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About this Blog

Welcome to Po'Nutrition Fax! This blog is about alcohol - it has nothing to do with health or wellness, and the only relationship between this and Edgar Allen Poe is that he was an alcoholic.

I used to work in a liquor store and developed a taste for all different types of booze. As my collection grew, I felt the need to share my knowledge of, interest in, and experiences with my purchases - from the standards (e.g. whisk(e)y, gin) to the less-than-standard (e.g. kirschwasser, raki). You'll also find a lot on beer (another love of mine).

This is not about how much I can drink nor do I promote over-excess of alcohol. As with most blogs, there is some self-reflection included with most of the reviews. The point is to encourage everyone to reflect on what they drink.

Leave comments or ask questions! Also, "follow" me if you like what you read - I am not making money from this blog but if I see more interest in this and hear some feedback, it will encourage me to write more.

Cheers!
Mike

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Over-priced, Assembly-Line Drinking

"Our bullshit inflates the price of your drink! Mazel Tov!"


On a recent night-out with my girlfriend, we happened to stop by a new hipster bar in town.  It was packed with ironic mustaches, bowties, and over-priced drinks.

To be fair, the food menu looks pretty good.  I think one should pay for good quality consumables (e.g. food, drink) so I don't mean to be too disparaging of the bar itself - just most of its clientele.  In addition, the drinks menu is impressive; I hope that someday I can be as knowledgeable in drink-mixing as whomever it was that created this menu.  However, I don't like ordering drinks from a menu - if I wanted to order a menu drink, I could do that at T.G.I. Fridays or Applebee's.

When I ordered my drink on this particular night, I felt like I was ordering a drink in the same way one orders a burger from McDonald's: the bartender knew the components to mix together and slung my drink at me without a thought.  On to the next drink.

"I'm sorry, bartender - what did you just make me?  Can you tell me more about the Rye you just put in my drink?  How about the Gin?  Why did you use that one?"

Opportunities to ask these questions did not arise, nor did I feel I could even ask them.  Again, to be fair, it was late on a Saturday night and it was wall-to-wall hipsters, demanding their "unique" drinks, so I don't want to be too hard on the bar-staff there.  Why am I complaining?  If I order a classic drink (i.e. Gin and Tonic, Scotch and Soda) I can do so without much fuss because I can specify what brand of spirit I'd like and I know what I'm getting.  However, if you are going to craft a new cocktail with a multitude of unexpected items, I want to know a bit more.  And that's where my complaints about the clientele come in - do they even know what they are ordering or are they doing it just to be "unique?"  If so, is the bar serving this mindless group?  Furthermore, if they are only serving this clientele, would they even be able to answer the questions I posed earlier?  As you can probably tell, I take my alcohol seriously - I just hope they do the same.

Perhaps I should stop there on a Tuesday night (when it's not as busy) and ask the bartender to explain my drink as (s)he concocts it before me.  I'll just have to do it before the hipsters get there.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Beer School'd

I'd like to think of myself as a well-educated drinker.  I don't claim to be an expert on any particular class of alcoholic beverage, but I know more than enough to no longer be considered a neophyte.  However, I still have plenty to learn.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and fellow beer/wine-writer (she is much more professional than I am) invited me over, along with a few others, to sample some beers.  As mentioned above, I like to think I can hold my own when it comes to others who enjoy "finer" drinks - but I was definitely humbled on my beer knowledge that night.

Now, I've been drinking "non-macro-brews" for quite sometime now.  My first "craft" beer was Victory Storm King... or maybe this Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale?  I know I tasted both - just not sure which was technically first. Anyway, at the time I was 14 or 15 years old (I think) when my uncle let me try these beers.  He knew a guy that worked for a beer distributor and would get a case of a variety of beers every month and these happened to be a part of that case. I am 30 years old now so this was before beer became the trendy thing it is now.  I'm not trying to be "that guy" that says "I was drinking good beer before you were!" because I went back to the cheap macro-brews when I turned 16+.

Let's go forward a few years from that point to my junior year of college/university.  I should note that this was probably the most significant year in my young life, in terms of how it shaped my world-view and general attitude.  Not only did I "become a man" during this year, but I also become an avid reader, more self-reflective, politically liberal, and changed my beer drinking habits for the better too.  On the first day of one class (which also happened to be the class where I met the woman who would make me "a man"), the professor asked us to write down our favorite beers on sheets of paper and pass them to him in front.  He took our answers and proceeded to write them on the board.  Out of a class of about 50-60 people, there were less than 10 beers listed.  He then proceeded to mark off those that were "not beers" - these were the macro-brews.  Ultimately this was to show us all how easily "we" are duped into accepting a narrative (from, for example, advertisers) that what we consume is a true representation of something else - in this case, beer-flavored malt beverages as "beer."  I felt such shame that day because I learned that I wasn't drinking beer.

This revelation changed my life more than losing my virginity.

From that day forward I made a point of not drinking macro-brews.  I started with the "easy" Sam Adams beers and gradually moved on to other brewers.  Then I started to read more about beer.  Then I tried other styles.  Then I tried beers from other countries.  Then I tried hybrid styles.  Then I tried hybrid-styles from other countries.  Then read about authentic style from other countries.  Then tried authentic styles from other countries.  Then tried re-interpretations of these "authentic" styles from State-side brewers...

Yet despite all my beer knowledge, I discovered on this most recent beer-tasting night how much more I had to learn.

To be fair (to myself), beer is not central to my professional life like it is to a few of those other beer drinkers I met that night (who work in beer bars or write about beer professionally) so the economic incentive for me to know as much as they do is not there.  However, economic incentives shouldn't be the only motivation in life - personal growth is just as important.  I almost felt like leaving at one point because I felt like a rookie in the company of professionals, as if I had no business being there.  Yet, it was not only an opportunity to try new beers, but also a chance to meet and converse with other people who love fine beer... and wine... and spirits as much as I do.  While I might not have the knowledge they do, we at least all shared the same passion for a good, well-crafted beer - and that's what was/is truly important.  So I stayed - and I'm glad I did.

