Yuengling Summer Wheat

Yuengling Summer Wheat is a 4.5 ABV hefeweizen.  The appearance is a very light orange with a frothy head and clove banana bread nose.  The flavor follows, the clove and banana malt dominates with a sour touch on the finish and not much of a hop presence.  Mouthfeel is smooth and mellow and very drinkable.  It might not be the best hefe but it is of the better Yuengling varieties I’ve tried and well worth having.  This might not be a real craft brewer but it is American’s oldest independent brewery and one I’ll always support.

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Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager

Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager is a 5 ABV Czech Pilsner.  Appearance is pale gold, bubbly and frothy, nose is grassy with just a touch of Euro skunk.  The flavor is much the same, vegetol and grassy with a touch of those Euro malts.  The finish is mildly bitter and floral with the most likely Saaz hop.  This is a nice and crisp pilsner, and very drinkable, great for the summer season.  I could stand a bit more depth of flavor and character, but not too much to ruin the style.

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Nibsy’s Pub Syracuse

Nibsy’s Pub Syracuse

Nibsy’s is a snug and charming pub in the much adored Tipperary (Tipp) Hill section of Syracuse. Established in 1890 and Syracuse’s oldest tavern, Nibsy’s is basically a one room bar with an upstairs banquet hall and outside patio, added about ten years ago. The miscellaneous breweriana is kept limited but the framed pictures are well placed and add a local touch you want to see in a neighborhood bar. The wood floor, tin ceiling and curtained windows add to the warm and timeless feeling. Nibsy’s demonstrates that a good dive should be clean, casual, cozy, and of the utmost importance, welcoming. And of course it wouldn’t be a Tipp Hill bar without the influences of the Emerald Isle made obvious by several touches including four leaf clover wall sconces. It should also be noted that the crowd had a subtle but undeniable cohesion and friendliness you only find in places like this.

The bar itself is modest but serviceable, offering the standard compliment of a dozen plus taps, wine and spirits. Lisa worked the entire length of the bar effortlessly and with an easy charisma. I was happy to see Founders on draft, a top notch microbrewery out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This one was the Founders Centennial, a 7.2 ABV, 65 IBU AIPA. This is your classic IPA with that sweet malt backbone balancing the fresh citrus and pine hops. The mouthfeel is creamy and drinkable, making that 7.2 disappear on the palate. My second beer was a more regional offering, an Empire Amber, branded an Otto Ale locally. Amber ales tend to be easy drinking and this was no different. Empire Amber is 5.5 ABV and probably south of 20 IBU, or International Bitterness Units. Typically the hoppier the beer the higher the IBU and real hop bombs can be north of 100. The Empire Amber was your basic biscuity malt with a caramel sweetness and no serious hop presence on the finish. Unless you want to stay local you can probably skip the Empire Ale, but, I’d recommend Founders for any occasion.

Nibsy’s has a fairly bare bones menu and is presented as that good old double-sided laminate. Small though it may be it covers all bases, with apps, salads, pizza, sandwiches, burgers and wings. And because us folks around the SenecaRiver love our favorite bottom dwelling fish, Haddock is served on Fridays. There is a separate buffet menu that is probably served in the upstairs banquet hall. We started with nachos, a quintessential bar offering if there ever was one. Served in twelve minutes it was your basic bar nachos with melted cheese, nothing special but it hits the spot. My entree, served in fifteen, was a Philly Cheesesteak. If I’m remembering correctly an authentic City that Loves You Back Cheesesteak is rib-eye slathered with Cheez Whiz or provolone. The best cheesesteak I’ve ever had was probably from Chickie & Pete’s in the PhiladelphiaAirport of all places, but this one was nothing to scoff at, and correctly served with thinly shaved rib-eye. Both dishes were generously portioned and all told around $15 so Nibsy’s is going to satiate your appetite for both dining and drinking without busting your wallet.

I don’t have any significant criticisms for Nibsy’s, they’ve been operating in three centuries so it seems they have it down pretty well. I’ll humbly offer a suggestion, get me to buy a shot, liquor offers a much higher margin than beer. If they don’t already perhaps feature a special Irish Whiskey or even a flight of whiskies, like a Jameson range. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing and if you throw in a commemorative shot glass I’m sold all day. I’ve only been to Nibsy’s once and that’s hardly definitive, but it was a great time, this is the kind of place where you want to be a regular. I hope to see you there.

Slainte – Michael Cross

Uinta Hop Nosh

Uinta Hop Nosh AIPA is 7.3 ABV and (est) 83 IBU.  The appearance is orange and the nose oily pine hop.  Hop Nosh has that sweet malt / bitter hop balance that’s true to style.  The hops are fresh, oily and quite strongly pine, actually very strongly pine.  Given that and the higher IBU this might not be a great session beer but enjoying one is fantastic.  Uinta denotes this is brewed with wind & solar power right on the label.  Recommended.

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Breckenridge Ophelia

Breckenridge Ophelia is a 5 ABV 23 IBU wheat ale with a hazy yellow appearance and hoppy bready nose.  The taste has classical wheat flavors like lemon zest, peppery spice and grass.  This is fairly hop forward, especially for the style, but it stays subdued.  The mosaic hops are floral and earthy and a good choice.  The mouthfeel is smooth but with a decent enough bite.  Glad to try one.

