Monday, April 30, 2012

Jaunt to Ommegang

In the middle of March, I decided to take a day and drive on out to Cooperstown, NY. Most people would take this trip to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I am not most people. One of my favorite American breweries calls Cooperstown home: Ommegang. It is a bit of a drive for me, but always worth the trip. You will quickly realize, as you drive up to the old hop farm, that a visit to Ommegang is not like many other breweries . 

The first place you will visit when you get to the brewery is most likely the recently-constructed gift shop. Here you can get almost anything you desire from the Ommegang-Duvel-Maredsous-Chouffe family of beers. They have everything from flags to bottle openers. They also have all of their currently available beers that you can buy for take away (I was able to get Art of Darkness about a month before it was available at my local store). If you go and you don't have any of the glassware yet, I would really like to suggest you buy some. There are few things better in my mind than drinking a beer out of its intended glass.  The tours leave on a somewhat frequent basis from the gift shop, so you can just mill around until they tell you that the tour is leaving.  

The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and friendly. If you don't know much about the brewing process, you should really pay attention on the tour, because Ommegang goes into some depth that other breweries don't actually get into. On the day that I went, they were actually brewing, which is kind of rare to be on a tour for. While my tour guide wasn't initially sure what they were making on that day, he made sure to find out and let me know. It seems like a small gesture, but I really like when people follow through like that. 

Ommegang is a pretty well known brewery, especially in the US, but unlike many other similarly popular breweries, all of the brewing and bottling is done on site for Ommegang. I'm not saying it is bad to have brewing at a different site, but rather that it is cool to see such high volume going through at one location, and with such care. They walk you through the whole place, allowing you to see the progression from brew to bottle (the bottling line was pretty cool to see as a mechanical engineer). Did I mention that the tour is free? Pretty cool. 

After the tour, you will certainly be ready for a drink or two. Lucky for you, the tasting portion of the tour is only $3 and comes with the sweet glass. The glass is just over 1.5 ounces, but don't let the small size get you bothered, you will get to try plenty of beer. Before you even get to the beer, they will put out a spread of pretzels and crackers with a number of mustards, cheeses, and dips that are made using Ommegang beers. If your first thought here is, "Why would I want food? I want to get DRUNK!", please don't go to Ommegang. All of the food is delicious, and it is fun to pair beers with food made with those beers. On any given day you will get to try at least the year-round Ommegang beers: Witte, Rare Vos, Hennepin, Belgian Pale Ale, Abbey Ale, and Three Philosophers. You will also have any of the one-offs and seasonal releases to try, depending on when you go.  

If you are still hankering for some delicious beer and delicious food after your tasting is finished, just stroll into the cafe and order some up. I personally didn't stop in because I was on a schedule, and I have been regretting it since. 

A trip to the brewery can be a wonderful thing to do any day that you have free. Visit to make sure that they are available on that particular day and get directions (I really like their new site design). Grab a date and head to the farm. If you don't have a date, that's ok, the staff are extremely friendly and will chat with you as long as you like. Take your time and enjoy the atmosphere. You don't have to spend your day drinking beer, although you should. 

Friday, April 27, 2012


Sorry, but no real post today. Weddings take priority and Jill and Shawn are going to have great beer there!

To hold you over until Monday, please enjoy this picture of Genny Ice!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Destination: Merry Monk!

Albany has its fair share of places to go for good beer and good food. Allow me to introduce you to my new personal favorite place: The Merry Monk!

Located on the corner of N Pearl St. and Sheridan Ave, it is a haven of Belgian delight in Albany. First things first: Beer. Merry Monk has a fantastic beer selection that is almost entirely Belgian style, taking beers from some of the best breweries in the world. Their draft menu has some things that are rare to see anywhere. I am a little biased because they seem to have an undying love for Dupont beers (which I share). Getting to my point, you can randomly pick a beer from this list and not be disappointed. 

