Ramblings on shooting sports, craft beer, whiskey, cigars and other simple pleasures.
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Friday, November 30, 2007
Dinner à la The Best of American Beer & Food
We started off with the Brickskeller Carrot Ginger Curry Soup (page 88). The recommended pairing was a Hefe Weizen so I selected Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier. This soup certainly lived up to expectations. Thick and rich, perfect for a cool Fall evening. The dish was a bit on the sweet side but the Hefe Weizen matched up perfectly and mitigated the sweetness of the soup. I may have consumed my beer too quickly, but the pairing suggestion was so spot on that I had to have a sip after each spoonful. Easy to prepare, we'll be having this one again.
The soup was followed by Slow Roasted Wild Salmon with Caramelized Belgian Endive and Almond Piccata (page 123). The suggested pairing is a Light India Pale Ale or Pilsener but we opted for a little more kick and went with Odell India Pale Ale. The slow cooked salmon was very moist and tender. The almond and garlic piccata added quite a bit of kick that the IPA handled quite well. The GABF Gold Medal Odell IPA is a well-balanced beer and the citrusy hops worked very well with the garlic, almond, parsley and sea salt garnish. The caramelized endive was a nice complement to the salmon and beer.
Both dishes were very enjoyable and the beers selected matched up extremely well. The only downside is the binding on my book has already separated and the pages are coming loose. But I guess it's not all a loss as Colleen remarked during dinner that we need to get a second copy of the book; one to keep in the kitchen where it will undoubtedly get soiled, and another to keep on the bookshelf for reading. The dinner was a success and we'll be trying more dishes from Lucy Saunders' The Best of American Beer & Food soon.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sam Adams Glasses
Bead inside top rim - small ridge creates turbulence to increase CO2 and aroma release as beer enters palate
Lip of the Glass - places the beer on the front of the tongue where sweetness is tasted
Narrowness - enhances hop aroma by concentrating the head
Round Shape - greater volume to surface ratio maintains temperature longer
Narrow grip - reduces the beer's exposure to heat from the hand
Nucleation site - increases hop aroma release
The glasses are available at the Samuel Adams E-store for $30 for a set of 4. I have to wonder how many glasses Boston Beer has actually sold at full price. This Summer the company generously gave a pair of free glasses to the founding subscribers of BeerAdvocate Magazine. Free glasses were also sent to members of the American Homebrew Association. In June, the company sponsored a contest to win 2 free glasses. Folks who didn't win received a coupon for 50% off a set of 4. According to email I received from Boston Beer, over 9,000 people entered the contest. I received my coupon last week and ordered a set which arrived today. With all the giveaways, Boston Beer sure made an all-out promotional campaign. These glasses were designed specifically for Boston Lager, though from the reviews I've read, many folks state that these glasses enhance other beers as well. I do believe that the right glass will enhance a beer's enjoyment. Sometime I'll need to sit down and actually do a side-by-side comparison to see what difference these glasses make. In any event, these are nice looking glasses and one can never have too much glassware on hand.
The Brewer's Art Green Peppercorn Tripel
We couldn't resist the call any longer and cracked in to a bottle of The Brewer's Art Green Peppercorn Tripel I acquired last week. The release of this beer in bottles has been widely touted and I've been looking forward to trying it. The Green Peppercorn Tripel is the first of the popular beers from The Brewer's Art to be brewed and bottled in an agreement with Sly Fox in Royersford, PA.
The beer pours a bright golden color with very active carbonation. I poured two servings into Chimay goblets and the head built up very rapidly. In fact, the head kept slowly growing for a minute or so after I stopped pouring. The thick foam stood up 1/2 inch over the top of the glass. There's a very nice, but faint bready aroma. The taste is lightly sweet, with a fruit background. A light peppery note comes up in the aftertaste. Even the packaging is attractive on this one. I'm intrigued by labels and this label is very classy. The corked and caged bottle looks good on the table.
