Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bronx Ale House

I happened to be in New York City's northern-most borough the other day and decided to stop into the Bronx  Ale House for lunch. The "Rogue" neon sign seemed to just draw me to the place.  This small bar is located on 238th Street about 2 blocks from Manhattan College and Van Cortlandt Park.  I had heard that they have a solid selection of craft beers on tap and I was not misled. 

The dart boards and fireplace give this bar a homey feel.  I could envision patrons coming in out of the cold in December and warmimg up with a pint next to the fire.  Steve, the bartender, told me that they are starting to build clientele in the neighborhood, but people will get off the nearby subway stop from all parts of the city for their beer.

Steve has a solid knowledge of craft beers and this AP English teacher eloquently described the characteristics of each beer I sampled. I told him that currently I’m drinking a lot of dark ales so he started me with a sample of Ommegang Abbey Ale.  This Belgian style ale had a delightful spicy aftertaste, but at 9% ABV, I thought it might be a little strong for midday.  Next, I tried Founders Porter which had a smooth, woody taste and a 6% ABV.  Finally, I enjoyed the malty sweetness of a 21st Amendment Back in Black Ale (6.8%%).  I settled on the porter with lunch but filled a growler of 21st Amendment to take home. 
There is something about the taste of dark malty ale that really appeals to me. These beers seem to have more depth to them.  Sometimes they fill me up like I just had a good meal. I know that many people like to save these darker, "heavier" beers for the cold weather, but I find  they are great any time of year. 
My lunch consisted of burger sliders (they also serve chicken sliders) and fries.  The Bronx Ale house even makes their own ketchup that had a tangy BBQ sauce flavor to it. The whole thing, growler included (I brought my own), cost me less than $25.  Where else can you get that much satisfaction in NYC for $25?  Don’t say it!
So if you are in “Da Bronx” any time soon, check them out and take a growler to go.  If you're a fan of The Bronx Ale House, leave a comment here about what you like most about BAH.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beer Chili

Irene passed through and dropped about 10 inches of rain in this part of New York.  The sun came out around noon but the winds were still gusting up to 50 MPH.
With trees down and the roads flooded in areas, it’s a good day to stay inside and cook a good meal.  It’s not getting cool yet, but it feels like a chili day. 
This chili recipe calls for . . .  you guessed it: beer.  But remember folks, your chili is only as good as your ingredients.  Why put in top grade chopped meat, fresh peppers and a mediocre beer. So for this batch I chose an Ellie’s  Brown Ale by Avery Brewing Co.  This is a malty beer with just a hint of spice.  A perfect complement to tangy jalopenos and garlic.
2 lbs chopped meat
3 cans black beans
3 cans white beans
2 16 oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbs Chili powder
1Tbs Cumin
1 Tsp Cinnamon
2 cloves of garlic pressed
1 onion chopped fine
1 yellow pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 Tbs Honey
6 oz.  craft beer
1.         Dice onion and peppers. Press garlic and let sit for 10 minutes.   After garlic is crushed it produces cancer fighting chemicals.  Letting it sit before cooking allows more of the anti-carcinogens to be released.
2.         Sautee onions, peppers and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
3.         Brown chopped meat in large skillet and drain
4.         Add meat, beans, peppers, garlic and spices to large pot and bring to a boil.    Let simmer for 1-2 hours stirring regularly.
5.         Pour half a craft beer into the pot and the other half into a chilled glass. 
6.         Add honey to cut the acidity of the tomato sauce
7.         Serve with corn bread and sour cream
8.         Open another Ellie's.  Half a beer is never enough to go with chili.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane? Irene

“What smells down there?” My wife calls down to our 2 boys who are holed up in the basement. There is still nothing more than light rain, though the satellite images show one of Irene’s arms spinning right over us. Earlier, she took the boys to the laundry mat to wash some of the blankets and comforters that the kids use when they are hanging out or sleeping down there.  The comforters came back smelling clean but the basement still reeks.  She goes down to check, comes up and says, “The dog pooped down there and they are just lying there watching TV”.  You can't make this stuff up.
I’m trying to stay focused on the book I’m reading while enjoying a Red Seal Ale.  It’s a red ale from Northern California that has a nice bitter bite to it. As I poured it in the kitchen, the bottle made a scratching sound across the table.  My son had picked up a sour candy making set and had spilt sugar all over the place.  The kit didn’t keep him occupied for too long, but I’ll take the mess over the X-Box any day. . .

