Home Stretch: Mint Julep and ‘I Feel Alright’ by Steve Earle

By Dave Pezza

Welcome back to Home Stretch, assuaging those Wednesday blues with tunes and booze. This week's edition features two southern classics that set the mood for fast-approaching summer nights: mint juleps and Steve Earle’s 1996 country-rock album “I Feel Alright.”

I’ve been looking for the right album to pair with mint juleps ever since finally making one on my own during the most recent Kentucky Derby. Mint juleps have always struck me as fancy, high-maintenance cocktails, similar to mojitos. Perhaps this stigma comes from its unmistakable association with that famous Louisville–based race. But it is surprisingly easy to make, and impressively refreshing on a hot and muggy evening.

This week’s album, “I Feel Alright” by Steve Earle, is just as refreshing, not to mention relaxing. Its laid-back, ‘90s-style country rock calls to mind Tom Petty’s “Wallflowers,” and is damn near perfect for dropping the needle, kicking off your shoes, and sipping a sweet and minty bourbon-based cocktail.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 oz. Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey 
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
    • 1 cup of sugar
    • 1 cup of water
  • Six to eight fresh mint leaves
  • Crushed or shaved ice
  • Pewter cup or highball glass

Promoted at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby since 1938, the mint julep is a southern mainstay. The cocktail is essentially a way to sweeten and chill bourbon with a little bit of flair. Even if you’re not a big bourbon fan, you’ll find mint juleps sweet and mild.

The same goes for Earle’s sixth album. He possesses a suave veneer that protects a vulnerable storyteller whose style is steeped in equal parts blues, folk, and country. This combo should put a smile on your face and ease you through the week’s final pitfalls.

1 oz. of simple syrup/”I Feel Alright”

You can buy pre-made simple syrup at many liquor stores, but it’s easy to make, and it’ll last a month or so in the fridge, saving you a step in the near future. Grab a cup of sugar and a cup of water and throw them in a medium saucepan. Set heat to medium.

While the syrup is heating up, I suggest starting with the album's title track, “I Feel Alright.” What a jam! If you are a fan of “The Wire,” you might remember this song from the Season 2 finale. A quintessential Steve Earle hit, “I Feel Alright" is smooth, a little ballsy, and shoots bravado through you like a stiff shot.

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, then simmer for three minutes or until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let that cool while you prepare the rest of the cocktail.

Six to eight fresh mint leaves/”Hard-Core Troubadour”

Flying high from track one? Prepare for a one-two punch with “Hard-Core Troubadour.” It’s a head-bobbing, Latin-tinged rock song that keeps the easy-going feeling from the album’s opener. Take the pewter cup or highball glass and add about four or five mint leaves. Lightly bruise the leaves with a muddler or spoon. Try not to mash; the idea here is to only bruise them, allowing the mint flavor to slowly seep into the bourbon.

You should be able to find fresh mint at the local supermarket, but may I suggest growing some your own. A number of terrific summer drinks are made with mint, and it grows easily in your garden or even in a small pot on the windowsill.

Crush or shaved ice/”Poor Boy”

Ice is important in this drink. It needs to be crushed or shaved so that it melts quicker than cubes would. This slowly waters down the bourbon, sweetening the cocktail the more you drink it. If you have a blender, put in two handfuls of ice and blend until crushed. Even better, but not super convenient, pick or shave ice off of an ice cube if you have one ready in your freezer.

“Poor Boy” is the album's middle track, and it alters the album’s tempo to an upbeat, rockabilly tempo. The album’s best ballads follow this tune, and “Poor Boy” attempts to ease you into the heavier mood. Disclaimer: listening to this song has been known to bring about fits of swaying, finger snapping, and unstoppable foot tapping.

Bourbon/”Billy and Bonnie”

I’ve saved the album’s most folk/country song for the bourbon. Earle tells the story of an unlikely couple that keeps the thrill of their love alive by breaking bad. Bourbon shares a similar story with anyone who has ever imbibed that sweet, sweet brown liquid.

While shaking your ass to “Billy and Bonnie,” grab the Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Please don’t use your top-notch bourbon here! Jim Beam White Label, Wild Turkey 81, Four Roses, or even Old Grand-Dad (if you’re feeling squirrely), are all acceptable mixing bourbons. Maker’s Mark is usually considered the end of the line when mixing bourbon. Any higher quality bourbons should be consumed straight.

Add 1 oz. of the now cooled simple syrup to the cup/glass, the shaved ice, 2 oz. of bourbon, and the remaining mint leaves for garnish. Mix with a spoon and take her easy. The album will play out with some bluesy tunes as the ice melts, mixing with the whiskey, mint, and sugar into a refreshing and potent remedy for your Wednesday night blues.

Cheers!

More Happy Hour Posts

Home Stretch: Corpse Reviver #2 and “Too Far to Care” by Old 97’s

(Corpse Reviver #2 photo courtesy of urbanbohemian)

(Corpse Reviver #2 photo courtesy of urbanbohemian)

By Dave Pezza

It’s Wednesday evening and holy shit you could really use a stiff cocktail and some good tunes to lull away the fact that two more days of legal torture stand between you and sweet, righteous freedom.

Per usual, Writer’s Bone has got your back. Welcome to “Home Stretch.” Here you’ll get a cocktail and an album pairing to help you through the week’s last leg. Why cocktails? Why albums? Both are endangered species slowing making comebacks. And because it’s my weekly column, and imma do what I want.

For the commencement of this new series I’d like to introduce two personal favorites that share an undercurrent of devil-may-care attitude masked in a banal packaging that makes them strong contenders for these mid-week, almost-summer nights: Corpse Reviver #2 and “Too Far to Care” by Old 97’s.

An old school cocktail, the Corpse Reviver #2 is precisely what its name suggests. It is the second variation in a family of drinks that were traditionally used as hair-of-the-dog cocktails. In the beginning of the 20th century, the social norm included drinking, constantly (so much so that they outlawed it…unsuccessfully, of course). So you can imagine the hangover as the scourge of the early 1900s. Thankfully, hangover cures were not limited to acid-heavy Mimosas and eye-watering Bloody Marys. Gilded Age drinkers had an entire repertoire of drinks to combat that pesky problem associated with weekday drinking. That being said, I’d recommend this cocktail as a competent evening drink that can easily substitute for a martini, gin and tonic, or vodka soda. Ingredients and paraphernalia upfront:

  • 1.5 oz. dry gin
  • 1.5 oz. Kina Lillet (which is not vermouth)
  • 1.5 oz. Cointreau (triple sec will do in a pinch)
  • Dash of Absinthe (yeah, that’s right)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • Cocktail glass
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Bar jigger (Just buy one already! It really brings the best out of a cocktail if it is properly proportioned)

This week’s album, “Too Far to Care,” is Old 97’s most successful and most encompassing of their diverse sound. The band is probably best known for their single “Question,” which plays during the proposal scene on the sitcom “Scrubs.” Old 97’s have been plugging away since the early 1990s, killing Texan rock and alt-country for decades. An album that is easily to sing along to, “Too Far to Care” grabs you with guitar riffs of first love, whaling of love lost, and all the alcohol infused musical meanderings in between. Both of this week’s choices will lull you into a false sense of ease before hitting you hard when you need it most.

1.5 oz. of Gin/”Timebomb”

The album kicks off with “Timebomb” a head rocking, body swaying anthem to those first dates that rock you to your core, kind of like the first ingredient in this week’s cocktail: gin! To all you gin haters out there, this might be the least ginny (Weasley) gin drink out there. Gin is the base alcohol here, the alcohol that sets the flavor profile for the rest of the cocktail. Gin will make this drink easy on the pallet, effervescent, and accented with citrus and other fruity undertones. It’s perfect for a Wednesday night: Karen from HR has been on your ass about 401k contributions, and you just want to relax with a soothing, but strong drink. I like dry London gin like Beefeater’s, but this is your Wednesday night. Fill a quarter of the cocktail shaker with ice, and, while you’re there, place your cocktail glass in the freezer (you’ll need it chilled for later). Add an ounce and a half of gin to your shaker.

1.5 oz. of Cointreau/”Barrier Reef”

The album’s second track, “Barrier Reef” is a crooning ode to drunken rebound sex. He’s drunk, she’s had better-looking lays, but they’re both glad they’re not still at that bar drinking to forget someone else. Cointreau works better wherever triple sec works, even though it technically isn’t triple sec. Cointreau is the alcohol that helps round the sharp flavors of the alcohol it accompanies: tequila in traditional margaritas, vodka in a cosmo, or bourbon in a Seelbach. Here it masks some of the saffron/herbal taste typical of gin with an orange tang. Go ahead and add an ounce and a half of Cointreau to your shaker.

