Actually, I'm quite fond of their #2 (both of them).
The nutrition facts of goodies recently given to me by folks who really should know better.
First, from the Broad Street Run post-race goodie bag:
And from the Red Cross, after giving blood:
Three grams? Seven grams? How bad could that be?
Unlike other fats, trans fats are neither required nor beneficial for health. Eating trans fat increases the risk of coronary heart disease. For these reasons, health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts.
But, hey, thanks for the "goodies," guys.
Ah, the boys are sleeping over their friends' house, which means the missus and I were finally able to have some Sporkie again.
And let me tell you, it's been a long time since we've enjoyed some Sporkie.
It's the name of a pizza from Bertucci's, folks! Get your minds out of the gutter.
[And no, I didn't take a picture of the missus and I actually having Sporkie (sporking?). You people are sick.]
I know I already posted about the nine-year-old and I making a special trip down to Ocean City to get discount ride tickets, but I forgot to mention that we also picked up, er, a little salt water taffy while we were there.
Maybe it was a little more than a little.
[And yes, I know salt water taffy doesn't have salt water in it, but the title wouldn't have worked quite as well if I had used "corn syrup."]
I have been looking for these old-timey candies for a few months now (as, I'm sure, has every octogenarian in the tri-state area). I usually get a craving for horehound right around cough-drop season, since I remember the two being sold side-by-side before those damn Ricola folks came along with their aplhorns and ruined everything.
Anyway, I finally found them on my first visit to Cracker Barrel. I wasn't that impressed with the restaurant (I can think of plenty of places that make better pancakes) but the geriatric candy they sell in their shops just might have me coming back.
A few bullet points while I try to figure out how one of the station wagon's strut springs could just snap in half like that, and how much it's going to cost me to replace it.
I'd say "Happy Spring," but that would just remind me of that damn broken strut.
State health officials say parents should not feed Earth's Best Organic Two Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast baby food to their children.
The jars sold in the state are part of a nationwide recall sparked by the risk of contamination with clostridium botulinum -- which produces a type of food poisoning known as botulism.
And yes, I realize that by repeating both of them I'm actually asking four questions, not two. Who cares? Who cares?
Time for Wiki Wednesday.
You know - you go to Wikipedia, you click on "random article," you report on the outcome.
Here's my random Wiki Wednesday find for this week:
Casu marzu (also called casu modde, casu cundhídu, or in Italian formaggio marcio) is a cheese found in Sardinia, Italy, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. Casu marzu means "rotten cheese" in Sardinian.
Derived from Pecorino Sardo, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider to be decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down the cheese's fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called "lagrima", from the Sardinian for "tears") seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as translucent, white worms, about 8 mm (1/3 inch) long. When disturbed, the larvae can jump for distances up to 15 cm (6 inches), prompting recommendations of eye protection for those eating the cheese. Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming; others do not.
Here's your Long Cut tip of the day: if your waitress asks "with or without the larvae," quickly change your order to something from the kiddie menu. Same goes for food that requires eye protection.
[Sorry if anybody was eating while they read this. Now excuse me while I contemplate a vegan lifestyle.]
We took the PATCO hi-speed line into the city with several couples that looked like they were going to the opera, or at least somewhere a little more fancier-schmancier than a brewpub. It was cool to see people who probably could afford to not have to take public transportation still choosing to use it.
And just in case we were beginning to think that people's perception of public transportation was changing and it was no longer only weirdos and winos who rode the train at night, our ride back home featured a guy who was telling anyone who would listen that he wasn't prejudiced, since he always made sure to never use the "n-word" (as he so tactfully and nonprejudicially put it) when making fun of black people.
Nodding Head has pretty good food as far as pub food goes, but their beer is outstanding. They always have some interesting brews on tap and, since you can only get their beer at the restaurant, it's always fresh.
I began last night with their 700 Level, a blonde ale, and ended with their Harvest Ale IPA, a hoppy pale ale. Starting the night off with the lighter blonde ale was a pretty good idea, but finishing the heavier Harvest Ale after a big meal (bbq pulled pork) was a bit tough, but somehow I persevered.
The missus seemed to enjoy her apple-tini, and seemed to enjoy her second apple-tini even more! She needed both (and a glass of water) to cool the fire caused by her Cajun chicken sandwich.
Afterward we took a little stroll around Rittenhouse Square before finally giving in to the chilly breezes and heading back to the train station to meet our new unprejudiced friend, the only low point in an otherwise great night out.
A very bittersweet moment today. This evening, as the unofficial last day of summer wound down, the family (and about half the neighborhood kids) waited out on our front porch for what would, sadly, be our last Mr. Softee treat of the year.
Unless, of course, he comes around again tomorrow.
[And, yes, I realize that this is the second post this week to use the word "bittersweet" - one more time and the word is mine. I've kind of got mixed emotions about that.]
Well, the weather ended up cooperating, and our planned end-of-summer last family day out actually happened. The day's schedule - heading down to Wilmington for some outlet-store shopping, some minor league baseball, and a nice dinner - was dreamed up by me, so it's really quite amazing that everything went pretty well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
The shopping went well. The kids got a little rammy, but that was understandable (I wasn't so understanding at that time, of course). Got some good bargains on some much-needed work clothes for the already-starting cooler weather. The missus made sure I didn't outdo her on the bargains or the buying, so she did alright, too.
The ballgame was fun even though the cloud cover went completely away during it, turning a chilly morning into a very hot feeling 77 degree day. We found some free sunscreen samples and ended up saying for six innings, which is pretty good for us (especially when the kids didn't have a ballpark playground to go to, like they're used to at their local RiverSharks games). The Wilmington Blue Rocks are the Boston's Single-A minor league team, but right now they look better than the Red Sox do. Both boys ended up with BoSox caps, even though our family already gets plenty of baseball frustration from the Phillies and the Orioles and wasn't really looking to add any more frustrating teams - they're real nice caps, though - you can't go wrong with that classic "B." Besides, we follow three teams around here - the Phillies, the Orioles, and whoever's playing the Yankees - so any enemy of the Yankees is all right by us.
Finally we ended up at dinner at the Wilmington Iron Hill Brewpub, the finale I selfishly built our whole day around. Even after the long day the boys were well-behaved, the food was terrific, and the beer was even better. Not being able to decide what to drink, I ended up getting the sampler (see photo above). Nine 4-ounce glasses of some really good beer of all different sorts - even a sweet raspberry one the missus enjoyed. We really need to get out to this place more often.
Tomorrow's planned to be a lazy day, Tuesday it's back to work for me, Wednesday the nine-year-old starts fourth(!) grade and Monday the little guy becomes one of the big guys at preschool - his final year before Kindergarten. Somewhere in there the missus goes back to her tutoring, too, which I think she kind of wants to get back to, if only to start getting paid again (and for the teaching part, too - though she probably wouldn't admit to that).
Wow. Where did the summer go?
Don't bother with the new Salsarita's in Haddonfield: outrageous prices, soggy burritos, meager quesadillas, disorganized service, and stingy portions. All wrapped up in huge ozone-depleting Styrofoam take-out containers.
Updated to add: That picture up there isn't of the Haddonfield location, but it looks just about the same. It's actually a pretty nice looking room, for what it is. The furnishings would make you think it was more than just fast food. It is a step above Taco Bell (that's not saying much) and I could see the service getting better (and maybe even the food getting better) as they get there act together, but the prices will still be too high and the portions will still be lame. The meals would look a lot better if they would just throw some free tortilla chips in there. And the Styrofoam take-out stuff has got to go if they want to attract the Haddonfield set.
Cranked up the ice cream maker for a sophisticated summer treat. Tastes pretty good, if I do say so myself - the mangoes were nice and ripe, which made for a pretty intense flavor.
Now, who can tell me where this post title came from?
Mango Sorbet [Cook's Illustrated]
The missus and I seem to have a thing for fancy mustards. She usually goes with the sweeter stuff - your Honey-Dijon, your Cranberry-Honey, and what have you - me, I go with the spicier stuff. So I was real happy to see "Sake Wasabi Mustard" last time I was at Trader Joe's.
