Cure for the Common Valentine’s Day


Whoa, let’s not get carried away here…

Few holidays are loathed with the same venom as Valentine’s Day. I say, save all the energy you expend complaining about not getting a date and put it into not celebrating the day white man did not discover our land mass. No? Would it be different if you got Monday off? Maybe you just want to binge-watch John Hughes movies and aggressively eat obscene amounts of chocolate. You can do better than that! Let’s do it up right and drink the whole damn day away. Here are a few beers to pair with your own particular brand of self-hatred.

Say you intend to spend a reclusive evening alone on Valentine’s Day, as you’ve spent the entire beginning of the 14th spiraling down into a dark and inescapable funk after Facebook-stalking your ex and obsessing over the syntax and contextual hints of their most recent posts involving someone named Jamie. It is clear you need a stout, a Heart of Darkness from Magic Hat, to be specific. If you’re going to lose it, really go for it. Continue reading

How to Run a Successful Beer Tasting: Step 1) Invite Poets

The Royalty

The Royalty / Fallen Soldiers

According to the experts, when you run a beer tasting you should always begin with the lightest beer with the lowest abv; however, when you’re tasting only imperial IPAs, this might mean you start at 8%. My friends Kate and Orie came over to help Ben and I taste a mixed sixer of double IPAs so I wouldn’t end up with an article on alcohol poisoning instead.

We had some pizza while we did our stretches and a few warm-up sips of a Brooklyn East IPA — overall a very responsible preamble. We also did a little research, by which I mean we talked at our phones and accepted Wiki definitions as good enough. Turns out Imperial just refers to any beer that has extra bunches of hops or malt, resulting in extra bunches of alcohol. It originated when the British had to brew their stout extra forte to make the journey to the royal Russian court. Basically, big and bold beers, regardless of style.

We start out with Hopmouth, a double IPA from Arcadia Brewing in Kalamazoo, Michigan. At 8%, Hopmouth was dangerously smooth — sessionable, even. Overall it was good, quite drinkable, but not our favorite.

Brooklyn Brewing’s Brooklyn Blast, at 8.4%, is up next. (Side note: this name is embarrassingly hard for me to say even without alcohol, transposing my Ls and Rs like I was Long Duck Dong in the spectacularly un-PC Sixteen Candles.) Kate takes a sip and trills, “it’s the tips of the hairs on the back of a bee! A ferocious honeysuckle meringue!” (Side note 2: I should also mention that Kate and Orie are musicians, poets, artists, beautiful people with shiny, twisty minds.) Continue reading

The Belgian IPA: a Compromise We All Can Swallow

belgium-beer-flagFor the longest time I treated it as a fault, a failure of some sort. I tried to hide the fact from others and went to great lengths to avoid situations that could have revealed my failings. My tastes were a disgrace, especially for one who called herself a beer snob.

Now that I’m solidly in my mid-thirties, though, I feel old and wise enough to say What do you care? Shut up and drink your beer. So: I don’t like Belgian beer. ThereIvesaidit! So far, no not-so-merry monks have run into the room, robes a-flutter, threatening to bludgeon me with oversized wheels of cheese.

I’ve been drinking long enough to know that it is not the Belgian part of Belgian beer that I don’t like. That unique, expansive taste of Belgian yeast is delightful! Rather, it is the lack of hops that gets me. I need the dryness, the bitterness, the kick in the pants that is a well-hopped beer. And then I discovered the Belgian IPA.

Sweet mother of fermentation! Where have you been all my life?! My first Belgian IPA was a tulip glass of The Audacity of Hops in Boston’s Cambridge Brewing Company. I was suspicious. My favorite cute bartender with the Buddy Holly glasses served it to me and I eyed it sideways, its perfect head and cloudy orange hue suspect. But then I took a cautious sip and was hit with a face full of hops. I was instantly converted. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Traditions: Please Pass the Beer

Watchin' football with the other turkeys

In my Thanksgiving post last year I hinted at the fact that this is not exactly my favorite holiday. I may have also insinuated that it takes alcohol to get me through an entire day with my family, which isn’t really fair: I also have to be bribed there with the promise of my Aunt’s pumpkin pie. I only have a week left to prepare, so here is my game plan for now.

We’re always asked to arrive at one-o-clock for a two-o-clock dinner; dinner is never actually on the table before light leaves the sky, so we will arrive at two or three. Since I know I still have quite a wait before real food is served I’ll grab a session beer. A bitter would just be too easy, so I go with my favorite session at the moment, Founder’s All Day IPA — full of flavor, not alcohol. For the one and only time this year, I will find football fascinating. I’ll join my male relatives, who’ve also discovered a spontaneous love of the game, in the dog fur-coated den.

The November light grows thinner and the smell of cooking meat grows stronger. As a vegetarian, I begin to rehearse my yearly explanation for loading up my plate with green bean casserole and mashed potatoes with no gravy. I will need a thinking beer, something bright and effervescent and strong. I’ll go with one I just recently tried, Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton, which is aged in oak barrels. That takes the alcohol edge off the taste enough that I’ll feel the effects of the 10% abv before I taste it. Continue reading

Judging Beer by Its Cover

I believe most of my bookish friends will back me up when I assert that YES, in fact, you CAN judge a book by its cover. I hold that that the same does NOT hold for beer; in fact, many of my favorites have downright ugly labels. (Ahem, Dogfish Head.) But I’d like to share some of my favorite tasty, artsy beers because they look good all lumped together. What follows is a mix of well-illustrated, graphic, eye-catching, and imaginative label art. Click the image for a better look at it; web addresses are below.

