Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quick Takes: Otter Creek Otteroo (Sparkling Australian-Style Ale)

You know what's thoughtful? When somebody very thoughtfully gives you a beer-related gift for the holidays. Those are the kinds of relatives you keep in the will, to say the least!

My younger brother Nick (he who, in the fall, reviewed Miller Chill) presented me with an Otter Creek Otter's Selection Gift Pack this Festivus - this pack included an Otter Creek pint glass and bombers of 3 so-called Otter Creek World Tour beers, through which I have been slowly making my way.

One of the bombers included in this gift pack was the Otter Creek Otteroo, described as an Australian-style sparkling ale (but made in Vermont). The bottle promised extra carbonation and the use of Australian hops and ringwood yeast. Admittedly, I was a bit wary of this beer - for all of my recently-acquired beersnobbery, I wasn't tremendously familiar with Sparkling Ales as a style, and went in expecting something like a fruit-less Lambic.

Really, though, the Otteroo wasn't much like any of my expectations. The extra carbonation was barely noticeable, if at all, only really serving to keep the head on my pour from bomber into glass at a bare minimum. As for the taste, I must say that this was a particularly malty, somewhat bittersweet beer - not at all a bad beer, really, but considering the exotic ingredients, it was nothing particularly spectacular. Given that the hops traveled halfway around the world, I would have liked to have been able to taste them more.

For a special-batch beer, which the Otteroo seems to be, I wasn't particularly overwhelmed. Overall, it was a decent pint-and-some, but if I return to the Outback for this type of beer, it probably won't be with the Otter Creek brewers as my tourguide.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Quick Takes: Sixpoint Belgian-Style IPA

Since the beginning of December, I've been spending the bulk of my time in New York City (a new job has me slowly relocating from the Capital Region to the outerboroughs of NYC ). One of the upsides of this switch has been a chance for me to explore some new breweries and beers.

Yesterday, while accompanied by my friend Juan (who, coincidentally, provides voice-over work for a series of commercials touting Miller Chill beer), I went to Great Jones Cafe, a lovely little hole-in-the-wall place on Great Jones Street in Manhattan with a great jukebox and a pretty solid beer selection. When I saw that they offered the Williamsburg, Brooklyn-located Sixpoint's IPA on tap, I jumped at it.

The pour of this beer was thick, with a hazy orange color to it. It was surprisingly creamy, which is something I've not really associated with IPAs before, but man, were those hops front and center. The strong hoppiness of this beer was supplemented by a citrus-y taste to it.

After the fact, I found out that Sixpoint's IPA is considered a "Belgian Style" IPA. Sixpoint's website is mum on what this means (actually, it's pretty quiet on most things - it's currently undergoing renovations), so I'm going to go out on a limb here and wonder aloud as to whether this means that it uses ingredients more commonly found in Belgian styles of beer in an IPA brewing process. I'm stumped, to be honest (but that's not hard).

Needless to say, I was very taken by this beer, and would gladly kill a man (or woman, or child) for another taste. Phenomenal.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Beer O'The Moment - Stone 11th Anniversary

The wonderful beers of the fine people at San Diego's Stone Brewing are favorites around these parts, as both our loyal readers can tell you. One can find the Ruination double IPA and Arrogant Bastard Ale at bargain basement prices even in grocery stores in Central New York, and if this is the way they are turning people on to craft beer -- 22 ounces and $5 at a time -- then we couldn't be happier.

Stone's iconic gargoyle imagery and the writerly copy on each of their 22 ounce bottles naturally appeals to us aesthetically, but it has always been the deceptively remarkable beers inside that have kept it from becoming just a cleverly marketed beer.

Given our already stratospheric opinion of this brewery, and given the constant evolution of their products and the championing of the merits of craft beer -- the Vertical Epic series comes to mind -- it's hard to say that Stone could really surprise us with any new beers they came out with. But they did exactly that with the 11th Anniversary Ale, a remarkable Strong Ale that pleases four out of the five senses (sorry, hearing). It's one of those beers that catches you by surprise even after you've poured it.

The look of the beer is pitch black. If handed this beer in some sort of a blind test, we would have guessed it was a stout. The foamy head at the top is a large and bubbly light cardboard brown. But it is absolutely opaque, where not even a sliver of light could burrow its way from one side to the other.

The aroma of the beer positively shocked -- nay, flabbergasted us. The smell is not the roasted coffee-and-dark-berries smell we expected. No, the XIth Anniversary smells of a citrusy IPA! What the...? The hops are bitter and woody, like any regular India Pale, pulling a complete switcheroo on our gullible olfactory senses. The hops, it must be pointed out, are magnificently complex: they have equal measures of pungent grapefruit, grassy pine and sweet citrus. All of this is balanced beautifully by a dry, English-ale style malt, a humbling agent that reminds all these brash other flavors where they came from. The smell is actually perfect, which is not a word we use very often. It's less an aroma than it is a bouquet of aromas. The traffic-stopping hops are oily and rich. And to top it off, there is a hint of chocolate aroma at the end. And notice we haven't even tasted it yet.

The flavor is a marriage of the look and the smell: supremely bitter West Coast hops, but with a unique burnt coffee malt. It's like an India Pale Porter. Those oily and bitter hops duke it out with the dry, bitter malt. The hops come out strong in the beginning, but the malt takes the later rounds. The flavor really shifts to the burnt, toasted malt as it warms up, with the hops receding to the background as an accent.

This is a beer that evolves.

The feel is supremely thick and yet also smooth. It's like motor oil with a dry roasted malt finish. And that about sums up the whole beer: it's a bit, thick, oily, dark, hoppy, nutty, roasted brew. Could I drink it all night? Not unless I had the next week off. But it's perfect for a pint.

Stone continues to get it done. If you haven't had the pleasure, take a chance on this damn good balanced brew.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Why that would be Pilsner Urquell of course! Yes that's right the original pilsner, the beer that changed how the world sees beer! This was the first ever pilsner, and every pils, pilsner, or pilsener is in some way formulated from the original recipe passed down through the ages from the gang at good ol' Pils-Urq. Now, while it is tempting to start rattling off an ode to the pilsner style, I will refrain. No, I will not wax poetically about the wonder of Beck's or the magnificence of Heineken. No, no I will not. Why? Because, as tempting as it is to rattle on and on about the glory Saaz noble hops, this post is not about pilsners, and the magic within them. No, no, this is about THE pilsner, Pilsner Urquell.

The Pils-Urq is offered in a shiny green bottle, with a label that screams, "CLASS!" Elegant and inviting, the bottle wisks you away to the old time Czech Republic, and it never felt so right. Nice lookin' label, nice lookin' bottle, so far, so good. Unfortunately that is roughly where the good times end. Because now it's time to open her up and go in for the real thing.

It pours a brilliantly clear straw color, that brings you back to a simpler time, when men were men, and women couldn't vote. Yes and don't you worry your pretty little heads, you can see right through it! And if you put it over a piece of paper with writing, it can actually act as a magnifying glass. Take that Guinness!

Now, as any beer drinker worth his weight in hops would, I go in for the smell. Now when the aroma of this particular brew first hits the nostrils, it becomes readily apparent to the drinker why the initials of this beer are P.U. It's like they threatened Pepe Le Pew before each new batch, to get that crisp skunky smell just right. Cause at Pilsner Urquell they raise and frighten only the finest skunks to in all of Eastern Europe. Well, I won't lie, too often that is, but the smell did not have me that ecstatic about goin' in for the taste. But I did, for you, my loyal reader.

Surprisingly the skunkiness was not as prevalent in the taste as it was the smell, and my mouth couldn't have been happier! Well, I mean it could've been happier, if I was drinking, say, Anchor Liberty Ale or any other beer I enjoy, but you get the pitcher. It had that hint of bitterness you'd expect, with a hint of I believe, hydrogen and oxygen. But the hydrogenity seemed like it may have been about twice as much as the oxygenacity in there. Yes, definitely two hydrogens for every oxygen or so. It almost feels like you're being hydrated? The taste was fairly bland, but the "P to the U" does have some subtle malty undertones, and will prick your tongue as it passes through, but overall it does not have a strong taste about it. It won't stand out in a crowd, if you know what I'm saying.

So, is it drinkable? Sure. Would I go out of my way to track down more for my private stock? Probably not. I mean although it is the original pilsner, I don't think it has any other beers in "Czech", as it were. I would rate this okay to drink if you are surrounded by skunks and need to make them think you are one of their own. Or I guess if you are surrounded by "Czechs" and need to make them think you are one of their own. Either way. Now, it's off to find out what exactly is Yugoslavian for alcoholic water.

Bottoms Up
Willie 3:16

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Beerjanglin' Presents: Our Brewery O' The Month

We have turned back the clocks and left Election Day in the rear view already, but this month is far from over. Certainly not too late to declare Southern Tier Brewing Company as our brewery of the month for November.

Southern Tier has only been around since 2004, but has already earned its place as one of the up-and-coming craft breweries in the Northeast. With a very solid lineup of year-round offerings, a full stable of seasonals, and an ever growing number of "big beers," Southern Tier has something to offer every discriminating beer drinker. Over the next three weeks, we'll attempt to give you a little taste.

