Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Really Alt to Try These

And that goes double for Widmer's 25th Anniversary beer, the 84 '09 Double Alt. Actually, since I just picked this beer up and haven't tried it yet, soI don't know if you should buy it or not. The words all just seemed to fit so well. Alt style beer is a Dusseldorf, Germany speciality and is an ale that is stored cold and aged like a lager. The double style is unusual for an alt but goes with the doubling trend these days, which I am personally all for. This 9.8% beer goes for $5.99 per 22 oz. at Kelly's. Altstanding!

Red Hook has added the next of their big beer series following the success of Double Black stout with the Tripel, a 10.2% shot at this tricky Belgian style. I did not buy one of these yet, but it will be interesting to see if they pull it off. I'm just glad AmBev (the new name for the Anheuser Busch/InBev merger) is allowing the Red Hook brewers to experiment with styles that may not sell like Red Hook's better known beers, like the ESB. Kelly's has it for $7.49 per 22 oz. bottle.

Deschutes tries to play in the IPA ballpark again, this time with their Red Chair IPA. They have not fared well with IPAs in the past, having had to shelve their original Quail Springs IPA in favor of Inversion IPA because the Quail just wasn't very good. Inversion is better, but has a malty presence that is too heavy for the style, in my opinion. Red Chair relies on the new Citra hop, which is grown on a 5 acre spot in New Zealand and is co-owned by three breweries (Deschutes, Widmer, and Sierra Nevada). This hop produces a citrusy smell and flavor without bitterness. Not sure why you wouldn't want bitterness in an IPA, but this beer is pretty good without it. Kind of tastes like a better version of a pale ale but with a higher abv (6.4). 22 oz. for $5.99 at Kelly's and Jubilation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Odds and Ends

Just a few things worth noting this week...

New beer from Big Sky Brewing has been released, this one being the Summer Honey Ale. It is basically a lighter version (4.7% abv)of their Scape Goat Pale Ale, with a lower ABV and of course the addition of honey. Big Sky beers are very good when fresh but it seems that, aside from Moose Drool Brown Ale, their line has not sold that well and there is some not-so-fresh tasting Big Sky IPA in area stores.

Also new in town are the 2009 Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale and 2009 Rogue Double Dead Guy. The Dead Guy was first released last year and is a 10% abv version of Rogue's best selling beer. Since they don't use the rip-off ceramic bottles for this beer, the 22 oz. bottle is almost affordable at $10.99. Sierra's Southern Hemisphere is made with hops from New Zealand, but somehow still manages to taste a little like every other Sierra. Gotta hand it to them for consistency.

Speaking of Sierra Nevada, have you noticed a change in their packaging recently? The longtime yellow Stout six-pack holder and beer label has been replaced by a orangish-burnt sienna (or Sierra) color. I don't know exactly what they call it but the beer inside is still the same.

And I was remiss in not writing about Chama River's May beer dinner that happened on the 19th. I totally forgot about it, and am sorry if you missed out on the Double Wit, Altbier, Imperial Pils and Anastasia RIS that were poured. Not sure if I am sorry if you missed the fennel pollen, watermelon au poivre, and octopus and chorizo pairing with the scallion buttered rusk.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Walking Chicago- The Search for Abe Froman

Picked a great day to do a walking tour of Chicago! The temperature had dropped to the mid 40's, and rain was intermittently falling throughout the day. But bad weather cannot keep Abqbeergeek from... clothes shopping???

The not-so Magnificent Mile was our first stop; a stretch of Michigan Ave. that holds all the mall stores I never want to shop in along with all the super premium stores I can't afford to shop in. Jenn, on the other hand, has already worn all of her work outfits once and decided it was time for new ones. So I spent the first hour of the day in a Borders down the street from the H&M she was emptying, reading magazines and thinking that I may as well be at ABQ Uptown. I know there must be a cool old urban bookstore in Chicago with warped hardwood floors, dusty shelves with books scattered all around and cats sleeping on top of them, but in this weather I settled for Borders. I did find some windows that overlooked the famous Water Tower, and we don't get that view at Uptown. Not until some Chicago fun-style eatery chain moves in, that is.

On to the usual tourist stops. we hit that giant Jelly Belly over at Millennium Park, walked down to Lake Michigan, and headed over to Greektown. I don't know if there was something I missed, but I only noticed like six Greek restaurants in the few blocks we covered in the area. Heck, we have Olympia Cafe, Gyros, and Sahara in the same span here. Maybe we can rename the university area.