Brutal Forecast

Yesterday and today I spent twenty-seven hours with my wife and 3 kids, in a car, on a route home from Disney World (more on that trip in another post or two) with the intention of avoiding and ultimately beating to New York the angry storm we all now know as Irene. I was thirsty. What could I chose from my quickly dwindling selection from my recent trip to Half-Time?
A brutal storm like this deserved no less than Rogue Brutal IPA. The beer pours a deep orange with a decent, white, long-lasting head. I’m struck by the beautiful, citrusy aroma and a taste that screams oranges with a touch of caramel. Ironically, I think this is a touch less BRUTAL than Arrogant Bastard Ale but no less deserving of praise. Enjoy, you deserve some Brutal treatment, except from this storm. Be safe my beer drinking friends.

Hurricane Irene

It’s eerily quite.  The calm before the storm.  I’m looking out the window watching the sky darken.  Suddenly a Snap!  I open my second beer of the night.  This time it is a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale.  The crème de la crème of pumpkin ales. 
I have been watching the news all day long hearing about what a huge storm this is going to be.  New York City’s subway system is closed in fear of the tunnels filling up with water from the ocean’s surge. There are mandatory evacuations from the beaches in the metro area. 
I step out on my porch to flip the steaks I have put on for dinner. Sirloin – nice.  There is a light rain falling now.
I walk inside to check on the potatoes in the oven.  Crash!                 My wife throws the empty bottle into the recycle bin.  We are all walking on egg shells, literally, from the hard boiled eggs my son made earlier in the day.  It’s amazing how quickly teenagers can turn a clean house into a garbage dump. 
I don’t know what is scarier, a category 2 hurricane bearing down on New York or three teenagers stuck inside for a day.  God help us if the power goes out and there’s no internet service . . . .

Friday, August 26, 2011

IPA Lovers Flock to Lazy Boy Saloon; Dogfish 120 Minute on Tap

by Kelly

It's Friday, August 19th, 2011. Not a very significant day in history as far as notable world events are concerned. But the definition of "notable" depends, as always, on who you're talking to. Are you a member of the beer loving community, reside in either Rockland or Westchester County and have a burning passion for IPAs? If you answered a resounding "YES!" to all three of those questions, man oh MAN! Was last Friday night YOUR night!

Oh, what's that you say? You weren't aware of the one-night arrival of Dogfish's 120 Minute IPA at Lazy Boy Saloon last Friday?! Well, let me just be clear here: I don't pity you, fool. If you were truly passionate and truly dedicated to seeking out the rare and limited IPA releases in your surrounding area, you WOULD have been there. After all, I was. And I'm not really much of an IPA consumer myself. Yeah...take that!

Okay, so I didn't write this post to hurt your feelings. Instead, I wanted to share a discovery I had made while slowly sipping on my very own glass of DFH 120 IPA last weekend. (Just a reminder: the previous letter-number combination is not some bizarre form of an algebraic equation I just made up. It's an abbreviation of the beer mentioned in the title above. Pay attention!) So, what was this discovery of mine that was so enlightening, you ask?! Without further ado, I present to you: the stronger the IPA, the sweeter the taste!

As many of you know, the fundamental ingredient in all IPAs is hops. These female flower clusters, as hops are more commonly known, cause this particular style of beer to taste very bitter. The 120 indicates the time over which the hops were added during boiling.  Dogfish head also makes 60, 75 and 90 minute IPAs. The more hopping, the more bitter the taste.

The bitterness can make IPAs unpalatable for certain people. (Ahem.) But after three sips into my first glass of DFH 120 IPA, I actually found myself enjoying the drink. The hops, for once, were not staged front and center; what I was tasting most of all was the sweet maltiness. And this was not an accident. Apparently, the stronger the IPA means more hops, which means more malt. This was certainly an unexpected, but thoroughly enjoyed, surprise.

I'll be honest with you: I only drank one glass of the 120 that night. But it was a damn good glass. Sitting at around 18% ABV, you can't really expect to drink more than a couple of these bad boys and make wise, coherent decisions by night's end. I opted for a pint (or two) of Weyerbacher's Pumpkin Ale instead, which were both garnished with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. Ahhh, fall is certainly descending upon us!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fruit Beers of Summer - A husband and wife review

In search of the perfect summer fruit beer my wife and I visited Spirits Unlimited next to the big A & P in Seaside Heights, NJ. I was surprised that they were open at 9 on a Sunday morning. We felt a little sleazey walking out of the place with 2 sixpacks when most people hadn't even had breakfast yet. But it is the price we pay to find the perfect beer.

