Sunday, February 26, 2017

Guilty Pleasure: Juice Dumping Behind Closed Doors

My father used to say... and he still does, "Fruit doesn't belong in beer, son." He's the type of dude that will halt a bartender about to put a lime in a Corona like a robber caught red-handed. And I get it. And I understand a lot of beer purists think the Eastcoast juice-bomb IPA trend is trash. And there is suspicion around some breweries, that they dump juice in their beer post-brewing. But as an Oregonian that started my craft beer drinking adventures disinterested in bitter Westcoast IPAs, and what I thought at the time was how all IPAs tasted. Flash forward to living in Brooklyn, NY during the N.E. IPA boom, in a city making some of the best of this style in the country. Flash forward again-- I move to Seattle, WA where a legit Eastcoast IPA is pretty hard to come by. My current mindset is: juice dumping? Hell yeah juice me, gimme the juice, I need the juice.

So I started doing some research-- which beer styles made the best bases to add juice to, and which juices blended best to compliment each style. After what felt like attending an in-home beer festival, I found an exceptional pairing for 6 craft beers ideal for juice-blending and their perfect juicy match.

Pairing 1: Toppling Goliath - PseudoSue (Pale Ale) blended with Welch's Grape Juice. 
Anticipating that this was going to amount to nothing more than sacrificing one of the best Pale Ales in the country to the drain pour gods-- I was ecstatic to discover, after finding the proper ratio of Welch's grape juice that it turned out fantastic.  In-fact almost comparable to Other Half Grape Contemplate. For whatever reason most breweries have strayed from grape flavors sans wine grapes like Pinot Noir. Perhaps because there aren't many hop varieties that manifest grape juice notes on their own.  Grape and Pale Ales are a match made in heaven due to the Pale's typically soft hop bitterness, and grape being one of the most interesting of the uncommonly brewed but easily accessible juice flavors to blend at home. 

Pairing 2: Stillwater Nu-Tropic (IPA brewed with Mango & Passion-fruit) blended with Kern's Guava Nectar. 
This super soft juice-bomb is a tropical fruit paradise as is. But just wait until you add Guava. If there was a beer cocktail made for every state in the U.S. then this combo would be a keen representative for Hawaii.

Pairing 3: Belching Beaver Deftones Phantom Bride (Westcoast IPA) blended with ICEE Slush Fruit Punch. 
I'll wait for you to finish laughing... This combination is actually quite magical. Keep the ratio of Fruit Punch low, like around 10-15% of the blend-- it's potent stuff. Revive your inner 8-year-old self, Fruit Punch is basically just sweet sugary nostaglia in the form of a squeezably fun juice-pouch. 

Pairing 4: Voodoo KillaPilz (Pilsner) blended with Kern's Peach Nectar. 
Peach has become semi-common place within IPAs and Sours, but peach and fruit in general have been pretty neglected from the Pilsner style. A crisp pils with a strong malt backbone and a hoppy finish such as KillaPilz makes an ideal home for the succulent summer stone-fruit. 

Pairing 5: Grist Berliner Weisse blended with Kern's Apricot. 
No Pimpin' isn't being sponsored by Kern's...  After tasting tons of juices I concluded that they make some of the best in the affordable and easily accessible juice on the market.  Sure straight from the farmer's market or fresh squeezed at home would be ideal but those aren't always very convenient options.  Grist makes this traditional style Berliner Weisse with the intent of having the drinker add syrup or juice to it themselves. The Apricot's sweet-tartness is a divine supplement to the Grist's wheat-bodied sourness. 

