Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Old Belsnickel Delivers

S and I made it over to the Ice House Pub this week for dinner and the chance to try Breaker Brewing Company's Belsnickler Ale.

First, let's get one thing as clear as a December eve: This place does not serve run-of-the-mill, deep-fried pub-grub--even IF it has Pub in it's name! They have a real chef and the food's served on really clean plates and silverware.

It happened to be Italian night when we went and there were enough inspired Italian dishes on the menu to make even a South Philly native feel right at home.

Now don't get the wrong idea, I do have a major porcine obsession but I prefer mine in the form of kielbasa. But I have been know to make quick work of a sopressata.

The salads were fresh--large and overflowing a salad bowl. Not skimpily strewn across a small plate like so much straw on freshly seeded grass.

I chose the lasagna which came in a large portion, bathed in fresh home-made tomato sauce. As I've said again and again (and once more for the ladies): I like to taste the tomato unmasked by salt, sugar, peppers, and the whole shebang of other stuff that gets thrown in there from time to time when real taste can't be trusted. Well, in this sauce I found what I always look for and it was deeeelicous!

If you ask anyone, you'll get the same answer: Tazio has been a really good boy this year--maybe the most well-behaved in a long time.

All I can say to that is that is my brainwashing plan is working. Eggsalenttttt!

No. It just requires beer, constant work and attention to detail.

And it doesn't come easy. Po mo wu!

That being put out there, I guess someone has been watching `cause Old Belsnickle brought me something really nice--so nice in fact that he left it in a shaker glass instead of a stocking! This year he brought me amongst other things, a 22 oz. bomber of Belsnickler Ale.

Now this seasonal Quad/Winter Warmer available in draught at certain locations and bottles in others (methinks) so it can be found in a lot of places. Even bad boys and girls can get some, I hear. This beer is mighty tasty but at 8.1 ABV it seems a bit low for a Quad to me but I'm in it for the taste so what's with a name? I'm not Saint Michael by any stretch, but, and here's the thing: the taste, plus the eight dot one, added to prit-near perfection to me. This has a nice and complex malty backbone like some of their other beers and was unmistakably a Breaker Brewing beer. Perfect for a December Winter's Eve. The head was a bit weak but then again, I like to pour softly and carry a big keg. ClockworkOrange (gotta love that, huh?) had two fingers so it may have been the soft pour. (I'm wondering if this was Breaker's first go at a distributed bottle-conditioned beer? That could explain it. Note to self: I'm working on these, well, demons is too strong a word, let's say gremlins myself--some of my bottles come out great-others low carb. [Sheesh how many levels of indirection can you stand at this point?]).

The place was hopping at around 6 pm with kids, parents, dates, the after-work crowd and all sorts, so don't be afraid to bring anyone along. Oh, did I tell you about our waitress? She was so nice and pleasant--she went down the entire beer list from memory, was patient with us and knew the details about each dish on the menu, and seemed to be happy to be here waiting on us. Don't you just love when people are like that?

It's been a while since we've been here and I had forgotten how nice it is and how great the food tastes. They had a number of craft brews available and their inclusion on the taps site Mybeerbuzz, bodes well for this becoming a favorite haunt for the beer drinkers of Mountain Top.

The guys over that Breaker Brewing are quickly becoming this millennium's version of Sierra Nevada. Keep an eye on them--there are great things happening with their beers and expect more to come in `10.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dalwhinnie Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

My buddy T-Bone gave me a bottle of Scotch from the Dalwhinnie Distillery tonight as a surprise Christmas present--he had been saving it for me since our trip to Savannah went awry earlier this year. His plan was for us to stop somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway, crack it open, and enjoy it along with the view from the Highlands.

Kids: Don't drink and drive! Become a pop-star blogger and you'll be able to drink and have someone drive YOU around.

Instead, we enjoyed it next to a roaring fire in the club room, reminiscing about the improper uses of Drambuie.

Thanks T-Bone, I hope you have a Merry Christmas too.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a great and Merry Christmas and can have the time to enjoy the important things life has to offer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hmm, I really like turkey

I just happened to be looking outside and saw this encounter between my neighbors.

BrewDog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin--World's Strongest Beer. Ever

Read about it and see what it took these guys to make this beast here.

