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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, December 17, 2013

High West Silver Whiskey OMG Pure Rye

OMG!
I'm not a fan of the name, but I am a fan of this whiskey.

The bottle makes a point of explaining the "OMG" in the title - a historical reference to the Old MononGahela River, site of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.

OK, fair enough.

Name aside, it's a fantastic whiskey.

It's a 100% rye whiskey (80% rye, 20% malted rye) and I love rye... I may have mentioned it here, here, and here.  It's un-aged so it is a clear distillate.  I had long assumed that barrel aging was what gave character to a whisk(e)y, or brandy, or rum (etc.) but my recent interest in "eau de vie" has led me to trying other un-aged spirits - such as this.  Sure, I could've purchased one of the new "moonshine" whiskies that are now widely available, but those are corn - and I want rye!

Regardless, without the influence of a barrel there is plenty of complexity to this whiskey.  The nose has hints of tropical fruits (banana and mango) clove, pear, cinnamon, honey, pine, basil and fresh-cut grass.  It has some heat but has flavors of dried fruits and spice followed by earthier flavors like must, ash, pepper, and tobacco.  It has a long, dry finish with the clove and tropical-fruit flavors being most prevalent on the end too.

High West makes some great whiskey.  I've had a couple of their others but as I only write about the bottles I purchase, then I am writing about this one.  Nevertheless, this is a fantastic rye whiskey and I highly recommend it.

This whiskey and I are now BFFs!  LOLz!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Deanston Virgin Oak

"I am married... to Deanston!"
Single malt scotch is expensive.  Absurdly so sometimes.  I understand the economics behind it so I don't necessarily "disagree" with how expensive it can be, but having to spend a minimum of $50 (US) for a halfway decent 750ml bottle of scotch seems a bit much; especially since I can get a North American whisk(e)y of (arguably) comparable quality for a much more modest price too.

My quest for a more reasonably-priced single malt began last month.  In February of this year (2013) I left a miserable job in finance to pursue other interests.  The only benefit of my finance job was that it paid well, at least relative to previous jobs I had, so I could be a bit more liberal in my spending on whisk(e)y.  Therefore, I had plenty of whiskies when I resigned.  Now it's been about nine months and I am at a point where I need to start replenishing my depleted stocks - but on a smaller budget.

I saw the Deanston Virgin Oak tucked into the corner on the bottom shelf of my liquor store.  At $32 (US) it was well below the minimum I stated above and, being much more wallet-conscious now, it basically made the decision for me.  Not to imply I only got it because it was inexpensive, it was how this whisky was finished that intrigued me and convinced me I wasn't just getting some cheap: this whisky was finished in Virgin Oak barrels.

If you've actually been following this blog, you may remember a post I had on bourbon.  Bourbon, according to Title 27, Section 5.22 of U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, has to be aged in "new, charred, white oak."  As a barrel can only be used once, they are generally shipped to scotch, rum, and tequila distilleries (or even some beer brewers) to be used for aging those spirits (beers).  However, a whiskey in "new, charred, white oak" barrel takes its toll on the barrel - especially the layer of sap that "caramelizes" just behind the charred layer inside the barrel.  Hot summers and high pressure from stormy weather in the Southeastern US force the aging spirit to expand into the barrel while the cold winters force a withdrawal.  This seasonality depletes the sap layer so by the time it is emptied, there isn't a whole lot left in the staves of the barrel to influence the flavor of another distilled spirit.  Perfect for scotch because, generally speaking, it's the peat that does the talking for scotch.

As this was finished in a Virgin Oak barrel, or a "new, charred, white oak" barrel, I was interested in seeing how a bourbon-finish tasted.

Seeing as how there is no age statement on the bottle, an "aged-three-year" guarantee is all one can expect as single malts need a minimum of three years in the barrel before being bottled and sold.  Furthermore, it doesn't say how long it was "finished" in this new barrel.  Based on the seasonality I explained above, one would hope that there would be at least one year in a "new, charred, white oak" barrel for there to be any real influence on this whisky.  Anyway, three years isn't a very long time so I was expecting some heat on this whisky too.

It has the color of apple juice in the bottle: a light, golden brown.  The bottle claims it is un-chill filtered and that there is "[n]othing added but had work and determination" so I can only assume they didn't add any caramel coloring.  The nose has hints of honey, lemon, banana, clove and peat.  As expected, there was a fair amount of heat on the first sip.  Now, this is either because it may have been aged for only three years, or the virgin oak barrel provided a lot of "chemical influence."  Sometimes the barrel can introduce a whole set of chemical components to a newly distilled spirit that can make it "harsher" in the first few years of aging but will mellow out with more time.  Either way, this was not a very smooth whisky.  Nevertheless, a lot of the same aromas on the nose were in the flavors of the scotch too, with some brine and sage too.  An important note is that while this is smoky, it's not peaty smoky like scotch.  The smokiness is more from the charring of the barrel than from the peat used to malt the barley.  Not to say there isn't the flavor of peat but here the virgin oak is letting itself be known.

