04 Dec 2009 @ 9:31 AM 

This post is a contribution to The Session a monthly series of communal blogging. This month’s session, Session #34 is being hosted by Jim at Two Parts Rye. Please be sure to head over there and read what others have posted, as well.

The Session: Beer Blogging Fridays

The topic for this month’s session is one that I’m a little wary of. Stumbling home. It’s something that I’ve done – that we’ve all done – countless times in years of great beer consumption, and I’d hate to promote overconsumption. You should always consume beer in moderation. Why? You’ll enjoy it more. Seriously. But, as it happens, we all tend to enjoy ourselves a little too much from time to time, and this topic makes me think of a particular story on what I consider my one shot at a Herculean drinking effort. So: Story time.

I used to live in Boston. Allston, to be exact. I made three moves in three years and all of them kept me within a few blocks of what is now my favorite bar in the entire world, the Sunset Grill and Tap. I’ve probably spent thousands of dollars there. It was where I really learned to appreciate beer, and I can’t make a trip back – or even through Boston – without stopping there for a pint.

One night in mid-spring, a very dear friend of mine called me up. She was in business school at the time at MIT. She was on her way down to the Sunset with a couple of her colleagues and she asked me if I would please meet her at the Sunset so that I could drink them under the table. I’m not sure exactly what prompted the request. Apparently she felt like they needed to be taken down a peg in this regard, and I was happy to oblige. She was my drinking buddy.
0.6 miles in 90 minutes.  You do the math.
The Sunset, at the time, was serving yards. (I’m under the impression that they are doing so again, but for a while they had stopped due to breakage.) A yard glass, if you’re not familiar, is about 3 feet tall. It holds a significant amount of liquid (though not as much as you might think -part of it is very skinny), about 2.5 pints – or 1.25 quarts. Wikipedia might tell you that there’s some sort of pub game in which you attempt to drink a full yard as quickly as possible without getting yourself soaked with beer, but I can assure that it is no game. The reason that you try to drink it as quickly as possible is because if you don’t you’ve got a big bulb of warm beer at the bottom and it’s just not very good. Drinking it without spilling isn’t nearly as difficult as they make it out to be, it just takes a little patience.

Quick side story: I always used to love watching people get yards of blueberry beer at the Sunset. The Sunset, like Boston Beer Works, serves their blueberry beers with a garnish of fresh blueberries. So in a yard of blueberry beer, there would be like 1/8 cup of blueberries floating up and down this enormous glass. It was really quite a thing to see. What people tended to not think about was the fact that when they were about halfway down their glass – into the skinny part – the blueberries had a tendency to become lodged in the neck of the yard. Smart people would try to stick something down into the neck of the glass to try to break up the obstruction before drinking, other would just lift the glass high above their heads, assuming that, eventually, the weight of the liquid would force the blueberries to become unstuck. What they didn’t think about is that at that time, you had the rest of the liquid in the yard glass quickly rushing toward your face. Sploosh.

These guys had never been to the Sunset before, and had never had a yard before, and were a little boastful about how much they could put back. At the time, I had been drinking yards at the Sunset for almost three years, and I had a pretty good working knowledge of what my limit was, but also what to drink to maximize my limit. Yards of Strongbow Cider, I found, were always easy to manage. My theory at the time was that there was more water in them, so I didn’t get as dehydrated. I now know that that’s ludicrous, but I wonder now if it had something to do with sugar content. This is where the Belgians, I think, would talk about how “digestable” the beer is. Dry cider, I would say, is extremely digestable.

We got a table in the basement at the Sunset. A nice place to sit with yards, because there wasn’t very much traffic for you to swing a yard glass into and you essentially had your own bathroom (because 2.5 pints of beer or cider means 2.5 pints of pee at some point).

I’ll be real honest, I don’t remember these guys very well. They were what I would consider to be your typical kind of business school guys. There are a lot of people who attend business school who I think are very interesting and smart, and I can’t say that I think these guys were those type. They felt like the kind of guys who were getting their MBA as a get rich quick scheme.

