Now Drinking

Motor City Hard Cider

ABV: 6.5%

Dry.  I’m not an expert on such things, but I think the folks at MCBW let this puppy ferment a little too long.  I’ve gotten more apple out of bourbons and white wines that I get out of this.  Not to say it’s undrinkable, it’s not, in fact it goes very well with food.  But if you’re looking for a little hit of apple, you’re barking up the wrong tree.  It’s a murky tan color and has a strange tangy smell to it.  It has a bitter finish too, that is not very pleasant.  If you see this in the store, skip it and get the ghetto blaster ale.

Now Drinking

Keweenaw Brewing Company Pick Axe Blonde

Style: American Blonde

ABV: ???

I was completely unable to find any information of the alcohol content of Pick Axe Blonde.  For some reason, it’s not on the can.

At any rate, this beer delivers what it promises.  It’s a perfectly blonde beer, with a medium-full body that is heftier than I expected.  I do like my blondes with a lot of body .  As the side of the can says it has just a kiss of hops, which is refreshing in these days of hop hysteria.  It’s almost too full-bodied for back porch sipping, but it has a great balance of maltiness and sweetness.  That and the busty blonde babe on the can, and you can’t go wrong.  I think I’m developing a big crush on this blonde.

Last Night

Motor City Brew Works Amber Wheat

Style: Wheat

ABV: ???

In spite of what the brewer at Royal Oak Brewery would have you think, I do enjoy wheat beers.  So when my friend ordered the seasonal Amber Wheat when we met up at the Motor City Brew Works (MCBW), I made it a pitcher.  MCBW is best known for its Ghetto Blaster Ale, very popular in these parts.

The Wheat is a nice dark orange color and the pitcher came with an abundance of oranges.  It is medium-bodied and a bit light on flavor.  If you like wheats, then you may be a bit disappointed, but if you don’t, you might be pleasantly surprised.

MCBW is located in mid-town Detroit and has a wonderful brewpub that is perfect for warm-weather sipping.  The whole building seems to open up into the outside, with the feel of a beachside bar.  It has a fairly large, airy rooftop seating area, where my friend and I sat.  As the setting sun beat down on us the pitcher shrank and the conversation grew, and I was reminded that sometimes it’s not about the beer.

Now Drinking

Axl Pale Ale

Maker: Milking It Brewery (Royal Oak, MI)

Style: American Pale Ale

ABV: 6%

Christy, barmaid at my favorite Detroit pub, and former King Brewery (Pontiac, MI) employee is a partner in this new microbrewery in my town, Royal Oak, Michigan.

It’s what I like in a Pale Ale.  It has plenty of hoppy bitterness, but a touch of sweetness and a relatively dark color and full body with a tiny citrus tang in the finish.  King’s will indeed be missed, but this beer is a fantastic start for Milking It.  If this is any indication of what’s to come, Michigan is going to have yet another GREAT microbrewery.

Last Night

Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve (Bourbon Heritage Collection) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Age: 13 y/o

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Maker: Belmont Distillery (?), Louisville, KY (United Distillers)

So that I don’t have to pretend like I’m getting all boozed up in the daytime, I’ve added a “Last Night” catgory.  This is what I was drinking last night.  Get it?  Good.

The Bourbon Heritage Collection (BHC) was a collection of whiskeys put out by United Distillers back in the 1980s and 1990s (I think).  There were five of them, representing the five biggest brands of American whiskey owned by UD at the time.  UD has a long conplicated history, but it is a descendent of the Guiness company and the Schenley whiskey company, and was itself an ancestor of international alcohol conglamorate Diageo.  The 5 were: Old Charter Propritor’s Reserve (OCPR), I.W. Harper 15 y/o, Weller Centennial (10 y/o, 100 proof), Very Special Old Fitzgerald (12 y/o) and George Dickel Special Barrel Reserve (a Tennesee Whiskey, 10 y/o).  Of these, the Weller Centennial and the and the OCPR are the best regarded, although all of them are very good whiskeys.

In the 1990s when UD was becoming Diageo, they decided to sell off their bourbon distilleries and most of their bourbon brands.  Old Charter and Weller went to Buffalo Trace and Old Fitzgerald went to Heaven Hill.  They kept Harper (now only sold overseas) and Dickel.  Of the BHC whiskeys, the only one that is still made is the Very Special Old Fitzgerald (VSOF).  The Centennial and OCPR continued being made by Buffalo Trace for several years after their acquisition, and they can still be found on shelves, but they are becoming increasingly rare, especially the highly sought-after Centennial.  The older OCPRs are easily distinguished by their “sloped shoulders” as opposed to the squat bottles (similar to Elmer T. Lee and the Centennial bottles) used by Buffalo Trace after they took over the brand.  All the BHC members also have a BHC neck band that was only used when they were made by UD.

As for the whiskey, the color is a light copper.  It has thin, light legs.  A good deal of wood comes through on the nose.  This smells older than 13 years old.  There must be a fairly high preportion of older whiskeys in this baby.  The predomiant aroma here is of butterscotch or toffee.  What it reminds me of the most is Werther’s Original hard candies.

On the palate it is light and sweet, with a big hit of wood upfront, like Sideshow Bob getting hit in the face with a rake.  Ok, that was kind of silly.  Sweetness follows on quickly, then some good, old fashioned alcohol burn.  It fades away into a faintly sweet finish, with some more of that light, sweet butterscotch.

What I like about this whiskey is that it is not a butterscotch monster like some of its younger kin.  It is very well-balanced.  It’s soft and sweet, but it still has plenty of character.  Again, I’m not too much of a fan of the other products of this distillery, but this one is truely an excellent whiskey, a classic.  Track one down if you can.

