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Entries in Beer (3)


The ABC's of Beer with Alphabet City Beer Co.

Home page & logo I designed for ABC Beer Co.
Sometimes I get really lucky. That penny on the ground is heads up, my hair dryer decides NOT to blow a fuse for once, I remember I have just a titch of ice cream left in the freezer...
But sometimes I get lucky with clients. Recently, I've had this experience with David and Zach of ABC Beer Co. I was introduced to the duo through a friend. Did I want a food/drink design client, she asked me? She may well have inquired if I wanted stracciatella cheese on my Margherita pizza. Duh. Of course I do.
And lo! I was hired on to design the logo and website for ABC Beer Co., a newly opened gem of a beer bar in Alphabet City. ABC Beer Co. is not just a beer bar. They also have eatables—good ones (I'll get to that), including an official cheese counter, and they hock other tasty wares such as Grady's Cold Brewed Coffee, freshly made breads and beer to-go!
I took a stroll to see their place one evening and was suitably impressed. So impressed was I, that I wanted to post a more informative review in the form of an interview. Below, Zach answers my sometimes silly questions on opening their own business in beer.
1. What inspired you to open ABC Beer Co?
The idea kind of came to us gradually. One day I got a phone call from David about wanting to open a beer store and bar in the East Village. I wasn't particularly happy in the 9-to-5 world and I'd worked with David at his other business before, so I instantly knew this was a good idea. Soon after that phone call, we were diving into beers and tasting new things, looking for a storefront and funding, and getting things in order. Before I knew it, we were days from opening and its been pretty amazing since.
2. Who handles which parts of the business - and how do you keep it all balanced with life?
I tend to handle the more day-to-day side of the business, such as ordering, marketing/social media, and staffing, while David tends to handle finances and more overseeing. But that's only true part of the time: Neither of us have job titles, and neither of us is above getting our hands dirty when it comes to keeping the place running. Being in business with a partner like David is a lucky situation. We can count on one another to get things done if one of us has to leave town or gets bogged down with work from other businesses. Balancing it all with life just seems to fall into place: There are slow weeks and there are crunch times, but having a well-trained staff makes a lot of the day-to-day upkeep much easier to stay on top of.
3. This may be like picking a favorite child, but what are your beer favs for the summer....
I absolutely love Carton Brewing Company's Boat Beer. It's an IPA with very low alcohol, light body, and super easy drinkability. I'm also pretty big on saisons, particularly Jack D'or from Pretty Things Brewery up in Massachusetts. Saisons are literally made for summertime, and this one has depth in its acidity, body and long finish.


4. And while you're at it, can you give us a few recommendations going into fall?
I hate to jump on the pumpkin beer train too early (although the taste of it while watching football is the fall-iest thing in the world to me). The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and the Firestone Walker Reserve Porter are two beers that people might normally shy away from in warm weather but feel perfect for autumn. Southern Tier PumpKing is another one we enjoy.
5. I noticed you have other non-beer products in the "shop" section of your place: Grady's Cold Brew Coffee, bread, even and entire cheese counter! How do you select the products that you sell?
The cheese counter was carefully curated by Martin Johnson, the founder of the Joy of Cheese. He's a fantastic cheese monger and is as passionate about educating customers as he is about getting them what they want. Things like Grady's and the bread all came from careful research and our own personal preferences!
6. When I visited, I enjoyed a vanilla porter that was on tap. What was that (it was a lovely combo with the fig and turkey sandwich....)
The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter that I just recommended! Ha...Yes, that's a great combo. Smokey turkey with the dark, malty porter.


7. The design of your place is one part rustic, one part market, and also one part industrial-cool. Who did you get to help you with the interior design and layout?
David and I worked with his cousin Roxy and an architect to draw up the initial layout of the space, but actually decorating was probably my favorite part of setting up shop. We drove to Philadelphia to meet with furniture makers, light makers, and antique glass suppliers. We pilfered antique shops throughout New Jersey. We went to auctions. I think part of what makes our design unique is that it was all hand picked from very different places. The table in itself is a huge statement that immediately catches everyone's eye. But like everything else in the shop, it's never over the top or "trying to hard." That understated approach is I think what makes the place so comfortable and inviting.

8. You don't have a TV (thank goodness), but you do fire up the projector from time to time, which I like. Any plans to do a Big Lebowski screening? I know the Dude would abide.
Are you kidding? That's like, the best movie ever. I'd totally watch that on the projector.


9. What are your plans for the future? Home brews? Taking over the world via beer?
We're still so young, so who knows! It's good to feel like we have so many possibilities in front of us.
10. Anything else we should know about ABC Beer Co. that we don't?
Our Twitter account is hilarious. Also, we have a very talented staff who all come from a diverse background. Chat them up! They'll talk to you about pretty much anything.
11. Can you teach me how to pour the perfect beer?
It's all in the wrist! Come by and we will pour plenty.
And finally, yes...I DID get a peek in the bathrooms. They're dimly lit in a comforting sort of way, not in a clubby-unnerving kind of way. There's modern art canvases on the walls and some exposed light fixtures that continue that industrial decoration flair from the main room.
So take a walk to Alphabet City and pull up a stool at the ABC Beer Co. bar. Go for the beer, stay for the food, stay longer for more beer (request the vanilla porter)...and potentially more snacks. Then get some goodies to go. And come back for the Big Lebowski viewing...once they put that one on the calendar, that is.
Alphabet City Beer Co.
96 Avenue C
New York City 

London Calling...And so did some cheesecake, beer and LOTS of thanks

At the beginning of the summer, I alerted you to a goal of mine: I wanted to qualify for the Age Group World Championships to be held in London in 2013.

