Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lift a pint to salute Guinness's birthday

Arthur Guinness
Pssst. See that guy over there on the right? He's responsible for the Irish government's major income stream, something more important than ever now that the economic chaos that has roiled around the world has hit Ireland a rollicking good thwack.

Today is the 257th anniversary of the founding of the iconic Guinness Brewery at St. James's Gate in Dublin by that fella, a man by the name of Arthur Guinness. At one time, it was the largest brewery in the world.

Guinness leased the property for a term of up to 9,000 (no kidding) years at an annual rent of £45 per year. That means the lease will come up for renewal in the year 10,759 A.D. I suspect the rent will go up.

The adjacent Guinness Storehouse is Dublin's No. 1 tourist attraction. The converted brewing factory is a seven-story Guinness museum, the topmost of which is home to the Gravity Bar, where visitors can get a free pint of "the black stuff," as the dark Guinness stout is known.

Entrance to the original brewery

Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook
Go here to visit Notes On Napkins 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bon Appétit: New Columbia Co. brewery 'most impressive'

The magazine's top new brewery
Bon Appétit magazine usually is thought of more for its stories on food than drink, but it doesn't ignore beverages.

It just posted something called "The Year In Beer," and in it anointed a Columbia County brewery "2016's Most Impressive New Brewery."

Go here for the story.

Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook
Go here to visit Notes On Napkins 

Queensbury brewery's new owners name general manager

The new owners of a Queensbury brewery have hired a veteran of the local brewing scene to oversee the operation.

Bob Craven is the new general manager of Glens Falls Brewing Co. in Queensbury, created three years ago by the Davidson Brothers Brewing Co. of Glens Falls and now owned by Northern Eagle Beverages Inc. of Oneonta.

Go here for the full story.

Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook
Go here to visit Notes On Napkins 

Before New Year's Eve, check out 'Toasts & Crumbs'

We're just about at the big moment, that countdown when we usher in yet another New Year. And you, of course, would like to be the star of the show by offering the perfect toast.

The only problem: You don't know one. Luckily, I do. In fact, I have an entire website of them, called "Toasts & Crumbs." (The subtitle is, "When Words Fail You, Try These.")

A couple of examples:

"Always remember to forget
The troubles that pass away. 
But never forget to remember 
The blessings that come each day."


"May all your troubles
during the coming year 
be as short-lived
as your New Year's resolutions." 

Just go here for the full archive.

Brown's set to host annual 'Festival of Manliness'

The annual "Festival of Manliness," a fundraiser for the Pints for Prostates men's cancer program, is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, January 22, at Brown's Revolution Hall in Troy.

The schedule calls for a six-course, beer-paired wild game supper, as well as two pro football championship games on TV, and hand-rolled after dinner cigars.

Tickets, priced at $80 per person ($70 for Club Brown members), are available online or at the adjacent Brown's Taproom.

Brown's and Revolution Hall are located on River Street just north of the Green Island Bridge.

The menu:
Course 1 -– Creole Alligator Bites: breaded alligator with Cajun spice, deep fried and served with Creole dipping sauce

Course 2 –- Oatmeal Stout Venison Chili: traditional chili with venison and oatmeal stout, served with house-made cornbread

Course 3 -– Slider Duet:  kangaroo slider (smoked gouda, arugula, pickled onion, and chipotle aioli) and rabbit slider (havarti chive cheese, arugula and sun-dried tomato aioli) accompanied with parsnip and carrot truffle fries

Course 4 -– The SPO Trio: antelope, elk, and wild boar with garlic sausage in pretzel rolls with sautéed peppers and onions and accompanied with assorted mustards

Course 5 -– Bison Short Ribs: espresso balsamic braised short ribs atop creamy polenta
Course 6 -– Drunken Bourbon Bread Pudding

'Test Kitchen' series resuming at Lake Placid brewpub

Here's a food-and-drink tip for the new year. The Big Slide Brewery & Public House plans to continue its "Test Kitchen" food-and-drink series.

Beginning next Thursday and repeating on the first Thursday of each month, the brewpub, located at 5686 Cascade Road in Lake Placid, will offer a three-course prix fixe meal with beer pairings for $30 per person.

Big Slide opened last June on the main road into the village, with Stu Ruttan as general manager. Founder Christopher Ericson also is owner of the 20-year-old Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.

The facility has a hybrid 3.5/5 barrel brewhouse right in the center of its concrete-topped bar, and offers a dining room and a semi-open kitchen, as well as a separate fermentation space called The Funk Room, designed specifically for sour and wild-fermented beers such as Berliner Weisse, Gose, and lambic beers. And, in the middle of the bar is a wall of used whiskey and wine barrels in which beer is being aged.

Drinkable Cartoonery

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Experimental dry hopped beers at Helderberg Incubator

Helderberg Brewery has just released a series of dry hopped beers in collaboration with Stonewood Hops of Lagrangeville, Dutchess County.

Ron Spadafora, Stonewood’s owner-operator, is exploring different techniques for processing whole hop cones grown on his farm, according to the Helderberg Brewery Incubator, an arm of the Carey Institute for Global Good in the Helderberg Mountains community of Rensselaerville.

Spadafora "came to the incubator to compare his method with commercially-processed hops. Working with brewer Greg Hostash, Ron set up four different dry hop tests, comparing two varieties of hops. Flights of the resulting beers were served in [our] tap room [on December 9] and will continue to be available for customers to test and give feedback."

Spadafora is the second participant in the brewery incubator. The first, Damian Wolos, developed a Mexican lager recipe using New York-grown ingredients earlier this year.

'Beer and Shmear' continuing at Shmaltz Brewing

If you're going to be looking for a quick bite-and-brew in January, consider Shmaltz Brewing Company's "Beer and Shmear" series it is carrying over from 2016.

Each Sunday at noon beginning on New Year's Day, the oh-so-Jewish facility will be offering a sampling of five of its He'brew brand beers in its tasting room, plus a traditional bagel and cream cheese to go along with it.

