Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fifth Beer of Christmas (2016)

On the fifth day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Great Lakes Christmas Ale;
Ballantine Burton Ale;
Stone Enjoy by 12.25.16 (VA Prototype);
Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

I have zero interest in writing tonight. Long day at work dealing with entitled "team" members and Human Resources put a damper on the hump day. Followed this up with hockey practice for the boy; which, under normal circumstances, is a fine way to spend the evening. When you are in a foul mood to begin with standing outside in western NY winter watching hockey practice, well, it heightens the senses. Lucky for you dear reader I'm a trooper and pushing through the fifth beer. Who are we kidding? You are not reading this.

The Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale has long been a tradition in our home. I look forward to this beer more than I look forward to visions of sugar plums. Great Lakes makes a handful of fine beers but the Christmas Ale stands above them all. This drink pours a clean, amber brown with a light brown head. There is certainly some spice in the aroma with a sweet, honey aroma which pulls through on the back end. The malt is on the forward end of flavor providing a caramel-ish sweetness. A mild spice in the taste strikes a nice balance with the sweet.

I do feel a little better after that adult whine at the top.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fourth Beer of Christmas (2016)

Second quarter of Bills v Browns, Dec 18, 2016
On the fourth day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Ballantine Burton Ale;
Stone Enjoy by 12.25.16 (VA Prototype);
Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

Yesterday the Buffalo Bills tackled the Cleveland Browns in yet another futile matchup between two historic football clubs. The weather was cold, icy and windy with temperatures starting in the 30s and dropping to the low 20s by kickoff.  To your left (see picture, left) you're looking at a view of from my seat in the climate controlled Time Warner Cable suite located in the corner endzone of New Era Field. This is not quite how the 1 percent live; more like the 8-15 percent but it's still better than most of us could really imagine. It is not so much the luxury suite, endless food, open bar, private coat room, clean restrooms and uncomfortable courtesy you don't often see from vendors at football games (and I don't fault vendors one bit; thankless grunt work). No, it's not all of that. OK, it's some of that but it is more the stories these season ticket holders tell each other. Don't get me wrong, they are not back slapping over some kind of debauchery you might see from a President-elect. Rather, while you and I might discuss painting bedrooms these folks talk about upgrades at the country club locker room. My house party is their private party on the roof of some club in New Orleans. Oh, and every single person there was the nicest person you could meet. What does any of this have to do with beer? Nothing, I'm just bragging.

Ballantine Burton Ale (BBA) actually dates back to the 1930s. Pabst Brewing Company brought it back in 2015 (presumably minus the 20 years of aging). It really pains me to enjoy a beer made by one of the big brewers, particularly one so tightly associated with the hipsters. That said, BBA is one good beer. An American Strong Ale that is copper or deep amber in color this is a full bodied beer from start to finish. The aroma is full, malty and fruity with not much coming from hops. I definitely get a sweet, malt flavor with a cherry-fruit finish. BBA makes you feel like you are enjoying an after dinner drink with vanilla cake and white frosting on fancy Kate Spade china with an unusually small fork. If there is one knock, it is that this one is so big (11.3 percent) and so sweet that just one or two in any given evening will warm the cockles of your heart. Consider yourself warned if you start pounding BBA at the work holiday party.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Third Beer of Christmas (2016)

On the third day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Stone Enjoy by 12.25.16 (VA Prototype);
Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

I believe it was Daffy Duck that first taught me the patience of not opening something until Christmas. Thankfully, some 35-ish years later, the good people at Stone Brewing created a gift designed specifically to be opened before Christmas. Daffy always struck me as somebody with a little too much confidence in their own abilities.

At first glance, "VA Prototype" label on the bottle comes across as a warning (hey, if this beer sucks it's simply a prototype) or a marketing bit to promote the Richmond brewery opened by Stone earlier in 2016. It must be the latter because this Imperial IPA is just fine. I've heard some complaints that the beer is too clear to be filtered. My glass was a nice golden haze, baby. This one is not particularly better than the others from the "Enjoy by" series, just different. This is Stone so different is good and they make good beers. So, it's all good.

I was always more of a Foghorn Leghorn kinda guy.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Second Beer of Christmas (2016)

On the second day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me a Hamburg Frosty the IPA; and a
Southern Tier Krampus

Be warned: you simply cannot drink this beer without getting Frosty the Snowman stuck in your head. Fortunately, it's a kids favorite in our household so I've had the song stuck in my head for weeks. At least now I have a good reason.

