Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 30, 2009: Foster's

It's another Friday night, I haven't gone on a beer run for about a week, and my beer drawer is looking pretty sparse. I've got four beers to choose from, and none of them sound particularly enticing tonight, but beggars can't be choosers I suppose. Foster's is without question the worst option in my fridge, but that massive blue can has been staring me down for a good two weeks now. I was meant to drink the ginormous blue can of Australian lager last Friday, but Fat Tire Ale came to the rescue at the last second. The Foster's was given a second chance at life, but tonight it's last appeal has been denied and it's number is finally up.

We've all seen the commercials here in the states. "Foster's: Australian for beer". What a load of shit! It may surprise many of you out there to learn that although Foster's is billed as the premier Australian lager, it's not widely distributed in its native land. Foster's lost a lot of ground in Australia when some of it's rival brewers merged to create a formidable force of opposition in the Australian beer market. Although Carlton and United Brewers have other beers that enjoy moderate success in Australia today, it's principal product Foster's is almost exclusively an export. There's nothing inherently wrong with this concept, because there is clearly a market for this lager outside of Australia. What gets my goat is the blatantly false advertising campaign that Foster's has used to market it product abroad. The advertisements that Foster's launched here in America played strongly on American stereotypes of Australian culture like ridiculous Crocodile Dundee-esque accents, Kangaroos, Koalas and boomerangs. Essentially Foster's was attempting to sell Australian culture with a beer that has been almost completely rejected by real Australians. The funny thing is that the gimmicky ads actually worked on the American public, and Foster's is relatively popular in the states for a lager that doesn't have much to offer.

Putting all discrepancies about advertising aside and going strictly by taste, Foster's is not a very good beer. One of the worst things about this beer is that unless you find it on tap somewhere (which is becoming increasingly rare in states as Foster's stock continues to drop), your only option is to buy it in a massive can. Sure, you could probably buy a case of Foster's at your local grocery store, but who in their right mind would want to drink that much Foster's? The ridiculously oversized blue can that Foster's comes in would be a great thing if the beer itself weren't so boring. In my humble (and usually correct) opinion, if Foster's we're truly a premium lager, the beer would be able to stand alone on it's quality and not be forced to resort to exploiting Australian culture to move its product.


Friday, January 30, 2009

January 29, 2009: Spaten Optimator

If you read my post earlier in the month about Pabst Blue Ribbon, you know that my father is a man's man. It's true, my dad at times can make Chuck Norris himself look like a sniveling little school girl. You probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that my Dad is the epitome of old school. The man still shave with an ancient looking shaving brush and shaving soap. He cooks almost every meal from scratch, I'm surprised that he doesn't butcher his own meat. Because my father seems so out of place in an ever evolving society, I've always had a profound respect for the ways of the old school. In terms of brewing tradition, Spaten Optimator is about as old school as it gets.

Spaten Optimator is a dark German style beer, not to be confused with it's sister beer Spaten Premium Lager. Spaten Optimator is a bottom fermented dopplebock, which literally means "double bock" in German. What's a bock, you ask? I'd be more than happy to tell you!

A bock is a type of bottom fermented lager brewed at a very cold temperature and stored for a long period of time with as little air contact as possible to allow the fermentation process to take place. The alochol content of your typical dopplebock is anywhere from 6 to 10%. Bocks have a rich German heritage, being brewed by monks for relgious ceremonies and holidays 14th century. Basically the Germans have been doing this for a long time, and Spaten Optimator is evidence of the superior brewing tradition of Germany. Almost everything about this beer was perfect. It feels so smooth in your mouth, sometimes you forget you're really drinking a lager. The dark, rich color and aroma of Spaten Optimator is truly the happy medium, enough to satisfy lovers of both dark and light tasting beers. Be forewarned though, the German monks who used to brew bocks back in the day refered to the brew as "liquid bread". It can feel a bit heavy for those who are faint of heart, so don't plan on knocking back like eight of these in one night or you'll be puking up your schitzel and bratwurst all over the floor. Spaten Optimator is a bit of a throw back to the old school brewing traditions of Germany. There are so many beers today, and many sacrifice quality in favor of quick, mass production. This is definitely not the case with Spaten Optimator, which is pure quality through and through. Drink up and enjoy with your friends.