The store was big with a huge selection of wines and extensive craft beer section in coolers. They do not allow customers to break up six packs. I was drawn to a cherry beer from Lakefront Brewery in Wisconson. I had never tasted this flavor before and was anxious to try one. My wife settled on a Mich Ultra with dragon fruit and peach.

Lakefront Cherry Lager (5.5% ABV)

The cherry was a lager that poured with little head and had a nice sweet bouquet. I felt the fruit taste was almost too light to detect . My wife was pleased with it though. Maybe there is something to the idea that females have better senses than males. The head disappeared quickly but the abundance of bubbles made it seem like it was almost super-carbonated. So much so, that after one sip the tickle in the back of my throat made me cough some beer out my nose. (If you didn't like the beer before this, now you are really turned off by my visual - sorry). The after taste was a little medicinal not unlike that of gin. My wife felt that it was tart like a cherry should be. To each his/her own.

Mich Ultra Dragon Fruit and Peach (4% ABV).

The Mich Ultra had a perfumey peach smell. It is a lite beer but I felt it had more taste than the Lakefront. The taste and scent seemed to blend a little better in this beer. It left a little lacing of the head around the glass. We both thought the peach after-taste was pleasing to the tongue.

Final analysis:

My wife thought the cherry was mediocore, but I felt that it was below average as far as fruit beers go. We both thought the peach would quench our thirst on a hot day. So we loaded the cooler with the peach and head for the beach.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Belgian Beer Tasting at Bin 41

When I was about fifteen years old, extended family of mine from D.C. came to stay at my house one summer. This capital-dwelling clan consisted of five members during that trip: my cousin Nicole, her husband Pat, their two daughters and a German au pair girl. I can't quite seem to remember the foreign visitor's name now. But for all intents and purposes, let's just call her Frau.

Frau, it turned out, wasn't the best full-time babysitter Germany had to offer. She didn't much enjoy the company of children, or interacting with the family in general. Makes one wonder, then, why she chose the job of 'au pair' - which, by its very definition, states that the purpose of your employment is to "take care of children in exchange for room and board." Well, Frau certainly took care of one thing: her room and board. But the children, I came to learn, pretty much took care of themselves.
Alas, I digress. The purpose of this segue into the past is to recall, and reaffirm, one very true and important fact that Frau relayed to me one night. I will present the situation below:
Me: (handing Frau a Hershey's kiss over the dining room table): "Here Frau, have some chocolate.”
Frau: (shaking her head in disgust, and putting her hand up to stop me): "Oh, no thank you Kelly. No offense, but the chocolate is horrible here. I miss the stuff back at home."
Me: (shrugging shoulders in defeat): "Oh, sorry to hear that. What else do you miss from home?"
Frau: (lets out a big sigh): "Oh, just the four main things: chocolate, coffee, cheese and beer. They’re all so much better than the crap you guys have over here."
Me: "Oh. That's nice." (Exit stage left.)

That five-part dialogue just about concludes my entire interaction with Frau. But, interestingly enough, it is Frau's words that pop into my mind as I head into Bin 41, a wine bar in Pearl River, NY. I am giddily anticipating the Belgian beer tasting that is taking place here tonight. I find the card that has my name scripted on it and dutifully take my seat. Lovely, I think, as I glance over the bar and see an attractive display of individual cheese plates that contain thick slices of creamy Brie, thinly-cut strips of Manchego (a Spanish-made sheep's milk cheese) and some kind of pear fruit preserve. Beer and cheese tonight?! Winning!

