Monday, January 30, 2012

Super Bowl Pre-Game

As you all may know, the Patriots of New England will be facing off against the New York Football Giants on sunday (Superbowl Sunday). This is a big enough rivalry for several reasons, including, but not limited to, the fact that New York and Boston have a general rivalry for pretty much every sport, and the last time the Giants met the Patriots in the Superbowl, they won in dramatic fashion, handing the Patriots their only loss of the season. To make things really interesting, Brooklyn Brewery and Harpoon Brewery have made a bet on the game. 

If you are too busy to look at the link, the bet goes as follows: If the Giants win, Harpoon has to wear Giants jerseys and pour Brooklyn Lager for the following week. If the Patriots win, Brooklyn has to wear Patriots jerseys and pour Harpoon IPA for the following week. I wanted to do some sort of simulation of the game before it happens, but since I don't own Madden '12, I had to do a simulation via beer.

That's some sloppy looking defense. 

Before I start, I'm going to hit you with some knowledge. Both of these beers are the flagship beers for their respective breweries. In case you have heard someone throw around this "flagship" term before and wondered why they are talking about boats when you were clearly just talking about beer, let me enlighten you. If you ask five different people what a flagship beer is, you might get five different answers. It can be:

A) The brewery's best beer.
B) The brewery's best selling beer. 
C) The beer that defines the quality of the brewery. 

Sometimes these overlap, sometimes they don't. I personally define the "flagship beer" to be the one that I think of when I think of the brewery. Coincidentally, this is usually the best selling beer, but I would definitely say it is not the brewery's best beer.

In order to do an effective face-off, I will describe each beer to you in detail and by the end, hopefully I will have a victor(I'm totally lying, I knew which one I prefer before I did my tasting. Just humor me.) To be fair, I will also give you a brief opinion of the style, because it is difficult to compare beers across styles in a fair manner. 

 Brooklyn Lager

Style: American Amber Lager
ABV: 5.2%
Opinion of Style: I'm usually ok with Amber lagers. American lagers can sometimes be a little weak in the flavor department, but find one from a good brewery and it will probably be pretty nice. 

Reflection: I love this beer. If you have not had the pleasure, I would highly suggest it. It is light enough to drink several, but actually has the flavor to make you WANT to keep drinking. Slightly sweet and malty upfront, quickly mellowed by a moderate hop character. The finish is crisp and dry, with some lingering citrus from the hops and a distinct grainy flavor. Perfect for the summer or really just anytime you want something that tastes great and is not too heavy. 

Good Representative for the Great State of New York 

 Harpoon IPA

Style: American Style IPA
ABV: 5.9%
Opinion of Style: American IPAs are decidedly not my favorite style. I usually think they are over-hopped. If you disagree, that is fine, but I like a more balanced beer (and one that I can taste something other than pinecone). I guess take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I think it's a good opinion, so maybe you should just believe me. 

Reflection: Being an East Coast IPA, the hop character is more subtle. This being said, I still am getting virtually no distinct malt in the flavor. The IPA is bitter, but to a reasonable level. It stays a little sweet all throughout the finish, which is actually nicer than I remember it being. The last thing you will taste is a floral/citrus bitterness that stays with you. 

Note: How many flagship beers can you think of that are IPAs? Only a few. This is a good indicator that these are mild IPAs, as most of the population is not made up of hop heads. 

If you didn't know already, you have probably guessed by now: Given the choice between Brooklyn Lager and Harpoon IPA, I will take the Brooklyn every single time. It is my personal opinion, feel free to disagree. 

All in all, if the Giants win, Patriots fans should take comfort in the fact that they can get free Brooklyn Lager for the following week at the Harpoon Brewery. If the Patriots win, well, I can't go to the Brooklyn Brewery that week anyway.

Take a second to vote on the right sidebar about which beer you prefer!

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at You can send me cool photos too, if you like.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Germany produces the best lagers in the entire world. Czech and Austria are close seconds in my book. Today's beer is one of my all time favorite lagers. 

Mönshof Schwarz 

This is a quintessential example of the schwarzbier style. In German, this means, "Black Beer". As you can probably tell, that is because the beer is extremely dark in color. This might scare some people away, but it really shouldn't, it has a light body and a great, malty flavor. Like most German beers, Schwarz has a subtle hop flavor (especially if you are comparing to American beers). It goes down smooth, so it is easy to drink a lot, but you shouldn't it too quickly. Savor it. 