p.s. despite the popular demand for such pics, I am not naked in these photos. I had just taken a shower and my girlfriend had just gone to sleep, so I didn't want to pop into the bedroom and wake her up. But for those of you who want to use your imagination, I'm totally naked underneath that towel ;)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 28, 2009: Bayhawk's Chocolate Porter

Ah, beautiful Orange County California! The promised land for plastic surgeons, golddiggers and Caucasian families with 2.5 kids alike. A place where an apartment crammed with three families lies in the shadow of the six bedroom mansion on the hill. Where some high school seniors drive to school in a new BMW, while others work two jobs after school to help pay the rent. What a weird, fantastic microcosm to call home. I've grown up in the rolling hills of southern Orange County for most of my life, and like most natives here, I've come to accept the realities of this strange place. It's nearly impossible to explain how a place could be so incredibly repulsive, and feel so much like home at the same time. It's such a strange place that if you think about the contradictions for too long, you could very well lose your mind, but such is life here in "The O.C.". I've been trying so many different kinds of beer from every part of the world that I've decided to switch it up and taste one from my own neck of the woods; Irvine, California.

Bayhawk Chocolate Porter. Say it over and over again in your mind and it still sounds just as fantastic as the first time you said it. The name of this beer has everything. Bayhawk; I don't exactly know what that is, but it sounds like the kind of bird who's ready to kick some ass and take some names. Chocolate; who doesn't like chocolate? One of my coworkers claims to hate chocolate and none of us have trusted him ever since. (just kidding Nick). Porter; If you've never tried a porter in your life, turn off your computer right now, head down to your local bar and order a pint of porter. If they don't have any porters on tap, head to the next closest bar and keep trying until you find one. Seriously, I can't think of a more tantilizing combination of words in the english language, except for maybe "Free Bayhawk Chocolate Porter". I had such high hopes for this beer, could this beer possibly live up the the incredible levels of hype that have been boiling over in my mind?

Like the place that it comes from, Bayhawk Chocolate Porter proved to be a complex mix of flavorful contradictions. There were definitely a variety of tastes floating around in this beer, and as the name would suggest, chocolate is the main aroma. It doesn't taste like you've just taken a bite out of a Hershey bar, but the dark chocolate notes make for a tasty and sophisticated flavor. Also, there was a bit of a coffee flavor to this beer which I quite liked. Would I drink Bayhawk Chocolate Porter again? Absolutely. If you like your porter dark, almost delving into stout territory, give this one a shot. It might be a bit hard to track this one down outside of the O.C. but it could be worth it.


January 27, 2009: Young's Special London Ale

It's the end of January, school has just started again this week and my days of playing video games in my underwear until noon sadly are over (for the next few months anyway) Yes, I hate to admit that it's back to the familiar grind of school and work for me, so instead of watching sportscenter and eating Top Ramen, I'll be writing essays and faking interest in 17th century literature. However, today is the first day of my last semester of college, and I couldn't be more ready to move on to the next stage of my life. To celebrate this momentous day, I've chosen Young's Special London Ale for my beer this evening.

If there is any one place in the world that I could chose to be at any given moment, it would be wandering around on the sprawling streets of London. In a previous post (see Quilmes) I confessed that I am an utterly hopeless anglophile. I love all things British and the magical city of London will always hold a special place in my heart. When I saw Young's Special London Ale sitting proudly on the shelf at my local shop, I felt my heart swell inside my chest with sheer joy mixed with a bit of longing. The label on the bottle sported some of the most famous landmarks from the London city skyline. Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the houses of parliament, the London eye; they were all there like a postcard inviting me back to my favorite city on earth. How the hell could I resist the call of Young's Special London Ale?

