Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irish Ale ~ Boulevard Brewing

Appearance: clear garnets and ambers under an off-white head – solid collar and decent blanket. Swirls creamy, no lace.

Nose: candied sugars, maraschino cherries. Taffy toffee crunch bars. Pineapple. Figs and dates. Raw brown sugar granules, natural sugar, and cinnamon sticks.

Palate: chocolate and cinnamon sticks in the back. Dry finis with melba toast, pumpernickel sticks, apple skins, and tobacco. Hard hit of sweet maraschino cherries in the middle. Cooked brown sugar, cane sugar, and toffee crunchies. Dried leaves, twigs, and sticks. Figs and dates along the sides. Apple skins. Never too sweet or cloying, crisp and clean.

Final Thoughts: very tasty and intriguing and I liked it. Far more complexity than I was expecting, though the chocolate was an unexpected addition. A solid offering from Boulevard Brewing. 


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

Oatmeal Stout ~ Schlafly

Appearance: dark burnt woods with garnet glints along the bottom. Khaki head spreads out from the middle like a spider web with a tight collar. Swirls thick but no lace.

Nose: roasted oats, dry brittle chocolates, burnt toast ends. Twigs and ash. Dark fruit stones in the back, almonds. Mulled oats tossed in bakers chocolate powder. Old earth undertones.

Palate: smooth creamy mouthfeel. Soft oats rolled in chocolate powder. Chocolate sits amidst rich earth littered with dry twigs and fallen leaves. Raisins and grapes in the middle. Tannic and fruit stone bitterness along the edges. Very soft mouthfeel. Dry chocolate finish parches the throat.

Final Thoughts: loved it. It’s been a long time since I’ve tasted a Schlafly beer and yes, they are still good. So many beers, so little time…but I am going to darn well try. 


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

McSorley's Irish Black Lager ~ Pabst Brewing Company

Appearance: pours liquid smoke and melted obsidian under a tight khaki head. Lingers with a collar and thin puddle. Swirls a touch thicker along the edges.

Nose: muddy, meaty, smoky and of the earth. Tar. Bay leaves. Dried chocolates way in the back and underneath. Pumpernickel and black breads.

Palate: pumpernickel and chocolate cake with more pumpernickel than chocolate. Clean and subtle, more subtle than nose implied. Earthy underneath and along the sides. Bay leaves mingle. Dry chocolate, smoke, and ash in the finish. Definitely improves as it warms up. Schwarzebier-esque. Faint meaty fruits in the middle – raisins, figs.

Final Thoughts: I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked what I tasted. Even more appropriately was while supping this Black Lager, I was watching a Three Sheets New Year’s special and one of the stops for Zane was… 


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

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wildberry Pyment ~ B. Nektar

Appearance: liquid berries – blueberry, mulberry, and cranberry. Deep and polished like a liquid precious gem.

Nose: cold blueberries, flesh and skin included. Pomace, pits, and stems for sweet bitter tannic harmony. Purple, black, and red grapes. Wild berries.

Palate: not heavy or too light, just right. Berry forward with faint honey hints. Grapes and blueberries in the breath. Tingles in the back with tannic bitterness of skins and grape seeds; pomace. Clean profile and delicious. Silken honey along the edges with berry taking center stage.

Final Thoughts: delicious. The color on first pour kind of scared me but happiness waited with each sip and each glass until the bottle was empty. B. Nektar takes a lot of risk with some of their meads and I have yet to taste one that did not pay off in flavor goodness. 


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

Shea's Irish Coffee Stout ~ Marc Boland's HomeBrew

Appearance: pours black and forms a lovely cappuccino head which eventually caves like a doughnut. Swirls with no lace, bubbly collar. Mousse-like puddle lingers in the middle.

Nose: dry and roasty. Espresso grinds, bakers chocolate, gourmet truffles, chocolate truffle powder. Burnt woods and cooled ash. Tickle of haystacks and straw in the back. Espresso beans dipped in bakers chocolate. Vanilla bean esters.

Palate: creamy, like biting into a chocolatier’s finest truffle and melting as it melts in the mouth. Irish coffee in the back and breath – vanilla, truffles, caramel. Floats across the palate. Marshmallow fluff and chocolate fluff linger gently. Ash in the middle – fireplace, smores, and graham crackers. Grows more Irish along the edges and sides of mouth – Bushmills please and thanks. Caramel weaves in and out – not dense or thick but delicate and sophisticated. Cold press coffee. Finish long and delicious.

Final Thoughts: Mark Boland brewed this to celebrate the birth of Shea, young Met’s fan to be. Mark has been homebrewing for quite a while, and it shows. The beer was delicious and not just because it was brewed by a friend but because it IS delicious. Thanks Mark! 


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

Black Butte XXI ~ Deschutes

Appearance: deep obsidian black with garnets glinting along edges when held up to light. Tan head is thick and bubbly, fading with lace which crawls up sides of glass. Swirls with soft and thick lace.

Nose: burnt – tar, char, and black licorice. Fudge deep in the back – dense, heavy, and fonduesque. Meaty dates and prunes in the back. Peatish.

