Archive | December, 2012

Good beer and merry cheer

25 Dec

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There’s nothing like good ‘ole charitable events and thoughtless generosity right around the holidays to remind us what it’s really all about: Beer.  Wait, I meant hope, peace and love.  Ok, maybe some beer too.

            That’s exactly what the “Pour to Restore” event held over the weekend on Staten Island was all about—giving back to the community.  And thanks to the creativity and commraderie of a bunch of local home-brewers, the event was a success and raised close to 3K for the employees of Staten Island University Hospital who were affected by Super storm Sandy. 

            Sean Torres, President of the Pour Standards Home-brew Club on Staten Island organized the event along with other members of the club, Philip Gardner and Doug Williams. 

On Sunday at 120 Bay Café on the North Shore of the borough that was greatly impacted by October’s storm, about 20 home-brewers from around New York City and even New Jersey, offered attendees pours of their brews.  Raffle tickets were sold with the chance to win an introductory home-brewing kit from Brooklyn Homebrew or an introductory home-brewing class from Brooklyn’s Bitter & Esters. 

The brews ranged from standard American Pale Ales and IPA’s to more experimental brews like a “Belgian Patersbier,” and a Spearmint Chocolate Stout. Some brewers even got a little cheeky with their names, like Terrence O’Brien and Dave Haber whose “Filthy Little Birch,” a Birch Ale, had a label of “Sandy” from Grease.  The home-brewers at the event didn’t mind giving a little sucker punch to the storm and embodied the spirit of perseverance.  It’s amazing what a little home-brew can do! 

Check out our photos from the event and go to http://www.pourtorestore.com/ to see a list of participating home-brewers and what they made.  

Harpoon Brewery Part II

18 Dec

Sorry to leave our readers in suspense—it’s just when you have such an extra ordinary experience, it’s hard to put it all into words.

Most of you have probably visited a brewery before—you are taken on a tour, get samples in the tasting room, learned more about the brand and its history—you leave a little more informed and a little more drunk than when you came in.  Every brewery seems to have its own nuances.  Our visit to Harpoon was especially unique because Al Marzi, Chief of Brewing Operations and a guy who’s been with the company for 21 years (almost since its inception), was our own personal tour guide.

He started in the company lunchroom, a modest place with an admirable collection of random hot sauces (why do beer and hot sauce always seem to go together?).  From there he walked us through the “factory”–visiting a brewery always seems to be a Willy Wonka-type experience.  You see where they mill the grains, mash them, sparge and then add hops and other spices to the wort.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be entertained by the bottling line (always even more fascinating when you’ve already tasted a few brews)—this particular bottling line applies a label on both the front and back of the bottle—oooooooo.

Al also pointed out where they will soon be installing a canning line.  While they currently can their signature IPA, UFO, and their summer seasonal at upstate FX Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, NY, you can anticipate a bigger canned selection soon due to this new addition.

He also showed us where they’re working on experimental, 400-gallon batches.  Well, some of them work out and some don’t!  You’re next favorite beer may be brewing there now…

So now for the biggest news of all—Harpoon is opening a large beer garden-type hall where future tastings will take place and tours will take off.  You bet we’ll be there for the Grand Opening!

A few days before our visit, the Harpoon staff had a company holiday party where they celebrated the end of “Movember,” in the not-yet-opened beer hall, at their “Stache-bash” all while giving back to some local charities.  Moustaches for a great cause?  Yeah, we love that!  Al himself earned special recognition with his “checkerboard” beard, a signature pattern on all of Harpoon’s beers (it was unfortunately absent upon our visit—we bet Al couldn’t wait to get rid of it!).  For photo evidence, check out their Facebook page.    

The conclusion of our tour took us right back to that lunchroom—much more enlightened after our journey we inquired about the “staff taps”—there seemed to be a few unavailable-to-the-public beers there.  Al let us sample a sour—so delicious!  Although, it will probably never become a 100 Barrel Series beer due to the threat of infestation from Brettanomyces…what a shame!! (But understandable).  And not everybody enjoys the sour beers.  And as Al pointed out, they don’t exist to chase trends.  I’d add that Harpoon sets them!  Either way, it’s a great way to decide what’s coming up next for their 100 Barrel Series, having the staff sample and offer feedback from the lunchroom while even visitors to the brewery have the opportunity to try some rarities that may or may not make it into full production!  Just another great excuse (if you need one) to visit the brewery…   

Our visit to Harpoon was certainly a highlight on our trip to Boston.  But even if you can’t make it up to the brewery, you can still drink their beer locally.  If you visit Harpoon’s Web site, you can use their “Beer Finder” tool to seek out the beers near you—whether it be a case of their Wintry Mix, their Chocolate Stout on tap, or their latest 100 Barrel Series.  For more about their beers (and what we tried and thought), check out my last blog post.  We can’t wait to go back early next year and check out the new beer hall for ourselves…but until then, we’ll just have to drink a Winter Warmer…or two.           

