Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cigar Review - Tabacalera Falto Reserva Especial Tres Luises

Decided to go to hang out with my main cigar man Isy at Uptown Cigar today. I was originally going to have something super-duper special to share with you today but it got pushed off until Friday. So, a self-pity cigar was in order. I perused the massive selection Luis from Tabacalera Falto sent me and decided on the R.E. Tres Luises. The cigar is dubbed after the long tradition of Mr. Falto's family of naming their sons Luis. That's pretty cool, I can dig on that. Also, since it was the cigar store I completely forgot to bring my camera (sorry, I'll get better at it) so no pics.

The cigar is a petite belicoso size and I nipped a bit of the torpedo off with my cutter. I checked the cigar for sponginess by ever so gently squeezing it and the foot of the wrapper cracked. Ruh roh, Raggy. I decided to let it slide and light her up. I toasted the foot and then gave her some flame and immediately the burn went to crap. I dunno if it was the humidity but the wrapper burned lightning fast and soon left the cigar canoed. I fixed it and went on with the cigar.

I'd break it up into segments but there'd be no point. The cigar was pretty static throughout. It had leather and nuts for the 3/4ths I smoked, along with the intriguing taste of clean malt, like in a good scotch. The draw was nice, not plugged and drew smooth, it was just kinda one dimensional. It wasn't a bad cigar, per se, just didn't evolve much like the first cigar of Luis' I tried. Would I recommend it? Yeah, I guess. I found it just on the cusp of medium so it'd be nice cigar in the morning when I can't handle a lot of change or too heavy of a smoke, but I feel it lacks complexity. Pat (my friend) pretty much echoed the same sentiment. I dropped one off to Isy so I'll see what he thinks and post it on here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peace Tea Imported Ceylon - Wednesday, Dec. 30th

I've also done reviews of the Green Tea, the Razzleberry, and the Sweet Tea. Since they're linked for your convenience, I'm pretty sure you have to read them now. Besides, the other ones have my interpretations of the can art. 

I love iced tea. I love tea in general but iced tea is an especially fond portion of my beverage consumption. I am, by blood, almost half Scottish so a good deal is also something I'm especially fond of finding. Enter canned iced tea. Arizona puts out about 20,000 kinds of canned iced tea (including the Arnie Palmer, the greatest beverage in the world) in a huge 23 fl. oz. can. All for a whopping buck. $1. One greenback, one smackeroo.

Needless to say, they rank high on my list of Awesome Quaffables.

However, one thing that bothers me about Arizona is they love to use HFCS, or high-fructose corn syrup. It's not that I don't like drinking it because I'm afraid it's bad for me and it'll make me fat (I'm a beverage reviewer and I'm already fat), it's mainly because I don't like the mouth-feel it gives beverages and, honestly, HFCS is generally just too damn sweet. So, while walking through the grocery store I saw a beloved 23 oz., $1 can of tea and I reached for it. But it wasn't Arizona. It was a company called Peace Tea.

As you can see above, the artwork on the can is pretty cool. There's a hand giving a peace sign (obligatory) as well as a guy that looks like Merlin, an Indian chick, a guy in the background that looks like an Oompa Loompa wearing a red chef's hat, a cow, and Clark Kent at 50 off in the far corner. I'm gonna hedge my bets on this is supposed to be the local people of Ceylon. For the record, I want to live there if it means living near Merlin and a neon-blue cow. Anyway, the tea itself is pretty good. The color isn't thin and watery looking, it's thick and rich like a good brewed tea. The smell itself is pretty muted but it smells like a black tea (albeit not a very fine one). But the best part of this beverage is that it's made with real, honest-to-goodness cane sugar. Om nom nom! This tea comes so close to perfection I can almost taste it. Almost. The first sip is glorious: ice cold, perfectly brewed tea with the fresh sweetness of real sugar and just a hint of citrus bite from citric acid. Then the last bit hits. This sickly sweet, chemical-like sweetness.


The last ingredient in this tea is made with my bane of manufactured sweetners: sucralose. You know this by its brand name of Splenda. I hate Splenda solely because the first taste of Splenda dupes you into thinking its sugar, then the aftertaste is like the baby of HFCS and a gallon of methanol. It's this sickly sweet artificial taste that kills it. And this tea doesn't have a lot of it, but just enough to piss me off to levels I've never been to before in my life. If it didn't have the sucralose in it, I would just start funneling this into my body as quick as I could buy cans. But Captain Splenda has to come in and give me a big 'ole "Screw you, buddy" and then leave me with a can of tea that could have been so very perfect.

So, yeah. This is a thinly veiled rant against manufactured sweeteners. I hate them and my degree is probably responsible for creating them. Sweet-N-Low, Splenda, Nutrasweet...they all need to burn. HFCS needs to be dropped into the deepest mineshafts the world has. Plain brown sugar or agave syrup are the best things to sweeten things with, bar none. Oh, and maple syrup. That stuff is great.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cigar Review - Tabacalera Falto Prominente Gran Reserve Especial

Today's cigar market has many, many big names in it. Fuente, Rocky Patel, Drew Estates, etc. There are so many big names that the smaller, more boutique names never really make it to the limelight. And, something I've found, is that they've got as good (or better) product than the big guys. And they're consistently good. Rocky Patel puts out about two new cigar brands a day. Pepin, once really small, now seems to be doing that too. Some of them are hit, some are miss. I've found that if a boutique company has an on cigar...they're usually all on. I've been really getting into the more boutique cigars lately and Twitter has been a blessing for finding the smaller tabacaleras. So...about a week and a half ago I contacted Mr. Luis Falto concerning his line of Falto cigars. Since most places are so small, their distribution isn't well known so I asked Luis where I could find his cigars in NY. Much to my chagrin, they AREN'T in NY (edit: except Davidoff in NYC). But what does Luis offer to do? Send a "few samples" out to me.

I oblige.

Yeah...a "few" was a gross understatement. The man is generous to no end. A big box, fresh from Puerto Rico, showed up at my house today and his plethora of samples were within. I was giddy like a schoolgirl. Normally I don't like to smoke cigars "straight off the truck" but this little bastard of a perfecto called to me with a siren's song I couldn't resist. It was deliciously alluring. Despite the bitter cold outside...I ventured. And I'm glad I did.

Here she is, a little zeppelin of tastiness. The wrapper itself is slightly vein-y with a rather large vein running horizontal down the cigar.

The pre-light draw as all cocoa and hazelnuts. It was kinda like a tobacco version of Nutella. Ommy nommy nom nom. How does that NOT sound awesome. Sorry about the picture quality, I spent the entire time fighting my camera. Just don't venture into full-view on these pictures. They look like ass.

Lighting it and the first few puffs were chocolate, hazelnut, and clean tobacco. This continued on through the first quarter.

See that ash? Yeah, it wouldn't give up. I sneezed twice and it still had a death grip on the cigar. Reaching the middle the flavor evolved. The chocolate went away and was replaced by worn leather and a slight sage-like spice. Very nice stuff. Unfortunately, even though two sneezes didn't shake it me moving a foot to the left did and that beautiful ash fell two feet into those bushes below. It made me a pretty sad panda.

The third quarter saw the tobacco evolving again. The sage-spice came alive and evolved into a spiciness. It turned bitter but I'm going to attribute this to me puffing like a freight train pulling into the station. Choo choo! The ash itself showed some remarkable things. If you'll note, the ash in the center of the cigar was a beautiful snow white, which was ringed by a denser mottled gray ash. Not sure why the center was snow white but it was kinda pretty, even though it probably lacked minerals in the tobacco. Edit: this is probably due to the variety of Dominican tobaccos used. I've never seen a white ash before but Luis said that it's probably due to the broad range of growing areas and their mineral nuances.

Yeah, I legit can't lie to you. This cigar was pretty bad-ass, especially for being right off the truck. The flavor was complex and deep, the construction was flawless with a razor sharp burn (even in the relatively stiff wind I didn't need to touch it up at all). Best of all, the size is pretty much exactly what I love. I highly recommend trying one, if not multiples.

