Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Winter Stout

Howdy all,

Quick question, what common tie exists between NHL super-star Gordie Howe and Texas craft beer?

Ready for the answer?

The Houston Aeros signed Howe in ’73, allowing him to fulfill a dream of playing hockey with his two sons, and this April, Houston’s own Saint Arnold Brewery will be hosting the 10th annual get together for enthusiasts of craft beer and Aeros’ hockey that will include a pregame meet up at the brewery, group seating for an Aeros’ game, and post game wind down at a local pub (click here for details.)

While I don’t have an opportunity to join the people of Houston for this event, something that I am truly disappointed about, I do have the opportunity to join them in the enjoyment of the quality beer produced by St. Arnold. This afternoon I have decided to crack open a few bottles of this brewery’s Winter Stout.

Pouring the beer, which is a “tweaked” result of a home brew competition promoted by the brewery in the late 90s, the stout is a dark brown, almost, but not quite black, body, while a slight ruby color can be seen in the edges of the pint glass. Atop the body of the beverage, the head is a nice, light tan hue. As strongly as the head forms with a semi-aggressive pour, it is a tad disappointing to see it die down quickly to less than the width of a dime.  

Putting my olfactory glands to work, I experience the aromas of bread, the malty sweetness of candy sugars and caramel, balanced by coffee and roasted aromas. 

Taking my first sip, the wet, medium bodied beverage rushes the palate with a mélange of honey, candy and caramel flavors. On the back of the palate roasted coffee flavor and bitterness, displaying light floral and woody accents, rounds out the malt bomb on the front end.

The best way to describe this beer would be as a unique interpretation on the style, from an equally unique brewery. This is a wicked little wrister that goes top shelf.

Cheers to Texas craft beer, and to Texas Hockey. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Padilla La Terraza Capa Maduro Serie 2010 Robusto

Good morning wonderful people,

It’s a quiet, slow Sunday morning. As the family and dogs rest peacefully I pour myself a heaping mug of coffee, queue up some Billie Holiday, and rummage around for a cigar to enjoy this morning, finally deciding on a Padilla La Terraza Capa Maduro Serie 2010. 

The cigar is a wonderfully dark, unquestionable maduro, wrapped cigar (originating from Nicaragua) that is both hefty and feels firm in my fingers.

Lighting the stick is easy, and it burns evenly throughout the smoking experience. The first inch of flavor is full of a nice mellow coffee body with accenting spiciness.

A less than favorable paper aftertaste does develop, but by the second inch of the cigar is just a faint memory. As well, the spiciness subsides, but is replaced by the sweetness one can expect from a quality maduro stogie, adding depth to the coffee essence, and complimenting wonderfully the cup of Columbian coffee I am enjoying.

By the last half, and through the point that I have to put the cigar down to avoid singeing the whiskers under my nose, the sweet earthy, coffee notes are persistent and augmented by a gradually increasing leather accent.

This cigar was just wonderful despite the early, short lived, detractions noted in this review. Never did any metallic or acrid flavors meddle with my enjoyment of this full flavored, medium full strength, cigar. At less than five bucks for this robusto, this is a great value to the budget conscious cigar connoisseur. 

Happy smoking!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Salvation Belgian Style Golden Ale by Avery Brewing

Well boys and girls, it’s a game night for the Dallas Stars, and your host is without a simple, throw-back beer. What is a fan of beer and the National Hockey League supposed to do? Well, obviously it would require that I negotiate listening to the game du jour against the Winnipeg Jets and enjoy a fine craft beer.

The beer I have decided to enjoy Salvation, a Belgian style golden ale by Avery Brewing Co located in Boulder, Colorado. Pouring the bomber into a glass chalice, this beverage pours out a nice, cloudy, golden orange hue. While a nice, white head forms atop the ale, it doesn’t last terribly long, and dissipates to a whisper of a dimes width.

Essences of light malts, citrus hops, and a mélange of fruit flavors carry on the aroma.