I will admit freely that I was totally suckered into buying this ale simply by the word "London" print on the label, accompanied by all the familiar monuments of the city. Luckily for me, Young's Special London Ale was actually a decent ale. It had a nice cloudy golden hue and it was just transparent enough to see light coming through the other side of the glass. One of the supposed earmarks of a quality beer is how long the beer keeps its foamy head, and whether or not that head leaves rings of foam on the glass with each sip. Young's Special London Ale kept its head longer than any beer that I've had so far, and there was conclusive evidence of the foam rings on the glass. All in all, Young's Special London Ale is a good choice for the beer drinker who likes a good sturdy ale, but one that's not too heavy or dark. I'd compare Young's Special London Ale to an ale like Boddington's in terms of mouth-feel and relative lightness for an ale, but not in terms of taste or quality. Give this one a go if you can get your hands on it, and if you're anything like me, spare a thought or two for that magical city across that pond that will always draw you back.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 26, 2009: Baltika 3

It's no surprise that I've been pretty hard on Russia lately. What with the Ugly Z and the mystery can of Kvass(see earlier posts) in the last 2 weeks, I've not seen much from my Soviet commerades to convince me that Russian beers are worth the gamble. I'm giving Russia another chance with Baltika 3 tonight, I'm hoping that I won't be disappointed yet again by a lifeless, substandard lager but my hopes aren't too high.

Luckily for me, Baltika has a few more things working in its than Ugly Z and the Kvass did. First off, Baltika breweries is huge. We're talking second largest brewery in all of Europe huge. It also has a name and label recognition that it's Russian counterparts that I had sampled thus far lacked. Baltika also offers a huge variety of different types of beers, ranging from light to something called Krepkoe which is roughly 10% alcohol by volume. I could have had my pick from any of a number of styles from Baltika, but I decided to go with the Baltika 3, which is considered their classic pale lager. I was really pleased with the Baltika 3, firstly because I didn't immediately gag when I tasted it, and secondly because I was able to enjoy the whole beer undisturbed. There was an ample amount of carbonation to provide that signature bite that comes along with most lagers, and I found that the Baltika 3 kept its carbonation and resisted going flat for a longer period of time than your typical lager would. Baltika 3 is a decent beer and although it was very drinkable, the truth is that there isn't that much to set Baltika apart from the hundreds of other lagers that I could obtain more easily here in the states. Baltika 3 did do a fine job however in restoring my faith in the brewers of Russia. Well done Baltika!

Budem zdorovy!

p.s. fake drug paraphenalia photograph compliments of Mr. Mike Bocuzzi

January 25, 2009: Singha

Singha is another one of those beers that met its untimely end due to default. Since I started the 365 brews project, My brother Andrew has been among the most supportive of my friends and family, even going so far as to contribute different beers to the cause which is always greatly appreciated. Last week he donated a Russian beer that earned the dubious nickname of Ugly Z, because of its putrid taste and ridiculously long Russian name which I am too lazy to write. Today my brother has donated a new type of brew called a Kvass. It's not exactly a beer (only 1-2% alcohol), but it's close enough and it was free, so I thought I would give it a try. I'm sad to report that this was strike two for russian beverages in my book. If you've never tried a Kvass, it tastes like all the after products from the brewing process of beer, with a ton of herbs mixed together that tastes more like something you'd find if you mixed all the contents of your medicine cabinet together in a blender and drank it. Truly, truly awful stuff even for me who will eat and drink just about anything at least once.

However, as the 365brews project continues to develop, I've learned to adapt and create alternative solutions in the event that I have a beer that is utterly undrinkable. This is the part of the story where Singha comes to my rescue, and not a moment too soon.

Singha comes from the south east Asian country of Thailand, and is the kingpin of the Thai beer market. The Boon Rawd brewery was the very first of its kind in Thailand, and Singha is the oldest mass produced beer in the country. For this reason, it's no surprise that Singha is widely exported to the western world and can be found at almost any Thai restaurant in the United States. Singha is in fact, a solid beer, if not a great one. In my opinion it can hold its own with many of the more popular lagers from the west in terms of refreshment and quality. Outside of Thai restaurants or Asian markets however, you may have a tough time tracking this one down. So in the end, I learned my lesson and enjoyed the respectable taste of Singha, rather than choking down the horrible Kvass. Thanks for trying though Andrew, keep those brews coming my way!