Stay tuned for more from Tabacalera Falto, Ltd. He sent a LOT of samples.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Little Jonathan 2006 Merlot - Sunday, Dec. 27th

My friend, Ryan, is a curious creature. His liquor purchases aren't based on excellent reviews, good reviews, or any review at all. He purchases liquor and wine not by word of mouth advertising, print/television advertising, or any advertising at all. No, Ryan purchases his alcohol based on novelty value. One of his stand-by wines is the Red Zeppelin which he originally bought due to the label. One of his favorite wines are what he affectionately calls "baseball wines", which proudly feature pictures of baseball players on it and classy names as "Schilling Schardonnay" and "Wakefield CaberKnuckle". The first time he ever listened to a recommendation was when I said that the Georgia Moon Corn whiskey will taste like...well...corn. He liked that.

It is rare that I get alcohol based on sheer novelty value. However, when a bottle of Little Jonathan 2006 Merlot showed up at my door (courtesy of the Last Word PR firm, for full disclosure purposes), I was thrilled by sheer novelty value alone. It was Little Jonathan wine. If you can't guess by the title of this post, this can be colloquially shortened to "L'il Jon". Yeah, the rapper. If you don't know who this is, let me refresh your memory:

Did you know that L'il Jon has a wine? I didn't. The better question is: is it worth drinking?

My answer - YEAH! Here are the notes:

The nose is full and luscious. First pour after opening was heavy on a smoked meat and pepper smell, almost like peppered jerky. Om nom nom. It had notes of chocolate and, oddly enough, green apple. Cooked red fruits were there too, like a cherry pie sans crust.

The taste was sweet on the forefront than expected. It is mellow and smooth, with hints of raspberry and light but pleasant sulfur that balances a rather strong flavor of honey. Letting it breath brings out the cooked fruit flavor from the nose.

This...surprisingly...was a pretty decent wine. I won't lie, I wasn't expecting it to be good but its quite decent. Not overly complex and I don't think it would age well beyond more than a few years but fresh it's pretty damn good. I'd drink it with a medium-rare steak. I'd also drink it with L'il Jon too.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cigar Review - Liga Privada No. 9 "The Flying Pig"

Oh that fat little porker of a smoke. Stopped into Uptown Cigar today for a quick smoke and, lo and behold, the No. 9 L.P. "Flying Pig" was in stock. A short fat little mother with a curly-cue pigtail it seemed like just the right thing to smoke. Unfortunately, no pics (I'm pretty bad at remembering the camera) so just a written review will have to do:

Clipped the pigtail off with the Palio. Pre-light draw was dark chocolate and clean tobacco. Toasted the foot then lit her up. First few puffs had a campfire smokiness to it which mellowed out into strong cedar and car leather. First quarter didn't change from this. Second quarter started to develop the cocoa from the pre-light and a stronger leather flavor. Cedar became more pronounced and in stronger quantity. Third quarter the cedar faded and left a touch of leather, a slight maduro sweetness, and dark chocolate. Throughout the cigar there was a baseline ligero spiciness in it that never wavered. I herfed it down to almost the band before I let her go.

The construction on that sucker was goddamn flawless. No touch-ups required even though I thought it would burn like crap due to the tapering perfecto shape. It burned clean and smooth but a bit slow and the ash did not quit until I put the thing in the ashtray. Even then it didn't give up until I kinda knocked it off with my finger. My friend, Pat, who I smoked with also smoked a Piloting Porker said that he liked it but would like to see it in a natural wrapper as well. The cigar tasted pretty damn good. A few moments of harshness but overall it was a smooth and mellow full-bodied cigar. My only real complaint? I'd like to see the same blend in a thinner ring gauge smoke. The perfecto shape was entertaining as hell and it did keep the smoke cool but I prefer my cigars a bit thinner for the Rochester winters. If they had a perfecto in a thinner ring gauge (this was probably 58ish at max, so maybe 50-52ish but the same size), I'd consider this box worthy. It's expensive in NY, I won't lie to you, but I'd consider it.

Berkshire Brewing Company HolidAle - The Christmas Quaff

Ah, quite a prosperous and merry Christmas has passed once again. Santa deposited a heavy treasure trove at the In With Bacchus abode this holiday. I managed to walk away with a variety of goodies to keep me entertained: an Ithaca Arms 20 gauge shotgun, an Orvis beginners fly fishing setup, a knitting kit, a "grow your own herb" kit, and a variety of pirate beer glasses and Zippos. It was also excellent to hang out with the family and dogs and eat some food that isn't served to me with a frown by an ice cream scoop. By the way, spiral ham is awesome.

I decided to cap the evening off with an excellent bottle of barleywine that I picked up in my travels to Massachusetts. As referenced in an earlier blog post, the pilgrimage to Stockbridge/Great Barrington took place on the 23 and I picked up some sweet brewskies from a local package store there. Package store is a great name for a liquor store. It makes you sound more like a functioning adult. "I gotta go to the liquor store" makes you sound like an alcoholic. "I gotta go to the package store" makes you sound like you're going to UPS. Distinctly more positive. Anyway, I picked up my traditional bottle of BBC Holidale Barleywine. Thar be notes:

Pours a nut brown/deep ruby with a finger of off-white head. Extremely heavy lacing down the glass that took about five minutes to wash off once I was done.

Smells of peaches, sweet malts, and (oddly enough) blue cotton candy. That's pretty much the best way to describe that smell. Definitely not a bad thing. I love that rotgut crap. Floral hop fragrance is there but clouded by the malts in the forefront.

Tastes sweet (ha-dur). Fresh baked rye bread, plum, molasses, fresh cream butter, raisins, brown sugar. Touch of bittering hops give it balance. Finish is long and crammed with dark fruits and molasses. Kinda like a fruit cake.

Oh, fruitcake. Right. Who here doesn't like fruitcake? Let's see some hands. Ok, you guys who don't like fruitcake. Fuck you. That's right, I said it. Fruitcake is delicious and, contrary to the Pee-Wee Herman Christmas Special, has more than just a construction purpose. Clapton dark rum soaked fruitcake is great. If you don't want 'em, email me. I'll eat 'em and give you a hearty pat on the back.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cigar Review - Cain Maduro Robusto (5 x 50)

Ahh, nothing like a good cigar. I've decided at this point to put up cigar reviews on here because, if I don't, I'll forget them myself. I've been smoking cigars since I turned 18 and my first cigar was an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature. I'm no slouch. I didn't start off with the Dutchies or the Swishers. I kicked this shit into high gear right off the bat. I typically smoke medium-full (more full) bodied cigars, preferably in a maduro wrapper. My favorites are the Edge Maduro Torpedo and the La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chiselito. Now that you've got a bit of info on my tastes, today's review is the Cain Maduro Robusto. I'd heard excellent things about it from both websites and my fine tobacconist: the ever wonderful Uptown Cigar Company. Really, Isy is a great guy and he puts up with me on a damn near weekly basis so he has the patience of a saint. If you ever need anything, call them and they can probably get it.

Utterly incorrigible shameless plug aside, the notes (sorry, no pics, I was too busy smoking):

I've been digging the punch over the guillotine cutter lately. I can taste the cigar better and I think it doesn't accumulate as much nicotine so I punched the bastard with the house puncher. Pre-light draw was slightly tight but nice and spicy. The Cain is a triple ligero (filler, binder, wrapper) so I expected this thing to be the equivalent of a right hook to the mouth. Lighting it and giving it a few puffs surprised the hell out of me, actually. It had spice, true, but it had this sweetness and gentle leather as well. It was very, very smooth for 100% ligero. I do have to admit that the cigar looked like complete and utter shit though. It was heavily speckled and vein-y but it smoked pretty well. I didn't think it evolved a whole lot but it was nice and spicy with that underlying sweetness, leather, and a bit of nuts in there to boot. Granted, I'm no professional at this but I found it to be a pretty decent cigar. My only problem was that, even smoking it in the store, it tunneled like it cured world hunger. The wrapper just would not burn at all so I had to correct it three or four times during the smoke. But each time it didn't get that foul relight taste at all, just straight and smooth.

