I have been dubbed Timperial Stout for one simple reason: I love my beers deep, dark and mysterious. Lucky for me, the people over at Brouwer’s Cafe have created a night to honor that holy opaque beverage we call stout. I’d be remiss to not mention it and provide my take on how one would work up a game plan for such an event. I’ve posted the list below, that was so thoughtfully provided by the folks over at Seattle Beer Week. In this case, it has proven very helpful that two members of the SBW collective get a paycheck from Brouwer’s. After each selection I have provided some commentary. I’ve tried to be brief, but you know…I love this stuff.
Allagash Black is delicious and unique, but it’s not all that rare so I’d skip it here and get a bottle at the bottleshop if you’ve never tried it.
Avery Black Tot on the other hand…pretty damn rare. This is the third release in Avery’s Barrel-Aged Series and is an imperial oatmeal stout aged in Gosling’s rum barrels. I’m sure this wont be cheap, but I’d bet it’s worth every penny.
Avery Czar is, in my opinion, one of the best regularly available imperial stouts out there, but for this event, “regularly available” = “skip it”.
Avery Meph Addict is Avery Mephistopheles with coffee added. I have never had (or seen for that matter) this one, so rare…yes. The original Meph is a beast of a brew. I recommend you tread lightly with these fellas, they are over 15% abv.
Avery Mephistopheles – See above
Beer Valley Black Madness – I’m either unaware of this beer or this is a mix up on words. Beer Valley makes Black Flag Imperial Stout and Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale, but I’m not so sure about Black Madness. The SBW site lists “Black Madness” again for the Firkin-Firkin event at Elysian, so I could be misinformed, or not informed at all as the case may be.
Big Sky Bottleworks 11 is going to be showing up at special events at Brouwer’s for a few years to come now I’d assume, considering the beer was made and kegged exclusively for them (Bottleworks, Brouwer’s, same difference). Never-the-less, it’s a very intriguing beer with some intense sour and vinous notes. Worth a taste if you missed out on the bottles.
Big Time Old Rip – Bill Jenkins knows how to make a beer folks. If you don’t make it to the U-district with much regularity, you may have never had this one. Go for it, drink local.
Boulevard Nitro Dry Stout – Boulevard out of Kansas City, MO has been doing a lot of experimenting lately. They seem to be really making things happen, and everything that I have had of theirs so far has been quality. They are still fairly new to the Seattle market…I can’t say that I’ve seen a lot a kegs come through. I would never get this because I don’t like dry stouts, but if you are into Guinness, Murphy’s, Beamish, Moylan’s Dragoons, etc, check it out.
Chuckanut Export Foreign Stout – The words “Export Foreign Stout” are not very commonly used, but they basically indicate a “bigger” stout, built for long journeys on boats and such. Considering the many recent accolades being tossed in Chuckanut’s direction, when I see that brewery name on something I want to try it. Seems like a great starter to the evening to me.
Dick’s Woodford BBN Oak Cream Stout – I, sadly, don’t know a lot about this one, but the words “oak” and “cream stout” get me excited. Worth a try, and possibly a bit more manageable in the abv category.
Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout – This one is extremely high on my list of best beers on planet Earth. ‘Nuff said. Oh, except beware of the strength – 18%.
Double Mountain Imperial Chaos is a draft only imperial stout from the impressive folks down in Hood River, OR. I’ve never had this one, but I have continually been impressed by 2x Mountain. I think I’ll be trying this one.
Elysian Dragonstooth Stout – One of the best single stouts in Washington, if not the country. Very underrated in this area, possibly due to its permanent availability and therefore lack of hype. Even still, I wouldn’t get it at an event like this. Get a bottle at Whole Foods and take it home.
Firestone Walker Parabola 10 is my number one on this list. I will scratch and claw to get it. It is a 13% imperial stout that was blended from all sorts of different barrels, vintages, what-have-you. It’s probably least rare this year then ever before in its existence, but still, very rare.
Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin is a fairly traditional oatmeal stout with a really great name. Decent beer by one of the premier breweries in America. I’d look for it on another day.
Full Sail Imperial Stout – Full Sail might be one of the largest breweries in the North West, but they still make really good beer, especially those in the Brewmaster Reserve series. This is not Black Gold, so it’s not barrel aged, but it’s a great beer. Worth getting on any other day, but there are better choices on this list.
