Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Riverside Red X: A Beer Graveyard

I wasn't sure if I was really into the hype surrounding Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary beers. Yet I still found myself in the Red X parking lot on my way home from work to see if there was some sitting around. Sure enough, I found three bottles with no listed price and grabbed one just to say I had it. But that wasn't the only beer they had sitting around.

Last week, I finally cracked open the bottle of Odell Woodcut 3 I had purchased months ago. I was pretty surprised to see such a healthy supply of it left on the rack, but not as surprised as I was to see a bottle of Woodcut 2 there. That thing has been there for months. Odell bottled the stuff in April of 2009. Red X has practically aged the stuff a year for anyone interested that has $23 burning a hole in their pocket. But there's more.

I think I remember a past comment about trying some Abita Christmas if you see it on the shelf. If that's something that interests you, then Red X is the place for you. Hey, it's only been 4 months since Christmas. For all you Bell's fans, they had 5 sixers of Batch 9000 waiting for you to come and save them. I had also given up trying Sierra Nevada Glissade since seeing it disappear from the Gomer's by my house weeks ago, but Red X has totally got the hookup.

There were quite a few other surprising items I saw sitting around, but they escape me right now. I thought about picking up quite a few items, but then I laid eyes on the full pallet of O'Fallon Wheach and nearly pissed my pants in excitement. Luckily, it was in their new, open sixer packaging so I was sure it hadn't been sitting in the back since last summer.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Starting 11

So did you see that Wizards game Saturday night? They beat a DC United team that was one game away from the playoffs last year. And beat them soundly, 4 – 0. It's nice to have a major league team in town that, while slightly unlikely, actually has a chance to win a championship in their league. Now, my soccer knowledge is not that high, but I do enjoy it. I started watching 4 years ago when the last World Cup rolled around and I've been watching English Premier League games since then. Tottenham Hotspur is my team. I'm eagerly anticipating the World Cup this year. But until then, I'm going to be watching the Wizards, all their games are going to be televised on KCWE which is channel 1029 on Uverse, you can find it on your cable here.

To aid in my understanding of the players I thought it might be fun to assign each of them a beer that I feel best represents that player and that I'll be enjoying during the season. The Wizard are going to be running a 4-3-3 which is the kind of formation I employ when playing FIFA '10 on Wii. This style is kind of aggressive with 3 strikers (the primary goal scorers) forward and only 3 midfielders. The Wizards should score quite a few goals (and give up their fair share) so the games aren't going to be those boring 1 – 0 affairs most Americans like to make fun of. The starting lineup I'm going to use is based on this formation and their starting lineup for the opening game.

The Starting 11

Jimmy Nielsen – GK – Jimmy (I'm breaking convention and using his first name following my rule that anyone named Jimmy should be called Jimmy whenever possible) is new to the Wizards. He's kind of a scary looking, really white Dane. While I was watching him play, in quite limited action in Saturday's blowout, I just kept thinking he reminded me of Hoegaarden. He's smooth and light just like the beer, plus Hoegaarden seems like it should have an umlaut in it and the Danish seem like they're umlaut friendly so it's a match made in heaven.

Michael Harrington – D – Harrington seems like he's one of the best players on the team. He's real disruptive on defense and is comfortable bringing the ball up to attack. He seems like a guy you would hate if he was on the opposing team, but you love because he's on the Wizards. He reminds me of Great Divide's Hoss Rye Lager. Hoss is in the smooth lager tradition but it has that rye in it that adds a little bit of spunk or disruptiveness. Like Harrington, Hoss is versatile, the beer geek can appreciate it and the beer novice can love it.

Jimmy Conrad – D – Jimmy (see what I did there) is a long time Wizard, an all-star, and one of the faces of the team. He's not flashy, he doesn't score goals, but if you bring the ball into his zone, he's going to get a foot on it. Jimmy is Boulevard Pale Ale. Pale Ale is as Kansas City as Jimmy, it's not flashy, but it gets the job done. Along with Boulevard Wheat, Pale Ale is the beer most Kansas City beer drinkers have had and Jimmy is one of the Wizards a novice KC soccer fan can name.

Matt Besler – D – Besler is from Kansas City and went to college in Notre Dame. He's been a Wizard for a couple of years now and has become a crowd favorite. Because of his Irish style and Kansas City soul, Besler is Boulevard Dry Stout. Dry Stout is a very good stout, not the best around, but it definitely has a following.

Roger Espinoza – D – Espinoza is in his second year in the MLS and with the Wizards. He was the team's rookie of the year last year, he's listed as a forward but he didn't seem to score a lot so they moved him to defenseman this year. He seems a lot like Sierra Nevada Torpedo to me. It's a good enough beer but it never seems to come home from the liquor store with me, it doesn't score for me. (Update: This was updated when I found out Espinoza has been playing defenseman this year)

Davy Arnaud – M – Arnaud is another long time Wizard and is quite the goal scorer. His goal from Saturday night was a pleasure to watch. Even though he's 6'0” and 165 pounds, I'm going to say he's Left Hand's 400 lb. Monkey. The 400 lb. Monkey is a lot like Arnaud because, while it's an IPA, the hops aren't the main taste. Arnaud is a midfielder with a striker sensibility and he's quite good at it.