I told you that I would be dialing down blog efforts so that I could dial up training for the qualifying race, USAT Age Group Nationals.

This race was held in Burlington, Vermont on August 18th.

Many of you already heard the squealing with glee all the way from Vermont on the 18th, as I was able to qualify for the World Team. I'm so excited. I have a long list of people to thank that I will post at the end. But thank you, readers (hi, Mom and Dad!) for bearing through the sparse posts (John's been golfing) and hanging in there. And supporting too - many of you did!

So, now for the entertainment. What happens when a group of athletic maniacs descends on a rural town with way too much energy and nothing but time and nerves on their hands? 

Antics, that's what. And eating. We will concentrate on the latter.

What an athlete eats before a race is a personal issue. I stay away from things like dairy and white bread. And I drink a lot of water and drinks with electrolytes.

Breakfast the day before the race is the main meal event. I like a good one. This year I went to The Dutch Mill Family Restaurant for my main meal event.

It's a windmill-topped family diner with an extensive collection of Dutch shoes, large omlettes and the best soft, squishy homemade bread. 

My omlette was an egg white affair stuffed to the gills with spinach and salsa. Salsa? Yeah, salsa. I was looking for a little tangy flavor, plus some extra salt. It was accompanied by potatoes, which I didn't eat. I opted for the toast instead. Why?

It may not look like much, but this home made wheat toast was about 3/4 of an inch thick, soft, perfectly toasted and pre-buttered. Usually I don't approve of people buttering my toast for me. But this morning, I wasn't objecting. They didn't overdo it. It was just the perfect amount of animal fat...I ate every crumb.

At dinner, we overtook a giant table at The Ice House Restaurant, a steak and seafood restaurant with expansive views of Lake Champlain (so we could all contemplate our impending swim).

The most impressive part of dinner was dessert. Portion size was enormous, even for endurance athletes, so we all shared an alarming number of desserts from the menu. The stand outs were the Strawberry Shortcake (shown above and the Hot Cheesecake (not pictured).

The Shortcake arrived swimming in syrupy whole strawberries. Two fist-sized shortbread biscuits sandwiched dueling flavors of ice cream - vanilla and cinnamon. 

The Hot Cheesecake is not pictured because I could barely grab a bite, let alone a photo. Forks from around the table descended on this brick sized block of sweet cheese, capped with a thick layer of meringue. But let me tell you the bite that I did have was impressive. It was definitely the stand-out dessert, and the resulting fist fight that broke out over the last bite was worth the black eye and jab to the ribs that I took.

And now for the race...

I won't bore you with the details. I will only say the following:

It was HARD. There were a multitude of really impressive, intimidating athletes there. I had a good race, and I even had fun while racing. I managed to place highly enough to qualify me for the World Team. I DID IT!!!!

This is the resulting timing receipt I received upon finishing:

Phew. Now we can have some fun.

I rounded up the post-race, still-conscious troops (thanks to Sarah, Jason and Molly) and sauntered across from our hotel to the Magic Hat Brewing Company for post-race BEER!

The architecture of the Magic Hat Brewery is reminiscent of their package and label design:

It seems to be a combo of Dr. Seuss, the Grateful Dead, and the Cartoon Network. And I mean that in a good way. It's playful, fun and whimsical.

Immediately upon entry, you step into the tasting room and store. The store is stacked with all kinds of Magic Hat merchandise (including cycling jerseys), while the bar is pumping with free samples. You can try different Magic Hat brews in teeny tiny beer glasses or you can take home a growler (or five) of your favorites.

My new favorite Magic Hat brew is Hex. It's fruity and nutty (much like myself) and has a nice, medium amber color. I'm not a beer expert, but I think it's the perfect beer for fall.

After the brewery, there was a lot more eating and drinking. I can't say I have a clear memory of all of it. There was also some ridiculous dancing. I don't know who the girl pictured below is...but she is sure enjoying herself.

And now to the thank you's. Feel free to skip this part, but I think it's nice to shout out to everyone who supported me. This is in NO particular order. So please don't get your panties in a bunch.

Thanks to:

My family: Marmo, The Box, John and Toby. They attended many races, cheered, sweated and cheered some more. They've also finally figured out to not call me after 9pm. Bless their little hearts.

My Full Throttle Team: all of you. Thanks big time.

Scott B. for his untiring support, motivation, encouragement, ridiculous nicknames, constant badgering, quizzical looks of incredulity, ZIPP wheels...the list really goes on and on.

Tommy S. for his encouragement, love of dark chocolate Raisinettes and good literature, and not making fun of me...too much.

