“These Are Not Your Uncle’s Balls”

Over the course of a day I have many opportunities to be wrong. There are plenty of people from federal and state regulators to the occasional staff colleague hoping that I’ll miss something or fail to catch an esoteric issue as they sharpen their career-advancing daggers.  I guess that’s a reasonably good description of stress. Halloween was a particularly fine example (and not because I’d be spending much of the early evening careening about the neighborhood in the company of hideous ghouls and pint-sized Taylor Swifts).  It was my final day of preparation for a deposition (as a witness – the wrong side of the questioning) in a case involving about a quarter billion dollars.  So you could say it was a bit more stressful a day than most.  That said, we were having a few friends over for drinks, pumpkin ales & apps after trick or treating with our kids later on so I took a few minutes to type up a sign to go with the meatballs I concocted for the evening.  The description started with “these are not your uncle’s balls.” It devolved from there, listing the odd culinary Fusion Confusion Collision Cuisine elements it contained from Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, and Sweden.  For no good or apparent reason I sent the description to my enabler and wingman in all things culinary, craft beer, spirits, and lunacy, G-Lo of It’s Just The Booze Dancing and he responded with the following annoying line: “that’s a blog post, just say’in.”  I didn’t have time to list all the reasons why it was certainly was NOT a blog post, went back to preparing for the deposition, and ignored him for the rest of the day (while occasionally mentally circling back to why it wasn’t a blog post).     ………..Until it was.

I did my part as the trick or treating craft beer evangelist by dragging around a rolling cooler full of Wachusett Pumpkin and Tuckahoe Holly Beach Pumpkin Ales, handing them out to worthy and thirsty Halloween revelers (after they presented legal proof of age of course – can never be too sure when you might be handing an adult beverage to a freakishly large 14 year old in a skin tight dalmatian suit).  The meatballs went over well and the after party was success but there were no inspiring craft beers and definitely nothing to inspire a craft beer blog post.

Fast forward to that Saturday.  My oldest daughter’s birthday and youth soccer double header.  As I was getting ready to get out of the car at the second soccer field one of these parked next to me:

Your Uncle's Sedan Deville (still a big seller in Canada)

Your Uncle’s Sedan Deville (still a big seller in Canada)

A 1978 Caddy Sedan Deville.  Required wheels for uncles in the Northeast, tricked out with a split front bench seat, color-keyed hub caps and, for the lucky few, a Dolby B 8-Track cassette player for that collection of Lawrence Welk tapes.  Your uncle had one too and if you never saw it, it was because he kept it in the garage of his other family’s house on Long Island.  You never saw them either, but they were there.  Little did I know that a few hours later I’d pour a beer that would relate – in an extremely byzantine way – to the Sedan Deville proving G-Lo correct.  There was a craft beer blog post in them thar balls after all.

Fast forward even further to that much celebrated annual slaughter of homely birds in honor of our cultural slaughter and domination of the indigenous Native Americans and where do I find myself but in the company of uncles.  Lots of them.  Veritable late seventies Caddy showroom lining the street out front.  But before I digress further, there has to be something done about 60+ year old couples shopping together at supermarkets.  It must be outlawed.  When was the last time you didn’t see couples of that age arguing in the soup aisle?  The husband grumbling quietly under his breath while his wife proudly proclaims something that’s almost certainly wrong.  Meanwhile, they left the cart at an angle across the aisle apparently forgetting that they hadn’t rented out the whole place for a private shopping/sniping experience.  From now on, one at a time.  Couples with an aggregate age at or over 120 must not shop together.  Really quite simple.  Better for all of us.

Anyway, while some look forward to turkey, stuffing, and Cowboys football in the lead up to Thanksgiving, I look forward to the arrival of winter and holiday seasonal craft beers.  Always have.  Nothing says holiday season like the first sight of Anchor Christmas Ale.  That’s always been my favorite winter/holiday seasonal and this year’s version is especially good.  That night I poured my first of the season.  The next day I poured something entirely different.  Anchor California Lager.

