Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chawbacon Drowns in Brooklyn but Survives

The 2nd Annual Holiday Pub Crawl, trashing Brooklyn this year, took place Friday under a blue sky enlivened by a sun streaming yellow photons like a drunk taking a piss.

We started at Penn Station and the first transit of the day was via the C train to the first stop in Brooklyn, High Street, near the Brooklyn Bridge, in a neighborhood called Brooklyn Heights. Brooklyn Heights is a residential area that extends along and overlooks the East River. Heights is a bit of a misnomer as the elevation may in fact be less than 100 feet above the river level, but high it is relative to the nearby topography. A short walk through the upscale neighborhood brought us to near the river's edge with the vista of Manhattan opening before us to the west beyond the sparkling, calm, East River, actively being plied by pleasure and business watercraft. From that point, it was a 20 minute stroll south along the Brooklyn Promenade above the deserted waterfront wielding piers jutting out into the river in the direction of Manhattan. Along the walkway, there are bas-relief brass plaques inlaid into the paverstone field, and other objects d'art including metallic wall-hangings, showing the history of the waterfront area and Manhattan in the distance. Sadly, one showed the skyline to the West, oriented from the viewers perspective, with the twin towers of the World Trade Center visible, yet in reality sorely missing.

From there, it was a short walk to Atlantic Avenue which is one of the main arteries into downtown Brooklyn, to the first stop of the day for a Anchor Liberty Ale at The Waterfront Ale House visible in the photo to the right. Disregard Pete's Ale House on the awning as Pete was a former owner who reportedly had to give the place up under extreme beer duress--this truly is the Waterfront Ale House--and from the perspective of the photo if you turned around 120 degrees--but not too quickly if you've had a few--you would indeed see the waterfront to the west. The Liberty Ale went down mighty fine and was fitting for the Liberty we enjoy, able to crawl from bar to bar, and drown in a sea of beer if we care to. My first choice had been a local--Chelsea Hop Angel from the cask, but alas the casketh had runneth under and dry.

This was a crawl after all, so after downing our brews we left and ambled further southeast on Atlantic to our second stop at a delightful little establishment called The Brazen Head where I had Heartland Summer Vice , from the cask. So this was my local brew of the day! Yippee! If you've done the tourist thing around Manhattan you probably know the Heartland Brewery chain of restaurants around the city--Empire State Building, South Street Seaport being two locations. Well, they, along with a bunch of NYC restaurants and pubs, in fact have their beers contract brewed by the Greenpoint Beer Works of Brooklyn. The Summer Vice was a light summer-time wheat beer that went down easier than the first beer--there is nothing like a good beer to provide lubrication for the second!

Next stop was the Brooklyn Brewery, north of Brooklyn Heights in the Williamsburg section. However to get there not knowing the surface bus routes, we opted to backtrack into the city on the C, then switch trains to the L. After getting off in Williamsburg at the Bedford Ave. station, I was immediately struck by the vibe of this section of the city--young, artistic, and fun-loving. Evidently earlier this century many young artists fled here from Manhattan after they were priced out of housing. In any case, the streets were teeming as we walked over to Brewers Row, but alas the brewery was closed until later in the evening. Bummer!

After the disappointment of the Brooklyn Brewery not being open we decided--on the fly--to stumble into Mugs Ale House which we had passed on the way to the brewery along Bedford Avenue. Now I'm here to tell you that this was easily the best beer bar of the ones we had visited so far. There were at least 24 very high quality import and domestic craft ales on tap and it was very hard to decided on a beer. Bing! IPA Time! Bing! Do you have a double IPA? Well, no not right now...but we do have an Imperial IPA...Lagunitas Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid. Ummmm. What was that again? Hop Stoopid! Ok. I'll have one of them. No make it two! Hey Stupid! What??? Hop Stoopid is a excellent IPA with a great bitter and fruity balance. The hops are fantastic if you're into that sort of thing as no doubt you realize I am. FYI: This place has an excellent jukebox, and Friday it was pounding out all sorts of hard-rock, metal, and punk and I contributed to the mayhem with some Dio--Rainbow in the Dark and the Stooges Search and Destroy. Just to make things interesting... While there we met C who's setting up an interesting conceptual rendering of a bowling alley/rock club called Brooklyn Bowl. It's close to opening up next to the Brooklyn Brewery and will pair that tasty combination of rock music and bowling. Edgy yet unpretentious. Good Luck C! We wish you well.

