Imbibe Hour

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hefeweizen beer battle, or how I like to butcher the German language.

Hefeweizen. It seems to be one of those beers that has been sort of bastardized of late. People get a real skinny glass and throw a lemon in and that's it. Is there more to this than that? Turns out there is. First off... skip the lemon.

I can say that this isn't my favorite style of beer, but if you want to have a good one try one of the two I had here. Weihenstephaner is a product from Germany that claims to be the oldest brewery in the world. Reading the bottles on these was enough to make my head spin as I probably butchered the pronunciation of all the German language I could.

For comparisons I grabbed also a bottle of Edel-Weisse Mein Grunes from Scheneider & Sohn a green grenade sporting a USDA organic seal.

Turns out there was much imbibing joy to be had. These definitely feel like summer beers, so while there is loads of snow outside it felt hard to get into character. But for the price point for these beers, they just can't be beat.

Check them out. CHEERS!

Friday, January 28, 2011

American Straight Rye Whiskey to the RESCUE! Manhattan cocktail joy and drink

In the realm of whiskey I was always confused about what "Rye" whiskey was. I grew up in Canada and it seemed like virtually all Canadian whiskeys were just referred to as rye whiskey. The funny thing is, everyone I knew and grew up with never drank it, the only people who did were just really old, and they certainly weren't my parents. It seemed everybody just drank beer, the typical macro stuff and not any craft beer cause the movement in those days wasn't as big as it is now.

When I got into bourbon, I started learning just about whiskey in general, and many bourbon fans also enjoy rye whiskey too. However, I soon learned that there was a distinction to what Americans call rye and what Canadians call rye. There are many distinct differences, but not to say that one is superior over the other all the time.

One of the most obvious things is that American rye whiskey has to contain a mash bill that is at least 51% Rye. There is no such stipulation or law for this in Canada for rye whiskeys. Some Canadian whiskeys hardly even contain any rye at all.

I was also realizing that many people like Rye in their Manhattans which is easily a favorite cocktail of mine. I normally have it with bourbon being such a fan, but as I started hearing people talk about all these great American ryes, I felt like I was missing out on something special.

So I grabbed three straight American rye whiskeys to compare against, and more importantly try them all in a tasting. The results and imbibing joy are all below.

Cheers!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Scratch another off the list, Imbibe Hour crashes DC's Churchkey for the Tröegs scratch night and nugget nectar goodness.

How do I love thine beer... for let me count thy ways... For imbibing in DC special events make it more fun!

I headed down to one of DCs prominent beer bars called Churchkey, in nearby Logan circle as part of a special Tröegs Scratch night tasting.

Tröegs brewery is located in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, and they were offering a good promotion in DC at Churchkey to showcase their "scratch" series beers of playful American IPAs. It was a special treat because most of these on tap don't make it outside of Pennsylvania, but also because they were offering something else. They were also offering their famous Nugget Nectar beer from a firkin cask. IMBIBE HOUR TO THE RESCUE!!! I enjoy their doppelbock as well, and it seemed like a perfect excuse to go have some more Tröegs!

I first heard about the event through BeerAdvocate.com, a sight where I find much information on beers, and a place I stash all my beer reviews. The site is stupidly addictive, almost like Facebook but much more mature and organized. I never understood why I never got into it years ago when I first signed up being such an imbibing purist.

I had made arrangements to make sure I was going to be ready for this. I contacted the manager asking if it was okay to write about the event, take pictures... etc.. They were more than happy to oblige. I was told however that the beer wouldn't be kicked in until 6 PM so that staff could partake of some before hand. So I arrived about 15 minutes early and I sat at the bar at one of the few seats I could find. I was asked if I wanted anything and I said.. "Well.. I am just waiting until 6 for the Tröegs stuff... I heard you got a firkin of Nugget, true?" The server said "we sure do!" "Well guess I am waiting!" as I sat there twiddling my thumbs at the bar, not trying to suly myself and drink something amongst the 40 offerings on tap. Those minutes seemed to go by... real... sllooooowllllyy....

10 minutes to six the server seemed to relent and came over and said... well you want one? I hesitated... took the night in... and paused....

