Ah the Annual MKE Beer Week Post

We’re still doing beer week(s), I guess? So it would seem. Even though every week is beer week if you’re playing it right. Here:

Saturday May 4 – Yes you read correctly, Milwaukee Beer Week got pushed back about 2 weeks, presumably because the weather is absolute shit normally in late April. As I type this, the high today is 72. Jokes on you, event organizers! Either way, kick off beer week over at Vanguard for some 3 Sheeps country jamboree thing which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. That being said, I will continue to fight the good fight telling people how much better 3 Sheeps beers are nowadays. 5 years ago this stuff was undrinkable; in modern times they are easily one of the better Wisconsin breweries out right now. Hopefully weather cooperates and I can have a few Fresh Coast + some variants. There’s a live band too, if that helps.

Sunday May 5 – Cinco de Ma-yo getcho ass to Serb Hall for Discount Liquor’s annual Crafts & Drafts festival. I finally went last year, and it really has become the premier event for Beer Week. Show me another event that you can drink both Cantillon and Hop Butcher. I’ll wait. Tickets might still be available, don’t miss it.

Monday May 6 – Very much looking forward to the battle of the breweries this evening. 20 (?) beer reps stationed at various arcade games. You, a smart patron, will play head to head vs said beer reps for prizes. $12 gets you 40 tokens, one beer, and a slice of pizza. If you haven’t been to Up Down yet, you’re severely missing out. Great venue. (Please note that this is a 21+ establishment)

Tuesday May 7 – Don’t sleep on the Central Waters dinner at Morel. They do only 1 or 2 of these beer dinners a year, but they are legitimate. Third Space is also doing a beer dinner (with pizza courses, I assume) at Wy’east in Tosa. Slim pickin’s for Tuesday I guess.

Wednesday May 8 – The annual Central Waters shitshow at Burnhearts in the ‘View makes its return – guaranteed to be a packed house for the showcase. Some vintage and limited sour swans from New Glarus are being poured at Brass Tap in Greenfield around 6pm. Can I hit both?

Thursday May 9 – The 4th annual Supplier Karaoke Throwdown at Fixture Pizza Pub in Walkers Point. I know what Disney song I’m singing ahead of time this year, so yeah, should be slightly entertaining. You’re welcome. Breweries include Hinterland, Half Acre, Founders, Third Space, New Glarus, Bells, Milwaukee Brewing, and a few special guests probably. I’ve been absolutely crushing Half Acre IPAs lately, and I say with zero authority that they are some of the best in the business. Nothing better than a fresh Daisy, Gone Away, Navaja, etc.

Friday May 10 – The only event that has my eyes is the Perennial showcase at Stubby’s this evening. I’m a huge fanboy and I’ll hopefully still have a functioning liver so I can make an appearance here. Have you had Prodigal in cans yet? Delicious! Hoping they have that along with the Abraxas we know and love.

Saturday May 11 – Beer week comes to a close. Brass Tap, bringing heat again, is devoting all 80 (?) of their draft lines to Beechwood it would seem. Cigar City, Stone, Good City are just a small portion of the breweries finding their way on the wall. Brass Tap did this last year with River City (WI Distributors) (I think?) to a slew of happy patrons. Plus the venue is close to my abode, so naturally I will try to show up.

I refuse to link you to the garbage MKE Beer Week Website, so just trust me and go to the events listed above. Some require tickets, call the venue. Thanks for your continued blog readership, I couldn’t do this without you guys.

 

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In No Way Is This A Best Beers of 2018 List

You know what I’m interested in at my age? Experiencing beer. I like beers at home, but sometimes I also like beers NOT at home. I want that perfect beer for the occasion, that perfect beer with whatever is on that plate in front of me. I want that beverage surrounded by friends on a hot day underneath a patio umbrella in my backyard. I want that! I feel like it’s just too hard to come up with a Top Beers of whatever year it is now list, there’s too much good (but also a LOT of mediocre still). And it may not have been an ACTUAL event, merely a time at some point in the last 360 days where I looked at a beer, I appreciated it’s color, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and really enjoyed the living hell out of it.

I used to create a running list on my phone of exceptional beers I tried. Not this year though, just didn’t feel like doing it really. And reverting back to my quip on beer experiences – who’s to say that can of Hamm’s on a hot summer night shouldn’t make that list? Well, I mean, me. Hamm’s isn’t a top beer. OR IS IT? Exactly. It’s all relative, it’s all subjective. A great beer can be any beer you have at any given time. I’m not making sense, so I’ll just quit while I’m behind.

