Beer, Wine and Spirits. Tastings and Travel. News and Events. Classic Flavors from Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across the Drinks World.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: Heaven Hill Export Bourbons

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we try some Kentucky whiskies that you cannot find on the domestic market.

At WhiskeyFest in Chicago one of the highlights was the chance to sit in on a presentation by Craig Beam, seventh generation Master Distiller at Heaven Hill Distilleries, and Larry Kass, Heaven Hill Director of Communications. The title of the presentation, "A Taste of Heaven: The Rare Export Bourbons of Heaven Hill Distilleries," was right on target.

Beam and Kass walked a room full of whiskey lovers through a set of four small batch Bourbons only available -- except in rare cases -- on the export market. If you travel internationally, you will want to check out the duty free shop on your trip back to the U.S.

Virgin Bourbon 7-Year-Old: You can find this whiskey in Australia and Japan, plus on a limited basis in Alabama, North Carolina and Kansas. Amber red color with a well developed oak base. This 101-proof Bourbon has nice smoky notes throughout. This drinks more like a 10-12 year old spirit.

Virgin Bourbon 10-Year-Old: Available in Australia and Japan, this is a very smooth Bourbon. The flavor profile is slightly on the calm side, but it does have some nice vanilla notes and good sweetness.

Evan Williams 12 Year Old: This 101-proof whiskey is available in Japan. Deep amber color with tons of appealing rye character. Nice caramel flavor note at the finish. A great whiskey for sipping.

Evan Williams 23 Year Old: Available in Japan, France and the United Kingdom -- and the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Kentucky at $350 a bottle -- this 107 proof spirit is a bright copper color with a firm flavor. Plenty of oak, sweet toffee and spice.

Monday, April 28, 2008

To Your Health: Women Wine Drinkers Cut Dementia Risk

A Swedish study has concluded that women who drink wine on a regular basis cut their risk of dementia. Dementia results in the loss of memory and reasoning ability.

The Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University study tracked 1,458 women in Sweden, between ages 38 and 60, starting in 1968. The researchers found female wine drinkers had lower rates of dementia compared to nondrinkers.

During the 34-year study, 162 women developed dementia. Women who reported drinking wine every week were 70 percent less likely to develop dementia. Women in the study who drank wine also lived longer.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All About Beer's Growler List: 125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die

Journalists write about news, it's seldom that what we write turns out to make news. But an article that I wrote for the new edition of All About Beer magazine is getting some buzz.

The Growler List: 125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die is the cover story in the current issue. All About Beer has been covering the beer scene for nearly three decades and has reported about literally thousands of great places to enjoy a pint.

The Growler List has sparked a number of newspaper and television stories, including coverage by the Associated Press. That's great because it causes people to think about beer and where they drink it. It also helps promote a great magazine.

The Growler List is more art than science, but having a beer at one of the spots on this list is a special experience. It is already causing some debate on blogs and message boards, especially among people who think their favorite spot was snubbed. I can tell you that no insult was intended to the hundreds of other watering holes around the world that treat beer and those who enjoy beer with respect.

You can check out the list on the All About Beer website. I hope you get to enjoy as many of them as possible and let me know the places that I've missed along the way.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Weekend Watering Hole: Quartino Ristorante, Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Chicago, Ill.

As a regular weekend feature, Lyke2Drink will visit some of the world's great watering holes. This week we find ourselves in Chicago enjoying some great Italian food and specialty drinks.

Quartino Ristorante, Pizzeria & Wine Bar
626 N. State Street
Chicago, Ill.

During my recent visit to Chicago I decided to make a visit to Quartino on the recommendation of our daughter, Brhea, who attends Loyola University. The place was firing on all cylinders, with great food, superb service and delectable drinks.

If you like Italian food with a homemade touch, the menu will be a favorite. We focused on several hot small plates that allowed us to sample the broccoli rabe, veal meatballs Napoli and eggplant parmigiana. We also had pasta with bolognese meat sauce. Each dish was excellent.

