Pickled Eggs, a Forgotten Bar Food

Behold: the pickled egg, served with all the fixins. It is a treasured American bar snack – and, sadly, it is an endangered food.

The best $1 you'll ever spend
The best $1 you’ll ever spend

I realize your first reaction to “pickled egg” is either that’s gross, bro or did you go blind? But let me ask you two questions:

1) Do you enjoy hard boiled eggs?
2) Do you enjoy pickles?

If you answered YES to both of these questions you will probably really like pickled eggs.  They have an initial briny and sour bite, but set on the backdrop of the creamy and satisfying hard boiled egg. Add in some saltines, pepper, and hot sauce, and you have a world-class bar snack.  So why don’t you see them at all of your favorite watering holes?

You see, dating back to the 19th century and continuing to this day, states and municipalities adopted laws requiring any establishment that serves alcohol to also serve some sort of food. This is a pretty good idea, since we’ve known for thousands of years that consuming food with alcohol is a great idea if you want to avoid ending the night stumbling home to your abode. But many bars saw this as just another regulation they need to comply with.

So, in order to do the absolute minimum to meet the law’s requirements they would make available pickled eggs. They’re cheap and they would only need to make a batch every few months…that is, if the proprietors were scrupulous. Patrons would observe how much dust was on the egg jar to surmise whether they were safe to eat.*

Obviously, there’s much more to the history of pickled eggs as a bar snack than that…but that’s the most entertaining take.  Nowadays pretzels, peanuts, food trucks, and clip-strips of chips have largely replaced the humble pickled egg. And that’s too bad, because they’re delicious.  I cooked up a batch over the July 4th weekend, doing my part to make America a more perfect union.  They couldn’t be easier to make.

A happy refrigerator has a jar of pickled eggs in it
A happy refrigerator has a jar of pickled eggs in it

A final note: major props to Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay, MI for their dedication to bringing back the pickled egg in fine fashion – pictured above. It’s the perfect accompaniment to one of their fantastic ciders. While we were there we spied Mario Batali quaffing a cider and enjoying a round of pickled eggs with his companions – that’s a man who knows a tasty snack when he sees it. Oh, and Tandem only charges $1 for them.  That beats a bag of chips any day.

Do you know of any places in Cincinnati or elsewhere that serve pickled eggs?

*History paraphrased from Duane Swierczynski’s “The Big Book O’ Beer”


Xavier Ups Its Beer Game

Xavier University opened the new D’Artagnan’s Deck at Tuesday night’s men’s basketball game versus IUPUI at the Cintas Center.  The concession stand is located in the upper level of the arena and features a wide line-up of craft beers.  Although the Cintas Center has offered a handful of craft, “crafty”, and import beers in the past few years, there wasn’t a wide variety.  (Rivertown Hop Bomber has been my saving grace at games) That’s all changed now as they seriously up their beer game.

Last night’s offerings at D’Artagnan’s Deck were mostly local:

  • Mad Tree Psychopathy
  • Blank Slate Fork in the Road
  • Rivertown Lil’ Sipa
  • Listermann 652 Lateral
  • Redhook Audible Ale
  • Rhinegeist Cougar
  • Listermann Pre-Prohibition Lager
  • Old Firehouse Hoser Gose
  • Miller Lite
  • Coors Light
  • Plus bottled water, peanuts, and bagged snacks.

Hats off to Xavier and the Cintas Center for expanding craft beer options and thinking/drinking local!  Here are a few shots from the opening night.

Xavier Bar

 Listermann and Triple Digit well represented! (as were other local breweries)

Xavier Menu Board

TVs display the current selection, including the ABV and IBU for each. Prices range from $7-8.50 for a pint.

Xavier Distance Shot

View of the new bar from a distance.  It is located at the top of the arena in the “end zone” section 200.

Xavier Court Shot

Despite a lackluster performance in the first half, Xavier beat IUPUI Tuesday night 66-43. The view from the top while you get your beer is pretty nice!


