Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beer and Baseball Trip Day 2 -Part 2 (6/23/07)

So another Mets victory and we hopped back on the 7 Train, this time headed towards Manhattan. Right before we left I put up a post on the NYC Beer Forum of I asked what the BA crowd thought would be a good place to chill after the game. I was offered several excellent suggestions, but we decided to find a place called The Collins Bar. I was told it would be closing soon, so we figured we should check it out. After walking past it by probably 10 blocks or so, we decided to turnaround and there it was with a large neon sign out front that read, "BAR". Yeah, not sure how the hell we missed that one. Anyhow, after grabbin' a few slices at Original Ray's or whatever one it was, we headed on into the dark and narrow NYC pub. And then...

BEER! GLORIOUS BEER!!! It was a bit difficult to see in that joint, but I managed to read the chalk board listing what was on draught that night. A fine selection indeed. I don't recall everything they had, but by some miracle I do recall what we drank there.

First up was La Gunitas Pilsner. A fine beverage... clean, crisp and a great way to start the beer tasting late night hours(I forgot to mention we arrived sometime shortly after Midnight). I can honestly say this is probably the best American Pilsner I've had. Granted I don't have a long list of ones I've tried, but La Gunitas brews some fine beers, and this is a great one for a Summer's night. If you are a fan of the light and easy drinkin' lagers, check this one out.

Next up was the Victory Whirlwind Wit Beer. Another refreshing Belgian style wheat beverage. Just enough hops added to lift a sweet floral aroma from the pint glass, with an accompanying bit of spice that pleased the taste buds. Great second choice of the evening.

I forgot to mention that Dave had the goal of catching the Ultimate Fighter 5 replay on Spike TV. We tried to go to one place that advertised having the fight, but that place was playing some crappy dance music and some big moron out front was behind a velvet rope checking IDs. Uhhhh... no Peg. No way we were going there. So we asked the bartender if we could change the channel on the TV near us, and the guy said, "no problem." Outstanding! So now we have UFC on, a great beer selection, and damned if they didn't play all the bands I love on the stereo!

No shit. Some highlights were The Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Op Ivy, The Ramones, and I think maybe some Minor Threat, but I'm not exactly sure. Either way, amazing selections all around.

Okay, back to the beer.

Dave decided on the Magic Hat #9 As it was listed as an "Apricot Ale" I didn't think I'd dig it all that much. Wrong! It was damn tasty. A nice pale ale type beer with a nice floral hop aroma mixed with a large nose of Apricot. The fruit flavor addition to the beer was pretty well balanced. It was not overwhelmingly sweet, but rather lent a nice touch to what was already a good pale ale on its own. Not my first choice at any bar, but it was worth a taste.

And then it became Weiss beer night at The Collins Bar. Dave, Matt and I are all huge fans of the weizen beers. So once we saw our buddy Doug(he just moved up to NYC from Florida... it was great to see ya Doug!) ordering a Brooklyn Weiss, Dave and I had to follow suit. There really is nothing like a Weiss beer served in that tall narrow glass, and if you like garnished with a lemon or orange wedge. Yes I know the beer snobs would say we're ruining it, but I say if you think it tastes good with it, then do it. If you like it without, then don't use any wedge. Whatever. Who the fuck really cares about such nonsense?

Anyway, I go back and forth on the fruit wedge, but for the first round I dug on that little bit of added lemon. Brooklyn Brewery makes a finely crafted weiss beer with those classic spice notes of corriander and citrus mixed into a beautifully cloudy concoction of wheat malt and yeast. Ahhhhhhhhhh! I could literally drink weiss beers every damn day.

So down goes one Brooklyn Weiss, then another, then... well I figured I should try some of the bottled selections they had while I still had a few bucks left.

We stuck with the wheat beers and asked for a bottle of Schneider's Edel-Weiss. Now if you've never had a beer brewed by Schneider's I demand that you go to your closest beer store and buy one! They make outstanding wheat beers that will freak your tastebuds out! It's brewed with organic ingredients that produce a nice golden hazy body, and a rich bit of spice and citrus flavor. It has a bit of banana vibe as well. The bartender gets an A+ on his perfect pour, making sure to roll the bottle and get that last bit of yeasty goodness from the bottom.

Then something amazing occurred. I noticed the bartender taking two dollars to the end of the bar and he said, "$2 on Ratt". Now what the hell did that mean? I then saw Barry who was also with us, giving the bartender his $2 for a bet. Turns out a few dudes at the other end of the bar was focused on watching VH1 Classic's Metal Mania. Several hours of hair band videos from the 80's, and they were betting $2 a band on what the next video would be. Didn't I tell you this place was fucking awesome?!! Of course I had to get in on it and put $2 down on Skid Row. I wanted Iron Maiden, but the gal she was already taken. I turned in my cash and headed for another brew...