Pairing 6: Bridgeport Cream Ale blended with ICEE Slush Cherry Frost.
Cherry is used a lot in beer but the Cream Ale is a beautiful untapped vessel for the sweet dark fruit. Cherry Cream, It even sounds delicious, and it is. Just like the Fruit Punch I would recommend adding the Cherry Frost sparingly, its sweetness is pretty intense. About 10% worth and you'll have a frothy cherry dessert treat fit to substitute in place of your favorite cherry-vanilla soda fountain cream soda.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

1000 Check-ins: The Best Of Weird Beer

After just recently trying Cantillon Gueuze for the first time, my 1000th distinct beer on coincidentally my one year anniversary since joining Untappd-- I felt a best-of issue was in order. But you know Pimpin' doesn't do anything basic.  So here's a list of the most enjoyably weird, interestingly unusual, and deliciously unique beers I've tasted from the past 1000.

25, Other Half - Grape Conversate: It probably doesn't sound that weird, but grape flavored beers are pretty rare, and this one is just grape IPA, juice-bomb, hop candy, surrealness.
Pimpin': 5.00  Untappd: 3.73

24. MAD - Salt: Not like a Gose. It's just straight salt to the veins. This ale is mad salty and I don't mean upset.
Pimpin': 3.75  Untappd: 3.43

23. 14er - Rocky Mountain Saison: Jalapeno, Cilantro, Lime-- impressively easy drinking for such intensive flavors.
Pimpin': 4.50  Untappd: 3.59 (less than 150 ratings last I checked)

22. Laht Neppur - Hot Chocolate Strawberry Porter: Okay this almost didn't make the list because the adjuncts aren't that crazy, but believe me when I say I've tried tons of fruit-chocolate stouts and porters and this is the only one that tastes legitimately like hot chocolate and strawberries combined.
Pimpin': 4.25  Untappd: 3.81

21. Mollusk - Squid Eyes: A German-style Swartzbier brewed with real squid ink. There's very subtle sea salt on the tongue and finishes remarkably clean.
Pimpin': 3.75  Untappd: 3.61

20. Council Guava Tart Saison: There aren't enough breweries using guava, and most saisons aren't tart enough. I'm not a huge guava fan or saison fan but this beer converts both for me. Council also makes a whole arsenal of other fruit sours.
Pimpin': 4.25  Untappd: 3.97

19. Valiant - Orange Slice Candy Sour: Remeber those gummy candies that look like orange slices? This tastes exactly like a sweet-tart version of those. Best Halloween party-favor of all time.
Pimpin': 4.75  Untappd: 3.88

18. 10 Barrel - Cucumber Crush: Too sweet for some, too sour for others, so cucumbery for all, I can't enough of this beer. Pair it with a rooftop in the summer.
Pimpin': 4.50  Untappd: 3.85

17. Ten Ninety - MPH: Cayenne and pomegranate juice, with a bittersweet dark chocolate porter backbone. This beer will confuse your tastbuds, but the adventurous drinkers that taste it with an open-mind with be rewarded handsomely.
Pimpin': 4.25  Untappd: 3.88

16. Omnipollo - Magic 420 Vanilla Waffle: They were serving this as an ice cream float at a tap-takeover at Brouwerij in Brooklyn, I opted for just the beer. I wish I went back for seconds and tried the full experience (there were new Tired Hands releases on-tap that night, what's a man to do?). If you've had this with the ice cream please leave a comment about your experience-- I'm dying to know more.
Pimpin': 4.75  Untappd: 3.61

15. Almanac - Heirloom Pumpkin 2014: Sour rye brandy barrel-aged pumpkin barley wine... wrap your head around all that. Trust me when I say it's just as hard to wrap your perplexed tongue around all these flavors when drinking it.
Pimpin': 3.75  Untappd: 3.89

14. Brooklyn - Kaedama Ale: Made specifically to be paired with the famous Ippudo Ramen (thought of by many as the best ramen joint in NYC and one of the top in the U.S.). Brooklyn Brewery executed the challenge to perfection, I've never had a beer that went better with ramen.
Pimpin': 3.75  Untappd: 3.84

13. Two Roads / Evil Twin - Geyser Gose: Two words: Icelandic Moss.  This is one of my favorite collaborations of all time and one of my favorite goses. It's just so refreshing in both the unique sense of the word and the definition of thirst quenching.
Pimpin': 4.50  Untappd: 3.84

