Liam Deegan

Archive for the ‘Fermented Thought’ Category

Let Us Now Praise (In)famous Cans

In Fermented Thought on May 29, 2011 at 1:51 am

Pavlov himself could not have thought of a more ear perking sound.  The crack of a can is the sound of relaxation, revelry, or perhaps at an unfortunately silent moment in a movie theatre, the dead giveaway of someone breaking the rules.  I want to take this opportunity to praise canned beer of all backgrounds.

Cans are the best personal vessel for beer.  Why? Cans completely block out light, have no room extra airspace like a bottleneck, cool faster, are recyclable, and you can crush them with you or your neighbors forehead.

Many people shy away from cans at the risk of looking like the guy under the highway overpass.  Most people complain of the “metallic” taste the beer gets.  First, not just Red Dog, Natural Ice, and Olde English come in cans.  Oskar Blues for example, packages their beers in either keg or can.  They have a range of impressive beers, from a great Double IPA, to highly rated Imperial Stout.  Brooklyn cans their flagship Brooklyn Lager, and their Summer Ale.  Sixpoint Brewery out of Brooklyn are revealing their cans to the market this week.

The other stigma is that cans make the beer taste metallic, while the glass bottles impart no flavors.  The truth is, cans have had protective plastic liners for a very long time, and while it is always fun to drink straight from the can, to really enjoy the nuances of any beer (and wine, but you knew that) it should be poured in a proper glass.

Cans are a smarter, lighter, fun, and more environmentally friendly package for beer.  Is it possible for all craft beer brewers and drinkers to make the change?  Yes we can.


(Update: It appears NOLA Brewing has bought a canning line.  Awesome.)

5 Categories, 3 Choices

In Fermented Thought on January 28, 2010 at 9:45 am

The Following is my response to a BeerAdvocate forum where the poster asked people to respond to 5 beer questions with 3 ranked choices.  Here are mine with some explanations after.

Top 3 over hyped beers:

1. Founder’s Breakfast Stout

2. Dogfish Head 120minute

3. Orval

Hear about Founder’s Breakfast Stout way too much on BeerAdvocate, tried it, I was underwhelmed.  120 minute was good but still, too many people put it on a pedestal. Orval was just not good to me, and it’s a Trappist brew, which comes with a lot of hype.

Top 3 beers that don’t get enough attention:

1. Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene

2. Southern Tier Iniquity

3. Urthel Samaranth

Cuvee Rene is a fantastic gueze.  In my opinion, gueze’s only get a small amount of attention.  Their nuances are overlooked in the Imperial IPA/Stout obsessed beer world.  Iniquity is a black IPA, just by that it’s pretty cool to me, and it tastes great.  Urthel Samaranth is a delicious Belgian Quad it is an abbey ale, not a Trappist, therefore it may not get as much respect, but it should.

Top 3 breweries :

1. Dieu Du Ciel

2. Victory

3. Brooklyn

All three of these breweries have several incredible beers and do a lot of experimental and out of the box type brewing.  Dieu du Ciel adds some great ingredients to traditional brews, Victory and Brooklyn both specialize in German styles but put great American innovation into everything they do.

3 beers you will never buy again:

1. Shipyard PumpkinHead

2. Sam Adams Cherry Wheat

3. Harpoon Winter Warmer

I hate to trash any beer because every beer has someone behind it that put some sweat and love into it (hopefully) and trashing someone’s beer to me is like trashing someone’s artwork, but it must be done, in consolation, in art and beer, personal taste is the main component.  Pumpkin head, too much spice.  Cherry Wheat, too sweet and cough syrupy.  Winter Warmer, way too much spice.

3 standbys:

1. Bear Republic Racer 5

2. Brooklyn Lager

3. Sam Adams Boston Lager

Racer 5 is pretty widely available and tastes great.  Brooklyn is a good go-to beer at many bars and it topples over any macro lagers that are similarly priced, same goes for Sam Adams Boston Lager which is even cheaper more widely available.

There it is.  It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.


A Taste of Gotham

In Fermented Thought on January 2, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Here’s a quick recap and review of beers from my recent trip to New York.

