Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

I’m always confused by how quickly pumpkin beers hit the shelves in the fall. If the pumpkins are being harvested right now, how did they get in the beer that’s in the supermarket right now? Plus, they tend to taste more like cinnamon toothpaste than grandma’s pumpkin pie.

Surprisingly, I’ve got good things to say about Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, produced by Delaware’s first brewpub.

I like Dogfish Head’s pumpkin beer over others I’ve tried because it tastes like beer … and not like a spice rack. The malts are in balance with -- instead of being overwhelmed by -- the cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. More surprising (to me) is that I’m not a brown ale fan. They can be heavy and sweet, but even with organic brown sugar added, this one’s got a little bite. I’m going to guess that the pumpkin meat Dogfish Head adds in the mash cuts the “sweet.”

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale pours the color of, well, pumpkin butter and the aroma carries the promise of all those spices without slapping you in the face. It's subtle enough to be more than an autumn novelty, even deserving of a second or third bottle, but beware. At 7% ABV, this great pumpkin could sneak up on you.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

You Mean That Isn't ... ?

You didn't think this 1982 Top 20 hit from Steel Breeze was Rick Springfield, did ya?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'80s Hits You Never Hear Today (Part 4)

Two 1980’s powerhouses team up on one single, the voices behind “"Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'” and “Footloose,” and you’d think that masterstroke would stick around. Nope. Somehow it’s vanished from the radio. (Sorry, no Michael Jackson in this post -- but how could I pass up that photo?)

“Don’t Fight It” really belongs to Kenny Loggins, since it’s from his 1982 album, High Adventure. Add in “The Voice,” Steve Perry, and you’ve got a superduo that went as high as #17 back in 1982. I remember owning it as a single-sided 45. That’s right, no b-side. Just flat vinyl to dull the record-player needle of any high school sophomore who wanted to see what would happen.

To add insult to obscurity, I can’t find an official video, but I can find TWO versions from K.I.D.S. Incorporated.  Here’s all three. Take note that Renee Sands sings how “moonshine will make a man go blind,” in the first K.I.D.S. version, but by the time Martika ("Toy Soldiers") is old enough to take the  lead, she makes it safe for the little ears by singing “sunshine.” Yes, that's Stacy Ferguson (aka Fergie) lipsynching away in both.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'm So Happy the Band's Doing Well

Aimee Mann’s got a new video for the song “Labrador” and it’s (almost) a shot-for-shot remake of ‘til tuesday’s biggest hit, “Voices Carry.” Watch both and I’ll meet you again below the two YouTube players.

Of course, that’s Jon Hamm playing director “Tom Sharpling” while being directed by the real Tom. (Go check out Tom’s “The Best Show on WFMU.”) Tom’s friend and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster fills in for Cully Holland, the jerky boyfriend. (No idea what happened to that guy.)

The set-up is waaay too long, but once you get into the song, there are a few more cameos. The drummer in both videos is the same. In the 27 years since “Voices Carry.” Michael Hausman has become Aimee’s manager. Daniel Ralston is on “keyboards” and Ted Leo (of Ted Leo and The Pharmacists) has one mighty head of hair as Aimee’s new old guitarist. Here's a Ted video with a cameo of its own from comedian Paul F. Tompkins.

I can't spot Aimee's husband anywhere in "Labrador," but let me know if you do. Michael Penn had a hit of his own with 1989's "No Myth."

OK, one last cameo, but not in Aimee's video. Instead, it's Aimee's cameo as the nine-toed nihilist in "The Big Lebowski."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Check That Sign One More Time

The chain restaurant legend goes that Pizza Hut got that name because after “PIZZA,” the sign only had room for three more letters. Well, check out my photo of the new Irish bar and grill at 5877 W. 192 in Kissimmee, FL. It’s not BENNIGAN’S, the last restaurant at that location. The new place is just two letters different -- BRANIGAN’S.

