Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 50 (Part 1): Andre and Pony P get weird.

Top fifty lists.  Or top ten lists.  Or even top three - like your top 3 three albums of all time - right now - give ’em to me.  It’s not easy to do.  I’ve been there - Thanksgiving eve, fresh from being snuck upstairs to see the second set of a great local band with a new line-up - a few deep on some Mad Elfs and chasing with Pabst in a basement bar (picture me running around in a basement with a guy named Pabst, a stout hairless man with his shirt off, think Iron Sheik meets a bowling ball, chasing stuff, and maybe there‘s a crowd of on-lookers waving cash and placing bets).  The band covered the Lemonhead’s “Drug Buddy” and that inspired me to declare It’s a Shame About Ray (the Lemonhead’s album containing “Drug Buddy”) as a top ten of all time.  To which my friend Andre (yes, I have a friend named Andre, and yes, he is a man that likes a fine lightweight scarf) proclaimed his number one album of all time was the motion picture soundtrack to The Last of the Mohicans.  Starring Daniel Day Lewis.  His defense of this “album” at one point included the phrase - “man, when those violins hit you…I could run up a mountain.”  It was around this time that I noticed a fire in Andre’s eyes that let me know he was serious.  I feared he would punch me in the crotch. 

I was and still am awestruck.  Flabberghasted.   Last of the Mohicans.  Really?  I almost downloaded it on iTunes.  Three different times.  But I don’t have a credit card.  Or any iTunes gift cards.  I am way off the grid.

But top 50 lists, specifically top 50 beer lists, like Andre’s bold pledge of allegiance to Daniel Day Lewis and the stringed compositions that attempt to describe an elk hunt, tend to get my attention.  While out stalking on various social media sites, I came across such a beer list at  The way I look at it, a beer on such a list is a beer worth having. 

I’ve had the opportunity to have more than my fair share of some of these:  Allagash White (a Belgian wit with a slight American twist), Bear Republic Racer 5 (an IPA), Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (a double IPA), North Coast’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Troeg’s Nugget Nectar (a hopped up Imperial Amber), Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous Ale (a black IPA), and Stillwater’s Cellar Door (a saison).

Obviously all of these beers are very good.  The Sublimely Self Righteous, while I wasn’t completely sure about it when I wrote about it here, has grown on me in a big way.  One day I was lucky enough to have a 21st Amendment’s Back in Black, another Black IPA, followed by some Sublimely Self Righteous.  Both were good, but I was quickly falling in love with the Self Righteous.  That night, I had a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, a beer I love, and it seemed mild in comparison to the Sublimely Self Righteous I had earlier in the day.  I was hooked.

Stillwater’s Cellar Door is one that I just had recently, once on tap and then again, with Wife, in a big bottle, at this place called The Mint - a bank that got turned into a gastropub - the beers are kept in the vault!  What I love about this beer is the subtleness of it’s complexity.  It’s a saison, but with wheat and sage.  It has a smoothness and an earthiness that really dance around one another.  Very Last of the Mohicans, in it’s own way. 

There are a few more on the list of the 50 best beers that my good friend, Pony P, and I recently enjoyed at a lovely event called Hoppy Christmas or Very Hoppy Christmas or something like that - you get the idea, right? - and I want to tell you about those beers, I do, but all I can think about right now is the fact that Pony P shaved his beard.  He’s bare faced headed into the height of winter. Clearly, he is not mentally sound, and I have some real concerns.  The fact that he took his dog to sit on Santa’s lap doesn’t not make me feel any better about the whole situation.  The fact that he told me about the whole dog and Santa thing has my bowels all knotted up and shaky.  Pony P has taken this bromance to a level of intimacy that, frankly, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with.

Andre’s listening to movie soundtracks; Pony P is shaving his face and taking his pooch to Santa - what the fuck is going on here, guys?  Does the dog ask for stuff?  I mean seriously!  Keep your weirdo shit to yourself.  I don’t go around flaunting my collection of pictures of animals dressed as doctors.  Nobody wants to see a kitten, or a golden retriever for that matter, wearing a stethoscope and a white coat, looking all George Clooney on ER circa 1995.

Thank You uNatrualInspiration!
Anyway, I found another list, this one is the top 50 American Beers and is based on votes.  I’ve had quite a few off of this list as well, some with the man formerly known as Pony P. 

Oh, and I'm in the process of creating a new list: Top 50 most embarrassing things you can do/say while/after drinking one of the Top 50 beers. 

But I’ll tell you about those later.  Right now, I need to go write “Pony” on some cinder blocks and smash them with a sledge hammer.  Yes, I will wear safety goggles.  And a toga.  And yes, I am gonna grow the fuck outta my sideburns.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My walk, my women, and some holiday beers

 I have a distinct walk.  Or so my parents told me, starting in my teen years.  They said they could pick me out of a crowd from a mile away - just by my walk.  I think it may have had more to do with the fact that I was the one in the crowd with my hair dyed some strange shade, although typically, and parallel to my taste in women, I liked to bounce between very black to very blonde. 

Speaking of my women, since the birth of the Beanpod, my daughter, my life has resembled that of a reality cooking show contestant.  I make meals in pressure packed, time sensitive circumstances with ingredients I am unfamiliar with, go to sleep exhausted, and on occasion have the opportunity to drink a delicious beer. 

My most recent challenge involved a mystery packet of seasoning that reminded me of fajitas when I smelled it.  With some steaks defrosted in the refrigerator, steak fajitas seemed like the logical choice.  Unfortunately, I was sans the necessary vegetables.  The discovery of a can of green enchilada sauce in my pantry and some shredded cheese with a first name of Taco lead me to a nice little medley I called Steak Fajita Taco Enchiladas.  Cinco de mayo en diciembre!

Speaking of December, let’s talk some holiday beers.  There are tons.  I tend to classify them into two categories - you have the spice-heavy and the non-spiced.  Obviously, I consider a holiday beer spiced if it’s brewed with a mix of spices, like clove and coriander and even pepper.  I am generally anti-spice.  It’s not that I don’t like these beers, like Bell’s Winter White Ale or St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, but they are certainly not at the top of my list because I feel like the spice dominates the beer.  And like I just said, I’m anti-spice, unless your talking Dune-House Atreides-Arrakis-Paul Muad’Dib-Sandworm spice, then the spice is king, of course.

Winter Warmers are a style of beer that sometimes are brewed with spices, but generally it is the sweet malty body that you notice more than any spice, and typically you get a little alcohol warmth at the end.  Sam Adams “Old Fezziwig Ale” is a good example of this that I enjoy.  However, some beers labeled as winter warmers can be all about spice, which is not really true to the style, so the category itself can be hit or miss for someone that is not a fan of spiced beers.  This idea gives any beer labeled a “winter warmer” the distinction of being placed in a sub-category in my mind that I call Crapshoot.  I’ll usually only take a chance on one of these if I see it on tap and can have a taste before I order, which, for the record, is a practice that Wife tends to abuse.  I haven’t really said anything about it to her, but I’ve noticed she’ll ask for a sample of a beer she’s already had.  Is she forgetful or frugal?  Will I ever really know?  Can anyone ever really know anything about the elusive enigma we men simply call “Wife”.  Generally, I’m just happy to survive another night next to a mystery that sleeps with a small hatchet under her pillow.  Wife says the handle helps her - it’s for her neck.  I fear it may be for mine.

The non-spicey holiday ales can be all over the place, but I have three in mind that I really enjoy, each pretty standard and easy to find round this time of year, at least round these parts (I mean, I want to blow your mind with some crazy holiday beer you’ve never heard of, but this is only the second holiday season here at Beer on my Shirt, and I want to be honest and give you the beers that I was looking forward to this holiday season.  I am always open to suggestions though).

The Mad Elf (11%ABV) - Troeg’s makes this and it is awesome.  Brewed with honey and cherries, it has a unique flavor that reminds of the time I went to LA after Christmas and drank way too much cough syrup.  Sipping the sizzurp, as they say.  Mad Elf can have a similar effect to the sizzurp, as it is potent and goes down too easy.  It is a go to for me when cooking dinner for the family.  Twenty minutes and dinner is done and I’ve got a sweet buzz after one Elf.  I’m living the dream and ready to listen to an album containing lyrics I don’t really understand but about to have my mind blown by said album because the Elf has prepped my brain for deeper understanding while eating some chicken breast seasoned with herbs de provence - that’s what the Elf does to you, to your soul.

(For those not familiar with the sizzurp and its effect, here at Beer on my Shirt we have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.  And yes, that is working out quite well.)

The above mentioned album was Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks’ Real Emotional Trash, and I had it for about 6 months before I listened to it with the Elf.  I mean, I had enjoyed the album but had very little grasp of the what the hell he was singing about at any given moment.  Two and a half bottles of Elf later and I’m totally sympathizing with the tragic tale of Hopscotch Willie - he was panting like a pit bull, minus the mean.  True story.  And I still love the album. 

Celebration Ale (6.8% ABV)- This one is by Sierra Nevada and it really is the only beer of their’s that I’ve had and love.  It has a little hop bite to it but also has a nice malt foundation to balance it all out.  This is one of my favorites all time, not just holiday time.  One of the best all around American beers I’ve had the pleasure of funneling.  I’m kidding - about the funnel, not the flavor - you must savor this amazing nectar. 

