Friday, July 31, 2009

This Day in Booze: Black Tot Day

Today is indeed a sad day. It is a dark and dismal, black day. A day that ended a tradition dating back almost 300 years. On July 31st, 1970, the British Royal Navy stopped issuing daily rum rations to it's sailors.

Rum and the Navy go back over 350 years to the mid 1600s. Rum was a harsh, foul, disgusting beverage that only the poorest of man or slaves would drink. But as settlements began to take hold in the Caribbean and the Colonies, sugar production was on the rise. Alcohol on sailing vessels was a necessity. It helped the sailors stay hydrated and provided much needed nutrients. Most importantly, it was sterile. Beer was the seaman's best friend for many years. However, rum was much cheaper than beer, and by 1731 it was officially adopted by the British Navy. It was as common on their ships as beer and brandy. Half a pint of rum was treated as equivalent to the sailor's daily ration of 1 gallon of beer (beer was pretty week back then). Unfortunately, as rum grew in popularity with the Navy, so did drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and good old fashion tom-foolery.

One particular sailor, Admiral Edward Vernon (the same Edward Vernon that Mount Vernon is named after), saw the benefits of rum, but realized it needed taming. In 1740 he issued an order to his sailors that the daily rum rations should be diluted with water. The mixture was "the proportion of a quart of water to every half pint of rum", and it served two purposes. It diluted the rum so that the sailors could take it in at a slower pace and not get plastered. It also helped to disinfect the ship's water supply and make it taste and smell much better. Rations were doled out twice a day, however the sailors could trade up one of their rations for limes and sugar to make what they had more palatable (explains the term 'Limeys' given to British Sailors). His men called the new drink "grog" supposedly after the Admiral's nickname "Old Grog", attributed to the grogram coat he would always wear.

Due to the daily dose of vitamin C, Admiral Edward Vernon's sailors were healthier than the rest of the fleet, something that would not be fully understood until 1747, when James Lind proved that citrus fruit supplemented into the sailors diet could treat and prevent scurvy. The rest of the Royal Navy followed suit, and by 1756 Navy Rum was codified into the Admiralty's naval code.

Over the next 200 years, the world changed, and so did the rum rations. Thanks to the global Temperance Movement, the daily grog allotment was cut in half in 1823, and in half once more in 1850. By 1950 only about one-third of Royal Navy's sailors opted for their daily rations of grog. As the computer age dawned, new technology began being incorporated into everyone's daily lives. One such piece of technology spelled the end for Navy Rum. The British Navy did a study and subjected the sailors to random breathalyzer tests. When the results came back they realized that, at any given moment, half their naval force was legally drunk.

So in 1970, aboard the HMS Fife at 11:00AM, July 31st, the last "tot" of rum rations was doled out to the men, putting an end to a tradition older than the country we call home.

But fret not my children. Wipe away those tears of sorry and replace them with tears of joy, for Navy Rum is back. In 1979, one Charles Tobias obtained the rights to the recipe and began producing Navy Rum once more. The product is called Pusser's Navy Rum, and you can find in on the shelf of any liquor store that's worth it's salt. I picked up a bottle about 4-5 months ago and you can read all about its history and what it tastes like in some of my past posts. I will tell you that the Royal Navy never actually distilled their own rum. The recipe is actually the blending of 5 different West Indian rums (three lighter rums and two dark rums). I definitely recommend trying it. It tastes like no other rum I've ever had, and I've had A LOT of rums. Plus part of the proceeds go to the Royal Navy Sailor's Fund. I for one will be taking a tot of Pusser's this evening to honor one of the greatest miltary traditions of all times.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

News Bits: Charity brew, Brew Dog Tokyo, Drunken Wizards

Here is some news, instead of writing about all the beer I've been drinking. I haven't tweeted for a few days, but rest assured my liver isn't getting any sort of break.
(We do not, under any circumstances, support Adult Kickball)

First, from Taking the Beard Out of Beer, the lovely Melissa Cole lets us know that a British Brewer has terminal prostate cancer and is using his remaining time to make beer to raise money for the nurses helping him back to health. I'm not sure I'll see this 7% Dark Mild before I leave, but I'll certainly bug my (temporarily) local landlords to get some in.

