Beer Porn: Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, London

December 9, 2011

Noted friend of Tilting Suds, JPE, is in London for a few days of R & R.  At my suggestion, he made his way to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, famous for being the watering hole of Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, and on occasion, Mr. Tilting Suds himself.  JPE took the following photos:

Sweet Jeebus, that looks amazing

I expect Ebeneezer Scrooge to walk out that door if I look at this photo long enough. Note the date the Pub was rebuilt: 1667. Did anything happen in 1666 requiring the rebuilding of this pub?

I have said this many times, in many different contexts, but it bears repeating:  I am unabashedly Pro-American, but the British are just better than us in many ways, and pub culture is at the top of that list.

Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

July 4, 2011

Fourth of July, 2008:  The Vinman and I load our bikes on the back of his Honda and drive to Philly for one of our urban bike tours.  As we head across the Ben Franklin Bridge, I begin to direct the Vinman to a parking lot on 15th and Spruce.  I want to park there because it is a central location and will give us easy access to the sights we want to pedal to, but there is a more important reason which will be evident later.

We bike up to Independence Hall, which is packed for the Fourth of July holiday, pay our respects to the Founding Fathers, catch a quick glimpse of the Liberty Bell, talk to some tourists, and then head out on the bike trail that snakes along the Schuykill River, stopping in Manayunk at the brewpub for lunch.  The Vinman begins talking to our bartender, and she tells him that Valley Forge is less than twenty miles from the bar.  The Vinman turns to me and says, “Do you want to make that ride?”  At this point we had already ridden about ten miles to Manayunk, and still had to ride back, so I mumble “no frigging way” between bites of my burger, before taking a big gulp of my beer.

We head back to Philly, taking a meandering route that swings us past the Philadelphia Museum of Art, before we turn to head back to the car.  I make sure that we head down 16th Street, so we can “accidentally” pass Monk’s Cafe.  As we pull up to the front of the bar, I say “Hey, wanna grab a beer before we go?”  The Vinman agrees and asks where?  I shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t know, how about this place that we just happened to stop right in front of?  It looks pretty good.”

Monk’s Cafe has the best selection of Belgian beers outside of Belgium.  It is so renowned that a Belgian brewer, Brouwerij Van Steeberge, brews a Flemish Sour Ale for Monk’s.  At the time, it was available only on tap at Monk’s, and that is why I made sure that the Vinman parked a block away from the bar.  I wanted to make sure I got to try it before we left Philadelphia.  It poured a beautiful reddish color, with a fluffy head, tasted of sour cherries and tart green apples, and was a wonderful way to quench my thirst after a long hot bike ride.  We finished our beers, and the Vinman said, “should we have another?”

“Nah, let’s head out.” *

Flash forward to the spring of this year, and the Vinman comes down to Texas for a visit.  I see a bottle of Monk’s Flemish Sour Ale and grab it.  It was not as sour as I remembered the draft being, although the sour cherry and green apple flavor was still there.  The bottle was a bit of a let down when compared to my memory of the draft, but it was still quite nice, 7/10.

*Note the date: July 4, 2008.  That was the first and so far only time when I was the responsible adult in this situation.  Normally, if someone asks “Should we have another?” I say “HELL YES!” and am on my feet flagging down the bartender before the question is even finished.

July 4:  The anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence; Louis Armstrong’s Birthday; and the one time I was The Responsible Adult.

Dogfish Head Beer Tasting (and a Killer Beer from Real Ale!)

July 3, 2011

I went to the recent Dogfish Head Night at the Ginger Man in Plano.  I love Dogfish Head, and the beer lineup for the night was interesting, most of which were first timers for me.

First up was Aprihop, a beer previously reviewed on this very site.  Let me repeat what I wrote in that review:  I wish this beer was available the entire year.  It is damn fine hoppybeer, and the apricots complement the bitterness of the hops.  This is the beer that Magic Hat #9 aspires to be, yet does not come close to being.

The next beer was Burton Baton.  This beer is a blend of English Style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA, which is then aged in oak barrels. The vanilla from the oak muted the 10% ABV burn, making this a smooth drinking beer.  This was my favorite Dogfish Head beer of the night, 8.5/10.

