Blondie and I found ourselves in the nation’s capital this weekend for a friend's wedding. D.C. offers a plethora of opportunities to combine sightseeing with historical learning - The Monuments, The Smithsonian, The White House, The Capital. So what did we choose to learn about? Why, booze of course!
The National Archives, which houses The Bill of Rights, The Constitution, and The Declaration of Independence, is currently running an exhibit entitled Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History. The exhibit, which runs through January 10, 2016, looks at the government’s tolerance, oversight, and control of alcohol through American history. If there ever was an exhibit up my alley, this is it.
Since the exhibit focuses on how the government treated alcohol in America, a good chunk of the exhibit focused on The Temperance Movement through that darkest of times in American history….Prohibition.
The Temperance Movement did not originally set out to ban all drinking. Hell, it didn’t even set out of ban all drunkenness. No, the original goal of The Temperance Movement was to stop drunkenness among the poor and working classes of this country. That is why one of the first major temperance organizations was named The Anti-Saloon League. Rich people didn’t visit saloons. The wealthy and elite of society drank at home and in their private clubs.
If you looked carefully at the Spirited Republic exhibit, it became clear that poor drinkers were the target of The Temperance Movement. For example, a cartoon entitled Why I Hate The Liquor Traffic featured a quote from J. Frank Hanley, Governor of Indiana which read:
“I hate the Liquor Traffic for the almshouses it peoples – for the prisons it fills – for the insanity it causes – for its countless graves in potters fields. I hate it for the grief it causes womankind, and for the shadow it throws upon the lives of children – its monstrous injustice to blameless little ones.”
Notice the words used: almshouses…prisons…potters fields. These words are associated with the poor. The rich didn’t need to worry about begging in a poorhouse, finding themselves in prison, or being buried in a nameless grave.
The Spirited Republic had more examples of this anti-poor-people-drinking movement. If you visit the exhibit, keep an eye out for displays of the stigma.
The exhibit also did a neat job of showing the use of alcohol, through toasts, in diplomatic relationships. There were clips of presidents from Carter to Reagan to Obama toasting other world leaders. Pretty cool.
If you’ll allow me an aside – I always find it comical when President Obama or any other politician poses with a beer for a photo op. It is so clearly forced. These men and women who run our country don’t hang out in the same sports bars and dives where the average drinker heads for a couple of pints. So why pretend they do? No one believes them. And I never liked judging politicians on the “would you have a beer with them” scale. I really don’t care if our leaders make great drinking buddies. I have plenty of friends I love having beers with and I don’t want any of them as our Commander-In-Chief. I want our president to be good at running the country. Who cares how good he is at drinking beer?
Ok, aside over. Back to the Spirited Republic exhibit.
If you find yourself in D.C. between now and January 10, 2016, I recommend making your way over to the National Archives and the Spirited Republic exhibit. Check out the United States’ most significant documents and learn about our country’s hot and cold relationship with alcohol. It’s free of charge, and small enough that touring the entire building won’t take you more than two to three hours. For more info, check out the Spirited Republic website: www.spiritedrepublic.org.
Owner and CCO
Greetings fellow craft beer lovers. I hope the summer has been kind to you and hopefully you've stayed cool with some great local beers. I am pleased to announce that we will be launching a new blog series: What's On Tap With Bobby. This new series will feature posts on local New England Breweries. We'll include everything about the breweries - origin stories, preferred beer styles, tour options, and Q & A's with the brewers themselves. Our goal is introduce as many great New England craft breweries as possible to all of our readers.
It seems like every week I hear raves about a brewery that I had never heard of before. I want to learn about them all. And I want you the reader to learn right along with me. But I need your help. I want to know which breweries you recommend or breweries you would like to know more about. Got a favorite local brewery? Go ahead and post it in the comments. Big or small - we want to visit them all.
And don't worry, The Boston Beer Blog will continue to separately post information and recaps of local beer events.
Be on the lookout for our first What's On Tap With Bobby post in the coming weeks.
Now go enjoy a beer.
During my gypsy backpacking days I tasted a lot of beers that I can’t remember and not necessarily for the reason you think. Berlin, Rome, Prague – I’ve sipped plenty of great beers in dozens of cities. And I’ve also put back quite a few terrible beers along the way. Recalling the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly pints has always proved difficult since my pub memory tends to be slightly blurry. I never had a way to track which beers I drank nor a way to mark those beers as terrific or terrible.
