Monday, June 30, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 30

The beer for today is Foothills Brewing Total Eclipse Stout.

On June 30, 1954, millions of people were able to witness a total eclipse of the sun. The eclipse was visible from American through Europe to Asia.

It was the first time since 1927, that people in Britain could see the phenomenon. The shadow was first spotted in Nebraska, then it passed over the Atlantic ocean at about 1,800 miles per hour. The longest duration of totality was two minutes and 35 seconds.

According to the brewer, Total Eclipse Stout is:

A robust,full-bodied stout made with roasted barley,black and crystal malt. TOTAL ECLIPSE has a full mouth feel and is higher in alcohol content. Color 70 Lovibond, IBU: 44
I had this beer May 4, 2007, in Asheville NC at the Mellow Mushroom. This beer garnered a 91 rating on Ratebeer, and is a B+ on Beer Advocate. Foothills is pretty much only available in North Carolina, so if you can get there, try this awesome beer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 29

The Beer for today is Ska Brewing Company True Blonde Ale.

On June 29, 1967, Jayne Mansfield died in an automobile accident at the age of 34. Jayne was the Playmate of the Month in Playboy in Feb. 1955. Mansfield starred in several films that showed off her platinum blonde hair, body shape and ample boobies.

Mansfield is the mother of Mariska Magdolina Hargitay, Olivia Benson on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Ska Brewing's True Blonde Ale is described on their website:

A crisp Blonde Ale. Golden in color, medium in body - she's brewed with the help of the honey of Durango's Honeyville bees.
I had this beer on March 17, 2007 at 11:10 a.m. I don't remember it being horrible.

Days of the Beer, June 28

The Beer for today is Old Style.

On June 28, 1964, Mark Grace was born. Mark wore number 17 for his career. He played first base and batted left-handed.

He's a career .303 Batting Average, and had 173 home runs, with 1146 RBI. He finished his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but spent most of his time playing with the Chicago Cubs, from 1988-2000.

I know that he's some people's favorite baseball player (one person I know in particular); and what beer says Cubs favorite better than Old Style. Old Style became a sponsor of the Cubs in 1950, and has been associated with the team ever since.

Old Style was first brewed in 1902 by G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse Wisconsin. In 1996, Heileman's was purchased by Stroh's. In 1999, Pabst brought out Stroh's. When Pabst bought Stroh's they bought the Old Style name, but not the recipe.

The original Old Style recipe is still being brewed in La Crosse, Wisconsin by City Brewing Company under the name La Crosse Lager.

So, in honor of number 17, grab yourself an ice cold Old Style, and celebrate Mark Grace. Also look for him on Fox, he'll probably be broadcasting a game on his birthday.

Beer Review, Witkap -Pater Abbey Singel Ale

After the softball game and a stop the Champaign Buffalo Wild Wings, went home and opened my bottle of Witkap-Pater Abbey Singel Ale.

This one poured yellow. Kriddy said, "It looks like pee"... man, it seems pee is one of the descriptors for beer color. Either the (Chimay) glass is etched on the bottom, or it was dirty, or some sort of chunk came out of the bottle, but the entire time I drank it, there was a stream of bubbles that came up the middle that gave it a meringue, feel. It smelled nothing like pee, banana, pepper (a little, not over powering) some spice and a little citrus.

It was a little thin, but creamy (due to the bubbles). It felt more acidic than carbonated. The acid really scrubbed the last remnants of buffalo wings off my tongue. It tasted a little like lemonade or orange juice. It was a huge citrus blast. The was none of the banana that I smelled, it was all citrus, almost like a melted sherbet. I didn't notice any hops in the flavor, or any alcohol. There was a slight malt presence, but it was pretty much all flavor from the yeast and any other spice additions. As it warmed, it almost had a feel of pineapple juice.

This was a pretty good beer. It'd probably go great with a salad that has tangerine slices in it. It'd also go well with a jello that has bits of fruit suspended in it, especially if there's some pineapple in there.

I picked this one up at Bruisin-Ales in Asheville. It came out of the monk that Kriddy was standing under. So, to find this beer, you go in, turn left and open the monk, and there it is.

Witkap Pater, means Father White Hat. It's an abbey ale (brewed by monks; but not Trappist) apparently by monks that wear white hoods.

Days of the Beer, June 27

The beer for today is Wasatch Polygamy Porter.

On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith, Jr. the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) was murdered at the Carthage, Illinois jail. His brother Hyrum Smith, was also killed. The brothers were accused of violating the freedom of the press (wow, you can be arrested for that) because a newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois, published a one-time edition that was not favorable to the Smith. So Smith (as mayor) declared the paper (the Nauvoo Expositor) as a public nuisance designed to promote violence against the LDS's; so Smith had the city marshal destroy the paper and the press.

Then Illinois governor, Thomas Ford, promised protection and a fair trial for Smith. A local militia called the Carthage Greys (who were anti-Mormon) were assigned to protect the jail (fearing a mob).

On June 27, a mob of 200 men, with their faces painted black, stormed the jail. The Greys acted like they were trying to stop the mob, but probably joined the mob. The Smiths were held on the second floor. The mob fired through the door and tried to push the door open and fire into the room. Hyrum was shot in the face and yelled "I am a dead man!" and died, then he was shot 5 more times.

Joseph was given a pistol earlier in the day by a jail visitor (not too strict of a jail) and he tried to use that to defend himself, he managed to get off three shots.

The other two men in the jail lived. John Taylor (not of Duran Duran) was shot 4 or 5 times, but lived, on of the shots hit his pocket watch, which stopped the hands at 5:16. Willard Richards survived unscathed, because when the mob first opened the door, he was pushed behind it... the mob only saw three people in the room.

Joseph Smith tried to jump from the window, but was shot twice in the back, and a third bullet from the ground, hit him in the chest. Smith then fell from the window and called out "Oh Lord, my God!" Taylor and Richards say that Smith was dead when he hit the ground, someone in the mob said that they propped up his body and shot him some more.

As for polygamy, Smith denied that he was married to any other women. However, many people disagree with that. Apparently the LDS church claimes he had 24 marriages. Todd Compton, documented at least 33 plural marriages.

So, if you can find one, go get yourself a Wasatch Polygamy Porter in honor of the guy who died, who may or may not have had 34 wives. The Wasatch Brew Pub describes the beer as:

This dark, medium bodied ale offers the drink-ability of a much lighter beer. The inviting chocolate and malty flavors fade into a slightly dry, silky smooth finish. Why have just one? 4.0% alcohol by volume.
Why have just one? Indeed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 26

The Beer for today is Berliner Kindl Weisse.

On June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy, in a speech in Berlin said "Ich bin ein Berliner." Which meant, I am a Berliner (a citizen of Berlin).

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner'… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'
There is an urban legend that says that at the time in Berlin, a Berliner was a jelly filled doughnut (in other parts of Germany). The joke was that Kennedy said "I am a jelly doughnut". Which is not the case, apparently people from Berlin do call themselves Berliners... heck, look at today's beer.

Berliner Kindl clocks in at a whopping 2.5% ABV. Don't drink too much of this stuff. "Kind" in German means "Child" and at 2.5% it's definitely a kiddy beer. It's described as very tart, almost lemonade-y in flavor. Germans (and some others) normally put some sweet syrup in it; either Waldmeister (woodruff, a green aromatic herb with a hint of vanilla/amaretto flavor) or Himbeer (red raspberry). I had this beer, May 26 last year at Illinois Brewing Company in Bloomington Il. I'm not sure of any other places that have this beer. I had it straight, without any flavoring.

So, to celebrate being a Berliner, go and have yourself a Berliner!

(Image from World Brewery Glasses, check them out, there's a good selection and variety of styles of glasses; who has a set of Kölsch glasses at home?)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Beer Review, Struiselensis Wild Belgian Ale

After getting back to the house, Kriddy fell asleep on the couch, so I pulled out another beer. My choice for finishing the evening, Struisenlensis Wild Belgian Ale.

I wasn't sure the correct glass for this, so I went with a plain old wine glass. A pint didn't seem right, neither did a goblet, wheat, or tumbler.

This one poured out yellow, looked almost like a cider (you'll be hearing lots of cider references here). It looked almost like dark dehydrated "I needa drink more water" pee. There was little to no head.

It smelled of sour. Instantly, it smelled of sour. I opened the bottle and I smelled sour. I poured into the glass, and I smelled sour. I knew this would be sour. It was almost a painful sour smell, but that probably helped make it more drinkable, as I expected something very tart, it wasn't as bad as I was braced for.

It felt highly carbonated (even though there was no head). The tartness of it replaced a need for carbonation. The tart ripped across the tongue like lightning. It wasn't fast moving, it moved faster than light from the front to the back.

