Narragansett Cream Ale

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I just got finished mowing the lawn and weeding (which included getting bit by a spider, I think.  No wall crawling abilities though), so I decided to stereotype myself.  While I’m waiting for my lunch to cook, I’m drinking the most refreshing beer I could find in my fridge.  A Narragansett Cream Ale.

Wait, you don’t know Narragansett?  Their a Rhode Island Brewery, known for their easy drinking lager (only 4.99 a six pack.  I have some of that in my fridge too).  It’s the beer Quint drank in JAWS.  It’s the beer of the 70s.  And the best part is, both the Cream Ale, the Lager, and all their beers come in 16 oz cans.  So not only is it affordable, there’s a lot of it.

But how does it taste?

Creamy.  That’s the best way to describe this ale.  It’s not a hoppy ale by any stretch.  There’s a hint of hop at the tale end, but for the most part the malt shines through.  It gives the beer an almost milky taste.  That’s not right, but … let me think about this.  Ever have a Malted candy?  You know that flavor right when you get through the chocolate?  That’s the flavor.

But you can drink this fast.  It’s smooth, it’s easy and it refreshes the body after yardwork.  The color is goldne, and there’s a very little, but strong white head.  It looks like a light beer, but man does it have flavor.  It inches close to the Pilsner category in my eyes.  This beer is best drank cold.  Very cold.  Let it ooze through your system, cooling you off, relaxing you.  Getting you ready for the game.

Seriously, Narragannsett may become my go to back-up beer.  So glad it’s available here in NJ.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go crush my can, make my lunch and enjoy the rest of this brew.  You should too.

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies… farewell and adieu….

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The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten

Technically, this isn’t a beer nor is it a book.  It’s an album by one of the best new rock bands in the world. 

The Gaslight Anthem have been around for, if I had to guess, six or seven years.  Born as a punk band in New Brunswick, NJ, Gaslight-led by lead singer Brian Fallon–took punk and melded it with Springsteen and a touch of 50s rock.  The songs were blue collar, dirty songs about life, love and death.  They hit it big with their album THE 59 SOUND, and have been steadily rising in popularity since.

Their newest, the aforementioned HANDWRITTEN, is a bit of a departure for them.  Gone are the simple punk strains, and here is straightforward classic rock.  From the opening strains of “45,” you can tell this album is different.  Screetching guitar solos and soaring choruses separate this album from Gaslight’s others.  It truly is a step forward for them.

At the same time, the heart is still there.  The blue collar Springsteen-esque lyrics still live, and that’s why this album fits right in on this blog.  Two reasons:

a) Just like a book, each song tells a story and drags you through an emotional spectrum.  These songs, like the best books, are filled with heart and emotion.

b) It’s the kind of album you listen to in a down and dirty bar.  Where you walk in and ask for the beer from the cleanest tap that have. 

You can sit back with a beer and just enjoy this album.  It sounds like each character is opening up to a bartender.

Pick up a six-pack and then pick up this album.  It’s worth it.

What Catches Your Eye?

So, the other day, when talking about the Copper Mine, I mentioned that they tweet and Facebook the stuff they tap that day.  Often, that stuff will cause me to go from sitting on the couch not sitting about beer to heading out to the local pub to try whatever they just tapped.

The question then becomes:  What kind of beer catches my eye?

First off, it’s usually something rare.  Either something they doesn’t come in six packs or something I don’t come across often.  Most of the time it’s something I’ve never had before.  Just before Easter, I ran out to the Copper Mine because they had Carton’s Red Rye returning on tap.  That was a limited run of beer (at the time), that I couldn’t get anywhere else. 

Next I go for style:  I’ve said on here how I don’t usually like Belgian beers and really don’t like Wheat beers.  If those kind of beers pop up on my timeline, I’m not going to rush out.  However, if a Double IPA or an Oatmeal Stout does, I’m running for the border.  Those are the kinds of beers that catch my eye, and if I miss out on trying them, I often disappointed. 

Finally, Brewery:  If it’s a brewery that’s never disappointed me, such as Kane or Founders, I’ll run out.  If it’s something new they’re just releasing, I’m definitely going to want to try it.  Much like following an author you like, it usually pays to follow breweries you like.  They usually experiment with new stuff and release it in small batches to the popular local bars. 

That’s what gets me off my ass.

What kind of beers get you out of the house?