I have shown the pictures of the menu above, not so you can see exactly which beers are there, but so you can see the quantity. I will vouch for the quality. Being almost entirely Belgian style, the menu is rather limited for those who exclusively enjoy hops. Don't think that all hope is lost for you though. Try a Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor or a Duvel Tripel Hop. You might just learn a thing or two. For those who like darker beers, stronger beers, or even just balanced beers, then I promise you a good time. There is also the finest selection of lambics in the region, if you happen to be on a lambic kick. Say you can't decide on a single beer, then just try four! They let you select four different draft beers to get in a flight. Perfect if you don't know what you want. 

The decor (above and below), actually reminds me of walking into Ommegang's gift shop, right down to the cycling jerseys hanging from the wall. It is very welcoming, and depending on when you arrive, could be either really easy to find a seat, or virtually impossible to find a place to stand. Doesn't matter when you go though, because the place is awesome. 

The beer isn't the only reason you should go, though. The food is fantastic. I have personally been three different times. Each time I got something different. First, mussels in a beer sauce. Second, a rack of wild boar baby back ribs. Third, a burger. Oh the burger. So good. If you get one thing here (besides beer), get the frites. They come with a dipping sauce of your choice from a selection of about 10 or so. Every single one of these is delicious. I suggest them all. 

Doesn't that burger look delicious? The beer is great, the food is fantastic, and the people are always extremely nice, even when the place is crowded. If you live in the Capital Region (NY) and haven't made your way to the Merry Monk yet, I would highly suggest it. 

The Merry Monk has passed the Lindsey Test (they have Saison Dupont on tap).

Seriously, go support the Merry Monk. They are a great business to keep in the Albany area, if for no other reason than me being able to continue visiting. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

In Honor of the Perfect Game: Strike Out Stout

There have been a whopping 21 perfect games in the history of the MLB. There have also been 10 additional perfect games broken up on the final out (thank you wikipedia). Basically what I mean is that they are extremely rare and difficult events that must be celebrated. What better way to celebrate than with a baseball themed beer?

Strike Out Stout is an English style stout brewed by Cooperstown Brewing Company, out of Milford, NY. Being an English style, it is really smooth and doesn't smack you in the face with really anything. It is 4.6% ABV, so you won't even notice the booze. The hops play a secondary role, letting the beer be controlled by the roasted malts that are used to give the stout its characteristic color and taste. It isn't syrupy, it is just a very good, easy-drinking stout. If you like your beers darker, but are looking for a lighter-bodied choice, give the Strike Out Stout a try. I was going to use some sort of baseball term like an "at bat", but I didn't want to be that person. 

I like baseball, but I am by no means a superfan. I have been verbally accosted on a couple separate occasions when I mention that I have gone to Cooperstown, but only went to the breweries. Skipping the Baseball Hall of Fame is almost blasphemy to some people that I know. Personally, I'll take the beer. Both Ommegang (post coming up) and Cooperstown Brewing Company are really close to the town. As a  result, CBC is really crowded all day, almost every day during the summer season (all of the parents of camp kids). I went off season, in March. This had some advantages and some disadvantages. First, we were the only one there, so we had plenty opportunity to chat with the dude there. However, they were still working off of the supply that they built up during the season, so they only had about 3 of 9 or so beers available. As a result, they didn't make us pay for the tasting, which was certainly nice. 

I would highly suggest taking a trip to visit CBC. If you visit both Ommegang and CBC in one day, you should probably have a DD. CBC gives you substantial portions, so be prepared and know that you can always skip tastings if you need to. I guess you could also make your way to the HoF, but that may get in the way of your day of drinking. 

Glassware: Pint, Tulip Pint

Synonym Beer: Belhaven Scottish Stout

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 and I will make a post up for you. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Starr Hill Double Platinum

Considering I am not that big of an IPA fan, I have done a lot of Imperial IPAs. For this post, I am covering the Starr Hill Double Platinum. 

At 8.6% ABV, the Double Platinum is actually a very reasonable Imperial IPA, with the high end of the style topping out around 11% ABV. As would be expected, the hops are right upfront and in your face. If you are a hop head, definitely go for this one. It is very citrusy and has an almost sticky bitterness to it. In a very balanced American IPA, the malt guides the hops through the entire taste, start to finish. In the Double Platinum, the hops are the guide. The. Whole. Time. It was actually fairly balanced, but I couldn't fight my way around the hops to get to the malt underneath. 