So, in conclusion, for $8~ish (NY price), this is a humdinger of a cigar. Sweet but spicy, nice leather and nuts, cheap price, and strong enough for me, I'd buy it again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tactical. Nuclear. Penguin.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Furious Cupping and the Harney and Sons Ti Quan Yin

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I've been swamped with end-of-semester work. Also, I've been furiously and unabashedly cupping tea to submit my reviews to Since I've been slacking quite a bit, I figured I'd put up some images for you to enjoy. Some delicious Bamboo Yi Wu Pu erh from Norbu Tea Company (after about 4 steeps):

Some equally as delicious Jasmin Silver Tips from We Are Tea:

And finally some Kaze Sencha from Boulder Tea:

As promised, my final review of the Harney and Sons Ti Quan Yin, pictured below:

Brew 1: color of pale yellow (above). Smell was earthy and...hoppy...very flowery as well. Taste is wet earth, peach, and fresh cut lawn.

Brew 2: same color. Smell is more pungent. Smells of apricot/peach and fruit sweetness. Jasmine. Oxidized and deep. Tastes peach, green grass. Has a sweet/sour quality to it like a good lemonade.

A quite nice oolong. The peach was unexpected but pleasant. My mom loves the shit out of this so it's always available in the house and that makes me pretty glad. So, yeah. Still going to be busy for the next few weeks, so posting will be sporadic but I'll do my best to do an update at least a few times.

By the it just me or does the title of this post sound like a total bad-ass band name?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Woooo, tea time!

While my actual birthday was uneventfully boring, the birthday celebration was definitely not. Mainly because I got some kung-fu tea action going on. I had needed something to properly cup my tea (as my Krispy Kreme mug with jury-rigged teapot strainer in it wasn't cutting it). So, for my b-day, my parents got me a Harney and Sons tasting set, fresh from their store in Millerton. Here she be:

Look at her. Ain't she a beaut? Made in Sri Lanka of white porcelain, it holds one perfect cup of tea. But, in order to make a perfect cup of tea, one needs appropriately hot water. Before this momentous occasion I had been using water from either a coffee maker or a stove fifty feet from my room. In a kitchen that smells like vomit and failure. Yuck. So...using some spare cash I had in the form of an Amazon gift certificate, I bought myself a Zojirushi 3L hot water pot. Thar she blows:

Yeah, it's really nice. My only problem is you can't just set it to heat to any of the lower temps (140, 175, 190) straight away but rather you have to let it boil and then cool. Not a fast process. Regardless, it does make a fine cuppa. Seen here is the American Tea Room Genmaimatcha I have to review for Teaviews.

All in all, this little setup will make my life significantly easier. Oh, and I can cup tea quicker. And boy howdy, do I love tasting tea.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lhasa Beer - Saturday, Dec. 5th

I am, at heart, a philanthropic man. I may come across as a bitter and jaded alcoholic but deep down I really care about people. You can think of me like Marv from Sin City. Tough and grizzled on the outside, a big pushover on the inside. Normally my favorite philanthropic event is stuffing about $10 worth of change into the Salvation Army buckets over the course of the Christmas season. It's not much but I do my best. However, it came to my attention the other day that there is a way for me to do my favorite thing in the world (drink) while doing my good deed for the week. This comes in the form of Lhasa Beer.

I kinda love Tibet by extension. Frankly, they are the home of some of the coolest people in the world: Tibetan monks. My home being rather close to Woodstock, NY, I've met and talked to my fair share of Tibetan monks. They are...unequivocally...the most awesome people in the world. I'd love to have a cup of tea and chat with them. They're really kind, generous, and interesting people. The stories about where they came from before they went to religion are often tumultuous but in the end they always come to find peace within themselves. And, fuck, even if there are only a few of them in the country, I HAVE to love them. And from what I've heard, the Tibetan people are cool as shit and have to deal with a lot of crap. So I feel for them.

Lhasa beer is a way to help out Tibetans and cop a sweet buzz. The main man, James Casilio, was kind enough to send me two bottles to review and here she be. A pilsner/pale ale like beer brewed in Tibet and imported, 10% of all proceeds from its sale go right back to Tibetan charities. This. Is. Amazing. And, to's a pretty good beer too:

Pours a crystal clear, golden color with a one finger, snow white head. The color is really gorgeous; a very rich, deep molten gold color.

The aroma of pale malt and hops peeks through. Not very complex but pleasant. Slightly floral, like a springtime garden, with a nice waft of a hoppy spiciness to it as well.

The taste is rich honey followed by bitter pine. The spiciness in the nose pulls through, like cardamom and black pepper. It isn't as balanced between the bitter hops and malt as I'd like, but its really thirst quenching. The more I think about it, this is like a pils/ESB kinda beer. Extremely refreshing and highly quaffable. And it's a damn good cause.

So, in short: request this beer. It is a very solid beer (brewed with Tibetan barley and spring water and Saaz hops) and not only is it easy to drink and tasty, it donates to a good cause to boot. Go buy it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birthday Bloggin'

So today is my birthday. 22 is not a very fun birthday, to be truthful. I took a 5 hour train ride from home and studied physical chemistry on the way. Rather uneventful. Thanksgiving was delicious, as usual. We finally popped a bottle of wine with dinner. AND THE WINE WAS HORRIBLE. YES MOM, IT WAS SO BAD IT MADE ME WANT TO CRY.

My mom reads my blog (a mistake) and she made me promise that I didn't "blog about how my mother served a horrible wine". It was actually pretty good. Not a whole lot of flavor but pleasant fruit notes and the label was pretty cool. It had two mice on it and it was from Germany. Not bad stuff.

A very nice and relaxing break. I managed to get a bunch of cupping done and I visited Harney and Sons to pick up some more tea. They finally got in some specialty pu-erh teas so I nabbed some of that. There is a Maocha loose (Ziyun) and a Sheng cake (90's CNNP) pu-erh that I got tasting samples. I wanted to try them there but I made the mistake of going on Black Friday. Yeah, I'm that brilliant. You can view their notes here and mine are forthcoming. I also stole a shitload of tea samples from the home stash so be prepared for those to come.

Oh! I didn't actually mention this, but my first tea review was published on Teaviews on the 24th. Link is here. I have another one up there as well, so I'll try to stay on when they actually publish and post a link on here.

Anyway...stay tuned here. There's quite a few things in the work, including some big-ass things. Monumental things. Things that I pretty much didn't expect to happen because I'm such a tiny blog. Score one for the little guy, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rochester's Finest - Tap and Mallet

Today a few of my friends journeyed to the Tap and Mallet on Gregory Street. I would just like to say that this place is pretty goddamn awesome. We were hungry and thirsty so it seemed like a logical choice. I'd never been but it seemed like everyone else had. I knew, immediately, I would like it. The front door faces the bar, which had a godawful amount of taps on it. When we sat down, the waitress didn't bring the food menu first...she brought the beer menu first. An utter shitton of bottles and about 20-25 beers on tap (and CB UNFILTERED RYE ON CASK). I settled for a pint of Rogue Brutal Bitter. It was just what I needed. Pleasingly hoppy and voraciously bitter, it was a perfect compliment to the meal. The meal consisted of fried pickles (which were excellent but seared the inside of my mouth) and a Cuban sandwich (which was good but not pressed so the cheese is deliciously melty and the pickles are hot). The beer was awesome. I finished the meal with a 8.5oz pour of the Stone/Brewdog Bashah, an excellent beer. It poured an inky black with a espresso-crema colored two finger head. Smelled of dark malt, fruity and flowery hops, and molasses. Taste was a delicious darkness; molasses, licorice, with a powerful hop bite underneath it all. While it was a tad expensive, thanks to the Bashah, the food is decently priced and the beer is fucking cheap as all get-out. If you're ever in the area, you should go there. Your taste buds will thank you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hakutsuru Draft Sake - Saturday, Nov. 21st

Technically, I drank this last night. To be honest, I'm on a bit of a sake kick lately. Sake is really a delicious but delicate beverage that can be sipped slowly while I do work. It also helps that its only 14% ABV and tastes like rice pudding for drunkards. Can't beat that. Here are the notes on this one:

Nose is yeast and rice, very little fruitiness or chocolate. Muted smell. Can't smell alcohol and very few aromatics. Rather odd.

