Mothers Day Weekend, or, KanJam is a Lot Harder Playing One-Handed, But Losing is Easier When The Other Hand Has a Beer in it…

First off, I gotta say, if it weren’t for my Mom, you wouldn’t be reading the words on this page (or computer screen, iPhone, or Android device).  So, without Mom, there’d be no Benedict Beer Blog!  So, thanks, Mom!

Friday night, Holly Kay and I met up with Bradco (have you met Brad?  He’s great.). and our dear friend Dave at Dave’s place of employ for a few tasty beverages (Dave just had a baby, and thankfully was still able to pencil us in to his busy baby schedule).

Brad picked me up at work, like a Big Boy should, and I tried to sneak some pictures of him coming down the escalator into Grand Central, but little did I know he had my number…




That Cheeky Lil’ Bugger was taking pictures of me!  (To be fair, a few weeks back, I was also creepily taking photos of him as he walked in to meet me at Barcade, so, he was prepared this time).

Brad and I walked over to Whole Foods to pick up some tasty tasties for our friend gathering, and we each picked up a 6-pack of Threes Brewing Categorical Error, a Whole Foods Exclusive Hoppy Pale Lager.

What I love about this beer is that it’s low ABV, packs a beautiful, bright, citrus hop punch, with a dry finish, to leave you yearning for another sip.  This is the perfect summer beer, and pretty easy to get if you’re in New York and have a Whole Foods near ya.  So go get it, ya sillies!


Brad picked up a 4 pack of Mikkeller Brewing Fruit Face Berliner Weisse, this one brewed with Green Tea, Tangerine, and Lemongrass.  Another low ABV, tart, refreshing beer with candied fruit and citrus notes, another beer that’s great for a hot summer afternoon.  Don’t sleep on this one, either!

The following day, I met up with Brad and Nathan (you know Nathan?  He’s great!) at LIC Beer Project for their Pile of Crowns release party, as Holly was performing in two shows, one at 3pm, and one at 8pm.  Nathan and I had tickets to the 8pm show, and decided to make a day of it.  I completely miscalculated the LIC release, though, as usually, I can pick up cans of their latest beer for about a week or so after they’re released…

They opened at noon, we arrived at around 2:45pm, and they were sold out of three out of four beers they released that day.  I heard later that there was a tour bus of folks from Upstate NY, who arrived just after noon, and visited a number of NYC Breweries, annihilating any chance for us to pick up that sweet, sweet nectar with amazing can art…

Thankfully, they still had it on draft, and we were all happy to snag a glass of it at the (extremely packed) bar.


Nathan and I with Pile of Crowns, an unbelievably juicy, sticky sweet IPA with notes of pineapple, grapefruit, and dank pine resin that sits up there with all the heavy-hitter NE-style IPAs, in my opinion.  It was lovely on draft, although it was sad we couldn’t pick up a 4-pack, as the can art was absolutely stunning.


We did, however, pick up this delightful collaboration from LIC Beer Project and Mikkeller Brewing, Platinum Plus.  Clocking in at 5.5% ABV, with lovely, bright stone fruit flavors, dry, cracker-like malt, I’d love to see this all summer long.  Great stuff!

​​

Also, DJ Stretch Armstrong is the truth.

Of course, we ended up at Big Alice Brewing, because When in Rome…  *AHEM* Long Island City…  One always visit’s one’s favorite haunt…

I enjoyed one of my favorite brews, the spicy Jalapeño Rye IPA, with the heat from the jalapeño peppers balancing nicely with citrus and floral notes from the hops, with a sweet malt base to balance everything out.  Nathan enjoyed his first visit here as well.

Annie, our wonderful friend and bartender, was kind enough to share her homebrew with us, a mixed fermentation beer with brettanomyces, making for a dry, tart, complex brew that’s again, good for summer (noticing a theme here?)

Brad had to leave us to host a Murder Mystery Dinner Party (have I mentioned how great Brad is?) so Nathan and I decided on dinner at John Brown Smokehouse in LIC before seeing Holly in her awesome one-act play!  The burnt ends are my smoked meat of choice, and you can’t go wrong with any of their side dishes…  Also…


Uhhhh they had a bottle of Jester King Brewery Noble King Saison, blending bright citrus notes with grass, sweet banana, and a little funk to kick things into full gear.  Perfectly paired with them burnt ends, boi!

I can’t praise Holly Kay enough, (if you’ve read any of my other posts, I’m absolutely head over heels for her), and she was absolutely wonderful in her show, Love in the Time of Layoffs, a one-act written by our friend Diana, and directed by the one and only Tanya!  It was fantastic!


Mothers Day was a beautiful celebration as well, I bought this Grimm Mango Pop! to share with my brother, Chris, and I’d love to tell you how it was, except…


The top of the bottle broke as I attempted to open it, and thought it wasn’t worth a stomach full of eeny-weeny shards of glass.  Hopefully, I can snag another bottle and write about it later on, because I’m sure it’s a delight.


This can of Barrier Brewing Co. Kapow got in the way of my brother, Chris!  This wasn’t my favorite of their IPAs, but it’s a nicely balanced IPA that was the perfect beer to accompany our game of KanJam, which, by the way, is much harder playing one-handed.  Not sure why we made that rule, but I at least had this can to cry into when we lost.


Hashtag Squad Goals.  My cousins were super excited to make it into the blog, so here ya go, all you handsome fellas!

We’ve gotta begin and end with Mom!  We had a weekend filled with friends, family, and love.  Thanks Mom, for making it all possible!  

