Xingu: The Non-Dark Dark Beer


A light, refreshing, dark beer. Wait. What?

Has anyone else out there had this? I had this a few weeks ago at Fogo de Chao. I had heard about this from a friend of mine, but had forgotten all about it until I asked about the beer list. I only had the one, and I don’t think I can give it a proper review since I was also gorging myself on all-you-can-eat meat at the time, but it was really quite good.

Even though it’s a dark beer (and I mean dark like a porter), it’s not heavy at all. In fact, it was quite light, almost like an amber lager. My immediate reaction was, “This is very refreshing.” I’d love to get a six pack, but I have yet to see it in any liquor store anywhere. Maybe I’m missing something … But if you find it by you, pick it up and let me know what you think. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


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Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale


Where to begin … ?

First off, it’s been a while. I’ve mainly been posting directly on Twitter (@drinkaesthetic) since it’s usually more conducive to sharing immediately. But, we’re back now with things to share.

Full disclosure – I already posted this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. But, here’s the official blog post.

This is something that I saw at the liquor store while I was buying four (yes, FOUR) bottles of Van Winkle Special Reserve. It looked interesting, mainly cause of the pink bottle. I was expecting it to be a fruit-flavored beer, like strawberry or something like that, so I was intrigued when I saw it was actually a bacon and maple-flavored ale. Bacon, good. Maple, GREAT. So, I figured, what the hell? Let’s give it a whirl.

Let’s start with the, what I suspect is, fairly obvious. This is not an everyday drinking kind of beer. This is a novelty. Something that’s fun to taste once in a while, but not something that I think anyone should ever be buying in bulk. If you feel that way, more power to you. The smell is intense. I would actually say that it’s almost whiskey-like. The bacon notes really overpower the maple, so you get a strong smoky smell to the beer itself.

The initial taste is no different. The smoky bacon taste hits you immediately. The very slight bitterness of the hops comes through in the middle, and the finish is a combination of smoky and sweet. The maple really shines at the end, but doesn’t really hold all the way through.

This is a tough one to critique, so I think you have to look at it two ways. First, as just a beer. As just a beer, I don’t actually think it’s all that great. It’s an … interesting combination of flavors. You have smoky, bitter, and sweet, all wrapped up in one single beer. It’s intense and slightly odd. Now, as a novelty beer? It’s actually quite good. I think you definitely get what it advertises. You get an ale that is flavored with bacon and maple. To be honest, this beer would probably work best at brunch with a plate of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. But, if you see it, give it a try. I think it’s worth trying at least once.

Quick Summary:
Name: Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale
Local Price: ~$14 for a 750ml bottle
Notes: Smoky nose and flavor. The bitterness of the ale comes through, and finishes with a very subtle hint of sweetness from the maple.
Drinkability: A once in a while, novelty, share-with-your-friends kind of beer. Or for breakfast.
Grade: 2/4

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Filed under Ale, Bacon Maple Ale, Beer, Rogue

Sake Bloody Mary: Hazel’s


All bars and restaurants should serve a sidecar as good as Surly.

Had a Bloody Mary made with sake at Hazel’s Northeast in Minneapolis over the weekend.

I really enjoyed the spice. Peppery with a nice amount of celery salt. That said, I didn’t get much of the sake flavor. The Bloody Mary mix, which was quite delicious, overpowered it.

I’d be interested in making this at home with less mix and more sake. That said, it was still a tasty Bloody Mary. Bonus: a sidecar of Surly.

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NYC 2012: Narandzast Manhattan at Saro

Narandzast Manhattan

Combine bourbon with sweetness and an ever-so-slight hint of smokiness, and you get this.

During our trip to NYC, we ate at a wonderful restaurant called Saro. And of course, no out-to-eat dinner is complete without a cocktail. Of course, when I see the words “bourbon” and “vermouth” it takes very little convincing for me to order whatever drink those two ingredients are in.

It’s called a Narandzast Manhattan, and it’s delicious. Imagine a traditional Manhattan (this one is made with Knob Creek), but instead of bitters, charred orange preserve. It provides the drink with a wonderful sweetness that doesn’t get too overpowering due to the very subtle smokiness. That hint of smoke helps to cut through what would otherwise be a drink that is too sweet.

The end result was a well-deserved (we had walked about 12 miles during the day), well-thought, and well-crafted cocktail.

Glasses up.

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Filed under Knob Creek, Manhattan, NYC2012, Saro

NYC 2012: Brooklyn Lager at MSG


Keeping things in NY with a beer from across the river, at Madison Square Garden.

Madison Square Garden is billed as The World’s Most Famous Arena. It’d be tough to argue that. And, with massive renovations in progress, it’s slowly crawling its way from the title of World’s Most Uncomfortable Arena. With the new balcony areas, there were plenty of beer options. I went with a Brooklyn Lager from the Brooklyn Brewery (which we visited during our trip but will have to wait for another post).

