RIP Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Gold

RIP Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Gold

I’m sorry. We haven’t been out and about too much. The principal reason is that one of our two pups, Eddie and Debbie, both of whom we tragically (though kind of expected) lost within a week of each other, was on a couple different diuretics, so the days of the 5-7 hour held bladder had long ago left the station.

There are lots of new brewers popping up around here, but for the above reasons, along with a few others, I’ve visited none in about a year, which I hope to correct in the near future. I’ll pick up something untried at the store here and there and often write a shorty about it.
But there ARE a couple establishments that rear their lovely heads fairly often of late that give me the opportunity to eat, drink, and write about it.

One is The Valley Café, a neighborhood haunt in West Akron, now with a new location in Wadsworth, Ohio. Principally a breakfast/lunch restaurant, the VC has not been highlighted on this site much. Once, I think, for an astonishing burger, but as they’ve served no beer or spirits, I’ve had little reason to mention them much, despite their ridiculous homemade corned beef hash (order it “well, well, well” done and the carmelized nuggets of heaven awash in the yokes of a couple o’er easies a fine example of how cholesterol offers true value to humanity), awesome home fries, shrimp & grits and a sausage gravy with a little special heat. But the Valley Café has made it to the YBN facebook page on a few occasions, so the name may be familiar.

Chef B.J.

Chef B.J.

But now, having opened a second location, they have embarked on turning their newest hash slingin’ joint into a swanky high end eatery on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Valley Café at nite. We had to miss the soft open, but after all the conversations over breakfast had with Chefs B.J and Ron—– about what they aspired to do, and what I would like them to do (I mean they DID name a sandwich on the menu after me), we made reservations to try it as early on as we could.

A bright and airy high ceilinged, bare wood floor daytime eatery, the transformation into a venue consistent with the prices and style of the dinner menu was great. Done simply with lighting, black linens, nice china, glassware and cutlery, there was a level of intimacy and the suggestion of some pampering coming our way. We’re going to credit Nicole Mikoda, co-owner with husband B.J. with this understated tasteful transformation. Always staffed with great folks, this was the case with the evening crew, the family atmosphere that has always been so appealing about the VC kept intact even as the stakes raised.

B.J had told me he was getting in a few craft brews especially with me in mind. I’ll admit, I figured it would likely be a couple standard issue brews from Great Lakes and/or Thirsty Dog, two exceptional local brewers, but leaving me with little to write about. indexMuch to my delight, there were more than a couple beers I’d never tried, so I started out with Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes. The description they offer is as follows

“A juicy citrus and grapefruit flavor profile, as if fresh Citra and Mosaic hops were squeezed right into the bottle.”

With a 6.4% ABV and 60 IBUs, not a lot of malt presence in the nose or the flavor, both flowery and citrusy at once. Super hoppy and citrusy with a nice bitter hitting the tongue at first blush, an interestingly well balanced beer, the malt serving to give its some heft while really profiling the Mozaic and Citra hops. It was almost like an American Pale with a few more bullets in the clip. As tasty as they come.

As we perused the menu, BJ approached the table with a long serving plate presenting a beautiful steak tartar, a mound of fresh steak chopped fine, topped with a raw egg yoke. It was accompanied by crisp lightly toasted baggette, finely chopped onion, capers, and seed mustard. This was not on the menu, but most definitely should be. I’m a little embarassed I didn’t snap a pic of it, as it was a thing of beauty. Delicious, and the IPA from Deschutes went perfectly with it. But to be fair, the Fresh Squeezed IPA would go great with anything placed before me.

indexOne of my dinner companions ordered a Goodwood Bourbon Barrel Stout. The nose vividly represented the chocolate component of the roasted barley, as did the flavor. The surprise was the bitter on the front of the tongue presenting at first sip. There was also an immediate sweetness. After waiting for it to warm up just a bit, the chocolate continued to rise up as the statement this stout makes. At 8% ABV, the alcohol was not terribly noticable, but it did push the flavor notes. There was a bit of an oakiness to it but no obvious suggestion of bourbon, a pleasant surprise coming from a Kentucky brewer wishing to focus in on this technique. I also found this to be the case with their neighbor Altel’s offering in their Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout, which I very much liked, as I prefered the woodiness of the barrel to an overstated bourbon flavor, which can really dominate.
While not described as such by the brewer, I would simply call Goodwood’s offering a very decent chocolate stout.

A table appetizer was ordered in the form of Butternut Squash Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter. I’m not a big squash fan, and as our dates at the table were a little squeamish about raw steak (and/or the raw egg) my pal and I had eaten most of the bountiful tartar, so I just had a bite of the ravioli, which was sweet, savory, and really delicious. Everyone else at the table LOVED it.

indexWhile the ravioli was being devoured, our server brought me a Lager Heads Bed Head Red, brewed in Medina, Ohio, as you might guess, from the name, an American Amber/ Red Ale. The tale of the tape has it presenting at 5.9% ABV, and pouring a little darker than expected. A tasty, proper red, there was a little smoke, a little bitter, a little caramel. Exactly what I would hope for.

My only note about the salads is that the VC white french dressing is excellent. My Caesar was fine, but for my obnoxious palate, more of a anchovie presence would have made it perfect.

BEST-PORK-CHOP-EVER

BEST-PORK-CHOP-EVER

My main course was perhaps the most beautiful pork chop I’ve ever seen, served on a bed of mashed potatoes and a smoky and sweet braised red cabbage, flavored by apple cider vinegar and amish smoked bacon. Big, moist, and along with being the most beautiful pork chop I’ve seen, it was also the best pork chop I’ve ever eaten. I should note here that it’s own smoke, sweetness, and caramel made the Lager Heads ale a perfect complement.

My table mates all enjoyed different dishes. One had seared scallops on a mushroom risoto so rich, I believe the one forkful I had added 2 inches to my waste. Another, braised shortribs on rosemary mashed with roasted root vegetables. You could cut it with a fork, dark, meaty, and rich. My buddy had the broiled fresh steelhead trout which had a great texture, but compared to the other dishes we ordered, probably left him a little envious.
indexChef B.J hails from the south, which explains his shrimp & grits, the fact that he’s always a little dangerously generous with the heat in some dishes, which I love, and always offers up bountiful portions.

indexSo while we were all happily stuffed, when we learned he was serving a dessert of fresh made beigniets and Café du Mond, bringing a little NOLA to our northern Ohio table, we had to order some. Then again, he was also offering an espresso crème brulet, so… we ordered one of each, drank lots of delicious chicory coffee and chowed down. The desserts were mouth watering and yet light enough to not kill us, for which we were grateful.