Palate: smooth and creamy. Grabs back of throat with peat, char, and tar. Long lingering tart tannins – leather, old dates, and prunes – dried. Fudge atop the tongue. Richly complex. Meaty with massive umami fatty succulence with soy sauce grabbing the back swallow. Burnt twigs. Medium weight.

Final Thoughts: delicious. Deschutes has a long heritage of fabulous beers from their year-round offerings to seasonals to special once-a-year releases such as the Black Butte. 


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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Leviathan Uber-Bock ~ Harpoon

Appearance: deep rubies and garnets under a minimal head. Touch of lace remains. Swirls thicker along edges but not much else changes.

Nose: strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and rhubarb pie already cooked, than cooled. Plump plums. Nondescript winter spices. Hint of lavender. Homemade black cherry preserves. Brown sugar. Delicate and sophisticated. Angel food cake saturated in all the above.

Palate: mouthfeel is smooth, silky, and delicate. Fresh whipped cream atop angel food cake saturated in fresh supremely ripe strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry. Skinless juicy plums along the edges. Holiday spices. Lavender whispers in my breath. Rhubarb is an afterthought.

Final Thoughts: intriguing; it reminded me in a way of Brooklyn’s Winter Ale. A dessert beer for sure, I’m not quite sure though how it qualifies as an “uber-bock”. Good, but not what I would call to style. 


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

Old Guardian Belgo-Barley Wine ~ Stone Brewing

Appearance: murky mahogany; dusty and faded with time. Solid off-white head and thick collar. Swirls decent.

Nose: plums and raisins. Very Belgian – the yeast strain is definitely assertive to the point of dominating. Dark fruits, raisiny breads (like a dubbel) with whispers of spice and toast in the back. Stewed dark fruits – dates and figs. Flambéed plantains with nutmeg and cinnamon. Maraschino cherries.

Palate: a sharp tang in grabs the back of throat with spice (cumin), twigs, and a dry olden woodiness. Plum skins. Sweet along the edges. Chewy and full with dried dates, figs, and prunes. Leather lingers long atop the tongue. Dried tobacco. Plum and grape skins add to the tannic leather twiggy bitterness.

Final Thoughts: intriguing. Even after my last quaff I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the Belgo-Barley Wine from Stone. Their Old Guardian is an outstanding barleywine and, I think that this beer too is outstanding, albeit in no relation to the original. There could be two beers no more different than these two, and it’s all about the yeast. 


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

Dominique ~ Goose Island

Appearance: clear orange with amber edges. Pithy head fades to collar while a puddle of foam sits pretty smack dab in the middle like an inside out donut.

Nose: OMG! Massively sour and tannic. Sour cherries, maraschino cherries. Has the essence of a single-malt, lowlands. Bourbon with spicy heat and crunchy sweetness. Apple skins and plum skins steeped in good moonshine. Bourbon and sour work together harmoniously. Sun drenched grains both sweet and dry. Pomace and grappa. Brushed leather and saddles, dry, then covered in orange oils.

Palate: wow! Sweet up front, then bourbon, than white oak, then vanilla. Plums and grapes. Mouth and tongue coating, then dries with leather and grape/plum skins for some pomace ala grappa. Vanilla soaked bourbon oozing barrels. Sour cherries along edges, underneath, and in breath. Essence of rye and lowland single malt.

Final Thoughts: I would love to have this beer as a year-round staple in my fridge. Amazing. I feel like I have in one hand, the proud American heritage of bourbon, in another the rich history of Scotland, and in another the oldest beverage of humankind – beer. Separate and yet one – an amazing sensorial experience. Divine. Nectar of the goddesses and gods. 

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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chestnut Hill ala Nutsack ~ Lift Bridge Beer Company

Appearance: nice mahogany hues under a soft leathery head. Lace comes full circle. Slight haze – translucent.

Nose: raisins, dates, prunes, and meaty figs with cinnamon – take and add bread. Tannic woodiness in the back. Grape and plum skins ala red wine ala red wine barrels. Bretty, leathery, and musky. Don’t forget the horse funk ala hazelnuts.

Palate: clean. Grape and plums – sweet in front, than tart, and finishes tannic. Black cherry. Grabs sides of cheeks and tip of tongue – tingles. Finishes with leather and wine soaked wood barrels. Supple. Musty leather. Horse in the breath. The hazelnuts are earthy and musty and still shelled.

Final Thoughts: very good. A surprising quaffer with complexity. Lift Bridge has been slightly hit and miss, thankfully with more hits, one of which was their Chestnut Hill ala Nutsack. 

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

CynicAle ~ Surly Brewing

Appearance: orange under an off-white pithy head. Steady stream of bubbles.

Nose: mandarin oranges and freshly baked breads. Zest of lemon and mango in the back. Green grass and freshly picked whole hop cones. Orange oils and zest.

Palate: lots of orange and lemon with zest, oils, and freshly squeezed goodness, pulp included. Full sticky mouthfeel. Mango underneath and in the back, mingling with mandarin. Clean finish. Sweet breads add chewiness to the mouthfeel. Nicely concentrated hop oils – take hand, dip into bushel of whole hop cones, grab, and squeeze.