Here’s a few great beers I drank from the past year around the sun, bolded for you TL;DR folks:

Perennial Brew for the Crew – Your first clue that this is in no way a best beer of 2018 list is the fact that a Munich Lager from Perennial is on it. But you know what? Fucking hell this beer is good. Like, really really good. Reality sets in and your lips are caressing a rye-seeded biscuit cracker with just a hint of sweetness, perhaps the most crushable beverage of all time that isn’t a sour salty gose or a don julio margarita rocks when it’s sweltering in August. This I promise you – a wonderful beer to drink when the Milwaukee Brewers are in a pennant race and laying out their aspirations to get to the World Series. It may not have happened, but that beer happened, and it was downright righteous. Perennial left it all on the field, gave it a hundred percent, when their backs were against the wall, they fought through adversity and brought out the trick play on the white board for this one. A malty dinger. (This wasn’t distributed here in the Badger state).

3 Sheeps The Wolf – nothing is as beastly and primitive as the wolf. It stalks, slowly, carefully, and then outruns the weakest tastebud papillae on your tongue, and just … destroys everything. It’s veiled silky cloak covers your fibrous being, tearing at your flesh, your tendons, your chalk-white sinew. It sprints ahead, leaving an alcoholic bourbon paw-print-trail and fresh-percolated coffee bits in its wake. The lobo howls skyward in your chest, warming with a thunderous crescendo on a cold laminate kitchen floor. It’s black as midnight. Owwooooo, Werewolves of Sheboygan. This barrel program is becoming song-worthy as well, do not sleep on ’em.

Eagle Park Demon Haze – What once held LikeMinds is now gone and from the ashes sprouts Eagle Park. At the helm: some young dudes, some fresh minds, 4 wheels spinning quickly. 4 members of Gorillaz? Coincidence? Either way this beverage is Damon Albarn approved. EP seems to be at the forefront of Milwaukee haze/pastry hotness, and I’m here for their success. Haven’t had the food, but have heard good things. Other hazy shit that is good (?) and also sparked my mind this year includes Lion’s Tail Juice Cloud, CW Unsettled, Weldwerks Juicy Bits. An endless array of hazy beverages and this is where I’ve settled. Among the murk of Milwaukee. As I’ve stated before – are mega-hopped hazy double IPAs good? Like, is it beer? Sometimes I just shake my head and tell myself “No, this isn’t beer, but it tastes good so screw it”. Long live Demon Haze.

New Glarus R&D Kriek – A quarter century+ of brewing, it’s just 4 Dan Carey moustachioed faces on the Mt. Rushmore of Wisconsin brewing.  He is a fucking wizard magician and the better half Deb Carey is the captain of the ship. Steering only through Wisconsin waters, daring to make Belgian beers better than Belgians make their own. A ruby garnet hued elixir, airheads-cherry beats over a funky, oaky snare drum. Sexy jazz with Euro-cafe flare on cobblestone streets. Uptempo carbonation resonates through the outdoor speakers made to look like randomly scattered rocks. I want more of this beer and it’s all gone. Jam-my perfection.

Vennture Brew Co– Every beverage here has a purpose. I can’t pick a singular beer, or coffee really. They are all just so seamlessly blended, so wonderfully drinkable, and an extremely fresh take on the absurdity of the current state of beer. Small, quaint, and perfect. Not loud, or dimly lit, or pumping with heavy metal through the speakers. If I owned a brewery, I’d like to think Vennture is what it would be like. Well-made brews and a welcoming sense of community within the walls. I particularly have enjoyed The Heights, their light bubbly saison. Their Greg/Gregory stouts, medium bodied oatmeal/coffee concoctions that had the flavors and mouthfeel they needed to.  Good things coming from this Washington Heights neighborhood coffee shop/beer haven. Great owners, great beers.

Third Space Ice Bear – A bomb Baltic Porter. Sweet, slightly smoky, succulent, and stitch-me-back-up cuz I’m-going-back-in-for-another, sir. I’ve said it (more than) once, I’ll say it again – these guys are brewing the best beer coming out of Milwaukee. Honestly, it’s not even close. Kevin could find a recipe of a completely dead style of beer, make said beer, and it would be the best representation of that style since its inception. That guy can brew his ass off. Admittedly I really like Baltic Porters and Saisons, 2 styles not brewed too often anymore. The fact that Ice Bear comes to 16oz cans soon has me clapping like Pooh finding the honey jar. Was able to cop a Barrel Aged Ice Bear at Discount last week. The sample I tried was immaculate – slight heat from the Makers Mark barrel it slept in, but then the velvety richness of the base brew comes in to smooth it all out. I drink more Happy Place than anything else by them, but the Ice Bear is just too good to be neglected from this list that means nothing.