On my 1 a.m. walk from Penn Station to the apartment I decided that showing up empty handed would be of no benefit to my host, nor to myself as I was getting increasingly thirsty and looking forward to trying beers from breweries that Louisiana and Rhode Island do not get due to distribution.  Seeing as it was past 1 a.m. the only location that I could come up with was a 24-hour deli around the corner from my destination.  Right off the corner of 14th and 3rd was a deli that really surprised me with their beer selection.  A full refrigerated aisle dedicated to beer was what waited inside, and after walking past the 24 ounce cans of Budweiser and single cans of Sparks I was greeted by a pretty good craft selection and walked out with a 6-pack of Troegs Hopback Amber.  On a funny side note, at the register I noticed an odd fruit flavored beer from Magic Hat, that would have been a bummer to find later.  I switched it for a Blue Point toasted lager and left with 5 Troegs and the one Blue Point.

The Troegs Hopback Amber is my new favorite session type beer.  It is one of those great balanced beers, but not shy with either malt or hops.  Has a great floral hop aroma, with some citrus.  The harmonic flavor of both the spicy pine and caramel malt makes for a very delicious beer.

The Blue Point Toasted Lager was great as well, nice biscuit and bready malt flavors and a crisp beer.  Great for dinner if you don’t want to overwhelm your palate.

The next adventure brought me to Lil’ Frankie’s for dinner, where it was a wine night to go with the incredible bruschetta (those tomatoes can’t be beat), and proscuitto pizza.  Before dinner however I had a beer while waiting in the crowded Lower East Side restaurant.  I had the beer brewed by Sixpoint in Brooklyn specifically for the restaurant, Lil’ Frankie’s Pale ale.  It was nice and mild, a good beer before a meal.  Some hop pine flavors were dominant enough to give it a nice flavor and the astringency prepped me for a big meal.  The Chianti with dinner was a Colli Senesi, which disappeared quickly.  After dinner I was convinced into trying espresso.  As I’ve said before, coffee is not my thing.  Caffeine keeps me up and staying up late is not a problem I have, getting to sleep is.  The bitterness of coffee is also way too much, even with sugar and milk.  However, I love the smell of coffee, coffee beers and just the idea of coffee in general, as it is a prime example of communal consumption.  I must say, I am now hooked on espresso, it was delicious.

Dba was the next stop.  It has the same owners as the one in New Orleans, and it is very similar in appearance and vibe.  Too full to go straight to beer, some Jameson was in order. The beer list is just as great here and I was excited to see J.W. Lee’s Harvest vintage 2006 among the bottles.  After a short wait to get a bottle from the basement, it was sitting in front of me and gave off a nose of raisins, and sweet dark fruit.  It was pretty sweet and vinous and was a very good drink, but I decided it would be best sipped from a snifter or wine glass in proper barleywine fashion and not in a bar as just one of many drinks in a night.  However, when the temperature is in the 20’s, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the warmth for the rest of the night.

Later, the Blue and Gold Tavern, a pretty deep dive of a bar was the next stop.  Odd pictures and ornaments lined the walls holding up the low ceiling.  The cheap drinks were served by a surly bartender with the frame of a bouncer, who apparently added that to her job description after seeing her shout for IDs of immediately entering patrons with no hesitation of 86ing the lads coming in before me at the slightest hint of back talk.  The Blue and Gold lager, as we found out, shared something with 2009 as the New Year approached: better out, than in.

Now at this point in the night, the name of the last place escapes me.  We went to what I recall as an organic Mexican food place where straggling frat boys ended their night obnoxiously,  and nachos were ordered along with Anchor Steam for me and Pacificos for my brother.  If you go to this place (you may recognize it by the splatter of glow-in the -dark paint on the bathroom door in the back room which is my only means of identifying it), make sure you make any specific order modifications (like “no sour cream”) loud enough so the weary one man server/bartender/burrito roller can hear you, and make sure you keep your jacket close by.  Apparently one of the aforementioned members of the Westchester invasion was a victim of pea coat theft.  I’m sure he had a back-up supply of Axe body spray at home, so not to worry.

