Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey - March 17th, 2015

When I was young, one of my favorite drinks was Hi-C's Ecto Cooler. Do you remember Ecto Cooler? A neon green citrus ambrosia tucked into Slimer bedecked cardboard boxes and in the grubby hands of kids everywhere?

It was awesome.

The premise, I suppose, was a tie-in with the Ghostbusters movie/tv show. I guess you were drinking Slimer's ecto-slime that he blasted all over Peter Venkman / Bill Murray in one of my favorite scenes in Ghostbusters (the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man scene, while it scared the hell out of me and made me want s'mores, is a close second).

I'm sure, at this point, you're wondering what this has to do with Teeling Whiskey. Bear with me here.

Today, as I'm sure you all know, is St. Patrick's Day, or St. Paddy's Day. All around the world, people are downing Solo cups of spirulina-like quaffs of green beer and, more likely than not, recreating the above scene. Only at 2:30 am in a bar bathroom. Or, even worse, in a hotel hallway. While I have a fierce love of green beverages (except you, Midori)...green beer is not one of them. No combination of food dye and cheap suds is enough of a motivator to get me to revel in the "luck o the Irish", as it were. If I'm celebrating St. Paddy's Day, it's with a dark pint of Murphy's or...maybe...a drop of Irish whiskey.

See what I did there? BROUGHT IT HOME.

Teeling Whiskey Co. has intrigued me for awhile anyway. It's rotund yet elegant bottle. The fact that it's heralding the first distillery in Dublin in 125 years. The fact that, from what I've heard, it has a high malt profile in its standard Small Batch expression. The fact that, for all intents and purposes, it is a successful and well-liked Irish whiskey that is a positive sign of small Irish whiskey growth. Whatever it is, it's been on my radar for awhile. And when I was approached by a PR company with a bottle and a "St. Patrick's Day Cocktail" premise, well, I jumped on it. So they sent over a full bottle (I forwent a $25 Whole Foods gift card for ingredients because I didn't need 'em) for me to investigate and review. I can't find much information on their Small Batch in terms of distillation and maturation specifics but it is bottled at 46%, non-chill filtered, and finished in rum barrels for six months after primary maturation. Before I jump into the notes, here's a few pictures to whet your whistle:

Nice lookin, huh? Alright, here's the notes:

Nose: Definitely ex-bourbon primary maturation. Sweet vanilla cream and biscuits, buttered toast. Brown sugar. Touch of fresh milled grain. Fruit as well; pineapple, apples. Slightly grassy. Touches of rose and honey as it opens up.

Taste: Vanilla custard and barley sugar. Thinner mouthfeel than I expected for a non chill filtered. Heather honey and...orange. There's some herbal component in it that I'm having trouble placing. Almost like an unsweetened allspice dram? Not sure. Finish has those rum touches of burnt sugar and citrusy cream. Drying too.

A gratuitous liquid photo:

It's definitely an ex-bourbon baby to begin with. It's got those hearty oak lactones and barrel backbone. I don't think they're ALL first fill, maybe second fill grain with some fresh malt. The cereal components really are nice. They're subtle but bring a nice "oomph" to it. It's a solid whiskey. Not incredibly complex, mind you, but very, very solid. Has enough complexity that a neat glass of it would be welcome but I think it'd do well in cocktails with a citrus focus. Or maybe even a Teeling Milk Punch. You're looking at about $35 for a 750ml  bottle which I think is a BIT high but understandable, especially at 46%. If I could get it for $30 and change that'd be ideal. It's hard to find around me but if Jameson is <$24 for a 750ml, I'd be more likely to upgrade to this for that extra tenner.

(Sample bottle sent by Baddish Group.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial - Thursday, Jan. 22nd

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions. Changing an aspect of your life shouldn't be something that's thought up while lying in bed on the 1st, hungover and coated in the remnants of appetizers and spilled drinks. It is something that requires thought and dedication which, frankly, I always find lacking when I can still taste whiskey on my breath. The only thing I'm motivated to do is brush my teeth and drink coconut water. I suppose that New Year's resolutions, even if people make them and forget about them a few weeks later, are at least a stepping stone towards the thought process of changing what you don't like in your life. I guess that's a pretty decent start.