Choc-Tee!(cheers in Thai)

January 24, 2009: Dos Equis Lager

The unthinkable happened tonight. The absolute worst, most devastating, cruelest twist of fate for any beer lover to suffer; I drew the short stick and it was my turn to be the designated driver. No!!!!!!!!!!!

One of the harsh realities of living in southern Orange County is that if you and your mates want to go to a proper bar or club, you've got to drive at least ten to fifteen miles to the nether regions of the county that don't completely shut down after 9 p.m. every night. It's a Saturday night and it's time for me to pay my dues and be the chauffeur for the evening, which is fine because any of my friends will tell you, it doesn't happen much. Not to worry, dear readers. Your beloved hero from 365 brews found another way to alter his consciousness without overindulging in the booze, but that's another story for another day. The story for tonight is about the one beer I treated myself to tonight( Ok, ok....3 beers, but who's counting?), Dos Equis.

Dos Equis has long been one of the most popular choices among cerveza fans for a good reason; this is actually a damn good beer. One of my pet peeves about this beer however is the name. Anyone who has ever taken even the most rudimentary of Spanish classes learns that the letter X is pronounced AY-Keez. Pretty straight forward, no? But if you order a Dos AY-Keez at the bar, the bartender will stare at you like you're a member of the Taliban asking for weapons-grade plutonium on a U.S. military base. Somehow the name of this cerveza has succumbed to the forces of linguistic bastardization in popular American culture and is now known as Dos Eck-eez. Even my friend Crowe who speaks Spanish and whose entire family comes from Ecuador refers to this beer as Dos Eck-eez. However, I refuse to forfeit my linguistic principles and continue to refer to this quality beer by the name it deserves; Dos Ay-Keez!

Anyway, Sorry about the tangent, hope I didn't lose some of you with that rant. Dos Equis is a good choice for those of you out there that like a light tasting cerveza. Dos Equis is pretty refreshing and lacks the skunkiness that I detest in so many lower quality cervezas. If you're like me and prefer something a bit darker and heavier in taste, Dos Equis also makes an amber that is well worth a taste in its own right. For tonight I'm just drinking the standard lager, and in the middle of this hot, cramped, human herd of drunken debauchery that I can't fully appreciate tonight, Dos Equis is definitely hitting the spot. If you live in California, you can typically find this beer wherever beer is sold. If you live in other parts of the world, I'm not sure what your chances of getting your hands on some Dos Equis are, but it's a nice option if you can get it.



P.S. Dos Equis has one of the best beer advertising campaigns in recent years with their "most interesting man in the world" series. You can find em on youtube if you've never seen them.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 23, 2009: Fat Tire

Tonight, Fat Tire Ale became my beer for the evening completely by accident. I left my apartment early in the evening with a can of Foster's in hand, fully intending to consume the ridiculously large volume of lager at some point in the night. My girlfriend was too tired to go out, so I hit the streets on my own and met up with some friends. We tossed a stuffed football around for a good thirty minutes or so in my friends living room, and the big can of Foster's sat there, staring at me from the corner of the room. After trying to decide where to do our drining for almost an hour, the can of Foster's still sat there, warming with every second of indecision that ticked away. Eventually we ended up going to some sports bar in the next town over and I gave up on the Foster's for the evening. I don't really expect anything but the standard fare of Budweiser of Coors when I end up at a sports bar, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Fat Tire on tap.

As suddenly as we had ended up at this sports bar, I'd inadvertently upgraded from a beer that I'm fairly indifferent about to a beer that I truly enjoy. Fat Tire is the kid of beer that you never really get sick of. It's got that reddish amber color that almost always means for me it's going to be a great beer. But this is not your stadard amber ale. Fat Tire definitely has a unique quality about it's taste that I haven't ever really found in a comparable amber ale. Fat Tire has come a long way in a short period of time, and the word about this quality ale is spreading. It's not that uncommon to find Fat Tire on tap at many finer establishments in Southern California these days, and if you get a chance to sample this brew, be sure to give this ale a chance!


Friday, January 23, 2009

January 22, 2009: Cerveza Suprema

Here's some facts about the central American country El Salvador:

Population: About 7 million, making it the most densely populated country in central America

Currency: Eliminated their own unit of currency, the Colon, and now trade exclusively with the American Dollar.