Extra Credit: Red Hook ESB, nightcap at the Grassroots Tavern, St. Mark's Place, East Village. Good selection of drafts--good jukebox with local favorites (New York Dolls, Richard Hell et al)--efficient barkeeps. Bartop looks like an old piece of driftwood.

Hits: Mugs Ale House

Close calls: Barcade (80s style arcade with beer bar), Williamsburg; Brooklyn Brewery, Williamsburg. Next time.

Another fantastic day in the city exploring new places, enjoying beer, and making new and reconnecting with old friends.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

2008 Christmas Brew Update

The 2008 Christmas brew has been safely bottled and is being conditioned under the most controlled of laboratory environments. (Down in the basement where the wood stove keeps it a constant 70 degrees.) A few more days and it will be into the fridge to take the edge off for a few weeks. Yippee!

Hey Tazio what's in the Beer Meister?

Nothing. I was just finished by the sixtel of Weyerbacher Hops Infusion (supah!) and need to select two warming replacements to carry me through the bleak next three months. I'm thinking some other Weyerbacher and something different. Hmmmmm

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where are the IPAs?

As part of my doctoral dissertation on the popularity of various beer styles, I thought I would try to quantify what people are drinking. I just checked out newcomer Kclingers tap list over at and what struck me was the great ratio of Pale Ales (India, too) to everything else: a full one out of four of the taps!

But when I checked a bunch of fine, local NEPA beer bars, the ratio is more like one in six or worse.

Not that I'm complaining mind you, all the NEPA beer places have great beers and good times, but it would be nice, imho, to see a few more IPAs on tap. But, it just may be that NEPA is more of a Stout/Porter area and I'm certain the taps are primed with what people want the most of... so it makes sense in that respect...

I think I'll go and sip on a Dogfish Head and contemplate this revolting development.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

2nd Annual New York Holiday Pub Crawl

This year we'll be trashing Brooklyn the Friday after Thanksgiving for the 2nd Annual NY Holiday Pub Crawl. Meeting at Penn Station, bottom of main stairway, at 1 p.m. Roit!

Bottling the Christmas Brew

Bottled yesterday. My final gravity reading was about 1.022 which seems a bit high. However, fermentation was complete as it was at this level for two days straight . Here's what my dry (now wet) hops looked like when I fished them out of the drink. Now, on to bottle conditioning, aging, and labeling.

Backyard AleHouse Open for Business!

S drugged me into taking her to see Twilight yesterday afternoon at the Cinemark 20 in Moosic. Surprisingly, it was better than I expected (or was it the drugs?). I have never read any of the series by Stephanie Meyer, but S informed me that it was faithful to the first book and the characters were as she had imagined them. The soundtrack was pretty good, consisting mainly of what I quess would be called these days modern rock as well as some spare acoustic guitar pieces. The camera-work was excellent and at least from my dazed perspective, really captured that dreamy, blossoming love state-of-mind. I was not surprised that there was not an empty seat in the house.

For afterwards, the plan was to get into Scranton to check out the Backyard AleHouse which had had its grand opening the day before, continuing into Saturday.

We easily found the place on Linden street just north of the courthouse, right next to Tink's and we were able to park right on the street up the block a few addresesses. If you go later than when we went (3-ish), you won't be this lucky!

This new establishment had been another bar/club and was completely gutted and redone for its reemergence. Inside, a long ell-shaped bar stretches down the left-side and length of the taproom, maybe 35 feet long and with perhaps 18 bar stools. To the right is a table area containing all high tables: six or eight twofers and the same number of fourfers. The room is perhaps 50 by 22. The bar itself is beautiful as new bars are want to be (at least for now) with an natural oak Chicago bar rail and clear epoxy over ruby-red wooden planks of what appeared to be walnut. Behind the bar streches a similarly constructed back-bar, and a reach-in bottle cooler. Reaching up the to the high ceiling behind the bar were a walnut bookshelf (closest to the street) hung on the wall, a nice similarly framed mirror about 10 feet long with the Backyard Alehouse logo etched on it, and another smaller bookcase with a display of beeriana. The stools at the bar and in the seating area were all of similar construction, with red leather seats and spindle backs. Three largescreen flat panel screens hung on the wall around the room: a huge 62" above the mirror, a 50"er at the south end of the back-bar and another 50"er on the north wall of the bar. A nice electronic jukebox hung on the same north wall but was mute during our visit. The ceiling is divided into sections delineated by gold cove millwork, giving a coffered ceiling effect. The field of the ceiling is a dark blue. The main spine of the structure carrying the overhead load extends lengthwise down approximately the center of the taproom and is supported by paneled columns with dark blue trim and light blue inner panels. An unusual feature is cellar stairs back behind the bar. Cask ale down there, you think?

