Monday, December 7, 2009


The Sixth Glass, a Quadrupel by Boulevard Brewing Company.


I must first state that I am in love again. It is a new love after the loss of an old one, but love nonetheless.

This summer, I discovered that my favorite beer, Thomas Hardy's Ale, had been retired by its brewer. It was too costly to create, and became increasingly so in our current global economy. I have a couple of bottles cellared, but after they are gone I will only have memories of a great beer. Or so I thought.

I found a beer that reminds me of Thomas Hardy's Ale in many ways.


The pour into my snifter delivers a hazy light brown body, with an orange aura and thin tan head. The head is mostly gone soon after the pour. What little bit does linger leaves behind no lacing.

The nose is complex. There is a scent of sweet, dark bread followed by molasses. Underlying this is the smell of brown sugar, dark rum, prunes, and spices of some sort.

The flavor is more complex than the nose. It is rich and sweet, but somewhat drier than my favored barleywines. The flavors bombard me, one after another. There is brown sugar and prune, an alcohol "bite" and a hint of vanilla, a nuttiness that keeps trying to peek through. Once I get through the initial shock of sensual overload and allow myself to settle down, I really appreciate the craft of this ale.

Each sip I take warms my tongue, then palate, then esophagus. As it warms, the rum characteristics come to the forefront and a faint hint of tobacco creeps in. This is intriguing and extremely pleasant. The taste of tobacco mimics the smell of the best pipe tobacco. It's almost like drinking a small cloud of pipe smoke, without the harshness of the smoke itself. It is pure essence.


I am not a smoker, but I imagine that if I smoked a pipe the taste would be similar to this ale as it warms. I was initially serving it at around 50ºF. I found that if I let it warm another five degrees that the tobacco and rum elements were slightly stronger, so that is where I started the next couple of times I had it. Each experience was just a wee bit better than the last.


Make no mistake: this is a sipping beer. It is best enjoyed in small amounts over a period of time. The experience of the ale changes as it warms, as the aromas and flavors shift and intermingle and shift again.

To quaff or chug it would miss the opportunity to properly savor it.


I am a sucker for a good story.

Thomas Hardy's Ale had a literary background. On the bottle's label were these magical words:
In 'The Trumpet-Major' Hardy wrote: "It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset."
The inspiration for what the bottle contains is spelled out before the contents are even poured. Once the ale makes it into the glass, the words begin to play with the reader/drinker.

The Sixth Glass has a similar message on its label:
"Do you know what dwells in a glass?" asks Ole, in Hans Christian Andersen's The Watchman of the Tower. Better known for stories such as The Little Mermaid, Andersen wrote this short, cautionary tale for a somewhat older audience. Our quadrupel ale, also meant for the mature connoisseur, is a deep and mysterious libation, dark auburn and full-bodied, its sweetness deceptive. As Ole describes the glasses in turn, their contents become more ominous until, in the sixth glass...
And with that simple paragraph I am hooked. It makes the experience that much more flavorful, that much more special, something that I want to keep for myself and treasure as I sit in my home library among my books and with my snifter of The Sixth Glass in hand.


Boulevard Brewing Company plays up the mystery by placing the web address to an excerpt from Andersen's short story on the label as well. This excerpt describes the six glasses in detail that is mesmerizing, tantalizing. It is a siren song that calls to you as you drink and enjoy.


The Sixth Glass Quadrupel Ale: highly recommended.

Monday, November 23, 2009


A trip to Bremerton, Washington never feels complete to me anymore unless I am able to stop by Fritz European Fry House for some Belgian fries and an ale to accompany them. Recently, I did just that.


Fritz is a wonderful hole-in-the-wall restaurant that is reminiscent of Belgian fry houses (or so I am told). Indoor seating is on bar stools at a counter that wraps around half of the space. The counter has holes to hold your cone of fries and provides more than adequate space for a basket and a pint.

Four rotating tap handles allow for a variety of interesting lagers and ales, one of which is usually a Belgian ale of some sort. Bottled beers are also available.


Stone Ruination IPA, an Imperial IPA by Stone Brewing Company.

Served on tap in a Stella Artois chalice.

This ale arrives a lightly hazy orange-yellow, topped with a thin white head that leave behind bands of intricate lacing.