How can I conclude this review other than declare loudly, “We are going back!!!” Congratulations to the Valley Café at nite.

 

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It’s Oscar time again. On February 28, 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present Oscars for cinematic achievement at the eagerly-anticipated 88th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony. That means it’s also time for the eagerly-anticipated 3rd Annual Beer and Oscar Pairing, in which I recommend a beer to drink with each of the nominees for Best Picture. This year I have added a ninth (unofficial) nominee for one of my favorite films of the year, which was somehow overlooked by the Academy but deserves a beer pairing.

This year, the nominees showcased strong actors–or ensembles– portraying strong characters. Overall the best films were more about the characters than about the plot. I’ve chosen beers which complement these characters’ strong spirits.  I’ve carefully avoided spoilers except when relevant to the beer selection — if so, I’ll warn you in advance.

So pop some popcorn, pour yourself a beer, sit back and enjoy the show! The nominees for Best Picture of 2015 are:

  1. Bridge of Spies

The movie opens in Brooklyn, in 1957 at the height of the Cold War. James R. Donovan, an insurance lawyer played by Tom Hanks, is recruited to do his patriotic duty and defend a KGB spy. After the spy is convicted, the FBI approaches him for a secret mission: to arrange for an exchange of this spy for Gary Powers, the American pilot who was shot down and imprisoned in Russia for spying. Donovan must cross the Iron Curtain and travel to East Berlin, just as the Wall is going up. The atmosphere is tense, the drinking is heavy. Russian vodka is ubiquitous, and the beer of choice is Pilsner Urquell.

Almost certainly Pilsner Urquell would have been served to Mr. Donovan in East Berlin. I have this on good authority from my husband Rick, who visited East Berlin on an education mission in the 1960’s. Beers produced in Western countries were simply not available in the Eastern Bloc, while Pilsner Urquell, brewed in Czechoslovakia since 1842, was everywhere. Pilsner Urquell has changed little over the years. It is a light lager, moderately hopped but low in alcohol (ABV 4.5%, IBU 40).

If you don’t want to be accused of being a communist sympathizer, and prefer to stick with an American craft beer, an alternative beer pairing would be Rev Pils, a pilsner made by Chicago’s own Revolution Brewery. Brewed with all German malts and hops, it is true in style to a classic pilsner, and true in spirit to the Revolution.

  1. Brooklyn

Though it takes place in Brooklyn in the 1950s, the atmosphere is very different from the 1957 Brooklyn of the Bridge of Spies. Brooklyn is the heart-warming story of Ellis Lacey, a young woman, fresh from Ireland, who immigrates to America under the sponsorship of a kindly priest. We watch as Ellis, flawlessly portrayed by the Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, survives her homesickness, falls in love, and gradually begins to love her new country.

Brooklyn is heart-warming, smooth and sweet. There is very little bitterness, though it has its dark moments. And this is a perfect description of Guinness Stout the quintessential Irish beer.

Guinness Stout is brewed in Ireland, but is available throughout the world. It is the beer of choice for the Irish, their descendants, and the “honorary” Irish who enjoy its mellow flavor and easy drinkability. It is relatively light, at 4.5% ABV, so you can drink it all evening–as did the out-of-work immigrant Irish laborers at the parish Christmas dinner in the film. Guinness pairs well with food, including popcorn and movies. Slaínte!

  1. Mad Max, Fury Road

It is the not-too-distant future. The earth has been ruined by pollution and climate change. Civilization has collapsed and many people have died. The remaining populations have been enslaved by warlords fighting for limited resources. Travel is not safe, fuel is in short supply, and water is even scarcer. Enter the warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who forges an uneasy alliance with Mad Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy). Together they drive a massive armored truck, alternatingly outrunning and outshooting the pursuing warlord and his henchmen, as they lead the tyrant’s five wives in a daring escape to find a better place to live. In Mad Max, Fury Road the action is always on the move as they speed through the beautifully desolate but unforgiving Wasteland. The action is incessant, with Furiosa leading against all odds with her strength, determination and wits. She is clearly the star of this film.

“You killed our world” is the recurring cry of the beautiful young wives. And what better to drink with a ruined world than Stone’s Ruination Double IPA?

Ruination Double IPA is a marvelous high-hop beer. It is assertive, strong, and bitter, like our heroine. As a double IPA it has a high alcoholic content, at 8.5%, and is extraordinarily hopped with an IBU over 100, more than three times that of a standard IPA. It is not a beer for the faint of heart, making it perfect for the warriors of Fury Road.

  1. Room

A young woman (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son (Jacob Trembly) have been held captive in a small space since before the boy’s birth. Finally able to escape, the boy enjoys his first experience of the outside world. Room can be a difficult and uncomfortable film; what glues you to the screen is the compelling performance of Brie Larson, who was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

How does one choose a beer for a woman who has probably not had any alcohol to drink in 7 years, and a 5-year-old boy? Why root beer, of course! I’m not referring to that latest fad of hard (alcoholic) root beers, but to the good old-fashioned, non-alcoholic soft drink, which traditionally was made in a brewery. Root beer is brewed with yeast and sugar, and flavored by the roots of the sassafras tree, with added spices and flavorings such as vanilla, licorice, honey and molasses. It is best served it in a frosty mug, with or without a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

A number of craft breweries produce this kid-friendly beer, though you might have trouble finding it, since supermarkets often don’t carry gourmet sodas, while beer distributors don’t usually bring them around to the beer store. (You might try asking for some). Two notable craft root beers you might enjoy are: Abita Root Beer and Saranac Root Beer.

  1. Spotlight

Spotlight is a riveting story of investigative journalism. It is based on the work of a team of Boston Globe reporters who, in 2001, uncovered the Catholic Church’s cover-up of widespread pedophilia among priests in Boston. They published their findings in the paper’s “Spotlight” column. This team is portrayed by an ensemble of actors that includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams. We get caught up in their passion to pursue this story, fighting resistance both to uncovering the facts and to publishing a story that Bostonians did not want to hear. Though we know how it turns out, it’s fascinating to watch the process unfold and the reporters interact as the pieces fall into place.

From time immemorial, reporters did much of their work in a bar, over a drink. This movie is true to the stereotype, and the drink of choice shown in most of these scenes is Harpoon IPA. And it’s the perfect choice — Harpoon IPA is the only beer that I drink when I am in Boston, too. Brewed in Boston by Harpoon Brewery, Harpoon IPA is a well-balanced beer, IBU 42, ABV 5.9%, medium bodied, and perfectly hopped. It pairs well with seafood, Irish stew, and the Boston Globe.