 

Harpoon pt. 1…

12 Dec

Well, there’s the rivalry—Yankees vs. Red Sox, Giants vs. Pats, Bruins vs. Rangers, Celtics vs. Knicks (and add the ‘Nets to that now), but we’re talking about sports, not beer here.  And when it comes to Harpoon, well, maybe we can try to compete a local New York brewery against them, but why would you want to?

NYC already embraces Harpoon:  We see their flagship IPA at a number of local bars with its signature orange tap, and I can’t help but want to be whisked away to Boston’s “hah-bah,” drinking their beers on a sail boat, possibly whale watching…

But there’s much more to Harpoon than just their IPA.  I’m sure you’ve seen their UFO’s (UnFiltered Offering for all of you neophytes) and most likely their seasonals.  You may have even been privileged enough to pick up a recent 100 Barrel Series at your local great craft beer store.  But if you’ve never been to Boston and visited their brewery, well you don’t know beans (apparently beans are a big thing up there).

Two Girls One Pint (along with StevieAnn from Sassy Beer) were fortunate to venture up there last Monday and experience it for ourselves—this place is the real deal, with great, drinkable beer.  They should know good beer—they have been around since 1986.  And Harpoon doesn’t need fancy commercials to get its point across…the beer speaks for itself.

The brewery was the first company to obtain a permit to manufacture and sell alcohol in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in over 25 years.  This is thanks to their founders, fondly referred to as “Rich & Dan,” who attended Harvard and after traveling Europe, were inspired enough to start their own brewery.   For us, it’s hard to believe that Harpoon is “that old” (ok so 26 is not old by any means but in the craft beer world, it’s ancient).

Upon visiting the brewery, one is greeted with a metal gate displaying the four essential ingredients: Water, grains, hops, and yeast.  The tasting room is warm and friendly—samples are offered two times a day (at 2 pm and 4 pm) and full brewery tours are offered on the weekend.  We were surprised not only by the warm greetings from our tasting room hostesses, but also but the diverse offerings.

Aside from their signature IPA complete with its orange tap handle, also available were the UFO (and its raspberry version), 3 current Leviathan offerings (more on them later), some experimental beers from their 400 gallon series (basically a home-brewer’s wet dream), their current seasonals (Winter Warmer and Chocolate Stout), their newest 100 Barrel Series brew (El Triunfo Coffee Porter), their amazing cider, their Dark (formally called Munich dark) and their new all-round Rye IPA.  The selection is overwhelming, especially on a Monday afternoon.

Without leaving the room, guests are lucky enough to be poured samples of any beer they desire (it’s really hard to choose one) then given a story behind the beers and the brewery between swallows.  Twenty-first birthdays are celebrated, old friends reunited while new friends are made.  The tasting room becomes a meeting place for a bunch of strangers with one thing in common: Their love of great beer.

If you haven’t tried it yet, the not-even-one-year-old Rye IPA is a highly enjoyable beer for those of us who lean toward an everyday IPA (not overly bitter or hoppy).  The citrus notes from the hops are balanced by the spiciness of the rye.  I’ve been drinking this baby all week like it’s my life support!

The Chocolate Stout is solid (I’m ashamed to say this was my first introduction to it).  Now that I’ve had it, I’m not quite sure how I went without for so long—it’s dark and roasty but sweet enough without being too dessert-y.  Chocolate milk for grown-ups!  And what girl (or boy) doesn’t love chocolate?  It’s also perfect for this time of year (it is a seasonal, after all).

For those of you who’ve never enjoyed a Harpoon Cider, you’re in for a real treat.  It’s extremely natural tasting (from an apple orchard 40 miles away) and employs their signature yeast so it doesn’t just taste like you’re drinking a sparkling apple juice.

Try it mixed with a Winter Warmer.  While I normally don’t advise mixing beer, we can make an exception with this, a concoction called “Apple Pie.”  The sweetness of the cider paired with the spices of their winter seasonal creates a perfect treat for a cold day.

Their Leviathan series are the high ABV ones (Imperials).  All of them are great but strong—approach with caution!  On tap currently in their tasting room was their Imperial IPA (sooo good), a Russian Imperial Stout (one to take home and age), and a Baltic Porter.

