Posts Tagged ‘zero’

The Monday Hangover: Feb 11-12

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

Yes, it took me until Thursday to finish this post.

We start, as always, with Friday evening. Instead of our usual cocktail adventures, the Lady Friend and I headed out to the Union Brewhouse to meet up with former MNCC drinking powerhouse Brent, who was back in town for a weekend visit. He had previously spent several months working (and drinking) in Boston with my former company and became a cornerstone of our cocktail crew before relocating back to Milwaukee, and now, Washington DC. The weekend plan was to revisit all of our old haunts and have a grand day of nostalgic boozing.

This guy.

So, following our respective work days, we met up at the Brewhouse. Former coworker Tower (Towah) was there, as was the current office trainee (she’s from Missurah) and another girl from the DC office, Kruppcakes. The Lady Friend and I looked like pros as we readied our 99 Beer lists for the next conquests: Maine Beer Company’s Peeper Ale for me and a Newcastle Brown Ale for she. After one round, we decided to have a quick second brew while Towah was still there (he’s got one of those baby creatures now and doesn’t get out much anymore) so the Lady Friend wound up with a Samuel Smith Strawberry Ale, while I snagged a Saranac Big Moose Ale. Once she found out that Samuel Smith, an English brewery, is known for their nut brown ale and oatmeal stout, she was less than excited about the strawberry brew. Chick beer.

We bounced out of the Brewhouse with the intention of changing clothes before heading into the city for the Narraganset Bock release party (Drink the Goat!) at Stoddard’s. Missurah offered to drive, and was supposed to pick us up shortly. Which turned into over an hour wait. Apparently the girls went back to their apartment, snacked on some sandwiches, and Kruppcake decided that she needed a nap. Without informing us. Nice. Thanks for that. In the meantime, Leelz was already heading towards Stoddard’s with the intention of meeting us there. So, we wound up getting to the event about two hours late, leaving Leelz in a lurch, and I didn’t get to see a few industry types that I had intended to introduce myself to. On the plus side, the bocks were plentiful and cheap ($3 tall boys) and Brent even managed to use his schmoozing skills to score us some Gansett tshirts from a reluctant Stoddard’s toadie who was going to store the extras downstairs “for another time” rather than giving them out as intended. What a little tool.

Then it was Saturday, the grand event. After the fiasco with the girls the previous night, we set our plans and let them decide if they were coming along or not, instead of relying on them in any way. In the end, they left their car at the T (which the DC people endlessly referred to as the “Metro”) and we all drove into the city, parking in the Lady Friend’s very convenient garage spot across from Harpoon Brewery. That parking spot might be the reason we’re still romantically involved, due to our frequent visits to Harpoon. Securing places on the noon-thirty tour, we set about enjoying the Harpoon-ness, which started with a sample of the UFO White, and, as a change of pace, included a taste of the Celtic Ale, unfiltered and straight from the tank, instead of the usual IPA. A lovely surprise. The tasting time after the tour had some nice offerings I hadn’t gotten to before, including the finished, filtered Celtic Ale, West Coast Pale Ale (with an English bitter hop style, unlike its name), 100 Barrel Series Black IPA (very nice, Brent took two bombers back to DC), Leviathan Imperial IPA (always tasty), Leviathan Barleywine (not too malty) and the original Harpoon Ale, their first brew. The Ale was a simple amber ale, pleasing if unremarkable, but as the tour guides pointed out, when first released in 1987 it was considered “extreme beer” compared to the macrobrewed adjunct lagers on the market at the time. It was on hiatus for the past several years, and is now back for the time being (at least on the tour), though I don’t know what the future availability will be.

Post-Harpoon, the group sauntered down Seaport Blvd. to the Atlantic Beer Garden for lunch, as is our usual tradition after visiting Harpoon. Good food and a well-thought out craft beer list make it a great stop when in the Seaport District. Be warned: some of the selections, such as Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp and Rogue Dead Guy Ale are actually served in 22oz bombers. Not that it’s a bad thing, but there’s no indication of that on the menu, so double-check with your server if you’re expecting a 12oz bottle.
The other members of the group went with a pitcher of the Samuel Adams Brick Red Ale, as its limited availability (only on tap in Boston) made for a good novelty for the foreigners. Despite the grotesque price ($18… blow me, Boston) it went over well with the group, and I settled with a Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale to pair with my BBQ chicken sangwich.

