Special Saint Patrick’s Day beers and where to get them


Special Saint Patrick's Day beers and where to get them


With St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, many microbreweries around the United States are starting to release their special Irish-inspired beers. Red ales, cream ales, and chocolate- and coffee-flavored stouts are making their annual debut, going head-to-foamy-head with the traditional St. Paddy’s Day libation Guinness. Here is a roundup of some of the nation’s St. Patrick’s Day beers and where to get them.Location: Boston
Brewery: Harpoon Brewery
Special Beer: Harpoon Celtic
What It Is and Where to Get It: The Boston brewery’s popular Harpoon Celtic has been brewed since 2000 and is the de facto seasonal brew for spring. Available in 27 states and counting, Harpoon is best enjoyed at the brewery’s Boston Tasting Room.

Location: Frederick, Maryland
Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery
Special Beer: Lucky SOB Irish Red
What It Is and Where to Get It: This brewery north of Washington, D.C., claims to brew its Lucky SOB Irish Red with “real four-leaf clovers handpicked at the brewery last St. Patrick’s Day.” Ahem. Look for their beer on draft only at pubs in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., throughout March.

Location: Durango, Colorado
Brewery: Steamworks Brewing Company
Special Beer: Irish Car Bomb
What It Is and Where to Get It: Blended with Irish cream and Jameson whiskey during its second fermentation, Irish Car Bomb is “named for the beer’s effect not as a political statement.” Yeah, right. At any rate, the first cask of 2012’s Irish Car Bomb brew will be tapped at 3 p.m. on March 16.

Location: Lake George, New York
Brewery: Adirondack Pub and Brewery
Special Beer: Mocha Stout
What It Is and Where to Get It: Adirondack Brewery uses organic cocoa and ground Caffe Verro coffee in its rich stout. Look for Adirondack beer at restaurants throughout the Hudson Valley.

Location: Cleveland
Brewery: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Special Beer: Conway’s Irish Ale
What It Is and Where to Get It: This eco-friendly Cleveland brewery makes the “malty” Conway’s Irish Ale for the St. Patrick’s Day crowd. Great Lakes Brewing Company beers are available throughout Ohio and in 13 other states.

Location: Brooklyn
Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
Special Beer: Dry Irish Stout
What It Is and Where to Get It: Brooklyn Brewery’s unfiltered Dry Irish Stout is brewed the traditional way, meaning that they use flaked raw barley rather than nitrogen to give the beer its foamy head. Dry Irish Stout is on tap at the Brooklyn Brewery’s Tasting Room as well as a few other restaurants and pubs in NYC and Brooklyn.

Location: Bend, Oregon
Brewery: Three Creeks Brewery and Silver Moon Brewing
Special Beers: O’Cosci Stout from Three Creeks Brewery; Shamrock Green Bridge Pilsner and O’Shawnigan’s Irish Red from Silver Moon Brewing
What It Is and Where to Get It: The central Oregon town of Bend has no fewer than 10 microbreweries along its Bend Ale Trail. Two of those breweries, Three Creeks Brewery and Silver Moon Brewing, produce St. Patrick’s Day beers, which are available on draught from the breweries’ tap rooms.

Location: Chico, California
Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Special Beer: Knightro – Celtic Festival Beer
What It Is and Where to Get It: Sierra Nevada beers are sold throughout the United States but you can only get the brewery’s small batch Knightro stout – and 14 other limited-edition beers – at its Chico Taproom and Restaurant.

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Brewery: Arbor Brewing Company
Special Beer: St. Pat’s Strong Stout
What It Is and Where to Get It: Arbor Brewing Company brews St. Pat’s Strong Stout, which has a “chalky, Turkish coffee palate” for the holiday. Also available each March at the ABC Brewpub are Espresso Love Breakfast Stout and a vegan-friendly Blackheath Sweet Stout.

Photo Flickr/miamism

Ten great food co-ops in the western U.S.

food co-opsIf the concept of food cooperatives conjures up images of burning bras and withered, wormy produce, hear me out. The times they have a’changed, and today’s co-ops (about 500 nationwide) can be the hometown equivalent of a certain high-end, multi-billion-dollar, national green grocery chain. As with farmers markets, all are not created equal, but when you hit upon a good one, it’s easy to see why they’re such community hubs.

One of the defining principles of many co-ops is their commitment to purchase produce, meat (if they’re not vegetarian stores), and dairy as direct as possible, often from local farmers. By shopping there, you’re promoting food security and supporting the community. Most co-ops are also open to non-members.

