Sunday, January 29, 2012

Top 50 (Part 2): Pliny the Elder, more about Pony, and a failed pirate metaphor.

Prior to Pony revealing that he was headed to the pet store to have his dog’s picture taken with Santa, but after shaving the beard off his face, Pony and I were seated at a lovely little establishment, Union Jack’s Inn on the Manatawny.  They had been kind enough to invite the two of us to a great IPA event called Hoppy Christmas - by invited, I mean I called and made reservations and they accepted them.

The tap list was loaded with some awesome IPA’s and Double IPA’s, and included the very hyped and hard to find, at least in these parts, Pliny the Elder, by Russian River Brewing.  Pliny the Elder is an American Double IPA that is frequently ranked at the top, or near the top of many “Greatest Beer in the America/World/Universe” lists.  It can be found on the Fifty Best Beers List over at that I mentioned in Part One of this post.  Here is their description of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder:

A smooth Double IPA from the Russian River Brewing Company is all it is hyped up to be. An absolute classic clocking in at 8% ABV. The ale is named for the Roman scholar and naturalist who first named the hop plant and studied them. Pliny the Elder named hops, “lupus salictarius,” meaning, “wolf among scrubs.” The beer is made with 40% more malt and two times the amount of hops used in the Russian River IPA, a single IPA product from the same brewery. A sticky, beige head leaves tons of lacing as the yellowish-orange nectar is gulped down. The aromas include oranges, floral centerpieces and notes of pine. The cream factor that makes this beer smooth and incredibly drinkable is what separates this from other Double IPAs of its kind. A very subtle bite and overall taste with big, bright aromas and malty reinforcement.

Obviously, I was excited to try it. 

Pony ordered a set of flights, 5 or 6 ounce mini-glasses of beer - a beer sampler, in other words, that included Pliny the Elder, Firestone Walker Double Jack, Coronado Idiot, and Blue Point No Apologies.  This was falling right in line with the series of poor decisions that Pony had been and apparently would continue to make. 

I feel that if the first thing I order is a round of flights the waitstaff will consider me weak and poor at making decisions, or they may think I'm a fan of whimsy and gumdrops - “Hi, my name is Pony and I like whimsy.  Wanna gumdrop?”,  or perhaps they will think I am an illustrator of fairies and gnomes hiding under toadstools after a sloppy summer shower - “Would you like to see my sketches?”, or worse than that even - a fan of aviation history - “I have only been to the Wright Brothers Museum once and I really don’t feel like I need to explain that to you or to any other waiter, regardless of how much beer knowledge you have or how ridiculously good you are at making recommendations.” (The waitstaff at Union Jack’s is pretty darn knowledgeable and pretty darn good at recommendations - this one guy, I call him Buddy because I don’t know his name, is a beer phenom.)

Really, I just wanted my first time with Pliny the Elder to be pure and unfettered - like all first times should be.

Buddy brought us our beers and our table was filled with what looked like glasses of gold.  We were captains in a pirate world of transposition where rum was the booty and gold coins were drunk to celebrate a long day of successful mayhem on the high seas.

To be clear, we were drinking beer, not rum.  And is it possible for mayhem to be unsuccessful?
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder was very, very good and lived up to the hype more and more with each sip.  The smoothness of this beer is what sets it apart from other Double IPA‘s.  The description above from pretty much says it all.  An amazing beer worthy of the hype. 

Firestone Walker’s Double Jack is another Double IPA we had that day that is listed on the Fifty Best Beer List.  Pony wasn’t a fan but I really liked it.  It had a rather pale yellow color compared most of the other IPA’s from that day, but it’s flavor was very crisp and bright, and I will definitely be ordering it again next time I see it.  I don’t understand why Pony didn’t like it, but then again I don’t understand why a grown man would take his dog to sit on Santa’s lap - which was Pony’s next revelation of the day.

Ironically enough, it was after drinking a Coronado Idiot, a double IPA by Coronado Brewing in California, that Pony revealed the errands he had to attend to after we settled up.  His wife called and they discussed Pottery Barn and lamps.  I silently passed gas and hoped it smelled horrible.  Pony got off the phone and casually said something about lamps and that he had go to the pet store later because Santa was there.  He said this as if he was talking about going to Home Depot to buy a new hammer - like it was no big deal that he was going home, picking up his dog, taking the dog to the pet store, and then paying for a photo of his dog sitting on the lap of Santa.  I don’t know if I was more disappointed in Pony for the words coming out of his mouth or in my own flatulence for not smelling bad enough to kill us both right then and there. 

