"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!
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.
One of my friends is already posting Facebook pictures of snow in his backyard. Meanwhile, I'm like Ron Swanson over here in my thick sweater. It's definitely going to be a booties and gloves surf day.
When you take your first sniff, it's like slicing open a sweet ruby red grapefruit. There's very little of the bitter, sharp citrus some of the stronger IPAs have. Accumulation reminds me of Peak Organic's softer, refreshing IPA style.
Sipping Accumulation is like crushing the pulpy sweet fibers of a fresh ruby red in your mouth. It is thirst quenching, and then some. The hops are softened and balanced by the wheat, leaving me both satisfied and wanting more as I reach the bottom of the glass.
Accumulation White India Pale Ale is yet another reason New Belgium is one of my favorite breweries. Even if you don't like IPAs, it's worth a try this holiday season. I'm guessing it won't be around past December. That leaves a two month window to get your fill. If I can brave these sub-70 temperatures and make it to the store, I'll be huddled up under a blanket sipping some here in L.A. I suggest you do the same.
Nose: Sweet ruby red grapefruit, hops.
Taste: Sweet ruby red grapefruit, hops softened by wheat and Belgian yeast.
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.
It's Fall, and this year, that means it's time to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon with some pumpkin infused beer tastings. As time goes on, I hope to add to this list, but let's begin with two solid brews: Mendocino's Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale and Anderson Valley's Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale. Both are solidly pumpkin and have a similar lineup of the usual suspects when it comes to spices: Nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The main difference between these two is body and coloring. Fall Hornin is much darker and a little heavier, while Engine 45 is on the lighter side.
Mendocino Brewing Company Engine 45 Pumpkin Ale
Nose: Nutmeg, pumpkin and cinnamon over a buttery nose.
Taste: Just like it smells, but the emphasis is on the nutmeg. Fairly well balanced, this beer makes me crave a pumpkin pie. Still, it's easy to see why pumpkin flavored drinks are only popular for a season.
Anderson Valley Fall Hornin
Nose: Nutmeg, sour ale nose.
Taste: Darker, sour, caramel, with more pumpkin and more nutmeg than Engine 45. I find this one to be a little more balanced as well.
About the Breweries
Both breweries are located in Northern California. Mendocino Brewing Company was founded in 1983 in Mendocino County California. They are easily recognizable for their use of birds of prey on their labels (Engine 45 would be an exception). They distribute from coast to coast, also brewing at the Old Saratoga brewery in New York state.
Valley Brewing Company has been in existence since 1987, and with Mendocino, was one of the first 20 craft breweries in the country. Today, they are known for their high quality brews, including their Barl series of bourbon aged beers created in partnership with Wild Turkey Bourbon.
Give both of these beers a shot, and then let us know: What do you think? Should these breweries bring them back next year, or abandon the whole "pumpkin beer" project altogether? Or do you have a pumpkin beeer that you can't stop raving about? Review it below, so we can give it a try as well.
When I first saw a stack of Not Your Father's Root Beer boxes in the beer aisle I thought, "That's clever... marketing craft root beer to craft beer lovers." Then I got a phone call from a friend in Indianapolis. "I just came back from Boston. They were selling this alcoholic root beer, and you HAVE to try it!" He was raving about Not Your Father's Root Beer, and said this is the first beer in a long time that he liked so much that he had trouble sharing it with his friends (when you run into this problem, the solution is simple: buy another six pack).
The next day, I hopped on my red dyno-glide beach cruiser and pedaled back to the store to try some for myself.
Watermelon beer? Er... yes? Maybe? No? It was right there on the shelf, and I wasn't quite sure how to respond. Was this another gimmicky hipster beer, designed for the trendy kids on cool bicycles? Or could this actually be something worth sipping on the back porch while waiting for the corn to reach it's state of charcoal perfection on the grill?
Seeing my confusion, a helpful Trader Joe's employee in a Hawaiian print shirt skipped over to my side. "Watermelon beer. It's delicious. I tried some last time it was in. Better get it now, this stuff goes so fast." With a twirl, she was gone.
After a few cloudy, rainy, and especially humid days here in L.A., summer is officially back in session with blue skies and an invigorating new beer from one of my favorite breweries. The New Belgium Long Table Farmhouse Ale was originally slated to be released on August 10, but it is currently available at my local Trader Joe's. New Belgium is marketing this as a Fall beer, and I can see why. The Long Table Farmhouse Ale packs a walloping fruity, spicy, herbal punch, with Belgian overtones that are impossible to miss in both the smell and taste.
Farmhouse ales (also called "saisons") like Long Table originate in Wallonia, the French speaking region of Belgium. They were brewed in the cooler off season on the farm, then served to farmhands during the hot summer months. For more on farmhouse ales, click here. And for more on New Belgium Brewing Company (where, if I lived in Colorado, I would be applying for a job), click here.
Long Table Farmhouse Ale:
Nose: Fruity, spicy, coriander.
Taste: Just like it smells!
Recommendation: Get out there and buy a six pack before this seasonal brew goes out of stock.
Image borrowed from www.newbelgium.com.
It's June, and cold and flu season should theoretically be over. But the sky is gloomy in Southern California, so to match the winterish weather outside, my body decided (without consulting me, of course) to come down with a cold. What kind of cold? Not the kind with light sniffles and the occasional cough, but a real, honest-to-goodness cold, complete with blocked sinuses, achy muscles and a searingly painful throat.
In dire circumstances like this, there's nothing to do but make the best of it. And that means hot toddies all around. For the uninitiated, a hot toddy is a homeopathic cold remedy that harkens back to auld Ireland itself, where it is also known as hot whiskey.
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