Hamburg Brewing Company opened in 2013. Given the recent blowup of the craft beer scene in the Buffalo area, HBC is practically an elder statesman and Frosty the IPA shows off their brewing chops. The beer is a beautiful light gold color with a haze that will remind locals of lake effect snow. It has the required hoppy IPA aroma. The taste is more bitter (bitterer?) on the front end than I expected but quickly transitions into a citrus, grapefruit finish. It's quite different from Hamburg's year round IPA so adjust expectations accordingly. If you're a year-round fan of IPAs and need something new and tasty to drink until summer when the rest of us come back to IPAs this is your beer. If you're like me, who changes to dark beer when the clocks change, this beer will be a welcome change of pace.

Also, check out this deleted scene from Frosty the Snowman (may not be suitable for some audiences).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The 12 Beers of Christmas - 2016 Edition

It's an annual rite of celebration that we propose to reinvigorate this tired blog by bastardizing the classic 12 Days of Christmas. Why should this year be any different? Honestly, you prefer us talking about beer because there is no way we can name 12 drummers in total let alone 12 drummers we would want to receive as a gift. Also, I have kids now so if anybody brings drummers and/or drums into my house we're in a huge fight. Let's get on with it, shall we?

On the first day of Christmas my trusty assistant brought to me Southern Tier's Krampus.

Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon who punishes bad children at Christmas time. I don't know any more than that except that there was a movie that approximately eight people watched. Krampus is kind of creepy but so is Santa Clause. For some reason, parents have to play bad cop all year and once a year we plow our kids with toys but give credit to some mythical figure. Actually, parents should celebrate Krampus because somebody else is playing bad cop for once. Merry Krampus!

Southern Tier's Krampus is a Imperial Helles Lager and it is quite good. Southern Tier has some top notch brews, including the 2X IPA and Choklat. Krampus deserves to be in the same company. Krampus pours a dark golden color with a thin head. There is a nice mix of malt and hop in the aroma but the malt outperforms the hops in taste. It's full bodied and feels big but it's an imperial so somewhat expected.

It's worth noting that the bomber is date stamped October 10, 2016 at 2:30p. There is not enough clear date stamping in craft beer so gold star extra credit to Southern Tier for letting the drinker see the freshness right on the label.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Father's Day Means Dragging the Family to Local Breweries

Rusty Nickel Brewing Company is situated behind the Ebenezer Ale House in West Seneca, NY. If you're driving down Seneca street and not paying attention you could drive by and miss the brewery entirely. That would be a mistake.

The best part of visiting any brewery is the beer. Rusty Nickel offers a host of beers "brewed just a little different". TJ Special Amber Ale is made exclusively with malt from New York State. Not Yo' Grandpa's Cream Ale will hearken any beer drinker back to his or her father's refrigerator circa 1983. With early summer heat beating down we started with the Fuzzy Navel Wheat; brewed with white peaches and navel orange zest. This is the type of beer you can drink all summer. In fact, we brought a growler of it home. We were tempted by the Slice O' Havens Orange Creamsicle but instead took on a pint of Pedal Pusher; a Bier de Garde. Pedal Pusher is a solid all around brew. We intentionally stayed away from the IPAs but that just gives us an excuse to return.

The second best reason to visit a brewery is the atmosphere and RNBC is second to none. The taproom is wood themed. The walls and ceiling are covered with parts of old palettes. Wood light fixtures, tables, and even the bar offer a warm, welcoming feel. The overall atmosphere was laid back maybe because it was a lazy Sunday afternoon. It's probably not always so chill. Every Monday is DJ and trivia night. Members of the RNBC Mug Club get a signature beer mug, discounts on pints, and VIP treatment for events and releases. RNBC even provides classic board games for both adults and kids.

Rusty Nickel Brewing Company
4350 Seneca Street
West Seneca, NY 14224
Open six days (Tue for private events)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Letting Beer Grow Old

Tonight we embark on an epic journey. A journey that may end in two, five, or even ten years. There's also a reasonable chance the journey ends early next week. This journey will require my gang of friends to seek out mythical pirate treasure buried somewhere deep under the homes of our seaside town while we simultaneously fend off a second-rate mafia crime family. No, wait, that's the plot line for The Goonies.