Armando, owner of Bin 41 and the Portuguese steakhouse across the street, is hosting the beer tasting himself. As I learn from my father, who is also in attendance, Armando has had wine tastings in the past but doesn't host them; the distributors do. Tonight’s subject, however, is his specialty: he knows his Belgian beer and wants you to become familiar with it too. Considerate as always, he (or one of the many baristas that he employs) has typed up a list of all six beers that our taste buds will be scrutinizing tonight. First victim: Wittekerke.
I am introduced to this beer as a barista named Jackie pours it into my wine glass. (Side note: you will feel much fancier when drinking beer out of a wine glass.) She tells my father and I that the American version of Wittekerke is Blue Moon Belgian White. I taste it and find that she is right, but there are some fundamental differences between the two. Blue Moon’s taste of orange is way more prevalent, and the color is much darker than the one I have in my hand. But both beers sit around a 5% ABV level, which make them light enough to drink and not get too full off of. But we remember that we are at a beer tasting and must move on to beer number two. And I am certainly not complaining after I read the name of our next contestant: Steenbrugge Blond.
Now, going in, I may be a bit biased toward this beer. Its relative, Steenbrugge Witbier, is one of my most favorite foamy beverages, ever. I assure you there is nothing else quite like it. But I come to learn that the Blond is just as tasty, with more of a kick to it. The flavor is sweet, malty and spicy, with notes of citrus here and there. This beer, like the previous one, sits at around 5% ABV. Once again, a tasty beer that is light enough to drink more than a few of but not lacking in flavor and, most importantly, spice!

The next one on our list (almost halfway there!) is Duvel. Armando tells us that many Belgian beer lovers consider Duvel to be the country’s most delicious brew. I have to admit, it is quite good, albeit a bit too plain for my liking. It presents a fruity-dry aroma accompanied by a slightly bitter aftertaste. I like it and wouldn’t push it away if given to me, especially if it was free. But, as I said, it’s pretty basic as beers go. On to the next one!
I hope you enjoy the name of the next beverage as much as I do: Grimbergen Double Ale. I have no idea what ‘Grimbergen’ means in Belgian-speak, and it’s probably not as interesting as what I have in my head, so I won’t make it a priority to find out. What is not uninteresting, however, is the taste of this beer. Dark amber in color, the smell is packed with notes, and I quote, “of molasses and grain.” I couldn’t have told you that myself, mind you. I consulted the handy-dandy beer list that was conveniently typed up for us. But I can confidently say that this beer contains a sweetness to it that is well-balanced, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re drinking fruit syrup. (We’ll get to that later.)
Our next beer, Chimay Blue, has acquired the honorable rating of an A+ on Beer Advocate. The Alstrom brothers, who created the site, know their brew, and very rarely do I come across an A+ for any beer on there. But it is not surprising to me that they have bestowed this much-envied grade upon a product of Belgium. Chimay Blue pours out of the bottle a dark copper brown and settles into my glass nicely, topped off with a thick, creamy-looking head. Armando informs me that I will taste notes of caramel in the beer, and once he mentions that, it’s the first flavor that comes to mind. I enjoyed this beer, but probably not as much as I’ll enjoy it in winter, sitting next to my fireplace, basking in its warm glow. Corny, but the truth!
Ah, we’ve made it. The last beer. Well, more like a fruity beverage than a beer, but appropriate in the sense that we finish with something sweet. Lindeman’s Framboise is the lambic beer that concludes our tasting. Framboise means raspberry in French. (There are many languages spoken in Belgium by the way. The three most common, besides English, are French, German and Dutch. If you want to sound more articulate like me, you can just refer to all of them as Belgian-speak.) But back to the aromas and flavors. In all honesty, this beer is much too sweet for me, but can be taken in small quantities.

Armando informs us that having a piece of dark chocolate with this particular lambic beer would pair both tastes nicely. I acknowledge that he’s probably right, but decline to order one of his many chocolate desserts from the menu. I know a good salesman when I see one.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Ship Inn - Oldest Brew Pub in New Jersey

“After .2 miles you have arrived at your destination”.  “What did she say?” asked Doc, referring to the female voice of our GPS.  “She says we’re here”, replied Rich with less confidence than the voice. You couldn’t blame us for questioning.  We had been driving the country roads of Hunterdon County, NJ for about a half hour looking for the The Ship Inn, the oldest brew pub in the state. 

Doc and Rich are two retirees who make it their life’s work to find the best food and drink in this part of the country.  For example, they have been driving down to Maryland on what they call the “crab train” for 35 years to dine on the tasty crustaceans.  So when they invited me to join them on this brewery visit I couldn’t say no.
Our drive took us past farms and rolling hills that looked more like neighboring Penn than the most populated state in the country.  But our GPS girl was right; we drove into Milford, NJ and back about 100 years in time.  The Victorian homes, white steepled church and clapboard barns reminded me of a colonial New England Town. 
The brewery was built in the1860’s and has gone through a series of incarnations including a bowling alley and a speak easy in the 1920’s.  Ann and David Hall purchased the building in 1985 where they served fish and chips and John Courage Beer.  Ten years later they installed a seven vat brewing system and became the first to brew beer for consumption on premises since Prohibition. 
We got out of the car and walked the length of the town in about 5 minutes and crossed the foot bridge over the Delaware River into Penn.  The River looked silty from the recent rain and we wondered if the brewery tapped into the river to make their beer.  Sure enough, the menu described “Muddy Waters” made from Delaware River water.
Upon entering this establishment we had to side step a piano that must make this pub come to life on weekend nights.  We visited on a weekday for lunch, but the dark wood walls made the pub feel warm and cozy.  We sat in a sunken dining area which overlooked a creek that surely flowed into the Delaware.  Over the bar, which is made from the floor of the old bowling alley, hung dozens of pewter mugs that only added to the Victorian feel of the place.