  1. The Big Short

In 2008, a few astute Wall Street investors, market researchers, and hedge-fund specialists come to the recognition that the majority of subprime home loans were in danger of defaulting. Their colleagues believe they are crazy. As they begin to realize the extent of these loan defaults, this small group — portrayed by a talented ensemble of actors including Ryan Goslin and Steve Carrel–devises the “credit default swap” in which they bet large sums of money that this default will happen. The Big Short is based on the true story of these investors, who made their fortune by betting against the market while the economy collapsed.

Early in the film, the investor Jared Vennet (Ryan Gosling) says, “You smell that? What’s that smell? I smell money.” If you savor the taste and smell of money, you would probably want to drink the most expensive beer in the world. There are a number of contenders for this distinction, most of which are pricey because their production requires a large volume of expensive ingredients, which are then concentrated into a small volume, followed by years of aging. The result is a small batch of, highly alcoholic, flavor-packed barleywine. These specialty beers are excessively priced not only because of their production costs, but because they are impressive status symbols and people are willing to pay dearly for them.

Dave, The Beer, from Hair of the Dog Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon, is our choice. Dave is a barleywine, at 29% ABV, which sells for over $2000 per bottle–if you can find one. It was originally produced in 1994 by multiply concentrating one of the brewery’s flagship beers, reducing 300 gallons to less than 100 gallons. A small number of these 375-ml bottles is be released at a time, usually at auction, and the competition is fierce. Apparently this is a flavorful beer, having won first place in a 1998 beer festival. You cannot find it for sale at the brewery, but if you search you may find a bottle or two from a private collector. Have your agent keep an eye out for it. Dave, The Beer is best sipped out of a brandy snifter, preferably a cut crystal Waterford glass, while you watch the movie or, preferably, the stock reports.

  1. The Martian

The Martian is the story of a lonely astronaut, played by Matt Damon, who is stranded on Mars, and must find a way to survive for years with only a few months of supplies. He must use his wits and his scientific expertise while he waits for rescue.

The Martian, almost 3 hours in length, requires at least 3 beers. I’ve paired each with individual segments of the movie. Warning: beers two and three contain spoiler alerts, so if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, then stick with the first beer, or read on at your own peril.

First beer: If the astronauts had packed beer in their provisions, they would have chosen a local Texas favorite, brewed in Houston. That’s because astronauts are trained in Houston, and spend a lot of time there. And in their spare time at bars they would probably drink Shiner Bock.

Shiner Bock is a Texas icon. It is the signature beer of Saint Arnold Brewing Company. It is dark and full-bodied, brewed with German malts that give it a classic bock flavor, and a “smooth Texas aftertaste.”

Second beer: This beer is poured when Matt Damon’s character succeeds in getting potatoes to grow, and has his first successful harvest. His harvest ensures him an unlimited, renewable food source. Time to celebrate with a beer! Make that beer a harvest ale.

Harvest Ales are usually produced in limited supply after the fall hop harvest, frequently using hops that are freshly picked, before they have a chance to dry. My selection is, Founders Harvest Ale, from Grand Rapids, Michigan. This beer reaches an IBU of 70 with a remarkably hoppy taste and a well-balanced alcohol content of 7.6%. Like an IPA, it is a hazy golden color with a clear white head.

Third beer. Finally the end is in sight. Rescue is on the way, and Damon will soon say goodbye to the Red Planet. Let’s toast Mars with a red beer, an Irish Red Ale. Since we are all-American in this film, we will forego the Irish breweries and choose an Irish Ale that is brewed in America.

Boulevard Brewing Company’s Irish Ale is a beautiful red-brown, bottle-conditioned beer, with pleasing carbonation and a fully mature flavor. It is true to style, with a medium body of high malt flavor, low alcohol content (5.8%), and only a slight hoppiness, IBU 30. Cheers! And good-bye to the red planet!

  1. The Revenant

The Revenant is loosely based on a true tale of 1823 Montana and South Dakota. It is about a mountain man, Hugh Glass, left for dead after being mauled by a beer, as he crawls back to civilization (such as it is). The struggle to survive takes place amidst a backdrop of the most spectacular and beautiful scenery in the world, filmed in the Canadian Rockies and Argentina. We agonizingly watch as Glass faces unimaginable hardships, experiencing the brutality and hatred of both white settlers and Native Americans toward each other in the Old West.

We need a beer to match our hero. Let’s drink a beer that it strong, dark, heavy and challenging to drink. That beer is Sinebrichoff Porter . Brewed in Finland at Sinnebrichoff Brewery since 1817, Sinebrichoff Porter is an intense Baltic style porter, unfiltered, and so dark it is almost black. It is brewed to an alcohol level of 7.2% using strong malts and a lot of hops; in fact, it has quite a high bitterness level for a porter, with an IBU of 45. The resultant dark beer has a strong taste but a wonderfully flavorful finish.

  1. Straight Outta Compton

The ninth (unofficial) spot goes to Straight Outta Compton. Although slighted by the Academy this year, it is one of the best biopics of the decade, and certainly one of the best musicals in the last few years. It is a story about the rap group N.W.A. and the early years of hip-hop. The story is engrossing, and the music will grab you. O’Shea Jackson Jr. does a masterful job playing his father, Ice Cube, the rapper who is now a screen actor in his own right.

Sit back, enjoy the film, and pour out a 40–that is, a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor. If you watch the movie carefully, you will see that whenever a beer was drunk in this film, it was always St. Ides Malt Liquor poured out of a large bottle and shared among friends. A 40-ounce bottle of high-alcohol malt liquor may be the cheapest and fastest way to get drunk, but it also reflects camaraderie among friends who don’t have a lot to share. Sometimes a small amount is poured out in remembrance of a fallen gang member, too, a custom immortalized by the rapper 2Pac, in his song “Pour Out a Little Liquor.”

St. Ides is a high alcohol beer (ABV 8.2%) with a very light body and minimal hops (IBU 11). St. Ides is to the rapper what PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) is to the hipster. Highly unpopular with craft beer aficionados, this beer nonetheless has a strong following, and was awarded a Bronze Medal at the 2004 Great American Beer Festival. If St. Ides is not to your taste, then substitute a PBR–but whatever your choice, make sure that you don’t drink it alone. Get yourself a 40-ounce bottle and share it with your homeys while you watch this excellent film.

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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indexI recently tried a Brooklyn Brewery Lord Sorachi Imperial Saison.

This is kind of a big deal. We don’t often see Sorachi Ace hops, and this is a limited, draft only, release, so I was kind of excited to try it. It came to me very cold, presenting almost no nose, the citrusy, a little peppery & cider like flavor not at all overstated, even coming with a 9%ABV. I liked it, as did my tablemates who also sipped it.

