New Year’s Day is a time to sit back and reflect on the year, contemplate some of the big questions: Why am I here, What the hell am I doing with my life, and At what point did I finally drink my weight in beer. What follows is a list of my favorite beers of 2015. Why give a flippin’ firkin about what one hop head in the middle of Ohio drank this past year? Same as why you read any end of the year list: to judge yourself against popular taste and declare yourself the winner.
10. Skeleton Red Rye IPA, Four String Brewing (Columbus, OH) I was disappointed to learn this is only a fall seasonal, because it’s my favorite Four String beer so far. The beer is hoppy, fresh, almost citrusy, and yet seriously dry — attributes I strive for, myself. Skeleton was a favorite this fall and made me proud of Ohio’s beer integrity.
Wheeling Brewing: This is how we get by–all right!
9. Nail City Porter, Wheeling Brewing (Wheeling, WV) Within a square block in the city of Wheeling I purchased: an armload of fantastic used books for $1 apiece from a used bookstore that specialized in towering, dusty stacks of novels; a vintage red leather jacket with rabbit fur collar from an antique shop specializing in the Confederacy; a growler of rich, roasty Nail City Porter from a bartender who looked like Britt Daniel of Spoon. I’m sure that had nothing to do with my attraction to it.
Your average Tuesday
7. Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, Lagunitas Brewing (Petaluma, CA) / Celebration, Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA) Based solely on the volume of certain bottlecaps in our collection, these two beers earned their spot on this list. Both are go-tos: Little Sumpin’ year-round; Celebration from November to January. They remind me of each other in character, a bit. Each is dangerously, deliciously easy to drink and not of such an obnoxious abv that you can’t have two or three in an evening.Continue reading →
I have a well-documented disdain for Christmas beers, winter warmers, and other beers with cutsie holiday-inspired names like Silver Beers and Jingle Beers and Have Yourself a Beery Little Christmas. But around this time of year it is hard to avoid them. They take up half the craft beer cooler at my favorite corner store. The Bollywood music playing in the background adds a certain confusion to the scene, but the store owner certainly knows what brings in money.
Now well into my thirties, I understand that from Thanksgiving to December 25, and perhaps from well before, my life will be invaded by Christmas. The music I hear, the ads I see, the food and drink I buy, the clothes in stores, the shows at theatres, the urges to donate, the urges to buy, the insistence of want, the stupid shit people stick on their heads, cars, children, and pets, even the way people bid me farewell. After all these years, I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be okay with it.
I’ll especially not be okay with the replacement of my favorite IPAs and… IPAs with The Nutcracker Wheat and Rudolph the Red Nosed Rainbeer. Because, let’s be honest: this curmudgeonliness has little to do with my personal religious beliefs and everything to do with what I want to drink after a day of playing retail Christmas Elf to dozens of customers, all equally pissed off that they have to spend their hard earned money on siblings they never really liked anyway. And that beer I want to drink is one made of water, grain, yeast, and hops. Please hold the nutmeg.Continue reading →
Beauty pageant winners in my book. At the Phoenix Brewing Company in Mansfield, Ohio
Independence Day is an important holiday for both its historical and cultural significance. We celebrate our independence from Britain, we wave mini flags at beauty pageant winners grinning stiffly from convertibles, we use copious amounts of lighter fluid in our meals.
Most importantly, we openly exercise our freedom to drink. Outside and all day. This year I enjoyed a beer on my stoop while the local Fourth of July parade went by. The insurance agents and scout leaders who handed out swag eyed my beer avidly and threatened to return. They didn’t though; and does anyone want a State Farm water bottle?
Drinking outside is really one of my all time favorite summer things to do, if you can call it “doing” (which you can, and that’s part of why I love it). It’s perhaps second only to my love of backyard badminton, at which I am a crack shot. It’s hard to pinpoint precisely what it is that I find so appealing about indulging outside: the glow of a pint in the midday sun, the crisp bite of hops on a muggy day, or how much more charming I become over the afternoon. Continue reading →
I always thought I’d make a good Russian: I love cold weather, I can ice skate (kinda), and I can appreciate a bleak and tragic love story with the best of them. I even enjoy the balalaika! Why would I fail the Russian citizenship test? Vodka.
I mean, how do they do it? Granted, my experience with the stuff is pretty much limited to the plastic jugs available to you when you’re 19 and have to take what you can get. (That and the spicy shot of horseradish infused vodka I diligently drained in a midtown Manhattan bar where I was the only customer not affiliated with the Russian mob.) Fortunately for me, there is an alternative: the Russian Imperial Stout (RIS).
Much like IPAs, the Russian Imperial’s beginnings are tied up in Britain’s colonial aspirations. After visiting England in the early 1700s, Peter the Great got a taste for dark beer and requested some be sent to him back home. The obsequious English did so immediately, but the beer spoiled before reaching St. Petersburg. On their second attempt they upped the alcohol and hops (as with IPAs on their way to colonial India) and thus was born this, the most appropriate beer to drink on a cold night, ever.
The specs on Russian Imperials vary pretty widely, with one characteristic remaining unchanged: they are BIG. They always have a high abv, at least 8%. The one I’m drinking right now, from Founders Brewing, is 10.5% and looked like motor oil when I poured it. Every one I’ve tried has been opaque and near-black, but the hop character ranges from barely there to whoa there. Founders is toasty, a little fruity, and fairly dry — a state I aim to achieve during winter, myself. Continue reading →
Goddamn do I love me a good list! And since it is List Season, here are my top ten beers of 2014. Half of them are from Ohio (apologies non-Ohioans, you should wish you were here.) This is a list of beers that I found myself picking up again and again or beers that make me drool a little bit when I think of them.
