Posts Tagged ‘Monday Hangover’

The Monday Hangover: Nov 26-27

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

Well, given the holiday, our drinkventures actually started Wednesday night with a Very Special edition of our weekly Rule 37 drinks: Champagne Night! We made four different champagne inclusive cocktails with great success and a proper use of a value-priced bottle of sparkling wine.

The Lady Friend ventured up to Moo Hampsha for various family Thanksgiving shenanigans (apparently Squirrel Farts was a popular topic of discussion) and returned Friday afternoon in time for us to venture over to Bin Ends and their weekly beer tasting. This week was Sixpoint Brewery out of Brooklyn. We met @SaraSixpoint, the New England rep, who was pouring samples of the Sixpoint lineup. We tasted The Crisp (lager), Sweet Action (cream ale), Righteous Ale (rye ale), Bengali Tiger (IPA) and Diesel (hoppy stout). All were excellent, and the Lady Friend wound up buying a pack of the Diesel (they come in 4-packs of 16oz cans). We also scored some Cava (Spanish sparkling wine), some German sparkling, and a bottle of Hayman’s Old Tom gin, partially because I’ve been looking for a bottle of Old Tom to try, and partly because it had a little black cat on the label. Old Tom gin was very popular in the 18th century, and is sweeter than the London Dry style (Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay). Because of its sweeter taste, it works better in a Tom Collins (no need for extra sugar) and has a smoother, rounder flavor. Later in the evening, I tried it with a Negroni, and it worked well, with a bit of a sweeter taste, as expected. The Lady Friend was intrigued enough to try a Tom Collins, and seemed to enjoy it, but then moved on to a Michael Collins (Tom Collins with Irish whiskey instead of gin).

Also, Bin Ends now carries Bully Boy.

Before our ginventures, we hit up Cathay Pacific in Quincy for some Chinesey “Polynesian” food and, the main event, tiki drinks! While this place is no Kowloons, there aren’t many other places around for tiki drinks. Plus, it’s fantastically cheesy, and the karaoke bar is a sight to be seen. You have been warned. The drinks aren’t the best in the world… they’re what you’d expect from a place trapped in a time warp like this one: a bunch of fruit juice, sour mix and cheap rum. That said, they’re still tasty and festive. The reviews on this place are pretty hit or miss, but I’ve never had a problem here. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it for an occasional change of scenery. Plus, tiki drinks! I started with a Suffering Bastard then moved to a Fog Cutter, and enjoyed both. The Lady Friend went with a Navy Grog, which tasted like bubblegum, and closed with a Zombie. Apparently the one at Kowloon is much better, as she remarked that she had a buzz halfway through that one, whereas the Cathay Pacific version didn’t do anything.

Since we were already out, we figured it’d be good to keep the ball rolling and headed over to the Fat Cat Restaurant in Quincy, which had been recommended to me by several people. Apparently they have fantastic Mac & Cheese and a cocktail list. Now that I look closer at it, they have some good beer offerings (including Boulder Beer’s Mojo, one of my favs), but, as was pointed out by the Lady Friend, all of their cocktails are vodka. FAIL. (Also, they misspelled “cocktail” on the menu. I don’t think I’ll be going there after all.) I managed to acquire the bestest parking space evar directly in front of the place, yet when we went it, it was jammed. All the space at the bar was taken up by people eating, so we couldn’t even get near it. Screw that. Instead, we went down Hancock Street to The Half Door, an Irish pub, and ordered beers. I had a Guinness, since that’s what you drink in an Irish pub, and the Lady Friend finally got to try a proper black and tan (half Guinness, half Bass pale ale), which she recently kept confusing with a Black Velvet (half Guinness, half champagne). Then it was back to SFHQ for the aforementioned gin cocktails and sleepy time.