Final Thoughts: Surly never disappoints and yes, it comes in a can. Love me some beer and I love me some beer from a can. Vessel of beerness aside, if Surly brews it, I will drink it. 


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

Oatmeal Stout ~ Goose Island

Appearance: black and burnt browns masquerading as black. Khaki head with a solid collar surrounding a pocket of bubbly fluff. Swirls thick and creamy with scattered lace.

Nose: roasted chocolate and fudge. Dark fruits and breads in the back – black bread, pumpernickel. Bakers chocolate. Vanilla bean root. Burnt wood – fire pit and smoldering firewood under and in the finish. Roasted and mulled oaks dipped in chocolate fondue.

Palate: creamy cakey chewy oaty mouthfeel. Fudge. Chocolate coated toasted oats. Oats and chocolate in sweet creamy vanilla harmony. Mild twang of tartness in back and underneath – lingers on the tip of tongue: grape and plum skins. Barks of fudge. Love the interplay of chocolaty tart dark fruits. Malted chocolate malt. Vanilla root, campfire, and ash.

Final Thoughts: another delicious contribution from Goose Island out of Chicago, Illinois. A breakfast and dessert beer all in one. 


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

BEERflections ~ Massachusetts Melody

Let me start by saying there is absofrickenlutely no crap on tap in Massachusetts. Pair that with my Love and my Family, life was better than good, life was Holy Mackerel!

In fact! Along with there being no crap on tap (yes, it bears repeating), the weather was drop-dead gorgeous. Only in the green mountains of Massachusetts can one step outside and…wait for it…not break into an instant sweat machine. Instead of salty rivers of stifling misery trickling down your back into your you-know-what, the sun shone kindly on our bodies, guiding the way to brewpub after brewery after gastropub after package store.

Never before did I really understand what all the fuss was about.
Consider me understood.

After a lazy 24 hour jaunt north along the highways and by-ways with Laura as my diligent copilot, not even the New Jersey turnpike or the George Washington Bridge could deter us from our final destination – sleep. Okay, technically the Holyoke/Hadley area but why sleep when food calls and beer beckons. A week in a hotel on vacation demands at least two weeks supply of beer to savor. Thankfully I’m blessed my Lady loves the beer, especially the sacred cone of hopness, offering her full support along with witty insight and intuitive passion for all things burgundian. As for our two boys…they’re along for the ride.


When it comes to family, mine is second to none and quite frankly not any of the worlds business. They’ll have to venture out into the big bad beyond soon enough so no need to chuck them out into the lonesome wild any sooner than I have to. Expect instead to read a lot about the exploits of my Love and I and so, without further ado…

Stop numero uno involved gin, beer, burgers, and generous chunks of fresh Maine lobster.

Our lobster tour-de-force was at the 99 Restaurant where I learned the bartenders not only don’t know how to make a drink, they suffer under the scrupulous eye of penny-pinching management. What do you mean I can’t order a double?!? Pft! Might as well just pour me a tonic, hold the gin please. Oh, and regarding my Bombay Sapphire martini, I think you forgot something…namely the Bombay Sapphire. Sheesh! If you’ve had Bombay Sapphire than you know exactly what I mean. Nuf said. Laura tried our inaugural northeastern beer, the Steel Rail Pale Ale from Berkshire Brewing, enduringly cold seeing as it was presented in a frosty mug of tastebud chilling proportions. In spite of my griping above, there was little else to gripe about. Our service was spot-on and maybe it was the long 24 hour drive paired with rumbling bellies, but the food was outstanding. Laura’s colossal lobster roll was indeed colossal with fresh lobster chunks and mouthwatering savorance. Mine was the deliciously different roast beef and cheddar dip. Yeah yeah. We’ve all had roast beef dip ala au jus before. Not like this, I tell you, not like this. Forget the shavings because my sandwich came out bearing jaw-dropping slabs of tender roast beef succulence under perfectly sautéed onions with just enough melted cheddar to hold it all together with a little help from my hands.

Dear Florida,

You can keep your lobster. I’ll take mine Maine and F.R.E.S.H. please.

Kristyn Lier
PS: The claws are the best part.

Bellies full, we slowly made our way back to the minivan (Yep. Minivan. They rule.) where we crossed the parking lot to Table & Vine, the northeast’s equivalent of Total Wine here in the south with one difference – price. Selection was beautifully eye-catching and painfully wallet-emptying. I realize within the national world of distribution and retail things a clusterfuck of rules/laws/regulations/nonsense influence what I pay for my beverages of choice. Of course, sticker-shock ultimately didn’t stop us from filling a cart full of fermented deliciousness for our beercation, but it was also the only stop we made at Table & Vine. Ultimately we preferred the impressive selection with impressively reasonable prices at the Liquors 44 just blocks from our hotel. Being a liquor store beer ordering and pricing veteran myself, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities in growing their already diverse selection even more while incorporating tastings and pairings into the package portfolio. You can take the Kristyn out of beer retail but you can’t take the beer retail out of Kristyn. But is it really about the retail? Or is it really about the joy of educating peeps on the wonderful world of beer, of reveling in their tasteful journey, and wishing them well as they embark on their own to savor and share the infinite delights of good beer.

