Gose (rhymes with “Rosa”) is a very old beer style that is starting to generate interest among craft brewers, if only because it is so challenging to brew. Summer is the best time to drink these unusual beers, but gose’s can be hard to find, and some can be downright unpleasant to drink. In order to spare you the effort, I thought it would be a good idea to seek out and try an original Gose, from Leipzig, Germany, and report back. Then we can see how the American crafts compare.

First, a bit of history. Gose is a top-fermented beer made from half-and-half mix of malted wheat and malted barley, spiced predominantly with coriander and a small amount of hops. Although the German Beer Purity Laws require a beer to be made only from barley and water, and to be spiced only with hops, Gose is given a pass because it is a very old, traditional style.

Leipzig

Leipzig

The Gose style is named for the town of Goslar in Saxony, where it was first brewed about 1000 years ago. Goslar was noted for mining copper, lead, zinc, silver and salt. The aquifers which feed the river Goslar, and which were used by the Town’s brew houses, are mineral rich. The region was known in the Middle Ages for its production of a white salt crystal (Blanc de Goslar), which contained a mix of minerals which gave it a stringent and sour taste, and which was considered beneficial to health. Perhaps the townspeople thought that their local brew, which was made with the salty Goslar water, was healthy as well. In the late Middle Ages the mines were depleted, the town declined, and the making of Gose beer moved to the larger town of Leipzig, about 100 miles to the east. Today, Gose beer is most closely associated with Leipzig.

The River Goslar

The River Goslar

Like many ancient beers, gose began as a spontaneously-fermented brew, but by the 1880’s the Leipzig brewers worked out how to get a more consistent sourness using lactic bacteria in addition to yeast. Gose beer continued to be in high demand in the region, and by 1900 it was the most popular beer in Leipzig. Although the communist takeover of eastern Germany shut down gose production, the gose style was revived with the fall of The Wall in 1989. Several breweries now produce this beer style, and Bayerischer Bahnhof, in Leipzig, Germany exports bottles to the US.

indexBottles of gose are hard to find, but I was lucky to score a couple of Bayerischer Bahnhof ‘s Gose in a local beer store. The beer is usually served in a tall, straight-sided cylindrical glass–see the picture on the bottle. In summer, you might drink it in a weisse glass with a shot of raspberry syrup. I didn’t have a traditional gose glass so I used a weisse glass. I taste-tested the gose on a hot summer day, comparing it to a German weisse, Hofbrau’s Heffe Weizen.

bottlesThe gose, ABV 4.6%, poured out with a great head, off-white in color, and the beer was a pleasant gold color. It was not cloudy, as I expected for a bottle-conditioned beer or a weisse, but was clear, since the yeast packed down to the bottom of the bottle–if you drink one, though, pour it out, don’t drink from the bottle or the yeast will dislodge. The mouthfeel was medium-dry. Hop flavor was barely perceptible, and the coriander flavor was mild and not overwhelming. When comparing the two  I found the spice was much stronger in the hefe weizen than in the gose, which is interesting because there is no added coriander in the Hofbrau beer, the spice taste is due solely to the yeast. The malt taste and alochol level were very similar to the Heffe Weizen (ABV 5.2%), but the gose had a prominent lactic sourness. The beer was not overly sour, but just enough to be thirst-quenching, like a good lemonade, with a dry finish, and crisp on the palate. The surprise was that the beer did not taste salty. Overall it was nicely dry and refreshing. This would be a great summer drink on a hot day, and no doubt the raspberry syrup would be a nice addition, too. I can see why the Leipzingers liked this ale. Given the choice for a summer drink, I would go with this gose over a wheat ale.

I have had only a few opportunities to try an American craft Gose. The first one I came across was Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Highway 128 Blood Orange Gose, which was available on draft at my local brewpub. I have to admit I was immediately prejudiced against this beer because the brewers clearly did not do their homework– the name of their gose beer series is based on an incorrect pronunciation of the term, using it as a pun to rhyme with “Holy Ghost.” Their basic gose, based on a pun for “Father, Sun and Holy Ghost,” is called The Yimmie, the Kink and the Holy Gose. (I haven’t tried this one).

 Anderson Valley’s Gose styles are fermented with lactic acid bacteria and then followed with yeast fermentation, getting the sour note correct. With the Blood Orange Gose which I tasted, I had hoped that the additions of citrus fruit during fermentation would add some nice flavor. It provided a pleasant, mild citrus note, with a slight touch of orange peel bitterness, but it was nothing like the sweetness you might get with the traditional German raspberry syrup.

However, unlike the Bayerischer Bahnhof brewery, Anderson Valley does not brew with salted water; instead they add salt to the finished product. As stated on their web site, “To get the salt right, they experimented by dosing the base beer with varying amounts, ranging from none to a lot, before deciding on “‘medium’.” This, I believe, was a mistake. Yeast can only take so much salt to ferment properly. When it is added after fermentation, then sky is the limit. Recall that the traditional Leipzig gose that we tasted, above, was not salty at all. Perhaps the Anderson Valley beer was seasoned to the brewers’ tastes, but it was not to my taste. The end result was a brackish beer, with orange peel bitterness. I deem this one to be unpalatable. I try to be open minded about crafts and tolerate quite a bit of “interesting” experimentation, recognizing that gose is not an easy style to brew; however, at the end of the day a beer has to be drinkable.

indexI located another Gose while visiting my daughter in Wisconsin, Hop Gose the Grapefruit, another unfortunate attempt which tried to make a pun using the wrong pronunciation. (Will they never learn?) This gose was brewed by Mobcraft Brewing Company, Madison, WI, an interesting company which relies on crowdsourcing for revenue as well as beer ideas for small batches. This brew is labeled a Gose-IPA hybrid, but I would disagree with that designation, since it has neither the malt balance (50% wheat) nor the hoppiness of an IPA (only 35 IBU–and most of it in the dry hop). I would call it a moderately-hopped gose. From this perspective, though, I think they got it right. At 4.5% ABV, the alcohol level is correct; at only 1 oz. of sea salt per gallon–added prior to brewing–they got the salt right, too. The grapefruit puree and peel was added to the mash, but is barely discernible in the finished product. The end result is very like a classic gose with the characteristic snappy, dry finish. A very nice and refreshing drink.

indexTroublesome, (4.5% ABV) brewed by Off Color Brewery (Chicago, IL) is one of the best gose-style ales I have come across so far. I say “gose-style” because, strictly speaking, it’s a beer blend, an amalgam of styles that comes off tasting very much like a gose. To get the proper flavor, the brewers blend together a rather bland wheat beer with an overly acidic and funky beer fermented solely with lactobacillus, with coriander and salt added at the tail end of fermentation. The result is a tasty, light, lemony beer with a good mouthfeel. Like a good gose you don’t really taste the salt, unless you directly compare it to a standard wheat beer. Troublesome is a very good beer; of all the American craft gose’s that I tasted, it was the best. I would recommend that you seek this one out.