1.5 oz. of Kina Lillet/”Big Brown Eyes”

“Big Brown Eyes” is a subtle song that quietly steals the show in this album. It’s a rumpus ballad about a drunk stumbling for a phone to make ill-advised calls to that girl with big brown eyes. Kina Lillet is the phone in this cocktail, always found enabling stronger liqueurs. Kina Lillet is an aromatized white wine used in a shitload of old school cocktails. It’s most famous for its use in the famous Vesper Martini from Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Lillet fell off the face of the earth for a while when the manufacturers retired the “original” recipe. But it is back and should be stocked at any decent liquor store. Add an ounce and a half of Lillet to the shaker. Quick tip, once open, like any wine, Lillet will go bad. Lillet Blanc (which is what you are using here) is a white wine and will hold up decently if properly re-corked and stored in the fridge.

1 oz. of Lemon Juice

Quickly add an ounce lemon juice to the shaker. I don’t have a clever song pairing for lemon juice, it’s just lemon juice…

Dash of Absinthe/”Niteclub”

Shake that bad boy up until your hand starts to freeze. Grab the cocktail glass from the freezer, pour a dash or two of absinthe into the glass, and slowly turn the glass so as to coat the entire inside with absinthe. “Niteclub,” gathers all the album’s emotions and releases it in a display of frustration and regret, shedding inhibition and giving in to the deep-seeded emotional response called “fuck it.” The alcoholic equivalent of this emotion is absinthe. Yes, it’s legal in the United States, and, yes, it’s expensive. Pernod absinthe is the bee’s knees, but it’ll run you $80 for 750ml. I’d opt for a brand like Absinthe Ordinaire: it is more affordable at half the price, especially for a drink that requires only a dash of this magic green liquor. Having an open bottle on your bar top will be worth it come Friday night. A shot of that stuff will get your weekend started right quick.

Drink

Pour and enjoy! The albums back half will play out with some mild bluegrass and country toned tracks that are sure to set your nerves at ease. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or a lemon peel if you will.

Saluti.

More Happy Hour Posts

Decision 2016: What We're Drinking On Election Night

Daniel Ford: I figured I might as well try to start a thread while I'm refreshing my Twitter feed every few minutes.

Is anyone drinking tonight? And if so, what's on the Election Night cocktail menu? And if you're not, what is wrong with you?

Lindsey Wojcik: For Election Night, I'm turning to the drink that has comforted me through many moments in my life—be it celebratory milestones or trying times—red wine, specifically a Malbec or Pinot Noir. It has yet to fail me, and I know I'll be soothed through the coverage of this stress-inducing election with my standard drinking buddy by my side. If the results call for celebration, a bottle of rosé may be popped. #RoséAllDay, no matter the season, in my opinion.

Dave Pezza: I’ll be drinking what’s left of the bottle of Bushmills Irish Whiskey that was abandoned at my house like an off-brand condom wrapper. I loathe Irish whiskey, and yet someone brought it to my house with the worst best intention. It won’t be the only thing I’ll have to choke down this evening.

Daniel: I finished off my Jefferson's a few weeks ago, so I may have to turn to Rough Rider. Over/under on number of glasses it takes me to cry out, "Bully!": Three.

And if things go sideways, it's on to Basil Hayden's. Beer just doesn't seem like enough for an election like this. Gary, what do you think I should drink?

Thanks for playing, Gary!

Also, you know the republic is in trouble when Dave Pezza has turned to Irish whiskey.

Gary Almeter: Since it's #TacoTuesday I am going to purée some tacos and drink those.

Dave: Oh Gary, where would we be without saints such as yourself? Don’t ever change.

Sean Tuohy: I’ll be drinking a case of Capri Sun.

Alex Tzelnic:

No, really, found Suntory at the liquor store in Union Square, and I plan on holding this pose all night long.

Alexander Brown: I'll be drinking half a bottle of Maker's Mark because, yikes, this election.

Daniel: No Labatt? Or Steam Whistle?

Robert Hilferty: I'm convinced we're all in an episode of the “Twilight Zone”/”Black Mirror,” and this election will literally never end. No matter what I drink tonight we'll all wake up and the election cycle will begin anew. Forever.

Robert Masiello: I'm going to an election watch party at a bar near me. There are two cocktails on special:

Nasty Woman: Gin, Cocchi Rosa, Benedictine, lemon, grapefruit and simple syrup garnished with a lemon swath

The Orangeman: Glendalough Double Barrel, Averna, Orleans bitters, lemon and simple syrup shaken with a rosemary sprig and orange swath

Times like these that I love living in Massachusetts.

Share your own Election Night drink of choice by tweeting us @WritersBone or writing on our Facebook wall

Happy Hour Archive

Shaken or Stirred? A Cocktail Menu of Writing Styles

Editor’s note: Every Friday deserves a fun, boozy question. I asked the Writer’s Bone crew to choose a cocktail that best describes their writing style. I couldn’t be happier with the results (which included a segue involving roosters). Trust me, this is group you’d want to drink and write with! Imbibe and keep writing!—Daniel Ford

Alex Tzelnic: Sex on the Beach because... Okay, fine. I'm going to go with rye, neat because I'm wry and neat.

Rachel Tyner: Wine, because I avoid it like the plague.

Sara Silvestri: A Dark and Stormy because I don't write much anymore, but when I did it was always something emotional.

Daniel Ford: I'd choose a Boilermaker (Budweiser with a shot of Jim Beam) because at the moment writing feels like writing in a coal mine. Nothing makes you forget your black lung like a Boilermaker.

Stephanie Schaefer: Sangria. I tend to keep my writing light and refreshing with hints of sass throughout. Naturally, there's a time and place for more serious work, but overall I'd say I favor light-hearted conversational pieces.

Matt DiVenere: Long Island Iced Tea. I've written about nearly anything and everything you can imagine; from the number of roosters legally allowed in a residents yard in Vermont to a murder-kidnap on the police beat to "How to Get the Taylor Swift" look for a Midwestern fashion and jewelry company. Oh, and sports.

Alex: So what is the number of roosters?

Matt: If I remember correctly, in Essex, you can have two in a fenced in yard. But it was being revisited when I left. #vermontproblems

Lindsey Wojcik: If I'm going to drink and write, my favorite writing buddy is a bottle of red. Something about the tannins of a red eases any insecurity I have staring at that blank page, and they really get the creative juices flowing. Really? No. I just love a delicious, moderately priced red wine, usually Malbec or Merlot, soothing music, and the ambiance of a lit candle on the side of my blinking curser. Drinking and writing, for me, comes with a warning label though: I must drink in moderation. Otherwise, after two paragraphs, I'm drunk and dancing to whatever music accompanied me in the background. 

Jenna Casey (graphic designer and Writer’s Bone newbie): Second Circle (port, bourbon, and maple syrup). Dark, (slightly) dramatic, a little cynical, but in a funny way. Maybe not a funny “ha, ha” way. But it’ll make you laugh. Or cringe.

Jesse Ackerman (also a graphic designer and Writer’s Bone newbie): Water because if I drink with my current creative situation all hell will break lose and I like my freedom.

Robert Masiello: My writing style would definitely be a tequila shot. I don't do much pre-writing planning or organization, and I'm a huge procrastinator. I just sit down and force it all out of me at once, the same way you just gotta force back a shot in one motion.

Friday Happy Hour: Newport Storm Brewery

Photos courtesy of Clare Simpson-Daniel

Photos courtesy of Clare Simpson-Daniel

By Daniel Ford

We may have had a ton of storms in New England so far this year, but I guarantee that none of them were this tasty.

Rhode Island’s Newport Storm Brewery offers beer drinkers everything from its Hurricane Amber Ale to its Rye of the Storm IPA.

The brewery’s PR guru Clare Simpson-Daniel recently answered some of my questions about the brewery’s history, its selection of beers, and which of their brews would be a viable Presidential candidate in 2016.

Cheers!

Newport Storm Brewery

Newport Storm Brewery

DF: Can you give us a little background on the brewery’s history?

Clare Simpson-Daniel: It isn’t surprising to hear that four guys from college came up with an idea to start a brewery. What may be surprising is that these guys are all still great friends and the brewery is still growing after more than a decade. Coastal Extreme Brewing (or The Newport Storm Brewery as we are known by many) was the dream of Brent, Derek, Mark, and Will. These four spent their years at Colby studying the science that would help them understand how to make beer while also doing the “sampling” that would make them love beer. In 1997, staring at graduation and a life just working in “a job,” the idea was hatched to start a brewery.