For me, it means doing reviews again. Things lately have been...hectic. I've been diagnosed with an incurable illness and am on enough medication that I require one of those old man medicine strips to keep track of things. I haven't been drinking much lately and that's really including tea and coffee. I just drink water. Mainly because I have to keep very hydrated and also because the side effects of the medicine mean that water is really all I'm capable of drinking. It sucks, yes. But I'm still here and in far better spirits than I was.

Spirits. Get it? Because alcohol? C'mon, you missed me.

I'm sure you're saying to yourself at this point: "But Bacchus! You said you don't drink much any more and this is a review of champagne!" You'd be correct. A bottle of Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial was purchased to ring in the new year and I was finally able to pop it and enjoy it recently. And I figure, what a better way to present to you, dear readers, my New Year's resolution than with a bottle of damn fine champagne? So, here it goes. My New Year's resolution is to get back to posting on In With Bacchus. I know I've said it in the past and then disappeared...and I'm sorry for that. I am working on applying myself to this, and my gaming, website as often as I can. Things aren't easy for me but I don't think they're easy for anyone. But enough about me. Let's talk about this champagne, shall we?

According to the Moet & Chandon website, the grape statistics for this are:

40% - 50% Pinot Noir
30% - 40% Pinot Meunier
10% - 20% Chardonnay
Dosing (secondary fermentation sugar) at 45 g/L

This is the bottle. 

It's very classy looking. Classy enough that I did not feel worthy to hold it. I mean, it's champagne. A $56 bottle of champagne which, to me, is a lot. I'm on more of a methode champenoise budget. A bath-tub methode champenoise budget. From your crazy grandpa. Here are the notes:

Nose: Marzipan and honey. Green apple peels. Pineapple; juice but not fresh squeezed. A bit of yeast/bread but not baked bread, more like raw dough before you punch it down. Heather, maybe? There's a...piquante-ness to it I can't place. Not tannin but something cuts through it. Like a woody tang; maple syrup? Nope, it's vanilla extract.

Taste: Bit of heat at the forefront is chased away by baked green apples coated in honey. Very sweet. Candied grapefruit peel. A bit pedantic but..white grape-y. That primary "white grape" flavor hasn't been fermented out. Heat stays but carries with it a cracker taste that fades into a nice finish. If  that sweetness had maintained through it would be cloying. The Chard comes through on the end, man. Very buttery and pear-y. Straight up pear tart.

Overall, this is a very good champagne. I am more of a brut fan myself so the sweetness of it almost took me by surprise. The recommendations for food are all very rich, very fatty foods which I can't agree with because I feel it lacks the acidity to balance with them. So I'd solidly categorize this as a dessert champagne. It'd be best with bright, citrus-y foods like a sorbet/sherbet or some sort of citrus tart. I feel like it'd do well with maybe some not-too-sharp-but-rather-nutty cheese as well. Or, y'know, just in a glass at the end of a meal. Like this:

So cheers, all. And here's to a new beginning. Again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Templeton, The TTB, and You

There has been a whole lot of hullabaloo these days about label fidelity in the craft distilling industry. The main sights have been set on Templeton Rye whiskey, which has been dodging its label providence for some time and has finally been caught, but others have been called into question as well. The uproar in the whiskey geek community is one that I share, wholeheartedly. Distillers, both large and small MUST be held accountable for what they're putting in the bottle. I've been following it, and silently agreeing with it...but I've refrained from speaking out. Why bother adding another voice to the din of chatter parroting the same sentiment I have?

Recently, on Reddit, a discussion stemming from Chuck's work stemmed about the providence of Barterhouse bourbon. Finally, I caved. It's time I said something. But it's not what you think it's going to be. No long diatribes and half-cocked rants about the industry this time. It's time for me to help out. To put my resources to good. So here we go. I'm going to show you how to become more comfortable in your whiskey purchases, thanks to the good old internet. So, let's do this, shall we?

