ON a chilly Friday night, outlined against a blue-gray cloud of cigarette smoke in front of McSorley's Old Ale House, the Five Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore there are four of them, and they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. At McSorley's, the crusty, ancient East Village beer barn, they are K-dawg, Spreadsheet Sam, Bobby Boy, Jamal and Adam. Most of those, too, are aliases, but that is part of the fun for the group, which was spending its 147th consecutive Friday night together, a streak that started only after dozens of Friday night gatherings of a bunch that first got together in late 2001. Those statistics, and many more, exist because the Five Horsemen are no ordinary group of friends hanging out at their favorite bar. They are a group of friends hanging out at their favorite bar and documenting it all with meticulous Excel-generated attendance records, a Web site, a video clip and a yearly awards night.Here is that website.
Two weeks ago in this space I mentioned that I would be attending the Long Island Beer Festival and gave you a preview of some of the attractions of the festival. In addition to great beers from New York, the other mid-Atlanic states, and from the rest of the world, Garrett Oliver and Phil Markowski were supposed to speak---that more than justified the $45 per person entry fee. But due to no fault of my own, I wasn't able to attend the Long Island Beer Festival. Despite the fact that I had prepaid tickets, when I arrived at the Huntington Hilton last Friday, my wife and I were told that "there were too many people already inside and that no more people were being let in." The full account (exciting as it is) was the subject of last Tuesday's Brewsday article over on The Spirit World.
I won't repeat here what I've already said about the festival on my blog. The first comment on my "beer festival commentary" post is from someone who got into the festival and enjoyed it (to some extent). I have received a number of emails from others who were allowed in who didn't enjoy it and who want their money back. From what I'm told there was an inadequate amount of food (not surprising since the event was grossly oversold). And it appears that neither Garrett Oliver or Phil Markowski spoke. They were in attendance though. Everyone agrees that the event was shut down early by the fire marshal, but it seems that crowd inertia carried the festival for about forty-five minutes beyond the first attempts to close the event at 8:30. As Daniel would say, "Beer festival a rip off, film at eleven!"
So, let's leave that disappointment and move on to what's being done right on the Long Island Beer Scene.
Last Friday, my wife and I ended up at the Black Forest Brew Haus where I had the Maibock and the Pilsner. When I asked about the availability of the Hefeweizen, our server said it wasn't on, but not long into my Pilsner I saw half liter glasses of Hefe being brought into the beer hall on trays. The Black Forest was packed last Friday with other refugees from the Beer Festival. We basically had our own beer festival at the Black Forest.
Since my wife and I had already engaged a babysitter for the evening, we decided to make the most of it and so after the Black Forest we drove to Blue Point to visit the Sage Cafe. I had a glass of Blue Point Summer Ale. The bartender said that they had an Imperial Stout on tap also. I believe that it was probably Blue Point's Cherry Imperial Stout.
Saturday I had my own beer festival at my house. I threw my doors open to whoever wanted some homebrew. I tapped kegs of "Imperial" Hefeweizen and my misnamed "Double" Mild. I think the mild should probably be called Mud Mild since mud is what it looks like in the glass. It's got superb flavor and body, so I don't mind "chill haze."
Monday marked the beginning of the Great American Beer Tour. We (my wife and son are doing the tour also) started the tour at John Harvard's (1 point). The Mad Tom's Old Ale is back on in the cask, but this batch wasn't conditioned in the bourbon barrel. This version was smooth and malty with a persistent moussy head. My next beer was a light colored Amber called Amberdextrous. After our meal, I retired to the back room to join in on the May meeting of B.E.E.R. or Brewers East End Revival, Long Island's homebrew club. You can bet that the main topic of discussion that night was the Long Island Beer Festival.
My fellow B.E.E.R. members had a different take on the festival. Many of them had volunteered to work the festival. They spent the evening working as underpaid bartenders for the cold-light-beer-swilling drunks that seem to have overrun the festival. It sounds like the festival didn't attract the true beer lovers, or (as my wife said) the true beer lovers were turned away at the door. The impression I gathered from what the B.E.E.R. people were saying was that there's no doubt that the festival was managed poorly (mistakes were made) and that few of them will be rushing to volunteer for any future event run by Shoreline Beverage. The tone of the statement was more disappointment than anger at the mismanagement.
Tuesday, we drove out to Southampton Publick House (2 points). I had the ESB with my tortilla crusted Mahi Mahi. For desert I had blueberry sherbet and an Extra Stout. Believe it or not, blueberry sherbet and Extra Stout are an excellent combo. Garrett Oliver is absolutely right, beer can do everything.
