By Joe Ruvel · September 23rd, 2013 · Comments Off
Traveling can be tough sometimes. Your standby ticket doesn’t get you where you need to go, your bag lags behind you, or you just end up really tired late at night not really remembering where you are. Thankfully beer, good food, and a cheerful drinking establishment can make it all melt away.
When we left NYC we didn’t even know we were going to be going to Cologne, Germany but alas we ended up taking a train from London to Cologne and then were off to Prague a few hours later on an overnight train. Adventure!
Still wearing our nice clothes (to try to help us get on a plane with standby tickets) we trudged into Cologne around dinner time. We had two hours to eat (and drink of course) and get back to our long night train to Prague. Sounds easy but with such a short amount of time, you worry that you won’t find the right place and will end up eating at the equivalent of 7-11 and downing a light lager. Which of course works sometimes, but I had higher hopes for a place where good beer is king.
I can’t tell you much about Cologne, but I can tell you that the people are overall rather nice and that Gaffel am Dom by the train station is a great place to eat and drink. It was raining and thankfully we went out the right door and there it was, a boisterous beer hall with those traditional Kolsch glasses and beer everywhere.
The place was welcoming to us and we were out of the rain and sitting down with two Kolschs pretty fast. And the beer was great – of course we REALLY wanted it at that moment but still it had plenty of bite and flavor and the waiter kept coming by with a little beer tray with new filled glasses to give us. He also spoke English and told us we have to try the Gaffel restaurant in NYC. This peaked my interest. So far I haven’t really found that they have one in NYC, but I do see that you can get it at Loreley Beer Garden – maybe that is what he meant.
I saw a different beer that they make and had to try it. It was called SonnenHopfen. It came in a big bottle (check), had lots of Citra hops (double check), and so we tried it. The waiter said it was a “girl” beer. It was tasty. A summer mild brewed with Citra hops from Yakima Valley, WA. I wasn’t as excited about it as I was the Kolsch but still a good one to try if you can.
And if you ever wanted a personal little keg for your table – this is a good place to try it (5L barrel for around $35)
Hopefully our travels bring us back to Germany on this trip – I hear they make good beer.
Tags: Beerventures · Travel
By Joe Ruvel · September 13th, 2013 · 2 Comments
Oh Dogfish Head you weird wild brewery. Why do you put lobster and chocolate in a beer? Or will it be cloud berries this time and wheat-grass. You are the child in the sandbox with a hose and a grin on your face. You are the mad scientist ready to do whatever it takes. And I love it. I love the unpredictable nature and the crazy combinations. I love the playfulness.
It hit me recently that people who don’t like Dogfish usually find one beer they find so odd that it turns them off to the brewery. Red and White has done that to some people, Their Chocolate Lobster made me cringe but guess what – there was an awesome pilsner experiment right next to it.
And my favorite is the minute beers. Continually hopped with that green gold we all love, the minute beers have become one of my favorite beer series. Sixty, Sixty-one, Seventy-five, Ninety, One-twenty. Oh my!
I have been lucky to have them all on this trip. There is still a very special place in my glass for Ninety, my gateway beer if you will but I am loving Sixty more and more. The first time I had Sixty-one I was not in the mood at all but when you are ready for it, it can be very tasty. And then there is Seventy-five. Great label art, killer beer. The maple syrup really works for me in that beer and I love the body and hopping. And then finally One-twenty. Not a party beer but I do love the flavor. And when you age that stuff – wow – it can be something really special.
Try a minute beer when you can – you won’t be disappointed.
Tags: Beerventures · Tastings
By Joe Ruvel · August 17th, 2013 · Comments Off
I have tried to make this comparison before and have not done the best job, but let me try again here. I have been lucky over the past few years to have some amazing wines. Some of the best I have had are from Burgundy. Which overall has a better cost/value proposition than Bordeaux. A word-class wine is of course a somewhat subjective classification, but usually it takes a combination of a few things (land, weather, wine maker, year). And the cost can vary a lot but it is almost over $100.
If you are a beer nerd in 2013 – you are a lot luckier. You can find so many amazing world-class beers in many different parts of the country and for A LOT cheaper. Yes beer prices for premium craft beer does keep going up but you are, in most cases, paying for attention to detail and better ingredients.
Sometimes this idea of how lucky I am to love beer and how many amazing beers there are to try, hits me like a big brick. This happened in Portland in general and most of all when I was sitting with my friend Bill trying beer after delicious beer at Cascade Brewing Barrel House.
2 dollar tastes people!! If you like sour beer this is a temple to sour. They have worked very very hard to age, flavor, and deliver these beers to you. And then you can try them all (not having to buy a whole bottle) and relish in all the sour glory.
Of course my notes from a few weeks ago are not great but you can get the idea of the fun:
Lemon-A-Peel – aged a long time – lemon cream flavor
Summer gose – salty delicious
Strawberry – eh – not bad but also not my favorite
Elderberry – great berry flavor – big sour punch
Tangerine dream – one of my favorites – huge flavor – good carb – sour!!
Honey-gin-lime – like the best soda you ever had. Loved it
I want to go back already.
And then to further my argument of the power of beer at our fingertips – close by is another temple to beer - Hair of the Dog. Barrel aged beer is their bag and oh my do they do it well. You want vintages – they have beers for sale from when they started around 1993!