SIDENOTE: I have never funneled a beer in my life.  Pretty sure about that.

Santa’s Private Reserve Ale (6% ABV) - Made by Rogue, this red ale also has some hop to it.  This year, I felt it had a bit more of a metallic/copper taste than I remembered.  I consider this like a little brother to the Celebration Ale, similar characteristics, but this has a bit more pine taste to it that dominates, where Celebration has more of a balance between hops and malt.  Either way, I like it.  Definitely something I’ve drank a few of and would not hesitate to do it again.  And the label has Santa on it.  Sold! 

Also, this beer seems to have a positive effect on mathematical reasoning skills - three of these puppies and I am twice as good at math.  It follows that 6 of these would make me 4 times as good at math.  Now, I’m already pretty mathematically inclined and when you take that raw talent and multiply it by 4 you get…well, you probably wouldn’t be familiar the concepts I was about to reference, so drink a few Santas and get back me.  We’ll hang out and prove some trigonometric identities during commercial breaks while watching one of the 3 NASA channels I get.  And yeah, those are pay channels, bitch.  (Uhm, no sir, they’re not.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's a Process

I sat down to write a post this past weekend, and the sad sack short story below is what came out, about a guy at a bar on Halloween.  It is not very humorous.  However, it seems to be part of the Beer On My Shirt process, so perhaps it belongs; the character is drinking beer after all, although it doesn’t feel as if he is drinking craft beer.  After this, I will be funny again.  So funny, in fact, that you will pee your pants and pass out.  For three months.  And then you’ll wake up frozen to a metal chair.

“How, what, where did the metal chair come from?  And why am I frozen to it?  It’s not even that cold out yet, and how did I get outside even?”

Listen, you’re still inside, Snagglepuss.  While you were passed out, I removed your furniture and replaced it with an interior design concept I’ve been developing using the dollhouses in my attic called “Thanksgiving day kiddie table,” all card tables, metal folding chairs, and paper plates all over the place.  And your frozen to that shit because you’ve been asleep for 3 months, and it’s January now, and your heat never got turned on, and even if it did it would have been turned off anyway cause you lost your job and haven’t paid any bills.  All because my humor made you pee yourself and pass out for three months. 

Now your nervous.  Don’t be.  I’m not that funny.  Here’s the proof: a short story based on the lyrics to a Talking Heads song.  Also, it should be noted that I haven’t shaved in almost a week, I’ve dyed my hair black, I’m wearing a bathrobe and a red beret, and my last three Google searches have been “psycho killer lyrics”, “doc martens“, and “raison d’etre” which is a beer I had by Dogfish Head that I did not care for at the time, a bit too sweet and boozy for me.  It turns out that “raison d’etre” is also a French phrase that means “reason for existence.”  Ironic, because it’s French, not because it works well with the bathrobe/beret motif.  And now, a short story:

Psycho Killer, Qu’est-ce que c’est

The blister is healing nicely.  Just a pink spot on the thumb, an extra knuckle at a quick glance.  And that sums up his night nicely.  Dying, trying, to start a conversation to give the night some rhythm beyond the band playing at the other end.

Having a good time with beers and costumes and a front man so David Byrne and Robert Smith simultaneous and on purpose, but still nothing to say surrounded by acquaintances and friends.  He picks at dry skin around the pink spot on his thumb, mirroring the attempts at small talk.  Quick picks and quips and everyone seems to need to grab another beer.  Nothing is coming up with any meat to it.  His charm carnivorous, his wit blood thirsty, shrivels and shrinks.

The first few lines of All Along the Watchtower come to mind.

He has had rough week or two at work and so this venture out is needed and forced and he feels outside himself watching a man that is quickly realizing he just wants to sleep.  His wife is a few seats down with friends, enjoying the night out, and he loves her so he pushes on as to not bring her down and takes another lap.

Some guy dressed like a generic version of skinny Vince Vaughn a la Swingers dances like a fool and he wonders if he dances like all the time or if it is part of the costume.  That might not even be a costume, he thinks.  He stops watching because something about it makes him angry and directs his attention to the bottle for the rest of the night.

He wakes the next morning, confused by the clock but refreshed.  He has slept in like Saturdays should.  Finally, a late morning - an act of reciprocation from a woman that gets him - and he feels like he has all he needs.  Last night be damned.  The smell of coffee and memories of thoughts of David Byrne flood his senses and he smiles…

Ce que j’ai fait ce soir-la
Ce qu’elle a dit ce soir-la
Realisant mon espoir
Je me lance vers la gloire… OK.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Childhood Realizations: Clearly, I am destined for success

The following tale is one I have heard many times, with ever changing details, but always with the same ending: I was born.  I know, for those that know me, the idea of my birth, and therefore my existence, is quite repulsive.  No offense.  None taken.  But an anonymous reader commented in a previous post that more explanation was necessary regarding the day the exterminator drove me Mum to the hospital.

The fact that an exterminator, and their van, was Mother’s transportation to the hospital is excellent foreshadowing to the fact that I was born with bug eyes and cricket legs.  Luckily, cricket legs can be corrected with metal baby shoes.  Poor decisions during my college years have de-bugged my eyes.

The year is the late seventies.  The location is the American Southwest.  It is summer and it is hot as a motherfucker.  My mother, a former college homecoming queen, and my father, a rogue salesman, are on the run - presumably from my maternal Grandfather, the sniper. 

It’s a Saturday and Mother is at their apartment complex, poolside in a bikini soaking up some well deserved ultra violet rays - she was ten and half months pregnant, after all, and still working 12 hour days at the battery factory.  Father is at traffic school trying to keep a valid driver’s license. 

While rubbing baby oil (a gift that she got at an AA meeting/Baby shower) on her stomach, essentially the roof of my infant pueblo, Mother felt a slight pinch.  Her plan is working.  The title of her plan is “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”  It was officially 182 degrees in her uterus and I needed to get the fuck out. 

She smiled, gave her belly the middle finger, put out her cigarette, and calmly ear-marked her page in the gun catalog she was perusing.  She picked up her bloody mary, dialed it like a phone, and tried to call my father at Traffic School. 

“Goddamn phone company and their shitty service.”

(My parents had no actual telephone.)

Mother, always the resourceful one, got up, walked to the Laundromat on the corner, stole some clothes out of a dryer to put on over her bathing suit and started to walk the 17 blocks to the hospital. 

Five blocks into her birthing odyssey, her water broke and it smelled like shit.  So she turned around and walked back to the apartment complex, determined to steal a car from the parking lot.

Luckily for Mother and her criminal record, there happened to be an exterminator at the complex spraying for roaches.  Classy place. 

The exterminator heard Mother screaming expletives, the likes of which no human had ever heard before (I would rather endure a tornado touching down on my pee hole than even imagine the tapestry of language that Mother would have been weaving at this point in her labor), and offered to take her to the hospital.  So she climbed into the back of the van and laid down among the chemicals.

I believe it was at this point, sensing the 3-ring shit circus I was on the verge of being born into, that I began to slowly work the umbilical cord around my neck.

Father arrived home to find a note that read: “Took your wife to the hospital - the Exterminator.”  (That detail is 100% accurate.)

Father cracked a beer and toked the weed bowl and then headed to the hospital.

Hey, it was the late seventies - it could have been much worse.

While my parents may be displayed in a rather unflattering light above, they did get their shit together and turned out to be pretty great.

Monday, August 1, 2011

IPA's and anniversaries

I recently celebrated the anniversary of my birth along with the anniversary of my union with Wife.  I rented a Cadillac.  And a guy from Montenegro to drive it.  He did an outstanding job. 

Wife and I had some overdone shrimp cocktail at a roof top bar in a bad part of town on the hottest night of the year.  Nothing pisses me off more than overdone shrimp cocktail.

If your going to serve shitty shrimp cocktail you might as well vandalize a baby Jesus manger scene on Christmas Eve.  Or crap your pants while riding overcrowded public transportation.

Is it really vandalism if all you do is surround the baby Jesus with potato salad?  The three kings gave him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Some other guy decided to give him potato salad.  Lots of it.  Seems thoughtful enough.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Listen, it‘s all part of a process, an f-ing artistic process, sometimes I know where it‘s going, sometimes I don‘t.  Sometimes my computer makes backward apostrophes and I can’t figure that shit out either.  Sometimes you smell poop and wings and all I smell is wings.  Explain that.  Everybody makes mistakes.  I‘m done apologizing.”

By the way, frankincense and myrrh are both dried tree sap used for making incense.  Myrrh also makes an excellent glue.  I found this out by googling “gifts for baby Jesus”. 

Over the weekend, in celebration of the day the exterminator drove my mother to the hospital (true story), I tried some different IPA’s and Double IPA’s.  A Double IPA is exactly what it sounds like - a more intense IPA.  Sometimes this is awesome, sometimes it is alright, sometimes it is just too much.  Pretty much every beer I sampled fell in the category of alright, with a few leaning toward awesome. 