Until next time!

Cheers!​

Hunting for Henry Hops, or, How The Mets Were Down by 5 Before We Even Found Our Seats…


#LGM

Holly Kay and I love Citi Field.  It’s 20 minutes from our apartment, has amazing food, cheap seats, a great, local craft beer selection, and, you know, sometimes (just, like, sometimes…) the Mets play some good baseball.

A few weeks ago, I saw an article by Mikkeller Beer, that said they would be brewing and canning two exclusive beers for Citi Field (I’m not sure what the connection is, or why they didn’t get an NYC brewer to do this).  

Mikkeller is a Danish brewery run by Mikkel Bjorg Bjergsø, who, like his brother Jeppe, owner of Evil Twin Brewing, contract brews his beer with different breweries all over the world.  

The two beers feature Mikkeller’s mascots, Henry and Sally, as “1980’s era baseball cards”.  Henry Hops is a malt-forward IPA, clocking in at 6.5% ABV and Say Hey Sally is a floral, crisp Pils, a great low ABV option at 4.6%.

We bought Holly a really cute Mets beanie outside of the stadium, and headed into the stadium for some amazing Mets baseball.  

I had heard that these Mikkeller beers were a bit hard to find, and Holly and I were very hungry, which complicates things (you wouldn’t like us when we’re Hangry…) 

We stopped at the first Craft Beer stand we came across as we tried to find the best route to our seats (we got some amazing tickets on the Coca-Cola Corner, the artist formerly known as the Pepsi Porch, which is a great decision for Citi Field because Pepsi is garbage and Coke is the truth), and both Henry Hops and Say Hey Sally were listed on their signage, but when I asked for one, the bartender said “Not today!”, which made me nervous, thinking perhaps the WHOLE STADIUM RAN OUT 😳😭😵…

As I settled on the fact that my trek to find Henry and Sally might not pan out, we looked at the scoreboard as our hunger pangs grew stronger, to find that the Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman (that’s got to be a fake name) gave up 5 runs in the first inning.  At this point, we knew what we were in for.

Citi Field is awesome because, when the Mets begin to lose (which tonight, happened almost immediately), there are many distractions!  Like the pretty planes flying out of Laguardia!  Look at that pretty plane!  Every time we see a plane, Holly says “I wish we were on that plane, and flying some place tropical!”

We decided to walk to find how to get up to our seats, and figure out what food we wanted to eat.  We passed by an Empire State Craft beer stand, and I saw a glimpse of Mets orange through the frosted glass of the refrigerator…  Sally, the ol’ girl, was nestled snugly between the LIC Beer Project Dutch Kills Kolsch and the Queens Brewery Lager.  We snagged it as quickly as we could, and I wondered if we’d ever reunite Sally with her beloved Henry…  (I’m turning this into a love story because I don’t know Sally and Henry’s relationship.  Also, it makes things more dramatic, right?)

Sally was feeling lonely…

Holly suggested I ask where to find Henry Hops (I’d heard Henry was a lot harder to locate than Sally), so I asked, and the bartender said “You’ll find Henry over there, right past the nachos.”  Any directions that include nachos are my favorite directions.  So we followed those directions…

By the by, we still haven’t eaten.  Does this highten the drama?  It does, doesn’t it?

We looked to our right, and saw the nachos stand, still not knowing if we were being led astray…  Our hunger growing deeper.  Should we stop and munch on some delicious, gooey, cheesy nachos?  No, we must push on…  With each step, the dream of Henry Hops seemed further and further away (is this heightening the drama?)

Just past the nachos stand was a beer stand with 4 Blue Point Brewery draft lines, and a lineup of cans…  I caught a glimpse of Mets blue in that lineup, and I knew we’d found him.  Henry Hops…


“Reunited, and it feels so good…”

We heard some commotion, and saw some Mets fans spinning a wheel to win merchandise.  We signed up, and Holly spun and won a Mets hand towel (HAND TOWEL!) and I won a magnetic Mets Calendar (MAGNETIC METS CALENDAR!)

Holly had claimed Sally as her own, because Say Hey Sally is the perfect baseball beer.  It’s an amazing crisp, light, refreshing pils with some beautiful floral hops, that will pair with any food, without having to think too much about it.  It was delicious.


#gorgeous

Henry Hops is a malt forward IPA with some piny, bitter, citrus hops that changes as it warms.  When the beer is cold, the bready, biscuit malts dominate the palate, but as the game progressed, and the beer got warmer, and the Mets continued to lose (😩), the hops started to dance their mango, lemon, pineapple tango we all know and love.  


#handsome

The Mets were down by 5 runs in the first inning.  We’d found the exclusive Mikkeller beer.  We were starved.  Skies were gray.  We were at a baseball stadium.  We found the Coca-Cola Corner…


Come on, could my wife be any cuter?

We decided since we were so hungry, we’d stop at the food stand on the Coca-Cola corner.  Holly got a Nathan’s Hot Dog (NATHAN’S HOT DOG!) and fries, and I got Chicken Tenders (CHICKEN TENDERS!) and fries.

Our cousin Billy texted that he was at the game as well.  We found him using technology and celebrated.  It was very merry.  He had won a hand towel as well (HAND TOWEL!)