Style: Uber-Imperial Stout
ABV: 32%
OG: 1092
Malts: Marris Otter, Dark Crystal, Caramalt, Chocolate Malt, Roast Barley
Hops: Galena, Bramling Cross

I just had to order two bottles. One to try now and one for my FMP day.

One of my few Beer Collectibles

Here are some photos of an intact four-pack of Casey's Lager From the Valley Forge Brewing Company. Circa 1980s I think. The pull tabs are undisturbed.

They have illustrations depicting Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Monte Irvin of the New York Giants, Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees. There's a little blurb about each player on the other side of the can.

New Beer Tower

I'm upgrading to a three-handle beer tower as part of my bar project.

Here are some photos of just the base. It attaches to the counter top via two 1/4" threaded rods running up through the counter, inside the tower, to a yoke welded to the inside of a brass faucet collar that rides atop the base. Atop that will sit a decorative ceramic cap--it also attaches to the yoke via a single 1/4" threaded rod.

Now I know why Thomas Jefferson was so enamored of constantly tinkering with Monticello.

He needed something to do while drinking his home brew!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Be Afraid

With the state of the economy causing fear and confusion in some quarters, it's not difficult to see why people call for a return to an economy where we ``make stuff''. We had an economy up until the 1980s where we largely ``made stuff''. We remember that times weren't ``that bad'' before then, and yearn for a return to that sort of economy as a solution to our problems.

People: That sort of an economy is over and probably won't ever come back until our country's arc bends back in the direction of earth. The United States is inexorably marching into a ``make ideas'' or Ideas economy.

Our can-do, never-say-die, strive-for-improvement, try-something-else-if this-doesn't-work culture--comprise the individual fibers that make us American. This is what makes the Ideas economy something we should be reaching for and not turning away from--we are well suited to this!

It is this very Ideas sort of mindset that has given us the chutzpah to invent, create, and explore new flavors and tastes in beer. Do you think that it's just a coincidence that the craft beer movement began in the very 1980s when the ``make stuff'' economy began to dwindle in favor of the Ideas economy?

Germany has an economy that is still a ``make stuff'' economy, but it too has some of its people yearning to unleash good ideas. While they have a significant number of ``make ideas'' enterprises there, they still excel at making stuff: Machinery, tools, automobiles, suitcases and scientific instruments come to mind. In 1993 the German Beer Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot , was relaxed to allow adding a few other ingredients. Still, their beer recipes are quite traditional, hence they have not fully embraced an Ideas economy.

And if you look around beyond our shores, you will see that many other countries are still making stuff and not ideas. When's the last time you were sitting in front of your LG flat-screen enjoying a really flavorful and interesting Chinese beer?

What am I trying to say: Don't be afraid. Put your thinking cap on and embrace change. We are Americans. We have a culture that embraces the varied flavors of new ideas. We will survive and grow stronger through this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Top 20 Albums of the Decade

As I sit here watching the snow fly and sipping on a Zonker Stout from Snake River Brewing out of Jackson Hole Wyoming, I initially thought I'd have a hard time coming up with 20 really good albums spanning the first decade of the new century.

But it really wasn't that hard. These came to me pretty quick.

The three at the top are very close in my mind, but I have to put Wilco's YHF first due the band's ability to meld so many styles, along with great songwriting, into a unique sound. U2's All that ... while a great album, seemed to me covering familiar ground--another Joshua Tree. Killing Joke: What can I say? They continually find ways to stay fresh and relevant in a post-punk, post hardcore, post industrial-punk way.

1) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2) U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
3) Killing Joke - 2003
4) Foo Fighters - One by One
5) Zwan - Mary Star of the Sea
6) Milemarker - Anesthetic
7) System of A Down - Toxicity
8) Bad Astronaut - Houston We Have a Drinking Problem
9) Dave Gahan - Paper Monsters
10) Zero 7 - Simple Things
11) Trey Anastasio - Shine
12) Dream Theater - Train of Thought
13) Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel
14) Phish - Undermind
15) Beastie Boys - To The 5 Boroughs
16) Radiohead - Kid A
17) Depeche Mode - Exciter
18) Audioslave - Audioslave
19) White Stripes - Elephant
20) The Libertines - Up the Bracket
21) Hot Hot Heat - Make Up the Breakdown

Honorable mention goes to the boys from Manchester: Oasis and Heathen Chemistry. I sometimes wonder how it is that an artist can go on from great heights early achieved. Robert Plant found a way. Orson Welles never did. Oasis found a way with this album that was commendable coming off their early mega-popularity.