As it warmed just a touch, I began to detect a unique flavor, one of perhaps orange along with the lemongrass nature of the Sorachi hops? Not sure as this was my first time with these hops. Still nice, a good tart sour, and interesting. The nose also was starting to present a unique orange.

Warmed another couple degrees, I short circuited at the table and launched into this:

“When I was a kid, there were times certain things made me nauseated. Not so much anymore, but back then, more than a couple things. When I would warn my parents (or, notably, my Aunt Frieda) that if I had to ingest whatever was before me I would throw up, it would often be met by a ‘No it will not! Eat it!!!’
Amazing!!! Adults actually believed that their authority was so omnipotent as to be able to impose a settling of those naughty regurgitative esophageal muscles. Of course, far more important to a frightened, sick to the stomach kid, was the implicit notion that throwing up would be blatantly disobeying my folks, thus exposing me as a bad kid for doing so. As my folks, trusting they could just order this away would not wisely fetch a waste basket, bucket, or rush me off to a sink or toilet, the result was (100% of the time, btw) a really yucky mess on a table, bed, carpet and, always, me, presenting evidence that I had, indeed done a very bad thing. I mean vomit is creepy, right?
Now they would always respond as good parents, clean me up (likely while muttering and sniping at each other as they struggled to stem the rushing tide of stink), put me to bed, get me water, and be quite sweet.

imagesnb : Eventually they might have learned not to try to pull their weak shit on me anymore – one would have thought once or twice was more than enough of a lesson – but I think I also grew out of both frequent vomiting and situations where my intake was so controlled by my parents, but make no mistake, these experiences stuck with me to the point that I’m, at this moment, imposing my pathology on you in a beer review.

“Along with Alka Seltzer, Del Monte boiled string beans and asparagus, and any amount of goo in scrambled eggs, a sure fire, no doubt, “first time/every time” source of nausea was children’s aspirin. I could easily take Bayer’s Aspirin for Children, even liked it, but the weird, chalky, super strong not orange orange of the, far more popular St. Joseph’s Aspirin for Children made me vomit, sometimes by just imagining having it in the same room.”

So as the beer warmed this sort of strange orange became more and more vivid. At first I was thrilled as I declared it more like Bayer than St. Joseph, but the THOUGHT WAS THERE, right? Continuing to drink it, as the nose and flavor became more and more present, I started to sweat a little. Not that it tasted like THAT aspirin, but because it was becoming SO FRIGGIN’ ORANGE… and an odd one. Maybe the combo of oranges and the hops made the engulfing vapors odd – and yeah, the NOT psychotic 8 year old me, along with many, would agree that what I just called “odd” was actually “really interesting!”

The server told me it was his understanding that Brooklyn made this with tangerines, (or was it blood oranges?) something a little off center and highly flavored. In any event, while I continued to regale my tablemates with this story of my childhood, occasionally shrieking & shivering demonstratively as I continued to drain the glass, I did -in fact- drain the glass… and with no grown ups telling me I had to do so!

imagesSo… while I will not likely have this fascinating witches brew from Brooklyn again, even if it wasn’t in such a limited release, I would…. wait for it… also highly recommend it as a totally unique and interesting drinking experience.

“Sorry Harvey, our time is up today. Next week, same time?”

 

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This year I was privileged to give the opening talk at the annual meeting of the MBAA, the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. My charge was to discuss the health effects of beer. My audience: the premiere brewers’ organization in the US. Present a scientific talk about beer to a group of professional brewers who know as much about beer as anyone else in the world? Now there’s a challenge for the Beer Doctor!

Pix 1 mbaaThe MBAA was founded in Chicago in 1887 by three Braumeisters (Master Brewers), Louis Frisch, Charles J Schmidt and William J. Seib, all German immigrants. The ties with Germany were so strong that they originally conducted all of their meeting in German, though they switched to English with the onset of World War I. Nonetheless, the German influence on American brewing is evident in the lagers and pilsners that Americans prefer.

The MBAA promotes the science of brewing and the training competent brewers. Their meeting emphasizes scientific research into brewing, the quality, consistency, process, and the ingredients of brewing. They provide resources including the basic brewing guides and manuals used throughout the world. If you have had a good beer recently, whether small craft or mass-produced, chances are an MBAA member had a hand in it.

What could I say that the MBAA members didn’t know already? As it turned out, quite a lot. Brewers are just as vulnerable as the rest of us to the myths and urban legends about alcoholic beverages. I wanted to set the record straight, particularly
on nutrition, metabolism, and health, subjects about which I know a lot. The title of my presentation was, “A Bottle a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Facts and Fallacies About Beer and Your Health.”

I began by reviewing scientific and medical literature. There are a large number of publications, including clinical and epidemiologic studies, investigating the effects of consuming alcoholic beverages. There is no space here for details, but suffice it to say that the general consensus is that a drink or two per day is good for you (Technically, one per day for a woman, two for a man). In fact, for most people, it’s healthier than not drinking at all. And don’t let the wine enthusiasts fool you–beer is
just as good as wine, or possibly better, because it is more nutritious, and contains more silicon for your bones, and more vitamins than wine.

Pix 2 nutritionThe most controversial topic, though, was the calorie content of beer. Beer calorieshave become very important to the brewing industry due to new ObamaCare-based regulations requiring nutritional labeling of all beverages served in restaurants. Although nutritionists have accurate understanding of the fat, sugar, protein and carb calories in beer, we honestly don’t know how many calories are contained in alcohol. The FDA claims that alcohol has 7 calories per gram–based on burning it to completion, but this is misleading. Our bodies cannot obtain 7 calories from a gram of alcohol any more
than we can obtain 5 calories from eating a gram of wood (based on burning wood to completion). At least 30 to 50% of alcohol’s energy content is unavailable to us, and the true value is closer to 2 to 3.5 cal/g. Regardless, the FDA labeling of alcoholic beverages will continue to mandate that the calorie content of beer specify 7 calories per gram of alcohol, which amounts to toughly 98 calories in a 12 ounce bottle of 5% beer. Interestingly, the label doesn’t have to give the alcohol content.

Pix 3 coffee breakAlthough this labeling appears unscientific and misleading, it would take an act of
Congress–literally–to change it. And it is not likely that Congress would be
receptive to a lobby that wants to make beer appear to be healthy (even though it
is). At least the brewers’ consciences can rest easier, knowing that their creations
are much healthier than everyone thinks–even if they aren’t allowed to say it.