#love in the time of the Mets losing


#Holly and #Sally, when Circle of Life came on at the stadium

Bathed in the stadium lights…

We found our seats.  We ate our hot dog (HOT DOG!) and Chicken Tenders (CHICKEN TENDERS!). We drank a delicious Pils, and a malt forward IPA.  Sally and Henry.  Holly Kay and Patrick.  Billy from afar.  Mets baseball (who cares if they’re losing).  We ate, we drank, we chanted, we got loud when the megatron told us to get loud.  We kissed even though we never ended up on the kiss cam.  We spotted Mr. Met.  We didn’t get a tee shirt from the tee shirt cannon.  I dropped my phone.  It was a GREAT Wednesday night.


We’re in love (also how cute is that beanie??)!!

Until next time, y’all.

Cheers!

::GASP:: A Guest Blog Post!  Or, The (Other) Benedict Beer Blog!

We’ve got a special treat this week!
I was texting with the lovely and vivacious Holly Kay (Benedict!!) on Sunday afternoon, and she gave me the most incredible description of the beer she was enjoying (because that’s what you DO on Sunday afternoons!).

What a cutie!!

So, without any further ado, I leave you in the hands of my smart, adventurous, beautiful wife!


2012: How the Beer Journey Began

By Holly Kay Benedict



It was 2012. Patrick and I had been married for a year. We were living on Long Island. I was working a dead end job DJing at a country radio station for pennies. The work itself, I loved. The listeners and the performance aspect of the position were amazing. The misogynists I worked for made the job a living hell for me and the other women working as talent there.

Me and the truck!

That first year was one of the very hardest. We lived with family. We had obnoxious amounts of credit card debt which we were paying down slowly, but surely. We had few friends, but we were able to make some lifelong friends in Moustache brewing’s Lauri and Matt Spitz. At the time, Matt was a coworker of Patrick’s at Fruit Stand.

Matt, and a pint glass I won at Long Ireland Brewing!

Lauri, his wife is one of the absolute coolest people I know. She is a take charge, no nonsense, “Put you big girl panties on and deal with it” kind of woman. I have the utmost respect for her, and have learned from her determination. It was she who invited me to the first LIBME meeting.

Lauri and I, being classy.

LIBME is the Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts. Patrick and I had recently graduated from drinking PBR and Bud Light to drinking real beer. We had discovered local breweries like Blue Point, and that was the location of my first LIBME meeting. BBQ chicken was served with free pours at the meeting. We discussed the upcoming home brewers competition, and I was hooked.
Granted, I was not the real beer drinker. That was Patrick, of course, but I wanted to further the depth of our friendship with Matt and Lauri, meet new people who were like-beer minded and who could open our palates to something more. Honestly, I went to the LIBME meeting for Patrick. His interest in beer inspired me to want to invest time and energy in something other than endless conversations about Fruit Stand customers and bald, Woman-hating bosses (Bless their hearts).

I joined the club for both Patrick and I on the spot.

We were privy to some exclusive beer tastings. There was a bottle share where a rumor went around that I only enjoy high alcohol beers. That’s how the 65% Armageddon by Brewmeister ended up in my hands. Delicious, but dear GOD! 

Bottle share, January 19, 2013.

Lauri posing with Brewmeister Armageddon, the strongest beer in the world.

This same night I had pork with Ghost pepper because another rumor about me circulated which labeled me as a fellow pepper head. (All these rumors are true BTW). It was a pivotal night in our beer journey. We met amazing people like Phil, who works for New Belgium Brewing and previously worked for Great South Bay Brewery, and his wife Katie. I also encouraged Kelsey and Pete Shelly to join us for beer club, and I’ll never forget the meeting where we had Mead, and Kelsey was this close to buying a bee hive.

Kelsey, Pete and I at Moustache Brewing’s Friends and Family preview!  April 13, 2014.

The most exciting part of our Beer journey was seeing Matt and Lauri leave their jobs and pursue their home brewing full time. Matt and Lauri own and brew at Moustache Brewing Co. in Riverhead. They have now begun distributing to New York City and can be found at Alewife in Long Island City, which is one of my fav beer bars.

April 13th, 2014.  Moustache Brewing Friends and Family preview!

Bradco and I enjoying Moustache Brewing Co. Everyman’s Porter at Alewife NYC!  October, 2016.

I like all the tasting rooms I’ve been to, but for me I will always love the beer bars like Alewife, the Jeffery, Barcade, and C’est Cheese. Dedicated to craft beer, of course, but also dedicated to the foods that enhance and define why craft beer should be paired with amazing food.

Speaking of C’est Cheese. About a year ago, they began their Beer Club program. I encouraged Patrick to join, of course, but said I would wait for the next time, thinking I could join the next week. Sadly, I missed the opportunity since they limited the club to 200 people.

A new year is upon us, and I am happy to announce that I am finally a member of the C’est Beer club. The beer journey continues, and I love being a part of it with my amazing writer, beer connoisseur husband.

Date Night! Or, “Is It Weird That This Beer Smells Like Sushi Rice?”

Holly Kay and I have been married for 5 years (!!!) now.  We’ve got a trip to Ireland planned for the first week in November (!!!) which we’re super excited for, but we’re always looking for ways to celebrate our love.

This past Friday, we were both done early from work, so I met Holly down in Soho so we could find a nice Happy Hour (who doesn’t love a good Happy Hour?).  As I waited for her to get out of work, I had a hankering to visit one of our favorite special places here in NYC.  It’s got great food, great beer, and great…  Arcade games?

Yeah.  You got that right, Jack (who is Jack anyways and how did he get that right?), I’m talking about Barcade.

Barcade!

The first Barcade opened in 2004 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, then in Jersey City and Philadelphia in 2011, two Manhattan locations in 2014, and New Haven in 2015.  