During the course of the evening, one brewery was thrown around which I had heard of but not tasted their beers: Founders Brewing Company.  Again, shame overwhelmed me, especially after such laudatory comments as "...except it's the best Porter" were lobbed around.  Only way to subdue the shame - try Founders Porter.  And so we have this post:


The porter is originally a British Isles dark ale, the session beer of choice for port workers (hence the name "porter").. at least that's the story.  Session beers are normally around 4.5% alcohol, so you can have a lot in one sitting, or "session," without getting drunk.  However, the ABV of some porters have been pushed beyond "session" status, like the 6.5% ABV of this Founders Porter, so that one probably can't have as many of these in one sitting as historically possible.  This ABV-increase is probably due to the better brewing science that today's brewers possess (in comparison to 17th and 18th century brewers) but the qualities of the beer remain the same - dark color, light body, rich-coffee aromas.   What impresses me about the Founders Porter is that it is surprisingly complex for such a light body.  Not only is there the expected "rich-coffee aromas" but also herbal qualities (i.e chervil), some spice (i.e. black pepper), and nutty aromas too. They were right: it is a damn-good porter.

I hope if you read this blog you are the type of person who is open to trying new things - especially new beers and spirits.  I'm writing this post in the hopes that if you ever feel as though your knowledge of these drinks is inadequate in comparison to others (such as myself), please keep in mind that even those who may be beyond "novice" level, there is always more to learn.  So keep on learning - and keep on drinking!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gin Shandy

"This day at the beach was the bee's knees! Now let's get fuc*ed up on Gin Shandies!"

I discovered the Gin Shandy last summer.  At the time I was making a lot of fresh lemonade and sun-brewed iced tea, plus I was drinking a lot of ginger beer.  Therefore it was important to find a cocktail using as many of these items at once as possible without just mixing them together, pouring in some liquor, and hoping for the best. 

I must diverge off course for moment and say that the Gin and Tonic has long been my favorite summer-time beverage - as I'm sure it is for a lot of other people too.  The relentless sun and heat can quickly sap one's energy, leaving little energy for fancy cocktail nonsense.  Mojito's need to muddle, Margarita's need to blend, but the simplicity of the Gin and Tonic (gin, tonic water, and a slice of lime served over ice) is probably why it has long reigned as king of the summer cocktail.

Fortunately, the Gin Shandy is also pretty simple:

Gin: Ginger Beer : Lemonade (3:6:4)
Serve over ice.

However, as in any cocktail, the spirit that is used is perhaps the most important ingredient.  Therefore, you'll have to ask yourself: "Which Gin?"

Unlike most spirits, no two gins are alike.  Now I don't mean to imply that I'm the kind of person that will say "vodka is vodka" or "any whiskey'll do!" - because I'm not that guy (in case you haven't noticed from reading this blog).   What I mean is that gins only have one flavor in common, juniper berries - other than that, gin distillers can use a variety of botanicals (herbs and spices) to give their gin a distinctive flavor.  Therefore if you want to start drinking gin cocktails, try a few out before deciding on "any ol' gin."  My preferred gin is Broker's Dry Gin.  This is not to say there are not other gins I like, but the juniper aromas are much stronger in Broker's than in some other gins.  The other botanicals can sometimes compete with or overpower the juniper flavor in gins.  While these may make for some interesting gins, I want that fresh pine aroma of juniper to really be the strongest - that's why it's gin!

The most recent batch of Gin Shandies I made included Bombay Sapphire instead of Broker's.  I was on my way to a party and had all I needed - except the gin. Broker's was unavailable at the store I stopped in so I purchased Bombay Sapphire because it has a nice citrus aroma - I thought it would go well with the lemonade.  It was delicious, but it wasn't my usual gin so it wasn't as good as previous shandies - and that's the trouble with gin: not any ol' gin will do. This is why it is important to find the gin that works for you.  It will be a long and arduous process but it will worth it in the end.

..and when you do find your gin, make sure to make a gin shandy too.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Drinking Alone




Here we are.  It's a weekday night and I've decided to have some scotch.

I haven't posted in awhile and felt the urge to write.  However I did not want to open a bottle my newest bottle of scotch for the sake of having something to write about.  Therefore I'm having this previously reviewed scotch - alone.

Alone?

Yes, alone.

"Alone" because my girlfriend has left me - for the Pacific Northwest... for only a week-and-a-half.

 My girlfriend going on vacation doesn't really change my normal pattern of behavior - except that I buy more sausage.  But while she's away, when I have a drink at night it is mildly depressing.

It should be noted that my girlfriend will not normally have a drink with me; I will have a beer or two with (or after) dinner or maybe some whisk(e)y with a book, but she rarely imbibes mid-week. So I am the only one drinking most times (effectively, drinking "alone") but at least when another person is in close proximity, it doesn't feel like I'm "alone."

But why is it "depressing?"

Perhaps when one thinks of someone "drinking alone," this comes to mind:



Drinking alone like this IS depressing but this is not "drinking alone," this is alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a serious problem.  However, alcoholism is an extreme.  Limited and sensible consumption of alcohol is not an extreme.  While it isn't entirely out of the ordinary for someone who is "limited and sensible" in their normal consumption to go overboard at times (and maybe "brag" about it too), it is not "the norm" for these individuals (such as myself).  Alcohol consumption in general should not to get lumped with those who overindulge.  Occasional overindulgence should be expected, especially when we usually celebrate an occasion with alcohol.  Having a "good time" promotes the overindulgence of other consumables too (e.g. food), so alcohol shouldn't be "singled-out."  Drinking to the point of inebriation and having to do so every night, whether alone or with others, is depressing (i.e. alcoholism). Having a drink or two (by yourself or with others) but without feeling the need to do so should not be considered depressing (i.e. NOT alcoholism).

I blame Carrie Nation for this general anti-alcohol attitude:


The Temperance movements that occurred in pre-Prohibition U.S.A. have really ruined both the alcohol drinking habits and perceptions of alcohol consumption here in the States. This needs to change - and it starts with you:

...to drink sensibly and alone more often!
So do what's right, America!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao: Grand Apple

 As you may know by now (if you are actually following this blog), I am a "booze dork."

If you are uncertain of what a "booze dork" is, then let me draw a parallel for you: a Trekkie.


