Saturday, May 01, 2010

Cask Festival At The Brazen Head - Day One

I woke up at the crack of noon yesterday and rushed over to The Brazen Head to make sure I wouldn't miss out on any of the rarer cask ales.  Unfortunately Alex, the guy running it, was also running a bit late, caught up in traffic on the BQE.  The beers were all here and ready to be poured, but my mentor was missing.

Checking Out The Stock

But without any guidance it was hard to decide just what I wanted to try.

Confusion Reigns

Luckily, Alex did show up and brought his tasting notes with him.

Now I Can Decide

The Brazen Head is going to have twelve different beers on each of the three days of the festival so it didn't take me long to plot my day's strategy.

Ready To Roll

Meanwhile Alex was tending to some last minute adjustments.

Almost Ready

The beers ranged in potency from a relatively mild Michigan Celis White at an ABV of 3.9% to a deadly Lowell Beer Works Belgian Quadruple that came in at an ABV of 12%.  You were limited to a half pint at a time to that last one along with the Clipper City Holy Sheet at an ABV of 9% and the BruRm The Nazz at an ABV of 10%.  I didn't have The Nazz, but probably should have.  It was a one-time brew to celebrate the 40th anniversary and reunion of Mott the Hoople.

Trivia time, "You ain't the Nazz" is a line from Mott the Hopple's song Hymn For The Dudes.  The Nazz was the debut album of the rock group Nazz and Todd Rundgren was the lead singer...

Wow, synchronicity at work.  Literally as I was typing the above lines the song All The Young Dudes by Mott the Hoople came on the radio, 104.3 FM at 9:30 AM.  Spooky.

Even more spooky is that the full line from Hymn for the Dudes is "You ain't the Nazz, you're just a buzz, some kind of temporary." and, supposedly, was a swipe at David Bowie who wrote All The Young Dudes.  I am not sure why Mott the Hoople became disenfranchised with Bowie. 

Nazz took their name from the song "The Nazz are Blue" by The Yardbirds from their album Roger the Engineer. That song, in turn, took its title from Lord Buckley's comic monologue, "The Nazz," which is a re-telling of the tale of Jesus of Nazareth.  It is often erroneously said that the band took its name from a line in the David Bowie song "Ziggy Stardust" which goes: "He was the Nazz, with god-given ass" but that song appeared in 1972, and the first Nazz album appeared in 1968.

The official name of Roger the Engineer is Yardbirds and is the only album by them that contains all original material.  The unofficial name Roger the Engineer came about because the album cover features a drawing of their audio engineer Roger Cameron that was done by Chris Dreja, a member of the Yardbirds.

Whew, now that was a weird line of thought triggered by All The Young Dudes coming on the air.  The Mysterious Chinese Woman always says those mushrooms she puts in the soup can do things like this.

Okay, back to the beer.

I was only planning on just having a few yesterday and, in fact, if I hadn't run into Alex the other day I wasn't planning on coming at all until today.  Seeing as how it was just a bit past noon I decided to start off slow and began with the Heartland Mr. Atlas Imperial Pale Ale at an ABV of 7.7% (okay, not that slow) and the Harviestoun Haggis Hunter, another mild one at an ABV of 4.3%.

The Mr. Atlas was a pretty hoppy IPA with a bit of a citrus bite to it.  Primarily hoppy, though.

Bar Man Getting Hopped Up Early

By the way, Allen, you will notice that I am not afraid to wear my Cha Cha's cap in public (Allen carries his in a brown paper bag). I even got complimented on it.

Although the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I shared our beers, she preferred the Haggis Hunter which was a seasonal ale from Scotland.  Not hoppy and with a grassy grapefruit subtlety to it.  So subtle that I probably wouldn't have noticed it if it weren't for the tasting notes.  I just thought it was very good, unlike real haggis.  No offense, but I don't like chopped up lungs in my oatmeal.  Call me funny that way.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman And Her Haggis

For our next round we kind of hit the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of alcohol content.  I got the Celis White and the Belgian Quadruple.

