Just Got Paid: Money Money Money Money (and Alcoholic Seltzer)

For all the late '90s/early 2000s music fans in the house, happy Friday from my best friends *NSYNC (still a big debate: *NSYNC or 'NSYNC? Even iTunes can't seem to figure it out). For the more hip crowd, "Hello Friday." However you say it, the sentiment is the same: work is over! Time for a drink, a nap, and an outing (or just catching up on your DVR queue, no judgement).

Yesterday at work I sampled a new alcoholic seltzer during our "Thirsty Thursday" hour (Yes, I can't believe it's a real thing at work either). Sadly, that brand -Nauti Seltzer - is delicious but not gluten free.  I really wanted some alcoholic seltzer after that though, so I stopped in at Wegman's today (full disclosure: it was for champagne and their fresh-squeezed OJ for mimosas tomorrow) and was excited to see a new line of alcoholic seltzer, and this brand is gluten free!

I'm sipping on a Truly Spiked & Sparkling alcoholic seltzer right now, poured over ice with a lime wedge. This is really a perfect evening seltzer, with the taste of a real seltzer and only a slight malt liquor taste that Spiked Seltzer has that reminds you this is not something you should take while you go out to run your errands. Unless you walk or take public transport to do your errands, in which case drink away!

There's "hint of" Pomegranate, Grapefruit&Pomelo, and Colima Lime flavors in six pack bottles at a 5% ABV - I went with the lime since it seems like the most traditional way to rate seltzers, and the most versatile option for my potential drink combinations. I didn't notice anything special about the Colima part, just got a regular hit of lime flavor, but my sister made a fabulous suggestion that the lime version would be a great "tonic" to switch up the usual vodka tonic.

The most interesting thing about these seltzers right now though is that they're part of Boston Beer Company, who owns Samuel Adams. The seltzers are clearly marked on the bottles and packaging as gluten free, but other than the related articles I've found searching it that link Truly to BBC, I can't find any homepage or site dedicated to the product. It's really exciting to see a major beer company moving into the gluten free market and I'm looking forward to what their next move will be, although it is strange there's no major marketing right now devoted to this product line. 

Pricewise these are right on par with other alcoholic seltzers of similar sizes, but other than the slightly less boozy taste (which goes along with slightly less booze) of Truly versus others like Spiked Seltzer, there really isn't much of a difference. I'll definitely try out the other versions as well, and likely use this as a base for other drinks where I'd use the higher proof seltzers to drink on their own. Still, beautiful packaging, great taste, and I love having another option in the alcoholic seltzer world! Nothing like a little competition, especially when it's gluten free. 

Happy weekend!

 

Beer Review: Ipswich Celia Saison

It's too early to talk about drinking, you say? It's Tuesday morning, you say? Come on kiddos! Live a little! Unless you're at work or operating a motor vehicle; which honestly on Tuesday morning it's probably 90% likely you're doing one of those. So fine! You win. Party pooper. Use this to plan ahead for later - unless you're free from jobs and cars after hitting the lottery in which case have one for me please! I'll be working when this post is scheduled to appear.

Back to the beer! As part of the enduring gluten free beer tasting series, I purchased a whole bunch of single beers for my dad and had him rate them. Up today is Ipswich Celia Saison. Right off the 12 ounce-bottle-bat you can tell they're going for a certain crowd. The cheerful nude woman poised atop oranges and vases (the vase part confuses me but, um, okay?) pretty tastefully announces that this is going to be a Fancy Beer. Which I'm really into - there's something about making an announcement with your label instead of just using words to explain what you're offering that says "Not only am I artsy AF, I put a lot of work into my marketing because I'm proud of my product." Am I reading too much into one label? Probably. But I felt like good things were coming here.

Other positive attributes of Celia Saison: made without gluten (Sorghum and a Belgian yeast strain), made locally (for New Englanders that is), and a 6.5% ABV. My dad decided it was smooth, with a "subtle orange taste" which made me think of Blue Moon. Reading up on Celia Saison, the "spicy" taste of Sorghum is mentioned in accompaniment with the previously mentioned Belgian yeast strain, and the company also touts their Curaçao orange peels and Celeia hops.

At $2.79 for a single bottle, Celia Saison runs in the higher end of the gluten free beer we've sampled in this experiment. I'd recommend it as a treat with a fancy dinner if available, or for a craft beer-style bev to sip at one of those "What's your favorite book right now"/semi-hardo-I-only-drink-beers-no-one's-heard-of events that you don't really want to go to but know will give you some good stories for later. I'm also interested in Ipswich's other gluten free options - are there any? Their website is under construction and, other than ringing endorsements of the Celia Saison, I couldn't find anything else for them that was g-free relevant.