Shmaltz isn't unique in promoting the beer-and-bagels concept. Actually, it's quite popular around the country. A good example can be found in this pairing guide from Draft magazine.

Shmaltz is located at 6 Fairchild Square in Clifton Park. Phone: 406-5430.

Tasting: Usquaebach 15 Year Old Blended Malt Scotch

Usquaebach 15 Year Old Blended Malt Scotch is an excellent representative of the Scottish distiller's portfolio.

Go to Dowd's Tasting Notes for a full review.

Tasting: Stolen Smoked Rum

This is an unusual Trinidadian rum from a New Zealand company that is becoming known for its offbeat marketing.

Go to Dowd's Tasting Notes for a full review.

Are you ready for the Big Night?

New Year's Eve is nearly upon us. Did you view my recent "15 Days of Holiday Drinks" series published just before Christmas? If not, here are links to each of the recipes in enough time for you to shop for any ingredients not in your home collection or, for the professional bartenders and pub owners among you, in time to make one of these your special of the night.

Happy New Year!

Celebri-Quote: George Strait

Country music superstar George Strait discussed his tequila connections in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Q:  What is your drink of choice these days?

A: Water. I try to drink as much water as I can. And when I run out of water, I drink Codigo Tequila.

Q: You are, of course, part owner of Codigo Tequila. Has the spirit always been a favorite?

A: Eight, nine years ago I started going to Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California, Mexico, and spending more and more time there. Met some great friends there and they introduced me to this tequila that was never sold to the public. I drank a little bit of tequila, but, when I did, it would go into a shot. And I tried to get the taste out of my mouth as fast as I could with some lime and salt. [Codigo] was like a new thing for me. A drink that wasn’t like the typical tequila that I’ve ever tasted. It’s definitely my drink of choice now. That’s for sure.

Q: How do you like your tequila?

A: I’m not a big Margarita guy. They’re a little sweet for my taste. Palomas are great. I sometimes drink those. But my favorite way is just on the rocks straight. And my preference is añejo.

Q: What else do you like to drink?

A:  I like Jack Daniel’s. I like wine.

Q: Do you like alcohol with food?

A: I think that during dinner, wine is great. After dinner, tequila is great. Before dinner, tequila is great.
Go here for my archive of Celebri-Quotes On Drinking.

Utah's High West is magazine's 'Distillery of the Year'

And, the winnah is ... !
Sometimes, I know, I protest too much. I often disparage "best of" lists on the simple basis that it is utterly impossible to accurately delineate with any certainty which food, beverages, etc., are the "best" in a world in which there are so very many possibilities.

Nevertheless, so many readers enjoy such listings that I inevitably give in and write about them. Here is the latest.

Whisky Advocate (formerly Malt Advocate) magazine has named the Utah whiskey producer High West its "Distillery of the Year." I find the proclamation particularly interesting, based on the magazine's reasoning. To wit:

"When we named David Perkins, founder of High West Distillery, our 'Pioneer of the Year' for 2010, it was a controversial decision. Now, six years later and following the recent sale of the company to Constellation Brands for approximately $160 million, we expect there will still be some naysayers. Yes, High West ... is a great American success story. However, their success is not the reason for our recognition, but just one more result of what whisky enthusiasts know to be true: High West delivers innovative and delicious whiskeys, expands the definition of what it is to be a distiller, and pioneered a successful new paradigm for craft distilling."

As Whisky Advocate notes, High West is two distilleries -- one in  ParkCity, one in Wanshio -- where master distiller Brendan Coyle produces whiskies, including High West Silver Whiskey Western Oat and Valley Tan, an interpretation of historic 19th Century Utah whiskey that first appeared in 2011.

"However, Perkins launched his enterprise and earned his reputation with his innovative blending of sourced whiskeys -- like Rendezvous Rye, a blend of straight rye whiskies, and Campfire, a blend of scotch, bourbon, and rye, reviving some forgotten categories of American whiskey, and creating new styles of whiskey in the process."

You can read more here.

'Battle of the Bartenders' events part of Albany arts fest

The official festival poster
If you're the sort of consumer who likes to root for your favorite bartenders to excel, there are two upcoming "Battle of the Bartenders" events that may interest. Both are part of the expansive Albany Chefs' Food & Wine Festival that has become arguably the Capital Region's premier such event.

 On Friday, January 13, from 5 to 7 p.m., six local bartenders will compete in a Manhattan cocktail challenge using bourbon from event sponsor Woodford Reserve to create three unique cocktails to be reviewed by the judges.

On Saturday, January 14, six local bartenders will compete in a Bloody Mary Manhattan cocktail challenge using Stoli Vodka, an event sponsor, to craft three  unique cocktails to be reviewed by the judges.

In both instances, the bartender with the highest percentage of fan votes will earn 30 additional points for his or her total score.

Among competitors announced so far: for the Bloody Mary, Emannuel Treski of Speakeasy 518, Evan O'Brien of Next Level at The Ruck, and Larz Davi of Campagna; for the Manhattan, The Ruck's O'Brien, Justin Secor-Rubenstein of Wellington’s, and Mackenzie Zajac of Café Madison.

The venue for all these events is the Hilton Albany, 40 Lodge Street just off the State Street hill downtown. Ticket information for the full schedule of events of the January 12-14 event are available online.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lark Street closing hours decision a mixed bag for all

After a heated debate, the City of Albany has reached a decision on how long nightspots can stay open. Some business owners and patrons will like it, some will hate it, and residents who objected to ultra-late hours they say has led to quality-of-life issues will continue to be unhappy.

As reported on the Times Union website today,"Established nightspots on Lark Street and nearby side streets can continue closing at their normal hours, some as late as 4 a.m. Late last week city officials and Lark Street business owners reached a compromise over a proposed 2 a.m. closure, allowing businesses that already have permission to stay open until 4 a.m. to keep those closing hours. For some businesses like Palais Royale on Jefferson Street, the closing hours proposed would have darkened the city mainstay at 11 p.m. The decades-old bar typically is open until 4 a.m.