Guess Which One Is Which

The Celis White was really delicious in an interesting way.  The tasting notes said it is a spicy, citrusy beer created by Pierre Celis while he was in Texas and is now brewed by Michigan after Pierre moved to Belgium.  My personal tasting notes said that it tasted like a combination of freshly baked bread and lemon.  You could probably sell it at a church social and call it a lemon bar.  Get it, beer, bar, tastes like bread and lemons, lemon bars are a staple at church socials.

The Belgian Quadruple made no bones about its high alcohol content.  The nose and first taste were overwhelmingly alcohol.  However the aftertaste was malty and kind of a nutty molasses flavor.

Those four were enough for my first visit and even though we only got the half-pints I was feeling a bit of a buzz by the time I walked out.  Not too surprising when you consider that the Belgian Quadruple was like drinking a half-pint of wine.  Of course I remember the days when chugging a bottle of Thunderbird was considered kind of cool.

In fact I was so buzzed I almost didn't have a beer at Pete's Waterfront Ale House where we went for lunch.  Almost is the operative word.  I did have that hard-to-spell Weiss that the Mysterious Chinese Woman had the other night with my soft-shell crab sandwich, which was absolutely delicious.  The Mysterious Chinese Woman had the same thing along with a bowl of French onion soup, a favorite of hers.  She also had a bowl of it the other night with the ribs (that I just finished up for breakfast this morning).

I plan on heading back to The Brazen Head today after my brother-in-law Jim shows up.  Or, maybe, a bit before if he is late.  The Mysterious Chinese Woman is meeting friends at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden today for the Cherry Blossom Festival.  Due to an unusually warm spring all of the blossoms are long gone, though.  This should be a hot weekend as well.  It hit 78 yesterday and might hit 90 today with a high of 85 predicted for tomorrow.  Perfect for drinking beer.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Talk About Inflation

I have already talked about Duvel Green, a mighty fine Belgian beer that you get on draft.  Duvel in the bottle consistently ranks at the top of Belgian beers and the Green, draft only, is a mighty fine beer as well.

Okay, about the inflation.  The last time I was in Pete's Waterfront Ale House this beer was $7 for a glass.  not bad, but still a bit spendy.  And we are talking about a glass, not a pint.

Today I went in and they had it again after being out for a bit.  So, of course, I ordered one.

Spending The Green For The Green

What I hadn't noticed was that the price had gone up from $7 to $9 a glass.  I took a quick glance at the chalkboard and the 9 looked enough like a 7 that I didn't notice the increase in the price.  Now, again, this is a glass and not a pint.

But, what was really, in my opinion, beyond the pale, as I was drinking my beer the price went up from $9 to $10.  Now that is an 11% increase in the price of a beer as you are drinking it.  I am sorry, but $10 for a glass of beer, and I don't care how good it is, is a bit too much.

It Was $9 When I Walked In

And, I have never seen the price of a beer or a drink go up while people are in the bar drinking.  Couldn't you at least wait until after the bar closes before you raise your prices?

Don't get me wrong, Pete's Waterfront Ale House, is still my favorite bar, but this is strange even by my standards.  Are we getting to the point where we have to start buying futures on beers when we walk into a bar?

I did have a nice Long Trail Coffee Stout, their Happy Hour Special., with a mighty fine rack of ribs.  Long Trail is in Vermont and they turn out a nice selection of beers.  The Coffee Stout is a seasonal and is usually only available, or at least only brewed, in February and March.  It is a heavy and dark, very dark, and does have a very discernable coffee overtone.  You can also get a hint of burnt sugar.  I saw it when I first came in but it was a warm and sunny afternoon so I wanted to start with something lighter, hence the Duvel to begin.  The Coffee Stout, a hefty 8% ABV and a good compliment to the smokey ribs.

Oh yes, the Happy Hour Special, that I think runs all day, is a beer that has been selected to sell for $4.50 if you order it at the bar.  You can, however, then take the beer to your table.  I suspect they will even bend the rules a bit and let you order it at the table, but why push your luck.

