Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lots of Love from Down Undah!

Hey Hay Beer Lovers!

Wanted to give you a quick lead on a great beer. It's a limited time offering so I wanted to make sure that you got your hands on it!

Sierra Nevada's Southern Western Hemisphere Harvest is self defined as a "Fresh Hop Ale" which I'm to assume by the nature and flavor of the beer that it's not quite hoppy enough to be an IPA but hoppier than a regular beer. The "Fresh" comes from the fact that the hops were picked, dried, packed and shipped to the brewery in a matter of days FROM NEW ZEALAND! I'm certain that the terroir, as it usually pertains to grape varietal growing regions, has an affect on the taste of the hops. This is particularly the case here as the taste is like nothing I've ever tasted.

As usual, Sierra gives us a product that is of the highest quality and packs extraordinary flavor. The SWHH has very little in the way of malt flavor, not to say that none exists, but that it is not the predominant note. Light mouth feel and sharp notes of floral and citrus are however at the forefront. This beer differs in the fact that unlike some IPAs that try to pack in (and sometimes I feel over pack) hops into the beer, this harvest beer has a healthy hop flavor with a sweetness that other beers made in a similar fashion are missing. While I would hesitate to call this a balanced beer, it certainly is flavorful and quite tasty. This bottle rings in around $5 so definitely pick it up!



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grilling with beer

Hi everybody!! (HIIII DR. NICK!)

Just a quick post here courtesy of my friends over at Beer & wine.com over in Woburn, MA. With all of us in the thick of summer, I'm sure that everyone's grills are fired up on an almost nightly basis. I know that I'm always in the market for new ways to spice things up around the BBQ and particularly ways to use beer in the recipes! Below, please find a great, quick & dirty article on some grilling w/ beer basics!


As a side note, for anyone who watched Master Chef last night, I was most disappointed that the only beer related recipe last night was generally despised by the judging panel. The only notable exception of Chef Graham Elliot who frankly, I find brilliant for his ability to take ordinary, blase comfort food and bring it to the level of a Michelin Star restaurant quality without sacrificing its accessibility. He shrugged off his decision in regards to the cheese & beer soup with chives as a "guilty pleasure". Bravo Chef Elliot... I appreciate your honesty. Regardless, I'll be researching recipes for Cheese & Beer Soup for my next post. Preferably ones that don't suck!

Say Thirsty (AND HUNGRY!!) My friends!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Hi Neighbor!! Have a "Gan"der at this!

Tisk Tisk Tisk... Again, it seems that I've neglected my blog and as a result, I've got a bunch of updates both in the field of music and on the brewery scene. I'll try to take it in small bites and keep it short:


So finally, I got around to putting my money where my mouth is and I brewed a few batches of my own beer. I decided on a Copper Ale and a Summer Ale.

Robbie A's Penny Pincher Ale:
I needed beers that were uncomplicated as I don't have a whole ton of time on my hands at the moment. A Copper Ale in theory was a good idea... the execution on the other hand, lacked somewhat. Dark amber hue as you'd expect with any copper, the head was a bit lacking, but I expect some of that due to the cold temperature it was stored at and my rather aggressive angle of the pour. Malty taste with a decent hop balance, but there was an odd aftertaste and I couldn't pin point it until someone else had a swig... pennies... I can't explain it, I have no idea how it happened, but... pennies... weird. Soooo that one was somewhat of a flop.

Robbie A's Citrus Summer Ale:
The Summer Ale turned out quite a bit better. It was far more drinkable albeit a bit less complex in flavor. Lemony citrus notes permeate the nose as well as a faint hint of hops. The beer is... well, beer... But it's a fine summer brew sufficient enough to have with burgers & dogs but I'm not about to write home about it. Better luck next time!

Nashoba Winery - Bolton, MA:
One of the tenets of creating superlative food, wine and beer is fresh ingredients. You're not going to get any fresher than right off the farm! I have to give this place a major thumbs up as it is a hidden gem in the heart of the Nashoba Valley. The Nashoba Valley winery is not just a winery creating vintages from locally grown products such as peaches, blueberries, apples & the like, but it is also the first officially licensed Farm/Distillery in the Commonwealth of MA. They've created an exciting line of Whiskeys, Liqueurs and Cordials, which, unfortunately were a bit out of my price range! The beer at this point is my focus and they had a great range to choose from. Most of them hit the ball out of the park including their Summer Stout which I found to be most unique in the fact that it had notes of espresso, cocoa and vanilla. In addition, one surprise was their IPA, the use of milder locally grown hops I think made the difference here. Their version didn't have quite the acridly bitter taste that some IPA's can take on. The line up changes frequently so I'd suggest checking it out yourself!
Side note: If you're looking for a GREAT date place, check out the adjacent J's Restaurant. Farm fresh food, locally caught fish & smoked trout, local cheeses. The place is a home run. Weekend brunch is also highly recommended!

