Posts Tagged ‘stout’

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.

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!

‘CuseQuest Bonus Round: Albany Pump Station

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

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

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

Have I started yet?
I have?

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

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

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

Hi, BBack!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treasures from the journey!

‘CuseQuest! Part 3: Beer Day Cont’d – EMPIRE

Whew. Way too much in the last post to try to squeeze in Empire, which deserves a little space. Empire Brewing Company is down on Walton Street in Armory Square, a historical part of downtown Syracuse. The armory (now the Museum of Science and Technology, or M.O.S.T.) was built in 1859 and was part of the industrial bustle of old Syracuse. Its proximity to the Erie Canal, and subsequent railroads, created an economic boom in the area, and large hotels and businesses flourished until the 1930s when the railroads were removed from Syracuse city streets and the area gradually declined. Which is a nice way of saying it fell apart. It joined the rest of Syracuse in the condition of “urban renewal” without the “renewal,” a motif which lingers throughout the city to this day. However, in the 1970s, bunches of yuppies and artists started buying and fixing up the old buildings, and now Armory Square (there is no actual “square” unlike Clinton Square) has a lot of the trendier places in town and is on the National Register of Historic Places. As a student, I never really ventured into the city, as most of us stayed in our university bubble on top of The Hill. I had always heard about it, but only went down there maybe once or twice. This was another area of the city I’d have liked to explore further, but just didn’t have time on this trip. We did, however, manage to get to Empire, the exterior of which is reminiscent of a subway entrance, as you descend the covered stairs into the depths of the brewpub.

The belly of the beast.

We sweatily plunked down at the bar, grateful for it’s dark, subterranean climate, embellished greatly by the steady air conditioning, one of America’s greatest inventions, and the namesake of the Carrier Dome. See how I tied that up all nice and neat? Yeah, I was proud of that too. Anyway, the point is, it was as hot as hornets on a hound dog, and I was in desperate need of cold air and colder beer. The bartender, Cinthia, (all “i’s” as she was quick to point out, though the “y” or “i” question was on the tip of my tongue) set to work pouring our six-beer flights, though she glanced warily when we requested a flight for each of us, not to share. “It’s two and a half pints of beer,” she added in her Rah-chester styled upstate accent, a dialect that almost sounds Chicagoan in influence. I let it slide, though my internal arrogance wanted to boast “Silly hu-man female! No mortal pint can drown the likes of SquirrelFarts McAwesome! Now fetch my flagons of ale, post haste!” Instead, I set to tasting.

Flagon fetching!

Skinny Atlas Light
The name plays on “Skaneateles Lake,” the nearby finger lake that is Syracuse’s water supply, and is so pure and clean, the city uses the water unfiltered. Not to be confused with Lake Onondaga, one of the most polluted lakes in the country. Apparently this beer won a gold medal in 1999 at the Great American Beer Fest. There are other such medals framed around the brewpub, so these beers come with some credentials.
Nose: “Beer.” Light, not much to smell.
Taste: Apricot-like fruit. Apparently everything was tasting of apricots to me… I was getting a lot of it at Middle Ages. Plenty of flavor for a light beer. Nice and refreshing. I could drink it all day and enjoy it.

Empire Amber Ale 5.2% abv

Nose: Weak aroma. Hint of malt.

Taste: Buttery. Popcorn. Malty with cereal grain. Sweet and tasty. I know a buttery flavor can be the result of some renegade yeast, (UPDATE: It’s called diacetyl) so I’m not sure if this is how the batch was SUPPOSED to taste, but either way it was delicious. Sweet, but not in a sickly sugary manner. Yum.

Black Magic Stout
This used a nitrogen backing instead of carbon dioxide, as does Guinness.
Nose: Coffee. Roast. Some sweetness. Smells excellent.
Taste: Creamy. Milky. Lactose? I asked Cinthia, and she said it wasn’t a milk stout; it was just the nitrogen (smaller bubbles) that gave it a smoother mouthfeel. She gave us a bonus taste of their nitrogen-backed blonde ale as well to see another example of the creamy smoothness. The stout also tasted with a chocolate finish, but of a high-cacao dark chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate chips or other bitter cocoa. Very nice. Black magic indeed.

Downtown Brown (seasonal)
Anyone else immediately think Downtown Julie Brown? No? Just me? I’m old. This seasonal was described by Cinthia as an English style brown ale but with American hops. She didn’t know specifically which hops. I asked.
Nose: Roasted barley, much like a stout.
Taste: Syrup mouthfeel, though not too overwhelming. Flavors of roast coffee (from the roasted malt) and maltiness. Very tasty. Four out of four have been good so far, Empire.