The wine list at Quartino is fairly priced and offers good variety. The bar area is a good place for a drink and a snack if you are not hungry enough for a full meal.

Massimo Serradimigni was overseeing the operations the day we came in and he treated us to one of the best Bellini cocktails we've ever had. Made using the original recipe from Harry's American Bar in Venice, the drink was a perfect combination of prosecco with fresh white peach puree. This was an extremely refreshing drink and clearly handcrafted.

Quartino also makes its own Limoncello and Orangecello. More restaurants should take the time to make signature drinks like these. A crisp and refreshing way to end a meal, this is the type of unique drink experience that will keep customers coming back.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Long Trail to Power Brewery Using Cow Manure

Fact #1: Vermont has plenty of cows.

Fact #2: It takes plenty of energy to make beer.

Long Trail Brewing Co. in Bridgewater, Vt., has decided to combine these two facts. The brewery announced plans to buy 25 percent of its electricity from Central Vermont Public Service Corp.'s Cow Power program, which uses methane from manure from dairy farms to make electricity.

With the move Long Trail becomes the largest commercial Cow Power customer. Only Green Mountain College buys more energy generated by collecting and burning the methane from cow manure.

Long Trail uses 70,000 kilowatt/hours of electricity each month. The switch to Cow Power is the equivalent of taking 106 cars off the roads. The switch will cost Long Trail about $10,000 a year in additional energy costs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: Fenny, or is it Feni?

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we try some fenny from a friend.

When you write about drinks for a living, your friends and business associates constantly ask the question, “Hey, have you ever tried…?” More often than not, after 25 years of chasing down new drinks, the answer is yes. Occasionally, someone stumps me. On a recent visit to my home, a close friend who now lives in India, Kiran Shah, hit the jackpot with a drink called fenny.

Fenny (also called “feni”) is an Indian specialty made from coconut or cashew apples. The raw ingredients are crushed using a giant stone grinder, and the juice is distilled in a pot called a “bhann” using a wood fire. Traditionally, the best fenny comes from Goa.

Big Boss Coconut Fenny is clear with an alcohol aroma. It has a mellow flavor with a slight hint of burnt sugar around the edge. There was a fleeting spice note, perhaps nutmeg.

Maravilha de Goa Caju Feni is made from the cashew apple. It is a pale, off-yellow hue with a slight hint of alcohol at first sniff. It is rougher around the edges, with a bitter nut and pear skin flavor profile.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Beer Events in North Carolina

North Carolina's beer culture is quite active this month. Here are three things to check out:

Creative Loafing's 2nd annual Charlotte Beer Week

April 17th - April 25th

This celebration includes 20 events across 8 days. Events include the chance to taste new beers, sample different styles, visit breweries, a how-to demonstration on building a kegerator, beer and food matching and a brew cruise on Lake Norman.

Visit http://charlotte.creativeloafing.com/beerweek/.

The Charlotte Beer Club

April 22 for a tasting event at Total Wine in Matthews and followed by a beer and gourmet meal pairing at the nearby Bonefish Grill.

May 13 for a tasting event at Flying Saucer in the University area.

A relatively new creation from founder Darrin Pikarsky, the Charlotte Beer Club has already had several events and is closing in on 100 members.

Find out more about the group at http://beer.meetup.com/196/. Membership is free.

World Beer Festival -- Raleigh

April 26 in Moore Square in downtown Raleigh.
1st Session: Noon to 4 p.m.
2nd Session: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

All About Beer magazine brings together 150 breweries from around the globe, along with great music, local food and educational tastings.

A portion of the proceeds benefit the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

Check out http://www.allaboutbeer.com/wbfraleigh/

The Angel's Share?: 186 Bottles of Rare Scotch Go Missing on Flight to U.S.

Somewhere between Glasgow and Los Angeles a shipment of rare whisky valued at $240,000 has gone missing. Saybrex International, the Beverly Hills-based importer, says Delta Airlines and government agencies handling the shipment have been unable to explain the case of the missing liquid cargo.