We made our way over to South Station to jump on the T for our next destination. Brent delighted in showing the girls the grasshopper mural in Park St station, the oldest subway in the country. The grasshopper references the weathervane on top of Faneuil Hall, and served as a test to discover British spies. We caught our dreaded Green Line train (it’s always jammed full) and got off at Copley while the girls rode onwards to visit Bleacher Bar in Fenway. Brent, the Lady Friend, and I however headed through Copley Square down Boylston to Whiskey’s, a past favorite of Brent’s. Cheap bar food specials and plenty of beer gave us many drunken memories several years, ago, so it was time to revisit. We met up with another friend and fellow drinking companion, KFlynn, and relaxed with beers and snacks, eventually being joined by Tresstastic and her boyfriend Josh. The girls finished up over at Fenway and rendezvoused as well, right around the time KFlynn headed out for other plans.

The rest of us headed for what was supposed to be a pleasant stroll down Boylston and Boston Common to The Purple Shamrock, paying a visit to Jackie the bartender. With three males and four females, naturally troubles started to arise, mostly in the form of complaints about the cold weather (it was about 35 degrees, warm for February, but the Lady Friend refuses to wear a hat) and bathroom needs. The first plaintive cry of “I have to pee!” started about a block after our departure from Whiskey’s, joined soon thereafter by the rest of the women folk. By this time, we’ve passed the fast food bathroom havens of Copley Square and are heading into the park to cut diagonally up towards the burger joints of Tremont, when Tresstastic insists that “the bar we met my friend at that time for a pub crawl” was straight ahead towards Emerson and Chinatown. She was referring to Beantown Pub, which is actually up Tremont past Park St. I’m certain of this as I am decently sober at this point (more so than most of the group), had been there many times, and had even been there about two weeks ago with the Lady Friend’s parents. She refused to believe me, naturally, and then the Lady Friend started in asking why we were heading through the park, and didn’t I know she had to pee. Yes, I understand that. I’m trying to get us to the bathrooms near Park St as quickly as possible. She had her drunken stubbornness gear engaged, and also began to insist that the correct way was to continue down Boylston. Sigh. Like herding drunken cats. Despite the protests, we continued diagonally through the park in as straight a path as possible, and eventually reached a UBurger where all the concerned parties were able to relieve themselves. From “I don’t have to pee” to “panic mode” during a ten minute walk. I hate women.

That’s why I go drinking with this guy.

Crisis averted with all pants remaining unsoiled, we continued on our way, past Beantown Pub, and reached the safe house of the Purple Shamrock. Brent reunited with Jackie, and we set about drinking the night away. Tresstastic abandoned her original plan of taking the train home because she wanted to dance, a decision spurred largely by the arrival of yet another drinking pal, Shaw, and his wife, Lady Shaw. They had just returned from a tropical vacation, and made a stealthy entrance at the bar, much to the delight of Brent. Somewhere around midnight, the girls decided they would take the T home, and left without asking for directions or instructions. This was the second time in the city for both of them, the first time being the night before at Stoddard’s, so I’m not sure why in their drunken state they thought they’d just magically happen upon the T station. Brent, the Lady Friend and I cabbed back to the parking garage, and no sooner had we gotten in the car, sure enough, Brent’s phone started ringing. The girls were lost. And yelling at us because somehow it was our fault.

To recap: it was our fault that they were lost, in a city they’d never been to. I’m trying to drive and they’re asking what to do. Um, I don’t know. Where are you? They don’t know. Ask somebody where the nearest T stop is? The guy they asked doesn’t know. Turn on your phone’s GPS? They can’t while still on the phone. Hang up and turn it on? No, they don’t want to do that. Holy Jeebus. I’m out of ideas. Flag down a cab, have him take you to the nearest T and hit the Red Line from there? Apparently that worked, because they hung up, and we didn’t hear back. Just incredible.