Perhaps most of you think of someone like this when you think of Trekkies.  At one point in my life, I would've thought the same thing and mocked this person too.  One may think of a Trekkie as someone who perhaps knows too much about this cultural phenomenon and is overzealous in sharing said knowledge when most don't care to hear it.  Some Trekkies also don't really get how others don't find this cultural phenomenon as exciting and interesting as they do.  I am not mocking Trekkies because I have friends who are Trekkies and I do like some of the movies.  To put you Trekkies at ease with a bit of self-deprecation, here is a picture of me doing (pretty much) the same thing as this guy:




I too find a cultural phenomenon endlessly fascinating and can't help but share everything I know about it, even when most don't care to hear it - however, my cultural phenomenon of interest is alcohol.  Trekkies out there may roll their eyes at this comparison - everyone drinks while not everyone watches Star Trek.  While this is true, I too get mocked or ignored for my over-zealousness when it comes to booze.  I've experienced the "polite nod" and "eye-glaze" while telling someone the differences between the various types of whiski(e)s.  To be fair, maybe their eyes are "glazing" because they are drinking but generally when I make this point on the first drink, this is the reaction I get anyway. 

Unfortunately, I cannot think of a catchy title like "Trekkie" for myself (or my kind) without making me sound like a lush.  The Trekkies will always have that cultural advantage - a title to coalesce around!

To illustrate my booze dorkiness, I read this article in the New York Times about a new "mixer" from Pierre Ferrand called Dry Curaçao.  I waited for months and when I finally saw it at the store, there was definitely an "excited" noise made by my mouth as I picked up the bottle:

A fine mix of booze, booze, and orange peels

While it is labeled as a Triple Sec, it is not the Triple Sec most think of (a low-proof, clear, orange-flavored spirit) but rather similar to Grand Marnier (basically a brandy that was aged with orange peels).  There are other spices added but basically, with the prominence of orange and vanilla, it has a taste and aroma similar to a Creamsicle.

It is delicious on its own and would be great on ice as an after-dinner drink, but I wanted to mix it with something.  Still looking for things to mix with Calvados, I opted to try this drink called the Grand Apple.

The Grand Apple is:

2:1:1 - Calvados: Cognac: Grand Marnier
Stir together and serve over ice.

I had Armagnac instead of cognac and this Dry Curaçao instead of Grand Marnier, but these are fine substitutes.  The drink was maybe a bit stronger than I needed it to be, especially for a Thursday night, but I maybe made myself too much to begin with (a total of 4 ounces of booze).  The orange and apple flavors blend together very well in the drink and the other spice notes of the Dry Curaçao reminds me of a mulled cider.  While this drink is cold, this is not a very fitting summertime drink since it is so strong/heavy and has "cold weather" flavors.  Nevertheless, it is a delicious drink and I was excited to have the opportunity to try the Dry Curaçao. Since it is summer, I will mix it with lemonade instead of more booze (like I did in the Grand Apple).  I made iced Mandarin Orange Spiced Tea and mixed that with lemonade last summer with some delicious results so maybe this will be a good way to make a "hard" lemonade?

So while most of you probably will never get Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao and you may be rolling your eyes and mocking my love of booze, I can only close by saying one thing: Live Long and Prosper.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Drinking in Bavaria: Part 2 - Whisky

Bavarian... whisky?


On the final day of our Family Reunion, my cousin (technically, my 4th cousin - once removed) gave me a bottle of Slyrs Bavarian Single Malt.  He had heard I was a big whisky drinker and told me he was a fan of single malts himself (specifically the Islays).  We both lamented not knowing this about one another sooner - we could've enjoyed a dram (or two) together!

I didn't have Slyrs while in Bavaria, in fact, I didn't try it until tonight.  I had been waiting for a good opportunity to try it.  While it would be better to share it with him, I will write this with him in mind.

Slyrs is the only single-malt of Bavaria (as far as I understand it).  It's made in the Scottish tradition so the barley is smoked (malted) over peat to halt the germination process (although it isn't very heavy on the peat).  It has some heat to it since it's only aged for three years in American Oak (i.e. used bourbon barrels).  However, the bourbon-aging adds a touch of honey to the aroma and taste.  There are hints of tropical fruits and sage on the nose too but the heat of this youthful whisky and its smokiness over-power any other qualities it may have (although there is an interesting lingering "mineral water" aftertaste).

As I reflect on this new whisky, I reflect on the experiences I had in Bavaria and all of my "new" family.  I found that although four or five generations separated us, we had a lot in common.  I just wish I knew whisky was one thing other thing we shared, because I think it could've been even more fun because communication between one non-German-speaking American and many good-but-not-great-English-speaking Germans seemed easier when we all had a few drinks.  When I head back next year (which I promised I would) I'll be sure to remember the Scotch (or I'll just buy some Slyrs...).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Great Lakes Brewing Co. The Wright Pils


Like the bock, pilsners are a hit-or-miss kind of beer for me.  The pilsner is a lager-beer style that is usually light and dry with a floral aroma.  Its origins are the city of Pilsen (currently in the Czech Republic) hence the name "Pilsner."  My initial exposure to this style came by way of Labatt Blue.

Being from Western New York, our close proximity to Canada meant easy access to "better macrobeer" in the forms of Labatt and Molson.  Labatt USA even moved its headquarters to Buffalo based on its popularity in the Buffalo area.  However, I only noticed this odd obsession with Labatt in the behavior of my "Buffalo-Ex-Pat" friends - whenever they saw it elsewhere in the country, they'd lose their shit and order it.  Or when they came home, they'd drink excessive amounts of it.  Perhaps it's because Buffalonians are fiercely loyal to their home city, so any sign of "Buffalo-ness" brings out this fervent reaction.  However, Labatt is originally from Canada, not Buffalo, so I hope if these same "expats" saw Flying Bison out of state, then the same visceral reaction would occur.  Nevertheless, Labatt Blue is a pilsner-style beer and since it is the most popular one, it is the pilsner I have had most often.