For $32 (US) I'm impressed.  The Virgin Oak finish is noticeable, and while not very smooth, it's got a bit more complexity to it than some more expensive scotches I've tried and/or purchased in the past.

I may just buy this again.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shustoff Luxury Vodka

"I'd totally drink that sh*t" - N. Gogol

Nikolai Gogol and Shustoff are my favorite things to come out of Ukraine














I'm not a big vodka drinker.  It's not because I have anything against vodka per se but I do not like what vodka has become to most people in this country.  Vodka is not supposed to be the clean and flavorless spirit it is  marketed as in the U.S.  It's not a blank palette on which one can throw any number of flavoring agents like Pomegranate, Rainbow Sherbet, or Froot Loops.

Vodka (Водка in the cyrillic alphabet) is the diminutive of voda (Вода) which is the Russian word (also shared across the other Slavic languages) for "water".  Similar to eau de vie in French, uisce beatha in Gaeilge, or aqua vitae in Latin, which all roughly translated to "the water of life," it equates a distillate as having some sort of spiritual, life-affirming (or medicinal) quality.

It can be distilled from anything that can ferment.  The most popular base products are grains, potatoes, molasses, and sugar beets.  Each base product creates a different tasting vodka.  Some are distilled many times, others are filtered but the idea that the true essence of that base product can be captured in a final distillate is what makes vodka so interesting to me.  However, most people do not appreciate that.

So I will spend this post on what is my favorite vodka: Shustoff Luxury Vodka.

This is a wheat vodka comes from Ukraine.  I'm not sure how many times it was distilled but it's very smooth.  I've described it to others as "drinking velvet bunnies."  It has a sweet and spicy nose with hints of graphite.  It has an herbal and mineral-y taste with only a little bit of heat from the alcohol.

Unfortunately, I can't find it in my hometown anymore.  However, I encourage you to look for it - you will not be disappointed.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Russell's Reserve Rye

Jimmy Russell signed it - to me.  Boom.
I don't know if I've said this before, but I love rye.

I've been watching a lot of Hell on Wheels lately, and they drink a lot of whiskey on that show.  I was finishing the second season this evening (on Netflix) and felt the urge to drink some rye whiskey.  I've mentioned a few things about rye whiskey previously so I won't say much more about what straight rye is and how it isn't Canadian Whisky - except to make that very important distinction.

I hadn't had rye in awhile but I remembered I had this bottle stored away.  I recently moved so all of my bottles are neatly packed away.  They are compartmentalized into their own spot in the box I moved them in, easily accessible and waiting to be consumed.

I had been holding on to this rye since late 2008 when I met Jimmy Russell (the Master Distiller at Wild Turkey).  He signed this bottle and I could never quite bring myself to open it.  However, whisk(e)y is distilled for one purpose: to drink it.  Perhaps it was the recent move that inspired me too: purging my old ways, taking chances.

Or I was getting sick of drinking so much kirschwasser and scotch.

Nevertheless, I should share my experience of this rye with you.

It is aged six years but it is definitely better than some other six-year ryes I've had.  The nose has delicious aromas of honey, dried figs, and star anise.  The palate is much earthy though: tobacco, leather, with hints of peanut and figs.  It is a very rich six-year whiskey and I can definitely see myself drinking this again.

There has been an explosion in straight rye whiskey the last few years but Wild Turkey has had a 101 proof rye on the market for years.  Jimmy Russell knows how to make a good rye and this whiskey is a fine example of a rich and complex rye - for not a ton of money either.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Aberlour A'bunadh



Let me start off this post by making one thing very clear: Gaelic is spoken in Scotland, Gaelige is spoken in Ireland.

From 2005-2008, I was in the process of teaching myself Irish.  It's a tough language to learn, but the complexity of it made it all the more interesting to me.  I stopped due to the time constraints associated with graduate school so it wasn't from lack of interest on my part.  Regardless, what I know of Gaelige has assisted in my pronunciation of scotches as the two languages are closely related - but they are not the same!

This A'bunadh (Ah-boon-a) from Aberlour is Gaelic for "of the origin" (at least according to the packaging).  In Gaelige, I think it would be As Bunadh.  I'm assuming they chose the name since this whisky is straight from the barrel: cask-strength, and non-chill filtered.