Southern Grist Meddling in Minutia – Nashville hazebros playing with new hops. Planning the bible belt takeover, South meets east, old meets new. Cats & dogs, living together. Babre Rouge hops giving off a raspberry – strawberry salad vibe. I’m here for it. Vanilla bean with ripe red fruit in the swallow. Piney hops there too. Get your greens. It’s go time. Anyone else have Babre Rouge hops before? They play tricks on your mind.

Stone Xocoveza – Merry fucking Christmas, Santa brought a lump of coal, but the coal is like a scotch egg – but the scotch egg is a spherical amalgam of chocolate, coffee, cayenne, and spice. Everything nice, and now in 12oz canned form. Cultural appropriation to Mexico, please.

Perennial Abraxas – My favorite beer of all the beers. But this isn’t a best of list, nope not at all. This item could probably be an asterisk in the Xocoveza forum above, or vice versa, as they are both quite similar in execution. The viscosity of Abraxas is what really  wins me over time and time again though. It’s impossibly silky, massively thick, like fresh melted fudge with a peppery spice that’s doesn’t get in the way. Finally dropped in Milwaukee last week, no clue as to why it was so late this year vs. years past. Local cats 1840 Brewing Co have brewed what I hear is a similar beverage to this, titled “Mexican Drinking Chocolate”. I have a bottle coming my way and I’m very intrigued to see how it compares.

New Belgium / Oud Beersel Tranatlantique Kriek – An expensive cork and caged ruby-throated hummingbird. Expensive price point per ounce, only to be indulged when you can give it the utmost time and respect that it deserves. It made a long journey across the ocean, it demands your full presence. Two Kriek’s on a best of list? Not possible.

Odell Myrcenary – Making a getaway again, the resiny sticky perfect example of a double IPA. Clear in appearance and a snap-bracelet smack on the tongue. The benchmark from Colorado, and now thankfully distributed in the dairy state. Don’t sleep on it. Don’t make them regret sending beer here. Please.

New Glarus Moon Man – <description not found>

Mikerphone BA Velvet Coffee Ground – Cold espresso. Warm whiskey. Cat Stevens on the turntable. Or Velvet Underground, whatever. Enjoyed at Madison’s Great Taste of the Midwest in August. The only standout beer of the day. I can’t keep up with them releasing a new beer every day of the week, but of all the Miker stuff I’ve had, this is the one I keep dreaming of.

So there you go. It had some stouts, some sour beers, and some hoppy beers on it. I neglected to discuss amazing trips to New Orleans, Denver, etc. etc. I neglected to mention that every ounce of liquid I had from breweries like Side Project and Burley Oak were exceptional, so exceptional that I can’t choose just one. I neglected to take good pictures. Either way, in closing, just promise me you’ll only drink good beer in 2019. Let’s make a pact.

I hope you enjoyed reading my favorite beers of 2018 list. I’m a sham.

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Noshin’ and Drankin’ in Nashville

For our 5th anniversary, the wife and I decided a few months ago that we were gonna go to Vegas. Lights, sounds, shows, debauchery. But we’re 35 and poor, so Sin City really wasn’t a viable option to be honest. So where to go instead? The human/cattle-corralling plane service known as Southwest Air offered $120 round trip flights to Nashville; no brainer. The music city it is.

This trip revolved around food more than beer. Matter of fact, we only visited 2 breweries in the 4 day span that we were there. We couldn’t stomach purchasing Predators tickets ($130 per for nosebleeds? NHL is a hot ticket, apparently), and we didn’t do the touristy avenues of Broadway and Printers Alley (we visited them last time we were here, about 5 years ago). So, here’s a list of the fun places we went this time around.

Day 1Biscuit Love. Yes, that breakfast place you’ve no doubt heard something about. We arrived very early into Nashville, so early that when we waltzed into the Belmont Biscuit Love location, we were literally the only 2 in there, aside from the employees. I’d heard of hour+ long waits at the original location, but we were served some pretty badass breakfast jams within 10 minutes. I guess 8am on a Thursday isn’t prime biscuit time. We couldn’t check into our AirBnB until afternoon, so we killed some time at Top Golf, which is a fun way for people who suck at golf to swing some clubs and still suck at golf. It was hovering around freezing, so my first beer of the trip was consumed around 11am, a Yazoo Hop Perfect IPA. It was not very good, so I’ll just assume it was poor line cleaning/maintenance and just move on. After a few hours of contorting my body to hit a tiny ball into a larger-than-normal hole, we still had some time before our home away from home was ready, so we dipped into a local theater to watch A Star Is Born. Yes, this is a blog for beer, but holy shit have you seen this movie? I don’t care if it’s on the 4th iteration, that flick was damn good and Coops and Gaga were electric. ELECTRIC! Day 1 dinner was pizza and beer at a small joint called Slim & Husky’s, an operation which reminded me of Subway sandwich artists but with pizza. The thin pie was good, and I finally got to indulge in a local Bearded Iris ‘Homestyle’ IPA, a hazy little number that was both sweet and hoppy. Perfect representation of the style, with a fun vanilla sweetness. Place had about 14+ tap lines, which was impressive for the size of the venue. They projected Scarface on the wall while B.I.G. was coming through the speakers. Clutch.

