Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Good Beer Shop And Sly Fox Brewery

First off, our thoughts, prayers and wishes go out to Ray Deter, the proprietor of D.B.A. and friend of both B.R. and mine, as well as to his family. Ray was tragically struck by a car while bicycling in NYC on June 27, 2011, and passed away on July 3 as a result of his injuries. More on Ray on the DBA facebook page.
Good Beer Shop And Sly Fox

GOOD BEER is one of those rare hybrid beer businesses that: A) sells you beer in bottles, cans and growlers, but also; B) sells you pints and sampler glasses of what's on tap to enjoy right there on premises.

By the way, we know that the previous post/podcast was about the "Good Beer Seal", but "Good Beer" is completely unrelated.

NYC has a few of them -- BIER KRAFT in Park Slope and a new one (City Swiggers) opening soon on the Upper East Side and possibly one on the UWS.

Though we didn't get to talk to owner David of GOOD BEER (we'll catch up with him later), we've been dropping by the shop ever since they opened, and have been very happy with their selections, the prices and the convenience of having 12 craft beers on tap which we can take home!

They recently had a SLY FOX event and this week we sampled four different SLY FOX brews, and you can hear all about it in our podcast.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Podcast Should Post By Tomorrow

Sorry for the delay! While recording the podcast last night, we ran into technical difficulties. So we had to go to plan B, which means that our podcast will be a day late.

We're going to do a straight up beer tasting/review from one of our neighborhood joints for you.

Also, we're planning a very special podcast/post in the very near future at New York City's first ever (to our knowledge) brew-on-premises operation, CITY BREWSHOP! Our plan is to brew a beer there!y\

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Good Beer Seal 2011 Inductees At Barcade

On Tuesday June 14, 2011 B.R. and I attended the induction party for 2011's inductees of the GOOD BEER SEAL association, a group of local beer-hedz who want you to know which establishments in NYC care about craft beer. B.R. and I spoke to Jimmy, one of the founders of the Good Beer Seal, at the event.
  Good Beer Seal Podcast
Jimmy of Jimmy's No. 43 and Ray of D.B.A.
BARCADE was packed for a Tuesday night. There were plenty of local craft beer folks in attendance, and it was really more of an informal gathering than a ceremony.

The 2011 Good Beer Seal inductees.
There was plenty of delicious free grub on hand -- pork bellies with pickled onions (courtesy of Jimmy), hefty pork sandwiches (courtesy of Sam of Waterfront Alehouse), and very tasty eggplant/mozzarella sandwiches and macaroni salad and potato salad (provided by a local good shop/caterer, which I need to track down)!
It wasn't enough that B.R. and Maia (Brooklyn Brewery) wore the same shirt...

so did this guy!!!
Jimmy, B.R., Bob, Kelly (Kelso Brewing), all wearing different shirts.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pretty Things St-Botolph's Town

Jimmy's No. 43 is only 2 blocks from home, so, there's rarely a good excuse to not go there. But when our pal Jim of PRETTY THINGS has a beer featured, AND there are oysters on offer -- we're there!

The ST-BOTOLPH'S TOWN "rustic dark ale" was pouring from the tap and it was good. The beer has a nice mild chocolate flavor mixed with a mild dried dark fruit flavor, a little bitterness and a deep dark cola-brown color. It's a full bodied beer, smooth, mellow and offering a gentle sweet finish and aftertaste.

The brewery's website has this to say about it: "This Yorkshire-inspired beer is a big malty brown ale fermented in open squares with Yorkshire malts and eclectic yeast strains. This is another of our year-round offerings."
Did We mention that it was oyster night at Jimmy's No. 43
By "eclectic" I think that they might mean "Belgian" because there are plenty of Belgian esters and yeast flavors mixing about in this ale.  It clocks in at under 6%, but given the distinct alcohol note as it warms, I'd have guessed higher. Then again, the smoothness of the beer angles more towards a direction under 7%.
B.R., Jimmy, Bob and Jim of Pretty Things

Also available that evening was a BELGIAN PALE ALE from BARRIER called BELGIAN 1.
It had a nice gold color, light lacy head, and was extremely easy to drink. I seemed like a "small" triple, that made up for it's size with a kick of hops. Though 7.5% isn't what I'd call a small beer of any style. This seemed like one of those style-defying beers, for which the only things that count are, is it good, and would you have another. This one passes, easily.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Non-Beer Sidenote To Mondial Montreal

We hear news that NYC will get a Bike Share program in 2012. In May 2009 Montreal began the Bixi Bike bike sharing program. We looked at the program and decided that this was how we'd try to get around during Mondial.

