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: Update :

Drinking with Cruthers host Cruthers is currently on hiatus.

Further updates as to the future of this column and is place in the newspaper world will come in the following weeks.

Until then, enjoy the archives and go out and try a new drink tonight.

– Cruthers

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Cruthers Favorites

I’ve decided to do something different this week and reveal my some of my personal favorites which I believe you will find to be varied, affordable and hopefully overall in good taste and tasting. So without further ado, here they be.

Beers

Henry Weinhard’s Belgian Style Wheat

There are moments in life that present you with simple seeds; seeds of both flowers and weeds. Henry Weinhard’s Belgian Style Wheat was a seed of the wonderful and mythical beer tree of opinion. In other words, this humble beer is what got me started on the path to Drinking with Cruthers. I would expound to my friends of the wonderful flavor of this beer in relation to its modest packaging and price, to which they would reply with a varied degree of ho-hum response. I realized that speech simply did not have the gravity in which I wanted to express myself and thus turned to the written word; permanent and a creature of it’s own will once it left the tip of the pen.

I have not written of Henry Weinhard’s Belgian Style Wheat before because, it’s cloudy orange body, citrus effervescence, enjoy-ability and relative scarcity made me covet this beer, and in the world of alcohol this is simply wrong. Booze is to be fun, tasty and enjoyed with others, which this beer excels at. See it, buy it, no regrets.

Kokanee Gold

One of the perks of living at UAF is the chance to interact with Alaska’s wild animals in an up-close and personal basis. I speak in this case of the wily Canadian hockey player, more beast than man, the boys of the UAF Hockey team my sophomore year were Kokanee chuggin’, mean muggin’, lovable characters that introduced me to the manly beer of the land of the north.

Years later, I discovered the more pleasant tasting Kokanee Gold.  An American Dark Lager created in Creston, Canada, the beers slight skunk and initial bitterness should not turn away average drinkers, this is just its character. Displaying an amber pour with a sweet tasting finish this average beer is often overlooked but should be respected for its surprising drinkability.

Wines

Fetzer Gewurztraminer

The thing that sucks about being a young man is the fact that we’re often poor and have accomplished relatively little in order to impress the fairer sex. To these young men I say, do not fret but learn to wine and dine your date in the comfort of your own place. Our generation it seems has lost for better and worse the stereotype of the 1950’s super-women; a lady in the street, a master-cook in the kitchen and a sexual tigress in the bedroom. And as they say, the straightest way to a mans heart is his stomach. Well in our time this is true of women as well, learn to cook and offset with wine and you’ll be in your desires grasp in no time.

Fetzer, a wine maker based out of Mendocino County, California, form in 1968 produces a wide variety of table grade wines.  Their merlot is what first peaked my interest and their Gewurztraminer is what sealed the deal. Displaying apricot and citrus flavors, this wine compliments spicy foods, seafood and funny enough Ramen quite well. Split the bottle with your date, serve chilled and things will soon enough heat up between you.

Clos Du Bois Merlot

My parents are not drinkers and that being said it’s strange and funny that my favorite merlot is my mothers. My mother, a strong woman with deep opinions is one to be trusted in judgment even when they are a bit conventional at times; she delivers them with finality in the gentlest manner possible. So when she says she enjoys something, she can and will tell you how and why she came to this decision. I’ve always admired this aspect and hope as a journalist I can live up to this level of open honesty with the people around me and the readers dependant on me for their news.

Clos Du Bois is a very dry Merlot with a strong chocolate taste and hints of red berry fruits. The 2003 is a better bottle than the current 2005 that has recently been made available in Alaska for half the cost of the previous. However, the 2005 is still a great wine that I suspect would lean towards aging a few more years to enhance it’s already enjoyable flavor.

Liquors

Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin

When I think of gin, I think of older men and classic style. These men exhibit firm but just masculinity and reason, and I hope to achieve the same one day. And in context of style, classic is named classic for a reason, it never goes out. Gin or the Gin and Tonic is such a drink that when ordered by a man of my age gets me suspicious looks and ridicule by friends of being “old-fashioned”. Nevertheless, once you’ve started on the road gin, there is no turning back. Its simple nature and clear flavor is on of the only clear liquors that I can think of that can stand on its own in mixers and with only carbonated water.