"While established businesses with the legal right can remain open until 4 a.m., the closing restrictions outlined in the citywide Albany ReZone would have to be adhered to by new businesses, city Planning Director Chris Spencer said.

Shauna Collins, executive director of the Lark Street Business Improvement District, was quoted as saying the changes meet “the majority of our needs.”

As the story also notes, "Area residents had said they struggled for years with the noise, broken bottles and vomit on doorsteps after bars let out at 4 a.m., and hoped earlier closing times might cut down on problems."

Go here for the full story.

Troy Korean restaurant celebrating beer-and-wine license

An assortment of Korean beverages
One of Troy's newest restaurants will hold its grand opening on Friday now that it has received its state beer and wine sales license.

The Korean restaurant Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen, which has been operating in soft opening mode at its 95 Ferry Street location, will begin the party at 9 p.m. A free buffet will include such ethnic dishes as fish cake soup, dried squid and cuttlefish, anchovies and peanuts, and spoicy rice cakes. The regular a la carte menu will be available until 10 p.m., and the buffet later.

Among adult drinks that will be available for sale are Korean beer, wine, sake and soju. In addition, the event announcement says, the party will be "Featuring DJ Trumastr and an unorthodox mix of kpop funk, and complimentary Korean bar snacks for all. Join us this Friday night for pre-New Year's Eve kpop vibes and Korean late night, good food (and now drinks) and even better company guaranteed."

Lake Placid restaurateur transitions to new life in Florida

Charlie Levitz
Charlie Levitz, the longtime Lake Placid chef-restaurateur who also helped elevate the cocktail scene in that tourist town, is in the process of transitioning his career to a less public level in Florida.

I ran into Levitz Tuesday when he was back in the Greater Capital Region to handle a series of private events. Levitz, who was chef-owner of both the long-running Chair 6 and the shorter-run Charlie's -- and its T-Bar cocktail lounge -- restaurants in the Adirondacks village, told me his was in the process of completing a relocation to Stuart, FL.

"I've been working on setting up a business as a private and special events chef," he said. "It's not simple to reestablish in a new market, but it certainly is less stressful than handling the responsibilities of both owning and operating private restaurants in a seasonally-popular place."

Levitz, 62, a native of Albany, closed Charlie's several years ago and closed his more-successful Chair 6 last summer after a 15-year run to concentrate exclusively on his work as a private chef and on special event catering.

His recent move to Florida's Treasure Coast, he said, is because his mother lives there and his wife, Rachel, "loves living there."

(Go here for a story on a special cocktail night I was involved in at Levitz's T-Bar.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Original Sin cidery looking for Columbia County venue

The Original Sin Cidery, currently headquartered in New York City, is heading for the country, thanks in part to a state business expansion grant.

The Watershed Group, the corporate name of the 10-year-old cider maker, will use a $200,000 development grant to help finance the purchase of a parcel of land in Ancram, Columbia County, to build a cidery, tasting room and plant and to maintain an orchard, according to its grant application.

That will allow Original Sin to use Hudson Valley apples exclusively for its products, and to  crush and press onsite.

The company was founded by Gidon Coll, who has been making cider for 17 years. He experiments with the heirloom varieties he grows on his family’s old dairy farm in the Hudson Valley.

Adirondack Brewery owner creating 'craft beverage campus'

Architect's rendering of multi-phase campus development
What is a "craft beverage campus"?

It's a project created by the owner of the Adirondack Pub & Brewery. The multi-phase development of a parcel adjacent to the existing Lake George facility would include "a winery and a beverage incubator that will serve as a regional food and beverage education center through partnerships with SUNY Adirondack, Schenectady County Community College and Paul Smiths College to coordinate and integrate craft beverage academic programs, further career opportunities and expand year-round tourism in the Village of Lake George," says a state grant announcement.

John Carr has received a $325,000 Empire State Development grant for the Route 9 project. He envisions the campus as a place to continue brewing and bottling his beer, offer college and other classes on brewing beer and cider, winemaking, and distilling, and also would have facilities to sell the beverages.

Carr has been active in efforts to help make Lake George more of a year-round visitor attraction. He sees his campus as furthering that effort, although additional funding is needed for his project. In addition, partnerships with the aforementioned colleges need to be formalized.

Ed Bartholomew, president of the Warren County EDC, told the Post-Star he and his group had been working with Carr for several years, and added he is glad the project got state grant money.

"I think John is fulfilling a life-long dream for himself, and his persistence will bring new people into Warren County and Lake George," Bartholomew said. "I think what John is creating is a destination, not only for craft brewing, but for wine and distilling."

Carr told the newspaper the first step will be to talk to various schools about the educational component. "This is a big-picture, long-term project. The important thing is the better products New York produces, the more we can sell on a national level."

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Giant, and tasty, workplace present for Christmas

Vernon and Louis XIII
Olivier Vernon has made quite an impact in his first season with the New York Giants, starring at defensive end with a season-long string of excellent games. For Christmas, he made an extra impact on teammates and coaches.

Vernon purchased personalized $3,000 bottles of Louis XIII Cognac for each of his teammates and coaches, along with additional members of the organization, according to

Is that a big deal financially? Well, there are 75 players on the Giants' roster, 20 members of the coaching staff and the other team staffers and executives who received gifts from Vernon, so we're talking a gift list in the $300,000 range. Yes, his five-year contract gives him $85 million, but still ...

Vernon had each individual bottle engraved with the recipient’s name and the package included two matching champagne glasses. Each was accompanied by a card that said, “I wanted to thank you for welcoming me to the Giants family and wish you a happy holiday season.”

The Louis XIII brandy, which dates to 1874, is sold in limited editions and packaged in individually numbered crystal decanters that weigh 11 pounds.

6 things you (probably) didn't know about Cognac

New study: Teen drinking rates are historically low

A new study reports that teen drinking rates have reached historically low rates.