The next morning, Brent, the Lady Friend and I discussed the various adventures of the previous night. I’m still not sure why the girls didn’t just ride back to Braintree with us, but they were adamant about taking the T. We relaxed and chatted until Missurah came to pick up Brent, and deliver Kruppcakes and him at Logan for their flight back to DC. The Lady Friend went off on various shopping errands, and I went up to Slumerville to the Irish Lad and Wifey’s house. And Zero too. The Irish Lad and I had brewed two smash (single malt and single hop) beers, one with amarillo hops, the other calypso. We’re exploring the differences between individual hops, and both brews were ready to bottle. Another couple weeks of bottle conditioning and they’ll be ready to drink. But that is a story for another time.


The Monday Hangover: Dec 3-4

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

It was a long week. At times it seemed to fly by, but that was countered by the times that dragged on for an eternity. Finally Friday came, and something strong and warming was called for. That wound up being Aberlour A’bunadh single malt scotch. The wax-sealed bottle was a birthday gift from Wifey and the Irish Lad, and, with the exception of a small taste the night I got it, I hadn’t really delved into its depths. I poured a decent dram and took a sip. PHOAHRAH! What does that label say? Oh good lord… 60.4% abv, cask strength. That’s 120.8 proof for those playing along. Yowza. Lots of alcohol punch. But, once that evaporates, the resulting flavors are really nice. A’bunadh is aged in Spanish Oroloso sherry casks, so it gets a nice red hue, and a tasty sweet flavor. There’s a whole lot more going on behind that, but then this would turn into a review instead of a weekend recap. I had the Lady Friend take a sip when she came over, and she looked like steam was going to shoot out of her eyeballs. It’s probably one of the higher abv things she’s ever tasted. Cask strength is no joke. But delicious.

The Lady Friend cracked one of her Sixpoint Diesels before our cream cocktails. After the disastrous Parisian Blonde, she went to her old friend, Margarita, while I sipped an Avery IPA.

We lacked the energy to get much accomplished on Saturday, except sipping on the last remaining Pliny the Elder while playing a game of Scrabble. I’m still a touch bitter that she managed to successfully play a ‘Q’ and a ‘Z’ in the course of the game leading to her victory. Following that, we rallied for some pregame drinks at the Union Brewhouse, and two more crossed off of our 99-bottle list. The next slot on my list was for Lindeman’s, which wound up being their Framboise, a raspberry lambic “beer” that tastes like soda. It’s chick crack. I’ve had tastes several times before (“It’s like drinking a Fruit Roll-Up!”), but never an entire bottle to myself. It wasn’t easy. Full of sugar and lots of carbonation. I resorted to downing most of it in one go, while the Lady Friend sipped on her skunky green glass Spaten lager. The next round was an Ipswich ale for me, and a Berkshire Brewing Co. (BBC) Lost Sailor IPA for she. After the sugar fruit bomb of the lambic, the ale tasted horribly bitter to me, and I really didn’t want to finish it. The Lady Friend enjoyed her IPA, though she’s had a bit of an issue with pronunciation lately, calling it “Berk-shy-er” instead of “Berk-shur.” It’s odd, because she’s from New Hamp-shur, not New Hamp-shy-er.


After the Brewhouse, Saturday’s main event was a trip to Norwell for dinner and drinks at The Tinker’s Son, (Warning: A commercial autoplays on the webpage) an Irish pub and restaurant owned by a friend of my buddy, Shaw (ScrimShaw, the ShawDog). The food was great, and the beer list excellent. In addition to the usual fare of Guinness and Smithwick’s (the Lady Friend got an education before we went… it’s pronounced “Smiddicks”), they had several options on tap including Bear Republic Racer 5, Stone Double Bastard and local offerings from Pretty Things, Blue Hills, and Wachusett. Impressive for most bars, not to mention an Irish pub. I started off with a Guinness, as did most of the group, and the Lady Friend had a Smithwick’s, but switched over to Racer 5 for her second, as did I. Great food, great crowd (we mostly talked about craft beer and race cars, excellent dinner conversation), and great beers. At the bar later on, Shaw (who was celebrating a birthday) was busy double fisting a Jameson Gold in one hand and a Stone Double Bastard in the other. This is usually about the time his inebriated alter-ego, “Schwa,” makes an appearance, though apparently he kept his Hyde-ian doppelganger under control, despite the elixirs consumed.