In the interest of full disclosure we shall now note that Southern Tier is something of a "hometown" beer for us. It's located just outside of Jamestown, New York (home of Lucille Ball, NFL commish Roger Goodell, and the 10,000 Maniacs!), about 30 minutes from where we grew up. Sure, we'd been gone for five years by the time the brewery opened, but it still tastes like home. Or at least like damned fine beer.

Southern Tier was started in 2004 by Ellicottville Brewing co-founder Allen Yahn and his stepson, Phin DeMink, who had brewed the first batch of beer made at Ellicottville before moving on to work at Goose Island in Chicago. DeMink moved back to Western New York and, in 2003, teamed up with his wife, Sara, and Yahn to buy the brewing equipment from the former Old Saddleback Brewing Company in Pittsfield, MA and got to work. There were a couple of missteps to start, namely the failure of the original "flagship" mild and pilsner, but their IPA went over pretty well, and Southern Tier was off and running.

According to the Brewers Association, Southern Tier has grown 140% since 2005, and was the 39th largest brewery in the United States in 2006 with sales of 6,000 barrels. Beer Advocate Magazine named them No. 35 of the top 50 breweries in all the land. Not bad for a three year old business located in a rural corner of economically depressed Upstate New York.

Brewery tours are offered on Saturdays at 4 pm and cost $8. This price seems to include generous amounts of beer at their tasting room, the Empty Pint Pub, which is open on Fridays from 4 - 8 pm and Saturdays from 2 - 8 pm. The Empty Pint recently added an outdoor beer garden and always has eight brewery fresh Southern Tier beers on tap, including Chautauqua Brew, an amber ale brewed as a tribute to the brewing history of the region and available exclusively at the brewery and select locations within the county. Southern Tier is a definite must-stop destination for craft beer fans who find themselves anywhere near Jamestown. You can even drop in after a visit to the Lucy museum. Kinda ridiculous that we haven't made it to either the brewery or the museum yet.

You can read a bit more on Southern Tier here and/or here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Session 9: Beer and Music

Well, this month's Session is upon us. The topic at hand is Beer and Music, and it comes to us from Tomme over at Lost Abbey, who poses this challenge:

For this session, I am looking towards my fellow bloggers to share a music and beer moment with. It could be that Pearl Jam show I attended 7 years ago where I was forced to drink 5 Coronas to stay warm. But more likely, it could be an album or song that you’re always listening to.


In thinking about this month’s Session, which is beer and music, I took some time out the other day when I shut most of my myriad daily distractions down – cut off the television, cut off the computer, and put away the extraneous reading material. I ambled over to my refrigerator, and popped open a bottle of Flying Bison Aviator Red (an Irish Red-style ale), and poured it into a pint-glass. The next step was to rifle through my CD collection. Upon finding my copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits, I was good to go. It was time for the Fleetwood Mac Hour.

The tradition of the Fleetwood Mac Hour dates back to the fall of 1998, when I was a Senior at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. Admittedly, then I was a bit less of a aficionado of good beer: I was indiscriminate in my consumption of a number of indistinguishable lagers, and my palate was as one-dimensional as a Fred Durst rap, ranging from Miller High Life to Natural Ice, and encompassing every Schmidt's, Schlitz, and Blatz along that spectrum. My roommate Jake and I used to, every now and then, take a break from the crazed goings-on of that year by taking a bit of time to sit down together in our dorm room. We’d grab cans of one of the aforementioned cheap lagers from the fridge, pop some Fleetwood Mac on the stereo (it was most assuredly uncool to love the Mac, but we’d found out that it was a shared guilty pleasure), and relax. Some days, we’d talk. Others, we’d just listen. It may seem like a simpler time now, but then, it felt rushed and ominously finite. This was our way of taking a break from that. I don’t think that our other friends had this particular ritual, but I know that others did something similar (my friend PJ still reminisces about a “Steely Dan Hour” that involved hot apple cider and Bacardi 151).

(Yes, there'd be times when other albums would creep in to this ritual: R.E.M.'s "Automatic For The People," Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," and Jeff Buckley's "Grace" all got a spin at some time or another during these times - all of them singularly remarkable albums. But there was something about the Mac - as assuredly uncool as they were - that just seemed to fit nicely with what we needed to do. I wish I could put my finger on why.)

Now, though, the Fleetwood Mac Hour is a solitary pursuit. The switch from cans of cheap lager (far too often, it'd be Milwaukee’s Best Ice, which made Milwaukee’s Best seem subtle and refined in comparison) to good beer has been a welcome one. Flying Bison Aviator Red was a good match for this warm late-October day; malty and sweet with a subtle hop taste and a hint of something smoky – which I later found was roasted barley - it was a good bridge between the summer beers I’ve been drinking for a few months and the stouts and porters that will no doubt dominate my palate in the coming snowy season.

(Previous excursions into the Fleetwood Mac Hour - my solitary, almost meditative version of it - have been celebrated with different beers. I've been really lucky - I've tried new beers during these times and have been (by and large) really happy in taking risks. Whether it's Rock Art's Ridge Runner Ale (my new favorite barleywine, from a newly-discovered Vermont brewery) or a growler of Captain Lawrence's Liquid Gold, this is as good a time as any to try new beers.)

After taking the first sip of whatever it is that I've poured for myself, it’s time for the Mac. Track 1 sucks me in – “Rhiannon.” Next thing I know, I’m transported from my current-day worries, and I’m in full reminiscence mode. The tracks of the Mac’s “Greatest Hits” compilation serve as a highlight reel of great tune after great tune – “Go Your Own Way,” “Sara,” “Little Lies,” and “Say You Love Me.” Some great Fleetwood Mac songs are missing (Lindsey Buckingham’s poignant “Never Going Back Again,” from “Rumours,” for one), but never mind. The music’s main function is to help me relax, and it succeeds on every level.

Admittedly, when the disc is over, I’m already back – television blaring, computer up and running (when I can get my blasted laptop to work), copy of “GQ” magazine nearby, and the worries of the current day pulse through my frontal lobe incessantly. That being said, it’s nice to know that I can get a little bit of that serenity back into my life, even if it’s only for a little bit.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Two Minute Guide To: Old Chicago Pasta and Pizza

Old Chicago Pasta and Pizza
111 Wolf Road, Colonie NY [other locations nationwide]
(518) 435-8007
Open 7 days a week, 11:00 am – 1:00 am

Tap Selection: While Old Chicago may be a chain restaurant, its beer selection is most assuredly un-chainlike. One of Old Chicago’s features is a beer tour that offers a variety of rewards for consuming any number of different beers that they feature. While this does include a number of macrobrewed beers (Budweiser, Coors Light, and others of their ilk), the tap selection also included some imported craft brews (Hoegaarden), American microbrews (Boulder Brewing was featured, as was Long Trail), as well as some seasonals (Brooklyn’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale). A detailed beer list is available at each table, and a beer menu is available on their website.

Food: Despite the beer tour, this is a restaurant first and foremost. On our most recent visit, we decided to focus on Old Chicago’s self-ascribed specialty – pizza. We split a large Hawaiian deep-dish pizza; while the sauce and toppings were good, the crust was disappointingly un-deep-dish like. It was served in a pan, but it tasted a lot like a premade Domino’s crust, and was not tremendously thick. Disappointing. That being said, the menu itself looks promising, with a great variety of pasta and sandwiches in addition to pizza.

Ambience: The Wolf Road branch of Old Chicago is located in a former gym (“The Fitness Factory”). In what I would assume to be a direct connection to this, this Old Chicago restaurant looks like a chain restaurant that was built inside a gym. The ceiling looks like other area fitness centers, complete with industrial-looking vents and ducts that look like the ones at the heart of the Martin Lawrence movie “Blue Streak.” The rest of the space is standard chain-restaurant stuff – nothing fancy. Of particular note, though, is the game room – almost half of the space here is dedicated to an I-Play game room. We played skee-ball and mini-bowling when we were there – it was fun! That being said, the game room is separate enough from the restaurant that you can avoid spending time there if you so choose.

Vicinity: Old Chicago is located on Wolf Road, which is Albany’s main location for hotels and chain restaurants; this strip includes Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Fuddrucker’s, and other chain eateries as well as a number of hotels, as well as the revamped Colonie Center shopping mall. Quite suburban and extremely family-friendly.

Specials: Old Chicago has two separate happy hours, one during the standard, end-of-the-workday time, and another late-night happy hour (10 pm to midnight)! Happy hours come with drink and food specials, including cheap appetizers (mini-portions of pizza and nachos) and a number of cheap draft beers (although not all are included in this deal, so check with your server).

Extras: We’re fans of the beer tour and the fact that you can – if you so choose – play skee-ball here.

Verdict: Pretty cool, you know, for a chain restaurant.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Miller-Coors Merger

We admit to being a bit nonplussed at the news this week that Miller and Coors - numbers two and three in the U.S. beer market - were planning to combine their domestic operations. On the surface it seems to make some sense, at least business wise, in that they are better positioned to compete with the behemoth that is Anheuser-Busch; the combined MillerCoors now control roughly 28% of the market, while A-B commands 48%. Additionally, the portion of the combined $426 million marketing budget they spent competing against each other last year can now be aimed squarely at A-B (who alone spent $512 million on marketing last year) or utilized in other areas. You've also got the cliched reasonings that always pop up in these mergers between large companies: it will save millions through utilization of economies of scale, streamlining of production/distribution, elimination of redundancies, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Some of those things are, no doubt, true and this move shouldn't come as too much of a shock to the system of either company. Coors recently went through a fairly successful merger with Molson, and Miller has actually been a part of South Africa based SABMiller (one of the world's largest brewing conglomerates - the SAB stands for South African Breweries) since 1999. The bottom line here, to us anyway, is that this merger just doesn't work from a product perspective.

