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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

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).