Tuesday, December 20, 2005

2005: The Year in Beer

Since it is almost Christmas and New Years Day is right around the corner, what better time than to reflect on all of the good beer and good times associated with good beer that I have had this past year. As a matter of fact, why don't I take the time to put together a list of a few of Dr.J's Best of 2005, a remembrance, or lack there of, of things beer.

The highlight of the year has to be the opening of my very own house "Pub." The look and feel of an old world Irish and British pub, with three beers on tap, my house bar almost gives me a reason to never go out. Having only had a "soft" opening, I am looking forward to my annual January "rugby guys over the house for beers night" to officially open the pub.

My daughter's first birthday party ranks high on my list of proudest moments. I can't believe how fast a year went by. It was also the perfect opportunity to crack open a few bottles of one year old Allagash Curieux , Belgian style Tripel, aged in Kentucky Bourbon bottles, to celebrate the occasion. A beautifully crafted beer that I am also saving for my daughters 21st birthday.

Each year, me and the boys head to Milford, New Jersey for our annual, opening day trout fishing/camping weekend. The weekend is always a blast. Nobody fell in the fire, drowned, or cut their hand open. And no other senseless act of violence occured. There was plenty of beer, lots of stumbling, a few fish caught and a creature with the initials BR foraging around the outskirts of the cabin late at night, gorging on Cheeto and Dorito crumbs. One of the best parts of the trip is our Saturday afternoon stay at the Ships Inn, New Jersey's first brew pub. Great beer and a delicious Shepards Pie to boot.

For pure beer excitement, nothing beats a Mark Haynie Beer Night. Mark is an extreme beer collector and is not afraid to share his bounty with everyone. I mean everyone. Mark, one of the founding fathers of the good beer movement in New Jersey, invites all and their guests to the Somers Point Fire Hall, where he provides great food and a beer selection second to none. All at his own expense. This doesn't just happen once, but three or four times a year. Kudos to Mark for providing me and many with great beer and great times.

As far as drunken fun goes, my best memory, or what I can recall of it, is at Atlantic City's Tun Tavern. My friends and I showed up there for an Octoberfest that never took place. We decided to stay and make our own Octoberfest. We showed up at two in the afternoon and my buddies let me take them on a guided tour of the Tun's Beers. We then settled into our favorites and drank, drank, drank. At six in the evening, a school teachers convention party was breaking up, some of the teachers we befriended gave us their "all you can drink" bracelets. The next thing I know, it is nine pm and I am standing outside waiting for a cab with my friend and neighbor Magoo. Two cabs pulled up, I got in one, he got in the other ,we headed home seperately and paid two seperate cab fees!!

A late summer evening at BR's house cannot be beaten. Drinking Hoegarden all day while swimming in the pool and Hoegarden all night while sitting in the jacuzzi hot tub. Fine time.

I like to do a lot of cooking and I like to cook with beer. My best recipe this year was for a medieval Scottish dish called, get this, Cock-a-Leekie Soup. More like a stew filled with chicken, leeks, barley, vegetables and dried plums. I substitued a cup of chicken broth with 12oz of McEwan's Scottish Ale. The beer, I mean soup, came out incredibly well. I have since made two more batches and each one gets a little better.

The best beers I have had this year were from all around the beer board. Imported wise, my favorite this year was Dekonnick Belgium Ale. This beer was a very drinkable, great tasting 5% alcohol ale. Loved it. While on the subject of Belgium, Victory Brewing's 12 was simply awesome and wins my Belgium Style beer award. If I had to pick a dark beer, Flying Dog's Gonzo Imperial Porter wins the prize. As far as American lighter styled beer goes, Long Trail Ale, From the Long Trail Brewery and ESB from Riverhorse Brewery win my drinkability, session beer award. The Barleywine, on the spot, right then and there, award goes to the Tun Tavern's Freedom Ale. Beautifully done, tastes like it has aged three years. Speaking of aging, the aged Barleywine award goes to Heavyweight Brewing's 2003 Old Salty. Incredible.

Being that there is another week or so left in 2005, I still have a little time left to create some more beer memories. Here is to you and your beer memories. Maybe we can get together and swap some in person. Happy New Year!