12. Buckman Botanical - Double Fruitcake: It's baffling how fruitcake-esq this is. Now I'm not a fruitcake fan. Are there fruitcake fans out there still?  But this brew gets plenty of points in my book for accuracy.
Pimpin': 3.75  Untapp'd: 3.13

11. Baird - Wabi - Sabi Japan Pale: Woooo, that's what brewed with Wasabi tastes like. It doesn't have much of the heat, but it definitely has the spice notes, most prominently in the finish.
Pimpin': 4.0  Untapdd: 3.39

10. Firestone Walker/ 21st Amendment/ Stone - El Camino (Un)Real: A dark strong ale that drinks like a stout with: licorice, vanilla, dried mission figs, pink peppercorns, fennel and chia seeds. It's a tribute to The El Camino Real Highway that runs through California-- the three collaborating breweries took a road-trip together collecting random ingredients along the way... that oddly enough work together quite nicely.
Pimpin':4.25  Untappd: 3.89

09. Fremont - The Rusty Nail: I proclaim Fremont the Kings of making cocktails into stouts, the court is dismissed. This dark and herbally anise monster is definitely one of, if not the best stouts I've tried in the past year.
Pimpin': 5.0  Untappd: 4.55

08.  Postdoc - Ghost Reaper Pumpkin Ghost Pepper Porter: Please stop hating on Pumpkin beer already and try this. It's impressive how much Ghost Pepper flavor is in here and the heat is balanced well enough that your taste-buds aren't burnt off-- so still you get to savor all that great chocolatey roasted pumpkin porter goodness.
Pimpin': 4.25  Untappd: 3.90

07. Woodland Empire - Set em' Wild Set em' Free Beet: Beets in beer sounds weird, it is, but it's also sour and amazing. Don't be afraid of this brew, it's too special not to try if you get the opportunity. Woodland Empire makes several tasty peculiar sours, another to look out for is their Juniper + Rye (it tastes like a pickle sandwich).
Pimpin': 4.50  Untappd: 3.39

06. Carton - Grape Swisher: A ridiculously smoky rauchbier, Its truly like smoking a liquid blunt, the fruity grape kind all the young hipsters that are too cool to vape are using these days.
Pimpin': 4.25  Untappd: 3.57

05. Spiteful - Goddam Peanut Butter and Jelly Porter: Just take my money. PB and J is all I ate as a kid, and this is all I want to drink as a... technically I'm a grownup I suppose. All the flavors are spot on and this one goes down dangerously easy for being so rich and creamy.
Pimpin': 4.75  Untappd: 3.75

04. Great Notion - Blueberry Muffin: The shnozberries taste like shnozberries and this tastes uncannily like a blueberry muffin. Seriously I've eaten actual blueberry muffins that taste less like a blueberry muffin that this beer.
Pimpin': 4.50  Untappd: 4.31

03. Big Al - Time Capsule August 2008: A small batch brewed once over the course of 8 years while adding random beers to the mix along the way. You know those chefs that use a cast-iron skillet to cook everything and never wash it so everything they make holds the essence of hundreds of mouthwatering dishes created before it... this is kind of like that but in a super complex and balanced ale.
Pimpin': 4.50  Untappd: 4.12

02. Dogfish Head - Wastenot Pruno: A Collab with Chef Mario Batali for their popular web-series That's Weird, Let's Drink It. They use old overripe, about to be thrown-out fruits and vegetables repurposed beatifully into a tasty veggie-vinous experience that is best enjoyed pour from a cask.
Pimpin': 4.25  Untappd: (no rating only 8 check-ins last I looked).

01. New Belgian - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen (Lips of Faith series): There's no way I can prove to you that this isn't going to taste disgusting unless you have a chance to try it for yourself. Kudos to New Belgian, if you thought they were old news you have another think coming, these old dogs are still schooling the competition with new tricks.
Pimpin': 4.0  Untappd: 3.40

Monday, October 10, 2016

NYC Bartender Series: Whiskey and Beer Pairings

Whiskey is to beer what cheese is to wine. Okay, maybe that's a bit of a stretch but if the crazy influx of bourbon barrel aged beers is any indication, there's a special place for whiskey in the hearts and palates of many beer lovers.

