Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beer... or something...

Wow, so, uh... no one's blogged in awhile. So, um.... beer. I had a beer last night. It was called... um... shit, I took a picture of it...

There.  Negra Mode... um... Model... Modern... Modem...  Negra Modelo!  That's it!  Google saves the day again.  So yeah, I had one of those.  I'm struggling to remember what exactly it tasted like, here, but not because it was bad.  On the contrary, I thought it was quite tasty!  But I wasn't paying enough attention to really remember the finer details.  Let me back up a bit and explain why.

This was a going-away-happy-hour for someone leaving where I work.  He's a pretty well-liked guy, so quite a few people wanted to show up.  Instead of hitting the usual places for such affairs, they picked some fancy place no one had been to before.  Now, I had a going-away-party thrown for me once at a fancy place no one had been to before, and it's a real crapshoot.  It turned out moderately ok for my party, but the location was quite a haul for most folks interested in attending.

But this place we went last night was close.  A really classy joint, too.  A patio out front, downstairs restaurant area, upstairs bar area, and even an upper deck with a gorgeous view of the river and downtown Pittsburgh.  The back bar was small, but stocked with unusual things and backed with wavy sheets of copper.  They had the usual stuff, but I also saw things like Bluecoat Gin, and Root, which Richard has mentioned before.  The help, as is almost always the case, is what really made it nice.  I ordered two shots of Wild Turkey 101 for myself and the departing coworker, and after some walking around and running downstairs, the bartender said "Sorry, we're out.  Well, actually, we had two shots left, but there were some floaters in it."  I paused for a moment, then said "Thankyou for that.  A lot of bartenders would have fished them out and served me the booze anyway."

And that's the truth.  Don't believe me?  Ever been to a bar or a restaraunt where there's fruit flies buzzing around?  Where do you think they make their homes and lay their eggs?  Uh-huh.  I'd stay away from the 99 Bananas.

So I ordered two shots of Jim and a 7&7.  Not to sound like a skinflint, but it came to $17.50 and I was a bit shocked.  It wasn't like I ordered Woodford Reserve, it was Jim Beam and Segram's 7.  That's like $1.75 worth of booze in those three glasses.  I didn't raise hell or anything, and I tipped well because he didn't garnish them with fly larvae, but still... it was a little on the steep side for a Pittsburgh bar; even a fancy one.  And the departing coworker couldn't even finish the shot in one go.  He stumbled around a bit and tried not to cough it up.  Which happens sometimes...

... and in fact the women we work with stood around and mocked him for not being able to handle a shot of Beam.  Hey, it's Pittsburgh.  We grow 'em tough here!

He eventually gulped down the last of his whiskey under heavy female derision, and I mentioned to another coworker that the two shots and a drink cost me $17.50 plus tip.  He then told me his beer was $2 plus tip.

So I switched to beer for the night.

Since I hadn't heard of the beer my coworker was having, I decided to give it a try.  He was drinking, of course, Negra Modelo.  They gave it to me with a wedge of lime in the mouth of the bottle, and a fancy snifter to pour it into.  I discarded the lime and poured it into the glass; I wanted to know what this tasted like without any alteration.  It was dark in color but thin in body, so it went down smooth for something with full flavor.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and had another.

Someone asked me what I was drinking and I told them.  They asked if it was like Yuengling.  I paused, as the question came as a complete surprise to me.  I mean, I do like Yuengling a lot, and since it's from PA I try to drink it more often than I would otherwise.  But I hadn't thought to compare Negra Modelo to Yuengling.  I guess, compared to Yuengling, it was darker and slightly smokier, but just as smooth and thin in body and texture.  The head was made of slightly smaller bubbles, making it a bit foamier, but the overall experience was... no, it wasn't really anything like Yuengling.  She explained that Yuengling is her benchmark.  In her mind, all beers are are either good or bad depending entirely on how similar they are to Yuengling.

At first it seemed like an odd way to judge things, but as I thought about it, it made more and more sense.  If you find anything you really like, it's logical to use it as your bench mark.  It saves you from having to analyze the details of things; you can just compare your gut reaction to something you know you like.  Sure, it seems a bit narrow-minded in some respects; it doesn't really allow for trying new things.  But what if you want something, but don't want to be an expert in that particular field?

Here's a for-instance: I'm not really a cigar smoker.  I smoke maybe 3 or 4 per year.  I don't know how you describe the flavor of a cigar beyond "strong" or "mild" (and those probably aren't even the proper terms).  If I walk into a cigar shop and I want to have a cigar, do I really want to first read a 1000 page book on cigars?  Do I want to take a class first?  Let me answer that for you: no.  This isn't a life-long passion, I don't want to explore the broad and complex world of rolled tobacco, I just want one cigar.  So I place my trust in the proprietor and say "I had an Onyx cigar once and I really liked it.  Could you help me pick out something similar that I might like?"

So I suppose walking into a bar and saying "I like Yuengling, but I see you don't have any.  What could you recommend?" is perfectly valid.  And if the bartender scoffs at you and says you should try a Huisbrouwerij Sint Canarus Potteloerke, then he's a stuck-up asshole.  If he's interested in making money, he should find you something similar to Yuengling.  And if he wants to help bring you into his hobby of beer, acting snooty and giving you something completely unlike Yuengling isn't the way.  This is how comic book shops go out of business.

I encouraged her to try what I was drinking, but she was having none of it.  My reaction to her question seemed to reveal that it did not pass her Yuengling test.  However, I think she might have liked the Negra Modelo; it was smooth and went down easy, but had much more flavor than my much-touted favorite Miller High Life.  Not too hoppy, but possibly too dark for her.  Not really chocolaty, but kind of smokey.

Many people saw my coworker and I drinking Negra Modelo and I think by the end of the night most folks had at least one.  The bartender had to run downstairs and get more.  Everyone seemed to agree that it was good stuff.  Yuengling it wasn't, but it was good and I'll probably get another some day.  Ultimately, my Yuengling-loving coworker didn't try one.  She drank Yuenglin pints all night.  But I won't bug her to try it again because yinzer chicks will kick your ass!


  1. Never had Yuengling. I'll have to give it a try this weekend.

    Totally agree with your cigar smoking analysis.

  2. I've had Negra Modelo before. It's good beer. I never thought of it as a beer requiring a fancy glass, but it is good.

  3. Yeah, I thought it was odd when they gave me a fancy glass for it. But then, I think it's odd when I get any glass for a bottle of beer.

  4. I've had Negra Modelo and its better option than Yuengling for sure. Try Habanos with beer, it taste heavenly.

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