Empire State Pale Ale IPA 6.8% abv
This was served to us as the pale ale, but later on Cinthia decided we were the real deal, since I was taking pictures and writing tasting notes, so she came back over to chat a bit and let us know that they were out of the pale ale, so this was actually the IPA instead. I had initially thought it was quite hoppy for a pale ale, so it’s good to know that I’m not crazy. Well. Debatable.
Nose: Excellent fruity hop, floral. Lady Friend described it as “Cat pee?” quickly adding “…but not in a bad way.” Um. Ok then.
Taste: Citrus. Nectarine/ peach/ tree fruit, as a Citra hop, but not quite to that level of flavor. Similar however. YUM. Lady Friend described it as tasting of Sauvignon Blanc, but I have no idea what that means.

Empire Summer Ale (seasonal) (duh)

Nose: Weak, but with a hint of lemon. Summery in color and aroma.

Taste: Grain sweet. Lemon/ citrus. A slight stale finish, but light and refreshing. Tasty, with lots of flavor, almost in defiance of its pale aroma and color. Nice.

That takes care of my six samples. However, two of the spots are reserved for seasonals, and they had a number of rotating brews available. I had the summer and brown while Lady Friend got two others. Somewhere along the way with our beer tastings we figured out that to cover the whole range, we should each order as many different ones as possible and then share. We didn’t specifically set out to do it this time, but it happened to work out nicely, thanks to Cinthia’s proficient pouring prowess.

White Aphro (seasonal)
This was a Belgian-style white ale. Not my chosen style, but I give everything a fair chance. However…
Nose: Spice. Winter ale-like. Wheaty/ banana aromas typical of a Belgian white. Hint of orange peel?
Taste: Urinal cake. Yup. That’s exactly it. It tastes the way a urinal cake smells. Fake “citrus” chemical grossness. Ewwww. Big swing and a miss on THAT one.

Deep Purple (seasonal) 8% abv!
Apparently this fruity beer is made from organic Concord grape concentrate sourced from Geneva (Geneva, NY, I’m assuming.) Deceptively sweet, clocking in at eight percent alcohol by volume.
Nose: Sour wine. Grapey. Grape off the vine, not “grape flavor.”
Taste: Um, grapey. Winey. Juice-box. Too much flavor to want to finish it. Meh. Couldn’t imagine an entire pint of this. Yowza.

Blonde Cream Ale

This was the nitrogen cream ale that Cinthia and I were discussing earlier along with the nitro stout. I’ve found that in bars/ breweries/ brewpubs, if you simply talk the talk, bartenders recognize that you know what you’re doing and will often slip you something extra to try or discuss. It’s not my intention to score free tastes, but a) bartending can be very boring, especially an afternoon shift b) product is cheap. Sure, everything has a cost associated with it, but for a manufacturer, product is worthless until someone is willing to pay for it. Not that a 5oz pour from the tap will bankrupt anybody, but it’s always appreciated on my end. The best tasting booze is FREE booze.
Nose: Slight hop, but it was a struggle to get any aroma off of it.
Taste: Creamy mouthfeel. A nice, mild hop. Very tasty. Lady Friend’s take: “You could drink a LOT of that.” The nitrogen really does make for a very smooth drink.

Off and on, I had been wandering around the place taking some pics. It was a quiet, Saturday afternoon, so it was pretty empty and didn’t get many stares. Yes, I take pictures of bars people. I’m not trying to take a picture of YOU, so quit staring at me like I’m a stalker. I love the look of this place. It may not have the “proper” pub atmosphere of dark wood, but the brick walls make a nice alternative. Low ambient light (as it should be) with plenty of accents highlighting various art pieces and awards. Around the corner, next to the bathroom, I stumbled upon a cool piece: a mixed-media mural (hey, I’m an art kid. I get to use terms like “mixed-media”) of the Empire “e” logo in copper, with the “e” composed of bottle caps. The background? A star stylized with, of all things, Genesee beer labels.