Take a look at the bottom of the left glass. See the sediment at the bottom? That is the yeast from the bottom of the bottle. This is a much more mainland European thing to do. The yeast is included in the bottle and as it sits waiting to be consumed, it settles out. Generally, this means that the last half inch or so of the beer will be heavy with yeast. Here is the point to choose. Yes, pouring that beer into your glass will give you more beer to drink, but it changes the flavor drastically. 

Experiment: Next time you have a beer with yeast, try some before adding the yeast, then again after. Notice the difference. You can tell if your beer has yeast by holding the bottom of the beer up to light. If you see a coating, then there is yeast in your beer. 

I feel like I shouldn't have to say this, but yes, yeast is perfectly fine to drink and will not harm you in any way. In fact, some beer is normally served with the yeast included (hefeweizen, witte). You can also tell if there is yeast in your beer if it is cloudy. If a beer is too cold (or depending on the properties of the yeast), the yeast will agglomerate (clump together) on the bottom. The beer will pour clear, but as you can see, there will be large clumps of yeast at the bottom (This happens a lot with home-brewed beer). When this happens, you basically lose the last sip of beer (unless you really like the feel of soggy, clumped yeast). No big deal though, the beer still tastes great.   

The nice part about schwarzbiers is that they are good in any season. They are light enough to drink in the summer if you want a bit more flavor, but can sustain you on a cold winter afternoon as well. I could drink this beer all day long. 

Note: See the two different glasses used? See how they are different shapes? That's ok. They are both meant to hold German lagers. There are probably 3-4 other glass shapes that are also acceptable for German lagers. They are acceptable in probably the most different glass shapes. 

Glassware: Pilsner glass, flute, mug, or stein.

Synonym Beer: Session Black Lager (Definitely try this beer if you see it. It is great.)

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at You can send me cool photos too, if you like.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Examination of Beer Ads

I would like to take a one-post break from beer and photography to talk a little about the business of beer. Obviously, all breweries want to sell as much of their beer as possible. Some of the more wealthy breweries try to convince people to buy their beers through commercials (adverts to our European friends).  Today, I'm going to run through a few commercials and explain what they are trying to convey about their beer and what I think about them.

The message: Let's Get Drunk!

My Reaction: I like it. This is the purpose of Bud Light. They know it. They embrace it. There is no delusions of grandeur here. It is very clear about its intended purpose and I respect that. I also find it funny that it starts with about 6 bud lights in a bucket, but within 11 seconds there are people with 30 racks walking around. When is the last time someone bought a 6 pack of bud light?

The message: You aren't a man if you don't drink Miller Lite because Miller Lite is a delicious beer with fancy flavor because it is brewed with hops added 3 times. 

My Reaction: There are so many things wrong with the above sentence. First, they should never try to make the point that Miller Lite tastes good. They should try to say that it tastes less bad than others (not even true in my opinion). Also, they try to sound fancy by using terms such as "pilsner" and "triple-hops brewed". Let me clarify, Miller Lite is more of a light pilsner style and tons of beers are triple hops brewed. This means that hops are added three times in the brewing process, first for bitterness, then flavor, and finally aroma. This doesn't automatically make them better beers. Also, judging by the hop character of Miller Lite, there is a negligible amount of hops added. I don't like how they are trying to bully people into drinking their poorly-flavored water. To kind of throw their slogan back at them, "If you are drinking Miller Lite for it's 'Great Pilsner taste' you have no idea what a great pilsner tastes like."

The message: There is heineken at this eclectic party. You should therefore drink it.

My Reaction: First, I like the song, so plus. Second, it doesn't really seem like a commercial for heineken, more like there is some product placement for heineken in a commercial for nothing. I like the commercial, not the beer.

The message: Relax with a Corona.

My Reaction: Sure. Fine. If you like Corona, relax with it. My issue is with the girl. If your favorite run is the last of the day, why did you go snowboarding? What is wrong with you? Also, was the dude just sitting there drinking Coronas all day? Why are you two on the mountain? I'm not going to judge too much on the beer, but it is a little cold to be drinking such a summertime beer.

The message: Coors Light is really freaking cold. Like all the time. Just really cold.