Caturday brought a trip to NH to hassle Monstro the cat and pick up Elsa’s snow boots at the SF Homestead. The Lady Friend had a lunch in downtown Portsmouth with family, then we hoofed it over to her parents’ house to see their new kitten, Maggie. This little furball was a bouncy ball of crazy, and was particularly interested in sitting near, then on, then beside, then IN my pizza box. Fortunately the slices were in my hand at the time, and she tentatively stretched out a little white paw trying to snag a taste of whatever deliciousness I was holding. None for you, moocher!

From there, we ventured over to Hooksett for a tasting at White Birch Brewing (more on that later) and back down 93 to home base. By this time foodening was becoming necessary, and the Lady Friend chose La Paloma’s in Quincy, where apparently she used to go quite frequently. Naturally, several margaritas were involved, though the prodigious use of sour mix really, well, soured the experience. Again, it was to be expected from this sort of place, and they were tasty, but not as good as El Serape in Weymouth Landing. But few places are. When I was taking a picture of the margs, I think the 21ish-year-old bartender thought I was trying to take sneaky pictures of HER. Sorry, not the case. I mean, what interest would I possibly have with a young, attractive female bartender? Um. I should stop talking.

Anyway, the Lady Friend splurged on the ULTIMATE ‘RITA which tasted pretty much the same as the others, except for a slightly increased orange flavor, apparently from the Patron Citronage. After a margarita of my own, I sipped on a Pacifico lager with dinner, and by the end of the meal, she was quite bouncy and raring to go, much like the kitten. So, we headed over to the Union Brewhouse to get another beer crossed off of our 99 bottle list. Mine: Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Rum Cask Scotch Ale. Tasted like caramel vanilla. A desert beer. Waaaaay sweet. The Lady Friend went with a St. Bernardus Prior 8 Belgian that tasted like wet rubber to me. I was not a fan. We sipped our respective beers, surrounded by the Bud Light swilling masses that frequent the Brewhouse, until finally returning home to SFHQ, for a Newcastle Brown nightcap. Roasty toasty with just enough malt. A lovely end.

The Monday Hangover: Nov 19-20

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

As usual, we begin with Friday night drinky-drinks, which due to a week of horrible, rainy commutes required the immediate ingestion of some liquid medicine, namely a shot of whiskey and a beer. When the Lady Friend arrived, it was business as usual with our Rule 37 for the week, the East India Cocktail. She went off into an El Diablo after that, and, since I had the nice bitters out, she suggested I make myself a good Manhattan. Excellent suggestion. Following dinner, we finished off with a bomber of Bear Republic’s Big Bear Stout, which was malty and toasted. Very nice, and the Lady Friend enjoyed it thoroughly, as her affinity for stouts grows by the week.

On Saturday, the Lady Friend had a bridal/ bridesmaid dress shopping excursion for Lady Friend’s Friend up in Moo Hampsha, leaving me to mope about, generally failing to accomplish anything useful. I almost vacuumed. Almost. The tardbabies at Comcast decided to have a “brief service interruption” for about four hours on Saturday morning, which left me in severe withdrawl, leading to overindulgence once it was restored. While refreshing my Twitter page for the umpteenth time later in the day, I noticed @bullyboybooze were doing a tasting up in Arlington. I informed the Lady Friend, seeing if she would want to stop by on her drive home, and she agreed, having never tasted their vodka or white whiskey. This meant showering and putting on pants, which breaks my Rules of Saturday, but hey, free booze.

Menotomy, not monotony.

Apparently “Menotomy,” an Algonquian word that means “swift running water,” was the original name for Arlington, MA, and the name of the liquor store (sorry, “packie”) where the tasting was held. That’s your fun fact of the day… you can put that in your pocket and carry it around. I got there just around 4, and managed to find a spot in the tiny parking lot. The Lady Friend, arriving minutes later, was not so lucky and settled for street parking. We strolled in, and found a small shop with a crowd of people struggling to maneuver around each other, some shopping, some tasting, some just plain standing in the way. Squeezing our way over to the Bully Boy tasting, we waited for some fossils to move aside, and slid into their spot, where Dave Willis, co-founder, did a mild double-take, recognizing me with a happy greeting. He tapped co-founder/brother Will, with the introduction “This is SquirrelFarts!” to which Will exclaimed “SquirrelFarts! I don’t even want to know your real name!” When I originally toured their distillery, Dave showed me around, and I didn’t get a chance to meet Will.

