Madness : Day 3 (It’s getting difficult)

You’ll notice this is quite late. Quite. But, if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see that it was hard to keep up during the previous day’s slate of games and this is day three. My wife says it’s because this bender has moved to day three. I think it’s because … well I think she is right.

There are fewer games today so there should be fewer drinks, right? Wrong. Well, maybe right. Hell, I don’t know. Clarity isn’t my strong suit right now.

Today started like they all should. Coffee with booze. I moved on to a sessionable ale while I watch my bracket fade to black when Villanova lost. new Belgium Dayblazer was on point if you open your mind a bit and realize straight sessionable ales aren’t flavor powerhouses. Once my bracket was shit, I needed a pick me up so I moved to Pelican Brewing’s Captain of the Coast Wee Heavy. That is a helluva beer. Easily the best I’ve had in quite some time. I hate using this word for beer but it really fits here: Luxurious. After getting a through that beautiful beer, I opened a German Lager of joy, Hirsch Doppelbock. It’s a malty delight of dark and delicious proportions.

German beer delight.
Luxury.
Nice can.

I’m going to try to stick with things better the rest of the evening but I’m already drunk … so…

Showdown : IPA Standard Bearers

I like IPAs. My Pit Bull turns his note up at them (his name is Porter…)

I know I said in my previous post that I drink more IPAs than anyone really needs to, and that remains true. However, thinking about that got me yearning for a good IPA. As I was lingering in my grocer’s beer aisle, attempting to find something new and interesting in their standard grocery store* beer selection, a showdown was conjured in my mind. I wouldn’t drink one IPA, no, that is for the lot of you who drink sensibly. No, I would have three (my max if you know me well enough), on a school night, and pit them against each other in a winner take all of our IPA elders.

I’ve had the three here multiple times but none of them recently since I don’t get back to the standard bearers as often as I should. Are these IPAs standard bearers? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t care too much, either. They are all classics, which have been brewed for more than a decade each and all are wildly successful year-around beers. I know that the recipes have been tweaked some over the years, but these are the beers that launched thousands of imitators.

img_5288
Bitter Grandpa

Stone IPA : Introduced 1997 : 6.9% – We’ll start with the oldest of the group, Stone IPA. It’s classic clear orange body topped by a white hat. Powerful citrus hop notes for sure inspired a multitude of IPAs in the last 20 years. Damn, it is bitter. Ya know how lots of the new tropical IPAs are full of bright fruits (which I totally dig, btw) but the bitterness seems a bit restrained? This IPA harkens back to those days when everyone cared about IBUs more than anything else. The flavor is almost masked by the bitterness! Still, it has tons of citrus and pine hop notes. Crystal malt adds some sweetness and rounds out the body. This is a full-on bitter powerhouse of an IPA.

img_5291-1
Even-Keeled

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA : Introduced 2003 : 6% – I’ve moved on to Dogfish’s 60-minute IPA, which I’ve had the longest relationship with out of these three. I remember it being smooth and grassy, but either my memory has failed me or the beer has changed some over the years. The grass is still there but only in the background with pine and citrus elbowing their way to the front. The malt is muted but aides the overall balance. Not nearly as bitter as the Stone but still having a nice bite throughout. A well-balanced offering.

 

img_5294
Not GF free

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA : Introduced 2005 (originally named Northstar) : 7% – The relative newcomer, Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA is a big time player especially on the west coast. I don’t remember drinking much of it when I was back east, but I can’t escape it out here. This is a grapefruit bomb and I’ve always enjoyed grapefruit in my IPAs (I don’t like grapefruited IPAs, however). Strong citrus notes throughout with a decent helping of crystal malt sweetness. A zesty, fruity, sweet IPA that many breweries seem to be emulating (cause, duh, it’s a huge success so why not emulate it). Tangy and bitter. Good stuff, here.

So what’s it gonna be from the elder three? My pre-tasting guess was Dogfish Head had the winner but after this little get-together Stone came away as the clear winner. DFH and BP are brewing great IPAs but they are both solid seconds, for me. If we care about where our money goes (and I do) then I’d put the 60 Minute second and relegate Sculpin to third, but that’s a moral decision and not an enjoyment based outcome.

This was a fun grocery-store threesome. I haven’t had any of these in years and it was nice to get reacquainted with them. And damn, that Stone IPA is still fighting my tongue. Nice.

*I may need to remind you that I live in the heart of a good beer black hole. The local area is trying to improve but we still don’t have a good bottle shop in close vicinity. I buy more of my beer from the chain grocery than I’d like to admit.

Peanut Butter and Paradise

I named one of our dogs Porter after my favorite type of beer. He really likes peanut butter. I also really like peanut butter. I also really like beer (so does he, but he doesn’t get more than the occasional spilt drop). So, when brewers “discovered” the now fairly common peanut butter porter a few years back, I jumped at it. It was fun. It was novel. It … grew old fairly quick. Not that there was anything wrong with them, but for me, they grew too sweet to enjoy regularly. I haven’t had one in quite some time but for some reason, when my local, local beer only bottle shop announced they had Wingman Brewers Peanut Butter Cup P-51 I jumped at the chance to grab a bottle. And, as fate would have it, as I was about to get in bed last night I found out that today is National Peanut Butter day. What luck! I threw the bottle in the fridge (well, really I gently placed it in there) and went to bed so excited for today to come. And here we are. Drinking a peanut butter porter on a day when peanut butter is in the spotlight.