My problem with some Double IPA’s is not the hops but more of the extra sweetness and maltiness that goes into it to balance it out.  When done right, at least in my eyes, this can make for a very balanced, delicious beer.  Sometimes, it makes for a very interesting and complex drink that makes you go back for another taste and another and so on.  Sometimes it makes you make a face and think its alright, I have drink it, I don’t hate it, etc. 

Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton is one that falls in the category of interesting and complex.  I’m a big fan of it and I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before.  The balance is great but it has alot going on so I’m putting it in the interesting and complex category.

Port Brewing’s Mongo IPA is very close to being in that awesome category of very balanced, delicious, and very hoppy - in a bright citrus way.  It has a pretty powerful bite at the end that might turn some people off.  It kept me from ordering a second one when there were other options to try.  In hindsight, I should have stuck with this for the night.

Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster was one that lands in the alright category for me because the sweet malt part of this beer was a bit too much.  I would try it again because it wasn’t bad - it actually had a pretty unique hop flavor to it - kind of tropical but bitter.  Wife liked it.

Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA was a single IPA I tried the next day and it was pretty darn good.  Again, a bit too much of a sweet malt taste for I’ve been in the mood for lately but very good and would certainly try this again, but not outside on a 90 degree day. 

It would be safe to say that these IPAs and DIPAs with more of sweet malt flavor to them aren’t exactly ideal for the dog days of summer.  Maybe it’s the copper color usually associated with these malt heavy hop bombs that turns me off when it is 90 plus outside.  Or maybe I’m just partial to beers that are bright yellow regardless of climate.  This explains my fascination with lemon lime Gatorade, urine, the bright yellow house across the street, post-it notes, legal pads (yellow ones), and Uranus.

“I didn’t know Uranus was bright yellow…”

“Like a f-ing highlighter, baby, like a f-ing highlighter.”

Click the links for more detailed info about the beers mentioned.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer of Shirt

Beer on my shirt recently celebrated its one year anniversary.  We threw a huge party in a field next to Union Jacks.  Everyone was invited.  Lots of people showed up.  Coincidentally, Frog Holler was playing in the same field.  Lots of people showed up for them too. 

I started the celebration with a Saison DuPont - a delicious Belgian farmhouse ale that tastes like the end of spring mixed with champagne.  It was $9 and worth every penny.  Don’t worry, I’ll expense it.

When I started BOMS, I had a few milestones in mind that I hoped to reach:
  • 3000 page views by the 1 year anniversary.  Mission accomplished.  This equates to roughly 8.2 page views per day.  Considering that many months I only posted once, I think this is pretty respectable, like my biceps.
  • 100 likes on Facebook.  This did not happen.  Oh well.  Facebook is really difficult to use and I think only about 15 BOMS readers know how to repost a link to their wall.  Of those 15, apparently only 6 care enough to do it.  Of those six, I am related to or sleeping with 4 of them (3 related to, 1 sleeping with (yes Wife, you), to be clear).  Thank you loyal captains of the militia, your free t-shirt is in the mail.
  • Make t-shirts.  This goal was not achieved.  Sorry captains.
  • Learn a lot about beer.  That one is subjective but I feel pretty good about it.
  • Complete my Husker Du discography.  I am half way there.  (Please excuse the lack of umlauts (two dots) over the u’s.)

During the course of the year, I also learned a few very important, but unexpected, lessons:
  • The sound of peeing on dead leaves sounds eerily similar to the sound of an angry rattlesnake.
  • Babies can shart for distance.  Like 10-12 feet.  It is impressive.
  • Don’t even mess with an avocado if you’ve been drinking.  It is not worth it.  They are smarter than you when you’re sober, and will only embarrass you if your drunk.
  • On a related note, you don’t realize what an anchor your left index finger is to your daily flossing routine until you injure it in a late night avocado death match.

It is no coincidence that the BOMS anniversary falls around the beginning of summer.  With that in mind, here are some summer beers that will please the craft beer novice and the beer connoisseur alike. 

Bell’s Oberon Ale is wheat ale with a hop flavor that is more spice than bitter with a slightly fruity cut grass smell that goes down way smooth.  I field tested this with both non-craft beer drinkers and craft beer drinkers and everyone really enjoyed it.  And at 5.8% ABV it has a nice session quality that any summer beer needs.

Magic Hat’s Wacko (4.5% ABV) is a strange one.  It is made with beet juice so it pours almost red and has a sweetness different from most beers.  However, it drinks extremely light and on a hot day goes down more like juice than beer.  I brought a case of this to a party last summer and it was a hit.

New Holland’s Golden Cap (6.25% ABV) is a farmhouse ale, like the Saison DuPont mentioned earlier.  The yeasty flavor gives this American brew a nice Belgian quality but with a refreshing sweetness at the front end.  I really the like the balance between the sweetness and the tartness of this beer - think lemons - with a creamy, dry finish that keeps you thirsty.  I wouldn’t say this is my favorite Saison, but for outdoor summer drinking, this is probably at the top of my list right now.

Victory’s Summer Love (5.2% ABV) is a pretty straight forward beer, which is good.  It has a slight pilsner bite to start, the crisp maltiness of a lighter lager (even though this is an ale), and a subtle floral finish - all in all a nice, easy drinking, summer ale.  I drank a few of these after having a Yakima Glory (which is a delicious option for a rainy summer day - imagine a chocolatey smooth mild IPA), and it brought a more bubble gum creaminess to the flavor that I really liked, but that unfortunately wasn’t there when I had a solo Summer Love last night while grilling dinner.  I have an iPod shuffle for a palate.

And for something a little more hoppy, go for Lagunita’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale (7.5% ABV).  Another wheat ale, the hops are what you notice first, but after a few smooth sips it is the flavor of the beer that takes over and the hops became sweet background music - “Summer Breeze” Seals and Crofts anyone?  A very crisp and refreshing beer with hints of citrus that has a little bit of what everybody is looking for - especially great if your grilling up something spicy, like jerk chicken (what did you call me?), or munching on some habanero mango salsa and chips. 

Boom! I just food paired your ass.  Choreographed intramural high fives all around.

You got a summer fave?  Let me know.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Childhood Realizations: The day I learned to lie.

WARNING!  This post has nothing to do with beer.

My parents are divorced.  They have been since I was very young, maybe 3 or 4 years old.  I lived with my Mom most of the time and was an every other weekend warrior with my Dad.  As a consequence of my broken home upbringing, I spent what felt like 50% of my toddler years either in a car or waiting to get in a car.  This kind of transient lifestyle affords a youngster like myself plenty of opportunities for deep thought - a real chance to ponder the world’s tough questions and figure stuff out.  Or you could fall asleep 5 minutes into every car ride and catch up on some z’s. 

Unfortunately, I never was much of a thinker growing up, I was more into experiences:

“What will happen if I leave this pudding pop on the table? It’s only a vanilla one, let’s set it down and see what happens.” 

“What will happen if I poop while I’m in the tub? The toilet is filled with water, the tub is filled with water, so this seems like the second best place to do it.”

“Is broken glass sharp?  This is followed by the question - why does the juice coming out of my hand not taste like juice?

“Are these Christmas decorations or futuristic space apples? I’m going to bite into one and find out.”

“I wonder what it feels like to sit on my Star Trek bean bag chair naked?” 

(It felt perfect, by the way.)

One day, in the car, going to Dad’s house, I had a thought.  Really, it may have been my first act of imagination.  And it set off a chain reaction of other thoughts:  Okay, so if I tell Dad this, then he will be happy, and then I will probably get some cool stuff, including a maybe a dinner at the Seafood Shanty and the opportunity to play “I Spy” followed by picking a toy out of the wishing well in the lobby and probably Dad will be so happy he will let me pick two even though the sign says “only pick one” which I never understood because it was like bottomlessly filled with toys…

And the thoughts just rolled on and on like the boulders coming at me in the third level of my Jungle Hunt video game.  Incidentally, this particular day represents Day 1 of my neurosis.  Welcome to the show.

As difficult as it was, I broke my deep gaze with myself in the passenger side mirror and decided to share my thoughts with Dad:

“So, I skipped a grade this week.”

This was, and still is, a complete and total fabrication.  My first, in fact.  I was in first grade at the time.  Now, I can’t take credit for birthing that idea on my own - that week someone in my class did skip a grade, it just wasn’t me. 

In my mind, it should have been me and I was a bit hurt that it wasn’t.  Looking back, I believe it was more of a social promotion - the girl was a giant and her boobies were starting to happen.  She was back in like 3 weeks.

“Yup, I’m in second grade now,” I said.

Dad’s eyeballs exploded with joy.  And I don’t remember it exactly but I believe we immediately materialized at Toys R Us.  The plan was working perfectly.

I was allowed to pick out one thing and as I scoured the aisles I came across what appeared to be the Holy Grail of toys: a hobby model that when put together was actually a transformer - transforming from a jet to a robot.  This may sound kind of lame, but in the context of a 6 year old Transformer junkie (you’re a truck, you’re a robot, now you’re a truck again - this is so cool I‘m going to lose my fucking mind!) that enjoyed putting models together it was like getting two toys in one.  Actually, since a transformer technically was already two toys in one, this was like three toys in one.  In my mind, I was beating the system.