Day 2 – After some much needed rest (we were up at 3:30am to head to the airport), we drove over to the famous Five Daughters Bakery. Now, I was skeptical about a $4.50 donut, and now that I see it in text, I’m even more upset, but, you go on vacation for a reason. I would say no donut needs to be more than $3, but these were quite life changing. “100 layer donuts”, as the gal behind the counter called them. 100 layers? We were notified it takes 3 (THREE!) days to fold the dough into these little dessert breakfast orbs, and god dammit, were they good. I went super white girl basic and had a chocolate pumpkin cheesecake donut, which had pumpkin frosting injected into the heart of the beast. It was magical, to be honest, and now I feel like I don’t even need to visit a Voodoo Doughnut location. So thanks Five Daughters for ruining donuts for me forever. The noon hour came around, and we moved on to the first brewery of the trip – Bearded Iris. Yet another brewery located in a worn-down industrial sector, without knowing the backstory, it seemed as if Bearded Iris bought an abandoned warehouse, cleaned it up, painted,  threw some fermentation tanks inside, and started brewing. This operation looked gritty and small, with a mahogany-wood tasting room nestled up against stainless steel vessels. It was a Friday, so tons of folks were coming in to grab 4 packs of whatever hyped 16oz beauties they were releasing. Wife and I played some board games while I indulged in ‘Chief of Chiefs’ Double IPA, ‘Moon Dust’ – a collaboration stout with Colorado’s own Weldwerks, and ‘Mood Ring’ – a sour double ipa with a shocking amount of mango, guava and pineapple. ‘Moon Dust’ was by far my favorite – an impossible pastry stout with coffee, vanilla, cacao and marshmallow, and who knows what else. Diabetus in pure liquid alcohol form. Truth be told, Bearded Iris was not that impressive visually – a little dark and cold, but you can tell they are pumping out a serious amount of cans at this place – I’d guess the tasting room is about 8% of the entire warehouse space. From what I could tell, there is zero room to expand, so clearly they’re doing well. They were busy during the hour we were there, so never bothered to ask to go behind the proverbial curtain. Maybe next time. They did have a food truck outside but we opted to bring our own food from Party Fowl – some pretty good Nashville hot chicken was had. And again, since this is a beer story, I’ll opt not to tell you anything about the Third Man Records tour we took after Bearded Iris – I’ll only tell you that if you’re in Nashville it’s a MUST stop. One of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. Prepare to spend some coin.
Also visually stunning was the setup at Old Glory, a cocktail bar cut into an old factory. The original smokestack is still there, and clearly the focal point of the space. It’s cavernous identity mimicked the spirits list – which went on for pages & pages. Any spot that serves aquavit is ok in my book. Our time was cut short as our reservations at the taco joint next door came much too quickly. Put it on your list when you visit, and spend enough time to appreciate the space and peruse the cocktail list. Not to be missed. It’s the place with the golden triangle painted into brick around a black door – speakeasy nerds unite.

Day 3 – Arrived with bubble guts and farts. Yeah, I shoved a bunch of shit in my body over the last 2 days and now I was paying for it. But we fight through the pain – it’s vacation, remember. We visited a breakfast joint called Yeast and had some Kolaches (Klobasniks) (think pigs in a blanket). Why there’s not a spot in Milwaukee that makes this delicious thing is beyond me. We took them to-go and visited Bicentennial park’s rendition of the Greek Parthenon. It’s very strange but really neat? Even stranger was listening to some  Belmont college boys sing a capella under the great columns. Nice acoustics but I felt as if I were in a Pitch Perfect 4 Flash Mob; guerilla marketing at its finest! Our next stop in the afternoon was Southern Grist Brewing‘s northeast location. It was a beautiful day, 60 degrees and the kids were arriving on those Bird scooters as if their lives depended on it. I was extremely impressed with the staff, beers, and venue here. Bartenders were super nice, knowledgeable, and were working their asses off. Almost every person in the place had a flight board – four 5oz pours on a serving tray in the shape of TN. How annoying for them, but a necessary evil. It was 90% full on a Saturday afternoon, and a calm line formed at the bar almost the entire time. Beers were above average – I love to hate on hazy shit but when the beer is good – it’s good. ‘Chopper Series: Zombie’ was a beer-ded take on the Tiki drink – puzzling but quenching. ‘Superposition’, made in collaboration with Cali rockers Young the Giant – was a soft, smooth fruity pale ale hovering at 5% – I could drink a 4 pack easily. ‘Mixed Greens XXXI’ was a sticky dank NE IPA that sent resinous waves over the outer edges of my tongue. Best of the day was ‘Dare Devil’ – an imperial stout with loads of coffee added. Bitter, roasty, perfection. More of that please. Did not get to the Nations taproom on Centennial blvd, hopefully next time. Either way, get yourself to Southern Grist, which has now supplanted itself as my favorite brewery in Nashville. If your’e a first timer, Yazoo is certainly worth your time as well, but we didn’t stop this trip.