We started with flights consisting of 6 oz glasses of the 6 beers on tap.  The chocolate stout had a strong coffee taste and the Golden wheat was light and drinkable.  But the hands-down winner was the Killer Bee Ale made with local honey.  All their beers have a 5%ABV or lower so it was easy to try them all and still have a pint of my favorite.  Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who loves this brew.  The waitress said that we just killed the keg with our samples. 
We later received a tour from Brew master Lea Rumbolo who said that she uses 65 gallons of honey in order to produce 210 gals of this popular beer but it lasts only about 2 weeks on tap.

The Ship Inn brews beer in the English tradition using barley malt and Kent Golding’s hops.  The brewing system was designed and built by Alan Pugsley of Maine who imported this brewing style from Great Britain.  Lea uses finicky Ringwood  yeast which top ferments and along with the toasted malt adds a hint of caramel flavor to their beers.  At the end of the brewing process the spent grain is fed to cows at the surrounding dairy farms.
I have been reading a lot about the “small” movement in the craft beer industry but hadn’t experienced it until visiting the Ship Inn.  From the limited production of beer made with local ingredients, to the personalized tour by the brew master to the tiny Delaware River town this brewery calls home, our visit made me a believer that the old ways sometimes are better.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Did It Happen To You?

I've been drinking beer, on and off, for about 35 years. I started out as a "Bud man", and if I was particularly daring and dripping with money I might have had some skunked Heineken or Molson Golden Ale, but mostly it was Bud. So it continued until 6 or 7 years ago when something changed. What bothers me is I can't remember the exact moment I started moving toward craft beer. I remember in the 80s many brands had dark versions that I didn't like, I once tried to down a Guinness Stout and swore I was drinking something that had been wrung out of grass clippings.

The first "micro-brew" I remember seeing was Anchor Steam, it was all the rage, it was from the west coast, it was special, it was the mid 1980s. I tried it. Hated it.

Fast forward to the early 2000s I was generally switching between Bud, Coors Light and a new favorite, Corona. The Corona was purely a response to good advertising...I could almost will myself onto that beach, holding that icy cold bottle, watching the waves roll in. Very effective. But then, I suspect, I must've had a Sam Adams or something similar, something with just a bit more flavor that peaked my curiosity about these new beers that had appeared on the shelves.

The more I tried, the more I developed a taste for the seemingly infinite varieties and within a short time I was enjoying even dark, thick, chewy stouts.

So how did it happen to you? Was it a gradual journey like mine or did you you pick up glass of Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout and know you found something new to love? How did you become one of the one in ten beer drinkers that appreciate "good" beer?

Monday, August 15, 2011

J. Canals Superstore

On the way back home form the Jersey shore, I was looking for a place to buy craft beers that are hard to find in our New York stores. So I googled: "craft beer jersey shore" and found J. Canals in Woodbridge, NJ. Finding the actual store would take about three phone calls and several turns coming off the Garden State Parkway. It is actually only about 100 yards from the Parkway on Rt 1 south, but there is no exit for Rt 1 coming from the GSP North. So you have to take Exit 131b to Gill ave to Rt 1 South. I tell you this because their web site does a poor job of directing you and I don't want you to get discouraged and miss this beer geek's nirvana.

Once on Rt 1 South, you can't miss the giant beer bottle in the parking lot. Upon walking in, I was a little disappointed to see isles and isles of wine and liquor. But then I met Zack Goldberg, who led me to the craft beer section at the other end of the store.

Zack is their beer manager and a true conasseur of good beer. He understands people's different tastes and has tried many, many of the beers he recommends. As a case in point, a young woman asked him for a raspberry beer and he said "It's not my favorite style of beer but here's one I've tried that is good." And he handed her a six pack of Abita Purple Haze . As a fruit beer lover, that is the beer I would have pointed her to.

