Saturday, February 24, 2007

Beer O' the Moment - Sea Hag IPA

New Engand Brewing Company
Sea Hag IPA

"Drink it, it's good."

We first saw New England Brewing's beer advertised in one of the beeriodicals we have developed such an unhealthy obsession with recently. This is hardly a rare occurence, seeing a beer that we haven't yet tried and can not easily get our greasy little mitts on. But divine providence must have been shining on us, friend, as this suddenly appeared in both our local beer stores. We spied this little beauty, and with some reluctance, forked over the $2.00 for a single can and took our bounty to its new home. [Update: we liked this enough that we had the little lady grab us an additional sixer of it. A six pack will set you back about $6.50]. Yup, that's right, a can. NEB is one of the few breweries to distinguish themselves by offering their beers exclusively in aluminum. Cans look like they will become an increasingly common container for craft beer in the near future - and something that we may well explore further for your sake, occasional reader. It's a phenomenon that we find quite interesting, and not just because they are ideal for an outing to the track at Saratoga. Cans also tend to be a bit cheaper than bottles, which is nice.

What the brewer says:
This one's a beauty: a rich and full bodied India Pale Ale, with complex malt character, blended with Noble hops. The end result is a beer that satisfies the "hop head" out there and won't chase away the newcomer. Drink it. It's good. This site is that pesky flash type, so it's unlinkable, but click here to learn the legend of the New Haven Sea Hag.

Our take:
This stuff is certainly fit for a Sailor. A nicely complex, yet very accessable IPA. Really well balanced, with a nice hop flavor. Very enjoyable, and easy to drink more than one. Did we mention it comes in a can and has a sweet story behind the name? This might just become a regular in our rotation. They also have an interesting blog. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

One Man's Plan For the Van Dyck

Here's another freelance piece from a local blogger. It should be noted that he has no business training or experience, and this plan was hatched recently over beers at the Van Dyck. It does make for an interesting read, though, and is not without its merits. Besides, he owed us, since we fixed his car over the internet.

Okay, so this is my plan. Here goes. I enjoy a good microbrewery. I do. Small-batch craft beer is a beautiful thing, and by and large, it is a generally wonderful experience to walk into a place like the Albany Pump Station or Davidson Brothers Brewing and partake in a good brew. However, a place like the Van Dyck, while rife with potential, can often be the weak link when it comes to microbrewed beers. It's a great site, in a historic building, with on-site brewing facilities. They've made some good beers (a doppelbock that they had last summer comes to mind), some decent beers (the "Coal Porter"), and some terrible beers (their last batch of Brown Ale was...ugh). And they haven't really been able to establish a toe-hold as a microbrewery. So, I thought of a business model that I think could theoretically work: for lack of a better term, I'm calling it "franchise microbreweries." I know what you're thinking: franchise microbreweries? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of on-site brewed beers? Well, not really. Here's how. For the purposes of this quasi-intellectual exercise, I'll choose the Van Dyck site - located in a downtown urban area that is going through a revitalization process. And I'm going to choose a somewhat established brewer - for the purposes of this, I'm going to go with the Brooklyn Brewery, because it has a name that is dually recognizable. Brooklyn is known for its quality beers among beer aficionados, as well as being named after a recognizable, hip area of New York City. In addition, Brooklyn Brewing has a presence throughout the state, as it is primarily brewed in Utica. Here's the idea: the Van Dyck would become "The Brooklyn Brewery And Restaurant At Schenectady" or "At The Stockade" or what have you. This brewery/restaurant would feature an 10-tap setup. 3 of the taps would remain static: they would be kegs brewed off-site but fresh-delivered from the brewery in Utica to Schenectady. These would optimally be the three best-sellers from the brewery: in this case, it could potentially be Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55, and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. There are probably better three to pick. I'm just going off the cuff here. 2 of the taps would be rotated from the brewery's other craft brews - in addition to the 3 beers I mentioned, Brooklyn, under the supervision of Bojangles' man-crush Garrett Oliver, offers - in bottles - a Brooklyner Weisse, Brooklyn Brown Ale, Brooklyn Pilsner, Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Monster (a barley wine), and Post Road Pumpkin Ale. These would be constantly available in bottle form, in addition to being available in rotating kegs. Oliver also offers two limited batch, draft only beers - a strong pale ale called "Blast" and a hellesbock called "Blond Bock." These could also be featured here. The remaining taps would be supervised by an on-site brewmaster. This brewmaster would be hired by Brooklyn Brewing Company, and would brew special site-specific beers under the Brooklyn name. For the purposes of this quasi-intellectual exercise, these would be called "Brooklyn Brewing Presents: Electric City" series beers. The Electric City series - thanks, Hoff, for the name - would be site-specific beers made in small batches exclusively for the Schenectady site. This could literally be anything. Finally, a small selection of "other" beers would be available in bottles (2 or 3 mass produced beers that should never be offered at a rate cheaper than the craft brews) and beverages would be available, as well as a menu of pub food. This would be the best of all worlds: - quality craft brews from an established brewery - fresh, microbrewed beer with quality assurance - an established brewery expands its name recognition - a city can use the quality name for a draw and - free advertisements for a place like this in every reputable beer distributorship in the city. So, yeah. That's what I got.