In related strong beer news, the UK is atwitter with BrewDog's latest concoction: 18.2% Imperial^3 Stout Tokyo*. Radio 4 talked about it on the evening news, and a variety of newspapers (RIP) and blogs want to talk about it too. BrewDog are, without a doubt, the future of British brewing. Interesting beers, revisions and perversions of the classics. They even make some traditional beers with lots more flavor. They've even got a video up about this and most other of their beers. I'm saddened but not surprised to be missing them at GBBF, being as they have the audacity to push the boundaries of UK beer beyond 8,000 varieties of Bitter.

(The above video is for regular Tokyo, the link in the text is for Tokyo*)

The controversy around the beer is that it is so high alcohol that it will cause more drunkenness. It is also 10 quid ($16) for a bottle, which contains six UK alcohol units. Ten pounds will also buy you 700ml of Smirnoff at most UK Sainsbury's and during the summer a bottle of Pimm's. Now, the 330ml of BrewDog is smaller than the 700ml bottles, but for less than the cost of the bottle you can get what we call a 'mickey' in the states, though it is understandably tantamount to calling sprinkles jimmies: terms that could be offensive if they weren't so antiquated and absurd. Mind, I thought the same thing about the last descendants of the teetotalers.

Where were we... oh right, bigots that aren't me. So your 10 pounds will buy you a 330ml bottle of Tokyo, at 18%ABV, a 375ml Mickey of Smirnoff at 40%ABV, or an entire 700ml bottle of Pimm's at 25%. That's 6 units for BrewDog, 15 units of Smirnoff or just under 20 units of Pimm's. Right. So clearly the beer is too strong, except, wait, for the same cost and bottle size you can get way drunker, for cheaper. Now, which will taste better? Expensive beer, NJ's favorite vodka (and finest cultural export), or some Pimm's? Now, I love the Pimm's, but the beer will be better. So for 10 pounds I'll get a great beer experience and still be able to walk home, unlike the young man below. The nanny state argument leaves something to be desired, and I agree that BrewDog won't be killing anyone, and certainly not any faster or cheaper than the spirit companies.

Our last news for the day, The Mad Fermentationist, a hero of mine in the homemade delicacies category, welcomes a new blogger. We can hardly contain our excitement!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Johnny Walker Employees Stand Up

It looks like the employees who are on the chopping block at Johnny Walker are now standing up, thanks to UNITE. The story is here, thanks to The Publican for pointing it out on Twitter. You can read UNITE's position here. James P. Hoffa and the teamsters are behind the union. The Scottish Government is also on their side. You can even find them on Facebook.

We are behind them too. Its a shame when companies leave their homes and roots for profit. We're always told the average drinker can't tell the difference between low-grade liquors and buy based on brand loyalty. Moving your low-grade, homogenized liquor away from its historic roots undermines this very brand loyalty. We wish the Scots well!

(This isn't Rasputin, and he'd give him a run for his money)

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Monk

So I needed two Coronas to make some cheese dip for Richard's recent party. Now, I don't like Corona. I just don't. I like this picture:

...but I don't like actually drinking the beer. So I found a place I thought might sell me less than a case. You may recall us saying from previous posts (here and here) that buying less than a case of beer in Pennsylvania isn't easy. Well, a place opened up recently that first called itself a beer distributor, then said it was a "bottle shop", then said it was a bottle shop "now with food!" So I stopped on in.

The place had a couple hundred different kinds of beer in large coolers, lined up like Gatorade bottles in the back of a 7-11. The owner (I presume) came up to me and asked what I was looking for. I explained my situation and asked how little Corona he could sell me. He said one bottle. Then he held up a hammer that happened to be in his hand and said "Hell, I'll sell you half a bottle, if you want!" He seems like a cool guy.

I asked how he got around the strict PA liquor laws, and he was happy to explain. First, the building is separated into two parts which are treated as totally different businesses with separate cash registers. The one part can't sell you a case (the bottle shop), the other can only sell you a case (the distributor). (I'm sure somehow that keeps women and children safe at night.) Then, because they serve food in the "bottle shop" section, you are welcome to buy a beer and have a seat at a table to drink it right there. Or, if you don't open it, you can take the bottle home with you. It didn't have liquor, I don't believe they're allowed. It didn't have a bar with stools, I think that was just an interior design choice. But all in all, it seems like a nice place to hang out and try different beers at a reasonable price. Also, for someone like me who prefers liquor, it's a place I can buy only as much beer as I want, and not have a partially empty case sitting around for 2 years.