Though the majority of the store is dedicated to other alcoholic beverages, their beer selection is very extensive. The whole far wall of the store consists of coolers containing mostly micro-beers. Across from the coolers are shelves of more craft beers, many of which can be purchased individually.

I told Zack about the styles that I prefer and regions I was looking for. For each style he recomended his personal favorite. Here a some of the examples of his recommendaations and my subsequent purchases:

Brown Ale - Tommyknocker Imperial Brown $1.79/12 oz 
IPA - Firestone Double IPA $8.49/750ml
Spice Beer - Dogfish Sah'tea $12.49/750ml
Bock - Troeginator $1.89/12 oz
Red Ale - Red Seal Ale $9.39/ 6 pack
Colorado - Breckenridge $1.89/12oz
Jersey - Climax - Roselle Park, NJ $9.99/ 1/2 gallon growler

The Sha'tea's price tag made me a little reluctant to purchase it. They happened to have this brew as one of the six beers on tap at there growler filling station. Zack gave us each a taste and we were sold on this pungent, flavorful beer. If we weren't so far from home I would have had fun tasting the other selections. But we had another hour to drive and a carful of new brews to sample when we returned home.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wharfside Patio Bar - Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

On a beautiful, sunny Saturday down at the Jersey shore, my wife and I were looking for a place to have lunch and a drink on the water. We were lucky enough to find The Wharfside on the Manasquan inlet in Point pleasant Beach, NJ. Back in the day, this restaurant was called The Lobster Shanty. Now it serves the same seafood menu under a new name. We didn't bother entering the Wharfside. Having come from the beach in flip flops and sleeveless shirts, we didn't think we were dressed appropriately. Instead, we sat ourselves at the outdoor Patio Bar on a huge deck overlooking the inlet.

As soon as we stepped out on the deck, I knew we had found a gem. Straight ahead in the middle of the  inlet, we could see a sandbar exposed by the low tide that had several boats beached on it. Groups of families and young people were having a beach party on this narrow spit of land.

On one side of the deck was an immense, somewhat circular bar. On the other, were about 20 tables with umbrellas. We sat at a table with a good view of the beach party and ordered our drinks. I asked the waitress if they had any local Jersey beers and she told me about Beach Haus which, according to the label, is made right in Point Pleasant. My wife ordered a Leinenkugel Summer Shanty on tap. The Shanty tasted a little funky as tap beers sometimes can. All the lemony taste in the world is not going to hide the sourness that comes from dirty beer lines. She switched to Bud Lime after that, but I stuck with the Haus for our whole stay.

This pilsner had a floral scent and strong taste. The after taste was crisp and a little bitter. The strong taste didn't carry a heavy kick and I was able to drink several of these cold babies on this hot afternoon without feeling drunk.

I was curious about the location in town where this beer gets brewed so I googled it on my Iphone and found out that the beer was supposedly made a few blocks away on Arnold Street. We actually went there after lunch looking for the brewery. Unfortunately, no one we asked in town had heard of the brewery. As it turns out, Beach Haus is brewed in Rochester by another company until the owners can raise the money to build a local brewery. Right now the East Coast Beer Co. is based out of an office in Point Pleasant. Regardless of where it is produced, they make a refreshing, drinkable beer.

Out on the deck, food has to be ordered at a long counter and your waitress delivers it. I ordered clams from the raw bar and a cheese burger. My wife, Doreen, got the onion crusted Mahi sandwich. Though she is not a big onion fan, there was just enough of a hint of onion to complement the fish. My burger was just what I needed to fill the empty spot in my stomach. And if there is anything better than clams and cold beer on a sunny day by the ocean, then please let me know.

The crowd out on the deck was . . . eclectic.  That's a nice way to say there were some strange birds flying around that day.  There was a large group celebrating a birthday and the man of honor was wearing a necklace made of veggies and lunch meats.

Not long after we devoured our food the Billy Lawlor Band, which had been on break, re-took the stage. They played classics from the 60's and 70's at a volume that allowed for conversation. When they played a Grateful Dead song, Doreen could not help herself and dragged me up to dance. When we sat back down she said to me, "I can't believe nobody else got up and danced?" I replied, "Give them a little time, they will be up later." And sure enough, after a lively version of Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath, complete with flute solo, the crowd started to come alive. They then broke into "Bertha", another Dead classic and Doreen's favorite song. We started out the lone dancers in a place filled with over 100 people. But after a string of more familiar Paul Simon classics the dance floor was filled with dancers aged 4 to 60.