Our very special Barcade is located in Chelsea, on 24th street, equidistant from the E and the F trains, which both run express to our neighborhood of Jackson Heights, so, bonus.  We haven’t had a chance to visit the other locations, but we’ve spent numerous occasions here, including our 4th Wedding Anniversary (sandwiched between a massage and a Punch Brothers show at The Beacon Theater).

We all love nostalgia, and Barcade touches all the right, nostalgic-like parts of your brain cavity.  With arcade games such as Tapper, Rampage, and Donkey Kong, you’re transported back to your childhood, except it’s cooler because you’re an adult now and you can do what you want and what you want is an extensive craft beer selection and a menu that features Tetris-shaped tater tots.

In this picture: Grilled chicken sandwich with fried onions, Tetris Tots, and a short rib grilled cheese (!!!!) with spicy mayo, beer, water.

We took two stools at the bar when we arrived (it was just before 5pm), and began perusing the beer list.  We were greeted by Brian, (who we later learned was the beer manager for that location), who was amazingly friendly and helpful, and more than willing to answer any questions we had, or let us sample a few beers before deciding (a sign of a great beer bar).

Holly ordered a Kent Falls Lade Øl Saison.  This is a “toasted hay grisette”.  Saison?  Grisette?  They’re nearly the same thing.  While a saison was a low ABV beer brewed for farmers to enjoy after (or during) a long day in the fields, a grisette was brewed for miners (Because nothing prevents black lung like a farmhouse ale!).

Lade Øl is Danish for “barn beer”.  The addition of toasted hay adds notes of grass, vanilla and spice to the funk and citrus of a traditional Farmhouse Ale.

I started with an Evil Twin Erase and Rewind #2 IPA.  Clocking in at 7% ABV, this is a punchy, citrusy IPA bursting with pineapple and orange, pine, and some malty sweetness.  Another hit from Jeppe and crew at Evil Twin.  

Evil Twin Erase and Rewind #2 IPA.  Also, a gorgeous array of taps.
Let’s talk food.  We decided to share a sandwich and some Tetris Tots.  We glanced up at the specials on the chalkboard, and I immediately drooled all over myself.  Why?  Check this monster out…

 Spicy chicken sandwich with shredded lettuce, chipotle aioli, and a pretzel bun.  Also, check out them crispy totz.  We were full.

Holly Kay’s next beer was from the always phenomenal Carton Brewing from Atlantic Highlands, NJ.  It’s called Sakura, and it’s a Gose brewed with sushi rice (!!!???) and cherry blossom.  Weird?  Yup!  But with Augie Carton, you always know he’s going to do you right.  

(Check out This Article about Augie’s philosophy, and you’ll see why I trust this dude with any beer he makes.)

As soon as Holly and I took a sniff of this beer, we glanced sideways at each other.  “Is it weird that this beer smells like sushi rice?”  I asked Holly.  “Yes.”  She responded.  “It’s brewed with sushi rice!”  I said.  She took another sniff…  “That definitely smells like sushi rice.”  The aroma was salty and sweet just like sushi rice, with lemon and floral notes.  Taste was tart lemon peel citrus, floral, and salty.  I’m hoping they have cans of this left when we visit the brewery next week, because this was out of this world.

My next pick was the Stone Farking Wheaton W00tstout.  This is a collaboration beer with everyone’s favorite need Wil Wheaton, and Drew Curtis (who runs the website fark.com).  This year’s iteration was brewed with rye, flaked wheat, and pecans (yummmm) and aged in bourbon barrels.  For a beer brewed by a bunch of nerds, this brew is a bully.  At 13%, it’s dangerous, because the smoothness of vanilla and caramel from the bourbon barrel plus the sweetness of the pecans make for a real easy drinker that’ll shove your head in a toilet and take your lunch money.  I want these dudes to continue making this every year.

Also, can we please all just look at this Star Wars-inspired label?  It’s unfair how cool this beer is.

W00tstout.  My sweet lord.

It was time for video games.  First was Holly Kay’s favorite…

Discs of Tron!  
My wife is amazing.  (Have I mentioned my wife is amazing?).  She always comes on top 10 on this game.  This time, she hit #7.  I thought I had a picture of it, but it turns out, when you get on the top 10, your initials blink on and off on the screen.  Of course, I took the picture when the initials weren’t on the screen.  So, you’ll just have to believe me, or come with us next time we’re at Barcade.

We then hit up Tapper, everyone’s favorite anxiety nightmare Bartending game.  We rock this one out all the damn time, although that probably has something to do with that we downloaded a free version (or was it 99¢?) of Root Beer Tapper for iPhone (the version inside Barcade is completely branded by Budweiser…) and we are now seasoned Tapper veterans.  I think we’re just naturally talented with our hand-eye coordination. 

In summary, you all should head to Barcade.  You’ll have an amazing time regardless, but if you have the pleasure of being served by Brian, prepare to have an elevated Craft Beer experience.  Thanks, Brian!

Until next time!

Cheers!

Beer Plus Music Vol. II, or How Singlecut Saved Us From Our Ceiling Collapsing on Our Heads…

“Hey you!  Out there in the cold, getting lonely, getting old, can you feel me?

Hey you! Standing in the aisles, with itchy feet and fading smiles, can you feel me?”

If you can’t feel Pink Floyd, you can’t feel feelings.

So last week, I put together some beer and music pairings.  A few days ago, I thought to myself, “How did I make a beer and music post and not mention one of my favorite (and literally the closest to my apartment) breweries, that is as obsessed with music as they are with beer?”

