Giving Thanks To Beer, And Alcohol In General

Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for a great many things, including friends, family, a good job, and good health. As this blog is largely devoted to beer, I am of course also thankful for beer and alcohol in general.

I met my husband while drinking. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be in a fraternity or sorority without having a penchant for alcohol, but that wasn’t us. We met on a rainy night in February that involved lots of drinks, apartment party hopping, and a friend accidentally lighting something on fire at one of those parties (because he was drunk, as we all were). Back in those days, I was a 19-year-old sorority girl with an unrefined palate. I was probably sipping on whatever sugary, crass, cocktails were passed my way. I will regret this poor taste for the rest of my life, but regardless, that night was the beginning of a series of fun moments, many involving more drinking.

In college and some of law school, I was a fan of Jack on the rocks. We went through a period (early twenties) when we really liked wine. We still like wine, but love craft beers above all. Beer can make a dull day glisten with unexpected delight, and can turn a boring meal into an interesting one. There are so many types and styles of beers that the excitement never ends.

When we got married about 8 years after dating, we made sure to have good beers at our wedding. We had a small keg of Piraat, a beautiful and deceptively powerful Belgian trippel by Van Steenberge, a 10.5% abv delight (his choice). My choice was Westcoast IPA by Greenflash (7.3%). We got a keg of Modelo just in case anyone had lighter preferences, but predictably, that keg was not as popular. At our wedding, people had great beers and great fun; some probably had a little too much fun. It was a night to remember, except for the guests that drank too much to remember.

Cheers to beers, cheers to love, and cheers to my husband.

I am very thankful for all of these on this Thanksgiving.

SAMSUNG

Stone Enjoy By 10.31.14

Went to Shane’s Pizza & Pints for dinner and some drinks. It used to be Hendo’s. Hendos’ food and drinks were alright. Their meatballs were notable. Everything else was rather standard, and not particularly cheap either. It’s certainly convenient, so I end up coming here more for that reason. Currently, they are still using Hendo’s menu, and I’m not quite sure what changes are going to be made.

It’s not surprising for Stone to have good beers. This one was decent. It was floral, hoppy, with a very bitter edge. It was a little heavier than I would have preferred, and I think the bitterness was one of the most noticeable and immediate qualities. It’s not one of my favorites though. A little too floral and too bitter.

Libertopia 2014

Libertopia was last weekend, and as usual, it was a good time. Jeffrey Tucker was Master of Ceremonies. Good times and good beers were had all weekend. There was even some home brew in the Hospitality Lounge, but it was all gone before I got to it. While I tabled and listened to speakers, I had a couple of these:

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I like stouts, but tend not to drink too many of them, as they feel a bit heavy for me. Stone’s coffee milk stout is on the lighter side, but is not watery at all, as some poorly-done stouts can be. It’s got a lovely, smooth flavor, and is only 4.5% (which was a bit surprising to me).

Also had a couple of these:

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Sierra Nevada got a bad rap in my mind, since the most common pale ale you see everywhere isn’t that great. However, they do have a couple of really decent beers, like the seasonal Celebration, and this Torpedo extra IPA. Beer Advocate considers it world-class with a rating of 93, and I tend to agree! Fresh citrus and pine flavors, and of course, bitterness. It’s on the darker side of IPA’s and is 7.2%. Some people are also really fond of the Bigfoot barleywine they make, but that’s really not my thing. A bit too heavy and powerful, even for me.

 

Hangar 24 Essence (Imperial IPA)

Went to Bellows to celebrate a friend’s recent promotion. Bellows is the whiskey/scotch-focused, classier version of Churchill’s. I like whiskey too, but I learned in my early twenties that drinking Jack on the Rocks makes the night go by way too fast. Bellows has some great food, but their beer selection pales in comparison to Churchill’s. Of course, that’s the point. Churchill’s has all the beers and greasy pub foods, Bellows has all the scotches and fancy foods you can’t pronounce. The stuff they do have is thoughtful, though.

Had a Hangar 24 Essence IPA. It’s a fairly standard IPA (and I do not mean that in a bad way at all). Beer Advocate gives it an 86 (“very good”). It does the citrus tones and hoppiness very well. I liked it enough to have two of them, and I am only now realizing was an Imperial/Double IPA. If I had known when I was drinking I might not have had two of them then gone on to drink wine. In retrospect, I should have known, since the beer came in a smaller, tulip-style glass. Then again, I’ve been to snooty foodie places with craft beers that pour regular IPA’s in 10-ounce servings too.

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A Good Weekend With Ballast Point

Ballast Point has a lot of good stuff. Of course they are not perfect. There was that one time they had a few batches of Yellow Tail pale ale that tasted like soap. At first, I assumed the bar did not properly wash the glasses and asked for a new glass. The second was the same. I assumed that particular bar just had bad dish washing practices, until I ordered a Yellow Tail at another bar the next weekend and it also tasted like soap.

But that can all be forgiven, because of Sculpin, which is one of my favorite IPA’s. Oh god, it’s so lovely. Sweet, citrusy nectar. Beer Advocate considers it world-class. I drank it while painting my nails this weekend:

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Sculpin is far from Ballast Point’s only redeeming quality, though. They have several solid beers. It’s beer week and I tried a Homework Series #3 IPA a few nights ago, which is an English style IPA. Hoppy and malty:

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Interesting that they call it “English style” IPA – didn’t the English invent IPA’s? You’d think that all IPA’s are by default “English style.” By the way, I do not have a reputation as a cannibalistic serial killer at that bar (The Regal Seagull). That’s just the way they do their tickets for food. When you order (delicious) sausages, instead of a number, you get assigned a random fictional character. 