Have you tried Ipswich Celia Saison? Any favorite gluten free beers you'd recommend?

Beer Review: Bard's Gold


Next up in our gluten-free beer series: Bard's Sorghum Beer! Bard's touts their American Lager as "The Original Sorghum Malt Beer," and since I'm not a gluten free beer historian I'll give it to 'em. Created by two Celiac friends, Bard's offers one type of 4.6% ABV beer. In these scenarios I always wonder if this is a warning sign. Is the company  not happy enough with their single product to feel comfortable trying something new? But maybe it's the opposite - once they feel they've perfected a product why not put all of their  focus on distributing and advertising it.

Either way Bard's seems to be doing just fine with their sole Sorghum option.  My dad enjoyed a bottle watching the Patriots (pre-loss for Patriot Nation) and described it as having good "drink-ability" that's great for watching a game, depressing as that game might be.

At around $2 for a single bottle (remember this was part of a tasting challenge? Although if you buy single beers all the power to ya I guess), Bard's is a little cheaper than the average gluten free beer. Knowing it's naturally gluten free provides an extra sense of comfort, and although it isn't setting off any earth-changing-gluten-free-beer-alarms, for a clean, relaxing enjoy-the-game or drink-with-a-burger beer you really can't go wrong!

Happy Friday! What are you drinking tonight?

Beer Review: Steadfast Pale Ale

Recently I stopped at one of the larger liquor stores (or "packies" if you're from New England since they're package stores) near work on my way home, and bought a bunch of singles of different gluten-free beers that I hadn't seen before. It seems like most places have Omission, Redbridge, and Glutenberg as their standard gluten-free/gluten removed beers, so this seemed like a fun way to check out a whole new variety of gluten free beer without the job of having a whole pack to finish after you basically decided if you liked it or not after drinking the first one (Yes, I did just say drinking is a job).

So this post will begin a series of four gluten free beer reviews from what I found on this trip. First up: Steadfast Beer Co. At the store (where prices are among the lowest I've found in New England), a single bottle of their Pale Ale will run you about $2.50. There were two options in that section for Steadfast: the Pale Ale and a Blonde Ale. I picked the Pale Ale since it looked a little more up my dad's alley, but looking at the website and based  on my dad's review of this I think we're going to have to start stocking up on all sorts of Steadfast products.

Steadfast's motto is "Gluten Free Beer for Beer Geeks," and their website has five interesting year-round and seasonal beers from a Pumpkin Spice Ale in the fall to a 2nd Anniversary Bier de Garde. Everything Steadfast makes is completely gluten-free, meaning they're brewing with gluten free products instead of removing gluten later in the process like Omission and other gluten-removed brands.

The Sorghum Pale Ale is described as a hoppy, citrusy, medium-bodied beer on the tag at the store, and online as having "Notes of burnt sugar, bread, and caramel followed by spicy alcohol flavors and a hint of molasses sweetness. Mid-sip, look for an explosion of hop bitterness and grapefruit-like hop flavor, and brace for a lingering dry finish mingled with tropical fruit notes." My dad isn't someone who's going to mince words though. As his endorsement, he noted that it's has one of the highest alcohol contents of the gluten free beers he's found (true at 6.8% ABV), and that it tastes to him like a hoppy IPA. This is ringing praise from someone who preferred a high-test hoppy beer back in his gluten-full days.

It's comforting to know that there's a brand out there that really gets it - not only are they making a product you know is totally safe for Celiacs, but it's also made by people who appreciate the art of craft beer. Although I'm no beer expert, I love knowing that there are gluten free options for the fam that don't make you feel like you're missing out on anything. Definitely going back to the store for a few packs of these!

Have you tried Steadfast Sorghum Pale Ale? What else do you recommend we try from Steadfast?

The Definitive Ranking of Hard Cider 2015

Pretty big claim huh? A definitive ranking. I'm going to stand by it.

I'm sure your first question then, if you ignored my ego and choose to read on (and thanks by the way), is: how much do you know about cider? I guess I'd have to answer that I only know as much as I drink. So a lot.

I started to love hard cider when I was in Oxford for a summer. In betwixt (I'm sorry momma I had to do it to 'em [Drake]) classes and high table dinners, my friends and I would try not to trip on the cobblestones as we dragged ourselves in pub after pub. Here I learned the true joy of real cider. All I'd tried in the past were the (to me) overly sugary ciders we had in the US, like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck. Now, don't get me wrong, these are pretty good. But only as standalones, never to be compared to the real cider I've had in Europe. That cider has a real taste to it; instead of relying on sugar it brings out light sweetness or fruity flavors that make you want to substitute it for your typical drink of choice, instead of only drinking it because everything else you wanted is gone.