Independence: Gained from Spain in 1821

Racial Demographics: 90% Mestizo (Mix of native and Spanish blood) 9% white, 1% indigenous

Main Export: Coffee

Beer: Not so great

My beer for tonight is Cerveza Suprema, which as you probably surmised hails from the land of El Salvador. I've already had a Salvadoran beer this month called Centenario which honestly wasn't half bad, but Cerveza Suprema didn't quite live up to the standard of it's fellow Salvadoran beer. I feel kind of guilty because I don't have much to say about Cerveza Suprema. It was just one of those beers that had literally nothing to distinguish it from the litany of lagers and Cervezas that have already established themselves among the import market in America. That's the thing with an import like Cerveza Suprema, I have to have a reason to want to go out of my way to find this beer and buy it. This beer was about as forgetable as "The Dana Carvey Show" that most of you out there probably don't remember from some fifteen years ago. Don't go out of your way to try this beer, you're just going to forget that you ever had it.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 21, 2009: Hitachino Nest

My beer for tonight is another one that was chosen solely for the presentation of the product. We were walking down the aisles at my local shop when Quinn noticed this little owl staring out at as from the shelf. The oddly small bottle combined with the owl label made Hitachino Nest white ale stand out right away. I couldn't say no to this charming little Japanese beer, and so tonight I'm giving it a try. The guy working in the shop absolutely raved about Hitachino Nest, even boasting that it was, in his opinion better than Blue Moon, which is probably the most popular white ale in the world. I didn't believe him, but I couldn't wait to get home and try it for myself.

When I cracked the bottle of Hitachino Nest open, there was a curious aroma wafting out from the short little bottle of white ale. I could place it at first, but I'd never smelt a beer like this before. It was almost a savory smell, like a cut of meat. But it wasn't a premium cut of meat, it was more like the smell that came rolling out of your lunch box when you were a kid. My God, I've got it.... it's bologna!!! Honest to God, no joke, swear on a stack of bibles, this beer smelled like bologna out of the bottle. I even asked Quinn to smell it and she agree conclusively; it's bologna beer. When I poured it into a glass, the bolognaness subsided a bit, but I just couldn't shake the scent from my olfactory glands. It's pretty common knowledge that scent and taste are two of the most strongly linked human senses, but the taste of Hitachino Nest wasn't nearly as bad as it's scent. Going by taste alone, this is a pretty good one, but I just couldn't get that damn smell out of my head. I could easily drink this beer all night long if I suddenly lost my sense of smell. Someone else please try this beer and let me know if you detect the hint of bologna in the aroma of the beer!


January 20, 2009: Maverick's Obama Presidential Ale

The day has finally come. After 8 years of a miserable, oppressive and idiotic reign of terror, President Bush has finally served his last official day in office and President elect Barack Obama has become the next President of the United States of America. People all over the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as the President Obama's inauguration signaled the end of the Bush administration and ushered in a new era of hope that America's been in desperate need of for a long time. In honor of my new President's first official day in office, I've selected a beer that was brewed specifically for this occaision; Half Moon Bay Brewing Company Maverick's Obama Presidential Ale.

Half Moon Bay Brewering company is a microbrewery just south of, you guessed it, Half Moon bay in northern California. It's not far from the legendary surf spot Maverick's that's known around the world for it killer waves and shark infested, freezing waters. As any lover of beer knows, Microbreweries are always a game. They typically don't have the reputation or heritage of the more established, commercial breweries so it's hard to tell what you're going to get. The Obama Presedential Ale is a special brew concocted especially in honor of Mr. Obama's victory over John McCain in the presidential race, so it's not a beer that's going to be around for a while. Furthermore, this beer can only be bought in the state of California which makes it even more difficult to obtain. Fortunately for the curious ones out there, this beer was really nothing special. More of a gimmick than anything else, I found this ale to be pretty much lacklustre and boring with every sip. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it didn't contain any of the hope, charm or charisma of it's namesake Barack Obama. If you really want to try this beer, you can find it at bevmo but I wouldn't recommend it. For the $3.75 you'd pay for Maverick's Obama Presidential Ale, you could get a much more fulfilling beer, maybe even two. But still I'll give Half Moon Bay Brewery credit for glomming onto the Obama bandwagon, and making me want to buy it.