Turns out the NY Daily Post even named it a "gotta-have" of TJ's, and it was a bargain at $2.99. And you know what? It sucks. Why, it's milder than French's Yellow! Big, big disappointment. It has joined the hodgepodge of half-empty bottles of underachieving mustards that fight for recognition - some second chance - as they serve their time in the purgatory that is our refrigerator door shelf.
Last Friday my faith in the purveyors of spicy mustards was renewed. While attending a tailgating party, I reached for some mustard to properly compliment my hot dog. What I choose looked a lot like Gulden's Spicy Brown - perfectly acceptable in a pinch - but the bottle looked different. I figured it was just some store-brand knock-off, but when I tasted it - woo-wee, it was hot.
Turns out that Tabasco is now makes a spicy brown mustard, and it delivers where Trader Joe's so-called "wasabi" mustard didn't - it brings the heat. I haven't actually picked up a bottle of this stuff for myself yet - I'm not even sure if my store carries it - but I've got to get me some, and soon. Mmm, mmm.
Uh, everybody does get this excited about their condiments, right? I sure hope so, because coming next week is an appreciation of that unassuming must-have: the Bread-and-Butter pickle.
My department head has moved into the front office and become the big boss of everybody. To celebrate his upward mobility (and to make sure he doesn't forget us) we took him (and our department secretary, whom he's taking with him) out to lunch at Maggiano's yesterday.
I could write a thousand words on what was wrong with my first visit to a Maggiano's (Philly's location being one in a nation-wide chain), but I'll just give you the bullets:
Soooooooooo not impressed. I might have been more forgiving if they hadn't crammed us in like they did. Right from the start it put me in a sour mood. This isn't to say that more space would have made the food taste any better, but I've found that being able to actually bend your arm at the elbow while eating tends to brighten your lunchtime mood.
Eh, at least the bread was good.
The main component of my lunch yesterday (pictured above) was a Latino-themed yogurt with a French name made by an American company. It's expiration date was an Irish holiday. The spoon I ate it with was from a Swedish store.
My thoughts on the Sabor Latino line? Eh. I'm working through a six pack of Papaya and Banana and the flavoring of those two are pretty subtle, almost bland. When I think of Latino foods, I think of strong flavors. But I would buy it again if it was on sale (then again, I eat a lot of stuff simply because it's on sale).
And yes, I know that I had a dairy product after the expiration date. I like to live on the edge (plus the label says it's safe for seven days after that date). And yes, I know that my lunch looks like something they give preschoolers before naptime, but I just prefer light lunches.
Now, who knows where the title of this post comes from?
A while back, Starbucks had this great idea. Instead of just slapping their weird melusine logo all over their cups, they would feature quotes from some "notable figures" under the banner, "The Way I See It."
Even if you don't drink coffee (or just shun Starbucks because they changed, man) you might have heard of this program from the big conservative stink it raised when it came out. It seems that Starbucks had the nerve to feature people from all walks of life, even - gasp - them homosexuals. Apparently Uppity Women For a God-Fearin' America got upset about Armistead Maupin's quote regretting that he waited so long to come out. This, of course, obviously meant that he wanted every American - but especially American children - to be gay.
So, anyways, the conservatives complain, blah, blah, blah, and we end up with quotes from such right-wing geniuses as the talking-points-parroting, war-mongering, Bush-rationalizing columnist Jonah Goldberg. And what does use his "The Way I See It" moment for? Why, to bash dem damn libruls, of course:
Everywhere, unthinking mobs of “independent thinkers” wield tired cliches like cudgels, pummeling those who dare question “enlightened” dogma. If “violence never solved anything,” cops wouldn’t have guns and slaves may never have been freed. If it’s better that 10 guilty men go free to spare one innocent, why not free 100 or 1,000,000? Cliches begin arguments, they don’t settle them.
Right, because Republicans don't use cliches ("No Child Left Behind," anyone?). But on top of that, his rant doesn't even make sense. Cops wouldn't need guns if it weren't for violence. Slavery wouldn't have happened without violence. Is he saying that there are times when it is acceptable to jail an innocent man? How about 10 or 100 or 1,000,000 innocent men? Would he be willing to volunteer to be one of these jailed men? And wouldn't having an innocent man jailed mean that the real criminals are still out on the street?
I asked Goldberg these questions (National Review - the rag he writes for - posts his AOL email address. That's always real professional, your business email address being from AOL.) I don't expect an answer anytime soon, seeing how he's an asshat and all. I was just so pissed that someone would whine their way into a great program like "The Way I See It," which was meant to be a cool exchange of ideas, and use it to spew hate.
Thanks for ruining my cup a joe, Jackass.
Yesterday my out-of-the-office work duties (shopping for plotters, if you must know) forced me and a couple co-workers to grab lunch on the road. Since we were stuck in a particularly extra-boonified section of boonies, we ended up going to the mall and eating at Houlihan's. I haven't been in a Houlihan's since forever, but as soon as I walked in the door it was obvious that nothing has changed in since my last visit. Decor, servers' unis, the food choices - all seemed the exact same as a decade ago (although it looks like they got rid of their "World Beer Tour" club. Pity).
I got what I'm pretty sure was one of their healthier meals - a cup of chicken-tortilla soup and half a french dip sandwich. I say "pretty sure" because I couldn't verify that. Houlihan's is one of the few national restaurants that doesn't post its nutritional information on the web. What is up with that? What are you afraid of, Mr. Houlihan (if that is your real name)? Even Fatty McFattie's post their food info, including the heart-stopping data on the McGriddles.
Houlihans needs to stop worrying so much about their servers' chotchkies and more about their customers' health. ["Chotchkies", as you sharp-eyed readers know, is my second Office Space reference today. With the Simpsons-inspired post title, I believe I have reached a state of supreme geekiness.]
Hey! Everybody remembers those old Polaner All Fruit commercials, right? You know the one where all the oh-so-civilized diners are enjoying their All Fruit-enhanced meal when some yokel ruins everything by yelling, "please pass the JELLY." Oh, ho, ho, stupid yokel! Jelly? Pu-Leeeeeeze! Leave this fancy All Fruit-centric dinner party at once, you heathen!
Yeah, so anyway, this morning I'm making a PB&J for the eight-year-old's lunch and what do I see in our fridge? You guessed it:
So I ask you:
And don't even get me started on this crap:
Blah. As if eating lamb isn't bad enough already.
And yeah, this is what I spend my time thinking about. Well, this and Mary Tyler Moore.
[By the way, the "jelly guy" (that's him up there) was played by Jason Byce, who apparently died last year. Not that those All Fruit elitists would give a damn.]
You may or may not notice, but in addition to changing my banner and "about" photo each month, I also try to change the items in my sidebar. I make sure my book and movie lists are up to date, I put a few of the cds that are in my car on there, and I "single out" some of the new songs I can't get out of my head.
One place I keep getting stuck on is "watching," my television show list. I keep wanting to put different shows on there, but the truth is I just don't watch that many shows. I watch some sports (especially during baseball season) and some PBS (or PBS-like) how-to shows. That's pretty much it - no "appointment TV" for me.
Lost and 24? Just pops and buzzes to me. Every week three or four posts about these shows end up on my bloglist and I get no closer to being even the least bit interested in them. I'm not bragging or anything, in fact my lack of interest sometimes worries me. Has the suspense-loving part of my brain died? If so, what's next - the romance-loving part?
I'll let others figure out the answers to those questions (when they're not busy decoding all the secret numbers from Lost, that is). What I wanted to write about is the one show I will be adding to my sidebar (and should have added a couple months ago, actually) - Iron Chef America.
Just as I've somehow avoided the 24 and Lost hype, I was never sucked into the Japanese Iron Chef when it was the hot new thing. I tried watching it, but could never figure out what all the buzz was about. I think for me it was hard to care about anything the chefs were making when so much of it looked inedible.