The answer lies somewhere in-between.

Minivan loaded with beery delights, we made our way to the Country Inn & Suites at the historic Delaney House ala The Mick. Having been booked back in Florida thanks to the hard work of my local AAA rep, opposing rooms for us and the boys were secured and our sanity ensured. Of course, being that nothing in life these days is simple anymore, checking in meant also fronting the weeks’ worth of rooms rented before keys could be passed out, beds bounced on, ice machines located, beer chilled, and the pool room taken over by our littlest fish. I remember a time when one paid upon check-out, not check-in, but the drudgery of timeless dishonesty and unabashed greed has changed all that here in our lost state of America.

Did I mention this beercation was also my first visit with Laura’s family? Well, it was and after a week of enjoying their good graces and selfless generosity, I can say wholeheartedly that I am welcome. To Kathy, Anne, Marty, and all in-between, thank you very much.

Photobucket Before crashing for the long evening (30 hours awake and fading fast), the Double Jack Double IPA from Firestone Walker was shared in hoppy poolside bliss while Preston splished and splashed away whatever cares a seven year old has. Before pruning set in, we toweled up and made our way upstairs into absolute negative productive mode. Even though the bed called, our stomachs cried louder and so some Pizza d’Action was ordered for delivery and fast. Plain cheese pizza for the boys and Mediterranean for Laura and I. Verdict? We liked ours, square slices and all, but for whatever convoluted frozen mass-produced MSG laden chemical addled brain-washed reason, P and G didn’t like theirs. Say what?! Okay, so it’s not a round mess of grease, domestic cheez, and generic pizza sauce but that’s what makes Pizza d’Action so darn good AND an institution in Holyoke since 1988. It’s 2011 so that’s 23 years of pie tossing, grinder building, salad building awesomeness. We live in Florida where damn good pizza is pretty much a delusion of a dream of a fantasy. Up until our venture to Santo’s Pizza Restaurant we righteously believed our pizza desert to be all encompassing, but one good Italian-inspired pizzeria within a statewide radius does not an oasis make.

But I rant.

With the curtains closed to encapsulate us in a womb of soothing darkness, morning came soft and unobtrusively. Alarms? Absofrickenlutely not. Unfortunately, daylight with some help from P did eventually drag us out of our dreamy reverie where coffee and a workout waited. Somehow my usual morning exercise routine is easier to maintain on vacation than in the ease of home. Oh well. Burgundians never at rest, our daily food and beer porn tantalized and titillated under wistful eyes, eager tastebuds, and the occasional flash of my camera (may it R.I.P.). So how to start the second day of vacation? At Johnny’s Bar & Grill of course. Thanks to some hearty recommendations from Laura’s friends and family and RateBeer Places, we were armed with a list longer than could realistically be visit in just one week, but we made a damn good run of it. Slept and refreshed, Johnny’s Bar & Grill was just what the doctor ordered. Once known as Fedoras, Johnny’s provided a cozy environment that was both rustic and modern at the same time without feeling stuffy or snooty. The draft selection wasn’t wild and crazy, but what it lacked in variety it more than made up for with no crap on tap.

The most domestic beer I ever came across on draft in Massachusetts was Blue Moon. Shock Top was thankfully absent; Blue Moon can quench when needed but its Budly knockoff is a sloppy messy skunky fart of a beer I only see on draft in Bud-friendly (coughboughtcough) establishments. That’s not cruel bias; that’s the truth. Beers in hand, another indisputable truth was quickly being established – the overall cost of food, drink, and living in general was not only more affordable in Massachusetts but also of higher quality than what we experience day-to-day in Florida.

But I’m rambling off track here. Let’s bring it back to Johnny’s and the double bacon cheeseburger, a girth-widening beast of a double stack featuring two, that’s T.W.O., half-pound angus burgers between melted layers of gooey American cheese (G opted out on the Swiss) and crispy crunchy applewood smoked bacon encapsulated between two buns. On Laura’s side was the Turkey & Brie sandwich, a symphony of sweet and sour creamy umami goodness nestled between two slices of toasted sourdough bread. Hitting for yours beerly was the Brunch Burger, a match made in heaven starring an egg, runny please, applewood smoked bacon extra crispy, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a pleasantly bloody medium-rare half-pound Angus patty. For the Master P, chicken tenders, fries, and a Coke. All in all, there was very little conversation, just a hungry cacophony of grunts, moans, and smacking lips. Yummers!

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Rolling out of Johnny’s Bar & Grill, it was onto to Aunt Kathy’s for some tasty beers by the pool.

What beers you ask? Well, seeing as we had properly raided Table & Vine just yesterday, our choices were deliciously diverse. In a somewhat addled mnemonic order, we started with some Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous (always good) which then led to Nyx from White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, New Hampshire. An American Black Ale, only 1065 bottles were produced of this divinely decadent black beauty. Relaxing under a perfectly azure and cottony white sky, Nyx was a welcome companion to the sparkling aquamarine of poolside supping. In fact, it was brought to my attention as I lavished love on the nectar within my glass (always half-full) that just over the hedge was a white birch tree. Tall and regal, she gazed down on me in wise approval of my choice in beers. As I humbly absorbed the moment’s perfection, I just had to try to capture this beautiful moment...