Glacier Jack Daniels Impy Stout – Glacier is without a doubt one of Alaska’s finest. Sadly, even though we are the closest neighboring state, we don’t see all that much of their work. If this is in any way even close to matching the quality of their Big Woody Barleywine, this will be amazing. Get it!
Great Divide Espresso Yeti – Yeti, like Avery Czar, is one of the best regularly available imperial stouts out there. The espresso version is not as good in my opinion, but it’s a must try for all coffee junkies.
Green Flash Espresso Stout – I think this might be a keg only one-off brew. Sounds rare. Green Flash makes great beer. I’d go for it!
Hales Machete – This puppy is brewed right down the street from Brouwer’s. I give them a big “f%&@ yeah!” for the name but I think I’ll have to skip this one, only because of better options.
Hitachino Espresso Stout – This is the best espresso stout I have ever had, but you can get it in the bottle pretty easily. Not appropriate for this event.
Laughing Dog Dogfather – This is one of the best beers to come out of Idaho. I will skip it only because I still have a few bottles in the cellar, but it’s worthy of a purchase.
Left Hand Oak Aged Imperial Stout – This one is released annually in the bottle, and can sometimes be found during the “off-season” at local bottle shops. This beer is really freaking good, but get a bottle.
Lost Abbey Serpents Stout is Tomme Arthur’s idea of a Belgian stout. If there is an actual Belgian brewed stout out there that is this rich and delicious, I have yet to find it. Alvinne Podge is about as close as I can think of. If you have never had this beer you need to get it. This is fairly commonly available in bottles so I’d skip it here.
Mad River BBN Export Stout – A quality California brew, but not up to par with some of the competition.
Moylan’s Ryan O’Sullivan – I don’t often think of this beer when I ponder the great impy stouts of America, but I should. It is a high quality brew, but yet again, a bit too common for this event.
Odin Sour Stout – believe it or not, I have yet to taste the nectars produced by Odin. I know, it’s crazy. I don’t know much about the sour stout but I must admit I’m intrigued. This night just might be my first dance with Odin.
Oskar Blues Ten Fiddy – One of the very few, if not only imperial stouts released in a can. That’s pretty damn cool, and it’s delicious to boot. If I was at Brouwer’s on a regular day, I’d get it, but not tonight.
Port Brewing Old Viscosity – This beer is great, but not as good as its older brother. Go with the older.
Port Brewing Older Viscosity – Regular readers will know that I’m mildly obsessed with this beer. It’s chocolate covered pretzels to a T. Get this and be like the stout fella above…meditate for a bit – you will go places. I will most likely only get this one late in the evening, well after my better judgment has evaded me. This is only because I have had it a bunch of times already.
Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper is a good impy stout, but it’s a bit thin for my liking. I’d skip it.
Porterhouse Nitro Oyster Stout – This is a low abv dry Irish stout. Sorry but…not interested.
Porterhouse Nitro Wrasslers 5x stout – Sorry Ireland, your stouts are boring.
Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken – This was recently reviewed glowingly on this site by yours truly. It’s a damn good beer with a damn good story to tell.
Southern Tier Jahva – This is a member of the ST Imperial series, which should read “AMAZING”! Easily one of Beer Blotter’s favorite breweries in the world. Their stouts are impeccable. This one is just slightly less impeccable than the Oat below, so get that one.
Southern Tier Oat – See above.
Stone I.R.S. – This beer is very unique. I have never had an impy stout with such a strong tobacco flavor, which is a good thing in my opinion. Like Ten Fiddy, I’d order this in almost any other situation, but not tonight.
Victory Storm King – You might have heard that this was the first impy stout I ever tasted. I owe it a lot. Luckily for me, it’s one of the country’s best, so I started off on the right foot. I’d get it if I didn’t already have a bunch in the cellar.
Walking Man Black Cherry Stout – Beer Blotter finds this beer to be like soda. If that sounds good to you, hop on board. Not so much for me, but I do love Walking Man.
Waterstreet Stout – Skip is gone. I have little faith.
In summary, since that was probably a bit of a task to read, I offer my top 5, in order of importance.
5) Double Mountain Imperial Chaos
4) Avery Meph Addict
3) Glacier Jack Daniels
2) Avery Black Tot
1) Firestone Walker Parabola
***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com with any questions, concerns or comments***
Stasia is a whiskey drinker. Stasia is not a beer drinker. She would never buy beer for herself. She does, periodically, have beer in her fridge though, but only because she is sometimes paid in beer when she is playing gigs with her band The Endeavors.