But thanks to Untappd, I no longer have to wonder if that coffee porter from that nanobrew in Florida tasted like the world’s best beer or the world’s crappiest cup of coffee. Untappd (yes, there is no ‘e’) is a beer tracking app that let’s you rate beers as you drink them. Simply type in the name of the beer and give is one to five stars. Even easier, if you don’t know the exact name of the beer, you can just type in the name of the brewery and scroll until you find the beer you’re drinking. You can add location, comments, and pictures to help your recall.
Untappd also provides a short, detailed description of each beer and lists the essential details – brewer, ABV%, total star rating from other drinkers, and recent reviews. It’s the beer drinker’s TripAdvisor.
Untappd fancies itself a social app as well. You and your friends can follow each other and see each other’s beer reviews. Essentially the same as a Facebook thread. But just like with Facebook, you may want to decline your mom or your boss’ friend request since they can easily see that you checked in with your ninth beer at 11:45 on a Tuesday night. Calling in sick the next morning might prove a little difficult after that.
The one flaw I find with Untappd is that you cannot change your rating after it is entered. If you follow me (username: BostonCrawling) on Untappd, you’ll notice I tend to be more generous with my ratings as the night goes on. My first beer of the night never ranks as highly as my fifth (I wonder why). I would like the option to change my ratings in the sober light of day. But this is a minor nuisance.
Overall, I’m a big fan of Untappd. And judging by how many of my crawlers use the app on Boston Crawling’s Freedom Trail Pub Crawl, Untappd has a large and growing membership.
Make you night more memorable and use Untappd. It only takes a second to download and set up. Be sure to follow me on there – username: BostonCrawling.
Owner & CCO
Why have one mystery beer, when you can have three?
Harpoon threw their friends a curve for the June X-Night. Instead of one mystery X beer, Harpoon provided us with three samples of red beer. The first sample was the base red, the second was the base red aged in a whiskey barrel, and the third was the base red aged in a rum barrel. We sampled all three and then ordered a pint of our favorite.
Which did I order you ask? Well, let me say this – I have never been a big fan of barrel-aged beer. I don’t drink liquor. Never. And most barrel-aged brews pull such a strong taste from whichever barrel they are aged in that I feel like I’m drinking an entire pint of the hard stuff.
Luckily, the barrel aged samples we sipped on last night did not provide a very strong liquor taste, although you could certainly detect hints of the whiskey and rum.
Despite the mild flavor, I still opted for the base red as my pint selection. I’m a fan of reds in general – usually not hop, very smooth. This red lived up to the reputation.
After the X-Night pint, I also sampled a few Harpoon’s other offerings of which the Mint Cider caught my attention. Mint? Yes, mint. I love mint offerings, but they can be risky. There is a very fine line between delicious mint – mint chocolate chip ice cream – and mouthwash tasting mind – for me, that’s the shamrock shake at McD’s. I fully expected this cider fall on the Listerine side of that fine line. Color me pleasantly surprised. This mint cider walked the fine line like a Flying Wallenda. And unlike many ciders, which usually have a cloudy appearance, the Harpoon Mint Cider is see-through clear. It’s worth at least a sample next time your in the beer hall, if for no other reason than it’s uniqueness.
Owner & CCO
It’s official – I am a brewer.
Blondie and I returned to Hopster’s last night to bottle the Irish Red Ale we had brewed two weeks ago (you have to wait two weeks to bottle in order to let the beer ferment). Turns out the bottling process was a lot of fun.
Five easy steps:
1. Flip a switch to air lock the pour
2. Flip a switch to push in some CO2
3. Flip a switch to pour the beer
4. Flip a switch to stop the pour of beer
5. Flip a switch to release the air lock.
Super simple. That is, of course, unless you flip the switch to release the air lock prior to flipping the switch to stop the pour of beer. When that happens you just stand there watching beer pour out for a few seconds, wondering perhaps why the CO2 didn’t work. I’m not going to name names as to who messed this up and gave the devil a full share, but let’s just say it wasn’t Blondie.
After that, I was on capping duty, no longer allowed to handle the goods. Capping was really easy too – just add the cap to a magnet and pull a lever to crush the cap around the top.
How does it taste you ask? Well it’s an Irish Red but a rather light one. I was looking for a light, smooth beer that would appeal to a large group of people (my relatives at our family reunion this weekend). Goal accomplished. Not a hoppy beer and easy drinkability. Perfect for a summer picnic.