After the Nyx was nixed, we embarked on an Odyssey of oaky proportions thanks to the indomitable Allagash Brewery. Located in the other Portland, this beer was an odyssey not only in flavor but also in stylistic ageing. A dark wheat, she then spends a portion of her youth maturing in American Medium Toast Oak (yum!) before finishing in stainless steel tanks for an overall total of 6 months between the two before being shipped off to whatever destination her bottle conditioned contents may find.


Seeing as my Love is a proud hop head, next to fill our glasses was the Lost Continent Double IPA from Grand Teton brewing out of Victor, Idaho. As her liquid gold and copper sparkled in the sunlight, we both knew beervana waited and we were right - hoplicious with just enough caramelized malt to delight! But that’s not all! It was time for our second Firestone Walker Treat – the Reserve Porter. Having sampled their Double IPA just the other day, I knew these Porter waters would be delicious and indeed they were. I’m not going to go into what makes a porter a porter and a stout a stout and everywhere in-between. Instead, let’s visit once more the great town of South Deerfield where Sailors Lost find the IPA best to cure one’s land-locked ills and woes. Did I mention that it was citrusy green grass delicious? Rounding out our afternoon dip into evening was the Hoppy Feet 1.5 Double Black IPA from Clown Shoes Brewing out of Ipswich, Massachusetts. Sense a local theme yet? I would hope so. Regarding Clown Shoes, it seems that some recent balderdash surrounding their labels have landed them in some troubled waters but I find their labels fun and smartly tongue-in-cheek. Even better, the beers I tasted within were all good. No drain-pours were to be had and that’s a fact.

Two days down, Laura and I already had our plans for the next day signed, sealed, and delivered. While lounging at the pool, a beery mention was made regarding Sierra Grille, Stone Brewing and an absolutely E.X.C.L.U.S.I.V.E. beer. We aren’t talking about a onetime limited release here such as other Stone collaborations and batch beers. Stone brewed one keg of this beer and one keg only. They call it Espresso Nut Brown Stout.

Capiche? Good.

As Sierra Grille-Stone day knelled, we first partook of lunch. In name alone is the Yarde House a Yarde House for there isn’t a single yard to be had, but there was good beer and good food. Not to be confused with the Yard House chain which has real yards, this was a local institution which catered to an eclectic mix of local individuals and tourists. All walks of life mingled harmoniously and the gin & tonics were good thanks to the diligent efforts of our waitress since the bartender forgot the G in the T. Bartenders - sure you can find them anywhere but to find a GOOD bartender, now that is a true feat in persistence and unwavering commitment to Quality. Laura enjoyed her Berkshire IPA while P slurped his Coke and voila - our food arrived. I had succumbed to the Mediterranean Wrap’s siren song of grilled marinated chicken, mixed greens, roasted peppers, tomato, feta cheese, hummus, and lemon vinaigrette swaddled in a sun dried tomato wrap while Laura had answered the call of the chicken & apple salad with mixed greens, diced red onions, dried cranberries, cucumbers, sliced almonds and crumbled goat cheese tossed in Sherry vinaigrette. Delicious. Our bellies full once more, twas time to fill the G-man’s with yet another gut-busting double cheese burger from Johnny’s Bar & Grill. A brief stop-over at the hotel and it was onto Kathy's pool to chillax for a bit before we snuck off to Northampton and Sierra Grille-Stone destiny.

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Earlier I had called to see if reservations and/or an early arrival were necessary. I’ve been to many an exclusive beervent and let me tell you - they fill up and sell out fast. Seeing as Stone made just one keg of their Espresso Nut Brown Stout for the Sierra Grill, I rightfully imagined a bustling bar, crowded seats, and hungry patience. No thanks to the girl I spoke to on the phone, we arrived neither early nor with reservation and it was packed. The beer word gets around – know this. There is a reason some visiting Stone peeps were so impressed by the Sierra Grille that they just had to brew a one-off keg for its beery foodie divinity as the wall-to-wall patrons prooved. After all, it’s not as if Stone has a lot of free time on their hands; busy little brewmasters that they are. Thankfully, we were able to get our eager hands on two pints of Espresso Nut Brown Stout heaven and luck be our lady, two seats at the bar. Cozying up, the attentively busy bartender guided us to a special menu just for this special day. Of course, our eyes went straight to the dessert: Stone Espresso Stout Brownie with ancho stout gelato and spicy stout caramel.

A bite. A sip. Repeat.

Beer+foodvana descended as we ascended upon a flavorphoric rush of sweet nutty chocolaty spicy truffles with coffee and caramel melting in the middle. May I have another please and thanks. For all its petite beauty, she didn’t stand long against our ravishing ministrations of exclamatory pleasure. Porno stars and nymphs only wish they had it this good. Mmm! If the Espresso Stout Brownie was any indication of the foodie burgundian bliss that is Sierra Grille of Northampton, Massachusetts, it’s no wonder the peeps at Stone were duly impressed to brew a special one-time-only keg in awesome appreciation. I would too, along with a humble temple at which to worship.