The topic tonight is aging beer. There is no journey; unless you count years of aimlessly roaming the earth until you reach the target age of your beer.

A quick Google search will help you find good information on putting your beer away long term. Your first stop should be a 2012 post by the professionals at Dogfish Head. There is also some good information to be found at Beer Advocate on cellaring beer. Guys Drinking Beer sum it up best when they say the key to cellaring is forgetfulness. Finally, the Washington Post has a good read on why not to cellar;  most beers are best served fresh.

The four bottles we are laying down are date stamped April 12, 2016. Today, May 15, 2016, they are in the back of the beer fridge where they will remain for years to come. The goal is to age the beers two to five years though I've read about some enthusiasts looking at 10 years; and read one post that claimed the staff at Dogfish Head said 120 Minute IPA can age 50 years. True or not, I'm not interested in a beer that will outlive me. So, a couple five years will be right by me.

 Stop by in 2018 for a review of this aged beer...or in 2019...or 2020...or next week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Show Women the Money!

Today is Equal Pay Day; a reminder to men everywhere that women are superior. Women are smarter, better at multi-tasking, and tolerate pain better (ahem, childbirth). Oh, and women can grow babies in their bodies while being smarter, better at multi-tasking, and generally ruling the world. Let's not forget taking care of men who barely survive the common cold or, heaven forbid, the flu. All this for 79 cents on the dollar. Not a bad deal...for a man.

If you're looking for evidence let me point you to the efforts at Huffington Post. A great piece by Catherine Pearson provides both data and anecdotal stories providing evidence that women are underpaid. The most glaring example comes from the world of soccer/futbol where members of the US National Women's Team filed suit with the EEOC alleging wage discrimination against the US Soccer Federation. The women generated $20 million more in revenue than the men and won the World Cup. Co-Captain Carli Lloyd wrote that, while she received a $75,000 bonus for winning the World Cup, the men would have received a bonus approaching $400,000. Let's take moment to ponder the lunacy of the US men winning the World Cup. A sizable bonus does seem acceptable given the miracle it would take to accomplish such a feat. According to ESPNW, the "women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year. But the men would likely earn $263,320 each for the same feat, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games." This is a sport where, in the US, the women are more talented, win regularly, and generate more revenue than the men. If that is not the business case for equal pay....actually, the women should make significantly more than the men in soccer/futbol.

It is no better for women who shatter the glass ceiling. According to Fortune, more than 80 percent of female CEOs in the Fortune 1000 have families and are CEOs of fortune 1000 companies. However, when the Associated Press published the 2015 list of the 10 highest paid CEOs only one was a woman. The top two male CEOs made more than the top 10 female CEOs combined. Part of this may be because in top companies male CEOs far outnumber women; which simply proves the glass ceiling is still in place.

You're probably amazed and enlightened by all this but thinking "Fortune 1000 CEOs and global sports is a little different than the real world". Actually, it's not. Right here in our backyard it happens all the time. The Buffalo Bills are facing a lawsuit by former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders who claim they were paid below minimum wage and required to attend events without pay. The team, recently purchased by a multi-billionaire, said it will continue to fight the allegations. According to American FactFinder*, the median income for men in the 14052 zip code is $53,654. By comparison, the median income for women in the same zip code is $32,070. That's a difference of more than $20,000 and the local numbers are not much different than the national numbers.

It is time to pay women the $0.22 they are rightfully owed.  Our wives, daughters, colleagues and friends deserve better. Women have earned it for years. Women will get up tomorrow, and everyday, to earn it again. This is not just a women's issue. This is a family issue. This is an equality issue. Equal pay for women is just one step in the fight for equality but it is an important one. It's 2016, let's start acting like it.

*S2401 Occupation by Sex and Median Earnings in the Past 12 Months (in 2014 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars) for the Civilian Employed Population 16 Years and Over. ZCTA5 14052.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy 2016!

New Year's Eve has never been a particularly important day in our household. Even in the pre-restless natives days we never really celebrated. This year, our trusty assistant declared a new New Year's Eve tradition at the farmhouse: we shall brew to close out the calendar year; which allows us to celebrate the new year with a new beer. Also, it's our hope that you hate the word "new" by the time you get to the bottom of this post. 