The Beer:

Orval Belgian Trappist Ale: This beer pours a nice rusty color, looks a little like unfiltered apple juice with a huge, thick, foamy head. Orval has a sweet smell to it, but is surprisingly bitter. A very dry beer, that bites you in the mouth on the second sip. A classic Belgium Ale. Very good.

Monster Ale 2003 from the Brooklyn Brewery: I aged this beer for over two years and I was not disappointed. 11% alcohol. Pours a very dark copper color with a sweet raisen smell. A thick, sweet, warming beer. Aging brings out more flavor, so sock some away.

Why is it that one can polish off a bottle of wine with no problem, but drink two or three glasses of Barleywine and you feel it the next day? Wine is 13-14% alcohol, Barleywine is 8-10%. Just a thought.

Flying Dog Brewery, Horn Dog Barleywine: Nice, thick, dark beer with a slight sweet smell. Very thick in the mouth, almost like a syrup. Lightly carboanted, as it should be, warming, but not overwhelmingly warming. A half of a glass is very relaxing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Happy Holiday Beer Story

It was just before Christmas in 1983. My good friend and I had just finished our quarterly chiropractic school final exams and were getting ready to head back to our respective home states for the holidays. After a grueling four days of tests, we were ready to blow off some steam at our favorite watering hole. Mind you, our watering hole was one of the biggest dive bars and redneck hangouts in Marietta, Georgia. Terry's was the name and stumbling out alive was the game. On this particular night, we had drank our share of bad beer, and were ready to head out on the town to impress the ladies of Atlanta with our ability to slurr the English language. Since we were both in the holiday spirit, we noticed that there were two meager pine saplings in the parking lot which struck an uncanny resemblance to Christmas trees. After a five minute battle with the trees ( my friend says it was more like 30, and the trees almost won), we stuck them in the front bumper of my 1972 International Scout, rolled down the truck windows, turned up the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas cassette and sang Christmas songs all the way down Route 41. When we got out of the truck, we noticed our "Christmas Trees" had magically disappeared from the truck's bumper and by the end of the night, none of the ladies would even let us approach them let alone show off our slurring skills (go figure). Thankfully, we did not have to show them to the police either.

25 years later, it is safe to say I won't be pulling any pine trees out of the ground and decorating my truck. And thankfully I have matured enough to not drive intoxicated, especially while singing Christmas carols at the top of my lungs with the windows open. It is also safe to say (my wife told me so), that I won't have to impress any strange women with my slurring ability. But one thing is for sure, it is nice to know the memory is still there.

Happy Holidays and Safe Holidays!

A Side Note: It has been one year since I started Dr. J's Beer Blog. This site has went from zero hits per month to over one thousand. I thank you for reading my ramblings and hope to continue providing you (I hope) with entertaining beer stories.

And Now The Beers:

Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale: I went out on a limb and bought some more pumpkin ale. Not a big fan of the style, but have been warming up to it recently. I brought a few bottles of Imperial Pumpkin Ale to Thanksgiving dinner. It was a hit. I served the beer with desert, apple pie and of course pumpkin pie. The ale really tasted like pumpkin. It was delicious with the apple pie, a bit of overkill with the pumpkin pie though. This beer should be on everyones holiday desert list.

Smithwick’s Irish Red Ale: A favorite of the non-Guinness crowd in Ireland. Smithwicks, pronounced Smit icks (believe me, I’ve been laughed at for my Americanization of the name) is a tasty, robust ale. It is very light in alcohol. It is about 3.4% which makes for a great session beer. It would be Ireland’s answer to light beer, only with body and taste. Carbonated more like a lager than an ale.

Hoegaarden Grand Cru: Not a wheat beer, more a Belgium Tripel, this Ale is an ever changing symphony of tastes. I purchased 6 bottles of Grand Cru when I was in Belgium and have been aging them and drinking them at the same time. This years sample is three years old. Grand Cru pours an almost dark peachy color and gives a very complex taste. You can pick up fruit, maybe some melon in the taste. The beer has a very warm finish and posts an 8% alcohol content. Very tough to find, but if you see it grab it, it is worth it.