The next and final beer of the evening was also from Schneider's. It was called Aventinus It was another wheat beer, but a dark wheat beer! This was something I had never seen before. A wheat dopplebock with a nice warming dark nut brown color and a light and fluffy head that was just begging for me to dive into. This beer had hints of clove, cinnamon, corriander and again citrus... mostly orange. But there was also a much richer flavor underneath all the previous notes... something more like you would taste from a porter. Not as pronounced as the chocolate flavors of a good porter, but there was a little something hiding in there that made this a very unique beer. If you enjoy the weizen, then you must check out Aventinus because it is like nothing I've ever had before.

That was our last beer of the night, B.J. Penn won the fight and all was well with us in New York City. We left around 3AM or so and thanked our kind bartenders for all their help and friendly conversation.

If you are in the NYC area before July 22, get to The Collins Bar at 738 8th Ave. in Manhattan. You will not regret it.


P.S. Some bastard won $40 in the hair band pool... the winner? Guns n' fuckin' Roses. Bummer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Beer and Baseball Trip Day 2 - Part 1 (6/23/07)

It is truly amazing the number of hours one can sleep after a night of baseball and beer. Wow. Saturday was a brand new day and I was determined to find some decent beer. After all we were in New York City, how the hell could it be a problem finding good beer?

We woke up later than anticipated and our plans to visit the Brooklyn Brewery looked to be going down in flames. We knew the brewery would only be open a few more hours and we had game 2 of the Mets vs. A's series at 7PM. I was worried the gang would come up with some hangover excuses not to go, but to my surprise by 3PM we were heading to the subway with directions in hand. It took us about 45 minutes or so to make it there. We had to hop two subway trains to Brooklyn and then had about a 10-15 minute walk to the brewery, but when we arrived it was like being in heaven... with grafitti and trash in the streets.

We headed in and the guy at the door pointed us to a large room filled with fermentation tanks where there was a tour being given. It took about two minutes of listening to tour guide telling us about the history of the brewery and Garrett Oliver before I started to wonder why everyone else had beer and we didn't. I turned around and saw that there was a large room with picnic tables and a line to the kegs behind us. Now had this tour been through their operational facilities where we could see the brewers at work, the bottling line loudly clanking its way around a large room filled with the secents of malt and hops, then yeah, I would've stuck around. But considering the fact that Dave and I have both read Steve Hindy and Tom Potter's book about their brewery, I figured I knew enough about the company and was ready to sample.

I signalled to the crew that we should bolt to the beer room. The beers were $3 each and you had to purchase these little tokens to get them. Kinda weird, but probably made their lives easier. The selections at the Brewery were outstanding!

The beers available were as follows:

Brooklyner Weiss - A delicious wheat beer in the classic style brewed with barley and wheat malt and Bavarian yeast that leaves a slight haze to this beautiful spicy and citrusy perfect warm weather beer. I've had this one before, but it always tastes a bit fresher at the brewery. It is a solid choice for lovers of the wheat. My only complaint is that it wasn't served in the tall pilsner style glass that makes weiss beers really shout out their flavors and aromas.

Brooklyn Lager - Ah yes the flagship brew of Brooklyn. This has to be one of, if not the best lagers I've ever tasted. It has the perfect balance of malt character and hop bitterness without going over the top. It had a beautiful amber color letting you know that some tasty barley malt was used in brewing this delicious beverage. If you enjoy the amber lagers such as Sam Adams' Boston Lager, try this one by Brooklyn and you'll be hooked for life.

'55 Pennant Ale - I did not have enough time to have this beer at the brewery, but I have had it several times before. Afterall any beer named in honor of the '55 Brooklyn Dodgers has to be sampled at least once. It's an English style pale ale that is slightly bitter, but comes off clean and refreshing.

East India Pale Ale
- Brooklyn's I.P.A. is solid. It's not the best I've had, but it can stand toe to toe with many others out there. With that classic super hoppy bitterness and aroma that drives hop heads like Matt, Dave and I crazy, this beer had to be on the list of beverages to enjoy. As with most I.P.A.s it has a higher alcohol content (6.8% ABV according to the website), and so this beer should be enjoyed in moderation if you have other things to do during the day. ha ha.

Summer Ale - As with many craft breweries in the states, Brooklyn has come to offer several seasonal beers. This time of year they brew up batches of their tasty Summer Ale. Now growing up on Long Island and now living in Florida, I understand just how important it is to drink the right beer at the right time. There's no way I want to be slugging down a Brookyln Black Chocolate Stout when it's 87 degrees outside in Brooklyn. Instead this beer offers a nice light and refreshing choice. Unlike many other breweries, Brooklyn decided to brew this beer with a barley malt instead of wheat. The majority of other summer ales I have had used some perecentage of wheat malt to lighten the brew. They use a British two-row malt which gives it a nice golden color and light body. It is a very smooth drinking ale with hop character that leaves that citrusy aroma and taste as it leaves the glass and flows down the gullet.Solid choice during these hot Summer days. Make sure to have a cooler full for any BBQs or beach trips in your plans.