Name: Out with the Old
Original Gravity: 1.062
Final Gravity: 1.022
Primary Fermentation: 4 days
Secondary Fermentation: 74 days

Age 14 days

3.3 lbs CBW Pale Ale Malt Extract

3.0 lbs Munich Malt
1.0 lbs Crystal Malt
1.0 lbs Wheat Malt
1.0 lbs LD Carlson Maltodextrin
0.5 lbs Chocolate Malt
1 1/8 cup Muntons Plain Light Malt Extract
Abbey Ale Yeast (Wyeast Labs)
1.0 oz UK Fuggle Hops (4.2% alpha)
1.0 oz Cascade Hops (5.5% alpha)

Pour the grains into 4 gallons of cold water. Mash at 148 degrees F for 15 minutes. Raise the temperature to 160 degrees F and hold for 45 minutes.* Sparge grains to produce 6.5 gallons of wort. Bring wort to boil and add 0.5 ounces of UK Fuggle and 0.5 ounces of Cascade hops. Boil for 15 minutes and add malt extracts. Boil an additional 10 minutes and add remaining Fuggle hops. Allow boil for an additional 5 minutes and add remaining Cascade hops. Remove from heat. Cool, transfer to primary fermenter, and pitch yeast at room temperature (for us 70 degrees).

Results: This beer turned out quite well, in part due to greater attention to detail than some of our more recent brews. Despite the spike in temperature*, the brew is a solid abbey ale. Flavor is sweet and malty with just the slightest bitterness on the back end. Color is very dark caramel; medium carbonation. If there is a negative it's that we expected a richer, more complex product. This may come with more aging. Regardless, we are very pleased with the results.

*At approximately 28 minutes remaining the temperature spiked to 170 degrees F. Heat reduced to lowest setting. At 22 minutes remaining heat turned off. Ended this phase with approximately seven minutes remaining (45 minutes reduced to 38 minutes). Obviously, this was not part of the original recipe.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I Want to be in A Secret Society Too

As our nation mourns the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia we continue to learn about the circumstances surrounding his death. Late yesterday, the Washington Post broke news that Justice Scalia spent his last moments of life with the International Order of St. Hubertus where he was a high-ranking official. A secretive fraternity for hunters dating back to the 17th century, the “knightly order” places an emphasis on hunting and, almost certainly, world domination.

Of course, IOHS is not the only secret society. There is the well-known Bohemian Grove. Yale University has Skull and Bones. The New World Order, which may or may not exist. The Secret Society of Happy People, which I can only imagine is a front for marijuana smokers. The Illuminati, which may or may not share membership with NWO. The Freemasons. The Klu Klux Klan. The Boy Scouts. The list goes on and on. Actually, a quick Google search identifies an untold number of these societies leading one to believe the definition of the word “secret” is loosely applied.

Today, we add to the list.

Introducing the top secret, members only, St. Gambrinus Society. The SGS is a secret fra-sorority of homebrewers and craft beer drinking individuals with questionable moral character.  Individuals will only be considered if they are male or female or both, gay or straight or LBGTQ, must be considered part of at least one race or ethnicity, maintain income that is considered within the 99 percent or the 1 percent, be cool, be nice, and be fun. Members must be be of legal drinking age.

The St. Gambrinus Society is hereby established to: 1) create, consume and support high quality homebrew and craft beer, 2) find a cure for hangovers, and 3) achieve world domination.

The supreme leader of the St. Gambrinus Society (me) shall be known only as the Grand Brewbah. Next steps include creating other leader and membership titles, designing a crest, develop a secret handshake, and other corporation-type stuff I'm sure. And an official ring, we definitely need that, too.

If you're interested in becoming a charter member of the Society you may request an application by sending an e-mail to It wouldn't hurt to throw in a couple of Bitcoin.

Who is St. Gambrinus? We’re not entirely sure but if he existed he probably liked beer. From the Catholic Exchange:

St. Gambrinus is not really a saint. In fact, it’s unclear whether he was a real person or simply a myth based on real personages. Nevertheless, St. Gambrinus embodies the joyful enjoyment of alcohol, and has even been credited by some with being the inventor of beer. Other say he learned the art of brewing from the gods, and still others say he simply was a man who could down epic amounts of beer. Regardless, he is famous in European folklore for typifying the merriment brought by the blessed brew.