So how did it taste? Duh, tart! It was sour, and gave off an almost spoiled feel. It had the taste of a cherry sour patch kid, maybe a little watermelon in the flavor? As it warmed, I got a hint of a caramel malt flavor, that was extremely unexpected, but rather nice. Later, it almost felt like I was drinking a Granny Smith Apple Cider. You know, the tartest of the ciders. The flavor stayed on the back edges of the tongue, but the rest was cleaned off by the tartness. There was enough sweet in it to make it bearable to drink, but this is definitely a once a night beer. I wouldn't want to try to get drunk on this.

I believe I picked this bottle up in Indianapolis at Payless Liquors, 7369 Madison Ave. I got it because I had previously drank the Struise-Mikkeller and enjoyed that immensely, so I thought I'd try more Struise. If you like sours, you'll love this beer.

Beer Review, Lakefront IPA

Last night at Seven Saints, I looked behind the counter and saw a yellow label that I recognized, Chibouisi was working, so I ordered it. At first he said "we don't have that" and then I pointed it to him and he said "Oh, THAT Shiner Bock". I recognized the label right away because, I have one of them in my car. Last year on Frank's birthday we were at a bar that had Fat Tire, Shiner Bock and Shiner Blonde (May 27). Well, the label for shiner comes off easier than any label I've come across. (If you are doing the whole peel off the label to get laid thing, go with a Shiner Bock). Last night's label came off as easy as a senior prom dress in a hotel room. The beer was as horrible as I remember. But that's not why we're here. We're here to talk about Lakefront Brewery IPA.

This one poured clear and rather orange looking (sorry for the dark picture). It had a slight pine, floral and citrus aroma. It wasn't very thick, there was a little syrup consistency to the brew, but mostly it was thin.

It started out slightly bitter, not rip your face off bitter, there was a little pine flavor, with some pepper and orange notes. Due to the pepper spiciness, there was a little bit of a celery or vegetable flavor in it, but that wasn't horrible or overpowering. As it warmed the orange and black pepper became more pronounced.

Even for being thin, it coated a little and was a good drink. It produced Chipper Dave's infamous "Burp Test" that was a Scots Pine flavor.

All in all, it'd be a pretty good intro IPA for beer drinkers. It wasn't over the top "hoppy", but had a decent enough kick.

Interestingly, the label for the IPA came off very easy too. I borrowed a pen from Chibouisi, and wrote my notes on the back of it. More brewers should make their labels come off easy, it'd save me from carrying around my beer backpack, I'd be able to try a beer, rip off the label and then write notes and shove that into my pocket.

Days of the Beer, June 25

The beer for Today is Ram Brewery Bighorn Hefeweizen.

On June 25, 1876, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer led the 7th Cavalry into battle against a combined army of the Lakota and Northern Cheyene. This battle became known later as Custer's Last Stand and the Battle of the Greasy Grass. Other's refer to it as the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Custer, two of his brothers and a brother in law, along with about 300 other people were killed by the Indian army led by Sitting Bull. The battle took place along the Little Big Horn River, in Big Horn County, Montana.

Ram Brewery doesn't have a Montana location, but they are in Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon and Washington.

The Bighorn Hefeweizen is described as:

An unfiltered, authentic, German-style wheat beer utilizes a special German yeast strain to give this beer its characteristic cloudiness and banana-clove flavors.

I had this beer on December 26 of last year, when kriddy and I went to Indy to go to the three central brewhouses, Ram, Alcatraz and Rock Bottom. This Hefe was probably the best wheat on the day.

So, if you can get to a Ram Brewery get yourself a Bighorn Hefeweizen, and have a toast to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, their desert menu isn't online, so I can't tell if you can get any custard.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beer Review, New Glarus Unplugged Imperial Weizen

Last night, after winning at softball and going to Hooters to celebrate, went home and cracked open a New Glarus Unplugged Imperial Weizen. I served it up in my Goose Island 312 glass.

The beer poured an orange yellow that was very cloudy and had a firm head. It smelled of citrus peel (not necessarily orange, or lemon... just an amalgamation of all citrus peels) with some pepper and clove in the nose. It felt very thick for a wheat, but then, it's named "Imperial" so the thickness could be expected.

It tasted of citrus peel, maybe a little spice. I didn't get any banana, like some other reviews did. This didn't remind me at all of a Weizen (I had expected German style weizen), however it seemed very Belgian (damn, I'm a moron, it's New Glarus) wheat-y. But then I wouldn't call it Weizen, possibly wit, maybe belgian strong? The beer reminded me of La Fin du Monde, or maybe Duvel. It finished very tart, almost attacking the back sides of the tongue.

I'm not a fan of those beers, so I don't think I'd search out this beer again. It's not the beer for me; one was enough. But if you like those beers, you'll probably love this one.

Days of the Beer, June 24

The Beer for today is Unibroue Don de Dieu.

Unibroue is a Quebec based brewery. They started in 1993. In 2004 they were purchased by Sleeman, and in 2006 by Sapporo (so it's a Japanese beer). Unibroue makes several Belgian-style brews that normally have French names. La Fin du Monde (the end of the world); Don de Dieu (Gift of God); Blanche de Chambly; Chambly Noire; Ephemere; and all kinds of others.

According to the Unibroue website; Don de Dieu is a Triple Wheat Ale that is refermented in the bottle at 9% ABV. It is named for Samuel de Champlain's boat, the Don de Dieu. The beer is described as white with an orange hue that is smooth, rich and creamy with a full-bodied flavour and is delicately spiced.

It's picked for today because today is Fête nationale du Québec (Quebec National Holiday). It's also called Saint Jean Baptiste Day. (As I don't speak French, I'm not exactly sure what the festivities are for the day, oh, and they don't offer the festival website in English, but) It looks like there are concerts, parades, tournaments, games and fireworks for the day.

So, In honour of the Quebec National Holiday, have a beer brewed in the province, have a Gift of God.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beer Moment; Boating

Smitty, a fellow blogger, recently posted something about Beer Moments, and Setting and Circumstance.

I’ve coined the term “setting and circumstance” and used it here a few times in the past. I’ve included it in many of my reviews in an effort to impart a degree of honesty to what I’m writing. There are so many variables that can alter or impact a beers performance or taste from one sitting to the next. (Indeed, from one setting to the next as well.) As geeky as it sounds, the way a beer is poured can have a marked effect on the way it looks and tastes. Thus, the pour is a feature of setting and circumstance.

The next graph is the important one...

Location and atmosphere are part of what I call setting and circumstance, for sure.
How true Smitty.

Saturday, Kriddy and I went boating with Ed and (is it his GF?) out in Clinton. I packed up the cooler with some beers and we headed out. Of course, I also threw two glasses in the cooler for kriddy and I to drink out of... just because I'm on the water doesn't mean I can't serve my beer ALMOST appropriately.

Ed was the first one to have a beer. He pulled a bud light (he brought) from the cooler, and I thought, what the heck, so I pulled out a Three Floyds Alpha King. This one I've had for a while, so the hops had mellowed and made it a nice malty pale ale instead of the harsher American Pale Ale (not that it's bad new). Everyone else tried it and seemed to enjoy it.

After that, I rinsed out my glass (not in the lake, silly!) and opened a Southern Tier Uber Sun Imperial Summer Wheat Beer. This beer was a lot NEWER than the Alpha King, so I figured the imperial wheat would probably be similar to the aged American Pale. It was close, but not quite.

I really enjoyed the beer, the others liked the Alpha King better.

I had wanted to get more of the background and the "Setting and Circumstance" in the picture, but it's my phone, and it was really bright and I couldn't tell what the picture was, I assumed it was good enough. (Ed in picture) The beer was rather good, but it's sometimes difficult to drink from a glass on a boat. If the boat is moving, it's practically IMPOSSIBLE to drink. We had started at one place, and were moving to another, I managed to prevent spilling the beer, but drinking it was impossible. So I asked Ed to stop, and we all collectively drank the beer, before moving out again.

Something about drinking a beer named Uber Sun, on a lake, with a bright sun overhead, 80 degree water below, and the smell of suntan lotion, on the first day of summer, just made the whole Beer Moment great.

I didn't take any notes, so I couldn't tell you exactly how the mouthfeel was, how the smell was, how the taste was, I just know that it was a perfect beer for the occasion.

Days of the Beer, June 23

The beer for today is Penn Gold.

On June 23, 1683, William Penn signed a friendship treaty with the Lenni Lenape Indians in Pennsylvania. You'll remember Penn was a Quaker (he is not on the box for Quaker oatmeal), a group of strict Christians who refused to bow or take their hats off to superiors. Quakers are concerned with personal choise and respect for humanity. They are also pacifists and conscientious objectors.

The Quakers are not (necessarily) tee-totalers. From here.

Quaker brewers consoled themselves that beer was at least more wholesome than gin.
As for Penn's treaty, (from wiki) Penn acquired lands for his colony through business rather than conquest. He paid the Indians 1200 pounds for their land.

So in honor of Penn's 1200 pounds, have a Penn Gold.

