Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beer at the Ballpark: Turner Field, Atlanta, GA

I can't believe I never thought of this before. I love baseball, I love beer...but I have trouble finding the good beer at the ballpark.

Lots of times it's not available at all but a lot of time it is there...just hidden unless you're looking for it. So here's the first installment; where the best beer is at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.

Most of the beer at Turner Field is as you would imagine it; Budweiser and Miller are the staples, usually in cans, sometimes on draft. Scattered in various concessions, you may find some bottles of Blue Moon, Stella Artois or Pilsner Urquell but these appear without rhyme or reason.

The place to go in the Terrace Level of the stadium, to either outlet of the Tomahawk Tavern. There is one near Section 233 on the northeast side and one near Section 222 on the northwest side. Both offer a decent selection of bottled and draft beers. In bottles, there is Abita Purple Haze, Sam Adams Summer Ale, Sam Adams Light, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Pilsner Urquell and Guinness Draught in cans. On draft is Sweetwater 420, Blue Moon, Sam Adams Lager and Tomahawk Amber Lager (a crafty-type amber brewed by Budweiser).

On this particular scorcher of a night, I opted for something lighter and went with Blue Moon. At $6 for bottles and $7 for a draft, these beers are relative bargains compared to what you have to pay for Bud or Miller Light.

The Bottom Line
Location: Terrace Level, two locations near Section 222 and Section 233
Highlights: Sweetwater 420 (draft), Sam Adams Summer Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Prices: $6 for premium bottles, $7 for 16 oz. drafts

Monday, June 28, 2010

Southern Beer News: 6/28

The big news in the Atlanta metro area today is that the excellent Brick Store Pub is tapping the first colloboration beer between Terrapin Beer and De Proefbrouwerij  today at 5:00 PM. The beer is described as an Imperial Flanders Red and is reported to be released to distributors on July 15th.

In other beer release news, beers from the 21st Amendment Brewery, based in San Francisco, began appearing on store shelves late last week. Cans of Hell or High Watermelon Wheat and Brew Free or Die are now all over the Atlanta metro area and the addition of more good canned beer to the mix is welcome indeed.

This is not new but Sweetwater has introduced a new year-round brew call Sch'Wheat. Billed as an unfiltered American wheat, it screams boring and probably won't appeal to me. But I'll have to try it at least once. The beer launched on June 1st.

The 3rd Annual Capital Ale House Virginia Beer Festival will be held from noon- 11:00 pm at their Midlothian restaurant on Saturday, July 3rd. Craft breweries from all over the state and live music all day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cooking with Beer: Arrogant Prawn Gumbo

Here's a recipe I got from Beer Advocate magazine. (You can subscribe here...) It's almost worth the subscription price for the recipes alone.

The ingredients:

1 qt chicken stock
2 lb prawns
22 oz of Arrogant Bastard

4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 ea andouille-style sausage, sliced
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 ea yellow, red and green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2-6 tbsp Cajun spice blend
2 bay leaves
1 jalepeno pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp Louisiana-style hot sauce
3 cups rice
3 green onions sliced thin


In a medium-sized pot, add the chicken stock, the shells from the prawn and the Arrogant Bastard. Simmer 30 minutes.

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add olive oil and butter. Add the sliced sausage and and stir until the meat has browned. Remove the sausage and set aside.

Add the flour to the oil and whisk to a loose paste. Turn the heat to low and brown the roux for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the onions, peppers and celery and saute until vegetables are fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Add some of the Cajun spice. Then add the bay leaves, garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes.Add hot sauce and strained stock Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add the sausage and Cajun spice to taste. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the prawns. Bring back to a boil, then remove from heat and cover, letting sit for 5 minutes.

Serve over rice, garnished with green onions.

A few notes:

* I didn't use andouille, I used a locally produced hot link sausage.
* I didn't use yellow onion...this is Georgia. Vidalia, of course.
* I made my own Cajun seasoning from spices on hand
* No Dutch Oven (yet) so I used the heaviest stainless steel pans I could muster.

