Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Little R & R

Taking a little R & R from the 40/40 blog. See you after July 18th sometime! Surely, I will be drinking some fine brews in the meantime!



Curmudgeon Old Ale: Ahoy!

We headed with another couple to Bully’s in Columbia, Pa., the other night. Columbia is a good place to get a tattoo or beat up, but it is not quite the mecca for fine dining and drink. Bully’s tries to be upscale but it cannot escape its Columbia location. Columbia is an old river town and I have heard that river towns can be a bit rough and Columbia certain fits the stereotype.  Yet, Bully’s–like Avis–tries harder.

Any place that has an extensive Beer Bible deserves a visitation from a Beer Sage like me.  Although the 40/40 pilgrimage came to an end last July 4th, I have cred for life.  Someone recently tried to stump me by naming out-of-the way Pennsylvania Micro-Breweries, hoping to bring up one that I had not been to.  He gave up after about ten tries and confessed that “Eric knows his beers” in awe and admiration.  I was only a vessel who had extra time on his hands for a brief sudsy moment.

Fittingly, at Bully’s, I drank a seafaring Curmudgeon Old Ale from Founders. I suppose that rivers and lakes count, too.  Here is the sacred writ from the Beer Bible:

I love names for beers like Dirty Bastard and Curmudgeon, but draw the line on satanic stuff like Devil Dancer (all three are Founders’ Brews). Drinking with the Devil, I am not down with. I recall the time I asked for St. Obnoxious at Victory Brewing Company and the server got a confused look in her eyes. Then, she said, “St. Boisterous?

Oh yeah, that’s it. I should have grasped that “Saint” and “Obnoxious”  just don’t go together, even in Micro-Brewing. See the Curmudgeon below…

Ahoy, this is one great beer despite its cantankerous name. Kind of like and old sailor who was long past being politically correct and concerned about who might be offended by what he said but who still loves people.  High ABV, supreme maltiness, this brew will take the chill out of the bones after a long night on the decks of the ship fishing and hauling nets. Or, a rough night in the Easy Chair watching the wife’s favorite TV programs one after another in succession on Netflix.

There is an ocean of goodness in this glass even though it is hardly tame. Wild and strong like the sea, I can almost smell the sea air and hear the sea gulls now.

Not Yeti

Friday night we headed out to Bulls Head Public House in Lititz. Lititiz is quaint little town in Lancaster County that is practically inaccessible by car at certain times of the day due to a combination of poor roads and traffic. Better suited for already slow-moving buggies. I call it Lititz Island as a result.  Bulls Head touts itself as the only authentic British Pub in the region and I think that is a true boast. Other places just don’t seem to cut it authenticity-wise. Having Guinness (and primarily other Guinness products) on tap does not a Pub make. Particularly dire are the food rip-offs of British Isle cuisine. Not that this cuisine is really much to write home about anyway.

Such establishments shall remain nameless. Apparently, an Englishman co-owns the Bulls Head and it does taste true to it motto. As it was, we had a quick drive with little traffic and soon were seated with friends at the pub. Last time we were there, it was winter. We found the Bulls Head to be delightfully cheery and on this Friday night–although much balmier outside, we found the same.

I started out with some brewery’s Red Rye. It had an overly hopped flavor and I was hoping to do better with my second choice. I’m fine with hoppy beers for varieties like IPA’s. Otherwise, I think it is a short-cut to craft status by taking an average brew and hopping it up and thinking that one has moved the beer closer to the apex.  Not so.

I am keeping myself to two beers per weekend night and not drinking beer during the week so a lot was riding on this brew to fulfill my hopes and dreams for a satisfying libation. After trying a couple of samples of other beers and starting to feel like a mooch, I made my decision on faith without tasting. Remembering that I greatly had enjoyed the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout that I had partaken of in Hoboken, NJ, several months ago, I opted for the same style.  The Yeti Imperial Stout from the Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado. I spotted it up on the big chalkboard and thought I had a sighting of quality.

And, in a way it was a keeper. It took me so long to drink it that the night was over and I had to gulp down the last two ounces. I didn’t hate the stuff yet it was more my ethic of not throwing food and drink away that compelled me to completion rather than a love for the taste. Here is what I thought of the taste: Burnt, practically an ashtray of tobacco leaf smoked to a white powder and thrown into the Wort from what I could surmise. The Yeti seemed to lack the sweetness of other Imperial Stouts that I have had in the past. Imperial Stouts are supposed to be super-strong yet sweet.

Generally, I have a broad beer palate. But, it does have its limits. The Yeti gets a very good rating on Beer Advocate so it looks like I am representing a minority position. But if I see it again on tap elsewhere in the future, I am not going to take notice of it. There are better beers to spend time nursing. All I have to do is peer upon the picture above and recall its bitter taste. No need to go on a expedition looking for it again.

Blue Moon

The other night I was hanging out with some of my fellow educators  after Graduation at some fairly typical restaurant/bar combo in York that has some more upscale craft brews on tap as well as a much wider microbrew selection in bottle. Like spotting one’s live lobster that he wants to eat in the tank, the microbrews all sit in the cooler behind glass easily seen from the bar. “I want that puppy in the window.”

One staff member, at 7 or 8 dollars a pop, was drinking Ommegang. I decided to aim lower, much lower, and drink draft Blue Moon. Blue Moon is made by Coors and I was drinking the Belgian White with the orange slice. I am not much for fruit with beer, so I ate the oranges and drank a couple unencumbered by citrus. Blue Moon is a decent beer…I like it.  I don’t love it.