The Beer Economics of Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

I work in market research, so I often spend way too much time thinking of why products are priced and how they are priced and what the impact of that pricing is.*  Beer is no exception, and this weekend’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati presents a particularly fun situation.  Beware: your idea of fun may vary substantially.  While there are a few exceptions, in general, the prices for beers at Oktoberfest are thus:

  • Regular: $5 for 16 ounces
  • Large: $11 for 24 ounce souvenir mug (w/beer)
    • Refills: $7 for 24 ounces

Which leads me to the question: does it make financial sense to “invest” in the large souvenir mug?  See figure 1 below.

Figure 1 - Economics of Oktoberfest

The break-even point is $60 and 192 ounces (12 pints) of beer.  Strictly on a ‘ounce for your dollar’ basis, if you’re going to spend less than $60 and drink fewer than 12 pints of beer the regular makes more financial sense.  Imbibe more than that, the large mug starts to pay off.  However, this ignores the fact that you get to keep the souvenir mug, and that may be of some value to you (and it certainly cost the organizers some money to get made).

Still, for years I made the argument that for most people it didn’t make financial sense to buy the mug. But this year I reevaluated things and saw there’s another side to this.  You, savvy reader, have probably already figured this out: sticking with the regular size means having to fill ‘er up more often.  Below shows the purchase frequency as spending increases.

Figure 2 - Economics of Oktoberfest

Beer lines can get long late in the evening, and having to fill up more often can be a pain.  The large mug reduces how often you have to go back for more.

So, what’s a fiscally responsible beer drinker to do?

Why to go with the Small: you’re only having a few beers and/or you want to try a greater variety of different beers.
Why to go with the Large Mug: you’re drinking more than a few beers, you don’t want to go back to the beer line as often, and/or you want to have the souvenir mug for the day and all eternity.

Bottom line: if you’re drinking more than 1-2 beers the difference in cost isn’t really that big, so don’t sweat it too much.  The fine organizers of Oktoberfest have priced their beer quite fairly.  And thinking too much about these sorts of things is probably detrimental to your mental health…but nothing a few lagers can’t fix.  So relax, enjoy some good beer, indulge in some delightfully stinky German food, and celebrate one of Cincinnati’s great festivals.  Prost!

-John (#13)

*It’s a curse that has ruined many a routine trip to the grocery store, leading my wife to find me staring at a shelf in aisle 9, reflecting on how the pricing structure of a particular brand’s cereal sizes just doesn’t make any sense.  Wait, you thought it was me that is cursed?  No, I fear my wife suffers the most.

Re-post: So… What’s Your Favorite Beer?

[Editor’s note: While going through some long posts to replace all of the curly quotes with straight ones (my blogging life is so exciting), I’ve found some of our older posts that are worth sharing again. This one from our contributor John Lavelle discusses how to answer that oft-repeated question: What’s your favorite beer? By the way, I was just asked this last week! — Carla]


As a believer in better beer, it happens to me a lot. I go to the office happy hour (or wedding reception, or college reunion, or baptism…) and while many of my friends/coworkers/clergy order a “______ Light” I ask the friendly bartender: “What do you have on draft?” I emerge from the bar with something dark or frothy or downright funky-smelling to quizzical looks from my em-bottled compatriots.

“What’ya drinkin?” one asks, and my response is about two or three minutes longer than is appropriate and includes adjectives that are generally used to describe internal anatomy or landscaping design. Knowing glances are exchanged around the group and someone submits: “so it sounds like you’re really into beer.” Realizing I’ve done it again, I laugh, take a sip, and brush it off with something like “I’ve been known to imbibe a few from time to time.”

And that’s when it happens.

“So… what’s your favorite beer?”

I’m not going to lie. I hate this question. Maybe it’s the Myers-Briggs “Perceiver” in me, but the question is just too singular, too final. It lacks nuance. I don’t have kids, but* I have to imagine that it’s like asking someone with multiple children which is his/her favorite? First off, you just don’t do it. Secondly, if someone does ask, you dare not answer it directly.

