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Balvenie 15 Year Single Barrel-Life Cafe 983

By Andy “McMills” (until November 11th, after which time it’s Mills to you)

Balvenie Scotch Tasting Event isThursday, November 10, 2011, from 8-10pm at Life Cafe 983.

Balvenie 15yr Single Barrel

Single barrel, what a fine term. There is much confusion about the difference between the term single malt and single barrel. To be classified as a single malt whiskey, it must be whiskey made at the same time and aged for the same time, with the same year’s malt. This can then be blended together to create a consistent product over the years. For single barrel whiskies, however, it’s the same criteria as above, but without the privilege to mix barrels. This is done only by the malt master who chooses casks worthy of the year’s Single Barrel’s end product. Balvenie makes only 350 of these bottles per year. It’s very, very good to get your hands on one of these. As far as the taste, my opinion is this version is more robust and complex than its younger predecessors, despite the fact that the only barrels used were oak. The more time in the barrel, the more characteristics the whiskey picks up from the barrel. I should know; I’ve been in the barrel for years!

Looking forward to seeing you on November 10th for a free taste of these fine Scotches.

Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask-Life Cafe 983

By Andy “McMills”, the Whiskey Dude

Attention: The Balvenie Tasting Event has been pushed back to Thursday, November 10th, from 8 to 10 pm at Life Cafe 983.

Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask Scotch

Okay, I was almost as confused as you. I’m now not only the Beer Dude but also the Whiskey Dude. I accept that gracious title for our upcoming Balvenie Scotch Tasting event. Just don’t expect me in a kilt.

I’m not entirely sure why they beat around the bush with the categorization of this one, but substitute “Caribbean” for “Rum Barrel.” A few years ago, Balvenie released a 17-year-old version of this product with amazing success, to which the word “rum” was attached. They started the process by aging the whisky for a full 14 years in oak whisky casks, and finished it in used rum barrels, The end product is rich, rounded and malty.

Re-mark your calendar for November 10th at 8 to 10 pm. Sorry, sorry, we expected it to be on November 5th, but the New York supervisor for Balvanie got called away for something urgent so we’re doing it a week later. No bother, it gives us more time to increase your knowledge about these fine Scotches. And it doesn’t prevent you from coming in beforehand to get yourself a taste either.

Anyway, what the hell!! If they don’t turn up we’ll just drink their scotch. So, get yourself in here now!

Balvenie 12yr Doublewood-Life Cafe 983

Hi, it’s the Beer Dude, Andy, bringing you tidings from the bar at Life Cafe 983 in scenic Bushwick, Brooklyn. If you haven’t heard, our Balvenie Scotch Tasting event has been rescheduled for Thursday, November 10th, from 8-10pm  at the Life Cafe 983 location.  Mark your calendar and get your taste butts over here. It’s gonna be a real treat.

Balvenie 12yr Doublewood

I promised you a bit of background on each of the scotches we’re tasting so here we go. The first is the 12 year Doublewood. Doublewood does not mean twice as much wood, or anything else inappropriate that some of you may be thinking.  It means that the whisky, while still maturing, was transferred from one kind of wooden barrel to another.  In this example, it starts off in traditional oak barrels that add smoothness to the whisky, and cherry casks that add some additional complexity.  Very smooth with a spicy kind of sweetness.  A very nice 12 year single malt. This means you’ll be doubly happy!

If you can’t wait for Thursday, November 10 from 8-10pm to get a taste, stop on by and see me, Thursday through Sunday nights. We’ve got a full line up of unique Scotches for you to choose from. All “scotch” is not the same. Scotch whiskeys are as varied as the places from which they originate. I’d love to met you so we can talk more Scotch. It’s what I love to do.

Loaner kilts available. Forget Halloween scary ghosts and ghouls; there is absolutely nothing scarier than looking up a Scotsman’s kilt.

Andy McMills

Thursday, November 10 @ Life Cafe 983 Balvenie Tasting Event

By Andy Mills, The Beer Dude.

Balvenie Scotch Tasting, Thursday, November 10th, 2011 from 8-10 pm.

