Saturday, August 30, 2008

If you don't drink Pearl Street Beer ...... then F*** you!

While the title isn't their real slogan, it should be. Pearl Street is awesome beer made by awesome people. Every employee is passionate about their beer and I believe this title could be an unsaid explanation for how strongly they feel. This means that every beer is an easy drinking, full flavored beer of consistent quality and uniqueness. If I was sitting in a bar staring at all their beer on the tap lines, it would be really difficult to choose which beer to drink first. The Rolled Oat Stout is milky sweet and somewhat light in taste. Unlike some stouts where your stomach is full immediately after drinking it, this organic stout can be enjoyed all night long and in most climates. I also really enjoy the El Hefe in taps and bottles, while Downtown Brown. D.T.B is basically their flagship beer and can be found in many restaurants and stores.

This weekend I was lucky enough to go to the brewery(directions) and visit for the first time. So being a Pearl Street Virgin I couldn't wait to drink every beer and soak up the atmosphere. Walking into the brewery is like walking into a hardwood cottage, beautiful yet inviting. A dog is running around, great music playing, customers laughing, and tasty mustard pretzels are on the bar. The tasting room is set up like a wide open bar with lots of seating and reasonable prices ($2-3 pint), how cool is that! I was greeted with a Dankenstein IPA which recently won "Most over the Top Beer" at the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, WI. This imperial IPA is hazy dark brown in color and carries an amazing aroma. It has a very floral, hoppy smell and for an Imperial (9.5% alc/vol) IPA it is very well balanced. It's delicious lingering finish brings all of my taste buds to life in a way that I feel them all screaming "Thank You". Some big, full-bodied IPA's may have great flavor but absolutely ruin your palate for the evening (think Ruination IPA by Stone). The Dank is measured at 104 IBU's which is technically over the limit...but not under arrest. Whats an IBU?? For how bitter this beer is supposed to be, its so smooth and tasty. There's a slight alcohol burn, but actually pleasant.

The Dankenstein is currently out at the brewery, but I hope Joe (Brewmaster) decides to brew another batch in the near future. For anyone interested in this beer, Nicky B. and Allie saved me the last Dankenstein Growler and sorry to sound like a 3rd grader, but you can't have none.

Speaking of growlers, which are half-gallon btls, how many breweries do you know that reward you for drinking their beer and recycling? Purchase a growler and receive a free refill for every 10 6pk holders that you return in good condition. That's just one small reason to visit Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse and the tasting room is open Tues-Fri 4-7Pm and Sat 12-5PM. The tasting room is right in the brewery and is a smoke free, clean environment. Great music, cool people, and enthusiastic yet knowledgeable bartenders. This is the perfect atmosphere for tasting beer and enjoying a great afternoon or evening with friends!

I'm curious for any reader's thought about Pearl Street's Beer and tasting room! Were you lucky enough to taste the Dankenstein?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mexico= Cerveza, Runs, overall great time!

Taking a trip to a remote part of Mexico anytime soon? Please remember my three incredibly useful travel tips:

1. If a Mexican woman offers to cook you food....try everything. It's a sign of respect and tastes awesome.

2. Always stash Toilet Paper because you will need it and can't bank on any place having it for sure. Consider only drinking beer and bottled water.

3. Don't you dare purchase a Corona or Modelo...if you think that is Mexico's best beer, you suck. Try a Victoria!!

I just returned from a trip to Malagana, Mexico to visit family. When I said a remote part of Mexico, think ten hours past the border with dirt roads, small family owned businesses and farms, chickens and dogs essentially run wild. I stayed on a ranch with mostly family who all only spoke Spanish. My weak language skills didn't help, but I was able to find common ground through saying Salud ( "Saa-lude" which means Cheers) and drinking beer. I drank Cerveza Preparadas and Micheladas. A Preparada was a canned beer, luckily Pacifico, with lots of tomato juice, hot sauce and shrimp with a slice of lime. It was actually pretty tasty but so hot I had to chase it with a Sol Con Limon which is similar to a Miller Chill but a lot more bitter and salty. A Michelada is like a poor mans bloody mary but seems to be too much tomato juice, like how a Bud Light Clamato tastes. Another Grupo Modelo beer I tasted is the American lager-ish Estrella which is light and refreshing but pretty bland and finishes kinda tasting like dirty socks. now I have quoted beers that taste like Budweiser and Miller products. Please, please keep reading! Because of my willing tour guides ( brothers-in-law) I was able to discover Mexico's Oldest Beer. Victoria has been brewed for over 140 years and to this day is only sold in Mexico. It pours an amber head with caramel sweetness and is overall really refreshing. It has great flavor and a crisp, clean finish. One of the darkest Mexican beers I have had but is so smooth and reasonably priced. We drank from Cawhlomas(40 oz bottles) for 20 pesos, which is only about US$2 and $5/6pk. It was a crowd favorite and more popular with the locals than any Corona, Modelo, or Sol. I wanted to sneak a few cases of Victoria back across the border but I am a pansy, and as you know the USA has some apparent beef with Mexico.