My Reaction: Let test their theory. Let a can of Coors Light sit out in the open all day. Still ice cold? I get that you can tell visibly tell when it is cold, but that in and of itself does not make it cold.  Slow your roll there Coors, I make the beer as cold as I want to and I don't make your beer cold at all. Their other slogan makes sense though, "The world's most refreshing beer". I think water is the most refreshing drink, so if your beer tastes like water, it makes sense to be the most refreshing.

The message: This guy will drink Dos Equis every once in a while and he is awesome. Also, you should drink a lot.

My Reaction: I find these commercials hilarious. This guy has become the Chuck Norris of the moderately priced beer world. They are generally up front about it too. He isn't supposed to be an expert at beer. He even says, "I don't always drink beer...", in some of his commercials. They are trying to poach the people who want to spend a little more on their beer, but aren't ready for serious taste yet. It works for them.

The message: As best as I can tell, this is about the dangers of alcoholism. It will ruin friendships, kill the ones you love, and feed them to other alcoholics?

My Reaction: Trading a pig for a glass of Stella? I know what they are trying to say, but I found the execution weird.  They should stick to commercials about beauty. They make more sense.

Fun fact: In the UK, Stella is known as "The Wife Beater" because it is cheap and at a whopping 5%, is stronger than most English beers. I think this fits well with the message that I got out of the commercial.

The message: We respect our beer, you should too.

My reaction: First of all, I hate the first woman. Overall though, I like that they have a series of commercials that teach a little bit about beer. I also think it's smart that they use the same song (it always makes me think of Sam Adams). I can't fault them for their commercial, but I can't say I will jump at the chance to drink their beer.

Ok, enough of that.
I really should have gotten paid for having you watch so many commercials, though I guess they probably wouldn't appreciate my commentary. Oh well. Back to the norms with my next post!

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at You can send me cool photos too, if you like.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fireside Chat: Making You Feel Warm and Cozy Since 1933

It is finally wintertime. 

I know it technically has been since December, but it is actually cold and there is snow on the ground now. It is the perfect time of year to enjoy a Fireside Chat. 

Maybe enjoying it while chatting fireside? 

First of all, background. Fireside Chat is a 7.9% ABV winter ale (spiced dark ale) made by in California by 21st Amendment Brewery. 

Pop Quiz/Name Clarification: What is the amendment that repealed Prohibition?

If you don't know, Fireside Chats were a series of radio broadcasts by FDR from 1933-1944. They were intended to inform Americans of the dangers to the country and how they were being dealt with. The beer kind of does that, but more for the craft beer scene than America as a whole. 

Unlike most winter ales, Fireside Chat has a subtle spice that doesn't overwhelm the flavor. It is a well balanced: malty and a bit sweet, but also has good hop character to it. The hoppiness is typical of West Coast breweries, but the balance is what makes 21st Amendment stand out. 

Keep in mind, this is certainly not a beer for everyone. Winter ales are intended to be filling and warming. The 7.9% ABV will help to warm you up. In keeping with the style, Fireside Chat is a medium to heavy bodied beer and will hit you with a ton of flavor and a noticeable booziness. Be prepared for it, it is quite good. 

Apart from their great beer, I love 21st because of the artwork on their cans. If you happen to see them the next time you are buying beer, check them out. They also have fun, clever names: Brew Free  or Die IPA, Bitter American, Back in Black IPA, Monk's Blood, etc.

21st is also one of the pioneers of a new craft beer movement: using cans. Now, I could make a whole argument about how cans are environmentally better than bottles (they are) and how they provide a safer means of transport and consumption (no broken glass), but I frankly don't care. Those are just bonuses. Really, I like canned beer because it is convenient and helps the beer stay fresh. It's nice to be able to take good beer to outdoor venues and beaches (where allowed?). Plus, its much easier to carry a 12 pack of cans.

Other good beer in cans: Butternuts Beer & Ales (Porkslap, Moo Thunder, etc) and Oskar Blues Brewery (Dale's Pale Ale, Old Chub, etc).

Glassware: Pint, Mug, Simple Tulip (Although most canned beers are actually intended to be consumed from the can.)

Synonym Beer: Harpoon Winter Warmer (although Fireside Chat is significantly better).

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at You can send me cool photos too, if you like.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Destination: Munich

There are a couple places that come to mind when someone says, "Drinking Capital of the World". One place that I can assure you is on everyone's top 5 list is Munich. There is a perfectly good reason for this. Many people believe that the water around Munich is perfect for creating several styles of beer (Hefeweizen, Helles, Dunkel, etc.) As a result, there are a ton of breweries in and around the city, most notably the Big 6: Löwenbraü, Hofbräu, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Spaten. Here is an account (in beer, of course) of one day with Lindsey in Munich. 

