Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What's the Buzz? Albany Craft Beer Festival 2017

A: The buzz is me and hundreds of other beer nerds on a recent Saturday afternoon at the Washington Avenue Armory attending the 2017 Albany Craft Beer Festival.
Once you're in you're in
So much beer, so little time. The Festival was only running from 100 to 400 pm on April 22, so CBM and I showed up on time ready to explore. And drink. She knows everything about beer, a real superhero in her own right, with almost 600 beers tasted on Untappd. I love my beer buddies, more with every beer, but I digress.
Not overcrowded, a casual hairy crowd of beer lovers
I wish we had planned ahead - I didn't know where to start - a few breweries we recognized but many we did not. A few ciders, lots of IPAs and double IPAs and bourbon aged beers, as well as sours, gose, scotch ales, and other delights, though not too many stouts. Many of the offerings are unavailable. Period. Except if you go to the festival or line up at the beverage store when there's a new release. And since there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the arrangement of the space it was hard to find anything anyway. Drinking beer didn't help.
DD's get to drink excellent coffee from Stacks
And the offerings were not only heady, profound, unusual and intoxicating, they were a made for mindful consumption because, in addition, they were mostly highly alcoholic. We started with the Gogo's Shiso from Nine Pin, a light, dry cider developed in collaboration with City Beer Hall, laced with Asian mandarin, fresh shiso, and Matcha Tea from Short and Stout. That was lunch.
Gogo Shiso translates into "delicious"
The names were a hoot. Of course, being on the dating shit list for too long now, I had to try the C.H. Evans Handsome GuyPA (7.4% alkeehall).  It was handsome, hoppy, and shiny like some frog I may have to kiss to get my prince. 
Someday my prince will come
Finback (Ridgewood, NY) had Between the Sheets Dead Stout (9.5%) - it was a revelation, like tasting something amazing for the very first time, aged in bourbon barrels, it made my eyes open up and my brain say howdy, like the walking dead anyway, and I'm usually busy taking those guys out so it was interesting to feel for a moment what they feel like for a change, but again, I digress. This was a beautiful American double/imperial stout. 
The music was loud so I didn't feel like the walking dead for long
Gun Hill (Bronx, NY) was in on the barrel-aged thing as well, and their Void of Light (8.1%) was a stout for the stout at heart - cocoa, coconut, marshmallows, thick, and a subtle smokiness that always makes me happy. 

My favorite: the Schmaltz Brewing Company's Jewbelation '13, aged four years, 17 hops, 17 malts, and 17% alcohol. That little 3-oz glass suddenly made me feel all silly inside. Time to quit.
Friendly, knowledgeable brewers abound
Wait one more. Red Ale from Artisinal Brew Works (Saratoga Springs, NY). Always wonderful.
Proud of their work!
OK yeah yeah it was a $65 ticket to get in, but worth every nickel and then some. It kept the crowd serious, and kept the cheap zombies and even cheaper vampires away. It was, bar none (pun intended) the BEST beer event I've ever attended.
CBM and her little beer glass
And Zena, Goddess of Fire, was in need of quenching.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Charmed, I'm Sure: Scarboroughs Restaurant

Yep, another Friday, another tavern. A long busy week at work, head down, in bed late, up early, everything's good until someone ticks you off, you put on your cape and tights and run around trying to save the world then it's back to the mundane of cat litter and deer eating your tulips and really, how long has it been 3:00 o'clock???????????  Grrrrrrrrrrrr.  Traffic isn't moving, then someone cuts me off. Why is it that spring brings out the worst in drivers???
Large front patio 
Finally I arrive and find me a nice hard bar stool to set my bony arse and it's time to hang and chill with my good friend Stretch. Scarborough's Restaurant and Tavern, located just off Route 7 in Latham on the north side of the Albany International Airport, is almost charming, a word I don't use very often because it can sound snarky, but honestly, it's charming. There's a large patio out front with a view of the parking lot but you are actually surrounded by trees - very nice. Half of this large, wood frame building is a renovated home with party rooms you can reserve for free, and just inside there's a small bar area with a modest sized dining room off to the right with lots of booths. Business picks up as evening approaches, so be warned. The decor is homey, woodsy, dark, intimate and relatively quiet. 
Party rooms available - very homey
But for now, it's happy hour (4-7 p.m., weekdays). I got me a Brown's Brewery Vienna Lager for just $3/pint - sweet, clean, not too bubbly, just like me. The house chardonnay ($4/happy hour), Nathanson Creek, was a bit off, so instead Stretch went for the Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc ($7). The wine menu isn't much to rave about but there are a few good beers on tap, nothing fancy, as well as a appetizer specials ($5/each) - very budget friendly.
Attractive bar 
And the food hardly needs to be described if you think "tavern": predictable, nothing terribly creative, dynamic, exotic, themed, experimental, or high-end, but there are a few tasty spins and reaches worth exploring, and the food is pretty darn good. Fried mozz sticks, spinach salad, tasty burgers, some specialty sandwiches, and a few dinners - something for everyone, including gluten free pasta on request. Last week we just ordered apps. I had the wings (half order $6) - these were very tender, not crispy at all, nice sauce - lightly spicy, rich blue cheese dipping sauce, fresh celery sticks and totally carrot free (harumph). 

Good wings, could be crispier, carrot free
Stretch had the Mango Pork Nachos ($11) - light crispy fresh corn chips buried in smoky pulled pork and topped with melted real cheddar, a few diced veg like corn and red onions, and chunks of cold mango. It was NOT attractive, but tasty, though impossible to eat and be dainty. The corn chips couldn't handle the load on top, they just broke off onto the plate off the fork and onto the counter and my lap and the floor. Shoveling it into my mouth worked. There was enough here to feed two hungry girls for sure, even with drinkie poos. 
The Mango Pork Nachos were not attractive, but it was very tasty and there was plenty to share
An older crowd with money to spend, I think Scarboroughs can up the ante as far as the menu is concerned, but I'm not complaining - reliable, affordable, properly prepared.  As always, the venue and good service go a long way toward ending the work week right. 

Zena, Goddess of Fire
Charmed, I'm sure