The Bully Boys.

The Bully Boys offered tastings of their three available spirits: a white rum (they enjoyed my tasting notes of “sugar cookies and rainbows”), a white whiskey, and a vodka. Their vodka recently won a gold medal at the 2011 Beverage Tasting Institute Spirits Competition, with the judges describing flavors of “wet granite,” which was quite amusing. The Lady Friend choked it down and coughed out “smooth.”

We chatted for awhile and discussed some of the upcoming plans for the BBoys. They’ve got a couple interns on board helping out, and are in full-swing production, shipping out bottles for the holiday season rush. Their aging rums and whiskeys are still, well, aging, as it’s a process that can’t be rushed. I’m really looking forward to trying both aged spirits, though Will noted that the whiskey was further along than the rum, which was the opposite of what they expected. We’ll see how the casks fare during the cold New England winter, but they expect to have them ready in the spring or summer. There’s really no way to tell exactly when.

After our liquor geek-out time (the Lady Friend snarked “You and the Bully Boys have such big men crushes on each other.” Whatevs.) we had a quick taste of the wine samples available in the other corner of the shop, then picked up a bomber of Slumbrew’s Flagraiser IPA, made in Somerville, MA. Arriving back in Braintree, the question of dinner became quite pressing, and we eventually decided to venture to the Union Brewhouse to further our progress on our 99-beer list quest. My selections included Blatent IPA (on tap), a new player to the MA craft brewery game. According to our waitress (whose story checked out) the brewer/ owner, Matthew Steinberg, was head brewer at Offshore Brewing, then Ops Director at Mayflower before starting up Blatent. He now contract brews at Just Beer. The IPA wasn’t on my list, but I wanted to give it a try. It nosed with a whole lot of pine, like Pine-Sol pine. My tasting notes read as “Wow. Pine needles. A pine forest. The pine tree air freshener hanging from your rearview mirror.” It was tasty.

A Belgiany Belgian, Duvel, followed, and I finished with a smooth & creamy Lion Brewing Stout, which was a big ol’ 8.8% abv. The Lady Friend tasted it and proclaimed it excellent and fantastic, noting that she was jealous of my selection. It might be because she was working on a Skunky Artois at the moment, but earlier earned my jealousy with her Stone Ruination IPA and Sierra Nevada Celebration ale.

The trip to the Brewhouse wouldn’t be a complete without some assclown yelling at the football team on tv, and spotting several people drinking Bud Light and Michelob Ultra. They have over 100 bottled beers and 17 taps, yet these roadkill brains waltz in a think “Hmmm… I’ll have a Bud Light!” Ugh.

After arriving back at SFHQ, we cracked the Slumbrew bomber, and my drinking companion was a bit confused by the aroma, saying “it smells west-coast-ish” but then “Vanilla? There’s a different sweetness to it…” before going with “Ice cream! Milkshake!” I found it had a malty nose, but with a sweetness behind it that was indeed hard to pin down… a creaminess, almost as in whipped cream. She chimed in again with “Strawberries?” deciding that she was “optimistic” about it, and finally squealing that it smelled like “the Strawberry Shortcake doll!” Not just strawberry shortcake, but the doll version of the cartoon character. I didn’t have the necessary past experience with said doll to confirm or deny that, but she seemed resolute. The taste? I got a maltiness first, with a slight fruity sweetness. The mid goes to a cucumber/ watermelon watery cleanse, then finishes with some hop pine bitterness. The Lady Friend’s thoughts: “Not at all what I expected. A lot more bitter that what I was smelling. Holy moly. I’ve got some work to do on that one.”