p.s. The fact that I'm wearing an England hat on the day of Obama's inauguration isn't some sort of weird protest, I was just having a bad hair day. =)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 19, 2009: Warsteiner Dunkel

It's Monday night, and my fridge is beginning to look a bit sparse again as I have gone shopping in about a week. Lucky for me there is a Lakers game on T.V. tonight and some of my friends are willing to come out with me and share a few beers. We've come to The Yardhouse, which is a restaurant and bar famous for it's selection of over 150 different beers on tap to choose from. If I really wanted to, I could easily knock out almost half of my yearly beer schedule at this bar alone, but let's be honest, I'm too cheap and most nights I'd rather just watch T.V. on the couch with my girlfriend than drag myself to a bar and pay like four times as much. But for tonight anyway, I'm here with a small group of friends, skimming over the daunting selection from the menu before me and trying to narrow it down to just one beer. So I ask my friend Drew to pick one for me at random, and his finger lands on Warsteiner Dunkel.

Warsteiner....Warsteiner... I know that name, I'm sure I've heard of it before, but where? I think about it for a minute or two and it comes to me; Oktoberfest! Ja Wohl!

Ah... is there anything I look forward to more than a good Oktoberfest? There's not a drop of German blood in me, but as soon as I hear that polka music, see wenches in leiderhosen doublefisting pitchers of cold beer and smell those greasy bratwursts cooking up on the grill, I feel like I'm right at home. The Germans perfected the modern formula by which most lagers and pilsners are still made with today, but Warsteiner Dunkel is a dark ale. I've had a few of Warsteiner's more standard lagers in the past, so I was curious to see how the Dunkel compared. I knew that Warsteiner Dunkel was an ale, but I didn't expect the beer to be so dark in color. It looked more like an Irish stout than a German ale, but I'm a big fan of the darkest of beers so I wasn't about to complain. Warsteiner Dunkel has a robust scent that belied the black tint of the beer. During my first sip, my tastebuds were overwhelmed by an intense sweetish fruity flavor that rode seem to ride the crest of the standard bitter edge that comes with a dark ale. At first I didn't mind it so much, but I had made the mistake of ordering a"half yard" of Warsteiner Dunkel, which calculates to aboout 2 and 1/2 to 3 standard pints, all in one large glass. By the end of the half yard, I was really sick of that weird fruity twist that had intrigued me at first, and I just wanted it to be gone. All in all, Warsteiner Dunkel wasn't all that bad for me. I guess the key would simply be moderation.


January 18, 2009: Maharaja

It's a busy time at the box offices in America where several critically acclaimed films are beginning to assault the general public in an attempt to make big money. For someone like me who loves art, pop culture and entertainment, I'm surprisingly not much of a movie buff. That's not to say that I am some sort of clod who can't appreciate a good film, it's just that my whole entire life I've always felt as though there wasn't enough time. Why should I sit around in a dark theater, disconnected from those around me, paying too much for a movie I probably won't like. I know I'm coming off as a cranky old bastard here, but it's just the way I've always been. I'd much rather sit around drinking with friends than go to see a movie. Every once in a while however, a movie comes along that peaks my interest just enough to get me to budge, and tonight that movie was "Slumdog Millionaire". I'm not going to use this post to wax poetic about the artistic merit of such a well made film, because frankly, I'm a beer man , not a film man. However I will say that I enjoyed this film immensely and it inspired me enough to try the Indian lager, Maharaja.

Maharaja turned out to be a pretty good beer given the circumstances. It really had nothing going for it before I sampled this beer. No reputation, no national brewing heritage, not much visual appeal. The name of this beer was really the only thing to stand out to me when I saw it in the store, but I guess that enough for me to give it a go. One of the things I loved about Maharaja was how consistant and even the flavor was throughout the course of the beer. I enjoyed this particular beer so much that I was surprised to have never heard of it before I tried it. I would definitely drink this beer again if it were more readily available to me here in the U.S.A. India has a brilliant, virbrant and awe-inspiring culture and Maharaja is in my opinion a great representative of the diverse spirit of a nation like India.

