Friday, August 13, 2010

BEERflections ~ Magic Hat Tasting @ Hurricanes VB

Where there is good beer there will be good times and good friends. All of this and more was recently ripe for indulgement at my local Hurricane Grille & Wings, home to Howard, Nicole, and an eclectic fun-loving staff. There was a time long ago when Hurricanes fell from my good graces and fell hard. That is past though and today Hurricanes is once more a beery destination close to my heart and others. From special events to weekend kick-offs to a regular schedule of tastings, a steadily growing throng of beer peeps new and old have found an oasis in Hurricanes of Vero Beach. Though I have infinite love to share, I also envision Vero as the beer mecca of our sunny south with peeps and peepettes professional and personal all united under the flag of real beer diversity. As vision begets reality, Hurricanes will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the original innovators.

On Wednesday July 14th, 2010 my memories were once more enriched with good times shared at their Magic Hat tasting. Following the lucky trend of scheduling these tasty events on my days off, it was a slow modus operandi of relaxation, writing, and sneaking in a pre-tasting beer or three. Of course, working out was a given. As a burgundian advocate, I believe in a healthy body as well as a healthy mind. All the better to savor the flavor long into my years.

Expectations for a milling throng of Magic Hat tasters and Hurricane VB advocates was righteously realized as I walked through the entrance into my posse of peeps raring to taste and play games long into the evening. The steady ebb and flow of beery minded patrons never faltered until the wee hours of closing, keeping the seats inside and out well worn for a solid showing indeed. Already seated at the bar as I soaked in the atmosphere were Lauren, our roving local Magic Hat Alebassador, and the firmly footed local Southern Eagle Brand Development Manager, Sean Murray. Wisely chowing down on some tasty Hurricane grub before the games and beer flowed in thirsty appreciation, I had designs to do the same. Arriving early, yummy wings in the belly followed by more pre-tasting yummy beers made for a happily revved up Kristyn with no worries as to morning after horrors. Equally important, never forget the water for she is your friend.

Somehow I knew it was going to be a friendtastic evening before I even crossed that gilded threshold. In parking my car and hitting the ground walking I ran into Susan and Cathy also making their way inside where what should thine eyes see but my dynamic duo (minus the tights) Rob and Cathie already seated along with Marty, Bev, and Robert. Beers in hand and food orders on standby, I was behind but not for long. Mere minutes later a Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA was pressed firmly to these eager lips, her zesty spicy fruity nectar dancing across my tastebuds and down my throat. Happy days are here again. As I settled in my soon-to-be well worn seat, a steady stream of friendly familiar peeps found their own stoop while Rebecca and Gary landed at our generously expanded table. By the time the smoke cleared, our long table consisted of five or six high-tops pushed together in jolly communion amidst a steady din of laughter and merry-making.

Inbetween doing my share of merry-making with my posse of peeps, I broke away whenever possible to great other peeps as they too joined in the magical mystery ride going down that night. Steve, Kris, and Mary, it is always a pleasure to see you out and about. As for the tasting itself, starting time was set to the usual 7pm and featured the #9 Not Quite Pale Ale on draft and an assortment of bottled beers: Wacko, Blind Faith IPA on Tour, and my personal favorite, the Summer Odd Notion Ginger Ale. I first fell in love with the Ginger Ale during the Magic Hat Brewmaster Dinner at Town Crier Pub and she was as delicious as I remembered. Unfortunately, it’s just my luck that the one Magic Hat beer available in Florida that would happily grace my fridge in all her six-pack glory is only available in a mixed twelve pack. Such is my lot in life, I guess. Still, tis far better to taste and want than to not taste at all.

A different and fun feature of this particular tasting was the inclusion of various beer games instituted by the always beaming Lauren. Roving from table to table, she engaged the beer-curious with enthusiasm which was mirrored by those she engaged. Our table was no different as we captured Lauren for ourselves multiple times throughout the night. Bev won Magic Hat sunglasses early on which she sported in hip retro fashion. Later, those of us that remained were challenged and crushed by a fiercely imposing box of matches. That’s right: matches. Our posse of educated rational creatively minded thinking human beings was defeated by sixteen individual sulfur-tipped black matches. Psht! Might as well retire now and head for that quiet home on the hill. Heads hung low in shameful embarrassment, it was only through the due diligence of Howard and the genius of the iPhone that we were able to regain a shred of dignity and defeat the taunting matches aplenty. Was it fair? Maybe not but sometimes in life one has to fight dirty with the tools at hand to persevere yet another day.