I admit that I started watching the American version at first simply because Alton Brown emcees the show, but I have become completely hooked on it now. I know the idiosyncrasies of all the Iron Chefs (especially Bobby Flay, whom I've been watching since we first got the Food Network) and most of the judges (especially Vogue's Jeffrey Steingarten, who doesn't seem to care one ounce about the chefs' feelings). While I don't think I've ever come away from an episode thinking I could (or would) make something I saw cooked up during the competition, I often find myself willing to try almost all of the entrees. The only think that really turns me off is the stuff that comes out of the ice cream maker (trout sorbet anyone?).
So look for that change to my television list, but nothing else from Food Network. The "humor" of the new Ham on the Street feels forced (and anyone could have seen that coming before the first episode even aired just from the annoying commercials), Unwrapped seems to be running out of interesting subjects, Rachel Ray is getting more frantic and more depressing to watch, I can't stand that little Nigella Lawson-wannabe Giada DeLaurentiis, I'm getting more than a little tired of all the dessert competitions, and who the hell is Dave Lieberman? All of the sudden this guy is all over Food TV and I have no idea where he came from. Anyone?
Thank God for Alton, that's what I say.
[In an attempt to take some of the stress out of providing quality blog content through the holiday season, I have decided to end the year with several best-of posts, collected under the title "Making the Cut" (get it? - hey, coming up with clever post titles is the most stressful part of owning a blog).]
It hasn't been that long since I started drinking coffee, so I'm no expert on the subject (unlike everything else in the world, which I am an expert on). Here are my five top favs from what I've tried so far:
I'm still very much a novice, so I'm open to any suggestions. So far I'm partial to the dark roasts.
[Wait, that's only a couple words.]
It really sucks.
Update (1:09pm): I went back and added footnotes to this post.1
Does anyone other than I2 find it fascinating that the boysenberry has only been around for about eighty years?3 The first person to successfully cultivate the berry was Walter Knott (he of Knott's Berry Farm fame).
I guess this is interesting to me because it just seems like the boysenberry should just have always been around from the beginning of time. Like pudding.
I can see where an apple that tastes like a grape4 was thought up in some agri-marketing genius' head, but boysenberries? Huh.
1 This post is now more informative than my college thesis.
2 Is this grammatically correct? "... other than I ..." doesn't sound right, but neither does "... me find it ..." So which is it?
3 I think I may have told the missus this morning that we (the missus and I) have been around longer than the boysenberry. I'm old but I'm not quite eighty years old just yet, so this was wildly inaccurate. Good thing she wasn't paying attention to me anyway.
6 Holy cow - the Honeycrisp apple is only 45 years old?!?! I think I feel another amazing food-fact post coming soon.
[photo credit: Oregon State University]
I want to tell you a story that begins in my childhood, but first you need to know something about the town I grew up in:
Riverside, NJ (population 7974) is located about 15 miles northeast of Philadelphia and is most famous for a strange beverage that locals call "Boost." It's hard to explain to those unfortunate people who live outside its market and, surprisingly, no one has set up a tribute website to Boost yet, but I did find this:
Tak-a-Boost (Drink-A-Toast) was invented here. Pharmacist Benjamin R. Faunce first created the drink in 1913 for sale in his Bridgeboro Street store. He created the drink to make the tonics and certain medicines more palatable to his customers. The drink contained a caffeine lift inspiring the name "Boost". The product is shipped to a number of markets outside the County, but its core sales area remains Burlington County.
[By the way, this Boost is not the same as Boost, the Ensure-like nutritional drink. When that stuff first came out, Tak-A-Boost actually sued this fake Boost. It was decided in court that, since the Tak-A-Boost market was so limited, there should be no concern about confusion between the two drinks.]
Though it sells the stuff short, Boost drinkers usually end up describing it as being "a lot like flat Coke." Most Riversiders grew up on this stuff - drinking it literally from cradle to grave (plenty of parents saw nothing wrong with filling baby bottles with this sugary stuff - that might explain my lifelong dental problems).
Ask anyone in town and they will tell you just how great this stuff goes with pretzels. And man, it hits the spot after mowing the lawn. It is what I call "guzzle-able" - you can get large amounts of it in your system quickly when needed.
But it does contain quite a bit of caffeine. One night, in seventh grade, a friend of mine and I each guzzled about two quarts of Boost. I went home and ended up bouncing off the walls all night. I got a real bad case of sleep anxiety and swore off caffeine right there and then.
So, no lie, for twenty-four years I haven't touched caffeine. Yeah, I've had chocolate and yeah, I've drank hot chocolate, and I know chocolate has caffeine in it, but it's such a small amount that I don't think it counts.
I've thought about becoming a coffee drinker over the years, but with each year that I grew further away from my last drink of Boost the more I worried about how my body would react to the jolt of java. I used to think I was healthier for avoiding the stuff, but most recent studies have proved me wrong - coffee doesn't seem to take any time off your life.
Right before I got married, my boss at the time predicted that I would soon start needing coffee, but that never happened. The same guy (by this time no longer my boss) was certain that once I became a father I wouldn't be able to function without a daily cup o' joe, but it didn't happen then either.
Last month, though, my work installed a coffee vending thingy in our snack room and for whatever reason, I decided that I would finally start drinking coffee. There's no question that I've needed it lately - I usually get my blogging done after everyone else in the house goes to sleep and then wake up at 5am to get in my morning run.
So I've been trying to ease my way back into the jolt juice. I figure a week or two of half-caf should do the trick. So far (after four days), so good. No jitters, no sleeplessness, and I actually seem to get though the workday a little easier. I'm sure my co-workers would tell you that I tend to talk a lot more for a couple hours after my morning coffee, but I'm not doing somersaults or anything. And I find that I really like the taste (since the coffee thingy at work can't make half-caf, I've been treating myself to the tasty brews from the local coffee houses).
So that's it - I'm back off the wagon. Or is it back on the wagon?
I feel like such a grownup. Now if I could just move off the "little table" at family functions.
Took the day off from work today to go pick apples with the family. We are now up to our elbows in apples (and some peaches, too) and I've been threatening take a whack at making my first apple pie. I'm a little apprehensive since pie is one dessert I have never attempted, but my latest copy of Cook's Illustrated did come with a recipe, so.... maybe. Stay tuned.
And yes, it probably wasn't wise for us to eat apples - unwashed apples - straight off the tree, but something about picking them yourself makes them seem more healthy/less pesticide-y.
[Photo by the missus - those are my sexy thighs in the background.]
It was hot here in Philadelphia today, but my family seemed to have made the best of it. I stayed away from the TV all day so I don't know exactly how hot it got, but there was some pretty intense heat and humidity. I made sure I got out early (6 am) for a seven-mile run, and it was already too hot.
Anyway, enough about the weather. Today the whole family took a trip into Philly for the Reading Terminal Market Sidewalk Sizzle and Ice Cream Freeze, an outdoor festival highlighting the market's merchants. While it is outside, the block it's on is thankfully in the shade of the large walkway that connects the market to the Reading Headhouse. So we enjoyed unbelievably tasty (and huge) BBQ pork sandwiches from Jack McDavid's Down Home Diner and the boys went in the moon-bounce, rode on a mini-train ride, and got airbrushed tattoos. The festival was one of those rare family events that lived up to the hype.
But the reason we went to this festival was not for rides or the tattoos or the sizzle (BBQ) but for the freeze. Reading Terminal Market is home to Bassetts Ice Cream, America's oldest and no doubt best ice cream company. Bassett's was hosting a ice-cream cone relay and an ice cream eating contest. The cool kind - no spoons, no hands.
The seven-year old was in the first heat. He was pretty good and seemed to have a big fan base, but missed winning by seconds. We could tell he had a ball because he didn't complain about losing. It was great to see him smiling so much.
Then it was my turn.
I strapped on my bib and took one piece of advice from the boy: forget licking, you have to suck the ice cream into your mouth. When the second (and last) heat began, I sucked it in and took large bites of the cold stuff, which stung my teeth and, yes, froze my brain. We were told we couldn't leave any melted ice cream in the bowl so when the time came, I lifted the bowl up with my teeth and let gravity do the rest.