Singlecut Beersmiths.  37th Avenue, Astoria, Queens.  This is a place you should go, definitely.

This is their entrance!

As far as beer and music collaborations are concerned, these guys are the (ZZ) tops!


They’ve taken a warehouse and made it home.

When you walk through the door of the giant warehouse, you’re welcomed in with large wooden tables, a gorgeous bar, complete with a record player and some unbelievable vinyl, beautiful, dark wood paneling, and gorgeous guitars hanging from the wall.  Lining the walls are framed bags of malt, tying in their passion for beer with their passion for music.

The tap handles?  All designed to look like guitar heads.  The beers?  Mostly named after the brewers’ favorite musicians, or song lyrics.

A video of me mouthing the line that Robert Plant shouted in the middle of “Stairway to Heaven” during a live recording for the 1976 concert movie The Song Remains the Same, which, apparently, still makes him cringe and inspired Singlecut’s IIPA of the same name.

Does Anybody Remember Laughter? IPA clocks in at 7.2% ABV, with aromas and flavors of dank, piney resin and citrus, tropical fruit (mango, pineapple) and pine.  The forests truly do echo with laughter.

If you’ll excuse me…  My hedgegrow is bustled, and frankly, I’m a little alarmed.  I’ll be right back…

Ok, much better.  Back to the beer.

Mo’Shuggie Soulbender IPA, found at Little Tibet, an unassuming, fun restaurant in our neighborhood of Jackson Heights, features Singlecut and other Queens breweries like Transmitter Brewing.

Mo’Shuggie weighs in at 7.4% ABV, and is brewed with both New Zealand and Australian hop varietals, and has aromas of tropical mango, pineapple, and orange citrus.  The taste follows, with flavors of grapefruit zest, and white peach, leaving it with a dry finish.  Simply, a world class IPA.  Bright, fruity, aromatic, picks you up and drops you on the beach, the ocean lapping at your toes.  Juice, juice, juice.

Singlecut helped Holly and I kick off our 2016. We were undecided on where we wanted to go to celebrate New Years Eve, but we discussed it with some friends, and decided to spend our evening there (not before a quick stop at the Ditmars location of Astoria Bier and Cheese)!

IMG_0606HK Benny looking super cute and wintery…

Holly started out with an Eric More Cowbell! Milk Stout.  This is a creamy, smooth stout at 6% ABV with bitter bakers cocoa and coffee notes with some sugary sweetness.  Great way to kick off the evening.

I had the Bon TNT Pale Ale, which is a hazy, unfiltered Pale Ale (see glass of orange juice in the picture above), a 5% ABV, juicy, citrus refresher and another great beer to kick off our evening.

Singlecut also has the Bon Bon 2XTNT IIPA, which, in my opinion, is as good as and easier to find than all the “New England Style” IPAs that are sought after and waited in line for.  It’s another juicy, citrus bomb that drinks super easy for its 8.2% ABV.  It’s packed with amazing New Zealand and Australian hops (which is appropriate, as Bon is a reference to the late Bon Scott, frontman for AC/DC).  OI! OI!  OI! OI! OI! OI!  He’s dynamite, and he will win the fight.

IMG_0485Boom!

We continued the evening as our friends trickled in, Ryan (manager of Il Bambino, see my love letter to Il Bambino from a few months ago) and Erica, Rafa, and Alex and Shelbie all came by to spend a relatively quiet New Years Eve chatting and celebrating.  The staff at Singlecut are always so welcoming and friendly, and they threw New Years confetti all over the tables, while we all listened to whatever records were spinning that night (I can’t remember exactly, but I think Rolling Stones and T-Rex were both a part of the night).  It was an awesome evening ( aside from getting home at 1am to find our ceiling collapsed in our kitchen, but you’ve probably already read that post.  If you haven’t, check it out here.)

IMG_0632Beer Plus Music Equals Love

IMG_0624Ryan and Erica.  So happy to have these two in our lives!

IMG_0623Alex and Shelbie having a blast!

A grainy picture of Holly, Rafa and I.  It’s grainy because of all the fun we were having.  Also, you know, artsy.  Beer is art.  Grainy selfies are art, too.

Holly and I decided we were going to start the new year with our favorite beer from Singlecut, a MONSTER Imperial Stout called Heavy Boots of Lead.


Is he live or dead?  Has he thoughts within his head?

Named after a lyric from Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”, this is a heavy hitter, at 11.2% ABV.  It tastes like liquid dark chocolate, with hints of vanilla and coffee.  One of my favorite non-barrel aged Imperial Stouts, whenever I see this around, I have to get it.  I could drink this in the middle of summer.

The moral of the story here is, you should absolutely make the trek up to Northern Astoria (don’t go too far, or you’ll end up on Riker’s Island).  They have amazing sour lagers (ahem, lagrrrs), also, try all of their Billy series IPAs, they range from about 5% ABV to 10%, and are all juicy and delicious.  Their newest juice bomb IPA that I love is…

Breathe…  Breathe in the air…

These guys are making absolute world class beers, and have only been around a few years, so I look forward to seeing what these mad scientists will put out next.  Right on the bottle, it says “Mastery knows no shortcut”.  And they’re not taking any.  You know Holly and I will be there, and you should be too.  Although, their traffic might explode after getting the Benedict Beer Blog Bump!  😉

Thanks for reading.  Don’t sleep on Singlecut!

Cheers!