Editor's Note: Obviously, this is mostly wishful thinking. Brooklyn Brewery wouldn't necessarily have all that much to gain from it, and Schenectady (and specifically a financially strapped jazz club located slightly off the main commercial strip) probably wouldn't be anybody's first choice. It would be nice to see more successful breweries pursue some sort of similar arrangement though. We've been saying for years that Middle Ages could make a killing if they took over the space that formerly housed the Empire, or some other spot in downtown Syracuse and opened a brewpub. If you've ever seen the crowds that line up in the tasting room at that brewery, you'll surely agree. Craft beer sales were up almost 12% in 2006, and nearly 30% over the last three years. Annual sales of craft beer now account for $4.2 billion of the $87 billion beer industry, and are growing at a much faster rate. Brooklyn Brewery is among the top 40 in sales in the United States. Does it make sense for an established brewery to get involved in this sort of thing on a larger scale, or in a new location? Is this type of thing already happening without our knowledge? We clearly need to hit the road for some real world research. Maybe we should even read this book.

Brookyn Brewery's MySpace Page
Van Dyck official website

Friday, February 23, 2007

Update: Scary Van Dyck

As promised, we recently investigated the current state of the Van Dyck Jazz Club/BBQ/Brewpub. The results were rather disappointing, if not exactly shocking.

The snowflakes were falling fast and fat as we made our way down North Ferry and around the corner to Union Street and the warm and welcoming environs of our local brewpub. The warning that they had but one brew on tap, a very solid porter, had already been sounded. Still, a decent $2 porter a mere three minute hoof from home is a hard bargain to pass up, especially when journalistic integrity is on the line. The draft selection here has never been all that extensive in our experience, numbering not more than four or so, maybe five, if circumstances were particulary agreeable. It should be noted that it didn't help matters to read, in a free beeriodical thoughtfully provided by the house - a fashionably out of date Yankee Brew News from November/December - that upcoming additions to the tap lineup would include Massacre Amber, Union IPA, a doppelbock, Coal Porter, Stockade Stout, and a raspberry wheat. The brewer that was previously employed here, Mike Beauchea - a former homebrewer who produced a good enough product that he is now employed at Brown's Brewing in Troy - had a pretty nice stable of standard brews, but always seemed to be held back by the financial constraints of the place. That's not to say that the selection hasn't always been lacking. Here's a tip to aspiring brewpub proprietors: put a variety of beers on at all times. Sure, $2 happy hour beers are nice, but they only take you so far. It's ideal to have some seasonal fare, as well as something light, like a wheat or fruit beer, for the ladies. Last spring, for example, we quite enjoyed it when you had the stout, porter, dopple bock and triple bock available, but did that really appeal to the broader customer base? Perhaps not. It was nice though, that for St. Patrick's Day, you had Stockade Stout, Stockade Stout on nitro, Electric City Light (a favourite of the Hoff), and, what else? Umm...well, mayhap that was the problem. Or maybe it was merely a symptom of the greater disease. This place has been in trouble since it was supposedly saved in the late 1990's by a group that included current owner Peter Olsen. It is likeable enough, but incredibly inconsistent with both food and beer.

When we were there on Thursday, the owner was meeting with a dude in a plaid shirt and khakis. Brewing blueprints from 1996 were on a table near them. We took this as a good sign. Now comes word, albeit third hand, that the venerable jazz club is poised to go in a radically different direction. We're talking sushi bar. Lingerie sushi bar. Classy, of course, and located upstairs, but what the hell?. This does not mean that we won't be visiting again. That is not the case at all. It doesn't even mean that this is the end of brewing. Perhaps this is the dawn of a brave new era. No matter the outcome, rest assured that, as always, we will continue to be your source for breaking news on all fronts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shall We Join the Club?

