A Visit to City Steam Brewery

I promise, the picture is not as bad as it looks.

What you see here are the remnants of several beer flights (3 oz. pours in each mini beer mug) shared among my coworkers last week for our annual BAT Holiday Party. This year we decided to have the fiesta at City Steam Brewery in downtown Hartford. The historic multi-use facility has been transformed to accommodate the brewery itself, along with a restaurant, bar, pool room, and comedy club.

Most of us decided to start the afternoon with beer flights, your own choosing of five 3-oz. pours of City Steam's selections on tap. I opted for the following five beers (with City Steam's descriptions italicized):
  1. The Naughty Nurse - Our best seller! Brewed for a spicy, slightly bittersweet finish in the traditional English manner.
  2. Black Silk Stout - A very black and roasted Oatmeal Stout.
  3. American Wheat - A cloudy, unfiltered "West Coast style wheat", with less spicy flavor than its Teutonic cousins.
  4. Acapulco Gold - A very serious American Pale Ale. Columbus, Northern Brewer & Amarrillo hops create an intensely bitter mouth feel and warm citrus aroma.
  5. Norwegian Wood - A wonderful dark lager, spiced with cinnamon and cocoa.
The Black Silk Stout (bottom row, middle) leads off my Top 3. It was a very traditional Oatmeal Stout; dark, oily, and tasted of hints of chocolate. I can see why the Naughty Nurse (top row, left) is such a fan favorite. The ale has a great amber color and the spices certainly come through in this one; it is fairly hoppy which gives the ale a slightly bitter taste of the most enjoyable kind! I chose to stick the rest of the afternoon out with the Norwegian Wood (bottom row, right), a dark and "oak"y seasonal lager that I'd be more than happy to drink year-round.

If you find yourself in the Hartford area (and you better let me know if you are!) the City Steam Brewery is definitely worth a visit. The Thomas Hooker Brewery, in nearby Bloomfield, also boasts a fantastic lineup of beers that are regularly stocked in my beer fridge at home.

Thanks to City Steam for hosting our fantastic holiday party!

Happy Holidays!


Ready for a Redesign

Drinks for the House is ready for an aesthetic makeover, and I'm happy to say that we have some great ideas in the works to revamp the site. We will, of course, continue to be adding new blog posts to this site until the new one is up and ready to go - so no leaving us behind!

We would love for you to share some feedback with us on the things you'd like to see added to our blog: new web and social media tools, layout design, topics for blog posts, industry news and liquor categories you'd like to see us discuss at greater length. Please feel free to leave us a comment sharing your insights or, if you'd prefer, you can always email me at stephaniejerzy (at) comcast (dot) net.

Thank you in advance for your feedback!


Not just another pisco cocktail...

One of the things I quickly discovered (and love!) about pisco is its ease of being mixed in a variety of cocktails. Sure, there's the go-to Pisco Sour or the Pisco Punch (well, the authenic recipe isn't as go-to as it sounds, but that's a story for another day...); but as I've learned, there are so many more flavors that compliment a well-made pisco. I have a few examples of intriguing cocktails that may have come out of the formula for a traditional Pisco Sour and thought I'd share online.

The first cocktail I enjoyed was over my Thanksgiving vacation in Phoenix, Arizona. During my stay, I meandered my way over to the new (to me, at least) Scottsdale restaurant and bar, Culinary Dropout, where I knew my order before even looking at the menu. You see, (Houston) Anvil Bar's Mindy Kucan had recommended to me via Twitter that the Pisco Painkiller on Culinary Dropout's menu was, and I quote, "deeeeeeelicious." And her recommendation did not disappoint. The drink was built with Don Cesar Pisco, Pineapple Juice, and Cream of Coconut, and was dotted with orange bitters on the slightly frothy top. A very light drink with a similar build to a Pisco Sour in terms of the ingredients called for, this drink was gone before I even remembered to take a picture. Whoops.

Another pisco cocktail I've been meaning to give my praise to was Jacob Grier's entry for the Great American Distillers Festival cocktail competition, called Pisco con Platanos. With the wonderful idea to develop a spiced plantain foam, I will concur with him when he says, it is "an entirely different direction with this twist on a Pisco Sour ". With a high-quality pisco, and perhaps a bit of patience on my part, I hope I can try and replicate this cocktail at home for a special occasion. But I really should leave these molecular, foam-making things to the experts like Jacob... :)



Top 25 Beers of the Year

Well, I've covered wine and spirits already, so I suppose it's time to bring in the beer! At Draft Magazine's website, they currently are featuring their compiled list of the "Top 25 Beers of the Year." And boy what a list it is! Be sure to give it a read here.

With an expansive range, the 25 craft brews selected cover a plethora of beer genres, from the more predictable American IPA and Oatmeal Stout to the lesser known fruit and spice/herbal/vegetable beer. (Oh yes friends, you read that right. Vegetable!)

I'm sad to report that I have not had the great privilege of getting to sample any of these beers myself throughout the year, as it seems that most Connecticut bars' ideas of craft beer is the inclusion of both Samuel Adams Boston Lager and a Sam seasonal on tap. Sigh... However, I sure can offer up which choice brews whetted my appetite upon reading the list.

First is the award-winning Experimental brew from Short's Brewing Company called Key Lime Pie. Described by Draft as being made "with fresh limes, milk sugar, graham cracker and marshmallow fluff", Shorts' beer took Gold in the Experimental Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) 2010. If the beer can hold its own in the flavor department as compared to its dessert counterpart, it would be too good to be true!

Secondly, I'd love to get my hands on the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary series of ales. However, the Sierra Nevada website is all built in flash, is difficult to load, and the "Where to Find" feature doesn't seem to want to locate the beer anywhere in this fine country of ours, even when I typed in the Chico brewery's own zip code. Hmmm...wishful thinking now, I suppose.