Day 4 – We visited the Belmont Mansion during the day. My stomach didn’t want me to have beer, so I listened to it. At night though, the highlight of the trip: Rolf & Daughters  was simply great. Impressive server knowledge is what I took away from the evening – our guy knew everything about anything. He may have been bullshitting, but I highly doubt it. Incredible shareable plates, hand-made pasta, and a pastry chef that I wanted to hug forever. A kaleidoscope of flavors that I can’t remember or even begin to describe, but if you’re looking for a fun place to have food you haven’t seen or heard in awhile, or ever, this is your spot. Had 2 great cocktails and even finished the meal with some crazy Spanish fernet or something, I don’t even remember. I’m not a restaurant reviewer, but Rolf & Daughters was the pinnacle dining experience for me this year.

So that’s Nashville. An hour & 15 min by plane or a long yet beautiful (after Indiana border) 8 hour drive to the Music City. Just go already. Cheers.

 

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Milwaukee Beer Week 2018: Let’s Do This Again, I Guess.

Holy shit you guys, it’s April! The first quarter is a distant memory, and that’s real great. Also great: our local watering holes gearing up for a showcase of big beers, fun events, and general debauchery. If you’ve been hibernating all winter, it’s time to meander out into the world to taste some fermented liquid and spend some money. The following is a list of my preferred events day-by-day.  Lord knows I won’t make it to all of them, but dammit, a man can dream right? Let’s get after it:

Saturday April 14 – Coffee Beer Brunch @ Stubby’s. I am all aboard the #teamcoffeebeer train. Not much like a java-infused depressant flowing through your arteries while you shovel hollandaise sauce into your face area. 3 Sheeps, Central Waters, others. Start with a good base for the week, your loved ones will appreciate that.

Sunday April 15 – Crafts & Drafts @ Serb Hall, developed and produced by the liquor store of our dreams, Discount Liquor. Portion of this beer ‘fest’ ticket price goes to Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance. I have no idea if tickets are still available, but just look at this beer list and eventually pick your jaw up off the floor. If you can’t make it to Crafts & Drafts, just have a Sunday funday and drink a beer from your cellar, because beer is made to be consumed.

Monday April 16 – Mondays suck. This Monday will suck less no matter where you’re at in the metro area. Two events to note here – If you wanna party north of the wall, check out the BeerFriends event at the Highland House benefiting the Humane Society of Wisconsin. It features brewery vets such as Sierra Nevada, Bell’s, New Belgium, and New Glarus, among others. Fun gems on tap, and the ability to win some swag. But really I just wanna party up in the ‘quon for some #burbdrankin. If you’d rather stay within the city, Rumpus Room is paying homage to Weyerbacher, a criminally underrated brewery that doesn’t get a lot of love here. In a shocking display of awesomeness, I’m told that there will be a rep on site during the event. What!? That’s incredible, given the circumstances (lots of events to compete with) and proximity (Weyerbacher is in Pennsylvania right?). Rumpus is bringing heat this year, and they have a good amount of total events, so I’m hoping a few Weyerbacher brands stay on tap for a couple days. Moving on.

Tuesday April 17 – I’m gonna miss it this year, but the Central Waters beer dinner @ Morel has always been a favorite of mine. Morel is very good at creating unique dishes and pairings at their dinners, I can’t promote them enough. The after party is next door at Camino if you don’t want to spend the cash on the dinner because you’re a broke fool. Speaking of beer dinners, there is a cellar-oriented beer dinner at Erv’s Mug in Oak Creek this night as well. I’m told there is a 2011 North Coast Old Stock Ale barrel that is itching to see the tap lines. Imagine the sex in that glass, my word.  Some big heavy-hitters for this dinner, Uber to and fro, please.