And I won.
Say hello to the reigning ice cream eating contest champion of the Delaware Valley. Now bring on the Wing Bowl.
"Supplies are going to be very short," said John Sandbakken, director of international marketing at the National Sunflower Association in Bismarck, N.D. "The warehouses will be cleared out and whatever is marketed will be sold. Potentially, stores could run out."
Cold spring temperatures in 2004 in sunflower-rich Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota damaged the most recent crop. Then, a nasty white mold called sclerotinia infected the surviving plants.
I think it's going to take a bag of these to settle me down:
One of the drawbacks/pluses of coaching my son's Little League team? I've picked up a full-blown sunflower seed addiction. That's right, I've become a seeder. Every game, I gotta have my bag. I know it's a nasty habit, but I have it under control. That is, I thought it did - until last night.
The neighbor across the street from me puts a TV out in his driveway on nice nights every spring/summer/fall so all the guys (and some gals) can get together to watch sports, drink beer and eat hot dogs, and maybe, sometimes, occasionally, complain about our home lives. It's hard to explain to outsiders but, for better or for worse, I think the Black Hole (as it's lovingly referred to) is the glue that holds our neighborhood together.
Anyway, last night was the first night back in the Hole this year and we're all watching the Phillies game (even the missus), and it feels like something's missing. Not beer (always plenty of that) and not the hot dogs, I knew they would be coming later. What was missing? My seeds. I can no longer watch a baseball game, not even on TV, without them.
During an inning break, I crack (no seed pun intended). I get in my car and drive down to the Little League field to pick up a bag. Yes, everyone laughed (especially the missus), but I also think I saw specks of concern in their eyes. Concern about my now-very-public addiction. Of course, those specks in their eyes could have just been ash coming over from the grill.
So I head down to the field and the concession stand is CLOSED! And there was still a game going on! That never happens. Now I'm starting to sweat. (Did my neighbors have anything to do with the stand being closed? What about the missus? Now that I think about it, she has always been jealous of my sunflower seeds. True story: just last week she tried to give me a pack of seeds that were Jalapeno - and stale to boot! Tried to pass it off as a nice gesture. HA!) Thinking fast, I hop back in the car and go down to the Kwik-E-Mart and thank God, they have sunflower seeds. Two different brands and about eight different flavors. But don't give me any of that haute cuisine crap, my David's Original is just fine, thank you very much.
Back at the Hole everyone acted like they weren't plotting against me. Right. But I'll be ready for their inevitable intervention. See, I'll tell them, I don't eat seeds to feed an addiction, I eat seeds to feed my mind. That's right, right on the back of the pack, there's a little vocabulary lesson:
Seeders are unique. They're cool, confident, independent, active and hard working. They know that eating DAVID Sunflower Seeds makes what they do more enjoyable. Things are better with DAVID because they're a snack and an activity. Experience SNACKTIVITY .
You read right, folks, snacktivity. S-N-A-C-K-T-I-something, something, something. See if you learn that in your fancy English books. (Okay, so most of my neighbors don't have fancy English books, but the word wouldn't be there anyway. Come to think of it, most of the words used in the Hole wouldn't be in there).
And besides, I'll say to them, spitting seeds is
an activity a snacktivity I can stop anytime I want.
That's what it says on the t-shirt my
two three-year old got at Chick-fil-A today (it's got one of those "Eat Mor Chikin" cows on it). I have to say I was very impressed with the Chick-fil-A (or as he says "Chickie Fay") birthday party. The place was very clean and the workers were super nice. We had a few McDonald's parties for the seven-year old when he was younger, but ever since Super Size Me we try to avoid Mickey D's. I know that Chick-fil-A is still fast food, but it offers a lot more healthy stuff than McDonalds. The missus and I also know that fast food birthday parties aren't the greatest party you can give your kid, but trying to host parties at home just gets us too worked up and trying to have an "event" party, like at the local childrens' museum, is just too expensive. Once he gets older we'll get the three-year old's parties out of the fast food joints and into the bowling alleys and skating rinks and pool halls.
Dessert for the party was provide by yours truly. I spent Thursday night making six dozen cupcakes (three dozen for the party at his nursery school, three dozen for the real party). Actually, I made nine dozen cupcakes, but the first batch was bad because for some reason they insist that you remember to put eggs in the batter. Making the batter for cupcakes is easier than it is for making cookies. That's because I use box cake mix (Alton Brown said I could - he said cake mix companies have access to certain helpful ingredients that home bakers do not and he is never wrong). And since a batch of cupcakes takes twenty minutes to cook, you don't have to run around the kitchen as much as when you're making cookies. Still, I prefer the cookie baking. That's either from my satisfaction in making the cookies from scratch or my liking raw cookie batter a lot more than raw cake batter.
After the party was another Little League game. We finally got to play against the seven-year old's best friend/arch-nemesis (who's team was undefeated going into the game). We squeezed in four innings before the thunder started rumbling, and came out ahead, 7-4. The seven-year old walked twice and didn't get hit by any pitches. He also finally got to field a ball and did a great job of getting the ball back into the infield. I'd call that a good game.
Busy day today, but somehow our calendar is miraculous and thankfully blank for tomorrow.
When any new Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant comes into town, I just have to check it out. When the restaurant has a family friendly menu it makes it easier for me to convince the rest of the family to come along. So I was excited when the missus and the seven-year old agreed to try Moe's Southwest Grill (a chain that recently opened in Deptford, NJ) with me (the two-year old doesn't have much say in where we dine just yet).
Sadly, the first visit to Moe's will be our last. First, despite the picture on Moe's website (pictured here), the Moe's in Deptford is in a strip mall. And not one of the newer, more popular strip malls around the Deptford Mall, but an older, sadder one. There's no outside seating and most of the lighting inside is artificial since the only window is at the front of the place.
Second, and most important, the food is disappointing. Moe's serves its food cafeteria style, like Subway. And while it's not as bad as Taco Bell, there is a cheap, fast-food look to the food. I think the Subway comparison is a good one - just as Subway is a step up from regular fast food but would never be confused for real deli food, Moe's is better than Taco Bell but can't even match Don Pablo's food-wise (not that I think Don Pablo's is all that great). It's a dumbed down Tex-Mex menu, and a pretty small menu at that.
And third, there's a weird "trying too hard" vibe to the place. Most of the menu items have pop culture references, but few of them make any sense or are even funny. It's like, "Hey, our vegetarian burrito is named the Art Vandelay, isn't that just so crazy?!?" Take a look at the menu, it's just weird. It's trying to be this wacky place, but the workers (who couldn't have been working there very long since it hasn't been open that long) looked like they hated their jobs and the fact that we were stuck in a strip mall was kind of depressing.
Today's the last day of Round 3 of the BoB, and RealBeer.com has brought back their matchup comments (and they are real talkative today). Yesterday I voted for two local brewers - my favorite, Cherry Hill's Flying Fish moved on, but Downingtown's Victory fell to Ommegang. Today it's porter vs. stout, stout vs. porter. This is tough, I've got a soft spot for both styles.
Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter vs. AleSmith Speedway StoutFirst off, we too wish that the semifinals included imperial stout vs. imperial stout and porter vs. porter, but the luck of the draw didn't work out that way. It's not like we don't have two porters that can stand up to a stout. After all, we've already described Ed as a stout dressed in porter's clothing, simply intense. Then there's Speedway, very imperial at 12%, plus injected with java. And served in really big bottles. The only thing missing is the Gordon Lightfoot song.
My Vote: Somehow the Edmund Fitzgerald keeps winning my vote. Today it's up against a caffeinated stout (that predated Budweiser's B to the E) and I just don't drink caffeinated drinks. By the way, if you do drink B to the E you'll look like a D to the ORK.