Taste is pretty weak. It is a 14% ABV sake but it tastes like it's been cut way too hard. It's kinda watery; definitely not as robust as I like. It has light rice flavors, a touch of apple/pear, and a little bit of cocoa flavor. It has a slight bitterness to it as well. It has a bit of burn but it doesn't taste like ethanol burn. I'm thinking there's a significant portion of fusels in this stuff.

The finish is short. Little to no flavor on the finish and the aftertaste leaves a bit of bitterness in the back of the throat. was pretty damn lacking. It really wasn't sake, it was more like someone accidentally put a handful of rice in a gallon of water and it happened to break down and ferment. There were really very limited flavors apparent. Even though it says that its a "draft sake" which, apparently, is only aged for a month and is prized for "a light, delicate flavor" sucked. I totally call bullshit on that. I'd rather drink a vodka on the rocks that's melted than this stuff. At least that may have flavor. I do have to say, the bottle is pretty goddamn cool and I will be keeping it to pour my sake out of. It looks like those cool ceramic sake flasks but its glass.

Oh! The only good part about this sake? It was $4.99 for the 300ml bottle. And it had a sweet-ass peel-top kinda lid.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Custom Brewcrafters Unfiltered Rye - Formal Review

Figured I'd throw a formal review of this on the website. You already know what I think about it if you read the last post, so I'll just give you the nitty gritty.

Pours a golden, straw color with two fingers of pearl white head that stick around. Heavy lacing down the glass. Delicious, light color that is quite translucent.

Smells of citrus. Lime specifically. The rye gives the nose a faint spiciness. Very clean pale malt smell, with a touch of roasted smell. Light floral hops.

Taste is spectacular. Like a delicious combo between a hefeweizen and a pilsner. Citrus and floral hops with a crisp malt sweetness, followed by a bready, yeasty aftertaste which closes with a one-two hop punch that gives it perfect balance in both hop profile and malt aspects. I've never had a rye before and I typically don't care for rye whiskey, but I could drink this all day, every day and never get tired of it. This is a fan-fucking-tastic beer. If you're in Buffalo, get it at the Buffalo Tap House. If you're in Rochester, go get a growler filled. If you're anywhere else, weep bitter tears of anguish and pain because this beer is awesome. Or...y'know, maybe we could do a trade or something.


In other news, I'm diligently teaching myself Dreamweaver in a vain attempt of making my own website instead of trying to find someone to make it for me. I'd like to have the website up by January 2010, so we'll see how that goes. Although, if I keep getting growlers filled, the likelihood that I get a damn thing done is really, really low. Also, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, snide remarks, or recommendations, feel free to email me at drinkreviews at gmail dot com. This means email me, please. I like emails. I CRAVE ATTENTION.

Custom Brewcrafters, again!

This time with more pictures! Managed to snag tickets to a brewery tour sponsored by the school, which was an awesome way to spend a Saturday. Arrived by big yellow bus at about 3pm, had to wait in line outside to get ID'd. When the dude checking IDs looked at me, he immediately blurted out: "HEY! I remember you! You've been here before!"

This was embarrassing. All of my friends thought it was hilarious. Screw them, honestly. Some friends! One of them even mentioned that, upon hearing that none of the shirts there fit me, that I should "sew two of them together". It was an awesome day for my self-esteem. But that's ok, because the beer was awesome. I'm pretty much going to let the pictures talk for me. I think that's the beauty of a camera.

The sight that greeted us when we walked in. Rows and rows of fucking taps. It was bliss.

Their giant grist mill holding tank, with the grist mill behind it. That angular piping on the side connects their fully functioning silo to the grist mill. That said silo holds a metric shit-ton of pale malt. JP is staring at me and it makes me uncomfortable.
Their fermentation tanks. And JP getting in the way, like he always does.

On the right is the mash tun with built in sparger, on the left is the boil kettle. On the far left, outside of the picture, is their gigantic water heater. I wanted to boil hot dogs in it.

Going down the line of their fermentation tanks. Note the kegs on the bottom left and my fat reflection in the right-hand tank.

The bubble-over bucket for the fermenters. It smelled pretty good, honestly. It was hard to get a picture because I had to lean over and stand above the diacetin earth filter for their beer.

Massive batch of kegs, with the bottling line in the back (on the left). Lots of kegs. They sell half barrel, quarter barrel, and 5g cylinders. I want a 5g cylinder of their Unfiltered Rye.

Your intrepid reviewer, on the left, with his growler of Unfiltered Rye. That rye is so good I want to wallow in it. On the right is JP, looking like he wants to kill someone with his growler of I forget what. Might have been the Hogans or the Duffs.

As for what I tasted, I tried the (I think) Piledriver IPA, which was a very nice IPA, borderline DIPA (double IPA). I tried the Duffs, which was not really rocking me, the Hogan's Park Ave Ale which was delicious because it definitely had a significant pinch of chocolate malt, two helpings of the unfiltered Rye, and an autumn ale whose name escapes me. Excellent $5 spent? That's a hell yes. That growler was pretty cheap too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey - Sunday, Nov. 8th

I've been waiting to do this review all weekend. I picked a flask of this little beauty up on Friday and I've honestly been a little frightened to try it up until now. Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey is distilled by Finger Lakes Distilling and it looks like a mean son of a bitch. It is crystal clear white dog in a pocket-friendly 375mL bottle and inspired by the fine racers at the Watkin's Glen race track. It has a picture of a race car on it. I'm slightly afraid. Clocking in at a hefty 45%, it looks like it's ready to rock. It recommends drinking it straight from the bottle but I put it in a Glencairn glass.

The nose is probably what a racetrack smells like. It smells like burnt rubber, lubricant oil, and slight wafts of corn. The glass shows it to have some hefty legs. Like Beyonce hefty. The taste is odd. It begins with a heavy dose of corn that tastes slightly musty, followed by the wallop of the 45% alcohol. The finish is the most pleasant though as it promptly turns into very sweet fruit, with apple being the most prominent. The finish is rather long as it hangs out for a spell in the back of the throat and blossoms into a strong fruit flavor. I really don't like the first taste because it literally tastes like musty corn but the finish is fucking delicious. It's like biting into an alcoholic apple. I have an apple here so I may soak some slices in it to see how that goes. Woooof! This is a potent mofo. It wasn't kidding around when it was talking about smooth but with power. Honestly, I don't know if I could get over the forefront taste in order to drink it neat, so let's try it with something.

What's in the fridge?

Yeah, this'll do. I think I'll call it "Southern Hospitality" or something. Seems appropriate.

Yow. At a 2 to 1 ratio the alcohol is gone but that weird smell/taste is still kinda there. I'll work with this to see what I can come up with but as for now, I don't think I'd get it again. The finish is delicious but that foretaste is just...weird and not very pleasant.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pocket Shot - Saturday Nov. 7th

So last up on the review circuit is the Pocket Shot. An intriguing idea adapted to the American market by a man who saw African's buying small plastic pouches of alcohol after a hard day's work. The idea behind the Pocket Shot is a damn near indestructible pouch of 50mL of sweet sweet alcohol, ready and raring to go with you anywhere you want. I got this sample and read all about the packaging in its accompanying brochure. It said, to the effect, that it could probably hold the weight of an average adult human standing on it before it broke. I'm not your average adult male. I'm your average adult fat-ass, but average adult, not so much. So I opted for a more scientific and less humiliating approach. This is the Pocket Shot:

This is a hammer:

Let's put two and two together, shall we? I'll give you a hint. The results? It held up pretty well. I went gentle at first because I didn't want to overstress this thing and watch 50mL of vodka shoot all over my walls. But it held, so I gave it a good whack. I actually hit it so hard it popped off of the counter and slammed into the floor. Needless to say, you're fine. I also tried to stab it with a pencil and my keys and it held against them too, so I think its pocket-safe. But how does it taste?