A la sature!

January 17, 2008: Zhiguliovskoye

The night of January 17th, 2009 will forever go down in infamy for the unbelievable series of events that a small group of friends and I unwittingly encountered at a monster truck rally of all places. I'm sorry that this post is so late, I've been wrestling with how to approach writing about this night in a way that will truly do it justice. I've come to the sad conclusion that perhaps this blog is not the right venue for this tale; not right now anyway. I'm already four days behind on my other posts for the sake of brevity and my own sanity, I'll stick to the review of Zhiguliovskoye for the time being and come back to the epic tale of Monster Jam 09 when I've got a bit more time to sit down and hammer it out properly. For those of you who can't contain your curiosity, I'll just tell you now that the tale of Monster Jam 09' has some of the following elements: Copious amounts of alcohol, drinking with bums, selling beer to frat boys, encounters with generous drug dealers who are covered with blood, Losing a ticket among a buzzing sea of liquored up meat heads and somehow finding it again, and of course, the famous gravedigger. But we'll save this one for another day, and when it finally gets posted, you will get the entire story... that much I can promise you.

Anyway, tonight my friends and I partook in one of the most hallowed of modern American traditions...the monster truck rally. I can no longer claim to be a monster truck virgin after tonight, and I doubt that I will ever be the same again. In keeping with the customs of those brave pioneers who came before me, I came to Monster Jam 09' with a warchest full of all the beer I could possibly handle in one night. Included in that alcoholic arsenal was the one and only Zhiguliovskoye(which I will henceforth refer to as the Ugly Z, for the sake of brevity), which was my beer for the night. I only wish I had left the ugly Z behind, because the putrid taste of this beer is still haunting me days later.

This is not an exaggeration; Ugly Z is the absolute worst beer that I have ever had the misfortune of drinking. Ugly Z actually hardly resembles beer in any way, and it's taste was so unpleasant that I had to wash down every sip with another beer of higher quality. It's actually surprising to me that there is enough of a market for this beer for someone to pay for it to be imported to the states. Maybe I just had a bad batch or something, but it was utterly undrinkable. When I was choking this horrible swill down, a homeless man collecting cans came by seeking donations. I tried to offer him the remains of the Ugly Z which was about half full, but he flatly refused. He was more than happy to take one of my bud lights off of my hands instead. I honestly wouldn't drink this beer again if you paid me less than $30, because the digusting experience is just not worth it to me. But for more that $30, who am I kidding, I'd do just about anything including drinking Ugly Z again.

Budem zdorovy!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

January 16, 2009: Affligem

Confession: I was a bad boy last night. For me, the photos that usually accompany my posts are absolutely critical to the effectiveness of the 365 brews project. I forgot to bring my camera tonight, and to all my readers out there I am truly sorry for that. I have however, supplied a few pictures of Affligem from various websites, and posted two other random pics of my friends because frankly they're more interesting than looking a stock photo of a beer bottle.

Anyway, since I forgot the camera, let the wordsmith stoke the fires of your interest by taking you on the perilous journey that was my Friday night.

It's another Friday night, Quinn is tired from being around thirty fifth graders all week and understandably doesn't share my zeal for going out and getting tanked. Fair enough, but I decide to venture on without her for the night. Some of my coworkers were going to a Mexican restaurant to share some drinks, eat some chips and salsa, and talk shit about all the kids we work with. My friend Stephan who saved my life earlier in the week (see the Sapporo post from Jan 12) joined the festivities and needless to say I was obliged to buy my new hero a drink. So someone suggested a round of patron shots (On my tab...fuckers) and then another (On Tiff's tab, thanks!). After a few beer, I was pretty good and tipsy, but the night was still young. Most of my friends and coworkers decided to go their separate ways and do who knows what, but for Stephan, Tiffany and I, the night was just getting started.