We asked seasoned New York City Bartender/Mixologist (Mixologist is what the highly trained, fancy ones are called these days) Nick Jackson from Ward III and The Waldorf Astoria, to give us his best recommendations for whiskey and beer pairings; he conquered the task in style, and naturally in only a New-York-Minute.

"A lot of these recommendations (as with any subjective tasting) are based on personal preference from whiskies that I personally enjoy. Your mileage may vary as will your personal palate, but these are a good jumping off point for further exploring. The best pairings are the one's that please your specific taste buds. A mostly complimentary (similar last profiles) pairing, as opposed to contrasting, follows"

Stout: Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
  • Jura Brooklyn Scotch: Slightly peaty with nice notes of smoke but not overshadowing the sweetness from the Sherry and Pinot Noir cask aging. A full Whisky which compliments very well the Stout category in general. 
  • Ardbeg 10: My favorite on the peat/smoke front, it easily goes well with any Stout but especially my favorite: Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro. Dark roasty Stouts always go well with peat and malt.

Pilsner: Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yellow Pils
  • Hudson Baby Bourbon or Blanton’s Bourbon: Session-ability is key here, and a nice bourbon makes this combo good for multiple rounds in one sitting. Both Bourbons are very approachable with nice caramel and vanilla notes to pair with the Pils.

IPA: Sixpoint Resin
  • WhistlePig Straight Rye: WhistlePig makes 100% rye whiskey that stands up to the power of Resin's...resin. The dank and rye experience gets even bolder if you can find the Boss Hog Overproof.
  •  High West Campfire: With the overly (almost weed-like) hoppiness of the Resin, why not inhale the full affect with the smokey yet sweet Campfire.

Porter: Deschutes Black Butte Porter
  •  Westland Peated Malt: Beyond the typical peat/smoke Porter pairing, Westland brings another layer of flavor with Pale Chocolate Malt in its grain bill. This compliments the chocolatey notes of the Porter. The Westland Peated Malt whiskey is made form a mash of some of the smokiest malts in the world, going along with Black Butte, the beers namesake, litterally being a Stratovolcano located in eastern Oregon.
  • Dalmore 12:A nice approachable Highlands Scotch with notes of chocolate and coffee to go along with its dark weather fall/winter flavors.

Sour: Victory Kirsch Gose
  • Ransom Whipper Snapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey:You could play it safe with Gose and go for a mellow bourbon, but it is much more interesting to pair with a grain spirit. The Whipper Snapper is part Pacific Northwest malted barley and part Kentucky corn Whitedog, not really fitting into any particular whiskey category. It is somewhat sweet because of the corn, but has nice herbaceous notes and medium to long finish.
  • A shot of half Cynar / half Mezcal: It may not be whiskey, but it sure is a tasty shot-- that will definitely result in some flavor calculations with the Gose. And oddly enough our tongues love math.  

Saison: Boulevard Tank 7
  • Colonel E.H. Taylor Rye: The Taylor Rye is very balanced with a slightly floral, caramel/vanilla, and spice nose. In taste it compliments the white peppery spice of the Saison with its own deep white pepper-like rye flavor. A truly fine whiskey on it’s own, even better along side a fantastically funky Saison. 

Scotch ale/ Wee Heavy: Parallel 49 Salty Scot
  • Talisker Storm (or Talikser 10) Scotch: The comparative saltiness of the Scotch/Bourbon to the Ale-- Talisker is aged on the coastline of Scotland picking up heavier salt and smoke notes (the Talisker Storm even more so).
  • Jefferson's Ocean Bourbon: Jefferson's Ocean is said to be aged at sea and therefore imparted with slight saltiness as well.