Anyways, I finished our unsettling encounter with a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.  Apparently, Ballast Point Brewing has their own sport fishing team, which makes sense since this IPA is named after a fish.  This is a single IPA with a nice balance between the sweet of the malt and the citrus of the hops.  It has nice bright flavor with more subtle fruity complexities than most IPA’s, which is probably why this beer is also found on the Fifty Best Beers list.  I have since found and bought a six pack of this that I have been slowly chipping away at, and I must say I like this beer more and more each time I have one.  It will be purchased again.

Overall, the day was a success.  Pony and I had a good time and Pliny the Elder was great.  I would recommend that everyone try this beer if the opportunity presents itself.  Even if your not into hoppy beers, try this just to experience the smoothness, dare I say creaminess, that an IPA can have.  Not all IPA’s are bitter punches in the tongue.  Pliny manages to be crisp and smooth at the same time - a juxtaposition worth the price of admission. (Originally, that sentence ended with “a juxtaposition that every mouth should experience” - my editor said I needed to change it - that it sounded like a bad pick-up line.  I’m fine changing it, but that line has the potential to be an award winner in the right situation.  In my experience, using ‘juxtaposition’ in a sentence, whether you use it correctly or not, has been a consistent panty-dropper.  Especially at Barnes and Nobles while pretending to read The New Yorker.)

P.S.  The Coronado Idiot was good; a solid IPA - I’d drink it again.  The Blue Point No Apologies was very sweet, too sweet, I did not finish my glass, and would probably not drink it again.  I was disappointed because I really like Bluepoint’s Hoptical Illusion.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Week of Flossing, Pony P gets suspended, and some more winter seasonals.

I recently received this memo from the CEO of Beer on my Shirt (a man of great power and wealth)…

RE: Pony P

In lieu of recent transgressions, not limited to but including the following:
  • Shaving of his face (done not for personal reasons (which would have been totally acceptable), rather to please his wife and the Mother of his good friend Chuckles (a woman that loudly proclaimed Pony P’s ugliness multiple times, “Your so ugly with that hairy face and hair, you used to be cute”)).
  • Taking his dog to sit on Santa’s lap.
  • Communist tendencies.
  • Allowing his wife to verbally attack me at the Beer on my Shirt holiday party over the content of Top 50 (Part 1): Andre and Pony P get weird.
Pony P is hereby suspended, without pay, from one post.  Let this be an example for other employees that such actions will not be tolerated, punishments will be swift, and I will slap a biznitch.

As a result of this recent development, I am forced to put Part 2 of the Top 50 series on hold because, unfortunately, he who can not be mentioned plays a pretty big role in the whole thing.  Luckily, for everyone involved, my life is essentially a bottomless pit of beer related experiences and embarrassment.  Revel in my poor decisions like you’re Fidel Castro and I’m a boner named the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

The days between Christmas and New Year’s Day are always a strange time.  Everything seems to be in flux - apparently no one actually has to go to work, everyone is running rampant with gift cards and new socks, and losers that think that winning and losing still matter make resolutions.  Resolutions that, by the way, are the equivalent of sending your high school sweetheart a carnation because she’s pissed at you that your best friend‘s sister has bigger tits than her.  ("It's not like I put them there!" - "But I always catch you looking at them!" - "There fucking huge! No matter where I look, I'm gonna see them.")

Carnations and resolutions - in the long run, nobody gives a shit about either one; after a week they both shrivel up and die so stop wasting everybody’s time and just give some money to a charity that feeds hungry kids.  Your dumb girlfriend will eat that up.  (Am I implying that your girlfriend is a hungry child fed by charitable organizations?  Or that she will be aroused by your philanthropy?  Some questions - like “Does monogamy make sense for humans?” - can never be answered.)

Here at Beer on my Shirt, we have established a tradition that takes a slightly different approach to the days between Christmas and New Year’s - we call it the Week of Flossing.  It came about after years of failed “I’m gonna floss more” New Year’s Resolutions.  Coincidentally, the years of flossing resolutions were preceded by years of failed “I’m gonna have more intercourse” resolutions along with the absolutely unsuccessful Week of Intercourse back in 2001.  A Week of Time Travel had a better chance of success.