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

First up, a confession.  I know Chuck.  Not know him like, hey, we hang out and drink beers, but we chat on Twitter as much as he feels like answering me.  I love his blog.  I find him to be an inspiration when I’m down and out on my own writing–which is often.

So, it was with trepidation that I started his new novel BLACKBIRDS.  Why trepidation?  Because I’m always nervous when I start a friend’s book.  I want to love them so bad, that I often raise my expectations too high.

The good news is BLACKBIRDS lives up to everyone of my expectations.  It stars Miriam Black, a woman who–if she touches you skin to skin–can see how you’re going to die.  Like, she flashes to it, knows the time, knows the cause, witnesses it.  She’s used to this, by now–sort of.  And now she kind of wanders America, dealing with her power–her curse.

And then she touches Louis, a truck driver.  And what she sees stuns her.  It’s not that he’s going to die.  And it’s not even how gruesome his death is.  It’s that, when he dies, he says her name.

To say anymore would spoil the novel.

And believe me, you don’t want this one spoiled for you.

Miriam drives this novel.  She’s a complex, deep, and very sympathetic character.  At the same time, she’s a badass, and she’s going to drag you along for this hell of a ride.  You can’t stop reading, because you NEED to know what happens to her.

The most compelling chapters–for me–were the interludes, where Miriam is interviewed by a young journalist and starts to reveal the secrets of her power.  It got to the point where I’d curse at the end of each interlude, because I know I was going to have to keep reading that night to get to the next one.

Chuck asked me, very early on in the process to pick out a beer for Miriam.  The choices are easy (well, not so easy, it took me a while to come up with them, honestly).  Rogue Dead Guy Ale or Left Hand Fade to Black are the beers to sip while reading this.

But as soon as you start, you’ll forget the beer and just be caught up in the pages.

Buy this book.

 

Craft Beer Bar: The Copper Mine Pub

ImageLocated in North Arlington, NJ, the Copper Mine pub is one of the best craft beer bars around.  With 20 taps, that are constantly being rotated, you never know what gems you’ll find on a given day.  Not only do they have a fantastic tap list, but they also have over 50 bottles of different beers available. 

The owner, Vito, is-quite frankly-a gentleman.  He’s willing to sit and talk with you about just about any kind of beer he has on tap, and always willing to make recommendations.  Not only that, but, if he gets to know you, he’ll ask about all kinds of things: work, writing, sports.  He’s a true bartender, willing to let you share your sorrows, you worries or your successes.  A great guy–who also has clear great taste in beer. 

At the same time, he’s also up on technology.  Follow him on Twitter, and you’ll get all the new draught beers, the minute they’re tapped.  There have been times where I wasn’t even craving a beer, but have been surfing Twitter and saw the CM has tapped something awesome or rare.  I immediately ran out just to have a sip… or fill a Growler.  Yes, the Copper Mine does Growler fills.

Also, nearly every Thursday night, they host a Brewery Night.  Usually it’s a local brewery, but you never know what you’re going to get.

They don’t serve food, but they do have all the local take out menus.

I’ve been there for my bachelor party, it was the first place I had Sam Adams Utopia, Kane Beers, you name it, I’ve checked it out at the Copper Mine.  If you’re in North Jersey and you’re parched, the Copper Mine is the place to go.

BBQ Beer

It’s the summer, you know that.  You’re sweaty, you’ve been out in the yard, or out playing golf, or just overall relaxing.  And what pops up in your email?  An E-Vite to a good, old fashioned, backyard barbecue.  All you have to do is bring the beer.

So, you quickly scan the guest list and see that the other people on the list aren’t going to appreciate your 10 year oak aged barrel stout, or your whiskey barrel aged pale ale.  And they’re going to make a bitter beer face at the Triple IPA you’ve been saving for that special occasion. 

Yeah, I know.  What’s wrong with them?

So, here you are with a quandry.  You want to bring good beer to this event, you don’t want to condemn your beer snobbery by bringing any old beer.  And you cannot–under any circumstances–bring Coors, Miller or Bud Light.  You just can’t.  Let some other schmoe bring that for ten bucks.

You’re going to impress the crowd and make them all want YOUR beer.

So, what’s the strategy here?  You have to have one before you go into the liquor or beer store. 

1) Don’t Go Crazy:  You can’t bring that wild beer with you.  As much as you’d like, you just can’t.  That’s not going to interest people, and it’s going to be wasted.  If you share it with folks, they might even pour it out.  Save that for the party with your beer friends or when you’re just hanging out. 

