Old Curmudgeon Ale

Maker: Founders, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Style: Old Ale

ABV: 9.8%

Appearance: Slightly cloudy, dark auburn.

Thanks: to Oscar for this bottle and photo.

Nose: Malt, molasses, toasted wheat bread.

On the Palate: Medium bodied. Sweet and toasty, but not cloying. Like drinking Boston brown bread. Some faint ginger notes.

Finish: Bready and slightly sticky sweet.

Parting words: I am a big fan of Old Ales as a style. Long time readers may remember my glowing review of Big Dick’s ale from Arcadia. This one is very good, if a little one-dimensional at the moment. The ginger notes add some interest and hint at how the character of this beer may change after a year or longer in the bottle. Unfortunately this is the only one I have. Making a mental note to buy some as soon as I can! Old Curmudgeon is recommended.

Summer Cocktail Fun, Pt. 1

I still drink plenty of bourbon, beer and wine in the summertime, but I like to mix it up too. I just got a motorized citrus juicer and I’ve been giving it a workout making light, refreshing drinks for my friends and myself. Here are some of this summer’s most popular.



Cape Codder

1 1/2 oz vodka (fruit flavored is ok if you’re into that sort of thing)

1/2 oz lime juice (fresh squeezed is best)

4 oz cranberry juice cocktail

2-4 dashes orange bitters (or to taste)

Add ingredients  into an ice-filled rocks or highball glass and stir thoroughly.

Lazy’s Man’s Tequila Sunrise

1-1 1/2 oz Silver/Blanco Tequila (1800 Silver, 100 proof)

4 oz Orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)

1 oz Pomegranate Juice

2-4 dashes orange bitters (or to taste)

Add ingredients  into an ice-filled rocks or highball glass and stir thoroughly.

Old Fashioned

1 tsp sugar syrup

4-6 dashes Angostura bitters

1 1/2 oz Whiskey (Bourbon,rye, Canadian, or in Wisconsin, brandy)

club soda

Pour the syrup into a rocks glass. Add the bitters and stir until the bitters are dissolved. Add the whiskey and stir. Fill the glass with ice. Top off with club soda to taste. Garnish with a cherry.

Gin & Tonic

Really? You need me to spell this out for you?

Tom Collins

1 1/2 oz gin

1 1/2 oz lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)

1 tsp sugar syrup

Club soda

Pour the gin & lemon juice into an empty highball glass. Stir to combine. Fill the glass with ice. Fill with club soda to taste. Stir lightly. Garnish with a cherry and/or an orange slice. Ingredients can also be shaken together in a cocktail shaker over ice, then poured into an ice-filled highball glass, topped off with club soda and stirred.


Leaves from 1-2 sprigs spearmint

1 tsp granulated sugar

1/2 oz lime juice (fresh squeezed is best)

1 1/2 White rum

Club soda

Place the mint leaves into an empty rocks glass. Pour the sugar in on top of them and muddle until a pasty mush is formed. Add lime juice and stir to dissolve sugar. Add rum and stir. Fill glass with ice and stir. Top off with club soda to taste. Garnish with another mint sprig (also works as a stirrer).

Mint Julep

Leaves from 1-2 sprigs spearmint

1 tsp granulated sugar

2-4 oz bourbon (I recommend Buffalo Trace or Old Forester)

Crushed ice

Place the mint leaves into mixing  glass. Pour the sugar in on top of them and muddle until a pasty mush is formed. Add bourbon and stir to dissolve sugar. Pour into stainless steel or silver julep cup (or rocks glass) filled with crushed ice. Stir vigorously. Garnish with a mint sprig and drink promptly.


1 1/2 oz Gin (I prefer Ransom Old Tom for this)

1 1/2 oz Campari

1 1/2 oz Red/Sweet Vermouth (Cinzano or Dolin work well)

1-2 dashes orange or lemon bitters (optional)

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass or shaker filled with ice. Stir or shake to combine. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1998 Vintage

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Distilled: Early Times, Louisville, Ketucky, USA (Brown-Forman)

Barreled: 9/28/1998

Bottled: 4/2/2008

Age: 9 yrs, 5 mos

Barrel: 374

Proof: 86.6 (43.3% ABV)

Appearance: Auburn with thin clingy legs.

Nose: Oak, pecan, alcohol, raw almonds, hint of cocoa, touch of wild blackberry.

On the palate: Amaretto, caramel, toffee, burn, much less tannic on the palate than in the nose.

Finish: Pretty hot and aggressive, but not unpleasant. Caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate, a kiss of oak. Lasts a very long time.

Parting words: The Evan Williams Single Barrel series has been going on for quite a while now. While all are single barrel (duh), all the barrels picked are very close to each other in flavor profile so there is usually little variation between bottles from the same “vintage”.