As for the name – Blondie and I kicked around some historical names but none of them really stuck. Then it came to me, like lanterns shinning from the top of the Old North Church – "TWO IF BY SEA". Historic and punny – just like Boston Crawling Pub Crawls. So we slapped a picture of Baby Paul (Boston Crawling’s logo) on the label and, voilà, I walked home with three cases of self-brewed beer.
If you’re interested in brewing you own beer, but don’t want to buy the equipment, check out Hopster’s in Newton.
Owner & CCO
I drink beer. Have for a long time. But I've never tried brewing it. That is until this past weekend when Blondie and I visited Hopsters in Newton. The idea of brewing my own beer has been kicking around in my head for awhile now. But as with any true North Ender, Blondie and I just don't have the room for the equipment. Hopsters provided a perfect alternative. I used their equipment to make my beer, all while sipping on their beer, and never had to worry about the clean up.
Hopsters is a small, cute brew pub that has ten nano size brew tanks placed right in the middle of the bar, which surprised me. I thought we'd be off in the back brewing, but smart of Hopsters to put the tanks where everyone can see and inquire about brewing their own.
Now, I should tell you about the cost before going any further. The brewing costs between $180 and $230 depending on the style of beer you choose, plus tip to the staffer helping you brew, plus all the fine Hopsters food and beverage you partake in over the 2 hour event. Not one of the cheaper nights, but you do end up with about 3 cases of beer and the price is the same for up to a group of up to 4. So if you and a couple of friends chip in, it is not as expensive as it sounds.
Back to the brewing... After going through the book of options, Blondie and I decided to make the Irish Red Ale. Why? Well first off, between the two camps of I LOVE HOPS and the EH, I'M NOT A BIG FAN OF HOPS, I tend to fall into the latter camp (side note, that's the first time I ever successfully used 'the latter' in a sentence). I enjoy Celtic Reds as a whole. Plus, we are planning on bringing this beer to my family reunion in June. I wanted a beer that would be appealing to everyone in a large group. It seemed like the Irish Red Ale was the safest bet to get some flavor but also appeal to the general drinking public.
The brewing process itself was none too complicated. Our brewmaster, Dan, helped us measure out some grains, steep them in water, add some malt and a touch of hops, stir it all together, let it boil for an hour, add a lil more hops for flavor at the end, and then, voila, Blondie and I successfully brewed our first ever batch of beer. Dan assured us that with more complicated beers there are more steps to the process. But since our Irish Red Ale was pretty straight forward, the steps were limited.
Blondie and I now have to wait patiently for two weeks while our beer ferments. We then get to return and bottle the beer ourselves with a custom made Boston Crawling label. The questions I have for you, my faithful reader, is what should we name our Irish Red Ale? If your name is chosen, you'll win a six-pack of our beer. But be forewarned, Blondie has already suggested the name Midnight Ride. So that is where the bar is set.
Usually the Boston Beer Blog is used to recap cool drinking events that I've been to or good beers that I've sipped on. But I wanted to give everyone a heads up about a great beer event taking place this weekend: Laugh Boston's Laffenhaus.
The set up is simple: there's an hour of beer tasting from a couple of dozen local vendors, followed by an hour of improv from the troupe at Improv Asylum, and wrapped up with one more hour of beer tasting for good measure.
So to recap:
One hour of beer tasting
One hour of improv
One more hour of beer tasting
Laugh Boston is located in the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel at 425 Summer St. in the Seaport.
All the great local breweries will be represented:
But wait....there's more!
Boston Crawling will be represented at Laffenhaus as well. Stop by our booth as we will be raffling off Happy Hour Packages to our Freedom Trail Pub Crawl. Plus we will be unveiling and selling our brand new shirts with our Baby Paul logo. Who doesn't love a beer drinking baby?
We will see everyone tomorrow!
I swear the Starks have it all wrong.
Winter isn’t coming.
Winter is never leaving.
Or at least it feels that way.
That’s why Blondie and I decided to hop a flight to Ft. Lauderdale for some warm sunshine and cold drinks. We soaked in the rays, swam in the ocean, and, most importantly, sipped on the local beer.