Our dinner plans called for cheesy rice and chicken enchiladas. I wasn't sure if the beer would stand up to the spiciness of the food. But since we were so anxious to try this beer, we went for it. I had consumed most of my first glass before beginning to eat. The spicy food did over power the flavor of the beer just a bit, but not too badly. The palate cleansing carbonation remains till the end so each bite of the food was fresh and the taste buds didn't burn out. A second glass after the meal was a nice finish. I am glad I picked up three bottles of this one. It's very well-done and a pleasure to drink. At 10% ABV it might be too easy to drink!
Saturday, November 24, 2007
While visiting my parents near Baltimore on Thanksgiving, my Dad mentioned he had a growler somewhere from the old Sisson's brewpub in Baltimore. I was intrigued by this so he looked in the storage room and brought out the two growlers in the photograph. In addition to the Sisson's growler he also had a DeGroen's Märzen growler. Other than being a bit dirty, they are both in good shape.
DeGroen's, AKA the Baltimore Brewing Company, was located on Albemarle Street in Baltimore. The brewery closed in February 2005 after brewing on the location for 15 years. A hotel is slated to be built on the site. DeGroen's German-style beers where apparently very popular but they cut back production in 2004 and closed the following year.
Sisson's Pub on Cross Street was opened in 1979 by Al Sisson and the onsite brewery was added in 1989. Sisson's was the first brewpub in Maryland since Prohibition. Al's son, Hugh Sisson managed the brewpub until 1994 when he left to start Clipper City Brewing. Sisson's closed in 2002. Thomas Cizauskas has some history of Sisson's posted here.
It was a fun surprise to see these two pieces of Maryland brewing history. For further reading, there's an interesting summary of the brewing history in Maryland here.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Beer and Thanksgiving Dinner
I few weeks ago I watched this video tour of the Ommegang Brewery on the Brewing Network. When they discussed their various beers I made a note that the Ommegang Rare Vos seemed a likely candidate. Last week I saw an article on Beer Advocate suggesting beers for pairing with various Thanksgiving foods. One of the beers listed was the Rare Vos, so I took that as confirmation. I decided to bring a couple bottles of this beer when we visited, despite never having tried it.
The Ommegang Rare Vos didn't disappoint. My parents had some thistle glasses on the bar which I used to serve the beer. This Belgian-style Amber Ale pours a cloudy amber red with a nice foamy head that lingers for a long time. It has a very light bready and spice aroma. The beer had just enough spice in the taste to make it interesting, with a slightly sweet, caramel malt body and a light hop bite at the end. Mom and Dad both had a second glass which I took as a sign they enjoyed it. At 6.5% ABV it's quite drinkable. Overall a very easy drinking beer.
And there's more! I was able to bring a new beer home as well. A few weeks ago I sent my parents a link to an article about the Green Peppercorn Tripel being released in bottles by Brewer's Art in Baltimore. I asked them to keep an eye out in their local liquor stores. But they went one step further! They went to Brewer's Art and picked up three bottles for me. I'm looking forward to trying this beer in the future.
Overall, a pretty good beer and Thanksgiving day I'd say. :-)
Thursday, November 22, 2007
It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. I'm wishing everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving day. We do have much to be thankful for in this great country. Please take a few moments to think about all your blessings today. We're off to spend the day with my parents. I'll make the requisite beer and turkey post later. :-)
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Spreading the Word
Every now and then I'm reminded that beer appreciation still has a long way to go. I think we're sometimes insulated from the mass beer scene. Last night we attended a fund raising auction for our son's school. This annual event is the major fund raiser for the year and it's held at a local dinner theater. In past years, the venue has offered a small selection of draft beers in addition to the usual bottle selections. Upon arriving I noticed the taps were closed so I perused the bottle selection. It consisted of a large selection of the usual macro-beers. They did offer Sam Adams Boston Lager and Newcastle Brown Ale. Colleen and I opted for the Boston Lager. The bartender opened two bottles and handed them over. I had to ask for glasses. Remember this isn't some local dive bar, it's a fairly nice dinner theater. Colleen hit it on the head when she said that it seems rude to pop the top off the bottle and just hand it over. Wine comes in single servings too, but they'd never expect someone to drink it from the bottle. I don't think I saw anyone else drinking beer from a glass the whole evening. In fact, our glasses evoked some incredulity as well. I had someone walk up to me and ask what I was drinking. I replied it was Boston Lager, thinking he asking which beer I had selected. The response was "Beer, in a glass?!" As if that was unheard of.