C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station is arguably the best (or at least our favourite) of the three brew pubs remaining in the immediate Capital District. Brown's Brewing Company, in Troy, is very good at times, and one can enjoy one of their beers on the back deck while watching the majesty that is the Hudson River flow by. The Van Dyck is very conveniently located and, well, we're not sure quite what else it is (though we do plan to investigate that further this week). Anyway, as we were saying, the Pump Station consistently makes excellent beer. They usually have a nice selection available, too. Like many brewpubs, the space they are in is fantastic - it actually consists of two huge, old, brick buildings, which used to be an actual pump station, bringing water from the Hudson River up to Bleecker Reservoir. Plus, we once saw a mouse in the dining room, which is always cool. Come on out, we'll gladly take you for a visit, though we can't guarantee a mouse sighting. Fascinating as all this may be, none of it is really the point of this particular piece, however.

The Pump Station recently announced the creation of their new mug club, which is something that we, quite naturally, find rather intriguing. Here's the pitch:

We are very excited to announce the creation of our new Beer Tasting Panel. This is no ordinary mug club; aside from discounted beer, you’ll get a bunch of stuff and beer tasting opportunities:

  • Happy hour-priced beer all the time
  • An exclusive Tasting Panel glass to take home
  • A Tasting Panel T-shirt
  • Opportunity for you and a guest to attend a Tasting Panel Beer Dinner *
  • Exclusive access to guided beer tastings*
  • An invitation to attend a trip to an area brewery*
It's just $75 per year to join the Beer Tasting Panel. Just sign up at the bar! The club benefits will begin on March 19. When you drop by to sign up for the Beer Tasting Panel, why not have a pint and a bite? We’ll make the decision easier for you by offering a free dessert! Beer and free food: that sounds like fun!

*Note: these events will entail a cost beyond the annual membership fee, and attendance is limited; first come, first served

Well, as we said, this has piqued our interest. It seems like the $75 annual fee could easily be recouped, provided one can only manage to consume enough beer. Does the discount extend to
growler fills? Is it worth doing without a fellow dork/member/imbiber? How will this riveting tale play out? Stay tuned, friend...

Monday, February 19, 2007

A New Line From Lagunitas

The first sip is for thirst, the second one for pleasure.
The third sip is for romance, and the fourth for pure madness.

For those as yet unfamiliar with Lagunitas Brewing Company, here is a quick primer, in their own words:
From our earliest days of striving to make consistently good beer, and instead making beer that ranged from vile, to barely drinkable, to wonderful, to elegant, to questionable-at-best. From being castigated by our West Marin neighbors to finally suffering an 'eviction' by our West Marin septic system. From landing in the welcoming arms of Petaluma, and actually getting our beer into bottles, onto the streets, and into the hands of sympathatic beer geeks, to steadily losing less money each month. From all this and more, Lagunitas Brewing Company is emerging as a battle-tested brewery capable of making great beer out of goat's milk, brambles, and asphalt on the surface of the Moon, if need be.
As the poet once said, 'Where, but for the grace of God and the kindness of strangers, go I'. Where go we indeed, whatever that means.

There is something we really dig about these fellas, and it's not just because they sound suspiciously like us with a mild hangover and/or a good buzz, early in the morning. Oh, and their product is also pretty sweet. And by sweet, we mean well hopped and over the top. Anyway, they are apparently coming out with a new line of beers, the Sonoma Farmhouse series, which is pretty exciting for us. Hopefully, it will make its way here with all due urgency.

Some particulars from the nicely written beer blog Brookston Beer Bulletin:

Lagunitas is introducing a new line of beers in 22 oz. bottles under the name “Sonoma Farmhouse.” The idea according to Lagunitas owner Tony Magee is to be able to do different kinds of beers than the usual Lagunitas fare under the new label.