She figures there is no sense in refusing it, so she takes it home and keeps it incase she has a visitor that may be interested. Whiskey (sometimes on the rocks, sometimes up) is her drink of choice. Had it been vodka and cranberry juice I probably would have zero hope for conversion, but I feel that beer drinkers and whiskey drinkers are similar is some ways. Malted grains are at the core of both beverages. Some beers are even aged in wood barrels just as whiskey is. There is hope for her.
The obvious first step in this task is to understand the palate of Miss Stasia and what it is that she doesn’t like about beer.
Things that Stasia doesn’t like about beer:
A bad first experience. Her father let her try some of his Miller Genuine Draft as a child. It was terrible (shocked!).
Carbonation. Burping is un-lady like and uncomfortable. It’s also a problem when you have to sing, and often when she is out drinking she is out to play a show.
Caloric intake. All beer drinkers that she knew when she first began to drink had beer bellies. Beer bellies are undesirable.
Hops. Once upon a time she ate hops at Redhook Brewing and felt that they tasted like grape nuts. Oddly, grape nuts aren’t all that bad in Stasia’s opinion, but the flavors that hops most commonly lend to beer such as pine, citrus, herbal, and most notably bitterness are all undesirable. Stasia is also not fond of sour flavors either.
She might be sounding a little picky at the moment, and we surely are not off to a good start, but there are some flavors that she likes that could work in our favor.
Things that Stasia does like that we can work with:
Coffee. As one of her favorite beverages, she drinks it everyday and likes it very sweet.
Chocolate. It’s a woman’s best friend.
Smooth and soft liquids. Think about the mouthfeel of her drink of choice, whiskey.
It now seems pretty obvious that a dark stout would fit in nicely with her likes, but when asked about her thoughts on dark beers she cringes.
Why such a guttural reaction? Stasia thinks that the darker the beer, the more it must taste like beer. It sounds like we have a pretty blank slate to work with which could work to our advantage.
I’ve long pondered the best way to convert a non-beer drinker. Frankly, I feel it my duty to help these people better enjoy life. It seems to me that within the enormous amount of styles that beer can manifest, there must be at least one or two that would/could be enjoyed by any one individual, especially since I personally get such a profound enjoyment out of the beverage. It’s what it is to be a beer advocate I guess; a strong desire to educate and to have all kinds of people join me in appreciation of beer.
Hitachino’s Nest: Bridging the Gap
For a variety of reasons, Kiuchi Brewery’s Hitachino Nest (HN) label has always stood out to me as having a good line-up of conversion beers. The series possesses a certain amount of international intrigue that can be coupled with a sense of class. In other words, drinking HN beers can be an experience very far removed from the stereotypical macro-beer drinking practice (those beer bellies discussed earlier, raucous frat boys, NASCAR, wife-beaters, etc.).
There are unique flavors at play, as well as new and interesting takes on classic styles. That being said, a sip of a HN brew may not necessarily be representative of the beers we enjoy on a regular basis, but conversion should be on a gradual slope, and HN feels like a good place to start.
The labels and glassware design are an added bonus, especially if your convertee is a female. In this particular case, the owl motif simply clinched my decision to go with HN. Anyone who has been in Stasia’s apartment knows exactly what I mean -there are owls everywhere.
What does Stasia think about the concept of drinking beer from Japan? Well, she tells me that she never saw any of her Japanese friends drink beer before, so it’s an odd concept. She has had other Japanese culinary offerings in the past that she didn’t like at first but with time came to respect and enjoy. Exotic ingredients have the potential to shock Stasia and put her in defense mode, which could be an issue when tasting these beers.
8 HN beers were gathered for this tasting. That is a lot of beer when you are just splitting it between two parties, so we decided to taste half in one sitting and the other half at a later date, to be determined.
The first beer poured was the White Ale, a 5% abv witbier. When asked what the “white” in White Ale may refer to, Stasia suggested a white tea flavor, or simply, the color of the beer itself. We, of course, know it’s all about the wheat used in the mash.
“It tastes weird, like tin.” - Apparently, this beer tastes like the tanks of a brewery smell. Stasia thinks breweries smell ripely of apple juice (not good).
