Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Our Annual Pairing Guide for Thanksgiving 2017

Hello Snobs, and welcome to the beginning of the season of debauchery where some of us ... many of us .... OK, most of us will stuff everything in our fat faces that we can get our hands on.  We must admit that Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday, because it is an honest holiday with no hidden meanings, no religious connotations, no commercialism, just simply getting together with family and friends and enjoying a feast of thanks.
Frankly, some of us .... many of us .... OK, most of us will overdo the feasting part a tad .... some ... OK, we will way overdo the face stuffing bit so you don't want to fill up on liquids, do you?  You also don't want to drink something that will kill you palate so that you can't enjoy the oral delights that you are jamming into your pie hole.  Love the high IBU Ipa's?  Well, this is not the holiday for those as you will damage your taste buds and not be able to enjoy Grandma's delicate Jello casserole. Bud Light will be fine, won't it? Are you nuts? Those highly carbonated mass market beers will fill you up so much that you may miss out on the Pumpkin Pie.
So let's talk low carbonated, lightly flavored accompaniments, shall we? "Like water?" you ask. Oh hell no, it's much easier to paste on a fake smile while we hear, for the 24th year in a row, Uncle Walt's story of how he told President Clinton off at a meet and greet. Your family's ignorance is much more tolerable with a mild buzz.

Beer - The flavors of the Thanksgiving feast are all over the place, so it is important to choose a beer style with a broad flavor spectrum.  As always we will recommend Saison DuPont (6.5% ABV) as the premier beer to pair with the meal. Low carbonation, wonderfully earthy flavor, decent alcohol content makes this a perfect accompaniment.  We do acknowledge that many of you don't particularly like the barnyardy taste of saisons, so as a substitute we recommend that you use a British style bitter (no, they are not bitter to the taste, the British just love to name things in a confusing manner, for instance black pudding isn't a pudding at all, it's frigging blood sausage .... erk) or a fine brown ale. Think Fuller's ESB (5.9% ABV) or Newcastle Brown Ale (4.7% ABV) which are malty, with low carbonation and even ever so slightly sweet.

Cider - Didn't think about ciders, did you? That's why we are here for you. Ciders have very low carbonation and are sneaky.  That asshat Uncle Walt will think that he is drinking apple juice up until the moment he passes out on the sofa watching football. Stfu, Walt.  We are lucky enough to have a fine cidery right here in town that makes a dandy cider (and mead), if you can get it.  The Cigar City Traditional Hard Cider (5.5% ABV) is about as good of a cider that you can find for your dinner.  Should your taste buds be a bit jaded, like ours, you may wish to try the San Juan Hail (11.0% ABV) mead made with Brazilian pepper, honey, pineapple, Serrano  and habanero peppers.
If you want a cider more readily accessible try Crispin Ciders, especially the Crispin  Artisinal Reserve Lansdowne (6.9% ABV) which tastes like cider mixed with Scotch ale and molasses, which, to be honest, will either be loved or hated or perhaps Crispin's The Saint (6.8% ABV), which smells and tastes like a Belgian trippel.

Wines - Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This light and fruity delight is what we typically pair with our Thanksgiving dinner (ikr?) and is so easy to drink even your overly plump, soda swilling cousin from Alabama will find herself sipping a glass or two. Wine snobs are even bigger asses than we are and if you lucky enough to have one in the family you will hear 'Red wine? With poultry? Are you mad?".  For this pompous ass we suggest that you hand them a glass (that you spit into, first) of dry riesling like the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling which is inexpensive and subtle and pairs with almost anything.

Hard Liquor -  We really don't recommend strong liquor until after everyone has said their goodbyes, then you can pour yourself a stiff one and thank god that you won't have to see them again for a year.

Cheers, Bon

Thursday, November 2, 2017

International Stout Day 2017

HEY! It's November 2nd which means that today is International Stout Day!

Yummy, yummy, yum. There are some fine, fine stouts being produced locally for sure. You can go to Angry Chair Brewing (http://angrychairbrewing.com/) and have Moon Butter Milk Stout w/ Chocolate & Peanut Butter (7.7% ABV) or Triple C’s Milk Stout w/ Chocolate, Coffee &Cinnamon (7.5% ABV). 