Over the next 18 months information was gathered, plans were written, investors were begged, and skeptics were grown as the founders pressed forward with their dream. In April of 1999 they moved into their two, 2,500-square foot garage bays in the Middletown, R.I. tradesman center. Concrete was cut, used equipment was found, and on July 2, 1999 the brewery’s first beer, Hurricane Amber Ale, was released. Since then, the brewery has continued to slowly build itself and its reputation. In 2002, the brewery expanded into an additional 1,000 square feet. In 2006, they started Newport Distilling Company to make Thomas Tew Rum, utilizing much of the same equipment and bringing back this historic practice to the area. Perhaps the biggest event of all came in 2010 when the brewery and distillery built a brand new facility in the North End of Newport, which increased the company’s square footage to 10,000, allowing the guys to build a beautiful visitor’s center and tour deck. It was also their first opportunity to upgrade their equipment from when they first started in 1999.

Much has happened since 1999. In the past 15 years the brewery has made up to 60 different varieties of unique craft brews. They helped pioneer the idea of making limited release beers in 1999 and did the same with canned beer in 2004. Thousands of people have visited the facility and many more have had the opportunity to try our unique beer throughout Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Massachusetts. Through it all, the focus continues to be making quality, unique, local beers for our fans. As in the beginning, Brent, Derek, Mark, and Will hope you enjoy their beers as much as they enjoy making them.

DF: How involved are you in the community and how has the city/state embraced your beer?

CSD: Newport, R.I. is an exciting place all on its own. It is home to an outstanding St. Patrick’s Day Parade and is a major Northeast destination for amusement-seeking summer tourists. Add in a great local beer, and the good times roll! On day one, the Storm crew started bringing fun and entertainment to the streets and venues of Newport. It wasn’t long before they learned how to direct that fun to the support of good causes. By donating beer, ingenuity and time, the crew helped raise more than $100,000 for area non-profits and had a blast doing so!

Here are our Brewmaster Derek Luke’s thoughts on the Rhode Island craft beer scene from a recent interview with The Newport Daily News on Rhode Island beer culture:

“I think that Rhode Island itself hasn’t really come around as a general-populace state that respects beer…and that’s where all these new breweries, big or small, I think will help out. It was Newport Storm that carried the torch for 12 years, and if the beers that we produced weren’t necessarily in somebody’s flavor wheelhouse, then they shied away from us. Where now, say, Ravenous Brewing Co. (in Woonsocket) has a really great coffee milk stout, so someone may be like, ‘Oh, I want to try that.’ So it helps Rhode Island craft beer, I think, or at least there’s the hope. When you look around at a lot of the restaurants, I think they could do a little bit of a better job getting behind the local brewery scene, but being in sales for a while I also know there’s some politics behind. If the customer demands it, and the brewer makes great beer, then it’s a win-win.”

The Newport Storm crew at the Newport Folk Festival

The Newport Storm crew at the Newport Folk Festival

DF: Give us a quick tour of the different beers you offer. What brew would you recommend for a newbie?

CSD: In our 15 (nearly 16 years) of operation we have handcrafted close to 60 varieties of beer. Our year round staples consist of our Hurricane Amber Ale (flagship, great session, not too bitter, not too malty), India Point Ale (an IPA style of beer made with local Rhode Island hops), and Rhode Island Blueberry beer (refreshing kolsh ale with fresh Rhode Island blueberry juice!). Our seasonal line up consists of a Spring Irish Red Ale, Summer Hefeweizen, Pilsner, R.hode I.sland P.umpkin, Oktoberfest Marzen Lager, Winter Porter, and Smoked Porter. Our Cyclone Series, now a retired line up, consisted of 26 beers named alphabetically like a Hurricane Season whose names alternated boy/girl/boy/girl and each style of beer was completely different from the last. Names for these beers came from family members, friends, investors, and previous employees. Now that this series is retired we are venturing into barrel aged beers as well as limited release four packs. To this day, our barrel aged beers have all be 22 ounce bombers and styles have been infRIngement (a Russian Imperial Stout) and Mass HysteRIa, (a double IPA). Our four packs have been Wham! Bam! Van Damme (a Belgian Pale Ale) and Rye of the Storm, (a double rye IPA).

We also have an annual release series that comes out every November. These beers are packaged in 9.4 fluid ounce bottles and we only make 3,000 of them to distribute. The beers range anywhere from 10% to 15% and there is no set style. We usually try to come up with a theme, unique idea, or particular flavor we like to build the ingredient list for this beer. For example, our crew loves coffee and chocolate so for the Annual Release ’13 we created a kind of espresso stout which contained fresh ground coffee beans, chocolate malt, roasted.

A collection of storms we wouldn't mind weathering. 

A collection of storms we wouldn't mind weathering. 

DF: Your 2014 annual release “snow beer” would have been right at home in New England at the beginning of 2015. Any insights yet into what 2015’s release will be?

CSD: Unfortunately I cannot divulge any specific details about this brew. What I can say is get ready for a sweet and savory surprise!

DF: What’s your brewery’s biggest brewing mishap? What lessons did your brewers learn from a bad recipe or mistake?

CSD: We’ve been pretty lucky as far as mishaps go (knock on wood) there have been the occasional over-fermentations. For example, CO2 run offs from our fermenting tanks where we’ve lost some really great yeast strains for fermentation. Also there was the time our brewmaster went to add Cascade hops into a tank fermenting our summer Hefeweizen not knowing the pressure valve hadn’t been shut off so we had a yeast waterfall run down the tank. But other than that we’ve been able to keep everything in check!

DF: If we were in Prohibition times, do you think your brewers would be bootleggers?

CSD: I would think no, but our brewmaster Derek did brew beer out of his dorm room at Colby College…

DF: Since we’re gearing up for another presidential election, if you were going to run one of your beers for President, which one would it be and what would your campaign slogan be?

CSD: Rye of the Storm: A spicy SOB all its own.

DF: What are your plans for growth and what does the future look like for Newport Storm?

CSD: While many of our competitors have focused upon growth at all costs, we remain dedicated to our staying small approach focusing on freshness and quality. That’s not to say that expansion is the enemy, since moving to a larger facility in 2008 to keep up with demand, we have gone from a starting production of 400 barrels in 1999 to a yearly maximum of 4,000-plus in 2013. It’s all about remaining personal while coping with demand. When we first began we were bottling by hand, now we’re producing roughly 800 cases of beer in every run with a fully automated bottling line. We’ve had to find that balance between growth while remaining true to the spirit of the craft beer movement. The most important thing for us to recognize is that a great deal of planning goes into expansion; shipping needs, beer allocation, promotions, and licensing to name a few. To do it right takes a great deal of commitment, not only by our crew, but by the wholesaler we partner with.

DF: Can you name one random fact about your company?

CSD: The first beer we ever brewed is the Hurricane Amber Ale. To this day it still remains one of our best-selling beers whose recipe, created in 1999, still remains the same. Also the name for this beer comes from the 1938 Hurricane that swept through and took Aquidneck Island (Newport, R.I., Middletown, R.I. and Portsmouth, R.I.) by storm!

To learn more about Newport Storm Brewery, visit the official website, like the brewery’s Facebook page, or follow it on Twitter @NewportStorm.

Happy Hour Archive

One More Drinking Game To Get You Through the 2015 Academy Awards

By Hassel Velasco

I woke up to an unfamiliar view outside my window. Los Angeles has graced me with what seems like 360 days of sunshine, however, today is one of those sunshine-less days (be jealous East Coast). It’s like the city knew of the oncoming storm of rich and famous people giving each other awards for being rich and famous. On Hollywood Boulevard later on tonight during the Academy Awards, the Hollywood elite will unite under cloudy skies because even the weather is tired of their bullshit perfect Los Angeles weather, but I digress. To hold you over the almost four-hour program, I decided to put together a drinking game that will surely have you making poor decisions before the Foreign Film Category.

So here we go, as always, drink responsibly and if you need a ride home, Sean and Dan are somewhere in the Northeast.

You should look like this midway through the Oscars. 

You should look like this midway through the Oscars. 

DRINK!

  • Every time Neil Patrick Harris awkwardly laughs or giggles.
  • Every time Ellen is referenced to from last year’s show.
  • Every time they show the Academy Awards title card.
  • Every time a presenter has trouble reading the teleprompter.
  • If Chris Pratt and Chris Evans present together.
  • Every time Meryl Streep is mentioned.
  • Once for every time Leo DiCaprio has been nominated but lost.
  • Every time “50 Shades of Grey” is mentioned.
  • Every time bondage and or BDSM is mentioned.
  • Every time they cut to a black actor after a mention of “Selma.
  • Every time the “Boyhood” filming process is mentioned.
  • Every time the "American Sniper" plastic baby is mentioned.
  • Every category “Interstellar” has not been nominated in.
  • When someone other than Meryl Streep wins.
  • Every time someone gets played off.
  • Every time someone “wasn’t expecting this…” #GTFO
  • Whenever Wes Anderson looks awkward as fuck.