While in my early beer-drinking days (i.e. late high-school through early undergraduate university), I was part of this Labatt-drinking consortium.  I did prefer it to the Stateside macrobrews (i.e. the Anheuser-Busch portfolio) but as I learned in later years, while it is a pilsner-style, it is made using corn/maize (as most macrobrews are). Consequently, I can taste the corn/maize in it - which distracts from the beer-drinking experience.  Since this discovery, I've had trouble separating Labatt Blue from all other pilsners in my mind.  Most often, I see "Pils" or "Pilsner" on a beer list and I think "I'll pass on that - I don't like pilsners," but really I don't like Labatt Blue (at least, anymore).

That being said, when I saw Great Lakes Brewing made this pilsner I thought I should give it a try (since Great Lakes is one of my favorite breweries).  Plus, I'd been looking to try out my new pilsner glass.  The confluence of these two forces pushed me into purchasing this beer.  Not being familiar with how to pour a pilsner properly, I looked in the back of Michael Jackson's "Ultimate Beer" book. Formation of a head is important with a beer like the pilsner - this helps to release the aromas of the beer.  However, because this beer foams quickly, you need a taller glass to allow for this head and a normal pint glass will not do.  After pouring, I looked over my pilsner and, no surprise, it had a pale-straw color and a floral nose with a mineral hint.  It had a slightly heavier body than expected but it was very clean and refreshing - plus I did not taste any corn/maize!

All in all, this was a very pleasant pilsner experience.  It is probably going to be my new summer beer style (no longer is the hefeweisse king of the summer beer for me).  I suggest trying this out - especially you Buffalonians who can't stop losing your shit over Labatt.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Drinking in Bavaria: Part 1 - Beer

At Andechs Monastary
The pint (16oz) is the standard in the U.S. but I think the liter should be the new standard

In May of this year (2012), I traveled to Germany for a family reunion.  I had been in contact with my German relatives since 2002 and had missed two previous reunions - because I had little-to-no expendable income to spend on such a trip and I was a little intimidated by a European vacation too.  Not that Europe itself is intimidating but the general dislike of Americans abroad, the long flights, and strength of the Euro combined to create my hesitation.  However, in 2011 a couple of good friends were getting married in her home country of Hungary and we (my girlfriend and I) were invited to the wedding.  My initial reaction was "Nah, it's too far - but 'Congratulations'" (which I didn't say to them but answered instead with "I'll think about it") but then I reconsidered my position; these were good friends and I should be there, no matter what.  So "long story short," it was a fantastic experience - plus the "locals" were friendly, the flights weren't too bad, and Hungary uses the weaker-forint as their currency...

Having changed my mind about European travel and having a job that pays me better than my previous jobs, I decided this was the year to go to my family reunion.

My surname is Bavarian so the reunion was to be held in Bavaria.  Our hotel was right on the Ammersee - complete with waterfront biergarten!

Biergartens, like this one (below) in the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, are outdoor, public spaces to drink beer and eat.  In these puritanical, alcohol-fearing United States, this sight is pretty rare; a biergarten is normally not a public space, but a private enterprise as either an extension of an already established bar/tavern or a stand-alone business.  Either way, you have to be a patron of the bar in order to drink and eat (or even just sit) at an American "biergarten."

Biergartens are great - the U.S. needs more of them (Buffalo, NY especially)

As this was Bavaria - there was lots of beer to drink.  However, being an American, I was disappointed in the choices of beer.  "Disappoint" may be too strong a word here because my disappointment was not in the beer itself but rather the number of choices available.  My exposure to German culture made me reflect on my American values and I realized that our culture values quantity over quality.

While there, I could only choose from three styles: Helles, Dünkel, and Weissbier from each brewer (although some breweries had a Maibock too).  Lagers are king in Germany so there were no Ales available (although they refer to them as Altbiers in Germany - "alt" meaning "old" as an ale is made from an older brewing process than lagers).  To be fair, Weissbiers ("white" or "wheat" beers) are ales but they are a class of their own.  Furthermore, the hop most widely used is the Hallertau, whereas most smaller American breweries use a wider range of hops largely contributing to a wider range of "flavors."  However, the Hallertau is refined, if not elegant, in its subtlety (subtle in relation to "bigger and hoppier" English and American ales).  Subtlety is important in colder beers (like lagers) since the colder temperature you serve lagers at (as opposed to "warmer" ales) would mask some of the flavors of a more "aggressive" hop.  While Alts are available elsewhere in Germany, this was Bavaria, this was "Bavarian lager country" (so no Kölsch or Pilsners either) so I would just have to accept that - and I did.

In addition, my options of breweries were basically limited to Hofbräu, Spaten, König Ludwig II, and Paulaner. Sure there are others but these were the ones most often available.  If you think about the number of beers available in the U.S. you have not only your choice of macro-breweries, but craft-breweries, micro-, and now even nano-breweries.  In this range of choices, you have real bad beer, really great beer, and a bunch in between.  So this American cultural "value" (that places great emphasis on range of choices) sees three options and I think "One is bad, one is O.K., and one is great" - even if all of them are great quality!  In addition, the big names in beer in the U.S. normally dominate a beer list  (at most places) and they normally don't make great quality beer.  Seeing these same names dominating every beer list made me think of U.S. macrobreweries domination and further contributed to my "disappointment."  I cursed this "American value" time and time again because these were all great quality beers and I enjoyed each one - why couldn't I just get over this "value" where "quantity of choice" is better than "quality of choice?"

In Bavaria, it seems, quality is valued over quantity.  Which makes sense because basically, if every option available is high-quality, you can never make a bad choice (especially when it comes to beer).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Better Beer: Can or Bottle?

When I have a beer I prefer it in a pint glass, or a plastic cup if glass is not available.  This is not only for aesthetic purposes; since I can taste either the residual from the bottle cap or the rim of the can with every sip, the taste of the beer is slightly ruined because of the receptacle itself.

I've avoided beer in cans since cans are normally pretty filthy.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, next time you are about to drink from a can, take a wet napkin or paper towel and just wipe off the top.  Take a look at the napkin/paper towel after and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Therefore I generally buy beer in bottles to save me from having to take this extra step (and from wasting too many paper towels).