Rick K. for his training and mental support, and for holding me back when I wanted to GO, GO, GO at the wrong times. Timing is everything.

Kyla S. for endless patience with my flip turns and some of the best swimming tips around.

Chris C. for NYC swim encouragement and support.

Mikael H. for the best bike fit this side of anywhere.

Drew K. for the running tips, sense of humor, and for being a BEAST!

Danny V. for keeping the faith

Joe A. for his wackadoodle text messages and sense of humor and occasional talking down of (metaphorical) ledges.

Scott H. for being one of the funniest people I know, encouraging pre-race text messages and lots of food photography.

Brittany E. for being one of the most supportive, positive friends I have. For enduring long periods of time with the extended Iaciofano family network (including Aunt Emily) with good humor. For asking the question, "Peanut butter or no butter?", and for the best emails ever.

Caitlin D. for being an inspiration every step of the way, a challenging training and cooking partner and a fantastic new friend.

Sarah S. for her constant even-tempered, objective opinions. And fabulous taste in wine!

My crew at Square Root Creative: Alysha, Dominique, Samantha, Richard, Chris, Marissa, Terry,Gio and Jhonson.

My Megs: you two know who you are. Thank you for your patience.

Stacey and Tony: for letting me bring a bike wheel to dinner.

The West Coast Cheering Squad: Kaz and Melanie specifically. You two are awesome.

The extended Berlinger family of Marisa, Ryan and Shane: for letting me frequently invade your lovely home to ride my bike and draw on your driveway.

The Hartmann family: the best neighbors I've ever had.

Jimmy L. for helping my achilles and my mind heal properly.

Hopefully I haven't forgotten anyone. If I have, I apologize. And thank you all, whoever you are who read this. Thanks for reading. I hope you keep on coming back!


Racing to New England for Food Part 2 - Portsmouth, NH

Races being swam/biked/run and cheeseburgers devoured, I packed up Bubbles, my trusty VW Beetle and headed towards New Hampshire – Portsmouth to be exact – for the sole purpose of finding interesting things to eat.

I had never been to Portsmouth, or anywhere in the great state of New Hampshire, and what awaited me was a real treat. A tiny town center populated with coffee shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants and enclosed by gardens, it offered just the visual overload and distraction I was looking for.

My first stop was brunch. I had just driven 3.5 hours from Burlington, VT with only an orange and a banana in the car. I don't know what I was thinking. Clearly, I wasn't.

Anyway, I hauled myself into The Friendly Toast and ordered up a table for UNO amongst a lot of loud families, ramshackle garage sale style ceiling and wall decor, hipster wait staff, motorized leopards and fun house mirrors. It almost shocked away my appetite. I said almost.

I didn't know what I should order so I beckoned the waitress over and asked for a suggestion. She recommended their French Toast made with their own homemade bread – in this case it was a sweet potato and walnut variety (seen above). I also ordered two poached eggs on the side and I'm glad I did because what the waitress did not say (neither did the menu) was that I was only getting one piece of said French Toast.

So, I plopped my eggs atop my one piece of toast with reckless abandon and dug in (as deeply as I could into one piece of toast).

Clearly, I'm a little miffed about only getting one piece. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by both the flavor and the consistency of the toast itself.

The sweet potato walnut bread was fantastic: very slightly sweet (almost like an egg bread) studded with small walnut chunks. The French toast egg batter made the whole piece delightfully squishy on the inside with a nice pliable crust around the edges.

I poured about a tablespoon of maple syrup on mine before throwing the eggs on top and sprinkling juuuuuust a bit of salt over the whole thing. What I created was the chocolate covered pretzel of French Toasts: sweet and salty! And with bonus oozing yolks.

The coffee was standard issue – certainly the stuff that requires supplemental caffeinnation later in the day.

The bathrooms were just as notable (alarming) as the dining hall decor, featuring fun house mirrors, mesmerizing bright yellow sink/toilet combinations and poodles! Who doesn't want a poodle in the loo, I ask you?

Belly being full, I thought it best to check my traveling circus into my hotel. I was staying at the Alehouse Inn, a boutique hotel that I located through a series of happy accidents while surfing the web for beer nut recipes. No, not really.

Let me say that I was wildly excited by this place. WILDLY. I might have squealed when I checked in – what with all the historic maps, color coordination, giant amusement park typography. I just wanted to lay down in the lobby and have a designer's moment. I think the concierge/part-owner suspected this, and so asked me, "Do you like beer?" I like beer. My response, "I will answer your question with a question, sir: Can I have some?"

The answer (to both) was YES, and upon showing me to my room, provided me with two complimentary bottles of Smuttynose IPA.

I can report with complete clarity on the general delightfulness of the room (having not yet had the beer when I walked in and started snapping photos). Bedding from Dwell Studios with matching furniture and Jonathan Adler wall sconces (I initially wrote "scones". I would like a wall scone, please). There was even an iPad and a Keurig coffee maker.

It was difficult for me to leave such luxurious digs, but I was getting hungry again, and so I ventured out into the world in search of food, with nothing to go on but a rock-solid recommendation from my beer dispensing, design-savvy concierge.

Stay tunes for Part 3: The Black Trumpet, matey!