We had previously done a lot of the touristy sight-seeing things in the city, so we decided to relax a bit. Another bit of advice, if you don't drink just a ton of beer in Munich, you might not deserve to be there. There is no shortage of places to drink in Munich. You could just walk into any bar and get some of the best beer in the world. We decided to go to some of the major beer halls.

12:30 pm: Ayinger

Ayinger is not a beer that your will see too often in the US.  We decided to take advantage of the chance to drink such a wonderful beer. I got a dunkelweizen, while Lindsey got the Hefe. Both were fantastic and the bar was a very bright and pleasant place. Now, most beers in Munich are served in 2 sizes, 1 liter or .5 liter. These happen to be the .5 L variety (wheat beer glasses are generally .5 L). 

 1:00 pm: Hofbräuhaus
Hofbräu has basically become synonymous with Munich. The beer hall (right across the street from Ayinger) has become one of the major tourist attractions. This doesn't mean you should skip it. The beer is light and refreshing and the food is delicious. I got a dunkel and a wurst platter, Lindsey got a Helles and käse spätzle (some of the best stuff you will ever eat). The liter steins go down surprisingly easy and the atmosphere is fun and uplifting.  

2:00 pm: Schneider Weisse
Schneider may have been the most crowded place we went, but the beer was also probably the best. At this point, we had both consumed around 1.5 L of beer. Naturally, Lindsey ordered one of my personal favorites, Aventinus (if you haven't had it and like Hefes, do it) and I got a Hopfenweisse (a collaboration between Brooklyn and Schneider). Neither is particularly light, both in body and in ABV, but both are delicious. You may notice a trend. Beer in Munich is fantastic, it's hard to go wrong. 

 3:30 pm: Franziskaner
This one took us a little longer to find, because it was down a smaller alleyway. It was very nice though, providing us with brezeln (pretzels) to munch on as we both enjoyed our Hefes. Franziskaner is a perfect representation of a German Hefeweizen. Among Hefes, I will choose it almost every time.  

6:00 pm: Paulaner

Paulaner was the furthest place from the city center, fortunately, it was close to our hostel. For the last beer of the day, I got a classic Paulaner and Lindsey went towards the dark Salvator (a dopplebock). Let me tell you, these were hard to finish. When you wind up drinking in the vicinity of 3.5 liters of beer, you get kind of full. Totally worth it though, everything was delicious. Don't forget to eat though. 

Note: The perfect snack while drinking in Munich is butterbrezeln. These are probably the best thing in the whole world. The premise is simple, cut a hot pretzel in half, butter it, and put it back together. It is far more delicious than it even sounds. You don't even need to be drinking, I promise.

See: Delicious!

Munich's motto really sums up the city: "München mag Dich". This means, "Munich likes you". It really does.

If you want me to look at a particular beer, drink, place, or have anything to say to me, email me at You can send me cool photos too, if you like.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Scotch! (Whisky from Across the Pond)

Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly. Mmm, Mmm, Mmm.

 The first things you should know about Scotch Whisky. 
1.There are 3 ingredients: Malted Barley, Water, and Yeast.
2. It must be distilled in Scotland.
3. It must be aged for a minimum of 3 years in used oak barrels.
4. The final product must have a ABV of at least 40%. 

There is really just too much to say about Scotch. People have built entire careers just talking about it. This post is going to be about whisky in general. By the way, when I write "whisky" I mean scotch. If I write "whiskey", that can be rye, bourbon, or corn. Sorry for that, but it is an artifact from living in Scotland for half a year. One of the reasons I love whisky is that it is shockingly easy to take pictures of it. The other is that it is perhaps the most complex and diverse spirit in the world. 

You may be wondering what I mean by "diverse". It's time for a geography lesson.
Whisky can come from any of 4 main regions (there are more, but these are the most common): Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, and Islay(pronounced eye-luh). The fun part about each of these is that the whisky produced in each area has distinguishing characteristics. For instance, Lowland whiskies are drier, with very little smoke. Speyside whiskies have a little more smoke and are often quite sweet (sweet is relative in whisky terms). The Highland whiskies are sweet, but balance it out with good smoke. Islay whiskies are like biting into a brick of peat. If you like this (I do) it is fantastic, if not, you probably think it just tastes like smoke. As one of my friends so eloquently put it, "It tastes and feels like drinking fire!"