A very nice beer menu was presented when we came in and sat down at the bar and it had a few tasty draft selections (I think 12 taps total) and a very nice selection of bottles. My appetite for beer had been thirsted a few days earlier when I read over at mybeerbuzz that they'd be having the Sierra Celebration Ale on draft, so that became my easiest first choice as a a great way to celebrate a new alehouse opening in NEPA. The menu also listed a nice selection of food items, but the kitchen was not yet opened fully for service and we were informed by the barkeep B, that it would only be a short time until it was ready. The Celebration Ale was fresh as fresh can be, tasted great, and went down mighty easy. S chose a smooth Allagash White Belgian wheat beer from the bottle menu which she liked enough to have again for her second. She surprises me all the time by her burgeoning beer palate! My own choice for a 2nd was Mad Elf in keeping with the holidays/celebratory season fast approaching. This was the first time I ever had this, having had enough of everyone else rave, over and over, again and again, about how great this beer is. I was surprised a little by the fact that I could not get a head on my pour but maybe this is normal for this beer. The cherry taste is unmistakable as are the spices and perhaps clove. It reminds me a little of One Guy Brewing's Seasons Wheatings although this baby packed a much stronger punch coming in north of 11%. I liked it, but I think I'm more of a pale-ale/stout/bock drinker and the spicy beers I haven't yet warmed to. Or maybe I'm just gonna have to try it again...for scientific purposes this time.

When we left there were maybe 20 revelers inside having a great time. Oh, the Backyard in their name is a reference to the backyard which will be opening in the spring. I didn't see it but there's a way past the restrooms in the back, out to a deck where there'll be Adirondack chairs, tables and such, so that the fun can go out-of-doors.

We felt welcome here and can see a definite dedication to good beer. As a matter of fact, B, the barkeep told us that they're willing to take suggestions for beers they should bring in! We didn't suggest anything, but will the next time we visit when we're in town again.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beer Solutions

Stopped in quickly at Beer Solutions tonight to pick up some sanitizer for bottling the `old Yuletide Brew tomorrow, and had a chance to chat a little with Curt.

The sign limiting hops purchases only with malt purchases has been taken down! When I mentioned this, he said yeah, things are easing up now, so the limitations are history. That's good news as he informed me that Simcoe® hops will be coming in shortly--this year's crop--and I intend to be one of the first in line when they do.

On the way out, I noticed a cool new get-yer-whistle-wet-to-home-brew kit, for $6.99. It comes in a 2 liter plastic soda bottle and it contains the whole kit and kaboodle for doing a small batch of beer. The bottle has water, and hopped malt syrup already mixed and on the cap is a small yeast tablet. All you gotta do is, open the bottle, pop the yeast tablet in, seal it back up, and two weeks later, voila, fresh home-brewed beer! There are three varieties: A Red Lager, and pilsner, and something else. He said that some winemakers had been in and wanted to give brewing a try but didn't want to do a whole 5 gal. batch. If you ask me this is a perfect stocking stuffer for someone who's always wondered what brewing's all about!

Simcoe is a registered trademark of Select Botanicals Group LLC.

Bar Stool Sources?

Does anyone know of a good source of bar stools? I'm looking for stools that are 31 to 32 inches from floor to seat. This is slightly higher than standard bar stool height.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Snap Shots

Introducing Snap Shots from
I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

Fun in New York

S and I enjoyed this past weekend in NYC, dodging buses, cabs, rickshaws, tornadoes, and sheets of rain, celebrating her birthday, and where I once again, orchestrated the satisfaction of her every whim and pleasure.