Verdict: it's awesome!

You can't really do much better economically. It costs $5 a day, or $12 for 3 consecutive days. That's it. But you don't just keep the same one bike over that time. You only keep it for up to 30 minutes, and then return it to a bike depot, located everywhere. Well, everywhere that you might bike to within in 30 minutes. If you go over 30 minutes there are nominal extra charges ($1.50 for the first extra 30, $3 for up to 90 minutes, etc.).

But the idea is to free yourself of the hassle of having to lock up your bike. Basically, you grab a bike, go to your destination, get rid of the bike, then pick up another bike if you need it. Kind of like free love in the 60's, from what I'm lead to believe, but with bicycles. (You can't get pregnant from a bicycle seat, right?)

The bikes are kind of clunker three-speeds with big cushy seats and fat tires -- basically, slow cruisers. You're not going to go very fast on them (unless you're going south on Rue Berri between Rue Sherebrooke and Rue Ontario!), but they work for the 20-30 min. utilitarian ride. They have build-in front and rear lights, and a rack with bungies on the handlebars that allows for the convenient securing and toting of bags/backpacks.

You use a credit card to get authorized. They hold a $250 deposit for up to 10 days (though they just held it for 3 days for me). Every time you pick up a bike, you use the same credit card as your key. The kiosk gives you a numerical code, you punch that into any of the bikes docked, pull out the bike and go. You don't need to use the credit card when returning -- you just dock the bike and you're done.

There is an app for the iPhone that allow you to see where the closest stations are, AND how many available bikes/open docks are at each location! I couldn't find a Blackberry app for that, otherwise, we would have had an even easier time.

We biked all around the city, day and night, and found it to be extremely convenient and frugal. Granted, there will be times when you have to try 2 or 3 locations to either find an available bike or an empty dock to which return a bike. Example: Friday night when we tried to return a bike near CHEVAL BLANC. The closest location had only one empty dock, so I let B.R. take it and I went off to the next station. After all, how could I not be chivalrous, considering where we were going? Then the nearest station was also full. Damn. So off to the next not-so-close depot. Also full. (Below.)
Luckily, there were LOTS of empty docks right around the corner at another location. So, yeah, on some trips you might break even on the convenience, but on most trips, the time and money savings are well worth it. 

We Bixi-biked almost ALL of our trips: to the Fest, to restaurants, to brewpubs, to shops, to the bank. We biked to the Metro/subway for long trips. The few times that we didn't bike were to and from the train station at the start and end of the trip, and when the quantity of beer consumed made biking a bad choice.

And if you're out and about stuffing your gut with beer and poutine...
a little bike ride isn't such a bad thing!

Mondial De La Bière V


The Old Rosemont section of Montreal looks to be one of those old forgotten neighborhoods that is now being rediscovered. Down the main drag of Masson is a new brewpub called LA SUCCURSALE, which not only has its own brews on tap, but offers a nice selection of other Montreal/Quebec craft beers as well.
Kölsch and Porter.
On a lazy Saturday afternoon we were the sole patrons for about an hour as the very knowledgeable and amiable bartender Francis served up the suds. The PETIT-CôTE 4.8% Kölsch beer was served in the traditional Kölsch glass, had a brilliant clear pale straw color with a delicate white head, a lightly aromatic fruity nose, though more malty than fruity. The beer nailed the Kölsch flavor about as well as any non-Köln brewed beer we've ever had. (Captain Lawrence of Pleasantville, NY also does a bang up job on the style.)

Billed as a Porter, the 1814 NOIR (5.5%) had the aroma of small German brewery -- clean, direct and fresh. The roast flavor and bitterness of this very solid beer were well balanced, and the roastiness built slowly and steady to the bottom of the glass, and finished perfectly.
Francis of La Succursale.
If they had billed the LA SUCCURSALE AMBRé (4%) as something like a Farmhouse Ale or almost anything other than a British Bitter, then I think that we'd nod our approval. But we didn't perceive anything of what you'd expect of that style. Regardless, it was a very drinkable honest beer, with an accent on nice grainy, farmy maltiness, very subdued in all hops departments.