Jack Jewsbury – M – Jewsbury has been my favorite Wizard. He's got the biggest kick on the team and he's great at playing defense. He's battling for a starting position, I hope he wins it. Because of his kick, he's most like Boulevard Sixth Glass. The Sixth Glass, at 11% ABV has the biggest kick of beers I drink regularly. Sixth Glass also lost my starting spot among Boulevard Smokestacks to Long Strange Trippel.

Stephane Auvray – M – Auvray is that guy out there with the Sideshow Bob hair. He's a defensive minded midfielder, despite his hair he's not flashy. He seems to always be near the ball. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye is a lot like Auvray. It's a great beer, but it's not flashy. Nobody mentions it as a top 10 beer, but it seems to very popular (near the ball) and every starting 11 needs a beer like Hop Rod Rye.

Ryan Smith – F – Going into Saturday night's game, I had no idea who Ryan Smith was. Following Saturday's game I can't wait to watch him again. He scored a goal, had a great assist on Arnaud's goal and was generally involved in every good thing that happened for the Wizards. To top it off he was wearing yellow shoes. By the 20th minute of the game, I knew Smith was Schlafly No. 15. No. 15 surprised me like no other beer ever has. I had no idea what to expect from it, but once I had it, I wanted more of it. I feel the same way about Smith, he has the capability to become my favorite player.

Kei Kamara – F – Kamara is another guy I like namely because when I play FIFA '10 as the Wizards. Kamara always scores at least one goal against us for the Houston Dynamo. Watching him play Saturday night I know why. He handles the ball a lot and is always a threat to score. He's Great Divide Titan IPA, one of my top 5 favorite beers.

Josh Wolff – F – Wolff is another long time Wizard and is a solid goal scorer. With all of the other long-time Wizards, I've gone with a Boulevard beer, but Wolff reminds me of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. SN Pale Ale is a beer lover's beer and I still drink it regularly. Wolff is like that, he's missed time with the Wizards for various jaunts with a German team and the U.S. National team, but he always comes back. I spend time with many other beers, but I always go back to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Key Substitutes

Teal Bunbury – F – My favorite name on the Wizards. Teal was the Wizards 1st draft pick this year and he looks the part. He looks like one of the tallest and biggest guys on the field. Saturday night he subbed in and really did everything he could to tack on another goal in the blowout. Bunbury is the Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S Stout. In a stout category that was already well represented in KC, B.O.R.I.S. came to town and quickly became one of my favorites. Like Bunbury, B.O.R.I.S. is big and good and will take over a starting spot soon.

Chance Myers – D – Chance seems like the closest thing to Spicoli the Wizards have. He even likes snowboarding and body boarding and hails from California. I've never seen him play so I can't comment on his playing style. But the most hippie kind of beer I can think of that I love is Lagunitas Pale Ale and that fits Chance. Lagunitas is a wonderful pale ale and has quickly become one of my favorites since I first had one a couple of months ago. I hope Chance becomes a favorite in the same way.

Keep in mind I am a soccer novice. I hope I didn't get anything really wrong in my analysis. I'm looking forward to this season and I definitely think that having each player represent a beer is going to help me in watching the games. If you want better soccer analysis I encourage you to check out Hillcrest Road, the official KC Wizards blog, or  The Back Post. Soccer is meant to be enjoyed with a beer, any of the beers mentioned would go wonderfully with a Saturday night Wizards game on TV.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fritz and Ken Hit KC

The first of Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary collaborations, the Fritz and Ken Ale has hit KC. Apparently KC only got 8 cases, Gomer's Midtown has one of them. From the label
Fritz Maytag, owner of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company, is regarded as the founding father of the craft brewing movement. Frtiz agreed to guest brew this very special ale with us in honor of our 30th anniversary. As a nod to the dark ales and stouts that seduced both Fritz and Ken in the early years, we bring you this pioneering stout, a rich and roasted ale, perfect for aging, and worthy of your finest snifter.
This is the one I'm most excited about and I'm breaking one of my rules. I'm posting this before I'm sure I can secure myself a bottle or 3. You can be assured I'll be working the phones trying to find some this afternoon. It's not going to last long. Help me out and leave a comment to help your fellow beer travelers find out where to get some.

Update: This isn't available in KS yet. When it is another 9 cases will be available for the KC area on the KS side.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Dark Truth About the 400 Lb. Monkey

I was nervous all day. I'd made pronouncements, I'd said some things, I'd done some complaining. Everything I said was going to happen already happened and now my big statement was about to be tested. I wanted something special to eat and drink while I watched it happen so I picked up a bottle of Dark Truth Stout and some carryout from RJ's Bob-Be-Que. Stella was going out with her friends, I could watch it all unfold.