Cream ale: Carton SS- C.R.E.A.M.
  • Widow Jane Bourbon: Both (whiskey and ale) are captivatingly creamy, the mouth-feel of the Widow Jane almost leaves a slight film-like smoothness. The Cream Ale follows it elegantly with a frothy semi-sweetness.  

Barley Wine: Lost Abbey Angel's Share
  • Angel’s Envy Bourbon: It almost seems too obvious, even the names are both paying homage to the lost portion of booze during aging. The bourbon is finished in Port Wine barrels, so it compliments the Barley Wine's warm boozy notes very nicely.
  • High West A Midwinter Nights Dram: A bit more adventurous with the whiskey being rye that was aged in port barrels as well as french oak, the woodiness really draws out the characterization of malt notes in the Barley Wine. 

For Cheapskates with Good Taste: Narragansett Lager
  • Old Crow Bourbon or Old Overholt Rye: For those easy drinking times when simplicity is key. The Overholt can always be hit with a few dashes of Angostura bitters as is the tradition at Ward III. A time tested combo all over the east coast.

As with every successful New York Hustler, Nick isn't just a bartender, he's a man of many talents. Check out his hand-made designer bow ties from his new brand Jackson Brothers: He happily accepts custom jobs, so feel free to email him via the website with any creative style ideas you can imagine.

Drink responsibly my friends-- caution these pairings can lead to an abundance of fun and deliciousness.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

It's a Sour Sour Summer: A Superb 6 to Pucker-up to

Sours, Goses and Berliner Weisses have squirted into the mainstream craft beer scene in full force. There has never been as many tart beers available at grocery stores and mini-marts as there has been this summer. And that's totally fine by me, I dig a nice pungent punch in the face.  

Here are the six best sour beers I've tried this summer:

Dageraad - De Witte - Burnaby, BC (Canada)
No contest the best beer of any style, out of about twenty that I tried on my recent road trip to Oh Canada.  The sour fermented passion fruit really bangs the taste buds. De Witte is a wheat ale, dry hopped with Citra. The hop presence really brings some feng shui to this yin yang of beverage.

Grimm - Lucky Cloud - Brooklyn, NY
Regular readers of Pimpin' are definitely familiar with the husband and wife gypsy brewers Grimm. For me they're top ten in the country for IPA's as well as for sours. Their BA stouts aren't too shabby either, but don't get me started... Lucky Cloud is a wild ale that you better be ready to pucker up for, cuz its gonna smack your lips with some tart pineapple and guava my friend!

de Garde - Imperial Stone Bu - Tillamook, OR
North-Westerners have been freaking over de Garde, and to be fair they're totally justified. Their sours and saisons game is beyond-on-point. Imperial Stone Bu is a tart apricot-peach berliner weisse aged in oak barrels. The style is one of my favorites this summer and de Garde does it better than 90% of the berliner weisse brewers out there.

New Belguim - Tart Lychee Lips of Faith - Fort Collins, CO
I shouldn't talk shit, but here comes some... Beer snobs that hate on the breweries that laid the foundation for the craft movement, ie Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and New Belguim; all you haters need to stop.  Sometimes I feel like people think of these founding frothers as played out one-hit-wonders. But New Belguim is no "My Sharona", they keep coming out with hit after hit.  Case in point, their Lips of Faith collection and it's star adjunct: Tart Lychee. Try it, stop hating for a minute and try to have some faith.

Jolly Pumpkin - Weizen Bam - Dexter, MI
This is one of my favorite farmhouse wheat beers that can be easily tracked down year round. I love a strong funk-tart that finishes clean. Most farmhouse beers tend to linger, and while I enjoy when a jolt of intensity comes over, I prefer if it doesn't leave its earrings behind as an excuse call back later....

Monkish collaboration with Jolly Pumpkin - Cucurbitophobia - Torrance, CA
My friend and I were joking that it meant fear of cucumbers, oh Jolly Pumpkin you're such sophisticated cheeseballs. Tart and clean with some soft blood orange notes. Ironically no sign of cucumbers or pumpkins could be found in this one.

