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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Drink of the Week!

Well, I got through last week unscathed, mostly because the beer was remarkably average. The ones that we imported from Latin America, are surprisingly because they are much like our own tradition beer used to be, rather than where it is going.  American beer covers such a range of taste and flavor that we can't really put it into a nice little corner. It is so diverse and robust, it has really broken out of it mold and has begun to take the stage.

So we tried beer from Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras and Bolivia. Now lets try it from another direction - France. Now before I get messages about going to Gaul, let me explain myself. Bear with me, and hopefully, you will see it in the end.

When I went to France this fall, I reconnected with with a friend who had really meant a lot to me.  I lost touch with this person except for birthday messages and the occasionally rare exchanges. I was as surprised as anyone when she said that I should definitely make plans to come and visit her and her family when I finished my visit to Sweden. Her message was bright and sunny, more than I had warranted.  I mean, if you had known me before, I was a real idiot for having left her and she let me know it. So off I went, nervous, and excited, but happy that that we would be friends again. We hit it off, two peas in a pod. I don't know where it will go and how it will play out, but I do know that I am happy that I did it.

So, these bottles and cans are not just a representation of France, they are a representation of her and what she has meant to me. For that, these are the tastes I am saving as I close in on 1,000.  A small token of the time we spent together. So here they are:

Biera Corsa - Pietra: This one is the real mystery of the bunch. Teach me to study German and Swedish because this one is totally unknown. The only way is to open it and find out!

Rince Cochon - Biere Blonde Des Flandres: This one is a little more knowable - its a blond of the field of Flanders, so it is a light and rich in color and fairly complex. I will see if it lives to up to it.

Brasserie Dubuisson Freres - Denee Des Trolls (Belgian): This one turned out to be Belgian after I bought it and I think I may save it for the last one. Blond ale taste along with fruity aromas, it could be the sweet one I have been looking for.

Rince Cochon - Biere Rouge: We could be in for a good one here. The pink bottle seems to indicate a raspberry or a cherry flavored content, but we will not know until we try!

Brassuers Depuis - Jenlains Ambree: The amber note on the outside leads me to believe that this one is a little more flavor than the others, but again I will know when I have tasted it.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sometime It's Where You Drink

Often times on this blog, I suggest that it is what you drink and not where you drink it that is the all consuming issue. I mean face it, that is what a beer blog is all about and 99 times out of 100 that is going to be true. But there is that one time that the stars align and the place says as much about you as anything else. I was in such a place on Saturday night.

Saturday was a much a regular day as any other day. Running errands, taking care of chores (I am no longer the source of comic humor at Michael's!) and other such ilk. Just a regular Saturday. I had one chore in front of me, but this was going to be a good one to get done - I was going down to a local pub to check-in on a job that had popped up on the work front. So get on the Beltway, scooted off at I-95 and on the Fairfax County Parkway. Followed the directions from Siri a couple of more times, including a very narrow causeway under a railroad track, and I was there. Zounds! The place was closed. Shut. Fresh paint signs all over the newly refurbished drinking area.

So, I pulled out the iPhone and did a quick looked up on a place I had passed by earlier in the day. The Cock & Bowl is located in the small community of Occoquan, just over the line in Prince William County. The big draw was the Belgian line up of drink and cuisine. As compared to the Belga Cafe on 8th Street, NE in the District and its sizable line-up, this had taken the completely opposite approach to Belgian cuisine - the quaint little Mom and Pop style family inn. The write up on it had been pretty good, but one thing they had not commented on was the size.  I would soon learn my lesson.

After a drive around Occoquan (this place is really a lot small than the map gives is credit), I parked and worked my way back to the restaurant. Once I had found it sticking out from an alley, I walked back and went in. Boom! You are right in the middle of the main dining room which is about as large as a small living room.  Fortunately, the clerk spotted me, I asked for a table for one and we started the hike up to another dining room which was smaller than the first! Both rooms fit into a house just so, it took me a while to realize that they didn't waste on inch. She took me to a table that fitted perfectly in a corner and handed me a menu and a four page beer menu. Yep, I had landed in heaven.