I was hoping to have the opportunity to taste another gose when I attended the Boston Marathon in April this year. indexBoston Beer Company (a.k.a.Samuel Adams) produces a seasonal gose for this big event, since this beer style is traditionally felt to be particularly thirst quenching, and the salt is appreciated by runners. Boston Lager 26.2, named for the length of the Marathon in miles, is available exclusively at official race-related events, as well as bars and restaurants along the Marathon route and in the Greater Boston area. I tried three different venues, and all had sold out every ounce of the gose days before the race started! Eventually I gave up the chase, since I didn’t want to have to run the length of the marathon to find it. I was unable to taste the elusive gose at the Marathon this year.

As the gose style starts to gain in interest among brewers (if not popularity among drinkers) I will keep my eyes out for new craft releases to try. I strongly suggest that you try a gose this summer; it’s the perfect drink for what appears to be the hottest summer on record. I look forward to tasting other brewers interpretations of this style. I will, however, keep in mind what a gose is all about, and how the original tastes, before trying to learn to develop a taste for salt in my beer.

You can read more about the history of the gose on the German Beer Institute’s web site,

Thanks to Jon and Ashley Malesic for helping me with research for this article.

3 TroegsIn addition to her fascinating essays on a variety of topics to be found @ 3 Quarks Daily, also available from Dr. Westbrook: 

 

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As many of you know, we produced a video at Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, PA. It was great, but it was also in and out of the city, so I had experienced little to nothing of Pittsburgh outside of crossing bridges, identifying rust, and traveling to their Ikea (closest one to our homebase of Akron, Ohio).
Friends had just recently done a holiday there, turning us onto a wondertful B&B, the Parador Inn, so we decided to finally spend a little time in this interesting town in celebration of our anniversary. You can learn whatever you like about the Parador by linking to their website, but upon checking in, owner Ed Menzer will take you on the newby tour, highlighting furnishings, interesting notes about the house and it’s rooms and plenty of information about the immediate neighborhood and places of interest in Pittsburgh itself. A true Concierge Deluxe. But here’s what I have to offer:

Unique and Wonderful

Unique and Wonderful

The rooms are lovely, airy, not ultra modernized, but modern enough (flat screen, Direct TV, wi-fi, mini fridge, coffee maker with GOOD coffee) with some uniquely wonderful furniture. The intended Caribbean theme is there, but the elegance of this old Northeastern mansion is what really plays here. What distinguishes this place from other B&Bs in which we’ve stayed is, first, the common rooms. The dining area really involves three rooms opening into each other, with great light and space. Did I mention ridiculously great chandeliers throughout? Then there’s the room with the grand piano, lovely furnishings, more light, and a constantly filled sherry decanter with proper glasses. Topping things off is Ed’s garden, a courtyard where we sat and read as Ed’s dog, R.J, a sweet black lab (now with a new sister Rayze) ran around as Ed tended the plantings. Heavenly. Did I mention you can bring your dog here?

The Parador Inn

The Parador Inn

The second asset that stood out (as if my first didn’t contain several outstanding reasons for coming here), was the breakfasts… which is a good thing to do well at a Bed and BREAKFAST. When we walked into the dining room, there was coffee ready, a pitcher of juice, and a waiting breakfast yogurt parfait. Granola in the bottom of the parfait glass, filled with vanilla yogurt with fresh fruit, one day berries, another bananas, yet another, finely cubed peaches… delightful presentation and refreshing. These parfaits, fresh and cool, were waiting for us (they do three seatings for breakfast so they know when you’re coming down), next to a basket of pumpkin, banana, or some other such warm sliced breakfast bread. After finishing up the parfaits, we were brought a hot dish. One morning, egg cups wrapped in bacon, another stuffed pancake balls (yup) with a side of bacon, and yet another, baked oatmeal (w. bacon, of course)… Ed DOES understand that everything is, in fact, better with bacon. This is a superior B&B, one that we’re already returning to when we travel, once again, to Pittsburgh, when the Warhol Museum presents Television on the Carnegie-Melon campus in September.

There’s more, such as Hotel Manager Ty’s great suggestions for antique and consignment emporiums, the truly delightful housekeeper, Dee, but let’s now talk food and beverage for a minute, apart from these wonderful breakfasts at The Parador.

IMG_1726The first day, we checked in at around 2:30, got the lovely tour of the place from Ed, settled in, and then decided to eat in the neighborhood, taking a stroll down the block to local tavern, Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar, known for their unique approach to their burgers, a mix of sirloin, brisket, and short rib, and a pretty decent beer menu.

We ordered an appetizer of deviled eggs, a dish I love to an almost life threatening degree. These were simple and neat, distinguished by the use of sriracha in the mayo. Excellent.

Dolli started out with a Sazerac which was, based on inventory, a little different recipe. It contained Bulliet Rye Bourbon, Viex Carreau Absinthe, and lemon peel, with the Peychaud Bitters replaced by Angostura. The verdict was… a smile.

IMG_1727There were plenty of IPAs on the menu should I have felt the need for something to cut through the sriracha, and I do, after all, like a nice IPA, but I, instead, ordered a La Fin Du Monde, because, well… because they HAD IT! This is a great Tripel, brewed in Quebec. It has a very sweet, almost grassy/alfalfa nose, with no evidence of the 9% ABV. It offers that Belgian clove flavor as a finish to a rich, mellow, beautifully balanced ale. No real evidence, in it’s drinkability, that there’s significant alcohol in it… but there is. A great Tripel!

My Morning Burger

My Morning Burger

As a nod to the house’s strength, I ordered up “My Morning Burger”, a nice sized patty on a toasted wheat Kaiser roll, with Applewood bacon, a sunny side up egg, hot sauce mayo, and Benjamin’s (also signature) bacon fat home fries… on the sandwich. I ordered a side of slaw, and was in absolute slopped up hand, knife, fork, many extra napkins, great friggin’ beer… Heaven. Dolli had the BBQ burger with their homemade sauce and loved it big time. Benjamin’s crushed it!

The Parador Inn

The Parador Inn

Upon our return to the house, Dolli had a glass of sherry while I tried to figure out the next step in a song I’m working on. I failed, but in this place, looked great trying.

The next day, after taking a road trip to Falling Water, Frank Lloyd Wright’s amazing, but as a comfort freak a little annoying, signature “must see” creation, we decided to hit another neighborhood eatery, this one a short drive from the B&B, the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. This was a mixed bag. The place seeming a little dreary, not much energy, but some items came recommended and this was another establishment that had a relationship with the Parador (a nice touch) where, by being a guest, you received a free appetizer, or a discount of some nature. They have, on their board, a surprise beer of the day. When I asked what it was on this particular day, the server informed me that if she told me it wouldn’t be a surprise. She was dug in and NOT going to reveal anything whatsoever about it and that was that!

