Despite my best efforts to procure a DeLorean and a fistful of plutonium and travel back in time, I remain rooted in the present, growing older by the minute. But thanks to Massachusetts' Pretty Things, I'm able to skip backward through the centuries via the magic of the beer glass. Working in conjunction with beer historian Ron Pattinson, Dann Paquette and Martha Holley-Paquette re-create recipes lost to the dusty annals of time with their Once Upon a Time... series. Take the first release, February 27th, 1832: The British mild ale, despite its vanilla moniker, was made with heaps of whole-flower hops and boasted a dizzying 10.5 percent ABV. It's a taste of the past that tastes delicious today. Curious? Check out the full story at Food Republic. Drink it up!
I bashed my apartment's buzzer in staccato blasts, releasing a sound as shrill as a school bell.
My fiancée leaned outside our third-floor window, her increasingly long blonde locks dangling like Rapunzel's once did. "Did you lose your keys?" she asked. I heard our dog, Sammy, yelping like an aardvark. The buzzer's precise pitch drives him into high-pitched hysterics.
"I can't reach my keys," I said, my knees wobbly from three beers too many. "They're blocked by pasta." "Pasta?" "Pasta. I have so much pasta. Please come down and let me in." She slid the window shut and slunk downstairs as excitedly as a condemned prisoner off to greet the firing squad. She unbolted the door. I passed her 10 pounds of gnocchi, 10 pounds of cavatelli with sausage and 5 pounds apiece of olives and wedges of salty Parmesan cheese. "And there's desserts, too!" I slurred, displaying ricotta cheesecake and a chocolate tart.
"Where did this come from?" she asked, incredulous. From her arched eyebrows, I knew she assumed I sourced the food via dubious means. After all, last week I brought her 36 containers of Greek yogurt lifted from this very newspaper's bike show. "I didn't steal it," I said, trying to look innocent despite my shirt's marinara stain. "Well, what happened?" "It's a long story," I said.
After months of writerly toil, my book on the global craft beer revolution, Brewed Awakening, will hit bookstores, Kindles, Nooks and iPads this fall. This is a freaking relief. Yet the book's arrival heralds glad-handing promotional work for which I'm ill-suited. I'm most comfortable in my apartment, pants-less, crafting crotchety proclamations and puns from the comfort of my new desk chair. (God bless extra lumbar support!) When I wear jeans and meet the world face to face, I lose a little verve. It's like some bastardized version of Samson's hair.
My first round of promotions brought me to the backyard of Brooklyn Italian standout Frankies 457. My publishing company was holding a dinner for its booksellers. These are the tireless men and women who canvass the globe, convincing shops such as Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters to stock my tome. An inspired sales force is as critical to a book's success as the content. Thus, my role in the eve's dog and pony show: lead a brew tasting for the attendees, convincing them that I put the fun in functional beer drunk.
No one makes antiperspirant strong enough for such a situation. Steeling my cowardly lion heart with a calming nip of Rittenhouse Rye, I selected three innovative craft beers. Like a preacher taking to the pulpit, I strode to a podium above the crowd and began preaching the good-beer gospel. I sang hosannas of the prickly, thirst-quenching Pretty Things Jack D'Or saison. I held forth on Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, a sweetly potent double IPA. "It smells a bit like a marijuana farm," I explained, inhaling the dank bouquet. Finally came Great Divide Yeti, a huge stout with notes of coffee and cocoa. "It's a monstrous beer," I explained, leaving no pun unturned.
The crowd drank in my words as quickly as they drank the beer. I drank faster. As I answered booksellers' questions ("A saison was originally brewed to slake Belgian farmhands' thirst," I explained), I took small, steady sips of beer from a glass that, thanks to the attentive waitresses, never went dry. Like Chinese water torture, the effects soon accumulated. By the time I sat down to dine on cavatelli with spicy Faicco's sausage, my head felt like a merry-go-round. The carbohydrates and carnivorous pleasures could not reverse damage done, and continually inflicted.
"Have another beer," my dining companions insisted. I could not refuse. As a beer expert, you're expected to consume too much. To do otherwise would be like Takeru Kobayashi coming to a Fourth of July BBQ and only eating one Nathan's hot dog. So I drank Hop Stoopid till I resembled the IPA's name. Luckily, the liquid onslaught was cut short by the clock: At 9:30 p.m., the booksellers boarded a bus bound for Manhattan. I gathered my woozy dignity and belongings and headed for the door.
"Josh, would you like to take the leftovers home?" the manager asked, pointing to the towers of boxed pasta, cheese and desserts. Three beers earlier, I would've begged off, not wanting to seem like a greedy, greedy gumdrop. But I'd had enough beer to activate my inner cheapskate. That was enough food to feed me for weeks, with sweets to appease my chocolate-mad fiancée.
"Don't mind if I do," I said, filling two shopping bags with food and not one drop of shame.
Photo: By&y Will this be you during Craft Beer Week?