I realize at this point, it sounds like I don't really like the beer, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. The mixture of hops and booze in an unbalanced Imperial IPA is a turn off for me, but Starr Hill did a great job of only letting the hops and malts speak on their behalf, keeping the booze only in undertones. I'm sorry that I don't have more in-depth analysis of the taste, but this one was in a long line of beers that I tasted with my brothers. I'm frankly surprised that I remember this much. 

Starr Hill is actually a really nice brewery. I am not entirely sure where the distribution spans, but I do know that it is available at least from Virginia (where it is based) to New York (where I can find it from time to time in my local watering hole). If you see one, give it a shot. They are generally pretty damn good. 

Glassware: Pint, Tulip

Synonym Beer: Dogfish Head Burton Baton

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 and I will make a post up for you. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tricks using Drinking Vessels

 Drinking with someone new and trying to impress them a little bit? I want to stress little, because you won't actually be impressing them, but rather mildly entertaining them. Still, the two things I will show you below are usually worth a chuckle,  a "That's pretty cool", or maybe a "How did you do that?".

Frankly, I would be shocked and appalled if someone hadn't seen this before, mostly as someone related to the sciences, but also as a drinker. Effectively, the idea is that at a certain volume left in the can (somewhere near half), the can is able to balance at an angle on the ridge that is on the bottom of the can. If done properly, the can is actually reasonably stable, and can roll around the rim without falling over. It's kind of fun, and I usually do this every time I am drinking out of a can. Next time you are drinking, give it a shot. Just make sure that you have consumed enough so as to not let any pour out when you tilt it. Do a "trial by error" method to figure out how much you need in the can to balance it. It will sort of impress your friends, but not really.

This next trick is for the classier bunch. If you are drinking out of a corked bottle (this can be champagne as well as beer), then you will be left with a cork cage after opening the bottle. Generally, this is just trash, but as you can see above, they can also be used to make bistro chairs that are oversized for Lego men, but very undersized for people. It is actually a relatively simple process to this:

1) Untwist the wire that is running through the legs of the chair (the part that holds the cork cage to the bottle).
2) Take this wire out.
3) Twist the ends of the wire on to two adjacent legs.
4) Twist the top of the wire to look more like a bistro chair (if you are good, you can make shapes).

It is a pretty simple, quick process, and you can give the result to one of your friends. They might like it. Who knows? What I do know is that I find it to be kind of funny to wake up in the morning and find a cork cage chair from the previous night. Plus I just like beer decoration in general.

Look, I made a bistro set! 

I tried to think of a standard bottle trick, but the two I could think of were: 1) Tapping the bottom of your bottle on the top of a friend's and watching their beer overflow, 2) Using a knife to cut the top off of the bottle. Both of these waste beer and I'm pretty sure someone would injure his/herself while trying the second one. 

Next time you are drinking, give either of these a shot, or don't. I don't rightly care. All I know if that I think it's fun, so I am going to continue to do so. 

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 and I will make a post up for you. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bam Biere and Embracing the Funk!

There are a few breweries that just get me. Like really, they know exactly what I want and they just make it for me. One of these breweries is Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, out of Michigan. Before you ask the obvious, reasonable question, no, they don't make (most of) their beers with pumpkin. They are not pumpkin beers. I can't tell you the number of times that I have been asked if they are pumpkin beers. One is, but that isn't the point.

Actually, they found their name the way most companies do: They sat around (drinking beer, of course) coming up with names and decided on one that they particularly liked. When you find a fit, you find a fit and they decided to stick with it. 
(I guess I added in the potatoes to make it feel more like a farm?)

