Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Best of Oh Nine: Booze

December 30th, 2009 · 18 Comments


Being anchored to headquarters and relatively penniless meant that the Microkhan clan engaged in much low-brow imbibing throughout 2009. (Think Ballantine in the 22-ounce bottle, and some occasional Jim Beam.) But we’re of the mind that life isn’t worth living with somewhat alcoholic splurging, a mindset that led us to encounter a number of fine beers, wines, and liquors over the past twelve months. Here’s what we wish we could have again and again, bank account and liver wiling:

Southern Tier Unearthly The hoppiest ale we’ve ever quaffed, and a buzz-inducing beast at 11 percent ABV. Like liquid pine mixed with rose petals and Beefeater gin. How we wish it cost less than $9 a bottle, though perhaps that’s for the best.

Laphroaig 18 Big thanks to the compadre who let us sample a dram from his bottle of this magical Scottish elixir. Believe us when we say this tastes like having your face shoved into a clump of wet grass—we mean that as a compliment.

Ommegang Abbey Ale The red label never fails. This is the beer that makes us dream of visiting the Ommegang brewery one of these days. We picture it as the adult version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

The Craic A 2008 Christmas gift that we held on to for a special occasion. Glad we did—black jam in a bottle, and an alcohol-soaked doozy at 15.4 percent ABV. If we ever hit Powerball, we’re buying this stuff by the case.

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Purists may frown on the brewery’s use of hop extract in lieu of real hops, but we ain’t purists. At a mere $4 per bottle, this was our go-to celebration beer for the entire summer—just writing about it makes us want one, and it’s 10:03 in the morning.

Aventinus The purple label and regal mascot sucked us in; the rich taste and 8.2 percent ABV made us stay. And stay. And stay.

Stone Imperial Russian Stout Until we can afford Kate the Great, this will have to do. And we’re perfectly okay with this booze-saturated mud in a goblet for the foreseeable future.

Crown Royal No, not a great whiskey by any stretch. But we started drinking this for semi-special occasions upon learning that it was a favorite of late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell, and it’s stared to grow on us. Plus, hey, free velvet bag.

Alas, we couldn’t find any airag in New York this year. But we’ll keep trying in 2010.

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • Captured Shadow

    I like the Hop Stoopid too, being on a budget. The Terminal Gravity IPA and the Deschutes Brewery Inversion IPA are just a little better than the Lagunitas IPA but might not be available in your area.

    My grandfather was a big fan of Crown Royal so I like to drink it for nostalgic reasons plus it is consistent and affordable.
    I tried the Tanqueray Rangpur and found it great for G&Ts, but I like lime. Even fakey lime flavor.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Can’t drink G&T’s, alas. That was my mom’s drink when I was growing up, and I have vivid memories of accidentally trying the Canada Dry tonic water once as a grade schooler. (I thought it was club soda.) Suffice to say, my palate wasn’t ready for the taste of quinine.

    I’ll keep an eye peeled for those IPAs. I like things super-hoppy–the more it tastes like pine-tree air freshener, the better.

  • minderbender

    You’ve really got to try Troeg’s Nugget Nectar. Just look at the label and ask yourself, “Is it at all plausible that this doesn’t seriously kick ass?”

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Wow, sold. Love that brewery–was at a wedding in York a few months back and tried a few Troegs (though not the Nugget Nectar). Next time I’m at the beer store downtown, I’m picking up a six-pack on your rec–thanks for making it.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Also, I love this label of theirs (though the beer itself wasn’t quite my style):

    http://www.simplybeer.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/img_7438.jpg

  • minderbender

    Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Troegenator either. But here’s the big question – what about Russian River? Did you manage to get your hands on any of their brews, as you hoped?

    If so, is Pliny the Elder the dog that didn’t bark?

  • minderbender

    Also, I didn’t know they still brewed Ballantine. We read about it in law school because of a legal dispute when the brand was sold at some point. The label is more interesting than you would expect.

  • eraserhead

    *sigh* Laphroig. I wish I could buy *that* by the case. My host in Bath let me try some, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Aren’t they the distiller that gives you a piece of their island when you buy a bottle? How’s that work?