Bombay Sapphire in my mind is the pinnacle of rich juniper and citrus flavor gin. Outstanding in merely a tonic, no lime wedge is need added. Its price expresses this but the occasional ride is well worth the price of admission.

Bacardi Superior

As a young undergraduate I remember many an underage party filled with excitement, fears of being caught and the prospect of meeting good looking and interesting women. Each Friday or Saturday my friends and I would dress up (jeans, clean shirt, nicer shoes and a good jacket) find out where the party was and figure out the booze situation. Someone would know someone who would then take our order and for nominal fees provide us with the liquids we desired. Often terrible choices of light-beers, flavored vodkas and (shudder shudder) Smirnoff Ice was received and drank in plenty. I remember a turning point in my drinking came when I began to care about what was mixed, ingested and later disposed of one way or another. This turning point was the classic Rum and Coke.

Bacardi Superior is a clean drinking rum suited to mixing without over powering a drink unlike often its relative liquor Vodka. When mixed with coke, one enjoys the benefit of the syrupy flavor with the high alcohol content of the rum. My personal variation and evolution of this drink is Bacardi Superior with vanilla Coke-Cola and a wedge of lime. Very sweet but perfect for summer time bonfires and chasing pretty girls

Sutter Home White Merlot 2007

Sutter Home White Merlot 2007

It’s been said that a fine wine is akin to fine art: distinguished, complicated and ultimately unknowable. But where does that leave the average consumer? In the dark, afraid and alone, sipping on box-wine while the wine snobs’ malevolent coughs and eye rolls dance through their heads? Well, I’m here to say nay and bring some light to young and old connoisseurs alike. Wine is to be enjoyed on many different tiers, both high-brow (museum pieces) and low-brow (pop art such as The Simpsons). One does not need to alienate themselves to either camp. Art, like wine, is to be enjoyed with company, year-round, and on both the expensive and affordable end. I, being a poor college student, lean towards the affordable, but wouldn’t say no to a 20-dollar glass of Chianti sent my way. As long as my tab’s free, bring ‘er on. This brings me to the fun and light Sutter Home White Merlot 2007, an extremely affordable wine that stands out on my palate for its approachable taste, fun cherry flavor and merlot dryness.

The Sutter Home White Merlot 2007 is vinted and bottled by the Sutter Home Winery, Inc., which is owned by Trinchero Family Estates, owners of over 25 different labels. Interestingly enough, Sutter Home Winery is “one of the largest, independent family-run wineries in the United States,” and Louis “Bob” Trinchero, one of the founder’s sons, is the claimed American creator in 1975 of an entire genre of wine known as White Zinfandel, originally known as Oeil de Perdrix (eye of partridge), named after the French sparkling wine from the middle ages. The White Merlot in review is a clear, deep, ruby red with olfactory indulgences of strawberries and vanilla, and is available in both 750ml and 1.5L containers appropriate for a home dessert wine or art show openings.

The simple low-brow fun tasting

Initial Taste: Thin texture with fruity sweetness akin to cherries

Mid Taste: Rising bitterness and bolder flavor

Lasting Taste: Merlot dryness and pepper

On a scale of Terrible / Bad / Decent / Good / Excellent

I vote, Good

Recommendations: A mixture between a dinner and dessert wine, the wine is light and affordable, and matches nicely with a salad or finger foods, or served extra cold for after dinner.

Visit http://www.sutterhome.com/w_wm.php for a podcast description and to see a variety of women laughing and smiling in their kitchens, beach houses and cafes. Seriously, why do advertisers always use soft boxes to shoot corny scenes such as these? Not everything needs to be in a soft dream world. Just sell me the product straight and I’ll determine if it’s heaven or hell.

