"How can a $10 whiskey be this good?" That was my first thought upon taking a sip of this golden nectar, which was quickly followed by a second: "Why have I never tried this before?" Dipping below $17 with any liquor is always a little questionable, whether it's whiskey, vodka, tequila or something else, but occasionally you find a gem. And Rebel Yell bourbon is in that category.
It’s 6pm on St. Patrick’s Day and Trader Joe’s is out of Guinness. I should have planned ahead instead of waiting until the last minute to stock my kitchen with this dark nectar of the Emerald Island, but I didn’t. And now it’s too late. My wife is home already, pulling corned beef and cabbage out of the crock pot where it’s been stewing all day. Am I going to have to return empty handed?
Grabbing a 6-pack from one of the California craft breweries seems antithetical to the spirit of the holiday. Craft brewing is still taking off in Ireland, and in every local pub from Dublin to Dingle, it’s still Guinness, that dark Irish stout, that’s on tap.
I’m standing in the beer aisle with a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, staring at the empty Guinness spot on the shelf. Turning to walk away, my gaze falls to the bottom shelf where I see another can, the same size as one of those hefty Guinness pints. And what’s that? It has “Irish Stout” splashed across the label! I’ve never tried Murphy’s before… but I recall that in the pubs we went to in Ireland, if they had two stouts on tap, Murphy’s was always the second. Should I buy these cans, or continue my quest at other stores?
It’s St. Patty’s Day, and I can’t go home empty handed. The smell of the corned beef is probably filling our apartment. I bet our dog is pretending to mind his manners, sitting “patiently” in the kitchen, waiting for a scrap. It goes without saying that my wife has already snuck some small pieces. I have to get home. Murphy’s it is.
This St. Patrick's Day, why not try something different? While everyone else is downing pints of Guinness, branch out and try the lesser-known, but equally delicious Murphy's Irish Stout.
Murphy's isn't as popular as Guinness (maybe it has something to do with the samurai?), but it is Irish. And that means that this smooth and drinkable stout still qualifies as a St. Patty's Day thirst quencher. In fact, if your fridge is empty, chances are Murphy's is still on the shelf somewhere... long after the Guinness is all sold out.
Murphy's isn't a carbonated drink, not in the traditional sense of the word. Stouts don't travel well, and any oxygen in the can will quickly change the flavor of the beer. So Murphy's, like Guinness, contains a nitrogen widget that simulates the creamy head of a draft pour when opened. Grab an imperial pint glass, tilt it to the side, and carefully let the ice cold liquid slide into your cup. The result should look something like the two-toned perfection pictured below.
Murphy's Irish Stout
Nose: Toasty malts, faint notes of dark chocolate or cacao, with the typical stout sourness.
Taste: Full-bodied, milky smoothness. Coffee.
Recommendation: Don't give in to the peer pressure. You've already tried Guinness. Try your Irish luck and grab a 4-pack of Murphy's!
Have you taken advantage of the buy 6, get 30% off wine deal at Kroger stores? (You can find this deal in many Kroger affiliates like Ralph's as well, although in some states the discount is only 15-20%). If not, you should. They tend to mark up their prices compared to Trader Joe's, so it's the only way I'll buy wine there. There's no real downside to buying 6 bottles at once. Even if it takes you a month or more to go through all of them, you can add a little style to your kitchen by displaying them with a nice wine rack.
My routine whenever I go to the store is to swing by the wine aisle just to check for sales. Frequently, you'll find an additional sale being offered on top of the regular buy 6 discount-- either a simple $2-3 coupon hanging off the neck of a bottle, or an additional buy 6 deal from a particular group of wineries offering you a discount on your total grocery purchase. As a result, I've picked up some halfway decent bottles of wine for under $6, and buying in bulk usually means I get a discount on gasoline too, discounting the bottles even more. Plus, buying 6 at a time encourages experimentation, and I've been pleasantly surprised by some random wines that I normally wouldn't even have considered. In my humble opinion, the buy 6, get 30% is not only worth it, it's the only way to buy wine at Kroger stores.