We finished up with a delightful Altbier that they call RADSCHLäGER AMBRé (4.8%). The aroma hinted at that impossible-to-describe Altbier malt quality -- is it the elusive Vienna Malt? How to put that in words? The flavor was malty and mildly bitter with a slight tang and a clean finish. Francis poured a sample of the DIEU DU CIEL's RESCOUSSE Altbier to compare. I have to say, I preferred the more malt-centric version of Masson/Rosemont to that of the much hoppier, bitter version of Laurier/Mile End. But Altbier... what a tricky one to put into words -- I guess that I prefer the northern Altbier to the Düsselfdorf style.

This inspired us to peddle across Masson back to Laurier and see what was new at DIEU DU CIEL since three days prior. We found Stéphane of the brewery standing outside of the pub curbside with two kegs of their Helles HELIUM. Apparently it had won the highest honors of the Mondial fest, a platinum medal, and was in intense demand! We helped Stéphane load the kegs into the car, and then loaded ourselves into the pub.

There were a number of new beers put up since last we were there, but I was compelled to revisit one that intrigued me on Wednesday -- the Spruce Beer ANNEDD'ALE. Its name means "tree of life" and is a reference to the first French settlers (lead by Jacques Cartier) being saved from scurvy over their first winter in the New World by eating the sap/bark of the balsam fir for it's health benefits, thanks to instruction from the Native Americans, or First Nations People. Ever since B.R. and I tried to brew our own Spruce Beer, to horrible effect, we've always been eager to try the very rarely brewed style whenever we've had the chance.

This bière de pin had a hazy pale straw color and modest head. It gave off an enchantingly beautiful forest-like pine aroma -- NOT Pinesol, but rather the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree, or sappy two-by-fours. It had a woody, earthy flavor, with pine filling the nose as you sipped. With a fairly light body and very little perceivable hop character -- you'd expect the pine character to take care of that -- it's an easy drink with a moderate malty graininess and a slight sweetness. Though low in ABV (4%), this is definitely a beer to be enjoyed by the glass, and not by the PINTE or PITCHER!

DDC's WEIZENBOCK called NATNITOR (7.9%) gave off a big banana, estery, clove-like bouquet. As expected, those typical German wheat beer yeast bi-products were present in the flavor, as well, along with an assertive alcohol presence. There was a mildly sour tang which added to the quite complex -- very complex beer! B.R. nailed it right on the head when she simply said, "Aventinus." YES! That's it! It took me about 50 words to do what she did in one!
We had at least 15 different beers from DIEU DU CIEL over the four days. This one was one of the best. I hope this one comes back around on the brewing schedule!

Our last beer experience (save for the lunch beers we brought for the train ride home, all DDCs (purchased from Marche des Saveurs) was a late night near our borrowed apartment in Petit Italie. Originally we dropped by BENELUX for the nightly post-Fest gathering. We got there 30 minutes early, hoping to secure a seat and settle in. It was already a mob scene before the beer crew arrived, packed wall to wall (Grand Prix?), so we opted out of that.

We met our pals Eric and Dave at THE bar in Montreal to try the greatest variety of local and regional craft brews, VICES ET VERSA, which often has over 30 different drafts going.

I'd seen the SIMPLE MALT beer FUMéE MASSIVE around, and was happy that I could try it at VetV. It was a strong, thick 8.6% smokey experience, not quite SCHLENKERLA or SPEZIAL smokey, but rauchy/peaty nonetheless. The smoke was also dominant in the flavor, along with a bit of a medicinal phenolic note, but nothing too detracting. The full bodied flavor rounded out as it was sipped down.

B.R. opted for the CHARLEVOIX OATMEAL STOUT. It was hard to get too much of the nose, but the scents of the food being served around us was more the reason than anything else. As you'd hope for in this style of beer, it was very smooth, tasty and not too roasty.

I wanted to try one particular beer, but the board on which I saw it was out of date (there are four beer boards at VetV, and some are bound not to be updated). While I was checking out the up-to-date board the waitress brought me a sample of RUINE PAPILLES ("ruined taste buds") from á LA FûT, which was WAY more bitter for my taste. I didn't even finish the few ounces left.