Anyway, he said I can buy as little or as much as I wanted of anything available. So after grabbing a couple bottles of Corona, I picked out a Delirium, which I know I like, and browsed around to pick up another bottle. They had the full compliment of Great Lakes, quite a few even smaller breweries, even some girlie drinks like Sminoff Ice. But something caught my eye...

... something sinister...

... yet compelling...

... a demanding nature almost impossible to kill...

... so I bought a bottle.

Old Rasputin Imperial Stout

"Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia's Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It's a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish."

Vital Statistics
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Color: Black
ABV: 9%
Bitterness: 75 IBU's
91 Points, Rated "Exceptional" by the Beverage Testing Institute, Chicago

Only problem is... it sucks. Well, not hard. Not like Corona. Or the cartoon Corona chick (so I've heard). I've had some pretty thick and dark beers. Beers where the brewer had a heavy hand with the chocolate malt. Beers that make Guiness seems like... well, Corona. But this isn't one of them. It felt rather thin in the mouth, which make it go down easy, in some respects. But the real problem I had with it is the flavor was like sucking on the wrong end of a lit cigar.

It may sound like I'm being a bit harsh on it, and maybe I am, but that's the closest thing I can come up with to describe the flavor. If it tasted like peanut butter, I'd say it tasted like peanut butter. If it tasted like pussy, I'd say it tasted like pussy. But it didn't. It tasted like cigar ash.

It's far from the worst beer I've had, though. I mean, I finished it. But the best part is definitely the label. You just can't go wrong with Rasputin. I mean, dude had pertinent crazy eyes!

I've been a fan of Raspitin's for quite some time. He could waggle his willy in public, and still get invited back to dinner at the fucking palace! His profession was as a holy man with the ability to heal and see the future, but he lived the life of a rock star and made no attempt to hide it at all. He also had possibly the most bizarre pickup line ever: "Would you like to confess your sins to me? You have no sins? Well, how about you and me to into the back room and do some serious sinning, then you can confess it to me?" And he made that shit work!

Not to get totally off track here, but they had to disembowel, poison, stab, and shoot the dude multiple times before he finally drown to death. They also might have cut off his cock and balls. I found a supposed picture of them in a jar with a really hot Russian chick checking them out (See? Still a player!) but it was a bit too disgusting for me to continue this article discussing flavor. If you really want to see it, here's the article it came from.

The Delirium, however, was outstanding as usual. Fruity, sweet, bitter, clean, crisp, and strong. It's just so fucking good! You can't go wrong. Years ago, I accidentally got completely wasted on their Christmas ale on my lunch break. I had no idea how strong it was until me and a coworker were completely sideways. It took forever for 5PM to roll around that day. So if you do have a beer with lunch, always check the alcohol content!

The Corona, well, I tried a few swigs from the bottles as I was cooking, but I still just don't like it. I know the stories about workers pissing in the bottles have been legally proven to be slander, but it still tastes just a bit pissy to me. Sorry, hot cartoon Corona chick.

So in spite of the absolutely awesome label, I just don't see myself buying Old Rasputin Imperial Stout again.

... well maybe now and then...

... I'll go buy 6 cases now...

... and get you the phone numbers of hot Russian chicks...

... lots of hot Russian chicks...

Ferm Friday- Cloning

Back in the day, bJames and I played guitar together. He was, and is, by far the better musician, but we differed in more than this respect. I could never play covers, and have to say I often didn't see the point. Sure, now, with age I get the idea that you want to test yourself against the masters, but that's always been the case. Bach wrote some masses, so did Mozart, Hayden and I'm surprised that McCartney hasn't tried his hand at one. But this is putting your own stamp within a familiar framework.

So, I don't really clone. But I will work within very set boundaries. I try to brew to style (usually). I've used clone-brew recipes, but just to find good recipes, which I usually play with and rarely, if ever, compare to the commercial beer. Of course, I live in a state that has decent liquor laws, unlike my colleagues. So I can get almost all the beers I like.

