Monday, December 16, 2002

Belgian Trappist Monk and Abbey Style Beers

Mmmm. Nothing beats Hennepin on a Sunday afternoon, chilling in Noe Valley, enjoying the end of the weekend. Even if it is raining with gale-force winds that have already downed several poor trees on my city block.

Hennepin comes in a 750mL champagne bottle. It is drunk out of goblet. Or, if you don’t have a goblet (I don’t), a wine glass will do. This is highbrow beer. Sparkling beer. Beer with so many different flavors it is very difficult to characterize. It’s golden and wheaty like a Hefeweisen, slightly spicy like a Belgian white, slightly sweet like a Lambic. Brewed in Cooperstown, New York, at the Ommegang Brewery, but based on a great Belgian brewing style. It’s the best beer I can buy within two blocks of where I live, and it ranks #3 on my list of all-time favorites.

There are only two beers that I rank above Hennepin. They are both imported from Belgium, and very hard to find (unless you know where to look).

#2 is Duval. It comes in the same 750mL champaign bottle, and so far in Northern Cal I have only found it in the P-W Mart on Brokaw Road in San Jose, near Emile’s place.

#1 is Corsendonk Monk’s Pale Ale, found locally up on 24th Street in 12oz bottles at $3.50/ea. But it’s more fun to get a friend to fly in from LA with a 1 quart 1 pint 3 fl oz champagne bottle of it.

There are two beers that rank slightly lower than Hennepin on my list of all-time greats. They are the darker Belgian abbey-styles; the sweeter and fruitier ones, but not quite as sweet as a Lambic Fromboise. My friends who like the sweeter style rank them higher than Hennepin and Duval. Regardless, they’re all fabulous …

#4 is Chimay.

#5 is Ommegang, the title brew of the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, New York.

Stick to these, and you will never drink Bud from a can again. (Although I almost did last night …….)

Friday, November 29, 2002

Mmm. Turkey

Well, most of the Venezuelan crowd was drinking wine yesterday … lots of wine … lots and lots of wine … I think, for about five serious drinkers, they went through six or seven bottles of the good stuff between 4:30 and 11pm. But what fun. And I got to try Pete’s Wicked Winter Brew, with some nutmeg and raspberries. Very nice stuff. Then, of course, the bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon. Because no Thanksgiving can be complete without a bottle of Wild Turkey.

My Thanksgivings keep getting more ethnic, and more fun. Much thanks to Rob, Tatiana, Craig, Elena, Rojan, and Maria. The Salsa and Merengue were fabulous. And the Romanian music. And the chess. And Craig’s recipe homebrew that we pulled out between the first course and the dessert (before the turkey was done). Mucho mucho gracias. Muy bien.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Picture the Scene

Every once in a while, someone in my circle of friends does something amazing that touches people in ways that noone can imagine. Knowing what Taylor has been up to the past year was enough to know that this was an event I couldn’t miss.

So I hopped on a flight to Raleigh, gathered a few local friends together (Arv, Rhett, Jay), and surprised the hell out of him when we showed up at Tucker’s Music Hall in Five Points in time for his show: "You’re stealing my thunder, man ... Everyone’s like, 'guess who's here from California?'"

Taylor recently completed his first solo CD, Picture the Scene. He lined up an all-star North Carolina cast to help, including Alex McKinney from Athenaeum as guitarist and producer, Peele Wimberly of Connells fame on drums, Triangle music legend John Plymale (Meat Puppets, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Superchunk, Athenaeum, Corrosion of Conformity, etc.) as engineer, and Sarah and George from 8 Dot Graphics for cover and insert artwork. It’s a near-flawless piece of work.

Friday was the release party. What a show.

Hearing Kyler open the night made the entire trip worthwhile. Everything else was gravy. (I should point out that the following night she performed in Chapel Hill for an NC Songwriters competition, and won!)

Later Taylor's seven-piece band took the stage and brought down the house. They came out rocking hard with "Fall Away", played the entire album, plus a few covers and a few new pieces. His coffee-house 3-piece band (Taylor, Mark on violin and guitar, and Mark…. on percussion) was joined by Alex (guitar), Peele (drums), Tommy (bass), and Jesse (guitar).

For me, however, the best part of the whole weekend was seeing so many people I had completely lost track of. This was a reunion of old Instant Coffeehouse and CoffeeSHAC denizens from '93-'98, and yet another big show for all of Taylor's recent followers. My circle of friends out in NC are some of the most wonderful people in the world ... and I live for events like this that help remind me of this ...