So, next I got a BRASSEURS ET FRERES beer called MORT DE RIRE (Dying of Laughter). The board didn't list the style, but, despite a mahogany color (I think -- it was pretty dark in the bar), the flavor and subtle malt aroma, lack of a strong hop aroma or hop flavor, reminded me of a Belgian Pale Ale -- something similar to SMUTTYNOSE's STAR ISLAND SINGLE. I wondered what they were going for with the beer. We pondered, "brown ale?" (That's what RateBeer lists as its style, we learned later.) There was a BRITISH BROWN ALE on the menu from á LA FûT, so I got a glass of each to compare. The Brown was definitely more hoppy and more towards the darker malt flavor end of the spectrum. The Mort beer seemed more refined, with subtle malt flavors, and a gentle smoothness that made me think that I could easily drink another glass, in fact a full pint of it -- so I did!

Mondial De La Bière IV


Every night after the Mondial closes at 10pm, there is a set meeting spot for the brewers and their entourages -- on this night it was at Montreal's oldest brewpub, and still one of the best, CHEVAL BLANC. They're also a brewery that sells bottles and kegs in bars, restaurants and at retail.

The main Chevalier, Sir Jerome, was on hand. He told me that he was inspired to open Cheval Blanc after visiting the Manhattan Brewing Co. in NYC in 1986. We'll have to get more on that out of Jerome in the near future!

Jean-François of DDC, Jerome of Cheval Blanc, Stéphane of DDC.
Eloi, brewer of Cheval Blanc brewpub, on the left.  
Also, the brewpub's head brewer, Eloi, was behind the bar, working the "bottle list", which had been beefed up to satisfy the demanding palates of the attending beer nerds extraordinaire. And satisfy he did, with a crazy array of top shelf brews, including some from De Molen.

Eloi's own creations on tap included a RAIZIN WEIZEN BRETT (5.8%), fermented with wild yeast and aged in chardonnay barrels. It was delicious, with a sour, tangy complex flavor and aroma on top of the expected German wheat beer attributes.

The SAISON SORACHI (5.8%, 30 IBUs) had a substantially malty (grainy) backbone supporting very floral, flavorful hops, with reasonable bitterness balancing it out.

TRIPLE CHEVAL BRETT (9%) used Amarillo, Citra and New Zealand Hallertau to compliment this sweet, malty creation, which had a tea-like, unfermented-wort-like character, and good bitterness to keep it even keeled, along with the Brett flavors to keep it well complex.

A rich red color painted the glass of SAISON FRAMBOISE BRETT (6%), and hinted at the sweet/bitter raspberry flavors and pleasing fruit aroma.
How many beers does BR need? Three. From L-R: Triple Bock Bourbon, Brett Saison, Triple Brett.
There's nothing like finishing strong, and the TRIPLE BOCK BOURBON (9.5%) did just that in ALL departments. Eloi must have wanted this one to really pick up what the bourbon barrels had to offer, because the smokey-peat aromas and flavors were perhaps over represented. The bunch of us that sipped it found that maybe it had too much character! There was a burnt candy sugar and burnt caramel flavor in the super viscous sips, as well as some higher alcohols mixing with the yeastiness. A figgy choco-molasses flavor was present. This beer had everything but subtlety! We had some TRIPLE BRETT left over and found that mixing the BOCK and TRIPLE made for a good blend. Don't tell Eloi!

Mondial De La Bière III

Our second day of the Mondial had a much more organized approach. Since we had our list of beers and brewers and our initial scouting from the day before we were able to target specific beers that we wanted to sample, and brewers to meet, and do so with better knowledge of where everything was located in the immense exposition space.

LA BARBARIE is a Quebec brewery that we were already well familiar with and while we found their beers to be very good, nothing ever really jumped out at us, stylistically. But a new brew that they had at the fest, CUIVRéE AU THé, was worth noting. The base of it had almost a Saison beer character -- by the way, "cuivrée" means copper colored -- but what sets it apart is the use of Earl Grey tea in the brew. It gives the beer a pleasant herby quality, similar to what grains of paradise can impart to a beer. Highly recommended!
We made our way to another familiar Montreal brewery, CHEVAL BLANC, which is probably the first Quebec craft beer that we ever had, way, way, WAY back. The brewpub was founded in 1986 -- the first modern brewpub in ol' Hochalega. While well familiar with their standard brews, they had a new one on tap at the Fest, a CITRA WEIZEN -- a German style wheat beer hopped with Citra. Those particular hops provided an added spicy note to the expected German wheat beer aromas. It was tart and bitter with plenty of banana/yeastiness in the finish and aftertaste. Well done.