However, speaking of waste, while you can recycle both bottles and cans most of us throw out the bottle cap. While I did find this company that turns bottle caps into fishing lures, I am not a fisherman nor am I sure whether they will accept "donations" to turn any bottle caps into lures   But that doesn't seem very cost-effective to send bottle caps to Canada either.  My local metal recycling facility accepts bottle caps but at $265 per ton, that also doesn't seem cost-effective to collect hundreds (maybe thousands) of bottle caps and drive there for only a couple of bucks. Maybe one could start a collective with friends to collect and return enough caps to earn money to pay for the gas to drive out there and buy more beer to celebrate your new greener ways?  Again, this will probably require thousands of bottle caps.  Otherwise, I can only find suggestions for making crafts and knick-knacks out of bottle caps and no real information on recycling.  So bottle caps will continue to go into the garbage. 

Furthermore, bottles are heavier and bulkier than cans.  Consequently, shipping costs for bottles are higher since more fuel is necessary to ship them.  Cans are arguably more "sustainable" than bottles in that sense.  Unfortunately, I'm not too familiar with the production of either bottles or cans so I cannot say for sure which one is truly "greener" in the production process. 

This "bottom line" mentality (cans are cheaper to ship than bottles) has, along with the "filth factor," lead to my avoidance of beer in cans - if a company is concerned with the cost-savings in shipping it is probably cutting corners in the quality of the product as well.  This is also why I avoid liquor that comes in plastic bottles.  True, any business wants to be as cost-effective as possible but quality should not be sacrificed to do so.  Most canned beers have been from "macrobrewers" so you can understand why I associate 'low quality" with canned beer too.

However, some "craft beer" makers have been releasing canned beer over the last few years.  Butternuts Beer & Ale makes some good beer.  As does Oskar Blues - like this Deviant Dale's India Pale Ale (which, by the way, is great):

Even the "bigger" craft brewers like Sierra Nevada, have been switching to cans.  I was surprised to see their Pale Ale in a 12-pack of cans - so surprised that I purchased it.  While it does take up much less space in my fridge than 12 bottles of beer, the lining of aluminum cans can release BPA.  While you'd have to drink 940 cans a day to get to levels determined to be unhealthy by Canada, I don't like the idea of trace amounts of unnecessary and unhealthy chemicals in my body.  To be fair, that's what alcohol is: unnecessary and unhealthy.  At least it's natural.

So how can I drink beer without feeling like I am slowly killing the Earth or myself?  Fresh from a keg filled with beer made by a local brewer.  Or home brewed beer.

In the end, in this "can v. bottle" debate perhaps one receptacle is no better than the other.  However, it's like the old saying goes - it's what is on the inside that counts.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Great Divide "Old Ruffian" Barleywine


Thursday March 22nd, 2012 in Buffalo, NY
Sunny and temperatures in the mid-to-high 70's (degrees Fahrenheit)

Saturday March 24th, 2012 in Buffalo, NY
Rain and temperatures in the high-40's-low-50's (degrees Fahrenheit)

At least it's perfect weather for a barley wine.

I purchased this barley wine a couple months ago, but the unseasonably warm weather we've been having here also made the barley wine an unseasonable beer. We were another warm-weather week away from me switching to "Hefe-weisse"time (a.k.a. summertime)! But it's Buffalo, NY so there is always the early-spring fear of an errant cold front drifting out of Canada to ruin our good times; unfortunately, our collective fear materialized into today's weather.

Barley wines are beers with a lot of alcohol (8-12% ABV) in comparison to most other beers. They tend to be a bit malty too. Why so malty? While I've never made one, I assume that in order to get these beers to such a high ABV the brewer needs to make sure there is a lot of malt sugar in the wort (unfermented beer) that can be turned into alcohol; any residual malt sugar would make this a malty beer. However I'm sure it isn't just "malt sugar madness" on the part of the brewer. Yeast can survive (and multiply) beyond 12% ABV so if the yeast were allowed to go much beyond the normal barley wine range, the beer would probably end up a little lighter and drier. The barley wine is a cold weather beer so it has to be big. The excessive amounts of malt sugar not only ensures that the ABV reaches a certain point, but it adds to the "weight" of the beer too. As the grey clouds hang down from the sky and the temperatures drop, these dual burdens seems lighter with a barley wine in hand.

While I cannot go into too much detail on this beer (I ruined my palate with my dinner earlier this evening with some chorizo), I can say that it is what a good barley wine should be: big, malty, bitter, and I've already got a small buzz from only half this 22oz. bottle. As always, well played, Great Divide Brewing Co.

While I lament the change in the weather, this barley wine may just lift my spirits.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bentley Cocktail

Calvados and Dubonnet Rouge make a Bentley? Shouldn't it be called a Peugot?

I bought some calvados a couple of weeks ago because I'd never had it before. For the uninformed, calvados is an apple brandy from the Basse-Normandie region of France. Depending on the appellation, it can be single or double distilled in either a pot or column still. They use hundreds of apple varieties and some even use a non-majority percentage pears! Like other French brandies, calvados is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years too.

I purchased this Roger Groult Reserve Calvados. After a couple of snifters I thought to myself "how else can I drink this?" - since I don't want to let it die slowly. I grabbed my girlfriend's cocktail handbook and looked up, under ingredient calvados, what drinks I could make. The options were limited although, for some reason, I didn't think to look under apple brandy too. Nevertheless I flipped to a simple, yet delicious looking Bentley Cocktail. It had two ingredients: calvados and Dubonnet Rouge. Unfortunately, I had no Dubonnet Rouge so another trip to the liquor store was in order.

Fast forward another week and I have my Dubonnet Rouge now. Dubonnet Rouge is similar to sweet vermouth - it is a sweet fortified red wine that is to be enjoyed as an aperitif, or pre-dinner drink, to awaken the senses. After having sipped the Dubonnet Rouge, I figured that this Bentley would be similar tasting to a Sweet Manhattan - and I was correct. Although the Bentley does not use Angostura Bitters (like a Manhattan) it is made from an oak-aged spirit and a fortified red wine (like a Manhattan):

Bentley Cocktail:
2:1 Calvados to Dubonnet Rouge.
Lemon twist to garnish

Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker and pour into chilled martini glass.

While, overall, it is similar to the Sweet Manhattan, the calvados imparts a tart-apple finish to this cocktail. I wonder if one could make a "Perfect" Bentley using both Dubonnet Rouge and Blanc? Nevertheless, the Bentley is delicious and a good thing to try if you want to swim out of the doldrums of yet another boring, old Manhattan.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tiny Football Coaches Give Bad Advice

There are a few people in the world whose advice and suggestions should be ignored: religious extremists, political extremists, and tiny people.