I am not categorically against the beers from the big sharks. Corporations are a fact of life, yet I do tend to favor the smaller fish. Part of it is the flavor, part of it is just me liking to empower entrepreneurship and innovation. Creativity in brewing, as elsewhere, rarely comes from the behemoths. There are exceptions like Apple. Yet, most corporations develop a homogenized product or service, and then inundate the airwaves and stores shelves with it, pushing the competitors out. Big retailers and big corporate entities then play a game of catch where the smaller players have a hard time getting into the game. It is how it is done to a science and employs market-share, economic reality, and the legal and regulatory system (i.e. political gamesmanship and patronage), to stack the odds to the equivalent of breweries’ New York Yankees.

With the summer coming on, I tend to gravitate to the Belgian Wits and German Weissbeers. I just enjoy the lighter feel, the higher carbonation, the zingy taste, and that I can drink several without seeing double. There is an effervescence of the Wheat Beers that is just right for summer. In fact, I am pretty sure that my Belgian Wit homebrew exploding bottle saga (I have lost nine bottles thus far) is somewhat the result of brewing a Wit and its accordant increased carbonation process. Other factors went wrong, but there has to be something inherent in Wheat Beers that make them more volatile in fermentation (both the first and second). Or, at least that is what I am telling myself.

We might be heading out tonight to the local German  Club Sommerfest tonight. My wife just returned from San Francisco and only got three hours of sleep flying East today. She is racking on the couch right now trying to catch up on her sleep. The Sommerfest has some Franziskaner on tap and I am sure that this will be better than the Blue Moon. And, oh yeah, skip the orange.

St. Boniface – Libation: Doubling Down

What to do? I was hankering to go down to Philly to be a part of the opening festivities for Philly Beer Week. But then, I started to do the Calculus: It is Friday….kind of tired after a long work week; long drive to Philly (2 hours down, two hours back); the tolls and parking; having to haul the wagon back to Amishland after the food and drink; the wife not real into it. Hmm…abandon ship.

Alternate: First Friday in Lancaster city. Do the Math: Closer to home (fifteen minutes), easy parking, it will look like Philly crowd-wise because it is First Friday for at least a couple of blocks.  Ship ahoy! We met a couple for dinner at Molly’s Pub. Sorry about the annoying bagpipe music in the background on their website. Makes me want to turn off the sound…which I did. I get the point, you want to convey a North Atlantic European vibe. My buddy and I had heard that the pub was serving St. Boniface,  a Double IPA…and they indeed were.

One of the reasons we selected Molly’s Pub was that is was a lovely late afternoon/early evening in Lancaster and Molly’s has a rooftop deck for dining. One of those days you’d like to bottle and save for the future. Mid-70’s, blue sky, a brisk and warm breeze. Truly, a weather gift. Fantastico. We ordered our food and awaited the arrival of our beers. I told the waitress that we were beer snobs  and she said that she was, too. She said that she drank Miller Lite. That does not make you a beer snob, Ms. Just the opposite. She’s not going to win in any game of wits.  See the assessment of the brew by a Beer Snob here.

Here is a description of the Libation from St. Boniface’s Facebook page:

Libation is a double IPA that, although quite highly hopped, is also balanced by a wonderful malt sweetness and and a pleasantly yeasty nose. The goal of this beer is to be big yet friendly. And that is precisely what it is. Rather than attempting to focus on one particular note — and amplify it — the hops, malt, and yeast all compliment one another giving the beer a complexity sometimes missing in big beers. This beer is like a Great Dane: big enough to make you pay attention; friendly enough to be a lifelong companion. 

Never heard of a beer being compared to a dog before. But, I’ll work with it. If this beer was a dog, I’d call “Here, boy!” Get ready to get some Libation elation. This stuff is not to be trifled with. If our waitress drank one of these, her Lite beer would scamper away like the little castrated scrawny and mangy mutt that it is, in the face of the woofness of this brew.  Basically, twice the malt and twice the hops in the dog bowl, leading to supreme sweetness and bitterness simultaneously. A breed apart. Doubling down indeed. Should win the dog show rather than those uptight poodles with poofy ball tails and canine therapists working on their self-esteem.  Stella Atois comes to mind.

This brew tasted practically like a well-hopped Belgian, sharing the characteristic of a high ABV. Not drinking a six-pack like soda pop beer. If you double-down on this stuff, you are going down.

I generally don’t commentate on the food, but my wife’s Shepherd’s Pie was very good. My Chicken and Cashew salad was lame. The chicken itself was grilled nicely. Otherwise, it was a pile of lettuce and a generous handful of cashews. Truly average.  Fortunately, we were there for the beer. I have had Molly’s burger before and if I wasn’t trying to be more healthy and reduce the midsection a bit, I would go in that culinary direction rather than the greens. My wife noted that my buddy and I both ate salads and suggested that this was rather girl-like, while she and the other woman were meat and potatoes. She asked if we were going to go to the bathroom together.

Good thing that St. Boniface was there in front off us the bark at away suggestions of girliness.  Later, we hit the town, stopped by the Taproom, (where our pretty wives scored us some free brews from some older dudes…not sure how that worked), walked around some more, and then ran into another couple we knew from Church. Then, all six of us headed to the Belvedere Inn for a continuation of the festivities. That is a story for another day.  Made me phorget about Philly.