After my opening talk I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the meeting. It was a
delight, even for an amateur home brewer such as myself. The coffee breaks were
the best part of the meeting. There wasn’t much coffee to be found, but there was a
lot of beer! Many breweries contributed cases and cases of their wares, and it was
available on ice throughout the day… and into the evening.

I was especially intrigued by the presentations on barley, which included an
opportunity to taste a number of malted and roasted barley varieties. Roasted
barley is crunchy, chewy, and sweet, and some of the hull-less varieties are like
candy. I learned that there is a wide range of flavor in barley varieties, not to
mention the nuances added by malting and roasting. More fascinating, though are
the newer varieties that have been bred or discovered as heritage grains. There is a
resurgence of interest in hull-less varieties of barley, which have some advantages
in the brewing process.

Brown Malt-Barley

Brown Malt-Barley

Purple Barley

Purple Barley

My attention was especially drawn to a heritage variety called Purple Egyptian, also known as Obsidian. This ancient grain originated in the headwaters of the Nile River millennia ago. Unlike typical brown barley this grain is purple. I tasted it; it has a remarkably nutty flavor. It will soon be available to brewers, and I look forward to trying a beer brewed with this grain.

Can you Pick Out Dr. Carol in this crowd?

Can you pick out Dr. Carol in this crowd?

At the closing reception, I was introduced to the past presidents of this Society, and I met many other interesting people as well, from many countries and with diverse interests. These are the folks who create beers, insure their quality, fix what goes wrong, make sure the yeast strain is faithful, help insure consistency in the product, and get them to us to enjoy. They are passionate about brewing, whether they work for a large multi-million barrel brewery, or a small craft operation. The meeting slogan, “share the passion” captured the spirit of this meeting.

The passion was palpable. And the beer was cold.

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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I’ve always carried with me a sense of seasonal disbelief. I grew up in Akron, Ohio, once (and maybe still) the American city credited with the least number of sunny days… along with being, by far, the most disparaged city in America, framed in countless books, films, and comedic monologues as a dirty little industrial town populated by simple minded immigrants. I also sandwiched in 20 years in New York, so the northeastern seasonal experience is what I’ve always lived.

Just one shade of Akron, OH

Just one shade of Akron, OH

Important note: I’ll not use this space to speak to what an amazing town Akron really turns out to be, boasting an embarrassment of riches in terms of cultural, athletic, and intellectual contributions to the world… especially for such a small, dank, dreary, low I.Q. burg.
But I will note here that, when in bloom, it is a singular, brilliant place, the mix of greens so stunning as to appear to be almost golden in it’s vibrance.
But those days are, admittedly, not all that prevalent, and this just feeds my confusion.
I’m assuming here, that the seasons are considered quarterly events, but I’ve always been surprised, on some sub-atomic level, based on my belief that we, of course, get three months of Summer, but with a couple or three weeks on either end to gently buffer it, or maybe just by acceding to my will, this is the longest season of the year. Maybe it’s because summer is so vivid in our childhood memories, a long and lustrous vacation from everything. No wonder, as I believe we are everyone we’ve ever been, the 9 year old out playing in July a particularly strong component informing my delusion.
So given my screwed up body clock, I’m always surprised by the coming of Fall, followed by the Great Grayness (reads like a Tolkein location, yes?) Once undone, I never really recover. So yesterday, 12/22, I was even more disoriented, as there was the great conflict between going to lunch with the sun out and temperatures approaching 60 at odds with my disbelief that it only NOW is officially Winter I always figure we’ve started Winter right around Thanksgiving and this one was just particularly mild.

Yet another...

Yet another…

As I review the above mess, I see how completely off I’ve always been, Thanksgiving considered the penultimate Fall holiday.
All the above is just getting this personal weirdness off my chest as I was planning on addressing a couple darker brews, more easily considered “Winter Warmers” than sunny time fare, when it’s only NOW become Winter… on THIS day also approaching 60 with a misty drizzle. Pretty meek stuff.

First, a brief mention of Stone’s Coffee Milk Stout. Got it in a 12 pack variety ensemble a couple weeks ago and had stashed it away for myself when the band came over. As it goes for most offerings from Stone, this is a real brew, not a novelty. Starting with a beautiful, sturdy tan head, there’s a lovely bitterness to it, almost all bitter upon the first sip or two. Then that touch of sweetness from the milk sugars reveals itself on the back of the tongue. Stone’s handling of the coffee is expert, evoking the wonderful, time tested Mocha Porter from our friends at Rogue. At 5% ABV, one could happily drink a carload of this tasty bev.

Yesterday, that unseasonably warm first day of winter, we went with a friend to a favorite local eatery/watering hole, The Lockview. We’ve mentioned this tavern often, as they carry a billion beers in bottles, while offering a nicely rotating 12 taps, growlers, and a really talented kitchen, as evidenced by previous posts here ranging from a random act of burger heaven to a brilliant Founders Beer Dinner.

imagesThis time we were in for a late lunch that turned into a super early dinner. When our server came up for drink orders, having perused the board, I opted for the Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla Porter. I love this beer as it is, but I’ve also come to really enjoy nitro offerings, sometimes as a novelty, sometimes simply by moving a beer into a different realm. My favorite example is Boddingtons Pub Ale. I’ve had it straight from a tap and found it to be good but nothing extraordinary. From the nitro can, however, it’s a piece of creamy heaven.

breckenridge-brewery-vanilla-porterAnother interesting one is Left Hand Milk Stout. I thought of it as I tried the above mentioned Stone Coffee Milk Stout. Frankly, I think it’s just a psychological thing, but as I very much like the Left Hand in bottle and tap, when poured from a nitro source, the milk sugars along with the extra creamy mouth feel is really quite the symbiotic delight to me.
So having the Vanilla Porter, with that red bean sweetness emerging when experienced with salty, savory food, more than enough joy as it is, adding in the creaminess with the nitrogen makes it a real treat.

It’s important to note what I ate with this drink, as it turned out to be outstanding. First up, whenever someone is offering a New England style clam chowder, I have to try it. It’s a pretty simple soup, and while there are variations on the theme, more often than not, there’s something of a ceiling to how good it can get. In this case, it was spectacular. Perfect consistency, creamy, but still a soup. Sometimes, people find it better as it closes in on the texture of library paste, thinking it that much richer. Not me. Everything was perfect, with a surprisingly different flavor element I couldn’t put my finger on.

That first bite inspired this post

That first bite inspired this post

When Jimmy Morris aka Jimmy Jams, one of Lockview’s chefs (and one of the overseers of their new taqueria, which we’ll be heading to for their soft open on the Monday after Christmas), the creator of one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, stopped to say hello, I asked about the chowder, whipped up by one of the owners, Bob Bassone. As Jimmy listed ingredients, the one that stood out was the touch of thyme Bob put in it. Now if you were to ask me what thyme tasted like, I could never tell you, but it was clearly the difference in this delicious chowder.