Perhaps you could travel over Rapp Brewing in Seminole (http://www.rappbrewing.com/index.php/home) and bathe in their Chocolate Milk Stout or their divine Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. 

Who us? We probably will travel over to Six Ten Brewing (https://www.sixtenbrewing.com/) just north of the airport and drown in the Horchata Stout (8.5% ABV).... no, I can drink a lot more if I stick to their 5% Stout, which means I can drink in quantity, and still enjoy quality. Cheers, Bon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Oktoberfest Beer

If you are even vaguely the same as us in the love of beer, you will change your beer selection with the seasons. Stouts and porters in the winter, holiday ales during the holiday blitz at the end of the year, saisons in the spring, and of course, Oktoberfest beers in the fall. Mmmmmm, Oktoberfest beers. There are several Oktoberfest beers available right now at your local vendor, but did you know that there are actually 2 types of Oktoberfest beers?

The one that is sold here in the U.S. is the Märzen (5.8% ABV) style beer.  It is an amber beer style that was developed over 200 years ago to celebrate the original Oktoberfest. The Märzen name comes from “March beer” because it was historically brewed in March to be at peak flavor for the Oktoberfest celebration. Today this style is available year round in the US due to popular demand. This full bodied beer with its rich malt flavor and dark toffee note, has an underlying fruitiness and masterful hop balance.

The second Oktoberfest beer is less well known because it is not sold here, but is only available at the festival in Munich. This golden Oktoberfest lager is the only beer served in Paulaner Oktoberfest tents today. It also happens to be the best-selling Oktoberfest beer in Germany.  Brewed once a year, and only available while supplies last, Oktoberfest Wiesn is the pinnacle of German brewing: deep golden color, full-bodied and wonderfully mellow, with a balanced harmonious taste and the pleasant fragrance of hops. At 6% ABV, it is stronger and bolder that the usual lager.  I drank 7 liters of this delight while in Munich and was so very proud that I was still vaguely functional at the end of the evening.

Whichever beer brand you choose is irrelevant in that all of the German Oktoberfest beers are fairly similar, but try them while they are still available.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Florida and Tampa Bay Area Great American Beer Festival Winners 2017

Another GABF on the books and a few Florida came home with some bling. It is quite surprising to us that with as many fine, fine breweries that we have here, there were so few winners. Are the breweries in Florida not submitting?  We wouldn't think that the beers here are in any way substandard, but why are so few winning?  Hmmm, anyway, here is a list of the winners from Florida and those from the Bay area.  We are very proud of our winners and would appreciate if you visited these fine establishments and congratulated them on their wins ..... oh, and don't forget to try their brews. - Bon

Bay Area Winners:

Gold - Mischievous Black, Six Ten Brewing, Tampa       
Dark Lager

Silver - Ringmaster Raspberry Berliner Weisse, Big Top Brewing, Sarasota
Berliner Style Weisse

Gold - Three Tun, Brew Hub, Lakeland       
Ordinary or Special Bitter

Gold - Rome City IPA, Brew Hub, Lakeland 
Session India Pale Ale

Silver - Milk Bone, Pinellas Ale Works, St. Petersburg 
Sweet or Cream Stout

Other Florida Winners:

Gold - C Porter, LauderAle, Fort Lauderdale   
Field Beer

Silver - No Crusts, Funky Buddha Brewery, Fort Lauderdale             
Field Beer

Bronze - Duke Snider's Imperial Stout, Walking Tree Brewery, Vero Beach
Imperial Stout

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Craft Beer vs. Corporate Beer

While we know that the large corporate beer companies are buying up craft brewers, and we realize that we need to support real craft brewers and not these corporate giants, how do we know which brewery is really craft and which are not? Well, we are happy that you asked. The Brewers Association has created an symbol that small brewers may place on their label to help you identify real craft brewers. The craft beer lover has a right to know when they are purchasing from an independent craft brewer or from big beer and this symbol will help you do exactly that.

