Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beering in Dupont Circle: Churchkey

So we move along to see what other wonders are in the Northwestern DC area and stumble upon this Pizza joint. They've got 12 beers on tap, a great food selection, and over an hours wait. So let's keep it moving. We make our way to our next destination, Churchkey.

This spot only opened 9 months ago and is a bona fide gastropub. Great soft lighting atmosphere, real oil lamps along the wall, 50 beers on tap, another 555 bottled beers, and a killer menu. The menu was neck deep in fine dining world. The place was packed with a 45 minute wait but I grab some ginger ahi tuna and get's the beering:

District Chophouse Ellie's Ale
I know that I won't make it to the brewpubs in the area, but it doesn't hurt to see some DC stuff on tap at the gastropub. The beer has a candy apple scent and is just barely cloudy. Smooth mouthfeel with low carbonation, moderate to high sweet malt. Medium bodied. Just goes down very easy. Very little hops to speak of. 3 Stars.

Bell's Two-Hearted Double IPA
The wife ordered this one, I don't know why, she can't stand the IPAs. The nose has a great citrus and malt character. The taste is very high in hops yet balanced with the malt. I was a little winded and burning up at this point, so I didn't write down much more. 4 Stars.

After all this ass dragging around DC and my inability to work out for 5 weeks, I can't seem to get cooled down. And Churchkey publishes the serving temperature right there on the menu. Normally I would be tickled pink, but this is just about the time I need one of those ice houses that advertises "the coldest beer in town". I just can't get cooled down and these Dupont circle beer locales are so spot on with their serving temps that I'm switching to a Pilsner...

Tuppers Keller Pils
Light crisp hop and caramel nose. So damn refreshing. High carbonation, not too much on the hops, very balanced with a lightly bitter aftertaste. High 3 Stars.

All in all, this place ranks right up there with the beerbistro in Toronto for fine dining gastropubs. Just CRAZY. And even better, if you want more barfood, you just hoof it upstairs to Birch and Barley and you find yourself in beertopia with all kinds of pub-grub, hipsters, and congressional aides and pages. All the same beer they have downstairs. I know next time I go to DC, we're going to make it a point to go to Church.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beering on Dupont Circle: Brickskeller!!!


The beer bar that has eluded my many trips to the Marlyand area for years, and I finally make it down there with the wife and a couple of friends. SOMEBODY PLAY MY F*CKING MUSIC!!!

The Brickskeller has been said to be the best beer bar in America. We got over 1000 beers in the place. I don't really know what to expect as we dragass on foot from the metrorail station at Dupont circle. I'm loving the atmosphere of Dupont cirlce. Beautiful brownstones, great restaurant scene, lots of metro people walking the streets on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I can't help but wonder how many Senators and Reps are living in this area. Lot's of money, probably over $1 million per unit. And damned if there's not a Krispy Kreme's right there. Timeout


Beer Log: June 28, 2010

State: eating spaghetti, catching up on DVR's of MMA fights I've missed

Picked this up at Specs some time ago. High alcohol at 7.5%. I drank this one one time before but cannot remember it being all that good, kind of like a Lithuanian Malt Liquor, if that makes any sense. Sugar sweet nose on top of a clear straw colored beer with a HUGE white long lasting head (no homo). The nose has some caramel malt in there as well. Beer has a sickenly sweet taste to it. Like I'm drinking sugar water before the kool-aid was put in it. Makes me grimace a little bit. A little too sweet for my taste, especially considering the thin body and lack of hops. 2 Stars.


Ok I'm back. Actually I poured that beer out, so that's officially a 1 Star beer. So I kept myself from doing any research about Brickskeller beyond the address and the taplist. I had no idea what this place really looked like. And lo and behold it's a damn DUNGEON. We dragass downstairs in a thin stairway through a creaking door, to a poorly lit street level bar. No taps at all. The decor is dark brown stonewalls with rectangular shadow boxes with beer bottles and beer cans. The waitress sits me in the very back of the cutout area, no natural light, in the very back. Very few people in there at the time. I'm thinking that if I eat the food here I could never leave.