FINISH YOUR DRINK!

  • If Neil Patrick Harris breaks into song.
  • If Eddie Redmayne wins.
  • If Julianne Moore wins.
  • If Just Keep (aka J.K.) Simmons wins.
  • If Patricia Arquette wins.
  • If “Big Hero 6” wins.
  • If “The Imitation Game” wins best picture.
  • During that awkward president of the Academy speech.
  • If someone falls. Please god, let someone fall.

DO NOT DRINK!

  • During the In Memoriam segment, you insensitive asshole.

POUR SOME OF YOUR DRINK ON THE GROUND!

  • During the In Memoriam segment. For your dead homies.

Drink away everyone! It will help you forget about the income gap between that room and yours. Cheers!

Happy Hour Archive

Scotch, Cocktails, and Beer: Your Drinking Guide to the 2015 Best Picture Oscar Nominees

Michael Keaton in "Birdman"

Michael Keaton in "Birdman"

Oscar night should find you dressed in white tie and tails, drinking a fine alcoholic beverage, and enjoying anything other than the Academy Awards broadcast.

In order to add a little extra buzz to your weekend movie-watching, the Writer’s Bone crew put their heads together and came up with the perfect spirits to pair with this year’s Best Picture nominees.

Cheers!

“American Sniper”

Daniel Ford: A six-pack of Budweiser…but keep it away from the fake baby!

“Birdman”

Sean Tuohy: Scotch…a lot of scotch. But you have to start with bad scotch, like the worst kind you can find, and then move onto top-tier stuff. Just like the characters in the movie, you start at the bottom and work to the top....only to throw yourself out a window because you realize you are drinking by yourself on a Friday night and you are not Batman.

DF: Ah, Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) would drink Jameson right before eviscerating a New York City theater critic. I’m sure it also helped Riggan deal with pain caused by Ed Norton’s character Mike taking a dump on his reason for becoming an actor. Also, if you’re going to drink this while watching the movie, you must do it in one take.  

Lindsey Wojcik: Drink gin alongside Mike as he goes method for his Broadway role. Gin could be the ideal elixir for navigating the ambiguity of the film.

“Boyhood”

Stephanie Schaefer: Anything you can steal from your parent’s liquor cabinet.

DF: Handle of rotgut vodka. Just don't be like Mason’s first stepfather and hide your jug in the laundry room (also don’t send your kid in to cash your bogus check at the package store). Have some class and add a splash of OJ at the very least.   

“The Imitation Game”

DF: A gin and tonic goes well with brilliant English mathematicians besting Nazis, right?   

ST: Pimm’s. The most English drink on the planet.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

DF: Sherry.  However, to borrow Amy Poehler’s line from the Golden Globes, you must drink it out of old tuba parts.

ST: Hmm…Château Margaux? Yeah, like the movie and Wes Anderson, that should be pompous enough to get you through the movie.

“The Theory of Everything”

ST: A Four Horsemen, or any other cocktail concoction that leads to enough bad decisions you end up a cripple.  

“Selma”

ST: A big glass of tolerance!

DF: I could have went the classy route and picked one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite drinks, but why do that when I can celebrate one of the biggest a-holes of the 20th Century. According to the staff at Lyndon Johnson’s Presidential Library, Cutty Sark was his favorite scotch. You don’t get to be a bastard by drinking the good stuff, I suppose. This was a man that used to hold meetings while he was on the can. I hope for the sake of his staff these meetings weren’t held after he downed Mexican food and this shitty whisky in equal measure.

“Whiplash”

DF: Despite my recent infatuation with bourbon and single-malt scotch, Johnnie Walker Blue remains a perfect choice no matter the occasion. Since “Whiplash” deals with the relentless, and, at times, bloody, pursuit of greatness, the film needs an equally accomplished cocktail. Pour Johnnie Walker Blue into a glass with a heavy bottom (no ice, you heathens) and enjoy Miles Teller wailing on a drum set. As an added bonus, you can hide in the box Johnnie Walker Blue comes in when J.K. Simmons starts calling you a pussy.

ST: It has to be something weak and disappointing, but that everyone likes for some reason. Bud Light, perhaps?

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: Mikkeller 1,000 IPA Beer Review

By Danny DeGennaro

After discovering the glut of excellent beers at Shep's in St. Pete, I was inspired to check out some hop bombs from across the pond. I haven't looked this up, but my guess is that it's 1,000 theoretical IBUs? Mikkeller doesn't do anything halfway, especially when it comes to failure.

The pour is an esoteric shade of dirty amber, more Dubbel than DIPA. Tons of sediment (Mikkeller's yard stick when it comes to bang for your buck-ness). The head and the lacing are both outstanding, though.

I brought the beer outside and honestly it smells like a malty wreck. Truly the wreck of the S.S. GiMALTer (sorry). Lots of toasted caramel and off-putting sugary notes, but with some pungent resin on the back end.

The taste is intense, and dispels any doubt that this is or isn't a fresh DIPA. There isn't actually a ton to report on here; this is bitter as fuck. My hoppy adjective bank is overdrawn—this is simply a stupidly hoppy beer. From the outset it's blow after blow of nearly characterless bitterness. There's some herbaceousness I guess, but only as a formality. It took everything the malt had to be present in the nose, 'cause it doesn't even make a cursory appearance in the taste.

The arms race to be the hoppiest brewer is long over in my opinion; it's trivial to unveil a triple IPA, or a Mean Manalishi, or Hopsickle clone. Single hop varieties are where it's at, preferably without the volume cranked to 11.

This isn't a bad beer, but it lacks balance and defining character. In the wake of all of Mikkeller's smaller, single hop beers, this seems anachronistic—a gauntlet throw down to challengers who aren't even playing the same game. Worth a try if you're feeling a little masochistic or need an alpha acid fix, but don't expect divinity, or even tact for that matter.

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: 3 Bottles of Scotch You'll Fall in Love With

By Daniel Ford

“I bet I can drink more whiskey than you,” said a former co-worker at a holiday party.

I was already one whiskey in and primed to drink much, much more. I was surrounded by free booze, I had a free hotel room to go back to, and my future girlfriend was across the room wearing a red dress I couldn’t take my eyes off. I accepted the challenge cheerfully.

I won handily.

My co-worker gave a good showing, but ended up falling asleep at an all night diner while I devoured my victory eggs with ease (I even ended up convincing Stephanie Schaefer to go on a date with me a couple months later, which completely changed my life for the better. I have that red dress to thank.).

I didn't even see it coming... 

I didn't even see it coming... 

I’ve been a whiskey aficionado since my college roommates gave me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black for my 21st birthday. While that remains my favorite “every day” scotch, I’ve also discovered plenty of others that should be in every whiskey lovers’ collection.

Here are three of my favorites:

Johnnie Walker Blue

I had only one answer when my friend and former St. John’s right-handed pitcher Rob Delaney asked me what I wanted as a senior gift from the team.

Johnnie Walker Blue.

The team wanted to get me something they considered “cooler,” but my answer never changed. They got it for me and it was magnificent. It also came in its own “coffin,” which I’d like to be buried in some day.

I’ve written about this scene from “The West Wing” before, but it’s the best way to explain the magic that’s in each sip of Johnnie Walker Blue (as well as the crippling alcoholism that can result in overuse).

I need a cigar just thinking about it. Let’s move on.

Talisker

My former managing editor Melissa Bernardo got me a bottle of Talisker for Christmas one year. It did not last long. I usually like to savor bottles people have given me, but this scotch was so smooth and so delicious, I think I finished it within a month. Admittedly, I had some help during work Happy Hours, but still.

If you’ve yet to dabble in single malts, start here.

Oban

Oban. Neat. Heavy glass. Repeat.

Also, Oban is the perfect drink to pair with the New York skyline and championship rings.

Besides, Charlie Skinner on “The Newsroom” drinks Oban, so you should too.

Happy Hour Friday: 3 Movie-Themed Drinking Games to Enjoy With Your Drunkest Friends

By Sean Tuohy

What is better than sitting around with your friends and drinking some beer and watching a movie? Maybe having a real life, but since none of us on the Internet can do that let's play some drinking games! The games below are our favorite movie-themed drinking games. All you need is booze, a DVD, and some friends who don't mind when you throw up on their shoes.