"Yeah sure!", HA he cracked before I did!

Nugget Nectar is another showcase and seasonal beer that lots of people get to go goo goo gaga over. It's pictured up in the left there next to Scratch #37 and #38. The brewery describes the color as straw/orange, but out of the cask it is an obvious copper/brown.

That wasn't the only thing though, I was all set on reviewing and tasting all these beers but sometimes Churchkey is a bit crowded but also a bit dark inside to judge a brews appearance. I got a fairly good spot, not the most optimal but at least one good place to review the beers. Unfortunately I noticed I was provided snifters. Snifters??? Is this not an American Ipa? What's going on here? In the end it turned out it was because I was only given samples. Man I wanted PINTS baby!

Some things were also not helpful. A patron next to me got his flatbread order, and for the next 4 minutes after it arrived all I could smell was salt and ham prosciutto. I had luckily got the first beers nose before this, but I was almost ready to call quits and give up thinking the environment wasn't going to be conducive. Luckily things settled down and it all came in after a short while.

I flagged down a server as I was cleansing my palate with some bread crust, a must I find sometimes when going between drinks to soak up other flavors and neutralize my palate. The bar on a Tuesday was surprisingly stupid busy. "Hey", I said, "can't you serve pints of this?" I asked. The congenial server apologized and didn't realized I wanted to nestle in on 2 pints at a time but that was okay. In retrospect it made the night a bit easier, and my liver was probably ready to jump for joy at getting a break. He actually came back with a pint of Nugget Nectar and said "Here ... this one's on me." WELL I'll take that for sure! and that joy is framed above.

I had much to say about these beers. They were all decent, some considerably better than others, and there were ones to me that I preferred even though many didn't fit the classic American IPA style. It was a good atmosphere and I got to sit next to another guy who wasn't that big of a beer drinker, but had certainly been to many pubs in England and felt right at home. I told him to grab the cask Nugget Nectar since so many people were ready to kill each other to get at it, which he jumped on. Long story short, the nugget nectar is a solid brew out of the cask, but it's personally not something that I think I would crave again even after having two of them that night. It is without question a beer everyone should try!

The night was nearly over when of course I remembered they were giving out glassware. "Hey!" I inquired, "you got glasses?!" I asked, and before I knew it, one showed up and then another server came by and said... why don't you take another. So there I had it... two Nugget Nectar pints to take home for keepsakes. Seems like the perfect excuse now... to get some Nugget out of the bottle and try some!

All in all... for Tröegs and Churchkey, it was a night of win, just like always. If you want to get a better idea of what I thought of these beers, see my reviews on BeerAdvocate.com here (this link).

Cheers to you all, and have some good brew!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

American Strong Ale Battle, more big beers for big fun

In the realm of beer, one category seems to defy explanation and that is the American Strong Ale. An American strong ale is sort of what its namesake implies, a particularly strong Ale like beer. This has become a sort of go to catch all category for craft brews that are high in ABV. It basically gives brewers a big blank template to essentially go crazy, many of the beers sometimes are stored in oak barrels, or they have specific ingredients that you wouldn't normally find.

For todays imbibing joy I brought out three heavweights to compare. The beers imbibed on were from Stone Brewery in San Diego Double Bastard, Great Lakes Nosferatu, and Lagunitas Brown Shugga, a strong ale with a large amount of brown sugar added. The results were some very good imbibing joy.

Cheers!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Slamming and chasing beer, and trying to understand the sheep mentality.

I was looking for some beer of late to imbibe on and spending some time on BeerAdvocate.com as I usually do, just to get ideas of what was going on in the halls of beerdom (my reviews are under the username "smakawhat" in case you are curious). One day there was a thread titled Hopslam in DC in the Atlantic forum. I was confused by this, was this about getting beer and throwing/slamming them into townhouses in upper NW? or was this something else entirely? Well reading more it was obvious someone was wondering about the availability of a beer called HopSlam from Bell's brewery a seasonal release from Comstock Michigan and when/where to get it in DC.

