Beer: the Stuff of Friendship & Community

I’ve never been much of one for defining things: vocab words, relationship status, my abs. But there are a few things I know to be true. One is that dear friendship is equal parts being supportive, giving sage advice, and keeping your mouth shut while your friend downs six beers during an afternoon-long bitch fest. My own dear friends recently flew me to New York and then further indulged me by not only by taking me to all the Asian restaurants I don’t have at home, but also by going to every brewery and bar patio within stumbling distance of their apartment.

Shannon at Kelso with Black Walnut Stout Barrel

Shannon at KelSo, wishing I wasn’t taking pictures

One other nebulous concept that I’ve nevertheless stuck by like a religion, is that beer is defined by more than style and taste; that its influence on our lives is wider.

The KelSo Brewery, where my friends and I stopped first on this trip, is an example of the impact beer can have in your world. KelSo recently opened a tiny tap room that is carved out of the Brooklyn warehouse where they make their beer. Shannon, Jason, and I sat for quite a while, snug in a nook lined with barrels of conditioning beer.

KelSo has woven itself into the community fabric of Brooklyn by donating their product to a number of organizations they support. No doubt these groups were thrilled be getting free wallet lubrication for their potential donors at fundraisers. More importantly, their movement gained the support of another local business and all the patrons it brings with it. KelSo is also a careful steward of the environment, taking many measures to make the smallest negative impact as possible.  

The name “KelSo” is formed from the first names of the couple who owns it, which makes me trust them, irrationally, but also makes me believe that this brewery is built from their heart, their family, and means more to them than any money — which is one of my several issues with macro beer. Continue reading

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

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

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

I’ve Always Depended On the Ryeness of Strangers

ryeness of strangers“This – this is the Blanche DuBois of beer! Do you know who that is?” My aunt looks at me, disbelieving, and then wheels around to look at my father, “These ‘young people’ don’t get the reference!” She has just finished her sample of beer number three and sits on the floor in mock indignation. I’m embarrassed that I don’t immediately recognize the name and smile back idiotically. My aunt has spent the entire day visiting with her older sister and her elderly mother and has a well-deserved jump on the rest of us in terms of beer sampling. She lays on her back. “There’s one more, right?” I answer that there’s two. “Oh, Jesus.”

Today we’re tasting rye beers. Why rye, you ask? Because they’re hip, dammit, and like most hip things I know of, they’ve been hip for a while but I just noticed them. Rye beers are simply beers that have some rye brewed in the mash along with the traditional barley.  They’re dry, bitter, sour, and stick with you; there’s a Woody Allen joke waiting to be made here and I’ll let you do it. I have found them a welcome addition to the brutally hot afternoons of Ohio in the summer – perfect for those of us tired of hefeweizens and sangria.

The tasting starts off with a bang as we all say cheers and take a swallow of Founders Red Rye PA (6.6% abv). Right off the bat we get to play with the word “mouthfeel,” as this is positively sparkly. Continue reading