Feel free to share your own drinking game in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Cheers!

"Die Hard"

Watching this classic action thriller in your boxers is more fun when you're blasted.

Booze needed: Beer, whiskey, Jägermeister

Rules:

  • Drink beer any time "Christmas" is said
  • Take a shot of whiskey whenever Bruce Willis kills a terrorist
  • Take a shot of Jägermeister whenever the German terrorist kills someone
  • Drink beer whenever something blows up
  • Chug a beer when you hear the catch phrase "Yippee Kay Yay"

"The Notebook"

Most men need copious amounts of alcohol to get through "The Notebook."

Booze needed: Wine coolers, fruit-flavored vodka

Rules:

  • Drink a wine cooler any time the two main characters kiss
  • Down a shot of vodka when they kiss in the rain
  • Chug a wine cooler whenever the old woman gets lost
  • Take three shots of vodka during the "sex scene"

"Super Troopers"

First off,  I made this game up with my friends when we were still high school. This cop comedy is great, but its even better with a lot of barley and hops.

Booze needed:  Beer. A lot of beer.

Rules:

  • Drink any time "cup the balls" is said
  • Drink any time "meow" is said
  • Drink whenever you see a naked body
  • Drink when you hear the word "enhance"

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: Our Favorite Bars of All Time

Thirsty yet?

Thirsty yet?

Does this happen whenever you walk into your favorite bar?

You’re probably not as funny as Norm Peterson, but you probably feel more at home in your preferred drinking establishment than you’re actual place of residence.

The Writer’s Bone crew got together and discussed their favorite watering holes recently. Here’s what they came up with:

Oblivion Taproom

Orlando, Fla.

Danny Degennaro: Stupidly good selection of rare brews, great food, awesome service, and free pool.

Hemingway's Lounge

Hollywood, Calif.

Hassel Velasco: Great drinks, better atmosphere. The walls are lined with books and typewriters.

Captain America

Dublin, Ireland

Lisa Carroll: Reaching back to my “drinking” days I'd have to go with this bar where I was schooled in Gaelic. I was studying at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in the summer of 1990 and we went out to Captain America’s and saw a sign that advertised their 4th of July party "Great American Crack!" I was in shock that “crack” was legal in Ireland. Little did I know it was supposed to be "craic," which is Gaelic for “fun.” Funny thing about Ireland is that Bud is an imported beer! Thank God I love Guinness, Smithwick's, and Harp!

Ulysses

New York City

Daniel Ford: I could have easily chosen Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria, N.Y. or the Connolly's on Madison Avenue that the JCK magazine crew used to frequent.

However, I have to choose Ulysses on Pearl Street in Downtown Manhattan. Great beer, great atmosphere, and live music on Saturday nights. The other Ford brothers came down for my birthday one year and that's the bar we went to. I also once saw the U2 cover band, 2U, there one Saturday night and they rocked my face off. Great memories.

But it is a bitch to get to if you live in Queens.

Rí Rá Irish Pub

Burlington, Vt.

Matt DiVenere: This is the perfect spot to start your night. Moderate prices, pretty good DJ, cheap jello shots, and PBR pounders. Did you stick to the floor when you walked around that place? Yes. When you went to find the bathroom in the basement, did you feel like you would never see your friends again? Of course. But it is glorious. And I'm a sucker for a good Irish pub.

And recently they just added a second bar in the back of the establishment called The Whiskey Room, which only has the finest whiskeys. And I'm not talking Jack Daniels and Jameson. It's fantastic.

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: Southern Tier Brewing Company

Southern Tier Brewing Company

Southern Tier Brewing Company

By Lindsey Wojcik

The dog days of summer are upon us, and there’s no better way to end a humid, sun-filled day with a cold beer in hand. Southern Tier Brewing Company understands this and touts its newest seasonal brew—fittingly named Farmer’s Tan—as the beer to grab at the beginning of a summer evening. Plus, Farmer’s Tan pairs well with traditional barbecue fare like hot dogs, burgers, and grilled foods. What could be better?

Phineas DeMink, founder, president and owner of Southern Tier, along with the company’s graphic designer, Nathan Arnone, takes Writer’s Bone on a tour of the brewery’s history and beers.

Cheers!

Lindsey Wojcik: Tell us about Southern Tier's history and how you started brewing.

Phineas DeMink: I first started home brewing while going to college. It quickly became an obsessive hobby for me. Every weekend, my roommate and I would make five-gallon batches of beer on our stove. Shortly after finishing school, I found a magazine article about a course you could take to become a professional brewer. At the time, it seemed like a great way to defer entering the workforce. I headed out to California to take the class. That's where I was able to network and get my first professional brewing job at the Ellicottville Brewing Company in New York.

While in Ellicottville, I met my business partner and wife, Sara, who was also working at the brewery. After four years at EBC, I decided to go back to school at the Seibel Institute of Technology to further my brewing education. Upon graduation, I took a job with the Goose Island Brewing Company. I worked there from 1998 to 2002. Sara and I decided to leave the Chicago area and head back to her hometown of Lakewood, N.Y., to start a business and family. In early 2003, the Southern Tier Brewing Company was born.

LW: Give us a quick tour of the different beers you offer. What brew would you recommend for a newbie?

PD: We make around 30 unique beers throughout the year. For those just starting out, I'd recommend our lightest and newest beer. Farmer's Tan is a session (low abv.) India Pale Ale. It's not high in alcohol, not too bitter, but it has enough of a hop bite for an initiation.

LW: I'd consider Pumking the king of pumpkin brews. What's the secret to this wildly popular brew?

PD: It's a secret, of course! Joking aside, it's a flavorful beer that is released for the fall season, so it is limited in availability. We've worked really hard to perfect the recipe to make beer taste like pumpkin pie, right down to the spices and crust flavor.

LW: What was your biggest mistake brewing? What lessons did you learn from a bad recipe or brewing mishap?

PD: Trial and error is not necessarily a mistake. Learning by doing is the only way to learn. Taking notes and remembering to refer back to those notes for next time is a lesson. But they have it right when they say "just do it."

LW: Your logo has four distinct symbols. What is the meaning behind each symbol and how does it convey Southern Tier's mission?

Nathan Arnore: The logo is made of several symbols, each with significance. At the top we have a hop cone, one of the essential ingredients in beer. Below this we have two pieces of brewing equipment, the mash paddle, or rake, and a shovel. Outside and around the logo are grains, another important ingredient, and between this and the equipment you'll notice a circle. This represents the brewing vessels, as well as the glass. The bottom-most piece is the brewer's star. This is an age-old symbol of brewing purity, originating in Germany in the 1500s. The six-pointed star represents pure ingredients; water, hops, grains, malting, yeast, and, of course, the brewer.

LW: Southern Tier is inching its way to become one of the top 25 craft brewing companies in the country, recently moving into the No. 31 slot, according to USA Today. What are your plans for growth and what does the future look like for Southern Tier?

NA: We are constantly making improvements to the brewery for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is to maintain high quality products. That is our number one goal. But we also have a need to increase capacity, but never to sacrifice the liquid. So most every addition to the brewery relates back to improving production and therefore improving the beer.

LW: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?

NA: Haha! Well, after all, beer is the drink of the people, is it not?

LW: If you were going to run one of your beers for President, which one would it be and what would your campaign slogan be?

NA: I'd run UnEarthly for President. It's an Imperial India Pale Ale. We'd use the campaign slogan "A Pint in Every Hand."

LW: Name one random fact about your company.

NA: We replanted more trees on our property than we removed to make room for our brewery.

To learn about Southern Tier Brewing Company, check out the brewery's official website, like its Facebook page, and follow it on Twitter @stbcbeer.

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: The Best Drunken Movies of All Time

"Frank the Tank! Frank the Tank!"

"Frank the Tank! Frank the Tank!"

The Writer’s Bone crew got together to discuss what the best drinking movies and the best movies to get drunk to. This is the result. Cheers!

"Old School"

Daniel Ford: I remember seeing “Old School” in college with my buddy Steve-O and him laughing so loud I thought my ear drums were going to explode. When the movie ended, but didn’t really end because there was one more scene, Steve-O shouted to some of the departing audience, “It’s not fucking over!” One of the top movie-going experiences of my life. It’s tough to choose my favorite scene from the movie, but Mitch’s drunken wedding toast speech is pretty stellar.

Drunken Quote: “True love is hard to find, sometimes you think you have true love and then you catch the early flight home from San Diego and a couple of nude people jump out of your bathroom blindfolded like a goddamn magic show ready to double team your girlfriend...”

