A blog that explores the seemingly endless beer options available, and occasionally brings up your Mom.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Buy a Pint and Drink it too

     Hey guys, guess what?
I have recently returned from a vacation. That's right, a boozin' crusin' end of the month celebration of beer in three different cities. What did I learn from this escapade from brewery to ale house to brewpub? Simply -- that I have so much yet to learn and explore! Every time I travel I find new things to love about the world, and beer. Like how wonderful it is to eat fresh basil on a flat bread pizza while drinking a Pale Ale in the middle of Park Slope, and how the nicest place to have a pint in Philadelphia isn't with a couple a Monks, but rather down a narrow street, through a door and up a staircase (Thanks for the details, Megh!). When it comes to traveling and nailing down the perfect location to throw one back, depend on the locales. Google is strictly for semi-accurate directions, not planning. Find a friend, a stranger, or if you have something in-between that, ask them. I just think it's important to discuss and find a place thats fitting to you, not some hyped up location. But that's my personal opinion, others like shouting over people in a crowded room (not my thing). As my favorite beer locations grow, so will yours, as I will share a bit of my traveling experience with you now, and more so in the future. So if you're cruising the North East, this is where you have you go:

     Nodding Head Brewing Co. (Philadelphia PA.) When I went into Philadelphia I went with an open slate, no plans of where to go (just beer related, please). I have always heard about the Monk's Cafe, which is a world renowned Belgian Beer Bar, yet for some reason I had no pull to go there. I wanted something off the beaten path (/sticky floor).  A while back I read about this "little brewery in the heart of Philadelphia" called NoddingHead Brewery. I have never heard of any of their beers, let alone their existence really, so I figured every sip I had would be something new to me, so this was the place to check out. I asked my Phili pal Meghan (of whom I met for a pint at The Time, another GREAT location, few hookers, lots of beer), if she has ever heard of the Nodding Head. Not only has she heard of it, but it was literally on the other side of the street, one block down. So off I was to brewery number 4 (the first 3 are another story!) on the trip, and a location I knew nothing about. As I was walking I realized that I must have passed the place, so I turned around, walked. Wait no, maybe I didn't pass it, oh wait, here is a sign, "Nodding Head Brewery". Under the sign is a door. Through that door is nothing but a steep staircase, darkly lit. I look at my beau Colin for assurance and say "Hmmm, best place yet?" We agreed and trotted right up. And the best place? It sure was. Up those stairs is one of the most beautiful bars I have ever seen. Dim lighting, woodwork everywhere, old fashion Philadelphia memorabilia lining hand made shelves, over a dozen velvet booths with no tables, purely for laying around and talking. And two small high-top tables for two in the front bay windows, that's my seat.  
     What to try: Right off the bat, it's imperative to know that these people make their own Berliner-Weisse, deemed "Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse" (!!!!). This low alcohol sour wheat ale is not a typical beer to see on a brew pub draft list for a couple of reasons, one being that it is not the easiest beer in the world to brew. The "sour" is derived from infecting the beer with bacteria. Traditionally, a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle by burying or storing the bottle in a warm place. But since this brew is on draft they must have taken a different step. What Nodding Head likely did was add Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is a bacteria, a member of the lactic acid family of bacteria which give sour ales their tart flavor. Often a Berliner-Weisse will be served with a sweet flavored syrup, like raspberry, to balance out the sourness. Nodding Head had the option of blending the Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse with Woodruff syrup (a licorice like flavor). A must go location at night!
      Double Windsor (Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY) -  If you are ever in the-big-city, walking along the water in Prospect Park, proceed past the condom collections and head west to Prospect Ave West and stop at the Double Windsor. A wonderful craft beer bar that caters to the beer snobs with a hunger for comfort food. Pair one of their hard to find beers with their famous Cheeseburger, Pulled Pork or one of their Vegetarian options. Don't ask for a menu, it's a black board (don't make the waitress a pointer, you know?.) The restaurant looks like an open aired tavern, with wooden tables and benches for dining, and long high tops for people watching along the wide open windows. This place frequently invites breweries from across the country for sampling events and have a regular Triva Night to test the knowledge of their beer lovers. Out of all the places I could go to in Brooklyn, I find myself coming back to this place time and again.
      What to try -
When I was there, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (11.2% ABV!). I have been waiting to have this baby on tap for some while now. I am doing my best to get into Bourbon Aged ales, and this was a big help! A thick black color with an alluring aroma of chocolatey bourbon with a hint of coffee roast. The taste lives up to the aroma 100%, a slow sipper for sure. While they may not have the KBS on tap when you enter this saloon, you will be happy to see the vast selection of craft beers that are constantly rotating. To see what is on tap right now, check it out here -> http://www.beermenus.com/the-double-windsor.