Sunday brought a trip to Curtis, since the Lady Friend determined that there wasn’t enough beer in my fridge. She likes to get sample 12 packs to taste the range of a particular brewery, and also expand her palate, seeing what she does and doesn’t like. I think one of her current favorites is the Ballast Point Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter, which is pretty good for a girl who, before we met, rarely drank beer, and when she did, drank Bud Light. I’m such a good influence. I should start a beer boot camp. So, while I spent an hour crippled with beer ennui, unable to make a decision (went with a sixer of Avery IPA) she snagged a Saranac winter sampler (she wants the Chocolate Lager and Vanilla Stout) and a pint of Newcastle Brown, which apparently she’s never tried. Though it was sunny when we arrived, it was dark when we left Curtis, and popped over to the supermarket to throw elbows with the lunatics that were out shopping. Finally home, it was time for food, beer, and bed. Sleepy time.

Sidenote: While at Curtis, I causally tweeted that it would truly be my happy place if they carried Bully Boy. Sure enough, I started getting tweets from BBoy and Curtis claiming that the talks were happening, so keep an eye out for Bully Boy on the Curtis shelves, possibly in December. Bully!

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.

The Monday Hangover: Oct 29-30

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

Cocktail night started off slow and easy with a soothing Negroni and a home-cooked meal, rather than the usual takeout. Saturday was the real drink adventure, as the Lady Friend and I ventured out into the stormy wet afternoon to attend the Curtis Liquor Annual Fall Beer Tasting.

Yowza. Bigger than I expected.

With something silly like 20 breweries serving 100+ beers, this was a crazy event for a retail store. About 1/3 of the store was taken over with folding tables and some great breweries. We wandered in with a list of all the beers available, and the Lady Friend wondered where we should start. There was a bit of a lull in front of Oskar Blues, so I replied “Right here.” They’re the ones responsible for the incredibly hoppy Dale’s Pale Ale, however we went for their Old Chub, a Scottish style ale, dark and malty. From there I don’t remember the order of our tastings, so here’s the rest.

Lost Sailor IPA Berkshire Brewing Co. (MA)
Nose: Weak nose… not much hop, but a mild cereal grain sweetness.
Taste: Good malt/ hop balance. Crisp and clean.

Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale Sierra Nevada (CA)
Nose: Wow hop. Wet, green and grassy. Well, not quite grassy, but like a lush, juicy, unripe fruit. Watery, but not weak. Spring rain.
Taste: Lush hop start. Gradually turns to the bitter hop flavors. Very juicy and almost, but not quite, tart, like an unripe apple. I bought a bomber of this to try some more. It was wild.

Milk Stout Wachusett Brewing (MA)
They were out of the Larry IPA, which is a fantastic brew, so we both went with the milk stout. I didn’t know Wachusett HAD a milk stout, but apparently it’s been out for about a year and a half. The server was a wild character… would love to see his version of a brewery tour.
Nose: Coffee roast nose. Um. Yeah that’s all I got.
Taste: Smooth, slight syrup. Good roast bitter but hint of sweetness. Very nice. Smooth and creamy without being too sweet.

Pumpkin Ale Wachusett Brewing (MA)
The server initially poured me this one instead of the Milk Stout, so I drank it anyway.
Nose: Mild nose. Not really much to smell.
Taste: Subdued fall/ spiced taste. Not too strong. I don’t really like pumpkin beers, but this one was pretty mild and drinkable.

IPA Opa Opa (MA)
Nose: Weak nose with a mild fruitiness
Taste: Lots of malt. Some bitter hop in the middle, but very caramel malty overall.

Stowaway IPA Baxter Brewing Co. (ME)
We were planning to visit Baxter on our Maine Beerventure, but didn’t feel like making the long(er) trek upta Lewiston. This turned out to be a great chance to try their brews (all canned).
Nose: Sweet tree fruit hop, like citra.
Taste: Sharp! Bitter pine hop. Very sudden and arresting. Evaporates quickly. The second taste eased off leaving elements of sour, unripe tree fruit. Certainly an experience.