Wednesday April 18 – Central Waters flock takeover at Burnhearts brings all the boys to their yard, but I’m flying over to Third Space for their ‘In the Spirit’ evening. The St. Paul Ave brewery is bringing out most/all of their barrel-aged releases from the last few months, and variants as well. Both events will be packed, I guarantee it. Gentle reminder to be patient and tip your bartenders.

Thursday April 19 – Because I live close, the New Belgium Trivia at Whole Foods Tosa Tavern gets underway around 6pm. Their Thursday special is $3 draft beers, and it really doesn’t matter the brand. That deal is stupid good and I love it. Not sure if New Belgium’s new hemp-forward, ganja-smelling brew ‘Hemperor’ will be there or not. After “playing trivia” there, I’ll be making a fool of myself at the 3rd annual supplier karaoke at Fixture Pizza Pub in Walker’s Point. I suck at singing, but after your 8th beverage it doesn’t really matter, does it? I don’t know the tap list, but Fixture is typically pretty good about bringing in a fun lineup.

Friday April 20 – Third Space at Tomkens. Giddy as a schoolgirl to see what sauce flavors chef Brian comes up with for the feature. Authors note – I don’t smoke.

Saturday April 21 – Beer week draws to a close. Your liver is a shriveled raisin, beckoning for an IV drip and gallon of ice cold water. But you’re a professional, and *we’ll* stumble into Vanguard together to celebrate The Wreckoning 4. Another Surly takeover, including 4 versions of Darkness. Always a good time at this establishment. Grab a sausage and a table outside on the patio (hopefully, looking at you, weather!) and commiserate with everyone about how garbage-y you feel.

Let’s do this again, I guess.

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A Trip to Gulf Shores, AL & New Orleans, LA.

Wisconsinites can admit that, as beer consumers, we live in one of the most saturated (read: great) beer states in the union. But take a plane trip a few hours south, and one really sees their options dwindle. It’s not all bad though, as I found out firsthand when I spent 8 days in Gulf Shores, Alabama with a 20 hour stay in the big easy last week. Some  thoughts:

State alcohol laws aren’t just shitty in Wisconsin, they are in Alabama (and probably every other state too!). I learned that a brewery can’t serve food on site if they want to distribute their beer outside state lines. Alabama is weird, because of course it is. Unfortunate how small businesses are punished because alcohol laws are still stuck in the 1940’s. I digress.

Another interesting factoid about Alabama: Their liquor stores only contain wine and spirits. They can’t sell beer.  Grocery stores sell the beer, stand alone liquor stores provide the booze and grapes. It’s strange. I picked up a sixer of Jai Alai, and a few local cans at the grocery store when I was there. I didn’t bother going into any liquor shops.

While ‘craft’ hasn’t quite exploded in the deep south, it is nice to see breweries such as Dogfish, Founders, Sierra, New Belgium, Cigar City available. The smaller brewers down there are doing good things – it’s just that finding them isn’t always the easiest. Quality, I noted, was better than I had anticipated. Granted, many of the micro styles down there are incredibly simple: the amount of ambers, reds, browns, and low abv IPAs are rampant. That being said, my favorite of everything I had in Alabama was from Good People Brewing out of Birmingham. A dynamite dank 7% IPA and a roasty, deep Coffee Oatmeal Stout clocking in at 5.7% were the two I continued to go back and drink.

Orange Beach, AL: Albeit a bit of a tourist trap, a stop at Flora-Bama is a must. For those in the industry, marvel at the unbelievable c02-pushed liquor room in the pics below.  Yes, those are bottles being sent to various bars on site via the rail gun. Incredible. Other spots worth visiting: GTs, Cobalt. Seafood is good, and I like it.

Gulf Shores: I had fine experiences at the Mellow Mushroom (southern pizza & beer chain), Island Wing Co (baked wings and a lot of AB stuff on draft, but not terrible), Mikees Seafood (name says it all). Lots of Coors, Bud Light, and Yuengling. And then, a diamond in the rough – Big Beach Brewing Company. A beacon of light in the darkness of macro swill, Big Beach was a great spot for locals to chill and have a well-made beer. A small 10 bbl system provided us with fermented ales and lagers – the tap system hooked up to 10 brite tanks. Fresh and fun, Big Beach Brewing’s beers were clean and refreshing. Wonderful space as well. Space for kids (GASP!), dogs, frisbee golf, and live music.