Lavery Rye Stout

Lavery Rye Stout

So instead I ordered a Lavery Rye Stout. There was a nice little head, and as for the nose… well, I had just quit smoking cigars two days prior, and for the life of me, couldn’t tell whether I was smelling coffee or an ash tray. Acknowledging a bit of a sensory short circuit, I defered to Dolli who’s unsullied pink, virginal nose detected cocoa. With a reasonable 6.8% ABV, two or three good draws in, I found it to be lovely, nice and heavy in a traditional stout fashion. On the back of the tongue, at the end of the draw, it left a fine powdery baker’s chocolate bitter. A very nice and satisfying Irish Dry stout.

Another weakness I have dictates that if they have it on the menu, I am compelled to try, along with deviled eggs and New England Clam Chowder, non-Buffalo wings. James Street offered Tequila and Lime wings.

Tequila and Lime Wings

Tequila and Lime Wings

They can be had broiled or fried so, given my preference to get wings crispy as possible, I went with fried. Good choice. They were wonderful. They used some sort of a syrup or sugar, it seems, because I couldn’t see where the tequila or the lime would give them the delicious sweetness they had. I never did, actually, detect tequila in these wings, but between the lime and the sweetness of these wonderfully crispy critters, I was delighted. I commented that I could make a main course of them, and given the neutral impression of my standard fare Cobb Salad, if I had it to do over again, that’s exactly what I would happily do. On the other hand, Dolli ordered their meatloaf, giant slabs with homemade mashed, covered in, not gravy, but a creamed corn sauce that WAS creamed corn. Throwing a few hush puppies on the plate, this was a hot mess of carb happiness. She loved it. I like creamed corn (child of the 50s here), but it was a little sweet for me, a little too much. Huge portions, good beer, and the place has music on weekends and other designated nights – so we’re thinking our timing was off (too early), and this may yet be considered a place to check out.

The YBN Editor's Exploding Plastic Inevitable

Your YBN Editor’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable

IMG_1753We spent much of the next day with a dear friend who had relocated to Pittsburgh, at the Andy Warhol Museum. Starting on the 7th floor and working our way down, we really invested time in the experience and it was wonderful. Following that, after a couple hours adventuring to the aforementioned consignment & antique stores, we joined our pal for a nice italian dinner, but the one thing of note was his pre dinner offering of the one bottled craft beer he could find brewed in Pittsburgh itself, Chinookie IPA from Full Pint Brewing, in North Versailles, PA. I’m going to make this review short and sweet. Brewed with tons of Chinook, then dry hopped with same, this presented a huge nose. The brewer claims it’s grapefruit. I smelled pineapple. Dolli smelled apricot. Friend Jim smelled both (unsure of both what, exactly?). This is a nicely balanced IPA, with a 7.1%ABV and a published IBU of 103.1. I always find it interesting when, at times, the lowest IBU brew has the nastiest bitter, and some huge numbered offerings, such as this one, doesn’t. To be sure, the Chinookie offers a reasonable and very tasty bitter throughout, but again, the chemistry here doesn’t reflect what one might expect from such a high number. A good drinking IPA with a terrific nose.

Our last night in Pittsburgh, we followed another recommendation, heading to Kaya, in the cool Strip District. A pretty special place (part of the Big Burrito galaxy), this was not going to be a beer night. Dolli started with a Mojito. I have history that includes a special time at Rock in Rio some years ago. A major component of that specialness was the role played by Cachaca, the national sugar cane alcohol, more specifically in the form of many Caipirinhas, a very simple and to the point drink made of Cachaca, lime, ice, and sugar. In this case Demerara, the latest, most stylish, semi raw sugar was used. No matter, it was all tasty as expected.

Beats yet another picture of Wings!

Beats yet another picture of Wings!

We started out with chips with a mango-tomatillo salsa, and an order of their jerk wings served on a puddle of cilantro cream. The homemade “Kaya” chips were fine, the salsa great, the wings crisp as I asked and a bit too spicy for Dolli… which meant more for me!!! This worked out great as I ordered as a main course (staying thematic), their Jerk Pork Quesadilla, which was fine, but to be honest, not one of the more special items on the menu. On the other hand, we were in the house on a Thursday, which was… FRIED CHICKEN NIGHT!!! Simple, tasty, crispy, buttermilk drenched half a fried chicken. As you can see this gigantic nuclear mutated 7 breasted 18 legged, 12 winged spectacle made for one huge cartoon meal. Not even gonna mention that the very best part of it was their crazy 137 cheese adult mac & cheese, which we insisted become part of the menu as a main course. Stuffed beyond hope, we took leftovers home w/o having dessert, but did, in fact, have some coffee and walked the Strip District for a while before we could fit back into the car. Kaya gets a big recommendation here.

Balls

Balls

The next day, it was up and out to Ikea before heading home. We had a shopping list from the family… and HAD to share a plate of those swedish meatballs, dontcha know.

Thanks to PITTSBURGH ROCK CITY!!

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Chase Cutting
Chase Cutting

“Where ya been Harv? Had anything noteworthy to eat or drink?”

I’ve been taking notes, pictures, videotaping myself on an iPhone in bars and restaurants in order to insure my notes are properly taken and legible. The good news is that you won’t have to watch these videos… or rather I won’t have to watch these videos. So let’s cut to the chase!

In my post upon visiting The Akron (Ohio) Art Museum’s Art & Ale,” I mentioned our friends at Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar. We were thrilled by their shrimp tacos that evening. Since that event, we’ve been to their lovely restaurant a few times, first having tried a Chorizo Pera Burrito, an interesting combination of  House Made Chorizo, Grilled Pears, Caramelized Onions, White Bean and Fresno Spread, House Cheese Blend. I ate a lot that night and sort of moaned my way out of the jernt, but this wonderful sweet and savory burrito was very tasty with, based on the inclusion of the mashed potato like White Bean and Fresno spread, a really interesting texture.

On our next visit I had their Vieiras, Pan-Seared Scallops, Cilantro Potato Puree, Rainbow Chard, Grilled Corn Salsa, Chipotle Vanilla Pan Sauce. About as spectacular as it comes, the scallops themselves to be sure, but really the entire plate! Delicious, mouth exploding stuff!

This time we went to Nuevo followed a screening of El Machina, a pretty neat flick, but really having gone to see batshit crazy talented animator, Don Hertzveldt’s latest short, “World of Tomorrow.” Find it! Watch it! You’re welcome.

IMG_1719Every time we’ve been to Nuevo we’ve started with their homemade chips and Queso Fundido. The description is fairly simple House Cheese Blend, Grilled Scallion, and Chorizo (which we added on). I’ve had queso many times, but this one is really not so simple. It comes across as rich, cheesy, big, and pretty complex, the distinctive spice of the house made chorizo, along with the scallions, in a more interesting than usual cheese blend, insures we’ll continue to order this the moment we enter this restaurant.

