Sunday, January 16, 2011


In 1995 I moved to Boulder, Colorado. It was an amazing chapter in my life. During a point of massive turmoil in my life, I found serenity. It must've been the fresh mountain air.

I moved out there on the premise that I would stay with a very good friend of mine from my high school days, Andrea, and her boyfriend, Rob. The day that I got there, I visited Rob at his workplace, Jiffy Lube on 30th street. It just so happened that they were hiring. To make a long story short, I was hired on the spot. Amongst the shenanigans, debauchery, hilarity and drunken stupors, I was starting to see why we all were there. I'd befriended a group of guys and gals that were trying to escape something in their past and somehow we all ended up at Jiffy Lube.

After a few months, Andrea and Rob and I went separate ways. Rob was fired from Jiffy Lube. My parents finalized their divorce. My apartment was broken in to. My parked car was severely damaged in a hit and run. At a gig up in Ft. Collins, my guitar was knocked over and broken. My kitten, Beuford, ripped through my window screen and ran away. Two of my closest friends, Zena and Peter, lived hours away. I was alone and it was rough. Yet, whenever I look back on my time in Colorado, I say it was the best time of my life.

I learned so much about myself as well as others around me. I like to call it a social awakening. I fell in love with the mountains. I was fascinated about the weather patterns in Boulder. I was amazed that it could snow 16 inches over night and the next day would 65 degrees and sunny. I was delighted to find out that Spring and Fall mimicked New England. Though I didn't have that much contact with my family, I had a family of friends of my own.

Eventually, I had to move home. I had to leave my Hell Hole that I called my own Private Heaven. I was sad. I promised myself that someday I would return. I would be ready to soak it all in again.

With that dream still in the forefront of my mind, I still call Boulder my "home". Now that I own a wine shop with my fiancee, I'm selling some products made in my "home state," Colorado. From the first sip I'm transported back to Boulder, and all those memories come flooding back. I can smell the mountain air and hear my friend's laughter and I may even be able to smell some axle grease. The whiskey I found today is just one example of what keeps my dream alive.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey 
Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey is delicious. It's bottled at 94 proof. If you add a cube of ice, it drinks like an 80 proof. I found it at a little shop down in NYC called Bottle Rocket. The salesman was a little iffy describing the whiskey. So I decided to try it. I'm weird like that. I couldn't wait to get home to try it. Thank God that it came with a galvanized steel shot glass on the top of the bottle. I chose to crack the bottle on the train ride back to Westport. It's rich, complex, edgy and robust. If your looking for that sour mash sweetness, you've come to the wrong place. Colorado Whisky is a hell of a lot different than any domestic whiskey I've ever had. I dig it. This, in my opinion, would be the ultimate ingredient for a Manhattan.

I highly doubt that at this point in time that this is avavliable in Connecticut. So, just like High West Whiskey in Utah, I will try my best to bring this beautiful spirit to our little Connecticut community.

Just like anything else that I write about, if you'd like to sample this beauty, just let me know the next time you are in the store. I might just have some left in my secret stash in the back room.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In with the old - Out with the new

I like old beer. I know that's a weird statement. It's true, though. I'm not talking about Bud, Coors or Corona here. I'm talking about real beer. The stuff YOU should be drinking as well. Not too long ago I had a customer come in and ask me to special order some beer for him. He asked for Rogue Brutal Bitter. It's a fantastic beer. We talked a little while about how we both love it and that we haven't seen it around in a long while. The next day, I ordered it from my supplier and it came in later on in the week. That's when I discovered why the customer and I haven't seen it in a long time. They changed the name of the beer! Rogue Brutal Bitter was now called Rogue Brutal IPA.