After I was done cooking, I went to get an IPA to have with the meal...but could find none in my fridge. I had forgotten to check what I had on hand and had assumed that I had some on hand (as I usually do).

So I hit the beer closet to see what I had on deck and got lucky...a bomber of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, which had the body and bitter hops to stand up to this hearty gumbo.

The recipe was a good one. I had never prepared the stock, or the roux for that matter, in such a deliberate way and it seemed to make a world of difference. I was thick, hearty, spicy and more complex tasting than any gumbo I've ever made before. It's a lot of work but I'll definitely be using this recipe again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bottles of Barley: The Reboot

It's time to reboot the blog!

Not in a design sense (at least not yet) but in focus and content. I started this blog around the planning and chronicling of a beer trip to Belgium. That thrust kept things going for awhile. But that trip was almost two years ago and the blog has lost focus and steam. Big time.

My other blog serves as therapy and for some reason the loose structure works and allows my mind to travel where it will go. Over here though, the lack of structure is strangling whatever momentum I had going.

So here's the bit of structure I am proposing to get the blog back on track:

Tasting Notes - once a week: When I tend to get back to blogging, Tasting Notes tend to be what I fall back on. And they get monotonous, for me and for you I'd imagine. One and only one per week.

Local/Regional Beer News - once a week: To help keep the readers and myself more plugged in to the Atlanta/Southeastern beer scene.

Coasters/Breweriana - 3-5 times a month: I have a ton of coasters as well as other pieces of breweriana. I'll be posting pictures of those a few times a month.

Out of the Cellar - twice a month: I have a lot of beers in my cellar. I think I can afford to drink 24 bottles a year. Time to get tasting.

Cooking with Beer - twice a month: These posts are relatively new but I like them a lot. Need to do this more, even if it's a simple recipe.

Beer Hunting/Beer Travel - once a month: These are the posts I love the most. I need to find ways to get more of these done.

The Session - more!: I need to participate in The Session more. Get the juices flowing.

That's something like 17 posts a month which is ambitious for me but it's a good target to get things moving.

I'll start this next week. Here's to beer!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beer Travel: Kickbacks Gastropub, Jacksonville, FL

I headed down to Jacksonville, Florida this past weekend and, as I am want, tried to find a place to have a good pint with dinner. I succeeded.

I found Kickbacks Gastropub in the old historic district of Jacksonville. It's a bit of a contradiction. At first glance, it looks like a typical dive bar but boasts 60 taps and an extensive bottle list. It is filled with flat screen TVs but blasts loud music instead of the game. You wouldn't expect to be able to get much more than pub fare or a burger for food but they have quite the gourmet menu (at least, that's what they shoot for).

One of the first things you notice is the large board with neon writing on it that details the 60 taps available that evening. I decided to get a draft of Terrapin Oak Aged Wake N' Bake and figure out what to eat. The server was prompt, attentive and knew his beer. We talked about the beers he had on tap and he brought me out the extensive bottle list too.

I decided to go with The Harpoons; skewers of broiled bacon-wrapped shrimp and scallops and they were served with steamed broccoli and fried onion chips. They were very good, much better than most pub food I have had. Was it fantastic? No but they are aiming high and it's damn good...especially when you consider all the good beer.

The Terrapin Oak Aged Wake N Bake was very good. I usually don't think that oak aging stouts works that well but this one turned out pretty well. It doesn't really improve the beer any but it does make for some pleasant differences.The oak aging adds some nice dark fruit notes to the stout but doesn't overpower the roasty coffee flavors that make the beer so great.

I chatted with the server about a good local beer to try and he suggested something from Cigar City Brewing. Cigar City is based in Tampa and started brewing in 2008. I decided to try the Jai Alai IPA. And it was a good choice. It's well-balanced but with strong citrusy hop profile. Orange, grapefruit and apricot with a bready malt backbone. The website says it weighs in at 7.5%...really tasty and smooth even at that strength. I was impressed. (Between Cigar City and Saint Somewhere, I may have to revamp my entire thinking of what Florida breweries are capable of...)