IMG_1721(1)To drink, I decided to start off with one of my shot and beer combos, this time a shot of Patron Silver, my go to tequila for these purposes, and Hop Head Red from Green Flash. A Double Red IPA, 8.1% ABV and 70 IBU, brewed with Amarillo, Warrior, and Nugget hops with a caramel malt base, this recipe has been changed over the years, making what has been called a somewhat hoppy American Red Ale into this, the VERY hoppy, high bitter, higher ABV ale we have today. My logic in pairing these is based on, when choosing tequilla as my shot, using the beer to replace the tradition of sucking a lemon wedge and licking salt off one’s hand, which I don’t like… the mouth thing, not the licking. I can do that! Anyway, I figure the citrus of a big IPA, along with the attendant bite of the hops, will replace both in the equation, and it usually does. When using a big flavor profile as we find in the Patron, what happens is usually a really cool roller coaster ride of sensations and flavors: First the blast of the high alcohol, distinctively flavored, tequila. Then the IPA, flooding in, cooling, tickling the front of the tongue with a nice clean citrussy, fruity, and/or piney – one, some, or all those flavors, depending on the IPA in question … and then… the strong flavor of the Patron rising back up, leaving the delighted adventurer (me) with that wonderful agave flavor.

The balance of this combo didn’t quite meet my typical expectations. Admitedly, the hops were big, the beer was cold, and the bitter was very firm. But I think the malt profile was a bit high, the caramelly flavor too akin to the dark agave flavor of the tequila to really make that sweeping wash over the shot a proper contrast… but then it struck me, it was totally successful as a complement, as the flavor nicely segued into the return to the tongue of the Patron! Not the plan, but fortuitous, as the beer continued into the balance of the meal, terrifically.

IMG_1722As a main course I had to order the shrimp tacos I had been teased with at Art & Ale. They were wonderful: Pan Seared Shrimp, Peppers, Onions, Corona, Zing Zang, House Cheese Blend, along with rice and pinto beans. Salty, and with a bit of heat, they were delicious, and the bitter of the Hop Head Red did a nice job of cutting through, cooling and quenching between bites.
The table got Black Bottom Plantain Pie, Plantain Cream Pie, Chocolate Ganache, Graham Cracker Crust, and the one bite I had made my eyes roll. Nuevo is totally worthy of being our newest “go to,” and as a really good drinking beer it, without question, goes the same for Hop Head Red from Green Flash.

Next up: Following the Beer Doc into… yes.. DELIGHTFUL Pittsburgh, PA

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It was late March, early springtime, the time of year when many religions celebrate the start of a new year. It was the time for Easter and Passover. I had to face it –it was time to go to Church.

Figure 1I’m referring here to a church-based brewery that I haven’t visited in a long time: The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, PA. I know this brewery well, since we used to stop there when my daughter was attending college at Carnegie Mellon University, and we even held her graduation party there in 2009. We haven’t been to Church since then.

Early spring is also a good time for a road trip across the state of Pennsylvania, and we were looking forward to our visit to Pittsburgh. If you’ve never been there, you should go. Nestled between the Allegheny and the Monongahela River, where they join to make the Ohio, it’s a beautiful sight to behold as you (traveling east to west) come down through the mountains and exit the Fort Pitt tunnel. Pittsburgh is the City of Bridges — 446 to be exact. It used to be one of the steel production centers of US, but today all the mills are closed and the city has been cleaned up quite a bit, but it still keeps much of its blue-collar, European immigrant heritage.

unnamedHome to 68 institutions of higher education (39 traditional and 29 for-profit colleges), Pittsburgh is now a young city, with a vibrant arts, music, and restaurant scene. Of course we had to stop for lunch at the Original Hot Dog Shop, or “The O,” arguably one of the best hot dog restaurants in the country. Needless to say, Pittsburgh also has a good craft beer scene, a suitable combination of its European heritage and hipster preferences. The Church Brew Works anchors the craft beer scene.

Many people take exception to the use of a church building for a brewpub, but I feel differently. These old churches were built by the hard work and the money of poor immigrant laborers; they are imposing structures, with beautiful stained glass and statuary. Today so many are being closed and sold, and if there is no buyer they are torn down brick by brick. I watched one such church being demolished last winter, the Holy Trinity Lithuanian Parish in Wilkes Barre.  This church was a local landmark, and now it is an empty lot. I shed a silent tear every time I drive by.

Trinity Lithuanian, Before

Almost After

Almost After

 

The Church Brew Works is located in a restored Catholic Church, St. John the Baptist, in the now trendy, hipster Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh. St. John’s was closed by the diocese in 1993, and the old building was purchased and renovated to be used as a brewery, which opened in 1996.

unnamedAs you enter the brewpub through the artful facade you are immediately struck by the sense of space, and the congregation seated and enjoying their dinner. The high arches and windows are intact, as is the pipe organ, and the pews have been reused to provide comfortable benches and booths.

Although the Pub is noted for its excellent food, we decided to go with a simple pizza to leave more room for beer. However, we couldn’t resist tasting the appetizer pierogie — a Polish-style, potato-filled dough that is steamed and then lightly sauteed in butter with onions. This is a throwback to the region’s Eastern European heritage, and a perfect pair for beer. We went with a flight of 8 beers with the pierogie, and then picked our favorite for a full pint to pair with our pizza dinner. images

Like many brew pubs, Church offers a wide selection on draft, so there is “something for everyone.” Not every beer rises to the level of greatness, although the overall quality is high and the beers are consistent. Most of the names are based on the religion concepts, e.g. absolution, celestial, pipe organ. It was hard to get information on some of them, and the server, though knowledgeable, was a bit too busy to give us much attention. My tasting notes, and notes from the brewpub’s website, are given at the end of the article.
Figure 7

Celestial Gold, ABV 4%. This is a German Pilsner, perfect for its style. Very light, low in hops, and incredibly drinkable. Great for food; you can drink it like water.

Pipe Organ Pale Ale, 5.2% I’m not a fan of American Pale Ales, and this one was particularly nondescript. Made with Galaxy hops.

Thunderhop IPA, 6.5%, with Chinook and Nugget hops. My favorite beer style, and this one is perfectly done.

Extreme Double IPA — I’m not sure, given the name of this brew, of the ABV– I didn’t write it down, I’m sorry to say, and it’s not featured on the web site. This is a highly hopped beer with a perfect malt balance, at 90 IBU and alcohol at 9% or higher. Very good.

Absolution Ale, 5%, ABV. This is a session IPA, which had an astounding nose; dry hops, great aroma.

Pious Monk Dunkel, ABV 5.5% This beer was true to style, much like its German counterparts, without any distinguishing features. Because of its lightness and low hop level, it’s a good pair with food.

O’Casey’s Irish Stout 4.5% This was their rotating stout, and it was done correctly, with a good color and minimal hops. To me, though, it tasted like a watery Guinness.

Irish Red Ale. I suspect they made two Irish-themed beers for St. Patrick’s day, earlier in the month. I have no comments on this one; is not a beer style that I care for. (Editor’s note: O’Casey’s Irish Stout is, no doubt, named after the founder and President of Church Brew Works, Sean Casey.)