Bam

Amaretto di Amore

Amaretto di Amore

Amaretto di Amore

Love as I know it comes in several forms: from the deep knowing passions of maturity to the innocent ignorant flirtations of youth, love can hit you like falling on ice or flow over you as light as the fresh air of spring. This “amaretto of love” sits with its rounded hips squarely in the latter camp. Sweet as junior-high concepts of love, Amaretto di Amore expresses itself to the jaded as an overtly sweet drink with little to no true warmth. However, to those that understand the limitations of youthful adoration, this drink brings one back to the age of innocent eyes and not-so-innocent make-out sessions after class. Like the strawberry lip balm taste of my first kiss, one can easily become drunk, especially after downing half a bottle and later left wondering what happened. Like the hours and minutes lost in youthful embrace, one doesn’t regret going back for another glass or kiss from this sweet lass.

Created by the Barton Distilling Company in Owensboro, KY and owned by the Sazerac Company, Inc., this clear caramel colored drink rates at a trifling 42 proof (21 percent) alcohol in comparison to most liquors that usually rate somewhere around 60 to 80 proof (30 to 40 percent). This is not to say there isn’t alcohol in this drink. Forty-two proof is awfully weak for liquor, but still is four times as strong as your average beer and thus should be treated as such. This may be to the detriment of younger drinkers, but then again, the same could be said of love: stronger than you think, lands you in a heap of trouble from time to time and leaves you with a wicked hangover the next day.

The sweet embrace

Shot Taste: Dr. Pepper-esque flavor with little to no alcohol burn and lasting sweet almond

On The Rocks Taste: Sweet amaretto with cherry overtones but missing the warmth of stronger more mature drinks.

On a scale of Terrible / Bad / Decent / Good / Excellent

I vote, Good

Recommendations: Lighter and sweeter than the more expensive Disaronno brand amaretto, this drink is enjoyed as an entry-level liquor or as a nice cooking flavor additive.

Check out http://www.bartonbrands.com/amarettodiamore.html for minimal further information and some delicious sounding desserts ideas and recipes.

Moose's Tooth Raspberry Wheat Ale

Moose's Tooth Raspberry Wheat Ale

If you’ve ever been to the Moose’s Tooth restaurant in Anchorage, you notice one thing right off the bat: Yippies. Yippies are a combination of yuppie money and hippie attitude and clothes. From the organically grown purses to The North Face jackets, the Moose’s Tooth is a jamboree of idealism and as much I wouldn’t like to say it, it’s not all bad. Them yippies know some beers. From the delicious porters to the excellent sandwiches and pizza, the Moose’s Tooth puts out some great stuff. And not surprisingly one of my favorite Alaskan beers is the Moose’s Tooth Raspberry Wheat. Not a shock either is the fact that it’s served pretty regularly at The Pub as well.

An embodiment of the hippie attitude, this beer is sweet instead of bitter and pink instead of the normal citizen beer brown. You can almost taste the Dave Matthews Band music playing while this creature of nature was brewed. This year’s batch seems a bit more bitter than last, but given the state of the economy, wars and job market, who could blame it? So while hippie and yuppie idealism only gets you so far, (two glasses most) sometimes the dreamer’s dreams are a solid step in the right direction (pitcher one down, three to go, suck it Yeats).

The Moose’s Tooth Raspberry Wheat Ale is brewed by the Moose’s Tooth Brewing company based out of ol’ Anchorage, AK and is available at both The Moose’s Tooth Restaurant and The Bear Tooth Theatre Pub along with many bars in Alaska. Coming in at a decent 4.1 percent, this beer is sweet but drinkable and enjoyable in any company and any weather. Largely odorless with just a hint of sweet raspberries, this cloudy grapefruit colored drink is only truly enjoyed after that first drink served extra cold.

The groovy flavors

Initial Taste: Bitter sweet citrus

Mid Taste: Blooming raspberry with tinge of raw alcohol

Lasting Taste: Light raspberry with lemony aftertaste

On a scale of Terrible / Bad / Decent / Good / Excellent

I vote, Good

Recommendations: Start the night off with your hippie friends and colleagues alike over a pitcher of this Raspberry Wheat Ale discussing politics, love and literature, then move on to real beer with a good porter. Good times every time thus far.

Please visit http://www.moosestooth.net/index2.htm for more info and click beers to see the wide variety and colorful beers available.