Drinking (and enjoying) whisky can be as much about the atmosphere as it is about the taste. I had tried some whisky before I went to Scotland, but wasn't convinced. Its very different when you step into a pub off a snow covered cobblestone street and get a dram. Maybe it has to do with accents. I don't know, but I do know that the atmosphere around whisky can really affect how you enjoy it. 

Whisky comes from a very proud culture and it is something that is truly their own. As a result, there are some guidelines to follow when drinking whisky (especially in Scotland).

- You don't take shots of whisky
- Don't mix a single malt
- Adding ice is frowned upon. The preferred methods are neat, or with a few drops of spring water (to open the flavor). The reason behind avoiding ice is because the ice both dilutes the whisky, as well as dulling the flavors.
-Drink from a proper glass (rocks, lowball, or glencairn are preferred)
-Think about your drink. Whisky is not for getting hammered, it is for enjoying, especially with company. If you aren't paying attention to the flavors, nose, and mouthfeel, you are missing the point. 

As I already said, there is just so much to say about Scotch whisky. Don't worry, there will be plenty more posts about it, focusing on each region individually, as well as specific distilleries. I will also go into Single Malt vs. Blended whiskies at some point. Maybe I will even do a post on how its made. Who knows? Me. I will. It will all come in time.

Side note: Whisky is seen as a sort of cure-all in Scotland and can be used for anything from stomach aches to sleeplessness. I would recommend this. A few times in the past year I have started feeling sick, had a dram of whisky as I relaxed for the night, and woke up feeling significantly better. Think of it as an alcoholic Mary Poppins kind of thing.

If you want me to look at a particular beer (drink?) or have anything to say to me, email me at

Monday, January 16, 2012

Proper Glassware: An Introduction

Happy Birthday Lindsey!

In recognition of Lindsey's birthday, I will be doing a post on something she finds very important, using proper glassware.

Beer and puppies: That's what Lindsey loves.

Let me start with a scenario: You are in Brussels. You decide that you want to drink a Tripel. The bar, however, is completely out of the proper glassware for Tripels. They will not serve you. Germans will do the same thing. If the proper glassware is not available, they will not serve you the drink. This might seem like a stupid thing to do to some people, but there is a reason for the proper glassware. The glassware is always made with the beer in mind. By using a different glass, you may be repressing the nose of the beer, which will in turn affect how it tastes. By not allowing you to drink the beer without the correct glass, the bartender is ensuring that your experience will be how the beer is supposed to be tasted. 

This one is supposed to be delicious.  It is.

The degree to which this is enforced is variable. Some places may be fine with serving you, as long as the glass is somewhat similar, while others won't serve you if they don't have that particular brand's glass (ie. Hofbrau in a Hofbrau mug). If this ever happens to you, don't be a jerk and get mad, just be happy that you are in a place that respects beer. (Would you get upset if a restaurant wouldn't serve you wine in a pint glass?)

I don't want you to think that this means that each style of beer has its own glass style (although many do). Some styles can be used in a variety of glasses. Below, I will lay out several styles of beer and explain which glasses are proper and why. 

German/Czech Pilsner: Pilsner glass, Stein, Flute. (Most German lagers follow the same guidelines)
The pilsner glass and the flute are meant to maintain the carbonation properly. They are also helpful in emphasizing the nose, which is subtle in these reasonably hopped beers.
The stein, on the other hand is meant for mass consumption. The heavy glass or ceramic keeps the beer nice and cold as you quench your thirst.
Lots of thirst.

Belgian Strong/Trappist Ales: Goblet, Snifter, Tulip, or a wine glass in a pinch.
These are all fairly similar glasses, but they all have their own purposes. The goblet has a wide mouth and helps to maintain a head (known as Belgian Lace). A snifter is meant to focus the nose of the beer in one location. A tulip glass is somewhere in between, attempting to achieve both head retention as well as capturing the nose. 


Most American/English Styles: Pint Glass, Mug
Realistically, a pint glass doesn't do a whole lot in terms of enhancing a beer drinking experience. The pint glass is meant as an cheap and easy receptacle for bars and homes. It is versatile and durable. It is meant more for drinking that enjoyment. These styles can be put into other glasses. A variation on the tulip is generally what I go with. 

 Personally,  I think this reflects the different beer cultures. The Belgians and Germans respect beer more than most other cultures and therefore do the utmost to make the beer drinking experience as enjoyable as possible.

