Sunday, November 29, 2009

Winter & Holiday Beer Tasting

On Saturday, we finally had the opportunity to present the Craft Beer Tasting we donated last year for our school's fund raising auction. We selected "Winter & Holiday Beers" for the theme of the event. Winter is my favorite time of the year for beer so I really looked forward to doing this. The tasting was held in the home of the winning bidders, who were able to invite two additional couples to participate.

We selected nine beers for the tasting. Since we were going with a seasonal theme, each of the beers was paired with a food that one might serve at a holiday gathering. Colleen had prepared some of the foods in advance, but stayed busy in the kitchen finishing up the courses and dishing them up at the proper time during the 2 hour event. Our son acted as the server, bringing plates to the table and clearing them after each course. (Since this was to benefit his school, it was only right that he worked too.) I had the fun job of describing each beer and food pairing to the six eager participants.

Here are the beer and food pairings we presented.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2009 - This Winter Warmer was served with homemade gingerbread cake and lemon curd. Folks really enjoyed the Anchor Christmas beer. It set the mood for the evening and many of the folks continued to talk about it throughout the event.

Blue Mountain Lights Out Holiday Ale - We paired this Old Ale with olivada, mozzarella, and pita chips. The olivada is made from calamata olives, roasted pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. I had some trepidation that the intense olivada flavor would overpower the beer, but the pairing worked quite well.

Sierra Nevada Celebration - For this course we went with a "classic" IPA and spicy Buffalo wings pairing. Afterall, wings are very popular this time of year. The citrusy IPA served as a change of pace from the preceding malt-heavy beers.

Ommegang Hennepin Saison - This is a year-round beer and not a holiday release. However turkey and cranberries is a popular holiday meal so we decided to devote a course to it. Hennepin is one of my favorite beers to pair with turkey and indeed it went over quite well.

Brooklyn Winter Ale - This Scottish Ale was served with spicy beef and provolone on toasted ciabatta. The beef was slow cooked in the Brooklyn Winter Ale with peperoncini. The mild hoppiness of the beer melded wonderfully with the meat and the slight saltiness of the ciabatta.

Tröegs Mad Elf - This winter favorite from Tröegs was paired with a cheese plate consisting of Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Danish Style Blue Cheese. I was curious how the unique flavor of Mad Elf would go over, but as it turned out most of the attendees really liked the beer. One person who claimed to not be a fan of blue cheese said he actually enjoyed the cheeses when followed by the beer.

Delirium Noël - For this course, we served blueberries & raspberries on lady fingers topped with custard. The dark fruit and sweetness of the beer complimented the fruit plate very well. Although similar in style to the previous beer selection, the two different pairings helped to illustrate the variety possible when working with beer and food pairings.

Old Dominion Winter Ale - We matched up this Baltic Porter with cheesecake with a raspberry drizzle. Typically we'd use a chocolate dessert with a dark porter or stout, however the cheesecake worked very well. One participate at first proclaimed the Winter Ale to be too sweet, but after eating the cheesecake and drinking more of the porter, he said the sweetness of the beer seemed reduced.

Samichlaus Bier - As the final course I brought out some 2007 Samichlaus. This beer is brewed on just one day a year, December 6, or St. Nicholas Day. This strong Dopplebock (14% ABV) was served with a plate of mixed nuts. I had expected some of the tasters might be put off by the strong, sherry-like flavor. However, with just one exception, folks were quite excited by the beer. While they found it very unusual, the Samichlaus was given rave reviews.

The participants all had some previous exposure to craft beer, but most of the beers were new to everyone. Everyone had a great time. All of the beer and food pairings worked quite well, if I do say so myself. There were many compliments made regarding the food. The dishes that Colleen served up were as visually appealing as they were delicious. Unfortunately we forgot to bring our camera so were unable to take photos. It was interesting to see how folks' perceptions of various food and beers changed as they enjoyed them together. It goes to show how a beer's flavor can affect the flavors picked up in the food being consumed, and vice versa.

We donated another beer and food tasting to this year's auction, which was held a couple of weeks ago. We look forward to putting that one on too. Now I have to decide on a theme for next time...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blue & Gray Beer Dinner Next Month

Capital Ale Ale Fredericksburg is holding a Blue & Gray Brewing beer dinner on Wednesday, December 2. There will be six beers paired with five dinner courses. The cost of the dinner is $50 and includes a complimentary Blue & Gray glass. You can see the planned menu here. Tickets are available at any Capital Ale House or online. Seating is limited so get your tickets early.

Last Year's Beers

Winter seasonal beers have started appearing on store shelves and it's time to start drinking some of my favorite beers. But not the stock that is on the shelves now. No, I'm talking about the beers I stashed away last winter. While many winter-release beers are fine to drink right away, they are often even better with just a bit of age on them. Over the past few weeks, we've enjoyed several of these "old beers."