2) Don’t Try Something New:  Bringing something you’re not sure you’re going to like is not going to help sell new beer to your friends.  Anything you try and might get rid of yourself is a big risk.  Less people are going to try it.  You and your beer are not going to be a hit of the party.

3) Stay Away From IPAs:  This one hurts me deep in my soul, but it’s true.  IPAs are an acquired taste.  You have to start slowly with good beer.  And IPAs are usually hopped to the max and that’s going to turn off people until their palate has adjusted.  Sorry, dude, that Pliny the Elder is going to go to waste.

So what do you bring?  Pale Ales usually sit well.  They give you the hops you want, while supplying guests with malts.  They’re usually very smooth, but they don’t taste like they’ve been over hopped.  They go down easy.  In the summer, the German beers usually sit well too.  Wheat beers (but not Blue Moon) or Blondes are always very drinkable, and people want more.  

What about you, Beer Snob?  What do you bring to a BBQ?  Do you risk the hops?

Barrel Aging….

This was first going to be a post about Cigar City’s Tocobaga Red Ale, but once I opened it (and learned how to spell the name of the beer), I realized I’d had the beer somewhere else.

No, not actually trying the beer, but the flavor was very familiar to me.  I’d had it before, but I couldn’t place where.  I had to search far and wide in my flavor memory.  And then it came to me.

Samuel Adams Utopia.

If you don’t know what Sam Adams Utopia is, let me explain it to you.  It is a very expensive beer.  It is a very high alcohol beer too.  And it’s made like whiskey.  Or made to drink like whiskey.

Basically, it’s a beer aged in whiskey barrels, and meant for sipping.

Now, without doing too much research (or none at all, so this whole post could be bunk), I wondered what kind of beer Sam Adams used to make this beer.  And I think I found it, a red ale.  Deep caramel malts that age well.  The flavors that are evident in the Tocobaga explode in the Utopia.

Utopia is a very sweet, very sticky beer that burns on the back end.  Very much like a drink you sip.

Tocobaga was subtler (and made by a different brewery), but it would be interesting to compare Sam Adams original beer with the Utopia.

This was the closest I could get.

Goose Island Pere Jacques

If you know me, you know I prefer the word Belgian to be followed by the word waffle, not ale.  I rarely like Belgian Ales, it takes a special flavor for me to fall for a good Belgian ale (think… Saison).  But I’ve been curious about Goose Island Belgian series and picked up a couple recently.  I review Pepe Nero a few weeks ago and enjoyed it, though it was a bit weird.

Now we come to Pere Jacques, described only as a “Belgian Style Ale.”  Nerves abound.  It’s a darker ale, much like yesterday’s Barleywine.  But on first sniff, it smells of Belgian seasoning (is that even the right phrase?).  AKA, it smells like every Belgian beer I’ve ever forced myself to drink (don’t ask).  At least it’s not a hefeweizen, the worst ale in the history of mankind.

This is a malty beer.  It is sweet, very very sweet, and heavy.  It’s not a beer for the summer.  It reminds me of an Oktoberfest beer, full of malts, ignoring hops.  It’s very carbonated too.  Lots of bubble hung out on my lips long after the taste was gone.

Overall, this was a decent beer.  Heavy, dark, and malty.  I could drink one, but not several in a night.  It was worth trying something new, but not something I’d buy again.

Avery Hog Heaven

I heard about this beer on an episode of Drinking Made Easy, and was immediately intrigued.  You see, I love Avery’s IPAs, but I’ve never been a fan of the Barleywine style of beer.  Not really sure why, just a bad experience somewhere in my past I guess.

But upon watching the episode, the brewmaster at Avery said that this was their first beer–brewed before craft beer styles became famous.  They didn’t have a name for this beer, so they did some research of strong beers and decided Barleywine would be a popular name.

Nowadays, they’d probably call it a Double IPA.

Upon hearing that, I was sold.  They sold me on the hops and the promise of a caramel finish.  And the first sniff delivered on the hop promise.  It was exactly what I expected, hoppy in odor.  A darker hue, more amber than orange, though, I was still a bit hesitant.

Time for a sip.  The hops came first, the sweet piney kind of the hops.  They burn the tongue with bitterness, but it’s quickly followed up with a caramel finish.  Nice and sweet.  This is a smooth beer.  Though it rings in at 9 percent, it’s easy drinking.

That’s not cool.

(Actually it’s real cool.)

But yeah, good beer.  Sorry a title made me so tentative to have it.