All posts by grotusque

My name is Dan and I like a lot of things, but this blog will be about the beer I drink and occasionally make. Well. Mostly.

Up the East Coast

In the afternoon heat of a fall day in New York, I found myself at the Life Cafe in Chelsea, where stylish people hang out with trees as shade and Sixpoint’s Brownstone ale was on tap. It was, go figure, a brown ale–once again demonstrating how clever people get with naming their browns.

Nonetheless, this brown was a bit unremarkable, both a good and bad sign for a brown I suppose, but then it was time to leave, for my guide, the lovely betweenthelines, who was to be my guide to the berg of Meridian, CT.

The train ride up I sat facing North, on the right side of the train, and I was struck not only by how pretty  it was, but by how many graveyards, both human and architectural, there were. Parts of this country have been smacked pretty hard by economic hard times at various points in our history, and the remains still linger. Unlike the human graveyards, though, these places are burnt out, ugly; their shattered windows and smeared brick faces making them creepy and appealing to my desire to explore them, somehow.

But the train rolled on. We soon found ourselves at Archie Moore’s, where I asked a younger, guido looking bartender what was on tap. He pointed at the taps (which were arranged such that they were difficult to read) and then gestured a-la Vanna White at the bottle selection above his head. btl commented as he walked away, “Neighbor’s kid…he was an asshole as a child, too.”

I selected Magic Hat #9, as I’d never had it before, but this time requesting it from an older bartender, his mouth lined at the corners like a tic-tac-toe grid. He merely nodded; old school, and got me my beer. A tasty pils, though not what I was hoping for. I don’t know, if you’re going to name a beer after a number, maybe it should be more exotic. Then again, perhaps if one drinks too much, being able to just say, “Number 9,” is all you want to have to do.

Next up was dinner, where I was introduced to the anarchist DJ Manwhore, and the perfectly awesome Witchgrass. Dinner involved roasted pork tenderloin and a whole lot of Presidente from the Dominican Republic. This was a lager that had the sweetness of a belgain. What the heck do I call it? A lagain? Belger? Damned if I know, but it washed down the spicy food very well.

Then it was off to…well I didn’t write that down. But I did recall that I had the Harpoon IPA, which was no match for the IPAs I get at home. It was more like a pale ale instead of an IPA, but not a bad beer. DJ Manwhore started playing with an old scale in the window, while we discussed healthcare in this country and I went back up to the bar, this time for a McSorley’s.

It’s rare that I get to say this, but; Avoid this beer. I like to take risks with my beer selection and sometimes, it doesn’t pay off. This was one of them: McSorley’s had an ashy flavor in it, which had me recoiling from the first sip.

My final beer of the evening was Loose Cannon. An interesting beer, it was trying to find a middle ground between the mellower British style IPAs versus the severely hopped NW IPAs. Bitter, but not unevenly so, yet with the strength to linger in your mouth long after it had been drank. Probably my favorite beer of the day.


One thing about going to the OBC meetings is that sometimes there are goodies to take. 

And this time, there were bottlecaps. Including Budweiser bottlecaps. 

For home brewing there is nothing more punk rock than serving stouts with a Budweiser cap.

Well, maybe there is, but it’s as punk rock as I need to be.

East Coast One

After arriving in Manhattan, my friend Ed took me to Molly Wee’s, which is somewhere near Madison Square Garden. While I probably could find it walking in the city, I couldn’t tell you where it is. New York is like that for me; familiar but mystifying.

While the selection was rather slim, it was my first chance to relax since I’d gotten on a plane 8 hours earlier. Stuck between everything I would expect, and nothing, I went with Samuel Adam’s Oktoberfest. It was a solid, reasonable beer, malty and it had a kind of workmanlike quality that I was going to rely on whenever I was limited in my choices. Sam Adams seems to have established itself pretty strongly, at least in the Yankee areas I were in, as the solid premium beer of choice.

Fortunately, my next stop was Brooklyn, where the awesome author of the Gift Donkey began to show me around. New York was quite warm, so she walked us through the neighborhood,  passing by the bad Korean place, the crazy local dive bar (“you will get weird looks when you walk in”)  and the Williamsburg expressway. On the porches people hung out, having overloud conversations about giant bugs or strange boyfriends, or maybe both. We stopped at Mugs, a badly lit place that had a six page menu; four of beer, and two of food.  Oh yeah, this was going to be my kind of place.

Many of the beers were belgian ales, many of which I recognized, and I was a little discouraged because I wanted to try something I hadn’t before. Then on the chalkboard sign that wasn’t even illuminated as well as a grade school stage play, I made out, Brooklyn Lager on the menu.