In my mind Victoria is like Fat Tire in Colorado and Yuengling in Pennsylvania. Great regional beers that are very popular, but not widely distributed. Enjoying a Fat Tire in Colorado is something that everyone should do at one point in their life (but be sure to enjoy New Belgium's other beer more).

Please do yourself a favor and enjoy a Victoria on your next Mexico trip! Also, tip number four, plan ahead and bring pepto bismol, I know it sounds bad but you will thank me.

Readers: What is your favorite Mexican Beer?


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Random thoughts

Dear Readers,
You are the few and the proud ( but not like the marines). Thanks for keeping up with us. I am heading to Mexico this next week to visit family and possibly try a few cervesas/margaritas. My Spanish is rough, but I know how to order a beer and ask how to get to the bathroom so I should survive. If I call you it means I am trapped in a Mexican Jail and need your help so please answer!!! But seriously, when I return I'm planning a visit to Pearl Street Brewery in historic La Crosse, WI to taste some beers, receive the grand tour, and loiter. So check back soon! Please give your thoughts to Ben and as always....cheers!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Unbridled Passion: Wild Horse Cabernet

My boss Mark had bought blackberries from a farmers market yesterday and offered me a handful on his way out of the liquor store. I threw back the handful of blackberries and the delicious taste lingered in my mouth for the next ten minutes or so. The Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon had a similar effect on my taste buds and honestly tastes like the freshest blackberries with a slight hint of clove. It pours plum colored and full bodied in the glass which looks almost like a glass of grape juice...I guess that's what it is in the long run. When it hit my palate it was intense at first, but finished so soft and clean. This is definitely the best cab I have had from Paso Robles ( which means "pass of the oaks"-this cab is aged in French, American, and Hungarian barrels). Paso Robles is an appellation on California's Central Coast and is most popular for pinot noir. Wild Horse was actually one of the first wineries to make high quality wine in the area, but isn't the only company 25 years later. Estancia, J. Lohr, and Justin are other wine producers who have helped make the area famous with help from the soil, climate, and wide range of growing conditions that allow these wineries to basically produce any variety of wine. The Wild Horse website said the Cab could benefit from 10-15 years of cellaring. I must address this thought because I am not at a point in my life where I could resist drinking a bottle this good for ten years. It would sit in my cellar(assuming I had one) and literally call my name out every day/night until I finally caved and ended up drinking it straight out of the bottle. It was blackberry velvet in a glass and fully worth the price tag!

Any thoughts on this bottle or other Wild Horse wines??

Cabernet Sauvignon 91%, Malbec 6%, Blaufrankisch 2%, Syrah 1%
Alcohol: 13.9%
Case Production: 37,000
Release Date: January 2007
Suggested (CA) Retail: $20

*Big Red- thanks for this tasty treat!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pinot For The People!

I love Pinot Noir.
I favor it over other varieties due to it's consistent approachability. It's not because of the movie Sideways, either....just for the record.

I decided to write about Mark West Pinot Noir for a few reasons. First, I'm drinking it right now. Second, it's a staple in our store (festy). Third, I can't pick out a better bottle of Pinot for the price. We've sold this bottle for over 2 years now at $9.99, and not only has it been our best selling Pinot Noir, it's been one of our best selling bottles of wine.

If you check out the website, it really exemplifies the concept they're trying to convey in their wine: Pinot for the people.

This wine brings some serious fruit. The color is very light, and the nose has a soft raspberry component along with a slight toastiness. On the palate I experience a bit of cherry/raspberry, with a dash of cocoa, and a drop of toasty strawberry for the finish.