Into the Glencairn glass (yet again, sorry buddy). Frankly, it smells like rubbing alcohol. Straight up rubbing alcohol. Little bit of grain and a faint wisp of sweetness. I'm drinking it ice cold with a pickle and some black bread, like a good little Russian. It's actually pretty good. Nice and potent, with a grain finish and a slight chocolate taste as well. Warming as it goes down as well. Accordingly, its made in the US and triple distilled. A legit tasty vodka, I will admit. But how does it hold up to...a VODKA TONIC?

Really, really well. It's about a one to one mix here after a few sips I took for a straight tasting. It is quite smooth and barely visible under the tonic water. Would I buy this product? Hell fucking yes I would! I'd kill to try their gin, cognac, and whiskey too but no where around here actually has them. My only problem is they're kinda like the opposites of Weeble-wobbles. You've heard that phrase, right? "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down." These little bastards are the opposite. "Pocket Shots fall down but only sometimes wobble." The bottom could use a bit of a better redesign but the fact of the matter is you're just gonna rip the fucker open and pour it into your body, not take pictures of it like a foreign tourist like I do. So it's kind of a moot point.

Fulkerson Red Zeppelin - Saturday Nov. 7th

My friend Ryan has a habit of buying things purely on an aesthetic level. This is a polite way of saying he like to buy things based on how pretty they are. We stopped at a local liquor store yesterday (Century Wine and Liquor) and began perusing the absolutely gargantuan amount of hooch they crammed into that place. I have never seen so much shit in my life under one roof and I lived with my mom for 21 years (hey ma!). Anyway, yesterday we made purchases of a wholly unholy manner. Ryan bought about 5 bottles of liquor, which totaled an equivalent sum to what his friend Mark bought. His friend Mark bought a bottle of Maker's Mark and some random Drambruie cream thing. Yeah, 5 bottles for $40. It was a stellar trip. We both managed to get two things in common though: white dog corn whiskey and Fulkerson Red Zeppelin. The Red Zeppelin was at his insistence. It was a "pizza and wings" wine and, since I was going to get pizza and wings, it seemed like a logical choice. He said I'd like it.

This is the man that also gave me bacon vodka. I should have been smart about this.

Frankly, I should have been suspicious when the description of the bottle literally says "Come on wine people......LOOSEN UP!"

Yeah, it says that on the back of the bottle. Word. For. Word. They also use abbreviations (like pleasin'). They also recommend chilling it. It is a red wine. They finally end it with gusto by belting out a caps lock "ROCK ON!" because we all know caps lock is cruise control for cool. It is a Finger Lakes red table wine and, dear readers, it is like drinking a potent mix of rubbing alcohol, kool-aid, and anti-freeze.

I was mystified why it said, in laymen's terms, "chill me". Reds are supposed to be drank at room temperature from everything I've learned so a cold red was rather perplexing. Then I had a glass and realized why. If you DON'T chill it it is like going into a diabetic coma with a healthy dose of methanol poisoning on top of it. I'd use cloyingly as a descriptor but that would be an understatement. In retrospect, this would be awesome to distill, or go through a second fermentation, because the residual sugar level has to exceed 50%. It is pretty much the total gross national export of sugar from all of South one bottle. Honestly, I tried nosing this and my nose hair singed off and left me sniffing down mucus that tasted like Luden's Cough Drops. I tried picking out flavors, it was just sweet with an apparent alcoholic content. I tried folks, but couldn't get very far.

However, its actually NOT a bad wine. It is really, really sweet, yeah, but I think it would work well in a sangria. Some citrus and maybe some brandy would even out the sweetness and throwing it on the rocks with club soda would make it pretty damn good, I think. Also, I think it would be a fantastic glaze for something. Get some chicken breasts, some thyme and rosemary, and just marinate the shit out of 'em with some of this wine, then grill it while sloshing some of this stuff on there. That'd be really good. It does taste fruity on closer inspection (I'm drinking a slightly watered glass as I type this) so I think using it as a glaze for grilled chicken would be awesome. It'd make for nice fruity chicken, with delicious thyme and rosemary flavor, and the sugar in the wine would caramelize quite nicely, I think. Upon reflection, I was going to drain-pour this but I think I'll keep it around. I think it will go nicely with some tonic water.

So...yeah. It's a mixed review. As a straight-up drinking wine it's pretty terrible. Very sweet, limited fruit flavors, it doesn't pour well straight from the bottle. But used in mixed drinks, sangria, or recipes this wine's got serious potential.

And it's got a fucking zeppelin on the front of it, so it can't be too bad, I guess. Maybe it pairs well with Led Zeppelin. I'll try it and let you know.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm Not Dead Yet!

I swear. I just had a test today. And I failed it, which means lots more reviews soon!

Oh, and tonight I start cupping all the damn tea I have. Hot diggity damn I'll be hydrated.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Great Pumpkin's Arrival - Technically...November 1st

Oh Halloween, you crafty bastard. You always manage to sneak up on me and you tend to happen mere days before I have an extremely important test. You also herald in the month of November, the month of turkey and my birth so many, many years ago. But you do bring about such sweet tidings. The arrival of a bumper crop of fresh pumpkin pies, the prevalence of those fly-by-night haunted houses that set-up at farms and for-sale buildings, all sorts of lovely things. Most importantly, however, is the prevalence of...the pumpkin ale. There are many styles within the style of pumpkin ale. Some brewers just go with the "spice the shit out of it" format, while others go crazy with the Halloween flair. These brewers often make awesome product...which I have in front of me. Tonight is a review of two beers: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale and Southern Tier Pumking. First is the Dogfish Head.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale:

Pours with one finger of white head onto a body of beer that looks distinctly like a pie in a glass. It is a rusty brown / dark orange color that is crystal clear. No, seriously, I can read the label through the pint. It is a nice color.

Smells of pie spice (nutmeg, cinnamon), brown sugar, sweet butter, pumpkin, and slightly earthy/root vegetable. Ok, I'll summarize that. It smells like a damn pumpkin pie and it makes me so hungry it is borderline unfair. I now need pie.

Taste like pie spice. Pumpkin is present but the earthiness isn't there. Slightly alcohol forward with a surprising lack of malt sweetness. A brown sugar FLAVOR is there, but it's not actually sweet. As a matter of fact, the hops that weren't there on the aroma pull through in the beer, giving it a cleansing bitter aftertaste.

Not bad, not bad. I was going into it expecting a malt forward beer and I was a little disappointed when it was actually more aggressively hopped than I expected. It IS brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg which shined through in the nose and taste but the hops threw me for a loop. It is a bit overwhelming though. Definitely not a session-able beer. More of a "two and I'm done" kinda thing.

Southern Tier Pumking:

Pours a slightly hazy orange, almost like if you squeezed a pumpkin and got some sort of weird pumpkin juice. A one finger snow white head appears that doesn't stick around for very long. Yet again, it looks like a damn pie and I'm still hungry.

Smells like a graham cracker. Vanilla, light pumpkin, maybe cinnamon as well? Oh ye gods above, it smells like a pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust. This is just not fucking fair. Not fair at all! Has almost a melon smell in there too.

Taste is oh god. Oh god its like drinking a pumpkin pie. Oh it's so good. Lots of vanilla, cinnamon, that graham cracker taste and pumpkin. Very nice malt sweetness with medium carbonation that peters off into a slight hop bite at the end. Oh man, I just want to wallow in this beer. Slight caramel flavor maybe? Or maybe a butterscotch flavor. I dunno, its an amazing fucking beer.

