Next Week’s NY Happenings: Game Of Thrones Finale, Saxon + Parole, SAVOR

SUNDAY: A Song of Ice & Beer
Assuming you’re able to get off your analyst’s couch after last week’s Red Wedding, it’s time for the Game of Thrones season finale. If it’s group therapy you seek, Professor Thom’s gathers a rabid crew to watch (George R.R. Martin himself has been spotted here). Lola BKLYN and Halyards also roll out big screens, with a GoT trivia warmup at the latter. Staying at home? Grab an Ommegang Iron Throne ale from Alphabet City Beer Co.—and listen to your mother.

Game of Thrones season three wraps up at 9pm on Sunday, June 9th. Watch it at Professor Thom’s (219 Second Ave., East Village). To learn more about the bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Napa Comes To NoHo
Saxon + Parole shows off its pairing skill with a series of wine dinners. This Wednesday you can sample the Bordeaux-style Napa blends of Arietta from winery co-founder Fritz Hatton.

Arietta wine dinner at Saxon + Parole (316 Bowery, NoHo) starts at 7pm on Wednesday, June 12th. Call for reservations. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

FRIDAY: Beer Craft
A cool 76 beers representing 31 states will be settling into the Metropolitan Pavilion for SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience. The two-day beer blast will feature pairings, ultra-rare quaffs, and smart talk from brewers like Dogfish Head and the Bronx Brewery.

General admission entry to SAVOR starts at 7:30pm on Friday, June 14th, and Saturday, June 15th, at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 W. 18th St., Chelsea). Tickets start at $170. To learn more about the event space, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

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Cheers to Science, and Beer, and Using Science to Justify Your Beer-Drinking

I went to a cool event last night at the Bell House in Gowanus as part of the World Science Festival, and took away many lessons from it, only some of which involve science. The event was called Cheers to Science: A Drinkable Feast of Beer, Biotechnology, and Archaeology, and it was one of those zeitgeisty situations where everything that’s having a moment right now came together in one place, and there was beer. The event featured Sam Calagione, the weird-beer-loving founder of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware, and biomolecular archeologist Patrick E. McGovern, a brainy science guy who helps Calagione recreate ancient beers like Dogfish Head Ta Henket, the beer the pyramid builders drank. I’ve already said enough, you can see that this collaboration is smart as hell. Not only do you get to drink beer while you learn about history and science, you have to drink beer to learn about history and science. Brilliant. But there’s more. 

Everything’s a TED Talk These Days

Calagione and McGovern stood on stage, pint glasses in hand, wireless microphones attached to their heads, discussing the smart things they do. Those things involve traveling the world looking for evidence of ancient drinking rituals, digging up old cups and jugs, and scraping them for whatever residue might be left to tell them about the booze (usually beer, or some beer/wine hybrid) that was in them. Then the two get together at Calagione’s brewery and do their very best to recreate those drinks. The ease of their rapport, the accessible-yet-high-minded topics they discussed, and their infectious enthusiasm reminded me of Steve Jobs on stage debuting the first iPhone, or A.J. Jacobs talking about what it really takes to be healthy in his TED Talk. You get smarter just being in the room, and you’re never bored. (Sample exchange–McGovern: "Which came first, bread or beer? If you had your choice, what would it be?" Calagione: "Not bread.") 

Science is Hot

 From Jesse screaming "Science!" in Breaking Bad to Reddit’s worship of Tesla and other bleeding-edge companies, it’s never been cooler to be into science. If you’re involved in science–in smashing through ignorance, following the scientific method, and advancing human knowlege–you’re somewhat of a hero, at least to those who don’t bang the drum for Intelligent Design and close their ears and go lalala whenver a coherent argument gets in the way of their belief system. And the pro-science camp is going to be running things for the foreseeable future, saving the world from global warming, eliminating malaria, and finally getting around to those flying cars, so I’m right there with ’em, as long as they don’t get insufferably cocky.