Except cask ale, which I've mentioned in the past both positively and negatively. I love the UK beer, and I've spent this July in the UK twittering about what I've been drinking. So I try to emulate the British style of beer, which is hard without a cask breather, pump and other sundries I can't invest in right now.

This blog, however, was started as a clone, but like all good clones, has grown into something distinct, like US Brown from N. English Brown, we are something different, stronger, more pungent smelling, more aggressively bitter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Status Symbol

I'm at the Green Day concert right now and am a little overwhelmed. (Clarification: when writing this there was still a solid half hour before the opening act came on. It would be pretty lame if I was writing this "during" the concert. Just finding a way to kill the time. My wife is playing a video game to pass the time.) I was in my early teens back when they were in their prime. Now that I'm nearly 30 I expected a crowd a little more my age. Boy was I wrong. A couple years ago they released American Idiot an it was a huge success, but I had no idea that it drew so much of the younger crowd. We walked into the Civic Arena and very quickly realize that we have a good 10-15 years on about 80% of the crowd. "Yea, like John Travolta before them, they are experiencing a second revival." And with that revival Green Day has drawn a whole knew fan base of 14-15 year olds.

Now I suppose it might seam childish to think this way, but when in situations like this I feel they need to find a way to distinguish myself from the voice cracking, pimple encrusted teeniboppers. I think it stems from the fact that even into my late twenties I've always looked young for my age. Until I was about 25 most strangers would guess my age to be 16. Then the hair started going (the only good thing to a receding hair line). Never the less, I feel the need to stand out so as to say "I'm not like all of you", and in situations like this nothing does a better job than booze.

It's fun to flaunt booze. You're around a bunch if 15 year olds smoking the pack of cigarettes they stole from Jimmy's mom, and they think they are the fuck'n shit. That is until you walk by with a nice cold brew in your hand, and they stare in envious awe. It feels good and you shouldn't be ashamed of it. So tonight I plan on pounding back a few more, and they're gonna be extra enjoyable because I know there are several dozen pairs of eyes on me and my wife that wish they could be like us. It's a status symbol, and why not enjoy it.

Here's to Booze! Cheers!

Open Bar

I love My Open Bar, who keep me in contact with the most awesome, snarky, drink specials around. This, though, has to be a highlight:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The 117

I woke up dizzy, nauseous, and in pain the morning of Richard's annual party. That's the morning of, not the morning after.

Confused? Let me back up a bit.

The night before, a friend had come back into town for the party, and we'd gone out for dinner and drinks. I ordered chicken fried steak for dinner, but emotional trauma from a previous chicken fried steak experience kept me from eating much of the delectable deep fried beef before me (it's a long story). But the short and chubby of it is I didn't get much food in me, but I didn't adjust my alcohol intake accordingly. Sure, it was spaced out enough that I was reasonably sober by the time I was going to sleep, but you need the calories and moisture of a good meal to help your body process the fusel oils that exist in every form of alcohol that's intended for human consumption. After those who were pregaming for the next day left the bar, a friend of my girlfriend's showed up and we stayed a couple more rounds.

Also, I'd had a pretty bad allergy attack during the night. So by Saturday morning, my head was throbbing, I felt like I needed to vomit, and I was stumbling around like a new camera man for Deadliest Catch.

Water, Sudafed, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Immodium, and a whole pot of black coffee had me feeling only moderately human by the time I headed out for Richard's place.

Richard and the out-of-town friend were already setting up (they had eaten dinner). I was still feeling like shit, but I had grabbed a pounder of Red Bull on the way. That's right, a pounder! I drank it down like it was nothing and still wasn't very energetic. But guests were starting to file in, so it was time for Paddy and myself to take our traditional places for our once-a-year amateur bar tending.

I had spent no small amount of time assembling a cheat-sheet for mixing drinks. In fact, I had asked you for ideas, but I only got one reply. So I started by adding all the items from a menu Richard had made up for the first of his annual parties, then I searched for tropical-themed drinks, as this was to be a tropical-themed party. The next thing I know, the sheet had over one hundred drinks on it. One hundred seventeen, to be exact. So I called it "The 117" (pronounced One One Seven).