Sweet mother of mercy this beer is awesome. Definitely not a "hey, let's drink and watch the game" beer but more of an "well, I want pumpkin pie AND a beer" kind of beer. It's really, really good. Oh man, it is just what the doctor ordered. Buy it, drink it, think of pie. I am burping pie right now. I'm so happy. I am going to buy a bottle of this and cellar it. That's how good it is. Go. Buy. Quaff. Now. At 3am.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


So, after applying to, I have become a full-time reviewer for their website. Glorious. Yeah...that's pretty much all I have to say about that. Go check it out!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CTC Assam and State of the Uni...Blog

Drinking a nice cup of CTC Assam, one of the lower grade Assams offered by Harney and Sons. CTC stands for "Crush, Tear, Curl", a cheap method of automated tea picking that often results in broken bits of tea instead of whole leaves. Normally, I'm all about the full leaf and single estate teas but, as I've said before, there is a time and place for blends et. al. The CTC Assam is the stronger parts of an Assam. My favorite, the Mangalam, has a wonderful body to the liquor. It is strong and assertive and classically "black tea", but it also has a malty sweetness as well. CTC Assam is all "black tea" flavor. It brews dark and astringent, with a wallop of a body and a rather muted nose. The nose smells slightly of the wonderful maltiness but the taste is straight up black tea in your face. No frills, no layers of flavor, nada. Just good old fashioned straight tea. I'd throw a picture up here but you're really not missing much. They look like brownish BBs, curled up into tiny little balls that release this pungent tea upon hot water's command. Why am I drinking this tea?

I have food poisoning.

This and soup have all been thrown down the hatch successfully after waking up to a wonderful morning puke. Missed all of my classes, have to turn the homework in tomorrow. I feel significantly better now and tea, soup, and massive quantities of water have been input and not output, so it looks like we're in good standing.


In other news, I've been pondering about this blog and what I want to do with it. So far I've seen some interest in the topics I've addressed. This makes me relatively happy. It's always nice to wake up, check my Google Analytics, and see how many sheep I have shepherded to my ideas. This said...I'd like to expand further and increase traffic. I want the world to see what I have to say, damn it, no matter how crude and blue I work. I'm currently sifting through how to operate Dreamweaver in order to fill out the website and domain I've acquired and I'm always actively searching for anybody who is curious enough to contact me about anything I've written as well as what I should write about. I'm also extremely open to press samples. Really, I am. I had quite a few up on bat over the past few weeks that I've perused through and, dare I say, it was a rather entertaining endeavor for all parties involved. In the coming days I still have to do a review of Pocket Shots (they sent me a vodka in a "sturdy" package, expect Hammer Time), but other than what press releases companies graciously (and quite mysteriously) send me, I am extremely limited by my own personal funds. I'd like to continue reviewing beverages at the rate I do, but its getting...costly. In the coming months, I may shift a bit more to tea as samples of tea are significantly cheaper to acquire than beer ($7 for 40 cups as opposed to a $2-$3 beer). Either that, or I may start dipping back into the cheap beers, a la the Malt Liquor Adventures. I do suppose most of you enjoy seeing me suffer.

Regardless, if anyone has any questions, comments, concerns, snide remarks, off-the-cuff remarks, crazy remarks, or fish, please email me. The email is drinkreviews AT gmail DOT com. Sorry spammers. I love email, but I only like emails from people that aren't trying to extend my pen 15 or make my non-existent girlfriend/wife/spouse/mistress a lot happier in certain places of sleeping (or...well...not sleeping, be that the case). I'm talking about a bedroom. Sorry, not good at subtlety.

St. Martin Tripel - Tuesday, October 27 (by 7 minutes)

Last weekend was a hectic one. The parents came up and we had a jolly time doing what we do best: shopping and eating at restaurants. Unfortunately, it left me pretty tuckered out and didn't give me a lot of room to review beverages. So, its a bit late, but this is the last of the press pack sent by Abbey St. Martin. It's a big mamma jamma of a beer:

Pours a hazy, golden orange, like looking through a glass of orange juice on a sunny day. Has two fingers of pearl white head that sticks around for a long time. A nice looking beer, almost like an orange creamsicle in a glass. Nice orange and straw color.

Smells of light malt and citrus. Orange peel. Very low floral hoppiness deep in the background. Almost a white pepper and clove smell as well. Lemon as well. Very nice bouquet.

Taste is sweet and malty, almost like a thick slice of crispy bread slathered in clover honey. Very smooth. The alcohol comes through on this one but not in a bad way. It almost lends authority and cuts through the sweetness nicely. Warming. Citrus abounds as well. Lemon, orange, maybe more tangerine than orange. Very light hops on the finish that give it a light crisp edge. Pretty rockin' beer. Slight banana too, I think. As it warms, the alcohol becomes more pronounced but it really doesn't detract from the beer. It just becomes more apparent a) how strong it is and b) how hard it is to type this review.

This is probably my favorite of the bunch. It has the smoothness, lightness, and easy drinking qualities of the Blonde. It has the sweetness and complexity of the Brune, but its not overbearing and heavy. The clover honey-like quality is great. I'm putting this as a A- in my book. I recommend you go out and get some of this stuff. Go easy, though. It drinks smooth, sweet, and nice but its 9% ABV, so sip carefully. Definitely not a session beer, but a delicious beer none-the-less. Go buy it.

Note: Interesting to note, the notches on the bottle give a date of October 08. I don't know whether this is the "brewed on" date or the "drink by" date. I'm assuming brewed-on date as a Belgian with a ABV like this, in a dark bottle, is probably fine enough for aging so a "drink-by" date would be a pretty moot point. If it -does- have a year of aging on it, I'd be interested to try a fresh batch. I'd imagine it'd be slightly more hoppy due to the lupulin breakdown, but I'm thinking the banana-y ester would be more pronounced as they tend to break down over aging. Who knows.

To summarize, a pretty solid line of Belgians. The Blonde was ok, the Brune was better, and the Tripel was the best. Overall? I'd give them a B+, depending on the price of these beers. While I wasn't blown away by the Blonde (while it was a good beer), the Brune and Tripel make up for it. Would I buy most of this stuff again? Yep, especially that Tripel. I'd love to see this in a small sampler sixer for people to try. For a sixer like that, I'd plop $12-$14 no questions asked, going as much as, say, $18. It's a solid beer line from a likable company, so try getting it in your neighborhood ASAP. Contact your local distributor and try to get them in touch with C2 Imports if you like these reviews. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna drink the rest of this Tripel. Nom.

Friday, October 23, 2009

St. Martin Brune/Dubbel - Friday, October 23rd

Next up on the chopping block is the St. Martin Brune, courteously provided by Abbey St. Martin, Brunehaut Beer, and C2 Imports. Enough with the chitter-chatter, I want to drink this damn thing. Thar blow the notes:

Pours an opaque, dark brown, like a medium roasted coffee bean. Has a off-white head, about a finger and a half in the tulip, that dissipates quickly. It looks hearty, really. It definitely looks like its a beer you drink when you snuggle up to the fire with a book and a pipe on a cold winter's night.

Smell is roasted malts, black-strap molasses, and raisins/currents. Slight dark fruit, maybe ripe plums. Does have notes of floral, but not bitter, hops which surprised me. I didn't think it would pull through on such a dark beer. It reminds me of a good rum-raisin bread, or the brown bread you can buy from P&G in a can. That stuff is so awesome. It would probably go good with this beer, slathered with a touch of Irish butter....mmmm....

Beer, right.

Taste is quite delicious. Multiple layers of flavor. Molasses comes through, along with a light dark cherry taste. Tastes slightly like more earthy honey as well. Finishes with a clean taste for being a sweet beer and even has a bit of floral hoppiness to balance it on the tail end. This darker, more reserved flavor that I can't place comes out as it warms which gives it a beautiful evolution as well.