This one, the 1998, is one of my favorites. It has a big, woody nose but turns to soft caramel in the mouth, reminiscent of Elijah Craig 12 y/o or some of the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon offerings. There’s a reason for the latter resemblence. In 1996, the old Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown burnt to the ground in the biggest distillery fire on record in the US. In the spirit of collegiality that Kentucky distillers have for each other, Beam and Brown-Forman helped out Heaven Hill and contract distilled for them while Heaven Hill got its current distillery in Louisville (purchased from Diageo) up to speed. The 1997 vintage was produced by Jim Beam, and the 1998 and 1999 ones were produced by Brown-Forman.

This series is easily collectable and very drinkable, especially in the summer time. Not all vintages are particularly interesting, but always good. One of the few drawbacks to them is the low proof. In keeping with other Evan Williams expressions, the single barrel edition is 86 proof (and some change), pretty low for a product like this. Despite the low proof, this vintage still shines as one of the best. Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1998 Vintage is a very good whiskey and is highly recommended.

Lot 49 Riesling

Maker: Chateau Grant Traverse, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Riesling

Region: Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA (estate grown, product of one particular block of vineyard)

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 13%

Appearance: Pale straw.

Nose: Honeyed pear, ripe peach, citrus blossom, lemon thyme.

On the palate: Full-bodied. Rock candy, bartlett pear, crème brûlée, white mulberry.

Finish: Meyer lemon, grilled peach, angelica.

Parting words: Chateau Grand Traverse is something of a paradox. Their tasting room is a poorly organized mess reminiscent of the gift shop portion of a Cracker Barrel restaurant. They also produce a line of serviceable supermarket-quality varietals. But there’s the other side of  CGT. They are one of the most creative and ambitious producers in Michigan. They produce a Grüner Veltliner , a white Pinot, a whole-cluster Riesling, a botrytized Riesling, an Alsatian Pinot Blanc style white, a reserve Gamay, the list goes on. They are even set to issue a limited release of estate-grown AlbariñoCachedSimilarYou +1’d this publicly. Undo. And unlike some of their peers, at least 9/10 times they accomplish what they set out to do.

This Riesling is a classic example of the ambitious side of CGT. It comes across as a little shy at first, but still waters run deep. Like that quiet girl you sat behind in math class, Lot 49 has hidden depths and subtle complexities. This is a thinking person’s Riesling, not a summer afternoon chug-a-lug Riesling. It got a very flattering write-up on Jancis Robinson’s website and rightfully so. Lot 49 is highly recommended.

Ransom Old Tom Gin

Maker: Ransom, Sheridan, Oregon, USA

Style: Barrel-aged Old Tom

Batch: 25 (different batch pictured)

Age: 3-6 mos.

ABV: 44%

Appearance: Dark straw. Thick legs and robe.

Nose: Light juniper, cardamom, coriander, a touch of citrus and a little malt.

On the palate (neat): Medium bodied and spicy. Cardamom really comes to the fore, only slightly restrained by the citrus notes. Gets sweeter with a splash of water, but still very spicy.

Finish: Even spicier with what tastes like a big hit of ginger (Angelica maybe?). Tingly for a long time.

Mixed: Makes an interesting Martini. A dirty or a Gibson helps to cut the spice with more aggressive saltiness than a dry. A perfect also balances out the spice from the sweet side. My go-to gin for a Negroni. Makes for a screwy Tom Collins or Gin & Tonic.

Parting words: The folks at Ransom were generous enough to put the ingredients  right on the front of the label of this product. They are: Malted two row* barley, corn (maize), juniper berries, orange & lemon peel, coriander seed, cardamon (sic) pods and angelica root. To my tongue, the cardamom takes center stage here.

My friend Gary, a self-made expert vatter of all things spirituous, handed me one of his projects when I was in Kentucky last spring. It was a recreation of what, based on his research, 19th century Old Tom gin would have been like. Old Tom was sort of a bridge between Dutch genever and London dry gin in terms of sweetness. Gary’s take is quite sweet. The citrus, particularly orange, is in the driver’s seat. The focus is much more on that than on the spice. Gary’s is more drinkable neat, but Ransom’s is probably more interesting over all.

At any rate, Ransom’s Old Tom gin is a not something I drink a lot of, but it has it’s place and is definately worth trying as an example of a nearly extinct species of gin. Ransom’s Old Tom Gin is recommended.


*Two-row barleys are low-protein, older strains of barley used in the making of English ale (among other things). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barley#Two-row_and_six-row_barley

The Arran Malt, 14 y/o

Maker: Isle of Arran, Lochranza, Arran, Ayrshire, Scotland, UK

Region: Highlands- Island

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 46%

Notes: Non chill-filtered

Appearance: Bright new gold.

Nose: Wildflower honey, vanilla pudding, butterscotch pudding, heather.