The first sip of this beer offers a malt body with a nice bitter backend that offers a nice medium bodied flavor profile. The opening profile of sweet apricot and banana notes are balanced by a light orange and nutmeg zest that keeps the beverage interesting as it’s consumed.

Being the first beer that I’ve enjoyed from this brewery, I am impressed, and looking forward to indulging in another bottle or two in the near future. I could only wish for a little bit more aggression in the carbonation and a bit more boldness in flavor.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Young's Double Chocolate Stout

Greetings readers,

I hope everyone has been doing as well, if not better, than myself. Today has been a productive day, having applied for a few jobs, played some hockey, and returned a few calls from prospective employers. After a modest lunch I am watching the Swedish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and decided to have a mid-day beer. Scrounging around in the back of the fridge I find the last of a 4 pack of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and find it the best option for my lunchtime dessert.

Pouring out these beers that make use of the widget system to provide the suds is always a visual treat. Usually implementing nitrogen, as opposed to carbon dioxide, the beer pours out a lively striation of hues. This beer starts as a dark, opaque bottom to a gradually lighter top portion of coffee colored head. Giving the ale a few moments to settle, a clear, stark break from the dark ale and lighter head forms. It should be noted that the bubbles of the head are small from the alternative to carbonation in the nitrogen, making a creamy, soft appearance. 

Nitrogen is infused in the beverage via a "widget" system, a small plastic ball, that merges the gas with beer once the pressure is compromised by popping the top. This gives the bear a very creamy and smooth mouth-feel and appearance.

Greeted with a bready, slightly chocolate aroma on the introduction, the initial introduction of beer to tongue is both medium bodied in flavor and mouthfeel. The beer appears to be pretty strait forward, offering a predominately chocolate malt body (apparently augmented with chocolate flavoring) and a very slight coffee like bitterness on the backend of the palate, leaving the mouth with a slightly chalky aftertaste.

I remember liking this beer more in my youth, before I was aware of more adventurous American craft brewers. This beer is still a fine ale, but lacks a lot of depth that I have come to associate with chocolate stouts made stateside.


Monday, March 19, 2012

H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon Toro

Happy Friday boys and gals.

If you are lucky enough to be a college student or professor, today marks the first day of spring break for those of you, like my wife, lucky enough to not have classes on Fridays. Today (before sitting in front of my computer to apply flame to tobacco, sip coffee, and apply for jobs,) I kissed my wife goodbye as we loaded up the SUV for her trip to Lafayette, LA to see her family. For the next week I will enjoy the whole bed (well the 20% that my 30 pound beagle will allow me to have,) a few cigars, and a lot of craft beer. Maybe some wine or bourbon as well, but that is not set in stone.

To open up the week’s tour of intoxicants, I have selected an H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon Toro, distributed by Altadis SA.

Filled with a combination of tobacco from Dominic Republic, Nicaragua, and Peru, and bound with additional tobacco from Nicaragua, this hefty 6 by 54 cigar sports an almost flawless Cameroon wrapper that is dark, and velvety thanks to the leaf’s natural oils.

Using the cutter on the end of my keychain, I pierce the wrapper twice to open the draw on the stogie, and prevent excessive tar buildup while smoking.

Initially, the cigar offers a light, sweet nuttiness. This bouquet gains additional generic spice and an underlying earthiness with exhaled through the nose.

Through the first inch of the experience the draw suffers, and creates a sour, paper like aftertaste. I feel this is a problem with my tobacconist’s position of his humidification system in his walk in. (I need to remember this and allow additional resting time in my own humidor.)
Luckily, giving the cigar another inch, and slowing down my pace considerably, the draw opened up, and most of the sourness dissipated in the next inch or so. This submission allowed development of the spice notes, creating a more defined, medium bodied, white pepper flavor.

Through the last half of the stick, the flavor evolves to a medium full flavor, mixing a combination of pepper and subtle earthiness for the final act.