Penn Gold is a Münchener Helles. It clocks in at 4% ABV. Their website describes it as a light-colored, medium bodied lager beer with a delicate hop aroma.

I had this beer March 4, 2007. It seemed decent at the time. Penn makes some decent brews. So if you are in their distribution area, grab a gold, and think about one of the only guys who didn't royally screw over the native Americans when his colony grew.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 22

There's a series of beers to be drank today.

The first beer is from Bells Brewery, Hopslam. The second beer is from Shoreline Brewery, Smokestack Porter. The third is Three Floyds Behemoth.

On June 22, 1918, was one of the worst circus train wrecks in U.S. history. It happened near Hammond Indiana (original home of Three Floyds until they moved to their new location in Munster, Indiana). 86 circus people died and another 127 were injured when a train engineer fell asleep and ran his train into the rear of the circus train.

Around 4 a.m. Alonzo Sargent was operating a train pulling 20 empty cars. He was following a slower circus train that had 26 cars. The circus train stopped because one of the axles was overheating, Sargent had just fallen asleep and his train plowed into the caboose and 4 sleeping cars, he was going roughly 35 miles per hour.

Sargent's train initially left Kalamazoo Michigan at 10:35 on June 21. (Kalamazoo is the home of Bells Brewery). The train next stopped in Michigan City to take on water. (Michigan City Indiana is the home of Shoreline Brewery). At about 4:05 a.m. June 22, near Hammond Indiana, Sargent fell asleep.

The circus train held about 400 performers for the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Almost a quarter were killed in the first 35 seconds after the collision... then it caught on fire.

Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition and were buried in Woodlawn Cemeter, in Forest Park, Illinois, in a section set aside as Showmen's Rest.

The circus only missed 2 performances, the first in Hammond, the next would have been in Monroe, Wisconsin (home of Minhas Craft Brewery).

The first beer, Bells Hopslam is an American Double IPA. It clocks in at 9.3% ABV. I had this delicious beer on March 16.

The second beer is Shoreline Smokestack, they had recently run out of this brew when we went there March 5. It comes in at 5.5% ABV.

The final beer is Three Floyds Behemoth Blonde Barleywine. It clocks in at 12.5% ABV. This was the 1000th different beer I had last year, on November 3, 2007.

As for why? Each train had a smokestack, the train slammed into the other. Behemoth is in 22 oz. bombers, if you drink that, with the rest, you'll probably fall asleep.

Days of the Beer, June 21

The beer for today is... something from Sweetwater Brewing. I just couldn't decide on which beer of theirs to pick. Most likely you'll be able to get a Hummer. You might get a Donkey Punch. If you are REALLY lucky, you'll get a Happy Ending.

All these beers have dirty names.

Hummer: SweetWater Hummer is a tasty Belgian White Ale brewed with coriander and orange peel. Cloudy with subtle fruit tones and a lingering finish. Everybody loves a Hummer!

Donkey Punch:The biggest farm animal to come out of the SweetWater Barn! We bucked up and threw everything, including the kitchen sink, into this "Jackass" concoction. At 10% ABV and over 90 IBU - You’ll know it when it hits you in the back of the head!

Happy Ending:
It's nice to be able to finally brew some beer without restrictions on it. we came from Colorado where we could brew or try anything. We've been waiting 7 years to make a stout and we harnessed all that frustration into this batch of beer.

We didn't get caught up in the parameters of a specific style we just brewed a big fat hoppy beautiful beer. The timing of the law change couldn't have been better for us, because it has taken until this summer for us to get set up in our new brewery. We finally have some capacity to experiment with some new style. This could lead into a seasonal offering from us in the future. For now we're just glad we can satisfy the demands of the folks who have been on us since day 1 to make a stout.

Malt: 70/80 crystal malt, chocolate malt, black malt, roasted malt

Hops: Centennial, Willamette and cascade - on the dry hop!

SweetWater Brewing Company is located in Atlanta Georgia. It was voted Small Brewery of the Year at GABF in 2002. SweetWater is distributed in Atlanta and the surrounding area, and their beer can be found in Nashville, Asheville, Birmingham and parts of Florida.

On June 21, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States establishes the Miller Test, which governs obscenity law in the U.S.

Marvin Miller was a guy who ran a mail order business that sold sexually explicit material. He was first found guilty in California for distributing obscene material. His conviction was upheld and was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They first argued the case on Jan 18-19, 1972, then again on November 7 of that year. The decision came on June 21, 1973.

The decision set three criteria that has to be met for a work to not be considered obscene.

  • the average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), must find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
  • the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; and
  • the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

As for the beers, Hummer is a Belgian Wit (I have not this beer). Donkey Punch is a Barleywine style ale. I had this beer on draft at one of the Taco Mac's around Kennesaw, Georgia on October 7 of last year. I remember it having a winey-raisin flavor. Happy Ending is an Imperial Stout. A rather tasty Imperial Stout I might add. I picked it up on my last trip to Georgia, and had it on Feb. 16.

Days of the Beer, June 20

The beer for today is Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout.

Today is the solstice. In the northern hemisphere it is the longest day of the year; in the southern, it's the shortest (dealing with daylight... duh, every DAY is 24 hours long).

If you were above the arctic circle today, you could sit out and watch the sun dip down towards the horizon, but never quite disappear. Conversely, if you were on Antarctica, you wouldn't even see the sun today.

When I lived in Alaska from 92-95 I lived in Anchorage. I arrived there in early June, I got off the plane at 10 p.m. but thought it was 10 a.m. because it was daytime there. I had thought I set my clock wrong. It was really odd going to bars at 9 at night and the sun was up, staying in the bar until it closed at 3, and the sun still being up (it went down for a couple minutes while I was inside).

The beer for today is from Central Waters. Their website describes it as:

This smooth, creamy stout and a crackling fireplace are the perfect answer to a wintery evening in Wisconsin. The rich coffee flavor compliments the "warm, fuzzy feeling" you get from the abundant alcohol. Enjoy in moderation.
Moderation is going to be the name of my bar!

I first had this beer at the Champaign Urbana Beer Club March meeting. It was caramel-ly, with strong vanilla tones. It was delicious. I (accidentally) picked up a 6-pack of it when we were in Wisconsin on May 9 traveling around to different breweries/pubs. Yeah, it may not be a "summer" beer, but live a little, drink a stout on the longest summer day.

Why drink a stout (let alone an Imperial Stout) in the summer? Well, a cold stout seems to hold it's temperature better than a wheat. So if you are gonna sip on a beer for an hour, sip on syrup, it'll stay colder longer.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Beer Review, Cisk Lager

Last night at Crane Alley while waiting for the Champaign Urbana Beer Club to convene, I sat at the bar and asked Aaron what was new. Pretty much everything they had in bottle or draft was familiar, until he pulled out a bottle of a shandy, and also a can of Cisk. (This was after he told me that Meat owed the bar $10 from the April CUBeer club meeting).

I asked if I could have the Cisk, and he said sure.

It poured completely clear, no opacity to it whatsoever. The head wasn't very strong, even with an aggressive pour (from a can). I joked with Aaron that I had trouble taking the picture because my cell phone camera was focusing on something through the glass. It was that clear.

It smelled... well... like a lager. (Aaron said it smelled like a Bud or similar). It had that crisp sweet smell that summertime lagers are good for. Similar to Highland Shining Rock Lager. It felt thin on the tongue, and had scrubbing bubbles (even without the head).

It tasted like a decent lager. Macro or otherwise. It had that slightly tart flavor, with very little hops. It was crisp and refreshing. There was a slightly bitter aftertaste that showed up late, and it dried the mouth (not a lot) making it refreshing and still begged you to drink more. At 4.2% ABV, you can drink as much as you want.

This would be a great beer for after mowing; during mowing; or before mowing. It'd be good for mixing with lemonade for a shandy. You aren't going to impress too many people by showing up with a 6 pack of these, but it's not an snob beer. It'd be perfect for taking fishing; I can picture a six pack of these hanging on the second stringer... the first full of fish, the second with a sixer of beer in the water helping to keep it cool...

Days of the Beer, June 19

The beer for today is Terrapin Side Project Volume #1, Hop Shortage Ale.

On June 19, 1986, less than two days after being drafted number 2, by the Boston Celtics, Len Bias died. After arriving back on the campus around 11 p.m., he ate with with some teammates, the left campus around 2 a.m. on the 19th and drove to an off campus party. He returned to his dorm room around 3 a.m. He then took some cocaine which caused a heart attack.

He went into convulsions, and his friends called emergency services. When they arrived, he was unconscious and not breathing. They tried to restart his heart and breathing but were unsuccessful.

Len Bias played college basketball at the University of Maryland, the Terrapins. He was supposed to be the person who led the Boston Celtics out of the Larry Bird era and to help them continue their dominance for years to come. From the time Bias was drafted until... Tuesday... it had been exactly 22 years. Len Bias was drafted June 17, 1986, the Celtics finally won their 17th championship exactly 22 years later.

