Archive for February, 2011

Special Election Results: Old Speckled Hen wins by a landslide

As a door knocker, one of the benefits of my job is the ability to smoke and drink on the job.

Well, maybe not drinking on the job. But certainly after the election, and in the off time on the immediate days leading up to it.

So, as I stood outside of campaign HQ smoking my Newport with Puds on Main street, I see my boss head down the street with a rack of the Beast under his arm, and a small brown bottle in the other.

“Danny!” He shouts, as I go to reach open the door.

“No this is for you.”

The small brown bottle is now mine.

“Had it up in New Hampshire. Enjoy.”

He heads inside to make more phone calls.

Now, I might not make a lot of money as a door knocker. (I might also still be in college.) But when my job involves talking with people about issues I care about and wandering my great and illustrious state, and my boss buying me a pint of the Hen, well, shit.

I couldn’t be happier.

I cracked her open the night before the election, and she poured a deep red caramel into my pint glass. Little to no head.  Before I even poured I could smell the grassy noble hops. A little bit of spice, a little bit of lemon, and a little bit of caramel earth invite the nose into the polling booth.

English ales are something I’m new to, but the hoppy bitterness is something my taste buds favor. An IPA lover, I love bite and citrus. There’s not so much citrus here, but a fair amount of bite.

I bubble in the empty box on the Character line. She’s cross-endorsed by the Complexity party as well.

Now, I’m not a rubber stamp IPA drinker, there are some out there that just fail in composition and lack complexity and charecter, but my first experience with English Pale Ale is having me love the drinkability. It’s bitterness gives it body up front, but the caramel/butterscotch finish is balanced and not overly saccharine. The Hen’s got a heartiness to it that doesn’t fill me up, but invites another medium sip.

Carbonation isn’t felt until the latter half of the sip, as it allows the flavor to hit the palate first.

It’s balanced, sweet, and with a strong but not overpowering hop presence. Butterscotch is still on my throat as I hand my completed ballot to a blue-hair standing next to the staunch and official grey cube.

As I walk away from the polling place, I look down to the “I voted today!” sticker on my chest and I realize the Hen had an easy election. Most of her constituents in the bitter ward were already supporters, and she managed to reach out to the new sweetness voting bloc as well.

*

It’s ABV means it won’t be a session beer, but I can see myself couping up with the Hen till summer beers hit the shelves.

-Danny

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CT BEERS: Get Haggard with the Sea Hag

 

A much anticipated review that I’ve been chatting my friends up about, I finally got to New England Brewery’s Sea Hag. I first expirenced her in New Haven’s Owl Shop, located on College Street. The brewery, based in Woodbridge Connecticut, has recently put out a double IPA, Ghandi Bot. It’s first iteration of the IPA style leaves nothing to be desired in the areas of citrus, hops, and bite.

Pouring it into my trusty mug, a cloudy sea of toasty burnt orange emerges. The Hag rears its thin head, one finger high, quickly lacing to a mere one centimeter thick.

On her nose, she has a spike of firmented citrus and hops, with a slightly metallic tinge. The Hag is entombed in a can prior to her release, which may or may not account for her aluminous scent.

As she winds her way into my mouth, I can feel the strong bite of bitter hops and vicious carbonation- She’s been wronged, according to her story, and her revenge punishes my tounge.

I like it. It’s not the pain of a lover lost at sea, or the sting a salty wave against the eyes. Her pain is complex, alluring, and inviting exploration.

As she rolls in my mouth, I can feel her sting spread to my gums and lower palate. Her fury is felt down to my eusophogus. Her citrus aroma beckons up for more. I give in.

With a 6.2% ABV, she’ll knock you on your ass and leave you sore and wanting. Bring me more punishment.

She’s available in cans all across New Haven and Fairfeild County for 8 dollars and change for a sixer.

Overall: 9/10 rusted hooks.

Naughty Nellie… The Black Keys… Clint Eastwood….

