a short time, and we departed for a bar called Top of the Mark, a hotel bar with commanding panoramic views of the city. Though the rain had stopped, this unfortunately meant hiking, and I do mean HIKING, up several of the steepest hills mountains I had ever encountered in a city setting. It’s not even funny.

The view was pretty nice.

So, Top of the Mark is a ritzy little cocktail and piano bar, and we flipped through the extensive drink menu looking for a tasty tipple. However, something quite alarming caught my eye: the Top of the Mark Negroni, made with Ketel One Citron, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Wait… what? A Negroni made with VODKA?? Guess what tardclowns, THAT’S NOT A NEGRONI. I should NEVER have to specify that I want GIN in a Negroni. Ugh. They lost all credibility for that one. Unbelievable.

Despite the waiter’s near unintelligible accent, we managed to place our drink orders, with Ke$hia Ho sipping on a French 75 (she had some champagne earlier in the day and wanted to keep the theme going) and the Lady Friend trying what she thought was a Tequila Sunrise, until something tasted a bit off. Turned out, she got a Tequila SunSET, which was Stoli, 1800, Grand Marnier and Grenadine. Take a tequila drink and dump in some vodka. What is the matter with this place? Anyway, the cocktails were pricey, the waiter unsuccessfully attempted claw his way through the English language, they massacre classic drinks, and we spent our time there next to a group of business types drinking Bud Light. In a cocktail bar. The only reason to go here is to see the views, which were very nice, but after you’ve seen it, there’s no excuse to go back. Also, the bathroom, while elegantly decorated, had the distinct bouquet of a thousand haunted farts, with strong overtones of wet dog. Time to leave.

So, leave we did, thankfully taking the bus instead of walking, to a bar called Harry’s to meet JJ for happy hour. Yes, SquirrelFarts, there is a Happy Hour. We’re not in Boston anymore. Nothing too special about Harry’s… casual, but nice, and dark. There were $3 drafts, including Lagunitas IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Awesome. The Irish Lad isn’t a fan of Lagunitas IPA, though I’m still not quite sure why. I think it’s slightly pine bitter, but delicious.

As we were chatting, a girl came up to our table calling Ke$hia by some other name… I forget what. After some confusion, we figured out that apparently Ke$hia is this other girl’s doppelganger. When the other girl turned up, it was a pretty close match, and mild chuckling ensued. We had a few munchies until JJ arrived, looking rather drawn and haggard. A nice pint of Sierra Nevada revived her, and we all headed to a Peruvian restaurant for dinner, though some of us would have much preferred a slice of pizza.

The place was named Fresca The roasted chicken looked tasty, and that happened to be the one thing on the menu that the kitchen was out of. Super. So, I said I didn’t want anything else, and started doing some tasting notes on my Cuzqueña Peruvian lager (no nose whatsoever, a slight skunky “green glass” lager taste with some cereal grain sweetness. Also of note: it’s allegedly the only South American beer that adheres to the Reinheitsgebot; the German purity law that says beer must be made only from water, barley and hops.) I’m not sure if the notebook did it, (although I have had strange things like this happen before) but all of a sudden the waiter came back saying there was magically ONE more chicken in the kitchen, and would I like it? Um, sure. Maybe they thought I was some sort of reviewer or critic, but whatever the reason, I got my chicken. And it was tasty. As were the accompanying french fries I very nearly inhaled.

After that we called it an evening (since it was a work night for JJ). Ke$hia hopped a bus with plans to meet up with us again the next day, and the remaining three of us stumbled back down Fillmore to the apartment for another night of futon slumber. This was just day one: more drinking adventures to come!

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