Some breweries just get it. Every distributed brewery has a marketing department of some kind. Judging by the amount of beer available at any given beverage center (back in Buffalo, they call them party stores) it’s no easy task to make sure you stand out from the crowd. I mean, I’ll occasionally buy a beer because its label looks cool. I’m no more oblivious to bright colors and fancy scripts as the next guy. I’ll buy based on style of beer more than anything, but breweries have to know I’m spending upwards of a half hour looking up and down at the same shelves hoping I’ll notice their brand. There’s always a different school of thought in how they get you to look their way. There is the big-swinging-dick approach, where places like Stone Brewery more or less question your manhood by daring you to try one of their beers. There’s the fancy swirling art motif employed by Continue reading
About a month or so ago, I ran down a list of some of my favorite pumpkin beers for the Fall brewing season. Since that was a lot of fun, I decided that the Winter brews deserve some love too. Generally, most winter brewed beers are going to be heavier in style, as well as higher in alcohol percentage (for them cold, cold nights). There are gimmicky beers brewed with all kinds of fruit, champagne beers, spicy winter warmers, and other beers not themed so specifically for Christmas, and will sell late into the season.
Hibernator by Long Trail Brewing Co. (Bridgewater Corners, VT) – We start this list with one of my favorite beers for winter. I am a completely biased, unabashed devotee to Long Trail for their session beers. Hibernator is Continue reading
The India Pale Ale, or IPA, is a polarizing style of beer. To some, it’s a go-to style and is considered great test of a particular brewer’s ability. To others, it can be an overwhelming and otherwise bitter experience. Some people (ie: my girlfriend) find the hop bite to be hard to drink. She says simply too strong for a casual palate. I guess it’s just an acquired taste. Anyways, the recipe comes from 19th century England, and carries with it a widely disputed legend that it was brewed specifically to last longer than normal beer being shipped to India. As it was, typical English porters would last years, let alone a four month or so ship ride to India. The beer proved popular in just about any market it was available. The two most popular styles of IPA are the American and Belgian variations. (The Belgian variation uses Belgian yeasts, as well as being cloudier in appearance and generally higher in alcohol.) As I said before, I wasn’t too fond of IPAs as recently as last year. I was all about stouts. Stouts, stouts, stouts. ”This is beer,” I thought. While I was correct (it sure is beer), I eventually grew tired of the same coffee or dark chocolate motifs that fit so well with darker, heavier beers. When I decided to branch out I noticed the IPA style was produced by such a number of breweries, that I had to have been missing something. This would lead to the inevitable discovery of the Imperial or Double IPA style (or DIPA), which is about what it amounts to in recipe and flavor. Generally higher in alcohol content and cranked up on all flavors involved, but mostly hops. Sure enough, the more variations I tried the more I grew to appreciate the strength and big flavors. These days, there’s almost nothing more disappointing than a bad IPA. While ranking them seems meaningless and almost impossible, I decided there were a few that definitely stood out from the rest. I’ll include some Double IPA for those seasoned in the ways of the IPA, but simply wanting more.
21st Amendment Brewing. (San Fransisco, CA) – Brew Free or Die! IPA: Our first selection is also our only selection to be exclusively packaged in cans. I would consider this an everyday IPA. As in, I could drink this every day. It’s refreshing, crisp, and has Mt. Rushmore on it. What’s not to like? It offers more in the way of citrus aroma which I can never seem to get enough of. Along with the patriotic artwork slapped all over the can, it’s an ideal way to keep light out even more efficiently than a brown bottle would. For a long time, craft beer couldn’t be canned because the reaction with aluminum would taint the taste. This is no longer the case, as special can liners were developed. But for goodness’ sake, pour it in a glass you savage.
Rogue Ales (Portland, OR) – Brutal IPA : West Coast IPAs generally get most of the love in the beer communities, and for good reason. Rogue Ales has several offerings in the IPA style, with the more popular being Yellow Snow IPA. While I don’t dislike Yellow Snow, it’s lingering bitterness is sort of a dealbreaker. I much prefer Brutal IPA, which is the angrier older brother of Yellow Snow. It packs a high alcohol content for a standard IPA (8.8%) but drinks very, very easy and clean. It’s cloudier in appearance as well, with just enough hops before it would start to feel oily on the palate. Rogue almost never disappoints, so buy their stuff with confidence.