Wow. My life is just a roller coaster ride of excitement.

Locally roasted peanuts from CB’s Nuts. Oh yea, and beer.

But the beer is good. It offers up all the hallmarks of a good PB porter. It’s full of rich peanut, chocolate, some light roasted notes, and a decent amount of sweetness throughout. It’s full silky body gives a good chewy profile aiding in it’s enjoyment.

You’ve got yourselves s good dessert sipper, Wingman.

 

Super Strong Showdown

If there is one type of beer that Bahrain liquor stores stock in massive amounts, it’s strong, terrible, malt liquors. I thought it would be funny to pick up a couple and do a side by side, but as you will read, it was less funny and more terrible burning. The iconic paper bag that malt liquors come in haven’t made it out to Bahrain so the standard black bag of shame will have to do.

Booze Bros
Booze Bros

So, which can of burney pain eventually came out on top? Will the crown stay intact or will the pirates steal the royalty’s fortune? Let’s find out.

Royal Dutch  Super Strong 12%

I wonder the abv on this one
I wonder the abv on this one

The label design is dull- strike one. If it weren’t for research purposes I would have never purchased this, instead buying a boatload of the Pirate because there is a pirate on the can and if all I care about is getting lit up I might as well pretend I’m a swashbuckler.

Gotta take that first swig straight from the can. No aroma check, no color check, just a hard and deep gulp. Unf, this is rough. It’s full bodied and syrupy smooth with a bit of carbonation in the back end. Royal Dutch slides down the throat with a red-hot alcohol tail, which balances out the grainy sweetness. After pouring it into a glass I can see that this is crystal clear gold with a small head. The aroma is cheap booze mixed with malt sweetness. It has a rough grain profile masked by the fumes and the high level sugary aroma. The more I drink the more fruity notes I’m picking up. (Five minutes later) I can’t taste anything. My tastebuds are burnt off and I might be drunk.

 

Pirate Super Strong 12% 

Plundering your sobriety
Plundering your sobriety

Can chug- medium to thin boded with a much harsher finish. Not much flavor other than fusel alcohol. Seriously, it burns. Back again and…ouahhh it is hot. Oh man, I’m trying to hold on to hope that I’ll like this one better but that gulp just bit me, I think.

Poured into a glass I see that this one is bright hay/gold with a large head. Clear because filtering is AWESOME! Aroma is a mix of booze, grain, fruity notes and apple really coming thru. Flavor is mostly cereal grains and a lot of booze. Sweet and light fruits, too. Not much, really. I’m mostly surprised about the lack of flavor in this one. (break, lost track of time) I’m seriously drunk. My head is floating, my fingers are dancing, and I don’t know what is going on right now.

Job well done, boozed up brews. I guess you’re both champions.

But in reality, only the Pirate is a champ. The reason is two fold. One, you have a much awesomer can and name. Who doesn’t want to get drunk and pretend to be a pirate? No one. Not even pirates because today’s pirates suck and pirates of yore were cool (except that they sucked, too). But, at least their attire is neat and I can wear it at Halloween. Two, it has less flavor, which means it has less bad flavor and that is a positive. Sure, the booze is a bit harsher, but it’s 12%. Don’t buy it if you didn’t expect that.

Forward

Burgers, Beers, Bahrains.
Burgers, Beers, Bahrains.

Bahrain Burgers, Taproom, and Brewery* finally served their first local beer to round out the trifecta of naming, and it was…pretty decent. I wasn’t expecting too much- it was my first brew in more than a year. I snagged a porter kit from Midwest Brewing (the kit is tasty, I’m not knocking it) and brewed up the all-grain batch a couple months back. Simple, straightforward, solid. I chose a kit because I was confident that it would be good, I didn’t have to worry about formulating, and I could focus on the things that have previously held me back: process. I’ve been struggling with my process for a while now- mostly because my last four batches have been brewed in four different “breweries.” When there is no continuity, for me at least, there is no process and there is no way I’ll be able to brew a proper batch. Our current location offers up more space than I’ve had in years, which means plenty of room to spread out and organize the equipment.

It was a glorious brew day.

I cleaned and sanitized with full confidence in the cleanliness. I boiled water, I steeped grains, I added hops, I pitched the yeast, all without feeling rushed, cramped, or pressured.

I’ve had some bad batches of late, which has put some severe strain on my brewing enjoyment. But this was a success. Not an award winner, not a brewpub opener, just a solid beer.

It’s a little thin, a little under carbonated, but there is nothing wrong with it. It isn’t infected, it doesn’t taste off, it is as a porter should be.

Success.