First, the beer and then the food. I ordered a Kasteel Rouge by Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck in an 11.2 ounce size.  The Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck recounts it this way: "Kasteel Rouge is a unique blend of Kasteel Donker and a sweet cherry liqueur. This fruity beer makes a great aperitif on a sunny terrace. It’s certainly a beer for lovers of sweet cherries with an overpowering aroma of the fruit. The cherries get the better of the malt in the Kasteel Donker mother beer, although it contributes touches of chocolate and pepper to remind you it’s there. It is surprisingly easily digestible for quite a strong beer."

Most of the other beers, I noticed, came in a 22 ounce size, which would have fit on the table but it would have been a tight fit once you got everything else on. Kasteel Rouge is a cherry flavored beer with a smooth flavor that you only wish to take small sips from at a given moment. I could have taken a pretty good mouthful, but that would have defeated the purpose of the beer. The beer was just made to be imbibed in small sips.

Next came the steak and fries, which were pretty good, though I have to admit there were way too many fries. You fry aficionado will probably disagree, but when you look at the plate, there were way too many.  The last piece to arrive may have been the best piece to the whole meal, except for the beer. The waffle. Now most place put the weight on the French fries, but I am going to say that it is the waffle. This thing was delicious, served with butter and a fresh Vermont maple syrup. Perfect ending to the perfect meal.

So, there you have it. The next time you want to experience a good Belgian meal and you are not ready to give up your first born child to do it, the Cock & Bowl is just the ticket. Call ahead, just to make reservations.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Drink of the Week!

Well, the first Drink of the Week appeared to go over with great success, so I think I will try another one! But where the list last week seemed to be carrying on through with winter lagers and ales, this week we are going in the opposite direction. We are head for the South to where are kindred spirits in beer consumption are experiencing summer. I know, I know, but it is not always Winter and Spring on our calendar and we should try these out as well. Besides, I have very little knowledge of these brews and who knows, it may be just the ticket to finding a natural breath of fresh air!

Crimson Ridge Val No. 1 - Premium Hard Cider:  This one looked pretty good, but with most ciders it fell a bit short on the taste-o-meter. It starts out well, but then it begins to fall down as we get further into the taste. By the end, its pretty well shot its load and its left with just water.

Cerveceria Boliviana Nacional -  El Inca: This one advertises a dark beer so it hopefully is good. I like dark beers, but those from southern neighbors (and nobody can doubt, Bolivia is WAY southern) have a reputation as weak. We shall see!

La Cerveza Preferida De Los Argentinos - Quilmes Cerveza: This is advertised as the favorite of Argentinian beers and we all know what that means! But I have purchased it for the sake of comparison, so lets hope the Argentinians are more honest.

Cerveceria Hondurena, SA de CV - Salva Vida: This one has me puzzled. Its from Honduras and that is far as I am going to guess. Two points to anyone who can contribute more!

Cerveceria Centro Americana, SA - Famosa Lager Beer: This is brewed in Guatamala for consumption inside the country if my translation is right (and there is nothing saying that it is). The mixture of Spanish and English on the bottle says it at least get picked up by gringos!

So, here we go on the venture over the border!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rise to the Top - the Chocolate Top!