The Sonoma Farmhouse labels are a little more serious, less playful than the regular ones, too. They also lack Tony’s famous — or infamous — rambling label stories. But for what they’re missing on the outside, inside the bottle is another story. The first release is a Saison Style Ale, and it’s one of the best American versions of the style I’ve had. Like all good saisons, it’s very refreshing, clean and would be great with food. I’m told there are herbs and/or spices in the beer, but Tony’s not saying which one or ones. The beer has a certain zestiness so it’s possible grains of paradise are at least one of the ingredients and there are also herbal notes, but who knows. Since the yeast also imparts spicy elements, it’s always a challenge to identify the exact ingredients in these complex beers. And in the end, it’s pointless, since it’s the synergy of how all the elements work together that really matters. The Sonoma Farmhouse Saison flavors are quite delicate, a quality Lagunitas is not exactly known for, but there’s nothing I don’t like about this new beer.
Saisons were originally made by and for farmers to have in the fields. They were generally brewed late in the season so they’d stand a better of chance of making it through the summer. Saisons also walk a tightrope of strength (to last the summer) and drinkability (they need to quench a summer thirst). At 5.2% abv, this one is quite modest, but happily we have refrigerators, a luxury the French and Belgian farmers who pioneered this style did not.
Next up in the Sonoma Farmhouse line is Hop Stoopid, something on the order of a triple IPA, around 100 IBUs. Meant to be a gentle spoof of the increasingly hoppy west coast beers, bottling should begin on Wednesday and be in stores shortly thereafter. I’m told it’s a huge hop bomb brewed with hop oils and hop extracts to really ramp up the bitterness. I’m going to the brewery on Thursday to try some of the first bottles. Tony has done some hop bombs before over the years, and as someone who has definitely acquired a taste for bitter beers, I suspect this beer will seem like night and day to the delicate flavors of the Saison.
Lagunitas’ flagship is their IPA, itself an excellent example of a west coast IPA and quite hoppy, though still well-balanced.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Beer O' the Moment - Southampton Double White

Southampton Publick House
Double White Ale

Plenty to like here. Let's's contract brewed by Olde Saratoga for the Southampton Publick House, a venerable Long Island bar and brewpub (and one of the few good things about that damned island, if you ask us). It's a frickin' Imperial White (or wit bier), which is kind of awesome. It's delish. Beer Advocate places it as 7.0% ABV and 89% give it their approval. We picked up a 22 oz. bomber for $4.99.

What the Brewer Says:
Light in color with a refreshing orangey tartness and a
hint of coriander flavor. There is also a detectable alcohol "warming" that is
balanced by a pleasant residual sweetness. og: 16.8 abv: 7.2%

What the Liberal Media Says:

You can find a mass-market beer on any grocery shelf. But
Don Sullivan, owner of Southampton Publick House Brewery, hopes those yearning
for something special might instead reach for his newly released Double White
Ale. Light in color, with a taste that hints of orange and coriander, this
ale already has earned the No. 2 spot for Belgian-style white brews in the
rankings by, an online community for beer enthusiasts.
A seasonal beer in our portfolio, Sullivan says it once was only available at his
Southampton microbrewery and restaurant (and maybe at a few select bars and
restaurants in the region.) But now Double White Ale is Publick House's third
bottled brew to be widely available at supermarkets, gourmet shops and beverage
outlets in New York and four other East Coast states. But Sullivan and
brewmaster Phil Markowski have a bigger agenda. With its India Pale Ale due for
release Sept. 15, and another by spring 2006, Publick House aims to be the
nation's next Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., in other words a runaway success. In 10
years, it hopes for full nationwide distribution.
The experts think Publick House stands a chance - if it navigates the challenges of mass distribution. They are really in the right arena, says Kristen Wolfe Bieler, editor of Beverage Media in New York. The beer industry in general, which is heavily dominated by major brewers (Bud, Coors, etc.), is really struggling. The majors haven't been as innovative as they need to be to retain drinkers and have failed to release any exciting new products.
The segment of the beer industry that is growing is small, specialty brewers, which means Publick House is competing in the most interesting subcategory of the beer industry. Their taste profile (at least the White Ale) won't present a difficult trade-up for consumers looking to upgrade from a less expensive beer, Wolfe Bieler estimates.
Back in Southampton, Sullivan says that's been the case already, at least from his
anecdotal evidence. From out-of-town patrons he hears We wish we could buy this
in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Widespread interest in specialty brews - combined
with the explosion of flavored waters and vodkas, and the variety juices now
available in low-acid, pulp-free, and vitamin enriched options - prompted
Sullivan to bottle his own special beverages for a thirsty marketplace.
With nine-plus years as a microbrewer, Sullivan is convinced he's established enough
brand awareness and feels comfortable to test the market with bottled
products. While other microbrewers closed during the 1990s, in part because
of over-expansion or poor management, Publick House stayed focused on its
brew. Our mission is to create a unique style line of beer, Sullivan says.
The restaurant is an accessory to the brewery. If the beer is less than great,
you'll forever lose that consumer. Publick House models itself after European
brewers who are much more in tune with seasonality than Americans, Sullivan
said. It's the same approach embraced by American chefs. What restaurant doesn't
talk about fall, with squashes, pies, he adds. Similarly, his brews follow
harvest patterns. In fall, it's time for Octoberfest Lager and Pumpkin Ale, and
in winter, it's French Country Christmas Ale. Following the seasons is a back
to basics approach, which Sullivan honors with his 22-ounce bottles that are
styled after those used during World War II. This larger bottle signals to
consumers that the brews are different than traditional beer.
The brews are bottled at a contract brewer in Saratoga in small batch, limited production (Publick House only made 1,000 cases of the Double White Ale, for instance.) Much like a cherished summer fruit, once the inventory is sold, that's it until next year, Sullivan says. As for its plan to go national, Michael Smith, a
national craft- beer importer in Los Angeles, warns the New Yorkers that they
face a monumental task. National distribution is very daunting, he says.
There is a climate of contraction in the distribution trade. Small distributors
are going out of business or are being bought out by the big