Brew Dog (Fraserburgh, Scotland, UK) – Punk IPA: I will totally admit to being a huge mark for Punk IPA. Punk IPA semi-recently revamped their recipe, the distinguishing difference being the newer recipe has lower alcohol content (5.6% from 6%) but still delicious. A European take on an American IPA by dudes who are just plain old down for beer. Also heavy on that lovely citrus aroma. I cannot imagine what this tastes like fresh, versus whatever I happen to find here in America. It also looks so cool. Be sure to check your local beverage center’s British selection to find this and other Brew Dog offerings.
Southern Tier Brewing (Lakewood, NY) – Unearthy Imperial: Of course, I cannot go a list without a nod to one of my favorite breweries. I also needed to include my home state of New York, and get on with recommending some DIPAs. Unearthly is very East coast in style, as the amount of hops used in this brew is so great, the natural oils of the hops are very noticeable in the mouth as you drink it. It’s a big beer, and is best shared between two people per bomber. I also say this as it’s a whopping 10% alcohol by volume. If you choose to tackle it solo, may you do so responsibly. Southern Tier bottles and sells an oak aged variation, which takes down a considerable amount of hop and alcohol bite. It pours such a mesmerizing shade of golden orange if you’re into that sort of thing.
Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, CA) – Double Jack: A good friend of mine schlepped this all the way out here from Denver, only to find it in good supply in these parts. No matter, as this was excellent. The beer itself has loads of those delicious citrus and grapefruit notes I so desperately crave in a DIPA. it finishes kind of syrupy, but still one of the better I have had. This seems like a great time to mention that I do not know what lacing is or what it has to do with beer. Does this beer lace? DRINK IT AND THEN GOOGLE IT AND FIND OUT!
Flying Dog Brewery (Fredrick, MD) – Raging Bitch Belgian IPA: I had to think for a minute, but to give you a recommendation on a Belgian IPA is a bit skewed. You see, I apparently have ever only had one. I know. Anyways, behind the Ralph Steadman diarrhea on the label (Time to let HST go, you guys) you’ll find an absolutely wonderful brew. Most Europeans actually think the Belgian style is TOO hoppy, and prefer the American style. I say they need to try some of the stuff coming from California, then talk to me.
Dogfish Head Brewing (Milton, DE) – Burton Baton: I mentioned this earlier when talking about Unearthy, but this is an oak barrel aged DIPA. It is incredibly drinkable for it’s strength. There is a bit of a warming finish which is strange for a DIPA, but the subtle vanilla from the oak barrels really serves to take everything down a notch or two. With breweries like Lagunitas and Stone seemingly trying to outdo each other with intensity and flavor, dialing things back by aging beer is a great idea.
That’s a few with some background for you, here’s a few more worth picking up if you see them while prowlin’ for some new world hop bombs:
- Ithaca Brewery – Flower Power IPA (NY)
- Dogfish Head – 60/90/120 Minute IPAs (DE)
- Russian River Brewing Company – Pliny the Elder (CA)
- Sierra Nevada – Estate Homegrown Organic Ale (CA)
- Sixpoint Brewing – Bengali Tiger IPA (NY)
Hope you found the list helpful. Remember if you’re drivin’, don’t drink. And if you did, don’t drive.
Poured from bottle to pint glass.
I figured I ought to review the Pumking that has been sitting in my fridge for two weeks since we’re now past the harvest season. I meant to bring it to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving, but I’m glad that I didn’t in retrospect; not because it wasn’t enjoyable, but rather because I got supremely tanked as it was. The Pumking pours dark orange with two fingers of a quick to recede foamy head. Surprisingly, there was little to no lacing. The nose, as to be expected, was rich with pumpkin pie, clove, cinnamon, spice, pepper and graham cracker. The taste fell a little short of the nose, but was fairly well-balanced and added hints of nutmeg and brown sugar. The carbonation stings the pallet briefly before a pleasant buttery finish. I’m not very big into flavored beers, but the Pumking was enjoyable albeit a bit of an overdose at 650ml. I have yet to be disappointed by a Southern Tier Imperial. I will absolutely try this one again next season…and share it.