Waitrose love me back, please! You and all your beautiful ciders.

Waitrose love me back, please! You and all your beautiful ciders.

I'm going off of that list of cider - but keeping myself within the restraints of cider you can currently buy in the US. This is a great range to try out, or look out for if you don't have any available locally right now.

Alrighty, here we go!

 

5. Magners - In England and Ireland, Magners and Bulmers are two distinct brands, but here in the US you'll just see Magners. We're limited to two US brands - original and pear, and while both are pretty standardly delicious ciders, I would really bump them up on my list if their Bulmer's Strawberry and Lime or Berry Berry popped up around here. I would buy boxes of that stuff. Until then, US Magners should definitely be added to your list - go Original!

 

 

 

4. Crispin - Crispin is an easy go-to when you're craving a classic cider. When I first tried Crispin ciders back in the US I was a bit surprised because they didn't taste at all like I remembered in the UK. It took me a little while to realize that was because I was trying their US ciders, and once I found their Browns Lane, which is advertised as their Classic English Style cider. This had all the basic tastes of English cider I was missing - it's dry and bubbly with a little bit of a lingering sweetness that makes you want another sip. You'll feel refreshed, but not overwhelmed. The larger can also makes you feel like you're getting more of a pint glass serving in a pub instead of the smaller cans or bottles a lot of ciders are served in in the US. This is not a drink so sweet you'll chug it, and not something so dry you need to add anything to it.

 

 

3. Strongbow -  So this is a tough placement. A lot of the time I'd argue that Strongbow is near the bottom of this list. In England when you order it you should 100% ask for some blackcurrant juice on top. In my experience it's readily available and just ups the ante here. In England though I'd usually forgo this at the pub to get something on tap with a nice high ABV, or go for my Swedish pal below on this list. At the local Tesco or Waitrose if I was feeling cheap (aka always) I'd buy the 2 liter of Strongbow or the store's equivalent and mix it with something else (pretty much always Sprite). Because it was pretty dry and bland - but cheap! - I never really ordered it at home, especially since we don't have blackcurrant juice really. But I ordered it on tap a few nights ago on a whim instead of my usual bottle of Magners, and this new version (online it says the Gold Apple is a new recipe, but a few people have told me it's the same old version rebranded) was insanely good. Just the perfect amounts of sweet and dry with moderate carbonation and reminders of everything I missed in England. I've yet to try it in bottle form here, but after that first (and okay second; the things I do for you!) glass I had to move it up on our list.

 

 

2. Downeast - For a non-English cider Downeast is at the top of my list. In terms of overall ciders though I don't go out of my way to buy this at liquor stores ("packies" where I'm from), but if it's available at a restaurant with dinner it's usually on my list. Their Original blend is a fun surprise **spoiler alert** - if you order it in a bar you'll receive a can and a glass, and along with the cider you'll probably get a whole lot of unfiltered cider, making a big cloudy mess that looks and tastes more like non-alcoholic apple cider than any other cider on this list. Downeast falls right in the happy center of my cider spectrum - more sweet than traditional English ciders but not flavored like some others on this list (or like typical American ciders). Their Unoriginal blend is great too, and if you ever make it to Boston for a tour you're in for a treat. The cidery itself is pretty small, but there are loads of free delicious samples from the helpful team, and after you can grab a drink at a bar-during-the-weekends/long-desk-during-the-workweek and play baggo/cornhole on the loading dock. 

 

DRUMROLL, PLEASE...

 

 

1. Rekorderlig - Rekorderlig is an absolute powerhouse in my book. Everything they do is right for me. I've dabbled in their Wild Berries, Strawberry & Lime, and Peach-Apricot in the UK and was psyched that I could have the first two and a few more here. I mentioned this Swedish company a few weeks ago when I tried out their Spiced Apple Hard Cider, which it looks like is branded as a Premium Winter Cider in the UK. Rekorderlig doesn't follow the traditional English method of dry cider, but since I drank it there it falls into the same category in my mind. Their ciders are flavored and sweet, with surprising combinations and beautiful colors when poured into glasses that make you feel like you're on a summer vacation. When you need a little bit of fruity, saccharine goodness there's nothing better than a nice cold glass of one of Rekorderlig's signature flavors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ciders I Miss:

Tesco Cider - Although it doesn't win prizes for the best taste, there are fewer things more fun than buying a super cheap 2 Liter of alcohol at a supermarket and adding a little Sprite. Saves money on going to the pub and allows you to invite as many people over as you'd like without spending a ton of money on drinks. Honestly this is a nostalgia factor vote, but if you go to a Tesco with friends and don't leave with a 2L of their cider and a lemon-lime soda to flavor it up a little you have failed me entirely.