The band completed their last set and, though there was another band coming on shortly after, we felt it would be hard to replicate what we had just enjoyed for the last 3 hours. We looked out to the inlet and saw that the tide was coming in covering what was left of the sandbar. So like the beach partiers who had to end there stay, we departed with good memories and a vow to return to this unique spot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Lot at 30th Street

Just to be clear, the image that you see directly above this text is misleading. As far as any of you Monday through Friday, nine-to-fivers are concerned, 'the Lot' (as this awesome outdoor venue is known) will never look that empty on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon. If any of your brave soldiers, despite forewarning, do attempt to visit, beware: you must embrace yourself for the long, long line to get in. And I mean long. But is the wait worth it, you ask? Oh, yes. Hell friggin' yes!

Many of you are probably curious as to what exactly 'the Lot' is. To give an exact definition (take from "The Lot is a temporary public plaza below the Highline with free events, family activities, an outdoor bar, food trucks and more for the summer of 2011." And that explanation, in turn, will inevitably lead to another question: "What the hell is the Highline?!" Well, we'll get to that later. But for a brief summarization, click on this:

Phew. That's over with. Now! On to the fun stuff...

What's on tap at the Lot?
Most of the brews served here are from Brooklyn Brewery. One in particular was conceived especially for the opening of the Lot: High Line Elevated Wheat. This was the beer I tried first and loyally stuck with. (It's also the only name I remember. Shucks.) As far as wheat beers go, this brew was smooth going down, crisp and citrusy to the last sip. Each beer, served in pint-sized plastic cups, will cost you $7. Wine, $9. But, honestly, who's coming to the Lot to drink wine?!

What's there to eat?
We all know that food trucks are a ubiquitous staple throughout New York. But a big problem that the drivers of these mobilized meals-on-wheels encounter is finding an out-of-the-way location to post up their vehicles during the day. The Lot on Tap has provided several food vendors with a solution to this former dilemma. These food truckers can now seek refuge under the north terminus of the Highline, free from pestering city cops who are hell bent on serving anyone a ticket for loitering. Not only do they receive sanctuary, but the added bonus of drunk people encirling their stainless steel window counters like zombies, looking to stuff their fat gobs with beer-friendly treats. To name a couple:

Kimchi Taco: I had the '4 tacos for $9' deal. The Grilled Korean Beef BBQ as well as the Tofu Edamame Falafel were my two favorite. The Pulled Chicken and Seared pork I could have done without. (Now that I'm reflecting from a sober standpoint, I must confess that the taco shells themselves were kind of soggy. But the spicy stuff hidden inside - as well as my beer buzzed brain - rendered me too drunk and sated to care.)

Rickshaw Dumpling: I had the Chicken and Thai Basil dumplings with a spicy peanut dipping sauce. Pretty. F'ing. Spectacular. The other two dumpling varieties available that day were the Classic Pork and Chinese Chive as well as the Vegetarian Edamame. If these two were anything as good as the Chicken and Thai Basil, I would recommend them a thousand times over. And then some.

There were three other trucks there that day - one serving pizza (that I heard was sub-par), one serving falafel (I'm still pissed about not getting to try this truck), and one serving ice cream (that a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in 4 years was enjoying for a good hour before finally licking her fingers clean. I am still amazed that her ice cream sandwich ended up mostly in her mouth and not all over her chic tube-tob dress. It was really hot that day.)

The best part about finishing up an afternoon at the Lot (or the most challenging, depending on how drunk you are) is climbing up the stairs to the start of the Highline, a roughly 2-mile long stretch of walkway that was, before its conversion, an abandoned railroad. Now, there is a generously wide cement-laid path that can easily accomodate 5 to 6 bodies walking side-by-side at some of its more scenic sections. You are surrounded on both sides by greenery galore, and the occasional bench here and there. Words really do it no justice. To see for yourselves, click here:

I know, I know. This is supposed to be a blog about beer. And instead, I chose to write more about a place that serves beer rather than the beverage itself. Sue me. I just had to get the word out there before the Lot vanishes forever, as often happens with cool and unique establishments such as this one. Get there while you still can. And don't forget to try the dumplings!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hallo Berlin German Beer Garden

Took the train into Manhattan to meet some friends at Hallo Berlin on 44th and 10th ave. I'd heard a lot about it from another friend who is a history teacher and a lover of everything German. He said it was his favorite German restaraunt in New York. It was even included in a recent New York Times article about historic beer gardens. As a result, I was kind of surprised when I almost walked right by it. First of all, the awning out front has the name as "Hello Berlin". Inside is a narrow bar and about a half dozen tables in the back. There are tables outside on a small patio - the beer garden. It was a hot day so we opted to sit inside.