“The carbonation is not pleasant.” - I then asked for her thoughts on Champagne, just for clarification, and she isn’t fond of that either.
“Sometimes when I drink wine, the first taste is unpleasant, but by the end of the glass it’s not too bad. There is potential for that here.” - As it turns out, after the initial assault, Stasia’s taste buds began to acclimate and it didn’t seem so bad.
“It tastes like alcoholic apple juice with less sweetness.” - After hearing my thoughts on barnyard funk she was completely turned off (stupid me!).
She prefers to not repeat this experience.
The second beer poured was the Real Ginger Brew, a 7% abv spiced beer.
“I like ginger. Smells like ginger…tastes like ginger…oh wait…oh no…not good at all.” - When asked what it was that she didn’t like she struggled to answer.
“It’s sour I think.” - I didn’t get much more out of her in regards to this one.
In the end, she would rather have more of the White Ale than even take one more sip of RGB.
Her response was so very strange since this is typically one of the most drinkable transition beers that I can think of out on the market. In my opinion, its straight ginger candy! Oh well, lets move on.
The third beer poured was XH, an 8% abv strong ale matured in shochu (sake) casks.
“I like the smell.” - I explained the cask aging and it seemed to intrigue her. Unique is good, and sake…well it’s not a whiskey barrel but it could be worse.
“Best first sip so far.” - I think the strength and liquor accents just may remind her of her drink of choice. We might be onto something here.
I like the smooth feel of it in my mouth.” - Again, whiskey-like attributes are winning us points.
“I get your portion of this one since you finished my last two.” - Well then…have at it.
The final beer poured of the first session was Japanese Classic Ale, a 7% abv IPA matured in cedar casks.
“This is drinkable. I’d say it is my second favorite, behind the XH.” - This IPA is not bitter in any traditional way, and the wood notes may work to our advantage.
“Bright. Fruit juice comes to mind…apple juice again.” - I can’t really explain how this flavor could be detected. It is possible that any sort of odd fruity flavors from the hops or sour notes from fermentation are linked to sour apple in Stasia’s mind.
“If this was the first beer of the night I probably wouldn’t like it, but in comparison to the others and with my apparent ‘taste bud acclimation’ situation, this is decent.” - Well, it sounds like we made some strides in round one, albeit small ones, but hope is still alive.
I ended our Japanese Classic Ale experience with a tasting note of my own that I couldn’t keep to myself, since this is the only HN beer in the series of 8 that I’d never had before. I explained that I picked up a distinct “wet paint” scent and flavor that I couldn’t get out of my mind. Yet again, I should have shut up because once this little bug infiltrated her mind she was completely put off.
#4 – Real Ginger Brew
#3 – White Ale
#2 – Japanese Classic Ale
#1 – XH
I personally thought that the ginger beer would stack up a little bit better, and the IPA, though it has the wood element, I figured would be last. I few curve balls, but with each new beer experience that I share with Stasia, the closer I am to finding the perfect beer to convert her with. I am very excited for session 2, coming soon to a blotter near you.
After an amazing beer weekend in Portland, Oregon (more on that tomorrow), Beer Blotter is back on schedule with your weekly events. The weeks just keep passing us by and many great beer related festivals await us here in Seattle (Belgiumfest 2010 and Strangebrew festival). But for now, here is what’s going on in Beer USA.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Stout Fest: Chicago, Illinois
11:00 AM until close @ Quenchers Saloon
We are already on day 11 of 31. Yes, thats right, Stout Fest runs from January 1, 2010 until January 31, 2010- every single day. The goal? Well Quenchers has created four groups with five stouts in each group (buy four stouts, get one free). Spend the month of January drinking as many stouts as possible and “closing out” each group and winning congratulatory stouts. Here a beer from each group: Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Avery’s Out of Bounds Stout, Hitachino Espresso Stout and Left Hand Oak Aged Imp. Stout.
Bridgeport Tasting and Meet the Brewer: Portland, Oregon
6:00PM- 8:00PM @ Belmont Station
Come join local craft brewers for a tasting at Belmont Station. BridgePort Brewing Co. is considered Portland’s oldest craft brewing company. Tonight you will be able to sample, the Highland Ambush Scotch Ale, Hop Czar, Bourbon Barrel Aged Ebenezer and MORE
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Founders Black Biscuit Tapping Party: Columbus, Ohio
7:00-9:00 PM @ Bodgea
Details from ratebeer.com state, “Special guests Michael Bell and John Host from Founders Brewing Co. will be in to tap Founders Black Biscuit, an old ale/porter that was aged in a maple bourbon barrel that was stored in the old gypsum mines beneath Grand Rapids. 11% abv 50 ibu’s .” Founders is a one of a kind brewery and specializes in stouts and porters. This event is not to be missed. It is free and 50% happy hour prices will apply between the hours of 7:00PM and 8:00PM.