HopSlam is an American Double Imperial Pale Ale or what many people refer to as DIPAs, big on hops and usually big on abv. Many people who are a fan of this style are refered to as "hopheads". Soon reading a couple messages it became obvious that this beer has a bit of a "cult" following, and people were posting messages about where is this? When is it coming? And then shortly afterwords with our hero checking and finding it quite often in the DC area, discovering the ridiculous price for this six pack of beer averaging about $23 dollars (our hero paid $25).

Well I am always up for trying something that people are raving about, but as a working man and having a cellar growing with beer that is hard to contain, forking over that much money for another 6 beers makes me start to wonder about my sanity.

It also poses a dilemma for me. When is a beer too much money? For some people this is an easy question, they might live in an area of low choice and availability, but with a lower standard of living and smaller prices (unlike DC). I had to pinch myself when I drove out this weekend to rural VA, pulled up some craft beer on tap (that was very good by the way) and only paying $4 bucks for it.

The thing about beer, is that ever since the craft movement began and took off, we've now got beers that are jumping up in price because of demand. When I picked up the hopslam beer I actually didn't see it on the shelves where I normally go. I asked someone who worked there if they had it, to which they replied "Oh yeah of course we got some in yesterday, we only allow one pack per customer, you just have to ask for it." The young woman who normally works in the wine section then went behind a door, and I felt like I was doing an illegal clandestine transaction... jesus I am just buying beer.

The young woman came back with a pack, and I remarked about the oddness about this. There was though a reason for this behavior. She told me, "people who come here know the beer and will ask for it, then we will go get it for them but limit the amount." Then she remarked one thing to me which sort of made wonder about the feelings about the human race. She then said that if they put all of the packs out someone will come in and buy ALL OF IT.

I don't know about you, but I love drink, and beer, but I particularly look at beer, even craft beer, as a great emancipator of the human condition. Everyone drinks beer (or at least I think they should drink good beer), and it belongs to everyone. It levels the playing field, you get together with people shell out a few small bucks and have camaraderie and anyone can join. It's communal, to some degree blue collar and should be good but also free of thoughts about superiority. When you jack up the price suddenly it makes me think you have to belong to some elitist super club such as trying to buy 97+ point rated wines...

So I had a lot of mixed emotions about taking this green pack home with me, and also forking over alot of money for another DIPA from Three Floyds Brewery in Munster Indiana for comparison. I've heard a lot about Three Floyds, and I actually almost like them just for their intricate bottle art alone. So once again I forked the wallet over and bought some Dreadnaught to taste along side Hopslam.

The results of how this went are all below: Cheers!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Big Beer is Big fun, and full of imbibing win.

Several years ago when I arrived in DC I would often be in one of my favorite beer stores to pick up goodies during the December holidays. When one goes to the liquor store during these times, you find the usual things, lots of champagne (or some other sparkling wine), gift packs, glassware, but one time amongst all the celebratory stuff I saw in the beer section very large bottles. "Hey they stuck a bottle of champagne in the beer section by mistake what are they doing?" I though to myself. Then I looked closer and saw that this wasn't a mistake... these big bottles had familiar labels and were full of beer!

For many years I put off buying these items, always telling myself.. yeah I am gonna have to get one of these. Years would pass (and I mean MANY!), I would see the bottles in the stores and talk myself out of them every time. Finally I had to break down and do this and find an excuse to buy one of these (cause it would be hard to justify drinking this all to myself), and called up some friends and invited them over for a poker night.

The stage was set, and with much imbibing joy, we cracked this sucker open. This is a jeroboam sized bottle of Augustijn Blonde Ale a style of Belgian Pale Ale. I purchased it in late December, kept it in my cold basement garage and cracked it open about 4 weeks later. Storing these things is an issue because you want to serve and keep this at a good temperature. I have some tips if you are thinking about having one of these large bottles:

1) Make sure you have a big enough place that is perfect for cold/cool storage

The beer recommends 8°C (That's 46.4°F for us Americans) and that "seemed" to be what my unheated basement in DC would do on a typical winter day. This is also why I drink a lot of beer during this time, because I have plenty of room down there, it's dark, and it stays perfectly cool. However, this does not work for long term cellaring of bottles, because a typical temperature in July in my basement is about 120°F!! I did get concerned at one point cause we had some very odd days in December where the temperatures outside even got into the high 50s! but it stored and kept well. Luckily temperature changes didn't vary much, which always has me concerned cause I am convinced that really ruins beer fast (especially Belgian style made beers). Make sure you have enough room.

