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Beer Fight: East vs West Round Two

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Last year, I sat down at a table with my good buddy Jer, and we drank beer. What made this time unusual, though, was that we were critically analyzing six beers to see which coast of North America produced the best oat soda.

The combatants were from a variety of must-have breweries: Hair of the Dog, Maine, Captain Lawrence, Parallel 49, Cascade Barrel House and Evil Twin all made an appearance, but sadly East took the title 2-1. Tables were flipped, fires were started, punches were thrown and I’ve been informed that I may have pulled a knife. I have vague memories of a brief hostage taking, as well. All in all, I think I took it pretty well.

Another summer brings another beach retreat, and another beach retreat beings another round of East vs West. Will Jer retain his shoddily made driftwood trophy? Will I triumph and accept it as gracefully as I am wont to do? Only time will tell.

First up, though, the contenders:

Chuck

I was humbled last year. West is best but the evidence was quite clearly in my mouth. I couldn’t believe it. This time, I’m going in less cocky and with more safety. Instead of trusting my two month old IPA to be great, I’m taste testing three local competitors the day-of to ensure only the freshest IPA gets in.

As well, I’m digging into the cellar and upping my BC representation to a solid 2/3. Let’s do this.


Malt
Lighthouse Belgian Black (2013)
Belgian Strong – 9.0%
Ratebeer: 97;95

Batch two of Dean’s best beer ever is drinking pretty much perfectly right now, and I’ve been keeping a select few in my cellar just waiting for a moment like this to happen. Time to bust one open and let the world know about it.


Yeast
Logsdon Peche n Brett (2014)
Sour/Wild Ale – 10%
Ratebeer: 100;99

Okay, I didn’t have a bottle of my own to contribute to the cause. In fact, I had to pull in some favours to even get this. Okay fine, I had to pull more than favours. At night. In an alley. I’m a whore paid in beer, is what I’m saying. It’ll be worth it though, as this is one of the best beers ever made by a brewery not exactly known for making shitty beer.


Hops
Central City Red Racer IPA
India Pale Ale – 6.5%
Ratebeer: 99;99

Knowing that great hoppy IPAs live and die by how fresh their hops are, I put Driftwood Fat Tug, Central City Red Race IPA and newcomer Four Winds IPA to a blind taste test and choose the winner. The winner was Central City, by a country mile. This could be a factor of the beer simply being fresher, or maybe that shiny new, state of the art brewery with all its fancy quality control has something to do with this.

Jer

After winning a contest I didn’t expect to win last year, I decided to make it even harder on myself this time by restricting my picks to beers from NYC. So, though I’m bringing along some nice beers from Maine (Lunch) and Maryland (Stillwater), all three of my picks are from brewers in the 5 boroughs. Actually, all three are from brewers in Brooklyn. NYC has a brewing scene in its infancy, so it wasn’t easy picking, but I think I’m representing strongly.


Malt
Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break
Imperial Stout – 9.8%
Ratebeer: 100;100

Last year I lost this category with Even More Jesus. I’m pretty sure I’m just going to bring another Evil Twin beer until one actually wins, because I’m stubborn, and because they have SUCH GOOD NAMES. Also, there’s apart of me which believes that drinking ET beers will magically summon a portal to Luksus, which would be pretty excellent. I made a game time decision between this and Love you With My Stout. We’ll see how it plays out.


Yeast
Grimm Ales Bees in the Trappe
Bier au Miele – 8%
Ratebeer: 82;74

Grimm is a gypsy brewery from Brooklyn. Their beers are consistently interesting and well-brewed. This one is a Tripel, brewed with honey. Largely I picked this one because it’s super small-batch, and it’s something that no one out here will likely get the chance to try. It’s the underdog of the lot, for sure.


Hops
Other Half Green Diamonds
American Double – 8.6%
Ratebeer: 89;47

Other Half is the best new brewery in America, and Green Diamonds is their best beer. This is a resinous double in the vein of Heady Topper. Brewed with Golden Promise malt and Australian Galaxy hops. The only risk here is that the growler I brought is showing its age, but it was counter-pressure filled and I’ve kept it cold, so… fingers crossed.