When I say that I enjoyed putting models together, understand that at this stage in life, besides transforming things from a robot into something else, building models was a big part of what me and my Dad did on the weekends.  We had model cars, model boats, model planes, and now a model transformer.  It was going to be a good weekend.

My other hobbies with Dad included playing backgammon and walks in the woods.  Turns out a childhood filled with building models, playing backgammon, and nature walks leads to a very smart but socially inept adult.  I would never have predicted that in a million years.

Imagine if I went to an online dating site, posing as a women of course, and listed “building models, playing backgammon, and walks in the woods” as my interests.  Think of all the potential serial killers I would attract.  I’d be the Jodie Foster of online dating.  I should work in law enforcement. 

Anyway, the karmic kick in the teeth was that the toy sucked.  Maybe we went to the Seafood Shanty, maybe we didn’t - I don’t remember - that’s how disappointing the toy was.  But good god, was Dad proud.  It was quite the fantasy world I had created - all of a sudden his boy was a prodigy - something he must have suspected all along because he was pretty easily convinced .  What father doesn’t want their son to be the next Stephen Hawking minus the physically crippling disease?  Well, that was the masterpiece I painted for him, with broad brushstrokes of bullshit all weekend.

But like all things, weekends must come to an end.  And like a dumb ass, I had not even begun to consider the repercussions I was about to face as I walked into Mom’s house with Dad.  A kid that actually deserved to skip a grade would have seen the snake pit I was about to fall into from a mile away.  But I was new to the art of the lie and I was still walking around like a king, head in the clouds, looking for my next castle in the sky.

Then, like a truck load of feces being dumped into the convertible that was my childhood, it all came crashing down around me:

“How about our boy!” Dad said.

There it was.  I was half way to my room with my green suitcase when I heard it and instantly it was blood curdlingly obvious that not only did my scheme have a gigantic hole, but that the hole was just ripped open like a stubborn bag of potato chips.  Potato chips were every where.  How could I be so stupid.

“What about our boy?”  Mom said, with a tone that suggested she knew that her suspicions about my moral compass were about to be confirmed.

“Skipping a grade!” Dad replied.

Mother laughed. 

I sat in my room and chewed off my fingers.

“No, he didn’t,” she said

“Are you sure?  He said…”

“I think I would have been told by the school if our boy had skipped a grade.” 

She had a good point. 

Amazingly, I don’t remember much punishment.  Mom was probably pleased I pulled one over on Dad and Dad was probably still proud as all heck - no longer proud of my book smarts, but proud of my street smarts.  You have to admit - for a first lie, it was a good one.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Free Beer! (The PBS-39 MicroBrew Festival)

A little less than a year ago, I started Beer on my shirt… with the following mission statement:

So the idea is that someone with very little experience in drinking “good beer”, I just so happen to fit that description, starts to explore the world of beer beyond the Millers and the Buds. As of right now, I have very little knowledge about beer but plan on learning as I go and sharing as I learn. From this point forward my beer drinking endeavors will focus on American craft beers or micro-brews along with the occasional interesting import.

Again, that was, and still is, the mission. And it has been a lot of fun learning and sharing - which sounds much more astute than just saying that drinking beer has been a good time. However, behind it all has been one singular and self-serving goal: FREE BEER!

I entered my thirties a few years back with three big goals:

Goal 1: Achieve wedded bliss. I actually checked that one off the list a few days before my 30th birthday with nuptials to Wife. However, it did take a few weeks until I could be certain it was bliss.

Goal 2: Achieve domicile. We bought a house earlier this year. It is still standing and we live in it, so I considered that goal conquered.

Goal 3: Achieve child. Wife and I made a very lovely Baby. She is very smart and strong and is currently preparing for her life as a Maneater/Rich Girl, with repeated listens to the Greatest Hits of Daryl Hall & John Oates.

With this holy trinity of goals achieved, free beer is really the next logical goal to strive for as a thirty-something male that doesn’t shave his face daily. In my forties, I imagine the goal of “free beer” will be replaced with “sports car”.

(Obviously, if I were a daily shaver, becoming the best possible shaver I could be would be the next logical goal, before free beer, for reasons that should be totally apparent (if you’re not convinced of the validity of the “becoming an amazing shaver (if you’re a daily shaver)” over “free beer” argument, see me privately via email or social networking sites). To be clear, this logic does not apply to users of electric/battery powered shaving devices.)

I just went triple parenthetical on all your asses.

Regardless, I am extremely proud to report, that with the help of the Nice People over at Go Indie and the generosity of PBS-39, free beer has been achieved by Beer On My Shirt… in the form of a complimentary VIP ticket to the PBS-39 MicroBrew Festival this past weekend at Coca-Cola Park (home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Phillies.)

Now, I had already purchased 5 VIP tickets before I got the good news, but it was still an exciting day here at the Beer On My Shirt offices. I called my mom. She didn’t answer. She thinks a blog is some sort of swamp/beach hybrid environment or an animal that resides in such a locale.

So I rounded up my posse, because Beer On My Shirt rolls mad deep, and we headed over to Coca-Cola Park. Pony P, Wife of Pony P (also playing the part of designated driver), Jon “Crazy Legs” Fox, Brother Joe, Brother T-bone, and myself, along with 200 other VIP’s, entered the fest, got our tasting mugs, and immediately started sprinting like it was Black Friday back when people had money.

Actually, there was no sprinting. There was no need. Because only 200 people were let in for the first hour, the atmosphere was very relaxed with lots of room to move and time to talk to the brewers and fellow brew drinkers. The VIP tickets were a few bucks more, but in my opinion well worth it, and going forward I will be purchasing VIP tickets to brewfests whenever the option is available.

My first stop was at Boaks Beer, a small batch brewer from New Jersey. They offered a Belgian wheat beer called Double BW, which was very light, refreshing, and with some nice crisp flavors. Everyone I was with had a sample and everyone agreed it was a great start to the day. I stuck around to try Two Blind Monks, a Belgian Dubbel with a subtle combination of tartness and chocolate. I may just make the trip to Stockerton Beverage, one of the two PA distributors listed in their pamphlet, at some point this summer to pick up a case of each of these. Boaks also had an Imperial Stout available, Monster Mash, but it was tough to get a feel for it out of the little sample mug - it had weird combo of heavy flavors and light mouthfeel that I wasn’t a fan of. Overall, my stop at the Boaks’ table was definitely one of the highlights of the day. The Double BW also won the award for the best wheat beer of the fest.

SIDENOTE: For those of you new to reading about beer, “mouthfeel” is exactly what it sounds like - how it feels in your mouth. Feel free, dear reader, to make up an inappropriate sentence to follow that last one. The possibilities are endless.

Next, I had an IPA from Climax Brewing, another brewer out of New Jersey. The IPA had a similar hop flavor as Sam Adams Latitude 48, a taste that reminds me of a stronger version of the quinine flavor in tonic water, of which I am not a fan. The general consensus from my fellow festers was that it was a bit watery. Fans of Latitude 48 should check this out if you have the opportunity.

Overall, the festival was a blast. Things got quite crowded when the masses were let in, which after the wide open spaces of the VIP hour was a little difficult to adjust to. One aspect that I really enjoyed was the inclusion of the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers And Keystone Homebrew Supply - their tables were lined with pitchers filled with homebrews, and while I didn’t get the opportunity to try them all, it was a great experience to talk with the individual brewers about the different flavors and ingredients. Also, I really liked the mix of bigger craft brewers like Victory with the smaller, lesser known, craft brewers from the area, like Climax and Barley Creek - beers that normally I would not have the opportunity to try.

I’d like to say that I learned a lot, but it is difficult to learn when drinking for 3 straight hours. Even when you take notes, which I was - none of which make any sense after about the first 30 minutes. In fact, after minute 45, 3 out of 4 notes were just quotes from the Beer On My Shirt caravan of drinkers:

Somebody: “How did you get that scar on your forehead, Pony P?”
Somebody else: “Yeah P, how did that happen?”
Pony P: “Multiple things happened to my forehead.”

The one major disappointment of the day was the absence of Bear Republic Brewery, brewers of one of my favorites, Racer 5 IPA. They were supposed to be there and I was excited to see what they would bring along, but alas it was not to be. Luckily, there were plenty of other delicious brews to help drown my disappointment.