2) Put it in that dark cool place and DON'T MOVE IT AROUND, LEAVE IT until you are ready to serve it.

3) Opening

Get help... no what I mean is you can do this yourself but have someone ELSE around to probably hold your glassware. Two hands with everything always so another body is always good. Besides you're sharing this! Have kitchen towels ready, and a place to set the bottle DOWN. Now as for opening, as I've mentioned with corks... ideally TWIST THE BOTTLE while holding the cork to loosen it. Once you've done that then slowly with your thumbs go around the edges gently pushing the cork. DO NOT PUSH HARD OR YOU WILL BREAK THE CORK. Eventually the cork will start to give, the best feeling is when you feel the cork move on its own that way you can have time to be ready when it pops.

4) Aim

Seriously this is a no brainer.. but AIM away FROM YOURSELF. Have an idea of where the cork is going to go before you even begin opening, a big open ceiling is good. Don't aim in a room with lots of windows, lights etc... and of course DON'T AIM FOR YOUR FACE looking at the cork to see what is going on.

5) On pop

Once the bottle opens PUT IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY because it should gush and you will get your hands wet. If you hold it while it is gushing you will get your hands wet and there's a VERY good chance you will DROP IT which means... spilling it, or worse... breaking it.

And finally my most important tip for this..

6) HAVE FUN!! Share this with someone who appreciates good drink.

That's about it... to see how this drink and review went, check out the video below.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An evening in Roma, one drink at a time thanks to the Museum of the American Cocktail

One of the great things about living in DC is that there is always a good excuse to go out imbibing. One of the perfect ways to do it, is to sign up for seminars with the Museum of the American Cocktail. The museum (MOAC), recently offered a very tantalizing opportunity I could not ignore, an introduction to Italian digestif and aperitif liqueurs/bitters and such and the cocktails you could use with them. Here anyone could come and understand the simple basics of all those odd sounding bottles that you see in the liquor store with weird names you probably have a hard time pronouncing. You could try their contents in the seminar (in a cocktail) without feeling embarrassed to buy a bottle that has the word "Aperol" on it, thinking that you're suppose to scrub your floors with it instead. (disclaimer don't buy it for that, drink it... trust me....)

The reality is these somewhat interesting sounding bottles have really great applications in some real simple drinks that anyone can make, and the seminar with the help of Gina Chersevani from PS7 you got to learn some basics and also how to make limoncello. (did I just quote wikipedia? for shame on me...)

Drinking digestifs, aperitifs and slugging down bottles of Vermouth seems to be a way of life in Italy. Much of that I read from Jason Wilson's book Boozehound as he pounced around the Italian countryside downing digestifs and bemoaning the lack of appreciation for these drinks in America. Cocktails in Italy are really not from the same mindset as they are in America, you just drink bitters and vermouth with a little bit of perhaps soda water and fruit, as common as grabbing a can of cola in the US. However, in America some of these ideas of drinking these spirits have crossed over here and been around for some time. Some things in life always translate well.

The evening first started off with a simple Bellini cocktail, but with a specific white peach puree from the Perfect Puree of Napa valley. Served in a champagne flute, it really did give a refreshing peach rind scent, and a feel of actually tasting peach fuzz. A Bellini is of course made with Prosecco, a type of Italian sparkling white wine. Next we moved to a very familiar cocktail which contains probably one of the easiest types of ingredients you could find and that is Campari, a glowing red/orange colored aperitivo.

Pictured on the left is a cocktail called the Americano (Campari, Vermouth, Soda water, lemon twist or orange wedge garnish). So far everything was familiar, and I was glancing around the room to see if anyone was going to notice the bitterness and perhaps wince a bit if they were not familiar with this drink. Campari is not really a strong alcohol drink it's ABV is only 25% (50 Proof), but just by itself it is quite bittersweet. In fact that was a familiar refrain from our host who was remarking that for some people (not all) that some of the things we would be tasting tonight you may not care for.

