Dark Island

For over three weeks now, I’ve been thinking about beer, drinking it, reading and writing about it. I try to sound smart like all the seasoned reviewers at Beer Advocate, and I think I’m getting a little better at it. And one day, I hope to be able to speak as eloquently about beer as Michael Jackson (not the one you’re thinking about). I’ve come to learn that most dark ales have roasty malt aromas and hoppiness really comes through in pale ales. Lagers and pilsners can often feature wheaty, citrusy notes. But the more complex, almost exotic notes are still a bit beyond my grasp.

Tonight I ordered Orkney Brewery’s Dark Island. The presentation was beautiful – a nice, chunky bottle with a  striking label. My friend Alyce ordered Monty Python’s Holy Grail, from Black Sheep Brewery. Alyce noticed that the back label of my beer had aroma and flavor notes, and promptly started quizzing me. Her challenging me was a familiar feeling that took me a couple years back when she and I worked on the same team. I thought of Alyce as my reluctant mentor and I learned so much working by her side. “What do you smell in the beer?” she asked. “Well, some roasty malts, a little bit of dark fruit…” She looked up from the label and replied, “Did you already read this?” “No,” I exclaimed proudly. “Do you smell fig, toffee…?” “Um, yeah, sure…no, not really.” It was so good to get together after so much time.

The Dark Island is a Scottish Ale, and so is one of my very favorite beers, the Belhaven. They are quite different though, and while I quite liked the Dark Island, I believe the Belhaven has a linger and body that I find much more pleasing. Nevertheless, The Dark Island is a substantial, complex and plenty respectable brew. Our beers, much like our conversation, were very enjoyable and over much too soon.

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Wychwood Hobgoblin

Sometimes, when I get tired of everybody having all the answers, it helps me to talk to John. He has all the questions.

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Maredsous Blonde

I’ve been celebrating all month, and I will continue to celebrate for the next nine days. But today is very special. Today is my actual birthday and it has been a great one so far. On my second stay-at-home-dad day, Julia woke up with the sunniest of dispositions. She’s been all smiles all day. And then we went to pick up my mom at the airport, my poor mom who has been traveling and working for the past week or so but wouldn’t miss my birthday. Upon receiving my mom, Julia’s smile got even bigger and graduated to full on giggles.

We headed straight to the Flying Saucer. I knew a couple of weeks ago that Mom might come, so I had been saving this date and this beer for her. It was so nice to just chill out, the three of us, and enjoy a couple of Belgian ales from the Moortgaat brewery. Mom had the Duvel and I had the Maredsous Blonde. Julia had a healthy serving of her mom’s noms. There was something poetic about sitting at a table on a beautiful, sunny day, my birthday no less, with my mom and my daughter, each with our respective bottle of masterfully and lovingly crafted drink.

The beer expedition has rendered surprising results thus far. I went in knowing that I love stouts, barley wines and dark ales. However, I have found that these two, the Duvel and the Maredsous, have secured a very special place on my palate. They are exquisite specimens of a very respectable family, and they were the perfect complement to this day, which is all about family. Happy birthday to me.

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La Fin Du Monde

Check out the awesome header Mel from 21days made in honor of this day. Thanks!

There are a lot of really fun and creative people where I work. I’ve been lucky to become friends with many of them. Some I’ve known since I first started my job some sevenish years ago, others I’ve met more recently. And tonight I got to share a beer with one of them. Our paths at work have only crossed a handful of times, but every time we’ve had occasion to chat, I’ve found Maria to be increasingly cooler and more interesting. So, I was really looking forward to sitting down and having a beer with her. And what a fun time it was.

One of the things I like about Maria is her adventurous spirit. She’s travelled quite a bit, and not in the touristy sort of way, but it in the I’m-gonna-be-here-for-a-month-and-live-and-learn-this-place-and-its-people sort of way. This sense of adventure and exploration seems to come through in everything she does and it’s very refreshing. Tonight, for instance, after explaining that she does not like beer, what did she do? She ordered a flight! That’s right, she sampled six different beers and then remarked that variety is the spice of life.

My selection for the night was Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde. This Belgian style ale is a remarkable brew. I’ve had the pleasure of having it before, although not at the Saucer, and I was excited to refresh my memory. Like most Belgian brews I favor, it has a distinct aroma of flowers and a most pleasant build. It is easy to drink, but you feel compelled to make it last. Later on, with all the talk about traveling and exploring new worlds and possibilities, I realized how appropriate La Fin Du Monde was for today. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Maria travels far enough to reach the end of the world.