Copyright 2005 Dolan Media NewswiresProvided by ProQuest
Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

There you have it. We report, you decide.

A Taste of Brooklyn

Here we thought these sorts of events were reserved only for the ultra sophisticated New York City socialite folk. Apparently, the trend has spread as far as Smallbany. This is a little pricey, we'll give you that, but it shore do sound nice. As if that weren't enough, Mr. Garrett Oliver, one of our heroes (we saw him in person once!), will be the host.

1st Annual Beer Dinner hosted by the World renowned Master Brewer Garrett Oliver of The Brooklyn Brewery
Thursday March 1st 2007 6pm

1st Course:
Asian mixed green salad – Fresh field greens with fried wontons, mandarin oranges, grape tomatoes, and toasted coconut and sesame seeds with our house-prepared balsamic vinaigrette
Brooklyner Weisse

2nd Course:
Broiled Cedar Plank Salmon – Fresh seasoned
salmon with a delicate lobster cream sauce
Brooklyn Local 1

3rd Course:
Grilled Angus Sirloin – Angus beef Char grilled and sliced with caramelized onions, button mushrooms, warm au jus, home made onion rings and honey dill carrots
Brooklyn Brown Ale

Artisanal Cheeses
Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Colston-Bassett Stilton

Brooklyn Monster 2005

Chocolate cake with warm caramel or raspberry sauce
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 2006

$55.00 per person, reserved and paid in advance tax and gratuity included
Purchase Tickets At:

1814 Western Avenue
Albany, NY 12203

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Beer O' the Moment - S'Muttonator Doppelbock

Smuttnose Brewing Co. Big Beer Series
S'muttonator Doppelbock

Good stuff, this. Very smooth, and malty in a good way. Apparently it packs an 8.5% ABV wallop - BA puts it at 9.8% - but we wouldn't really have guessed it. Been sitting here watching the telly and waiting for the heaps and heaps of snow to come, and we ended up nursing this baby for almost two hours (it was in a 22 oz. bomber, we haven't become that pathetic). Anyway, we certainly got our $3.99 out of this one. German beers aren't necessarily our favorite, but this, like almost all of Smutty's offerings, comes recommended.

What the brewer says:

