Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sarcasti-tasting Vol. 1: Mystic Descendant Suffolk Dark Ale Batch 01

The first batch of Descendant was released on 10/21/2011. Let us take a bit of a look at how this was stored and consumed.
This is a cat. He is standing in snow. Snow is outside. There is sunlight outside. Sunlight is bad for beer. I did not keep the bottle here.
This is a cellar. Notice the lack of light in the cellar. That, in combination with a fairly constant temperature, is much better than the backyard when it comes to storing beer for prolonged periods.
The above pot was just used to make gravy. The residue would taint the beer. In addition, it is still hot from the cooking. The bottle text of Descendant is so gracious as to suggest a serving temperature of 50 degrees so I did not serve the beer in this vessel. Furthermore, it is in fact what we call a "dick move" to serve beer in a tainted vessel then post a review.
For beer consumption, I prefer to use what we call a glass. Notice that it contains this wonderful substance called water. It is very handy for cleansing both glassware and palates. This particular glass was used with an IPA earlier. Allowing this to mix with Descendant then writing about it anyhow would be bad. Instead, I opted to clean it out thoroughly Then to be sure that the aforementioned gravy didn't taint my taste-buds, I rinsed those using water.
This is a glass of mead. It was poured for someone else. I will not be discussing this beverage as it has nothing to do with Descendant and using review text to go off on tangents about something completely different makes the person a beer advo--- er dick hole.
Notice that the bottle of beer is now sitting next to the clean glass. I cannot yet discuss the beer as seeing the vessel is not the same as seeing, tasting, or smelling the beer itself.
This is a cork. It is attached to a corkscrew. I used this as I intended to review/discuss the beer and spending any portion of the text on how pretentious, stupid, or dangerous corks are is sort of like saying "I am not evolved enough to use anything but a bottle opener. You should listen to me!"
Now the beer has been put into the glass. The massive head is partially the result of what we beer geeks call a "shitty pour." In my case, this occurred because I got distracted by a 65 lb. puppy. What I should do is take another try at this image where the head is half as thick like every other glass. However, I am now cuddling said puppy on the sofa and do not have a camera handy. So fuck journalistic integrity. This is a beer review, not something that is really held to any objective standard.

Mystic Brewery says the following about Descendant:
"Mystic Descendant is a beer descended from the cultural history of the Boston harbor area.  A dry Irish stout meets an English porter and is then fermented in the fermentorium with our saison yeast with a touch of the ubiquitous ingredient from the area's past: molasses.  The result is a uniqe[sic] beer; it has more dark fruit than a porter and less roast than a traditional stout, while having a different ester profile than a Belgian stout.  We thus dubbed our recipe a Suffolk Dark Ale, as an homage to our immigrant ancestors." Source:

As an IPA, this is absolutely terrible. It is dry like a nice stout but has these fruity undertones with less roast and this nice underlying hint of molasses. There's also a hint of a yeasty undertone that plays nicely off the aforementioned flavors. However, everybody know that the good beers are IPAs out of Vermont. So maybe this gets better as it warms up and the molasses comes out more. But I got it at Julio's while waiting for the wife to get out of work and didn't drive 5+ hours so it can't possibly be good! 
All assholery aside, I've got to say that this beer is absolutely delightful. The fruitiness with the sweetness and the dryness is borderline sublime. These elements were always there during previous tastings but seem to really pop with a bit of age on it. It makes me want to watch The Great Muppet Caper and dance along with Kermit as he sings about "Steppin Out With A Star." So you know what? Screw writing this blog. I'm giving in to impulse. Nice job, dudes. I'll hit the tasting room with my Muppet sometime and perform a musical number for you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Douche Check 2013: Tree House Brewing Co.

As some of you might recall, I wrote a lovely little missive about Tree House Brewing Co. back in July of last year. A bit over half a year later, demand has forced them to upgrade from a very shiny little set up to something much larger and much shinier. Bartenders at the world-class Armsby Abbey have been heard plugging them. Hell, the dudes are such rockstars parking for the party that is a regular Saturday at the brewery got the cops called in at one point. So as a private service, I decided to swing through a few hours before the first major storm since Nemo and check if Dean, Damien, Nate, that guy whose name I will never remember, Maxine's Mom, or Lauren started making it easy to be a cynical douche yet.

The barn was more crowded than the average Metal Thursday at Ralph's in Worcester. Dean announced that some confusing regulation came down from a governing body and there would be no samples as it might possibly be illegal. Fills were taking an hour+ to complete. I had to defuse a near fist fight over parking in the driveway with mockery. The non-MC types were clearly wearied by an intense brew day. Yet, people were happy as all hell to be there. It was as though the knowledge they were getting Tree House beer over rode all the usual pettiness and snide hipsterism that makes me pretty okay with not being active in the craft beer scene anymore. At least until they went outside and saw the parking situation. Then they'd come back in, notice the wood stove, have some presumably tasty salsa, and snuggle in contentedly. Even the guy who'd driven down from CT at the behest of his son seemingly because the kid couldn't wait in line himself was in good spirits.

