Monday, August 29, 2016

Part Six of the Salty Dog Trilogy: Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly


We find ourselves in the same old mess, singing drunken lullabies

Let's just get that song out of the way, because if you know me at all, you know that is my jam. 

So Flogging Molly, the big show, the finale, the captains on the deck. I, of course, pair them with.....



That Guinness. 

Before you leave in a huff, just look at this:

Tell me that doesn't look delicious. Aside from the fact that Guinness literally flowed like water on the ship, I have always had a soft spot for the stuff. I love the way it looks, I love the way it tastes. I love the brewery tour in Dublin. It was my first nitro. Fact of the matter is, no matter how mainstream or huge or popular or unpopular or whatever Guinness is or becomes, I will always enjoy it. It's an old faithful. 

Kind of like Flogging Molly. 

I first saw them at the Ogden theater, which if you have ever been there, you know is a small venue for a seven piece celtic punk band. And now they play Red Rocks and headline cruise ships and play on late night talk shows. It doesn't matter how mainstream or big they get. I'll never forget the first song I heard from them:

I was hooked after the banjo intro. I saw them on my honeymoon in a small little pub venue in Dublin. It's kind of our thing. 

The show was incredible. Shows, I mean. They played on the deck one night and on the beach the other. A pirate celtic punk band on the beach. Guinness in hand. It was surreal, I'm not sure I can even describe it. It's energetic, it's emotional, it's fun, it makes you dance. Yeah, even you. You just can't help it. It's like a pub just decided to get up and start jamming all at once. 

I'm not even going to bother really going into Guinness. You either love it or you hate it. Personally I think it's creamy and roasty and delicious and smooth. Can smooth be a flavor? Sure, why not? 

And if you haven't had a Guinness, let me know. The first round's on me. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Part Five of the Salty Dog Trilogy: Pirate Republic Brewing

Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. 
- Mark Twain

Let's go back in time. J, age ten. I rent a game from Blockbuster (which, by the way, I miss terribly. Digital and modern gaming is awesome, but there was nothing like headed to Blockbuster after school and picking out a game to play over the weekend.) It randomly happens to be this:

That's Sid Meiers' Pirates! Gold for the Sega Genesis. It's the greatest game I've ever played. You can capture ships. You can seize ports and towns. You can trade. You can woo governors' daughters. You can clash swords with enemy captains. It is amazing. I start reading every book I can about pirates. Every essay I write in school is about buccaneers and scallywags. I play every waking hour, terrorizing the seven seas. And to this day I've never beaten the game. I think you had to find your lost father? I have no idea. I was too busy buckling swashes and hunting for buried treasure. And thus a life-long love of pirates, both the educational and bleak reality and the romanticized movie and video game version. 

Pirates are kind of my thing. 

Even the real versions were amazing. 

Benjamin Hornigold, mentor and captain to Edward Teach aka Blackbeard, once captured a ship, rounded up the captive crew, stole all their hats and sailed away without harming a single person because they had all gotten drunk the night before and threw their own hats overboard.

Jean Lafitte ran a pirate and smuggling operation out of New Orleans. The governor, tired of his shenanigans, put up a bounty of 500 dollars (aka all the money in existence back then) for his capture. Lafitte, in return, put up a bounty of 1000 dollars for the capture of the governor. 

Stephen Decatur led a raid, disguised as Maltese sailors to recover a stolen ship. Once he seized the stolen vessel deep in an enemy harbor, he just lit the damned thing on fire as a huge middle finger so that nobody could use it. 

Ching Shih was a female pirate in China and pretty much ruled the ocean commanding over 300 ships and 40,000 sailors. Any disobedience was met with a swift beheading. So what did Ching Shih do? Anything she wanted because she commanded 40,000 sailors. Nobody could stop her, so China offered her amnesty, which she took. She kept her earnings (pretty much all the money in the world) and opened a gambling house. LIKE A BOSS.

I can go on, and will happily go on over a pint when prompted. 

So anyway, we were in Nassau, which was I was already excited about as Nassau was once a pirate haven. I was walking the streets that Hornigold, Stede, Rackham and Teach walked. Most of the bars and restaurants were tacky tourist stops, which was expected since Nassau depended on tourism. We hit a few museums and touristy photo locations and headed back to mainstreet where we passed a pub with a pirate flag hanging over the front door. Which wasn't out of the ordinary; there were tacky pirate souvenirs everywhere (which I loved.) I imagined they served margaritas or something, which was okay because I like margaritas. 

We walked in, because again, pirates, and there it was. A microbrewery. A pirate microbrewery. With a full brewhouse and everything. 

Even their beers were named after pirates;

And they were delicious. We had four. And after four beers, I get in a spendy mood. I spied with my little eye a sweet Pirate Republic metal growler. 

I had to have it. Sixty two dollars. A fine purchase, I said. "I wish you'd told me you wanted that before your beers," said the bartender. Following my confusion, she pointed to a sign that said GROWLER COMES WITH FIVE BEERS.

