Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!

You may have noticed that Gene Simmons, of the band KISS, is a bit of a self-promoter. Action figures, condoms, Mr. Potato heads—you name it and it's probably got a Kiss logo on it. In fact, Simmons was behind the officially licensed KISS Casket—excuse me Kasket. So, I have a tendency to take what he does with a grain of salt—but he may have just changed my mind.

Hey! Aren't you going to pour
that into a glass? Noooooooo!
Apparently, the Demon has decided to get into the craft beer biz. According to beeradvocate, the Huffington Post and CNBC, Simmons—and his partners, promoter David Furano and restaurateur Michael Zislis—are redesigning and reopening the El Sugundo, California based rock n' roll/craft beer themed, Rock & Brews restaurant, on April 3 of this year. The idea behind the rock-concert-meets-beerfest restaurant, actually, came about at a KISS concert, attended by Zislis and Furano. The two then teamed up with, the usually teetotalling, Simmons and opened-up last March. Over the last year Zislis, originally a brewer, has been tweaking the beer menu and working the kinks out of the restaurant.

Rock & Brews is going for a backstage vibe, and just so you don't forget that God gave Gene Simmons to you, the long-tongued bass player has added his own special touch, by creating "The Great Wall of Rock," a time line of rock memorabilia and large screen TVs. Rock & Brews has your typical burger and fries, pizza and sandwiches menu, but beer is the main focus—the restaurant boasts 52 beer taps and hundreds of other bottled or canned craft beers. I don't care if you're Gene Simmons or Jean Simmons, that's a lot of taps.

Never ones to let a good thing go to waste, the trio have plans to franchise—and franchise big—with a location opening at L.A. International Airport later this year, and with other possible locations beginning in 2013—as close by as Denver, and as far flung as Tokyo.

This is actually not Simmons' first venture into beer. Last October, saw the unveiling of KISS Destroyer—an easy-to-drink beer in the best German tradition—only it's brewed in Sweden. That's about all I need to say about that.

Is Rock & Brews gimmicky? Maybe. Is it shameless self-promotion? Sure is.

But man oh man, 52 taps is 52 taps.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Of Chicken Noises and Beer

This joke is corny, but I still love it.

What do chickens and beer have in common? Bock, bock, bock.

It's so dumb, it's funny. Besides, who doesn't love Bock and chickens?

The file name of this picture on Wikipedia
is Amberbock.jpg—I shit you not. 
During the 1950s and 60s, Bocks were a mainstay in the line-up of a good number of American breweries. Local and regional breweries could be counted on to release a malty, amber lager in spring, along side their normal fizzy, yellow stuff. Unfortunately, with the demise of the local American brewery, into the 1970s, also came the demise of that springtime tradition. When the craft beer movement gained momentum, in the 1990s, Bocks à la Vernal Equinox, began to reappear, with breweries like Anchor introducing its, now much sought after Anchor Bock. More recently, those regional breweries that made it through the dark times of the 1970s and 80s—like Genesee, Yuengling and Leinenkugel—have begun re-releasing their Bocks of yore. It seems the expression "what comes around goes around," holds true in this case. So, keeping in line with my bocky joke, and the re-insurgence of these beers, I figured I'd test drive a few American-made spring bocks—two craft and one, not necessarily craft, but dare I say legendary.

I'll admit, I was hoping to see more Bocks out this year—pickins' was slim. Out of the hundreds of beer available at Oliver's, I found only three Spring Bocks—Otter Creek, Mendocino, and Genny. This year's spring seasonals seems to be trending away from Bocks, to lighter, crisper offerings. In any case, the aforementioned three did me right. All three, basically, appear as the same beer, in fact, in the glass you might not be able to tell them apart—Clear, bright, rusty amber-red, with a foamy off-white head. They all exude that classic, cereal-like lager aroma—like honey mixed with an earthy must. Where these beers diverge, however, is in their taste—all are studies in fruitiness, each with it's own take on the theme—like beery jazz musicians riffing on the same tune.