The Underbones Bar. 24 taps. Happy place.

Sunday brought another grand event: the Lady Friend’s first visit to Redbones, in Davis Square. It’s a very popular (and delicious) BBQ restaurant with crazily vivid murals all over the place and a fantastic beer list (24 taps). I’ve been going there for years with Wifey and the Irish Lad, but the Lady Friend had never been, despite previously living about a mile away in Somerville. We got there around 2ish, and headed down the stairs to “Underbones,” the underground bar/restaurant area… it’s dark, dank, and much better than the the cramped, cafeteria decor of the upstairs section. Time for beer! I opened with an Anderson Valley Mendo Mellow Estate Ale, which was very… mellow. It was a sweetish ale, nothing wild, but generally mild and tasty. Beer Advocate lists it as an American IPA, but it wasn’t very hoppy at all. The Lady Friend countered with a Brooklyn Brown, and the Irish Lad hit back with a Boundary Bay ESB, which was very IPA-like. Come to think of it, I wonder if they switched our beers. That actually would make a lot of sense. Although, after reading the reviews of the Mendo Mellow, it seems like they were correct after all… it didn’t seem to impress most people.

Wifey, being an anti-beer, went with a Margarita to start, and followed up with a Twisted Tea, which confused the waitress who thought it was a cocktail. Nope, just a bottled hard iced tea. As for the rest of us, our second round consisted of a Meantime London Stout for me, and a Tröegs Mad Elf (11% abv) for the Lady Friend and the Irish Lad, both of whom get very silly when the abv’s start pumping. I was very pleased with my stout, which I feel was the perfect beer to have after lunch… slightly roasted bitter to cut through the BBQ spice, and a dry creaminess to smooth out the finish. Mad Elf was a bit nutmeggy/wintery, and it looked like it was a struggle to get through, though they seemed quite happy after that 11% kicked in.

The murals start talking after a couple 11% beers.

After lunch we hit the annual Harvard Bookstore Warehouse Holiday Sale, where the warehouse is converted into a new and used bookstore to get rid of back inventory. Used books start at $1. Newer books are up to 60% off. Awesome. While others shop for specific titles, I usually go for gross poundage, and see what quantity I can get for my self-imposed $30 cap. This year was a new record: 11 books for $25. Now I need more bookshelves.

The two hours of book browsing (I can spend all day in a bookstore) helped take the buzz out of the group, and we returned to the home of Irish Lad and Wifey. They had asked me to do some photography for their holiday card, including the monster dog, Zero. I had a frosty-delicious PBR while shooting, and the Lady Friend and I packed up back to her apt to finish my laundry. Clean clothes! Finally, back to the Liquor Lair of SFHQ and my lovely, lovely bed. Rest would be necessary, for the next day, December 5th, was a big one: Repeal Day.

The Homecoming: Throwback Brewery

There’s a brewery in my hometown.

If you live in Portland, Boston, Burlington, or even Syracuse, that may not be such a big deal. However, I’m from a small town in the seacoast area of New Hampshire called North Hampton. If you’ve ever heard of Hampton Beach, it’s just north of that. It officially separated from Hampton in 1742, and only has about 4,300 people living there. At least we don’t have any witches.

Anyway, I was flipping through the Yankee Brew News (Aug/Sept 2011 Issue, Vol 22, No 4) several weeks ago, and there was a list of breweries attempting to use all (or mostly) locally-sourced ingredients. For example, Allagash (Portland, ME) uses Maine-grown barley, Just Beer (Westport, MA) uses local cranberries, hops and pumpkins, and The Vermont Pub and Brewery (Burlington, VT) puts Lake Champlain chocolate into their Imperial Double Chocolate Stout. Then there was “Throwback Brewery, North Hampton, N.H.” with probably the longest list of local ingredients.