The wife and I ask for Bells Two Hearted but they were out, so I just figured I would shoot for something I've never seen before. Not much in the way of local area beer I've never had before, so we roll with it:

Beer Log: June 19, 2010
State: Chillin' at the Skeller, eating french fries

Utica Club Pilsener by Saranac
Yeah I've been going dutch lately with my food choices with my beer, just straight up french fries. Anyway I order this one b/c I'm a still pretty hot after the walk outside. Clear and straw, with a bready and somehow watery smell. The beer is not bad at all. Clean finish, balanced. Good hops and bread. A pinch of funk. 3 Stars.

Next up:
Bell's Pale Ale
If I can't get the double IPA, I'll take the Pale Ale. Nose is metallic, funky hops, and cardboard. With Bell's reputation and the dust on the bottle, I take it this beer has sat in the fridge for quite some time, or maybe warmed up. Clear straw color. The taste is a warmish hoppiness with an English PA smoothness. Lemony and grapefruit hops. No rating as I think it's just over-aged.

As we beered it up, the crowd filled up the place on that Saturday afternoon. Turns out the rest of the place has some good light, we were just off in the cut. Probably a good place to bring one of your girlfriends, unless Cheaters finds you, then you have nowhere to run. Otherwise I noticed a couple of folks enjoying dinner and nursing a bottle of Shiner Bock each. I don't think I ever tried to appreciate a beer for an hour like that unless it was a Barleywine. They even got an ice bucket that's typically used for champagne. Great food selection, may try the Buffalo Burger next time. Maybe even stay at the Inn they've got upstairs. And of course, LOVE THE BEER.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Go-To Local Beer

Well what is a good beer drinker with a go-to beer. As I sit here in my Egypt National Team soccer jersey while watching Bellator, I can't help but ponder the beer every beerman needs a beer that they just drink, all the time. Everybody's different, but even the connoisseurs need a beer they can crack open while watching a fight or something.

The beer that is pretty good, moderatly priced, preferrably something you can get in a can, moderate alcohol, and preferrably local.

My Go-To beer Lineage is as follows:
Undergrad: Smirnoff Ice (I know, but I got more girls back then)
Grad School: Miller Lite (MGD if I wanted to treat myself)
First moved to Texas 2005 to 2007: Shiner Bock
A break in the action and then...
2008-2009: New Belgium Fat Tire
January to April 2010: Saint Arnold Amber

And now we have a new winner. Since I can't get SA Amber in a can, and my taste buds forcing me off hops, I cannot stop drinking and am currently drinking:

Southern Star Buried Hatchet Stout
I just love the medium body, low hops, chocolate with moderate coffee and burnt notes. I drink this stuff straight out of the can, no need to dirty glasses on the go-to beer. And although it's a bit more pricey, something around $8.00 for a 4 pack of 12 oz cans, I find I'm picking a 4 packer everytime I hit Specs. These guys just NAILED it with this beer. Firmly in the 4 Star territory, especially considering I bought more than one of them. To make things better, we may be moving up near Southern Star territory some time soon. Great stuff.

If only Oskar Blues would make a lower alcohol beer, I think they would be my go-to next. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dark Star Stout

Beer Log: Right now
State: Just ate some spaghetti and watching TV with the family

Boulevard Smokestack Series Dark Truth Stout
Another big beer from our boys at the Bully. This Smokestack Series is great stuff. I could drink this stuff all the time. Pours milky and smooth with the bubbles falling down in the head like Guiness, but much better looking. The head is HUGE and not moving. The nose on this beer is a great malty caramel and chocolate, with a cinnamon. Oh yeah man. Great chocolate and caramel and brown sugar taste. Just awesome strength with a pinch of peppery alcohol. I notice something akin to cherry and moderate hops that are there just to balance. The beer is very strong with bold smooth flavor. Moderate to full body. Light choco and hops aftertaste. With my palette working it's way toward stouts (in the summer?), I'm going to give this one a huge 5 Star.