In no time, the booze was flowing freely. Everyone had to do a shot when they arrived, and they got a stamp on their hand/arm for that and every shot they did that night. I, however, wasn't drinking too much. I was still feeling pretty terrible.

Someone else who wasn't drinking much was Richard. Playing host is difficult, even with two suave bartenders like Paddy and myself keeping everyone intoxicated, there's still a ton of stuff to do. He was prepping food, manning the grill, meeting and greeting, and trying to keep everyone entertained.

Though I attempted to help him with this last item as well. I had come up with games that, as a bartender, I could use to keep the energy of the party going. The aforementioned stamps were one of those ideas.

We also played Russian roulette with shotglasses. Six shotglasses were arranged like chambers in a revolver. Five were filled with water, one with vodka. Two people would take turns drinking them. It was a lot of fun and helped keep people hydrated.

Occasionally I would ring a bell and ask for something from a party-goer; a receipt from the liquor store, the person who drove the oldest car to the party, the person with the most piercings, stuff like that. The winner got anything ranging from a glowing necklace to a tiki shotglass.

One game that took all evening to play was a betting pool of sorts. Everyone guessed when they thought the first person would throw up. Not who, just when. The closest person without going over won a prize. The guesses really spanned the whole party from early afternoon to near midnight. The earliest time almost won, but dry heaves don't count.

But even with all this, there was more than enough to keep Richard busy as hell for the earlier parts of the party. But at some point, the party gained enough momentum that he could take some time out. He joined Paddy and I to make a couple drinks for folks, we took a walk around the block with travelers and cigars, and then... well, he kind of disappeared from my sight for awhile. My girlfriend was handing my camera back to me when a look of shock came over her face. I turned around just in time to witness an impressive spectacle. Now, I'm no stranger to face-smashing, and I have to say that Richard's maneuver was quite impressive. As I turned around, I saw Richard bent at the waist about to ram a standing oscillating fan at the end of the bar with his head/face. He smashed into it, creating an impressive crashing sound, then collapsed behind the bar on his back. Then the fan fell on top of him.

I don't know exactly when or how, but Richard had gotten completely and utterly demolished. He was led outside where he could roll around in the grass without injuring himself too much, but soon he was taken upstairs to the bathroom, and Paddy's sister-in-law won the pool.

After purging himself of whatever the hell it was he put in his stomach, Richard tried to re-join the party. It didn't go well. He just kind of rolled around in the grass some more saying very nice or very insulting things to people. He looked up at his wife and said "I'm sorry I do this every year..." Then he looked up at one of his brothers and said "You're the best brother!" Then he turned to Paddy and spit on his foot. The pecking order had been clearly established. Paddy stared down at his foot with an expression that conveyed dismay, discomfort, and a complete lack of surprise. I told Paddy he would be completely justified wiping his foot on Richard. He did so.

Once Richard's very tolerant wife put him to bed, the party took on a bit more of a sexy and subdued atmosphere. I rang the bell and said the first person to give me their bra would get a prize. Paddy's future brother-in-law quickly appeared at the bar holding his fiance's bra high, so I gave her the prize of a flowered bra I had purchased at the party store.

Then things got mellow, but not in a bad way. The party still had momentum, it had just shifted gears. The music changed from upbeat reggae to slower classic rock. The sun was down. Tacky tropical decorations fluoresced under black light while couples danced to slower, easier music. At the end of the bar, casual acquaintances were getting frisky. Outside, the smokers waxed philosophical. I was finally feeling human again and having some serious cocktails. As the crowd grew thinner, groups of old friends got together and talked over old times. The party didn't die, or even really stop. There was no sensation of brakes being applied; it just kind of eased away like music from a ship drifting into the distant night. It was how every party should end. It's how everything should end. It left everyone feeling joyful, relaxed, and completely satisfied.

