Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ithaca's Ground Break Review

Ithaca Beer Company's Ground Break
Saison - 6.2% ABV
Purchased at: Weiland's
From: Ithaca, NY

Drink/avoid: DRINK

I bought this after a recommendation from Chad at Weiland's, so, thanks Chad!

I'm a big fan of farmhouse ales, and I'm always looking for a new staple. I think I've found one. Ithaca Beer Co. really nails the style. Here's my review:

This beer pours a hazy yellow color with an enormous white head. I can smell the brett already! The nose has yeast, funk, grass, and grain aromas. It smells like a classic saison, but with some spicy notes to keep things interesting.

As far as the flavor goes, this is a great saison. A hit of funky flavors up front clears to a slightly sour, grainy palate. It's very earthy in character, overall. It even has some nice banana and fruit notes from the yeast they used - gotta have that Belgian flavor! I'm really digging this one.

Mouth feel is light to moderate - this is a summer beer, after all. The finish is distinctly farmhouse-style brett. Good thing I'm a fan! Overall, I love it, but I could see how some wouldn't. I'll get another six pack soon, once I drink down some of my back stock (not even in fridge yet).

Appearance: 2.5/3
Aroma: 3.5/4
Hop/malt balance: 3.5/4
Mouth feel: 2/3
Finish: 2/3
Overall: 3/3
Total: 16.5/20

In the fridge: Founder's Centennial IPA

Pita House Review

Pita House Restaurant [website not working Apr 18, 5:00pm]
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern
2996 E. Broad St. (Bexley)
Hours: Mon-Thurs (11am-10pm), Fri-Sat (11am-11pm), Sun: CLOSED
(614) 236-0000

Dine/avoid: DINE

Chelsey and I have dined at Pita House several times, but these are my notes from our first visit. This is one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants in Columbus. Pita House is owned by the former owner of Pita Hut (next to Bob's Bar), so many of the menu items are similar. However, Pita House offers a higher quality of food, without a doubt.

It's located in a strip mall right on Broad St. The interior has a nice ambiance, and as soon as you enter the restaurant the aromas of spices and cooking meat overtake you. A sign on a window advertises "Finest baklava the world has ever known." We'll just see about that.

But first, the appetizers. Chelsey and I both ordered shawarma plates. By the way, here's a link to their menu. Each plate comes with three sides, but it's effectively two (how can you pass on hummus?). I ordered the Jerusalem salad and tabbouleh, while Chelsey ordered the cauliflower salad and eggplant salad. Like I said - the menu doesn't offer anything you haven't seen before.

The hummus has a nest of chick peas and olive oil in the middle, with a dash of paprika over top. This is really good hummus. Nominate this for best in the city, because if it's not #1, it's #2 or 3.

This tabbouleh is great! It has a crisp, fresh flavor. It's very herbaceous and citrusy, with parsley and mint with cucumber and tomatoes. Everything about this salad is good, and the individual elements are combined with the proper proportions to ensure that the whole is better than each. I finished all of it before moving on to the next side.

This Jerusalem salad is by far the best I've had. Most are relatively bland, and the veggies just don't pop. Not so, here. It glistens from the olive oil and vinegar that coat it. Overall, this salad has a good, distinct flavor.

Now - the shawarma! It's very good. Moist, tender, and well seasoned. It doesn't blow me out of the water, but most shawarma is quite similar. Nothing new here, but that doesn't mean it's bad - trust me. If you like meat, you'll love this.

If this tells you anything, Chelsey and I are too full to try the much-lauded baklava (or delicious-looking namura) every time we go. Well, maybe next time...

Overall, I really enjoy Pita House. It's a bit of a drive for Chelsey and I, but it's proved worthy on several occasions. The quiet and homey atmosphere make you feel like you're in someone else's house while they cook for you. Pita House doesn't offer anything unique on their menu, but they do prepare those items better than anyone else in Columbus. I'd rate them as good or very good, but not excellent/must-go.