Smuttynose Imperial Stout vs. Alaskan Smoked Porter
They're probably getting ready to brew the annual batch at Smuttynose. Of a previous version, brewer Dave Yarrington wrote: "The big daddy, the high muckity-muck of dark beers. Visions of how brewers get their skewed views from too many late nights dipping tasters and testers into cauldrons of this black addiction." Excuse the bit of nostalgia, but we realized that our first Battle of the Beers (2001) was going to be better than expected when we pitted Smoked Porter against Coors, figuring there was every chance that Coors would win. After Smoked Porter captured 79% of the vote we knew better.
My Vote: This really is a tough one. I like Smuttynose but their brew is a imperial stout and I would rather have a porter than an imperial stout - especially if the porter is Alaskan, a past winner of this tourney.
Bonus Beer Note: In the Food section of today's Philadelphia Inquirer they have a primer on becoming a beer snob.
Yesterday in the BoB, Rogue Dead Guy squeaked out a narrow win and the easy-going Anchor Steam (a favorite of mine) got trounced by a heavy black Bavarian. I think that true beer snobs look down upon the paler ales as somehow less worthy of their praise. I enjoy a pale ale just as much as the more robust beers, if not more.
Flying Fish Dubbel vs. Allagash 4
My Vote: RealBeer.com (organizers of this tourney) have removed their matchup comments, which I had been including in my posts, for fear that they may be unfairly swaying voters. I disagree but it has made me wonder if my own comments on these battles haven't unduly influenced my readers' vote. So today I will try to be as impartial as I possibly can when I say VOTE FOR FLYING FISH!
Ommegang Hennepin vs. Victory Golden Monkey
My Vote: Both of these beers seem interesting: Hennepin, a farmhouse ale, with its "Champagne-like effervescence" and Golden Monkey, a tripel, with its "intriguing herbal aroma." I'll go with Victory since it's a local brewery and has a better chance of getting to me fresh.
Fan favorite Arrogant Bastard is gone, trounced by the almighty Dogfish Head 90-Minute yesterday in third round action in the BoB. My other pick, Dreadnaught did move on to the elite eight. I'm starting to think that the 90-Minute has this whole thing won and, just like in any good tourney, I'm rooting against the favorite - no matter how much I like it.
Rogue Dead Guy Ale vs. Capital Autumnal Fire
Is that a maibock with the glow-in-the-dark label? And what can you say about a beer that is part doppelbock and part Oktoberfest? We may need to sample both again.
My Vote: A bock versus a doppelbock? I have no idea which to pick. I'll have to fall back on the more clever name rule and pick Dead Guy Ale.
Sprecher Black Bavarian vs. Anchor Steam
This happens at this point in the tournament. From Wisconsin, we've got a classic dark Kulmbacher beer, and from California the only beer you can call "Steam." Tough choice.
My Vote: What sounds more refreshing to you, Kulmbacher or Steam? I really want Anchor Steam to go far into the tourney, so I'll go with them.
I again went went three for four in the BoB Thursday, and was surprised to see Speedway Stout beat out Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (which I voted for). Brooklyn has a larger distribution and is more well-known, plus I thought Brooklyn's chocolate would beat out Speedway's coffee.
The tourney moves into the Sweet Sixteen today and features only two battles a day this week. Today it's three Imperial IPAs and a Arrogant Bastard (Which is funny because after three Imperial IPAs I usually become an arrogant bastard. Okay, I become even more of an arrogant bastard than usual.).
Arrogant Bastard Ale vs. Dogfish Head 90-Minute Imperial IPA
Dogfish Head puts its 14-match winning streak on the line today against the Bastard. It's a rematch from 2003, when 90-Minute ground out a 52%-48% victory.
My Vote: The rules of the tourney says I'm supposed to pick the beer that I would ask for at a bar. I've already had the Dogfish Head and would really like to try the Arrogant Bastard. I'll take the Arrogant Bastard and hope the bartender understands I'm ordering a beer and not commenting on his personality.
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA vs. Three Floyds Dreadnaught
Great Divide prides itself in being hoppy, but balanced. Three Floyds doesn't doesn't always focus on balance, and touts Dreadnaught as a beer worthy of a journey around the globe.
My Vote: These two high-alcohol Imperial IPAs seem so alike that I have to go on name alone, and Three Floyds wins.
Happy St. Pat’s Day (what’s left of it). It was kind of an anti-climatic holiday for this Mick (technically half-Mick). The missus and kids are all suffering through various sicknesses, and all three are sporting fevers. Their appetites weren’t very strong, so for an Irish meal I ended up opening a can of Trader Joe’s Beef Stew for dinner as a substitute for Irish Stew. I didn’t even have a stout in the house, so I had to settle for a pale ale (which I did not dye green – how in the world can anyone who claims to love beer do that?). I did talk the boys into making some lemon pudding and dying it green. Nasty looking stuff. Kind of neon-ish. Had two servings.
I wanted to post about last night’s meetup for the Philly bloggers. About twelve of us met-up at Independence Brew Pub in the Reading Terminal Headhouse. I’m pretty sure everyone had a great time. It was cool to finally put faces to names (except for Scott from Blankbaby, who’s the only one amongst us brave enough to post his likeness on his blog – so we already knew what he looked like). Great beer – IBP’s Oatmeal Stout was like a meal, and so fresh tasting. Great conversation - everyone started in like they already knew each other which, thanks to the blogs, they really already did. A lot of great ideas and conversations flying around the table.
I even got to not only see Dragonballyee’s $$$ camera, but look through the viewfinder. I was only kidding when I told him I was more interested in meeting his camera than meeting him (well, mostly kidding). I used to think that if I had a camera like his I could take great pictures like him, but after seeing all the knobs and buttons I doubt I’d even know how to turn the camera on.
The only bad part of the whole night was when I got home I realized that I didn’t chip in for the fries. Next month I’ll pay double, I promise. The funniest part of the night may have been when the barmaid asked me what we were meeting about:
Her: [Vacant Stare]
Her: [Blink, blink]
Her: Oh. [Slowly backs away].
Thanks to Karl (the brains behind the Philly Future site), Scott, and everyone else who had a hand in organizing this get-together. Looking forward to the next one.
[The above photo is from the Commodore Barry statue behind Independence Hall. The image has been heavily Photoshop’d to bring out the Irish in it.]
That's more like it - my picks went three for four in the BoB yesterday. And not only did Cherry Hill's Flying Fish win, they won big, grabbing two-thirds of the vote. Today's battle has a lot of porters and stouts (which have been dominating my beer buys lately) and a couple barley wine (which I can't get myself excited about enough to try).
Full Sail Old Boardhead vs. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Old Boardhead rolled past a stout (Widmer's Snow Plow, also from Oregon) in the first round, but now must deal with a porter that some have described as a "stout wrapped in porter's clothing." Don't expect the Great Lakes beer to back off a bit.
My Vote: Right off the bat, porter vs. barley wine. I'll go with the Porter.
Alesmith Speedway Stout vs. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
This is the only stout-to-stout battle of the day. They are both imperial, with Speedway favoring coffee and Black Chocolate favoring, well, chocolate.
My Vote: One stout is made with coffee (which I don't consume) and the other with chocolate (which I often consume). Brooklyn wins.
BridgePort Knucklehead vs. Smuttynose Imperial Stout
Two beers you may not see coming. Knucklehead put the accent on barley in barley wine. If you are thinking black when you our an imperial stout, then Smuttynose will live up to your expectations.
My Vote: This time the barley wine goes up against a stout. This is pretty easy anyway, Smuttynose is a quality brewery.
Alaskan Smoked Porter vs. Hair of the Dog Adam
The 2002 BoB champion better be ready. Adam posted an impressive first round victory over Left Hand Imperial (the beer of the day) Stout. Of course, it wasn't St. Patrick's Day.
My Vote: The Adam is described as a dessert beer. I'll stick with ice cream for dessert and drink the Smoked Porter with my dinner.
Oh boy. For the second straight day only one of my four picks (Anchor Steam) moved on in the BoB yesterday. And once again, the other three were crushed by their competition. Today's matchup includes the good people of Cherry Hill's Flying Fish. Please take a minute and give them your vote. Thanks.