I'm not talking about people with dwarfism (normally cast as elves or ewoks in movies) but tiny football coaches. You know who I am talking about - they are the ones that demand you drink your beer "ice cold."

If you feel the need to take their advice then may I remind you of this guy:

Gazoo says "serve your beer ice cold"

I was clued into this article about proper beer temperature and greatly offended. While you should be drinking your finer "craft" beers at cellar temperature (55-60 degrees Fahrenheit), I take offense to them referring to the macrobrews as "beer."

Did you ever have a Smirnoff Ice? Look at the label and you'll notice it says malt-based beverage. Guess what? This is how they make those macrobrew "beers" too. Macrobrewers make a "base" malt beverage and turn it into these "malternatives" or "beer" by adding flavors and coloring. Here's a surprisingly good article in the Buffalo News about that sector of the industry. So while it may be "beer" by all legal definitions and standards, it is not beer to me.

For some reason I always feel the need to check reader comments on Yahoo! News. The most resounding critique of the article was that the author shouldn't be telling people how to live their lives and they will drink their beer cold if they want to. A few things:

1. If you want something ice cold after doing yard work or it's just hot, don't drink beer. You are probably dehydrated as it is and beer will make it worse.

2. Click on the "legal definitions and standards" link above. You'll see the standard the U.S. government has set for beer and then you can reassess what beer is to you. If you agree with their standard and how beer is marketed to you, then continue to drink the macrobrews and feel comfortable that you are not being told how to live your life.

3. 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit isn't that warm. While it is comparatively warmer than "ice cold" you are not drinking warm beer.

4. "Beer vs. Wine" is a stupid and fictitious culture war. Craft beers are more expensive because they are a better quality drink. Like beer, there are cheaper alternatives in wine too. This "anti-elitist" opinion of people who take what they drink seriously, want to know what they are drinking, and are willing to spend more on quality is stupid. I spend less on other things (i.e. I rarely go out to eat) so I can spend more on good drinks - it's simple economics.

On second-thought I guess those tiny coaches are giving useful advise - if you to choose to drink those malt-beverages then you should drink them "ice cold." Just don't call them beer - at least around me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wasted Fruit Flies

This suggests that even fruit flies will drown their sorrows in a drink from time to time. It's actually a bit more complicated than that (neurotransmitters and addiction) but when mass media gets a hold of scientific papers, it loves to jump to cute conclusions like this:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Trimbach Framboise

Pour vous francophones you may already know that "framboise" is the French word for "raspberry." The fruit, not this:
Well, I'm not entirely sure if the French don't call this "donner une framboise," but Framboise is also the name of a raspberry brandy.

Framboise is not made only from the juice of the raspberry but of the entire raspberry. The raspberries are pressed, fermented, distilled, and bottled. Therefore you get a clear spirit sitting in a fancy-looking bottle with a pretentious font:


Not surprisingly this brandy smells like a raspberry - the whole raspberry... or a whole bunch of raspberries. However do not be fooled by the smell - it is not sweet like a raspberry. This is brandy, so it has some bite to it but has the essence (if you will) of the... raspberry.

You may think I am overusing the word "raspberry" in my description of this brandy. Normally there are other "hints" or "notes" one catches when drinking an alcoholic beverage. That is because you have a lot of different "ingredients" mingling to create different flavors. However, when you have something that is distilled only from fermented raspberries and not aged in oak, you get nothing but raspberries. OK you have yeast here to ferment the sugars into alcohol but any subtly is masked by the overwhelming smell of (you guessed it) raspberries.

Basically if you don't like raspberries, stay away from Framboise. Otherwise it's a great after-dinner brandy - maybe with a cheesecake... or by yourself on a Friday night with nothing better to do but blog about raspberry brandy. Whatever the situation I'm sure you'll raspberry - I mean enjoy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Irish Coffee - NY Times article

Who is this Patrick Farrell guy? He seems to be writing things very similar to my own posts:

Irish Coffee, American Ingenuity

I'm not claiming my style is being copied but if he can do it for a living, why can't I?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Great Lakes Brewing Doppelrock

The label is reason enough to buy this beer

Springtime is Bock Beer time. The bock, an early spring beer, is a dark-roasted, malty lager brewed to help you get out of your winter funk. The first bock I remember trying was called Spring Fever from Custom Brewcrafters (CBs) out of Upstate New York. This was early in my non-mass-market beer drinking days (when I stopped drinking Budweiser and the like...) and it shaped my sense of what a bock beer was supposed to be like. Ever since then, bocks have been hit and miss. Ayinger Celebrator: great. Troegs Troegenator: not so much. Consequently while I look forward to bocks, I don't know what I should really be expecting from the style. I honestly don't know why I look forward to them so much?

That being said, you may completely dismiss my opinion of this beer. However, I'd like to think that I have too much respect for the style and can, consequently, be overly critical in my analysis of bock beers.

Great Lakes Brewing Company happens to be my favorite brewery. Maybe it's a Rust Belt thing? Or their commitment to "being green?" Or that they just make delicious beer - like this one!

Doppelrock is, not surprisingly, a Doppelbock. Doppel because it is stronger than a normal bock - although it seems as though Doppelbock is the standard so why bother with the distinction? Anyway, it is not very heavy with the smokey, roasted-malt flavors of other bocks but with hints of black cherry, cocoa powder and hazelnuts. It has a long finish and reminds me of the pleasure I experienced when I first had Spring Fever. Therefore it passes my "bock" test.

My only complaint - where's the goat? Bock is also German for "goat" so most bock beers have a goat on the label. Is the guy giving the Ronnie James Dio "goat" in the crowd the "goat" Great Lakes uses on their label? If so, then that is pretty clever.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wasmund's Single-Malt Whisky


I've been thinking chiefly about this bottle since I started writing about what I drink. As I noted in that first post, I've got a lot of almost-empty bottles on my drink cart. A common misconception about liquor is that once the bottle is open it will not spoil. While true that it won't "spoil" like milk once opened it will still oxidize. Albeit it is not as noticeable in liquor as it is with wine but it still happens. This is especially noticeable if you have something that was barrel-aged (e.g. brandy, whiskey): there will be accumulation of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. If not immediately noticeable, give the bottle a quick swirl and your booze becomes slightly turbid. As you watch this cyclone of your slowly dying liquor spin in the center of your last few sips, you'll probably say to yourself "This is too much for one sitting but I can't let my *drink of choice* die like this!" As General MacArthur said "Liquors don't die, they fade away"... or something like that.