A couple years back – the last time I was in Bennigan’s -- the carpet was greasy-black and the white ceiling tiles yellow-brown. Bennigan’s soon went bankrupt and closed all company-owned locations. (Franchised locations are still open.) Just this month, new owners have given the vacant Irlo Bronson Highway location a thorough scrubbing, replaced that carpet and ceiling, and put the past behind them with an “R” and an “A.”

I stopped in for lunch today and first thing I noticed, the guy behind the bar was Irish. He’s not a bartender, but one of the owners. The menu has a more genuine Irish flavor too – bacon and cabbage, scotch eggs, and chip butty (or what Americans would call a French fry sandwich).  There’s plenty of more American options too, including a number of burgers.

I had the pork loin sandwich, topped with an apple coleslaw and served with a side of freshly-fried potato chips (or what the Irish would call “crisps").  The meat looks machine-sliced, but has great flavor and the slaw is unique. Fries (or “chips”) are an extra buck. Our server joked that they’re already having trouble keeping chips and “chips” straight in the kitchen.

I’m sure the bar area will be a big part of Branigan’s business, but it was a little early in the day for Guinness. Maybe next time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Uncommon Stout from Bent River Brewing

No bottle photo for you on this one, just a logo I snagged from the brewery website. Why the laziness? I’m on the road, visiting my dear sweet mother in the Quad Cities …which is actually five cities. Which one you leave out depends on whether you live on the Iowa or Illinois side of the river. (Sorry, East Moline.)

While mum and I ate big, hot slabs of cow and lamb at Bass Street Chop House, a beer called to me. Uncommon Grounds is a blend of oatmeal stout and coffee from Bent River Brewery in nearby Rock Island, IL. It’s called “Bent River” cuz the mighty Mississippi runs east and west as far you can see in the Quad Cities. Really screws with visitors’ heads.

Uncommon Grounds came to me as a draft is a standard pint glass, almost no head and smelling just like an iced coffee. Seriously, almost no beer whiff at all. That first sip is strong on coffee too, dark and roasty - a tad sour, but not bitter. As you drain the glass, the malt sweetness and the “milky” part of the stout assert themselves, rounding off the sharp edges. It’s not just a novelty here to mix the hangover cause and the hangover cure. The flavors work together -- and also worked as a contrast for the medium-rare Delmonico I put away.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Ghost Face Killah

I’ve been putting off Ghost Face Killah from Twisted Pine Brewing because this beer demands you plan ahead … just in case. Technically an unfiltered wheat, Ghost Face Killah is infused with six kinds of peppers: Anaheim, Fresno, jalapeno, serrano, habanero and bhut jolokia. That last one is the ghost chile – the HOTTEST PEPPER IN THE WORLD.

On the pour, GFK looks harmless enough - pale yellow, sturdy head, gentle bubbles. A big sniff gives you both the fresh aroma of the Anaheims and a chipotle smokiness. I fought just the faintest tickle of a sneeze.

When Killah hits your tongue, a quick hit of sour is flooded away by a heat that’s bright and floral. After a couple seconds, it jumps to the back of your throat. Don't panic -- within :20, the burn relaxes to a mild tingle and a warm glow.

Sip Two – Smoky flavors are coming to the front. The back of my throat goes from “warm glow” to “60 watt bulb.” I can feel this swallow hit my stomach.

Sip Three – Lips are tingly.

Sip Four – Top of head sweating. Tongue and lips are constantly warm. Stomach feels OK. Might actually taste “beer” through the various peppers.

Big Chug (down to half the bottle) – Hot bite at top of throat. Stomach rumbling, although no upset or heartburn. Bubbles have carried a little burn up into my nose.

Without reaching for milk or bread, I’d guess the heat was gone inside of ten minutes. If you think Taco Bell Fire Sauce is actually hot, stay away from this beer. If, on the other hand, you put Tabasco on your pepper poppers, Ghost Face Killah is hot, but with flavor. I’ve had other pepper beers that are barely worth using as a marinade. GFK actually some art to it.

Now, am I going to drink the other half of the bottle?  Not tonight. Let’s see how the next 8-12 hours go.