Here are my picks for today:
Celis White vs. Flying Fish Dubbel
The pride of Texas (Celis White) became the pride of Michigan. Flying Fish has always been New Jersey through and through.
My Vote: I'm not sure that saying a beer is "New Jersey through and through" is going to get them any votes. The Fish is South Jersey, through and through. Big difference.
Allagash 4 vs. Russian River Damnation
Four malts, four hops, four sugars, four yeasts - is that enough to overcome Damnation?
My Vote: The Allagash brewing method still intrigues me.
Ommegang Hennepin vs. Maudite
Both beers are better called Belgian inspired than shoved into a style category. Hennepin is brewed in the spirit of farmhouse beers, while Maudite is strong, red and spicy.
My Vote: The Ommegang is a Farmhouse Ale, which is enough to give them my vote.
The Reverend vs. Golden Monkey
The Reverend is the second "quad" of the day to head into action, where the triple-ish Golden Monkey awaits. Four or three?
My Vote: Like the Allagash, the Reverend is a "quad" so I go with that.
Ouch, only one of my four picks (Arrogant Bastard) moved on in the BoB yesterday. The other three were steamrolled by big sellers. Today's matchup has a couple of my favorites in it. Here are my picks for today:
Penn Dark vs. Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Will the Pen(n) be mightier than the Rogue?
My Vote: Penn Dark is a dunkle and the Rogue is a bock, neither is a favorite of mine. (If you understood that sentence you've been reading too many of my beer posts). I'll go with Penn, but I think Rogue will win on name alone.
Capital Autumnal Fire vs. Moose Drool Brown Ale
Oktoberfest meets dopplebock in the Autumnal Fire. Moose Drool may have gained initial fame because of its name, but it earned its position as the No. 1 selling draft craft beer in Montana based on more.
My Vote: I'll go with the Brown Ale over a dopplebock.
Yuengling Black & Tan vs. Sprecher Black Bavarian
Just to keep the names balanced, we should probably call Sprecher a "Black and Black."
My Vote: Yuengling! Yuengling! Yuengling!
Saint Arnold Amber vs. Anchor Steam
Anchor Steam can be called the beer that launched the American beer revival. Word of Saint Arnold, the Texas microbrewery that takes its name from the patron saint of beer, has spread to Belgium. A Saint Arnold bobble head was recently spotted in the lab at the Abbey de St. Remy near Rochefort, one of the world's six Trappist breweries.
My Vote: While I've never tried a Saint Arnold, I really really like Anchor Steam.
Today marks the start of round two of the BoB. On Thursday, the last day of Round one, two of my picks moved on and two didn't. Smuttynose Imperial Stout creamed MacTarnahan's Bourbon Blackwatch Cream Porter. Even though I didn't pick Smuttynose, I think that they rightfully have the reputation of a brewer that you can trust. Craft beers aren't cheap and if you find a quality brewer, you stick with them. I just think you need to try a lesser known every once in a while.
Here's my picks for today:
Terminal Gravity IPA vs. Arrogant Bastard Ale
Arrogant Bastard survived one of the toughest first-round matchups, slipping past veteran Two-Hearted Ale. Now upstart Terminal Gravity IPA out of Enterprise, Ore., awaits.
My Vote: I gotta go with Arrogant Bastard. So arrogant that right on the bottle they say, "You're not worthy."
Dogfish Head 90-Minute Imperial IPA vs. Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' IPA
These beers need no introduction. Dogfish Head has 13 consecutive matchups in the Battle of the Beers. In Boontling, a language still used by locals near the Anderson Valley Brewer, Hop Ottin' means "hard working hops."
My Vote: I'm going to follow my own advice and try something new, the Hop Ottin' IPA.
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA vs. Bear Republic Racer 5
Each of today's matchups features a California beer against one from elsewhere. Not long ago, if it was a Colorado beer not called Avery, who would have thought it would be the one higher in IBUs than the California beer? Particularly when the California beer is the hopped up Racer 5.
My Vote: Racer 5 is advertised as using different hops for a slightly sweeter IPA. I don't know if that makes a better beer, but it makes me want to find out.
Three Floyds Dreadnaught vs. Sierra Nevada Celebration
And we wrap up this hoppy round with a battle between a Midwest hop fiend and the brewery that re-introduce more American drinkers to hops than any other. Nick Floyd of Three Floyds is famous for saying, "I love the smell of hops in the morning. It smells like victory."
My Vote: A lot of Imperial IPAs in today's battle. As I said before, I appreciate the quality of these beers, but I find it hard to pair them up with something at dinner, while I can drink a regular IPA with almost anything. I'll go with Sierra Nevada today.
Last day for Round One of the BoB (don't get too excited, my missus, there's still plenty of rounds for me to write about). Yesterday the big news was Edmund Fitzgerald Porter sinking Summit Great Northern Porter (Get it? See the Edmund Fitzgerald was... oh, forget it). One of the two barley wines moved on and Maine's Shipyard Brewing, who I was kind of rooting for, fell. Overall my picks went two for four. Of today's competing brewers I've only had Smuttynose - and it wasn't the imperial stout that's in the running today.
BridgePort Knucklehead vs. Boulevard Bully! Porter
Every few years BridgePort inaugurates a new "Knucklehead," and his image graces the label of its barley wine. The 11th vintage features beer guru Fred Eckhardt. Kansas City's Boulevard counters with a wonderfully bottle-conditioned porter.
My Vote: Another barley wine. I suppose I should try one of these sometimes, but not when a porter is available. I go with Boulevard.
MacTarnahan's Bourbon Blackwatch Cream Porter vs. Smuttynose Imperial Stout
Mac's combines the smoothness of a cream porter and the intensity added by aging in a bourbon barrel. Smuttynose starts with the intensity of a Russian Imperial Stout, but then turns surprisingly smooth.
My Vote: This is tough because I am a fan of Smuttynose's, but I'm not a huge fan of imperial stouts. The cream porter sounds more interesting anyway.
Alaskan Smoked Porter vs. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Alaskan Smoked Porter is the most decorated beer in the history of the Great American Beer Festival. When Bourbon County Stout debuted at GABF in 1995 (this is before there were almost any barrel aged beers) Fred Eckhardt (see Old Knucklehead) called it the best beer he's ever had at the festival.
My Vote: If I were given the chance to try Alaskan Smoked Porter I'd take it in a heartbeat.
Left Hand Imperial Stout vs. Hair of the Dog Adam
Back when Russian Imperial Stouts were almost impossible to find (just a few years ago), Colorado's Left Hand was selling a classic example of the style. Like Left Hand, Hair of the Dog opened in 1993 and Adam was its first beer, inspired in part by the writings of Fred Eckhardt. Later, the brewery created a beer called Fred (after Eckhardt, of course).
My Vote: Once again I'm going to turn down the imperial stout and this time take Hair of the Dog's traditional ale.
Yesterday was not a good day to be named Cuvee. Both Cuvees (is that a word?), as I expected, failed to advance in the BoB. I don't know if this was caused by the funny name or the fruitier taste of these beers, which the voters seem to be staying away from. You're supposed to vote for which beer you'd want to try, so maybe voters just can't see themselves asking a bartender for a Southampton on Cuvee des Fleurs. I could see that. The other two beers I picked yesterday did advance.
Today's battle features some porters and stouts, both styles I'm fond of, and a couple barley wines, which I've never tried and don't really have any desire to try. Here's my picks for today:
Full Sail Old Boardhead vs. Widmer Snow Plow Stout
Oregon neighbors clash, as well as two styles, a take-no-prisoners barley wine against a surprisingly smooth stout.
My Vote: Mmmm, a surprisingly smooth stout. I want the Snow Plow.
Edmund Fitzgerald Porter vs. Summit Great Northern Porter
We didn't plan it this way, but we've got a rubber match going. Two years ago, Great Northern squeezed past Edmund Fitzgerald. Last year, it was the Cleveland favorite triumphing. What about 2005?