4 stars out of 5

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Three Floyds' Zombie Dust Review

Three Floyds Brewing Company & Brewpub's Zombie Dust
American Pale Ale - 6.4% ABV
Purchased at: Palmer's
From: Munster, IN

Well, well, well. Tonight I'll be reviewing the critically-acclaimed ZOMBIE DUST pale ale. If you've never had it, just look at the label for a first impression. It seems to bring to life an Avenged Sevenfold song, or better yet, something by Nekrogoblikon. This "undead pale ale" is meant to wet the dry throats of scavengers after the zombie apocalypse. Let's see if it's worthy.

As I'm pouring this beer into my nonic, I immediately get a sense for the aroma - very hoppy, with lots of citrus, specifically orange. This beer pours a hazy copper color with a massive pillowy head. Taking a closer smell, the aroma is intense and hoppy (pine, citrus, grapefruit, and a bit earthy). It's so good it makes me lose some memory and think, "Where's Carl?"

This is a wonderfully complex beer. It's crisp, moderately hoppy and bitter, with a great malt backbone. It has a very refreshing quality to it - I'd love this if there ever is a zombie apocalypse. Caramel malts and citrus hops give this beer tone and definition. The mouth feel and carbonation are perfect for the style, and the finish gives a mildly bitter flavor that lingers and eventually fades - leaving you grasping at the glass for another drink.

Overall, this is by far the best pale ale I've had. Sorry, Sierra Nevada. Zombie Dust is balanced, easy-drinking, complex, and flawless.

Appearance: 3/3
Aroma: 4/4
Hop/malt balance: 4/4
Mouth feel: 3/3
Finish: 3/3
Overall: 3/3
Total: 20/20

Food pairing: Twinkies.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Troegs' Nugget Nectar Review

Troegs Brewing Company's Nugget Nectar
American Amber Ale - 7.5% ABV
Purchased at: Weiland's
From: Hershey, Pennsylvania

Drink/avoid: DRINK

Troegs Nugget Nectar rightfully has a following - it's damn delicious. I picked up one of the last bottles I've seen around (don't worry - I've had a few six packs of it this year). Before you even pop the cap, you know what you're getting into; the label has a hand gripping a humongous hop cone dripping with (presumably) alpha and beta acid-rich resins. In fewer words - this is a bitter beer made for hop heads.

Very clear and copper in color, with a large sticky white head. The aroma is...lots of hops. Right at the end of the inhale I get a faint sweetness to assure me that, yes, malts were used to brew this drink - good! We need those to make alcohol.

The taste: It's not bitter at all. No? I'm messing with you. A very well-balanced bitterness rides the tongue throughout the entire drink - pine, grapefruit, earth, lemon, and herbs. You can really taste several varieties of hops in this beer. I get Nugget (duh) and Warrior, but I'm not sure what else. The beer finishes very cleanly with a slight astringency that makes me click my tongue after I swallow. The entire experienced is supported on the backs of the sweet honey/toffee flavors. Just a hint of booze hits you. This is lovely.

This beer is deceptively easy to drink, so be careful. With that said, I've had more bitter beers, but IBU measures aren't a contest.  It's not the beer for everyone, but it's definitely the beer for me.

Appearance: 3/3
Aroma: 4/4
Hop/malt balance: 4/4
Mouth feel: 2.5/3
Finish: 3/3
Overall: 3/3
Total: 19.5/20

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Three Floyds Jinx-Proof Lager Review

Three Floyds Brewing Company & Brewpub's Jinx-Proof Lager
Dortmunder - 5.1% ABV
Purchased at: Weiland's
From: Munster, IN

Drink/avoid: DRINK

I "found" this beer at Weiland's after winning my KBS. They had a beer treasure hunt, which involved several other departments around the store. This Jinx-Proof Lager was kept on ice in the seafood department.

First off, I love the tattoo-inspired label art - done by I poured this into my New Holland Brewing glass. It has a dense white head, that almost looks like a cheesecake until it starts to fizzle down. The beer is a slightly hazy gold color.

Whew! It sure smells like a lager - in a good way. I get some noble hops and a slight nuttyness in the aroma. Obligatory caramel malt reference.

This beer tastes great. It's about as nutty as Gary Busey, with a good kick of bready cereal malts (like Cap't Crunch?). I'd like a touch more hop presence, but I'll take what I've got. This is a very good representation of the style. The mouth feel's a bit heavy for a dort, but I'm not complaining - I like it this way. Honestly, it drinks so easily that it's hard for me to describe the body. Well, except for its distinct dry finish.