We had food, and our first yard. They were impressed with the yards, but didn’t seem daunted, and we all ate some appetizers and finished off our yards fairly swiftly. They were drinking beer – I forget what kind – I was drinking cider. The second yard came with our main courses – though I had only had another appetizer (oh Sunset wings, how I miss you). We finished them off with our food. For “dessert” we made another drink order. They switched down to pints. “Too full,” they said, for another yard. I had another yard of cider.

I’m not sure how long we stayed there nursing our drinks, but I remember everybody being pretty sloppy by the time I ordered my fourth and final yard — which I finished, while they failed to make it through their last pints of beer.

One gallon and one quart of cider later (for me), we called it a night. I remember thinking that I was holding myself very well while we walked upstairs and out onto the sidewalk. I didn’t want to show quite how drunk I was. I hung out with them while they grabbed a cab back to Cambridge, and I started my walk home.

The walk from my apartment/house at the time to the Sunset generally took me about 7 minutes. My place was just a few blocks away behind Twin Donuts. It was close enough that I never really felt the need to ride my bike there, because it took me more time to find a place to park and lock it than it did to actually just walk.

Somehow – and I really have no recollection how – I managed to cross the busy street that is Harvard Avenue. At that point, once the main danger was over, the relay race began.

Allston’s sidewalks are studded with small trees and lampposts. About every 12 feet or so there is another one, conveniently located in the middle of the sidewalk where it’s a real pain in the ass if the street is crowded or some douchebag is on a bicycle on the sidewalk or something. At the short hours of that morning, however, they were islands of upright happiness.

The trick was this: Wrap yourself around the tree/lamppost/mailbox/passerby nearest to you and peer off into the distance. Somewhere over there, there is another stationary object that is NOT a car or a building. The trick is waiting for it to come into focus. At times, there may be two or three – but do not be fooled! One or more of those objects may not be real, and guessing during a lunge is bad. You must wait for the object to coalesce into one-ness. Then: You move!

Quick!

Push off from your current object and fling yourself into the night, but concentrate!

Do not lose sight of your object! A momentary loss of concentration and you could be lost in between objects, in a void, and falling… lost! Groping! Looking for something to cling to.

But no! You reach your new tree! Happiness!

It is so wonderful to have a tree in your hands! You love nature.

Actually, this may be a lamppost.

You love lampposts!

It feels so cold on your skin. It’s so nice to put your face against it.

Maybe if you could just close your eyes and slide into the welcoming — NO!

Another lamp-post-tree-thing awaits!

There! In the distance! It can be achieved!

There are two! No! Three! No!

The fog!

Agh!

It took me an hour and a half to get home that night.

I can’t walk through that part of Allston without counting all of the trees and lampposts as friends, and I hope they think about me and help others along their destinations the way they helped me that night.

Stumbling home: I’d rather not do it. I’d rather ultimately be responsible the whole night through and not flirt with alcohol poisoning at all. But if it’s going to happen, it had at least better be good.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 04 Dec 2009 @ 02 18 PM

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 03 Jul 2009 @ 10:34 AM 

Out trip ended in Boston. I used to live in Boston. In fact, Boston is where I learned to love beer, so a return to Boston is always welcome. It’s a good thing we were there for several days, or I wouldn’t have been able to hit all the places, new and old, that I love.
Rock Bottom: Fresh Beers
Our first stop was the Sunset Grill and Tap (beermapping). The Sunset is my favorite bar in the entire world. Really. For truly. For two years in Boston I lived a block away from this place. When I was unhappy with my roommate situation and didn’t want to be in the house, I spent every night at the Sunset for something like 6 months. My bachelor party was upstairs at their sister bar Big City. I cannot ever express my undying love for this bar. So! I’m not really qualified to give any sort of subjective review of this place. It’s like another home to me. So, I’ll just have to talk about the beer we got while we were there.