The Otter Creek comes on citrusy—blending notes of mellow tangerine, persimmon and apricot. All of its citric flavors fall on the sweet side rather than tart and they marry well with the Bock's grassy and grainy elements. The Mendocino is thinner than the other two, and presents slightly more bitter, with a noticeable hop pineiness. Although, like the OC, it's its fruitiness that is again at the forefront—with flavors reminiscent of a fig, pear and red apple compote, topping a caramel drizzled busicut. Last but not least—the Genny. I'm going to be honest, I really enjoyed the OC and Mendo, but there's something special about the Genny. Maybe it's psychological. Genny has been so maligned, and the butt of so many jokes over the years, that's it nice to see them make such a phenomenal beer. From it's humble little green can—the one with the retro 1960s, flower-eating goat—comes a Bock that is full and fresh. It's drier, and slightly less sweet than either the OC or the Mendo. But, once again, it's the fruit that shines through—fresh strawberry and orange on the front, and a tart note of Granny Smith apple on the back end. Like the OC and Mendo, the Genny pairs its fruitiness well with its swirl of toffee, honey and a hay-like breadiness. I'll admit, I do really like this beer, but as I said before, maybe my love affair with it is more psychological than anything else.

So, whether you liked my chicken joke—or not—I think we can all agree that while spring is springing, it's worth crossing the road to pick up a Bock, or two.  

Yeah. I went there.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Marley's Ghost: 3 Months In

We are officially at the three month mark of my 2012 Christmas beer project—Marley's Ghost 1843 Christmas Porter. I conceived of this black beauty, in this past December's The Session. The week after Christmas I, indeed, did brew-up a batch of 1840s inspired Porter. While the yuletide has come and gone, the little carboy full of black deliciousness is still sitting in my home office, biding it's time, until its great reveal nine months from now, on Christmas Eve 2012.

Mr. Marley, you have quite an
impressive pellicle.
So what went into this ghost of a beer? Ron P. helped me out with that. After a little guidance from the guru of 19th century Porter recipes, I went with mild malt, brown malt, black malt and almost four ounces of East Kent Golding hops—in just 2.5 gallons of wort! I decided to use two yeast strains Wyeast London Ale (1028) and White Labs Brettanomyces clausenii—for a little tang and funk-ification. The dark malts and hop neutralizing Brett c, should help to balance Marley's Ghost's 125 IBUs—but that remains to be seen. I ended up low, in my original gravity, estimating 1.061 but hitting 1.056, however, two weeks of open fermenting, got me a final gravity of 1.010, keeping me at the 6.1% ABV mark I was hoping for. I may have lost a little sweetness, but what can you do?

Three months in, the beer still as black as midnight, but the Brett has kicked into high gear and a frosty-looking pellicle has formed on the surface of inky liquid. It smells sweet and malty, almost doughnut-like and there's a only a minimal hint of hop aroma. In the first few weeks after being transferred to the secondary, a bit of pressure built-up in the carboy. On two occasions I got a good pop as removed the bung to check on progress. I'm not sure if that was result of agitating the beer and getting a true secondary fermentation from the transferred Wyeast strain, or if the Brett was beginning its work. In any case, it's been still for at least two months, now.

So, three months down—nine to go. I'll give another update at the half way point, at the end of June. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Founders' Day

No, this post isn't going to be a Glenn Beck-esque homage to George, Tom, John, and Ben. Nor, is it going to be about about me, although I am both the founder and sole contributor to drinkdrank, so technically it is going to be somewhat about me—well, at least my experiences, anyway. Really, it's about beery coincidences, more than anything else.

Everybody loves a parade.
Earlier in the month, a stop by Oliver's beverage center garnered me a new offering from Newcastle. In the past year or so, Newcastle has branched out a bit. Of course they still make the ubiquitous "Newkie Brown," or "Dog" if you will, but they've begun a collaboration with the Edinburgh brewery, Caledonian, to produce a Summer Ale; a nod to All Hallows Eve with a rye-spike Red Ale, dubbed Werewolf; a Winter IPA and most recently their Founder's Ale (See where this is going?) Other than the Summer Ale—of which I've had once, on tap at the Lionheart, in the summer of 2010—the Founder's Ale is the only one of this new crop of brews, I've seen in my neck of the woods.

