Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sixpoint Craft Ales / That time I went to Birreria...

Back in October, myself and a few of the part time staff members enjoyed a nice team building excursion to New York City.  There were a few items on the itinerary - Bleeker Street Pizza, Random Pubs, Birreria, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, and Little Italy.

Birreria is a roof top bar/resturaunt in NYC run in collaboration with the brewers of Dogfish Head, Baladin, and Del Borgo.  It is essentially an Italian beer garden with amazing food and beer.

But first, let me explain an important, but little known, Law of the Universe:  The Law of Simon and Garfunklism - if you take the title of a Simon and Garfunkle song and put something behind it, like a noun, then that noun, whatever it is, is guaranteed to be amazing.  Take for example Bleeker Street Pizza - amazing pizza.  I think they are one of the 300,000 pizza places in New York City that have a sign that says they have the city’s best pizza.  They are the only ones telling the truth.  Another example: I have a Subaru, it saves my life daily, and it has a little something under the hood called the Boxer engine.  It is an amazing engine that goes fast.  One more example - Homeward Bound: the Incredible Journey (the movie) - the story of two dogs and a cat and their trek across the country to be reunited with their owners, featuring the voices of Micheal J. Fox, Sally Field, and Don Ameche - rent that movie and try not to laugh, cry, or forget your troubles for 84 minutes.  The feel good movie of a generation.

(Just one more thing about the universe that they can’t teach you in college but that you can find out about thanks to Beer on my Shirt…)

So we ate at Bleeker Street Pizza and it was awesome.  Then we walked around a bit, going in and out of a few random pubs.  We walked into one and the bartender, with a very English, or maybe Irish accent, asked of if we were there for the football game, meaning soccer.  It was one of those moments where I felt if I knew the correct response it would get me into a secret backroom poker game that could change my life - like that movie Rounders, or like that episode of 90210 where Steve and Andrea drive around giving eggs to convenience store clerks in hopes of finding the secret location of a rave. But alas, we had no eggs so I answered honestly and said no, we were not there for the football game, we were there for beers.  He asked what we’ll have and after the worst conversation I'd ever had with food and beverage service professional while sober, I ended up ordering a Sixpoint, a brewery I had never heard of.

Sixpoint?  I asked the bartender what it was.

He said it was beer.

I asked what kind of beer.

He said it was a local brewery.

I said “but what TYPE of beer is it”.

He look confounded so I de-escalated the situation and just said for him to give me one.  It was amazing.  So I asked what it was called, trying to get more info, and the bartender looked at me like I was the Helen Keller of his entire customer history and said “Sixpoint.” I felt like I was in an outtake of a parody of the Departed, what with accents and circular dialogue.  Perhaps if I had said I was there for the football game he would have been more forthcoming with his information.  Either way, I drank it and loved it.

A few pubs and hours later and my fancy friends are walking around with boxes of cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. I ducked into a bar to use the bathroom and to avoid the homo-erotic segment of our outing - grown men skipping around the city eating pink cupcakes and licking icing off their fingers, saying “look, isn‘t that Adrian Brody?”.  I asked the bartender what interesting beers he had and he was kind enough to introduce me to a can of Sixpoint Sweet Action.  The can itself is as pretty as Adrian Brody eating a messy cupcake, and it hit me that this is the same beer I had a few pubs back - only now I knew it’s full name and that it comes in a 16 oz. can.

At that moment, all I needed were two twenty pound barbells, my shirt off, a full length mirror, a chalkboard, and Minnie Driver and I would have felt just like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, except I was in New York City with no real reason to take my shirt off.  Beer really does have some marvelous side effects.  I wanted to run back to the pub from earlier, it may or may not have been called The Red Lion, slam my empty Sweet Action can down on the bar in front of Captain Vaguery and say “how ‘bout them apples.”

We slowly made our way to Eataly, the Italian market that Birreria sits atop of, and found ourselves immersed in a world of meats and cheeses that words cannot describe.  An elevator took us to the roof top and we were seated quickly and treated kindly.  The operation is pretty impressive, although the place itself was smaller than I imagined, giving it a level of intimacy I was not expecting.  They offered three cask beers that are brewed on site and only available there - I had the Gina, a pale ale brewed with thyme.  It was amazing and I could have drank it forever.  But at $10 a pint I think forever meant somewhere in the area of two or three.  We also had their finest selection of meats and cheeses, which set us back a pretty penny but really added to whole experience.  The place had a great vibe, we were drinking some of the finest, freshest beer that I had ever had, the sun was shining down on us on a rooftop in one of the greatest cities on the world, and we were laughing and enjoying some quality imported meats and cheeses.  If it were a only dream, I would wake up glad to have had it.  But it was real - and I stole a menu to prove it.  And I took a photo of said stolen menu to prove that I stole it to prove that my time at Birreria was real. That's some improper use of the Law of Syllogism for the domes of all those logic-heads out there - put them hands in the air!  What what!  Quod Erat Demonstrandum, biznitches. I'm about to Law of Detachment your arms and beat you with them if you don't keep your mouth shut.  Where's my beats, DJ?