Weyerbacher Fireside Ale Promotion Night: Mount Holly, New Jersey
7:00PM- close @ High Street Grill
Stop by High Street Grill and enjoy a pint of Weyerbacker’s Fireside Ale, a dark ale with a hint of roasted, smoke flavor. From 7:00PM-10:00PM this beer will be featured along side 16 other taps, live Irish music and $10.00 all you can eat mussels. A perfect food paring for a beer with a rich maltiness, slight bitterness and robust flavor.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
3 Floyd’s Night: Jefferson, Indiana
4:00PM until close @ Rocky’s Sub Pub
If you do not go to this event, we will be so disappointed! Not only can you enjoy a pizza from Rocky’s, you get to try 10 or more beers from 3 Floyd’s Brewing Co. What the beer drinkers of Seattle would do for such an event! Here….it….is….Moloko, a sweet stout, Dreadnaught IPA, Ham on Rye, Broo Doo, an Oktober style brew, Pride and Joy, Alpha King, Gumballhead, Alpha Klaus, Robert the Bruce, Großer Kurfürst, and Alpha King on cask. Not to mention, Lincoln Anderson will be there from the brewery!
Goose Island Beers Galore!: New York, New York
5:00PM- until close @ Rattle-N-Hum
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Dogfish Head Night: Glenside, Pennsylvania
starts at 7:00 PM @ Union Jacks
Michigan Microbrew Night: Lansing, Michigan
7:00PM-9:00PM @ Reno’s Sports Bar West
For only two hours, you can come experience the great beers of the Mid-western state that is Michigan. Featured breweries include Atwater, Founders, Arcadia, Michigan, Mount Pleasant, Shorts, Bell’s, New Holland, Dark Horse and Dragonmead. $15 Advance, $20 at door, includes 10 samples, snacks, and a raffle drawing. There is a whole lot going on in these two hours!
Friday, January 15, 2010
Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival: Anchorage, Alaska
5:00PM- 10:00 PM @ William A. Egan Convention Center
The price of this festival rivals that of many at $30.00. The major difference is that you get 30 tastes! Make sure you grab some food during and stay hydrated! Live music and amazing food will accompany a line of beers worth the trek across Canada. Dogfish head features their Chicory Stout, Great Divide’s Old Ruffian Barleywine will grace the stage, Midnight Sun Brewing Co. has 10 beers for pouring (TEN!), Brewery Ommegang., Orval, Rochefort, Rodenbach…it certainly does not start nor stop there. Check out the event’s official website here!
Black Tot Day with Avery Brewing: Boulder, Colorado
5:00PM- 8:00PM @ Avery Brewing Co.
Straight from “source”–> Be there to make sure you get some bottles of this incredible and indelibly unique brew. Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in Gosling’s Rum barrels. Huge. Chewy. Endlessly deep. Smooth beyond belief with endless amounts of subtle flavors that work their way out as you sip. This beer is so good that you can quaff a pint or sip and savor a few ounces with equal ease. The only difficult part is deciding what you want to do with it! $8 per 12oz bottle. Max 6 bottles per customer. We’ll have just a tad over 300 cases of this beer (24/12oz.) to go around. Limited one time release, with a few cases being sent to select states. Coming to Black Tot Day at the Avery Tap Room is the only way to GUARANTEE that you get your hands on some bottles! We’ll also have 5 gallon kegs tapped of unoaked, rye barrel and bourbon barrel versions of the Imperial Oatmeal Stout, along with Black Tot itself. We’ll be pouring a single 5 gallon keg of each and no more…when they’re gone they’re gone! $3 per taster. No door charge!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
The Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festival Continues from 6:00PM-10:00PM
Brooklyn Brewery Night: Greensburg, Pennsylvania
7:00PM- 9:00PM @ Mister Bones Bistro and Brew Hub
Seating is limited at a cost of $15.00 and you will be able to sample Brooklyn Brewery’s Lager, IPA, and Brown ale. Brooklyn will also bring a limited release beer for everyone to sample. The bistro will be creating a special menu for the evening, full of foods that will compliment the different styles of beer featured. The signature light hors d’oeuvres will be included with the purchase of an event ticket. (The full menu will also be available)
World Beer Festival: Columbia, South Carolina
(2 sessions) 12:00 PM- 4:00PM & 6:00PM-10:00PM @ the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
With over 150 vendors, local music and 300 beers, for $40.00 you can sample has little or as much as your heart and liver desire. For more information about the event click here and for pictures from the event last January, click right….here.