We also made delicious burgers tonight. They seriously rocked.  A mixture of pork and beef, with a plethora of spices and topped with caramelized onion jam awesomeness. Seriously. Awesomeness.

(*Not a real brewery, taproom, or burger joint. But, if you know the password you can get all three)

Photo Roundup

I don’t feel much like writing at the moment so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Train Beers
Isekadoya - Kumano Kodo Beer. Nice.
Isekadoya IIPA in the streets of Ise
A wall of Isekadoya bottle labels
Isekadoya Taster set (damn you, Suntory Malts!!)
Keg, Nagoya. Only JiBeer. Only GOOD JiBeer.
Isekadoya - Imperial IPA. Good, but better on draught.

Don’t fret, my words will return in full force soon.  That’s probably not a good thing.

(Beer) Geek to Go

I’m at the beer store.  I’m looking at the many bottles waiting to be placed in my basket.  I see an interesting bottle of a style I’ve had only a few times in my life.  The price is steep, but I’m too damn curious to pass it up.  I take it home.  Chilled and on my counter I open it and pour.  First sip- GROSS!  I just spent how much for a crappy beer?  Let me see what others think of this.  What?  I’ve had this before!?!  And I hated it then, too!  Nooo!

 

091028-Beer Database-003
Wireless sync makes adding it to the iPod a breeze

That is an experience I’ve had a few too many times now.  This is where technology really comes in handy, and finally, I’m able to take advantage of it.  I’ve longed for a way to take a list of all the beers I’ve tried with me when I go beer hunting.  I want to make sure the above scenario doesn’t replay itself again, and I want to be reminded of the good beers that I may have forgotten about.  I tried to go old scholl and just hit the print button but caring a few pages of paper is annoying.  Not to mention I always forgot to take it with me.  I had an old Palm pilot that I tried to make a database with, but it was annoying and never really got off the ground floor.  I also never remembered to take it with me when I went beer shopping.  Enter iPod.  I always have it with me because I enjoy the tunes it plays (I picked then out, after all).  The other day I was reading some site that was talking about the Filemaker software available for Macs and it’s little cousin, Bento.  My first thought was “I wonder if there is a iPod App for Bento.”  There is (for $4.99).

091028-Beer Database-004
I'll never be without my precious beers again

I downloaded that, bought the full up version of Bento for my computer, and database building I went.  It’s basically a spreadsheet with all my info available right at my fingertips.  Mine has the beer name, brewery, rating, style, description, serving method, location drank, and date.  Building it was easy and entering the info couldn’t be simpler.  I have drop down boxes for styles, serving method, and breweries.  Just  a quick tap and I have a description (which varies from one word answers to full on paragraphs of loving devotion).  I’d say the only annoying part is entering the nearly 1000 beer backlog into my new system.  There could be an easier way than manually entering each one, but I’m no computer geek so that’s how I’m doing it.  But it’s not so bad, I can get a good 20 or so in during a session each night and will get there pretty soon.

 

Ah, technology.  I love you so.  With my new portable database I won’t run into a beer I dislike twice ever again.

Beer and a book

Baird NakaMeguro Bitter Batch #14 and "Ambitious Brew" makes for a nice afternoon
Baird NakaMeguro Bitter Batch #14 and "Ambitious Brew" makes for a nice afternoon

If you are a history buff (like me), a beer geek (like me), an occasional book nerd (like me), or if you’re interested in the giants of American industry from the 1800s (like me) you should check out Maureen Ogle’s book “Ambitious Brew.”  I’m only about a third of the way through it but it already reads more like a novel than a lesson in history.  It’s been difficult to put it down at night and I’ve learned some mighty interesting facts about lager’s early days in young America.

On the Web: “Ambitious Brew” at Beerbooks.com

Japan meets the Midwest

Bell's (Michigan), Hoppin' Frog (Ohio), Bluegrass (Kentucky), Great Lakes (Ohio)
Bell's (Michigan), Hoppin' Frog (Ohio), Bluegrass (Kentucky), Great Lakes (Ohio)

I love to drink local.  Why?  Many reasons, really.  First, I love supporting my neighbors and neighborhoods.  Keeping my local prosperous is goal #1 for me.  Not just in beer, but with whatever I can.  Whether it be a mom and pop corner store instead of a Walgreen’s (for my U.S. readers) or a grocery store that has ties to my community instead of a Wal-mart or some national chain that probably can’t remember how many states they operate in.  You keep your neighbors happy and they’ll keep you happy.  Second, each local has different tastes.  From the big variance of West Coast IPAs to East Coast IPAs (or West Coast to English if you want to take it a step farther).  Japan has a love affair for all things super hoppy and from the Pacific coast of the States- and I love that.  I can hardly get enough hops.  But I grew up on East Coast breweries and I’ve missed them dearly.  It was a major goal of mine to bring back some of the better Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, etc., beers to share with some buddies who haven’t had the pleasure of imbibing some Midwest products.

The first shipment came with me on the plane and I’m anxiously awaiting the rest to get here.  I bet I’m not the only one…