Only one point of feedback...the draft beer list. It's on a couple of greaseboards (see the fist picture) and the writing is so small I had to get up and walk over to the list to read what was there. Maybe I'm just getting old. Or they could invest in a couple big chalkboards so you can read it from across the pub.

Kickbacks Gastropub is the best beer bar in Jacksonville. I wish this place had been open when I live here.

A couple beer sidenotes from the rest of the trip...

Stopped out by Singleton's Seafood Shack in Mayport as I always do. Even straight out of a bottle, Sam Adams Boston Lager goes great with fresh seafood.

Out at the The Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville, the European Street Cafe runs a "Biergarten" where you can get good beer while you watch the Jacksonville Suns play ball, which is always welcome.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tasting Notes: Lancaster Milk Stout

Brewery: Lancaster Brewing Company
Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 5.3%
Date Poured: April 2010

First has this a couple years back while stranded in Philadelphia International Airport. It was in a little airport bar, on draft, and was the highlight of my extended stay in the The City of Brotherly Love. I found this bottle...actually I don't remember where I got this beer but it was most likely either on a recent trip through the Carolinas or a recent trip to Sarasota. I wanted to revisit it and see if the bottled version holds up the the draft.

Pours an opaque brown with hints of mahogany highlights about the edges, topped by a thin creamy (but persistent) brown head. Smells prominently of roasted barley with a milkiness (or lactose) providing the background for the mocha-like aroma.

In the mouth, the lactose and creaminess are very up front in this beer but with an underlying (yet balancing) coffee-like bitterness. It certainly sweet but the roasty bitterness makes itself known. The bitterness especially is prominent in the aftertaste, long and lingering. There's just a touch of dark fruit in there too. Mouth is smooth and creamy, making it easy to drink. It's nicely balanced, well crafted and tasty.

It doesn't blow me away like it did on draft but it is still really good from the bottle. A fine example of a milk/cream stout if you're looking to try one.

Lancaster Brewing Company

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tasting Notes: Konig Ludwig Weiss

Brewery: Konig Ludwig International
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.5%
Date Poured: April 2010

It's summer in Atlanta again so it's time to crack open some wheat beers. I have managed to find a German hefeweizen that I have never sampled before, Konig Ludwig Weiss. This beer is produced by a Bavarian brewery literally owned by Bavarian royalty as the company is headed by Prinz Luitpold von Bayern. I would expect this to be pretty traditional.

The very hazy body is the color of straw with a modest, frothy head. Smells of clove, lightly of honey and some lemon. There's just a touch of ripe banana back there too.

Lots of lemon and clove in the mouth. Sweet and bready, but muted, wheat malt. A bit sour. Some peppery spice in there too. I am searching for the ripe banana but find none. Crisp and fizzy, clean finish.

It's a good refreshing hefeweizen. It doesn't rank among my favorites (I think Paulaner still makes my favorite hefe) but it's certainly worth a try.

Konig Ludwig International

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tasting Notes: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

Brewery: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.8%
Date Poured: April 2010

I picked this one up on a trip through North Carolina a few weeks back. I should clarify; I picked up a full six-pack, not just one. I've had this during a couple trips to Cleveland and have enjoyed it. Haven't tried it in more than two years so I was curious to see if I still love it.

Pours opaque brown with enormous frothy brown head. Lots of thick lacing. Some coffee notes in the nose with a light milk chocolate aroma and a hint of roastiness.

Creamy mouth, equal parts bitter coffee, roastiness and milk chocolate smooth and luscious

Alternately dry and sweet maltiness up front. Morphs into strong roasted coffee bean flavors. This is like porter's greatest hits. Smoky, sweet, creamy and bitter. Coffee and milk chocolate and damn smooth. It has it all. Really like this creamy mouthfeel, it's just so luscious. Roasty, mocha flavor in the finish that linger through the aftertaste. Easy drinker but full of flavor.

It's still very, very good and I look forward to working my way through the rest of the sixer. One of the best porters in the country. A bold statement but I think the beer merits the title.

Great Lakes Brewing Company