Gouden Carolus Grand Cru

Some people take their pleasures quickly,and swear loyalty to the same beer every day, but they miss much. The search for the perfect pint should last a lifetime. – Michael Jackson, The New World Guide to Beer

Tonight I had my 33rd beer of the month, which marked the end of my birthmonth project. It was a bittersweet moment for sure. This has been my favorite birthmonth so far, and it was all because of the people. Yes, the beer had a lot to do with it, but spending time with so many good friends and family was what made this the absolute best month ever.

I woke up every day of this month thinking about whom I would get to hang out with over beer this month, and today was no different. Beto and Lindsey, in addition to being my cousin and cousin-by-marriage, respectively, have become such dear friends over the past couple of years. We had already planned on them visiting this weekend, but once I decided what my birthmonth project would be, I made sure they would be here in time for the very last beer of the month. They drove eight hours to be here on time and it meant the world to me.

Friendships, like beer, are often underestimated. It’s easy to take them for granted. But then, when we stop to think about them, enjoy them, and realize how each and everyone of them is so complex and rich, we realize what a gift they truly are. I am very fortunate and grateful to have the friendship of so many wonderful people, and if there is one thing I’ve learned this month is to not take these relationships for granted.

Having Emily and Julia with me tonight completed the perfect ending to this birthmonth. Julia is the main reason my 32nd year was so wonderful, and Emily made Julia, so there.
And that’s where we are now, the birthmonth has ended, but the quest for the perfect pint continues (even though I had several this month that came really close). To all my friends who joined me, I can’t tell you how grateful I am. To all of those for whom the month didn’t have enough days…I’m not done yet!

In cervisia veritas.

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Three Philosophers

Three philosophers walk into a bar. Okay, two philosophers and one big bottle of beer. Well, actually, one philosopher, a big bottle of beer, and me. The philosopher is a poet, a writer of books and movies, and a man who’s full of surprises. His name is Jim and I am quite happy to call him a friend.

We shared this bottle from Ommegang Brewery, which may just become my favorite American brewery (um, after Boulevard, of course). It was a brew worthy of note, full-bodied, complex…an outstanding member of the Moortgat family. It was good to the last drop and I only wish we could’ve had time for another. That’s what happens when you spend time with Jim – you just want to talk with him for hours.

The best thing about this month, without a doubt, has been the person sitting across the table from me every day. I am very fortunate to know so many truly good and outstanding people, and I’m grateful to be able to call them my friends. I don’t take this for granted. There is so much I’m going to miss about this month: the anticipation of meeting a friend every day, the joy of sharing a beer and the walk back home in which I rehash our conversations in my mind. I’ve got one day left, but I’m already feeling emotional about this thing coming to and end.

Maybe it’s just the beer talking.

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I didn’t have a beer at Flying Saucer tonight. Tonight’s beer was scheduled for a little bit later than usual and upon arriving at my usual thirst quenching establishment, my friend (and drum teacher), Rob informed me that there was not a single place to sit. We walked in anyway, I was confident I could find us a spot somewhere, but then I realized it was trivia night and so I knew it would be impossible.

Rob had already taken the time to check out the surrounding bars and mentioned that they were all pretty quiet. I suggested Gordon Biersch, for two reasons: they brew their own beer and they were highly recommended by the owner and brewmaster at Franconia Brewing in Texas. After tasting a couple of their current offerings, Rob and I both chose the Märzen, an Oktoberfest auburn lager. It was really good, and so was the Schwarzbier that followed.

Yes, I must say I was just a little bit sad about not drinking at Flying Saucer tonight, but that all quickly dissipated as soon as we settled into our seats and had a good chat and some great laughs. And you know what, if Peter Gabriel can do an entire album and tour with absolutely no drums or percussion, then I can have my daily birthmonth beer at a place other than Flying Saucer. Cheers!

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Brewer: Brasserie Caracole, Belgium.

ABV: 9.5%

Style: Belgian strong, brown ale.

Presentation: Brown, 330 ml bottle.

Appearance: A very dark, maple brown. Tiny bubbles form a lively, effervescent ring around the surface, but no head to speak of.

Smell: Alcohol certainly comes through at first but in time reveals notes of dark fruit, perhaps plum and a little bit of ripe banana, or banana candy. A very sweet aroma overall.