Then came the daily special, which I can only attribute to Jimmy, our burger-meister. As it read on the board:
“8 oz. blue-ribbon burger topped with tender roast beef, applewood bacon, swiss, arugula and garlic aoli on a ciabatta bun, served with hand cut french fries.”
Nothing super exotic but, a perfect medium rare as ordered, it rivaled the burger Jimmy created for me in the piece linked above. Drippy, flavorful goodness.

indexI then came home, stuffed to the gills, and watched my alma mater, the University of Akron Zips, win their first ever bowl game. Admittedly, it was just one of 40 bowl games this year, the… not making this up… Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but still, an 8-5 season and a bowl win is a bowl win, as opposed to no bowl, or a bowl loss, right?

A great day.

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Breaker Brewing Company, BBC, is named for the coal breaker, a large structure used to break and sort coal as it comes out of the mines. Breakers, once common features in the hills of Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA), have all but disappeared, due to the collapse of the mining industry in 1959 when a river breach flooded all the interconnected tunnels.

The abandoned Huber Breaker, now demolished

The abandoned Huber Breaker, now demolished

Though the mines are closed, people are proud of their mining heritage. Many residents’ forebears moved here to work the mines, emigrating from Wales, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and other parts of Europe. They established ethnic communities, with their churches, schools, and taverns. People remember the stories of their grandfathers who worked the mines, and keep alive many of their traditions, including stopping at the local pub after work for a draft; filling their lunch pail with beer to bring home after work; gathering often with friends at church socials, school halls, or bars; and going to church–a lot.

Grandpa Rikoski enjoying a Sunday afternoon beer with his friends in rolling Mill Hill, not far from BBC, early 1900's

Grandpa Rikoski enjoying a Sunday afternoon beer with his friends in rolling Mill Hill, not far from BBC, early 1900’s

Like the miners’ bars, the Breaker Brewpub has become a gathering place for locals who stop on their way home from work for a draft or to bring home in a growler. It has also become a destination for beer tourists who come from around the region, jamming the brewpub on Saturday afternoon. The brewpub is a treasure trove of mining paraphernalia, old prints, photographs and paintings of mining operations and local history.

The brewery itself is a piece of history, since it occupies a local landmark, the old St. Joseph’s Church, School and Monastery in Wilkes-Barre Township, PA. Many of the BBC regulars were baptized there, attended the school, were taught by nuns, and were married in the church. St. Joseph’s closed its doors in 2009, and would have been demolished had not the brewers, Chris Miller and Mark Lehman, purchased it in 2011 to expand their growing microbrewery business. The taproom restaurant opened in 2014. It serves great food, all prepared on the premises with locally sourced ingredients. The specials are reminiscent of the food you might have gotten in church socials, and in fact Breaker recently celebrated a Coalminer’s Heritage Fest, featuring miners’ favorite ethnic foods paired with their beer.

People visit for the nostalgia, but they come back for the beer.

Recently I visited the BBC Brewpub with my friend Jaime Jurado, who is from Abita Brewing in Louisiana. We wanted to taste their beers, and see how the brewery is doing. We ordered a taster of all twelve beers on draft, plus the weekend special firkin. We accompanied our beer with soft pretzels, hearty bowls of borscht, Irish stew, and good pub camaraderie.

Jaime Jurado and Carol Westbrook, tasting beers at Breaker Brewing Company

Jaime Jurado and Carol Westbrook, tasting beers at Breaker Brewing Company

With twelve drafts there are a lot of choices for the beer lover, and even a few which will appeal to those who are not so crazy about beer. Most of the beer names have a reference to coal, making them easy to remember. BBC’s traditional ales–dark, light, and IPAs–are good and true to form; their flagship brews, such as Lunch Pail Ale, are consistent–which is important to a regular who comes to expect a certain taste.

There is always something on draft to interest the beer tourist, and it usually features fruit, most often as a flavoring added after fermentation. The high-gravity Abandoned Mine Barleywine Italiano is a variant of their usual barleywine, this one with wine grapes. They also featured Banana Nut Bread and Sour Pear Ale. You will always find a firkin, a fun mixture of beer with a fresh ingredient, like the Potbelly Pumpkin Ale spiced with cranberry, cinnamon and sugar that was on draft for our Halloween visit. Thus, there are a number of drafts that appeal to the many visitors who just don’t like hops, or the non-beer lovers who want something different.

Here is our tasting list:

  1. Olde King Coal Stout (4.5%)
    This is a very drinkable dark stout, like a Guinness but a bit more “toasted” in flavor. A lovely session beer.
  1. Five Whistle Wheat Americano (4.5%)
    A take on their flagship wheat ale. Usually brewed with wheat malt and white yeast, this was done with American Ale yeast. It went down easy but I think it was lacking the clove & spice flavor I expect in a wheat beer.
  1. Sour Pear Ale 5%
    A sour, low-hop beer brewed with local pears. Reminiscent of a Belgian beer, not too sweet, and easy to drink. My favorite new beer for the afternoon.
  1. Lunch Pail Ale (5.5%)
    This is the flagship, a pale (pail) ale verging on an IPA with 42 IBUs. Good malt balance and hop balance with Columbus, Cascade and Nugget hops. It is my all-around favorite BBC beer.
  1. Banana Nut Bread Ale (5.5%)
    Fun, on the sweet side, mild banana nose and taste. Where are the nuts?
  1. Potbelly Pumpkin Ale (6.5%)
    Their seasonal autumn offering.
  1. firkin: Potbelly Pumpkin Ale (6.5%)
    This week’s offering — over cranberry, cinnamon and vanilla. If you like spice, and pumpkin pie, this one is for you. The additions go well with the otherwise bland pumpkin ale. A pleasant drink

8.   Detonator series: Pine Ridge IPA (6%)
9.   Citra Hop IPA (6%)
10.  Mosaic IPA (6%)

The brewers love hoppy ales, and BBC IPAs are always made well. I liked all of these; the complaint is that there are too many, all competing with each other for your attention. All the ales have the same excellent malt background, and 6% ABV. Citra is made with Citra hops, Mosaic with Mosaic, and Pine Ridge contains both. Yes, it’s fun to drink them together and see if you can tell them apart. (Yes, you can always taste the Citra hops).