So what to do? John Hansell, the editor of Malt Advocate, suggests discussing how to preserve the last few drops of whisk(e)y amongst friends... over the last few drops of whisk(e)y:

"Just drink it, asshole"

While I agree and I have friends that enjoy whisk(e)y, it's not like I can call them up last-minute and invite them over to finish a bottle of whisk(e)y. In addition, my girlfriend isn't a daily-drinker like this guy*, nor is she much of a whisk(e)y drinker for that matter, so following this sage advise isn't possible. Therefore, my only choice is to wait until the right occasion to finish it myself - like sitting alone in my apartment on a Friday night! Tonight is the night to kill my Wasmund's Single-Malt Whisky.

No, I did not spell "whisky" incorrectly here. This American whisky is made in the Scottish tradition of single-malt whiskies (so it is spelled as the Scots spell it). It is malted barley that is smoked, not over peat, but Apple and Cherry woods. It has that nutty and smoky flavor of a traditional single-malt but the fruit woods add a distinctly "American" flavor to it - and by "American" I mean innovative/different, not "fruity." Be forewarned, it is only aged for four months so it has some heat to it, but it's not excessively harsh. Added bonus: it's relatively cheap for a single-malt (usually retails for $30-35).

Plus the distiller comes from my hometown.


*I stole this daily-drinker joke from this dude I used to work with... it's a great joke, credit is due!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Killepitsch


Nothing says "Drink Me" like seeing the tagline "The Taste of Old Düsseldorf."

Bitters are an acquired taste. Killepitsch is a bitter. Employing syllogistic logic, therefore we can conclude that Killepitsch is an acquired taste. We all know Jägermeister, the most famous bitter in the States, as a fart-boy party drink and the drink that turns the members of Metallica into assholes... well, bigger assholes. But Jägermeister is a sugar-coated version of a bitter. Drink Fernet Branca, then you'll know what a true bitter is. Or drink Unicum. Or, for the faint of heart, drink Killepitsch.

The bitter is, historically, a drink in which a large number or herbs and spices have been "soaked" in quaffable alcohol in order to draw out the medicinal qualities of said herbs and spices. Consequently, the bitter is thought to have a lot of medicinal qualities to it. However they are best when consumed after dinner, as a digestif - to calm the stomach after a heavy meal.

I read this article in the NY Times this morning about digestifs and thought, throughout the day, about drinking some Killepitsch (since it is the bitter I have on hand). While the article focuses mostly on brandies, there is something about the bitter that I love after a big meal. While my dinner of leftovers wasn't necessarily a "big meal", it was spicy and acidic enough to require the aid of a bitter.

I generally associate "bitter" with "basic" - or a high pH. Since I had an acidic dinner (basically a lot of tomatoes), I figured following it with a bitter would prevent a "sour stomach." While I'm not sure what the pH level of bitters are, I employ syllogistic logic here again - since basic things are bitter, and bitters are, well, bitter then it is pretty safe to assume the bitters have a high pH.

Killepitsch is marketed as "The Taste of Old Düsseldorf," so while I'm not sure what "New Düsseldorf" tastes like I can tell you that "Old Düsseldorf" is pretty bitter. As with all bitters you have to get past the initial reaction, specifically the revulsion, in order to truly enjoy it.

Why go beyond "revulsion"? Isn't "revulsion" enough?

Humans have evolved to hate bitter tasting things - most poisonous compounds taste bitter so we naturally avoid bitter things. But we do drink coffee, and beer, so bitter isn't all bad. We generally have no problem when we consume something else that is mostly salty, or sweet, or acidic (or 'umami-mi?) but we avoid bitter. I say embrace bitter and let it become a part of your tasting experience. If we know this isn't poisonous, then get past it and see what else there is to enjoy. Yes, alcohol is "poisonous" to the body but this isn't the type of poison that will cause immediate neurological dysfunction or liquidate your organs as the previously mentioned bitter-tasting toxins your body has evolved to avoid.

Killepitsch, like the most popular bitters, is sweetened
slightly with sugar. Jägermeister is probably the sweetest of the group, which is probably why it is the most popular - it's hard to market something that tastes like poison. Nevertheless, you'll get a hint of sweetness at the end of Killepitsch - but it is mostly bitter. Of the three noticeably "sweetened" bitters I've had (Jägermeister, Killepitsch, and Zwack), Killepitsch is my favorite. While Jägermeister has a strong licorice flavor, and Zwack a noticeably stronger orange-peel flavor, Killepitsch has a "red berry" flavor to it... along with the cola and mint flavors one generally finds in these types of bitters.

While not as truly bitter in taste as Fernet Branca or Unicum (which I will elaborate on in the future), Killepitsch is a good start to get away from the Jägermeister crowd into the darker and crueler world of bitters.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ithaca Flower Power


On a recent trip to Ithaca, NY I stopped into the Ithaca Beer Company to try some their beers (and sodas). I tried their beers prior to this trip but I always try to go to a brewery in order to try the beer when it's fresh.

It was a miserable Saturday of grey skies and rain and our hopes to hike along the many trails in and around Ithaca were not to be fulfilled. Therefore it became a day of indoor activities. Unfortunately, Martha had lots of law school work to do so I planned this trip to the brewery to at least have a little fun while she worked. In the worst case scenario (i.e. it sucked) at least I'd get to try fresh beer for a couple bucks (since tastings are never actually free - but they do pour you a lot once you start drinking). I tried their beers and freshly made sodas (Root and Ginger beers) and I even took a little tour - which was not very exciting but it was the weekend and they weren't actually making any beer. However, I don't think it's important to get a flashy tour of a brewery since it is the beer that is important, not if I'm impressed when I see where it is made.