The next day, an evening bite was provided by Peasant in the Nolita neighborhood.  This somewhat hidden, rustic below ground bar is lined with tea light candles and bare wood tables with a small bar towards the back.  They have great simple dishes (a custom panini, salads, fish and plenty of wine).  I had a Forst, a light Italian made lager with a bit of a malt breadiness that worked very well with a tuna and white bean salad and parmesan breadsticks.

Later in the night, hunger hit again and the allure of Artichoke just around the corner from where I was staying was too much to resist.  Down from the corner of 2nd and 14th, Artichoke is a miniscule pizza place that is known for Spinach and Artichoke dip topped pizzas, 32oz. foam cup Budweisers and long lines.  I try to go to Artichoke at least twice when I go to New York, even if I’m only in town for the day, and since it’s open til 5:30 a.m. on weekends, that late night slice is made a little bit more accessible.  A stop at the deli up the street and I had some Goose Island Honker’s Ale, an English bitter that had some bready malt with some fruit and spice notes, and it was enough to wash down the generous slices from Artichoke.

I left New York satisfied by my (over)consumption, yet still hungry and thirsty for my next visit, as this city has endless experiences to be had.  My final adventure was being humbled yet again by the complexities of the subway system and surprisingly got out from Penn Station on New Year’s Eve alive.  New York is delicious, diverse and expensive. It is a city like New Orleans that you just can’t stay away from for too long.  Thanks for having me.  Cheers!

The Death of Cool Pt. 2

In Fermented Thought on October 22, 2009 at 5:33 am

So I was in a bar a while ago, and I was talking to a guy who was in his late 40s, who was looking around at the young crowd and telling me in a condescending voice how stupid the kids are with drinking these days, and I could feel a stereotypical digression into 5 cent candy bars and double feature picture shows for a Quarter and walking out with coin still in pocket. This gentleman shared my judgmental perspective on Red Bull and Vodka as the drink of choice for the people in my age group.  I don’t want this to come off as me advocating the Willy Wonka-esqe plethora of cocktail available at a bar.  (a Root Beer flavored vodka? Ok. Tasty but c’mon are we drinking or trick or treating?) But still, I felt offended.  He was talking about my generation.

His sentiments were basically on the Red Bull and Vodka as being in essence an idiotic and contradictory cocktail.  Something to the likes of “these kids get so fucked up but then they can’t pass out cause they’re all hopped up on Red Bull.”  During our conversation I observed he was sipping a Jack and Coke. One habit if not compulsion that I have picked up while bartending, is the underwhelming ability to immediately identify and memorize what anyone I come into contact with drinks.  It’s use, while limited, has some importance to this story.

A Jack and Coke is as much of a classic an American cocktail can get without scratching the subject of true American cocktails.  That is to say a piece of coal is a diamond without giving it more agitation than just a rub of the thumb.  The Jack and Coke to me, is more of a neo-classical cocktail.  As I thought this over, I realized he was insulting my generation, and the burn began to sink in, so I felt I should have defended or at least have had a witty comeback ready.  The French call it espirit d’escalier, thinking of the perfect response much too late.  We all have these moments when the brain lapses, and if not for this human flaw, such incredible things like the Belated Birthday card would not exist.

My comeback is neither quick nor witty, however it may ring true.  While a Jack and Coke to him is the Rosetta stone of drinks, the generation before him may have looked at his contemporaries, running around drinking soda pop with the same disdain.  What is Red Bull if nothing but the next revolution in youth beverages.  It is the Coke of the next century with equally stimulating and controversial ingredients.  Substitute the heavily branded Grey Goose vodka, with the equally branded No. 7 whiskey and you have in your hand the same speedball of a cocktail.

The true original cocktail is a blend of bitters, and liquor and in some cases sugar. If one must mask an “unpleasant” flavor, some fruit juice could be added.  Fruit juice mixers became popular during that dark period of time in American history when our predecessors had no choice but to choke down bathtub gin in speakeasies.  Without branching out into cocktail history that has been explored much more in depth and much more eloquently, I will simply say, a classic or original cocktail has roots much deeper than what a soft drink can bring out in a whiskey.

Now keeping all this in mind, in the course of the night, I did a shot with him.  I think I got the last laugh and scored some classical points for my generation.  Mine: a Jameson, his: a Jagerbomb.