What makes me love Jolly Pumpkin ( I have yet to find a beer of theirs that I wouldn't want to drink from now to eternity) is that they make unique versions of each style they brew. And they are delicious. First of all, every Jolly Pumpkin undergoes a secondary fermentation in an oak barrel with wild yeast. If you know anything about wild yeast, you know that it gives a sourness to the beer. Some people don't like it, but I generally find that if you like sour beer, you REALLY like sour beer. This funk adds a refreshing complexity that is rarely found in beer. Usually, more complex beers are a little heavier, either as a result of yeast esters or darker, richer malts. Not necessarily so with Jolly Pumpkin (though they do have a delicious dark ale, Bam Noire.

Today's post is on their Bam Biere, named after their their Jack Russel terrier that was hit by a car. It is a 4.5% ABV saision, which would really let you drink them one after another. I would gladly do this, especially considering that it is extremely reasonable (cost wise) for how good of a beer it is. It is light in body, but not in flavor. Good and funky, but with a crisp bitterness that might be expected of a good pilsner. The hops, as is generally the case in a saison, play a background role, only occasionally springing up their grassy notes. The funk, the grassy hop aroma, and the refreshing nature of the beer can really make you feel like you are drinking on a farm. 

To me, this is a year round beer, but especially delicious in the spring and summer. If you like some sour in your beer, I can guarantee that you will like Jolly Pumpkin. If you don't, I respect that decision, but I do think you are wrong. If you know a beer is going to be sour, you can expect it and appreciate it more. I believe that there are two types of people who don't like the funk: 1) People who actually dislike the sour, 2) People who weren't expecting the sour. Don't be in the latter group. Give funk another chance. It will open up your beer drinking world. If it helps, don't think of sours as "beer" because you will probably be expecting something different. Take it slow and drink the whole glass. The beer will grow on you. 

Bravo, Jolly Pumpkin, you are doing an unbelievable job. Proof of this is that my girlfriend, Lindsey, now thinks of you as her favorite American brewery. Since she has the most discerning beer palate that I know, this is a huge compliment. Keep up the good work! 

Glassware: Saision glass, Tulip, Goblet

Synonym Beer: Fantome Saison (but with a touch more funk)

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 and I will make a post up for you. 

Friday, April 13, 2012


Time for an anecdote!

I was out having a nice Thursday night drink with my friend, Dan on a fine winter evening. The bar was pretty dead, basically just us, a couple people that worked there, and a few others. We only wanted a couple of drinks, so we were just sitting and sipping (Saison Dupont I believe) as we chatted and watched basketball or something. At about midnight, we were the only ones left, talking to the bartender about becoming a certified beer server, when someone started knocking on the window. We though it was weird, but the people working seemed to know the guy and his lady friend, so we didn't think much of it. 

Immediately after walking into the bar, the guy tells the bartender to get us another drink. After that is done, he buys us another. 

Then he gets us this doozy:

This is called a grenade. There are a few different ways to make it, but only really one accurate way to drink it. Basically you do this:

Buy 2 shots of different liquors and about a quarter pint of red bull. Ideally, you would next situate the two shots in the pint glass so that they support each other, with one slightly higher than the other. Then, you pull the "pin", which means shoot the first shot. This will cause the other shot to drop into the red bull. Next, you "throw" the bomb by chugging it. Yes, it is as gross as it sounds. 

My grenade shots were (not chosen by me), orange vodka and jameson. I chose to shoot the jameson because I like whiskey and didn't want the flavor ruined by red bull. Unfortunately, that shot came first, so the whiskey flavor was ruined by vodka and red bull. 

Then he bought us another round. I had to stop him from buying me another one after that too. Needless to say, by the time I walked back to my apartment at around 2, I had consumed much more than I originally desired, and all because of a generous stranger.

To sum up what I wanted to say: Grenades are pretty disgusting. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Today's post covers one of the most readily available Belgian beers in the US, Duvel. I consider Duvel to be a solid go-to Belgian if I want something light and refreshing, but still really tasty. In case you were wondering, yes, Duvel does mean devil. It is named so because the local shoemaker (cobbler) was a little overwhelmed by the strong aromas put forth by the beer. 