11.  Goldies XXX (10%)
Goldies Tripel is a high gravity blonde ale that is low in hops, and brewed with Belgian yeasts.

12.  Abandoned Mine Barleywine Italiano (10.6%)
Fall is the season that local home vintners make wine, so the brewers gave it a try, adding wine grape extract to their barleywine. Whoever would have thought a high-gravity, hoppy barleywine would pair so well with grapes? The result is surprisingly like a cask-aged, fruit wine, such as New Glarus would make. Although this flavored rather than brewed with grapes, it is definitely a must-try for the beer tourist.

Jaime, Chris and Carol at Breaker Brewing Company

Jaime, Chris and Carol at Breaker Brewing Company

Chris Miller, one of the two owner-brewers, stopped by for a chat, and took us around to see what’s next for BBC. The brewing operation will be growing and moving into the church itself, to keep up with the growing demand, and continuing a trend of situating brewing operations in churches (see YBN, May 27, 2015. Church Brew Works ). The crowded pub will be expanded with more tables and another bar, spilling into an adjacent room in the old school–to be furnished with blackboards (but no nuns). Chris and Mark are doing most of the carpentry themselves. Chris then excused himself “gotta run–I have some beer to transfer, and some pretzels to roll out. “

If the fun and romance of brewing beer is giving you thoughts of starting your own brewery–think again. It may be rewarding, but it’s a helluva lot of work. One of the reasons for the high quality at BBC is that Chris and Mark still do everything themselves, from rolling pretzels to carpentry to brewing. They have now hired a chef, but they still have to produce 11 beers for taproom and regional distribution. At some point they will have to slow down. But for now… Enjoy the fruits of their labors.

NOTE: Since the piece was written the brewery expansion has been completed and has been a great success.

Breaker Brewing Company, 787 E. Northampton, Wilkes-Barre Township, PA

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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YBN pal, Taylor McIntosh plays sax and keys for my band, Half Cleveland. An excellent musician and a great guy, Taylor is also a man of science (don’t get him started on Nicola Tesla) and as a logical extension, a fine brewer. For a time, he worked at the award winning Thirsty Dog Brewing in Akron, Ohio, and is now spending more of his time as a mad scientist brewer on his own… when he HAS time.

(NB: When Half Cleveland performed Chris Butler’s “Easy Life” album in it’s entirety at The Kent Stage on May 1,2015, we opted for a trio to do the above clip. There are a couple auto-focus “moments,” and should be listened to on good speakers or earbuds – but some nice work on sax by Taylor and a neat song in general.)

Chase Cutting

Chase Cutting

Recently, Taylor picked a bunch of locally grown sour cherries and went to work making his Chocolate Cherry Stout. It was very small batch, but I got to try one and was knocked out. Black as night with a lovely tan head, definitely containing a healthy ABV, the flavors were all understandably vivid. The chocolate was certainly present from the get-go, but there was a flavor balance leaning more heavily toward the cherries. The good news is that while the fruit was what remained on the tongue, it NOT being sweet was the key for me, more reminiscent of the pleasure I take in something like Founders (sour cherry) Cerise than any lambic I’ve enjoyed. The dryness of this brew made the high fruit profile yield a beer that was only a little novel, far moreso an extremely good stout.

I asked Taylor to talk to me about the process, as home brewers and craft beer afficianados alike would have some interest in this. So, as I always try to do, let’s cut to the chase and give the floor to Taylor:

Having undertaken several homebrews after working two years as a professional brewer, I decided I wanted to attempt a stout–a nice changeup from the gaggles of IPAs currently inundating the market. I had had cherries in mind for brewing for some time, given the surplus of sour cherries from my backyard tree, which originated as a volunteer.

I threw together a stout recipe based on Noble hops for aroma and U.S. hops for flavor, to give it a noticeable-but-low IBU tang. I wanted to keep the grain bill simple, so I just used English 2-Row malted barley and American 2-Row for the base malts, and for the adjuncts I dutifully chose unmalted roasted barley (generally the grain that “makes” a stout a stout), and chocolate malt, to give it a little coffee/chocolate/slightly burnt flavor.

unnamedWhat was tricky was deciding how to use the cherries: do I throw them in at the end of the boil, or do I press them for juice and add that to the primary during kettle-primary transfer at the end of the brewday? I decided it would be best to the let the base beer ferment out as much as possible before adding the cherries, which would also allow for alcohol content to raise in the beer. This, I thought, would be a good way to extract cherry flavor from cherries and offer a little protection from nasty little souring things like airborne bacteria that would take the sour character away from the fruit addition to the secondary.

I thawed the filled freezer bag that were full from the recent harvest and washed them in vodka, also crushing them as I did (wearing latex gloves) prior to adding the entire bag to the clean, sanitized secondary before racking the beer from the primary into it. I let the secondary sit for at least a week and a half (but who’s keeping track? Not me.) and bottled.

Et viola! I have yet to take a gravity reading of the finished beer but it tastes up in the 8.5-9.0% ABV range. When I bottled it, it read 1.020, which was three thousandths higher than when going into the secondary, so some error must’ve been made along the way. 1.077 to 1.020 is only about 7.5% and we certainly know, after tasting, this is definitely not the case.

Nice work, kiddo.

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unnamedThere’s an art installation here in downtown Akron, Ohio, within a teeny tiny common space possessing a few tables, benches… a picnic area cum smoking section on the edge of what is now being called Akron’s Historic District. My band, Half Cleveland, rehearsed in the building that sits just across the alley from this little inkspot of niceness, so we came to explore it a bit when taking smoking breaks from practice.

The art installation in question is a tribute to Akron musicians of note and, to a fair extent, pretty much all other cultural notes and landmarks to be found here in Akron. There are nods to our blimps, the soap box derby, our parks, weather (such as it is), and musical luminaries DEVO, Chrissie Hynde, and The Black Keys. But there was, just under the disc tributing The Black Keys, a space about the size and dimensions of a vinyl record album where something appears to have at one time been and then, leaving the screw in the wall, mysteriously vaporized leaving just the faint impression of it ever having been there. Some would say an Ancient Alien Civilization was responsible for all this, both the appearance and… the disappearance. Others, not so much.

tight hueysSo anyway, the idea came that half of Half Cleveland’s source bands, Tin Huey (the other mothership would be The Waitresses), as one of the seminal New Wave bands of the 70s and early 80s, should occupy this space.
Ideas hatched quickly, there being a great and grand Tin Huey visual association, The Huey Sisters, hatched and re-hatched in so many, many fluxoidesque multiples by artist Allen Bukoff. Dolli went to work on this and the end result was an 8” cake plate shrine to Tin Huey.