We ended up in Laguna at a club called Oceans that was pretty cool until a swarm of bros invaded the bar with their affliction t-shirts and backwards hats in tow. After a few 7&7's (my favorite non-beer alcoholic drink) we decided to leave the bar when some clumsy fool stepped on Stephan's sandal, ripping the sole from the strap.

So we leave Ocean's, Tiffany's friend Michelle showed up at some point and is trying to catch up to our level of beligerance that is steadily increasing. It's an uphill battle and I know that she's not going to catch up to us, but God bless her heart for trying. So now we're making the drunken stroll to my absolute favorite spot in Laguna called Brussels. Stephan is barefoot, Tiff and I are smoking cloves and I'm pretty sure I drunk dialed a friend but I can't be certain.

Brussels is going off as usual. Here's an equasion for you mathematical types out there: Belgian beer + Euro Dance Music + Dark Bar + Already being too drunk to care = Good times. Brussels bills itself as a Belgian cafe by day, and a bar by night, and it's pretty much the only bar in Laguna that's not filled with your typical Laguna people. Over the course of this night, I had four different beers, but Affligem was the only one that I felt was worth writing about. At Brussels you can expect a crowd at the bar, snooty Euro bartenders and the occaisonal creepy fifty year old man who stands in the corner with a glass of Chardonay spying sheepishly on the young women in the bar, but it's all worth it for the selection of beers they have. You won't find Budweiser anywhere near this place. They only serve fine Belgian beers, and the selection they have is hard to find anywhere else in Orange County.

Affligem was one of those beers that I had somehow never tried before. I'm admittedly a sucker for Belgian style lagers, but this one was definitely a cut above the rest. I was clearly very drunk at this point, but the quality of this beer was enough to somehow bring some clarity back to my wandering mind and take notes. Affligem had such a refreshing taste, it almost felt like I was drinking a glass of water (in a good way). My only regret is that I know I didn't get the full experience with this one, because I was already so drunk that all I really wanted to do was dance and raise hell. Regardless of my pitiful attempt to review a good beer while I was already completly tossed, I can assure you that Affligem is a beer that's well worth the price tag that inevitably comes with a Belgian import. Get out there and try it for yourself.

As for the rest of the night? Nothing amazing really happened. Michelle drove us home and Stephan crashed on my couch and left sometime before I woke up. All in all, a great night, capped off with a great beer. I'm a happy man.

Op uw gezondheid! (Flemish speaking part of Belgium) A Votre Sante! (French speaking part of Belgium)

P.S. Affligem has a kick ass website. Check it out, it has chanting monks in the background. Classy!

January 15, 2009: Okocim

Poor Poland. Has any country in modern history gotten a worse rap than Poland has for no reason? You know what I'm talking about. Somehow someone somewhere for some unknown reason decided to make the Poles the laughing stock of Europe. They supposedly invented the submarine with the screen door and the helicopter with the ejector seat, along with a litany of other completely frivolous inventions. Poles are unfairly characterize as being dumb, cloddish brutes and it's simply not true. Take Copernicus, Chopin, His Holiness Pope John Paul II and Marie Curie; all poles who made significant contributions to art, science or culture. Being roughly a quarter Polish, I've tried to stick up for the nation that's been bullied by Germany and Russia for centuries. I never thought the dumb Pollack jokes were particularly funny, but when they brew a beer like Okocim, it's kinda hard to defend the Polskis.

Okocim is the beer on the docket tonight, and I'm not impressed. The brewers of Okocim claim that it is a Polish style bier, but if that's true, I think they should copy the recipes of their German neighbors. Even with my overwhelming pro-Polish bias, I couldn't really find one thing about this beer that I liked. No earmarks of quality or class. No refreshing taste or tantalizing scent. Just a bitter lager that had little to nothing to offer. Maybe I'm being a little hard on Okocim because my taste has become acutely sharpened due to the sheer volume of beers that I constantly sample, but the ultimate question I ask myself with every beer is "would I buy this again?" and the answer for Okocim is a resounding no. But don't just take my word for it, get out there and try it and decide for yourself. And lay off the Poles for Christ's sake, they're trying really hard!

Na zdrowie! (cheers in Polish)