Well, almost everyone...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Old School

I was at the State Store last night to pick up some stuff I'm short on for this weekend's BBQ when I made an amazing discovery. My wife and I agreed that we have spent plenty of money these past few weeks, on car inspection, food, decor, etc. We decided going in that were only going to buy what we came for. That failed miserably when I discovered a $33 bottle of something amazing. Alcoholic Root Beer, or Root Tea to be more precise. No I'm not talking about the latest flavored vodka craze, and the distiller makes sure state that as well. This is not some neutral grain spirit with some McCormick's Root Beer Extract added, in some flashy bottle. I'm talking about real honest to goodness root beer as it existed prior to prohibition, and they have given it an appropriately simple name of just "Root."

The stuff is made by Art in the Age, a store based out of Philadelphia, which supports artists, musicians and craftsmen who embrace the old ways in today's technological megalopolis. Their website has tons of great information on their product, it's history and how they reinvented it. Root is a rebirth of a preprohibition era Pennsylvania recipe for what would eventually evolve into root beer. We here at JABB are always more than willing to tout the merits of anything booze related that comes out of the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (another post on why we Pennsylvanians love our rye). Prior to prohibition it was known as root tea, an herbal concoction passed on from the Native Americans, made from birch bark, sassafras, cloves, lemon peel and much more. Most of the ingredient grew native to the backwoods of Pennsylvania.

To quote the little tag that came with the bottle, "as the temperance movement saw fit to take all the fun out of life" an enterprizing pharmacist named Charles Hires took it upon himself to remove the alcohol from the root tea and replace it with soda water. He marketed this new brew, which he dubbed "root beer", to the hard drinking coal miners of Pennsylvania as something for them to enjoy without becoming a hazard to their fellow workers. It was an instant hit and what we now know as root beer was officially born. This new recipe tries to recreate the original as accurately as possible using nothing but organic ingrediets and a dedication to keep things true.

Naturally upon seeing this in the liquor store and being a root beer fanatic, I had no choice but to deviate from the original plan and picked up the only bottle they had left of the stuff. I haven't tried it yet, but I plan on sampling it this weekend. I'm giddy with anticipation and will definitely let you all know how it goes with a followup. Also check out this great article from the Philadelphia CityPaper on Root.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ealing Beer Festival

Last week I went to the Ealing Beer Festival. It was pretty rad. Sure, I have some opinions on CAMRA, but they put on one hell of a festival. We went around 2pm, and it was mercifully slow, thanks in part to on-again, off-again rain showers. The festival had two tents arranged alphabetically. About 1/3rd of the beers were on the first day, so the selection was pretty good.

(It wasn't all dudes, I swear)

I decided to stick to milds and browns, mainly, as I can't find them as reliably in pubs as the bog-standard of bitters. We deposited for the half-pint glasses, and stuck to drinking nips (1/3rd of a UK pint, or roughly 6.6 ounces), for about 90p ($1.45). I started out with a mild as did my colleague. I had Marston Moor Brewing (Now part of Rudgate) Matchlock Mild. The beer presented dark brown, clear and with nearly no carbonation or head. The aroma was fairly strong, dominated by apple esters and some black patent roast notes. On the first taste there is a burst of flavor, especially Goldings hops and some carmel which adds sweetness and some solid chocolate roast. The flavor is still estery. It is medium bodied and sweet in the middle. The finish is pretty dry, with a hard punch of bittering, with added drying from the healthy amount of roast.

(This isn't Black Cat Mild in a Bottle, BJCP fans, this is the real stuff)

My drinking companion had Bazen's Black Pig Mild. This smelled of chocolate roast and had a tobacco note. It was very dark brown, almost opaque, with ruby/garnet highlights. Medium body, medium sweet finish, it was without an ester profile. The flavor was dominated by chocolate roast and had good hopping as well.

(Gravity Fed Casks with Glycol Cooled Jackets)

For our second round, my colleague moved onto Hanby Brewing's Cherry Bomb. It did what the label said, cherry nose and flavor. I had Spectrum Brewing's Trip Hazard. Aptly named for the strength, it was a very strong bitter. The nose was fruitful, with peach and pear notes and low levels of earthy hops. The flavor was sweet almost to the point of cloying, with a medium-full body but a cleansing finish that is medium sweet due to some residual sweetness remaining. This is a clear, copper brew.

