Monday, July 25, 2011

Summertime, Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime

This past summer has been kind of tough.  With a pregnant wife, a best friend that got married and a million things going on with work and the house, I haven't spent nearly enough time drinking craft beer, or out and about to see what is new.

What did happen this year is:
  • I have had a Dogfish Head Namaste in the fridge for the entire summer (this should have been drunk in the past week, with the 90+ weather everyday).  
  • At Shanks, I did have a Victory Summer Love, which I would drink everyday. I have also had a Flying Fish IPA and St. Boniface ESB- two good beers to style.
  • I have two neighbors interested in my next brew day.  
  • I am starting to plan two brew days:
    • one a fall easy drinking ESB
    • a Maple Porter to be ready for Thanksgiving.  
  • I have started my keg system (for my friend's wedding we kegged homebrew, which means we bought kegs and borrowed a CO2 cylander- that's our next purchase). 
  • I bought my first glass carboy to use as a secondary (formerly, I left it in primary for a long time- all positive results).
  • From the recently married friend, I receive my very own hot dog roller and drunken man handle growler
  • I was able to pick up the AB:05 and AB:06 BrewDog Abstrakt beers, which keeps my collection up to date. From Jmooy, I also picked up a Evolution Menagerie No.5- good god, I need to open it and drink it.
  • The beer box was finally moved into the basement for a cooler, more stable temperature (eventually we will finish the basement and I will have the beers on shelves instead of in the beer box).
The Hot Dog Roller

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ithaca Beer Weekend, Day Two

Ithaca Falls
This is Part 2, make sure to check out our First Day

We woke up slightly hazy from the night before, and decided to be active around Ithaca on the beautiful Saturday. We grabbed a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant, and hit the road. We walked up the Cascadilla Gorge, until we found that it was closed when we were almost to the end of it. So after turning around, and trekking back to the start, we decide to find Ithaca Falls. “Just a short mile trip over the hill,” someone said. The hill was steep, coming down the other side was steeper (happy we didn’t fall).

But when we got there, it was worth the walk. It may only be one water fall, but it is huge- 150 feet high, 175 feet wide. The walk back to the hotel was not as bad as it was to get to the falls. Even thought it was around 2 miles, it was flat. After putting our feet up for an hour, we headed over to PuddleDockers, to try out some canoes and kayaks. We had not been in a canoe in maybe 10-15 years, so we knew this would be an experience. Other friends grabbed kayaks, since that is what they are more comfortable in.

Mahogany Grill
Taking the boats up the canal to the lake was a fun, relaxing workout. A little over a mile up the canal, we were in Lake Cayuga. We could tell when we got there, as the water went from calm and flat, to choppy. So we hung out there for a little, and then headed back.  It was a great mid-afternoon exercise.

We made reservations at Mahogany Grille for dinner, and got there as our table (outside on the gorgeous day) was opening up. Steaks were served up around the table, as well as some brews- a Goose Island Honkers to start, then Ithaca Partly Sunny to finish. Food was perfect. We were ready to take a nap after filling our stomachs, but that was not going to happen.  We decided to look for an empty bar and keep the staff company, and we found it around the corner at Moonshadows. We did not know that an hour and a half later it would turn into a dance club. That was ok though. We had our beers, a couple shots, and talked to the great staff (we also saw a couple people order fish bowls- we did not, that would have been bad). The bartenders and manager were great. Appeasing us and our craziness, and starting the night off right.
Chapter House chalkboard tap list
When the crowd started to roll in, and the DJ started up, we settled our tab and headed off to find another bar. We heard good things of the Chapter House, but seeing that it was up the hill (we were not trekking that again), we decided to find another bar around the Commons. Then we spotted a cab- BINGO. Off to the Chapter House we go.

As we entered, we immediately saw why some people told us to go there. 48 of the 50 taps were pouring (mostly) craft beer. Only downside was the $5 cover for the live bands playing, but that wasn’t too bad- the first band was though. If you like to listed to slower, depressing sounding music while drinking a Bear Republic Racer 5, you can go right ahead, we did not.  Thankfully, that was the opening act. The band that came after them was country-rock (maybe Rock-a-billy) and brought the mood up a bit. Ithaca Flower Power, Lake Placid Ubu, Victory Yakima Glory, Middle Ages IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Stone Pale Ale, Original Sin Cider and others were poured into our glasses for the rest of the night. And to top it off, the wedding party that we met the day before at Kilpatrick’s showed up.  Great night. It was finished off by a walk down the hill, back to the pizza place with some hanging out at the outdoor tables, then back to the hotel to crash for the night and drive home the next day.

What a great weekend- great food, beer and friends. Ithaca is one place that I look forward to coming back to in the future, as my wife would love to hit up the wineries (which we didn’t even do), and then we could hit the town at night for beer.  Ithaca, it was a pleasure.
band at Chapter House
Chapter House taps

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ithaca Beer Weekend, Day One

Bandwagon Brewpub
We cruised into Ithaca, NY hungry, thirsty and looking for a nice, relaxing weekend.  What we got was great food, great beer and a weekend that kept us going.  From the local brews to the gorges and waterfalls, this was one town that refused to disappoint us.