First, you're going to want to go here...and bookmark it. It's the big mamma-jamma, the book that all distillers eventually bow to. It's the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits and if you make a spirit and want to sell it, it's going to be classified into one of these categories by the TTB. Here's a brief glance:

It's long. It's wordy. It can be confusing. But, as a consumer, it's DAMN helpful. It will tell you what each category means, legally, and (more importantly) what it DOESN'T. The big debate on Reddit was the definition of straight and, in this case, Barterhouse Bourbon from the Orphan Barrel series. Now here's where I dig into my bag of tricks. The secret of all secrets. Are you ready?

Step 1: Go to the TTB website!

See that link in the red rectangle? Click it. It will bring you to this page.

Certificates of Label Approval (COLAs) will give you a lot of information about your whiskey. See that link there? Click on it. But you're not a distiller! You're not applying for a COLA! Don't worry, I got you on this.

Okay, you're here but you're worried about the login. Don't. See that little link up there? That SUPER IMPORTANT LINK FOR CONSUMERS? Click it and get ready for a wealth of information.

There it is. The consumer's best friend. Since I want to look for Barterhouse Bourbon, I typed it in and gave my best guess at the date range for the label approval. Click on the blue button...but pay attention to that red button. It's VERY important. It should bring you to a listing like this:

Time to go through the records! Two of them are for fortified wine and one is for Barterhouse but it's expired. However, the last one...

Is this. The technical aspects of the distilled spirit. You can't lie to the government. Well...you CAN but it's pretty hard. A good chunk of things are here. Ripe for the lookin'. You'll note that the listing type (in red) is BOURBON WHISKEY. Funnily enough, on their website, they call it a "Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey". So it's straight, right? Well...it meets the technical classifications. It's a bourbon. It's 2+ years. However...remember that little red box I said you should pay attention to? Click on it. It should bring you to this.

Hit the box in red. Now, check out the Type Code on the Barterhouse record listing picture. It's 141. However...the Type listing number for "straight bourbon whiskey" is...



Why isn't it listed as a straight bourbon whiskey? I don't know. But don't believe any of the hoopla that they put on websites or send out in press releases. So far, no one's been enforcing it. Now, I trust the government these days about as far as I can throw it...and there's a lot of people in it (and I have a bad back). However...I do trust their ability to bureaucratically keep records. So all the information I need is right here. And, now, all the information you need is as well.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

What I Learned At TAP NY 2014

Note: I received free press passes for this. Just wanted to disclose that.

Sorry for the delay in this. Shortly after TAP NY I had a bit of a medical emergency (okay, several) and the medication I'm on for it has been knocking me for a loop. A huge, dizzy, shaky loop.

That being said, even with my fuzzy mind, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed TAP NY. It was my first time being there and, overall, I enjoyed the hell out of that festival. It was also my first beer festival so it proverbially unleashed the beer dragon that I will forever chase. But what did I learn from TAP NY? What did I discover? Well, if you'll permit me (once again) to wax poetic about the things I love, I'll tell you. So buckle up, pop a beer, and get ready for...

What Bacchus Learned At TAP NY 2014

1.) I REALLY Love Beer. And I Forgot That.

I have burnt out on spirits a bit, I admit. I have put my nose to the grindstone for too long and spent far too much time wetting the hone with liquor. My brain may be sharp...but it's waterlogged with spirits. Metaphorically. Most of my time spent on the internet, in magazines, in books, and on the phone is liquor, liquor, liquor. When I originally got to the show, I honestly found myself slightly anxious. Will there be something there as complex as the spirits I've been tasting? I mean, it's just hops, malt, and water, right? How many beers will it take for me to get bored? Would I be spending most of my time eating and waxing hipster about spirits?

And then I had my first pour.

I had focused on spirits for so long, admiring the profound complexity of it...that I became almost snobbish. Puritanical in my alcohol approach. But I forgot what the best part of beer is: it can be beautifully simple. So what if it's hops, malt, and water? Sometimes that's all you need. And even then, there were some beers that I had at TAP NY that blew my mind in ways that spirits couldn't. Mouthfeel, body, tartness. And hops. I missed hops! The floral aromas and citrus bite. It reinvigorated my palate. After the show, I promptly went out and bought beer. A lot of beer. Because that craving for simple pleasures couldn't be quenched. And it still hasn't. I genuinely forgot how much I loved beer, how bolstering and refreshing a proper pint can be. So thank you TAP NY for helping Stella get her groove back. Or, in this case, Bacchus get his Stella back. I guess.

