Ed this is Randall, Randall this is Ed. You two should get along…

Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out with some friends (along with the co-founder of tDoB, Chuck!) at Two Stones Pub in Newark, Delaware for what has become a Wednesday night tradition.  The place was packed (nice business for a Wed) and the beer choices were excellent as usual.  But that’s not what brought us in – it was Randall.

Now Randall isn’t the cook, the beer buyer or the pretty bartender with the sweet smile (but if she was that would be funny), no randall is a little contraption dreamt up by the boys at Dogfish Head.   This little device allows you to infuse any beer from your tap system with anything you want.  And I do mean anything. If you can get it into the first chamber it’s fair game!  From what I have read and  heard the unit started from humble enough beginnings as a way to put an extra hop kick into a beer as it was being poured into the glass.  But beer drinkers being the creative bunch that they are, it wasn’t long before other things began to sneak their way into it.

The system itself seems simple enough (although since you’re dealing with liquid under pressure I’m sure it’s not), the first chamber holds what ever you wish to infuse into your beer while the second chamber gives the infused beer time to settle to reduce foaming when poured.  A cylinder around the second chamber allows ice to be added to keep the beer in it chilled until it is dispensed.  And there’s a filter between to the two chambers – no floaties please!

Randall "the enamel animal" set up at Two Stones Pub

I watched the bartender from my envious vantage point of  “right in front of it” pour several glasses throughout the night and I can tell you that those baristas who make your coffee in the morning had nothing on this guy.  He was working the system like a champ and the rewards were excellent.

Last night was Dogfish Head’s Theobroma (a beer brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and nibs, honey, chilies and annatto) over strawberries, shaved chocolate and vanilla beans creating what Two Stones called “a napoleon” after the popular ice cream trio.  The shaved chocolate really popped the already chocolate tones in the Theobroma and the vanilla seemed to pull everything together.  The strawberries were subtle but there, possibly over powered a bit by the already big brew.  One of the interesting things about the randall is, depending on what you put into it and how well or how quickly it infuses into the beer – the beer can change throughout the night.  The beer you get at 9pm might be completely different from the one you had at 7. Or if your timing is right, order the beer before it is installed and then save it (tough, I know) to compare with the beer coming out of the randall.

Past randall nights at Two Stones have seen:

  • 21st Amendment Hop Crisis over Hawaiian Pinapple and Tahitian Vanilla Beans
  • Victory Brewing Old Horizontal over brandied figs and dates.
  • Dogfish Head Festina Peche over local peaches and (yes, no kidding) Sour Patch Kids.
  • Victory Brewing Golden Monkey over bananas and walnuts.

As you can see you’re only limited by the beer you have on tap, and your own imagination.  So next time you’re  on a pub run, keep an eye out for my buddy randall hanging out around the bar.  And if he’s there forget all that nonsense the commercials used to try and tell you about “not fruiting your beer” and give him a try.  Maybe if you’re lucky after a few beers he’ll tell you how he got his nickname “the enamel animal”.  Oh, and tell him I’ll see him next Wednesday will you? Thanks.

Have you had a beer through a randall before?  And if so, what’s your favorite beer/randall combination?

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Brew Review – Shmaltz Brewing Co’s Coney Island Human Blockhead

Shmaltz Brewing's Human Blockhead IAB

So it’s a beautiful summer day and you find yourself on the boardwalk at Coney Island.  The smell of the water lingers lazily across the beach being broken every now and then by the alluring aroma from a near by venue of a Nathan’s hot dog cooking.  And if you’re going to eat a Coney Island hot dog, what would be better than a Coney Island beer to go with it?

The Shmaltz Brewing Co (He’Brew) has you covered.  Their Coney Island series pays homage to its well know freak show attraction, each beer being named after a noted performer in the show.  In this review I taste their Human Blockhead Imperial American Bock.