S'Muttonator Doppelbock - S'Muttonator is once again back on the shelves and perhaps a bit is in the old belly, eh? It's been interesting trying to be creative brewing a style that has a fairly narrow interpretation in terms of historic examples and modern guidelines. My first real knowledge of this style was drinking Optimator. I love that beer. I used to drink three or four while cooking dinner for my housemates at Compound I in Oakland (OakTown Get Down, yeah!) I was working at Golden Pacific (the cellars of hell) and living in a collective warehouse that was in the old Jelly Belly factory. What great karma (or would that be plump karma?) I'd head down to the (original) Berkely Bowl, get my veggies and load up on the Spaten goodness, crank some Ween and proceed to drink my way through making a meal for ten. A drinking cook is a happy cook Mama J used to say. It's such a great sipping beer and a fine complement to food. So with those memories on my mind and palate, I think last years version was really close to what I like in a double bock, big and malty. The main thing I changed this year was to drop the starting gravity from 21 plato to 20. I thought the alcohol presence was just a bit much. I really like the balance now, though I'll probably add some dextrin malts next year to bulk up the body. My biggest issue was with our filter. It just flat out failed us. Not entirely it's own fault, I mean we have abused that sucker for years. And let's face it, it is kind of ugly and sad looking, especially next to our new(er) 8^2 meter Velo we procured from Goose Island. Ah, to have real live brewing equipment at my disposal. What a treat. It's like we're becoming a real brewery. Upwards and onwards I guess, eh?
Malt:PilsnerMunich MaltCaramunichCaraFa II
OG - 20° P, TG - 4.5° P
Hops:IBU ­ 42Bittering and aroma - Hersbrucker Hallertau
ABV - 8.5%

Monday, February 12, 2007

Top Ten Brews from Playboy

We weren't sure quite to make of this either, but upon closer inspection, it seems respectable enough. It's actually a pretty impressive panel of judges they put together (we actually know who like half of them are). We haven't tried all of these brews, and don't necessarily think all that highly of a few of the others, but it makes for an interesting enough perusal. Do bear in mind that some would categorize this as a smut site.’s panel of beer experts told us their favorite American
microbrews.Here are 10 worth savoring.

Men often view beer the same way
they view sex: As long as you’re getting as much as you want, everything is
okay. But what’s the point of a large quantity of anything if you’re not also
getting high quality? Fine beers, like gorgeous women, should be savored and
enjoyed for their unique characteristics.
In the spirit of searching out
something more sophisticated to drink, we polled some of the nation’s beer
experts to come up with a list of the 10 best microbrews in America. While it’s
an impossible task to list all the deserving beers being made today in the
thousands of small breweries spread across America, this inventory of
distinctive brews should provide you with a good starting point. Unlike gorgeous
women, no good brew is ever out of your league.A panel of 14 beer experts sent us their top picks in a variety of different categories. The only stipulation was that each beer must be available in bottles (i.e. not just on tap at a brewpub) somewhere in the United States. The results of this open-ended vote were tallied and the brews that received the most votes were included in our top ten list. No favoritism was given to any of the brewers on our panel. To find out who was on our panel of experts, click here.

The Winners:

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lew Bryson Blogs!

Our countless, faithful, long-time readers are likely aware of our near obsessive devotion to the great Lew Bryson. You can imagine our elation when we learned that Big Lew had started blogging! Yup, we giggled like school girls. Lew has now been added to our uber exclusive blogroll twice over. His blog is called "Seen Through a Glass." Lew writes very knowledgably (and well) about beer and whiskey, particularly covering Philly and the Northeast. He's got some great books out, including this one, which we've been meaning to pick up for too long. Check his blog, sucka.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Empire Brews Back?

The one thing the burgeoning Syracuse beer scene is really lacking is a real, good brewpub. And don't come steppin' to us with the Suds Factory. Just don't do it. The Empire Brewing Co. was, by all acounts, a pretty sweet beer joint. One we didn't patronize nearly enough. Perhaps that was part of its problem (though we blame the ill-advised expansion to Buffalo and Rochester). Anyway, romours of its return have abounded almost since the time of the untimely demise. Rumours on beer dork message boards are one thing, but this comes from the Syracuse Post Standard:

Armory Square was abuzz Thursday with two developments: The Quiznos on South Clinton Street closed its doors without notice and work has begun on the former Empire Brewing Co. space that's been dormant since the popular brew pub shut down more than three years ago.
Work on the Bentley-Settle building that housed Empire included welding the metal deck that hangs over the basement space that the combination brewery-restaurant occupied. There also were workers inside the old brew pub space. The workers declined comment.
Two tenants in the building at 120 Walton St. - gold and silversmith David Church and Karin Vladimer, of the One 20 Salon - said they have heard rumors the Empire Brewing Co. itself would reopen in the space. David Katleski, one of the former owners of Empire, said he, too, has heard the rumors. He declined to comment further. Rebecca Collins, a representative for the building's owners, said the work is to repair some structural problems with the building and to prepare the basement space to be reoccupied. She declined to answer questions about potential tenants.