Kopparberg - How is this sweet classy brand available in 30 countries and the US isn't one of them?!?! Baffling. Mixed Fruit and Elderflower & Lime absolutely slay here. They still come in second in my world to Rekorderling, but that doesn't mean I don't want the option!

Bulmers - I said this above, but please come home to me! Home being a pretty general term referring to anywhere I am. Please.

 

Ciders I've Yet To Try:

Citizen's Cider - This guy is next up on my list! While there are a whole bunch of flavors, I'm super intrigued by the fact that The Full Nelson is a pretty high-test cider that's dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops. Citizen's Cider advertises this as a cider for beer drinkers, and I'm hoping it'll be a good transition for the Celiacs in my family who really enjoyed a high-test hoppy beer on the weekends and are on the hunt for a similar experience. I'll keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

 

What else is my list missing? Prepared to fight me on my placement? Any other cider companies want me to check them out? I'm always ready to taste test :)

Sippin on Gin and...Tonic

Alright Snoop Dogg (Lion? Is it Dogg again? I'm 25 and I'm too old for this, Snoop), I see you.

Perhaps the worst part of becoming a Celiac if you're a fan of beer is giving up all that wheat. I mean, your body is definitely thanking you, but your taste buds may not be. We'll rank some g-free beers and ciders in future segments, but I today feels right to start talking about gin. Why today? Why not.

Well, to be fair: dear ol' dad is not into vino, none of us are big fans of tequila (for you hardos out there though - make sure yours says "100% agave"), from my research vodka is a bit of a slippery slope in terms of is there gluten/no gluten, rum is very sophomore year of college (but okay the Captain and Bacardi 151, Gold, Superior and flavored ones are gucci), and sadly for whiskey you can really only hang out with my boy Jack.

So, without further ado...

Time to drink gin! 

We usually stay pretty classic with Beefeater, Bombay or Tanqueray, but I bought some Hendrick's recently to go "wild" - and I'm pretty pleased with it! Not sure it's better for me than the others for the price, but sure looks cute:

 

I'll be honest with you dear reader - and it's only cause you're immensely attractive - I think plain old Schweppes is the best tonic water. I tried two versions of Fever Tree (the things I do for you!): Premium and Naturally Light. My goal was to make a version of the acclaimed Madrid "gin tonics," but I'm afraid our resources in the US just can't measure up (or at least my local packies  can't). If you're feeling a bit wild though, I am also a huge fan of Spiked Seltzer. Their gluten-free seltzers have 6% alcohol and 4 delicious flavors. They're great on their own, but substituting the Lime Spiked Seltzer for your normal tonic water really amps up your drink game. (Sidebar: Spiked Seltzer is not endorsing this but if someone there is reading this and wanted to send me some more to test...I'd be more than happy to be your quality assurance!)

I can hear you through the screen - no, this is not just a summer drink! yes, you must use real limes (although to all you lime-addicts out there: sure, spring for some extra lime juice you sassy lady)! who uses shot glasses to measure anymore?! Oh okay sorry mom. Yep, got it. Definitely will measure next time.

Enjoy this delicious bev tonight - you deserve it. And seriously if you have any details on the best gins/tonics/mixing methods or bar secrets to rival the Madrid gin tonics please fill me in in the comments! I'll owe you one (but I will measure that double shot fo sho). 

Happy weekend!

 

New Cider Alert!

I'll rank my favorite hard ciders a little later this year, but I didn't want to wait to tell you about one of the newer ones out there. Rekorderlig (who you'll soon learn I'm obsessed with) is a Swedish cider company that makes some of the best products out there. As long as you like sweet, fruity cider that is.

Anyway they have come out with a seasonal winner for sure. 

 

Their Spiced Apple Cider, which comes in these pretty big 16.9oz bottles, has a small banner on it (I mean you just saw it its like an inch up) suggesting it's  enjoyed hot or cold. My new best friend at the local packie told me he tried it warm and wouldn't recommend it that way - hot as hell or bust. I wasn't sure what the best way to truly heat it up would be, and anyway I'm too impatient for that kind of trouble, so I poured some ice cubes in a glass and hit it up like Tupac. Well.

You get a few glasses out of one of these puppies, making the price tag - around $7 - sting a bit less.

I'd probably describe this as the closest hard cider to the true taste of cider, with a crisp, sweet bite. Not my favorite Rekorderlig, but a great seasonal treat!