I'm actually a fan of these drinks but mostly in certain circumstances. I do associate them mostly with summer, and they are kind of lighter, but they are also really what their name sake implies.. they are drinks you have BEFORE or with a meal. A real great simple example is the grown up bolder brother of the Americano, a drink that has many variations called the Negroni. Equal parts gin, sweet red Italian vermouth, and Campari, it's a great palate cleanser and provides a good kick. Throw in some lemon peel/twist and you are good to go!

The Negroni is also a foundation for other cocktails mostly through the substitution of Campari. Take out the Campari... use green Chartreuse... and you have a Bijou a personal favorite of mine. Take out the Gin...keep the Campari... use a bourbon, and you have a drink I've never heard of called a Boulevardier. Bourbon? Did someone say bourbon! I have never actually heard of this drink and I currently have enough bourbon at home to make Kentucky embarrassed (or extremely proud). I think I am going to be making many Boulevardiers in the coming weeks... heck I am making one right now...

As my mind raced about which bourbon I should use first to go with this cocktail my concentration was broken as we were introduced to a guest bartender, Gina Chersevani. Dang it I am trying to think if Old Weller Antique or a more rye dominated bourbon would go with Campari! THIS IS IMPORTANT!! when suddenly a drink in a small plastic cup was placed in front of me which when that always happens, my mind suddenly calms down ... shuts up... and I say... oh hello lovely what do we have here?

It was quite obvious from it's large yellow color that this was none other than Limoncello a lemon style easy drinking liqueur. Limoncello is a real simple drink that is light, aromatic, and when made correctly, what I describe as lemon sunshine. This one was great. Upon tasting this I was asking myself how long has my bottle of Pallini in my freezer been sitting neglected and surrounded by frozen vegetables?

This however was not store purchased limoncello, this I soon discovered was homemade, and before I could think any faster a big giant tub was placed on our table which looked like a yellow aquarium, filled with yellow liquid and what appeared to be many dead Swedish yellow fish.

What it of course really was, as Gina explained, was the contents of how the limoncello was created. We were presented a recipe on how to make this ourselves, which in this form was lemon peel, steeped in vodka, and sometimes sweetened later with honey. It's a little more involved and not as simple as just that, but Gina with Italian flair and giant bravado took us through the steps of how to create this enjoyable drink. I was jealous of her lemon peeling skills, and I realized she was using more of a potato/vegetable type peeler and then telling us how to pull the fruit and not the peeler so you wouldn't get any pith. Pith... I hate that stuff and it is my cocktail nemesis. I always seem to get it and I realized that even just going to these seminars I always get some little 30 second tip from a presentation that makes my imbibing skills better. I was ready to pull out my potato peeler as soon as I got home and chuck my crappy channel knife into the garbage.

Gina is a blast to watch and listen to. She has that incredible Italian housewarming inviting charm, and gets excited about talking about cocktails. It's a romantic combination when you meet someone who is enthusiastic about creating drinks. Gina really does feel like the old high school classmate from way back that everybody knows and is friends with. She returns the favor without a big ego and with much affection.

Still Gina wasn't done. Our next cocktail was an Aperol Spritz or as Gina embellished vocally saying with perfect accent "Spu-ri-tza!" Suddenly I wasn't in DC anymore I felt like I was being transported to an Italian cafe somewhere. This was presented with a fresh bay leaf and rosemary (I still have lots of this around), and one of my all time favorite things in life..kumquats. Kumquats are a fruit that you eat WHOLE. A bowl of these was passed around which many curious on lookers didn't seem to know what to do with. You have to bravely just eat the thing SKIN and all because the skin is sweet, the fruit is really BITTER. It makes perfect sense to have these in a cocktail like this. I will admit though I could not get a taste for the Aperol in this drink but it's a great refresher! Aperol is as its makers claim, the #1 selling spirit in the country.