The issue for me is that what I find most interesting – I’m talking about beer again – is not how much I love one beer versus another but what it is that I love about a particular beer. I know people mean well by asking the question,** so I usually approach a few different ways:

1) “It depends on what I’m in the mood for, what the time of year is, or where I’m at.” This gives me a chance to wax poetic about how diverse beer is, how different beers traditionally are brewed with the seasons. I wouldn’t eat the same food every day, so why always drink the same beer?

2) “I haven’t had it yet.” This is the pithy answer, usually delivered with a smug look. I usually follow it up by talking about how I love to try new and exciting beers. Feel free to try this one at the singles bar.***

3) “I could never pick just one, but some of my favorites are…” I’ll then give a litany of examples that reflect the different ways I love beer. The local standby: Moerlein OTR. The never-fail: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. The sentimental first beer: Harp. The rare find: 1997 Thomas Hardy (bottled when I was in 8th grade). The arrogant choice: whatever I just brewed at home.

I’m sure plenty of folks out there get this question a lot. How do you regularly answer it? And if you had to name one (or two, or three…), what are your favorites?

John (#13)

*Ever notice how no one who says this stops here – but probably should?
**I take any interest anyone shows in good beer as an opportunity to educate, advocate, and probably embarrass myself.
***To my wife: I swear I’ve never used this one on anybody but you!!!

Traveling Tuesday: The Alchemist – Waterbury, VT

This summer my wife and I spent a week in New England driving around, camping, hiking in the mountains, seeing the sights, and, of course, sampling the fine beer that region has to offer.  One of our stops was Waterbury, Vermont, in the northern half of the state smack dab between Montpelier and Burlington. Our first stop in town was the Ben & Jerry’s factory and headquarters, which is one of those places that is so unabashedly fun and happy and delicious that even the most road-hardened traveler can easily overlook how touristy it is.  I mean, they have a graveyard for their retired flavors where visitors can pay their respects.  Yeah, it’s a pretty neat place, and Ben & Jerry’s from the source is every bit as delicious as you can imagine.

Our other stop in Waterbury was The Alchemist brewery. If you’ve never heard of them, you may have heard of their legendary singular product: Heady Topper.  It’s possible you’ve never even tried this beer and you’ve still heard of it – before our visit I was in that boat.  Heady Topper is a double IPA that is loaded up with hop flavor that isn’t too overwhelmingly bitter.  It was famously rated the #1 beer in the world by Beer Advocate.  And just to take the mystique over the top, it is sold in 16 ounce cans that encourage you to drink directly from them (somewhere, a beer snob just felt a great disturbance in the force).

Did I mention THIS IS THE ONLY BEER THE ALCHEMIST MAKES?  Long story short, they used to have a brewery in the basement of a pub where they made many beers, but it was destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011.  Then they moved to their current production facility where they devote themselves to this one beer.

We visited on a Monday to find the canning line in full operation.  We were treated to samples in mini-snifters from their small bar and gift shop.  As we watched the crew working the canning line and sat enjoying what really is a delicious, world-class beer, we noticed a strange thing.  People kept coming in, often forming a line, to buy Heady Topper by the case.  Mind you, a case runs you $72, or $3 a can.  Some purchased so many cases they needed hand-trucks to haul their spoils away.  Yeah.  I guess I don’t need to tell you that the black market for Heady Topper is beyond ridiculous.

Apparently the neighbors were none too happy about all the traffic and line-forming, because The Alchemist just announced they will close their retail operation at the brewery in order to “avoid a neighborhood dispute.”  They’ll keep the brewery running and are exploring other options for retailing their beer, beyond their already extremely limited distribution network.  Until they figure that out, the elusive Heady Topper just got a little harder to come by.

-John (#13)

The Alchemist

RE-POST: Pumpkin Ale in Cinnamon Sugar Rimmed Glass

It’s always interesting to watch your blog stats and see what people reading. What’s even more interesting is when a three year old post keeps getting lots of hits. Since the 2013 pumpkin beers started coming out, this post on “Pumpkin Ale in Cinnamon Sugar Rimmed Glass” has been in our top ten most popular posts day after day. For us, that means it’s time to re-post it for those of you who haven’t seen it yet. Enjoy!