First, lets start on a kind of macabre topic. My Dad died six years ago. It is a big happening in my life because as a only child it left me all by myself.  Now it didn't leave me all alone ("all by myself" and "alone" are two different thing, left alone for me to decide) - my wife and my two sons were still by my sides, and I had my job with a government contractor. My extended family in California was still with me and they handled the bulk of funeral arrangements. But nevertheless, I still felt alone (and sometimes still do) in the world. It had always been the three of us. Mom, Dad and me, going places, doing things, checking in. I had moved away from my parents immediately after college, promising to return. I never did and though Mom had been pretty good at believing me that I would return, I still had the feeling that she didn't really believe me. Dad had believed that I had left and I would return when the time was right. I didn't worry about him, he just knew I would be back. Well, my parents are both gone now, the immediate family had dissolved (we are on good terms) and my job is gone. I had suffered a brain aneurism (I got better!) and now I am writing a blog about beer and just begun to hunt for a job.  The world had taken a few major turns and it seemed like I was hanging on. I am a pretty lucky guy.

Now where am I going with this? Well before I had this episode, I had also been thinking about chocolate. Deep, rich chocolate. The kind you think about when its a winter night and the wind is blowing gently through the trees and the temperature is dropping - and the goodness of chocolate is creeping up in your mind.  It just oozes in there and before you realize it, a cup of hot chocolate really sounds good.

The Shake Chocolate Porter brewed by the Boulder Beer Company was really calling my name and so it was a trip to the Del Ray Pizzeria for a round of this fantastic brew. This is the first microbrewery beer in Colorado, having been in business since 1979 with the 43rd brewing license issued in the United States. In terms of the national craft beer craze, these guys were present at the Creation (or the start of the evolution is more like it.) After moving out a barn with goats to a larger building, they have been in the same structure in Boulder, CO.

The Shake Chocolate Porter is an American porter. It is a 5.9% ABV and a 39 IBU with a "dark black in color with a rich sweet aromatics and flavors of dark chocolate, coffee and caramel. This unique brew blends five different grains, including Chocolate Wheat, that along with cacao nibs create devilishly delicious chocolate finish with a velvety mouth feel."

Rather than oozing chocolate, its like a chocolate shake with a dark, rich, velvety soul at its heart. You just keep wanting to hit the glass well after its done, hoping for one last drop that it says that its over, but never quite reaching it. The quoted line is right in line with the taste of the beer. Its really good and tasty. Mom and Dad seem to regard thinking about chocolate as a secondary consideration, but when you get down to it, chocolate sometimes is the central topic.

So, there it is, how I got from thinking about my Mom and Dad to a thorough debate on the merits of chocolate. I will always be thinking of Mom and Dad, in some small way they are always with me, but I think it is a pretty major leap to be including them in the Shaker Chocolate Porter. Hey, its the way that I roll.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Drink of the Week!

I have decided to pick up a habit Skye Marthaler has occasionally engaged in and publish my drinking schedule a week ahead of time. Yes, believe it or not, I am putting my lips to the bottles more than once in a while (if you follow me on Facebook, you have images glued to you eyeballs by now, except Darryl May) but I do actually do it. So to bring more of you into the fold, I thought I would publish a drinking schedule and you can make your comments up front and personal! :-)

The first bottle is going to be a New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb. This pie flavored inspiration my not seem like a beer inspired creation, but I think you will think twice on drinking it!

The second bottle is going to be a Hardywood Barrel Series Bourbon Sidamo. This one promises a cross between a coffee Imperial and bourbon barrel. We'll see how it turns out.

The third bottle is a Blue Moon Proximity from their Vintage Ale Collection. I have a feeling that we are for a ride on their India Pale Ale collection, but it remains to be seen.

The fourth bottle is a Detour Double India Pale Ale. The Double India Pale Ale are a kind of nice departure from the India Pale Ale in that they are a little smoother and a little smoother is a nice find in the India Pale Ale department.

The fifth bottle is Ommegang's Chocolate Indulgence. I have high expectations for this one, given the other notables that Ommegang has let out of their doors. Its a nice extension for Ommegang to add chocolate to it ingredient listing.

So there we have it. Let me know whether or not you find this interesting and I will keep it up. This is not my entire listing - the weekends are a surprise, as much as for me as for anyone - but it helps you stay up with what I am drinking and commenting on.