We visited a few breweries, the first of which was so small it doesen't even consider itself a microbrewery. No, Lauder Ale calls itself a nano brewery. But, as the old saying goes, good things certainly do come in small packages. We sampled many beers, all of which were fine brews, but the one the really stuck out, that I kept going back for, was the coffee porter. It was fantastic. It even smells like a strong cup of coffee (my second favorite beverage). The beauty of the Lauder Ale coffee porter is that it tasted like a perfect combination of beer and coffee. It didn't taste like beer that had coffee-flavored syrup added. I loved the coffee porter so much I asked where I could buy it. I had every intention of running to the nearest super market and buying every coffee porter on the shelf. But Lauder Ale is so nano, they don't sell outside the brewery. No worries, I would just buy a growler or two from them. But, alas, Laurd Ale had been doing such brisk business, they couldn't spare any of their batch. Talk about a gut shot.
Lack of sweet nectar aside, Blondie and I had a great time. The two staff members, who combined to hold the simultanious jobs of head brewer/bartender/busser/managment, were friendly and chatty. They ask about Boston, educated us on their beers, and slipped us a few free samples.
Lauder Ale also had a ping pong table which Blondie and I took full advantage of (3-0 in my favor for those wondering).
Lauder Ale opened its doors less than a year ago. But with their terrific beer, great staff, and fun atmosphere, I'm sure they'll be shedding the nano title shortly.
Like every Bostonian this month, Blondie and I have had a serious case of Cabin Fever thanks to four major blizzards and 95 inches of snow all within 23 days.
So it was with great joy that we dug ourselves out of our North End apartment and headed over to the Harpoon Brewery for the second X-Night of 2015. We brought our mugs from January so that the February date and style of beer could be etched into the glass beneath the January listing. It was our way of showing all the newbie X-Nighters that we were grizzled veterans. Or something like that.
For those unfamiliar with X-Night, once a month Harpoon organizes a gloried focus group beer tasting of a new, small batch of beer and ask your opinion of the beer. The difference between X-Night and an actual focus group is that you get paid to participate in a focus group while Harpoon X-Night charges you $20 for your opinion.
That all may be a bit cynical because X-Night is actually a fun time. It’s a relatively inexpensive way for Blondie to get out of the house and enjoy a weeknight. It’s our monthly date night. And it is neat how they etch your personalized beer mug each month. I really want to collect all 12 dates for 2015 and I’ll be bummed if I’m out of town and miss one.
This month’s brew was called Catamount 8.6. It was a simple beer, nothing too daring. I was a little disenfranchised when the bartender told me that Harpoon had bought out Catamount Brewery a while back and this was one of their old recipes with a slight variation. The whole idea of paying for X-Night is that you get to try a new and exciting beer before anyone else – a Hipster’s dream. But the Catamount wasn’t new nor was it exciting. I get that it might be hard to trot out some crazy new concoction every 30 days, but by recycling an old recipe it sort of felt like Harpoon wasn’t even trying.
I’ll give Harpoon a mulligan on this one. Boston has been shutdown for better part of a month. We are all concerned about just making it home alive, not leaving much room for creativity.
The March X-Night falls on the 18th. Hopefully we will get some fantastic new Irish beer in honor of St. Paddy’s day.
Blondie and I found ourselves with a serious case of Cabin Fever thanks to the two plus feet of snow Juno dropped on New England this week. So we turned to an old standby to get us out of the house – Paint Nite.
For those not familiar, Paint Nite offers guided paint classes at local bars and restaurants. They make even the least confident painters feel like a competent artist.
Last night, Paint Nite offered a special event at their headquarters in Somerville – part Paint Nite, part wine tasting…with donuts.
The first half of the night we painted a pair of wine glasses. The class was taught how to make a Picasso-like wine glass in the spirit of Starry Night. For our second glasses, Blondie and I went rogue. We clearly have summer on the mind as I painted mine with some anchors and Blondie went with a seahorse theme. I can’t say the glasses were my best work but I was sipping on Sam Adam’s Cold Snap, hanging out with Blondie, and chatting with some friendly fellow Paint Niters.
Paint Nite had promised some donuts and wine after the painting portion of the night. I assumed that meant we would get half of a donut and a few sips of wine as a Friday night treat. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I had greatly underestimated the amount of donuts and wine we would be given.
Turns out Paint Nite teamed with Union Square Donuts and a local wine store to provide us with an honest to goodness donut and wine pairing. We were given a quarter of four different donuts matched with a small glass of wine – two whites and two reds.
I am far from a sommelier but I do know my donuts. And these donuts were awesome. One even came with bacon!
Nor sure if Paint Nite will run another donut pairing anytime soon, but if they do, you should check it out. That is, of course, unless you don’t like donuts.
But who are we kidding.
You love donuts.