Aberlour releases this whisky in batches - the one I'm reviewing here is Batch 39.

As this is a cask-strength whisky (it is bottled at nearly 120 proof) I feel it's necessary to review this whisky at both full-strength and watered down.  Adding water to whisky changes the characteristics, what they refer to as "opening up" the spirit.  I agree that water does "open up" a whisky, but I think it's best to see how the whisky changes with the addition of water.

It's no surprise that before I added water, this whisky had plenty of kick from the alcohol.  However, I was able to detect aromas of orange, honey, pecans, and oak along with floral hints.  The palate was largely masked by the alcohol but I found the orange, pecans, and some pepper too.  With the addition of water, the nose revealed rosemary and nutmeg along with some cola too.  The peat became the most dominant flavor with toffee and very bitter, dark orange chocolate on the finish.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable whisky.  It isn't the best scotch I've ever had but it is very good.  It was a gift so I cannot have any "buyer's remorse" but I'm not entirely sure I'd get this again.  Not that it's bad but there are too many scotches in this world and I'm only one man.  I've got plenty of new things to try first before I can consider coming back to this one.  However, let me suggest you try it first.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Clear Creek Distillery Kirschwasser



I've mentioned Kirschwasser a few times on this blog, but I've never reviewed one.  I reviewed a "framboise," and an apple eau-de-vie, but not kirschwasser.

That ends with this post.

Kirschwasser is an eau-de-vie distilled from cherries.  Kirsch is the German word for "cherry" and wasser is the German word for "water:" cherry water.  If you've ever had a Black Forest Cake, a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, you may recognize the flavor of kirschwasser; it is poured onto the cake after baking.

This particular kirschwasser comes from Oregon, not Germany.  Clear Creek Distillery (in Portland, OR) makes a lot of Old-World style spirits, including eaux-de-vie like this krischwasser, slivovitz, and framboise.  They all have a slightly higher price point than other eaux-de-vie (this .375L bottle was about $26) but they are high-quality spirits.

This kirschwasser has aromas of cherry, meringue, and salty caramel.  It has a delicate cherry-blossom taste and is exceptionally smooth.  I can't believe I've only used this spirit for baking before.  Next time I'm getting something cheaper for baking and I'm buying this one to drink.

I highly recommend this kirschwasser and I cannot wait to try more from Clear Creek Distillery.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Skinos Mastiha

Mastic tree resin - let's put it in some booze!
This mastic-flavored liqueur recently came to my attention.  I never had mastic before and have been secretly obsessing over it's unknown flavor (unknown to me at least) for a few years.

About five years ago, we created a Turkish feast which included a rice pudding dessert.  However, the recipe called for mastic and I was unable to find any.  I ended up making a baked rice pudding dish anyway, but that's beside the point.  Since then I have always checked for "mastic" in the spice aisle at every grocery store and spice bazaar I've gone to, hoping to one day try that mastic-flavored Turkish rice pudding I tried making all those years ago - but I've had no success.

Therefore when I was told of this mastic-flavored liqueur I jumped at the opportunity to purchase.  Fortunately, they had 50mL sample bottles at the store so I didn't have to commit to a $30, 75dL bottle too!

Sweet aromas of cedar, anise, and pepper introduce one to this clear spirit.  The flavors of this remind me of many other Mediterranean anise-flavored liqueurs but the aromas/flavors of cedar (that mastic flavor I've been searching for) make this spirit stand out.  It's very sweet too and packs a bit of a kick at 60 proof.  This would be much better served chilled on a hot summer night than at room temperature on a cool, autumn evening like tonight.

I'll have to remember that for next summer.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blanche de Normandie



If you read my recently published article in the New York Cork Report, then you'll know that I love eau-de-vie.  However, I've been having trouble finding an apple eau-de-vie.  There are German apple liqueurs (i.e. Apfelkorn) but they are liqueurs and not eau-de-vie so I was not interested in buying one-sided liqueurs.

Basically, eau-de-vie is an un-aged fruit distillate.  Although it could be considered a brandy (since it is distilled from fruit) it is generally made using the entire fruit, not just it's fermented juice.  Notable examples: Framboise is made from raspberries, Kirschwasser is made from cherries, Grappa is made from grape pomace.

