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

Top 10 Beers of 2015

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.

skeletonred10. 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.

A Tuesday

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

Top Ten Beers of 2014

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

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

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

In Search of Lost Time, Episode of the Pale Ale

It's true.

It’s true.

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

The Beer of My Dreams

High Ball Stepper

High Ball Stepper

Obsessions are only unhealthy when they keep you from your daily tasks. Truly I had the best of intentions to write a treatise parallel to Jason’s last post about local foods, exploring beer’s place on the spectrum of America’s beverages. I meant to discuss craft beer’s struggle against elitism versus regular ol’ beer’s place as the working man’s brew. The snob who one-ups me versus the the guy in line with a tall boy who scoffs at my nine-dollar four-pack. But I got hung up on the Jack White part. Lately Jack has been a constant companion of mine, specifically the Jack on the cover of his new album, Lazaretto.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend and her teenaged daughter about how men could be sexy without being particularly good looking. We used Jack as our prime example. The teenager wrinkled her nose. My friend winked at me and I went to that special place in my head where Jack and I have a beer together and he is so inspired that he writes a song about me right there.

dubheWait, this isn’t about beer at all! But what beer could I have possibly drunk with this modern master, you ask? What beer am I obsessed with enough that it would appear in my fantasies? As I’ve previously mentioned, the most appropriate beer to sip with Mr. White is a black IPA. Not out of irony, but necessity. I imagine his calloused fingers around a bottle of Uinta’s Dubhe, long, guitar-plucking nails clicking on the bright label, a small smile on his bowtie lips. What better beer to share than one named after a star?

What other sexy beers are out there to obsess about? On this steamy summer day, this list will have you racing for a cold one. Continue reading

Top 10 Beers of 2013

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

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

A Matter of Taste: Pairing Writers and Beer

“What beer should I drink when reading this author?” It’s a question I ask myself on a regular basis. I was inspired to commit some of my favorites to paper when I read an Esquire Magazine post that paired beers to football teams. A little cute. Essentially they just attached a good local brew to each team. There is a science to matching beer with anything, though: food, parties, type and severity of bad day, and yes, authors. I realize that many writers vary in style and tone from book to book, but as with a brewery’s particular strain of yeast, every one of their books tastes a little like the others.

How do I choose? Every pick has to do with the personality of the writing and of the writer herself. Subject matter, setting, sentence structure, attitude, nationality, political bent, story arcs, hairstyle, and ability to hold liquor. Lets pull a few recent reads off my bookshelf.

  •  Billy Collins: Are you allowed to drink beer while reading poetry? Well, no one’s stopped me yet. Man up and try something powerful and brooding like Maudite, a strong Belgian dark from Unibroue that can (and will!) fly you across the River Styx in a canoe, as promised on the label.
  •  Jonathan Franzen: Known for his family epics, his fascination with birds, and his floppy, writerly hair, Franzen is best read with something a little green and a little crunchy, like Peak Organic’s Pale Ale – down to earth and still pretty waspy.
  •  E L James: You really have to drink to read her. I know; I tried. But there’s no question here: Lagunitas’ A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.  Continue reading

Beers to That! The Drink to Clink

One happy day my fridge looked like this!

Sitting on the deck, my knuckles scraped, shins bruised, and hair everywhere, the bottle of beer in my hands could have been a flute of Dom Perignon. But it wasn’t; it was better. It was, in fact, an IPA Maximus from Lagunitas, because that is what you drink after a day of moving everything you own and everything your Significant Other owns across town in 90-degree weather. You don’t drink champagne after that.

You don’t drink champagne after your kickball team won its first game ever and you don’t drink it when you’ve lost every one. You don’t drink bubbly after working out in your garden all afternoon. You don’t fall onto the couch after an exhausting day at work and take a long draw from a bottle of champagne. That’s ridiculous, right? But champagne remains known as the beverage of celebrations. I’d like to challenge that assumption.

Beer has a reputation for being the proud drink of the common man, and I feel there’s nothing wrong with that characterization. But I’d like to suggest that beer is also, more than any other beverage, the drink America celebrates with. From the “Champagne of Beers” all the way up to your finest Belgian Double, beer is the drink to clink for every accomplishment, small or large. Because some days, just getting through the last hour of work and making it home to sit in pajamas and eat mac and cheese out of the pan is as much an achievement as getting married or winning the lottery. Beer is everybody’s drink for everyday victories.

When Ben got up off the deck and offered to bring me another IPA, I accepted eagerly, knowing we still had a lot of moving and organizing to do, being relieved to have the big part of the move complete, and feeling so happy to be right there, right then, with that beer.