Saranac Root Beer

April 15, 2010

Saranac is a brewer in Upstate New York.  I will get to their beers soon, but I had their root beer the other night and it was outstanding.  Sweet, cold, nicely carbonated, and hell yes that is vanilla ice cream in the mug.  The ice cream hit the root beer and it all foamed up into a sweet, sticky, delicious mess.

River Horse Hop-A-Lot-Amus

April 15, 2010

Cool Stuff about New Jersey:

*R. Stevie Moore, the greatest rock star since Elvis retired and took that job in the 7-11 in Reno, lives in a basement in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

*The greatest television talk show and variety show host of all time, the great Uncle Floyd, is a New Jersey native, and still makes his home here.

*New Jersey is the only state in the USA that has an indigenous elephant population.

*The World’s Largest Waterfall is located in Paterson, New Jersey.

*The Bayonne Bridge: Not just the longest bridge on record, it is the largest man-made structure ever, with the Great Wall of China a distant second, and the Canals of Mars a distant third.

*The first paved road constructed after the fall of the Roman Empire was the New Jersey Turnpike, specifically the Holland Tunnel Spur.

*The Loch Ness Monster is an overgrown salamander, and Sasquatch is a candy ass.  Everyone knows that the coolest cryptozoological creature is the Jersey Devil.

*The only brewery mentioned by name in the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and the Gettysburg Address is New Jersey’s own River Horse Brewing Company.

The Brewer’s Reserve Hop-A-Lot-Amus is River Horse’s stab at an Imperial IPA.  It is unfiltered so it is a nice cloudy pour, dark amber in color, with a magnificent foamy head.  The hops are up front in the nose and the taste, balanced by some caramel notes from the malts.  It clocks in at 8.5% ABV, but the alcohol was hardly noticeable.  This is a nice beer, not the best example of an Imperial IPA, but very drinkable.  I am giving my Jersey Homies a 7/10 on this one.

Music in Jersey City

April 13, 2010

Some music I came across while riding my bike in Jersey City. The first clip is a group from a synagogue singing at a ceremony honoring Jewish Veterans of WWII. The second clip is a bagpiper outside a wedding in the Catholic Church down the street from me.

Magic Hat #9 (and some thoughts on Hoboken)

April 13, 2010

Magic Hat is located near Burlington, Vermont. It is a beautiful place, and if you have never been there, get up there as soon as you can.  Burlington is a college town, so the place is crawling with coeds, and it also has those ‘creative’ types that linger around every college town in America.  Befitting this locale, Magic Hat beers have some of the coolest packaging and funkiest names in the craft brew world.  Unfortunately, their beers often do not live up to expectations set by the packaging and the naming, at least to my palate.

Credit must be given to the Magic Hat sales team that covers Hoboken, because at least one Magic Hat beer was on tap in every Hoboken bar I stopped in on Friday night.  Magic Hat #9 was the beer of choice for the V-Man and me as we hit the taverns of Hoboken, at least in part because of the unique profile of the tap handle.  It was easy to spot, and the combination of my failing eyesight and the dim lights favored by drinking establishments the world over make it too hard for me to read the names on tap handles unless I am right on top of them.  I could just mouth the words “MAGIC. HAT.” and hold up two fingers to get us beers.  Unfortunately, the Magic Hat #9 is another of the Magic Hat beers that falls short of expectations.  It is a slightly hoppy pale ale that tastes like it may have been flavored with apricots.  It pours a nice amber color with a decent head.  The #9 has all the component parts to be a really good beer, but does not quite get there.  I wanted this to be so much better than it was, but it was just average, 5/10.