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Spaten Lager

There are a number of factors that influence my decision when it comes to choosing a beer. I consider things like whether or not the brew will accompany a meal, whether I’ll be having more than one beer, the time of day, and so on. But what usually ends up being the determining factor is the weather. I can’t bear the thought of a lager on a cold, grey day. Today, however, was definitely a lager day.

Coincidentally, my beer companion for the day is a lager devotee. But not just any lager, Armando only drink’s Mexico’s finest lager: Pacífico.  But today he surprised me when he said he wanted to branch out and try something different. Because I have developed an infatuation with Duvel, and because it is as bright and sunny as the afternoon was, I recommended he have it. I’m glad I did because he really liked it and had a second. In fact, he liked it so much even I had to order one for myself after the Spaten Lager!

Since I was enjoying one of Germany’s finest lagers, I asked Armando to tell me again about his and Christy’s experience participating in Germany’s legendary Oktoberfest some years ago. Listening to the stories about thousands of people of all ages congregated under tents, singing, laughing, cheering, and just being alive, enhanced my enjoyment of the Spaten. This is a happy beer; it’s a beer for socializing, for having a good time and enjoying the company of others. This is, to me, the perfect beer to welcome the Spring. Prost!

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Samuel Smith Taddy Porter

If you’ve been following my blog, then you will have undoubtedly noticed that I really, really want to be a beer connoisseur. Essentially a connoisseur is a knower, but no matter how much I think I’m learning with every style and variety of beer, I have a feeling it’ll be a very long time before I can call myself an expert. I did learn something new today, namely, how the Porter style got its name. It turns out that this style of beer earned its name because of the English train porters who were its original servers and consumers. I got that from the label of this most delectable brew, the Taddy Porter.

Mel was kind enough to humor me by patiently listening to my longwinded yet lacking explication of the world of beer: “Well, you see, essentially there are two kinds of beers: ales and lagers…one is top fermenting, the other is bottom fermenting…the yeast either floats on top or settles at the bottom during fermentation…what’s really impressive is that all beers are basically made up of four ingredients…water, malted grain (most often barley), hops and yeast…” Blah, blah, blah. Thank goodness Mel was so forgiving. That’s just the kind of guy he is, the nice kind. If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Mel, you can read about him and his work here, here and here.

One day, when I’m a connoisseur, I will tell you all about the Taddy Porter. I will be able to ascertain what kinds of yeasts, malts and hops contribute to its perfect balance of aroma, mouthfeel and linger. I’ll pontificate about the notes of coffee, chocolate, fig and other dark fruits you’ve probably never tasted that open up to the palate as the brew comes up to room temperature.  I’ll blissfully proclaim the virtues of this ambrosial drink and call it one hell of a session beer. Won’t that be something? For now, let me just tell you I will definitely have the Taddy Porter again. And again. And I will gladly recommend it to anyone looking for the perfect beer for a cold, rainy day. Cheers.

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The Sixth Glass

Even with its worrisome winters and scorching summers, Kansas City is a wonderful place to live, a place of which to be proud. So much of what I love is either from or in Kansas City. This is the city I’ve called home since getting married a little over eight years ago. This is where I found the job I’ve so enjoyed, the job which allows me to take parental leave and be home with my daughter for the next six months. The same daughter, by the way, who was also born here. It is a city with which I’ve come to associate so many wonderful things in my adult life. Heck, even I was born here, but that’s a story for another time!

Kansas City has also introduced me to so many people whose friendships I’ve come to love and cherish. People like Shannon. It’s hard to think of anyone who so boldly exemplifies the concept of joie de vivre. Just hear her laugh. That’s all it takes. Really, you’ll see what I mean. Nobody I know has such a liberating, exuberant and contagious laugh. Perhaps that’s why I don’t mind the fact that she beats me in Scrabble every eight out of five times. And if you know me, you know I seriously hate losing. Still, Shannon is my best Scrabble buddy and when I asked if I could buy her a beer, she was warned it would involve a game of Scrabble, IRL (that’s “in real life” for those of you not versed in interwebs).

Shannon and I shared a bottle of The Sixth Glass, one of the offerings in Boulevard Brewing Co.’s (yet another reason to be proud of Kansas City) Smokestack Series. Our local brewery’s quadrupel ale is a world class beer, boasting some big caramel, brown sugar and dark fruit notes in perfect harmony with the bready, chewy, yummylicious (that’s a very sophisticated, technical term), toasty malts. This is a big beer, and I’m not just talking about the bottle. I mean, we should probably share it with a couple more people next time, what with its 10.5 ABV. I couldn’t let this month go by without savoring a Boulevard brew, and I’m so glad I got to share it with Shannon. Here’s to the City of Fountains!

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