However, we're doing our part to spread the word, one small step at a time. Our donation for the auction was a "Craft Beer Tasting". This will be a beer tasting in the winner's home for up to six people. We'll take a cross-section of beer styles to taste. We'll also talk about food pairings and will bring along food to go with the beers selected. Also included was a selection of 6 different beer glasses and the book "The Brewmaster's Table" by Garrett Oliver. The donation raised $350 for the school. Later in the evening I talked to the winning bidder to find out what types of beer he enjoys. I was relieved when he replied he likes porters and stouts. He's already has an expanded taste for beer, so it shouldn't be a problem providing a range of beer for the evening. I'm looking forward to doing the tasting which we'll probably have after the Holidays.
Update: Report on the tasting is here.
Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society
I attended a meeting of The Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society for the first time yesterday. FABTS meets once a month, alternating meetings at Bangkok Boulevard and Kybecca. FABTS was founded in 1996, but I've only recently found out about the group. I am glad I did though. It was quite an enjoyable afternoon. The theme for this meeting was Imperial Porters and Stouts. There is quite a range of flavor in those two styles. The meeting was led by Lyle who took us through each beer, frequently adding information about history, ingredients, and pointing out things we should be looking for. By my count we tasted 26 different beers. I'm not going to list them all here, but simply mention a few of my favorites.
The first two beers we tried were not porters or stouts, but seasonal treats. The first was Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I was quite surprised by this one. I've had a number of pumpkin beers this fall, and I'm just not a big fan of the style. This "big" Weyerbacher Pumpkin Ale was very drinkable. It had the flavor of real pumpkin, not pumpkin pie spice alone.
The second, Avery "The Kaiser" is an Imperial Oktoberfest. A strong malt and bread aroma greats the nose. This beer takes the Märzen / Oktoberfest style up a notch. I'll watch for this one in the future.
Avery Smoke Jumper Smoked Imperial Porter was a selection that drew a line in the group; those who like smoked beers, and those who don't. (I do.) The aroma wasn't super smoky, but the smoke came out in the flavor. I would have liked to have some good smoked cheese to go with this one. I could find anything on Avery's website about this beer but it's one to seek out.
One of the "odd" beers of the day was Haandbryggeriet Dark Force. This is a wheat stout. I believe it was described as an "Extreme Double Imperial Wheat Stout", later referred to as the "adjective beer." I didn't care for this one that much. There was too much going on. It was an beer with an identity crises.
One of my favorites of the afternoon was Southern Tier Oat, an Imperial Oat Stout. When I tasted this I longed to be sitting in front of a fire with a good book on a cool evening. This is a very easy drinking stout with a hefty chocolate and coffee flavor. The 11% ABV makes this one a sipper.
Avery Brewing made another appearance with Mephistopheles' Stout. This 15% ABV monster is jet black, thick and syrupy. This is another beer to enjoy over a long relaxing evening.
The afternoon was extremely enjoyable and educational. I had to leave the meeting a little early to attend a fund raising auction for my son's school, but not before all the beers were sampled. :-) I'm looking forward to next month's FABTS meeting on December 8 at Kybecca. The theme for that day will be "Holiday Beers".