I cannot emphasize how much this beer does such a great job to put together the bold flavors of a stout. They went ballz-to-the-wall on this thing, and I cannot get enough of it. It's rare that everytime I take a sip, the beer tastes brand new all over again. Russian Imperial Stouts will do that to you, and sure enough this one hit's it perfectly.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Kids in Houston, Twisted Pine

Beer Log: Right now
State: Chilling out watching the new True Blood

Twisted Pine Honey Brown Ale
Picked this up in a variety pack after we had their Blonde at the BRC. Great caramel and roast nose. Cloudy brown with tan head. Not bad. Kinda caramel and roasted notes. I get a moderate hops as well, pretty piney. I think that I will be drinking like a fish while watching Boardwalk Empire. The beer here is a pretty basic American Brown. I don't get much in the way of honey, maybe a light lingering sugar going on. Maybe a hint of sour. Low 3 star. Well, these guys on the website are claiming they won on the Gold at the GABF for an ENGLISH Brown Ale in 2000. I would have expected it to be a bit smoother and maltier. But whatever works. 10 years is a long time and they may have evolved, or I'm just wrong.

A little later on...

Twisted Pine Raspberry Wheat Ale
Clear with sediment floating and nice raspberry scented head. High carbonation and light raspberry. A pinch poofy and soft, but not much else to it. Just a basic wheat beer with some raspberry. I get a slight pinch of hops in the aftertaste, but not much. 2 Stars.

Gastropub Review: THE BRC

Checked out this spot over the weekend with the Misses. We've heard tell of a great new gastropub, and sure enough this place delivered. We get in the BRC around 1PM and it kinda packed. Lots of shirts and ties for the late lunch crowd. There were even a couple middle-aged businessmen there with their 19 year old daughters, how sweet. They sat us at the wall couch kinda close up with the other patrons. Lots of red and white colors, smallish bar with a flatscreen off in the cut. You can't see the TV from most of the seats in the restaurant, but we can live.

I did the old three beer thing. First a beer for appetizer and I notice a new one, Twisted Pine.

Beer Log: Last Friday
State: kinda hungry, chilling at the BRC
//Damn you've gotta drink this Sunburn quick, or it goes bad fast.

Twisted Pine Blonde Ale
Since it's hot as balls out there, I felt the need to drink some lighter stuff. Kinda breay and sweet, served muy frio in a frosted glass. I'll allow it since it's a blonde ale and I'm still sweating, even in the AC. Nice hint of fruit, like apricot and noble hops. It's shyte load better than this week-old Widmer Sunburn I'm drinking right now, and with the variety pack of Twisted Pine we just picked up, I have a half a mind to grab another Blonde Ale right now. Low 3 Stars.

The White Wine mussels were on special and I decided to break my rule of never getting "the special" at a restaurant, especially on my first time there. The mussels were very well done with the cream sauce and some andouillie sausage for flavor. But the fries, oh WOW! Just slightly crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle. If these guys did not use the twice-cook method Alton Brown espouses, I would be shocked. I'm thinking they baked these fries first, then QUICKLY seared them in grease. Or just spritzed some olive oil on the baked fries and turned up the flame to broil. But whatever. Everything went great with the North Coast Pranqster. They served it with some sort of a hot sauce syrup for dipping sauce, which was just that, some mixture of hot sauce and maple syrup, which sounds like something we would take shots of at the IHOP in Buckhead at 3AM while in Grad School, but this little sauce was STELLAR with the mussels and fries.

Lastly I got the skillet griddle with the Real Ale Devil's Backbone. Very well done as well. The sandwich was something resembling a patty melt (patty melts are awesome), but the meat was pulled beef bbq, and the cheese was some Oregon cheddar and Pola Moonster. And MORE fries. Hell-f8ck-yeah!

It's creative places like this that will make you want to live in Heights/Midtown/Upper Kirby if you are a foodie and/or beerman. Not to mention it reminds me of one of the old school wrestlers.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

BeerBrotha Sports Review: USA vs England

State: Chilling out awaiting UFC 115
Beer Log: right now

One time for my new favorite goalie, the guy from England. And one time for the US team basically getting run up and down the field like a rented mule, yet still walking away with a tie.