Wait… what?

So I did a bit of digging.

Throwback Brewery was started in 2010 by two women, Annette and Nicole. Annette, the head brewer, was an environmental engineer and consultant in her previous, non-brewer, life, but has been home brewing for ten years, including an internship at Smuttynose Brewing in Portsmouth, NH. Nicole has also been homebrewing for about a decade, and the two of them started the brewery with the intent of creating an environmentally friendly, local ingredient-sourced product. My knee-jerk reaction was that it was a bit on the hippie tree-hugger side for me, but I would withhold judgment until checking out the place, the space, and the beers.

Saturday was the day. The Lady Friend and I hopped into Elsa, who was due for a wash and wax at the parental homestead. The Irish Lad and Wifey were coincidentally also in NH for the weekend (her parents live in Hampton) so we made plans to meet at the brewery. My brother and father were also intrigued, so they came along to check it out. Then Wifey’s dad drove her and Irish Lad over (he’s a beer fan as well; he joined us for the Craft Beer Fest in Boston earlier this year). Finally, Lady Friend’s Friend (she made that name up) joined in. Good lord. I have trouble getting this many people together on purpose for a brewery tour. I’m surprised they didn’t bring Zero along as well.

Yet another in a series of glamorous, decadent, brewery façades.

Throwback is in a small, tucked-away industrial park of sorts off of Route 1 (Lafayette Road) in North Hampton. If you’re heading north, it’s just past the Shel-Al Campground (trailer park) and almost (but not quite) across the street from the gray plaza where Callahan Motors is. I highly recommend using Google Maps street view to see exactly where it is before you go. Why so much detail? Because I grew up in this town and even I would have blown right past it. There is a small sign, and it’s in the middle of the second building in the industrial park. Don’t worry; you probably won’t get assaulted. North Hampton isn’t that exciting. Usually.

So, at about 3:20pm, everyone else finally started showing up for our 3pm meet time (don’t ask) and we began the tasting. There are three options: a free plastic tasting cup, a $5 tasting glass or a $7 pint glass. They’ll give you a pour in any of these, but I recommend going with the 5 oz tasting glass or 21.5 oz pub glass, which not only usually gets you a better (more generous) pour, but gives you a souvenir to keep. So I added another glass to the ever-growing collection. They had five beers on tap at the time, and I squeezed through the crowd (mainly composed of Squirrel Farts readers). Nicole, decked out in an Animal tshirt, started pouring.

One of each should do quite nicely.

Hog Happy Hefeweizen
Nose: Wheaty, banana/ clove.
Pretty typical for a hefe.
Taste: Light, clean taste. No cloying or sticky unfiltered wheat/yeast taste or mouthfeel. Genuinely tasty, clean, and refresing. I was surprised. Even Wifey (who HATES beer) liked this one. At least, I think that’s what she attempted to scrawl on my notepad.

Dippity-Do Brown Ale

Nose: Sugary, like brown sugar or slight molasses. Malt.
Taste: Very roasty and bitter. Smooth. A lot of coffee-roast type bitterness, but very nice and tasty.

Hopstruck Red IPA

Nose: Sweet hop. Yeah, that’s all I put.
Taste: Sweet initial, then slight hop bitter. Malty smooth finish with the hop bitter lingering. Very nice. Green tree fruit, like an unripe peach. Green, but not grassy. Yum.

Maple-Kissed Wheat Porter

Nose: Brown sugar again. Maple detected, but not out of control. It smells syrupy, if that makes any sense.
Taste: A touch of smoke. Tree bark. Grassy/ wooden. Not overwhelmingly maple-flavored, which deserves mention. Unusual, but nice.

Campfire Smoked Robust Porter

Nose: Slight smoke (the others seemed to smell much more smokiness than I did). Smells like a German dark beer… bock?
Taste: Starts very malty, then smoke. Rauchbier. Not charcoal, but ash. Burnt. Again, flavored, but not overwhelming. Balanced.