My Vote: Before I give my pick, I have to say that I can't see Edmund Fitzgerald without thinking of that episode of Seinfeld:
ELAINE: Andrea Doria? Isn't that the one they did the song about?
JERRY: (Correcting her) Edmund Fitzgerald.
ELAINE: I love Edmund Fitzgerald's voice.
JERRY: No, Gordon Lightfoot was the singer. Edmund Fitzgerald was the ship.
ELAINE: I think Gordon Lightfoot was the boat.
JERRY: (Sarcastic) Yeah, and it was rammed by the Cat Stevens.
Okay, now that I got that out of my system, they're both porters that I would like to try, but I'll go with the Edmund Fitzgerald since I imagine it would go down easier (Get it? See, the ship went down and... oh, forget it).
Alesmith Speedway Stout vs. Shipyard Blue Fin Stout
Another big beer-subtle stout matchup (like today's first battle), with coffee making Alesmith imperial stout all the more regal. Expect Blue Fin to be in St. Patrick's Day form.
My Vote: I like a slight coffee flavor in a stout, but Speedway actually contains coffee and I don't drink caffeine so I won't be picking that. Anyway, Shipyard is the brewer of one of the first craft beers I ever had when I started this whole beer obsession on a trip to Maine eleven years ago.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout vs. Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot
This one is strictly big beer vs. big beer. The kind of seasonal specialties that make it OK if winter lingers a little long. And, yes, we are fond of the barley wine's name.
My Vote: First Arrogant Bastard and now Blithering Idiot? Shouldn't I be receiving some royalties for these guys using my likeness? Sorry Idiot, but you barley wines really didn't stand a chance with me today, especially against Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout. I like a chocolate flavor in my stout even more than a coffee flavor.
The big news in yesterday's BoB was Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel prevailing over strong favorite Fat Tire from New Belgium. The guys at RealBeer.com commented that they've learned over the years to never consider Flying Fish the underdog. Thanks to all who voted for my favorite brewers.
Overall, my picks went two for four yesterday. All three of the fruitier ales failed to move on yesterday as voters went with the more familiar styles. If that trend continues, a few of today's choices don't stand a chance.
Here are my picks for today:
Ommegang Hennepin vs. North Coast PranQster
Both beers are better called Belgian inspired than shoved into a style category. Hennepin is brewed in the spirit of farmhouse beers, while PranQster lives up to that name by mixing a bit of devil (or is it Duvel?) and heaven (as in an abbey beer).
My Vote: I'm a fan of the farmhouse style (especially Flying Fish's), so I'll go with Ommegang.
Southampton on Cuvée des Fleurs vs. Maudite
This must be a tough choice for Stephen Beaumont at World of Beer. Cuvee was his 2004 Taste of the Year, but Maudite is the first beer from Canada to compete in the March version of Battle of the Beers.
Cuvee de Tomme vs. Avery The Reverend
Bring along your designated driver for this matchup. Cuvee de Tomme out of Pizza Port Brewing in Southern California, starts as a Quad and goes from there. Avery's the Reverend is the 10% Quad that launched the Boulder, Colo., breweries line of high alcohol beers. Cuvee is aged in bourbon barrels, while a new line of The Reverend is now resting on wood as well.
My Vote: These two seem pretty evenly matched, but I go with the Cuvee (this one a Belgian Strong Ale) again because it is aged in bourbon barrels. I like the sound of that.
Victory Golden Monkey vs. New Glarus Belgian Red
Before Belgian styles were "hip" New Glarus was blazing the way with its Belgian Red, rich in Door County cherries. Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania illustrates how American interest in Belgian-inspired beers has grown. Golden Monkey is its No. 2 seller, behind only the venerable HopDevil.
My Vote: I like their HopDevil, so I'll support Downingtown's Victory Brewing.
My picks went four for four in the BoB Friday. I'm very happy to see that Yuengling Black & Tan (barely) moves on to the next round and I'm not surprised that the Anchor Steam/Sam Adams fight wasn't even close - voters tend to go against the majors (which many consider Sam Adams to be) in the tourney.
Today the Battle moves into the "Bistro" bracket, with a lot of artsy-fartsy craft brews. I've only had one of them, but it's who I want to see win it all. Cherry Hill's Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel is going against the well-known (in the craft beer world) New Belgium Fat Tire, which also has the catchy name going for it. The guys at Flying Fish are cool and they really do make great beer. Please take a minute and vote for them today (before 9 pm est).
Here are my picks for today:
Celis White vs. Pyramid Apricot
A pair of Great American Beer Festival gold medalists bump heads. Celis White, of course, used to be brewed in Texas, but these days is produced by the Michigan Brewing Co.
My Vote: Never had an apricot beer, so I'll go with Pyramid.
Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel vs. New Belgium Fat Tire
New Jersey's Flying Fish was one of the first small breweries in the United States to make a Belgian-style beer one of its regulars. By now everybody knows the New Belgium story - how it was started in the basement of a Colorado house 14 year ago and grew into one of the largest breweries in the states.
My Vote: The Fish, of course.
Heavyweight Biere d'Art vs. Allagash 4
Biere d'Art is a sturdy biere de garde (a French farmhouse style), checking in a 7.7% abv. Allagash is even bigger, at 10% abv, and is made with four malts, four varieties of hops, four natural sugars. Of course, it's fermented four times.
My Vote: I'm a sucker for complicated brewing processes. I have to try Allagash.
Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza vs. Russian River Damnation
Oro is our second biere de garde of the day, and was the 2004 Great American Beer Festival winner. We're able to put Damnation, a perennial medalist, in the tournament for the first time because Russian River recently began bottling the devil-ish beer.
My Vote: Oro de Calabaza sounds exotic enough to try.
Only one of my picks moved on in the BoB yesterday, but the other three lost 51%-49%, 51%-49%, and 52%-48%, and we all know that 51% ain't a mandate.
Today's choices include beers I actually have had. Of course two of them are going up against each other. Figures. Here are my picks for today:
Shiner Bock vs. Yuengling Black & Tan
The pride of Texas matches caramels flavors with Pennsylvania's biggest brewery.
My Vote: Gotta go with the local guys. It helps that I really do like Yuengling's Black & Tan.
Gordon Biersch Dunkles vs. Sprecher Black Bavarian
What's the difference between a German dunkel and a schwarzbier? These two beers give you a fine chance to compare.
My Vote: A black beer sounds interesting, I'll go with Sprecher.
Troegs Troegenator vs. St. Arnold Amber
We didn't plan it this way, but here is the second Texas vs. Pennsylvania matchup up the day. This time, its Pennsylvania with the bock, albeit a double, and Texas with a tavern friendly ale.
My Vote: Forget what I said about picking the local guys, I'll take an amber ale over a bock any day.
Sam Adams Boston Lager vs. Anchor Steam
If you were to list the three or four beers at the forefront of the American beer revolution, these two would have to be on the list. A pair of classics.
My Vote: I've had both of them, and I'll take Sam Adams over a lot of other beers - but not if Anchor Steam is available.
My picks went four for four yesterday, and I found out that a "Double IPA" is the same as an Imperial IPA. I hope that clears things up. Today the BoB moves out of the IPAs and into malty beers. I haven't tried any of today's competitors, but here are the ones I would pick:
Penn Dark vs. Abita Turbodog
Penn Dark is a Münchener Dunkel, rich in Munich malt, twice a medal winner in the Great American Beer Festival. Abita Turbodog is similar in color, but not character, combining chocolate-toffee notes with a distinct ale fruitiness.
My Vote: Chocolate-toffee notes is unusual outside of Porters and Stouts, so I want to try the Turbodog.
Rogue Dead Guy Ale vs. Deschutes Mirror Pond
A match up Oregon brewing giants. Rogue has gone deep into the tournament each of the first three years, although with different beers. Last summer, Men's Journal magazine rated Mirror Pond the No. 1 craft beer in America.
My Vote: I'll go with Rogue's strength in past tournies over something from a men's magazine.