There's only three weeks left to 2010, so I better get my drink on if I want to try and sample some (read: all. hehe.) of the Top 25 Beers of the year. Wish me luck!


(photo from tapthatny.com)


Wine Enthusiast Top 50 Spirits

'Tis the season to start the year-end countdowns and Top 10s that begin to flood the Internet, magazines, and newspapers. Wine Spectator led the way just before Thanksgiving with their Top 100 Wines "At A Glance" list; now, Wine Enthusiast (in the excellent hands of Kara Newman) released a list of their own last Friday, detailing the Top 50 Spirits of 2010.

If I had to single out one product on the list that I was impressed with this year (a very tough feat, indeed!), I would say it'd certainly be WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey. I had the chance to sample the product from Master Distiller Dave Pickerell while at The NY Bar and Wine Show back in June and, boy oh boy... simply put, it's yummy!

Visit the Wine Enthusiast website and give the list a glance yourself. There are some fantastic items that you may want to give as gifts (or spoil yourself with!) for the impending holidays.



Happy Belated Repeal Day!

Dec 5th marked the 77th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition... lucky for us!

Prohibition was that evil time between 1920 and 1933 in which drinking was *gasp* illegal. While this sounds out-and-out horrible, we can attribute the induction of Prohibition for some of the greatest cocktails and bars of all time. Who doesn't love throwing on their best flapper dress, doing the Charleston and having a classy Sidecar or Old Fashioned anyway?

...maybe that's just me?

Today you can still get your 1920's speak-easy feel on at many establishments throughout the country. In particular - and perhaps it's because I'm so in to wine - the 21 Club... one of NYC's best-hidden speakeasy clubs in the era and still around today located at 19 W 52nd Street. Not quite such a secret anymore, the 21 Club is a highly regarded, NYC icon, visited by much of NYC's high class society and celebrities from across the board.

What makes this place so famous?

Back in the 1920's the 21 Club was known as "the place to be," to the affluent drinkers of the era.

"Perhaps the most elaborately disguised vault in New York City, '21's Wine Cellar was built to be invisible. Behind several smoked hams that hung from the basement ceiling and a shelved wall filled with canned goods, stood a perfectly camouflaged 2 1/2 ton door that appeared to be part of the wall. Opened only by inserting a slender 18" meat skewer through one of many cracks in the cement wall, the secret door silently slid back to reveal '21's most coveted treasure: two thousand cases of wine."

In fact, the place was so well hidden that even when authorities came to "close the place down" in 1932, they couldn't seem to find the alcohol and so, 21 Club went on to see another day... and thank goodness because when I had the opportunity to visit the wine cellar in 2009 I was in heaven.

I'll leave it up to Stephanie to tell you about some of the best cocktail-inspired speakeasy bars in the country.

Did we celebrate with an all out bash? Not exactly... but you can bet we raised a glass.

I opted for a glass of red wine: Pittnauer Burgenlander Röt 2008, a blend of Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch from Austria (of course!)

Stephanie opted for a Maker's Mark Whiskey Sour (with cherries!) with a friend at a birthday dinner.

Steve celebrated with a glass of Catena Malbec from Argentina while his wife sipped on a Cremant Rose from the Loire.

Jean joined in the fun with a mimosa and a glass of Chateau Tour Calon 2000... slow day!

No matter if you sipped yesterday or not, it's important to recognize this momentous holiday. For anyone that enjoys a good cocktail, glass of wine, beer or anything in between raise a glass to Repeal Day!


Hello from NYC! Some Wine Bar reviews

Whoops, how did this blog get so far away from me? Good thing we can always count on SJ to keep you updated!

Things in NYC have been a whirlwind of alcohol - especially with the holidays upon us! Just last night I had the chance to check out two new wines bar on the Upper West Side, courtesy of fellow wine-writing friend, Nick.

The bars: Started at Barcibo Enoteca and ended at The Tangled Vine.

Still feeling relatively intimidated by Italian wine, I angled for something I thought would be a guarantee pleaser: Rosato Lagrien Muri Gries 2009 (Alto Adige) and the Muller Thurgau-Gewurztraminer, Re Manfredi (Basilicata.) While I can't say either was bad, I can't say that either was particularly good. They were exactly what you'd expect from a glass of wine on a Wednesday night, I suppose - very one dimensional and without pizazz. We didn't try the food, but I was advised it might outshine the wines in our glass. Though the staff was eager to help, I'm not sure they were... helpful. However, the space was quite pleasant.

After our glasses we decided to head on over to another wine bar. A short cab ride away and we arrived at the door of The Tangled Wine which was promised to have a more interesting selection and a bite to eat. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many Austrian wines... and then I had to do my best not to get one... I'm trying this new thing where I go back to exploring everything...

Well, Nick and I did just that - we tasted just about everything. The RUEDA “Ermita de Nieve” Vinedos de Nieva 2009 (Spain/Rueda) had way too many roses, the SANCERRE Karine Lauverjat 2008 (France/Loire) too many green peppers - finally I went to another go-to of mine: Muscadet. MUSCADET "Le Fils des Gras Mouton" Claude Branger 2009 to be exact. I love everything about Muscadet - I honestly don't think I've ever met one I didn't like in fact... relatively inexpensive per bottle and delicious... doesn't get better than that. Of course I decided I need the oysters! So I did that... classic pairing of Muscadet and Beausoleiol Oysters from New Brunswick, Canada, to be exact (I decided I am going to become an oyster connoisseur as well.)

In short, I'd definitely go back to both places, though given the choice, I'd hit up The Tangled Vine before the first... I mean they have AUSTRIAN wine... what's a bigger pull than that?