As you can see, it is a Belgian Golden. To me, I consider this analogy to be true:
English is to Bitter as Belgian is to Golden. 
Whether or not this is actually true is up in the air, but that's kind of how I feel. Pretty much what I mean is that most breweries will make the Golden Ale, perhaps because it is one of the most common styles consumed by the population. Personally, I can always go for a Belgian Golden because they are so versatile. Depending on which brand you go with, the beer is going to be very different. I also like the Golden on a more personal level because I think it is a good "gateway beer" into the stronger, "hard" Belgian beers. Pardon the drug analogy.

First off, just ignore the lime. It has nothing really to do with the taste of the beer, I just liked the color addition. Duvel, as I previously mentioned, is a Golden ale, but in Belgium, this is pretty much the same as a strong pale ale. Don't think you will be getting a very hoppy aroma, however, as the Belgians usually let their yeast and malt do the talking. The ABV sits at 8.5%, which if you ask me seems higher than I would have expected, since the beer goes down so easy. It is crisp and a perfect balance of sweet and bitter. Also, don't get me started on the color. I love the pale straw color of Duvel. It reminds me of a perfect Springtime light beer, except if you drink a few of these, it will knock you out. 

If you haven't already, I would strongly urge you to go out and find yourself some Duvel. It shouldn't be all that hard, as Duvel has a really strong distribution in the US. If you haven't really given Belgians a shot yet, try starting with Duvel if you like lighter bodied, but very flavorful beers. In my opinion, Duvel is the quintessential Belgian Golden. I always love having one myself.

Glassware: Duvel Tulip (comes in three sizes, corresponding to desired portions)

Synonym Beer: La Chouffe (Both are brewed in the same family of brewers)

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 and I will make a post up for you. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Heavy Seas Black IPA

Today's short post is on Heavy Seas Black Cannon, a black IPA. For those of you that don't know and don't have the capacity to extrapolate on the name, it is a darker, maltier version of an IPA. If you have never tried one, I would suggest giving them a shot. 

Personally, I am a big fan for the black IPA style. The hops are generally a little more subdued than in a standard IPA, and the upfront dark malt does a good job of balancing out the flavor. Sometimes, black IPA can be a little overwhelming, especially towards the end of the glass, when the beer is getting a little warmer. The nice thing that I found about Black Cannon is that I liked it enough to make sure that it never got to that point. 

Black Cannon is 7.5% ABV, a little stronger than one might expect with an IPA. It doesn't really taste boozy at all, as the flavor is enough to keep it hidden. The taste itself isn't very complex. This doesn't mean that I disliked it, but rather that it was straight forward. You can clearly taste the hop. You can clearly taste the malt. It goes down a little too easy for its ABV, but has enough taste to satiate a wider variety of beer drinker. Hop Head and Malties (a word that I totally didn't just make up to describe people who prefer malty beers) alike will enjoy the flavor. It has something for everyone.   

I haven't tried too much from Heavy Seas, and to be honest I was a little wary since I felt the pirate theme was a little kitschy. I don't know, I don't really trust breweries that go to great lengths to have a theme for all of their beers. It makes me feel like it is a gimmick to get me to buy the beer. Black Cannon restored my faith in Heavy Seas, at the very least. 

Glassware: Pint glass, Mug

Synonym Beer: Blue Point Toxic Sludge

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, April 6, 2012

Photos of the Aftermath

Everybody has had those nights that they don't remember. Or maybe the ones that they don't want to in the morning. Maybe they just don't want to think about alcohol for a while.

Personally, after a long night of drinking, I like to document what the table looks like and record it for posterity. I don't know, it's just something I like to do. 

This one was kind of a fun photo. Apart from the delicious beer shown in the center, a closer look shows a half-eaten piece of buffalo chicken pizza, and a bistro chair made from a cork cage. The beer was consumed before heading to the bars, the rest happened upon our return, at whatever time that was. You can choose to look upon the photos as a story, or just a sloppy photo, whatever you choose. 

This one happens to be a 6 year old picture, from when I visited my brother, Mike, in New Zealand. Lindsey, Mike and I drank these, along with several others for the night. Needless to say, the photos from the night are probably more entertaining, but I'm not going to show you those. 