We drove in Saturday morning and luckily for us were able to check in early at the W Hotel - Times Square. Now there are a number of W Hotels in NYC, but all the others seemed too far a walk from the Theater district, so I picked this one for it's proximity. Upon pushing through the revolving doors one enters a serene vestibule with water flowing, gurgling, burbling, and streaming above the ceiling and along the walls (behind glass)--a 180 degree swerve away from Times Square--transporting you into a world in which time shimmers to a halt and pleasure is eternal. Inside the vestibule, fresh, fragrant flowers soften the room's modernity and directly in front of you are three elevators which bring you to the Living Room on the 7th floor. Stepping out of the elevator and to the left is the concierge and reservations desk and directly in front and to the right is the living room. A living room is how it's set up with a straight bar along the far wall and unique circular beige leather sectional sofas arranged before it for socializing. Unique seating squares also dot the space each overhung by a square lighting tube roughly three feet on a side, hanging down from the ceiling, almost to the seats, and with a warm glow emanating from the glass. Directly below the square tubes, soft scented candles flickered as if to say: Hey. This is the Living Room. Come on in, have a drink, relax, and let's get to know each other! (The lighting theme is carried into the elevators as well tracing their ceilings.) We quickly checked in and dropped our stuff and headed back out.

We skipped back to the theater on 45th st., passing Mr. Cruise's worst nightmare along the way, waited on queue, went inside, pitted at the restrooms and finally settled into our seats for a performance of Avenue Q. An adults-only, not-quite-officially-sanctioned take on Sesame St. with real actors singing, talking and working the puppets, all at the same time! Some of the puppets were even worked by two of the performers. Oh. These are not puppets in the normal sense with strings worked from above, but more like ventriloquist dummies held at chest height. There were characters that seemed to be analogous to characters on Sesame, Bert and Ernie come to mind, as well as two new charcters, the Bad Idea Bears, who's idea of a bad idea is a six-pack, no make that a case of beer! At various points during the performance, two large flat-screens to the left and right of the stage were used as segue-ways showing cute graphics and such. I'm here to tell you that the dialog and lyrics are extremely clever and punny, the themes are contemporary: like love, commitment, and Internet porn, the music is, ah, so-so. The singing is top-notch, and the puppeteering is excellent. But being one who needs to have good music accompany a Broadway show, I wasn't that thrilled by it all. S enjoyed it though, for its cleverness and unique way of storytelling, so whim one was achieved. Check!

Our plan for after the show was to find someplace to eat dinner. Seeing how I have told S stories about Turkey (the country) for the longest time--and had always wanted to introduce her to Turkish cuisine, I decided to lead her by the nos...I mean hand, as we walked over to the East side of mid-town for dinner.

We awoke on Sunday, as is want to happen, to a totally different world weather-wise--instead of mid-60s and partly sunny, we awoke to overcast and blustery conditions with temperatures in the mid-40s, so coffee and tea tasted really good when we went out to Times Square. Directly in front of the hotel was a new Tckts kiosk located in the northern end of the square with a bleacher-like, pentahedron structure above it. Now bleachers is way too mundane a description for this structure, and bleachers they function as, but with wider seating area and shallower steps up. Perhaps 1000 people could seat themselves or stand on them. We walked over and went up the steps to the top where we met a Times Square Safety Officer Will. When asked he told us the whole story of the structure and the improvements to the square. These bleachers are made of a tempered red crystal from Germany that even if wet or icy can still be walked upon safely. The edges of the crystal are set in stainless steel channels. At night, the structure is lighted from below and emits a surreal glow. The view looking downtown from the structure is one that I've not had before as the elevation gives perspective to the whole space. In front of the structure, still in the center of the square, is a pedestrian area with low cafe tables and chairs--perhaps 100. So what was once a standing-only area, is now one where you can linger and enjoy the sites, day or night.

We checked out of the hotel and drove off down 9th avenue in search of a place called Lombardi's, claiming to be the oldest pizzeria in the U.S. We found it easily on Spring Street between Mott and Mulberry, but finding a parking spot was more difficult. After about 1/2 hour of trolling we found a spot a full 12 inches wider than our car, and I was able to slip that baby in like a jockey slips his horse along the rail. Thin crust: perfectly toasted and superb; fresh Mozzarella: flavorful, soft, and puddling on top; sauce: real fresh tomato taste, not from a can or overly salty or spiced. With the pizza we selected that wonderful drink, Sangria, home-made, just like the pizza. It arrived with an 1/8 of an orange hung on the lip of the glass and it was the perfect compliment to the pizza.

