Dog Tag Brewing Legacy Lager

I saw this in a bargain bin at Ace Beverage in Washington, DC. Tall-boys with a cause—terrific!

Except that it isn’t. This stuff is contract brewed by Pabst, and it is rough. It is bitter in that Oiels or Red, White, and Blue sort of way, with little malt or other flavors. Even a little salt did.not make it o.k. This was a rare instance where I dumped a brew down the drain. (Rating: Not good.)

Read more about Dog Tag Brewing at DogTagBrewing.org.

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Warming Winter Whiskeys

clyde-may-old-tub-angels-envy-reducedI am a seasonal drinker. What tastes best to me in the summer swelter is not what I hoist in the chillier months. Since the cold began its bite some weeks back, I have not had a single gin drink, for example, despite it being a spirit I adore.

Mostly, my glass of late has been filled with whiskeys. Bourbon tastes especially delicious during the dark months. I picked up a handsome package of Calumet Farm Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (86 proof), which came with two nice glasses. It proved a bit of a disappointment—the flavor was thin and not very nuanced. Who exactly makes this Bourbon is far from clear—the rear label lists “Western Spirits” and “Three Springs Bottling Company.” Google those and you don’t get much. There is no Western Spirits distillery, so maybe this bourbon was bought from Heaven Hill. (Rating: Not good)

I got much more satisfaction from Clyde May Straight Bourbon Whiskey (92 proof). May, as many of you likely know, was a famed Alabama moonshiner who operated between the 1950s and 1980s. His son Kenny took the business legal, but not before running into some troubles with the law himself. Clyde May bourbon is made by Conecuh Ridge Distillery, and is aged in heavily charred barrels. It offers an intense apricot and nutmeg notes, and costs about $40 a bottle. (Rating: Very good)

A friend brought me a bottle of Old Tub sour mash, which one has a hard time finding beyond the grounds of the Jim Beam Distillery. This bottled in Bond whiskey is good stuff—a 100 proof, 4-year old spirit that tastes of corn, vanilla, barrel char, and apple. (Rating: Very good) Why is it called “Old tub”? Bourbon historian Chuck Cowdery explains:

“In 1892, Jacob’s grandson, David M. Beam, transferred the family distillery to his sons James and Park, and his son-in-law Albert Hart. They called their company Beam & Hart but gave their distillery the name of their best-selling brand, Old Tub Bourbon. As whiskey marketers are wont to do, these newly large scale commercial distillers tried to cast themselves as old-timey. Jack Beam, an uncle to Jim, Park, and Al, called his brand (and distillery) ‘Early Times’ and used terms like ‘hand made’ and ‘old fire copper’ to suggest timeless craftsmanship. His nephews’ ‘Old Tub’ was a reference to the wooden tubs in which mash was cooked, laboriously stirred by hand. Historic Old Tub labels show the mash being stirred by a dark-skinned worker, possibly a slave. The modern version just shows the tub.”

Last year, I crowed over Angel’s Envy in the Spectator. Here I will do it again. This year they released a cask strength (124.6 proof) version of their port-barrel aged bourbon. Only 8,000 bottles came to market. It is an immense drink—on must add drop after drop of water to it to find the soft spot where the flavors release. The size of this whiskey is the product of the considerable work used to produce it. Carin Moonin explains that Angel’s Envy is “made from a mash of 72 percent corn, 18 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley. Once the bourbon has aged a minimum of four years (and up to six years) in white American Oak, it’s finished for up to six months in 60-gallon casks that were formerly used to mature port.” (Rating: Very good) Angel’s Envy cask strength runs about $180 a bottle.  Somewhere above Lincoln Henderson, the late distiller who invented this whiskey, is smiling.

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Grand Teton Brewing Gose, Pisco Porton, La Caravedo Pisco, Fos Liqueur, and Stolen Smoked Rum

pisco-portonThere is something very satisfying about having a go-to drink. After a long day of work and kid care, a glass of whiskey is very welcome. The Kosar house bourbons include Four Roses Small BatchBuffalo Trace, Weller 12-year (and Special Reserve), and Woodford Reserve. Big bottles of Bulleit and Old Forester can be had for a song, and are oh-so worth it. My preferred Tennessee firewater is George Dickel — the 8-year, usually, and the 12-year if I feel like I’ve earned it.

And don’t get me started on the glories of gin. Plymouth martini’s, Beefeater gin and tonics… these are the drinks that make the gloaming bright. And we are in the golden age of gin.

Some days, however, I want something different, something that will throw a screwball at my palate and brain. So I roam, and crack open things that make my brain think “Whaaaat?” look or give me an unsettled, nervous feeling.

Starting this bibacious journey, I aim for something light — Gose (pronounced Goes-uh). This German-style of beer features can be hard to find in the U.S.A. It’s a strange brew, that is made with a lot of wheat and is both salty and tart. (Most beers tend toward the bitter side of the flavor spectrum, with America’s mega-IPA’s being the bitterest of them all.) Fortunately, Grand Teton Brewing of Idaho produces a delicious Gose. It is spiced with coriander, which tops off the riot of flavors.

Moving right along to the potent stuff, Pisco began pouring into America in the past decade. It is the South American cross between brandy and grappa. Like brandy, Pisco is wine distilled into spirit; like grappa, Pisco usually is not aged. Pisco Porton is very fine brand, that offers up slightly sweet and herbal heat. La Caravedo is another Pisco worth a look — it is lighter, dryer, and gentler than Porton.