"Sex and the City"

Stephanie Schaefer: Although it's not necessarily a "drinking movie," the “Sex and the City” series, and the films that followed, led to a slew of 20-, 30- and 40-somethings all over the country ordering Cosmos at happy hour. Although the first movie definitely wasn't as good as the series, it was still a fun excuse for a girl's night (although since we were teenagers, my friends and I celebrated with "mock-tails"). And as far as “Sex and the City 2” goes, you had to have a drink (or two, or three) just to get through the terrible plot and ridiculous outfits.

Drunken Quote: “Why did we ever stop drinking these?"

"Swingers"

Matt DiVenere: I think about “Swingers” being on while me and my friends were pre-gaming my junior year of high school to this day. True story: I can recite the entire video game sequence from “Swingers.”

Drunken Quote: “This place is dead anyway.”

"Die Hard With A Vengeance"

Sean Tuohy: Heavily armed terrorist versus a crushingly hungover John McClaine

Drunken Quotes: FBI: “Anybody following you at all? Any kind of surveillance, telephone, house, anything unusual at all?” John McClane: “Well, now that you mention it, I have experienced a, you know, like a burning sensation between my toes. I thought it was just some athlete's foot or something.”

"Inception"

Rachel Tyner: The only time I ever drank before seeing a movie was when I saw Inception which was a horrible idea.

Drunken Quote: “I'll tell you a riddle. You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure. But it doesn't matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you?”

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"

Daniel: I’m bending the rules “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is more about drugs than booze, but fuck it, it’s my website.

I read the book and watch the movie before every trip to Las Vegas. Never gets old.

Drunken Quote: “The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

"Adventureland"

Lindsey Wojcik: I'm a sucker for Ryan Reynolds and most films set in the 1980s. So why not brown-bag it while being nostalgic for an era I barely remember?

Drunken Quote: “Panty stain, that's me. Good night everybody.”

"Beerfest"

Matt: That is all (but check out Writer’s Bone’s interview with Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme of Broken Lizard).

Drunken Quote: Anything the German team says.

"Super Troopers"

Sean: I made a drinking game to this in high school where you drank every time they said "meow" and any time they said a character's name.

Drunken Quote: “Who wants a mustache ride?”

"Superbad"

Lindsey: Seth and Evan spend the whole film on the quest for alcohol. Unaware of the plot, I went prepared.

Drunken Quotes: Officer Michaels: “How old are you McLovin?” Fogell: “Old enough.” Fogell: “Old enough for what?” Fogell: “To party.”

"Batman & Robin"

Robert Hilferty: One of the best, most ridiculous drinking games I've ever played was while watching "Batman & Robin." We all picked a character that has their own rules and half way through the movie three of us were blacked out.

Drunken Quotes: Poison Ivy: “There's just something about an anatomically correct rubber suit that puts fire in a girl's lips.” Batman: “Why is it that all the beautiful ones are homicidal maniacs? Is it me?”

"There Will Be Blood"

Hassel Velasco: I came up with a “There Will Be Blood” drinking game.

Drink every time...

  • You see fire 
  •  “Oil” is mentioned
  • You see a drill in motion
  • Creepy (read: any) violin music plays
  • Daniel says “H.W.” or “my son”
  • Daniel says “plain speech”
  • You want to punch Eli in the face
  • Daniel slaps Eli (and also every time he screams like a girl).

So hungover...

Harry Potter Series

Dave Pezza: Harry Potter drinking game:

Drink every time…

  • Every time Gryffindor is awarded or deducted house points drink the same number of times
  • When Hermione says something pretentious and douchey (be careful, that's every word she speaks in the first two movies)
  • When Dumbledor says something homoerotic
  • When anyone says "Harry Potter" in an English accent
  • Every time a new professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts is introduced
  • When Malfloy says something a Hitler youth would say
  • When someone says "He Who Must Not Be Named"

Try it with multiple Harry Potter movies and you'll be drunk off your broom by the end of “The Chamber of Secrets.”

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Review

By Danny DeGennaro

The pour is a deep, regal brown. No light penetrates the edges. I guess let’s call it black. There’s a pleasant finger of brown egg shell head that terminates to a thin cap. For 7.5 percent, this is a seriously leggy little beer. Gams for weeks.

The nose is heavy on the coffee (duh), but rather than a roasty, acrid character, there’s a gentler blend that hints more at lactic sugars, rich cream, and milk chocolate.

The flavor follows suit, with some energized bottom of the pot coffee—the more this warms, the more it becomes the coffee monster I was secretly hoping it would be. The initial caramel notes are bumrushed by disgruntled bakers chocolate and day old café. The back end is rounded out by a kiss of bracing hops.

The carbonation is right on the money, and the oats lend themselves nicely to a smooth, relaxed, but not slick, mouthfeel.

This is an A-1 coffee stout that can be aged, but begs to be had as fresh as possible.

Also recommended:

Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

Cigar City’s Cubano-Style Espresso Brown Ale

Dieu du Ciel's Peche Mortel

Friday Happy Hour: Smuttynose Brewing Company

By Sean Tuohy

The folks that reside in New England know two things: Freezing winters and how to brew quality craft beer. No one knows the latter better than New Hampshire-based Smuttynose Brewing Company.

Smuttynose is known for its "Old Brown Dog Ale" and "Robust Porter" and the time and effort the company's brewers put in to each beer.

I chatted with David Yarrington, Smuttynose's director of brewing operations, to learn more about the company and its future.

Cheers!

Sean Tuohy: Give us a little background on your history and how you started brewing.

David Yarrington: I studied chemistry at Colby College in the late 1980s/early 1990s. While I enjoyed my studies, it was fairly clear that I wan't going to be a chemist so I started looking for other opportunities. I spent the summer of my junior year traveling out west and was able to visit several of the small breweries that were just starting to open. I became intrigued with the idea of leaning this craft and have pursued it since.

ST: For a newbie what beer would you recommend them to start with from Smuttynose?

DY: If you're new to Smuttynose (but not craft beer in general) start with the FinestKind IPA. It's what we're most known for and there's a good reason for that. Beautiful beer.

ST: What was your biggest mistake brewing?

DY: Someone convinced us to add rhubarb to our Strawberry Short Weiss. Totally ruined a great beer. Not that I mind rhubarb, it just didn't work in this case.

ST: What is the process of making a new beer? Take us through the steps from the time the idea light bulb goes off till its bottled.

DY: Most new beers come from wanting to explore certain styles, or enjoying flavors in various foods that I'd like to see manifested in a beer. Once I know which ingredients I'm looking to use, I start to consider how best to balance them within the malt and hop profile. I like balanced beers, but don't mind pushing the envelope in certain directions.

ST: Could you describe your beer in one sentence?

DY: Wabi Sabi

ST: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?

DY: I don't know if I would have been a bootlegger, but I certainly would have found a way to enjoy a few drinks. The idea of legislating morality is so obviously counterproductive. I don't mind sensible regulation to keep people safe, but advocating abstinence just seems very naive.

ST: What does the future hold for Smuttynose? Will we be able to find Smuttynose around the world?

DY: With our new brewery online, the future is very bright indeed. We're opening some new markets here in the United States and will start shipping to Europe and Asia later this year. Could be time for a road trip.

ST: If you were stuck on a deserted island with just one case of one of your beers, which one would it be and why?

DY: I'd have to go with our Vunderbar Pilsner. So tasty, yet light enough to drink all day long.

To learn more about Smuttynose Brewing Company, check out the company's official website, like the brewery's Facebook page, or follow it on Twitter @smuttynosebeer.

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour With Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Fla.

By Sean Tuohy and Daniel Ford

I always knew cigars and scotch were a great combination, but wasn’t too sure about cigars and beer.

Thanks to Tampa Bay’s Cigar City Brewing—whose beers include “Wandering Pelican,” “Jai Alai,” “Florida Cracker,” and “Puppy’s Breath”—I’m pretty sure all my reservations about the pair are eliminated.

Sean Tuohy sat down with the brewery’s owner and founder Joey Redner to find out more about the company and its history.

Cheers!

Sean Tuohy: Give us a little background on your history and how you started brewing.

Joey Redner: Cigar City brewing grew primarily out of my desire to have a packaging craft brewery in Tampa and basically being tired of waiting for someone else to start one.

ST: For someone not from Florida, why did you pick Cigar City as the name of the brewery?

JR: Tampa was the cigar capital of the world for a century. At peak production more than 50 million cigars were rolled, by hand, every year.

ST: For a newbie what beer would you recommend them to start with from Cigar City?

JR: Invasion Pale Ale.