Later that same day, a Facebook update blipped across my screen. Westmere Beverage—Oliver's sister store—had received a very, small shipment of beer from the, previously unavailable in New York, Grand Rapids, Michigan brewery Founders Brewing Company* (See, now it's really coming together.) Fate had obviously intervened, and how could I ignore such prompting? So, I was off to Westmere Beverage in search of that day's beery destiny. What did my quest yield? Quite a treat, I must say —Founders Centennial IPA and a bottle of their Porter.

These three beers couldn't be further from each other, stylistically—a mellow Pale Ale, a beautifully sharp IPA and a rich, dense Porter—and I loved each one of them. The Newcastle is sweet and biscuity with a fruit-like hoppiness. It's got a subdued bitterness and, something I can't quite put my finger on—a subtle spiciness—nearly like nutmeg or mace. It's a good chilly, spring day kind of beer—to bad spring hasn't cooperated with the chilly part, this year.  The Centennial IPA, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Newcastle. It's all hop—in fact I'd go as far as to say the very essence of the Centennial hop. It's citrusy, and bright with that classic Centennial piney-ness. This beer's bitterness is aggressive to say the least, but there's a nice malted tone of caramel and toffee that keeps the bitter bite from chomping down too hard. I've been looking forward to this one for a few weeks, and it didn't disappoint. Lastly, came the Porter. What struck me first about this inky brew was in the pour. As it tumbled from the bottle into my pint, the arcing stream seemed to absorb light—cascading into the bottom of my glass like a ribbon of black velvet. If the Newcastle and Centennial IPA were dissimilar, this Porter take it to a whole new level. It's rich and dense, nearly bordering on silky. There is a roasted quality throughout, but it's balanced by a great sweetness—like fresh espresso dosed with bittersweet chocolate. Its hoppiness is floral, but the dark malts and their roasted, almost smokey quality, inhibit any strong bitterness. This is the Porter-drinker's Porter. Three beers—one pale, one bitter and one black—all based on the principals of making good beer—principals laid down by the both brewery's founders.

With all this talk of founders, a thought did occur to me: Did I find the beer, or was it the beer who found me? Maybe I should just chalk that up to coincidence, as well.

*I have, down in my basement, a few bottles of Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale that I picked-up in Brattleboro, Vermont—but I'll save that boyo for another post.)                 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Beer Geek's Most Hated Day

It's coming.

Strings of paper shamrocks.
Kiss Me I'm Irish buttons.
Over-sized, fuzzy leprechaun hats.

Yup, it's coming—this Saturday, in fact—and I've already overheard a few beer related gripes.

"Guinness!" Geeky McAficiando says, "Real Guinness tastes different in Ireland."
Bullshit. Guinness Draught taste like Guinness Draught in Dublin, Des Moines or Dubai.

"Heineken?" asks the pre-eminent beer scholar, Rufus T. Underwear, "Why would you drink a Dutch beer to celebrate Ireland?
Hmm maybe because the bottle is Kelly green—it's kind of a theme on March 17th. Heineken is exploiting the situation to make a profit. That's what companies do. Besides, St. Patrick's Day, in the U.S. has about as much to do with Ireland as leprechauns do with Christmas.

"Green Beer!?" shouts the purists at
Yeah, green beer is fun and festive. You know what's not? People who complain at parties.

Does beer get drank on St Patrick's Day? You bet. Is it mostly fizzy, yellow lager (albeit dyed green)? Yup. Does this in anyway effect craft beer? Nope. St. Patrick's Day is about having fun—whether you're Irish, Irish-American or Nepalese. Go ahead drink Guinness, or Beamish or O'Hara's or dyed-green, American fizzy lager—hell, drink whiskey if you want.

On the 17th, I'll be joining the New York National Guard's, "Fighting Sixty-Ninth", 69th Infantry Regiment, at their Lexington Avenue and 25th Street Armory in the heart of Manhattan. The 69th originally was a nearly all-Irish immigrant regiment, and has led the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade for 161 years. They have been kind enough to invite me down, and I will drink their green, aluminum-bottled Bud Light with glee.