Miller Lite is the 3rd best selling beer in the country, followed closely in 4th by Coors Light. These two, obviously, make up a huge portion of the new company's sales. They are also disturbingly similar in another area - taste. Let's be honest, there's just not much difference between the two beers. Sure, you'll get some loyal followers who blindly swear allegiance to one brand or the other, but had this merger happened a couple of decades ago, either the Tastes Great, Less Filling Lite, or the Silver Bullet Light would not be in existence today. It will be interesting to see how MillerCoors markets their way around this.

The co-existence of the craftish brands of each brewer, Coors' Blue Moon and Miller's Leinenkugel will be a development to watch as well. Will a Sunset Wheat tap appear next to the Blue Moon handle at the local bar a grill? Will it be an either/or proposition? It does seem safe to say that this won't mean good things for fans or brewers of craft beers, at least in the short term. The most obvious initial development we see is the small guys getting squeezed out of a tap handle here and some shelf space there. You know, the things that these small companies really need to stay alive and sustain growth.

The best case scenario here is that the new MillerCoors puts a real scare into A-B and the two duke it out for pale lager supremacy for a few years, leaving the crafties to continue to do their own thing without interference from the big fellas. If you want a real dream scenario, how's this: Blue Moon continues its' rise in popularity while further developing it's seasonal line, Leinenkugel's solid offerings are expanded and more widely distributed, and Coors' recently announced line of "super premium" beers is rolled out to much critical acclaim. A-B responds by shifting their development of "craft" beers into hyperdrive and America is suddenly waist deep in the midst of a beer revolution, with all the big boys' watery yellow beers largely forgotten and these new brews serving as a gateway to the discovery of all the hundreds of wonderful beers that were right there in our backyards all along!

Realistically, our fear is that this move sets off another chain of acquisitions in the beer industry that eventually leads to the big players InBev, A-B, Diageo, SABMillerMolsonCoors, et al, madly buying up even some of the more successful craft brewers. With sales in the rest of the industry largely stagnant, and nowhere else to turn to acquire more market share, this may be a distinct possibility. The most successful craft breweries (we're talking in terms of overall sales and market share) like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, may be able to resist the overtures, but everybody has his price. If it's not one (or more) of these big fish in the small craft pond, it is likely to be some of the many slightly smaller fish. This may prove especially true with the impending cost crunch as the prices of hops and malts is predicted to soar over the next few years.

No matter what happens, the beers scene has evolved enough that we are still going to see a fairly good selection of beers in an increasing number of supermarkets and even chain restaurants. It remains to be seen, however just how diverse that selection will be.

  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers a cautionary word on smaller brewer's being left behind in the wake of the merger.
Finally, we leave you with the wise words of the dearly departed Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson. This quote is actually in reference to the acquisition of Miller Brewing by SAB back in 1999, but the words ring even more true today.

"Quite simply, the bigger the major brewers become, the greater the number of consumers who feel left behind, even alienated. These people want the chance to exercise their individuality when they order a beer. They are potential buyers of imports, microbrews and the products of brewpubs."

Michael Jackson


Monday, October 08, 2007

Quick Takes: Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale

A running debate between myself and the executive editor/founder of this blog has been the content of a list that would contain our top-five all-time beers. Admittedly, I’m kind of terrible at this, largely because I never truly fall in love with beers. Don’t get me wrong - I like a lot of different beers, but it’s fairly rare for me to fall in love with one.

That being said, I’m absolutely head-over-heels, eyes-bugging-out-of-their-sockets nuts for Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale. I became introduced to this a few weeks ago, when I picked up a sixer of it over at Oliver’s, a local beverage distributor.

It was love at first sip. The pour from bottle into pint glass revealed the color of the brew to be a deep, clear copper – it simply looked inviting. I inhaled deeply, taking in a delicious blend of maltiness and hops. When I took a sip, I couldn’t believe that this was an imperial style – it was far lighter than I expected, which is not to say that it’s a light beer by any stretch of the imagination. It’s smooth, rich, and creamy – and when you consider that it’s a 7.60% ABV beer, that seems like quite a feat. As I let the beer warm up some, the high ABV did become more apparent, but it never became overwhelming (although I could see this becoming a factor if I consumed more than, say, three in an evening). One thing that I really, really like about this beer is that it’s neither too malty or too hoppy; malt and hops both play a significant role in this brew, but neither dominates this beer’s taste.

Fortunately, this beer has been featured on tap at a couple of Albany-area establishments (most notably, the Lionheart Tavern at the intersection of Madison Avenue and Lark Street), so I was able to try it as a draft. As it was served to me, in a 20-oz imperial pint glass at Lionheart, I fell even more in love with the beer. The creamy texture of this beer was strongly accentuated in this style of serving, and the beer’s depth opened up as it warmed (I was able to catch a bit more citrus-y undertones, which I can’t say that I got from the bottled version).

I’m going to go ahead and say it: this may be a top-five, all-time beer for me (personally). It’s pretty amazing, and I recommend it highly.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Session #8: Beer and Food - Eat Locally, Drink Locally!

(This is our contribution to the October Session: for more information and to read some previous Sessions posts from around the world, please check out the blogroll to the left...)

We here at Beerjanglin' are not, generally speaking, a socially conscious lot. I mean, we like beer. That's what we do. Anything else is - basically - extra. That being said, every now and then, we keep our ears open for social trends.

One of the more intriguing social developments of the past few years has been the growing push for people to “eat locally” – that is, make a conscious effort to purchase and consume goods produced within a certain radius of your home (generally, 100 miles is an acceptable radius). In thinking about this movement, we’ve read a few things in magazines like “Men’s Health” and on the internet, but haven’t really seen a centralized take on this that we’ve found to be particularly clarifying, so we’ll do our best to explain the tenets of this ethos.

Eating locally is the “right” thing to do because when you buy from regional food producers (the more that you buy directly from them, the better), your money stays in the local economy and helps better the towns and neighborhoods in your proximity. Beyond that, the reasons for eating locally are myriad; proponents of doing this cite reasons raising from the standard “it’s better for the environment because the more people who do this means the less energy is spent in transporting food on planes and trucks” to the simpler thought of “local food is generally fresher.”

Here in the Capital Region of New York, there’s a lot going on that makes “eating locally” an intriguing and delicious prospect. If you were to take a compass and map of the region and place the compass’s center point on Albany, and then draw a circle to approximate a 100-mile border, you’d create an area that included a lot of farms (the full four seasons of the area lend themselves nicely to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and even a surprising variety of meat and dairy-related products, including a farm in Rensselaer County that produces fresh buffalo meat). You’d be doing all right at the dining table.

What we’d love to see as part of the “eat locally” movement would be an increased push to “drink locally,” which I will define as making a conscious effort to purchase and consume beers produced within that same 100 mile radius. It falls into that same ethos: better for the local economy, less energy is expended in transporting beer from place to place, and oh, the freshness of local beer!

With that same 100-mile radius around Albany in mind, there’s a lot of phenomenal beer-making going on locally. A quick visit to reveals a vast number of breweries and beer pubs that makes even the hypothetical proposition of “drinking locally” supremely appetizing.

There are a couple of larger-output breweries in this area which put out a great variety of craft beer. Most prominently, on the western outskirts of this radius sits the FX Matt Brewing Company, which produces a variety of beers, from the unfairly-maligned Utica Club Lager to a wide range of beers under their Saranac brand, as well as doing a great deal of contract brewing for quality brands like Brooklyn. Additionally, to the north, there’s the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, which produces a great line of beers both under the "Olde Saratoga" name as well as Mendocino beers, while contract brewing quality beverages from companies like He'Brew and Blue Point. If these two were the only breweries in the radius, the area would already be awash in phenomenal beer.

However, there are several brewpubs in the area that satisfy this way of thinking doubly so; by creating a number of fresh beers while cooking and using a variety of locally-produced foods. Some of these even cross their streams, so to speak, creating local beers while using locally-grown produce in the process. Two of these are particularly notable.

C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station, which we’ve highlighted earlier in this blog, is located in downtown Albany and offers a menu that includes locally-produced food. One of their recent beer offerings, however, demands special highlighting – the Cherry Brown, a Belgian-style strong Brown Ale brewed with more than 250 pounds of handpicked sour cherries that came from area farms. We were fortunate to sample this recently, and we were pleasantly surprised – the cherry taste was far from extraneous in the beer, serving as an integral part of the taste and making for a remarkably pleasant drinking experience.

Brown’s Brewing Company, located across the mighty Hudson River in Troy, also does a remarkable job of combining a fine menu (that emphasizes the cuisine of Upstate New York nicely, from southwestern New York-style chicken spiedies to Buffalo wings) with a great variety of beers. Of note: the brewers recently released a limited batch of a Wet Hopped Imperial Pale Ale, made with hand-picked hops from the area. This is a tremendously exciting development, to say the least.

