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My Favorite Beers August 11, 2012

Posted by Administrator in : Politics , trackback

Those who know me may be aware that one of my favorite practices is to mix the excellent Mexican beer Negra Modelo half-and-half with Clamato, a form of tomato drink sweetened with the juice of clams. Yes, I know it sounds horrible. So does eating soft-boiled eggs if you try to describe it in writing.

I also like “bloody marias — Clamato and tequila. I suppose I should confess here and now that I like anchovies on my pizza, and that I’m a great fan of smoked oysters, on pizza or on yellow crackers with Miracle Whip the way my mama used to make.

Recently, I have discovered something else that I have surprised myself by liking very much. My wife and I play pool together two or three times a week, and one of the places we go to serves “Chelada”, a canned drink consisting of Bud light and somewhat less Clamato than I’m used to drinking with Negra Modelo. I never thought I’d care for anything made by Anheuser-Busch (they have a huge factory just north of this town which is also a sort of capital for microbreweries), but I have to admit that Chelada — the pool hall serves it over ice in a salt-rimmed glass — is light and refreshing.

I’m bothering with all this because, when I went to look Chelada up on Google, curious about other people’s opinions, I found almost nothing but childish and snotty reviews, most of them making fun of clam juice. I don’t think any of them had anything at all to do with how the stuff actually tastes.

I don’t really care, but I believe my own taste is more than vindicated by my choice of Negra Modelo, always one of the top ten beers listed on beer websites. This town is also the home of New Belgium’s Fat Tire, the stuff that got me interested in drinking beer in the first place.

I just detest snobbery of any kind, whether it’s about beer, wine, whiskey, chocolate, or anything else.


1. Charles - August 11, 2012

Smoked oysters. I just open the can and consume them.
They have been one of my favorite vices since I was a child. Other kids bought candy, I bought smoked oysters.

2. al perez - August 12, 2012

Beer and I don’t get along, sea food brings me great joy.
The heck with what others think, Chelada makes you happy and that’s all that matters.
As to snobbery, I’ve always said that if you think you’re too good to eat blood sausage washed down with mescal and Faro cigarettes afterwords you’re not good enough for Chateaubriand washed down with Cabernet and Churchill cigars with 100 year old whatever afterwards. Don’t know if that attitude makes me a snob.

BTW, snob doesn’t just mean putting on airs, it also means you got nothing to back it.

3. R.D. Bartucci - August 13, 2012

Never was a beer drinker.

Wine, yeah. My paternal extended family made “dago red” from blends of grapes grown in our own vineyards for decades, and my maternal grandfather came from a wine-making family back in Italy, so he knew the craft, too.

Distilled spirits – Scotch whiskey, brandy, blended whiskeys, none of ‘em expensive – I also learned at an early age (as in “five years below the prevailing legal drinking age”) to enjoy, demonstrating without intending to do so that familiarization with the fermented stuff in moderation can safely and reliably begin early in the second decade of life, the pompous prigs be damned.

Never got into Bourbon for some reason, and I never once so much as got tipsy on the hard stuff at any concentration. The effects of wine and whiskey I could gauge to a nicety, switching virtuously to plain tonic water or ginger ale, which gives the appearance of boozing in “social” drinking without any further inebriant effect.

But beer has always hit my palate like bitter soda pop, and has invariably tended to sneak up on me. The only three times in my long and miscreant life I’d ever gotten truly plastered were in dormitory keggers back in college. Draft Heineken.

Just too goddam smooth, consumed in the 800mL Pyrex lab beaker I used in lieu of a stein, until I was on one occasion so plastered that I realized without the wall upon which I was propped, I would’ve succumbed to the ambient acceleration field and finished up on the not-too-clean carpet.

That wall was my only real friend, and I got downright maudlin about leaving it all alone to fend for itself when somebody finally hauled me into my room and aimed me at my bed.

Since then, I have had beer no more than perhaps once or twice a decade, and have no particular desire to up the frequency of ingestion.