Chateau Jiahu is another in Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series. Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales are recreations/modernizations of beers based on findings from archeological digs.  The Chateau Jiahu is based on 9,000 year old residue from pottery found in Northern China.  This was my first time tasting this beer, and probably my last.  It was sweet and fruity, with some honey and sweet oranges noticeable in the taste, and some mango and banana as well.  It was more wine than beer, and just not my cup of tea, 5/10.  I like that Dogfish Head goes to the effort of recreating and updating these beers from the ancient world, I just don’t like the brews all that much.

Next up was the Red & White.  This is what Dogfish Head does best: Take a traditional style of beer and then ignore the rules, forging something brand new.  The Red & White is a witbier, brewed with orange peel, coriander and pinot noir juice, and then aged in oak barrels.  It is light on the palate, yet still complex, and very refreshing, 8/10.

The last Dogfish Head of the night was the Palo Santo Marron.  This a high alcohol (12% ABV!) brown ale which is aged in barrels made from Paraguayan Palo Santo wood, giving the beer a unique caramel-vanilla flavor.  Roasted malts are the dominant flavor here.  The Palo Santo Marron should be sipped slowly from a snifter, preferably while dining on a thick and perfectly grilled Ribeye Steak, 8/10.

As pleased as I was with the Dogfish Head beers, the beer of the night, and a contender for beer of the year, was Real Ale’s barrel-aged Empire IPA.  Cloudy and pale orange in color, with floral and citrus hops, and some oak from the barrel aging, this beer was fantastic, 9.5/10, and  unfortunately, exceedingly rare, as it has already disappeared from bars around town.

The Twelve Beers of Christmas

December 24, 2010

The First Beer of Christmas: Full Sail Wassail, Hood River, Oregon – I had this on tap at the Ginger Man.  Dark velvety brown with ruby highlights and a fluffy white head.  This was mildly sweet, with a caramel taste and some dried fruit and spiciness as well.  Very good, 7/10.

The Second Beer of Christmas: Anchor 2010 Christmas Ale – The Grand Daddy of American Christmas Ales, with an ever evolving recipe.  I had this on tap at the Ginger Man, and this year’s version has a spicy ginger aftertaste, which I liked, but everyone else who tried it with me hated.  Not as good as years past, but still a fine Christmas Beer, 7/10. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bars of My Life: The Abbey, New Orleans, Lousiana

May 17, 2010

My last night at the Abbey was my best night there, but the first night was a good one too.

The first night, I was in New Orleans with some friends on Spring Break my senior year of college, and we were wandering around the French Quarter getting drunk as college students will do in New Orleans when they are on Spring Break.  We headed towards the river and grabbed some dinner, and then worked our way slowly up Decatur Street.  The two story buildings on Decatur Street have balconies that extend over the warped and uneven sidewalks, and these balconies darken the streets more than usual, especially at dusk.  By the standards of New Orleans, and especially by the standards of the French Quarter, there are relatively few bars on Decatur Street, so when we saw the small stained glass sign that read “The Abbey” and poked our heads in the darkened door and saw the bar, we headed in for a drink.

The constant presence of water, in floods and the high water table and also in humidity, makes New Orleans the city of uneven surfaces, and the Abbey is no exception.   The floorboards are buckled and warped, and the bar seem to have an unusual tilt to it, though that may be due to the fact that intoxication seems to come quickly in the Abbey. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bars of My Life: Neal’s Three J’s Lounge, Orange, New Jersey

April 13, 2010

I did not discover Neal’s Three J’s Lounge.***  JK and his friends, who were a few years older and drove before me, found it one night as they drove around Orange, trying to find their way back home after getting some White Castles.  JK took me there one night when I was about fifteen or sixteen, saying, “You’ll love this place.”  He was right.  I kept going there until it closed down a few years later.

I was (and still am) a fair skinned Irish Catholic kid, and JK is about as caucasian as you can get.  The section of Orange that Neal’s Three J’s was in was decidedly more ‘urban’ than the neighborhood where we grew up.  I am certainly not going to claim that I was completely colorblind.  I had my petty prejudices, but I was aware of them and tried to overcome them. I think that I did ok at that.  After all, (CLICHE ALERT) I went to school with a bunch of black guys, and we got along fine together.  However, my classmates and I were peers.  We were on a level playing field, with our teachers and the SHP administration rigidly policing our behavior so that no shenanigans could occur.  But when I walked into Neal’s for the first time, and the black guys sitting at the bar stopped talking to each other and turned to look at the two white kids who had just walked in, I admit that I was a little scared.  Goofing around with my fellow students was one thing, but these were grown ass men, and there was no way I was going to bond with them by talking about who was cooler, Father Pavlich or Father Melillo, or whether Stanley was going to make it to the NFL.