The Rock Star Brewmaster Has Arrived

 Sam Calagione is a smart guy. He’s also young, well-spoken, and handsome. While I truly believe he’s a beer-brewer at heart, he’s clearly made the decision to become the public face of his company, and, in many ways, the craft-brewing industry. I think he’s as good an ambassador as any. And there’s a precedent for him to follow. There were no celebrity chefs before Wolfgang Puck came along and fed the press those great Austrian-inflected soundbites, and later got on TV and virtually took viewers into his restaurants. Now every chef is a celebrity chef. It’s practically required. Next came celebrity bartenders and mixologists (whatever the distinction may be) like Dale DeGroff. Celebrity brewers are ready for their moment. While not all of them will want to leave their brewing kettles to do the speaking circuit, the ones who do–like the Brooklyn Brewery‘s Garrett Oliver, Sam Adams’ Jim Koch, and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman–will find a receptive audience, especially if they’re willing to drop some real beer knowledge instead of just shilling their own brands. 

The Rock Star Professor Is Back

Remember when Indiana Jones came along, and being an archeology or history professor was cool for a while, until people realized that sifting through ancient burial chambers was hot and sweaty work that probably wouldn’t get you rich, or laid? Well it’s time for a new era of rock star professors. McGovern certainly looks the part (he’s on the left in the photo, as if that needs pointing out), with his big bushy beard and rumpled trousers. And he’s hitched his wagon to the right star, adding scientific gravitas to Calagione’s beery experiments. Having a professor involved means that I’m not sitting there guzzling beer until my eyes water, or at least not just that. It means that I’m so into the pursuit of knowledge that I have to actually ingest it into my body and transport myself back to ancient China, or Egypt, or Italy.

I Actually Did Learn Some Stuff

The audience at the Bell House was several hundred strong, and, glancing around the room, I saw what I perceived as a mix of beer enthusiasts (call them geeks if you like, but I saw no pocket protectors), science enthusiasts who happen to like beer, and history buffs. And yes, there were women among them. The event itself involved tasting four different Dogfish Head beers that McGovern had helped create, paired with a few chunks of cheese from Murray’s. I learned that hops are a somewhat recent addition to beer, that the reinheitsgebot is bullshit, and that almost every government was helpful in their beer research except for the Italian government, which thinks wine is the only historically important beverage. (Get with the times, Italy. Beer rulez.) 

I learned more than that, but there are some lessons that you can only absorb through your belly, so pick up some of Dogfish Head’s ancient ales and get yourself educated, cool, and a little bit lifted. Learning is fun. 

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listing for The Bell House; Old Beer: Dogfish Head Ta Henket is a Blast from 4,500 Years in the Past; Spiegelau Creates New IPA Glass, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Create New Beer to Fill It With; Rest in Peace, Brooklyn Monster Ale, and Cat; Today in Creative Beer Advertising: Heineken’s New TV Spot ‘The Voyage’; More by Victor Ozols; Follow Me on Twitter]

Let’s Think of a Name For These Weird New Beer/Wine Hybrids

I like weird beers, man. I like regular beers too, but weird beers get my attention, because there’s so much going on in them, and they’re fun to drink and think about and write about. The latest weird beer, from weird beer maker Dogfish Head, isn’t even that weird relative to their other beers, but it’s weird because it’s going to be one of their "core" beers, rather than some kooky one-off. This weird beer is called Dogfish Head Sixty-One, and what makes it weird is that it starts out with Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA, and adds Syrah grape must. So it’s a mainstream beer/wine hybrid beverage. And that means that weird is normal now. 

It’s brewer Sam Calagione’s first new core beer since 2007, and it’s a good one, because despite its weirdness, it’s actually quite accessible, by which I mean it tastes good even if you don’t have deep thoughts about it. But if you want to go down that rabbit hole, it’s ready.