On t’other hand, as I think on it, a little Scotch with a glass of water on the side – or an equal amount of brandy, with a cup of coffee to hand – would settle awfully nice upon me right now.

Ah, decisions, decisions….

4. Ward Griffiths - August 16, 2012

I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a beer snob. Not generally fond of the American lager style nor the Dutch lager style it mimics. Unless there’s nothing else to drink. But most Americans drink it because it was about the only style available in most of the country for several decades after the Volstead Act was repealed. Though in the serious lush period before I dried out for a year and a half, lack of funds (co-pays can really sap the wallet) had me drinking some of the foulest swill on the market, “high-gravity” lagers that taste like piss mixed with charcoal lighter., i.e. Earthquake, made by the same brewery as the infamous Four Loko but less than half the price without the fruit flavoring — 12% ethanol at a buck and a quarter for a 24 oz can. Definitely improved by adding something else, in my case dumping one of those cans into a quart cup, topping it up with vegetable juice cocktail (generic, V-8 costs too much), and addition of some XXX hot sauce and some Worcestershire sauce.

Since Lisa died, I am drinking again and have apparently regained some control (that first weekend excepted, got shitfaced on a couple quarts of Jim Beam Straight Rye and a couple cases of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale). Presently alternating good ales (usually American microbrews, occasionally British imports) with ciders. At the moment, that’s Sam Addams Latitude 48 IPA and Woodchuck Amber and mixing them together shandy-style is a flavor that can’t be described easily but is mighty fine.

Clamato is fine stuff, though I generally kick it up a notch.

Seafood on pizza? No sweat. I’ve been known to use calamari or scallops on my home-made deep dish jobs (when I say deep dish, I spread enough dough for a loaf of whole-wheat French bread in a lasagna tray, the shellfish covered with sauce and cheese gets to cook long enough that it exits the rubbery phase that all molluscs go through if they’re cooked for more than a minute or less than half an hour). I’ll eat anchovies on pizza if I make the pizza, because I get to rinse some of the salt out of them first, I’ve known only a couple of pizza places where they do that. Haven’t seen smoked oysters offered as a topping any pizza place I’ve been in Jersey. Nor have I seen linguica offered as a topping, though I live in an area with a lot of Portuguese immigrants from three generations up to three weeks ago — a large linguica and mushrooms and a pitcher of Blitz Dark (and probably another pitcher later unless it was Disco night, my apt was three blocks away and so was my Datsun B-210) was my standard order at Fargo’s Pizza in Mountain View CA back in my just-post-USAF days (78-79) and most of the Portuguese in California were way down around Monterey. (So I grab a bake-at-home pie at Shop-Rite and a chunk of linguica at Seabra’s and do it myself).

I do like canned smoked oysters as an occasional snack, but my lifelong canned seafood snack has been kippered herring. When I discovered it in my early teens ($.25/tin) I had to eat it on the porch because my Mom and sisters couldn’t stand the smell plus I’d be engulfed in cats. More recently (when I worked a few months at the Goya warehouse in Secaucus about eight years ago) I discovered their line of tinned octopus in various media and rarely a week goes by without a tin of either pulpo in hot sauce or pulpo in garlic.

Haven’t seen Chelada around here, it may be a product only a few of the AB breweries are canning, and Newark may not be one of them. I’ll keep an eye out, it’d probably be in the stretch of coolers I don’t pay attention to (the one with Bud, Miller, Coors &c).

Believe it or not, I’ve never even tried Negra Modelo. All of my early experiences with Mexican beers were uniformly negative. Possibly because they all came in clear bottles that fail to block the particular light frequency that breaks one of the hops flavor molecules in half and one of the halves is 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (“skunky” is a specific term in the vocabulary of beer judging) and I cringe when I see the commercials with that clear bottle sitting in bright beach sunlight. I’ll grab a six when I go for my next case purchase (maybe tomorrow, more likely Saturday).