Sunday, January 27, 2010
Valley Brew Beer Dinner: San Francisco, California
starts at 6:00PM @ Anchor and Hope Restaurant
Victory Brewing Beer Dinner: Grand Rapids, Michigan
6:00PM-8:00PM @ HopCat
Victory Brewing out of Pennsylvia is featured at tonight’s beer and food pairing dinner. Tonight four beers will be paired with four dishes. The beers you can expect to taste include, Yakima Twilight, Wild Devil, Baltic Thunder and the very rare V-12.
The holidays are surely over, as this week proved difficult in chosing which events to feature. From large beer festivals to small, intimate dinners, we hope those in attendance have a damn good time. If you attend any of the mentioned events, want to share an event or have any suggestions for the event blog, leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers and have a great beer drinking week!
Well the trip to New York was everything we expected and more. A lot more, as in painful mornings and the worst headache of one man’s imbibing career (12/27 is a day that will live in infamy).
You could not be there, but we wish you could. So, lets take a peak inside the 3.5 days of NYC beer jaunting in a 3 part segment known simply as “The NYChronicles.”
Christmas is in the air – then its gone. This is a traditional and historically catastrophic comedown. A month long climax and subsequent deep descent stemming from childhood wishes and dreams. But, the cruel honesty of adulthood sets in and you recognize that you only get about 12 hours of real Christmas spirit, then its back to your mobile device, answering emails of customers, back to the bankbook to ensure your account is not overdrawn, and back to the reality that gifts are enjoyed by wearing them on your back and not by tearing open a box for 1 to 2 hours of technological amazement.
But ah ha! Christmas this year was a teaser for things to come. Christmas brought joy, happiness, a few beers (see article) and some curious thoughts of what might be ahead as we traipsed closer to beer jaunting madness. For this Christmas season, the Blotter crew slept well on Christmas Eve, hoping to shred through some gifts (thanks Mom and Linda for the beer gifts) and move on to a long awaited and epic journey to the depths of the NYC beer doldrums – hahahahaha!
OK OK - its not scary. Its also not “doldrums” by any stretch of the word. Its a wondrous and beautiful community of swanky beer bars, old style beer warehouses, acclaimed breweries (though few) and cross-town competition. We had about 72 hours total. We had to sleep, eat, travel (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn is not close to Manhattan), attend events (hello Knicks game and Broadway) and work off hangovers with brisk runs which became shorter and shorter each day.
All in all – we did damn good. Here’s the story.
Awake in Brooklyn.
We are staying in the Bay Ridge Neighborhood of Brooklyn. Here you will not find any acknowledgeable beer establishments (mini-shoutout to Kettle Black and Salty Dog for their great bar food though), but you will find Ben’s Pizzeria and Bagel Boy – both food leaders in their respective categories. Nothing primes the stomach for beer consumption like a Bagel Boy Everything bagel following a brisk 5K run. Bagel Boy is great, and worth the morning hike.
We are off for the big city. My companion has a date to see Wicked on Broadway with her amazing mother and rarely does a man get the opportunity to embark on the big city alone, during a family holiday. I relish in this chance.
Approach….Manhattan: New Beer Distributors and Bowery Beer Room
I am being dropped off in Lower Manhattan by the World Trade Center site. I used to work next door to the site in 2005 during my hiatus from Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. Not amazingly, nothing has changed. The site remains largely undeveloped in over 9 years since cleanup began.
I am jumping on the JMZ (brown) line, going north, headed for Bowery and the Lower East Side. When we lived in Manhattan in 2005 we trounced this area nightly. The music scene is incredible, launching careers of the Ramones, Patti Smith and Interpol. I remember spending New Years 2005 in Hi Fi Lounge, up on Ave A, enjoying every last moment. Hi Fi is still kicking and still has the best assortment of music relics on the walls – along with a good beer or two.