     The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA.) - This location is the inspiration to the blog title "Buy a Pint and Drink it too". The Foodery is a small craft beer store who specializes in selling single bottles of beer , with a selection of over 800 different American and Imported brews. Want a six pack? Well grab an empty pack and make one. If you can picture the depressing Wegmans "Make your own Craft Pack" section, well this is a place that was doing that long before Wegmans realized people like beer. What is unique about this place, something we could never do in my home state of New York, is that once you purchase a single bottle from the store you can sit right down and drink it! Want another? Walk right up to the freezer, pick out a fresh cold one and sit right back down. Outside of their wonderful beer selection they have a unique deli with items my picky hands have never touched before (but wanted to). Most importantly, the staff is knowledgeable about their products (thank god) and if they don't have what you are looking for they will call around the city and help you find it. They have two locations in Philadelphia and have brewery samplings daily (daily!). A great place to stop in before hitting the road back north, because there is few places like this. 
     What to try - I figured while you are at the Foodery you should try a food and beer pairing. A popular deli pick is the Maple Honey Turkey and Cream Cheese Sandwich. The sandwich comes with cucumbers, tomatoes and honey mustard on rye bread. To compliment the flavors of the turkey I would suggest a Bock beer, specifically a Heller Bock (light in color, slight hop flavor, full bodied, usually about 6-8% ABV). It a good choice because it will not over power any of the flavors from your meal, yet it will help cut any spicy flavors, helping you taste everything else that's going on in your sammie. A couple of Bock suggestions would be the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary, Capital Maibock or the Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier Helles. And once again, good staff, they will point you in the right direction if those brews are not present.

If that's not enough reason to hit up two popular cities, I'm not sure what is! Go and drink it my friends. 


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Monday, May 9, 2011

Your next Mothers Day gift will be better.

      Did you buy your Mom a card yesterday? If you did, the founder of Mother's Day would be pissed! Inspired by her Mom's "Mothers' Day Work Clubs" that improved sanitary and health conditions, Anna Jarvis founded Mothers Day in 1914. Upset about it's commercialization in the 1920's Jarvis famously said "A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself!" She spent the rest of her life, and money, protesting what Mothers' Day had become. So next time you should play it safe (and not piss off Anna Jarvis)  by picking out a crafty brew your Mom will love! And since tomorrow is Mothers' Day in El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico you have a second chance! You can pretty much bank on the fact that if it's between the months of March - June, it's Mothers Day somewhere (and shouldn't it be?) This Mothers Day season we should keep in mind one of the most giving Mom's of all,  Mother Earth, and thank her for giving us the water, barley and hops we need to brew up a batch of love to share with our Moms. One brewery that keeps Big Momma in mind is Mother Earth Brewing Company from Kingston, NC. They keep sustainability a priority, from the solar panels on the brewery roof down to their "Hop Project" which produced 25 new hoppy friends for the brewery to maintain. These guys are on a mission to brew up some of the greenest beer in the country. If you can find some, send it to me! As for some beers you can more likely snag for your Mom today, tomorrow and any other day this season, here are some Mother approved brews:

Harpoon Brewery, UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen (5.10% ABV) - The first time I ordered this beer for my Mom she talked about the color the whole time. It pours a luscious pink amber hue, very pretty in a Pilsner glass. The smell and the taste are identical for this one, a very tart raspberry flavor hits you strong in the front. Some earthy, wheat flavors follow through on the back end, helping to balance out the sour fruit. A little burn from the alcohol but blends well with the tart berry and strong carbonation. A delicious beer to pair with a salad or poultry on a summer day (with MOM!)
Lost Coast Brewery, Tangerine Wheat (5 % ABV) - This is your very own Mimosa beer. It's like drinking orange juice in the morning, except your feeling a little more sassy with every sip! It pours a foggy orange color, which could easily be mistaken for pulp since the aroma of oranges is so apparent, but it's the wheat that gives this brew it's earthy presence. A tangy citrus flavor is present but not overwhelming, and is broken up by the sweet wheat malt that makes this brew reminiscent of a Creamsicle, yum! One of the most refreshing beers I have had till now, and any health conscious Mom would love to know her kids are getting a tasty serving of fruit (and were happy too!)  

Haandbryggeriet, Good Force (10% ABV) - Deemed the little sister of the Dark Force (their Double Imperial Wheat Stout), is the Good Force. Not much smaller than her  big brother, the Good Force is an Imperial Wheat Beer flavored with chamomile flowers. If you're looking to impress your Mother in law this summer, or any lady with taste, introduce her to this strong Norwegian wheat. Pouring a beautiful golden color, with a bubbly strong carbonation which amplifies spicy fruit scent of the yeast. That same yeast brings out the flavors of banana and lemon, pairing wonderfully with the sweet wheat and of course, the chamomile flowers. The chamomile offers more to the aroma then to the taste, but is responsible for that spicy kick that balances between the yeast and the sweet malts. A fine dining drink any lady deserves. Find out where you can take Mom to try this one!

     Let's not forget that before the Industrial Revolution, brewing was done in the home, by none other then Mom! Take a moment, the next time you're sipping a crafty brew, to raise your glass to all the Mom's in history that mastered the art of brewing and of whom were the original home-brewers for hundreds of years. 

Cheers to all Moms! They do more than we know. 

Send comments to craftydrinker@gmail.com 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jesus was more of a beer dude.

     Jesus is back in town! This is more than a reason to celebrate. Easter had me thinking, "What kind of beer would Jesus like?" I started thinking of different beers that were "wine like", because of the historical relationship Jesus and Wine hold. Then it hit me, Jesus probably didn't really drink wine, he drank beer! And not only drank beer, but it's more probable that at the wedding in Cana, Jesus turned water into beer, not wine. This is likely for many reasons, but lets first back up a bit and determine what "wine" refers to in the Bible.
     The original Aramaic text talks about "strong drink", and when the Bible was translated centuries after Jesus ascended to heaven, "strong drink" was replaced with "wine". During that time, wine was considered to be an upscale beverage, reserved for the elite, or "holiest" of consumers. And since beer was cheaper to make (lots of barley everywhere!) we can assume that beer was being consumed by peasants, and does not deserve to be the "blood of Christ". So during the translation process, "strong drink" was replaced with "wine", and we can assume it wasn't the peasants doing the translating, rather the Wine-Os! I am not sure if Jesus would be so pretentious though.
     So "wine" really means "strong drink"; established. Another reason as to why Jesus was most likely drinking beer is, well, he lived in the Middle East! Grains were the principle crop of the Middle East. Grapes, not so much. Remember Ninkasi? The original beer recipe was recorded 1800 years before Christ was born, so beer was already prevalent in the Mediterranean region. They not only used beer as a drink, but they found that beer had the ability to soften ivory, making it more pliable, in the use of creating jewelry. So beer was widely used within the craft community in the Middle East, of which Jesus would have been a big part of.
     One of Jesus' first miracles happened at the Wedding in Cana, 20 miles from his home. Mary happened to have been hosting this wedding, and during which, they ran out of "wine" (strong drink). According to the Bible, the wedding ceremony had "six stone water jars...each holding from twenty to thirty gallons". Large jars were often used for ceremonial cleansing, but not at this wedding, since the jars were "empty" and Jesus' disciples did not traditionally wash their hands like a good Jew would (kind of a big deal..) So why would there be six water jugs of that size located at this wedding? Maybe for fermenting beer? These stone jugs were meant to sit in one location for a long period of time, their size and weight imply this. Back in Jesus' day, breweries from Egypt to Mesopotamia created beer by lightly baking dough composed of "ground germinated cereals". These loaves were placed with yeast and water into large vats. Since this would result in a unappealing thick sludge, it was common to "throw water upon the loaves" right before consumption, in order to create a more drinkable "strong drink", or beer. So maybe "John" forgot to mention that fact when Jesus ordered the servants to pour water in the fermenting jars. Just a consideration, it makes Jesus all the more interesting, in my opinion. 
     Miracles aside, the Roman elite would have been the only ones with access to wine. Let's not forget the time period Jesus lived in, and how he protested and fought against the Roman Empire, who eventually killed him. I just don't see Jesus going out of his way to get wine from them, or any other elite member of society that could pose a threat. Jesus knew, it was best to just hang out with your friends and share some bread and beer. With this said, here are some beers I would like to enjoy with Jesus, and even get some heavenly input!