Under cover of daylight

Under cover of daylight

As anti Banksy as we could get, we waited for a nice sunny afternoon and under cover of nothing, took a couple screw drivers and installed this Art-Rock-For-Laughs edifice. We took pics, had a guy who had strolled in for a sit and a smoke take a pic of us all involved in this not guerilla exercise of it-would-be-civil-disobedience-if-someone-had-told-us-not-to-do-this, and then strolled south a few blocks to The Lockview for a beer and an early birdbite.

I ordered a Hoppy Birthday APA from Alpine Beer Company, located in Alpine, California, which sits about half an hour from the San Diego City Limits, so we’re in the deep orbit of this SoCal beer mecca.

Hoppy Birthday from Alpine

Hoppy Birthday from Alpine

A very lemony, grapefruity nose with an IPA feel, it was spectacular. I haven’t seen a published IBU, but there’s a seriously crafted bitter at the back end of an eminently drinkable 5.25% ABV. Everything with the exception of a malty middle feels like what should be a great IPA, begging the question, what’s the diff between an IPA and and APA? The simple answer for me would be the lower ABV of APAs. As the alcohol level is derived from the sugars in the malts, this would explain how two of my favorite low ABV yet aromatic, flavorful, hoppy, and bitter brews, Hoppy Birthday and Stone Levitation Ale have very little, if any, of that middle presence of caramely malt, often the one notable difference in the flavor profiles between an IPA and an APA. There! The mystery is solved… for the moment. Edgy, citrusy, and delicious. A nice reward for very little labor today. Even moreso as, in researching this piece, I learned that our friends at Stone are discontinuing my beloved Levitation Ale, making Hoppy Birthday APA even more of a go-to brew for me.

Our next new experience came when we went to an early screening of Love & Mercy, the film about Brian Wilson and The Beachboys. My capsule review, for those who might be interested:

OK then – Love & Mercy. I loved it… but I found myself either tearing up or getting adrenalized every time one of those epic tunes started rolling in, so a bit less than objective from the get go. The use of music and events from the studio as previously documented on audio ( and a little film) was just wonderful. Some of the expository to set the table (ex. who the Wrecking Crew was) seemed to be exactly that and a little forced… but might not to someone who didn’t already know this stuff.
I thought the Brian casting made sense, starting with Dano, who’s moonface made for a proper young Brian, then Kusack, not so much in resembling Brian – though he did mindful work with his mouth twisting, finger twitching and body language – but resembling the grown up Dano!! There were a couple moments where he talked a bit too jazzlike quickly, resembling John Kusack more than Brian Wilson. Still, not bad at all.
sinopse-do-filme-love-mercy-2015They were attempting to cover an enormous amount of historical and emotional territory, used Brian as the vehicle to tell this larger story, doing a really decent job of getting details right and making pretty fair decisions about what to bring into the pic and what to leave home.
As for Giametti? The real guy WAS kind of a monster, so I’m good with it. And the love interest was fine. No one said she didn’t fall for Brian based on her own pathology: personal neediness, mom instincts, loving the Beachboys AND him being a really authentic, amazing guy, right?
So regardless of whether I’m right, full of crap, giving some acting and directing more credit than deserved, I repeat, I loved it.
And I saw the Smile Tour and it was, indeed, transcendent!
And then there’s this, the one love song that maybe owns my heart more than any other ever. RIP Carl… voice of an angel.


Afterwards, we went to a well known eatery/craft brewpub, Melt. I’d long heard about their giant, decadent, gourmet grilled cheese offerings and their great beer menu, but this was our first time. Our server was great and very attentive. I ordered up a Victory Dirtwolf, described as a “Double IPA that is wildly assertive, intentionally untamed and dangerously satisfying.” The ABV at 8.7%, brewed with Chinook, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops, was very lemony/citrusy. Sweet, mildly balanced without noting a lot of malt in the mouth, only a little bitter on the end, but in making a big IPA, you have to add here, then there, then here again, leading me to think sometimes that the higher alcohol brews are not only higher in flavor intensity, but often more balanced because the brewers simply HAVE to pay attention to it or the brew will go off the rails. Regardless of whether I’ve hit the nail on the head, or just made up some sort of brewing fiction, Dirtwolf was excellent.

Dirtwolf and my Menu

Dirtwolf and my Menu

As for the food, well… they were out of pulled beef brisket so I coulnd’t get their Cleveland Cheese Steak (Another favored Brewpub in Cleveland does it with pot roast. Really tasty), so I experimented. I ordered the Korean War Pig : korean bbq glazed pulled pork, seared pork belly, kimchi slaw, pear onion cilantro relish, & muenster cheese. I found, for my tastes, the kimchi slaw to be too dominating in the flavor balance of this one, but that’s me. Dolli got their Mom’s meatloaf dinner grilled cheese, and outside of there just being SO MUCH FOOD, liked it very much. My only real issue is based on them printing their menus on used vinyl album covers, and I wasn’t terribly thrilled with mine.

Other notables:

indexChillwave Double IPA from Great Lakes Brewing. Yet another Northern Ohio Beer kicking ass. So balanced, there’s no telling this is a 9.4%ABV with 80 IBU except in the great, vivid, high level of flavor generated by this excellent, beautifully balanced IPA. Trying to get a true fix on this based on the high level of citrus and fruitiness, yet a touch of, if I’m not mistaken, pine. The brewer, speaks to a “flash” of Mosaic and a “kiss” of honey malt. The Mosaic would speak to the fruitiness, but that’s all I’ve got except to shout a bit that I LOVED IT!

beer_123773A friend brought over Hoppin’ Frog Turbo Shandy. Frankly, I’m not sure he knew what he was buying, but I’m always curious about offerings from Akron Ohio’s Hoppin’ Frog, the award winning purveyor of big beers in big bottles. An average ABV, for Hoppin’ Frog, of 7%, definitely high for a shandy. I’m not big on such brews, finding it hard to think of them as a beer. For what it is, I enjoyed this one. It was like a carbonated lemonade, BUT I detected the tiniest hint of sour in it, giving me an real excuse to like it. A good shandy, without question, but if I’m going with a beer presenting “summer” flavors, I’ll likely order a Thirsty Dog Citra Dog IPA, made exclusively with Citra Hops, refreshing and lemony, with a nice bitter bite, or the awesome Hoppy Birthday, written about above.

Next up… “My Dinner” – Home Brew Sour Cherry Chocolate Stout

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BEER CLINIC :: The Elusive Gose – How Far Would You Run to Catch a Gose?

by Dr. Carol Westbrook 07.29.2015

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 […]

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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK :: Off to Exotic… wait for it… Pittsburgh!

by Harvey Gold 07.01.2015

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 […]

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