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Shiner Bohemian Black Lager

Shiner Bohemian Black Lager is a 4.9 ABV schwarzbier.  The appearance is dark with a lightly roasted nose.  The flavor is all schwarzbier with that nice lightly roasted sweet malt and without much of a hop presence anywhere on the palate.  Schwarzbiers are often light and this is no exception.  Mouthfeel is light and it borders on thin overall.  Shiner might not be a real craft brewer but I enjoyed my recent mixed 6 pack.  I used my dogfish craft pint but this style is traditionally served in a pilsner or similar.

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Ommegang Fire & Blood Red Ale

Ommegang Fire & Blood Red Ale is 6.8 ABV and the third of the GoT partnership beers.   The appearance is dark amber and the nose Belgian yeast and fruit, which also carries to the flavor.  The malty sweetness turns into a dry finish where the ancho chilies and spicy hops really come out on the taste.   This is big and complex and really another homerun for Ommegang.  Those guys can really brew up a good beer.  This is the first of the GoT beers that I’m going to get some more to cellar away.

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Butternuts Snapperhead IPA

Butternuts Snapperhead IPA is 6.8 ABV, IBU unavailable.  The appearance is golden and the nose strongly malted with a hint of tangerine hops.  The flavor is also dominated by the sweet malts, which can get a bit cloying with the relatively higher alcohol level.  The hop presence is definitely on the finish but doesn’t stand up to the malts.  Despite the minor imbalance it’s good, and the regular size cans travel well.  Maybe forgettable but worth having.

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Founders All Day IPA

Founders All Day (A)IPA is 4.7 ABV and 42 IBU.   Appearance is golden amber and the nose pine hop.  The flavor is basic AIPA, toffee sweet malts balancing the fresh piney resin hop.   Given the ABV the overall character is light and very easy to drink with a crisp and moderate mouthfeel and carbonation.  The name says it all, you can pound these all day for a warm weather event just fine.   Founders has yet to disappoint and I’m sure to pick up any new varieties I see.

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Shifty’s Bar Syracuse

Shifty’s Syracuse

Shifty’s Bar, off of Burnet Ave is a beloved Syracuse institution. Opened in 1969 they boast live music five nights a week, award winning chicken wings and has garnered a loyal following. Shifty’s checks off many of the dive bar conventions along with some more premium accoutrements. The space is fairly bare bones and split into two rooms, one with the bar, informal seating and a corner wedge stage. The other is dominated by a pool table which is probably a crowd pleaser but leaves me confused. I would think more seating would bring more revenue but what do I know, I just like to drink booze eat food and write about it later. I don’t like a sticky floor but given the amount of foot traffic I understand. The breweriana was limited but the framed and signed pictures of visiting bands and patrons behind the stage enhances the local touch. The tin ceiling is another pleasing design aspect you often see in older area buildings. A row of Harleys always adorns the outside and folks of all stripes can rub shoulders inside.

Despite a mob scene of a crowd I did get service without too much of a wait. They offer a fairly large craft beer selection, draft and bottled, some wine and a decent spirits line up. Given the atmosphere I skipped my usual cocktail start, this is a beer and a whiskey spot. After I left my card and gave a more than generous tip on my first round I had to fight to get any further attention, the three bartenders were basically doing triage service. I went with Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, a 7 ABV 55 IBU AIPA that I’ve had before. This is a great beer, with a piney resin hop balanced well by sweet caramel malts. The mouthfeel is smooth and silky and one could pile these down all night. The temperature was a touch high and the taste not quite what I remembered. This could indicate stressed lines. Generally speaking the colder and tastier the beer the better yield they are getting out of the taps. When I go back I’ll be sure to sample a few more and see how it goes, in the name of professionalism of course.

I’ll start out by saying the wings were really good, really, really good. Yes, that’s three “really’s” and two “good’s” in a sentence, I know, that’s some writing prowess to behold. We went with the sweet chili, self explanatory, and their signature, Frankenstein, a mash of sweet, spicy, garlic, and BBQ. These flavors, along with requesting “extra crispy” was recommended by a friend who I now owe a beer to for the great recommendations. However, my journey from ordering to eating was my personal Everest. Order to pickup was twenty minutes, long for a bar ticket sure but not unexpected and just fine given the crowd. To pickup your wings one must fight the multitudes to and from the bar top and then find a place to eat. This was not going to happen, to say every possible spot was taken is an understatement. By this time the real estate claimed by the pool table looked particularly desirable. I’ll keep all names to myself but a local with some connections finagled some takeout boxes, wing specials tend to be eat-in only. My only other option other than the sidewalk would have been walking to my car, eating there, and dropping off the baskets after. Settling up was also an ordeal, they lost my card underneath some other checks so I spent several minutes sweating my beer out until they could find it.

While being generally tensed by the hectic atmosphere my wife reminded me why I go to bars. Bars are my relaxation spot. When I see an open stool and a bartender wearing a tie and polishing a glass I can sit down and exhale. So maybe it’s not that bar, especially not on infamous wing night. But nothing I write here matters one bit, Shifty’s doesn’t need my praises and can ignore my very minor critiques. Shifty’s is a local favorite for deserved reasons and they succeed because of and in spite of everything I’ve said, so go soon and go often. I actually can’t wait to go back– just not on wing night.

Cheers – Michael Cross