You Gotta Know When to Hold ’em, Know When to Fold ’em
April 08, 2004
I recently spent time at the Indian casino, Mohegan Sun. For those of you unfamiliar with this gambling Mecca of the northeast it hosts 300,000 square feet of gaming and entertainment. One correlation that shall ever be constant is where there is gambling, there is booze; where there is booze there is beer; and where there is beer there is Securb.
The first pub to catch my eye as I walked through this cavern of bells, lights and neon, was a Las Vegas-style lounge called Lucky’s Lounge. Lucky’s is an art deco throw back to the days of The Rat Pack. As I walked to the bar of this ultra-hip drinking hole I could feel a little swagger in my step. I am feeling like a cast member of the original Ocean’s 11 as I toss my casino chip on the bar and inquire as to the beers of the establishment.
The bartender informed me that along with a vast selection of local favorites and micro brews, Mohegan Sun also has their own brewery. Right then my coolness went out of the window. Brewery! Where? I started shooting staccato one-word sentences to the bartender. He directed me to Race Book, which hosts The Brew Pub at Mohegan Sun. Something tells me he was happy to get rid of me because at that point I was acting like a bit of a spaz.
In the brewery I found the Brew Pub manager on hand, Joel Johnson. He was readily available to answer questions for the customers, helping them on their journey to the world of better beer. That is when it hit me. What better place to have a brew pub than a casino?
When we try a new beer we are definitely gambling. With the price of some beers, we are some times forced to sit at the high rollers table. I have rolled the 16 oz dice on many beers and have come up snake eyes more times than I would like to remember. This was not the case at Mohegan Sun, all of their beers were very conservatively priced and they had 5 oz sampling glasses available.
Joel hooked me up with a sample of his Matahga Lager. It hosts a deep gold color with a thin white head. The aroma had a great malt presence mixed with the flowery essence of hops. This beer was great on the palette alive but not fizzy in any way. I had found a winner but I was not going to stop there. I was on a roll.
My next roll of the beer dice was Joel’s Sachem Ale. I hit the jackpot! This is great blond ale. One of the cleanest, crispest beers I have ever had. Just as the Matahga Lager, this beer was alive but not fizzy on the palette. What blew me away was it’s amazingly dry finish. I thanked Joel for his help and walked out onto the casino floor to roll my beer dice a little more.
That is when a new premium lager on draft ccaught my eye. I have heard so much about this beer, how the best brewers from around the world collaborate on the recipe. I rolled the 16 oz dice, lifted my full pint of this beer to my mouth, took a sip, and instantly knew… snake eyes, craps, I had lost.
Yes I had purchased a beer I didn’t like but I was not disappointed in any way. The most exciting part of the beer experience is trying new beers. If I had another 23 bottles of this beer sitting in my fridge I would be very disenchanted. But alas, I had rolled the 16 oz dice and not gambled on a six-pack or even a whole case. We brushed upon tasting beers in my Valentines Day column, now I want to touch on something more important… Buying new beers.
Let’s face it, good beer is more expensive. That is because they contain more expensive ingredients, and more time is needed to produce a quality brew. In the case of imports, you are also being hit with import and export tariffs along with your local and/or state tax. Grabbing a 15 dollar six pack, a $150 case or a 9-dollar bottle of beer at your local beverage shop can be a grave mistake. You are betting $150 that you are going to like that beer. I have lost that bet so many times I don’t want to think about it.
When you are searching out new beers the first place you should look is the singles rack in your local liquor store. Each time you go there for a six or case of your favorite brew, grab a couple of singles you never tried before. In a lot of stores I have also found they have a box or rack for oddball singles inside the cooler. These beers can be your best find. In a lot of circumstances these orphaned beers are entered into the store’s system as 6 packs and cannot be rung up as singles. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a cashier call over the manager and I ended up getting a great beer for a buck.
