By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
We have an almost even split this week -- two three beers and two wines. And most fun of all, neither of the wines is younger than 14.
Tom Mansell: Brooklyn Brewery Manhattan Project
I've been into Manhattans lately. After enjoying a well-made perfect Manhattan at Pixel Lounge (see Super Mario Bros. 3 in the background), I decided to try out this beer, which has apparently been crafted to taste like a Manhattan.
It includes some rye in the brewing process and is aged in rye casks. It also includes herbs used in bitters and vermouth, and some cherry juice.
The best descriptor I could come up with for this one is a cherry cordial. It's got smokiness too, and vanilla and chocolate oak. It would be nice with a cigar, and it kind of reminded me of tobacco. There is a little bit of spice to it, and at 8.5% ABV it packs a punch.
The cherry is huge, almost as if it were a Southern Comfort Manhattan with some maraschino juice added.
I wouldn't say it tastes too much like a Manhattan, but it's certainly an interesting brew. It's a limited batch and it won't be bottled, so look for it on draft where specialty beers are sold.
This is the wine that reminds us not to generalize. Winemaker Bob Travers told me that he loved the way he was making wines 40 years ago, and he's never felt the need to succumb to new styles. We can poke fun at bombastic, heavily oaked wines, but Mayacamas reminds us that there is diversity and personality in all wine regions.
By the way, that's black mold on the cellar walls. Travers says his oak regimen is "two percent new each year." No two barrels look the same in the cellar. And he has no intention of building a tasting room on one of the valley's main corridors.
This wine tastes exactly like what it is: the anti-establishment Napa Cab.
The long, winding drive up the mountain only leads to a cluster of mailboxes; the visitor needs to know to turn left up yet another dirt road. This cab is an anachronistic 12.5 ABV, and it has the recalcitrant character of its producer. The nose is not unlike an elegant Brunello, with loam-covered black cherry and waves of tobacco. As it breathes it picks up a menthol edge, and there is a bit of an herbal quality as well. In other words, it is unafraid and entirely beautiful.
I've had several positive experiences with rye beers, the first being from a brewery restaurant in Coral Gables called Titanic Brewery. I've also been known to appreciate a good saison or farmhouse ale, whether it's Saison Dupont or Ommegang's Hennipen. I dig their drinkability, fresh carbonation and higher alcohol levels.
For better or for worse I've also had experience with Brettanomyces. I owe much of this experience to Burgundy, but working in local wineries I've come across some brett infections of my own. There's been brett that I thought added complexity and there's been brett that added latex and bandaid aromas.
I don't mind the barnyard brett and I would never pass on a wine just because someone else had pegged it as being infected.
This saison-style beer brewed with rye is the first beer I've drank brewed with brettanomyces. I didn't have high expectations for the reason that I can't imagine any of the brett aromas I previously mentioned as being beneficial in beer.
But as it turns out I really dug it.
It had the mouthfeel and carbonation I like in a saison beer with the spicy sweetness of rye. The brett seemed to give it a sour note that only seemed to add complexity, although if I didn't know it was in there I would¹ve never pegged it as an ingredient.
If there's such a thing as an 'intellectual' beer this would be it.
I spent the day tasting at four of the Hudson River Region's best wineries -- Stoutridge, Benmarl, Cinton and Hudson-Chatham.
I tasted some good and a lot of interesting wines. With the popularity of hybrids in the region, there were several firsts for me -- my first set of sparkling seyval blancs, my first Chelois, my first Dechaunac, and my first "Boreaux-style blend" that was made with Baco Noir, Chambourcin and Chancellor (thus making it anything but a Bordeaux blend).
It would have been easy to pick one of those wines as my WWD this week, but during lunch, Benmarl's winemaker, Kristop Brown, opened this late harvest vignoles from 1988 -- a relatively young wine from their old old cellar area, which houses wines that go back to the 1960s.
None of the industry folks at the table had any expectations for this, but I thought it was great. Like candied pineapple with a little minty note, it was straightforward and alive, if not lively. And not cloying in the least. Best of all, it was tremendous with the local Ewe's Blue cheese we nibbled with it. This is also the second oldest New York wine I've tasted, so it was just an all-round cool experience.
Skiing, hot tub, NFL playoffs, chili, wine, beer, bourbon....does it get any better? That pretty much sums up our annual MLK weekend ski trip to Killington, Vermont.
One thing I love about traveling is getting to try the local beers that aren't readily available in my local grocery or liquor store. And Vermont offers up a treasure trove of craft breweries. In fact, there are more craft breweries per capita in VT than any other state. Among others, you have Otter Creek, Rock Art, Wolaver's Organic, Switchback and my personal favorite, Long
On our ski weekends, the beer I find myself drinking more of than any other is Long Trail IPA. Long Trail describes their traditional IPA as "naturally uncarbonated, dry-hopped and unfiiltered like the old days."
At 5.9%, the alcohol rating is lower than what you might expect for IPAs. I like being able to put a few of these away at "apres ski" without feeling I've been run over by a snowmobile.
On the nose, I get a strong scent of forest pine, along with citrus hops and grassy notes. The taste closely follows the aroma with pine and citrus flavors One reason hop-heads like me drink IPAs for their intense hop bitterness. Long Trail's IPA doesn't have that intense hoppy nose or bitterness like some of the heavy hitter IPAs, and it's not meant to. It's simply a well done, very drinkable and enjoyable ale. It works well as both a gateway IPA for someone looking to explore the style and as a beer for the IPA connoisseur who wants to drink a few beers during a football game without being knocked out.
If you find yourself near Killington or Woodstock, I definitely recommend grabbing lunch and a tasting flight at the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners, VT.