Fun fact: Those illustrations are by Nate Walker, an artist who grew up in nearby Stratham, NH. He’s the one who did the Giant Ant sculpture in Market Square in Portsmouth, which was then vandalized. Naturally. Apparently Lady Friend’s Friend’s sister dated him in high school. Can’t escape the vortex of NH.

After finishing up our tastings (and pretty much chasing everyone else out of the place), Irish Lad purchased some merch and started chatting with Annette, the head brewer. I joined in as well, and eventually she offered to show us around, which we gladly accepted. Their main focus is to have locally-sourced ingredients, and the goal is to have everything come from a 200-mile radius. Right now, they’re achieving about half of that, but it’s a start. Wheat is coming from a farm in Rollinsford, NH, hops from Maine, and two-row barley from Valley Malt in Hadley, MA. Some other ingredients, such as adjunct chocolate malts for the porters, are coming from Wisconsin, but will hopefully be found in New England soon. Throwback is grinding their own malt, and it travels up some pvc piping to the hopper like an oversized hamster tube.

Throwback runs a three barrel brew system. Their tanks are recovered from a single malt flavoring plant, and were custom-adapted by a welder friend for use in brewing. It’s an open flame system, not steam jacketed, using a pair of 320,000 btu propane burners. The kettle has a 175 gallon capacity, and is wide and short, allowing for a good boil, and making it easier for Annette (she’s pint-sized… see what I did there?) to gain access. Being a small operation, they couldn’t afford a powerful enough pump for the whirlpool, so Annette manually paddles it. Gotta really love brewing to stand over a boiling wort and paddle your own whirlpool.

There are no big shiny fermentation tanks here. The brews go into the “fermentation barn,” essentially four, temperature-controlled closets with giant plastic tubs to let the beer bubble away. A CoolBot hacks and overrides the normal air conditioner settings and keeps the temperature much colder, and stable. I totally need one of those for my apartment. At this point, Wifey suddenly got interested, because the fermenters all have pictures of Muppets on them. Government requirements state that each fermenter have a unique ID name/number, so a Muppet naming convention was established (it’s easier to remember). Of course, Wifey piped up with the suggestion to rename the grain hopper to “Doc Hopper,” a character from The Muppet Movie. Le sigh.

So, right now the challenge for Throwback is keeping up with demand. They started putting the works together in 2010, but then had to wait for stacks of government paperwork and forms to be issued, filed, and approved. Demand has been overwhelming, but this might be because they’re the new kid in town. They just had their first official tasting in mid-August, and it’ll take time to let the intial response die down and see what the real, steady numbers are. In the meantime, Throwback is busy brewing. They self-distribute (in snazzy red 5.4 gal kegs), and also have a couple bombers available. At the brewery, they’ll fill your growler or growlette with happy beer wonderfulness. There’s merch available, including their “beer-oir” shirts, referencing the ponciest term in all alcohol, “terroir.” They’re really striving towards the whole local-ingredient goal, but making some very tasty beers in the process, which is what it’s all about. As with all new businesses, there’s still a long way to go but Annette seemed to be ready to go, commenting towards the end of our tour:

“I have enough confidence in what I do to keep going as long as I can.”

Well said. Keep brewing, Throwback.
Welcome to the neighborhood.

‘CuseQuest Part 5: MORE Wine

Oh there was way too much wine fun to put into one post. I’m also trying to mention wine as little as possible, which has been working out quite well so far. Onward to the rest of the day!

This is what the Lakes Region looks like.

Yeah, it’s mostly cornfields. Occasionally a big lake shows up. This was just over the hill from our first stop, Knapp Winery & Vineyard. Happily, they had some critters to chase around: a number of geese, ducks, chickens and a cat. Points for Knapp. Critter count: well, let’s call it 7 so far. I’m not going to include individual ducks and geese. We did our tasting in a warehouse section among stacked the stacked casks. I did actually taste two wines this time, but Knapp also makes several spirits, so that was my focus.

