After surviving (barely) another Saratoga Beer Week I finally have the chance to share with you guys some pictures from last Monday’s beer dinner at Henry Street Taproom featuring beer from two of my favorite local breweries, Common Roots up in South Glens Falls and Rare Form down in Troy. Ryan and Sonja McFadden, along with Chef AJ Richards teamed up with brewmasters Christian Weber and Kevin Mullen to bring some unique dishes and beer pairings to a sold out crowd Monday Night. Let’s take a look:
Tuesday may have kicked off Saratoga Beer Week but at that night’s Hudson Whiskey & Rye Beer event, the whiskey stole the show. Ryan and Sonja McFadden of Henry Street hosted us while Ralph Erenzo from Tuthilltown Spirits led us through a series of Hudson Whiskey spirits and Jared Kingsley from Remarkable Liquids shared a handful of beers from their portfolio all of which tied rye into the recipe.
Hudson Whiskey is an interesting brand. It started life on farm land in Gardiner, NY owned by Ralph Erenzo, and he has no qualms about telling stories of trials and tribulations of getting production off the ground. Difficulties were met while dealing with uncooperative neighbors who were against the idea of having a distillery nearby, and production issues arose when the honey-melting tank they used to mash their grain lacked a drain, attributing to their unique process of leaving the grains in during fermentation. This gives the final product its signature grainy flavor, a process they still use today.
While still produced by Tuthilltown, the Hudson Whiskey brand is now owned Scotch whisky giant William Grant & Sons, who also own recognizable brands such as Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and The Mcallan. The 375ml wax dipped bottles generate some controversy in the whiskey world as the pricepoint fetches near $80 for its 750ml equivelant, but I assure you, it’s worth the price of admission for a special occassion. Let’s take a look at the whiskies and beer we tried that night.
The events at Saratoga Beer Week have been pretty hit or miss. Some are just bar crawls with no actual beer specials, some serve readily available beers but you get to take the glass home, some feature shelf Vermont beers and somehow try to make an event out of it, some center around truly awful Olde Saratoga beer. The entire week is definitely promotion driven with a lot of fluff and BS. However, Pig Destroyer Jon and I did want to get up there for at least an event or two to show our support for the beers we love and support for events that we think are actually worth attending. Without at doubt, Henry Street Taproom definitely has the most interesting events going on for the week.
Knowing that Remarkable Liquids was tapping a bunch of great kegs there on Tuesday night and Oskar Blues was going to tap a keg of Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Mama’s Little Yellow Pils last night, it was a no brainer to go and get the best offerings from both nights. To my surprise, there was a last minute change to the lineup and the Founders Rep was also in the house, providing arguably the best best tap list in all of Saratoga that night, possibly the Capital Region.
It was nice to hear that the OB barrels at Henry Street were slated to appear at Night of the Barrels, again lessening the blow of not being able to attend the rescheduled event in March (in additional to getting a growler of Night Shift’s NotB offering, Snow, this past weekend). The wine barrel-aged Pils was the main reason why I was there, so I found an open spot at the bar and immediately ordered a pint, much to the surprise of the bartender, given its $12 price. Yes it was steep, but when else was I going to get a chance to try this?
Things were a little fuzzy at this point.
Its appearance did not vary much from traditional Mama’s Little Yellow, but the white grape in the nose was evident. On first sip, the wine barrel dominates the taste with a slow transition and follow up of malt and hops in the backend. It’s sweet wine at first with a bit of tang before the moving on the tradition pils experience. This is delicious and extremely balanced, and what I imagine when I think of the wine hybrids that Sam Calagione attempts and instead produces absolute train wrecks. Seek this brew out, if you can.
The next beer was Oskar Blues Chaka, a collaboration with Sun King I’ve had my eyes on for a while but have yet to get my hands on (it’s in a unique resealable Alumi-Tek Bottle if you ever seen one). This is a very big (8%) sweet Belgian Pale Ale, one that I don’t think that has been brewed in a while so I imagine any hops in this beer have been long gone. It was tasty enough, but for the style it was too malty and sweet. I’m interested in trying this again when it’s brewed fresh.