I went for their barleywine vertical – Doggie Claws 08,09,10,12. And in honor of my dad (and Michael Jackson beer hunter) – I tried the very good blended flanders red Michael.
You want to experience some of the best beer in America? – I got a cool area of Portland for you to spend a few hours and not that much money.
Near these two breweries is a great coffee shop called Water Ave Coffee. You can even get oak barrel aged sumatra coffee. We had it iced and it was pretty amazing. I talked to them about the process and the nice barista told me that they were letting some oak barrel pieces sit with the coffee beans for a few days before brewing the coffee. I think that I remember they might even do this before they roast the coffee (on site!) and it really does give it a nice light oak vanilla flavor. They are still experimenting with it – so fun things ahead.
Tags: Beerventures · Tastings · Travel
By Joe Ruvel · August 12th, 2013 · 2 Comments
When someone tells you about this amazing beer place you must visit usually in the middle of nowhere (or at least far away from public transportation) – you have to ask yourself a few things:
1. Do I trust this person’s definition of a beer destination place?
2. How much out of my way will I go for this brewery?
3. How crazy is this beer nerd that I am talking to?
Everyone says that Three Floyds is worth a detour and that it is amazing. Their beer has won awards, scores very high on beer sites, and has even inspired competitions. They have one of the most anticipated beer release parties every year, and they love Satan (or at least bow to his dark metal heart). All of this aside they are in Munster, Indiana, which is not on most people’s radar. Luckily, I was passing through that area on my way to visit family on a crazy two day drive-a-thon and stopped in right when they opened.
Right away I could tell this was not your usual beer destination. It is a Tuesday at 11:30am and a steady rain is coming down. In an industrial area near the highway, around 15 or so people are in line waiting for the to-go window to open. One after another people go in and were buying cases of beer. There were only a few types of beers available to buy in bombers, six packs, and cases. I wanted to try everything but instead went for a somewhat reasonable selection that I could have in my rental car and finish over the next few days. Here is what I got:
Alpha King Pale Ale (6.66% ABV 66 IBUs – METAL!) – all hail the king!! I could write an epic poem about this beer. So drinkable and yet very hoppy. Such a nice balanced beer. You get great citrus notes, a great bite, and all finished with a creamy malt base. It is a little like grapefruit pudding with caramel whipped cream. Oh I want one right now. Try this beer whenever you can.
Arctic Panzer Wolf (9.5% ABV 100 IBUs) – this guy does not pretend to be anything but what it is – a hop wolf coming to get you. OK that was cheesy. It is a damn fine big IBU hop beer. The booze hides pretty nice and the hop smell is intoxicating.
Evil Power (7.2 ABV) – An imperial pilsner brewed with their friends in the band – Heavy Metal Warriors Lair of The Minotaur – I wasn’t sure what to think of this one. But overall I liked it. The sweetness is there but not overpowering. It had a light smell. It acted as a good after dinner drink with a few people.
Gorch Fock (5.0% ABV 25 IBUs) – a Helles Lager. I didn’t taste this one – a present for a friend. Excited to see what they thought.
I did not plan to go into the bar and taste anything (I had a lot of miles to drive) but I couldn’t resist a few small tastes before I left. Real cool inside with lots of artwork on the walls. Metal was playing and lots of people were packed in drinking beer and ordering food. I got to try:
Gumballhead (5.6% ABV 35 IBUs) – oh wow another world class brew. An American wheat beer with plenty of hops and great wheat flavor. The bitterness is low but the hops are definitely there. I crave more of this beer. A great brunch beer I bet.
Pride & Joy (5.0% ABV 42 IBUs) – a refreshing hoppy mild. Nice change of pace from some of their other beers.
Zombie Dust (6.4% ABV 60 IBUs) – another great display of hops – this time a good bit more intense.
The food looked great too – but I was already there more than I should have been. Trust me, if you are within a few hours of Three Floyds and are thinking about going – do it – it IS worth it.
By Joe Ruvel · August 2nd, 2013 · 1 Comment
I have been on an old fashioned cocktail ordering kick. We have been in Wisconsin for around a week and have gone to some great old bars and Wisconsinites love an old fashioned, so it is on pretty much every menu. Now what kind of old fashioned you get is a little more complicated. Here is some high level info to help break the code:
The old fashioned is one of the oldest cocktails ever made. The basic idea of a spirit, some sugur, and bitters started showing up in print around 1806.
A traditional old fashioned is made with bourbon or rye, sugar, bitters, cherries and an orange slice
A Wisconsin old fashioned is made with brandy – almost always Korbel brandy from California. The cherries and orange are usually muddled.
Another choice with your brandy old fashioned is if you want it sweet or sour. Sweet usually means Sprite is added. Sour is sour mix or a lemon/lime mix. You can also do a press (short for Presbyterian – not sure why this is used here) that means 50/50 sweet and sour. Finally you can just do soda water or no water.
From here you can go many different directions. You can use cognac instead of brandy. You can do apple brandy. You can use special cherries. You can even put a pickled egg and veggies into your drink (not that I recommend this but people do it). All in all the simple base of this drink can be extended out to thousands of possibilities! I have tried a lot less then that but have been lucky to try around seven versions so far.
I am intrigued by the Wisconsin anomaly of using brandy but so far the one I had with rye has been my favorite.
I will post more soon about some of my favorites and the places that serve them.
Tags: Non-Beer Beverages · The Basics