Here are a few of the other highlights from the day:

  • Victory Brewing’s Yakima Glory. I had this once before and was disappointed. Perhaps it was an old keg or just not what I was looking for that particular night, but at the fest it was delicious. Probably my favorite of the day - a nice balanced IPA with a hint of cocoa. It won best IPA for the day from the judges.
  • Victory Brewing’s Summer Love. Never had this before. A very German tasting ale - similar flavors to a pilsner, but smoother and without the bite. Very enjoyable and a nice change from the flavors of a lot of summer seasonal out there. Also, who doesn’t want an Olivia Newton John/John Travolta duet in your head for the rest of the day.
  • Speaking of tunes, Brother T-Bone got a little tuned and I walked into this: “who is writing these songs, I’d compare it to Wesley Willis - these lyrics are on a whole other level. Wesley Willis does things with words I could never do.” He was talking about how much he likes Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” For those unfamiliar, Wesley Willis penned such hits as “Vultures ate my dead ass up”, “I whupped Batman’s ass”, “The Chicken Cow”, and “Rock n Roll McDonalds”. Now, I am not trying to pass judgment on either Willis or Adele (I‘m not a fan of either), but rather on T-Bone’s comparison of the two. The mind of a genius works in mysterious ways.
  • The Ship Inn. Very English tasting ales that were very well done. I usually don’t enjoy too many English Style Ales but their Killer Bee Pale Ale and Best Bitter were both very drinkable and delicious in an understated sort of way. They are located in Milford, NJ and I plan on making the trip at some point this summer. They were super nice, too.
  • Round Guys Brewing. I had a 5 different beers at this table and they were all delicious. They are hopefully opening a tasting room in Lansdale, PA soon. Their Doppel Sticke Alt and Fuzzy Muttness Stout were definitely among my favorites of the day.
  • After the fest, we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I ordered chips and salsa and 2 entrees (I was hungry). The waitress said if I could eat all that she would buy me desert. Yadda yadda yadda - I ended my day with free ice cream.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Best Beer Day Ever Part 2: ?????

After a nice little Saturday afternoon at Monk’s Café with Brother Joe, which you can read about here, I headed up 95 to pick up Wife and load the car full of baby gifts.  Once the car was loaded, I handed Wife the keys and we headed to the turnpike to take us home. 

I was asleep within 10 minutes of Wife putting the car into gear.  Not that I was that tired, it is just how my body and mind deal with the absolute horror that is Wife driving on the turnpike.  She hits that cruise control button and the shit show begins.  Me falling asleep is merely a proactive passenger strategy I refer to as defensive napping.

After a hard break followed by the unnatural acceleration indicative of Wife driving using only the buttons on her steering wheel - pedals are way obsolete - I was awake and pleasantly surprised by two things: 

1.  We were alive.
2.  We were only five minutes from our exit. 

I brought up the idea of dinner and again was pleasantly surprised when Wife agreed with my suggestion of the Tap and Table.  We’d been there several times before, I even wrote about it here, and it was starting to be a little hit or miss, leaning more toward the miss side lately.  But I saw somewhere, maybe Facebook, that their beer list had been updated and that they were doing more customer feedback stuff so I figured it was worth another try.

My meal was awesome and Wife’s was alright but it doesn’t really matter because I heard through the grapevine that the place closed - but I am glad our last trip there was a pleasant one.  I am going to miss that place.  I wonder what happens to all the beer in their coolers? 

From what I understand, the owners also have The Bookstore in Bethlehem,  the Fork and Barrel, and the Farmer’s Cabinet, both located in Philadelphia.  From what I’ve read, it appears the Fork and Barrel has also closed but the Bookstore and the Farmer’s Cabinet remain open.  The Farmer’s Cabinet has a nano-brewery, in other words - a very, very small brewing operation - run by this guy, Terry, who used to brew for Bullfrog Brewery - an awesome brewpub, from what I’ve heard, in Williamsport, PA, and I really look forward to a trip to both Bullfrog and the Farmer’s Cabinet, hopefully this summer.

But back to the beer in the Tap and Table’s now warm coolers, because they had some great ones in there:

I started my meal with  Bell’s Hopslam Ale (10% ABV), a seasonal double IPA offering from Bell’s that I’ve read is so hoppy my mouth may just go numb.  It was very hoppy but not obnoxious.  My mouth did get a serious tingle from the first sip, but not quite numb.  Perhaps I should have rubbed it on my gums?  What?  But it was a pretty tasty double IPA, nicely balanced, with a crisp finish.  The taste had hints of grapefruit, flowers, honey, and just a bit of pine and there was a very drinkable quality to this beer that really hid the high ABV.

Bell’s Expedition Stout (10.5% ABV) was on tap, and even though it was a bit out of season, I had never had it on tap so I knew I wanted to finish my night with one of those.  You don’t go questing for a beer all winter and then pass it up when it’s on tap right in front of your face.  So while I would have loved to have another Hopslam or two, I knew I needed to start transitioning a bit from one flavor profile to the other so I could enjoy my draft Expedition Stout properly. 

Also, if you drink 10% beers all night you might pee yourself, or worse, say something so hilarious yet so wildly inappropriate that you get banned from said establishment.  Which has never happened to me, by the way, but I really do feel that I am one night of drinking 10% ABV beers away from something exactly like that happening to me.  I’ve been asked to leave enough campfires to know I’ve got it in me.  Apparently, Mennonites are a touchy subject in my town.  Someone could have told me that before I decided to combine the words slut, whore, Mennonite, and bitch one night many moons ago. 

First rule of comedy: know your crowd.  Second rule of comedy:  post-college-feminist-Mennonite-wannabes have no sense of humor and on top of that, they don‘t understand the concept of an inner monologue.  Or perhaps I don’t entirely understand the concept of an inner monologue.  Either way, the tofu dogs we were grilling should have clued me into the fact that I was not at the right party for a tale of Mennonite promiscuity that ended with me being rejected and angry about it and without my wallet.

“What did you just say?”

“And to top it off, the bitch stole my wallet”

“What? That’s ridiculous, you gotta go.”

“Seriously, over that?”

“Just because a woman rejected you makes her a slut, a whore, and a bitch?”

“Don’t forget Mennonite.  She also stole my wallet. True story.”

That was also the night that I’m pretty sure Wife fell in love with me.  (The true story is I went to the local hardware store, held the door for a Mennonite chick, I said “Hello”, she said not a fucking word, not even thank you for holding the door, and then when I went to pay for the six nails I was buying I realized I had left my wallet in my other leather pants.  Unfortunately, this is not the version of the story I told to the fem-bots roasting testicles around the fire.)

Perhaps I would have been better off doing the bit where I claim that my feet never smell no matter how hot or sweaty I get.  At which point I remove my shoe and sock, smell my own sock and then attempt to smell my own foot - however, I feign inflexibility and appear unable to get my nose close enough to my foot to get a good whiff. 

“Go ahead, take a whiff, it’s amazing - they never smell”

“Alright, let me smell it”

“Go for it.”

“Oh no, they kinda smell, actually they really smell bad.”

“That’s weird, they never smell.”

(I'm really sorry Rachel, you were the last person on Earth I thought would actually volunteer to smell it - I was aiming for the cousin that looked like Corey Feldman with a beard.)

Okay, enough about my great material for Last Comic Standing, back to the beer I was drinking to help transition from the Hopslam to the Expedition Stout.  After finishing the Hopslam, I ordered a Lefebvre Blanche de Buxelles (4.5% ABV) - a Belgian White beer similar in style to the Allagash White I’d drank earlier in the day at Monk’s Café.  I knew, after the Hopslam, this would pretty much taste like water - I had this before and it’s pretty good, a good session beer as it goes down very easy, but it seems a little bland compared to the Allagash White or the Avery White Rascal (another great American Belgian Style White beer, but with a bigger flavor profile than the Bruxelles or the Allagash, in my opinion).  Regardless, it went great with the mussels I had for dinner. 

With my palette pretty much cleansed, I wanted to venture into something a little darker.  I found a Scotch Ale on the list by Dark Horse Brewery called Scotty Karate (9.75% ABV), apparently named after a local one man band, Scotty Karate.  The beer was a dark brown, with a tan head and a dark fruit booze aroma.  It was very smooth to drink, with a low carbonation, and had a malty flavor with hints of caramel and cherry, although it was not as sweet as it smelled, which was a plus.  There was a faint, faint hint of the booziness flavor that I smelled with a surprise suggestion of chocolate or cocoa toward the finish.  Overall I was really surprised by how much I liked it, as I had never tried a Scotch Ale before.  However, I have read a few reviews that suggest that this may not be entirely true to the style of a Scotch Ale.  Whatever - it was really, really good.

I finished the best beer day of my life with an Expedition Stout from the tap.  And damn that beer is like a punch in the tongue.  It’s like that Uncle that puts you in a headlock the second he sees you and noogies the hell out of you, sometimes too hard, but you never let on that it sort of hurts, because you’re 22 years old dammit and noogies aren’t supposed hurt a grown ass man - so you pretend to laugh so hard while your in that headlock, like your Uncle’s armpit is playing Eddie Murphy’s Raw as an in-flight movie, so that when you finally earn your release, the tears in your eyes require no explaining.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Best Beer Day Ever Part 1: Monk’s Cafe

I am now a father.

I have a baby daughter.

Beer, please.

Becoming a parent is something that is difficult to put into words. Think about your darkest days, when your pain seemed to have the power to sink continents and destroy planets. Now imagine the exact opposite of that - a feeling of elation that is strong enough to, well, un-sink continents and create new planets. Now multiply that feeling by the largest number you can think of, or the largest number that one of your smart friends could think of. That is the feeling of becoming a parent, or a least an oddly represented approximation. And then you get tired as hell. And writer’s block. And a weird mole removed.

I’d tell you more about Baby, like her name and her stats - but she asked me to be vague to protect her privacy - and I will respect her request because she is quite strong and has a wicked temper.