Yes, let's do this I said. She brought out five more beers. "Would you like them to go?" she asked. Again, reading my confusion, she followed with "There are no open container laws in Nassau." I don't think she realized what I could do with five beers. In the heat. At sea level. That's like the equivalent of one and a half Colorado beers at altitude. But still.

I was home. 

All in all, Pirate Republic gets five Skull and Crossbones out of five. See you next Salty Dog, Pirate Republic. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Part Four of the Salty Dog Trilogy: Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister


Now we're all philosophers drinking down the pub again

You will like if:
Your idea of a pub is a place to meet friends, rather than get hammered
You know that cask ale doesn't mean warm, flat beer
Sometimes you just want a proper pint

You will not like if:
Your idea of a Friday night is loud pop music and a dark bar so you can't see how gross the floor is
The idea of cellar temperature doesn't work for you
You can't handle a naturally carbonated beer

So here is my new favorite band:

We first saw them open for Frank Turner and were absolutely blown away. Just listen and tell me that doesn't feel like a pub song. Wait, here, have another:

Yeah! Let's go grab a pint! Wait, finish reading first. 

There was something absolutely spectacular seeing Skinny Lister, self proclaimed Shanty Punk with their trademark jug, on the open deck with the ocean around us. And playing with Frank Turner no less.

And then there was the show on the last night in the smallest venue. It was cramped, it was dark and hot. We were all exhausted. Maybe two dozen of us, which was pretty thin. Their singer got a few beers from the bar and lamented how few people there were in attendance.

"Don't worry," said the drunk girl next to us. "Everybody's just drunk and they'll show up eventually." They came out like this:

Hahahaha look at that. It's one of those old timey one piece bathing suits you saw in old cartoons. And sure enough, the place swarmed with fans. It was the last show of the cruise, the band was jumping into the crowd and, at one point, started swinging from the rafters. It was rowdy, it was a singalong. It was an intimate experience. The band wiped tears from their eyes. It was just perfect.

It was one of the most memorable shows I've ever seen, and I'll forever look back warmly on the experience. 

I could think of no better beer to pair with these hooligans than Hogshead. Not any particular beer, just Hogshead in general. I've written about them before, so I won't go into the big thing again. It's a cozy English cask ale bar, serving traditional English pints with friends. Sometimes that's what I want.

So here's what I recommend. Head to the pub (invite me!), order a proper pint, and have this in your head:

That's just about a perfect evening.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Part Three of the Salty Dog Trilogy: The Tossers

The Tossers


No loot, no booze, no fun


Angry Banjo by Verboten

You will like if:
You like dry finishes
You understand 'cream ale' doesn't mean sweet
You are pleasantly surprised by unexpected beers; for example, I'd never had a dark cream ale before

You will not like if:
You aren't a fan of drinking water after every pint
You think cream ale should only be corn yellow in color
Seriously, this is a dry finish

There are only two things I like out of Chicago; the hotdogs and the music. The Tossers, though lacking in hot dogs on the cruise, brought the sound. Billed as the 'world's loudest folk band' from the Irish neighborhoods of the Windy City, I had been listening to them for years and jumped at the chance to finally see them live. And oh yes, it was folkin' wonderful.

I regret nothing.
We had wristbands for the evening shows, which meant a solid day of beers. So we get to the venue, they come out to tune their instruments, and...still tuning. Wait, he's grabbing a beer, and still tuning. After probably fifteen minutes of their frontman tuning his mandolin, the band started looking at each other shrugging. Which led to even more confusion in the audience. After probably at least seven more minutes of fiddling with his mandolin, he throws it on the ground with a loud, "Fuckit!" and picks up his banjo and starts plucking away for the first song. 

Already off to a good start. It was a great performance, and about as Irish folk punk as you could get. He had a cigarette in his mouth and most of the lyrics were a mushy slur. We couldn't tell if he was drunk already (most bands were) or if years of whiskey had left him with permanent mush-mouth in the great tradition of Shane MacGowan. 

Either way, they killed it. Song after song of Irish rebellion and traditional celtic tunes put to modern punk beats. 

I choose my beer pairings based on a few things, and they change on a case to case basis. Does the flavor match with an experience? Was I doing something awesome while drinking it? Or does the label and label art and beer name simply match up with my topic. In this case, it was the latter. Let's welcome Angry Banjo by Verboten:

A dark cream ale. Which is something I'd never had before. I'm no stranger to cream ales. Traditionally brewed with corn and finished with milk sugar for that dry, creamy coating that lingers in your mouth and usually with a bright yellow color, this was an interesting take on the style. Still creamy, still dry, and most importantly, still delicious. But with an added roastiness like lightly toasted bread and maybe just a tiny hint of coffee. None of the reviews online say much about coffee, so maybe I imagined that, but I never said I was a pro. 

Long story short, it was a fantastic take on the classic style. And I could think of no better-named beer than Angry Banjo to toast The Tossers with.