Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Black (Velvet) Ops

What better way to finish off a Christmas Day than with a bottle of this Black Liquid Velvet Stout. As indicated in my previous post, this beer does not exist--officially. But unofficially--Wow!

It pours like black velvet. Smooth, with a chocolate/coffee/toffee nose and a most distinctive and delightful vanilla finish, this is without a doubt a fine sipping, fireside beer for a chill winter's eve. Best sampled at home (a 10.7% ABV in a 1 pt. 9 oz. bottle makes that a smart move), this is perhaps the finest stout I've ever tasted--and I've had some knockouts. That bourbon-barrel aging is clearly detectable on both palate and in the nose.

It's a big, satisfying, warming beer that will be at home apres ski or apres Wii. Drinking it during Wii or Xbox 360, however, is NOT recommended, as you will be too distracted by this baby to fight off any attackers in Call of Duty--World at War. In fact, the world wouldn't even BE at war, if the citizens of all countries (except maybe the equatorial ones) could be provided with a bottle of this peacemaker.

If there's a stout-lover on your Christmas list, pick him or her up one of these, and you'll never be forgotten. Tell them to curl up in their Barcalounger, pop the cork top, pour into a nice beer glass, put on "It's A Wonderful Life," and sit back. Your own personal angel will be along shortly.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Mama is in her kerchief, and I'm in my cap getting ready to settle down for a long winter's nap...a nap that will likely be brought on by my ceremonial opening of a Christmas Eve bottle of Brooklyn Brewing's "Black Ops."

What is "Black Ops" you ask?

According to its label, "it's the beer that doesn't exist...if it did exist, it would be a robust stout concocted by the Brooklyn brewing team under cover of secrecy and hidden from everyone else at the brewery. Supposedly, "Black Ops" was aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat and re-fermented with champagne yeast, creating big chocolate and coffee flavors with a rich underpinning of vanilla-like oak notes. They say there are only 1,000 cases. We have no idea what they're talking about."

Me neither.

But I'll have a better idea by midnight. After all, Santa's the classic "Black Ops" model. I'll pour a flagon for him.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Jimmy D time soon!

Mark your calendars for Sunday, January 18, 2009. That's the date for the Annual Jimmy D fundraiser at the Harvest Moon Brewpub in New Brunswick, NJ. The event honors the memory of Jimmy D'heron, the New Brunswick firefighter who, four years ago, gave his life so that 15 others could live.
Jimmy D's Firehouse Red Ale will be flowing, along with many more of Brewer Matt McCord's malt masterpieces, and a portion of all the proceeds will go to helping burn victims. Here's the site with the info.
Just a word of warning: go early and reserve your spot on the floor. Once it starts filling up with revelers, you might not be able to see the floor, and you sure won't be able to fall down. Sure an' it's a site to behold when the Middlesex Pipe and Drum Corps comes a-marching in! Ah, it's a party that needs the likes of you to help us celebrate!

Cheers! (Click "Cheers" for a pic!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Suspicious Preposition and a Winter’s Ale

bY Kurt Epps—The PubScout

Winter's the time for big, warming beers in my house, and whenever I see one that I haven't added to my regular winter repertoire, I pick up a sixer and say, "What-the hey!"

So I brought home some Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale (it's supposedly been available for a few years, though I'd never seen it) and popped the top. The label advises: "An auburn-colored brew with a smooth robust taste, full of rich aromas, hints of vanilla and flavorful hops." The description is apt, as the beer delivers on all counts. In fact, the more the beer warms up, the more it delivers to the palate.

On the main front label I read, "Winter Ale Aged on Bourbon Oak Casks and Whole Madagascar Vanilla Beans." I do not doubt the Vanilla Beans , as they were definitely—although not cloyingly—present in a very nice taste experience. Nor did I doubt the Bourbon Oak Casks addendum, as I distinctly tasted the lovely pirouette of Oak and Bourbon as they danced through the finish. In all, a very nice beer, and proof that when Busch brewers want to make a good beer, they can. For this beer is made by Michelob Brewing Co. (AKA AB), and it's very well done. Again, I think it's best warmed a bit, but it will easily find a spot as a winter session beer in my house—especially at $6.99 a six.

But I was bothered a bit by a preposition. "Winter Ale Aged ON Bourbon Oak Casks…"

ON? ON Bourbon Oak Casks? Not IN Bourbon Oak Casks? What's this? Some sort of trick by AB? They're just putting this beer on top of an oak barrel to trick us?

Not really. To learn more about barrel aging, visit Jill Perillo's site. It's essentially a wine site, but the info is good. Another good site for barrel aging of beer is CHOW. From what I can determine, "on" and "in" are used pretty much interchangeably when discussing aging of liquor in barrels. In fact, the whole subject of barrel aging could make a fascinating topic for a term paper requirement. One source even cites a renewed interest in oak barreling as a "Viagra" for many spirits. This column's not going there, but wood and the effects of Viagra have indeed been linked in popular idiom for hundreds of years.

The bottom line here is not the wood, but the beer. This beer is delightful to look at, has a very interesting and complex nose, is as smooth as advertised, delivers a pleasant taste to the palate and is certainly worth a try. There is not much appreciable hop presence though Hallertau and Alsace hops are purported to be in there, and the beer checks in at 6% ABV. No one is suggesting Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale as a replacement for a Belgian trippel. It might not elicit ooh's and aah's from those who see St. Louis as anathema to "real" microbrews, but the fact is this beer is very drinkable and worth its price.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

‘Tis the Season!

The Important Things in Life

This anonymous piece is at least six years old, but worth reading every so often—just to keep things in proper perspective.

Merry Christmas!

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2" in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The students laughed. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

"Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this is your life.

The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff." "If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

But then a student took the jar which the other students and the professor agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a glass of beer. Of course the beer filled the remaining spaces within the jar making the jar truly full.

The moral of this tale is: No matter how full your life is, there is always room for a BEER!