Unfortunately the light breakfast I enjoyed before lighting up is not enough to stand up to the strength of nicotine brought to the party, and hits me with a quick jab to the head and stomach that was remedied by another cup of coffee and additional pastry. 

Overall the cigar was solid, decent, and at 6 and a half bucks, worthy of indulging in again, albeit after a more substantial meal.

Happy Smoking!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Bock by Saint Arnold Brewing

Tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day, a day that a lot of Americans will use as an excuse to drink adjunct lagers that have been dyed green (just like they do in Ireland?) If you must celebrate a holiday that properly celebrates merriment and the consumption of alcohol, please follow the German tradition. Don’t add fake color to beer, brew beer specific to the holiday, and make it last a couple of weeks.

If I had to celebrate a saint, make it Saint Arnold, the patron saint of brewers, and namesake to Houston’s own craft brewery. Today, in my favorite saint's celebration,  I have decided to crack open a couple of bottles of Saint Arnold’s Spring Bock.

As the beer decants from a bottle with a label adorned with Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes, flowers that mark the coming of spring in the Texas landscape, the beverage exhibits a pretty, amber hue with amazing clarity. A slight off-white head forms with the width of a dime as the CO2 action from the pour dies down.

With a bready, malt forward nose, intertwined with the aroma of light, floral hops, I take an aggressive first gulp.  My palate is rewarded with a wet, full bodied, full flavored, malt experience.  With its nice, rounded, caramel body, there is a very subtle floral backend that is just enough to keep the sweetness from being cloying, keeping the beverage very drinkable throughout the three bottles I enjoyed this afternoon.

In Texas, you can’t really drink and talk about a bock style beer without mentioning the 300-pound armadillo in the room, Shiner Bock. 

Since I was of drinking age, my older brother always lamented on how Shiner was not as good as it was after they became part of the Gambrinus Company. (A quick side note, Gambrinus is referenced as the name of an “unofficial” saint of beer and beer brewing while Saint Arnold is the patron saint of Hop Pickers and Belgian brewers.)

My brother, who gets my respect as a malt head, tells me this is what Shiner “used to be like,” and will do just about anything short of papalcide (the murder of the Pope) to get his lips on this beer.

While I lean more towards being hop obsessed, I can see how this well-balanced, refreshing bock can generate excitement in its fans.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ruthless Rye IPA 2012 by Sierra Nevada

Well, It has been just about a week since my previous employer and I parted ways, and I am still trying to decide if this course was for the better or ill. For the past few mornings I have scrolled through job postings searching for something different, but really only finding the same. I apply to jobs that my prior experience speaks volumes for, hoping only to stumble across something unique and inspiring.

As well, the lack of employment has also allowed me to play EA Sports NHL 2012, where in 13 games Pope Crisco is the lead leader in goals (32) and in points (40), helping the New Jersey Devils to a 7-4-2 record, bring my Dynasty Hockey League team to a winning percentage of better than .852, and other fruitless means of passing time.

Having earned my leisure, tonight I am enjoying the evening's ale, Sierra Nevada's 2012 Ruthless Rye India Pale Ale.

Adorned in a bottle with a label that seems inspired from antiquated bottles of liquor, with everything from fields of grain to the image of the Grimm Reaper, the beer decants a nice, super clear, burnt umber hue. An ever so slight off white head forms easy, crowns the beverage throughout the paced consumption during this review, leaving a very aesthetic lacing in its progression to absolution.

A nose of hop forward citrus greets the olfactory glands, accented by hints of spice and malt.

On the palate flavors of grapefruit and orange zest awaken the mouth. Before a sharp bitterness takes over the experience on, white pepper mingles with the citrus body. This allows an underlying malt body to temper the r essence of the hop forward ale, making a wonderfully complex and balance beer.   

This beer cannot come more recommended by myself for those individuals that like a full bodied, hop forward ale.