I did get to have my first authentic Italian Beef sandwich. The first supposedly Italian Beef sandwich I tried was at a "Chicago Style" place in South Carolina years ago. It tasted like Arby's. This one still had the roast beef, but that is part of what an Italian Beef sandwich is, and it was real roast beef. One feature of the sandwich is that you can order it "dipped", where they dunk the entire sandwich in au jus. Another feature is the giardeneria, a mix of pickled, hot-spiced vegetables that tops the sandwich. We ordered a few of these during the trip but the first was the best of the bunch. Ever try that place Top Dog? They were a Chicago style restaurant. I tried to go there the other day, but it seems they have closed down.

The rain had really started to pick up by then, so of course we chose that time to go to the top of the Sears Tower, not really thinking that the rain was coming from the clouds, which were hanging out around the top of the tower. We circumvented the part in line where they put you in front of a Chicago backdrop and take your picture in hopes of selling it to you later, and got yelled at by the people at the ticket office. "You HAVE to go through that part!" "Sell it to the Japanese families lady, I'm already paying 12 bucks for an elevator ride!". The clouds had parted somewhat, giving us a good view of the city. I could almost see things as far away as our hotel, which was going to be fun to walk back to in the downpour.

No rain walking back though- the sun came out and beat down on us like it was getting revenge for something. It got so humid, the streets were covered in steam and so were we. By the time we got back to the hotel we didn't even want to go to a bar. We decided to hit up Sam's, a famous Chicago liquor store. What you see in the picture, thankfully, is not Sam's. We picked up a couple of beers from Sam's to drink in the room, most notably Shimkoe's Simcoe Double IPA from Flossmoor Station. The picture shows the beer selection at the Whole Foods down the block from Sam's. Have you ever seen anything so pathetic as this cooler? I wanted to become its sponsor like you can be for one of those kids from Africa. It turns out that they are moving into a new location in June and are keeping stock at a minimum. Still it was hard to look at and we rushed back to the room to drink the vision away.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

25th is Silver, 30th Anniversary is ...Brown?

As in Indian Brown, the style chosen by Boulder for their newest release, Flashback. Flashback celebrates the 30th anniversary of the brewery, which is no small feat in such a fickle business. This beer is part of Boulder's Looking Glass series, which I think of as their best stuff (think Mojo, Mojo Risin', Killer Penguin, Obovoid). The Indian Brown style is. of course, a hybrid of a brown ale and an IPA, a style not done by many breweries. I know that locally, Chama recently did one, and Dogfish Head brews one on the national scene. Flashback is 6.8% abv and I have seen it at Kelly's and Jubilation so far.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is There Audacity in Audacious or Awesomeness?

It's here, and just in time for Summer drinking! Pyramid's Audacious Apricot Ale is on the shelves at your local retailer. But before you set down your regular Pyramid Apricot ale and pick up your car keys, be aware that this is just new packaging for the same old product. Whether this is because of slow sales or new ownership I can't say, but that is what's happening with this beer. They also have renamed their hefeweizen "Haywire".

You have to give them credit though, as the company has included labels (at least at Albertson's) which state that fact. And the new ownership could only be a good thing, since Magic Hat out of Vermont bought the Pyramid Brewery last year. Magic Hat's most popular beer has been #9 ale, which is an apricot flavored ale. Have they changed the recipe to get the Pyramid labeled apricot beer the same success? Again I can't say, since I didn't want to pay the $8.99 that Albertson's was charging. Plus I still have some Magic #9 sitting around from a year or two ago, though fruit beers that old should probably be consumed only if I come down with scurvy. You can enjoy fresh Pyramid Audaciousness right now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bar Sprawl- Chicago Part 2

So after we checked into our Priceline special hotel, we had to park the car in the garage next door- at the rate of $37 a NIGHT! If there was anything that gave me the ability to crave a drink after the previous night's Dark Lord event, it was that. so we chose Clark Street Ale House as our first stop in Chicago, just a mile walk from the hotel.

Clark Street Ale House has an old tavern feel, dark with large ceilings and tons of bottles on the liqour shelves. They also have a nice backyard area and since they don't serve food, people are welcome to bring dogs into the bar. Though we appreciated all that, it was the beer selection we came for, and though there was promise, the selection fell short. They had breweries on their draft engine that were interesting, but the choice of beers from these breweries was on the blah side. They did have Bell's Two Hearted IPA on tap, so we both quickly downed a pint of that and moved on to the next stop.

Our next choice was Jerry's Sandwiches. Jerry's is located in the trendy Wicker Park section of town on West Division St. The area was a little too far for us to walk to, so we caught a cab. I didn't realize how spread out Chicago is; I figured everything popular is situated right downtown. But the neighborhoods go on forever. And cabs here are expensive! As soon as you close the door, you are charged $2.25. Then it ticks every time you breathe. Finally, when you arrive at your location, the cabbie pushes a button and a dollar is suddenly tacked onto the price! But enough about the cab; let's get back to Jerry's. Just look at those bottles! Nothing like sitting down at the bar and having some of the best beers in the U.S. staring back at you.