As Stan loves to point out, it's just beer. Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm a National League Kind a' Guy

This past week at work was fairly hectic. Like trying to walk the yellow line, blindfolded, between two lanes of traffic, hectic. Maybe the pace at work and the resulting exhaustion helped to focus me. Next time I might go with ginseng tea over impossible deadlines and frustration to help with the concentration, but live and learn, right? I didn't get to write much about beer, but I did get the chance to reflect on it a bit. I thought about a single aspect of my relationship with beer, and it's a big aspect—Why do I respect craft beer?

First off, I think I have to clarify the bit about "respect"—I chose this word specifically. I could have said "Why do I like craft beer?" or even "Why do I love craft beer?"Although, neither of those questions seem right in this situation. My feelings about craft beer may go further than a simple like. I like cinnamon toast, but I don't make a conscience effort to have it as often as I can. It's also not about love. Love is an overused description. I love my wife and I love my children, because they can reciprocate, they can love me back. Beer, while it is delicious, is still, as far as I've been told, inanimate and therefore incapable of loving me back. I think the description that's more apt, is respect—Why do I respect craft beer?    

I'm a sports fan—football (both versions), auto racing, basketball, swimming, golf—you name it chances are I've spent time playing it or watching it. Baseball, however, has always had a special place in my heart. I assisted coached Zoe's tee-ball team last summer, and just being on the field to help the kids—with the smell of the fresh cut grass, the red clay dust billowing across the infield and the sound of cicada buzzing overhead—was exhilarating to me. That's  right, tee-ball is exhilarating. So, as I said, baseball is near and dear. Living in New York, the go-to team is obvious: The 27-time, World Series Champions, Bombers of the Bronx—the American League New York Yankees. The Yanks are the big boys—the winners' winners—not just in New York, either, but across the county. They can afford the best players in the world, they have a 90 year history and they consistently win games, pennants and world championships.

I don't care.

I am a fan of the lowly New York Mets, perennial denizens of the cellar, the can't-pitch-themselves-out-of-a-cardboard-box, National League New York Mets. But it's not just the Amazins I'm drawn to, it's the whole National League—whose combined teams have won 45, but lost 62 of the 107 World Series. Yes, The National League—of which its Philadelphia member, the Phillies, hold the honor of being the losingest team in baseball. Do you know what myself and the Houston Astros have in common? Next year we'll both be watching the World Series on TV—bah dum bum! However, for all its faults, there's something pure about the National League—something scrappy. Their pitchers still hit, more of their stadiums are simply "fields" rather than manicured "parks", and they seem to be universally the underdog. The National League is quirky too— the Chicago Cubs couldn't even play at night until 1988. Sure, there are teams that can pay some of their players millions, but most can't pay all their players millions. Strip away the ballcaps and gloves and dust and bats and what your left with is a set of principals that, I think, the National League shares with craft beer—or at least the idea of well crafted beer. Craft beer is the underdog, and I want to root for the small brewery competing with GloboBrew Inc. I want good craft beer to win, even though the odds are stacked against it. I want people to get swept up with a well made IPA or Stout the way they get swept up when the Mets play the Yanks or the Cubbies play the Sox. Craft beer and the National League fight the good fight.  

So, why do I respect craft beer?

For the same reason that I respect the National League—because they both try just a little harder.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


What a week—and it's only Thursday. More and better beeriness next week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Photo Finish: The DrinkDrank Facebook Fan Page Photo Contest

A while back I put together a simple fan page for our beloved DrinkDrank on Facebook. All was good with the world, until Facebook insisted that I add a "cover" photo. What am I to do? My digital hands are bound, they're bending my will to conform to their constructs—all in the name of more "Likes." I am but a pawn in Mark Zuckerberg's game.

All right, maybe it's not as Orwellian as all that, but every time I go to the page the "Add a cover photo" button taunts me. So I've decided to remedy the situation by having you do my dirty work. Here's my proposition: While I am a decent graphic designer, I am an abysmal photographer. So, taking inspiration from Alan's Yuletide photo contest, I am also offering a wee competition—a chance for your beery photo to grace the top part of the drinkdrank fan page AND win prizes.