Surprisingly enough, the one place we planned on visiting, Ithaca Brewing, did not happen.  We just didn’t have time, and pleasantly enough, we were able to find enough of their beer around town (surprise, right) to keep us happy.

When we got to town Friday night, we checked into the hotel, and then started the search for some brews and food.  We hit up Bandwagon Brewpub, a local brewpub in the basement of a building.  While there was a wait for the tables, we just grabbed a couple of beers.  I had the sampler, which consisted of Strawberry Cream, Hefe-Wheat, Common, Double IPA and Oat Meal Stout. 

Ithaca Ale House Bar
The Strawberry Cream was smooth, not really my cup o’ brew, so I placed it aside. For someone who enjoys the fruit beer (non Belgian lambic), this would be a good beer. The Hefe-Wheat was a refreshing beer, hazy with a nice yeast kick. The Common was very clean. I probably created a problem, because I was kind of looking for a Anchor Steam, and got an average, slightly better than average beer- I would put it on the level of Troeg’s Scratch Keystone Common. The stout was nice and smooth with the oatmeal not overpowering, but keeping it smooth.  The highlight was the DIPA.  That blew us away.  Great beer, hops all over the place, but the malt was kept in check and made its presence as well. The place also had guest taps, as two of the group decided to get Abita Purple Haze and Southern Tier Hop Sun.

Ithaca Ale House Tap List
We left there in search of some cheesesteaks to fill our stomachs. We found some at the Ithaca Ale House. We also found a nice tap list, and a band that was starting to play. Beer of the night was the Ithaca Executioner 13- they called it a “Double Hoppy Wheat Ale”.  It definitely was spot on. Hops burst through with power.  Before that, I had the Ithaca Dark Humor.  I think I was expecting too much when I read the description of “All Brett Porter”. The dark malts masked some of the brett, but there was that yeast bite to it that made it delicious. I also could not turn down a Sierra Nevada Southern Tier Harvest- still one of my favorite beers.

Taps at Ithaca Ale House
We left the ale house as the music was getting too loud for a narrow space (maybe we are just getting old). And found ourselves at an “Irish” pub in a hotel (Kilpatricks Publick House). It was time for a shot- it was a guys weekend after all. The Shillelagh it was. If you don’t know, this is the best irish shot out there- 1/3 Jamison, 1/3 Baileys and 1/3 Irish Mist (we had to substitute Amaretto, because an irish pub didn’t have Irish Mist). After plowing through this shot with the bartender (who we just taught how to make it), he suggested the “shot of the night”- a Pancake Shot. This 3/4 Jamison, ¼ Butterscotch Schnapps shot, followed by Orange Juice tasted just like a Pancake. It was crazy.  Oh yeah, they had beer too. Ithaca Cascazilla (a pun from the stream that runs through town and Godzilla) was a hopped up red ale that we ordered a few of.
There, we met a wedding party (wedding was the next day), who insisted on tasting the Pancake shot- multiple followed.  After being informed of the short night (bars stop serving at 1 a.m.), we ordered a last round, then headed over for some pizza on the commons, back to the hotel to rest up for the next day. Overall, it was a fun night of booze, food and friends (old and new).

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Session #53- Redemption

This month's issue of The Session is brought to you by John Holl's Beer Briefing:

One thing about drinking a lot of beer is that occasionally you’re going to have a bad one. Perhaps it was infected or spoiled by light. Perhaps the brewer or brewery was new and still working out the kinks on a particular style. Regardless, you couldn’t finish the beer in your glass and moved onto the next one...
With the above in mind, my topic this month is Beer Redemption.
I am not afraid to say that I am not a fan of Magic Hat. Pre-sell out, post-sell out, whatever. I have told this to bartenders, friends, random people and even their sales rep.  Some of their beer to me, just isn't very good. Some of it is downright awful. Sure it isn't a disgusting macro light lager, but #9 isn't a beer that I order at the bar.

But you know what? I always try out their Odd Notion series. Why? Redemption.  It can be hit or miss, but I am always looking for their hit. Winter 2009, not good- it was supposed to be a wild ale, and it just wasn't wild enough for me. Spring 2010 was pretty good.  An wheat pale ale that was sufficient.  But what stands out to me was the Green Apple Wit (either summer for fall 2010).  This beer was unique, intriguing and I really enjoyed drinking it. This type of experience is what brings me back to try another. But wait! Where are the 2011 Odd Notion beers? I haven't seen one yet.  Maybe like magic, they disappeared.

They have come out with the IPA on Tour. In it comes Blind Faith (not an overpowering IPA, but one that helped get me started into my love of hops- then it disappeared). I am thankful that they brought back this beer, but they took their most creative beers away.  Hopefully they can come out with some beer that brings them a bit of redemption.