After lunch we thought we'd try to find the Cloisters as neither of us had ever been there. I knew that the FDR (alternately referred to as the East River Drive which turns into the Harlem River Drive farther north) would take us in the general direction, and sure enough we were able to follow signs onto and off-of 95 right to the museum. My only memories of the Cloisters was from the Clint Eastwood movie Coogan's Bluff that had some scenes filmed there. Being on an elevated portion of Manhattan, just above the river and within view of the George Washington Bridge to the southwest, the wind was howling like a banshee when we arrived and we quickly made our way from the west side to the main entrance. In a nut-shell the Cloister is a castle or abbey-like complex with multiple inner gardens surrounded by roofed corridors on all four sides (a cloister) and inside displaying artwork with a focus on the Medieval period of around 1000 to 1500 A.D. There are many fine examples of stained glass, religious artifacts like chalice cups (aka Pimp Chalices), reliquaries, and the such, tapestries, sculpture, furniture, and architectural elements of the period. We spent a good two hours there simply enjoying the quiet aspects of the place and were able to spend quality time in all the areas in that amount of time.

Sip Sak and a trip down Efes Lane

Sip Sak is located on 2nd avenue between 49th and 50th and is owned and operated by Bir Orhan Yegan. We came in and were quickly seated at a table along the wall mid-way down the narrow restaurant next to an ell-shaped bar. When the waitress came over, I asked if they had any Efes Pilsen in the house, which they did, so I ordered: Bir Efes bira, lutfen. It arrived at precisely the right temperature, but in a typical 12 oz. lager bottle--not the low, squat bottle I remember the last time I quaffed Efes, 27 years ago...But, notwithstanding my disappointment upon receiving the potato-masher bottle, it was as great as it was then--and same as it ever was. One quickly turned to Iki bira. And so it went.

I wanted S to try all the dishes I remembered so we started with a chopped salad appetizer, Coban Salata, consisting of finely chopped tomato, onion, cucumber, pepper and lemon olive oil. The cucumber nicely balances the acidity of the tomato and pepper give it that twist that plays Mozart on your tongue: Superb! We followed that with Turkish Pizza that basically an ultra-thin crusted red-pizza with ground lamb, and spices. Pretty much exactly how I remember it and faithful to the original recipe. For our main courses, S ordered the Musakka and I ordered a special which was a slab of grilled lamb, laid upon a soft bed of grilled pita, with onions and basil on the side, along with a hot green pepper and a roasted tomato atop it all. The presentation was gorgeous, the lamb was buttery-smooth and perfectly cooked, and the melding of ingredients showed Orhan's talents at their best. We finished with Baklava for S and Almond pudding for me and a cup of strong Turkish coffee to see us through the long walk west. Throughout our long meal we were fastidiously and politely waited on by the wait staff who were excellent. Orhan was overseeing the entire place and ensuring that everything was going smoothly in the kitchen and that all his customers were well taken care of out in the dining room. I motioned to him as he was passing and he came over and when I told him how much we enjoyed his place, and that this was my first taste of Turkish food in over 27 years, that served as a launching point into our reminiscing about Turkey of years past. We had a wonderful time there and although we did not know Orhan prior to our visit, we left feeling we had made a new acquaintance. I highly recommend you try this place the next time you're in town. You will not be disappointed. (PS: I skipped the Raki this time!)

House of Brews

We were hungry and desirous of a beer, so we jauntily walked over to a place we noticed earlier and had never been to, called the House of Brews on W. 46th. St. The ubiquitous menu (beer) and Zagat rating met us at the door giving me a warm and fuzzy, and we were immediately drawn inside by their selection of draft and bottles and secondarily their food menu. We picked a table alongside the wall opposite the long, straight-line bar and upon having the beer menu placed before me, my eyes fell quite easily and naturally upon a local draft beer that I would probably not find at home: Captain Lawrence Brewing Company's Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA. Gotta support local beers when you leave the cozy environs of your home town, after all! S checked out every beer on the menu and 30 minutes later chose The Checker Cab Blond Ale from the Chelsea Brewing Company in Manhattan, a light and tasty Bavarian kolsch. (I had a sip of this and I thought it was excellent--very drinkable and many of them I could drink if given the chance!) To go with the brews, we shared a spicy meat, slaw, and fries plate laden with tasty black beans, spicy pulled pork, and delectable and perfectly grilled sausage and chicken. I have to admit the IPA was excellent and went straight to my head and I tried to slink out of there underpaying by at least $10. But alas, the bar maid called me on it and I had to `fess up and pay the full price. Totally embarrassed by the situation, the bar maid took it swell and after, we reminisced on the way back east, the last time we faux pas'ed on a tip in Manhattan and I was forced to empty garbage cans full of leftovers back behind the restaurant. Well, not really, but it might have led to that. The service was great, the beer selection is good (there was even a barleywine on a hand-pump) and if you're in the Theater area, this place is close enough to hop in for a sip before a show. I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Double Dry Hop Maneuver

The double twisting back-transfer-to-secondary with a Dry Hop bag thrown in, went off without incident tonight and received a 9.9 from the judges. I decided to go with 1.5 oz of Cascade. Yippee!