The day before we tried beers from Ontario's BEAU'S ALL NATURAL BREWING, and at least one of the two we tried justified a return trip. We sampled the stronger version of BOG WATER, a Gruit Ale, which we had earlier -- a beer brewed with bog myrtle. The BOG FATHER was a stronger version, though we found it too, too sweet and viscous. Their WINTER beer had a really nice coffee aroma and flavor -- not roasty or acrid, but more similar to a beer version of a coffee soda. The BEAVER RIVER L.P.Eh! was quite hoppy with a hint of orange/citrus mixing with the malt aroma/flavor. It had a nice sweet grainy aroma, clean and malty. They earn points as the ONLY exhibitor to have not one but TWO HOCKEY SWEATERS on display, both custom promo jobs for the brewery! (We only mention it because they were in Sens colors -- we accept no blue and white jerseys east of Vancouver!!!)

On to à LA FûT brewery for their LA CRIQUE, a kriek beer with a dull pink/red color, lightly lactic, phenolic, cereal aroma, and dull yeasty cherry flavor, with mild sourness (I know that doesn't sound so good, but... it's not that bad). It's made with: "de type griottes du temps des cerises de charette en mauricie." Well, I'm not certain of what that means, but that sounds like some fancy cherries, eh.

On to BOQUéBIERE, which had one of the most impressive booths in terms of the variety of beers, information available, and the display layout. Boquébiere had one of our favorites -- out of roughly 50 beers we tried in Montreal over the 4 days -- their HILDEGARD ROUGE DES CANTONS, a 7% Flanders Red. I'd say that it ranked in the top 5. Aged in oak red wine barrels, this Quebec malt beer fermented with wild yeast had a deep mahogany color, an effervescence, a Rodenbach-like nose, strong initial tartness/sourness, some Brett and yeastiness, but finished out gently, with a slight grainy aftertaste. The wine barrel aging definitely imparted some tannic wine qualities. Well worth a try!
Does this look like a video game? I thought so, too.

Boquébiere's HILDEGARD AMBRéE D'éPEAUTRE (5%) was a murky straw color, good head and had a tart, tangy nose as well some clean lager sweetness in the aroma. Brewed with Quebec barley and Eastern Townships Compton spelt, it was wheaty, slightly sweet and grainy with a floral hop flavor and very little bitterness (dry hopped with Premiant, brewed with Hallertau hops). Quite tangy yet malty, refreshing with a solid body.
The Flanders Red.

The brewery whose beer we had the most of during Mondial week was DIEU DU CIEL (God In Heaven) by a mile (or by 1.6km). Always the innovator, yet always very consistent with high quality, they poured a CASCADE BLANCHE (5.5%) that was tart and citrusy with a lemon zest note. It's decidedly much more bitter than the average Blanche. More (much more!) DDC in later posts.

We were blown away by HOPFENSTARK's Raspberry Berliner Weiss the day before, and now it was time to be blown away by their BOSON DE HIGGS, a Saison brewed with smoked malt.
Interview with Hopfenstark's head brewer/owner Fred

Whoa! It had a murky straw color, and an assertive smokey nose. But not Bamberg Rauchbier-smokey -- a bit more subtle. The smoke flavor was also subdued, but quite evident, accenting the tart yet not quite sour, slightly cereal flavor. At 3.8% it was one of the few beers under 5% at the Fest -- a nice change of pace.

We bumped into brewer Jonathan of TROIS MOUSQUETAIRES who got us a sample of A'LABRI DE LA TEMPêTE's BELLE SAISON (5.8%) which had a clear, Helles-color and was pleasantly herby, with a malty cereal note. This brewery is one of the most remote in Canada, based on the tiny Îles de la Madeleine, in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, between Quebec and PEI. Their one winter activity listed on wiki-travel: "A popular activity is to observe young seals on the ice floes during winter." Oooookeh, then. Another beer, SVP!!!

Off next to BROUEHAHA the the SPECIAL B ABT 10 Abby beer (listed on their board at 8.5%, but in the Fest guide at 10%), which had a clear alcohol note right away giving way to more pleasant figgy/date aromas. It was a convincing rendition of the style with nice dark candy sugar flavors, dark fruit notes and the alcohol not overwhelming the flavor, but providing one of the many complexities of this mellowingly tangy, full bodied drink.