De Struise Brouwers, Pannepot Old Fishermans Ale (10% ABV)
-  Pannepot is a term used to refer to fishing boats from the village of De Panne, located on the coast of Belgium. And as you should know, Jesus was influential among the fishing community. This is a rich dark brown ale brewed with spices. The beer pours thick brown and gives off the strong aroma of dark fruits, cinnamon, ginger and sugar. The taste and aroma blend perfectly, with a complexity and balance that shows off both the brown sugar and the roasted malts. The spices spread over the palate with cinnamon and nutmeg lingering, and finishes with hints of cherry and raisin. A wonderful beer to sip while waiting for the big catch.

Lindemans Geuze Cuvée René - (5% ABV) - This beer style would pair perfectly with seafood, and is a good representation of what some styles of "strong drink" may have tasted like, back in His day. Traditionally, a Gueze is a blend of 2/3 young Lambic and 1/3 old Lambic. The result is a golden, cider-like ale, still popular in Brussels as a happy hour drink. The Gueze Cuvee Rene smells of lemons, oak and sour fruit. Very light in color, with a sharp carbonation. The flavors of lemon and sour apple dry out your palette, while hints of oak balance out with a musky sweetness. An overall very sour finish that cleans up nicely. If you've never had a Geuze before, start here. 

Shmaltz Brewing Co, HeBrew Messiah Bold (5.6% ABV) - An ale named after Christ Himself, I would like to see how he felt about this one! Shmaltz likes Jews apparently, and decided to name their Brown Ale after the most famous Jew of all. Is this beer worthy enough to be named after such a powerful influence? Find out yourself! This brown ales pours dark black, with a small tan head. An expectant rich chocolate malt nose, with hints of fruit in the aroma. I wonder how Jesus would feel about all these smells of fruit, with no fruit used in the brewing process (perhaps it's a miracle!?). Personally, I feel that this Messiah is closer to a Stout, rather than a Brown ale in styles. This beer from Heaven is packed with roasted malts, giving off hints of smoke in the finish, and it's even a bit chewy! A well-made brown ale that is very bitter up front, but smooth and creamy in the mouth feel. A nice session beer that could turn the Last Supper into a ParTaY!

A passage from the Hebrew Bible, "Throw your bread upon the face of the water, because in many days you will acquire it. Give a serving to seven and also eight, because you do not know what evil will be upon the land." (Ecclesiastes 11:1–2) Honestly, how could this not be referring to beer? Perhaps when the Disciples went into hiding, after the death of Jesus, they spent most of their time home brewing? Maybe they were really just a home brew club? Why not right? Okay, maybe I am taking it too far...(not at all).


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