On the label of the beer it says.

2008 will forever be known in professional brewing circles as the year of the Hop Shortage. Brewers everywhere are scrambling to find hops just to produce their standard line of beers. Some are so nervous they are even cutting back on brewing hoppy beers. NOT US! In typical Terrapin fashion we are going against the grain (or against the hops, so the speak). If there is going to be a shortage of hops, why not put them all into one huge hop bomb of a beer? We hope you enjoy our HOP SHORTAGE ALE.
It was a rather tasty IPA. I had it on May 26, during our Memorial Day beer gathering. It's rather hard to find, in limited distribution, so if you can find one, grab it; enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dream Job

So dealing with beer, what would your dream job be?

Would you want to be a brewer? Would you want to own a bar? Some sort of combination? Would you want to work for a distributor? Would you like to own a distributor?

Production? Sales? Providing? Or would you want to get paid to be a Cicerone (or a cicerone style job)?

Last night while at Seven Saints, a Realtor guy in Champaign pretty much offered me a job as presenting beers at his open house parties. I guess he needs a hook. Some realtors have wine tastings at their open houses, he seemed interested in having a beer tasting.

Is this something I'd like to do? It's not like I could just give away a box of beer (or would it be an investment?) What would one charge for hosting a beer party for people that you don't know, and don't know if they'd even like the beer.

But then, isn't our goal in this beer thing to spread the joys of craft beer, and shatter peoples notions of what beer (and good beer) is?

When people say "I like dark beers" and then say they love Guinness ... isn't that who we're trying to broaden the horizon of?

How did this start? Well, a guy had asked Andy (manager of 7S) for a beer recommendation since the Dark Horse Black Bier was no longer on tap. Andy went through their list of stouts/porters and darker beers, until finally remember the New Belgium 1554. I mentioned how to me, it seems more like a Schwarzbier and not that stouty... but then, it's just a Belgian black beer. (I'm not a huge fan of Belgian style attempts at black beer). At the time, I was drinking... a belgian style attempt at a stout, Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence (which reminds me a whole lot of Hippie and my Chocolate Stout). So me and that guy were talking about beer, he mentioned he loved Old Rasputin, and who doesn't? Then his buddy comes back and was drinking something... a jack and coke style drink. And he's the realtor, and is hosting an open house party thingy on sunday, and would kriddy and I like to go? Then we start talking about beer, because, I'm mentioning how much I love stouts, and all kinds of beer, and I order an O'fallon Wheach.

So, we're talking about hops and stouts and barley... and I order a fruity flavored wheat beer. He starts to get interested in how kriddy and I are analyzing the beer, it's more apricotty than peachy... and similar stuff so he starts talking more about beer. He says something like "you've probably got a nice collection at home" which is funny because I was earlier talking with paddy about how much beer I have at the house (was I steering the conversation... not on purpose, I was pseudo drunk), and he brings up the idea of me providing beer.

Well, beer ain't cheap. A box of beer, when I go shopping, winds up costing about $100 on average. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's a little less, but it's usually around $100. It stays the same if it's a box of 12 bombers or a box of 24 bottles.

So, I guess the question is... do I want to do this? I've got more than enough beer at home, and can always get more. But ... bah... I should email him and find out more.

I'll keep you informed with results.

Days of the Beer, June 18

The beer for today is Bass.

Sorry people, but I'm an American, with all the bad stereotypes that go with it. When Americans think of British beer, there aren't really many that come to mind. Granted there's Fullers, Tetley's, Harverys, Harviestoun, Sam Smith and a crapload of others. But when pressed to come up with a beer... well, I thought of Bass.

So why is today's beer Bass?

On June 18, 1965, the English government passed a drink-drive limit.

The government has announced it will introduce a blood alcohol limit for drivers.

Anyone found to be driving when over the set limit will be penalised in the hope it will deter drivers from drink driving and make roads safer.

I'm not too sure how the Brits enforced the law, as it wasn't until 1967 that they started using Breathalyzers.

Here's an interesting tidbit I just found on wiki.

Breathing pattern can also significantly affect breath test results. One study found that the BAC readings of subjects decreased 11 to 14% after running up one flight of stairs and 22–25% after doing so twice. Another study found a 15% decrease in BAC readings after vigorous exercise or hyperventilation. Hyperventilation for 20 seconds has been shown to lower the reading by approximately 32%. On the other hand, holding your breath for 30 seconds can increase the breath test result by about 28%
So, the next time you get pulled over, find 2 flights of stairs to run up, or just hyperventilate for 20 seconds.

And do so with a Bass.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 17

The beer for today is Egill Skallagrimsson Brewery Egils Premium.No, I've never heard of it either.

So why would anyone want to drink this beer?

It's rated in the 16th percentile on Ratebeer, and isn't rated at all on BA.

Again... why drink it. Well, apparently today is Iceland Day! Hooray! Those wacky Icelanders chose June 17, 1944 as the day the Republic of Iceland was formed. Iceland was previously under Danish rule... damn those Danes!

June 17 was also the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, who was a leader of an Icelandic independence movement in the 1800's.

Iceland's independence was a hard fought victory... oh wait. In 1944, Denmark was occupied by Germany and Iceland was invaded by the British, Iceland just sort of said... "hey, we're free" and it stuck.

So if you can find one, drink an ice(land) cold Egill Skallagrimsson Egils Premium... and turn your nose up at those Danes.

(I tried to find some other Icelandic beer, but the pickings aren't too great; heck, beer was banned in Iceland until 1989. )

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beer Review, Dieu de Ciel Dernière Volonté

Friday night, cracked open a bottle of Dieu de Ciel Dernière Volonté.

The beer (which means Last Will) is an Abbey style blonde ale. I was feeling rather under the weather when I drank it and didn't take any notes.

It had decent head that stuck for most of the drink (I assume, as there was still Belgian Lace stuck to the glass when I went to wash it on Saturday morning). Kriddy said it smelled like I was drinking fruit juice or banana. I think I remember banana. It tasted like a german hefe. Slight banana, fruity flavor, that would have come from the yeast.

It was very easy to drink this beer. I'd like to have it again. I purchase this from Archer Liquors, on mine and Hippy's beer run.

At the time of drinking, I was suffering (and still am) from Bullous Myringitis. Which is an infection of the ear that causes a blister on the ear drum. Friday night, I could really feel the infection in my Eustachian tube, and it hurt bad... I've still got the ringing in my ear, which will last for a couple more weeks, but the infection is gone, so I'm not feeling horrible.

Days of the Beer, June 16

The beer for today is Kona Brewing Company Fire Rock Pale Ale.

On June 16, 1897, a treaty was signed that annexed the Republic of Hawai'i to the United States. The islands later became the Territory of Hawaii on July 7, 1898. Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959.

According to the Kona Brewing Company website, the beer is:
Fire Rock Pale Ale is a crisp, refreshing “Hawaiian-style” pale ale. Its signature copper color results from the unique blend of specialty roasted malts. The pronounced citrus-floral hop aroma comes from the liberal amounts of Galena, Cascade & Mt. Hood hops added to each brew.
I had a Kona Fire Rock Pale on July 27 of last year. I don't remember it being too bad.

So, grab a Kona, and I hope you get lei-ed tonight.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 15

Today's beer is Carlsberg.

When most people think of Danish beers, they think of either Tuborg, or Carlsberg. It doesn't really matter which one you think of, they are both owned by Carlsberg. So why are we going to drink a Carlsberg today?

On June 15, 1219, the Dannebrog fell from the sky. The Dannebrog is the oldest national flag in the world, and it's the flag of Denmark. According to the legend, during the Battle of Lyndanisse in Estonia, the flag fell from the sky and right after that happened, the Danes won.

June 15 is also Denmark's flag day, go figure. So, to honor those wacky Danes with their flags that fall from the sky, go get yourself a beer made in Denmark! They claim Carlsberg is the best beer in the world, they claim God gave them their flag. What more could you ask for on June 15.

(If you want a really good beer from Denmark, go get yourself a Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast. But you didn't hear it from me)

Days of the Beer, June 14

You have two choices for beer today, both are stouts.

The first is Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. The second is Bear Republic Big Bear Stout.

In 1789 whiskey distilled from corn is first produced by American clergyman the Rev Elijah Craig. It is named Bourbon because Rev Craig lived in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Whiskey is a close cousin to beer, and there are several beers that are aged in whiskey barrels after brewing. Some of these aged beers have a more pronounced whiskey/bourbon flavor, like GIBCS or the BrewDog Paradox line of beers. Others, like this years O'fallon Pappy van Winkle Barrel Aged Smoked Porter have just a hint of the flavor in the beer.

Elijah Craig was a Baptist minister. He aged some moonshine in charred oak barrels to produce the America's first whiskey. That may have been the last time a baptist admits to drinking whiskey.