Photo by Joshua L Durkin

I tasted this about a week ago and took some notes on it.

I remember it was one of the days last week when the rain froze moments after it fell. Outside my apartment near freezing water dripped from the porch and snow above. So I placed my beer under a stream of falling water to let nature do its thing.

Pike’s Naughty Nellie, an American pale ale out of Washington State.

At first I wasn’t sure if listening to The Black Keys romp around in their world was making my impression on the beer better than it should have been. But the opening taste of the beer was good.

Attack & Release came on an NPR station out of Portland, Ore. And so it seemed a good fit to impulsively buy the album and review both the beer and part of the album at the same time.

Attack & Release opens with “All You Ever Wanted,” slow and mellow, like Nellie, or a vaquero.

Imagine Clint Eastwood with a rug slung over his shoulder, and a haze of flies swirling around his head.

He traipses through dubious red earthen terrain, with a bottle of golden yellow Pike brewed beer, which he pops as “I Got Mine” rocks some eardrums loose, and then swigs from the beer, muttering about the cucumber buttermilk aftertaste, and then turning awkwardly, with fixed anger at a man lying in his own blood at the foot of a horse previously unseen.

He growls something like: “Beers are like people—you have to recognize the differences between them,and accept them, in order to respect them.”

Photo c/o Amazon

The dying man grunts.

And then, because the film appears to be a proper western of sorts, “Strange Times” enters with the kinds of mercuric riffs that fit properly behind montaged scenes of, let’s say, an intense staring contest between the dying man and Eastwood with his Nellie beer and interloping flies.

Then the soundtrack cuts to silence and Eastwood spits, and then rams a cigarillo stub into his mouth, and the dying man—bleeding through his rug and dark tattered pants—pulls himself to a sitting position and Clint speaks.

“Even when I agitate this beer,” he snarls, “with my sloppy walk, the beer doesn’t produce more than half an inch of head. Amazing.”

The dying man nods, and searches Eastwood’s face for sympathy. Eastwood hands him the beer to swig. The dying man does. “Psychotic Girl” begins to play quietly and then louder in the background.

“This is a calm mother,” the dying man mutters, and drools some of it. Then he says, “The low alcohol by volume makes the beer pleasant to me. It must be 4.70%, almost a session beer, which is a beer you can drink many of without worry of quick intoxication,” he says.

Eastwood nods and takes the bottle back and then nearly drains it while the dying man gasps and reaches to the sky while letting out an utterly gut-wrenched groan of a wail, while the Black Keys’ “Lies” wistful, and nostalgic, plays.

Eastwood considers the bottle and says, “When I opened this bottle, there was no head, or barely a lick of it. A smooth, crisp, hop flavor—like listening to jazz flute while smoking pot in an underlit Mexican hellhole of a restaurant that doesn’t even have tables.”

“That’s no restaurant then,” said the dying man, “all restaurants have tables. It can be no other way.”

“You are right,” said Eastwood.

“Remember When” side A and B begin to play, and then he sits next to the dying man and they pass a canteen back and forth as shadows start to stretch across the plains of the southwest. And when the sun is nearing crimson cadmium, “Same Old Thing” starts and Eastwood rises to finish his beer.

He walks over to a saguaro cactus and punches a hole into it with his bare fist. A thin liquid runs out and Eastwood tilts his bottle against the cactus, catching a few ounces of cactus juice in his beer. Darkness is falling.

He mutters something about the song “So He Won’t Break” and lets loose a barbaric yawp that echoes throughout the land. He slams the rest of the beer into his throat and shatters the bottle on the ground at his feet. He breathes heavily, and wild.

The dying man gasps, and starts, as if to make away but for his wounds, he cannot. A horse struts up slowly to Eastwood’s side. He searches the saddle and then removes another bottle. Secure between his teeth, he wrenches the bottle and cap loose and spits the cap at the feet of the dying man.