That's enough beer for one entry!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mondial De La Bière II

The Mondial is held in the Bonaventure convention hall downtown across from the Central Station where we arrived. The venue lacks the warmth of the outdoor location used the last time we hit the fest. But it's filled with acres of beer stalls, offering (probably) over 500 different beers.
Beers are served in small 4 oz. sample cups, unless you bought the optional glassware, which often means a much bigger pour -- though not always. You buy beer coupons for $1 each at a ticket window, then use the coupons to pa for the beer. The beers cost between 2 coupons (or $2) and 5, with many going for 3. The higher ABV, the more tickets required to experience that ride! But if you know the brewer or bartender, you're likely to get a few gratis.
On Thursday I had some early errands to run, so B.R. hit the fest early. By the time I had arrived I was ready to try to catch up. The first stall I went to was HOPFENSTARK, a Montreal area brewer. Fred, the brewer, was on hand and he offered our first round on the house. I had his BERLIN ALEXANDER PLATZ, a 3.2% raspberry Berliner Weiss. It had a slight murky attractive pink color, an aromatic with raspberry and was perfectly tart and refreshing! It was sour enough to be quenching without going over the line. Fred said that he uses about 40kg of fresh local raspberries in a 700 liter batch.
Fred recommended his End of the Trail I.P.A. to B.R., which had enough hop aroma, flavor and bitterness to satisfy any connoisseur des houblons, yet also had the malt to back it up.

Across the way, BENELUX, another Montreal brasserie, offered the ARDENTE, a "brettanomyces saison." The brett character was there, but very subtly. The tart blanche character married well with the brett, and gave the beer a slightly wild, woolliness.

Though we had plenty of DIEU DU CIEL the night before, we stopped off for a NOCE DE SOIE, a Saison with Sancho and yuzu, and CHAMAN imperial pale ale, a 9.5%, a slightly stronger version of their usually 8% double I.P.A.

Not everything that we tried at the fest was amazing. I got suckered into trying "white beer with champagne" -- LA FUTéE -- by some barker. I'll have to check on the name of the brewer -- the drink was not worth remembering. (It was PETIT FUTé which isn't a brewery, but a tourism promoter.) In short, it was dull and flat and aside from being wet, there's not much good to say about it. They make a black beer version of it, too. I didn't bother.

BEAU'S ALL NATURAL of Ontario had a nicely visual display. B.R. was recommended their flagship beer, LUGTREAD LAGERED ALE, which they boasted won "best craft beer in Ontario" at some point. Though it had good color and clarity, it had a grainy, homebrew-like flavor. Their BOG WATER had a lot more character -- a murky brown gruit brewed with bog myrtle that had a hint of molasses flavor.

I also tried the BROADWAY PUB's (from Shawinigan, Que.) "CELEBRATION", their Märzen, which was tasty and malty, though way sweeter than you'd ever expect for that style. The BLACK MAMA schwartz bier was a good example of the style with good roast malt notes without any acrid bitterness.

There were a bunch of other items that we sampled, including some ciders, but nothing worth mentioning, except for the amazing cheese bread offered by PAIN VOYAGEUR, one of the few food items available at the fest that was not some kind of weird meat (alligator, bison, turtle, bore, kangaroo -- yes KANGAROO).

We really got treated when we met with the other Quebec brewer named Fred from CHARLEVOIX in Baie Ste-Paul, about an hour north of Quebec City -- Jean-François of Dieu Du Ciel was with us.
He started us off with the DOMINUS VOBISCUS TRIPLE which and a really nice, yeasty -- but clean -- aroma, with a pleasant perfume-like note. At 9%, it also had that bit of alcohol bite associated with the style.
Next it was the BLANCHE, which is made with curaçao orange peel, coriander and chamomile! The flavors melded perfectly to give uniqueness yet balance to this great summertime ale. Following it was the DOUBLE, which was estery and fruity, with a faint banana/figgy flavor, with some bitterness in the finish.

We wrapped up with the LUPULUS, their very hoppy 10% beer. It was so aggressively, and pleasantly hopped, with wonderful flowery hop aroma and reasonable bitterness, that it didn't seem close to being 10% -- i would have guessed 8%. It had a bit of "triple" qualities and hop flavor in the aftertaste. Definitely a sipping beer!

That was it for the day at the Mondial. Next it was time to stuff ourselves with moules et frites at BIERE ET COMPANIE! Later in the evening we hit the insiders after-gathering at BROUE PUB BROUHAHA.