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Home Brewer and the Beer Reviewer

It seems like everyone and his or her brother has an opinion on craft beer. With the number of new voices popping up online, spending silly amounts of time pontificating on the nuances of the craft, I am really surprised by the still relatively few of us bloggers and critics who take the extra time (and enjoyable time, I might add) brewing beer ourselves.

It is my own opinion that taking the time to brew a few batches of ale really opens one’s eyes to a nuanced skill and art that this community purports to be obsessed with. From working with one hop variety or grain versus another, to playing with ratios of these ingredients, and switching up yeast strains, what was once a superficial understanding of brewing emerges into a true knowledge of the art.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that I am a brewing authority, or the end all to the distilling of flavors and the craft of beer from the few batches I have under my belt, but I do believe it has provided me an insight I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

As well, nor do I want to suggest one know how to “do” to review. It’s true that an individual can dissect everything from automobiles to art without the skills to repair or create either, and still describe with insight and accuracy. Personally though, I will give more weight to the experienced over the educated in many arenas, including fermentable intoxicants.

Interest in home brewing? Want to know how different aspects of brewing effect flavor? Check out these books from Amazon, hand selected by Pope Crisco: 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shiner Ryes And Shine by Spoetzl Brewery

As a Texan and also as a craft beer drinker, I feel somewhat at odds when presented with a beer from the Spoetzl Brewery, namely Shiner Bock. Much like the offerings from the Boston Beer Co, the flagship beers of these breweries are what I would call “craft lite,” seeking consensus and ease of drinkability on the palates of less adventurous beer drinkers, pulling back on flavor and aggressiveness, where smaller craft breweries find their niche.

Maybe Spoetzl, by calling this their 2nd craft brew is acknowledging their normal production line as something other than craft?

This is not a bad thing, for I don’t always want to pound my taste buds to death, but I still want some flavor to hold onto. For this reason I will occasionally buy a 12 pack of Shiner's “Family Reunion,” a sampler of their Blonde, Bock, Black Lager, and a seasonal wild card. Last year's season was the first of their “Brewer's Pride,” an Old Time Alt, this year the boys and girls from Shiner, TX are offering the second release in the line, a rye lager.

This new offering, Ryes & Shine, is a combination of rye, chocolate rye, caramel malts, and three varieties of hops. Dispensing the lager into a pint glass, the beer pours out a dark yet still translucent hue. Lots of active carbonation bubbles and ferments to the top of the beverage that sports a half finger, off white head that does not dissipate, and adheres to the pint glass's sides in an attractive lace.

A bready, malty nose with hints of spice greets the drinker as the first sip of this medium bodied lager hits the palate with a roasted caramel nuttiness and a slight generic spice that offers a nice, dry finish. As more of the beer is consumed, the generic spice develops more, and the sweetness of the body tempers considerably, offering a peppery aspect that brings out some of the flavor of the chocolate rye malts on the backend.

This beer seems to be an example, as was Shiner's Wild Hare Pale Ale, of the brewery's awareness of their position as a big boy in the land of craft breweries, and a need to address the wants of a thirsty public. While not an excellent beer, it is a solid effort from this brewery to offer a more diverse and unique product to the marketplace, and worth a try.

It’s been a Rye-mageddon here at the “offices” of Intoxico! Be on the lookout for a review of Sierra Nevada's Ruthless Rye IPA coming soon to this website.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Intoxico Movie Review: Goon (2011)

As the readers of this blog might know, I am a big fan of hockey. In fact, I probably spend a good 3 or more hours a day reading about and watching the sport, not to mention the playing of hockey video games. Needless to say, when I ran across a trailer for Goon, the story of bar bouncer Doug Glatt, who, after obliterating a hockey player who jumps the glass to go after his pal, ends up on the roster of a local hockey team as an enforcer, I was sold on the movie.

Starring Sean William Scott (American Pie), Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up), Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World), and Liev Schreiber (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Goon’s appeal is as straightforward as Doug’s role on the ice, in that it beats you over the head with simple, juvenile humor, characters that have about as much depth as a the paper that promotes the movie, and fast, violent sport action. In other words this movie isn’t Annie Hall, hell, its not even Slap Shot, but it is an entertaining, turn your mind off excuse to buy popcorn.

