Monday, March 29, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 14

A couple more beverages with alcohol today. We'll start with one from one of my favorite hometown breweries, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

Dogfish Head Festina Peche
A friend brought this over and while I believe I'd had it before it'd been at least a year or two since I had it so I was ready to give it another try. With the weather not quite yet even turning to Spring yet around here, I'm not sure that I was mentally prepared to enjoy this very summery beer. Described as a "malt beverage brewed with peach concentrate", this is definitely in the style of a German wheat beer. It is very light, tart with with a hard citrus and peachy edge. I think the tartness is a bit overpowering in this case. Unfortunately it makes it one of my least favorite styles that I've had from Dogfish Head. I don't think it's bad, but I think it has to be the right kind of day and you have to be in the right kind of mood to really enjoy it. I suppose that's what I get for drinking a seasonal in the wrong season. My bad!

Southern Tier Gemini
(Imperial IPA)
Another recent favorite brewer of mine is Southern Tier and I'm particular fond of their "imperial" series where they make very good strong versions of certain beer styles. Gemini is actually a blend of two different very hoppy Southern Tier beers (hence the name), and the results are pretty great. For me, there isn't much better (an imperial stout maybe) than a strong, hoppy tasting beer and Gemini provides this in a big way. At 10.5% and with great citrus and floral tastes, this is another winner in the ST imperial series. Also, since it's strong, one bomber of it will get you a little buzzed which is always a bonus.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 13

So it's a been a pretty slow week in terms of new beverages. Mainly just coffee and water. When I first started this blog I figured I would write about pretty much everything, but as the past couple of weeks have gone, I've realized that is both difficult and redundant. So I've decided to focus on mainly when I try new drinks or drinks I haven't talked about before. That said, if I have an iced coffee at two different coffee shops, that's two different drinks in my mind, so that will be discussed. Another problem is that I keep forgetting to bring my camera everywhere to document things. This is important for both memory and content's sake.

Anyway, after that dissertation on proper blogging etiquette, let's get to a new beverage!

Great Divide Brewing Co. - Denver Pale Ale

So what exactly is a Denver Pale Ale? I wasn't exactly sure, so that's why I bought it. Great Divide is one of the companies my local store carries multiple varieties of and I hadn't seen this one before which is always a cue for me to buy something. The label describes this twist on an American Pale Ale as "brilliantly balanced" and "English style." Brilliantly balanced made sense, but English style threw me off until I tried it. At first it seems very IPA-ish with a nice hoppy kick, but the finish is dry and bitter which I guess is the "Denver" or "American" style. It's also pretty moderate in alcohol content (5.4%), so it went down pretty well with my pasta (which according to the label was a good compliment along with grilled burgers and lamb).

I think part of what attracted me to the bottle is the packaging, and that's one of the more underrated aspects of the beverage market. I went into the store with no intention of buying any particular brand, but Great Divide has super bold lettering that is very eye-catching. Seeing the huge "DPA" made me think, "What the hell is DPA?", and then by the time I had it in my hands I had already decided to buy it. Anyway, I liked the beer but didn't love it. I think I'll always prefer a stronger, hoppier finish of an IPA than that of the dry and bitter finish of an APA or "DPA", but it's always good to change things up. A solid beer from a solid brewer from Denver.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 12

Saturday March 20th:

Coffee from hotel again (still needed caffeine)
Cafe cortado
Both red and white wine
More cafe cortado

More cafe licor.
Estrella Galicia beer (many)
Carlsberg beer (many)
Ice shots (Jim beam in an ice cube - many)
More wine (lots)

As you can see, Saturday was a long day of beverage indulging as well as a day of staying up for nearly 24 hours. I've put the new additions and focuses of the blog in bold here because I've more or less covered the others in the previous days. I will however single out the specific coffee I had at KF Central in Tui. We started calling in KFC because we're Americans, but that coffee was STRONG. I haven't put sugar into any kind of coffee for a long time, but I had to cut that KFC stuff, it was strong.

Anyway, as you can see there is a strong alcohol-related beverage slant to this day, but hey, we played a concert in Spain and celebrated, no harm in that, right?

I'll start with La Estrella Galicia. I believe I may have already had this beer earlier in the week (possibly on draft), but I couldn't remember the exact sequence. Anyway, I didn't notice an inordinate amount of difference between it and the Mahou referred to in the previous post. I think the main reason I liked it better was that it was apparently brewed closer than Mahou so it was slightly more local.