Researching this particular apple eau-de-vie, it is distilled from an apple cider.  Since some appellations within Normandy can produce calvados using apples and pears, I thought there might be some pears in this eau-de-vie - but the bottle claims it is "100% Apple."  I also discovered that this was one of the most highly-rated spirits of 2007; I did not know this before purchasing and trying this liquor so my opinion was not influenced by such factors.  Regardless, for such a lauded spirits one would think this would be a rather pricey bottle; however, I found a .750L bottle for only $23 at my local spirits retailer.  Seeing as how this type of spirit (i.e. eau-de-vie) is rarely consumed in the States, this is not surprising.  Fortunately, I get to take advantage of the average American consumer's lack of knowledge/appreciation of certain fine drinks.

The sweet aromas of apple and pear are accompanied by floral aromas and a certain rustic "je ne sais quoi."  Like all eaux-de-vie (the "x" makes this plural), there is some heat to this unaged spirit but there is a touch of butter and cinnamon that reminds me of a Tarte Tatin.  I can see why this eau-de-vie was so highly rated.

Unfortunately, I now have a craving for some sort of freeze-dried apple and Chinese cassia flavored cereal.  Perhaps the one advertised here by these two "heroes"?:


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Double Your Fun - Two Posts in One Day!

As you can see in the Po' Nutrition Fax "About Me" space on the far right-hand side, I say "I enjoy writing so I've decided to blog in order to have an excuse to write and thus to be creative. This is what I do."  Po' Nutrition Fax has been a chance for me to pursue my interest in writing professionally and it seems as though some are interested in what I have to say.  In other words, I was published... twice... in one day:

Once with the New York Cork Report.

The other on the Buffalo Whiskey Guild.

I wrote the entire article for the New York Cork Report and I contributed on the review for the Buffalo Whiskey Guild.

Getting published once is cool but twice in one day is even cooler.  Things that come in twos are great.  Here are some other examples:

Very useful
Also very useful
The Two-Man Rule for Launching Nuclear Missiles normally gets little praise
Kid N' Play - enough said
Thanks to everyone who reads Po' Nutrition Fax on a regular basis.  I'll just have to make sure to write more often!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Highland Park 1994

I'm a big fan of Highland Park.  I can honestly say that I had Highland Park when the bottle looked like this:

Unassuming yet delicious

Before it changed to this bottle design:

Sleek and stylish - and still delicious
That's right, I'm being that guy.  You know, that guy that says "I had it before it was popular!" as if I had foresight or special "insider" knowledge of this distillery.  I did not, in fact, have any insight but it was (relatively) cheap and I hadn't tried it yet; these were the factors that influenced my purchase.  When I bought the 12-year, it was retailing for about $40.  It was the best damn scotch I had ever had (at the time) - especially for $40. Then Wine Enthusiast published an article about non-Islay, island scothes and rated the Highland Park whiskies as some of the best deals in the single-malt market.

Fortunately, due to this new media coverage, the local distributor made sure that the employees of the store I worked at could try Highland Park's 18-year scotch (still, one of my favorites).  UNfortunately, the price of Highland Park whiskies began to increase too.  This increase in popularity brought about the new bottle design as well.  Nevertheless, Highland Park remains a great distillery in my mind.

Therefore, I try to keep Highland Park in mind when buying scotch - especially when buying those released by independent bottlers.  However, on my recent return-trip from Bavaria, I found some "exclusive" Highland Park bottles at the Duty-Free Shop in the Munich Airport.  These "exclusive" bottles are only available "for Global Travel Retail" - at least according to the packaging.  These "exclusive" releases are labeled with vintage-dated (1998, 1994, 1990, 1973) rather than the standard age statement labeling (e.g. 12-yr, 18 yr., etc.).  What does the vintage matter for distilled spirits?  Cognac producers say it means nothing, but Armagnac producers disagree.  Personally, I think that vintage does influence the distillate, but only marginally; but I'm digressing.  I decided on the 1994 as it was in my price range.  As I was returning from Germany, I felt the best use of my unspent Euros was on merchandise rather than selling them for back for U.S. dollars; I would essentially be throwing money away since I had already exchanged my U.S. dollars for Euros and would be losing money in the re-conversion.  Furthermore, I felt the money would be best spent on something that I could not buy back in the States - hence this purchase.

I've been waiting to try this scotch for quite some time now.  I had inflated its value in my mind due to it's "exclusivity" so I was waiting for the perfect time to try it.

However, anytime is the perfect time for scotch.

I opened the bottle the other day - and was disappointed.  Granted, I had inflated expectations of this scotch as it was "exclusive" and I spent about €65 on this bottle (roughly $81 at the time).  However, for a roughly 15-yr whisky (distilled sometime in 1994, and bottled sometime in 2010), it wasn't the quality I had expected from Highland Park.  That's not to say it's bad, but it's not fantastic by any means.  While it has the aromas and taste of dried fruits and nuts macerated in sweet sherry (like the filling in a Lady Baltimore cake) followed by a briny smokiness, it falls flat quickly.  It is not quite insipid but it lacks follow-through.  I'd expected more from what had been such a great distillery in my mind.