Formerly Alchemy Hour, presently delicious
10. Great Lakes’ Chillwave. This summer seasonal from Great Lakes Brewing actually made the list last year under the name Alchemy Hour. They changed the name after a copyright issue with another brewery, but the recipe for this strong but mellow double IPA remained the same. It is singularly responsible for me making it through every day in the summer, counting the minutes till I could sit on my porch with one of these.
9. Lagunitas’ Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. Another beer I crave come 5:30, and also one I’m uncomfortable ordering at bars, for obvious reasons. This was my year-round go-to of 2014. It is pale-ish, but Lagunitas refrains from categorization, so it is what it is. Bright and smart and irresistible. If you ever wanted to make a Llalan trap, bait it with this.
Don’t mess with Texas beers
8. Southern Star’s Buried Hatchet Stout. I wouldn’t have guessed a stout this hearty would come out of Texas, being so warm and all. But everything is big in Texas and so is this beer. I recently ordered one during a meeting (what, your meetings don’t happen in bars?) and had to admit to everyone that it was more beer than I had signed up for; I sat there for quite a while after everyone else had left, collecting myself.
7. Thirsty Dog’s Siberian Night. Same bar, different beer. Thirsty Dog’s imperial stout kept me warm many a night last winter. One of my favorite parts of the season is sitting in the window of Martini’s on Main, sipping this black warmth, watching bundled people hurry by. Continue reading →
‘Tis the season! Bad traffic, angry crowds, mediocre renditions of Christmas carols by floundering rock stars, cinnamon-scented everything, and hard selling plastic crap to kids who believe in a fat elf lord with NSA-like surveillance capabilities. Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise, NOISE! Perhaps these shoes are too tight, but I need a drink.
It’s hard to reach for a beer this time of year without having a winter warmer pushed on you. Traditionally these beers are big on malt. The definition seems to be a bit nebulous regarding the spice issue. Many do without it, but some toss in frankincense and myrrh just willy-nilly and declare it a winter warmer. I find definitions in general rather claustrophobic, so I won’t fight that fight; instead I’ll just note that the spicy variety are pulling from the tradition of wassail, which is strong ales mixed and matched with spices — a tradition begun before hops were discovered to be the godsend they are. And a tradition celebrated in the holiday tune “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” best parodied in a 1980s claymation Christmas special with “Here We Come A-Waffling.”
It’s no secret that highly-spiced beers like pumpkin ale or Christmas ale are not my fave; I’ll leave the spicy stuff to the people who also think it’s okay to wear Santa hats in public for the full six weeks before Christmas. Instead I’ll continue to hoard cases of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration during the winter months as though those Jehovah’s Witnesses were right and the end-times are nigh…in which case I’d much rather be drinking a beer in a bar than sipping flat soda in the Kingdom Hall basement, but to each his own. Continue reading →
For 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 →
With apologies to Proust, I reflect on my history in beer. A long, meaningful, and eventful relationship.
In the small town where I live, everyone knows everyone. People who don’t know my name know my profession, and I answer to “Hey, Bookstore Lady,” on a regular basis. Without fail, the second thing people remember about me is that I like beer. A lot. Most of them do not know that my memory is stored in six-packs and cases like so many bottles of beer at the corner shop.
Time and devotion have ingrained beer in my life. The way others can mark their history by food or travels, I can with beer. The taste of certain beers will take me back to a memory as fast as any smell or song can. One sip of Labatt Blue and I’m a senior in college again, Thursday night pitchers with a basket of unshelled peanuts for $6 at the CI. Toss the shells on the floor, carve your name in the table.
A Harpoon IPA shuttles me to Boston faster than a speeding Chinatown bus. It was my go-to beer at every less-than-fine establishment I frequented. Its high hoppy buzz reminiscent of every dinner I drank at Charlie’s, a diner a block away from the bookstore where I worked. It reminds me of every boy I sat next to at the counter there, wishing they would just kiss me, and the black-and-white tiles, the chrome, and the lobster tank in the corner.
One night in Boston’s Publick House, I drank five Great Divide Hercules Double IPAs, much to the astonishment of my friends, and realized I wasn’t going to marry the man who had stayed at home that night. To this day it tastes of revelation. Continue reading →
I can’t remember a damned thing if I don’t put it on a list: where to be, what to do, and what to drink while do it. Even then I forget where I’ve set my drink halfway though. As such, I am a fan of the proliferation of end-of-the-year lists around New Year’s, and offer you one of my own: Llalan’s Top 10 Beers of 2013.
10. Celebration Ale. I do the Dance of Joy every November when this beer is released. It was on last year’s list as well, and this beer will likely be on every end-of-the-year list as long as Sierra Nevada continues to produce it. It is one of the few nutmeg- and cinnamon-less winter seasonals out there. You can bet there is always some in my fridge during the holidays. Don’t bet on me sharing it, though.
9. Burton Baton. Because Dogfish Head’s 60-minute IPA is another perennial (and inspirational) favorite in my home, I want to feature one of their other, lesser-known brews. The delicious concoction (also mentioned this Thanksgiving) is actually a combination of an imperial IPA and an English-style old ale, aged together in an oak tank. Like nothing I’ve ever had and like everything I’ve always wanted.
8. Lucky 13. Lagunitas first brewed this beer in 2008 to celebrate 13 years of brewing and brought it back last year to celebrate 20 years of putting out fantastic beers. It’s a big red that has that delicious something peculiar to Lagunitas. In the end, we’re the lucky ones.
7. Righteous Ale. I am a huge fan of rye beer; insert bitter joke here: ______. The Sixpoint take on rye beer is definitely one of my favorites, in part because it does not coat your mouth with that potent and unpleasant aftertaste most ryes have. It is unique in its adaptability to the weather, in that it will warm you in the winter and quench you in the summer. Continue reading →
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 →