This movie seems to have gone to video-on-demand fairly quickly, and you can watch this as I did via’s streaming video service.

A Word To the Critics

Eyeing over the response that critics have made about this movie, it’s obvious that my wife and I enjoyed it more than others perhaps did. What seems more glaring about these reviews is that they don’t appear to understand the game the movie portrays, complaining about the violence that it illustrates, asserting that it is quite obviously over the top for comedic and entertainment value.

To quote Bill Cosby, “I went to a boxing match, and a hockey game broke out.“

It’s a sport that is fast and dynamic enough to require that teams find balance in skill and grit to win games. As much as everyone wants a Wayne Gretzky, you need a Shane Churla or Scott Stevens to have their bodies abused, and in turn to abuse the bodies of others in the name of the stars they protect from injury.

A lot of critics have in the same articles played up the Paul Newman hockey classic Slap Shot, while deriding the violence of Goon. Ironically, Slap Shot is a lot less realistic in portraying the sport. As a fan of the game, I can say only the fringe element is sold on hockey’s fighting element. In Slap Shot the fans and players are distilled to rosters and bleachers filled with blood lust. Goon, much more realistically, has only a few key players who use physicality in their role, and typically only fight as a response to pain enacted on their teammates, not a means to score goals.   

Simply stated, the on-ice content of Goon is much more realistic than that of Slap Shot, and it should be addressed in any comparison of the two movies. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Belgo by New Belgium Brewery

Hope everyone is enjoying their lives today,

Despite being back in the hunt for employment again, my day was fairly productive and enjoyable. Starting the day off with a hearty breakfast, half a pot of coffee, and a cigar or two, I got back to the task of submitting resumes for employment, and even found a moment or two to work on Intoxico, making a banner, a graphic for a linkshare project, and a new background. 

I feel that as long as I keep busy and make effective use of this downtime to develop the site, and myself, good things will happen.

To celebrate my fruitful afternoon, I am unwinding with New Belgium's Belgo, a “Belgian Style IPA.”

Decanting the beverage, it pours out a hyper clear orange with just oodles and oodles of active carbonation. Tiny bubbles scurry to the top of the beverage and converge atop a decent, creamy, orange hued head that sits about a silver dollar's width atop the drink. The lacing is impressive, and just shy of awe inspiring

The aroma wafting from the freshly poured beverage suggests balance between both the Belgian style, with fruity, clove and banana malt essence, and the India Pale Ale style with as a nice, crisp lemon hop nose.

The first sip of this medium bodied ale carries the maltiness of a prototypical Belgian style beer, knocking taste buds over with the same clove and banana profile that was on the nose. Where a normal Belgian's malt forwardness tends to be cloyingly sweet, this beer quickly develops a bitterness that cuts through the fruitiness, adding both a floral and citrus back-end to the beverage.

In summation, while there are characteristics of this beer that speak to the quality of the ingredients and skill that created this beverage, I feel the execution has created a beer that suffers from dissonance that I find hard to enjoy, as opposed to the harmony I assume they were trying to bring with the two diverging styles.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Distillers of Etherial Intoxicants: Pope Crisco's List of Influential Artists

This morning I am enjoying a cigar, a giant mug of coffee, and allowing myself to get stuck on where I want to be and where I am. This reflection, or obsession, whichever it might be, has me stuck on listing the heroes that have influenced my desire to seek a profession in the arts.

It is debatable that these figures and my obsession with them have led me astray, and thus my youthful intoxication with them has led to the hangover of adulthood.