Brooklyn has never been on the forefront of any movement at all that I’m aware of concerning the distillation of whiskey.  Fortunately, however, we Brooklynites don’t feel the same way about drinking it.  I’ve seen cocktail lists as well as ordered wholesale alcohol for establishments on both sides of the East River, and the most obvious thing that hit me was the fact that Brooklyn drinks whiskey.  I love Brooklyn.

Here at Life Café 983, we embrace this.  I called the Balvenie Distillery in Speyside, Scotland and they’ve agreed to jump onboard.  We’ve invited members of the distillery to the restaurant on Thursday, November 10 from 8-10pm to help us throw a party to celebrate Brooklyn’s love of whiskey.  Swing through at 8 pm to catch the start.  It shouldn’t last much longer than 9 pm, so come early.  We’ll be featuring free tastes from various whiskies ranging from their 12-year single malt the whole way up to the 21-year.  It’s important not to miss this if you love whiskey.

Talking about whiskey, let’s consider longevity and the oldest lady on the street.  Life Café 983 has been around since 2002 making us one of the more mature restaurant/bars in the Bushwick/East Williamsburg area (if not the oldest).  However, imagine being in business since 1893.  That’s the year Balvenie bottled their first whisky. (Makes me feel really damn young.)  Like most Speyside whiskies, Balvenie can be described as being on the sweet and subtle side for a scotch, lacking the peaty characteristics of Highland and Islay whiskies.  Having said that, the surprising thing about drinking Balvenie whiskeys is the relation between the drinker and the scotch. It all comes down to personal taste and things can go in all kinds of directions from there.

Watch this glass! In the next day or two I’ll write more on the specific whiskies we’ll be pouring at the event. So study up. Knowledge enhances appreciation and enjoyment. Get ready for this Thursday, November 10 from 8-10pm.

The Beer Dude is Back Behind the Bar

Hi, this is Andy. You remember, The Beer Dude of Life Cafe 983. For years, I’ve been researching, choosing, ordering, serving, drinking, writing about and, last but not least, talking about the beers I love to serve here. I talked so much about beer that John Sunderland (our artist-in-residence and infamous creator of our Menu Picture Riddles) sketched me as I really am – a pint of beer with a nice frothy head. From that moment on, I became The Beer Dude.

Just over a year ago, Mark, my co-manager and “partner in crime” at Life 983, went over to the East Village Life Cafe to help out. My hands became full of managing other things far away from the bar. Well, Mark is happily back and I’m back where, I have to admit, I am most happy to be – running your ears off with ramblings about different varieties of hops, which kinds of yeasts leave the most desirable residual sugars, the way adding rye to an IPA recipe can … yeah, well, I can go on running. I’ll get into more of that in the next postings. I can’t help it – it’s the stuff I love.

I look forward to telling you about the exciting developments with the beer line-up we’re looking to introduce as well as some fun enhancements we’re planning with the rest of the boozies. Like, we’ve got a Scotch event coming up Saturday night, October 22nd. Before then, I’ll be writing about the character of each of the four new Scotches we’ll have in house so you’ll be better prepared to savor their differences.

Come on by to meet me and try the samples. I look forward to seeing you here on October 22nd. And before you get here, tune in to my blog for talk about Scotch.

Life 983 is Now Open and Hopping

We beat THE IMPERFECT STORM! We are open now! We have a limited menu due to the inventory we have on hand because of Irene (yes, I’m blaming her). We’re doing delivery too. We’ll carry on the rest of the week the best we can. We don’t know how well our purveyors will be able to get to us given flooded highways and downed trees.

We managed to open the kitchen around 2 pm, the bar around 1. We arrived at noon to find the phones ringing off the hook and lots of neighborhood folks wanting in. Trouble was, we weren’t going to be ready for a while. We got the bar up and running in about 30 minutes, but getting food prepped to serve — when it was going to be the owners Kathy and John along with Andy the manager (and later Mark, our East Village Life Cafe manager who lives nearby) cooking — well that was another thing. That took a while longer as none of us knew where the oven was. But you know, here at Life Cafe, it’s our tradition to grill in the face of adversity and be here and open to serve up whatever we can to our neighbors.