Carlsberg has never been a particular favorite of mine either. We've had it a bunch in the UK and I always remembered that you could buy it for pretty cheap there in the supermarkets. Anyway, its kind of classic just okay European pilsner. Pilsner has probably always been one of my least favorite styles of beer. Even most of the microbrew pilsners I've had in the States haven't impressed me that much. I admit. like many other beers that I drink, I only had it because it was free in the dressing room.

Then there is El Blanco. As I told you before, we were told not to drink El Blanco, but we couldn't refuse when the kindly owner of KFC poured us a shot of it. I understand why they say we don't have it, especially before a show. The stuff is basically flavorless moonshine. Unlike some moonshine we got in North Carolina this year (coming to a blog near you), this is just kind of a stronger clear liquid which seemed much, much stronger than the other incarnations of cafe licor. It was certainly worth the try though, but I think the flavored liquors have a lot more to offer.

Now my favorite of the night was the ice shot. Luckily I have video, so I don't even have to describe it. (Ignore the other whack-jobs in the video.)

Yadda, yadda, yadda...It was a loooong night.

This Is What I Drink : 11

Friday, March 19th:

Cafe (from an automated hotel machine, Cafe Cortado (hand drawn from a machine...from Portugal!!!), more red wine with lunch, white wine with dinner, more cafe licor, and some Mahou beer.

As you see from the list, it was a long and fulfilling day of beverages in our second day in Tui. I'll start with the hotel coffee. I pressed the "espresso" button hoping for something good to wake me up, but 9/10 when you press a button on a machine, not much good will come of it. That was the case this time. I was feeling the craving for caffeine as I was still feeling jet lagged and maybe it helped in that regard, but the coffee was watery and not very flavorful. That led us to our next destination in Portugal where the day before we were told that they had super strong and good espresso.

It was only about a 25 minute walk to Portugal where we found an unfortunately super touristy castle town in Portugal. We figured we had come that far. so we settled into one of the cafes and ordered up some cafe cortado (espresso cut with a tiny bit of milk). To be perfectly honest, the coffee was nothing outrageously different from any other I've had in Europe. That is to say that most of the European espresso I've had has been absolutely delicious and has plenty of kick. It was exactly what I was looking for after the disappointment of the hotel machine coffee. On the way back we bought a bottle of cafe licor at a supermarket for about 6 euro which we would enjoy throughout the weekend. Next was lunch where we enjoyed a few more glasses of red wine with a meal of "fake baby eel salad", a Spanish omelette, more croquettes, and some masterful chocolate souffle.

Dinner was a fun experience as the waiter didn't speak any English and we had no natives to help us with our ordering, but it went out without much of a hitch, especially the phrase, "tres mas copas de vino blanco (three more glasses of the white wine!). So I finally dug into the famously recommended Albarino white wine and it was everything it was made out to be. Once again it was nice and dry, not nearly as sweet which normally turns me off from white wines. Galicia has a fine product there and I wish I could have smuggled some back because I haven't liked a white wine like that in a long, long time.

Last but not least was a trip to the concert hall to see the wild and crazy Batida and drink some Mahou beer, a Spanish export. I was kind of excited to try this beer as I don't think I had seen it in my other trips to Spain, but it didn't give me anything special. It went down smoothly which was fine, but as with may mass produced beers, the flavor just wasn't there. It helped ease the seizure of the Batida show, but it didn't help enhance my opinion of most European beers (Belgium excluded).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 10

Thursday March 18th: Tui, Spain

So, I was lucky enough to be invited to Spain on business, but it certainly felt like a vacation. And what better place to try new beverages? Day one included a lot of new ones, and if I miss any, I blame that on the fact that I didn't write in my non-digital beverage journal enough, but I'll do my best.

Lunch: Red Wine (vino tinto) and three different kinds of homemade Spanish liquors (explanations below).

Despite stepping off the plane extremely exhausted, we were excited to be swooped off to lunch courtesy of the wonderful co-directors of a wonderful film festival called play-doc. They took us to a fantastic restaurant called Jaqueyvi where were served a Tapas style feast of many things I've either never eaten or haven't eaten in a while including: cured ham, octopus, fried calamari, tuna salad, croquettes, and at least four different desserts, all amazing. While the food in Tui is worth a post of its own, I must get to the bevvies.

Although I heard about the white wine (Albarino specifically, made in Galicia), I was more in the mood to try the red at this point. I've never pretended to be much of a wine connoisseur and I won't try now, but I've always been just kind of a "well, I like this" kind of guy, and I liked this stuff. Most of the wine I had in Spain was very dry which is a quality I really like in wine. It's very smooth and didn't have much of any bad aftertaste like some red wine can have. Red wine is always a great accompaniment to a long meal with old and new friends, but I'll admit it probably helped add to the jet lag cobwebs. The coffee was supposed to shake those out, but first, we were told, we had to try the insane liquors!