Yeah, we'd drink this on a deserted island.

Yeah, we'd drink this on a deserted island.

ST: What was your biggest mistake brewing?

JR: We once had a batch of beer that just did not attenuate properly and we thought it would finish conditioning in the bottle. It didn't. And it was not yummy.

ST: What is the process of making a new beer? Take us through the steps from the time the idea light bulb goes off until it’s bottled.

JR: It usually starts with the spark of a putting a twist on something classic or traditional style wise or looking to a culinary inspiration. From there the ingredients are discussed and debated to try to get the end result inspired by the original idea. It is often a multi-step feeling out process to get it just right.

ST: Could you describe your beer in one sentence?

JR: We brew beer we like to drink.

ST: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?

JR: Absolutely. No doubt about it.

The sweet smell of Puppy's Breath...wait, what?

The sweet smell of Puppy's Breath...wait, what?

 

ST: What does the future hold for Cigar City? Will we be able to find Cigar City around the world?

JR: Probably not around the world, but hopefully around the Southeast.

ST: If you were stuck on a deserted island with just one case of one of your beers, which one would it be and why?

JR: Invasion Pale Ale. It is just a great all around drinking beer.

To learn more about Cigar City Brewing, check out the brewery’s official website, like its Facebook page, or follow the company on Twitter @CigarCityBeer.

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: City Steam Brewery in Hartford, Conn.

If you don't like this logo, Mel Brooks' "Eunuch Test" might be needed.

If you don't like this logo, Mel Brooks' "Eunuch Test" might be needed.

By Daniel Ford

My love for City Steam Brewery started with a pint glass.

I was in Crazy Bruce’s Liquors in my hometown in Connecticut, hunting for new craft beers to try with my brothers. A pint glass at the entrance to the beer aisle caught my eye.

Actually, I should say, a beautifully drawn woman caught my eye.

Writer's Bone HQ looked great this week!

Writer's Bone HQ looked great this week!

Needless to say, I bought it and a six-pack of Naughty Nurse Ale.

According to the brewery’s website, brewmaster Ron Page has been “manning the kettle” since the company’s opening in 1997, and has brewed more than “80 different styles of ales, lagers, and porters, for a combined total of more than 4 million pints!”

That is a tremendous amount of delicious beer.

Page took a moment from his busy brewing schedule to answer some of my questions about how he got started, the origins of Naughty Nurse, and the original verse featured on every label of Mr. Page’s Private Reserve.

Cheers!

Daniel Ford: Give us a little background on your history and how you started brewing.

Ron Page: It all started about 30 years ago, when I ran out of beer…on a Sunday! Vowing for that to never happen again, I took up home brewing back when the only hops available where Bullion and Cluster. Before long I had a 1 bbl. “nano brewery” in my basement, entered many competitions, and won New England Home Brewer of the Year for five years straight in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I was approached by Dick King to work with Phil Markowski in the start up New England Brewing Co. located in Norwalk, Conn., and began brewing professionally in May 1990. I worked in Norwalk for five years, and then brewed at the New Haven Brewing Co. (aka Elm City) for several years before taking the helm at City Steam in downtown Hartford in 1997.

DF: As a Connecticut native, I’m always happy to hear success stories come out of Hartford. How involved are you in the community and how has the city embraced your beer?

RP: Sooner or later, it seems, everybody in Hartford has passed through our doors, from the mayor and governor, members of the Hartford Stage, bums off the street, doctors, nurses, firemen, etc. We specifically support the Knox Park Foundation, as well as many other charitable groups. The fact that we are still in business after 17 years is either a restaurant miracle, means somebody likes us, or we are just plain lucky!

DF: Your beers have some of the most original names I’ve come across in the beer world—in particular Naughty Nurse (the logo gets me a look from my significant other every time I break out that pint glass). Where do those names come from and what’s the process like for selecting them?

RP: The original “Naughty Nurse” works in the Norwalk emergency room and is a short, balding, hairy chested old Englishman…would send a picture, but don’t want to upset your sense of decorum. His name is Jerry Nichols, and he is one of the funniest men you could ever hope to meet.

DF: Speaking of that logo, the reason I get in trouble is because of the wonderful Art Deco-style drawing of a beautiful woman holding a beer. How’d you come up with the idea and who designs your logos?

RP: As much as I would like to claim I invented the concept of “boobs and beer,” I will have to let history take the credit. My attic is filled with hundreds of original beer ads and illustrations, many featuring beautiful women holding a beer. The walls of City Steam are decorated with much more of the same. We work with local artists to design most of our labels and posters. It’s the most fun part of the whole brewing business.

DF: What was your biggest mistake brewing? What lessons did you learn from a bad recipe or brewing mishap?

RP: Some things are best left unmentioned. Needless to say, brewing takes practice and patience, and when you are working with yeast—a moody living beast—you can never take anything for granted. Good sanitation is an absolute must! A batch of sour beer is not only shameful but costly!

DF: You whetted my appetite when I emailed you originally by talking about your limited release “Mr. Page’s Private Reserve,” which features a sample of original verse on the label. How did the idea for that release come about?

RP: The more things change, the more they stay the same. My original homebrew labels were always accompanied by an original “poem.” The beers in the new series are meant to appeal to label collectors as well as beer lovers. We only sell them on premise, and in extremely limited quantities. They are crafted more like fine wine than everyday libations, meaning they are high alcohol, high gravity, unfiltered, and very long aged and are expected to develop fairly well over a period of several years.

Page found this picture in his attic. The man is believed to be his grandfather, Alcide Page, circa 1915. Photo courtesy of Ron Page

Page found this picture in his attic. The man is believed to be his grandfather, Alcide Page, circa 1915. Photo courtesy of Ron Page

DF: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?

RP: We are still in Prohibition, just a different kind.

DF: If you were stuck on a deserted island with just one case of one of your beers, which one would it be and why?

RP: Couldn’t you come up with a more original question? Needless to say, I love all my beers, but if push came to shove, it would be a strong hoppy IPA, just in case no one ever came to the rescue!

"Her beauty launched 1,000 blogs." Poster designed by City Steam bartender Kim. Photo courtesy of Ron Page

"Her beauty launched 1,000 blogs." Poster designed by City Steam bartender Kim. Photo courtesy of Ron Page

DF: (after pondering a more original question): If you were going to run one of your beers for President, which one would it be and what would your campaign slogan be?

RP: Alright, but keep in mind that I’ve only picked one winning Presidential candidate in 42 years. I nominate “Innocence Ale.” Its slogan: “A chicken in every pot—A six-pack in every fridge!”

DF: Name one random fact about your company.

RP: City Steam actually uses “city steam” power to process their beers. The steam is supplied by the Hartford Steam Co., and travels 300 yards through 3-inch iron pipes from the sub generator plant located next door. Offhand, there are probably few, if any, breweries in the United States that can make that statement.

To learn more about City Steam Brewery, check out the official website, like its Facebook page, and follow the brewery on Twitter @CitySteam.

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour: Shipyard Brewing Company

Shipyard Brewing Company

Shipyard Brewing Company

By Sean Tuohy

There's nothing tastier than enjoying a beer in your own backyard.

In that spirit, I reached out to Shipyard Brewing Company based out of Portland, Maine, which isn't too far from our home base in Boston.

Bruce Forsley, Shipyard’s vice president of sales and marketing, answered some of my questions about his favorite beers and what's next for the brewery.

Cheers!

Sean Tuohy: Give us a little insight into your background.

Bruce Forsley: My background has always been in hospitality. Prior to Shipyard, I owned and operated two restaurants in Waterville and Portland , Maine. Prior to that, I worked as an on-premise wine sales representative for wholesaler located in central Maine. Both occupations were excellent preparation for entering the craft beer business. Craft beer is sold very much like wine with focus on process, ingredients, style, and incorporation into a healthy lifestyle. I was very familiar with the distribution network which was essential in gaining early distribution for our products. I am not actively involved in the brewing process, but steer new product development and portfolio management.

ST: What Shipyard beer would you recommend for a newbie?

BF: Shipyard Summer or Export. Both beers are mildly hopped and moderate an alcohol, but with beautiful balance, consistent quality, and wonderful drinkability.

ST: What was your biggest mistake brewing?

BF: Oh my…there have been several. We tried to make an alcoholic iced tea from a 100% malt base years before Twisted Tea. We failed, but they succeeded by using neutral grain spirits. Shipyard Wheat Ale…with a mermaid on the label…the beer was great, but the package didn’t sell. And there are others…

ST: Pumpkinhead is one of the best beers out there. What is the back story of that beer?