BTW, both Bangkok Boulevard and Kybecca are prime beer-stops in the area. Bangkok Boulevard has a beer menu of 150+ beers, more than half of them Belgian. Kybecca is a fine wine, beer, and cheese store with 2 locations in Fredericksburg. They stock an impressive array of craft beer. Fredericksburg area beer lovers should make a point of patronizing both these establishments.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Spiced Winter Ale from Blue & Gray is now available
I received an email update this morning from Blue & Gray Brewing. Their Spiced Winter Ale is now available. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the Winter beers that I look forward to. Orange zest, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and more combine for an aromatic and tasty Winter treat. This was one of the first spiced ales I tried and I'm very found of it. Spiced Winter Ale is planned to be available through January. However, Blue & Gray beers are popular and often sell out early. Last year I showed up at the brewery one early morning in January to have my growlers refilled for a party only to be greeted with a sign on the door that proclaimed the Spiced Winter Ale was sold out. As I phoned home to let my wife know, the guy behind me got to the door, read the sign, and also got on his phone to call home! There were plenty of disappointed folks that day. I'll be heading to the brewery soon to have my growlers filled. This year I'll get my party stock filled earlier!
Monday, November 12, 2007
An Early Casualty of the Hops Shortage
There's been a lot of talk the past few months about the hop and malt shortages and the impending price increases. I posted on this last month. At the time I wrote "But the effect on price isn't the scary part. The issue is the supply. If the brewers can't get the hops and malts they need, they can't make the beers we love, at any price. Small brewers are going to be affected by this the most." Well, that prediction didn't take long to come true.
The Blue & Gray Brewing web site has this notice:
As you may recall, we noted the impending increase in the price of malt and hops. We anticipated a 30-40% increase. However, the cost of malted barley has risen by 53%. Hops increased 100-400%, depending on the variety. Some hops are so scarce that they can not be found, at any price. This is the case with the hop variety we use in our new specialty beer, the blond Belgian ale. Until further notice, we can not brew any more of the Belgian ale.The Borman's Belgian Ale was released by Blue & Gray just last month and it appears to be an early casualty of the hops shortage. Hopefully Jeff will be able to acquire the hops he needs soon and resume brewing the latest beer beer from Blue & Gray.
BTW, this past Saturday, I stopped by Kybecca on Plank Road and they still had a few bottles of Borman's in stock. Kybecca is the only place besides the brewery where you can buy this beer, so if you want some, better hurry.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Friday, November 9, 2007
The Best of American Beer & Food
Don't think The Best of American Beer & Food by Lucy Saunders is just another recipe book. Sure, there are plenty of recipes, but there's so much more. The author gets right down to business. The first two chapters go into depth about two classic foods that pair remarkably well with beer; cheese and chocolate. Typically people think "wine and cheese" but we know better don't we? Not only does Saunders provide examples of cheese and beer pairings, but she explains how to plan a beer and cheese tasting. The chapter on chocolate is mouth watering as well. Both of these chapters include recipes to match the topic.
The next six chapters are divided up by U.S. geography. Remember, the subject is the best of American beer and food. Saunders introduces us to regional specialties and the people who bring them to the table. Throughout the book, the author draws on her extensive circle of friends in the brewing and cooking world. You might be well-advised to consult this book when planning a trip. Saunders gives us a tour of how the restaurants of the region are integrating beer into their recipes and menus. These chapters are a treasure trove of "words of wisdom" from the chefs and brewers on how to cook with beer and how to choose the right beers to serve with the food.
The remaining chapters of the book are devoted to recipes and the beers that go with them. The contributors to these chapters read like a who's who of American restaurants and breweries. These are not your simple beer bread or beer chili recipes. The foods discussed here are varied and many can best be described as "fine dining." But there's nothing pretentious in the book. The writing in the book is very conversational and the recipes clear. Although many of the recipes come from restaurants, they've been adapted for the home cook. Not all of the recipes include beer as an ingredient but suggested beers to serve with the dish are listed. It's not just about cooking with beer, it's about food AND beer, together.
Visit Lucy Saunders' website at www.beercook.com for more writings and recipes from the author. She also blogs at her new website www.bestofamericanbeerandfood.com where you can read more about the contributors and find out about upcoming book signings. I'll be reporting back as we work our way through some of the recipes from this book in our kitchen.