I was cleaning out the cabinet today and found two bottles of gin hidden in the back behind some sweet vermouth (anyone have a good cocktail that calls for this? I bought the bottle a long time ago, and haven't found a use for it yet). There wasn't much left in the gin bottles, really just an ounce or two, but it was just enough to do a side by side comparison.
First, a little background about gin. As Pasadena chef Onil Chibas mentioned in my interview with him, gin is one of the most interesting spirits available. If you're only familiar with widely available brands like Seagram's, Tanqueray, and Hendrick's (and the two I'm reviewing today), this may not be readily apparent. Gin and tonics aren't exactly the most fashionable drinks these days, and most people make their martinis out of vodka now. But gin offers a wide range of complexity and nuance for those willing to experiment.
Maybe it was the three story kangaroo billboard outside my dorm room while I was still underage (and attending a still-dry-campus). Maybe it was the month I spent in Australia touring as a tenor in the Men's Collegiate Choir/ #nerd. Maybe it's just my palate. Whatever it is, I LOVE [Yellow Tail] Cabernet.
The town of Napa sits as a quiet guardian at the southern end of Napa valley. Like many other small towns that suddenly came into money, it retains its quaint turn-of-the-century charm on Main Street, and among the quiet neighborhoods that stretch a few blocks back on either side. Revitalization is most evident along the riverfront, where newly constructed buildings and a grassy green park boldly confront the eye.
After three hours of wine tasting in Napa on Saturday night, we were ready for a full day's adventure on Sunday. The goal was to get out of town and drive further into the valley to see more rural scenery among the vineyards. After some googling, we download the Winery Finder onto our phones. This free app offers coupons for many of the wineries in both Napa and Sonoma (mostly 2 for 1 passes, but occasionally you'll see a complimentary tasting). Wine tastings and tours at Napa vineyards are not cheap. $25 seems to be the average starting price, and it goes up from there. Granted, many of the wines available for tasting cost upwards of $100 per bottle, so a $25 tasting here and there isn't a bad deal if you can afford it. Still, the Winery Finder is the way to go.
This weekend we were in Sacramento for a wedding and decided to make the most out of our trip by stopping by the Mecca of American wine, Napa Valley. With the limited time I have to write while I'm here, I'll update this page with a day-by-day itinerary, but check back soon for a more comprehensive guide to touring Napa on a budget.
Price check: Trader Jose varies in price from state to state. CA is the cheapest, at $4.99. It tops out in FL at $7.99.
But what about Trader Jose Dark? While still a Mexican import ostensibly created to compete with the big two (two macrobreweries are responsible for the vast majority of all Mexican imports), Trader Jose Dark doesn't immediately remind me of anything. It's lacking the distinctive bottle of Negro Modela, so I'm not sure if they're trying for something like Tecate or Dos Equis Lager. As a consumer, this matters. If I'm buying a knock off label, it's because I want something that reminds me of the premium brand. If I can't tell what that premium brand is, I'm much less likely to buy it.
What follows are my tasting notes for Trader Jose's Dark, but I'm tasting it blind. I have nothing to compare it to. You can help us out by leaving a comment and telling us what Trader Jose reminds you of.
You have to play detective to discover where Trader Joe's brands are made. Google always comes back with a handful of different results, so you have to dig deeper.
Contrary to popular opinion, TJ's is NOT brewed by Gordon Biersche. It's actually a product of Cervecería Mexicali in Tecate, Mexico. This is a brewery you've never heard of, that makes beers you've probably never tried, including Mexicali, Red Pig Ale, and Chili Beer (brewed with real chilies). Cervecería Mexicali was founded in 1923 by two Mexican entrepreneurs, who learned their craft from a German brewmaster. But before you get too excited about drinking Mexican microbrews, it's important to note that the original brewery was forced out of business by the big two, and was then purchased by Coors.
Trader Jose Dark Premium Lager:
Nose: Heavy molasses notes. Light, sweet finish. Hay.
Taste: Reminds me of other brown ales. Woody molasses flavor, with a slightly sour finish.
Leave a note. What does TJ Dark lager remind you of?
Commonly Fine is a blog about great beers, wines and spirits... at great prices.