Brooklyn Lager is a beautiful caramel-colored lager. It has a very nice balance of hops and malt. The bitterness doesn’t overpower the finish, which I think is important in well-crafted lagers. The body is slightly floral and fruity, and the kick at the end rounds it out nicely. I don’t find it quite as aggressive as Sam Adam’s, which makes the Brooklyn Lager, in my book, a bit more drinkable. It really went well with the pretzel stick that came with the beer (nice touch, MSG). Of course, as with most lagers, I find it tough to drink more than two or three of them.

But, it’s a really nice beer to sip on while watching the game. For those interested, the Knicks beat the Bulls in overtime. Boo.

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Filed under Beer, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Lager, NYC2012

NYC 2012: Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon

Van Winkle Special Reserve

Good thing we asked about this, because they were almost out of it.

This will be the first in a brief series of quick posts about our recent trip to New York City – they will not be in chronological order. Briefly, I lived there for about a year about seven years ago and I like to try and go back once a year. And, as happens with all of the vacations my wife and I take, it usually centers around food and drinks. For more on the former during our trip, visit Dish Aesthetic in the coming days.

One evening before dinner we decided to find a place to stop near the restaurant for a quick drink. We jumped on Yelp and searched for bars. The first one on the list was The Whiskey Ward. I was sold. So, our little vacation group (me, my wife, my parents, and my wife’s parents) decided to go. It’s a cool, unpretentious bar that has a great list of whiskeys and beers at very reasonable NYC prices.

My father-in-law was recently in Kentucky and mentioned a desire to find Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. And, it just so happened that The Whiskey Ward had one bottle of the Van Winkle Special Reserve and one bottle of the Pappy Van Winkle 15-year left. The bartender, Sandee (she knows her stuff, so if you have a chance, pick her brain), actually recommended the Van Winkle Special Reserve, which is a 12-year aged Kentucky straight bourbon, over the Pappy Van Winkle 15-year. And while we didn’t try the 15-year, we were not disappointed with the 12-year.

It has a very rich color, darker than most 12-year bourbons I’ve seen. The nose is sweet, with deep vanilla and caramel, and a very nice hint of cherry. The initial taste was incredible. I was worried that the cherry and sweetness would overpower it, but it is extremely well balanced. The cherry hits first, followed by the vanilla, then caramel, and then the oak-y, earthiness of barrels. And, each of those flavors works in harmony to create an impeccable bourbon. The only other thing to say is that it’s a  slightly heavier whiskey. It’s something that I think should be enjoyed slowly and with good company. But it’s an incredibly smooth and worthwhile drink, and we were lucky enough to find it along our travels.

Quick Summary:
Name: Van Winkle Special Reserve
Aged: 12 years
Notes: Cherry to start, with vanilla and caramel following. Oak and earthiness provide balance along the finish. Warms as it goes down, not upon initial taste.
Drinkability: Slightly heavier, but great balance makes this one something to really take time to savor.
Grade: 4/4

Glasses up.

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Filed under Bourbon, NYC2012, Van Winkle Special Reserve

Johnnie Walker Black Label


This was a pretty nice proper introduction into the world of blended Scotch.

As mentioned in my previous post about House of Stuart, I have never really been a fan of blended Scotches. That is to say, I’ve had a few sips here and there, but never came away impressed. So, as part of my growth as a whiskey drinker, I decided to dedicate myself and give a blended Scotch a thorough opportunity. While perusing the liquor store I went ahead and picked up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label, which a blend of 40 whiskies (give or take), each of which is aged at least 12 years.

I’m happy to report that it was not a disaster. Not even close, which is a good thing. The initial taste is almost sweet. I didn’t quite pick up the fruity notes that the box mentioned, but I definitely caught a subtle hint of sweetness. Not quite vanilla or caramel, but just a general sweetness. However, the follow-up notes are the ones that really stand out. The sweetness gives way to a mildly peaty and smoky body. Of course it’s nowhere near the level of Lagavulin, but it’s enough to mix very nicely with the initial sweetness. The finish is pretty clean, although I did pick up on a little bit of a medicinal note right at the end. The burn is very nice, as it’s not overpowering and lingers just long enough to take the next sip.

So, overall, I was impressed. This is something that I can see myself drinking. I would be interested to see how it does with a bit of warm water. But most importantly, it reaffirmed my interest into exploring the world of blended Scotch. Well played, Black Label. Well played.

Quick Summary:
Name: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Aged: At least 12 years
Local Price: Approximately $40
Notes: Initial sweetness, albeit generic. Almost nothing in the way of floral hints. Subdued peat and smoke giving way to a mostly clean finish.
Drinkability: I can see drinking this almost anytime, if I am not in the mood for a single malt.
Grade: 3/4

Glasses up.