They had some very interesting items on offer, including a MAPLE DOUBLE "with a secret ingredient" added in a bar-top randall. Hops? Yes, but that's not all! Please... don't tell us -- YES! BACON! Ugh, give us a break, already! They put it in ice cream, they put it in toothpaste, they put it in everything. And while it may enhance some items, it didn't do anything for this (possibly) good beer, except make it flat, and taste like stale, semi-burnt french toast. The FORÊT ENCHANTEE (Enchanted Forest) bière de Noël they offered was dark, strong, roasty and very much spiced. And their BLANCHE SOLEIL spiced with peppercorns was good enough to wash away any actual bad taste left in our mouths from la bière de porc!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mondial De La Bière

The trip to the 2011 Mondial De La Biére in Montreal started with a 12 hour train ride -- from NYC? Hey, that's only twice as long as it takes to drive, and not much longer than it took Henry Hudson. But you can't drink SIXPOINT in a can and read about beer while driving, so that's alright!

First stop in Montreal -- DIEU DU CIEL!
It was Mercredi Noir (Black Wednesday), a dark beer special that evening. But the dark stuff was being held back until 10pm, when the Mondial folks would arrive. So, until then we enjoyed the well executed BASSE MESSE, a nice light Kölsch -- a style rarely even attempted outside of its place of origin. Also, a crazy, sour, wild mango beer called SOLSTICE D'ETE AUX MANGUES (Mango summer solstice) -- leave it to DDC to make something wildly unique and interesting. Also, a tasty Helles called HELIUM (an important note on this one in a later blog entry) and another interesting one -- a spruce beer (ANNEDD'ALE) which was about as close as you could ever come to drinking a pine tree... but a nice pinetree! Seriously, I made some album/book shelves last week, cutting some pine wood, and it was much like that very pleasant pine experience. [A much more contemplative and careful analysis of this very special beer is made in a later post. The prior description is that of an over-tired, under-beered traveler.]
Once the dark stuff began to flow, we were treated to... well, EVERYTHING! Look at the picture above -- that's what we drank! At least between the both of us. If you note the ABV of those beers and the lateness of the day, then you can understand the brevity of the post. More on the actual Fest in subsequent posts! [I know that may seem lazy, but bear in mind... we were up at 7am, rode a train for 12 hours, endured TWO customs checks -- the US wanting to look at us LEAVING our country and the Canadians wanting to look at us ENTERING their country.]

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Barcade Empire Moves Westward

WFMU's Beer Hear! Barcade J.C.

If it looks like Brooklyn, but it's not... it's Barcade! (Jersey City.)

The 2nd beer stop on our pub crawl of Jersey City on Saturday May 28, 2011 was the recently opened Barcade Jersey City, which started pouring beers in April.  Those familiar with the original bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn would recognize the vintage 80s arcade video games, some familiar faces of the staff, and the vast list of American craft beer, but to completely psyche you out, the bar itself looks like a twin of the microbrew mecca on Union Ave. Though unlike the original, the Jersey bar offers some light fare, and more light thought some windows.

You can clearly see what was on offer that day in the picture above. I started out with the Walt Wit, a wit beer from the Phil. Brewing Co. It was a the right one to start with at 4.2% abv -- murky pale yellow in color, a bit of a cereal aroma, tangy, slightly tart & citrusy, and completely refreshing. B.R. went for the similarly low in alcohol Anderson Valley Wee Geech, their American Pale Ale session beer (about 4% abv). Then I noticed one of those familiar faces from Brooklyn -- Kevin, one of the co-owners of Barcade. I spoke with him about how Barcade J.C. came about. You can hear the interview on the Beer Hear! podcast on WFMU.

Kevin said that they plan on opening up a Barcade Philly over the summer. He also told me that he ends up playing up to 50 games of Defender each time he's at B.J.C.  He might want to start playing 51, because I don't see his name on high scores hall of fame. And, yes, that "BOB" at 23,700 is yours truly -- "Today's Greatest!" (And only 10x lower than the #1 All Time Greatest... yeah, I'm not that good.)
After the interview Kevin treated me to a Climax Hefeweizen on cask. I love hefeweizens. I love cask beers. But not all beers benefit from being put in a cask and served at a higher temperature and lower carbonation. Wheat beers generally fit into that category. And hefeweizens, in particular. I suppose that it's a matter of personal taste, but I'm happier with a weizen that has tartness and fizz to offset the sometimes cloying phenolics. Without some acidic carbonation, this beer was kind of muddy, muddled and sat very heavy. I guess it's worthwhile to experiment, though.