Also pictured, Mama Cat, camera left.
She was viciously passed out several minutes before this until I woke her up with some ear scratching.

Brut sparkling wine.
Chardonnay and Cayuga (naturally) grapes
Nose: Fruity and dry
Taste: Syrupy, cut with a dry, carbonic acid bit. Tasty.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Nose: Whoa. Peppery. Like green bell pepper. Spicy with a touch of “red grape” smell
Taste: Bell pepper. Not much sweetness, but a lot of zip to it.

Brandy 40% abv
Knapp has their own copper pot still (awesome) used to make their spirits. They essentially all start off as grappa, but the brandy is then aged for five years in oak casks. Neato!

Nose: Acetone. Lots of burn, but with a chemical smell. A light toffee undertone.
Taste: Medicinal, with an oaky quality. The sterile alcohol sensation lingers in your mouth. Meh.

Grappa 40% abv
In case you don’t know, grappa is a distilled spirit made from all the “leftover” parts after making wine: stems, seeds, grape skins… it’s all grouped as “pomace.”

Nose: Brown sugar with a hint of maple.
Taste: Wooden, but not oaky. Burnt toffee. Syrupy sweet. Unlike any other grappa I’ve had. Very strange.

Limecello 18% abv
In addition to making a more commonly-found limoncello, Knapp also makes a lime variety. Basically it’s spirit (commonly vodka, though grappa was used in this case) flavored with either lemon (or lime) peels marinated in the spirit, or just straight up citrus juice. They use juice.

Nose: Fresh lemon/limeade
Taste: Citrus tart start, smoother sweet finish. VERY tasty. Want more. NOWS.

Limoncello 18% abv
…and this was the lemon variety. Danny DeVito even makes a brand of this.

Nose: Brighter than the lime version, a higher citrus. More alcohol.
Taste: Lighter, citrus fruit. More of a Pledge Furniture Polish-like fake lemon flavor. Not that I know what Pledge tastes like… I only huff it.

Limoncello with Raspberry Sparkling Wine

This was a suggestion from the server: mix equal parts limoncello with their raspberry sparkling wine for a very summery drink.

Nose: Lemon with juicy raspberry fruit. Makes sense.
Taste: Overly raspberry (prob too much of the rasp. poured in overwhelming the lemon) but very tasty and refreshing. A good summer tipple. Serve VERY cold.

That did it for Knapp. We tormented the various waterfowl for a bit, then headed off to the next stop, Goose Watch Winery. Goose Watch did have some nice views of Cayuga Lake, though I imagine it’s ungodly cold in the winter with the wind whipping across the water. All of their wines are aged in stainless steel, so you don’t get any oaky interference. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable, though it was quite busy, so we didn’t get to really chat much. No critters here, but some of the standout wines were the 2007 Chambourcin which smelled like musty, rotting vegetables, but tasted like dark cassis fruit (very strange) and the Strawberry Splendor, which the server described as “Smuckers in your glass.” I can’t think of a better description. It was very tasty, but a whole glass would prob be a bit much.

From Goose Watch we cruised along the lake to Buttonwood Grove Winery (apparently there is also a Buttonwood Winery in Santa Barbara County, CA). I took a break from the wines at this point, and Lady Friend didn’t really have a great time, as the older woman serving the wines was all bubbles and sunshine for a quartet of 50-somethings beside us, while largely ignoring Lady Friend. After she finished her samples, we checked out the critters lodged here: a Scottish Highland cow (I wonder if he knows how to make Scotch?) and several goats. Critter count: 9 (I’m lumping the goats together as one.)

After a slight revival on my part with the aid of some sugar and caffeine, we were on our way to Cobblestone Farm Winery and Vineyard.

It was purty.

This place was nice. Newer looking, solid interior, simple strong lines, and tasteful lighting, as opposed to the gift shop on steroids look of several other places.

It was also purty inside.

I only had three samples, while Lady Friend went full bore with six. Their 2009 Dry Riesling I found to be very oaky and grape syrupy, the 2009 Riesling (Blue) was juicy apple tart with a nice floral sweet nose, and finished with the very tasty Cobblestone Red, a five grape blend with cherry and sweet stone berry flavors. Yum. I have no idea what Lady Friend was throwing back, but she seemed to be pleased. Not pleased enough to buy anything, however.