Their Dark (formally called Munich Dark, but the name seemed to intimidate people) is a perfect example of the kind of beer I am really into drinking right now—A Dunkel, the dark color is a ruse to the light-bodied, velvety textured beer disguised behind its cloudy brown (mahogany, for you fans of wood) color.  This seems to be the favorite in the Harpoon world, amongst staff and fans alike.

So what other beers did we try?  And what was it like being taken on a one-of-a-kind brewery tour by Harpoon’s Chief of Brewing Operations, Al Marzi?  What does Harpoon have in store for 2013?  For answers to all of those questions, stop by later this week for the Second Part of our series on Boston’s Harpoon Brewery!

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6 Dec

here’s what you missed

tap this!

With a focus on Sandy, this past Saturday’s NYC Craft Beer Festival: Winter Harvest was fun-filled and festive—a great way to start off the holiday (beer) season.

While I was able to sneak out and sample a few great brews, I spent most of my time hanging out at our Two Girls One Pint table, chatting with folks that love beer just as much as we do.  As one passerby noted: “Aren’t you guys just a bunch of female beer geeks?”  Well, yes sir, thanks for noticing.

I was impressed by the depth and quality of beers represented—I actually didn’t expect it to be that big! (Shameless “That’s what she said” line follows here).  Upstairs in the Connoisseur lounge, those lucky enough to have access were treated to such fine brews as Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, always a treat for the tongue, and Dogfish Head’s Theobrama as well as comfy couches where…

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The most memorable of forgotten weekends!…

6 Dec

The most memorable of forgotten weekends!….

The most memorable of forgotten weekends!…

6 Dec

With a focus on Sandy, this past Saturday’s NYC Craft Beer Festival: Winter Harvest was fun-filled and festive—a great way to start off the holiday (beer) season.

While I was able to sneak out and sample a few great brews, I spent most of my time hanging out at our Two Girls One Pint table, chatting with folks that love beer just as much as we do.  As one passerby noted: “Aren’t you guys just a bunch of female beer geeks?”  Well, yes sir, thanks for noticing.

I was impressed by the depth and quality of beers represented—I actually didn’t expect it to be that big! (Shameless “That’s what she said” line follows here).  Upstairs in the Connoisseur lounge, those lucky enough to have access were treated to such fine brews as Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, always a treat for the tongue, and Dogfish Head’s Theobrama as well as comfy couches where they noshed on cheese from Murray’s and listened to talented singer/songwriter Willy Gantrim.

Downstairs in the common tasting area, local breweries like Brooklyn, Sixpoint, and ACBC (Alphabet City Brewing Company) with their “Easy Blonde” poured recognizable brews next to West Coast Lagunitas and Speakeasy.

One standout was Pennsylvania Brewing Company’s (out of Pittsburgh, PA) Nut Roll Ale, a sweet, festive winter-spiced beer that is perfect for the season.  The Founder’s Breakfast Stout seemed to be a festival favorite.  Another was the “Wookey Jack,” from Firestone Walker Brewing Co., always a producer of solid beers, many of which seem to be popping up a lot more often in our area.

I personally enjoyed sipping on Lagunitas’ Cappuccino Stout—I felt like I was drinking some delicious coffee to keep me going in the long hours spent behind the table at both sessions…but then I reminded myself that the buzz I was getting was from beer!

Unfortunately I was unable to attend any of the seminars, as us girls had work to do!  But I’d love to hear from those who did how they were.  You really can’t go wrong with eating cheese from Murray’s or learning food and beer pairing secrets from beer sommelier Hayley Jensen and Chef Stephen Durley.

The location was great and easily accessible from lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, albeit a bit tricky to navigate with a buzz on.  No matter how many “Watch Your Step” signs and yellow Caution tape outlined the path ways, I still managed to trip more than once.  I blame Sandy for this one.

But as far as music goes, my personal favorite was the selection of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” telling people their session was over and it was time to get the F out, inspiring some pretty sloppy kick-lines that The Rockettes would surely shake their head’s at.

So Sandy may have delayed the fun, but the festival was able to happen anyway, and I think this event reflected the adaptation and perseverance that so many strong-willed New Yorkers have displayed following this devastating storm.  The residents of Breezy Point who have been suffering this past month from Sandy’s effects will have a little bit of a happier holiday thanks to the generosity of festival attendees.

So, “Start Spreading the News,” the NYC Craft Beer Festival was a great time and I can only look forward to their spring event.  Look for our newscast, coming soon to Two Girls One Pint.

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