I know what you did this summer... you drank sour beer.  Tell us which ones were your favorites in the comments below. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Beer-ing It Forward: Exceptional Shops Deserve Loyal Customers

Beer Hunting can sometimes be a cut-throat game; keeping track of release dates, waiting in long  lines, taking off work early, and often paying top-dollar for limited editions . Its basically the NBA draft (no-pun-intended). You have to scout for prospects and be willing to trade valuable assets for future picks.

There are however some de Garde-ian angels out there, helping those of us that devote our spare time to release day road trips. Craft beer has become a seriously lucrative business and no one needs to give a funk about anything having to do with us craft enthusiasts aside from our wallets, but many small business owners do.  Why? Because they love quality brew just as much as the rest of us. They've likely been standing behind you in some of those release lines...

The hardest part about giving props to the exceptional owners, managers, and clerks at the bottle shops out there, is that sometimes to really help someone out you gotta bend a few rules.  So let me just state first and foremost I am not aware of anyone or any business doing anything illegal in any way. Secondly, no specific names of anyone who has pulled any strings, saved any bottles, or gave up any privileged information will be included in this article. I don't want to start the next Beerily Clinton scandal...

The following list is of exceptional bottle shops across the country of which I was told of a heroic tale of beer do-goodery. Since details have to be held confidentiality, I'll just list a few reasons why they stand out among their competitors. If you ever find yourself traveling within close vicinity of any of the following, do yourself a favor and definitely pop in for a peek at their shelves; you never know, you might just end up with a special story of your own!

Ballard Beer Company Seattle,WA
Classy isn't a word often used to describe a bottle shop/beer bar, but Ballard Beer Company definitely fits the bill. It belongs on a super short list that I would actually bring a date to.  Besides their smart decor and relaxing ambiance, Ballard also knows their shit, keeps an exceptional tap list and a large stock of quality bottles on hand. Often in the beer world classy can equal snobby, not the case here, their customer service is down-to-earth and judgement free.  

The Package Store Hebron, CT (Ted's plaza on route 66)
The package store has gone above and beyond, decades before the craft beer boom exploded. They care about their customers and have stayed on top of the latest services.  In fact, The Package Store was one of the first shops in their area to feature inventory and special ordering online, way back in the "You-Got-Mail" early days of the internet.

8 Degrees Plato Detroit, MI
Most bottle shop owners and workers know their stuff.  I haven't had too many experiences with beer doofuses, sans the time at Wholefoods beer store in New York, when I asked if they carried any Oregon beers besides Rogue and the guy took me to the "organic" section.  The owners and staff at 8 Degrees Plato though, these guys are the google of beer shops.  They know when things are releasing that you didn't even know existed.

Mekelburg's Brooklyn, NY
When beer-centric tourists visit New York City they're given a notebook full of recommendations of places to get great beer.  I can almost guarantee Mekelburg's is not included on any of those lists, and for the locals, that's a good thing.  If you want a true taste of Brooklyn, stop by and pick up some local-organic groceries, maybe some artisanal cheese, and talk beer with some nice people that have a love for the craft.

Parker Payless liquors Parker, CO
This might be the largest beer selection in the country. I would guess that its surely a top ten contender of most refrigerated beer, if not over-all. To put it into perspective I spend approximately 30 to 45 minutes browsing at a large bottle shop upon my first visit. At Parker Payless I lost track of time and was in there over two hours before I even checked my phone.

Bodega Ramos Chicago, IL
Pictured below is a craft beer tour group that makes a regular stop at Bodega Ramos. At first glance this shop seems much more wine focused than anything else.  They definitely do have more wine there than beer. That said, I would trade better over bigger any day. Chicago has ton's of good shops to get great beer, but Ramos will set you up with quality choices and superb service...Plus you can bring home a killer bottle of wine for the wife without having to make an additional stop on the way home.

There are hundreds of other special shops out there doing great things, but if there's one that holds a special spot in your heart, definitely leave us all a note about them in the comments section below!