Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cheese and Beer Go Together Better

That's the headline that caught my eye over at Serious Eats. But we all knew that already, didn't we? However it would appear that craft beer fans still have some work to do to get the word out. The author goes on to say "After five and half years of teaching cheese and beverage pairing classes I've come to a startling conclusion: beer and cheese are better partners than wine and cheese."

Having made that discovery, the author offers his suggestions on some pairings to try. Interesting article. I'm of the opinion that in addition to working better, pairing cheese with beer is much simpler than with wine. The wider range of flavors found in beer offer more variety and options, and the carbonation helps to keep the palate fresh. Someone once opined that the reason wine and cheese pairing is so popular for parties is that the flavors of the cheese help mask the flavor of cheap wine!

See the Serious Eats beer and cheese pairing post here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warm Beer To-Go - A sensible approach

Taylor Smack over at Blue Mountain Brewery penned a note on Facebook recently in which he addresses some of the myths about buying warm beer vs. cold beer. If you're worried about your beer purchase warming up a bit between the store and home, don't. A bit of warming and cooling just doesn't matter all that much. With Taylor's permission I have reprinted his note here.
Warm beer to-go...aarrghhh!!!
by Blue Mountain Brewery on Friday, December 17, 2010 at 1:31pm

We just lost a sale this morning and I am compelled to post as this has happened before. Here's the deal: sometimes customers want to buy their beer warm, because they are traveling with it. Seems OK, right? I mean, you can buy beer in the store warm and not worry about that warm/cold/warm/cold back and forth skunking the beer, right? So we should TOTALLY sell beer to people warm if they want it, right? WRONG! Here's the truth, folks: all beer is bottled cold; it's how you get the carbonation to stay in solution! IF you buy warm beer it is simply beer that was once cold that got warm. So if you buy our beer cold and let it get warm, at least it was kept cold (i.e. in the most stable, freshness-keeping state) as long as possible. Letting it warm up in your car one time is no worse (and in fact a lot better) than buying it warm at some store.

Yet this morning my hard-working staff were absolutely unable to convince a customer of this--he literally said he was going to drive 30 minutes to Beer Run in Charlottesville and buy Blue Mountain beer warm, for a couple dollars more per six-pack! What?!? Now, God bless the Beer Run guys and all our wonderful retailers but the fact is that if you buy our beer warm somewhere it is only warm because it was filtered cold, bottled cold, got loaded onto my distributor's truck where it warmed up a bit, sat in my distributor's warehouse for a few weeks where it warmed up a lot, got loaded on my distributor's truck (mid-August, anyone?) and then loaded onto a shelf at a store where it sat--wait for it!--WARM!

The kicker? Our distributor's delivery driver was out front overhearing this while he waited for us to finish a bottling run of the very beer the customer wanted! He laughed his ass off and told the guy, "Look, they're literally back there bottling this right now!" The fellow wanted to hear none of it. He wanted his beer warm. So if you're out there, buddy, congrats on the purchase of beer that was at least a month older than what you could have gotten today. And guess was once cold too, like the beer you passed up this morning! Aaarrrgghhhh!

Our staff occasionally has a hard time convincing people of the simple logic that warm beer is simply cold beer that warmed up, and they ask me to just give in and keep some warm beer out for these hard-headed folks, but to our loyal Facebookers out there...y'all get why I won't give in to this ridiculous breech in logic, right?

Venting over. Signing off to enjoy one of the fresh, cold Full Nelson's I just bottled!


This brings to mind the factory beer company that promotes their beer as "cold-filtered." Sure, just like every other beer.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Beer Dispensing System

I'm pretty familiar with the bottoms up emptying of a beer mug, but filling the glass from the bottom? I don't know if this is an idea that will catch on or not, but it certainly is interesting. GrinOn Industries has created the Bottoms Up Dispensing System®.  The system works by fitting a plastic cup with hole in the bottom that is sealed with a magnetic disk. The cups are placed on the dispenser and filled from the bottom. The manufacturer claims this results in less waste and faster customer service times. Shorter stadium beer lines anyone?

The GrinOn Industries website includes a video showing 44 draft beers being filled in less than one minute. What do you think?

You can visit the GrinOn Industries website for more information.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Virginia Craft Brewers Guild

A recent press release from the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) announced the formation of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.
The intent of the Guild is to organize craft brewers for purposes of economic development, business development, supply chain management, tourism and government affairs. Membership will be extended to craft brewers and associate memberships will be extended to businesses and organizations that provide support services or products to the industry (e.g., equipment manufacturers, agricultural interests, economic development, etc.).

The Guild is developing a promotional campaign for craft beer, its own craft beer festival and a competition for the best craft beer in Virginia for 2011.  The Guild is also planning a Craft Beer Caucus for the 2011 General Assembly session and will hold a reception in February 2011.  The Guild will collaborate with partner organizations such as Nelson County Economic Development and the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association on future projects.