Empire opened in 1994. It won national awards for its beers and helped popularize Armory Square as an entertainment district. Empire expanded into Rochester and Buffalo. The Buffalo location closed a year after it opened, and the Rochester location closed three weeks before the Syracuse operation shut down in September 2003. The owners blamed increased competition and the state smoking ban for some of their problems. Katleski and his partner, Michael Hodgdon, ended up filing for bankruptcy. Church and Vladimer said they would be thrilled if Empire or another equally popular business opened in the building. "I think all the tenants suffered when they closed," Church said. "Many of us ate there. Many of our clients ate there." Both, though, said they were annoyed that the work began the week before Christmas, their busiest time of year. "It's a disaster for me," Vladimer said.
"The workers are blocking part of the sidewalk and talking up the parking spaces in front of the building," Church added. Collins, who represents 120 Acquisition Co. LLC, the building's owner, said workers had to take advantage of the mild weather and begin this week. 120 Acquisition Co. LLC's major investor is the New York City real estate firm Rossrock LLC. It purchased the building in May for $1.3 million, according to city assessment records.

Well, there you have it. Make of it what you will. We have opted for the cautiously optimistic route.

A Few Notes On Dacker

Davidson Brothers beers are bottled in Portland, Maine at the Shipyard Brewery. Not coincidentally, this is where Rick Davidson who recently returned to his role as the brewer of the Brothers Davidson, learned the art of brewing back in the good 'ol ninetees. Until recently, their IPA (a very solid beer made with Ringwood yeast - tastes like something Middle Ages or, say, Shipyard might make) was their number one seller.

And then, along came Dacker. Dacker (as in Adirondacker - noun; dude who lives in the Adirondacks) is a malty, Strong Scotch Ale that runs about 6.2%. We were blown away the first time we had it, probably because it is quite delightful on draft. The bottled version is not quite as good (again, it's brewed at Shipyard, which likely acounts for the difference). This, in the words of brew dude Rick Davidson, is Dacker's story.

Late last summer, Kerry and I had occasion to spend a few nights at the fine
Wawbeek on Upper Saranac Lake. One afternoon, I met a man and we got talking
about brewing. He’d heard of Davidson Brothers, but had never been to the pub.
Like so many people I meet, he was a home brewer, but he said he often brewed
the same recipe, one handed down to him from his father and grandfather. I told
him if he ever got down to Glens Falls, I’d like to try some of his original
The next week, he appeared outside the brewhouse door with a couple
bottles filled with his ale. I showed him around the brewery and sampled his
ale, and he had a taste of our Smoked Porter and our Scotch Ale. His ale was
very, very good and I told him so. He offered to write out the recipe if I
wanted and said we could make a batch to sell in the pub. Why not? After all, it
was exceptional. He said he didn’t want any credit or mention. He just thought
his was an ale others would enjoy. Read the rest...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Meandering Visit to Davidson Brothers

We know what you are thinking: there have been so few posts here, perhaps it's time they brought in freelance writers, or at least a couple of trained monkeys. Nope, not us. No need. We will simply advocate the drinking of delicious beers to others until they get so excited by the accompanying experience that they do our blogging for us! And so, without further ado, Beerjanglin' presents a visit to Davidson Brothers brewpub in Glens Falls, New York through the eyes (or words) of our latest guest blogger. Enjoy.
Editors note: we were there, too. We haven't become that lazy.

When I think about the adult that I've become, one

phrase comes to mind: "I shouldn't be this way." I've

come to realize that I am far more ignorant about
several topics than any reasonable, rational adult
male should be. I know frig-all about cars, I'm pretty
useless when it comes to home repair, I've never
really paid any attention to sitcoms, and I know very
little about beer.

Let me backtrack a touch and qualify that last

statement. Beer has played a pretty significant role
in my life. My dad's been a lifelong beer drinker, but

his tendency is to quaff cheap swill (Schaefer,
Schlitz, Meister Brau: all of these have taken up
space in the family refrigerator). So, I've always
been around beer. And, when I got to college, I

discovered drinking in the traditional manner: keg
parties and quiet soirees in dry dorms. To be honest
with you, I liked what I knew of beer - but, mostly,
it was the concept of beer as social lubricant.

I never really considered the capacity of beer, though
- sure, I'd drink stouts, brown ales, IPAs, bocks, and
what have you - but I never took the time to really
think about what I was consuming. (That being said, if
you were to take a look at my physique, you'd
understand that I'm hardly a discriminating consumer
of food and beverage in general. I like to think of

myself as being somewhat Falstaffian in nature.)