Update: Read about a couple of the dishes we tried here. And here.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Beer and Glassware
Then my family gave me a set of very nice Pilsener glasses as a gift. I understood why pilseners had to be poured into that tall glass. However, I still didn't really see how the glass made that big of a difference for most beers. But before long I picked up a set of Chimay glasses in Ebay. I soon added some Hefe Weizen glasses to the mix. These tall glasses really do enhance the wheat beer drinking experience by allowing the head to develop and the wheat and clove scents to reach the nose. When the liquid swirls around in the widened part of the glass, the carbonation is increased and the flavors are released. At the Great Divide brewery in Denver I picked up a pair of their Cervoise glasses after drinking from them at the Tap Room. These glasses have become my favorite choice for Pale Ales and IPAs. I've since added similar glasses from Stone Brewing. Next came some brandy snifters from Brooklyn brewery. Perfect for Imperial Stouts and "Winter warmers." I don't mind the glasses having a brewery's logo, even if I'm enjoying a different beer. I have a pair of Smithwick's pints that are favorites for brown ales and the like. I'm constantly adding various other glasses to the mix.
It doesn't seem all that long ago that I swore by shaker glasses for everything. I will still pick up souvenir brewery glasses on occasion. The shakers are good all-around glasses, great for when you need a lot of glasses, or don't want to risk your good glassware getting broken. However, most of the time I prefer not to make that compromise. The proper glassware really does enhance the enjoyment of the beer. Some of this is visual, but we're visual beings. Eating fine food is better done off of nice tableware, rather than paper plates. A clear glass allows you to see the beer and appreciate the various colors of different styles of beer. Take a look inside Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide here to see what I mean. Of course, I avoid drinking from a bottle whenever possible. I'll take one of those ubiquitous red plastic cups over the bottle. Who knows where that bottle's been before you put it to your lips. You can't detect the aroma of the beer nor see it's color from the bottle. The correct glass not only releases the qualities we enjoy in beer; aroma, carbonation, flavor, but it just adds to the fun. A nice glass feels good in the hand. My assemblage of glassware has outgrown the kitchen cabinet space available so some of it is relegated to a shelf in the basement until it's needed. I think we are collectors by nature, so it shouldn't be a surprise when our collection of glassware grows over time. Why should wine drinkers have all the fun?
It's election day in many parts of the U.S. If your locality is holding elections today, be sure to get out and vote. It's a privilege many in the world don't have. Exercise your right to vote today.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Temporary Insanity Imperial Stout
Temporary Insanity Imperial Stout is a seasonal offering from the Blue & Gray Brewing Company. This beer is named in honor of Major General Daniel E. Sickles, New York State Senator and Representative in Congress from 1857 to 1861. General Sickles shot and killed Francis Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key. The younger Key was having an affair with Sickles' wife. He became the first person in the U.S. to be found innocent by reason of insanity. General Sickles had quite an interesting life and is described as being "separated not only from family but from reality" in his later days. Read more about the man at the Arlington National Cemetery page.
Enough about the beer's namesake, let's move on to the beer itself. This Russian Imperial Stout pours with a thin cream-colored head which quickly dissipates. The aroma is a slightly smokey malt. The color is dark, but not black. Light shows through the brown edges. The flavor is bitter chocolate, with a bit of molasses. The hops are noticeable but not over-powering. The mouth feel is lighter than some beers in this style which makes for a very quaff-able drink. The alcohol is well masked. There's a light carbonation on the tongue. When we shared some with friends last night I was surprised how quickly the glasses emptied.
This is an Imperial Stout that is easy to drink and would be enjoyed by folks who aren't into "big" Imperial Stouts. Even for fans of the RIS style, this is an enjoyable beer. I also kept a couple bottles of last year's release in the refrigerator. The bottle I tried a few weeks ago was still quite tasty and very smooth. I've opened the last bottle I had in the house so I'll be going back to the brewery to pick more up. It's a beer to keep on hand this Winter.