Also on June 14, in 1846 the Bear Flag Revolt began, when settlers in Sonoma, California start a revolt against Mexico and proclaim the California Republic. The Republic lasted almost a whole month, and later became the state of California.

California, the state, added part of the bear to it's current flag. So in honor of the nearly whole month of the Republic of California, have a Big Bear Stout.

Days of the Beer, June 13

The beer for today is Konig Ludwig Weissbier, Kaltenberg brewery (Schlossbrauerei).

On June
13, 1886, King Ludwig II of Bavaria is found dead in Lake Starnberg south of Munich. Granted this isn't the beer named for that guy, but it's for his grandfather, Ludwig I.

Ludwig I is the guy who founded Oktoberfest. Wouldn't it be great if you could claim your grandfather was the guy who came up with one of the worlds largest parties?

The guy we are commemorating today is the guy who had several castles in Germany built, including Neuschwanstein castle, Linderhof castle, and the Herrenchiemsee.

Ludwig 2 spent a lot of time with Richard Wagner, and called him "the friend".

As for the beer (not named for him, but his grandfather... the guy who started Oktoberfest) here's a set of tasting notes from the interwebs.

König Ludwig is golden in colour and has a naturally cloudy appearance derived from the special Bavarian Brewers yeast. It has a nice balanced flavour, with malty overtones and an aroma reminiscent of apples and bananas. The stimulating fruity experiences leave you with an unmistakably fruity tingle in the mouth.
Apples and bananas??? So have a beer with fruity aroma, in honor of a fruity king.

(Note: this was one of my favorite beers back when I switched off Miller Lite and Billy Barooz stopped carrying Bells Amber. Then they stopped carrying it on draft and I had to switch to other beers. This beer is great in either Bottle or Draft. DON'T RUIN IT BY PUTTING FRUIT IN IT!!!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 12

The beer for today, isn't necessarily a beer, so much as a concept.

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute was unconstitutional.

So what the hell does that mean, and what does it have to do with beer?

Virgina, at the time, had a law called the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924". This law banned interracial marriages. The case brought before the court was called Loving v. Virginia. Mildred Loving was a lady of African and Native American ancestry, she married Richard Perry Loving, a white man, in the District of Columbia. They did it there because of the Racial Integrity Act, which banned whites from marrying non-whites (it apparently didn't cover other skin tones from marrying each other). Well, after getting married, the couple moved back to Virgina, and were charged with breaking the law, and they were sent to prison for a year.

The judge in Virgina said this...

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix.
On June 12, 1967, the supreme court said that banning interracial marriages was unconstitutional. So in honor of that, today I recommend you have a black and tan, or some other mixed beer drink. Other appropriate drinks would be a mix of Victory Storm King, and Victory Hop Devil (the storm devil); a Snakebite (stout and cider). You don't want to float the one beer on the other, the goal today is to get the dark and lighter beers to mix.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bar Review, I'm Not Gay

Radio Maria in downtown Champaign is an eclectic bar. You'll find all kinds of interesting people there. It's frequented by some of the CU beer scene.

The beer people are drawn there by Radio Maria's 27 tap handles. With that many taps you'd expect the beer to not turn over quickly, but it does. About the only constant is the $1.50 PBR. Last night, Kriddy had a Michigan Brewing Company Bavarian Dark, I started my beer drinking there with a Greenflash Hop Head Red. I followed that up with a Rogue Soba Pilsner. After that, I went with what was called MBC harvest. I finished the night with Darkhorse Rod amber. In addition the the 27 taps they've got a large selection of bottled beer. (Note: picture is not a beer from last night) We met a guy last night who didn't know what beer to have next, so I recommended the draft of Rogue Shakespeare Stout. At $4 for a pint, it's probably the best value for a beer on the menu and possibly in town. When they put Samichlaus on draft last winter, I ordered the first glass and the bartender gave me a pint, I was only able to finish half of it (that may have been the best beer value ever).

The first thing you'll probably notice in Radio Maria is their blue bar. It's really cool to look at. It makes your beer look a little funny though. The pilsner last night looked green while sitting on the bar. Another thing you need to be careful of is to not leave a non-stemmed glass sitting directly on the bar, as it can get warm, really quick. The lights in the place are also cool and look like something that would be on the bottom of a space ship. The wall behind the bar has multi-colored glass panels that are back lit. Radio Maria is probably the most lit bar in Champaign Urbana. It's a stark (is stark the right word; stark means bleak, so I need an antonym for stark) contrast to the dark Blind Pig, right across the street.

On the wall opposite the bar, is displayed art work (I believe from local artists) that is for sale. There are no TV's in Radio Maria. Chris, the bartender last night, laughed at us when we asked if he could please put the TV on the cubs game.

The beer is served in as appropriate glassware as you'll find in town, and the staff is knowledgeable about their selection.

I've got to admit, I've never eaten there. They have a Tapas menu in addition to their regular menu.

An example from their online food menu:

Duck pan seared duck breast; with cherry demi glace, brie mashed potatoes, and Haitian slaw (22.00)
Radio Maria is not the place to go for a grilled cheese sandwich... at least not one that you'd recognize as a grilled cheese sandwich. I've never heard anyone complain about the food. It's a little to fru-fru for me, but I'm a beer snob, not a food connoisseur. (Although I was pleasantly surprised on Sunday at Andy's (the manager of 7s) house party when he presented a pork loin in a Strawberry Margarita barbecue sauce) .

The people in there range from beer lovers, to wine lovers, to food lovers, to ... lovers.

It's a very alternative-friendly place. (I do not have a problem with that; just a warning for people who might). Last night, a male patron who had too much to drink really took a liking to Chris, the male bartender. It's not uncommon to see same sex couples at Radio Maria. It's not a "Gay Bar" but it's friendly, that's for sure.

The wait and kitchen staff (at least on the nights we've been there) look like the kind of people who went away to college and discovered themselves. Whiteboy's and girls with dreadlocks, tattoos on the neck, and corduroys, things most people didn't wear in highschool, but discovered they could when they got to college. The guys in the kitchen will invariably have a scruffy unkempt beard. There's nothing wrong with that, either. It just seems like they are rebelling against their white-middle class roots; when in 10 years, they'll settle down and be driving a minivan or SUV too.

To sum up, Radio Maria is a good place to go and have a great beer, in an artsy environment. If you like fancy foods, it's the place to go.

Beer Candidates

I was reading Deege's post over at the Fermentarium, entitled Which candidate represents the "beer vote"?

He made the standard argument that you will see in the coming months, John McCain's wife owns an AB distributorship; and Barak Obama didn't know about Yuengling.

Sadly, as a craft beer lover, he left off the other options.

American politics is similar to beer in America. There's Anheuser Busch or there's SABMiller. Most people think you can vote Republican or Democrat. Either way, you are ordering an American Macro Lager! The stuff we not-so-affectionately call, Fizzy Yellow Piss!

Fellow beer drinkers, you have a choice! You don't HAVE to vote for one of the two giants. You can vote for change.

Bob Barr!

Yes, Bob Barr USED to be a Republican, but he changed. (You can watch him talk about it on the Colbert Report)

So why is Bob Barr, the best Beer candidate, other than obviously if you can say Bob Barr Beer three times really quick, it acts as a field sobriety test? Bob Barr is a Libertarian. They are for personal freedom.

Check out this article from October 17, 2007.

Maybe it's because for most of my adult life I was a member of the Republican Party which, as those of us who have watched politics for a living know, is a party populated exclusively by teetotalers. I just never felt the need to hang around bars until the not-so-wee hours of the morning. But, hey, a lot of people do. And why shouldn't they be able to; whether they elect to do so for the right reasons or the wrong ones?
So, he doesn't care WHY you want to go to a bar until 4 in the morning, he respects your decision to do it!

Why are we yet again now facing the prospect of a government entity — in this instance, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners — threatening to curtail further the ability of business owners to control the circumstances under which they make their living, by deciding how long they are allowed to remain open?
Wow, a presidential candidate who is AGAINST the Nanny state!

I know all that. But still, the notion that the bad behavior of a minority of people in a given category — those who drink at bars, for example — should be dealt with by the heavy hand of government limiting how that entire group of individuals should behave, strikes me as discredited and rather authoritarian.
He's for letting you make your own decisions.

Read the article. He raises good points.

If you search the interwebs for Bob Barr and Beer, you'll find many people who comment on his posts that talk about the Alabama and the 6% ABV rule. These people claim that AB is part of the reason that Alabama has that law. Why would Bud want other people to be able to sell beer in Alabama, when they are able to limit the beers that go into the state?

Sure, most people consider the Libertarian Party to not have a chance. When was the last time America had a viable third party candidate? Ross Perot?

Vote Barr... Barr for BEER!

Beer Review, Ølfabrikken Porter

Last night, before heading out for Tuesday Festivities (trivia at hooters), had an Ølfabrikken Porter. I checked beer advocate for appropriate glassware and they recommended Pint or Mug, and I so rarely get to drink from a mug so I brought out the mug my cousin John gave me for being a guy in his wedding.

