Ah, Maker's Mark. What more can I say? You were one of the first bourbons I ever had. The first of many to be paired with a cigar and gently cradled in an icy glass on an old porch overlooking the lake. And you quickly became a go-to sipper whenever you went on sale.
But now... I think you've been replaced.
Not to worry though. I'm staying in the family. In fact, my new favorite corn whisky is your (barely) older brother. Maker's 46, despite it's steep price hike when compared to Maker's Mark ($47.99 vs. $24.99), is nothing more than their standard whisky aged for a few extra weeks with seared french oak staves. These staves add to the smooth, vanilla flavors of the whisky, and the searing caramelizes the sugars in the wood, increasing the sweetness and removing all trace of bitterness.
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.
Brewers have been making beer in Mexico since the arrival of Spanish conquistadors under Cortes. But it was really the arrival of Austrian immigrants in the 19th century that kickstarted the Mexican brewing industry that has us quenching our thirst with Corona and limes every summer. Right around the time of the American Civil War, Maximilian I, with the support of the French government and elite Mexican monarchists, established the short lived Second Mexican Empire. This led to an influx of German-speaking immigrants, who brought with them their centuries old brewing knowledge. This is evident more in beers like Dos Equis (stay thirsty my friend!), which is really a Vienna style lager brewed south of the border.
Mexico and Holland have been battling it out for some time to be the top beer exporter in the world. Mexico came out on top for the first time in 2003, and since then it's been a toss up from year to year. Despite the valiant efforts of the most interesting man in the world, Corona remains the top selling Mexican beer. Corona is brewed by Grupo Modelo, a Mexico City brewery that also makes Estrella, Modela, Pacifico, and Victoria beers. Their main competitor, Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma/FEMAS, makes most of the other Mexican imports you're familiar with: Tecate, Sol, Dos Equis, Carta Blanca, Superior, Indio, Bohemia and Noche Buena.
Corona was first brewed in 1925 to celebrate Modelo's tenth anniversary as a brewing company. It is instantly recognizable by its clear glass bottle (so is the Trader Jose knock-off). Most breweries prefer tinted glass or aluminum cans because ultraviolet light will eventually turn the oils in beer rancid. Still, despite the clear glass bottles, Corona seems to be doing just fine. It's the best selling import in both the United States and the U.K.
Interestingly, according to the Swedish National Food Agency, Corona contains less than 20ppm of gluten, while some independent tests have resulted in counts as low as 10ppm. The FDA considers anything below 20ppm gluten free, so while I can't with good conscience recommend this beer to my friends with Celiac disease, it looks like a great option for people with gluten sensitivity.
"Although concentrations gluten in beer are in line with those found in gluten-free foods should be aware that the consumption of beer leads to an increased intake of gluten. Consumption of 0.5-1 liters of beer can in some cases make a significant contribution to the daily intake of gluten." -SNFA
For this tasting, I tried Corona Extra ($7.99) and Trader Jose ($5.99) side by side. Is Corona really worth the extra $2.00 per six pack? Let's find out!
The face off:
Nose: Sharp and delicious, the smell of summer. Maybe I'm biased, but this lager is screaming for a fresh lime.
Taste: Full bodied and sweet, with a crunch like English cheddar.
Color: Bright straw
Nose: Lacks the distinctive characteristics of Corona Extra. Less complex, less aromatic. Mildly reminiscent of hay.
Taste: Thinner body, less complex, but still drinkable. Improves with a slice of lime.
Color: Dark straw
Conclusion: Corona wins hands down on this one. Trader Jose just doesn't carry the same complexity or the crisp flavors of Corona. Spend the extra two dollars, it's only $.33 per beer. And if you're still thirsty after you finish that six pack, go for Trader Jose.
Have you tried these Mexican lagers side by side? Which do you prefer? Leave me a note!
Commonly Fine is a blog about great beers, wines and spirits... at great prices.