In general, Upstate New York is awash in microbreweries and brewpubs that all make a consistent effort to use local ingredients in their brewing process. Whether it's Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse, Rohrbach Brewery in Rochester, Flying Bison in Buffalo, or the phenomenal Davidson Brothers in Glens Falls, there's a lot of wonderful things happening in this fine state of ours.

Some websites advocate having people pledge to eat and drink locally whenever possible; we’re going to shy away from going that far. To be honest, there’s way too much good stuff being made outside our little 100-mile-radius to avoid that altogether. What we would like to advocate, however, is that when you’re at the beer store the next time, wherever you are - whether it's southern California or northern Wisconsin, the mountains of Colorado or the Mississippi valley - stopping to take a look at what’s fresh and local, and maybe trying something new from that group. It’s not much, and it probably won’t save the polar ice caps from melting, but hey, it’s not a bad start.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Ten Worst beers ECP has ever had

I rather enjoyed Bill's look at his favorite beers. But with every action, there is a reaction. So while Bill shows you "The Best" of his beer drinking experience...I will show you my worst.

We all love beer here at Beerjanglin. But lets admit it...there was a time when we didn't. Beer of course is an acquired taste. And while acquiring this taste, we had some bad beer...and some rough times. And even today, we still occasionally have a really bad beer...or an even worse experience.

So this one is dedicated to those early beer drinking days when slugging down beast ice was worse than Castor oil, and even the thought of beast ice gave you an upset stomach. And heres to today when even sometimes a "craft beer" is a

1. Piels - sometime in the early 90s.

This was my first real taste of beer, and I promptly spit it out as fast as it came in. I accidentally thought it was a soda, but it was really my Dad's brew. It was god awful. I remember thinking "people drink that crap? Why?!" I think a lot of people still say that about Piels. ECP doesn't.

2. Moloson Ice (I think) - again sometime in the early 90s.

Another early experience with beer. After a night of raiding my parents liquor cabinet of 30 year old scotch, I soon ran out and moved on to stolen beer. Already in an inebriated state from the scotch, I decided to have a few beers. At the time they didn't seem so bad, it didn't seem like razor blades slicing my mouth. But after passing out and later waking up on my parents front lawn in someone else's clothes, I re thunk my position that said beer tasted good. I have stuck by that observation to this day.

3. Moosehead Ice- 1998

This was the first beer I had in college. It was terrible. As I struggled to finish what tasted like moose piss, and sat around surrounded by hippies at my first college bar I thought "This is going to be a long 4 years". How wrong I was.

4. Busch Ice- 1998

What is it about freshman year of college and Ice beer? Even today this is still the worst beer I have ever had. I couldn't finish my second. I still get a headache thinking about it.

5. Tequiza - 1999

On an trip to Baltimore at the end of the worlds greatest decade, I made the mistake of having one of these beer like beverage. I'm not sure if it is even considered beer, and have no urge to investigate further. This flavor would rear its ugly head almost a decade later, with similar results.

6. Genesee - Various ill-fated nights

Don't get me wrong...I love Genny. But sometimes, it doesn't love me. Sure it goes down smooth, but coming out is anything but (no pun intended). Word of advice, limit this to 1 pitcher at a sitting.

7. Heineken @ the Van Dyke- 2005

Towards the end of the Van Dyke's run, its quality wasn't up to snuff. I can remember me, along with others, feeling cheated even after paying 1.50 for their own brew. But the worst was when they would be out of their own stuff, and sell only Heineken. No wonder that place has been forclosed on.

8. Labatt blue -2007

Numerous Labatt blue pitchers, fried food, and watching the NFL draft for 9 hours are a recipe for a very, very cranky ECP. Not recommended.

9. (Tie) Miller Chill and Michelob Ultra Raspberry Pomegranate - 2007

The Miller Chill oddly reminded me of Tequiza. Bad. I think my penis fell off when I drank the Mich Ultra. Worse.

10. Oktoberfest - SBC Brewery - 2007

Usually a beer that is 10 percent wouldn't make the list. Because even if it is bad, hey at least you get a bang for a buck. But after drinking this sub par excuse for an Oktoberfest, I developed a wicked hangover. What made it worse was driving hungover for 3 hours the morning after this and then as soon as arriving home, Tom Glavine proceeds to give up 7 runs in about 3 minutes. A bad day made worse by a bad beer.

Thank You Bill for bringing back these terrible memories.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Ten Best Beers Bill Ever Had

We are loathe to stoop to sentimentality on such a no-nonsense beer blog. We are journalists, for crying out loud! Editorializing and succumbing to rose-colored hindsight is anathema to the hard-hitting and objective reporting you've come to expect.

That being said, your faithful Janglers have been rather lazy as of late, and in lieu of an actual post with actual information or insight, we have decided to discard our heretofore impenetrable sense of balance and neutrality, and present you with The Ten Best Beers I Ever Had.

Please note, these are not to be confused with "The Ten Best Beers I'VE EVER HAD," or necessarily, anyway. Those beers would all judged on an objective basis, taking into account the various properties of those brews and their merits. The quality of these here brews are of varying degrees, and are not necessarily our Top Ten Beers of All-Time, ratings-wise.

These are ten moments in this critic's life that were special in some regard. It's like when you love a song that might not actually be well-crafted, but hearing it reminds you of a special time or moment in your life. These beers are all snapshots of a life in transition, straddling the line between extended adolescence and overdue maturity.

You may notice that these events were coincidentally shared with great friends, and that that is actually no coincidence at all. We will try not to make it sickening to the reader.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order...

  1. MENDOCINO WINTER ALE 2005-2006 at Old Saratoga Brewery. I went to this brewery for the first time with Javen in the winter of 2005, and it was a moment at which a beer made me re-evaluate an entire style. Prior to this beer, I had been warming up to IPAs and admiring their qualities. But this beer snapped the light on. The citrusy, grapefruity hops. The perfectly balanced pale malt. Not to mention the dark and cozy atmosphere of a keenly-lit bar on a snowy night, college football on TV, and the thrill of discovery with a fellow burgeoning beer geek. Any time I see the label for this beer, it just makes me feel happy.

  2. MIDDLE AGES SWALLOW WIT in my backyard, Summer 2005. It was one of those lazy Saturday afternoons. I had just come back from the Middle Ages Brewery with a growler of Swallow Wit Belgian White beer. Not only was it the perfect thirst quencher on a blazing summer day, but it reminded me of the days where it was okay to relax without feeling like a bum. It reminds me of having a backyard, and feeling somewhat settled. It feels like a decade ago now, but I remember sitting in the sun, taking a large Swallow, and acknowledging --relishing -- that moment of contentment.

  3. POST ROAD PUMPKIN ALE at my new apartment, November 2006. I had never lived on my own. Finally, in autumn of 2006, I decided to give it a try for the first time. I hate moving, and this time didn't endear me to the practice any further. After my furniture had all been moved, and before my cable was even hooked up, I hauled what seemed like the one-thousandth pile of my shit into my new apartment. There were boxes and appliances all over the floor. [Please insert "So What's Changed?" joke here, those of you who have seen where I live.] I was exhausted from moving, and sore, and sweaty. It was one of those moments where you just want to plop down on the couch and sleep for roughly 20 hours. I looked into my refrigerator and was thrilled to see that I had previously had the foresight to bring with me a six-pack of Pumpkin Ale with me and left it in the fridge. I cleaned out a glass, poured a pint of the Post Road, and crashed on my couch. Staring out my new window. It was the moment where I felt like maybe I was ready to grow up a little. Even if just a little...

  4. SLEEMAN'S 46 IPA, Summer 2006. Javen and his wife TT and I went to Montreal. There were a lot of rough patches (bad Montreal service, horrible border delays, TT's various "feelings," a lot of walking, the Sabres losing playoff games), but the weekend goes down in memory as one of my favorites. At the end of our last night there, Javen and I had come back from a few bars on a quiet Sunday night. We ended up sitting at the picture window in the hotel and looking out at the dark but shiny Montreal skyline. The beer we drank wasn't that impressive, honestly, but being on vacation in Canada and feeling very free for some reason was.

  5. BEAR REPUBLIC RED ROCKET ALE at the Old Toad, Rochester, NY, February 2007. My little sister Kate is never content with me getting any attention, so on my 31st birthday she somehow found a way to get her boyfriend Scott to propose to her. The next time I saw the two of them in Rochester, we decided we'd go out for a few drinks to relax and enjoy a nice pub. I still had my tax money, so I decided to treat these two lovebirds to whatever they wanted for the rest of the night. It turned into a very nice, if low-key, celebration. I bought my sister some kind of $13 lambic, and since she loved it, it was worth it. The best beer I ended up getting my hands on was the Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale, which was served to me in a 220z bottle with an English nonic pint glass, for about $3.50. Not only was it the best bargain at the Old Toad, but it was a fantastic beer. I ended up dropping something like $80 that night on nothing but beer for three people, but I felt like the rich uncle who picks up the tab, at least for one night.