A love letter to Il Bambino, or, How I Became the Redheaded Tree Monster

On a sunny day in April, 2010 (it might have been late March, but that’s semantics), I put in my resume at a sandwich shop with an unassuming little storefront on 31st Avenue in Astoria.  I was out of a job, and had no other prospects lined up.  My wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) Holly Kay, and I, had been there once before.  We popped our heads in when we were taking a walk, exploring the neighborhood.  We ordered Crostinis to go, and they were unbelievable.  Having lived West of the Subway, near the East River, we never really ventured past 31st Street.

Astoria is very confusing.  As you go from North to South, the streets begin with a number, and end in Avenue, Drive, or Road.  The numbers go up from 1 as you walk South.  If you’re walking West to East, they go up from number 1, and all end in Street.  Why?  According to Internet (I googled “Why are streets numbered the way they are in Astoria?”), Astoria was made up of a number of different communities, who all had different names for the streets and avenues.  This means that the same avenue could change names every few blocks.  So, between 1910 and 1920, there was a massive overhaul, and they changed the names to numbers, going up from 1 starting in the Northwestern part of Queens.

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Wow!  A History Lesson!  Not about beer! Yahoo for School!  Yahoo for me!  (This is my second Billy Madison reference in 3 Blog posts and I ain’t ashamed about it and I ain’t ashamed about my English neither.)

Anyway, I was out of a job, and in desperate need of one, so I walked into Il Bambino, on 31st Avenue in between 34th and 35th Streets.  As you walk in, you look straight ahead into the dining room and outdoor garden.  To your right are 6 stools, three underneath a banquette that looks out onto the street, and three underneath a small wooden bar that looks into the kitchen.  On the wall to the left, there is a giant pig, sectioned off and labeled with different types of cured meats that come from each section (i.e. the head is labeled Sopressatta).  Above the pig, are the words An Tard-Ri, which is Gaelic for “The Great King” (HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!?!?). Holly and I fell in love immediately, so I knew I had to give it a shot.

I spoke with Ryan Keogh, the manager, who said that there weren’t any server positions open, but he did possibly have a Counterperson position opening.  I handed him my resumé, and said I was absolutely interested, and left.

A few days or so went by, and that desperation turned into necessity.  I sincerely needed a job…  So, here’s my side of how this went down.  I decided to walk over to Il Bambino and pop my head in to see if they had made any progress in filling the Counterperson position.  I was unemployed.  I had nothing but time.  So I walked over, and happened to see Ryan, the very manager I had handed my resumé to, walking towards the restaurant.  So I said, “Hey man, remember me?  My name is Patrick, I gave you my resumé a few days ago.  Just wanted to follow up.”  He said that he hadn’t made any decisions yet, but would call me in a few days.

Ryan remembers this differently.  According to him, he was innocently walking to work one day, when an awkward redheaded monster jumped out FROM BEHIND A TREE and said “HEY REMEMBER ME?  YOU GONNA GIVE ME THAT JOB????”

…I’m 90% sure I was NOT behind a tree.

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A reenactment of this incident in front of Il Bambino in 2014.

Needless to say, I nailed it.  I got that job.  I worked behind the Counter, learned the ins and outs of the restaurant, and kept asking if and when any server positions were going to open up.  Apparently I raised my hand like an eager schoolboy at one of our first staff meetings.  Again, I’m 90% sure I didn’t do that.  I’m an adult.

I made myself clear about what I wanted to do as I’d been stuck as a busboy in one of my previous restaurant jobs, with the promise of becoming a waiter.  That never came to fruition, as I was told later I would never be a waiter because I wasn’t a woman.  That was information that I wish they would have brought to my attention YESTERDAYYYY!  (Second Adam Sandler reference in a single blog.  Wordpress gives out badges, right?  I should get a badge for this.)  Also, I visited there about a year ago and there was a dude bartending.  Again, whatevs.  No bad blood, their food is amazing, wine list is on point, and as you’ll see in a few paragraphs, they had some beers that had an impact on me.

At Il Bambino, I became a server after about a month, and Ryan and I became friends pretty quickly.  We worked hard, knew how to talk to people, and had similar tastes in music (although his knowledge far exceeds mine, also you should see his vinyl collection).  Remember my first post about Kanye West’s Runaway?  That’s that dude.

At this point, I didn’t know much about craft beer.  I wasn’t really into IPAs (which, if you know me now, is very surprising) and I wasn’t above drinking a Bud Lite at the bar.  I had been doing Improv Comedy for the last two years or so, and we were able to drink them for free (or really cheap) so that was a thing we did often.  The beers I did know about were the ones served at the aforementioned restaurant where I was a busboy. Three that I remember specifically were:

  1. Reissdorf Kolsch, which is a traditional German Kolsch, with sweet, bready malts, and a grassy hop character.
  2. Rogue Brewing Dead Guy, a Maibock, which is a German-Style Amber Ale, a sweet, balanced beer with earthy hops.
  3. Schneider Weisse (try NOT saying that with a German accent.  You can’t do it.), a peppery, citrusy German Hefeweizen (wheat beer).

I wasn’t much of a beer guy.  I wasn’t picky.  Maybe times were simpler back in early 2010.  Maybe I never shoulda gotten that job at Il Bambino.  Maybe then, Ryan would have never turned me into the redheaded monster that hides behind trees and jumps out to grab the hoppiest IPA or the bourbon barrel-iest Stout he can find, just to scurry back behind his tree and take a sip.

Nah.  It was the best decision Ryan ever made, hiring me.  He knows it.  I know it.  We all know it.  We had fun working inside that little unassuming storefront on 31st Avenue, between 34th and 35th streets in Astoria.  Please go eat there.