Like its original version, Barcade J.C. is a great place to spend a few hours relaxing with friends on a lazy summer weekend day. We can't wait to check out the Philly version, too!

Jersey City Has Good Beer!

Our Brooklyn-based homebrew club, the Malted Barley Appreciation Society, organized a pub crawl of Jersey City, NJ (actually Bill did the organizing) on Saturday May 28, 2011. And while, at the time, it sounded like a good idea to kick it off with a pancake feast at the renowned Brownstone Diner, we found that drinking beer after gorging on buttermilk flapjacks took some serious willpower.
Once our order was taken, after having to choose among a dizzying list of selections, the cakes hit our table in minutes. Knowing in advance that they didn't serve real maple syrup, I brought some of my own to share, including some Tuthilltown Bourbon barrel aged maple syrup that B.R. got me for my b-d. Even with that succulent tree sugar coating the cakes, I had to leave a bit on the plate.

Despite us all having pancake bricks in our guts, it was time to get to the meat of the meet. The first stop was Zeppelin Hall, an absolutely enormo-gigantical-home-depot-sized beer hall with two massive, high ceiling indoor halls (one with a projection t.v. showing soccer), and a few acres of outdoor, gravel ground beer garden, with the requisite long tables and beer garden umbrellas. Zeppelin had a pretty decent german beer hall menu with lots of wursts as well as some non-meat options, and almost 40 drafts: a mix of american craft beers -- Ommegang, Dogfish Head, Yards (not easy to find in NYC); not-so-craft -- PBR, Yuengling, Shiner; typical german fare -- Spaten, Hofbräu, Jever, Franziskaner; and a miscellaneous collection of other stuff, probably for the soccer fans -- Newcastle, Carlsberg, Guiness, Boddingtons. I had the Spaten Pils, which was crisp, bright, malty and helped ease along the pancake cement that had set up in my stomach. Others had the Yards Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale, which, while tasty, was a bit heavy and strong (8% abv). B.R. had the Ramstein Mai Bock, also a bit full-on, given our pancake bellies.

A welcomed 15 minute walk north helped to clear some tank space, and landed us at Barcade Jersey City. See the accompanying post and podcast for Barcade.

Following Barcade, it was across the street and down the block to Skinner's Loft. As we entered there was a sun shower. Alan pointed across the street and said, "And look -- a rainbow!" as he pointed to the discount clothing store called "Rainbow." Haw haw. Skinner's has a nice dark wood bar, is clean and proper, and has a slightly up-scale feel -- er... well, Grove Street Jersey City up-scale feel. They showed it with their limited but particular tap selection. Raftman and Éphémère had their own elegant tap fountain.

I enjoyed a 10oz snifter of Flying Fish Exit 13 Chocolate Stout. It has a elegant, enticing coco aroma, which also comes through in the taste, mixing with the roast malt bitterness -- yet avoiding that acrid bitterness too often experienced with roasty stouts. At 7.5% abv, you can put a crown on this one and call it imperial. B.R. was treated to 16 ounces of slightly smokey Raftman, which usually comes in a smaller tulip glass. Also of note on tap was Elysian Fields Jasmin IPA, but nothing else that would turn your head.

Though there were two more official stops on the crawl (Light Horse and Iron Monkey), we made Pint aka Star Bar our last stop. We're told that it's a former gay bar, but I'm not sure just how "former" -- which is fine. It had a fun vibe and character. With a very limited number of taps, Pint seems more like a bottle bar. And many found very satisfying bottles, too. Warren picked a 750ml bottle of 9% DFH Squall, which was as tasty as it was strong. John, who at the prior stop, was raving about New Holland Brewery, was delighted to find a big bottle of Dragon's Milk, a dark ale aged in oak casks. B.R. settled for a serviceable Sly Fox IPA (I think) on tap. But my choice, Kenzinger from Philly, was a big disappointment. The bar listed it as a kölsch, but whatever it was, it was likely beyond its shelf life. It was cardboardy with a dull celery flavor -- basically it tasted old, oxidized, stale and mishandled. I'd love to try this one fresh one day -- it seemed like there was a good beer under all that noise.

It would have been hard to have said it 10 years ago, but there's one thing that we learned on the crawl: Jersey City's got good beer!

Brownstone Diner
Zeppelin Beer Hall
Barcade Jersey City
Skinner’s Loft
Pint (aka Star Bar)
Light Horse Tavern
Iron Monkey