(Long stories are called that for a reason, so grab a drink and sit for a while)
So The Mr is in Minnesota this week and Memphis the next. More miles and even more bars and brews. Some less memorable, some more so, and then every now and then you hit the beer jackpot!
Last October found this traveling techie in Louisville, KY, for a trade show. On the last day, I went hunting for a beer unavailable in Charlotte — the Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA. The Mrs had this lovely libation on tap in Virginia, where the drink regulations are less draconian (the 120 is often between 18 and 24%) and she came home singing its praises.
Armed with my trusty iPhone, I dialed numbers blindly from the Dogfish Head website while tearing down our booth. And what luck, someone had my beer just a few miles away! Since I was driving back home, a little detour wouldn’t hurt anyone. I’d be in and out in minutes, then on the road for a long drive home.
I had some trouble locating Sergio’s World of Beer, which is ironic for a world of beer, but after I followed the GPS directions, there was only one bar and a shop next door with Brazilian soccer flags in the window and a general unwelcoming appearance.
I walk into the bar, finding Pabst on tapÂ — not “hipster” Pabst but rather the sturdy array of American adjunct lagers familiar to a rugged crew of working men. I ask if they have Dogfish Head, and you could almost hear the needle scratch. The kindly barmaid suggested that I inquire next door.
I walk to the front and see no opening.
I walk to the back and see this:
Well, daylight’s wasting, and a wise man once said that “no mother’s son or daughter ever got anywhere by being timid” … So the Mr went a knocking.
A busy stockman opened the door and welcomed me in. I asked for the 120, as I’ve got an 8 hour drive ahead and the sun is starting to sag in the afternoon sky. Instead, he beckons me to a beer cave of mythic proportion — and the non-chilled stock area is even larger.
Behold, this is no mere stockboy, but Sergio himself, and Sergio’s is no mere distributer but instead, he has over 1400 different beers for sale! (Yes, two zeros after the fourteen)
He tempts me with rare and collectible bottles, but I cling to my four pack of the 120, both for security and because if I let go, I’ll be able to reach my wallet and spend the mortgage payment.
Resolute as I am, he beckons to the front bar. “Do you like sour beers?”
Well, I’m just getting into them … I’ve tried the Rodenbach …
“Well then, you can’t leave without trying this — I have the only keg on this side of the world.” Hook, line, and sinker … How can a beer guy resist?
He directs me to an empty seat next to a older gentleman, the sort of distinguished regular that elevates discussion even if only by the asking. He’s brought beer magazines and printouts, and he’s presiding over a trio of bottles each new and foreign to this beer guy.
The beer bard fills me in on the Sergio backstory, as well as pointing out where the establishment has been listed in The Great American Ale Trail.
We talk for almost an hour, and my sour becomes more complex as it warms. I think now that I could unroll my sleeping bag in the corner … and have my mail forwarded … Except that I have to drive 8 hours home, oh yeah, I should stop drinking before I lose the will to leave 🙂
So with a audible sigh, I push away from the bar, and drag my mixed six out to the rental and point its nose home.
When I got home (the next day), the Mrs and I popped a 120 and slowly savored each sip. The rest went I to my “cellar”, as I call the area under the guest bed. We pulled out another two brews for celebrating New Years.
And recently, after returning from Mississippi, land of past and future, where my father was in and out of the ICU, having scared me more than a little, it seemed fitting to pour a pint in his honor. (He is recovering nicely, gentle reader, and in time will be back to raising a glass of his own) Some rites of passage are distinct points in time and some are progressions along a spectrum. When you find yourself reaching out to help a parent, instead of reaching out for help yourself … Well, after a long drive home with plenty of time to reflect, it was time to raid the cellar.
The Mrs and I chose a Dogfishhead Burton Baton and a World Wide Stout.
Were they luscious beers, where each sip makes you want to curl up in the glass? … Yes. Did I wish that I had bought out Sergio’s stock? Of course!
Many travel brews are forgettable, like a few local IPA’s that I’ve tried tonight. But some watering holes turn into wells worth returning to, and every now and then, you bring something home worth sharing.
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Tonight the Mr is “Mr. Kitchen Disaster” … “Taco the Terrible” … “Slaughterer of Poor Tortilla Chips” …
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. I was supposed to make second portions of a lovely, healthy dinner that The Mrs had made already, two nights in a row. She had helpfully left the recipe out on the counter, for a baked beef taquitos — one of those where everything that one usually would eat is substituted with something more healthy.
And so I thought, as I was assigned to go get more (lean) ground beef during the day, that I could surprise her when she came home from her after-work exercise class with: a hot meal, a cold beer, and the realization that she was done. A helpful surprise, if you will.
So, I started a half-hour early, pored over the recipe, and decided that — yes, I can do this! Continue reading
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And before you go trying to get me into trouble … I was referring to a beer!
Big bottle, big color, big taste.
Weyerbacher describes this as:
“a Belgian inspired Imperial Stout weighing in at 11.8%.
You’ll find big chocolate and roasted notes, balanced with the Belgian flavors from the Abbey yeast strain.”
I found that this was quite a hit.
We bought a bottle, as we found the small sample couldn’t satisfy.
WineGirl couldn’t wait for me to start with my notebook, but I was able to collect a few of her thoughts:
“I don’t know if it goes with the pesto, but damn that’s good!”
“Probably one of the best beers I’ve ever had”
That’s high praise from a practiced drinker (not the pesto part, silly), and I was eager to dig in.
And now for the requisite review:
Serving: 22oz bottle and tulip-shaped glass
Appearance: Black like cola with a mocha-colored head
Smell: Cocoa, smoke
Taste: Cocoa, Cola (not coca-cola), and molasses; alcohol bite on the finish.