The Writers:

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Jorge Luis Borges
Miguel De Cervantes
Ernest Hemmingway
John Steinbeck
Franz Kafka
Isaac Asimov
John Byrne
Frank Miller

The Visual Artists:    

Roy Lichtenstein
Jack Kirby
Edward Hopper
David Hockney
Jasper Johns
Edward Ruscha
Alfred Stieglitz
Robert Rauschenberg
Francis Bacon

The Musicians

John Coltrane
Django Reinhardt
Fats Waller
Charles Mingus
The Pixies
The Beatles
Miles Davis
Nat “King” Cole
Louis Armstrong
Lou Reed
Bo Diddely
Link Wray
Les Paul
Billie Holiday
Sarah Parker
Charlie Parker

Of course there are others not on this list, but who really wants to read a list of a fanboy’s object of obsession?

My intent of this list is to act as a jumping board for articles on these individuals created intoxicants. I (hopefully) will add links to this list of articles describing my personal response to their works as intoxicants, adding to the overall definition of Intoxico outside the realm of physical consumables.

Until then, thanks for reading, and indulging in my own musings on intoxication. While not quite the artistic expression I was hoping to produce in my youth, it is what I have for the time being. 

Iron Thistle Scottish Ale by Rahr and Sons Brewing Co.

Well, today is March 2nd, and on this day in 1836, the state of Texas officially broke it ties with Mexico, and in 2012, I broke my ties with my employer. Sparing all the boring details, I am glad to not have to walk back into that office, and now I just need to find a job that offers a decent salary, and a daily routine that saves me from dread and regret.

To celebrate these acts of liberation I have popped a couple caps off bottles of Rahr and Sons' Iron Thistle, a Scottish Style Ale in the tradition of a “wee heavy.”

Pouring out a nice mahogany hue, the beer forms a nice, light tan head that needs an aggressive pour to form a substantial head, and leaves a decent, yet somewhat unimpressive lacing on the pint glass.

Aromas mingling sweet, roasted, caramel essence greet the drinker with a nice, developed opening and is balanced by an underlying bitterness of coffee and hops. This essence is echoed in the flavors of this beer, adding slight chocolate and floral notes, filling out any holes in the profile of the beverage. As the beverage is consumed a nice warmth follows down the esophagus into the gullet.

As my wife articulated with wonderful brevity, “It's yummy!”

Happy drinking! Prost!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ugly Pug by Rahr and Sons Brewing Co

 Right now, as I write this beer review, I am trying to decide whether I should continue to toil at my current job with, well, lets just say the bank of the northern hemisphere.

I work in their mortgage department, so my day consists of me telling people useful bits of information, teaching them about the documents they signed, answering questions they should have asked at closing, and taking their abuse. The job isn’t hard, once you get past the stupidity and verbal abuse, and I guess for some people can be happy in this type of life. Personally, I feel trapped in a routine that offers me no out regardless of how hard I run on my hamster wheel. Do I waste more time trying to find a place in this large, bureaucratic fish bowl? Do I toss the dice on finding a new place to take abuse from faceless customers and ineffective management? Or, do I try to find something outside of my area of expertise, my area of experience in this down economy?

This is why I used to drink to excess. I am now better about managing my alcohol intake, but that numbing alcohol helped me put blinders on, and drudge through my last customer service job for the better part of six years.

Well, enough with my therapy, it's time for tonight’s medication. The doctor has prescribed another bottle of craft beer, this time another selection from Rahr and Sons, their black lager, Ugly Pug.

This beer pours out a pretty, rich and dark, almost black, brown ale. The light tan head forms strong and fast, starting at a thick finger, but dissipates to a still impressive half finger's thickness. Lacing of the beer was nice, but not quite as impressive as the crown atop my beverage.

The aroma of the beverage is light, and has a breadiness that is familiar from my experience with the lagers from this brewery. Coupling the familiar nose, there is a malty sweetness and mild bitter fragrance.

With both a medium bodied flavor profile and mouth-feel, the beer exhibits a nice, toasted caramel and coffee flavor with a tasty, light floral hop essence on the backend.

The drinkability of this beer is wonderful, and a well suited alternative to macro pilsners and Shiner Bock that Texans serviced by this Fort Worth brewery might otherwise reach for when temperature starts heading north.


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