Antwerpen Ale - This was a beer that I have never seen nor heard of before. Apparently you can only get this on tap, and I've never even heard of any bar carrying it. SO... I was damn stoked to try it. I was told it was a Belgian-style pale ale. Indeed it had that spicy character of many Belgian ales and a nice amber color. This beer was extremely smooth, but I would've liked just a tad bit more carbonation. That could be due to the style they were going for, but at times it seemed just a bit flat for my tastes. Despite its amber color and maltiness, it was easy drinking, and definitely not as heavy as I had expected. Decent, but not great.

Brown Ale - This is another of Brooklyn's regularly brewered ales. I did not sample any at the brewery since I've had several times before. Brown Ales are not really my thing, but if you dig on the Brown than Brooklyn's version will be right for you. From what I remember it was a smooth, easy drinking, malty beverage that would go nicely with some onion rings and a burger. And now on to the favorite amongst friends...

Abbey Singel Ale - This beer had everyone at our table shouting for more! A Belgian style Abbey ale with a beautiful golden color and perfect level of carbonation made this beer our favorite by far. According to the Brooklyn Brewery website this is a style of beer that the Trappist Monks enjoy on the daily, not that usually stronger ales that I've tried before in the Trappist Monk style. It was probably one of the most refreshing beers I've ever had the pleasure of drinking. It was dry like champagne, but tasted like a loaf of light and airy freshly baked bread. This is another beer I had wished I could drink out of a tall glass rather than a plastic cup, but hey, you take what you can get. This is another of the Brewmasters Reserve selections that are only available on tap. So again, we could not take any home with us. Sorry folks. Everyone will just have to go to Brooklyn Brewerey themselves.

The Brooklyn Brewery was a great place to spend a few hours on Saturday afternoon. I only wished we had arrived earlier. The place closes at 6PM on Saturdays. The tasting room was a loud warehouse type set up with picnic tables and local beer lovers everywhere crowding in. You can even get pizza delivered there from a local pizzeria! Needless to say, this is what I hope heaven tastes and smells like... the Brooklyn Brewery.

We left there and headed for Game 2 of the Mets vs. A's series where once again the Mets got the win. Sorry Dave.

That's it for now. I'll post Part 2 of Day 2 in a bit. That will include our trip into Manhattan and the discovery of a great beer bar thanks to our new friends on the NYC beer forum.


Beer and Baseball Trip in NYC Day 1 (6/22/07)

Finally got a chance to put up a post about the trip to New York. Matt, Dave and I flew up to beautiful LaGuardia airport on Friday, June 22 and deplaned around 4PM. Matt's friend Barry picked us up from the airport and drove us into what was some sort of Chinatown area of Queens. We threw our bags in the room and immediately set out to find some beer. To our disgust there were no beer stores anywhere in the area, not one! Due to time constraints we grabbed some cold Bud cans for a cold refreshment before hopping on the 7 Train to Shea Stadium for Game 1 of the Mets vs. A's series where we met up with another of Matt's old friends, Anthony. So now that Matt had his reunion we were ready to get inside to watch some baseball on a warm Summer's night and enjoy some more cold refreshment.

Again to our disgust, Shea Stadium had the worst beer selection ever! We had to settle for more Anheuser Bush products until we found a Sam Adams draft stand a few levels down from our sky high seats. Thank God for Sam Adams! That beer definitely saved the day. After we watched the Mets embarass the A's, we headed back to Queens. We settled in for the night at an Irish Pub somewhere in Chinatown. I honestly don't remember what it was called, but we drank plenty of Harp and Guinness and talked nonsense with the bartender who was from Belfast. Good times all around.

We left there at some point in the early morning and stumbled back to our hotel after our first installments of New York pizza and Chinatown noodles.

It was a great start to the trip, but the beer choices were extremely disappointing. I fell asleep that night praying that tomorrow would bring some true beer glory. Dreams of Hefe Weizen bounced in me head.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New York Beers

This weekend we head up to New York to watch the NY Mets beat up on the Oakland A's... or so I hope. ha ha. Sorry Dave. The times spent not watching baseball will most likely be filled with enjoying ice cold beers. Well, we'll be doing that while watching as well, but that ballpark swill just ain't gonna keep me goin' all day.

I'll post the news from the NY trip when we get back. There will hopefully be wondrous descriptions of bountiful beverages and glorious gluttony.

Here's to baseball, beers and good times.