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A beer later (DeRanke XX Bitter made my heart sing) and a Stone vase later, we bid farewell to Sierra and made our way across the street under the cover of darkness into the Tunnel Bar, a martini and dram paradise where everyone is family. Everyone. I will never know the nice gentlelady who welcomed Laura and me in such warm sincerity, but I will never forget. Filled with ample amounts of warm fuzzies, Laura perused their tap selection while I scaled their impressive list of martinis. A difficult decision for sure, I nonetheless settled on the Bitter End (Absolute Citron vodka, Campari, grapefruit juice, squeeze of fresh lime juice, and a lime wedge garnish) which was beautifully bitter. Campari and bitters – know them and love them.

Photobucket As tempted as we were to enjoy another drink at The Tunnel Bar we set out once more to see where else our curious feet would take us. The Dirty Truth tempted but her crowded confines deterred and it was our rumbling bellies that finally took us to Fitzwilly's for some grub before begrudgingly calling it an evening, albeit a wonderfully intimate one. Winding slowly through the mountain roads, windows down, the quiet sounds of night combined with contentment brought us to a soulful crawl and eventually to sleep.

Day 4 of vacation found us heading back to Northampton for the first of many visits at the Northampton Brewery where the beer is brewed right before your eyes, the food impresses, and my bad luck with t-shirts finally found some luck. Mens Medium for anyone who is curious. Huddled around our inner table, I savored a sampler tray of Northampton beers the likes of Hefe-Weizenheimer, Scuba’s Marzen, Clifford’s big red ale, and Eclipse.

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Of my four tasters, I enjoyed Clifford and Eclipse the most, though each was good in their own respective ways with Der Hefe-Weizenheimer straggling as a weak, thin, and spritzy link. To complement our beers, we started with ale battered chicken tenders accompanied by the naturally obvious choice: beer-based sauce. How good? If they bottled the beer-based sauce we would have brought home a case or three. The sauce with the beers took our senses on a magic carpet ride the likes of which not even the Beatles could have imagined. Chicken tenders demolished, my Love dove eagerly into the Chipotle Sausage Panini complete with house-made honey chipotle pork sausage, spinach, caramelized onions, and roasted garlic nestled between two pressed baguettes smothered with roasted red pepper aioli, mozzarella cheese and Italian herbs. In a word: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I gave into the burgundian will of Northampton’s Avocado and Grilled Shrimp Caesar salad. When made well, salads combine the best of all culinary worlds and imnsho require skill to prepare, present, and taste as good as they look and sound. Take fresh chopped tomatoes, sliced red onion, diced cucumbers, sliced avocado, orange supremes, Cajun grilled shrimp (ze tastebuds tingled) and chopped romaine lettuce, toss in homemade Caesar dressing, and garnish with shaved Parmesan and garlic croutons. May I have some more, please and thanks.

T-shirt in hand, it was on to the Summit House atop Mount Holyoke (after which the College was named) where I suffered a near-fatal heart attack as P almost took flight over the edge of Mount Holyoke in his insuperhumanly 7 year old skills to scale loose crumbly rocks moments away from a  devastating landslide to “get a better view”. Can you say white hairs? I also learned via the “hikers and tourists beware” sign that rattlesnakes are in native abundance which would explain the rattle and hum catching my ear earlier during a photo session. Remember: if you hear aratllin’ it’s time to be awalkin' and awalkin' I slowly and calmly did as to not startle the unseen but certainly heard. Nerves slightly frayed, they never once intruded on the overall awesomeness of Mount Holyoke and of sharing with with my Love and family.

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Tree hugging aside, it was back down the knuckle-whitening winding road to the hotel pool. Which reminds me: why do hotels insist on closing their pools at night? There is always someone at the desk to keep an eye on things 24-7 365 days a year (holidays shmolidays) so why close the pool? Forget the kids. What about us adults who would love to ourselves relax in the Jacuzzi and/or pool, beverage in hand? What about us, huh? Inane hotel policies aside, we still managed some more time to ourselves later that evening at The Mick where I found happiness in a Hendricks Gin Martini and introduced Laura to raw oysters. These weren’t just any raw oysters either; they were the best raw oysters I have had the pleasure of eating. Nothing speaks terroir quite like oysters in the raw; whether salty or fresh, the environment they live in translates directly to the six senses once they go from shell to mouth. Integral to this tantalizing of the senses via raw oysters is to not be bastardized by the humans who harvest, transport, and serve. As for Laura and I, each holy morsel traveled from oyster fork into mouth with juices dripping all the way to divine succulence. Wonder why the fuss over fresh caviar? Try some fresh raw oysters and you may just grasp an inkling as to why caviar fetches some insanely ridiculous prices and why their loyalists seek them far and wide.

But I am digressing again.