According to the "2016 Monitoring the Future Study," underage drinking rates among eighth, tenth and twelfth graders declined significantly this year.

The survey, jointly released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan, notes, "[f]or all three grades both annual and monthly prevalence of alcohol use are at historic lows over the life of the study. Both measures continued to decline in all three grades in 2016.”

The study says the proportion of students reporting binge drinking at least once in the two weeks prior to the survey has fallen by a half or more since the 1990s.

“Key to this success is educating parents and other adults about the consequences of providing alcohol to teens,” said Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Kraig R. Naasz. “While there is more work to do, these historic declines in teen drinking underscore the effectiveness of public-private partnerships.”

Naasz noted that the spirits sector has been a part of this progress through continued support of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility and the Federal Trade Commission’s “We Don’t Serve Teens” program, which provides parents with tools to talk to their children about alcohol. Per  a recent USA Today article, teens are drinking and smoking less, and using fewer drugs.

“Monitoring the Future," conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has tracked substance abuse among American high school students for 42 years. In 2016, approximately 45,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 representing 360 secondary schools across the country, participated in the survey.

Bushmills debuts a new pair of small batch whiskies

Bushmills' newest products
Bushmills Irish Whiskey has just unveiled two new small batch single malt whiskies each matured and finished in three different types of cask.

Bushmills 16 Year Old Small Batch (40% abv) has been aged for at least 16 years in a combination of used bourbon casks and Oloroso sherry butts, then vatted and married for nine months in large old Port pipes.

Bushmills 21 Year Old Small Batch (40% abv) has been matured in used American white oak bourbon barrels and old Oloroso sherry casks for at least 19 years, before spending a two further years marrying in Madeira wine casks.

Both of the new releases from the distillery, located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, are among the small number of casks of Bushmills small-batch, triple-distilled malt whiskey that are matured to this age for release in annual limited editions.

Said Colum Egan, Bushmills' master distiller, “To craft malts of this age and quality calls for all our expertise and knowledge. By carefully nurturing a small number of casks in our warehouses so that they age in the optimal conditions, we can draw layers of exquisite flavors from the wood."

Both small batch items will be delivered to retailers around the first of the year.

Maker's Mark unveils innovative bourbon finishing cellar

Inside the unique bourbon aging cellar. (Maker's Mark photo)
Wine cellars, tequila cellars ... and now a bourbon cellar? Yes, Maker's Mark has just announced the official unveiling of what is said to be the industry’s first bourbon cellar.

The cellar, located in the Maker's Mark facility in Loretto, KY, about an hour's drive from Louisville, will be the new home of the Maker’s 46 and Maker’s Mark Private Select bourbons. Beginning in January, it will not only be a barrel finishing facility but will become part of the tours of the Beam-owned brand offered to the public.

Normally, bourbon is aged in rick houses -- frame structures where the barrels are stacked on their sides, then rotated throughout the aging process to undergo a variety of temperature extremes.

Maker's 46, created by Bill Samuels Jr. in 2010, requires a minimum, nine-week finish in a cold environment. Given Kentucky's relatively mild winters, that span sometimes is difficult to achieve. Because the new Maker's Mark Cellar is carved into a natural limestone hillside shelf on the distillery grounds, it stays naturally cold and using it will enable able the distiller to store up to 2,000 barrels for both Maker's 46 and the newly-launched Maker’s Mark Private Select all year long.

Creation of the 14,000-square-foot earthen-roofed cellar has been a year-long project. Said CEO Rob Samuels,"What was really interesting for us is no one's ever built anything like this," conceding that his team drew some inspiration from cellars in wine country.

The bourbon goes through the usual, and legally required, initial aging in new American white oak barrels, then is finished in barrels with French oak staves.

Drinkable Cartoonery

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry christmas to all!

NYS alcohol producers niche keeps on expanding

Here's the final count for New York State adult beverage production in 2016. Bear in mind some companies fit into more than one of these categories.
• There are 418 wineries and farm wineries.

• Those wineries have 82 branch offices/satellite stores.

• Wine now is produced in 59 of the state's 62 counties.

• There are more than 300 breweries.

• There are more than 100 craft distillers, and the number of farm distilleries has nearly doubled in the past two years.

• There are 75 cider producers. 
Since 2011, the number of farm-based alcohol beverage manufacturers has increased by 188%, bringing the total number of wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries using New York-grown ingredients to 591.

Greater Capital Region brewery list nears 50

The Greater Capital Region, and then some
Depending on how one draws the imaginary boundaries of the geographic area loosely known as the Greater Capital Region, the number of micro, nano and craft breweries inhabiting it ebbs and flows.