I'll give this wine two thumbs up completely based on value. To get this much fruit out of a pinot noir, normally you have to pay at least 15-17 dollars minimum.
Even if you don't like wine, or have never even tried it, this is a great bottle to start with.

Okay, I'm about finished now. What I want from your feedback!
I know there are people who have visited this website and not posted anything. (That means you--Nate, Mark, and Chris!)

Until next time.......whether your glass is half full, or half empty, .......I just hope it's at least got something in it.



Thursday, August 7, 2008

Oktoberfest in August?

One of the hardest things about exploring wine and beer from other countries is the difficulty of actually reading the label. It can make people nervous and afraid to actually improve their palate and try new things. Even though I work in a liquor store I still have a few fears when trying new products. My co-worker Ben and I decided to have a little "Oktoberfest in August" tasting to actually sample some of the beer we have been curious about but nervous to try. Heres the lineup:
Kostritzer Schwarzbier
Erdinger Weissbier
Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel
Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel

My favorite of the night was Kostriker or Kostritzer Schwarzbier, a german style black lager (schwarzbier explanation). It had a roasty aroma and taste that was lighter for a dark beer and the cleanest finish ever. It really tastes like the last part of your Cocoa Krispies when the cereal is just soggy enough and the milk turns into chocolate milk. That full bodied delicious chocolately-ness is the best part of the whole bowl of cereal, and this might be the best black beer I have tried recently. I also like the Sprecher Black Bavarian and Sam Adams Black Lager, but the Kostriker is an inexpensive way to take a trip to Germany and enjoy every sip. This would be a perfect beer for someone easing their way into drinking darker beers.

Being a hefe-weizen fan I couldn't wait to try the Erdinger Weissbier(wheat beer). It is full bodied with an almost sweet aroma and taste. Great wheat beer finish with no maltiness. Still has the german beer smell and feel and isn't as fruity as most american style wheat beers. We also sampled the Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel which just means dark wheat beer. It seemed to have a heavy maltiness to it and tasted somewhat burnt. To me it had good qualities like the regular hefe, but as if the ingredients were left on the stove a bit too long. Kind of intense in a bad way.

Last, but certainly not least, we tasted a few brews from Weihenstephaner. It's the oldest known brewery in the world making beer since 1040. Honestly I didn't learn a whole lot of history in school and college, but take the virtual tour of this brewery and learn more about the origins of beer. It is a little long winded but pretty neat. I have tried a few of their beers and the Kristal Weissbier totally woke up my taste buds. Pours really bubbly and incredibly clear..clearer than any beer I have seen before. Almost looks and tastes like a glass of champagne or sparkling wine. The aftertaste of this heavy beer is sweet and semi-sour, but thirst quenching. Keep in mind that even though we are certified purveyors of the High Life, "eat your heart out Miller cause the Kristal Weissbier is the champagne of beers!-Ben" This beer could easily be the toast of your next beer tasting or new year's celebration! Weihenstephaner's dark wheat had great flavors of milk sugar and chocolate. This hefeweiss dunkel had much better taste than the Erdinger we tried earlier in the evening.

My conclusions from this tasting are simple. German's know their beer and people shouldn't be afraid by the labels. When you break down the labels and do some research it is much easier to feel comfortable in the import beer section. This Oktoberfest style beer tasting was an awesome idea, all we were missing were brats, music, these girls and enough beer to make us look like those guys...until next time, Cheers!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hail to the Cluny!

"I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly" ...Ron Burgundy

Scotch wasn't the easiest drink ever, but it has grown to be one of my favorite. I enjoy single malt scotch, and plenty of blended scotches too! Big shout out to Daniel at Beaver Liquors in Avon, CO for teaching me how pleasant scotch really can be, in addition to many other things! Of course I love single malt scotches, and the Balvenie 12 Year and Macallan 18 are my favorites. However, I am also broke on a regular basis and unable to afford higher end single malts. Cluny Scotch is darn inexpensive and with some rocks and a splash of water it is very tasty and smooth. It has a slight smokiness thats light on the band-aids and peat flavoring. Probably one of the best values I have had in a long time because it retails $7-8 per Ltr with a very solid taste.