The Dark Truth was the perfect accompaniment to the excitement as everything I believed was about to come to fruition. In fact, it didn't last quite long enough. It still had an hour left and the bottle was dry. The adrenaline pumping through my veins masked the fact that I had just drank 750 ml of 9.7% ABV goodness. I may have sold Dark Truth a little short in my initial review much like most people sold the coming dark truth short.

I went down to the basement fridge and found the Left Hand 400 lb Monkey. I was drinking it the night before and absolutely loved it. It was hoppy yet not overly so. It was like making 40 garlic clove chicken, you'd think it would be overpoweringly garlicky, yet it is sweet and sublime. In this case the garlic is hops and they somehow have a different character than what you'd expect. The 400 lb. Monkey is a different kind of IPA and a welcome change to the typical hop bomb IPA. It was an apt beer to drink while it was happening.

It's something I harp on all the time when I talk about the thing. I come from a place where we all believe it. The thing is, all evidence to the contrary, the majority don't believe it. It's not given a chance. The status quo wins out by not allowing the challenge. If you don't get the chance to prove yourself, if you fail one test and succeed in many others, the one failure is the only one remembered. Not on this day, this day things were going to change. It was going to happen and it was going to be decisive.

I decided I was going to pop open one of my 3 remaining 2008 Boulevard Saison-Bretts when it happened. The anticipation was building, I couldn't believe it was actually going to happen, but I could believe it could and should happen. Then it was over, the last moments were tense, but when the issue was settled it was decisive and beautiful. I popped the cork on the Saison-Brett with my hand still hurting from pounding on my ottoman when the decisive action happened. The Saison was bubbly like champagne, again apt for the occasion. The joy of drinking my favorite beer was overshadowed by the joy of it happening, but joy of the whole thing was greater than the sum of the parts.

UNI 69 - KU 67

Boss Tom is Back

I've made it no secret that I don't like Germans or their styles of beer very much. But sometimes, a nice German hefeweizen or maibock. can be quite nice. I ran into that feeling last night. I had spent the afternoon making some bruschetta with fresh mozzarella and a lasagna. I gorged myself like I rarely gorge myself and by the time I was finished I felt like the poo. Plus, the house was really hot after having the oven on all afternoon and then giving the kids baths. By the time we got the kids to bed I had very nearly broke a sweat and I felt about 10 pounds heavier than normal.

When we sat down to watch The Amazing Race I felt as though I didn't want to get up for the rest of the evening, but I had a thirst. I didn't want another glass of wine or a stout or any of the fine ales I have in my basement fridge. What I really wanted was one of my precious few Boss Tom's Golden Bocks.

I've had 6 of these now (2 were provided to me by Boulevard) and I've liked it. It's rather light and refreshing and this may sound insulting, but it's not, it tastes like a maltier version of a Miller Lite. Sometimes that's all the flavor you want and last night was no exception. I think it's indicative of a very good beer that it met a certain need for me and was exactly what I wanted. I actually looked forward to the first sip more than I do most of the beers I drink.

Boss Tom's is nearly the same beer that has been a Boulevard seasonal in year's past available only on tap, the Maibock. They've reformulated it a little bit and I think made it better. I only had the Maibock a couple of times, and I could very well be wrong, but it seems like the Boss Tom's has a little less hop flavor on the back end and seems much smoother without the bitter finish.

I'm no expert on maibocks, I just learned a couple of weeks ago that a maibock could also be called a golden bock. But, I will say this, I had a Sierra Nevada Glissade last night as well and I enjoyed Boss Tom more. The Glissade was just too hoppy for my mood last night and while I enjoy the Glissade, I think I'll  buy Boss Tom before I buy Glissade.

Starting today, I'll have that chance. Boss Tom's Golden Bock sixers will be hitting liquor store shelves starting today. They've been in the 12 pack variety packs for a couple of weeks now. Even though there's snow on the ground today, it's going to be just about the perfect temperature out to sit on your porch this evening and drink a Boss Tom's.

Disclaimer: I got 2 bottles of Boss Tom's from Boulevard gratis. The rest of the bottles I've drank have been from variety packs.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wishful Thinking Collaborations

Collaborations are all the rage with craft brewers these days. Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada made headlines late last year with their Life & Limb maple flavored Strong Ale. Stone Brewing in San Diego teams up annually with Jolly Pumpkin (Michigan) and Nøgne-Ø (Norway) to brew a Christmas seasonal collaboration ale. More locally however, Schlafly teamed up with O'Fallon and New Albanian to brew an unfortunate Frankenstein ale that the brewers described as an "oak aged dry hopped smoked rye pale ale," or as Chimpotle put it, "a gang bang in a glass."