On a Tweet tip (whether he knew it or not) from Jason Alstrom, I started off with the Great Divide 15th Anniversary Double IPA. My wife, against her better judgment, I think, had a watermelon beer (can’t remember which one: not BBW, not 21st Amendment – no idea) that smelled exactly like watermelon bubblebum from 8 yards away. I can’t really speak to it. It was stunning. I hope she’ll say more about it in comments. The Great Divide was fantastic. Clearly oak aged in a bourbon barrel, it was smooth and big and hoppy and incredibly well-balanced: my favorite thing in an IPA.

My second beer actually ended up being my wife’s second beer. I tried Dogfish Head’s new release: Sah’tea. Here’s what I’ll say: Like every single one of their offerings, I’m glad I tried it. It was this amazing bouquet of chai spices with a mead-like sweetness, and a combination of big fruity and bready flavors. It is pretty much unlike any other beer I have ever tried. Will I have another one? Unlikely. I’m really not a fan of sweet beers. My wife, on the other hand, has talked about going to buy some bottles to make her friends taste.

I finally finished off with something that pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks for a while. I wish I could tell you what it was (and time my jog my memory) what I can tell you is that it was listed at over 150 IBUs at which point my palate said: Enough is enough! It was ALL astringent hops. It is my only memory of the beer. In fact, the only thing that got me going again was a brief trip over to Deep Ellum.

Deep Ellum (beermapping) didn’t exist when I lived in Boston. Their location was once the diviest bar in the area. I can’t tell you how surprised and happy I was to walk into this place and see it well-designed, homey, and comfortable. On a Thursday night it was packed and we had to stand in back of the people sitting at the bar to get drinks. My only complaint was that if you weren’t sitting on something, there wasn’t really a place to hang out without being in some sort of traffic. It’s a small price to pay for ability to order a Cantillon Iris 2005. I can’t review it. It was lovely and amazing. The very fact that I could order it made me happy beyond belief. I really wish my Belgian bars here in NC could see the kind of rotating stock selection and actual reasonable prices clearly available at Deep Ellum.

The next day brought us to a stop at the Cambridge Brewing Company (beermapping), which has also seen a serious upgrade since I lived in Boston. Will Myers has done absolutely magical things here and while the tap list wasn’t 19-long like it was during the Craft Beer Conference, it was still impressive, with a stunning array of Brett fermented and experimental brews. We met friends for dinner. The service was a little slow, but we took it for being a busy Friday night. My wife enjoyed the Arquebus which was nothing short of phenomenal. Here’s the description from their website:

Our 2009 release is at once light and drinkable yet it boasts significant body, and it is almost syrupy smooth in texture without being cloying. Arquebus’ deep golden mien contains beautiful, complex notes of peach and apricot fruit, wildflower honey, toast and coconut oakiness, and soft, tannin-hinted, white grape notes. Malolactic fermentation in the barrel adds a hint of acidity to balance the sweetness of this beer’s finish.

Seriously wonderful, and shockingly clean for a still beer. I had a Reckoning, which didn’t turn out to be nearly as sour as I had expected it, though still dry and refreshing. The aroma far overpowered the flavor, which I felt was brief. I followed this up with an Imperial Skibsøl paired with my chipotle/steak dinner. Phe-freakin’-nomenal. I’ve had two smoked beers at CBC this year and both of them have been stunningly well-balanced. I cannot recommend this beer enough, especially paired with food – the smoke in my chipotle intermingled with the smoke in the beer was nothing short of magical.

Day 3 in Boston brought us to Rock Bottom: Boston (across the street from where we saw Blue Man Group) and Boston Beer Works, Canal Street (which was right down the street from our hotel).

Confession: I’ve never been very impressed with the Rock Bottom location in downtown Boston, and part of that may be a little colored by the fact that I had downright poor experiences with it prior to it ever becoming a Rock Bottom, back when it was the disaster that was Brew Moon’s downtown location. I will admit to being pleasantly surprised. We just grabbed a sampler and left, but the atmosphere was much better than I remember, the service was quick and friendly, and the beers were much better than I remember. Certainly, I had to make it through a sample portion of Lumpy Dog Light which is mediocre at best, but their IPA was downright pleasant, and the wife and I had a great time hanging out before heading over to Boston Beer Works for dinner.