Brewdog Punk IPA
Had this for a few minutes in the old cabinet. Chilled it down and now we sample.
Pours clear and smells like Colt 45. I used to drink a little of that when I was hanging out with my wife's family in Charleston, SC. Has a heavy "beer" smell to it. Lots of bitter vegetables. Like brussel sprouts. Big heavy white head with great retention. The taste is almost like a malt liquor, just a LOT of hops. Very low malt to balance it out. I'm almost making that "bitter beer face" the old commercials used to have. Damn that beer is HARSH! I guess you are a punk if you make a funny face while drinking this beer. I know the Brewdawgs are some good workers, but damned if they didn't just make a light ale and hop the crap out of it. I think this would be a great beer to introduce craft beer to a swill drinker. After we give them this bomb, we hit them with something like a Belgian dubbel or a Doppelbock. They'll love that second beer so much they'll be craft beer drinkers for life.

Earlier I've been trying some Twisted Pine beer which has recently landed in the Houston area. We first had it at BRC, this fantastic gastropub in the Heights. Talk about some great mussels and the best damn fries I think I've ever had. Reviews for both on the way.

For now after the end of a hard week and working on the Investment Club this morning and losing two of my founding members, we should be good for a night of beer drinking, swilling, and some UFCing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fruit beers at the Sauce

Beer Log: Right now

State: Have a little downtime b/t appointments, getting some work done while at the Saucer.

Indy Mandarin Saison

Great orange cloudiness with strong orange nose. Very quaffable,poofy, thirst quenching. Out oranges the Blue Moon without trying. As I keep drinking it, I get a nice orange flavor throughout, minimal hops, and a pinch grainy on the tongue in the aftertaste. I can see this one doing very well for me in the summer. Not sure if it's officially a Saison, but Yay Independence for coming to Houston in a big way. High 3 Stars.

Next up...

New Belgiums Eric's Ale, A Wood-Aged Ale with Peach Juice

Well the pretty told me what I was supposed to taste on the bottle. Copper and clear with no head and a strong sour and peach nose. Tastes of somewhat harsh sourness and whatnot. I can dig it. Great when it's nice and cold. I'm starting to warm up to sour beers. I hate having a whole section of beer that I just can't stomach. This beer, despite the sourness does not have much wood-flavor right now, just tart, sour and peach, low hops, moderate carbonation and drinkability. Low 3 Stars.

Last one...

Lindeman's Faro Lambic Beer
When the description on the thing said musty fruit, they were not lying. A great fruit/apple/grape flavor (intentional or not) with a nice musty hop thing going on. Tastes like an old attic, mixed with a farmer's market, all in a rust colored ale and poured into a champagne flute. 3 Stars. Not sure if these flavors come from the candy sugar or some wild fermentation, but I'm liking it with this hot weather.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Houston Pavilions Bar Review

So last night the wife and I get up with a couple of friends to finally hit up Houston Pavilions. For those not from this area or never quite make it past Main & Capitol, the Pavilions is this outdoorish area in downtown Houston spanning a few blocks with a series of great restaurants and bars. I'm sure there's some condos in the mix but who's stupid enough to buy a condo, ever?

Houston has the worst PR department ever, so we depend on things like hotty-totty Houston Press bargirl reviews to know when there is another huge bar area that has been developed and is open for business. So I never even knew it was worth my while to go down there, but it turns out this place is great for three things: great restaurants and drinks, Micheal Jackson music, and overweight black women. If they just switched that to overweight white women, you would have a brothas parking cars on 610. No new beering, but some great places to enjoy some beer that I'll review while downing some Buried Hatchet Stout from Southern Star straight out of the can.

This pub popped up and I had not seen much in the Houston Beer-o-sphere about it, so naturally I assumed this place had a basic beer selection. Much more metropolitan looking with soft crimson and lighting everywhere with some flatscreens on one side. The tap list is only about 10 beers long, but they manage to have the Shiner 101, Shiner Bock, and Saint Arnold Amber on tap. As I've been feeling pilsners of late, I order the czech-style pilsner 101, only to find out it's out. So the SA Amber we go, served at the right temperature (not 33 deg F). I say this is a great place to get your night started, which I would be doing a lot of if it weren't for...