The dying man says something like, “‘Oceans & Streams’ is playing now. I will be dead soon.” Eastwood nods at this and goes over to him, crouches and hands him the beer while he puffs slowly at his cigarillo. The glow lights up his face for a moment.

“Overall, I would rate this beer a six shooter,” says Eastwood.

“Corny,” says the dying man. “It must not be very available. I do not often see Pike’s beer on shelves. If I weren’t dying, I would go to Washington, where this beer is from.”

“Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be,” says Eastwood. “The beer looks like the desert after rain, and when the light is low in the west.”

And then the guy dies, and the film ends with the same kind of random, spirited confidence that the opening of Attack & Release, Clint Eastwood, and Naughty Nellie all had.

-Josh

Hops & Pop

 

Amanda Bloom, Editor-in-Chief of TheMercurial.com

 

It is definitely not spring. Though many people want it to be, which is understandable. We’ve gotten a few winters worth of snow this time around, and many of us are cold and seasonally affected. 

 

There’s not much we can do to bring March 21 around any quicker.  But there are some things that help to make the cold months more bearable.  For example, drinking and listening to pop music.   

 

I chose to review Magic Hat’s Spring Seasonal because seeing it in the store made me laugh – it’s barely even February, and it was especially freezing outside today due to a cutting wind.  But perhaps now is the time to launch those spring brews, because maybe beer buyers will equate drinking a spring seasonal with the feeling of melted snow and bobbing snowdrops.  And spring sells during the doldrums of winter.  This brew’s beautiful label is colored with bright greens, blues and deep reds – it ‘s catchy, just like Rihanna and Drake’s “What’s My Name”. 

I can’t say I’ve been seasonally affected this year, and that may be because I’ve recently been deeply affected by pop music.   The hyper-produced beats, epic bridges and silly lyrics have become the ultimate in winter gear.  Pop songs are good, really good.  They are “pop” because they are popular, because they make people dance and sing and smile.  Because they hint of 90 degree weather and wearing minimal clothing. 

Magic Hat’s Spring Seasonal is named the “Vinyl Lager”.  According to Magic Hat lore, Vinyl is the sprightly fairy adorning the beer’s label.  She is the “season-shifter, bursting from her cocoon to sing the ancient song of vernal yearning” – just like Miley Cyrus or Ke$ha.  And in terms of drinkability, cost and all that, Vinyl goes down just like “Party in the U.S.A.” or “We R Who We R”.  It’s light and slightly bitter, a more or less insubstantial brew that goes down easy again and again – and again.   

I’ll apply my Magic Hat “fortunes” to the beer scale: 

Overall: “Bask in the glory of Apple Pie” 

Cost: “It’s All About Me” 

Taste: “Who’s At Fault For the Asphalt Vault”  
 

REMIX!! – Sacrifice one of your sixers and cook a meal of “Mardi Gras Vinyl Rice”.  Magic Hat also offers recipes for a number of their other brews on their website. 
 

-Amanda Bloom

Rage With A Skunky, Grapefruity Bitch

Flying Dog's Raging Bitch (photo by Josh Durkin)

Flying Dog’s 20th anniversary brew, which debuted last year, was the Raging Bitch Belgian IPA. The tagline? “If you’re lucky, your bitch will look this good after 20 years.”

Ain’t that something.

I left work with sore and a bit shaky in the knees after days of wandering around the store and where I live with bright colored hard plastic shovels and my dad’s old gray and red CB ski jacket and boots made of pads of leather hedon-harlots that soak up everything wet that slops by.

But now? Now I’m reclined on my bed typing this up, with a strange feeling in my knees that I hope means repaired damage, and this beer and a peanut butter and chocolate sandwich. And in the background, “Radio-Inactive” by Blueprint, after the Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” just played.

Well, the tone of the packaging and the quality of beer bring to mind buzzed recollections of Stone Brewery’s line of beers. Stone is the brewery that features a gargoyle on nearly everything they do, and they do fantastic beer. But, the style of the beer is worth noting above all else. Belgian IPAs are growing in popularity. Offhand, the only two I can think of are the Raging Bitch and Stone’s Cali-Belgique, and I’ve tried a third but can’t remember exactly what it was. It might have been from New England Brewery.