"Must" is "the expressed juice of fruit and especially grapes before and during fermentation; also : the pulp and skins of the crushed grapes." (Hat tip to Merriam-Webster.) So it’s both wine, and grape juice on its way to becoming wine. It came about because Calagione had this thing where he’d pour glasses of 60 Minute IPA for his friends and then would add a little red wine to each, just to give it some zingy complexity.

And zingy complexity is what Sixty-One is all about. It has that nice hoppy bitterness of the 60 Minute, but it’s mellowed by the fruitiness of the wine. Even at 6.5% alcohol, it’s refreshing rather than heavy, so be careful that you don’t overdo it. It’s a creeper. 

The label, as well as the watercolor above, was painted by Calagione. Since he has to be precious about these things, he used a mixture of green pigment and beer, along with a mixture of red pigment with wine to make it. Oh, and the brown? Chocolate, since the brew goes so well with it. And why the hell not? And since none of this is weird enough, he got his pal, weird musician Bonnie "Prince" Billy, to write a song inspired by the beer’s origins. They sent me the song, but it’s on a vinyl record, and I’m not weird enough to have a turntable to listen to it. I’m sure it’s a rollicking romp. 

And so, now that the beer/wine hybrid is moving out of freakville into your grocer’s cooler, we should think up a new name for it. Perhaps a portmanteau, like bine, or weer might work. But that might be a bit too strange. Perhaps we need to invent a new word altogether. Please add your suggestions in the comments. And stay weird, beer world. 

[Related: Meet New York’s Sexiest Bartenders; More by Victor Ozols]

Spiegelau Creates New IPA Beer Glass; Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Create New Beer To Fill It With

I had no idea how terrible standard pint glasses are for drinking beer. I’ve always thought they were just fine, and have consumed approximately 5,000 beers out of them during the course of my drinking life, but apparently people who are serious about beer can’t stand them. The problem, as it was explained to me, is that they’re so thick they draw the cold out of the beer, making it hotter and flatter. More importantly, however, is that they disperse the aroma of the beer so you can’t smell it, and smelling a beer is a big part of the experience. (Another problem is that lager louts in the U.K. occasionally "glass" other people with them, but that’s a story for another time.) And so glassware companies like Spiegelau make glasses designed for better beer drinking. Spiegelau has a whole line of glasses dedicated to different types of beer – lager, wheat, barleywine – but they never had one for India pale ales, until now.

This week Spiegelau introduced its first IPA glass at an event at the NoMad hotel that was attended by bar owners, beer sommeliers (which is a real thing these days), and a couple of booze writers such as myself. It was hosted by Spiegelau and also featured Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware, and Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada brewery in California.

I was a skeptic about the glass at first, thinking that the obsession with proper glassware was 10% fact and 90% marketing bullshit. I came away with those figures reversed, because they set up a taste test where we compared beers poured into style-specific beer glasses with beers poured into pint glasses. The biggest difference is in the smelling. We poured Dogfish Head Midas Touch into a pint glass and a tulip glass. I stuck my nose into the pint glass and got a faint whiff of what was probably beer but could have been anything. Sticking my nose in the tulip glass yielded a big whiff of wonderful aromas: honey, papaya, melon. It tasted great too.

Then we moved on to the IPA glass, tasting Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA. Again, the aroma is so much more pronounced in the IPA glass, thanks to its bowed shape and wide mouth. But the glass also affected the taste of the beer – or at least the experience of tasting it. Here comes the science: You see in the picture how the glass has those weird-looking ridges at the bottom. Bubbles of CO2 cling to those ridges until you tip the glass back, when they release and float to the surface and give you an extra kick of effervescence as you take a sip. You can even watch it happen. It’s cool.

For the grand finale, the two brewers introduced a special beer they brewed together for the occasion: Life and Limb Rhizing Bines IPA. Again, we tested it in the new IPA glass against the pint glass, and again, the IPA glass kicked the pint glass’s ass. But I was already sold on that part. How does it taste? 