Thursday evening, we collected 3 more points for the Great American Beer Tour by visiting the Blue Point Brewery tasting room (2 points) and the Brickhouse Brewery (1 point). I sipped the Bourbon Barrel ESB (cask conditioned) from my very own blue pint glass (very stylish). Peter Cotter, president of Blue Point Brewing Company, signed our Tour passports for us. Cotter said that the Beer Tour sounded like a good idea. But I got the impression that my wife and I were the first people to come by asking to get our passports "validated."
We went to the Brickhouse right after visiting Blue Point. Our waitress told us that she hadn't seen anyone else come in with Beer Tour passports all week. This disappoints me a little. Long Island is probably one of the few places in the country where people could reasonably collect the minimum 10 points to "finish" the tour. Also, I don't think the brewpubs realize they need to help promote events like the Beer Tour. It's in their best interest. My wife and I have spent more than $250 this week at Long Island brewpubs and we'll probably spend a hundred more before the week's out. With a little promotion the brewpubs could see a serious peak in business from the serious beer lover crowd.
The trip to the Brickhouse was profitable for me since I got to drink a pint of the Double Trouble IPA, a double hopped IPA. It was an excellent, full bodied, flavorful beer. It had more dimensions in the flavor than just hops. It was slightly sweet and had a detectable malt character. All-in-all a well rounded and warming IPA.
Tomorrow is the 10th Annual B.E.E.R. Brew-off. That's B.E.E.R.'s annual homebrew competition. We'll be judging some two hundred entries on Saturday. I've volunteered to do some judging. I'll report back in two weeks and let you know how things went.
What a burden research is. I considered the state of the English pale ale just a couple of weeks ago and now find myself again facing four pale ales armed with nothing but time and an opener. Interesting to note the two examples from Massachusetts - Endurance and Fisherman's Brew - and the Scrimshaw from California all have nautical themes. Dang-nabbit!!! Scrimshaw's a pilsner. Too late. I like the picture, my Bay of Fundy Weir Fisherman from John Neville. And as for Dale...well...maybe Dale like boats but he is stuck in Colorado and compensates by running a blues bar. That's got to be it. Too late now anyway. I like that photo too much.
- Dale's Pale Ale: Sibling to Old Chub, that lovely and well hidden 8% brown ale from Oskar Blues Brewery of Lyons Colorado. I ran a good short interview with Marty of the brewery when I reviewed Old Chub in March so when I got the six of Dale's and droped Marty a line. He wrote back:
Alan, That's killer!Isn't that the sort of brewer you want to support? Well, as long as they make good beer. The good news is they do. Dale's pour a clear orange-amber under a tan rocky head giving off a orange peel and spiced malt aroma. Smooth and round at the front of the mouth, it opens to textured graininess then some heat and then, very late, a great bitter twiggy hoppiness. At 6.5% this is not a session beer so much as a sofa and rec room session beer. Was it built for BBQ? That cutting hop at the end would do wonders up against glazed smokey ribs. Six percent of BAers are apparently people I do not want to meet. The other 94% approve of Dale's Pale Ale.
I'm having a Dale's right now, too! Just been out on a walk around downtown D-town with my beloved and dogs. Met a cat named Albert, pushing a shopping cart half full with aluminum cans (hmmm) and a Bible. Me, pointing to the Bible: "That's the most valuable thing in your cart." Albert: "Well, I have some recyclables, too."
Cheers to good beers and the various riches the world has to offer...
- Endurance Pale Ale: It looks like a contract operation as the bottle says:
Brewed and Bottled for Endurance Brewing Company by Mercury Brewing and Distribution Company Inc., Ipswitch, MAA perfect moment to open up my excellent but yet-to-be-reviewed review copy of The Good Beer Guide to New England by Andy Crouch. Hmm...no reference to Endurance that I am seeing and apparently Mercury, maker of a bazillion brews, is the only brewery in New England that would not respond to Crouch's inquiries. No never mind. Mercury and Endurance have snazzy websites, the latter with (imagine) a flash intro page. Endurance's "brewery tour" web page does say "coming soon" which makes one think that Crouch may not be the only one having a hard time getting a decent view of the wort.