Now, I don't want to be too critical about the price of the Duvel Green, I was more taken aback by the fact that someone actually went up on the ladder and raised the price by a dollar while I was sitting at the bar drinking it.  I came out alright though, I bought two of them at the lower price (maybe it was a supply and demand thing with the price and I was the demand),  Then a fellow, Todd, who recoginized me because he follows my blog, stopped by and bought me another and had one himself.  And the bartender, Mary, did a buyback.  If it wasn't for that Weinenstephaner Weiss ($6.50) that I had to buy for the Mysterious Chinese Woman I would have gotten off fairly cheaply.

I happened to run into Alex Hall, the fellow who runs the Cask Festivals around these parts and across the pond, on the way to Pete's Waterfront Ale House and told him that I would be coming to his Cask Festival at The Brazen Head on Saturday.  He recommended that I come on Friday because he had some rare offerings that might be gone by then.  Well, I guess I will just have to make the supreme sacrifice and go both days.  Maybe Sunday as well.

Caution - Controversial Post

Now I don't intend this to be either for or against Arizona's new law regarding illegal aliens, or those suspected of being so.  However, a little light on the subject.

As many of you know, I go to Mexico every year and have been doing so for almost 25 years.  Lately I have been going down for eight weeks at a time.  I simply let you know this to let you know I do have some first-hand knowledge of what I am saying.

Mexico has very strict laws regarding illegal immigrants, including those from the United States.  And yes, regardless of what you might believe, a lot of people from the United States do go to Mexico to live and work illegally.  The wages may not be high but the living is easy.  A lot of them work in bars and restaurants where, in tourist towns, being fluent in English is a big plus.  I run into these people all the time.

However, without the proper papers, I believe an FM3 is one of the appropriate ones, this is illegal and if you are found living or working without the proper papers you are subject to arrest, a fine
and imprisonment or deportation.  Also, without the proper papers, you are not allowed to own a car, get a Mexican driver's license, open a bank account, or any number of things it seems relatively easy to do in the United States without the proper papers.

Why is it that the United States is so reluctant to enforce laws that are routinely enforced in Mexico?  Could it be that we need undocumented Mexican workers in the United States much more than Mexico needs undocumented workers from the United States?

Oh, and the Mexican police will stop you on the street and ask to see your papers if they suspect you are in the country illegally or doing something illegal.  Although where I go, Puerto Vallarta, is relatively free of the drug related violence near the border, drug useage is not uncommon.  And, as you might suspect, this includes the sale of drugs and useage by those from both the United States and Canada.

I will also say that Mexico seems to have a much more straightforward  way for you to become legal than the United States.  I know many people who live either part time or full time in Mexico, some with permanent resident visas and some who have become citizens.  And many, if not most, of these people do work in Mexico. 

So there you have it.  My two pesos worth.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Now Don't Forget!!!

Just a final reminder, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday The Brazen Head will be having another one of their Cask Festivals.

Be There Or Be Elsewhere

And The Brazen Head is not just for Cask Festivals.  Stop in one afternoon for their award winning happy hour.  They always have a decent selection of beers and usually have one or two cask ales available.

A Dollar Saved Is A Dollar, Well, Saved

You Could Do Worse Than To Stop In Here

I don't know if the offer still holds, but at one time if you bought a beer you could get the free services of a Notary Public.  Me, I would prefer free popcorn.

Now, if you really can't make it to Brooklyn and find the Lower East Side more to your liking, may I recommend an alternative to The Brazen Head's Cask Festival.

Zum Schneider is having a May Day celebration on Saturday that will include a pig roast, an oompah band and a special selection of Maibock beers.

Be Sure To Wear Your Lederhosen

You can find Zum Schneider at the corner of Avenue C and 7th Street on the island just to the west of the island that I live on. Ah yes, the laid back island life of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Fishing boats bobbing in the bay, the smell of jerk pork and chicken wafting in the wind, shots of rum for a quarter..., oh wait, wrong islands.

And speaking of islands (another sublime seque) Ruby's at Coney Island has had their lease renewed for yet one more year. As you probably know, Ruby's is one of my favorite seaside dive bars in the whole wide world.