BF: It was initially developed as a fall seasonal at Federal Jack’s brew pub in Kennebunkport, Maine. After the third season we realized that when available it was our most popular draft. Oddly the decision to produce in bottle was not an easy one. There were skeptics including myself. I could not have been more wrong!!!

ST: Could you describe your beer in one sentence?

BF: Balanced and consistent are two essential criteria for consumer confidence.

ST: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?

BF: Definitely. In the early days of self-distribution we’d deliver beer from the back of a car. Legalized bootlegging!!

ST: What does the future hold for Shipyard?

BF: Our goal is to be recognized as a national brand, stay true to our Maine heritage, and be a responsible corporate neighbor and loyal employer of many Maine families. When we are gone we will leave behind a legacy of creating a great beer to be enjoyed by my kids and generations of Mainers!

ST: If you were stuck on a deserted island with just one case of one of your beers, which one would it be and why?

BF: Summer Ale because I’m assuming I’ll be stuck on a deserted island in the South Pacific and I’ll need the clean thirst-quenching refreshment of that wheat-based ale until I figure out how to make a coconut beer.

To learn more about Shipyard Brewing Company, visit the official website, like the brewery on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter @ShipyardBrewing

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour With Miami's Wynwood Brewing Company

This looks like a crew we'd like to drink with!

This looks like a crew we'd like to drink with!

By Sean Tuohy

Since Daniel Ford got to rejoice in interviewing a brewery from his beloved Astoria, N.Y., it was only fair that I got to chat with one from my old neck of the woods.

So pull up a Tim Dorsey novel, park yourself on the beach, and have a drink with Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company, makers of South Florida's first craft beer.

Cheers!

Sean Tuohy: Give us a little background on your history and how you started brewing.

David Rodriguez (head cellarman/assistant brewer): I started brewing after graduating high school out of necessity to make beer because I couldn't legally purchase it as well as to experiment with different ingredients.

ST: Wynwood area has a lot of history in Miami. Why did you pick this location for the brewery?

DR: We chose Wynwood because it is an up and coming neighborhood. The entire district is covered head to toe with incredible graffiti murals and street art. There are many young professionals creating businesses here and there is a very prevalent "mom and pop" mentality with these local businesses. Also, Wynwood is a Puerto Rican barrio so it definitely falls in line with our owners' heritage.

ST: You are Miami's first craft beer. What does that honor feel like?

DR: Being Miami's first production craft brewery means that we will set the standard for local craft beer. It is a tremendous honor and one that doesn't come without hard work to build and maintain our reputation.

ST: Craft beer is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Miami. Why did you pick the Magic City as your location?

DR: We felt that Miami is the last frontier for craft beer in the Florida as well as the United States. There are many local breweries throughout the country and for some reason Miami has zero. You can find breweries in Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, etc. but none here. We are happy to be the first but we won't be the last. There are already two other breweries in construction here in Wynwood with an additional two to four more in planning. Also, there are two breweries in construction over in Doral. Miami needs an identity when it comes to craft beer and we are here to create that.

ST: For a newbie what beer would you recommend them to start with from Wynwood?

DR: Beer is very personal; it depends on the preferences of the drinker. I would recommend a tasting beginning with La Rubia, which is our Blonde Ale, followed by Pops Porter and the Wynwood IPA. Different people tend to gravitate towards different beers and I wouldn't judge someone to drink a lighter beer just because it was what they were raised on.

ST: What was your biggest mistake brewing?

DR: Not buying a bigger brewhouse! We currently brew 15 barrels at a time (465 gallon batches) and since opening in August have outgrown our current equipment. In February, we tripled our capacity by adding more fermenters and conditioning tanks. The demand is huge!

We'll take 10.

We'll take 10.

ST: Could you describe your beer in one sentence?

DR: "A work of art in every glass." Cheesy? I'm not sure…you be the judge.

ST: What does the future hold for Wynwood? Will our readers be able to find you nation wide soon?

DR: Soon we will be bottling some of our barrel-aged beers. Currently, we are aging a wheat wine in petite syrah barrels (been aging since December of last year) as well as a Belgian golden strong aging in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels. These beers will be bottle conditioned in 750ml wine bottles with cap and wax. Also, we will be most likely expanding our operation to an additional building. Lots to come.

ST: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?

DR: That or we'd move to the Bahamas! I can't imagine it would be easy to hide an operation like ours.

ST: If you were stuck on a deserted island with just one case of one of your beers, which one would it be and why?

DR: Magic City Pale Ale. It’s our brewmaster's recipe of a very quaffable pale ale with medium bitterness and juicy hop flavors and aroma. Sitting at 5.6 percent , this is something I can drink a lot of.

To learn more about Wynwood Brewing Company, check out its official website or follow the brewery on Twitter @WynwoodBrewing.

Happy Hour Archive

Friday Happy Hour With SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria, N.Y.

These are some pretty badass beer taps.

These are some pretty badass beer taps.

By Daniel Ford

I love Astoria, N.Y., for a variety of reasons, but great beer is pretty high on my list.

Fellow Astoria lover, and Writer’s Bone contributor, Lindsey Wojcik swears by the brews at SingleCut Beersmiths and may or may not have been drinking a flight on Thursday night while her brother was in town.

SingleCut’s head brewer/president Rich Buceta took a break from brewing those beers to answer some of my questions about how he got started, what his biggest brewing mistake was, and which beer he’d like to have with him on a deserted island.

Cheers!

The flight of SingleCut brews Writer's Bone contributor Lindsey Wojcik enjoyed recently.

The flight of SingleCut brews Writer's Bone contributor Lindsey Wojcik enjoyed recently.

Daniel Ford: Give us a little background on your history and how you started brewing.

Rich Buceta: I was a longtime homebrewer who became disenchanted with my then career (advertising) and quit. Not having a “Plan B,” I decided my next chapter might revolve around beer since it was such a longtime passion of mine. I brought samples of my homebrew to a local brewery and got hired by the first place I went (Greenpoint Beerworks). I started cleaning kegs and climbed the ladder to eventually become a brewer. Once I had confidence in my “big league” capabilities, I left to start SingleCut Beersmiths.

DF: I’ve lived in Astoria twice during my time in New York City and it still holds a special place in my heart. How are you involved in the community and what kind of response have you gotten from patrons of your brewery?

RB: We’ve invested quite a bit in our tap room to make it a comfortable and welcoming environment and it’s become a well-known destination in Astoria. We’ve supported many local charity events. The notoriety of SingleCut throughout New York City has helped increased Astoria’s profiles and we believe has added considerably to the wealth of higher end pubs and restaurants that have and continue to open since our establishment.

Live action shot of SingleCut beer. Sexy. Photo credit: Lindsey Wojcik

Live action shot of SingleCut beer. Sexy. Photo credit: Lindsey Wojcik

DF: What was your biggest mistake brewing? What lessons did you learn from a bad recipe or brewing mishap?

RB: Experimenting with a new yeast strain on a full batch! The results were not what we anticipated whatsoever. Lesson: Have such experiments worked out in our pilot system first.

DF: Your logo is simple, but so awesome. What was the process like for coming up with it?

RB: I knew I wanted the SingleCut origin (guitar body shape) to somehow tie into the “S.” It took many versions before I arrived at the current logo, which was the simplest solution and, not coincidentally, the best.

Simply awesome.

Simply awesome.

DF: You’re very active on social media, and also manage a blog on your website. What’s your social media strategy and how has it helped build your brand?

RB: Tell as many newsworthy and inside stories as we can while encouraging a dialogue with our audience. Such stories speak to our passion and qualify far better than a contrived advertisement.

DF: If you were in Prohibition times, do you think you’d be bootleggers?

RB: Ha! Not sure I’d have the stomach for it. More likely, I’d move to Canada or elsewhere where I could operate legally.

DF: If you were stuck on a deserted island with just one case of one of your beers, which one would it be and why?

RB: 18-Watt, no question. It’s been my go-to beer since the first day we brewed it. I love hops and the sessionable aspect of its alcohol by volume makes it something I can drink often enough.

Good for all your deserted island needs.

Good for all your deserted island needs.

 

DF: What’s next for Single Cut brewery? What does the future look like?

RB: We’d like to start to package our beer. 16 ounce cans are on the very near horizon, most likely stating with 18-Watt and 19-33 Queens Lagrrr! Packaging our beer would expose us to a whole new market and provide us with greater visibility. It’d be the best form of advertising we could imagine.

DF: Name one random fact about your company.

RB: The vast majority of our employees are musicians.

To learn more about SingleCut Beersmiths, check out its official website, like the brewery on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter @SingleCutBeer.

Happy Hour Archive