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With A Little Help From My Friends

October 6th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

My friend Kristine Nickel is a woman of many accomplishments. Among them is an expertise for all things culinary. She has maintained a freelance writing career since the early 1980s, wrote a wire-distributed weekly column for the Chicago Tribune for 7 years, and has covered food, wine, and travel for publications such as Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a New York Times regional newspaper, Zagat, Wine Spectator, Sarasota Magazine, and others.

So I was flattered when she asked me to sit down for an interview recently to discuss beer. The theme was Tailgating, with an emphasis on partying at home. The surge in craft beer, and experimentation by traditional breweries looking to keep their edge, came into play as well. Kristine and I sampled beers that would traditionally be on hand at a tailgate party, as well as some excellent alternatives for the more adventurous fans.

The article appeared in last Wednesday’s Sarasota Herald Tribune, and is posted below.

Bill Zavorskas

Bill Zavorskas

BEST BREWS

Bill Zavorskas estimates he has sampled close to 700 different beers since his great beer passion began. Earlier this year, Zavors­kas decided to put his passion to pen, or more accurately, keyboard, and started Billys-BeerBlog.We sat down with Zavorskas to taste a series of beers that would typically show up at a tailgate party, and some that might just get you out of your ordinary buying pattern.

Michelob Ultra Light Pomegranate/Raspberry: This is an offering that Zavorskas says was created “to compete with microbreweries.” It has a wonder­ful raspberry nose and fruity flavors.
Budlight Lime: “Trying to do Corona one better,” is how Zavorskas described this citrusy brew. At 116 calories, this is a beer you could consume several of, and its fresh character would work with many different foods.
Sam Adams Light: Known to its aficionados as “Sammy,” this light beer was the first one from a microbrewery. It’s a beauti­ful amber color with a distinctive lager nose, but I found it thin and a bit short in flavor.
Heineken Light: I’m not sure how this storied Dutch brewery came up with so much taste for just 99 calories, but this was my favorite light beer by far.
Red Stripe Lager: This is a very popular beer, which used to be produced in Jamaica but which since has been swept into a behemoth beer company. That doesn’t change the refreshing, sweetish tastes.
Rogue “Dead Guy” Ale: Rogue is an Oregon-based brewery that really delivers. This beer is a lovely amber color,’ and a molasses nose that I noted I could, “sit and smell all night.”
Smutty Nose Pumpkin Ale: Fruit and vegetable compo­nents are popular in microbrews, and this is ideal for fall.
Bell’s “Sparkling Ale”: “Caramel nose, molasses taste, smooth, long finish” is how I described this ale, which was my favorite of the tasting.
Kristine Nickel

Brew York State of Mind

May 28th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

A couple of Tall Boys: The Empire State Building...

A couple of Tall Boys: The Empire State Building...

and the Chrysler Building hail back to a classic era

and the Chrysler Building hail back to a classic era

Dylan Thomas's haunting portrait at the White Horse

Dylan Thomas's haunting portrait at the White Horse

Anne & I spent Memorial Day weekend in the Big Apple, visiting my family and taking in the sights. The weather was perfect, and the city was buzzing even with a lot of people out of town. It was also a great time to bar hop and mingle with the locals & tourists.

New York’s brew pubs are as diverse as its culture. From multi-tap venues such as the Blind Tiger & antiseptic Ginger Man to historic neighborhood bars like the White Horse Tavern, the city has something for everyone. We enjoyed a couple of beers with the locals in the latter while watching part of the Yankees-Phillies game. The painting of Dylan Thomas in the main dining room still fascinates me. He looks so lifelike that I expect him to order a round!

The Heartland Brewery in midtown (located on the ground floor of the Empire State Building) was popular with the European tourists. We struck up an interesting conversation with Carsten from Denmark on everything from microbreweries to geopolitics.

An increasing number of the city’s restaurants are jazzing up their beer offerings as well. Hell, even the New York Sports Grill in the newly renovated Jet Blue terminal at JFK, has a tap selection that would be the envy of many brew pubs!

All in all it was a wonderful trip back to the old hometown.

Beer Review:

Snapperhead IPA; Butternuts Beer & Ale; Garrattsville, NY; India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.8. More like a pale ale than an IPA, but still an enjoyable, easy drinking beer.

Heartland Brewery Mother’s Milk Maibock; Heartland Brewery; New York, NY; Maibock; ABV: 7.0. Sweet malty taste with a bit of honey and a slightly bitter finish.

Heartland Brewery Grateful Red Lager; Heartland Brewery; New York, NY; American Adjunct Lager; ABV: 5.0. An easy drinking amber. Caramel malt balanced by light hops & spices, with a crisp, clean aftertaste.

Old Scouters Barley Wine; Bear Republic Brewing Co.; Healdsburg, CA; Barley Wine; ABV: 11.1. This beer has been retired by Bear Republic, but The Ginger Man still had it on tap. A potent but unspectacular barley wine.

Circus Boy; Magic Hat Brewing Co.; Burlington, VT; Hefeweizen; ABV: 5.0. A refreshing session beer. Citrusy hops balanced by wheat, sweet malt, & a crisp, clean finish.

Lagunitas IPA; Lagunitas Brewing Co.; Petaluma, CA; India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.7. It’s been awhile since I’ve had this exceptional IPA. An excellent array of Cascade hops & sweet malt, with a smooth nutty aftertaste.

Favorite Brew Pub/Happy Hour:

March 8th, 2009 Bill Zavorskas No comments

Mahaffey’s is a great bar owned by proprietor Wayne Mahaffey in the Canton section of Baltimore. It has a great neighborhood feel, and you can’t beat the Monday night special. That’s right, 3 10oz microbrews for $4, along with $1 sliders, either beef or chicken! You can eat and drink like a king for about $10; in these times, you can’t beat that. Mahaffey’s also has a 100 Beer Club; keep tabs of your progress on Mahaffey’s website as you go for immortality. Each September, Mahaffey’s has a weekend block party known as Wayne Stock. Definitely worth checking out for the experience. Wayne also does a promotion from time to time called Beers Your Dad Used to Drink. Pabst Blue Ribbon, Natty Boh, etc. If you have a hankering to go down memory lane, then check it out.

Along with Mahaffey’s, Seafood Madness on Tuesday nights at the various Ram’s Head taverns in the Baltimore area can’t be beat. In addition to $2.50 pints of Fordham brews, you can eat all the FREE oysters, shrimp, & mussels from 5-7pm that your heart desires. The best time is in the R months, as my friends in Maryland told me, so that you can get the oysters at their best. You could eat around $50+ of seafood for the price of a couple of brews and tips for the gentlemen shucking the oysters, mussels, etc. Truly an unbeatable deal!

My favorite local pub here in the Tampa Bay area is Shakespeare’s English Pub in Sarasota. Owned by Dick & Marilyn Neal, it’s where I conquered my first beer club. Drink 80 beers from around the world, and your photo gets on the Shakespeare’s Wall of Fame. You’ll also get a cool t-shirt and Beers of the World 12-pack. The bar has a nice, neighborhood feel and the food is great. And where else can you see a space shuttle launch while drinking a pint or two (I’ll explain in a future post)!