Taste: An almost impolite alcoholic entrance followed by a heavy presence of dark fruit. Grape juice and a little bit of prune juice make a prompt appearance, with sweet, roasty malt. Candied pecans and figs come to mind. A dry finish and spirited linger round out the experience.

Feel: Mouth feel is bold with assertive carbonation that bites while regaling with smooth complexity of flavors.

Overall: An ominous beer to slip slowly, perhaps after a long day, and a perfect companion for a night in which to ponder big ideas (or not). Very aptly named.

Serving type: Bottle

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Ommegang Abbey Ale

Today is the birthday of Michael Jackson, lovingly known as the Beer Hunter by brewers and beer enthusiasts. I’ll understand if you’ve started humming Billy Jean. I didn’t know about this particular Michael Jackson until a couple of months ago, when his name kept coming up as I read more and more about beer. I’m rather new at this, but I can’t think of any other person who has done so much to bring forth knowledge, appreciation and excitement about the craft and enjoyment of beer. I can’t seem to put into words how much his writing, his TV series and video reviews have influenced my admiration and excitement for beer. But perhaps if you watch this video, you might get an idea.

I knew from the beginning of the month that I would want to drink in honor of Michael Jackson on the 27th day, and I couldn’t have had a better companion for this than Rachel. Not knowing much about beer, she took it upon herself to do some research and put some thought into what she might enjoy drinking tonight. She actually wrote a list and brought it along. I shouldn’t have been surprised; I would expect nothing less from one of my sharpest friends and coworkers. To make matters better, all of Rachel’s notes and research led to the conclusion that the kind of beer she would probably most enjoy would be a Belgian or Belgian style ale. Knowing that, we decided we would share a big bottle, one I had been thinking about for a while.

We chose the Ommegang Abbey Ale, and I just know Mr. Jackson would have approved of our selection. Ommegang is an American brewery owned by Moortgat, the Belgian brewery that makes my two favorite beers so far: Duvel and Maredsous. Ommegang specializes in Belgian style ales and their Abbey Ale is a formidable specimen of its category. It was great from the start, but as Rachel remarked, it only got better as it sat still and warmed up to room temperature while we carried on with our conversation. Often described as a burgundy of beers, it delivered some sweet fruits and caramel notes with a very satisfying mouth feel and smooth finish. The high ABV was barely noticeable and the different notes seemed to blend rather roundly rather than compete for attention. It was a good thing we shared this big bottle as it provided enough nourishment for the wonderful conversations we had. Happy birthday and rest in peace, Mr. Jackson.

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Bigfoot Barleywine

Very well, then. I just got back from a birthday party where I sampled half of Boulevard Brewery’s catalog. So, I kinda need to go to bed now. But I can’t say goodnight without letting all you fine people know two very important things:

1) André Du Broc is a very talented, engaging and hilarious storyteller. If you haven’t read his blog yet, you should. Seriously, go read it right now. Here, I’ll make it easy for you, just click on this link: Too Many Cookies. You’re welcome.

2) Please consider donating to André’s AIDS Walk fundraising challenge for 2011, he’s so close to making his goal. Click here to learn more about it.

3) Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine totally rocks! (Okay, I know I said it was two things, but this is a beer blog, you guys.)

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Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat

There’s a saying that goes something like, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I used to think it was kind of a phony thing to say, until a few years ago when I moved to my current team. Really, it’s just a group of very good friends who make really awesome stuff that makes people happy. I knew from the start of this birthmonth project that I would have to have my Sinceramente friends join me for a beer. That happened tonight, and it was awesome.

I ordered the Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat. It is a very different kind of stout, a little on the fruity side. It had the usual dark fruit and coffee notes, but then it hit me with something that reminded me a bit of Cherry Coke. Really, I found it to be as funny tasting as its name, which was appropriate since it was a night of funny people and lots of laughter.

This was my first of twenty four weeks away from work for paternal leave. It has been a wonderful week, and I know I’m going to enjoy being a stay-at-home dad. But I also know I’m gonna miss my friends at work. I’m going to miss sitting around the lunch table, talking about disgusting things that make everybody lose their appetite. I’m gonna miss the puzzles and board games over the lunch hour. I’m gonna miss seeing the clever designs and heartwarming sentiments. And I’m definitely going to miss the happy hours. Maybe I’ll just crash those anyway.

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