Craft brewers who want the seal do not have to be a BA member, but they need to meet criteria. The criteria are:

1. The brewer must fit the BA craft brewer definition:
•Small – Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales).
•Independent – Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
•Traditional – A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

2. The brewer must have an active TTB license to commercially brew beer in the United States.

3. Breweries will sign a licensing agreement that will cover many bases, including if a brewery sells. If they are no longer a craft brewer, they aren’t allowed to license the seal. They’ll have to remove it from future packaging.

We ask that you look for this label, we ask that you support the small brewer. Cheers, Bon

Thursday, June 1, 2017

TBS Official Beer of Summer 2017

Have you ever tried a beer that you were sure that you were not going to like, but when you tasted the beer you were blown away by how much you enjoyed it?  On a recent jaunt to the beaches we were offered a rather dismal, but not surprising, array of crappy corporate beers .... and TropiCannon, by Heavy Seas Brewing.

In the first part of the surprise, Heavy Seas Brewing from Baltimore, Maryland, is one of those brewers who makes beers that usually don't excite us.  When given a choice of one of their beers vs. other beers, we almost always choose 'other' and while the beers are not usually bad, they usually aren't terribly impressive either. Part 2 of the equation is that we don't particularly like beers with fruit, and while we are not reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law) purists, we feel that fruit is better used in sissy drinks with umbrellas. 

That is why we are surprised that we liked this beer so much. TropiCannon Citrus IPA (7.25% ABV) is a variation of their flagship Loose Cannon IPA, but with loooooots more citrus.  In this version they added blood orange, grapefruit, mango and lemon flavor, and reduced the piney flavor found in the Loose Cannon, to create a wonderfully refreshing IPA that was so delightful that we now can't get enough of it and actually seek it out. 

While the ABV is too high for this to be a true session beer, we found it very easy to drink several at a time, staggering away from the bar with a satisfied smile.  This is why we have chosen the TropiCannon Citrus IPA as our official Beer of Summer.  Cheers, Bon

Monday, December 12, 2016

Travelling in the Philippines

Do you have a hobby? Perhaps one that involves enjoying beer?  Obviously you are part of the beer culture, else you wouldn't be wasting your time reading this drivel.  We actually have 2 hobbies, that we manage to combine into one.  Obviously beer is the first, but we also have a love for travel, so as often as we can, we tie them together into a rolling drink-a-thon. This time we decided to try somewhere quite unique, a bit risky, a bit .... raw.
This is not the first time that we have visited a third world country, in fact there have been several, but none quite so third worldish as this.  As with many countries once ruled by the Spanish, there is a huge gap between the haves and the have nots.  Manila is a huge city of 13 million people with hordes of desperately poor people living in the shadows of shiny glass high-rises.  Even as poor as they are, they are always quite respectful, which actually is a bit disconcerting.  There is a reverse racism that we noticed after several days which took aback a bit.  "Hello, sir", "good morning, sir", will come at you from almost everyone that you meet, but they don't speak that way to each other, only to people who are obviously westerners.  Should you be one of those deluded souls who believe in white race superiority, this is the place for you as that they fall all over each other to serve you.  There are beggars, to be sure, any city with this much poverty has many, but just smile and wave while saying nothing, and walk on you way, they will leave you alone.  The child beggars are a bit more aggressive and will follow you for a few blocks with their hands out, but just keep your eyes straight ahead and keep walking.  In a country as desperately poor as this, you are a target, so leave your bright and shiny things at home (i.e. jewelry, expensive watches, etc), dress modestly and do not wave cash around.  Most people speak at least some English, and should that fail, try a bit of Spanish, after all, the Spanish ruled here for several centuries.  Money is all counted in Spanish as well.