I can tell you that she is really smart, has no eyebrows, is probably going to be really fast, and has the potential to hit for power. She is currently on pace for 47 stolen bases and I’m thinking her ceiling this season is around 25 home runs, assuming she gets regular at-bats (fantasy baseball clearly plays too prominent of a role in my life). Baby loves the J. Mascis acoustic album. And as I write this, she is workshopping a blog entitled “Outta my face, Bitchlips!”. Wife, who now also goes by Baby Momma, is against this title for reasons that are not entirely clear.

But enough about the baby, let’s talk about where the action really is - the baby showers. That’s right - showers - as in more than one. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the beers I drank during the first shower and only give a quick mention to the drinking that occurred during shower #2:

Shower #2 happened in Bethlehem, PA, and I spent a majority of that shower down the street at the Bethlehem BrewWorks. I don’t really remember too much about what I drank other than that I enjoyed it and that Brother Joe spilled a beer on our Aunt. I look forward to returning to that fine establishment.

Now back to Shower #1, which was held in Langhorne, PA. The day of Shower #1 turned out to be one the best beer days of my life. After I dropped Wife off at the shower location and sampled some sort of meat and cheese ball finger food, I headed down to center city to meet up with Brother Joe. He lives right around the corner from Monk’s Café, considered to be one of the best beer bar’s in America. It was the first time for both of us - Brother Joe had tried to go there before but apparently it was closed for awhile because it got hit by a bus.

Monk's, after colliding with a bus.

Monk's is awesome. I started with an Allagash White (5% ABV and 100% wind generated electricity) because they had it on tap and it is a beer I had been wanting to try - also it paired well with the great spring weather that was happening outside. Allagash White is, duh, a white beer or witbier, which means it is an unfiltered, cloudy beer - clouds are white, hence the name white beer - similar to a Hefeweizen but with more of a flavor twist. I believe Blue Moon is considered a white beer, to give some context to those of you new to craft beer. The Allagash White was very tastey with nice subtle hints of orange, a note of spice and even a little, just a little, bitterness - and that is without adding any orange slice to the beer. It was a much lighter beer than what I usually drink but I really enjoyed it and ordered another.

Sidenote: I have since had the Allagash White in a bottle and was not as thrilled, actually a little disappointed - perhaps the bottle wasn’t fresh or maybe just not what I was looking for that day. Another good white beer to try is the Hitachino White, from Japan. I had this at a sushi place and was surprised with a bit of a different flavor profile than some white beers - very crisp and clean with a mellow fruit flavor that I have read some describe as pear. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t had a pear in about 25 years. Because they are awkward to hold.

Back at Monk’s, Brother Joe and I had some delicious burgers and a strange conversation with the bartender about the evils of iTunes. Then I went for a Mikkeller 10 (6.9% ABV), on tap. Mikkeller has been doing a series of single hop IPA’s and Mikkeller 10 represents a culmination of sorts for the series, making an IPA with 10 hop varieties rather than just one.

For those not in the know, a lot of IPA’s are made with different combinations of hop varieties (the hops are generally what give IPAs the bitterness and either citrus, pine, or floral aromas and tastes that are the calling card of the IPA). For example, Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA is brewed with only Simcoe hops. The Southern Tier 2XIPA is brewed with 4 hop varieties - not sure which ones exactly - but whatever combination they are using it is mighty tastey.

So the concept behind this Mikkeller series is pretty intriguing and it would be pretty interesting to try #1-10 in a tasting and pick out the nuances of each different kind of hop, but I only had #10 at my disposal so I went with it. It was copper and hazey in the glass, with the most prominent flavor being a sweet fruitiness and some pine, with a caramel-ness in their as well. It reminded me a more mellow Double Simcoe, because of the sticky sweetness. It was good and I’m glad I tried it because it was different than most IPA’s I’ve been drinking lately.

From here, Brother Joe, who had been drinking Racer 5 IPA, took me back to his apartment and gave me a tour, the highlights of which were his elephant painting, walk-in closet/kitchen, and his collection of Vonnegut books. Pretty cool place - both his apartment and Monk‘s Cafe. We said our goodbyes, I forgot to give him the mix CD I’d made, and I headed back up 95 to load up the spoils of Shower #1.

Now, while an afternoon with Brother Joe at Monk’s Café would be a great day on its own, trying two new beers hardly constitutes the best beer day ever even in the short history of Beer on my shirt, so obviously, there is more to this wonderful day of baby showers and beer…

Coming Soon: Best Beer Day Ever Part 2: ?????

Available now: Brother Joe's Electronic Diary Elephant on Fire

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What I’ve been drinking lately...

Wife will birth Child in approximately 2 weeks, our first. We’re ready. On a totally unrelated note, my beer consumption has gone up “slightly“.

If my fridge were a hotel for beer it would be a motel (hotel motel holiday innnnnnnnn) - one of those pay by the hour places with too many mirrors. And not because my fridge is sleazy (click here if your looking for something cheap and sleazy). The beers check in, and then just like that, they check out, and all the rooms are empty and my childhood nightmares as a failed inn-keeper rise to the surface. My eyes get wet and shiny, and Wife strokes my hair while she asks if I need to go to that special hospital for overly self-absorbed idiots to get my prescription filled. That special hospital she is referring to is called Wegman’s, a fancy grocery store for yuppies that drive cars that fly and other fancy non-American auto-craft, and the prescription that needs filling is good beer, of which Wegman’s offers an alright selection of six packs and bombers. I consider myself an aspiring yuppy, perhaps even nouveau-yuppe, for those of you that speak French or have read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

One beer I have been enjoying lately is Southern Tier’s 2XIPA (8.2% ABV). The label says double IPA, but it drinks awfully easy, like a good single IPA. The beer is pretty yellow coming out of the bottle with a hop taste that is more citrus than pine, and a finish that is real easy and clean with a nice malt balance. Not that this beer is anything that blows your mind, hops or flavor, but it is just a solid, balanced, tasty IPA that doesn‘t destroy your palate, in other words - doesn’t make my dinner taste weird. It has been my “one and done” beer after work this past week and it has been a good week.

And now a quick side story on the first time I tried Southern Tier’s 2XIPA that I will start at the end and work towards the beginning (because somebody has been watching Christopher Nolan movies):

I was already bit buzzed (white people talk for “drunk at dinner”) but wanted to finish the night with something hoppy - a bookend to the wings I started the night with and the mussels I was still enjoying. The tap list at Union Jack’s had 3 IPA’s, 2 of which I already had (not this particular night), only one of which I really enjoyed, so I went with something new.

This something new turned out to be Southern Tier’s 2XIPA. It was exactly what I was looking for. There is no better feeling than satisfaction, with one exception - the absolute best feeling is waking up from a dream starring someone that you haven’t seen in way too long - someone that you’ve almost forgotten just how much you miss them. They visit in a dream and you talk and hang out and it is just like things would be if things had turned right instead of left at those big moments that have gotten to where you are right now. And you wake with a pure smile and a warmth independent of reality, independent of happy or sad that can only exist while you cross that fuzzy bridge between asleep and awake. Later in the day, this dream will make you think some version of “Goddamnit” - happy that you had it, sad that it ended, maybe a little angry at your not sure what.

(Dreams like this and impending births have slowed my beer blog mind to crawl, prompting me to consider starting both “Dream on my shirt…” and “Birth on my shirt…” blogs.)

I had a dream like this a few weeks ago. Oddly enough it occurred almost exactly one month after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. More importantly, I had a beer like this to start the night at Union Jack’s: Stone’s 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale.

The story behind the Stone’s Vertical Epic Ale’s is worth mentioning. Each year they make a bottled conditioned beer - basically meaning your supposed to put it on a shelf and let it age - with the goal of opening one from each year sometime after December 12th, 2012, and then enjoy them in a vertical tasting comparing them to one another. A pretty cool idea that you can read more about that at the Stone website. The 09.09.09 is a Belgian porter with spices, a style of beer I had never tried before. I’ve also read it referred to as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, of which the only other I’ve drank of that style is the Troeg’s Mad Elf, a sweet honey and cherry holiday ale that I really enjoy. I would not compare this to Mad Elf at all other than that they are both beers you must try if given the chance.

The Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic (8.6% ABV) was maybe the best beer I’ve ever had. At first glance it looked and smelled like a Russian Imperial Stout (I‘m planning a future post about those types of beers, hopefully very soon). It had hints of chocolate, coffee, maybe even a toffee sweetness or dried fruit. It reminded a lot of some of the stouts and porters I had been drinking this winter in that it seemed to possess all of their good qualities with out any of the negatives. The hop balance was great for the flavor, not overpowering like some of the stouts that try and get hoppy, and the roastiness of the malt just sealed the deal. Absolutely superb. I said some version of “Goddamnit” after every sip. This beer was so good I ordered another, and then another. And I never play three of kind when I’m a place with a crazy selection.

Now for the bad news. Good luck getting it. It is no longer brewed. After reading about the beer, I was even more impressed that Union Jack’s had it on tap in 2011. Now that I think about it, I probably shouldn’t have told you about it. What a dick move on my part.  My bad.

Now for some more bad news - I tried Sam Adam’s Latitude 48 IPA at a crowded indoor beer event. It was rather off-putting, the beer and the event. In fact, the Latitude 48 was oddly terrible. I didn’t bother finishing my 5 ounce sample. That’s right, I poured it out. And I’m not a Sam Adam’s hater.