After embarrassingly upsetting the table, spilling Laura’s beer and my martini we relocated to another table which I did not embarrassingly upset while the live band took a thankful break from their Irish lilt. On any other given day we may have enjoyed the performance, but twas to be a quiet intimate evening and intimate it was; just not quiet. The food? Delicious thank you very much for asking. While waiting for dinner bliss to arrive, another Hendricks Martini arrived along with another beer to replace the two I spilled. Of course, it wouldn’t be dinner bliss without my Lady Laura who dove unabashedly into the Gorgonzola Sirloin, a slab of medium-well steak drowning under melted gorgonzola while the vegetable medley serenaded and garlic potatoes smashed. The only pitfall to the gorgonzola sirloin was a brown gravy surprise that did salty disservice to otherwise divine bovine bliss. As for yours beerly, I too craved protein of the hoof variety by digging into my nice and bloody prime rib au jus drowning dutifully under a scintillating horseradish cream with some potatoes baked and vegetables medley, foodie bliss was indulged at The Mick. Yowza!

Fast forward…

Day five of our vacation was spent circumventing crummy weather which seems to have a sixth sense as to when we (or anyone for that matter) wants to spend a day on the water. But! Neither weather nor shad flotsam kept us from enjoying a slow cruise along the Connecticut River. Between the mist and the gray was Mother Nature incarnate – green flora and fauna and curious critters ohmy. Nestled in the arms of love sweet love, the only thing to make a day on the water better is beer and beer we had. Specifically some more Berkshire Brewing Lost Coast IPA along with some Pretty Things E(ast) I(ndia) P(orter), Bear Republic NorCal California Style Bitter, and the Blue Hills Black Hops. Out of all, the EIP was my favorite. Considering the afore mentioned cloudy past of porter, Pretty Things could be closer to the original package or they could be far far away. Since time travel isn’t an option, I am left with the very real presence of roasty, toasty, coffee, espresso, tobacco leaf, and all good things of the earth black and burnt. Beer and beer again, Pretty Things continues to impress.

Photobucket After a lovely day on the Connecticut River we stopped by the house Laura grew up in and her mom still lives in. It took me no less than a minute in their dining room to catch the forlorn looks of a very old bottle of something curious. Turns out that bottle of curiosity is a still somewhat unidentified bottle of Dr. Mampe’s Bittere Tropfen. Throw it out?! Are you mad?! We may have arrived empty handed but we left with an old martini shaker, vintage brandy glasses complete with miniature decanters, clothes, and Laura’s old bike from when she was just seven. Thanks Mom!

Stopping briefly at the hotel to freshen-up, P and G chillaxed at Marty’s while Laura and I cruised back to Northampton to indulge the burgundian at The Dirty Truth, a gastropub of lip-smacking culinary delights with the beer selection to match. Or should that be the other way around? Good food is good food but there’s something extra special about good food enjoyed with good beer. I’ll drink a good, maybe even great beer by itself any given moment of any given day but to eat good, maybe even great food by itself is purpose and pleasure defeated. I’d rather just move to where the beer and the food live together in scandalous harmony. The Dirty Truth had good beer AND good food, both of which we were happy to oblige and it was in our obligatory indulgence of the senses that the real dirty truth was exposed – unfriggincomfortable stools. Perched at the bar as to better see the beer, we would have been no less cut off from lower extremity circulation anywhere else inside since ALL the chairs were the same damn 12x12 squares of idiocracy. Yes. Somewhere some snake of sinister furniture design is laughing his ass off at the purveyors and patrons of The Dirty Truth for falling into his web of modernistic despair. It was a shame too, because the pulled bbq duck breast sliders smothered between two slices of brioche with carrot jam (which I must have on my death bed) and spicy pickled cabbage served with the always guiltlessly indulgent French fry was toe-curling delicious. As we demolished the bbq duck sliders, further burgundian indulgence tempted but we ached to indulge feeling in our legs more than we did the spectacular beer and food selection.


With a fond farewell, we welcomed feeling once more to our lower extremities while reacquainting ourselves with our local favorite: Northampton Brewery. Good beers, good food, and comfortable chairs. What more can two discerning Burgundians ask for? Not much I tell you…except maybe more time in a day because sooner than our food could arrive, it was time to say goodnight - thank goodness for To Go boxes.Night fell and dawn rose. Though we were able to block out the dawn thanks to heavy impenetrable curtains, the day of the living called. Begrudgingly awake, nothing beyond first gear was engaged for the better part of a lazy birthday morning in preparation for an afternoon of pool, sunshine, family, food, drinks, and more drinks. Not only does America celebrate America on the 4th of July but it celebrates me. But instead of toys, age has tempered the desire for greed wrapped in paper, replacing it instead with a desire for memories everlasting which the Blaney clan more than gifted me with.

Holy Mackerel, life is good.

