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.