We heard about a bar that is serving seasonal pumpkin ales in glasses rimmed with cinnamon and sugar…a la salt on a margarita glass. Not ones to shy away from playing with our beer, we decided to try it out for ourselves in the safety of our own home.

For the beer, we chose the RiverTown Pumpkin Ale – not only because it is fantastic, but also because it is not too heavily spiced. For the glass, we chose fluted tulips because we thought it would make the application of the cinnamon/sugar easier. And because drinking out of them makes us feel fancy.

The application of the cinnamon/sugar is just how you would do it for a margarita glass. We wet the top edge and side with some water using a finger and water, poured out some cinnamon/sugar on to a plate, then rolled it around. Then just add beer.

The verdict? Pretty darn tasty! It compliments the beer very well, adding a shade of sweetness and spice that is almost impossible to achieve in a finished beer product. It hits the front of the tongue and the beer washes over the back of the palate, making for a nice layering of flavor. The only downside is that it hardened after a while, but it would dissolve away as we sipped. We wouldn’t want to drink a pumpkin ale like this every time, but it was an enjoyable embellishment we would certainly try again.

Next time, we might try adding or replacing with some other spices. And we didn’t use fresh ground cinnamon, something that could take this up another notch. We’re already getting ideas for other experiments. Perhaps cayenne or a chili powder with an IPA?

Has anyone else tried anything like this before? Do you think this is complete beer blasphemy?

-John (#13) and Erin (#102)
Special thanks to Erin’s sister, Megan, for tipping us off to a Boston bar that was serving pumpkin ale this way!

Snapshot Review: Old Dominion Brewing Company (Part 1)

Disclosure: the brewery provided complimentary samples for review, with no further stipulations.  I checked the package for an envelope full of cash, and, sadly, there was none.


Dominion Oak Barrel StoutOak Stout

Brewery: Old Dominion Brewing Company
Style: Stout
ABV: 6.1%
Profile: Very malty with a light note of vanilla and a background of oak with a little bit of peat, chocolate, and caramel. Moderate mouthfeel of an American stout.
If you enjoy: stouts with moderate alcohol, good flavor profile but still very drinkable.
My Take: Very well balanced. It’s always great to have a stout with a good bit of flavor that won’t knock me on the ground. They don’t all have to be 4,567,983% alcohol. I really enjoyed this beer.


EspressoMorning Glory Espresso Stout

Brewery: Old Dominion Brewing Company
Style: Coffee Stout
ABV: 9%
Profile: Mellow coffee and chocolate, not too assertive. Enough alcohol to brighten it up, but still very smooth.
If you enjoy: Stouts that prominently feature coffee and/or chocolate.
My Take: Not at the top of my list of coffee beers, but still solid.  I wish there was a little more acidity to brighten up the coffee flavor, but they are clearly going for more of roasty, deeper, chocolatier profile.  I’m not really sure what to make of the bottle label…I’m just here for the beer, folks.

Repost – PSA: Surviving a Beer Festival

Certain posts need to be re-run just to remind folks to think ahead when attending a beer festival.

With the Cincy Winter Beerfest right around the corner, we thought it might be a good idea to offer some tips for how to better survive and better enjoy ingesting so much better beer. These are all common sense for the most part, but they bear laying out.

1. Eat a good meal beforehand. But don’t stuff yourself too much too close to the event. Make sure you leave room for beer!
2. Drink water. Before, during, and after. A grand tasting is a beer-marathon of sorts. Just like exercise, alcohol dehydrates you – keeping hydrated will help you finish the race on your feet and not be so…um, “sore” the next morning.
3. Pace yourself. Particularly if you have a VIP or Connoisseur ticket, you have plenty of time to enjoy the event. It’s easy to lose count of all those small tastings, which may involve a lot of higher alcohol offerings. Take your time, chat up some brewers and reps, and while you’re at it…drink some water. This will also allow your palate time to recover in between beers so you can taste each one better.
4. Dump it out. Uh, oh…here comes the hate mail. Seriously, though – if you don’t like something or don’t want to drink all your sample, dump the rest out. Save your time (and sobriety) for the other 100+ beers.
5. Have an exit strategy, and stick to it. If you are drinking, you are not driving. Plan to call a cab, take the bus, have a DD, or stay in a hotel room. We want to see you and everyone else safe and sound at the next beer festival or Hoperatives event.