The verdict: Rhizing Bines is a great brew. I’m actually not the biggest fan of IPAs. I like my hops just fine, but sometimes I think you can overdo it with the bitterness, and I’ve got nothing to prove, I just want a good beer. But somehow they were able to extract that nice grassy complexity of the hops without making it too bitter. It’s a flavorful, delightful beer, and I drank a little bit too much of it, and the next morning my head hurt, but it turned out I was actually just getting sick.

And so, beer drinkers of the world, go out and get yourself a set of style-specific beer glasses from Spiegelau (or the style-specific beer glass maker of your choice) and start enjoying your beer more. I was a skeptic and now I’m sold. Now if only we could get bars to ditch their pint glasses and upgrade. Someday … 

James Beard House Hosts Beer-Pairing Dinner With Dogfish Head Brewery

Wine’s fine, but beer’s nearer and dearer to my heart, so it took a beer event to get me to the storied James Beard House in Manhattan for the first time on Saturday. The Brewmaster’s Banquet was a pairing dinner organized by Beard House director of programming Izabela Wojcik that matched beers from Delaware’s Dogfish Head brewery with food from chef Adam Dulye of San Francisco’s beer-loving Abbot’s Cellar and Monk’s Kettle gastropubs. For those who pay attention to such things, the event represents a milestone in the beer world: no less a culinary authority as the James Beard Foundation was recognizing something many of us have known for years: Far from being an inferior, uninspiring drink for the lunch pail set to pair with potato chips, football, and a duct-taped La-Z-Boy, today’s craft brews are brilliant complements to some of the most inventive cuisine in the country, with a range of styles broad enough to balance everything from smoked oysters to grilled bison.

The James Beard Foundation knew what it was doing when it selected Dogfish Head as the beer maker for the evening. I’ve long considered it one of the most inventive breweries in America, as does my fancy-beer-loving wife, Jenn, so we were particularly pleased to chat with owner Sam Calagione (pictured) as he filled glasses with Midas Touch, Raison D’Etre, and Shelter Pale Ale during cocktail hour. In a country now filled with great craft breweries, Dogfish Head still manages to stand out by focusing entirely on weird beers.

Think about it: almost every other small brewery makes at least one "normal" beer (a Budweiser-style lager) in addition to their more outlandish offerings. Not Dogfish Head. As Calagione explained, the closest thing would be their 60 Minute IPA, which is indeed a laid-back sipper, but still complex enough to make you realize that there’s a symphony going on in the glass. It’s a thinker. As he has probably explained a thousand times before, Calagione said he’s not interested in making a standard lager, because there are plenty of good ones in the market already. Covering new territory in beer is more interesting to him, although sometimes that means going way back in history.

Take Dogfish Head Ta Henket, for example, which I wrote about a few months ago. Not only did Calagione and crew study ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to come up with a recipe for the type of beer the pyramid builders would have guzzled 4,500 years ago, they even set out baited petri dishes in a Cairo date farm to capture the native yeast strain that would have been used at the time. That’s not just twee intellectualism for the purposes of marketing, that’s true beer enthusiasm. (For the record, the brew was light and refreshing and made me want to be a pharaoh.)

And so Sam Caligione brought his weird beers from Delaware to Greenwich Village to pair with five courses of equally inventive foods. We were seated at table 11, which was located in what was once James Beard’s elevated bedroom nook (complete with mirrored ceiling), and it gave us a great view of the action on the main floor. As soon as the first course arrived–Liberty Farms duck terrine, rye crusted duck confit croquette, poached apple, and tarragon, paired with Beard de Garde farmhouse ale–the room came alive, with people taking photos of their plates, clinking glasses, and chatting loudly. It’s hard to imagine the same scene at a wine pairing, not that quiet contemplation isn’t an essential element of a thoughtful life.