Ever since Las Verandas openned up a stone's throw away from my office park, I've been craving fine dining authentic Mexican food, I've been taking it easy on the Tex-Mex. And sure enough this place has all your favorite Mexican beers in bottles, and a great selection of localish craft beer with a couple Saint Arnolds, some Real Ales, and even some Abita. And damned if they don't have the Rogue Chipotle Ale in a bomber. I first opt for the basic house margarita which was excellent then move on to my favorite cerveza, Bohemia which was perfect with my Chilean sea bass topped with civeche. I'm going to have to bring my beer book over hear and do a margarita sampling oneday, I think I counted like 2 dozen different ritas. Give me the salsa/merengue and this drink menu and I will be starting AND ending my nights at this spot, A LOT. And we move on to shoot some pool at...

We wade through even more MJ music outside and make it up to the third floor to hit the bowling alley. Well damned if this is not the most hype ecletic bowling alley. First off they've got like 3.4 bowling lanes, $20 an hour pool table, and a beer menu that on it's own is pretty cool. We go STRAIGHT to the bottled Paulaner Oktoberfest. DAMN I love this beer. How can I forget the last time I had this beer in the Paulaner tent in Munich, and about 4 litres of it. They had a very nice variety here with about 30 bottles, maybe 10 of which are megaswill. The wife had some Rogue Dead Guy. We shot about $21 worth of pool, have a lot of laughs and partied it up listening to the 90s hip-hop blaring over the speakers. They're playing Rumpshakers, they're playing Naughty-By-Nature, they're playing Onyx. It like when I was in Junior High school when I wore glasses, was kinda nerdy, and didn't get any attention from the ladies. Unlike now when I'm kinda drunk guy who wears glasses, is kinda neary, and doesn't get any attention from the ladies unless I wear my wedding band (which I never do). So moving on, we nightcap it at

Rustic looking place with high ceilings. At this point I let the wife do the choosing, and she orders me a Chimay Red in a Chimay glass. What you talkin' bout, a finer beer selection over here. Duvel, Chimay, Celebrator, Lindemanns, come on baby! We shoot the ish for a while with some more friends that show up.

This is a great place to hang out and drink it up, big time. Get the damn valet parking, or best yet, get a hotel room that you can stumble too. Because in this heat, you're going to be inhaling those iced drinks and cold beer. Not to mention outside area serving Crown Royal and Crown Royal Black. With Washington Avenue for the 20 somethings and guys wearing Affliction shirts, and Rice Village for the nerdier college drinkers, and the Montrose for your ecletic folk (they say gays and goths), this place is right in there for your younger 30 something folks. It prices out the young folk, too "City of the Future" looking for simple drinkers, and just enough of a douche-bag element to keep the thugs out.

I had my doubts that I would EVER come down here with Flying Saucer on one side and Lucky's Pub on the other, but damned if I'm not going to make it out here to eat and drink, many a time. Turns out they want to revamp that crappy little park near Travis and Milam. Should be interesting one day, I'm sure I'll hear about it opening 7 years after the fact.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer Madness

Ah Summer Time is here, which means all breweries are going to take this opportunity to put out some lighter flavored, easier drinking beers for the folks. I'm sure it sells well, but this is usually when I kind of bide my time awaiting Oktoberfest season. Sure I'm thirsty as hell, but I'd rather for a helles or dunkel lager rather than a light pilsner. But who someone may surprise me this season.

Beer Log: Earlier today
State: Relaxing after work, eating some spicy spaghetti

Redhook Rope Swing Summer Pilsner
Very fruity nose on a rather yella beer with a good white head. It smells great. On the first drink I get a moderate body with a nice bread character. High carbonation and funky hops thrown in as well. The scent just really helps this one along with the flavor, just an excellent job dry hopping. Not a bad pilsner. Leaves the tongue feeling tingly. I like the moderate hops with a pinch of sweetness. 3 Stars.

Widmer Sunburn
Got to love how Widmer and Redhook always show up at the same time. Who says all mergers are bad. This one has a very citrus/grapefruit nose with some grass in there. The taste is very simple with light hops and great bready MT. Clean and uber-refreshing. Lots of beers this gentle usually have something wrong with them. With the low alcohol content to boot, I'm giving this one a high 3 Stars. I just love that I can down a few of these without getting all hazy, but I guess I need to go ahead and drink this one in the next few days, or it's going bad fast.