The beer poured nearly black, about as dark brown as you can be, before being black. It was opaque so no light was getting through. When I initially opened the bottle I was hit by the smell of black olive and chocolate.

It felt really thick and didn't feel carbonated on the tongue.

It tasted... like a porter. Like a thick porter. There was prominent flavors of chocolate and black olive. There was a hidden coffee flavor. Lurking deep in the profile was some vanilla and caramel. Not much smoke flavor, but it was definitely roast-y. It was drying on the tongue and right at the end had a bit of bitterness.

The cheese in the foreground is Cahill's Irish Porter Cheddar. On my first sip of the beer, I downed a few lactase pills so I could eat some cheese with my beer. The picture is a little busy, with the buns in the back and the cheese on the paper, and the beer isn't prominently displayed, but I was in a hurry to eat some cheese and drink some beer. The cheese was good, it didn't really do a flavor explosion in my mouth like I was hoping for. It just seemed to go well with it.

Maybe I went into the pairing with too high of hopes, (like when I had a Reuben with the raspberry wheat at Harrisons) it didn't live up to that, it was just a good compliment. It wasn't newlyweds, this beer and cheese was an old married couple. They aren't staring madly in love into each others eyes, having sex in elevators... it was the old couple who ride the bus together that are the same height, have ears that droop the same, and don't really have to say anything to each other. They still hold hands, but it's not fireworks.

I picked up this beer in Indianapolis at (I believe) Payless Liquors, 7369 Madison Ave, Indianapolis. It's got a smaller beer selection, but, damn, it's a good selection.

Days of the Beer, June 11

The Beer for today is Alcatraz Brewery Searchlight.

Today in history, Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin became the only prisoners to successfully escape from the prison on Alcatraz Island.

If you really want to try this beer, you have two options to get it.

1. Indianapolis

2. Orange, California

I had it last year on Boxing Day, December 26, when Kriddy and I went to Indy and drank beers at Ram, Alcatraz and Rock Bottom.

According to the Alcatraz Brewery website:

Searchlight 4.5%ABV
Light in body, light in color with a crisp clean finish.
It's a Light beer. If you can get one, drink it in honor of the only three guys to make them really use the searchlight!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sherwin Williams Paint Trucks

This blog has been moved.

Days of the Beer, June 10

The chosen beer for today is...


Drink any beer you damn well please!

On June 10, 1935, Dr. Robert Smith took his last drink, and that is considered the founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous, in Akron, Ohio, with Bill Wilson.

I'm going to be having an Ølfabrikken Porter. How about you?

FYI, we've got some exciting Days of the Beer coming up, so stay tuned.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 9

The beer for today is Coal Porter, by Atlantic Brewing Company. On June 9, 1891, Cole Porter was born.

Cole Porter was an American composer and songwriter. He wrote several comedies including Anything Goes. He also wrote the songs "I Get a Kick out of You", and "I've got You Under My Skin".

According to the Atlantic Brewing Company website.

Coal Porter
A superb porter, hearty & dark. This one is a staff favorite, made with pale, crystal, Munich, chocolate, and black malts. The darker malts give Coal its color and rich flavor. We use Target and Willamette hops to yield a very subtle hop flavor in this porter.

We cellar this beer for close to six months before releasing it on the thirsty throngs of fans.

ABV 5.8%

From the song "I Get a Kick out of You".

I get no kick from champagne
Mere alcohol doesnt thrill me at all
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you

You'll note he doesn't mention not getting a kick out of beer anywhere in the song.

I had an Atlantic Brewing Company Coal Porter on August 2 of last year. I have no distinct memories of the beer, other than I know it wasn't horrible.

(Not my picture)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bar Review, 2 Downtown Champaign bars

Friday night after work, Meat, Big Brad and I decided we'd head to downtown Champaign to the Blind Pig, for some beers.

The Blind Pig is an AWESOME place to go to have a beer. If you are just coming down for the day to CU (say... to pick up your kid from college) and are looking for THE place to have a beer. The Blind Pig is the place to go.

BP is an English style tavern (or so I'm told, never been to England to see for sure). There is lots of wood and burgundy paint inside. There are free metal tip dartboards and... that's about it for entertainment. There are plenty of lights, but all the wood and the dark paint absorb it, so the bar seems very dark. There are no TV's. So if you want to watch a game, you can't do it there.

The interior isn't what brings you to "the pig", it's the beer. I count 26 taps on their website, which is on of the biggest numbers of taps in town. (Radio Maria across the street is right up there too). The cheap beer on tap is PBR. There is also Blue Moon, but that's about it of macro offerings. Their beer turns over real quick, so even if the menu was printed that day, it may not be accurate that night. On Friday, there were at least 3 beers that were on the menu that weren't available.

One of the huge drawing points of the pig is the cask ale.

According to their website...

Cask-conditioned beer, or “real ale”, is allowed to mature naturally. The unfiltered, unpasteurized beer still contains live yeast, which continues conditioning the beer in the cask. This process creates a gentle, natural CO2 carbonation and allows malt and hop flavors to fully develop, resulting in a richer tasting drink with more character than a standard keg beer. Real ale is served at cellar temperature, 55ºF.

Most of us associate cask-conditioned beer with flat warm beer. While that may sometimes be the case, it's not always true. They have a large selection of bottled beer, that also turns over relatively quickly.

There's no food in the pig, so if are looking for a place to sit and watch the game while eating something... don't go there.

The pig's patrons are an eclectic bunch, but they are pretty much all driven by a love for good beer. On any given night, you might see a hippie with dreadlocks in a hemp shirt sitting next to a guy who looks like he's on leave from the Army (the guy in the army is probably there looking for some beer similar to what he was drinking back over in Germany). You'll see some guys in suits and ties next to the motorcycle gang (ok, so that's Meat and Big Brad). Conversations will invariably go to beer, and are easily started with "whatcha drinkin?" It's very easy to approach anyone at the pig with the simple line of "whatcha drinkin?"

Since you don't eat at Blind Pig, you are probably going to have to get your grub on. When we drink there, we then head through the alley to Guido's. Guido's is, of course, a Carlos bar. This place has the most... um... normal person food in downtown champaign. This is the place to go to get a plate of nachos. Kriddy says it has the best grilled cheese sammiches in all of CU. She would know. I go there for the Prime Rib Sammich. It's about $7 and is a hearty portion. You will not be too disappointed eating it. I normally get the onion rings to go with it. We used to have our pool team at Guido's, just because of the prime rib sammich. There are worse reasons to go to a bar. Their beer selection is ok, but that's not why you go to Guido's. The place is a decent sports bar from open until about 9 p.m. The kitchen is good, there are plenty of tv's. There are two pool tables upstairs and two downstairs. The bartenders are friendly and are professional CU bartenders, all having worked at various other CU bars.

The beer selection isn't that great. There is probably something in every style, but they aren't really a specialty beer bar. They do make some strong mixed drinks, I'm told.

Most of Guido's business probably comes after 10 on Friday and Saturday nights (that I know of for sure) Guido's is one of the largest MEET MARKETS in CU. Groups of guys head there, as do groups of girls. It's one of the places that people go to when they are looking for a date, not when they have one. The manager out at Billy Barooz used to manage Guido's. I had initially heard that he moved out to the crossing because he hadn't gone to bed before 3 a.m. in about 2 years. Guido's routinely has to kick patrons out at closing time. It's a bar where last call means there's a rush to get as much MORE alcohol in you as humanly (or not humanly) possible. When people leave Guido's, they will normally be looking for a place to eat something.

Last year, Guido's opened their basement, which has the full bar and two pool tables. It's normally a little dark and crowded. You'll find no shortage of fraternity guys and sorority girls at Guido's. It's definitely at bud light bar after 10. It's still fun to go to every now and then, but I'd rather go elsewhere, at least after 10.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Days of the Beer, June 8

The beer for June 8 is Harvey and Son's Tom Paine Original Old Porter.

On June 8, 1809 Thomas Paine died.

According to Wiki

His main contribution was as the author of the powerful, widely read pamphlet, Common Sense (1776), advocating independence for the American Colonies from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and of The American Crisis, a series of pamphlets distributed between 1776-1783 that supported the Revolution.
According to the Brewers Website

Brewed to commemorate the bicentenary of Thomas Paine's "The Rights of Man". It is thought that Paine help draught the American Declaration Of Independence. His work still ranks among the best sellers of all time. America celebrates Independence day on July 4th each year. CAMRA has designated July as a celebration of British Independent Brewers of which Harveys is one. Where ever your sympathies lie it is worth raising a glass of Tom Paine. A dry hopped strong pale ale awarded the Silver Medal at the BBI Awards in 1993.
So if you like freedom and beer, on June 8, crack open a Tom Paine Porter.

Days of the Beer, June 7

The highlighted beer for June 7 is Three Floyds Robert the Bruce.