The Death of Cool

In Fermented Thought on September 24, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Can you hear that?  It’s the sound of previous generations laughing at us.  They are laughing as we sip vodka and sugary energy drink cocktails and dance around to over-produced electronic non-sense.  The bars that are hip with our generation are filled with absurd lights, frosted bottles of vodka, overpriced everything and shots that could be marketed with Kool-Aid and Capri Sun.  The way the clubs are now, Cool can be bought from a bottle menu.  Not so in the days of James Dean, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, who earned their cool, and especially weren’t drinking a peach-flavored vodka with Red Bull and grenadine.

What happened?  What has shaken the source of cool?  Cool preceded us in tailored suits, cigarette smoke and whiskey.  Now $70 T-shirts that look like a 5th grader’s first experience with glitter and a Bedazzler are paired with 64 calorie seltzer waters marketed as beer.  Some pop-culture junkies make snide remarks about Zima and laugh.  Wake up! The Zima epidemic is still upon us.   Certain things have changed since it lost popularity, but the mentality is the same.  What is wrong with the past?  Perhaps being cool became too dangerous, too unhealthy, but it is that spirit that brought this nation to be what it is.  Whiskey is the life-blood of America, the immigrants that came here and ended up being flushed from the Whiskey Rebellion of Pennsylvania into Canada and Kentucky, fed the nation its aqua-vitae.  It is a shame to see what popular consumption has become.

Sinatra once said you’re not somebody until you walk in a club through the kitchen.  Now people make sure they are seen walking in the front door with flash bulbs going off.  I think if Sinatra was in a club today, one glimpse of the Patron/Grey Goose crowd would have him walking out ANY door, shaking his head.


"Cool picture. At the Fountainbleu, Miami Beach. Frank is probably just
arriving back from the night before." - J. Deegan

Orval Trappist Ale

In Fermented Thought, Reviews on September 24, 2009 at 8:40 am

(Editors note: Since writing this insult of perhaps an entire nation, I have reworked my thoughts on this beer.  My tastes have since developed and I can appreciate this beer for what it is.  The carbonation levels, the funk from the Brettanomyces, and other elements I now understand.  O the folly of youth.)

It’s not PC to say “who died and made you king” in a democracy anymore. Democracy can sometimes become too subtle.  At least democracy in a democratic society can be vague at times.  Specifically in terms of deeming something a “classic.” Many classics are decided on my the masses, however some classics find many opponents.  Some just have an outspoken few.

I tried Orval Trappist Ale for the first time tonight with high expectations.  An overall “A-” on BeerAdvocate by the faithful members and an “A+” by the Alström brothers.  Now, I think this is one classic that I just didn’t enjoy, maybe I just didn’t get it.  To me a classic can sometimes either fall short of expectations, because they were inflated by others, or it simply isn’t good, but somebody says it is and sheep follow.  In no way am I saying this is my opinion of Orval or of BeerAdvocate, that was simply my thoughts on the process of nominations of classics.

That being said, I did not enjoy Orval as much as many other people have, which in most cases means I’m wrong.  I know I’m not alone though.  “Apocalpyse Now” is the masterpiece of some crazy winemaker named Coppola.  Aside from the “Charlie don’t surf” part of the movie, I didn’t find it to be that great of a film beyond some great moments, which ranks it pretty low on the list of deemed classic Vietnam movies (Full Metal Jacket, Platoon ranking way higher as overall films).  That said, Orval ranked pretty low on MY list of deemed classic Trappist beers.  I did learn to live with it, if not appreciate it, which is how I think America dealt with the last two Presidential terms.

Here’s my review:

This beer poured beautifully. Their was a giant rocky pure white head that emerged when poured into an oversized wine glass that made it look very appealing. The smell was nice, corriander, yeasty, reminded me immediately of Chimay White. Because of the fruity yeast notes. A bit more of a sour smell to it than the Chimay though, reminded me of the Cantillion Classic Gueuze I just tried. The taste was very interesting, at first I was very surprised at how high of a rating it had. The carbonation was too high for me and it attacked my taste buds to the point where it just was like seltzer water, once this subsided I did notice a very complex taste that I began to enjoy more as I drank and as the beer warmed. The smell is fantastic, but the carbontation (perhaps badly handled bottle) masks in the taste what the smell offeres initially, until it opens up after the bubbles dissipate. Sour apple, bubblegum, white grape, and a bitter bread towards the end. Very dry finish, pretty refreshingly crisp.
The mouthfeel is what really ruined an otherwise great complex beer for me. I may be wrong, but the early sips are way too carbonated, as the beer settles, it becomes more enjoyable, but the first sip, which is always my favorite, challenged my taste buds.
I could keep drinking more than one of these, they have a good taste, as long as it settles before it hits my tongue. However, Does not compete with my favorite Trappist, Chimay White.