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Filed under Black Label, Johnnie Walker, Scotch, Scotch Blend

House of Stuart, Scotch blend

House of Stuart

In the House ... of Stuart. Okay. Yeah. I'm lame.

“A Blend of Highland and Lowland, Islay and Speyside Whiskies Aged for Thirty-Six Months.” The proof is on the bottle. Or something like that.

Before I get into this summary review, a disclaimer: I did not purchase this bottle. Rather, this is a bottle that belonged to my wife’s grandfather, who passed a few years ago. Since then, it’s been sitting, partially full, inside his house waiting, apparently, for me to drink. How long it’s been sitting there? I have no idea. But, it showed up at our house a couple of days ago from my mother-in-law who saw it and thought of me. And who am I to argue with a bottle of Scotch, however old it may be.

Okay. So, for the price – which I researched to be about $15 or so – House of Stuart is surprisingly good. And, when you factor in that it’s been open and partially full for at least a few years, it still holds up very well. Of course, let’s be honest. This will not compare to Johnny Walker or Naked Grouse. But, for what it is, it’s actually pretty good.

Because it’s a blend – and full disclaimer, I’m not a huge fan of Scotch blends – it doesn’t have that one prominent attribute. And in the case of a “low end” Scotch blend, I consider that a good thing. It has hints of the big players of flavor notes – smoke, peat, earth, sweet, leather. The earthiness, sweetness, and leather are the ones that come through the most. However, I wanted to try something, and after adding a few drops of room-temperature water, it lightened up considerably and the sweetness really took center stage.

So, this is by no means bad. In fact, I was shocked by how smooth it was and that it didn’t overpower me with the signs of oxidation. So while I can’t call this a “top contender,” it definitely was a pleasant surprise and further proof that just because something is “cheap” doesn’t mean that it can’t be good.

Quick Summary:
Name: House of Stuart, Scotch blend
Aged: 36 months
Local Price: Approximately $15
Notes: Slightly smoky, sweet, and leathery. Adding a few drops of water bring out the sweetness.
Drinkability: I imagine this working best in the winter, surrounded by friends and family.
Grade: 2.5/4*

* I feel I have to grade this with a combination of what-it-is and put it on a level playing field with the Lagavulins, Johnnie Walkers, etc.

Glasses up.

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Filed under House of Stuart, QuickSummary, Scotch, Scotch Blend

Duff Beer

All right brain, you don't like me, and I don't like you. But let's just get me through this, and I can get back to killing you with beer.

Okay, so really quickly. I’ve been a Simpsons fan for as long as I can remember. Of course, it’s not nearly as good as it used to be. Oh, and I would argue with anyone who says that season five is not their best season ever.

But anyway, I saw this on Uncrate, and while I have my doubts about whether or not it’s actually any good, I feel I have to try it.

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Sea Change Cocktails … and a Scotch

We had dinner at Sea Change this weekend. And of course, that gave me a chance to try two cocktails, and a Scotch that I had never had before.


Why hadn't I thought of using dill?

The first was something called a fitz-tini. It combines Death’s Door gin, a Wisconsin gin, sherry, and get this … dill. The juniper, fennel flavor of the gin and the dry flavor of the sherry – which takes the place of vermouth here – are very balanced, but the introduction of the dill to the flavor palate makes this drink special. It adds a not-quite-citrus bite to the drink that I really appreciated.


An elevated margarita.

Next, a preserved lemon margarita, served on the rocks. This drink works really well for a couple of reasons – first, the margarita mixture that Sea Change uses isn’t overpoweringly sweet. It’s definitely sweet, but not in a knock-your-socks off kind of way. And second, the preserved lemon. By adding the preserved lemon – which I was told was preserved for a couple of weeks to enhance the flavor – the drink gets the necessary citrus, but also a briny, sort-of-spoiled-but-it’s-not flavor. Again, it’s one of those very unique additions of flavor that elevate the drink from something that you get at a chain restaurant, and one that you expect from a place like Sea Change.


Very light. Very floral.

Finally, a Scotch. Specifically Auchentoshan Classic. Auchentoshan is a triple distilled lowland single malt Scotch. The triple distillation refines the Scotch quite a bit and imparts a very light, floral, and fruity flavor profile. Even the color is very light. The flowers and fruit notes were very prominent. However, even with the triple distillation, it had a little bite to it towards the tail end that was almost lemony in nature. While it won’t change my preference for the Islay Scotches, Auchentoshan Classic is a very good Scotch in its own right.

Glasses up.


Filed under Auchesntoshan, Cocktail, Death's Door Gin, Scotch