The food was delicious (big props to Chef Dulye) and the beers elevated it to poetry, or perhaps really gutsy rock ‘n’ roll. The duck was just the beginning. Course #2 was seared scallop, arugula and ricotta agnolotti, piquillo pepper, and kumquat paired with Namaste, a Belgian-style wheat beer made with dried orange slices, lemongrass, and coriander. I love scallops, and the bite of the beer danced with the sweetness of the shellfish. The third course was spinach-wrapped monkfish, dungeness crab, and bone marrow risotto, which was definitely a fancy plate of grub, and it was paired with an equally fancy glass of beer, the Noble Rot, which is made with botrytis-infected Viognier grapes (that’s a good thing). I could use flowery language, but at its essence they just tasted darn good together. The beer/wine blend worked well with the varied flavors of the dish, at once mellowing the monkfish while sharpening the risotto. Give me more.

Next came the meat, which is as good a test as any for beer as an accompaniment to food. After all, steak and red wine is a match made in heaven, with the tannins of the wine breaking down the fats of the meat. Could beer fare as well? It certainly did with the dry-aged bison strip loin, which came with salsify, gigante beans, and artichoke barigoule (I don’t know what those things are but they tasted good.) It came with Bitches Brew, a blend of stout and mead, which was strong and fizzy enough to stand up to the meat while having plenty of flavors of its own.

All too soon, dessert was on the table, a hazelnut cocoa nib mille feuille with ricotta mousse and salted caramel ice cream. It came with perhaps the most unusual and certainly the strongest beer of the night, the World Wide Stout, a dark, rich beer with an alcohol content of nearly 20% (your standard pub pint clocks in at around 5%). The experience was like drinking a port or a cognac, and it gave us just the right glow to stay warm on the trip back to Brooklyn.

And so the evening of fine beers paired with fine foods ended having proven its point beyond any doubt: chosen wisely, you can find a craft brew to go with just about any cuisine. But there was a secondary point that’s no less important. Just as James Beard helped define and raise the profile of American cuisine around the world, Calagione and craft brewers like him have taken American beer from a punchline (sex in a canoe, etc.) to what I’m confident in saying is now the best beer on the planet. Sure, Germany has its pilsners, Belgium has its Trappists, and England has its ales, but America has every one of them, in dozens of different varieties, made by brewers who care deeply about what they do and aren’t hidebound by centuries of tradition. If you don’t like one, try another. And another. That’s what we do, and it’s nice to see that chefs from South Beach to Seattle are trying them too. What a country.

Old Beer: Dogfish Head Ta Henket is a Blast from 4,500 Years in the Past

You’re not so different from the ancient Egyptians. You spend all day busting your hump for the boss, with little reward for your toil beyond a refreshing beer at the end of the day. So did the pyramid-builders of 2500 BC, who at least had the benefit of being paid in beer, cutting out the middlemen. Possibly making the same comparison, the brewing savants over at Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery thought it would be neat to recreate the beer that was guzzled in Egypt under the steely gaze of the Pharaohs, so they studied hieroglyphics and came up with a recipe involving an ancient form of wheat, loaves of hearth-baked bread, chamomile, dom-palm fruit, and assorted Middle Eastern herbs.

Even more impressive, they set out baited petri dishes in a Cairo date farm to capture the native Egyptian saccharomyces yeast strain, the most bad-ass yeast strain in brewing history, to get the fermentation process going. The result is Ta Henket, a light, mildly flavored wheat beer made entirely without hops, which weren’t added to beer until around 822 AD.  Ta Henket has the aroma of hay, the sweet-and-sour taste of raw corn, and the thin, refreshing mouth feel of any summer lager. Best of all, at just 4.5% alcohol, it’s a session beer, meaning you can sip for hours and still build a halfway-decent Sphinx.

Dogfish Head Ta Henket costs about $12.50 for a big bottle, and will be released in limited quantities this month. Use the website’s Fish Finder to locate one near you.