I'm working on that. I am - to quote an ever-whitening
accused child molester/moonwalker - "looking at the
man in the mirror and asking him to change his ways."
And one of the things that I'm working on is my
understanding and consumption of beer.

Hopefully, writing about what I drink somewhat will
provide me with some level of enlightenment about the
wonderful world of brews.

So, here goes. On February 3, Javen and I made an
excursion to surprisingly beautiful Glens Falls, New York
for the first of two stops on a mini-beer tour of

the northern reaches of the capital region.

Our first stop, and the subject of my initial
Beerjanglin' review, was Davidson Brothers. Davidson
Brothers is a brewpub in the heart of what would
probably be a hopping downtown district were it not

for the single-digit windchills and blowing
snowdrifts. The brewmaster, Rick, is one of the
aforementioned Brothers Davidson, and struck me as
being a gregarious individual who is extremely
consumer-friendly. He was ambling from table to table
during lunchtime, chatting up regulars and visitors
alike. He came over for a chat with Jav and I and
informed us of his "free beer" policy: "if you don't

like any of the beers, let me know, and I'll finish it
for free. Don't worry, though - I'll let you pay for
it." As he spoke, he gestured to the 6 beers Jav and I
each had in front of us.

Wait a second. 6 beers each? That's crazy talk!

Not really. Davidson Brothers has a great deal called

the "Ample Sampler." For about 9 bucks, you can get a
sampler platter of 6 5-ounce beers. You'r
e given a
card, and asked to select 6 of the 10 beers that
Davidson has on tap. The beers come lovingly arranged
on a tray - now, I've had samplers at brewpubs before
(most notably the Albany Pump Station), but this one
takes the cake.

My selections for the day were (and notes on each):

- Dacker Ale (their special recipe Adirondack Ale,
orignally conceived by a dude named Duncan Kincaid).
This was probably my favorite - it had a really great,

rich taste while being quite light. Less of an
emphasis on the hops, more of an emphasis on the
yeast. It's extremely drinkable, and I walked away

with a growler.

- Wheat Ale (a British-style wheat ale). This would be
the perfect drink to sip on a patio on a July day -
extremely light, without being watered down. Too light

for this midwinter day, though. I liked it a lot.

- Brown Ale (a traditional English brown). I like
Brown Ales a lot - they've been a go-to for me at
places like the Van Dyck and Pump Station from fall to

spring. This was decent for a Brown, on the sweet
side. I would consider this to be solid but generally
unspectacular - with the caveat that a beer doesn't
have to be spectacular to be good.

- ESB. I'm not much for extremely h
oppy pale ales, so
I'm much more of an ESB fan than an IPA buff - it
appeals more to my palate. This was a pretty good ESB,
pretty uncomplicated in nature. If this beer was a
baseball player, in the context of this beer lineup,
it'd be a middle reliever - not my first choice in
putting together a team, but definitely a necessary
part of the roster. That might not make sense to you,
but I think it's my finest analogy to date.

- Smoked Porter. You remember that Saturday Night Live
sketch where Will Ferrell, as former Cubs announcer
Harry Caray, hypothetically asked Jeff Goldblum that,
if he were a hot dog, would he eat himself? Well, if
smoke flavoring were involved, I would probably eat
myself. When you add smoke flavoring to a porter, it's
probably better than self-cannibalism (I'm just
sayin'.) I enjoyed this particular porter because it
seemed less artificially-smoked than a similar brew
that was presented at Brown's Brewing Company in Troy.
It was a far more naturally smoked porter - it didn't
just feel like the glass was rinsed with liquid smoke
prior to the pour. It seemed And

- The Brewer's Choice, and final selection on my
sampler, was a Belgian Trippel. Jesus Criminey, this
was strong (I want to say the alcohol topped out at
over 11%). I enjoyed my first sip very much, but made
a tremendous error in consuming a pickled hot pepper
prior to my next sip. The spice of the pepper only
accentuated the alcohol in the Trippel, which made it
difficult to appreciate anything other than the sheer
strength of the brew. I would suggest pairing it with
something sweet. I'd like to try it again under
different circumstances - perhaps with Davidson's
homemade potato chips.

All in all - Davidson's was a great experience. I wish
it were closer to the Albany/Schenectady area, but
like the Rolling Stones said, "it's a bitch." I look
forward to returning in a few months and enjoying
Rick's fine establishment.