Our day ended in Little Italy with a family style feast followed by me stumbling into a bakery searching out cannoli and cheesecake.  When the man asked what I would like I ordered a cheesesteak.  Eventually, with a little help from friends, we figured it out - but that was one pissed off baker.  Regardless, I could have watched him tie knots 'round boxes for days.  His hands were magical.

More about Sixpoint…

I’ve had a few more of their beers since the trip to NYC with my favorites being the Sweet Action (5.2% ABV) - a creamy, hoppy ale; Resin (9.1% ABV) - a piney, malty, balanced but sticky double IPA that came in a 12 oz can with dimensions similar to a Red Bull; and Diesel (6.3% ABV) - a stout that has a nice smoothness but also some bitterness that a normal stout doesn’t typically have - it is almost like a lighter Imperial Russian Stout with a milder but similar flavor profile to something like Old Rasputin.  I love their packaging but the beer is pretty outstanding as well.

The Sixpoint Sweet Action was a featured choice at the Beer on my Shirt Holiday Party, and it was a hit.  I would like to tell you more about the Holiday Party, like the other beverages available, but I don’t really remember much other than a conversation about baby nurseries, my awkward attempt at shaking an acquaintance’s hand that involved me pointing at his hand with my hand (an orangutan has more social couth than all Beer on my Shirt employees combined, excluding the 3 orangutans that work in the mail room, obviously), and Andre’s insistence on discussing celebrity pornography in the presence of ladies, including one particularly disturbing comparison of the picture quality of my video baby monitor to his Paris Hilton DVD.

I've had a chance to try the Sixpoint Bengali Tiger, but had it just once and all I remember thinking was that it was different than what I expected.  Also had the Spice of Life Warrior on draft a few weeks ago.  The Spice of Life is monthly series where they make a single hop IPA, using a different hop each month - which is pretty cool because most of the time multiple hops are used in a beer, making it difficult to pick out what each hop is bringing to the table - especially for the un-initiated - but with a single hop series, it gives you an opportunity to wrap your head around that one particular hop.  I had the Warrior hop and upon my first sip I thought - well, I guess I’m not a fan of the Warrior hop - but by the end I was really digging it and would have had another if time had allowed.

In Summary:  Sixpoint makes some quality brews.  Check them out, you won’t be disappointed.   And if you are (dissapointed), let me know and I’ll come get drunk in your garage while your eating dinner.  Problem solved.

P.S.  Here is a picture of my fantasy baseball team in one the leagues I'm in.  It's a 13 team roto league for the geeks out there.  The draft happened about two weeks ago.  I feel pretty good about it.  A couple things on there make me a little nervous, but overall I think it turned out all right considering I had the 13th pick.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hoptimum, Hopslam, and Nugget Nectar (and by the way - we’re hiring)

In the swell of gloom and doom that tends to be the winter months, my mind slows down, much like the hibernating heart of a mother bear, and the events of the winter and preceding fall season tend to get neglected by the secretary in my brain in charge of filing stories away.  Apparently she is too busy sneaking smoke breaks in the ladies’ room - a practice that has led to several meetings and too much corporate “no smoking” signage around the Beer on my Shirt offices.  And let’s not forget about all the plotting she does to steal the petty cash from my office safe - digging tunnels must be time consuming - an exercise that certainly takes away from the actual filing tasks she should be performing.  Also, it should be pointed out that my brain’s capacity for memories was severely handicapped when we had to make room for a ladies room to accommodate the addition of a cerebral secretary, something we clearly didn’t consider when we hired her.  Prior to that, she refused to use the men’s room and just pissed all over the place - things were starting to smell a little musky - it was just getting to be too much.

So, needless to say, there have been a few things worth mentioning that have yet to be mentioned - until now.  At the same time, I am constantly drinking, constantly trying new beers, and even though I rarely leave the house, I have managed to find new solitary ways of embarrassing myself (file under “difficulty with belts“).  So along those lines, the plan is for the next few posts to have a bit of the past and a bit of the present.  Chronologically speaking, here is something I should have mentioned back in January…

Beer on my Shirt… is hiring!

In line with the new corporate structure that was decided on at this year’s holiday party, it has been decided that we are ready to expand.  The office construction has been finished - we now have both a men’s and ladies’ room - and a few part time positions have already been filled.  Thus far, the few interested candidates have each had the same prying, yet appropriate questions:

“What exactly is the current corporate structure?”

Well, some of details are highly secretive, but there is a CEO, or at least a mythical beast whose name that shant be spoken can be abbreviated with those initials.  That said, the CEO mainly provides memos and directives via telepathy and an antiquated Dell computer server.  Rarely seen, but heard regularly as a voice inside your mind - the CEO of Beer on my Shirt will burn your soul from the inside out if you choose to cross him.  Or if you use the restroom without washing your hands afterwards.  And he expects to hear you sing “Happy Birthday” not once but twice while hand washing.  And we don’t use the term ‘sing’ loosely around here - you better be in key or you’ll be soulless before you know it.  Could you maybe sing a few bars for me?