42 Howard Street
Albany, NY 12207
I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to write about The City Beer Hall. A review is long overdue. I figured with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I might as well give thanks for one of the things in my life that I take for granted.
Since opening earlier this year, The City Beer Hall has been my most visited bar. One week over the summer, I was there eight times in five days. There are valid reasons…at least I hope.
I heard some months back that a bar was opening up in the old Ballinger’s building. Bars have had trouble staying open in that spot historically, but I’m rooting for The City Beer Hall. Why? Because, unlike the prior establishments, it doesn’t suck. Oh, and it’s about an eight-minute walk from my apartment.
If you haven’t been to The City Beer Hall yet, you’ll hear two things: “free pizza” and “mechanical bull.”
Not unlike the Crocodile Lounge in the East Village, CBH gives you tickets with every beer for mini pizzas in their adjoined kitchen. Sure, the beers are a little pricier on account of the pizzas, but I always seem to get my money’s worth.
The pizzas are actually extremely tasty! The crust is thin and crispy. It is my recommendation to get no less than two at a time and then sandwich them together: cheese to cheese (after a liberal parming). It’s like a pizza quesadilla! As an added bonus, you are usually afforded a colorful anecdote or a joke in the least by the pizza boys (who will remain nameless…you know who you are). Make sure to tip!
The mechanical bull. I rarely visit the upstairs anymore, but there absolutely is a mechanical bull up there. Have I ridden it? Yes. What’s the price? It’s free. Rather, the price is your dignity. I’ve been on the bull three times, in two separate nights, for a total of about four seconds. I think it took me longer to sign the waiver…
The City Beer Hall has numerous other perks (not aforementioned) that keep me coming back.
1) The Staff: I now know the majority of the bartenders on a first name basis. At least at the downstairs bar. And despite my antics, they are always friendly. The best bartenders even remember what I normally drink! It’s like my Cheers. ”…sometimes you wanna go where [the majority of the staff] knows your name, and they’re always [glad/indifferent] you came!” They’re kind, welcoming and don’t laugh at me when I tell them I think I left my credit card there and I find it in my refrigerator the next day.
2) The Drafts: CBH has a wealth of beers on tap and they are constantly switching up their selection. I love trying new things so it’s nice that I’m kept on my beer-swilling toes, though I do still miss my summer session beer, Sly Fox Pils. Next summer…next summer.
3) The Patio: Speaking of summer, unfortunately the Beer Hall will lose one of its biggest assets with the declining weather. It’s massive, and if you’re with a group of people, it’s ideal. Occupy a picnic table and look at the lights of the Times Union Center across the way.
4) The Menu: This is admittedly a new development for me, but everything I’ve had at the CBH has been enjoyable. It’s certainly a step up from bar food. That is probably due to the fact that the chef from the defunct Wine N’ Diner is in charge. The man has a good handle on what I call “white boy soul food.”
I recently cleaned my computer desk and lifted a piece of mail to find a Beer Hall pizza ticket depository. I decided that tonight was going to be arts & crafts night. I fashioned a CBH turkey out of some unused tickets. And I cleaned up two weeks ago…Jesus.
Notice the attention to detail and cheap invisible tape.
The City Beer Hall is offering free pizza on Thanksgiving Eve for “Beergiving.” I encourage you all to attend! I’ll be there.
I drove down to New Paltz the other day. Tiny little hippy town outside of Poughkeepsie, NY. I have friends that go to college there, and I was somehow lured out of my apartment to go drink out of a keg in a dusty basement. I mention this, as Evan is a graduate from SUNY New Paltz and Marena is currently attending. While the traffic was terrible all weekend (Seriously they need more than three roads in that fucking place), and I drank more Red Bull than beer at the aforementioned kegger, I did happen to come across a little gem.