The next beer was Founders All Day IPA “Definitely Not ‘All Day IPA'” IPA. I hold all sessionable IPAs to the standard of Lawson’s Finest Liquids Three Penny Especiale, and while the 4.7% ABV Not All Day IPA was tasty and extremely chuggable, I could have used some more hop flavor (but there aren’t many IPAs I haven’t said that about).
We rounded out the night by splitting a couple of glasses of both the 2010 Oskar Blues Ten Fidy and the Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti break, both outstanding Imperial Stouts, and the Biscotti the first time I’ve seen this tapped in the area.
If your looking for something above the status quo to do for Saratoga Beer Week, Henry Street is absolutely your best bet. And one of my biggest complaints in my last stops, the “Cold as the Rockies” serving temperature of their beer, seems to have been fixed. As these beers kick (and surely they will soon) they’ll be replaced with some great beers from Sixpoint for their cheese pairing today with R&G cheese and some even better Brett beers tomorrow with Jeremy Irving from Remarkable Liquids. Check them out!
— I’m always interested when I see a new pub open up with a focus on craft beer and great food in the Capital District. I didn’t know much about Henry Street Taproom before it opened, but when I saw the chatter on Facebook and after checking out their renovation albums, it looked like the kind of place I wanted to hang. Jon I decided to make the drive up to Saratoga to check it out.
The Taproom is really beautiful. It’s relatively small compared to some of the ginormous bars in the surrounding area (*cough cough* Parting Glass, Saratoga City Tavern) but I think it’s a good size for what they’re trying to do with the space. A wood fireplace with large leather chairs greets you in the left corner with options of regular, high top, stool or bench seating around the rest of the bar. We chose a regular two person table.
The beer menu was pretty solid. While there was nothing on the list that made me go “Holy shit I can’t believe that’s on tap here!” there was also no bullshit filler on the lines, either. Both the Goudenband and the Dark O’ the Moon I ordered were served at Coors Light Stage-2 “Super Cold” temperatures, which left me spending the better part of my time there with my hands wrapped around my glass warming it up to proper drinking temperature. I’ve been assured by their Tri-Valley rep Jared the temps will be fixed soon. There was a beer (Dogfish Head Namaste) on the tap list that was crossed off and unavailable, which normally I wouldn’t have anything to say about, but if it was their second day of business and they were leaving a line empty, there’s really no excuse for that.
As I sipped on Goudenband I perused the rest of the menu. It was separated by beer, food, and cheese with a high school yearbook “superlatives” theme. This was the first time I’d seen a scotch egg on a menu since the fantastic one at Peekskill Brewery back in January so having it was a must, and I ordered the burger as my main as Jon ordered the Taproom (read: French) Dip for his.
Our meal was taking a bit (both tables to our left and right ordered food after us, but received their food before us) so the waitress compensated us with some house-made sweet potato chips. I have my issues with sweet potato finger food being too sugary, often accompanied with honey or melba sauce. These were nothing of the such: thin cut and salty with a slight bit of grease from being freshly fried. They were a great addition to our meal.
I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed in the scotch egg. First off, it was overcooked to the extent that there was no runny yolk at all. The table next to us had two scotch eggs and both of them were properly cooked so it was definitely just the case of accidentally overcooking mine. Secondly, it was missing the breaded, crispy crust that is present in almost every single scotch egg I’ve ever seen or read about, and it detracted from the overall dish. The best part of the scotch egg is the four different textures of the crunchy crust, to the slight give of the sausage, the soft egg white and the runniness of the yolk all intermingling in perfect harmony. I’m sure this is a difficult dish to cook, but this was missing that unique combination.
The burger served on a Mastroianni brothers roll had an absolutely perfect char on the outside that really brought out a great flavor meat, but I ordered it rare and there was only a small portion of the interior of the burger that was even pink. It was too dark to take a picture of the cross-section or I would show you what I mean.
While my experience at the Henry Street Taproom was less than exemplary, it was their opening weekend and for that I’ll give them a lot of leeway while they work the kinks out. And really, the place shows a shit-ton of potential. I don’t see anything on the horizon that points to it becoming a typical trivia night/karaoke night/jenga night frat bar. It’s a very different atmosphere than many of the Bro-tastic Capital District bars out there, and the ambience begs for you to sit down by the fireplace with a nice roasty stout and just enjoy a beer without all of the other bullshit. I plan on doing just that sometime soon.