“What exactly will I be doing?”

You’ll be drinking craft beer, sometimes in excess, and writing about your experiences with the beer.

“So I’ll be writing beer reviews?”

Not really - we’re actually not really in the review writing business because that generally requires knowledge.  Our “reviewing” process focuses more on consumption and whether or not we would consume again, and how much, and for how long.  Sure, adjectives tend to come in handy when describing a beer, but per our CEO you will be provided with a word bank/flowchart to reference when attempting to describe a beer.  Working outside of said word bank/flowchart will result in swift justice.  However, feel free to explore new words, new uses for otherwise old words, inappropriate similes and metaphors, and general delusional imagery when writing about your experience with the beer.  Think of beer as a lady - now think of the letter you would write to Penthouse describing your time with that lady - that is your job description.  As a Beer on my Shirt employee you will quickly learn that we are more about the “shirt” and less about the “beer”.

“May I see said flowchart?”

Not at this time.

“So who will I be working under?”

While there is a CEO, there is no real boss or manager or president.  There is however a large conch shell filled with crystal skulls.  I hold the conch shell 90% of the time.  If you don’t like it you will be subject to electric shocks of incrementally increasing voltage until you do like it.  Or until you die. 

“How much will I be getting paid?”

Ass wipe - writing doesn’t pay the bills - I don’t care how many times you’ve seen Midnight in Paris.  But in terms of compensation, you will be paid in bad habits, poor choices, and suspect hygiene - and paid handsomely.

“What is that smell?”

I’m gassy.

“no, the egg smell…”

Yeah, that’s me.

“oh, that’s horrible”

I know, it’s an issue.

“it smells like pure evil”

That’s because it is pure evil.

“Does it smell like that all the time?”

Pretty much.

So in summary, the CEO is invisible, you’ll write about beer like it was a one night stand, we have a men's room and a ladies’ room, I’m in charge, and the office constantly smells like pure evil - or eggs, depending on your level of olfactory tolerance.

If interested, please apply via email or the comments section.

And now some exciting, present tense, beer news… 

It is that time of year when some of my favorite hoppy seasonals are on the market.  I bought a case of Bell’s Hopslam this year.  And while it is a little pricey- I think I paid $70 for it - I really enjoyed the few I had last year and at 10% ABV it will take awhile to get through it all.  Or I’ll get so drunk that shame about my bank account will be the least of my worries.  Hopslam is a double IPA using all kinds of hops and a little honey.  The hops are so potent that it is hard to differentiate between the bitterness and booziness.  It pours a nice yellow color and the honey gives it a palatable sweetness that makes this surprisingly drinkable.  But again, while I could drink it all night, at 10% all night consists of about 2.5 of these.

Next up was the Troeg’s Nugget Nectar (7.5% ABV).  This is billed as an Imperial Amber, but as the label makes apparent it is really all about hops.  This beer is simply delicious.  The malts carry a sweetness that make a perfect backbone for the beer, but still take enough of a back seat to put the hops 100% in the driver‘s seat.  This brew made that fifty best beers list I’ve been mentioning in previous posts and it is well deserved.  Interestingly, going to the beer distributor and asking for Nugget Nectar is like code for saying “I’m a beer geek” because the clerk’s reply after getting me a case was “You know we still got some Hopslam in the back.”  It is like slowly being initiated into the Skulls, minus the danger and political intrigue.  And the fancy watch.

The Nugget Nectar and the Hopslam, if your lucky enough to have both laying around, make a nice little one-two punch.  I start with the Nugget Nectar and enjoy it and all it’s perfect hop harmony.  Then for beer #2, I make the switch to Hopslam.  This really exaggerates the impact of the honey of the Hopslam and makes the smoothness of it really stand out.  Andre and I went for it the other night while arguing Mets-Phillies baseball, an argument that as a Mets fan I just cannot win right now, and it made for a nice night - or as nice a night as possible while hanging with a Phillies fan.

And then there is Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum.  I just had this today at the Trapp Door, and in terms of hops, this was the biggest hop bomb I’ve had in a while.  It had the typical Sierra Nevada dryness, that personally I enjoy, and after that it was just back of the tongue bitterness for the first few sips.  This is a sensation I like to refer to, as of today, as Hop Breath - the need to exhale after processing the taste of a beer because of the bitterness melting the back of your mouth like a bar of soap.  However, as I worked my way through the glass the hops started attacking all of my tongue from all angles, creating a hop pucker that I can’t ever remember having - dare I declare this the hoppiest beer I’ve had.  It reminded me of Bell’s Expedition Stout, not in flavor, but the way it just assaulted your mouth with every sip. 

Any other hopheads out there that have had this?  Either way - what would you say is the hoppiest beer you’ve ever had?  Because right now, I think Hoptimum has the title in my book.