Bam

Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Extra Dry

Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Extra Dry

Everyone looks better in black.

And it’s true, black dress pants, black mini-skirt, black leather coat, black bra, black socks and Bettie Page. Black is the fashion equivalent of white and Apple products, undeniably simple and attractive. As a wedding photographer, I’ve sampled a fair share of sparkling wines in my day, to my elation and often mirth of my friends. So when I think of white sparkling wine (crudely known as Champagne to the masses), I think sweet, light and fun with just a hint of naughty, much again like Bettie Page and frequently bridesmaids. However, there is always room for pushing the boundaries in fashion and wines alike, and this Freixenet Cava does just that.

The Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Extra Dry hails from west of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain and Cava is the Spanish equivalent of Champagne from France. The Cordon Negro Brut is claimed by the company’s website to be “the #1 imported sparkling wine in the world and still ideal for any occasion.” However, the Brut must stand for brutal because the Extra Dry, which is, by definition and claim, significantly sweeter, Cava is in fact as tart as any European runway model. Exuding attractive but unwieldy citrus and apple tones, this sparkling wine is not as advertised for the average cork sniffer.

Walking the runway tasting

Initial Taste: High carbonation with green apple and grapefruit tartness

Mid Taste: Milder fruit sweetness similar to nectars rather than juices

Lasting Taste: Young young orange citrus bite with an pleasant long term aftertaste

On a scale of Terrible / Bad / Decent / Good / Excellent

I vote, Decent

Recommendations: I prefer my sparkling wines to be sweet and fun, so personally I’d rather recommend Korbel Extra Dry. It’s sweet and it’s cheap and looks decent enough in its bottle’s dressing: short black skirt, not an evening gown. I’ve read that the Freixenet Cordon Nevada is the sweeter equivalent that I crave and thus will try some day.

For further info visit http://www.freixenetusa.com/cordon-negro-brut-extra-dry-sparkling-wine.php to see taste ratings and a classy-looking website.

Bam

Canadian Hunter Whiskey

Canadian Hunter Whiskey

Canadian Hunter Whiskey

Peeking at a bottle of Canadian Hunter Whiskey, one can’t help but notice the label and wonder, “Is he a Canadian hunter or the much more alarming hunter of Canadians?” In a border of gold, the hunter stands majestically in a snow covered field with a lever-action rifle in one hand and two not one Malamutes on a tight leather tether in the other. This whiskey’s representative looks intently outward at the drinker with a furrowed brow, unkempt feathered hair and a mustache that could choke a baby. When I saw this bottle I thought, “Damn, chicks can’t help but be all over my junk after seeing me swig this outside of an administrative building!”

While the question as to the hunters prey may never be answered, the question of whether this discerning and attractive connoisseur approves most certainly is.

Sorrowfully this whiskey simple doesn’t make the grade no matter how much I love the label. Imported by the Sazerac Company Inc. in Frankfort, KY, Canadian Hunter Whiskey is sold as a cheaper (and more Canadian?) alternative to its brother, Rich & Rare Whiskey. While the label is simply hilarious and the color of the liquor is a solid reddish amber appearance with a watery pour and pleasant aroma, I simply can not recommend it. Rubbing alcohol and maple syrup is best left to the medical cabinet and kitchen, separate and not in my drink.

The lumberjack motivated tasting

Shot Taste: Initial sharp common whiskey flavor followed by an effervescence of plain alcohol and ending with (I kid you not) a maple syrup aftertaste.

Whiskey & Coke Taste: Largely undetectable even when added in copious amounts.

On a scale of Terrible / Bad / Decent / Good / Excellent

I vote, BAD (but in the nicest way possible)

Recommendations: This is a cheap whiskey that is largely suited for mixers at bonfires and hockey games. Do not drink straight. If your looking for suitable straight whiskey step up to ‘ol Jack Daniels or be a man and start the road onto Scotch whiskey.

Visit www.sazerac.com/cWhiskey.aspx for what little further information there is available on the web regarding this whiskey. Also the label on the plastic bottle is much more impressive than the one on the glass bottle.

Bam