Not hipster approved

Under-appreciated Craftbeersmanship

First of all, I generally avoid lagers.  Just not enough going on.  They always lack depth and complexity.  The Reader’s Digest of beer styles.  This one was different.  I checked the label a few times as if to expecting it to reveal itself to be something more than a pedestrian lager.  But it was more – though firmly a lager.  It was a a classic example of what true craft brewing is irrespective of style.  Anchor has always held a very special place in my craft beer heart.  Anchor Steam was the beer that started me on the path to becoming a craft beer geek in the first place.  Anchor Liberty Ale is another favorite.  A solid go to pale that’s versatile,  never gets old and never disappoints.  Perhaps the cleanest, driest finish of any beer I’ve ever had.  It even brings out the best in a sun ray or two on a cold East Coast winter day…
IMG_2977

Suddenly I was reminded of the deposition I attended up in Manhattan the week before.  Eight hours of testimony on asset-backed securities and swap terminations is enough to drive the purest Mormon to drink.  Fortunately I’m not Mormon (and never have been despite my Bob Dylan-esque temporary departure from the balls of my People – matzo, that is) and I’m far from pure – though generally pretty good.  So I’m on my way back to Penn Station when I “just happen” upon Rattle N Hum in Midtown.  I’ll review the bar another time but, suffice it to say, it has a very Philadelphia craft beer bar scene vibe.  That’s a good thing.  I figured I could squeeze a pint of craft beer research in  before I had to hit the train so I grabbed a stool.  Few things surprise me in a craft beer bar but I was taken aback at the tap list scrawled on the chalk board.  40 Sierra Nevada brews.  These were not your uncle’s Sierra Nevada Pales (though it was on the lines).  Everything from Torpedo to one-off barrel aged stouts.  Familiar to anything but.  Most of your uncles only know SN Pale (especially the ones who confuse volume with insightful comment) but the cool one has had most, if not all, of the brews on the tap takeover list that day.  By that standard I guess I’m kind of cool because the only one I hadn’t had was the Barrel Aged Maple Stout with Coffee (until there was one in front of me on the bar).

As watched the Soprano’s neighborhoods of North Jersey fade in the distance during the train ride home I couldn’t help but think of how underrappreciated Anchor and Sierra Nevada seem to be these days.  Don’t get me wrong, I love plenty of cutting edge, aggressive craft brews.  Ballast Point’s Indra Kunindra and New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Coconut Curry Hefeweizen being prime examples.  But with Dogfish Head, Brew Dogs, Surly, and so many others vying for shelf space and attention, the stable longboard surfers – the ones who first taught us that you could ride waves in the first place – are often left too far out of mind.  There’s something to be said for stability, authenticity, and tradition.  Kind of like a ride in the center front seat of your uncle’s ’78 Caddy.

Then I arrived home and after a quick dinner and check of the kid’s homework I went to the chilled craft beer research locker and gazed upon a shelf full of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ales.  Coincidence? Nope.

Happy Hoppy Holidays!

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Not Kosher For Passover

Not endorsed by Jewish Cardiologists.  Unholy Hand Grenades cooked in Stone Smoked Porter

Not endorsed by Jewish Cardiologists. Unholy Hand Grenades cooked in Stone Smoked Porter

I said it wasn’t Kosher for Passover, didn’t I?

Hello, my name is The Alemonger and I’m an irreverence addict.

Group response: “welcome, The Alemonger.  You have a great name.  Actually, it’s ridiculous but we’re supposed to make newcomers feel welcomed and comfortable so we say things we don’t really mean.  And we say them in unison.”

So what’s an irreverent Jew to do on Passover? Posting a picture of my Unholy Hand Grenades seemed a bit less problematic than actually making them for tonight’s Seder.  The heathens are coming over for the second Seder tomorrow night so I’ll wait 24 hours.  The extra day won’t kill me.  Better not, because if I go before I hit the reset button next Yom Kippur I’ve got less of chance of getting to Heaven than FGCU has of getting to the Final Four.  Hmm… Then again, maybe my chances are a bit better than I suspect.  For the record, an unnamed brother specifically asked me to make Unholy Hand Grenades (matzo balls cooked in Stone Smoked Porter and wrapped in bacon) for tonight’s Seder but I declined.

