Two nights ago, on Wednesday December 4th, the TapHappy crew went out on another adventure, this time to Idle Hands Bar on Ave B for the 4th Annual White Christmas Winter Warmer Beer Extravaganza. For those of you who haven’t been to Idle Hands Bar (what the hell is the matter with you, come on, go there) it is a nice and cozy bar situated in the basement of 25 Avenue B. Were it not for the stand alone chalkboard at the top of the stairs you could easily walk by it and wonder if you were in the right place. Once you find it, though, it sure is worth it. You descend the stairs and once you open the door you are looking right at the nice wooden bar. Turn to your right and shuffle into the main floor area and you see some old casks and barrels used as tables with a couple stools around them, some tables along the wall, and a slightly raised seating area in the back, diagonally across from the bar. We parked ourselves at a table along the wall (who can turn down a booth seat, I ask) and waited for the event to start.
In the meantime, we ordered some appetizers and a preparatory beer. No better way to get ready for a tasting event than with a delicious brew (in this case Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout.) After the place filled in a bit more the owner took to the stage to kickoff the event. He welcomed us to the 4th Annual event, gave us a quick history lesson (he likes drinking beer and listening to Black Sabbath, no objections here,) explained how it worked, and the event commenced. Black Sabbath started coming out of the sound system and we were on our way. Winter warmers paired with the choicest Sabbath cuts.
First up was to go to the bar and get your first of 5 samples from the bartender, Sly Fox Christmas Ale. If I had to guess I would say the glass was about 6 oz. and we were given a healthy pour (swish.) A few minutes later, having given everyone a chance to have a few sips and relax, a rep from Sly Fox came around to talk about his beer, the brewery, and answer any questions. The guy seemed to be a bit reserved (especially when compared to some of the other gents we interacted with later in the evening) but opened up quickly once we started asking questions. Sly Fox, as we found out, is situated in Phoenixville, PA and will soon be celebrating their 18th anniversary. Cheers to Sly Fox! If you’re in their area you can check out info about their 18 year celebration here.
Next round came not too long after, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, and was again quite a healthy pour (double swish.) Whereas the Sly Fox was spiced and light (similar flavor to Harpoon’s Winter Warmer but lighter in color) the Celebration was a bit darker in color and hoppy. The rep, Jan, came around and was very animated. We had a few laughs, he explained how Celebration is made every year and how by using the hops when they are as fresh as possible it dulls some of the bitterness and allows other natural flavors to mix into the brew giving it that IPA feel but without as harsh a bitterness on the finish. We would dare to say it is a great IPA for non-IPA drinkers, those who don’t usually enjoy that bitterness.
A rinse of the cups and quick trips to the heavily stickered bathroom (needs a TapHappyAdventures sticker, don’t you think?) and we were back on it with the 3rd selection, Smuttynose Winter Ale. Kyle, the Smuttynose rep, came over with a mostly empty pitcher, filled our cups up as much as he could, told us to down it and he’d fill us up again when he came back with a freshie (inordinate amount of swishes.) The rep then went on to explain how the beer is brewed with a trappist yeast and how that affects the hoppiness which led to a discussion about the dry mouth that comes along with very hoppy, bitter beers, or as he put it, the tongue scratchers. In conclusion he left us with “it’s [Smuttynose Winter Ale] made to just keep you warm.” Wise words which are echoed similarly in their official description of the beer “Smuttynose Winter Ale is your perfect cold weather companion.” The man was coached well.
What followed was a curveball, a shot of whiskey. The owner brought around a tray of Jim Beam Rye which is, shockingly, America’s top selling rye whiskey. Are you surprised? I was skeptical. It’s true. Click the link.
Shots downed we then moved on to the 4th selection of the evening, Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. The Lagunitas rep was super friendly and outgoing and gave us the (very interesting) history behind Brown Shugga’. Did you know, stop me if you did, that Brown Shugga’ was a mistake? A screw up beer? A complete accident. According to the rep the owner had his recipe laid out, went out of town, and left the instructions with his brewers for them to brew while he was away. They brewed it to spec just as the instructions said and it was, shall we say, sub par. The rep, smile on his face, recounted the story of how the owner and the brewer were on the phone going over the list, brewer asking what he did wrong, what he missed, and the owner replying, nothing, you did everything you were supposed to do other than add the honey. When did you add the honey? Honey, the brewer said? Yup, the owner had left it off the list. At this point, in a last ditch attempt to salvage the beer they ran to the store and bought a ton of brown sugar and added it to the mix. One week, still not so good. Two weeks, not really any better. Three weeks, and, as the rep said, it started to taste something like beer. Four weeks! It actually tasted pretty good. And so Brown Shugga’ was born with it’s sweet hoppiness. Whether you choose to believe it or not it is quite the story. Can’t you just picture the mad dash to add the brown sugar just to try and save all those gallons of beer? I envision lots of yelling and cursing.
How did we survive 4 generous sample pours and a shot of America’s best selling Rye? With the carton of tator tots that came out next, of course. The owner walked around handing out pint sized containers filled with piping hot tots, pleasing the crowd. All that was left from there was the final sample.
The last sample was from Great South Bay who just recently started distributing their beers on draught and in bottles in NYC. The last rep came around with pitchers filled with Sleigh Ryed. He listed off the ingredients, among them heavy on the rye, juniper berry, etc., and poured our last healthy pour of the evening. With Sabbath still blasting from the speakers and alcohol in our blood that was a wrap. We finished our samples, settled the tab and were on our merry holiday way.
Now, what if I told you that we got all this for only $10? Would you believe me? If you don’t that’s cool. You’ll just miss out. I almost didn’t want to tell you but this deal was too good not to share and it was such an awesome experience I felt I had to. Want to know the best part? There are two more events in the 4th Annual Idle Hands White Christmas Winter Warmer Beer Extravaganza. Each of the next two Wednesdays, December 11 and December 18, they will do it all over again with different beer selections and, on the third night, a Choose Your Own Beerventure theme. For more details or to RSVP click here. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
Til next time, happy Adventuring!