Wandering further into white spirits, we come to Fos, a Greek liqueur made from the mastiha tree sap. This is one of the stranger drinks I have ever tasted, and I say that as a compliment. The nose is surreal — it smells like bark, and in the mouth the hooch has a light sweetness that is utterly dissonant from the aroma. A sip of Fos takes your taste into a whole new realm of possibility.

Closing out this trip into unusual drinks, we go dark. Flavored rums are plentiful these days, and Stolen Smoked Rum is a recent and wild addition to the bunch. Rum from the Caribbean (Trinidad?) is aged in whiskey casks, then injected with coffee, vanilla, and Moroccan fenugreek (a clover-like herb found in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Indian subcontinent. That fenugreek is used to increase maternal milk supply and constipation is a confounding discovery). This liquor floods the mouth and head with intense flavors, the Arabica coffee notes being the most intense. Mixed with lime and ginger beer, it makes a robust Dark and Stormy.

Variety is the spice of life, and thanks to globalism and the dynamism of capitalism tipplers have more drinks to explore than ever.

(This post first appeared on the American Spectator.)

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Great Drinks for Dad On Father’s Day

El BuhoMan does not live by bread alone. And a father, well, he needs even more, what with the middle of the night wake-ups, the tantrums, and the exploded filthy diapers. I have four children. Under the age of 10. Just this evening, my four-year old got out of bed 7 or 8 times with assorted excuses, including “My eye hurts.”

Yes, my needs are many.

Come father’s day, my hope is that I can slip out at the sunrise and head to the river. There I’ll rent a rowboat, and make my way onto the water still turbid from today’s rain. Cormorants and other birds will lead me to a promising spot. I’ll pitch my anchor, bait treble hook rigs, and let the heavy line from two rods sink in the Potomac. With any luck, the catfish will hit, and I’ll return to dock midday feeling like a master caster.

That’s how I want to start my day.

And I will conclude Dad Day sitting outside with a glass in hand. A special day justifies a special drink, one I know and love. The possibilities are many, but any of these would do quite nicely:

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon: I really like this whiskey. It comes in a bulbous, perfume-like bottle that shows its deep amber color. Sometimes I can handle this 90 proof drink straight up; but usually I prefer it with a single ice cube, which softens it so I can better enjoy its rich flavors. It is worth every penny of the $30 to $35 a bottle my local retailer charges. Continue reading “Great Drinks for Dad On Father’s Day”

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Bourbon Made In Ohio? You Betcha

Source: Tom'sFoolery.com
Source: Tom’sFoolery.com

Sitting on my desk is a tumbler of bourbon. Its deep amber color shines out through the dewy glass. Tom’s Foolery is its whimsical name. It is 90 proof (45% alcohol by volume), and tastes of corn, apple, vanilla and barrel char. It is a little fiery, despite being being aged 3 years. A new whiskey from Kentucky, you may wonder? Nope, this bourbon is from Chagrin Falls—Ohio.

It is a common misperception that bourbon “by law” can only be made in Kentucky. As this bottle shows, bourbon can be made anywhere in America. Federal regulations declare: “the word ‘bourbon’ shall not be used to describe any whisky or whisky-based distilled spirits not produced in the United States.” These same regulations require bourbon to be made from a recipe that uses not less than 51% corn as fermentables, and that the whiskey be aged in barrels made from new oak. That is all.

Kentucky, for certain, has a good claim as the birthplace of bourbon. As whiskey expert, Chuck Cowdery notes in “Bourbon Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey,” The state was shipping its whiskeys down the Mississippi River to New Orleans 200 years ago. “Bourbon,” as best we can guess, is a monicker that folks back then used to refer to the hooch coming from the great swath of Kentucky that was then part of Bourbon County.

Today, most bourbon comes from Kentucky. Jim Beam alone is filling a half-million barrels per year. But Indiana long has which produced an ocean of whiskey, and new bourbon-makers are popping up everywhere. More than 20 states have bourbon distilleries, according to data from the American Distilling Institute. Ohio alone has a half dozen small bourbon-makers.

These new makers of bourbon frequently break from the common mold. Tom’s Foolery is aged first in new oak barrels (per the federal regulations), then finished in casks that formerly held applejack, the potent apple-based booze. Grass Widow (91 Proof/45.5% ABV) is distilled in Indiana, then spends its last aging days in barrels that once held Madeira, a fortified red wine. The effect is a very un-bourbon bourbon. Grass Widow has a corn sweetness, but also is fruity and a bit herbal tasting. Missouri’s Pinkney’s Bend Distillery offers bourbons aged in stout beer and port wine barrels.

All of which means that I should not feel bad that this bottle —and glass– of Tom’s Foolery is nearly empty. There are many more new bourbons to try.

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Tonight’s Tipple: Grand Teton Brewing Company Black Cauldron Imperial Stout

Source: AlcoholReviews.com
Source: AlcoholReviews.com

Grand Teton of Victor, Idaho makes terrific beers. This stout is another one of their “cellar reserves.” It serves up sweet chocolate and roasted notes. Black Cauldron is a really rich brew, a meal unto itself, and a real delight on a cool night. Anyone who enjoys big stouts (like Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and Mackeson XXX) will really dig this beer. (Rating: Excellent)

Read more about it at http://www.grandtetonbrewing.com/BCIS.html.

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