Wall Streeters have the Right Idea

Wall St. types a.k.a Masters of the Universe who are losing their jobs are drowning their sorrows at Pink Slip Parties in Midtown Manhattan.

Welcome to the real world--I hope you saved and didn't squander those $640K bonuses!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas Brew Update

This year came to a close just so darned quick, that by the time I looked at the calendar, and figured back from Christmas to now, there just wasn't enough time to do another proper Christmas lager. I know, I know, I'm slacking....

So, on Saturday I ended up brewing a slight variation of my last brew, a Harpoon IPA clone, and try to have it finish hoppier. First, I went with Galena bittering and flavor hop instead of Clusters. Galena is a 10.5% AA hop versus Clusters which is 6.5% AA. Secondly, I intend to dry hop after four days in primary fermentation, with one ounce of my home-grown Cascade hop (unknown % AA) added to the secondary fermenter. One other variable was changed from the original recipe--I went with an additional half-pound of M&F light DME to try to balance the extra bitterness. I intend to say in the secondary fermentation for another four to six days and then bottle.

The wort chiller I picked up at the Beer Solution on Blackman Street, worked very well indeed and cooled the hot liquor down to 80 F in less than 10 minutes. This is probably a 30 minute savings over ice which I have hertofore used exclusively.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rogue Double Dead Guy (s walking)

Two deal guys walk into a bar. The bartender goes: "What will it be, boys?". The first dead guy goes: "Ya got anything that will make me look better?" The second dead guy pipes in" Yeah. Me too??" The bartender takes a minute and looks the first dead guy up and down, looks the 2nd dead guy up and down and finally says: "Gee, I'm sorry guys, I don't have anything that can fix your problems, did you drink a lot when you were alive?, but I do have something that will make your forget about your problems for a while: Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale."

Recently, I saw a bottle of Rogue Double Dead Guy Ale over at mybeerbuzz and immediately I was drawn to it's snarky, fulgent red bottle, and I knew, I just knew, I had to get that baby into my grubby three hands and give it a try. Give it a rip and see what'cher made of.

I am you might call, a desperately unenthusiastic fan of west-coast beers, and I've tried quite a few of the Rogue offerings to date, but never the Double Dead Guy, so what better time than now, in celebration of our first release of boog-free code. (Boss: What did you do today? Slave-ant: I drank a Double and fixed boogs but not on the synthesizer variety, ok?) So, today I went out at lunch, to that icon to alcohol, the Spirits Unlimited Package Store (what a cool euphanism, no?), and picked up two bombers: one for me, and one for J.

First, why Double? Well, double because two are always better than one. And because two dead men walking deserve double of everything. Double shots of espresso. Double dips of vanilla ice cream. Double the girls == double the fun.

Dead Guys? Well, because there are two dead guys on the bottle. I'm one of them, the last of a dead breed of developers who trace their lineage back to the days when Dinosaurs walked the Earth, the world was spun with fiber, copper, and wire invented, designed, managed, researched, developed, and owned by a single monopolistic goliathan company with over 1 million employees. (Some scoff and say we were overrated. Most don't even realize what we do. sigh) The other? The second prisoner in this story, Pygmalion, trying to escape the surly bonds of the off-shoot bastard step-child pygmythion company, with his nut. Two dead-guys walking. Lucky to be walking, but still dead. (But we don't know it yet.)

The beer? A sweet blossoming honey flavored and colored delight, dripping with a hint of alcoholic nose, booziness hinted, booziness felt, in the toes. A tossle-tan head that easily overflows the shaker on a soft-pour. A hoppy kick in the head, enough to wake the dead.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ruth's Chris Steak House -- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs

On Saturday, S and I enjoyed dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House inside the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Casino, courtesy of CC. Thanks CC--you are a treasure and a tribute to your race and gender!

The restaurant is located on the outside of the pedestrian ring that encircles the slot-floor and is impossible to miss as you walk around the casino perimeter. We arrived at around 6:30 and there were perhaps hundreds of gamblers in the ring, each feverishly punching away their children's college funds, hoping beyond all hope for that one knock-out punch that would make it all ok.