(Trip Hazard on left, Cherry Bomb on Right, Lawsuits Forthcoming)

We went for round three with a pair of milds, shown above. I forget what he had, but I had Dark Star Brewing's Over The Moon (foreground). This wasn't as great as I had hoped, though it had a nice level of carbonation, good head stand and was black with ruby highlights again. The aroma was a good mix of apple esters, roast and chocolate with low levels of Fuggles. The flavor was bitter throughout with a very strong dry roast note. There was medium hop flavor and finished somewhat astringent, paired with a medium-light body. So, a bit over-hopped and over dry in my opinion, more like a black bitter than a mild.
(A pair of milds, delicately paired with Pork Scratchings)

And we retired to lunch at this point. The British aren't known for their cooking, historically being chided by the French for having Europe's best ingredients and worst cooks. But they do one thing right- stuff four days worth of inedible left overs into a pie, bake the jesus out of it and produce a hearty, pocketable meal. The wild boar and apple pie was fantastic. So was the steak and ale. What goes with beer? Piles of meat wrapped in butter and flour!

(Not Pictured: Dudes wearing "Sex, Drugs and Pies" shirts)

Back to beers. I followed up the lunch with what was labeled as a 'Victorian Porter,' Acorn Brewing's Old Moor Porter. I'd like to think this meant they made brown malt, didn't use roast and mixed three generations of porter into the barrel, but really think it means they added brewers licorice and gave it a vaguely racist name. A good beer though, and the most useful website of any English brewery I've been to. The boquet is almost coconut with roast, some hops, licorice and coffee. Black roast dominates the flavor, with some caramel notes, raisin like flavors (Crystal II anyone) and some plum esters. The flavor profile is sweet at start, has medium bitterness which adds to a medium-dry finish, with a clean aftertaste.
(At least they don't hang an actual head... anymore)

We had some more beers too (6 rounds, so tried 12 beers and consumed only 2 UK pints each). The twitter has the full notes. The Beartown Brewing's Polar Eclipse was a great example of an oatmeal stout, but I'll end by talking about the Grainstore Brewing Rutland Beast. A good brown ale, listed as 'strong' (5.3% ABV...), which I think is the beer pictured below. It had a malty nose with some coffee notes, no esters and some low earthy hops. The flavor was pretty sweet, with malt and some nice dark fruit esters and some medium low flavor hops (Not fuggles, but not sure what they were). This is a full bodied beer, approaching chewiness. I thought of it as a scaled down barley wine, more than a brown ale. It had a medium finish, which left you knowing you just had some beer, without being thirsty.

(This might be the Rutland Beast, it is certainly no Jersey Devil)

So, after only four hours, trying twelve beers and having pork both fried and in pie form, we took our leave. Had I been closer to Ealing, I'd have liked to go back 4 days later and try these again to see how they aged, as well as some other beers that looked good but weren't on yet. And leaving Ealing, I knew I was safe, because these guys were on patrol!

(Where the badger is the most deadly predator, the Meerkat could should be king)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mixing It Up

In a few short days it will be the weekend of Richard's annual party. I think he's mentioned this, but I'm feeling too lazy to go searching for the instances to link to. This year, it is tropical/luau themed.

Now, we know there's at least a few people out there reading this blog. Maybe not many, or regularly, but I'm interested in hearing from some of you. Paddy and I usually tend bar at this event, and I'd like to know what you think we should serve. I just started work on a cheat sheet for a few more unusual tropical drinks. The bar is pretty well stocked, as Richard has shown before: damn near anything is a possibility. I'm looking for drinks 1) with appropriately themed names, and 2) that don't suck. What do you think should be on my cheat sheet? Blue Hawaiian Screw? Caribbean Queen? Screaming Multiple Orgasm On The Beach? What's tasty? What's interesting? What's your favorite? We'd love to know!

Monday, July 13, 2009

This Day in Booze:  The Beer Bottle

You've just come home from a long hard day at work. you're tired and exhausted, and you just want to relax for a couple of minutes. You grab a nice cold bottle of beer out of the fridge and the condensation on the bottle feels great in your hand. You pop the top, kick off your shoes, flop down on the couch, and enjoy. Ahh, that hits the spot.
Sounds great doesn't it, but that wasn't always a luxury that every man could enjoy....or was it. I thought it used to be that if you wanted a beer in the old days, you had little choice but to head on down to the local tavern or inn, where the barman would poor you a nice "warm one" from the huge wooden cask behind the bar.