I have not been out and about in Hoboken in ages, except for the occasional trip to Maxwells to see Marah or some other band.  It has easily been twenty years since I went for a pub crawl in Hoboken.  I did not really like the town back then.  It always struck me as the post-college town, where the keggers were replaced by cheap bars, and Buffy and Chip continued their klutzy waltz of romance and/or tawdriness that began in sophomore year while walking back to the dorm from the abnormal psych class and would continue until they threw caution to the wind, got married, had kids, had affairs, and finally got divorced, but back then I could suck it up for a night.  Now that I am in my mid-forties, with the tread on my tires just a little too worn from the roads I have traveled, I cannot fucking stand Hoboken.   I also have far less tolerance for nonsense now than I did then, and Hoboken is full of nonsense.  Add in that every bar we went to played Lady GaGa at head splitting volume and every patron looked like they were about sixteen years old***, and it was an early night for your humble author.

***HEY YOU KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!  Yeah, I sound old and curmudgeonly, mainly because I am old and curmudgeonly.

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

April 6, 2010

I am trying to think of a more overrated band than Wilco, and the only one I can come up with is Radiohead.  I actually kind of like both bands, but I do not understand the fervor Wilco and Radiohead have amongst their respective fanbases.  Both bands are ok, but whenever I hear how Wilco/Radiohead is ‘pushing the boundaries of what popular music sounds like and ushering in a new age of something somethng something’ I tend to nod off and hum ‘Rocks Off’ to myself.  If I had to choose one over the other, I would probably pick Wilco over Radiohead, mainly because Radiohead sound cold and mechanical to my ears.  I realize that the ‘cold, mechanical sound is probably a grand artistic statement about the alienation of modern man from the culture around him blah blah blah’, but cold and mechanical is cold and mechanical.  As for Wilco, on the one hand, Jeff Tweedy comes across as an unbearable twat in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart; On the plus side of the ledger for Wilco, Tweedy was one of the songwriters for Uncle Tupelo, one of the great bands of the last twenty five years. Then again, Uncle Tupelo broke up.  Which band do I find more annoying?  I am going to hold off on this decision.***

On to the beer:  Wilco Tango Foxtrot is described by Lagunitas as an Imperial Brown Ale, and I won’t argue with that designation.  It had a mild cocoa aroma and flavor, with some traces of coffee in the malt as well, nicely balanced by some assertive herbal hops. The beer had a peaty aftertaste that was quite pleasant, and which masked the 7.8% ABV.  JK thought it was the best beer of our recent weekend.  I am not going to go that far, but it gets a solid 8/10.

*** Itunes tells me that I listen to Wilco more than Radiohead, but that I listen to Kid A more than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  The jury is still out on this one.  I will revisit this important question when Lagunitas releases the Paranoid Android Ale.

Smuttynose Big IPA

April 6, 2010

Smuttynose Brewing Co. is a Tilting Suds favorite, and they have hit yet another home run with the Big IPA, their version of an Imperial IPA.  This had a nice amber color, a fluffy white head, and a balanced and gorgeous aroma of pine, hay, grapefruit and sweet toasted malt.  The taste was bitter, clean and crisp, and I did not notice the 9.6% ABV at all.  It is very different from their regular IPA in that they did not just take that beer and turn it up to 11. I had this on an early spring night on JK’s roof deck with JPE, and everyone gave it a thumbs up.  In addition to my thumbs up, I am giving it a 9/10.  Run, don’t walk, and find yourself some of this beer.

High Point Brewing Ramstein Classic Wheat

April 5, 2010

High Point Brewing from New Jersey, my very own backyard, specializes in German wheat beers.  According to their website, High Point uses an exclusive strain of yeast obtained from a small unnamed brewer in Bavaria, and this unique yeast lends complexity to the character of their beers.

I poured myself a glass of their Classic Wheat the other night.  This poured a deep pumpernickel color, and with a nice foamy head.  The bready color carried over to the aroma and the taste, with no real sweetness from the malt.  It was slightly bitter and spicy, and highly carbonated. Only 5.5% ABV, though I would have guessed it was a bit higher due to the prevalence of alcohol in the taste.  I am giving this a 5.5/10.  Not a great score, but I will not let that put me off from trying some of their other brews.

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