Ok. One more. Please let it be just one more.

Swedish Hill Winery. The last wine stop. This one I had actually been looking forward to all day because they had… a miniature donkey!

His name is Doobie and I want to ride him.

Critter Count: 10! Sadly, that’s all Doobie done did. He hung around the middle of the pasture munching grass and keeping a wary eye on us with no intention of coming over. Also, he’s almost exactly the same height as Zero the Massive Mastiff, but with a bigger belly. Zero lets me ride him. Kinda. He gets very confused and tries to back up. He is large but his brain is oh so small.

So. The wines. Um… not too much excitement here. I enjoyed the Sparkling Reisling, which was a bonus pour since another server (not ours) offered it to us after noting to the group to the left that it wasn’t on the regular list, a tip which OUR server didn’t mention. Again, I think we got a dud who either didn’t know or didn’t care to share much information. Other amusing notes: Lady Friend described the Country Concord as smelling “like a juice box with toothpicks” due to its grape juice aroma laced with a wooden tinge. She also noted that the 2007 Cabernet Fran-Lemberger “smells like cardboard boxes,” to which our server (walking by us quickly as was the theme) piped up “Oh, we have boxes if you want a case!” Sorry lady, I think you missed the point. We also felt really rushed here, clearly taking notes and trying to taste the wines with our server either hovering in front of us ready to pour another sample, or zipping by in a blur when we were trying to get her attention.

This really seemed to be the theme of the day. Our suspicions were that most wineries didn’t really have their varsity squad on hand due to the holiday weekend, so the servers were the B team of cranky old ladies with nothing better to do. We felt rushed and ignored most places we went, which was unfortunate because Lady Friend is more than happy to spend hours discussing each wine with the staff. That’s part of the reason we were able to squeeze in so many stops in one afternoon; we didn’t linger anywhere to chit chat or look at touristy souvenirs. The wineries were not terribly friendly environments, and felt almost like a cafeteria where they fill your glass and expect you to drink it quickly and keep the line moving. I understand that there are other people being served, but no place we went was really that busy, so it seemed unnecessary and rude to basically push us out the door, then seem confused when we didn’t buy anything. The wines weren’t great, and we didn’t get a very welcome feeling anywhere we went, especially Swedish Hill where the server asked SEVERAL times “are you done yet?

Maybe that’s why Swedish Hill has a jackass for a mascot.

So, wine day completed (finally), we drove back to Syracuse for dinner and beer shopping at the wonderful Wegmans in Dewitt. Lady Friend had never heard of this glorious place, so it was an adventure. They also have a fantastic craft beer section (in NY you buy beer in supermarkets) and despite the fact that it was about 8pm on Sunday night, we were still allowed to buy alcohol. Yeah, Massachusetts, I’m giving YOU the stink eye. I ended my ‘CuseQuest with the acquisition of some YUENGLING! and several craft bombers. I also scored a sixer of Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’ IPA, which I have yet to see out here (I have seen the Boont Amber ale and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, in six pack bottles). They also had a mix-and-match six pack section, where you build your own sampler for $10. It was tempting, but there weren’t enough singles that tempted me enough to take advantage of it. As a bonus, I found a fancy new Kuhn Rikon paring knife for cocktail fruit prep that I had wanted for awhile but never ordered. Worked out well, since it was several dollars cheaper at Wegmans and I didn’t have to pay shipping charges. I TOLD you this place was magical. I got my fix of Wegmans pizza and craft beer shopping and we loaded up the trunk with bottles of happiness, heading over to my aunt’s house for the night, resting for the trip home in the morning. One more stop to go before Boston, however…

Beeriffic Brews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict: STILL delicious. Nectarine made an excellent companion.

Boston Beer Works
Fenway Pale Ale

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

Verdict: Tasty, but forgettable.

Harpoon Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Om nom nom

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

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

Return top