As we approached the restaurant we faced a tinted glass facade behind which we knew not what to expect, this being our first foray to this place. The greeter opened the door from the inside, held it open before us and welcomed us as we stepped inside the antechamber. When we informed the hostess that we had no reservations, she asked would we mind dining in the lounge, and when we responded in the negative, we were immediately ushered through a curved passageway to the inner sanctum, this monument to beef, the lounge.

The lounge consists of a U-shaped bar, with stools for maybe 30, topped with crystalline, black granite and high pub tables with the same material for their mesas. Perhaps 10 tables-for-two stand sentry around the lounge perimeter. The area is wonderfully dark, intoxicating, and seductive, and is an absolutely perfect place to take a date. Not a first date mind you, but someplace you take your Love after you've been going out for a while and wish to seal-the-meal.

Hey! Look at Me! I'm a high-roller!

The lighting is subdued, as it should be to make even late-night casino crawling skanks look good. No wait, scratch that, to make cosmopolitan high-rollers look even better than celebrity models. Jazzy, piano-bar music filters down from someplace overhead, to complete the scene.

Upon being seated a waiter bustled over and put down a cloth-napkin placemat and orchestrated an arrangement of silverware before us, and asked: Will you be having any wine tonight? I rasped out a Perhaps and opened the wine-list to give it a once-over.

Their wine-list is huge and seems to have been arranged with pairing in mind--for different dishes there's a suggested variety of wine. Nice touch. Bottles, half-bottles, and glasses are available and the prices seem reasonable as far as restaurant prices go.

But what I was really looking for was a beer-menu. And upon that menu, I was hoping to find a nice hoppy micro brew to pair with my bouf, but alas, all they had were macro lagers, Yuengling Lager, and Guinness Pub Draught. That's it! What a disappointment. So...instead of beer we opted for Basket Case Syrah, after all, the bottle said it's for the crazy in all of us.

Bread was brought immediately which we devoured like we hadn't eaten in days, one hand, moving hand to mouth and the other flipping the pages of the menu.

I'm a rib-eye man myself and was immediately drawn to it like flys on a steer. It doesn't take me long to make up my mind. S on the other hand, must read every....single.....appetizer....entree.....side.....salad......choice.

Our waitress came over and informed us as we looked over the menu that the sides are large and a single one of which is enough for two. I asked S to pick the sides as this is one of the most important decisions to be made when in steak house heaven.

Once S finally decided what to have, Saturday night had become early Sunday morning and we had gone through another waitress shift-change. I ordered my rib-eye medium rare, with onions and mushrooms, S ordered the petit filet cooked medium-well, with Lobstah tail and we shared a side of potato au gratin and a second side of asparagus.

When our meals arrived they were literally sizzling on the plates and we were dutifully warned that they were very hot. Good thing, too as ever since the AC/DC concert I haven't been able to hear a thing. The steaks were prepared perfectly to our specifications, as stringent as they are. My rib-eye was as succulent as summer watermelon and as tender as S's inner thigh. S's petit filet was not quite as tender but still excellent and the lobster was as usual tasty. The potato was excellent, and the asparagus tasted like it came out of my father's garden that morning, even though way out of season.

For desert we ordered creme brulee and wondered aloud whether it would arrive with or without the utensil which would be used to open a crevasse to be filled with the mighty creme juice. It did not, to our relief, as filling a crevasse with creme juice is something that should be done discretely or at the very minimum when dining at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale.

The staff at this restaurant is attentive without being cloying--the manager stopped by to check on us as well as top off our wine glasses, part-way through our dinner. Now, I have been to a few steak houses in NYC, Keen's and Frankie and Johnnies, come to mind, and I'm here to tell you that the steaks here are as good as those. However, and this is a big one, this restaurant's prices are high by NEPA standards and frankly equivalent to the two places I just mentioned in New York. But on the other hand, while I can get a great steak at The Ovalon, The Powerhouse, or Damenti's, and they may be less in price, they just don't stack up with those at Ruth's Chris. To Ruth's Chris credit, they do offer an $89 dinner for two package that includes a choice of steak entrees, sides, and desert. So you can savor the atmosphere and steak and save a little cash for the slots.