Great product aside, I love checking out co-ops because they give me a sense of place. I learn about what foods are indigenous to or cultivated in the region, and usually, who grows them (I have a particular weakness for hand-lettered signs informing me I’m purchasing “Farmer Bob’s Pixie tangerines,” or blackberry honey from an enterprising 10-year-old’s backyard hives).

No matter how well-intentioned, not everything in even the best co-op is regional, as it depends upon what grows in that area, and the time of year. But the best co-ops have a high proportion of local products, and I award bonus for a truly appetizing deli (no tempeh loaf, please), bakery, and an espresso bar. When I’m on the road, dropping under five bucks for a delicious breakfast (steel-cut oatmeal, polenta, or ethereal scones, perhaps) and a well-made latte with locally-roasted beans always makes me happy. With a good co-op, that’s often possible.

Below, some of my favorite food co-ops in the western U.S.:

1. Ashland Food Co-op, Oregon
Located just over the California border in the Rogue River Valley, Ashland is famous for its Shakespeare Festival. It also deserves props for the co-op, with its selection of carefully curated local produce, deli, espresso bar, and delicious baked goods. Hippie haters may cringe at the earnestness of the patrons, but grab a seat on the patio, and enjoy the show. The surrounding Railroad District neighborhood boasts galleries, artist studios, shops, and restaurants.

[Photo credit: Kootenay Co-op, Flickr user donkeycart]

food co-ops2. Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco
This beloved collective draws customers seeking out some of the most impeccable produce, dairy, and specialty foods in the nation–all grown or made nearby. Look for goat cheese from Harley Farms, seasonal Gravenstein apples from Sebastopol, and honey from the bulk tank.

3. Boise Co-op, Idaho
I stumbled upon this co-op while exploring Boise, and fell in love. Idaho doesn’t usually conjure images of pristine produce aside from potatoes, but this bustling store is packed with beautiful local product, a deli, and an impressive housewares department. Located in a pleasant quasi-residential neighborhood walking distance from the downtown core.

4. Ocean Beach People’s Organic Foods Market, San Diego
It’s all about produce at this large, contemporary collective, especially citrus. But be sure to pick up a sandwich or some picnic items from the deli/bakery; the beach is just a few blocks away. Confession: I got a job here as a recent college grad, and it’s a tribute to my former boss, Trent (then and still the produce manager) that I found a career in food and sustainable agriculture. I was living in my car and going through a severe quarter-life crisis at the time, and by the end of my first day working with him, it was as though a light (energy-saving, of course) had switched on in my serotonin-starved brain. Thanks, Trent!
food co-ops
5. PCC Natural Markets, Fremont (Seattle)
Call it hometown advantage, but I live down the street from this store–part of a greater Seattle co-op chain–and shop here several times a week. It’s my favorite of the stores–some of which could use a makeover. Located in the pretty Fremont neighborhood on Lake Union’s northern shore, it’s modern, inviting, and stuffed with local product. Don’t miss Grace Harbor Farms yogurt, made from butterfat-rich Guernsey milk: the thick layer of cream on top is irresistible.

6. La Montanita Co-op Food Market, Santa Fe
It’s hard to beat Santa Fe’s famous farmers market, but should you miss it or require some additional souvenirs (posole and Chimayo chilies, anyone?), swing by this New Mexico co-op chain. Mark your calendars for September, when select stores roasts massive batches of organic Hatch chilies.
food co-ops
7. Davis Food Co-op, Davis, California
Home to one of the nation’s top ag schools, Davis is located within Yolo County, one of California’s largest farming regions. You’ll find exquisite vegetables from small farming champs like Full Belly Farm and Riverdog Farm of nearby Capay Valley, as well as local olive oil, honey, nuts, orchard fruits, and cheese. Cooking classes for kids and teens, too.

8. Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, California
Take the same wonderful products found in Davis, and add an ambitious learning center and cooking school program for kids and adults. Learn how to raise backyard chickens, take a two-day farming intensive, or gain some urban cycling skills.