Overall, this is a great, very easy-drinking beer. I love it.

Appearance: 2/3
Aroma: 3.5/4
Hop/malt balance: 3/4
Mouth feel: 2.5/3
Finish: 3/3
Overall: 2.5/3

Total: 16.5/20

In the fridge: KBS

Next up, I plan to do a blind taste test of KBS vs. Blackout Stout. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Aladdin's Eatery Review

Aladdin's Eatery Columbus
Lebanese/American Food
2931 N. High St. - Kelso and High St.
Hours: Every day (11am-10pm), with exceptions for holiday hours.
(614) 262-2414

For other Columbus locations, see below.

Dine/avoid: DINE

I know, I know...Aladdin's is a chain restaurant, and I try to focus on Columbus-local stuff, but it was started in Lakewood (Cleveland) in 1994. I'm okay with reviewing it, because I'm repping an Ohio businessman. Fady Chamoun came to the U.S. from Lebanon in 1972, and he's been involved with the restaurant business ever since.

Aladdin's has a large menu, which doesn't sound like a good start, but trust me on this. What I like are the tags representing whether the dish is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or contains nuts. I don't have to worry about any of those, but I'll bet that's incredibly useful for people who do.

Chelsey and I started our meal with a baba ghanoush appetizer plate. The baba had a very nice, creamy texture, and came with a kalamata olive, tomato, and cucumber slice on top (Served with thin pita bread, maybe it was khubz instead?).

I ordered an Almaza Lebanese Pilsener, which went well with the baba ghanoush, despite this beer's clear shortcomings. Click here for a full review. Luckily for us, Aladdin's offered 10 or so other craft beer options, including several from Ohio.

Chelsey and I ordered similar meals - she had lamb and I ate beef. The plate came with a sizable amount of Jasmine rice with almonds and pine nuts mixed in, with a few dashes of cinnamon on top. Both were served with side options of tahini, garlic sauce, or both. The beef was great, and the fresh parsley atop it added all of the seasoning it needed. Chelsey's lamb was equally good.

We ordered a Snicker's cheesecake for dessert, and struggled to finish it after this onslaught of food. Totally worth it!

Overall, I like this place and plan to return. It's on the pricey side for the quality and quantity of food you receive, but I'm willing to overlook that because I like the location and atmosphere.

3 stars out of 5

Other locations in Columbus:

6804 Perimeter Loop
(614) 588-0330

1423-B Grandview Ave.
(614) 488-5565

2400 E. Main St.
(614) 586-1440

Almaza Pilsner Review

Brasserie Almaza S.A.L.'s Almaza Pilsner Beer
German Pilsener - 4.0% ABV
Purchased at: Aladdin's Eatery, Columbus
From: Beirut, Lebanon

Drink/avoid: AVOID

Well, I didn't have high hopes for this beer, and it met those expectations. I purchased this at Aladdin's Eatery on N. High St, and it was served out of the bottle into a small pilsener glass.

First off, green bottle. No surprise there, let's just hope it's been well-kept for the 6000 mile journey. It pours a clear yellow like an American macro lager. There is a lot of visible carbonation. There's no head at all, but it has some pretty, thick lacing.

The aroma isn't's light and malty. Maybe a hint of hops? It's hard to tell. The taste is reminiscent of Bud Light, minus the awful chemically flavor. Also, it's not overly sweet like BL. Malts are weak, but provide the only flavor.

Mouth feel is just as you'd imagine - light, with TONS of carbonation. It has a champagne quality to it. Overall, this isn't an offensive beer, it's just not flavorful. Definitely not a drain pour, I'd just rather drink something with taste. It did go pretty well with my food, though.

A quick Google search tells me that this brewery was acquired by Heineken, solidifying my intent to not purchase it again. If you're dead set on drinking a Lebanese beer, try 961 Beer instead.

Appearance: 1.5/3
Aroma: 1/4
Hop/malt balance: 1/4
Mouth feel: 2/3
Finish: 1.5/3
Overall: 1/3
Total: 8/20