Now, I have always had a good relationship with Boston Beer Works, based solely on their location outside of Fenway. When the Canal Street location opened, I spent some time heading up there because of the pool tables they have (had? I didn’t check.) upstairs. We stopped in for dinner on the way to a friend’s house for a party. I’m always amused when waitstaff feels the need to tell me what beers on their menu are like in terms of other beers: “This is a light lager, which is going to be kind of like a Budweiser, and this is our stout. It’s sort of like a Guinness.” Girl. Don’t sell the beer short. We ended up with what she referred to as, “The two most unique beers on the menu.” My wife ordered a Cherry Bomb, which was (I believe) a farmhouse-style ale – maybe a saison – fermented with tart cherries. It was lovely. Crisp and not at all cloying. I had the Yawkey Way Wheat which the waitress described as a “salt beer.”

“They put salt in it?”

“Ohhh yeah.”

“How much salt?” I asked her.

“A lot.”

In the past, Yawkey Way Wheat has been a Berliner Weisse and it took until I got home and thought about it to realize that the brewer had actually just changed it up a little and made a Gose. It’s a shame the waitress didn’t sell it to me like that. Regardless, it was wonderful. The salt was present, but not overpowering, and the beer was crisp, and tart, and really wonderful. I would drink it again in a heartbeat. If you’re in the Boston area, go find this before it’s gone. It’s not often you’re going to find a Gose on tap in the States.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I feel like we didn’t have enough to time to hit nearly everything that I wanted to in Boston, and I will admit this is far more than I got out to during the CBC. I don’t think that, unless you’re living there, there’s really a good way to experience the beer culture that is in and around Boston. Hands down, fantastic beer city.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 03 Jul 2009 @ 10 34 AM

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 22 Apr 2009 @ 11:54 PM 

Holy crap I’m tired.

What a long day. What an awesome day.

Started off with the keynote at the CBC. Really, more than just the keynote – Charlie Papazian opened things up with a “be unscripted” introduction. Paul Gatza followed with some really quite positive numbers about the state of the craft brewing industry. Brewers Association 2009 Achievement Award Winners were announced and Greg Koch blew everything out of the water with a fantastic video toast (which – if I can get an internet copy I would love to post) and keynote address that was truly awesome. Greg is, indeed, a rock star.

The BrewExpo opened and.. I’ve been to a lot of conferences for other industries I’ve worked in. I’ve never been to a trade show where people were so… well.. friendly. People are happy just to chat. They genuinely seem to want to help you and want to know about what you’re doing. It’s really pretty fantastic. I learned an amazing amount today, and am planning on going and scouring the floor for pricing info for my business plan.

The afternoon held sessions – I held myself to the “Brewery Startup” sessions, all in the same room. A nice overview of fundraising and opening numbers from Scott Metzger of Freetail Brewing Co. in San Antonio, followed by a really great statistical look at the craft brew industry, primarily by Ray Daniels, and finally a phenomenal rundown of practical advice from Jamie Martin, Brewmaster of Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Co.. Absolutely great stuff.

The evening gave me a choice: Go on the drunk bus to Sam Adams, or head over to, arguably my favorite bar ever, the Sunset Grill to meet up with the Stone Brewing crew and try a bunch of things I will never have on tap again. Well worth it. I got to meet Carla the Beer Babe, the 2 beer guys from 2beerguys and Candice Alstrom. Great times.

Now.. let’s pretend you get a chance to grab Greg Koch as he works through a crowd and ask him a question. What do you ask?

Me? I ask: “How many of that plaid jacket do you own?”

The answer: “Just one.”

Indeed – the story of my life. What price glibness? I’ll answer that question later. For now – great day – looking forward to tomorrow.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 22 Apr 2009 @ 11 54 PM

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