Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Another good thing from Arkansas...

St. Andrews Cathedral Ruins
Wasted from a hard night's drinking...
(Image from Wikipedia)

No, that image above isn't from Arkansas, but I did enjoy a few pints once in a St. Andrews pub during a 2003 conference on the Gospel of John and Christian Theology -- where they spelled my name "Horrace Jeffrey Hodges" and promised to correct it but never did! -- and I hail from Arkansas, so there is a slight connection.

Anyway ... for several weeks now, I've been receiving the EBeerSnob.Com weekly newsletter, The Official Size & Weight E-Beer E-News E-Mail, out of Little Rock, Arkansas -- same place on earth that sends me the stellar Bruce's eWine of the Week every Wednesday, providing me with a virtual bottle of wine and a mine of oenological information.

Now, I can also raise vicarious mugs of virtual brew for imaginary tasting at no cost, sometimes even with an excellent meal at fine pubs, courtesy of a certain "John W." who hails from Little Rock but travels the world in his line of work, which seems to involve going around drinking good beers. On one of his trips to New York City, he discovered the fine restaurant-bar St. Andrews, located conveniently near Hotel Mela, where he and his wife Marilyn were staying:
I decided to check out St. Andrews, the restaurant/bar next door. It was so close I had to at least check it out. If the beer was anything decent at all, the convenience factor would most certainly be a plus. I noted earlier that it looked to have a fair selection of beer (lots of interesting looking taps) and wanted to know for sure. After all, it is next door.

It was not long after walking into St. Andrews that I realized that I hit the jackpot. At first there was room at the bar, but there were no available chairs. I stood there for a few and then, before I knew it, the bar-back brought out a few extras. They were very busy at about 9pm. The bartender, at first, seemed typical of what I would expect of the NY attitude, no eye contact, but responded quickly to my hand signal.

The beer selection was amazing. There were over 100 bottled beers and 18 on tap, all this from a bar whose specialty is single malt scotch whiskey (290 to choose from). Not only did they have a good quantity of beer choices, but an incredible quality. LOTS of Jackson 500's in the mix. I had two, starting with the Bellhaven Wee Heavy (90) on tap, and then the bottled Huyghe Delirium Tremens (87). I was going to try Skull Splitter (89), but its cooler was down.

Once I engaged the bartender, Paul, in conversation, he was very attentive. I told him of our mission, and he loaded me up with information. He said that St. Andrews is one of 7 establishments owned by the same person. He gave me his choice of the others for beer, Stout NYC, and a choice outside the chain called Ginger Man, which I had already targeted.

St. Andrews is not rated in Ratebeer.com, but should be. It is an incredible beer experience, whether they specialize in it or not. This place is incredibly professional (at the very least Paul, my contact there), authentic and dedicated to good beers. I find it an amazing coincidence that they turned up right next door. It is obvious to me, based on my good fortune in finding this establishment right next to the hotel, that I am living right. The beer gods must be pleased with me. St. Andrews is a gift, and a great way to end my first day in NYC. (The Official Size & Weight E-Beer E-News E-Mail, July 29, 2007, Issue 14)
John W. liked St. Andrews so much that he returned for a second round at more leisure:
As I wrote last week, St. Andrews is a very special place for someone ready to try new and different beers, particularly ones from the UK , and an even better place if you want to try Scotch whiskey (their specialty). I was comforted to see that Paul was again on duty, and ready to serve my beerly cravings. In the last episode you may recall that the cooler was down that encased the beer with the lovely name of Skullsplitter. My first question was, of course, did the cooler get fixed? Yes, Paul assured me, so my first choice was obvious.

Orkney Skullsplitter (89) is a barleywine-style ale, made by Sinclair Breweries Ltd. in Scotland. It is of the European design. (American barleywines are more carbonated and hoppier). This beer was smooth, sweet, very lightly carbonated and had almost no taste of hops. It had a taste of sweet sorghum and reminded me of horehound candy. It was very tasty, particularly once I got used to the different style.

For my second beer I let Paul decide. He recommended Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted (79). It was a golden ale, dark in color (for the recipe), with very little carbonation. It was light bodied and crisp, a good summer beer. It had a very nice bite at the end. It was dry and yummy.