We each chose different beers to start and sampled each others selections. The Hefeweizen was sweet and delicious. The black lager had the interesting taste of a dark ale with the drinkability of a lager. By far the most interesting beer was the Augustinus Maximator. Rich, who is a retired Latin teacher, informed us that the word "maximator" comes from a latin word that means extreme. This doublebock was extreme with tons of flavor and a 7.5% ABV.

Just as memorable was the food we had to accompany our drinks. My wieiner schnitzel was cooked to perfection and the sour kraut was a meal in itself. We all agreed that even without the amazing German beers, the food alone waranted a return trip to Hallo Berlin.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Atlantic City Beer Festival April 1 2011

I heard about the AC Beer Fest from friends who live down the Jersey shore. They sent me the link to Harrah's Casino website where the fest was being advertised. Since my mom is a regular at Harrah's, I figured this was a "no Brainer": use mom's comp room, do a little gambling, and then drink some quality craft beers. All this was achieved, only not under one roof. The fest was actually at the Convention center a short shuttle bus ride away.

The plan was for my wife and I to meet our friends at the fest. So we paid the $40 entrance fee, received our wrist bands, 4 oz sampling glass and then followed groups of revelers to a huge line. Hundreds of beer lovers were queued up waiting for the opening of the show floor. Some of the more experienced attendees were wearing homemade pretzel necklaces. After a short wait, kilted bagpippers began playing to announce the start of the fest. Doors were opened and people scrambled to be the first to sample their favorite brews.

As a first timer, I must admit it was all a little overwhelming. It took us a while to find our friends in the huge exhibition hall. We did't know where to start. So we decided to start at the first table and work our way around the hall clock-wise.

Luckily, Brewery Ommegang was the first sign I saw. I've visited their brewery in Cooperstown, NY and love all their beers. This time, as in the past, I enjoyed their Hennepin the most. I find it the most drinkable of their strong (in taste and alcohol) line.

As we got our "beer legs" and became more comfortable with the layout of the floor, it was obvious that the fest organizers knew what they were doing. Even though there were hundreds of people, the room was enormous and I never felt crowded. With over 70 breweries represented, we never had to wait long for a fill. There was a live band playing classic rock, but few people paid much attention as there was just too much drinking to do.

To be honest, I tried so many beers in so short a time it became hard to remember which was which after a while. But I do remember the standouts. We were able to try all three of Chimays beers at once and agreed that the blue label was the best. Lagunitas had two IPAs on tap and I was impressed at the level of hops in their beer while still being very drinkable.

It took us well over 2 hours to circle the floor and I finally found my favorite brewery: Dogfish Head. I was thrilled to see that they had their brown ale Raison D'etre on tap. I, like many others, spent the next half hour filling up and draining my sampling glass only to return to the end of the line immediately for a refill.
The brewery that had the best attitude was Cape Anne Brewing Co from Glouceter MA. I was drawn to their table by the sight of a green VW camper bus. Aparently TJ, their sales rep, drives the bus to all the fests and pours beer from two taps sticking out of the side of the camper. In the summer time, he cruises around Fenway Park serving beers to Red Sox fans. I can't think of a better job.

The most creative table at the show was the one that was raising money for a local charity. For $1 they sold fake mustaches that the donors wore and allowed them access to the "mustache lounge". The lounge was a 20' x 20' platform about 10 feet above the show room floor. There was a makeshift bar that served about a dozen offerings from the show. Mustachioed imbibers reclined on couches that offered a much better view of the show. Particularly of the scantily clad dancers below who were publicizing a gentleman's club down the road.

Our friends were just getting warmed up but my wife and I felt that if we stayed, we'd be paying the price in the morning. As it was, the $40 we paid was a bargain for all the fun, laughs and great beer we drank at the show. The AC Beer Fest will be a regular event on my yearly beer calandar from now on. Next year, I'll be sure to make a pretzel necklace and look like an experienced fest-goer.