This is making me drool a little. I’m sure there’s more out there I’ve yet to taste–what’s your favorite beer label?

*Beers left to right, top to bottom:
Flying Dog (Ralph Steadman!)
Left Hand Brewing
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Sixpoint Brewery
Oskar Blues Brewery
Surly Brewing
Brooklyn Brewery
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery
Cisco Brewers
Redhook Brewing
Southern Tier
Rogue Brewing

The “It Could Really Be Much Worse” Valentine’s Day Beer Tasting

Celebrate true love

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve, everybody! I intended to review chocolate beers today and was eagerly anticipating Southern Tier’s Choklat, Heavy Seas’ Siren Noire, and Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout. But there were none to be found at the beer store this weekend! Apparently all the people who like to drink their way through the holiday have good taste in beer. Fortunately another related theme quickly appeared. In the same way Christmas is not really all about giving, Valentine’s Day is not really all about heart-shaped truffles.

Doggie Style Pale Ale, Flying Dog Brewery, 5.5%
Initially we’d grabbed some of Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, but then discovered this even more appropriately-named brew. It’s an English style pale ale, and therefore more bitter than I am used to; it reminds me of an ESB. There has to be some joke about being bitter and bent over, and Ben and I struggle to be the first to make it. No one wins.
B: It starts out fun but has a harrumph of a finish.
L: A harrumph?
B: There’s a sour downturn. Overall unsatisfying.
L: Don’t try too hard.
B: …Yeah, I’m going to sprain something.
At one point Ben actually says “If you close your eyes and sip it you could imagine it as the best Bud ever. This really could be much worse” Oof. We each finish our halves without serious injury, but were both left wishing we’d grabbed the Bitch after all.

Lucky U IPA, Breckenridge Brewery, 6.2%
We are both encouraged by this IPA’s brilliant orange color, but immediately disappointed by the taste. As I learned the hard way, handsome things are not necessarily worth your time. Continue reading

A Matter of Taste II: Pairing Music and Beer

Beck and Jack vie for my heart!

“What beer should I drink while listening to this band?” This is a question I run into nearly every night around 7:30 when Ben’s about to start cooking dinner and I’m doing yesterday’s dishes. I turn up the stereo in the other room so we can hear the music over running water and sizzling butter. After pairing beer with authors, setting my evening drink to music seemed the natural next step.

Let’s start by having a ball and a biscuit, baby. Jack White often screams along to our grilled cheese-making, usually in White Stripes form. I suppose it is no surprise that I’m secretly in love with Mr. White, considering he resembles my Mister a good bit. (He’s pretty good looking for a boy.) How easy it would be to suggest a Red Stripe for my White Stripe? How easy, indeed. Here’s what matches White: a black IPA. Try a 21st Amendment Back in Black or a Fade to Black from Left Hand Brewing or even an Iniquity from Southern Tier (an imperial). All strong, bitter and dark as nightmares–same way I like my rock stars.

The Black Keys, while also one of my favorite driving-around-Ohio sing-along bands, is also a great cook-along band. While Ben is slicing potatoes and beets onto a cooking sheet, I’ll be wagging my butt along to the El Camino album, which naturally has a van on the cover. The beer in my hand? A rye ale. It tastes like the bright green fields of winter crops you pass on your drive up to Akron, and it tastes like the rubber processing plants you pass on your way out of Akron. Founders Red’s Rye P.A., mentioned earlier, and Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye IPA. Not for the faint of heart.

When we’re cooking up some particularly sensual meal, like guacamole or something, we turn to Lana Del Rey, whose voice will never break glass, but could maybe glue it back together. Continue reading

Top 12 Beers of 2012!


We’ve entered that dead man’s zone between Christmas and New Year’s; a week long sugar- and family-hangover that floats heavy over the couch while you sit and watch sequels of Christmas movies and ponder the impending death of another year-full of dreams. Hm. So to distract you, here’s another arbitrary end-of-the-year list! Llalan’s Top 12 Beers of 2012:

12. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing. Since I’ve moved back to Ohio, this brewery has played a large role in my evening imbibing. Last January I was reminded that even the coldest Midwestern storms can be warmed by this beer — itself a tribute the power of The Lakes’ fury. One of the best porters on the market, which I continue to buy regularly despite the risk of having the Gordon Lightfoot song pop into my head.

11. Left Hand experienced a brief flurry of attention when their Milk Stout came out in Nitro bottles. At a favorite bar, the manager passed around a pint of freshly poured Nitro, which rolled and cascaded like a draft Guinness. I overcame my unease at sharing a glass with eight virtual strangers and decided yes, it was worth it.

10. Flying Dog has long been one of my favorite breweries, and not just for Ralph Steadman’s inexplicably terrifying label art. Their biting Raging Bitch Belgian IPA has clawed its way to the top of the pack, despite the gaping wide comic opening it allows my sweet mother. Continue reading