Boulevard's Imperial Pilsner was a big deal earlier this year. I really liked the Imperial Pilsner and it got me thinking about what other collaborations I'd like to see for our hometown brewer. Recently, local Twitter personality Rod Leviathan asked damn good question, "Why hasn't Boulevard teamed up with The Roasterie for a coffee stout?" TheReaper16 had another good idea, saying Boulevard and Shatto should put out a milk stout. Running with the idea, I said Boulevard could use applewood from the Woodyard to make a smoked porter.

Plenty of local restaurants use Boulevard beers as ingredients in recipes. Take Blanc's delicious Pale Ale Onion Rings for example. I think it'd only be fair (and delicious) if Boulevard would return the favor and use some of the more unique local ingredients in their beers. Seriously, a Shatto Milk Stout would be amazing.

I thought of a few others I'd like to see:

Christopher Elbow Chocolate Stout - Boulevard was pairing Dark Truth with Elbow chocolates when they sent out promotional bottles so why not take the logical next step and put Elbow chocolates IN a stout? How delicious does a caramel infused apple and chocolate stout sound... What about a Strawberry Balsamic Chocolate Porter...

Honey Mead Wheat - Pirtle is a small winery in Weston about thirty minutes north of the city. Most of their wines are sweeter, fruit based meads. My favorite has to be the blackberry mead but I couldn't think of a Boulevard beer I'd pair it with (maybe Sixth Glass but it's already got a lot going on) so I'd try mixing a little honey mead and Boulevard Wheat and see what happens. You'd probably end up with something like Harvest Dance but way less carbonated.

Cornbread Pale Ale - C Withers makes the best cornbread I've ever had. Cornbread isn't something I get excited about often so they must be doing something right. I think putting the sweet and grainy flavor of cornbread in a pale ale would be awesome... almost as awesome as using spent grain for cornbread. Someone should get on that.

Caramel Lamar's Bar Porter - The ultimate breakfast beer. Take a generous amount of caramel icing and sweeten up a Bully! Porter. Done. Also sounding good in the morning, a Bavarian Cream Filled Stout.

Have any suggestions on local mash ups with Boulevard beers that would make for a delicious combination?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mission Twitical 2.0

The winter thaw is over so we got the Mission area Twitterverse together to recreate the magic of the Mission Twitical pub crawl. We didn't luck out with the weather this year, it was rainy and a little chilly. Last year the sun and warm weather left us happy in our shorts and flip flops. The rain also forbade me from trying to recreate my favorite moment of Mission Twitical last year when Owen brought his bike into Lucky Brewgrille, threw it down in the bar and said "F... you, I work for the Pitch". I had to settle for Stella driving me over and dropping me off.

I showed up right at 2 and only found @sjwaters, and @c_giffin (forgive me for using Twitter names, not everyone has a blog and I'm not inventing aliases for everyone), co-creators of the Mission Twitical. I asked for the specials and without looking at the taps and wound up with a $2 Miller Lite (give me a break, I was about to drink 10 beers over the course of the next couple of hours). Had I looked at the taps I would have gotten a Sam Adams Noble Pils and had it serve the same purpose with more flavor. If I were going to be a madman I could have started off with some Tank 7 which Lucky's has on tap as well. People started filtering in, I sold The DLC on a pint of Noble Pils (he was looking for a pilsner style beer, he usually drinks liquor). Joey96, originator of the "We wnat Boulevard Irish Ale all year long" facebook group, ordered, surprisingly an Irish Ale from the taps. What I'm trying to say is that Lucky Brewgrille has a pretty good tap selection.

Once we finally got everyone assembled that we thought was coming we all tabbed out and headed over to JJ's Other Place. JJ's might be the lowlight of the pub crawl but it has it's own niche, the jukebox. The bartender, remembering us from last year (I'm going to withhold the twit's name that the bartender knew), put $1 in the jukebox for us. I believe, that @sjwaters and @taracuda selected the worst songs from the jukebox including "YMCA". I'm pretty sure that the 2 or 3 regulars that were in the bar when we got there couldn't wait for us to leave. Unfortunately, we spent an incredibly long time there long past the time I was able to nurse my lone Guinness (Guinness draws will be $4 on St. Patricks day) of the year. Once everyone was finally done a good hour after we got there, we were able to get everyone out for the long, wet walk down to RJ's Bob-Be-Cue. Everyone, that is, except for Chimpotle and his friend who decided to go down to the Sprint Center to see if they could get some scalper tickets for the KU-K-State game.