Them : Their Human Blockhead is not a simple beer.  The grain bill consists of specialty 2-Row, Munich, Vienna, Pale Crystal and Crystal malts.  Also added to the mash are wheat, rye, rye ale and flaked oaks.  This is a well constructed beer.   The hops are not skimpy either.  Added to the kettle are Warrior, Tettenang, Crystal, Liberty and Cascade.  At 10% ABV it’s probably a little too strong for a ballpark beer.  It was awarded Grand Champion Alternative Lager at the World Beer Championship.

Me : Human Blockhead pours with a medium head that reduces down to a fine, glass clinging lace.  In my tasting glass the color graduates from a light copper to a dark, almost brownish hue.  The noise contains a nice combination of deep malt with some twinges of caramel.  In the mouth, the beers starts malty in the front and transitions into a crisp bitter finish in the back.   The aftertaste is a slight lingering malt.  All this balances the 10.0% alcohol pretty well.  It has all the malt backbone for a Bock (minus the -ator suffix that most Bock beers get) and the hops and alcohol to earn it’s Imperial name (which I’ll address in an up coming post).

An awesome aspect of the Coney Island brands is the fact that proceeds from them help Coney Island USA(TM), a none profit organization dedicated to helping keep Coney Island, well, Coney Island.

A Nathan’s dog with onions, a Coney Island beer AND I get to help a cause?  I’ll sign  up for that any day.

Have you tried any of the Coney Island beers?  What did you think of them?

Social Drinking in a Social Media Age

Let’s be honest, drinking is a social event.  Oh I won’t lie, I enjoy drinking a nice beer in quiet solitude (well as much solitude as you can have with a girlfriend, two kids and two dogs) but if you look through history, drinking has been an activity that brings people together.  Whether it’s a bottle of wine at dinner, some mead shared by vikings around the campfire, or guys at the local bar cheering on their favorite baseball team. Whatever the occasion, people enjoy drinking together.

So it’s no small wonder in this age of social media that a few people have taken up the task to broaden the scope of social drinking, and to my thinking it was inevitable.

One such group are the guys from Untappd, the designers of a social media application that allows you to enjoy beers with your friends, even if they’re seven states away.  The concept is easy enough (if you do Facebook or Twitter you’re 3/4 of the way there) and in my mind the execution is flawless.

To start, point the browser of you computer to the Untappd website.  I always recommend registering and setting up new accounts on a computer – it just seems easier.  Once you’ve answered a few easy questions and roamed around the site you’re ready to go.  Now here comes the easy part, go drink a beer.  See?  Fun isn’t it?  While you’re sipping, point the browser on you phone to return to the Untappd web application. Yes, I hear you “what? no app?”  No, at the moment Untapped runs off of a web browser based app so you’ll need a  phone with internet capability to get the most at out it, but don’t panic!  The app is tight and straight forward and you’ll have no problems running it.

Once you’ve logged onto the Untappd web app, the fun begins.  By clicking a button at the upper right of the screen that says “drink up” you’ll be taken to the check in screen.  Checking in is easy.  First, in the field for your beer, type the name or a few key words of your beer and hit the search button.  Untappd will then search through it’s extensive beer database and find the beer it thinks you’re drinking.  Didn’t find it?  Don’t worry, Untappd gives you the ability to add it – but to be honest, I think you’ll rarely have to do this.  Once you’ve entered your beer next is the location where you are enjoying it.  Untappd gives you the ability (you can opt not to do this if you wish) to use your phone’s built in GPS to find your location and give you options in the surrounding area as to where you might be enjoying your beer.  Again, not there?  Add it!  It’s easy.

After location you have the ability to leave a comment.  Untappd gives you plenty of space to do this.  If you don’t leave a  comment  your check in will have some little notation like : TheDogsOfBeer are sipping a Summer Love from @Victorybeers at @2stonespub.  However, bear in mind that if you do add a comment, that comment will be displayed in your Twitter feed (more below) and since you have only so many letters on Twitter, the above message will be displayed as a link back to Untappd.  So if you want to comment make sure you include the name of your beer (at the very least) and the location so people can easily see them.