On June 7, 1329, Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, died.

According to Three Floyds website.

Robert the Bruce

STYLE: Scottish Ale
COLOR: Dark Brown
FLAVOR CHARACTERISTICS: A big malty body from chocolate and roasted malts, well balanced withjust the right combination of hops. Robust yet smooth, a true malt-lover's delight. AROMA: Full sweet malty nose, highlighting by roasted malt notes.
AWARDS: Gold Medal, 1997 Real Ale Fest

I remember Robert the Bruce from Three Floyds as being
extremely malty. Most 3F beers are big on hops, but this one is HUGE on malt. At 7.2% it can also mess you up pretty good if you have a bunch. So, for June 7, find you a Robert the Bruce, and drink happily.

not my picture

Bar Review, After Softball Bars

In the greater CU area there are several bars that I tend to think of as After Softball bars.

These are the places you might go to around 8 or 9 p.m. on a weeknight (not Friday or Saturday) and see a bunch of people wearing similar shirts and tall socks. There will invariably be some guys in brightly colored socks in Adidas flip flops.
These bars are pretty easy to pick out. So how do you tell if the bar you are at is an after softball bar, if it's raining? It's pretty easy to pick out, if the place sells pitchers of beer and its the little plastic pitcher, then it's probably an after softball bar.

When you go to these places, you could get that little pitcher filled with your choice of macro beer. Miller Lite, Bud Light, and if you are lucky you might be able to get one full of regular Bud. Horray!!!

Around CU, there are 4 bars that fit the above descriptions pretty well.

The first is on Neil Street near downtown Champaign. Tumble Inn, called TI to people who frequent it.

TI has darts, and some form of internet juke box, and possibly bar food, dunno for sure, never been there when anyone was eating. This bar is macro-heaven. There's a review somewhere on the interwebs that says over 50 beers (wait no, that's 50 years). If it's a macro-made, it's probably at TI.

TI is the kind of place where you don't go to enjoy a beer, or to enjoy your liquor, it's a "Let's do shots" kind of establishment.

A little down the road on Springfield is Pia's Sports Bar and Grill. Pias sponsors many many many softball teams (I think most everyone who has played softball in CU has either played for or against a Pia's team). Pia's is one of the places to go after softball, where you pay for your pitchers for striking out. They also have a grill that produces grilled bar food (go figure). There's nothing too spectacular about the place, but some folks love it.

A couple blocks away is Office II. It's pretty much the same as Pia's except it's totally different, just ask the people who love O2 and can't stand Pia's. Apparently someone likes their burger basket. I think I once had buffalo wings there that were ok.

So far, none of these places will have any beer that remotely resembles craft beer. You might be lucky and find Guinness on draught, but is that really luck?

The final after softball location is at one of the softball locations. T.K. Wendls or the Brickhouse, one of the two major CU places to play softball, the other is Champaign County Parks district. Wendl's has a full grill bar menu, and the full lineup of ho-hum beers. After softball games, on hot nights, its fun to sit out and sip hydrating beers and watch pretty girls play sand volleyball. Other than that, it's not so great. There are two pool tables at the Brickhouse and up until recently they had OTB.

So if you are looking for a bar that has decent hamburgers, with marco lager on tap that is served in mini-pitchers, then Office 2, Pia's, Tumble Inn or the Brickhouse would be great places to go.

Days of the Beer, June 6

I'm going to start a new "feature" here on the Vbg-log, called Days of the Beer. We've all seen (and possibly have) a beer calendar, the day at a glance thing. I've got one sitting on my desk, it's still on April 24. It seems the beers in there are in no particular order. Today's beer is Mactarnahan's Oregon Honey Beer. What does that have to do with June 6? (This won't be a definitive list, but it'll be a beer that would be a good one to have today). If you know of any beers that go with a date, let me know.

So the first Day of the Beer will be for today, June 6.

Guess what... Today's beer isn't even beer. It's a cider.

Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie

Image taken from the web

On June 6, 1944, the battle of Normandy began. Operation Overlord, or D-Day began with 155,000 Allied troops landing on the beaches of Normandy France. Beaches Omaha, Utah, and Pointe du Hoc were taken by American troops; the British landed on Sword and Gold; Canadians on Juno.

So in honor of those soldiers from U.S., Canada and the UK, today would be a good day for Cidre Brouche Brut de Normandie.

The label says "Product of France"; if we didn't win, it'd say "Product of Germany".

I had this cider last year on May 22, I remember it tasting like a dry champagne style cider, as opposed to the sweet sugary style. I believe it was almost like a white wine, than a sweet alco-pop beverage.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bars at the Crossing

On Wednesday's now, Kriddy and I are in an APA pool league at Jupiters at the Crossing.

Right next to Jupiters 2 (Jupstew) is another bar, Billy Barooz. Both Jupstew and BB are Carlos bars, like Seven Saints. The man gets a lot of my money. Granted he's probably got a huge house, but I'd bet that I spend enough at his bars to make him a mortgage payment a year.

We started out at Billy Barooz to eat before heading next door to Jups2. I prefer the BB food rather than the pizza at Jups. BB has a good menu and is the Carlos bar you would most likely take a family to for a sit down dinner. It's probably the only bar he has that has a kids menu.

Last night I had the ribeye steak sammich, which was delicious. It looks like they changed out the steaks because the last time I had it, the meat was thinner and stringier, last night it was about a half inch thick, prepared perfect (medium rare; pink throughout) and the bun was good too. I got it with the vegetables which last night was steamed baby carrots and broccoli. Kriddy went with the kids mac and cheese and fries. The mac wasn't too impressive, Kriddy thought it might have been kraft. If it was, they made a lot of money off it. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't great and looked like something anyone could make.

On Saturday's they used to (and might still) have a special of the smothered sausage. This is DELICIOUS. A polish style sausage covered in peppers and onions. Served with a side of spicy jardinière. The mixed vegetables normally are a squash and zucchini mix which is outstanding.

On Sundays they had (and might stil have) the country fried steak which Kriddy got most every football sunday. BB has the NFL sunday ticket and enough tv's to have every game on. (Update Sept. 6: Billy Barooz no longer has NFL Sunday Ticket)

One of my favorite meals there is the Cajun Creole Pasta. It's AWESOME! The pasta itself is good enough, but it's got shrimp, peppers, spices and some hot sausage, served in a spicy creamy cheese sauce. It's sooo damn good. I'd eat it everyday, except that since I'm lactose intolerant, it REALLY rips me up. Add to the cheese that shrimp can also devastate my insides and when I eat that I have to have a restroom available three hours alter. But it's worth the pain every now and then.

The beer selection isn't that great. There are 4 different taps on each side of the bar. On the north side is Guinness, Smithwicks, Blue Moon and Stella Artois; on the south is Coors Light, Miller lite (or high life), Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. You'll note there are no AB products on draft. They have all the AB's in bottle. BB's also carries Natural Light for one special person who shows up every now and then. They carry about 20-30 bottles and you can probably find something in a style that suits you. Kriddy's favorite beer there is Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout. My standby is Goose Island Oatmeal Stout (although I'm not sure they still carry it). Up until yesterday there were no 22 oz bombers but now they have New Belgium Fat Tire.

BB was the bar that got me to stop drinking miller lite. Ok, it was a bartender there, but still, it was at that bar. Right where the Stella tap is, was the beer that got me off macro's. It was Bells Amber. The handle that looks a little bit like a tooth with a light brown ball. Several months after switching beer, they changed that to Bells Oberon (which I didn't like, I missed my amber :( ). That's about when I started to try all their beers. It's to the point there now, that several bartenders won't even serve me Miller lite anymore.

The bartenders are friendly and accommodating. They'll change the tv's to whatever you want, and if it's slow enough, they'll just give you the remote. There are "for entertainment only" poker games but only a couple. There's also the game center where after 10 at night you can play Adult games, like the Photo Hunt (or as kriddy calls it T&C). There is a Touch Tunes internet jukebox. After 10 p.m. I've been known to terrorize the remaining patrons with music they hate. Marilyn Manson's Cake and Sodomy is one of my favorites for that. Playing that at 10 really cleans out the people who ate dinner and are just staying for "one more drink" "ok, maybe one more but this is it" "ok one more".

BB's used to be my everynight bar, back when I was going out drinking with my nEighbour. One night he'd drive and I'd get to drink, the next he'd be loaded up on some REALLY STIFF Jack and Cokes.

BB's was and still is one of my favorite bars. I've got some fond memories of sitting in there drinking. But there's not much else to do in there than sit and drink.

If you need something to do... go next door. Jupiters at the Crossing is now Champaign's playground. Like the original Jupiters, there are pool tables. The original has about 4 tables, the new one had about 3 times as many. The main floor has about 6 tables and the basement also has a bunch. (I've never been to the second floor; but I think it has darts).