There is nothing I love more than a comeback story. Like my beloved Red Sox, we have another local underdog story that is taking shape, one that I hope will still be here come October! The 120 year old Narragansett brewing company, (once a long time sponsor of the BoSox) is under relatively new management, the brand name being bought back from the Falstaff Brewing Co. and is making major strides at regaining its formerly famous name here in New England. I for one am standing proud with the 'Gansett crew and have bought several sixers at my local packey over the last year. I think the thing that I like the most is the grass roots effort that Narragansett is working with to get the word out. The most effective tactic I've seen so far is the use of Non traditional media, Facebook, Live events and particularly the You Tube movies of new owner Mark Hellendrung searching recycling bins for old Narragansett cans, giving new 12 packs to those drinking the beer and leaving flaming bags of poo for those on the "Naughty" list. Classic junior high antics that definitely caught my attention. Also back are the 'Gansett Girls, a throwback to the 40's era pinup girls and ladies, you're just lovely! Still, the taste of Narragansett is what brings people back time and again. It's an easy to drink lager that goes great with almost everything. So far, they've hit 1150 establishments where 'Gansett is on tap. Do you part for a local institution, nay, for your local economy and help Mark Hellendrung rebuild the once famous Narragansett Brewery in Rhode Island!! Buy a case, check out the website, ask your local establishment to carry Narragansett Beer!! Go get em boys & Gansett Girls! I'm pullin' for ya!!

I've had a few momentous occasions in my Bagpiping career over the last month.

1. I've finally popped my funeral gig cherry. While I by no means think that I did well, I have learned a few valuable lessons
-Turn off your Cell phone!! While this should be common sense... I totally forgot and my phone went off in the middle of the ceremony... thankfully I was in the balcony and got into my sporran in the nick of time.
-Bring Water: 80 degree days in a woolen Kilt, Glengarry and black jacket tend to cause a boy to sweat... phew... not only that, but I had a bit of a coughing fit and one woman was kind enough to grab me a bottle.
-RELAX!!: I found myself getting stressed out towards the end of a few of my sets and I had a few times where my reed dropped out for a note or so. In addition, my biggest failure of the day resulted from over-squeezing my bag resulting in not one but TWO of my drones dropping out during Amazing Grace... embarrassing to say the least.

2. Parade Season was a major success! On the 4th of July, I played the Bourne and Edgartown, MA parades resulting in over 5 miles of marching AND I played the ENTIRE parade AND a quick show on the Ferry back AND played a flyby of a bar that gave us a hard time back on the mainland. To that bar, I give you the two fingered salute and say, may you and your snotty, cranberry pants wearing, trust fund spending clientele choke on your assumed sense of superiority. Narragansett, don't bother trying to get into that bar, they're jerks, and frankly you could do better!! But I digress... I consider the parades a major milestone in my playing.

My take aways from this episode:
1. Relax when you play your pipes, practice like you have a gig every day.
2. Take your significant other to J's Restaurant and class it up a little, huh?
3. Avoid at all costs the Landfall Restaurant in Wood's Hole, MA. They're total tools.
4. Get a yourself some Cans of 'Gansett! Support your local breweries!!

That is all... I HAVE SPOKEN!!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer Ales and Barleywines

Ladies and gents... I have a quick Kudos to give out in the name of progress. My buddy Dave... really a guy who I met for 5 minutes... at Trader Joe's in Framingham has proven himself to be a noble beer advocate. In the past I've written that Trader Joe's is a place to avoid when it comes to beer. They're still not putting out what I would consider to be true quality beers, however they're getting there and I applaud their efforts, particularly my boy Dave, an employee of Trader Joes who, on behalf of all the other beer geeks out there made a phone call to the senior purchasers at TJ's and demanded (not asked) that the grocery store carry more in the way of quality beer. THANK YOU, Dave THANK YOU!! Trader Joe's has always carried Chimay (trappist style ale), Magic Hat out of VT, as well as the Smuttynose brewing company. All are excellent ales, however the selection in general at Trader Joe's, frankly has been poor. My most recent trip to TJ's this past weekend, yielded a most impressive result. The store in Framingham, MA had more beer! Not only that, they had more QUALITY beer! I'm pleased to see that they made some progress and I look forward to what they come out with next. In short, THANKS DAVE!!