Our two picks to have with dinner? The Celestial Gold Pilsner and Thunderhop IPA. The pizza — marvelous. Dessert? Sad to say we were too full for the last course, but the menu looked fabulous.

For a fun couple of minutes, check out our YBN special “Wash it Down with Scott Martin Brooks” shot at Church Brew Works.

imagesIn addition to her fascinating essays on a variety of topics to be found @ 3 Quarks Daily, also available from Dr. Westbrook: 

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New OrleansI was thrilled to receive a gift of Abita beer last week. Abita Brewing Company is in Louisiana, just north of New Orleans, and their beer is consistently good, so I was looking forward to trying these. Most beer lovers are familiar with Purple Haze, Abita’s well-known and beloved raspberry wheat beer, but their other beers are but truly hard to find in this area of Pennsylvania. I couldn’t wait to try them.

The beer care package was a special delivery from my long-time friend, Jaime Jurado, who has been the Chief of Brewing Operations at Abita Beer for just over a year. Abita is a good fit for Jaime, who is passionate about sustainable brewing, which is one of the Abita commitments, too.The brewery takes its name from Abita Springs, a deep artesian well in the Southern Hills aquifer area, where the brewery gets its water. (Abita means “healing waters” in a Choctaw, a Native American language.) Although water is usually the most overlooked ingredient, any brewer will tell you that it takes excellent water to make excellent beer and spirits. Bourbon and whiskey distilleries are especially protective of their water sources, and Abita has always taken care to protect its water from pollution. This effort made the brewery environmentally conscious before it became popular to do so. Abita does many more things to stay green and sustainable, including their packaging. They use the environmentally-friendly, stubby IPA bottles–known as “heritage” bottles, which are endlessly recyclable and use 9% less glass than long-necks; they don’t use a neck label, which saves 25% of the paper consumption; their six-pack carrier design uses about half the cardboard of a traditional carrier.

Abita.Brew_.Pub_I have yet to visit Abita Brewery, but I’ve been to New Orleans. And who doesn’t love this town? There’s Bourbon Street, with its wrought iron balconies; there are jazz bars, which play into the night; there’s Mardi Gras; and of course there’s the unique French and Cajun-inspired cuisine. Craft beer is starting to catch on, which is no surprise in this town with its tradition of good food and drink. But as of yet, New Orleans does not have much of a brewery scene. Abita is the Southeast’s oldest and largest craft brewery, having been founded in 1986, and it’s the most prevalent local beer. Those of us who don’t live in the South can usually find the dark, rich Turbodog, or the beloved Purple Haze, a raspberry wheat beer. Abita also brews seasonal harvest beers, like Pecan Harvest and Satsuma Harvest Wit, emphasizing Louisiana-grown ingredients.

Abita beer selectionMy care package contained a selection of beers: Wrought Iron IPA, Abbey Ale, and Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. In the picture, you can see the distinctive 6-pack carriers and the heritage bottles in the IPA. I poured one of each beer into the appropriate glass, shown here from left to right: the IPA, in a Speigelau IPA glass, the Abbey in a tulip-shaped glass, and the stout in a mug. In retrospect I should have used a brandy snifter for the Stout, since it has to be sipped rather than quaffed due to its high alcohol content.

Abita beer poursThe first thing that strikes you is the beautiful color of each beer, and next the massive head with their own individual colors, the most striking of which was the chocolaty, foamy head of the imperial stout. Next, I took a whiff of each one. I was pleased to note that each had a strong, pleasant smell. It is surprising how much how a good color, scent, and head add to the enjoyment of a beer. Of course I would have expected nothing less from a brewery that has almost 30 years experience making fine beer, and I was not disappointed.

The Wrought Iron IPA was lighter in color than most IPAs, but it didn’t taste thin. It had a lot of body and a very smooth mouthfeel. The head was delightful, the nose was fragrant, very fragrant, floral, like a bouquet of flowers. I could have drunk this straight from the stubby bottle, whose larger diameter is similar to a beer can–but then I would miss the scent and the head. The taste was great. It was very hoppy, as I prefer my IPAs, with an IBU of 80. Wrought Iron was hopped with Mosaic, Equinox and Apollo, 6.9% ABV. I would recommend this one highly.

Next, the Abbey Ale, 8% ABV. This Belgian-style dubbel ale has a beautiful cream-colored head, with a classical Belgian yeast nose, with undertones of caramel and spice; the beer has a pleasant orange color. It has a great taste, malty, slightly sour, with a hint of spice (coriander? clove?). The finish is excellent. It paired well with food, and was reminiscent of Chimay Blue, a classic Belgian Abbey beer. Incidentally, for every bottle sold, 25¢ is donated to St. Joseph’s Abbey.

bourbonFinally, the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, 10% ABV. Don’t let the name mislead you; it refers to New Orleans’s Bourbon Street, and not to local bourbon production, of which there is very little. What a nose — it’s all unmistakably bourbon! Just to make sure, before going any further I decided to sip it along with a Kentucky bourbon. I poured a small shot of the oakiest bourbon in my collection, the Woodford Reserve double-oaked bourbon. No question, this was bourbon in the scent, and in the taste. Incidentally, if you’re interested in getting into bourbon, this is a good one to start with, it’s very easy to like.

Next, on to the tasting. The first thing that hits you is chocolate, followed by some vanilla, and the unmistakable taste of bourbon–confirmed by another sip of my bourbon shot. This stout has a very dense body, and is thick on the tongue; I would compare it to a hot fudge sundae. Maybe that’s because it has a LOT of malt — after all, it’s takes quite a bit of sugar to reach the alcohol level of an imperial. This beer is crafted with pale, caramel, chocolate and roasted malts, with some oats added for fullness, and it is aged for 6 weeks in the cold before going into a bourbon barrel for 2 months.

Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout is the best bourbon barrel aged stout that I have every had. Admittedly, I’ve only had 2 or 3 others, and I was not very impressed. However, the style is starting to catch on, and we’ll see more coming up. I recommend that you do your first tasting with a small shot of bourbon, it helps in the comparison. This beer was world-class; I think it is a medal winner.

I have not yet had the opportunity to visit Abita Brewery, but I look forward to doing so in the future.

Dr. Westbrook with Abita's Jaime Jurado

Dr. Westbrook with Abita’s Jaime Jurado

In addition to her fascinating essays on a variety of topics to be found @ 3 Quarks Daily, also available from Dr. Westbrook: 

 

 

 

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Tracey Thomas

Tracey Thomas

So as we’ve been puttering along, there have been opportunities to enjoy some excellent brews of late. Here’s a few of them, sampled with some great eats:

The most recent came on the occasion of a swell night hearing friend Tracey Thomas sing with a sweet band at a lovely venue, Jilly’s Music Room. The sound is good, the seats (tables and banquettes) comfy, and the food and drink, excellent.

My wife loves a signature cocktail of theirs, of which they have a fair number, a Maple Bourbon Martini.