At 8.3% abv with this refreshing kind of crisp grapefruit sourness, the Bitch is comprised of El Diablo yeast—which yields the funk of the citrus—Warrior, Columbus, and Amarillo hops, and 60L Chrystal specialty malts, according to Flying Dog’s website. The Warrior hops, first bred by Yakima Chief Ranches, adds relatively smooth bitterness to the beer, while the Amarillo and Columbus hops offers pungent and hoppy-citrus flavors.

I’ve known about the beer for some time, have successfully passed it on to people who love IPAs. According to the Flying Dog website, along with the number of six packs that leave the store I work at, the popularity of the beer keeps rising as the style and the brewery get more fame and publicity.

I first picked up the beer because I immediately recognized that Ralph Steadman did the package art.

The bombastic drawings on the label done by Steadman would catch any eye, prudent or not, which is what Steadman is known from. Steadman, who was commissioned by Flying Dog to Draw the package art for their entire line of beers, is famous for his incredible caricatures, specifically in characterizing political figures. Anyone who has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, or has seen the movie by Terry Gilliam would immediately recognize his artwork.

But I’m not convinced that the label illustration by Steadman expands upon qualities in the beer.

And I feel like the title “Raging Bitch” somehow doesn’t quite fit the beer. A good name, sure, but this liquid cur is smooth at times, and a bit androgynous. A different way to describe the beer is that it evokes tastes just like you might feel after hearing a couple of strange orators. Try defining the beer that way: George Carlin (the intelligence, the grapefruit, and the lingering flavor) or Lewis Black (the angry bitterness left after the swallow), as well as Amy Poehler (the smooth sweetness) and Betty White (the strange bite).

Probably an unwise move to compare a liquid to comedic and intelligent people, but then again, why not?

Well, if you don’t get a chance to try this beer, or just don’t like Belgian IPAs very much, the whole Flying Dog line is worth tasting.

Their American Pale Ale, the Doggie Style, was rated number 1 by The New York Times in June of last year, and received a beer award and page spread from Maxim in their February 2011 issue. Cute. But I like the wild animal a bit more than their dry-hopped pale ale.

Overall: 8.2 out of 10.

Availability: Released last year as Flying Dog’s 20th anniversary brew, it was just added the beginning of this year to the brewery’s year-round roster. So, find a place that sells beer, and you’ll probably be able to buy or order it.

Appearance: Cinnamon gold.

Taste: I want to say something cliché like “it tastes like a bitch you’d want to party with,” but that’d be crass, ugly and, well, wholly unrealistic.

-Josh

India Pale Ale? No. Irish Pale Ale: McSorley’s

As I was cruising the aisles of my favorite Hat City liquor store (Warehouse Wine and Liquor) I blitzed by the Sea Hag and Ghandi Bot to the single bottle shelf.

I must have been in a daze, because I saw what appeared to be an IPA label with a Irish storefront owner by the name of McSorley. Upon further examination, I found that this is no India Pale Ale. It’s an Irish Pale Ale! Though I do love the my Harpoon and Sea Hag, I hadn’t heard of this beer.

Turns out it’s made by Pabst. Unlike the flagship Blue Ribbon, it pours a dark copper with a hint of red. The thick head poured to almost 2 fingers (Yes, I know how to pour a beer) and was tenacious in it’s thickness of fine, orange bubbles.

As I stuck my schnoz over the rim of my mug, I smelled a bit of grass, and a little bit of metallic malt. I had to breath deep as this isn’t a particularly smelly ale.

After letting the ale calm to a single digit’s thickness of head, I let McSorley’s ale flow down my gullet. After plunging through the thick, viscous head, I found overpowering wheat and metal in my mouth. As the head shrank, the metallic burn left my mouth, leaving to notes of bread and oatmeal.