"Prizes?" You say.

Yes, prizes! Not only will your photograph (credited with your name and/or blog address, of course) be seen by hundreds (or tens) of people on The Official DrinkDrank Facebook Fan Page, the winning photographer will also win their choice of one of Pete Browns' books Man Walks Into a Pub, Three Sheets to the Wind, Hops and Glory or Stan Hieronymous' Brewing With Wheat  or Brew Like a Monk. You may ask, "What if I own and have already read Pete Brown's, Man Walks Into a PubThree Sheets to the WindHops and Glory or Stan Hieronymous' Brewing With Wheat  and Brew Like a Monk"? Or, "I am Pete Brown/Stan Hieronymous, so I don't need another copy of Man Walks Into a PubThree Sheets to the WindHops and Glory, Brewing With Wheat or Brew Like a Monk."

 Fear not, I will offer another fabulous prize in lieu of Man Walks Into a PubThree Sheets to the WindHops and Glory, Brewing With Wheat or Brew Like a Monk.
One catch, however, I am going to ask that all participants—and non-participants for that matter—"like" The Official DrinkDrank Facebook Fan Page. Yeah, yeah I know that's Orwellian, too, but we've all got our crosses to bare. The contest, and ends one month from now, on Thursday, April 5. Throughout the month, send the pics to, I'll post entries here, and on the 6th I'll announce the winner and post the winning pic on Facebook!

See, fun and prizes—but, as always, please no wagering.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Session #61: Is Local Beer Better?

What makes local beer better? Hmm, interesting question.

The question implies four statements—The first one contends that locally sourced beer, or beer that is made by ingredients that are found within a short distance from where the beer is produced, is "better" than beer sourced from across the globe. The closet brewery—to me—locally sourcing is Brown's Brewing Company of Troy, NY. Brown's brews at its Hudson River waterfront brewpub in Troy; they grow their own hops on a farm in Hoosick Falls, NY; and they brew with water from Rensselaer County, NY's Tomahannock Reservoir. Brown's even goes as far as to donate a portion of the sales from their Tomahannock Pilsner to the Rensselaer Land Trust, a non-for-profit dedicated to conserving, preserving and protecting water sheds and wild lands throughout Rensselaer County.

The second statement implies that my local beer is "better" than your local beer, or vice versa. The purchasing of a beer local to me, like Davidson Brothers Brown Ale, supposedly, helps my regional community and our local economy, while my purchasing of beer from, say the UK or Belgium—or even California or Iowa—either has no impact, or in fact, hurts my community and our economy, or vise versa.

The third statement to be inferred is that local beer tastes "better" than alien beer. Theoretically, Outrage IPA, brewed at Crossroads Brewing Company, 30 miles south of Albany, in Athens, NY will be fresher, to me, and therefore taste better than a pint of Fullers's London Pride, brewed 3,000 miles east of Albany in London.

But does all of that make local beer "better"? Maybe maybe not, it depends on where you're standing. Personally I think it's the last statement that makes the question truly interesting.

The final statement presented in the question is not quantifiable. The phrase "local beer" itself implies something totally different. It's not about being good or bad or helping or hurting. It's bigger than that. It implies that beer is of a place. A place of local traditions, and tastes. It says that beer isn't simply the water and the fermented sugar of malted barley seasoned with hops—grown locally or otherwise. It implies that beer is governed by the place it's from. Tomahannock Pilsner isn't local, solely, because its profits go to a good cause or because it's made from locally sourced ingredients; and Fuller's London Pride isn't not local because I bought it in a beer store in Albany. The reason these beers are local is because they are products of their locality. They are unique products of their environments. Every sip of either of these brews is the sum total of where it came from—London is a part Fuller's London Pride and Brown's Tomahannock Pilsner is a part of Troy, NY. Both beers are indelibly intertwined with their place of birth.

So, is local beer better? I don't know, because as I see it, all beer is local to somewhere.