After the long slog to the wonderful RJ's, most of us were ready to eat and RJ's was our last best chance to get something edible. I got an Odell Cutthroat Porter to drink which started a small trend. RJ's actually has a pretty good beer selection even though they have Tallgrass IPA on tap. The DLC and @C_giffin each had a Greyhound and @taracuda and Meesha had some drink the wonderful big Dave, the big red head guy that is always working at RJ's, concocted made with Clementine Izze and vodka. After finding out that appetizers were half price for us, I decided on Texas Toothpicks (fried onion and jalapeno strings with a cheese sauce) and a Cajun crabcake. The crabcake was quite burnt on the bottom but still pretty good and the Texas Toothpicks were wonderful fried pieces of goodness. I'll probably get them every time I eat at RJ's in the future. Meesha let me have a bite of his pork burnt ends. It was pretty good, I don't normally like burnt ends and these didn't make me a convert because they're a little fatty for me, but pretty tasty. We were running seriously behind schedule because of the hour and a half we spent at RJ's, it was already nearing 5:30 and the event was only scheduled until 6. We still had 3 bars to go.

Because we were running so late, Manhattan Lounge (located next to the Mission Theater) was open. We had to skip Mission Lounge (next to Manhattan Lounge) last year because they inexplicably don't open until after 5.
I really don't understand the rhyme or reason behind when these 2 bars are open but I'm sure it makes sense to someone. I like for bars just to be open all day every day to eliminate any confusion. That being said, Manhattan Lounge (named for the little apple, not the big apple) was quite nice inside. They had Free State Copperhead on tap so I knew what I was going to have. I have a simple motto, if Free State's on tap that's what I'm drinking. I hope for a day when Free State is so widespread that I opt for another beer on tap. But until that day comes, I'll be having Free State. Manhattan Lounge, as of this weekend, was serving beers in Sam Adams perfect pint glasses. But from the sound of glass breaking 3 different times while we were in there, I don't think that will last much longer. Not to mention everyone's going to steal one, the only reason I didn't is because we had a couple more bars to hit and I didn't want a glass in my pocket for the next couple of hours. Chimpo and his friend caught back up with us at this point having struck out trying to get tickets to the game. They weren't willing to pay $150 for upper deck seats. They had to settle for watching the game on the one working TV (of 4) in the Manhattan Lounge. I made a couple of reconnaissance missions around the corner to the Keyhole Tavern to see if 15 of us could fit in there. The Keyhole was packed with people  watching the game. Most everyone decided to skip it and head straight over to the Clarette Club.

I went to the Keyhole, we had such a good time there last year meeting boy Superman that I couldn't pass it up. I picked up a $2 PBR draw and settled in at a table with a couple of other tweeps to watch the last 5 minutes of the game. Unfortunately for all of us but @joey96 and his wife, the rest of the bar was KU fans. But not the type of people I usually associate with being KU fans, there were at least 2 people unironically wearing overalls. There could have been more overall clad patrons, it's impossible to know. Once the game was over we made the last part of our trek over to the Clarette Club on the back side of Mission Mart.

Once we got there and found the rest of the group and noticed that the Reuben Roll eating had already occurred. The DLC and @C_giffin tried to get me to eat one, but I don't even like Reubens so there's no way I would try them in rollup form. I got tired of waiting for our waitress (who was quite nice and bubbly, a nice departure from the servers I've had there the other 2 times I've been) so I went up to the bar to get a glass for the pitchers. I couldn't get the bartender's attention so I just grabbed one and headed back to our table. I was long past the point of caring about social conventions like waiting to be served by bar staff. It was past 8 at this point and I mostly just wanted to go home. I texted Stella to have her come get me and the group of us spent the time waiting talking about The D's dildo collection. I'd like to say that wasn't true, but that's really what we talked about.

It was a long day but it was a fun day. I think we'll be doing it again next year. Hopefully Mission gets its act together and actually paves the sidewalks in all areas to be the walkable city they want to be. I really didn't want to get my shoes all muddy, but I did. Last year we actually walked on hay in some areas. It was rainy and pretty miserable this year, but that's the price to pay when you schedule an outdoor event in March.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Left Hand Beer School at Barley's in OP tonight

Representatives from Left Hand will be in Overland Park tonight for this month's installment of the Barley's Beer School. Josh Breckel (national sales manager) and Mark Sample (head of production in Longmont) will be leading the discussion of all things Left Hand. I'm hearing tonight's beer samples will be Sawtooth, Juju Ginger, Polestar, Milk Stout and 400lb Monkey. Nothing exotic but it'll be nice to try the 400lb Monkey IPA without having to commit to a six pack.

I've enjoyed the last three or four Beer Schools I've gone to and I'm looking forward to this one as well. This seems like as good an excuse as any to drink more Left Hand Milk Stout. It's so good.

The event will start at 6pm and it's $8 at the door.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Me and Fergal down by the schoolyard

Did you know Guinness' brewmaster was in town on Sunday? It's true, one of only three people (if you believe the urban legend) who know the true recipe for Guinness was in Kansas City for a brief period of time this weekend. During his layover in KC Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray stopped by Browne's Irish Market at 3300 Pennsylvania. You shouldn't feel bad if you missed the announcement, because there really wasn't one...

I'd only heard about this after my girlfriend saw it mentioned in passing on the Pitch's Fat City. IrishKC had a few more details but the event hours seemed to keep changing... Originally listed as running from 3 to 7pm, the time had been changed from 2 to 6pm by the time I saw the post. Joey96 later tipped me off that the event was only going to be 2 t0 5pm...