I really wish I had pictures of all of these liquors but the standard of the "cafe liquor" will have to suffice for now. These liquors are made from the byproduct of the production of white wine. So basically, whatever happens to be left over from that process (skins, etc) is fermented for long enough to turn it into a clear alcohol solution. Afterward, different ingredients are added, coffee + water for the cafe licor beverage, whole milk to create a creamy version, and a blend of herbs (including thyme, honey and others) to create a deep yellow completely different version.

The most obvious by sight and taste is the cafe licor. It tastes and smells a lot like Kahlua, but more so like the better homemade version of Kahlua that my friend Vanessa had made before. At 30% alcohol it is certainly no slouch, but we were recommended to have it as a digestive after a meal, and it certainly suited that. Next to try was the creamy version made from whole milk. While a few beverages use milk as a mixer, it's strange to see to an alcohol with a pure milk taste. I wish I had gotten to try more of this because it was very good and very strange at the same time. Same goes for the herbal concoction which was in another ballpark compared to the others. The cafe and milk versions had been so sweet that the savory tastes of the mixed herbs really confused the taste buds. I couldn't quite distinguish the tastes, but it really wasn't like any kind of liquor I've ever had.

On a final note, there was one more version of this liquor we were encouraged NOT TO HAVE. They called it El Blanco, and they said not to try it. The mysterious clear liquid beckoned us to unscrew the cap, but that would have to wait for another day.

This Is What I Drink : 09

I apologize for the lack of current updates, but I've been out of the country for the last few days and hope to get on track with a lot of hopefully interesting posts in the next couple of days.

Wednesday March 17th: Airplane drinks: Water (in strange sippy cups) Orange Juice (in strange sippy cups), and a Heineken.

Being on an airplane is a unique experience and the beverages they serve can be as well. You have a choice of a few juices, soft drinks, a few beers, coffee, and tea. I think one of more interesting parts about airplane beverages is the sometimes strange packaging you receive when you get a drink. For example, the water and orange juice served in the "sippy" cups mentioned above. Stupidly I didn't take a picture, but the best way I can describe them is that they look like individual Jello packs, but they are filled with about 6 ounces of fluid instead. The strange part is that these are brought out in addition to every other beverage. I was offered water about 10 times on the 7.5 hour flight and I could have ordered an entire can of orange juice any time I wanted, but these little sippy cups were brought out with the meal. I didn't really want the orange juice, but I drank it anyway just because it was there and I couldn't resist the sippy cup.

The Heineken was definitely a bonus. Delta/Air France decided that beer/wine were going to be complimentary on this flight (which doesn't always happen) and as I had resisted the temptations of drinking a green beer (St. Patty's of course), I had to at least drink a beer in a green can! Heineken isn't my favorite of beers, but with the other options being unnamed American light and non light lagers, it was definitely the best option available. When you are in the middle of the Atlantic any (free) beer is a good one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 08

Ba Moui Ba (aka 33) - Vietnamese Beer

So some friends and I went out for some Vietnamese food at Saigon. They served a Vietnamese beer titled above along with fellow neighbors Sapporo and Tsing Tao. On the waitress' assertion that it was "very good" and upon the fact I hadn't had one before, I decided to order it.

I don't think I agree with the waitress. Just as you can't judge all American beer by a Miller Lite, I won't judge all of Viet Nam on "33", but it really wasn't all that special. At 4.5%, it was certainly easy to drink and there wasn't anything inherently wrong with it, but nothing that really made it great either.

The food was great though.

This Is What I Drink : 07

Coffee + Unsweetened Almond Milk

Well, as I said, I've got a finicky coffee maker and it happens to be much better today. Way less watery and it actually tastes kind of strong. Maybe it's a little bitter, but I like that in my coffee. It makes me realize that it's coffee. It's supposed to smack you in the face and wake you up. In the words of Michael Ian Black in Stella
"I like my coffee how I like my women; Black, strong, and proud"

I'll get to the reasoning behind the unsweetened almond milk one of these days and why I use it at home.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 06

Pepsi Throwback + Crown Royal

So there wasn't much variety in my beverage intake today. Pretty much all water until the nighttime.