The Week of Flossing is based on the premise that resolutions are unsuccessful and attempts a “hit the ground running” approach to flossing in the New Year.  A successful week of flossing is measured in simple terms - you floss at least once a day every day starting with the day after Christmas and culminating on New Year’s Day.  The hope is that with a full week of flossing before the New Year - followed by another week of daily flossing in an effort to stick with the resolution - followed by a week or two of intermittent flossing as you try and hang on to the dream of actually becoming a better person, and finally, culminating with a strategically scheduled dentist appointment that will lead, hopefully, to my dental hygienist actually believing that I give a shit about teeth that are as crooked as the motives of a sloppy French maid. 

Here are a few things that I tend to think about while flossing during the Week of Flossing:

  • When was the last time I ate steak, cause that piece there definitely looks like steak.
  • What is that smell?
  • How much more purple can my finger tip get?
  • How much longer do I have until that finger tip gives up and just falls right off?
  • Zombie Finger Tip?
  • They say the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body.  Have “they” seen my thighs?  (I floss in front of a full length mirror.)
  • I fucking hate my wisdom teeth.
  • "Are you looking at me?"
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Don’t throw up.

One of the major challenges of the Week of Flossing is the combination of a sensitive gag reflex with the excessive drinking of a large variety of holiday or winter seasonal beers.  In some circles, the Week of Flossing is also known as the Week of Morning Dry Heaving. 

I wrote about a few holiday beers a few weeks ago.  Here are a few more that I came across during the Week of Flossing:

Belgian Freeze (8% ABV) - This is a Belgian Dark Ale brewed by River Horse Brewing.  It has a nice sour Belgian yeast smell and taste - along with some very mild spice flavor, like coriander, and a dark fruit sweetness.  Chuckles, a friend of Beer on my Shirt, had it on draft and loved it - so I bought a few bottles.  I thought it was good but just a bit flat and just a bit too sweet to make me want to go buy it again this year.  It did have a nice booze warming finish that I enjoyed so next year I’ll probably buy it again just to have one or two in the fridge.

The Beer on my Shirt "nonick" pint glass, from Wife's Sister
Lancaster Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer (8.9% ABV) - From what I can tell, the style here is considered an Old Ale but it certainly had characteristics of a Belgian Dark Ale - I felt like this was a better version of the Belgian Freeze.  It had a nice doughy flavor, just a little spice, and some chocolate and roasted flavors.  The sweetness was similar to the Belgian Freeze but more subdued and the finish had almost a tart or sour edge to it that I really liked.  It left a little tingle on the back of my tongue after every sip. I was pleasantly surprised by this beer and will be seeking it out again as it made a perfect nightcap - but the booze of it snuck up on me and my empty stomach - Wife was forced to make me a soft pretzel after I repeatedly yelled “Soft Pretzels For Everyone!” while dancing on an imaginary pretzel shaped dance floor.  It was as if John Belushi was cast for the lead role in Footloose.
The Beer on my Shirt "shaker" pint glass, from Alice.

Heavy Sea’s Winter Storm “Category 5 Ale” (7.5% ABV) - Winter Storm is an ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, that I really enjoyed.  Pretty strong for the style but very tasty.  It was a great change of pace from the typical winter beer, the spices were non existent, and it had a great caramel malt flavor balanced with a earthy hop taste.  Very crisp, very flavorful but mild enough as to not overpower, and with a hint of alcohol at the end.  I liked it very much and wished I had more - I could have drank it all night.

Delirium Noel (10% ABV) - This is another Belgian Dark Ale, actually from Belgium.  It smelled like banana bread dough and had a nice solid, not overpowering Belgian yeast flavor.  The carbonation was great, giving it a nice dry crispness, and the spice flavors  were very mild.  Wife and I split the big bottle and we both enjoyed it very much - would have popped open another if we had it.  But we didn’t - so instead we inflated the kiddie pool, broke out the olive oil and goggles, and wrestled slippy Greco-Roman style until one of us blew chunks.  Winner gets the leftover honey ham, a highly coveted prize.  Loser cleans up all holiday vomit.  All of it.  ALL OF IT!