I was surprised to find out recently that bottled beer goes back a lot farther than I originally thought. Then I thought about it a little and it made perfect sense. Of course bottled beer had to exist in the old days. How else would you tailgate with your buddies outside the Coliseum. Nothing like a cold one to get you in the mood for gladiators fighting or the lions getting their noon snack.

So how far back does the beer bottle go?

It was a pleasant July day in 1568. Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, in London, decided he wanted to do some fishing down by the river. He packed up all his fishing gear and tackle, the wife packed him a ham and cheese sandwich, and he grabbed his night crawlers and the new fishing lure he bought off of the Outdoor Channel. He was all set to go when he realized, what would go great with fishing? A beer! Because fishing without beer is like driving without beer. It's just no fun. So he stopped by the corner pub on his way to the river and had them fill a glass bottle up with beer for him. He made sure they sealed it up good and tight with a cork so his horse wouldn't get pulled over for an open container.

When done fishing, he accidentally left the still half full bottle on the river bank. Several days later (July 13th) he returned to do some more fishing, because he needed an excuse to get away from the wife for a while. He saw his old beer on the ground and thought "man, I could really go for some for that right now." When he went to drink it, the cork opened with a loud bang (the beer had fermented further over the past few days). He found it to be extra fizzy and quite delicious.

I guess he must have told his buddies, because by the 17th century bottled beer was quite commonplace. It was usually only drunk, however, by the wealthier middle and upper classes who really didn't want to mingle with normal folk down at the inn, or those people who just weren't that into Friday's lute and karaoke night.

Another one for those masochists out there.


Sadly, not real. It's just a slightly dangerous magic trick. Look at 26 seconds, you can see where the ball she hit actually went. Look on the right edge of the path back towards where the table is, you'll catch a glimpse of the real ball.

The dude holding the aluminum bottle just flipped it back into the bushes with his fingers at the appropriate time. Earlier, someone had planted a pre-dented bottle in the bushes.

The real ball was a grounder back into the bushes. They might not have even digitally removed it. On such a low quality recording, you could probably hardly see the ball - and there's another giveaway. The "ball" that hits the can is way too clear for such a poor quality recording, it was digitally added later.

All that being said, I do NOT recommend trying this at home! Even attempting this the way I just described is very dangerous!! Especially if you've been drinking. You see, although she didn't have to hit the can to make the trick work, she did have to not hit one of the people. Sure, the area where there's no people is a much bigger target than the can, but there's still the possibility of hitting someone.

And if you think that's not a big deal, just ask Richard Dicks. One time we were out golfing (and drinking, of course) with Paddy. Richard hit a low grounder off to the right of the tee box, into some bushes. He took off after it, with the intention of taking a Mulligan on the shot. I casually teed up, addressed the ball, and as I was backswinging it occurs to Paddy what is about to happen. As if in slow motion (to him) he opened his mouth to yell "Stop!" but it was too late. I was already on the downswing and the ball drove straight and hard to the right, hitting Richard squarely in the right shoulder blade. He had a large welt for a month, and a sore shoulder for even longer.

But apart from the digital ball, it's just a basic magic trick. It would probably even work in person. The viewer's eye naturally follows where they think the ball should go, and they don't notice the grounder going towards the picnic table. Especially if they've been drinking. Probably no one was searching the bushes earlier for planted bottles.

Simple, when you know how it's done.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Only in my Dreams

Or...they could just let the grocery stores sell the wine themselves.

Actually in all truth, if this is the best it can get, then I'll take it. I kind of like it, if nothing more than for the novelty of it. I mean a vending machine that dispenses booze. It's an alcoholic's wet dream come true. I can't wait for the Jim Beam version to come out. Though I wonder how the built in breathalyzer would work. I would hope that it would NOT be something you actually have to put your mouth on. That's just nasty.

Thought I do find it ironic that nearly every State has banished cigarette vending machines, because tobacco is evil, and now you'll be able to get a bottle of Boone's Farm whenever you'd like, and nobody seems to gives a shit. God, I love how bass-ackwards this County is.