I'm always skeptical about label changes and/or product name changes. I was curious about the brew and wanted to open one to see if it was the same thing. I decided to wait until the customer popped in to taste it with him. About a week later, he came in and I gave him the news. I suggested we try it together to see if it is, in fact, the same beer. It wasn't. It wasn't even close to the Brutal Bitter we both knew and loved. It was hoppy and bold. It was a great beer, though. The Brutal Bitter that we talked of was soft and mellow with delicious malty overtones. Sorry Rogue. It's not the same beer. I contacted Rogue to find out about our old favorite. They insisted that it was the same exact recipe as it was back in the day.

After doing a little bit of research, I came to find out that it was in fact the same beer. The Brutal Bitter that we were drinking was old product in Connecticut. I guess the distributor did such a crappy job of selling the Bitter that it just sat in the warehouse to get a little "cellar time."

I believe that most people would balk at the idea of drinking old beer. In actuality, a lot of the beer you see in specialty shops can be aged. In fact, there are many beers on the market that are vintage dated. The flavors in a cellared beer mellow out with age. We're not talking about aging a beer for 30 years like a fine wine. It's just a year or two that can make a good beer better. Obviously, you don't want to cellar any beer that has an expiration date. One thing to help you decide, among many, to cellar a beer, would be the alcohol percentage. If it's around 8% abv and higher, you might be able to age it.

Every beer is different in the cellar. What would help you in the long run is to buy several bottles of the beer that you are going to cellar. Open one and make your age assessment and write down tasting notes. Then in a year, pop another bottle and compare note. If you start to get off flavors, it's time to drink 'em up.

I could probably write a novel on cellaring beer. Who would want to read that? It's boring. To sum up this post, old craft beer isn't necessarily bad craft beer. Drink what you want. Drink what you like. After all, you do have a mind of your own, don't ya?


To Mary or to Maria?

I don't quite agree with just having brunch on Sundays. It should be mandatory every day of the week. Maybe we can bypass Mondays. I'll allow that one day off from brunch.

My favorite thing about brunch isn't the eggs benedict. It's not the delicious breakfast sausages. It's not the hash browns or the Belgian waffles smothered in fresh fruit and whip cream either. It might be the applewood smoked strips of bacon. But it's not. The thing that I like about brunch is the Bloody Mary. Those of you who know me, know that I don't really care for the flavor of vodka except in my pasta sauce. What do I put in my Bloody Mary, you ask? Tequila. Yes, of course, tequila. Now it can't be a Bloody Mary. We would have to change the name to Bloody Maria. 

For those of you who have never had a Bloody Maria, stop whatever you are doing  and go out to your favorite watering hole and ask the bartender for one. You can finish reading this later. I'll wait.......




Ah! You're back! How was it? Delicious? Everything that you have ever hoped for in life? I thought so. 

Tequila adds a totally different dimension to the Bloody Mary. It adds more midrange flavors to your palate. It balances out the horseradish/pepper/tabasco spice. Tequila seems to act a bit like salt in a Bloody Maria. It enhances all the right flavors and puts a stranglehold on some of the more robust spicy flavors. In basic terms, it balances the whole damn thing out. I love it. I have found that the best tequila to use in you Bloody Maria would have to be a more full bodied and flavorful tequila. I typically use a reposado. Silvers end up tasting a bit like vodka in the Maria and you'll just be wasting money if you use an anejo. I like to use Corazon Reposado or Chinaco Reposado.  If I'm on a budget, I'll use Don Abraham Reposado. Don Abraham is one of the cheapest 100% blue agave tequilas on the market worth drinking. There are some cheaper tequilas out there. Thing is, I wouldn't even wash my feet with most of them.

So, next time you go out to brunch, I want you to just say "No" to that nasty cheap vodka bite in a Bloody Mary. I want you to remember what you learned here today and go for that delicious Bloody Maria. It will change your life.

On a side note, your server probably won't know what a Bloody Maria is. So, just ask them to give you a Bloody Mary with tequila instead of vodka. They'll look at you weird and maybe even cock an eyebrow. Don't mind them. They just haven't had the chance to read this blog yet.