The nose is exciting, rich and citrusy. There are whiffs of orange, orange peel, apple, and freshly mown summer grass.

The flavor engages the entire mouth. The first salvo is an orange-and-grapefruit bitterness. The second set of flavors are biscuity malts and buttery yeast. A faint pine resin lurks in the background and peeks through as the grapefruit finish lingers and lasts. This is heavenly stuff.

Along with Rogue's Yellow Snow IPA, this has to be one of my favorite Imperial India Pale Ales. Having it on tap makes it that much better.


The fish and chips at Fritz were a perfect complement to this beer. The battered cod and fresh-cut fries, along with their dipping sauces made the meal spectacular.

The real joy of Fritz for me, other than being able to have some fried food with a great beer, is their dipping sauces. With each basket, you get two sauces. I usually have the child with me, so that means two baskets and four sauces. I always head toward the spicy—Sweet Chili and Spicy Curry Ketchup. The child plays it safer—Tartar Sauce and Honey Mustard. I tend to poach sauces from the child, trying to experience many different flavors (and flavor combinations when the ale is factored in).


Fritz European Fry House: highly recommended.

Stone Ruination IPA: highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I always remember my father with a can of Rainier in his hand when he was mowing the lawn or working on a car engine or welding or working in the garage. I know that this is partly apocryphal because sometimes it was a can of Olympia or Budweiser, or even a bottle of Heineken, rather than a Rainier. But Rainier is the brand that is foremost in my memories of my dad drinking beer when I was a kid.

He seemed to really enjoy them, too.


Therefore, it seemed appropriate that Rainier would be the beer to christen this new venture.


Rainier Lager, a Light Lager (Standard American Lager) by Pabst Brewing Company.

12 ounce can served in a shaker glass.

The pour delivers a fizzy white head that dissipates quickly into a quarter finger deep skin. This is probably one of the most brilliant white heads I have ever seen on a beer. It is "squeaky clean" and rests upon a very clear pale yellow body that is filled with lively streams of carbonation. A few strands of lacing are left behind on each quaff.

The aroma is both grainy and lightly floral. The flavor delivers a mostly bland flavor with a wee bit of corn and a brief initial bite of grainy malt. There is also a light leafy flavor similar to licking a rhododendron leaf. This is a much less offensive lager than Budweiser or Coors or Miller Genuine Draft or many of the other macrobrews. The beer is light on the palate, not really engaging any part of the mouth.

There is neither nothing to particularly recommend nor to quarrel with. It simply is. It probably better resides in memories of it being in my father's hand on a hot summer day a few decades ago.


Visit the Rainier Beer website.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Troy's Work Table began in July 2006 as a means for me to wander and write. There was no real purpose other than to jot down things, make a few observations, and include a few photographs. I was operating under Walter Benjamin's definition of the flâneur in The Arcades Project. I was wandering with no real purpose other than for the sake of wandering and seeing whatever it was that I saw.

In short order (August 2006), it became apparent to me that I was focusing on three primary areas of interest—books, art, and beer. My interest in craft beer as a hobby and a minor obsession really took root about this time.

It began with my having tried Paulaner's Oktoberfest on a whim. It was such a different experience than I remember having during my high school and college days of Corona and Miller Genuine Draft. First, I could actually taste the beer; this wasn't just the taste of cold, dirty water with a hint of something lurking in the background. Second, I actually liked the taste; something I couldn't say about those macrobrews. Third, I was enjoying this for its own sake; I wasn't drinking this to get intoxicated or "to have a good time." (Although, I was definitely having a good time.)

I entered a new world. I began to try other craft beers and microbrews. I found that I really enjoyed amber ales and red ales. As my tastes grew and I realized I liked flavorful beers, I expanded into the world of India pale ales and stouts and porters. I discovered barleywines. I found my favorite session beer, Deschutes Cinder Cone Ale, and my favorite all-around beer, Thomas Hardy's Ale (which is unfortunately no longer being produced).

I dabbled at home brewing. I started a beer cellar. I became interested in how beers paired with food, primarily the meals that the wife was cooking. I went to beer tastings at my local bottle store, 99 Bottles.

The next logical step, it appears to me, is to begin a blog specifically for my beer posts. That way, my interest in craft beer can be better defined and better cared for in a place dedicated to it alone.

So, I invite you in to Troy's Tap Handle...