  6. DOGFISH HEAD 60 MINUTE IPA at Blarney Stone in Philadelphia, Sept 2006. We had a rip-roaring time in Philadelphia for the first weekend of the football season in 2006, the coup de grace being watching all the opening day games of the day at the Blarney Stone in Philly. We had gone to the Victory Brewing Company the night before, but decided that for the games, we would get the $15 all-you-can-drink Miller Lite special. After the first slate of games, I had consumed all the pitchers I could muster, and I decided not to re-up for the 4:15 games. Instead, I went to the bar and ordered a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. I don't know if it was the euphoria of football, the elation of Tecmo Super Bowl being played on the bar TV, or the severity of the upgrade, but that 60 Minute was pure hop nirvana. The contrast was astounding, and being more discriminating, I ended up being sober enough to drive the four hours back home that night.

  7. BRIEUXHAUS NEBULA BELGIAN L.S. WIT, 2003-04ish. My old brewing partner Bruce and I created several different styles when we homebrewed over the course of 2003-2005, but in my opinion, our best one was our Belgian White. Not only was it crisp and delicious, with the perfect amount of citrus, but it was loaded up with alcohol. (The L.S. stood for "Leg Spreader.") The beer not only made me feel proud that I actually helped create such a superior-tasting beer, but it made me appreciate the craft of brewing that much more. It was a seminal event in my journey into beer.

  8. CAPE ANN BREWING COMPANY FISHERMAN'S IPA, 2007. Have you ever rented a DVD on a whim and been completely blown away by it? This was the beer equivalent of this. I had purchased a random mixed six-pack from the Party Source in Syracuse and brought it home, going through each one and taking notes, as is customary for an OCD nerd such as yours truly. I poured this one thinking it would just be another beer in the long chain of beers I tend to trudge through (ok, fine, "trudge" is probably the wrong word). This beer stood out for me so much, it almost shocked me. It was such a well-crafted beer that I couldn't believe I had never had any of Cape Ann's beers previously. The moment was simple -- me on my couch in front of the TV -- but it reminded me that life is often full of great surprises.

  9. MILLER HIGH LIFE, back of a van, Milwaukee, June 2004. Because of this event, the words "all of it higher" will go down in the lore of my traveling crew of buddies. Picture seven large men in a van far too small, having started in Mansfield, Ohio on a trek to Milwaukee. We had spent a grueling amount of time inching our way through Gary, Indiana, and by Chicago we were all beat. Actually, the word "miserable" would probably best describe our mood. We appeared to have been defeated by the Interstate Highway System. A fateful trip to a gas station in Wisconsin, however, changed everything. We picked up a case of Miller High Life in cans, and played the famous card game "high-low," best represented by the game show "Card Sharks." The game provided the second wind we so desperately needed to get us back on the track, which led to one of the more hedonistic (okay not really) and memorable (yes, definitely) weekends of my young life. The High Life will always hold a special place in my heart for the way it resurrected our dying vessel and propelled us into Midwestern legend.

  10. SIERRA NEVADA HARVEST ALE at Javen's, October 2006. I generally recount this as the best beer I've ever had, but I'm not 100% sure that the beer was that great, or if it was just the perfect moment frozen in time. I came to visit Javen on a whim for my first time at his new apartment, which was strange enough given that his old place was so iconic in my memory. I was going through a very painful personal experience at home, one that had sent my fragile psyche into a tailspin. But what I remember about that weekend is not my agony at home, but of being able to leave the hurt behind for a while and enjoy normalcy for a brief period of time. Javen brought home a growler of the Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale, and I thought little of it. But when I took a sip, I fell in love. For the duration of that pint of beer, all my troubles were gone. I've been searching for that moment ever since, and I have a feeling that just like that one, the next one will come upon me unexpectedly as well.

We hope this didn't make us look like too much of a sap, but just like we have movies and songs and days that hold a special place in our hearts, these beers represent snapshots of perfect moments. And though we can never go back to those exact days and events, we can try and transport ourselves again ever so briefly, a pint at a time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hop Fests of Madison County

Not sure how it slipped by our collective attention, but we somehow missed that the 12th Annual Madison County Historical Society Hop Fest was held this past weekend in Oneida. Upstate New York was once the leading hop growing region in the country, accounting for nearly 90% of the nation's total hop production prior to the Civil War. Seriously, 90%! Check out this article for plenty more information. It's from 1996, and focuses mainly on Otsego County - still home to a couple of pretty solid breweries in Cooperstown Brewing and Brewery Ommegang - and on some fascinating history. It is well worth a read.

The Hop Fest is a wonderful idea and it's almost unbelievable that we've never heard of it over the past twelve years. Oneida, after all, is located just 30 miles from Syracuse and a bit over 100 miles from the Capital Region. The three day festival started off with a beer dinner at Bouckville's Landmark Tavern on Friday night. Saturday began with a food pairing session matching a brewery with a local restaurant at the Historical Society's grounds, followed by a three hour beer tasting that included over 20 (mostly regional) breweries. Sunday featured an all day hop tour of Madison County, with stops at several hop kilns as well as periodic pit stops for sustenance at local taverns.

Pretty interesting stuff. This article from the Oneida Dispatch gives a solid rundown of the events. It features a nice bit on Brown's Brewing Company's (Troy, NY) seasonal Harvest IPA, made with New York State hops. It's a once yearly wet hopped IPA made exclusively with hops from Seneca and Rensselaer Counties. We haven't tried this year's batch yet, but last year's was absolutely fantastic - fresh hop nose, great prickly body, bitter but balanced finish - a pretty perfect IPA. It's really a wonderful thing to see a local brew pub doing this. How is it that we only hear about it through an article in another town's paper? We may have missed out on the Hop Fest, but a visit to Brown's is still within reach. Developing...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BROUHAHA - Sept 1 - Sept 15

And just when you thought we couldn't come up with new features....

Fact is, we do a lot of reading about beer throughout the day and week. We even try to do it from work once in a while (too bad our work computers block most beer-related sites.)

When we find something really interesting or something that we like a lot, we tend to just forward the interesting links to each other. But we thought to ourselves, Hey, what if we could forward all those great links to our readers as well! Both of 'em!

So we present to you, Brouhaha. These are links to articles that we found either entertaining, hilarious, interesting or informative.

Of course we tend to check out our favorite beer sites, or the ones on our blogroll, so our scope may be limited. Therefore, if you find an article that is interesting and think should be included, leave a comment with the link attached and why you think it's interesting. Or you can email Bill directly at buffalobill88 (at) gmail. We promise we will give the article a read. But if you're sending me a link to a post that you yourself wrote, you better bring the goods, baby!

We are going to try to post this the first Wednesdays after the 1st and 15th of each month, respectively, so roughly twice a month. We urge you to visit these sites and support them by leaving comments, or starting dialogue.

"Flat Tire"
Lew Bryson takes on those that say Fat Tire is not a craft brew, and those who dare
to trash the seminal craft brews in the U.S. (Sierra, Anchor, Sam Adams) and shows them why
they are wrong.

LEW BRYSON - Portfolio
"A Post-Jacksonian World"
Lew also gives a fitting tribute to Michael Jackson, his legacy, and his influence
on our love of beer today, as well as the elevation of beer to that of wine and spirits.

Learner's Permit ...
Joe Sixpack gives an amusing -- and unintentionally convincing -- argument for a
"Drinker's Learner's Permit."

"Step aside sommelier..."
Stan explains the difference between a sommelier (aka wine steward) and a
"Cicerone", which is a new official designation specifically for beer

"Budweiser Negotiating to Buy Budweiser"
Bud wants to officially buy the name "Budweiser," which you would think they already had, even though it's named after a 1000 year-old Czech town.

"Reassuringly Expensive"
Pete Brown examines what may be the longest surviving beer in the world, brewed in

"12 Beers that Changed America"
Beer Can Blog sets up a mixed 12 pack of beers that had significant effect on the
brewing industry or American brewing in general.

"12 Craft Beers that Changed America"
Ditto for craft beers

"The Legend of Miller Chill Grows"
Boy, Miller Chill is doing awful well. Is it just a gimmick or is it here to stay?

Beervana introduces us to a site which tells (in .wav files) how to pronounce those
pesky foreign beer names in English, Flemish and French.

Highlights beer posts on YouTube.

"Two Salvations"
What happens when two well-respected craft breweries both make a beer called
"Salvation"? "Collaboration, Not Litigation"

HOP TALK (sorta)
"9 Ways to Maximize your Beer value"
The inimitable Al at Hop Talk came up with this incredibly helpful list of ways to
make sure you are not paying a fortune, but still drinking great beer. (The link is not to Hop Talk, but to the site where the advice was posted.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Beer O'The Moment - Boulder Beer Cold Hop British-Style Ale

There is a scene in Pulp Fiction where The Wolf is talking to Jimmy in Jimmy's bedroom. (Jules and Vincent, of course, had just brought Marvin's dead body into Jimmy's house.) The Wolf decides to offer Jimmy and his wife Bonnie all new furniture. This, naturally, makes Jimmy forget all about the dead body in his house. The Wolf says, "You look like an oak man, Jimmy. You an oak man?" To which Jimmy replies, "Oak's nice."

I couldn't agree more. I think oak is more than just nice. I think it's fantastic. If I could have an entire bedroom full of oak instead of particle board, I would do so. I wish all of the walking trees in Lord of the Rings could be oak trees. I want to travel to Oakland, for crying out loud!

My point is that I think oak is really a wonderful wood. I think all wood is outstanding, for that matter.

But sometimes it just goes too far.