In conjunction with my first story, I grabbed two beers that piqued my interest. The Smuttynose Barleywine and the Sierra Nevada Summer.

The Sierra Nevada Summer was, in short, a delight. I've always enjoyed their products as they generally brew a drinkable beer for the masses, with a flavor that is interesting enough for beer dorks to love. Pick up the summer... that's all I have to say. I drank it a bit warm, and while I wish that I had let it sit for a while longer, the almost room temperature beer was not bad. It's a dry crisp lager with a snappy hop finish and in general is a delight to drink. Well done Sierra Nevada! I'll probably be sharing this one with friends as the season progresses.

Smuttynose has almost always pleased me with the product they put out. A Portsmouth, NH outfit, I've threatened among friends to visit the brewery out of sheer curiosity. This was a special recommendation by DAVE and frankly even as I drink it now... a great call. Barleywines in general are an interesting breed... they're technically considered beer, however they are called Barleywine for their unusually high alcohol contents ranging from 8 to 12%. Judging by the Tuesday night buzz I'm sporting, my guess is that we're in and around the 12% range... The thing I like about Barleywines is the complexity. There's a graininess to the Smuttynose but there are other elements to it that I positively love. There's a fruity nose to it, a citric, hoppy kick and an alcohol bite to the finish. In all, it's a great beer to have... with friends. This thing is kicking my butt even as we speak!

What to pair it with... initial thoughts are Carne Asada tacos... but there's already a heavy acidic tone to this... I'll swing completely opposite and suggest either a.) fish & chips as a nod to it's English heritage or b.) Death by Chocolate 8 layer fudge cake. It's a heavy ale with a need to balance it's bold taste with a bold sweetness. Either way, this one could stand on its own as a social beer among friends. Given that it's sold in the big bottle, I'd grab a pal to enjoy this one with.

Good luck out there, I'd appreciate any beers you'd like me to review and of course any feedback on these posts.



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Strong Ale & Sweet Surprises


In the most recent edition of "The Improper Bostonian" I had a unique epiphany thanks to an article written by Erin Byers Murray and Max Toste. They defined what it meant to be a Beer Snob vs. a Beer Geek. As in the wine world, there are those out there who would seek to define what is and what isn't good beer. I may, on occasion have straddled the line and for that, I apologize! While there are some beers that I personally find repugnant and repulsive, it is my intent only to provide you with a forum where opinions can be read, digested and whenever possible, disputed. These are only opinions after all. I've sampled some of the best beers on the planet and I have a wide library of knowledge on the subject. My main goal is to show you what's out there, good, bad or indifferent and perhaps provide a little education. While reviewing Lord Hobo's (a new Allston, MA beer mecca) Mr. Toste has a great description:

""Snobbery Sucks," he said "Geeks are enthusiastic. They like knowledge, like to learn about things. Beer should be accessible.""

Truer words were never spoken. I of course prefer to think of myself as a Geek. Beer, like it's younger cousin, wine was found largely by accident thousands of years ago and has been drunk by Pharaohs and peasants alike. I've always postulated that there is a beer for every occasion and for every taste. My tastes, for example differ greatly from my wife's and from a number of my friends. Where I might like a dark Stout, my Dad on the other hand might prefer light lager. My opinions are merely a guidepost for beer geeks and beer neophytes alike.

That being said, onto the review!

More good news from John Harvard's! The misses and I recently hit up the local John Harvard's here on Route 9 and beyond our usual board of fare (Nachos for the table, Buffalo Chicken Sandwich for the misses and Chicken fingers for the kiddo), we were pleasantly surprised by a few choice beers on the menu. So much so, that we did something that we rarely do... took home a growler! I can count on two fingers, including this time, that I've ever liked a beer enough to bring home a solid Gallon of it... The last was a stout from the Kennebunk Brewing Company. The chosen beer today, however, was the Strawberry Ale draught that that my wife and I decided would be a good summer beer. Given that it was a BEAUTIFUL and pleasantly unseasonable 80 degree day here in the Commonwealth, I plunked down my cash and brought it back to the old homestead. One of the best parts of JH is that will let you have a small sampler for precisely $0 so we were able to give it a go without breaking the bank. One complaint was a bleachy taste that showed up in one of the other samples. I might have liked that one better, but for a relatively unrinsed cup.