Bars Like You've Never Seen Before at the Architectural Antiques Exchange

The Architectural Antiques Exchange on 2nd Street in North Liberties, Philadelphia, just beyond faux hipster heaven, aka Philly Vespa, is really something to see.

The bars have been disassembled and removed from drinking establishments across Europe (primarily France and Belgium) and America and are complete and ready for installation in your house, club, bar or saloon.

My guess is that they range in age from the mid-19th century through the veneered, art deco `30s.

The are in fantastic shape--most original, some with refinished bar tops.

Prices range from perhaps $3K and the most costly one I saw was $22.5K.

But, here's the thing: You would be hard-pressed to recreate these at close to these prices today. The lumber would cost you a fortune--many are Cherry. The craftsmanship is unlike almost anything you see today. Granted you could find someone to take their time and come up with something akin to these bars, but at labor of probably $75 to $100 an hour, these bars are a bargain.

I got a bunch of ideas for my gantry.

There's a lot more than bars here, too: Wrought iron, furniture, stained glass, signage, and architectural elements and objets d` art of all sorts.

Worth a trip just for the marvel factor.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Gift Giving Idea

This year, for the discerning beer consumers in your life, here's a gift giving idea that I think makes a whole lotta sense.

Pick seven different beers--all brewed in your state. Take two bottles from your choice of five of the beers and one of the remainder of the beers to complete a 12 pack.

One of the beers--if you can, make it a homebrew. It's easy to spend money and buy beer and give it away, but crafting and giving--shows you mean it. The antithesis of the here's a fifth of Scotch for you and oh thank you for the fifth of Grey Goose and the Cohiba.

Make one of the beers a local beer--brewed within 25 miles or so, or as close as you can, of where you live. Support your local brewer for the economic domino effect buying their beers creates.

Why so many different beers? Someone wise once told me: There is spice in life, through the hops.

Why seven: Because it's Christmas and the whole number seven (7) denotes completeness and perfection. Six is not that special--a very meager number in my mind. Take six x 2 on the other hand and now your talking about a long-lasting tribute, for the most ardent beer drinker, at least seven days.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Shopping for the Beer Drinker's Beer Drinker

Here's liddabit o' something that will make the beer drinker in your life very happy.

Almost as happy as a case of Victory Yakima Twilight, or a tri-tap beer tower...Over a tri-key beer meister of course.

These treats are made with Brooklyn Brown Ale and East India Pale Ale, and organic barley malt syrup. On tap here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Spaulding

You've seen him: The guy that hangs around in crowded bars--first over there, then on the other side of the bar.

Always with a half-finished or empty pint glass.

Usually standing--the quicker to move on?

If you get close enough, you'll see the eyes darting furtively. Always scanning, never tiring, always watching.

Schmoozing when necessary to keep his cover.

Ever see him open his wallet? No.

You always thought he was trolling for fresh meat.

Well, it's not fresh meat he's after--it's the floaters that drift across bartops across the world...

You know, the half-empty warm beer glasses that are abandoned.

Well, spaulding is the guy who drains these glasses.

He drinks for free and loves it!

I'm not saying you should support your local spaulding on a regular basis.

For obvious reasons.

But this Christmas, in the spirit of the season, leave a little in the bottom of your glass.

Do it.

Show you care.

For Spaulding.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Simply Homebrew

This past week I had the good fortune to get back to Simply Homebrew in Drums for some brewing supplies.

I met Pete and I'm happy to report that Pete is now running the shop on a day to day basis with help from Jerry.

The shelves are well-stocked and new stuff is coming in every day for both vintners and homebrewers.

It was time to get a keg for my home brewing excursions and I snagged one along with a handful of hop bags, some DME, bottle caps, and a pound of dark Belgian candi sugar. I wonder what that might be for...

Holiday hours are: 3-8 pm Tuesday through Friday, 10-6 pm Saturday and Sundays 12-4 pm.

The shop is located at 861 Saint John's Rd., Drums, PA 18222 and the phone number is 570-788-2311.