My gateway into my love and passion for Craft Beer began here.  Ryan and I would taste these beers together, and I learned that the people who made these beers were not unlike Darren Lawless (Owner and Head Chef at Il Bambino), and Ryan.  They cultivated Il Bambino into the amazing restaurant it is today, and have expanded to a new location in the West Village.  They’ve been working together for years, and are insanely talented, both in their own right, and know what their audience wants.

Beer, at its core, is 4 ingredients: Water, Barley, Hops, and Yeast.  Craft brewers are all about quality ingredients, hard work, and community.  I think it’s this mindset that Darren and Ryan had helped fuel my passion for craft beer and the people who make it.  Sometimes, simpler is better.

Ryan was (and is) a whiz at ordering the right beer (and wine) for the food they serve at Il Bambino.  Darren’s menu of Crostinis, Paninis, Salads, and Tapas, consists of simple ingredients, simple concepts, executed impeccably.  I believe that Ryan has the same mindset when it comes to the beer menu.

The beers Ryan had on the menu when I started were:

  1. Sixpoint Sweet Action, a Cream Ale from Brooklyn, a crisp beer with grassy, citrusy hops, and a toffee-like malt profile.
  2. Smuttynose Finestkind IPA, a malt forward IPA with balanced, citrusy hops.
  3. Allagash White, which, in my opinion, this is the quintessential gateway into Craft Beer.  “You like Blue Moon?  Here, try this.  It’s much better.”
  4. Lagunitas Pils, a traditional, Czech-style Pilsner.  Clean, grassy hops with nice sweetness from the malts (give this to someone who asks for a Bud or Bud Light).
  5. Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, classic Brown Ale from the UK, with nutty, roasted malts.
  6. Ommegang Hennepin, a peppery, funky, tart lemon zest citrus Farmhouse Saison.
  7. Pacifico, a Mexican style Light Lager.  (Corona’s more awesome primo)

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Chicken Mozzarella Panini accompanied by an Allagash White.

Ryan’s choice of beers listed above are amazing compliments to Darren’s menu.  Simple ingredients, elevated and complimented by the food they’re served with.  The beer menu has changed over the years, but it still contains amazing beers that pair perfectly with the food.

IMG_0133Founders Breakfast Stout, one of Ryan’s weekly specials.  Coffee and chocolate dominate this easily drinkable, 8% Stout.  Ask my Dad!  He loves them!

 

IMG_0256Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Saison.  8.5%ABV, with aromas of citrus, and a little funk.  Taste is crisp, sweet, citrusy, peppery.  Another perfect beer to go with Crostinis.

IMG_0165Puu Puu Platter, a plate of six different Crostinis.

IMG_0319Tröegs Mad Elf, an 11%ABV Ale made with Honey and Cherries.  I like to let this one sit a year, as the flavors mellow out a bit.

IMG_0318Just wanted to throw in this picture of my gorgeous wife enjoying her wine.  As you can see by the Poinsettias and Nutcracker, they decorate for Christmas!  It’s amazing!

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This is not beer.  This is a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Raspberry Syrup and Homemade Chocolate Frosted Flakes.  Please eat this.

IMG_2279Myself and Ryan at Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor with The Thin White Duke.

Again, I will mention that Il Bambino now has two locations, one in Astoria, and one on 8th Street in the West Village.  Please go eat there now, and I will wait here, so you can come back and finish this blog.

Il Bambino was my first foray into craft beer, and it got me excited to try something new.  I learned how beer and food complimented each other.  Also, I was shown the art of craftsmanship, whether it was Darren with his passion for elevated, simple ingredients, Ryan with his passion for experience (both for his employees and his customers), or craft brewers with their passion for quality, taste, and community.  Often times, you can find complexity in simplicity.

Anyways, until next time!

Cheers!

Saying Hello, By Saying Goodbye? Pt. Deux

Hey!  You came back!  Thanks for coming back.  That’s really sweet of you.  You’re a real pal.  This is a continuation of my first post, so please, if you haven’t read it, go back and check that one out, then come back and read this one.  I’m very patient.

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Look how patient I am!

Ok!  Let’s continue with Part Deux…

So it was Hiten’s last shift at City Swiggers, a bottle shop on 86th, between 1st and 2nd Ave.  You should go there.  It has 14 draft beers and probably like 40,000 bottles and cans.  This is not an exaggeration.

It was 8pm, which is way past my bedtime.  I believe my wife, Holly Kay, had worked a 6:30am-3:30pm shift that day, and had met up with some friends in between.  I worked until around 7:30, we met up, and got on the 6 (where some guy named Drake ran through with his WOEs), and walked the long avenue blocks over to City Swiggers.  We were, frankly, exhausted.  But we wanted to stop in and make sure we were there to give Hiten a proper send off.

It was pretty crowded, and loud, as it was a Friday night, and a lot of people were there for Hiten.  My coworker David, a home brewer, was there with his girlfriend, and we said hello, and ordered our first two beers.  Thankfully, two seats opened up right at the end of the bar, so we were able to sit.  Our feet and legs thanked us, as we’d both been running around all day.