Genesee Brewing, or “Genny” as it is known, is famous for making an, um, economically-priced, cream ale. The brewery began way way back in the early 1800s as the first brewery in Rochester, NY. They started making their creme ale in the 1960s, and it is both revered and reviled throughout the Northeast, particularly in NY State. Seriously, ask any baby-boomer who grew up in the Northeast if they remember Genny and you’ll get either a grin or a gag. Maybe both. Currently, Genny is part of a corporation called simply “North American Breweries” that includes Magic Hat, Dundee (they make a Honey Brown beer), and Labatt’s USA division. Whether the Empire poster was created as homage or satire, I don’t know. Empire is all about local, fresh ingredients, so my guess is that it’s more of a reaction to the mass-produced Genny gems.

So, Empire was great. A lot of tasty beers. Well above average. After Empire, we made a stop at Liquor World in Dewitt, right next to Wegmans. They boasted low prices and delivered on that promise: I scored a 1 litre-sized bottle of Campari to replenish my dwindling supply for about $26, at least $4 less than the smaller 750ml counterpart costs in MA. Same for a bottle of Old Overholt Rye… the 1 litre size was cheaper than the 750ml equivalent. Score. The Lady Friend bought a couple of bottles of wine as a thank you to funcle and his female companion for letting us crash with them, and the whole family clan converged at his home for a cookout that evening, some of which I hadn’t seen since my graduation from SU. I helped myself to some Saranac in funcle’s fridge; a black and tan, and a vanilla stout, both of which were tasty, unlike most of Saranac’s offerings which I find uninspiring. Lady Friend and I cracked the Stone IPA bomber to sip with dinner, and after the family left, she and I relaxed on the porch with the Peak Organic Hop Noir black IPA, though I was sleepy at that point. Time to rest up: Sunday was *shudder* WINE DAY.

<- Click that picture!
This is it! We're down to the wire!
The last day of voting for me is Sept 9th, so DO IT.

Don’t make me angry.
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.


Upta Potlind, Paht 5: Sebago Brewpub

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

I say See-bay-go, you say See-bah-go

I had stopped by Sebago Brewpub a couple years ago while interviewing for a job in Portland. It was on the corner of Market and Middle streets right in the middle of downtown/Old Port, and looked the way a brewpub should… dark wood, a proper bar, fermenting tanks lurking behind glass along the side of the dining area. However, as Lady Friend and I discovered, they had moved to a new location, on Fore Street, several months ago. This… was a bit disappointing.

Um. Not very brewpubby.

Their new location is all shiny and new, with lighter wood, brightly painted walls, and silly track lighting. The dining sections take up the majority of the space, but there is a decently long bar. I’m guessing they were doing well enough to abandon the old location in favor of this space. Good for them. I’m not saying more business is bad; I’m just of the opinion that the old location had a lot more character, and this one looks too new and manufactured, like a Boston Beer Works. I know that Sebago has several locations, but this new space LOOKS like it’s part of a chain.

Is there a bar back there somewhere?

This was a bit disappointing, but I’ll get over it. At least it means that business is good, and people are buying decent, local, craft beers, so I’ll let it slide. We asked the hostess for a table for two, and she said it’d be an hour wait. Yikes. I mean, it was Friday night, and the place was hopping, as evidenced by the interior photos above. We put our names in and headed to the bar with the idea of having at least one beer, and bouncing to another place for food if we didn’t feel like waiting. I spotted a breech in the wall of bodies at the bar and sent Lady Friend scooting over to secure a beachhead. I was staring at the taps, trying to decide what to order, when someone tapped me on the shoulder: it was Rob, the brewer from Gritty’s I had met at lunchtime. We chatted a bit about who works where, and how everybody has worked for Shipyard Brewing at some point, and I ordered a Citra Hop IPA that was on tap, not part of the normal lineup. Lady Friend snagged a blueberry ale, and as we were paying for the drinks, the hostess came up and said a table was ready. It had been about five minutes of the original hour wait estimate. Cool. We hadn’t understood why the wait was an hour in the first place, when we could see several empty tables.

We sat and started to taste our drinks. My Citra Hop IPA nosed with floral hop and a citrus aroma. The taste smacked of apple/tree fruit, a bit more sharp and/or tart than Irish Lad’s homebrew version, and drier. There was a smooth, malty undertone that didn’t so much counteract the hop, but added a counter-melody, playing along with the predominately fruit/hop flavor. It was good. Her blueberry was tasty, without being too sweet. A lot of fruit-flavored beers tend to wind up tasting like a mild ale with fruit syrup flavoring dumped in. Sebago’s version didn’t seem to have that problem. Lady Friend really enjoyed it, saying it was her favorite blueberry beer that she’s encountered so far.