How did it all play out? Tune in later this evening on Twitter, or later this week right here for the results.

Written by chuck

July 28th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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Chuck Takes Manhattan

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So, I’m home. My epic journey to Europe and back concluded last weekend, but it took me another week to catch up at my day job. Yes, I have a day job. Until you lot pay me enough to quit and swill craft beer full time, I’ll have to occasionally take time out to punch my dot com salt mine timecard.

Where did I go? A lot of places, but let’s keep this beer-themed, shall we? In order to do that, our story begins not in the fabled beer mecca of Belgium, but an awful lot closer to home: New York City. Famed for both its salsa and neurotic filmmakers, the Big Apple is something of a market draw for the regions’ craft beer producers, on account of its being New York Fucking City.

New York itself features relatively few breweries, but the 8ish million residents ensure that there are hundreds of establishments with respectable tap lists. I didn’t have time to visit them all during my two days there, but I did manage poke my head into six, and that’s enough to make broad, sweeping generalizations about the city’s beer scene as a whole.


An approach admittedly just as valid as visiting all the Earls in town then writing up the beer and food scene here.

I generally stuck around Manhattan, on account of my staying there. My buddy Jer (@blprnt) was kind enough to come over the bridge from Brooklyn and lead Sharon and me on a guided tour of decent brew spots, so they’re not exactly a random selection. Therefore, I guess this article beats Googling “bar” for finding spots to drink good beer. Read on for my thoughts.

Black Tree
131 Orchard St
w: blacktreenyc.com — t: @BlackTreeNYC

Tucked into an unassuming snug near Chinatown are some of the best sandwiches you’ll ever have, paired with five tightly curated taps and a respectable east-coast bottle list. I had the Six Point Nelson Sauvin IPA paired with an outstanding pork belly handheld (itself braised with the Six Point). There were no fries served with this sandwich and honestly, I liked it that way. Fries are empty filler and a distraction. Without them, I could give the pig the attention it so richly deserved.

Verdict: Come here and eat the food. Have a pint. Move on.

Top Hops
94 Orchard
w: tophops.com — t: @TopHops

Yes, you read that address correctly. Just across the street (Delancey St, for those crafting a NYC beerourism map at home) lay my next destination. If the theme of Black Tree is delicious, locally sourced food and a welcome environment, the theme at Top Hops is beer: plain, simple and good.

Top Hops both is and isn’t a bar. You see, outside of BC the liquor laws are relaxed enough to allow businesses to blur the lines between different types of establishments a bit. Want to run both a bottle shop AND a bar? Go for it. Sell bottles in the back and pints in the front like Top Hops.

Buy a pint. Buy a bottle and open it to drink there. Or take home. Heck, buy a growler and be similarly flexible with your consumption options. The atmosphere is a bit down scale (it is a beer store, after all), but the beer most certainly is not.

Bottles are organized in fridges based on region of production, with the expected heavy focus on the east coast. Kegs are meticulously maintained and curated, posted on a chalkboard showing all the key beer stats, including when the keg was tapped and when that line was last cleaned.

Verdict: You could easily blow a whole night here, given the vast selection. However, the atmosphere is that of a beer store, and there are very few seats.


Yes, this pic is framed such that you get the impression the stats are more important than the name.
They are. Deal with it.

One Mile House Bar
10 Delancey
w: onemilehousenyc.com — t: @OneMileHouseNYC

Another block, another bar. How about a traditional pub to close out my first night in NYC? No? How about something that looks like a traditional pub but pours 30 taps of outstanding craft beer? Okay, that’s more like it.

The selection was less impressive than Top Hops, but the presence of actual seats capable of supporting your ass off the floor was a huge plus. It’s hard to describe One Mile in a current Vancouver-analogue, but maybe I’ll risk showing my age by saying it reminds me of the old Rose and Thorn (now the Kingston). Nooks and crannies with old, worn seats, and a lively, crowded atmosphere.

One Mile also taught me an important distinction between the beer scenes on either side of the coast. Whereas a bar in Vancouver with this sort of tap list would play up the beer above all else (think Alibi Room or Portland Craft and how you perceive those places), One Mile is a pub that just happens to serve great beer. It’s subtle but interesting.