This is more like it. The Blonde was solid; an easy drinker but not a whole lot of "shazam" points but this is a damn good beer. While the Blonde was a Bish, I'd rate the Brune a B+, borderline A- if I had to. It drinks smooth as silk with deep, dark flavors and I legitimately can't believe that it is a 8% ABV. I could drink the shit out of these things, which could be a problem. I'll probably push to get this put into the Belgian section of the local. Would I buy this? That's a big 10-4, good buddy.

Side note: Its potent. I'm kinda getting wrecked off this thing. And I ate not too long ago. Thumbs way the hell up on this. Those Belgians know what they're doing.

Edit: Edited for clarification.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

St. Martin Blonde - Thursday, October 22nd

So, I received my press kit (read: my sweet lineup of beers) from Brewery Brunehaut/St. Martin Beers, courtesy of their importer C2 Imports. Now that the technicalities are aside, let's get onto the reviewing. I actually went out and bought appropriate glassware for this beer. One thing to note is that it comes in a 33cl bottle, which is the most awesome bottle size in the world. It's like a classier version of a Red Stripe bottle. Anyway, review:

Pours a golden, hazy straw color with two fingeres of snow white head. Extremely opaque with a great golden color. The picture doesn't really do it justice as it appears more orange because of the flash, but it the color of a hazy summer sun.

Smells of fresh, clean malt and light fruit. Maybe pineapple? Slight banana smell, maybe because of the Belgian yeast. Slight lemon/citrus as well. No hops on the nose, not even a touch, which honestly doesn't surprise me. We'll see how it tastes.

Tastes pretty good. Nice and light, rather sweet but not overwhelming. Clean malts, light citrus, very pleasing but not really super striking in terms of taste. I was expecting it to pack a wallop being so light but 7% but it doesn't. As it warms, a taste of white grape comes out and a bit of floral hops pokes through but its barely there.

Not bad. A very "light" beer in terms of taste but its thirst-quenching and the 7% don't hurt either. They also sent me a sample of the dubbel and tripel, so I'll be reviewing them over the weekend. Would I buy this beer at a store? Yeah, I sure would, depending on price. I'd pay...maybe...$3 per bottle? It's a nice beer that drinks a way too easy for the ABV but the taste isn't something I'd reach for when I want something brooding or complex. So...yeah, dubbel and triple up next.

Edit: Does not go well with pistachio fudge. Blergh.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Martini

I love Winston Churchill. Anyone that can make retorts like him while absolutely shitface deserves my respect. The fact that he did it with a cigar in his mouth, a drink in his hand, and typically during official dinners with important guests and envoys...well...he's kinda my hero. I had the opportunity to visit the Churchill Bunker in London and it was a magical event. It did, however, take a significant amount of willpower not to steal his greatcoat, put it on, and steal one of the cigars (yeah, the cigars that he actually smoked, way back in the day) from the display and have a grand old party. They probably would have shot me but what a way to go. There is one thing about Churchill I don't agree with. His recipe for a martini. It goes as such:

Step 1: Pour gin into shaker of ice
Step 2: Stir
Step 3: Pour into chilled martini glass
Step 4: Garnish with olive
Step 5: Look at bottle of vermouth and consume

I love the man with my heart and soul but I gotta disagree. While I DO agree that the wrong combination of gin and vermouth makes a travesty of alcoholic beverage, the proper combination is close to the nectar of the gods. It should be EVERYONE'S goal to find a martini ratio that they enjoy and it should take some research. Deliciously scientific research. I have, finally, come to the recipe that fits me best and I feel its high time to share it with you fine folks. So, here it is:


Step 1: Start with quality products. Buying shitting gin and shitty vermouth is not the way you want to go about this. The martini is deceptively simple despite the steps and debate surrounding it and has absolutely nothing to cover up the flaws in the alcohol, so buy decent stuff otherwise it will be like drinking turpentine. I used Martini and Rossi dry white vermouth and Bombay Sapphire gin. I typically use Hendrick's gin for my martinis but I wasn't feeling dropping 30 large on a 750 of gin. This whole setup ran me $20, $21 including premium olives.

Step 2: Start with a Boston shaker filled with clean ice. Clean ice is so goddamn important its not even funny. My ice smelled like French cheese so the martini here isn't so hot. Remember, there's NOTHING TO COVER OFF FLAVORS so get it goddamn right.

Step 3: Use this much gin. I originally did this by just eyeballing amounts into the little cap to the Boston shaker. I -literally- just translated it into an actual amount using a shot glass. It's about 1.25 shots. This is 1.875 oz. Or you could just go with 2oz. and make it college strength.

Step 4: Use this much vermouth. As before, this translates to about a half a shot, or .75 oz. I recommend going to 3/4th of a shot, or 1.125 oz. Like I said, I'm eyeballing this. I know I got it wrong because I remember the taste that I love and this is a touch too dry for me. Yeah, I know. I like a slightly wet martini. Fuck you. James Bond would approve. How many 21 year old guys actually drink proper martinis? Who has two thumbs and drinks martinis? This fucking guy, right here.

Oh! Also. If you use vodka and call it a martini, I will punch you in the throat. It's called a "vodka martini", not a martini. Get it right.

Step 5: Shake vertically three times. Yeah, that's right, shake. As a chemical engineer, all the people that talk about "bruising" a gin piss me off. I will elaborate. When gin is made, there is a direct infusion of essential oils from the botanical stuff straight into the gin. In case you hadn't noticed, ever mix fat and alcohol? They don't go well together. You shake the shit out of it to get an emulsion but eventually it separates out. This same thing happens in gin, you just can't see it. It's chemistry. As they say, "like dissolves like". Polar chemicals (like water), dissolve polar chemicals (like salt). Non-polar items (like fat) dissolve non-polar items (like fat). That's why you can mix butter and oil when you cook and it doesn't look like the parking lot of Wal-mart after a light rain. Thus, the people that say that shaking a gin will "bruise" the gin and mute the botanical essences are full of shit. It's already doing that. But it gets even worse. Remember how a martini is served cold? Even worse! What little dissolution that happens eventually becomes nil because you cool the shit out of the liquid mixture. If you've ever tried to put sugar in cold tea, then you know what I'm talking about. On a molecular level, the essential oils are already going in and out of solution in a steady-state (meaning that no matter how long you wait, the composition won't change). When you chill it, a lot more falls out of solution. I shake because its the best way to get an emulsion between the oils that are coming in and out of solution. Stirring just won't cut it. So if you're intent on only stirring to prevent "bruising"...fuck you. If you just like it stirred then you're cool in my book.

Step 6: Pour into a chilled martini glass. My glass is actually plastic that I soaked in cold-water for about 5 minutes. Yeah, again, fuck you. I'd end up breaking an actual glass one. I'm really clumsy.

Step 7: Insert oil-cured, feta-stuffed olive (on toothpick), into martini.

Step 8: Swirl with toothpick and slide drink down throat.

There you have it, my perfect martini. While it may not be your favorite, I STRONGLY urge you to pick out some quality gin/vermouth and find the ratio that you like. Never, and I repeat, never try ordering a martini in a restaurant after you find your holy ratio. It will never consistently be what you want. This is why you pre-game in your house with friends on good martinis BEFORE going to the bar. But drive safe. Or I will kill you.

Side note: That martini was pretty good. Probably should have eaten something first though.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

SakeOne Sake Flight

Ooooo boy. Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto with Toshiro Mifune as the lead character. Toshiro Mifune is amazing. He is the Clint Eastwood of Japan. No joking. He's a bad-ass mofo. And what better way to pay homage to my favorite Japanese actor than by pairing his legendary acting skills with the legendary beverage of Japan. Thus, the SakeOne Sake flight was born, rising from the ashes of Feudal Japan to be cradled lovingly in my stomach. I'm going to do this semi-live, meaning that I'll update/edit it as I get to each sample.