While getting the keg, I started to mosey around the store to find Dogfish Head Hellhound On My Ale. The name of the beer is an homage to the legendary blues musician Robert Johnson, who allegedly sold his sold to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for being able to play the guitar. It was released on what would have been Johnson’s 100th birthday. The style of beer is an imperial India pale ale, brewed with lemons. (The lemons are included as a nod to Blind Lemon Jefferson, who influenced Johnson.) Now, this can go one of two ways. As with most Dogfish Head offerings, you’re likely to either hate it or love it, and it’s certainly strong. (My girlfriend tried it and reacted as if a meteor had hit her palate.) As I read the label, I thought to myself, “I really hope this doesn’t taste like there’s dishwashing detergent in my beer.” Luckily, the lemon flavor really doesn’t show itself until the finish. The beer has all the hoppy, citrusy aromas commonly associated with an imperial IPA, but again more lemon than grapefruit. The beer was meticulously brewed to revolve around the number 100, such as the IBU rating is 100 and the alcohol content is 10.0%. Having said that, the beer is remarkably drinkable. As always, imbibe responsibly. Dogfish Head has become a brewery where I’ve had far more of their seasonals and rarities than I have their year round brews. If you happen to be out at the store and this catches your eye, you won’t be disappointed.
Miller’s new billboard campaign reads “Man Up, [fill in the blank city].” On my way home from Latham tonight I saw three Miller Lite billboards telling me to “Man Up.” This bothers me on multiple levels.
First of all, I am a drinker of Miller Lite. If I am going to have more than six beers, it’s usually Miller Lite. Why? Because for light beers it sucks less that Coors, Busch, Bud and Keystone…not because I enjoy it. There has never once been a time in my life where I’ve felt like more of a man drinking a Miller Lite. It was a diet decision for me. I used to be the dark prince of Bud Heavies. Shut up. I was also on Lipitor at 21. I feel like a total asshole drinking Miller Lite.
This is the other level it bothers me on. Fran Fudge and Connie the Cat Lady Get Mad About Beer. Ladies…Miller is dumb. This campaign is dumb. ”A recent study shows that 9 out of 10 Miller Lite drinkers are misogynists…” No.
Next time, how about claiming that your beer is quadruple hops brewed. God dammit. I already undergo enough scrutiny for being a pansy.
American Pale Ale
Poured from bottle to pint glass.
Light amber with a one finger tiny-bubbled head. Lacing is very thin and trails throughout. The aroma is by far the most satisfying part of this beer: flowery hops, grapefruit, apple cider, honey-sweet malt. I wish I could say that the taste is as satisfying. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it; it is a decent balance of citrusy hops and sweet malt, but it doesn’t live up to the aroma. The mouthfeel is a little too watery to be satiny and so it’s kind of flat on the taste buds despite the medium carbonation. It is rather drinkable despite its lack of complexity from a taste standpoint. This was the first Ellicottville that I’ve tried, and although I wasn’t wowed, I’m making a mental note to pick up a sixer of another one of their beers. Not bad.
I’ve collapsed right here—————————————–^
That being said, I consider myself lucky to live as close to this place as I do. Good beer selection, great food, and friendly service. I love that they have Southern Tier 2X IPA on tap. I love that the pool table isn’t terrible and has an even roll. I love their pizza (seriously, it’s the best non-pizzeria pizza I’ve had in a long time). I love that they don’t throw me out when I’m shwasted. I love that I can watch any NFL game on Sunday there. Except for last Sunday when the Bills jobbed.
It is also probably the best bookend bar that I’ve ever been to. What is a bookend bar? A bar that you can start and finish your nights at. It’s only about two blocks from my apartment. I’ll start at Hill St. at 8pm on a Saturday night and end up back there at 3:30 for a couple of rounds. I just wish the walk home wasn’t uphill.
The clientele is largely locals. Don’t be surprised if you see two or three familiar faces every time you pop in. Overall, it’s a good crowd. Nobody’s looking for a fight…unless somebody hijacks the jukebox and plays something other than mid-late 90′s alternative rock.
Buy me a beer and I’ll buy us a round of electronic cricket.
At the rate I’ve decided to do beer reviews, Evan is going to have to change the name of this blog to “the self hating hopster.” (See what I did there?) I’ve been reviewing so much beer I feel there could be a Joanie Loves Chachi-like spin off to this Happy Days of a blog somewhere down the line. For now, I remain your faithful servant in amateur beer reviews.
To that point, I’ve noticed that Continue reading