The VMA estimates that the craft beer industry could double in the next decade. Virginia has great potential to be a national leader in this burgeoning industry.

The list of founding members is a Who's Who of Virginia breweries: Bull & Bones At the River, Cally's Restaurant & Brewing Co., LC, Devils Backbone Brewing Co., Legend Brewing Co., Mad Fox Brewing Co., LLC, Port City Brewing Company, Shooting Creek Farm Brewery, Starr Hill Brewery, St. George Brewing Co., Wild Wolf Brewing Co., and Williamsburg Alewerks. That's quite a team.

Read the entire press release here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Here's a delicious dessert Colleen put together for our Christmas day feast. It's a twist on the popular Italian treat, Tiramisu. This is sure to please your guests.

24 Ladyfingers
1 cup strong espresso coffee
1/4 cup Kahlúa
1 cup Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
1 cup Mascarpone cheese
1 cup Ricotta cheese
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum

Combine espresso, Kahlúa, and stout in a bowl.
(Avoid temptation to drink the liquid right from the bowl.)

Stir together Mascarpone and Ricotta cheese with a large spoon until smooth.
Slowly add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.
Add dark rum and whisk until combined.
Whip cream to soft peaks.
Fold whipped cream into cheese mixture keeping volume.

Dunk biscuits one at a time into liquid and place in serving glasses. Spoon cheese mixture into glasses, covering biscuits completely. Repeat until glasses are full.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Top with chocolate shavings before serving. Serves 6.

Old Dominion Brewing - The Bottles

I have been saving beer bottles for many years. There are several hundred bottles on shelves in our basement. While looking at them recently, I was struck by some of the changes in labels from some of our favorite breweries. I'll be posting pictures of parts of the collection in the future.

First up, Old Dominion Brewing Company. This is not representative of every beer produced by Old Dominion, but you can see some of the label variety. Note the Spring Buck, Ale, Lager, and Oak Barrel Stout label changes. Yes, that's a Dominion Ginger Ale bottle.

I hope you will enjoy seeing the variety of craft beer labels and bottles. At the very least, I'll have an excuse to get the bottles down and dust them off!

Click on the photo for a larger view.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

A light shall shine upon us this day: for the Lord is born to us: and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come: of whose reign there shall be no end.
Isaiah 9. 2, 6 

The Church at Shepherds' Field, Bethlehem
Photo by C. Turley, August 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mad Fox, Finally

Falls Church's first brewery, Mad Fox Brewing Company, opened this past July. Although I was eagerly awaiting the opening, it was only this week that I was finally able to visit. Bill Madden and crew have created an inviting and comfortable brewpub and restaurant.

Arriving late Sunday afternoon, we got there before the dinner crowd and were seated promptly. My attention went first to the current beer list, while my dining partners perused the food menu. I opted to start with St. Swithin’s E.S.B.; others in the party selected Festivus Ale, and a Blackthorn Draught cider. Right off the bat I was impressed with our server Nick's knowledge of the beer. One member of our party is a cider fan, and Nick was able to provide advice on those as well as the house beers. We selected Buffalo style wings and the Frickles as appetizers. Both appetizers were very tasty, but the wings were especially a hit with my son. He later told me when we go back he thinks he'll just order the wings as his meal!

My ESB was very well done. There was just the right balance between the caramel malt and bitter, earthy hops. Although I tend to lean towards citrusy, hop-heavy beers, I am also very fond of well-made ESB's and this one from Mad Fox did not disappoint. Colleen ordered the Festivus Ale which she enjoyed as well. This Winter Warmer is spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. I tasted a few sips and found it well-balanced, but I'm not a big "spiced" beer fan. (I swore off pumpkin beers this year too.) There was only one universal complaint voiced at our table, that is that the beers were served much too cold. After a short period of time to allow the beers to warm a bit we were all very pleased with our selections.

As the main course, three of our party selected the St. Louis-Cut Ribs, while I opted for the Shrimp & Grits. As with the beer, the food was well done and quite enjoyable. Although I could have easily enjoyed another St. Swithin’s E.S.B., I wanted to try another offering, so I selected the Snapped IPA to go along with my Cajun-style entrée.  Snapped IPA is a bold, citrusy hopped beer that did not disappoint this hop head.

And what's a night out without dessert? Our group selected chocolate ice cream, the bread pudding, and the "Beeramisu" made with Mad Fox Wee Heavy. All were excellent endings to the meal, though the diners longed for a wee bit more of the Wee Heavy soaked into the Beeramisu cakes.