I could talk about his forever, so I have to call it quits for now. I will leave you with a general idea of how to choose the proper glass.

1. Does the style have a glass named after it (wheat, saison, pilsner, koelsch)? -Go with that one.
2. Look on the back of the bottle. There may be a suggested glass.
3. Belgian? -Does the brand have a specific glass? Otherwise safe with a goblet or tulip.
4. Google it. 

Oh I almost forgot a style.

American Style Light Lager: Plastic Solo Cup (Preferably Red)
   The bright colors distract from the taste.

Maybe more on this later, I haven't decided.

If you want me to look at a particular beer or have anything to say to me, email me at

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saranac Chocolate Lager

I have an unusual beer for you today. 

The Saranac Chocolate Lager is a part of their "12 Beers of Winter" pack. It's the kind of beer that you need to be prepared for in order to drink it properly. This is because the cacao nibs used in the brew overwhelm the malts and the hops used.  I doubt you will have tried a beer like this. It differs from chocolate stouts or porters, the traditional choice for adding chocolate to beer, because the lager yeast keeps it light bodied and easy to drink. It really isn't as sweet as would be expected because the chocolate used is actually bitter and the flavor reflects that.  

The Chocolate Lager would rarely be my first choice, but that is mostly due to my personal preferences. Standing alone, there just
too much chocolate. It would actually probably work well in a beer cocktail or a mixed beer drink, like a chocolate black and tan(Mix with Well's Banana Bread Beer?). Someone try that and let me know. 

To be fair, the Chocolate Lager is by no means the weirdest beer I have ever tried. That distinction currently goes to Boston Beer Works' Habanero Black IPA. That stuff burned.  

Shoot me an email if there is a weird beer that you want me to try. I can't say that I will definitely try it, but I'll do my best. 

Synonym Beer: I can't say I know of a beer that is very similar. Probably the closest is an English Chocolate stout.

If you want me to look at a particular beer or have anything to say to me, email me at

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Manhattan (Cocktail, not location)

In recent years, cocktails have had a sort of resurgence in the US. Speakeasies are popping up everywhere, focusing largely on cocktails (usually Prohibition Era). Plus, drinking a cocktail is pretty much the only socially acceptable way to drink a glass of pretty much hard alcohol. Today, I will focus on a classic, the Manhattan. 

The recipe for a Manhattan is as follows:

2 oz. Rye or Bourbon
1/2 oz. Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

The Manhattan should be made in the same fashion as a Martini:
Put all ingredients in an ice filled mixing glass. STIR well. Strain into Martini or lowball glass.
Apparently secret agents aren't terribly skilled at making cocktails. Shaking Martinis or Manhattans will melt more of the ice in the mixing glass, diluting the final product. No one wants that. 

Personally, I love a good Manhattan. I generally will go with rye, as the rye is usually a bit spicier of a drink, balancing the sweetness from the Vermouth. Bourbon Manhattans have a chance to be too sweet (especially towards the end of the drink). The flavor is dominated by whatever whiskey is used,  just without the burn. It also follows the standard rule of thumb: Start with crap, end with crap. All this means is that if you try to make a Manhattan with a bad whiskey, then you are going to get a bad Manhattan. Think of it as an investment in the cocktail. Generally I would suggest a middle ground liquor for cocktails. In this case, I would suggest (rI), which is a brand of rye, or Bulleit Bourbon. 

There are a ton of tweaks to the recipe that can be used with positive results. For instance, sometimes the sweet vermouth is replaced with a different dessert-style wine, like a sherry or a port. I have had this (port), and it may have been the best "Manhattan" I have ever had. Basically, if you like American whiskies, then you will probably like a Manhattan. 

If you think a Manhattan is too pretentious and you want to get a Brooklyn, switch the sweet vermouth to dry vermouth and add 1/4 oz. Maraschino Liqueur. This would be a good choice if you don't like sweet drinks. 

If you want me to look at a particular beer (drink?) or have anything to say to me, email me at 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guest Lecture: Lindsey's Black Ops

Everyone, meet Murphy.