Beer and The Sun

In Fermented Thought on September 24, 2009 at 7:42 am

Beer, to me, can be greatly compared with the sun.  Both have life giving vitality and refreshment qualities, both are awe-inspiring, and both are among the list of things that make life so great.  When combined, it can be an unparalleled experience of true bliss.  One interesting thing I notice when admiring a glass of beer at its peak, I often compare it to the sun.  Barleywines or an amber colored beer reminds me of a lingering sunset before it dips below the horizon, blasting a deep fiery reddish orange across the sky, it is nature at its most passionate, when the orange meets the deep blue night sky in a purple and blue transition.  Such is the feeling that a deep brick colored beer does for me.  Or perhaps the crispness of a sunny day, captured in a bubbly, bright pilsner.  A hefeweizen resembles an early afternoon as the noon sun is dimmed a bit as the sunset begins.  And a stout or porter represents deep midnight, perhaps the best time to enjoy a Russian Imperial Stout, as a nightcap, or on a moonless winter night.  The sun and beer imitate each other and maybe even suggest when the best time is to enjoy the style by when one mimics the appearance of the other.

Tapping the Subject

In Fermented Thought on September 24, 2009 at 7:29 am

Alcohol one of the most interesting substances in human history, and has perhaps the longest history.  It is in my opinion one of the perennial favorite of things to consume, with food in close second.  Those in opposition consider this: when has “let’s grab a sandwich.” Outweighed “Let’s grab a drink,” by either favorable response or frequency of use? And anyone from perfect strangers to the closest married couple can share a drink, and I don’t believe the former could enjoy a meal comfortably.

I also find alcohol a staple of humanity, both from its use and as a product.  It is heavily branded, and marketed.  Much more than any food or tobacco product if I still haven’t convinced those of you who support either of those two consumable products.  Soda and fast food, perhaps the two most marketed and branded products in the world don’t have the audience or reach that alcohol does.  What adds to the mystique of something that accepted products like food or soda don’t have is that there is large group of people who oppose alcohol, a group that rivals those opposed to tobacco.  Alcohol is an anomaly.  It is as abused as any drug, yet accepted and consumed as any food.  It has a romantic and exciting history and its industry is laced with, more tradition and legacy than an American automobile company.  Alcohol has too much appeal to deny as a subject of study.

Belly Up

In Fermented Thought on September 24, 2009 at 7:00 am

My developing theory on life is that the best way to find happiness is through experiences. Life is one big experience and the key to being happy is seeing and doing as much as you can.  Of the most organic human experiences you can have in this life, is contained in what I refer to as Communal Consumption.  In regards to the first word, nothing can bring as much sense of comfort, acceptance, happiness and a place in the world to a person as a sense of community, be it family, team, friends, even co-workers.  The bonds of camaraderie are very bendable but ultimately unbreakable.  A second necessity to human life, to nourish both the mental and the physical is that of consumption.  Consumption is something that every life form must do, and us humans get the most enjoyment out of it as any other species.  The two things together bring joy to anyone and solidify the bonds between us.  Friendships are made, lovers meet, enemies come to terms, and family is strengthened.  From the most basic activities such as having a cigarette, or coffee, to the most elaborate of Thanksgiving dinners, communal consumption in my mind is the one human appetite, both mental and physical that can never be satiated.  The reigning consumable substance of communality? Alcohol.

Having a drink with someone is as genuine, an experience you can have.  If conducted right, with no extraneous distractions, it can be one of the best interactions of a lifetime.  It can be basic, and it can be complex.  A human interaction can be lubricated while a bond is cemented before ice cubes can melt to water.