We ordered dinner, and it was perfectly tasty. More importantly, we had to get a flight of beers for a tasting. There were five in a flight, decently sized at about 4 oz, and 10 varieties to choose from. Ours consisted of the five standard offerings: ale, IPA, brown ale, red ale and stout.

Saddleback Ale
Nose: Faint fruit/wheat. Faint.
Taste: Malt. Cereal grain with a touch of bitter.

Boathouse Brown Ale
Nose: Roasted and malty
Taste: Roasted and malty. (I know, very original). Sweet. Slight copper tang, but then finishes malt sweet.

Lake Trout Stout
Nose: Roast. Coffee beans.
Taste: Creamy mouthfeel. Bitter roast, but not unpleasant. Hint of vanilla sweetness. VERY good.

Runabout Red Ale
Nose: Very faint. Slight fruity malt, but hard to tell.
Taste: Starts fruity sweet, changes over to copper/metallic. Finishes copper bitter, but there is an interesting point in the middle of the taste when the sweetness starts to mix with the copper bitter. Unfortunately, the copper keeps going and leaves a sour taste after a nice transition.

Frye’s Leap IPA
Nose: Floral hop with a sweetness behind it
Taste: Syrupy mouthfeel. Starts with hop bitter, finishes medicinal. Alcohol. Middle has tart apple, and a bit of earthy flavor. Terrible finish. Too harsh. Like the red ale, there’s a lot of interest in the middle transitional flavors, but then gets ruined by a bad finish.

So, Sebago was a mixed bag. I miss the character of the old location, but if they’re doing business well enough to open this new space, good for them. The food was good, standard burgers-and-fries type pub grub. The beers were tasty overall, with a few disappointing finishes. However, the Lake Trout Stout stood out as the clear winner in the batch we had… a nice roast, smooth mouthfeel and pleasant experience start to finish. Lady Friend saved half for an after dinner treat. I was horrified to see a table of four behind us with only one member drinking beer. There was actually some dbag drinking a martini. In a brewpub. I bet it was vodka.

Next up: Novare Res Bier Cafe

Upta Potlind, Paht 1: Gritty McDuff’s

This is Part One of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011.

It’s summah time up dere in Maine, ayuh. The ol’ Lady Friend and I ventured north to the City of Portland, ME (Pot-lind) for another round of dastardly drinkable destinations. Apparently you CAN get there from here. We got into town around 11am, and after a brief, nauseating look around the touristy shops in the Old Port, headed into our first stop: Gritty McDuff’s brewpub.

Gritty’s is exactly what a brewpub should be: good pub food, a large bar, tasty beers and lots of dark wood. It shouldn’t look like a dance club, it should look like a refuge from the sober cubicle drone world outside. It should have personality. And lots of beer.

Pictured: lots of beer.

Gritty’s had a flight of seven beers offered, which was great. Most places have about five. The food was good too; I had a chicken sangwich, and Lady Friend had some sandwich with silly green vegetable thingys. Ew.

Vacationland Summer Ale
Nose: Beer. Light hop aroma.
Taste: Slight bitter. Light and refreshing.
Not much aroma or flavor, but very drinkable.

Um. That’s all I’ve got.

Original Pub Style Ale
Nose: No discernible aroma. I tried. I really did.
Taste: Light cereal barley start. Cereal sweet.
Mild hop bitter finish. Well balanced, tasty.

VERY nicely done. This one impressed me. Yum.

Black Fly Stout
Nose: Roast, slightly bitter. Weak aroma.
Taste: VERY creamy mouthfeel. Roasted barley, slight bitter.

Smooth. Good. More.

Red Claws Ale
Nose: Weak, malty-copper aroma.
Taste: Rubbery taste. A touch of metallic copper, but not much. Watery finish. Flushes palate.

Sorry about the shot. There’s no beer in that glass. I picked myself a bouquet of whoopsie-dasies.

21 IPA
Nose: Sweet, a little fruity. Apple.
Taste: Malty sweet with tree fruit. Nectarine/ peach/ apple. Very reminiscent of a Citra hopped IPA.

Mouthwatering finish. Juicy. Slight hop. TASTY.

21 IPA Cask Conditioned (avg 2 weeks)
Nose: Same aroma, but weaker, subdued.
Taste: FRUIT. Nectarine/ pear. Mouthwatery.

Sweet, flat/ low carbonation. A bit syrupy. Excellent.