And then, there is New Orleans. Rich history, iconic music, and massive flavors – in drinks and in food. It is easily my personal favorite place in terms of top cuisine/beverage in the U.S. There’s just something about drinking in NOLA. I’ve only been there twice, but each time I feel like the bars I’ve visited are somehow familiar, cozy, *mine*. Take for instance the Avenue Pub on St. Charles Ave. A bar that I deem to be the best in America – I’ll fight you to the death on this. It’s open 24/7/365 and has a shockingly great beer and whiskey list. It’s curation is a thing of beauty, so to meticulously page through it could bring a tear to ones eye. Grabbing the clipboard from the bartender which has tap brews, bottles, and the whiskey list is like being given a liquid rosetta stone. The Avenue is my Zen, my perfect moment, my desert Island bar. You walk through the doors and you just feel like you’ve crossed the finish line in an ultramarathon. It just feels right. Case in point – at approximately 5pm, my wife and I sauntered into the semi-dark first floor bar after a rainstorm that dumped a few inches onto the coastal city. Patrons filled 75% of the place, almost all had a fermented beverage in their glass, the air was cool around 65 degrees, windows still open. Upon a glance of the (long, sexy, and intimidating) beer list, lo and behold – Dieu du Ciel! Peche Mortel stout, and the variants to boot – almost 10 of them, just waiting to be imbibed. Bourbon aged (delicious) and ‘Peche Latte’ (not so delicious) were had.  I’ve never had food here, but if you’re a vegetarian you’ll be happy, lots of that green stuff available.  The vibe can’t be beat, and sitting on the second floor – whether inside or on the gorgeous balcony overlooking the streetcar and the beads hanging from trees – simply cannot be improved upon.  I could easily spend half a day here drinking my way through their whiskey library and inspiring domestic/international craft beer list, and I think I will next time I visit. It’s my favorite bar that I’ve ever been to, and I just don’t see that changing. Leaves me awestruck every time. Unpretentious, unwavering, and probably – underappreciated.

Stein’s Market & Deli, on Magazine st., another must-stop spot in New Orleans. Searching for their ‘beer room’ is half the fun – go through the kitchen (it’s ok), around the cooler, behind the dough mixer, through 2 doors, and a miniature alley, and voila – beer room. A room filled with whales (there were 3 cases of CBS there) and local stuff (Gnarly Barley brewery to name one, because that name is hilarious) intermixed. Blend your own 6 packs, and make sure to grab some of the … what the fuck, why is there Jester King here? Owner says they got a one-time drop for a festival the week prior. Sounds good to me, let’s try to keep the damage under a $100, I think to myself. Never an easy task. After spending too much money at Stein’s, head next door to District Donuts. Pastries the size of a raccoon, and coffee in many forms on draught. I opted for the “you’re gonna need a dentist appointment soon because all your teeth will rot away” Vietnamese Cold Brew Coffee. A sticky, sweet concoction pumped full of sugar and sweetened condensed milk. I was jacked up, ya’ll.

It’s not all about the beer in N’awlins though, because cocktails. Cocktails, an absurd amount of them! I’m not talking about sugar-bomb yard grenades that will have you puking in under an hour – I’m talkin Sazeracs, WHICH I FORGOT TO GET AGAIN, GOD DAMMIT. After an odd dinner at Coops on Decatur (it was like Ed Debevics, no lie), we bounced next door to an amazing cocktail joint called Cane & Table. A love letter to Rum (Cane) and simple, but delicious Rustic cuisine (Table). Another example of a cocktail list that is unique as well as inspiring – had a ‘flu cocktail, their take on a whiskey sour, which is probably the best whiskey drink I’ve ever had. Spicy ginger notes, deep raisin sweetness from the rum float – and there it was, a small oaky burn from the whiskey in the back end. Heaven in a glass – another must-visit if you go to the French quarter (which you will). I love great cocktail programs, and paging through theirs was a highlight for sure. And now, here I am writing this, while another browser tab has me paging through the 1930 edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book. Life is better with good food & drink. Anyways, you could spend weeks here gallivanting through the streets eating and sipping, and if you do, please let me know. There’s many more spots to get to. But for the sake of you, reading this, please start off with the Avenue, Steins, Cane & Table, and District Donuts in the am.

Pictures.