What other tips do you have for surviving and/or getting the most out of your beer festival experience? Post below!

We hope to see Hoperatives out in full force. Have a fun, SAFE time. Here’s to better beer!


First Look at the 50 West Brewing Co. Tap Room

After releasing beers at several local establishments over the past few months, the 50 West Brewing Company officially opened their on-site tap room.  The announcement was made on Facebook and Twitter around noon on Friday, and judging by the hearty crowd it made a stir.  50 West is located on [duh] US-50 (aka Wooster Pike) in Columbia Township, just east of Mariemont, west of Terrace Park/Old Milford, and north of Newtown.

I snapped a few photos last night, which are posted below.  We generally don’t review local establishments and beers at Hoperatives, but I’ll just say that the space is impressive and the beer is great.  It’s a fantastic addition to the great tap rooms that other local breweries are operating. And I certainly don’t mind that I live less than a mile down the road.

Their website is still under construction, but they have been communicating through their Facebook and Twitter accounts:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/FiftyWestBrewingCompany
Twitter: @FiftyWestBrew

According to the Facebook page, their operating hours are:
Thursday: 5pm-midnight
Friday: 5pm-2am
Saturday: noon-2am
Sunday: noon-midnight


 You can tell the space (the old Heritage Restaurant) has been given a lot of love.  Also, the Cafe de Wheels foodtruck was outside feeding hungry revelers.

The available beers are posted on chalkboards, complete with descriptions and stats.  There were about 15 different ones available.

There’s nothing like a shiny new line of taps. They do individual pints, sampler flights, and growler fills.

All the glassware is branded, and they have a mix of style-appropriate glasses such as pints, goblets, and snifters.

The etching (is that the right word?) on the sampler paddles is an especially nice touch.

There is a bar area with 4-toppers, and adjacent area with booth seating (pictured), and an outdoor area. There’s also a shuffleboard table, an unfortunate rarity in this part of the country. Complimentary soft pretzels and cheese were set out on each table.

Looking for the bathroom?  Just past the tanks.

Congrats to everyone at 50 West on the opening!
-John (#13)

Traveling Tuesday: Phantom Canyon Brewing Company – Colorado Springs, CO

Late this summer I took a backpacking trip through Colorado and eastern Utah, hitting up points of interest like Arches National Park, Canyonlands NP, Mesa Verde NP, and the ‘million dollar highway’ along the Rockies through central Colorado.  On my way back to Denver, I stopped in Colorado Springs for a quick lunch and some much needed liquid refreshment.  I thank the fine folks at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company for overlooking my scraggly beard, slightly funky odor, and wilderness-worn hiking clothes…all of which, I suppose, passes for ‘business casual’ in outdoor-loving Colorado.

The brewery and pub is located in what looks like a recently revitalized area of Colorado Springs, which is about an hour and change drive south of Denver. A door into the production facility was open, making the whole street outside smell of sweet, mashing grain.

 PCBC has a wide selection of beers that rotate regularly. They were happy to let me sample anything and even encouraged it for some of the more interesting offerings.

After 5 days of eating canned, boxed, cured, and other non-perishable foods, a great pub salad was in order. The hefeweizen dressing was fantastic.  They also offer 10 ounce pours (I love it when brewpubs do this), so I was able to try a couple different beers and still be more than fine to finish the drive back to Denver.

 The historic building was once a hotel, so it’s very open on the inside.  The 2nd floor has an incredible billiards hall (so sorry the photo I took didn’t turn out), and the 3rd floor is a banquet hall.

Happy Travels!