I keep the definition rather loose, given the propensity of people in this area to travel a bit to attend the many drinks and food shows and festivals with which it abounds. Thus, certain nearby parts of the Adirondacks, Catskills and Cooperstown area are included in my latest compilation of breweries, which includes at least one scheduled to open early this year, that is approaching the 50 mark.
    1. Adirondack Pub & Brewery, 33 Canada Street, Lake George
    2. Argyle Brewing, One Main Street, Greenwich
    3. Artisinal Brew Works, 41 Geyser Road, Saratoga Springs 
    4. Battle Hill Brewing Co., 4 Charles Street, Fort Ann
    5. Beer Diviner, 461 Broadway, Troy, and 243 Bly Hollow Road, Petersburg
    6. Big Slide Brewery & Public House, 5686 Cascade Road, Lake Placid 
    7. Big Tupper Brewing, 12 Cliff Avenue, Tupper Lake
    8. Brewery LaHoff, 50 Vedder Road, Coxsackie (to open in 2017)
    9. Brewery Ommegang, 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown
    10. Brown's Brewing Co., 417 River Street, Troy, and 50 Factory Hill Road, North Hoosick
    11. Cave Mountain Brewing Co., 5359 State Route 23, Windham
    12. Chatham Brewing, 59 Main Street, Chatham
    13. C.H. Evans Brewing/Albany Pump Station, 19 Quackenbush Square, Albany
    14. Common Roots Brewing Co., 58 Saratoga Avenue, South Glens Falls
    15. Cooper's Cave Ale Co., 2 Sagamore Street, Glens Falls
    16. Cooperstown Brewing Co., 110 River Street, Milford  
    17. Council Rock Brewery, 4861 State Highway 28, Cooperstown
    18. Crossroads Brewing Co., 21 Second Street, Athens
    19.  Davidson Brothers Brewing Co., 184 Glen Street, Glens Falls
    20. Druthers, 381 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, and 1053 Broadway, Albany
    21.  Dutch Ale House, 255 Main Street, Saugerties
    22. Great Adirondack Brewing Co., 2442 Main Street, Lake Placid
    23. Green Wolf Brewing, 315 Main Street, Middleburgh
    24. Hank Hudson Brewing, The Fairways of Halfmoon, 17 Johnson Road, Mechanicville
    25. Helderberg Brewery, Carey Institute for Global Good, 100 Pond Hill Road, Rensselaerville 
    26. Helderberg Mountain Brewing Co., 141 Warners Lake Road, East Berne
    27. Honey Hollow Brewing Co., 376 East Honey Hollow Road, Earlton
    28. Hudson Brewing Co., 99 South 3rd Street, Hudson
    29. Indian Ladder Farmstead Brewery and Cidery, 342 Altamont-Voorheesville Road, Altamont
    30. Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, 813 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid  
    31. Mad Jack Brewing, The Van Dyck Lounge,237 Union Street, Schenectady
    32. Mean Max Brew Works, 193 Glen Street, Glens Falls
    33. Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., 131 Excelsior Avenue, Saratoga Springs 
    34. Paradox Brewery, 154 Route 9, Schroon Lake 
    35. Racquette River Brewing, 11 Balsam Street, Tupper Lake,
    36. Rare Form Brewing Co., 90 Congress Street, Troy  
    37. Real McCoy Beer Co., 20 Hallwood Road, Delmar
    38. Red Shed Brewery, 817 Butterbowl Road, Cherry Valley
    39. Rip Van Winkle Brewing, Angela's Italian Bistro & Brewery, 4545 NY Route 32, Catskill
    40. R.S. Taylor & Sons Brewery, 3602 County Route 30, Salem
    41. Serious Brewing Co., 116 Caverns Road, Howes Cave
    42. Shmaltz Brewing Co., 6 Fairchild Square, Clifton Park
    43. Sloop Brewing, 1065 County Route 19, Elizaville
    44. S&S Farm Brewery, 174 Middle Road, Nassau
    45. Steadfast Beer Co., 90 State Street, Albany
    46. Suarez Family Brewery, 2278 Route 9, Livingston
    47. Wolf Hollow Brewing Co., 6882 Amsterdam Road, Glenville

    Friday, December 23, 2016

    Drinkable Cartoonery

    Spending doesn't equate to being top wine drinking nations

    Q: Which country spends the most per capita every year on wine?

    A: According to a new British study, it's ... no, not France; no, not Italy; no, not Spain. It's Switzerland.

    The Swiss spend about $625 a year on wine, according to the UK relocation company MoveHub that compared wine consumption data globally with the price of the average bottle of wine.

    No. 2 was the Cayman Islands at $562, followed by the Falkland Islands, a British protectorate off Argentina; the Caribbean island-nation of Aruba, and Norfolk Island, a tiny spot in the Pacific Ocean owned by Australia. A very odd collection indeed.

    But, you may ask, what about all those European nations with a centuries-long tradition of wine consumption? Well, the closest to Switzerland in terms of spending is Iceland at $345. Well, then we're talking a different sort of analysis.

    In France, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain, believe it or not, wine drinkers spend only about $127 per person per year. The twist is that the countries traditionally regarded as the biggest wine consumers pay much less on-average per bottle. For example, an average bottle of wine in Switzerland retails for about $11.50 a bottle compared to about $7.25 in Austria, $8 in the UK, and $8.60 in Sweden, according to the comparison site

    In addition, the per-capita consumption also throws another clinker into the mix. According to research from Forbes, the Swiss are only No. 7 among European countries both large and small. Check out the accompanying chart for details.

    Thursday, December 22, 2016

    Let the partying begin!

    Today I posted the final entry in my "15 Days of Holiday Cocktails" series. (Just scroll down to see all of them.)

    Now, it's up to you to put them to use. Imagine if the people in this vintage picture had such a range of recipes to use at their party!

    Port Chester distillers switch up on their fruit brandies

    From Munchies
    While you were sucking down pumpkin spice lattes this fall, business partners Noah Braunstein and Yoni Rabino were holed up in their Port Chester, NY, distillery crushing thousands and thousands of pounds of pears. Like 24,000 pounds. Instead of becoming centerpieces in a Harry & David holiday gift basket, those New York-grown pears are on their way to become a small batch of Neversink Spirits pear brandy.

    “It’s an extremely, extremely low-yield product so we only do a few hundred bottles of it every year,” Rabino said of the brandy. It takes more than 45 pounds of fruit to make a single 375-milliliter bottle. ...

    “This is New York, we grew up picking apples upstate, we should do a New York apple brandy,” Rabino said of their thinking process. “Now, of course, there are a bunch of New York apple brandies, but at the time it seemed like a really different idea.”

    Using only local ingredients, the two-year-old operation produces apple brandy (both aged and unaged), gin, and, most recently, bourbon in addition to the pear eau de vie. The partners quickly realized that there was a lot of noise to break through in the alcohol industry.
    Go here for the full story and photos.

    15 Days of Holiday Drinks (Day 15)

    seelbach-cocktail• Each year, I offer readers a lineup of cocktail creations for the holiday season, culled from combing through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

    During my travels, I’ve stayed at some historic hotels in various countries and tried their signature drinks. My favorite comes from the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville, KY.

    The Seelbach is one of the American South’s “Golden Age” luxury hotels, opened in 1905 and since then has been host to nine American presidents and innumerable dignitaries.