At the very least, I think you should try to remember what beer you drank. That way, you can try to replicate the night as best as possible. 

Want to share some of your aftermath photos? Send me some and I'll do a post on them if enough people send them. 

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, April 4, 2012

Art of Darkness and Why You Should Always Buy Limited Editions

Wow, that title is way too long.

Anyway, check out Ommegang's most recent limited release beer: Art of Darkness!

Ommegang puts out a core group of awesome beers that can always be counted on. Their special editions are no different (in that they are always delicious). Usually, these are a little more experimental, taking on a different style, adding an interesting ingredient, or tweaking a process to change up the style a little. This particular beer happens to be a strong belgian dark. It sits at 8.9% ABV, keeping up with the "strong" part of the name. It is a monster of a beer. 

My first sip of the beer tasted like Ommegang's Abbey Ale, just stronger. This changes kind of quickly to a a heavy, more complex flavor. It has all of the dark malty, dried fruit, and slight roasted coffee flavors that are relatively common with Belgian dark ales. You also get a boozy taste on there, which blends well with the flavors, but only if you are expecting it. The dark malts used and Ommegang's proprietary yeast give a familiar taste, but a deep, rich flavor.

Ommegang's limited edition beers are both a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing because they are another delicious beer that you know is going to be good, yet you have never tried before. They are a curse because it is easy to get too attached. I, myself, have gotten too attached to a few different limited edition beers by Ommegang. In my opinion, 2 years ago, Ommegang put together the finest string of limited editions I have ever seen:

They started out in early spring with the release of their Belgain Pale Ale (BPA). You might be thinking that I don't know what I'm talking about because you can get the BPA most places that sell Ommegang, even today! Well, I do know what I'm talking about. BPA was loved so much by the customers and staff that they decided to keep it and brew it as a new year-round beer. Who's the idiot now?

The next release came in late spring and was their Belgian Tripel, called Tripel Perfection. They really hit the nail on the head with this one. Definitely one of the best Tripels that I have ever had. I lament the fact that I didn't buy more of it when I had the chance. 

Summer brought with it a Belgian Sour Brown Ale, Zuur. I happen to still have an unopened growler of this in my refrigerator. It is definitely the best sour I have had from Ommegang and one of the more "different" beers that they have produced. The only reason I don't want to open that growler is because I won't be able to get that beer again, probably ever. 

The final special release of 2010 for Ommegang was the Cup O Kyndnes, a Belgian Scotch Ale. This was the maltiest of the bunch and one of the best Belgian Scotch Ales that I have had the pleasure of tasting. I really wish I could get it again. 

Now that I have finished that tangent, back to the Art of Darkness. It is a really good, complex Belgain Dark. Give it a shot if you like Ommegang, like Belgain Darks, or like good beer. Just try it, ok? 

Also, if you happen to work for Ommegang or are affiliated with them in any way, PLEASE bring back one, if not all of the 2010 special editions. I will personally buy up any of the beer that you don't sell. 

Glassware: Goblet, Tulip, Snifter

Synonym Beer: Brooklyn Cuvee Noir (I miss this one too) 

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, April 2, 2012

Hop Infused Bourbon

I am probably going to have a couple shorter posts this week, as my workload as gotten to a ridiculous level. This post is more of a warning than anything else. 

I decided to try to infuse bourbon with some hops because someone reached my blog by searching for "hop infused bourbon". I thought it was an interesting idea, so I went for it. I just added 3 Tettenanger  hop pellets to about 8 ounces of bourbon. You can see the hops hanging out at the bottom of the mason jar in the image below. 

In case you are planning to do this like I did, DON'T. Not that it is harmful or anything, but it just smells unpleasant and doesn't taste great either. Go for it if you don't mind wasting whatever amount of bourbon you use, but don't say I didn't warn you. Mostly, it smelled like either grass infused bourbon, or like someone was smoking pot nearby. Maybe there is some better way to do it, but I don't know what that is. If you do know, shoot me a message, because if done well, I think this could be cool. 

Again, just don't try it like I did. 

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.