Extra Pale Ale Baxter Brewing Co. (ME)
Nose: Very foamy head. Smells cereal and/or fruity sweet.
Taste: Starts with a cereal malt. The hop bitterness eases in, but then finishes with a slight rubber staleness as I get with Czech Pils. I attributed this to green glass bottles, but since Baxter is canned, that theory doesn’t hold. Discussed it with the Irish Lad, but results are inconclusive. This will require more tasting and geekery!

Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale Harpoon Brewery (MA)
Nose: Very typical Harpoon nose, if that makes sense. It literally smells like most of their other beers, like the Munich Dark Lager.
Taste: Starts light, like the Oktoberfest, then turns sour. A tart, cranberry taste oozes in. Meh.

Thanksgiving Ale Mayflower Brewing (MA)
Every year, Mayflower brews a signature small batch of beer for Thanksgiving, available in limited quantities. I hadn’t ever had one, so we tried the 2011 offering.
Nose: Fruity sweet. More depth than just a malt aroma.
Taste: Thick, syrupy mouthfeel. Starts sweet, moves to a bitter roast, but not too sharp. Finishes almost stale, like a wet forest with rotting wood. Earthy and dank.

Perpetual IPA Tröegs Brewery (PA)
Hopped with Citra, Cascade and Nugget
Nose: Sweet Citra tree fruit nose, like nectarine.
Taste: Starts with the sweet Citra fruit, then delves into Piney Nugget-ness. Yum.
After the tasting, the Lady Friend snagged a sample 12-pack of the Tröegs. I guess she was impressed. They do make tasty beers.

Southern Tier 2X IPA Southern Tier Brewing (NY)
Ooooooh mamacita. Southern Tier makes some goooood beers. The next step up from this is their UnEarthly Imp IPA, which I’ve had and enjoyed many a time.
Nose: Malt. Some hop. Light body, light hop. Fruity and floral.
Taste: Malt start. Hop bitter in the mid and finishes slightly bitter as well. Quite nice.

Black IPA Otter Creek (VT)
This was at the Long Trail table, but I’ve had most of what Long Trail has to offer, so I went with this. The did have the Long Trail Imperial Stout (Brewmaster’s series) which the Lady Friend tried.
Nose: Hoppy bitter with some floral notes.
Taste: Piney hop start gives way to a bitter coffee roast mid. A clean, non-syrupy finish.

XXXX IPA Shipyard Brewing (ME)
Again, I’ve had most of Shipyard’s stuff, but I got the Irish Lad a bottle of this quadruple-X IPA and he seemed to enjoy it. Hadn’t tried it for myself, so went for it.
Nose: WOW – MALT. Malt malt malt. Like a caramel candy. Werther’s Original. Butterscotch.
Taste: Sweet and syrupy. Some hop in the mid, but not nearly enough to balance this malt bomb. Now I know why the Irish Lad liked it… he’s been going malty.

Guinness Black Lager Guinness (IRL)
Guinness’s Black Lager just came out a few months ago. I had heard about it from someone, but hadn’t tried it for myself. According to the promo girl, their main competitor is Heineken.
Nose: Light, and lagery.
Taste: Light pilsner lager taste. Foamy head. Pours a dark color, due to the brewing process, though there really isn’t much of the roasted barley taste you’d expect from a pour this dark.

Beer beer beer!

Naturally, the big local breweries were all in attendance, like Samuel Adams and Harpoon, and there was a strong showing from regional favorites like Mayflower, Blue Hills, Berkshire, Wachusett, and Opa Opa. Some great unexpected appearances by Oskar Blues (CO), Tröegs (PA), and Southern Tier (NY), though Saranac was a no-show. I found most of Saranac’s brews pretty uninspiring but was intrigued by their India Brown Ale, and the Lady Friend wanted the Vanilla Stout.