    The stunning ambiance of the place, awash with oak and marble and gilded surfaces, inspired the author F. Scott Fitzgerald to use the hotel as the backdrop for Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s wedding in his iconic novel “The Great Gatsby.” Now, that is a classic, and so is this cocktail.  

    NOTE: The Seelbach hotel was featured in a story I wrote several years ago called "The grand dames of Southern hospitality." You can find it here.


    4 ounces quality Champagne 
    1½ ounces bourbon 
    ½ ounce triple sec 
    7 dashes Peychaud bitters 
    7 dashes Angostura bitters

    Put the bourbon, both bitters, and triple sec in a Champagne flute or similarly-shaped glass first. Fill rest of glass with Champagne. Garnish with orange twist, and serve.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2016

    Dave's Gourmet Burgers ready to resurface in Schenectady

    Grass-fed beef burger with bacon
    I'm posting this here even though it has nothing to do with drinks for one simple reason: I'm restarting my Notes On Napkins restaurant and food blog on January 1, but this can't wait.

    Dave's Gourmet Burgers & More has been located at various Albany locations over the past two decades, most recently on Fuller Road near Colonie Center, but now owner Dave Khan is transplanting his operation to Schenectady.

    Khan is about to open the doors at 2535 Broadway which previously was home to Soulicious and to Kabab Pizza & Gyros. In reply to my inquiry about a specific date, Khan messaged me, "Bill -- hopefully this week. Will announce on Facebook. ... Our burgers are so big that you are going to need a fork!"

    The menu will be Khan's stock-in-trade: exotic burgers and sides, all made the more interesting because he is a vegetarian. That, however, never has stopped him from offering bison, antelope, python (yes!), chicken, lamb, camel (yes!), ostrich, rabbit, kangaroo (yes!), llama (yes, yes!) and other unusual meats. This time around, he also will be offering Greek gyros and other sandwiches, including a variety of veggie-based burgers.

    Khan, who lists cooking gigs in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong on his peripatetic resume, has long worked to compete with the influx of burger chains large and small into the Capital Region. He offers a wide-ranging menu that mixes international and regional American sandwiches. Here are a few examples as he describes them on his latest menu. Prices range from $8.99 for a veggie burger to $25 for an "exotic meat" burger.

    Juicy Lucy ($14.99) -- Handpicked mix cheese sealed inside the meat and slow cooked in steam for best-tasting and flavoring burger you ever had.

    Lamb Masala ($15) -- It's an Indian street-style burger, pure in herbs and spices. Mildly spiced. 

    Triple Decker ($15) -- Beef, chicken, and turkey together makes a whole new concept of burger and protein intake. Assorted cheese is melted as well.

    Veggie Rice & Bean Burger ($9.99) -- Patty of chick pea flour, jasmine rice, onions, potatoes and beans freshly boiled.

    Kangaroo Burger ($25) -- Organic, free-range, FDA-approved kangaroo meat.

    Raising a glass to Cooperstown Beverage Trail's visitors

    Here's something to work into your 2017-18 travel plans. The Cooperstown Beverage Trail is offering a souvenir tasting glass glass to anyone who uses this form to collect stamps at each of its eight members.

    The offer has very few strings attached. One coupon per over-21 person, one glass per person, no purchase necessary anywhere, and gift glasses available through April 2018 as long as supplies last.

    If you need to find a copy of the form that will download better on your particular printer, you can find it online. That page also shows a variety of other freebies.

    The Cooperstown Beverage Trail offers a mix of wine, beer, spirits and cider makers on a very manageable 37-mile route through Otsego County in  Central New York. Member businessess:
    • Brewery Ommegang
    • Bear Pond Winery
    • Cooperstown Brewing Company
    • Cooperstown Distillery
    • Pail Shop Vineyards
    • Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard
    • Rustic Ridge Winery
    • Butternuts Beer & Ale

    Pricing special for 'Ice Wine & Culinary Festival'

    Here's a two-month heads-up about a very special event. I'm providing a long lead time for those across the state who may need it to make arrangements to be in the Rochester area in February.

    The event is the annual New York Ice Wine & Culinary Festival being hosted at Casa Larga Vineyards & Winery on Saturday, February 11.

    The day will include ice wine tastings, wine and craft beer tastings, ice wine seminars, ice wine-infused food, vineyard horse-drawn wagon rides, vendors, and live music. Tickets are $55 in advance, $65 the day of the event. A special package of two tickets for $100 is available until December 31. (Use coupon code ICEWINE17 online or call the wine shop at 585-223-4210 to purchase tickets.)

    The winery dates to 1974 when Italian immigrant Andrew Colaruotolo planted the first two acres of vines. The first harvest came in 1978, producing Casa Larga's first vintage. Over the years its portfolio grew to include ice wines that met with critical and commercial. Its most recent, introduced at this year's festival, is a 2010 Fiori Delle Stelle Vidal Blanc Barrel Aged Ice Wine. It is aged 19 months in French acacia wood barrels (19.7% RS), and retails for $59.99 for the 375ml bottle.

    Casa Larga operations are overseen by John Colaruotolo, son of the late founder. Matt Cassavaugh is the head winemaker.

    Casa Larga is located at  2287 Turk Hill Road in Fairport, Monroe County.

    A mulled wine lesson from New York's North Country

    Virtually everyone has heard the term "mulled wine." Very few, I suspect, have actually tasted it, and even fewer know how to make it.

    Alina Walentowicz, the Clifton Park native who is the public relations specialist at the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, a division of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, rounded up one surefire recipe from a member winery of the Adirondack Coast Wine Trail.


    from Nancy Vesco
    Vesco Ridge Vineyards
    4 bags Olde Tradition mulling spices
    4 cups steamed apple cider or apple juice
    1 bottle Vesco Farm Truck Red wine
    1/4 cup honey
    Several cinnamon sticks
    Orange slices 
    Steeps the mulling spices in the steamed (not boiling!) cider or apple juice, then mixes in the whole bottle of red wine. Once the spiced mixture has steeped for 3 to 5 minutes, add one-quarter cup of  honey, garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange slices and serve.