Saybrex says 186 bottles of 32-year-old Highland Park that came from a single cask cleared customs in Glasgow and was delivered to Delta Airlines for shipment to the U.S. The problem is that the 31 cartons containing the whisky, each bottle carrying with it a hefty $1,290 price tag, never arrived. U.K. Revenue and Customs believes the shipment left the country.

The investigation into the missing rare Scotch is continuing.

World Beer Cup Results Announced

The results of the 2008 World Beer Cup were announced in San Diego last night. Brewers from five continents earned awards in the Brewers Association bi-annual competition. You can click here for complete list of winners from the seventh edition of the event.

A total of 644 breweries from 58 countries and 45 U.S. states entered 2,864 beers in 91 beer style categories.

World Beer Cup Champion Brewery and Brewmaster Awards were handed out in the following categories:

Large Brewing Company
Blue Moon Brewing Company
Warren Quilliam

Mid-Size Brewing Company
Privatbrauerei Hoepfner GmbH
Peter Bucher

Small Brewing Company
Port Brewing Company and The Lost Abbey
Tomme Arthur

Large Brewpub
Pelican Pub & Brewery
Darren R. S. Welch

Small Brewpub
Bend Brewing Company
Tonya Cornett

Friday, April 18, 2008

Back From Where I've Been

It has been nearly two weeks since my last blog post. I want to explain my absence.

Late last year during a routine physical I discovered that I had a higher than normal PSA. That caused me to seek additional medical counsel and testing. In mid-February, I had a biopsy that confirmed I had prostate cancer.

That was the bad news. The good news is that the physicians treating me believe the disease was caught at a fairly early stage. I have quickly become aware that with prostate cancer there are more numbers thrown at patients than a baseball official scorer has to deal with during a doubleheader. There is the PSA, mine ran in the 10-11 range depending on the test. Not great, but still in a range that indicates a disease that is treatable. There is the Gleason score, mine is a 6. They tell me that is fairly good news. Out of 12 samples taken during a biopsy, just one showed cancer and another had a pre-cancerous lesion. Again, this was encouraging to my doctors. I had a bunch of other tests, including a bone scan, scan of my pelvic region and organs, and a lung x-ray. All came back clean.

I decided to have surgery as soon as possible. I wanted to be aggressive to make use of the fact the disease had been caught early. This was no time to be a piker. On April 7th, while the rest of the drinks world was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the return of beer after Prohibition, I was in Chicago having prostate surgery at Northwestern Memorial by Dr. William Catalona, one of the top prostate surgeons in the world.

This was the first time I experienced major surgery, but Dr. Catalona and his team, along with the nurses and staff at Northwestern, did a great job. Tests done during the operation found no spread of the cancer to my lymph nodes, blood vessels or seminal vesicle. The tumor, which was just 5 percent of the gland, was at the edge of the prostate and did puncture the capsule. That means some cancer cells would have been able to escape. Sometimes the cells die on their own or my antibodies might have attacked and killed them. They could also just be hanging out. I'll have follow up PSA tests to determine what is happening and have favorable treatment options available, if necessary.

Why am I being so open and honest about my health situation? Well, I'm 47 years old. Originally, I was told that PSA tests are only given to men when they reach 50 years old. I have a close friend who has prostate cancer. His willingness to be open and honest about his situation caused me to request a PSA test during my physical. I had no symptoms and might not have known about the disease for another three years. Time is precious when you are fighting prostate cancer.

I want to pass along the advantage I was given by urging all of the men reading this over the age of 40 to get an annual physical and request a PSA blood test from their doctor. Be proactive and don’t assume that your doctor is running the PSA test unless you ask for it. There are more than 180,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the U.S. each year, about the same number as new breast cancer cases. The more awareness men have of the disease, the better chance they have to successfully fight prostate cancer.

I am lucky to have a great support system from my family and friends, which has made my recovery progress fairly quickly. As I feel stronger in the weeks to come, my plan is to work on a project involving members of the drinks industry to try to bring the message of the importance of PSA testing to more men. If you have not had your PSA tested, or if it has been a couple of years since your last test, do yourself a favor and book an appointment to see your doctor. Now is the best time to take control of your health care.

