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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!