Of course, none of that would matter if the change of equipment impacted the beers or the guys decided to pay for expansion by downgrading ingredient quality. I'd love to analyze in detail but  they weren't doing samples and That's What She Said is a Milk Stout which I avoid due to issues with lactic sugars and I forgot my 750ml to grab some Dirty Water (a. k. a. MY PRECIOUSSSSS even if Nate insists that isn't Gollum on the label art) for reference. So all I can go on is 64 fluid ounces of Julius.
My previous experience with this one was so fantastic I dropped an extra $6.00 and bought the official Tree House glass. Something I love to do with a good IPA is inhale deeply as I take my first swallow. It makes the hops pop to the forefront more. While there are glasses with space for my schnoz in the house, they (GASP) go through the dishwasher and are used for things other than beer! With Flower Power or Double Trouble, I'm fine spending ten minutes scrubbing then sanitizing with my mead making supplies. But Julius? This mother deserves a virgin vessel untouched by clingy detergents or food residue.
In my head, I've been hyping this beer as at least equal to the (admittedly few) Vermont IPAs I've met. Despite being unable to get a drop since July, I knew in my heart of hearts that this delightfully drinkable little juice bomb would easily be worth the two six packs of damned impressive IPAs I'd give up in its name. What makes it hardest to be a cynical douche about Tree House is the fact that I really didn't over hype this beer. It is fucking fantastic. Maybe it's the Folk Metal talking but I find myself thinking that the guy who tries to make me feel like a charlatan for not making pilgrimages to Burlington, VT once a month should be put to the sword. That first sip thing I mentioned where I inhale deeply? 1/4 of the way through my second glass I'm still doing it because drawing every possible iota of delight out of Julius should be mandatory.

How un-cynical was I made by all of this? Here's the label for my first mead. I spent two months fussing over this thing, hours researching, and dropped cash I didn't have on equipment. It's named Dean in honor of the M. C. of Tree House and even includes a pun based on his profession. If this seems a lame way to close, I had honestly hoped anyone reading this had half a lick of sense, stopped reading, and was on their way to Tree House by now. If not, this song is for you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Drink Until It's AWESOME Vol. 1: Masters of the Universe

The basic premise of this blog series is that some movies/TV series suck. So I am trying to apply the beer goggles theory to them until they seem good.
First up is the live-action He-man movie Masters of the Universe. To try and make this one tolerable,  I have chosen a 4 pack of Hoponious Union from Jack's Abby and a pint of Heady Topper from the Alchemist. The former is a masterfully hopped lager that manages to be hoppy as all get out yet smooth and drinkable. Latter... well picture drinking hops. Glorious, tasty hops. So juicy. Mmmmm.
Of course, I started with an almost impossible task. This was the movie that taught me the phrase "cynical cash grab." I was seven when it came out. Even then, it was very clear that a bunch of people with no grasp or respect for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had sat down said "kids like He-man and Star Wars. Let's combine the two!" Problem was they learned nothing from either source and produced a seething mass of laser blasts and forcibly sodomized scenery.
I'm not saying the He-man cartoon was any good. The thing was a toy commercial. However, it was delightfully clumsy in pretty much every way. The live action version, however, replaced charming Filmation art direction with very tightly budgeted makeup, shiny objects, laser blasts, and EXPLOSIONS. It's entirely possible that the next Masters of the Universe movie will tell a well-written story in a coherent manner with a very stylish look to it. Many folks who grew up with the show built its wafer thin plot into this epic thing in their heads then grew up to become talented folks in their own right. This mess was an attempt to revive a dying product line made by a studio on its last legs by a first time director facing very tight budget constraints.
What amazes me the most in this film has to be Frank Langella as Skeletor. The man has given Earth-shaking performances on stage and screen for several decades. Yet here he is making Alan Oppenheimer's downright campy original performance look like a masterwork of subtlety and understatement. Langella is half a step away from Graham Crowden as Soldeed in Doctor Who at the absolute most. Maybe it's the makeup. They did something really weird. Skeletor got his name because he had the face of a skeleton atop the body of a twink. For this movie, he's Emperor Palpatine with white rubber skin and fangs borrowed from Langella's days in Gorey's version of Dracula. It's like Langella felt he was drowning underneath that confusing monstrosity of a face and needed to overact to be heard/seen through it at all.
Billy Barty managed to do alright as a low-budget substitute for Orko. His makeup restricted facial movement far more than Langella's but he gave the character as much depth as a quirky-cute character in this sort of movie could have. Lundgren had this amusing thing going on where he'd do the action-flick badass gravel voice 99.9% of the time then slip into a very thick Swedish accent for a couple syllables. Maybe it's the beer talking but I found myself kind of curious where the hell he was getting all that oil on his body from. It's interesting seeing how the principal from Back to the Future can manage to be the principal from Back to the Future with a gun and a badge. Then there are the mandatory "young Earthlings to whom our audience shall relate." Their performances are thoroughly unremarkable but it's amusing seeing Courtney Cox in her first big post-Springsteen role. Plus, I keep enjoying Robert Duncan McNeil projects and here he is all... young. The only thing remarkable about either performance is they manage to not be as annoying as the Earthlings in Transformers or The He-man She-ra Christmas Special. 
Good lord. I can't feel my face and this thing still strikes me as utter shit. It's magical shit that helped me form a bond with my brother. Let's look at Heady Topper. The folks at the Alchemist take great ingredients. They use a combination of passion and experience to turn them into that rare insanely hyped beer worth dragging my handicapped ass 5 hours to grab. This is basically the exact opposite of what happened when Masters of the Universe was made. The worst elements of two divergent properties the target audience liked were dropped in the lap of a guy who directs theme park rides who was then told "you will finish on time and on budget using Dolph Lundgren now GO!" I guess the rating system for this series of blogs should be number of livers I'd need to go through to make the movie in question look good. I realize that makes no sense but come the freak on I just compared Heady Topper and Masters of the Universe so it's clear I'm not thinking so well right now. I'd say this is a 2.5 liver movie.Still think it might be a better Star Wars movie than Phantom Menace but then again no Jar-Jar makes anything seem superior.