In order to close on a positive note, I will mention Troeg’s Nugget Nectar - their current seasonal. It is a hoppy imperial amber ale that is pretty tastey and great with the Spring weather. If you see it on tap, order it and tell them Beer on my shirt sent you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aloha Toilet! A beer tasting with friends from Hawaii.

Many years ago, my good friend, the BZA and I were having a heated argument over milk, his use of the term “Vitamin D Milk” as opposed to “Whole Milk,” when he stormed out of his apartment and never returned.  It’s ridiculous really, because all milk has Vitamin D in it - so calling it Vitamin D milk isn’t being very specific, now is it?  And since when do we name things by their vitamin content - “Vitamin C OJ” just sounds silly - is there a milk that exists without Vitamin D? - that would be the only way I would concede this argument. 

I later learned that he moved to Hawaii to end a separate feud that had been brewing for some time between he and Dog the Bounty Hunter.  You see, what had happened was that both the BZA and I had sent the Dog self-addressed stamped envelopes in hopes of getting a signed photo in return.  We were 26.  Months passed and no photo came.  The BZA had a reputation of fighting injustice and the BZA had had enough, rightfully so.  The Dog essentially had stolen from us - our stamps, our envelopes, our innocence - the BZA had gone to take them back - take them all back.

So this past October, after about 5 years, the BZA and his family were finally making a trip back to the Mainland.  It was like a reunion show of  your favorite sitcom - like that season of Curb - only better because we were the stars.  The plan was as follows - Pony P and I were going to meet up with the BZA on a Thursday night, have a little beer tasting party with choices selected by yours truly, and then Friday we were headed to NYC with Fox and the Mrs. BZA for a nice day of getting the old gang back together.

I went to Wegman’s and thoughtfully selected a mix of different brews.  I started with Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton. I had recently had this and really enjoyed it and thought that while it may be a little intense for someone not accustomed to the craft beer world, it was a must try.  I then went for Stone’s Arrogant Bastard, another intense beer but still something that I thought was a must try and would make for interesting comparisons to the Burton Baton.  Unfortunately for us, there was no Arrogant Bastard to be found on the shelves, only the Double Bastard.  I threw caution to the wind and got that instead even though I had never had it. 

My next thought was to stay in the realm of hoppy beers but take it down a notch from the Bastards and Batons and just get a regular IPA.  I went with Blue Point’s Hopitical Illusion, for several reasons: I had tried a few other Blue Point brews and found them all to be respectable and tastey, I wanted to get an IPA that I hadn’t yet tried myself, it was brewed in New York - which was the state we were headed to the following day, and it had a catchy name.  Finally, this beer tasting was happening in the state of New Jersey so I wanted to represent the Garden State and did so with some Flying Fish Oktoberfish.  I had read some mixed reviews on this, but wanted to give it a try and also wanted to have a non-hoppy option just in case.  With the beers for the tasting purchased, I picked up Pony P and we headed east.

Now here it must be stated that I am creature of habit.  Also, it should be stated that I am used to driving alone.  One of my habits that I partake in while driving alone is my morning ritual of eating a Sargento Mozzarella Cheese Stick on the way to work - I call this particular ritual “Italian breakfast”. 

Once the cheesestick is consumed, a second ritual commences which involves me folding the cheesestick wrapper in fours, a quad-fold if you will, and then tucking said quad-folded wrapper into the rim of my cup holder.  Over time, as my quad-folded garbage collects and eventually completely surrounds my cupholder (forming a perfect circle of morning memories, which I lovingly refer to as my crown of cheese wrappers), a third ritual is set into motion in which I must stop at Dunkin’ Donuts after work for an iced coffee and a turkey bacon cheese flat bread sandwich.  This third ritual’s impact on my life is two-fold - it rewards me for my accumulation of evidence of healthy snacks, and therefore healthy living, as well as provides my with a bag (the same bag that my flat bread sandwich came in) to transport all of my cheese wrapper trophies from my car to the garbage can in my kitchen.  I once tried this maneuver without said bag and it was disastrous - you have no idea how much potential energy exists in a perfect circle of quad-folded plastic.  There were cheese wrappers everywhere.  Now the only reason I tell you this is because on our way to the BZA, Pony P accidentally unleashed some of this fury by bumping my cupholder.  Once again, there were cheese wrappers everywhere, the order of the universe was disrupted, and we immediately hit stand still traffic on I-78.  Nice Job Pony. 

Eventually we made it to the BZA, and beer drinking began.  We started with Stone's Double Bastard Ale (11.2% ABV) - an American Strong Ale.  It was potent - boozy, hoppy, and almost syrupy with the sweetness of caramel.  The low carbonation and sweetness was slightly off putting after a few sips.  Not quite what I hoping for considering the absolute joy that Stone‘s Arrogant Bastard had provided me with.  Apparently, we were not worthy - not that we despised it or anything, but no one wanted a second pour. 

Next we went for the Dogfish Head's Burton Baton (10% ABV).  This is just delicious.  Dogfish takes their 90 Minute IPA and then separately brews an English style Ale and then they mix the 2 together and let it age and an oak lined tank.  This creates a nice hoppy, complex flavor that you would never think is 10%.

With a nice buzz starting to happen and the conversation flowing, we cracked open a few Hoptical Illusions by Bluepoint Brewing(6.8% ABV).  This was like child’s play after the Double Bastard and Burton Baton.  It went down real easy, which was the desired effect I was looking for.  Everyone enjoyed this - nice and hoppy with enough of a crisp citrus flavor and pine smell that it still had some bite on our washed out palettes. 

By the time we got around to the Flying Fish's Oktoberfish (5.5% ABV), it just didn’t have enough going on to even register with us.  In hindsight, we should have started with this first to give it a chance.  I did try it again a few weeks later and it was okay.  Nothing great, very malty, but I’m not that big of a fan of Oktoberfest style beers, not yet anyhow.

So we called it a night.

The next morning, I woke up sore form sleeping on a couch and with a substantial headache.  Whatever.  I drank a coffee, took shower, and we all prepared to leave for NYC.  Usually a shower and a coffee is all I need to get moving.  However, this particular morning, moving was getting more difficult with each passing minute.  So I asked BZA for some Tylenol or something.  He offered Excedrin.  I passed.  Then another minute went by and I changed my mind and took 1 Excedrin.  This was a bad choice.

About five minutes passed while we waited for Pony P to detangle his pony tail and velcro up his shoes.  During this five minutes, my body began the rather quick process of rejecting itself and all things inside it.  My nose started running.  My palms started sweating.  My heart stared to dribble my stomach like a basketball.  Like all things, this too shall pass, but I thought it might be best to let it pass in the bathroom. 

Just as I got to the toilet, my face exploded into a raging river of brown demon juice.  So this is projectile vomiting, I thought.  If Craig T. Nelson in Poltergeist 2 had sex with Niagara Falls, I was their baby.  But as quickly as it started, it was over.  About 7 seven seconds and 17 gallons of hate later and I felt pretty good all things considered.  I had managed to get most of my event into the toilet, but their was some minor residual damage - so I wiped that up with a paper towel, threw it in the toilet and flushed one last time for good measure.  And then it happened - the toilet malfunctioned.  Once again, it was me versus the toilet, a battle I had been fighting and losing since a very young age.

The water kept rising.  I said a prayer. 

The water stopped with about a centimeter to spare.

Disaster averted.

I breathed a huge sigh relief and looked for a plunger.  And then my stomach did a somersault.  I knew that feeling - like my bowels were about fall out of my body - and I knew I had maybe five minutes to get this toilet situation straightened out so that I could sit down on it and put it to use. 

And then a knock at the door, perhaps it was a toilet angel?  Nope, it was Pony P.  I opened it and asked where the BZA was.  Pony P said BZA was outside.  I told Pony to please go get the BZA as we had a slight situation.  The BZA arrived promptly and we examined said situation.  I explained what had happened and what was about to happen.  His advice - “Just flush it again, It’s a Kohler.”  It was, so I did.  Those commercials are complete bullshit.

The toilet overflowed.  BZA ran out of the bathroom to find a plunger and a mop.  I simply ran out of the bathroom and shut the door.  I waited for the BZA there.  He came back and handed me the necessary tools and I went to work.  I plunged, I mopped, I did a test flush, and then I punished that toilet with everything I had. 

I looked bad and I felt even worse.  My shirt was heavy and there was a little bit of vomit on my shoe.  And a day trip to NYC was on the line.  So I drank a root beer, took some Imodium, and got in the car knowing that the worst case scenario was that I would feel like hell the whole trip and probably crap my pants while passing gas and have to overpay for new pants and underwear in Manhattan. 

Luckily for all involved, I gradually felt better and eventually even had some beers - I started with a Brooklyn Lager.  I do not like this beer.  Does anyone?  People must, because it for sale all over the place in New York.  Then we found a place that had Arrogant Bastard, and that made everything right in the world. 