Sorry I couldn’t post this earlier — we’ve been slammed and I couldn’t get out of the kitchen. Oh, I love this business! Never a dull moment.

So, come on in all you orphans of the Imperfect Storm. Join the survivors that have already made their way here. The mood in incredible, everyone being grateful to have made it through. We’ll feed you and provide a safe and fun haven from all this craziness.  (Like, it’s hard to get a loaf of bread in town right now, as I’m sure all you locals have discovered. It was shocking to see bread shelves completely empty in all the local stores!)

So come on by. We’ve got something here for you.

BEER SPEAK @ Life Cafe 983

Strong, Firm and Dauntless?
By Andy Mills

1. bold, brave, or dauntless: a stout heart; stout fellows.
2. firm; stubborn; resolute: stout resistance.
3. forceful; vigorous: a stout argument; a stout wind.
4. strong of body; hearty; sturdy: stout seamen.
5. having endurance or staying power, as a horse.
6. strong in substance or body, as a beverage.
7. strong and thick or heavy: a stout cudgel.

Every single one of these definitions adequately describes the style of beer known as stout.  Strong with alcohol.  Bold and forceful in flavor. Only a brave and stubborn palette has enough endurance.  So thick and heavy you can eat it with a spoon.  This amazing style of brew dominates the “Best Cold Weather Beer” list.  You don’t even need someone to snuggle up with when your heater breaks down.   And with a stout, who needs coffee with their breakfast?

The beautiful world of stout…

Stouts are made from the darkest roast of malts in the world giving them the dry finish they are known for.  Stouts were given their name in the 17th century because they were the strongest beers made at the time.  Today, this is still slightly true, but many stouts have fallen from the glory of having more alcohol than does a body good, to more consumer friendly levels.  Guinness is a perfect example, weighing in at an astonishingly low 4.1% ABV.  Most beers, even that watery substance called Budweiser, are around  5%.  But not all members of the stout family have changed their ways so greatly.

Let’s talk about the Russian Imperial Stout.  Actually an English beer it’s named for its purpose; shipment to Russia.  Alcohol, being a preservative, was needed to be brought to higher levels for the beer to survive the trip to across a continent, and the Russians loved it.  More booze, means more malts, means more flavor, means more yum.  These guys can reach well over 10% ABV and that is something that I like.

North Coast Old Rasputin
Fort Bragg, California
ABV: 9%

Seven years ago when I was in church I met a beautiful dark skinned woman with beautiful brown hair.  We talked, we laughed and I cherished her in my arms.  It was good times.  Her name was Old Rasputin.  Okay.  It wasn’t church; it was a bar and the girl was a beer.  The rest is true.  The flavor is dominated by an earthy chocolate taste backed up with heavy dark malts.  It’s finish, glory.

I still love this stuff as much as the day I met her at church.  At Life Café now.

Beer Speak @ Life Cafe 983

What’s Wheat That?
by Andy Mills, Bar Manager Life Cafe 983

Of all the styles of beer present in the world today, the wheat beer is the grand daddy.  The brewing process resembles that of the first beers brewed EVER.  The main reason behind this is due to the additional flavors added to the beer by the wheat.  This was a gigantic bonus in the early stages of the game because early brewers were slow to grasp the irreplaceable presence of hops that we are accustomed to today.  The diversity of wheat in the early days is also something to take into consideration.

…can trace it’s history back to the late 8th century from a small hops garden…

Ever have a Belgian lambic?  Not Lindemen’s, something actually good, like Cantillon.  Cantillon has one of the most traditional styles of brewing in the world, spontaneous fermentation, as many organic products as they can get their fingers on, no filtration, all that stuff, and, it’s made partially from wheat (about 35%). Then there’s Belgian wit biers, dunkle weizens,  weizen bocks, and the ever so popular German style, the hefeweizen.