This is not to say I've written-off Highland Park completely; I'm willing to give them a second chance (maybe even a third... or fourth).  However, don't always be fooled by the "exclusivity" of the bottling.  I thought I had learned that lesson but I guess not.

Learn from my mistakes - "exclusive" doesn't always mean "superior."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Big, Fake Whiskies

"Enhanced" or "Artificial"? 

Earlier today, one of the fine gentlemen who contributes to this great, award-winningBuffalo sports blog posted this article from The Atlantic Wire on his FB page. Basically it's about the growing market for flavored whiskies and the demographics of said market.  Part of his comment to the article was as follows:

"Anyone who calls people with different palates "horrible" or "not real drinkers" need to reevaluate how they prioritize things in their world..."

Seeing as how alcohol is a high priority to me, I felt the need to comment.  However, I do not disagree with him.  Here is what I said:

"I take my alcohol pretty seriously but these flavored spirits are not to be taken as seriously as some 'real drinkers' take them. Those who do drink them can most certainly be considered 'real drinkers' but the spirits themselves should not be considered 'real whiskies/vodkas/brandies etc.' I too enjoy the Wild Turkey honey liquor [sic] but I just don't consider it a whiskey. The flavoring additives, normally created in a laboratory, are not a part of the fermentation process or the interaction between the spirit and the barrel it is aged in - the 'real' spirit. These sweeter blends are like a woman with big, fake breasts: sure, they're cool but I'd prefer the real thing. So yes it comes down to preference but I prefer my spirits sans silicone but I don't think less of anyone who prefers otherwise."

Since it has been awhile since I wrote something here on PNF, I was inspired to expand on my comment above with the post below.

I'm a bit of a purist (or maybe a minimalist?) when it comes to my spirits.  I generally prefer to drink spirits straight.  I don't "do shots" but I sip my drink slowly and take the time to enjoy what I'm drinking.  Therefore, I like something well-made with a lot of complexity.  However a lot of these "flavored whiskies" are excessively one-sided and/or cloyingly sweet.  Sure I like sweet (anyone that says otherwise is a liar) but sometimes "sweet" is not enough and I want more than one other flavor (e.g. honey, cherry).

Flavored whiskies aren't necessarily a new thing.  Drambuie is one such flavored whisky (which I've previously reviewed) that has been around since the early 20th century - and I happen to enjoy quite a bit.  However, that is not marketed as a "flavored whisky" but as a liqueur.  If the State-Side distillers marketed these as liqueurs, then I'd have no problem (and I wouldn't drink them very often), however I take exception to the 'flavored whiskey" category.  To be fair, the labels on American Honey and Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey (not to single only these two out) do classify them as liqueurs but they are not marketed as such.  My exception with the category is related to my purist/minimalist attitude towards my alcohol.  For a category like liqueur, I know that there will be various flavoring additives - it's just how that category is defined (for lack of a better term). Nevertheless, I don't drink liqueurs very often yet my only concern when I choose one is how complex it is (multiple flavors and/or not-just "sweet").  However for things like vodkas, brandies, and whiskies I like to think that the final product is born from only from the processes of fermentation, distillation, and (for brandies and whiskies) aging.  Therefore, "flavored whiskies," with their flavoring agents added after aging are not whiskies in my mind.  Granted, some distillers will age the spirit with certain natural additives (e.g. whole fruits, herbs, spices) that do alter the flavor but these generally only add to the complexity of the final product and don't become over-powering or turn the spirit into a syrupy concoction.

Lastly, I feel it is also necessary to look at the sexism of this drink category.  The Atlantic Wire article that started this whole thing talks about how this category was made basically to get women away from flavored vodkas and into flavored brown spirits:

"Flavored whiskey, as a category, is not meant to create new whiskey drinkers, but to make flavored-vodka drinkers feel like grown-ups," one Manhattan bar owner told the [New York] Times's Simonson. The implication being that flavored vodka drinkers — traditionally women — aren't "grown-ups," while flavored whiskey drinkers — sage old white men, apparently — are the big kids of drinking.