A great time was had by all - we had some great food, some not so great food, and I got Wife some knock off purses.  I miss my Hawaiian friends.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Big Honor, Big Merit, Big Can, Big Sur...Narragansett

I am currently reading Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, which I realize might be slightly cliché but I am a big fan of some of his books, not necessarily the obvious ones but maybe, and I have always wanted to read this one and just never got around to it.  So I am finally getting around to it and in honor of my experience with the book I am writing this post in the style of the Big Sur/Kerouac (specifically, that is very long sentences with lots of commas and dashes, few periods, and some parenthesis and mumbo jumbo every once and awhile).

The alley wind is against me, dark and downhill, whistling memories, and I smirk and squint me way to Steve’s house to meet up with Henry the Third, who is actually only a second!, for some dice games, beers, and dark one-liners that manage only to brighten the soul - “Nice shirt, Paul Bunyan” - and the ladies are asking “what’s everyone laughing at” - Another roll of the dice and Henry continues to lose, but only at dice, because as his turn ends and Steve’s turn begins  -- and turns are taking turns in every small college town during the off season (which is the season when the streets get calm and lamps get brighter and sidewalks seem a little wider - for the old heads, anyway - so Henry takes a little longer running to his car) -- he is like Father Christmas with a holiday five pack of some beer that moves around in tall cans with words like honor and merit being projected from the cans and the table we are sitting at, rolling dice, drinking beers, and “so what is new in New England” -  “Narragansett” the ironic beer of choice for hipsters and those aspiring to be, like Pabst but regional and not as tasty - “but it’s good, like a cheaper version of Yeungling Lager” - and Steve may have spit a little at that line, “People with beards or moustaches (and sometimes both) drink this all time in Amherst” - A can gets cracked and it tastes like sparkling factory water after the Bell’s Amber I had started the night with (which was no Asian princess, or anything memorable for that matter, the Amber, not the night), I look again at the can and pronounce like I am reading from stone tablets “Made on Honor, Sold on Merit, LAGER” and realize that this can has a look, a look that makes me want to put my scarf back on, a look that makes my hand look like Pacino’s in that movie where his dad is fat and dies and he gets real powerful, a look that I will remember when I am moaning into my pillow begging pregnant Wife to get me some Advil, a look that while I may curse the pain I will still think “well, that’s a good looking can” - And a good looking can it was, tall with slogans, like a picture of a Russian soldier next to a war poster circa 1945.

The cans looked so good I was saving them for New Years because half the point of drinking Narragansett is that somebody sees you drinking Narragansett, this is not sit at home and sip beer unless you are snapping pictures with your phone of your hand holding a Narragansett can with your other hand and then uploading for all your friends to see - Regardless! - Henry would be gone by then so bringing in the new year with beer from Henry was as close to bringing in the new year with Henry as I was going to get - So Wife and I walk to a party thrown by some of the local misfits, keeping up the proud tradition, and things start off slow - there were orange suede shoes, tin foil shirts (actually, only one), and at one point a pair of Asian girls giggling in the corner - the lighting, not the Asians, made it feel like this party should have had some karaoke, but it didn’t which made me realize this party was the exact negative of the party scenes from Lost In Translation, which would explain the absence of Bill Murray - who I love - and Scarlett Johansson - who I believe, yes!, I love more than Bill Murray - but the margin is slimmer than even I may assume - either way, the ball has dropped and Wife kissed and the can is in hand and my hat and scarf are on because the theme of the party is Euro-Trash and the house itself is rather cold, although not as cold as my first sip - no, it was a ggguullppp - of beer for the new year -- a pale yellow universe with spheres of clear crisp worlds that house more pale yellow universe filled with smaller spheres of clear and as the night, and the can, moves on and down those round worlds of yellow clear get smaller and smaller, one inside the other until on one of those spheres is a house with a party and a chair and a man sitting there so small sipping even smaller yellow universes (un-inverses) with even smaller clearer spheres to the point that on the last sphere exists the last house with the last party and chair and that last man is so small that life and space and time are created new with every blink - because that is how small his eyes are - explosions of new everything, not just new year, to fill the nothing that wasn’t there for the millions of years it took for tiny eyelids to crash together.

It’s getting late and I’m talking to a rockstar about the secret art space and asking if an old friend had a good time last time he was there - I was told he did - and I was paid some nice compliments to start the new year and was asked about what I was drinking and I showed and told them “It’s New Years - does it matter if it’s good?”

Monday, January 31, 2011

Beers that taste like chocolate

Welcome to Beer on my shirt… 2011! It has been a busy January so far with buying a house, my first, and the subsequent packing of possessions, moving possessions, and unpacking possessions. Also, with the completion of my epic beer quest, I am left unfocused and without direction in regards to my beer drinking (new readers can click here for that back story and then here for my mo-fackin’ mission statement). If there has been one commonality worth writing about in the past month it would be the beer or two I have had that taste like chocolate - which in the winter months is like a two birds-one stone sort of thing - cramming your cold weather cravings for swiss miss and dark beer into one tasty beverage.

But first, a few things I’ve learned from the big move:

1. People that work with computers all day should not be given keys to big trucks - except of course for comedic relief.

2. Wife is one major life event away from being on the TV show “Hoarders”.  I need to venture into our storage areas on a regular basis from this point forward.

3. Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale is disappointing. I tried to get a case of Bell’s Pale Ale (which is the pale ale equivalent of having telepathic abilities, the kind you are in control of, not that out-of-control-telepathy-is-torture-bullshit that makes you all frantic and bug-eyed and just go dye your hair black already because that’s how having super powers makes you feel inside) but the distributor was out so I got the Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale thinking it would be comparable. It wasn’t. Not bad, but I won’t be buying this again. However it should be stated that this is the first disappointing Dogfish Head beer I’ve come across.

Now for some beers that taste like chocolate:

Southern Tier Choklat Stout (11% ABV): This is part of their Blackwater Series of Imperial Stouts. I have previously tried the Oat and wrote briefly about it here. The description on the bottle of the Choklat Stout references some mysterious Mayan beverage for the gods which stroked my ego a bit and reminded me of a scene from Ghostbusters - “ Ray, when someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes!”.

Following that sound advice, I popped open the bottle and immediately smelled the chocolate. This beer lived up to it’s name 100%. If you want a chocolate beer, this is the one. Some beers, stouts mainly, have hints of chocolate mixed with some hints of other stuff. This was up front, no hints, just a delicious chocolate beer. In terms of taste, I have absolutely no complaints. You would think in an 11% beer you would taste the alcohol - but here all you taste is delicious chocolate. Some people might be thinking in a nasal voice “well, does beer and chocolate really go good together? I don’t know if I’d like a chocolate beer.” Trust me, it is amazing. One problem though is that this is not that easy to find - I found it at Abe’s in Bethlehem - so if you see it, buy it. Also, it only comes in 22 oz bottles (aka bombers) - which sometimes annoys me. Not sure why this bothers me, but it does.

Another beer I’ve been drinking lately is Bell’s Best Brown Ale (5.8% ABV). This came in the variety case that I got for Christmas from my brother Joe. The bottle has an owl on the label and the owl looks pissed. The first two times I drank this I poured it into a pint glass and I did not really care for it. This was my first venture into brown ales so maybe it was just something I wasn’t into. But I tried another - cause what the heck, I got six of ‘em and they ain’t drinking themselves - and this time I just drank it straight from the bottle, like a rebel. I guess that was the trick to this beer because it was quite tasty coming at me down that narrow chute of a bottle neck. I even tasted I slight hint of chocolate, very slight, but it was there. If it’s not there for you, then eat a fun-size Twix bar and take another sip - because whether this beer has a secret hint of chocolate in it or not - it goes great with fun-size Twix bars and probably regular size Twix as well, although I haven’t done anything that crazy yet (incidentally, this is the first beer-food pairing I‘ve ever recommended).

Speaking of food pairings, I've been hearing/reading a lot about mixing stouts with ice-cream to create a beer float.  This idea does not sound all that appealing to me but I'd try it if one was in front of me.  Apparently, my friend Ponytail Phil also has read/heard a few things about such floats and picked up some Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout to mix with some coffee ice cream.  His review of the experience, in Pony's own words, straight from my Gmail inbox, is as follows:

"Read an article online about how some trendy bars/restaurants in NY are making all kinds of drinks/desserts with beer including floats. Saw the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and thought it would go well with some coffee ice cream. I got all the ingredients and was real excited about making it. I made mine first and let my wife have the first taste. She almost spit it out at me. She hated it. My wife isn't the biggest beer fan so I thought maybe it was just her. Women! Nope. It was bad. I was totally bummed out as a beer float sounds like a delicious treat.

So I had three beers left and was dreading what to do with it. Could I dump it out? I know. Dumping beer is a sin in my book too but that's how bad I thought of it. So it just sat in my fridge for weeks. When you asked for thoughts on it, I figured I might as well try it by itself to give an honest non-float opinion on it. And guess what? I like it! This beer definitely tastes like chocolate and has that thick stout texture. I wouldn't drink many but at 10% alcohol by volume you don't need to."

A big thanks to Pony P. for providing Beer on my shirt... with its first guest review.  You are a monster.

P.S. - It should be noted that on's 2011 list of the 100 best brewers in the world, Bell's Brewery is listed 6th, Southern Tier comes in at number 16, and Brooklyn is 67.