Now Drinking

Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Age: 12 yrs.

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Maker: Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland (Edrington Group)

It’s Whiskey Friday.  For those of you who are whiskey fans and on twitter, check out Whiskey Friday.  Or just type #Whiskey Friday and then something else.

A note on spelling.  In spite of popular opinion, there is no difference between whiskey and whisky.  Whisky is how the word is spelled in the U.K. and Canada.  Whiskey is how the word is spelled in the U.S. and Ireland.  Both spellings indicate a spirit made from grain and aged (with the exception of corn whiskey, which may be unaged).  To confuse matters more, some brands of American whiskey, like Old Forester, Maker’s Mark and George Dickel, use the e-less spelling.  So, in short, it’s not worth getting too worked up about spelling.

It’s no secret that bourbon is my spirit of choice.  But when I first started exploring the world of spirits, I drank quite a bit of Scotch.  I moved away from it, but from time to time I do find myself feeling the urge for Scotch.

Highland Park is my kinda Scotch.  It has a little bit of all the things that make Scotch Whisky special.  It has all these things, but instead of being busy, all the elements hang in beautiful balance.

The color is light, like honey that has siezed up in the bottle.  I like that a lot.  I like it beacause it shows that it is free from the pencious caramel coloring that many Scotch distilleries add to their product.  One of the differeces in American whiskeys and Scotch whiskeys is that Scottish makers are allowed to add coloring and flavoring to their product, other than that which comes from the barrel.  In the U.S., no bourbon or rye is allowed to add anything artificial to the whiskey and still call it bourbon or rye(unless they label it bourbon + X flavoring, for example).  Also, any whiskey called a “straight” whiskey in the U.S. must be aged in new charred oak barrels, while almost all Scotches are aged in used oak barrels, many of them old bourbon barrels!  This makes straight American whiskeys naturally darker than their European cousins.  So a light color indicates a young bourbon, while the same indicates an additive-free Scotch.

At any rate, the nose on this whisky is a typical Scotch nose (much like my own) but not obnoxiously so.  The smoke hits my hooter first, then a bit of peat, then a lucious flowery sweetness, like wildflower honey.  On the palate it is quite sweet at first, then peat rushes to the fore.  It then does something very interesting.  The sweetness fades to a long, quite dry finish.  The wood begins to come through in the finish, but the smoke and peat maintain their forward position.

This is one of Scotland’s best, beloved by connoisseurs and dillatantes alike.  I have a feeling that my cupboard will not be without it for very long after this bottle is gone.

Now Drinking

St. Julian Pink Catawba

Maker: St. Julian, Paw Paw, Michigan

Grape: Catawba

Region: Lake Michigan Shore AVA

Catawba is perhaps the most American of all wine grapes.  It was one of the most commercial grapes in the 19th century.  Its domain was the eastern U.S.  Ohio’s sparkling pink Catawba was once regarded as America’s finest wine.

The wine industry in the East, and the Catawba was almost destroyed in the late 19th century when the railroads made it possible for California wine producers, growing European grapes, to ship their wines to East.  Many things were tried, but by the time of prohibition, the Eastern wine industry already had at least one foot in the grave.

Starting in the 1970s with the Farm Winery movement, the Eastern U.S. has been able to raise its wine industry from the dead.  But many places in the East, like New York, are now almost exclusively growing European grapes.  The Catawba has found its home in the midwest, though, in many places that are too hot or too humid for the finicky European grapes.

In my mind, St. Julian’s Pink Catawba is the standard.  It is less pink than it is a pale orange.  The nose is tart, with that strong scent and flavor described as “foxy”.  Foxiness is that tangy taste unique to American grapes.  It is that flavor that Americans love in Concord grape juice and grape jelly, and Europeans despise in anything.

On the palate it is much lighter than the nose would have you believe.  Full-bodied and tart, but still sweet, it is above all, refreshing.  Hardly anything tastes better on a hot, sweaty summer night in the midwest than a cool glass of Catawba.  If you don’t like this wine, you’re unamerican.  Or European.

Jim Beam Signature ?

Something weird is going on in Europe.’s lead Swede, Leif, discovered something odd on German ebay.  This.

According to friend-of-the-blog Ben Kickert’s google translation, the ebay page translates to something close to the following:

“Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Signature Six Grains Whiskey 1 liter with 44.5% vol in a distinctive leather bag. This limited bottling is 6 years old. The six different grains distilled bourbon is very soft and vollaromtisch. Caramel and vanilla accents dominate the taste until his velvety and warm long finish. It is the first bottling of a beginning series of Jim Beams, the short run the market will come in only.”

What’s weird is that nobody, not even those who make their living writing about bourbon (well, at least some of their living) has heard anything about this.  It claims to be made from six grains, which is bizarre.  Four-grain bourbons have been made from time to time, most infamously the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Four Grain (for a fun read consult this thread), but this is unprescendented.  The bottle seems to be genuine, but releasing a new expression overseas, apparently through duty-free shops, is highly unusual.

Speculation on the six grains (beyond the usual suspects of corn, barley, rye & wheat) has ranged from oats and millet to triticale and candy corn.  One possibility is that multiple varieties of corn (or something else) are being counted as seperate grains.  Woodstone Creek (a winery/distillery in Cincinnati) used two varieties of corn to make their bourbon, and claimed it as a 5 grain bourbon.

Anyway, a lot of heads are being scratched right now.  I’ll keep you posted.