Never been much of a wine drinker as such (unless there was nothing else available) though back between my first and second marriages there was a girlfriend (my future second wife had to return to Los Angeles, I had to wait a couple of months for transfer from the Las Vegas Radio Shack computer store to the one in Beverly Hills pending the opening of the store in downtown Los Angeled where I spent four years through seven managers, she insisted that our SCA friend Janet “take care of me” in the interim) and we went through about two gallons of supermarket jug wine per week (I was 26, she was 39, I didn’t miss the beer, much). Had some stuff about 20 years back that had been made from grapes with a serious Botrytis cinerea infection, I could get addicted to that stuff but the addiction would cost more than heroin.

Hard liquor? I love straight rye whiskey, and you can find in maybe one out of twenty liquor stores in New Jersey. I love it so much that I only seek it out under extreme stress, like the day I lost Lisa. The flavor is harsh and with taste buds crippled by decades of smoking and a lifetime of capsaicin I like harsh flavors. While I enjoy a nice Islay single-malt or any of several brands of Irish whisky, Jim Beam yellow label or in extremis Old Overcoat (oops, that’s Old Overholt) is what I prefer. I gave up tequila except for the once-in-a-while pitcher of Margaritas or Bloody Maria after a drinking contest with a slightly older considerably larger sergeant when I was 20. (I won). And on a hot Summer afternoon, there ain’t anything like a good gin and tonic. (Those I go easy on — a couple decades back in the Bay Area, two bartendresses independently decided that I was not to have gin — apparently drinking that stuff makes me more cynical, to me that’s like saying pissing into the Pacific makes it more damp, but they were ladies I’d learned to respect so I go easy on it).

Well, obviously drinking gets rid of writer’s block. I’d best get working on some stuff for TLE before it wears off.


5. Donald Qualls - August 17, 2012

I love good beer, but it’s been about two years since I’ve bought beer (any kind, from my bottom-line Sam Adams on up into genuine micro-brews like the local-to-me Red Oak). Instead, I buy ingredients and make my own beer, five gallons (about 52 bottles) at a time. I’ve been reusing the same four cases of crimp-cap bottles for all that time, keeping a couple hundred pounds of glass out of the recycling stream compared to buying and tossing, and I’ve saved two or three hundred dollars at a rough buck and a quarter per bottle for basic microbrews. Best of all, I get better beer than anything I’ve found to buy — even my first batch was very, very good (I used a kit the first couple times, but now I just buy malt extract, hops, yeast, and sometimes a little grain to add a particular flavor).

If I had the space for the additional equipment, I could cut my cost even further by buying malted barley by the hundred pound bag, but with extract brewing I can store the two seven gallon buckets, capper, and such in a corner. When I’m ready to brew, it’s an hour and a half to start the brew, wait a week to two weeks, another hour and a half to bottle, and in two or three more weeks I can start enjoying my brew. Start that cycle once a month, and I have all the beer I want — ambers, pale ales (or India Pale Ale if I buy some extra grain and some oak chips), blonds — heck, I can make a porter or even a stout, if I liked those…

6. Neale OSborn - August 18, 2012

I don’t like beer or ale. used to drink Genny Cream Ale or heiniken when I had no choice and it was cold. I still like a rolling Rock nip (the 8 oz bottle) if it has soaked in a bag of ice for several days, the weather is over 95, the humidity under 30%, and I have cheese (Carcker Barrel extra sharp White cheddar) and ritz crackers, while fishing from a rowboat. :)
Smoked oysters? Nope. Miracle Whip is only suitable for……. well, nothing.
Clams are never edible unless I caught them myself, and cooked them in seaweed on the Jersey Shore. Certainly not suitable for drinking.
When I drink (almost never) it’s usually a Tennessee or Kentucky bourbon. Jack or Jim, Souther Comfort as a last resort. Rocks, Coke, or lemonade for a mixer. An occasional Tattoo and Coke ( a spiced rum).