When grabbing singles in a high-end beer store you need to have a different mind set. Singles in high-end shops can cost 7 – 8 dollars a piece. What I do in a lot of cases, and plan on doing this Sunday, is to get together with a bunch of like-minded beer drinkers and have a tasting.
Our formula is 6 people bringing 2 beers apiece. Everybody gets 2 oz to sample; more than enough brew to draw an opinion on a beer. You have now sampled 12 beers for the price of two and most sampling ends up with more sampling. As you try these different beers your catalog of beers will grow quickly. The easiest way for you to keep track of all of your beers is to log on to TheManRoom’s member beer review page and log your findings there.
Now go out and roll the dice. The worst thing that can happen is you try something new.
In the sprit of this column I have grabbed a bunch of beers I have never tried before. They have no rhyme or reason. They are not the same style or even in the same price range. I am simply just rolling the dice. Usually I just list the winners at the end of the column but today in the spirit of gambling I thought I would list one bad roll. Today’s bad roll is.
Wostyntie Torhourts Mustard Ale
I will never drink this beer ever again. I could not find any information on this beer anywhere, nothing about the brewer or the distributor. What I can tell you is this; it is a very interesting beer. This 7% Belgium Ale pours very cloudy amber with a quickly disappearing white head. The aroma is overbearingly mustard, it almost burns your nose hairs. The flavor is very different from the aroma. It is sweet and sour. The balance of the candy sugar in this beer and the mustard seeds is perfectly balanced. It has a very flat and dry palate. While I don’t think I won’t be picking up more of this to drink; a ton of recipes are coming to mind that I would like to try this beer with. Steamed kielbasa anyone?
On to this weeks great rolls:
Karlsberg Heller Hoch Brau Pils
I found a new beer store and the owner strongly suggested this beer. I was a little put off at first by the beer’s packaging. The beer comes in 500 ml cans (pounders for you nor’easters), wrapped in plastic wrap with a funky handle. Outside of the slightly strange packaging is a very good German pilsner. It had a great golden color, slight malt and hop presence. Nothing outstandingly great about this beer, but even better, there is nothing bad about this beer. It is a very non-descript, cookie cutter German Pils, but a great beer to keep iced down in your cooler this summer, especially for those venues that don’t allow bottles.
Commercial Description: Tradition and innovation has characterized the development history of the brewery which was founded in 1878 by Christian Weber from the outset and it has since then been in family ownership. With its particular sense for trends, the company has in the past years developed an innovative market assortment.
Hebrew Genesis Ale
The tag line on this brew is \“The Chosen Beer\”. I would not go that far but it is pretty damn good. What a great American Ale from, believe it or not, Shmaltz Brewing!?!? It poured a great copper color with a huge frothy white head. This beer hosts a very smooth palate and has a great hoppy finish. The after taste is a little sweet but all around a good beer.
Commercial description: Genesis Ale: Our First Creation Crisp, smooth and perfectly balanced between a west coast style pale and amber ale, with a supple malt sweetness and a pronounced hop flourish. Malts: 2-row, Caramel 40L, Dark Crystal, Munich, Wheat, Hops: Warrior, Northern Brewer, Willamette
My number one roll of the dice this week is:
Newport Storm Blizzard Porter
In a nutshell this is a textbook porter. This beer has a dark mahogany appearance, almost black. The first thing I thought as I brought this beer to my nose was, “Mmmm, chocolate.” It also hosts some beautiful roasted aromas. The palate is very smooth and relaxed. As the beer lies on the palate, a bunch of different malt tones come out that are quickly replaced by a dry hop finish as you swallow the beer. This is the first beer I have tried from Coastal Extreme Brewing Company but I am definitely going to try the rest of their offerings soon.
Commercial description: Blizzard Porter: A full bodied, dark porter with a profound toasted flavor balanced with ample hopping. Dedicated to the Blizzard of 1978, this porter is perfect for a winter day. A hint of roasted chocolate and a spicy aftertaste warm the soul of this brew.