How close to perfection can one particular wine region get?
Monday, November 30, 2009
How close to perfection can one particular wine region get?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Investigative Research at the Institute!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
After having a rather impressive dark rye beer from the new Upright Brewery in Portland (www.uprightbrewing.com), I decided I’d do a little intrepid investigative reporting and learn a little more about these guys and do a hard hitting report.
[Actually, I saw on their website where they had tastings at the brewery on Saturdays and Sundays, and figured, hey, what the hell, I got nothing else to do…]
Took my beer swilling son-in-law and headed downtown, to the east bank of the Willamette, amidst the tangle of freeway interchanges and bridges, to the Left Bank Project. Down in the basement was Upright Brewing, an artisanal beermaker devoted to crafting Belgian-style brews but using locally grown and locally sourced ingredients. They offered a sampler of all their current products---six of them---on tap, so we launched into our tasti...er, investigation.
The designation of their beers is simple---each of their basic brews is indicated by the number of the specific gravity (which indicates body), so there is a Four, a Five, a Six and a Seven. Then there were two ‘special’ releases, essentially small batch riffs on a theme---the theme being whatever these guys think will taste good!
Four is essentially a light wheat beer, light on the hops, fairly soft and creamy and citrusy-fruity. Well made though it is, it’s not my style. Five is more a pale/amber style, with noticeably more hops and a slight toffee/caramel flavor. Much better, much more interesting (i.e., much more my style.) But Six---the Rye Beer---hit the sweet spot. It’s the first one that got my attention at Clyde Common, and after tasting the full range, it’s still the one that rings my chimes. Full, hearty, robust, nicely balanced in all its elements, and with delicious chocolatey-caramel flavors wrapped up in dark (but not sweet) spiciness, this is a real winner! The Seven was laudable too, a French/Belgian Saison style, lighter than the rye but still fruity/spicy and savory. And the Seven would be excellent with spicy foods...Thai, Viet, Chinese, Mexican, Indian.
But the following beer, Lavali, was a curious critter, basically a wheat beer steeped in barrel with a special blend of Turkish chili peppers. Interesting at first, in that the entry of the beer was rather citrusy and crisp and lightly hoppy, but then a slow, fairly gentle burn rose in the back of the palate and down the throat. And it wasn’t a hot burn so much as a slightly herbal, warm suffusion. As I said, curious; not bad, but not something I’d look to have on constant hand in the fridge. Very much a specialty brew.
The six beers, from left to right.
The final sample, Dry Hopped Four, was an extreme example of the first beer, a wheat beer flavored aggressively with dry hops, with distinctly sharp and bitter hops dominating the taste.
But you have to keep an eye on what the boys are doing at Upright, because they have, at various times, a witbier (“Dry Wit”, with coriander, orange peel and oats), and an extreme creation that was a big enough hit to reprise, “Turkey On Rye”, the basic Rye barrel-aged with various ingredients, including chocolate syrup and selected Turkish chiles. And there are rumors of a semi-kriek bier in the works. They sure do keep it interesting down in the basement beer laboratory.
Final result? I like what the guys are doing down in the basement. Liked the Rye enough (as did my son-in-law) to take home a bottle for dinner that night, and I plan to get it again. Their Saison ranks pretty high with me too; I like this style, and I’d happily drink the Upright version frequently. The Five is a good light amber style as well. I’m not overly enamored of the basic Four, although I recognize the quality, and couldn’t help noticing my son-in-law gulped it down pretty quickly. I expect the Upright will do well in the market (which means essentially the greater Portland market right now), and I look forward to drinking more of it.
And I’m waiting for that next batch of Turkey On Rye…
Thursday, November 19, 2009
So, is Clyde Common a great bar with a restaurant attached...or is it a great restaurant with a bar attached?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Since the title of this blog is "elixir vitae", here's a vital elixir for anyone with a decent bar: Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.
Friday, November 13, 2009
When in Milwaukee recently I was told to stop off on the way to a big screen tv Green Bay Party because they were running short of whiskey. Stopped in just-another-liquor-store along the way. I was surprised initially by the rather impressive selection of whiskies they had (what with Milwaukee being such a brandy-drinking state and all) and reveled in the benefits of the whiskey revival this country was so obviously experiencing these days. Lots of great choices.
But with the unfailing keen and hawklike eyes of the bargain predator that I am, honed by years of looking for the deals and steals, I spotted a lone bottle lurking. And it had the strobing beacon of a red price tag! Closing in for the kill, I realized I had hit the big time jackpot: a bottle of Old Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey for only $13.99. And…wait for it, wait for it…it was a full Liter bottle! (Victory dance ensues)
So why was I so excited? Easy. In this day and age, when hype accounts for so much, and high prices don’t always reflect commensurate quality, there remains a handful of sturdy, consistently superb and reliably excellent brands that always deliver. And they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. One of those brands is Old Rittenhouse, from Heaven Hill Distilleries in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Easily one of the best rye whiskies there is, it’s almost always found at a modest price, and often goes relatively unnoticed on the shelf. Mind you, the pros have acclaimed it and serious connoisseurs know it well---after all, it did receive the 2006 San Francisco International Spirits Competition “North American Whiskey of the Year” (for the 100 Proof version), seriously outclassing competition priced at four or five times as much!
But that’s acclaim and awards. For some reason it doesn’t resonate with the drinking public as much as it should. I don’t know why, either. Whatever the version ---there are three: the 80 Proof, the 100 Proof Bottled in Bond, and the extra-aged special release, currently in either 23 or 25 year old limited bottlings--- Old Rittenhouse is a fine, old style, robust and full-bodied example of a classic Rye. And I would, without any hesitation, put it up against anything in the market!
The Award Winning 100 Proof Bottled-In-Bond
This is whiskey with character: rustic, edgy, spicy with nutmeg and clove and allspice, a touch of herb and fennel, a whisper of spearmint, and all wrapped in soft caramelly-vanilla oak that barely restrains it. And it has enough flavor to stand out past any mixer you’ll throw at it. This is the Rye you want for your Sazerac cocktail. This is the Rye you want in your Manhattan---straight up, icy cold, and add the tiniest spike of Luxardo just before you serve it, if you please, Mr. Mixologist!
Now the three releases out there are very different: The 80 Proof is, or should be, a standard rye in a good bar, suitable for mixing the basic cocktails. The 100 Proof is my sipping whiskey; it’s the perfect combination of richness and flavor and spice. And the 23 Year Old Reserve is the one I hold for the rare moments of sheer unadulterated pleasure (and mind you, I’m not necessarily a believer in the myth of “the older the better”, but this is one of those splendid exceptions to the rule; the other is Van Winkle). My advice? If you can have only one on hand, split the difference and get the 100 Proof.
Below, 23 Year Old Limited Release
(which, you should be so lucky)
So the trend hoppers and the marketing-driven can run out and chase the darling of the moment, or be dazzled by pretty bottles and flashy labels---just hand me the bottle of Old Rittenhouse, and I’ll be fine. It’s quite simply one of the finest rye whiskies on the market.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009