9. People’s Food Co-op, Portland, Oregon
Portland is rightfully one of the nation’s epicenters of mindful eating. With both excellent restaurants and farmers markets, a co-op may not make it onto your travel itinerary, but if you’re in the Clinton neighborhood on the Southeast side, stop by. The reason Portland gets it right? Oregon is a leader in sustainable agriculture and livestock production, artisan cheesemaking, craft brewing, and winemaking. The store also holds a year-round farmers market every Wednesday, 2-7pm.
food co-op
10. Central Co-op, Seattle
Located in Seattle’s hipster thicket of Capitol Hill, this popular spot is just the place for an espresso before hitting the aisles. A seriously bomber selection of PacNW craft beer and wine, and a tiny but well-stocked cheese case featuring offerings from the likes of Washington’s excellent Black Sheep Creamery = one hell of a happy hour.

For a national directory of food co-ops, click here.

[Photo credits: peppers, Laurel Miller; bread, Flickr user farlane; apples, Flickr user Shaw Girl; espresso, Flickr user Nick J Webb]

New British beer is first to contain Viagra, commemorates Royal Wedding

British beer ViagraPrince William may be losing his hair, but it seems a bit presumptuous to assume that he’s lost his mojo, as well. But that won’t stop Scottish craft brewer BrewDog from releasing Royal Virility Performance on April 29th. The world’s first beer to be enhanced with Viagra, the 7.5-percent ABV India Pale Ale also contains purported natural aphrodisiacs Horny Goat Weed and chocolate, as well as “a healthy dose of sarcasm.”

The beer was specially created to honor the upcoming Royal Wedding, and features a label with the words, “Arise Prince Willy,” and “Celebrate Big Willy Style.” BrewDog has sent several bottles to Prince William for the wedding night (no comment yet from the Royal Family, but one senses the brewery should perhaps have targeted Prince Charles, who is in a more appropriate age demographic).

Just 1,000 bottles of the ale, which retails for £10 a pop, will be produced for the time being (available here; one bottle limit per customer), although production will continue if it’s a uh, big success. All proceeds go to the charity Centrepoint, which Wills supports. According to James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, says, “As the bottle says, this is about consummation, not commemoration.”

BrewDog claims that consuming three bottles is equivalent to taking one Viagra. No comment on how sexually attractive you’ll be with that beer gut.

Real Ale–the way beer ought to be

A trip to the pub is a quintessentially British experience, and if you’re a beer snob like me, you’ll insist on drinking real ale. The term “real ale” is reserved for beer that’s brewed using traditional ingredients and secondary fermentation.

“Traditional ingredients” means there are no artificial clarificants, preservatives, or other additives. “Secondary fermentation” means the yeast is still alive in the cask, so that fermentation continues, providing a fuller, fresher taste. Don’t worry about getting the microscopic little guys in your glass, because the yeast settles to the bottom and never comes out of the tap. Because they’re still fermenting in the cask, such beers are often called “cask conditioned” or simply “cask” ales.

The British take their beer so seriously that they have a full-time lobbying organization to ensure real ales don’t disappear under the onslaught of tasteless lagers. The Campaign for Real Ale is a national organization that promotes the brewing, selling, and drinking of real ales. They support traditional pubs too, on the basis that they’re an important aspect of British culture and need to be preserved in the days of theme pubs, big chains, and plasma screen televisions.

One of CAMRA’s campaigns is for an honest pour. A pint glass is only a full pint if the contents come to the bottom of the lip. While this makes it a little hard to carry back to the table without sloshing it on the ground, you will be getting what you paid for. Some people take a sip before leaving the bar, but a real Englishman can carry a three or four pints at the same time through a crowded pub without spilling a drop. Legally, up to 5 percent of the glass can be head, so don’t threaten to sue if you see a bit of white at the top.

CAMRA sponsors real ale festivals across the U.K. These can be a great way to sample lots of different styles. Their website has an up-to-date calendar.

While constant vigilance is the price of good drinking, traditional brewing is actually enjoying a heyday. There are more than 600 breweries in the U.K. brewing an estimated 2,500 ales. Many of these are small, local operations that only distribute their product to a few nearby pubs as a guest ale. Others have national distribution.

Another important organization is Cask Marque, a body that reviews how pubs serve their cask ales, rating them on variety, serving temperature, and overall quality. Those that get high marks are awarded a Cask Marque sticker on their window, shown here. You can rest assured that within there are quality ales served the proper way.

If you’re headed to England, Scotland, or Wales, the folks over at Real Ale Pubs have done your homework for you and have made an extensive list of pubs serving a variety of real ales. If the article I did on gastropubs whet your appetite, then check out the site Dining Pubs, which lists not only gastropubs, but pubs that serve more traditional yet still excellent fare.