I knew enough, or had enough foolish pride, to know that walking out was not an option, so we bellied up to the bar.  Neal walked over to us and asked, “You guys have papers, right? ID?”

Dead silence along the bar.

I nodded my head yes and slowly reached into my pocket.  (I had no such papers.)

Neal said, “No, no, I don’t need to see ’em, as long as you got ’em.  What’ll it be?”

I have no idea what I ordered.  For some reason, I remember JK ordering a Long Island Iced Tea.  Neal gave us our drinks, we paid, and the bar patrons turned away from us and started talking to each other again.  We stayed for a few drinks, and headed home, but we were back within a few weeks, and Neal’s became a regular haunt.

Most nights we would go down there for a few drinks and get some chopped BBQ for dinner.  Neal’s BBQ was incendiary.  It was some of the hottest food I have ever had, and bathroom trips the next day were never pleasant, but that was some tasty pork. I cannot say we became friendly with any of the regulars, they mostly ignored us, but I like to think Neal grew fond of us.  He always greeted us warmly when we showed up.  We never caused any trouble and we always spent a decent chunk of change in there.

The best nights at Neal’s Three J’s Lounge were when the band was playing.  I do not recall what they called themselves, and may have never known, but every so often a half dozen blind guys would sit on a makeshift stage at the back of the bar, and play the most soulful music I have ever been lucky enough to witness live.  They used to do “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” with “Sexual Healing” tucked into the middle, and it was absolutely fantastic. As far as live music experiences go, I put the Clash ahead of them, and maybe one or two others, but that unnamed band is right near the top.

I went to away college shortly thereafter, and whenever friends would visit me in New Jersey during summer break, I would take them down to Neal’s.  Everyone I took there loved the place.  Looking back on it, I recognize that we looked like tourists swanning in for a visit, and to a certain extent we were.  Other than my friends, I never saw another white face in Neal’s.  I had the good sense to take only certain friends there.  Some of my more douchey acquaintances would not have appreciated it for it was: a cool place with cheap drinks, good food, and if you were lucky, great music.

Neal’s limped along for a few years.  He was always talking about opening a smokehouse or expanding into the dry cleaning shop next door, but none of that ever happened.  The bar closed sometime in the mid-nineties.  I am not sure what, if anything, is there now.

***One night, one of us asked Neal what the “Three J’s” in the name stood for.  He looked at us like we were the dumbest bastards in New Jersey for even asking because the answer was so frigging obvious.  “Are you serious?” he asked.

“Yeah, Neal, what do the Three J’s stand for?”

“Jiving, Joking, and Ja-rinking.”

(This story may be somewhat apocryphal.)

The Bars of My Life: The Fort George Brewery, Astoria, Oregon

March 29, 2010

Sorry about the crappy cell phone pic

I have previously written about my trip to Oregon here, but I want to revisit the trip one more time to discuss the Fort George Brewery. Astoria, Oregon is a couple of hours north of Portland.  It is a quaint town on the water.  We wandered around and came upon the Fort George Brewery.  The brewpub is located in an old Ford dealership and has an industrial look to it.  BB, JPE and I grabbed a table and ordered up some beers and food.

I had the Vortex IPA.  I did not take notes (my beer dorkiness had not fully bloomed at that time) so I cannot give you any tasting notes.  All I can say is that I had one sip and knew that I was in the presence of greatness. The one thing I clearly remember about this beer is that it had a creamy mouthfeel.  The jar on the right in the picture that serves as the masthead of this blog is the Vortex IPA.  I remember having a pale ale as well, and the picture above looks like a stout or a porter, though I must confess that I do not recall which.  The hot sauce in the picture is made by a local kid who started bottling it and selling it to local businesses.  Good stuff.

We were getting ready to leave when I noticed that they had some guest beers, including Russian River’s Pliny the Elder.  I had heard of Pliny the Elder, but being an East Coast guy, I had never actually seen any.  I whined, stamped my feet, and threw a temper tantrum until I was allowed to try it.  Again, I have no tasting notes, but I do remember loving this beer.

BB has since moved from Portland, and as far as I can recall I do not know anybody in Astoria, or Oregon for that matter, but if the opportunity arose, I’d move to Astoria in a New York Minute just to be close to the Fort George Brewery.

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