Readers: Please let me know if there is a
better value for Scotch around!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Wine Review: Francis Coppola Claret 2006

“Our prize offering... a new, ultra premium, Francis Ford Coppola Black Label Claret. This label honors the first California Cabernet blended in a Bordeaux style, done by Gustave Niebaum in 1910. This newly designed label and package are designated “1910 type” after one of the classic California blends of 1910. This is truly timeless quality in a classic blend style, available at a price my friends can afford!”
—Francis Ford Coppola
I might be too young to know much about Francis Ford Coppola and his movies, but I am just in time to enjoy his wine. Over 30 years ago he purchased acreage in Napa Valley from one of the original Inglenook wine producers. With an urging from Robert Mondavi he began to put actual effort into wine making and today is one of the top wine producers with grapes growing in Napa, Sonoma, and all over California. In fact, through some financial struggles it may have been his wine production that essentially bailed him out. There is more history to the story, check out this Square Meal interview for more cool facts about his films and wines.
I have tasted this Diamond Series wine previously, but I was more than happy to refresh my memory! Claret is historically a Bordeaux styled wine that features cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petite verdot and cab franc. A California claret tends to be light and soft in comparison to Bordeaux's produced in France, and the Coppola Diamond series is awesome! It is soft and smooth with delicious blackberries and a velvety texture that would be pleasing before, during, or after a meal. There is a bit of dryness, but this blend really smooths out the cabernet sauvignon and the result is a delicious red table wine! A bit out of my price range at $14-20 a bottle...not very close to my normal $8 spending goal, but it is worth every penny. The best thing that I have found about Coppola wines is they are reasonably priced and consistent...consistently excellent! I have tasted most of Coppola's wines and really enjoy the Rosso, Malbec, and Zinfandel.

Readers (Drinkers): I haven't tasted many other claret's and would love to hear your opinion about this Coppola wine and other claret's that I should try! Cheers!

Red Blend
79% Cabernet Sauvignon,
9% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot,
3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc
Alcohol 13.8%
Aged 12–14 months in French oak
Released January, 2008
p.s. thanks to Nate from Gen Bev for hooking us up with this wine!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Battle of the Wisconsin Farmhouse Ales

Not that I am looking for a replacement, but the old Huber Brewery (Minhas Craft Brewery) has used creative marketing and packaging in attempt to influence my most trusty brew. If anybody has spent time staring into their local beer cooler at a liquor store lately, you may have noticed a oddly shaped 6 pack...I mean 8 pack. The Lazy Mutt Ale is packaged in an 8 pack of bottles and carries a New Glarus cardboard like style. The bottle talks about how the Lazy Mutt is man's best friend, and until this tasting my best friend has always been a chubby, smelly Spotted Cow. I poured both beers side by side and both are a similar golden color with an average amount of head on the pour. The Cow is more cloudy while the Mutt appears light and transparent. Both of these beers are labeled "Farmhouse Ales" but they differ greatly in taste.
The Lazy Mutt has aluminum and skunky hints, yet it comes out of a brown bottle. Imagine standing in a barn full of hay and horses and that is my take on this beer. I would rather pour the Lazy Mutt in a doggie dish for a dog to drink, ha or one of my friends who has been "overserved" and will drink anything. I really wanted to like this beer and support the folks at Huber Brewery ( or whoever they are actually owned by now), but I must apologize because I am unable to. Of course I still finished the whole beer, but it's as if they pulled a lime/lemon out of a haystack and added it to a nice wheat beer that is combined with Blatz or some other swill. The initial taste is decent, but my mouth turns upside down quick and continues through a brief , almost sour finish. I always attempt to order a new style of beer or from a new brewing company, but Spotted Cow is my standby...the beer I can always trust and enjoy each savory drop. It's a medium bodied farmhouse ale with hints of corn and wheat that finishes smooth and delightful. The Lazy Mutt doesn't even come close to Spotted Cow, and due to laziness, probably never will. I encourage all readers to go out and buy both beers to taste next to each other, hopefully your liquor store has a "Pick your own 6 pack". You can call me an idiot; I doubt you will, but please let me know your thoughts and we can all enjoy having an open mind to sample something new! It's a quick way to throw back 2 beers, see you at the bottom!

Spotted Cow Retail: $6-8 per 6 pk bottles *Newly in $12-14 12 pk btls*
Lazy Mutt Retail: $7-8$ per 8pk btls

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Minhas Lazy Mutt Farmhouse Ale

<span class=Lazy Mutt "Farmhouse Ale"

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A Golden Ale/Blond Ale brewed by
Minhas Craft Brewery

Monroe, Wisconsin USA


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