Gina still wasn't done. She came up with one of her own crafted drinks and we of course, were tortured drinking all this wonderful goodness. It was to showcase another spirit called Averna Amaro in a cocktail she called Latte di Cioccola ta di Basil. Upon pour my first reaction was it's almost like an Imperial Stout! Hooray Beer! Ok no not really, lets say milkshake for adults.

Composed of Averna, chocolate ice cream, whole milk, and basil ground up in a blender, its nose was strangely of malted ovaltine, subtle chocolate, and nice whiffs of fresh basil. This was a nice way to end the evening and probably the biggest hit of the night. I will admit though like the spritz, I couldn't get a sense of the base liqueur. However, luckily a bottle Averna was being passed around and Gina suggested for people to take a whiff (not a drink) of it.

Upon receiving the bottle and just glancing a nose off the cap which is usually not enough to really get a feel for it, it seemed like a mixture of molasses and chocolate. Very odd. However it was very tempting not to just grab the bottle and chug before passing it on to the next person which I am sure people would flip out if they saw me do it.

So once again, drinks in hand it was another evening of imbibing success. Heading out afterwords for dinner and drinks, I could only think of one thing after leaving the event unable to take the drink on my table home. Sometimes life is just bittersweet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BIG American Double Imperial Stout goes to the test... with a Dane coming to the top!

In the grand scheme of things, when it was time to have a good old Russian Imperial Stout... I know I could sit back and relax, enjoy some good simple ABV and enjoy the malty and sometimes big goodness. Then I realized stouts could also be big in ABV beyond my comprehension.

Enter two big giants ready to do battle on the American Double Imperial Stout beer war. Here we have Mikkeller Black (17.5 ABV), in it's standard form (don't get me into all those wax capped bourbon aged barrel variations of I could only dream about tasting..), against... an evil looking incarnation... a very silverly looking devil of it's own from Avery brewery... Mephistophele's Stout (ABV 16.8).

I tasted and compared both of these. This was great for a nice winter day as snow has been falling of late. Strangely enough, I actually prefer these high ABV concoctions to other big carbonated beers with lower ABV. Sometimes sipping these is like imbibing a great wine. One was truly great indeed! Can you guess which one?

Only way you can find out is watching below! (or try them both yourself!)

Cheers!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Calvados and the joy of apples in cocktails.

Apples. One of those sort of fruits I take for granted. Not the biggest fan, they're just sort of ... there.. ubiquitous... everywhere.. can sort of just grab one anytime but... why for?

However, what if you could take apples and make something good... I mean REALLY good with them?

When I first had Tom's Foolery Applejack it was very exciting. Then I needed to compare it to a classic drink from France called Calvados, which is apple brandy made in Normandy. This particular producer I have here is Coeur de Lion from Christian Drouin and their Sélection grade. Now there were going to be obvious differences (one is more like whiskey the other is a brandy) but this is what tasting is all about!

Calvados has several grades of quality. This sélection grade is the lowest, and it is highly recommended for cocktails but is still a great drink on its own! From there the grades go from Fine, Reserve, VSOP, Hors d'Age, and then get into vintage year productions just like wines. Also... the prices of these really start climbing on top of it too!

To make things even more fun, I threw in some Eau de Vie de Pomme from Clear Creek distillery, aged 8 years in Limousin casks. Throw in how to make a Calvados cocktail, and you have a recipe for some great win. Watch the video below to learn and see more imbibing goodness!

Cheers!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Belgian Tripel revisited...

Enter Belgian Tripel (triple) land... or as I call it.. a road that needed to be driven once again.

Sometime ago I had a tripel (triple) from Belgium and I remember really enjoying it.

So it seemed like pairing to Belgian products side by side would do the trick.

Enter a yeast, big, somewhat odd, wicked wonderland, where one producer seemed to do better than the other.

Which one was it? Well you'll just have to try them yourself. My thoughts are in the video below.

Pop goes the cork and...

Cheers!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Smoke on the beer water! German rauchbier rocks my world!

If you could bottle bacon in a jar would you buy it? I mean people all joke about how bacon is gods gift to creation, there is nothing more perfect than bacon right? Forget about Jones Bacon soda for a minute and lets get back on track.