Your first contact with hustlers will come as you leave the airport.  There will be an army of hawkers trying to convince you that the $1,800.00 Peso (about $36.00) flat rate cab is the way to go with traffic as bad as it is in Manila, and man, it is bad, stunningly bad.  However, a Taxi is also stunningly cheap, and you a typical cab ride, even in really slow traffic, will cost you less than $500.00 Pesos.  Don't bother trying to find a bus or the subway, there aren't any, just take a cab and be happy. Other than a cab, the only public transportation is the ubiquitous Jeepney.  These diesel exhaust spewing monsters are all privately owned, all competing for the same riders, all on the same routes which are printed on the sides of the vehicle. In theory the amount charged for the ride is figured by distance. You get in and pass the money forward, but for the life of me I never mastered the pricing and am quite sure that I was royally screwed.  To be completely honest, with an exchange rate of about 50:1, a royal screwing amounts to only a couple of bucks.
If you get tired of dealing with the crush of humanity or choking on the filthy air, there are options for you to get away and into a world more familiar to the average boring American.  The shopping malls in Manila are awe inspiring. These are massive temples dedicated to the gods of commerce are staffed with security guards stationed at the entrances to keep out the poor and smelly people.  One of the examples of reverse racism that you may come across is that all Filipinos will be searched as they enter, but as a westerner you will most likely get a pass.  Now I pride myself in my ability to finding my way around almost anywhere without getting lost, but the malls in Manila are maddeningly convoluted and HUGE.  The Robinson's Place Mall has everything that a homesick tourist needs to make them feel safe, secure and boring.  It is also where those without an adventurous palate can find solace with the 30+ restaurants, most with familiar choices (TGIFridays, anyone?). The Mall of Asia is one of the largest malls in the world should you need exercise in a place with slightly cleaner air.

To be sure, we have not really visited a country that doesn't have a thriving underground beer scene ... until now.  Craft beer is a luxury that a country full of desperately poor can ill afford.  San Miguel is by far the largest brewer and has little competition.  Why?  Because it is frigging cheap, that's why.  A bottle of San Miguel will set you back about a buck.  The San Miguel Cerveza Negra (5% ABV) is a quite serviceable dark lager that will do in a crunch, but the craft breweries were really scarce, in fact, we only found one simply because we were lost and took the wrong exit from the Robinson's Place Mall (like I said, confusing), and there it was. It is true that you can find a few craft brews around town in the bottle, but our goal was to find a brewery where we could sit and chat about beer with locals.  

The Tap Station on Adriatico Street was honestly the only place that we could find within several miles of our hotel serving craft beers, and luckily, it was quite fine for our needs.  Their own beers, CraftRevolt Brewing, are color coded on the board on the board by price along with a few guest beers.  You will find most of their beers are session-able brews with modest alcohol content, but with familiar flavors and at reasonable prices.

The bottled craft beers that we tried were quite sporadic in quality.  The Tarsier Wheat Beer (4.6% ABV) made by Crazy Carabao Brewing had the funky armpit foulness that you get from unclean brewing equipment, or perhaps unwashed kegs.   Brew Kettle Belgian style Wit Bier (5.3% ABV) by the Asian Brewery, Makati, Philippines, is as good as any American knockoff of a Belgian classic.  In our not so humble opinion, the best craft brewer that we found was Joe's Brew out of Manilla. The Fish Rider Pale Ale (5% ABV) has a super drinkable balance between hops and malts.

We did get to spend a bit of time on the island of Boracay, about an hour's flight south of Manila.  Here you will not find the masses of desperately poor .... poor to be sure, just not desperately poor.  You will still find the hawkers trying to sell you anything that your drunken ass will buy, but the beggars are not so prevalent.  You will see gross, fat westerners with their tiny Filipino lovers .... male or female, but try not to judge, they need money and gross, fat westerners have it to give.  You will also see gloriously blue, clear water and swaying palm trees.  Hotels range from cheap dives to shiny new resorts
with the north end of the strip more of the latter .... a bit to sanitized for our tastes.  There is no sea wall and not concrete sidewalk here, hotels and restaurants are located directly on the beach where you can stroll along underneath the shade of the coconut palms.  Our recommendation to find a good selection of craft beers in the Red Coconut hotel bar and decently priced fruity drinks with umbrellas.  For dining you must try to find the Hobbit House restaurant where all of the staff are little people, and the food is actually quite good.  Little people.

We will give you one last piece of advice that should satisfy all of your cravings for finding good beer in the Philippines, consider, if you will, that the exchange rate is about 50 Pesos to the Dollar .... do the math.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain

Cheers, Bon