I sat gulping away, the mouthfeel is a bit hollow- No real discernible texture and middle-of-the road carbonation left me unimpressed.

I would imagine this beer’s demographic to appeal to New Era wearing 18-34 year olds who are looking for something with a bit more class for Monday night’s game. Just like football itself, the beer overall leaves me bored, unimpressed, and wanting to do something a bit more engaging.

With a cost of two bones and CT sales tax for a single 12oz-er, much better beers can be found at the same price point (Like Boss’s Black Porter, 1.69 in Fairfield County).

I’d drink this beer if I it was the only option next to a Bud Light, or a Natty. Pabst could have stepped up their game with the amount they are charging for McSorleys. Two dollars for boring beer with boring packaging. Though nostagia may be trendy, the early 20th century packaging motif is a hackneyed and trite aesthetic in 2011.

Form mimics content for this ale. McSorley, you left me sore. Pass.

*

Overall: 4 out of 10 shamrocks. At this price it almost grabs the attention of the Molly Maguires.

Cost: Too much! Two bucks for too little.

Availability: On tap in New York, shipped elsewhere.

Drinkability: I’d pound em if there was nothing else available. After a few, I more than likely wouldn’t mind watching football or drinking boring beer.

Cave Nectar – Or, How I Learned to Love Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

It just looks so fucking good.

The Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a fine example of American ingenuity and innovation—the same kind of creative efficiency that Obama made the theme of his State of the Union speech last week. It was a kind of motivational pep rally speech meant to make Americans excited about entrepreneurship and exporting the best of the best to other countries so we can get out of this castrating debt.

 

Well, the Black Chocolate Stout is good enough that God should damn it. Way too easy to drink for what the stout is: a %10 abv imperial stout with six varieties of black, chocolate, and roasted malts—all American two-row malts. A thing I wasn’t aware of, two-row malts from North American malted barley differ from their European counterparts, according to the Brewer’s Market Guide. Brooklyn used American Fuggle and Willamette hops. According to Freshops, the Fuggle hops adds wood and fruit tones, while the Willamette adds flower, fruit, earth and spice. Mix in some chocolate, and that actually seems about right. Fruit, dirt and wood go together well enough, and I know from experiences with trying to describe how a heavy, spicy red wine tastes, that those adjectives can work.

As always, keep in mind that people pick out different things in what they drink. I couldn’t pick out fruit tones in the Stout under any circumstances.

What I like about the Chocolate Stout is the force it exerts on a person—a 10 lb claw hammer of beer. Funny thing is it used to come in six-packs, and though I’m not sure why it now comes in packs of four, I have to assume it was because people would get through three or four and suddenly realize that they had really drunk the equivalent of six or eight beers. Getting through a six-pack, which I’ve seen more than one person do (and one person do several times), is more like drinking a 12-pack. And that always sends a person on a lethargic spiral into lurching, and spouting dark puke.

On this night, the first hints of this beautiful beer inspires pre-pubescent resuscitations of intense feelings that I would normally have long ago when discovering something amazing in my grasp that excited me so much it removed all sense from me.

I don’t think anyone could argue that this beer has a range of chocolaty tones, but nothing that would make a person want to lick the air for the last remaining scents floating around. I happen to think that’s good because strong beers just overwork the mouth and end up tiring a person’s ability to taste the beer. A quick waft of the beer and a sip is enjoyable enough, while a full gulp is almost too much.

Overall: 9 out of 10.

Availability: October through March. I’ve noticed that many stores have had it in the past, but it may be something you’ll have to order.

Appearance: Black as the bowels of a cave.

Aroma: Chocolate through and through.

Taste: Chocolate and Malty. The hops were slightly apparent on most sips, but not overbearing at all. There is very little bitterness in this beer, and despite it being an imperial stout, it has the kind of silkiness (for lack of a better way to describe it) that Irish stouts often have.

This beer will make you a better person.

-Joshua L Durkin