What's that smell??

SHOW US YOUR FINS!!

I also declined – no, refused – to serve Gefilte Fish.  That oily conglomerate of congealed “fish” loaf is possessed of a highly toxic and fetid stench.  No wonder we aren’t making enough Jewish babies.  The contact odor alone is enough to defeat even the most amorous of intentions.  And another thing: where are its fins? Yeah, yeah, yeah (not The Beatles version), straight to Hell.  I know.

What’s a Passover Seder without a traditional brisket and recitation of the 10 Plagues? Over the past several years it occurred to me that both the brisket and the plagues needed a little spicing up – one literally.  As for the plagues, well, let’s face it, they need a serious overhaul.  It is 5773 after all and frogs just aren’t all that relevant a plague these days.  More on that later.  Back to the brisket…

I didn’t exactly grow up in a house of cooks and I’ve yet to watch a real live Bubbie prepare a traditional brisket so I walk into the valley of stainless steel Vikings already lead by temptations no self-respecting Jewish cook would entertain.  I’m not out to win this season’s Food Network Top Chef so I’ll spare you the full recipe.  Suffice it to say that it’ll get my Rabbi’s attention – and not in a good way.  Mind you, I did use a healthy amount of Israeli cumin in the dry rub but the fact alone that I used dry rub at all is strike one.  Strike two is the coffee.  Howard Schultz, Starbucks President himself, wouldn’t even carve a brisket rubbed with their own Ethiopian Sidamo (neither will I – I used Peet’s Major Dickason’s but that’s besides the point).

I go down swinging with strike three by using Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout in my braising base.  You knew craft beer had to make an appearance somewhere.  Oddly (though not at all for anyone who knows me), I’ll use beer in the recipe but I won’t actually drink it at the Passover table.  Life is full of gerrymandered lines, rationalizations, and uncommon sense.  Remains to be seen if the line between beer and the Passover table will extend to the couch later in the evening.  In any event, I figure that actually cooking the brisket in beer – even a world class stout from America’s Torah Belt – is enough all by itself to assure me a long wait for that ferry across the Styx.  Maybe I can bribe Charon with a fresh Sculpin or two to show up a little early.

About those plagues…

I get it.  Back in the days when Charlton Heston’s ancestor was President of the NSA and defying Pharoah to take his slingshot from his cold dead hand, boils and frogs were probably legitimate plague-worthy inflictions.  Not so much anymore.  Slaying of the first born would still qualify as a top ten plague today but seems to me a bit extreme these days so let’s bench that one for a while.  The time has come to refresh the plagues.  Make them relevant again.

Thou Shalt Revise Thine Plagues

Thou Shalt Revise Thine Plagues

I propose we dip our pinky fingers into the Manischewitz for these Ten Plagues we can really get behind:

  1. Dial-up Internet Access
  2. The Honey Boo-Boo and it’s Posse
  3. Obamacare
  4. Bad Chinese Food
  5. The Twilight Werewolf Guy’s Pecs
  6. D List Reality TV (Duck Dynasty & Dancing With the Stars)
  7. Big Beer Pharoahs (ABInbev & MillerCoors)
  8. LiLo
  9. Weak 4G Cellular Coverage
  10. Chick Fil-A Closed on Sundays

Not a perfect list of modern plagues, I know.  I expect I’ll be criticized for leaving standard definition TV off the list but that’s not as egregious as the NCAA Tourney Committee’s giving Oregon a 12 seed.

Here’s to a Happy (and possibly Hoppy) Passover! I’d love to hear your suggestions for irreverent celebrations.  Let me know what you’re doing to stir things up while hiding the Afikoman.

L’Chaim!