As if “Burgers and Bubbly” wasn’t enough last week, my friend Rev invited me to “Learning to Beer,” a weekly beer series at his bar Idle Hands on Avenue B last Wednesday. When Rev mentioned the partnership of Sierra Nevada and Michter’s Whiskey, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. For those unfamiliar with Rev (I swear he should be the downtown Mayor of NYC), he literally has his hands involved in nearly everything going on within the city. He owns Idle Hands, writes the blog Burger Conquest, coordinates and develops Thrillist Rewards, and god knows what else. For all of his knowledge and expertise, the guy could not be cooler or laid back; the perfect guy to sit down and have a beer with (get one… with him…at Idle Hands).
With a few hours to go before the event, I asked my male go-to for food related things, Rion, to come along and he jumped on board right away. I mean… what idiot would say no to a night of beer and bourbon tasting with the likes of me (Rion knows better). So we headed to Avenue B last Wednesday to get our brew on not expecting to stay for hours and meet some fabulous new friends!
Seating was open so Rion and I grabbed an open four-top, plopped down and checked out the two glasses in front of us. First up was a schooling in Michter’s Limited Production American Whiskey, notably their US 1 American Whiskey and US 1 Bourbon. For those unfamiliar with Michter’s a little schooling of your own…. it’s basically America’s first whiskey distilling company (1753 in Pennsylvania) that produces all of their product in small batches/barrel and in limited quanities. In fact, they do not release their whiskey until both their Master Distiller and panel of whiskey tasters deem them ready. So in short, they take their whiskey seriously and will go so far as not produce anything if it’s not up to snuff.
*Michter’s American Whiskey on left, American Bourbon on right*
I like to say I am a whiskey fan, but Michter’s put me solidly in my place. Apparently I know diddly squat about whiskey and have been masquerading as an educated drinker when in fact I am anything but. A few sips into both and I knew I was on the fast track to a full on whiskey epiphany. Just as expected, the whiskey was a little too much (ever get the shakes from one sip? ya that was me), and I much preferred the smooth taste of the bourbon. I don’t know about you but I really enjoy getting to know the people behind the brands and having known nothing about Michters previously, I can now lay claim to knowing a few things about Michters and my liquor cabinet can welcome a new member into the fold.
*Hope you brought your drinking pants*
Next came Sierra Nevada..which coincidentally was the first craft brew I ever tasted when I was 15. As the whiskey glasses were quickly whisked away, the Idle Hands Crew was quick to pour the first of 8 different 3 oz Sierra Nevada pours. Who knew Sierra Nevada had so many different types of beers in their brewing repertoire!? I clearly did not prepare for this event as I had very little to eat beforehand but Rion was ready to go as he was smart enough to prepare and eat dinner before. Amateur mistake McKenzie… I know better for next time (and there will be a next time).
*Down in One*
Brian Dwyer, a rep from Sierra Nevada, took us through a brewing journey of Sierra Nevada complete with the history and the future of brewing at Sierra Nevada. It’s kind of amazing to think that every single bottle, every single keg comes from their Chico, California hub. Obviously Sierra Nevada is a brewing behemoth, but unlike some other large brewing houses, they oversee the operations and keep quality controlled by keeping everything in-house. Their attention to every little detail was spectacularly evident in each of the 8 pours we drank. Every five minutes another pour came and all you could do was sit and savor each and every last sip.
So with 8 to try… Rion and I eagerly awaited each and every one. Brian gave us a little primer on what we would be drinking and set us off into the world of Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, Kellerweis, Stout, Torpedo (my absolute hands down favorite), Bigfoot, Reserve Grand Cru, Glissade Golden Bock, and Olvila Dubbel. I dare anyone to take this journey as well and not fall in love with Sierra Nevada.
Again I would say I know a thing or two about beer, but my beer knowledge is limited to pilsners and ales… having spent a few months in Leuven, Belgium (where Stella Artois is brewed) I was proud of my brewing education until last Wednesday. I don’t get too funky in my beer choices…. I mean give me the “lady-friendly” beers (pilsners, ales, pale ales, etc) and I am good to go, but once again Sierra Nevada opened my eyes to the greatness of a good stout. In fact, of the 8 beers we were given, I found myself preferring the funky ones….the souts, the barleywines, the bocks, the dubbels. Who knew!?
*Am I really a Stout fan? Let me think about that…. YES!*
*Gettin’ a Whiff of the Grains*
Perhaps the most interesting thing we learned that night was the brewing process and how the grains become beer. Brian brought bags of their grains for us to smell, taste, and see. A full on beer education was had ladies and gentleman… and while I cannot speak for every “Learning to Beer,” I am 100% confident in saying that Rev would not steer you wrong in choosing peeps who aren’t at the absolute top of their game.
*Isn’t that just glorious!?*
“Learning to Beer” is a guaranteed good time. Who can deny alcohol’s amazing power of bringing people together and that is exactly what it did for Rion and I. Had it not been for this event I would not have met Melanie, Rohan, Robin, Liz and a slew of others who are now deep in the mmmguide fold. Bars like Idle Hands are rare these days…it’s an absolute gem in a city full of crap bars. “Learning to Beer” and Idle Hands itself are not to be missed if you consider yourself a brew fan. Idle Hands has three pillars to which they rest itself on…Beer, Bourbon and Rock. I mean how can you go wrong??? Get on board and head down to Avenue B for a rocking good time.
***The guys at Idle Hands host many alcohol related shindigs (including a monthly trivia night, free mini burgers on Mondays,happy hours, singles nights, the list goes on and on) so make sure to check out their website to see a calendar of upcoming events. Next week make sure to check out “Learning to Beer” with Butternuts Beer & Ale & Bourbon Lessons with Heaven Hill! Tickets are $35 through www.beermenus.com or can be purchased at the bar for $40!
“Learning to Beer” at Idle Hands
25 Avenue B (between 2nd and 3rd Streets)