Maple Bourbon Martini

Maple Bourbon Martini

Pretty simple stuff: 2 oz. Maker’s Mark, 2 oz. cranberry juice, ½ oz. maple syrup. A sprig of rosemary with a cranberry or a cherry on the end spruces it up. Way too sweet for me, but getting pretty good responses from her mixed drink crochet squad, the Cocktail Cuties.

For my part, I started off with a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout from Alltech’s Lexington Brewery. I have been critical of their Bourbon Barrel Ale, which I tried once in a bottle, finding it to taste like a run of the mill light ale (I think) with an overwhelming shot of bourbon flavored extract thrown in. Admitedly, I have not had it on tap. I’ve read and heard positive reviews of it from people I respect, but with so much to try, have not yet muscled up to see if a draft of it might change my tune.

indexBut, particularly in light of an old friend running the brewing at Alltech now, I thought I’d give the stout a try. This turned out to be a good idea. From the bottle, no head to speak of and not much of a nose (which I see as a good thing compared to the overpowering room freshener like nose of bourbon on the ale), this turned out to be very nice, with nothing to overwhelm the traditional toasty grain flavor I’ve come to associate with a proper stout, enhanced by far more a flavor of oak from the bourbon barrels and a touch of coffee than the bourbon itself. A most enjoyable and drinkable brew.

We ordered up some food from the Jilly’s tappas (small plate) menu. For the table (3 of us) their baked jarlsberg cheese dip with peppered crostini chips is always the first item ordered. Along with that, we each had an opened face marinated flank steak slider with goat cheese, served on a bit of toasted baguette and topped with roasted red peppers and… yes… fig jam. Tender, melt in the mouth delicious, so rich we were actually pleased that they were itty bitty three bite babies of wonderfulness.

photo credit: beersandears.net

photo credit: beersandears.net

By this point, I had finished the stout and, staying in the pocket, ordered a nitro can of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, from across the pond. This was delicious. I really like the creamy mouthfeel of nitro cans. I love a Boddington’s this way while finding it rather pedestrian coming from a straight tap. Guilty pleasure?
The Youngs carried a big chocolate nose, and a milk chocolate flavor. Now as opposed to the Chocolate Manifesto Double Milk Stout from Flying Monkeys I reviewed in my tour of this year’s Art & Ale, which I found to be an ice cream parlor novelty brew, this chocolate milk stout was a lovely balancing act. Coming as it did, novel as well… or is it? Is the mouthfeel created by nitro cans novel, or simply yet another variation on the brewer’s beverage? If it is a bit of a parlor trick, it wasn’t overwhelming so, and it’s one I like. I would definitely drink this again.

As I sipped the stout and Dolli embarked on her second Maple Bourbon Martini, we ordered up a St. Patrick’s Day special Jilly’s kitchen was offering on the day after, a wonderful lamb and beef Shephard’s Pie. Meaty and a little black peppery, it was a fabulous dish to share. Our friend, brewer and ace musician (who I’ve sucked into my band, at present), Taylor McIntosh, then, received a text from a fellow brewer, chomping at the bit to tap a creation of his, asking for a return of his actual tap, borrowed by Taylor… posthaste! This left me, as he rushed out, with half of his Anchor Steam. This is a session strength (4.9%) “steam beer.” To best describe it, here’s a nice video produced by the gang at Anchor Steam.


There was a sweetness, and a nice measure of bitter. Taylor had mentioned that some people simply don’t like it. I can see why. There’s something in the flavor that some might describe, for lack of a better word, as a bit of the skunk, just that hint of sour to go along with the traditional flavors of a lager style beer. I found it had excellent drinkability, mouth feel and, moreover, was interesting at every sip. A big thumbs up from me, topping off a lovely night, once again, at Jilly’s.

photo: betterbeerblog

photo: betterbeerblog

Also recently sampled:

Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point, 7% IPA, boasting “hints of peach, lemon, and mango.” This comes from the fertile brewing ground of San Diego, and is regarded by The Beer Advocate as world class! I don’t know what it is with me. Some days a beer will really resonate with me, as this one should have, my being a lover of a fine IPA, and others, not so much.

I had this at another eatery with a truly tasty menu, The Merchant Tavern. I drank this with my spectacularly tasty Dijon Chicken Sandwich : grilled chicken, spinach, thick chunks of brie, garlic mayo, and dijon, served on a lovely crusty bread. Maybe I needed more spice to get this brew to raise my eyebrows as it cut through (70 IBU), but for some reason, it never managed to reach me. As a unanimous cheer goes out to this one, I’m going to have to try it again, I think.

A little bit of a polka dot post. A little of this, and a little of that. But some days that’s just how we roll. Cheers.

POST SCRIPT: We recently attended a get together at the home of dear friends to, along with picking up a parting gift of a delicious Paskha, celebrate the Greek Easter with a lovely feast and good conversation. And then there was the iced beer bucket, containing one of the daughters’ favorite brew, Sculpin IPA, which I grabbed up immediately as a second chance to get to know this acclaimed brew. Again, to be honest, neither my nose nor my mouth exploded with fireworks, but I will say it was a nicely balanced, refreshing, and tasty brew that did itself proud washing down the lamb sliders, pastizio, and all the other amazing Greek goodies to be had.

 

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photo: David Bryan Lile

photo: David Bryan Lile

Every year the Akron (Ohio) Art Museum holds an event called “Art & Ale.” We did our first piece (when they were calling it “The Art of Ale”) on this excellent event a couple years ago, one that was a bit more of a primer for our readers on Akron itself, as we drank and ate our way through the evening.

The reality is that this is a 3 hour beer festival. There are more than a dozen individual breweries present, including multiple award winners like Akron’s own Hoppin’ Frog and Thirsty Dog, plus a few distributors bringing multiple breweries to the event. There’s cider, mead, and plenty of snacks. The fact that it takes place in a Mueum is interesting, in that if you’re willing to leave your brew behind you can head in a couple directions and look at exhibits, so that’s kind of neat, but being members already, we were there for the beverages, food, and the chance to see friends who would invariably show up. $50 a head for non museum members, $35 for members, this is a great value, thinking about how much is spent with tax and tip for almost any repast outside of a visit to Taco Bell. And as we all know by now, Ohio is home to some killer brewing these days.

When we arrived, I immediately headed for food. The dynamic of such events is that you get food into your stomach to avoid premature intoxication. An hour or so later you eat more but that’s redefined as a drunk person’s version of the munchies. So I first got some lovely pulled pork and slaw from Old Carolina Barbeque Company, and immediately followed it with the most amazing shrimp soft taco from the wonderful Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar.

Nuevo:  Plantain cream pie, chocolate ganache, graham cracker crust, caramel, and a plantain fritter.

Nuevo: Plantain cream pie, chocolate ganache, graham cracker crust, caramel, and a plantain fritter.