11:48pm -Up first is the SakeOne "G". Designed to be a 'cask strength' equivalent of sake, it clocks in at about 18% alcohol, firmly kicking the ass of many weaker, shittier tasting liquers. This is a weighty bastard. As you can see, the bottle is black and foreboding, standing like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. My only complaint with the bottle is that its kinda hard to grip and pour with one hand if you have anything other than vice-like meat hooks. The screw-top could use some hatching or something because after chilling and letting it warm a bit, that thing was like trying to grip a fish underwater. But it was worth cracking it open. The smell is rich and fruity, resplendent with rice and even a malt-like smell. The fruit comes with it into the taste as well. Very fruity (pineapple) but clean, so very clean. The 18% ABV is nowhere to be found. Its smooth as silk going down. This is some fantastic stuff. Its so easy to just pour micro bits into a shot-glass and sip it along with the movie. It is also devastating my ability to watch this damn movie.

12:15 - Mifune started a fight with no dead people and a wooden sword. He ended the fight with 5 dead people and a stolen sword. This calls for a drink. Up next is an Organic Nigori Junmai Ginjo sake. I'm assuming the rice is completely organic for this particular beverage. It pours a milky white after a quick shake or two to mix up the sediment. It smells just as fruity as the last, with strong pineapple but it has a hint of creamy richness too. Taste follows with a delicious fruit sweetness and creamy rice flavor. Its almost like a rice pudding with pineapple chunks in it. Very nice, but the 16% alcohol is a bit noticeable. Has a nice anisette flavor on the background/aftertaste too. Normally I don't like anisette but it works well in this situation. I still think its a bit hot though. It does let you know it means business. And so does Mifune. After quaffing a few of these, I'm starting to think I prefer my sake filtered, or seishu. While the creaminess associated with the nigorizake is delicious, I feel it gets a bit too cloying after more than a few. The seishu sake though...I could drink that all damn day.

1:25 - Mifune has learned the error of his ways and he has been freed by a woman who loves him. Hurray! Break out the good stuff. The last bottle is an import by SakeOne. It is the Murai Family Tokubetsu Honjozo Sake, which translates to the best of the best. Aside from the fact that it has one of the coolest bottles I've ever seen, it is an damn fine beverage. Fruity, soft, and crisp, served cold it is an elegant drink. It is not cloyingly sweet but rather fresh and palate cleansing. What is left is a fragrant rice and fruit concoction that is delicious. It has a slight chocolate air on the aftertaste as it warms as well. Deceptively smooth for 15.5% ABV, this is an excellent sake. The rice and fruit on the forefront with the chocolate background make it a pleasure to sip as Mifune rounds out his journey on the first part of this trilogy.

All in all, SakeOne puts out some pretty awesome products. While I can't honestly recommend the nonfiltered sakes as they're really not my bag, they are all quality products and this is no shill speech. If you can find 'em local, check 'em out. They make and import quality product.

Casa Larga and You

How many of you paid attention to my Twitter feed? If you aren't, you should be. You'll get a leg-up on this site. Magical, mystical things happen on my Twitter feed. Like reviews that I don't post here. I'll stop shamelessly plugging this now.

Anyway, had you been paying attention to said feed, you'd know that I managed to pick up subsidized tickets to a wine tasting yesterday. The Casa Larga winery in Fairport, NY, to be exact. I will admit, it was pretty entertaining. We caught the bus (we being me and my friend, JP) from the tech center turned bus stop. We managed to run into a mutual friend on the bus, which was a pretty cool coincidence. But, regardless, more about the wine. The tour was rather uneventful and slightly boring, actually. Since we were college students, they pretty much treated us like idiots, despite the fact that some of us were going to go on to be doctors. They explained the fundamentals of wine production and even went on to insult our taste, which I found super-duper awesome. Apparently, because I'm a college student, I'd prefer the sweeter wines that you don't age (read: alcoholic kool-aid) over the wine that is typically drier and you can age (read: real wine). I was highly amused. I love Kool-Aid and I most certainly like drinking wine that shares the attributes of Kool-Aid. As a matter of fact, I prefer my wine to taste like some sort of strawberry cooler. And if you can serve it to me from a pitcher that breaks through a wall to deliver his sugary-goodness, all the better.


Anyway, we did a wine tasting of a bunch of their wines. The first, and my favorite, was the CLV (Casa Larga Vintage) Chardonnay. It was pleasantly buttery, well oaked, and had nice hints of fruit and white pepper. Less enjoyable was their Reisling, which was too sweet and rather bland and their Pallido, which tasted like the aforementioned Kool-Aid. It was sweeter than the Riesling and even more bland. Seriously, I could have gotten the same effect from adding rum to Welch's. We moved from the whites to the red at this point, going with a cutely named "Tapestry". It had a pleasant nose of slight oak and a garnet like color, but overall it kinda fell flat. It was mostly fruit with only a tinge of oak. It was smooth though. Finally, their Gallery 155 Pinot Noir (155 being CLV converted from Roman numerals to numbers) was the best red of the two. Nice and dry with an awesome, Christmas like spice (nutmeg, cinnamon) and an excellent finish of ripe red fruit. It hid the alcohol mostly but it was a touch hot. Overall, the CLV merited a bottle purchase. I managed to sneak a tasting of their CLV Chardonnay French Oak, which, to me, was too forward on the oak but otherwise palatable.

I will now stop sounding like a flaming asshole.

In summation, decent wine, condescending people. They looked at us like we just wanted a free buzz and treated us accordingly. While, for some, was the exact truth, I feel that if you want to conduct a successful business, you don't view the newest crop of aficionados with that snide outlook. With wine knowledge becoming more prevalent in the under 30 (at least I think) bracket, it doesn't pay to burn bridges before they finish building them.

On to other things! I just purchased and will be desperately trying to build a respectable website. Honestly, I wouldn't expect any great shakes until December when I have time. I pretty much purchased the domain and hosting and subsequently realized I have no fucking clue how to build a website. Whoops. I may throw a pre-made Flash site up there until I can get this shit down but I'm not sure yet. You can pretty much just keep looking here for posts et. al. until I figure things out. Oh, and another thing. Tonight is a two post night. The samples from SakeOne came in on Friday, so I'll be reviewing them tonight while I watch a Mifune samurai film. I figured it'd be a sweet pairing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A wonderful day for tea

Today was a good day in the world of tea. In the world of chemical engineering it was kind of a travesty, but tea had a good day. Nay, an excellent day. Received a package from home today and it had an awesome surprise for me: a new teapot!

Isn't she beautiful? This leaves me in a quandary though. I now have two teapots that I do so love dearly. I don't want to be a neglectful parent. I don't want to stow my old iron tetsubin back in my closet. She's awesome and a potentially lethal weapon. This is her:

Ah, a father's pride for his daughter is an amazing thing. At this point, I'm not sure what I'll do with both of them. I may use one for green tea and one for black tea for reasons really beyond my grasp. It seemed like a good idea though. The black one does hold heat significantly better, not being made of cast iron, so maybe I'll use it when I'm not really paying attention to the tea but I want a few cups while working on something.

In other news, I'm drinking a cup of Lemony Gunpowder. It's the Gunpowder Green I referenced awhile ago, but with a delightful lemon-like topping. Its not bad. I prefer single estate teas but my mom bought this thinking she liked it and...well...realized she actually didn't. So I gave it a good home. It's pretty good. Vegetal, grassy green tea with a slight smoky flavor, all topped off with a light undertone of citrus. Not too bad. The balance is nice but I just can't get this tea to brew right. It always seems a touch bitter and I'm almost 100% sure I'm using the correct temperature and not too much tea. Other than that, it does brew up a decent cup for a cold winter day. Also makes good iced tea too.

Finally, my Harney and Sons Fall Catalog showed up. I won't lie. I did a happy dance in the post office. Some chick looked at me like I was nuts. Well...fat and nuts. But I get the first part a lot.