My camera on the other hand, may it Rest In Peace, thought otherwise as it took a plunge for the deep and final end. Heck, it wasn’t even deep; I’d put Kathy’s pool at a solid 4’ front to back, side to side, and everywhere in-between. Unfortunately, Sony doesn’t make a “waterproof” P&S camera (that I know of) and in somewhat amused irony I politely asked G to fetch its sogginess from the bottom.
Pool – 1.
Camera – 0.
Memory Card - +100000000000000
Dead camera left to wallow in its chlorinated misery for the rest of the festivities, the memory card remained safely tucked within my wallet for future picture extraction. The pictures were saved (Hallelujah!) and though I admire many features of the iPhone4, its camera skills are not one of them. I managed though for there was still one last day of vacation (aka beer, beer, food, and more beer amidst jaw-dropping gorgeous greenery and mountains) to pitcument. My only retrospective regret is that I did not know of the awesomeness which is Hipstamatic during vacation. Modern pics don’t have to be modern to be momentous – they just have to be.

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Our final day of restful relaxation brought us once more to Northampton followed by a detour to Amherst (pronounced 'Amerst' and NOT 'amHerst'). If anyone has experienced Northampton Brewery, they will understand why we just had to visit one last time until next time. For our last lunch, the outside terrace called, misters and all, despite the surprisingly stifling heat. Nowhere near hellfire and damnation Florida heat, but heat nonetheless. Maybe Massachusetts knew we were just one long drive away from muggy despair and felt it dutiful to somewhat prepare us for the return to perspiration. I’m not sure when, why, where, and how deodorant was developed and distributed, but I bet that Florida was on their mind. Blech. Sunshine and beaches and tiki drinks, ohyes. All else, no thanks.

But I digress…

Right into Amherst and Amherst Brewing Company, a hole-in-the-wall brewpub we stumbled upon unexpectedly. Isn't that what and where it's all about - the unexpected delights? Goodness knows I enjoy them on an immeasurable basis. Of course, the beer geek in me was still tasting at full speed and so, tasting book still in hand, I went for the sampler platter of Honey Pilsner, Mudd Brook Maibock, Cascade IPA, Massatucky Brown, and the Patch Porter.


Overall, not too shabby with my favorite landing squarely between the Cascade IPA and Patch Porter. While we were there, ABC was in the last stages of a brewpub relocation where more beers will be brewed, poured, growlered, and enjoyed by Amherstians all over. Even better, my t-shirt luck struck once more as evidenced by the ABC t-shirt currently hanging in the closet. Multiple beers and a massive ice-cream sundae down for the count, it was time to move on to dinner and right into grinder nirvana.

Ah, grinders, how I love thee, let me count the ways:
Crispy crunchy eye-boggling hoagie with a soft bready inside. Take said roll and insert whatever your hungry heart desires. The sky isn’t the limit; see that luminous celestial orb out there beyond the stratosphere, Major Tom? Now set your sights beyond even those outer limits because if you crave it and voice it – believe you me, they can make it. To the fine women and men of your favorite grinder establishment who take those lustful desires and turn them from fantasy into edible reality – I salute you. Laura had hinted at the grandiose designs of this northeasterly burgundian pleasure and I can say without a doubt that my grinder was expertly ravished bite by bite, until all that was left was finger-licking memories.

In fact, all the memories from our first family vacation were finger-licking memorytastic. I never once felt anything other than loved, in love, welcome, and at home. For all its enticement, there is a lot my home state lacks. I’d start a list but for that there truly isn’t enough time in the day or night. Along with learning I can still pull an all-nighter road trip and that in Massachusetts there is no crap on tap, I expanded horizons, spoiled the tastebuds, murdered my camera, and fell all that much more in Love.


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

Monday, August 08, 2011

Liljas Hope Nest Monster ~ Pangaea Brewing Company

Appearance: orange with a smidge of dregs – a bad sign? Off white head fades into a collar bordering a broken film. Swirls thick with lingering spots.

Nose: bread crusts. Stems and leaves. Mild nondescript greenness in the back with dry lemon skin. Saltines. Hop pellets.

Palate: clean with a hint of nondescript sweetness underneath. More lemon zest then the nose implied. Orange, white grapefruit, and lemon peel. Some pink grapefruit in the middle for sweetness. Pleasantly dry finish. Inner pith of citric skin lingers a bit too long – dry and harsh. Average.

Final Thoughts: overall not too bad. The dregs left me a bit leery of the overall result, and the overall result was it was okay. Simple to a fault yes but not a drain pour. 


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

Back in Black ~ 21st Amendment Brewery

Appearance: burnt blacks and browns under a dark khaki head which lingers as a decently thick layer of bubbly fluff.

Nose: roasty and dark with pitted fruits; more dark fruits than burnt roast. Black root and fudgy earth. Hops follow last – subtle and subdued. Handfuls of dried slightly singed whole hop cones.

Palate: clean and roastier than nose implied. Medium mouthfeel. Roasty on top and in the finish with hops roughing out the edges – dried singed whole hop cones. Immediately starts to dry the palate. Rustic burnt woods in the breath. Dark fruits grow more intense as warms up – prunes and black root, earthen and nutty with stones included.

Final Thoughts: a very good black IPA…or whatever you west coasters want to call it. Considering its generous ratings I was expecting a smidge more depth and complexity, but in its place I enjoyed a cleanliness of flavor and purpose. 


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