Verdict: Cosy with comfortable seating. This place does get a bit slammed but, honestly, so does everywhere good in this city. If you can find a seat, hold on to it and stay a while. End your night here like I did, even.

The Jeffrey
311 East 60th
w: TheJeffreyNYC.com@TheJeffreyNYC

Stuck out by the park and want some good beer? The Jeffrey is a short 15m walk away and you’ll be glad you made the trek (or the 3m cab ride). A tiny bar opens to a small room, which opens to a medium sized, private patio. 20 taps showcase local brews but also a few less exotic more mainstream brews (De Ranke, Ommegang, Dogfish Head all are on the current list). Even some Firestone Walker found its way across the US to be poured here.

One thing the Jeffrey is not, though, is cheap. Beers are typically 14oz or 16oz and range from $8 to $10. Throw the unfriendly exchange on the table and you might do a double take at your VISA statement. However, it is absolutely a worthwhile destination for spending a sunny afternoon consuming some great beer.

Verdict: ORDER THE ANCHOVIES. SCREW EVERYTHING ELSE. OH MY FUCKING GOD THOSE ARE GOOD.

Tørst / Luksus
615 Manhattan, Brooklyn
w: torstnyc.com luksusnyc.com t: @Torst_NYC @LuksusNYC

We’ve all been there. You’re at some sort of depressing event out in the boondocks, staring in a cooler brimming with ice water and Molson, wondering to yourself: “What did I do wrong in my life to end up here?” Now imagine the opposite. What did I do right in my life to deserve a table at Luksus? Yes, it’s that good. In short, if the entire NYC leg of this vacation was nothing but skinny jeans and slamming PBRs at stoner art shows, Luksus would single-handedly make the whole thing a win.

Where to start? Out front is probably best, at Tørst. Tørst (pronounced “tirst”–it’s Danish for “thirst”) is the brainchild of Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. Some of you know immediately who that is. Some of you recognize the name but can’t quite place it. Some of you just said it out loud in the style of the Swedish Chef. Jeppe is the guy behind Evil Twin Brewing. His twin brother is the Mikkel in Mikkeller Brewing.

Those are some serious craft beer credentials, and if you’re now expecting Tørst to be epic, you’d be right. The Evil Twin-heavy menu offsets a beautiful, wood clad room seating 45 thirsty beer fans (and no less than 20 beards). Tørst is worth the trip alone, but it’s not why I’m here.

Nope, the reason I’m here is the unmarked white door at the end of the bar. Soon, we will tapped on the shoulder and whisked through that magic door into Luksus, and it will be as if we’re in a different country. Tørst is everything a beer bar should be: busy, well laid out, and bustling with the noisy energy of dozens of conversations. Luksus, is a secluded quiet realm of a dozen seats and a kitchen.


There might have been other people when I was there. I was honestly too distracted by the food to notice, or care.

In that kitchen is Chef Daniel Burns. If you thought Jeppe’s beer cred was impressive, Daniel’s food cred trumps it ten fold. His resume includes stints at The Fat Duck, as head of Momofuku’s food lab, and most importantly time at the widely-reknowned-as-the-best-restaurant-on-the-freaking-planet Noma. And we’re not talking about Noma in the “hey, I might once have been in the kitchen at the same time as “René Redzepi” way that many chefs do. Nope, Daniel built then ran the pastry section there for three years.

The experience that followed was the best meal I’d ever had in my life. The $90 menu and $60 beer pairing price tags can’t possibly prepare you for how extraordinary–how perfect–this meal was. That the flavours paired exceptionally with the dish and the beer was a given, as was the fact that every dish was prepared and delivered with meticulous detail to attention. The aspect that set this meal aside was the character of the dishes. Each course was presented in a way that invited you to explore the dish and combine flavours in a way that, as cheesy as it is, can only be described as fun.

Crack a wafer to uncover the course lying underneath, compare and recombine the elements of your dish a dozen ways, try first one thing and then another with the beer and discover how it changes everything. Above all, talk about the food, the beer and enjoy yourself immensely.