Last weekend I sat down to enjoy 12 ounces of Boulder Beer's Cold-Hop British-Style Ale. The other offering that I have had from Boulder -- Mojo IPA -- is an excellent, perfectly balanced American IPA. Cold Hop, however, needs to tone it down just a bit.

First let me get into the stuff that's good about this beer. First of all, it is gorgeous. It is either a dark golden or a light orange, depending on your lighting and your preferred use of syllables. There is not much head, but there is a beautiful haze in the glass that adds some texture and hints at the thickness to come.

The smell ... oh the smell. There is a massive blast of magnificent, unexpected woody hops coming out of the aroma. Beneath that is the smell of a dry, grainy malt (I'm guessing an English malt, though I certainly am not smart enough to identify it). It's halfway between the aroma of a classic pale ale and an IPA. And I'm fine with that. There is a touch of oak in the scent, and it's pleasant but not overwhelming.

Then comes the sip.

There is one word that can be used to describe this beer: woody. The malt is so dry as to come off as almost stale. [Note: I don't know that this beer isn't stale, but it didn't really have any of the other characteristics of being old. It was released in 12 ounce bottles in August and I drank it in early September.] The piney wood in the hops are fine, really. I am a fan of woody hops, and as long as they are somewhat offset by another element -- like dry malt -- I can get behind it almost any day. But the heavy oak flavor is just too much. It's like wood on top of wood.

I should note here that I have no idea whether this beer is actually oak-aged or infused with any kind of oak product. All I know is what I taste, and for someone who enjoys the woody overload of hops in most beers, I have to say that the flavor here did not appear to come from the hops, but from somewhere else.

I have noticed that much like many overhopped Imperial IPAs, which choose to turn hops into a fetish rather than an art, so too have overly oaky beers become commonplace. This one is a bit too much for the likes of me. Combine this thick flavor with the thick, chunky feel, and this beer was one that I had to choke down.

I'm not calling this one an abject failure by Boulder in any way. This one is worth checking out for those who like a healthy dose of extra oomph to their beer. For those who enjoyed Dogfish Head's 120 IPA, this one will seem like a cold glass of lemonade after mowing the lawn. I, on the other hand, will move along politely.

A Visit To Madison Brewing Company (of Bennington, Vermont)

In his song “New York State Of Mind,” Billy Joel once sang, “some folks like to get away and take a holiday from the neighborhood.” When he sang that, the so-called Piano Man discussed heading into New York. This weekend, though, I knew that I could use a chance to get away from New York; instead of hopping a “Greyhound on the Hudson River line,” though, I snagged a ride with our esteemed executive editor and his wife. Our getaway destination? Vermont – specifically, the town of Bennington and the Madison Brewing Company.

The town of Bennington is about 30 miles to the northeast of the Capital District city of Troy; from most places in the region, it’s approximately a 45 minute drive, give or take. Just over the border from the New York town of Hoosick Falls, Bennington sits in a valley adjacent to the first foothills of the Green Mountains. It’s the very picture of a beautiful New England town; the streets of Bennington are lined with mom-and-pop businesses, coffeehouses, and rustic-looking gas stations.

Madison Brewing Company sits on one of the two main streets – Vermont Route 9 - that runs through Bennington. The exterior façade of brick and painted wood is somewhat reminiscent of an Irish pub. Stepping inside, however, reveals that Madison Brewing Company exists in a large, vaguely industrial converted space, with high ceilings, a balcony on the second floor that seems to present the opportunity of private dining, and a number of large brewing tanks on both floors. (When we were there, the second floor was closed off for dining.)

The first floor of Madison, where we spent our Saturday lunchtime visit, is divided into two sections; the entryway from the street leads into a medium-sized bar area (which, we should note, was very endearingly decorated with vintage pull-top beer cans, most of which were of defunct beers ranging from Knickerbocker to the television tie-in MASH 4077 Lager). A large wall and staircase separate this from the main dining area; this led to a little bit of confusion with the serving staff, who didn’t seem to notice us at first and were somewhat listless in getting us to our table. Once we got there, the dining area was pretty nice – well lit and generally spacious, and decorated with a variety of wall-hangings from local artists. There were a couple of plasma-screen televisions on the main floor - one in the bar area, one in the dining area; both featured sporting events when we were there.

Now, for the important part – the beer. I ordered a sampler, which featured the following: Sucker Pond Blonde, Buck’s Honey Wheat, Willoughby’s Scottish Ale, Crowtown Pale Ale, Old 76 English Strong Ale, and an IPA that was described as “seasonal.” (This sampler comprised all of the Madison’s offerings of the day, save for a Raspberry Wheat, which I didn’t try.) The samples were about 3 oz. each, give or take. Most of the beers were a touch on the watery side; whether I sipped from the Honey Wheat or the IPA, none of the beers had a consistent, appreciable finish.

Of the lot of beers, I would have to say that my personal favorite was the Old 76 Strong Ale, which – while suffering from the watery finish that was characteristic of the entire spate of Madison’s offerings – it was distinctively darker in finish than the other beersm, and had a distinct, rich malty flavor with hints of nuttiness and a slight citrus touch. It was the best of an otherwise mediocre lot; the remainder of the beers’ best features came from small touches. Buck’s Honey Wheat was served with a slice of lime instead of the normal wheat-beer garnish of either orange or lemon; this added a sweeter citrus touch to this otherwise unremarkable brew. None of the other beers were particularly remarkable; this is not to say that they were bad, per se – they were all drinkable, for better or for worse. However, given this bar’s utter dependence on ales (4 of the 6 beers in the sampler were ales), better care could have been made to differentiate between them. I would have liked to have seen something dark; there were no browns, no porters, nor were there any stouts – this was disappointing, especially given the similarities among the offerings that they had on tap.

Fortunately, the food was much better in quality than the beer. Our appetizer of Irish Fries (served with two types of cheese, diced tomatoes, and onions) was delicious, and was only a difficult choice in retrospect, having seen the incredibly appealing size of the Nacho platter another table got. The lunch menu featured a number of interesting sandwiches; our executive editor got a “Bird and Brat” sandwich (featuring both chicken and bratwurst) with potato chips, his faithful companion got an open-faced turkey sandwich, where I went for a turkey-cranberry combination that came with a side salad. All food was pronounced to be quite delicious; when combined with generous portion sizes and pretty decent prices, it was quite a bargain.

All in all, I would say that Madison Brewing Company wasn’t too terrible of an experience; while the beer wasn’t spectacular, the food was quite good. It’s not really a destination visit – our trip was certainly aided, if not enhanced, by side ventures to the Hoosick-based Man of Kent pub and a Vermont beer store – but it’s not a terrible place to have lunch if you’re in the area. You could certainly do worse.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beer Haiku

Please visit our friends at Beer Haiku Daily and enjoy the submission of one of America's Premier Young Haiku...ers.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Beer Wikis

I am a Wikipedia fanatic and I don't care who knows it. Yes, there is sometimes incorrect information inherent to a site that can be edited by literally anyone, especially when you don't even need to sign in to edit a page.

But there is a certain brilliance to collecting knowledge from all over the world and funneling it into one place. The site originally began as a project with well-known scholars adding articles in their fields of expertise -- known as Nupedia -- before the founders decided to let any ol' person add information. This makes perfect sense, since nearly everyone in the world is an expert on something.

The guys over at Hop Talk have been discovered that there are several beer "wikis" out there, any of which could ostensibly act as some sort of repository for beer lovers to add and edit information about beers --especially new ones -- in real time. (By the way, the term "wiki" generally refers to a site which anyone can edit as an open-source document. Am I stealing this idea from Hop Talk? Possibly. You make the call. Please go visit them at any rate.)

A couple problems arise, of course, when it comes to beer. You don't want to make a beer wiki site that only has reviews of beers. They already have great sites like that such as Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate. These two sites are pretty much the standard for English-speaking beer drinkers, so there's really no need for another review site.

Likewise, simply having information about each beer in question (style, alcohol by volume, ingredients) probably isn't flashy or "sexy" enough for most readers to get really excited about. In other words, the entire concept might be flawed to begin with.

Still, if we're gonna start this concept, let's do it the right way. So I looked at all the beer wikis I could get my hands on (including the ones that the Hop Talk guys reviewed) in the quest to find out which one is the one we should embrace. Once we pick one, folks, there's no going back!

  • Brewerpedia appears to intend to be a resource for homebrewers and those who make wine, mead, spirits and soft drinks. There are no actual "articles" that I could find, which means right now the site has little value other than being a start-up, but if enough people could be made aware of it, they might actually be able to get some information up there. The key to wikis is volume and breadth of information, and right now this site has none of either. The site has been up for weeks and has approximately 6 pages total. If some tech-savvy homebrewers could get wind of this site, it could be a remarkable tool, much like yours truly.

  • Beer @ Wikia seems like it would be the best bet for a beer wiki. Wikia is a project set up by Jimbo Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, that hosts wikis of different interests. It hosts sites such as Wookieepedia and the absurdly brilliant Uncyclopedia. Unlike Wikipedia, Wikia sites contain advertisements, which help fund the project. This particulara wiki is actually much more developed than many of the other specialty wikis out there, although the information at this point could be considered bare-bones. Right now it doesn't have all that much, although its philosophy of being the one go-to stop for all beer-related matters is encouraging. It needs a lot more content, but has its heart in the right place.