2.) Where Did All These Breweries Come From?

TAP NY is a beer festival that exclusively has NY located breweries. When I arrived, I checked the layout sheet and almost passed out. Every nook and cranny of the resort was crammed full of beer vendors. Vendors I had heard of and had tried, vendors I had heard of and hadn't tried, vendors I'd never heard of, and even vendors I thought quite possibly were a test that when you went up and asked for a beer it was a sign you were too drunk and were kicked out. Where did all these breweries come from? Where did all of these BEERS come from? NY, broadcast your beer bounty broadly. Not enough is being said and the whispers on the wind are not reaching the right ears. Or I could just be crazy and beer-deaf. This is a possibility.

3.) Beer Nerds Are Awesome

With many alcohol centric festivals, there a distinctly divided crowd and you can tell who belongs to what of the three categories as the festival wears on. The first category is the connoisseur; the person there to sip and sample to broaden their palate. Then there's the Jolly Roger; the person(s) there to be outdoors, drink some beer, and have fun with friends. Then...there's the Bluto; the person that paid $60 and is damn well sure they're getting their money's worth. The first, by hour two, is stone cold sober and actively perusing the pour lists. The second, by hour two, is slightly tipsy and laughing congenially with friends over a pretzel or sandwich on a bench. The third, by hour two, is just walking up to every stand, demanding a pour (not specifying) and then pounding it and moving onto the next. The third is like a Henry Ford-esque assembler of inebriation. And the last one...well...it chaps my ass a bit. I understand the mentality. I really do. But if you get a pour and you lose half of the beer to the ground before you make it ten paces from the table...you should probably drink some water and have a sandwich. If you're standing there, smoking a nub of a cigar, all while your eyes are slitted and blinking independent of each other...maybe take a seat for a bit. You paid $60 but you didn't pay $60 for BEER. It went to other things. To the food that you should be eating. To listening to the band that's playing. To talking to vendors about...I dunno...what they're brewing next.

But at TAP NY...that pretty much wasn't the case. Sure, the two examples I used above I DID see there but for the most part it was mostly Connoisseurs and Jolly Rogers. And the Connoisseurs...man, it was refreshing. They weren't snobbish or elitist. They'd take their pours, congregate around a table, and chat about the beer in front of them. They'd uproariously laugh at beer jokes. They'd agree that a beer wasn't for them but instead of deriding the beer...they simply moved on. It was...nice to see such civil discourse going on. It brought a tear to my eyes to hear scraps of conversations about carbonation levels, alpha acid levels, and even "did you try that sour beer over there?" Which, actually, brings me to my next point.

4.) No Sour Grapes. Just Sour Grains.

I was surprised by the inclusion of several sour beers dotted among the tables. The East Coast, in my opinion, lags behind on the West Coast beer trends. We're slowly getting over the West Coast hop bombs and are JUST moving on to brewing sours. And frankly, this is fantastic. I love sour beers but they're hard to come by. You can either try to have a friend send a carrier pigeon with Russian River stuff to a boat waiting by a river which will carry it to a Pony Express station that hops a train (heh, hops) to Philly where it is then smuggled by wagon...or you shell out $20 for a bottle of Cantillion that you're not sure you're going to like. It's hard to find affordable beer that you can use to cut your teeth on the sour sector. But, thankfully, East Coast / NY is picking up the pace. A few places had sours that I really enjoyed. Tart, effervescent, almost kombucha-like (except kombucha is the spawn of the devil and should be cast into the sea), I really got to sample a lot of sour and fuel my craving for more. Now they just need to bottle said sours so I can cellar them to see how that goes. That and gueuze is expensive.