Now that we have briefly spoke of the oldest living style of brewing in the world, let’s talk about the oldest licensed brewery in the world, Weihenstephaner.  They make a variety of wheat beers ranging from dunkle wies to their flagship hefeweizen, as well as a number of non wheat beers, and they have been doing it for a long time.  The brewery was licensed by the Bavarian government in 1040AD (first ever), but can trace it’s history back to the late 8th century from a small hops garden located on site.  Tradition as well as quality has been what has kept this “brewstorical” mammoth alive all these years.

Now served at Life Cafe 983
Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen
Bavaria, Germany
ABV: 5.4%

In accordance with German law, this lovely style is required to be made with top fermenting yeast, making it an ale.  Although most ales are known to lean more toward heavier beers with longer finishes, this beauty comes out clean as a whistle.  It has a nice hazey yellow color with big white head.  It has a naturally high level of citrus and corriander flavors that pretty much define the style.  Yeast is left unfiltered from the beer making it truly taste alive.  Definitely feels like and original.


One Great Mistake

By Andy Mills, Bar Manager

Imagine, years and years ago, a time before we had refrigerated trucks, before we had cars or even electricity.  Even during such a primitive time period (by our standards anyway) people were still squeezing into pubs, taverns and inns all throughout the world in search of great beer.  To make sure they found what they needed, some establishments would make it right there on the spot.  Others lacked the ingenuity, space or time to dedicate to the ever so involved process of making a great pint.  These places decided they wanted to have beers anyway.

…a couple can leave you happy yet crippled at the same time. I know, it happened to me last night…

It seems simple to us, out source it and ship it in.  Well, it didn’t quite work so easily during a cold winter in Bavaria when the only means of transportation was a horse drawn carriage.  They still tried.  The side affect was the beer would partially freeze before arriving to the taverns.  Now, if we look at the situation scientifically, we could deduce that since alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature than water, we can make an educated guess that what comes out of a half frozen keg of beer is not quite as timid as it was originally intended to be.  This was the fortunate birth of the ice beer.

Most examples of this style are frightening; Natural Ice, Bud Ice, Molson Ice.  You know, the kind of beer that you are forced to drink when you walk into a college party accidentally because the hot younger girl you were dating at the time insisted and you happen to be the oldest person in the room by too many years…  That’s the stuff.  However, when done correctly, bliss may be achieved.  Here is, I think, my favorite ice beer in the market.

Scheinder Aventinus Eisbock
ABV: 12%

The original Aventinus is an extremely famous (amongst beer geeks anyways) Dopple Weissen Bock.  This means essentially, that it is a hearty lager made from wheat and double the ingredients of the typical beer in the same amount of water, leaving a fuller flavor and happily, more alcohol.  To make their eisbock, Scheinder froze this already intimidating beer and removed a portion of the water, leaving an even more potent brew.  Remarkably, the end product is extremely smooth and will fool you if you are not careful.  At 12%, a couple can leave you happy yet crippled at the same time.  I know, it happened to me last night…

Booze Speak @ Life Cafe 983

Whiskey, Whisky, Uisce Beatha?
by Andy Mills, Bar Manager Life Cafe 983
Once upon a time, there was a powerful magician. This magician focused all the power he could muster into one magical act; the creation of usquebaugh (the water of life), today known as whiskey to some and whisky to others. The spelling of the word is a perfect demonstration of how different this stuff can be. “What’s it made from?” you ask. Anything from malted barley, wheat, rye, corn and more. This fact is only the beginning of the versatility of whiskeys or whiskies. Distilleries age whiskey for different time periods, in different sized barrels made from different types of wood. They even dry the malted grains differently. Some traditional Scottish distilleries use peat moss fires to dry the stuff. Believe me, this makes a world of difference. Then, hell, they may even blend many different barrels from many different distilleries to get a particular whisky the way that it was intended to be. Johnnie Walker is a perfect example of this. The big boys, however, tend to not play these games. They give you the real deal. The single malt whisky, always expensive, usually worth the price, is a more complex, intense and usually awe inspiring drinking experience.
I took on the effort of trying to offer examples of the different flavours and textures of these amazing spirits at the cafe. I am now offering whisk(e)y flights. I have one from Scotland, and one from Kentucky, each includes three different pours of 3 of my favorite examples from the particular regions.