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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Happy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

ET: Extra Tasty

I Pity The Ham

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We'll Always Have Paris

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Distinctly Heard “Brew” Max

Sometimes the “living” comes easier than the “learning,” good reader. At least that's how it seemed while explaining to Brooklyn's Finest why Ms. Slab and I had just jumped a subway turnstile. My reasoning was specious and the fine stung: $12o for something we had already been caught doing not long ago. Which made me feel a bit like the moth trying to explain why light is so deliciously irresistible. Which is to say: why do folks dive head-first into danger? Or even: why return to the scene of a crime already-executed? Or so I was thinking en route to this year's World Festival of Beers, Brewtopia.

Last year's Brewtopia proved as educational an event as they come but it also played like an old Irish dramedy: innocence and inebriation butting heads, to laughter and headaches. And yet for you good reader we again set sail – Columbus on a deep frothy sea of malt & hops – to identify some standout brews. Tooth of the dog, eye of the tiger, pluck of the penguin and whatnot... summoned to pick a Porkchop Express-approved 6-pack, a perfect potpourri of beers to satisfy any audience and satiate any thirst, no matter your mood or whim. The fruits of our labors below. Enjoy!
The Man with The Plan: Keith Reichenbach gets in the spirit

This year we started at the source, plying Brewtopia's founder Keith Reichenbach (no relation to Johann Sebastian) with some hard-hitting questions. For the record, his favorite color may be blue; he probably likes puppy dogs and the scent of lavender; this is his fifth year organizing the World Festival; and he works his rear off to bring Brewtopia to life, drawing upon contacts culled from over a decade in the restaurant and pub business. This time around Keith moved the festivities from godforsaken Javits to Peer 92, a long plank jutting into the Hudson somewhere near Lincoln Tunnel. All aboard!
Self-described “Fat Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck,” repping the Westside

The first thing we noticed? There was no shortage of Indian Pale Ale on tap, and Lagunitas was the first to grab us (thanks largely to the good-natured degeneracy of Mike Elardo and Matt Stalker, above). The brewery hails from northern California and revels in suggestive “wink nudge” spellings: Kronik, Brown Shugga, Old Gnarly Wine. Such exuberance may sound silly, but it played well in their fresh aromatic IPA. My buddy B. Puddin' swore he tasted grapefruit, and I get what he was saying. The hops impart a refreshing citric twist and clean crisp finish... delicious. Unique. And a boisterous start to our merry List of 6. On a similar flavor note, yet with a far more staid New England Temperament, were the lads from Smuttynose. I had seen their product around and assumed the name was a euphemism for some unspeakable sex move gaining steam amongst the Internet Generation. Alas, it's just one of Maine's Isles of Shoals. Disappointment notwithstanding we started with their Old Brown Dog Nut Brown Ale. That said, I'm not entirely comfortable using the phrase “Nut Brown Ale” in mixed company. And we actually preferred their triple-hopped IPA, another strong nod to the virtues of citrus enriched by a bit of welcomed grit (it's unfiltered).
My Philosophy: The Know-Look Pour

Two IPAs led us to Three Philosophers: a dark, creamy Belgium-styled hybrid. I have seen this sold around town but turned a cheek on vague principle, not being entirely clear who these philosophers were and why they had taken up brewing. As it happens this is a supple, satisfying, agreeably non-fruity mix of rich malty ale and cherry-fermented Belgium Kriek. I'm still unclear about the philosophers (Marx, Quine and Kierkegaard? Larry, Moe and Curly?) but it no longer matters. Every fine six-pack should include a bottle of this terrific upstate New York ale.
Happy gnomes make happy beer!

Three Philosophers also reflected an interesting trend: multicultural mixes of malts, hops and styles. Take, for example, our favorite from this year's Brewtopia, the wonderful mercurial Houblon. It's a mash-up of Belgium Tripel and IPA made by naughty gnomes at a magical brasserie in the French-speaking forests of Ardennes. Houblon plies the rich satisfaction of Tripels with the palate-cleansing crispness of a Pale Ale. It's perfectly balanced and eminently drinkable, pudding-proof of Achouffe's venerated skills and bold collaborative spirit. You can find this stuff on tap and in bottles (at places like Bierkraft or that big Polish deli on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn), and I even found a spare gnome at the Atlantic Avenue Key Food last week. It's nothing cheap – $12-ish a bottle – but you know you're getting only the finest Old World Craftsmanship and genuine La Cedrogne springwater. And that, good reader, is well worth your hard-earned bucksaw.
Body by ChippenDale's: substance over style!

B. Puddin' and I were unanimous in our appreciation for the Gnome, but split on Dave's Dale's Pale Ale. Tastewise we agreed: this is flavorful yet refreshing, a great daily beer that treads a deft line between malt and hops. But I couldn't get past the cans. They have that patriotic/hippie/redneck style that reminds me of Colorado. B. Puddin' assured me that cans keep beer fresher because blahblahblah, but who cares; they look goofy. We'll give it a nod in our six pack on flavor alone, but whether or not you buy this depends on how superficial you are. To drive this point home I've included a picture of the self-anointed Duffman (no official relation to Dale's) doing double-duty with a pair of Pale Ales.On the opposite end of the superficial spectrum? Well... every six-pack needs a ringer. A crowd pleaser. A go-to beer you can find in any bodega in the boroughs. Hence our final entry in this year's Mighty Sixer: Presidente. The Dominican Republic's finest, this light and refreshing lager sips a bit sweet. But who cares about the taste? You've already had five other beers, so do the right thing and finish with a sexy winner!
The happiest volunteers in NYC

And on that note, one final cheer for everyone who put this event together. These were, hands down, the happiest volunteers in New York City. As for the crowd?
Three the hard way: Sunglasses, a Rabbi and the Greatest American Hero walk into a bar...I mean: Smurfette, Crackle (of Snap and Pop fame) and Wishnik Troll walk into a bar...I mean: a French Maid, a...

Nevermind. You get it: Brewtopia, land of the free, home of the beer, with good cheer for all.

Til Tuesday,

–J. Slab