Trust me when I tell you that getting your PSA checked is the best thing you can do for yourself and the people you love.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

WhiskeyFest Chicago a Big Success

I have been to my share of drinks festivals. Friday night I experienced the gold standard, the eighth annual WhiskeyFest Chicago.

John Hansell and his team at the Malt Advocate run WhiskeyFest in New York, San Francisco and Chicago. Tickets for the events run $110 or $120 ($150 or $160 for VIP early admission) which might sound steep for an evening, but attendees get their money's worth. Distillers pour 200 quality whiskeys at the event, with more 18, 21, 25 and 30 year old whiskeys than you could hope to consume.

I enjoy festivals because of the opportunity to sample a wide range of products, while talking with people connected with the various brands. WhiskeyFest had all of this, along with educational seminars and gourmet food stations. The Chicago event was sold out, but it was not overly crowded. The venue, the Hyatt Regency along the Chicago River was a first class venue for the event. Pulling an event of this scope off well is no small achievement and the Malt Advocate folks do it right.

But how about the whiskey? Well here are 12 of my favorites from the evening:

Yamazaki 18 Year Old: Suntory has built an impressive single malt that is aged in 80 percent ex-sherry barrels, 10 percent ex-Bourbon and 10 percent new Japanese oak barrels. If you have never had a whisky from Japan, this is the one to try. Dark amber color and rich oak and vanilla notes.

Duncan Taylor Linlithgow 21 Year Old: Light golden color, this cask strength whisky opens to a wonderful lovely sweet and almond base Scotch when cut with a little water.

Isle of Jura 21 Year Old: Lovely copper color. Tons of flavor with nice peat base, touch of the sea and a tinge of fruity liveliness.

The Singleton: Made at the Auchroisk Distillery, this blonde Scotch is very smooth. Nice wood notes, touch of vanilla and a bit of spice.

Willett Bourbon: Rich dark amber color. Long, smooth flavor. Nice oak, vibrant vanilla with hints of earth and spice. Great sipping Bourbon.

Gordon & MacPhail Convalmore 1984: This 114.2 proof cask strength Speyside whisky is full and round. Clear signs of the sherry casks used to finish the drink in both the color and the flavor.

Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky: This whisky spent five to six years in Bourbon barrels and spent 12 months finish on ex-Madiera casks. There are sweet caramel notes and nice cigar notes.

Mackillop's Choice Caol Ila 1979: A fantastic rare glimpse back at an Islay malt. Nice sea salt influnce, faint but firm peat. Round and mature.

The Glen Rothes 1975: This 86 proof whisky is smooth and fruity. A hint of orange peel, almond and vanilla round out the flavor profile.

Balvenie 21 Year Old Sherry Cask: Nice oak and spice base, good level of tobacco and leather flavor.

Highland Park 30 Year Old: From the Orkney Islands, nice copper color and a range of flavors from cocoa to oak to citrus.

Templeton Rye: This new Iowa whiskey has a bootleg heritage that goes back nearly a century, including as a favorite recipe of the Al Capone gang. The four to five year old whiskey has some raw spicy edges and nice grain qualities. It will be interesting to see this one develop along with the other new American whiskeys arriving on the market.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Session #14: Beer People

This month’s edition of The Session is being hosted by Stonch and is the 14th edition of Beer Blogging Friday. The topic is a good one: Beer People. He's challenged beer bloggers world wide to write about an interesting person they enjoy meeting for pints.

I have a hard time with this question, not because I don't have an answer – I have too many answers. Calling beer a social lubricant is probably an over-used term, but it is accurate none the less. I’ve met some pretty interesting folks in pubs around the world. I’ve had a beer with a governor, an ex-member of the British Parliament and a former German POW, who told me about the humane treatment he received while held captive in Texas during World War II. I’ve downed pints with college professors, mill workers and priests. I’ve brushed elbows with activists, athletes, actors and authors. There’s the guy whose hobby it is to find wild mushrooms and the creative genius who is always coming up with a great new design.