And then we had this just-paroled looking guy staring at us from behind the bar. Kidding- actually this is Giovanni, our friendly bartender, who gave us samples of different drafts and gave us a history of the neighborhood we were drinking in. The main reason I wanted to go to Jerry's that night is because they had Surly's Double IPA on tap, 16 Grit. This beer is not bottled, so actually getting to try it was a treat. We also had Dark Horse Fore Smoked Stout and Half Acre Baume, a rye stout. The big surprise at Jerry's was the beer and food menus, which were both so large that you could spend a nice weekend reading them. And you know my oil and water feelings about food with beer, but their sandwiches sounded so good that we actually ordered one. And just one was hard to choose, as there are over 100 sandwiches to choose from! Check out the menus at if you run out of porn or get sick of waiting for me to update the site. Mark and Mindy, the gracious owners, have put a lot of effort into the restaurant/bar and Mark's beer menu has extremely detailed descriptions of each of the hundreds of bottles their place carries.

After we left Jerry's, thoroughly satisfied, we took a stroll around the area. I just had to throw in this photo of the VHS tapes this former West Coast Video (remember them?) was getting rid of. I love movies on VHS, and would have bought some up if I thought there would be any room in our suitcases for anything besides beer. You can find plenty of VHS movies at thrift stores, but a lot of these were old cheesy movies that never made it to a second pressing and hard to find in this format.

We stopped in Small Bar, across the street from Jerry's Sandwiches, to check out their taps. They also had a nice list, and we sampled some Two Brothers Red Eye Coffee Porter, Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA, and Bell's Double Bream Stout. After that, we decided to head back to the hotel. Did I mention that some of these Chicago bars stay open until 4 or 5 in the morning? If I only had the stamina!

We got left off a block away from the hotel, and took a look at the bars on Division street, since we obviously hadn't gotten our fill yet. Jenn decided we had to go into Mother's, the bar where much of the movie About Last Night was filmed. Great movie (look for it on VHS), not so great bar. And the movie scenes weren't even filmed in the bar we went to. At least we got a free shot coupon just for walking into the door.

To top off the night, we ordered some Chicago-style deep dish pizza delivery from Giordano's, one of the many famous pizza places in the area. I have had this style at the Pizzeria Uno chain in Las Cruces, but this was the first time trying the style made in its home city. Unfortunately, I don't think I am the biggest fan of deep dish pizza. The crust is great, the tomatoes are great, but ALL that cheese! It kind of gets stuck in your throat while you are trying to chew it, and was just too much for me.

So that's one day down in Chicago. Isn't this nice? You get to read about my vacation in Chicago! It's like going to someone's house to see vacation pictures, but without the guilt of having to come up with a lie so you can leave early. All you have to do is click to go to another site. If you can stand it (and even if you can't), I will have a little more on the trip soon.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chicago Part 1

So its been awhile since I've written an update, huh? You'll have to forgive me, but things were kind of foggy after that Dark Lord Day.

We checked out on weak legs from the Munster Hampton and headed north to Chicago. We decided to take back roads to get there rather than the interstate, and the drive took us over an hour as opposed to the 25 minutes it could have taken. That was fine, as I prefer to see the character of small towns as opposed to the concrete of a freeway. As we got more into South Chicago, however, the "character" turned into characters who were hanging outside check cashing places while drinking 40s.

We eventually made it into Chicago and hit up Binny's Beverage in the South Loop. Binny's is one of the big liquor store chains in the city, and this one didn't disappoint. There were three long aisles dedicated to American micros, plus another two for imports and one for Belgians. We picked up a bottle of Dreadnuaght that we could have just gotten at the Three Floyds brewery, but there wouldn't have been a price difference. Weird how you don't really save money by buying bottles straight from the breweries.

There was a unique aspect to Binny's: they had a full-service bar on premise. With 16beers on tap! And there were no crappy beers either; any one of these just by itself would have a "whoa" factor, but putting them all together was really special. And once again, in a liquor store!

So when we did the Priceline thing and were put into the Hotel Indigo, just north of the Magnificent Mile, we thought it looked kind of...quaint. And when we got there, we saw that it was indeed quaint, with a capital Q. It seems to be a very popular place for men who enjoy the company of other men. Which is fine, but I felt like I was intruding or something. I wanted to apologize to the gays checking in, say "Sorry! Priceline put us here!" The hotel had a nice atmosphere, and a clean, though kind of small room.

You know what, I've been so busy that I am just going to cut this short and give you what I have for the first part of the first day in Chicago. Enjoy the lameness.