(I later returned to the Nuevo stall to get a picture of one of these pillows from Heaven, but these guys had a gem here, and were sold out with at least an hour to go, so we went with a pic of one of their crazy desserts.)

Properly fortified (or so I thought), I went forth into the breach. There will be a couple breweries conspicuous by their absence. Hoppin’ Frog, for one, produces big, high flavor, high ABV beers. One of most highly regarded breweries in the world, I’ve written about them often and, to be fair, with only one man’s capacities, I opted to see what the “other guys” were offering up on this night. Sort of the same thinking led me to not be writing about Goose Island, another fave of mine.

First up was PsycHOPathy IPA from MadTree Brewing out of Cincinatti. 6.9% ABV. Not much of a nose. Now I’m a pretty big IPA fan and while finding some spectacular and others as run of the mill, I also find, thankfully, that there are also what I call good “table wine” IPAs out there, ones that simply have all the elements of what should be present in a good drinking IPA. I think of the aforementioned Goose Island’s that way, nothing through the roof, but always enjoyable and bringing what such a hoppy beverage should be bringing to the table. This was NOT one of those. As I wrote, no real nose, which I find really important in a style that should have all sorts of hoppy citrus and floral vapors mixed in with the nose of sweet malt. And none of those elements spoke to me in the drink itself, just a predictable bitter. Not the best start. Nice folks, so I really wanted to like this one but, sadly, no dice.

dark horseNext up was Dark Force from Elevator Brewing, located in Columbus, Ohio. Tagged a dark lager, on my first sip I thought “Dunkel!!!” and asked the brewer about it. He agreed it was very much like a Dunkel. I give him props for not claiming it to be one, officially, as most feel the Munich water is what makes a Dunkel a Dunkel. When drinking the award winning version of this at Church Brew Works, the conversation, then, was about the treatment of the Pittsburgh water in order to come as close as possible to what was found in Munich.
The Dark Force was very tasty, maltier, a little sweeter than the very dry Church version, a fine brew itself. There was more of the caramel malt flavor than the, Guinness like, toasted-to-burnt malt found in the Church Dunkel. At 5.3% a good session beer, by craft alcohol standards, with a very nice bitter element. According to the brewer, this was more attributable, likely, to the noble hops used, but not based on an over abundance of them in the recipe. This was a winner.

indexI moved on to Chocolate Manifesto, a triple chocolate milk stout from Flying Monkeys brewing in Ontario, Canada. I like a good milk stout and have had many brews with chocolate that I’ve enjoyed. This one, however, was overpowering in that it was like drinking chocolate malted milk that happened to be a beer. I know this will appeal to many, certainly to those who don’t care for actual beer. The 10% ABV, no doubt, rocket powered all the flavor elements, but this, to me, was much like special seasonals where the story is the spices and additional flavors to such a degree that you have to remind yourself you’re drinking a beer of some nature. To be fair, Beer Advocate rates this a stellar 92, and it appeared to be a big hit at Art & Ale, so…with huge chocolate, and huge malt, I’m thinking this may be a very special and fun brew that simply isn’t my cup of tea.

Kettle KornI strolled over and picked up a sampler of a Main Street Joe Coffee Porter, brewed at Main Street Grille and Brewing in Garrettsville Ohio. Using Cascara (the husk of the coffee bean) and Mexican Chiapas beans, and coming in with a 6% ABV and 34 IBUs, my first impression was that it was without a lot of merit. Recognizing that the huge Chocolate Manifesto very likely blew my buds out, I strolled over to Frankly Franks Kettle Corn. Now FFs creates lots of neat flavors, bacon and cheese, ranch, some spicy chipotle or BBQ styles, and many more, but I just grabbed a cup of salty and sweet regular to clean my palate, and it did in a delightful way. I then sipped more of the Main Street Joe porter and found it to be perhaps the closest coffee focused brew I’ve had to the black coffee (usually a fresh ground mocha java) I drink ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. A really fine black coffee of a beer! Things were looking up.

Beer Critic Rick Armon and Your Getting-Happier-By-The-Minute Editor

Beer Critic Rick Armon and Your Getting-Happier-By-The-Minute Editor

I then ran into my old friend, Rick Armon, who has a great Beer Blog, a terrific book on Ohio Breweries, and a regular column on craft beer in the Akron Beacon Journal. In attendance judging beers for the event, he told me his favorite, thus far (with many more to go, no doubt) was Thirsty Dog’s Mayan Dog with Coffee. I made my way over and got a sampler from a growler. Rise of Mayan Dog is a well regarded Chocolate Honey Stout, but I’m not sure if this is the exact same formula with coffee added, or may just be sharing some of the DNA with the original as well as the name. But this is a really notable beer. Unlike the porter I had just finished, I could taste the flavor of the toasty grounds in this one. Every bit as vivid both in nose and flavor as the gigantic Chocolate Milk Stout I describe above, THIS one is dead to rights with my wheelhouse. Dry, bitter, fragrant and delicious. I can understand why this became a Rick’s Pick.

The Thirsty Dog Guys

The Thirsty Dog Guys

At this point, I headed over to the food area to refuel, or perhaps giddily stuff my face a little from the Acme Fresh Market table. Acme is a storied family owned chain of grocery stores in the Akron, Ohio area, one of the sponsors of this year’s Art & Ale. They offered Sriracha Chicken thick crust pizza. I had one tasty square, and then finished my wife’s as it was actually a bit sneaky in it’s heat, Dolli not being a big hot sauce gal. I had told her it wasn’t that hot. More for me!!!

Pretending I was suitably fortified, I headed for what would be my last couple of samplers. The first, recommended to me by a pal I ran into, was Yule Shoot Your Rye Out (great name), a winter warmer from Portside Distillery and Brewery in Cleveland. Full of ginger, nutmeg, honey and cinnamon, all these flavors supercharged by an 8.2% ABV, what my friend thought of as complex, to me, was the additives more than anything… which is the intent, of course. Cinnamon seemed to be the dominant flavor. Oddly, though again, not my sort of brew, I felt like if I was to drink something of this ilk, perhaps because of the rye boosting the overall malt component of this one, I could and, in fact, did make my way through this ale pretty easily. Given that I could tolerate it, I suspect this, for those who lean this way, was a superior example of this genre.

My final beer of the night was another one from Main Street Brewing Company, their White Walker, a Belgian Wit brewed with Coriander, Orange Peel, and Rose Hips, coming in at a 6.4% ABV. As you all know, I like a lot of Belgians, and to be fair, at another juncture I might really like this one. As it was, my first thought was an unfortunate one, that it had that overly active, smaller bubble carbonation to it, and that there was too much of the flavoring spices. After a sip or two, though, I got a suggestion of sour. I LOVE sours, so this brought a little smile to my face, and thus, the belief that with a cleaner palate, I might like this one just fine. As it was, I was finished for the night.