Really the sexism goes beyond this category and is just sexism within the industry in general.  It also leads me to apologize, in part, for my "big, fake breasts" comment and the image at the beginning of this post.  As these "flavored whiskies" were originally created with women in mind, my equating these spirits to breast implants is sexist too and I apologize for the propagation.  I say my apology is only "in part" because generally breast implants are just an artificial enhancement usually for some sort of mass appeal - like these "flavored whiskies."  There are other reasons to get breast implants that are not for mass appeal (i.e. post-mastectomy plastic surgery) but those instances are excluded with my use of the word "generally" - I still like the parallel I've drawn between the two.  Nevertheless, I think there is a great discussion to be had about sexism in the alcohol industry - specifically why it is assumed women only want sweet, flavored things.

I think they realized more men were drinking this stuff when they thought of this ad campaign, otherwise Wild Turkey has some bad info on what most women like to see in advertising...
As I finish up this post, I'd like to go back to the closing paragraph of the Atlantic Wire article:

Of course, it's ridiculous that a beverage could just be for boys or girls. People should drink whatever they like [I agree!]... Sorry if that makes some of you staunch whiskey advocates feel a little less cool about yourselves, enough so that you need to make fun of people with different palates than yours.

What's with the attack on "staunch whiskey advocates"?  As a "staunch whiskey advocate" my problem is not with the drinkers but the drinks and how they are marketed.  Liqueur v Flavored Whiskey?  This may seem like semantics to some people but as I said earlier, I take my alcohol pretty seriously.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Amontillado

In the header of this blog, I state that this blog has nothing to do with Edgar Allan Poe.  In keeping with that statement, I must also say this post has nothing to do with Poe's very famous "The Cask of Amontillado" poem.

Sometimes, a Google Image search delivers exactly the thing one is looking for
I've always enjoyed sherry - Amontillado specifically.  Much like port, it is a fortified wine - basically, brandy is added to the wine to keep it from "spoiling."  However the difference (technically, one of many differences) between sherry and port is when the brandy is added: during the fermentation process for port and after fermentation for sherry.  Therefore sherry is generally drier than port (it can be sweetened post-fermentation).

This is why I prefer sherry to port - unlike port, I don't have to have something sweet every time I want a fortified wine.

I realize the previous sentence makes it seem as though I often face this issue, this fortified-wine dilemma.  I really don't.  In fact, I've only recently started drinking sherry regularly.  However, I face another type of  problem, one concerning "image."

When one thinks of sherry drinkers, they probably think of these assholes:

"We suck - Lavern & Shirley was arguably a better spin-off.  Where's Eddie?" 
I'm sure the producers of this show thought long and hard about what drink these two would drink and sherry provided the perfect "foil" to the beer their father drank.  Fair enough.  Time to move on.  Here's why:

1.  Do you like single-malt scotch?  Is Macallan one of your favorites? Guess what that scotch is aged in? Used sherry casks.  Drink more sherry, they'll be more used-casks available, price of this and other sherry-aged scotches will come down. Boom.

2.  Feel heavy/bloated after drinking a few beers?  One serving of sherry - 60 calories.  Boom.

3.  It's basically hard liquor mixed with wine.  Find yourself wasting too much time drinking both hard liquor and wine - switch to sherry.  Boom.

4.  Look at reason #2 again: night cap.  Boom.

I can go on.  Maybe I could even list 99 total reasons but I don't have time (refer to reason #3).

Therefore I suggest you start drinking more sherry - because it's awesome.  Start with Amontillado as it is middle-of-the-road (not too dry but not too-sweet) and go drier (e.g. Fino, Manzanilla) or sweeter (e.g. Oloroso, Pedro Ximinez) depending on your own preferences.

Whatever you have, you'll be sure to enjoy it... then you can tell Frasier exactly what he can do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs.  

They will not be calling again:


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Community Beer Works First Anniversary Party

When Community Beer Works (CBW) first opened their doors here in Buffalo I have to admit I was skeptical.  I'm not entirely sure why I was skeptical but I was nonetheless.  It might just be because I don't always trust the opinion and tastes of my fellow Buffalonians.  For example, the people around us at the bar were ordering more Bud Lights and Molsons than they were CBW beers.  Also it is often enough that when something new opens, there is an excessive amount of excitement due to the "newness" of it all.  It was 3-4 months before I had my first CBW beer - Frank.  It was (and is) a "superbly drinkable Pale Ale" (as is stated on their website) so I made a point of trying their other beers.