Huber Bock vs. Capital Autumnal Fire
Can we hold this vote at Baumgartner's Cheese Shop in Monroe, Wis.? It's just around the corner from from the Huber brewery, not a bad drive from Capital's and a great place to enjoy a Limburger cheese sandwich and debates the merits of bocks and doppelbocks.
My Vote: I'm not a big Bock drinker, so I would pick the Huber Bock over the doppelbock, assuming that a doppelbock has twice the bockiness (I just made that word up).
Moose Drool Brown Ale vs. Magic Hat No. 9
This matchup pits two beers that "beer geeks" love to put down. On the other hand ... Moose Drool is the No. 1 selling craft beer in Montana, and Magic Hat continues to grow by double digits, in part because of its trustworthy flagship (No. 9).
My Vote: I don't know about Moose Drool, but I've never seen anything but good words about Magic Hat No. 9. If I had the chance, I'd try it (although that goes for most beers).
Two (out of four) of my picks in yesterday's BoB moved on, with Dogfish Head 90-Minute (which I didn't vote for) clobbering their competition - surely on their way to at least a final four appearance. Here's today's picks:
Southern Tier IPA vs. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
Southern Tier has made a lot of noise in a little time since opening in New York, particularly with its IPA. Denver wasn't a city beer drinkers associated with hoppy beers, but Great Divide changed that less that a little over a year ago with Hercules.
My Vote: I like the sound of "Double IPA". Great Divide gets my vote.
Sweetwater IPA vs. Bear Republic Racer 5
Sweetwater, out of Georgia, puts its dry-hopped IPA up against a West Coast standard in Racer 5 - which last year took out some giant beers (most notably Pliny the Elder and Arrogant Bastard) in roaring into the quarterfinals.
Lagunitas IPA vs. Three Floyds Dreadnaught
Another battle of beers from two sides of the Mississippi. Lagunitas is a California favorite, but has to be considered the underdog about the Double IPA from Three Floyds, which last year won the Tavern Championship.
My Vote: Man, I don't know any of these beers. I'll go with Three Floyds just because I like the sound of "Dreadnaught."
Sierra Nevada Celebration vs. Lost Coast Indica India Pale Ale
A couple of Northern California neighbors match IBUs in this one. Even though it is sold only a few months a year, Celebration is Sierra Nevada's second-best selling beer. The Indica India is is a properly New World Beer, seriously bittered with distinctive Columbus hops.
My Vote: I'm not a big fan of Sierra Nevada beer (not bad, but nothing special), but I'm a sucker for seasonal beers so I would pick Celebration.
Every March, RealBeer hold their own tournament of 64 called the Battle of the Beers. In 2002, the first year of the tournament, Alaskan Smoked Porter was the victor. In 2003 Dogfish Head 90-Minute Imperial IPA beat out Alaskan in the final round. In 2004 the 90-Minute Imperial repeated as champion. For the last two years the local favorite, Flying Fish, has done well (reaching the elite eight last year before losing to Dogfish Head by one percent) but has always fallen to very popular beers. The bracketologists have not been kind to the Fish.
Ive never had the Alaskan Smoked Porter, but I have had the 90-Minute Imperial and it is very good. It was so strong that not only did I have a hard time finding food that went well with it, I had a hard time staying awake after drinking it. There's a 120-Minute Imperial IPA that's even stronger, but I haven't tried that yet. There's even a 60-Minute Imperial for the faint of heart. The time in their titles refers to the length of time the brew is boiled during processing (I don't know what that means, I just drink the stuff).
As they say on the RealBeer website, this is all done in fun - though I would imagine that for the winner with bragging rights comes better name recognition and higher sales. They do not expect voters to have tasted every beer in the running, especially since many of these are local brews. What you are voting on is which of the two beers you would be more likely to buy or order at a bar.
Here are today's battles:
Mendocino White Hawk IPA vs. Terminal Gravity IPA
Aroma is the hallmark of the White Hawk IPA. Mendocino blends Cascade hops from the American Northwest with a generous dose of English Fuggles.
Terminal Gravity, located in Enterprise, Ore., doesn't have much of a national reputation - but its IPA brewed with water from the Eagle Cap Wilderness, a solid backbone of Maris Otter malt and plenty of hops from all over has a cult following in beer savvy Portland.
My Vote: Sometimes the name alone sways my vote. For some unknown reason, I'm being pulled toward Terminal Gravity. And what's a fuggle anyway?
Arrogant Bastard Ale vs. Bell's Two-Hearted Ale
Arrogant Bastard backs up its swagger with a solid one-two of malt and hops.
But don't think that Arrogant Bastard invented swagger - Michigan's Bell's Brewing has been swaggering for more than 20 years.
My Vote: Again, the name. If I were to make beer, I'd be p'oed that Arrogant Bastard was already taken. I've been hearing about this beer for a while, and I have been wanting to try it.
Dogfish Head 90-Minute Imperial IPA vs. Diamond Knot IPA
Dogfish Head proved last year that its "90 minutes of bitterness" blitz has staying power.
For more than 10 years, the "knot heads" Mukiteo, Wash., have been concocting a dry-hopped marvel that some people in Seattle won't get up in the morning without.
My Vote: I've had the 90-Minute Imperial, time to try something new - I'm going with Diamond Knot. If given the chance I probably would try something from the Pacific coast anyway. For the sake of the tourny, I'm hoping that Dogfish Head doesn't three-peat.
Flying Dog Wild Dog vs. Anderson Valley Hop Ottin'
Flying Dog released Wild Dog Double Pale Ale to mark its 10th anniversary and the launch a series of "Wild Dog" series. This one is 9% abv and has 80 IBUs, which looks kind of average for this bracket.
In Boontling, a language still used by locals near the Anderson Valley Brewer, Hop Ottin' means "hard working hops." Our favorite kind.
My Vote: I'm curious about a Pale Ale with such a high alcohol content. Is that what they mean by Double Pale Ale? Only one way to find out - Flying Dog gets my vote.
The family and I spent Saturday morning at the Garden State Discovery Museum in beautiful Cherry Hill, NJ. Also located in beautiful Cherry Hill, NJ (and only two blocks way from the Discovery Museum) is Flying Fish Brewing which happens to give free brewery tours every Saturday morning. While, once again, I was unsuccessful in convincing the missus that a brewery tour would be a perfect family outing, she did agree to us stopping at Voorhees Discount Liquors on the way home.
Voorhees Liquors is smack-dab in the heart of one of South Jersey's worst traffic messes and while they stock some hard-to-find brews, it's usually not worth the trouble going out there. But they are on the way home from a certain children's museum, so we stopped.
A quick check of our finances before leaving that morning showed that our federal tax refund had come in, so I felt a little better about going for the somewhat more expensive stuff. My usual beer selection assistant, the seven-year-old, stayed in the car with the missus, so I only had the two-year-old to help me. He turned out to be no help at all, only strangely repeating the phrase, "we get Daddy more beer" over and over.
I ended up getting two four-packs (only four bottles each, and yet both were more expensive than most six-packs). I got a pack of Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale. Dogfish Head, out of Delaware, is a reliable brewery and I have been hoping since last October to find a good pumpkin ale (I was disappointed with Smuttynose's attempt). I am a little worried that I am buying it so far out of season.
The other four-pack was a beer from Portland, Maine - Allagash White Beer. While I'm not a big Belgian style ale drinker, I was intrigued by the White Beer's yeast sediment. The beer is meant to be poured slowly so that the sediment ends up on top, giving the beer its eponymous white cap. Only a true beer lover would find sediment intriguing. The last beer with sediment that I had was also from Maine, the 22 oz. bottle of Thunder Hole Ale from Bar Harbor Brewing Company. That beer, however, was poured to keep the yeast in the bottle.
The day ended with me going out bowling with a bunch of neighbors. The bowling alley was BYOB, but there was no way I was bringing my newly-purchased good stuff, so on the way I stopped and got a six of ol' reliable Yuengling Traditional Lager. Between frames I was able to snag an Ithaca Finger Lakes Pale Ale, which was very good. I wish the same could be said for my bowling.
I'll let you know how those new beers of mine tasted once I finish them off.