Anyway, I got to Browne's just after 3pm and the outdoor tent was packed. The scene was just about what you'd expect, there was Guinness branding all over the place, people wearing a lot of green and there was live fiddle music being blasted through a PA. There was a huge mass of people crammed around the makeshift bar, which was just three tap handles mounted on an Igloo cooler. Since I couldn't make my way up to the bar and there was no way to hear what was going on over the music, we headed into Browne's to look for the Perfect Pour certificates. After wandering around the shamrock covered labyrinth that is Browne's Irish Market we finally made our way to the deli area where we ended up standing in a line that snaked around the tables and counters. After a few minutes of standing around and gawking at all of the crazy flavored chips crisps I overheard a woman say the certificates are being issued in the back room. We quickly abandoned the line in the front of the shop in favor for another line in the back... but at least this one was shorter, even if it seemed everyone in front of us had German last names that were impossible for the lady to spell out on the certificate. Still, it was a relatively painless process... for a piece of paper that certifies me to pour pints of Guinness, something I'll probably never actually do.

I realize now that the demonstration was probably going on while we were standing in line. Surely that's what all the commotion was about behind the bar. I'm just guessing though because between the hundred people crowded around the Igloo and the three piece fiddle band, I couldn't see or hear anything worth seeing or hearing...

The crowd died down after we got our certificates and I finally got a glimpse of the VIP, Mr. Fergal Murray. Murray was off to the side of the bar signing Guinness pint glasses, which seemed like a really cool souvenir so I made my way over the merch table to buy a glass. The kid behind the table said he didn't have any glasses for sale, odd.... considering he had Guinness pint glass piggy banks, stuffed Guinness pint glass plush dollies, Guinness soccer balls, Guinness hoodies, etc... Ok, I'll just go to the bar and buy a pint of Guinness, chug it and get Fergal to sign that. It's not the most sanitary souvenir I'll have in my collection but at this point my patience was wearing thin. When I got up to the bar I asked for a pint of Guinness in the branded glass, I'd seen people walking away from the bar with plastic cups and I really didn't wan to be the guy who asks the Guinness brewmaster to sign a Dixie cup. I was told, of course, that they were completely out of pint glasses but I could still get a plastic cup for the same five dollar bill... That was at approximately 3:30pm... about half an hour after the event was originally scheduled to begin, or two and half hours before last call. How badly do you have to miscalculate demand for beer glasses for the supply to run out halfway through an event? Not even that, but you have to assume people are going to buy them as souvenirs to get signed, why not charge a couple dollars more for a glass instead of a cup to stretch the supply a little...

As I told the bartender to forget it and walked off I noticed one of the staff reach in to a box and grab a couple pint glasses out to have Fergal Murray sign for guests. I guess the bartender wasn't aware of these extra glasses so I go back up and ask another guy for a pint of Guinness in a glass. He gives me the same line about being out of glasses and I tell him I can see a whole box of glasses right behind him. He then tells me that those are being "held back." Since I'm not cool enough to get one of these glasses I once again decline the generous offer to drink Guinness from a Dixie cup and walk away.

At this point I figured I'd at least get Fergs to sign my worthless certificate and I start making my way over to his side of the bar. As I'm standing in line, one of Fergie's handlers pulls him out of the tent to go talk to some hipster with tight jeans and a Flip video camera. A crowd starts to gather on the outside of the tent and Fergal is now swarmed on the sidewalk as people keep stopping to make him sign anything and everything that has a shamrock on it. It seems St. Patrick himself is conspiring against me, I might just have to leave empty handed...

Just as my hopes were dashed, a Billy Connolly lookalike walked up to the bar, grabbed a glass out of the "held back" box and handed it to a bartender with a five dollar bill to fill it. I waited for everyone at the bar to turn their backs and I pulled a Billy Connolly, swiping a glass from the box. Don't worry, I took it right back to the bar and had them fill it up, I paid just like everyone else.

It was now close to 4pm and I knew the way my luck was going I'd have to hurry if I had any hopes of getting my glass signed so I promptly chugged that unsettled pint of Guinness and walked around the back of the tent to find the most elusive brewmaster in Coleman Highlands. As I approached Fergal Murray he was signing four different half empty Guinness glasses for a kid with braces. "Dear Billy, Best wishes... Blah Blah Blah, Guinness is Good For You. Love Fergal." If this is the live of a brewmaster.... no thanks. As the final glass is signed and returned to Billy Braces, one of Fergie's handlers steps up and asks if he's ready to go. You've got to be kidding me... It wasn't even 4:30 yet and you're trying to rush the VIP away from the event. Thankfully, I managed to get my glass into the hands of Fergal before he was whisked away to the Flogging Molly show at the Uptown. Seriously, that's where he was headed...