Onto the beer!

The Strawberry ale: Light color, Hazy body and with a crisp zip, I liked this beer as did the misses, a intersection ne'er to be seen! The initial taste had a somewhat raspberry hint to it, which I've now come to realize is simply the result of fermenting strawberries. Either way, a tart, citrus albeit not unpleasant note. The body is thick enough to make you realize that you're drinking a hearty beer, but not heavy enough that I wouldn't break it out at the summer BBQ. The finish as a slight hoppy zing to it but not enough to cause puckering. All in all, a good suggestion by our waiter. Pairings: Any BBQ food will do, but I think that a cherry glazed rib & grilled Pepper & Tomato would do nicely with this beer. The cherry in particular should take the edge off of the fermented strawberry taste and mellow the tang of the hops a little.

The Celtic Strong Ale: This one tops the meter for complex tastes and for punch packed! I think I was buzzed about 1/2 way through my glass. Advertised as a Scottish style, this is a DAAARK ale. I held this one up to the light and I'm pretty sure I saw the suns rays start to collapse into the head. Suffice it to say, Black with a slight hint of brown. The menu (which is designed for beer geeks BTW) stated that three types of malt were used, although the varietal that shone through was the Chocolate Malt. There was a heavy chocolate/stouty flair to it. The body has a heavy texture as I thought it might have. I have to note that there are certain Scotch Ales that I don't like due to a heavy reliance on truly bitter hops and funky honeys as the fermenting sugar both of which are usually used in great abundance and often create a lack of balance in the beer. This was not the case with the CSA, While it did have a bitter finish, the heft of the beer and the sweetness of the other two malts (Pale and another which I don't remember) created a unique balance that danced all over the senses of the tongue, perhaps with the exception of salty. Pairings: I can tell you for a fact that this beer goes poorly with nachos... Don't do it! The Salsa and spicy food in general tends to over state the bitterness of the hops. The meal I had was an understated, typically American, but delicious Bacon Cheeseburger. The meat, veg, fries, cheese and bacon were more than enough to stand up to the complexity of this beer while still allowing it to maintain its balance.

That's all for now, I'll have another post for you tomorrow!

Here's mud in yer eye!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Hilarious!

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of clever marketing for any product, most notably beer. The following review is, in part an homage to one such visionary brewer, marketer and dare I say... prophet?

As a former patron of the parochial school system, I have a certain appreciation for humor that some might find well... sacrilegious. It's not that I'm not appreciative of everything that the church has taught me, but I do find humor in places that others might not and things that perhaps I SHOULD not. Besides... who really needs a soul anyway? Bradley Ross-Patrick (which sounds like an evangelical name in and of itself) and I appear to be cut from the same cloth when it comes to parody laden humor. Check out this website and see what I mean:


But is this more than just a clever marketing campaign? Could it be that salvation can come in a cleverly packaged bottle? I've heard more people pray to whatever god will listen after imbibing too much. The phrase "Oh God if you make this stop, I'll never drink again" has been uttered after dispelling many a demon on the porcelain altar so... could Rev Ross be on to something? It says in his personal notes that this Pastor of the Pilsner goes against the grain... Nay, my fellow sinners, (cue up the choir)I say he goes WITH the grain... combines it with malt and hops and turns ordinary water.... into revelation.

The Most Reverend Ross-Patrick creates a strong case for purchasing 6 to twelve bottles of "holy water" to wash away your sins and the sins of your neighbor. Although, if the beer is as good as the marketing, I might try to convert the whole neighborhood. Inspired by his proselytizing, my clicker zipped right over to the "order now" button. Sadly enough, religion aka the blue laws and popular legislation favoring liquor distributors here in the Commonwealth of MA do not allow delivery directly to my house... which means that I either need to drive/fly/pray myself to Nebraska to visit the abbey directly OR I need to find an alternate method of delivery...

I see that he has a "tour date" at the Berklee College of music in April and frankly I'd like to make sure that I try to hit that date. OR... if Rev. Bradley would like to swing by the greater Metro West area, I'm sure we could set up a revival tent to help save a few of my fellow sinners!!! TESTIFY!!