The above picture is one that Lindsey took for the Brooklyn Brewery Beertography Contest back in October, but never submitted. As you can see, it's a fantastic, crisp B&W photo of her pup, Murphy, snuggling up with a bottle of Brooklyn's Black Ops. If you have never had Black Ops before, it is a beast of a beer. It is a bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout that really can kick your ass (it sits at around 11%). When drinking a bourbon barrel-aged beer, it is important to realize that the bourbon is really going to come through. This combined with the already complex flavor of a RIS means that your taste buds are going have to deal with a lot of flavor. 

Side Note: Bourbon barrel aging is usually used for darker beers because the flavors don't get overwhelmed by the bourbon. Lighter beers are sometimes barrel aged, usually resulting in a strong bourbon flavor (see Allagash Curieux).   

It is certainly a sipper. I would strongly suggest splitting this among several people, which is how I would generally recommend drinking (it's more fun to try a bunch and talk about them together). Seriously, if it is your first time, drink it slowly and in small quantities. RISs, especially barrel aged ones, are definitely acquired tastes, so take it slow and get used to them before ordering one at the bar.

Quick History Lesson: Russian Imperial Stouts are called as such because they were originally brewed in England for the Russian monarchy (specifically Catherine II). They were brewed with this high alcohol content for similar reasons that IPAs are extremely hoppy and why Port is fortified: to last the trip from producer to consumer. Back when they had to actually ship things via ship, it took longer. The extra alcohol prevents the beer from spoiling over time. 

Ok, that's enough knowledge to drop for one post. Bringing this whole thing full circle, I am kind of glad that Lindsey decided not to submit her photos to the Beertography competition, because I am positive that I would have lost. Here is another one of her non-submissions.

From now on, I am going to try to give a similar beer to the one I am posting about. This may give you a better idea of what the beer is like, or it might give you a new beer to try (if you like the post beer). I'm just going to call it a synonym beer. 

Synonym beer: Bourbon Country Brand Stout (Goose Island) (Except without the coffee)

If you want me to look at a particular beer or have anything to say to me, email me at

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

(Infused) Bourbon!

I like to look at myself as a sort of Renaissance man when it comes to alcohol. This isn't to say that I would be able to make fantastic alcohol (although I do enjoy my homebrew), but rather that I feel like I know a good amount about a lot of different alcoholic beverages. I know my beer well and I can certainly make my way through a nice wine tasting, but liquor was a different hurdle. There is so many different kinds, all so very different. It can really be overwhelming. Today, I'm going to focus on bourbon. More specifically, Old Grand Dad Whiskey that I have infused.

Above you see my first attempt to infuse bourbon with bacon. Neither the bacon nor the bourbon look even remotely appealing at this point (don't worry, after another couple filterings, the bourbon cleared right up). 

Bourbon porkchops, bourbon ham glaze, bacon bourbon brownies. There is a reason why these go so well together. Bourbon is naturally a little bit sweet, a result of the required 51% corn mash used to make it. This balances well with the natural saltiness of pork products. In fact, the final bacon-infused bourbon that I made came out very well. The smokiness of the bacon added a really nice flavor and made the finish much smoother. Most of the burn disappeared. I also infused several other flavors for fun: Cinnamon, Coffee, Apple-Cinnamon Vanilla, Pumpkin Spice, Maple, Maple-Bacon, and Peanut Butter.

All the same bourbon, just different infusions

You can infuse virtually any liquor you want, but it's best to not infuse one that is overly flavorful. Also, if you try to infuse a single malt, you will probably get punched in the mouth. If you are curious how to infuse liquor, its actually really easy. I chose to use 8 oz. mason jars because they are cheap, easy to clean, and allowed me to do small enough batches. Basically all you need to do is:

1. Choose the infusion flavor.
2. Estimate how much of the flavor to put into the jar.
3. Fill remainder of jar with liquor.
4. Taste every so often until the flavor is satisfactory. (Can be anywhere from a few hours to a couple weeks)

For example, here is the recipe I created for the bacon bourbon.
Fry up 5 strips of bacon. Eat 4 strips of bacon. Pour all of the bacon grease and the remaining strip into the mason jar. Fill jar with bourbon. Shake well Place the bacon-bourbon jar in the freezer. After a few hours, most of the bacon fat will solidify, allowing you to pour the bourbon through. It will still be cloudy. Filter additionally using either a coffee filter or paper towels. The longer you let the jar sit, the stronger the bacon flavor will be. Also, the more time in the freezer, the more fat will solidify.  

I have a couple strange ideas for my next attempts (peated malt?, jalepeno?). If anybody has a cool ideas, let me know. Also, if anyone wants the recipes I used for any of the above-stated infused bourbons, I will gladly give them. 