But, as I said, no never mind. This is about the beer and the beer pours deep straw with white foam and rim. The ale is a little less than clear with a suspension of particulate of the sort that makes me think of the word yum. Sip: a stocky note, just a tad musty like the Moosehead ales of my youth and in the nature of Northumberland Ale by Church-Key. Drying astringent hop and pale malt graininess with some fall apple fruit underneath. This is quite fine and if I didn't know anything (which I do not) I would think this is actually modelled after an old style Maritime Canadian pale. Not unlikely as Ipswich is on Cape Ann, home of a massive fishing industry which works, on that unseen line through the fishing banks, along with the Nova Scotian fleet and over which line, according to tales I have heard, more than a few bottles are tossed. Your great uncle's dream of a beer. Quality but, like your great uncle, not immediately embraceable. Almost a fifth of BAers ask questions.
- Fisherman's Brew: from Cape Ann Brewing Company in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The beer pours deep orange with a tan rim and foam. Lively carbonation but not a great deal of aroma. In the mouth there is a really well balanced combination of light dry fruit, green hop, bread crust graininess and a bit of heat even at only 5.5%. A good lingering rich finish. The effect is very moreish though there is a notch more than the usual body you might expect from a beer of this strength and for $7.99 a six. This is a brew I will certainly hunt out when I am in New England again. Oh, hell. Andy Crouch points out this is a lager as well, though if you put it next to a Shipyard Export or, more to the point, a Mendocino Eye of the Hawk you would be hard pressed to tell the styles apart let alone the yeast strains. Whatever. Regardless. It is very fine.
Caramel-amber ale with a rich white foam with a malty green hop aroma. A very pleasant ESB - or even perhaps English IPA come to think of it - with dry fruit and apple malt, some chewiness to the citrus and green hops as well as soft water from the chalky water table beneath the town - if the brewer is to be believed. A pronounced but not stark drying finish, not unlike an russet apple, from the hops.
Given my druthers, I would likely still go for a Hen's Tooth if I could find one. But not by that much.
I have written about Party Source in the east end of Syracuse before, last time noting that I thought the shelves were a bit thin. Well, I am happy to say that when I popped in this evening I was very pleased. While the soda pop section is now cleared out, there was lots of excellent stock in the beer side including:
- North Coast Acme IPA,
- Geary's London Porter,
- Endurance Pale Ale,
- Green King Abbot Ale,
- Lagunitas IPA,
- Coopers Stout and Vintage, and
- Dales Pale Ale.
As Mike Myers memorably stated "if it's no Scottish, it's crap". I will be spending time this week with some Scots, and so I decided to choose a beer that fit the bill, as it were, to get in the mood. Living now by Ithaca, I can shop at the rather fantastic Ithaca Coffee Co. which roasts and sells coffee, obviously, desserts too, and fabulous and amazing cheeses. The best part of the deal is the FREE cheese on the sample plate, so I dug in fast and furiously, as it was the lunch hour, and I didn't feel guilty for the free lunch (smoked Swiss! creamy Gouda!) cause I knew I was gonna spend some money on coffee, and of course, BEER. This store has LOTS of beer, maybe not the biggest selection in the world, but a terrific collection of six packs, big bottles and singles, and who knows what they have in the big cooler in back, cause I haven't looked yet. You know what? Their prices seem reasonable, too.
I bought many beers this week. Today's beer choice was Belhaven Scottish Ale and, folks, it is not crap. My companion in life, hereafter referred to as "the wife", was making a smashing dinner, thankfully nothing Scottish, and I poured some for her and got into some for myself. The first sip told me I had made a mistake: I should never have poured some for the wife, as I could have hogged it all for myself. I told her something like "if you don't start drinking that, I will have to drink it myself". She took my threat seriously.
Anyway, I am Alan's worst reviewer because generally all you get from me is "I really like this beer!" along with a lot of nonsense, and so far, that is all you have read so far. I do really like this beer, and would drink it everyday in Scotland, or Ithaca, it is that yummy. It is a very dark amber color, almost brown, with not a lot of fluffy foam. Here's the kicker. The wife and I have recently (and often before) enjoyed Smuttynose Scotch Ale from New Hampshire, and it is a hairy old dog, so strong it is almost scary. A challenge for the taste buds. Belhaven is its mellow old uncle from the old country, relaxed and tasty and friendly, and as I say, here is the kicker, to this unschooled palate: it tastes kinda like a porter. Pour it for me blindfolded, and that's what I would say. The wife and I finished off her excellent dinner (you people would be jealous if you knew how good it was) and had a chocolately thing for dessert, with shots of that other Scottish import, Scotch. I am ready for my Scottish visitors....