Estrella Damm Inedit
Comes in a black bottle with just the Estrella Star on the bottle and the bottle cap. I don't know if that's even legal. I have no idea what to expect, though the basic ED as a basic lager was pretty boring. Nose is sugar, raisin, and brown sugar. Cloudy with a tinged gold color, head is going down fast. The beer has a poofy mouthfeel with moderate body. It's a little sweet like candy and bread. Smooth. Not bad at all. It has a nice low aftertaste to it. It's like a smooth megaswill version of a wheat beer. Very nice. High 3 Stars for the Catalans.

Beerbrotha TV Show Review

Beer Log: Right Now
State: Watching Drink Up

Sitting here with the wife watching the "Cooking Channel". A new channel I'm sure is meant to compete with Food Network and probably the Fine Living Network. Anyway the host is this brotha (Darryl Robinson) that wears extra-medium sized polo shirts. The show takes you to a number of craft beer bars, mostly in the New York City (NEW YORK CITY!). They hit the basics by quickly explaining the difference b/t ales and lagers as well as the dude pouring some different beers, even a little history, all while at the Pony Bar. Next they hit a gastro pub and the cook (or owner?) quickly whips up a beef roast braised in IPA and it looks great. I like the way they present the artisanal side of beer, and how great the variety is. They have some guys that are doing a great job explaining beering.

The black dude likes to take things and make cocktails after the bartender does his thing. Like he makes a ginger/vodka cocktail with a lager and a michelada with brown ale. Looks disgusting to me, but I'm willing to try it if I ever make it out to Brooklyn. In the end, really basic, but certainly would help convert megaswillers to craft beer. At least to give it a try.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Beerbrotha Sports Review: UFC and the 'Stros

Well I'm sitting here probably a good 3 pounds heavier after Memorial Day weekend watching Dragonball Z Kai with the surround sound on. And what a nice weekend. Started it out with a trip to the Saucer before hitting up Champps for UFC 114.

Beer Log: May 29, 2010

State: At the Flying Saucer , hungry, mouth dry.

Indy is really starting to insert themselves into the Houston beer scene, and what I used to think was the most pedestrian of the Texas micros has really taken off with their flavors. So I passed on the new Oskar Blues and Rogue. Black and cloudy wiht thick tan head. This puppy is thick and smooth, with chocolate and hops. I just love the mouthfeel, kinda poofy. Not quite as thick as other oatmeal stouts, but that's just fine for me with this summer heat already coming down on us. High 3 Stars.

After some quesadillas...

At 10% ABV, this thing better be good. Two of these and I wouldn't even remember who won the fight. Clear amber with piney grapefruit nose. The taste is just FANTASTIC! Great malt and hop taste. Just a stronger version of Gordon's, about the only beer I ever by every time I go to Specs. Earthy caramel malt balances it out just right, no hint of the alcohol. High 4 Stars. Looks like I have two beers I'll be buying everytime I hit the liquor store.

Well I made a conscious decision during the UFC that I have officially switched my standard session beer from New Belgium Fat Tire to Saint Arnold Amber. And Champps had it in 16 ounces.

UFC 114 was okay, lot's of fights went to decision. The fans were so fired up for a brawl that they booed everytime the fighters walked to each other. Just crazy stuff. Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson were talking so much smack, that it was just a shame we didn't see someone get concussed. But in all reality, I think all real fans know Rashad would fight smart rather than walking in there like Tank Abbott.

Unfortunately the Dynamo lost in the last minute of stoppage time that same night against Philadelphia, damn shame. Fricken expansion team. Anyway, I'm ready to rock and roll for the World Cup and will likely hit up Richmond Arms with one or two of the guys when we play against England. If we can beat England, it will be pretty sweet to rub it in those British dudes faces while at the Arms. Although I'm not a fanatic, the 'Stros are so sad-sack this year that we lost to the Natinals 14-4. Oswalt managed to get kicked out of the game in like the 3rd inning. But at least I had about 3 Saint Arnold's Ambers to keep things interesting.