Best Bitter Cask Conditioned (avg 2 weeks)
Nose: Lighter, fruity. Slight malt.
Taste: Czech Pils taste. Wet paper. Bit of a bitter finish.

Not as stale tasting as a pils. Tasty, but not a flavor powerhouse.

Overall, the beers were great. A couple, like the IPA and the Pub Ale really shone. I was really intrigued by the IPA, since it tasted so much like a Citra hop, and while some beers on the menu had their hops listed (like the stout, strangely) the IPA did not. The waitress said that their brewer was in that day, so I headed downstairs to the second, smaller bar area and brewing setup to ask him a couple questions. Rob, the brewer, was very friendly and helpful, and I wish I could have chatted a bit more, but we had to make the 1pm Allagash tour. He said the IPA was hopped with a combination of Cascade, Warrior and Willamette, giving it that tree-fruity Citra hop-like flavor I had noticed (he was also a fan of Citra). He also said that the cask-conditioned beers are aged at least two weeks, but after that it was just a question of when they were ready to serve.

Gritty’s also has a retail store (brew-tique), but after my brief chat with Rob, we had to book it to Allagash. They also have two other locations, in Freeport and Auburn, and I definitely plan to go back. Gritty’s is pretty common and easy to find in stores in ME, but we also did see some select six-packs in MA after our trip. Unfortunately, it was the Vacationland Summer Ale, which neither Lady Friend nor I thought was the best of the bunch. Maybe it’s because it was the first stop, and we were eager and fresh-palated, but I thought that Gritty’s was great. Go there.

Sidenote: Seeking shelter from a Maine monsoon, we stopped in again later that evening (a Friday night), and it was a much younger, louder crowd. Pretty packed. It is in the Old Port section downtown, so I’m sure it’s a popular gathering place, but just as a heads up, it’s a completely different vibe at night.

Next stop: Allagash Brewing

Beercation 2011: Part 6, The Farmhouse

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

The Farmhouse
A lovely night for the beer garden.

Following the suggestions from our 3 Needs bartender, the Lady Friend and I strolled over to The Farmhouse, and rather than sit in the noisy bar/dining area, decided to sit in the outdoor beer garden bar area behind the building. It was about 8pm at this point, and the evening light was starting to dim, while the strands of lights in the beer garden glowed yellow. It was purty.

Once again, I didn’t make the best of beer decisions for my mood, and went with the Long Trail Brewmasters’ Series Coffee Stout, thinking it would be the opposite of hoppy bitter, and would be suitable for my tired taste buds. At 8% abv, it’s a big boy. Very tasty… chocolate with a touch of bitter roasted flavor, but without that syrupy, viscous mouthcoat you get with some other big or imperial stouts. I couldn’t tell you what Lady Friend was drinking, but she had caught a second wind and went for another round. I nursed the stout and did some people watching. I’m a photographer… it’s ok.

There was cowboy hat/ striped polo shirt combo dude…

…and a group of girls who were having a BLAST hanging out, squealing, and pinching each other around the large boulder in the corner of the patio. Which I was totally ok with.

Not pictured: the two prowling cougars, who sauntered in dressed in all their white vinyl and 6″ heeled glory, sniffed the air a couple times as they peered across the deck, then retreated back to the indoor bar with its dimmer, and perhaps more flattering, light in search of easier prey. There isn’t a picture because I hadn’t applied my cougar repellent before we went out, so I was sure to sit perfectly still, as their vision is based on movement.

Those were the amusing characters. However, the rest of the crowd seemed a bit too frat-douchy for my taste. I saw way too many popped polo collars, plaid shorts and flip flops. Only one case of Sunglasses-at-Night syndrome. I was pretty much done, and ready for air conditioning.

Overall, the Farmhouse was great. I can’t speak to the food, but it was steadily busy in the dining room for the couple of hours we spent there. The indoor bar was also busy, but the beer garden offered a relaxing alternative to the crowd. I don’t know if people didn’t know it was there, or if they were just hoping to get pounced on by an indoor cougar, but it worked out quite well for us, as we were able to enjoy our drinks outside on a warm summer evening. The beer list (outside) wasn’t terribly long, but did have some impressive offerings. A more extensive list is available at the main bar, but we made do with the beer garden varieties.

This was our last stop in Burlington, and after a ride back to the hotel driven by a very talkative and amusingly-opinionated Italian cab driver, we hit the sheets in preparation for a journey north across the border, Drink Destination: Montreal.

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