Holly ordered an Other Half Brewing Company Mosaic Dream (because she has impeccable taste).  This is a single hopped Imperial IPA, hopped only with Mosaic.  I’ve loved every beer I’ve tried from Other Half Brewing (they’re in Gowanus, Brooklyn).  Hiten has waited in line at the brewery, very early on Saturday mornings, for their can releases.  (See previous post for the awesome Make it Rain IIPA he gifted me…)

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I’ve heard of Mosaic referred to as a sexy hop.  And ooh my, she sure is.  She comes from the same family as Simcoe, another hop that I adore.  The aroma wafts into your nose like a tropical breeze.  One sip and you’re transported to a far off, white sandy beach (somewhere tropical, let’s say for this instance, Saint Martin), surrounded by freshly cut mangoes and pineapples.  You take a bite…  This must be the Dream that they’re referring to…

Snap back to reality (oh, there goes gravity!).

This beer is bright, citrusy, and perfect for a day on the beach, or by the pool, or wherever you damn want to, it’s your life, LIVE YOUR LIFE, DRINK BEER WHERE YOU LIKE!  (Is that going to be the Benedict Beer Blog’s first tee shirt?  Probably not.).

If you’re outside of New York and can’t get up here, and that picture I painted appeals to you, I would highly recommend picking up a Founders Mosaic Promise, or Pipeworks Lizard King.  These are both single hopped with Mosaic, so you too can be transported to paradise.  Check them out, and let me know what you think!

I ordered the Grimm Afterimage.  This is an amazing unfiltered Double IPA, with citrusy, dank hops.  According to the Brewers, they used Mosaic (there’s that pretty lady again!!), El Dorado, Falconer’s Flight, Columbus, and Simcoe.  (I want to be a Hop Namer.  Is that a thing?  Can I make that my life’s work?  I mean, come on…  Falconer’ Flight?  Give that man a Nobel Prize!). The hops are balanced out by a burnt caramel, bready malt sweetness.  This was my second time having this beer, and it’s just as good as I remember it.  I rated it 4.5 out of 5 caps on Untappd, which is an awesome Beer Social Networking App that you should absolutely check out.  This comes around in cans from time to time (at least twice, from what I know), so grab it if you can.  This is a gorgeous beer.  If you can’t find it, try to see if you can get Grimm Tesseract, Grimm Lambo Door, Other Half Green Diamonds, or Singlecut Billy Full Stack.  These are some of the best Double IPA’s released in NY.

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Grimm Afterimage Double IPA

My palate needed a change after all those delicious, delicious hops…  And I looked across the bar, and saw some nice gentleman sharing a bottle of 2015 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout.  This is a variant of the regular Bourbon County Brand Stout, with Intelligentsia’s Los Delirios Nicaraguan coffee beans added.  For those of you who may not know, Goose Island admitted to some Varients of their Bourbon County Brand (specifically Coffee and Barleywine) having what they referred to as “off-flavors”.  I was interested to try it, after reading countless reviews about how the beer was infected.

I have had the Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout once before, about 5 years ago, with my dear friends Matthew and Lauri Spitz, who went on to open Moustache Brewing Company, and it was amazing.

This bottle was certainly off.  It tasted boozy, with sour raspberry and chocolate, but no coffee.  It wasn’t bad, as I enjoy sour beers, but this was unintentional.  I’m glad I didn’t wait on line to pick this up, but was happy I got to try it.  Thank you strangers at the bar, and thank you Hiten for pouring me a taste!

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Looking down into the abyss of an “off flavored”  Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

At this point, a number of our friends had showed up.  We hadn’t really eaten anything at this point, so we ordered some snacks.  Hiten also had a bunch of pizzas ordered, so Holly grabbed us two slices, and by that point, we wanted to slink back into our cave and hibernate like the tired bears we were.  But we were having such a great time with our friends, and Hiten was having a blast pouring and sharing beers with his friends.

The last beer I tasted, and shared, was the Stone Xocoveza (pronounced “shocko-veza”) Stout.  In stark contrast to being transported to the beach, this beer picks you up and drops you in a rocking chair in front of a roaring fireplace, with untouched, glistening white flakes of snow flittering by the window, family singing Christmas Carols while visions of cinnamon, coffee, and spice dance all over your tongue.  Holly and I shared a 5 ounce pour of this from our friend Sean’s flight (he doesn’t like stouts that taste like coffee), and it was so good (as I remembered) Holly and I ordered and shared another.

IMG_1922Our friend Sean’s Stone Xocoveza Stout.  He promptly ordered “A stout that doesn’t taste like coffee.”

IMG_1927Our second Stone Xocoveza Stout

By this point, we paid our check, and prepared to make our long journey home to Jackson Heights.  We were both exhausted, but really happy that we showed up, and spent time with some amazing friends.  And, as we went down into the Subway station, we saw a group of people doing QUIET CLUBBING!  Have you ever heard of this?  There’s two different stations, and you get to choose which you want to (quietly) rock out to.  It was really cool, and we actually considered doing this.

As memorable as the beers were, I simply loved our whole experience.  I got to share stories and beers with my beautiful wife and our amazing friends, and we were all able to be together and celebrate Hiten’s last night at City Swiggers.  The bar was filled with he and his fiancee’s friends and family.  Hiten, whether he knew it or not, made an impact on people around him, and will continue to do so in Arizona.

I got a few texts after my first post, saying “Great blog!  When are you going to talk about beer?” I hope this post has answered that question.  For me, it’s not just about the beer.  What I love about beer is that every sip, every different beer you try, comes with an experience.  The appearance, aroma, taste, even the environment you’re drinking in and the people you are with, will bring you somewhere.  Sometimes, it brings you somewhere you never want to go again.  Sometimes it brings you somewhere you’ll want to visit over and over again (responsibly, of course).

Until next time, dear, sweet, sexy (I assume) reader.  Keep having and enjoying wonderful experiences, and share any thoughts you have in the comments below!

Cheers!