  • BeerOpedia at this point appears to be almost a file directory of as many beers as can possibly be added. There is not really any content on any of the pages, but rather links to commercial sites. There isn't a lot of insight, and it doesn't appear to be very discriminating (look at the site for the category of American Beer). Acts as a categorization site and not much more. Interestingly, it seems to make a point of adding YouTube clips of beer commercials from around the world. Allllll right then.

  • BeerIpedia looks like a free-for-all of anything remotely to do with beer. It's another upstart, although I wasn't really that encouraged when I saw that the beer trivia article on this site ended with "LOL PWNED." This looks like more of a bulletin board than any kind of real resource. [Update: This site has actually improved dramatically in the last few weeks. It now has a "most wanted articles" page, which is the best way to get new articles put up, in my opinion. Don't count out this little wiki that could just yet. Our writer Willie Moe will be happy to know that this site does have a semi-comprehesive article on Tsingtao Brewery.]

  • BeerWiki at just started and has almost no information on it, but the brother who started it has the smarts to set up a PayPal account so you can buy him a beer. I'll reserve my donation until it's got a little more to work with here. The header says that this site "aim[s] to become the biggest database of beers on the planet." It's going to have to get one single post up. Several clicks on "Random Page" brought up the Main Page every time; not a good sign. Looks like this site hasn't moved for several weeks, and is just a ploy for some guy to get internet friends to buy him a beer via PayPal.
  • Real Good Beer Wiki is another upstart that doesn't seem to really have much actual content yet. It appears that someone decided to just start a wiki and hasn't gotten much feedback yet. Pity. Brewiki suffers from the same ailments.

I'm not 100% sure that the world needs a beer wiki, but if I had to pick one, I'd probably go with the Wikia site ( It seems to have the most potential and at least has formed a philosophy. If that site became the wiki of choice, and all net savvy beer enthusiasts added only their local content, it could become a huge reservoir of information, but I'm still not convinced it wouldn't be a clone.

It may benefit from a variety of perspectives, such as disparate reviews of the same beer, or differing thoughts on styles (such as the difference between stouts and porters). As such, it will need to have a lot more information than Wikipedia provides on the subject of beer (and Wikipedia has a lot); and it should be beer-centric above all else. Informative, but also not afraid to delve into minutiae.

Perhaps the greatest use for a beer wiki would be as a catalogue of vital stats for a beer. For example: calories, what kinds of hops were used (which could likewise be linked to other beers with the same hops), when they were first brewed, whether it's stylistically very similar to another beer. A beer wiki, like all wikis, should be about connections from one to another. Wikis' lifeblood is based on links, which is why linking is so much easier than HTML, and they should highlight those beers that have a common thread. Can this be accomplished? I'm not sure. But I do know that a Wiki is virtually useless unless all the sources of articles agree on one unified forum.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Big thanks to the commenter who gave the tip of the Homebrewing Wiki. This page is up and running and has tons of info for the homebrewer. It's a logical extension of the Homebrew Talk message boards and essentially serves as a one-stop site for all the elements of homebrewing. If you want to know about malt, they've got it. Interested in hops or hop varieties? Look no further. In fact, I learned more about hops from this site than any other I've been on. The Homebrewing Wiki isn't just for homebrewers; it's for anyone who wants to learn more about beer from the ground up.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

National Toast to Michael Jackson

A nationwide toast to the late Michael Jackson (aka "The Beer Hunter") has been set for Sunday, September 30th.

It will not only commemorate the passing of the quintessential beer and alcohol writer of our time, but also will be used to help raise money for Parkinson's disease, the ailment that afflicted Jackson for the last decade. More details can be found at Michael's Beer Hunter Blog on how you can get involved.

"At 9:00 pm EST on Sunday, September 30, beer drinkers across the continent will raise a glass to the memory of the man who did more than anyone to further the cause of good beer, the one and only Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson. And your establishment can play a part!"

If you happen to be out that night, or even home watching the game, take a few moments at 9PM Eastern/6PM Pacific to raise a glass (and make it a glass of something good!) to Michael and donate if you can.

The address to send donations is:
National Parkinson Foundation
Attn: Kay Houghton
1501 N.W. 9th Avenue / Bob Hope Road,
Miami, Florida 33136-1494.

If you write a check just include "Tribute to Michael Jackson" in the memo line. It's a worthy tribute.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hop Talk Guest Blogging

Brief note:

Ron and Al at Hop Talk were kind enough to offer their site out to guest bloggers this week. I submitted a brief piece to them and they were nice enough to post it for me. Not sure what I gave them is all that great, but at least 60% of it is true. Anyway, go ahead and give it a quick look, if for nothing else than to get a glance at Hop Talk.

Hop Talk is one of our favorite beer sites, so please frequent it. Ron and Al do some terrific work, one of my recent favorites being their take on Consumer Reports rating light beers. They are right on point, as usual.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Beer O' the Moment: Lagunitas Kill Ugly Radio

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer." - Frank Zappa
The arrival in the Capital Region of the deliciously hoppy West Coast style beers from Stone and Lagunitas a year or so ago was one of the highlights of the beer year in these parts. Sure, Stone is from sunny Southern Cali, and Lagunitas hails from the Bay Area, but we tend to think of them in a somewhat similar vein. In addition to mighty fine beers, both breweries also feature some pretty unique marketing approaches. Other than zealous use of hops as an ingredient, Stone is probably best known for their silk screen painted bottles featuring gargoyle artwork. That and the over the top haughtiness of their flagship Arrogant Bastard Ale packaging (helpful hint: you're not worthy).

Lagunitas is slightly less in your face - both with the hops and the attitude - but they do feature some pretty out there stuff. Witness either Undercover Investigation or Censored Ale if you need proof (helpful hint: one is named after an attempted government drug sting at the brewery, the other formerly had a name eerily similar to a popular Dr. Dre album from the early 90's). Lagunitas founder Tony Magee also happens to be a big fan of Frank Zappa. A big enough fan that the brewery is planning on releasing a commemorative beer for the 40th anniversary of each of the his many albums. Slightly ironic considering that this is in memory of a guy who said, "I don't give a [expletive deleted] if they remember me at all." Still, kinda cool, eh?

Last year's tasty Freak Out Ale (an IPA) was first, commemorating the - you guessed it - Freak Out! album from 1966. Tasty beer, yes, but not really all that memorable. The second in the series, Kill Ugly Radio, actually honors the 1967 Absolutely Free album, but word is that name couldn't make it past the ol' government regulators. The really good news is that, according to our highly scientific calculations, Lagunitas is due to put out at least two Zappa tribute beers in each of the next four years!

Back to our beer o' the moment. Kill Ugly Radio is a fairly light pale gold, especially for a Double IPA (that's Beer Advocate's classification, anyway). It has a wonderfully fresh, hoppy nose and a refreshing, crisp mouthfeel. The taste is slightly grassy citrus hops - a sassy blend of Summit, Horizon and Cascade - and it goes down mighty smooth with a pleasingly bitter finish. Not a lot in the malt department, and the hops aren't overwhelming. Not that that's a bad thing - this recipe definitely works. Really well done. At a reasonable $3.49 for a 22 oz. bottle, and a not too unreasonable 7.8% abv, this beer could be a regular staple of our fall line-up.

Lagunitas, you've done it again! We're looking forward to the remainder of the series. Here's hoping there will be a beer for each of the two dozen or so albums. We're becoming bigger Zappa fans already.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Quick Take: Rogue JLS #23 Black Brutal 2007

Every once in a while, Rogue Brewery will put out one of their John Locker's Stock (or JLS) which is a special batch or limited edition. Kelly Coles Improper in Syracuse was serving #23 in the series, known as Black Brutal, a spin-off of their outstanding Brutal Bitter, which is available in bottles. I'll tell you a little about it.

The Look: It looks like dark brown chocolate milk. Has a light brownish head. It's incredibly thick-looking, like a suped-up brown ale or a slightly lighter porter.

The Aroma: I expected the burnt malt smell, but not the very powerful woody hop scent covering it up. Both smells, which wouldn't seem to really go together that well, compliment each other nicely. It's bitter but also a bit chocolatey sweet.

The Flavor: In addition to the burnt, roasted malt flavor that the smell foretold, there is a major chocolate accent in the taste. There is also a heavy, pungent molasses flavor that I didn't see coming. And some black licorice? It's both sweet and bitter. The hops are there too, but strictly as an accent to all the dark, roasted business going on. The malts are bitter and strong. You can almost taste the barley, as well as the alcohol. Yikes. Very good but not for the weak.

The Feel: It's really thick, one you have to sip, not gulp down. It feels like a brown ale, but tastes more like a strong ale. This doesn't mean it's hard to drink, it's just meant to be savored. No thin porter action going on here.

The Verdict: Think Rogue Dead Guy meets Saranac Caramel Porter. With a top layer of hops to boot. Technically, we are in September, and since football season has started, I'd say it's okay to start delving into porters and darker fare now. This one is a doozy; thick and challenging but also comforting like a warm glass of hot cocoa. Or a tight bear hug from your largest college buddy: sure it hurts a little for a second, but it's so comforting.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Session #7: Brew Zoo

It has come to be that time once again. A new month is upon us and therefore a new "Session" as well. I was honored when the Chief Executive Blogger tapped me, of all people, to pound out the September "Session" for Beerjanglin. The topic at hand is the "Brew Zoo". You may wonder what in the heck that means, perhaps even furrowing your brow a bit upon reading it. Well rather than explain this myself, I will simply have the guys over at "Appelation Beer: Beer From a Good Home" do the honors:

"Have you ever noticed how many animals show up on beer labels? We have lions and tigers and bears, plus various birds, reptiles, fish, assorted domesticated and wild animals, plus a few mythical creatures. For whatever reason brewers have a tradition of branding their beers using everything from pets to predators. The Brew Zoo will celebrate these lagers and ales."