Then there are the “beer elite,” including the late Michael Jackson, Bert Grant and F.X. Matt II to those still among us like Jim Koch, Garrett Oliver and Carol Stoudt. This list of beer writers is a dangerous one. I’m sure I’ll leave someone out, but I realize how little I know on those rare occasions that I have the chance to enjoy a pint with the likes of Lew Bryson, Daniel Bradford, Stephen Beaumont, Stan Hieronymus, Julie Johnson Bradford, Bill Metzger, Gregg Glaser, Tom Dalldorf, Roger Protz, Jay Brooks, Bob Paolino and others that write about beer on a professional basis.

While these folks are great, my list of favorite people to drink with really is a family affair. My two daughters, Brittany and Brhea (and my son-in-law Mike Wirth now that gluten free beers are available) are now “legal” and I’m proud to say that they know more about beer at their young ages than I did back then. It might have something to do with growing up around the contents of my refrigerator, but they know hops from malt. I’ve done my job.

My wife, Sandy, is a great companion for winery tours and for the occasional Belgian specialty ale, but happily most of what I put into my refrigerator is safe around her. My brother-in-law Darrin Pikarsky and cousin through marriage Barron Boyd are perfect drinking partners because they are willing to try just about any crazy beer I recommend and can talk sports, politics and life with a good sense of humor.

But when it comes to having a beer with someone, the guy I wish I could have just one more pint with is my father, Dick Sears. He passed away back in 2001 at 69 years old. Way too young for a guy who made it clear to me early on in life that beer was a reward, something that you earned by working hard.

He also taught me that local beer was to be appreciated. I still have a tool box that he gave me when I was first married. In the top compartment is a cap off a Matt’s Premium split that he popped while we changed the oil on my car. He liked Matt’s partly because of the commercials featuring the “extra fussy” F.X. and the fact bthat the beer was always fresh. He got a kick out of it years later when I was on the team at Eric Mower and Associates that helped name and launch the Saranac brand for the brewery.

He was pretty much a lager guy, but that was times. He did enjoy occasional IPAs and stouts during his later years. He was not a beer expert, but he knew what he liked. I recall when I was fairly young seeing him send back a beer that he did not think tasted right. He asked the bartender “When was the last time you cleaned the lines?”

Finally, I credit him and my father-in-law, Marty Pikarsky, with launching my drinks journalistic endeavors. When I was a junior at Syracuse University in need of a topic for a magazine writing class I happened to be at my father's house when the two of them started to reminisce about long-closed breweries in our hometown. Haberle's Congress, Moore & Quinn, Bartels, Greenway and others were recalled. They argued a bit about which made the best beer and where exactly the old breweries were located. From that conversation I had the working outline of a story that I turned in for the assignment and later sold to the Syracuse New Times for $25.

Thanks Dad.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: Three Cream Liqueurs

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we try three cream liqueurs.

For a feature coming up in the next issue of DRAFT magazine I tasted a variety of "free spirits" -- drinks that might not be on your list of standard day-in-day out beverages. Everything from commercial moonshine to an aperitif made using artichokes as the base ingredient. While some of the spirits sampled can only be described as "strange," there were a number of unique hits. Three cream liqueurs registered especially please notes.

Café Boheme: This 32 proof French liqueur uses a vodka base. It pours a latte color with plenty of dark rich coffee flavor, vanilla cream and hazelnut. Perfect to pass around the table after a special meal.

Castries Peanut Rum Crème: Direct from St. Lucia, this 32 proof liqueur comes in a fun shaped bottle. Peanut nose and an adult Nutty Buddie flavor. Creamy and smooth. A nice drink or perfect for a parfait.

Amarula Marula Fruit Cream: From South Africa, this tan cream liqueur is 34 proof. There is a hint of milk chocolate and caramel, with bits of nut and citrus in a rewarding flavor profile. Part of the depth of this drink comes from the fact that the spirit is aged for two years in oak barrels before it is mixed with the cream.