Blue & Gray Brewing Company has released it's Temporary Insanity Imperial Stout for this year. This Fall/Winter release is a very easy drinking Russian Imperial Stout. (Full review coming soon.) A bottle of this was in the "cache" I took over to a friend's house Saturday evening for a small gathering and it was very well received.
Not all the Winter beers are dark. Sierra Nevada Celebration will certainly brighten any Winter day and it's been hitting the shelves for a few weeks now. But generally we think of Winter beers as darker with higher alcohol content. Extreme hops give way to malts. ABV goes up providing some "winter warmth". So, what else am I looking forward to this fall and winter? Victory Moonglow Weizenbock is on the shelves now. I picked up some Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock the other day. Of course, we'll not forget to pick up more Aventinus too. Either of these Dopplebocks will warm the heart on a cool winter evening. I also have some Samichlaus Bier, another Dopplebock, stashed away for just the right evening.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout should be appearing on shelves very soon. I've already cracked into the stash of Black Chocolate Stout left from last winter. Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout has year round availability, but it sure is suitable for winter sipping. We'll be sure to keep in on hand too. I'll certainly pick up more Clipper City Winter Storm when it shows up. Besides the Temporary Imperial Stout, Blue and Gray will have their Winter Spiced Ale after Thanksgiving to brighten up the holiday festivities. So many breweries release special beers around the holidays that there are always many, many choices for your holiday gatherings. Perhaps this year we'll do a "beers with elf labels" tasting. :-)
The more I think about the memories of all those winter beers, the more I look forward to getting reacquainted with the beers of winter. Perhaps the onset of cooler weather won't be so bad after all.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
What's up with this beer obsession?
There was a discussion recently about "Beer drinking vs collecting" on the Bearadvocate.com forums. The thread refers to "beer tickers"; people who want to simply amass a large list of beers they've tried, even if it's just a small sample or taste. I don't consider myself a ticker, though I have started keeping a list of beers I've tried. (That's the geek in me coming out.) But it did get me thinking about my beer buying habits. Having tried over 150 new beers this year, I can honestly say I simply enjoy trying new beers. (And there are plenty of people who surpass that number easily.) I'm not ticking off brewery samples and the like. You can't really say you've tried a beer if you haven't had it in a full glass, looked at the color, savored the aroma, swirled it over your tongue .. well, now I'm getting thirsty.
Whenever I'm shopping for beer, I have no trouble finding new beers I just have to try. Usually it's a different beer in a favorite style, such as a DIPA or an imperial stout. Or perhaps it's a new brewery I've never tried, or even an untried style. Sometimes it's just an interesting label that will intrigue me to buy the beer. That's why I end up with so many beers in the fridge.
I rarely make a repeat purchase when I make a beer run, even if I thoroughly enjoyed the last purchase. Sure, there are a few things we like to keep on hand all the time, but I always find something new I want to try. In fact, about the only time I tend to buy full six-packs any more is if I'm taking beer somewhere or if I'm bringing something back from a trip that I can't get locally. I'll generally buy seasonal releases in full six packs, or more, if I've had them before and have been waiting for the new year's release. Sierra Nevada Celebration, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Tröegs Nugget Nectar are a few such favorites that come to mind. Of course, I always have something from Blue & Gray in stock. Otherwise, before I can finish the purchase off I'm back in another store being tempted by different beers. Even in Fredericksburg where the selection is limited, there's always something new to try. Most of the time my purchases are mixed six packs with 2 or 3 each of a new beer, or perhaps a bomber or two. Of course, some of this is to keep a large variety of beers on hand. I hate opening a refrigerator full of beer and being unable to find anything I feel like drinking at the moment. And it's happened.
Obsession? Compulsion? Probably a little of both. I'm fine with that. :-)
To paraphrase a current TV ad, "What's in your refrigerator?"