We talked about starting a homebrew club and I think there is willingness on Pete's part (as well as my own). I know there are homebrewers out there--if you're interested, let me or Pete know!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Repeal Day!

Now, go out and take on that brew you're been wanting to try for 76 years.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Taproom at the Somerset Hills Hotel

Today I had the great honor to join, J, J, and R for lunch at the Taproom inside the Somerset Hills Hotel in Warren NJ.

This place is really convenient to I-78 in northern NJ and once you get off exit 33 you can be there in a few minutes.

This place has typical lunch-time hotel/casual restaurant fare but is atypical in its choice of beers.

11 taps and 50 bottles--check out the current Christmassy tap list:

Our waiter informed me that the draught list changes often as the head guy here loves beer.

I started with the 35th Annual Anchor Steam Christmas Ale which was spicy, fragrant and delicious coming in at a light 5.5% ABV. According to Anchor, they have a different recipe and label each year. The labels are evocative of new life as you can see by the Christmas tree on the tap handle that's decorated with the 2009 version of the label artwork. These releases are a meant to be a celebration of new life.

After that, I wanted to try something a bit warmer: The Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Winter Solstice was as good if not better that the Anchor--it reminded me a bit of Bell's HopSlam at the start but without the strong hop finish. This is a warming 6.9% ABV that would be great to find and bring to a holiday party. IMHO: I think you will enjoy this one.

I peeked into the taproom on the way out and it looks good but I'll need a return visit to check the bar and gantry. It does have a nice tin ceiling--certainly not original but in keeping with the taproom style.

There is almost nothing as good as friends and beer this time of year. Don't ya think?

2009 Christmas Variation IPA--Update

Well, transfer to secondary over another four ounces of wet Cascade and Wilamette hops is done with nary a drop wasted.

The specific gravity was 1.026 at that time, and lest you think I drained this sample, I did--into my stomache.

So I think it has a bit of fermenting to go yet before it's finished. Original gravity was 1.066.

I need a better name for this brew.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

3rd or 40th?

This year, of all the years, was a most important year on many levels.

Important enough to have some fresh liquidity injected into our accounts if you will. And other stuff.

So with that in mind the 3rd Annual J&T Holiday Pub Crawl took place, yet again, in NYC on November 23rd.

This time our plan was scantily brilliant: To imbibe rarely but start early.

Wait a minute. That's the plan every year.

Shorty's behind Port Authority was the first place we visited. Decent cheese steaks but not up to Philly snuff. A nice set of tap handles. A couple of pints of Brooklyn Lager later started festivities off on the left foot. What is really great about this place is that it's just a few steps from the Port Authority. So, you get off work and need to catch a buzz home but you have a few minutes to spare--knowing that it's only a minute from here to your bus makes it a dream! But, easy does it.

Bohemian Beer Garden (Astoria Queens): Long wanted to visit--still haven't. Closed when we got there after lunch.

McSorley's (East Village): Need I say more? Multiple small mugs of light and dark later, a cheese plate to take the edge off (and who knows how many [mugs that is]), and I was seeing Abe Lincoln behind the bar--sittn' on his chair and imploring me to give Obama another chance. What looked to be a cat (the size of a rat) was sipping a brew (the size of a gnat) beside the pot belly, and assorted young children were running around.

I fully support bringing your young children with you when you go to a public house.

Hop Devil Grill (St. Marks Place @ Avenue A): Hoppy Hour 4-8 1/2 price drafts weekdays! Yeah. Really, does it get any better than that? Mendocino Red Tail Ale caught me by the tail and wouldn't let go. Utopia was up there and some at the bar were trying it--but at what cost to their brain cells?

East Village Tavern (let's just say further East): Met up with someone from Shickshinny! Graduated my HS in `64. Actually he's the Mayor of this bar or is it the deposed Monarch? I don't remember. Or his name.

Needless to say we had a great time.

Hits: Hop Devil Grill
Misses: Bohemian Beer Garden :O(

A fitting 191st post

Hmm. This is a milestone of sorts: My 191st blog entry here.

I'm usually not at a loss for words, only the time with which to arrange them into incoherence.

I could do 12 things 4000 times or 4000 things 12 times.

Which do you think I choose?

Promise: My 1,921st will be better.