On the palate: Full-bodied and buttery. Hard toffees, sweet cream butter, blondies, wild thyme.

Finish: Hot and buttery. Like freshly made caramel corn, not entirely cooled yet.

Parting words: Founded in 1995, Isle of Arran Distillers is one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland producing whisky. This 14 year old expression, released in 2010, is their oldest expression to date. It’s a good, solid single malt. It is firmly in the tradition of the Highlands with plenty of sherry and bourbon notes, but with the maritime tang of the costal malts. Isle of Arran is on the right track, and this is a good whisky for a distillery of any age. Isle of Arran 14 y/o is recommended.

Helios Pale Ale

Maker: Upland, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Style: American Pale

ABV: 4.9%

Appearance: Rusty orange

Nose: Hoppy but malty. bitter and floral but balanced.

On the palate: Medium-bodied. The nose follows through on the palate. Brash hops, tempered by big malty ale notes.

Finish: Mildly sweet and slightly floral finish. The nose carries through to the end.

Parting Words: For those of us who graduated from Anderson University, when we think of  Helios we think of a pile of greenish panes of glass piled up in a twisty formation in the middle of a fountain into which squirrels used to throw themselves in the spring and then freeze to death, bobbing to the surface inside of a large chunk of ice as it thawed the next morning.

That was an unpleasant memory. Helios, on the other hand, is a very pleasant beer. It’s not as complex as my go-to Michigan pale, Axl from Millking It Productions, but it’s food friendly and easy drinking. I likes it. Helios Pale Ale is recommended.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2011

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA

Age: 11 y/o (mean age 12.25 y/o)


Proof: 110.2 (55.1% ABV)

Appearance: Coppery auburn

Nose: Oak, alcohol, caramel, butterscotch, raw almonds, antique roses.

On the palate: Full-bodied and hot. With water, cassia, caramel, vanilla toffees, oak, amaretto.

Finish: Hot, rosewater, roasted almonds, oak and christmas spice at the end. Tingles all over for an obscenely long time.

Parting words: As always, Four Roses delivered a remarkable bourbon for its Ltd Ed Small Batch in 2011. The 2010 was an agressive, brash, punk rock sort of whiskey. 2011 is much more Classical, as in Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven. It’s a leather armchair, sipping bourbon.

2011 is beautiful and has its complexity, but it’s not the breathtaking masterpiece that Mariage (the predecessor to Ltd Ed Small Batch) 2009 was. It’s Hayn’s 100th Symphony, not Beethoven’s ninth. But that doesn’t mean it’s not great in its own right. It is. It is one of the best bourbons I’ve had. It is probably the second best bourbon in this Ltd Ed Small Batch/Mariage series. Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2011 is highly recommended.

Evil Genius IPA-style Mead

Maker: B.Nektar, Ferndale, Michigan, USA

Style: Hopped mead

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 6%

Appearance: Chablis-colored, effervescent.

Nose: Whipped wildflower honey spread, paper white narcissus, dried flowers.

On the palate: Floral and slightly sweet. The bitterness of the honey and the bitterness dovetail into a very weird, but delicious and even refreshing taste.

Finish: Sweet honey at first, then a long, hoppy, floral bitterness.

Parting words: I’ll gladly admit that I am one of the contras when it comes to the hops-madness that the beer world still seems to be in the grips of. Part of it is just my

nature, but another part of it is a love for rich, malty, toasty porters and stouts and fruity, sweet wheat beers. I came into Evil Genius as a skeptic.

But this is a very good mead and as far as I know a unique product. Hops and honey seem like they were born for each other after a few sips. Granted, there isn’t much complexity here, but it’s so weirdly refreshing it doesn’t even matter. B.Nektar’s Evil Genius IPA-style mead is recommended.

Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling

Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling

Maker: Pelee Island, Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Gapes: Gewurztraminer (50%), Riesling (50%)

Region: Ontario VQA, Canada

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12.5%

Appearance: Light gold. Thick, sticky robe.

Nose: Ripe peaches, tangerine, coriander, pineapple

On the palate: Medium-bodied & fairly dry. Lemon thyme, Meyer lemon, white pepper.

Finish: slightly citric & vegetal. fades fairly quickly.

Parting words: Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling is a relative newcomer to the Pelee Island stable, but it’s a very good one. Both these grapes do very well in NE wine belt stretching from Michigan’s west coast through southern Ontario into upstate New York. The mix of grapes may bring Alsace to mind, but this wine is all North American on the palate and in the nose. Crisp peach and citrus notes make this a very refreshing drink when chilled, but one with enough interest to appeal to serious wine lovers, at least ones that aren’t put off by the very concept of Canadian wine. If they are, that’s more for you! Umbrella Gewurztraminer-Riesling is recommended.