Mouthfeel: Velvety. Full but not chewy. The carbonation is just right.
We both really liked this beer, in spite of the pesto, and the taste coupled with the professional recommendation earn this our highest rating.
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As Wine Girl told you previously, we attended the 2011 annual Ole Miss Alumni Crawfish Boil earlier this month. A few work trips delayed this write-up from the beverage point of view.
I’ll spare you the pronunciation for “crawfish boil” — after all, you are reading this to yourself, so call it a â€œboilâ€ (bo-ee-ul) if it pleases your Yankee heart. It does mine, if only to annoy the Wine Girl. (Shhh … don’t tell!)
At last year’s boil, we took Blue Moon for washing down the mudbugs. Not a good plan! With all respect due to the best beer from Coors, it simply can’t cut the spicy bite.
So this year, I was on the prowl for a beer worthy of the bayou. At the Healthy Home Market, which has a beer section to rival the tofu selection, I bumped into an old friend — Dixie’s Blackened Voodoo!
Blackened Voodoo is one of my first beers to buy legally. Back in the day, ol’ Mississippi boys could buy at 18 years old in neighboring Louisiana. The exotic name and sinister label called me forth into the swamp of beer drinking adulthood … or something like that!
But for the crawfish boil, I was simply needing a good pairing for spicy dishes, and the Voodoo was a slam dunk. (I also picked up a six of Dogfish Head. but that’s a different tale). I poured one tonight, so that you could take a look:
Blackened Voodoo is a Schwarzbier, or “black beer” (German dark lager), from the Dixie Brewing Company. The brewery started in 1907 in New Orleans, but couldn’t survive Katrina, the flooding, and the looting. It’s now brewed under contract by Joseph Huber Brewing in Monroe, WI.
But it still tastes Cajun 🙂
When I poured the bottle, it yielded a dark coppery color (like a well circulated penny) and a thick head that dissipated quickly. I smelled straw and brown sugar, with hints of coffee.
My first sip was full of malt and toffee, and a little too sweet on the finish. It was crisp with a pleasant fullness, though not quite full or creamy, resulting in a smooth finish.
Something’s different tonight … I think it’s because I don’t have crawfish!
I find it to be a bit too sweet for drinking alone, but if you’re looking for good beer to complement a spicy dish, I recommend the Blackened Voodoo.
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A few weeks back, WineGirl arrived home with six-pack of a new beer — Leffe Blonde.
It’s a pale ale brewed at the Belgian Abbey of Leffe, and it’s a tasty surprise. I don’t know whether to say “Leff” or “LeffÃ©” (and while I could call it “Kent”, that would only be funny to a few)
The abbey was established in 1152, and the Premonstratensians bought a local brewery in 1240. It prospered until the mid 15th century, when a combination of plague, floods, and finally invasion by Charles the Bold brought it to its knees. The brewery recovered, though finally suppressed by French Republicans in 1796 and ceased production in 1809. The beer that we drink today is from a cooperation between the abbey and a local brewery, started in 1952.
Leffe Blonde is clear and golden in appearance, with a lacy head. (I used a wine glass, as I’m still investing in proper Belgian barware). It smelled yeasty with hints of honey and banana. The first sip was sharp, moderately carbonated, with a pleasant bite on the front of my tongue. I let it warm a bit, and I got more of the sweet honey taste, with a dry finish.
WineGirl and I will definitely buy this again.
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What’s your favorite beer?
A friend asked me that last night, and though her question was earnest, I had trouble answering.
I settled on Delirium Tremens, which has indeed been a recent fave, since our recent visit to TAP. DT has edged out Chimay in my Belgian book.
When she said her favorite was Negro Modelo, I was torn. I really like that one too, and I’m especially glad to see it on draft. I declared that it, too, was my favorite, though from a different style. Ooh, and I’m drinking a lot of Fat Tire nowadays. And the Chub! I’ve had a recent hankering for Old Chub Scotch Ale.
Pop! One Heineken opens and then another. My friend asks another drinker “what does that taste like?” The answer – “Like Heineken!”
And then the inevitable question of whether it’s skunked or merely another different flavor. I weakly regurgitate what I’ve read about bottle color and UV light and “some mysterious compound” similar to what skunks will emit.
That started me thinking about other styles and other beer mysteries. Why won’t my father drink beer with more flavor than MGD? Is it really the water that makes Olympia special (or was it the time with my Dad and uncle?) Are my brothers-in-law being ironic when they castigate my “lager” while sipping on Bud and Miller?
Hmm. What’s a beer guy to do?
My nom de plume may imply a certain expertise with beer — I’ll go far enough to say I’m an experienced drinker — but for the skunky question, I’ll defer to the AlstrÃ¶m Bro’s over at Beer Advocate. And then I’ll look up how to pronounce isohumulones.
We’re going back to basics here for a series of posts, looking at the brewing and ingredients in beer, the different styles of brew, and then how to review beer “properly”.
So, find yourself a designated driver and come along for the ride!
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So, as WineGirl mentioned, we were in Atlanta last weekend, where she did a Very Good Thing. Of course, her exertions left her famished, so thanks to OpenTable, we found a delightful restaurant — literally right around the corner.
And when I tell you that the name of the place is TAP, the following should come as no surprise. The beer menu was longer than the food menu. Draft beer, bottled beer, and Reserve Beer (Oh My!)
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We awoke on Saturday, refreshed after good sleep and even better company, as we were hosted by old friends (and 2 new ones) in Colchester, CT. Happily the day started with home-made muffins and not with hundreds of miles of driving.
This morning, in fact, I didn’t even have to drive. Our host hitched up the wagons and steered us to scenic South Glastonbury, to the site of Dondero Orchards — your neighborhood hot-spot for apples, pumpkins, mums, and apple fritters!
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