Well, I’ve never had that before! Gimmie.

The Brooklyn Lager was decent, but I admit I was hoping for a little more. My own fault, though, for picking a beer that is meant to be so unremarkable. Spoiled by the Hopswork lager? Maybe. 

So next up was Sixpoint’s Incubus. I had no idea what I was getting when I ordered this, and found myself confronted with a yellow, hazy beer with a banana nose. The head on it had large bubbles, giving it a foamy, airy quality that made the nose stand out. The beer wasn’t very challenging, but it was still pretty tasty, and by now I’ve been up for seventeen hours. Which is my way of saying; my notes and my memory both fail me. I forgot to take pictures, and was all done in, so should this be less than accurate, please forgive me.


Not quite right
Not quite right

The amber I made didn’t work out. You can probably see that in the growling of my face.

Oh, it’s drinkable. I can’t say it’s a failure, but so far it has not met expectations.

The nose on this beer is nice and sweet; UK Golding hops serving me well here, the boiling of hops that I’d used in a dry-hopping process working out just fine. The beer isn’t bitter, but it does have some body to it.

Once again, however, it’s just not carbonated. Now I’d bottled this beer before finding out about the trick of re-introducing yeast to the beer so hopefully this problem will be eliminated in the future. Beer ought to be carbonated (at least a bit) and I don’t feel like waiting another three weeks or more for the stuff to behave. However, if all goes well, this will be the last time I have to deal with this problem, so huzza!

What’s more troubling is that there are strange black particles at the bottom of my glass.  Tiny black ashes. It’s like there were burnt malts that were allowed to stay in the beer, somehow. Or who friggin’ knows what went wrong there.

There really is only one proper response to this kind of situation; open up another beer, and find out if it has the same issues.
~you’ll have to imagine me getting a beer at this point~

So, now that I’ve had the next beer, I can say that this doesn’t seem to be a pattern. This beer is clearer, and while there are particulates at the bottom of it, I don’t think they are the same kind. The previous one probably came near the end of the carboy, where more yeast and other particulates can make it into the beer.

I’m still drinking flat beer, though. Sigh.

One clear winner

The beers I tried from Phillips Brewing were steadily awesome. While I was not fond of the dark IPA, Black Toque, I am not fond of that style. Bitter malts, coupled with bitter hops means there is a strong desire to not drink that beer on my part.

But (and what would this post be without one?) the Longboat Double Chocolate Porter tasted lovely, like milk chocolate only in beer form. It was velvety without being heavy, and a great beer. The Amnesiac IPA was one of the better balanced double IPAs I’ve had, and the Blue Buck sustained me in bars where my other options were Molsons or nothing.

I haven’t seen Phillips’ beers down in Portland, and I hope that changes soon.

A brief aside: I don’t see many beers from Canada in my section of the US. Why is that? I can find beers from German, Belgium, England, even Italy and Japan! Canada is right there! Seems like those microbreweries would send things our way. I can only assume that for some strange reason the laws for transporting alcohol between Canada and the US are stricter than the ones between the US and other countries.

Finally, one place I was told to check out but found very disappointing was Spinnakers. We got a sample of all their beers, and they seemed timid. It’s weird to describe a beverage that way, but it felt right; the beers all erred on the side of safety. The double IPA was balanced, but are double IPAs supposed to be? There was a scotch ale that was decent, but because it was cask conditioned, the carbonation element was missing, and I felt that I would’ve been better if the carbonation had been present. The last phrase in my notes is: the dunkel is good, but not pint worthy.

That’s not a good sign for a beer, nor a brewery.

But I don’t want to end this post on a sour note! I had a nice time in Canada, and drank at some excellent bars, getting to try some fantastic beers. Sure, it took me a little while to find my way, but the barkeeps and waitstaff were really helpful.

Big Bad John’s was one of those crazy places where they only play country music that’s at least 20 years old and everyone tries to leave a piece of their history there–business cards, pictures, bras.

The Sauce listed Heroic Drinkers on their wall; Belushi, Yeltsin, and a memorable quote from Tallulah Bankhead, “My father warned me about men and booze… but he never said anything about women and cocaine.” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be warned or inspired.

Smith’s pub not only had a great selection of beers (most of which were potent enough that I forgot to write about them, but I do remember some were belgain inspired concoctions from Qubec) it had some kick ass chicken strips. Mmm…chicken strips.

There was also a kick ass place on Simcoe street called the Bent Mast which is rumored to be haunted in a friendly way. The food was tasty and the service was great, and though I didn’t see any ghosts, it had the vibe of a good place that meant to stay that way.