    (Nancy's favorite cider to use for this drink comes from nearby Chazy Orchards, home of the world’s largest Macintosh apple orchard. Both businesses are located in West Chazy, Clinton County.)

    Tasting: Tequila Herradura Port Cask Finished Reserva

    One of the latest, if not the latest, iterations of tinkering with a very upscale tequila is this offering from Casa Herradura.

    Go to Dowd's Tasting Notes for a full review.

    15 Days of Holiday Drinks (Day 14)

    french-75-cocktail• Each year, I offer readers a lineup of cocktail creations for the holiday season, culled from combing through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

    Mixologist Chris McMillian of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel’s Library Lounge in New Orleans is known as a master of the classics.

    This is one of his favorites, named after the famous French World War I artillery piece, the 75mm howitzer, also called a “French 75” (“Soixante Quinze” in French) and is a popular New Orleans brunch drink. It should go quite well with your festive holiday-season brunch as well.  

    FRENCH 75

    1½ ounces gin (preferably Bombay White Label, but your choice)
    1 ounce simple syrup
    ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
    1 maraschino cherry
    Lemon slice

    Pour gin, simple syrup and lemon juice into a pint glass. Mix with a shaker. Use a strainer to pour the mixture into a Champagne flute, then slowly top off the glass with Champagne. Give the drink a brief stir, drop in a maraschino cherry, and garnish with a lemon slice or wedge.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2016

    New Year drinks-and-art party at new Troy taproom

    Not to let its debut get lost in the holiday crush, Troy's newest drinking emporium is planning a New Year's Eve party and art benefit.

    The Beer Diviner Troy Taproom, which opened just four weeks ago at 461 Broadway, will almost ring in its first new year, from 4 to 11 p.m. -- not midnight -- on Friday, December 30.

    The event will feature beers made by The Beer Diviner, which bills itself as the state's first farm brewery, along with other makers' local craft cider and spirits, and entertainment supplied by four DJs. In addition, it will feature an art exhibition with art pieces available for sale between $30 and $150. A portion of the proceeds will benefit local non-profit organizations.

    The Beer Diviner owner/brewmaster Jonathan Post creates his beers, ales and gruits at 243 Bly Hollow Road in Petersburgh, in eastern Rensselaer County.

    15 Days of Holiday Drinks (Day 13)

    the-flyboy-cocktail• Each year, I offer readers a lineup of cocktail creations for the holiday season, culled from combing through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

    I whipped up this cocktail for an acquaintance, an off-duty commercial airline pilot — thus the name — who usually doesn’t venture much beyond a beer or a glass of wine. He went into orbit over this one, proclaiming it his new favorite for his vacation weeks.

    I can't stress the importance of using this specific brand of tonic to strike the proper balance.  


    2 ounces Michter’s rye whiskey 
    ½ ounce St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur 
    ½ ounce fresh lime juice 
    1 ounce Fever Tree tonic

    Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, stir 35 times (yup, 35) with a bar spoon to release just the right amount of water from the ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry or fruit slice as desired.

    A bar, a beer and a boar

    • This one of the periodic reposts of articles from my archives of food, drink and travel stories. Enjoy.

    The Domino Club's oddly welcoming entrance.
    (All photos by William M. Dowd)

    IN THE RAIN FOREST, St. Croix, American Virgin Islands -- As rain forests go, this isn't much of one.

    We're bumping along a rutted one-lane road, or what passes for one on an island with no particularly good roads of any kind and a lot of deserted shells of buildings. Typical of the "other face" of the Caribbean, the one the tourists aren't meant to see. The rundown homes, peeling paint, piles of rusted-out barrels and other metal debris; the scrawny goats and chickens that meander about, poking into corners for something to eat, and competing for walking space along the roads with uniformed school children looking bright-eyed despite the obvious poverty.

    We'd been put on the trail of a particular drink called a "Mama Juana," Spanish for Mama Jane and apparently something very special on this island. Go into the rain forest, we'd been told. Look for The Domino Club. That's where you'll find it. And look for the beer-swilling pigs while you're at it.

    A pig is a pig ...
    The 15-acre western part of the island is dotted with all sorts of trees -- kapok, mahogany, turpentine -- as well as scraggly vines and ferns. The occasional banana quit, hummingbird or yellow warbler darts through the thick vegetation.

    This spot north of the capital city of Frederiksted is privately owned, although no one stops the public from wandering through it, especially on a variety of narrow trails that snake through the underbrush.

    Just when it seems we might have taken a wrong turn, suddenly we are there.

    Our driver pulls off the tight road and our little group scrambles out, anxious for a Mama Juana or two. But first, we have to visit the wild, beer-swilling pigs.

    A couple of accuracy alerts. For one, according to the strictest botanical definition, this isn't technically a rain forest, we're told, although no one seems to be able to supply that definition. For another, the pigs we were there to visit actually are boars. And for a third, we are told these particular boars are domesticated and have inherited their jobs from a previous generation of once-wild ones that drank real beer. The current creatures drink only O'Doul's non-alcoholic brew, a nod to animal rights groups.

    Jacqueline, a stout, blonde-haired woman of indeterminate age, lines us up in front of the high-walled enclosure where she says the pigs live.

    "Here's the drill," she says, mustering up all the charm of a Marine drill instructor. "Three dollars each for admission, a dollar a can for the beer, an extra five dollars if you want to shoot any video. Now, how many of you are coming in?"

    We dutifully pay our money, then walk through the doorway, immediately spotting a pair of boars behind cement pen walls. They'd just stepped in from their larger outside pen. They are thirsty and bang against the walls.

    "Don't let their tusks scare you," Jacqueline says. "Their teeth don't start till way back in their mouth, so you can place a can of beer in their mouth and they'll bite down on it without hurting you."