Following the beer tasting, we had some dinner before trekking up to Cambridge for an annual Halloween party with some friends of mine, an event not to be missed. There was an abundance of nice beer to start (the Lady Friend snatched up and hoarded a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA) though someone later on plopped some Narragansett tall boys in the cooler. I guess the Samuel Adams winter pack is out, since I was able to grab a Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, then their Old Fezziwig. The bock was very rich and dark chocolatey, while the Fezziwig was a bit too like their winter ale… spiced and kinda gross. There was that snowstorm that everyone is still complaining about, and we drove back in a slushy wet nightmare of a highway, though without serious incident. Bonus: when I looked out the window the next morning, not a drop of snow to be seen. Suck it, Western MA.

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.

The Monday Hangover: Sept 24-25

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

Let’s see if this works. Basically a section to sum up the other tasty imbibables consumed during the weekend that didn’t get their own post.

The trouble started Friday evening, when I stopped by Curtis Liquors with beer on the brain. I shouldn’t be allowed in there unsupervised.

Going to the liquor store on payday is dangerous.

However, Friday night is cocktail night, so the beer wonders would have to wait. This week’s new cocktail was the Nautilus.

On Saturday the Lady Friend and I lunched at the Union Brewhouse, further making our way down their 99 bottle list. Apparently, there is an updated list (it says Series #3 in the corner) and our waitress generously offered to transfer our progress onto a new card, since several breweries have been added or dropped from the list.
I started with a Jack’s Abbey Hoponius Union India Pale Lager (yes, India Pale LAGER) on tap, on a recommendation from the Irish Lad. Strangely, I got a heavy aroma and taste of mint in this brew. Lady Friend went with the Bear Republic Mach 10 Imperial IPA, which went on draught at the Brewhouse earlier in the week (and was the main reason for going there.) I went with the Mach 10 for my second bev (very good, more malty than hoppy), and she chose a Tuckerman Brewing Pale Ale.

From the Brewhouse, we popped over to Blue Hills Brewery in Canton. I’d already done a writeup on them before, so this was a social visit for a tasting, and to purchase a couple beers. We went through the sampling of their Watermelon Wheat (I passed on that one), Wampatuck Wheat (discounted bombers available currently at the brewery), Pub Draft IPA, Antimatter, Oktobrau, Black Hops and Imperial Red IPA. That actually sounds like a lot more beer than we had. It was all tasty as usual, and we chatted with a couple on their own beer tour from Norfolk, VA (they had stopped at Trinity Brewhouse in Providence earlier that day.) We purchased two Imperial Red IPA bombers (one for Irish Lad) and an Oktobrau and were on our way.

Since plans with Wifey and the Irish Lad fell through, we shrugged and went back to the Brewhouse. We even sat at the same table, but in different seats so it’s totally cool. I opened with a Cape Ann Brewing (Gloucester) Fisherman’s Brew, followed by a tasty Green Flash West Coast IPA, and finally a Goose Island Honkers Ale. The Lady Friend had a Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale, something from Stoudt Brewing, and a third I can’t remember. I can barely keep track of my own beers, never mind hers. (UPDATE: Apparently it was Peak Brewing’s Fall Summit Ale.)

Finally, it was back to SquirrelFarts HQ to continue the beer mayhem. We decided to crack a few bombers, and dove in with the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. Lady Friend LOVED it. I think she really enjoyed the roast bitterness of the toasted malt, but with some hop behind it. I will admit that it was quite tasty, but now I know the Lady Friend might enjoy some other black IPAs (a bit of a misnomer as it’s somewhat of an oxymoron to have a BLACK PALE ale. The craft beer world is still sorting that one out.) For dessert, it was time for a knockout punch, and we went with a big boy I had stashed in the back of the fridge: Avery’s Maharaja Imperial IPA (10.3% abv). There’s a bit of discussion attached with this one as well, since it’s such a killer malt bomb, that it borders on barleywine territory, yet still classifies as an IPA. The beer geeks are clamoring for a TRIPLE IPA category, as this one is on the far reaches of double/Imperial IPA land.

I had a shoot on Sunday, and Lady Friend went to visit her parents, so that did it for the weekend.

…unless you count the Redhook ESB I snagged in the afternoon.
…and the Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’ IPA after the shoot. Whoops.

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