Not surprisingly to regular readers of these musings, one of the first beers to come out of storage was Clipper City Winter Storm. One of my all-time favorites, I've had a case stashed away since last fall. The 2009 release made it to the stores a few weeks ago. I've enjoyed quite a few from the stash already.

Tröegs Mad Elf is one that is eagerly awaited by area craft beer fans. I too look forward to its release. However, I am not a big fan of this beer when it's "fresh." Aging in the basement for a year serves to blend the flavors. I find the fresh version a bit harsh, but I'm certainly enjoying the previous season's batch.

Barleywines are great beers for holding on to. Old Dominion Millennium Ale is one we picked up last year, but saved for later. It seems a touch sweeter than I remember from last year.

In additional to barleywines, imperial stouts are perfect candidates for a bit of aging. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is a favorite around here. Indeed, there's a case from last year waiting to be enjoyed on a cool evening in front of the fireplace.

Of course, many folks store these, and other beers, for much longer than a year. I too, lay down a few bottles to keep for a longer time. But these are just a few that I look forward to enjoying after a short rest in the cellar. As the weather starts to cool, and I start hearing folks on the look out for their favorite winter seasonals, I'm ready. No trip to the store needed.

Naturally, I'll need to restock for next year!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale - Finally!

It's here. Well, almost. This regional favorite is now in production full time at St. George Brewing Company in Hampton, VA. We got a teaser on Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale last Spring, but it appears the long wait to see bottles is nearing an end. The Tuppers' web site tells us when we can expect it on the shelves:
... the schedule is set and we'll be brewing a nice steady stream of beer in 2010. For the present, St. George can't brew as much as Old Dominion was producing, but it's worth remembering that OD bought tanks and expanded the brewery several times in the decade we were with them. While it will be somewhat scarcer, you'll be able to find it in 2010 if you're willing to drive a bit to get it. When we revamp this website (that's also scheduled to be up and running sometime in January), we'll include a better feature to help you find it.

Read the complete Tuppers news release here.
Thanks to Tom Cizauskas for the heads up via Twitter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Wednesday, November 11 is the day we honor our veterans in the United States. While our Country is under attack from both foreign and domestic enemies, it's even more important to say thanks to those men and women who defend our freedom.

Blue & Gray Brewing is honoring vets with a free lunch today. All veterans of the armed services, including USCG, all reservists and National Guard, active duty and retired can come by the brewery between Noon and 2:00PM for lunch. It's the brewery's way of acknowledging the risks and sacrifices all veterans have made on behalf of the United States.

Happy Veterans Day, and Thank You, to all our veterans!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Denver's Rackhouse Pub

Craft beer fans in the Denver, Colorado area have a new pub to enjoy. Former Flying Dog employee Chris Rippe opened Rackhouse Pub last week, and it appears to be a hit. I was fortunate to be in Denver last week and my plans included an extended stop at this new pub.

Rackhouse Pub shares space with the Stranahan Whiskey distillery. The pub decor features stacked whiskey barrels along the walls and columns. You can see the distillery operation behind the long bar. The pub features twenty tap lines, pouring 19½ Colorado beers. I say 19½ because the twentieth tap features Flying Dog beer. Flying Dog moved from Denver to Frederick, Md in 2007, although they do still maintain offices in Denver. I sampled a number of Colorada beers during my visit; Avery Old Jubilaton, Dry Dock Paragon Apricot Blonde, Twisted Pine Reily's Oak Whiskey Red, Ska Modus Hoperandi, New Belgium 1554, and Odell Barrel Aged Imperial Stout.

The beer selection at Rackhouse is well thought out and offers much variety. And it's not just craft beer fans being targeted. Even the typical factory beer fan will find a craft beer to enjoy. During my visit Chris was busy introducing factory beer drinkers to craft beer. The bartender who watched over me that evening, Lisa, was very knowledgeable about the beers, and the whiskey. I was also introduced to Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. I've not tried much whiskey in the past, but I certainly understand why some folks enjoy it so much. This may be a subject to explore further in the future.

Rackhouse is not just about beer and whiskey, there's great food too! On Chris' recommendation, I had the "blacks." Listed as an appetizer, this is a meal in itself. Spiced sausage and mussels prepared with beer and herbs, served with a side of flat bread. The mussels were very tasty and I used the bread to sop up the broth left at the bottom of the bowl. The food menu features a wide selection of pub fare including salads, chili, burgers, and sandwiches.

If I found one negative about Rackhouse Pub it's that it requires a four-hour plane flight for me to visit. You folks in Denver aren't so encumbered. There's a new pub in town, and it's sure to be a hit. Fine, local beer and whiskey, good food, served in a friendly and comfortable setting. It's been just a week since they opened, and they're still awaiting some supplies and tweaking procedures, but already locals are finding a new "favorite pub." I will definitely be back.

Rackhouse Pub is located at 208 South Kalamath St. in Denver.
You can visit them online here.
Follow @RackhousePub on Twitter.