Was it worth the wait to finally get to Mad Fox? You bet! Will we be back soon? Yes again! Meanwhile I have the growler of St. Swithin’s E.S.B. I brought home to enjoy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Ale

On a recent cold evening, while we contemplated the arrival of the season's first snowfall, Colleen and I broke out a bottle of Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary - Fritz And Ken's Ale. This Imperial Stout is the result of a collaboration between Fritz Maytag and Ken Grossman, two pioneers on the American craft beer scene. Fritz And Ken's Ale is one of four limited beers Sierra Nevada did to celebrate their 30th Anniversary. The beer was released last Spring, and I've been holding on to it until just the right time.

The corked and caged bottle opened with a pop, I was glad I had a good hold on the cork. The dark chocolate and roasted malt aroma was immediately evident. A careful pour into two snifters produced a couple of inches of thick, sturdy head. The beer itself is as dark as it can be. The flavor was that of rich roasted coffee and bitter chocolate. The stout also features grassy, bitter hops that linger in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is thick and chewy. Despite the explosive opening and copious head, the perceived carbonation was not excessive.

It's often remarked that a good beer is an experience for all the senses, and Fritz And Ken's Ale is a feast for the eyes as well as the nose and mouth. I sat for a long time enjoying the sight, smell and flavors of this beer. It really was just the drink to linger over on a cold winter evening. And that thick head? After nearly an hour, there was still a quarter inch of foam left on top.

Colleen and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the bottle of this Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Ale. It was the perfect way to close the day.

Winter Storm

Need I say more?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Devils Backbone Planning Expansion

The Devils Backbone Brewing Company has plans to build a new production facility. Managers say the facility would dramatically increase production and distribution of the company's award winning beer.

Devils Backbone General Manager Chris Trotter said, "We could go after certain markets and be in retail stores, restaurant accounts, things along those lines."

Managers say the goal is to break ground on the production facility within the next few months. The company is also looking to open a second restaurant location.
Exciting news, but not surprising given the success of Devils Backbone. Hopefully this means we'll see the brewery's award winning beers locally before too long.

Complete story and associated video here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

St. Nicholas and Samichlaus Bier

Happy St. Nicholas Day! Each year on December 6 we raise a glass of Samichlaus Bier in honor of this great Saint. The beer is brewed each year on December 6 and stored for 10 months before bottling. This year I opened a bottle from 2007 which means the beer was brewed on December 6, 2006. Samichlaus is best when aged for a few years and tonight's drink very smooth. Despite the 14% ABV the beer is very drinkable, giving off a pleasing warmth as you swallow. Slightly sweet with very little carbonation, Samichlaus leaves behind a flavorful coating on the tongue. An enjoyable way to honor the memory of Saint Nicholas and the generosity of his life, and to cap off a cold December evening.

For more on Saint Nicholas, see this article.

Dry Hopped Borman's Belgian Ale

Blue & Gray Brewery has made a special batch of their popular Borman's Belgian Ale. Jeff uses the term Belgian IPA to classify the beer. Intrigued, I stopped by the brewpub Friday evening to try out this special release.

From the Blue & Gray newsletter:
The brewers experimented with some Strisselspalt (a noble french hop) hops and added some whole leaf coned hops to 2 kegs of our Borman's Belgian farmhouse ale recipe for 10 days.

I asked one of the brewers to describe the beer and he said "think of that girl you dated that had a special aroma that you found yourself wanting more".  "OK",  I said, "I think I know what you're getting at (I didn't) but can you put it in terms our loyal brewery patrons are sure to understand?" Jimbo the brewer said "The aroma from this noble French hop is very mild and will remind you of a fresh field of hay from the Alsace area of France near Strasbourg."  I've never been to a hayfield in France, but I grew up around horses and hay, and that surely can't be what he wants to convey.  I gave up and decided to offer free samples in the brewery retail store during regularly scheduled brewery retail hours. For those who like hops and Belgian beers, think Belgian IPA.

The dry-hopped Borman checks in at around 9% ABV, but it's masked well. (At least until you've had a couple and a friendly bar patron buys you another round!) My first flavor impression of the beer was a mild black pepper spiciness, more than I recall from the regular Borman's. There's a lingering bitterness that I found enjoyable. A made a point of asking other patrons their impression of the beer. To a person, everyone liked it. Most people, myself included preferred this version over the standard Borman's Ale. I paired my beer with the Spicy Blue Buffalo Wings, which are prepared with the Belgian Ale.

I suggest you stop by the brewery during tasting hours, or the Lee's Retreat brewpub, and try the dry hopped Borman's Belgian Ale for yourself. And if you like it, let the folks there know so they will make some more!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beer Mug or Art?

Since we were speaking of beer mugs...

I received a note from Jim Gottuso, a potter who's making some interesting ceramic beer mugs, or what he refers to as "alternative brew vessels." He passed along the poster below illustrating some of his work. You can see the mugs and other pieces available at his online shop.