Hey, look at the calendar! It’s that time of year when leaves slip from trees, hooded sweatshirts are dusted off and I wander around town as drunk as a sailor on shore leave, drenched from skull to sneakers in craft beer. Dear readers, it’s time again for New York Craft Beer Week, a citywide suds celebration that kicks off Sept. 24.
But which tasting soirees, beer-pairing dinners and festivals are worth your bucks and belly space? Behold, my inebriated expertise! Below, find my picks for Craft Beer Week. Which really lasts 10 days. Now that’s some drunken math I can support. Sept. 24: Freaktoberfest
Come to the official kickoff party at Park Slope club Rock Shop, featuring bands, burlesque and craft beer up the ying-yang. Try a pint of CBW’s official beer, Geektoberfest. It’s a blend of barrel-aged brews from Ithaca, Schmaltz and Captain Lawrence. (249 4th Ave. betw. President & Carroll Sts., Brooklyn, www. freaktoberfest.blogspot.com; 7, $55.)
Sept. 25: Homebrewers Tour Am I really a pants-less, shambling wreck with a liver the size of Luxembourg? Today’s your lucky day! I’m leading a tour of the homes of NYC’s finest amateur brewers, where we’ll meet them, discuss their craft and, most importantly, drink their delicious beer. Can’t make it today? I’m leading a second tour Oct. 2. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a ticket and receive details; 1, $25.)
Sept. 25 & 26: Get Real NY More than 70 different cask ales are available, including eclectic offerings from Michigan’s fab Founders and Florida’s Cigar City. After knocking back a couple pints, work up the liquid courage to chat up on-hand brewers, including Captain Lawrence’s Scott Vaccaro and Sixpoint’s Shane Welch. Nibbles from Luke’s Lobster and Grandaisy Bakery will help keep intoxication at bay. (135 W. 18th St. betw. 6th & 7th Aves., www.getrealny.com; noon & 5, $65.)
Sept. 27: The Mastery of Brooklyn Hit East Village watering hole Swift Hibernian to sample some of Brooklyn Brewery’s rarest Brewmaster’s Reserve elixirs. Hops lovers will go hogwild for the Blast, Demolition and lemony Sorachi Ace, while fans of the dark side will favor the inky Black Ops stout. Plus free snacks! (24 E. 4th St. at Bowery, 212-260- 3600, www.swiftnycbar.com; 5, Free.)
Sept. 28: Pretty Things v. Funky Cheeses Bad breath will be on the menu at Brooklyn’s d.b.a., where owner Ray Dieter joins cheese expert Martin Johnson in presenting seven superb beers from Massachusetts’ Pretty Things—one of my favorite new breweries—paired with stinky, full-flavored fromage. (113 N. 7th St. betw. Berry & Wythe Sts., 212-533-3072,www. thejoyofcheese.blogspot.com; 7:30, $30.)
Sept. 29: Hill Country and Abita Dinner Forget cholesterol counts for the evening, as the Texas-style BBQ haunt partners with Louisiana’s best brewery for a gut-stuffing spectacle. To whet your appetite: smokedbrisket taquitos are served aside hopshinted Restoration Pale Ale, while coffeerubbed Texas tenderloin meets its match in the malty Turbodog. (30 W. 26th St. at 6th Ave., 212-255-4544, www.hillcountryny.com; 6:30, $60.)
Sept. 30: Brewer’s Choice City Winery is turned over to more than 15 of the country’s best brewers—Ommegang’s Phil Leinart, Ballast Point’s Colby Chandler, Goose Island’s Greg Hall—who will serve their potions paired with first-rate food from Brooklyn Larder, Jimmy’s No. 43, Jacques Torres Chocolate and more. It’s gourmet as all get-out. (155 Varick St. at Vandam St., www.nycbrewrschoice.com; 6, $75.)
Oct. 1: Great World Beer Festival Slim pickings today, but the best bet is the Great World Beer Festival (a.k.a. Brewtopia), counting A-list breweries such as Bear Republic and Southampton. Years ago, Brewtopia helped introduce me to craft beer in New York. Oh, how I rue that wallet-draining day. (548 W. 22nd St. betw. 10th & 11th Aves., www.worldbeerfest.com; 8, $65. Also Oct. 2.)
Oct. 2: Voyage of the IPA Avast, ye landlubbers! Climb aboard a 158-foot schooner with Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver, who will lecture about the history of hoppy, piney India pale ales as the boat cruises around New York harbor. Sweetening the deal are IPAs from Brooklyn Brewery and other locally brewed bitter beauties. (Email email@example.com; 4:30, $65.)
Oct. 3: Bike Brooklyn Beer Blitz Tour guide, amateur historian and Gut Instinct pal Matt Levy takes bikers on a tour of Brooklyn’s brewing history. In Williamsburg and Bushwick, you’ll investigate the hulking breweries and mansions built from the profits of German beer. The tour terminates at Evergreen cemetery—the resting grounds of many bygone brewers—and closes with a liquid surprise. Hint: It’s not water. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org; 1, $25. Also, Sept. 25 & 26 and Oct. 2.)