7. Ward Griffiths - August 18, 2012

Donald, I’ve homebrewed some in the past and hope to do so in future. First attempts were when I was fresh out of the USAF and Carter had signed the bill decriminalizing the act. Two batches, both contaminated — hadn’t quite grasped the idea of sterile procedure. Drank it anyway, it was better than Coors despite the “band-aid” undertaste. Did it again in San Jose in the beginning years of the 90s — best luck with a couple batches of “ale meads” (an ale recipe substituting honey for malt, less contamination risk as honey has natural antibacterial compounds that malt lacks), ales again hard to keep clean no matter what the effort, the light rail on North First outside my apartment window kicked up so much dust that a loaf of bread with preservatives would turn odd colors if it was left sealed on the kitchen counter for three days.

Haven’t tried brewing at all in Jersey. Aside from some obnoxious state laws, a houseful of cats makes sterile procedure impossible. I just may grab some kit at a place over in Clifton and try again a few times this Autumn and Winter since I’ll have the larger kitchen downstairs once the deadbeat tenant is finally gone. And once I’m up in New Hampshire next year, I hope to brew between batches of chili (chili being the reason for the professional grade stove and such) as most of my chili recipes include beer and I’d prefer it be beer involving no federal taxes.

Neil, I find Negra Modelo to be OK, but not likely to become my regular brand. Too sweet. I’m more partial to the pucker-your-ass bitterness of an IPA.

8. Donald Qualls - August 25, 2012

Ward, I’ve never been all that careful with sterile procedure, and further, don’t even boil the entire batch (first, don’t have a pot large enough to boil five gallons at a time and, second, would have trouble getting that much to a boil on my 1970s vintage electric range), just boil a gallon or so of water to dissolve and cook the extract, then dilute that with straight tap water to make up 5.5 gallons; even added ice direct from the freezer a couple times to cool the wort faster — and I’ve never had a batch that came out with an off taste or other sign of contamination.

I *do* sanitize the fermenter with an ounce of Clorox in a gallon of water, wipe/sluice down the entire interior of bucket and lid; I do the same for the racking siphon, bottles, and caps (everything that touches wort that won’t be subsequently boiled), then rinse everything but the caps with plain tap water — and my tap water has enough chloramine in it to be unpleasant to drink (at least to my taste buds, after spending my formative years in a town with a surface reservoir, slow sand filter, and no chlorination of city water), so probably helps prevent contamination.

The biggest factor, I gather, short of sanitizing everything, is getting the wort cool enough to pitch the yeast and close up the fermenter as quickly as possible. I take the two gallon pot off the heat at the end of boiling and float it in a sink full of iced water, stir the pot (with the same plastic spoon used through the boil) and push it around in the water; I can get it down below 120º F in ten minutes or so, then pour it into the fermenter half full of water, before topping up to final volume, and get the final mix blow 90º right then — pitch the yeast, close it up and install the fermentation lock, and the cooled wort below 140º F is only exposed to air for five or ten minutes, at most — very little time for anything unwelcome to drop into the mix, which means very little chance for beer that tastes skunky. Priming with boiled syrup added to the wort during racking (as opposed to dry sugar in the bottles) avoids another innoculation risk, and bottling in dark bottles, which are stored in the original cardboard cases to further exclude light, also helps keep the skunk away.

Honestly, if you watch the right steps, brewing and bottling to produce a good product is easier than hand baking bread (I use a bread machine for that task), or about the same effort and care requirement as reloading cartridges with home cast bullets.

9. Eric Oppen - October 16, 2012

I like my beer dark, thick and strong-tasting; when I was in London last, I was the only one in my family who actually enjoyed Guinness Stout. I wish stuff like that was cheaper here. And I do homebrew, but bottling in my kitchen’s a clumsy nightmare for a bunch of reasons.

10. al perez - November 6, 2012

more or less following election outcomes (checking during ads while I watch Sons of Anarchy). will probably need shot to mourn regardless who wins.