What if you could make a smoke flavored beer, so perfect for grilled meats and sausage, bbq and what not, keep the abv low so you could slam it back but enjoy its big full body with or without a slab of babyback pork BBQ ribs... would this be possible? My friends... it is... and it is called Rauchbier or "smoke" beer (from the German word rauch meaning smoke).

The flagship producer and maker of this beer is a place that has been beechwood smoking this beer for centuries, Aecht Schlenkerla in Bamberg Germany.

This type of beer surprised me in ways I couldn't even imagine. Yes I knew it was a smoke beer but I had my doubts and many of them and the myths that come with it were shredded to pieces after tasting this fine beverage.

Watch the video below to find out... and make sure you grab a real Stein or an authentic glass and have a smoke beer (Rauchbier) for yourself too someday!

CHEERS!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

BOCK MADNESS!! or how I got my German style lager fix!

Sometime ago, I went and had a very evil looking beer that was decorated with what I can only describe as if Santa had been possessed by the devil. It was Tröegenator and it was referred to as a "Double Bock" beer made by Tröegs brewery in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. This had me intrigued back in the day and I realized there is a style of beer called a Doppelbock.

Doppelbock really originated in Germany as a style of German Lager. Big in malts and ABV.

So I came across a German Munich brewed one as well named "Maximator" from Augustiner Brau in Munich and with two beers that sounded like they belonged in an Arnold Schwarzeneger action film... it was time to put them to the test!

But the Bock action didn't stop there! I picked up two other German style lagers which were very similar to their Doppelbock counterparts but they were actually Weizenbocks.

I grabbed two bottles of Aventinus, one that was their standard everyday fare... and the other which was bottled in 2007 and aged 3 years.

I thought this was a good comparison and a great way to appreciate this style and it sure was.

Details on how this bock fest beer drinking magnitude turned out are below. Watch the videos to find out more.

Cheers!

DOPPELBOCK BATTLE WHO IS THE BIGGEST "----ATOR"



Weizenbock joy of tasting Aventinus!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

No fooling around! Tom's Foolery applejack is on the block

Back in the day, applejack was what American whiskey was. Way before moonshine, bourbon, all that stuff.. there was applejack. As we moved away from colonial days, and into modern time, this spirit has still for the past 50 years been very much under the radar, but lately it has been sort of coming back. For decades there has always been one name synonymous with applejack and that was Laird's. Laird's boasts itself as America's Oldest Family Run Distillery.

At one point there were actually several producers of applejack, but as time went on Laird's bought them out, leaving themselves to be the only producer of this product. In most circles this would seam like a lecherous act bent on mass producing a product while giving up quality control. If anything it seems the opposite happened, specifically two things. 1) The company wanted to maintain it's love for this product as the premier producer 2) By consolidating the other applejack producers they essentially saved this spirit from extinction. So when you think of applejack you would think of Laird's... until now.

Spending some time with other whiskey fans and spirit connoisseurs, I heard of a very small family run distillery that was run by a husband and wife team. The name was Tom's Foolery and they are out of Ohio. Once again, the pioneering small craft distillery is making things happen. They have made applejack and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of this stuff. There are currently only 240 bottles of this made, because this is a VERY small producer. Their website is also filled with lots of historical information and techniques on how this product was made so check it out.

I do wonder though how long it was aged, my wild guess is that it wasn't aged very long, probably about 2 years max and that I think is a stretch (who knows)? I've asked the owners about this and hope they will respond soon. Regardless, for applejack this is a great time to celebrate, and this is also a great product. I tasted them both in comparison side by side, and to have even more fun I tried them both in a simple cocktail... the one that makes applejack a win, and that is a Jack Rose.

Please Note that some consider this NOT a fair comparison. It should be noted that the Laird's used in the comparison is blended applejack. It contains GNS (Grain Neutral Spirits). The Tom's is 100% applejack. Laird's does make a 100% applejack product but it's not as widely distributed as the blend. 65% of this Laird's product is GNS.

Check out the review, tasting, and Jack Rose cocktail below. CHEERS!