Side Note: My brother told me about a fun game that he observed, the centerpiece of which is a bottle of Old Grand Dad Whiskey. The game is played as follows:
If you are holding the bottle, tell a funny story about your Grand Dad. Take a swig. Pass the bottle. 

I could probably tell a funny story about my Grandpop, my brother, and some advice on how to get women, but I'll let that be for now. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Destination: Prague

One of my ideas for this blog is to talk about various drinking destinations that I enjoy. I'm going to leave this as an open definition of "destination". This way, I can talk about bars, breweries, distilleries, cities, countries, etc. Hopefully you will learn something or maybe get an idea of a new place to visit. 

In April 2010, I went on a trip with my girlfriend, Lindsey, around Europe. Our first stop was in Prague.  As can be expected of a cheap hostel in a semi red-light district, no one was there to let us in when we arrived, so naturally we found a place to have some food and a beer. My first beer was the original pilsner, Pilsner Urquell. My second beer was this: 

Wondering what it is? Me too. 
After an extensive google search, I have determined that it is called Velikonoční Krasličák. Don't even ask about the pronunciation. Apparently it is a 16% ABV special edition Easter beer made by layering (not mixing) together a light red beer with a bitter green beer. The layering effect is achieved by keeping the two beers at different temperatures. To be perfectly honest, I don't remember exactly what the beer tasted like, I only remember that it was tasty. If you ever find yourself in Prague within 3 weeks of Easter (according to the producer) you should be able to find this unique beer to try. 

My favorite place in all of Prague was the Strahov Monastic Brewery. It is located within the castle walls and has some of the best food and beer that we had in the city. Our lunchtime beverages are shown below. 

They make all of their own beer there and they're all fantastic(I could have worded that differently, but i wanted to use all versions of there/their/they're). Lindsey ordered the amber, shown left, and I ordered the black lager, right. Personally, I think that if you don't think these look delicious, you aren't drinking the right beer (You have to love the dimpled mugs too). Despite their differences in color, both were relatively light-bodied and pleasantly hopped (I like lighter hops), with the black lager having a nice maltiness. This is definitely a place to visit if you find yourself in Prague. 

If you want me to look at a particular beer or have anything to say to me, email me at

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mikkeller Single Hop Series

Welcome to Christmas at the Rizzolo Household. 

Each of these 12 oz. bottles was split between my brothers, my dad, my sister's boyfriend, my sister-in-law, and myself. As can be expected, that didn't leave a whole lot of beer to taste per person, but in the case of the Mikkeller Single Hop Series (MSHS), this isn't that bad of a situation, considering there were 13 of them. For those who don't know, the concept behind the MSHS is that they make the same exact beer, changing only the hops. Since each hop variety is very different, each beer has its own unique flavor, bitterness, and aroma. Shockingly, hops are generally categorized as aroma, flavor, or bittering hops, indicating what they do for the beer. The MSHS is probably best served as a tasting, like how my family drank them. Some of the varieties don't do the beer any favors. Some are extremely bitter, but have no flavor. Since all of the beers are American IPAs, the really aromatic, flavorful hops, like Cascade, work the best. This is definitely something that a new home brewer or a budding Cicerone would want to do. 
All in all, some of the MSHS were fantastic IPAs, others were weak, but definitely worth a try.

Something to look forward to is the Mikkeller Yeast Series. This will be a Belgian Strong Pale Ale that is fermented with a variety of different yeasts, including Brettanomyces, Weisse, Belgian Trappists, US ale, and lager yeasts.

If you want me to look at a particular beer or have anything to say to me, email me at

Procrastination Techniques

This being my first post, I am going to lay out exactly what my motivations and my desires are for this blog. 
 I am a graduate student, so naturally I look for lots of opportunities to put off doing the work that will actually support my drinking habits. Since I am both a lover of beer and beer photography, I figured the most productive use of my time would be to post the pictures that I love to take and talk about the beers that I love to drink. Realistically, this blog is going to serve me more than anyone else. This way I can keep track of how I felt about all of the beers I drink. Ideally, each subsequent post will be a cool picture of a beer with a little background and a short description of how I perceive the taste. Since everything is just my personal opinion, you'll have to do some tasting to really get an idea for the beer. Maybe I can be the push you need to try that beer you've always had your eye on. 

If you want me to look at a particular beer or have anything to say to me, email me at