Well, to kind of narrow things down a little bit, I will mainly focusing on beers that are readily available to myself up in the Northeastern United States. But enough Golden Monkey-ing around let's get down to business. I am going to explore several of the more popular beer animals.

[And big thanks to Rick Lyke at Lyke 2 Drink for hosting the festivities this month! You can read the four updated Session collections here, here, here and here, as well as Lyke's own entry here. Please visit all these sites and leave comments.]

Ah yes, the canis lupus familiaris, or dog, could, I said could be, the most popular animal to grace beer labels world wide. Now if you are expecting to find Red Dog in this post (other than here), than you have taken the wrong exit on the information superhighway. Feel free to turn around at your earliest convenience, and proceed back to the Macro Crap exit. Anyway back to the canine, man's best friend. Dogs are ever-present in the world of brewing, and why shouldn't they be? Go on, tell me. Nothing? Alright then. You see, while the dog is said to be man's best friend, beer has certainly given the canines of the world a pretty good run for their money. I mean, I love both, but dogs don't assault your taste buds or refresh you like a good beer will. But in a dog's defense, beer doesn't fetch or sniff your crotch, so, it's sort of a toss-up. It seems only natural that man's two best friends be joined in beautiful harmony. I think we've all needed a little "hair of the dog" at one point or another. One place that has really gone to the dogs is Flying Dog Brewery in Colorado.

At Flying Dog they work doggedly at making their delicious brews year round, all aptly named to reference the canine. From the In-Heat Wheat to the Doggie Style IPA to the Tire Bite, they offer quite an array of refreshing and delicious brews. Most of the dogs on the labels are crudely drawn cartoons, so it is difficult to see exactly what kind of dogs they are. But if I had to guess, I would say, "friendly and playful". Several different dogs actually grace the labels, not just the flying dog itself.

Now most of the regular offerings don't have that much "bite", topping out just under 6% ABV, with several staying more in the 4-5% ABV range. But if you don't want to be left lapping up their regular offerings, you may want to try and find their annual Wild Dog Series release. The current one is the Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter which is 9.0% ABV. Yep, not something to just go wagging your tail at. Interestingly enough, this concoction does not have a dog on the label? Go figure, more alcohol, less dog?

Now, unlike Flying Dog, The Sea Dog Brewing Company in Maine relies on just one dog to appear on it's labels, a dog by the name of Barney.

"Barney was the Sea Dog Brewing Company's apprentice brewmaster and figurehead. Sadly he is no longer with us, but his spirit lives on. A Great Pyrenees, which were originally bred for their dauntless protection of mountain flocks and as official guard dogs for the French court in the 17th century, Barney continued this age old tradition by posting guard over the brew kettle as it boiled. Although, the Great Pyrenees breed usually dislikes the water, Barney loved it and dove right in whenever he got the chance. As a boating "enthusiast" he began sailing at three months and thus acquired his nickname of "Sea Dog". Barney was just as at home on deck as on land."
Oddly enough, much like the pack at Flying Dog, the Sea Dog line is not heavy on the alcohol content, offerering only 4 brews above 5.0% ABV. We're not saying they're dogging it, but I find it interesting that beers with dogs on them do not offer that much bite? Although looking at Barney, you realize that such a nice, sweet dog would not bite you unless provoked. I mean how intimidating is a shaggy dog in a rain slicker, really? Sea Dog seems to offer more in the way of fruity flavor like in their Raspberry, Apricot or Blueberry Wheats. They may not have much bite, but I wouldn't mind taking these dogs for a walk anyday, if ya catch my drift.

Now just because a brewery doesn't have a dog name, doesn't mean they can't put one on the label, does it? No it does not. Take a "Beerjanglin" fan favorite; Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale, for example. This Brown Ale features, in case you couldn't guess, an old brown dog on the label. At 5.7% this brown ale could quickly become your best friend. But what's really interesting here, is that Smuttynose logo actually features a smuttynosed seal-like creature that is, quite possibly, an actual seal. But it only appears on the upper labels of their bottles and never anywhere else. Sounds a bit.....

Ah yes, the wonderful world of sea creatures. I would say sea life is about as well-represented in the beer community as the dog. Don't believe me? Think I'm baiting you? Well, I'm not, my friends, I speaketh the truth. So read on, drink on, whatever floats your boat, and take a look at these offerings that you are sure to fall for hook, line and sinker.

The Smuttynose Brewing Co. is one of the better breweries to use a sea creature on it's bottles and logo. The Old Brown Dog Ale is an award winning brew and pretty much everything they offer is delicious and does that smutty-nosed fella on their bottles proud. Just pick one and drink it, you'll sea what I mean. I'm telling you it does not matter, which one you choose, pick randomly. It'll be good. Of course some are better than others, sure.The Big A IPA, the Smuttynose IPA and Smuttynose Robust Porter are among their top offerings, and you'd be wise to make any one of them your "catch of the day."

But really, why settle for just a dog or just a fish?At Dogfish Head Brewing they've found the common denominator, and trust me it does not get much fishier than the brewing at Dogfish Head. There brews tend to be both "experimental" and "extreme". By "extreme", I mean, they have a tad bit more alcohol in them than your average brew. You know like 18-20% or so, no big deal. Perhaps best known, at least to this drinker, for their I.P.A.s. There's a 60 Minute, 90 Minute and for the ever daring, the 120 Minute I.P.A. Some other more experimantal brews include the Aprihop, Chicory Stout and Fetsina Peche. Some of these "experiments" should, perhaps sleep with the fishes. But say what you will about Dogfish Head, they are not afraid to try new things, they'll do something just for the halibut.

Meanwhile, at Rooster Fish Brewing, located slightly more than a stone's throw away from us here in Syracuse, down in Watkins Glen, NY, is the cock of the walk baby. Okay, sure, I've never had anything from this particular brew station, but it looks like a great place. For the hop heads there's a Hop Warrior Imperial IPA, that has my mouth watering just typing about it. But of course there's more, sillies. It looks like they have about six brews on tap, and I'm sure they are all well above mediocre, and are just begging to be reeled in. And besides you know what they say, "Beer with fish on the labels is brain food", or something like that? Or perhaps that's just a......

If your talkin' birds and brew, then you must be talkin' Mendocino Brewing Company, right? The Mendocino family of brews features a bird, mostly hawks, on every label, and delicious beer in every bottle. Now, trust me when I tell you, these brews are not for the birds. Each beer named for a bird is representative of said birds characteristics:
"We are proud to have a range of impressive imagery on all our labels. The Raptors that represent our ales possess all the qualities that our beers have. For example, the Red Tail Hawk, native to Northern California, combines a subtle strength with an amber allure that is reflected perfectly in the ale that bears its name. Eye of the Hawk, features a magnificent head of a Hawk - its piercing eyes giving it an aura of power and presence. So also, our Select Ale that pays tribute to this Hawk. The Black Hawk that our stout portrays, is a singularly elegant raptor that has a maturity born of confidence - so too our Stout."
That just about says it all, don't it? Myself, I'm partial to the White Hawk IPA and the Eye of the Hawk, but I don't think you'll be disappointed with any of their offerings. These brews are great on tap or out of the bottle back at the nest. Trust me, when it comes to making beer, the gang at Mendocino doesn't lay an egg. So take flight (after you're done reading this post of course) to your local grocer or beer store and see if they stock it!

Another notable bird favorite is Middle Ages' Swallow Wit. Brewed in the style of a Belgian wit bier, it has a fruity taste created by orange peel. One of my personal favs, this is a light and refreshing brew that is very drinkable and a delight to have on a warm summer's day. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and say you'd have to be some sort of bird-brain to not enjoy this. Seriously, I mean it. It's delicious. Maybe not the best Middle Ages has to offer, but it's definitely worth a few pecks. Now don't worry, this brew doesn't fly south for the winter, you can find it year round. Down at Middle Ages they take there brewing seriously and are not about......

Possibly my favorite member of the animal kingdom, I find the monkey to be rather underrepresented in the world of beer. But hey, maybe I'm not looking hard enough, who knows?

Victory's Golden Monkey
is, well, the "gold standard" in monkey-labeled beers. With a 9.5% ABV, it will only take a few of these to make you go bananas. One of Victory's biggest, um, victories, Golden Monkey continues to be a fan-favorite in the beer community. I know, without question, it's the best monkey beer I've ever had. Sure, it's the only one I've ever had, but don't let that detract away from my statement, because it's still top-notch! Nope, no monkey business here, Golden Monkey is the real deal!

Well that about wraps it up folks. Talk about animal magnetism, right? So, heyI'd love it if you left a comment to let me no what you think (please keep it clean and constructive), good, bad or indifferent. Thanks for stopping by, come back soon, and until then...."Bottoms Up!"