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @minderbender: Sorry to report that I didn’t make it up to the Russian River brewery during my time in Palo Alto. I generally just hung out on campus most nights, save for one jaunt northward to San Francisco for a meal. Still angling for Pliny…

    Yeah, Ballantine is now brewed by Miller, albeit under the name “Falstaff Brewing Company” (perhaps due to legal complications stemming from the tussle you learned about in law school). It’s decent–a cut above the other sub-$2 macrobrews available at the corner bodega. But I def. wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

    @eraserhead: Somewhere in my piles and piles of stuff, I have a certificate attesting to my ownership of one square foot of the island of Islay. The fine print states that the bearer of the certificate automatically agrees to lease that land back to the Laphroaig distillery, for a rent of one dram of Scotch whisky per year. The catch? You gotta go there in person to collect. And the island is mighty, mighty remote:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Islay.svg

  • Jordan

    @Brendan

    Try making your own tonic water instead:

    http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2008/how-to-make-your-own-tonic-water/

    It’s so good that you almost don’t need any gin to go with it.

    With that said, here are my favorites over the last year:

    Aviation Gin: made by the fine people at House Spirits, it’s more of a Dutch-style gin than the usual London Dry style. Much more citrus flavor and overall less acerbic than you might expect. Probably my favorite spirit of all time.

    Boca Loca Cachaça: I just discovered cachaça in the last month and it’s pretty amazing, especially when this particular brand sells for about $20 a bottle. It’s similar to rum in as much as it’s made from sugar cane, but cachaça uses fresh cane juice and carries more of that flavor through to the spirit. The caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil that utilizes this spirit, is now deemed so important that the recipe has been written into law.

    In terms of cocktails, the Bridgeport Bramble is hands down my favorite:

    http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2007/mixology-monday-the-bramble/

    Especially when it’s made with Clear Creek Distillery’s blackberry liqueur. God I love living in a city that makes its own booze.

    And if you like scotch, I hear that Clear Creek’s Oregon Single Malt is pretty darn good (they actually get the peated barley from Scotland). Certainly sells out quickly enough whenever they release a new batch.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: I was all set to lament the unavailability of your recommended hooch here in NYC, but it turns out one of my favorite liquor stores has Aviation Gin on special–$25.99 a bottle. I’ve got a gin-loving uncle swinging through town next month, so I’ll give it a try. While I doubt I’ll ever enjoy the taste of tonic water, I do enjoy the occasional Gibson (due to early exposure to a certain John Cheever story in which the cocktail figures prominently).

  • Jordan

    @Brendan

    If you do, here’s my favorite cocktail to make with Aviation gin:

    1.5 oz Aviation gin
    0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
    0.25 oz simple syrup
    0.25 oz ginger syrup

    Shake all with ice, strain.

    You will not be disappointed. The ginger syrup gives it a wonderful kick without any one ingredient overwhelming the others.

  • Brian Moore

    <– loves Ommegang Abbey Ale.

    The 3 Philosophers Ommegang is wonderful as well.

    If you like anything by Ommegang, I highly recommend Rochefort Trappist 10. The 6 and 8 are good, too, but the 10 is perfect.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Brian Moore: Rochefort 10! One of my favorite beers ever. Had it twice, on successive nights in Copenhagen. Some of my fondest drinking memories of all time. Can’t seem to find it here in the U.S., tho. But I’ll keep looking.

    I actually got a bottle of 3 Philosophers for Xmas. May pop it tonight in honor of Hogmanay.

  • Brian Moore

    Nice! I’ve found it at a couple of places here in Cleveland, which was surprising; I thought it would harder to find. There’s a store about a mile away that sells it, and tons of other Belgian stuff.

  • Tim F

    Many thanks for the link to my Laphroaig scribblings – glad you like it as much as I do. I wasn’t aware of Microkhan before, but will definitely drop back in.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Tim F: Thanks for the great write-up on my favorite Scotch of ’09. How I wish I could afford to make Laphroaig my daily tipple, but I’m sadly on an Old Grandad budget.

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