Dirtily or creatively, the lesson learned here is: should you see Lauren walking your way with a box of matches in hand and the glint of evil in her eye, turn around slowly and run away as fast as you can lest your dignity be left in tatters, too.

Early before the matches of shame, we duly savored our burgers, salads, and wings amidst glasses of tasty beers, #9 included. All the bottled Magic Hat offerings were for sampling only as the supply was precious but limited. Thankfully, my tower of power Howard hooked us up with a few taster bottles and Sean hooked me up with a bottle of the Ginger Ale. Puppy dog eyes and friendly coercion do work. Know it.

Usually I suffer a severe case of wanderlust at these tastings, moseying from table to table, barstool to barstool, all as I capture photos and emotions for my treasure chest of memories. This time around though I stayed fairly rooted at my table of awesomeness. Surrounded by ladies and gents I have grown to know and cherish in just the few short years we have worked and hung out together, this beer ambassador was already home. A better group of people I call friends could never be. Life is beer and beer is life. Through generous designs of burgundian indulgence, what I have here is life at her finest with beer in hand, fork in the other, and pen at the ready.

Knowing full well I would be amongst a myriad of beer aficionados, a special raiding of the beer cellar was in order. In perusing my boxes of corked delights, one beer in particular beckoned. With tender care and humble reverence I placed two bottles of Ommegang Biere de Mars, vintage 2008, into my fridge to properly chill in anticipation of her late night premiere. A beer-bearing Kristyn is always a welcome sight as evidenced by the puddle of drool polling beneath Howard, Nicole, and Rob while they watched me tuck away the two bottles for a later unveiling…an unveiling that was now nigh.

Feeling the inevitable downward shift as the night waned and closing time crept ever closer, I asked Howard to bring forth the two bottles. But first, let me take a moment to diverge deeper into the meaning of Biere de Mars.

Biere de Mars, or as it is better known, Biere de Garde (literally “beer for keeping”) is a style which emerged from the Pas de Calais region of France. A rustic beer, they were typically brewed on and for the farms in which they originated. A product both of and for the working man and woman, they were typically brewed in the winter and spring then lain down to keep, or cellar, during the hot months of summer when brewing was next to impossible. Bottled live in champagne-style bottles with cork and cage to withstand the rigors of bottle-conditioning, they were at their best when aged, hence Biere de Garde. Some can even withstand years of proper cellaring with tastetastic results as proven by the 2008 bottles of Biere de Mars and lovingly crafted by the fine folks at Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York.

Now empowered with the awesome gift of beer wisdom, next comes the best part: partaking of these blessed bottles woken from their cellared slumber by engaging all our senses. Or in simpler terms: drinking it. The finest imbibement in the world is all for naught if that tasteful treasure is cruelly hoarded and never enjoyed.

She popped in joyous celebration before filling eagerly awaiting cups with her copper and amber hued brew. Topped by a playful head of mousse and bubbles, lace lingered, a wistful reminder of her passing. My cup running gleefully running over, attentions were turned to my tablemates along with Howard, Nicole, Al, Lauren, Sean, Chris, Chris, and Dave. There may have been others but those are all I remember for now.

A deep sniff…a luxurious sip…and WOW!!!

Time has done you well my friend, done you well indeed. Essence of dust, leather, barnyard and funk, dried fruits, citrus peel, spice, and oh so many things sent me spiraling into beervana. I knew it was truly wowtastic because Dave, who swears off all things Belgian the poor silly boy, actually liked it. A lot. For Chris Martin it was the best beer of his night. Lauren and Sean were bedazzled, and of course Rob and company found it tastefully fascinating. Happy news all around but my own glass of Biere de Mars beckoned softly, and so it was back to my table of awesomeness I returned. One last sup…and that be all she wrote. For two 750ml bottles filled to the top with beautiful beery nectar, they sure did disappear quickly. A sign of a beer well enjoyed in my opinion, anything less would be a sacrilegious insult to the beer goddesses and gods.

Beers savored and lights dimming, heartfelt goodbyes were exchanged as sated feet shuffled out to their various modes of transportation. Fret not though. No one drove who shouldn’t have and all my peeps made it home safe and sound, yours beerly included. With another successful beer tasting come and gone, it is with ready anticipation I set my eyes towards the next. Cheers and thank you!

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. pagiarism is not tolerated)

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