Overall, this is a great place to bring a date or for a special occasion and at the same time achieve steak nirvana. However, please, please, please, I beg of you, offer some craft beer!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Beer tasting and food pairing event at Hazleton Art League

Just saw in the Standard-Speaker that on Sunday November 16 starting at 4 p.m. at the Hazleton Art League, Michael Kattner, owner of Simply Homebrewing, will be conducting an educational, two hour course called Exploring Beer Styles. The cost if $15 and gives beer students the chance to taste six different beer styles with a representative beer from each style. He will also give an introduction to pairing beer with food. A photo id is required. For registration information, call Dr. Carl Frankel at 454-4982 ir 450-3080.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Medieval Times

Prince Goofy the Minimus and his loyal minions gathered his subjects Thursday last, to present his vaunted strategic engagement plans and edicts for the year of our Lord 2009.

Gathered were they to the castle on the hill, where one Lord after another, landed, wealthied, and sycophant all, rose to tell the Prince that all is well in the land of Niocj, the treasury is brimming with gold, and expansion plans are in place to increase the dominion. So to, the messages were directed to his restless subjects, who in the past year had seen many of their number fall due to the strategic missteps emanating from the hands of King Lootus (struck down the year past by unknown illness), and his successor King Charlatan from the West. His subjects knew the loss must be laid upon the plans to send all of their number to foreign lands to fight. To say the natives were restless would be understatement at the least. Questions from the Prince's subjects, though giving the impression of being wanted and accepted, were put off to any remaining time at the end of the day, in hope that there be no time remaining to respond. A few minutes at the end, and questions there were, one in particular about the wiseness of the King's displacement of subjects to foreign lands with no replacements to carry on the fight here at home. The Prince answered himself, with cunning and appeasatory skill using circular logic, not really answering, a Prince he Be after all. Resigned they were, his subjects, no one willing to tell the Prince he wore no clothes, their lives they loved.

Later, knowing the value of entertainment and beer to placate the foul beastery of his unhappy subjects, The Prince ordered that everyone engage in revelry at the sporting arena of a place called Medieval Times, 30 miles distant at the edge of the realm.

Once at the arena, malty and sweet, beer of the Samuel Adams Winter Lager variety was served, the first round paid from the Prince's purse itself! (but after all, this was really the subject's own tax payments unbeknownst to them). The beer was cool and served by the keg to all who had gathered that eve. Expensive in gold this beer was, but the subjects realizing their lot in life, descended upon it like ravenous hyena and quaffed great quantities. What followed was a convivial atmosphere amongst the subjects and even with the great lords of the land! Although the lords seemed a bit perplexed at what to say to ordinary people when unscripted!

Then, with a great flourish of fanfare, the trumpeter blew the gathering to attention in order to proclaim in the words immortalized earlier by one of his subjects, the musician Ian Anderson:

My Lord and Lady, we have fortuitously happened upon these, uh...strolling players to provide you with their goodly tunes whilst you set about your, uh... prandial delights, albeit in the lamentable absence of your guests. So, my lord and lady, for your entertainment......

And so the great congregation moved to the arena with as much beer as they could carry, to be seated at tables facing the center of the arena, and to be entertained by sporting events and frivolous merriment consisting of horsemanship, jousting skill, soldiery, and swordery. The participants in the events were all the knights of the land, who were engaging to achieve the hand of the King's daughter in Holy Matrimony.

The Prince worried for his life amongst the riff-raff of his sometimes disloyal subjects, seated himself at the ultimate seating location, the better to keep an eye on his unruly subjects, a Prince he Be and wish to Remain, after all.

A dinner of tomato bisque and bread (foreign to many of the subjects), roasted fowl with potato, and apple crisp were served along with drink of many varieties, by wenches employed at the arena. The food was excellent, but did nothing to decrease the agitation of the raucous subjects who fervently cheered their Red knight during the games.

But alas, the Red knight, himself acting as if he had drank heavily, was quickly eliminated from the competition, much to the dismay of Prince Goofy's subjects, who then turned their attentions elsewhere for the remainder of the evening.

This unworthy scribe was not able to see straight at the end of the evening, at least enough to understand exactly what happened next as third party post priori accounts vary. One description is that one of the Prince's subjects, one known as Jla, took a roundhouse swing at the Prince upon leaving the arena, but fell flat on his face, having ingested too much beer. Another says that the Prince himself took a swing at Jla, missed, and was himself tagged on the head by a flag of the Red knight flung from the top of the arena by one of his irritated subjects. We'll probably never know exactly what happened, but many subjects wonder amongst themselves, if they will make another year unscathed to participate in such activity again.

Beerificio Italiano!

I have been planning a trip to Italy for some time now and with more favorable exchange rates, a welcome craft-brewing culture, and of course the excellent cibo, I think I'll be making the trip sooner rather than later!