Last night (April 20th, 2013) was CBW's One Year Anniversary Party at Coles in Buffalo, NY.  Coles is one of the better beer bars in the city, although the clientele is mostly students.  When I was in college it wasn't nearly the beer bar it is now, nor was the dive next door - Mr. Goodbar.  However, both bars now have fantastic beer selections and if you can get to either one between 2-5 (when it's not busy) it's a great chance to try delicious beers in a much quieter and less-busy bar. I'm 30 years old now so I prefer a quiet bar where I can relax and enjoy what I'm drinking.  But I am digressing, along with the standard CBW fare, they also brewed four special beers for the occasion.  Unfortunately, I only had three of the four special beers (plus one non-Anniversary-but-still-specially-brewed beer):

1. McCollum Porter

My friends have a farm.  The name of the farm is McCollum Orchards, and they grow hops (along with many other things).  You can probably guess that the hops used in this beer came from their farm.  Since I also do work on the farm, I wanted to know how the hops that grew in the trellis system I helped to raise tasted.  I obviously can't take any credit for how they tasted as my friends did all the work on the hops and CBW did all the work on the beer, but it's nice to know I contributed in some small way.  The porter was great.  I've talked about the porter style before so I won't go into much detail there, but this beer was true to that style.  It had a rich, somewhat smoky flavor but it was well-balanced (as the CBW beers tend to be).  I hope this joins Frank, The Whale, The IPA, and DeMaas as one of their regular beers - and also so they keep using the hops from my friends' farm!

2. Double IPA

Hoppy, but not excessively so.  As mentioned above, CBW beers tend to be very well-balanced.  However,  based on the name I was expecting this beer to be excessively hopped (much like Flower Power) and, much like Flower Power, I was ready to only have one and be done with it.  While I did only have one, because there were plenty of other beers to drink (and only have five beers in my "bank"), I definitely would have had more. It's a hefty IPA (hence, the "double"), is citrusy with some grassy notes as well.  Delicious!

3. Rye-Barrel Aged "The Snow"

This beer was only at Mr. Goodbar so I had to "run" over from Coles to make sure I had some before we sat down for dinner.  It is one of the best beers I've ever had.  As I've said before, the Imperial Stout is my favorite style of beer.  Pizza Plant recently had an Imperial Stout tasting so I showed up (the following day) and got to try them (in a much quieter atmosphere!)  The Snow (the non-barrel aged version) was one such beer at Pizza Plant so getting to try both Snows so close to one another was a great way to taste and compare.  The Rye barrel aging compliments the heavy coffee and chocolate qualities of The Snow with lighter notes of vanillin and spicy-fruitiness. Awesome.

4. Four Spacious Skies Amber (the non-Anniversary-but-still-specially-brewed beer)

I kind of wish I started with this because my palate was overwhelmed by the previous two beers; it's my own fault for ending with it.  However, it was a very pleasing and something I would consider a "regular" drinker.

All in all, it was a delicious night and I'm happy to see CBW doing this well one year in to their venture.  Continued success to them!

Slainte!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beerology 2013

On Saturday April 13, I attended my first "Beerology" at the Buffalo Museum of Science - which was the fifth annual event.

My friends were presenting on hops or, more specifically, the hops that they grow on their farm. Having never gone, I was interested to see how the event would cater to the beer geek crowd.  As I've said before, I'm not a beer expert by any means but I do know a decent amount, so I wanted to see if this was an event for those who know a lot about beer and want to know more or "Beer 101 - Introductory Beer."

It was more of the latter.

Now this is not to say that I didn't learn anything at all.  My friends' presentation (which was paired with a presentation on home-brewing) was very informative.  I wanted to attend the other lectures/presentations, however I had been sampling beers since 6PM and their presentation was at 7:45 PM- and they were the first presentation.  Learning and drinking don't always mix.  I say "always" because when I was in graduate school, I would go to the bar and have a few beers before my calculus class; it just made more sense after a couple of beers.  I think I was relaxed enough to just take in "the calculus" rather than thinking about it too critically.  Unfortunately, I was relaxed at Beerology too.  Without the structure of the classroom setting, when my friends finished their presentation I said "I need to sample more beer!" rather than sit and learn.

I admit this is my own fault (not sitting and listening to more).  Therefore, my initial assessment is a little unfair.  However, my bigger complaint is that not all of the the beer tasting stations were staffed by enthusiastic beer geeks.  Some knew a lot about the beers and brewery when I asked questions, but a lot just looked at me with blank stares and just poured my sample.  There were some macro-brew there too, so they just got pretty faces to staff their tables.  This is not to say there weren't pretty faces staffing the micro/craft-brew stations that knew a lot about their beer, but you could tell the macros were focused more on the appearance.  Another "problem" was a lot of the crowd was there to drink beer and mingle - I felt like we were at a bar with a really big cover charge.  Although my VIP tickets were free so I shouldn't complain about that.