Verdict: The highlight of my NYC trip. Make a reservation today for three months out and do whatever horrible, unspeakably twisted thing you need to do in order to afford it. Although, to be honest, that price for a meal of this quality is basically free.


Also, you can not keep course and pairing notes like the average foodie,
for they give you this awesome card at the end.

Blind Tiger 281 Bleecker St
w: blindtigeralehouse.comt: @blindtigernyc

I’ve written extensively about the Blind Tiger before (BC Craft Beer News, Vol 1 No 4 Pg 10), so go read that article instead of requiring me to just blather on again.

Verdict: A can’t-miss for any trip to the east coast. Unfortunately, the menu was at a low ebb when I was there (in that it was merely great). Two days later it was mostly Maine Brewing Company. Fuck. Guess I have to go back.

Written by chuck

May 13th, 2014 at 2:52 pm

East Beats West

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Have you ever felt so confident of yourself going into a test, or an interview, or a parole hearing, that you almost felt the whole thing to be a pointless waste of your valuable time? Let’s just rubber stamp this thing and get me into a half-way house! Then suddenly, and shockingly, the judge doesn’t believe your story about Jake the Snake accidentally falling on your shiv in the shower and bam!: 2 more years.


What?! This is CLEARLY a toothpick!

You feel shock. You feel confusion. You feel regret, and–above all–you definitely feel like cutting Jake open belly-button to throat. Fucking squealer.

I felt this way last weekend. The dominance of my West vs East showdown was all but assured. Sure, Hopnotist was not quite the Pliny the Elder or Ballast Point Sculpin I was hoping for, but damn that beer is still great. It was a moot point, though, because the battle would be over before we even stripped the 3D glasses off the bottle to inspect the only slightly-3D label.

It was not to be. East won. Not only did East win, but East beat my sure thing. East took down Cascade Vlad the Impaler, and I was left stunned. Oh well, better luck next time, I suppose.

Here’s the winners, round by round, and my take on each of the East Coast beers. For my take on the West Coast contenders, or Jer’s original take on the East-siders, check out my intro post.

Round 1 Yeast
East Beer Captain Lawrence Rosso e Marrone
West Beer Cascade Vlad the Imp Aler 2011
Decision 3-1 vote for Captain Lawrence
Chuck Says Make no mistake, Cpt Lawrence is about the best Oud Bruin I’ve ever had. Smooth complexity breaks through to a mild astringency with a leathery finish on the palate. Low carb adds to the finish. The grapes add a further depth and vinous quality that makes this guy world class.

Is it better than Vlad? No way. Vlad has a million bright fruit and sour flavours rushing at you at the speed of awesome. The high carb takes those flavours and jabs you in the eyes with them until your blinded by funky tastes but you just don’t care. Democracy sucks.

Round 2 Barley
East Beer Evil Twin Even More Jesus
West Beer Hair of the Dog Adam Batch 88
Decision 4-0 vote for Hair of the Dog
Chuck Says I liked Even More Jesus. Not a bad Impy Stout at all, but also not one of the best I’ve ever had. Heck, Singularity 2011 at the next night’s Driftwood vertical was better, IMHO. Adam, on the other hand, was described by more than one person as “perfect.” No contest.
Round 3 Hops
East Beer Maine Brew Company MO
West Beer Parallel 49 Hopnotist
Decision 4-0 vote for Maine
Chuck Says Speaking of no contest… Hopnotist wasn’t my first choice and Maine wasn’t Jer’s first choice. I don’t know why this is the case, though, because this beer was astoundingly good. This isn’t a Pale Ale like it says on the bottle. This is a big, floral, massive hop bomb that somehow still manages to bring a great malt character to the party. Wow. Colour me impressed.

For its part, the Hopnotist had lost much of the hops aroma that I loved about it at first. If it were fully intact, though, the Maine still would have won.

And there you have. That’s how the West… lost? Fuck. On the upside, though, at least I got to drink six really awesome beers… after drinking ten awesome beers… and then twelve more… it was an interesting weekend, to say the least.


Pictured: Best Coast Trophy before I accidentally dropped it in the fire. Oh yeah? I frankly don’t care that you don’t believe me.

Written by chuck

August 1st, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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