I have a lot to say about Pepsi Throwback and I'll try to say most of it now. While part of me wishes that Pepsi would just commit to make every soft drink with cane sugar all the time, I realize that's a pretty unrealistic goal. The fact that a major company even tries it for a few months at a time deserves some credit (Coke, where you at?) Soda is more or less sugar water, so it shouldn't be surprising that changing the sweetener to pure sugar would make it taste better than the other "natural" sweetener, high fructose corn syrup. I would almost certainly be enjoying this cocktail with Reed's China Cola or Jone's Cane Cola (companies that are possibly merging, by the way) if Pepsi hadn't come out with this product that rivals those previously mentioned. Besides the yellow banner, the packaging is spot on. I grew up with that Pepsi design and it takes me back to see it again. Back to the days where I didn't give a shit that a soda had 150 calories and 40 grams of sugar. Which is a good mixer for Whiskey, which brings me back to adulthood.

Canadian Whiskey isn't my forte, as I'm more of a bourbon man, but I've always been attracted to Crown Royal and that has to be a tribute to its packaging. Crown Royal comes in a beautifully dainty bag, something that you'd seemingly pay for even if you weren't getting 750 ml of liquor with it. There's something endlessly classy about this that doesn't make it a gimmick to me. I can't claim to be a whiskey expert, but CR isn't bad, but it doesn't have the same appeal to a good bourbon to me.

I think Crown Royal will make an appearance on this blog once I finally make the Royal Crown Royal, the palindromily named cocktail of Royal Crown Cola + Crown Royal whiskey.

Until then, keep drinking.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

This Is What I Drink : 05

Coffee (w/unsweetened almond milk) + Water

So I got up a little later today than usual and daylight saving time is partially to blame. Anyway, on the weekend I like to brew up about a half pot of coffee and drink it throughout the day. Sometimes it's too much, but can use the leftovers for the next day so it's not a big whoop.

While I appreciate a quality cup of coffee, I'll admit that what I make at home really isn't all that great. I try to buy good coffee (my current batch is some kind of cheapish organic stuff), but I think my problem is my device. I bought my coffee maker for $5 at a thrift store and it's price shows itself in the output of product. I feel like it makes different strength and quality almost every time I use it. Eventually I'll get a new one, but for now it still gets me the desired caffeine and sometimes the taste I want in the morning. I really enjoy looking at this site to see how much caffeine is in any given product. It's good to know so you don't under or overdo it.

I'll leave you with an exchange from the great Twin Peaks, which always leaves me craving coffee + cherry pie.

Pete Martell: Mr. Cooper, how do you take it [your coffee]?
Dale Cooper: Black as midnight on a moonless night.
Pete Martell: Pretty black.

This Is What I Drink : 04

Water: 1:05 AM

Well, after drinking (alcohol) for a while, it's time to revert to the classic beverage, water! Water is classic because it makes up most of you, yes, you. Filtered watered to be exact. The tap water you drink may be fine (depending on where you live), but more often than not it's better to drink filtered water. So drink some quality water and you'll feel fantastic after a good night's sleep. See you tomorrow.

This Is What I Drink: 03

Another Caldera:

So, I'm drinking another beer tonight. It's not quite too late on a Saturday night, so why not another? Exactly. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia reruns on, so I'll watch that and drink more of this beer that I already described.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This Is What I Drink: 02

11:20 PM : 3/13/10 Caldera IPA - Canned Microbrew - Ashland, Oregon.

Chances are that I'll be talking about a good amount of beers throughout my tenure at this blog and it is appropriate that I start with the Caldera Brewing Company. This is the first beer I bought from my local liquor store when I moved in a few months ago and I'm happy to have it again. I've heard from a few sources that canned beer actually protects the product better because no light can affect the liquid inside. I can't argue because this beer is very, very good. At 6.1% ABV it has a nice kick to it, but it has a nice citrus finish that I like in an IPA. Despite the high price tag (12.00 per six pack), I never really regret it because it tastes so good (it's also my 4th tonight, so that helps.)

This Is What I Drink : 01

What I drink. It's not something I thought very much about until a few years ago, but it really does mean a lot to my life. Food obsession is something that's easier to accept. We have 24 hour networks dedicated to the preparation/eating/ceremony of food. But beverage obsession, not so much, as it always seems to play the sidekick. I understand why. It's a quick sip in between chews, laughs, memories and not the main course, and despite loving a well cooked meal, I'd argue the drink is just as important.

Of course there are wine (and beer) Sommeliers who appreciate the fine components of the accompanying liquid, but these people aren't celebrities like some chefs are. Ultimately, that's not really my point. This web log is just going to show my personal intake of beverages and how that directly relates to my life. My goal is to post about every individual drink that goes into my body. There are times that may be interesting, and times that it may not be, but for whatever reason I think it's necessary. I'll see you soon.