On our way out of Browne's my girlfriend pointed out the upside down cup on the Guinness tap handle. Yup, they'd run out of Guinness Draught at a Guinness event an hour and a half before closing time... It seemed like a fitting end to such a poorly planned day. I don't know who's to blame for the glasses and taps running dry well earlier than they should have, whether it was Guinness, the distributor, Fergalicious or Browne's, this isn't the way you handle a brewmaster event. Even though I eventually got what I was after, I couldn't have fun. I couldn't enjoy the beer, I couldn't enjoy the venue, and I couldn't enjoy the VIP.

When it's all said and done, I think it was probably better that this event wasn't advertised more than it was. I'm sure it would have saved a lot of people a good deal of disappointment if it weren't even advertised at all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stout and About

As mentioned in previous posts, we reconvened the tasting panel for a tasting of Dark Truth Stout. We also had a bottle of new to Kansas Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S Imperial Stout. Both of those were very good but they only got us started for the evening. Again, the participants were Chimpotle, Weston, Yeti and newest member JJSKCK.

Our first beer after Dark Truth and B.O.R.I.S. was the O'Fallon Chocolate by the Barrel Cream Stout. My thought was "oh good, chocolate, stout and barrel aging, this has a chance to be good". I stand by that thought, but boy was it not good. For me, O'Fallon is batting .000 for it's career. Granted, I haven't tried everything O'Fallon brews, but I'm kind of tired of giving them chances. I think all of us in the room felt it was a bit too carbonated and had a thin mouthfeel which doesn't bode well for a milk stout.

By this time discussion, as always, turned to our favorite show "Check, Please" and Chimpotle's hate for the lady that dissed Blanc's burgers (I had a better hamburger that week) yet recommended U-Gene's. Yeti doesn't like the show because it made his fiance want to eat at Korma Sutra and he doesn't like Indian food (he also doesn't get all the fuss about Blanc). In short we came to the conclusion that Chimpotle needs to be on "Check, Please" and Yeti has horrible taste in food.

Next we cracked open the Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti and it was just fabulous. Regular readers know of my stance against barrel aged beers because they either end up tasting like bourbon or wood. I only like wood in my mouth on special occasions or if I have too much to drink and while I like bourbon, I like beer more. So the flavors barrel aging give beers don't usually meet my ideal flavor profile. But, Great Divide made nearly a perfect barrel aged beer with the Yeti. It had all of the things I love about the regular Yeti with an added vanilla component without the woody flavor. I think it's better than regular Yeti and since it's very nearly the same price, I'll be coming home with the Oak Aged Yeti whenever I'm in a Yeti mood. Yeti, the person, told us that Barley's inexplicably has Yeti, the beer, on tap for $4.25 every day. If there's a better beer deal in town, I can't think of it right now.

To punish ourselves for all the great beers we drank earlier, we cracked open the Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat. The beer is, obviously, not good. But, in addition to that, it has the most unappetizing name of any beer I can think of. Buffalo Sweat? Why would you name it that aside from the sheer Kansasness of the name? For some reason the name led us to talk of Viggo Mortensen's vestigial tail. Chimpotle's takeaway from the sex scene in "A History of Violence" is Viggo Mortensen has a tail and apparently it was Yeti's takeaway too. We seriously spent 15 minutes talking about this.

The night started to break down a little bit and we just started opening bottles and pouring what we wanted. I had some Left Hand Milk Stout and of course, loved it just like I do every time. Old Rasputin actually, after drinking 7 or 8 other stouts, didn't seem as great as it does when it is the first thing you drink. This was the Bully! surprise of the night. We weren't doing a blind tasting or any tricks, but for some reason the flavors and mouthfeel didn't match up well with the other beers of the night. I may have had the Old Rasputin after the much more full flavored and richer mouthfeel of the Founder's Breakfast Stout which is simply wonderful. The Left Hand Imperial Stout I had is mostly forgotten.

We finished out the evening drinking a couple of Belgian style beers with the Chimay Blue and Goose Island Matilda. Matilda is one of my favorite Belgian style beers and it was good, but after a bunch of stouts it just wasn't spectacular. This may be shocking but I've never had a Chimay, of any color. I thought it was a bit too carbonated, but that could be because of all the stouts. I'm certainly not turned off of it. This led to talk of movies that we'd never seen that seem odd. Mine is "Empire Strikes Back" or any of the other Star Wars movies other than the one from 1977. I've also only seen "Star Trek V" of the Star Trek series and that's only because I worked at the movie theater it was showing or I had free passes to it, I don't remember. Chimpotle has still never seen "The Godfather" which, to me, is almost unbelievable.