Now, with all of this going on there is no reason to just sit at home and help with the housework.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wasteland And Otto's Shrunken Head

A lot of the Hispanic and dive bars, and Hispanic dive bars, that used to be clustered around Peter Luger's now seem to be gone.  The Hasidic community has been expanding and, despite that Rock the Casbah video by The Clash, they are not known for heavy drinking.  Really, when is the last time you have walked into a Hasidic bar?

No Bars

Luckily we didn't have to wander to far before we found our first bar.  Or, at least, a restaurant with a bar.

Miss Favella

And The Name, Again

This was a nice enough place that seemed to combine a bar with a luncheon counter and restaurant.

Two Eggs Over Easy And A Beer

Well, Just The Beer

And that is what I had, just the beer.

Goin' Down Easy

Oh yes, and let us not forget my traveling companions.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman, Of Course

And Jim

But then, after saying goodbye to Miss Favella, we entered the dead zone.

Life Without People

Oh, there were signs that people once lived here, strange paintings that we could not decipher.  Probably warnings to stay away.

Mysterious Markings

Here's Looking At You

We finally made it down to the waterfront area where there used to be bars.  In fact I think Duff's, my bar number 750 when I was doing my trek used to be around here.

What Happened?

It is a sad commentary indeed when bars are replaced by parks.


And that ice-cream truck in the background didn't help matters much.  It just served as a cruel reminder that the neighborhood was, indeed, a-changin'.

Eventually, after who knows, or remembers, how far we walked, we did finally stumble upon, gasp, a real bar named after a real drink.

The Gibson

Believe me, this was indeed a welcome oasis.  I even found someone who loaned my his hat so I wouldn't look unfashionable sitting next to Jim.

Two Cool Dudes

And then, not too far away, further signs of civilization.

Mugs Ale House

Mugs Ale House is a grand old neighborhood bar with a large selection of beers, both draft and in bottles.  It has been around for a long time and, thank goodness, hasn't really changed all that much.  So we popped in for a quick one.  Or maybe two.  By this time I really don't remember.

I could easily have ended my day at Mugs, but Jim, and why I ever listen to him I don't know, thought it would be a grand idea to take the subway back to Manhattan and have a nightcap at Otto's Shrunken Head.  And, as you can see, by the time we got here it was, indeed, night.

Otto's Shrunken Head

Now not only is Otto's Shrunken Head probably the coolest name for a bar that I know, it combines all of my favorites into one and, really, what more could you ask for than a dive tiki bar.

With A Pinball Machine

Of course I had to have a zombie.

Two Zombies

Jim was still looking natty.

I Think It Is The Hat

Of course, I don't remember the bartender's name.

I Was Lucky To Remember My Own Name

It was quite a day, but eventually it ended like so many others whenever I wander out of my own neighborhood, with a subway ride home.

And So It Ends

Now, speaking of my own neighborhood (notice the carefully crafted seque) this Friday, Saturday and Sunday is the Cask Ale Festival at The Brazen Head, right on Atlantic Avenue and, before the construction of the Brooklyn Law School dormitory, viewable from my window.  You can be sure that I will be there.

Alien Plants And Presidents

I love it when the History Channel starts delving into topics like "Ancient Aliens."  I have been watching, in the background, a couple of episodes this morning.  Interestingly amusing.  The basic premise seems a bit flawed, however.  That being that aliens with the technology to get to earth from far away solar systems came here primarily to, what, teach people how to build pyramids?

The Mysterious Chinese Woman, knows my fascination with theories of alien invasions.  She thinks that is because I am descended from an alien.  She thinks this because I am left-handed, a dead give-away, in her opinion.  And, of course, the recent rash of left-handed presidents; Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan (although he wrote with his right-hand), George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is obvious evidence of an alien influence and intelligence.  I mean, how else can you explain it?

Anyway, on a recent visit to the Bronx Botanical Garden the Mysterious Chinese Woman took some pictures of flowers that she thought I would enjoy because, to her, they looked like monstrous aliens.  I kind of agree, what do you think?

I Will Eat Your Brain

Where Are Your Earth Worms?

Take Me To Your Fertilizer

I am long overdue in posting about our adventures after leaving Peter Luger's last Tuesday.  I promise, I will have it up by the end of the day.