While the brewery wasn't impressive, their beers certainly were. Although I wouldn't say I love all their beers, there are some stand outs - Flower Power being one such stand out.

It is assertively hoppy and the citrus notes have a tropical quality to them (i.e. pineapple). Unfortunately the finish isn't as long as I would like it to be (like the rye beer reviewed earlier this evening). In addition, the "tropical" hops can be tiresome and I probably could not have more that two of these in an evening before I'd want to try something else. Nevertheless it is still a very good beer. Plus it is from Upstate New York so it's almost local (for me)!

Now if only I could find their Root and Ginger Beers then I'd be very happy - they make even better soda than they do beer (and they make very good beer)!

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye


Back in October, I posted that rye beers are hard to find. Therefore when this beer from Sierra Nevada recently appeared at my beer store, I was eager to try it.

It is a Friday so I stopped to buy some beer (as I usually do) on my way home and decided to get this, along with Ithaca Flower Power IPA and Great Divide Old Ruffian Barleywine. I saw this rye a few weeks ago but didn't buy it then because, well, I hate buying a six-pack of something I just want to try. As I've said before I don't want to get stuck with five beers I don't like. It's happened before - Troegs Troegenator DoppleBock languished in my fridge for months before I bought some fresh sausage to cook in it. However, since I have liked every rye beer I've had I figured the risk of me NOT liking it was low. Not surprisingly, this experience has been very UNdisappointing.

It, like the Hop Rod Rye, is a "Rye"P.A. (Rye India Pale Ale) so there is a great balance between the citrusy hops and spicy rye flavors. However let the beer rest in your mouth before you swallow; the spicy rye flavors open up and mellow in your mouth. Swallowing invites the very long and very bitter finish to join you on this beer-drinking experience. Although I haven't had a chance to have many, this is a great rye beer.

There may be another post to follow tonight - it was a long day and I really need at least two drinks.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused


You may remember that my previous post focused on my health. After writing it I reflected more on being a "daily (moderate) drinker" and what were some risks and benefits of being one. I found this article on the risks - mostly a greater risk of developing some sort of gastrointestinal cancer or breast cancer (the latter specifically for women). Serendipity also stepped in and I saw this article online from Yahoo!; this is where I learned of some benefits of daily moderate drinking. The most surprising finding (to me) was first on the list - bone density and pale ales. Beers made with malted barley and large quantities of hops(i.e. Pale Ales) have the highest level of silicon. Your mass-produced "pale lagers" generally use adjunct grains and fewer hops so they have lower levels of silicon; don't use fear of osteoporosis as an excuse to drink them (because they are cheap and not delicious - life is too short to drink cheap). Nevertheless when I made my most recent beer purchase, I decided to get a Pale Ale.

I have always enjoyed this unfiltered (why "hazed" is in the beer's name) beer and while it is branded as a hoppy beer, the hops aren't too assertive. Since it is from the States, it is classified as an APA (American Pale Ale). However, using Beer Advocate's claim that "American versions tend to be cleaner and hoppier, while British tend to be more malty, buttery, aromatic and balanced" I say this is closer to a British style Pale Ale (malty, buttery, aromatic), but it's still brewed in the U.S.

Now don't be afraid that this will turn into some health blog and I'll abandon booze entirely. Edgar Allen Poe died in a gutter after a night of binge drinking so I must honor that legacy by continuing to write about booze - if only I could write as eloquently as he did.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Balance



This video has nothing to do with this post - it was the only song I could think of with "Balance" in the title

I realized the other day I haven't posted on P.N.F. since before the beginning of this year. While one would assume that there have been plenty occasions to drink (and post), which there have been, I've returned to my healthier ways of old and have been drinking less.

Working in an office is bad for one's health, specifically the waist-line. I realized this fact within a few months of being hired at my current job. There are always doughnuts, bagels, pizza parties, and snacks to tempt one to over-consume. I was hired in February 2010 and by June 2010 I had gained around 15 pounds. After noticing my newly bulging gut in a photograph taken in the late spring, I took up running again and got my weight back down within a month or so. However, motivation is a difficult thing. Usually when one begins a workout routine there is this "newness" that makes it exciting so motivation isn't too difficult; but as time passes it becomes routine and boring so the workout is usually abandoned. Realizing this, I use alcohol as my motivator.

There are plenty of experts who claim using food as a reward is an unhealthy motivator for exercise because usually that motivating 'food" is an unhealthy option; I'd reward myself with a Chicken Finger Sub and not a couple of apples so I see their point. However, my reward system is not based on a calorie-for-calorie computation - I don't limit my run to only burning the calories gained from one (or many) drink(s). My system is, since I like to run, for every two miles I run I earn a beer (since that is what I drink most often). I also do calisthenics/light-weight lifting* to earn a beer on the days I don't run. I earn beers throughout the week and every time I drink one beer, I lose one from "the bank" (it's a system of credits and debits). So by Sunday, I have either a few credits left OR I have to work those debits off. By Monday, credits disappear while debits remain "on the books." This motivates me to run/exercise more: to earn more credits. However, I also drink comparatively less since I'm never sure how much I will drink on the weekend and want to keep those 'in the bank" - just in case.

So why have I "returned to my healthier ways of old?" I had a slipped disc in my back for months and could not exercise much. I was no longer monitoring my drinking habits the same way so, consequently, I was having 2-3 beers a night. I didn't gain much weight because I kept my food consumption mostly in check (since I wasn't doing much physical activity) so I didn't even notice how much more I was drinking. However, once my back returned to "normal" I went back to running - but kept drinking the same amount. Since my food consumption increased (because I was running again) the weight started to creep back up. So at the end of December I started keeping track of my drinking/exercising again. Since my last post was on December 26th, you can see how these two events (the return of my "drink bank" and my posting less) coincide.

One may think that this will mean the beginning of the end of this version of P.N.F. but I see it in a different light - each drink will be more delicious (since I would've truly earned it) and the posts will be that much better because of it.

So I ran/worked-out enough to earn 4.5 beers for the week. I'm going to "cash one in" tonight for this previously reviewed beer: Sierra Nevada Celebration. Slainte.


*I only do calisthenics and light-weight lifting because of the slipped disc. I am trying to re-train my muscles to do lifting properly so I don't dislocate the disc again.