In addition to pool tables, there's an air hockey table and all kinds of other games. There are kid's style games that give out tickets that can be redeemed at a machine that gives out prizes. They've got skeeball! On the first floor next to the motorcycle racing games is the basketball freethrow game. Kriddy kicks ass at that. Her favorite downstairs game is Deal or No Deal, while I enjoy the hunting game.

Oh, there's also 4 lanes of bowling. It's not full sized bowling, the lane is about half as long. You throw shotputs down the lane and hit pin's on strings. It's as much fun as you should be allowed to have while drinking. Kriddy has been known to not set her beer down while playing. I effort throwing the ball REALLY hard. I like the pin explosion.

The food is mostly pizza and related items. There are all kinds of pizza, if you want something on a pizza, they've probably got it. I've heard people say the pizza at Jups Classic is better, and I tend to agree; although I don't eat pizza much due to the afore mentioned lactose intolerance.

Now for the beer...

This is the Carlos bar with the largest selection of beer. It's not the variety you'd get at Crane Alley, but it's probably got the fifth largest selection in CU. The beer list was initially put together with input from Andy at Seven Saints. They've got nearly the full line of Great Divide beers including Yeti, Hercules and Titan. There are several Lefthands. There are still a few bottles of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout floating around at some of the bars (there are bars in the basement and the first floor, and probably on the second... dunno, haven't been up there). There's a wide variety of Rogue beers there, along with several trappist ales too.

In the past 2 times I've been there I've had New Belgium 1554; New Belgium Fat Tire; Rogue Shakespeare Stout; Great Divide Hercules; Rogue Chocolate Stout; Great Divide Yeti; Goose Island Bourbon County Stout; Great Divide Titan and probably some others.

The bartenders are ok about the beers, but they are more jack and coke makers than providers of great beers. Most of the time, they don't know the beer you ask for, and then spend a long time looking for it... "it's the one in the bottom shelf in the middle... with the white label". Last night I asked for a Fat Tire and got a 1554. Asking for an amber and getting a black isn't great. I drank it anyway, but wasn't too happy about it.

Jupiters at the Crossing is probably the best place to take a person if you want to entertain them and have them try some really great beers. It's best to go there after 10 p.m. because that's when they kick the kids out. Saturday and Sunday afternoons have a lot of kids birthday parties. (CU doesn't have a chucky cheese, the nearest is 50 miles away).

Between the two bars, you can get some great food and some great beer. It's too bad I can't transfer my tab between the two. Or maybe it's a good thing, I'd probably spend even more money if I could get BB food at Jups or Jups beer at BB.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Forget the rain, there's a bar to review

I was going to be reviewing "after softball" kinds of bars today, but changed my mind last night to reviewing Mike and Molly's. Unfortunately, Kriddy left her ID in the car and it was raining and she got carded in MnM so we went next door to Seven Saints, whey they know our names.

Ok, I won't lie, Seven Saints is one of my favorite bars. It's a member of the Carlos Nieto family of bars. It's located in downtown Champaign, on University Ave, towards the train tracks, next to the alley. Many people, for some reason, have trouble finding that bar.

Parking isn't so great in the downtown area, so if you are going to any bar, you may just want to park at the train station. If you are lucky, you'll get a spot right in front of 7S. You probably won't get lucky.

Seven Saints is the kind of a bar that you go to WITH a date, as opposed to a place you go to try to find a date. It's definitely not a MEET Market. It's somewhat dark inside, but that's a mood thing. There are always candles burning on the bar and in the candle display at the end of the main sitting room. The music is somewhat subdued, and the selection is made by the staff. There is no jukebox. There are 2 tvs above the bar, one around the corner and one in the dining tables area. They will put on whatever you want to watch. Last night, we were flipping between the Cubs game and the evening news while watching about the storm.

The manager, Andy, is very knowledgeable about his craft. He was brought over by Carlos from Crane Alley (the second best BEER bar in CU) to help this bar along. When Andy arrived, he turned over the beer selection and also the hard liquor selection. The liquor was mirrored (same on east and west) of the bar, but he reduced the multiple bottles and more than doubled the liquor selection. In the top middle is Pappy Van Winkle 23.

The bar has some martini originals, and some other mixed drink specialties, but they seem to pride themselves on their whiskey selection. There are 2 shelves (or so it seems) of whiskey. If you want it, they've probably got it. If they don't have it, they'll probably get it. They had, during May (not sure if it's still going on) Whiskey Wednesday, where the whiskey was half off, which made for some really good deals on servings that were formerly around $30 a glass.

Their food menu is somewhat ... um... snobbish. While the main fare is "slider" style mini-burgers, they can be found with all sorts of interesting ingredients. Of their sliders, my favorite is the bratwurst slider (I think I had that once). They have beet chips, cheese curds, and hummus. I do enjoy their ribeye sandwich but it's not the best steak sandwich in the Carlos bars. There are other entrees on the menu besides sliders.

As for the beer; they have 3 mirrored coolers on either side of the bar that contain most of their beers. They have beers that fit all styles. There are wits, wheats, ambers, bier de garde, farmhouse, lambic, porter, stout, ciders, marzans, and several trappists. If you order something and don't know what beer goes with it, you could either go with the St. Amand Farmhouse Ale; or the new Flying Dog Garde Dog (bier de garde). There are several beers from Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, Bear Republic, Dark Horse, Left Hand, and Rogue (to name a few). There are (I think) 8 taps, with Guinness; Magic Hat (#9); Dark Horse Black Bier; Rogue (currently Issaquah Bullfrog); and for the macro... Miller High Life (I think). I can't remember the rest of the taps, sorry. There is also a cooler that has rotating stock, whatever is new and limited goes in there. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is in there. Most of the 22oz bombers are in there, including the Bear Republic beers. In the entryway to the kitchen is Andy's cooler. He keeps some "special" bottles in there. If you ask him nicely, he may bust out something special from there. He's given us a Dogfish Head Pangea, some stuff from 3 Floyds and some other high quality beers from his own stash. The stuff in his cooler is from his personal cellar, and he loves to share good beer. Just make sure you are willing to hear the story behind the beer, because he'll talk about it for a while.

Andy tries to keep the staff knowledgeable on their selection, but with all the hard liquors and different beers (there's possibly 50) they have trouble keeping up. Granted I don't need any help picking out a beer, but I can throw in a food pairing or a beer suggestion when I'm there. The beer menu isn't exactly up to date, but Andy will give a little writeup on the new beers on the back of the menu. (he likes to use an exclamation mark!)

Last night a guy was drinking Delerium Tremens and was looking to have something different, but then couldn't figure out what to have, so he ordered another DT, so I recommended a Unibroue La Fin du Monde, as those are both similar beers. He seemed to enjoy it. So that was nice.

If you want a beer or drink with someone, without having to shout across the table; Seven Saints is a good place to go. If you are taking a date out and don't want to be bumped into a lot, it's good for that too. The kitchen is open later than most of the other bars around, so you can get a slider at a late hour. (However if you are closing bars and need to eat, Merry Ann's is still the place to go). If you want to dance, it's not the place. It's not the busiest bar downtown, but on Friday and Saturday, the bar can get kind of full.

Muzzah Fuzzah Rain

Well, it's June and here in central Illinois we are getting April showers.

If you look at a couple of days ago, we had some really cool storms. Well, last night (tuesday) we had MORE rain. More than Friday and that covered my yard.

Last night, we spent the night at Kriddys after being at 7S during most of the cubs game and the tornado warnings. But we got to her place and there was only one part on her country road that had some standing water. This morning there was a lake across the street in the farmland.

You could tell it was a lake, because there were ducks in it. Seriously, there were ducks in the rain water pond.

Last nights storms were really good, they probably went around bragging about how good they were to all their storm friends. You know how a bag of microwave popcorn says to listen for when there are a couple of seconds in between pops and that's how you know it's done. Last night, the popcorn wasn't done. Not only was there thunder every second, there were times when there was just constant booms, before the first would finish echoing, the second and third and fourth would have started. The popcorn cooked for at least 20 minutes. When it got done, it wasn't burned, it was soaked. Too much butter.

I got home this morning to my fear, my basement had water in it. It's the second time this year that that's happened. The first was because the sump pump didn't have an outlet hose and was just making a pit that was filled with water that would just go right back down the tube into the well. So I got a hose, that was a couple of months ago. Well, it flooded again. Not exactly sure why, but I'm going to assume that the ground is just so saturated with water around the house, that the big empty space that is my basement is the logical place for that water to go to.

Not so long ago (2006) Lake Bloomington was in drought levels. We aren't hearing about that these days. Nope, now we get warnings about flash flooding and other things associated with heavy rains.

Remember that food shortage I was talking about the other day? Here's a nifty little tidbit. Many acres of farmland are now under water and look more like rice paddy's than they look like corn fields. Fyi, corn doesn't grow very well below water.

Should I ever get out of the house today, I'll report on the beer last night.

In other news.

Rain is in the forecast... horray!!!