Now that the basics are in the next part is one of my favorite things about this app.  You can connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts to Untappd so that your activity is uploaded from Untappd (do this when  you register) when you check in. However every time you check in, Untappd gives you the option of whether or not you want to upload your activity to these accounts.  A few clicks on some radio buttons and you’re all set.  Now is the big moment.  Click the “Confirm Your Brew” button and POW! you’ve checked in your first beer.

While the check in process is the spine of Untappd, it offers a lot of other fun features as well.  First, Untappd will recommend new beers for you to try based on the ones you have input.  Also, like facebook (friends) or twitter (follow) Untappd allows you to “friend” others in the Untappd community.  A screen in the app will show you what your friends have been drinking

One of the coolest things about Untappd is that it rewards you for  your beers in the way of badges.  Badges can be earned based on the beers you enter, and there are some cool ones.  Badges are separated into three categories, the first, BEERS is pretty straight forward.  You get badges at certain numbers of unique beers (1, 25, 50…500) you check in.  You can also get badges for drinking beers in a certain style like mexican, IPAs or irish.  Drink 5 beers in a sitting and earn your “Drinking Your Paycheck” badge.

The next catagory is venue. Interesting badges like Ahoy Matey!, The Layover, Hitting The Slopes and Bowl-a-Rama wait for you beer lovers that tend to enjoy your brews in interesting places.

Finally, the really cool ones, the “Special” badges.  Some of these are limited to within a certain time frame.  For instance, you needed to check in during American Craft Beer Week to earn that badge.  Now you’ll have to wait till next year.  Some of the badges however are a collaboration between Untappd and other beer minded people.  Dogfish Head Brewery has a badge for anyone that drinks three beers in their Ancient Ales category.  The guys from Hop Cast have just jumped on, drinking beers that they feature on their webcast  show will get you a badge. And don’t over look one of my favorites, “New Beer Thursday”.  Check in with a new beer three Thursdays in a row and get your badge.  Got it?  Well keep going!  The badge has levels.

There are other apps out there for connecting to your beer friends.  I encourage you to seek them out, find one that works for you and start checking in.  After all, drinking is a social event.  And it no longer matters if the person you’re drinking with is 4 time zones away!  Time for a beer, I want that July 4th badge!

What’s your favorite app for beer?  Have you used Untappd?  How do you like it?

I know “Who Let the Dogs” out….

My buddy Chuck and I did.  About 10 years ago.  It all started when Chuck, a first class beer geek and NYC pub runner met me, a first class beer geek and NYC pub runner.  After several beer trips together in NYC, Baltimore, Chicago and other parts unknown, we got cocky and on one drunken outing we dubbed ourselves “The Dogs of Beer” for some stupid reason that is probably best forgotten, and thanks to the beer probably is.

When I went on Twitter I signed up as TheDogsOfBeer knowing full well I was really only getting on Twitter so that I could check in with the Untappd app.  In hindsight I wish I had picked IAmEdsLiver, but it’s to late to turn back now.

Anyway, I’ve done so much beer stuff that I thought I’d try my hand at blogging about it.  If nothing else it will serve as a record for myself about the travels and beers I’ve had.  The memory isn’t what it once was.  It’s the age – not the beer.  Ok the beer helps.  Realistically, I probably should have started years ago.  Hopefully I’ll have as much interesting things to discuss going forward as I’ve done in the past.

As for what readers will find here.  I’m hoping to do reports of beer happenings in my surrounding area (Northern Delaware, USA – tristate area), regular beer reviews and creatively embellished stories of past exploits.  But what’s beer without life, or life without beer?  So you’ll see other stuff as well.  Cooking, grilling, music, all is fair game.

Hope you enjoy!

This blog would not be possible without:

State Line Liquors, Elkton MD
Two Stone’s Pub, Newark DE  “Kneel Before The Pint!”