Final note: Ballast Point also has a tasting room and home brew mart with great supplies and grains. Overall, lots of good stuff.

The Worst of Belgium

Pictured above is one of many awesome Belgian beers.

This past weekend, I went to the grocery store to pick up some veggies, and happened to walk down the beer aisle. There were several good beer deals, so I ended up with a couple of 6-packs of IPAs, as well as a pumpkin ale. However, I happened upon this offending display:

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The “best” of Belgium? Really?! True, Leffe is not bad. The first time I had it, I was at a little dive in Brussels, and it was one of the most amazing beers I’d ever had – up to that point. Even now, I like both the blond and brune versions from time to time. And to be generous, no one can deny the Hoegaarden and its lemony touch is pleasant on a hot summer day. These are not at all remotely close to being the best Belgium has to offer, but at least they are acceptable, even good beers.

Then we get to the heinous, egregious, and unforgivable inclusion of Stella. You have got to be fucking kidding me. You know they call that shit “wife-beater” in the UK, right? It’s like the Bud Light of Europe. It’s flavorless, ugly, wretched, piss. Given the choice between drinking Bud or Stella, I’d actually take the Bud – not because of the flavor, mind you. They are equally piss, except the Bud is cheaper. Let me ask you – would you rather drink cheap piss or expensive piss?

That’s what I thought. And I like how they refer to this as a “celebration of Belgian beer.” No, not so much. More like a funeral march.

Mixing Things Up!

I popped by Bier Garden last week with a friend after we had dinner. I ordered Mother Earth’s Cali Creamin’, which is a smooth, nutty, ale with vanilla tones. She ordered a Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Our bartender filled our pints low by an inch. Of course, my gut reaction normally would be, sacrilege! But I come here frequently enough to know better. Our bartender then presented a small sampler of the two of these beers, mixed together. He stated that if we so desired, he would fill the rest of each of our beers up with the other one. If we did not like the mix, he would fill the rest of the beers up normally.

We both decided to do so. The Cali Creamin’ is great, but I do have it all the time, and it was nice to have a change. Topping it off with the peanut butter milk stout gave it a nice, unique boost of flavor without turning the whole beer into a stout. Plus, I’m not the biggest fan of peanut butter, so that little dash was perfect for me.

My friend’s beer was equally good, though hers obviously contained a higher ratio of the stout. The Cali Creamin’ toned it down a bit and gave it a softer, even creamier finish.

Well played, bartender!

Deschutes Inversion IPA

Deschutes, located in Bend, Oregon, is one of my favorite breweries. They have a variety of great beers, and a number of delicious IPAs, but one I particularly enjoy is the Inversion IPA. This beer is properly bitter, floral, hoppy, and satisfying. Its color can hardly be described as pale, as it’s almost an amber color, but you can’t hold that against it. If drinking during the day, be sure to listen to Sprawl II and Samba de Bencao while imbibing. If drinking at night, Voodoo Child and Stylo.

This is the kind of beer that makes you happy as you drink it. Happier when you drink another. Unfortunately, it makes you a little less happy when you wake up the next morning after having 6 or so.

Another great Deschutes beer is Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Pale ales usually bore me, but this one is notable. It’s citrusy, floral, easy, smooth, and is perfect for hanging out in the backyard in summertime. Its flavors are distinct and confident, but not as arrogant as an IPA. In comparison, some of the hoppier, heavier IPAs can get to be a bit much on a hotter summer day, as they turn warm quickly and take on a dull, syrupy texture.

Hillcrest Brewing

Haven’t been in these parts of town in a while, but stopped by here for a drink recently. “Just the Hop” IPA was enjoyable, though probably not as hoppy as I would prefer. It was a reasonable IPA, but it did not blow me away. I didn’t try the “Banana Hammock,” Scotch Ale, but the opinion on that was that although it was expected to taste strong at 9%, the taste of the alcohol was a little too prominent.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take some time and try their other sexy delights –  “Crotch Rocket,” “Hop Sucker,” and “Perle Necklace.” Service was very friendly here, and they have some outdoor patio seating, perfect in sunny weather.

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Illegal Drinking

The United States has some of the harshest drinking laws in the world, though it claims to be a bastion of “freedom.” When I was in Barcelona, we regularly would pay 5 Euros for a bottle of wine and drink it at a little snack shack in the sand. In the thick humidity of Taipei, it was always nice to cool off at a well-air-conditioned 7-11, buy a Sapporo, and drink it on the street, or drink a Taiwan beer while hanging out in night markets.

In Thailand and Bali, one of the greatest joys was to sip on a cold lager while ocean-gazing. In Prague, we bought some beers at a sidewalk cafe, asked to take them to go, and inquired as to whether it was legal to drink in the streets. The guy laughed at us and said, “Of course. This isn’t the United States!”

Where I live in the U.S., you can’t legally drink in parks or beaches, because the U.S. is a fucking police state. Of course, not being able to drink beer where you want in public is one of the least problematic aspects of police states, but still.

Fuck it. You should still do it. Hide homemade white sangria in your beach bag and drink it on the sand on Memorial Day Weekend, as the cops patrol up and down every hour eyeing people for law-breaking behavior. Bring a flask with you to parks just in case you get bored. Find an area of low visibility in a nearby park and bring wine in your picnic basket. Pack beers into your Camelpak while hiking and reward yourself at the summit. Sneak Stone Cali-Belgique into a playground at midnight with your friends and drink it on the picnic benches. Be sure to bring glasses too, because it is undignified to drink such good beer straight out of the bottle.

Cheers for beers, because life is more fun this way.

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