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My Top 20? Beers of 2017

So last year I told myself I wasn’t going to come up with a ‘best of’ beers list for the year. Reason being is that there’s so many beers you DON’T have, and you simply do not know if they were better than the ones you DID have. Does this make sense? Either way, I stuck to my plan. I didn’t really write anything down review-wise, I didn’t keep a tally and I didn’t really remember any extravagant palate destroyers. Beer is a bit more fun when you take a step back from it and just enjoy the god damn beer. In another shocking display of hypocrisy, I did develop 4 lists of Top 5 ____ beers, and thus – unknowingly a Top 20. Even when you win, you lose. So, without further ado, my very odd Top 20 Beers of 2017, in absolutely no particular order:

20) Veil – Old Lions
19) Veil – Misery Wizard
18) Veil – Vermicious Knid
17) Veil – Whangdoodle
16) Veil – Hornswoggler with Columbian Single Origin Coffee
15) New Glarus – Moon Man
14) 3 Sheeps – Paid Time Off
13) Third Space – Mocha Java Porter
12) Good City – Motto
11) Black Husky – Sproose 2
10) Samuel Smith – Oatmeal Stout
9) Dieu Du Ciel! – Peche Mortel
8) Victory – Storm King
7) North Coast – Old Rasputin
6) AleSmith – Speedway Stout
5) Mikerphone – Gettin Freaky
4) Fair State Co-Op – Spirit Foul
3) Old Nation – M-43
2) Tree House – Julius
1) Monkish – Foggy Window

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I’ve Been Drinking a lot of Veil Brewing Co Lately

So I’ve been drinking Veil like it’s going out of style. I really don’t have a specific point in which I decided to start acquiring them, yet here we are. Downing 16oz cans and barrel-aged bottles at breakneck pace. Typically running around $20 for 4-pk 16oz cans, the Richmond, VA based brewery has seen recent accolades due to their massive hoppy offerings, bourbon aged stouts, and experiments in spontaneous fermentation. Nearly everything I’ve had from them has kept my interest piqued, eager to try something else. I don’t like trading for beers, especially since WI has an embarrassment of great beer on shelves and in bars. But since beer is meant to be consumed, I started to trade some of the cellar stuff I had for some fresh hops, big stouts, and weird adjuncts from the Virginia brewery. Some nerds go nuts for Monkish, Tree House, and the other newcomers your local neckbeard boasts about. I’m sticking with Veil. Here are my favorite 5 I’ve had in 2017. WOOO!

5) Veil Brewing Old Lions – In late Spring, my Veil fandom became cemented. An 8.5% double ipa with juicy additions of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Motueka hops. A cloudy orange flavor bomb that had a huge malt backbone to combat the bitterness. An odd rustic, earthy note really rounded this out. Hard to explain but easy to sip.

4) Veil Misery Wizard – Black Friday isn’t just for crazed communal mall trips anymore, and if you’re reading this, you already know how big of a cash grab the day after Thanksgiving is for breweries. Veil is no exception – they held “Darkest Daze”, a Black Friday event showcasing 5 (?) different dark brews for sale in package among many other offerings on draft at the taproom. Matter of fact, most of the beers on this top 5 Veil list are from that day. Shoutout to 2 dudes who sent these my way after the event. ANYWAYS, Misery Wizard was an imperial porter with coffee and cherries. Reading that description, to say I was concerned or puzzled would be an understatement. However on first taste, you did get a little cherry sweetness with a large roasty coffee tone, followed by sweet cocoa. It was a mouth circus, an odd beverage that somehow wasn’t a confused mess. Would drink again. 10.7% collab with 18th St. Brewing.

3) Veil Vermicious Knid – First off, I don’t even know what a Vermicious Knid is. Secondly, this was described as, essentially, a sour milk stout. I do not like sour stouts, I prefer my sours to be sours and my stouts to be stouts. I don’t like when brewers cross the streams, just my personal taste. So, a tart chocolate milk stout aged in French oak red wine barrels for 15 months. This can’t be good right? Wrong. Quite possible the only sour stout I’ve ever enjoyed. Really, like a combination of chocolate stout blended with a funky red wine and a dash of bacteria. Another strange offering that had me going back to my glass to try and decipher it.

2) Veil Whangdoodle – A Willy Wonka bar in liquid form that took a nap in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels for a year+. A delicious concoction that was thick, sweet, and full of vanilla and oak notes. 12%. Scary and sweet and I need more.

1) Veil Hornswoggler ‘Colombia El Obraje’ coffee – As I continue my quest to find the best coffee beers on the mainland, this one probably took the cake as best of the year. An impossible amount of coffee earthiness, chewy, with a dark plum/pomegranate slight sweetness in there too. Like drinking straight cold brew with a touch of lactose. I’d even say this balances the line of…’is this really beer’? Just a wonderful coffee stout, and better than their espresso version, and light years better than their peanut butter cup style as well.

K that’s it. I like the Veil. Why should they get their own top 5 post? I dunno, but it happened and I’m not deleting it. They don’t distribute outside of VA so if you want any, be prepared to shed some coin and/or brewskis. Thanks for reading. Happy New Year. Drink good beer. Try some new shit from an odd little place like Veil in Richmond, VA but also make sure to drink a Fat Tire or Cali Lager every now and then.

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