    Several timid feints and the first of our group successfully "feeds" a beer to a boar. It clamps its powerful jaws on the can, crushing it and releasing the foaming brew. He guzzles the beer, spits out the can and looks around for more. His penmate does the same.

    The process goes smoothly through most of two six-packs, until one of our group gets a little sloppy, or one of the boars does. A crushed can explodes its contents onto our companion's shirt front, soaking him to the skin. That's the end of the boar fest, and we head across a small clearing to the Mount Pellier Hut of The Domino Club.

    We commandeer a rickety table in the thatched three-room hut. The place is dominated by a long bar in a dark part of the structure peopled by a couple who look as if they've been seated there for a very long time. Jacqueline, it turns out, also is the head bartender and in charge of the only other obvious employee.

    The Domino Club is a structure that looks as if, in case a shot is fired and the authorities are called, it can be packed away and disappear in seven minutes flat.

    We order Mama Juanas (pronounced mama-wannas), then think to ask what is in the drink. Rum, honey and herbs, we're told. What kind of rum? What kinds of herbs? Just herbs, is the answer. Special herbs. And, don't chug the shots, we are warned.

    We hoist, toast and -- despite the instructions -- chug. God almighty! This is vile stuff, is my first thought. I'll never need cough medicine again, is my second. The potion should be called Mama-don't-wanna.

    Our driver is getting impatient. We don't mind, clambering back into the van and rattling off into what's left of this not-quite-a-rainforest, curiosity quenched, even if our thirst isn't. But, there is a nice bar back at the hotel that serves any kind of cocktail you can think of.

    Aah, civilization.

    A beer-swilling boar poses for a closeup.

    Monday, December 19, 2016

    15 Days of Holiday Drinks (Day 12)

    • Each year, I offer readers a lineup of cocktail creations for the holiday season, culled from combing through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

    This is one of those drinks you may try during a pleasant autumn day, forget about the rest of the year, then wonder when autumn comes around again why you stopped making it. Well, don't stop. It's just as hearty and tasty in the winter. It has a very simple recipe, calling for ingredients that are perfect for this time of year — the lush fruit, the vibrant spice, the heartiness of the alcohol. Enjoy.  

    (Yields 2 drinks)

    3 ounces dark rum 
    8 ounces 100% pear juice 
    ¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated 
    1 small Bosc pear, sliced 

    Divide the rum, pear juice, and ginger evenly into two cocktail glasses each with several ice cubes. Stir in the glass to combine the ingredients. Garnish with fresh pear slices.

    Sunday, December 18, 2016

    15 Days of Holiday Drinks (Day 11)

    • Each year, I offer readers a lineup of cocktail creations for the holiday season, culled from combing through all sorts of sources -- my own archives, bar books, distillers' ideas, etc. -- even press releases from breathless PR people seeking to get their clients' products mentioned.

    Cachaça (pronounced kah shaw saw) is a versatile spirit from Brazil that often is misidentified as rum. It actually is a distinctive spirit distilled from raw sugar cane juice, whereas rum is made from sugar cane byproducts, primarily molasses. Curiously, under Brazil-U.S. trade agreement, it nevertheless is labeled “Brazilian rum.”

    Much of the familar “heat” rum supplies is not present in cachaça which, at least in the higher priced versions, is very smooth, with a long finish, and stands up beautifully to all sorts of herbs and fruits in mixed cocktails.

    Cachaça is the base for the caipirinha cocktail that has so enamored tourists to South America in recent years that they demanded it when they returned home, especially after the recent Olympic Games. That demand has been answered in many of the better cocktail lounges and bars throughout the U.S.


    This is the basic recipe for the iconic, and easy to make, cocktail. You can always add your own touches with fruits, a drop of a liqueur, etc.

    ¼ lime, quartered 
    1 teaspoon white sugar 
    2½ ounces cachaça 
    1 cup ice cubes

    Squeeze, then drop two slivers of the lime in a large rocks glass. Add the sugar, crush the lime and sugar and mix with a spoon. Pour in the cachaça and plenty of ice. Stir well, serve with a lime garnish.

    Saturday, December 17, 2016

    After the modern 'speakeasy,' what's next?

    During Prohibition, a "speakeasy" was the term for an illicit drinking establishment where you were among like-minded people and didn't have to worry about being busted by the cops or federal alcohol agents.

    Somehow, the term was appropriated several years ago to refer to a cocktail lounge with a certain vibe -- usually dark, often with lots of heavy wood, sometimes with a hidden entrance, maybe a secret password, often with no exterior signage.

    In most places, that fad has pretty much run its course. So, the obvious question is, what's next?

    Here's a very interesting article published earlier this year on what's next in the design of hip bars and cocktail lounges. (Thanks to George Fiorini of the Savoy Taproom in Albany for spotting it.)

    Imbibeable cartoonery

    Don't always buy it just because it's on Facebook

    Interesting Facebook post Friday from a Lark Street restaurant in Albany:
     "It is with very mixed emotions that I am announcing the sale of Kinnaree Asian Restaurant. Kinnaree opened almost six years ago on January 9, 2011. ... The new owner, Panitan [Eamroongroj], is also the chef. ...  The menu will not be changing and the friendly staff you are accustomed to will still be here. Please be aware however, that during this transition Kinnaree’s alcohol license will be suspended until the new owner’s application can be approved. Chef Chai and I do not have any immediate plans for ourselves at this time ... 
    (signed) Jamaree [Raj]"
    What makes it so interesting isn't so much the sale of a restaurant. That happens all the time. It is that last Sunday the same business posted this on Facebook:
    "KINNAREE will be CLOSED for maintenance and repairs on MONDAY, TUESDAY, and WEDNESDAY, December 12, 13 & 14th. We are sorry for the inconvenience and look forward to serving you again during our normal hours beginning on Thursday."
    Were the "maintenance and repairs" so monumental they had to sell the place? I doubt it. It appears to be just one more example of a restaurant closing temporarily or permanently and not being candid with the public about it. We see too much of that.