Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Brutal Brew Tool

As I have mentioned in previous writings, the road that led me to beer enlightenment started off with a Black & Tan. I remember the evening clearly. My rugby team had just finished a preseason, evening practice session at our new field in Atlantic City. Being it was summer and the temperature was high in the 80's, with typical Jersey Shore humidity, sweat, lots of sweat was the order of the day. Our playing field, due to much planning on my part, was located around the corner from a pub. In rugby, being the game is quite physical and physically demanding, pub locale is essential. Thirsty, tired boys need to be replenished... quickly. Another well known fact about rugby is that it is also a gentlemen's game (ironic, being there is nothing gentle about it). The gentlemen part is that before and after the game, the players are very well mannered and leave whatever happened on the field, on the field. That being said, there is an aspect to the game that is very social. The home team is required to host an after match party with plenty of beer and food for the opposing team. Thus, the second reason for the close proximity of a local pub. In our case, it was the Irish Pub across from Bader Field in Atlantic City.

This brings me back to our first practice session. After the practice, we ended up at the Irish Pub, where a few of my teammates had ordered Black & Tans. I had just walked up to the bar and was about to order my typical Light Beer when I noticed this strange, oddly colored beer. Black on the top and a distinct line in the middle separating it from another beer. I had to try this concoction. When my pint was given to me and I raised the glass and took a sip, I didn't like what I tasted. I drank it down but didn't like it. I actually preferred the top portion, so my next order was a straight Guinness which I thought was Ok. By the third Guinness, I was in love. But I digress.

Now, years later and a much greater appreciation of beer, I actually enjoy a Black & Tan. Once I entered the world of Ale and learned to drink that style of beer with enthusiasm, the Black & Tan became a lot easier to enjoy. A Black and Tan is typically a Stout or Porter poured over an Ale. In Ireland, you never want to order a Black & Tan, as it is a derogatory term associated with the Irish Troubles of the 1920's. A Half & Half is the term used in Ireland. This will get you a Guinness and a Harp Lager.

A few weeks ago, I was stumbling around the Internet when I came across a website for a Black & Tan spoon. This is a tool used to pour the perfect Black & Tan. This spoon was in the shape of a Lagerhead Turtle and was called the Brutul. I ordered one and it was shipped to my door for all of eleven bucks. Let me tell you, I have been having a blast ever since. When the Brutul arrived I couldn't wait to make a B&T, so I ran out to buy a six back of Bass Ale (my never depleted stock of Guinness is always ready). I thought it would be a trick to pour, but it was as simple as can be. I had the perfect Black & Tan at home. The fun part was reading the card that came with the Brutul. It listed recipes of all the different combinations you could make. For instance, a Black Velvet is Guinness and champagne. The Patriot is Guinness and Sam Adams. I decided to make up a few of my own. A "Der Dubliner" is Guinness and a Hackor Schorr EdelBrau Ale. Very Good combo. A "GuinnyLing" is A Guinness and Yuengling. Nice taste and a terrific color. Yuengling has that nice reddish color. My next combo, which I personally feel will be the rage at all the better beer bars, is a "Dirty Hoe." Pour a Guinness on top of a Hoegarden for a summer treat. Can you imagine ordering a couple of Dirty Hoes from your bartender? For the conservatives among us, think of your garden tool after a hard day in the dirt. For the rest of you, keep your mind off of Pacific Avenue.

The Brutul can be found at or e-mail This is a great little purchase and makes a very affordable gift that will be the talk of the party.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Beer Snobbery & Victory Does It Again

To paraphrase (and directly change) the funniest line from the movie Sideways, "If anybody orders the F*!@#% king Budweiser, I am out of here!" The question of the day, is when did I become a beer snob? My taste in beer started out good, went to bad, became better and now it is located right in the middle of outright snobbery. How did this happen? One day I am filling the cooler up with cases of Miller Lite and the next day I am buying champagne corked bottles of Belgium Ale. The ascent to fine beer was as rapid as a 4 bottle of Barleywine headache.

As it stands now, I can trace the beer snob roots to my latter rugby days. It all started when the team used to go to the Irish pub and someone forced me to have a traditional pour Black & Tan. Wasn't fond of it, but kept at it. This turned to an ungodly affection for Guinness Draught. Once I crossed the Guinness line, I knew there were other beers out there. I became a member of a micro beer of the month club. Even during my beer of the month tenure, my tastes were still below par, as most beers I didn't enjoy. At least I still had my domestic swill to fall back on.

I have to say the turning point for myself was in the Philadelphia Airport. I was on my way to Atlanta for a conference. I found a book in the bookstore called, "The Good Beer Book", by Tim Harper and Garret Oliver. Man, that book opened my eyes. It had stories about the brewing industry, the history of beer, the beer itself, it actually made my mouth want to try good beer. The other thing that the book accomplished is that it made me want to try home brewing. I casually mentioned this to my wife and never really thought of it again. That Christmas, my wife bought me a complete home brewing kit, including the pots and pans. I brewed a German Bock and an Irish Red Ale. From that moment on, a "regular" beer was no longer good enough for me. I subscribed to Beer magazines, purchased Beer books and went to Michael Jackson beer tastings. When I go out of town, I search for micro breweries and beer bars. When I stay in town, I go to the local with the best beer selections. It gets worse, I even stop in the beer store just to "look" and see if anything is new. That's not too bad, but I do it weekly!

Beer snob? I don't know. Beer lover, yes indeed. I love to talk beer, read beer and most importantly enjoy beer. Beer is the F *&%#@ king best!

Time for reviews:

Victory Saison Ale- Victory Brewing is the awesome brewery from Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Their V12 is one of my favorite brews. I was very anxious to try their Saison. Saison is a style of beer brewed in the southern part of Belgium, the French-speaking part. Saisons are a rustic beer brewed in early spring to be consumed in the summer months. A very refreshing beer. I saved my Victory Saison to have with a very large plate of spicy Blue Claw Crabs on a hot summer evening. I worked hard catching crabs all weekend and put together a feast for my wife and myself. Saisons, I am told go best with sausage, duck or lamb. Three foods I can live without. To me, a summer beer calls out for crabs. And they were perfect together. The first thing you have to notice about a Victory Saison is the smell. Pour it in a wide mouthed glass and you will not believe the aroma. Incredible! The color is very golden and the beer pours a thick head. The first taste lives up to the purpose of the beer. Extremely refreshing. The taste is actually divided up into three parts. When it hits the mouth, it is a little bitter (nice) and then it turns to a dry, spicy sensation. The Victory Saison finishes up with a very refreshing taste. The beer itself came in a champagne cork 750ml bottle and poured two nice size glasses. Get yourself a V Saison Ale before the summer is over! Go to and check out all the other fine beers.

Samuel Smith's (England) Organic Ale & Organic Lager- This was probably redundant, I mean beer, especially good beer, is made from all natural ingredients. Organic means that the ingredients (hops, barley, malt) were not treated with any pesticides or unnatural plant food and fertilizers. Being a health nut, I try to eat as much organic food as possible, so I decided to give the beer a try. Couldn't tast the "Organic-ness", but really liked the beer. The Ale was smooth and had a nice hoppiness to it. The lager didn't have the (nice) harshness of a Cech lager/pilsner, and it didn't need it. The beer was strong tasting on its own in a smoother way. Both were very enjoyable and I felt much healthier afterwards.