Overall, these little tasting parties are a great time and a great way to drink a bunch of different beers. It's also great to talk about movies for a couple of hours (I would much rather talk about movies or baseball than beer, especially when drinking beer). We also spent a good amount of time talking about restaurants around town and Chimpotle's favorite topic, strip clubs around town. Your favorite conversations may vary, but drinking 10 different beers in a night, not feeling like you had 10 beers and not paying for 10 different beers is well worth getting a group of friends together and have a tasting party.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Free State in a Slave State

Free State Brewing is now available on taps in Missouri. The Flying Saucer is calling first on tapping their Free State kegs (Ad Astra, Oatmeal Stout and Stormwatch are on tap). Grinders will also have several Free State brews on tap starting today. I imagine other good beer bars like Harry's Country Club, Waldo Pizza and Swagger will follow suit soon if not already. For all of the Missouri folks who are adamantly anti-Kansas, Free State beer may soften your feelings towards the sunflower state.

Call it out in comments where you're seeing it on tap in Missouri and feel free to throw out any anti-KU rhetoric if you feel the need.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hoppin' Frog

Those in the know know that Hoppin' Frog brews are now available in Kansas. I was very pleased when JJSKCK presented B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout as his offering for our little tasting party. I'd heard good things about Hoppin' Frog's stouts and B.O.R.I.S. is a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival so it should be good.

We poured it second, after Dark Truth. I thought it best to drink it before we got a little too cloudy from drinking. It poured out like a bottle of Valvoline and Yeti exclaimed "this smells like a bag of ass" and while I've never actually smelled a bag of ass, if I were to use my imagination, I think a bag of ass might compare favorably to the smell of B.O.R.I.S. Lucky for us, it tasted amazing with a little fruity sweetness mixed with a little chocolate and coffee. A slight alcohol warmth and some hoppiness was on the finish. Everything was nice and balanced and just wonderful.

The 22 oz. bottle of B.O.R.I.S. was about $10 and should be available year round. This is a wonderful addition to the KC beer scene and I think can be thrown into the equation of best stout available in KC with Great Divide Yeti and Old Rasputin. Factoring in that it's somewhat expensive B.O.R.I.S. will more than likely be a special occasion beer, but if it is, you're probably going to be declaring a lot more occasions special.

Dark Truth Tasting

Dark Truth Stout hit liquor store shelves Monday and Boulevard was kind enough to give me a bottle with a couple of Christoper Elbow chocolates. Just like last time, I got the tasting panel group together with the addition of the lovely JJSKCK (he needs a vowel) to sample the Dark Truth and a variety of other beers, mostly stouts (this will be covered in another post). Being the ever magnanimous host, I kept the Christopher Elbow chocolates for me and let everyone else have their fill of raspberry Hugs (my favorite candy of the moment).

Once again I did the pouring and the results were mixed. Chimpotle got a really heady brew that almost overflowed and Weston barely got any head at all. The beer was a very dark brown with an offwhite almost tan head. The smell was bready with some chocolate. The taste was wonderful, I got quite a bit of cocoa and creme flavors from it. Mixed with the raspberry Elbow, the Dark Truth was simply wonderful. The Venezuelan Dark Elbow overwhelmed the stout a little and kind of blew my last couple of sips of the Dark Truth*.

*The 2 chocolates provided were Raspberry and Venezuelan Dark. They were chosen when Steven Pauwels took some Dark Truth over to Christopher Elbow and the 2 of them decided on those 2 chocolates as the best pairing for the stout. I'm going to blame the Venezuelan Dark decision on Christopher Elbow as he obviously doesn't know anything about chocolate. Too harsh? Okay, maybe I don't know anything I just thought it was a little overwhelming with the stout.

After trying the Rye on Rye and some of the whiskey barrel aged concoctions later in the evening, I was happy with the straightforward simplicity of the Dark Truth. While it has a lot going on with the barley, wheat, rye, oats, belgian yeast and German hops, it drinks like a well blended slightly hoppy and fruity stout that is simply wonderful. I think I like the Imperial Stout that Dark Truth nudged out (Imperial Stout will reappear later in the year) better, but Dark Truth is a really great Belgian style stout.

As we were drinking this brew, we ran down the Boulevard news that we knew. Apparently Dark Truth will be the last new Smokestack Boulevard is going to be releasing for a while. I've heard rumors of a 21st anniversary beer that will be released next year but no one seems to know anything about that beer. We speculated that the Amber they're experimenting with will replace Lunar (which we all agree is a good beer). They're hoping to always have an experimental brew or two always on tap in the tasting room for the tours. I thought it would be a great idea to give certain people who might write a blog a little access card so he wouldn't have to go on a tour to get into the tasting room and maybe give one to Dan too so he'll quit complaining.

Dark Truth was pretty popular with the 5 of us last night. Whether you have some Christopher Elbow chocolates, Cadbury Creme Eggs or Raspberry Hugs or if you just want to cap off a good meal, Dark Truth should please you. At "only" 9.7% ABV it's quite drinkable and maybe a little too easy to polish off a bottle by yourself.

Disclosure: I did get the beer and chocolates free from Boulevard. It did not affect my thoughts on either the beer or the chocolates, but you can judge that for yourself.