The VIP tickets allowed me to go to the "VIP Room" and sample beers not in the main room and eat some food.  Some beers were better than others (Community Beer Works' "Espresso Whale" was the best).  The best part of being a "VIP" - I didn't have to use my valuable 10-ticket allotment to get beer (but only while in the VIP Room)!

Overall, it was a fun night but I would only go again if I could get VIP tickets.  If I do go next year I'd have to remind myself to not sample too much in the beginning so I can stay focused and attend all of the presentations.  Actually, it would be best if they started the presentations sooner.  Regardless, I just wish more of the crowd was as interested in learning about beer as I was.

I think my standards are too high - so it's a good thing I had VIP tickets...or maybe the title just went to my head.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Liquid Lunch

See that guy at the table, by himself - that's what I wish my lunch was like


"Yet there is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and of abundance without a dread. For we have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy."

This quote comes from John Maynard Keynes' essay "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren."  His prediction, based on the rate of economic growth at the time, was that our society would be so wealthy that, if we kept the living standard constant, proceeding generations would be able to enjoy more leisure time than previous ones.  Unfortunately this ended up in the "wishful-thinking" bin of historical ideas.

So what does this have to do with Po' Nutrition Fax?

As I've said before, I enjoy the little things in life.  I have a job I don't particularly enjoy nor do I find much personal meaning in it.  While I have to spend at least 8 hours a day supporting the higher living standards that Mr. Keynes failed to include in his prediction, for an hour a day I get a break to relax and not spend time and energy doing pointless things for other people.  However, we unfortunately live in an era where having a drink on your lunch break is largely frowned upon; I fail to understand why this is so.  This post is an attempt to clearly outline my thoughts on the subject.

My first point in support of "drink with lunch" position has to do with stress created by jobs.  I'd be willing to bet most people find their work stressful.  Even if it's an "enjoyable" job, all jobs tend to involve a certain level of stress.  Alcohol, as a mild depressant, is an effective stress-reliever (of course, if consumed moderately).  Why not have one midday drink to relax?  I'd argue that it's a pretty cost-effective way of reducing on-the-job stress, especially as health insurance costs are increasing.  Sitting in a lunch room surrounded by co-workers talking about work while not actually having to work is not a relaxing atmosphere.  We all need an alternative.

My second point is one of increasing group cohesion.  If the Happy Hour is acceptable (although not officially acceptable but implicitly approved), why is it not alright to have one midday drink with co-workers?  Coupled with the previous point, if everyone is relaxing together, everyone will return to work feeling better and, perhaps, more willing to collaborate with one another.

Third point, non-macrobrewed beer is probably healthier than soda.  Most people, that I've noticed, order soda/pop with lunch - I think beer is the better choice.

Now, I'll try to address the arguments against a drink (or two) with lunch.

The main point, I'm assuming, has to do with over-consumption of alcohol.  People do stupid things when they've had too much to drink.  Therefore, if someone drinks too much on their lunch break they will do stupid things at work.  My question: why would someone get wasted before going back to work, especially if the chances of them getting fired for doing so are pretty high?

While I've previously made mention of my views on the ridiculous alcohol-consumption habits in the U.S., the view that most will over-consume when given the chance isn't necessarily true.  The U.S. standard set by the Center for Disease Control for "regular drinker" is 12 drinks over the course of a year! That's a minimum of one drink a month (if you are 18 years or older) to be considered a regular drinker!  Really, America, really?  Regular and moderate consumption of alcohol is only one or two cocktails away from having a disease that needs as much federal attention as Influenza and Ebola?  But I am digressing - those of us who enjoy a pint of beer, or a glass of wine, or maybe a snifter of brandy don't necessarily need more than one drink to feel relaxed.  Temptation is there but as reasonable and sensible adults, we are more than capable of saying "I'll just have one" - and we will do just that.

Another concern is driving after consuming alcohol.  In an era of business parks and sprawling suburbs, driving is an unfortunate necessity.  I wouldn't want anyway to drink too much and drive back to work, or anywhere for that matter.  This is a valid concern for those against my "drink with lunch" position.  I refer back to my previous point though - one drink will put no one over the legal limit and with an hour to enjoy it, it will barely register.  Some may say that any impairment is unacceptable and while I agree that it should be minimized, there are many people who are eating or drinking (coffee/soda) while driving, fixing their hair, picking their nose, on the phone or texting, playing with the radio, or starting at the attractive person in the other car that are (arguably) just as much of a nuisance as the person who had one drink over the course of an hour.

Returning to Keynes quote and the internet-found photo at the top, if we have to live in an era where we cannot have the leisure time Keynes wanted us to have, then let's enjoy what little time we do get in the ways we want to.

I'll even buy your drink too.