The one I later wished I had tasted was the Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (93) if just for the name alone. Read the review, and you’ll quickly see that I blew it. They even had two different versions on the menu, one aged in oak.

I also tried the food on this occasion. It was wonderful. I had the Bangers and Mash from the appetizer menu, which turns out to be breakfast link sausage on mashed potatoes. I also saw others eating the fish and chips, and they looked awesome.

At the end of my evening at St. Andrews, Paul treated me to a taste of a wonderful single malt scotch. I so enjoyed it, as I did everything about my second visit to St. Andrews . I especially enjoyed my conversations with Paul. He is quite knowledgeable about beer, Scotch and about the company he works for. He is authentic right down to the Kilt. I so wanted to tell him my Irish bartender joke, it is one of my filthiest, and funniest. It just was not the time.

This place will be remembered as one of my all time favorites. The food, the service, the professionalism, and the knowledge of the products by the staff make St. Andrews a world class pub. Taps up, way up, for the great pub named St. Andrews . This would not be my last visit for the trip, but it would prove to be my last visit with Paul for this go around. If I ever go back to NY, I will stay at the same hotel, (Hotel Mela) and visit St. Andrews often. (The Official Size & Weight E-Beer E-News E-Mail, August 5, 2007, Issue 15)
Well, I'll probably never make it to St. Andrews unless I do one day make that long-postponed trip to New York -- in which case I'll take Paul Berman up on his invitation to a drink and suggest that holy watering hole -- but in the meantime, my successful genius brother Pat can stop by the place during one of his many New York trips, enjoy a few brews, and doubtless confirm John W.'s report.

Perhaps he could even arrange to meet John W. for a beer or two...

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At 12:51 PM, Anonymous kapok said...

The scenery can't compare but I recall the third bottles' bouquet of the especial raisen/potato home brewed beer of early 70's true Arkansas. The Flint Hills Commune of Fulton County. The father of a current law enforcement officer of the county seat being the brewmeister.

For some reason it was always the third bottle that bore the bouquet. The first smelled like, well. The second a bit, well. Oh but that luscious third! For some reason the fourth bore less. The fifth: one couldn't sniff. But usually by then the geodesic Buckminster thingy seemed inviting as St. Andrews ruins a pictured. And too, one could simply lay on ones' side and roll into the entrance. No taxi needed.

No single malts there, but JK recalls distinctly an Aussie sailor's introduction to a nectar called Glenfiddich,owing to the close proximity of the China Fleet Club in Hong Kong. One could roll from there too, but usually ill-advised.

Oh! Glenfiddich!


At 1:02 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've partaken of Glenfiddich -- bought some duty-free on a flight to England in the early 90s and shared it with British friends there on the night of my arrival. Conviviality, with Christmas nigh that Winter night...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:49 PM, Anonymous kapok said...

I can sniff the peat of which you speak. Very strange how one associates the mere mention of single malt.

How one attunes to a singularity. I'm happy for you that you've quaffed that nectar. I feared for your soul I admit, thinking you too attuned to fine wine (not falling victim to your now countrymans' boast) nor your less alluded fondness for the grains.


At 3:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, the only thing that stands between me and full knowledge of mickle brews, distillations, and other tastes of heaven ... is a woman who looks out for me, keeping me sane and healthy.

Well, there's also lack of money -- Heaven don't come cheap, it seems...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff--I just returned from NYC. Unfortunately I didn't find St. Andrews (was unaware of its existence). I focused on Irish pubs (in addition to the training I was sent there for)and ended up spending a majority of time at: Lanagans; O'Lunney's; and Harmony View. Sean, who happened to be my bartender at both O'Lunney's and Harmony View was friendly and professional. I stuck to the "ole rare stuff" as Shane MacGowan says. This consisted mostly of Smithwicks, Guiness and Harps. I will try to connect with St. Andrews and maybe John W. and I can meet up and have a beer tasting session.

All the best,

At 5:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a kind word for Frog-Brand Soju?

-- Hermione

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Pat, good to hear from you. Sounds like you had a fine time in NYC, and I expect that you and John W. would hit it off well.

You could contact him at his website, which is linked to in the post.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hermione asks:

"Not a kind word for Frog-Brand Soju?"

I suspect that John W. has never heard of that brand, but he'll undoubtedly track it down now and get back to you on this...

Jeffery Hodges

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