5). Passion Isn't Just A Fruit

I talked to a lot of brewers at TAP NY. The interface time available was really, really nice. And, combined with the sheer beer geekery, it lent to some awesome conversations. It's awesome to see the passion behind a lot of these breweries. The brewers, the sales people, the marketing staff. I think the best example of this was hanging out with Galaxy Brewing out of Binghamton. They contacted me pre-fest and asked if I wanted to stop by and chat. Naturally, I took them up on the idea. As the head brewer, Seth, and I got talking, it was awesome to see the passion come out. The thing that struck me the most was the inspiration behind their name. With a name like Galaxy, I figured he had a passion for stargazing (which I freely admit I do) or astronomy or something...but it was far simpler than that. He had sat, staring at a beer, and watched the foam on top lazily spin. It ended up spinning into a shape that he thought looked like a galaxy. And that's how the name came about. A name born from a passion for beer that went far beyond just foam spinning in a glass. And that's cool.

The best way I can sum up TAP NY is: yes. I will be back, as scheduling allows, and I will report on it every damn time. Not only was the beer refreshing, but the company, atmosphere, and conversation as well. My only stickler of a problem was getting food during the event as any food item worth nomming was quickly mobbed by people as the server left the food station. But that's nitpicky at best. I'll be there and I'll be happy to hoist a pint with anyone that recognizes me or wants to meet up. And you should be there too. Because it's fun.


ADDENDUM: What I drank!

Captain Lawrence Seeking Alpha  - A sweet yet bitter syrup of a beer. Clocked in at some outrageous ABV so it's a one and done beer. Not that I could drink more than one anyway. A good nightcap beer.

Peekskill Brewery Vaporizor - A stout stout. It poured like liquid velvet and had the exact same mouthfeel. A bit better than average in terms of flavor but the mouthfeel was like a liquid velvet Elvis painting which pushed it over the edge from fine to great.

Peekskill Brewery Share The Sunshine - Delightfully tart and almost savory. It would do well with a pickle juice back. Lemon zest, malt, and some brett funk going on. Nom.

Galaxy Brewing Company St. Stusan - Cloves, white pepper, banana, heavy wheaty goodness. Not outlandish, nor sub-par. A good and solid drinker.

Finback Starchild - Delightfully puckery and thirst-slaking. Definitely a sour beer. Minimal malt, all sour, with a nice grapefruit highlight throughout that rallies on the finish. Like I said...NY's cranking out sours.

Bar Bacchus Brewery Orchard Sour - The best beer I had all day. The layers of sour fermentation on this one were kind of crazy. It had that sour that tingles the tip of your tongue the one that makes the back of your throat hum. They put some sort of syrup in it (raspberry, I think) which provided some sweetness to balance but, syrups be damned, it didn't need it.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Give It A Light TAP NY

Do you love beer? Do you love sweet, sweet regional food? Do you live in or around NY?

Do you know of TAP NY?

I have known of TAP NY for the longest time, from when I was but a whelp. My neighbor was/is heavily involved with TAP NY as a judge for a long time. He would serenade my father over beers (and myself over a soda) on his porch about the latest happenings of the yearly TAP NY. It first started when I didn't like beer. When my first taste of beer was a smuggled sip of Labatt Blue leftover on the tops of the cans that I was in charge of washing. As I grew, the stories of TAP NY continued and I became more interested as my involvement with the fermentation and distillation arts grew. I wondered to myself many questions during that time.

'There's festivals of beer?'
'You can be a judge at a festival of beer?'
'How do I become a judge at a festival of beer?'

Alas, the fates always conspired against me. From when I turned 21, I was either away at school or undergoing surgery when TAP NY took place. I've heard so much about TAP NY...but I've never been. 12 years of indoctrination into the holy hopfest that is TAP NY and I've never been in my life. But, come this Sunday, that's about to change. I will be dining on Cornell Chicken. I will be feasting on (hopefully) Utica Chicken Riggies. And I will be quaffing beer like my neighbor had foretold. It will be glorious.

And, if you are so inclined as to desire to meet up with me, you too can attend this Valhalla on earth. I urge you to join me in this most dwarven of past-times and drink and eat with me on Sunday or (if you don't like me that much) on Saturday. But how do you pass the Pearly Gates of Porter and Pork? Click the picture below and get'cher tickets! Get 'em and stuff your face like me. It'll be fun. How can it not?

 "Soon Master Elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the dwarves. Roaring fires, malt beer, ripe meat off the bone." - Gimli, son of Gloin, to Legolas