But I am on a mission. A mission to find New Beer Distributors (NBD). NBD is a small warehouse on Chrystie and Rivington right below Houston and to the immediate east of Bowery off the Bowery J stop on the subway.
I had heard that NBD had an incredible selection, including several extremely rare items, as well as some vintage bottles. I heard right. They also showcase 4 or 5 taps for filling growlers. None of their offerings were run of the mill, ranging from Southern Tier Choklat to Ramstein Eisbock!
In pursuing the bottle collection I found that their most impressive collection was US beer. They had an equally impressive collection of East Coast and West Coast ales, as well as some excellent Midwest faves (hello Hoppin Frog and Kuhnhenn).
I whipped out a small backpack (remember, Im wandering the city all day) and started collecting. Of course, my eyes were too big for my backpack and I had to do the ole “exclude the least necessary” trick, counting down from #1 until the pack was full. Here is what I found:
Brooklyn Black Ops – dum da da da – she’s a beaut. This was our No. 1 goal for bringing something back. The label tells the tale – “Black Ops is not a beer.” Im fine with that. Whatever is inside is going to be worth the $19.00 price tag (which is cheaper than any other place by about 3-5 bucks).
Cigar City Improvisation (Oatmeal Rye Brown Ale – Yum)
Weyerbacher 13th Anniversary (this year WB did a finely crafted imperial stout, inspired by Belgian Quads – 13.6%!)
Two Brothers Heavier Handed Oak-Aged IPA (bulked up version of the original IPA)
Arcadia Imperial Stout
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (a Montreal favorite)
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA
Troegs Flying Moulan (acclaimed barleywine – 99 Rate Beer)
Captain Lawrence Double IPA
I also noticed some amazing St. Somewhere beers (all three that are bottled) and a slew of Smuttynose limited IPAs. But alas, I accepted my bounty, thanked the amazingly kind shop owner and carried on up to Houston to grab a sandwich at the famous Katz Delicatessen.
Katz is too good that its become a nightmare. The only way to truly enjoy this place is to come with one other friend, have that person snake a table quick and you weasel your way in at the counter. Once you get to the counter order a lot of different meats, as the sandwich artist will carve you slices to enjoy while you wait. You must get the pastrami – best in the world.
After scarfing down a hald corned beef and half pastrami on rye, I headed back west to take a stop in to the Whole Foods Bowery Beer Room on my way back to the subway. This is the only “beer-centric” Whole Foods that i have seen, harboring at least 1000 different beers and a half-dozen beers on tap, to fill your growler.
I am in quite a rush (behind schedule due to ogling that ensued at NBD), with a full backpack, so I do a lap of the place. Prices are bit heftier than NBD and the selection is a not as impressive. But, the beer room has excellent resources, a bountiful Belgian collection (better than NBD’s) and parking!
Heading North: Rattle N Hum
After finishing my lap – I head back west to the 4/6 green line. I am taking the 6 north up to 33rd Street and Madison. There I will seek out the establishment for which I had held highest hopes - Rattle N Hum.
Rattle N Hum is owned by an Irish chap in his 30s, who often hangs about the bar with his golden retriever. You get the feeling that he is incredibly well-liked by his staff and the regular patrons.
The bar is laden with posters of amazing beer events my palette will not be afforded. Though I crave to be present for the Weyerbacher cask event on 12/29/09 – I cant make.
The bar has my favorite beer menu – and thanks for the copy goes to the wonderful bartender! The menu shows 42 taps, each of which includes the location of the brewery, BeerAdvocate.com rating, and the alcohol by volume. The beers are sorted by their styling for ease of location. One of the best things – you will be hard-pressed to find more than one offering from any one brewer. This ensures that 40 breweries are hitting the taps. (Plus: They have 4 cask beers!)
On the draft list and notable:
Cigar City Jai Alai IPA – I was amazed to see this. Us West Coasters often dream of getting to sample the wondrous nectar that is Cigar City beer, typically aged in amazing woods. Jai Alai does not disappoint – its incredibly sweet and malty, while having incredible pineapple and grapefruit flavor that overpowers any taste of alcohol (its 7.5%). One of our favorites from the trip, it seems to breath best from a wider-mouthed glass. So, stay away from the half pint pours.