Your Holiness, I wish you the best of luck, the campaign for salvation is brilliant and I can't wait to try the actual product!!

"MMmmmm Sacrilicious... Gwaaaaaaggghhh" - Homer Simpson as it pertains to the Holy Waffle stuck to the ceiling.



Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Take two Pils and call me in the mornin'

Sam Adams Seasonal: Noble Pils

When you think “Pilsner”… what do you think? Cheap draft beer at dollar night? A beverage that tastes like bitter swill? A frothy, pale glass of nastiness? Me too! In general I’ve steered clear of Pilsners simply for the fact that outside of the usual family barbeque or college keg party, I usually don’t enjoy the taste. I find the Pilsner as a style to be bland, bitter and somewhat fouled in taste and finish. Some of these beers are old favorites here in the States and by and large, so long as I’ve dulled my palate enough, I can sometimes choke one down… or switch to H2O… or battery acid…

Sam Adams, on the other hand has taken the style and given it a little class. As usual, Jim Koch and his team at the Boston Beer Company have injected a little love into a style that over the years has been pasteurized, over-processed and made simply for profit. Quality ingredients, and a proven brewing process yield a brightly golden bubbly beer that has an initial Pilsner scent, but not the usual Pilsner mouth-feel or taste. Slightly but not unpleasantly bitter, Sam’s Seasonal beer has a heavier feel than your traditional Pilsner, but still is light enough that I would not consider this to be in Sam’s usual wheelhouse of heavier ales and lagers. The finish is what is most pleasant. Years ago, Keystone beer put out a clever advertising campaign against “Bitter beer face”. I think that Sam Adams might want to borrow that from Keystone! The finish is pleasant, has a bit of a kick but a well balanced malt and wheat taste, a distinct piney note and a sweetness of honey that makes this an ideal summer beer.

As you may know, the Pilsner style comes from the Czech Republic (formerly Bohemia – yes, that Bohemia) and was transported over to the United States thanks to a few brave and rather thirsty immigrants. As a result, truly All-American brands like Budweiser (now ironically owned by international beer giant In-Bev) were born. It is for that reason that I’ve chosen a traditionally summer Czech meal to pair with this… it only seems right! I think that the peppery nature of paprika and the spice inherent in the Sam’s Noble Pils will balance nicely. Paprika is a big spice in most cooking from that area, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic & the like. Unsure as to the historical reason, but I can find out! Most people use breast meat when making chicken dishes due to the preponderance of it in the grocery store as it’s considered one of the healthiest alternative in the poultry world. I would advise against it in this case as traditional Czech food (to completely over generalize) is a bit bland. The Chicken thighs will give you a bit more flavor and I tend to prefer them in general for recipes like this. The recipe for this says dumplings or egg noodles. However sides for this meat dish might be rice pilaf, asparagus, marinated mushrooms and if you’re feeling frisky; Borscht – a beet stew common to the former Eastern Block countries.

(Picture Missing, but I assure you it looks delicious...)

Czech Chicken Paprika

Czech Chicken Paprika Recipe
6 – 7 Chicken Thighs
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Onion – Chopped
1 Cup Sour Cream
2 Tbs Paprika
2 Tbs Lard or Vegetable Oil - Yay Lard! Fat is flavor!
2 Tbs Flour
1 Tsp Garlic, minced
½ Tsp Salt
¼ Tsp Ground Pepper

1. Heat up lard or oil in skillet on medium low heat.
2. Spinkle paprika on both sides of chicken and place in skillet. Place any remaining paprika into skillet.
3. Increase heat to medium and brown both sides of chicken.
4. Add onion and garlic and lightly brown stirring occasionally.
5. Lower heat to simmer, then add flour.
6. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes stirring constantly.
7. Increase heat to medium and add chicken broth and water, stirring constantly.
8. Once a low boil is achieved add salt and pepper.
9. Reduce to simmer partially covered for 40 minutes. Stir on occasion.
10. Remove chicken from sauté pan and add sour cream to sauce.
11. Place chicken back into pan and mix.
12. Add additional salt and pepper to taste (if necessary).
13. Serve on dumplings or egg noodles.

Sam (And Jim), again, your experiments have paid off. Keep stretching yourselves. The chances you’re taking are paying off!!

Na Zdravi! (to your heath! – Czech)