Or so I thought….

indexAs I approached an old friend to say goodnight, she latched on and dragged me over to the table where Crafted Artisan Meadery was serving samples of a number of things, I believe, but was on their last open bottle of Chipotle Pollinator, hopped blackberry honey wine with chipotle peppers. My experience with mead up till now has been, admitedly, modest and undereducated, and it had been with meads that were extraordinarily honey flavored and very, very sweet. I liked what I had tried, but this one was just great. There was honey, no doubt, and there was a sweetness, to be sure. But the heat of the chipotle peppers, and a flavor informed, but not identifiably dominated, by the blackberries, made for an extraordinary beverage. I will find a bottle of this and keep it stocked in our liquor cabinet as a fabulous departure from the usual.

indexA great way to end up a great night. I recommend this annual mini fest as a point of destination for anyone who enjoys fine beer, food, and…art. For the record, hints of inebriation notwithstanding, with a designated driver in our little band’s employ, we returned home, fed the dogs, then ran off to hear a band, where I had a nice Jameson. Only then did your intrepid reporter eventually find his bed and crash… happily.

 

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A while ago I was asked to submit, to a web site, a few restaurants, pubs or saloons I thought were notable. Didn’t matter what or where, so I thought I’d share these notes with you. Two in Ohio, two in New York, one in Paris. Go to ALL OF THEM! It’ll get you out of the house and you’ll thank me later!

indexAt the Bistro on Main Street, in Kent, Ohio, in addition to a comfortably wide ranging menu, presenting serious kitchen gourmet meals to great apps like fabulous roasted brussel sprouts, and interesting sandwiches, a favorite of which is a grilled cheese with a thick slab of melt in the mouth smoked brisket, their equally ecelctic cocktail menu offers, notably, a Cucumber Cooler. This is made with mulled mint, lime and cucumber, lime juice, soda water and the choice of either Hendricks Gin or Effen cucumber vodka. I tried it with the Hendricks, my favorite gin, which already leans more towards cucumber than juniper. Presenting like a mojito, it’s very dry and refreshing, a perfect summer stand alone drink and a fine beverage to sip along with a meal.

Russo's Chicken Fried Steak as Originally Intended

Russo’s Chicken Fried Steak as Originally Intended

Another local northern Ohio favorite is Russo’s in Peninsula, Ohio. Chef Dave Russo, not surprisingly, is italian and leans the house slightly in that direction. I say “slightly,” because he spent several years down in NOLA hanging with the heavies, becoming one himself, so we find a great Jambalaya, and a number of Cajun menu regulars and specials. I’ll order up his Gumbo Ya Ya to start every visit there. There are also true nouvelle offerings to die for, Dave creating his own worcestershire reduction for his steaks. Then there’s my main course fave, a scary one. Named after a notable and dubious local luminary, Russo’s offers up Chicken Fried Steak for Gene Chicoine. Now I think he does an excellent pan gravy, but… he offers a nice appetizer, Fusilli with a Saute of Louisiana Crawfish Sauce. Rich, creamy, with a little heat. I’ll order the chicken fried steak and ask for the cream gravy to be replaced by this incredible delicious sauce. Yeah, along with his home baked breads and peppered olive oil I might need to chop and snort a couple Lipitors when I get home, but it is wonderful, decadent, comfort food. Russo’s always has a nice selection of multiple award winning Thirsty Dog craft beers, also brewed in Akron. Two of our YBN faves are their Orthus Belgian Dubbel and Cerberus Belgian style Trippel, one or both always available.

On an Onion bagel. A great choice if the marble is gone!

On an Onion bagel. A great choice if the marble is gone!

When in Manhattan, there are only two musts for me (now that a favorite eatery in Chelsea has changed their menu drastically). The first is Murray’s Bagels on 8th between 22nd and 23rd. With the legendaty H&H Bagels now gone, Murrays moves up on the respected elders list. Plenty of deli offerings, grilled sandwiches, specials, but…I can not go back to the city without , at least once, having whitefish salad on a marble (pumpernickle/rye) bagel with sliced onion. One has to go earlyish for this. While they have a never ending supply of plain, onion, garlic, everything, cinammon-raisin, and on and on, they only do one basket, split between spinach bagels and the marble, so it’s important to get there in time. I know, this is just a personal thing, but a great NYC bagelry really is a must stop.

imagesThe other must in New York City is also a breakfasty/lunchy destination (though I believe one could enjoy many of their offerings for a nice dinner), La Bergamote, also in Chelsea, on 9th Ave at 20th Street. In their new location (they moved across the street to the NW corner) very much the clean NY take on a French patisserie. One can get lovely baguettes stuffed with good things, excellent coffee and numerous pastries. But there is one reason to go to this particular shop for me. Years ago, when in Paris, I discovered Heaven, in the form of a croissant stuffed with chocolate AND almond paste. It had a slight glaze used as the glue to hold the toasted slivers of almonds on the outer pastry. In subsequent trips we returned to the same patisserie but never again did they have this particular manna– and believe me, this was my personal Holy Grail – to find this combination, or at least done properly.
A few years ago I met up with an old friend for a coffee at La Bergamote and while waiting at the counter for his cappucino, I started telling him this story of lost love when he, very casually, pointed at the glass case I was leaning on. Inches from my hip was a MOUNTAIN of the exact pastries I had been searching for. Spot on, heavy, sweet, buttery, decadent deliciousness! Whenever in the city, I get there immediately, and on my day flying out, I will always buy a few and carry them home with me.

indexSpeaking of Paris, Restaurant Paul, on Place Dauphine is a favorite. I have always contended one can eat and drink very well in Paris (and New York, for that matter) and not break the budget. Restaurant Paul, located on a little island in the Seine, reachable from one of the wonderful walking bridges, is the first place I ever tried the wine that has become a great favorite, Chateaux Neuf de Pape. This is a family owned and run eatery with, in my experience, some lovely food. I’ve also had an “only OK” meal there, but I sometimes order stepping outside my comfort zone and sometimes I’m right about not liking a particular dish, regardless of how well prepared. The service is lovely, the location is perfect, a little quiet in the middle of the City of Lights, and while not cheap, certainly offering value for the Euro.

Again, go to all these places!! It’ll be a great tour. Just don’t do the northern Ohio ones in the winter! Argh!

 

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BEER CLINIC :: Winter Thoughts of Warmer Weather – Beers of the Islands

by Dr. Carol Westbrook 03.04.2015

How to open a successful brewery: Quit your job in the States and move to paradise… live on a boat for a few months to save rent… bus tables to earn some cash… teach yourself how to brew beer…create a unique beer with an island character…invest your money in a brewery to make this unique […]

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BEER CLINIC :: Best Picture Nominees, Academy Awards 2015

by Dr. Carol Westbrook 01.28.2015

It’s that time of year again–time for the 2015 Motion Picture Academy Awards, the Oscars! And it’s time for the second annual YBN beer and Oscar pairing, wherein I match Best Picture nominees with an appropriate craft beer to drink, and provide a link to the trailer, for your viewing enjoyment. Enjoy the beer with […]

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