Two Brothers Northwind Imperial Stout – Of the Russian varietal, this beer is not incredibly strong (8.5%) but packs a high-octane flavor. Hints of smoked woods and espresso beans fill the glass in both nose and taste. We were surprised to find that other raters were not as fond as we were (Ratebeer 80), but its surely worth a pint.
Goose Island Pere Jacques – I had been wanting to snag this guy for months now, after I mistakenly grabbed a bottle of Sofie (another one of GI’s Belgians) at a Chicago bottle shop. I now know what I missed. Pere Jacques is a 9.0% ABV Abbey ale, which carries a heavy dark rich fruit flavor and the nose of a dark sour ale. Very enjoyable.
Captain Lawrence DIPA – Another beer I had been hoping to snag (and I grabbed a bottle at New Beer) is this hop monster from NY’s Captain Lawrence. This beer has a rich syrupy body and smells almost of citrus and banana juices. In my rankings, I gave it a 97/100.
Others of Note:
Cigar City Maduro Espresso (they were out! but alas i caught up with it on Day 3)
SixPoint Otis (Oatmeal Stout at 6.1%)
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (13.0% – incredible)
21st Amendment Monk’s Blood (Belgian Dark Ale)
Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA (well liked in public – A+ on BeerAdvocate.com – extremely bitter)
Nogne-O Winter Ale
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Rattle N Hum also boasts a nice food menu with many IPA-infused items. Their wings are impressive and during football games they are only .25 cents (YES!).
Rattle N Hum is a great place for beer snobs and newbies. Just a hop from the Midtown shopping areas, Rattle N Hum caters to tourists who just want a pint and locals who know where to find the best grog. Also, the back of the menu provides hints about how to taste beer from local beer expert Alex Hall.
All in all – its sitting pretty at No. 1 in the beer bar rankings.
Subway West: Pony Bar
Im heading west. I am to meet my co-author at Divine Bar on West 51st for a quick bottle of Hitachino Classic Ale and then we are off to find the next great tap.
While at Rattle N Hum, I was told by the excellent bartender that newer beer bar had opened on 10th Avenue and 45th Street some time ago. The Pony Bar has about 20 taps and has been finding a way to keep the bartender from straying from her resident neighborhood nightly.
Pony Bar is nice, with excellent large wood tables and beer barrel seats well situated on the floor. The bartenders were very accommodating with my requests to sample some offerings – and they even charged my phone, which had been on RateBeer.com hyperdrive all day long.
The taplist, oh the taplist. I was worried when I only saw a few beers on the list. I was afraid when I saw that many were winter ales (not a huge fan of the typical winter ale). But, a closer look and………wow. Pony Bar was pouring some amazing beers that were on my “Have to drink” list. Here we go:
Captain Lawrence Nor’Easter – Of all the beers we tried here – this is the most complex. This beers has at least 3 levels of flavor and ends with such a great bang. The beer has a fruity, funky and almost sour nose and ends with a barrel-aged vanilla smoothness. Highly recommended. We gave her a 95/100.
Troeg’s Mad Elf – One of our authors (timperial stout) has raved about this beer in the past. We found it to be casual, but packing a nice christmas spice that makes up for the lack of other prevalent flavors.
Victory Old Horizonal – Really? that cant be Victory. Oh yes, its Victory. I have never been particularly excited about a Victory beer – but this one gave me a whole new respect for the PA brewer. A RateBeer 100, this beer has an amazing balance of caramel and butterscotch flavorings, melded with some prevailing hop flavor. It is very similar to RedHook’s Treblehook, but with a bit more smoothness. Again – get this beer (i did – bought a bottle to smuggle back on the place). 100/100.
Troeg’s Dead Reckoning Porter – We wanted to give Troegs one more chance to floor us. We were both glad we took this leap (ok, it was a minor step). This smokey porter has a welcoming hop bitterness, which does not sting your throat. Very impressive for a simple porter styling.
In all, Pony Bar is very impressive, even though they lack the sizable taplist a beer geek might want to see. I was very glad to see a quality grog shop show up on the west side, where it was so sorely lacking.
Give Up, Just Give Up
After geeking out on a nice 14oz pour of 10.5% Old Horizontal – its time to not push it. We actually still have to head to Brooklyn for a night of “catch up” with some old friends. Luckily, we will live through this night. But, not without repercussions.
Day 2 is on its way.
Let us know below if you have any comments or questions about any of the places or beers mentioned herein!